Sunday, August 31, 2008

Public Relations and Journalism Annoyances

What's your biggest problem with the opposite profession?

Perhaps the question posed above only perpetuates the adversarial nature of the journalist-practitioner relationship that is a common theme in the literature surrounding the interactions between the two professions. However, the most recent research I've read shows the adversarial nature between the two is on a decline, especially as newsrooms must rely more and more on news releases and other prepackaged information to meet deadlines and fill the print product with fewer reporters as a result of buyouts and budget cuts.

Regardless of which you may be, journalist or practitioner (or perhaps you've been in the shoes of both), it's likely you have a few harbored feelings about the "other side." Journalists who decide to get into PR are often chided for selling their souls to the devil or going to the dark side. Well, let's face it, it's pretty rare that a practitioner goes into journalism, so I haven't heard many analogies for that.

For me, in my work in public relations thus far, I've found the media to be easily pliable, drooling over the chance to get a good story with lots of prepackaged information that won't cost the journalist a lot of time to produce. This is sad, considering the media are supposed to be watchdogs not only of the government, but also of those who would lead the public to view only one side of an issue. However, it's not really the journalists' fault so much as it is the state of the business. Because journalism is a business, the media must sell advertising and its components have had to reduce costs. This leaves little room for sparing time for enterprising news stories, especially in small markets.

As a journalist, my frustration comes from PR practitioners who forget what it was like to be a journalist (or perhaps they never were, and they also were never trained in how to relate to the media). What I mean mostly is that the PR people often forget that reporters are on tight deadlines and when they call for information or quotes, they need it now. Some practitioners seem to think it's fine to take their media relations responsibilities lightly and take hours to get reporters what they need. I hope when I fully transition into PR, I won't forget what kind of frustration this yields for the reporter. If there's a crisis or something potentially detrimental to the organization at hand, I can understand needing time to prepare a perfectly crafted statement. But when the reporter needs a two-line quote about something that is going to be positive or neutral news about the organization... well, there's a reason you're getting paid the big bucks to be the organization's spokesperson — so say something!

So, no matter which side you're on — what are your biggest frustrations with the other side, and what do you think can be done to best improve the relationship so that it flows perfectly for both ends, without compromising the integrity of good journalism or endangering the practitioner's organization's reputation?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hokie Matchup: vs. East Carolina

Today's matchup has the largely untested Virginia Tech Hokies fighting for a win in their season opener against the East Carolina Pirates at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., home of the Carolina Panthers NFL team.

The game will be on at noon on ESPN, and commentators are expecting this game to be the upset watch of the weekend, as ECU has a chance to pull off a good game against a very young VT team. However, with the leadership of veteran quarterback Sean Glennon and the outstanding coaching we know the new, motivated players have received, it's likely the Hokies won't go down without a heckuva fight.

I'll be in Charlotte for the game, so expect an update when I get a chance about the experience.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Extra Edition: McCain Picks Canadian, Polar Bear Killer as Running Mate

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has announced his running mate will be Sarah Palin, governor of the Canadian province of Alaska.

Palin, who is a Miss Alaska competition loser (though she appears to have aged well over time), does not even have a full term as governor under her belt (um, skirt?), so this selection really hurts the McCain campaign's argument that Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama is too inexperienced to be in the White House (not to mention selecting someone from another country, also know as "America's hat", might not have been the best idea).

Let's face it, though, McCain had no choice. Pick Romney and lose the evangelical base. Pick Huckabee and lose the independents and Democrats McCain needs to tip the scale in his favor. Pick Lieberman and gain the Jewish vote, but lose the Republicans altogether (he did, afterall, run as Gore's running mate). Pick a woman? Perhaps gain a couple of the women who are bitter about losing the chance to vote for Hillary — the two or three who are too stubborn to listen to the clear, articulate, persuasive and powerful message Hillary sent with her speech at the Democratic National Convention.

I just hope that I as a taxpayer don't end up footing the bill for the daycare needs of Palin's five children while she goes about her vice-presidential duties (of course you have to entertain the fantasy that McCain wins the election). Whatever, at least she's hot... which doesn't help the Republican Party on the global warming issue. Perhaps we should have built a wall on the Canadian border, as it seems we're being overran from the North!

And get this — Sarah Palin is a POLAR BEAR KILLER! She is trying to keep polar bears off the endangered species list so she can develop oil endeavors. How is this trying to help America's dependence on oil by coming up with alternative energy sources? And killing one of the coolest animals on Earth at the same time? Palin better hope female dogs get on the endangered species list real soon.

Palin even thinks she is God, signing a letter, "Your Heavenly Father," and such blasphemy should be a quick turnoff to conservative Christians who have been planning to vote Republican. And excuse me, but who in their right mind names their child Trig? Maybe Geometry, Algebra and Calc will follow as Palin's sixth, seventh and eighth kids.

Vote American, NOT Canadian! OK, so perhaps Alaska really is part of the U.S., but it's about as far away from the majority of the population as McCain and Palin are from what Americans really want on the presidential ballot.

Graduate School, Year Two (Not as Easy as I Thought)

Well, here it is, the Friday after my first week of my last year of school (for a while, anyway). After the indoctrination my fellow graduate students and I received last fall, that being a theory class, a rhetorical criticism class AND a research methods class in the same semester, I thought things can only get better. And they sort of did last spring, as I had a joke of a class from the Center for Public Administration and Policy Development, a column-writing class (something I was already proficient at doing) and a public relations-themed agenda-setting, framing and priming class with a very understanding professor.

Naturally, I expected this semester to be almost relaxing compared to last year and the trend of getting a little easier than the previous semester I experienced in the spring. Heck, things couldn't get any better than only really having two classes (and getting them out of the way on Monday and Tuesday) this fall, right? My internship from the summer, though I have to do a presentation and paper about it, carries onto my schedule for the fall, so that should be a big relief one would think.

Then I get the syllabi for my two classes this semester. Ouch. Both professors promise about 150 pages of reading each week, plus a two-page reaction paper each week, plus exams AND a conference-style research paper. Yeah, exams AND a research project. And no, that's no typo, I'll likely be reading about 300 pages each week. On top of that, instead of teaching two Public Speaking classes totaling about 80 students, I'm teaching one section of that class (40 students) and TAing for a Political Communication class of about 170 students, for a grand total of about 210 students. I'm told that these new TA duty arrangements will actually make my life easier, but considering I now have TA responsibilities four days a week instead of two, I'm not so sure just yet. On the bright side, the class with 100-plus students that I'm now TAing for is taught by a great professor whom I greatly respect and admire, and I think I will learn a lot from him just being in the class, so I'm quite grateful for this opportunity from that perspective.

Oh, and did I mention that because I thought I was going to have an easy semester I took on more responsibilities from the newspaper I have been working for since I finished my undergraduate degree? Yeah, so I'm putting in 15-20 hours a week there too, which so far seems manageable, but we'll see once I start on term papers and such. I am glad, at least, that I opted to do an internship this summer and will not write a thesis as part of my Master's degree requirement.

So, I have about four exams to take, two research papers to write, about 60 pages of reading reactions to write, an internship paper/presentation to get together, 4,500-plus pages to read, 680 exams to grade, 15 PowerPoints to run, 160 speeches to listen to and grade, 160 quizzes to grade, numerous participation points to record and lectures to deliver, 60 event listings to prepare, 16-plus community stories to write, 75 office hours to wait for students to come to (even though for some reason no matter how poorly they are doing in the class most of them still will not), 30-plus hours of meetings to attend, hopefully some conference papers and journal articles to prepare, and who knows what else will come up. Yeah, second year of grad school — not as easy as I thought.

So, before spring semester starts, I plan to arrange for myself an easy class schedule, a sweet, relaxing assistantship (anyone need a TA who just blogs about stuff?), and I will quit all unnecessary jobs. All so I can just breathe for the first time since 2003... and study for comprehensive exams... and look for a job. *Siiiiiigh*

Thursday, August 28, 2008

China Loses 2008 Olympic Games

The Olympics ended Sunday. Thank goodness. I don't know if I could handle much more. How many Olympiads will it take before the rest of the world realizes the overall theme of the spirit of the games? (You can't beat the United States of America — duh.)

Call me a spoiled sport, but some of the events at the Olympics just aren't sports, nor are they entertaining to watch. Sure, they all involve possessing some level of skill, but medaling in badminton is sort of like majoring in basket weaving — you're an expert at something the majority of the world only thinks about when they want to make fun of something else.

After what seemed like swimming event after swimming event after running event after gymnastic event after swimming event, we got to see the USA basketball team hammer everyone they played, a few good BMX wipeouts, and an interesting volleyball match or two. Not to discredit the athletes in over events in any way — what they do is admirable and requires an extremely high level of athleticism — but there's a reason ESPN doesn't regularly show any of these events. Face it, the majority of Olympic events are sort of boring.

And who even knows if half of the athletes who compete are legitimately competing with all of the controversy surrounding doping and forged ages. Jim Caple, of ESPN, really shed some light on this aspect of the games in his recent column, and I must give him props for his sarcastic but bluntly honest and true commentary.

Sure, China can act all high-and-mighty about winning the most gold medals if it wants. However, purporting this so-called "fact" is nothing but straight-up lying. The U.S. won the most medals overall and it won the most gold medals — the men's basketball team alone had 24 gold medalists, and the soccer team featured 18. Tack on another nine for the women's rowing team and a dozen for the men's volleyball team, and those four sports alone give the U.S. 63 gold medals hanging around the necks of its athletes. Take that, commies. Of course, the gold medal numbers will look even better once China's gymnasts' medals are revoked when we find out its gymnasts are still getting money from the tooth fairy.

Some Olympic sports just lend themselves to no one being able to take them seriously. Take weightlifting for example, with two slightly inappropriately named events with the snatch and the clean-and-jerk events.

But then again, some countries just lend themselves to no one being able to take them seriously. Take Bulgaria for example. Five medals? Way to go, Michael Phelps could take on your whole country. At least Romania tied Phelps with eight medals, though only four of them were gold. Russia gets an honorable mention for 72 total medals, though they were way off the three-digit medal mark like the 100+ medals America (and China before cheating is factored in) achieved. Afghanistan (still trying to get terrorism to be an Olympic sport), Egypt (who won the 2560 BC Olympics thanks to the pyramid-raising event), Israel (apparently only sailing is kosher), Mauritius (yeah, I didn't know it was a country either), Moldova (see previous comment), Togo (who unfortunately for my satirization purposes did not win in a pogo stick event) and Venezuela (I wouldn't show up for the Olympics either if I only had to pay 12 cents for gas in my home country) all seven tied for the Least-talented Country in the World Award with one bronze medal.

Despite the efforts of Chinese propagandists, the U.S. leads the way by a large, large margin for total medals won over the history of all modern Olympic games (since 1896, though we'd have won the ancient games too had we been a country yet). 2,514 medals overall, with 1,008 of those being gold. Get this — the second-place country, the Soviet Union, which isn't even a country anymore, doesn't even have half that with only 1,204 medals (473 gold). Great Britain (still a country, sort of) has third place with 736 (215 gold) and the U.S.' mother (read: oppressor) country has actually competed in one more set of Olympic games than the U.S., giving them a head start without even coming close. Oh yeah, and even though I mentioned the countries who won the fewest medals in the 2008 games above, there are actually some countries that are so lame they have won no medals whatsoever. Ever. Monaco is by far the lamest, competing in the most (25) games without ever even taking a bronze medal home.

The point of all this is that you don't mess with America (yeah, the United States of it). We won the Olympics (without the help of flexible, government-trained adolescents), and we'll win the games again in London. God, save the queen, but God, bless America.

*Editor's note: All statistics taken from (A member of the FREE press of the USA.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Review: Bud Foster's Restaurant

Update June 1, 2009: This blog post has been updated with an even newer review of this restaurant. Just click here!

So I went to Bud Foster's Restaurant (named after the coach famous for his "lunch pail defense") in Blacksburg, Va., last Thursday evening for dinner. I had high hopes. After all, I loved Boston Beanery (though the location at my undergraduate school in Huntington, W.Va., was a little better), which was formerly in this location (right off Prices Fork beside Virginia Tech's campus). I also am a big fan of VT football, so it's only natural I was excited defensive coordinator Bud Foster had deemed a restaurant worthy of using his name. Unfortunately for the residents of Blacksburg, Foster doesn't seem to put the same care in the restaurant business as he does in the defense business.

From the get-go, I felt a little awkward in Foster's. During the restaurant's remodeling from Beanery to Bud's, they put a wall up to separate the bar from the dining area. So, you're led down a dark corridor into the dining area by the hostess. My date and I were seated at a table that wasn't quite out of this corridor yet — it was in the dining area, but barely. The dining area just seems so closed-in now. It's almost like they wanted to build a super bar, then decided to make a restaurant as an afterthought. There are a few booths, but most of the good seating has been substituted for awkwardly placed tables. And forget about Virginia Tech memorabilia or art — just plain walls. Yeah, in a VT coach's namesake restaurant, you'd think there'd be TVs or something in the dining area too so fans could watch football if they are eating there during a game. Nope, nothing. Above us, a bright, neon-white light reminiscent of a bug zapper blinded me while I tried to read the menu.

Speaking of the menu, the selection was very limited and has no where near the variety that Boston Beanery or other comparable restaurants still in Blacksburg had/have. Basically, you can have a run-of-the-mill appetizer, chicken with barbecue sauce, chicken with Asian sauce, chicken with... well, you get the idea. Oh, there's steak... and they have different cuts of it... like at every other restaurant, but without anything to add some uniqueness to the dishes. Of course, there are burgers and sandwiches, but nothing you can't get somewhere cheaper and better-tasting in Blacksburg. The seafood menu is really short, and well, if you like various meats smothered in Alfredo sauce, they have plenty of that.

Which bring me to my next point. I ordered the Alfredo pasta with roasted bell peppers, shrimp and crab. At $10.99, I expected a decent amount of meat in the pasta. I got exactly 10 shrimp — the tiny, salad-sized type. I had to dig around for about five minutes before I found anything that resembled a morsel (no, flake... no, sliver) of crab meat. The dish itself tasted extremely bland. There was no taste of garlic or anything else Italian that you'd find in a normal Alfredo dish — I've had much better cream sauce from a jar off the shelf at Kroger. Once in a while, you taste some Parmesan cheese, but that's just because they sprinkle it all over the dish to give it the appearance that they know how to cook it. I will say I enjoyed the rolls with cinnamon butter (not as good as Texas Roadhouse's), and my Caesar salad wasn't bad.

My date ordered a chicken club sandwich. It came with fries, but not with the ranch dressing that was supposed to be on the sandwich. Her description was, "It's a piece of grilled chicken with bacon on a bun. No seasoning, nothing, just bland. I could make this... better."

Our server was pretty attentive, and she was friendly enough. 'Nuff said.

Bud Foster's Restaurant advertises itself as an "upscale" restaurant. Yet, the tables had a salt and pepper shaker on them (no containers with sweeteners, you have to ask for ketchup if you want it, etc.) and you get one paper napkin unless you ask for more (the one your silverware is wrapped in). I suppose playing jazz music now qualifies a restaurant as being "upscale."

I don't think I'll be headed back to Foster's any time in the near future, if ever. It wasn't a totally bad experience, but the food just tastes like nothing, and the experience is nothing special. But it should be with a name like Bud Foster. Disappointing, to say the least. I'd point you to the restaurant's Web site so you can get some information for yourself, but they apparently didn't think joining us in the 21st century was worth it. I hear they have a site under construction, but with all the resources out there now, there's no reason not to have your menu and such online the day you open.

With the terrible service, food quality and menu decisions at Buffalo Wild Wings in Blacksburg lately, and the added effect of Foster's, it seems finding a good place to eat at Collegiate Square is now a lost cause.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Alumni Want

So, soon-to-be graduates and recent college graduates — what do you want from your university once you have your degree? Here's my list of what I think alumni want from their alma mater:

10. Playing a part
Remaining a useful part of the university is actually important to college graduates. Opportunities to come back and help out by talking with faculty about what worked and what was left out once a graduate has been in the work force a year or two could be helpful to the department and to the university on a larger level. Interaction of current students with recent graduates may form good relationships that can lead to academic collaboration and other productive ventures.

9. Staying connected
Opportunities to connect with old friends and faculty, especially on a smaller level, such as people from one’s specific major, are something recent graduates can look forward to. Events such as department-sponsored fundraisers are one such example.

8. Mentoring
Assigning a mentor in one’s field upon graduation could prove very useful. Meeting an older graduate who has become successful with the same educational background as oneself is very encouraging, and it makes the former student feel good about where they’ve been and where they are going.

7. Social mixers
Opportunities to meet with other alumni and big names on campus are important to recent graduates. One idea might be an annual event on campus for alumni to gather and have fun, eat food, network and maybe get some SWAG (stuff we all get) could become popular. Sometimes events such as alumni cruises and others just take too much time out of a busy young professional’s schedule (not to mention a lot out of their wallets).

6. Name-dropping
Recent graduates expect to be able to tell potential employers where they went to school. The “where’s that?” or “oh there” responses aren’t really ones alumni hope to hear when they tell people where they went to school. Maintaining positive face with the media nationwide will help increase the weight of the university’s name on a résumé, helping out grads and encouraging them to spread the word about the university.

5. Campus access
Access to the library and other campus facilities are a big perk for recent graduates. A welcoming place on campus for alumni is essential, and if grads know they can utilize facilities on campus and maybe even get a good rate on a place to stay, they will be more likely to come to town for events and ultimately end up spending some money on and around the university.

4. Some distance
Though recent graduates need help with networking and finding jobs, they do need some distance from their alma mater. It’s often the case that new alumni are furthering their education, paying off student loans, buying homes, buying cars and still trying to land that dream job. Asking for money, especially if the university doesn’t know whether or not the recent graduate has a full-time job, is a turn-off cited by many new alumni association members. Perhaps reduced membership dues for more recent graduates or some other sort of alumni program would be well-received.

3. Sports
Sports play a big role in how alumni view their university. A university that runs successful sports programs is one that alumni are proud to associate with. Special deals on tickets for sporting events and merchandise for recent graduates are great ways to keep alumni involved with the university’s programs. Game-day tailgates and gatherings to watch games, as well as mentions of possible recreation sporting leagues made up of different alumni chapters were mentioned in informal surveying.

2. Online networking community
An online community, likely though some sort of separate alumni Web site, is a desirable feature for new graduates. Keeping in touch with other alumni and university news with a Web site that is user-friendly, regularly updated and has a clean, tech-savvy appearance is highly valued. Also, a database of alumni by profession for networking purposes would be very helpful and possibly lead into career assistance. A microsite such as this is just the thing to get alumni involved.

1. Career assistance
The top thing alumni want (and expect) from their alma mater is help with finding employment. Career connections, whether it is through other alumni or not, are what graduates think their college should help them with. If new graduates are unable to find a job within the first month or so out of college, then they feel the institution has let them down and did not prepare them for a career in exchange for all of that tuition money. For some students, this could also mean help with making the right connections to get into a good graduate program.

Agree? Disagree? What's one thing you would add to the list if you could? I definitely want your feedback, so please, comment!

*Special thanks to Daron Williams, Alexander Bea, Rachel DeLauder, Shari Baloch and my Twitter friends for their time in discussing this issue with me earlier.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Limewire? Try Google.

I don't endorse nor do I encourage any sort of illegal music and video downloading.

That being said, I do find the methods people use to share content on the Web interesting, as it seems there have been new ways developing every year since Napster was shut down and we saw the rise of Kazaa, Shareaza, Limewire, torrents, etc.

Now, there's something new that is showing up.

I've posted the video I found on YouTube/Google Video below, but if you enter the following into the search box in Google, I think you'll see what I mean:

intitle:"index.of" (mp3|mp4|) -html -htm -php -asp -cf -jsp

Basically, you're searching for pages with "index.of" in the title, either mp3 or mp4 files (you could add |avi|wav|etc.), a file name (the periods indicate that there could even be a space or an underscore there), and you don't want normal Web sites that end in .html, .htm, etc. You're looking for indexes of a certain file type with this kind of search. Anyway check out the video below for more in-depth coverage.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Extra Edition: Bloggers Unite for Troops

A taste of home


Today's story I wrote for the Roanoke Times really displays the power bloggers wield, and it isn't always pointing out flaws in politicians or discovering the dirty dealings of corporations. Sometimes, bloggers use their power for nothing more than a good cause, as was the case with this story.

Also, see Saturday's story about the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and its meaningfulness to some Christiansburg, Va., residents.

MADD About the Drinking Age

Today's post is by Daron Williams, an occasional guest blogger for Relatively Journalizing. Williams is a radio/print media professional and a distance learning technician. He is also a graduate student in the Virginia Tech Department of Communication.

College presidents representing several respected universities have banded together* in an attempt to lower the minimum drinking age from 21 to 18. Their claim is that current alcohol age-restriction laws actually encourage clandestine binge drinking among underage students.

As a student who was, at one time, under the age of 21, it is difficult to suppress the still-present miscreant in me. Then the mature adult in me reminds the miscreant that I’m now well over 21 and this won’t really affect me anymore. The miscreant then retorts that I’m an old fart with an 8-month-old son, so this will affect me soon enough — and that miscreant is right on all counts.

To no one’s surprise, the well-intentioned group MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has stepped in and voiced its disagreement with the college presidents who raised the issue. MADD representatives have also taken it to another level by suggesting under their breaths that perhaps the colleges represented (including Duke, Dartmouth, and Virginia colleges Hollins, Washington & Lee, Sweet Briar, Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon) won’t enforce current drinking laws and should, therefore, be avoided by parents of up-and-coming college students.

Lowering the drinking age will lead to more DUI deaths, according to MADD, and the group cites statistics that indicated lower numbers of DUI-related deaths in the time span after the 21-as-minimum-age law took effect in 1984.

I’m not a math major, but 1984 was 24 years ago. Something I’ve discovered in my considerable time on this planet is that time has an effect on things. I was 5 years old in 1984 — I’m 29 now. I weighed 50 pounds in 1984 — I weigh 200 pounds now. The intervening time has seen two space shuttles destroyed, a Heisman Trophy winner commit two gruesome murders, a President who enjoys cigars in a very different way, and other atrocities that have changed the world. As the saying goes: everything changes, and nothing remains the same.

Why does this matter with drunken driving? I’ll tell you. Prior to 1984, drunken driving was not attached to a serious stigma. Thanks to increasingly easier access to media and multi-million dollar awareness campaigns, it’s a whole different beast now.

Pre-1984, if you were busted while driving drunk, perhaps even very drunk, you were just as likely to get a free ride home from the would-be arresting officer. Your biggest problem was getting a ride back the next day to pick up your car. In recent years, it doesn’t matter if your BAC is .09 or .29 — if you’re driving above the limit, you are arrested and charged with DUI, thus attaching a nearly unshakable stigma to yourself that will haunt you long after the difficult and expensive court proceedings are over.

Drunken driving is still going to happen, no matter what the legal drinking age, because drinking will still occur. One thing I remember about my experience, though, was that drinking was more fun before my 21st birthday than after. It was rebellious to be 18 or 19, off at college on my own, and downing tequila until I puked, then downing more. I felt mischievous, daring and invincible.

That ended the first time I walked in a liquor store after turning 21. I still felt sneaky and rebellious when I walked up to the counter and produced an ID. The problem is that now the ID was legitimate, and I was doing nothing that could possibly result in trouble. I realized it, and it changed my perception of alcohol entirely. After that point, I may as well have been purchasing Depends for Granny.

The point is, lowering the legal drinking age won’t curb underage drinking. What it will do is take away the clandestine rebelliousness of the act of drinking earlier than otherwise. It will produce a more seasoned young drinker, which will translate, on average, to a more responsible young drinker.

If MADD reps think the legality or lack thereof of drinking when you first set foot on a college campus will actually sway the actions and opinions of those just waiting for their parents to move their stuff in and head back home, then perhaps MADD reps need a beer or two to clear their minds.

So lower the drinking age to 18. Better yet, lower the drinking age to 16 and raise the driving age to 18 — get the alcohol-fueled stupidity out of kids’ systems before they ever get behind the wheel.

*Editor's note: For more information about the petition Daron is referring to in his post, see the Amethyst Initiative Web site.

**Previous posts by Daron Williams include "Refreshing Olympics with Replacements."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Pleased to Inform You...

Today's post is a short welcome to our new affiliate blog, We regret to inform you... by a blogger mysteriously identified as S on the blog's author profile.

The blog, appropriately at URL, follows the blogger's adventures as she is regrettably informed by potential employers that they are not going to hire her in this absolutely amazing* economy we live in right now.

I'm confident that S will find a job soon, and then perhaps her blog's name and URL will not be quite so convenient, but I'm pretty sure she won't care. I know there are plenty of recent college graduates out there who have yet to find that dream job, or maybe even a decent job at all, so leave comments here about your luck so far. Then, visit the job-seeker's blog to see her latest escapades in job-searing and leave her some words of encouragement. At any rate, S has a humorous, somewhat cynical, writing style that will put a smile on your face. Perhaps professional blogging is in her future?

*note sarcasm.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Top 15 College Football Games to Watch in 2008

College football season is right around the corner, as mentioned in Relatively Journalizing's "Yard Wars" series (Episodes: I, II, III, IV, V and VI), so I thought it would be appropriate to highlight the top matchup you shouldn't miss each week of the regular college football season.

Week 1: 8 p.m., Aug. 30, Alabama vs. Clemson — two teams start out ranked, but can the highly acclaimed Tigers hang with the SEC football giant?

Week 2: 8 p.m., Sept. 6, Miami (FL) vs. Florida — One highly ranked team battles an in-state rival with previous history as a great ball club. Has Miami done enough rebuilding yet to fight for a W?

Week 3: 8 p.m., Sept. 13, Ohio State vs. USC — Is Ohio State overrated once again, and will these teams still be #2 and #3 when they face off in week three?

Week 4: TBA, Sept. 20, LSU vs. Auburn — Both teams are likely to still be ranked when the defending national champs try to defeat Auburn in their race back to the BCS title game.

Week 5: 3:30 p.m., Sept. 27, Marshall vs. West Virginia — The nastiest in-state rivalry in the country takes place in Morgantown as the Thundering Herd attempt to better their so-far losing-only record in the Friends of Coal Bowl series against the Mountaineers.

Week 6: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 2, Pittsburgh vs. South Florida — These two teams started off the season ranked #25 and #19, respectively, so this game should be fun to watch, to say the least. An interesting anecdote, these are the only two teams who could beat West Virginia last season.

Week 7: TBA, Oct. 11, Tennessee vs. Georgia — This is Georgia's chance for some revenge on its SEC rival. If Tennessee is lucky, they won't demolish them the way they did Hawaii at the end of the 2007 season.

Week 8: TBA, Oct. 18, Missouri vs. Texas — Here, two outstanding teams should face off in an engaging battle. Missouri will likely still be fighting to make sure it doesn't get overlooked for a BCS game again.

Week 9: TBA, Oct. 25, LSU vs. Georgia — Powerhouses in the sports butt heads as we delve later into the season. Bowl appearances will probably be on both teams' minds when they take the field in Louisiana.

Week 10: 8 p.m., Nov. 2, ECU vs. UCF — The Pirates face the Knights in what should be a pretty good C-USA football game. There's always Texas Tech and Texas if devoting time to non-BCS teams isn't your thing.

Week 11: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 6, Maryland vs. Virginia Tech — This should be an easy game for VT, but Thursday night games in Lane Stadium are always packed full of energy and surprises. During last year's Thursday night home game, VT fell to Boston College in the final couple minutes of the game. Do the Terrapins have a chance at the upset as well?

Week 12: TBA, Nov. 15, Illinois vs. Ohio State — The Illini gave the Buckeyes their only regular season loss last year, so this will definitely be a revenge match that's sure to involve lots of hard hits.

Week 13: TBA, Nov. 22, Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma — Who knows if these two teams will still be in the running to be ranked or to see a bowl game by this late in the season. If they can hang on this long, though, then this game will mean something for sure, and there's no reason both teams can't be ranked in at least the top 10 late in November.

Week 14: Noon, Nov. 28, West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh — It's rivalry week, and while there are plenty of compelling games, this one has special meaning. The Panthers ended WVU's national championship run late last season, and the ensuing chaos that unfolded as then-coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan lasted through the spring. Don't miss the game that's dubbed as the Backyard Brawl for a reason.

Week 15: 4:30 p.m., Dec. 6, USC vs. UCLA — Hopefully the San Andreas fault will still be intact when this one's over!

Post your comments, suggestions and such!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yard Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Game

Well, it's been fun. This whole series of "Yard Wars" posts has been driven by one theme. The return of football season and the excitement it brings for football fans, which I think includes a growing number of people each year if merchandise, TV audiences and stadium sales are any indication.

One week from today, the first snap of football season will occur. Two weeks from today, the NFL will begin its regular season. It's here, ladies and gentlemen. Every snap, every smashing tackle, every devastating interception, every thundering sack, every crackling kick and every catch, drop, fumble and stutter will be in full play. Are you ready? I know I am.

Tell your story in the comments section about what you did in the off season to quench your thirst for football, or talk about why you are really looking forward to this season. For me, I held myself over by playing football video games and watching (I know, I know) the AFL. I can't wait for this season to start to see my Thundering Herd with an actual recruiting class for the first time in a few years and to see the Carolina Panthers with a healthy Jake Delhomme. Oh, and of course, how 'bout them Hokies?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yard Wars: Episode V — The Underdog Strikes Back

Perhaps the most stand-out moments come from underdogs doing great things in football. The Boise State trick play to win a 2006-2007 season bowl game, the Appalachian State shocker over Michigan during the beginning of the 2007-2008 college football season and the big win by the underdog New York Giants over the undefeated New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl are all great examples.

Moments such as the ones mentioned above are unpredictable, and few people, if anyone, ever sees them coming — that's what makes them so memorable and cherished by fans.

So who will be the standout underdog teams in football this season? What scheduled matchups do you expect to result in crowd-pleasing plays that may go down in history? Leave your predictions in the comments section.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Extra Edition: Happy Ending for Traveler, Dog

Welsh corgi this is not Little Bit but looks similarYou may remember this post from late July, about a traveler and his dog whom a community came together to help when they were stranded.

Well, apparently, there's a sort of happy ending to the story. See what happened at this blog post, straight from the New River Notebook, the blog maintained by the staff at the New River Valley Bureau of The Roanoke Times.

Yard Wars: Episode IV — A New Chance

So, finally, the preseason is here. Yeah, I'm religiously watching all of the preseason games that I can find on TV. While I get disappointed at performances sometimes, I keep thinking to myself that the games do not matter.

Wow, does it ever feel good to have football back on my TV though! And this years' NFL games just seem different than preseasons past. The teams are really playing with confidence and hunger, and we're seeing more starters get playing time than expected. The whole Brett Favre drama seemed to gear up interest in football season on a national scale early on, so I think that's one reason all the players and fans are already fired up for this season. Some great displays of talents in last year's bowl games also have college football fans drooling at the chance to see what some of those bowl winners (and losers) will do with what they have to work with this year.

That's right, a new season brings excitement, but it also wipes the slate clean and allows anyone to rise to the occasion to become a BCS or Super Bowl champion. What teams do you think will be surprisingly good this year, or at least really fun to watch? I recommend you check out:

  • Virginia Tech Hokies (projected to fight Clemson for the ACC title)
  • Carolina Panthers (with a healthy Jake Delhomme)
  • New York Jets (with legend Brett Favre)
  • Denver Broncos (with stunning kick returner and wide receiver Eddie Royal)
  • Pittsburgh Panthers (at least the Backyard Brawl will be compelling)
  • Oakland Raiders (Darren McFadden now on board)
  • Georgia Bulldogs ('nuff said)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yard Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Starters

There's a sense of dread the season after a team has a good year, especially in college football. Often, this indicates that there were lots of seniors who will not return. The whole defensive line is gone, or maybe it's special teams where the rebuilding will need to take place.

So, which is it, rebuilding or reloading? Regardless, every year, coaches have to make important decisions about their depth charts that could chart the course for the entire season. A two-quarterback system? The slower, better receiver, or the faster receiver who sometimes drops the catch?

For many teams this season, it seems as though these tough questions will be answered at the last possible second, keeping fans and even players on the edge until the first kickoff of the season. Do you think it would be more beneficial for teams to just make the decision and focus on training for positions early in the spring? What teams do you think are just reloading this season, and which ones are going to need some serious time to rebuild?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Yard Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Critics

When the last second of the BCS Championship Game has ended, the commentators begin talking about next season.

Sports critics far and wide have been babbling for months about what team will be hot this year. Who will be this year's Boise State? Will Ohio State somehow magically end up ranked again and then get embarrassed yet again in the championship game? Will we ever get a playoff system? (Wait, that's for another day...)

The critics begin attacking this team and that team, but the fact is no one really knows what this season is going to be like. We saw plenty of teams in the number two spot fall last season in college football, and I think many people would've expected Peyton over brother Eli Manning to play in the Super Bowl. One thing all the players, fans and coaches should keep in mind as the new season gets ramped up — you can rise above what any so-called expert says about you. Oh, and just because you're small, doesn't mean you can't earn some street cred along the way, a la Appy State.

Sure, we all have fun reading what the sports critics says in the off-season, but that's only because we're hungry for just about anything to do with our favorite sport. Just remember to take it all with a grain of salt, and don't be surprised when your number-one ranked team falls to a school nobody's ever heard of — but, on the other hand, don't rule out your friendly neighborhood team that might just turn out to shock everyone with their skills.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Yard Wars: Episode I — Last-Season Menace

It's finally that time of year again. I suppose making football a year-round sport might take something away from the excitement a new season brings, but I sure wouldn't mind giving it a try. In this new six-part series of blog posts, I'll steer away from journalism, PR, internship experiences, summer travels and other nonsense to get down to what's really on everyone's minds right now — the gridiron.

I don't claim to be a football expert or a master sports statistician. What I do claim to be is just someone who really loves watching the sport, someone who is a relatively new fan of the sport (going on third year of following), and someone who really likes to see the Marshall Thundering Herd, the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Carolina Panthers win (and the West Virginia Mountaineers, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Virginia Cavaliers lose). I think the first thing I should address in this series is what I'm going to refer to as the "last-season menace," if for no other reason than to keep with theme continuity.

As a new football season begins, we all have plenty of unanswered questions. There uncertainties about our favorite teams that lurk in the shadows, things from a season gone by that we just can't shake. Take VT, for example, or any ACC team. They just can't win bowl games. The ACC is 1-9 in BCS games, the only win coming from Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. As a Hokies fan, I can't help but think about how bad the Orange Bowl went, with a devastating 24-21 loss to Kansas. Sure, it was the only BCS game that wasn't a blowout, but it wasn't in our favor. So, with all of the guys we lost to graduation and/or the NFL, especially on defense, how can we possibly hope to win the ACC again and win a BCS bowl-game appearance? This is where the last-season menace comes into play. You've got realize that there has been a lot of time in between last year and this year, and realize that regardless of what players and coaches return (or don't), there's going to be a completely different organism on the field come that first kickoff. Shake what happened before, move on.

Now, even a newer fan such as myself realizes that history does seem to come into play a lot in football, especially at the collegiate level. Some programs do seem to become elite, but even Notre Dame had a terrible season last year. So, the stats don't always matter. What matters is the heart and determination and the will to succeed that everyone on the team has. And the fans, oh yeah, the fans matter too — you can bet your smoked turkey leg on that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

J-Tips: An Alumni?

Today's post begins the first of what I hope will be many posts concerning common grammar and style misuses I see quite often. In journalism school, I became quite the word nerd, and I sometimes become slightly angry when I see people abusing the English language.

The J-Tips I offer here on the Relatively Journalizing blog can probably be found elsewhere online as well. In fact, I'll probably reference some of them as I offer advice. I'm not attempting to add anything new to good writing techniques so much as I am just re-emphasizing the importance thereof. What I will do is definitely recommend some good resources for anyone who wants to be a better writer. Remember, better speaking also comes with better writing.

The Associated Press Stylebook, The Media Writer's Handbook and On Writing are some of the essential works good writers should read, I believe. The stuff presented in The Elements of Style is pretty good too, but a lot of the rules are dry and outdated, so I'd use common sense here. You also have to realize there is a difference between literary and journalistic writing, the very least of which is the use of the serial comma. To me, writing in a journalistic style is best all of the time. The punctuation usage and crisp, concise storytelling of journalistic writing soars high above that of literary writing watered down with too many adjectives and descriptions for the sake of descriptions. Tell me the story already! I'd also like to give a nod to Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a great book written more from the perspective of English in the British tradition. The panda-themed book is one that will make every writer stop and think twice about the importance of every single letter or punctuation mark he or she types each day.

OK, so let's get on to today's J-Tip...

An Alumni?

Alumnus (one male graduate)
Alumna (one female graduate)
Alumnae (more than one female graduate)
Alumni (more than one male graduate, or a group with men and women)

Looking for some support for this? Well, I don't need to link anything this time... just check your closest dictionary (oh yeah, I forgot to mention above, a dictionary and a thesaurus are key books to have around as well)!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Journalists Roll Into Windy City

journalist journalists fedora windy city chicago
This past weekend, I attended the last two days of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) convention in Chicago. For me, the trip was exhausting. I flew out of Roanoke, Va., at 6 a.m. Friday morning, toured all of Chicago I could that day (while stopping by the conference for a session), gave my presentation Saturday morning and then flew back out of O'Hare to Roanoke at about 7 p.m. (Central time zone; I arrived in Virginia at approximately 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

I was pleasantly surprised with Chicago. I expected a dirtier, grittier appearance from the city that was Gotham in The Dark Knight. However, everywhere I went (with the exception of some of the suburbs and subway stations) was really nice. The people were nice, there wasn't the abundance of creepy people I've experienced in other large cities, and the atmosphere was fun and clean. Virtually everywhere in Chicago features a park, a fountain, music or art. The real estate is pricey, but I'd love to own one of the condos along Lake Michigan near the Navy Pier. The Chicago River is beautiful, and it makes the city reminiscent of Venice as it cuts through it, providing another venue for viewing the astounding architecture as riverboats speed through the heart of the Windy City. Chitown was definitely one of the best experiences of my life (even if the red line was shut down, making transportation a nightmare for a newcomer), and I would recommend a trip there to anyone who has yet to go. I will definitely try to return for a longer trip sometime.

The AEJMC conference was great, too. Though I wasn't able to go for every day of the conference, I still met a lot of cool journalism educators and professionals, and I got a great opportunity to present a research paper, Proximity and framing in news media: Effects on credibility, bias, recall, and reader intentions, of which I am first author along with authors Rachel DeLauder, Roxana Maiorescu (also VT graduate students) and Dr. Robert G. Magee (a professor in the Department of Communication at VT). I presented the paper to other AEJMC members on a panel of three other members other than myself (all faculty, I might note — as a lowly Master's student, that was uplifting), and there was a moderator and a discussant. The discussant was Dr. Sandra Utt, editor of the Newspaper Research Journal.

I think the presentation went OK. It's funny, because after I sat down, I didn't really remember giving it. Oh well, one of the other presenters told me I did well, and so did Dr. Magee and a few others. So, though I don't recall exactly what I said, I suppose everything went off well. Dr. Utt seemed to like the paper, though she didn't seem to think our stimulus materials were exactly 100 percent shall I say... valid? Well, apparently it seemed as though the stories we used were "obviously designed to ensure readership." I think what she may have meant is that the stories we constructed for experiment participants were too outrageous and therefore may have affected our results from the respondents somewhat. However, I think if we put something in the paper in a revision that notes that the stories came from real-life examples (an improper student-teacher relationship and a young boy falling from a tutor's balcony), then it may dispel such criticisms in the future. At any rate, I hope to submit the paper for publication once I receive a letter from the Newspaper Division and the turnaround there will likely by two to three months (if the reviewers don't require too much in the way of resubmission).

I also had a chance to see my former dean and ethics professor from Marshall, Dr. Corley Dennison, which was quite a treat. I was introduced to some other new faces in the field and got to experience first-hand how the top minds in academia interact. Overall, everything was really cool and both experiencing the city and the conference were valuable learning tools culturally and scholarly.

Expect a video of some of the sights and sounds of Chicago soon once I get the video edited!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Town Council, Tomatoes, Organist

Some recent articles I've written for the paper, which of course is not affiliated with my personal blog here at Relatively Journalizing, are posted below. The paper does have a blog though (well, many, but one specifically for the New River Valley area) at this link.

Council approves design for trail bridge

Tomato festival to serve as Meadowbrook Market fundraiser

'I worship through playing my music'

Monday, August 11, 2008

Twitter Friends

memorial ribbon for a twitterer
I've received some heat in the past for using Twitter. A lot of people just don't get the social networking/microblogging site. I'll be the first to admit, I was one who said, "It's just like updating my Facebook status, I think I'll pass." But there's something I just can't quite explain that happens on Twitter. Somehow, through 140 words, you make connections with people and you begin to call them "friends." What's strange, is because Twitter is still such a niche site, I actually do not know many of the people I follow on there in real life. However, many of them do live in my town or back in my hometown, so perhaps some day we will meet through a tweetup.

The real reason for this post though is that I have one friend, NRVLiving, also a blogger, who made this post last week. I'll let you read it, but it all raises really interesting questions about just how strong the bonds are we social networkers form in cyberspace. Though I didn't personally follow Pinky379, I've posted the ribbon dedicated to her on today's post in memory of a fellow twitterer who has tweeted her last tweet. Pinky, through your network of geeky friends and acquaintances, you will be remembered and missed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Extra Edition: 2-month Anniversary

It's been exactly two months today that Relatively Journalizing has experienced daily posting! How did the blog get started, you ask? This is how.

When my blog hit the one-month mark, I did a top 10 post.

Today, I'd like to review the top five posts of the past month, and I will also link you to what are the top three posts of all time. Finally, check out the weakest post of the last month. Again, these rankings are determined by views, comments, linkbacks and such.

Top Five Posts, July 10 to Aug. 10:

1. Citizen, Soldier

2. Top 10 Greenest Superheroes and Villains

3. Steppin' Out In Blacksburg

4. Extra Edition: Cuil Continues Failing to Impress

5. Cuil (Not Really)

Weakest Post This Month

Winner (Loser): Feeling Lively?

Top Three of All Time:

1. Can You Top the Greatest Superheroes of All Time?

2. Citizen, Soldier

3. Top 10 Greenest Superheroes and Villains


I have a problem. I'm not going to run from it, nor am I going to deny it because, frankly, I would like help dealing with it if anyone has a remedy.

I, ladies and gentlemen, can't stand to hear people eat. I tolerate people who at least try to have some manners — you know, the folks who put the piece of loud food all the way in their mouths and close them before beginning to chew. I realize these people are doing their best at not annoying me. It's the people who just crunch off the food bit by agonizing bit that really make me want to slam my head on my keyboard.

Regardless, though, I hate being able to hear a chewing noise. Eating in a really quiet room with someone else just makes me go nearly insane. Even if that person is following proper etiquette by chewing with his or her mouth closed, I can usually still hear the crunching, grinding, swishing noises of teeth crunching and cutting, of jaws moving and of tongues performing their various duties.

I've tried to just get over this, passing it off as some minor OCD-like symptom. But lately, I've had visions of actually punching people in the face or worse when I hear them eat. I'm afraid that one day it may just get out of control. Whenever I eat something that I think may be noisy, I just put it in my mouth and let it dissolve. I did this today with some chips. If I'm in a Mexican restaurant or something though, I don't do that with the chips and salsa. It's usually loud enough in restaurants that I can't hear anyone eating, so then I never think about it. It's when I'm in a quieter, closer setting that it usually is the worst.

Does anyone else out there have a friend they can't stand sitting beside of when he or she is eating? Experienced that person who shares a workspace with you that just won't quit eating lunch from what seems to be your inner ear? What about a coworker in a cubicle across the room? A parent who eats loudly at a quiet dinner table? I'd love to hear your comments and see if I really am insane or if this is a common problem for others out there. I'd also like to confirm that this blog post isn't directed at any one person I've met, it's just a generalization — I hate hearing you all eat, and I know it sounds petty, but I felt like it was time I just wrote about it. Maybe this will be the first small step in overcoming my pet peeve.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's Not Hazing, It's Mentoring

It wasn't too long ago that fellow graduate student Daron Williams contributed an insightful, yet hilarious, piece on the upcoming Olympic games, which began yesterday. After speaking with three other fine graduate students (two of which were bloggers Alexander Bea and Evan Serge) in my department at a great local establishment that encourages such intellectual discussion, it's obvious that we need to develop some sort of first-year graduate student Olympics. The word Thunderdome was mentioned...

Unfortunately, Virginia Tech decided that hazing is a bad thing. Of course, this wouldn't be hazing — we'll just call it mentoring for now. VT's hazing policy says:
"Hazing has historically been associated with obtaining acceptance or membership in and organization or a team. Virginia Tech represents and institution of advanced academic study. The university is unconditionally opposed to any situation created to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, or ridicule."
OK, wait a minute. Under that definition, graduate school in itself should not be allowed at this "institution of advanced academic study." Mental discomfort, BIG CHECK (see: rhetorical criticism). Physical discomfort, check (see: carrying 80 students' folders to class after lugging them around grading them all day). Embarrassment, check (see: everything you just said being immediately discredited by a professor). Ridicule, check (well, if you knew the group of graduate students in our department, you'd understand... of course, I've heard of some students being ridiculed by a certain professor, but I'd never discuss such accusations here — not until I have my degree, anyway).

So it appears our little "mentoring" week may actually be less harsh than the first semester of graduate school itself is in the long run. That sort of just takes all of the fun out it. Thanks a lot, profs.

Have ideas of your own for so-called mentoring opportunities with new students in your department or ones we could use in ours? Any personal accounts of being a victim of such an event? Discuss in the comments, or contact me about doing a guest blog post!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Neat House

A pink house in Snowville with a faux facadeSnowville (Va.) house has an interesting architectural design


While driving through Snowville, a very small rural area of southwestern Virginia, the other day looking for a story for my newspaper job, I stumbled upon a couple of houses there with extremely unique architectural design. This pink house was the one I liked the best out of the two I saw, and once I explain myself, you'll probably think it's pretty cool as well.

This looks as though it is a three-story home, correct? However, from a side view, you'd find out it's only two stories. That third story is just a facade that looks about as thick as maybe six inches from the side. The second floor there has what appears to be an almost flat roof, and the faux third floor just faces the front for looks I suppose. And, while I'm describing the house, what the heck is up with that door on the front of the second floor there that seemingly opens mid-air? Perhaps it is fake as well?

I don't know who owns the house here or really anything else about it. I just snapped this photo as I was driving by, as I didn't want to appear to be spying on anyone. If you know who owns this house or if you are its owner, do please contact me with more information. I must say, this is a really cool house! If you want to take a drive down some country roads and see some great scenery, head to Snowville sometime. There are these neat houses, some farms with interesting livestock, a couple of lodges, and if you go far enough you'll come upon the Blue Ridge Boy Scout Reservation.

I can't really find much about this architectural feature other than that it is commonly referred to as a faux facade, which is funny because that's the term I thought up in my head before I confirmed it online. I'm having problems locating any history of this feature or why/how it is done. If there's anyone out there who can offer insight, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Extra Edition: Skrull and Coincidence?

I recently blogged about Super-Skrull, which was a recommended (by blogger Evan Serge) follow-up post to my blog about green heroes. Of course, that post was intended mostly for the fan base of my first hero-themed post.

Today, News highlighted Super-Skrull on their Web site in relation to a new series full of Skrulls. Coincidence? I think not! Obviously, Marvel follows my blog as closely as they follow me on Twitter! I'll just call this the "Rejo" effect, short for the Relatively Journalizing effect, a distance cousin of the Colbert effect.


In other news, Relatively Journalizing's Joshua DeLung will leave for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Chicago in a few hours. Blog content is scheduled to post, but replies to comments and such may be delayed for a couple of days. Expect lots of good content while I'm gone, and know that I have some really great stuff lined up for when I get back, hopefully including some photos and/or videos of the Windy City. Take care, everyone!

Windows Inferior to OS X — Duh!

The New York Times reported on Microsoft's seemingly astonishing test that really proves absolutely nothing. Their article also links to some other sources, such as one blogger who posits that Microsoft must really think we are all stupid.

I'll let you read the article for the lowdown, but simply put — Microsoft had people use Windows Vista after they set everything up for them for a very limited amount of time during a so-called experimental test. Anyone who has ditched Windows for OS X on a Mac can tell you that Windows was bad enough before all of the driver problems and memory-zapping presented by Vista. And 10 minutes isn't really enough time to experience IE crashing or the blue screen of death (you need 11 for that to happen usually).

Before you PC nerds start commenting about us Mac geniuses, I'll be the first to admit that a computer is a computer is a computer. Macs are expensive and shiny, and they are computers, but it's the operating system that makes the difference.

I've used OS X (now on Leopard) for more than three years now, and I've never experienced a crash or any other problem. The only problem I've ever had was about a week's worth of waiting on a patch to make Adobe CS3 work properly with Leopard after the new OS' release. Plus, if I want, I can run Windows and even Microsoft Office (though there's always the less-expensive Google Docs or more user-friendly Keynote). Just admit it already, Microsoft, OS X is far superior to your operating system — especially since the Vista downgrade.

And one last thing, to everyone who says it doesn't matter whether you design or edit video on a Mac or a PC — you obviously know nothing about design and you've obviously never experienced the ease of editing media on a Mac. ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Extra Edition: Cuil Continues Failing to Impress

Take a PR class, save your ass

Brief by Joshua A. DeLung | Relatively Journalizing

When launched last Monday, I wrote this blog post reviewing it. Now, Todd Defren has lent some PR advice to the misguided folks at Cuil through this article from the Boston Globe's Scott Kirsner.

Also in the article linked above, additional coverage on Scrabulous and the iPhone.

Loathing Laundry

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate doing laundry?

Now, if you are a normal person in a normal house somewhere, then your first thought may perhaps be that I am lazy and just avoid chores at all costs. That's not true by any means. I'm responsible, hard-working and I keep things pretty tidy. It's just that for going on six years now, I haven't had a washer and dryer.

I'll admit, my mom did every bit of my laundry all the way up through high school. I'm very appreciative of this, though for most of my time at home, my mom has a stay-at-home mother, so I don't feel like too bad of a person for letting her do it. Mom took good care of me and kept an impeccably clean house, and I'm grateful for the home life I had growing up. I did my share, taking out the trash and cutting weeds, but laundry was a chore I hadn't had the so-called pleasure of doing so much.

Enter U.S. Army basic training in June 2003. I had to do my own laundry for the first time. It wasn't too bad though. Everything was dirty, all the time, and there was no separating colors and such. Everything was some shade of green or brown. Plus, the laundry machines were right across the hall from my bay, and we all helped each other out, doing each others' laundry during our nighttime fire guard shifts (this was pretty much the only time we had to do it except for Sundays).

So, all that wasn't too bad, but then I started college the following fall. The laundry machines in my dorm were one floor up, and they were rarely available for use unless I did my laundry at 4 a.m. Luckily, when I moved to a different dorm, the machines were one room over from my room. This was probably the best time of my life when it came to doing laundry, as I could put my laundry in while I took a nap right next door. The only problem with this is that there was no station in my dorm to add money to my student ID, the only thing the machines accepted as payment. I found myself walking all the way across campus to the student center to add funds all the time.

Next came my senior year of college. I got my own apartment, unfortunately without a washer and dryer. There was a laundry building only about 20 yards away with coin-operated machines. This setup wouldn't have been too bad if I hadn't been enduring the busiest year of my life, coupled with maintaining a long-distance relationship. It was either do my laundry when I got home at 3 a.m. from work, meaning I was alone in a laundry room (that had no lights) while multiple homeless people walked through the alley where my apartment was, or I could pack all my laundry up, haul it to Virginia, haul it to the laundry room 50 yards away from my girlfriend's apartment, wash it, dry it, haul it back to her apartment, and then put it back in my car and haul it back to West Virginia. Needless to say, it rarely got hung back up in the closet when I got back to West Virginia, so I just got dressed from little piles of categorized clothes in my bedroom floor.

Now, all through college, of course, I was still in the Army National Guard. This meant I usually went home one weekend a month for drill. These weekends were such a stress relief for me because it meant Mom was going to do my laundry again. The only problem with this was it included a strong feeling of guilt from being an adult who still has his mother do his laundry (especially since she was now working a full-time job). There's no way my laundry would've got done on those weekends though if she hadn't have done it (and I think my dad did it once or twice too) considering how busy I always was at the armory, usually getting home pretty late and being pretty exhausted (if they let us come home for the night at all).

So, what's this all leading up to? Well, now I'm in graduate school at Virginia Tech, and I'm living in an apartment with laundry facilities. Laundry has still been a very big stressor in my life for the past year because my girlfriend and I have to load up all of our laundry and carry it out to the laundry room on-site. This isn't so simple, though. It has a process. A drawn-out process. See, first we have to decide we are motivated enough to undertake the task. Then, we have to get quarters to do the laundry with. The local Kroger quit letting me exchange a $20 bill for two rolls of quarters, or any quarters for that matter. So, now, I have to also plan to make it to the bank during bank hours at some point to get quarters to do the laundry with. Plus, you can't just drive through to get coins, you have to get there during lobby hours and walk inside. The bank tellers of course then look at you like you just wasted their time and say, "Is that all you need?" Yes, unfortunately, I don't have $500,000 to withdraw so I can buy myself a house with a washer and dryer.

So, I've got my quarters, and I've decided to do laundry. I get home and we now must separate all of the laundry into its appropriate categories — laundry is apparently the only place where segregation is still acceptable and the only industry that technology hasn't revolutionized with some sort of device or detergent that allows for the mixing of all pieces of clothing in the wash, regardless of color or newness. Next, it is time to carry the laundry up and down all of the appropriate steps and then drag it out to the laundry room, which can take two or more trips sometimes (especially because you almost never have the extra hand needed to grab the detergent, dryer sheets or quarters). Also, apparently it is a national spectacle when you do laundry because the whole apartment complex shows up to just stare as you walk by, watching your anguish (either that or they all decide to do their laundry at the same exact time as they see you beginning to step out of your door with yours, bringing their loud, snot-nosed brats for the experience).

Once I'm to the laundry room, I think it's finally almost over — but it's just begun. See, last time I went to do laundry, after I had washed it all, and walked back out for what seemed like the hundredth time to switch it all over to the dryers, I found out they had raised our dryer prices. Now, it costs $1.50 for 30 minutes. It used to cost $0.50 for that amount of time just a week ago. In total, it would now end up costing about $31 to do two peoples' laundry for a week. In my rage, I pulled everything out into hampers and threw it in my car, ready to speed away to the laundromat with my sopping wet intimates. The prices were cheaper at the laundromat by a lot, and their dryers actually worked (imagine that). By the time I got home with the laundry, even though I had started the whole debacle in the morning, it was dinner time.

I dumped all of the laundry out on the bed — the pile was monstrous and so ominous I felt a tear well up in my eye. I left it there to wrinkle and opted to blog instead. I have had it with laundry. If only I had a washing machine and a dryer of my own, which is now pretty much my life goal, then I could simply put a load in as it becomes necessary, perhaps washing one or two each day in the convenience of my own home without requiring a strategy Patton would envy just to get my clothes clean.

Laundry is the bane of my existence, to use a cliché. I seriously get stressed out every time I notice it is almost time to do laundry again. Once I live somewhere with my own washer and dryer, I think my life will mostly be complete... especially if there's a dishwasher.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Swamp Thing vs. Super-Skrull

Swamp Thing and Super-Skrull
It wasn't too long ago that I wrote a follow-up post to one of my most popular posts of all time. The original post concerned the top superheroes of all time. Then, I followed that post up in late July with an environment-themed, green-washed post about the greenest superheroes of all time. However, as Evan Serge, of Blog!, so aptly pointed out, I left two key players off of the green superheroes list — Swamp Thing and Super-Skrull. So, this post will pit the two characters against each other to determine which one is the greenest.

Swamp Thing
This character is actually a mass of vegetable matter in human form, therefore meaning he is the environment. He fights to save the environment, especially his homeland — the swamp. Swamp Thing has some control over his surroundings, and he has even been referred to as Green Man before.

Kl'rt, also know as Super-Skrull, possesses the abilities of each member of the Fantastic Four, plus shape-shifting powers. Though he is truly quite green in his color, the beam from the Skrull homeworld that amplifies his powers is likely bad for the ozone layer. Super-Skrull's control of fire is about the only thing that remotely connects him to manipulating the environment in any way, and he is more likely to use it to cause destruction than for beneficial purposes. He also spent time in a radiation belt, which led to his contracting cancer. Though the cancer seems to be in remission, rumors are that Super-Skrull still emanates quite a bit of radiation.

Winner: Swamp Thing — Did anyone really doubt this outcome? One notable thing about this character is the insane amount of multiple reincarnations he has experienced. However, I personally feel no Swamp Thing series comes close to being as good as Alan Moore's run with the character. Recommended reading: Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore. (Bet you'll be hooked afterward!)