Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Unpacking

Moving to Kingston was a breeze, thanks to all the help I got from my family. The whole day went super smoothly, and by the time everyone left after dinner, my place actually looked respectable and lived-in rather than a chaotic post-move danger zone. Sure, there were (and still are!) loads of boxes to unpack, but all the furniture was built and placed where it was supposed to be.

Making a floor plan in advance really helped with the move because all I had to do was draw a quick replica and tape it to the wall for everyone to see where things were meant to go. In my opinion, this was the single most important thing I could have done to ensure an easy moving day for my dedicated helpers.

Personally, my greatest tool has been the spreadsheet I created featuring all my moving boxes, their major contents, where they should be placed, and whether it was important to unpack them first or not. This list has been essential in my unpacking process. Looking for a cable? Check the electronics box, aka L8 (Living Room box 8), says the spreadsheet. It's also been a great procrastination tool because I don't have to open it all up to find what I'm looking for!

Today is the last of the big move days. I've already done the first grocery shopping and all my utilities are set up, but today, I receive my dinning room table and get the last few supplies/appliances I need. After that, I won't have any excuses not to empty those boxes!

Hopefully, I can get 'er done before the weekend. Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Moving


Less than four days until moving day and there's still so much to do! A lot of it involves sorting or shoving everyday items or clothing into boxes and bags, but the mess in here makes it seem a whole lot worse than it probably is. That and the tic-toc of the clock.

My last week in Montreal is full of meetings, social commitments and appointments, from the CUAA to physio to using up a spa gift certificate I won from The Social Woman before the move. That massage will definitely relieve some stress and relax my aching body.

And of course, there's #gnoccup, my last adventure in Montreal before my home address officially changes. It's not that I haven't lived elsewhere before, it's just that I haven't lived outside of Montreal for more than a month at a time. This is a big one, but I'm sure it will be fine... As long as I'm done packing!

This is why I had my going-away party nearly a month in advance... Time really does go by quickly, especially when you sacrifice not 7 but 8 days to working tennis. Those rain delays definitely put a damper on things, and that extra packing day probably would have helped me feel less panicky now. Although, who am I kidding? We all know I'd have procrastinated just as much. It must be a journo thing... We need impending deadlines to spring into action.

And on that note... Time to get back to packing! My next blog post will be the first of hopefully many from my new home in Kingston, ON. I can't wait to see what happens!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

On friendship

I just had the best day ever. Well, maybe not ever ever, but today was absolutely wonderful. I feel so loved and complete and... me.

August 8, 2010 actually started with me at a wedding reception for a girl I grew up with in the same community group. It was a night full of traditions, old and new to me too, and the bride and groomed looked so happy and right for each other, together. The food - yes, we were still eating around midnight - was pretty good too.

After a good 7 hours of sleep, I got a phone call from a long lost friend I'd seen earlier this week. She was driving by on her way to Toronto and stopped in for a quick chat and Timmy's. Any past negative feelings dissipated - I guess I AM mature now! - and it was a natural and comfortable moment of friendship.

I then proceeded to be even more mature - cleaning the house for my guests before what was to be a BBQ/Board Games/Pool Party/Going Away party but, due to the weather, became a Hurry Up and Grill Those Burgers So We Can Get Out of The Rain/Board Games/Going Away party. I also am proud to say that I, who is not super smart in the kitchen, decided to make some yummy salmon even though I wasn't going to eat it today, because otherwise it would go bad. More maturity right there!

Then, another friend dropped by with some banana bread for the party since she could only stop by much later due to conflicting commitments. We had a great little chat while I made sure I didn't burn the rice. I also managed to get out of the house in time to run my errands and pick up some friends and get back home before everyone else showed up. I know it sounds silly, but when you've got loads to do, it's easy to get distracted and start running late. This time, I was more or less on time and felt like a grown-up for it.

Last but certainly not least, we had loads of fun at the party, despite the heavy rain and the power outage mid-way through the night. Trust me, playing Munchkin by candlelight is not an easy task, but we did it and everyone seems to have had a blast anyway!

The food was great, the company was great, and overall, I had a wonderful, amazing, perfect, responsible evening and the most awesome, full day in a very very very long time. And I feel so very loved by all my fantastic friends in Montreal. I didn't think I was going to feel so nostalgic, now that it's almost over, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna miss you guys.

Thank you so much for blessing me with such a wonderful day, all of you. It was an absolutely perfect going away present! I'm going to ride this loving feeling all the way to Kingston.

Friday, August 06, 2010

On the Future of TV News

With reports of journalism jobs being hard(er) to find and discussions at conferences like the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications's annual convention, people in the news industry can't help but wonder about the future. Not just their individual futures but their industry's future.

It's a discussion we've had before, on various platforms and from various points of view. The conclusion remains that we don't know what the future will look like. We just know that it will be different.

I'd like to take a look at what is commonly referred to as journalism's main enemy: the Internet. Why does it work? Because it's customizable. It's targeted. Similarly, which TV stations/networks/coverage tend to make the most cash (and therefore survive longer)? Specialised stations and shows. Things like live sports, or channels dedicated to a single interest, like home design and renovations or fashion. These networks survive because they've found a niche market and they're feeding off of it, both in terms of ratings and ads - it's a targeted "sure thing" investment opportunity.

How does this apply to TV news? Journalists usually agree that all consumers should have access to a source of news that will educate and inform them as well-rounded citizens. In other words, just because your main interest is the stock market doesn't mean you shouldn't know what's going on in Parliament. But let's be honest. After the first five minutes or so of political news, you'll probably switch channels. A good news network will try to keep you watching despite your lack of interest, by using teases, for example. But that's not a commercially viable long-term strategy to retain your attention.

The only way TV news is going to survive in a future overtaken by the Internet, PVRs and "On Demand" is to give consumers what they want, and now. That, for lack of a better word, is what they want. So why not give it to them?

It's not just sports or specialised channels that draw audiences in. News events do the same. Remember #Obamawa? What about the #H1N1 scare or #Haiti aid or, the latest big issue, the BP oil spill? What do these things have in common?

People want to know. They want to know everything and they want to know it now. They just can't get enough coverage and they'll watch several news cycles on several news networks to get their fix. This effectively creates a niche market for information on this issue. But after a day or so, most of the viewers think enough is enough.

What is the future of TV news? Feed the monster. But only if it's hungry.

Every time an event or issue temporarily overtakes the news market, create a specialised "On Demand" stream that will broadcast anything and everything that has to do with the subject. Whether it's NASA's latest space mission or Canada Day, a natural disaster or a political faux-pas, create an individualised stream and feed the monster.

Most of the networks already do it online. Those who know about it and have access to the Internet at the peak of their interest will routinely stream press conference feeds or sporting event coverage. Currently, the networks offer these services for free, mostly because consumers won't pay for a service they're already paying for, whether they consider that to be their cable TV or Internet. Also, most people aren't comfortable paying for any kind of information on the Internet because they're certain they can get it somewhere for free.

But can anyone guarantee a high-quality, uninterrupted, 24h specialised stream? Not on the Internet. Not yet, anyway. But on TV? They've pretty much got it down.

My suggestion - and I want to note that I haven't crunched the numbers on this since broadcast finances are not something I'm familiar with - is to provide that specialised stream on cable TV. Users with a digital box can simply call up their provider (or use self-serve menus) and add CBC News Network 2 or 3 or 4 (for example), depending on which major news story they would like to follow non-stop. The subscription would automatically expire once the story and coverage dies down, or the user could call and cancel it at any time. Set a one-time subscription fee of under $5 per story/stream - my suggestion is somewhere around $3 plus any applicable taxes - and a minimum subscription period of 48 hours, and I'm sure people will pick up on it. I would.

The network would have to broadcast several signals, but since we're switching to digital anyway, it probably wouldn't put too much of a dent in the budget. Getting CRTC clearance is another story.

And what kind of coverage would our reduced newsrooms offer to their new avid customers? Live streams of any of the gazillions of press conferences going on about the topic, interspersed with airport-style "breaking news" segments recorded in a centralised studio, potentially by anchors assigned only to that specific developing news topic or perhaps by the anchor on shift recording for all the specialised channels. You could also throw in live hits from the network reporters on location assigned to the story, interviews with experts and people affected by the story, and related pre-packaged reports - which you're producing anyway. Add in re-packed news conference highlights - longer than the ones played in the main network's news cycle - and boards showing upcoming events related to story, and you've got a nice loop-able mix of non-stop coverage on the news event du jour for the modern news junkie.

In terms of staff, the only extra hires would be technicians to monitor the various streams and editors to package and produce the stream's content. Current online editors would be perfect candidates for this position since they already understand the technology and short attention span of today's news audience. Most of the content is already coming in for the 24h news stations and the live press conference feeds are usually provided as in-house service for a minimal fee.

That way, when a major news story or event takes over the news industry, we won't be overwhelmed by endless reports on an issue, meanwhile getting less than satisfactory coverage of all the other going-ons in the world. And we won't be saturated by a constant flow of information that will make us stop caring about a potentially important issue, or worse, make us actually care about a non-important issue. Like Lindsay Lohan being sentenced to jail.

I don't know about you, but if I could buy non-stop quality coverage of the next shuttle launch, I would. Even if I know I could watch it for free online at NASA TV. Why? Because I can get everything I need to know about that one topic in one spot. And because I'm a space geek. And a political geek would buy coverage to Obama's visit to Canada, and a TV geek would purchase a CRTC telecommunications panel package. In this case, the repetition of the news cycle wouldn't be such a bore because you would choose to watch it.

What do you think? Could dedicated temporary cable streams be the future of TV news?

I guess there's only one way to find out... Stay tuned!

Monday, August 02, 2010

On Packing

Packing sure isn't a piece of cake! It definitely makes you crave cake, though, and not just once piece of it! Thankfully, family BBQs and other social events have kept me on top of the cake cravings.

And how's the packing going, you ask? Pretty well. Everything that's not in my bedroom is packed. Lots of things in my bedroom are packed. It's starting to look pretty barren and bare in here. But just because the full boxes are piling up doesn't mean that there aren't many more empties to fill.

Along the way, I've been taking long walks down memory lane, rediscovering the joys and troubles of my childhood. Let's just put it this way: my teenage years were seriously messed up. Old journals from that time period make me cry because I was so completely enveloped in anger and hate and despair. I'm thankful to have grown past that and hope to never sink into that kind of depression again.

But in all the toils and trouble, there are also rays of sunshine. I've uncovered some long lost art and greeting cards, both given and received. Like a hilarious birthday card my brother gave me with two knock-knock jokes in them... his "thing" at the time. Or the beautiful rose my father drew for one of my pre-teen birthdays. Or the birthday card I received from someone named Stephanie (not sure who or when) that said she was happy to be my friend because I'm so generous and always in a good mood. Awwwww... :)

All in all, I'm making packing progress. Apart from day-to-day items and furniture, the only things I have left to sort are old boxes full of files and school work, and the clothes at the back of my closet. With less than a month to go - well, more like 2.5 weeks if you take away my work days - I think we're gonna be good to go right on schedule.

Bonus MRI update: Apart from some irritation and natural wear and tear (aka minimal grade 1 chondromalacia and minimal mucoid degeneration), my knee is fine. Which means all I can do is more physio and more cycling and hope and pray that my knee gets stronger and the pain goes away. At least there are perks!

Bonus research update: If you study hockey from a socio-cultural perspective, we want to hear from you! Two of my (future) classmates and I are trying to organize a paper session for the NASSS (North American Society for the Sociology of Sport) 2010 Conference in San Diego. You can check out the Call for Abstracts here and scroll down to session #13 for details. Spread the word!