Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One year later...

It's been a year since I moved to New Jersey. It was a fast year, packed with lots and lots of craziness, like jughandles and impatient drivers, but also lots and lots of fun, like going to the beach everyday.

Now the lights have been turned off on the island, the crowds have gone home but the ocean is still warm and the breeze is just right.

And I'm not there to enjoy it.

Yes, I have moved. I took a job with a newspaper in Delaware and packed up and moved last week. I am living in Wilmington and, while it's nice to live in a city again, I miss the breeze and the clank-clank of the sailboats at the yacht club.

I will, however, continue blogging, on my personal website: Delawhere?. The site is sorta beta right now because I haven't developed the main website, but I do have 'hidden pages' that are on the website, but only locateable (new word!) if you know the address...like the blog.

There are certain aspects of Jersey I will miss...the beach...but also many others I will not miss. While I am not going to be one of those "OMG jersey is like smelly and gross and the pits" kind of people, I am also not one of its cheerleaders. It does take a certain breed of people to survive in that state, and I am not one of them! Well, unless i lived at the beach that was never frequented by people from the north.


I hope you are still checking this page and if you are, I hope you will check out my new blog. I promise to make it pretty, soon, pretty soon.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Say Chowda!

I did NOT go to the Chowderfest, despite looking forward to going to it all year, since I just missed it last year. I like Chowder. I would've enjoyed trying lots of different kinds of chowder. I had other things to do, which I will elaborate on in another post this week.

Many people do not like fall festivals and town festivals. I actually really like them. I grumble and groan about going to them as a reporter, but it's so fun to see people out and about. It's even more fun when they have funny themes festivals, like Hopkins Raspberry Festival or Stillwater Lumberjack Days...or Corn on the Cob Days in Plainfield, MN. Somerset, Wisc, has PEA SOUP Days. Strangest food-related "days" ever.

Here they have Chowderfest, Apple Festivals and Cranberry Festivals. I really want to go to the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival because I love cranberries. But it is on my birthday. If they had a recipe contest, I would submit my cranberry cream cheese wonton recipe.

What's the strangest festival you've ever heard of or attended?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

SkyMall

One of the few amenities left today on planes are the free magazines stuffed into the seat pocket in front of you.

Typically, I will leaf through the magazine, sometimes doing the crossword or attempting the sudoku. But oftentimes I fly during the same month, which is the time frame for the magazine to be replaced...meaning if I read the magazine on my departing flight, I have nothing to read on my return flight. Or someone else has already finished the crossword and put it back into the seat. Please stop doing that.

Enter SkyMall.

I have never bought anything from SkyMall. I seriously doubt I will ever buy anything from SkyMall. But, boy, have I gone through every page of SkyMall. People often go to Sharper Image and think "this is stuff for the person who has everything" but Sharper Image is one small chunk of the world of people who have everything. SkyMall fills in the remaining gap.


There are all sorts of crazy items, some of them logged in the comedy book SkyMaul, but the one item that is always ubiquitous that I've never been able to understand is the Pop-up hot dog cooker.

Perhaps this is the gift for the busy mother with plenty of counterspace because I don't know about you, but by the time you dug this appliance out from a cupboard, unplugged something and plugged this thing in, you could've easily boiled or pan-fried two hot dogs. There are a couple of other hot dog cookers, that more resemble the rolling spit from convenience stores and gas stations, but I could see those being a little more practical because it does more than two hot dogs and could be used at a party, maybe by a company or baseball team selling concessions.

Other unusual items for a home include a chilled shot machine (good for frats?), an automatic towel dispenser, a motorized pool lounger for the iultimate lazy experience, a breakfast cereal dispenser (see above comment regarding counter space) and a Fiesta Station Buffet, for those days when just putting chicken into bowls and tortillas on a warm plate JUST WON'T DO. That last one actually advertises itself as being "for your home" so they are not aiming at, like, companies or small restaurants or something.

But, honestly, nothing beats the hot dog warmer.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who says you can't go home?

I've been back in Minnesota for the past three glorious days. Today is my last day at home and boy, I don't want to leave. It has nothing to do with not liking New Jersey/Philly. I had my reasons for moving there and they still apply.

I've had a whirlwind stay of going out to meet friends and a few quiet times at home, though not quite enough of the latter. In fact, I have to leave in a little bit again, but I wanted to do a quick update. Maybe I shouldn't have wasted the good title for this short brief, but so it goes!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Frankie says Relax!


I said it in my last entry but it was buried. So at the risk of sounding shrill:

Dear visitors:
RELAX! Breathe! You are on vacation. Not only that, you are vacationing on an island. Getting two cars ahead isn't going to do much. There's no other place to go. We are surrounded by water.

Everyone wants to get to their beach/minigolf/bar/house as much as you do. Understand that. So please wait your turn. Gunning 5 cars ahead will save you, what, a minute? That's not much time and not worth raising your blood pressure.

Also, when you are at the beach with your wife and daughter, and the sun is warm and the wind is just right and you have your feet buried in the sand? Put away the Blackberry. Heck, don't even bring it to the beach. Nothing is so important it can't wait a few hours while you relax.

Talk to your wife. Find out how she is doing. You're likely always working and she might miss that connection. (Then again, maybe she doesn't and this is part of the arrangement! Who knows!)
Look at your daughter! She is gorgeous and sweet and smart. She won't be that size much longer, where she is still excited about playing with a toy dolphin in a bucket of salt water.

Your email can wait. Your daughter can not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Driving in New Jersey

The one thing I don't think I'll ever get used to is driving in this state. Particularly on the Garden State Parkway. The posted speed limit is 65. Now, I am not some sort of puritan who insists at going at or below the speed limit. I'll admit it, I'll sometimes push 5 to 10 miles over.

I follow the "use the left lane for passing only" style of driving and sometimes when I am doing my 10 (ok 15) over in the left lane to pass someone in the right lane, I get nosed. Okay, that's fine. some people go faster than me. But when I am going OVER the speed limit in the right lane and people are nosing me, I get angry. First of all, go in the left lane and pass me if you think I'm going to slow. Second of all, seriously? You are nosing me to go faster when I am already going over the speed limit? As if your speed is the correct speed? It's just some of that selfishness and self-centeredness and entitlement...um, entitlementness (it's now a word) that I find lately.

Perhaps this is all magnified by the tourists here. I sort of want to wave out the window and yell "HEY! you're on vacation! It's okay to relax!" There is a light that has two lanes before the intersection and one lane after. It stands to reason that you would merge every other car--just makes sense, doesn't overly slow down either lane. But I always get these people who gun ahead to get in front of me, before their turn, as if they need to win. People. It's 35 mph. On an island. We're not going anywhere.

Another thing I struggle with is the lack of signage. This is a state built for GPS systems. Because sometimes the street sign for a major intersection either won't appear (frighteningly common) or will appear almost after the turn. This is especially frustrating with the New Jersey jughandles, where you turn right to take a left. I thought I had it all down, major intersections have jug handles, less major do not. But then there is an intersection in Brick where its a straight up left turn and I was in the right lane. I missed the turn, obviously, and had to drive a few blocks before I could find a place to turn around. Confusing.

All of this is probably compounded by the fact I drive a lot, so I get frustrated a lot.

I think I'll take my own advice and relax!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Minnesota State Fair


MN State Fair, originally uploaded by kevinthoule.

Today is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair--otherwise known as Thrifty Thursday for all the discounts--and I am not there.

This is so sad. The two big events I went to every year was the Festival of Nations (except for the year I got chicken pox) and the Minnesota State Fair. Festival of Nations was a bit more cultured, with people sharing their ethnic backgrounds through food, dance and exhibits.

The Minnesota State Fair was the chance to show off the varied "culture" of the state of Minnesota. That culture was that of farmers, mullets and cheese. At least, that's what I went to the fair to see: People, animals and food. Though people and food usually took precedence.

I have fond memories of the Giant Slide, something which is less exciting (its not as big when you are bigger) but still must do everytime. The pig barn was fun cause you could get the "I visited the pig barn" ears. But I'd be lying if I didn't say my true love was walking around looking at people while eating my latest food on a stick.

My favorite food on a stick was cheese on a stick, but the ultimate state fair food is, handsdown, Cheese Curds. It's like, when you buy a ticket to the State Fair, it says on the back "void if ticket bearer does not have at least one cheese curd during the course of the fair."

I don't know if any of the NJ State Fairs can hold a candle to the MN State Fair, which has the added bonus of being washed in nostalgia, but I seriously doubt it.

(sorry about the large amount of linkage, but trust me: the flickr ones are ALL Worth it. At least that's what Fairchilde the state fair mascot tells me.)

shifting to a night shift

Technically I've been working nights since about May, but I feel like only recently have I truly slipped into a true night shift--all its pros and all its cons.

Let's put it this way, only a night shift has you tearing the sheets OFF your bed at 11:40 p.m. and tossing them in the washing machine, while cookies are baking in the oven.

I managed to stave this off for awhile, sleeping pretty soon after I got home (usually before midnight) and waking by 9 a.m., sometimes earlier. That way, I got the morning to do errands before going into work at 2 p.m.

But recently I've been unable to sleep until closer to 2 a.m....and waking up around 10:30 or 11 a.m. Perhaps I still could get errands done, but I usually just eat breakfast, clean myself, watch some TV, eat a snack and go to work.

There are all sorts of oddities to the night shift that I never quite understood before--I honestly thought you would still be able to get all sorts of morning errands done, etc.

Here are a few things I noticed:

--Doing laundry at midnight
--Strange eating schedule. For me, it's breakfast/lunch at 11:30 a.m., Some sort of food at around 4:30/5 p.m. and another snack when you get home from work. Meals don't really have names.
--Never having groceries because the store closes at 10 p.m. and you just can't get yourself up in the morning.
--Baking cookies at 1 a.m.
--Taking out the trash at midnight
--General cleaning in the middle of the night.
--Rarely going out to dinner/meals with friends.
--Not watching regular primetime TV like most people.
--General downgrade in social activities.


Basically, all the stuff you would do in the evening, night shifters do in the middle of the night. The problem is a lot of those things aren't available in the middle of the night.

I wonder why the body feels the need to stay awake so many hours after work? To unwind? What better way to unwind then toss yourself in bed?

All in all, though, night shift is pretty cool. The social downfalls aren't that big of a deal since I don't have too many friends here, but perhaps that is why I haven't made a lot of friends too. I especially like working nights on the Sunday through Thursday shift because I still get Friday and Saturday nights to go out, but I also get all of Friday off. It totally feels like an extra day off.

Of course, I'm sure I'll feel different once I have a family, husband, kids, etc...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dear Blogger: You are not a journalist.

Dear Blogger at the borough meeting tonight:
Please do not represent yourself as a reporter or journalist. You are not. You are not writing an "article." What you are doing is NOT journalism.

You obviously pushed my buttons enough to get me to write this. As my friends would know, I am a big supporter of bloggers. Obviously. I mean, I write one. But I read blogs, especially news aggregate blogs, where people comment on news stories. I even sometimes read blogs that do their own reporting. I think this all adds to the public discussion, and that's great.

But where I draw the line is when bloggers act and talk like you do and represent themselves as one of us. There are certain standards we stick to that you as bloggers and "citizen journalists" do not need to, or choose not to, adhere to. And this is why we get the reputation we do, as people who like to bend the truth.

Here is where you annoyed me tonight:
--You inserted yourself into my interview with an official. Fine. I do that too, so I can get some quotes, but you did it in a way that interrupted the conversation and caused the official to lose his train of thought. Bad move. Do it quietly.
--When I asked a question of the official, after you rudely inserted yourself, you proceeded to try and answer it yourself. If I wanted to interview you, I would have. I don't care if you know the answer, I am not asking you. Let him answer.
--When asking questions yourself, don't ask leading ones. And don't try to half-answer them yourself, especially when you half-answer them full-wrong. Part of asking questions is sometimes asking dumb ones so you can get the full answer, possibly as a quote.
--To further expand on that, don't interrupt with a RIGHT, uh-uh, YES, YES, as if you know and its annoying you to hear it again.
--The most insidous thing was when you talked about trying to convince your readers. Convince? And then told me you were trying to get your article published in a local newspaper. Perhaps you mean a guest column or an editorial? Not article. We do not try to Convince people of anything. We report what people tell us are facts and let the reader decide. If I tried to convince people, I'd downplay valid arguments, likely with some sort of "but" clause afterwards to automatically discredit it, and, conversely, overinflate arguments for the issue. Are things wrong sometimes? Sure. People tell half-truths or outright lies that are sometimes hard to uncover. That's why attribution is important. Its not me saying anything.

I'm not even going to comment on your method of note-taking on a Sidekick because to each their own. I am going to hope you got everything down, and got it right, cause you seemed to not be typing everything including some important bits.

I know this has gotten long and slightly ranty, but this really upset me and I wanted to clear the air. There is a reason the official kept looking at me like "WTF" and at the end said he was happy to hear I was a reporter.

"Reporter? I like reporters," he said. That's a direct quote.

Sincerely,
Shruti.

Ben Franklin's inventions

I haven't done a lot of the tourist activities in Philadelphia yet because when I visit, I usually am just hanging out with my friends...who all saw the tourist stuff together when they moved here after college.

This weekend I had the chance to do the tourist thing because I had a friend in town. We went to the Liberty Bell and the visitor's center, but missed Independence Hall...again. When you visit Philadelphia, make sure to go to the visitor's center early in the morning to get your (free) tickets for the hall, cause they apparently go by lunchtime.

In the visitor's center, we learned more about Ben Franklin and some of his inventions, including this cool instrument called an Armonica. It's basically like playing wine glasses, a la Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, but in a way that you can play multiple glasses at once. He essentially cut off the stems of different-size glasses, put the glasses sideways, strung with a cork rod and motorized the whole thing so a musician could play chords.

Anyway, since we couldn't do much more in the Mall area, my friend and I went for a walk towards the river. We passed the First Quaker Meetinghouse and, looking inside the large windows, I saw a lady playing an armonica!

It was the last 15 minutes of an hour and a half concert, but it was really amazing. I didn't have my camera, only a cell phone, but I did manage to take a 15-second video on it:



(That's a bit from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, in case you didn't recognized it. I should've taped the more recognizable bit!)

The Armonica, the musician informed us, fell out of favor because people believed it led to madness, after a man used it to hypnotize people.

I think I'm going to have to make sure to catch the full concert on my next trip to Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Independence Day India and Pakistan!


Photo credit: REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA)

Today is the 60th anniversary of India's Independence Day and yesterday was Pakistan's Independence Day (query: if they were divided the same day, shouldn't they share the same independence day? Or did one country decide to celebrate on a different day so they didn't share a day?) And the last of my series of stories finally published.

I'm pretty happy with how everything turned out. It being a 60th anniversary and probably one of the few times we've done a story, I could've just done anniversary journalism and written a story about how they are celebrating. Instead we decided to look at the Indian and Pakistani community.

Sunday's Story (South Asians Gaining Clout) looked at the South Asian community and its gaining political power, as well as how life has changed in NJ since many immigrants came in the 70s.

Tuesday's story (India-Pakistan enmity evaporates in U.S. melting pot) is about how Indians and Pakistanis are friends and neighbors in the U.S., despite the political strife of their home countries.

Wednesday was about Wicket cool: South Asian transplants find fellowship in cricket. That was the one meant to have the video, but it didn't work out, as you read. Too bad.

Anyway, I hope you will read them and let me know what you think, because they mean a lot to me.

Inothernews, I gained enough hours this weekend that I have tomorrow off and essentially today off. I just am working two hours today, and from home at that. It's very nice. I am able to watch a movie while waiting for calls.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The final nail...

I had another post all planned out and ready to go, but I think what I'm about to say deserves its own, brief, posting:

The camera did not record ANYTHING on Sunday.


This is the most ill-fated video ever. Oh well, saved me a few hours today, which was promptly filled with other news. I have Thursday off as a comp day, and I plan to drive up to North Jersey to visit my cousin, since I missed her daughter's birthday party last Saturday.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Murphy's Law

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong...and boy did it ever today, when I shot my first video for this newspaper.

I had an unholy trifecta of things go wrong: something with my tripod, something with my mic and something with my camera. And, besides my headphones, those are the three main pieces of equipment I use.

So the tripod broke. I mean, it just snapped at the top, between the legs and the platform. I don't feel it's my fault because the thing is pretty light and it looked like the plastic just snapped (I mean, it IS plastic.) But it put me in a bind because without a tripod I would have camera shake, especially since I had to be very zoomed in to see the action. Luckily, the photog working on the story had her photo tripod and le t me use it. Problem solved.

So the mic had static. We had this mic before during our training session and it had the same problem. Supposedly it had been fixed, and when I was going over the equipment last night it had no problem, but of course it did when I used it today. It basically sounds like a loose connection-type of static, not a distance type. I just made do and tried not to use the wireless lav mic, but it was a bummer. The shotgun mic worked pretty well. Problem solved.

So the camera wouldn't tape. This seemed like the biggest problem because, well, if it won't record, I have literally nothing. This, I discovered, was my fault. Apparently you can only use one type/brand of tape in a camera because each tape uses a different lubricant and that can mess up the recording head and make it "dirty." I had tried to ingest (record onto my computer) some old stuff I had taped on a different brand, and that screwed it up. Luckily, I figured out that either if I got it to record, don't stop it, just move and set up my next shot OR if I stopped recording, turn off the entire camera and it should record when I turn it back on. Problem solved.

The only problem not solved was the fact we were really far from the action. See it's a video about a cricket match and we had to be outside the circle and it was hard to zoom in to see the pitch. Hopefully I got enough useable b-roll, I think I have a good voiceover and I can make this video into a "what is cricket" kind of thing.
Stayed tune Wednesday to see it.!

Also, today is the first part of my three stories on the South Asian/desi/Indian and Pakistani community in New Jersey: South Asians Gaining Clout. I was incredibly nervous about this article because I felt there would be more scrutiny on me writing it since I am of Indian/South Asian heritage myself. I hope you like it!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kareem Khan

I'm so glad I lasted less than a week of daily updating...but I think I still will make my goal of 5 per week...no one said it had to be on a M-F basis!

This week has been a crazy in terms of news. First we had a guy who apparently killed his wife with a nail gun before turning it on himself. I only did the first story (in a team effort with my amazing co-workers) because I had to concentrate on this big series that I am doing next week.

And then we heard news that an Iraq soldier from our area, Kareem Khan, died. That was a really hard story to do, first of all because I realized he was my brother's age and year in school. I can't imagine. Secondly, the family was amazing. They provided me with so many details, that I couldn't fit them all in. Like the fact that Khan had a little Iraqi boy who used to follow him around and had a really cute picture with him. And I didn't write that his father said he always 100% supported his son's decision to enroll in the Army.
And the slot machine in the living room that his parents bought for Khan, that Khan kept filled with his own quarters until he could turn 21 and go to Atlantic City. And the fact that his stepmother had already bought an PS3 and a Wii for when Khan came home, because he was such a fan of video games.

I also didn't write how deeply touched I was by this family and how their relatives came up from Trinidad immediately to be with the family and how much that it obviously meant to Khan's father and stepmother.


The thing I definitely couldn't write was how sad I was reporting this. I actually shed a few tears in my car outside. The line about a father should never bury his child really hit me the hardest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Won't you be my neighbor?

I blogged earlier about my amazing neighbors but when someone needs to be recognized for something great, it bears repeating.

My friends came down for a day at the shore two Saturdays ago. They caught the bus from NYC and had a bit of a stressful day, so we were pretty amped to head to the shore.

Because the Jersey shore requires beach badges, and I only had two for the three of us, our neighbor to my right lent me one beach badge to use for the day. So we packed up my beach bag, umbrella, towels and other beachy items and headed down the street. As we passed my neighbor to the left, she called out to ask us if we wanted to use her beach chairs, since hers were sitting in the backyard in disuse. So we borrowed those chairs.

Now armed with chairs, beach bag, umbrella, we prepared to walk the half-mile to the beach. But we were waylaid by my neighbor two houses down to the left, who said "why walk, I'll drive you down! I'm headed out anyways!" So we piled into his open-air jeep and he drove us the short distance, saving our feet and shoulders a bit of stress.


I think for my friends from New York, seeing all this was like stepping back in time to Minnesota. Probably pre-Minnesota days, since they lived in downtown Minneapolis there. I know that I have pretty excellent neighbors, but I loved that my friends were also able to see how cool is my new homebase.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Minneapolis bridge collapse: a former commuter's thoughts


Picture by Poppyseed Bandit via Flickr and Creative Commons.



I have yet to be part of the crowds on the Stone Arch Bridge or in the Guthrie lobby, checking out the loss of the 35W bridge from the northeast suburbs into Minneapolis. In fact, by the time I get there, most people will have accepted the bridge loss and use the other bridges for what they were meant for: walking, driving, biking, etc. I alone will be standing and looking at what used to be the bridge I used to cross twice daily, sometimes more.

Like many people are saying and writing, it was never a favorite bridge; you'd have to think of a bridge first to call it a favorite. I was more wont to say the Hennepin Avenue bridge, with its lighted spans, or the Stone Arch bridge, with its history as the railroad trestle that built this town. Never the 35W bridge. It was just a utilitarian bridge, flat, with short concrete barriers on the end. I actually forgot it was a bridge over a river most of the time, I was too busy trying to merge into the exit-only lane for Washington Avenue.

But now, in retrospect, we, and I, miss the bridge. My brother calls it "the bridge to fun" because it led towards downtown and the local music shows that sustained us both through high school and college. I can't contemplate what my commute would be like now without that handy bridge to take me across the river.

I never was really one to be scared of bridges. The other day when I was crossing the South Street bridge in Philadelphia, I felt scared. (Not the Ben Franklin from Jersey into Philly, though. Perhaps the spans flying above my head reassured me.) That bridge has been scheduled for demolition since the late 90s, and still my friends commute over the thing daily.

I've never been scared of natural disasters or terrorist attacks, saying I am far more likely to get in a car accident or die of a heart attack then have something like that happen to me. But after hearing so many "I almost was on the bridge stories," including from my own mother, a little drop of that fear is now in my bloodstream.

I'm anxiously reading news from my local papers. While I was in Miami, I was stuck watching the national coverage, but I was so glad it was being covered and I wasn't missing out on anything. I still highly recommend the Star Tribune's coverage.

Here are a few interesting links I've del.icio.us'd in the past few days:
Cell-phone providers not equipped for disasters
An unlovely bridge, missing and missed
Link to Roadguy blog, talking about how Mapquest and Google have already updated their maps.
And, of course, the video of the bridge collapsing, which I've actually linked from my current newspapers videos, via KARE-11 in the Twin Cities. I can't stop watching it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

AAJA convention in Miami: blogs and more!

I am back from my week in Miami with a refreshed attitude and a few new goals. I think I might have wrote earlier that I wasn't feeling all too excited about this convention, but a couple of really excellent workshops and inspiring new people made this trip worth it.

Of course, there was a general malaise around the convention, I felt. I think it may have to do with the state of journalism/news/industry right now? Convention attendance was low too, about two-thirds of what it was in Minneapolis, and it felt it. I kept seeing (or so it seemed) the same 15 people over and over again.

But, enough of that, let me tell you about why I feel energized! One of the reasons was actually the last panel I attended. And by attended, I mean was part of.

(Hello to any new readers from the panel--you were great and I hope you enjoyed the discussion!)

It was ironic to put me on a panel for blogging as I sort of feel like a newbie in the public blogging world. The idea of promoting a blog or writing coherently and professionally in a public blog setting is actually new, despite the fact I've been blogging, more like e-journaling, for 10 years or so. I loved hearing what the other bloggers had to say and I feel like I learned a lot.

So, to that end, I am determined to have a new post on here 5 times a week.

I am also going to stop sitting on my butt and get my website done. I feel so hypocritical in advising that people just go ahead and start a blog and try it out while I am sitting here fretting that my personal website isn't perfect. www.shrutimathur.com WILL be launched by August 15. (putting a date out here puts pressure on me, eep!) But it's not like I am mtv.com or a newspaper site or something, where if my launch isn't perfect, tons of people won't notice.


Oh my goodness, what am I doing??
-----------------------------------

For those of you who came here through the blogging panel, here is a list of links to things that were up on the screen, in case you didn't get to jot them down:

Katie Nelson's city hall blog
Darleene Powell's blog
Joe Grimm's Ask the Recruiter blog
Joe Grimm's Coney Detroit blog
StarTribune.com blogs
A good broadcast journalist's blog (Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV)

BusinessWeek article about making money blogging: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jul2007/sb20070713_202390.htm

Thursday, August 2, 2007

When news hits close to home

Just a quick update to let everyone know that all in my family are safe and accounted for and the few friends I have talked with are okay. My mom was on Washington Avenue, about to turn onto the bridge; had she been less than 5 minutes earlier, she would've been on the bridge.

I am thankful that she is okay and just hoping that everyone else is safe and thinking about those who were involved. That was my commuter bridge--I took that everyday to work. Heck, had I still been at the Strib, there would be a good chance I would've been on that bridge yesterday/

Here in Miami we are all freaking out a bit, the Minnesota people clanned together at a reception last night, anxiously trying to use our cell phones to get an update, any update. Of course cell lines were busy.

Thanks for all your concern, I really really appreciate. I was shaken up last night thinking how close my mom was to there and that sort of made me take off my newshound mask and really get scared.

Star Tribune's excellent coverage.

Sunday, July 29, 2007



I was caught in the terrible rainstorms today...honestly, the storm was right overhead, what with the simultaneous lightening and thunderstorming and the creepy green clouds that made it look like 10 p.m. instead of 11:30 a.m.

BUT the weather yesterday was most excellent. A few of my friends from NYC came "down the shore" for some beach time. The picture is an unusual bookmark...maybe not so much for the beach.

I'm attempting to pack to head to a convention this week, but I will try and post a blog before I go. This will likely relate to driving as its been my biggest frustration this week, what with the large amount of tourists on the island now. It's bad.

Friday, July 27, 2007

animal house


Check out this display I saw at the local CVS. Ping pong balls--which I normally don't think to get at CVS--right above Solo cups. And, Gasp!, next to hangover cure. Let's see, they wouldn't be trying to cater to a certain 20-something party animal element, now would they?

I'm a little under-the-weather with an ear/sinus infection today--I'll spare you the details--but I am hoping to be 100 percent by tomorrow, when my friends Ben and Liz come down to spend a day at the beach. The weather has been really nice--sunny but not too hot, with just the right amount of breeze.

Also, I went to Atlantic City the other day to see Harry Potter on the IMAX in 3D. It was pretty much awesome. Unfortunately, I had this little kid (maybe 10-12-years-old) sitting next to me who felt it necessary to keep a running dialogue of what was happening in the movie as it happens...and was often wrong. I think it was the wrong part that got to me. Since I'm not an aggressive person--especially not towards children--I didn't say anything (I did look at him in attempt to make him understand he was disturbing me) until he turned around to the person behind him and said "Could you PLEASE stop kicking my chair" in an exasperated tone.


!!! went I, in my head. OK now its on. If he sees fit to tell someone that they are disturbing his peace, I will do the same. So I tapped him and said "you asked her to stop kicking your chair? Now I have to ask you to stop talking through the movie." He looked at me and...DIDN'T STOP TALKING! He said "She's still 'effin (he used the real word) kicking my chair." So I said "And you're still talking."


YESSS victory over a 10-year-old kid! My life is complete. or something.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sensory memories

Several days in the past weeks have been hot and humid (humidity just goes with living on an island!) Whenever I cross a certain street on my drive back from work at night, just for a moment I am not driving back to Long Beach Island, but feel like I am in another place. Specifically, India.

The scent of the salt, seawater and humidity in the night air reminds me so much of Bombay, where I lived for 4 months my senior year of college. It smells like a million trips to India with my family, where the Bombay airport was our first welcome back, the hot, stuffy, smelly air feeling too close after the climate controlled airplane, though there we were limited to a few feet radius.

The smell always annoyed me and I'd go back with stories of how I hated that Bombay was our first welcome back and that it was foreigner's/first-time visitor's initial impression of India. I was generally pretty cross after spending close to 24 hours on a plane.

But these last few days its been making me feel sort of homesick. I was born and raised in Minnesota, not in India, but as I grow older I appreciate our visits to my parent's home country even more. I'm sure I am not alone in this sentiment, from being the picky American girl who turned up her nose at the thick, unpasteurized milk and the dust that lay everywhere, to an adult who sort of longs for visits.

Of course, visits back are never relaxing. People always think "oh she is taking two weeks off from work for vacation" but it is not vacation, it is a trip. Its traveling for so long then meeting hundreds of people, running from place to place...very little time to relax.

Anyway, its interesting how senses can bring back memories...and for some reason the sensory memories that I remember most are always ones that bring me back to India: climbing stairs in my high school reminding me of the narrow staircase to my grandma's house. Sweeping my floor reminding me of the sound of the stiff brushes used to clean the floors, daily. A car horn reminding me of the crowded streets. And the thick, heavy night air reminding me of car rides from the airport, after spending 24 hours on a plane and 24 months away.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

And I'm done



I fell asleep for about an hour around Chapter 10, dreamed (dreamt?) fitfully about Harry Potter and imagined it was all part of the book before waking up and just reading. I kept pausing but didn't feel tired, so I kept going on. At one point, I looked out my window and noticed the dark blue sky...so I fed into an impulse, threw a scarf around my neck and drove to the beach to watch the sunset...book in tow.

It ended up being quite poignant because I read about a random sunrise in the book while the sun was rising (this is not a spoiler in any way, it was just a sunrise). That was a pretty neat feeling. Plus, I got to sit on the lifeguard chair! woo!

I don't think I'll ever be awake early enough to see a sunrise over the ocean ever again (unless its winter and then it will be much colder) but I am glad I did it last night.

Even though right now I am so tired I have no idea how I will work 8 hours...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Getting amped!




OK, this is the second-to-last HP fangirl post you will have to read. I am getting excited--I am meeting someone in two hours for a pre-book cup of joe (we don't want to be getting sleepy!) and its just amazing that in 5 hours we will have the book in our hands! I'm sort of sad because I love looking forward to a new book. Like I wrote, I am going to try to savor it, but its sort of like eating cookies: you think you will just have one, but then you have another and then just a little piece here and then another little piece and suddenly all is left are crumbs.

i think I'll make cookies.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

HP SAFE ZONE

I would like to note here that my blog will be an HP-safe zone. Meaning I am not going to blog about any spoilers or reveal anything about the book...except maybe a few emotions at how I felt reading it. Tears will mean nothing necessarily because I am bound to cry anyways (today I cried when someone won on the Price is Right.) None of my emotions will give away spoilers.

I am excited because today I found out my editor is a big HP fan and we spent 10 minutes on the phone talking theories and predictions. I'm getting so excited again!

You won't hear it here though! I will return, instead, to regular Jersey Shore blogging instead.

But today? Wearing my Dumbledore t-shirt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

EXHAUSTED

Tonight is about relaxing with my favorite scar-headed wizard and his crew...can you believe I've been so busy I have yet to see HP5? I was in the parking lot of the theater last night when I got called back into work to cover something.

I put together a little slideshow of my last few weeks, to try and capture the crazy. Its missing a few pics, but I'll get those in later. Click on the links below

EXHAUSTED!

View slideshow

On being absent

Sorry for the long delay, it's been a week (19 days really) of crazy in my life, including the past week of little to no internet. And now back home my internet is down so I am stealing a few moments of time at work to update this blog.

Harry Potter mania has gripped the nation! I claim to be part of that mania, but I've been feeling very unPotterheadish lately, partially because I've been so crazy-busy that I haven't even see the movie...6 days after its release! I WILL go tonight, however, because if that movie is out for a full week and I haven't seen it...I don't even know how to finish that sentence.

To expound further on that thought, I wrote a guest blog for the Star Tribune's Potter Blotter, run by Headmistress Maria (as we call her, she doesn't refer to herself as that!) After you read, feel free to comment too! It's a great little community.

One thing I didn't write there is something that Maria suggested, that part of my HP fervor is having the flames of fandom fanned by my friends (say that Five times Fast). It's hard to get manic when you are doing it alone.

Another thing that came up in the comments is about supporting local independent bookstores as opposed to big monolithic chain stores, especially for Harry Potter books. It took me awhile (mostly because I was gone and didn't have time to think about it) but I found a local bookstore in Beach Haven, called Island Book Store, on Bay Ave.

The lady who owns the store (Catherine) said her daughter was in charge of it and actually threatened to rent an owl for the release, so it sounds pretty good!

Also, because of something else I posted on Potter Blotter, another local person found me and emailed me, and we are likely going to meet up at this release. So the flames of fandom may continue to being fanned unFettered. Fun.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

mid-craziness-two-weeks


Only have a second to update. I got back from Cali late Wednesday and crashed. Worked Thursday and spent Friday and today unpacking, laundering, cleaning my house and REpacking for the next 7 days--NYC tonight, Pittsburgh Sunday and Monday and Delaware Tuesday through Friday for work training.


I promise to do a little photo update soon, like a cute Flickr slideshow or something. Until then, you can check out a few photos on Sam's site, including some terrible singing during a touching moment.


And I also promise that after this, I am not leaving my place unless I absolutely have to. Like Aug. 1-4 to Miami for the AAJA convention and Aug. 6 for my cousin's 1st birthday in North Jersey. And Aug. 24 to Baltimore for a Twins-Orioles game.

But, you know, other than that, staying at home. =)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Flight from hell!

Yesterday morning I saw a piece on CNN about a "flight from hell" where passengers at JFK had to sit on a plane for 4 hours and a guy took a little camera and asked the pilot "what would you do in this situation" and then interviewed about how horrible it was.

To him I say: HA!

Why? Because I saw the piece at 6 am MST while I was in the Salt Lake City airport, where I spent the night on the floor after missing my connection...because I spent 11 hours on a plane. And only four of them flying.

Yup, in the amount of time it takes to fly to Australia, we got to Salt Lake City, where I missed my connection to California. We sat on the tarmac at PHL for 8 loooooong hours, finally jetting off at 12:30am, from our original 5:25pm departure time. We got to SLC at 3am MST and 5am EST.

So what happened? Well for starters, PHL airport always has delays. Always. The flight coming in couldn't get a gate and it sat on the tarmac for an hour, waiting for an open gate. So we got delayed in setting out...and there appeared to be about 20 planes in front of us. The Delta pilot was good at keeping us very informed and you could hear just a touch of exasperation in his voice when he talked about how air traffic has always been bad at PHL and its just gotten worse.

When we finally got clearance to fly after about three hours of sitting on the tarmac...we all started to clap and cheer!

...but then we didn't have enough fuel to make it. So we went back to the gate to refuel and to let off anyone who didn't feel like sticking it through. Here is what the pilot had to say about that:
"Well folks, you're welcome to get off the plane and try to rebook, but your chances are pretty slim as most of the flights are booked. If you stay with us, we'll get you there but we might have to sit here for awhile. If you're not flying with us...[pause]" at which point my friend and I filled in "you're flying against us!" it was a perfect opportunity.


Then it started to rain. Not just rain, POUR. So we sat and waited for that rain, then it stopped and we were going to go again, but by the time our turn came up, it started to rain AGAIN.

We finally took off at 12:30, though most people were asleep by then. and didn't cheer, we were just so weary. I almost didn't turn off my cell phone again, because I didn't realize we were actually taking off.

The rage in the plane should have been boiling over. I mean, 8 hours? And these are Philadelphians and New Jerseyians, they are not happy people. But the flight attendants were very nice and they kept handing out bottles of water, free snack boxes and cups of apple juice. The pilot would get on the overhead as soon as he knew something. So most of our basic needs were met: food, water, sleep and information. So no one got too angry. It was as ideal as being stuck on a plane for 8 hours could be.

By the time we got to SLC it was 3am local time and 5am by our internal clocks. We got in the long rebooking line, but I knew we were safe. While we were sitting on the tarmac, I called the rebooking line and got us seats on the first flight out the next morning. Others weren't so lucky and had to fly STANDBY after all of that. It was bad. But again no one was too angry. I think we were too tired. We grabbed a few blankets and pillows and set up camp in a terminal, but we couldn't escape the CNN morning show. I did see the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains, which was a beautiful sight I missed. (My first internship was at the Salt Lake Tribune, so I spent a summer living in Salt Lake City. Beautiful place.)

We got on our plane just fine and were relieved to fly over the blighted-looking desert towards California.


Except the final indignity: THEY LOST OUR BAGGAGE. I don't know how it didn't make it on our flight, they had 5 hours in SLC to put it on board. I wasn't angry up until then and then I felt: look, I understood all the other delays, that wasn't anything Delta could have prevented (PHL people however...but that's another story). But losing our bags on top of spending 14 hours on a plane?? ridiculous. They handed us little toilet kits and our bags should be on the 12:51pm flight to Ontario, CA.


Long story short: Our bags made it, we went to Disneyland yesterday and rode Space Mountain TWICE. Can life be any better than Space Mountain? I think not. More on Disney for another time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Left Coast

From sea to shining sea!

I'm getting all patriotic here because I am flying across our great nation to head to the Left Coast today. More specifically, to the Long Beach area of California. I'm heading there for a wedding that I am very excited to attend. I also will be staying with a college friend and going to Disneyland, a spa and hopefully Leno.

I've always read about how flights from the East Coast to the West Coast are the same as flying to Europe, but I've never experienced it. One of the advantages of living in Minnesota is that most everything is within a 3-hour flight of home. Though if its going to be longer than two hours, I would prefer a longer flight. Under two hours or over five. (2>x>5) Anything in between is hard to prepare for because I feel fidgety after two hours unless I have it in my head that its a long haul.

This will be fidgety flights for me because we have a stopover: In Salt Lake City! I have mixed emotions about this stopover, mostly that I am excited to be stopping in the city where I had my first internship and lots of friends but sad that its less than an hour on my way to California and just over an hour on my way home, which is not enough time to see anyone, even if they came to the airport. At least I know the fly over looks great: mountains, a compact, well-designed city and the wide expanse of salt flats.

I may not blog as much because I will be busy with activities, but I will store up my observations about how life differs on the coasts. Because either way its still different from good ol' MN!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Small town feel

I have learned the lesson that those from small towns learned years ago: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Because you never know who knows each other.

Growing up in the Twin Cities and its suburbs meant that it was unlikely that people randomly knew each other, so you could vaguely describe them and be safe. If they did know each other, you usually knew it. But here, it seems that everyone knows each other. I was describing a person I didn't like to my service provider at the salon today and GUESS WHAT! This person is her husband's best friend's sibling. Luckily, she is not fond of this person either, but that could've been very dangerous. And these people were from two different towns that don't border one another or even share schools!

I'm usually safe because a)I don't dislike a lot of people and b)I don't talk about other people besides with my closest friends and other trusted people, but honestly, when a girl goes to a salon, its sort of a dish session with an anonymous person. I swear that aestheticians and manicurists and hair dressers have a class on "chatting up your client" or something, because somehow it is just drawn out of you.

BUT in other ways it is very nice. I love running into people and seeing people I know and being recognized myself. The place to run into people used to be the local Target in Shoreview, MN, but here I don't know as many people. However, last weekend when my friend was visiting, I did run into several different people in our travels around town. It was good timing because it made me look cool and popular and all those things I'm not, but it was also just nice to feel like I am finally getting to know people and getting to know this town and starting to fit in.

And, dare I say it, become a local? hmmmm.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hard day at the beach


Saturday I finally did the beach bum thing and spent 6 hours at the shore! It was a tough day of lying on a beach blanket, curled up under an umbrella while reading a book. (Or, if you are my lily-white friend, laid out flat on a beach blanket, roasting in the sun with your eyes covered.)

When we got too toasty, we went into the ocean to cool off. Well, or we just got excited by the fact that there is a giant beach and played in the water, splashing each other, giving each other boosts so you flew into the water and jumping waves. We walked out to the sand bar which is a cool feeling because you can't feel the bottom of the ocean and suddenly you can walk on water...or so it seems.

I went home at one point and brought back sandwiches so we could stay at the beach and not have to go home for lunch and brought back my goggles. With those, I saw tiny little sand crabs scooting along the bottom of the shore. I'm not going to deny that they were cool to see, but I wish I hadn't seen them because now I will be constantly conscious of the fact that there are palm-sized creature with pinchers just under my feet. Would they pinch me if I accidentally stepped on one? If I were them, I'd see my big toe as an enemy.

I applied sunscreen at regular intervals, determined a)to not get too dark and b)prevent skin cancer. Unfortunately, the bikiniied girls around me appeared to be applying something other than sunscreen out of their gold-brown bottles. I thought oil was so 1986? At least no one had one of those reflector things to hold under their neck!

At the end of the day we stumbled home and lay comatose on the couch. It is really hard lying on the beach all day! For reals, though, there is apparently some scienc-y thing (thats a technical term, you may not know it) about how being in the sun all day saps your energy. We mustered enough to grill some salmon (made with the sage and lemon thyme from my garden!), go see a movie (surprised we didn't fall asleep) and stop by a friends' house for a midnight margarita (okay, pina colada, but midnight margarita has a nice ring to it.)


I guess it could be worse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Humidity

Last night, I went to the bathroom right before I left work for the evening. No I'm not going to write an entire post about my bathroom experience, but I did notice something strange when I walked in: the mirror was completely fogged over, as if someone had taken an hour-long shower in there. Except there is no shower in the office bathroom, just a small crank-controlled, high, window over-looking the parking lot.

What you've probably already figured out is that it was HUMID outside. So Humid that the fog that shrouded the island blotted out every. single. light. from there, so instead of seeing a long string of lights as I came down off of the bridge, I saw inky blackness. It was scary--I could see how someone could not realize there was water there and wander off (withouth street lights, etc.)

When I got home, I took my mail out of the mailbox and it was damp from the humidity.

Needless to say, it stormed like crazy last night. A huge, thunder-rattling-the-windows, lightening-so-bright-you-see-it-with-your-eyes-closed, worried-the-street-is-flooding storm. The real point is I don't get to go to the beach today =( Even if this leftover drizzle wasn't there, the beach sand would probably be like mud.

Unusually, I feel like it only thunderstorms at night here. A few weeks back, when my friend was visiting, it was predicted to storm all week. Instead, it stormed every night, but each day was bright, clear and sunny.


Hey, I'm not complaining!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

waves crashing

So, I popped my ocean cherry, which is the totally inappropriate way of saying OMG I WENT IN THE OCEAN AND NOW I NEVER WANT TO COME OUT AGAIN.

I seriously had so much fun this morning, and we really didn't do anything. Katie and I grabbed boards and walked the two blocks from her house to the beach, paddled out, and sat on our boards for about 45 minutes. There were absolutely NO waves to be seen, besides the gentle swells that mark a calm sea.

Despite the water feeling like Lake Superior only two and a half weeks ago (seriously, we let the waves wash over our feet just once and they felt ice cold; twice brought on numbness), the water was warm. The perfect temperature, really. I didn't feel cold at all, even after an hour of bobbing in the waves. This is good cause I didn't feel like investing in a wetsuit.

We eventually ditched the boards and walked down to the swimming beach to try some body surfing. That didn't pan out too well, plus there were some creepy guys who thought a good opening line was "have you seen my swimsuit? I think I've lost it" while in the water.

Anyway, now that I know how wonderful the beach is, I'm going to go there every morning! My usual routine has been to make a big pot of chai and drink several cups of it while I sit on my front deck reading a book. I still can do this...but on the beach and with my chai in a thermos.

And now, 10 hours later, I can still sort of feel the the feeling of bobbing in the waves and having water crash over my head. Its surreal, but I love it.

Last note: the beach badger checkers cameth! What my made-up word means is that, as we were preparing to leave, someone actually came to check if we had beach badges. Since Katie's family has been in Beach Haven forever and since they all lifeguard, we were fine, but I guess I will be bringing my beach badge with me since its a myth that they DON'T actually check.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Surf City, U.S.A.

So technically Huntington Beach, Cali., has the trademarks on the name Surf City, U.S.A. (where, incidentally, I spent a lot of time as a kid because I had an uncle who lived there. Long Live Del Taco), but since my town's actual real name is Surf City, I feel I need to live up to it.

I stopped by a store yesterday and possibly found a new board to take home! I will decide by tomorrow...after I go surfing! Yes, that's right, tomorrow morning I will take my place back on top (hopefully) of a board, after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus. A former co-worker of mine, who still has a family home on the island, is down this week and suggested I try out a board very similar to the one I am looking at, to make sure I am making a sound investment.

Technically, I'll be honest: I can't afford to spend the money on a board right now. My finances are, frankly, tight, and I was unable to go to a good friend's wedding in Minnesota this past weekend because of it.
In my head I know I shouldn't spend the cash (well, credit) on this board, in terms of my long-term financial health (not that spending a few hundred dollars is going to send me into a tailspin of bad credit, but its a bad financial principal) but I am weighing it against the more anti-nihilistic argument of "I will never live this moment in my life again, ever. Carpe Diem!"
(ok, anti-nihilistic mixed with Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society)

Anyway, wish me luck on my first surfing adventure in 3 years! I'll let you know if I decide to buy the board.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

badge checkers cometh


Today is June 15. Its the day our beaches stop being free and open for us and start being a pay-to-play endeavor.

It seems so odd to me to pay for the pleasure of a beach. You know, a natural phenomenon. I think the reasoning is something about upkeep for the beach, but it just seems so strange in my head. It will be even stranger when I try to go to the beach and someone checks for my beach badge.

A beach badge is how municipalities keep track of who has paid and who is not. According to some of my co-workers (okay, one), I was a fool for paying for my beach badge, because apparently they rarely, if ever, check them. Maybe he was going to different beaches, I don't know.

The two little hunks of plastic I bought for $25 each are emblazoned with a little white surfer, a number and the year. I bought the badges before May 31 so they were cheaper; I think they are $35 for the season now. Day trippers can buy them for like $8 a day or $15 for the week. Some rentals come with beach badges included in the price for the place.

Anyway, the little lady selling beach badges at the Surf City Borough Hall was incredibly slow at getting the little buttons into a sandwich baggie for me, but also very nice! I liked how all the beach badges were laid out in rows, as if they were just waiting, like the rest of us, for summer to finally arrive.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Arrest Me



I've never had more of a hard time following stoplights as I have here. I actually ran a red light the other day. To top things off, it was the light on Central Ave right by the Surf City police station. Good thing all of them weren't sitting outside or something.

Really, turning the lights back on was the worst idea ever. The lights are so high up that I don't notice them because, frankly, I was never looking for them in the first place. I got used to breezing down Central Avenue without a care in the world...except for the speed limit, of course, which has also gone down and I'm sure I often inadvertently break it.

Part of the problem is that I don't use streets with lights very often. Since I am bayside, I use Barnegat Avenue to get to the causeway, and Barnegat Ave has no lights until the causeway, which was a light that is on year-round. So the occasions I use Long Beach Blvd or Central Ave in Surf City, I am not observant enough to notice stoplights.

Interestingly, lights have not yet been turned on in Harvey Cedars and Barnegat Light. Maybe because their season starts way later than Memorial Day, since its mostly residential up there? That is my guess.

In any case, if there are any Surf City/Ship Bottom officers reading this, please go easy on me when I run a red light. Its not that I am some jerk in a hurry, or someone who enjoys putting others' lives at risk, it's just that I really, really, really haven't gotten used to those darn lights being back on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Lazy summer days

The days really are flying by, I can't believe its June and I can't believe its been almost a week since I updated! I honestly felt like it wasn't that long ago. It looks like I've fallen into a weekly schedule of updating, despite having a mental backlog of posts.

I blame it on the lovely days we've had lately. I have no desire to sit in front of my computer. Even first thing in the morning, when I am gross and unwashed, I go outside on the front porch with a mug of tea and something to read. It's really amazing. I love where I live, for reals. The sky has been a beautiful blue with just enough fluffy, white clouds to bring out the absolute blueness of the sky.

Today I went to the dollar store and bought a beach mat, some beach shoes and a beach umbrella. I work nights now, leaving me free to go to--you guessed it--the beach in the morning. I'm very excited to learn the fine art of "laying out." I heard about it on "Laguna Beach," which I probably shouldn't admit I watch since I am over the age of 18, but I need a little junk food too!
From what I surmise from the show, this means tanning for most people, but since I'm already a burnt sienna color, I'll be using the umbrella and sunscreen to help me enjoy the outdoors minus the extra pigmentation.

----
Its also been a weekend of a taste of home. One of my high school friends and her husband came down for the day on Saturday. We lazed around and grilled, then headed to the Barnegat Lighthouse. We also went through old high school pictures, teehee.
Then Monday my friend Chao, who still lives in Minneapolis, came to visit. I took Tuesday off to show him around the island, including, yes of course, the lighthouse. Back home in Minneapolis, we used to take most visitors to see some of the Lock and Dams along the Mississippi, but most people were more interested in the Mall of America.

This weekend was one of those times I was really glad the meteorologist was wrong. It was predicted to be heavy, heavy rains all day Tuesday. The rains came...but not until Tuesday night when we were already asleep. And by the time we woke up, they were already gone, replaced with that same blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Amazing.

---
I made Chao into my little model...and he did the same for me. We had a lot of fun playing around with different techniques on our cameras. One of my favorite shots I did is on his camera, but I'll share it with you next time.

Lazy days in the lighthouse


Long way down (I know I keep taking pictures like this, but I love how it looks!)


Framed.


Portrait of the two of us. Can you find me?


Impending storm


This is Obadaiah Seagull. I call all seagulls Obadaiah after a book I read in 2nd grade.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fishing



I regularly eat seafood without really thinking about where it came from. I recently became interested in my seafood's home area because of sustainable fishing concerns, but I never really thought about the people who collect the fish. Horrible, right? But how often do we really think about who actually brings the food that we buy in the sterile market? It's nice to meet the farmers in the roadside stands, etc., because you build a relationship with your food provider, unlike when you buy it in a supermarket.

But I digress (and I'm also a hypocrite because I don't buy all my veggies from local growers, nor do I only stick to produce in season in the area, which is not very good).

Recently in the news we had a fisherman, possibly two, who lost their lives while trying to harvest scallops. Through that story, I learned that commercial fishing is one of the top 4 most dangerous jobs, along with firefighting and mining and other such occupations.

The Manasquan Inlet, where this particular sunken boat docked, is home to many commercial and casual fishers. It's a beautiful inlet and I'm sorry my first visit had to be because of that story.

They erected this monument to honor all the fisherman who have lost their lives to sea. People regularly tie flowers to the railings surrounding the memorial, often below the plaques commemorating certain lost ships. Within sight of the memorial, casual fisherman hang their poles off the edge of the inlet walls, fishing boats head out towards the ocean and seafood restaurants boast their fresh catches.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BENNYs




EDIT: I wrote this post last week and for some reason it didn't post, so I edited a bit and updated it to make it pertinent after the Memorial Day weekend.

EDIT2: Ok, and by "for some reason" I mean user error. I hit "save draft" as opposed to "publish post."

One of the realities of living in a seasonal place is that eventually "the season" comes around. For Long Beach Island, that season is, obviously, summer.
This past weekend was Memorial Day, which is the traditional kick-off to all things summer and the start of the tourist/seasonal visitor parade to the island. One of the most noticeable changes is traffic.

During the winter months, I got used to careening around willy-nilly, with few cars or traffic lights to bother me. Let me tell you, this island was EMP-TY. Especially January through March-ish, when there are few holiday weekends to bring people to the island until Easter. (There were still regular visits for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc.)

I noticed the traffic start to thicken around April, I'm guessing people started coming out with the Easter weekend. I actually escaped the island this weekend while people poured in, heading to North Carolina to visit my cousin and his adorable twins.

Oh, and the title of this post is a name, somewhat derogatory I think, for what "locals" call summer people. The Wikipedia entry talks about the different possible etymology of the word, but either way its not very nice. I can somewhat sympathize with locals, because it does feel crowded, plus I hear there are some people who spoil the batch of apples by acting boorish and generally like their actions have no effect, but visitors to this tourist area definitely pump economic dollars, as well as tax dollars to the area. There wouldn't be as good of infrastructure if officials weren't constantly preparing for summer.

Nevertheless, I hope everyone pays attention to the second sign and DRIVE SAFELY. I really don't feel like being nosed on my way home from work, simply because you sat in the parking lot called the Parkway for 5 hours.

(PS Someone who is a "local" said I was a "local" now because if you are willing to spend winter on the island, that makes you a local. I dunno about that...what do you think?)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Warren Grove fire


William Gallagher surveys what's left of his Barnegat home.


Today I wrote a wrap-up story on the Warren Grove forest fire, which is now considered 100 percent contained. It is 90 percent controlled, the subtle difference being that contained means it is not going to move forward and continue burning new areas and controlled meaning some hot spots are still burning, but they are not going to leave that area. I hope that makes sense.

I feel odd writing the recap, as if I am taking the story from the reporters who were, literally, in the trenches for this one. But since some of them are taking a well-needed day off, and others resumed their regular beats, it fell to me. And I was glad to do it.

The story I wrote for the paper didn't contain everything I wanted to put in, like the fact that Janice Murray, seen below sifting through a wheelbarrow of china fragments, felt she had to do it for her mother's sake. Her mother, who died 7 months ago, always planned to give Murray the collection of china accumulated over three generations. Murray said she hoped to find at least a cup or a saucer or at least one piece. The family is taking the broken pieces and making it into a mosaic, while Murray's kids are perusing eBay, armed with the names of the china collections Murray's mom had stored.

I didn't put that the National Guard managed to find a wooden cut-out of a bear with a honey pot, inscribed with "a bear and his honey live here" in the remains of William Gallagher's home. Gallagher said his wife would be pleased that the sign, a souvenir from a trip to Smithville, survived the blaze. National Guard members also found the remains of a 35mm camera in the home, curtains Gallagher's wife sewed and remainders of a recently purchased daybed.

The shed's behind the mobile homes both survived the blaze, as did the plastic flowers in front of Gallagher's home. Oddly, several candles in the homes did not burn in the blaze.

Murray said she will always remember summer evenings at her dad's place, where he would pipe in music as everyone sat in the backyard, at a table or on a wooden swing, which also survived the fire. Les Balkie taped music from his travels around the world, and Murray said he had speakers hidden in the woods, so sometimes the sounds of the rainforest, like macau's chirping, would come from the green woods, now black sticks in scorched earth.

Murray found it odd and disheartening that random books, such as a guide to managing diabetes, was found in the home, but books filled with mementos of her mother were lost.


Here are a few more shots from today:


A bonfire grill sits in the middle of once-green woods, burned by a 17,000+acre wildfire. The wooden adridondack chairs survived the blaze.





An American flag taped to a pole by members of the 177th National Guard, in front of a home decimated by the Warren Grove fire.





A member of the 177th National Guard shovels ash from the remainders of a home in Barnegat.





Janice Murray sifts through a wheelbarrow full of china fragments, all that is left of her mother's heirloom china collection.





William Gallagher said his firesafe worked after his home in Barnegat was decimated by the Warren Grove Fire--it saved the insurance papers and mortgage papers he and his wife stored in there. Gallagher said he bought it at a local Staples, several decades ago.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

So big news this week in South Jersey. There was a 17,000-acre forest fire, likely started by a flare dropped by a military person testing missiles.

Unfortunately, rather than covering it, I was home, sick. In my bed. Feeling terrible...and feeling even worse when I looked towards the bay and saw the smoke and knew that I should be out there covering that story. And that this blog should have behind-the-scenes pictures from my reporting.

UGH I am so mad at my health right now, because that was breaking news and I am a breaking news reporter. Perfect fit! Anyway, at least I am feeling better now and besides, it is best I didn't go into work when I wasn't feeling well and then have to go out and report that story while sick with a fever! Much worse!

I am happy for and proud of my fellow reporters, though, who did a REALLY excellent job covering the fire. Better than any other news media outlet around. I had a random person tell me that she turned to app.com to get the news that she wasn't getting anywhere else, after being evacuated from her home. The regular updates kept her in the know and she was very grateful to the paper.

Just wish I was part of that awesome effort...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mary, Mary, quite contrary



I started my gardening this weekend and have already, of course, run into a few snags.

I went to Home Depot on Friday, which was fairly crowded, but, I imagine, much better than if it had been a Saturday. I spent quite a long time there, wandering the aisles confusedly. Let me tell you: the smaller gardening stores may be more expensive, but I bet they provide more help for a start-up gardener. Home Depot is a bastion of people "already in the know"--forget what they say in their commercials about you being able to do it and they being able to help. They had one person who could answer gardening questions and obviously she was quite busy.

So I finally bundled out of there with $40 worth of merchandise: pots, brackets and dirt (oh and replacement tiki torch wicks). I piled everything into my small SUV, and slammed the trunk shut...

...with my keys still inside.


It took about an hour and a half to get all the AAA stuff worked out (lapsed membership, etc.), but about 5 minutes after the call finally went through for the speedy lockout service guy to come.

That meant I couldn't do my planting until Saturday morning, but I did get it done...only to realize I needed to make another trip to Home Depot for another pot. Also, the cute porch railing brackets I bought don't fit and the planters are too heavy for it, so that won't be happening.

But all in all, I started and have most of it planted:

In the main planter, from left to right, is sage, cilantro, hot peppers, cilantro, chives. The pot in the back to the left is mint and the pot to the right is basil. One more long planter will have Cilantro, basil and thyme.

Oh, and how come I couldn't find any cute metal watering cans with rain shower spouts. They all had either single pour spouts or were gigantic. I went to Home Depot, Lowe's, K-Mart and finally found something at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brown thumb (literally. figuratively?)



All last summer, I sat at work and read the Greengirls (then just Greengirl) blog at work and thought, "I wish I could garden."

Today, I went all Dead Poets Society ("Seize the Day!") and Fame ("No day like today!") and stopped by a roadside garden stand and bought 7 pots of herbs to start my own deckside garden.

They are:
--Cilantro
--Tri-color sage
--Hot Peppers
--Orange mint
--Basil
--Chives
--Thyme

I wanted to get bay leaves, but I couldn't find them at the center. They are all full sun herbs and I have a nice sunny spot to plant them on my porch.

But one more pop culture reference: "I'm so excited! I'm so excited!...I'm so scared." (Saved by the Bell) I have not had good luck with plants. My mom said all I need is some attention, but I swear it is not just my lack of attention: I must have plant killer running in my veins. I killed an ALOE plant. Of course, that's because it fell when I was transporting it to move here, but an aloe plant? easiest thing ever.

Friday is my off day, so I am off to Home Depot (or should I go to Lowe's? We have both...) to get some planters, potting dirt and a cute little watering can to make it even more fun. And then this summer? Fresh cilantro in my guacamole and chicken curry and omlettes; mojitos and tea made from my fresh mint; fresh pesto from my basil and fresh chives for my potatoes.

Unless I kill them all first. eep!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

taunting

Curse my window.

During the 2.5 years of my last job, I was upset at NOT having a window, besides these slits near the ceiling that let us know if it was raining/snowing/sun had set, etc. I complained that without natural light, I would wither and die, or at least be depressed.

But now having a window is making me depressed. It's like spring is taunting me all up in my face with this gorgeous weather, sunshine, light breeze, blue skies. It's all "doncha wish your environment was hot like me, doncha wish your environment was a breeze like me, doncha (doo doo doo doo) doncha (doo doo doo doo)."

musical interludes aside, I'm getting very distracted with outside-porn images of me frolicking in the sunshine, riding a bike, walking around, breathing outside air.

But instead I am huddled under a blanket (note: WHY do people feel the need to blast a/c the second it gets a little warm? seriously, enjoy the nicer weather, since you spent all winter kvetching about how cold it is), typing away about how great the towns down here are.

Because the towns are outside and I'm not, nanner nanner boo boo.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Day 76 without bucket.

LOLRUS link above. Trust me on this.

Today is my 7th day without TV. No, this is not some big social experiment to see how much of my life I can reclaim without TV, it's called "something happened to my cable and I haven't had it solved yet." Though, I do get ready faster in the morning without TV, but the rest of the time I waste on internets anyways.

Last night I picked up sushi at the local grocery store and ate it on my front porch steps as the sun set. I like living bayside so I can still see the sun set over water. That's pretty cool. The nice weather makes me want to spend lots of time outside, but then the sun sets and it gets cold and that's when I miss my TV.

Good thing I have lots of DVDs to keep me entertained. Though I am slowly running out of ones to watch...to the library!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I want to eat Shruti's trash

Today I had a little private showing of West Side Story in my front yard.

This morning I heard all these seagulls outside my house at around 7:30 a.m. I looked out the window and it was all these black-headed seagulls screeching at white seagulls. A turf war! I couldn't see if they had anything or were fighting over something.

But when I stepped outside, I realized what happened. Last night I had guests for a grill party on my awesome deck. That translated to a lot of trash in my garbage bin. My friend kindly took out the trash for me, but forgot to put the lid back on the trash can.

So the seagulls picked, pecked, clawed, whatever it is that seagulls do, through the garbage bag, scattering paper plates, empty bags and leftover, squishy, grilled tomatos (which are really good basted with olive oil and garlic, trust me).

Note to self: never forget to put the lid on the garbage can again.

(P.S. sorry its been a week, I had some bad news Monday and it took up the rest of my week. Plus I didn't feel like writing.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lies I told

I totally lied to you guys because I promised to tell you what potachos were on Friday, and here it is Monday and you STILL don't know.

Like all good liars, I have an excuse. This weekend was GOR-GE-OUS and any time spent in front of a computer was a total waste of time (aka work on Sunday.)

So what are potachos?
Like nachos, thick potato chips, covered with cheddar, bacon, tomatoes, onions, ketchip and chives with sour cream. In other words, perfection. They were just as delicious as anything with bacon can and should be. Forget how strange they sound and fly/drive to New Brunswick and eat them!

So let's get back to this past weekend thing. What a taste of life to come. Though, life to come will probably be considerably warmer than this, the idea of eating lunch in a sunspot on my back porch, grilling dinner, having a beer on my front porch and leaving all the windows open is definitely part of my future.

Of course, its only a taste as its going to rain the rest of the week, but I do plan on grilling again on Saturday (and tonight for that matter), so I hope it stops raining.

In more other news, this was one of those weekends where I loved my job. First I went to the top of Forked River "mountain" (its more like a tall hill), which is a private area. It was beautiful. Then I went in a rescue boat in a lagoon for a water drill.

Here are a few views from this weekend: