Friday, February 29, 2008

Wind chill factor!

After my newspaper conference ended, I was able to spend a few days with my Dad at his long-time winter quarters, Emerald Pointe.

I know that NewsConference readers in Dubuque and elsewhere in The North (as they call it here) will feel extremely sorry for me, and concerned for my welfare, when I reveal this: It has been cooler than average the past couple of days. In fact, the TV meteorologists here were actually discussing wind chills. Seriously.

The temperatures dipped to 42 degrees here one day, when some residents resorted to wearing stocking hats, gloves and multiple layers. I received more than one curious glance during my morning run, during which I wore shorts and a T-shirt (well, and shoes). It warmed up to a brisk 52 the next morning.

By the way, Dad's yacht is not shown in the photo. He'll need a yacht first.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weather dichotomy

It felt a bit odd for me -- walking from the hotel pool, along a boardwalk, to the marina -- knowing that I was experiencing Florida while folks back home in Dubuque were experiencing yet another school-cancelling winter storm.

I was so uneasy about it, I cut short my poolside nap.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No shoveling here

Not to rub it in -- OK, just a little -- I had the opportunity to attend a newspaper conference. And it just so happened that the conference was in Florida. And it just so happens that in February in Florida they don't have snow, or icy roads, or wind chills, or drifts (except perhaps of sand on the beach).

Here are some shots taken from the balcony of my hotel room. Midwesterners, you see the green in these pictures? That is what is know as trees and grass. Eventually, we might see it up North as well!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What would you do with two extra hours?

Let's face it: We all lose (or waste?) time, here and there, every day. Sometimes, it's our own doing. Sometimes, someone else causes it. Sometimes, it's unavoidable, due to weather or other situations. Usually, time is lost in dribbles and drabs, and we hardly notice it.

However, twice this week, I noticed. Twice I lost solid one-hour chunks of time. That makes two hours -- on top of the aforementioned dribbles and drabs.

The first hour occurred Sunday. After engaging in back-spasm-inducing efforts, during yet another snowstorm, to clear our driveway and keep my commitment to help serve a meal at a church retreat, I arrived at the appointed hour. Only then did I learn that procedures had changed and my services would not be required for another hour (at least). Organizers knew about the change; the volunteers were not informed. On a good-weather day, I might have done an errand or two. But it was tough enough to get there during the storm; I wasn't about to venture out until necessary. So, I had an hour to sit and reflect on Christian forgiveness and patience.

Last night, I walked hurriedly from work to Five Flags arena. I was finally going to follow through on my statement, seasons in the making, to attend a Dubuque ThunderBirds hockey game. The team is in its sixth season here, and and year after year, I would state (usually at our 4 p.m. news meeting) that I intended to attend a game. It got so bad that our news editor recently observed, "You always say that, and you never do." Busted. Anyway, Friday was going to be the night. I rushed to the arena a minute or two late, bought a ticket, found a seat and wondered by the 7:05 game still hadn't started. Then I learned that I had just missed the announcement that the game would start an hour later than scheduled due to weather-related travel problems experienced by the visitors from Cincinnati. The snow was so bad out East, the team's charter bus company refused to make the trip. The team arranged for vans and arrived in Dubuque only about 6:30.

An hour wasn't enough time for me to go back to work. So I killed time working through e-mail on my Blackberry.

Anyway, two lost hours this week.

Reader response opportunity: If you had two extra hours in the week ahead, what would you do with it?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Leadville responds

Folks in the Leadville and Twin Lakes area of Colorado are being proactive in addressing the reports about the environmental and safety danger confronting their area.

I received a push e-mail from Leadville, seeking to address questions and allay concerns about the threat of a flood of contaminated water backed up in abandoned mine tunnels.
The e-mail included FAQs:

What happened?
The Lake County Commissioners declared an emergency on Feb. 13, 2008. The reason for this declaration was a build-up of underground water on the east side of Leadville. This water build-up has been rising steadily for years. Because of certain conditions, including the heavy snowpack this year, this action was taken to help protect the area, its residents and visitors.

Is Leadville water safe to drink?
Yes. Parkville Water District continues to provide superior quality water and monitors the water quality daily.

Is Leadville a safe place to be?
Yes. There are a lot of great reasons to visit Leadville and Twin Lakes now, including Ski Cooper and the Crystal Carnival and Ski Joring competition on Mar. 1-2.

Is downtown Leadville in danger?
No. The historic downtown districts of Leadville and nearby Twin Lakes are not in the path of the tunnel. The concern of the County is primarily centered on those residents who live at Village at East Fork in close proximity to the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Treatment Plant.

Has a blowout already happened?
No. The Commissioners are working to prevent such an occurrence. There have been no injuries, no evacuations. It is business as usual in Leadville.

More information: Save the Arkansas River.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Above and beyond

I don't need to tell anyone living in the Midwest that this has been a tough winter. For us in the Telegraph Herald newsroom, snow and ice (and forecasts of same) have disrupted schedules and, on average two days a week, moved up our press times by up to two hours in order to give delivery personnel extra time to make their appointed rounds.

And what are the delivery personnel enduring? This weather is toughest on the drivers negotiating the rural roads of the tri-state area. On one particular route, one that usually requires five or six hours of driving, this past weekend took 11 dangerous hours. Keep in mind, they are doing this job in the middle of the night. Drivers serving other areas could not get to their communities because of closed roads; Sunday editions were delivered today (Monday).

Here are a couple of snapshots taken by a motor route driver, an independent contractor who delivers our paper. While the road surface in this particular shot is not bad -- pavement is visible -- the piles of snow along the road hamper visibility and often are the source of road-choking drifts. And then, when the carrier finally manages to get to the subscriber's delivery tube, he finds it jammed with snow, courtesy of a county snowplow. (That's the tube, to the left of the mailbox.)

Newspaper carriers, whether you deliver in town or in a rural area, my knit hat is off to you. Your efforts go above and beyond.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Smile and say 'mosquitoes'

Parents have a way of snapping pictures when their kids are not enthusiastic photo subjects. Those pictures have a way of working themselves to the bottom of the desk drawer or shoebox -- but eventually they surface.

Such was the case today while, nearly snowbound, I tossed and rearranged years of accumulated stuff. Some old photos emerged.

If I recall correctly, the photo below was taken during the summer of 2001, when four Coopers camped at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. Not only was the weather hot and humid, the site was not the younger Coopers' favorite destination.

A parent-initiated hike did not help at least one camper's disposition.

Here are our subjects in a happier (and cooler) moment, most likely just a few months later.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Medieval help desk

After spending the better part of an hour on the phone (mostly on hold) today with a banking enterprise's help desk, trying to straighten out an Internet access situation, this video was particularly entertaining.

Celebration of Deadball Era

A fellow member of the Society for American Baseball Research called our attention to a YouTube post featuring various images from the Deadball Era (pre-1920). In a couple of shots, you see what unusual access news photographers received during games (1:39 and 3:04 on the timer).
I'm no expert in old photos, but I spotted Babe Ruth as a pitcher (1:18), Ty Cobb (2:08) and Honus Wagner (3:11). Who else do you see?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Leadville's lament

My favorite vacation destination is Leadville, Colo. High in the Rocky Mountains -- 10,200 feet above sea level, it boasts of being the "highest" community in North America -- Leadville is a former gold rush town that features and celebrates its rustic history. Growing in popularity as a tourist destination, the the Leadville area is beautiful, with Turquoise Lake just three miles out of town, and several ski areas close by.

(Leadville also features the best pizza I've eaten anywhere, at High Mountain Pies.)

Anyway, with all the mining that took place there over the decades, during a period when environmental issues and pollution were of low priority, it is no surprise that Leadville was a SuperFund site.

Now, come to find out there is another problem facing the community -- abandoned mine shafts and tunnel containing a billion gallons of contaminated water -- water that threatens the town with a flood and threatens the region with pollution. Nothing imminent, but authorities are taking precautions while trying to figure out what to do about it.

The AP story on the situation is pretty scary.

However, we have our deposit down for a week's stay in Leadville this coming summer. So we're still going. Plus, the house is on high ground.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What the Buck?

I just had to rip off borrow this photo. Granddaughter Claire and her parents went to the University of Wisconsin women's basketball game on Sunday, and Claire got to meet the UW mascot, Bucky.

According to her Mom, Claire wasn't quite sure about the experience. However, she soon got over it and by the end of the game was clapping with the other Badger fans -- though the team suffered a three-point loss.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More images uncovered!

A great-nephew of Red Faber has posted more of the snapshots that Red took on the World Tour of 1913-14, when he was a rookie-to-be with the Chicago White Sox. The pictures were just now uncovered from storage in the home of another relative.

I suspect that someone using Red's camera snapped the top one. It appears that the man seated in the middle of the front row (not looking at the camera) is Red himself.

The entourage also visited the Great Pyramids and sphinx.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Click here to see the rest of the images.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Who are these guys?

A distant relative of Red Faber recently reconnected with some snapshots that Red apparently took when he was on the World Tour of 1913-14.

He sent me this photo, looking for help with identifications. Aside from the fact that Red is not in the photo (I'd assume he was taking the photo), and it appears that we have two Chicago White Sox players and one member of the New York Giants, I'm not any help.

(Ray Schalk, the subject of my current biography project, started on the domestic leg of the tour but left the entourage before it embarked across the Pacific.)

Anyone who can assist? (Click on the photo to enlarge the image.)

One more honor

The Iowa Newspaper Association graciously allowed The Associated Press some agenda time at the INA convention's Friday luncheon to hand out a couple of its top awards. (The Iowa AP Managing Editors organization this year decided to forgo a separate meeting and awards program.)

For the regular contest categories, entrants are notified in advance if they are in the Top Three, making the only mystery whether the result is a first-, second- or third-place award.

However, the AP had one surprise award.

The newspaper Member of the Year -- the recipient of the Mark Twain award -- was our own Telegraph Herald.

The AP is a news cooperative. It has its own staff of professional journalists -- but not nearly enough to cover the world with its own crew. Thus, members of The AP agree to cooperate and share news about events occurring in their home service areas. The timeliness and level of cooperation regarding this information varies greatly.

Our paper was selected for its on-cycle contributions (ie, providing stories and photos before we even had a chance to put them onto our printed page) of the federal arrest of the Bishop Bomber suspect and for sending AP photos and stories regularly throughout the year.

The distinctive award, I was told, was manufactured by the same firm that handles the Oscars.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Iowa Newspaper Association Convention 2008

I returned today from Des Moines, where I spent a full two days at the annual convention of the Iowa Newspaper Association. As a member of the Program Committee and an officer of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation, it is common for me to have a couple of speaking parts at the convention, usually moderating a break-out session or two. I did that, and also, as incoming president of the INF, had the honor of announcing a couple of awards at last night's banquet.

I introduced the panelists for "Writing for the Web vs. Writing For Print," featuring (from left) blogger Dien Judge, who posts on Iowa Independent, former Des Moines Register managing editor Bill Mauer and Doug Burns, of the Daily Times Herald in Carroll who also posts on Iowa Independent; and Chuck "Iowa Boy" Offenburger, the former Des Moines Register columnist whose Web site is .

Because I have this blog, want to learn more about Web news and recently purchased Adobe products for photo and video editing (and have much to learn!) I attended an hour-long PhotoShop basics class by Kevin Slimp, arguably the foremost consultant and presenter on such software. Skeptical about his credentials? Slimp is the man who invented PDFs.

Though I have PhotoShop Elements 6, not exactly the product Slimp reviewed, I learned enough to get headed in the right direction. (A few of these photos were edited using his tips.) As it happened, I wound up sitting next to Slimp, an energetic and entertaining presenter, during lunch, so I was able to get in a few extra questions. (BTW, he told me he didn't get rich on solving PDF for Adobe in 1993 -- even though it might have saved the company -- but his achievement paid dividends for his career afterwards.) Slimp accepts about 80 speaking engagements a year, many of them at press association conventions such as Iowa's.

The keynote speaker was Phil Currie, Gannett's senior vice president for news, who debunked the conventional wisdom that the newspaper industry is dying. After his speech, Currie reiterated why he believes that newspapers will adapt, survive and thrive.

In the long-overdue category, Quad-City Times columnist Bill Wundram, who has written a daily column for the paper for more than 63 years, was finally recognized with the Distinguished Service Award.

In the afternoon, I moderated a Web-reporting session by Thomas Richie, (top) of Sioux City, and Jeff Raasch, of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Well done!

After a 15-minute rest, I was off to the annual business meeting of the Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors, of which I am president. (Fortunately, the duty doesn't require much time!)

The TH had its best INA contest in several years -- and fared even better in the Associated Press' state contest, results of which were also released on Friday.

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver stopped by the convention's pre-banquet social hour, said a few words and then chatted with several of us. Coincidentally, that very morning's Telegraph Herald editorial took the governor to task over his proposed cut in funding for public libraries. The piece opens, "What is he thinking?"

I re-introduce myself -- we met during the 2006 campaign -- and said, "Governor, we took you to task this morning." "Yeah, I saw that," he said. News travels quickly -- as it should. The governor calmly explained his office is trying to figure out a way to restore the money. I hope he's right.

Younger daughter Ellen, who lives and works in Des Moines, was my guest at the convention's awards banquet. Not only did she agree to sit with her Dad -- she did so at the head table. What a good sport! What a special way to conclude the convention. Thanks, Ellen!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mmmm good

What's the oldest item in your kitchen or pantry? (Food item. I'm not talking about your spouse.)

I came across my answer yesterday while going through the items I keep in my office for those occasions when I can't get out for lunch (due to weather or schedule or whatever).

I knew it had been some time ago that I bought bouillon cubes to have on hand for emergency sustenance. I used them occasionally. Make that rarely.

Anyway, because our newsroom is undergoing renovation, and in the near future I will need to vacate my office for new quarters, I am tossing stuff and stuffing stuff into boxes.

For the first time in a long time -- perhaps ever -- I took a closer look at the beef bouillon jar's expiration date. Those babies expired during the Clinton Administration. The first term. Early in the first term. As in October 1994.

I'm glad to report that, 13 years after expiration, no mold was visible. Still, I wonder: What is the half-life of bouillon cubes?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

49 years ago today, the music died -- or did it?

We might not hear much about it today -- it being the national holiday of Super Bowl Sunday and all -- but one year from today, expect plenty of references to The Day The Music Died.

Forty-nine years ago today -- Feb. 3, 1959 -- Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper Richardson and Ritchie Valens died when the plane in which they were riding crashed shortly after takeoff from Mason City, Iowa. They were part of the Winter Dance Party troupe, which played the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the night of Feb. 2.

You might know the story: Holly, tired of riding the drafty tour bus, commissioned a plane to fly them to Fargo, N.D., for their next show in neighboring Moorhead, Minn. He invited Richardson and Valens to come along. (Waylon Jennings had given up his seat at the last minute to Richardson, who was ill and desperately needed some rest.)

About 1 a.m., with 21-year-old Roger Peterson, who had more than four years of experience, at the controls, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff in a farm field.

In his No. 1 song of 1972, "American Pie," Don McLean described the event as "the day the music died." Did the music die that day? Not really, but the tragic loss of three rock 'n' roll stars certainly became a checkpoint on the timeline of popular music.

What is your favorite Buddy Holly song? Take the poll to the upper right.