4/24/10

Counting Heads

For the past month or so I've been working as an enumerator for the U.S. Census Bureau. It's my first taste of government employment, and I must say I've been enjoying the experience thoroughly—and not just because of the badly needed paydays. For reasons of confidentiality I can't write about the job in any great personal detail without risking jail time (up to five years) or a huge fine (up to $250k). But the experience has given me a bit of insider understanding of why the census does what it does, and I'm at liberty to discuss that.

4/10/10

A Tragic Day for Poland

Earlier today a Russian airliner took the lives of Poland President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 95 other prominent Poles when it crashed in thick fog while coming in to land in western Russia. There were no survivors. Adding a cruel twist of irony to the tragedy, the plane was en route to an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre, in which Soviet police killed more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war. The crash occurred just a short distance from the site of the massacre, which the Associated Press called "one of Poland's greatest national traumas."

One of my roommates, Agnieszka, is from Poland. She's in Ames now doing graduate work as a visiting scientist for the university. "It's hard to be here right now," she told me. "It's horrible [what happened]."

4/5/10

A Previously Unpublished Interview with Ron Paul

One of the blessings and curses of running your own media operation is that you can choose to write about whatever you please, but you're never forced to cover anything at all. Sometimes you’re recovering from a rough night-before and want nothing more than to just take the day off, but you know there’s something going on that you really shouldn’t pass up.

This was the case when Ron Paul visited Iowa last November for the first time since his 2008 presidential campaign. Reluctantly, I rolled out of bed after a mid-afternoon nap and hopped on a bus toward Iowa State University’s Scheman Building in hope of scoring an interview for the Ames Progressive.

After speaking with Paul, I was unimpressed enough with the impromptu questions I’d asked that I never bothered to transcribe my audio recording. But a few weeks ago my friend Cole mentioned that he’d seen a video of me talking to Paul and thought it was good, so I went ahead and transcribed the interview.

Some Words of Wisdom from Matt Taibbi

My first job as a journalist was writing political columns for my university's paper. With the occasional exception, the columns—like my political beliefs at the time—were naive and idealistic, an overeager kid's attempt to grant his half-baked opinions an audience. The job served as a good bridge from the activist work I'd been doing (and losing interest in) toward a career in writing, but it didn't ever give me any real sense of what being a journalist was like.

Where I really cut my teeth in journalism was at the Tribune, the city paper of Ames, Iowa. I started there early in 2007 as a freelancer and began a staff writing internship that summer, covering a variety of goings-on around town. Politics remained my primary interest, though, and I was lucky enough to be in the first-in-the-nation caucus state where nearly all of the serious presidential contenders poked their heads in constantly.

At the end of the year I was a freelancer again and driving to Story City to cover a Hillary Clinton rally at an elementary school gymnasium. When I arrived, the place teemed with excitable Democrats and disinterested journalists. Clinton was running late, so I began to casually survey my surroundings. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, except for a man sitting impatiently on top of a storage crate by the press bleachers who looked very familiar.