Ribs and shirts

Scott and I went to the Truckee ribfest on Sunday in search of short video stories. Scott found a chef who has been on Food Network, and I found a couple of barbecue caterers who operate out of Reno.

That’s all well and good, but the real story is that I wore a white shirt to the event, had three rib samplers and left with a white shirt. I think our offerings to the rock and snow gods at Lake Tahoe the day before paid off.

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Our BNL concert tour, 2000 to 2009

I created this Google map for practice. It shows the places where Donna and I went to see Barenaked Ladies in concert during the 2000s. It’s a work in progress, because the exact dates and venues are on my computer back in Wisconsin.

View Our BNL tour, 2000 to 2009 in a larger map

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Word cloud

Word clouds are visual representations of text that allow for quick perception of the most frequently used words in the text. Here is one I made of the previous post, using Wordle.

title="Wordle: Hiking"> src="http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/3784682/Hiking"
alt="Wordle: Hiking"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">

The source text was short, and my memories of science classes in college and earlier are full of cautions about insufficient data. I think that with longer pieces of text, word clouds have value to journalists. Larry Dailey, the Reynolds chair of media technology at UNR, used word clouds in a session Friday to illustrate the most common words people offered when asked what they thought of news and journalists. (“Boring” was the biggest word in the cloud, though he admitted the sample was small.)

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“I’ve seen mountains again, Gandalf”

The blogger rests on a ledge above Cascade Lake. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Scott Waltman

Scott Waltman and I went as far as a high shelf below one of the peaks that overlooks Cascade Lake during our Lake Tahoe trip on Saturday.

Cascade Lake is less than a mile from Lake Tahoe. We had gone there for hiking, and we started on the Cascade Falls hike that Paul Mitchell recommended. The hike to the falls begins opposite Inspiration Point on State Highway 89. It was easy and gave us a great view of the lake. We also saw little arrangements of small rocks. Calling them collections placed by hikers would be boring. We agreed instead for the duration of the hike that they were offerings to the rock gods.

Arrangement of small rocks stacked on top of one another

Unnatural rock arrangment near Cascade Falls. Saturday, June 18, 2011.Photo by Michael Thompson

I enjoyed the falls, but as we made our way around the falls, we noticed other hikers had found ways to go still higher, toward snow and better views.

A hiker runs the rest of the way across a fallen tree over a stream that leads to Cascade Falls while Scott Waltman waits to cross. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Michael Thompson

Their example led us over rocky trails and broad expanses of fissured rock. But it wasn’t long until we found snow mixed with specks that looked like soot. We made snowballs and made offerings to the snow gods.


Michael holds a lump of snow. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Scott Waltman

We continued up.

This is the view from several hundred feet above Cascade Falls. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Michael Thompson

Then we stopped, rested and picked up our packs to return. On the way down, we met four new Intel engineers in their early 20s who were on their way up to where we had been.

Recently hired Intel engineers pause to take photos on their way up the mountain. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Michael Thompson

Scott also found a large pine cone and made an offering to the pine cone gods. I think our obligations to the area’s minor deities are covered.

Scott holds a large pine cone. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Michael Thompson


Scott walks the trail back from Cascade Falls. Saturday, June 18, 2011. Photo by Michael Thompson

We hiked back to the car and drove into Tahoe City for lunch at Rosie’s Cafe. We ate, left and were back in Reno by 7 p.m.


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A new camera

Victor distributed new video cameras for fellows to try this weekend. Scott and I will leave for Lake Tahoe in an hour, so I’ll look for opportunities to test the camera there. Victor also gave us a weekend event video assignment, so I might be able to use it for that purpose.

The camera is a Sony DCR-TRV950. It uses three CCDs, which should lead to good color quality. It’s also loaded with bells and whistles that I’ll try sort out.

Sony DCR-TRV950 video camera on kitchen counter

One is a Memory Stick option. The camera still uses miniDV tapes, but one of our instructors, Michelle Johnson, said the trend for video cameras is to go digital. I’ve noticed this myself. MiniDV tapes have been harder to find in the past year, and the cameras on display in electronics stores use Compact Flash cards and other digital means to store media.

I’ll experiment this weekend. The user manual will be a good starting point.



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Scanner traffic

Kelly Scott, senior editor/news for the Reno Gazette-Journal, said today that police scanner traffic should be handled differently between print and Web.

The Daily Register does not publish print stories based on messages heard on the public safety scanner we keep in the office. Early reports can be unreliable. Instead, we wait until we can talk with sources before publishing a print story.

In the video below, Scott addresses how the Gazette-Journal might handle breaking news reports that it normally wouldn’t publish in the print edition.

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High-speed Internet

Lyn Jerde, a reporter I work with in Portage, recently asked about challenges to modern newspapers in areas that don’t have high-speed Internet. Read her story from November to see how this is of concern to rural Wisconsin.

Our multimedia speakers have said that we might decide not to use some multimedia tools in areas that don’t have high-speed Internet. Videos, for example, might be something a paper in such an area would forgo.

Papers with readers who don’t make use of high-speed Internet, or even dialup, also have a problem. They might offer classes in Web use or point readers to organizations that do, such as the local public library. Debbie Douglass, a classmate who edits a hyperlocal paper called the Woodlawn Villager, has done this in her community with older readers.

At the Daily Register, we publish videos on our website, www.portagedailyregister.com, and we’ve been happy with the results. We’ll keep our coverage area’s usage in mind as we refine our multimedia coverage.

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A visit from Charles Apple

Charles Apple spent most of Monday talking with our class about multimedia design, print design and visual ethics. Apple is well-known among newspaper designers, and we were fortunate to have him.

His message about design and graphics condenses to this: “You’ve got to tell a story.”

Without information and organization, a pretty graphic, video or photo gallery is “a nice-looking piece of crap,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, we ought to tell stories using the best platform for each. For one story, that might be Twitter. For another, it might be a traditional long-story form. For others, it might be alternative story forms. Maybe, he suggested, a newspaper should be made primarily of ASFs.

I’ve promoted ASFs in newspapers where I’ve worked before, but Apple reminded me of my interest in early 1900s papers with their massive stacks of front-page headlines and clear impression that NEWS was contained inside. The first edition of the Daily Register is like this.

Front page of first Daily Register

Apple spoke about much more, but I’ll leave with two examples of compelling graphics work that he shared with us. One is a Washington Post interactive map of Civil War casualties. Try it. There are plenty of tools I’ll be playing with for some time, but the simplest thing you can do is play it and watch the casualties spread and grow as the war progresses from Fort Sumter all the way to Appomattox.

Try this video of world nuclear testing history, and please stay with it. Our class sat captivated through its considerable duration. Apple pointed out that an art student made this and asked whether it was journalism. And if not, why not?

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“I want to see mountains again, Gandalf”

Today’s new header is from my expedition to Virginia City. “There and Back Again,” I should call it. “A Videographer’s Working Day.”

My purpose was to collect video I later could use to tell a story about preparation of a steam locomotive on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Passengers can board a V & T train in Virginia City and ride to Carson City, or vice versa. I wanted to know more about what takes place hours before such a trip and how the people who maintain and operate such specialized equipment learned the required skills.

Tom Gray of the V&T directed me to the engine house in Virginia City and advised me to get there at 5 or 6 a.m. I followed his directions and spent more than two hours with the crew as they prepared for the locomotive’s first route of the day. By the end of the week, I expect to have a video about the experience embedded on this website.

To make the most out of the 90-minute round trip from Reno, I stayed in town after the train departed for Carson City and practiced my photography and audio gathering skills. If I have enough time, I hope to put two Soundslides presentations on this site.

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New header

My blog has a new header image, taken this morning on the UNR campus.

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