Posted by: Andy Jones | March 5, 2010

Go Cougs

Today I just feel the need to put in my two cents about the Cougs’ disastrous Pac-10 basketball season.

They still could win the conference next season.

Right now, they are maddeningly inconsistent. They look like an NCAA team for a quarter and look like hell for the rest (the UW game). They stink for a half, rally and fall down the stretch (yesterday’s game). They look like a high school team for the whole 40 minutes (the UCLA game).

But all the pieces are in place for this team to turn around.

Imagine Klay Thompson of the first half for an entire season. Early on, he was sinking shots from everywhere on the court. Even when they weren’t sinking, you still had the feeling that everytime he released the ball, it was going to be nothing but net.

His problems are 100 percent due to him being frustrated and learning how to become a superstar. Unlike some people, I’d be more worried if he was good and bad every other game. Right now, he is in a heck of a funk that he might have broken out of Saturday. He has all the tools and feeling confident, he can affect the game in all aspects and be a megastar scoring machine.

DeAngelo Casto has taken a heck of a step in the second half. He has led the conference in blocks all season and should be rewarded with a place on the conference All Defensive Team. But offensively, he is finally scoring consistently in double digits. Unlike Klay, all his problems are fundamental. He always plays hard and has talent so if he just remembers to do simple things like keep his hands up under the basket and take advantage of his power, he’ll be a star.

Reggie Moore was the Cougs best player for a while there in the middle of the season. He is calm under pressure and a potential scoring machine. Defense could be better but he was as good as any freshman in the conference this year. I like Thames too so the backcourt has quite the potential.

Capers plays great defense and Watson shows potential.

And remember Patrick Simon, whom the Cougs signed at age 14, is coming in next year. I’m pumped.

Posted by: Andy Jones | March 5, 2010

How I hitchhike to work each day

I sure have gotten lucky with transportation.

I only live five minutes away from the metro so I have the options to either borrow the car from the family I’m staying with and pay $5 at the metro station. I can also take the bus, which is convenient but takes forever and costs more than the metro.

But the SLUG Park and Ride option out in the Virginia suburbs takes the cake. Each day I simply drive to the park and ride and hop in with some other random person who happens to be driving to the Pentagon, where I then jump on the metro and only go like 10 more minutes to work.

It’s crazy convenient, 50 cars or park at these park and ride lots each day and then there seem to always be cars in line to pick up people on their way to work. The awesome concept became popular when the local highway system was trying to fill the HOV lanes a few years back.

I normally have to get to work to the lot by like 7:30 in the morning and I need to take a bus back to the park and ride in the evenings but how could I complain?

In the past week, I’ve overheard fascinating conversations in the rides involving Department of Defense contracts, trading securities and why cocky Canadians will never win the Olympic Hockey gold ever again.

I know some people have a fear of hitchhiking but everyone I’ve met is absurdly friendly, especially because the system is so established.

What a great way to start the day.

Posted by: Andy Jones | March 3, 2010

A new type of writing

Writing for a trade publication has been quite an interesting experience so far.

At The Daily Evergreen, Lewiston Tribune and Central Kitsap Reporter, I always felt like so much of my job was to find complex subjects and put it in simple terms, or at a sixth-grade level like we were told at the Evergreen.

Writing for the law journal is quite different because you are no longer writing for the general public, but for large firms, most of which have more than 50 lawyers.

Much of my work so far has been looking up legal terms and instead of finding new ways to phrase them, the new goal is understanding the concept enough that I can write a coherent story while leaving the legal terms in place that are well known by our reader base.

For example, I would normally not use words like litgation, attorney, partner, per se or pro bono in a lead before, but in the technical world or writing for lawyers, it’s a little different.

Though I don’t think you can search my name on the blog. Here’s the link to the blog I’ve been constantly writing updates for.

http://legaltimes.typepad.com/

If anyone’s confused, its because the law journal bough the legal times last year, so the legal times is essentially the D.C. version of the law Journal.

Later in the semester, I was told I should be able to write some longer feature for the weekly publications. In the meantime, I am practically in a condensed version of law school, which could pay dividends in the future.

Yay journalism adventures.

Posted by: Andy Jones | March 3, 2010

If lawyers could write…

So after a month of working at the National Law Journal, much of which I’ve been dissecting legal briefs, I have full-heartedly embraced the Rikki King theory that all lawyers should be required to take a journalism class – and learn how to write a damn sentence.

The average lawyer does not understand the following concepts…

The comma – These useful tools do not provide free reign to keep adding them endlessly as if you still have one coherent thought. When you have 30 clauses inside one sentence, it makes it all but impossible to follow. Use a period once in a blue moon.

The subhead – An introduction, body and conclusion are not enough. If you are going to blow up your two-page opinion into a 30-page novel then at least break down your argument into something resembling the five-paragraph essay, like most of us learned in sixth grade.

The English language – What is with all this latin? All these random legal terms slow writing progress to a halt. The language is well established, write your opinions in English please.

Eventually reading these briefs will get easier. But in the meantime I will rely on headache and getting more food to cure my daily mid-afternoon headache.

Posted by: Andy Jones | March 2, 2010

The Newseum

Like many long weekend days in my life, I found a way to nerd out to the extreme last Sunday.

So I went to the Newseum, Washington’s D.C.’s epic six-story museum of the news.

Given I’m the type who walks around museums at a snails pace, but in five hours, I saw barely half the museum.

First, I checked out this sweet exhibit called “The FBI and the News” which consisted of small exhibits about famous criminals or incidents in American history, such as the Waco incident and the classic J. Edgar Hoover chase of John Dillinger in the 1930s.

Then I chilled with a 30 minute documentary about the history of sports reporting, much of what focused on Muhammad Ali, whose colorful personality transformed sports reporting into a larger cultural analysis for many reporters.

The documentary was one of like six or seven in the museum.

I then got sucked into this one room which consisted of every Pulitzer Prize winning photo in history. For many of the photos, there was a also a larger version on the surround wall and an accompanying description. It was a walk through history.

While most of my museum exploring in D.C. will probably consist of creating obscure theories about life by staring deeply into various art works in the Smithsonian, the Newseum should be a definite destination for anyone checking out D.C.

Posted by: Andy Jones | March 2, 2010

The Supreme Court

Back in my first week at at the National Law Journal, the paper’s Supreme Court corespondent Tony Mauro invited me to join him for a hearing at the court sometime during the session, as is his normal custom with the paper’s intern each semester.

Monday was definitely the right day to tag along. The court was packed because at 1 p.m., the court was set to hear Skilling v. United States, featuring Jeffrey Skilling, the former president of Enron.

I met up with Tony and six interns from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Tony is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Supreme Court, having covered the judicial body for the past 25 years, first at USA Today and then at The Legal Times, which merged with The National Law Journal last year.

Reporters aren’t allowed access to most of the building. Journalists aren’t allowed to walk around to the areas where the clerks work because of worries that the clerks will leak stories before opinions are announced, which apparently used to be an issue.

Tony told me that for a short time, reporters weren’t even allowed to go to the court’s library because of fear that reporters would look at which books were lying around and try to deduct how judges would decide on opinions. This silly policy has since changed, though the court’s prohibition against protesting on the building’s steps remains in place as part of an effort to protect the court’s immunity from outside influences.

By the way, it is legal to protest on the steps of Congress.

Inside the building, Tony showed us the press room. The room was actually quite small, consisting of a bunch of little cubicles for the 20 or so reporters who regularly cover the court.

In the chamber, the other interns and I were cramped into the left side behind a bunch of pillars, while Tony went to his normal spot in the center. From my view, I had a clear view of justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts and the lawyers for both sides.

Skilling, who was convicted of everything under the sun back in 2006, was challenging his trial on main counts. His lawyer argued that the honest services statue which Skilling was charged under is unconstitutionally vague. He also argued his trial was inherently unfair because it was held in Houston, home of Enron, despite the regular voir dire process to decide who would be on the jury.

The hour hearing was intense. Skilling’s lawyer was speaking for about 3 minutes before Sotomayor was questioning him for details about how the voir dire process was unjust in the Houston trial. The plaintiff’s lawyer spoke all of two sentences before Breyer was slamming him with his own concerns that the process may been rushed.

Except for Thomas, who hasn’t said anything in a trial in four years, each of the justices definitely made their presence known in the hour-long hearing, which felt considerably longer because of the trial’s intensity.

The experience was awesome. I think I’d be pretty much content for life with Tony’s job.

Posted by: Andy Jones | February 11, 2010

Surviving the D.C. snowstorm

My god. Some of these people in Washington D.C. need to spend a few weeks in somewhere like Pullman, or one of the other million places in the world where it actually snows.
During my first two weeks here in D.C., I’ve been greeted with two snowstorms, one Friday through Sunday and the other Tuesday through today. Sure the storms make the Metro difficult and its a little chilly, but you’d think all hell broke loose.
For the seventh straight day, the lead story on the front page of The Washington Post was about snow. One of America’s premier newspapers is apparently going the route of local news, where we apparently need to be told the weather every hour of the day, or twice an hour, building us up with fear until we retreat into hibernation.
It’s not news that there’s snow on the ground. All you have to do is look out the window. I can understand a short story on the front page about whether the Metro is running and if people are still out of power, but jeez, it’s overkill.
While walking along Connecticut Avenue the other day, I heard some panicky mom screaming to another lady “Oh my god, what about the children, what if they fall on the snow.”
News flash, the snow is soft and powdery. It is not a venomous hybrid of bone-crunching titanium and asbestos.
In fact, even if the snow is relatively cold, the children are probably safer falling on the snow than concrete, or even if the grass in most city parks.
Finally, I’ve heard the same joke a million times from old people being like “Haha, where’s this global warming thing I heard about, hahaha,” as if someone else didn’t make the same moronic comment.
Global warming is not linear. In fact, it leads to more violent temperature swings, causing both more heat waves and cold spells. But still, people just keep whining about their lives as if snow isn’t something that doesn’t just happen and is part of life.
Take a chill pill D.C. And for the media around the rest of the world, stop reporting on the blizzard like its the end of the world, even if it is the friggin capitol.

Posted by: Andy Jones | February 6, 2010

Now in D.C.

So for the past month I have been super busy but now I am ready to dive again into the blogosphere.
I was busy reporting and having fun at the Central Kitsap Reporter, where I wrote stories about crazy anti-nuclear weapon who recently broke into nearby Bangor Base, a survivor of the Holocaust and a follow-up to a three-month old homicide investigation of a local country star.

On Friday, I moved to Washington D.C. to begin my internship.

I’m actually living with old friends from middle school from when I lived in Italy. It’s actually my old scoutmaster from my famous troop 007 and his family.

On Monday, I went to my first seminar at the Center for Politics and Journalism, located at the Watergate. The head guy is this intense libertarian Terry Michael, who began the program 19 years ago and actually is a former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. His blog is quite interesting.

Most of the week I spent at the National Law Journal where I am actually interning. The Journal merged with the Legal Times a year ago so I am helping write things on their blog and hopefully for their weekly publication on Monday later in the spring.

This semester is going to be quite the adventure.

Posted by: Andy Jones | December 27, 2009

Movie review: Up in the Air

Jason Reitman has firmly established his niche in Hollywood.

With his third movie, Up in the Air, the standout director has once again taken us into the world of one of society’s most unfavorable characters and humanized them by walking the fine line between satirical light heartedness and strong, practical moralizing.

With Thank You For Smoking, Aaron Eckhart made us almost like a tobacco lobbyist, entertaining us with his brilliant argumentation while reinforcing the industry’s evil hypocrisy.

With Juno, a lovable Ellen Page dropped a endless line of hilarious one-liners, while sparking discussion about the very real issue of teenage pregnancy.

In this film George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, an obsessive businessman with a goal of flying 10 million miles in the air. His cheerful character is likable and fun, despite his pitiful distinctively corporate worldview.

This is Reitman’s most serious movie. While I guess other people were expecting the more serious tone, I was expecting more humor and memorable lines and while Clooney’s acting is playful, it’s not Juno in that regard.

But when reviewing movies, a lack of laugh-out-loud humor is the hardest thing to decipher. Especially in a movie with as good a screenplay and flow as this likely Best Picture nominee.

The morality tale is well balanced, as the audience often roots for Clooney’s character. I won’t leak any of the story’s great twists, but he doesn’t get everything he wants, and rightfully so.

As a businessman who’s whole career is to race around the county informing various corporate employees that they are fired, his job is thankless. But by trying to teach new business partner Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick, the tools of the trade, he convinces us he tries to go about his work in the most caring and sympathetic way.

But his job is a position that only exists because our world is so job oriented obsessed to the extreme. Like anyone in his position, Clooney’s character is detached from reality and rightfully so, it constantly comes back to bite him.

The film couldn’t be more timely. Everyone knows someone who has been laid off during the past year, and who will be personally touched by Reitman’s latest movie.

But once again, he has given us a new perspective, while pushing a message as basic to human nature as a love of Reitman’s moviemaking brilliance.

Posted by: Andy Jones | December 25, 2009

Pac-10 basketball predictions

As usual, I’m college basketball obsessed to the max, possibly even more this year because the NBA killed my childhood, the Hawks are lame and the Cougs are looking far better than expected. So here it goes, my Pac-10 predictions for 2009-10.

Washington – The Husky big men only have to be decent for the Huskies to take the conference. The backcourt is scary. Despite often being overshadowed last year by Jon Brockman, Isiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon last year, the long-underachieving senior was the team’s best scorer in the second half. He also somehow pulls down nearly 10 rebounds a game despite being only 6-6. Isiah Thomas might not have much room to get better, but he’s a speedster and a scoring machine. He hasn’t done anything so far but apparently this Abdul Gaddy guy is the nation’s second-best point guard prospect. I’m assuming everybody wasn’t wrong so I’d be amazed if he doesn’t emerge this season. Then again, the team may not play him much because they need Venoy Overton on the court, their best defender.

California – A guarantee for the NCAA Tournament. The team got Pac-10 championship hype because they had the  most complete returning team. Then again, they’ve added nothing new to the mix this year. Still, Jerome Randle, last year’s conference assist leader, was as good as anyone in the conference in 2008-09 and will challenge Klay Thompson and Pondexter for player of the year. Patrick Christopher is also a solid NBA prospect. Like the Huskies, they have no big man so if defenses can slow the three-pointer, this team will fall.

WSU  – Out of principle, I refuse to predict the Cougs higher because I don’t want to jinx them. They may be too inexperienced and may not be quite the 2007-08 team, but the Cougs are the most balanced team in the conference. Klay Thompson is the best player in the Pac-10. Reggie Moore is possibly the best freshman in the Pac-10, a speedster who fits perfectly with Ken Bones new-look Cougar offense. DeAngelo Casto could dominate in a conference devoid of big men. Marcus Capers is gunning for the all-Conference defensive team and the team has plenty of depth behind him. This team might fall a few places because of inconsistency but the potential is sky high.

Arizona State – For some reason, defenses are always far harder to analyze than offenses. And last year’s team was awesome defensively and is currently the best in the Pac. They don’t have much for scorers but Derek Glasser is an All Pac-10 player who will surprise people with his scoring, and especially dishing, ability.

Oregon State – This team had a lot of hype because of its solid improvement under new coach Craig Robinson last year. The team’s solid defense from last year though hasn’t show up so far, leaving this team as a bit of an enigma. Still they have a quality group of scorers with Seth Tarver and Calvin Haynes so this team has potential to go significantly up or down.

Oregon – This team will get a boost just because they may be the only team in the conference with two real big men. Joevan Catron is not really a star but seems to get rebounds galore. Michael Dunigan was as hyped as any freshman entering last season and hasn’t lived up to the expectations, but is still a decent threat down low. Tajuan Porter is streaky but always a scoring threat.

USC – Despite losing coach Tim Floyd and practically all their recruits in the process, this team is better than it looks. They have a surprisingly good big man in Nikola Vucevic, a good proven scorer in Dwight Lewis and a solid transfer in Alec Stephenson. The fact that this team isn’t dead last following its awful offseason is amazing.

Arizona – Nic Wise was at times one of the best scorers in the conference last year. But who else is on this team? The Wildcats’ 26 consecutive March Madness appearances is in serious jeopardy.

Stanford – Landry Fields is a beast and constant double double threat, but he’s really all they got. He’s seemingly been putting up crazy numbers even though he’s not nearly as good as Klay or Quincy. There has been little to fear at this school since the Lopez twins left.

UCLA – This team stinks, and it makes me happy. The Bruins have been good for way too long so it’s awesome to see them down. Apparently their Malcolm Lee kid is a future lottery pick but I haven’t seen anything and everyone else is overrated.

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