Didn’t Catch it in the Newsroom

Good afternoon everyone — at least that’s where we are at in our day. Thanks to streaming we were able to listen to a church service in Quebec, part of one in Manitoba, and our own here in Sask. Now we have a brilliant blue sky and warm sunshine, the birds are dragging sticks and straws to various nests, and I’d best send out my response to today’s prompt.

Do I dare ask if you’ve tried the new editor? Yesterday I was reading several other bloggers’ thoughts and experiences with this complicated new Block Editor. Not many sweet notes in their song; so far the chorus sounds more like “Aargh…Why! Why!” My own gripe is that I have to go through my post and Justify every single paragraph — one by one — and then I can’t see that it has been done until it’s published. Aargh.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt, contributed by yours truly, is JOURNALIST. Do hop over and check out the links to see what others are posting about this subject. There’s a wide range of interpretations here.

Now, here’s my contribution:

In his book, A Way With Words, ©1979, Canadian newsman Bill Cameron takes a light-hearted look at some of the journalistic bloopers he’s seen in his day and suggests ways writers can clarify their writing. No more, I saw the fox run through the field looking through my binoculars.” 🙂

One thing he mentions is that a reporter should follow an order and always state at the beginning of the story what it’s about. Here’s the opening line of a story once printed in the Regina paper. How did this one sneak past the editor?
“An intricate breeding style, developed through a boyhood hobby, is fast turning into a full-time vocation for a Kantsay district farmer and his wife.”
The reporter does explain a few lines down that said farmer and wife were having great success at breeding and raising some type of livestock, but Mr Cameron thinks that lead-in produced many a chuckle.

Here’s another, from a Saskatoon paper’s editorial of bygone days:
Speaking of expensive frills in modern houses, the writer explains how “dining rooms were once considered necessary because the old-type kitchen was not suitable for eating.

Don’t panic, dear readers. I haven’t heard of any Canadians who actually tried to eat their kitchen.

Mr Cameron stresses that every writer “should look over everything they write with the most critical eye they can muster. Read it over. Read it out loud. Better, have a friend read it over to you.”

After all, to air is human — and your Spell checker will miss a few, too.

He admits that sometimes they get a great lead to an article and can’t use it because it would be in such poor taste. For example, When J Edgar Hoover died, a fellow editor in the newsroom suggested as a lead to the obituary, ‘The death of J Edgar Hoover has left at vacuum at the FBI’. It gave them a quick chuckle, but they knew it wouldn’t be well accepted.

Do you think journalists and editors in our day ever reject a story because it’s in poor taste?

Rosy Outlook in the Distance

Good morning everyone,

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ROSY HUES

I arose just before 6 am this morning, but the rosy hues of dawn were long gone. The sky was bright, the birds going about their business, and the temp was just above freezing. But the predicted high is 25 C and the sky is blue above us: the makings of a warm spring day.

Perhaps the prompt-giver was thinking of other ROSY HUES — figurative ones — which I also thought of this morning. A few days ago my husband informed me his favorite book store in the city plans to open next week, along with other stores. Access limited to fifteen people at a time, but still.. The dawning of a new era.

one by one restrictions lift
people begin to breathe
to move about, to gather
cautiously at first

stores open their doors
employees take their places
the world faces a new dawn
its
rosy hues
still in the distance

Dawn.analogicus
             Image by analogicus from Pixabay

Flags at Half Mast Today

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is FLUTTER

Our news media today is aflutter with news of the recent tragedy here in Canada. Our flags at flying at half-mast and our hearts are sorrowing this morning as we read the details of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history: seventeen innocent people in Nova Scotia plus the suspect shot to death.

For Canadians the incident is doubly shocking and grievous, partly because something as senseless as this would happen in some small Nova Scotia communities — no one yet has any idea what triggered this rampage — and worse, because the killer went out dressed as an member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our cross-country law enforcers.

Can flag. half. pixel1
Image: Pixel1 — Pixabay

The shootings began about 10:00 pm Saturday evening when a Dartmouth denturist named Gabriel Wortman, age 51, wearing full uniform and vest of an RCMP officer, went out to shoot people. He’d painted his car to look like an RCMP vehicle, and in one case he stopped a car and shot the occupants. He set fire to his own building and several others and shot the occupants as they fled.

According to news reports, Portapique is a beach-side town of about 100 residents on Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Bay, about a 90-minute drive from Halifax. The suspect owned two large properties on Portapique Beach Road, where the shootings started on Saturday night. The gunman then left this area and drove to a couple of other towns, was finally shot and killed around 9:00 am yesterday morning at a gas station in Enfield, NS. One officer was also killed in the effort to stop the suspect.

Our hearts ache for all these people and their families, including the troubled man who saw no better solution to his problems than to commit this deed.

I’ve given a very loose sketch here, you may well have read about this in your own news, and more details will be available as investigators piece the story together. And if anyone reads this who’s been directly affected by this horror, please accept my deepest sympathies.

Sunday morning my husband and I listened to messages from two different pastors, Pastor Hank from his home in Quebec, and our local pastor Warren. Later in the day we heard two other inspiring talks, a speaker from CA and one from MB. Then gospel songs from two different small groups — all thanks to Listen to church.com — giving us hope and courage in these uncertain times. Conversely, more details were trickling in about this tragedy in Nova Scotia. Such a sad contrast!

Those ‘To-Do’ Resolutions

Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning:  NEW BEGINNINGS
Word of the Day challenge:  RESOLUTION
The Daily Addictions word for today:  STOP

Good morning everyone!

I see we have a fine choice of seasonal prompt words this morning, reminding us of the resolutions we’ve made this week. Good news for my readers: my one resolution this year is to ALWAYS preview my posts before hitting PUBLISH. Maybe I can weed out those devious typos that want to creep in.

START WITH A LIST

I’ve read a couple of different articles recently saying that if people want to work smarter and accomplish their goals, they should make a To-Do list every morning. According to these time-management experts, making a list is the best way to zero in on your priorities. Even if you don’t get through the list, they say, even if your day gets sidetracked, it’s still advisable to set down on paper the things you want to accomplish. And keep it nearby, where you see it often. This help you to sort out and focus on the most important tasks.

I believe it. I’ve been told by some very efficient people that they make a To-do list every day. In fact, some people have their days and weeks regulated FlyLady style. As in, every Monday: one load of laundry; vacuum this room; wash that floor; clean this closet. And so on through the week. (I imagine the rule is: no hobbies, no blogging until these tasks are done.) This system becomes an ingrained habit and you never have to wonder “What am I going to do today?”

I’ve never been a list-maker. Yes, I usually think every morning of a couple of goals for the day, but I tend to waste time on fiddly things. Looking back, I’ve found that on days when I’m preparing for something special like dinner guests or a trip, and make a To-Do list first thing, I have gotten much more accomplished. But usually I tend to meander through my day with only a few vague goals.

So if I want to make a NEW BEGINNING, I can start with the worthy RESOLUTION to make a To-Do list every morning. Join the Fly-Lady and organize my week. STOP wasting time and work at accomplishing some main goals.

Sigh… Like the proverbial “Lose ten pounds,” this resolution has been made different times and abandoned. This system clashes big time with my attention-deficit tendencies and I end up just hoping there’s a place in this world for disorganized, inefficient, and scatter-brained people. 🙂

MY WEEK SO FAR

This week has definitely been a drifting one with no big accomplishments. My sister’s death still seems unreal, for one thing. I keep thinking, “It just can’t be! Surely she’s still there and we’ll see her the next time we go that way.” Also, “Why didn’t we talk a lot more? And talk about the important things of life?”

Also, on Monday I started feeling an infection coming on. I was hopeful for a quick recovery but was feeling so weary when we were shopping in the city Thursday. By evening I knew the infection was winning and I needed to see a doctor, so I went back to the city yesterday. You know how it goes: sit for two hours at a walk-in clinic; spend two minutes with the doctor; he verifies the problem and gives a prescription.

This antibiotic is amazing stuff! Kicked in right away. I hadn’t realized how ‘blah’ I felt until I started getting better and my energy started coming back. So maybe today I can tackle that To-Do list.

PRAY FOR RAIN

My petty worries are trifles when I read what’s happening elsewhere. This week blogger Frank Prem has been posting poems about the fires in Australia, the smoke blanketing his own community. I’ve looked online and seen maps — and was horrified to see they are fighting fires all over the continent. Read one of his verses here.

My heart aches for them — the lives, the homes, and all the flora and fauna being lost in those many blazes. I’m thankful that Canadian fire fighters have been sent to help combat this catastrophe, and praying for rain in Australia is high on my priority list these days.

Disillusioned!

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, so maybe this article isn’t true. Maybe this lady doesn’t really post five-star reviews on Amazon for stuff she’s never tried. The article is fiction — or at least distortion of the facts.

But maybe it is true. Maybe she does. And maybe there are dozens of others like her?

If today’s writing challenge were the word Dismayed, Dishonest, False, or even Phony, I’d have an easier time launching into this. But the Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is PASSAGE.

Well then, I’ve just made a swift passage from credulity to incredulity.

When I turn on my computer in the morning I get a selection of interesting news articles to choose from. This morning BuzzFeed News offered an intriguing headline about  someone who writes fake reviews of products and posts them on Amazon. READ IT HERE.

Those of us who write and have books listed on Amazon know how important reviews are. Potential readers scan the lists of books in their genre and decide — often based on reviews left by other readers — whether the book is worth their reading time. And I know there was a time when friends, relatives, and fans of this particular writer would load Amazon with glowing reviews. At times, having read the book myself, I’d shake my head and scroll down a page, where I’d see more honest reviews. “Poorly written,” “needs editing,” “grammar mistakes and typos,” “limp characters.”

Amazon has weeded out a lot of these reviews by ruling that only VERIFIED PURCHASERS may review and NO REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR a free book or an equally glowing review of the other writer’s book. There was a time when small companies could make a profit by selling reviews to authors. Now the rule is NO PAID REVIEWS.

But I gather from the article I’ve just read that there are loopholes and some people are finding quite lucrative ones. Free products and even financial reimbursements from the advertiser, lots of freebies that make good gifts for friends.

While she may make some negative comments, the Reviewer in this article gives five-star reviews on all products, not matter what she actually thinks of them — or if she even tries them. But one day a co-worker asked about a product she’d reviewed and she admitted this is simply a way to get freebies and make a bit on the side. The coworker was disappointed that the review wasn’t honest.

“I definitely feel like I have to keep it a secret from people who have strong morals,” the Reviewer told the article writer.

She admits that for safety reasons she’s afraid to try some electrical devices from lands afar, but gives them a good review anyway. Her boyfriend’s a chemist and has discovered toxic ingredients in some skin care products, so she’s leery of trying them.

According to the article, a lot of her business is with small businesses in China—often claiming to be family-owned. Companies want to get their products taken seriously on Amazon and some are willing to cheat to do it, reimbursing purchasers and even paying a small fee. Sadly, where not-quite-honest people are looking for some small passage through the tangle of rules, they will find it somehow.

Oh, buyer beware!

The Life Cycle of Water

It’s been a long time since I thought of Dutch puck disease, but I read a news article this morning that jogged my memory, so I’ll tell you about it.

Dutch Puck Disease: From Beetle to Humbug

Back in the early 70s most Canadians had heard of the invasion of an elm bark beetle and the fungal infection, Dutch Elm disease, that was devastating our elm population. Cities were doing what they could to protect their beautiful shade trees, sadly, without much success.

Around 1972 some wit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation got the idea to do a send-up on the story and the idea went over. So they made a mini documentary about the dreaded “Dutch puck disease” destroying Canada’s hockey-puck producing trees.

A narrator warned that this posed a dire threat to Canada’s favorite sport. Cameras showed scenes of devastation: shriveled and deformed hockey pucks hanging from the branches of wasted-looking trees. They even persuaded hockey great, Bobby Orr, to give an interview about the scourge. He almost managed a straight face as he said, “This is terrible! I can’t score goals if there are no pucks.”

They filmed a few man-on-the-street interviews, including one of an incredulous young lady exclaiming, “They do?! Hockey pucks grow on trees?”

From Spring to Bottle:
Big companies process for profit.

Apparently conservationists are trying to stop the Swiss company, Nestlé, from draining some California streams to bottle water. Protesters claim the giant Swiss corporation is actually drying up creeks by taking so much water out and making huge profits selling it back as bottled water.

There’s likely reason for concern, but one needs to exercise care to get the whole picture, not just the attention-grabbing headline. A person could make the same case against farmers irrigating crops. All summer long, “big corporate farms” draw water from the underground supply, pay next-to-nothing for it, irrigate their crops, sell their produce “pre-packaged” to consumers in the form of veggies, and pocket the profits. All the while, you could argue, depleting the nation’s underground water supply. Nestlé is accused of taking water from the streams, paying nothing for it, bottling and selling it as “safe pure water,” and pocketing the profits. The question is being asked: “Is this a crime, or is it business?”

As with Dutch Puck Disease, headlines, news stories, and especially documentaries can be manipulated to sound sensationally dire and point fingers. And people can be gullible: “If it’s on the news it must be true.” However, readers need to examine the facts carefully and ponder the validity of statements like the following:
“At its current pace, the world will run out of freshwater before oil,” Brabeck said. Apparently Brabeck is suggesting “privatization” as a possible answer.

Private companies — or the government? What blessings or woes would privatization bring? Communism was supposed to be wonderful, too.

People here in North America are very concerned about the environment and it’s so easy to raise a scare story. But let’s consider the logistics behind our water supply (the sky) and the possibility of drying up springs, streams and rivers.

We can’t squeeze more prehistoric animals to produce more oil, but water’s a different kettle of fish. I’m thinking the world will “run out” of fresh water when the clouds stop dumping it on us.

You can syphon off water at its source so the folks downstream get almost none. You can dam a flowing water source and even change its course so one area gets a stream and another area gets none. But mankind has not yet been able to dry up the clouds.

From Gush to Flush: The Life Cycle of Water

Every day the sun draws zillions of tons of water vapor from the ocean, lakes, rivers, etc. If we could shut off the sun we could prevent all this water vapor loss. But…

By some miraculous process, this vapor gathers into clouds that drift across the earth’s surface and, at a given signal, pour their contents wherever they happen to be. Drizzle, rain, hail, spit or snow it down on us. Topography, like mountain ranges, and a cooler land mass (as in hurricanes) influence where the clouds will empty out. However, in the past human attempts to redirect rainfall to dry areas (cloud seeding) have often met with grief.

A free gift from heaven, precipitation falls where it wills. It fills mountain streams, rivers, lakes, soaks into the land, replenishes underground springs. Water is absorbed by tree roots and drawn up into leaves that give off water vapor. Farmers draw from underground aquifers to irrigate their land. Cities draw water from said sources and people use it.

We water our gardens and lawns and the water is drawn up through plant roots and later evaporated by the wind. Thus it finds its way back into the cycle. As we hoe the garden or mow the lawn we sweat, and the breeze dries us off, whisking the moisture into the atmosphere to rejoin some cloud somewhere. Just think where all your sweat may travel.

People drink the water, replenish their cells, and urinate the excess. Our bodies are an amazing filtration system. Whether bottled water, tap water, or beverage, we drink it, filter it, and flush it. Really, we should should all do our part and drink lots so we can put more water back into the recycling system. 🙂

Conserve Water: Don’t Bathe

Just think. Every morning all across the continent people use zillions of tons of water to shower and bathe. My washing machine is chugging away as I write this. If we’d stop all this bathing and laundry we’d waste so much less water.

Thankfully, water is never used up. Household water runs down the drain, into the city’s waste disposal system, and — hopefully filtered — back into the rivers and reservoirs. Directly or indirectly it finds its way back into the ocean to begin another cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

We need to treat all natural systems with care, including our water sources, but conservationists shouldn’t resort to fear tactics. Big corporations may well be greedy; it kind-of goes with the territory. Bottling companies make a mega-buck profit selling their goods, and some may be diverting some streams, but they don’t actually destroy the water.

The company can’t keep taking water that isn’t there. If there’s no water in said streams, it’s more likely because there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall in that area to replenish them. At this time the folks in southern Quebec would gladly share theirs, but alas! We’ve not yet found a way to redirect clouds.

In my understanding, the system of evaporation and precipitation was in place when man arrived and will continue to replenish the springs, streams, lakes, and rivers until the end of time. We can dam it, redirect it, and pollute the “container,” but we can’t use it up.

Hockey pucks don’t grow on trees, either. The game goes on.