Monday, April 28, 2008

Feelings, nothing more than fe-e-e-lings

I was chatting with someone the other day (isn’t this how all my thoughtful blog posts usually start?) about bias in the media. That’s not what the conversation started out with, but nonetheless that is where it ended up, and where I am tonight. And as I always do, my disclaimer is that I claim no special revelation here – it is merely a blog post by a bear with very little brain.

So…bias in the media. Conservatives rage about the liberal media, and liberals get equally vituperative about conservative news outlets. The impetus for the discussion started out about the “rice crisis” and the fact that Sam’s Wholesale Club had started putting limits on how many bags of rice each customer could purchase.

Food prices in general have been rising, due to a number of issues including the falling dollar and the rising cost of oil. But I’m not here to talk about food prices – I’m here to talk about how the media talks about food prices! The media has several divergent goals – put forth news stories that people will be interested in, sell advertising space (either through commercials or sidebar ads or old fashioned columnar print), and finally broadcast information … NEWS … that ordinary folks need to know. So, take CNN Headline News for example. It’s what, a 30 minute format with maybe… 15 minutes of commercials? So how do they decide what to report in the remaining 15 minutes? They want to air segments that sell ads and evoke emotion in the viewers. Since I’m using broadcast news as my example, I’ll stick with broadcast news language – substitute “online articles” and “readers” if it makes you feel better! So, depending on who they perceive as their viewers, that’s how they choose their stories because that’s how they get the viewers and thus the ad time.

Anyway, some media offerings are merely sensational: cue car chases and Britany stories and the current “who killed Diana” theories; some go for the granola stories: seas rising in Fiji because of cow methane, Earth Day events, and the hole in the ozone; others try the social justice angle: oppressed African Americans, open borders, and immigration issues; and yet others appeal to the conservative: Homeland security, economics, and homeschooling legislation. Each of these is designed to elicit an emotional response from viewers. Once you understand which emotion a particular story is aimed at, then you can view it with an eye for the tidbit of actual *news* ensconced within.

And any single news story can be spun to fit any number of emotional groups. So you watch a segment on the recent riots in Haiti on two different stations. One calls it a riot of hungry people sparked by the shortage of food, another calls it a protest against rising food prices. The first media outlet is geared to the social justice crowd, and the latter perhaps favors the typical conservative tendencies. So as Nietzsche might posit, there is really no such thing as an “objective” point of view. Knowing that, it makes watching the news a bit more palatable for me. Less like a root canal and more like…hmm…fingernails on a chalkboard?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Outhouse Conversion

We are nearing the end of the home renovations. We're still within our budget, as long as we don't encounter any other bizarre problems. If I were a betting woman I'd say that sometime this summer we'll need to replace/repair the heat pump, but I've just decided not to worry about that right now! Our most recent triumph was converting the guest bathroom (which we not-so-lovingly called "the Outhouse") into something resembling a small but inviting bathroom that guests may use without fear of things lurking in dark corners. As you can see, the Outhouse had raw redwood siding (the same that was in the guest bedroom - don't ask me, I just don't know why). We sledgehammered the orange sink and the almond toilet (which you can see peeking out from behind the shower) and replaced it with a small pedestal sink and a white toilet. We also raised the ceiling of the "toilet nook" and added a vent fan, removing the bare bulb which was there before. Instead of ripping out the siding and putting in drywall (which we did in the bedroom) we sanded the planks and caulked the seams, and then painted the entire mess. We also removed the foul parquet floors (I know, I know - some would say it's sacrilege to remove real parquet, but this was growing all kinds of ... goo ... between and underneath the pieces.) Since we want our guests to have a healthy and happy experience visiting us, removing the offending substances seemed the way to go. As a final touch, the oh-so-seventies vanity light was unceremoniously chunked and replaced with a light fixture that actually illuminates the room. So as you can see, the bathroom is fresh and clean! Hurray! And as a bonus, we were able to use the leftover vinyl from the kitchen, so we saved some money there too. The problem came when we
(I say "we", but I really mean "the philosopher") tried to install the new sink. The previous homeowner(the guy who built the house 35 years ago) owned a heating/cooling business. So he used pipes for heating and cooling purposes rather than buying true plumbing pipework. So ALL the pipe had to be ripped out and replaced. After some muttering and grumbling and climbing-under-the-house vituperative comments, we finally got a plumber-friend-of-my-dad's to help us with the last bit, because the only way it could be done (without tons of extra expense) was slightly off from what the code book says. Since we live in the country, city codes and inspections don't apply, and it's better code-wise than it was, so we don't feel too bad.

Anyway, our last project - painting the exterior - is almost done. When that is complete I'll post final before-and-after shots and we will rejoice and be glad!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Springing into action...

Spring and winter have been vying for northern Alabama the last few weeks. Cold air from the north and warm air from the south have been battling it out in thunderstorms off and on for several weeks. We've escaped any really alarming weather thus far, and are praying for continued blessings on that front (haha - no pun intended).

But, the beauty of early spring is abundant on our patio.

My blueberry bushes are blooming, and the first zucchini I planted has finally established itself quite well in our little container garden. We're still waiting to plant the tomato and pepper seedings - they are, alas, not nearly as healthy as the squash. In fact, the zucchini seedlings had so completely outgrown their starter peat-pots that their roots had burst through the sides and were attaching themselves to the plastic tray under the grow lamp!

So I am savoring these first days of spring, despite the abundant pollen from the pines and sweetgums in our yard!