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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Catalyst magazine wants to know: What do you think of Gov. Strickland's proposal for cabinet-level education director?

Weigh in on Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's proposal to appoint a cabinet-level director of the Ohio Department of Education and relegate the superintendent of public instruction and state school board to the roles of advisors.

What are the pluses? What are the minuses? Who wins and who loses? How will it contribute to or detract from improved teacher quality and student achievement?

Take the Catalyst quiz.

Why citizen effort is needed on Cuyahoga County story

Ed Morrison just sent me a link to a new site called Map the Mess: Cleaning Up Cuyahoga County.

It' s a citizen journalism effort using social networking software to map the many business and civic connections among Cuyahoga County's leadership. This is the perfect story in which to use the mapping technology, social networking and crowdsourcing. 

The vastness of this story will never be fully understood if people don't report and explain connections. A quick chat with friends and neighbors usually brings forward more connections that have yet to be reported in the mainstream press. However, this type of effort only retains credibility if the information posted can be verified.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cuyahoga County: What's next?

There's a certain thrill to watching the unraveling of the Cuyahoga County political patronage machine. We (Dan and I) spent the evening speculating with neighbors about how deep the deception lies, what the FBI and IRS are searching for, when (if?) charges will be filed, how long this has been going on and who will benefit.

Today's PD is reporting that D-A-S Construction CEO Steve Pumper is singing. Russo's attorney, Richard Lillie, claims there was no quid pro quo. But as Valdis Krebs has shown here and here, there are ways around direct quid pro quo.

The question percolating in my mind today, in addition to when will we learn more, is what kind of long-term impact this will have on important county services that residents depend on—MetroHealth Medical Center, Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disability, Children and Family Services and Support Enforcement Agency. Cuyahoga County residents, dwindling in numbers, are not going to support tax increases without some serious changes in how government is delivered and held accountable.

Yesterday's reporting focused primarily on the scope of the search warrants executed. Now it's time to look deeper into the fallout from this public corruption.

The Sound of Ideas will be discussing shortly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

FBI/IRS raid county admin

Big stuff breaking at Cuyahoga County Admin building. I'll be following this story closely.

Journalism's self-inflicted woes

From Scott Rosenberg's Wordyard earlier this summer. Rosenberg is a co-founder of Salon.

"There’s no question in my mind that the woes of the journalism profession today have been at least partially self-inflicted. At the very historical moment that the news pros faced relentless new scrutiny from a vast army of dedicated amateur watchdogs and expert critics, they offered up a relentless sequence of missteps and disasters. Some were failures of professionalism, from the Jayson Blair meltdown to the Dan Rather screwup. But the biggest — the absence of a stiff media challenge to the Bush administration’s Iraq war misinformation campaign — was a failure of civic responsibility. With that failure, the professionals forfeited their claim to special privilege or unique public role as challengers of official wrongdoing and ferreters of truth. The democracy still needs these roles filled, of course. But after the Iraq bungle, the professional journalists’ claim to own them exclusively became much harder to accept."

Friday, July 25, 2008

"This talk is about living your's for my kids"

You owe it to yourself to watch this lecture. It is pure joy and inspiration. Unfortunately, Randy Pausch passed away this morning. He was 47.

A gift in today's snail mail

A few weeks back I letter arrived to me via the Christian Science Monitor from a tutor out in Palo Alto, California. She wrote to tell me that her eighth-grade pupil, Alex, had used my Monitor story on John Boyd to learn new vocabulary words (six!) and content and style. Her student wanted to know what happened in the election.

I called her the day after I received her letter to tell her that Boyd lost the election, handily, which is when she told me that her student had written a short essay based on my story. While it's certainly flattering to have a grown-up tell me they enjoyed reading my story, I find it awesome indeed that I received such praise from a 14-year-old boy. Cooler still is that my article was used educationally. 

So I asked her if she would be kind enough to send me a copy. She did along with this short, handwritten letter:
Dear Wendy, 
Sorry to be so long getting back to you! I went to my tutoring student's file (Alex) & found I did have the article and his essay! I have sent him a letter with your kind and timely response and info. I was thrilled with your call—so thanks. This makes it all so real for my student. God bless journalists who write or call back. You are a rare but wonderful breed.
Julie Freeman, CSM reader
And here is Alex's essay based on the story. 
Prison to City Council Profile
This article is about a man named John A. Boyd and a place called Cleveland, Ohio, Ward 6. John A. Boyd is running for Cleveland City Council, except he's been convicted of 2nd degree murder, theft, and forgery, as well as possession of drugs.

Ward 6 is mentioned often in this article. Although it has prestigious museums and clinics, it also has many poor areas. One of the reasons Boyd is running is because he wants to help Ward 6. He says that because he had no relationship with his father, he ended up doing the things that brought him into prison.

Now, Boyd is a social worker running against the current councilwoman Mamie Mitchell. Although he has fewer supporters, he has inspired many, despite his record. He may be behind, but he could get supporters and be elected.

The article does a good job of showing the conditions that cause bad decisions. It also shows both sides of the debate if he can hold office. I thought this article was interesting to read. It is amazing how people can turn their lives around.

Can't think of a better way to end an extraordinarily hectic week.

Moyers 'Journal' comes to Slavic Village

Did you see Bill Moyers' program on the latest financial disaster? "You can see the whole picture in one neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio," says Moyers. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Zelda on Scott

I love reading the letters of writers. I think they contain some of their best, most heartfelt work. And they reveal much about the inner workings of the writer's heart, soul and brain. I have a copy of "The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald," by Sheilah Graham that contains some moving letters from the end of his life.  Here is a passage from a letter from Zelda Fitzgerald to Scott's family following his death in 1940.
"So many years have passed since summers lost themselves in the green valley of White Bear [Minnesota] and time floated immutable and eternal above the blue sleek surface of the lake. …Always we hoped to some day be able to offer testimonial to the courtesies that were extended us; from so many kind hearts, in so many lonesome places. … Now that [Scott] won't be coming east again with his pockets full of promises and his notebooks full of schemes and new refurbished hope, life doesn't offer as happy a vista. … Life has a way of closing its books as soon as one's category is fulfilled; and I suppose the time has come. … If when things have resolved themselves more tangibly, I want to know how to find my way about the bread-line, I will write you — Don't forget me."

Monday, July 21, 2008

'60 Minutes' was riveting last night

Most Sunday nights I may hear a bit of CBS's "60 Minutes" while I'm cleaning up the kitchen or folding laundry or tending to any of a number of household chores. It's my husband's favorite news program and, after making Sunday night dinner, he watches faithfully every week. Last night, I saw the story teasers and decided to sit down to watch with him.

I'm glad I did because the stories were riveting and incredibly diverse, not something that usually can be said about network news. What's amazing is that these stories were rebroadcast from earlier this spring, but we must have missed that week.

The story out of Darfur was chilling, compelling and challenging. We're in bed with the Sudanese government for intel info so we've looked the other way at the genocide occuring there. Is that intelligence worth the extermination of an entire region of people?

The Kanzius Machine was an amazing look at how some people see solutions when most others see problems. A retired businessman and radio technician suffering from leukemia, John Kanzius sought to find a better treatment for cancer involving no side effects. He may be on to something that uses radio waves and metallic nanoparticles to destroy cancer cells. I hope the funding builds and he lives to see his invention work on humans.

Finally, what an uplifting and inspirational story out of Venezuela about the National Youth Orchestra and El Sistema (The System), which teaches and saves impoverished Venezuelan children through classical music from very young ages. This kind of unusual approach to poverty is life-changing and I'm sure could be replicated here in the United States.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UPDATE: Latest Monitor story: Father of the halogen bulb

My latest story ran in yesterday's Christian Science Monitor, but I'm so out of whack without my laptop that I forgot to check and forgot to post. Readers of CI may recall I was disappointed by the PD's story on Elmer Fridrich a few weeks ago. After blogging about that, I heard from the inventor's daughter and a man working with him on marketing his latest inventions. They invited me to come meet Fridrich, so I fired off a pitch to the Monitor. Their reply: "a big yes!"

Check out my story, "The tinkerer's literal light bulb of discovery was halogen." There was so much more to this guy and there's a business opportunity waiting for some smart investor who realizes how far ahead of the curve Mr. Fridrich is working.

For those of you who hate the greenish-bluish light of compact flourescent bulbs, but keep them in your lamps because you want to be "green," his latest invention of a twin-bulb halogen that reduces the cost to manufacture halogen bulbs could be music to your ears.

Fridrich performed an experiment with me that demonstrates the different quality of light between compact flourescents and halogens. Take a CD, stand about 10 feet from the light source. Using the bottom side of the CD, angle it up to capture the light spectrum. When you do this using a halogen, you'll see a smooth rainbow of color that reflects the entire spectrum. When you do this with a compact flourescent, you'll see a broken line of color that is heavy on the greens and blues. Give it a try.

Heard in the library
The library has been a very busy place this week, which is totally cool as far as I'm concerned. Couldn't help but overhear a guy asking to post a notice on the vestibule bulletin board. He's starting a Westlake/Bay Village Observer site just like the Lakewood Observer and the Heights Observer. "The reason we're doing this is there's nothing in the paper that's important to citizens of this area," he said. "We all know things happen, but nothing gets reported." I'll be interested to see how this citizen venture develops.

Speaking of citizen ventures
Have you heard about the proposed Northeast Ohio Citizens League? Fellow Bay Village resident Mike Gesing is working hard to make this happen in Northeast Ohio. If you're interested in hearing more (and I hope you are), shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you a newsletter based on the initial meeting held last week.

Mac update
I had an appointment yesterday at 5:40 at The Apple Store at Legacy Village to talk with someone at the "Genius Bar" about my hard drive. I thought this would be a simple process. It took me 20 minutes to get from I-271 exit to Legacy Village, which is what, a mile! The parking lot was positively crammed with cars so I parked in the boonies, which is fine because I like to walk when I can. And then I walked into The Apple Store, which was positively crammed with people. I waited 45 minutes to have someone look at my laptop, only to be told that it may take 7-10 days to get the repairs done. ARRGGHHH! I was reassured that it was a "quick" fix, so hopefully I'll get it back sooner. I feel like a nomad right now.

My time is almost up on the computer. Gotta fly...

I know I've probably used this quote before, but it's a good one and always make me smile.
"It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write.
Let them think you were born that way." Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back Up, Back Up, Back Up!

Seriously, how many times do we have to be told to back up our computers? And how many times do we get lulled into thinking all is well? That happened to me this week. My MacBook hard drive crashed. I'm OK with having to get the new hard drive, but I think it's been several months since I backed up my drive on an external drive. That may not seem like a long time, but in the career of a writer, it represents hundreds of thousands of words in note and story form.

Fortunately, I have most of the articles as attachments in gmail. But the note files are a big loss indeed. So are the photos, the few that I bother to take these days.

My oldest son is mourning his 800 songs on iTunes. His iPod was stolen from the locker room at school this spring so he doesn't have a back up on all of them. He does have some of his latest favorites on CD.

Can't ever seem to learn this lesson enough. Now I'm gonna upgrade to Tiger OS so I can get the automatic backups.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama on writing--and reading

Hattip to Mother Reader for posting this:

"There was one question in particular of interest to us book lovers, and
that came from a woman who asked what Obama would say to young writers. He was
surprised by the question, which he admitted was one he hadn’t heard before, but
didn’t hesitate to answer. He referenced his two books, and specifically
mentioned how he wrote them himself, along with many of his speeches. With a
light inflection, he said, “In terms of getting a job, knowing how to write is a
good thing.” He talked about how he kept a journal, and how it was important for
teaching him not only how to write, but also how to think. But my favorite part
was when he said, “Over the course of four years I made time to read all of the
Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters. If I can do that and run for
president, then you can find time to read to your kids. That’s some of the most
special time you have with your children.”

On another unrelated note, my MacBook crashed this morning and I'm working here and there out of the library. I hate these clunky Dell keyboards. No other choice, though. Pray, pray that repairs are not too expensive and I've not lost too much since my last backup. UGGHHH!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A good writer is...

"A good writer is basically a story teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind." — Isaac Bashevis Singer

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blooms from my garden

Aren't these blooms gorgeous? I do not possess a green thumb. Any success I've had in gardening is purely accidental. Generally at this point in the summer, my garden looks more neglected than thriving. But the rainy summer seems to be doing wonders.

For the first time in three years (since I planted it, actually) my hydrangea bloomed. The amount of iron in the soil determines the color of the blossoms. We must have quite the mix because the blooms range from a pale pink to lavender, sometimes in the same blossom.

The rose is a Queen Elizabeth rose and I planted it probably eight or 10 years ago. It's always seemed to struggle. But the blooms are magnificently rich in color and the stems appear to be long.

Thought I'd share this tableau on my bedside table.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Operation Halyard story is a must-see

My good friend and Toledo television reporter, Jennifer Boresz reported a wonderful feature-length piece that aired on July 4 on WTOL, the CBS affiliate in Toledo. It's hard for local broadcasters to get meaty assignments, but Jen put a great deal of work into this piece that aired on the station's 5 o'clock show. Hope you'll take a minute (or five) to watch.

I've been a friend and mentor of Jen's since she was a student at Cleveland State University five years ago so I'm very proud of her work. Keep pushing to do the stories that feed your soul, Jen!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tears for Tricia

Yesterday afternoon we learned that a wonderfully vibrant, loving, beautiful, fun woman passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Tricia Riley was 41 years old. Our prayers this week are for her husband, Jim, and her children, Kelly, Ian and Maeve.

Her spirit touched so many of us and we are sad to lose a dear friend. A scene keeps playing in my head in continuous video loop. Kelly and Ryan were in first grade. It was the Mother's Day Tea and the kids had made a video, one of those tearjerkers. It was in slow motion to the soundtrack of Louis Armstrong's, "What a Wonderful World." The video fades out with Tricia's lovely daughter signing and mouthing, "I love you," to her mom. There wasn't a dry eye in the classroom, especially Tricia's. Our tears are for her lovely life, a life ended too soon.

We love you, Tricia. You've touched our hearts forever. May your grace and love steady us over the coming weeks.