Posted on 2 Comments

You call this news?!

With the current state of paywalls and news organizations, I am pretty sure I could grab a handful of journalist students from a university and put a hurt on the Boston Globe or Scripps Newspapers such as the Knoxnews. Yes, you read that correctly. I believe am amateur hack like me plus a handful of inexperienced young journalists could take on the major publishers and win.

Why? Because they have forgotten their core business is delivering news! And don’t whine to me about monetization. Or that I don’t understand the challenges of funding a news business because from the looks of it the big organizations don’t know how either! I’ll rest my case with this screen capture of Look closely for the story. There is none! Why? Probably because I’m not logged in. All it shows is a tabloidish title "Builders of Obama’s health website saw red flags" designed to drawn in pageviews then a webpage full of links to social networks, unrelated articles, and a couple of ads. This is not news:


Posted on Leave a comment

Bad things are happening in Boston…and good things are too

Patton Oswalt says this far more eloquently than I could but echos my sentiment. Yes, horror is happening in Boston right now. However, great things are happening there too and elsewhere. Somewhere a baby is being born. A life is being saved. Someone is sharing a smile with someone else who needed it.

Status Update
By Patton Oswalt
Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I’ve had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

[Source, Facebook, Patton Oswalt]

H/t Danny.

As a reminder, news is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.

Posted on Leave a comment

Stephen Hawking Very Ill


The 67-year-old physicist, who is the Lucasian professor of mathematics at the university, was undergoing tests at Addenbrooke’s hospital, Cambridge, after being taken there by ambulance today. He has been fighting a chest infection for several weeks. [Source, Guardian, Stephen Hawking ‘very ill’ in hospital]

Audio for this post generated by AT&T Labs Text-to-Speech(TTS) Demo software.

Update: Looks like Stephen Hawking is going to recover from the chest infection!

Posted on 2 Comments

N.E.W.S. times are a changin’

N.E.W.S. – Notable Experience Was Scrutinized (or Noble Elitist Writers Soapbox)

What’s new in the news now? People are all a buzz…better…people are all a twitter about the death of the newspaper business. Ironically nicknamed deadwood, the printed word is dying. Newspapers are following the slide projector. Newspapers, once the cornerstone of public opinion, are struggling to re-establish themselves, figure out how to be profitable, and not get closed down. Newspapers used to be accepted as gospel. The tone of the printed word could set public opinion and decide political careers and was regarded by the public as "fair and unbiased" when in truth the newspaper is controlled by either an editor who can influence the tone set by the paper or corporation whose agenda may side with printing the opinion or running a story with a twist that brings in the most money. Pajamas Media argues that news should not be fair and balanced. So with papers dying, where will news come from? The Associated Press says to listen to the bloggers and the social media entrepreneurs. News is turning from the professional journalists who seek it out to the amateur writer who is experiencing the news as it happens. I want papers to succeed. Without the newspaper, society will crumble! How will we train our dogs? What will childhood be like without that disgusting smell of wet flour and strips of paper for sculpting? What will our parents stare blankly at while struggling to remember if this is their first or second bowl of bran cereal for the day?

N.E.W.S. – Now Everyone Writes Something

Posted on 2 Comments

Barnum and Bailey Kill 28 Year Tradition for Rocky Hill Elementary

Yesterday I learned that Rocky Hill Elementary school will not be having its annual Clown Day this year instead opting for a reading celebration. This ends a 28 year tradition. I’m still gathering my thoughts for a letter that will be sent to the administration and another to Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey.

…Clown Day started in 1980 when the first graders read a story about circus children. First grade teachers asked Jim Early to bring in circus performers’ children to visit. Mr. Early came with clowns, not children, and thus began a long tradition at Rocky Hill.

… Last year the local marketing company company, who has been faithful to bring the clowns to school, was replaced by a company in Atlanta. We pursued the Atlanta company (who knew nothing about Rocky Hill) about continuing the tradition and they said the circus was going through changes and the only clowns left did not speak English. She conceded and found two Ambassadors of Hope clowns who performed. This year, emails were not returned and the circus has come and gone.

[Source, Letter to 1st grade parents from the first grade teachers]

Clown Day is a well planned event that incorporates all aspects of learning as well as arts. The first graders spend time learning music, physical skills, and the three Rs are incorporated into the activities. Clown Day is not just a day of play and distraction from education. Instead it is a fun way to get the children engaged in education. My daughter has been so excited about Clown Day that she bought a dress for it at the beginning of the year and has avoided wearing it because she doesn’t want it "messed up" before Clown Day. She will be sorely disappointed in this decision.

This decision also breaks a rhythm at the school. Each grade has something "special" and exciting for the children. The Kindergarten students have Turkey Trot. There is the Wax Museum. (I’m drawing a blank on the others). The first grade is now orphaned and seeking their own unique event.

The cancellation of Clown Day is not only a failure on Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey‘s part but on the administration of Rocky Hill Elementary including Principal Cory Smith. Clown Day is a well honed operation that works within the curriculum. They have all the equipment and the support of parents. I am befuddled that they did not turn to the Shriner’s for clowns or ask a local clown to come perform. Shoot, if they just want to entertain the kids for 30-45 minutes, I’d put on a show!

Btw, as much as I love the circus, I think my children and I have seen our last Barnum & Bailey show. We will be quite entertained by the Shriner’s Circus from now on.

Related Reality Me posts referencing Clown Day: The day in reviewClown DayQuoted for Clown DayHealthYesterday was my wife’s birthdayRocky Hill Clown DayRocky Hill Clown Day – a big success!Clown DayClown day updateRocky Hill Clown DayClown day update

Posted on Leave a comment

Hurricane Creek Keeper tells of Gestapo Style TVA Police

My friend had a similar experience:

TVA’s private security detained our friend as (TVA’s words) an “environmental activist.” Cathy asked last night, what does one fear from an environmental activist at a toxic waste site? Are they afraid they’ll pull out a paper towel and start cleaning?

TVA’s private security, described as dressed in dark uniforms with no clear insignia, took our friend’s picture, took personal and professional contact information, recorded the license plate, commented on the contents of the vehicle, commented on the environmental bumper stickers, and kept our friend detained in the car for a half an hour. Our friend had turned onto a side road but not crossed any fence, barricade or posting of any kind.

Read more about the Tennessee coal sludge spill on Wikipedia.

Posted on Leave a comment

Colbert needs to interview these people!

Papa Bear did a bit of a smack down on some youthful Obama supporters. I think Stephen Colbert should interview these same two supporters!

And Dear Stephen Colbert Staff, in case you don’t watch the show on a 21" television, the green screen during the interview segment reflects off the mahogany table in an almost painful way. Mahogany shouldn’t glow green unless it’s from Oak Ridge, TN.

This video originally seen on Mahalo.

Posted on 2 Comments

Is your news complete?

Does reading news online, or even in a paper (or television), really give a clear picture of the story? Of course not. It gives a reporters impression of the story, sometimes reflects the political views of the paper or broadcast company, and can be intentionally misleading. I don’t think anything was intentionally misleading in these article but look at how information from 3 different sources changes your views of a story about a LaFollette man dying:

My introduction to the story by WBIR

In summary, the WBIR story reported a LaFollette man crash his car and died. He was not found for two days and was presumed to be drinking. 82 words in 5 paragraphs. The commenters were quick to bad mouth the obvious drunkard. I was left with the impression the car was in a ditch beside the road and people drove past ignoring the wreckage.

The 2nd story I read was by Knoxnews

The Knoxnews story had much more detail at 181 words in 7 paragraphs. Knoxnews revealed that the car was found over a football field’s length from the road. They gave much better detail about the way the accident happened, the age of the driver, the fact he was wearing his seatbelt, and even the type of vehicle. None-the-less, I finished the article with not much sympathy for someone drinking at driving on a Monday afternoon.

The final story by WATE was heart wrenching

The last story I read filled in some gaps and created great empathy for the family. WATE’s story at 81 words in 5 paragraphs was reported yesterday and did not mention the man’s death. It was titled "Search for missing Campbell Co. man with dementia" and was a plea for the community’s help in finding the missing man. WATE included the man’s age and description of his truck both of which matched the Knoxnews article. The WATE article had one comment from yesterday by the man’s daughter, Amber Sutton:

hey im johnny sutton’s daughter please keep me and my family in prays….i miss my dad…please come home safe and whoever is lookin 4 him i send all my thanks out

Her comment and the word "dementia" put Johnny Sutton’s story in a completely different light.

When you read news, do you take it for what the one source claims or do you seek the whole story?

Posted on 2 Comments

Can you rely on Twitter for breaking news?

Twitter gets the word out and fast! Twitter can spread news quickly because the news comes first hand from those experiencing it, concise (140 characters), and directly from their finger tips to a potentially worldwide audience. However, the ability to receive that breaking news has much to do with how well you, the reader, can process the stream of data; how many people you follow; and what subject/focus group captures your interest.

How many should I follow?

In the beginning we commit to following a few. "I don’t understand how people can follow hundreds or thousands. I’ll follow 10 or 20." That is how I began my Twitter experience. Today I follow 555 (yes, like the timer). A quick sidebar, if you follow 10 people who Tweet once a week each you will have a far different Twitter experience than following 10 people who Tweet once an hour. Too often we think of Twitter in "numbers of followers and following" when really it should be "ratio of following to tweets produced by those you are following." Back on topic, If you follow a small number of people your Twitter experience will be one of intimacy and learning great detail about those people. Your experience is narrow and deep. If you follow hundreds of people or thousands, your experience is wide and shallow; however, you experience a pulse like a life force on the common thread that ties those people together. If those hundreds of people are all in the tech industry, you will know what is happening in technology the instant it happens. If those hundreds of people are in the entertainment industry, you will know the gossip and dealings of Hollywood, Broadway, etc as it happens. If those hundreds are politicos, you will be informed more quickly about politics than others. And if those hundreds are locally connected, say all from Knoxville, then you will know about the happenings in your local area more rapidly than others. Of course topics bleed over. Those you follow could be local people that are into technology and politics. If those hundreds or thousands are diversely unrelated, you will get noise.

How to process the information?

Twitter’s power is in its SMS interactions. Okay, not so true. Twitter’s power is the community, the people, the audience; however, adoption of services like, which stands to give Twitter the most fierce competition, has been slow due to lack of SMS integration. If you follow hundreds of people and something newsworthy happens, your phone will beep so quickly that you cannot possibly follow the conversation. Although SMS is very powerful for Twitter, it is cumbersome when the action is occurring. Watching Twitter in a browser is tedious and requires taking your attention away from other activities such as your job, family or playing solitaire. Using a program catered to Twitter is the best way to get the most from Twitter. For me, that program is Twhirl. Twhirl can connect to multiple Twitter accounts, Friendfeed,, Seemic and anything that commuicates with XMPP (and if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, most people don’t). Twhirl sits in the background and in my peripheral vision I see its little stream move along. When I take breaks I scan it for keywords. In certain circumstances I get a ping with an alert to say it needs my attention. For the most part, I can stay connected without being distracted. And if it ever becomes a distraction, I turn it off. The problem with programs like Twhirl becomes its ease, addictiveness, and amusement. On a whim, I can send a nonsensical out and often it is directed to a single person but rather than making it a private message, I inadvertently spam 550 people (or in Barack Obama‘s case 64,140 people). Of course, maybe those 550 people want that level of interaction. For me, that remains my unanswered question, "what do these 550 people want or expect?"

What subject matter belongs in Twitter?

Your interests will dictate your Twitter experience and make it far different from someone else’s Twitter experience. I believe Twitters fall into 45 categories:

  1. Exhibitionists, Voyeurs, Gossips – These are the folks that will send/read a stream of messages about the minutia of daily life
  2. News feeds – These are the folks alerting the world about their experiences with the California fires, or the next big event. These are the newspapers getting the headlines out. These are people like myself alerting others that the Interstate is at a stand still.
  3. Topic Specific – These would be people sharing information about a particular subject. Unlike news feeds these will often include back and forth discussions about the topic.
  4. [addition to original post] Spammers – People taking advantage of the tendency to follow those who follow you simply to draw attention to a product or website. The Twitter staff and others are trying to minimize the ability for people to spam through Twitter.
  5. [added Nov 5, 2008] Utility – such as how The RedCross has used Twitter to make accessing the Safe and Well database easier.

[Source, Reality Me, Put @RedCross in your Twitter]

A fifth category could be utility such as how The RedCross has used Twitter to make accessing the Safe and Well database easier. By following a topic specific group of people, you will get a pulse on the latest news regarding that topic. You will be in the know. By using a program like Twhirl, you can have multiple Twitter accounts simultaneously following different topic areas. Or by checking Twitter Search (aka Summize) you can quickly be updated on a particular subject matter. So yes, I think that you can rely on Twitter for breaking news. I think some misinformation is likely to come with the speed at which Twitter delivers that breaking news, but Twitter (and main stream media) will be quick to correct the misinformation.

See also: Who quit following you on Twitter?

Posted on Leave a comment

TVA and Knoxnews Unfamiliar with Google

One thing is certain. At some point in our life, we will die. (Unless Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey de Grey, and fellow scientists succeed at treating aging as a disease – read some debate and discussion, and, I am certain they will but it will be affordable only to the ultra wealthy) WBIR and Knoxnews reported that a man had jumped from The Bluffs near Tellico Dam and died. Accidents happen particularly when thrill seeking. This does not mean The Bluffs should be fenced off and protected by armed guards. Accidents happen. It is unfortunate and I feel badly for his family.

In the Knoxnews article, the report:

[TVA spokeswoman Nancy] Mitchell said she did not know where the man was from, “but I’m assuming (he was) fairly local,” she said. [Source, Knoxnews, ID released on jumper killed at "Bluffs"]

Knoxville is a small town. When I read about someone around my age passing away, I google them to see if I knew them. In 30 seconds of reading the Knoxnews article, I knew exactly where the deceased lived and thanks to Streetviews can tell you the style and color of his house. Yes, this could a different person with the same name but based upon the search results, I highly doubt it. The article also states "his next of kin were notified between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday" which seems contradictory to Nancy Mitchell’s statement. Poor reporting? or poor release of information by TVA?