On newspapers and paths

I've been cleaning house lately, organizing, reorganizing. So far it's netted me two trash bags, three recycle bins, and a dining room that is definitely a fire hazard. But it's getting better. It's all in an effort to help me reorganize some of what I'm doing these days.

In reorganizing, I found something from my days at Reminder Publications, where I edited a bi-weekly newspaper and wrote for several weeklies before I moved to Syracuse. Here it is, typos, grammar errors and all:

Notes from the belfry
By Josh Shear
Editor, The Journal Bravo

Here's tidbits, observations, and ruminations that have crossed my mind and eyes in recent weeks.

***

First, a little correction. Cindy Bow got her tattoo in Vermont before the art of tattooing was legal in Massachusetts, not before it was legal in the U.S.

***

Hershey's wins the Big Spender award for the summer sweepstakes contests. While some companies give away CDs, concert tickets, and trips to amusement parks, the Pennsylvania-based confectioner is offering a first prize of a $10 gift certificate.

Two out of three contestants, though, will win a bag of Hershey's candy – but to get their coupon, winners will have to send a three-by-five card in a Number Ten envelope to the company. I foresee a lot of people not bothering.

***

While I doubt there were actually 5,000 people at the Cracker concert at Stearn Square in Springfield July 10 as reported in the daily paper, the show was a blast, with frontman Dave Lowery tipping his hat to a youngster in the front with a sign. Also, kudos to the band for doing "Pictures of Matchstick Men," which was long a favorite cover of Lowery's former band, Camper Van Beethoven. Apparently, they're getting along now – they were on a co-bill in May when I was in Hollywood.

***

If you were one of the people Tim Owens ("TimmyT") handed a CD at the Cracker show, check out track two. Good stuff, buddy!

***

I like my music, and on occasion, my TV. Even though I work in an office with two people hooked on reality television, neither has ever come in raging about last night's programming – and I just don't get why some people do.

Check out The Smoking Gun's Web site (click on "archive") for letters about Ruben and Clay from American Idol. While I admit to having missed every single second of the show, I can't imagine why people put so much time and effort into the show. The Smoking Gun printed 10 letters sent to the Federal Communications Commission complaining about what they believe was a rigged election to make Ruben Stoddard this year's winner.

One woman wrote that she and her husband spent three hours trying to get through to vote and couldn't. Three hours? There has to be something better that could ahve been done with that time. But they're not the only ones – TSG printed a letter from a 56-year-old businesswoman from Colorado who also spent three hours trying to get through to vote for Clay.

And a man and his niece spent a lot of time actually getting through in weeks prior – the two one week made over 800 calls, and the next week, he made 621 on his own. THey only managed to get in a few dozen between them for the finals, though.

Ah, what people will do to amuse me.

***

This business has its ups and downs, but I have to say for the past four years, I've enjoyed being a part of the Reminder Publications team and, just as important, the role journalism has played both in my life and in the communities I've covered. It's off to the ivory towers for me, though, and I head soon to the graduate program at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications.

You can find me at my desk until August 8, but as this issue reaches stands, I pass the editorship of The Journal Bravo into the very capable hands of Sarah Corigliano, who has spent the past two years here at RPI as assistant editor of The Reminder.

It occurs to me that was a hopeful look. We're talking about mid-July of 2003.

We all know the newspaper industry has had more downs than ups since then, but that journalism is blooming – you no longer need a printed byline to practice good reportage.

I also found something entirely different when I moved to Syracuse. I expected to do a masters program, pretend to look for a job, then just do a PhD and lose myself in those towers. Instead, I have found people, communities, and a job in media, and I won't even think about a PhD for a long time, if ever. I'm getting so much more out of connecting with people and communities.

Beware of the possibility of more of this, by the way. My saintly father snipped and saved everything I had published over my four years on the newspaper, including the spaghetti suppers I reported on. I'm moving them to a more portable packaging method, and so memories are being stirred as I do so.

Happy Monday, it’s a seven things meme!

Mitch tagged me in one of those "things you don't know about me" memes. While I usually don't take part in these, neither does Mitch, so I figured I'd better give it a shot.

The rules:

» Mention the person who tagged you

» Mention seven things about yourself most people don't know

» Tag seven people, and try to let them know they've been tagged

This actually is, and isn't, easy. I'm pretty open about me, so there might not be seven things you don't know about me. On the other hand, my life changed course drastically about five and a half years ago, so some people don't know my former life, and some people don't know my current life.

1. I recorded and sold out a run of 250 CDs of (primarily) original music (there was a traditional ballad on there, and I excerpted a Tom Waits tune inside one of my own – and paid licensing rights and everything).

2. I am very afraid of heights. Afraid enough that it will get in the way of minor tasks – though I find workarounds for life-changing moments. For example, it will take weeks for me to screw up the courage to climb on a counter to change a light bulb, but I was able to go to my happy place when it came to taking the cable car up and down Masada.

3. In my three years of retail banking (yep, you read that correctly), I sold dozens of Internet banking accounts to people who were only thinking about buying computers. Since it was free for them but I got a commission, I don't feel too badly about it, but I haven't decided if I'm proud of it.

4. I am fiercely loyal to my friends and generous (perhaps) to a fault, and the reverse is true as well: if you cross me, I will hold a grudge for years, maybe decades (I haven't been alive long enough yet to explore that second part).

5. If you've never tried my cooking, find a way to get invited to a dinner party at my place. Plan a minimum of four hours, and expect to spend some time over the ensuing days thinking about one or more of the conversations we had.

6. Music has surely saved my life, more than once.

7. I'm not crazy about organized religion, but I love many traditions and will never give them up.

Tagging: Zach, Libby, Amy, Wayne, Ellen, Beth and Lisa.

Sunday in the park


It's one of those gray late-winter days in Central New York. This is actually a color photo.

The water is high and fast at Ryder Park.

The paths are unpassable, the benches unsittable.

The ducks are skittish, the robins hopeful, and I am leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photographs.

I have a rule about taking photos on film: I don't bring the rolls in for at least a week. I took two rolls of black and whites; I expect they'll be ready for viewing sometime mid-April, long after I remember precisely what the subjects were.

I also found an old roll of color film I had taken. I have no idea what's on it.

I envision it will be an interesting spring, photo-wise.

Update: The digital photos from the morning are on Flickr and the mobile photos are on TwitPic.

Healing

Those who know me, know I'm very active. It's not just the twice a week tennis, the occasional bowling league, the cycling around town, the summer softball league, and my preference for walking to places when possible.

I'm also active in CNYSPaRC, 40 Below and other things as they come up.

Armory Massage signOften that stuff comes with lugging a laptop or two around with me, or sometimes books to tide me over while I'm between, say, a meeting and a hockey game.

All that activity came to a head in early February, when in the middle of a tennis match, my neck said, "we need to talk."

So I've been limiting my activity for a while, and finally, I decided to take a leap and do something I've never done before: get a professional massage.

Melissa Heavener at Armory Massage had signed up for a Twitter account and connected with some folks in the Syracuse area, and so I had at least a little peek into her personality and the information she was imparting to people, and her rates seemed reasonable enough (hey, you go find me some licensed professionals who charge $65 an hour for their time), so I got in touch.

I made a 30-minute appointment, though Melissa spent a fair bit longer than that with me, if you include a medical history, taking pre-massage questions, and a bit of after-care discussion and chatter.

I went in with very little in terms of expectations. My entire "experience" with professional massage had come from "Friends" and Rush Hour 2, not exactly, um, yeah, you see where I'm going with that.

After going over some medical history (definitely nothing invasive), she explained to me that the injury was probably the result of a bunch of things coming to a head, rather than an in-the-moment action.

Weight-wise, she said, "your head's like a bowling ball on a broomstick, and every bit you move your head forward, you double the weight."

Ouch. Think about that as you're setting up your computer monitor.

Armory Massage sitting roomShe then went on to explain that most neck injuries start at the pelvis. And if you look at my activities – from swinging a tennis racket or bat, to bowling, to swiveling one way or another to use a mouse – pretty much everything starts with motion at the pelvis and then works its way up.

She then went through an example of how the body transitions to new normals. If you're one of those people who typically speaks with the phone resting on your shoulder and your head bent far onto it, eventually, it hurts, and you start resting it in a different position, which then becomes normal. Sooner or later, you're walking around with your shoulders four inches higher than they used to be, and you're trying to figure out why you're sore.

Her explanation as to what she does, basically, was try to undo all the re-positioning harm people had done to their bodies, by working backward through the alterations, trying to get people back to their original positions.

So, we hit the table, and Melissa did what she does.

I was definitely able to feel the change as she started working on my left arm. She stopped to ask if I noticed anything, and I could tell that my right shoulder was higher than my left. It was also clear to me that she found some unevenness in my hips, though I couldn't for the life of me identify it.

Things I now know are normal after a massage, and that you should expect if you're going in for your first go: go hydrated. You're going to leave dehydrated, as the massage gets your fluids flowing, and your organs start working double-quick. You may get sore; it'd been a little over a month since I'd had a good workout, so I definitely felt a workout-type muscle soreness the next day. There was also some grogginess; Melissa had warned me of this, too.

I'm also more conscious of my posture, but it takes some effort, and it's not something I'm doing automatically yet.

The answer is yes, I'll be back.

And now, a little about Melissa and the business...

Melissa has been a licensed massage therapist since 2001 (here's what that takes in New York), and had her own business in Buffalo.

She moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for someone else, before returning upstate. She began working at Armory Massage, and then started to take it over in December of 2007.

The business is growing: after an interview yesterday, she took on a fourth therapist.

Since the office is (likely by the nature of the relaxation part of the work) very quiet-inducing, and as a social person, Melissa is starting to use Twitter and Facebook, and is looking to start doing demos (if you've got an office, give her a call) and to get involved a little more in the community and do some social networking.

I'm putting her business in the "downtown Syracuse business I'll be patronizing regularly" column.

Also, if you missed it, here's the Armory Massage Web site.

Photos used by kind permission of Melissa Heavener / Armory Massage

How does that go, about it taking a village?

I've been a big proponent of living in the city of Syracuse, and often looked somewhat cross-eyed at people who did a lot of work in the city but lived in the suburbs.

And then, after five years and some change within the city limits, I moved into the Village of East Syracuse.

The move, actually, fulfilled a lot of the goals I used to write about in terms of living in the city – being able to walk to everything I need, being close to work.

And, in fact, when I asked about six weeks ago over Twitter and Facebook what a village is, pretty much everybody said a place that has everything one needs within its borders.

For those of you who loved my last place, you'll be a combination of disappointed and charmed by the new place. It's much smaller, which I think scores on both sides of that coin (much less room for gatherings, but it's not a five-minute walk to change conversations). There are no mysterious hallways, no surprise steps. There's a door on the bedroom (score!).

Within an eight-block walk, I have:

- Two diners
- A restaurant
- A sports pub
- Two pizza places
- Chinese take-out
- A market
- Two convenience stores
- A donut shop
- A bakery
- A park with tennis and basketball courts
- A library
- A thrift store
- Doggy day care
- Barber shops and salons
- Shoe repair
- A jewelry store
- Auto repair

And that's not counting the commercial strip just over the railroad tracks, which I pretty much never visit. It has a Subway, a Dunkin Donuts (that's right, the donut shop mentioned above is a local one), a Wal-Mart, a BJ's, a Staples (OK, sometimes I need a Staples run).

I've been to a couple of the businesses two or three times, and the proprietors have recognized me.

I'm looking forward to riding my bike the 1.3 miles to work on a daily basis, not like the twice-a-summer I was able to pull in my last place, since it was seven miles each way.

The piano in the photo, by the way, is well-traveled. It will be tuned this weekend, and I'll finally get to sit down and play it for the first time in a long (long) time.

I'm happy to be settling in here.

Been a decent week

The only thing that really changed between 11:59 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. Tuesday was a feeling of hope; a feeling of, "Glad that's over, I'm looking forward to moving on a bit."

It's actually just about the same change that took place for me between 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 2008, and 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1, 2009. I got to experience that one twice in three weeks!

And so I've been walking around humming this tune this morning, though I couldn't find some video of it for you – so likely you'll just have to make up your own melody.

That's a good project for a Friday anyway, I'm betting.

[ transition ]

I'm borrowing brackets (but not underscores) from James. I feel it gives a sense of whispering to a headline (I don't know why James has opted for the convention).

We're about to flip our calendars. In fact, in most of our cases, we'll be recycling calendars in exchange for new ones, shifting the weight from the top to the bottom.

This is the time for lists, for memories, for resolutions.

I will, in no uncertain terms, not miss 2008. It began with a major snowstorm, a storm which has not abated for 363 days and counting.

Close family members, close friends have passed this year. Close family members of close friends have done the same.

It was a bad year to be a celebrity; lots of them passed as well, people with names like Heath Ledger, Preacher Roe and Eartha Kitt, among the dozens or hundreds.

We've watched the financial industry crash, watched people and charities ruined in a scam, watched the auto industries in the U.S., U.K., Mexico and Japan reduced to begging.

The people who started the year as well-liked, squeaky-clean governors of New York and Illinois tumbled in scandal, so far resulting in one resignation.

As the year rolls to a close, Palestinians and Israelis are killing each other again.

This isn't to say there's no hope for 2009: in fact, I think it's what we have most of.

It's also not to say good things didn't happen in 2008. Some most assuredly did. I think the world would not have survived had they not.

My 2009 will begin a few weeks late. I am half-in, half-out of boxes at the moment. I am, as one friend put it, "right-sizing" – downsizing to surroundings that I fit into, rather than having spare rooms I don't use.

My plan is to leave some goals open for 2009, but among those I hope to be able to quantify, once I'm in my new space, I hope to:

• Take more photos for the greater good, not necessarily for sale. I'm hoping to put at least three new photos on flickr each week.

• Publish something in Corpse. It's a publication I both enjoy and respect, and I'd be honored to be on their contributors list.

• Make this space here a lot prettier, more professional, and more useful. That includes better (more frequent, more informative) posting, and more creative use of space.

That's the beginning. There will be more.

I also have great hopes for Central New York in 2009, but that's another post for another day.

My hope for you, dear reader: a happy and a healthy 2009.

November: Looking back, looking forward

November was a good – if very busy – month.

You may have noticed I neglected the blog for most of the month. Hell, you may have stopped reading the blog because I neglected it for most of the month. But hopefully you're at least subscribed to the RSS feed (and if not, please do subscribe) or reading it because you follow me on Twitter (again, if you're not, please do).

So, what came of November? Well, there was...

• The 40 Under 40 award. This was a classy affair. About 420 people or so for lunch and the ceremony, and I wound up on TV. This was definitely an honor, especially when I look at the other names on the list.

• There's a new title on my resume (retroactively). I was already doing the job, but, well, I needed to show some movement. The new title ("Project Coordinator") may still get massaged, but both my boss and I signed a title change sheet, so I'm calling it official.

• There was the whole NaNoWriMo thing. I churned out (officially) 50,015 words between Nov. 1 and Nov. 25, which meant that not only did they declare me a "winner," I spent a long Thanksgiving break hanging out with my family, rather than trying to cross the 50,000-word mark.

In December, I am looking forward to...

• Downsizing. Getting rid of the stuff I don't use, books I'm not re-reading, etc. I'm hoping this turns into moving into a new apartment, as well. I currently have two rooms that hold four file drawers and a book case, and nothing else. I have to walk through them, but I rarely stop in them. They could certainly be consolidated into a small office.

• Editing the crap out of the NaNoWriMo stuff. Some people actually wrote full novels, but I wrote short, creative non-fiction essays. They aren't related, and are, I guess to use a legal term, severable. I'll break them up, edit them down, and if something's worth posting I'll post it, and if something's better, I'll try to sell it.