Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Is that some kind of shorthand?

I've been a reporter for the better part of a dozen years, and there is one question I get asked over and over.

Is that some kind of shorthand?

Now, as part of my job, I regularly get to cover thrill-a-minute zoning and city council meetings, meet a host of state legislators, lieutenant governor candidates, and even some interesting people, but almost all of the questions about my job boil down to someone watching me scribble furiously in one of my pocket-sized notebooks and asking the above-mentioned question.

And the answer is typically that it is kind of some kind of shorthand. Mostly, I use my own made-up abbreviations combined with a natural tendency for aggressively bad penmanship. My answer doesn't always fill my interview subjects with the utmost confidence (although I typically play up the abbreviations and play down the bad penmanship).

"Well, as long as you can figure it out, I guess," was the most recent response I got.

Rest assured, figure it out I usually do, although there has been the odd case or two when a word I've tried to decipher turned out to be Oreo cookie crumbs. I have occasionally tried the typing my notes directly into the computer approach when I've been talking to people on the phone, but that ends up being even more indecipherable than the handwriting. At least with the handwriting, I have years of learned bad penmanship patterns to fall back on, while the typewritten notes usually look like a horde of angry monkeys have gotten hold of my keyboard.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Running on empty

There are few experiences as disheartening in life as having your high school geometry teacher yelling at you to run faster as you're out of breath, stumbling toward the finish line of the state cross country meet.

I can't remember exactly who talked me into running cross country my sophomore year in high school, but I'm pretty sure it was a Peter. It was either the Peter who had been one of my best friends in junior high school who I had gradually started to drift apart from, or it was the Peter who I was casually acquainted with on junior high school who would go on to be one of my best friends in high school and beyond.
Whichever Peter it was, he didn't get me hooked on running for life, but he did get me to join the only team I would stick with for the rest of my high school years, a team with which I would experience both my only non-losing season as an athlete and my only election as a team captain. Although even those modest achievements were not as impressive as they first sound, but the year I was (tri)-captain and the non-losing season did happen to coincide, so maybe I should take a little credit for my unparalleled leadership skills.

Now, to understand the dynamics of a cross country team, you have to understand that it is a collection of teenagers who think it isn't such a bad idea to run for miles at a time. That's it, the entire sport consists of running from one point to another. There are no balls, sticks, helmets, pads, goals, touchdowns, or hole-in-ones. All in all, not a lot of excitement. Just running. Every other sport (well, except for golf) involves running, but they all have the good sense to throw some other activity into the mix. Not cross country. Just running.
So it goes without saying that cross country runners aren't exactly the big men on campus when it comvarsityaristy athletics. More like the tall, gangly, slightly off men on campus who think it sounds like a good idea to end the school day with a seven-mile run.

Enough background, I'm starting to bore myself. I promise that coming soon will be funny anecdotes revolving around having one Peter constantly vomiting, another Peter sizing himself up for a lifetime of knee braces, the wearing of orange polyester tank tops, me being a tri-captain on a team that only had seven runners to begin with, and of course, getting yelled at by my Geometry teacher will coming in next to last in the state cross country meet.

As I have done before:

To Be Continued...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekend plans, redux

So it is now Monday evening and I managed to successfully not paint the bedroom and the bathroom over the weekend.

But before you start thinking me to be too much of a lazy slug, I want you to know that I did complete several unexciting home projects over the weekend and the decision to not paint went down pretty painlessly.

On Saturday morning, I emptied out all of the tomato containers and brought all of the pots and stakes down to the basement. Did I mention that we had at least 15 individual containers of tomato plants this year along with a few pepper plants? This task was kind of time consuming but not all that unpleasant. It was kind of like working on a very dirty assembly line while sidestepping rotten tomatoes. After pulling out the stakes and dead plants and bringing a couple of pots down the stairs and outside to dump the soil, I actually started to get into a groove where I felt myself to be a man of the soil, tilling (or, in this case, untilling) the soil. A few heavy terra cotta pots later, this feeling went away, but it was nice while it lasted.

Unfortunately, Carrie wasn't feeling all that hot on Saturday, so I selflessly suggested that we not try to worry about painting both rooms over the weekend and just try to start the bathroom on Sunday. This gameplan is quickly agreed to and we spend the rest of the day productively watching most of the programs that have begun to get backlogged on our DVR.

On Sunday morning, there is still the potential for us to get paint for the bathroom and begin that project. That potential begins to decline when it's 10:30 and we're still in bed reading the Sunday paper. We do manage to get moving shortly after that and make it to the laundromat, which is then followed by grocery shopping. By the time we get home, it's close to 5 p.m., and nary a paintbrush has been lifted in anger all weekend. But, in the course of putting away my laundry, I do undertake the task of putting away my summer clothes, hanging up my winter clothes, AND cleaning out my bureau, a process that largely consists of matching like socks and throwing out any T-shirts with unsightly stains. I figure that undertaking the total clothes rearrangement project with little prodding should earn me some points.

Of course, we still have two rooms that need to be painted, but there's always next weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Weekend plans

It is one of my charming (or annoying, depends on how you look at it) little tics that I have to be given ample warning time for any task that I may find unpleasant. Seeing as I'm not always the most ambitious person around, these tasks can cover a pretty wide area. However, the early warning system usually boils down to home improvement chores or moving furniture.

If Carrie wakes up in the morning and suddenly decides we are moving the bedroom into another room and moving the living room into the bedroom (as has been known to happen) it can bring on waves of sullenness and childish tantrums that are just plain embarrassing to witness in a 36-year-old man. And I know that. But it still won't stop me from sulking like a three-year-old. Moving furniture sucks!

Other tasks likely to set me off include heavy-duty spring cleaning (which usually involves the switching around of wardrobes and the moving of items into and out of the basement) and painting. Honestly, I wouldn't mind painting so much if it didn't also involve the moving of furniture.

So for the coming weekend, I have been given ample forewarning. We are painting both the bedroom and the bathroom. I have know this for weeks, so I have been trying extra hard to grin and bear it whenever the subject comes up. Sure, hon, painting, it won't be so bad.

Unfortunately for me, I have also been put in charge of taking in the garden on the front porch this weekend. This consists of finding a way to empty out 15 tomato plants that are in large pots along with at least that many flower and herb pots. Since we live on the second floor, and our new neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate me dumping all of the soil from all of the pots over the railing of our porch, that means I will have to find a place to deposit the dirt and a way to deposit it in said location. And I will have to bring all 30 or so pots down to the basement. So far, I am being a trooper and only sulking to myself about this, since I am told that the pots cannot be left outside to crack and break during the winter.

Fortunately for Carrie, I am also cheap, so the prospect of hundreds of dollars worth of tomato and herb pots biting the dust doesn't sit well with me, either.

So that's pretty much what I've got planned for the weekend. I'm just praying that we can at least ignore putting my summer clothes away for another week.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Really bad post for therapeutic purposes

Does it really count as writer's block when I can't put together a blog entry for more than two weeks? Kind of makes it sound like I'm trying to do something much more important and artistic than I really am. It's not like I'm working on the Great American Novel and I've lost my focus just as Ahab is about to harpoon the whale or Gatsby does, well, something Great or whatever the hell it was that Gatsby did.

Nope, for me, writer's block just means that I haven't had the focus to update the nearly dozen of family and friends who are waiting for me to spin a tale of something stupid, embarrassing, or funny that has happened to me in the recent or not so recent past. God knows, it's not like I've run out of material. I still have the marriage blood test story in my back pocket, and I probably have years of fun-filled hilarity to relate just focusing on my many cars and the inevitable breakdown and/or disappearance of said cars. For as long as I take breath on this planet and I am either positioned behind a steering wheel or forced into awkward situations with other human beings, there will be an Endangered Coffee.

Maybe I've been thinking too much about writing. Maybe I should just put my computer away for a little while and pick up another hobby.

Like woodworking or home improvement.

Who I am I kidding? At least with writing, there is little chance that I'll ever saw off one of my fingers.

Although that probably would make a great story if I did have some sort of home improvement accident involving a ladder, a bandsaw, and a bucket of spackle. After the bleeding stopped, of course.