Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Week in Review

Where do I start?

I suppose we should go back to May Day. That was a vertigo day for me. Hubby-Eric and I had taken his car to the shop to get a repair done on Thursday and left it overnight, but on Friday we got the word that the part hadn't come in yet. It didn't actually change our plans much... Eric had originally planned to leave for the Seattle area on Friday afternoon after I dropped him off at the shop. Well, same thing, just no fix for the car. But I was having vertigo, so the trip to the shop and home was unpleasant for me.

Still, I made it, then Eric got over the mountains safely. Inkwell and I settled in for another weekend without Inky's other slave. It's been a very confusing two weekends for the cat.

It was hovering around 80F outside, and inside it was a little warmer. I opened all the windows in the house as soon as the sun went down, which also confused little Inkwell a lot. He scampered from window to window, sniffing the outside and growling at anything that moved. He even barked every once in awhile... which is a little strange for a cat. I think the neighbors' Chihuahuas were out again, although I'm not sure if any of them were still wearing dresses. And I know the neighbor kids came into my yard a few times to get stuff they accidentally threw over the fence, because I saw a variety of balls in the yard over the course of the weekend. The numbers and types changed hour-by-hour.

Saturday was my day to do the Cinco de Mayo Festival in Sunnyside. It's a big annual event here, though I've never quite been able to figure out why. It's not celebrated like this in Mexico. I think it's just a good excuse for a street fair.

In any case, I got out there early and hit the fire station for the veterans' breakfast. I had a hearty meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages and hashbrowns. It was very filling and yummy. I don't know what it is about eating in the fire engine bay of a local fire station, but the food always tastes better there. After eating, I snagged my photos, including a couple of the girl scout servers.

From there I headed downtown (a couple of block away) and started to snap photos of the vendors and events. I was told the food eating contests were at noon, so I wandered for a bit and met a few people, then headed to the center of the action... only there was no action. Apparently the people running the food eating contests thought started at 1 pm, so I ended up waiting another hour before the action started with the jalapeno eating contest. At the exact same time, the high school mariachi band was playing... much to both group's annoyance. During the mango eating contest, I was offered a mango by the announcer, who kept up a patter in Spanish that I couldn't keep up with. So I just said "No hablo espanol" to him and smiled.

An aside about some of these photo links... we have a system we call "blue dot" that supposedly brings in more money for the company when people buy our photos. The photographers are then supposed to get a share of the proceeds. I do not recall ever getting any proceeds, but then, I don't know if any of my photos have ever actually sold from that site. Any photo name with "LG" in it is mine, along with a few others.

In addition to getting photos of the food contests and some of the other events, I also took a picture of the local high school principal in the dunk tank. I tried to get a good shot of him getting dunked, but failed. I did get a good photo of a girl on the bungee jump with her ponytail flailing out behind her. A lucky shot I got of young dancers downtown made the front page because it was nice and colorful.

It made for a longish day, and the photo-ops weren't great. I was actually disappointed in how few people were at the event. I'd only been on Sunday before, and it turns out Sunday is always the big day because of the parade and horses. I got a bit of food at the festival, eating a couple of tacos and drinking horchata.

When I finally got home I had a very angry/hungry cat to deal with. Then I rested again, mostly due to my foot hurting. The ol' heel spur was acting up again after I spent the day walking around downtown. Sunday was similarly quiet, although I got a little nervous when Eric was late returning from the wet-side. Turned out he had intelligently decided to take a nap at a rest area when he started to feel a little drowsy.

Monday was just odd. I drove Eric's car to work in case the shop called to tell us they had the part. Since I was headed out to where the shop is, I figured I could drop the car off on the way if they called. But they didn't.

I had pretty much all my sports teams to write, and that took some time and effort. But I also had to get cutlines (captions) on the photos from Cinco. I let the usual office talk wash over me, trying to go about my day as oblivious as possible. Sometimes it works. After deadline, a co-worker and I headed out to the Toppenish Livestock Show to get some good stories of local youngsters raising animals. It was actually pretty fun. I knew where the fairgrounds were, so we got there easily. Then once we parked we ran into one of the local teachers, who told us where to find students from our coverage area. I got to work on a couple of stories about lambs while my co-worker headed out to find the beef and pork stories.

I somehow managed to get through the entire show without stepping in any manure, despite the proliferation of it all around the fairgrounds. Indeed, I quickly became an expert in which type of animal left which type of mess on the ground. It was a surprisingly relaxed morning/afternoon and I didn't even realize it was way past lunchtime when we got back to the office.

I headed home for lunch to a yet again angry cat, who asked why I was tormenting him by coming home late from work so often. I fed him then played with him a bit and he mostly forgave me.

When I got back to work I had a couple of extra assignments, including one for that afternoon, waiting on my desk. So I tried to do the first and ran into the most frustrating person to talk to on the phone ever. Well, no probably not, but a very frustrating person for sure. He mumbled. A lot. I believe his grasp of English is a little weak, because he would say something mumbled, then try again when I asked him to repeat himself and say something that I know was completely different. It was a difficult task, and in the end he did not provide a photo that we needed in order to print the story he wanted us to run. That made it doubly-frustrating.

Another assignment was to go out that afternoon and get a photo of two middle school baseball players. The boss said the photos were for a story on Friday, but didn't give me any other details except the names of the kids. So I got to the school and there were multiple sporting events going on. Softball, soccer, and two baseball games! Ack. I asked the various spectators and was not only pointed at the right game, but also had the two players helpfully pointed out to me along with facts about their stats, how great they were and where their parents were sitting. I thanked everyone and immediately got to work, because one of the players was the runner on first base and the other was at bat.

The game was marked by a nasty strong wind, and I sometimes actually had trouble keeping the lens on the kid I was following thanks to gusts. I got dust in my eyes at a critical moment and missed a shot that might have been awesome (or I might have missed it anyway, who can tell?). I got both of the players in the field then decided to wait for them to bat around so I could get them both at bat. That's when things got annoying. Apparently, these games weren't being played by normal rules. There were substitutions every inning. And so the coach was having all his kids bat... all dozen or so. Which added a chunk of time to how long I had to wait for my two boys to get back up to bat.

When they finally came up to bat I realized the first kid was a lefty and had to race around the field to get to the other side. I got in position just as he walked to the plate. He took a swing at the first pitch... and looped it into center field for a base hit. No, I did not get the shot. So I just tried to get a photo of him running the bases. It was annoying and I was not terribly successful. I decided there was no way I was waiting another hour and a half for them to come up to bat again... if they came up to bat again, since the game might well be over long before then. Fortunately, the photo editing guy found two decent shots among the ones I took of them in the field. Whew.

I went to bed early on Monday because Tuesday was a dry run for our new deadline, due to the pressman being out of the office. All reporters had to be at work at 6:30 a.m. instead of our usual 8 a.m. start time. For an early start, it went pretty well. The editorial deadline was 9 a.m., but we finished the entire paper, including layouts, just after 9 a.m. and sent it to the printers well before the 11 a.m. production deadline. Not so shabby. The real test will be next week when we start the new deadline for real. On June 1st the actual changeover will happen, but next week we go to the new schedule to work out any issues. Anyway, one thing we learned on Tuesday is that once we were done with the layout, all of us wanted to go to lunch... since it's usually lunchtime when we finish. But being just after 9 a.m., it was way too early. I may need to plan on bringing a snack to work in the future.

On Tuesday I also learned what my responsibilities are as the editorial person who gets to post to the newspaper's Facebook page. In short, if there's a story that we want to get a little more exposure, I'm supposed to post it so people will share it and such. I'm also supposed to give the editor feedback on what stories get the most attention (most shares, most likes). How we use that data kind of depends on what the data shows, but I ended up spending most of Tuesday after deadline playing around with the Facebook demographics and figuring out how to post.

A local restaurant, Cactus Juice, closed unexpectedly two months ago when one of the two women running it had a medical problem. On Monday, the place opened up again thanks to her recovery. On Tuesday, I went out to eat there with a co-worker. The special was turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich, and it was really, really good. It was also nice to see the crowds come back and support her after two months. I swear, in some ways it was like they'd never gone away while in others there was a kind of overall joy that they were back.

In the afternoon I learned that a story I was casually working on had been assigned to a co-worker... but the teacher involved contacted me to ask if I could come in that day to talk with the kids. I ended up going to the school and poaching the assignment out from under my co-worker, which isn't a nice thing to do... but meant the details got covered a little better, since I've been following the story from the beginning as part of my general schools coverage.

One advantage to getting to work earlier is that I get to go home earlier. In this case, all the reporters left the office at 3:30 p.m. I was still working on the school story, but took off because I don't get overtime. That meant a couple of extra hours at home with Eric and Inkwell.

On Wednesday I confused myself. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to get to work early or not. I ended up heading to the office about 7 a.m. to make sure I had time to write my sports story. As it turned out, the editor had already written it before I got there. All I had to do was add some comments from my coach. I spent a bit of time working on other stuff until the police logs became available and I was able to get through deadline. Just after deadline I received word that there would be carrot cake at Cactus Juice. Since I haven't had it for months, I drove out there and got some slices for Eric and I at lunch time.

Wednesday afternoon was another softball game to attend. It's been warm around here, and at lunch I abandoned my jacket at home since it was getting warmer. Sometime between lunchtime and when I left for the game at 4 p.m., a thunderstorm moved in. As I was leaving the office to head down to the neighboring town for the game a downpour started. It lasted less than a minute, but I started to get concerned about getting wet. But I shouldn't have worried about the was the wind and cold that got to me. I was practically freezing while I took my less-than-stellar shots. I eventually got too cold to continue and headed over to another local food joint to pick up dinner for us. This time I remembered to get onion rings and chocolate shakes. Once home, I shivered for a good 20 minutes before I started to feel comfortable again.

Thursday I managed to go to work close to 8 a.m., which was nice. It may well be the last time, as well. Not a lot to do... get the photos processed, contact the coach to see how the game went after I left (not well), check the police logs... After deadline, a couple of stories to finish for Friday, including a book review of Migrant Earth and the two pieces from the Toppenish Livestock show.

Eric wanted to try again with the car, so I talked a co-worker into covering for me for an hour in the afternoon once Eric got off work. I drove down to pick him up, heading along SR22 into Toppenish.

Almost into town, I noticed a traffic situation developing in front of me. The speed limit is 60MPH along that stretch. There was a semi-truck apparently parked on the shoulder of the oncoming lane, and at least two semis behind him at full-speed headed toward me. The parked semi pulled out into the road... into the path of the first semi, which literally could not stop. No way. So he pulled into my lane.

If I hadn't been paying attention or had been just a few yards further down the road, it would have been a disaster for me. As it was, I had enough time to brake hard and hit the shoulder on my lane. Thank goodness for the shoulder, too, because if it hadn't been there, I would not have had anywhere safe to go. I drove around the mess on the shoulder and managed to safely get back on the road without any mishap. Looking in my rearview mirror I saw the second semi swerve around the formerly parked semi. Fortunately, there wasn't any traffic in my lane behind me, or there might have been other problems. My heart slowed down enough before I got to the shop to pick up Eric that I forgot to tell him about it right away.

However, I did tell him he owed my boss a maple bar. And he owed me some chocolate. So he duly walked across the street to Safeway once we got back to town and got donuts. Once I got home, the evening was quiet and restful, mostly. I ended up wasting time just trying to zone out, and didn't get anything productive done.

Friday morning I got in early and went across the street myself to buy some donuts. I got 10 maple bars and two other donuts, because almost everyone in the office prefers maple bars for some reason. Personally, I'm not fond of them. I don't hate them, I just prefer other donuts. But I bought donuts, picking them off the rolling rack fresh out of the oven instead of getting ones already put in the display cases, much to the amusement of the bakers. Hey, at least I asked permission first.

Friday was our last day on the old deadline, and I didn't have any issues. I did get a late assignment and managed to get it out the door, which was nice. I also seemed to end up correcting everyone else's work, as in taking their files and making the editor's fixes before moving them to the correct folder. I was probably imagining that everyone was getting me to do that while they ran out to do interviews. Late in the morning I got a call from the shop... they had the wrong part for Eric's car and wouldn't be able to fix it yet. Once again, it didn't really change our plans. We still need to pick up the car in the afternoon. So we did that, and then I got back to the office and handled the last hour and change on the old schedule.

For once I had no Friday sports and nothing scheduled for the weekend at all. In addition, Eric stayed in town. So this morning I actually slept in without a fuzzy alarm clock meyowling in my face at 5 a.m. demanding breakfast. I have no real plans for the weekend, except doing all the chores we've not been doing properly. I've got to get more "grass" growing for Inkwell, since I'm trying to alternate the mugs so he always has some catgrass growing when he gets a craving. The bad news this morning is that we ran out of the raw honey I got at the meet a farmer event. Now I must muster the courage to go into the health food store and see if they have it and how much it costs.

Not much else to say, except I probably forgot lots of things that happened. Ah well, on to the next week.