Sunday, August 10, 2008

We've moved!

Well, it's been a long time coming, but Link222 has FINALLY moved to The Times main site.
Thanks for all the love and devotion you've shown us here on our Blogger site.
Now, we we want you mosey on over to our new spot, bookmark the page and continue to join us in the conversation.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Your weight in water

So, I think I can safely say I've changed my lifestyle this year. Starting in January, I began calorie counting. It wasn't the easiest thing at first, but I got the hang of it. Of course, having off days to eat what I wanted helped keep me on track. When I started seeing results, the motivation really kicked up a notch. I lost about 20 pounds altogether, and most of that within the first three months.

Two months later, I added exercise to my new routine. While I've had my ups and downs of wanting to wake up in the mornings to get to the gym, it's proven very beneficial.

But there are still areas that need some work in this new 'lifestyle' and my water intake is one of them. I have tried several times throughout the years to adhere to a guideline I'd read a few years back -- drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound you weigh. Well, for some reason, I have not been able to reach this goal the past few months. It's just A LOT of water! A lot!

But today, victory! I did it, I did it! Granted, it was just about the minimum (1/2 ounce per pound I weigh) but definitely something to build on.

While basking in my glory, I was surfing the Web to see if I could find references to this 'feat' to see why on earth I might need to actually drink an ounce per pound.

CNN had an article from the Mayo Clinic that gave a good amount of information as to why watering down my life may be worth my while. Come to find out, that 1/2 ounce per pound really isn't quite enough since I'm exercising for an hour-plus every day. But, it did tell me that many of the foods I'm eating -- cucumbers -- and some other drinks -- tea -- help with my water intake. But I know it's still not enough.

Ugh, back to the water fountain I go!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Should journalists clap for political candidates?

A week ago today I sat in an audience of hundreds in Chicago listening to Sen. Barack Obama. This was after waiting in line for about an hour to go through security.

I was in the Windy City for UNITY, a gathering of at least 6,000 journalists from throughout the United States.

There had been talk for months – and some formal announcements and attempts at planning – about Obama and Sen. John McCain showing up for a debate, or something like it. McCain opted out.

Obama was a few days late. You may have heard about his venture into the Middle East and Europe.

It was disappointing not to have both there for an exchange of ideas or a little argument. But that’s something no one outside the candidates’ campaign planners could really affect.

Something we journalists can affect, though, is the way we do our jobs and how we conduct ourselves.

We waited a few hours for Obama, who appeared live on CNN. We were the audience. Before he came on, there was a panel discussion among news managers from throughout the country. One of the questions asked was whether reporters should clap for government leaders or political candidates during speeches or events such as the one we were at.

Almost everyone on the panel said no. I was glad about that.

Now some people think it’s disrespectful. You should respect the office of the president, senator, mayor, etc… But there is a common line of thought among journalists that we don’t want to give even the appearance that we show some sort of favor toward one official or another. That doesn’t mean a lack of respect.

But you wouldn’t have known many journalists think like that last week. During the commercial break, reporters hopped out of their seats, ran to the stage, and snapped photos of Obama with their cell phones. Many clapped or cheered when he spoke during taping.

I could take issue with other things that happened, including that in a room full of hundreds of journalists, we were allowed to ask only four questions, one for each organization at the convention: AAJA, NABJ, NAHJ and NAJA. But that, I think, had a lot to do with planning and organization for television.

But what do you think? Is it silly for us journalists to be concerned with something like applause? Or does it make you trust us less? Or more?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All for a little souvenir

London, San Francisco, Gulf Shores, Pisa and Paris, Ireland, Chicago and now add Seattle...
These cities are always just an outstretched arm away from my sight thanks to an attempt at forming some sort of collection in my teens.

On my last vacation, that collection almost left a bad taste in the mouth of a really pleasant trip. And it was all because of water.

Seemed like a harmless souvenir until I was going through security to catch my flight home from Seattle.

"I'm going to have to look through your bag," the TSA'er told me.

Fine, I thought, look away.

My travel companion, Amy, was the one getting stopped through all of our flights leading up to that point. She looked at me with a big grin on her face -- "Your turn," she said.

Priding myself on my travel skills, I really wasn't worried. I didn't have any sharp objects, all of my toiletries were under the obligatory three-ounce threshold and I didn't even have them with me.

We had taken only carryons on the trip to avoid the drama of checked baggage but were glad to hand those puppies over at 5:30 that morning to lighten our load. Toiletries were checked and I just had a small tote bag with purse essentials, some fragile souvenirs and a book. Check away, check away, I thought.

Then she pulled out my box. She started opening it.

"What's in here?" she asked.

"A snow globe," I answered as innocently as a 5-year-old receiving her first snow globe from a relative's vacation.

"You're going to have to check this bag," the TSA'er informed me.


The x-ray machine guy looks over and says to the girl checking my bag, asking, "Snow globe?"
"Yeah," she replied without even glancing his direction.

It has liquid in it. It was a pretty big snow globe, so, yeah, it has more than three ounces of water in it. I get that, but...


Do I really look smart enough to put something in the liquid in my obviously commercially made snow globe. Seriously. Trust me, it would not have three ounces of water left in it. It would have none! The massive hole would have assured you of that.

"You can't take on any snow globes," she informed me.

Afterward I looked at the TSA Web site and she was right -- no snow globes. But, you have to go all the way to the bottom of the list of what you can/cannot bring, in the OTHER category. There was no way I was ever going to check that far down the list.

So my innocent little collection just became a major hassle.

We were escorted, ESCORTED, out of security, the TSA'er with my bag and my personal belongings in hand because of the "danger."

I had to go back to the ticket line to check another bag. Luckily, Amy had a duffel bag as her carry-on so I stuffed it in there, once we were out of harms way, of course.

Not only that, my innocent (ahem, expensive) snow globe was about to cost me $15 more. I was flying American, the we-charge-you-to-bring-luggage-on-vacation-how-dare-you-take-anything airline.

Except, gasp!

I was surprised to find that I, yes me, yours truly, was actually allowed two (yes like double the amount of one) checked bags for free.


I guess I was flying far enough cross country (oh, just about 1,500 miles) to warrant two pieces of luggage for such a trip. (Let me clarify by saying I'm not sure why I was allowed two, for free, but it may have been that I booked my flight before the surcharges. Not sure)
Did I mention how much I love to fly on American Airlines. Yeah.

So, it took a few minutes but not so bad with the self check-in kiosks.

However, maybe love was a strong word.

"We don't have fragile tags," the AA lady told me as I asked for one for my expensive souvenir.
Well what are the odds that innocent souvenir makes it home in one piece since you won't let me hold on to it, I thought to myself.

If it shatters, I hope a piece of glass stabs the person who threw it ever-so-gently onto the plane. Now that could be dangerous!

Walk away from the desk I told myself ... don't want to be stopped by security outside of the checkpoint, too.

So, luckily the airport was not horribly busy this morning and we went to a new security line quickly.

The same one in fact, but shift change hindered us from chatting up the lady who so graciously insisted on carrying my luggage earlier.

I walk through with a pleasant face, ready to see the other side of the conveyor belts to reach some breakfast. It was early!

Then, some man grabs my bad. NOT AGAIN!

I had some liquids, he said. I was thinking -- you can have the hand sanitizer! Take it!
He tells me he's going to search it and I literally think I said, "have at it" this time.
He pulls out -- my water bottle.

"Take it," I said before he could even ask me.

I put my shoes back on and grabbed my bag, ready to just find my gate and go home.

We start to walk away and I remember why Amy and I are friends, as she says, "The water bottle of liquid was easier and more dangerous for putting liquids in than the snow globe."
The first TSA'er never even touched the water bottle.

I agreed with Amy, she picked the wrong "opportune" object.

I think she just wanted my beautiful snow globe that played music from "The Wizard of Oz" for herself.

She sure did disappear after escorting me out.

No wonder I couldn't get a fragile tag because after that bag hit the conveyor belt, there was nothing fragile in it.

So after the long cross-country flight, we wait for the bags to come through baggage claim. All of the bags are nicely placed in a row on the belt. But I didn't see the duffel bag.

Then, there it was, laying on its end and all scrunched up. I pulled it off the belt and grabbed my box. Of course it was crumpled up. But, luckily, the story has a happy ending. My snow globe was fine and now sits atop my dresser for me to admire the city that I REALLY enjoyed and to remember the craziness I went through to get it home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A great morning can turn bad quickly

Today was a first for me: I ran a 5K on a military base. (I guess you could technically say it was a first because I had never lived on this particular day before... that I know of. But I won't get quite that far out there.)

Anyhow, I was really happy with my time in the race and felt good about the camaraderie I saw out at Barksdale. Plus, if I'm not about to pass out from exhaustion, exercise in general makes me feel better. So I thought I would reward myself with a smoothie and roll into the office.

Until I pulled up to where Smoothie King was supposed to be off Youree Drive, and it WASN'T THERE. Man, was I disappointed. I drove around the shopping center thinking maybe they just moved. But I didn't see it. Since I have really made it a goal to be at work on time lately, I didn't want to keep searching. I settled for a strawberry milkshake from McDonald's. I'm sure that had a lot more calories and fat than the strawberry smoothie I was going to get.

Fortunately, I came back to work and did a little investigating. I felt stupid, because Smoothie King had just moved across East 70th Street. But in my panic I hadn't looked behind me. Some reporter, huh?

But isn't it funny how after a great morning, something little like that can really shape your day?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A-Rod... OK?

In case you missed it – because you, of course, need to know everything about celebs’ lives – Alex Rodriguez is getting a divorce. And a whole bunch of people want a piece of it.

His wife, Cynthia Rodriguez, is citing A-Rod’s extramarital affairs. And this week, an ex-stripper took some credit. And some blame Madonna.

Everyone’s talking about it. Comedian Billy D. Washington, in town for a stint at the Funny Bone, joked about it on 94.5 this morning. We bring it up in the newsroom between talking about news that truly affects daily life around here: the price of gas and the Haynesville Shale.

But besides the sordid, so-called details, what makes this so interesting? Should it be?

USAToday writer Paul Daugherty gives some interesting perspective on the obsession. The Yankees third baseman has an amazing career and tons of money. And for right now, at least, that is overshadowed by some apparent misjudgment in his marriage.

But, Daugherty writes, we’re used to that from athletes, politicians and pop stars. This line was particularly poignant: “… it has taken from the joy we feel as fans.”

What do you think? Has this mired your view of A-Rod? Or does it make him that much more appealing? Or do you care?

Friday, July 04, 2008

An appropriate Independence Day tribute

I thought this was a really interesting and cool opinion piece in USA Today. It gives a quick history lesson on an aspect of the Declaration of Independence many of us may rarely think of – its printing.

Antonio Perez makes heroes of John Dunlap and Mary Katherine Goddard, calling them the “Founding Printers” for their roles in making the document available to hundreds. The moniker places them up there with the likes of Thomas Jefferson.

Mass communication has come a long way since then. And the Internet obviously has revolutionized it. But in 1776, printing and distributing was not only a much more rigorous process, it was dangerous. Dunlap and Goddard could have been put to death for being traitors against England.

We journalists, I think, particularly owe a debt of gratitude and remembrance today to these two historical characters. Another interesting note about Goddard: she ran a Baltimore newspaper called the “Maryland Journal.” Thanks to Perez, too, for bringing a history lesson to life.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Road trips for you?

The New York Times ran several opinion pieces last weekend about gas prices. We liked this one by Michael Paterniti. It's about the Great American Road Trip.

So what are your thoughts on that? Is it truly a rite of passage? Are you going on one this summer, or did you have to give one up?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Imus is at it again...but who cares?

I saw the headline about Don Imus’ latest racial flap yesterday, read a little bit of the story that followed ... well, enough to get the gist of what happened, and I instantly had a reaction: I simply shrugged my shoulders and said “Eh...”

I could care less. In fact, I even chuckled a little bit. Not because racism or offensive language is funny, at least not in this context, but because I really don’t get the point of even getting upset about it anymore.

As my favorite gossip queen Wendy Williams always says – it is what it is. Nothing to see here folks.

Yeah, I know it’s a huge contrast from what I felt the last time he spouted off one of those racially charged comments. And I still stand by what I said in the aftermath of that incident.

I just feel like the point was made, action was taken and even though he’s back on the air, he's forever marked his place in history for the ignorant racially insensitive comments he made. He's forever tainted. Case closed.

In fact, part of me, only a small part, could actually consider his claim that he was only saying what he said out of defense for black people, not to attack them.
Call me dumb, naïve or just plain ol’ bamboozled, but I actually could see his point, if that is the truth, and the irony of it all is what tickled me.

I mean, if Imus truly was making the comment to point out another case of racism, it’s comically ironic that he gets ragged for being racially offensive.

On the other hand, if he was foolish enough to put his racism back on display after all the hell he caught the last time, he's just proven once again that's he's an idiot hell-bent on self destruction.

It’s like he’s reached that point where you just wanna say “Gramps, just sit down and hush.” Either that or he’s once again found a way to inject himself back into the media spotlight, which ultimately means more ratings, big bucks or whatever else.

Whatever ignorant comments he makes at this point are irrelevant – nobody should care.
And I’ve given him enough attention in this post, so I’ll just once again shrug my shoulders and say “eh…”

What do y'all think? Or are you saying "eh..." too?

Ode to George Carlin, former Barksdale airman

By now, everyone has probably heard that George Carlin has passed.

I found this interesting, though:
Carlin was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in the 1950s, serving in the 376th Bomb Wing's 376th Armament and Electronics Maintenance Squadron, and working part-time as a disk jockey at radio station KJOE, whose other staffers included Wolfman Jack.

Exhibiting the rebellious streak that would run through his life, he received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site. He received a general discharge in 1957, and 20 years later was able to return to the area to perform at the Municipal Auditorium telling nothing but Barksdale and Shreveport jokes to fill an hour of stage time. Read the story in full here.
I also didn't know that his "Seven Words" routine led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity. I mean, I knew about both of them but I didn't know they were intertwined. My favorite class in college was Communication Law and Ethics. I don't know why, but the legal system related to communication law is fascinating to me.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Race and rights -- what can be more controversial?

I guess abortion and war. Maybe. But people around here love to talk about race -- even if they don't really do it.

For instance, when someone hears me say I had to cover a shooting, they always want to know if the victim was black or white. Today someone was trying to describe the patrons of a night club to me as "urban." Do they mean city dwellers? I think not. The list could go on...

Here's a story from the middle of the Pacific that I thought was interesting. Being a Native Hawaiian myself, I think about this a lot. Being a journalist myself, I'll withhold my opinion.

But does anyone out there care? In northwest Louisiana, folks tend to think of things in black and white, regardless of the influx of Hispanics and Asians. (Some contend Hispanic is an ethnicity that can be grouped into the black or white races. Thoughts on that?)

Do you think the U.S. government or anyone else should be held responsible for actions (now) dead men took more than 100 years ago against people who are no longer living? (Congress apologized for it in 1993.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Remember when ... "Inflation woes :0("

In preparing to write a new post, to remember how to write HTML to link to a Web site, I came across this post from just a little more than six weeks ago. I thought I would re-publish it, just for kicks -- and to see if anyone's thoughts have changed.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Inflation woes :0(

So, I was pretty irritated today after I went down to the Coke machine to buy a 'pop' (yes, I still call it such even after four years of living in Louisiana). I was SHOCKED and annoyed when "1.15" popped up on the window instead of the machine moving to get me a soda for $1.10. I wonder if this is due to gas prices?

I was already thinking about blogging about gas prices because it hit me hard the other day when I stopped to look at the price of gas. "Are we REALLY paying $3.47 for gas?" I said aloud. Now, I doubt I'll ever be asked to give my opinion about gas prices, seeing as how I drive a Corolla and probably wouldn't be targeted for interviews by newscrews. So I'm giving my opinion here.

Even though I fill up less often and pay LESS for a tank of gas than others, I still think $3.47 (or whatever today's price happens to be) is OUTRAGEOUS. But I'll still keep pulling my debit card out when I need to fill up every two weeks or so. Hey, I don't complain much about gas because I know I really only fill up about once per pay period unless I'm traveling. But I DO remember when I traveled to Las Vegas on my way to Louisiana and thought $2.05 was a good bargain for gas in that city in February 2004. Once I made my way into the desert, the price dropped to $1.65 and I was intrigued by the change after just a few 100 miles on the highway. Oh, and at the time, I had a 22 gallon tank in an old 1993 Chevy Caprice Classic, so I THOUGHT I had it rough then!!!

So, what do YOU think about these higher gas prices? Do you see inflation anywhere else around you? And, how about those oil companies? (Do you think, "Don't even get me started"? Please do!)
Posted by Stephanie Bemrose at 4:50 PM
Labels: gas prices, inflation

mahogani (the media goddess) said... wait until you go to a local convenience store and try to score a regular-sized candy bar .... it's a DOLLAR! (remember when they were 59 cents?)

my circle k cappucinos have gone up 30 cents as well (boooo)

oh and don't forget the $4 milk! sheesh ..

pretty soon we're gonna need government assistance for gas and groceries.

1:45 PM
Donecia Pea said... That's SO real mahogani, it's getting kinda scary.

And THANKS Stephanie for giving us small car drivers a place to rant about gas prices without getting chewed out for complaining by the SUV and truck driving folks, lol.

I know it could be worse, but for someone who used to be able to spend anywhere from $7 to $10 to fill up my now 7-year-old Honda Civic, these rising gas prices KILL me. I mean it really is all relative. For me, spending $35 to $40 a week to fill up hurts my pockets as much as spending $100 would for someone who can afford an SUV. It's just all bad.

But I've never made the connection between rising gas prices and that ever-rising pop machine downstairs. (Ummm, I'm a lifelong Louisianan and I've said 'pop' all my life, lol. In fact, so does my entire family.)

3:26 PM
Ashley Northington said... Don't even get me started!

Last week I paid $55.30 to fill up my solara and it didn't reach even reach the full line completely!!!

I looked up and saw my bill had climbed over $50 and nearly had a heart attack. It's getting ridiculous. Oh, and milk prices? I can't even risk it. Milk is now a luxury for me. I only buy it when I absolutely need it.

Everything is going up...except the 27.5-mile gas/driving reimbursement.
I read over this blog and thought, "Wow --- was I REALLY complaining about $3.47 for gas prices? I'd be GLAD to pay that today!"

And I also think that we are -- or at least I am -- very grateful that Gannett IS increasing our driving reimubrsement to match the increase in fuel costs.

So ... do you have any new thoughts on inflation woes due to an increase in fuel costs, food costs and pretty-much-every-service-in-the-United-States-that-depends-on-trasnportation-in-some-manner costs? Please discuss.

PS -- look at this, that JUST popped up on the News of the Day as I was editing this blog: Wholesale prices bolt higher in May. Well, yeah, duh!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The mixed count

Recently I've come across a couple of interesting media offerings that look at what it means to be mixed race. The topic has re-emerged in conversation partly because of the way the Census Bureau started counting people in 2000 and because of Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. (Interestingly, he continually is referred to as the first black contender from a major party.)

An MSNBC report looks at the rise in number of people who identify as multiracial. There obviously will be some growth just because the feds now are paying attention.

Being of mixed race myself, I always like to hear what people think about the subject. Does how you look make you identify more with one of your parents' families than the other? What do people say when they find out you are mixed? Do they ask?

It is particularly interesting here in northwest Louisiana where a common question is "Are they black or white?" Obviously, that excludes quite a few other races.

Read the report and watch The New York Times video below and tell us your thoughts.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

We are as bloodthirsty as ever

I watched an ear explode Saturday night.
It took place during a mixed-martial arts fight between Kimbo Slice and James Thompson. The two fought in the main event of an Elite XC card on CBS.
Slice, who is an Internet legend for his backyard brawls, has become a spectacle in the MMA world. He won his first few fights, albeit against less-than-stellar competition, in spectacular fashion, all knockouts in the first round.
His fight Saturday was a different story. He was actually losing the fight going into the third and final round, when the unfortunate incident happened.
Slice's opponent, Thompson, had one of the worst cauliflower ears I've ever seen.
For those who don't know, a cauliflower ear is caused when the cartilage is damaged and fluid collects. The ear then thickens, and sometimes becomes unrecognizable.
While Slice was the reason people tuned in Saturday night, it was Thompson's ear that stole the show.
Every time Thompson ate a punch from Slice, his ear wiggled from the shock. A wiggling ear in slow motion is a sight to behold. My buddies and I were transfixed. We started calling Slice's punches "earwigglers."
Finally, Slice threw a right hook that caught Thompson square in his deformed ear, and it exploded. Blood spewed, and we all cringed in unison. It was spectacular.
I've been watching MMA since I was in high school, back when Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock were running the UFC, and I've never seen anything like that before.
We were all expecting Slice to punch it. Thompson's ear had a big bullseye on it, and it was just a matter of time before Slice exploited it.
After it was all over (Slice won by TKO in the third round), I started thinking about the spectacle that I just witnessed. Not the fight itself, but the experience of watching the fight in a crowded place with eight or nine friends.
It was akin to the scene in "Gladiator" where the crowd was rooting for death. Although the situation was not nearly that dire, we were just as bloodthirsty.
I'm not just the casual MMA fan. I enjoy the science the of the sport. My favorite fighters are B.J. Penn and Anderson Silva, who are brilliant technicians.
But like the casual fan, I love a good knockout, and I'm drawn to these circus acts, like Slice.
Let's face it, Slice isn't a top-level fighter. He's a brawler, who's milking his 15 minutes for all its worth.
The fact that I'm drawn to him, and so are millions of others, says a lot about our society as a whole.
It has been hundreds of years since gladiators fought to the death in the Coliseum. In that time, we've made astronomical advancements in every facet of our lives.
When it comes to our most basic, primal instincts, however, we haven't changed much. Although, we don't want to see anyone die, we certainly celebrate seeing someone knocked unconscious.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sex and the City's back...Yay?

I remember when I fell in love with Sex and the City.

It was about five years ago. I was trying to get over a breakup and one of my best friends recommended the show like a prescription drug: Rent every season available on DVD, watch each and every one of them and you will feel better.
And amazingly I did feel better and became immediately hooked. I was constantly, feverishly searching for my next high with every DVD I rented. Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte were my new, cool NYC friends and I lost myself in their world of high fashion, cool jobs and men, men, MEN.

I didn’t have HBO at the time and I remember the torture I went through waiting on the last season to end so I could rent it on DVD. I made sure I avoided any hint of someone revealing the final episode.

And when that day came and I completed the final episode of the last Sex and the City show ever – I was done. It was finished. Yeah, there were questions, but that was all she wrote and I knew I had to accept it. I remember the rumors and buzz that a movie would come out soon after that, but then it faded away. And eventually, I let that fantasy go.

So imagine the excitement I felt when I heard the movie was actually coming out this year …Well, that’s just it – there was no excitement from me.

I’ve mustered up as much as I could to be ecstatic as everyone from my friends to Oprah are about this Sex and the City movie, but I keep coming up with nothing. It just seems about three years too late, irrelevant and basically nonsensical to me.

I’ve watched the preview commercials with the vivid colors and humorous quips, but it just feels predictable and tired to me. They almost look tired to me. Like they’re trying too hard. And that kind of makes me sad.

I know my opinion is in the minority, it may even seem almost blasphemous to hardcore SATC fans… And truthfully, if coerced enough, I’ll likely be in a movie theater line somewhere, at some point to see it. Furthermore, if it turns out I'm wrong I will gladly concede the point.

But from the commercials and stuff, it just looks like an extended, big-screen version of the latest episode from the show that once dwelled in the archives somewhere and has been brought back to life. And maybe that’s the whole point, but for me it just seems like the thrill is gone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I don't need any more proof

If you think all the talk about rising food prices is a bunch a smoke, you're wrong.

At first, I didn't notice minor changes like the cost of my favorite pasta meals increasing by about 50 cents or how the price of milk kept rising and eventually costing more than a gallon of gas at one-point (FYI: milk is now a luxury for me).

But after my favorite hometown chicken place kept increasing its prices, rising food costs hit home.

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Southern Classic Chicken. I mean I absolutely love it. I've even dreamt about its greasy goodness before. And one of the things I loved most about the chicken shack was its low-low price.

I could get a two-piece combo meal--complete with white-meat chicken pieces, fries, a roll and a drink--preferably lemonade--for $3.75 when I first arrived in Shreveport in October 2006.

Later on, sometime in 2007, the cost for that meal got bumped up to $4.07. Then it changed to $4.40. This year, that price climbed to over $5.00.

I thought the lady at the drive-thru window was mistaken when she told me the price. I automatically handed her a $5-bill. I was expecting change. She told me I needed to add more change.

I looked at her funny. She noticed my confused stare and said, "the price went up."


I gave her the needed change and I was completely irritated.

What good is bragging to my mother about Southern Classic ("You can't beat them with a stick if you tried," I used to tell her. "The food is sooooooo good and its doesn't cost but $3.") if it costs just as much as any other fast-food joint?

This cost increase has deterred how much I go to Southern Classic (or S.C. as I sometimes abbreviate when inviting coworkers to join me there). I don't want to pay that much for chicken. And I don't wanna pay that much for milk or pasta meals either. Don't even get me started on gas prices (I've spent nearly $60 to fill up my Toyota Solara).

What's a girl to do?

I guess cough up the money when necessary and spend more wisely like everybody else.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are you ready for curbside recycling?

Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover announced today that citywide curbside recycling will start in August. Residents should start receiving their blue bins in June.

Many of our readers may live in apartments, and officials with Pratt Industries, the company that is building a paper mill at the Port of Shreveport-Bossier and is handling recycling collection for the city, say complex managers can call them to get community bins.

What are your thoughts? Will you participate, and do you think others will? Is the timing good or a little late?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dresses, weight and grandmothers

I think I'm going to develop a weight complex.

I'm in my cousin's wedding next week. I was a last-minute addition to the ordeal, so I only recently got my dress. And it had to be altered because I couldn't fit a certain region of my body into the top portion of the strapless gown.

And do you know what the alteration ladies told me?

One said, "You've got til Saturday. Just skip a couple of meals and it will fit. Even if it's just water weight it'll be enough."

The other said, "There's no telling how many meals you've eaten since you ordered this dress. Luckily, you only need a little bit of room."


The entire time I was being fitted, my mind kept flashing back to my visit to Nashville last week.

I was putting on lotion and my grandmother walked in and noticed my beautiful legs. She stared at me and exclaimed, "My God, Ashley! You and those hips. Those legs are getting big. I don't know what we're going to do about them! It's lucky that you don't have a big, ole' fat stomach or I don't know what we would do."

My goodness.

I have gotten bigger over the past couple of years. But I'm not in college anymore. I guess this is what happens when you start a career and move away from home.

But I don't quite understand why folks keep talking about my weight and insist I'm "lucky."

I guess I should be glad I don't have a "big, ole' fat stomach."


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Let's talk about online dating

Now that the poll is closed, we wanted to continue the conversation about online dating. Ten of you have dated someone you met online, and nine haven't.

So let's hear more about it. How did it work out? Are you still dating this person, or was it a disaster? Did you ever feel unsafe once you met this stranger in person? Or did you just keep your dating life virtual?

Chime in about this online lovin'.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A disaster's a disaster, but this puts things into perspective

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Louisiana homeland security Director Mark Cooper. We talked about a lot of things: his time at Parkway High School, communication systems and disaster response. One of the interesting things he said was that a tornado in a rural parish can be just as devastating for a small town as Hurricane Katrina was to New Orleans.

I appreciate that perspective on many levels. I grew up in the country and am aware of how folks in places like Webster Parish can be overlooked when something (natural disaster or otherwise) happens.

But I can't help but think how much worse things could be, and how fortunate we are. With the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China, the number of those feared dead is in the tens of thousands. And to make things worse, the government in Myanmar is blocking much of the aid the United States and other countries are trying to send.

Any thoughts? Should we count our blessings or just keep things in perspective?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What would your mother say?

Today is the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day. Contrary to what you might think, card companies and restaurants didn't create it. A West Virginia woman named Anna Jarvis did.

And according to this Associated Press article, she wouldn't like the way many of us celebrate it today. Here is an interesting quotation writer April Vitello got from Laura Prieto, an associate professor of women's studies at Boston's Simmons College:

"Mother's Day was meant to be — and still is — a celebration of a nineteenth-century ideal of motherhood, when mothers were supposed to dedicate themselves completely to nurturing their children and making a cozy, safe home," Prieto said.

Apparently Jarvis, who never had children, even got arrested for protesting a New York Mother's Day celebration in 1948.

So what did you (or your loved ones) do for Mother's Day? And would Jarvis be mad?

Just for fun — as you ponder your answer — think about these factoids from the article:

  • Census Bureau's count of U.S. mothers: 83 million.
  • National Retail Federation's estimate for U.S. Mother's Day spending: $15 billion.
  • Year President Woodrow Wilson made the holiday a nationwide observance: 1914.
  • Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    Does Miley know best?

    I thought the hoopla over Vanity Fair pictures of Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) would die quickly, but it hasn't.

    For those that maybe haven’t heard, there's an article about the 15-year-old with pictures where she appears to pose naked with just a sheet draped around her (but in fact she’s not entirely naked which you can see in this behind the scenes slideshow) in the magazine's June issue.

    I’m not saying it’s not a big deal…it is. I guess my problem is who some think is at fault. Disney reportedly issued a statement accusing Vanity Fair and photographer Annie Leibovitz (known for her kind of racy photos) of taking advantage of a 15-year-old.

    Really? Did they? Or did they pitch an idea to this girl and her parents and handlers, all of which were on the set and are OK with the photos?

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…it starts at home. Yes, young Miley has a very different childhood than others, but does that make her parents any less responsible for her actions?

    Also, when are these Disney and Nickelodeon kids going to learn that the clean-cut image they portray for their day jobs has to continue into every waking moment of their lives? I mean it’s what they get paid the big bucks for, right? (And I mean big. Portfolio estimates Cyrus will be worth $1 billion in the next three years.)

    But I guess both sides could be argued.

    While I take issue with Cyrus’ parents, I'm not sure other parents should let their kids become so dependent on a fictional character or celebrity that one slip-up from that celeb could affect a child and their behavior. I don’t know if Cyrus should have had to apologize to other kids, and their parents, for doing something that she wanted to do.

    I'm not sure yet which side I agree with the most, but what do ya’ll think? Were all the discussions and finger-pointing necessary? And do you think the pictures are that bad?
    And just because I'm curious...which picture would you think catch people's attention? The one of Cyrus and her father Billy Ray Cyrus that looks more like man and woman than father and child...

    ...or the one that's causing the stir?

    photos from

    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    Cell phones and driving don't mix

    Recently, I was trying to find a parking space at Wal-Mart when a woman cut through the parking lot nearly causing an accident. I laid on my horn, but she didn't even look up.
    She was on her cell phone.
    I have a million of these stories. It happens at least once a week.
    I'm not suggesting that cell phones be totally banned from vehicles, but something needs to be done.
    It would be great if people would use common sense and not engage in long conversations while driving, but that may be asking too much.
    I admit that I use my cell phone while driving, but only quickly, usually less than 30 seconds. Nine times out of 10, it's to call my wife to tell her I'm on my way home. That other time is when people call me.
    Our state legislature has gotten involved, and there are several bills in the works that would affect the way people use cell phones while driving.
    I hate to say it, but I agree that a law is the only way to go. Enforcement will definitely be an issue, but that's an issue for every crime, whether it be speeding, stealing or murder.
    Once again, we have proved that we can not govern ourselves. We need someone to do it for us.

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    Inflation woes :0(

    So, I was pretty irritated today after I went down to the Coke machine to buy a 'pop' (yes, I still call it such even after four years of living in Louisiana). I was SHOCKED and annoyed when "1.15" popped up on the window instead of the machine moving to get me a soda for $1.10. I wonder if this is due to gas prices?

    I was already thinking about blogging about gas prices because it hit me hard the other day when I stopped to look at the price of gas. "Are we REALLY paying $3.47 for gas?" I said aloud. Now, I doubt I'll ever be asked to give my opinion about gas prices, seeing as how I drive a Corolla and probably wouldn't be targeted for interviews by newscrews. So I'm giving my opinion here.

    Even though I fill up less often and pay LESS for a tank of gas than others, I still think $3.47 (or whatever today's price happens to be) is OUTRAGEOUS. But I'll still keep pulling my debit card out when I need to fill up every two weeks or so. Hey, I don't complain much about gas because I know I really only fill up about once per pay period unless I'm traveling. But I DO remember when I traveled to Las Vegas on my way to Louisiana and thought $2.05 was a good bargain for gas in that city in February 2004. Once I made my way into the desert, the price dropped to $1.65 and I was intrigued by the change after just a few 100 miles on the highway. Oh, and at the time, I had a 22 gallon tank in an old 1993 Chevy Caprice Classic, so I THOUGHT I had it rough then!!!

    So, what do YOU think about these higher gas prices? Do you see inflation anywhere else around you? And, how about those oil companies? (Do you think, "Don't even get me started"? Please do!)

    Thursday, May 01, 2008

    Summer repeat

    Like most of Generation Y, I have a considerable amount of debt.

    Debt that sometimes makes me shudder or gives me goosebumps when I think about it. So instead of complaining about it (as I hear many of my fellow Gen Y-ers), I've been trying to find a second job--a place where I could work on the weekends to bring in some extra cash to help pay off my debt.

    But no one will hire me.

    Since I cover education news, summertime is best for me to take on extra work. There are less school board meetings and, of course, less school events to cover. I thought it'd be ideal for me to get a job this summer, but as I stared a thank-you-for-applying postcard from my absolute favorite big box store I realized it's never going to happen.


    And this isn't the first time it's happened. Last summer I applied to about half-dozen places but I came away with no job. I remember standing in a home decor store explaining to a manager that I have already graduated from college. For some reason, she kept asking if I was still in school. I told her I wasn't several times, but she didn't get it.

    Another place asked where I worked full-time. When I told this manager, her face lit up and she asked me lots of questions about what it was like being a reporter. Apparently, she'd been interested in journalism, but she never finished school, she said. After I answered all her questions, she told me she didn't think she could hire "someone like you."


    Someone like me? Is it because I'm a reporter? Or, is it because I already work 40-plus hours a week and I won't be available during those hours? Or, is it because I'm not a current college student or among the 87 percent of the state's population who doesn't have a college degree?

    I changed the way I respond to certain questions so potential employers won't think I'm snobbish or I won't take my second job seriously. I've even tried to omit my full-time job from applications so they won't get scared I'm going to write something bad about them.

    I've got one more application out. I hope it materializes into a position at the new high-end purse store opening in one of the malls.

    Meantime, I've got my rejection postcard on my fridge.

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    The point of this social networking thing

    Social networking sites obviously have been a bit of a thread in the last couple of entries. I came across an interesting post today at Internet Evolution. It's from Andrew Keen, who has been analyzing the Net for a long time (relatively, anyway).

    Keen is questioning the worth of facebook. Microsoft paid Mark Zuckerberg -- who's about the age of most of these bloggers -- $15 billion to own just a little bit of the site. Part of Keen's rant seems to be a bit jealous, and, heck, who's not? Don't you wish you would've come up with an idea like facebook or myspace?

    But another major point of his blog is the importance of the Internet today. After the dot-com bust, it started reshaping as a way for people to connect. Gannett, and by extension, The Times, have bought into this. And there obviously is something to say about the popularity of Web relationships. Before the paper's Web site redesign, people would write anonymous comments on articles for hours on end. Literally. That is still happeneing to an extent, but users still are getting used to it.

    So Keen says social networking sites basically have to figure out how to really make money off of advertising without alienating the folks who need to connect. The money-making part is something newspapers including this one deal with constantly. How do yout think all these sites will progress?

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Makes me wanna holler

    Right now, I’m supposed to be enjoying my vacation and I am. However, there’s a cloud of sadness and disgust hanging over me.

    It all started when I got the text message from a friend Friday morning informing me that the three police officers charged in the murder of Sean Bell were acquitted.


    For murdering an unarmed man leaving a bachelor party with friends the night before his wedding day?

    How can that be?

    The news instantly sparked within me feelings of disappointment, outrage, hopelessness, fear, nausea. And it brought back memories of other such police murders of unarmed men, like Amadou Diallo, Marquise Hudspeth.

    One emotion I didn’t feel was surprise.

    I know some of you don’t see it this way. Some of you may say Bell and all these other men got what they deserved. Others may say there are no winners.

    But that’s just not enough for me. I cannot mentally reconcile the justice of this verdict. I can’t understand how the law says shooting and killing an innocent, unarmed man 50 times is justifiable. I can’t understand how the law seems to always protect murderers who wear badges.

    I keep trying, but I just can’t see how this is fair.

    Friday, April 25, 2008

    The new

    We're talking about it, and folks are starting discussion groups. So we want to know what you think about the new

    A lot of work has gone into the redesign, and the Web guys still are tweaking it. What do you like? Dislike? Miss? How can it be improved?

    The Link 222 staff may not have the power to make upgrades ourselves, but we know the guys in the basement who can.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    MySpace - good for the kids?

    Just like hip hop, I’ve always felt that MySpace is often misunderstood, usually by people who know very little about it.

    YES, I have a MySpace page and I love using it as another way to reconnect with some of my friends.

    And YES, on the flip side, I’ve often said MySpace is the “ruination of relationships” – married or otherwise. But I don’t blame MySpace for that.
    I blame dumb people (usually guys) or naïve people (usually girls) who use MySpace for those purposes. (I’m ONLY joking with the gender inferences!)

    Anyway, I do tend to think kids and MySpace are about as bad a combination as kids and liquor, gambling or anything else bad.
    And Lord knows there’s plenty of stories out there to back my claim.

    However, I ran across this interesting MSNBC story that suggests otherwise. In fact, it actually said a recent survey proved quite the opposite: That MySpace can actually be good for teenagers. Well, shy teenagers, to be more specific.

    I’m not sure if I’m buying it 100 percent, but what do you think? Do you think MySpace can be good for the kids? Or should it be just for adults?
    Do YOU MySpace? Or are you one of those folks who think social networking is just weird, period?

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    When will it end?

    Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may have to arm wrestle to determine who will be the Democratic nominee for the presidency.

    I was looking forward to some closure after the Pennsylvania primary. I thought if Hillary lost this one, she'd bow out. Or, if Hillary won by some ginormous margin, then Barack would've exited the race.

    I knew it was a long shot, but when will this madness be over?

    I don't know about you, but the Democratic battle has gotten old for me. The appeal of electing the first woman or the first black for president is not as exciting as it once was (DISCLAIMER: That last sentence does not mean I will/did vote for either of the two candidates).

    After her win, the former first lady said:

    "Some counted me out and said to drop out. But the American people don't quit. And they deserve a president who doesn't quit, either. Because of you, the tide is turning."


    It's never going to end.

    Who do you think will win the arm wrestling match?


    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Green is the new black

    Lately I've been looking to different sources for news on global warming, what's going on with the environment and how we can help.

    What have I learned? To go green is to be cool and trendy.

    The "green" theme was all over my magazines this month.
    Vanity Fair - the third annual Green Issue (and Madonna)
    Elle - Green Issue (and Madonna) with online components like the Eco Chick blog
    Both Time and Newsweek have also been encouraging folks to "go green" with ads on recycling, stories with "10 fixes for the planet" and of course, where the presidential nominees stand on the issue.

    I guess my concern is that helping the environment is treated like a trend, a fad, instead of a life change we all may need to make to preserve the Earth...and ourselves. And with it being treated like a fad, I'm worried that, like most trends, being eco-friendly has the potential to go out of style.

    Environmental issues are not new. They existed way before Vanity Fair decided to publish its first Green Issue. (Side note: In an interesting post, blogger Frank Locantore pointed out how Vanity Fair's issue was a lot of talk with no substance. He points out that the magazine never mentions their own efforts to be eco-friendly and doesn't even use recycled paper for their mag.)
    Maybe now, it's only becoming "cool" because celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio and Camron Diaz have jumped on the bandwagon?

    I think straight talk is the best medicine for the problems facing our environment. Valid information and facts help me more than where I can buy "My White T is Green" shirt or other paraphernalia. Other than magazines, I'm not too sure if news broadcasts or other informational outlets are too helpful either. (On the Today Show this morning, First Lady Laura Bush spoke about changes they've made to their home to become eco friendly. Helpful?)

    And I'd like to hear more options than just recycling and using LED light bulbs. I'm sure there's more we can do, but we rarely hear about it. And more importantly, people need to know the WHY. I wonder if your regular Joe Smith knows exactly what's going on in the environment and why we should change our consumption habits, etc.

    But what do you think? Have you decided to "go green?" Do you think you ever will?

    And what's the best way to get the message out to the masses?

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    From Idahoan to Louisianan

    So I think I'm now officially a Louisianan. I have been filing taxes in Louisiana for quite a few years now but still held my Idaho residency as a military wife. (I got divorced about a month ago.)

    So now that I'm a resident, I should learn about Louisiana. When I grew up, the strongest affiliation I had with Louisiana was the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark exploration of it.

    Here is some information that would be good for me to know. Did you know ...

    • Louisiana's motto is the "Sportsman's Paradise." Idaho is the Gem State. I remember back in elementary school, we would have some parent bring in star garnets, which are their official gem. Louisiana's official gem is Agate, found in Louisiana gravel.
    • Here's another interesting fact, for me, at least: In Louisiana, the uplands and hills the elevations rise to Driskill Mountain, the highest point in the state at only 535 feet above sea level. Only two other states in the union, Florida and Delaware, are geographically lower than Louisiana, though several other states, such as Kansas and Nebraska, are geographically flatter. In Idaho, the lowest point is Idaho's lowest point, 745 ft above sea level, in Lewiston. This was one of the first comparative facts that I learned about the two states where I've held residency.
    Okay. That's enough learning for today. Now tell me about your home state. Where all have you lived? What crazy or interesting facts do you know about your state?

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    A ballsy move in Florida

    This just in out of Tallahassee:

    "A discussion in the Senate on Thursday turned a bit, um, testy, over an issue that this usually august body rarely has occasion to discuss: replica bull testicles hanging from vehicles."

    Now you know the Sunshine State is not the only place you can see these things. I've noticed quite a few knocking around here on some of my fellow truck drivers' road toys. I even remember seeing a pair when I spent a semester of college in California.

    My truck is not bejeweled with fake reproductive parts, and I don't think it ever will be. But does that mean a state legislative body should keep other folks from letting them hang freely?

    And I really must give AP Writer David Royse some credit for making a story about a bill and bulls read so well.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    The day after

    Link 222 wants to know how the tax filing process went for folks out there. Did everyone do his own or get an accountant to help? Did you e-file?

    And are your state returns finished along with federal? Did anyone actually file taxes early?

    Since it's the day after April 15, did anyone celebrate? Or at least relax a little?

    Let us know what's on your mind!

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    The politics of religion

    I’m a Christian. In fact, I’m the daughter of a Baptist pastor and have gone to church my entire life, but I’ve always felt my religion was something personal. In fact, I only mention it here to make a point.

    I mean, my faith and spirituality is about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and I believe it manifests itself through my actions, reactions and behavior, particularly toward my fellow man.

    In other words, I’ve never felt the need to broadcast my religion to the world on the regular. I’d rather show you. Just like the song goes
    “This little light of mine…” well, I rather let it shine than force it down your throat.

    So, I cringed when I began watching CNN’s “Compassion Forum” with Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Sunday night. (Republican presidential nominee John McCain was also invited, but did not attend.)

    As the moderators and selected people from the audience asked Clinton and Obama in separate segments, to share their favorite Bible stories, describe a moment when they caught the Holy Spirit, or describe how they were led to Christ, my family and I were sitting there like “WHAT?! Why are they asking this kind of stuff? Why are they even having a forum like this?”

    I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. I think it’s a very dangerous thing when you try to mix the two, because you stand a chance of some fanatic just taking it too far and then you got a raging tyrant, or something scary like that, running the country.

    Religious freedom is one of the principles this country was founded on. And presidential candidates shouldn’t have to explain it or wear it like a badge. If it’s the essence of who they are, it shows. Besides, I’m not voting for a minister, I’m voting for a president.

    Anyway, overall I felt like both candidates handled the questions about as best as they could. And it actually turned out to be pretty interesting and provide some insight into their spiritual lives.

    But it wasn’t enough for me to change my vote one way or the other. (Now, you don’t really think I’m going to tell you which candidate I favor do you? Lol.) Overall, I was just uncomfortable with the whole thing. I mean I’ll admit it’s cool to know if someone shares the same faith as me. It’s a good thing to know, but a political candidate’s religion is just not at the top of my list when it comes to who I’ll choose for the commander in chief. I feel like the record of that person's works will bear that out.

    I guess I feel this way because I’ve seen hypocrisy at all levels, from local to national folks, black, white, yellow, whoever, who claim to be this or that and 9 times out of 10, when they’re touting the claim, it’s coming from a place of phoniness or self-righteousness. What’s even more disgusting to me is when candidates exploit religion, namely Christianity, for personal gain or use it to distract people from issues that actually affect them. I mean if Jesus is love, how can you hate or kill people just because they don’t look or act like you, you know? Or how can you propose, legislate or approve bills that actually leave the masses of folks in financial despair, jobless or even homeless, just flat broke and struggling?

    I could go on and on, but I’ll get off my soapbox now. I want to know what y’all think? Did anybody see it? Even if you didn’t see the CNN forum, what do you think about the subject in general?

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    That's what it's all about ....

    No, I'm not talking about the hokie pokie. I'm talking about journalism. To my Link 222 peers, what does journalism mean to you? What drives you to do your job?

    I rented All the President's Men with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman over the weekend. I wanted to feel their hunger for getting the story of Watergate even before they knew it was such a vast story with a huge impact. I watched it in front of my friends to share with them a little bit about what journalism is all about -- how we can help give people a window into what they need to see.

    I mistakenly watched Resurrecting the Champ last night. I say that because I thought it was a boxing movie and didn't pay much attention to the box in the movie store. I'm totally buying it now and I will probably add this to the same collection of insightful journalism stories such as the previous movie. I don't want to give anything away about the story but it definitely shows the full spectrum of experiences a journalist can have, about wanting to share a story that should be told, yet not finding any takers. I also like how the main character dabs at the broadcast lifestyle and realizes he doesn't want to change his passion towards that direction. I absolutely recommend it for my journalist peers.

    Even before I watched these movies, I had been recently reminded of what journalism is all about -- for me. It's about sharing stories of those whose stories need to be told. I was able to do a story in a round-about way of a similar situation that one of my family members has experienced. I felt honored to be able to tell two people's stories even though only one was mentioned in the story.

    One of my proudest moments as a journalist happened early in my career when I wrote about a local event for an organization that supports those who are mentally ill. They gave us a news release and I decided to attend the event and write a story. After it was over, I wrote the story and moved forward. The gentleman who originally gave us the press release stopped by the office later and told me that he carried the article around in his pocket and pulls it out when he is having a bad day because it reminds him that people actually care about him and his cause.

    For me, THAT's what it's all about.

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Prioritizing freedoms

    Images of authorities forcefully entering a polygamist compound this week have been disturbing on many levels. Obviously the accusations of sexual abuse are the most significant.

    What makes this situation murky for some is the religious freedom factor. (That, of course, is besides the track record in Texas for authorities killing members of non-mainstream religious groups). I don't think many people who read this will say it is OK to force girls to marry men. There may be a few who are OK with having multiple wives.

    But in a country that prioritizes religious freedom (with a Constitutional Amendment to prove it), outside views clearly have won in this case.

    There are all kinds of beliefs out there that some think are strange: keeping silent during child birth, reincarnation, resurrection. At what point do you think the government should be able to tell someone they can't do something their religion instructs them to do?

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Time's almost up

    After much procrastination, staying true to my usual M.O., I finally filed my taxes today.
    I was so ashamed to admit this even 24 hours ago until I discovered there are many more out there like me, putting off the inevitable.

    And unlike me, they still have yet to take care of their business.
    Well, now that I’ve quit dragging my slow behind on this, I want to help you, my fellow man, with this friendly reminder/public service announcement:


    No more excuses. Even, if you’re cheapsakate like me, you can either do it yourself or do like I did and have someone do it for you. In my case, I went to the Queensborough Neighborhood Association where the folks were nice and friendly.
    But best of all, it was FREE!

    Here’s a list of some other places that offer free tax assistance, but time is running out, Tuesday will here before you know it. So, you may want to call them first:

    • The AARP Tax Aide Program, Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon., Broadmoor Branch, Shreve Memorial Library, 1212 Captain Shreve Drive, (318) 869-0120.
    • Barksdale Air Force Base, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., basement of the Military Personnel Flight (MPF) Building on BAFB. For active military, retired military, reservists, dependents and Base employees only. Call 456-4765 for appointment.
    • Caddo Community Action Agency, Cedar Grove Center, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8001 Fairfield Ave. (318) 868-7222.
    • Caddo Community Action Agency, David Raines Center, 1625 David Raines Road,
      Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., (318) 425-2401.
    • Caddo Community Action Agency, St. Vincent Center, 4055 St. Vincent Ave., Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (318) 861-4808.
    • Centerpoint, 1002 Texas Ave., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (318) 227-2100 for appointment.
    • Louisiana Department of Revenue, 1525 Fairfield Ave. Call (318) 676-7505 for appointment.

    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    Wellness, or something like it

    I ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast this morning.

    Afterwards, I raced to a school to write about its first-ever health fair. I didn't think I'd learn anything new (I already know it's NOT a good idea to eat cookies for breakfast):

    Brushing my teeth properly? Check.

    Flossing? Check.

    Washing my hands? Check.

    Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables? I'm working on it (I can't profess to be totally healthy. I mean, I did eat cookies as my first meal).

    But, I did learn something unexpectedly.

    A nurse coaxed me into getting my height, weight and body mass index checked by some gargantuan machine.

    When I saw the results, I was shocked. Literally. I almost thought about developing an eating disorder.

    That machine said I was an inch shorter and weighed about 15 pounds more than my doctor's scale--and I thought that was wrong.

    I've got to do something. And, quickly.

    Luckily, those fleeting thoughts of developing an eating disorder subsided: I had three chocolate-covered donuts for lunch.

    I'm going to do better. I promise.

    Monday, April 07, 2008

    I love these!

    Recently, in my spare time in my evenings, I've been look through oodles of photos of "kittehs" (pronounced kitt-ees) from the Web site It's where people in cyberspace put captions on cat pictures. Here are two that I have found that made me laugh out loud:
    Humorous Pictures

    funny pictures

    For dog lovers, there is a similar, but not quite as developed Web site Here are two of their examples:
    cute puppy pictures

    funny dog pictures

    So I hope you enjoyed a quick laugh, or at least a little smile.

    Sunday, April 06, 2008

    It's never easy

    Having recently dealt with a death in my family, I've heard a lot of people tell me dealing with it is never easy. Even when it is common, I think that's true. I've been to a lot of funerals and sat with a lot of families during times like these, and none are ever quite the same. And I'm never totally prepared to accept that someone is gone.

    So I know the family and friends of Ethan Powell are struggling now. So many people throughout the country and even outsides its borders cared about this child who died Saturday from leukemia.

    I first learned about him because he went to a daycare center my mother used to run. She just got back from a trip to Europe, and I hated to tell her Ethan had passed. I even posted a blog almost a year ago when Noel Methodist Church hosted one of a couple bone marrow testing sites.

    People wanted him to pull through.

    Obviously his story will live on. From what his dad has posted, Ethan's parents will work to help find a cure for other children. That is noble tribute.

    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    Armageddon Files, Vol. 1: You be the judge

    Want a sure sign of the apocalypse? Check this photo out:OK, when I first saw this picture while browsing some political news on the ABC News web site last week, it shocked the sweet bejesus outta me. I mean, “How the…? What the…? When the…? huh?” Was all I could manage to articulate.

    Of course, reading is fundamental, so when I took some time to actually read the story, I was a little bit clearer on the situation. Well, slightly, I mean, he’s not a biologically-born man but a transgendered man with female organs inside who happens to be a husband to a wife named Nancy and they live in Oregon. “Ohh okk…Now, it all makes sense…say what? Ok, let’s try this again…” I thought.

    So, I used some common sense and figured I should just read his own first-person account on The Advocate, which was mentioned in the story. By now, I’m sure all of you have heard the story of even seen it Oprah earlier today.

    Well, after skimming his story in The Advocate, I finally understood that this wasn’t about some crazy science experiment or something, but a couple trying to have a child… Granted, they’re doing it in a completely unconventional way that is extremely strange to me, particularly when it comes to the aesthetics of it all, but their desire to have one didn’t sound any different to me than any other couple … Right? ….Or wrong? I’m just not sure on this one, what do y’all think?

    Is it a sign of the apocalypse? Or is it just another interesting example of the ever-changing American way?

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    Jay-Z and Beyonce marriage: true or false

    An editor, who knows how much I love to gab about celebrities, sent me this from a newswire:

    "Beyonce and Jay-Z take out marriage license in Scarsdale GNS Entertainment for April 2, 2008 By ROB RYSER The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News SCARSDALE, N.Y. — Long rumored romantic pair Beyonce Knowles and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter may soon be the first couple of hip hop.
    The superstar entertainers, better known as Beyonce and Jay-Z, recently took out a marriage license in Scarsdale, People magazine reports.
    Citing an unnamed source, people said the couple took out a license on Tuesday, which was April Fool’s Day.
    Both superstars have consistently downplayed rumors of a romance between them.
    Scarsdale Village Clerk Donna Conkling could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
    In order to get the marriage license, the couple would have had to make an appointment and both show up with proof of their age and identity, as well as pay a $40 fee.
    The license is good for 60 days.

    I've been waiting for this for a while. But why did they have to take out the license on April Fool's Day? Does that mean this is a joke?

    I hope not. Is everyone else as excited as I am?


    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Situational UN-awareness

    So I received a story about a man arrested for taking pictures of women's derrieres in a local store. Police were called after the husband of one of the women saw a man taking pictures of her in a local Wal-Mart.

    I would like to think I would have enough situational awareness to know if someone was taking pictures of me. Then again, if it was going on behind me, I may not have noticed. So here's a reminder to remain aware of your surroundings. You never know who may be taking photographs.

    Then, I also saw this story about a woman arrested after she thought she was calling a drug dealer. This is like one of those "World's Dumbest Criminal" tales. The police had called a woman about a car registered in her name. The woman called the police back and "stated that she would like to buy $150 in crack." Wow. She must have thought the phone number looked similar to her dealer's number. Or she just figured the only person who would call her would be her dealer.

    The moral of the story is to not call a number back until you've checked your voicemail to know who called you in the first place. Again, it's a case of situational unawareness, although this time it's electronic awareness rather than physical.

    Have you ever been startled when you realized you weren't aware of your surroundings? I'm sure we all have. Care to share?

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Rounding up the news

    Sometimes our jobs are a little easier than others. Today, the news happened to walk past me while I was driving.

    I was heading back from a work function in Baton Rouge with recently hired Times copy editor Jessica Waldon when we happened to see state Representative Patrick Williams walking on Highway 190. He's been hiking from Shreveport to the state Capitol to draw attention to autism, child obesity and education.

    Jessica was gracious enough to take photos of Williams and his friend Floyd Kirksey as they walked. And they were moving pretty fast, which made it hard for the photographer of the day to keep up in flip flops. I guess that may have made the job harder for Jessica, but the easy part was having those guys on our route home.

    Regardless of how you feel about politics, walking more than 250 miles in just more than a week is a pretty serious task, so I have to give a few props to the legislator. I prefer to do my walking in the woods and away from vehicles traveling 65 mph. But if he followed my lead he wouldn't be getting the attention he's trying to use to help Louisiana residents.

    (Thanks to Jessica for documenting me at work. See? Reporters don't always just sit at desks.)

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Best of times

    In about an hour, our newsroom will pack into the building's conference room to celebrate the best of the best.

    Our ceremony will pay tribute to those in the newsroom who do good work and deserve to be honored. We nominate our coworkers for honors ranging from best reporter to best manager. It's one way we get to tell each the folks we work with how much we appreciate the work we all do.

    And I LOVE it.

    But this event has got me thinking about all the things that I could have done better over the past year--inside the newsroom and out. In the paper and on this blog. In my professional life and in my personal life.

    But all that pressure I've put on myself has really got me thinking.

    You know what I realized?

    I realized that there are a LOT of things I can do better. And I'm going to try to do better, starting now.

    While we celebrate our Best of Times honorees, I'm going to take time to celebrate myself and work on improving all the facets of my life. I don't need to wait until New Year's!

    I promise to smile more, eat healthier, live better, work harder and let people know how much I appreciate them.

    Your turn. Tell me what tweaks are you going to make to become the best you can be.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Behind the scenes of a war

    A story is out now about the U.S. military deaths hit 4,000 but this story, The chaplains: Telling stories of the fallen highlights more of what happens behind the scenes. It's a profile of three military chaplains and their experiences in Iraq.

    Chaplain Kevin Wainwright, from Fort Hood, Texas, talks about how close he was to some of the soldiers killed. He had once had given Holy Communion to a soldier days before he died. Chaplain Jesus Perez, also from Fort Hood, discusses how he breaks down to grieve soldiers he had known. The Rev. David Sivret, from the Maine Army National Guard, was injured in a suicide bomber's attack of a mess hall in Mosul, Iraq, but continued his duty running on adrenaline.

    There's a local page dedicated to the five year mark of the War in Iraq, including a photo gallery honoring Local heroes killed in Iraq.
    Whatever your political believes or thoughts about the war in Iraq and in other locations, take a moment to find an individual story and honor that single person, not as a number but as a life lost.

    (Times graphic/Times photo)

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    A life-long eulogy

    Looking down from a pulpit at a blue casket and sprays of lilies and roses was surreal.

    Even when your loved one is old, it’s hard to plan her funeral, much less sum up the accomplishments of a life that ended just short of a century.

    But that’s what I found myself doing this week after my 91-year-old grandmother passed away.

    My baby brother and I both had the honor and responsibility of giving a eulogy.
    This certainly wasn’t the first time I had thought about what Pauline Vanessa “Granny” Strong Causey meant to me. But I knew that at 11 o’clock Wednesday morning, my words delivered to the First Baptist Church in Doyline had to count. Even for people who believe in an afterlife, a home-going celebration brings a certain sense of finality. I had, maybe, five minutes.

    On one hand, it felt perfectly natural to speak about things both painful and joyous in front of a group of a couple hundred people. On the other hand, it was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve done.

    Jonathan recited a knock-knock joke and talked about Granny helping him learn to read. I read her motto, which she wrote on the inside of a card she gave me for a graduation. It told me, among other things, to be dependable and follow the Golden Rule.

    There were the trips I’d take her on to the grocery store that somehow ended up including a dress shop or plant nursery. As I said Wednesday, Granny had ways of persuasion.

    But after my brother, our cousins and I slid that blue coffin over a big hole in the ground, I started thinking of a lot more things I didn’t mention. Like the hair cut she gave me a month ago before I went to a Mardi Gras ball. She didn’t want any young’un of hers going to a fancy shindig with “duck tails,” she’d said. Or the red capes she used to make me before I started to school. I’d run around her yard with those things flying from an elastic band around my neck.

    As we pallbearers pulled the pins out of the carnation boutonnieres attached to our coats and laid the flowers on the box that held her body, I couldn’t help but wonder if my words were enough. Will people remember who she really was? Will I?

    The pain of loss is still fresh. But I think I know the answer to my questions. When we pick the first tomatoes off the vine in early summer we’ll think about how she’d bake them into a casserole that looks like a pie. When the daffodils – or buttercups as she called them – sprout in late winter, we’ll remember that she made us wait months to cut them with the mower because she said they wouldn’t bloom right the next year.

    We’ll smile as we come across a newspaper clipping she stuck inside a notebook or romance novel. The faded yellow paper will remind us about a wedding or athletic event.

    And we’ll cry when we look at old pictures of her cradling a baby.

    Teddy Allen beautifully described her funeral service in a column that was a tribute in itself. But the best thing we can do will be to live her motto and retell stories about her in life’s little moments.

    That, I think, makes her contributions infinite.

    She told me just weeks before she died that she was proud of her family because, overall, we are good citizens. I hope we can continue to make that true.

    (The photo is from Granny's 90th birthday party in August 2006. Special thanks to Times photogrpaher Val Horvath.)

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Texts by public officials

    I saw this story on our Web site Sunshine Week: Text messages latest access battle about text messages written on tax-payers' time or technology falling under FOIA rules.
    Courts, lawyers and states are increasingly treating these typed text messages as public documents subject to the same disclosure laws -- including the federal Freedom of Information Act -- that apply to e-mails and paper records.

    "I don't care if it's delivered by carrier pigeon, it's a record," said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri. "If you're using public time or your public office, you're creating public records every time you hit send."

    A Texas judge agreed in December, ordering the city of Dallas to turn over e-mails written by some city officials as well as messages sent on hand-held devices such as cell phones.
    Should public officials be put under more scrutiny than those who do not have a public role? Does it only matter if it's a government cell phone? How do you determine when a politician, or anyone else in a public role, is "on public time?" Or should those in public roles be held to a higher standard so not to have this problem? Or is this all just outlandish?

    And, for those of us who pay our own cell phone bills, here's some information on how to save money by renegotiating your cellular plan.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Bad news for reporters

    On this Friday before the start of Sunshine Week, I thought it was interesting that two stories about reporters becoming the news surfaced this week.

    This one is about a haughty sheriff who threatens small-town journalists with jail time for writing about his son's arrest.

    And the one with video shows a women beating a TV personality.

    I do like a good story, and strong-armed law enforcement makes for some great fiction. But it's scary when the powerful try to shut down the truth, something that is Constitutionally protected.

    Fight scenes are great for the movies, but I hate to think one of my co-workers or I would be brutalized for doing our jobs.

    Personally, I have only felt physically threatened twice. And they both happened to be at or near the office. Once a woman brought her scrappy teenage son to talk to me about a photo they didn't like. (I didn't take the picture.) The boy came ready to fight, apparently, and bowed up at me a few times. (The bowing was obvious because he flexed his biceps, made visible by the cut-off sleeves of his T-shirt. I'd say that was on purpose.) We didn't fight because I told them there was no reason to yell. They recently had lost a family member in a traffic accident and were understandably upset.

    Another time a man grumbled to me that he had "no respect for paparazzi" as I asked him if his loved one, who was pregnant and involved in a car crash in downtown Shreveport, was OK. He angrily told me I had to leave, and I said I hoped she was OK. I still decided to stay close by on the publicly funded sidewalk. He stared but never charged. (I didn't clarify to him that a paparazzo usually photographs famous people.)

    I'll be the first to say that I know reporters can make folks mad. Words are powerful, and people don't always like what we ask, say or publish -- even if they know it's true. But does that mean they have the right to physically threaten or act on such a threat?

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    The (insert minority) vote

    It’s wrong to assume that just because I’m black that I’d cast my presidential vote for Barack Obama, or just because I’m a woman I’m more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton. Or that because I fall into both minority categories, that I'm a Democrat.

    However, that’s what it seems like the media is focusing on right now, especially with primary and caucus results coming in. And I guess that’s fine, considering the historic nature of the Democratic nomination.

    BUT there’s one thing us media folks do all the time (in every election, not just presidential races) that literally makes my skin crawl: we overanalyze and make a hyperbole of the “black vote,” or “Hispanic voters” or “women voters.” Another one I’ve seen: “better-educated black voters.”

    I've witnessed talk of reporters being instructed to get elections' race breakdowns and find someone to analyze them. I’ve even heard stories being called “black-voter turnout stories.”

    During the Shreveport mayoral election how blacks voted seemed to be a very hot topic for folks inside and (especially) outside of the newsroom.

    Last I checked there were more white men voting in all types of elections all over the country than any other minority group. And out of the relatively small population of blacks and Hispanics in the country there are a small number of people in those races who actually exercise their right to vote.

    I’m not saying that race and gender in votes should be ignored. They shouldn’t. And sometimes it is very interesting to focus on. But I am saying that in the grand scheme of things, those minority groupings— especially black voters— aren’t really the determining factor in deciding elections. The real decision is made by the hordes of majority voters.

    That said, the next time I see a story about “black-voter turnout,” I hope to see one about “white-voter turnout” too.