Category Archives: Newspapers

The New York Times, And Newspapers In General

I subscribe to the New York Times Premium Puzzles, and it isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive either.  I do their puzzles every day, which you can do for free as long as it’s the same day.  Premium allows you to access previous days’ puzzles, plus access to what they call their Second Sunday puzzle, which includes the Acrostics.  I am addicted to Acrostics!  It also allows you access to Play With A Friend, so you can interactively solve the puzzle with another person or more than one person.  My sister and I do this together every Saturday (Saturday being the hardest puzzle and requiring two brains), so it’s very important to me to be able to access it.  My sister and I use it as our weekly catch-up time.

I remember a friend who used to call his mother every weekend, and he dreaded it.  This is never a dreaded contact, I look forward to it.  If we have nothing to say beyond doing the puzzle together, that’s fine too.  We don’t have to scramble to find a topic if there really isn’t one.   We touched base.  We had fun.  We know we are each okay.  Mission accomplished.

It’s a fixed appointment.  If either of us did not show up without prior notice, we would know something was wrong.

So this week…it would not allow me to type in either the Acrostic or Play With A Friend.  I discovered that Friday night and did everything I could do on my end to try to fix it.  Logged off the NYT and logged back on (about a hundred times).  Restarted the computer (about a hundred times).  Emptied the cache.  Cleared everything I know how to clear.  And it still didn’t work.

So, in desperation, I contacted the NY Times Help.  And…Arrgh. I’ve done this before, and should have remembered.  I got back an automated response suggesting I do all the things I’d already done.  I just wanted to scream.  I am so frustrated!  But what can I do?  Well, I replied, I already did that.  Could a real person look into this?

It does make me a little sad, because I’m well aware of the issues that newpapers are going through.  (Like, death.)  But if I have a problem with my Kindle or with my cell phone, I can get customer service help 24 hours a day from Amazon or Sprint. (Of course they will be from India or Uzbekistan, but…that’s another discussion.)  Sometimes while I’m searching for the answer to my problem, someone will pop up on chat and offer to help.  Or I can choose the chat option to begin with.

Not so with the NYT.  Apparently their people work Monday through Friday and have pre-set automated responses for when they are not there.  This seems like a scheduling problem to me.  You could have shifts that go from Tuesday through Saturday, or Wednesday through Sunday.  That way you would cover every day of the week….even if they were all 8 to 5 shifts.  Inquiries after that time would be answered the next day.  They need a manager.

I am sad about newspapers though.  Every weekday, I read the paper and ink version of my local paper.  I won’t subscribe to the online version, because the fees are more than the fees for the New York Times, which just seems wrong to me.  And the NYT lets you read 10 articles a month for free.  But I don’t see that lasting long.  I like newspapers.  I like real books.  I like libraries, and the smell of old paper.

And yet, as I mentioned, I have a Kindle, a cell phone, a Bluetooth.  I have Windows 7 and more than one email address (some of which I have to remember to check.)  I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.  I know people who are steadfast in refusing to give up the “old ways”.  For instance.  I’m on the Board of an organization and there are various ways to notify us of meetings.  When that task falls to the former president of the organization, he calls you on the phone.  You will never get me that way.  He has an email address, but he doesn’t like it and doesn’t trust it.  Sad.   If you don’t change with the times, you will become very isolated.  I don’t know what he’ll do if they ever stop publishing the paper and ink version of the local newspaper.   Which has happened in other cities (Seattle).

However, it can also get out of hand.  I, for example, don’t have and never will have a Twitter account.  I think the whole concept is laughable and useless.  That said, apologies to Twitter fans. I once said a similar thing to a blogger friend and he was highly insulted.  I’ll leave it at, this is a bit too much connectivity for me.  The best thing about technology for me is that it has allowed me to become more disconnected, rather than less.  I need lots of down time.  To read in the back yard.  To contemplate how annoying and yet clever squirrels are.  To get stung by fire ants (or some other unknown critter)and take myself to the ER.  I don’t think sending a Tweet about it would be helpful.

Having said this about newspapers, next month I will be a somewhat reluctant “star” in the local newspaper.  They are participating in a campaign called Go Pink! Which is apparently a national endeavor by newspapers. Each day they are highlighting one local woman who has survived breast cancer.  I have very mixed feelings about the whole pink stuff thing.  But overall, I think this is a good idea.  This is the face of cancer:  someone who is your neighbor or co-worker.  And there were things I wanted to say.  When the article comes out, I will let you know, and provide a link to the online video of the interview (which I will probably have to pay for, Ha!)  The reporter did the video using an iPhone!  I am still amazed!

I love newspapers and I am prematurely mourning their deaths.  But I also love new ways to communicate too.  Like iPhones.

What a Week!

This week, beginning Monday, June 24th, would have been a good one for a Valium prescription. 

On Monday, I got the word that the biopsy I had was benign.  Note:  that isn’t the same thing as “negative”.  It was something, that something just wasn’t cancer.  As one of my friends said, champagne all around! 

Tuesday, in the context of the rest of the week, was a snoozer. 

Wednesday, the City Commission made it official:  my company has been awarded the contract for the next five years with five one-year options to keep doing what we’re doing.  I get to keep my job for 5-10 years, well, assuming I don’t do something to screw it up in the meantime. 

The next morning, an article came out in the newspaper headlined “First company to benefit from City’s local preference program is not local”.  Or something to that effect.  Here’s the deal:  in a bid process, local companies get extra points.  So to win, other companies must obtain higher scores in other areas to compensate.  I learned only through the article that this is a “pilot” program for one year, enacted by the City Commission.  (Aren’t we lucky that our contract came up for bid during this particular year?) I understand the rationale, and their hearts are in the right place, but there’s an extent to which they didn’t think it through.  Nevertheless, I’m not complaining. 

The article went on to say that my company is a national one headquartered elsewhere, with only a “branch” office located here.  They interviewed the City’s Director of Management and Administration (translation:  a demi-god.  The Mayor, the Commissioners, and the City Manager are the Olympians.  Below them are only a few people whose word is essentially law:  the City Attorney, the Treasurer, and the Director of DMA.)  In other words, if an issue reaches them and they make a decision, you can fight City Hall all you want, but you will lose.  Actually if you want to fight City Hall, your best bet is with the Commissioners and the Mayor, because they’re elected.  You may not think this is fair, or right, but it’s the way it is.  If you choose to ignore the way it is, then you will become Sisyphus, perpetually pushing that rock up the hill.  You should go sit down somewhere and have a beer, which you can cry into. 

So the Director of DMA said, we don’t care if they’re a national company.  We asked that they have a local office which has been established for at least six months prior to the bid; that they have a business license; and that they have full-time local employees.  They qualify.  Any more questions?  (Time to have that beer.)

My assistant manager asked, “Why is this news?”  It was on the “consent” agenda.  There was no discussion of it in the Commission meeting.  No dispute.  The Commission essentially rubber-stamped it.  So why would the newspaper waste space on it?  I said, You poor, deluded, naive, baby soul.  No, I did not say that really.  What I said was, items in the newspaper are generated by complaints; it’s similar to the way Animal Control works.  They aren’t out there cruising to find violations–they rely on citizens reporting violations.  There is no doubt in my mind that the company which came closest to us generated this.  They were smart enough to know they didn’t have a leg to stand on with the City, but thought they would get a little jab in on the way out.  You can’t really blame them.  (But it’s time for THEM to go have a beer.)

When I came home that same day, there had been an enormous deadfall in the back yard (there had been a thunderstorm during the day).  Oh no.  Yard Guy will not be able to simply hook this one to the back of his truck and haul it off. 

It ends just short of the birdfeeder.  Nature made a handy stepladder for the squirrels. 

BUT…that same evening, just before dark, I looked out the kitchen window and there was an enormous owl sitting on the birdfeeder pole.  It’s only the second time in my life I’ve ever seen an owl in the wild.  It turned out to be a barred owl. 

I tried to creep out so I could see it better without the window in between, but of course as soon as it saw me it flew away.  Majestic does not begin to describe it.  It looked like an airplane flying away.  They have wing spans of three to four feet.  I was in awe. 

So that’s what I mean about the Valium prescription.  In the space of four days, I went from euphoria to profound anxiety to great relief to Oh No! to awe.  Theoretically speaking, it seems like it would have been a great idea to mute the highs and cushion the lows.  But, I believe this is what we call “life”.  You don’t get to choose when it happens to you–it’s happening all the time.

Ms. Language Person Talks Newspapers

My favorite humorist, Dave Barry, who used to work for the Miami Herald, along with hundreds of other people who now used to work for the Miami Herald, used to devote a column from time to time to questions from readers to Mr. Language Person.  I would give you examples, but I’m prohibited from doing so.  You have to subscribe to the Miami Herald yourself and look it up. 

I know this because I subscribe to the Miami Herald myself, and the latest subscriber update I received from them informed me that if I violated any of their policies, they were going to rebuild the Bastille,  build an extra-deep dungeon (possible due to state-of-the-art technology unavailable in 1370), place me in a cell and feed me boiled cockroach soup for the rest of my natural but short life. 

Okay, here is what they really said:  You may not reproduce any part of this content, blah, blah, blah.  It was so Draconian I was afraid to even quote anyone, which seemed to Fakename to be a sort of self-defeating policy on their part.  What about, “I read it in the Miami Herald” would be bad?  Especially since subscribing is free…oh wait.  No more. 

So far they haven’t billed me, but it’s now $1.99 per month. 

Now the good news is, I know for a fact that they do not have an army of researchers combing other newspapers or Internet sites, or for that matter, combing their hair for instances of plagiarism or (politely speaking) unattributed quotes.  So I could possibly get away with calling myself Ms. Language Person and not get sued.  But Fakename is not into stealing intellectual property.  She IS into having the freedom to quote people and to playing on words.

We are in that interim period where newspapers on paper are indeed dying.  No more smell of newsprint, holding it in your hands in the morning over a cup of coffee.  I get that.  But I am kind of an interim person.  I’m willing to give up the newspaper, as long as you don’t  mess with the library and the paper books.   I’ll have to go all Fahrenheit 451 on you if that happens.

Sign Me Up

It’s amazing to me how much trouble I can get myself into just by commenting on a blog on my hometown newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat.  Wait…hang on.  I seem to have misplaced my membership card in the American Communist Party.  Okay, whew.  There it was in my wallet, between my driver’s license and my voter registration card.  For those of you who don’t really know me, let me take all the fun out of this and say:  I’m kidding.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, Mr. McCarthy. 

As a known liberal…oh wait.  I have to go look for my ID card.  Okay, can’t find it…you will just have to take my word for it. 

On the Democrat there is a lively and outraged discussion going on about the fact that Bill Ayers is about to come speak at Florida State University.  Protest! , they urge!  Don’t give FSU any money!  I must admit that I enjoy seeing people on the “other side” reduced to such tactics.  It is so totally comforting  to see these people be in the minority. 

So today, one of the wacko conspiracy theorist people (which is about all that’s left on the TD) said that I apparently must harbor secret sympathies with Bill Ayers.  Maybe that’s because I said it was okay with me if he spoke at FSU.  I guess he missed the part where I said I agree that Ayers was a terrorist, that he is unrepentant and in denial, and that I think he is a despicable person. 

Well, you know how it is.  Once a liberal, always a liberal.  Meanwhile, if you find my Liberal ID card, would you please mail it back to me?  Otherwise, I’ll have to sign up all over again.

Don’t That Beat All

For those of you who aren’t from the South, this is a time-honored phrase meaning “What the fuck were they thinking?” We are prohibited from saying this out loud, due to the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice rule. 

The occasion for this post is that today I learned that sometime in the past week, my hometown newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, held a “Blogger’s Luncheon.”  Apparently my invitation was lost in the mail. 

The luncheon was organized by a reader, and took place in the Democrat headquarters, where attendees wore name tags with their screen names on them.  The food consisted of sandwiches from the Dem’s cafeteria, plus whatever the attendees brought with them.  What?  This is a church supper?  They should have invited me–I make a mean coleslaw. 

I have to work hard at not being too cynical, but in this case, I’m failing miserably.  This is the last gasp of a dying newspaper. 

Don’t that just beat all?