Saturday, December 1, 2012

Knowing What You Don't Know

I've always felt I could take care of myself and could figure out what I needed. But that's a bit of self-delusion, especially when something serious happens. This little cancer journey--and I say little because it's new and because there seems to be a positive resolution in the near future--has reminded me that things aren't black and white. Not everything is knowable. The experts don't always agree. They CAN put something on the internet that isn't true. You know, just one surprise after another.

The trip from fear about something wrong to knowing it to fixing it to continuing to treat it has gone remarkably fast. My information changes day to day, partly because the facts change a  bit, partly because my own rather uninformed thoughts are disposed of, though sometimes I've guessed or have understood something I've read on my own. It's funny what we know but not really--yes, some cancer cells had gone elsewhere but it's not a metastasized cancer. It's a couple of isolated cells. "They got it in time" has real meaning.

Wednesday I saw the radiologist and despite some things about the course of this cancer that sound a little like what I'd read about prostate cancer, it's not at all the same. So the passing thought that maybe radiation wasn't necessary since the cancer is very slow growing and it tends to affect, shall we say, older women, a question about doing that seemed to horrify the radiologist. She in fact seemed to know that I was going to ask, because I think I hinted at it with the oncologist a few days earlier.
It's not that I think I should or that I'm opposed to radiation. Just a question, folks.  I'm also a little fuzzy brained still, maybe from the surgery, probably just being very tired, something radiation is likely to increase in the short run.

It will keep me busy--five days a week, five weeks. But the sessions are really short, after the first one where they measure and mark you to make sure they don't set your heart on fire or something. I was offered a slightly different option, three weeks, longer sessions but that would mean slightly less radiation delivered. But I'm in for a dime, in for a dollar. Five weeks it is, starting in January.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So, Yeah, I've Been Busy

If I submitted the story of the last five weeks of my life as a soap opera script, it would probably be rejected as too ridiculous, so overloaded with cliched drama as to be utterly unbelievable. The good news is that it all looks like there will be a happy ending.

 I'll tell this chronologically but keep in mind, it seems to be turning out well.

 In the space of about two weeks, I was diagnosed with cancer, went through a hurricane, had a knife pulled on me and got subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

 Within two more weeks, I've had surgery, seen an oncologist, started a five-year (!) daily drug regimen that's already making me a tad ill,  and am preparing to start radiation.

 The sequence was, roughly, this: I knew something was growing where it shouldn't, but ignored it awhile out of fear. Not a good move but I could rationalize it a bit by thinking about the several harmless cysts I'd had, including one that turns out to have perhaps saved me now. But the lump wouldn't go away, wouldn't take on the texture of a cyst, until one day in early October as I was mentally debating what to do, I saw someone on tv say about her cancer treatment, "I got sick and then I got better."

That statement did it for me and I knew I could take the next step, that I could accept becoming sick to become better.

So off I went to the hospital women's clinic, which produced an absolutely negative (as in horrible) report that had me wondering very calmly whether my life insurance would arrive quickly enough to keep my kid's tuition payments up.

 Two days later, I was sitting with a surgeon who faulted several aspects of the report, big time, but wisely decided to do a biopsy on the spot.

Three days later, while working spin alley at a presidential debate, I got his call confirming it was indeed cancer, something ridiculously rare called mucinous colloid carcinoma. It is a cancer with an amazingly good general prognosis though I've since learned, the variables of cancer are endless. In my case, they are mostly good news.

After a couple of more tests, surgery was booked for Nov. 1. From the moment I got the diagnosis, I began feeling like two people: this person diagnosed with cancer and then me, the regular me, who wasn't sick. It's a cliche to say that a serious diagnosis creates an emotional roller coaster. I felt oddly able to step outside myself and see how I was reacting though now I think I probably wasn't as detached as I thought. (The only other time I felt anything close to this was in the weeks right after Sept. 11, when I kept sensing the presence of another person standing very close to me, at my elbow, watching as I worked on stories. I have no idea what that was about.) But mostly I felt eerily calm.

 As the surgery date approached, so did Hurricane Sandy, and so two days before it hit, the lumpectomy had to be postponed. And then the hurricane hell broke loose, with a loss of power that would last eight days, return long enough to allow me to write some election copy, and then fail again for two days because of the nor'easter.

But but! That's not enough, right? A hurricane, no power, a snowstorm and little to no fuel. I will explain in more detail, but the day after the hurricane was the moment the neighborhood trash chose to attack some good people over an imagined slight, slugging one guy in the head with a brick, pulling knives on us, etc. I will tell that story another time but the good guys have won that one, too.

 After a second postponement because I had no power and no heat to come home to, I had surgery Nov. 12 and, at the hospital, the doc said, everything's normal, the malignancy removed, no metastasized cancer found in the removed lymph node.

 Aha, I thought, returning home where I promptly began feeling like the bionic woman (it was the post-surgical endorphins, apparently.) Cancer defeated in less than a week! Criminals disposed of since they were finally evicted and we all have orders of protection! Hurricane gone and the heat back! Sure, I've got a couple of hideous scars but so what?

 But. And there's always, always a but with cancer, I'm learning.

A week after surgery, I visited the surgeon whose opening comment to me was, "Well you're Stage I." It turns out that the experts test the removed lymph node (two, actually) on the spot but also look at it over a few days. And a couple of stray cancer cells were found.  The doctors distinguish between stray, isolated cells and an actual metastasized cancer, so again, this is good news. Who knew?

Yet I'm in this weird grayish world of technically diagnosed with cancer but medically, it's doubtful that any cancer remains. And I'm not sick, or haven't been though, I'm starting to feel a bit weakened from a drug that is meant as insurance against  a recurrence.

I have no grand statement on life, no fantastic insight into the meaning of life. This is just something, well, several things, that have happened in a very short amount of time.

 And that's all I can write tonight. Please do not feel compelled to comment. I just need to write all this down.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'm Stunned

A conservative group has found evidence that supports conservative complaints about liberal practices at a university. The headline or at least the lede of the story as it appeared online probably should have indicated that. 

Study: UC leftism leaves many with unbalanced education

By Larry Gordon | 5:29 p.m. The study by the California Assn. of Scholars repeats objections conservatives have had for decades over what they see as an overwhelmingly liberal academia that stifles dissent.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Get the Question Right

I just started reading "The Age of Anxiety" by Haynes Johnson, which traces what Johnson calls the culture of fear from the days of Joe McCarthy to present times.

Aside from solid research and a smooth writing style, Johnson's book almost immediately notes something we see all the time these days: the failure to ask the right question--any question, really-- in news stories. Johnson relates the  story of McCarthy's first speech where he claimed to have a list of known Communists serving in the State Department, and quotes at length the story about that first speech, which would lead to such hardship for so many. Aside from the fact that the charge is buried at the end of the story, guess what the reporter didn't ask?

He didn't ask to see the list.

I highly recommend this book. Among other things, you'll see certain accusations of socialism, disloyalty and demagoguery that will sound and feel familiar today, and while the book's primary emphasis is McCarthyism, the book serves as a great reminder of the great damage created by fear.

Also, though Johnson's been a major political journalism figure for years, it was fun discovering that he'd also worked as a copy editor at The Washington Post.

*The failure to ask the right question isn't limited to journalists. I'll skip the details but several years ago I was being deposed about a document the other side's team was convinced I'd produced that they felt supported their case. The lawyer waved the document under my nose, and with great flourish loudly asked, "Is this your signature?!" To which I replied no.  Someone had written my name at the top of the paper to indicate where it had come from. But he didn't follow up. End of case.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

LA Times Joins the Fee Lineup

The Los Angeles Times will begin charging for access as of March 5. Readers unwilling to pay will still be able to read 15 stories in a 30-day period. I could do without the "membership" business but other than that, this is what a newspaper needs to do to survive. If you want good reporting, someone has to pay for it.
Here's how the Times reported it Friday:

Los Angeles Times launches new membership program

The Los Angeles Times will begin charging readers for access to its online news, joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue.

Starting March 5, online readers will be asked to buy a digital subscription at an initial rate of 99 cents for four weeks. Readers who do not subscribe will be able to read 15 stories in a 30-day period for free. There will be no digital access charge for subscribers of the printed newspaper.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Diagrams, Detailed

   Does anyone still teach diagramming?

   If you're of a certain age, you certainly had to learn how. If you want a refresher or want to learn something new, try Eugene Moutoux's site. Go straight to the English section to get started, unless you want to try it in Latin or German.

  My favorite diagrams of his come from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

  Yes, I have mentioned him before but am glad to see him still at it, still teaching.

Also, the Capital Community College Foundation has, what else, a PowerPoint explanation of diagramming. CCCF has terrific resources but I prefer Moutoux's because he teaches the concepts.

The Stolen Valor Case

The Supreme Court apparently is going to take up another controversial First Amendment case that pits those who want to punish people falsely claiming military honors against those who believe free speech should have few limits.

I'm inclined to go with public shaming when someone falsely claims to have won a Medal of Honor or suffered as a prisoner of war.  Anyone who sees old vets sit around telling literal war stories knows how they get embellished after a while, so I've never understood how the atrociously named Stolen Valor Act (it's not the valor that's stolen; it's the honor) could be applied. Just where's the line?

That's not to say we should excuse people who stand up at public meetings or run for office while claiming credit for service they didn't render or awards they didn't earn. There's where public shaming comes in. Thanks to the internet, there's plenty of ways to track down every POW, every Medal of Honor winner, even everyone who ever made it to SEAL training.

No need for a federal law. Let the First Amendment prevail. And maybe a set of stocks for those who are legends in their own minds.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Job Front: Openings for Editors, Feb.20

As the media landscape continues to shift, all kinds of new jobs are opening up. But there's still some old-fashioned newspaper copy editing jobs around, including some at Newsday and  The New York Post

Currently, the New York Post is seeking a talented Copy Editor with significant experience editing stories, writing headlines under deadline pressure.  

  • Edit copy on diverse topics from news to features, major world events and business. 
  • Scour text and write clever captions while banging out dazzling headlines.
  • Proofread and edit completed pages and graphics; spot factual and other errors in copy. 
I'm resisting all kinds of jokes about headless jobs because, well, that would be stupid, especially n a copy-editing job.

The Post also lists this job:
Currently, the New York Post is seeking a talented News Editor who is able to thrive in a fast paced environment and competitive market.

  • Finalize page layout and design in a fast-paced, deadline driven environment.
  • Collaborate with photo editors and artists ensuring product content.
  • Successfully partner with strong, experienced team to create news pages and information graphics with short turnaround time.
Newsday lists the following:

Copy Editors
Candidates must have excellent news judgment and will be responsible for editing print and online stories for spelling, grammar, readability and Newsday style. They're expected to raise substantive questions about focus, structure, organization, tone, and legal and ethical issues. They must write accurate, engaging headlines for print and online. And they must be comfortable proofreading and editing completed pages, graphics and online projects.  A minimum of three years copy editing experience is required.
And is looking for a Deputy Editor to help set the day-to-day editorial direction and oversee the planning of news, database, mobile and social media projects at one of the nation's leading newspaper websites, located in the New York metropolitan area.

This is a position that requires significant newsroom management experience, preferably in a major news market.

I'm planning some stories about new jobs and editing careers. If you want to add something, please let me know. And for low-key editors, someone's finally saying what we already knew: Flexibility means more than passion.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Leading the Race to the Bottom

Ha, ha. Usually "worst error ever" is a competition, but it appears The Cranky Copy Editor is winning for now with this citation. I don't know the source.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Updated A Race to Stupid

Update: ESPN bluntly apologized yesterday and today announced that it had fired the headline writer (who wasn't named), and suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days for having asked this, "If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?" Really, the phrase isn't in itself wrong but no one will believe that anything other than stupidity persuaded them to use it.I wonder, too, why the anchor (pictured) gets a suspension while the headline writer gets fired.

What can we say about the foolish "Chink in the Armor" on a Jeremy Lin photo that was put out by ESPN overnight? Several things, actually.

 First, some dope thought it was funny, no doubt, and didn't see anything wrong with it. I don't know if someone's going to claim not to have realized the ethnic slur that it represents. I hope not, because there's really only one reason to use that line with that photo.

 Second, it gets to the heart of my favorite complaint about our culture in recent years, and that is the lack of quality control and accountability. That resonates no doubt with the decreasing number of copy editors in the world but it should also get the attention of news managers who ought to be able to see the damage to their product, as it were.

 Third, diversity. It's not a real popular topic these days. The job market is tight, a generation of people have grown up not recognizing the impetus behind affirmative action, and there's frankly a meanness in the world that sneers at the value and morality of giving anyone a hand up. Diversity means adding more voices to the conversation and while it's not a guarantee nothing stupid will happen, it certainly lessens the chances.

 Fourth, there's the problem of substituting catch phrases, whether from advertising or just common culture, for actual headline writing. I distinctly recall a sports headline reporting the exploits of pitcher Mike Scott; it read "Dread Scott." The person who wrote it knew the sound of the words but didn't realize the awful history of the Dred Scott case.
 No doubt someone will get at least a smack on the hand for the Chink headline; we'll all have a five-minute conversation about the state of race relations and then we'll move on, til the next time.

What's Good for the Goose...

So, sure, MSNBC has a lefty lineup, if you don't count the three-hour Joe Scarborough show and the cut-ins from, shall we say, the conservative CNBC anchors.  It's come a long way since it fired Phil Donohue for being a lefty. But how accurate and fair is it to characterize MSNBC this way but then call Pat Buchanan merely a "conservative."?  Wouldn't it be more fair to simply refer to MSNBC as a cable network, Buchanan a paid political commenter and then go from there? Buchanan's issues seem to run a lot deeper than mere conservatism. Let Buchanan blame the left. A lazy reporter shouldn't just copy that down and repeat it. 
The LA Times can and should do better than this.

Pat Buchanan gets the ax from MSNBC, blames the left

Pat Buchanan
Pat Buchanan has been dismissed by MSNBC, the left-leaning news network, four months after the channel suspended him.
In an angry post on his blog, conservative commentator Buchanan took his critics to task, writing, "After 10 enjoyable years, I am departing, after an incessant clamor from the left that to permit me continued access to the microphones of MSNBC would be an outrage against decency, and dangerous."
Buchanan says the calls for his firing began with the publication in October of his book "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" about America's decline, which critics have called racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic.
Upon his suspension, Buchanan quotes MSNBC President Phil Griffin as telling the press regarding his new book, "I don't think the ideas that [Buchanan] put forth are appropriate for the national dialogue, much less on MSNBC."
Buchanan, a former White House communications director under Ronald Reagan and a former Republican presidential candidate, had been with MSNBC as a political analyst since 2002.
On his website, Buchanan called his ouster "an undeniable victory for the blacklisters."

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