Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hidden subtext…

The market is so bad today, I think Glenn Reynolds just told me to buy a helmet.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 8, 2011 at 10:23

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links for 2010-07-29

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July 29, 2010 at 23:01

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links for 2010-07-22

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 22, 2010 at 23:02

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Three kinds of regulation

Let’s say you’re a teenager who’s just gotten his first car. The government is your Daddy, trying to set down rules that will make you a safe driver.

LIBERTARIAN DAD: You got a job and worked for this car. You can drive as fast as you want, but if you break it, you’ll have to fix it yourself.

DEMOCRAT DAD: I gave you $500 to help you pay for this car and I’ll pay half your repair costs but you are not allowed to drive it over 55 m.p.h. I can’t watch you all the time, so I’ll just have to trust you to obey the speed limit.

REPUBLICAN DAD: You used a tax refund check to pay $500 towards this car. You can drive as fast as you want and I’ll pay for all repairs.

Example #3 is called “Deregulation.”

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 15, 2010 at 09:51

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March 26, 2010 at 17:42

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Roger Ebert, on Death

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear, he writes in a journal entry titled “Go Gently into That Good Night.” I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris. — Roger Ebert, from his Esquire Interview

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 19, 2010 at 10:30

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Superior customer service at the Texas Tech Bookstore

I love the coffee shop at the Texas Tech Bookstore. They have these little designer sandwiches you can grab for breakfast or throw in the breakroom fridge for lunch.

There’s something terribly civilized about it, grabbing a latte and a panini on the way to work.

Last week I bought a breakfast sandwich and asked them to toast it for me. But I wasn’t watching to see if they put it in my bag and accidentally walked off without it.

I thought about going back for it a couple times but it wasn’t worth trudging through the snow and slush last week. This morning I went in again and had to decide if I would mention it or not.

I decided I didn’t want to be the kind of guy who complains about a $2 sandwich so I was just going to let it go. (It was basically my fault.) But the person behind the counter remembered me and immediately started toasting a replacement sandwich this morning, without me saying a word.

Such a tiny thing, but life is made up of tiny things, dozens of little transactions that can annoy you or make your day. I took a customer service class last week that encouraged people to bring up examples from their real lives.

People didn’t mention the time they had their mortgage held up for a month or the deal they got on their last car; they mentioned how they were treated at restaurants. The emotions we feel about customer service transactions aren’t related to how big the item is or how much money we spend.

If anything, we’re more critical of the little things because it should be easier to get them right.

The folks at Barnes & Noble got it right today and I’ll remember that $2 sandwich for years.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 16, 2010 at 08:29

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Awesome farewell parties

Thanks to everyone who made it out and left me good wishes today. The farewell gatherings managed to be awesome, touching and awkward all at the same time.

I don’t do much for birthdays or holidays but I make a big deal about work transitions. We focus on what matters to us and I guess this proves I’m a workaholic. Thanks to everyone for smoothing this transition for me and reminding me how many good friends I have, at the old workplace and the new.

I’m such a natural pessimist, when good things happen it takes me a while to believe they’re real. That’s how I’ll be spending the weekend — making myself believe.

(And filling out a hundred new employee forms.)

Written by Michael B. Duff

December 4, 2009 at 23:29

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Goodbye Avalanche-Journal

Friday Dec. 4th will be my last day at the Avalanche-Journal.

Thus ends four and a half great years as webmaster, columnist, and half-assed troubleshooter.

I learned a lot at the A-J, and I’ll always be grateful to the editors there for publishing my work and giving me a chance to grow as a writer. Special thanks to Bill Kerns, Shelly Gonzales, Terry Greenberg and Beth Pratt for reviewing my early work and taking a chance on a guy who was basically hired as a code monkey.

I had a lot of misconceptions about journalism when I walked in the door four years ago. I was a lot more political back then, and like most amateur pundits, I had thrown around the term “mainstream media” until it lost all meaning.

The problem with amateur pundits is that they see everything in black and white, or maybe just red and blue. Everything is taken as proof of some political position. Every story choice, every offhand comment, every random typo is interpreted as an ideological statement.

But as I watched things from the inside, I was struck by how straightforward and workmanlike the whole thing is. Whatever ideological bias you think you see in your local media, the contents of the paper really are determined by what the editors think people want to read.

Those choices may not always be popular, and they may not always be right, but I was struck by how hard these people try, every day, to be honest, helpful and fair.

Eighty percent of my readers are scoffing now. It’s easier to believe in the conspiracy, and it’s certainly more fun, but for the professionals I’ve met, loyalty to journalism becomes a kind of politics in itself. Journalism becomes a kind of third party that they believe in just as fiercely as partisans believe in Obama or the GOP.

Every writer has political opinions and nobody can hide their biases completely, but I was impressed by how hard they try. There really is something sacred about journalism — something religious in the way it captures the hearts and minds of people who devote their lives to it.

Journalists fall short of that ideal sometimes, and of course they make exceptions for the editorial page, but for the average reporter on the street, loyalty to journalism matters more than anything that happens in the political arena.

I don’t expect the average reader to believe that, any more than I believed it four years ago, but I had to give up a lot of prejudices once I saw this process from the inside.

The media is such an easy target these days. Partisan rancor is at such a fever-pitch, journalists are held to extraordinary standards of accuracy and fairness, in a time when budgets are shrinking and the Internet is trying to redefine what news is.

I wish readers could see what I’ve seen, to understand just how much work goes into researching and balancing the content of these stories, to see how much these people have to produce and experience the pressure of writing copy on deadline.

Imagine waking up every day and having your day’s work scrutinized by a hostile audience, having every word interpreted in the most negative way possible and thrown up for ridicule.

I love blogs, but blogs by definition are free from the constraints of objectivity and sourcing that journalists struggle with. Our society may not appreciate the value of objectivity right now, in the mad rush to choose sides and ignore “news” they disagree with, but we’ll definitely miss it when it’s gone.

Bill Kerns

Written by Michael B. Duff

December 2, 2009 at 01:56

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New personal blog

Print readers won’t notice a difference, but I’ve decided to “take back” my blog and remove it from the editorial umbrella of the A-J. There’s nothing sinister about this and I have no complaints. The truth is, my “official” blog has sucked for a long time.

Every blog in the Lubbock Online family has a specific purpose, a specific niche it was designed to fill. A purely personal blog would be out of place there, showing up on the front page of a newspaper site, so I’ve decided to pull back and set up camp here where I can post about random topics to a smaller audience.

I’ll be linking to the columns each week, and to any freelance work I take on, but this is basically going to become one of those boring blog/resume sites that every writer has these days.

Written by Michael B. Duff

December 2, 2009 at 00:12

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