Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer views of Devil's Lake State Park

I regret that her front paws got cut out of the shot. She moved too quickly for me to get another shot.

Just a few images from Devil's Lake on Saturday. I mostly took it easy and took a nap on a blanket while Mom and Dad took the dogs for a walk. It felt so good to just rest. The park was pretty crowded and I heard many languages being spoken. My favorite time to visit the park is on weekdays when it is its most peaceful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The County Fair: a Feast for the Senses

The Waukesha County fair is like all other county fairs in that it satisfies and irritates the senses. Pleasureable sensory triggers include the smell of corn on the cob with lots of melted butter, the taste of sticky-sweet cotton, the sight of kids carrying large stuffed animals won for too much money, the feel of a horse's velvety nose and the sound of friends laughing and screaming on amusement rides. Then there are the less attractive triggers such as the smell of cigarette smoke, the stepping in cow manure, the smell of the cow manure, the sound of a sappy country band...but really a fair is more pleasure than pain. It was certainly that way for me this year. I love fair food and often indulge in a few items. You gotta love a cream puff on a hot and humid day in Wisconsin.

This year, I got to ride many amusement rides and laugh until it hurt. I haven't been on that many amusement rides since I don't know when. My favorite ride as a kid and it still is my favorite is the Tilt-a-Whirl. It's such a simple ride, but the simple pleasure of twirling is unbeatable. I just sit back and let the ride thrill me.
I hope that if you missed the county fair, you'll be able to go to the Wisconsin State Fair, which although bigger, is still great and has retained a lot of fair charm. But the county fair remains the one to have your senses tickled.

Calvin and Liam ride a rollercoaster
Kaitlin pets a deer
"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones." --Jean Webster

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter chatter

I have always been rather skeptical about Harry Potter. I never really got into the whole Potter craziness because I tend to run away from things that people go crazy over in great numbers such as Beanie Babies, Linsay Lohan, pop music, etc. I hardly ever read anything from the New York Times bestseller list, because if everyone is reading it, how good can it be if it appeals to a mass audience. The same goes for Harry Potter. I have seen a couple of the movies, but wasn't very impressed. I think I saw the fourth one and that one was better but the ending was still disappointing. I was actually excited about the final Potter book and to learn whether or not Harry Potter would meet his doom. So, I was excited to cover the local Harry Potter events. But when Friday rolled around and I knew I had to go to the book release party at midnight at the local bookstore, I wasn't too sure I liked Harry anymore or cared what happened to him.

When I pulled up to the strip mall, there must have been about 400-500 people waiting in line along nearly the whole strip mall. The atmosphere was so lively and energetic, that I found myself waking up and having a great time snapping pics. Children and parents were in costumes. A 8 foot ghost or something from the books billowed amongst the crowd. A magician performed tricks. I was completely drawn in. Then the crowd grew even more excited as the cell phones almost showed 12:00.

After the fans got their books, the parking lot filled with friends shouting to each other and honking car horns. Books were waved in the air and people jumped up and down. You think I'm exaggerating? Just look at this picture...


"Call it a dream. It does not change anything."--Ludwig Wittgenstein

Photos printed in the Oconomowoc Enterprise on July 26, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Waukesha

I was given the opportunity of a lifetime today: a free ride on a hot air balloon as part of a media event at the Waukesha County Fair. The catch was that I had to get there at 5 am. When the story was offered to me, I jumped at the chance, even if it meant getting up at a little after 4 am. And, I am so happy that I did. The morning started out with uncertainty when the pilots launched a blue toy balloon to learn of the wind conditions. It didn't look good: 25 knots at 700 feet. I was told the chances of us going up were only 50/50. We all went about our work and I managed to get my needed sources before we got the go-ahead to lift off at 6 am. I went up with a seasoned pilot, Ken Walter, who runs a commercial hot air balloon business in addition to working as a home inspector. He had organized today's event.

We got off to a quick start and the only way that I kept myself from feeling scared was to enjoy the scenery without thinking that I was gracing the sky high up and only in a big wicker basket. To think that I was so close to falling out and held in by nothing was and is a scary thought. So, I focused my attention on taking pictures and looking at the beauty below me.
The flight felt like it was over almost right after it started. We rode the currents across the sky for about 30 minutes before finding a field to land in. We spotted a field slightly beyond a horse farm and landed there. Then our crew guided the basket and balloon to a yard of a home that was for sale. So there was the 6 person crew with a huge balloon spread out on a road in a subdivision. Neighbors were taking pictures and we got so many looks from the horses and the people.

I really enjoyed my time in the air, but I wish that we could have been up longer and that we would have traveled over countryside versus city. But, I am still extremely thankful for this opportunity and to have hung out with some really cool people. Their bond was huge and inspiring.
If anyone ever wants to get married or engaged in a hot air balloon, I can steer you in the right direction!

"It matters immensely. The slightest sound matters. The most momentary rhythm matters. You can do as you please, yet everything matters."
-Wallace Stevens

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Officially irritated with YouTube

I am officially irritated with after I attempted to upload a video in which Steven Colbert makes fun of Korean singer Rain by doing his own version of a Korean pop song video. It's absolutely hilarious and I had wanted to share it. At last, it was not to be.

One good thing about my being so busy with work is that I am spending less time watching YouTube, leaving messages and comments on Myspace and Facebook and playing Poppit on Yet, I am getting fewer personal e-mails, too. I guess you have to give to get.

I am getting a lot of e-mails at work, however, they have been of a different tone. They are mainly of two tones: I disagreed with your stories completely or I think you did a good job with your coverage of... I get a kick out of both e-mails. I am so happy to be getting feedback, period. By receiving these responses, I know that people are reading my stories and that they are important enough and stimulating enough to cause a reaction. When I write a story, I just try to write the most accurate, interesting and well-written story possible. I don't really think of people reading the story, but I do try to vision how it will look on the page. I am now able to better visualize layout since I have been working at the newspaper for nearly a month.

The past month at the Enterprise has gone pretty quickly. I have been feeling so rewarded. Yesterday, was a pretty crazy day in that I worked for 10 1/2 hours with no breaks, but I loved every minute of it. My phone was ringing off the hook and I was getting things done! The only thing that I struggle with on days like that or even during busy afternoons is that I have a hard time taking a really good and visually interesting photograph. I have a hard time switching from journalist-thinking to photographer-thinking. I usually get a little lazy with my pictures when a deadline is looming. I usually feel like it is more important for me to excel at the story versus the photograph. I have been trying to take time to go out and get better photos. I appreciate the opportunities to be a photojournalist for a while.

I am interested to see how my skills and abilities will continue to involve the more time I am at the Enterprise and then when I eventually move on to another paper.

Quotes: If you stop to be kind you must swerve often from your path. --Mary Webb

I certainly wasn't happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can't earn, and can't keep, and often don't even recognize at the time; I mean joy. --Ursula L. LeGuin

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Achieving goals

I am happy to report that I have been achieving what I have set out to do in newspaper reporting. One of my goals that I hoped to achieve through journalism was to affect people's lives in a positive way. I feel like I am doing that already even though I have been a full-time reporter for less than a month now. One of the more meaningful stories that I have done (but didn't expect for it to be so meaningful) was about the local Color Guard. These men fought in Vietnam and came back to the USA only to feel shamed and to lose their pride. I had no idea that Vietnam war vets were treated so badly back in the 70s. I never thought about how the backlash against the war would have affected them on such a personal basis. The men that I talked with said that they were even treated poorly by WWII vets. So, when I interviewed them about their role in local parades, at funerals and with helping Iraq and Afghanistan vets, I could hear and feel the pain that they still carry. For most of them, that pain is almost gone or all-gone, but others still carry it with them. They said they were so thankful for the Color Guard because it allowed them to have pride again and to show others that they are indeed proud to be Vietnam vets. These men travel in parades and do marching tricks and gun tricks. You've probably seen a Color Guard or Honor Gaurd in a parade or at a military museum. I felt it a great honor to speak with them. They said that now when they are marching in a parade, they receive 100s of 'thank yous' that bring tears to their eyes. After my story was published in the Freeman and the Enterprise, I got calls from the guys telling me how much they appreciated getting a chance to have their stories told. I just felt honored to be given that chance and I am so thankful for how much they help other vets and care for their families. It feels wonderful to help these men in a little way, but even more wonderful to learn about them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

New Job, New Outlook on Life

It's been a while since I put some personal information on here. I think that I was feeling kind of disillusioned with many aspects of my life, but that has changed.

I started a new job on June 19 for the local newspaper. I am now officially a full-time staff reporter covering breaking news, features, local news, and business news. My beat was originally to be the school district and the Town of Oconomowoc, but now it looks like I will be covering the city of Oconomowoc and Town of Summit. For most of you, this doesn't mean much, but the latter is a pretty big deal. Oconomowoc is booming and the growth in population and businesses is growing very quickly. We are going to be having a new mall and movie theatre and my beat will be to cover that growth and how the city deals with it.

Currently, I am the only reporter at the newspaper, The Oconomowoc Enterprise. It is a small weekly paper with a circulation of 5,500 or so and two reporters, a part-time sports reporter, a sports editor, an editor/publisher and three freelancers. I came on board right as the two reporters and the sports editor left. Needless to say, the first two weeks of my job have been very busy. Especially since there were three breaking news stories in that amount of time. I was out there with the tv news crews and enjoying every minute of it.

Journalism can really be an adrenaline rush. There are days, too, when it is boring. Overall, I am loving my new job. I really feel like I have found what I love to do.