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So when I complain about things to A., he keeps telling me to "go to my happy place" and "think about the ponies," and came up with this really cool image that I'm going to try to make in Photoshop, namely the knife pony. It's just a pony, running around and slashing people up with the knife it carries deftly in its mouth. The knife could even be an ├╝bercool double-sided knife, much like Darth Maul's lightsaber, for extra slashing action. If you couldn't tell, I'm pretty psyched about this new development in ponies.

The other thing I keep meaning to make in Photoshop is this image of a sorority-girl centaur, complete with the requisite tight black polyester-nylon–blend flares or tight cotton-blend khaki flares over a big horse ass, with one of those huge overly-wide "hippie" belts connected to a saddle. Its torso will be covered (just barely) by a too-tight baby t-shirt or tank top, and it'll have huge clomping platform loafers with 3-plus-inch heels where the hooves ought to be. That's what these chicks remind me of—they look like horses, what with the push-up bras that accentuate their busts and their huge freshman 15 butts stuffed into too-tight flares that make their legs look horse-like, going back and then bending forward right below the knee in the shape of a short-topped number "7" the way horse legs do. They clomp about, whining [sic] and neighing loudly at other sorority types...

Third equine item of the day: last night I got two of my roommates to play ponies with me. Yes, yes, I know, I'm absolutely nuts. But I decided to gallop a pony into their room and have it say hello to all of 'em, and pretty soon we'd all grabbed our ponies and were having them say dialogue from various books, including a couple Lord of the Rings series books and (my contribution) Machiavelli's The Prince. Eventually one decided that perhaps we should just have our ponies talk to each other, rather than reading the words of others, so we put on accents and high-pitched voices and had our ponies get to know each other. Eventually they heard a voice come from thin air, that of our third roommate, and concluded that she must be a god, so they pranced about on one roommate's green-blanketed bed (a nice meadow for 'em, really) and talked about the god and linguistics and other sophisticated topics ponies probably weren't meant to know about. Despite how silly it sounds, it was pretty fun. Whenever Roommate No. 3 gets pictures put up, I'll steal 'em and perhaps post a few.

Enough with the horses and ponies, though. I keep complaining about how the people in my Argumentation class never take notes and veritably refuse to answer questions posed, sitting instead in stony silence. I finally got annoyed enough by it that I actually mentioned it to the professor after class. He acknowledged that it was problematic, but didn't seem to see any way around it. Yesterday's class, however, was definitely interesting, with discussion centering around Susan Sontag's New Yorker article from just after 9/11 and Deborah Tannen's article "Public Discourse Or Shouting Match?" I think he got the point, bringing in something more people would actually want to talk about, although the annoying girls, Kelly and Meredith, still said a whole lot of nothing all 1.5 hours of class.

Another suggestion of mine recently implemented was the revolutionary idea I suggested awhile back to the head of the computer lab: How about we set the computers not to save AutoComplete data? A couple of weeks ago they fixed that, so now the computers save nothing by default. Another victory for me, eh?

In other news, I got to experience a reporter's shoddy reporting methods firsthand, as one sent out this email to the current president of Campus Girl Scouts:

"Subject: fwd: GIRL SCOUTS!!! assignment sheet

my editor seems extra excited about this story =) get back to me as soon as you can.

* has anyone signed up to join your group? (if so i need contact info for them for quotes)

* when is your first girl scouting activity?

* will you guys be getting badges?

* will you sell me tag-a-longs? thin-mints?

* is the group OSA recognised?

* what's your motivation for starting up the org. on campus?

* what's your own scouting history?

* and probably most importantly ... is this the REAL girl scouts?


Ugh. The questions are hackneyed, stereotyped, with a feature-y bent. That approach is supposed to make it "interesting" and "palatable" to a general audience that's "too cool" for Girl Scouts, seeing it as a decadent, 1950s let's-bake-brownies-and-talk-about-boys group. That approach, therefore, really just deprecates the whole Campus Girl Scout endeavor. Also, it makes the reporter herself look bad when she assumes that students' general intelligence and attention levels are so low that they won't be interested in a story about Girl Scouts unless it involves cookies and badges and a low turnout.

Further, the email itself doesn't look at all professional, as it appears that she simply hit "forward" when her editor sent her the assignment, filling in the blanks with questions. Not only that, but the grammar is questionable and the punctuation nonexistent. This is how our paper gets a bad name—reporters like this. (This girl happens to also be one of my former roommate's current suitemates, and she's one of the reporters who had s/he pronoun reference problems in her articles...)

So that's the email she sent out. After the club president answered her questions—showing a considerable amount of patience on her part, might I add, given the insinuations they bore—the reporter sent this email to all the current Campus Girl Scouts members, again simply hitting forward, leaving all the previous emails attached (hence how I had occasion to see the one she sent out to the president, as well as the president's response):

"hey everyone - i'm writing an article for the newspaper about the campus girl scouts and [the president] gave me your names because you had shown interest in being part of the organization. if any of you would like, please respond back with:

- your reason for joining

- what you hope to get out of your involvement with campus girl scouts

- your class

please respond asap - i need quotes by thursday!!


[the reporter]"

Now, sure, as a young group just starting out, it's always good to get coverage, but that doesn't mean we're starving for attention or that she's granting us any favors by covering the story. "I need quotes by Thursday!!" is not a tactful way of covering a story. It's not even a thorough way of covering a story. This is the one of the major problems with her approach—instead of shaping the article around information we could give her, she does the standard PR thing, approaching the group head for the "real" information, then asking group members for sound bites. We're simply more quotes to tack onto the end of the article, so much chattel to be used as she wishes. This is not how reporting is supposed to be done.

Things like this make me see why the paper's editor is against email interviews—when done improperly like this, email casts an aura of disrepute about the proceedings. I still think that when done properly, emails can be far more accurate and inclusive than in-person interviews, as one doesn't have to painfully transcribe a conversation, only to discard most of it, nor is there the possibility of getting brushed off like there is with in-person interviews. Email goes neatly from the inbox to the Word document, and many, like myself, communicate far more effectively through the written word, especially many of the academic types we interview. Yet this is ridiculous.

Luckily, I didn't have to reply with some hastily constructed answer, as I work for the paper. Reporters are greatly discouraged from interviewing fellow staff members—another strike against this chick. She really should have checked that before clicking "forward." Here's my reply:

I'd definitely respond about Campus Girl Scouts, but I'm a fellow staff member of the paper, and as you know, we try to avoid having staff members interviewed by other staff members for articles. Ask your editor, though - if s/he says it's fine, I may respond to your questions.

Copy Chief"

Of course, that was really just me baiting her—if her editor had said she could interview me, I'd have brought this to the editor-in-chief's attention immediately. As it is, I still think I'm going to forward this set of emails to him for his perusal, as much as it might set back my cause (promoting email interviews) in the short term. This can't go on.

Another fun email I received just yesterday was a 455K behemoth from Southpaw, the liberal newsletter here on campus. (Technically it's a newspaper, but they only print once a semester, and it's not in tabloid form, but rather in the form of a stapled booklet. Hence it's closer to a newsletter than a paper.) I deleted it without looking at it, as I needed to save my inbox, then immediately sent off a reply complaining:

"Please do NOT send out unsolicited 455K emails anymore. That's completely unacceptable. If I can't leave for an hour without having my inbox annihilated by some behemoth email you get it into your head to send out to everyone on the list, there's something wrong. You can send out an email asking that everyone who wants your 455K email reply and then you'll send it to them, but otherwise, that's completely uncalled for."

They responded rather inappropriately (though predictably) with this curt missive, saying that they'd do me a favor and take me off the list for the good of all:

"We're sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused you, we've been having some trouble with this account. We usually send out emails to all those who signed up at the activities fair and other events, like the Dems meeting, where we passed around a sign-up sheet. We will remove you from the list to avoid any further inconveniences.

-Southpaw Board"

I knew they were going to do that. I didn't specifically ask to be taken off their list, and they know it. Yes, I know, who needs treacherous dogs like me on the list, anyway? They probably think I'm spying on them, that I'm going to steal their secrets and publish them. To a certain extent they may be correct, as I certainly do watch the list emails for bits worthy of mention. I'm not a spy, however, and I signed up at the activities fair just like the others did. There are dozens of people on that list, and considering the trouble they have getting the paper out even once per semester, I doubt many of them show up to meetings, either. This "trouble" they're having with their account is probably about as legitimate as the "trouble" the newspaper had with its email list last summer. In any case, my reply:

"Well, I didn't ask to be removed from the list. I like reading the emails. If you want to exclude me from the list, so be it, but don't couch it as something I asked for. I did sign up at the activities fair, and though I haven't been to a meeting, I'm keeping the option open.


Please don't remove me from the list. I just asked that you don't send out huge files unsolicited to list members. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was inconvenienced by this."

I know this string of replies is probably getting tiresome, so I'll spare you the commentary and give you their final reply:

"Sorry again and we'll keep you on the list. There have been a few interesting developments this week that led us to writing large emails to the group and, as you know, it's definately not the norm. We're acutally working on developing a website and discussion board to avoid large group emails in the future. We're accepting submissions for the final issue of the semseter (deadline dec 1.) If you're interested in writing or production work for this issue, please let us know.

-Southpaw Board"

Finally. Problem solved, progress made, and we all get to move on. It took so much work to get to that point...

10:39 pm, November 19, 2003 :: the jablog years

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