Control + Alt + Delete

PC users know that control + alt + delete is the universal command to restart your computer. And now my life needs a restart.

Time to reboot. Control + Alt + Delete.

This has been a long time coming. After years of struggling, we’ve come to the point that we have to start over. A series of setbacks, mistakes and a bit of bad luck have brought me to this point.

My house is a perfect metaphor for my life: It’s slowly falling apart and in a few months, the house will be gone. I don’t expect my life to be “gone,” but it will soon be radically altered. Goodbye house, goodbye marriage. Hello, bankruptcy.

This didn’t happen overnight, and rebuilding a life doesn’t happen overnight. But it happens nonetheless.

After a pretty good run as an editor for Knight Ridder newspapers, things went south. Newspaper circulation and ad revenues declined dramatically in the 2000s, and many media outlets (not just newspapers — TV and radio too) were forced to make radical staffing cuts. And guess who found himself on the chopping block? That happened after Knight Ridder ceased to exist, the result of combined revenue loss, competition from Internet sites, and unrealistic profit demands from institutional stock holders. Really, maintain a 20 percent profit margin in 2006? McClatchy acquired Knight Ridder, then sold off the less “desirable” papers in the chain. So in the course of a couple of months, the Akron Beacon Journal changed hands twice. Enter the new owner, who saw the books and realized he’d paid too much. And you know what that means: Chop, chop, chop.

And so I bounced from assignment to assignment, with some occasional gaps in between, picking up anything I could find in a mostly crappy economy. Our finances suffered, saving was wiped out, and the marriage suffered. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that, but my wife was accustomed to a certain level of comfort — not extravagant, but solidly middle-class — and that existence evaporated. Poof! Gone. She blamed me for that.

It finally reached the point that she said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Can’t argue much with that. Quite simply, we have grown apart over the last few years. We don’t have fun together; we don’t do much of anything together except squabble.

So, control + alt + delete.

Then a funny thing happened recently: Saw an opening for a copy editing job in Elyria, not too far up the road. Yesterday was my first day on the job (Talk about burying the lead!). And at one moment last night, I thought to myself, “I am among my people.”

The reboot is happening.



Plumbing Nightmare, Part VII

And so it goes, another chapter in the ongoing saga of my plumbing, um, issues. This time it’s a trifecta. Tub drain slow (again). Toilet leaking (again). Toilet lever busted (again). I don’t even use that bathroom! What’s up with that? Well, just to prove that I am a fairly handy guy, here is photographic evidence of some of my handiwork, with a bonus “ick” factor.




The throne has been overthrown

The throne has been overthrown

It can be truly said that I am in a world of shit.

It can be truly said that I am in a world of shit. This is the ick factor mentioned above.

The throne has been restored!

The throne has been restored!

Look, Ma! No leaks!

Look, Ma! No leaks!

And with new lever installed, victory is mine. Victory!

And with new lever installed, victory is mine. Victory!



Twinkle, Twinkle

Google created a super fun doodle to celebrate Les Paul’s 96th Birthday. That was two days ago, but the reverberations of the event carry on. And on. And on.

Back to Google Logos

A higher caliber of bum

Have you noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of panhandlers on the street corners in and around Akron lately?

I sneak a shot of one of the apparently growing number of panhandling homeless people in Akron.

You find them stationed at the off ramps from Route 8 near downtown and the University of Akron, and you see them now in Fairlawn on Medina Road. In Fairlawn! The signage is familiar: corrugated cardboard usually in black marker, homeless, desperate for work, often veterans. And something I rarely ever saw before, women are panhandling with signs and so forth.

They’re too desperate to care about the shame or embarrassment of being seen by someone who might know them.

I look away, I avoid eye contact. And at times I feel perilously close to finding myself in a situation not much better than theirs.

A photo display of homeless people was a popular (and cliched) subject for college photographers of a certain era, so I don’t want to get too crazy about photographing these poor schlubs. I look at them and think to myself, “There but for the grace of God …”

Something else about these homeless panhandlers. Some of them look like they’re new to the business. The Nouveau Broke. The ones who, like many of us, have worked and worked for years and suddenly find themselves shit outta luck. I try to keep the profanity on my blog to a minimum, but sometimes other words fail to convey the situation. Yeah, there’s always going to be a substantial portion of homeless people with mental illness, substance abuse issues and other stuff going on. But some of these people, clearly, are different.

They don’t belong there.

They’re a higher caliber of bum.

There’s a lot of that going on around here.

And yeah, it bothers the hell out of me.

Workin’ the Pelee Shrimp Shack

There are actual shrimp at the Pelee Shrimp Shack. But that’s not important. What’s important is that actual work was done at the cottage Chez Horstman. There was the usual sight-seeing and photo-snapping and beach-wandering, of course, but we’ll save that for another post or two. For now, work.

Eric mans the mess hall.

One of the projects last weekend was to paint the wall in bathroom #1. This meant removing (part of) the "terlet," as Archie Bunker called it.

This is an under-counter mounted sink on a stone (granite, I believe) slab countertop. Fancy-schmancy! The tricky part was getting the sink aligned with the cut-out in the counter.

This was part of my great-grandmother's bedroom set, a Victorian-era dresser. It's being converted to a vanity in bathroom #1, with the stone countertop (see above). Yours truly is the saw-happy "craftsman" who set up this outfit.

Note the precision of this craftsman's work. Lucky for all of us, this will be hidden from view.

Some wall repair needs a bit of touch-up. The drywall put in after the plumbers moved the water and waste lines isn't exactly flush with the existing wall, so some filling and smoothing is needed. This will take three or four more sand-and-fills before it's ready to paint.

Eric, once again in the mess hall, shot from the loft.

We got a lot accomplished last weekend, but not quite everything Eric and Yvonne wanted to complete. The vanity in bathroom #1 needed more time for the glue to cure. The cool, wet air didn’t help. But the instructions said it needed 48 hours anyway. So next time will be installation time. This should be a relatively easy and straightforward installation (knock on wood, see previous post), assuming the sink adheres to the counter properly.

We hauled a trailerload of crap up – beds. the vanity, a huge wooden table that weighed about a ton (a slight exaggeration) and a new refrigerator.

Chez Horstman is really shaping up nicely. The doors have been installed – no more draping towels across the bathroom threshold. The well and septic are up and running. There are actual beds in each bedroom and the loft, couches and sofa beds, a small library of books for rainy days. There’s food in the fridge and pantry and you can’t beat the view. Graffiti now adorns the unfinished parts of the cottage, including a festive hopscotch board in the “wreck room.” (You can see a small bit of it in the photo of the vanity above.)

The look is eclectic, relaxed, fun and it has something representing the last three or four generations of Horstman, Wilson, Siegle and McAdams.

The bin Laden bounce

OK, America. That means you, too, pundits. One dead terrorist figurehead does not a presidency make.

I just heard a talking head on CNN shout, Is there anybody who can beat President Obama now?

Follow the bouncing bin Laden!

Wait, wait wait. Just last week I started hearing Republicans crow that Obama was a guaranteed one-term president. Then yesterday, with the news of Osama bin Laden having a very bad day still fresh in our minds, Obama is suddenly invincible? Really? Is the bin Laden bounce that potent?

OK, let’s give Obama a little credit. He made a couple of tough decisions. One, he was against bombing the compound. He wanted enough of bin Laden left to have solid proof that it was indeed bin Laden they had killed. Two, it was a mission to get him dead or alive, and acknowledged from the beginning that dead was the more likely outcome. He made those calls. I think they were the right calls.

The decision to bury bin Laden at sea is a littler fuzzier. I can accept the rationale that they didn’t want a land burial site to become a shrine to that soulless killer. It also makes it easier for the inevitable conspiracy theorists to spin their ludicrous inanities.

And let’s give a lot of credit to the intelligence community and that kick-ass SEAL Team 6. They did their jobs remarkably well under extraordinary circumstances. They found the needle in the giant haystack and shot it in the eye. Now there’s some kerfuffle – isn’t that a fun word? kerfuffle, kerfuffle, kerfuffle – ahem, where was I?  Oh, yes, there’s some kerfuffle that bin Laden wasn’t actually armed at the time and that the woman wasn’t actually being used as a human shield.

But let’s just remember one little thing: Osama bin Laden is directly responsible for the death of 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of lives in Africa in the 1998 embassy bombings and for the death of 17 Americans on the USS Cole in 2000. For the crimes of 9/11 alone, I think shoot to kill on sight is the appropriate response. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

And while we’re at it, let’s give W his due. The Bush administration screwed up a lot, even to the point that Bush, evidently bored with bin Laden, dismissively said he didn’t give much thought to bin Laden. But he launched the hunt. Luckily, our military and intelligence communities were eventually able to overcome some pretty tough handicaps. (Let’s not forget that the Bush administration deliberately outed a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, in not-too distant Iran. There’s no telling how deeply that damaged the CIA and the intelligence community at large.)

Bin Laden has been on the run since 1998. Clinton tried to get him. Launched a couple of Tomahawk missiles. Missed. The troops had a shot at trapping him in Tora Bora in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001, but the Bush administration failed to commit ground troops to smoke him out. It would have been an extremely dangerous mission, to be sure, but it was our best shot at getting him before he slipped into Pakistan to hide among our “friends.”

Then he became the needle in the big, mountainous haystack.

It took nine years to find him. It took smarts, patience and a little luck. But we finally got him.

Back to Obama and the bin Laden bounce.

So Obama suddenly got his mojo back and everything’s good now. But take a look at your calendar. It’s May 2011. Election’s a year and a half away. Remember May of 2007? Remember the leading Republican contender then? Rudy Giuliani was the name with the most cache.

Remember May of 1991? Bush 41 was basking in the glow of Desert Storm and soaring approval ratings. Then some unknown governor from Arkansas came along and – POOF! – Bush was gone.

A year and a half is a long time in politics.

Confessions of a media whore

I have a confession to make. Actually, it’s not much of a secret, so I don’t know if the term “confession” applies. Anyway.

I am a media creature – 18-plus years as a newspaper editor and writer, and five-plus years as a web media critter, with some overlap of both. I write, I edit, I shoot photos, I shoot a little video. I am of the media. I am “the media” as pundits who are about to criticize “the media” (and too often use the term incorrectly in singular form — media is [are] plural for “medium.”) – where was I? Oh, yes – like to refer to the media as if they are some sort of monolithic being that never behaves independently of other “media.”

Except that sometimes they’re right.

I saw tweet today from Tony Hawk (yeah, the skater dude):

tonyhawk Tony Hawk
“According to news outlets, our priorities are a wedding in England & a birth in Hawaii. Glad there are no other major issues.”

Bam! In 140 characters or less, he summed up exactly what is wrong with the modern  24/7 in-your-face infotainment news cycle.

I’m guilty of sometimes feeding the media monster, but most of the time I try to stick to real news and things that matter. But I do get sucked in and feel compelled to comment on some of the stupidity that passes for “news.”

Every bozo with a contrarian point of view (even if it’s utter bullshit) gets his or her day in the spotlight, which annoys me to no end. Trotting out these news “sources” gives them more credibility than they deserve. It’s mystifying, in a way, that all you have to say is “As Seen on TV” and a sack of sludge has instant credibility. Which explains a lot.

I wonder why news outlets keep sticking cameras and microphones in front of Donald Trump to give him a platform to spew his blowhard garbage as if it’s actually newsworthy. He’s been caught repeatedly in lies on the air, and was even called on it by CNN (who earns half-credit for that). Yet they keep sticking a camera and microphone in front of him. Enough! He’s been discredited, the whole “birther” inanity has been resoundingly discredited. The blowhards and wingnuts have had their say.  MOVE ON! There’s a royal wedding to cover.

Speaking of which, be sure to participate in my Royal Wedding Survey. I shall say no more about that. (Far bigger media monkeys than I have that one covered in excess already.)

In other news

A large pine tree fell into some power lines on Revere Road in Fairlawn, Ohio, in a windstorm Thursday morning. The road was reopened Thursday afternoon. Yes, I shot this photo. Alert the Pulitzer committee!

There was a rather blustery storm blowing through NE Ohio today. Being the editor on duty at, I did the dutiful thing and reported on the event. I called the local police and the power company, FirstEnergy. Spokesman Mark Durbin has done this a thousand times (at least), so he’s got the drill down pat. Got some info, hacked out a simple, straightforward report on the known facts: Trees down, power out in places, some roads blocked.

I went out and shot some photos. There wasn’t much activity at the time I was there, or I’d have shot some video. I posted the photos and posted some social media stuff to promote the story and the Patch site. I followed up a few hours later to see what progress had been made in cleanup. All in a day’s work. I was among several Patch editors thanked for responding to the storm in each of our particular Patch locales. Even editors need a little love now and then.

But that story is really a sidebar to the bigger story in the South, where at least  248 people perished in storms and huge tornadoes. Alabama really got hammered. Our power outages and uprooted trees pale in comparison. The reporting of that news is serious and real. And it’s heartbreaking, especially for the friends and family of those victims and the hundreds more whose lives have been devastated.

Then I ran across this piece that makes me   1) laugh out loud and 2) shake my head in shame.

The anchors were laughing at him. One even said (on air), “I don’t mean to laugh at him.”  Yeah, you do. I laughed. Several of my media brethren giddily passed the video link along like a naughty note at school. Tee-hee!

And so I mock the media clowns and buffoons, knowing that I am not that far removed from them. Which gives me pause. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

I am a crying clown.

I am a media whore.

But at least I have my integrity. Right?