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.

 

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About that ebola thing

I’ve had a lot of fun jesting about the ebola virus mass hysteria ever since somebody came down with the frightening disease in the United States. I joked that I got ebola from pumpkin spice latte, and probably a half-dozen other suspicious parties. Until today. Suddenly the contagious disease has a local connection or two. And people are frightened.

Public Enemy No. 1

Public Enemy No. 1

So a healthcare worker who had contact with the ebola patient who died in Dallas  visited family this week in Tallmadge, Ohio (an Akron ‘burb), including some who work at Kent State University. She was diagnosed with ebola after she returned to Dallas via a plane that flew out of Cleveland. The CDC says she had no symptoms while on that flight or  while visiting in NE Ohio. BUT, given the CDC’s recent performance in dealing with the ebola scare, it has a bit of a credibility problem. Was she really asymptomatic, does ebola really only transmit via bodily fluids, is it only contagious after symptoms begin to show?

Suddenly folks in Akron and Tallmadge and Kent State and anyone at Cleveland Hopkins Airport are worried about being exposed to this super-scary virus.

OK, to sum up:

One person has died from ebola in the United States. Thousands have reportedly died in continental Africa during the recent outbreak and it is not showing signs of slowing down. The CDC says the virus is only contagious via direct exposure to bodily fluids of an infected patient and that the U.S. healthcare system is vastly better prepared to contain any outbreak than the Third World is.

BUT (You saw this coming, right?):

What if the ebola virus mutates? What if we don’t really know all there is to know about this bug? I mean, ebola is a relatively new phenomenon, unlike smallpox or chickenpox or measles or the flu or the common cold. Or even AIDS. Many of these viruses can be transmitted through the air or surface contact. And many of these can be transmitted before any symptoms begin to show.

This is direct from the CDC website:

“A person with chickenpox can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before they get the rash until all their chickenpox blisters have formed scabs.”

So what happens if ebola mutates to the point that it is transmissible 1 to 2 days before symptoms begin to show? What if it can be transmitted via a sneeze or a doorknob?

Well, then we might have cause for mass hysteria.

Those of us around in the mid-1980s and early ’90s remember the AIDS scare. At that time getting HIV/AIDS was a guaranteed death sentence. People feared it was transmissible through mosquito bites (it’s not) or kissing or simply shaking hands (not and not). Medical research improved after a few years, drugs to combat the virus became more effective and prevention of the spread of the disease got better. But in the meantime, a lot of people died. I lost several friends.

It’s still pretty early in this saga to suggest this is the next bubonic plague or one of the flu epidemics that killed millions of people in past outbreaks.

And as many pundits have correctly pointed out, thousands of people die each year from the flu and car accidents, cancer, heart disease and so forth. Yet these deadly afflictions don’t trigger mass panic.

A year from now, this could turn out to be meh, whatever.

Oh, and I just learned I got ebola from a squirrel in my yard. Little bastard!

 

Almost prime-time fall colors

Today’s colors weren’t quite the grandiose colors I’d hoped for, but you could find colors in the smaller picture. Behold:

Purty in yeller

Purty in yeller

I heard this repeated plink! plink! plink! in the woods. It was acorns trying to assassinate me. Vicious bastards missed me every time

I heard this repeated plink! plink! plink! in the woods. It was acorns trying to assassinate me. Vicious bastards missed me every time.

 

These apparently albino pumpkins have been left in the field. Seems kind of cruel.

These apparently albino pumpkins have been left in the field. Seems kind of cruel.

These bugs seem to be hogging the wilkweed, which I'm told is a mainstay for monarch butterflies. I'm fairly sure this is milkweed, but I could be wrong. Any botanists out there?

These bugs seem to be hogging the wilkweed, which I’m told is a mainstay for monarch butterflies. I’m fairly sure this is milkweed, but I could be wrong. Any botanists out there?

fern amid fallen leaves

Now

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about

hawk 2

little daisies

little purple flowers

Everybody do the Locomotion

Everybody do the Locomotion

milkweed

mirror pond

poilpoe flowers

poilpoe flowers

Poilple Majesty

Poilple Majesty

red berries detail

 

red leaves with flower

red tree

Smashing pumpkins

Smashing pumpkins

white flower detail

Whi

White wispies

More white wispies

More white wispies

Just look up

Just look up

 

 

What if Scotland splits?

One of the more famous lines from Braveheart  comes when the nefarious King Edward the Longshanks quips, “The trouble with Scotland is it’s full of Scots.”

Which could explain why after 300 years of a United Kingdom, Scotland’s voters stand on the brink of voting to leave the union. I make no claim to being an expert on what goes on in the UK, but the desire among Scots to stand on their own has waxed and waned over the centuries and in recent years reached a bit of a fever pitch. Call it the Braveheart Syndrome. Of course, the movie embellishes just a bit on what actually happened, but the events depicted in the movie are “based on a true story.”

Image of McAdams tartan shamelessly lifted from the Interwebz.

Image of McAdams tartan shamelessly lifted from the Interwebz.

 

I have a bit of Scottish lineage, although I can’t say that tomorrow’s vote is likely to have a profound effect on my life. It could change things dramatically across the pond. Check out the NYT Q&A.

That image to the left is supposedly of the McAdams clan tartan. Apparently most clans have more than one tartan, each serving various purposes. I’ve never seen an actual family heirloom, which probably no longer exists, at least not one from my ancestors. And, truthfully, I’m about as Scottish as Montgomery Scott. Beam me up!

Still, it’s interesting to wonder if I were a lad from Glasgow or Edinburgh, what would I think of all this? Would I be all puffed up with nationalist pride, or would I be more worried about being isolated from the larger UK and the potential economic perils? What if Scotland is forced to stop using the Pound as its official currency?

Going off on a side note, I still get a chuckle thinking about Mike Myers’ SNL skits set in a shop of All Things Scottish. “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” And perhaps my favorite is when he gets irate at a tourist’s ignorance, confusing Scotland and Ireland. “There’s Ireland, there’s Scotland, there’s the bloody sea. They’re bloody different!”

“Now get out!”

So what’s my point here? Eh, maybe I don’t have one.

 

 

Fracking suspected as cause of Texas earthquakes

A group of residents of a small Texas community traveled to the state capital to protest hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” in their community that is being blamed for about 30 earthquakes since November.

frackingThis follows reports of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, last year that were linked to fracking wells, which led the usually business-friendly Gov. John Kasich to order the operation to shut down.

If Texas quakes are like the Ohio seismic activity, the problem could be the injection of fracking wastewater into the ground near a fault line. Geologists say the liquid can create “slippage” in faults, which triggers the quakes.

The fact that fracking has helped dramatically reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and natural gas makes shutting down fracking operations highly unpopular in some circles. But when the earth is shaking under your feet, you gotta take it seriously.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this.

 

What’s TPP?

No, TPP doesn’t stand for Toilet Paper Power.

It’s the Trans Pacific Partnership, until recently a nearly unheard-off super-secret deal in the works between the United States and other countries situated around the Pacific Ocean.

This little-known “partnership” could have profound effects on our economy and environment if the most-worrisome aspects of it come to fruition.

Wikileaks uncorked the genie this week on some of the details this week with a leaked copy of the environment chapter, part of a reportedly 1,000-page document. Late last year the Washington Post published a primer on TPP, but it doesn’t seem to focus on what has environmentalists and unions alarmed: Namely loosening of environmental laws and consumer protection and more loss of American jobs to overseas entities.

Negotiations have largely gone on behind closed doors and Congress is expected to vote on whether to give the Obama administration “fast-track” authority to finish negotiations and send the agreement to Congress for a yea or nay vote without any chance to change or amend anything in it. Take it or leave it but you better take it, seems to be the message.

I have talked to nearly a dozen people about this, and they almost universally think this is a bad idea. So do I.

The plan is reportedly being formulated in consultation with a few hundred corporate big wigs, but small business and consumer and workers’ advocates apparently weren’t invited to the party.

If the Partnership deal is not done properly, we could see more lead-tainted toys from overseas, more imported foods contaminated with e. Coli or salmonella, more inferior products made in sweat shops that pay pitiful wages to exploited workers, maybe even have our environmental and consumer safety laws challenged by foreign entities who don’t have our best interests in mind.

I’ll have more on this in a day or so.

Stay tuned.