Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm gonna take your wheels off

The biggest difference between flying to Los Angeles and flying to, say, Las Vegas, New York or San Francisco -- our last three trips -- is all the damn kids. Especially flying on a weekend. There must be some kind of Disneyland special going or something.

When we were standing in line to board at Sea-Tac yesterday morning, some little menace ran into me from behind, nearly knocking me down. The dumbass parents didn't apologize exactly, but the mom did say his name semi-sternly -- Austin! -- and the dad issued a threat:

"I'm gonna take your wheels off!"

I turned around, and little Austin, all of about 6, was riding around on those sneakers with mini-skates built into the bottom of the shoes. He wasn't buying the dad's line. You can't, he said. How can you do that?

To which the dad replied, "I have the tool right in my pocket."

That struck me as a pretty good comeback, but I figured it for a further bluff, since any tool that could disassemble shoe skates would probably be classified a security risk. And security seemed particularly tight yesterday. I got pulled over and wanded down several times, busted for a pack of Orbit gum in my pocket with its freedom-threatening foil wrapping.

Anyway, even the modest level of parenting being attempted by Austin's folks was nowhere evident on the plane. Kids, toddlers and babies were screaming and chatting away all around us, in quardrophonic sound, with an especially annoying precocious brat right behind me:

"We're flying! We're up! We're in the air!"

The plane hadn't even pulled back from the gate yet. As soon as we were airborne I put on my noise-canceling headphones, cranked up the tunes and fell asleep. Finally, when we began our descent, the flight attendant told us to shut down the electronics, and I was met immediately with more play-by-play.

"We're in Los Angeles! We're landing! This is Los Angeles! We're down!"


Being a parent is great and all, and my own daughters I love. And I recognize that children are important to the future of mankind. But as a species, kids are a bit overrated. At least that's what I was thinking yesterday.

When we got off the plane Michelle marveled that not one stupid parent asked a child to use an inside voice. Man, they were loud. I wanted to explain nicely to the little Austins of the flight that if they can use their inside-the-plane voice I won't need to use my I'm-about-to-throw-you-in-the-Pacific-Ocean voice.

Where have all the seen-and-not-heard disciplinarians gone?

Notes from the Knight Digital Media Center meeting

Topic: What is the state of online journalism and your place in it?
Speaker: Amy Mitchell, Deputy Director, Project on Excellence in Journalism

Quick notes:
TOTAL AUDIENCE HAS LEVELED OFF but users are going online more often.

Survey says: 37 percent went online yesterday

Survey says: 44 percent watch video weekly, up from 24 percent one year ago

Online news is not so much about building a loyal customer base as it is about getting the hunter and the gatherer. (The readers who drop in via Google searches and etc)

Total ad growth is slowing faster than anticipated. Bad news.

Legacy news sites are no longer defined by their root media. I guess that would be the paper.

People are not worrying about commodity news, just working about unique franchises. Things that would be “just theirs.”

Lots of sites aren't linking off site. Might be worth looking at doing that. Many of your readers aren't there because they love your brand anyways -- they're "accidental visitors.

Discussion: (paraphrases)

Vikki Porter: it's not all about clicks.

Heather Buono (Yahoo): You can put up the giant squid and Britney Spears and the boards will light up. But where will those readers be in six months? They'll click on it, but they won't respect you in the morning. (first laugh of the day) They want a balanced meal.

Heesun Wee, Yahoo: How do you balance the sexy with the broccoli stuff? ... if you jump off the Britney Spears deep end, when you have a news story that clearly can't be ignored, it looks really awkward when you try to put the broccoli back into the mix.

Next up: Neil Chase, Federated Media Publishing
Michael Pond: Media Analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings

3:30 p.m.
Question: Who IS the audience???

Neil asks three quesitons:

1. Define The User of your website. A woman or man? How old? Write down a few words describing him or her.

2. Who is your competition?

3. When you turn to your co-workers at the end of the day and say man, today was a really good day -- what is that day like? What do you define as a really good day?

3:55 p.m.
I just made a big speech about clicks. Neil said "Fascinating." I can't tell if he was just being nice.

Britney. Everytime people talk about the perils of watching clicks and how that might compromise our news judgment and story mix, they invoke Britney. I love that. For the rest of this symposium, every time someone say's Britney I'm going to report it.

Michael Pond talks about site centric analytics. Neil wants to know how accurate the tracking companies are at tracking users inside of universities and big companies.

Michael says: Cookie deletion overstates site visitors by 40-45 percent. (yikes) That's the young male user, the "seriel cookie deleter."

Fortunately, 70 percent of users didn't delete cookies within a 3 month period.

How do you change your website at night? Goes more international at night, because they're a morning read for Europeans

NPR: Puts up more West Coast stories after 5 p.m. eastern, for the West Coast reader who is still at work. More shopping, entertainment, fun stuff later at night

Who is your reader? I wrote down who I want our reader to be, not who they are. 24-35, male, professional. Someone I would want to hang out with.

Guy from Miami who doesn't really want to work in online but was told to anyway: People at work.

Yahoo: Male, 25-35, four-year degree, aspiration, seeking validation in their money choices, parenting choices, etc. Smart answer.

San Gabriel Valley paper: Professionals, but also high school readers and their parents, they come for prep sports coverage

4:25 (paraphrasing all this)


  • 60 percent of people who went online in August went to a news site.

  • In this new world of Ajax, 2.0, rich internet applications, page views will diminish in importance. We made a decision to pay attention to time on site.

  • A smaller number of people cruise the news from work than from home, but most of the time and page views come from people at work.

    Page views on news sites are up 3 percent year-overyear (August)

    Neil: The number of page views per users is going down at the New York Times. We blamed Google. More people are coming in because Google is showing more people the New York Times web site, but they come in and read only one story, then hit the back button.

    Cory, Houston Chronicle: We can do half a million page views on Emmy photos. My bosses say don't do so many of those, because it's like crack.

    I said Britney.

    Note to self: Check out Sphere. They do the related links for

    Survey says, of people who visit news sites:
    59.5 percent visited a general new site
    34.5 percent read any news online yesterday
    18.7 percent primarily read newspapers online
    16 percent: no newspaper read at all yesterday

    People who are consuming news online are early adopters of technology

    I'm an early adopter of break time. We're meeting back up for dinner and chat at 6:30 p.m.

    Vikki looked at my Powerpoint and says it looks okay. She also tells me that more than 100 people have RSVPd for the big event tomorrow. Have I mentioned I don't really feel all that comfortable doing public speaking?

  • See other reports from Journalism in a 24/7 world: Decision-Making for the Online Editor A Knight Digital Media Center presentation:

    Report for Day 1
    Report for Day 2
    Monday (Day 2) Wrap Up
    Report for Day 3
    Go to the Knight Center site here for more info

    The Dave

    I didn’t have time to wash my jeans before coming down to L.A., so I fiured I'd send them to the laundry service tomorrow. Then I remembered The Dave.

    Dave Womack was college journalism advisor to me, Kaye, Val, Lynette and Janice back in the day, when we worked at The Driftwood newspaper at the University of New Orleans.

    We called Dave “The Dave” and we called his son “Little Dave,” even though that wasn’t his name. I used to bop in every once in a while and tug on Dave’s tie, because he wore one to work every day -- I don’t think any other professors did. It was like “hey, a tie!” and also like, hey, a teacher who will let me be goofy. Cool.

    Dave was the essence of cool. He never made you do anything. Instead, he’s just ask mildly if you were sure that was what you wanted to do. He’d scan an editorial you’d written and just raise his eyebrow ever so slightly and make his amused face, and you’d be all, what?

    Dave never told you how to change it, but he told you what he thought about it, and it was the power of Dave that you wanted him to think you were cool and smart -- that you wanted to change it, whatever it was -- so that Dave would think it was good. If you could get that quiet little nod of approval out of Dave, man, that was the shit.

    Dave used to take the top Driftwood editors to the college newspaper conference in New York every year, and so after paying our dues for a few years, one year Janice and I finally got to go.

    The conference was great – we met student journalists from all over and we were in New York, by God. The details are a blur – I think there was a St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Janice got mad at me for walking too slow (strolling, really) and Dan Rather spoke as the keynote, I think. Man, I thought he was cool back then. Who knew one day there would be What is the Frequency Kenneth and Weird Danisms?

    Anyways, the one thing I remember most about that trip was we were scheduled to go to dinner or something, and Janice and I dropped by the room Dave and a guy student were sharing, and the guy student answered the door with a nervous look on his face. We could hear the shower running, and the student looked over his shoulder and said (I imagine now he whispered) “Dave’s in the shower with his suit on.”

    I can’t remember if I really saw it or if I’ve just imagined it incredibly well, but I have a powerful picture in my mind of Dave soaping up like crazy in a gray pinstripe. He explained later something about – well, I can’t remember his reasons for being in the shower with his suit on.

    But tonite I took a Dave shower, and washed my jeans that way, and then hung them up to dry. And thought of Dave, who died suddenly a few years ago, and of how I miss him, and how he changed all of our lives for the better.

    I think about Mrs. Dave and Little Dave and imagine their lives must be so sad without The Dave. He was a hell of a guy and I miss the hell out of him.

    Saturday, September 29, 2007

    Living it up in LA

    Here we are in LA.

    First things first, we headed straight to the Farmer's Market for a meet up with pal Greg and to get one of my favorite all time meals in Los Angeles, an oyster po-boy from the New Orleans restaurant here, followed by a piece of pecan pie from the pie place.

    Greg walked over from his bachelor pad in the La Brea apartments. Hard to believe I haven't seen him in four years. We had a quick two hour catch up on celebrity and local media gossip, then I had to head to the hotel to finish my powerpoint for the dillio on Monday.

    Before heading to the hotel, Mark and I took a quick spin around The Grove, our favorite place to see movies back when we lived just off Melrose, and Mark was working at the LA Times, and I was working at USC.

    Mark and I are both grog as hell -- getting up at 7 a.m. is overrated. He is halfway sleeping and halfway watching the USC Husky game on TV. He keeps mumbling game updates to me, but that's all in one ear for me, even though I worked at USC for a few years. The sound of football is right up there with the sound of the fridge humming -- I don't notice it, and even when I try to I can't focus on it.

    Weirdly, when we first got to the Westin Bonaventure here on S. Figueroa, they gave us a room that hadn't been made up yet. It was creepy sitting in those chairs looking at the messed up bed, and at the soggy towels on the floor, and wondering who had been in there and what he or she had been doing. Did he have a hairy butt? Did they have sex right there? Eew.

    The new room:

    Take USC to cover

    Morning news meeting: We're rushing off to the airport so there's no time to even read anything.

    It looks like both local papers are promoting the hell out of the big football game here today -- the University of Washington hosting USC. I don't follow football much, and college football almost not at all, and I didn't grow up here and don't care about the Huskies, so I think I'm perfectly qualified to see through the hype and Seattle-centric boosterism.

    USC will blow Washington away. How do I know this? It's freaking USC! C'mon.

    Even the locals seem spooked by USC, and they're just talking about the marching band! Last night at the baseball game I heard some people saying they saw the band downtown or as they were walking into the ballpark. "They were awesome," the woman said. "I've never seen anything like that."

    I don't know what the band was doing at the time, but precision can be scary. Especially to Seattleites. Plus there's all that red.

    The USC band used to practice right outside Michelle's office when she worked there, and even she seemed impressed.

    I think the betting line for today's game is something like Trojans by 20. I predict -- again, based on nothing -- that they'll cover the spread easily.

    M&M prediction: USC 37, Huskies 10.

    Are you kids packed and ready to go?

    My mom called tonight, just to say have a nice trip. And I'm sure we will. But what the heck? It's not the last minute yet. Why would we be packed?

    Tomorrow morning we'll get up around 8, throw some crap in a bag and head down to the airport. That's the way you do it.

    I guess we'll take our computers too so we can keep this stupid blog going. Guest posts welcome.

    See you in L.A.

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    We're Famous!

    FOM&M Greg Hernandez linked to us from his almost famous blog, Out in Hollywood. Greg, genius that he is, say's I'm "unique and brilliant." I knew I liked him.


    Michelle just called to say she scored us a couple of free tix to tonight's Mariners game. They're already out of the pennant race, but who cares. Looks like a pleasant evening, and we both enjoy a good hot dog and beer. Nice way to end the week before our big trip in the morning.

    Go Ms! Go Michelle!

    M&M MNM

    No real morning news meeting today. I rolled out kinda late, and Michelle had already finished her Friday morning cell-phone conference call and was pouring her coffee to go.

    We get an actual paper on Friday, the P-I, part of a strange Friday-Sunday subscription promotion Michelle picked up at the West Seattle Street Fair, mostly I think because it came with a free book bag. But while I miss having a paper most of the week, on the days when it arrives I don't find myself much drawn to it. Maybe it's the brand, maybe it's the news, maybe it's the ennui. Maybe today I'm just too full of guilt for bogarting yesterday's Times.

    Michelle and I got ourselves into a mini-funk last night talking about the stupid news business and some stuff going on at work, and comparing action here with stuff like this. Plus, although I try to deny it, the monthly cancer routine always depresses us.

    So I don't have much to report on the news this morning. What did you all see that's worth discussing?

    Me and Michelle, we're ready for our trip to California.

    Kate Cohen photo

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    All the news that fits ... in my backpack!

    Thirty years in this stupid business and I've never been accused of stealing a story. Today I stole dozens of them.

    Not on purpose, but still.

    After my doctor's appointment at the UW Medical Center I drove up to University Village, the nearby kinda coolio shopping center, to get a cup of coffee and look around at the Apple store. In line at the Starbucks, waiting for my tall drip and cinnamon swirl coffee cake, I picked up a New York Times and began to skim the headlines. When I got to the register I paid for my food but forgot to mention the paper.

    It didn't occur to me until I was settled in at a table and reading a really lame review of "Halo 3" in the Circuits section. By then, though, the line was really long and I started rationalizing.

    What about all those times the paperdude forgot to deliver my Times and I called but they still didn't come across? We could count this against my credit. But wait, this wouldn't cost the NYT company, it would cost Starbucks. Oh well, what about all those times they've rounded up by a penny or two when Mich and I or Michelle and I bought coffee together? They owe me too! And besides, I've only spent about 12 kajillion dollars in these places over the years; they could comp me one paper.

    And then I thought of last week's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Sometimes you get something from the cleaners, and sometimes you lose your vintage Joe Pepitone jersey, Yankees No. 25, and build a whole show around it. Maybe this is kinda like that. Today I received.

    Even so I was still feeling guilty about all this tonight when I ran out to buy a pound of French -- we'd be out in the morning otherwise. I almost offered the Morgan Junction Starbucks guy a buck and quarter for the paper I ripped off from the U Village Starbucks, but then I thought, screw it.

    Thoughts, dear readers? Am I a bad person?

    MRI Day photo tour

    I was on the freeway to UW, driving past downtown, before 7 this morning. Like I said, too damn early.

    Here's the MRI room. I lie on this table and they slide me and my head into that big round thing. The tech lady said some people get claustrophobic and freak out. It doesn't bother me, but it's really, really loud.

    Here's my very nice nurse practitioner Jennifer, on the right -- I like her -- along with a new nurse practitioner, Cynthia, who was tagging along today, meeting patients. I asked if I could take their picture and explained that I have a blog and was just documenting my day. Afterward, they turned to leave and Cynthia said, "documenting my day ... never heard that one before." That's my chart that Jennifer has there.

    Now means now. Not in 8 minutes

    Things are changing fast in newsrooms, as we know. Not as fast in some around here as they should.

    I like this story, from American Journalism Review, about how some papers are truly rethinking what they're doing.

    Enough said. Really

    From the Seattle Times

    UPDATE - 06:02 PM
    A final prayer for Gloria
    An estimated 2,000 people turned out for today's funeral for Gloria Strauss, who died last Friday.
    Gallery | Paying final respects
    Reader response | Share your thoughts
    Read the series

    Conference call

    "It's the world of infinite niches ... this is a group that is driven by peers ... peers tell you what is a good brand ... hearken back to the days ... it's a million niches ... i wonder about the perception of the values of the brand ... people assess credibility in a different way today ... they have no need for a gatekeeper ... what's impacting that? ..."

    Facts are like glasses of water

    Last month after my visit to the doctor we got into a discussion here one weekend night about MRI scans, blood counts, prescription dosage and the general unreliability of medical prognoses. I've developed less patience for all this stuff over the months and at some point I blurted out, "Facts are like glasses of water."

    Gina and Franny cracked up. What crazy nonsense is this goofy old person blathering about now?

    I may have been a little drunk at the time; it doesn't sound like a very cogent statement, of anything. But I know what I meant. Get a bunch of these doctors in a room -- or better yet, talk to them separately, over many months -- and they're all capable of using the same information to reach different conclusions. Or different information to reach the same conclusion.

    Facts, I was thinking, become interchangeable, like glasses of water. Blindfolded you wouldn't know one from another. Your tumor is shrinking or it's unchanged; either way that's good. Your blood counts are low, but we expect that. You seem to be tolerating the chemo pretty well, but we're going to lower your dosage.

    Michelle, unreformed medical reporter, can't help cross-examining whoever's available to answer questions. She always seems (to me) to know at least as much as the people she's interviewing, and I sometimes think she actually helps them reach conclusions.

    Me, I'm more of the here's-my-arm-poke-it, here's-my-head-scan-it school, and then I just do what they say. I can't tell much difference in their glasses of water, and it could all change by the next visit anyway.

    So today, as she has reported, Michelle didn't make it to the appointment, which somehow began early. Mich, an occasional guest at these meetings, is out of town for work so she wasn't there either. I was flying solo at the doctor's office, for the first time since this ride began.

    I tried to whip up the enthusiasm to ask some questions but my heart wasn't in it.

    Jennifer Wulff, the nurse practitioner who sees me in lieu of my oncologist, Dr. Spence, said she looked at my scans "and they're fine." She looked at my blood work, "it looks good." We did the rest of our little ritual -- touch your nose, squeeze my finger, which finger am I wiggling -- and that was pretty much that.

    I took some karma-depleting pleasure last month, I'll admit it, in mocking Jennifer (behind her back) when she had some math trouble. She had decided to lower my Temodar dose, the chemotherapy drug, by 20 percent. I was taking 400 mg a day at the time, so I said OK, down to 320 then? She got a kind of spooked look on her face and said she'd have to compute it. Then she left the exam room, came back five minutes later and announced, as if she'd discovered a new prime number, than the new dose would be 320 mg.

    Now, if you know me you know I don't mind feeling superior to people, even on such a meager little level ... but that doesn't include the people treating me for a freaking fatal disease! Christ, I'm ingesting poison every month over here on your say-so, and you can't figure 20 percent in your head?

    Today I had to resist the urge to help with the math. OK, we're not making a change. ... Let's see, we're at 320 now. Times nothing percent. That's ... duh da-duh da-duh, carry the zero, bring down the three ... 320!

    The other weird thing was: Dr. Spence himself poked his head into the room at the end of the meeting. He agreed the scans look good, everything looks fine. "So if you're up to another month," he said, "I think we should continue with the treatment."

    "Hey man," I said, "I'm a professional pill-popper. Bring it on."

    But what the heck? There's an option? Maybe one of these months we won't continue with the treatment? Or if I'm not up to it I can take a couple of months off?

    Who knows. We're going to L.A. for a week and then I'll start the next round when I get back. With big glasses of water.

    MRI #4

    No change.

    I missed the meeting. Showed up 5 minutes late because of a wrong turn, but Mark had already been done for 15 minutes. Usually they're late, this time they were early. Go figure.

    Anyways, the little fucker hasn't budged. Same as it ever was.


    Mark gets a new MRI every two months. This is always an edgy day. Six times a year we look inside Mark's brain to see what the hell is going on. Is this stupid $200 a pill, five-day long pack-o-poison doing anything to that stupid cunt cancer? So far, since he started the chemo, we've seen nothing. Three MRIS, three no changes.

    But every time, it's fresh. Every time, there's four options: Shrink, grow, stay the same size -- or unreadable for whatever reason.

    Anything could happen. Coin toss with Mark's Brain.

    Here I go.

    Morning news meeting, quick solo edition

    I'm out the door for my stupid MRI, Michelle's in bed, so this will have to be brief.

    It looks like the P-I actually has a good, old-fashioned hard news story, obtained by the sweat and shoe-leather of smart reporters. I haven't read all the way through this, but the gist is that serious crimes -- including sexual assaults and strong-arm robberies -- happen on Seattle public school campuses much more often than we know, largely because the school district and the cops don't report them.

    "In a few cases, parents or victims say school officials urged them not to report the crimes to police at all."

    The paper got the down low on all this stuff, even scared up and reproduced online some previously quashed case files. Now that's what I'm talking about. Real reporting! Good job, P-I.

    The Seattle Times, I don't know. No mention of malaria. Looks like there's some big promo at the top of the page establishing that the 1960 UW football team was good: "'60 Huskies finally get their due."

    In other 1960 news: Matassa, Cohen born.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Why is JLo so FAT???!!!

    Maybe it's the fried mozzeralla sticks?

    Kids, FOM&M Greg Hernandez is turning into the darling of Hollywood media. Greg has long had a fabulous Hollywood blog that blended his two favorite things: Celebrities and Gayness! As if Out in Hollywood was not enough, he's now launched an awesome second blog. I quote from one of today's posts:

    "Good morning!!! Apparently no one believes that Jennifer Lopez is not pregnant. The main reason: no one believes JLo would let herself get that FAT!!!..."


    Me and Greg at the Director's Guild Awards a few years ago

    Michelle tells all

    Okay, reviews:

    Eastern Promises: Vigo's amazing -- really, really amazing -- blondie's pretty good, script is smart and clean, ending's kind of flat. Nude fighting in the sauna is a must see.
    3 gliomas.

    Cult of the Amateur: Still reading it, still hating it. What a snob this guy is.
    Negative 4 gliomas.

    Yuma: Old version not that good in my mind. Thin, characters you don't care much about. Seeing the old and the new back to back really brought home how great Hollywood has gotten at making people seem real. Crowe in the new version was really astonishing. He's a great actor, the character was great, the screen play very good, the dilemmas and people nuanced and likeable. None of that was in the first version.
    Yuma 1: 2 gliomas
    Yuma2: 3.5 gliomas

    The debates: I don't like any of the candidates, I never do. The whole political process feels shallow, stupid and disenfranchising. They all sound like Charlie Brown's teacher to me. Bwa bwah, bwa bwa bwah. Nobody means anything. What a bunch of posers. "We're forgetting who we are as Americans, Tim." Oh, bite me. "This whole nation should be a sanctuary for the world."
    0 gliomas.

    House: Great season opener last night. One problem I have with movies and etc is I'm always figuring out the ending in the first 10 minutes. House always stumps me. I love the crotchety lead character. What a crab he is. If you haven't given this show a shot, try it one time.
    4 gliomas

    This Martini: Excellent.
    5 gliomas.

    FOM&M on her Creole heritage

    Check out Lynntte "Begonia" Johnson's story on her search for her Creole heritage, published in the Times Picayune. M&M wonders: where's that video? Can it be uploaded?

    "When I was 7 years old, my grandmother told me I was a Creole. She was not too clear on exactly what that meant, but it sounded exotic to my young ears. Intrigued by this revelation, I scribbled down the word and vowed to investigate.

    But I never ran across the term in any of my school textbooks. Nor did my teachers bring it up. Nor did I hear it used on the street among my friends. I moved on."

    Great lede. Read more here.

    Thanks to Kaye at NiteNote for the link!

    Fishies love the Mexican hat dance

    My walk to the clinic this afternoon took me by the Charlestown Street Cafe. Like Husky Deli, the Charlestown is a West Seattle institution. It's popular with old-timers, I think, and also with families who go there for brunch after church. So I've never been there.

    The restaurant has been in the news lately because there's a plan on the books to tear it down and put up a Petco pet store. Save-our-neighborhood protesters have been organized and media-savvy; even the P-I wrote about them. It occurred to me, as I walked by, that I should sample this legendary place once before it becomes a big fish tank, so I stopped for a late lunch.

    Immediately I was not very impressed. It was a weird, mid-shift time, around 3 o'clock, and there weren't many customers -- several retired couples, a few stragglers. I was seated in a smallish, sort of back room, behind a frog-faced woman and her 20-ish daughter and across from a couple of strapping middle-aged guys and an old man in a beige cardigan who might have been the talkative guy's father.

    A young waitress came over and asked if I wanted something to drink. I hadn't looked at the menu yet but I knew I wanted to try one of the Charlestown's celebrated breakfasts so I asked for grapefruit juice. "I don't think we have that," she said. Then, before I could switch up to orange juice she asked what size grapefruit, small or large, and when I said large she spun around and headed off. Strange. A few minutes later she came back with a large grapefruit juice.

    "I'd like two eggs over easy, please," I said. But my waitress said "I'm not your server," and turned around again and walked away.

    Ok then, whatever. I had my book, the one Mom doesn't like, and my iPod. I could wait. The server, whoever she or he was, was taking a long time to appear, and bits of the other diners' conversations started seeping through my Patti Smith mix.

    The three men were talking in hushed tones about some big business deal, possibly construction, possibly even the plan to rip this place apart. I heard the words percentage, margin and million, and finally the old man interrupted the long-winded son.

    "Two percent? No way would I settle for 2 percent. Just hold out!"

    Eventually a high-school-looking girl came over to take my order: eggs over easy, which came with delicious red potatoes and an english muffin. Nothing remarkable about any of it, except the potatoes which were darn good.

    As I was finishing my meal, the woman and her slightly less froggy daughter got up to leave. "One of the best things about getting accepted in the Peace Corps," the girl was saying, "would be not having to see Jason or Dad for 26 months." They hopped off.

    All in all, an OK breakfast/lunch, but not worth protesting to save. Couple of lackluster gliomas at most.

    Besides, what's so horrible about a brand-new Petco? The old Petco could move down California from its prime location in the Junction, and maybe we could get a new Starbucks there, across from the Husky Deli. That would rock.

    Sure, Petco's a chain, and a chain slinging a product I don't care about, but I've had a soft spot for it ever since we were driving with the girls from Seattle to L.A. five or six years ago, and Gina saw one of their stores and improvised a little song:

    Petco Supplies and Fish
    Petco Supplies and Fish
    Fishies loooove the Mexican hat dance
    What am I .... talking about?
    I don't knowwwww ... what I'm talking about.
    Petcohhhhh, supplies and fish.

    My afternoon walk

    Here's a visual tour of my walk to the lab today around easygoing West Seattle.

    Our little house

    The house in the next block where the nice family lives, with Bailey, the little girl who sells dog advice, 50 cents.

    Another big new house going up down the street. I've already forgotten what used to be on this lot.

    Nice little garden at a corner house that's been steadily improving.

    The famous Husky Deli, a West Seattle landmark and our frequent ice cream cone destination

    "The Junction," the intersection of California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street, the heart of downtown West Seattle.

    The lot on California where last month arsonists burned down a half-finished apartment or townhouse complex. These new projects are going up all over the neighborhood, and sentiment seems about evenly divided between those protesting the travesty of new construction and those who can't get their deposits down fast enough.

    One of the last of the old-school apartment courts, a block away from the above lot. I guess I don't share the protesters' sentimentality about these places. Markets clear, is what I say.

    Andover Street. For most of the week, Gina and Franny live three blocks down the hill, at 48th Avenue, with my cool ex-wife Greta.

    Why, who's this handsome fella?

    Charlestown Street Cafe. Lunch story here.

    It's starting to be fall.

    The goat. The competition.

    The clinic. Made it.

    This is Fela. I asked her how to pronounce her name. "Filla. I'm named for my country, Felapinas." Doesn't she have a nice face?

    I must have guessed my birthdate correctly. Walking back toward home on California.

    Parade coming? Nopey, just free curbside junk.

    Where I never am on Sunday morning.

    Easy Street Records, in the Junction. Good record store. I stopped in today and picked up four discs on sale for $8 each: Donny Hathaway's Greatest Hits; Tom Waits, "The Heart of Saturday Night"; Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly"; and Joni Mitchell's "Blue." Most of these I used to have on LP back in the day. The Joni Mitchell is the only one I'm not positive I'll still love. Reviews tk.

    Heck with Fela's lollipop policy. My policy is: Someone sticks a needle in your arm, you can buy yourself an ice cream cone.

    Child-size Husky Flake on a sugar cone. Pretty yum.

    Almost home. A block from our place. An old man just asked me if I'm the new mailman. First time for that one.

    What a nice afternoon.

    Right! You got it right!

    This is Wednesday, tomorrow's MRI Thursday, and that can only mean one thing: It's time to go get my weekly blood draw. Usually I do this on Tuesdays, but it doesn't really matter.

    My routine, dating to the time before I'd resumed driving, is to walk up to Swedish Hospital's West Seattle clinic, about a mile and a half from here. It's a pleasant walk through our neighborhood, and the first time I did it it was a big deal -- much farther than I'd gone before, and a sign to myself that I was getting stronger. So still I walk.

    Also I really like the nice Filipino lady who draws my blood -- Fela, I think her name is. We have our little routine. We say hello to each other at the desk. I fill out a form. She goes into the back to get my file then comes back and calls my name, even though I'm usually still standing right there.

    "Birthdate?" she says.

    "Two-eighteen-sixty," I say.

    "Right! You got it right!"

    She always says it the same way, and always seems so pleased. For her purposes I suppose this shows she's got the right file. For me, it's proof that I haven't completely lost it, that the lobotomy isn't spreading somehow.

    Then Fela straps me off, sucks my blood, gripes a little about the lousy new computer system they've installed, and that's it. It takes two minutes, and she's never missed with a poke.

    One day a little kid was in the same lab room as I was, getting a shot or a blood draw at the same time. He was crying his eyes out, his mother couldn't console him, and the young lab tech on his case seemed flustered. Fela paused from my arm, reached into her desk drawer and handed the boy a lollipop, all in one motion. The kid calmed down, finished his procedure, and left with his mother, all smiles.

    So after, when Fela had taped the little cotton ball to my arm, I said, What, no lollipop?

    She smiled at me. "2-18-60," she said. "I don't think so."

    Our secret life

    This stupid blog has become such a big part of our lives that it felt weird last night not to talk about it with our Beveridge Pub friends. Michelle doesn't want people at work reading it, and I get that -- sometimes we say something that wouldn't go over well in the workplace, and besides our life really isn't the business of people we don't choose to share it with. Gotta be careful with the internets; share something with one person and next thing you know it's all over YouTube and showing up on The View.

    Still, it was weird. Sordid tales of gambling with gangbangers, fine. Gin bottles depleting at the same rate as bags of coffee, fine. Godless rants about sainted cancer girls, kinda fine. But no mention of Incremental Updates.

    People asked me what I do with all my free time -- "like what did you do today, for example," Kamb asked. Well, really all I did all day was write posts about the completely unimportant minutiae of my day. I mean, a fat-free hot dog was the big deal.

    So I just told the truth. "Nothing, really."

    No morning news meeting

    Michelle got right up and headed off to work, her coffee in a go-cup, so we didn't have time for the M&M morning news meeting.

    Even without her here, I groaned and uttered a little profanity, right out loud, when I saw this, the top to a story in the Seattle Times:

    "Here are some important notes to help you if you’re planning to attend Gloria’s funeral at 10 a.m. Thursday:"
    Apparently they've canceled school that day and they're running buses between the school and the church. Man.

    In other news, Malaria (Day 4 now) continues online at the Times, although it must be winding down because I notice they also have an online Q&A scheduled today with a doctor discussing genital warts. I wondered what the next disease would be. Next week, toenail fungus?

    In the P-I, I notice a huge promo for the stupid, day-late goat story. It almost looks like the top of my favorite blog. I'm guessing this is the big A-1 news meeting victory Michelle was bragging about yesterday.

    Reach out ...

    We had a good time last night with our reporter friends at the Beveridge. A couple of people there I'd seen recently but it had been a while for most of them so it was fun to catch up.

    One reporter told a long and very funny story dissing another reporter who is famous in the newsroom for promising to "reach out" to this or that secret source whom he's never at liberty to disclose, even to his editors, and who weirdly never seems to know anything worth putting in the paper. This all came to a head recently on a very big story -- the kind for which you'd be happy to call in your markers with all these long-protected sources -- that broke on a weekend. The reaching-out reporter wouldn't help, even though this big breaking news was on his beat; didn't even reach out to a source. The reporter telling the story last night was still hot, weeks later, and told the story in hilarious, profane, violence-threatening detail. It was worth the price of a pitcher of beer right there.

    Thankfully, little of the talk concerned my stupid health. We talked about movies, gossiped and kvetched about journalism. I did my little riff about how annoyed I get when people pray for me and how I don't want a miracle like Gloria. Everyone laughed, but then I felt bad almost immediately when I remembered that one of the reporters and her husband (who was also there, and who is also the son of a minister), just lost a baby not that long ago. Who knows, maybe their faith got them through that ordeal and I offended them. I hope not.

    Maybe I'll reach out to her, pray for forgiveness, something like that.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    M&M Presidential Poll II results

    Our second little presidential survey is complete. The first asked who you thought would be elected; this one asks for your preference.

    The results again have Hillary Clinton on top. She received five votes in the new poll of our readers, with Barack Obama, John Edwards, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney all getting one vote; another pollee was undecided.

    Thank you for playing along. Any suggestions for the next poll question?

    M&M in L.A: The Big Plan

    Okay, time to start getting down to the nitty gritty on our big visit. We arrive around 2:30 Saturday and leave at 6 the following Saturday. My big agenda is attached below, as the business types say. Here's the short hand:

    Saturday Night: Available for a poker game involving the Christensens, Cohens and Wares-Humes clan, if anyone's up for hosting such a thing.

    Sunday-Tuesday: Booked with business

    Wednesday: Business ends at 2 p.m. Might hang with Mark's friend McDermott that night

    Thursday: Open. I’d like to hang with Kaye in the afternoon, maybe walk up and down second street, stuff like that. Mark will probably play poker, or maybe do whatever he wants. Could be a good night for a fabulous dinner, if Kaye & Val or Laurie was planning on having us over at some time. If not, we do want to play at the Hustler one time, so this might be the night.

    Friday: Not sure what time, but I’m going to the Register during the day to check out their new CCI system. Could be a good night for a fabulous dinner, if Kaye & Val or Laurie was planning on having us over at some time. If not, we do want to play at the Hustler one time, so this might be the night.

    Saturday: Departure day. We’re going to take it easy and wander around doing whatever till it’s time to leave.

    The work agenda:

    “Journalism in a 24/7 World:
    Decision-making for the Online Editor”
    Knight New Media Center
    USC Annenberg School for Communication
    Los Angeles, CA
    September 30 – October 3, 2007

    Sunday, September 30: Opening Lunch
    12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Introductions and discussion of workshop plan, including what’s expected of the content teams created at time of selection (fellows will be broken into teams of three. Each team will be assigned a news issue or topic which will be the focus of their workshop project.) There will be two teams assigned to each topic, encouraging innovation and diversity in the final projects. Topics will be: Immigration; Election 2008; Climate Change.

    1:45 to 3:15 p.m. What is the state of online journalism and your place in it?

    Amy Mitchell, deputy director, Project on Excellence in Journalism

    3:30 to 5 p.m. Who IS the audience? What do you need to know and why about who they are and how they “consumer” online news? • How do you go about knowing your audience? Review of tools, techniques, data analysis, other strategies, etc. • How do you serve and grow your audience?
    MODERATOR/Discussant: Neil Chase, Federated Media
    Michael Pond, Nielsen/Netratings representative
    Meredith Artley, executive editor, (INVITED)

    6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Reception and Dinner

    Program: Informal discussion of what online editors believe their role is within their organization and how it relates to journalism

    Monday, October 1 – The Foundation:

    8:30 to 10 a.m. Becoming a better online editor – Standards, Quality and Ethics: Manipulation, attribution, verification and deadline decision-making
    Presenter/facilitator: Bill Mitchell, Online Editor, Poynter Institute

    10:15 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. -- Best practices: Digital story-telling and online integration of multi-media.
    Presenter/facilitator: Ashley Wells, Creative Director,

    Board bus to USC Annenberg

    Noon to 12:45 p.m. LUNCH on Annenberg Patio or University Club?

    1 pm to 2:30 p.m. -- Lawyered-up – Online copyright and fair use of copy, images, video and audio, intellectual property rights Privacy, Libel and defamation
    Presenter/facilitator: David Wittenstein via videoconferencing from D.C.

    2:45 p.m to 4:15 p.m. -- Best Practices: Writing for online is different Presenter/facilitator:
    Eric Ulken,
    Rachel Nixon,

    5 to 6:30 – ANNENBERG AUDITORIUM -- Blogs, Mashups, Social Media, Wikis and more – What happens when User Generated Content meets Journalism?
    MODERATOR: Michelle Nicolosi, Assistant Managing Editor, Seattle P-I
    Amy Gahran, conversational consultant and editor of Poynter Institute's group weblog, E-Media Tidbits
    Michael Davidson, CEO of Newsvine
    Kinsey Wilson, executive editor,
    Neil Budde, editor in chief, Yahoo! News
    Mitch Gelman, executive producer,

    6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Reception with students, faculty and regional journalists.

    Working Dinner On Your Own
    Teams will brainstorm an online journalism web project focused on the topics to which they have been assigned.

    Tuesday, September 2 – The Modules:

    9 to 10:30 a.m. Best Practices: Programming & driving engagement – how to program front-page news and other content to drive and deepen user engagement – Would include: Planning Content: How is it done • How to plan portal content on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis • Why planning is critical • Can you plan for news? The answer may surprise you. • How do you balance 25+ properties/channels on the homepage of a portal. The Thin Green Line (content, marketing and advertising)
    Don Sena,
    Bill Gannon, Lucasfilms

    10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Best practices: Case Studies in Online Decision-making
    A discussion facilitated by Don Sena, Bill Gannon and Vikki Porter

    12:30 to 2 p.m. Small group breakout Q&A working lunches with topic experts and specialized journalists on content project topics.
    Immigration Reform: Marc Cooper, senior fellow Institute for Justice and Journalism
    Election 2008: TBA
    Climate Change: Jim Detjen, Knight Chair in Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

    2 to 2:30 p.m. Practicum project launch – Bill Gannon

    2:30 to ???? Teams work on projects

    Working dinner on your own

    Wednesday, October 25 – The Practicum Projects

    9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Team project presentations with critiques by fellows and faculty

    11:15 to 12:15 p.m Taking it Back to Newsroom Exercise with Vikki Porter

    12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Graduation Lunch

    A (less than?) average day

    I was blown away yesterday by Michelle's running account of her "average" day at work, and I used to work there. It made me realize, again, how crazy newspaper work is and how accustomed I've gotten to doing nothing.

    So, as challenged by one reader, I'm going to try to keep a log of my big day today. My expectation is that as hectic, noisy, populated and momentous as Michelle's day is, mine will be quiet, lazy, solitary and unimportant. Balance will be restored to the universe. Kind of like carbon neutrality. (Hey! Note to self: Sell "stress credits" to nutted out middle managers; reap fortune!)

    Here goes:

    9:30 a.m. Roll out of bed. I didn't sleep well, and Michelle's already up and showered. I smell coffee. I'm late for the M&M Morning News Meeting.

    9:38. Morning meeting, with coffee.

    10:27. Finish blogging about the morning meeting. Michelle has long since gone to work, and by now has probably made seven big decisions, consulted with a dozen editors and producers and eaten three or four eggs (whites only).

    10:29. Hook myself up with a bowl of cereal. Basic 4. Mmmm.

    11:13. "Close the door/Let me give you what you've been waiting for." I spend the day with tunes in my earbuds, and right now that means Teddy Pendergrass. Let me be that cool for one day and I'll happily go on to the next, carbon-neutral life.

    View from my "office"

    11:26. The UW radiology department just called to remind me of my MRI Thursday morning. "Yep, 8 o'clock, right?" I said cheerfully. "Yes, 8 o'clock, with check-in at 7:30," the lady said.

    That's too damn early. 7:30 is a time to get home from the cardroom, or maybe to get up in an emergency, like when the only time you could book your flight to Rome is 10 a.m., and you need to leave time to clear customs. But to already be someplace for an MRI? Absurd. And they're all the way across town, with morning traffic. Crap.

    I don't mind having brain tumors, but I sure as shit don't like getting up at 6 in the morning so someone else can look at them. Nothing good ever came of answering the phone.

    11:46. I notice the P-I Big Blog has landed the goat story (see M&M morning news meeting).

    Noon. Buzzzzz. That's my cell phone alarm vibrating on the desk in the other room. Time to take my Keppra, 500 mg, the implied promise that I won't have any giant epileptic seizures in the next 12 hours before the alarm goes off again. I also take my One-a-Day vitamin -- the lady kind, so I don't develop osteoporosis this afternoon either.

    12:17 p.m. Quigo. I just felt like saying that.

    12:35. Guess I'll clean up the kitchen. I didn't do it last night, so there are the leftover dinner dishes, plus the detritus from last night's party: empty gin bottles, nearly empty popcorn bowl, a pimento-strewn tumbler. The evidence suggests pasta, alcohol, olives, popcorn and coffee have been consumed. All the major food groups, so no carping or nutritional advice seems likely.

    1:07. omg. It occurs to me we've turned into the girls. M&M has become like MySpace for old people. Somebody comment me! And don't, like, picture comment me when you want to just like regular comment me!

    1:57. Going for my stupid little one-mile run. Be back in about 11 minutes.

    2:13. OK, that's over with. Not bad, considering I'm not feeling my best today (stomach thing) and didn't sleep well and my knees have been unaccountably sore. The key is minimal exertion -- one little mile, very slowly. As Teddy Pendergrass never said, short and easy.

    I use a little iPod Shuffle on my runs, and for some reason it got onto a Christmas music jag today. I had to keep reaching into my pocket to fast-forward (another thing I'll bet Teddy never said). Annoying.

    2:14. Bring the emptied yard-waste container in from the alley to the side of the garage.

    2:43. Freaky. I just thought I saw my name go scrolling by in ad for Apple -- something about Mark Matassa saving the coast. Huh? No wonder I'm tired. I searched around on the Apple site and found this "Mac@work profile": Mark Massara, defending the waves and sand.

    3:10. Maybe I'll go shower, since it's after 3 and all and I went for that run and everything.

    3:30. Lunch!

    This isn't today:

    Today is cool and a little drizzly. This is yesterday when I went down to the beach for some fish and chips. Except Sunfish was closed so I ended up getting a sandwich from Alki Bakery and sitting down by the water reading my book, the one Mom doesn't like.

    Today's lunch: a hot dog at home, with a few minutes of a Poker After Dark episode Tivo'd from last week.

    Lunch update: What moron bought "fat free beef franks?" Jesus, baby, they're hot dogs! If you don't want a hot dog don't have one, stick to yolk-free eggs. But no one eats fat-free hot dogs. That's like decaf coffee, or no-alcohol beer, or playing poker for "fun" instead of money. It's just wrong. Now I'm going to have a sugar-free cookie with my joe and try to calm down.

    5:11. Looking ahead: Later this evening, after Michelle gets home from work, we're going to meet some people from the P-I for a beer at the Beveridge Pub up the street. I'm sure this will end up being fun, but I have to admit that right now, in all honesty, I'm not really looking forward to it.

    This date came about because a couple of weeks ago I sent a version of this post as a note to the P-I staff, basically thanking them all and saying catcha later. Predictably (in retrospect), I got a lot of nice notes back from people wishing me well and suggesting we get together for lunch or a drink sometime. I know it sounds horrible and ungrateful, but the truth is I don't really want to get together with people from work, especially since too much of the conversation will be about how am I feeling, what's up with the treatment, blah blah blah. I barely want to get together with people I like. I told Michelle I'm never writing another note again.

    But I weeded through all the electronic correspondence. The e-mails promising to pray for me get auto-forwarded to the junk folder; I'm afraid I'll end up on the receiving end of a Gloria-style miracle. And we ended up with a group get-together tonight; sort of a one-stop drinkfest with reporters we both enjoy. Like I said, it'll probably end up being fun.

    The Beveridge is a decent little neighborhood spot, by the way, about five blocks from here. When I first heard the name, before I saw it spelled out, I thought it was redundant, or maybe trying to be ironic, or just a goofy label, like generic beer. But it turns out it's named after a street -- the place is located at the corner of California Avenue and Beveridge Place, probably a tribute to Herman Beveridge, or somebody.

    6:25. The drive home. (Michelle's drive home is here.)

    Thanks to everyone for following along today. It was kind of fun. I didn't really do anything -- in that way this was a pretty typical day. But what with the blogging and all I felt much busier than usual. It's like ... what's that principle that says you change something just by observing it?

    Ok, we'll finish off the day by having a beer with our friends. But I wish it were with all you M&M readers instead.