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is one journalist's opinion of the daily struggle to shine a light in dark corners, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, plus any other cliche that crosses my keyboard.
Archive of the first quarter of 2005: | Burl Burlingame

| Sick, sick, sick

I've got it. Many other people have it. I thought it was a bad flu, which I contracted in February -- yep, no flu shot this year -- but I toughed it out, and it went away, except for a nagging dry cough that sometimes was so severe it would awaken me. Then a relapse. The doctor put me on a course of heavy antibiotics, which took ten days. Feeling better -- but the damn cough won't go away. The medical procedure I had last week didn't help. So back again to, the doc, who now has me on even bigger antibiotics and steroids. What IS this? My doc says it's a hardy, pernicious bronchitis with a deep-rooted infection, and that "everyone" is getting it. Our drummer, Gene, is convinced it's whooping cough. How come we don't get over this like when we were kids? he wondered. Because viral diseases evolve too, and the antibiotics that don't kill them make them stronger.

| Sick, sick, sick II

A note from Coughin' Gene: I sent all that stuff re whooping cough to my doctor. Here is his response:
You might be right. However, after the pertussis cough is established, antibiotics may have no discernible effect on the course of illness but are recommended to limit the spread of organisms to others. The drug of choice is erythromycin, which you got 9 days ago. If we tried to establish a diagnosis via naso-pharyngeal swab, it would be inaccurate since you've been on erythromycin ...
Apparently there is no treatment for adults. The erythromycin basically just stops contagiion. Incredible.

| Looking back

After lunch with one old high school friend and dinner with another -- where I learned my senior year girlfriend is apparently doing an 18-month stretch for federal securities fraud!! -- I tumbled asleep and dreamed of being at some sort of party where I chatted with Dave Donnelly, and realized in the middle of the conversation that he wasn't supposed to be there. He died, almost exactly a year ago. I just missed folks, he shrugged.
Dave was not replaced at the newspaper. In the way that strapped companies do, the work was spread around to the survivors. Neither paper has a full-time three-dotter, and that's a shame, because these columns provide a vital service -- they're the catch-all for news items that don't justify a full story, but are of interest to readers, and they reflect the times better than most of the "serious" newspaper stories.

| How weird is this?

After having a dream in which Dave Donnelly shows up from the dead because he misses us, I go to work, straighten up my desk -- and out falls a glassine negative envelope with Dave's mugshots. OK, Dave, we miss you too!

| Tiser PM is DOA

Gannett announced today that the Advertiser's afternoon edition of their paper will cease to exist within a week.
Created in the wake of the JOA separation from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Gannett Advertiser's PM edition was designed to honor already standing advertising contracts, maintain circulation levels, artificially boost ad rates, deny the new Star-Bulletin competition access to their former circulation workers and -- frankly -- give those daytime pressmen something to do. But when the Star-Bulletin didn't knuckle under, the playing field changed. All of the above reasons are now moot points in maintaining an Advertiser PM edition. And they couldn't get any subscribers willing to pay for it, either.
Notice that when the Gannett execs talk about the size of the afternoon edition, they talk about the number circulated, not the number of paid subscribers. Their notion of a subscriber is someone who doesn't complain about a free paper.
It's no surprise that the Gannett Advertiser's PM edition was a doomed product. (We predicted it back in June, 2001!) Killing it is a logical move. As one union official pointed out, it's about time Gannett made decisions that help the Advertiser instead of hurting the Star-Bulletin.
Most likely to be hurt in this closure are the ILWU circulation folks. The no-layoffs clause in the general Guild contracts at the Advertiser run through this year, I think.
Also, as expressed here some time ago, for the Gannett paper to "win," they have to kill us. For the Star-Bulletin to win, we just have to stay alive.
It would be easy to say something like "Victory is in sight," but we should probably worry when Gannett makes a decision based on sound business sense rather than ignorance and punitive meanness.

| Paved with good intentions

Oh, quit yer bitchin' about the potholes on Hawaii's roads. I was forwarded this snapshot from Iraq, where they work on runways at night and then don't tell our aircrews the runway isn't as smooth as it could be. This C-130 on final from the US set down in central Iraq on the night of Dec. 29 and got a bumpy surprise. See that accordioned pile at the other end? That's the belly skin of the plane. Yes, totalled airframe, injuries, fire, loss of cargo, loss of ground equipment ... and a head or two will roll.

Geez, I'm sore. Spent the last couple of days slamming up some drywall. The area near the kitchen was water damaged last year in lightning and windstorms, so I'm using the repair opportunity to expand a tiny closet into a very large one -- about 7 by 8 -- with studs placed every 12 inches and a double layer of sheetrock on all surfaces. Why the overkill? It will double as a hurricane safe room.

One of Ian's readers last week thought I was being too Pollyanna about the shuttering of the Gannett Advertiser's PM edition., that the window opened will suck up all job-printing in the state. Alas, the new, more efficient press in Kapolei disposed of printing the Tiser PM in an hour or less, so the jobwork window isn't very large. Those most affected over there are employees NOT involved in the printing -- the editors and writers whose schedules are being jacked around with a week's notice, and the distribution folks who are no longer needed.

HOW TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE AN IDIOT DEPT: Last week, we were kibitzing about the Gannett Advertiser PM shutdown, and I was intrigued by Mike Fisch's statement that approximately 100 subscribers pay for both the morning and the evening Advertiser. I wondered aloud what kind of moron would do that. My wife piped up and said, we do, at the Star-Bulletin. And likely every media outlet, PR agency and advertising firm in the state did so. OK, mea freakin' culpa.

| A useful suggestion

The 124th birthday of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is a couple weeks away, and reader Bill Hicks has a suggestion: I admired the Aeronca 65TC at the airport Sunday night when dropping our son off to return to Chicago. It's a great addition and mahalo for your efforts in putting it up.
I just sent the following letter to the editor. I hope you -- or someone else on the staff -- will have something special published to commemorate February 1st:
I really appreciated the Board of Directors' holiday greetings published on Christmas day. The many prominent local names on the board reflect the local roots of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The picture of The Hawaiian Star building also reinforced the long history of this newspaper, the oldest daily in Honolulu, dating back to February 1, 1882. I would suggest that on February 1, 2005, your edition should really be Vol. 124, No. 1 instead of Vol. 4, No. 321, but if that isn't so, I will at least look forward to reading some more about your long and eventful history on that date. Best wishes to the Star-Bulletin for a great 2005 and mahalo for your service to the community. Aloha Bill Hicks

I can add only that the volume-number change also caught the newspaper's own staff by surprise.

| Keep it going?

At this point, with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin apparently healthy (not that it's trickling down to the troops!) and a very full plate of other projects, plus some health problems, it's doubtful this site will continue. While I applaud the zealousness of other bloggers, what I have to say about anything is certainly not of much interest to anyone.

| Entropy rules!

OK OK, by popular acclaimation (ha!) I'll keep this site going. For one more week. Feb. 1 is a good time to sign off, being the 124th birthday of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and all. For example, reader David, a managing editor in SnowyColdFreezeYourAssOffVille, Indiana, forwarded this lovely note: ... if you need time away from this blog to get well, we all want you to do so. But don't leave because you think no one is interested.
Ever since you started the tale of the rescued Star Bulletin, some of your mainland friends have relied on this blog to keep track of the islands, the culture, the politics, the people and the news biz. And your life, which I find a hoot. I have found what you write here to be endlessly interesting. It's a good movie script waiting to happen (Light bulb goes off Burl's head?)
Plus, I have no other reason to care about any of those things other than because you made them too interesting and human to avoid. I read a dozen or so blogs regularly; and yours has a bigger effect on me than any of the others.
We have never met face to face, and likely we never will. But I have been enriched by dialing up your site every week for years. I can tell a few things about you from this site. That keeps me coming back.
Kindred souls, and all that jazz.
If it goes away, all of your "net" friends will be poorer because of the absence.

Boo freakin' hoo, but thanks, Dave. Thing is, I started this site to chart the almost-daily outrages by Gannett as they tried to stifle the competition. They almost succeeded. This lttle Internet doggie yapping at their heels turned out to be mighty unsettling to Corporate, particularly when Mainlanders tuned in.
But that's history. We're still here -- and they're still there -- and a kind of equilibrium has been reached. We're not going away, and they're engaging in corporate behavior that's almost civilized. (I'm on the board of a local landmark, and a few years ago when it needed capitol funds, I suggested they hit up Gannett. They're trying to buy goodwill in Honolulu! I cried. The checkbooks are open! Sure enough, Gannett coughed up something like $50,000. Competition is way good for the citizenry, you see.)
Ian Lind took the high road, and I took the low, making merciless fun of the orcs over at Gannett. Ian continues to give us his pithy observations on local media, but as a working journalist, I try to steer clear. I also am not going to fill up the firebox with daily updates on my pets, adorable as they are. (Cats Tigger and Roo, dogs Sophie and Antone, all rescuees.) Nope, Naw gaw duh.
So lately it has boiled down to waxing flatulent about things that piss me off, primarily, it seems, poor city planning. Whoa, dude, that's so negative. Bad vibe.
Also, the folks in charge at the Star-Bulletin prefer that I do editing rather than writing, and they don't much care for this site either.
I know there are several hundred people who read this site on a daily basis, and the reponsibility of feeding you all might be an ego boost for some, but if I can't deliver daily, I feel bad about it. Guilty. So you're free. Free! Use the 30 seconds you're wasting on this page to do something useful with your life, like reading Wonkette instead.
Also, frankly, I'm freaked out about my house. It has been a year since we were zapped by lightning and then lost a chunk of roof to the winds -- we were living under blue tarps for months -- and everything is still in chaos. Since my wife and I are good Star-Bulletin employees, we can't afford professional repair, so I've been doing it myself. It's slow going, but I really have to work at making our habitat habitable. (BTW, there's drywall dust on this keyboard ...)
I have no intention of stopping webwork, but there are other irons in the fire -- Check out or or for stuff in the works -- and there's an interesting book project nearing completion ... an educational program I'm setting up with a local high school ... I got stuff to do, man ... time for a sabbatical ... Those who can, do. Those who can't, blog ....
OK, on with some itemizations:

As mentioned below by a reader on 1/13, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for some bizarre reason changed volume numbers when it changed hands. If it were to go back to the original numbering system, the date to do that is Feb. 1, next week, when we would normally be beginning Vol. 124. As the oldest daily newspaper in the Islands, there are perfectly good historical reasons for doing so. But we gotta convince the bosses. If you send me an email urging consideration in this matter, I'll make sure the publisher sees it.
Anyone else in Hawaii getting overwhelmed by aluminum cans? The new can-return law is creating stacks of cans at home, but not at work. We can't recycle there. Several years ago, we had an aluminum recycling bin at the paper, and I'd dutifully take huge bags of cans to the recyclers, and we'd pledge the money raised as staff donations to local environmental organizations. Big money! It was like $14 a month. But then-editor John Flanagan put his foot down and declared that real newspapers don't recycle -- you don't see people at the Washington Post recycling! Stop it right now!
Hmm, more defections from the crew MidWeek publisher Ken Berry took with him when he ran away to the Gannett Advertiser. (What a hypocrite! He used to shriek traitor! at those who went to work for the dailies.) Anyway, several, including wife Karen Berry, have apparently gone elsewhere. Ken keeps himself busy in the car lot, cleaning the whitewalls on the delivery vans. It's a big step up in responsibility for him, so if you see him, give him a shiny new coin to play with.
I neglected to mention that I did another TV show with Oliver North a few weeks ago, this one on the role of Japanese-Americans in World War II. I had to show up on a beach at 6 a.m. and walk up and down it pretending to be meditating on the horrors of AJA internment. I looked properly agonized. But it was because my band had played a late gig the night before, I was hung over with about two hours sleep and my feet hurt from jumping around on stage. Ow!
One of my favorite Star-Bulletin memories -- editor John Simonds trying to explain what the folks at Gannett Corporate are like, and he clapped his hands over his nose and mouth and breathed noisily, and said in his best Darth Vader voice, I find your lack of enthusiasm disturbing
Another Star-Bulletin memory. Feature editor Barbara Morgan complaining about her worst Christmas ever -- that terrible year she only got one cashmere sweater, omigawd -- and the power suddenly went off. Total darkness. A FLOOMMPHH sound, and then the sound of Barbara making little squeaky noises. Power comes back on, lights come up, and there's Barbara under a mountain of greasy, gray, filthy dust. All you could see were her eyes. The air-conditioning vent over her head had ralphed up about ten years worth of hideous debris and dumped it directly on her. Great timing. We did our best to appear sympathetic.
And oops, I should have been more clear about the "health problems" alluded to in the item below. They're not mine. They are in people I care deeply about, and of course that affects me. As for me, well ... a couple of weeks ago, my doctor actually said to me, You're in surprisingly good health for someone who looks as bad as you do ... Thanks, doc.

| Flaming groovie

So you're inching down Nimitz Highway, glance toward the harbor and there's this ten-foot flame jetting out of the ground, roaring and gushing, right next to some big propane or natural gas tanks, and no one is paying any attention to it whatsoever.Well, I've felt like that after eating chili.

| Progress of sorts

See, things are progressing slightly in the home-repair front. That's daughter Katie painting primer on a new walk-in closet by the front door. This is an area where the ceiling collapsed from rain and windstorms. This "closet" is way overbuilt: studs are 12 inches, corners are 6X6s and each wall and the ceiling has a double layer of sheetrock (that's two inches of sheetrock on the outside!) and all the corners are bullnosed so there are no sharp edges. It's like a bunker. Why? It doubles as a safe room when (not if) we get hit by the next hurricane.

At right is something called a bulb-out being added to Honolulu streets. It eats up a parking space, but adds a measure of safety and pleasantness when the trees inside get bigger. What I don't understand is why bulb-outs are placed next to fire hydrants rather than incorporating them. The sapling trunk is NOT going to impede a fireman's access to the hydrant, get real! In fact, the bulb-out guarantees access. Why not include the hydrant in the bulb-out instead of eating up two parking spaces? Simplifying the clutter of the urban infrastructure is also a way in making the city more pleasant to live in.

And here's something that's way cool, a Quicktime strip of Huygens' descent onto Titan. Gave me chills.

| The onus of appropriate veneration

Got a couple of phone calls from irate citizens about a "circus" occurring out between the USS Bowfin museum and the Arizona Memorial Visitors Center. This is what I found -- a "big top" semi-permanent tent sheltering an increasing number of private venders and a pre-fab toy house that has seized the handbag security concession from the Bowfin.
What's the deal? Americans are notoriously touchy about Pearl Harbor -- it is one of the national landmark sites considered "sacred ground" in our nation's veneration of war dead. Anything that seems like inappropriate commercialization smacks of defilement.
Turns out, thanks to the Navy's routinely ham-fisted approach to interpreting history, it's all legal. This is what happens when government functions are privatized -- entrepeneurs are in it for the cash and not because it serves the public interest. But you can't blame them. That's like blaming leopards for their spots. Nope. The pressure to privatize comes from the top down.
I held on to this item until the Star-Bulletin's Rob Perez got a heads-up and filed a story on the issue.
Hey, if we're cashing in on our war dead, anybody up for a I Got Bombed at Pearl Harbor T-shirt?

| Bulbing out?

In response to the "bulb-out" item below, reader Dan sends in a comment: Another thing I noticed in the area in question (on Punchbowl in front of the DOT) is that when they re-did the sidewalk, they failed to make it wheelchair accessible. So, someone in a wheelchair, using the crosswalk to cross in the middle of the street would have to either climb the curb or go around the bulb (and its tree) to the driveway makai of the crosswalk. My questions is, why wasn't it made accessible since they had to re-do it anyway? Are there different rules for crosswalks in the middle of the street (as opposed to those at intersections)?
Urban and government planners should all be required to spend a day in a wheelchair.

| Aloha

In today's print edition of ther Honolulu Star-Bulletin, there is a small but satisfying change. We have returned to the proper volume number that reflects the paper's history as the oldest daily in Hawaii. Today, the paper's birthday, we're Vol. 124, No.1. And the online edition is into Vol. 10 already!
And so my work here is done. Time to fade away. Aloha, everybody.
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