Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Week in Review

Watching the Hugos

After convincing myself that it was a very bad idea to drive to Spokane on Saturday, I settled in to get a bunch of stuff done at home. Nothing major, I'm still enjoying Eric's summer break, but I got caught up on a few things and even got some reading in before Eric and I watched the Hugo Awards Ceremony live. I stayed up to watch the whole thing, but didn't bother with the after-show, since I'd watched enough of the pre-show to know that the folks presenting it were annoying to me. I also didn't stay up long enough to get the detailed results; that was actually the first thing I looked at on Sunday morning.

Indeed, I spent a great deal of time on Sunday reviewing the full report and writing up a couple of blog posts analyzing it and collecting my thoughts on the whole thing. I scheduled those for Monday and Tuesday so I'd have time to review them again if I came to other conclusions. But in the end, that was pretty much how I spent my Sunday: staying out of the smoke from the wildfires and reviewing the Hugo stats. I can't say it was a bad way to spend a day.

Traffic Annoyances

Monday morning I woke up with Hugo hangover, and had to pop some painkiller to just get going. Driving to work Monday morning was a nightmare. First, keep in mind that I go to work at 6:30 a.m. My commute is short, about a mile. The streets are normally deserted. But Monday... oh dear. First, as I turned off my street onto a slightly more busy street that doesn't have any lane markings, I was confronted by an approaching truck that was driving in the center of the road. It took him far too long to move over to allow me to go past him. He can't use the excuse of sun in his eyes: the sky was too smoky.

While that was slightly annoying, it happened again when I turned off that road and faced yet another truck. This one was going too fast and, again, hogging the road. Yes, folks, I know it's 6:30 in the morning, but do you have to drive all over the road?

By then I was feeling paranoid about drivers, but my next couple of roads were mostly fine, until I stopped at the first traffic light of my drive. It's a quiet morning, not a lot of traffic... but a car comes up behind me and decides that I shouldn't be stopped at the red light. Since I don't have a turn signal on and he does, he pulls around me into the oncoming lane, ignoring the fact that the light is red, and makes his turn while I watch him in shock.

Intellectually I get that at 6:30 in the morning having to stop for a traffic light when there's no traffic is a little silly. But that guy is still an idiot for pulling around me like that to take the turn. The reason there's a traffic light at that corner is because visibility is sometimes surprisingly bad - you think you can see, but you really can't. The only possible reason I can think for the guy to go around me is if he thought the lights were still flashing red, which they do overnight... but he'd have to be an inattentive idiot to have thought that, so I just don't know.

That was it for the bad driving. Oh, there was a driver who pulled around in the coffee stand and ended up facing my car while I pulled into the parking lot at work, but there was plenty of room. It was the first three incidents that made me jumpy. Not a good way to start a Monday morning.

Crazy Police Weekend

Fortunately, the police logs were extremely interesting and therefore kept me busy enough to not dwell on it too long. An old abandoned high school the next town south is a popular place for ghost hunters to illegally enter, and apparently two different groups headed there the same night and ended up clashing. That was kind of the top story on all the police logs because everybody got called in to help. I ended up not writing that one, but my own police log was pretty thrilling - a would-be burglar apparently cut himself while breaking the glass door of the business he intended to steal from, ending up with a cut so bad that he had to be taken to the specialist hospital across the mountains. Yikes. And there was also a high speed chase.

Then there was the fire that did a whole bunch of damage to a student center used for after-school tutoring and activities. That brought in all the local firefighters that could respond. Of course, many of our local firefighters have gone out to help fight the various wildfires in the state, leaving us with minimal coverage if anything truly huge happens down here. Add in a few idiots burning agricultural detritus - despite a burn ban, incredibly smoky conditions from the wildfires, extremely dry flora and a high wind - and it was entirely too exciting a weekend for all the local emergency services personnel.

Lunch was fairly calm, with me giving the cat his meal. He's going to have to get used to me being the main food provider during the day again, since school is starting. Back at work, I finished up a few things and then went home, since I had a council meeting to attend.

Gas Leak Scare

When I pulled into the garage and got out of my car, I smelled a very strong scent of rotten eggs. Not just a little scent, a strong scent. I wondered about it for a moment as I went into the house, then I suddenly realized what it might mean. I called up to Eric and asked him if it might mean we have a gas leak. He ran downstairs and went in to the garage, and smelled it as well, and said it could be. He turned off the gas to the water heater while I called the gas company, and a nice lady told me to leave the house immediately and leave the door open when I left. Eric and I grabbed a very unhappy Inkwell, piled into my car and parked a little down the street, leaving the garage door open. We then waited for the gas man.

He checked and checked, but didn't find any evidence of a leak. He started up our water heater again, and we gingerly went back into the house. I was still very nervous. When I went out to my car later to go to the council meeting, I was a bundle of nerves. But I didn't smell anything, so I tried to calm down.

The council meeting was ok, nothing major. Not like some of the meetings I've had the luck to cover. Everyone had their ideas, got them stated and got on with it, which is all I want from a meeting like that. I actually went to a finance meeting right before the council meeting, and I ended up writing one of my two stories based more on that meeting.

I got home at an almost decent hour for me and sniffed long and hard in the garage. Still no gas smell. I then collapsed into bed, glad that I didn't have any blogging to do. Ha. When it becomes a chore, that's when you have to stop worrying about blogging for awhile. And so it goes.

Multiple Columns to Write

Tuesday morning wasn't as difficult, but my alarm didn't go off, so Eric had to wake me. My phone decided to turn itself off. No idea why. But despite getting up 15 minutes late, I managed to get through my morning routine with some ease and got to work on time. My stories weren't too hard to write, although I won't say it was simple. More fun at the abandoned high school, which was unexpected. Unfortunately, I couldn't get details. I wasn't too worried about it, though, since I was headed down to that town for council Tuesday night. I could get details then, if it was still something I was interested in getting.

After deadline I needed to write a column for Wednesday. I had two ideas, so I ran them past a couple of the front desk/back office workers. "D" told me to write about the burn ban while "O" told me to write about the abandoned high school. Since I couldn't make up my own mind, I went ahead and wrote them both. It was one of those rare writing exercises where the words come effortlessly, for both of them. It actually felt really good to get them down and then start hammering the edges to make them a little more smooth.

I turned those in early, got more stuff done, and eventually left a bit early due to the council meeting that night. The editor picked the burn ban column to run on Wednesday. The High School column ran on Friday.

Tuesday night I drove down to the neighboring town a little early and went to the old abandoned high school to check it out. There's a tall chain-link fence entirely around the building. The grounds have been cleared completely maybe 20 feet all around it so you can see anyone who might have climbed that fence. The building itself is boarded up at every entrance and window. Apparently the "ghost hunters" who were there over the weekend broke a board to get in.

After my visit to the high school, I headed over to city hall and chatted a bit with people before the meeting. I learned they'd installed some new lights at the high school to try to prevent people from hanging out there. I still think the best solution would be to rent it out for ghost hunters with a liability form that covers every contingency, and let the idiots go nuts looking for something that isn't there (I believe in "ghosts" in the sense that I believe there is some sort of genuine phenomena that people experience that we interpret as people who have died. I do not believe the old high school is a likely spot for such things).


The council workshop and meeting were not only pretty tame, they were genuinely difficult for me. There just wasn't much meat for a story there. The discussions might make for interesting stories in the future, but there wasn't enough actions taken to do more than a summary of one of them that I felt was pretty much nothing.

However, that's not to say the meeting was boring. The police chief, who was sworn in at the last meeting, had another swearing in. The last swearing in was sort of an emergency swearing in because they really needed him to have the title of chief right then and there due to the only other full-time officer leaving town. So this one was the swearing in that would allow friends and family to attend. And they showed up in droves. There is audience seating for about a dozen people in the council chambers. It was standing room only because at least two dozen showed up. After the chief was "sworn in" again, the crowd headed next door to the police station for donuts while the rest of us got on with council business. The police clerk brought two boxes of donuts for the council, and when the council finally went into executive session to discuss the police chief's contract, everyone snagged a donut.

I headed outside with the rest of the rabble and ate a donut while mosquitos chowed down on me, and chatted with the city clerk and the police chief. It was a nice enough night, except for the tiny flying vampires. I asked the chief about the high school, and he groaned and told me it was a pain in the butt for the city, but the folks that live near it are now reporting everything they see that's suspicious. I wonder if they reported me stopping to look at it? The owners at one point wanted to turn it into a bed and breakfast with tours of all the wineries, but for whatever reason that idea fell through.

About 20 minutes later we were called back in, the contract was approved and the meeting adjourned. My drive back home was held up by a person who believed driving 30 mph in a 55 zone is a good thing, along with about five other cars who didn't want to pass that person. It was not a tractor... that I could have understood.

Sick in the Morning

Wednesday morning was stressful for a variety of reasons, the worst of which for me was that I was having massive stomach cramps. With one of the reporters on vacation, the rest of us were filling in, and as it turned out, we all had morning meetings of some sort. I got through my deadline stuff quickly then headed out to my meeting, with a gal who is starting a pie shop in town. When I got back the editor was very upset because an assignment from one of my co-workers was missing. I looked in her email and found that she hadn't even seen it, so I forwarded it to myself and quickly wrote it up (cut and pasted, really) and turned it in. The editor got it into the paper and we managed to make the deadline for sending the pages to the printer. Yay.

Once deadline was over, Wednesday was relatively pleasant, except I was getting more and more sick. The stomach pains just would not go away. I went home to lunch and almost couldn't get up to get back to work. Once back at work I did everything I could before I gave up and headed home. At home Eric helped me up the stairs to bed, and I slept for several hours, finally feeling well enough to eat dinner before heading back to bed.

Thursday's schedule was horrible. I started out going to a local middle school to get photos of kids "making the transition back to school." Unfortunately for me, local kids are really very good about heading to school, and trying to find a child still in summer-mode wasn't easy. I eventually settled on several kids playing pick-up basketball outside the school while waiting for classes to start.

I got back and got the police logs done, with difficulty due to a lack of communication with one of my contacts. The rest of the day was a full schedule. I had to be in the office to meet someone at 1 p.m., and then over to meet some kids who had gone to Ecuador over the summer, then the School Board meeting that night, preceeded by the budget meeting. Ug. Lots of stuff and nonsense.

Disturbing Friday

When I got to work Friday morning, the editor was in his office but made it clear he was leaving. He said he was sick. He gave me some instructions, then talked with another reporter coming in, and left us on our own. It was... unpleasant. Still, we're professionals, we got through it.

Friday for lunch we headed over to Cactus Juice, since it was the last day they were open. I got the very last slice of spinach and bacon quiche and a cactus juice to drink (a fizzy combo of several fruit flavors). I also got a brownie cheesecake for dessert. It was a fine final meal at a great little restaurant that people are going to miss. Most of the decorations had already been removed from the walls, and the tables had the names of people who had bought them stuck on them with labels. Leaving felt strange, like a sad good-bye.

I stuck around Friday afternoon to write up my story on the Ecuador kids, having some difficulties while I was at it. When I finished I headed home and collapsed into bed. I seem to do that a lot, actually. I got up for dinner, read a bit, then got back to bed.

This morning I had to head down to Mabton for a budget meeting, and spent about three hours with them as they went over the priorities and ten-year goals. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be writing about it, but I'm thinking it through. Right now? I think I'm going to go back to bed. I'm tired.