You’ll need hip waders until November 4

At the beginning of the year  before the Democratic Party had settled on a presidential candidate, Republican nominee John McCain promised to “treat my opponents with respect and demand that they treat me with respect.”

That would have been a pleasant change from the nastiness of the 2000 and 2004 campaigns,but Sen. McCain’s promise disappeared under the weight of his declining poll numbers in battleground states.

The mud slinging is such a dominant theme that boots or, better yet, hip waders may be appropriate attire for this campaign.

The number of attack ads by the campaigns of both the Democrats and Republicans has escalated over the the summer. And no doubt, we’ll see more disputes over issues and personalities over the next four weeks.

So, how do you know who is telling the truth? The best known non-partisan fact checking organization is the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Another one is a blog done by The Washington Post.  Also, on The Washington Post Web site, is an article from PC World extolling the fact-finding efforts of five other Internet sites.  And don’t forget Snopes.com for just about anything that seems to good or strange to be true.

Just remember to keep those hip waders handy….


Choose your words carefully

Clark Hoyt, public editor for The New York Times, gives readers a real insight into the world of political journalism with his column Sunday. The fact of the matter is no matter how carefully  a reporter chronicles an event involving politics, her/his words will be challenged by anyone who disagrees with the reporter’s observations.  Check it out.

Whet your appetite with NY Times recipes, how-to videos

I love food, and it shows.  I also love to cook and try new recipes and techniques.  I find many of both in the food section and food section archive of The New York Times.

Last week, the Times had a really interesting article on the versatility of rice cookers — you know, those crockpot-looking cookers you see in all the Chinese restaurant buffets.  I had never realized how many different ways a rice cooker could be used.

The article offered several recipes and even had a link with a rice cooker blog. Nice!

The point here is that if you’re looking for foody information, you can’t go wrong by logging onto almost any food site on the Internet, but I just trust the Times to get it right.  And the newspaper has a huge archive of recipes as well as how-to videos by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Mark Bittman, who’s known for keeping cooking simple.  His Times cooking column is called The Minimalist and each of his recipes is accompanied with a short how-to video — at least since the Times began using video online.

As for me, it is time for me to finally take that rice cooker out of the box I bought it in some time back and give it a try….

Static electricity is so unkind

I was sipping a latte in a coffee shop online with free WiFi two days ago working on a couple of posts for this blog.  Unfortunately, the store has carpet and someone brushed by me to get to a nearby table and I received a surprising shock that moved from my arm to my fingers and then to the touchpad of my laptop.


I looked at the blog posts where I had been inserting hypertext links, but the composition blocks were blank. I guess I was tempting fate by working on two posts at the same time without saving either one periodically.

Maybe I should get one of those geeky Static Electricity Eliminators or maybe I should just take more care when I’m working where there’s even the slightest chance I’ll get zinged, like when Buster the cat rubs up against my pants to get my attention.

Or I could just do what I usually do, which is to take a chance, sort of like Ben Franklin checking for lightning with a kite and key….

“May you live in interesting times.”

The origin of the title phrase has not been determined definitively, and that little mystery may never be solved. But if you checked out the hypertext link, you know that the phrase is not a blessing but an acknowledgment that we live in turbulent times.  And the past two weeks of high finance “Texas hold’em” is proof of that.  What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

In my lifetime, I have seen other “interesting times.” Consider the fact that I came of age during the 60’s. I went to Vietnam and I came home. More than 58,000 other Americans did not survive that needless war.

It is said that only those who have seen war understand the futility.  We destroyed Vietnamese villages to save them.  Is that sane? Does that make sense?

Could we have won that conflict? I do not think so.  The Vietnamese had a history of a thousand years of repelling invaders.  We were just the latest.

Fast forward to Afghanistan.  Can we win there? Only if the Afghan people support us. Look at the history? No invader has left that country victorious.  The English tried. So did the Soviet Union. Are we any different?

The screwball in Afghanistan is that we trained the same people to fight the Russians who are fighting us today, including Osama Bin Laden.  How crazy is that?

Online video about presidential campaign go viral

One of the most popular items on the Internet are videos of the campaigners for president and vice president and these videos offer new visual perspectives on the election this year.

Any and all videos of John McCain’s vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, are most in demand as are the comedic riffs done by the likes of Tina Fey on SNL or Gina Gershon.

Don’t forget that the Republican and Democratic parties and their surrogate 527’s are all putting out video either promoting their own candidates or knocking the opposition.

In terms of journalism, these videos offer a largely unfiltered view of opposing ideologies, so take it all in with a huge grain of salt.

You know, I’d insert some hypertext links, but there are so many to choose from.  Take your pick.

Anyone know the future of journalism?

The best minds in journalism want to know what the future holds for old media — newspapers, television and radio — in an Internet world.  Many are attempting to transition products like The New York Times and The Tennessean from dead wood to electronic transmissons.

Each new day presents new challenges, and there is no GPS to mark the way from print to electrons.

Nevertheless, American journalists — both traditional and new media — have accepted the challenge to find out how the jobs of reporters, photographers, editors will evolve even as changes meet them head on at an increasing pace.

We all acknowledge that print publications are moving online, some faster than others.  It would be nice to be able to stop that movement so that we could investigate the causes of the transition and what it means for us all.

But we do not have that luxury.

That’s why inquiring minds like that of Tom Cheredar are needed to help us cut through this particular Gordian Knot.

Tom talked to our editing classes last Friday and he introduced you to some concepts you may not have considered.

I asked Tom to speak to you, because he is a member of your generation and he is a very perceptive journalist.  If you want to learn more, you should also check out Tom’s other Web enterprise.

Do yourself a favor and check it out.