Goodbye to The Rock

Learned this week that the Rocky Mountain News (The Rock) has closed its doors and, after publishing since 1859, no longer exists.  Many more such closings are sure to follow: The New York Times is on the verge of bankruptcy; some major papers are reducing to three-days-a-week delivery.  My local paper, the Kalamazoo Gazette is reduced most days to two 16-page sections. Part of the problem is the economy and curtailment in advertising.

I’ve lived in many places and in every single one of them I’ve heard the local daily paper called the “rag” and the standing joke was, “Do you have thirty seconds to read today’s paper?” Everywhere I lived, same stupid line. Did that means papers everywhere were bad and scant in coverage? No. It was simply an attitude one assumed as the resident of the community, as in: The schools aren’t great and the paper stinks. Neither was nor is universally true, sports fans.

You may never have seen the Rock, much less read it. But pay close attention. If you are an internet/web enthusiast, you are about to be screwed big time and manipulated at will by whomever wants to manipulate your sorry behind.

Let me explain first how a standard newspaper works: People are hired to gather and write the news according to certain rules for stories. Individuals with journalism school experience or degrees have been trained in the system. Those who come from other backgrounds get OJT orientation and training. But every story has to meet certain standards and sources have to be checked. Stories without attribution are suspect. Pieces that are opinion are supposed to be labeled as such.

The reporters go out and come back to a big room, much like a bullpen (school of cubicle-modular before the development of cubicles) and pound away on a typewriter, or later a computer. Editors, their supervisors, sit among the workers and as stories are being written, there is a continuous flow of questions, directions, challenges to facts, etc. End of day, the paper comes out (or the next morning), everyone goes home, and comes back to start again. What has been produced is a group effort and virtually every piece of information in the paper has been vetted, checked and challenged by the system before it goes into ink.

What replaces newspapers?

First response seems to be the internet.

Where does the internet get its news?

Answer: Newspapers.

Where will news come from after newspapers die?

Answer: Dunno, but look at Fox news cranking administration press releases into stories.

Who referees a blogger or verifies his or her accuracy in claims?

Answer: Nobody. I decided to blog. Nobody checks my stuff. If you take my stuff or other bloggers as gospel, you need to rethink your values.

Who can produce a blog or internet site?

Answer: Any jamoke who can afford the software.

Where on the internet can you got to visually see and sense the range of the day’s news? (As in spreading out the newspaper on the table….?)

Answer: I don’t have a clue.

Can you spread the paper out and scan it while you eat breakie or dinner?

Answer: Well, I guess a laptop is sort of like that.

Can you read news on a screen for long?

Answer: Hell I can’t even read it for short. I have to print everything out and read hard copy in real time.

Okay, I realize this is a abuttuva Saturday morning rant of sorts, but I am deeply concerned by this development and I think you should be too. Once newspapers are gone, who will perform the watchdog function papers’ served? Some individuals on the internet? Possibly, but the internet collectively is basically created without standards or a desire or even interest in accuracy and truth. How many times have friends sent us stuff and we have then looked around to verify it only to find out it was just one more example of random internet bullshit floating in the ether. This happens damn near EVERY DAY with the net.  It RARELY happens with newspapers. Of course there are crooked or incompetent reporters. But they get weeded out. Who weeds out internetters? And how?

Friends, I’m anything but a Luddite, but the passing of newspapers is a damn serious moment in history in this country, folks. Believe it.

A friend of mine is teaching a university. She teaches individuals who want to be school administrators. Last week in class she used the word “fastidious” and drew a classroom-sea  of blank faces. She then questioned them. Not one had ever heard the word, or could define it. This made me cringe. The massive and widespread lack of reading, the choosing of visual and aural gewgawism over content is about to catch up to us and sink our butts big time.

Hey, the Michigan Conservation Officers Association [MCOA] annual dinner is tonight up north. Last night the cops and game wardens played a benefit game for a good-guy trooper, and my pal Reg the Yan-Cannuck is coming up from the dark shadows of Indiana this afternoon. A lot of the world is falling apart, but there’s still a lot of good stuff and good people.

Over.

Jesse James and the Heywoods Ain’t Related, But the Gene Pool Seems Similar

John Saurer of Northfield, Minnesota has been reading Snowfly. Espying my last name, and living in the town where Jesse James and the Younger gang committed their last bank robbery, he wondered if I per chance might be related to Joseph Lee Heywood, who was acting cashier on that fateful day at the First National Bank in town September 7, 1876. [Ironically, Sept 7 is my brother Ed’s birthday.]

My relatives came to this country after these events, so the answer was no. But it got me to thinking and doing a little quickie research.

The day’s events: Three members of the James-Younger gang came into the bank, drew their guns, and demanded moula. When asked if he was the cashier, Joseph Lee Heywood said no. (Example of strict constructionism: He was in fact the acting cashier.) The bad guys got into the vault and demanded Heywood open the safe inside. Being a Heywood, he refused. Then he tried to trap one of the robbers in the vault by slamming the door on him, which didn’t work, and ended up getting pistol-whipped for his trouble. He also got a knife cut on his neck as they attempted to “convince” him to cooperate. Which, of course, being a Heywood, he didn’t. Pressed again to open the safe, Heywood told the robbers it had a time lock (chronometer) and could not be opened — another Heywood trait, creating believable fiction at the moment it is most dearly needed. Or put another way: lying through his teeth to make his point and stand his ground.

Well, things got sort of confused after this, and a hair toward uber frantic, and the gang got into a gunfight with townies and as one outlaw was leaving the premises, he noticed Heywood trying to stand up, so he went back inside, put his pistol to Heywood’s head and fired. It’s a Heywood trait to piss someone off so bad they want to send you to the afterworld.  The gang got $26.70 in cash. The bank safe reportedly held $12,000 they did not get.

An ancestor or mine? Uh, nah. But given that he acted stupidly, that is, playing word-games with outlaws, tried to strike out at an outlaw and lied to them about the safe, and then got killed for his effort top protect a measly 12 grand, he very well could have been one of our Heywoods. Add to this that he was working and living in Minnesota and had to have known that brook trout fishing is best in the month of September, well he should have  fishing, not standing in the bloody bank. Heywoods are cranky, impulsive, not good at taking orders, and a bit quick with the fists, but we are also oddly dutiful in terms of walking the walk of our jobs whatever they might be.

I thank John Saurer for asking the question and sending along the photo of a stained glass church window at the UCC Congregational in Northfield. John is a fly fisherman, which makes him a stellar human being.

And remember tonight is the benefit hockey game in Holland for State Trooper Jayme Green of the Grand Haven Post. I hear game wardens are coming in from all over the state for a night of old-time hockey, eh? Go see them and enjoy the game.

A state full of hockey cops? In Red Wing land? Makes perfect sense to me.

Over.

Stained Glass for a Hero
Stained Glass for a Hero

It’s Back

A week ago, almost clear ground. Today: Not so much. But it is pretty, in a sick and cold way. A picture to illustrate. Also, review of Death Roe in today’s Detroit News. Google Detroit News, feb 22, 2009, death roe.

Over.

icy green
icy green

Miss-hell-annie-ous

Attention all true Yoopers and Yoop-lovers. Try this site: http://www.alumnac.com/newsletter.

Got into site and select for U.P. If you’re a UP h.s. or college grad it’s a must place. Lots of good stuff.

Okay, so that was the sound of a panic button pushed yesterday. Our weather did NOT approach forecasts, though chill factor while walking this afternoon was zero. My apologies for wimping out. The meeting with Get a Clue Group at Schuler’s in Okemos has been rescheduled for Weds, April 8 at 7:30 P.M. Start the anti-snow dance now.

Yesterday Shanny kicked up two woodchucks and we saw three redtails, our denizen family plus last year’s young-un? The red-bellies and some downies were on the suet off and on all day.

Over.

N’Okemos trip

Supposed to talk to Get a Clue Mystery Club Group at Schuler Books in Okemos tonight, but I cancelled about an hour ago. Weather advisory for here tonight, 5-7 inches with 20-30 mph winds, gusting to 40 and another possible 3-6 inches of white stuff tomorrow. I could get up there today but prolly be stuck until friday, which is too long.  This makes two book things I had to miss this winter, first time ever to miss ANY. I hope we can reschedule Okemos when the weather’s more acommodating. We’ve had nice snowless weather here for weeks, and then…shoot! Later today I’ll post my remarks as they were to be given tonight under the title of  “On Patrol,” in the page section under the Serious category.

On a nicer note, yesterday Shanahan and I found a red-belly woodpecker pair and what I’m guessing will be their nest in early summer. I had one bird in front of us for nearly 30 minutes and looked down and Shanny was sitting by my leg, also looking up in the tree. Too funny. Like father, like dog?

Note from CO pal yesterday imploring me to send immediate word when I see the first robin of spring. He said he is SICK of winter. SICK of it! Very unusual to hear from a U.P. conservation officer. Oddly we’ve seen no wintering robins this year. Ordinarily they are around all winter.

Over.

Who Knew?

A pal of mine (now professor, once a Navy P-3 navigator) sent me a note yesterday. Made me laugh out loud, so I am sharing the gist. He and his wife had gone to the fabric store (which he calls the “hen house”). Parking lot was packed, and he could find only one opening, but there was a “hostile-looking” family in a van next to it, so he pulled further out into the parking boondocks, and they walked to the store and went shopping.

As they were going through checkout, some customers just ahead of them were talking about there being five cop cars at Chucky Cheese next door earlier in the day. One of the cashiers rolled her eyes back and said, “This happens every weekend. Some kid has a birthday party and the divorced parents are forced together and fights break out. They even limit patrons to one beer per hour, but they all sit in the parking lot and get mean-drunk before the parties.

My friend concluded his note, “Who knew the roughest bar in Portage is the Chucky Cheese pizza parlor?”

I couldn’t make up stuff like this!

Over.

Hawking Hawks

A few days ago we spotted one of the redtails about 30 feet off the ground, back in the woods, off our walking trail, not far from the nest. Yesterday there was a redtail sitting five feet above the nest and atop a power pole, several hundred yards away, a second redtail: Ergo we conclude the annual courtship may soon begin. We had our three-day warmup and are now back to normal winter, teens by night, low 30s by day. We are seeing the hawks almost every day and Shanahan is regularly kicking up rabbits to chase. Funny how you think you’re pretty observant, but something happens to question you. For example, we have two groves of small aspens along the walking trail and only this week did I notice that these trees 1-3 inches in diameter, have DOZENS of deer rubs! We have a small herd of deer in the neighborhood, 5-8 animals, but we’ve never seen bucks. Obviously, however there is one in the group so this summer we will have to keep our eyes open. Let me amend that, we have seen bucks up to 8-pointers, but in the intersection or walking down the sidewalk at the house a couple of blocks away from the woods. Never seen a buck while walking this particular trail, but will be looking as the weather warms up this year. Lots and lots of scrapes under the oaks and fresh traffic in exposed woods, so they are in there at night. A friend who lives in that area said he had deer come into his front yard this winter and dig up all the crab apples.

Wondering in the Wilderness of Books

Do me a favor: Before you read this posting, please read the preceding one about State Trooper Jayme Green of the Grand Haven post.

As for this posting, granted: It’s an odd title, but at least it’s an improvement over something about V.D.This morning I got up to work on a couple of presentations for the Rural Library Conference in Traverse City in late April and, as I was writing some questions occurred to me, recurring questions I have  never pursued answers to. It then dawned on me sitting in the office before dawn, that the website may be helpful in getting some answers.

Come April Fool’s Day we will have had the web-site in place (UP)  for a year and will have had in excess of 1 million hits and more than 100 thousand visitors.  (When we actually complete the first year I’ll provide the actual count for those who like numbers.) My young website gurus/whizzos tell me these are “good numbers”  and that  this site is by far  the most trafficked on my host server. And I get several nice notes and comments each week from readers (and from old friends who have stumbled onto me through the site after years and decades of AWOL!) But I still keep wondering who reads my books and in this light I have a host of rudimentary questions.  It also takes a lot of work to keep a site alive and interesting and I wonder (quite logically I think) if it’s worth my time. My publishers aren’t particularly interested in the sort of data I once demanded from my staff when I was a corporate flack. You, of course, don’t have to do anything, but if you’d answer a few questions and send a note to me on the website email, I’d appreciate it very much. The questionnaire is neither professionally managed nor statistically blessed. It is, like most everything I do, by the seat of my britches.  These things said, here we go. Again, thanks for your help.

1) Have you read Joseph Heywood novels? If YES, how did you first learn of the author and his books? If NO, do you intend to read Heywood as a result of visiting his web site?

2) Do you BUY Heywood novels, BORROW from the local library, or RECEIVE PASS-AROUND COPIES from a  friend or relative?

3) If you BUY Heywood novels, do you buy them from a BOOK-STORE or ON-LINE?

4) If you own Heywood novels, do you pass them around to others to read. if YES, to approximately how many people?

5) Did you receive your first Heywood novel as a gift?

6) Do you visit the web site regularly? Do you subscribe to the RSS feed? (Do you know what an RSS feed IS?)

7) What about the site do you enjoy most?

8) Do you find navigation inside the site (moving around) easy enough?

9) What’s not on the site you would like to see added to the site?

10) Do you consider yourself to be urban, suburban or rural dweller?

11) In what town do you live and do you use your local libary? If YES, how often do you visit your library. Weekly, Monthly, more than weekly. Rarely?

12) Do you patronize a local book store. If so where and which one? And why that book store over another one?

13) Approximately HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ in a year?

14) Approximately HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU BUY in a year?

15) Do you regularly buy books as gifts?

16) If you do NOT buy books, why not?

17) Have you ever visited the Upper Peninsula (other than Mackinac Island)? If YES, approximately how many times?

18) Have you ever had contact in the field with a Michigan Conservation Officer? Were you cited or not?

19) Do you know the name(s) of your local conservation officer(s)?. If so, who are they?

20) List all that apply: Do you: HUNT, FISH, BIKE-TOUR or RIDE MOUNTAIN BIKE, DOG-SLED, SNOWSHOE, POWER-BOAT, SAIL, RUN, DOWNHILL SKI, CROSS-COUNTRY SKI, TRAP, HIKE, COLLECT ROCKS, CAMP, CANOE/KAYAK, USE STATE PARKS,  RIDE AN ATV, RIDE A PERSONAL WATERCRAFT, RIDE A SNOWMOBILE, RIDE MOTORCYCLE OFF-ROAD, RIDE HORSES, or go afield to VIEW PHOTOGRAPH MICHIGAN WILDLIFE?

21) Male or Female

22) AGE: Under 20, 21-40,  41-65, Over 65?

Thanks much. Joe Heywood.

Over.

Helping Those Who Help Us: M.S.P. Troop Jayme Green

Last April 26, Michigan State Trooper Jayme Green of the Grand Haven Post suffered a stroke while on a traffic stop in Muskegon County. Officer Green,40, graduated the 114th Trooper Recruit School and has been assigned to Grand Haven since 1997. He is married and has three young children. The stroke left him with limited mobility of his left leg and arm;thus far  he has been unable to return to duty. As a stroke survivor myself, I know what Jayme is going through. It takes luck, a lot of gumption, and a heap of work to get back, and it also takes support from the people who love you, and others.   I was damn lucky in my outcome from stroke.

To help Trooper Green with rehab costs and with the hope of eventually getting him back to being able to serve and protect the rest of us, there will be a benefit hockey game at the Edge Ice Arena in Holland on February 27, 2009 — that’s in two weeks — at  the end of this month. The game will feature the State Bulls (Michigan State Police) against the Fishcops (Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement. There will be various raffles, auctions, a 50/50 and Chuck-A-Puck Competitions. Tickets can be purchased in advance and all proceeds, even if ticket-holders can’t make it to the game all proceeds will go to the Green family. For more information or tickets contact your local Michigan State Police Post, or conservation officer and if you don’t know your local officer, call your district office and they’ll give you a number to talk to him or her.

Cops comprise a very discreet community among us: County Deps, City  Cops, “Troops” and COs, you will know from my books, regularly cover each others’ sixes. When an officer  goes down, for whatever reason, they all rally to his or her side.  Just like our wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to make damn sure we are supporting our police who take  the risks and the hits for us.

(Oh yeah…a lot of my CO pals play on the Fishcop team; Some can even skate. If the game were contested on snowshoes, the DNR would win hands-down, but hockey…prolly not so much. They’ll need all the help they can get and given that Trooper Green is from the Blue side, the Fishcops won’t even care if you root for blue instead of green and gray. Please help if you can. And thanks. Over.

STATE BULLS VS FISHCOPS

FEBRUARY 27, 7:30 pm

THE EDGE ICE ARENA

4444 NORTH HOLLAND AVENUE

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN @ WWW.EDGEICE.COM

TICKETS $5 AT THE DOOR. OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME.

FOR ADVANCE TICKETS CALL YOUR CLOSEST MICHIGAN STATE POLICE POST OR YOUR LOCAL CONSERVATION OFFICER. DO IT NOW. PLEASE.

VD Every Year: Is There No Cure?

Busy times: I’m posting ahead and in that vein…is it just me or does the presumed abbreviation for Valentine’s Day bother you ? [Makes me want to laugh out loud!] VD has been with us a long time, and the debate about whether it originated in the Americas or Europe has been settled. VD comes from Rome. Oh, that other VD?  CRS moment.

Scrivened the Bard in Ophelia’s Song:

“To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day….

Quoth she, before you tumbled me,

you promised me to wed

So would I ha’ done by yonder sun

An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

Huh. Sort of like patience and timing are everything? Sheesh. [Tumbling prolly isn’t gymnastics?]

Chaucer also mentions the day in the Parliament of Fowles, Feb. 14 believed to be in the late 14th century to be the day when birds chose their lifemates. Wrote the bawdy bard: “For this was on Seynt Valentynes day, when every fowl cometh there to chese his make.”

At age 65, I’ve taken many approaches to VD, but the most memorable may be as follows, direct and unexpurgated from Myn Dyary:

“I made her breakie in bed. She got food poisoning. Spent morning in emergency room. At noon I fluffed a down pillow to make her comfie for a nap to  help her recover from the morning’s travails. A feather popped loose and flew up her nose. She started gagging, then got it caught in her throat. I had to call 911. Afternoon in emergency room. Evening before dinner, (we ordered in after the morning’s fiasco) I tried to massage her with uber slippery tantric love oil in the shower. She slipped, fell, broke her right wrist in two places. The doctor wanted her to stay the night in the hospital and I volunteered to keep her company and ease her discomfort. Her uncontrolled sobbing sent me home. The dog and I drank champers, but the drink gave him the “fast-moving poop.” He spent the night in the back yard, whining to come in. I sat in the house, just whining. So much for romantic gestures. Memo to Self: Sometimes best-laid plans don’t lead to same. Et cetera.”

Seynt (a bishop first) Valentyne, I have since learned, was arrested for defying an order of Roman emperor Claudius, who had him beaten to death with clubs and decapitated (mayhaps and peradventure, qualifies as overkill?) – this ultimate redaction exectued on February 14, the Eve of Lupercal. All this suggests that the splurge of red on VD has more to do with blood than anything else.

Now, St. Paddy’s Day. There’s a day, boyos.

Over.