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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For the Big Easy

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss her each night and day
I know I’m not wrong because the feeling’s
Getting stronger the longer I stay away

Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines
Where mockingbirds used to sing
I’d love to see that old lazy Mississippi
Running in the spring

Moonlight on the bayous
Creole tunes fill the air
I dream about magnolias in June
And I’m wishin I was there

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that’s where you left your heart
And there’s one thing more, I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans

– E. DeLang / L. Alter

The tempest

There are only a handful of days when I can walk outside and hear the fury of Lake Erie a half-mile from my home. This morning is one of them. As I walked in darkness to get the paper I could hear the tempest of wind and waves usually reserved for a November day.

It's nothing, however, compared to the death, destruction and devastation wrought along the path of Hurricane Katrina. I said another silent prayer for the folks along the Gulf Coast. Some of the most amazing photos taken largely by AP photographers could be seen here. The images on television news are also compelling but unlike the still images, don't pause long enough to show you the faces of the people...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wind outta my sail

UPDATE: Here's a link to some buzz being generated by Yagoda's column on Romenesko letters. Apparently Yagoda's been a part-timer for many years.

Wow! I’m feeling pretty blue. Have you read this piece by Ben Yagoda in Slate?

It’s titled “My Life as a Hack — It was glorious. Now it’s over.” In it Yagoda laments what magazine freelancing has become—a victim of supply and demand. He admits that maybe age has taken the thrill out of the nonstop chase, that he’s weary from the tiredness that comes with working for rates that continue to be the same as they were 10 and 20 years ago—not adjusted for inflation, merely the same. But it’s even more than that.

The Harvard Business School could use freelance journalism as a case study of a buyers' market. Leaving aside a handful of periodicals that value distinctive writing, extensively reported dispatches, and unusual or challenging perspectives, what magazines want is clean and inoffensive copy that fits their magazine's format and fills the space between pictures and ads. There has always been an overabundance of people eager and able to provide this, even if they are treated lousy. Therefore, they are usually treated lousy.

It’s a tough gig, being a freelancer, but though you are routinely kicked in the pants for any number of things (including the self-inflicted kind) and subjected to head-scratching changes or worse—additions—to your story, there is always the thrill of pursuing your passion.

We freelancers have always had to put up with magazines that die on us, along with butchered copy, chuckleheaded editors, rights-grabbing contracts, isolation, lost manuscripts, whacks to the ego, changed quotes, the absence of security or benefits, and—unkindest of all—the kill fee (i.e., paying authors a third or a quarter of the agreed-upon rate if an assigned piece is not used for virtually any reason, up to and including the fact that someone else wrote about Winona Ryder). Usually, though, these indignities are outweighed by the good stuff about freelancing: freedom, no commute, funny war stories, the periodic ego boost of appearing in print, and the chance to eat caviar with Uma Thurman.

Yagoda clearly still glows with the thrills, but what is different today is that no longer is enough.

Modern titles, formatted to within an inch of their lives, require freelancers to shape experience into small, breezy portions that extol the lifestyle or consumer culture the magazine and its advertisers are looking to promote. The ultimate upside isn't the creation of a cultural event, but the creation of buzz.


Normally, this kind of thing wouldn’t get me down, but lately I’ve been feeling a little as if I’m shouting into the winds of Katrina. I’m working hard through SPJ and in partnership with other writer organizations to ensure that freelancers have access to opportunities and that they are valued for the commodity they bring—unique stories told in a provocative way.

In return, I’m willing to talk with any editor about how freelancers can better serve their needs. But I wonder lately if it’s worth it. I’m not sure what sells and that’s caused me to question everything from my news judgment to my writing abilities. I’ve received my fair share of form rejection letters, with a handful that actually had something personal written. My favorite is the “this is too close to something we’re already doing” rejection. Well, if that’s the case, at least I know my judgment and ideas or good—my timing isn’t. Gotta work on that.

And I sometimes feel paranoid, wondering aloud to more than a few colleagues what it takes to crack one editor who seems downright spiteful toward me. In one pitch she expressed such flagrant bias against a story with great societal ramifications because a mother "broke the law!" It was something her readers would never read. She's the editor and it's her decision to determine the news value of a story, but I felt as if she didn't give the story enough consideration. There were many more issues at play including exploitation of immigrant women by their spouses and the Dept. of Homeland Security run amok. But she never let me get that far and so this important story about how one family was treated at the hands of the U.S. government will not be told here. The sad thing is—their story is one of thousands like it around the country. And so I'm looking elsewhere to pursue that story.

Yagoda mentions a writing friend of his who still treasures every rejection note he received from The New Yorker. I’m sure there are freelancers across the world who also prize similar epistolary collections. But worse are the many more talented writers who simply no longer try because they are defeated by the industry.

In the end that’s what keeps me going. I’m just stubborn enough to think that what I do can make a difference and so I’ll keep on. I’m NOT giving up on advocating for better relations between freelancers and the news organizations that rely on their work.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mayday, mayday!

2005 is fast-becoming the summer of our nation’s discontent.

We continue to have high school students who don’t understand “basic” American history, those in college who lack even a high-school reading level, an academic and funding crisis of epic proportions in our nation’s urban and rural school districts and lackluster interest in math and the sciences.

But that’s okay because we’re going to revolutionize the teaching of science by introducing “alternative” theories about our world and its creation in the form of intelligent design. Nevermind that it relies not a wit on scientific methodology (nor, I would argue, intelligence), but was instead “designed” as an answer to evolution’s inability to explain everything.

This theory is rooted in the realm of the ignorant who have capitalized on people’s deep-rooted faith by drawing just enough innuendo, spread just enough misinformation and spent large gobs of money in a PR campaign designed to cripple the science programs of our nation’s already suffering public education system.

Can it get any worse?

Why, of course it can. We’re going to change the rules of our national park system so that anyone can jet ski or snowmobile their way across protected lands. I mean, really, who needs to worry about the future of our national parks when we can’t even enjoy them to their fullest today? One editorial today mentioned the harm to the “soundscape” of our national parks. Who needs to hear the moose or bird calls or, God forbid, the quiet when they can get off on the hard-charging, revving sounds of a snowmobile?

And then, of course, there’s Iraq.

Last week, former Democratic senator Gary Hart wrote in the Washington Post:

The truth is we're way off course. We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began.

Who now has the courage to say this?

Who indeed?

As Maureen Dowd wrote on Saturday, the Bush Administration has “jumped the couch” and the shark.

Now we’re canning respectable appointees at such positions as the Bureau of Justice Statistics because it has some disturbing though perhaps not surprising news to report about police treating blacks and Hispanics more aggressively during traffic stops than whites. Wasn’t there a movie about this?

Dowd writes:

You'd think that by now, watching the meshugas in Iraq, the Bush crowd would have learned some lessons about twisting facts to suit ideology, and punishing those who try to tell the truth. But they're still behaving like Cinderella's evil stepsisters, who cut their feet to fit them into the glass slipper: butchering reality to make the fairy tale come out their way.

Pat Robertson is on television advocating state-sponsored assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to save a few bucks on war, and we’ve strained our military, financial and diplomatic resources to adequately deal with Iran and North Korea. But the Bush administration feels our nation’s pain. It counters the grief and protests of Cindy Sheehan, who’s son was killed in Iraq, with its own mother of an Iraqi soldier with one small difference — her child is thankfully still alive and well.

If there’s one thing that causes my blood pressure to skyrocket it’s when simple-minded folk believe in the all-or-nothing approach. Life isn’t black and white. Case in point: Bush believes we either stay the course and finish the job in Iraq or capitulate into immediate withdrawal. Are he and his posse utterly incapable of coming up with myriad alternative solutions?

Apparently so, just as this administration is utterly incapable of admitting mistakes and adjusting for changes in circumstance, let alone fact. When Henry Kissinger starts likening Iraq to Vietnam, you can just hear the Fonz revving the engine of his motorcycle for his big jump.

But that leaves the Democrats, who have all but vanished. In the months leading up to the war, they caved in to the administration’s strength in the post-9/11 era and their own partisan, selfish concerns over mid-term elections.

Questions went unanswered — and worse — unasked. The media also were bystanders in this event, clearly queasy with the idea of questioning the policies of a president who presided over our country while it was under attack. That practice, and that of following Bushie around his backyard pool like a bunch of fawning puppy dogs, has got to stop. We have to put his and his administration’s feet to the fire over and over again. And if they refuses to answer, so be it. But the questioning must never stop. The American public deserves answers and accountability.

So here we are, with the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 looming, no end to the bloodbath of the insurgency in Iraq, no clear idea of how to win or at the very least withdraw without it collapsing into an Islamist state, and a military system that is being drained of its personnel (thankfully some Guardsmen are left to help with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans). But we’re going to fix that with a $350 million new Army recruitment ad campaign that doesn’t mention Iraq. As if men and women who enlist aren’t smart enough to figure out that Iraq is a very real port of destination.

Can someone speak the truth for once? Hillary, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John McCain, Russell Feingold? Please, I’d like to see the Democrats grow a set of balls and start to challenge the miserable state of our country with some very tangible solutions to correct our course. And I'd like to see the same from moderate Republicans. Because we are WAY off course.

We ALL deserve better. And we need to demand it now.

Here is the scenario I picture as the icing on the cake:

On Sept. 10, the Ohio State University Buckeyes are playing Texas Longhorns. George W. Bush, a big UT fan, decides to make an appearance at the Horseshoe. If that happens I will first regurgitate my chili, say a few Hail Marys as penance for my venom, and then pray to God W. takes the time to meet with the families of the Ohio Marines who were killed a few weeks ago in Iraq. Because even though the Buckeye state elected him to a second term, he surely didn’t see fit to pay his respects when some of our own paid the ultimate price for his policy. But hey, wouldn't want to ruin a perfectly good football game. Pass the pretzels.

Friday, August 26, 2005

One last summer hurrah

In the spirit of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, I'm spending the last day of summer vacation with my brood. Work can wait until Monday.

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much. — Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Happiness is a gift

They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods. — Edith Wharton

Fun fall schedule

Today is a mixed bag of stuff. I’m cranking away on work so I can play with the boys tomorrow. It’s the last official day of summer vacation and we’ve got the last of the school shopping to do, lunch at Champ’s at Crocker Park and general fun and frivolity.

Fall arts events
Wanted to share some fall events with you, courtesy of my cousin-in-law, Laura O’Brien. Laura is a talented artist who is also a partner at Silverthorne Gallery in Rocky River.

She sent an e-mail with news about some upcoming events I thought I’d share. And if you’re in the area and in need of a unique gift, Silverthorne has an amazing assortment of items, created by many talented women.

Here are Laura’s events:

Second Annual Ornament Glazing Event
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005
Join Laura at Silverthorne Gallery for our second annual glazing event. New ornament shapes are available this year! Ornaments are available for $2.50 each. Call the Gallery to reserve a 20- minute slot for up to eight people. First available time is 10 a.m. and the last opening is at 4 p.m. (440.331.7410)

Holiday Preview Weekend
Friday, Nov. 18 - Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005
Join us for a preview of the wonderful artwork by our 40-plus local artists. We will have extended hours during the weekend preview and then will be open 7 days a week until Christmas Eve.
Holiday Preview Hours:
Friday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.

Fall writing events
There’s so much happening the literary world of Cleveland this fall. Here’s a smidgeon of things that arrived in today’s mail:

Imagination 2 will be held five Saturdays from Oct. 15 – Nov. 19 at the east, west and downtown CSU campuses. There’s no listing on the university Web site, but for more information, you can e-mail

The workshop is 9:30-12:30 and covers fiction, poetry, essay, memoir and playwriting. Cost is reasonable — only $79.95 for all five session.

Poets’ & Writers’ League of Greater Cleveland is hosting the second annual Word Crafters Festival Nov. 12-20, a celebration of the written word. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the featured speakers. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My color scheme works!

Okay, I’m no Divine Designer like Candice Olsen. I’m much more of a Design on a Dime kind of gal. But I have to say I’m pretty darned proud of my latest decorating efforts.

Let’s just say that we’ve finally gone beyond wallpaper and Dover White to fully embrace color in our home decorating. This is quite a departure for the color-challenged such as Danny and I. (Just look at the clothes in our closet—all khaki, black, navy, white and the occasional French blue for him and pink for me.) But we’re willing to learn and willing to make a mistake or two along the way.

So far so good.

This project marks the realization that you get what you pay for when it comes to paint. No more $10 gallons of flat paint in this house. No siree, I’m now a preferred Sherwin-Williams customer. I swear by its paint and I’ll not use anything else in my house. Plus, it’s a Cleveland-based company and you’ve got to support the locals.

We’re in a painting frenzy because we decided to take advantage of a Home Depot carpet sale and get new carpet up the steps and in the upstairs bedrooms (except for my office). We already were planning to update the boys’ rooms, but new carpet in the hallway also required a desperately needed coat of fresh paint in the stairway, foyer and up and down hallways. Why is that area such a drag to paint? So we’ll move from a sage-y kind of green color to a warm, rich tan (Toasty Tan) in the center of our house.

I’m hoping it says, “Welcome to our warm and friendly home where the children are well-behaved, the dog never jumps on guests, the food is exquisite and the conversation divine.” Okay, that’s a lot to expect from a coat of paint, so maybe I’ll just shoot for warmth.

They say (I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, though a friend of mine says that whenever her mom invokes ‘they say’ she is really referring to Matt and Katie) that one should paint the interior of your home with colors of similar richness. And so I’ve done just that. I’m feeling downright bold. I even pulled out an olive-gray color for my half-bath downstairs, at which point Danny’s eyes glazed over and he said, “Yeah, Wen, looks nice (read: “Please don’t ask me to look at anymore paint swatches.”).”

Anyway, time is short today because I also have a lot of work to do and Ryan’s first football scrimmage is at 4:15. But I just wanted to pause for a moment and admire my handiwork.

Had to chuckle on Sunday. My husband’s brother-in-law is something of a throwback to the Fifties. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. He’s very kind and loving and lucky to have my sister-in-law as his wife. Anyway, he stopped over to pick up our nephew and found me in my painting clothes, lugging drop clothes and paint jugs (and aren’t those new plastic jugs just nifty?) and Danny cooking dinner. I’m sure he must think we’ve got it ALL backwards.

Enough of that, now I’ve got to run and make more money to pay off all my decorating expenses.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wendy's morning classroom

I’m an early riser. Didn’t used to be, but there’s something peaceful and serene about the morning that sets my day right. The addition of Riley into our household has also required an early riser to handle the morning constitution. So after launching e-mail, I head downstairs with my puppy and outside for the paper and, well, you know.

With coffee in hand and Riley content, I head back to my desk to begin my morning reading habits, what I've come to view as my morning classroom. First up, the New York Times online. I receive the day’s headlines in e-mail and I’ve become so accustomed to reading in that fashion that to have the physical paper in front of me would likely be disorienting.

I check out the top stories and usually read the international and national stories I’m following. There will be the occasional business story that peaks my interest, such as the news yesterday that magazine advertising for September is up (which means that freelance assignments will be needed to fill additional pages and dollars will be more readily available to pay for said assignments—Woo Hoo!).

Usually skip over the sports section. Not that I don’t enjoy sports, but I just don’t look to the Times for sports coverage. Many of the most fascinating stories, ones you’ll never see in The Plain Dealer are found in science pages of the Times.

It’s been running a series of articles on the so-called debate between evolution and intelligent design. I say so-called because as one commentator wrote today:

Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education. (Bold is mine.)

From the scientific perspective, there is no debate. But even the illusion of a debate is a sorry victory for antievolutionists, a public relations victory based, as so many have been in recent years, on ignorance and obfuscation.

Intelligent design is not something that can either be prove or disproved. It doesn’t fall into the realm of “science.” It is altogether a whole other animal. And that’s perfectly fine.

(Intelligent design) misses both the grace and the moral depth of knowing that humans have only the same stake, the same right, in the Earth as every other creature that has ever lived here.

Today’s article discusses the mix between faith and science among scientists. Dr. Francis S. Collins, who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute, is writing a book on the subject and is quoted extensively throughout the article. Though many of the nation’s top scientists talk about how the Genome project proves evolution over and over, there are some who also believe in something greater, something that doesn’t have to do with science. This statement by Collins really grabbed me. It echoes Albert Einstein:

"You will never understand what it means to be a human being through naturalistic observation," he said. "You won't understand why you are here and what the meaning is. Science has no power to address these questions - and are they not the most important questions we ask ourselves?"

Aside from skimming the PD and perusing the usual blogs and newsfeeds, my other morning reading ritual is the Washington Post. It’s my homepage when I launch Firefox. Again, I know just where to find my favorite sections, commentators, etc. online. But while we were on vacation I had the pleasure of picking up a print copy from time to time — a very different reading experience indeed.

This Sunday’s Post Magazine cover story was riveting. Titled “With God as Their Witness” by former magazine staffer and current director of newsroom training, Peter Perl, it was a personal account of his visit to the Middle East along with a group of Protestant seminarians and a handful of other lay and religious about how people of different faiths co-exist in this small geographic region. It raises some interesting questions about interfaith dialogue, about understanding and the challenges to feeling included.

It’s a lengthy piece, but worth the read. Of course I instantly sent it to Jill since I knew we would have a great conversation about it — and we have. Last year I received an invitation (I think by the Presbyterians) to visit Jordan (billed as "The Other Holy Land"). Though I obviously didn't partake of the junket, I did spend some time talking with the organizer and visiting the Web site. In the pit of my stomach was this overwhelming longing to see for myself, to find explanations and sources for my belief. I do hope to one day visit the Middle East — call it a longing, pilgrimage or spiritual quest.

I have no idea if that will ever happen, but I’ve also learned not to consider any trip out of the question.

What are your thoughts on this piece? I’d like to hear from you.

From science to God to history
I know this piece by Gene Weingarten was written tongue-in-cheek, but it raises the more serious question of how we can engage young people in learning American history. He writes:

America's schools are in crisis, particularly in the teaching of history. At a recent Senate hearing, it was disclosed that more than half of our high school seniors have less than a "basic" knowledge of our nation's past. This is particularly alarming because -- if my memory of high school serves me -- "basic" knowledge was what was taught in those classes composed of the kids who beat you up at lunchtime.

He goes on to say that “basic” Civil War history is knowing that Abe Lincoln won. So his idea is to change the boring nature of our nation’s history and changing it to make it more exciting.

I’m a history geek (was a history minor in college) so much so that I even have a copy of Herodotus, the father of history, on my bookshelves. I tell my boys that the best part about history is that it’s real. It’s like reading a great work of fiction, about an amazing battle, only this one actually happened, and these people actually lived.

History is much more than memorizing dates, coloring in maps or charting timelines — it is our story, with all the action, plot, drama, narrative, setting and characters that any writer could dream up and some that no one could imagine.

A nod to Joel
There is no question that I am addicted to Joel Achenbach’s blog — Achenblog. But he also writes a great column in the Post’s Sunday magazine. For anyone who maintains a blog, his latest Rough Draft column, “The Tail that Wags the Blog,” is a real hoot. I certainly don’t have the commentariat he does, but I agree that the blog is hungry and needs to be fed.

My alma mater rises to the top again
This is such a tired story. OU ranks as the nation’s second-biggest party school, according to the annual ratings in the Princeton Review. Of course it found its way on the front page of today's PD, fortunately below the fold.

Puh-leeze. I can see how that was the case in the 1980s. I mean, the drinking age was 18 and then 19 (for those of us grandfathered in), the town hosted two HUGE parties — Halloween and Springfest. But truth be told, Halloween was never that great for students. It was the weekend that all your friends from other schools (and their friend, and their friends, and so on) camped at your place, trashed your room or house, trashed the campus, trashed Uptown Athens and left you to clean up the mess. The novelty wore off of Halloween weekend after freshman year.

Springfest later became a dry event.

But here’s the funny thing. I was a campus tour guide throughout my four years at OU. I’d give prospective freshmen and their parents a tour of the campus and talk about all the wonderful educational opportunities available at OU. At some point in every tour, usually near the library, which was at the beginning of the tour, I’d be asked (mostly by a parent, occasionally by a serious student) if it was true about OU being a party school.

My stock answer, approved in advance by the admissions office, was that every school is party school. It's simply part of the college experience and it's up to individual students to make good choices. But now, 20 years later, I would add that I would send my kids there in a heartbeat. It's a great school.

Here's another news item about OU that didn't make the front page.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Relaxing end to summer

Regular readers of Creative Ink may recall my summer’s end post from last year Mania and mother guilt. Well I’m proud, I mean downright proud, to say that we had a vastly more relaxed, sane summer this year.

It was an intentional effort on my part. I scaled way back on the workload, even as I was hitting high gear at the end of May. The way I see it, there are only a precious few summers left when the boys will actually WANT to spend time with me. I’d better steal these moments while I still can.

Financially, we did okay. It’s been a stretch lately, but we managed and everyone is better for my decision.

I am, however, feeling a bit defensive about my tan. Given that I spent a portion of nearly every day at the pool and more than my share of afternoons watching baseball games, I’m sporting quite the savage tan this year. When anyone comments, my hubby jokingly pipes up, “How’s work going this summer, Wen?”

He kids because he can. He knows how important it was for the kids and I to play together. But he’s not the only kidder. I’ve also heard comments from colleagues and well, what can I say? We had a fun summer.

But this is the last official week of summer vacation. The boys start back to school next Monday. We’re all ready. Work took an intensified turn once we returned from vacation and the boys have all but lost interest in the pool now that football practice has started.

My savage tan is quickly fading. That’s okay because we have some great memories of hanging together. All three boys loved to entertain me with their exploits on the high dive. Ryan dives in what can only be described as a gaggle of arms and legs. Michael learned to dive off the edge of our neighbor’s pool and Patrick and his buddies perfected the art of a vicious game of pool tag without getting yelled at by the lifeguards.

Ryan and Patrick both made their summer baseball all-star teams and we had great fun watching them play with the best of their league. Ryan even snagged second place in the skills competition cranking a few hits over the fence and pitching fastballs.

Now we’re in the thick of tackle football. Ryan is the starting quarterback for the Bay Middle School seventh grade team. Patrick is playing wingback and safety for the Bay Rec fifth/sixth team. And Mikey, well, he could probably take them all on, but he’s got a few weeks before flag football starts. I’m praying that he understands he can’t wrap and tackle in this league. Oy!

Gearing up for school
So now that school is approaching, I’ve been motivated to finish some projects, namely repainting the boys’ rooms. I stripped the wallpaper from Ryan and Patrick’s room back in the winter. In a marathon painting session on Saturday, Danny and I prepped and painted the walls and woodwork in their room. Danny managed, God love him, even feeling a little under the weather thanks to my neighbor’s blender the night before. Anyway, the room looks fabulous, more like a teenager’s room than a little boy’s room.

Now we’re on to Michael’s. Soon we’ll be done with the walls covered in crayon scribbles and smears of play-doh. I primed over his name scrawled in pencil. It’s kind of sad, but it’s also time. He’s in first grade now and informed me that his sailboat room was just too babyish for a budding linebacker.

I’m nesting a bit, as I always do at this time of year. I’d like nothing more than to tear into every room in the house and scrub, scrub, scrub. But I’ve got too much work to do this week and I need to get the painting finished. Next week, when the boys are gone I’ll be able to tackle the cleaning.

And boy do I have my work cut out. We’ve got a summer’s worth of grime coating the inside of the house. There’s a mixture of dirt, sand and dog hair from the revolving door that was my house all summer. Seemed pointless to keep cleaning when one neighborhood game of hoops could mean the end of my clean kitchen floor. And so I relaxed my standards for the duration of the summer.

Relaxed … that’s how I will look on this summer. And isn’t that the point?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Big news day

The words of every crisis communications consultant I’ve ever heard are echoing in my head after skimming the morning paper—“Tell it first and tell it all.”

Amazing how few people actually follow those words of wisdom. To wit: Ohio is in a state of crisis. One need only to look on the front page of today’s Plain Dealer to see its humiliation in the face of Gov. Bob Taft. Yesterday, our esteemed governor plead no contest and was convicted of breaking state ethics laws. He was fined $4,000—the equivalent of $20 to you and me.

Some will argue, “So he didn’t report a few rounds of golf, what’s the big deal?” The deal is that Taft is required by law to report to citizens of Ohio who is buying him what, the implication being that if certain people routinely buy him expensive rounds of golf at the state’s posh country clubs, they may in turn expect some governmental favors.

It’s about transparency in government and public accountability. And he made darned sure that others in his administration followed the highest ethical standards. Those who didn’t were dismissed and not allowed a second chance. Given the state of problems plaguing our state government, accusations of widespread corruption no longer seem hyperbole.

Taft’s words are coming back to haunt him. Judge Mark Froehlich said, “Even the governor can be charged and convicted of a criminal offense.” With that he also ordered Taft to issue an “appropriate and meaningful apology to the citizens of Ohio.

And so he has. But there are those, both in the Democratic and his own Republican party who are calling for Taft to resign. This is one guy who is known more for his inability to lead and he somehow thinks he can continue for the next 17 months in light of his most recent and serious gaffe!

Gov. Taft, you owe Ohio citizens better than that—you owe them the chance to begin the painful and tedious process of rebuilding a state that you failed.

Closer to home
The other big news today is now that Cleveland businessman (I guess that’s what we call him) Nate Gray has been convicted on 36 charges of bribing public officials in four cities in exchange for public contracts, many believe that federal prosecutors are going after former Cleveland Mayor Mike White next.

He could be viewed as the big fish is this scum-filled pond. I don’t pretend to know how this case will end, but I do know that as a resident of Greater Cleveland, I feel I’ve been cheated. And that really pisses me off.

We had a chance—and we actually believed it at the time—that we could turn our city around. That we could start building new homes and improving our infrastructure and making our airport a world-class destination. But the charges against Gray and Ricardo Teamor and who knows how many others show that any progress our city made during the 1990s was done under the canopy of bribes, kickbacks and coercion.

There's an incestuous nature to Northeast Ohio's business and politics. Cleveland’s leaders—both political and, perhaps more importantly, it’s business leaders—have a lot of ’splaining to do. Who sat quietly by, including the media, while all this happened?

Disturbing world news
This story reported in today’s Washington Post is very disturbing. It seems that police in China's northern Shaanxi province have arrested one of the nation's leading advocates of private property rights after officials posed as journalists and forged an e-mail from a prominent Hong Kong reporter to lure him out of hiding, friends and relatives said.

You may recall that the day before the 9/11 attacks, the freedom fighter Mamood in Afghanistan was murdered by Osama bin Laden's people using similar tactics. He thought he was being interviewed by journalists and was killed by bombs packed into a television camera. It's a disturbing pattern that has big-time implications for revolutionaries in the most dangerous and oppressed parts of our world.

In related news, the state of the world's press continues to teeter in the wake of government pressure. The International Federal of Journalists Asia Pacific has launched a petition drive for press freedom on Nepal. Here’s is some background from an e-mail I received today from IFJ-Asia Pacific President, Christopher Warren (who was a fellow panelist at the 2004 East-Asia Journalism Forum in Korea last November).

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, has organised the Global Day of Action for Press Freedom in Nepal on August 30. As part of this global campaign, the IFJ and its affiliates have organised the Nepal Crisis Signature Campaign.

This is a chance to show your support and solidarity with the journalists of Nepal.

The campaign is taking place from August 7 to 31, with a view to garner mass solidarity at national and international levels. The collected signatures will be submitted to the UN General Assembly scheduled to meet in New York from September 14 to 17.

Since royal coup on February 1 2005, which suspended fundamental human rights in Nepal, King Gyanendra's hand-picked government, together with the military, have systematically and aggressively eroded press freedom and freedom of expression. Although the state of emergency was lifted in April, the climate of fear and harassment continues today, with threats, abductions, detention and torture still remaining a daily routine forced upon Nepali journalists.

The ongoing violation of civil liberties is unacceptable and must be stopped.

There is an urgent need for increased international pressure on the Nepalese government to restore democracy and press freedom and stop the torture, abduction and harassment of media personnel and other forms of censorship.

The Nepalese media community are risking their safety each day to protest and resist this repression. But they need more support.

The IFJ, its affiliates and the Nepali media community are stepping up their protest and ask for the support of their colleagues. Show your support by signing the Nepal Crisis Signature Campaign.

The IFJ, together with the Federation of Nepalese Journalists and other Nepal IFJ affiliates would appreciate if you could be involved in the petition by:

· Signing on to the petition

· Including a link on your websites to the signature campaign.

· Email your network about the signature campaign.

Visit here for more information on Global Day of Action for Press Freedom in Nepal.

Sending prayers
WAPO also is reporting this morning that Coretta Scott King has suffered a major stroke. We’re sending prayers for her recovery.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In response to Jill's comment

My feet are usually in horrible shape -- the result of too many years of running, my love of going barefoot and my propensity to wear ill-fitting shoes (but they look good). As I approach my fourth decade I finally understand my mother's charge to spend money on good shoes. And so I will, when it's time to put shoes back on, that is. Ahhh, bare feet!

Today's hodge podge

Today is another mishmash of items:

Strange bedfellows
The press has found an unlikely friend in former Sen. Bob Dole, who penned this op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times in support of a federal shield law. Dole makes several points worth noting:

1) “If state rather than federal authorities were conducting this investigation, Ms. Miller most likely would not be in jail.”

2) “I am also greatly concerned about Judith Miller's situation because she has been incarcerated as a result of an investigation into possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, of which I was a sponsor. The law was intended to protect covert intelligence operatives whose lives would be endangered if their identities were publicly disclosed.” [emphasis added]

3) “…the imprisonment of Judith Miller will be even more troubling if it turns out that no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act has occurred. As she sits in jail, Congress can honor her commitment to principle and her courage, and that of all reporters who have helped expose wrongdoing by protecting their sources, by passing the Lugar-Pence bill and creating a federal privilege for reporters.”

My favorite time of day
I simply love the blue glow of the pre-dawn hours. There’s serenity in that hour that calms me and sets me to dreaming—a good start to rest of my day.

Irwin Gratz in Cleveland
SPJ’s fearless leader, Irwin Gratz, is speaking today at The City Club. He joined members of the Cleveland Chapter board for dinner last night at The Harp.

Today’s noontime panel will discuss the use of confidential sources. Join us if you can!

Nike’s new ad campaign
The Times featured this article about marketers turning their attention to “real women” to sell their goods. I say, ’bout time. Of course, we’re still peddling women’s bodies to sell stuff, but that’s a losing battle.

This week, Nike is introducing a humorous print and online campaign for exercise gear, frankly glorifying body parts that until now were almost never seen in ads, much less celebrated. One ad, which begins boldly, "My butt is big," features an oversize photograph of the derrière in question.

Another Nike ad declares, "I have thunder thighs," while a third asserts: "My shoulders aren't dainty or proportional to my hips. Some say they are like a man's. I say, leave men out of it."

Click here to see the new ad campaign.

What body part do you relate to most?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Behind those numbers

Ordinarily the District Report Card is a numbers story. It’s always about stats and comparisons and which districts improved and which did not.

Behind those statistics are thousands of personal stories that tell the true nature of learning in ways that No Child Left Behind could never adequately address. I’ll tell one story — that of my middle child, Patrick.

Now going into fifth grade (middle school in Bay Village), Patrick has always struggled with reading. He had a terrible time with phonics that was exacerbated by low confidence. His kindergarten teacher at St. Raphael had requested a conference with me to say that Patrick qualified for Title I reading help.

We were under no obligation to accept help from this federally funded program, she told me. I’m sure my mouth fell open when the teacher explained that some parents refuse the help because of the stigma that their child is not smart.

Puh-leeze! I had already been through teaching one boy to read and I welcomed any and all assistance.

So Patrick worked with a marvelous tutor throughout first grade. He even participated in a summer reading camp through Ohio Reads. However, in second grade we learned that funding was cut and he would be eligible for general education tutoring focused on reading. He worked with his same tutor and made a little more progress.

In third grade, his teacher said she wanted to see how he managed in class. He did okay, his confidence improved slightly but reading remained a struggle.

By fourth grade we had switched him to public school and within the first week his teacher told me he qualified for Title I. I knew he still required the help and felt immense guilt at not having made the switch sooner for his educational benefit. His teacher showed me an entry in his journal that said he was glad to switch to the public school because the kids at his old school teased him about his reading. It broke my heart to see those words on the page. He’s so quiet. He never told me.

Patrick thrived at Westerly School. His reading tutor and his classroom teacher worked closely to ensure his success. And he participated in an extended day program twice a week for several months in preparation of the proficiency tests.

Reading was coming a little easier, but Patrick is very slow and methodical. It’s not that he doesn’t know the answer, it’s that he’s analyzing and thinking critically about a story. He often spots inconsistencies and has a natural curiosity about why things are. Problem is the proficiencies are timed tests. There's no time to ask questions. I knew Patrick needed the practice in reading a short story and answering questions more quickly. His teacher sent home a month’s worth of practice tests and he practiced every night.

Though he is strong in all other subjects, particularly math, I was worried about his performance on the proficiencies for his sake, not mine. I kept that worry to myself and, with the help of his tutor and teacher, prepared him as best we could. He seemed very calm going into the two-week testing period.

On portfolio day we learned that Patrick passed the math, science and citizenship portions of the proficiencies. The reading and writing scores wouldn’t be available until later in the summer.

Those arrived a few weeks ago and Patrick did indeed pass both reading and writing. He even had several areas of strength in writing. He surprised himself and was clearly very proud.

But what illustrates his progress more than anything was the Title I report I received from his tutor at the end of the school year. It was the results of Patrick’s Peabody Individual Achievement Test-Revised (PIAT-R). He had taken a similar test in May 2004 at which time he earned a score of 37 percent. Only one year and a whole lot of work later, he scored a 68 percent — a difference of 31 percentage points!

Next to his score his tutor wrote: “Wow! That is amazing!”

In two weeks, Patrick will start middle school. I ran into his fourth-grade teacher at Heinen’s last weekend and she asked if he was excited about middle school. I said that he was and she assured me he is ready. From the excitement and confidence in his voice I know she’s right.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Keeping me up tonight

Isn't basic training in the U.S. military only eight weeks?

What happens after basic?

Are soldiers considered battle-ready?

Are the young men and women who currently join the armed forces being shipped out to Iraq and Afghanistan as fast as they can complete basic training?

If so, then why is it taking so long for our military to train Iraqi forces?

Can't we just put them through basic?

Why I do journalism

Interesting read on Jay Rosen’s Press Think from yesterday. (Aside: I like that he uses the term “press” versus “media.”) He talked to j-profs about what they used to teach that they no longer believe.

There are some interesting insights from those who shared. Despite our calling it a profession, it is still a craft, practiced daily and perfected, one hopes, over a lifetime. It’s not a career for the financially driven and clearly that sends some fleeing. But ultimately the posts come back to the fundamental question of why one practices journalism. I don’t know what the answer to that question is for others, but I do know what the answer is for me.

I’m a journalist because I have to be. I love stories. I love researching stories and I love discovering stories. I love people and learning what makes them tick beyond the standard bio and press release. I love learning and exploring subjects I may have previously thought dull.

It goes without saying that I also love to write. I like to think that perhaps I have a knack for seeing things—whether it’s the absurd, the poignant or the humor in a situation. Or that I can put seemingly incompatibles bits and pieces together to weave a narrative. And yes, I’m an idealist. I’m hopeful that what I do makes a difference. But that isn't something instilled in J-school. I've been that way all my life. My parents taught me early on that I could make a difference in this world.

I’ve known what I wanted to do with my career from the time I was in third grade. My uncle was editor of a Tiffin, Ohio, newspaper and I was hooked when I first witnessed the buzz of the newsroom, filled with gravely voiced reporters barking into their phones and pounding on their typewriters. Everything they did was urgent, important to someone, somewhere.

My belief, and it proves I’m a product of my time, is that journalists can make a difference—still. I’m not talking about Watergate difference, though clearly that’s one way. I mean even in smaller ways.

That’s what keeps me going, that what I write matters to someone – even if it’s only one person. That it makes them think or question or relate or act in some way. Much of what I write goes unnoticed. Sometimes what I write helps on a larger scale. Here’s a recent example:


Many thanks for the copies of the Arlington Catholic Herald with your
article on Merton. It’s great.

It has created a further new acquisition for the Center. A lady in Alexandria, VA saw the article and owns an original Merton Calligraphy, which she acquired in the mid sixties. She is currently "downsizing" her home to move to smaller quarters and has donated the calligraphy to the Center. Thank you for the publicity, which made this possible.

With all best wishes,


Dr Paul M Pearson.
Director and Archivist,
Thomas Merton Center,
Bellarmine University,
Louisville, KY

There’s an element of preaching that goes on in journalism, not surprising since we often refer to it as a calling or a vocation. We’re telling people what they should think about, what they should know and, at times, what they should care about.

This summer I did a series of articles for the Catholic Universe Bulletin on some of the diocese’s unsung ecclesial artists. On the surface, it would seem these are not of great importance. I wasn’t writing of the latest encyclical or liturgical changes that affect all Catholics. I was writing about the decorations found in our city’s churches. But in reality, the story of the art in our churches is the story of us. It’s our history and it deserved to be recognized and preserved.

I know my efforts mattered to two people—the son of one of the artist's profiled who has embarked on a personal pilgrimage to see his father's work, and the director of the Center for Sacred Landmarks, which has received calls from other organizations seeking to partner in the protection and celebration of Cleveland’s sacred landmarks — calls that may or may not have happened, but that were spurred on by seeing an article in the paper.

I know plenty of people who left journalism for saner, more lucrative professions. But it’s never been about the money. And maybe that’s something journalism students need to hear in their first course. You have to be in it for more than a paycheck. If you practice it as your calling, it will never cease to surprise and fulfill.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Is it fall yet?

Phew! It’s Friday and I’ve made it through the first week back after vacation. I’ve learned a few things this week—namely that being your own boss doesn’t lessen the pressure, it only adds to it. Of course I knew this, but I LIVED it the past two weeks.

Perhaps in retrospect I should have brought my laptop on vacation if only to check e-mail and quiet my restless brain from wondering whether or not something was left unfinished. It wasn’t, but the shame of it all is that I didn’t sleep well on vacation for worrying (save for the nights I popped a Tylenol PM) and I wish to God I could let go and let God. I’m a spiritual work in progress and perhaps one day I’ll learn to give ALL to the Big Man and trust in his divine plan. Anyway, my lack of sleep certainly caught up with me this week.

I was tired, cranky and essentially overwhelmed by everything. Not the optimal way to live, just ask my family who had to endure my crabby tirades and withdrawal. Things will settle down as we begin to move into our school-year routine, now only two weeks away. Woo Hoo! Am I excited about school starting? You bet! And so are my boys. It’s my belief that boys in general and mine in particular positively need structure and routine in their lives.

Sorry, but any mom who tells you they will miss the summer vacation is either delusional or lying out of guilt. What we miss about summer is the lack of schedule, the break from hounding about homework and bed time, the chance to chill by the pool, the ability to let housework and laundry slide. But school starting in the fall is part of the natural order of things and come mid-August both kids and moms are ready to resume the structure.

A side note: On vacation my little niece, Natalie (she’s 2-1/2 and cute as a button), was sitting in a kayak my brother-in-law had rented quietly and contentedly reading her books. My sister, Jen, is due with a little boy in about six weeks. I felt compelled to tell her that that whole sitting quietly reading books on the beach thing—it’s a girl thing. When her little guy is that age, he’ll be a mile down the beach finding the game of chase with mom and dad and the waves an utter delight.

Business and meetings are picking up once again and that’s all good. Hopefully the next month will bring closure to a couple of long-term projects (along with some much-needed coin) and a wealth of new ones.

National pitching report
Did receive two rejections while on vacation and one “Your query is being considered….” The latter left me elated since a handwritten note also accompanied it from the editor. I continue to live on the emotional roller coaster of a national freelance writer. One day the news will be, "I sold my first national magazine piece!"

You’re invited: SPJ program year begins
Society of Professional Journalists national president Irwin Gratz of Maine Public Radio will be in town on Wednesday, Aug. 17, participating in a panel discussion at the City Club of Cleveland on the use and consequences of confidential sources.

Also on the panel are Linda Foley, president of The Newspaper Guild, and Mike Needs, public editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Tim Smith, professor of news at Kent State University, will serve as moderator.

SPJ members can get lunch for the City Club member rate. Tickets are $13 for City Club and SPJ members and $20 for non-members. They can be purchased by calling The City Club at 216.621.0082 or visiting the Web site.

This event kicks off our 2005-06 program year. For more information on our events, to subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter the Writer's Week or to join SPJ, please visit our new and improved Web site. Special thanks to my pal Jim Kukral for his fabulous redesign.

What I covet
One of my favorite magazines is Inc. Been a subscriber for the past four years, met an editor in New York in April and would love to write for it someday. Though I used to write business stories on a regular basis, I’m afraid I’ve not done so at all this year.

If I’ve learned anything it’s that things can change in a day—even an hour. So there’s hope that I will alight once again on a fabulous small biz story.

Anyway, Inc. has this feature called The Inc. Life in which entrepreneurs are interviewed about the things they can’t live without—favorite power suit, piece of technology, writing instrument, favorite junk food, etc. Each is asked what they covet and often it’s a snazzy car or boat.

My needs are simple. I covet a buttery soft, toffee-colored leather bag. Big enough to hold the essentials—wallet, cell, keys, notebook, palm, water bottle—but not so big that it causes back pain. The color and texture are of prime importance. This is a timeless bag and as such it should have no trendy apparatus or accoutrements (except a pocket for my cell phone and pens). I hate labels and identifying brand marks of any kind. I want simple, elegant leather. And if it also came in black that would be swell. I mean, brown is great and rich and warm and autumnal but face it, black is, well, essential.

On the coming autumn
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but fall is simply my favorite time of year. Right about now is when I start dreaming of ribbed turtlenecks, cashmere sweaters and great leather shoes (to go with my bag). Crisp air, crunchy leaves, coffee steaming in my mug, my boys' football games, Danny’s chili, walks with Riley. Does it get any better than fall?

The fall catalogs are arriving daily and I find it amazing that I can be fantasizing about sweaters and Donegal slacks when it’s 90 degrees. Can one will it to be 60 degrees out?

So I dog-ear the catalogs with all the things I want to buy, knowing full well I never will. I’m not much of a shopper and tend not to buy much for myself. Something else always comes up and I just don’t have that kind of disposable income anyway. That’s why I require classic pieces … like the leather bag I covet. (sigh)

Okay, enough dreaming. Now it's back to work.

UPDATE — Birthday wishes
Almost forgot (for shame!). Wanted to wish my older brother, Chris and very happy 40th birthday. Holy cow! Can't believe it! The sad thing is that now I'm only two years away from the big 4-0. Happy Birthday, Chrissie, you old bird you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

In this month's Quill

I do my share of writing gratis, including right here on Creative Ink. But one I'm particularly enjoying is the monthly column on freelancing I pen for the Society of Professional Journalist's Quill magazine. Here's the latest column that was a direct result of my participation in the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in June.

Peter's passing
Tuned in last night to the ABC News special on Peter Jennings. Brought tears to my eyes and lump to my throat. I was a Peter Jennings gal in the way that my husband is a Miller Lite guy. He was THE source when it came to network news. Every election night, it was Peter and Company. Sure I'd flick over to see what CNN was up to, but for great context and commentary it was always Peter. On the Millennium, no one did it better than Peter. He was downright punchy as the ball dropped on Times Square and darnit, he deserved to be after a masterful, marathon run. And during every breaking news and in-depth piece, it was always, for me, Peter Jennings. He will be missed...

The paradox of the pithy narrative

This is funny. It’s an article titled, “I'll Be Brief,” by Carl Sessions Stepp, a J-prof at U Maryland and senior editor at American Journalism Review. (I’m pretty sure I had textbook in J-school written in part by Stepp.)

Anyway, his point is that “In a world of tight newsholes, no-jump edicts and time-starved readers, newspapers are turning to short-form narratives in an effort to bring heightened creativity to small spaces.”

The teaser for this piece on Romenesko was “Pithy narratives.”

Love that word pithy. It sounds derogatory, but it is the essence of what good journalism should be in this ADD world. According to my M-W Dictionary, pithy means “having substance and point: tersely cogent.”

Stepp could take a lesson from his column because he takes 2,747 words to tell us how to write stories concisely:

Zipping through newsrooms are catchphrases like "container stories" (which contain themselves to the section front) and "short-form narrative" (storytelling produced in a day or two rather than weeks or months). A columnist won a Pulitzer Prize this year for a range of vignette-filled small masterpieces. Even the venerable Associated Press has volunteered daily "optional leads" on selected top stories, combining narrative style with wire service punch.

He’s referring of course to Cleveland’s own Connie Schultz, whom he interviewed along with her editor Stuart Warner. Stepp goes through the usual surveys of declining readership and cites examples from all the buzz names in narrative journalism – Jack Hart, Jon Franklin and the like.

But the point is that newspapers in particular have to do a better job of storytelling, period. Here’s a discussion (sorry, SPJ member login required) and example of a pithy narrative by Pulitzer Prizewinner Tom Hallman of the Oregonian.

Newspapers will always need to balance in-depth reporting with smaller fare. But no matter what the size, I say break away from the inverted pyramid and simply tell me a story.

After citing many (I would venture to say too many) examples of pithy narratives, Stepp concludes that short-form narrative isn’t a 1,200-word story cut to fit a 600-word space. It has a different tone, tighter form and sharper edge.

The rub?

To produce them, writers need confidence, and, more than anything else perhaps, supportive editors.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How 'bout a little humanity?

Thank the Lord, Maureen Dowd is back!

After taking a few months off to write her next book and then unexpectedly grieve for her mother who recently passed away, Dowd has returned to the op-ed pages of the New York Times just in time to point out the inhumanity of George W. Bush.

She writes of the plight of Cindy Sheehan, a mom who lost her 24-year-old son, Casey to the war in Iraq. Sheehan has camped outside W's Crawford, Texas, ranch (where our esteemed president will spend five weeks of vacation) in order to get a little face time with the prez.

But he's too inhuman and lacking in what Dowd calls "elementary shrewdness" to walk down the end of his driveway and hear her out. That's because he lacks what Clinton possessed in spades, the ability to feel another's pain.

In his first meeting with Sheehan a month after the tragic death of her son he referred to her as "Mom." When it comes to my three sons, I am a great big Mama Bear and I'm afraid such a comment would cause me to snarl my teeth and swat my bear claw at his smug face.

Hasn't anyone ever taught this guy basic human compassion and sincerity? That's it! What bothers me most (and the list is quite long) about W is that he lacks sincerity. I swear there's not one authentic emotional reaction from that guy save for the faces he made during the first televised presidential debate last fall.

Calling the grieving mother of a soldier he sent to war "Mom." How patronizing and absurd and had that been me I may have had to spit on his shoes and remind him that I am most assuredly NOT his mom and that the person who called me mom DIED in a war he sent him to fight for reasons that later proved not to be valid.

Dowd writes:

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people...

We traveled through our nation's capital while on vacation and it was a great opportunity to talk to the kids about history. I'm convinced that what makes a great president is his (and hopefully soon, her) humanity.

My fellow Berea High School classmate Tim Russo asked the question recently: Who are your heroes? My heroes are people who understand basic human compassion, those who are imperfectly, splendidly human:

My dad, Chuck Lewis
My husband, Dan Hoke
My mom, Nancy Lewis
My grandparents, Emil (deceased Feb. 3, 1995) & Nancy Litvak
Abraham Lincoln
Thomas Jefferson
Harry Truman
Thomas Merton
Writer, William Zinsser
Writer and Pulitzer Prizewinner, Edith Wharton
John F. Kennedy
Photographer, Margaret Bourke-White
St. Theresa of Avila

And the three most important people in my life -- Ryan, Patrick and Michael Hoke.

Who are your heroes? And why?

Soliciting questions for Supreme Court nominee
Received an e-mail from my colleague Rick Knee at National Writer's Union. He forwarded this message from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer who is seeking questions for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts from her constituents:

Dear Friend:

Judge John G. Roberts has been nominated to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

Without prejudging the nominee, I do believe that Judge Roberts' record raises questions about his commitment to the right to privacy, protection of the environment, and other important issues. With so many rights and freedoms hanging in the balance, this Supreme Court nomination deserves a thorough and in-depth evaluation by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I believe that it shouldn't be only Senators who get to ask the questions of Judge Roberts. I want to know what you care about the most. That is why I have joined with six of my colleagues -- Senators Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, Mary Landrieu, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, and Hillary Clinton -- in reaching out to the American people.

We are asking you to help us let the Judiciary Committee know the questions that are on the minds of many Americans. If you have a question for Judge Roberts, please visit our special webpage. There you can fill out a simple form and submit your question. I will compile all questions from you and other California constituents and submit them to the Judiciary Committee as it considers the Roberts nomination.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Knee points at that you may also want to read this report , compiled by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, examining Roberts' record on cases dealing with media-related issues such as the First Amendment, freedom of information and ownership consolidation.

Lawyers back shield law
Finally, there's this report from AP that the American Bar Association has overwhelmingly voted to support the federal shield law.

"Our action today acknowledges the important role of journalists and the media to providing the public with significant information to ensure an informed democracy, and reporters' need to be able to protect sources in order to get that information," said Michael S. Greco of Boston, ABA's president. "It also recognizes reasonable standards for compelling journalists to name sources or disclose information gleaned in gathering news," he said.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Back to the grind

Amazing what happens when you're gone for a week.

• Iraqi insurgent attack resulting in death of Ohio Marines
• Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigns followed failed levy
• Peter Jennings dies of lung cancer

There's so much to write about this week and I'll try to squeeze it in as best I can. But today I'm dealing with a sick dog. So sad. I hated taking Riley to the kennel. We even came home a day early and were able to pick her up Friday night. But she's had stomach problems ever since. It's almost as bad as dealing with a sick kid, only she can't tell me what's making her feel bad and she's very lethargic.

Boys start football practice today and of course the heat and humidity are climbing. But they admitted to me that they are ready for school to start. It's a boy thing. I think they function better with routines and schedules.

But we did have a very pleasant week away. Wish I was better at relaxing but since I'm self-employed I always feel a pull to check on things, even when I don't actually do so. Hardly slept Saturday night wondering what I may have left untended and so awoke early Sunday and spent two and a half hours going through e-mail. Glad I did because last night I finally slept well.

I'd like to share some photos of the trip, but everytime I try to upload an image, my browser crashes. Oh well. I bought a Nikon Coolpix 4600 the night before we left and had a ball playing around with it on vacation. Got some great photos of the kids in the surf and the beautiful scenery.

Read two books and started a third. Finally read The DaVinci Code. A great beach read. Read my many magazines that were piling up and just sat with my eyes closed enjoying the sounds and smells of the surf. Taught Patrick how to duck under or dive through a wave and did some major boogie boarding.

We had a good time, but one of the best parts of vacation is coming home rested. So with this post, Creative Ink is officially back to work. Will post more as time permits.