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Saturday, September 4

Safe travels 

I'm eagerly anticipating the Labor Day weekend. We've had some really nice summer days recently, and it looks like it will continue for a while yet.

Also got the house ready for a mystery guest (not to me, but to you -- my reading audience). Actually, it's an old co-worker so we should have a good time remembering all the laffs we had and roaming the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula.

BTW, if you're in the area and looking for something to do. Labor Day Monday typically marks the Mackinac Bridge walk on the other side of the Upper Peninsula. To get people off their duffs, Portage Health System and the cities of Hancock and Houghton are having a bridge walk of their own -- over our very own Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

Registration starts at 8 a.m. Monday at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan Tech University. They're expecting a few hundred people, and I hope to be there.


Friday, September 3

Schoolyard terror 

I'm chilled seeing the siege of the Russian school earlier today. It's horrific that these rebels (apparently from Chechnya) took over a school on the first day of classes, taking up to 1,000 children and adults hostage. Now there's reports of around 200 dead and 400 injured as the hostages tried to flee the building during an apparent siege by Russian forces.

CBC was airing coverage from BBC News. I'm not an expert, but I don't see how taking children hostage helps anyone -- not the rebels and not the Russians.

When I was going through old papers, I came across the story on the hostage situation at a Moscow theater in 2002. BBC News story. During that incident, 129 hostages out of 700 were killed along with the 41 Chechen fighters when Russian troops used high-power knockout gas while they stormed the theater.

It's been awhile, but the fighters in both cases claimed they would destroy the buildings if their demands weren't met. Simply horrible.

On a related note: It's interesting seeing CBC's noon newscast today. They didn't use their own reporting staff during the majority of the broadcast (aside from the anchor). The show included siege coverage from BBC, an interview with a Canadian Press reporter, a live report from Florida by an NBC reporter about Hurricane Frances. The anchor cited a report from ABC News about Clinton's chest pains.

Toward the end, they shifted to business news. We saw our first story from a CBC reporter 26 minutes into the broadcast.

I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing -- I'm sure CBC would like to use their own resources, but I'm happy seeing detailed coverage regardless of the source.

Also of note: BBC News has an analysis of the Russian TV coverage of the siege. It's interesting reading how completely state-owned media covers such a tragedy.

A blessing and a curse 

I've generally had mixed feelings about Caller ID. Using it on my cell phone, I can definitely see the advantages of the technology. Still, I've objected since the beginning about forcing everyone to participate in the system where individuals are instantly identified.

I may seem like an old-school fuddy-duddy, but I think there's some merit to being able to personally identify myself on the phone. What if, in the course of doing my job as a journalist, someone won't answer the phone because the newspaper's name is emblazoned across their display?

I've never heard of it happening before, but I do employ a combo of calling methods to reach a source that's hard to get ahold of. I always identify myself as a reporter, but I'd like the option of doing it personally as a human being instead of an electronic switch shutting me out.

It is possible to block your outgoing ID on many calls except law enforcement and emergencies. Some states allow total ID blocking (like California), some require users to block their number during every call (like Michigan).

And it is worth acknowledging that Caller ID blocking has the potential for abuse from cretins like telemarketers and stalkers. Still the technology is neutral, it's the human application of the innovation where the potential for abuse is introduced.

Case in point, there's some new Caller ID spoofing technology being launched this week. The Detroit Free Press' Mike Wendland has more details on e-mail spammers resorting to landlines, and spoofing their ID, to spread their message. The technology is apparently geared toward helping private investigators and creditors to do their jobs.

It will be interesting to see if spammers who like to pretend they're from the bank will try their tricks out on telephones. If anything, I suppose it's another reason to be certain we know who we're talking to and not merely rely on the technology on hand.


Thursday, September 2

Stay on target 

Not to name names, but I think this blog should be updated more often. :p

Brave new world 

Internet has long been touted as a medium where many different senses will collide -- including visual, aural and sometimes tactile. While I've often used the visual medium to express myself, I've decided to take advantage of the Audioblogger service to express myself using sound. Here's my first post:
this is an audio post - click to play

It's a brief, and inconsequential, account of my activities tonight. As things develop, I want to post audio messages that take full advantage of the medium. Tonight's post serves merely as a test of the things to come.

If you have any ideas, please drop me a line at ryan -at- Thanks.


Wednesday, September 1

My next computer 

All-in-one iMacWell, not for a while yet anyway. However, Apple Computer announced the new G5 iMacs in Paris yesterday, and they look pretty snazzy. The new computers are up to 2.2 inches thick and pack the new G5 processor.

It's true that this is Apple's consumer CPU so it's missing a lot of the horsepower the professional machines have (on the system bus, expandability, etc.), but I think the simple, elegant design is a winner. Other PC makers have tried this type of form function before (including Apple's 20th Anniversary Mac), but it's always looked like a monitor with CPU guts attached. The new iMac brings monitor and CPU together in a very svelte manner.

I was thinking about buying an eMac (essentially a grown-up CRT iMac) as my next computer, but seeing this new machine makes me want to aim higher.

Step by step 

After many hours, I've finally finished one of my long-term projects. I've been working to clip all of my articles out of old editions of the newspaper. There were a lot to go through, but it's done.

From slowly whittling down massive stacks of paper to just getting through the last few editions, I pulled it off earlier this morning. The entire second series of The Office was there to pull me through.

It was interesting pulling through all those newspapers. As I delved deeper, I saw old events, headlines and bylines from years past that brought many old memories back of happenings and friends who have since left the paper.

The stories ranged from the mundane or typical, like meetings, and localizations to the facinating and bizarre, like the story Steve did about the guy who drank antifreeze. I found sections that I paginated, but completely forgot about doing. The same with photos.

Many of the more memorable stories were there in my clips. It was fun seeing where the stories began and where some of them ended.

So all of my work for the past three-and-a-half years has been reduced to a single box that I'll probably carry around for the rest of my life. It's funny, but I thought there would be more but I'm probably being foolish.

In the end, I'd like to think I did good work. I hope to do even better the next time.


Tuesday, August 31

Let the games begin! 

With the end of the Athens games, it's time for several more competitions to get underway. Which do you think will be more interesting -- the GOP Convention this week in NYC or the World Cup of Hockey over the next three weeks?

I'm leaning toward the hockey, especially because of the theory that this is the last chance for hockey before a NHL lockout. In addition, there should be actual competitions on the ice, where the convention is kinda like a week-long commercial for the GOP. Much like the Democrats before the Olympics.

Speaking of competitions, the fall TV ratings war is about to begin. Say didja notice any NBC ads for their fall season during their Olympics broadcast? With an average of 70 hours of broadcasting a day, I'm sure NBC was able to air a couple hours worth of promos for its fall season daily. I was watching mostly the CBC, and they fit in their three promos a couple million times.

For what it's worth, many TV critics are saying that NBC's line-up this year is pretty tame -- even tamer than a few years ago. I can say that there's nothing that I really feel like tuning in for -- not even the murderous lions getting their own show on Father of the Pride.


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