Monday, February 23, 2009

Working at Circuit City

A man came to the bar at the coffee shop on Friday and stood there awkwardly. His right arm ended in a hook, and the pinky of his left hand was dropped down almost to his wrist.

He collared Steve, the other barista on shift, and asked to use the bathroom. When he got back he asked Steve to write something down on a piece of paper.
"I found a part-time job for myself," he said.
"That's great," Steve replied. "So, what do you want me to write?"
"I found a part-time job for myself," the man repeated.
"Oh. Right," Steve said and began to write as the man dictated:

"...and I'm making a better life," he continued, "...and she's pregnant."
Whoa, now. One look at this guy, and you think it'd be unlikely he would be impregnating anyone. But that's what it sounded like he was trying to say in the note. When he was done dictating, the man asked Steve to tape the note to his hook-arm.
"The police already know all about this," he said, pointing the note on his arm. "They know about him."

"Who?" we asked.

"The guy that pulled me out of the motel. I was in there with her."
It just got weirder.
He went on, "She was sitting on the bed in her underpanties and bra. I didn't have sex with her. I didn't say anything when they pulled me out. I learned not get down about a woman leaving me. I believe in myself. I got a job at Circuit City."
Odd, since Circuit City is folding. He left, but he was back a little while later, asking Steve to tear the note up and throw it away for him.

One of the oddest encounters I've ever had.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm covered in bees!

I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't the original reason I wanted to take on the beekeeping story. I heard the tip and immediately said to myself, "I wanna keep bees! Don't wanna let them get away!"

Thanks, Israel.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's up!

After almost a month of research and interviews with more than 10 sources, my beekeeping story is finally up. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is minor-league, but it's still an exciting mile-marker for me because I put a lot of work into it. And now I can actually have time to think about other stories.

Check it out; there's some really fabulous work on there by a team of designers that really made the piece come to life. The presentation looks even more fantastic in print, so pick up a copy of the Weekend Missourian if you get a chance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fire update #2

Here's how the Tribune covered the story.

Fire update

So it turns out that a little misdirection was going on at the scene of yesterday's fire. This morning I got a call from the source that I misidentified as the owner when he was actually the general manager.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one that was under that impression. He told me that the fire fighters were very adamant that deal with an owner, and so when he couldn't track down the real owner, he told them he was one.

When I mentioned that the employee who was standing next to both us told me he was one of the owners, he explained it by saying, "Yeah, she was telling everyone that." Still, I should have double checked with him. Frustrating.

First Missourian story

My first published Missourian story can be found here. It's about a small fire at Shakespeare's Pizza-West. And apparently there was a mistake, damn it. Lesson: always ask what the source's title is, even if the employee who was standing right next to the two of you tells you that the source is the owner.

This isn't the actual first story I've worked on at the Missourian. I've been working on a cover story for the last several weeks, and I've posted an obit and some small stuff for our community newsletter. The cover story is set for this weekend's edition, so I'll post a link when it's published.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Last week, one of my journalism classes was assigned to join Twitter, a social networking site that allows users to "micro-blog" and tell what they are doing, as they are doing it, in 140 characters or less.

At the start, I wasn't pleased. I'd heard a little about the site even before I got to Mizzou, so I got a distinctly user-based perspective. In my mind, Twitter was an exercise in self-aggrandizement.

For me the initial resistance comes from the personal uses of Twitter. Is it important or helpful for people to know that I'm hungry right now? Or that I just woke up? Or that I'm debating between the Asics or the Puma shoes? When I first heard about Twitter (outside the J-school) it was in the context of using it to inform all of your friends (and/or strangers) what you're doing as you're doing it. For extended, detailed personal use, I'm having a hard time seeing it as more useful than it is unhelpful because I think that people could be doing something a little more productive with their time.

The obvious question might be, "Who wants to read about my daily life anyway?" But more than that, do I really want people cyber-following me so closely?

It all comes back to something I've been thinking a lot lately. The speed of information turnover, while at times a good thing, can also be horribly overwhelming, and hourly personal tweets are more than I need to deal with.

BUT, from the short time that I've been a Twitter user, I can see some good things for journalism. It definitely can be helpful in terms of identifying trends, coming up with story ideas, and creating conversations with our audience. So I guess you could say that my initial perceptions have been challenged.

In the end we need to be concerned with what helps us tell the story. So if Twitter is another way of doing that, let's check it out. I'm willing to have an open mind and to learn. But that doesn't mean that there aren't still some issues of balance that concern me.

For more info (and a different take on the Twitter issue), check out the blog of Jen Reeves, an especially forward-thinking member of the Mizzou faculty.

Also, an interesting New York Times article from David Pogue who, like me, had his doubts upon first joining.

Kiss the cook

Valentine's day proved to be rather meal-centric. It began with Hal summoning some scrumptious chocolate chip pancakes from the stove on Saturday morning and ended with some merry gentlemen cooking dinner later that evening.

EDIT: Lo stole the show with her fabulous Texas sheet cake (which was gone before I had a chance to taste) and succulent chocolate-covered strawberries.

Not willing to let the spirit of from-scratch cooking die, I fixed some eggs for Sunday morning and ended up with a final result that I was rather proud of:
  1. Cracked two eggs into a hot pan of melted butter and lime juice.
  2. Immediately seasoned them with pepper and garlic salt so that the spices would cook into the yolks.
  3. Flipped the eggs once they had solidified a bit.
  4. Sprinkled an Italian blend of cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, romano, fontino and asiago) on top. Flipped again.
  5. Repeated on the other side. Flipped.
  6. Reapplied seasonings on top accompanied by a couple of drops of lime juice in the centers.
  7. A second layer of cheese.
  8. Served with buttered toast and sliced Roma tomato.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On holiday

Holidays are rather nice. I know some people that make a case against certain holidays like Christmas or Valentine's Day by saying, "Well, it should be like that all year 'round."

Sure it should. We should absolutely treat people lovingly each day. But having special days is fun. They're opportunities for anticipation. They're noteworthy. And even though we should behave or act the same way always, it's nice to have the extra reminder--whether it's in honor of patriotism, giving, remembering or love.

Plus saying that you're "going on holiday" is a great opportunity sound British. Here's a photo for this special day.

And with that, I'm going on holiday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I'm feeling generally dissatisfied, and I blame Coldplay. In my music library, I stumbled upon one of their rarer songs, "Things I Don't Understand." I don't often writes about song lyrics (in fact I usually try to steer clear), but I thought this one nicely captures the confusion that can creep up on you sometimes. ["How It Ends" by Devotchka is also hauntingly lovely.]

How tides control the sea, and what becomes of me
How little things can slip out of your hands
How often people change, not to remain the same
Why things don't always turn out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can't, and I can't decide
Wrong, oh my wrong from right
Day, oh my day from night
Dark, oh my dark from light
I live, but I love this life

How infinite is space, and who decides your fate
Why everything will dissolve into sand
How to avoid defeat, when truth and fiction meet
Why nothing ever turns out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can , and I can't decide
Wrong, oh my wrong from right
Day, oh my day from night
Or dark, oh my dark from light
I live, but I love this life

Monday, February 9, 2009

The onomatopoeia might have been, "Fwa-bwom!"

I almost had a life-long dream fulfilled today.

As I was pedaling down Ninth Street to class this morning, a man suddenly opened the door of his parked car in front of me. I've always wanted to see a bicyclist get bushwhacked by a car door. Of course, I'd prefer to be a witness instead of a victim, but if that's how it had to happen I would sacrifice myself.

Unfortunately, I dodged. I clearly wasn't thinking about the potential.

UPDATE: Ok, after looking into a bit, I found that there's actually a fairly lengthy list of people who have been killed as a result of "dooring." So it's one of those things that sounds funny but really isn't.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back to the streets

I went on a couple of [photo] feature hunts with Tracie Faust back in the old days of Siloam, but I haven't mustered the courage to make it out in Columbia. Until last weekend.

This time it was a scruffy guy playing guitar outside of a nice-looking house, so I stopped my car and got out to ask him if I could take some pictures. Donald, 52, lives south of Columbia with a fairly well-to-do family in exchange for odd jobs and landscaping care. He's been living with them for about five years, he said. He dropped out of school when he was a young boy because the other kids made fun of him for being poor.

Years later, he got fired up by the false rumors in the 1970s that Paul McCartney was dead. He dialed a number that he said rang through to McCartney's production company in London. (He claimed he memorized the number and gave it to me in a string--(01) 144 1439 6621--but something feels off to me about that, unless telephone number formats have changed a lot since the 70s.)

Eventually, he got on the line with McCartney himself, and he claimed that he gave the former Beatle a song that he wrote. He was also convinced that the line 'Phil and Don' in McCartney's "Let 'Em In" is a reference to him despite also being widely linked to the Everly Brothers.

Sketchy stories aside, he was an interesting guy.