Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Week in Review

Ratcheting Tensions

The week started out restful, with plenty of sleep on Saturday and Sunday to make up for what had been a tough week before. I played with my "new" camera, chasing Inkwell around the house with different settings to figure out how to get a candid shot of him. He figured out quickly that the focus light meant a flash to follow, so would turn away when the focus light came on. I got better pictures once I turned that off, but surprisingly the best shots came after I turned the flash itself off. Inkwell got to the point of swiping at the camera every time I aimed it at him. I think I annoyed him, but in a way he was able to handle.

It was a very restful weekend, very relaxing and fun. But Monday morning quickly drove all that rest out of my head and ratcheted up the stress levels to previously unheard of heights.

Because on Monday morning the intranet at work decided to crash.

Well, that's not the exact technical term for it. In fact, I still have no idea exactly what was wrong, just that the result was a 20 minute shut-down in the middle of the most crucial part of deadline, slowing all aspects of production of the paper. Did I mention that Monday was our first day on the truly "hard" deadline? That we couldn't miss the deadline or the paper may not get printed on time?

To say we were stressed is not the proper intensity of vocabulary. We weren't panicked, if anything we all acted extremely casual. But we were all vein-popping upset at the situation. Not even the Krispy Kreme donuts the publisher had brought in could relax us (although they helped to some degree).

None of the editorial staff made the 9 a.m. deadline. We were close, but with 20 minutes lost earlier in the morning, we were anywhere from a couple of minutes (me) to almost a half-hour late on stories. Not a good feeling when we'd been so successful for most of the three-week test run. In fact, it was downright depressing. The production crew was equally under the gun, needing to get the paper sent by 11 a.m. but behind when they started thanks to the outage and the editorial department (aka reporters) not being able to make up time.

They somehow made it, and the paper came out on time. I'm still not sure how the superhuman feat was accomplished, but I applaud everyone in the production department for making up for all that lost time. They really are a good bunch back there.

Noon Rotary

After the tension-fraught deadline, I slipped home for a quick break with the cat and, as it turned out, the hubby, who didn't get a job for the day. I didn't eat, because I got to attend the noon Rotary meeting, and they generally keep reporters well-fed.

Sure enough, it was a nice "build-your-own-sandwich" buffet, and I had a decent little meal while listening to various folks catch up. I haven't been to Rotary in awhile, since I was taken off the regular coverage. My co-worker who is running for city council was on the Rotary beat, but the editor decided it isn't a good idea to allow her to cover the meetings, since there may be a perception of ... well... um? Hanging out with all the important people in town? I'm not entirely sure of the reasoning, but I suppose we're better safe than sorry. And since the city manager and several other city officials are in that Rotary club, I guess it makes sense.

Aside: This town has two Rotary clubs. One meets at noon on Mondays while the other meets at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays. Fortunately, I haven't had to go to many of the early ones.

Another aside: The city manager is an employee of the city who is hired by the city council. The Mayor is not elected separately, but is picked by the council from their number. Thus, the city manager, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city, is not some potentially clueless elected official but a skilled professional. Having gotten used to the system, I find it to work pretty well in general... the problem always being finding a person who is qualified, honest and talented enough to run a city of more than 16,000 people AND wants to stick around long enough to get things done.

The Rotary presentation was from a group who are working to fund anti-bullying clinics for districts that don't have the money for them. It was ok, but since it was one of the first, if not the first, presentations the group has ever done, they needed a little practice. Still, the Rotarians were interested and asked good questions, and I got to chat with the group a bit after the meeting to fill in some question marks so I could write a good story.

Changes at the Paper

I headed back to the office where I got my hands on the new-look newspaper (four inches taller, broadsheet instead of tabloid) and was amused to see my recycling story on the top of the front page. The size was distracting. We've been tabloid size for a very long time. You wouldn't think that four inches of height would make much of a difference, but it completely changes how the newspaper is laid out. Fortunately, my role is to provide the content, not figure out how to lay it out, so I haven't had to relearn my job.

The editor was not happy with the layout, as it was rushed. He tends to lay out many of the pages, and was not satisfied with his own work. It didn't meet his personal standards. But at least we got the thing out the door, which was nearly a miracle due to the problems we had.

I wrote up the Rotary story pretty quickly and got a few other things done, it was a moderately relaxing afternoon compared to the morning's tension. We also had a little afternoon party (and I mean little) to thank the pressman, who is retiring, for all his hard work over the past 28 years.

Buz examines a gift from the staff of a printing sheet devoted to him.

Staff members celebrate with Buz.

Historic Decisions

I consulted with the editor on how to cover the city council story Monday night, then took off to have a relaxing afternoon before the meeting. Eric and I had a decent time, and about a half-hour before the council workshop meeting I headed out to get some photos of the subject of the night's meeting.

There's a nifty stretch of old concrete road in town that curves oddly and was used as a shortcut from one major road to another. It literally isn't more than a block or two long, depending on how you define "block". It has an odd feature. In the concrete along that little stretch of road there are two stamps. One says "Yakima Paving Company Yakima Wash around the edges of an oval with the date 7-7-21 in the center. The other apparently says 7-6-21, although it's very hard to read. The road, as it turns out, is part of an old highway that stretched across the nation and was built to encourage folks to drive out into the hinterlands of the west. It was called the Yellowstone Trail.

This little stretch of road, called Rohman Street, was somewhat dangerous because the northern curve came out onto a fairly busy road right next to another intersection. There were a number of close calls at that intersection, because people coming out of that road couldn't see traffic on Rohman Street until it was practically on top of them, and people didn't actually bother stopping at the stop sign at the end of Rohman. So the city shut down the road, putting up jersey barriers and signs, last fall. And the traffic on the road stopped.

But then came the question of what to do with that little stretch of history.

There are two businesses on the stretch of road. One of them has easy access to a main road, but the other had to set up a corridor of jersey barriers to guide people into their parking lot. It's clumsy and ugly and confusing to people, who occasionally end up driving out of the parking lot the wrong way. So the city staff came up with a plan, which the city manager presented Monday night at the council workshop meeting, to turn part of the road into a park. It wouldn't be practical to save the entire thing, but about half of it could be saved in place and the businesses could get back to having decent access and the city would get a new park. There was a lot of enthusiasm about it at the meeting, almost too much. One of the best moments came when one of the council members, a born engineer, got that light of inspiration in his eyes and started describing what sounds to me like an awesome park... but the council decided to let some boards and commissions work out details, although I suspect the engineer will be slipping his ideas to some of the board members.

The enthusiasm was infectious, but I had to leave out a lot of detail in the story, since the detail will come later. The meeting was just to determine whether the city wanted to try to preserve that bit of road or not. It looks like we'll try to save it, which is a good thing in my book. I walked along it Monday night and it really is a cool piece of concrete. It's old, clearly, nearly 100 years by the stamps. But it's also comfortable to walk on. As I recall, it was a surprisingly smooth drive, too. They just don't make roads like that anymore.

Tuesday Appointments

Tuesday morning almost was met with the same glitch as on Monday, but the IT guys worked it out before most of the staff arrived, thank goodness. Instead of another tense morning of last-minute layouts, we got work done in pretty good time. After finishing my deadline stuff I did my editorial column for Wednesday with time to spare before my first appointment: taking a Student of the Month photo at one of the local elementary schools.

The students and staff are old pros at it now, at the end of the year, so the picture was done amazingly quickly and I then zipped off to my second appointment at the school district office. The district was recently audited and got a finding (which is bad) and several items on the management letter, which is also bad. I sat down with the financial officers and figured out what had happened and why. It was all pretty straightforward, no malfeasance, just little mistakes.

After that meeting I raced back to the office and called the Christian high school about their graduation. Down one reporter for the next two weeks, we aren't going to be able to cover all the local graduations, which is a bummer. So I got to write up a story ahead of time. I got my information and photo, and then it was time for lunch. Whew. Busy morning.

After a relaxing lunch with the cat, I headed back to work. I promptly got called into a meeting with the editor about a story we were chasing down that needed to be handled gently. I went off to do research and start my next pile of stories, and the day wore on. Eventually we hit 3:30 p.m. without me realizing it, and I headed home to my loving cat and husband.

Bad dreams and cavities

I had strange dreams this week. The one I woke to on Tuesday morning was a maze of oddness loaded with what I think is symbolism. Clearly my mind was working overtime on some kind of problems while I slept, because the dreams were mildly disturbing to think about when I woke up. I'm pretty good at forgetting dreams when I wake, but this week they clung to me for a bit after I got up. Wednesday morning was like pulling my mind out of a vat of toffee, with large blobs of dream dropping off while a sheen of it stuck to my brain until I could shower it away with work concerns.

The schedule was tight on Wednesday. Deadline was ok, but I had calls to make and places to go until I was ready to collapse. It didn't help that I had a dentist appointment right in the middle of things. Nor did the weather cooperate, as it's getting warmer now and my car was uncomfortably hot every time I had to go somewhere, usually places close enough that there was no point in even trying to turn on the AC to cool down.

Wednesday afternoon I headed to get a donation photo at the local shelter. That was one of those trips where the drive was too short to turn on the AC, so I ended up covered in sweat by the time I got to the destination. Still, I like going to the Wylie House, nice folks work there. And the JCPenney folks I talked with were also very nice. They'd worked hard to get stuff to donate to the people helped by the crisis and support services. So it was a good little trip.

The dental appointment wasn't great... I have cavities. But I met a new dental hygienist from the Seattle area, Maple Valley, in fact. Pretty close to where I grew up. I later went back and did a quick interview with her for the paper. Hey, she works on me, I work on her, right?

By the time I got home I was in a bit of a foul mood, which wasn't good for my relationship with either my husband or my cat. At least both of them attempted to cheer me up. I had a quick dinner and then headed out to the pre-school graduation, reflecting on how difficult it is to leave home to go to a night event after I'd settled down and rested a bit. It almost seems like it would be better to just stay on the move all the time in between. I would quickly go insane, but maybe that's how those people who never seem to stop moving do it... they just don't stop to rest.


I couldn't find parking next to the church, which was my first clue that this pre-school graduation is bigger than I realized. I'd been warned by a co-worker to get there early and make sure I got photos of the kids getting into their caps and gowns. I somehow couldn't imagine pre-schoolers in caps and gowns. But once I got in there, sure enough, they were dressed in traditional caps and gowns and looked extremely cute.

Wrangling 36 pre-schoolers into caps and gowns, then into an orderly line, then past a whole bunch of parents onto a stage in the sanctuary of a church... it's a big task. The pre-school teacher and staff had the Miss Sunnyside Court along to help, but it was still a big job. The kids couldn't help but grab at the tassels, which then either came off or popped off the button on top of the cap. There were only three extra caps, so keeping the kids from grabbing the tassels was practically a full-time task.

My job was to take pictures, but I also tried to help with the one girl having an epic meltdown in the waiting room and also to convince the kids to not grab tassels. Or take off the ribbon from the gown. Or take off the gown. Or throw their cap at somebody. Or grab somebody else's tassel. They were mostly behaved, but there were enough kids that even a little misbehavior added up rapidly.

The kids were eventually wrangled into a line, then into another waiting area, and then they marched to "Pomp and Circumstance" to the stage. The girl who had the meltdown rode her stick-pony down the aisle, then decided she wasn't going up on stage and instead sat with her parents. Another girl started her epic meltdown once she was actually on the stage sitting in her chair, throwing her cap and ribbon across the stage and scrunching up in her chair, but leaving the gown on for most of the ceremony.

I got my photos of the group (minus the one girl) and decided it was time to leave. As I walked out a couple was racing in and asked, "Are we too late?" I had to tell them they'd missed most of the ceremony, but the kids were still marching out.

It was a relief to get home.


Thursday morning came too early. I was woken by the alarm and not by hubby or cat for once. No bad dreams, but I was muzzy for awhile. I was actually almost five minutes late to work, not at all normal for me. Deadline was mostly ok, although the Sheriff's log was late to be posted.

A co-worker who is recovering from a bad cold had a coughing fit while interviewing a person yesterday. She told me about it Thursday morning and I recalled my own worst coughing fit. It was in college. I was taking Art History, great class, great teacher... I loved it. But one day, after I'd mostly recovered from a bad cold, I started coughing in that class. I couldn't stop it, even with water. I eventually gave up and left because I didn't want to disrupt the class any more. I later went to the teacher's office to apologize. He said he had been worried about me, and not to concern myself with the coughing fit.

That was the same class that had a writing requirement. The teacher asked everyone to go to a museum, pick two works, and write up a report of their trip and the works. I got really really lucky. I ended up going to the Seattle Art Museum. I planned the trip for a free admission day, and was lucky enough to see the Paley exhibit, which includes a lot of the masters. I picked a Picasso to write about for one of my pieces, and a piece from the museum's regular collection for the other. After I got my paper back from the professor, he told me it was one of the best he'd ever seen in his years of teaching, which was a massive ego-boost, let me tell you. I never did work out if that was because of the lucky subject matter, the fact that I followed his instructions completely and included information about how I got to the museum and why I went on the day I did, because I am a good writer, or a combination of all three.

Sports and Prayers

The boss told me to take a long lunch Thursday so I could handle the evening's events. Which meant I got to watch the AdiposeTV and the DWL stuff. I haven't had time to play the game this week, which is a minor bummer, but it means I'm really doing stuff, I guess. After lunch, I got Friday stuff done, then headed out to the dentist to interview the poor hygienist. Then I headed out to the high school one town over to get pictures of a couple of athletes who have signed to play sports for community colleges. I took a lot of photos, but used the one I set up before the crowd arrived. They were playing it cool, but it was fun and there was cake. Mmmm, cake.

I headed home for a few moments with Eric and the cat before going back out to baccalaureate. I've never been to a baccalaureate ceremony before, but I'd been told it's basically a graduation themed church service. Sure enough: scripture readings, hymns, special musical numbers, sermons and prayer. Yup. I got my photos and left as soon as I was certain I had something that would work. It took me longer than I would have liked, but I got it done.

I was physically and mentally exhausted when I hit the pillow on Thursday night, and not comforted by the knowledge that Friday would be even tougher. Graduation day.

Graudation Day

So, two major events were happening on Friday. The first was the personal one: the retirement of the pressman. It was his last day on the job, and it was depressing for a lot of us. The other, of course, was the local high school graduations.

Deadline was a little slow, only because the photo guy had the day off and his replacement didn't quite make it in as quickly as she intended. Once she was on the job she got it done very quickly, and so my baccalaureate and athlete photos were finished and turned in well before deadline. Then I got to work on stuff for Monday, quickly accomplishing a lot. I had a notion that we were having a party for the pressman, so when I went home to feed the cat, I didn't eat. As it turned out, we were having cake and not much else, so I zipped off to eat with some co-workers at a local Mexican place that has excellent fish tacos. Then I waited for cake... only I needed to hit the senior center to take a photo, so I took another trip to go see a local music group... only they'd canceled. Instead of the music group, I took a photo of some seniors sitting around playing pinochle.

After lunch was cake, then I ended up with a second dose of cake for reasons I shan't go into. But I really was stuffed beyond capacity when I went home to rest before the graduation ceremony. I took a long nap and then headed out to the high school. Even arriving an hour and a half before the ceremony, there was already no parking in front of the school. Good thing I'd planned to park at my co-worker's house, right across the street. I nabbed my spot then played with my co-worker's cats for a bit and talked to her daughter (who is about my age) before finally trudging over to the field.

When I graduated from Hazen High School in Renton in 1990, we had the ceremony in the school gym. No way would we dream of holding it outside. It was a night event, and it was indoors because the odds were good it would rain. I don't remember if it did, I think it didn't, but for me graduation meant an indoor ceremony with strictly limited tickets. They do it differently out here, where the weather is good. The two biggest high schools have the ceremony outdoors, and there are tons of extra stands and chairs set up to accommodate the crowds, which end up being standing room only anyway. This results in a very different experience... especially when it's more than 80 degrees at the 8 p.m. start time and direct sunlight is hitting most of the field. Yikes.

I wandered around getting some "set-up" type shots, particularly of all the balloons, before I made my way up to the football field's pressbox, where the best view is to be had. I took a lot of photos... my new SD cards will hold 900 shots in RAW format, and I nearly filled one card. I still need to go through the images to pick the best, then get the card to work sometime today or tomorrow so the photo guy, who plans to get in really early on Monday to process photos, will have them on his desk when he arrives. Fortunately, I should have time to review them today. Unfortunately, it's going to get into triple digits out there today and tomorrow, so I think I'll wait until the sun goes down before venturing out.

Anyway, I was dribbling sweat like a swimmer climbing out of the pool is dripping water after walking around the field and climbing to the pressbox. There were two fans in the box, but the power was being shunted to the audio system and we couldn't turn them on. So we made do with programs and some paper plates somebody had left in the box, fanning ourselves as much as possible until the sun finally went down and it got a little cooler. The ceremony itself wasn't very long, maybe an hour and a half? There were 351 students walking in the graduation, which is an awful lot. Off the record, a school official told me it might be the highest percentage of graduates the school has ever managed... only time will tell, since the final test results and numbers aren't all in yet. But a possible graduation rate of 90 percent is not bad for a school that had a 41 percent graduation rate less than a decade ago.

Two students got a standing ovation from their fellow students when they graduated. One was the last student, who also read the names of every student in the class as they walked to the podium. When she announced her own name, everyone in her class stood up to applaud. The other was a special needs student who earned his diploma through hard work. The cheer for him was amazing. Clearly he's made a good impression on his fellow students.

After the ceremony itself, I wished I had a private ladder to get out of the press box, because I had to make my way down crowded stands to get to the field to take more pictures. I managed it somehow, through some miracle. After I got a lot of shots, I headed out to my car, which was occupied by my coworkers cats. They greeted me with happy meows and then moved their lazy butts off my car hood when I started to get into the car. I was very careful leaving the area to make sure I didn't hit any cats, then drove through nasty traffic in front of the high school, nearly hitting the school board president at one point. I got home exhausted, sweaty, and grumpy. I hit the bed as quickly as I could manage and didn't get up until the cat demanded food... then went right back to bed. I have accomplished nothing yet today, nor do I plan to get much done.

So, until next week...