Category Archives: Journalism

Mainers head south to Gulf as oil continues to flow | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Mainers head south to Gulf as oil continues to flow | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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Launch the Maine Stuff in My California Apartment series: Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 1

This is the first photo in an irregular series called "Maine stuff in my California apartment." It includes a book of a history and heresay and a cookbook to mark Portage, Maine's centennial. And a cookbook to mark the centennial of the local Catholic Church parish.

This is the first photo in an irregular series called “Maine stuff in my California apartment.” It includes a book of a history and heresay and a cookbook to mark Portage, Maine’s centennial. And a cookbook to mark the centennial of the local Catholic Church parish.

I’m launching a new feature today on Letters From Away. I’m calling it “Maine Stuff in May California Apartment.” From time to time, I will photograph and share stuff from Maine or related to Maine that can be found in my California apartment. Um, I suppose you probably figured that out from the title of the series.

Most of the Maine Stuff may seem insignificant to some, but it is my stuff and it means something to me. I suppose it means something to me because the Maine Stuff helps me maintain my tie to that emerald jewel of a state.

I’m not sure how often or how regularly I’ll post Maine Stuff photos on Letters From Away, but the other night I took about two dozen photos of Maine Stuff and I didn’t even leave my living room, so there is Maine Stuff aplenty in this apartment. Look for at least one new Maine Stuff in My California Apartment at least once a week.

Enjoy! Or not. It’s your choice.

Today’s photo shows three books found in my California, a book of history and heresay and a cookbook marking the centennial of my hometown of Portage located on Portage Lake in Aroostook County and a cookbook marking the centennial of the St. Mark’s Parish and Missions. Portage turned 100 last year and St. Mark’s – including Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Portage – turned 100 in 2002. Fun stuff in the history book and yummy stuff in the cookbooks.

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Photographer captures National Guard soldiers in civilian workplaces | Lewiston Sun Journal

On a 4-degree January morning, Buddy Doyle pulled off the road to wish a random soldier luck in Iraq.

“We argue to this day who initiated the long, lingering hug,” said Doyle of Gardiner. “I told him, ‘Take care of yourself. Don’t do anything stupid.’”

A year and a half after that chance meeting near the National Guard armory in Gardiner, when the soldier had returned home, Doyle looked the guy up.

“I had told him I wanted to shake his hand,” he said. “I still did.”

He had another goal, too.

A photographer, writer and designer, Doyle had spent years creating glossy calenders of firefighters. Now he hatched a plan to take portraits of reservists guard members at their civilian jobs. He wanted the soldier’s help.

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Daniel Hartill in the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Oh, to be in search of a job – still

But I think things are looking up – at least, I think they are

Not a particularly great week for the job search. I was only able to get three resume packages out – one on Monday and two on Tuesday – and had only a view or two on resumes posted on various job websites.

But it was much better than a few very slow weeks that I have had during this search and my online portfolio has received more visits in the past couple of weeks than it has in months, so I remain upbeat that I will find employment.

I had a couple of days this week during which technical problems bogged me down. I use an HP laptop at empresso, the Stockton coffeehouse I frequent most often. And when certain other people are there running HP or Compaq laptops my WiFi seems to turn to mush and I can barely load even the best websites. There was a woman there Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and I could barely get anything done online when she was there.

(And on Thursday she spent most of her time there talking loudly on her cellular telephone. She wasn’t even working online that very much, she just had the laptop on and connected. I felt a mild urge to ask her: “Do you realize how very loud you are?!” But I’m not that confrontational.)

I also have a problem sometimes when nearby laptop user is using a similar wireless mouse to the Microsoft mouse I use. I’m guessing in both cases it is a matter of similar frequencies crossing over. (I’m not technically endowed so please forgive if does not make perfect technical sense. It does to me.)

When either problem happens I simply disconnect the wireless connection and work on something on my desktop. I’ve starting putting aside work that I can do in such instances. That helps keep the blood pressure down a bit.

Yesterday was sort of a throw-away day, too. I received a phone message late Thursday from the publisher of an East Coast newspaper. I had emailed them a resume package last week for an opening there.

Unfortunately, I did not notice the message until it was after 6 p.m. or so EST so I emailed her that I would return the call the following morning, which I did. I waited for a few hours yesterday for a return call and headed out to empresso when it got to be about 4:30 p.m. EST. Perhaps she’ll call on Monday.

Or not.

I make it a point not to let that sort of thing bother me too much. It would have been nice to get some job searching done yesterday, but that’s the way it goes.

I truly wish my portfolio was better, more stunning, more compelling. Much of my writing is not easily accessible online. Much of my carry involved moving pages, writing editorial, directing news coverage and reporters, for which there are no bylines. Anyway …

Next week I’ll get down to it again. Perhaps I can double the number of resume packages.

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Keith’s ride, Part 8: So far, the road ends with a Honda CRV

[This is the eighth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. So far. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.

I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.

But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Despite that, here it is in all its glory.

* * *

I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.

Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.

Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.

* * *

A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.

I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.

Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.

Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.

I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.

On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.

After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.

I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.

Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.

It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.

The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.

Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.

It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.

* * *

There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.

For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.

I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.

I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.

After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.

I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.

From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.

This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:

“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”

It is much, much more beautiful than that.

Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.

But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.

With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.

But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.

For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.

Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.

But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.

This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.

* * *

I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.

Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.

OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.

See you on the road.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

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Casting call in Portland presents ‘Real’ opportunity for Mainers| The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Casting call presents ‘Real’ opportunity | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine author to sign new book | Bangor Daily News

Maine author to sign new book – Bangor Daily News.

New website Dowser.org promotes journalism as a positive force | Idealist.org

New Site Dowser.org Promotes Journalism as a Positive Force

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News leaders and the future | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)

News Leaders and the Future | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)

Gene Roberts: Newsrooms must tell their own cutback stories for democracy’s sake | Poynter Online

Gene Roberts: Newsrooms Must Tell Their Own Cutback Stories for Democracy’s Sake

Keith’s ride, Part 7: V-6 under the hood and ready to ride

[This is the sixth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

The Suzuki Sidekick was so underpowered that I called it my golf cart. All it needed was a rack on the back for golf bags and a plastic plate on the steering wheel to hold a score card!

Sure, it was a fairly dependable vehicle, but it was small, the doors sounded hollow when closed, and passengers did not sit high enough when going down the road. And I always had an uncomfortable feeling passing or meeting larger vehicles on the road and occasionally the Sidekick was moved by the gust of wind caused by the passing larger vehicle.

Anyway, I wanted something more. And bigger.

My friend Rick knew this, but he had known me long enough to know of my procrastinating nature – there are times when I put off making a decision to the point that a decision is made for me. Options are limited or eliminated with the passage of time. And I know this. It is not a great characteristic to have, but it is one of mine and I own it.

One weekend day, Rick called me from a local sports bar where his daughter worked and where we occasionally frequented after work. He called me on the ruse of buying me a beer and lunch.

After a couple of burgers and beers, he said something like: “Come on, let’s go get you a new car.”

There was another tent sale going on, this time in the parking lot of the sports bar.

But newspaper jobs, especially those at smaller newspapers, are notorious for paying poorly. The newspaper in Vacaville was no different, so I had little in the way of saved cash that I could use for a down payment and I knew there was not much value in the Sidekick to be used as a trade-in.

But Rick convinced me that we should at least take a look. We wandered around the parking lot for a bit and I kept coming back to a golden 2000 Isuzu Rodeo – the same vehicle as a Honda Passport, but with the Isuzu nameplates instead of Honda emblems. (Isuzu and Honda had made the vehicles in a joint venture, much as were the Suzuki Sidekick and Geo/Chevrolet Tracker.)

A salesman came around and told us that the Rodeo had been used as a commuter vehicle and had quite a few miles, but was in pretty good shape. It was a V-6, such a step up from the Suzuki that I was lured in. But in a pleasant way.

The Rodeo had a V-6, power windows, a nice stereo, AC, power ports in the dash and rear cargo area, and plenty of other features that I never had before in a vehicle.

But paying for it weighed heavily on my mind as we continued to wander around the lot.

Rick and the salesman were able to convince me to have my credit rating checked to see if I qualified for any breaks for financing the vehicle.

I suppose working in a low-paying profession has a way of forcing a person to be frugal and I had worked hard to pay credit card bills on time, even if I could not make much of a dent in the total balance.

Apparently, that diligence had nudged my credit rating up over the years.

“Dude! Do you know what your credit rating is?!” Rick asked me, as the figures started coming in from the major ranking agencies. I didn’t so he told me.

“Is that good?” I replied.

The sales manager and Rick both looked up smiling. Apparently, it was really, really good.

“Man, oh, yeah! It’s good!” Rick said with a bit of excitement.

So, I worked out a payment plan, traded in the Sidekick, and drove away in the Rodeo.

Going from a “golf cart” to a V-6 – the first V-6 I had owned since the Caprice Classic – was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. I no longer had to worry so much about merging into traffic or making it up hills. Driving in the Sierra was a pleasure!

I don’t recall having buyer’s remorse when I bought the Rodeo. If I did, it must have been short-lived and I enjoyed driving around for years in the Rodeo, especially with Hawaiian-print seat covers, as I had in the Suzuki. Driving with Hawaiian-print seat covers is always, always better than driving without them. (If you have to ask “why?” then you simply would not get it.)

Besides being much more comfortable and powerful and enjoyable to drive, the Rodeo also gave me quite a bit more safety. It was larger and heavier, of course, and there were more airbags and other safety gear. A gust of wind from a passing vehicle no longer moved the vehicle.

The Rodeo was my ride when I left The Reporter in Vacaville and started working for The Record in Stockton. I was the opinion page editor at The Reporter when I was hired at The Record to be one of three assistant city editors.

I did not move to Stockton right away; I commuted from Vacaville. I drove on state Highways 113 and 12, both roads notorious for the traffic wrecks – many of them fatal – and a short distance on Interstate 5. Initially, I worked a night shift at The Record, supervising reporters, monitoring the police scanner, dispatching reporters and photographers, and making sure stories were read and flowed to paginators – the people who design and put together the electronic versions of newspaper pages. It was a stressful job when things went hectically and boring otherwise.

Many times I left The Record, lighted a cigar, and drove up I-5 to the Lodi cutoff onto westbound Highway 12, turning off east of Fairfield and Suisun City to northbound Highway 113. The drive home at times was more stressful than the job. Driving on Highways 113 and 12 meant narrow lanes, undulating pavement, semi-blind curves, impatient motorists, and the occasional loose cattle.

After about six months or so, Rick and his wife, Michele, and another former Reporter coworker, James, helped me load a moving van and Rick and I headed eastward with the bulk of my belongings to the apartment I had rented in Stockton.

Stockton has a reputation for being a rough and tumble city. And rightfully so. It is on an inland port, the gateway of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and at the heart of the California Central Valley’s agricultural industry. Stockton is the county seat of San Joaquin County; county seats tend to draw a wide spectrum of people, some for the economic and political opportunities and others for county and state social services.

But I had not enjoyed commuting an hour each way from and to Vacaville. In late 2006, I found an apartment in central Stockton near the University of the Pacific. The apartment had an underground garage in which to park my ride, which made things more comfortable for me on several levels – I no longer needed to commute, which was putting wear and tear on me and the Rodeo, and I could park in a protected garage.

For the next couple of years working for The Record, I generally drove a couple of miles from the underground garage at my apartment to a fenced and patrolled parking lot across the street from The Record. It was a much better situation than commuting from Vacaville.

Along the way, the newspaper industry began to spiral out of control. In an effort to cut costs, there was a newsroom reorganization in which I was essentially demoted. (My feeling about this is not new or unknown; at the time, I told the managing editor that there was no other way to look at what was being done to me except that it was a demotion. He did not offer arguments to the contrary.)

Instead of working nights or days, which I also had done, I was working a modified shift in which I started at 6 a.m. updating the newspaper website content from overnight news, posted business, traffic and weather, went out on spot news, and help out inputting other information for the print and web versions of the newspaper. I also monitored comments left on stories posted on the website.

Driving to work one morning in 2008, I was stopped at a light at an intersection a half block from the parking lot I used when working at The Record. A Chevrolet Tahoe coming in the opposite direction did not stop at the red light, was T-boned by a vehicle that had the right-of-way, and the Tahoe was spun into my Rodeo.

I remember stiffening and yelling “No, no, no!” as the Tahoe spun around and into my vehicle.

The impact was not severe enough to cause me injury – other than a stiff back – or even to cause the airbags to deploy, but it was enough to destroy my front tire, front bumper, the radiator, and more. It was totaled.

The Tahoe’s driver, who was accompanied by a teen boy and teen girl who I presumed were his children, tried to say that the other vehicle had blown the red light, probably because the other vehicle was a beat up pickup with two passengers who appeared as they had lived a rough life. But I told him no, no, no, that he had blown the red light. He didn’t argue too hard and his insurance eventually more than paid off my Rodeo.

With a little help from a former Reporter coworker, I was able to get a lease on a 2008 Honda CRV, the first ever brand new vehicle I have ever owner/leased.

 Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

 

Keith’s rides, Part 6: Riding a golf cart and being splattered by pig doo

[This is the sixth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Working at smaller newspapers usually means – besides not making a lot of money – that you mingle with people in other departments and you develop relationships throughout the newspaper building. Reporters and editors become friends – and more – with photographers, advertising representatives, graphic artists, circulation workers, and the press crew.

That was the case when I worked at The Reporter in Vacaville. Some of my best friends were from outside the newsroom, especially the ad department.

And knowing that my Nissan was on its last legs, several advertising representatives were on the lookout on my behalf for a vehicle. One day I received a call and on the other end of the line was an ad rep telling me that I should get down to a nearby auto tent sale, which I did. That is where I picked up my Suzuki Sidekick.

A Sidekick was a poor-guy’s option for a sport utility vehicle. It was red, small, boxy, somewhat under-built, and very underpowered – I seem to recall that the horsepower was at sub-100, which is not very much. It was fine on the flatlands, but was no fun to drive into the Sierra Nevada. I joked that it was so small and underpowered that it was much like driving a golf cart, which my friends readily – too readily in some cases – accepted as the true name of my ride.

The Suzuki built the Sidekick as part of a joint venture with Geo – remember Geo? – and later Chevrolet. The Sidekick was the same as the Geo Tracker – later, Chevrolet Tracker – except for different emblems used by the carmakers.

I don’t hear about carmakers working jointly with competitors like that anymore, but it is a bit ironic that my next vehicle, a 2000 Isuzu Rodeo, was a joint-venture vehicle. The Rodeo is the same as the Honda Passport. More on that later.

As I think back on the Sidekick, I don’t recall very many stunning moments with the vehicle. It was an OK vehicle and I suffered a bit of buyers’ remorse, but it eventually passed.

I was having dinner at friends Rick and Michele’s home in Vacaville about two weeks after purchasing the Sidekick. Our friend and co-worker Cliff was there, too. Cliff’s vehicle – I think he was in the red Dodge pickup by then – was parked near mine. A lovely evening was marred by the fact someone had keyed both our vehicles, which we discovered later. I hate that! Why does anyone have to do something like that? (It’s a rhetorical question. I don’t really expect an answer.)

The Sidekick was convenient for when I house- and dog-sat for Rick and Michele and Cliff. The backseats folded down and Lucy, a German shorthaired hound, and Lexe, a Springer spaniel, fit nicely in the back. The dogs – collectively known as Da Girls, Goombahs, and other assorted names – did not seem to mind the low horsepower of the Sidekick. All they wanted to do was be along for a ride and to plaster the inside of my car windows with dog slobber.

The other animal-related thing I recall about the Sidekick is that I was driving back to the office one day after lunch and I was following too closely a cattle trailer carrying pigs. Um, yeah, it was a mistake and required plenty of quarters at the local self-serve car wash.

And I changed out a starter motor on the Sidekick, just as I had a couple of times in the Nissan pickup. But in the Sidekick, the engine compartment was so much smaller and the starter motor jammed in so very tight that it took me several hours and several scuffed knuckles to complete the task. It was a miserable experience and it may have contributed to me developing the urge for a new ride, which turned out to be the Rodeo.

 Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

Keith’s rides Part 5: Driving a Nissan pickup into the ground to end up with a Sidekick

[This is the fifth of seven eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

I was hired in February 1988 to be the editor of The Mendocino Beacon, a small weekly newspaper on the famed California North Coast. It was my first job after having graduated from California State University in Chico and I was pretty excited about it.

By the way, that month between graduating and being hired by publisher Joe Edwards is the longest I have ever been without a job up until this past year.

What I needed for the job was a set of dependable wheels. A college buddy drove me around to a couple of the used car lots in Chico and I finally settled on a white Nissan unibody pickup. I mention the unibody only because it was the first half-model year in which the unibody was featured, or so the salesman told me.

The pickup was a repo – there was a cigarette scar on a floorboard and the owner’s manual was missing – and there was no radio, air conditioning, or power steering. It also had manual transmission, but it would be perfect for getting around for the time being.

I used the pickup to make several trips between Chico and Fort Bragg, where I lived the first few months I worked at The Mendocino Beacon. There are some very winding roads between Interstate 5 and the coast and it required quite a bit of wrangling to get the pickup with no power steering between the two cities. My hands were swollen and my shoulders achy by the time I was done moving from Chico to Fort Bragg.

My tiny studio apartment was in an old former hospital on the hill east of the lumbering and tourist community of Fort Bragg. I could see the Pacific Ocean from my apartment, which was fantastic.

When I say The Mendocino Beacon was small, I mean small. I seem to recall that the weekly circulation was about 2,300 readers, mostly locals, former locals, tourists, and people considering a move to the North Coast. (The region, also called the Redwood Empire or the Redwood Coast, is generally made up of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties. The marijuana-growing part of that area is known as the Emerald Triangle.)

And when I say I was the editor, what I really mean to say is that I did pretty much everything. I wrote news, sports and features stories, I wrote the editorials, took photos, wrote headlines and cutlines, I edited the copy coming in from a handful of columnists, designed and laid out the pages, everything. I even sold classified ads if I was the only one in the office.

But a very lovely perk of the job was that I could stand up at my desk and see the Mendocino Bay and beyond that the Pacific Ocean. Perfection.

I used the pickup to commute from Fort Bragg to Mendocino for a while, but eventually moved into a studio apartment in Mendocino above the barn/garage of an elderly couple from France. They had the same last name as mine, but with a slightly different spelling. He had been in a concentration camp during World War II.

The yard was lovely with apple trees, flowers, and a fish pond. I did yard work to work off some of the rent and I sometimes used the pickup for that work.

[Fun story not related to one of Keith’s rides: I worked at The Mendocino Beacon when the Rev. Jesse Jackson was running for president, and some local Democratic Party leaders somehow had been able to arrange for Jackson to be at a rally on the Mendocino Headlands. As I recall, Jackson was quite a bit behind the frontrunners and I think the rally was to help gain support among environmentalists and the gay community. Anyway, I had the story that Jackson was coming on the front page on the third week from the week of the rally and the second week from the rally, but put the story on Page 3 the week before the rally. The story had not changed and there was other news happening. So, on the day of the rally, one of the local Democratic Party leaders leads the 3,000 to 5,000 people at the rally in booing me and The Mendocino Beacon because I had put the story on Page 3 the week before the rally. That was pretty humiliating for me given this was my first experience with that sort of thing. That was tempered a bit, however, because fog kept Jackson from landing at the Little River Airport. And by the time they had come up with a plan to bus him in, it was too late. Jackson never made the rally. Well, not until some months later when the rally could be rescheduled. And when he arrived, I stood within 50 feet of him … with heavy armed Secret Service agents between me and him, of course. Say what you will about Jesse Jackson, he is a moving orator.]

I stayed at The Mendocino Beacon for less than a year. The 70-hour weeks were taking their toil and I felt it was time to move onto something else. I was hired at The Daily Journal in Ukiah, Calif., where I covered crime, police and fire departments, county government, courts, the wine industry, and some environmental news. The pickup was great for moving from Fort Bragg to Ukiah, where I stayed for a couple of years.

On one day off I was driving into nearby Anderson Valley to pick up mill ends – the pieces trimmed off at sawmills to make various board lengths – for my then girlfriend to use in her fireplace. I was driving too fast, I admit it, when I came to a bridge. It was winter and the bridge was slicker than the regular pavement and I lost control.

The pickup skidded a bit – I recall that the pickup nearly hit a station wagon going in the opposition direction – and spun out of control. The pickup ended up perched on the edge of a stream bed with a sapling the only thing holding it – and me – from tumbling in to stream. I was able to climb out and the woman driving the station wagon was nice enough to stop, check on my wellbeing, and offer to call for a tow truck. I thanked her.

I also thanked that sapling for holding on long enough for the AAA tow truck to arrive and pull the pickup back on to the road shoulder.

I was driving the pickup on a rough city street in Ukiah just as the Loma Prieta quake Oct. 17, 1989. I was on my way home to watch the World Series on TV, but the earthquake put a hold on that. Many people in Ukiah felt the quake, but I didn’t. The pickup was a rough ride no matter what and on a rough city street I didn’t feel a little bit of shaking.

The pickup was used in moving to jobs in Woodland – where I lived and work when I paid off the pickup – and later Vacaville. Trust me when I say this – the summer heat of Ukiah, Woodland and Vacaville make you regret not having air conditioning. There were more than a few times when I thought I would melt into the pickup seat.

The pickup also help me stretched my incredibly limited mechanic skills. Apparently, Nissan at the time was known for having crappy starter motors. The first one I traded out took me about three hours. I got that down to about 20 or 30 minutes by the time I traded out my last starter motor on the pickup.

One other notable event with the Nissan happened while I was covering crime in Vacaville. I went out to a TC – traffic collision – and was gathering information about the crash and the person hurt in the crash. The victim was loaded into the ambulance and the ambulance driver – a fire captain for the Vacaville city department – promptly backed the city ambulance into the pickup, crushing the fender and flattening a tire.

The city of Vacaville paid to have that fixed.

It wasn’t too much later that I noticed that the pickup was not as peppy as it once was – I had driven it pretty hard for the time that I had it – and, besides, I started yearning for a new ride.

Of course, the problem was finances. A person does not get rich working for a newspaper.

Several friends in the newspaper’s advertising department knew that I was looking for a new vehicle. That’s how I ended up at a used car tent sale at the parking lot of the Nut Tree Restaurant. Vacaville and Interstate 80 landmark had been closed for a year or so, if I recall correctly. That’s how I ended up with the Suzuki Sidekick.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

Commissioner of Maine’s IF and W responds to Down East blogger | DownEast.com

Commissioner of Maine’s IF&W responds to Down East blogger | DownEast.com

[I immeatedly thought two things after reading the letter from the IF&W commisssioner: 1) this is what happens when non-journalistically trained writers (meaning the Down East blogger) are let loose; and 2) media in Maine should have known better than to run with the allegations presented without doing a extensive vetting of theinformation. Shame on the blogger. Shame on media in Maine. For full disclosure, I have linked to Mr. Smith’s blog in the past. Now I may not do it as frequently as I once had. … I must say, one of the commissioner’s lines was great. It included the phrase: “were nothing more than unsubstantiated coyote cries into the night.” — KM]

Laid-off journalist being a tiny bit whiny

Some anniversaries simply are not meant to be celebrated. The death of a loved one. The start of war. The day reality TV started. These are anniversaries best not noted.

Today is one of those days, at least for me.

But I’m going to note it anyway.

It was one year today that I was laid off. Before that I had been in the newspaper industry for 22 years working as a reporter, copy editor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor and website staff writer. The only other time I had been laid off was from a restaurant table-busing job I had in college and that was because I took off with little notice for about a month to work at my other summer job as a wildland firefighter.

A beautiful and beautifully talented woman who was laid off the same day from the same newspaper calls it a “canniversary” – a year since being canned. She is among the very lucky; she counts being laid off as a blessing because she found a new career outside of the newspaper industry doing things that she loves. I am pleased for her and not at all surprised she found a bit of employment bliss.

Some of us, not so lucky. But still very much plugging away.

Really, I don’t want to come across as whiny. At least, not too much.

I have written that I knew a year ago that losing my job was not my fault, but instead the result of a convulsing economy and industry leaders who were blind to or simply ignored the emerging trends in the newspaper industry. Of course, those same industry leaders retained their jobs, while talented people such as my “canniversary” friend were sent packing.

The sting of unemployment is somewhat tempered by the fact that so many other people were out of work, too. Misery loves company, no matter the source of the misery. It was not so easy to say that there was work for anyone who wanted it bad enough, because there simply was not work for anyone who wanted it.

Like so very many others in the same situation, things have not been great for me in the past year. OK, but not great. Despite the financial, emotional and psychological stress being laid off has caused me, I think overall I’m OK.

Sure, there have been ebbs and flows, ups and downs, ins and outs, people who say “yes” and people who say “no.” But I’d like to think that I’ve gained experience and knowledge that I will be able to use into the future.

The holidays were the roughest days, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect – too many three-day weekends. That makes for a very poor job-searching environment. Joblessness is demoralizing and it is made even more debilitating when there simply is nothing a person can do, not even search job websites because there are no new postings over the long weekend.

But you learn to move on. You learn to always take a step forward. And another. Always forward. Never give up the high ground and never give up ground gained. And you do it because there is no other option.

I don’t often quote stogie-chomping fat guys, but they say Winston Churchill told a nation once, “Never, never, never give up.” I’m rather too stubborn to give up, either.

Of course, forward movement doesn’t always work out the way you plan. And I’ve done my share of back-stepping the past couple of months. I’ve stumbled over stones and boulders and mountains, some of them of my own making, and some the making of malicious characters seen and unseen. (That’s not too whiny, is it?)

No matter, forward continues to be the only direction.

By the way, the past couple of days have been OK. I have been dreading for months this “canniversary.” I never expected that I would be out of work for three months, let alone a year, but I have been.

I remain optimistic that things will get better. I am optimistic and certain that I will find employment, either in the news industry or in a field less abusive to those people working in it.

And I am true to the idea that this will not define me, but ultimately make me stronger.

Bankruptcy court OKs MediaNews parent’s Chapter 11 plan | Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:

Bankruptcy court OKs MediaNews parent’s Chapter 11 plan – Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:.

Something from ProPublica about investigative journalism

Here’s a message from ProPublica for those of you interested in what is going on in the world in general and the world of news more specifically. As always, enjoy. Or not. Your choice. — KM 

Hi,

I’ve been getting ProPublica’s major investigations in my inbox, and I thought you’d appreciate them, too. Check it out: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6253/t/9245/signUp.jsp?key=1841

ProPublica’s reporting has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR, and their newsroom is making great strides in repairing our broken news media.

Want to stay on top of their one-of-a-kind investigations featured in papers across the country? Get updates about ProPublica’s major investigations: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6253/t/9245/signUp.jsp?key=1841

Something from ProPublica about investigative journalism

Here’s a message from ProPublica for those of you interested in what is going on in the world in general and the world of news more specifically. As always, enjoy. Or not. Your choice. — KM 

Hi,

I’ve been getting ProPublica’s major investigations in my inbox, and I thought you’d appreciate them, too. Check it out: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6253/t/9245/signUp.jsp?key=1841

ProPublica’s reporting has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR, and their newsroom is making great strides in repairing our broken news media.

Want to stay on top of their one-of-a-kind investigations featured in papers across the country? Get updates about ProPublica’s major investigations: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6253/t/9245/signUp.jsp?key=1841

Comfort food helps ease the sting of rejection

I’m feeling a little piled on lately when it comes to rejection. I batted 1.000 at the end of this week – a rejection notice each on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

I’m not sure if it would have been any better if they had all arrived on the same day or if they had come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or if one of the notices had arrived today, Saturday.

I might have taken it hard – at least, harder than I am anyway – if I had not already moved all three of those jobs into my “REJECTION” folder on my laptop. I give jobs – or, rather, the agencies, organizations or businesses posting a job opening – about one month or so after applying for the job before pretty much giving up on that job. If I don’t hear back from them, I then move the job from “PENDING” to “REJECTION.” It had been a month or longer for all three without hearing anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Note to human resources officials: Let job seekers know if you receive applications and resume packets, and give them a reasonable timeframe in which the hiring process will be carried out. That is especially true when the economy and jobs outlook is so tenuous, as it is now. It borders on cruel and unusual behavior to not contact people who are so very desperate.

I know, I know, I know, some openings draw many applicants. One of the rejection notices I received this week noted that the agency had received about 400 resumes for one opening. But some online or email application processes include an automatic reply that applications or resumes have been received. Including a mention in the email of a hiring process timeframe seems a reasonable request.

To be fair to the three organizations that rejected me last week, others did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of applications and resume packets. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Listen, we jobseekers knows that you receive hundreds of applications and resume packets – we know, because we are the ones sending out hundreds of resume packets. We’re not asking for false hope, we’re just asking to be given word within a reasonable time whether we can expect to hear about our chances.

Note to human resources officials: I know there must be a reason – low-balling applicants seems the only reason, but there may be real reasons – for not including the salary range on job notices. But including such information helps a jobseeker sort through the openings he or she plans to apply for, thus eliminating for some potential employers a bit of the flood of applications and resumes for certain jobs.

Jobseekers’ time is valuable, too. It is incredibly demoralizing to go through the process of writing a cover letter, individualizing resumes and arranging references for a job opening only to find out midway or later in the process that the salary range cannot support a jobseekers’ cost of living.

I’m not talking extras, just the cost of living. In the past year I have applied for several jobs for which I later learned the accompanying salary would not or would barely cover just basic expenses, let alone health insurance or investment in retirement accounts.

OK, enough of the mini-rant on the job search. I remain optimistic that I will find a job, but not as optimistic as I once was. I am concerned before I find a job I will be forced into to find training for a career change. Which might not be a bad thing.

Oh, how did I handle the rejection? I made myself a very nice, hearty meal that turned around my attitude so I felt considerably – quite considerably – less rejected.

Here’s a tip, if you’re feeling a touch low, sauté some turkey sausage and onions and throw in some legumes, rice, spinach, carrots, garlic and chicken broth. Let it simmer so the aroma fills the home and then serve yourself a large bowl. Top with croutons and Asiago and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Comfort food is there to comfort, so let it do its work.

Looking for the next island teacher, Part One

Below is a link to a blog post by Eva Murray, a Maine island-dweller and regular contributor to the DownEast.com blogs. This one apparently is the first part in a series about finding a teacher to guide the children on Matinicus. The post is fun, especially since she ended up on the island answering an ad for, you guessed it, teacher. Now she’s on the school board. Ms. Murray “writes of all-things Matinicus, including wrenches, whoopie pies, and wayward reporters in search of quaint Maine,” according to her blog. — KM

Looking for the next island teacher, Part One