"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

America is great, day three

Reasons America is great--Jill Castilla, center, and my terrific diverse Twitter for Media class at UCO
Two days ago, I started posting on Facebook a daily response to this fear-mongering BS campaign slogan about making America great "again." We have lots of problems in this country and state...I can give you a long list.  There are many of our citizens for whom the country isn't always great, thus the anger and frustration apparent in the presidential campaigns. 
Lots of us middle class white folks thought the country was great back in the 1950s and 1960s, but it wasn't great at all for those African-Americans who were segregated and discriminated against and subject to violence. Was America greater in the 1970s when people of my generation were being killed in Vietnam and in riots at home? How about the 1980s and 1990s with more wars, drug problems and rampant economic problems? Or since 2000 with almost ceaseless wars, drugs and terrorism? 
I too feel the country is on the "wrong" track at times.
But. I don't see our past decades where everything was rosy and we were greater then than we are now.
I simply don't buy this clap trap that America isn't great.
Thus these daily posts, which I'll continue on the blog, and refer to on social media.
The photo at top shows many more reasons America is great. 
Jill Castilla is the fantastic CEO and president of Citizens Bank in Edmond who has become a national force for community building. She was named “Most Admired CEO in Oklahoma," “Most Innovative CEO in Banking,” "Community Banker of the Year" and "Most Powerful Women in Banking" in 2015. 
And look at the diverse students in my class--different races, ages, religions, nationalities and more, all getting along, learning together, respecting each other. Full of hope and optimism because America is great, and they'll make it greater. 
You can read about Jill's advice and comments to my Twitter for Media class on the #clarkclass blog: Twitter for media class
I'm sorry, but you can't be around this woman long without being inspired by her enthusiasm and optimism. She and my students and classes are just multiple more reasons I know that America is great right now, and she's making greater than it was in the past.

Monday, August 29, 2016

'Wrong' track, Interlude--Prof's primer on polls, part II


Rusting locomotive, Skagway, Alaska, Not all polls are as reliable as others and can lead to the wrong track
Old Alaskan trestle  and tracks--like some polls, deserve skepticism
Back in 2012, because of their polling, Mitt Romney, his family and campaign people were confident of victory and then literally stunned and shell-shocked as the election night results rolled in. http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/110597/exclusive-the-polls-made-mitt-romney-think-hed-win#
This link explains why they were on the "wrong" track. What they really needed was my "Prof’s Primer on Polling," especially this editor’s checklist for evaluating polling, or any research.

Poll aggregators show a better idea than just one poll
Four years later, it's more true than ever that Americans need to understand polls in this election, rather than just attacking them if we disagree with their results.  We get new ones every day.
My advice is not to trust any one poll, but look at a bunch of them, and it's easier than ever, given computers and aggregators, especially Real Clear Politics and 538, which called every state's results four years ago.
Americans are justifiably suspicious of polling, and not just for political reasons. Some of the fault lies with newspapers and broadcast which have reported off-beat “research” to try to snag audience.  Last post I referred to USA Today once carrying a Women’s Day’s poll saying readers wouldn’t marry the same man is just one example. The poll was loaded with faults, and the media failed to point them out. Then Fox picked up the myth and continued with it.
On London's "Tube," the "right" track is always clear
S
o here is this prof's voter checklist for evaluating polls, so at least you can be sure you're on the "right" track with them, even if you think the country is on the "wrong" track, as I do. I think this should also be every American’s checklist too. 

  • When was the poll conducted? Results  change overnight as the RCP chart shows.
  • Check more than one poll for more accuracy.
  • Who sponsored the polling? Is there a conflict of interest?  Political polling is especially suspect if it’s loaded with distrust for the other side. Beware any polling done by a PR firm for a client. I understand the Republicans with their distrust of the so-called “liberal media” wanting to conduct their own polls.  But Romney's campaign fell  victim to the same faults they suspected from the other side.
  • Who was included in the polling? If you poll certain age groups or geographic areas or don’t reach likely voters, you’re results will not be valid. See number three.
  • How were the people chosen? Was it a true “random” sample? If not the results will be skewed (as with Romney’s polling).
  • How many people were in the sample? If the poll has fewer than 1,100 respondents, your margin of error is going to be more than three percent.
  • What was the response rate? If your sample was 1,000 and only 400 answered, you get results like the Women’s Day article which threw out more than it counted. Don’t seriously consider any response rate less than 60 percent.
  • How accurate are the results? Always compute the margin of error—it results were within it, then “it’s too close to call.”
  • Who were the interviewers? Were they professionally trained and neutral? If not, prejudice, inflection of the voice and other factors can affect results.
  • How was the polling conducted? Robo-call? In person? If it was a call-in or send-in, the results are worthless because they’re not "random." See definition in previous post.
  • What were the actual questions asked? Wording can influence results, and can lead to opposite results on the same matter, depending on wording.
  • Are the results cause and effect or just correlation? I saw a headlined story once: “Want to live a longer life? Marry yourself a younger wife.” The poll found that men with younger wives lived longer. But—this might not be cause and effect because there are many other factors involved—health, wealth, etc.
  • Does the headline match the polling results? 
If you can’t answer these questions satisfactorily, be suspicious.
 A few of the faults of the Women’s Day poll and article: 1. It’s not random for all women in America, only subscribers. 2. Women’s Day has more than one million subscribers. About 100,000 responded. 3. The results were clipped out of the magazine and sent in (pre-Internet). 4. Once the magazine got the results, some of them were not counted.
So, a responsible newspaper or broadcast station reporting polling results should include an explanatory item with every story. If it doesn't, be suspect. It should be written along these lines:
“The Daily Geezer poll of 1,200 registered voters in Geezer County was conducted Oct. 31, 2016, and asked two questions: ‘Will you vote Nov. 8?’ and ‘Which presidential candidate will you vote for?’ The results have a margin of error of plus and minus three percent.”

Next--polls showing America on the "wrong" track.
                            Accurate polls are like well run railroads--inspected 
               and run with very little error, as Forest Park railroad, Fort Worth

Sunday, August 28, 2016

'Wrong' track...Interlude, prof's primer on polls-I

Clark looking for the 'wrong' track, and right polling









It’s a long way and time from the banner headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” in the Chicago Tribune.
I’m not talking about politics and the press, but about something else most Americans are probably sick of about now, polling. Back in 1948, public opinion polling was in its infancy, contributing to that journalistic fiasco.
In the current election, and the one four years ago, we are being  deluged with more polls than ever. In 2012 they remarkably foretold the results, correctly predicting the electoral outcome in every state. 2012 poll accuracy
How? This year is still open to questions, and lots of time.
Forget the poo-pooers who argued with what they showed because they disagreed or didn’t want to believe, or thought they were biased.  There is room for suspicion and questions, but not denials of the science involved, if you just disagree with it...if you're a realist. Forget your political views of Huffington Post, or 538 or Real Clear Politics. In 2012 the poll aggregators of hundreds of polls nailed the results: 2012 polls.

It is a fact that most Americans don’t understand scientific polling and are right to be suspicious of them.
You rarely see polling explained. This is a version of what I wrote four years ago, urging Oklahoma newspapers to explain them.
So before we go to the poll findings about America being on the "wrong" track, here are some facts and explanations.
               Prof's primer on polling, part one
Hence, here’s the "Prof’s press primer on polling, part one."
Definition of terms is first.
    •    Population—The group to be surveyed, such as likely voters, residents of Oklahoma, likely voters in any election, etc.
    •    Random—Random does not mean “haphazard.” It means that every person in the "population" has an equal chance of being chosen. It’s easy in a classroom—you put every name in a hat and have a few names pulled out. Bigger groups require phone numbers or addresses, all more easily available than ever with computer data.
    •    Sample—The portion of the population to be chosen randomly to ask the poll questions.
    •    Valid—A poll is valid if the results collected from the sample can be applied to the entire population.
    •    Margin of error—Expressed as a plus and minus percentage. Every poll has flaws and variables that will affect the accuracy of the results, but the larger the sample, the lower the margin of error (If you poll everyone in the population there will be no margin of error, but that isn’t possible in most cases).
Now the key question—how big a sample do you need to conduct an accurate poll?
You’re not going to believe the answer. So first things first. Timing, wording of questions, training of the pollsters, polling methods, and other factors also affect a poll’s validity, not just the sample size. And sample size is not dependent on "population" size.
That said, to get a sense of how people in Oklahoma might vote on any issue,  or people in the United States,  for a five percent margin of error, you need roughly only 400 registered, or likely, voters selected randomly. Yep, that’s all. The better national polls try for 1,100 to 1,300 respondents, for about a three percent margin of error.
Here’s how the margin of error figures. Suppose the results come back showing Panhandle residents favor seceding from Oklahoma by a 52-48 percent margin, with a sample size of 400 people. The results are within the three percent margin of error so the election could go either way—it could be 52-43, or 47-52, or any combination. If on the other hand it was 75-25, Oklahoma would have a problem.
Also important in polling is the timing. A poll or electability two days after Romney winning the first debate is valid that day. But as fast as things change in this digital news country, it wouldn’t be valid in five days. Same is true in the current election--Americans are fickle. A poll the day after either convention is no longer "valid." That's what the pollsters mean by "bounce."
Other factors can affect outcome. People who say they will vote and don’t show up. Or a Hurricane could shut the place down. Or you could live in Florida.
As with everything in journalism, sources also matter in polls. Who conducted it?
But that’s a separate subject. Next, an American’s checklist for evaluating a poll.
Hint: USA Today once ran a story and headline at the top of the page about most American women wouldn’t remarry the same man, based on a Women’s Day survey. What was wrong with that?

Next, your checklist to evaluate all these polls.
Photo in National Railway Museum, York England, at the controls of one of the Royal locomotives (The King and Queen have their own trains)


Looking for the 'wrong' track


Many tracks at the Oklahoma City train show a couple of years ago...turn up your sound

Express train from Canterbury to London...the right track
A majority of Americans think the country is on the "wrong" track, according to many polls over the years, especially recently. 
You can see that in the slogan and widespread angry support of one of Presidential candidates this year, even though many of those same people denounce and don't believe the same polls that show Trump losing. And they're not alone, as the disgruntled supporters of former candidate Bernie Sanders probably feel the same way, though of differing political beliefs and ages. Both of those candidates tapped into that opinion.
So, I can't help but wonder what "wrong" track they, and many others, are talking about? 
Many different tracks, National Railroad Museum, York, England
In fact, given the diversity of backgrounds and beliefs in this country, I suspect there are many "wrong" tracks, that overlap some, just like switches between tracks.
Is the country on the "wrong" track, or is it perceived that way because it is "changing" tracks, as in the little video above?
Possible "wrong" tracks:
For the religious right, perhaps social and moral issues, such as abortion, same sex marriage, and the latest minor pissing contest (pun intended) over same sex bathrooms. 
For the poorer, lower-educated working class group, perhaps joblessness, stagnant wages, and a sense of being ignored, of not being heard.
For others, largely white, and aging like me, perhaps knowing that the country has changed and old white guys are now a minority.
For others, perhaps living with  xenophobic fear of immigrants, terrorism, science, anything different that brings change.
For others, like the white supremacists, and elements waving the Confederate flag, there's outright fear and racism, seen in attacks, verbal and physical, against Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, and any other group that doesn't look Caucasian.
For others, especially the younger, perhaps the disgust with the entire political system that is run by political machines and owned by big money.
For others, speaking personally, the "wrong" track is the lack of civility, lack of political compromise, attempts to restrict voting, gun violence, and the Supreme Court Citizens United opinion that opened the floodgates to big money controlling politics.  I too, feel disenfranchised.
Only track from Skagway, Alaska, to  Whitehorse, Yukon
I suspect there are more perceived "wrong" tracks. If there are more than one "wrong track," is there only one "right" track?

 This little ditty  seems to be an underlying roadbed of all those tracks:

Right  track,
wrong track,
yakity yak.
It's my country,
I want it back.

But what the "wrong" track is, and what is the "right" track might depend  on who is asked.

Next, two "wrong" track polls, and a primer on polling.
Trains, like tracks, have changed over time. Seen from inside our bus touring the Scottish Highlands
  (These are all my photos and videos) 




Saturday, August 27, 2016

Creativity hibernation?

Susan's barn, 9  by 12 140 # d'Arches watercolor
s's barn,
Tonight she said, "You aren't painting. Paint tonight."
Said I, "Agreed. I wrote today that my creativity seemed to be in hibernation or dead."
Said she, "Your creativity is everywhere. Go paint."
So I did, from a cloud I'd seen in Oklahoma recently, changing the foreground, thinking of my favorite American artist, David Holland, who paints cloudscapes like I could only wish for.
He and I share the love for the skies, and my watercolors show that. My craft is rusty, because I don't paint every day, as I should.
So tonight's  painting, more from memory than a photo, is close, --not good enough--but at least a start.
So, from a mid-day photo, to become  a morning, or evening, scene.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back-tracking on the "wrong" track for 45 years

Neruda: "Is there anything sadder than a train in the rain?"
Americans apparently like being in the dumps, or blue, as my small watercolor from Pablo Neruda's poem suggests.
We think the country has been "on the wrong track" for almost a half century, apparently, including now.
Let's "backtrack" some.
That dissatisfaction fueled the Democrat's mid-term election "whuppings" of George Bush and the Republicans' of Obama.
Warning...I spent almost as much time searching my photos for appropriate train photos as I did writing. Hey, I like trains.
This "old one" is rusting  and abandoned on an old track at Skagway, Alaska, but perhaps that is the right track for old ones like me.
So what is the history of the country being on the "wrong track"?
Since 1972, polls have found most Americans have thought the country is on the "wrong track." Some pollster reported asked in 1971: " “Do you feel that things in this country are generally going in the right direction today, or do you feel that things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?”
Keep in mind that was in the middle of the Vietnam War, inflation was climbing, unemployment was up. Source, the Daily Beast: Wrong track. 
In fact, polls show that Americans have rarely thought we're on the right track. When did we derail and hit the ditch?--Eight years ago, in the fall of 2008, when the economy imploded. Per Gallup, between September through about November 2008, only 7 to 9 percent of the country thought the country was in the right direction. 
What were the highest points in the past 45 years? Three times--(Gallup polls)
In Reagan's second term it bounded to  60 percent on the right track. It soon dropped  to under 50 percent; during Clinton's impeachment, the economy was great and 71 percent thought the country was on the right track; and after 9/11, it soared, but seven  months later it dropped to 60 percent thinking we were on the "wrong track."
My conclusion, (opinion), Americans are fickle, short-sighted, spoiled, and whiners.
 
Canada in the background as the locomotives switch ends on the right track.
Getting on the right track politically is a matter of many opinions. But not in railroads. At the White Pass and Yukon railroad between Alaska and Canada, they take you up to the pass made famous in the Gold Rush, and the locomotives park you just inside Yukon Territory, Canada on a siding. They then move around and attach to the other end of the train for the trip back to Skagway. There's always a "right" track. So simple, in railroad operation if not democracy. 

Next--more tracks.
 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"The country's on the 'wrong' track"?

This blog is rarely political, but sometimes delves into education, media and social issues that can't help but overlap with government and politics. That's because most people are tired of all the political claptrap, don't read it, and none of it seems to change anyone's minds.
Forest Park Railroad, Fort Worth
I prefer to write about traveling, photography, watercolor, books, education and more, as the past seven and a half years illustrate.
But the phrase about the country being on the "wrong track" has caught my attention more and more recently, especially in election year with such a polarized country fed by hatred, fear, and politics and media gone wild. 
Polls show a majority of Americans think the country is on the "wrong" track. What does that mean? 
Plus, given my love for anything to do with trains, and words, it just seems natural to write about it. 
Besides, I too think the country is sometimes on the wrong tracks, but you'll have to wait till the concluding article in these postings to guess why, though I won't tell you.
So I thought I'd do a little research into the phrase, using basic journalism questions.
  • First question--Where did the phrase come from?
  • Second question--Why? or (What is the "right" track?) or (Who gets to determine what is "right" or "wrong"?)
  • Third question--What are the facts?
  • Fourth question--unanswerable except by opinion perhaps--Is there only one "right" or "wrong" track?
"All a'boaaard!" (Next--first question, background)
 (Forest Park Railroad--Make sure your sound is on)



Monday, August 22, 2016

The 27th year begins

Students crowded  the halls again at the University of Central Oklahoma as I put the finishing touches on the two classes I begin teaching tomorrow.
27 years ago...Only Mark Hanebutt and I are still in the department. Decesased, Charles Simmons at right, and Woody Gaddis at left. Former secretaries Nancy Brown and Virginia Dodson, Susan Gonders and retired Dennie Hall.
It's a long way and a long time from that first semester in August of 1990...back when email was in its infancy, cell phones rare, and computers scarce. Outside our building were gravel parking lots. The journalism department was small--with only five full-time professors. I moved here after four years at OSU where I was earning my doctorate, and received about a 30 percent raise.
Since then there have been thousands of students, a digital revolution, personal and professional defeats and successes. At our departmental retreat last week there were 35 people present. We have about 700 majors in several fields, ranging from what used to be called "Journalism" to general communication fields.
Tomorrow I teach  "Blogging for Journalists," and a new class for me, "History of Journalism." In May I taught "Twitter for media," unheard of ten years ago. The history class will spend almost half the semester on events since  Watergate. The attacks of 9/11 are history for today's students.
The years go by
Now I'm the old man of the department, trying to stay somewhat current with all these changes and young students.  
They don't learn the way students did in 1990, much less than when I was in college. So I have to teach differently. I still teach writing and thinking and observing, but most of all I have to inspire and lead my students so they will be able to adapt. 
Our world is changing so fast with technology affecting everything around the world that except for the basics, just knowing stuff won't be a key to a successful career or life. If you don't believe it, watch this clip on the world they will face--the first two years of their education may be obsolete by the time they graduate: Did You Know?
The Department now, Mark Hanebut at left, white shirt. Me, second from top, right
Warning--this video will disturb you, and it does my students. The question I have for them after they view it is, "How and what am I supposed to teach you?"
If you want to follow my courses, I've set up two blogs--sort of digital textbooks-- that carrying the assignments and other material. Click here for a look at the first day's materials: BlogblogUCO and I Am Journalism.
So tomorrow, this old prof will arrive about 7:30, open the door to my office, get some coffee, and once more, before the crowd arrives, mull in silence for a few moments to get mentally ready, once again, going on 27 years.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pianos and Paintings, a unique occurrence

"Mountain Cabin" and "Mountain Church"
"Prairie Throne"
Something unique has occurred in my creative life with watercolor painting this week, and it may be unique in Oklahoma City in music too.
Thanks to friends, contacts, new acquaintances and unusual circumstances, paintings and pianos are "paired" here in Edmond.
Sixteen of my watercolors are on display at Bruce Piano Gallery at 3722 N. Lincoln Blvd., just north of Memorial Road, and the store is open from 10 to 6 M-F, and 1-5 on Saturdays. 
Yes, they're all for sale as are all the beautiful pianos. And you could buy them together, of course.
The idea is the brainchild of Jordan Bruce, the store owner, who told a customer, my friend Ted Streuli, he would like art on the walls of his gallery. Ted mentioned it to me, and it has happened.
I'm  really stunned for a couple of reasons. First, that my art is good enough to be liked and shown in this setting of beautiful musical instruments, works of art themselves. And even more humbling is my obvious inferiority and ignorance about music, one of my life-long regrets. At least I've atoned for that somewhat because all my children have had musical training and ability.
So I know it's ironic that my art is on display here. 
I hope you'll drop in and see them. The pianos make it look better, classier, than it ever has. And Jordan is kind enough to say the paintings help the pianos. And just entering that gallery and walking among the beautiful pianos  makes me want to take piano lessons and buy a piano.
"Oklahoma Barn" and "Oklahoma November"
"Thirsty Country," "Taos Pueblo" and "Oklahoma Skyscrapers"

"Oklahoma Skies" and "Rainy Day"
"Mountain Home" and "Homestead Morning"
"Winter Solstice" and "Waiting for Rain"
"Gate to High Lonesome"

"Santa Fe Window"

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Painting narratives

Prairie Throne, 12 by 22, plus frame
I'm working on titles and narratives to go with 16 of my watercolors that will soon be exhibited for sale in an Edmond business.  
More details and photos when everything is in place. But for now, one painting, and the tentative narratives and titles.

Oklahoma Barn

If you drive the back roads
in eastern Oklahoma County,
you'll find this decaying
 monument to yesterday.

Thirsty Country

This forlorn skeleton
of a pioneer windmill
stood in the western
Oklahoma Panhandle

Prairie Throne

Oklahoma's thunderheads
change every second.
Seen east of OKC,
dwarfing the landscape.

Oklahoma Skies

Unsettled in storm season,
clouds churn through the skies
over the flat prairies.

Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year
brings a cold beauty
to the sunset shadows.


Santa Fe Corner Window

Old windows hint at mystery
inside old adobe walls,
blending earth and sky.

Waiting for Rain

In the heat of summer
in western Oklahoma,
people watch the skies
hoping for relief.

Oklahoma Homestead

Morning on the Great Plains
brings a still beauty
to the frame houses.

Oklahoma November

There's nothing like a walk
through the falling leaves
of another autumn, the
most beautiful time of year.

Gate to High Lonesome

Western gates beckon
of mystery and journeys
not yet taken in
wide open spaces.

Great Plains Skyscraper

If the land is almost flat,
the skies are not, as spring
and summer humidity
build gigantic skyscrapers.

Rainy Day Cabin

The sound of rain on a roof
in Eastern Oklahoma,
as the storm turns
the hills and forests gray


Taos Pueblo

The oldest continuously
inhabited buildings in
what is now the U.S.,
an icon of New Mexico

Mountain Church

The whitewashed adobe church
in Tecolote, New Mexico ,
stands out against the
brown and green landscape

Mountain Cabin

Build of rough logs
at the foot of the mountains,
a pioneer's cabin weathers
another approaching winter.

Mountain Home

What dreams are made of,
at the end of the road
a home at the edge of the forest.