Oh no! The big 3-oh!

Featured image: My amazing family threw me a surprise 30th birthday party. 

This is so not where I expected myself to be when I turned 30.

I had all kinds of plans. They were great plans, too. At this point I should be a hot-shot reporter preparing to go to grad school. And then I would become a teacher and show the next generation how it’s done. I was rather stuck on myself, no?

Then the wheels fell off, my graduation got delayed. Then delayed again. I eventually finished, but never found a job in journalism. I went back to working in banking, which I hated for every day of the 10 years I did it. Basically, if I compared my life now to where I planned it out to being, I’m a complete and utter failure.

So why do I feel happier and more fulfilled than I ever have before?

I spent a good bit of time pondering this. Clearly I still spend entirely too much time thinking about myself, but I was curious. I have a decent job now, still nothing to do with what I paid tens of thousands of dollars to do, but I’m happy. Then one day, it hit me: I simply do not care anymore. I’ll elaborate.

I’m not putting a crazy amount of pressure on myself to achieve. I’m not worried about getting a certain job title, or pay grade or place to live or car to drive. I’m not worried about what others think about where I am in life. It’s a fabulously liberating feeling not to have to deal with self-imposed pressures all the time.

I don’t know exactly when the switch flipped and I stopped worrying about five and ten year plans, retirement and accomplishments. It started before I got sick, but getting diagnosed with a lung disease definitely clinched the attitude adjustment.

I never expected to be in a place where I was actually satisfied with my life. And I don’t mean satisfied as in complacent – I’m definitely still pushing myself. I’m quite sure I’ll push myself right into the grave one day, but I’m sure whatever does it will be a great story to tell in the afterlife. When I say satisfied, I mean in a position where I don’t feel like a failure, or compelled to do something because it’s what people do.

If 30-year-old me could go back and catch my 21-year-old self before I started college, I’d tell myself to slow down and enjoy life a bit more. I’d suggest exploring more, traveling more and not worrying so much about what others expect from me. And 21-year-old me would probably listen intently, thank me, and then go back to working a full time job, an internship and taking a full course load.

These days, the only accomplishment I’m thinking about is a long distance hike. The only five-year plan I’m thinking about is how to live off the grid (so my student loan servicers can’t find me). The only career goals I have are to earn enough money to travel and then share my adventures with you.

I’ve never been happier.

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Another new look!

Featured image: Wyoming roadsides always offer photo ops. 

It would have been great to have posted last week, but redesigning this monster started taking up more and more of my time. So instead of making more work for myself and dragging it out, I put a hiatus on posting last week and just pulled out the redesign. And so here you have it: Something that is a little easier to read, displays pictures much better and is slightly better organized.

But my favorite part is the logo at the top designed by one of my best friends, Karli, a.k.a. The Beatkeeper. She is a fantastic designer and agreed to help me with the logo and the Gus Scale graphics you see for trail ratings. To top it all off, she has an amazing blog about music and how it influences and permeates our lives. Plus, every time I read a post, I come out with a new favorite song.

This layout gives me the opportunity to divide content into sections, more like a magazine and less like a blog. There’s “Living Breathless” which chronicles life with an autoimmune disorder and a lung disease, “The Gus Scale” with trail ratings for the busted lung club, “Throwback Thursday” where I get to tell old stories that didn’t make it to the blog before, and “History” where I get to let my nerdy side out to play and check out historical sites around town. And I can’t forget “Vagabond Girls,” which chronicles my adventures with Lacey, one of my other bestest friends and fellow blogger An Ardent Heart.  (She’s just getting started, but I keep pushing her along. She has a lot of great things to say!)

I hope you enjoy the new look and please, if you see anything that looks weird or you just don’t like, let me know. I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

Panama City or Bust!

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Above are some pictures from 2008, the last time I visited Florida. We visited Daytona Beach, Huntington Beach and Orlando.

If I learned anything from last year’s Gypsy Trip its that the keys to surviving long drives is good music, good directions and good company. Well, and wild berry Skittles. Yesterday I embarked on an 11-hour drive from my home in Walton, Ky., to Panama City, Fla. A piece of cake compared to last summer’s 7,000-mile adventure, but still a long time to be in a car. Thankfully, this time I have some new gadgets at my disposal.

I traded in my Blackberry for a Droid last fall, and with it came the never-ending app store. Y’all can have your iPhones. Sh’niqua (only sometimes) lets me down. Here are my top five road trip-approved apps:

Pandora Internet Radio

Its an endless supply music, as long as your network lasts.

My favorite thing about this channel is it plays more than just whats in my library. And the more you listen to it, the more it gets to know you. So I know that my Matchbox 20 channel I’ve had for years is always going to play something I want to hear and my Cage the Elephant station, the newest addition to my collection, will be in shape by the time I get to Florida. Plus, I can pipe it through the car speakers with the same adapter I use for my iPod.

AAA Triptik

Here’s where good directions come in. I love Google Maps, but sometimes they lead you wrong. Triptik has become my go to for directions. I can build a route on my computer, save it and download it to my phone and get turn-by-turn navigation when I’m on the road. Then, I can keep doing searches anywhere I am to find hotels, mechanics, attractions, restaurants and even campgrounds.

Gasbuddy

This is a good app to have for every day use anyway. You can use GPS or type in a search location to find nearby gas stations and compare prices. This helped me last week find gas five cents cheaper just a couple of miles from where I normally go.

GeoReader

After I nosed around the Android Market, I did a quick Google search to see what other people have used on their road trips. Most of them suggest the same things, but this blog was the first to suggest GeoReader.

The app is kind of a battery suck, so I’d only run it if I was connected to a constant source of power. As you drive, it searches the National Registry of Historic Sites for locations close to you, and announces them as you go by. The only downside is it hasn’t been giving me details of the locations.

Angry Birds Rio

Or the original Angry Birds or Angry Birds Seasons. Any one of these games will entertain you for hours.

I looked for a travel journal app that would help organize photos and video and allow me to post directly to Facebook and Twiiter, but I didn’t see anything that I was free or a somewhat reasonable price. But I’ll keep looking! What are some apps you can live without?

Welcome back to life

Between trying to get settled back in at work and my annual battle with NKU’s financial aid department, I’m getting some video uploaded. Slowly but surely, I’ll have more and more photos and video to post that I couldn’t share with you while on my trip.  Enjoy! 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/v/ZMgoDxaKcn0?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/d-38448xXns?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/nri_ZWxGu5I?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/t0i03Sr8gY0?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/hhupy_Szw2A?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/ZaRJlsEE-_c?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/SSo0Kh2aPHg?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/g2Z5s2RWlnk?fs=1&hl=en_US

Reporter receives award for video confession

Well, even though I’m the worst blogger in the short history of bloggers I thought I’d try to get in here and post something.‬

After writing a story about the Naples Daily News staff’s coverage of the investigation into the violent murder of a mother and her five children, I’ve been following the case of Mesac Damas, husband and father of the victims and the man charged with their deaths.‬‪

In 2009, Stephen Beardsley, with camera rolling, simply asked Damas if he killed his wife and children. Surprisingly, Damas answered, “Yes, I did.” The confession was recorded as Damas was being extradited from Haiti, where he had fled after allegedly committing the crimes. Beardsley had followed the story to the island with fellow Daily News staffer, photographer  Lexey Swall.‬‪

Beardsley won a first place award for breaking news video in the 2010 Florida Society of News Editors journalism competition. The Naples staff won first place for online breaking news for its coverage of the Damas tragedy. Swall also won first place for a non-deadline video for an unrelated story.‬‪

You can read the background of how Beardsley obtained the confession from Damas here: http://escrippsnews.scrippsnet.com/articles/399-suspected-murderer-makes-confession-to-naples-pair (Apologies, my embedded links aren’t working today.) The Naples Daily News continues coverage of Damas’s case at naplesnews.com/damas.

Better late than never ….

If I was a reporter covering breaking news and the Northern Kentucky Forum was my assignment, my editor would have fired me last Thursday. Between work and midterms and class assignments, my blog got neglected. But I’m back now.

I went to the Northern Kentucky Forum at NKU last Thursday evening, “News in the Information Age: What happens to democracy if the presses stop?” According to displaced journalist Dr. Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, now of Princeton University, several things happen: overall voter turnout decreases, incumbents are re-elected easier, fewer candidates run and candidates spend less on their campaigns.

However, his research wasn’t well received by the audience. One problem was with the narrow scope of the study.

Schulhofer-Wohl said he used information from the 2004 and 2006 elections as a baseline to compare with 2008 election data. Based on this information, Schulhofer-Wohl said there was less voter turnout in the suburbs, but added that they were not able to study every community. He also only used one election to study the effect of going to a one-newspaper town. Critics of the study agreed that in about 10 years, with a few more elections post the Post, the study would gain more credibility.

After Schulhofer-Wohl finished his opening comments, Rich Boehne, the CEO of The E. W. Scripps Company, Schulhofer-Wohl’s former employer, was immediately called out to defend his company’s decision to close the Post at the end of 2007.

After calling himself chum, the bait thrown out behind ships to attract the sharks, Boehne agreed with the 44 percent of the audience who said they are less informed after the Post’s closing, but added that “more than one thing can be true at the same time.”

As the second truth, Boehne cited the malady today’s newspapers face: running a financially successful newspaper while supporting enterprise reporting with decreased income.

“Since WW2, classified ads have fueled newspapers,” Boehne said. “The Internet killed that.”

Referring to how difficult it is to harness the power of the Internet, Dennis Hetzel, NKY.com manager for Enquirer Media, said, “The web it like trying to wrestle a rhino that is running like a cheetah.”

Despite the obviously negative financial affect the Internet has had on newspapers, none of the panelists seemed ready to condemn it.

Jacque Steinberg, a New York Times media reporter turned education blogger, said its “exciting to be in a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago.” He added that readers are better served with the niche reporting that new media, such as blogs, provide.

Hetzel cited the interaction that the Internet brings to readers. When Hetzel tried blogging on for size, he said a short, three-paragraph blog entry sparked more reader interaction than any 25-inch editorial he had written.

The final audience poll of the evening asked the participants what was their preferred source of local news. Nearly half the audience answered with newspapers and their Web sites, 25 percent said they use television news stations and their Web sites and 16 percent said they use online news sites. Only one percent said they use bloggers to get their news. However, the poll was not clear if the category included news organization-employed bloggers or just unaffiliated writers.

With that quirk about the poll addressed, the panelists agreed that the poll showed that readers were moving toward getting their information from multiple Web sources.

Hetzel stressed the need for newspapers to “unshackle from one platform” and use multiple methods to tell a story.

Steinberg said he still likes to think that the news is based on good, shoe-leather reporting. Despite how someone decides to tell the story, Steinberg said the media “will still rise or fall based on content.”

To view Schulhofer-Wohl’s study in its entirety, click here.

Intimidation

You know the scrawny kid in “Little Giants” who uses an alka seltzer tablet to foam at the mouth? That’s what I think of when I think of the word “intimidation.” And intimidating is exactly what blogging does to me.

I’m not sure why blogging is so difficult for me. Usually I can churn out words easily, whether it be a quick news story or an essay for an international politics class. I think it might have something to do with writing about me and what I think rather than something that’s happening and what other people think about it.

So, without actually doing anything rememberable (yes, I know that’s not a word) in this my first blog entry, I’ll leave you with a little video from youtube. And maybe next time I’ll go off some more on how much plagiarism annoys me, I’ll rejoice that a student newspaper won an open records lawsuit against their college, or I’ll get into the extent of Twitter’s ridiculousity. (In answer to the question at the end of the story, I choose the latter option.)