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These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
-- Thomas Paine



Blog Posts for June 2005

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And Now, the Weather Report...

Blogging is going to be light in the next few weeks as work is heating up for me. In addition to moving from being an ASP developer to an ASP.NET developer, the scale of the projects in which I'll be involved is rather large. Sadly, I have little time to paint, but I'll continue my lunch break painting.

And for you geeks out there: I'm a very fast ASP developer. This site is a good example of that. I spent less than 40 hours developing the blogging backbone of beatcanvas. But I'm scratching my head a bit about .NET. Where's the promised speed increase? I understand that the DataGrid offers some benefits, but I find it more limiting than freeing, particularly when there's a need to display data from more than one recordset/dataset. And the validation controls seem very clumsy as well. For example, tabbing out of a textbox that has a Required validation tied to it but has no text in it doesn't force an error to appear in the Summary control until I press the submit button. That's just dumb. And only one form per page? I'm not a fan of that.

I understand the desire for a single language and the desire for server-side, but I feel more like my hands are tied than they are freed by .NET because of the limitations inherent to the environment.

Everything has pros and cons, I guess. I just expected something more robust.

3 Comments
Tags: programming
by Brett Rogers, 6/2/2005 8:21:46 PM
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Sugarfree - I'm Not Half the Man I Used to Be

Sing the title to the tune of "Yesterday" by the Beatles...

I just had to blog this... last summer, I weighed 356 pounds. Uncomfortable, to be sure. I affectionately started referring to my stomach as "the beach ball."

I rode my bike a lot last year and by fall, I was in the 340's.

On the day that I started my sugarfree diet (no refined sugar, not even ketchup or jelly...) I weighed myself and I was at 338.

Today, almost 3 weeks after going sugarfree, I'm at 331. And I haven't really done anything to alter my diet except that one thing. Just no sugary foods. My activity is no different than it was.

My initial goal is to get to 320. On that day, I'll do a little dance.

Once I drop below 300, I'll be where I was 5 years ago.

I don't really care what I weigh - I carry it pretty well and I've always been a big guy - but I hate the beach ball. And thankfully, it's on its way out :)

4 Comments
Tags: health
by Brett Rogers, 6/3/2005 12:36:57 PM
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The Meaning of

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Via RedState, the campaign finance reformers have said this in their brief to the FEC regarding the regulation of blogs:

Finally, we do not believe anyone described as a "blogger" is by definition entitled to the benefit of the press exemption. An individual writing material for distribution on the Internet may or may not be a press entity. While some bloggers may provide a function very similar to more classic media activities, and thus could reasonably be said to fall within the exemption, others surely do not . The test here should be the same test that the Commission has applied in other contexts - is the entity a "press entity" and is it acting in its "legitimate press function"?
I'm no lawyer, but I can sure as hell read. The first amendment is quite clear that Congress cannot make a law that curtails what I say or what I print. The "press" is not an entity, but a facility. To suggest that the "press" is an entity would require some agency to give an official blessing and decree writing as protected.

Where do we live, China?? What "American" actually wrote that authoritarian paragraph for the reformers?"

Read that amendment again. It limits government, not the people. Wow... I'll go to the mat on this one.

0 Comments
Tags: free speech | media | government | politics
by Brett Rogers, 6/3/2005 3:32:40 PM
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Surrounded by Boys

This weekend, the little guys are with us. Lots and lots of playtime...

We bought Boggle Jr recently and it's not at all the same as Boggle, but leave it to Cub to then take the cards and start organizing them into a coherent story.

"See Dad? The S U N was out and people ate C A K E after they got to the party in their C A R..."

The kid could be entertained for hours with a toilet paper tube. I love that about him. We played for a while and then he got bored with spelling and started being his creative self.

Austin and I played some checkers. When it comes to logic games like that, I try to play in such a way that they learn things from it. One of the rewards of parenthood is seeing your kid apply what you learned in such a way that they become good. The little rascal beat me in the second game - and legitimately so.

You can see by the look in his eyes that he knows I'm history. It's a rematch tomorrow ;)

Sundays are always special breakfast day. I make chocolate chip pancakes and everyone pigs out. Being sugarfree, it's tough sometimes to remember not to lick my fingers. And it occurs to me - I've had no chocolate for 3 weeks. D'oh! But I will behave and be very satisfied with my morning smoothie - I swear I will.

2 Comments
Tags: jacob | austin | boggle | my life
by Brett Rogers, 6/4/2005 9:23:17 PM
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Star Wars: A Mini-Review

I went and finally saw the new Star Wars movie with my friend, Jackie. My verdict?

Eh... it was okay.

I didn't buy Anakin's conversion to the dark side at all. I wasn't greatly impressed by the overlong fight scene at the end. Lots of cool special effects, but the green-screen acting la Lucas was had all the realism of a Yu Gi Oh cartoon. (Okay, that's a cheap shot and an exaggeration, but Lucas is still the only director I know who can make a good actor like Sam Jackson appear mediocre.)

There was one part of the movie that did grab me. I don't remember the moment, but it was very visceral. I felt a taste of how much some people truly want power... in an evil Kim Jong Il kind of way. It felt quite huge and menacing.

Lucas wants to move into emotive, experimental film-making next. I wish him the best. The Star Wars films are in a class by themselves - an experience more than they are movies. But I'm glad that it's over... even though I saw the first one 57 times in the movie theater the summer that it came out.

2 Comments
Tags: star wars
by Brett Rogers, 6/8/2005 12:04:26 AM
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Falling

Weighed myself this morning: 325. That's a loss of 31 pounds from last summer, and 13 pounds since going sugarfree about 3 weeks ago. That's a little fast for just over 3 weeks, so I'll need to eat more to keep it to about 10 pounds a month. But at this rate, I should hit 300 sometime in late summer.

And now, back to work... smiling.

ETC: The fitness bug has started to hit me. I like riding my bike, and that's good, but it's not enough. I don't like the effect that running has on a body, and while I like walking, it's time-consuming.

When I was in the Army, a guy I knew did a lot of body-weight conditioning, and I'd read up on it after I knew him. Plus, the Army has you do a lot of body-weight conditioning anyway... so I'm getting a book on it and I'll be trying that.

And I feel terrific. You wouldn't know that I had a herniated disk just six months ago with no surgery to repair it or that my foot is still broken. The foot, by the way, is slowly getting better.

Life is awesome :)

8 Comments
Tags: health
by Brett Rogers, 6/9/2005 9:55:49 AM
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First-Time Photographer, Part-Time Weatherman

Jacob and I went to the playground today and messed around in the large wooden fort near my home.

We played hide-and-seek and, like any kid, Cub loves to have his picture taken. But today, he asked a different question:

"Dad, can I take pictures?"
"Hmm... sure, why not."

So, I taught him where the button was and he went to town. Here's his first picture:

And then you can see in the following set of pictures where his real interest lies:

Yep - the boy likes cars.

On the walk back home, he announced that he would like me to take a movie of him giving the weather report.

I love just hangin' with the boy.

One other thing: I discovered GarageBand.com late last night. If you go to the Folk section and choose Syd's "Back Home," it's an amazing song. Among others that I found. Some of the songs are free downloads, and for those who want to push their music to the world (re: Kris!), it looks pretty cool.

1 Comment
Tags: my life | jacob
by Brett Rogers, 6/11/2005 3:14:24 PM
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New Music

I'm listening to the new songs that I downloaded from GarageBand.com while I sit here at work designing a data schema.

Christa Couture's Day 04 is for people who miss Jewel before she went pop. Great, delicate song.

I mentioned Syd yesterday and his song Back Home. I ordered his CD. Cool guitar work and a feel for melody.

Genevieve's In Our House. I think she's a Christian, and the song is good for a Sunday afternoon on the back porch with your mate.

Lori McKenna - I'll probably buy her CD. I downloaded Never Die Young. Love her voice and her emotion in the song. It has these lyrics: "I'm just brilliantly bitter/And sealed by my skin but broken inside."

And finally, Matthew Hebert of the Ware River Club and their song Broken Light grows on me with each listen - and I liked it the first time I heard it! He sounds like a great guy to sit to a beer with. Just an excellent song.

So go and enjoy. I like the idea of ignoring the DJ's and the music companies and finding these talented folk on my own. Lots of good stuff - so go explore :)

0 Comments
Tags: music
by Brett Rogers, 6/12/2005 1:11:38 PM
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Clouds

A bit of a fast storm moving in... click on the picture for a little movie of the clouds...

0 Comments
Tags: video
by Brett Rogers, 6/13/2005 9:13:04 PM
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Blame Where It Belongs

A couple of thoughts to take a break from 14-hour work day stuff...

The Michael Jackson trial is over. Exhibit A: a grown man who sleeps with other people's kids and has porn in his bedroom. Some of the jurors felt he may have been guilty of lewd acts in the past, but there was no "smoking gun." Yet, for his stupidity, Jackson went from being the King of Pop to being the King of Popping-His-Weasel, and he lost millions in potential revenue and lost all his credibility. No prison, but for him, that's a decent sentence for being so inappropriate with kids. I can live with that, and I think that, as a juror, when the stories of the accusers don't jibe, how can you convict? The best outcome of this is that Michael Jackson's secret life is now exposed to everyone. Hopefully, the poor kid's gravy train mom is the last mother who will allow her children near Jackson.

And then a lot of people are getting on Microsoft for working with the Chinese government to have their software help censor blogs. It's not Microsoft that needs the push here, but China. Microsoft's Spaces site allow for many to communicate and post thoughts... and just as capitalism crept into China and opened the country to many more freedoms than they once had, free speech is making its way in and will incrementally expand until the words "freedom" and "human rights" can be uttered and written without fear.

Patience is a virtue. The right thing eventually wins out. Hitler was defeated. The Russians didn't win the space race. And Pizza Hut no longer dominates their industry. I have hope here...

ETC: I wasn't very clear in my initial comments on Mr. Jackson, which is what happens when I try to squeeze in some comment on a controversial issue in five minutes.

As friends of mine will tell you, my ideal punishment for pedophiles is to throw them all into an open-air pit and occasionally throw food in there. But no parole. They can't be re-wired to stop desiring kids. A good buddy of mine from the Army later became a correctional officer in a federal prison in Washington and said that the pedophiles were incontrovertibly corrupted. There is no rehabilitating them. Fair enough - into the pit you go.

Even when his music was quite popular, I was never a Michael Jackson fan, so I harbor no love for him. That said, I say in the comments that our system of justice can't apply a horseshoes standard of "close enough." The prosecution had the opportunity to put enough evidence forward in a clear and compelling way to at least convict Jackson of child endangerment. I think all of us feel that we could have convinced the jury of at least that. But the spaghetti of the prosecution's case and the conflicting testimony of the prosecution's witnesses didn't lead the jury to a guilty verdict. It was the ineptitude of Tom Sneddon's office that brought that about. I don't think it had anything to do with Jackson's defence team or his celebrity. It seems to me to be more sheer incompetence.

I don't think Jackson comes out of this vindicated in any way. I do think that he's been hurt by this and I think that he will forever be a pariah in the music industry - too many parents in that crowd to embrace him again. For now, that will have to do and it may serve as a preventative to his future nearness to kids.

4 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 6/14/2005 1:13:33 PM
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Don't Go There

A friend of mine had her computer kidnapped by some adware program. She accidentally got the unwanted program from azlyrics.com, which hosts the adware. (Hint: NEVER go to a lyrics site, which is where most teenagers get these things and wind up with non-functioning computers.)

It's a pretty big problem. The adware makers aren't going away, but we can reduce their profitability if there was a list of the sites that host adware. Why isn't there such a site?

So here's an idea for a internet app that shouldn't be too hard to write.

Just as anti-spam software curtails spam by stopping it before it comes in, why not have a list of adware-hosting sites in XML format at, say, Microsoft or Google, and browsers can allow users to prohibit going to such sites if they're on the list? Once the site prove that they no longer host such malware, they can come off the list.

I expect that if such an add-in were available, it would be the fastest-selling app for the next two years. And I expect that the malware producers would eventually wither up.

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 6/15/2005 12:18:28 PM
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Summer Migration

Two of my sons, Nick and Aaron, are off to points north to spend time with their mom this summer. Which leaves only Bari and me in the house, with frequent visits from Jacob and Austin.

Last night, I was working and Nick called me to ask if he could stop by on his way home. So he came with a gift - Father's Day is Sunday. He gave me a really cool card and a bunch of bananas, knowing my penchant for smoothies and my desire to continue losing weight. It was a great gift and the card was pretty touching.

In preparation for my daughter leaving the roost, we started the game of musical bedrooms last night as they were waiting for their mom to arrive. Such a thing stirs up memories and laughter, and we had a good time of it.

"Wow Dad," Nick said to me. "Pretty soon, it'll just be us guys."
"And then just me and you!" Aaron said.
"And then there was 1," I replied.

It's an odd thing to consider. I'm well-adjusted to the summer migration of my older kids - it's been going on since the mid-90's. But not to the idea of an empty nest. Of course, that's a few years off yet.

2 Comments
Tags: nick
by Brett Rogers, 6/16/2005 9:38:51 AM
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If Dirt Were Dollars...

I'm really tired of people who expect to be rewarded and actually get rewarded for doing bad things.

Some days, it's really hard not to be cynical.

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 6/16/2005 3:20:00 PM
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A Place of My Own

For the first time in 16 months, I'm going to sleep in a room I can call my own. It's delightful, the childlike joy that I feel.

ETC: And a picture this morning...

5 Comments
Tags: my life
by Brett Rogers, 6/17/2005 12:10:46 AM
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Thumb

A friend of mine recently made a huge educational accomplishment. I went to her home yesterday to celebrate at a party. I knew a few people, and the others were very funny and very cool people who are also her friends. While there, a common theme kept coming up: what about her great business idea? You see, she has a killer business idea. Unique, embracing, niched. It's an idea that runs on all cylinders. All of us who are her friends devoutly believe in her and in this idea. But one key person doesn't seem to want the idea to go forward: her husband.

The rest of us are puzzled about this. He's a very successful guy - to where money is really no object. He married well in marrying her. It seems to us that he should know what she can do. And I think that she would go for it if he backed her up on this.

She's an intensely loyal person. I treasure that about her, and maybe she regales her husband's opinion so much that she shares his doubt - just because it's his doubt. I don't know.

In the meantime, we who are her friends are all cheering a race that may never start, and it's breaking our hearts. But then we can't pull her into her own dream if she doesn't lead the charge. So we daydream...

0 Comments
Tags: dreams
by Brett Rogers, 6/19/2005 11:09:48 AM
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The Eeyore Report

Only two of my five are with me this moring. Nick and Aaron are with their Mom in Minneapolis for a visit. Bari is overnighting at her best friend's house. Austin and Cub are with me this morning and it's a gorgeous day :)

So far on this Father's Day, I've made chocolate chip pancakes and putzed around with the boys. While cooking pancakes, I watched a bit of news, or as it should be called, "The Eeyore Report."

"Deadly attacks in Iraq... A man found murdered... This just in - a woman has been found to be drowned after a boating accident..."

It's all quite outrageous and hysterical. So here's the good news.

"Millions of dads on this Father's Days are hearing from their loving children and are spending time with their family."

And for all of the good news in Iraq that the major networks (including Fox) won't report, here's Arthur Chrenkoff's last roundup.

I think I'll take the little tool that I wrote to watch the media's online coverage of the election last fall to instead search for good news and I'll occasionally provide links. Where are people succeeding? How are people enriching their lives? What's the story with the happy ending? This will be for a bit of balance to the Eeyore Report coming out of the "If it bleeds, it leads" crowd.

Now - this just in - we're off to the playground!

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 6/19/2005 11:25:56 AM
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Father's Day

2 Comments
Tags: jacob | austin
by Brett Rogers, 6/19/2005 1:59:15 PM
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The News

A bit more about the Eeyore Report...

FoxNews has a report on why fewer and fewer young people pay attention to the news.

"It's just murder, murder and murder and then whatever is on the government's agenda," said Central High senior Alison Margolies. "It would be nice if it wasn't just terror and the war."

Margolies was among a majority of students who said the media aren't reporting enough "good news." That comes as an awakening to many adults who say they don't want young people to believe that the world of child kidnappings and killings drawn by TV news is anywhere near an accurate reflection of the world in which they live.

Most of the students said they wanted to see the media do a better job of rounding out reporting on horrific events.

"When you look at some news, it makes you feel unable to do anything for your world. ... Instead of just showing that people are dying in Sudan, you could show what this high school and other groups are doing [to help the victims]," Margolies said.


There's much more in the article, but while a lot of people think the decline in attention to the media is a problem, I'm not one of them.

This is an age where anyone can produce just about anything in any medium and distribute it to a worldwide audience via the Internet. I mentioned Arthur Chrenkoff's good news about Iraq. He's just a blogger, doing his homework, and many people pay attention to the links he provides and they hear something more than the media's incessant "car bomb" reporting. The story of Iraq is much bigger than that Eeyore view.

In the FoxNews report, some people profess a horror at the decline of interest in the media.

Calling news culture “a valuable thing in a democracy,” Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post, agreed that a declining interest in the news has very serious consequences.

I think that those in government and those in big media take themselves way too seriously. Media is supposed to provide a watchful and skeptical eye on the shenanigans in Washington and in our state capitols, but too often journalists only serve as a propaganda venue for those whose views they share. That's not "news" nor is it "valuable" to democracy.

And now back to my crazy life. I'm about midway through the huge project that I'm doing at work. I've got about two more weeks of long days ahead. I think I'll go camping for a weekend with my sons when it's over. And of course, we'll be news-free during that time.

And after that, a lot of painting... which I'm missing big time.

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 6/22/2005 7:32:38 AM
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A Boy and His Bike

I drive a 1999 Ford F-250. Big truck. I initially bought it because I lived an hour from Des Moines, deep in rural Iowa - like almost 9 miles of gravel road from my little white house on 10 acres to the nearest paved road.

But now that I live in the city, the truck is overkill. I like the comfort of the cab (being 6' 3", I need ample head and leg room), but it's just too much.

When I lived on the acreage, I once got the truck stuck in the back of the property and was mid-wheel high in mud. Oh, the luxury of four-wheel drive. I cranked that V-10 Triton engine and had all four wheels muscle their way out of the mud. Hoo-ah. But, it came at the expense of my alignment. I messed up something in the front end. I had a mechanic do a few things to it and the truck drove fine, but the steering wheel was cockeyed.

Fast forward three years and I'm in the city. A few weeks ago, I noticed a weird grinding noise coming from the truck. At first, I thought it was pebbles in my hubcaps or something, but no, it's the front end. Related to the alignment problem and the mudbath from long ago? I don't know, but something's awry.

So yesterday I threw my bike in the back of the truck and drove to my favorite mechanic, a guy named Larry Rogers. Good work. Honest. And no relation to me.

"Larry, my truck needs a checkup."
"I'm here to help."
"Here's the keys."
I pulled my bike out of the truck bed and Larry raised an eyebrow. "You know how hot it is?" he asked me.
"Beautiful day for a bike ride."
"How far?"
"West Des Moines. Maybe 5 or 6 miles."
"You're crazy."
"Hey, my bike is more reliable and less expensive than that thing," I said, pointing to my truck.
"Suit yourself," he said, laughing. "But your truck has air conditioning!"

The ride home was fabulous. I rode through Greenbelt Park on its bike path. Loads of shady trees and a lovely brook that runs parallel to it. You'd never know that you were smack-dab in the midst of the city if someone just set you down there. And so I rode, finally leaving the park and angling through a ritzy subdivision and then pedalling down the street that led to my home.

Good ride.

If I could get away with it, I wouldn't own a car (or van or truck). I hate driving. I'd much rather take my bike. If you asked me what it is about a car that I don't like, I'm not sure I could tell you. Maybe that they feel dirty and wasteful to me. Convenient, sure, and even necessary, but obese America isn't helped by its love for the automobile. Maybe that sounds silly coming from a guy who weighs 328 pounds.

But a bike is simple. It's freeing. I even like pedalling in a rainstorm. I hope that I always live close enough to where I work that I can ride my bike. And so, for the next few days until Larry figures out how many hundreds (or, gulp, thousands) of dollars I'll owe for him fixing the big green truck, I get to live in a world where my sole transportation is my bike.

Perfect.

0 Comments
Tags: biking | my life
by Brett Rogers, 6/23/2005 7:33:21 AM
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A Reason for the Rain

Today's a day for the Des Moines Art Festival. I'd wanted to go, but I think I'll end up missing it this year due to non-stop work for another two or three weeks and because my truck's in the shop. That's okay with me because next year I plan to be a participant in the festival.

I woke up last night around 2 AM. No clue why, but I'd come home at around 7-ish and stayed up for an hour and then crashed. So I'm up at 2 AM, and the rain started to come down and by 3 AM it was coming down pretty good. I stood in my living room where my son, Nick, was half-asleep on the couch. I watched the show out the sliding glass door and decided to shut off the AC and open the door to allow the breeze to come in. In opening the door, I was greeted by rain blowing in through the screen. And then it occurred to me - the last painting that I'd started, the Botanical Center one, was sitting by the open window in my room.

I walked to it and sure enough, the watercolor was a bit waterlogged. I think that's it for that painting. And probably best. It was an effort to make a picture-perfect copy of what I saw, which has its own charm and I've demonstrated to myself that I can do it, but it's not the direction that I want to take my art.

I brought my watercolor stuff to work today. I thought it would make a nice break in coding a project management web site for Wells Fargo (a very hang-on-to-your-hat effort due to a cramped time frame, tall requirements, etc). I want to get something down and then go after it with the pen and ink that I bought a while back.

I don't know if you've seen Strictly Ballroom, which is a favorite movie of mine. But today I'm reminded of it.

0 Comments
Tags: my life
by Brett Rogers, 6/25/2005 11:34:43 AM
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The Bad News about the Good News

I came home from work today to take a break. I started messing with my watercolors and decided to multi-task a bit. If you've read this site lately, you know that I'm discontent with the amount of bad news that is always reported. How about some good news?

Last fall, in studying how the press reported on Kerry and on Bush, I did what I felt was as unbiased a study as I could possibly do. I built me a little engine that can harness the 500 most recent stories on Google News that mentioned Bush and Kerry in the same story. By doing such a thing, you see the same story several times because the AP or UPI feed is repeated by different news outlets. Therefore, the more outlets that carried the story, the bigger the footprint and the more well-known the story would be. My engine would show me a headline and the number of outlets that carried it.

What I found was that pro-Kerry/anti-Bush stories reached a much wider audience than pro-Bush/anti-Kerry stories.

I don't say that today to philosophize or sermonize; I say that as a means of background.

So in my effort to find "good news" stories, I remodeled my engine and let it rip. I did a search for the top 500 stories that had the phrase "good news" in them. Of those 500, only 2 stories are getting reported in 5 or more media outlets. (The column on the left is the headline and the column on the right is the number of outlets that carried that headline.)

GoogleNews Keywords: "good news"
Baseball Canada settles on Ernie Whitt as manager for World ...8
Marquez back for shaken Mexico6

Only two - and they're both sports stories. The rest of the 486 results for "good news" are more or less isolated and not widely covered. No truly big footprint for good news stories.

On a whim, I decided to see how "bad news" would fare...

GoogleNews Keywords: "bad news"
A Tech Trio's Hard Cell42
US confirms mad cow case; animal believed to have been born here12
Baseball Canada settles on Ernie Whitt as manager for World ...8
Narrative a cure to media's "AIDS fatigue"6
Yen Weakens; Record Oil Price May Hamper Japanese Recovery6
Hospital’s smoking ban shows a worrying lack of human kindness6

Much better. Bigger footprint. Obviously, bad news is more popular. (I also find it funny that Ernie Whitt's appointment by Baseball Canada shows up in both good news and bad.)

But I am determined. I'll tweak this little project when I'm done with the project at work.

1 Comment
Tags: media | politics
by Brett Rogers, 6/25/2005 4:23:07 PM
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