No job beneath me. I know that now.

I love this speech, especially the first and third points. I can’t say much about Chris Asthon Kutcher’s thoughts on “sexy.” This video has gone everywhere by now, so its presence here doesn’t make this site special. I can only add my own history and thoughts about that.

Kutcher said he was no better than any job. I wonder if he thought that when he had those jobs. As for me, I’ve been an ingrate plenty.

Kutcher said he never quit a job before getting his next one. That’s admirable, and not true for me. When I was single it often seemed like the decent thing to do. I also got fired a couple of times. I was irresponsible. My learning curve was different than his. I grew up later.

Kutcher said opportunity often looks like hard work. I agree. It’s why I do this blog, and especially why I do the podcast. I can’t testify that I will hit it big with the effort. I just know that without it I won’t. The fact that I love doing it makes it worth doing even if it doesn’t pay off big.

What I can say about all my jobs, whether I loved them or hated them and regardless of how well I did at them, is that they helped make me who I am. And so even if I wasn’t grateful for them then, I am grateful for them now.

Paperboy — 6 months
Lawn mower — Over several years
Picking up construction debris — a few days
Saturday church custodian — a couple of months
Grocery bagger and night crew — 2 years and five months
Construction — 8 months
Appointment setter — 3 months
Garbage bag seller — 3 months
Bowling alley — 6 months
College newspaper editor — 1 year, 4 months
Intern — 8 months
Restaurant — 1 month
Computer magazine editor — 1 year, 9 months
Sales — 3 months
Movie set custodian — 2 weeks
Seminar roadie — 1 year 10 months
Corporate editor — 3 years
Trade show rep — 2 days
Freelance ad writer — 8 months
Dishwasher — 1 day
Training coordinator and trainer — 16 months
Temp secretarial jobs — several days one or two at a time over several years
Business coach — 8 months
Mortgage loan officer — 4 months
Movie extra — 2 days
Reporter — 14 years
Corn seller —

My next gig over the year was mowing lawns. Then I got hired to pick up construction debris on work sites. Then there was the Saturday gig as a church janitor, followed by the more than two years I worked at a grocery store as a bagger and then on the night crew, the longest time I spent at any one company until my current position.

At 19 I went on a church mission, returning home to a recession and finding out that jobs at the grocery store were unavailable. So I got a construction job helping out the heating and air conditioning guys. During college I set appointments for guys selling a mortgage scheme, then sold garbage bags for the Jaycees. For several months I worked at the BYU bowling alley before I started getting paid to do journalism for the college newspaper. The first internship in D.C. paid nothing and then I returned home to do sheet metal in home construction. I returned to college journalism and did a reporting internship that paid a stipend. I worked at a bookstore during that.

After graduation the job market was tough. I worked in a restaurant for a while before getting hired as an editor for a computer publication. I got canned there before hitting the two-year mark. I tried sales and was terrible and then worked for a company traveling every weekend for seminars where we sold books and tapes on how to make money. I edited and wrote for a couple of failed startups, did some freelance ad writing, worked as an editor for a book publisher, coordinated training groups and led trainings, did marketing for a mortgage company, coached people who bought books and tapes, sold mortgages and returned to training work. In between all those jobs there were day jobs doing things like answering phones for a school district on the first day of school when so many parents were confused about the changed bus routes. I washed dishes. I pushed a broom on a movie set and later was an extra in a movie.

Boosting performance through just a little attention

The first story I wrote subject to the new Kitsap Sun paywall was one about how the Central Kitsap School District has encouraged adults to act as mentors to students. These are typically students who are probably doing OK, but could use one more caring adult. The hope is that a weekly visit with an adult helps a child have a better sense of self. And district officials say studies show students who feel better about themselves perform better in school.

Busting through Asperger’s limits

Before doing this story on a student at North Kitsap High School, I had met parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Diana and I watched Parenthood for a while and I had met children who had been diagnosed with some form of autism. I’m not sure, though, that I had ever carried on a conversation with someone who actually had Asperger’s.

I’m glad that every once in a while we get to do a story on someone who is breaking through limitations. It’s not that there are not still some, but there is every reason to believe Justin can have a completely satisfying life.

The political race of the year in Washington

Washington (the state) will have three legislative races this November. Two of them will be in districts that could very well have a Republican running against Republican in the final race. Not here.

The 26th Legislative District Senate race here will likely have in November the appointed incumbent Democrat, who performed reasonably well in Olympia this last session, running against a Republican who has run in five different campaigns and won every one. Two of them were for county commissioner. The last three put her in the state House of Representatives.

Democrats have a three-seat majority in the state Senate, but two Democrats bolted (without changing party affiliation) to create a one-seat majority, so the political split in that chamber is close. A loss by the Democrats of that one seat would still leave more Democrats than Republicans in the chamber, but Republicans would have a bigger de facto majority.

The bottom line is this is an important race here, and it’s the only one either party has to focus on.

I started our coverage by doing a story looking at the success rate of appointed incumbents and looking specifically at where they have failed. I’m kind of proud of this story, because it took significant research and work with a spreadsheet to find recent political history from which to draw parallels. It makes me excited to dive into this race even further as time marches to November.

We are getting paid

The times have conspired to have me posting three items in two days. It could have happened all in one, but I’m going to space it a bit. The first one is about a development in our industry, specifically my newspaper. The second two are related to stories I wrote for that same newspaper.

The Kitsap Sun is joining much of the print media and beginning to charge for subscriptions. I think this is a great move and would almost be willing to say it is so whether it ends up being successful or not.

I’m one of those who believes that what newspapers offer is a far, far better product than what you get with random blogs, because we do hold ourselves to standards they don’t. I think our product is worth paying for. Readers can, and have, criticized our pricing ($10/month) and how we’re rolling it out, and those are arguments worth having.

Others argue the product is not worth paying for. For them that may be true. But here is the reality. We never captured every single customer we could until we started offering it for free. We tried that in hopes that advertising would make up for what we lost. We were trying to do what TV does. You pay for a cable-TV subscription, but that only became the norm about 30-some years ago. It used to be you stuck rabbit ears on the television and the news and other programming came to your house for free, unless you consider having to sit through commercials payment. I do. If you’re watching live television you pay by sitting through ads. For the vast majority of television programming, we don’t have to. We can watch almost every show later online via Hulu, Amazon Prime or Netflix and cable television “on-demand” programming. Only sports and breaking news have added value by watching them live, and DVRs have altered people’s viewing habits on those, too.

Many of the commenters say they’ll go to the local TV stations to watch and comment on news. I do not know how that business model is working for TV networks. It may be that they will be able to do it this way for a long time. If so, I bless them with our former readers. Those readers won’t get the depth about our area that we offer. People got excited because TV crews came to our area to cover school closure conversations, but I will put what I contributed against their coverage any day. There were no TV crews at the other district’s interviews and selections of superintendent or school board member. And one of the stories I will post about later will go ignored by television until Robert Mak maybe does a single show on the race. TV does fine work. I think much of what they did revealing problems with the ferry system here was excellent investigative work. For me to suggest that the Seattle stations cannot offer the depth we do makes me feel like the self-promoters they have no problem being. But I’m right. They’ll come over when someone’s yelling at someone or when there are big crime issues, but they go away long before we’ve finished telling the story. They are great at breaking stuff, not so good at finishing stories.

Finally, even if it doesn’t work, I am glad we’re doing it. I think it should be the standard, so I’m hoping this new reality is here for a long time. That might be wishful thinking, because these days reality changes in seconds, not years.

The beer tax debated

The craft beer industry has taken off generally and Washington has been no different. The governor and Democrats in the House wanted to add a fairly significant per gallon tax to Washington brews.

On the one hand you can see where any new tax, and this was not a small one, can cut into a brewer’s profits. The guy I feature in the video will sell you a pint for $5 and he takes care of the tax. It’s an easy price point, one that could cost him some if the tax had gone through. Market conditions on their own could cut into those profits, too, if the cost for yeast or barley went up.

On the other hand, there is validity to the argument that people who buy these are not going to switch to Budweiser because of this tax. They go to a place to buy this kind of beer specifically. They have their favorites.

If you go to a blog entry I posted on the Kitsap Caucus site, you can see video of the arguments from both sides. The governor is actually pretty funny when he talks about it, so don’t dismiss it just because he’s a government type.

UPDATE: The tax was eliminated from everyone’s budget. Your beer is safe, for now.

A glimpse into my storytelling future

“The only way to find that territory is trying to keep your mind constantly open. That’s the only way that you’re ever going to see the sort of signs of where to go.” — Tom Jenkinson, musician

Angela Dice, a friend and former coworker at the Kitsap Sun, and I discussed putting together a storytelling night here in the summer. We put the idea on hold when the Bainbridge Island-based writer’s organization Field’s End hosted one. We both planned to go and participate in that, hoping to learn about what kind of process would work. Then, neither of us could go because we had events to cover for the newspaper.

Yesterday Angela contacted me again about scheduling an event of our own, so I can say that this idea is in the planning stages and I hope we will be announcing something before too long.

Angela’s timing was one of those moments where I begin to believe that some godlike force is giving me a nudge. That nudge started on Sunday as I was driving to church listening to a broadcast of The Moth storytelling program on NPR.

The speaker I heard on my drive was Janna Levin, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Fortunately for me her story had very little to do with what she teaches, because the most satisfying D grade I ever received was in the Astronomy class I took in college my final semester. That D meant I could graduate, so I was just thrilled to pass. And by the way, it was my only college D.

The story, which included understandable elements of astrophysics, was all about how she met her husband. That’s a story I can relate to.

I was moved, but not to tears. I was moved because it touched on thoughts I’ve had recently about how I believe I am supposed to pursue my career efforts in the near future.

Within the last couple of weeks I posted a link on Facebook to a story about a longtime sports writer who quit journalism and is now teaching English in high school. With the link I wrote, “I want to do this.” I was dead serious.

Journalism is a great love for me most days. One day, probably not anytime soon, I will quit this line of work and when I do I hope I create an opening for someone else to come in and take my place. That has not predictably been the case in our industry for quite some time. People who quit are not necessarily replaced at newspapers. My own paper saw its share of downsizing, a shame, because I know the value journalism has for the community, but also for the journalist.

More people should have the experience I have had over the past 13 years. But like soldiers and sailors there comes a day when it’s time to move on to something else. As I said, my day doesn’t appear to be coming soon. If I don’t hit it big with my side efforts, it might not come until I hit retirement age.

The journalist who is now a teacher is following an enviable path. In reality, though, I’m not sure I’d leave this line of work for that one.

What I do see myself doing is more along the lines of what Levin does in the 17 minutes she shared in the story I heard on my drive. What moved me was not so much the story itself, although that was beautiful. It was how she organized and crafted the story to include the real science with her life experience. I left my car, went into the church building, found Diana and our boys and sat next to them, continuing to consider what Levin had done. And as I continued to think about her story it hit me that she provided me the model for how I want to teach.

Someday soon you’ll see how that plays out.

In the meantime I suggest you take the 17 minutes necessary to give Levin’s story a listen.

Volver a Lota, Chile

For years I’ve been dreaming of a way to return to Chile, where I was serving as a missionary 30 years ago.

At this time in the experience I was in Lota, a coal mining town along the coast. It was the place I started in Chile, where I experienced a major case of culture shock. It took me about a month to be completely OK with where I was.

Thirty years ago today I was four months into my stay in Lota and had another two months to go before getting transferred. The bigger news, though, came in April 1982, when I would find out that my mission had been shortened from two years to 18 months, news I didn’t exactly dislike. I loved being in Chile, but the idea that I could come home sooner through no fault of my own appealed to me as well.

I am making plans to return. The details of how I will get there I will reveal within a few months. I have a project in the works, one that will take me not only to Lota, but to Talca, Talcahuano and Arauco, other cities I called home for a few months.

The following video is from Lota. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s somewhat sad to me that it doesn’t look that much different. That is pretty much why I’m going back.

‘What I do Isn’t Important’

Do you find meaning in your work? Is it there to be found, or are you looking elsewhere, believing that what you do pales in importance to what others are doing? I heard this story at the end of a mostly funny Chicago story slam contest put on by The Moth, a storytelling program on NPR. It was told by Peter Sagal, host of another NPR show, Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

“It’s a story that happened to a friend of mine named Morgan Jenness. When she told me the story she was a dramaturg—that’s somebody, if you don’t know… it’s sort of like an editor of plays, somebody who works with the playwright; now she’s a literary agent in New York City. And the story was that when Morgan was a young woman, living in New York City, she was—had trouble… she came from a difficult background, and had trouble finding herself and was very uncertain of herself. And for whatever reason, she had become obsessed with Mother Teresa. For some reason—in her young mind, at the time (this was around 1980, ’81)—Mother Teresa was the epitome of human beings… the best kind of human there was. And Morgan so much wanted to be like or with Mother Teresa—and one day she found out, she read in the paper, that Mother Teresa was coming to New York City, to visit the U.N., or testify about something or other. And Morgan was such a Mother Teresa fan that she found out what hotel Mother Teresa was staying at. And stalked Mother Teresa.

“So she’s there—a curb outside the hotel—and a car pulls up… and Mother Teresa gets out. I remember one detail of the story that Morgan told me was that first, all these little nuns got out, this little row of penguin-like nun getting out… and then finally, here comes Mother Teresa.

“And Morgan runs up to Mother Teresa, who was an old woman even at that time, and says, ‘Oh, Mother Teresa, I’m so glad to meet you, Mother Teresa… The work you do is so wonderful!’ And Mother Teresa was very nice, and took her hand and listened to her, and Morgan said, ‘The work you do is so important, and it’s so wonderful, and I so much—I just want to come to Calcutta, and do that work with you, because I just think it’s so wonderful.’

“And Mother Teresa kind of shook her head, and said, ‘No, no—you don’t do this work because you think it’s good… You do this work because you so love the people, the poor people of Calcutta, with whom I work, that you can’t be away from them. That’s when you come, and you do this work.’

“And Morgan kind of realized that… she had been busted a little bit, in a nice way, and kind of nodded and understood—and Mother Teresa said, ‘Well, what do you do?’

“And Morgan said, ‘Well—what I do isn’t important. What I do is I work in a theater, and help put on plays… I mean what use is that?’

And Mother Teresa said to Morgan—who then told me the same story about ten years later—Mother Teresa said, ‘There are so many different kinds of famine in this world. In my country there is a famine of the body. In this country there is a famine of the spirit. Stay here and feed your people.'”

I am going to do my day job better.