Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Week in Review

Yeah, I'm still alive. Sorry for the dearth of posts.

I admit I indulged in some stuperstition during the Seahawks game last Sunday. I have four Liberty Bottles... one is a Seahawks World Champions bottle. I use the bottles in platoon, so I generally use a couple or three a day. I've noticed that any Seahawks gameday on which I didn't use the Seahawks bottle, the Seahawks lost. As I am a reasonable person, I know it's total coincidence, but I made sure I used the Seahawks bottle on Sunday, just in case. It meant I drank I bit more water than I usually do, which is probably a good thing on the balance. And the Seahawks won, reinforcing the stuperstition. Eh, it's a win-win.

Monday morning came way too early, despite the shift off Daylight Saving Time. I could go into a rant about DST and standard time and how pointless it is in today's world, but I'm just going to continue to shake my head that we're still doing it. My preference would be to go on DST permanently, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Inkwell was NOT pleased with his lazy humans, who clearly are confused about time. Inkwell's stomach clock knew what time it was, so having his human feed him an hour late was extremely frustrating for the cat. And he let us know. It usually takes him a few weeks to adjust to the time change. Another reason I want to abolish changing the time.


There was a lot to do on Monday morning, including getting several photos ready from last week. We had a double-truck (two-page photo spread) planned to show off people's Halloween costumes, so it was a case of jumping right into the morning work. I also had football photos, the results from cross country and volleyball and a voting reminder story to write, along with my usual police logs. However, one of the police logs had a very interesting item that I needed to talk to someone about (it later turned out to be a dud) so I ended up being very stressed because I couldn't reach the person I wanted to chat with. Ug.

After deadline, we got our first taste of how the new publisher plans to work. For one thing, he started to edit the stories once they were already out on the layout table, which is... um... not the standard in our office. Part of the reason was some poor copy-editing, but most of the reason was a complete change in house style. Bob the editor had a specific way he preferred stories to be written, whereas the new publisher comes from the editorial side of things and has an equally specific, but very different, way he wants things to be written. The result is the three reporters and a reporter/interim editor have completely different style guides in our heads than the publisher. And that resulted in editing on the layout table and a VERY stressed production crew, who are used to only changing typos once the pages are laid out.

It wasn't pleasant, but we all got through it. I think we'll slowly get back out of house style and more into AP style as we go, but it will take some getting used to. Bob was editing at the paper for a long, long time.

Long Meetings

After the paper was out the door to the printer at 11 a.m., we had an editorial meeting. This is something we should have been doing all along, but it was not a priority for Bob, so for the past four years we haven't had any regular meetings. Having a meeting was a bit of a new thing for us. I had prepared some story ideas and a list of what I was working on for the week, since I figured that was the crucial stuff. We went over the schedule, hit some major points... one of the reporters had to leave for a noon meeting. The rest of us and the publisher stayed for another half hour or 45 minutes, until we had everything sorted out. Then I went home to a really upset cat, who thought I was three hours late, not two hours, for his lunchtime meal.

After lunch I returned to the office to get more stuff done, and I was there a bit longer than I intended, as I had an evening city council workshop meeting.

The short time I had at home is a bit of a blur for me. Eric has been subbing in a school district an hour's drive away. They pay enough more that it actually pays for the gasoline and car maintenance, but it does mean he gets home late some times. So we have a rushed dinner together, then I'm off to my night events. It can be very odd.

The council meeting was going great until a dead horse was hauled out to beat on. And beat on it they did. For almost an hour. They kept resurrecting it and beating on it some more, and by the end I found it slightly hard to believe they actually were arguing about it. The whole thing had seemed very straightforward to me... they'd already voted on it, the workshop was just about giving a little direction to the city manager. It should have taken 15 minutes at the most. So it felt very obnoxious to me.

Wastewater Tour

Tuesday was election day. I had a couple of stories to write up in the morning, including another reminder to vote, the council story, another sports story, another follow-up on the hospital... Just a handful of little things. I got through them, and the police logs, before deadline. I then had to take off for another city, because I had a 10 a.m. appointment to view some video of a sewer line and then tour a wastewater plant. On the way, I dropped off my and Eric's ballots.

You know how it's always a pleasure to listen or talk with someone who is really interested in a subject that you want to know more about? People who aren't just knowledgable, but also genuinely enjoy sharing information? That was the fellow at the wastewater plant. He's a very smart guy who not only knows his business, but actually feels very strongly about making sure clean water is going into the river, and not toxic human waste. He's a guy who has a deep, piece-by-piece understanding of the process... more than I'll ever comprehend. But he's willing and eager to share, and as a result, he's an absolute joy to chat with. It doesn't matter that the subject is a little crappy, his interest makes it interesting.

First I viewed a video of the sewer line in question. A guy who believes the city is responsible for maintaining the line to his house managed to get the city's public works crew to his place by calling the department of health and apparently convincing them that sewage was leaking all over the place. The department of health arrived, found nothing particularly wrong, then the city's public works guys used some cameras to video the entire line and prove, without a doubt, that the clog in the line was caused by roots near the end of his sideline. I feel for the resident to some extent, because Eric and I had roots in our line at Frankenhaus in Bothell, and it's very frustrating to get it cleaned out and only have it clog up again a couple of years later. In this guy's case, he had not just cleaned out the line, he had the whole thing replaced as far as he was able to replace it, just a year or two ago. Unfortunately, replacing the portion of the line that is inaccessible due to the right-of-way was too expensive, and that's where the roots had formed.

Once it was clear there wasn't a story there, I toured the plant with the fellow who loves his job and took some photos for a little photo page. Nothing special, just a neat little feature to show folks what they are getting for their money. Then I headed over to the local restaurant for lunch before heading back to the office.

Election Day

Being election day, we'd had a few discussions on how to handle it. In Monday's meeting the publisher said the way his papers traditionally did it was to have a pizza party at the office at the time the returns are coming in and the reporters call all the candidates for comments. The stories get written that night, and in our case get posted online. So everyone is fed and also gets everything written ahead of time. So we decided to try it. This also meant that my attendance at a budget meeting that night was canceled so I could be part of our election coverage. I didn't mind.

So at 8 p.m. I was back at the office again, after a short afternoon with Eric and Inkwell. It turned out to be... well, I wouldn't say fun, but nearly so. It was nice to get the stories and the calls done and out of the way that night instead of waiting until the morning and it was nice to be with other folks to ask for advice/phone numbers/please answer that I'm on the other line. In short, it worked, and I hope we do it that way in the future if I stick with the paper.

I got home almost at 10 p.m., a bit past my normal bedtime, and slept the sleep of the just.

With most of our work already done, writing the election day stories the next morning was easy. I just updated them with the latest information, talked to the one person who hadn't answered my call the night before, and generally got 'er done. The result was an easier morning-after-the-election than usual.

I had no actual appointments or assignments Wednesday night, and that turned out to be important. Once I got home that afternoon I was so exhausted I pretty much collapsed. I went to bed early and slept almost ten hours straight.

Car Troubles

I'm still not entirely sure what happened on Thursday. I think I got to work and got stuff done, then the rest of the day is a crazy blue. I expected to spend extra hours at work then have the night off, but in the afternoon we got a call from the reporter scheduled for a couple of evening events... her car's alternator was dead. As a result, I ended up covering her event in the next town south. What was funny about that was that I had called the city administrator earlier in the day about sewer rates for my sewer story, and he had asked me if I was attending the event. I said, no, I thought my co-worker was assigned to it. When I showed up, I told him I'd begged and pleaded to take the assignment. He said, "Really?" and I admitted my co-worker's car had broken down.

But in the short time I was home from the office, before I headed down to the unexpected assignment, I got a call from hubby-Eric. He had a flat tire on his car. He was about an hour, maybe 45 minutes, from home. He had a wrench and a spare, but no jack. Since I didn't have a jack either, there was no point in me heading up to help him, so I went to my meeting and he called AAA. We didn't see each other until fairly late.

Friday was a relatively quiet day. I figured out who the local Christian school was playing in the tournament on Saturday and updated the website, then learned I was going for the entire tournament. There goes my Saturday. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Saturday Volleyball

The drive up to Bickleton Saturday morning was strange. The entire Lower Valley was socked in fog. Naturally, I drove a little slower to suit the conditions... naturally, most people didn't. Fortunately I only had one tailgater and was able to get him around me when I went through a town.

Climbing up the hill... I almost wish I'd stopped to take a photo of the Lower Valley once I got out of the fog. It was gorgeous, but not a sight I'm likely to see very often. The entire valley filled with cloud, while the sun shone brightly overhead. Once out of the clouds, I actually caught up to the guy who'd been tailgating me earlier. In fact, they were headed to the same place as me, and it was a teenage driver coming to cheer one of the volleyball teams in the tourney.

So the tourney had an interesting set up. Four of the six teams in the District made it to the playoffs. The top two were headed to state. To determine who was going to state, they held a "win-twice" tournament.

The first two games were played at the same time and featured the number one team, my local Christian school, against the number four seed. The third seed team, another one I covered this season (Bickleton) was up against the number two. So I had one team in each of the opening games, which were played at the same time in the same gym. That was an adventure. I sat on the boundary, which was marked by a big divider curtain, and took photos of both games. When the games ended, I headed to the hospitality room and wrote up my story online, posting it live.

I then had a bit of a break because the next game was the two losers playing one another. Except my boss was emailing me to update me on how I was doing and ask for photos of another team at the tournament. I got what I needed, ate in the coaches lounge, and paid close attention. The No. 2 seed beat the No. 4 seed, which meant the loser of the championship match would play the second seed team.

Ok, here's where I disagree with the tournament organizers. The final two games were the championship game and the battle for the second spot at State. During the championship game, the two teams who won the first round were going to play all-out for the top spot, naturally. Then the organizers expected the LOSER of that tough game to immediately play another match against a well-rested team for the second place finish.

It wasn't fair to the team that lost the championship. The championship game should have been played immediately after the opening round so the loser would be the team that was rested for the final game. Instead, Bickleton was punished for playing with everything they had against the Christian school, because when they lost and had to face the second seeded team again, there was nothing left in their tanks. Oh, they gave it a good run. I would say a fantastic run. They worked their butts off and were sobbing from exhaustion at the end. But they were simply too tired.

Now, if this is some obscene lesson in how life isn't fair, I guess we'll just have to live with it. But generally speaking, it was a lousy thing to do to kids. And they apparently did it the same way last year, as well, so I feel they should have learned and ought to change it in the future. In fact, I was originally told that the championship match would be played right after the openers this year. I'm not sure why it was changed back.

My preference would have been to play the second set of games at the same time, like they did the first, after a longer break. Then the final game would have been between two equally rested teams.

I have no say in it, but I hope they consider a change in the future. It really was heart-breaking on many levels to watch my team fall through sheer exhaustion.

Dark Night

I headed home down the narrow winding road in the dark and rain, since a nasty storm had moved into town while the girls were playing. It made for a very long day, leaving the house about 9 a.m. and not getting home until 7 p.m. In addition, Eric was in Seattle, so I came home to a hungry and cranky cat who spent the rest of the evening basically velcroed to my ankle so I couldn't leave again.

I dreamed about volleyball strategy.

I haven't written any reviews, although, again, we watched most of our shows. I'll try to write them today and post them, but if I don't, I might try to write some for later in the week. As you probably can tell, I've been busy. When I'm not working, I'm generally doing my best to turn off my brain, which isn't conducive to writing reviews or posting blogs.

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.