Robert's House of Hamsters

Somewhere between Sacramento, the Oregon border and that tingly feeling in your toes.


Promises, promises

I told myself I wouldn't. I swore to myself I wouldn't allow it to happen.

I'm talking about getting into anything American Idol-related.

Sure, I can tell you who won all five seasons, but that's more trivia-related. Yeah, I have a couple of Kelly Clarkson songs, but just the good ones. Sure, I consider Carrie Underwood a total hottie but she's a country singer, so that doesn't count--same reason I was able to watch Nashville Star. I still think Matt Mason got jipped, he should have been second to Chris Young.

But the fact remains I told myself I wouldn't let myself get sucked into the American Idol hoopla. I've never watched the show for longer than five minutes. Nor would I buy any albums from anybody came through the Simon Cowell gauntlet.

Well, scratch that second one. I just got the Daughtry album on iTunes. It's good. Very 3 Doors Down-ish in my opinion.

But I'm still not watching the show. I'm sticking to my guns on that.


The week summary

*4 days worked
*1 crazy Stromberg timeclock card (just wave it over the machine and I'm clocked in, trippy for a hick like me)
*Over 500 miles driven
*2 misses with idiot drivers on highways between Chico and Marysville
*1 federal holiday
*1 good day
*2 so-so days
*1 day when I wanted to dig my own damn grave
*5 stories written
*1 story I'm pretty damn proud of
*1 correction for a misspelled name
*Too many little screw-ups to count
*1 name in the online staff directory (scroll down a little, you'll find it)
*1 sweet new apartment in Yuba City
*1 three-day weekend coming up--before I start working Saturdays.
*1 Thai restaurant found (what do you all mean there weren't any down there?)
*1 Big Bear Burger from the Black Bear Diner in Gridley--there's some Siskiyous memories.


My first A-D story...


The first day of the rest of my life. Or just the new job.

I'm too tired to organize my thoughts (mostly due to the lack of sleep last night caused by nervousness) so I'm giving everything in note details.

*So, what would you imagine a paper would have you cover first day? Something softball? Questions such as "How many cookies did the Girl Scouts sell this year?"

Nah, I was knocking on someone's door in Yuba City and asking, "So, what do you think about that drive-by that happened a few feet from your front door?"

Okay, I wasn't that tough. Chris, one of the photographers, knocked on the first door. Plus, I imagine I'll get at least one phone call from an angry parent of a kid at the charter school less than a block away because I asked about their emergency situations (even though they have an emergency procedure specifically for drive-bys)

*Many thanks to Tom Kelley up in Paradise for the parting gift of a 24-ounce can of Rockstar. Saved my backside. Plus, it caused one bit of unexpected fun.

For those not suicidal (or suffering from enough of a lack of sleep) to ever drink a 24-ounce can of Rockstar, let me explain the can design to you. It's all metal, with a screw top similar to plastic soda bottles. Now, I first opened it in Chico and took a few swigs before taking off for Marysville.

Do the math. Pre-opened container of a carbonated beverage getting sloshed around by the natural process of driving on a state highway in California.

When I opened that sucker in the A-D, it sounded like a frickin' cannon going off. I swear I heard it echo.

*I also got an apartment today in Yuba City. Joy. It's officially mine in two weeks. It's a friggin' sweet one-bedroom.

*I've heard much from people about the drive between Chico and the Marysville/Yuba City metropolitan area. Here's my two cents. Driving down is fine. It can be annoying being stuck behind a truck, but as long as I give myself an hour or so to get there, I'm good.

Driving back, however, is a totally different story. To pretty much every other driver on Highway 70, let me explain the rules of driving, since you've all appear to forget everything in the DMV's handbook. There are three situations when you should NOT have on your high-beams: When you're riding somebody's tailgate, when there's oncoming traffic within a few hundred feet, or it's getting foggy.

I got to deal with all three coming home tonight. At some points, all three simultaneously. Yes, Mr. Darwin, there is a reason God gave us the middle finger.

So all in all, there's my first day at work. Ta-da. This is the end of the post. Move along people, nothing to see here. Scram!


Go to sleep...

...for tomorrow is Day #1 in Marysville.

Details to come.



My thanks to Layne for showing me this...

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Remembering Houx

I spent the last nine months covering the Butte County Board of Supervisors as a reporter.

So when I learned District 3 Supervisor Mary Anne Houx died Friday morning, it did impact me.

I can't say I ever had a lengthy conversation with Mary Anne. There wasn't much reason for us to; as far as I can tell, the Paradise Post isn't distributed in her district. Most of my supervisor conversations were with Kim Yamaguchi.

But one thing I noticed is the way Mary Anne made her presence felt at the supervisor meetings.

It was with her words.

As a reporter, you look for "quotable quotes." In other words, good quotes don't come from just having people say something isn't good enough. The way it's said is important too. Having these kind of quotes makes stories even more engaging to the reader.

Among the five supervisors, Mary Anne was the best at making "quotable quotes."

She didn't seem to speak up as often as others during meetings and even when she did, you had to be close to hear her because she talked so far away from her microphone. But that sinister, selfish and somewhat evil reporter side of me would internally whoop for joy whenever Mary Anne did speak. Because odds were on my side she was going to say something that would reprint great.

My personal favorite was when the trash franchise between the county and the Town of Paradise was being discussed.

"Quite honestly, it seems like Chicago to me," Mary Anne said. Pull quote bells and whistles started going off in my head as I wrote the words down.

Then there was also the incident where, if someone wasn't paying attention closely, it would sounds as though Mary Anne was advocating killing an endangered snake. I recall that, during that exchange, at least two high-ranking county employees had to turn away from the board for a few seconds because they were laughing too hard.

I think part of Mary Anne's appeal to me as a reporter was somewhat personal, because her attitude reminded me a lot of someone else: my maternal grandmother, in that they didn't exercise extremely calculated restraint in their statements and could appear to be rather stubborn. Part of that could be due to the fact my grandma died shortly after I started covering county meetings.

With Mary Anne's death, I learned of even more similarities between the two:

*A fierce independent streak — Mary Anne was a Republican, but wasn't afraid to go against the party line, rip fellow party members in responses to the Grand Jury, or endorse the left-wing (or lefter-wing, depending on your point of view) candidate to take her spot on the board. My grandma was a military wife and packed the parachute of a top sportsman class drag racing car. Enough said.

*Both were widowed relatively young, in their early 40s.

*Smoke breaks.

*Both were 73 when they died.

But here's something from May. This is when the supervisor appeared with the Governator at a press conference. Her speech starts around the 8:15 mark.


But wait, there's more...

Along with the khakis and work shirts, I got another great T-shirt:

Top 10 reasons I procrastinate:


I'm sure my family would whole-heartedly agree with that one.

No way I can ever be considered a video game junkie

So I went to Wal-Mart (yeah, sue me) today to pick up some more khakis and button shirts for the new office. Low and behold, I saw a group of about 12 to 15 people bundled up and sitting by the newspaper racks.

What was this? Some sort of strange anti-Wal-Mart protest by all those feel-good liberal types who focus their hatred of mass consumerism on people that shop at Wal-Mart and/or drive an SUV?

Nope. I recalled that it is less than 24 hours before the Playstation 3 is up for sale.

Sorry. I could never camp out for something like that. Unless, of course, I could sell it on eBay for four times the retail value.

Now, those people are the real geniuses in all of this.


More on Marysville

So, some more stuff out of my trip down to Marysville/Yuba City yesterday:

*My beats are going to be the Sutter County Board of Supervisors, Live Oak City Council and all feature-type stuff which develops out of those two particular governing bodies. Wow. "feature-type stuff." Did that sound educated, or what?

*I'll be working Tuesdays through Saturdays. I imagine that will take some getting used to. Party starts when I show up!

*Good news: I get Thanksgiving off. Bad news: I'm working Christmas. Ho ho ho.

*Filled out one apartment application. We'll see how that goes.


The Digs

Good-bye to the old office:

Now say hello to the new office:

Sorry, no picture of the new cubicle. I was just down there filling out paperwork; didn't want to freak anyone out by suddenly whipping out a camera.

A Clash of Rembering the Titans

All of a sudden, Titans is a popular name.

Sure, people know of the NFL's Tennessee Titans--and before they were around the dominant Cal State Fullerton Titans baseball program, but now suddenly Titans is the "in" name.

Take, for example, the new team in the National Lacrosse League, the New York Titans. Ironically, the New York Jets were originally called the Titans.

But, it's not only an American thing. Next season, the Australian National Rugby League's newest team will be the Gold Coast Titans.

Don't forget there's also the Trenton Titans of the ECHL.

I don't know why I'm making these connections. It's late and I'm driving to Marysville in the morning. So I think I'll end it right there.

The Big Showdown!!!

The undefeated #1-ranked USC Trojans must defend the Colosseum against the upset-minded undefeated #4-ranked Cal State Happy Camp Bucks!

...sorry, just had to go a little video game nerdy for a moment


The lack of employment post

I'm jamming to some 3 Doors Down at 1 a.m. and I don't really feel unemployed yet.

Of course, Monday hasn't hit yet. Right now, it's just a weekend.

In the morning, I'll be driving up to Paradise with a cardboard box to throw anything I want to keep from my desk into. Grab my last paycheck, handshakes and hugs, then the last 11 months/year/year and a half (depending on which starting point you use) is officially part of the past.

For those of you who came in late, Friday was my last day at work with The Post. Starting next Monday, I'll be the greenhorn bringing the staff of the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville up to capacity.

So maybe unemployed is the wrong term. It's "between jobs."

Of course, there were some people speculating (elected officials included among them) that I had been let go as part of the budget tightening going on at MediaNews Group papers. I dispelled that quickly. No, it's not true. I initiated this after I did the interview and got the offer from the Appeal-Democrat — which, for scorekeeping purposes, is owned by Freedom Communications.

It will be a different animal in Marysville. For one, it's a paper that's mostly wire copy—the same thing the writers in Paradise would crack jokes about while we busted our butts to write four stories for every paper. My expectation down there is a story for every day I'm at work plus a longer piece to run on the weekend.

At first glance, that seems like less work. But I doubt that's going to be true. It never is.

Of course, part of this deal is that my time is Chico is coming to an end as well. I've bought some moving boxes, but that change-hating part of me has so far succeeded in keeping me from packing anything in them.

"You don't have an apartment in Yuba City yet," the little voice tells me. "Why rush?"

On the other shoulder is the voice of my mother through the cell phone.

"You need to hurry up and find something down there," she says. "You don't need to be putting 100 miles a day on your car. It's getting older."

"HA!" the little voice retorts. "It's a Toyota with less than 160,000 miles. It's barely broken in. It will be fine.

"Besides, you're so freakin' paranoid about being someplace where you don't know anyone you'll be crashing on the couch at your old house every weekend the second you move down there."

That's where the little voice wins out. As soon as I turn the key to whatever apartment I find in Yuba City, I'll be 50 miles from the nearest soul who knows who the hell I am. It's not a comfortable feeling.

I knew people when I went from Happy Camp to Weed. I knew people when I went from Weed to Chico. I know absolutely nobody between Chico and Sacramento.

Somehow, people have this concept that I'm really great at making friends. I've never thought I have. Attempting to socialize with socially lubricated people in Chico bars further reinforced this idea.

So, when I wake up in a few hours, the feelings of not having a job for a short time will actually hit.

Let's see how that feels.


Funniest flow chart EVER! At least if you're a reporter...

Borrowed from John Robinson, the editor of the News-Record in Greensboro, NC


If only some drives would go this fast...

This is a 71-mile drive (Calgary, AB to Banff, AB) in two minutes.

Doesn't that hurt?


Everybody's doing it...

It's funny as hell, so yeah, I'll post it, too: