Thursday, September 29, 2005

Noise from the jungle – volume I

I've decided to implement a few tactics to help me deal with my Advanced Reporting class. The professor, previously referred to by this publication as an extremely dedicated blowhard, has inspired me to be creative.

To start, it's going to be a regular feature of mine to include some of the brilliant quotes that would otherwise simply bounce off my propaganda blaster shields.

A couple of gems from today's class:
"The two most important jobs in America are a journalist and a teacher. I've been privileged to be both."
This from a former soldier!? Someone needs to do a little investigative reporting on him.
"I should be able to pick up my local newspaper and find everything I need to know about my community."
A community of a couple dozen?

I'm just sorry I've already let so many good quotes past over the last week.

Crossposted at Western Washington University

Thought fragment

I think one of the worst emails out there is one that asks you to forward something to prove you are really a caring Christian...if you happen on anything similar, just ignore it and don't let yourself in on the guilt trip...even if you think it has a nice poem about someone getting killed by a drunk driver or a picture that makes you smile. The real intent and message of such emails is still the same no matter how it is packaged: someone, somewhere, is on a power trip to see how far they can get one email to go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Columbia

I call her the Columbia...

Someone told me that when she starts, it feels like a rocket about to take off.*Deep sigh* It's so true. She's such a joy to drive.

Unlike other cars, she appeals to more of the senses. Some cars just look and feel good. Well, with my exhaust leak, I get a great sound plus higher RMPs! And with that oil being burned continuously, I'm loving the smell!

Riding in the Columbia is a holistic experience...just ask Emily.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Email of the day

Monday, 26 September 2005, 8:20 a.m.
Hi Carol

I've been put on notice that Klipsun is available to me if I'm inclined to take it on (the waiting list came through). I'll be candid: the idea of taking it on top of what I have both excites me (for the chance to make up ground) and also scares the livin daylights out of me...

So I think I'm going for it.


The reply:
Monday, 26 September 2005, 8:53 a.m.
OK, Mark -- I'll bail you out of the loony bin if that's where you end up. can go ahead and register.

No social life for you this quarter, I can tell.

Good luck.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I suppose my deficiency of information is the primary cause of the misinformation running around. When I said "belated" birthday present, I was referring to a date so far in the past, I'm actually closer to my 22nd birthday. So please save the accolades for then.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


From an friend's recent email:

I was taking a quick nap before supper on our deck, when I suddenly woke up just in time to realize a fly was crawling in my ear. I slapped, and he went farther, beyond the point of no return. Then he got a little panicky, and began to crash around inside my ear canal...after a few unpleasant remedies, many jokes and useless suggestions, 5 days later I still have a fly in my ear. Thankfully, he’s dead now. Still, it’s a nasty thought. I haven’t quite come to terms with it...
Neither have I.

A name for the creature

I don't think Frank, Jason or Harvey would even consider speaking to me again if I don't come up with a proper name for what I have come to refer to as The Black Box--that kind of referencing all the time is a little clumsy at best anyway. No, I don't think he would serve me quite so well as if he had a name.

Any suggestions? Food for thought: Manny, Marty, Todd, Toby, Rocky, Rodney, Otis, Orin...there's more out there somewhere.

Now connecting...

It's a good feeling to be finally connected on the go. I'm online on the road for the first time...nothing like a nice wireless speed-demon of a connection to get you from here to there. I doubt I will be using it all that often...I mean, I don't want to have to shell something out to T-Mobile every day when I really don't have to. So this time is just a test. Soon I'll find out whether it would be a worthwhile investment to have...maybe it would get me up earlier in the morning, if I knew I could hang at starbucks and get everything done right then and there: have coffee, read, study, email interview contacts...the works!

Rejoice with me. Ok, I'd better get to work now.

Note to myself: I really should get Microsoft Office and an at least decent photo program on this machine.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lurching forward

Will the roller coaster ever stop?

I found out today I have the opportunity to write for Western's periodical Klipsun this quarter if I want. Most who have examined my schedule wince and say it might not be a good idea to take on a fourth class. But still, I can't help but drool at the thought of getting that much behind me in one quarter. In all honesty I don't know if I'm going to do it. I'm in some serious limbo if I ever was. I so want to take it on but I can't help but remember how worried I was already just yesterday about the load without it. This is going to take a lot of focus and may end up hurting me in many other areas. I already know, for example, that I won't be singing in the Messiah this year...

I attended my advanced reporting class today. I was especially interested in this class because the professor was newly hired this year. My interest level now, after the first class, has dropped like mercury in Nome. I'm used to listening to secular humanistic blowhards in a university classroom. It can even be entertaining at times. Professor Howard is, however, the most dedicated blowhard I've run across yet. He preached the whole class away from one book of propaganda: "the culture of fear." If up till now I've been learning to be a journalist, I now must be at the point where I'm supposed to learn to be a journalist with the right kind of agenda. Talk about gag reflex. I really feel like I need to do something about it but I'm not sure what yet. I don't know...this is the closest I've ever come to complaining to the journalism faculty. I can see why he got the job...a PhD who used to jump out of planes for the military--and yet is willing to call both wars in Iraq useless. How good does it get?

It's time to look on the bright side. Somehow amid this maze of a schedule I ended up with no class on Friday. Tomorrow morning (in a few hours, that is), I'm headed to work for the regular shift...and I haven't even had time to call and tell them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gifts both simple and lavish

Note: the following is taken from an email I wrote today. Having written it once one way, I didn't see a need to do more composition.

Tomorrow classes start. Today was my last day on the regular day shift. I went to Western after work to get some books and a parking pass...I got some other things accomplished too though. When I went out to the car from the parking office a thought struck me and I quickly checked my wallet to discover I hadn't gotten my debit card back. I turned the car back off, locked it, retrieved the tardy card and attempted to reenter the car, only to come face to face with reality--for the first time in my life I had locked my keys in the car. Oh well, I thought. I can go purchase books and call home while I was at it.

On my way back to the car to meet Mom, decided to stop in at the journalism department and say hi to the secretary and thank her for getting me into one of the classes I needed--it was about closing time but I knew she would be there. So we started talking and she started talking all at once about classes and before I knew it, I was registered for another needed class! That makes a nice trio of journalism classes...I didn't really know what to say except "you are so awesome" or something to that effect.

But more than that, I have so much to thank God for. He's kept a potentially disappointing quarter from starting out on a bad note and moved me forward in ways I couldn't have imagined. Life is good.

So...the day isn't over and I'm already high on another gift. It seems my family banded together and got me something they had been planning for since my 21st birthday. I opened a brand-new laptop computer of my very own this evening. I thought people were supposed to get this excited about having a car...I certainly didn't when I started driving and here I am a few years later feeling like a kid holding ice cream! Wow. The irony is that I had been thinking just today about asking some people I know for the best less thing to dream about.

So you can have the honor of this personal invitation: rejoice with me!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Turning the page

Hey, school starts this week. I'm pretty sure that a lot more will start too. Not that I will be doing all that much more than last year--but what I do will be in a more concentrated dose I'm sure.

I think I've got a handle on my class schedule now...In fact, at the last minute, one of my allies in the journalism dept. emailed and flashed an over-ride for a class I desperately need. Carol, you're my hero.

Actually, I'm just thankful it hasn't been the headache it could have been. I will still have a chunk of catch-up to play this year, but God has taken a little of the sting out.

Work...yeah, that's another story. I'll probably work 4 nights a week from 4-8 approximately. For now, Wednesday evening is open...that's all.

I’ll make a little more effort to keep this blog a more current then the “weekly” thing that’s been running lately. My apologies and have a good Sabbath.

More money squandered

More information about FEMA money getting squandered before Katrina. This AP story is even more specific about where it might have been spent... Talk about lunacy.

In Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, attention has focused on the inability of local and federal officials to evacuate or prepare for the large number of poor people, many of them minorities, who had no access to transportation and remained behind.

That possibility was one of the concerns that led Congress in 1997 to set aside $500,000 for FEMA to create "a comprehensive analysis and plan of all evacuation alternatives for the New Orleans metropolitan area."

Frustrated two years later that nothing materialized, Congress strengthened its directive. This time it ordered "an evacuation plan for a Category 3 or greater storm, a levee break, flood or other natural disaster for the New Orleans area."
So...where did the money go?
The $500,000 that Congress appropriated for the evacuation plan went to a commission that studied future options for the 24-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said.

The hefty report produced by the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission "primarily was not about evacuation," said Robert Lambert, the general manager for the bridge expressway. "In general it was an overview of all the things we need to do" for the causeway through 2016.

Lambert said he could not trace how or if FEMA money came to the commission. Nor could Shelby LaSalle, a causeway consulting engineer who worked on the plan...LaSalle said it would be "ludicrous" to consider his report an evacuation plan...
This better get a lot of attention. The more fire put under incompetence and corruption the better.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The money trail to Katrina

One of the questions that has rarely been asked and one I've been waiting for someone to answer is that much closer to being resolved: where has all the FEMA money for Louisiana gone all these years since they are a severe hurricane risk area?

Someone is getting to the bottom of it. From the LA Times:

Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck.

And federal auditors are still trying to track as much as $60 million in unaccounted for funds that were funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998.

It's gets better
Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group, said recent Louisiana history showed that FEMA "money earmarked for saving lives and homes'' was instead squandered in "a cesspool of wasteful spending."

Louisiana's emergency office receives money directly from FEMA. It passes on much of the funding to local governments that apply for assistance.

The audit reports said state operating procedures increased the likelihood of fraud and corruption going undetected.

But, but...but...but...I thought the federal government didn't help...they said so on TV...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Same old (head)line

It's helpful for a political junky (and journalism student) like me to be able to step back recite a basic fact to myself: a hyperpolitical outlook on the news can paint a very different picture than what really exists. For the average journalist, life in American is simply one long horse race in-between elections where every piece of news is compared and evaluated on the basis of how it will affect the next election.

It never changes. Just like all the other paint-by-number coverage from Katrina. The current line is this: a weak response from Bush shows he doesn't really care. From verbal celeb tirades to Judy Keen and Richard Benedetto's blowhard "news analysis" on page two of USA Today about the President's response to Katrina. What it amounts to is a hatchet job similar to the implicit attacks on Bush post 9/11. I can still remember the sneering ABC line after Bush's rock-the-world speech a week afterward: "A president finds his voice."

Where do journalists learn to see everything through red and blue tinted glasses? In the classroom. I've heard it many times at Western: a political science depth or minor is usually recommended for journalism students so that's what a big chunk of them take. It may not be because their journalism professors want to have the news reported that way, but they might think a journalist wouldn't be able to survive in America without a solid political science education. Unfortunately, those "survival" skills usually translate into bickering about how the president needs to be more expressive and empathetic--or the democrats might start looking like reformers (hint hint: the democrats ARE reformers!)

I've felt like holding my nose as I wade through the coverage of Katrina--and not because dead bodies disgust me.

A little more of the past

The photojournalist in me failed. I was so busy I didn't get my camera out except on the last day during the group pictures.

This really only gives an idea of how many attended... here's a smaller breakdown:

The girls, and finally...

The guys.

So that's the extent of my pictures. I'll probably collect some more from others pretty soon here. Hang in there.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Blog notes

Been a while? What do you mean it's been a while since I posted anything "important?"

In other (exciting) news, for anyone who would like to simplify their linkage to my blog, go ahead and change the link to While I don't have the blog stored on my recently purchased domain, it will nevertheless send you here and I do plan to make it permanent eventually--might as well start changing over now.

There will be some new contributors to Western Unraveled soon...keep your eyes peeled and have a great weekend.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Half here

When I left the conference this weekend, I expected to come home. Instead, as I browsed the news, I found myself transported to the scene of a catastrophe I missed entirely.

So while I'm waiting for me to come all the way down to earth, I hope you will allow me to let the rest of the world live and let live at least for the moment. Please?!

In the meantime, the conference was good, awesome, intense and rich with growth. Although it started with so few (around 35), it hovered closer to forty by the end as more people came for the end. By talent night on Thursday evening, everyone knew each other pretty well, making the atmosphere that much more relaxed.

Now don't get me wrong; I don't mean to give the impression I had an easy time of it. There were the mandatory scheduling faux pas that cropped up, plus the continual effort to stay ahead of every activity as it approached--and the newsletter to write every day (most people put together a canned newsletter ahead of time but I only did that partially, wanting to have more space for fresh, related material as the week's comic relief). It was special, however, to note how simple it seemed to deal with it all after the hectic week previous. God upheld me more than I could have imagined. No matter how late I stayed up finishing work (sometimes 2:20-3 a.m.), I always woke up about 15 to 10 minutes before my alarm and the early-morning prayer meetings were never without someone to lead them. Also, I don’t think I had any serious trouble staying awake during the seminars even though I was playing all the intense sports throughout as well.

Too much on my mind right now though and I can't keep this up, so I'll get back to you with more, by and by.