Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Day in the Life...

Normally, my days are pretty boring. I get up, get to work, write up the police logs, write up any evening events I attended from the night before, then start working on the stories for the next day. A reporter's life is usually scheduled out enough that I often have a good idea where I'll be and what I'll be doing at any given point.

Wednesday was strange.

I had been unable to contact a couple of people I needed to talk to for stories, so I was expecting some tough and probably ineffective phone calls. Added in, I'd heard that a story I was working on might blow up in a big way, although I thought the odds were fairly low of that happening. But because of the potential of being scooped, I had to tell the editor what I heard, and I suspected I was going to have a tough story to write in the morning.

Sure enough, after a quick consult with the editor, the tough story became my priority, followed by the meeting I'd attended Tuesday night, then another story that I was having a little trouble reaching the main person to interview. I was absolutely certain I would not get everything done by the 10:30 a.m. deadline.

But everything fell into place. The extensive research I had done on the difficult story helped me keep the facts straight, and the key interview (that I'd been told likely wouldn't call me back) called just as I finished writing the first draft. I rejigged the story to fit his quote in and handed it to the editor. The second story was practically a puff piece, since the meeting had been entirely about a new piece of municipal code. Not a lot of meat there. My main person from the third story called me back before deadline, and I had my last story corrected and in the system at 10:25 a.m. Whew!

I wasn't entirely happy with the difficult story, and I wish I'd had enough time to do another draft or two. But overall, it was a stressful but productive morning. I stuck around until all the stories were laid out on the draft table to recheck, then headed to lunch at home with Eric and Inkwell.

After his terrifying experience, Inkwell got what seemed to be a head cold. Now, upper respiratory problems in cats are a concern, so I've been keeping a close eye on him. He was eating and drinking, but clearly unhappy and not getting better. So I called the vet and set up an appointment for Thursday. I also took off his collar to give him a chest rub, which he appreciated. In the end, his illness turned out to be a flare-up of his existing herpes infection. He was prescribed rest and normal routine, along with his usual L-lysine treats, and seems to be getting better now.

After lunch I got bombarded with a few more stories by the editor, including the school district budget (AAAAAHHHH!!!!). I have a lot of problems understanding budgets, so I got a quick lesson in budget-reading from him. Then I had a couple more stories to write for Thursday, which I somehow struggled through. Then I went home to wait for my sister and niece.

While waiting, I got online and checked my work e-mail. There were two responses from the difficult story. One was from one of the people I interviewed for the piece, complimenting me. The other was from a local... personality... who blasted me for being a moron and told me I should be ashamed of myself. I was delighted, as it's always good to get a response from readers. It means they are paying attention. I alerted my editor to the e-mails and sent him copies for his own reading enjoyment.

Sister-Lisa and Niece-George came visiting from the Seattle area. They planned to crash at our place for the night, but before that, they wanted to head out to the observatory in Goldendale. It's about an hour or so drive away from here, not particularly close, but not as far as from Seattle. With some trepidation, I asked to go along, since I've never been to the observatory and have always wanted to go.

After a meal with family (ah, Pizza Hut) we headed out. I took my work camera, figuring I might be able to get a good set of photos for a photo page. We chatted on the way, Lisa enjoying the geological formations and George enjoying the horses in the Horse Heaven Hills. The observatory was easy to find, lots of signs pointing the way. It was just getting dark when we got there, so we settled down and listened to Sarah, the interpreter for the park, explain the history of the place and the telescopes.

It was very interesting, and very cold. Next time I go, I'm bringing a coat, even if it's summer. We had to wait for it to get dark, as we arrived at sunset, and Sarah had an alert for when the ISS went overhead. Before full dark it made an overhead pass and we got to watch it sail across a perfectly clear sky. It was oddly impressive, even if it was just a dot reflecting the sunlight.

I also took enough pictures for a photo page, which will appear in the paper in a week or so.

As full dark came on, Sarah aimed a small portable outdoor telescope at the horizon and found Saturn. The folks there stepped up and took a look while Sarah aimed the larger indoor telescope. I got a look, it was tiny but I could see the rings and Titan as a dot just a little bit away. It's oddly thrilling to look at a planet... even though it was not a high-definition photo like we often see. We've been spoiled by modern technology. Looking at the planet with mirrors and a tube was pretty cool.

The view of Saturn wasn't much better in the big telescope, which had to be adjusted carefully. People had to climb a ladder to reach the eyepieces, which were at an odd angle. It was a strange experience to watch a ton of people climbing the mobile staircase and looking out.

While people looked, Sarah gave little speeches outside on other things folks could see in the sky. As the night darkened, the Milky Way became brilliantly visible. My sister wandered off to find a quiet spot and see if she could get her camera on its tripod to record stars. I stayed inside most of the time. Although the dome isn't heated, it is sheltered from the wind. Again, next time I need to bring a coat.

We stayed long enough to see a couple of other sights, including a double binary star and the Ring Nebula. Only a few minutes before the park closing time of 10:30, George came and got me and the three of us headed back to the car to go back to Sunnyside. I was thinking about how tough Thursday's schedule was going to be. I really had no idea.

As we left Goldendale on 97 with Lisa driving, I thought I spotted something on the side of the road. Lisa, however, spotted it more clearly and slammed on the brakes while flipping on her brights. I wish, oh I wish, I had been able to get my camera out quickly enough. In the middle of our lane was a majestic deer with heavy-duty antlers. He knew we were there, but didn't move for a moment, then he sniffed something on the road, and slowly ambled off across the other lane into the brush. All three of us were suddenly wide awake.

The remainder of the ride back was made with brights on whenever possible. We were all wide awake and talking about the deer and other things. As we approached Toppenish, we saw flashes of lightning across an absolutely cloudless sky. It was strangely beautiful and terrifying.

Once home we all fell asleep immediately... of course, I'd have to get up early the next morning to get to work, but I was hoping it wouldn't be a tough day. Except for an evening meeting that lasted three hours and was described by one participant as "a bit brutal", it wasn't that tough a day. It just wasn't an easy day.