Archive for March, 2009

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Going, Going, Gone!

March 30, 2009

“Watch us, or we’ll be fired!”  The billboard featuring a morning TV news team from another city was pretty funny years ago when it went up.   Today, it’s hard for any of us in TV news to find the humor.    The TV news industry has fallen on hard times with shrinking viewership, shrinking revenues and rising production costs.   Stations across the country are laying off news staffers left and right.    Anchors and reporters who have been part of the community for years have been let go.   The 6 O’clock news is just not appointment television for most people anymore.  They’re too busy.  

It’s even tougher right now in the newspaper business.  Newspapers in our country are in real economic trouble.  It’s expensive to print them, not to mention the cost to deliver them right to your front door every day.   Several major cities including Detroit have seen their papers go to two- or three-days a week print…with stories online-only the other days.   Recently, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News just gave up, giving hundreds of employees their pink slips.     Readers there are lucky though; they still have The Denver Post.   

I must tell you, there is nothing I like better in the morning than to grab a cup of coffee and curl up on the couch with my morning newspaper.  I like the feel  of the paper.  I like the “jump” of the story from one page to another.  I like to skim the headlines to decide which story I’ll read first.  I like to do the crossword puzzle and sudoku with my pencil.   I was greatly relieved to hear the Toledo Blade would shrink the size of its paper by one inch to save money, and stay in the paper business.   

I don’t want to lose that…but it becomes a real possibility as more and more people look online to get their news.  And why not?  You can get it there for free, right?   Well maybe I don’t want to be attached to my computer or my cell phone when I’m reading the paper.  I want to read the PAPER.    More importantly, we as news consumers need to think hard about what kind of society we will live in if we lose our local news sources. 

We take them for granted.   But if those news sources go away…who holds our elected officials responsible?  Who investigates wrongdoing at the factory your spouse and friends work?   Who publicizes a local cancer cluster until the Ohio EPA can no longer ignore it and must test to find the source so no more children die?   It’s something to think about. 

There’s no denying we are on the cusp of a change in the way local news is delivered.  And even though the internet gives us another delivery tool, it can’t be the only tool.  At least not until newspapers and TV stations can figure out a way to make money and stay in business doing it that way.     We are lucky in Northwest Ohio to have The Toledo Blade, The Toledo Free Press and all the other local papers which investigate, inform and entertain.   We’re lucky to have local TV News stations like WTOL to bring those stories to life with video and live immediacy.     

I don’t think anyone wants to see any of us go out of business, and that’s where we can all take action:  READ the local newspapers, WATCH your local TV stations, LISTEN to local radio.   Otherwise, it will be too late.  We will all be going…going…gone!

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Cash on the Barrelhead

March 21, 2009

“Cash on the Barrelhead.”   That was my Grandpa Cash’s philosophy.  Maybe it was because his last name was “Cash,” but if he couldn’t pay for it NOW, he didn’t buy it NOW.    I haven’t completely subscribed to this way of living,  but especially in these recent days of credit company mismanagement and bailouts,  I have become a “cash on the barrelhead” kind of girl. 

Problem is…today’s cash isn’t really paid in cash.  Like many of you, I use my ATM Visa card to buy just about everything from groceries, to gas, to yes, even that cheeseburger at McDonald’s (see previous post).  It’s so convenient just to whip out the card when you need it.  You don’t have to get help from the clerk at the gas station, you just swipe your card.  And I contend it also helps you save money because instead of carrying a wad of cash, you’re spending only EXACTLY the amount you need.  No extraneous change in your pocket tempting you to make an unnecessary purchase.  

I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on this way of ATM card spending until yesterday when THE BANK CANCELLED MY CARD!!!  I’m not going to mention which bank because I have generally been happy with my service there for the past 15 years.  Apparently, the company that issues their cards had some sort of security breach and routinely sent NEW cards to all their customers.  I never received one, but received a phone call telling me my new card needed to be activated because they were going to cancel my old card.   “What new card?” I wondered.  So, I called the bank and explained the situation.  They requested a new card for me but apparently there was no way to keep my old card from being canceled…even though I didn’t have a new one.  

I have now lived two days without my ATM card and I WANT IT BACK!!!   On the first day, I kept forgetting it wasn’t active and handing it to store clerks around town who would look at me with a mix of suspicion and sympathy and say “Your card’s been cancelled.”   “Oh, right…” I’d mumble, embarrassed at causing a scene.    I also didn’t realize so many businesses that take my ATM Visa won’t take a check.   So now I keep a few dollars in my wallet and my eye on the mailbox, waiting for my new ATM Visa to arrive.  It’s not that I have anything against paper money…after all “Cash” is part of my family heritage.  It’s just that I have come to prefer the plastic variety.   If Grandpa Cash was still alive, I think he’d be fine with that.

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Cinderella Story

March 16, 2009

It’s not something you can see…at least not immediately.   The calendar changes from February to March with fairly little brou-ha-ha…but somewhere out there, the fairy godmother of college basketball waves her magic wand, and you know something’s different.   Suddenly, the teams that were getting beat by 15 or 20 points a game earlier in the season are making magical 3-pointers, taking the game into overtime, and yes, sometimes even winning.   Games that should have been over in regulation go on and on (like the 6 OT game I saw Thursday night between Syracuse and UConn).    If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 100 times during the television coverage of March Madness:  “the Cinderella Story.”  Yes…that fairy godmother’s out there somewhere laughing her head off. 

For 15 years, I’ve anchored the news at WTOL, and during all those years, CBS has carried the tournament.  That can mean some late nights for us news people.  One year, the fairy godmother was really feeling spunky and gave us not only several overtime games, but a broken backboard that had to be replaced before play could resume.  That year, we actually went on the air with our 11 PM news at 2:11 AM.   

And yet, even for those of us who don’t follow college basketball all through the season, March Madness is a rush.   I LOVE getting my office bracket sheet, looking at the teams, and deciding who will win.  I admit…as someone who doesn’t follow college basketball, I use unorthodox methods to choose my teams.   “Let’s see…I lived in New Mexico as a child…so they’ll definitely win.”    “George Mason?   They’re in the same conference as my alma mater, James Madison University, so I’ll pick them.”    And so on. 

This is where the fairy godmother gets her biggest chuckle.  With the wave of that magic wand, even knuckleheads like me can win the office pool.  And I have.  TWICE!    This doesn’t always sit well with the “others” in the pool who have carefully analyzed season statistics and watched game films over and over before making their choices.   Nope…the men don’t like it one bit.    One of my winning seasons was when I picked Arizona to win the championship.    Every time they’d advance, one of the sports-savvy men in the pool would say “Well, they shouldn’t have won that game…”  and would then give me 27 reasons why.  “Yes,” I said “but they DID win.”   Cha-CHING!!  And that’s how I became Cinderella that year.

This year, I’m again making my picks without any knowledge whatsoever of any of the teams playing in the tournament, and I’m making them with complete confidence.   Wave your wand, fairy godmother.   Mama needs a new pair of glass slippers!

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Facebook Junkie

March 7, 2009

Dear MM (you know who you are!),

In my 40+ years I have managed to resist your type.  The “come on, try it–everybody’s doing it” type.   I don’t do drugs, don’t smoke cigarettes; the most addictive thing in my life is Coke Zero.   

Until Now. 

Give me a little credit…it took weeks of needling me, enticing me, telling me what I was missing by just saying “No.”    But in the end, your offer to set me up for free was just too tempting and now look at me:   I am addicted to Facebook! 

Those of you who use it know exactly what I mean.    It’s like technological heroin:  you can’t stop using it!   “Checking in” on what your friends are doing.   Seeing old and new pictures of your friends and family.  Reconnecting with people you haven’t spoken to–heck, people you haven’t even THOUGHT of–in years!    I find myself shaking with joy when the email notice comes in to tell me there’s activity on my Facebook page.  Who found me?  Who’s doing what?   The anticipation excites me to the core!     

What’s worse:  I find myself “dealing” it to my other friends:   “Why aren’t you on Facebook?  You should really try it…it’s lots of fun!”   I know I’m not the ONLY Facebook salesperson NOT on the payroll. 

So, thank you, MM.  Thank you for giving me something to occupy the hours of my day that I used to use for something more worthwhile like working, sleeping or cleaning the house.  Thank you for breaking my 40+ year streak of “just saying no.”   Thank you for turning me into another internet voyeur, watching the remarkable and mundane events of others unfold before me.   

I’ll sign off now…I’ve received 4 Facebook email alerts and I MUST see who’s doing what.  

Your “Junkie” friend,

Chrys

P.S.   I just LOVE your latest “status” update and the new picture you posted of you and Mrs. MM!

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Ode to a Cheeseburger

March 2, 2009

I opened the box to my Quarter Pounder with Cheese with great anticipation and looked inside.    There it was…a beautiful, sesame-seed bun surrounding a ground beef patty with cheese…wait a minute…WHAT IS THAT CHEESE DOING?!?  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves:  cheese half-on the burger, half spilling out into the box, too melted for me to pick it up and rearrange it evenly on the sandwich.   Don’t those cooks at McDonald’s know the importance of a cheeseburger?

Let me back up just a bit:  when the calendar rolled over to 2009, I resolved to lose weight.  Some of my clothes weren’t fitting me right…and in this economy who can afford a new wardrobe simply because the old one’s too small, right?   So I set a goal and I have been following the WeightWatchers “points” system for 7 weeks.  I have been faithful to the plan, and it works:  I’ve lost 13 pounds so far.  The beauty of the “points” system, of course, is that you can really eat any food you want as long as you don’t go over your daily points allowance.    That includes my downfall:  cheeseburgers. 

I decided one day last week that I deserved a reward for sticking to the diet…and since WeightWatchers assigns “points” even to fast food, I planned out my points so I could enjoy a cheeseburger and fries for the first time in 2 months.  I thought about that cheeseburger all day long.   I reminded myself at various moments of the day that I had a juicy reward coming to me at dinnertime, and it made me happy. 

So, on my dinner break, I took myself through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, giddy as a kid about to ride the newest roller coaster at Cedar Point.  I relished the words coming out of my mouth at the speaker: “Yes, I’ll have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, small fries and a diet coke with extra ice.”   I started salivating as I was paying for the meal and that distinct smell wafted through my car.  I picked up my order, my heart pounding all the way back to the station as I stared at the familiar sack sitting on my passenger seat. 

Then:  my heart sank as I opened the box.   The first cheeseburger I’d allowed myself to eat in 2 months was all disheveled….cheese thrown onto the burger by some short-order-cook-in-a-hurry…cheese everywhere BUT where it belongs:  aligned with the burger.    I unenthusiastically took the burger out of the box and did my best to put it back together the way it’s supposed to be; the way it looks in the picture!  Was this some plot by WeightWatchers to discourage my fast-food fix?!?!

For some reason, I was reminded of a poem by William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

 

 

My version is a little different:

THE CHEESEBURGER

so much depends

upon

 

a sizzling cheese

burger

 

assembled with

perfection

 

beside the hot

fries.