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I originally started this WordPress.com site up when my personal domain was hacked and lost all the stuff that was there. But I’ve finally learned enough to re-establish LukeMorris.net with a new splash page and everything. So all future posts will can be found at blog.lukemorris.net. I’ve already got up a new post highlighting my visit to Ireland, and more are to come showing off other legs of my awesome Eurotrip.

If you’ve been reading thanks (I assume this contingent is 33% Mom) and I hope you’ll follow me to my new/old home.

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UPDATE 3-19-12 Note corrected zip code. Letters with wrong zip will make it to Zach, I’m told, just a week or so later.

My supervisor sent me this e-mail the other day asking people to send letters to her 8-year-old nephew. The hope is the letters will help occupy his mind as he goes through chemotherapy. The kid’s family is aiming to get a letter from all 50 states. That’s an awesome goal to see if we can meet — and maybe exceed with some international mail.


We learned last Wednesday that my 8-year-old nephew’s cancer (Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia) has returned. He’s being treated at St. Jude in Memphis. He started chemotherapy Friday. To keep his spirits up, the hospital and his family are trying to come up with things to keep his mind occupied.
This kid, Zachary Wyman, loves to get mail — letters, postcards. The favor? Please help me pass the word to everyone and anyone — far and wide — to please send Zach a letter or postcard. Letters make him smile, and at this point, every smile is golden.
I am going to get him a map with some pins and have him plot where his mail comes from. Aside from the well-wishes, the aim is to get all 50 states and maybe some foreign countries too. And in the process teach him about geography and other places in the world.
He’s any outdoorsy kid now stuck in a room, instead of playing baseball, and in the fight of his life.
Please address the letters and cards to:
Zachary Wyman
The Ronald McDonald House
535 Alabama Ave
Memphis, TN 38107 38105
I assure you, every card or letter will be greatly appreciated.

So do you have a few minutes? Write something and/or put some cool things in that envelope, stick a stamp to it (if you don’t know that that is ask your grandma, she likely has one you can borrow), and ship it off. I’m going to write something and sneak some baseball cards in there as well. If you’re helping out and have a cool idea, share it in the comments.

Even if you can’t send a letter, sharing this with those you can reach will get us closer to the goal and would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading and thanks a thousand times if you can help Zach out.

For the couple days leading up to the Kansas caucuses, prognostication pieces in the news said that the rural parts of the state were going to be a huge factor in deciding the winner.

In her Trail Mix video, Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez made her key number in the race 44%, representing the number of voters in 2008’s general election who hailed from rural areas (more on this video later).

The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog put together this map showing that Kansans outside the three metros comprise 58% of registered Republicans in the state:

With all that talk about rural Kansas, you think there would be some unusual Kansas datelines from reporters — perhaps Protection, Kan., Skiddy, Kan., or Piqua, Kan.

Let’s take a look at the datelines from various news outlets in the days before and of the caucuses:

NYT: Topeka, Wichita

WaPo: Topeka, Wichita, Lenexa, Olathe (last two surburbs in Kansas City metro)

CNN: Kansas City, Kan.

LA Times: Wichita, Topeka

Not the case. When time came to report, journalists stuck to the metro areas, never leaving their bubble less than an hour from an airport.

Candidate chase

I know the main factor in where political reporters set up shop is where the candidates visit. All those cities you see in the datelines received a visit from either Rick Santorum or Ron Paul in the days before the caucuses — Newt Gingrich gave up on Kansas days earlier, and Mitt Romney saw Guam as more worthy of a visit (ouch).

The big fight in rural areas is drawing candidates there; the reporters will tail. But as the time between races shortens, candidates opt primarily for a touch-and-go gameplan focused on metro areas, and reporters follow suit.

But if you lead up to the caucus talking about the rural areas being key, why not stop and gather a story from a rural area, even if it’s just for 30 minutes? Grab a sandwich and a few quotes. There could have been a really good, unique angle about the Gray County caucus and its 73 voters. Or perhaps the die-hards who had to drive 45 minutes to vote in Parsons because their county didn’t hold its own caucus would make for a great anecdote. Maybe your Kansas caucus story could have stood out from the rest of the press pack’s robotic offerings that day.

But instead nearly all the reporters headed to Wichita, site of one of the largest caucuses, and reported the same anecdotes, interviewed the same folks and capped off their stories with the same victory comments by Santorum’s wife, who was in town as Rick had already moved on to another state to stump.

Basically every reporter took the easy way out and stuck by the airports. It’s disappointing.

WARNING: Things get really snarky from here out. If you’re not a fan of snark, consider jumping to the comments section.

Sticking to stereotypes

Back to the Trail Mix video. Sonmez says she’s recording from a field in Olathe (incorrectly pronounced) before discussing the implication of the rural vote.

And my soul dies as Kansas is cast as a giant field for the rest of the country. Can’t wait for the Idaho standup from atop a mound of potatoes, or the West Virginia standup from a meth lab (or is that Missouri).

And here’s the kicker: Olathe is not rural Kansas. Far from it. Olathe is a city of 125,872.

I guess I should breathe a sigh of relief nobody opted for the Wizard of Oz stereotype, shooting from the Yellow Brick Road in Sedan, Kan. Fortunately, it’s almost four hours from the Kansas City airport.

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. For the most part, the writing I put out in my spare time has moved to a new side project I’ve started with some friends from college.

Nerd alert: It’s a video game blog. We started The Best Game Site Ever (I’m told that was the only domain left in the world).

It’s great getting to work with old friends, and on my favorite hobby on top of that. I’ve already taken on the revamp of the ESPN Xbox 360 app and whether a Call of Duty Elite subscription is worth buying.

I imagine I’ll have something journo-nerd-gushy to post here in the future.

It wasn’t all adrenaline and belly fire for me last night. But it turned out to be later, which is why I’m awake and blogging about my night on the wire desk.

9 p.m.-ish: AP NEWS ALERT: President Obama has scheduled a news conference for 9:30 p.m. (CDT), White House not providing details about content.

9:15 p.m.: “Bah crap. I knew it was too quiet on the wire tonight. They must know I’m almost off the clock. Jerks.”

Fast forward to expected start of Obama speech, watching CNN: “We can now confirm that President Obama plans to announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed and the U.S. has his body.”

Me: “Oh god. Oh crap. They do not want me running the wires tonight. Uh oh. I’ve only been doing wires for a couple months. This can’t end well.”

Let’s fast forward past all the eye-rolling each time Obama’s speech is pushed back, past each call about holding all editions until we have the news, and more experienced wire editors offering encouragement and offers to come in and help.

6,000 gigantic gulps later, the adrenaline starts kicking in. “OK I’ve got this. Let’s do this. Actually, hold on a sec. I need another Dr. Pepper.”

$1.25 later, after gulp No. 6,001

“OK now let’s knock this mother out.”

The speech finally starts. Three minutes in, I glance over my shoulder. One of the normal wire rats I told I would be fine is over my shoulder. “O hai. Glad you’re here.”

“We don’t have cable, so I might as well.”

Obama’s speech concludes: “And god bless the United States of America.”

Batteries are re-charged. Let’s sex up some history.

Now we wait to see what the wire gods bestow upon us.

12 slightly usable wire briefs later, “OK. Let’s make lemonade out of these tiny-ass briefs about the speech, Bush’s reaction and this gigantic obit of bin Laden detailing his background.”

“This works here. This answers that other story’s giant gaping logic hole. Ooh. That’s and important guy talking. Let’s add that in.”

“How do I transition from … wait. Got it.”

18-inch story completed in 15-ish minutes.

Now for the big enchilada: The city edition.

“OK, Bloomberg’s got a serviceable version with none of those over-the-top adjectives.”

“This AP version’s got a connection between the raid and a downed helicopter in the same town. That’ll work great here. We’ve got some pretty good quotes from NYT sources. Add those to the soup. State Department’s warning U.S. citizens. Sprinkle that in, too. Washington Post has more details on the attack? Yes please.”

An hour later (90 minutes of overtime in), with the help of my surprise help, I’ve got the skeleton and organs for this larger bin Laden story spliced from at least a dozen wire stories and congressmen’s news releases.

“You mind taking the lead from here? You likely know better where the holes are.”

20 minutes and 15 inches of background and details I missed later, the sausage has been made.

Off to the designer and another pair of eyes.

“OK I’m off to the bar. Who’s coming with me?”

— Update—

And the best compliment comes the next day:

Even though I didn’t attend this year’s conference of the American Copy Editors Society, I was able to glean plenty of great information from the coverage attendees provided through tweets and blog posts.

Following the #ACES2011 hashtag was no replacement for geeking out with a few hundred people who love editing as much as me in meatspace, but I did my best with what I had.

I’ve rounded up a ton of ACES coverage below. If you know of something I missed, leave a comment and I’ll get it thrown in. Don’t be afraid to pimp your own content.

The easiest place to check is the official ACES 2011 website, where quite a few members and officers pitched in with summaries of the sessions they attended as well as other happenings at the conference. They also set up a page where they’ll post handouts and other documents from session presenters in the coming days.

I found useful tidbits on Nick Jungman’s blog, especially on his own session about web-first copy desk changes at the University of Missouri. He’s nickjungman on Twitter.

Leslie-Jean Thornton, journalism professor for host Arizona State University, rounded up some of the links and social media buzz she found and threw together a paper.li from it all. I definitely recommend her Twitter account. She was one of the folks tweeting her thumbs off* at the conference, keeping those of us at home afoot.

Arizona State’s contribution wasn’t done with hosting and Thornton’s coverage. The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism also pitched in with stories about Mizzou professor Marty Steffens teaching editors economics, reviewing business-copy red flags with Dallas Morning News business copy chief Chris Wienandt and tackling math with Rich Holden of the Dow Jones News Fund.

Malik Siraj Akbar added a few rehashings of sessions he attended to his WordPress. He’s stunningmalik on Twitter.

Los Angeles Times reader representative Deirdre Edgar and I used Storify to capture some of the Twitter talks from sessions while at our homes. Edgar’s storified sessions are here, and mine can be found here.

I was happy with how much I learned while at home this year, but I’m planning on seeing you in person at ACES 2012 in New Orleans.**

*It’s possible she had a laptop or netbook, in which case maybe she typed all her digits off.

**You know you want to spend some time in the Big Easy before the world ends.

When ESPN came out with its app for the Xbox 360 last year, it changed my life — at least until Call of Duty: Black Ops sucked it away for a few months.

ESPN app

The rollout brought my 360 closer to becoming the only set-top box I need* (I already have my cable TV on the 360 through Windows Media Center and my tuner card-equipped PC).

But the first time I sat down with a friend to watch a college football bowl game and chat in an Xbox Live party, I noticed a big weakness in the ESPN app: Our streams of the game were 60 seconds apart.

OK it was funny for a bit as I spoiled some of the plays for him on purpose.

The problem was exacerbated when watching a more fast-paced sport like college basketball. I could be three or four possessions ahead of my friends.

The party support is the biggest feature the app is lacking.**

For someone like me who is no longer within easy driving distance of his college friends, the party feature could be the next best thing to being in the room and watching the game with them.

I called the customer service number for ESPN and was told there are no set plans to add the feature in at this time. An Xbox product team member said in a November forum post that it was being considered. I passed along the following feedback to the service rep I called:

Netflix app party

Netflix has party support for its 360 app, and I think it would provide a great model for the addition to ESPN. It delivers all members of the party the same feed at the same time. No spoilers. I can let out my loud BOOOOOOMMMMMM! when Thomas Robinson shakes the rim with a crazy dunk and not upset anyone (OK I might upset their ears).

Honestly, ESPN is the better forum for the party support. Who talks up a storm during a movie? If I hear chatter during a movie I’m likely watching it with Rifftrax, which aren’t available through Netflix instant. It’s during sporting events that you share the “holy hell” and “Did you see that!?” community chatter.

But in the early stages, the app’s community efforts have focused on polls asking who everybody on Xbox Live thinks if going to win a certain game. While that’s a cool feature (and likely easier to create), synced party watching and chat is vital to the experience.

If you want to encourage ESPN to add the feature, you can e-mail them or call (888) 549-3776.

* And coming Hulu Plus support will make it even closer, theoretically at least. Who actually has Hulu Plus? If only Microsoft would add free Hulu.

** Now that I don’t have problems with the video strangely zooming in on a quarter of the stream whenever I fast forward.

PRE-POST HEADS UP: The second image in this post includes a use of the F-word and H-word. Please divert your eyes from that image if swear words offend you.

I’m not sure I count as a Facebook OG, but I joined in 2005 when it was just for colleges.

A lot has changed since those days. Namely, you can comment on wall posts now. I’ve stuck to my habits from the days before those comments, namely responding to wall posts I’ve received with a post on the sender’s wall.

I think it made more sense back in the day when e-mail was the only way you were notified if someone responded to you (though, really, who didn’t check their wall at every sign-in).

There are a few exceptions. If it’s a link or video I share, I keep the conversation in the comments. Seems more accessible for everyone using the link. Most of my conversation-point posts involve a link, so they fall under my link-comment rule. But those that don’t also hold to the comment thread on my wall.

I’m just wondering how everyone else handles conversations anymore. Let me know how you do things. Does anyone else stick to wall-to-wall communication for more personal posts but use comments for the rest?

So … Gawker got hacked.

Apparently I had a Gawker account — I imagine I bit on a Lifehacker contest that required me to comment at some point. And I finally got my prize: my password divulged all across the Internet.

It’s pretty easy to focus on the negative aspects from both sides in the hack. Gawker had a serious hubris issue and poked the 4chan bear (do not confuse with Pedobear), and the hackers went overboard with their collateral damage.

But some third parties proved their worth in the fracas.

Though they have no share of the blame, I received notes from LinkedIn and Woot telling me that my e-mail/password combo was compromised and encouraging me to change my password for their sites just in case it was the same as on Gawker.

Luckily I heard about the story the day that it broke. I quickly figured out what accounts use the same e-mail as my Gawker address and made sure they didn’t share a password. I had used my burner password for my Gawker account, since I assumed I’d only use it once or twice.

I just wanted to give the sites who went the extra mile to help their users a shoutout. There’s a few more that have offered help to others as well.

There were some reports of Amazon encouraging resets for victims, but I didn’t receive anything despite my Amazon account using the same e-mail address as my Gawker account.

Maybe the do-gooders here set an unreasonable standard, but I’d have loved to also receive nudges from Netflix, Twitter and Google.

You’ve heard it a thousand time this week, here’s 1,001: Keep those passwords fresh, kiddos.

Luke Morris

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E-mail: lukesmorris [at] gmail [dot] com

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