My newsletter

I’ve started putting together a newsletter. You can find (and subscribe!) to it here.

Since I generally work weekends, my newslettering effort will likely include links to NPR stories and interviews that you may have missed while you were out having fun and I was stuck in the studio doing radio newscasts. It will also include at least one of the week’s top news stories, other things I find interesting from around the internet, and of course, the latest post from this blog (in case you haven’t been paying attention to it).

My grandiose plan is to make it a weekly thing, but you and I both know I’m just not that organized. It will probably end up being more of a “when I feel like putting it together” thing.

Please subscribe. One more email in your inbox won’t kill you. And besides, you probably won’t even notice it. I’ve already said I will likely NOT live up to my goal of issuing it weekly. And, on the off chance you do run across it, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve appeased a fellow traveler before summarily deleting it without so much as a glance.

How’s that for a pessimistic plea for attention?

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An evening in Shepherdstown

This picture would have turned out better if (a) I had taken it with something other than my phone, and (b) if I would take time away from my busy nap schedule to learn my way around the REAL camera I begged my wife to buy a few years ago and is now gathering dust somewhere in a corner of our house.

Still, I think it’s worth posting here. It’s a picture of the Register Building in Shepherdstown, WV. Despite its deficiencies, it seems to capture the warmth of the ground floor on an unusually mild late winter evening in March.

The Register Building used to be in the family. My great-grandfather, Harry Lambright Snyder, ran the old Shepherdstown Register newspaper out of it.

The paper stopped publishing in the 1950s. But even after all these years, this old building still displays the Register’s masthead on top.

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The neighborhood deer didn’t have anything to do with election day but I still have a fence to mend because of one

I gave some serious thought to attempting to write something smart about this week’s election, to setting something down that might ring true across both sides of the divide the presidential campaign exposed.

And I suppose I could have started with my experience in a crowded newsroom.

I’m used to busy newsrooms. However, on Tuesday night, I was surrounded by many more people than usual. They ranged from interns who were experiencing the excitement of their first election night, to the more seasoned reporters and editors, many of whom have probably run out of fingers and toes to count for all the election nights they’ve covered.

So many people were around, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my wife walking our dog Rodney through the newsroom.

She didn’t, of course. At least, I didn’t see her. But while there is nothing like a busy newsroom to pump up the adrenaline, you couldn’t turn around without bumping into somebody.

The crowd was jarring, but whining about it is hardly what I set out to write this week. I was going to write something smart about the election.

The problem is, you don’t have to look far for informed opinions on the outcome. For example, my Twitter feed is full of election news and analysis from the pros on both sides. And for more of an armchair reaction, all I have to do is open Facebook and scroll through what my friends are posting.

In any case, I’m not so enamored by my own powers of observation to think that I have anything fresh to add, so I’m probably better off sticking to my usual silliness.

And that brings me to why I’ve got a fence to mend.

A couple of days after the election, a neighbor whose driveway parallels our backyard showed up at my front door asking what happened to the chain link fence that keeps Rodney from roaming around town with his canine pal from across the street.

I didn’t know what he was talking about until we went to have a look. Sure enough, a portion of it was torn down.

At first, we thought somebody rammed it with a car, but then my neighbor pointed out that his flower bed would have been damaged, too.

As we set about putting the fence back into some semblance of order in lieu of a more permanent fix, the most likely explanation occurred to me.

Earlier that afternoon, there had been a big commotion in the backyard. I’m used to Rodney barking out there, but this was different. He was growling and putting up such a fuss that I sprang from my favorite chair to see what in the world was going on.

While I was shooing Rodney back indoors, I saw one of the neighborhood deer, a big buck scampering down my neighbor’s driveway.

We figure Rodney must have surprised it while it was making an afternoon snack of my neighbor’s flower bed, gotten its antlers caught in the chain link and tore down the fence as it escaped in a panic.

I was so focused on Rodney and the deer, that the damaged fence escaped my notice until my neighbor stopped by.

As far as what I planned to write this weekend, the obvious thing would have been to draw an analogy between the backyard fence mending I have to do and this week’s election protests in major cities across the country.

But that would be too easy, even though fence mending seems to be the order of the day.

Catching up on presidential politics

The morning after this year’s final presidential debate, I rolled out of bed looking forward to catching up on the post-debate analysis. Keeping up with politics is part of my newsroom job, but I had a few things to do before I could settle in for some required reading.

First, I brewed a pot of coffee and then treated our daughter to a trip to the donut shop before school.

On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a fresh gallon of milk, a package of english muffins, a box of bran cereal, some romaine lettuce, a heavy bag of salt for the water softener, cleaning supplies and other items necessary to keep our home running smoothly and on a full stomach.

After putting everything away, I fired up my laptop to see what was being said about the debate, but then my wife called from work. One of the tires on her car had developed a slow-leak.

I took a deep breath, got back in my car, drove down to her office, swapped cars and took hers to the tire store to seek a fix.

While there, the guy who greeted me noticed the Washington Nationals patch on my ball cap. I don’t know if he was necessarily a Nats fan – maybe he just was trying to sell me new tires – but he was thoughtful enough to express sympathy for the Nationals exit from baseball’s post-season at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We talked baseball for a while and, to steal a line from Dodgers lore, agreed there’s always next year.

By the time I arrived back home it was midday, and I was once again ready to do a deep dive into the debate.

I was wrong.

Our dog Rodney was a basket case. He was barking and turning circles and wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to browse the internet for some thoughtful debate analysis, much less turn on a cable news channel.

Rodney clearly had some energy to burn off. And considering he had his annual appointment with the dog doctor that afternoon, I thought better of trying to ignore him. Instead, I took him out back to play his favorite game – “keep away” with the soccer ball that he’s nearly torn to shreds.

Running around the back yard did the trick. For an excitable dog, Rodney was about as calm as he ever gets when I piled him in the car and took him to the veterinarian’s office. He was so calm, he didn’t even flinch when the doc gave him his annual shot.

With Rodney’s appointment behind me, I thought I finally had a few moments to learn what others were saying about the debate. Just as I settled into my favorite chair, though, our daughter emerged from her room to inform me that her show choir practice was starting a half-hour early. I glanced at the time, shut down my laptop again and got back in the car.

Since my wife was still at work, I had to stay for a parent meeting while the kids were rehearsing. We didn’t get back home until after 8pm.

By that time, I was done. All I wanted to do was watch a little mindless television with my wife and go to bed.

Catching up on politics was just going to have to wait.

Sometimes life gets in the way, even for those of us whose job depends on staying up-to-date.

Snowzilla could make me take one for the team

I have just one question as the Washington, D.C. region faces a snowbound weekend: Whatever happened to team spirit? To the esprit de corps that spurs people to go the extra mile for their teammates? To the collective elan epitomized by “The Three Musketeers” motto “all for one and one for all?”

Answer: It must have melted away with the inch of snow that paralyzed the District Wednesday night.

The small storm blew in just in time to turn the commute into something straight out of a disaster movie. Major interstates came to a standstill. Cars were abandoned. Police were overwhelmed and frustrated motorists spent a long night just trying to make it home in time to do it all again Thursday morning.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang called it a sneaky storm that was overshadowed by the blizzard forecast for this weekend.

For my part, I was happily drooling on my pillow while the situation was unfolding, comfortable beneath warm blankets and totally oblivious.

I’m not this weekend.

I’m writing this in my hotel room in D.C., where the Wednesday night dusting was just the warmup act for the main event – the storm that forecasters say could break regional snowfall records.

Call it the price I pay for choosing a career in radio journalism.

The show must go on.

Anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom understands that. You could even say journalists have taken the mailman’s creed to heart.

“Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night” and all that.

Duty calls. It’s what we signed up for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to get out of it.

Just be prepared for the consequences.

Earlier this week, when we started getting word of the storm that’s outside my hotel window right now, I started pestering a colleague to fill in for me.

He was a good sport, but he wouldn’t be moved. Not even after I made like Tom Sawyer and told him how much fun he’d have cooped up in a hotel and working through the weekend. I even tried the old “take one for the team” gambit.

He didn’t bite.

So much for team spirit.

Truth be told, I was just kidding around (sort of). But what goes around actually came around.

The storm is expected to drop so much snow there are fears my co-worker and others won’t be able to make it to work Monday morning.

So guess who may end up taking one for the team now?

I got NPRmageddoned today

I joined many of my NPR colleagues in getting the Mad Max treatment today. H/T to the Twitter account @NPRmageddon. You guys are hilarious.

“The Martian” called the newsroom this week

I was on deadline this week when a newsroom colleague popped up from her cubicle and said, “Hey Giles, Mark Watney is on the phone. He says there’s water on Mars. Wanna go live with him?”

I knew right away she had to be joking.

Mark Watney on the phone?

Not possible.

Mentioning a man named Mark Watney in the same breath as Mars was obviously a reference to the fictional hero in Andy Weir’s novel “The Martian.” Even in the middle of deadline pressure, I picked up on that fairly quickly. Fictional characters can’t make real-life phones calls, even ones who are problem-solving NASA astronauts with improbable survival stories that are made into major motion pictures.

The odds are much better that “Star Trek’s” William Shatner would call the newsroom. He may never have stepped foot in space while playing the fictional Captain Kirk, but at least he’s a real person who is on THE SAME PLANET!

In the little time I had left before the final newscast of my shift, I decided my colleague was just having some last-minute fun with me, an impression that was reinforced when she laughed at the joke and returned to her conversation with “Watney.”

Besides, I had just finished listening to Weir’s book on my commute, and with the movie in theaters this weekend, new developments about water on Mars seemed to be too much of a coincidence.

Without another thought on the matter, I put the finishing touches on the news I planned to present and headed into the studio.

It was only afterward that I discovered my failure to make like Mark Watney and look beyond the impossible. When I got back out in the newsroom there was an alert on my phone from the “New York Times” saying scientists are pretty sure there is liquid water on Mars.

They haven’t found anything like a lake or a flowing stream stocked with Martian trout, but a new analysis of photos taken by a NASA orbiter has space enthusiasts buzzing.

The photos show dark streaks down Martian slopes. Scientists say they are seasonal and are the best evidence yet of moisture from liquid H2O, although the water is said to be on the briny side.

“You weren’t kidding,” I said to no one in particular.

Not entirely, anyway.

As it turned out, “Watney” was really one of our science reporters, presumably calling to coordinate coverage of NASA’s announcement, the one about liquid water on Mars that I had just whiffed on.

I told myself later that I would have been hard pressed to fit it into my newscast, that the call came too late for me to reasonably include it without courting an on-air disaster. But for a space buff like me, missing a chance to help report on a story like that was disappointing.

Maybe I’ll take it more seriously the next time I’m told Mark Watney is on the phone.