East Coast Adventure: Part 2

If you recall from Part 1, Mr. Fiancé and I spent a long weekend visiting friends in Philadelphia, Virginia & DC all for about a day and a half each.  Here is the last segment – Part 2: Visiting Terra in Virginia & being a tourist in DC.

After Terra met us at the train station Saturday night, we picked up her husband from a work event and decided to grab drinks at a local bar that has 40+ beers on tap. I repeat, 40+ bars on tap. How awesome is that?  We ordered and devoured two behemoth Bavarian pretzels. Sadly, it ruined all future pretzels for me. I will never have a soft pretzel that will be able to compare. We even wanted to take one to-go, they were that good but didn’t. I should have taken a photo for you. Mmmm, I’m salivating just thinking about it. But I digress.  So, in the morning we went to breakfast and our lovely hosts gave us a scenic driving tour of their city, followed by a beautiful hike on an island that used to house a confederate prison.

 

Ever go to someone’s house and feel instantly at home and as if you had been going there for years? I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, that is the story of our friendship.  Terra’s house is a zoo; an adorable, I want to snuggle and take them home with me, zoo. I am not a huge fan of big dogs, but hers were super sweet and won me over.  I was very entertained by the cats, as I have never had one of my own. That night, we went to dinner at a delicious family-style Italian dinner where Stacey and Mr. Fiancé’s cousin met up with us. I wish we all lived closer so that we could have game night and see each other more often!

On Monday, Terra and her husband drove to Washington D.C with us. (Thanks again for driving!) We visited the Holocaust Museum, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial before they had to head back in time for class. If you haven’t been to the Holocaust Museum, I highly suggest it. I personally think it is very well done, more emotional and informational than Yad Vashem, the one in Israel.  Oh! and we had lunch with a friendly squirrel. Usually they run away but this one came right up to us and Terra hand-fed it a fry. In the picture, he is eating chips from a stash he found in the grass. After we all said our goodbyes, Mr. Fiancé and I continued being tourists and walked to The White House and then over to Ford’s Theatre.  I remember going to all these places as a kid, but it had been years. I clearly remember standing on Pennsylvania Ave looking through the gates as a kid but the surrounding area wasn’t what I remembered. I also have a vivid memory of the balcony at Ford’s Theatre and the bed Lincoln died in, but not the theatre itself. Memories are a funny thing – and you have to stop and wonder, how much of memories are true memories or figments of our imagination?

It wasn’t until I experienced D.C.’s Metro that I realized how lucky Chicagoans have it with the CTA.  The Metro is so darn confusing with different rates for different destinations. Not to mention that you have to use your card twice, once when you enter and once when you leave the turnstiles.  What if you change your destination on the train and subsequently don’t have enough money on your transit card? The CTA has one set price and it is very easy to navigate. Have you ever been on Earthquake The Ride, at Universal Studios?  My first instinct was that water was going to come crashing out of nowhere and the subway was going to be on fire because the tunnel eerily reminded me of the ride.  I couldn’t get over the fact that the trains, which were more like trams, had carpet. CARPET! What happens when people barf on the train? I know you don’t want to think about it, but crazy stuff like that happens on the CTA and it is a good thing it is tile floor! I just couldn’t get over that.

My mom mentioned in passing that her friend enjoyed the Newseum and that we should check it out on Tuesday. I didn’t know what to expect, but take my word for it- next time you are in D.C. GO THERE!  It was one of the best museums I have ever been to. It is educational without feeling lecture-y.   The museum shows a timeline of historic events through newspaper articles and interactive exhibits. As it is said, “news is the first draft of history” and the News Gallery does a fantastic job showing history through the centuries as told through actual newspaper covers.  From the very first newspaper printed in 1455, to The Declaration of Independence, to the Titanic and to announcing Hitler declared war, to JFK’s Assassination and to Obama’s becoming President, it is all there and more. While this was just a gallery, there really was enough there for it to be its own museum!  They even had a Gutenberg Press replica (or real?) that showed how newspapers used to be made. I cannot imagine making one newspaper at a time, having to put the letters on backwards and print it manually. So freaking cool. There was a fabulous 9/11 exhibit with an emotional film, an entire wall of the front page magazine coverage worldwide, and wreckage from the broadcast tower off of the World Trade Center.  One of the exhibits I didn’t want to miss was the Pulitzer Prize room, and it didn’t disappoint. It had every photo that has ever won since it originated in the ’60’s.  Some, I am surprised were winners, while others made my eyes water.  There was even a watchtower and a section of the original Berlin Wall.  Supposedly they had the Unibombers cabin, but we didn’t make it to that exhibit.  We didn’t have time to visit all the exhibits we wanted to see because we had a flight to catch, but we could have easily stayed another day (which is why your ticket comes with a two day pass).  I was a journalism major and Mr. Fiancé loves history, so this was the ultimate museum that combined our interests.  I strongly suggest this museum to anyone and everyone. I didn’t have high expectations and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.

We had a great exhausting long weekend. It was so much fun to catch up with friends and be a tourist in cities we had never been to or hadn’t been to in a long time.  I can’t believe it is over already though. Time to look at photos and catch up on sleep…

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Is (news) Ignorance Bliss?

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Zite: Personalized Magazine for iPad from zite.com on Vimeo.

I remember when I was a little girl, my father used to sit at the kitchen table, with one knee bent horizontally over the other, arms stretched out, reading the Sunday paper.  While he was reading a particular section, whether it was Sports, Business, World or Local News, I would pick up a section he wasn’t reading and mimic his posture reading the paper.  I would check out Tom Skilling’s weather Q & A column, read my favorite comic strips or my horoscope, and scan for headlines that caught my interest.  When I had questions, we would discuss.  I’d read The Police Blotter to see if I knew anyone who was caught doing something so stupid, it warranted being written up and publicly humiliated in the newspaper. We would attempt to do the crossword puzzle together when we were done with the paper. I loved this time I got to spend with my father.  By time we were done, my fingers would have ink on them, and I’d leave evidence, accidentally of course, that I had read/touched the paper on the white kitchen table.  I also remember my Grandma’s hand written holiday or birthday cards she used to send.  They would always come with a newspaper clipping of The Family Circle cartoon.  That was her thing.

Fast forward to college where I studied Journalism.  I specifically remember being told the encouraging defeating lesson that newspapers are dying. The field in which you are studying to get your degree is dying.  Thus, by time I graduated, I was completely prepared for looking for a job outside of journalism.  I was aware that new forms of news were being created and that the Internet was quickly becoming/if not already had become the primary source for news for most people.

Today, my parents still get the Chicago Tribune and the local town paper.  Sometimes when I’m home, I flip through the pages briefly for any articles that might be interesting to read and of course steal the coupons. (Hey, I need to save all the money I can, trying to support myself isn’t easy!)  Like most people my age, I don’t subscribe to a newspaper right now. I get all my news from TV, the Redeye (local free daily paper) or the Internet.  I am not sure the percent, but I have heard that a large percent of the population age 18-35 get their political news from John Stewart.

Today, while watching Taxi TV in the cab on my way home, an ad came on talking about a new personalized magazine app for iPad users, called Zite.  It touts itself on being an intelligent magazine that allows you to customize and personalize subject matters.  Then it suggests topics based on your interests. That way you can read the news that only you care about. I am sure apps like Zite requires some effort on a reader’s part to set up the different topics of interest in order for the algorithms within to know what to recommend. My guess is that many people probably won’t take the time to input all their interests and possible topics they would potentially like to read about. Thus, creating a limited amount of news for Zite to deliver. I would also bet that this kind of app, like fine wine, only gets better with time.

 I do not have an iPad so I have not had the opportunity to play with this particular app but Zite I know that it is not alone. There are many other sites out there, like Dailyme and News Republic just to name a couple.  I realize that many people get their news on their mobile phones and it is the latest trend to personalize your news. We already are an egocentric country, is personalizing our news so that we ignore anything outside our personal bubble really a good idea? Who does that benefit?

When I look at a newspaper, I glance at the page and scan for topics that I want to read about.  I might stop to read about the latest research on what pregnant women should avoid, or I might choose to read about the most recent developments in Libya.  But what if I hadn’t set up my personal news source to display articles on pregnancy? Because lets face it, that is not on the forefront of my mind because I’m not pregnant!  Or, what if I had not yet looked up anything regarding the rebellion? Have you ever seen a headline that looked so bizarre you just had to click on it? Or what about those random articles that sites like MSN have alternating at the top. One of today’s random headlines was titled 25 Weird, Wild Vending Machines. Now that was one wacky headline that caught my attention, but I never would have thought to add it to my my customized news source.  In fact, all these articles would have been overlooked on my personalized news source. 

If people select their own news topics and do not even have an opportunity to glance over other headlines, what will that do to our intelligence? Even glancing gives us an idea of what other news is out there, even if we don’t read the full article.  In general, as Americans, we look like dimwits when compared to people in other countries who speak two, three, four or even more languages fluently, when we can barely speak our own native language, let alone master a second language.  The basic fundamental knowledge that Americans lack is quite disturbing.  Have you ever watched the Jaywalking segment on The Tonight Show? Click here to watch The Best Of Jaywalking but be prepared to be appalled by your fellow Americans. It is rather pathetic that people don’t know things like who our first president was, who our current vice president is, what states border the U.S., who shot Abraham Lincoln, or what the D.C. in Washington D.C. stands for.  Maybe I am making an assumption that people, like those on Jaywalking, would even download an app that provides news. Perhaps they would be too busy with Angry Birds or Flood-It or watching shows like Wipeout? 

 The Internet is the grandfather of news selectivity. I admit I use it to get a large portion of my daily news. Call me old fashioned but I still like traditional news.  I like being able to scan zig zag from top to bottom, from page to page. In newspapers alone, I enjoy flipping through the different sections and selecting which news topic I want to read that day.  I like getting towards the end and reading the horoscopes followed by the crosswords and Sudoku, which I try to complete. I like the sense of accomplishment I get when I close the newspaper and know I finished reading it.   I know technology is advancing and changing how we receive our news and information. I know newspapers are struggling to stay afloat.  But I miss those days of cutting out articles, getting The Family Circle from Grandma, sitting with my father at the kitchen table reading, or seeing the news for the day in its entirety, and having the news given to me, rather than me customize it.

They say ignorance is Bliss. But we are only hurting ourselves when we are not aware of what is going on in the world around us.

How do you get your news? Do you think personalized news is a positive or negative advancement. Knowing how far we have come in so few years, how do you think we will get our news in 5 – 10 -20 years?