Thursday, September 27, 2012

Saying goodbye to

This is a tough week for me.  After 14 years with, this week is my last.

As, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, and the Press-Register close shop September 30 and reform as a single company October 1, I will not be along for the ride.

I've kept the news fairly quiet up until now because it hurts.  It has hurt for the past three months since I found out.

But as much as it stings, I'm not angry.  I bear my colleagues and the new Alabama Media Group no ill will.  The reformation they're undergoing is a bold and exciting one.  I personally think that not only is it going to work, but that it will serve as a model for other news media companies.  Advance Digital (the parent company of Media Group) is looking two or three years down the line and implementing those future ideals now.

The (then Alabama Live) staff from way back when.
Nevertheless, it's been hard watching others around me prepare for this dramatic shift in our company.  It feels like I'm the kid not invited to the party.  Some of my coworkers don't even realize that I won't be a part of the new company.  Making smalltalk the other day one of them quipped, "You getting all packed up?"

"Working on it," I replied, not bothering to add, "but my boxes aren't going to the new office; they're going home."

In all the talk of people at the newspapers losing their jobs in this transition, few have recognized the fact that some of us at were affected, too.  As I've slowly shared my personal situation with others, most have responded in shock.  Quite a few times I've heard, "I can't believe they'd let you go!"  And I appreciate that.  But every time, I remind others that 400 people are being let go.  I can't believe a lot of them didn't make the cut, either.  At least I'm in good company. has undergone a multitude of changes since I started in 1998 -- from site design to expansion markets to the way we gather and report news.  In fact, is pretty much in a constant state of change.  That's the nature of the internet.

Alabama Live's company Statement of Values
I've watched so many people come and go from over time, but I've stayed for 14 years because I've liked the company, I've loved my coworkers, and I've enjoyed the work that I do.  In fact, only our CEO and our office manager have been with the company longer than me.  I have always been proud to work at  The old Alabama Live Statement of Values framed on the office wall has held true: respect for individuals, honesty, teamwork, customer focus, passion for excellence, and creative, fun environment.  I can only hope that wherever I land next can match such standards.

To my colleagues who are moving on to the new company with Alabama Media Group, I wish you the best of luck.  I will miss working with y'all.

To those who won't have a place to work starting October 1 -- and between, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, the Press-Register, The Mississippi Press, The Times Picayune, and, there are a lot of them -- you remain in my prayers.

To my friends who have reached out to me with job leads, references, recommendations, and prayers, you have my sincere gratitude.  Keeping a positive outlook has been a challenge, and the support of my friends and family has been invaluable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Monsterously cute hat

Is this not the cutest hat?  It reminds me of James P. Sullivan (Sully) from "Monsters Inc."  I wish they had one in an adult size (for Misty, of course -- I'd wear this one).

On the cover of the City Scene

Nifty! Today's City Scene cover is a photo I shot at Hangout Fest.

Despite being a "digital first" internet news advocate for years, there's still no escaping that little extra thrill of seeing your work in print.

Here's the accompanying article from Lawrence Specker: Alabama rapper Yelawolf still stalking home-state acceptance

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bath goggles

Sometimes kids come up with the weirdest things that make complete sense.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Emily's summer gardening project

Emily has been gardening this summer, growing grape tomatoes and sunflowers.  Every day she's been diligent about watering, pruning dead leaves, and and making sure the plants have adequate support.

This week a few of her tomatoes finally began turning red, and Emily has been super excited -- enough that she even ate some last night.  This is significant because she doesn't actually like tomatoes.  Nevertheless, she was willing to eat them if they were chopped up and mixed in with the meat in our tacos.  Not that they would have added any significant flavor -- the seven or eight tiny tomatoes we picked could have fit in a single mouthful.  But Emily was excited anyway.

Now she's planning a tomato business because she's sure she's going to grow more than our family can possibly consume.  She's also planning on bring some to all our relatives.  I hope they're not very hungry.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Color Run is pretty, but also an organizational mess

This "before" photo is the only picture Misty and I have from The Color Run.  We'd been looking forward to the race for months, and I'd been so concerned about how we were going to get pictures of ourselves covered in color, but in the end it was raining so much during the event that I was afraid to take my camera out of the Ziploc bag I had it sealed in.

In the picture we appear to be having a good time, but I only wish that were an accurate representation.  In reality, it was mostly a miserable experience.  The rain surely contributed to that, but it wasn't the only factor.

The worst part was that Misty ran the race in pain.  She'd woken up saying that it felt like she was dragging her eyelid over crushed glass, and she wasn't sure if she'd scratched her cornea or had a severe case of dry-eye.  Running through clouds of powdered corn starch probably didn't help her eyes any.

Then, of course, there was the rain.  We were drenched before the race even began, and the rain didn't let up the entire time we were there.  We were cold from being wet, and our shoes made squishing noises as we walked.

Speaking of walking, that was the pace for much of the "race."  It was so crowded and full of people who weren't there to run that it was impossible to run, ourselves.  To be fair, the event prep material made it clear that this was not a timed race, that many people walk it, and that the crowds tend to bottleneck and slow to a crawl at the color stations.  That was all true.  But the prep material had also recommended that those who planned to walk or push strollers start toward the back.  Few heeded this suggestion, giving the whole course a stop-go-stop-go pace.  Worse, many people ran with umbrellas, paying no attention to who was around them and poking other runners in the face.

But The Color Run itself was just not a well organized event.  Our team couldn't figure out how to get into the starting corral, and there was no direction on how to do so.  We couldn't hear the announcer until we actually made it into the corral, and when we found that he was throwing T-shirts and Frisbees down into the crowd of runners.  When I'm about to run, I really don't want something to carry for the next 3 miles.  I also don't want to be hit in the face with a Frisbee.  But we already had something to carry -- our personal packets of color powder that we were expected to throw at the end of the race.  Why not give these out to runners as we crossed the finish line?

Since the race started about 30 minutes late, the runners in the corral were getting irritated.  We were cold and wet, and people were chanting "Start the race!"  Perhaps out of boredom, or maybe in protest, people began throwing their color packets in the air early.  Even through we couldn't understand the announcer, it was clear that the event team didn't want this to happen.  You're supposed to save your color packet for the end where everyone throws them in unison, creating a huge rainbow cloud.  But the color throwing increased more and more until they finally let the race begin.

When it was over, runners were handed a granola bar -- the most pitiful post race food offering I've seen at an event.  Still there was little organization letting people know where to go for the mass color-throw, and runners were tossing their packets at random.  Misty and I decided not to stick around and headed back to the car to finally escape the rain.

One good thing is that I did end up getting completely saturated in color, as is the point of the event.  My previously-white T-shirt turned out nicely, and my neck and chest are still stained blue.  I wish we'd gotten a picture of Misty and me post-race (The Birmingham News posted a very cool Color Run photo gallery).

I wanted to enjoy The Color Run -- I really did.  Other people clearly enjoyed it more than me.  If it hadn't been raining, or if Misty's eye hadn't been causing her so much pain, we probably could have overlooked the event's disorganization and just enjoyed it for what it was.  It's not a really race, but a chance to have fun making a beautiful mess with 10,000 other people.  Given the chance to do it again though, I'm not sure I would.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Splashing until the sun goes down

Three weeks ago, we visited the fancy new dog park in Alabaster where canines can run through fountains and hoops of water.  As it turns out, Gardendale actually has such a park designed for little humans instead of dogs, and tonight we joined some friends there so our kids could all play in the water.

On the way to the park, Emily mentioned sometimes wanting to fly up above the clouds to touch the sky.  However, Kendall, with her vast wisdom, explained that this notion was impossible.

"You can't touch the sky," she explained.  "It's like clouds.  You'd go right through it.  The blue part is just like a bunch of blue clouds at the top."

She's a budding scientist -- I know.

The water park was a lot of fun.  We cracked up at a little boy who was oblivious to the fact that his bathing suit kept slipping down to reveal half of his bare bottom, and cringed as a brother and sister learned the hard way that wet concrete doesn't work the same as a Slip-and-Slide.

The kids went back and forth between the splash pad and the playground, frolicking until the sun went down.  The adults were happy just watching our kids be kids.

(Look closely to see Asher's photo bomb in the picture above.)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Muddled plans lead to the perfect twist of fate

While the rest of Alabama was getting ready for college football, Emily and I headed out for a very special Daddy-daughter date to see "The Amazing Spider-Man."

To be fair, this was not Emily's idea.  In fact, she told me she was not interested in seeing Spider-Man.  Nevertheless, she agreed to go, and I was very happy to have her company.

At first, things didn't seem to be panning out so well.  I had to finish laundry, vacuuming, and some work on before we could leave the house, and by the time I got everything taken care of, we'd missed the first show we'd planned to attend.  We were also pretty hungry by now, but we had three hours to kill before the next show.  I decided to take Emily to Chick-fil-A because it's her favorite and I knew she'd at least be happy climbing in the play area for a while.  After that I figured we'd hit the library to fill the remainder of our time.

When we finished eating, I watched through the window as Emily enjoyed her play time.  All of a sudden, I saw her eyes get big and her jaw drop.  Another little girl ran into the room and she and Emily hugged each other.  It was Abby, Emily's best friend from kindergarten.  The two hadn't seen each other for a year and a half, but time could not break the bonds of friendship.  They were so excited to see each other (even if Abby couldn't remember Emily's name at first), and we wound up staying at the restaurant for an hour and 45 minutes so the girls could play together.

I would have let their reunion go on for as long as they wanted -- happy to skip the movie if it meant Emily and Abby would have more time with one another -- but Abby's grandmother said they needed to get going.

As for the movie, Emily said she liked it even though she hid her eyes during some scary parts with the Lizard and the kissing scenes.  Even though it wasn't how she would have designed the day for herself, it turned out perfectly because of our chance encounter with her old friend.