Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to break out of a rut

If you're writer, you've been there.

For some reason, the ideas seem harder to come by.

Sentences are like big boulders that won't move.

Brain clog (smog?) seems to have taken over.

How to break out of the rut?

Well, for one thing, get over it!

There's no such thing as writer's block. Never has been. Never will be.

What if a nurse, getting ready to stick you with a needle, suddenly became paralyzed and said: "Oops! I can't do this. I have nurse's block."

What if a professor walked into a classroom and told her class: "Ladies and gentlemen, I can't teach today. I have professor's block."

What if your car mechanic said he couldn't repair your engine because he had mechanic's block.

Really and truly ridiculous when you think about it.

Strategies for getting your creative bounce back:

Many of the following ideas for infusing your day with creativity come from a Oct. 27, 2009, Wall Street Journal article written by Alexandra Levit, a business and workplace author and speaker.

1. Block out some time on your calendar to think about creativity. That way you elevate its importance in your mind. Clear your head of everyday worries and challenges. Put on some music and let your mind go long. Dream. Think. Imagine.

2. Change your reading habits. If all you read pretty much consists of one publication or Web site each day, expand your horizons. Read something new or different.

3. Read before you doze off into slumberland at night? If so, jot down ideas on a notebook on your nightstand; ideas might also come to you in the middle of the night.

4. For that matter, have a pen or pencil and paper with you everywhere you go. Write down interesting things that you hear, see, smell, touch...--anything that provokes an interesting train of thought.

5. Break out of your comfort zone. Never been to a wrestling match or a NASCAR race, for example? Go to at least one of these and you'll experience the world from an entirely different perspective.

6. Don't be afraid to just bounce around ideas--even if they're stupid. Keep throwing your ideas out there. Keep brainstorming. Once every so often, something sticks!

7. Realize that the brain is a webbed site. Your brain is connected to every part of your body. That means if you've been sitting or lying down all day, the brain might be close to shutting down. Get out and exercise. Get the blood pumping! Word is that when Einstein couldn't think clearly about his theories of physics, he'd ride his bicycle. Massage or stimulate your body and you do the same with your brain.

8. Know that creativity doesn't necessarily understand a deadline. Keep working. The good ideas will come--eventually.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friends of the opposite sex?

If you're a woman, is it possible to have a friend of the opposite sex?

What about vice versa?

Turn your sound up and click on the boldface hotlink headline above to learn the latest on this touchy but interesting question from media personality Bridgette Alese, who has her own show.

Carolina Panthers--what this team needs

The Carolina Panthers lost yesterday in Charlotte to the Buffalo Bills.

The Panthers were supposed to beat the Bills, but alas, Jake Delhomme threw multiple interceptions, playing a key role in the Panthers losing another game.

Jake, of course, doesn't bear full responsibility for the defeat. Others, among them the Panthers' Kenny Moore, who fumbled a very catchable punt with only a few minutes left in the game, should be blamed.

I happened to be there at the game yesterday, sitting in a section that seemed to have more Bills fans than Panthers fans.

If I hear "Let's go, Buffalo!" one more time..., I'll puke.

But anyway, everyone seems to be wondering what's wrong with the Panthers.

What's mainly wrong is they don't have a winner as a QB.

What they need is a proven winner to help turn the whole Panthers culture around.

What they should do: Get a guy named Tim Tebo when he graduates from the University of Florida.

I'm not a big Gators fan, but Tebo, who won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, seems to almost carry his team to victory every week.

He refuses to lose.

The Panthers should bring him on board.

Secondary solution: Get a QB hometown (Charlotte) guy; his name is Chris Leak. He led his team, the University of Florida, to the national championship when he played quarterback there. He's a winner, leading Independence High School in Charlotte to at least three straight state championships in football.

Those are my suggestions.

Are you getting this, Carolinas Panthers?!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Newest member of Timbs family

Meet "Michael Jackson," a loveable, black button-eyed, rambunctious bichon frise puppy that I got in the back country of North Carolina on that fateful day (a few months ago) that MJ died.

I'm beginning to call him H.M. (High Maintenance) Jackson, because he requires so much time and attention.

Is he worth it?


Here's what I learned about Jackson after reading an article by Stephanie Horan in the November 2008 edition of "Dog World" magazine.

1. He's the "standard of the lapdog."

2. He is sweet and playful and personable and has a cheerful disposition.

3. He can easily learn tricks. This breed has been used as a circus dog to perform tricks.

4. Regular bathing, brushing and trimming are essential for Jackson.

5. He does best in an adult household or with older children.

6. He welcomes the chance to run and play and be wild in the yard or whereever.

7. He can be manipulative and quite stubborn.

8. Food rewards win his attention much more successfully than force.

9. He is not hyperactive or excitable.

10. He's always ready for playtime or a walk.

11. He loves to dig in the yard or in the dirt.

12. He has a high-pitched bark that can put you on edge.

13. He is NOT easy to housetrain and can be quite stubborn in this respect. Can take him up to 3 yrs. to be reliably housebroken.

14. Regular grooming of his fur/hair is essential to prevent matting which can lead to nasty sores and other skin problems.

15. Does his coat shed? Yes! But instead of falling on the ground or on the furniture, the hairs remains in the coat until it's removed by brushing and combing. Any shed hair left in the coat can form mats, and we don't want that!

16. Should be thoroughly brushed at least once a week, but more often is better. When we brush him, we should try not to miss mats and snarls.

17. Brushing and combing must be done prior to bathing him.

18. He's prone to tear staining, and this can cause allergies or infections. Tear-stain remover can be found in pet stores (but we've been using a warm wash cloth and that seems to work ok!)

19. He's prone to skin allergies that cause itching and scratching. Grooming/brushing helps avoid this.

20. He makes an outstanding therapy dog.

21. His best friend is the next person he meets.

22. He's high maintenance but lovable and worth it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cold feet and hands at the Wooly Worm Festival

It's fall break at Winthrop and time once again for the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk (Avery County), N.C.--just a few miles out of Boone and near the Tennessee state line.

Spent a few hours at the festival couple days ago, and it was plenty COLD.

Should I return to the scene of this crime--where thousands of folks come from all over to watch wooly caterpillars race for cash prizes--I'll wear thick socks and insulated boots.

Still, Saturday was great fun and a chance to soak up mountain culture--music, crafts, games and food with family and good friends.

Just so you know, wooly worms are reputed to be good predictors of how harsh or cold the upcoming winter will be. (Something about the depth or richness or darkness of their colors correlates with snow and freezing temperatures.)

Sideline note: You never know whom you might encounter at the Wooly Worm Festival. Saturday, right there in the thick of one round of wooly worm races, and helping referee the races, was Tommy Burleson.

Old-timers might remember that Tommy, from Newland, N.C., starred on the N.C. State University Wolfpack basketball team that won the national championship a few decades ago.

You couldn't miss Burleson--even among the throngs of people at the Wooly Worm Festival. He's 7 ft. 4 inches tall (or thereabouts.)

Did Burleson star on the same teams at N.C. State with David Thompson? Maybe someone out there in the blogosphere can enlighten us about that by posting a comment.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Myrtle Beach Herald making its mark in journalism

Here's a story that I wrote and that I got published in the November 2009 edition of Publishers' Auxiliary, a journalism trade publication. The photos accompanying this blog post are of editor Charles Perry and embattled Horry County (S.C.) Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland--both of whom I mention in my story:

By Larry Timbs
Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary

Even if the staff at your community weekly newspaper is small and your resources aren’t anything close to that of your competitors, don’t rule out doing investigative reporting.

Because sometimes you get lucky, like the 6,500-weekly circulation Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Herald did in September, and you break a really big story.

As in being the first newspaper in your circulation area, which includes the McClatchy-owned 52,000-circulation daily Sun-News, to discover and report that the chairwoman of your county council owes the state ethics commission a whopping $300,000-plus in fines.

Myrtle Beach Herald editor Charles Perry said he was stunned that when looking for one piece of information he stumbled upon something much juicier.

Call it a classic case of journalism serendipity or call it whatever you want—luck, providence, skill, hard work—but it paid off for Perry big time.

While Perry combed the Internet for information about a local city council candidate’s ethics fines, he noticed another familiar name on the ethics debtors list—that of Horry County (S.C.) Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland.

And not only was Gilland on the debtors list, she was on it big time—owing the state ethics commission more than $300,000 for not filing 11 campaign disclosure forms. Plus, the fines were mounting daily for each day she didn’t pay.

Perry, 28, editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald since late April 2009, couldn’t believe what he had found, but there it was plain as day: One of the most powerful political figures in Horry County owed the state ethics commission a huge sum of money, and no one seemed to know about it, and, if they did, they were mum.

His blood pumping and heart racing, Perry recalls that he couldn’t write the story fast enough.

But write it he did, breaking the story online and putting it on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

A few hours later, that same evening in September, the Myrtle Beach Herald’s TV news partner, WMBF News, was all over the story, as were other news media in Horry County and elsewhere in South Carolina.

But the little guy on the block—The Myrtle Beach Herald—got the ball rolling.

The Myrtle Beach Herald, one of four weekly newspapers owned by Waccamaw Publishers, has an editor (Perry), a copyeditor and two part-time reporters, along with a few occasional freelancers.

But it’s a fearless, hard-working, community-minded newspaper that will doggedly pursue just about any story, according to Perry.

That kind of stick-to-it-ness pays big dividends, he said.

“(L)ately our work has set us apart,” Perry wrote in a recent column about the Liz Gilland blockbuster story. “In the barrage of TV news reports about County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland’s ethics fines, you probably didn’t hear our name mentioned.

“But we broke the story. It was on our Web site,, before any other outlet reported it.

“Yes, we get beat on most crime stories,” Perry conceded in his column, and there are some events we just can’t cover. Our competition is also talented. This town has some great photographers and reporters.

“But in recent weeks, we’ve shown that we’ve got a pretty good group, too.”

The Myrtle Beach Herald and its sister Waccamaw Publishers weekly newspapers—Carolina Forest Chronicle, Loris Scene and Horry Independent—have stayed on the story about Gilland. The papers have reported, for example, that her ethics fines, as of this writing (Oct. 14, 2009) continue to mount daily, for each day she doesn’t pay, increasing by $1,100 a day. They’ve interviewed Gilland herself, who admits that she’s gotten herself into trouble but who also calls it “much ado about nothing” that has worn her out. Plus, the weekly newspapers have written interview-based stories quoting state officials who say Gilland’s wages could be garnished by the S.C. Department of Revenue to pay the ethics fines.

“A lot of it was pumped a little bit by the media, but that’s their job,” Gilland, a longtime county council member, is quoted as saying in an article published early in October in the Myrtle Beach Herald. “All of the injuries were self-inflicted. It didn’t hurt the county. I didn’t hurt the county. Nobody was wounded. I didn’t steal anything. All of my wounds were self-inflicted. I’m going to go about my business and serve the county.”

Perry credits fellow Waccamaw Publishers journalists Michael Smith, Ashley Bruno (a county reporter who files stories for all four weeklies) and Kathy Ropp (editor of the Horry Independent) as doing outstanding work on the Gilland story.

“It hasn’t just been just our coverage (from the Myrtle Beach Herald). It’s been a fantastic collaboration of strong (Waccamaw Publishers) community newspapers,” Perry said. “It’s making phone calls, looking at documents and doing the things we are supposed to do. . . We don’t have the resources of these large daily newspapers or TV stations, but yet we’re the ones that broke the story. . . I can’t say enough about the people I work with. We lean on each other. . . I’m not going to lie. We get beat on stories, but this also shows we can do good investigative work. . . I’ll put us up with the best of them.”

“People talk about the Sun-News,” Perry noted. “In a lot of cases we’re sort of an afterthought (as a newspaper) in Myrtle Beach. We’re really a small operation, but I honestly think we’re starting to make a name for ourselves.”

Perry says the lesson of the Liz Gilland story for a small community weekly newspaper is this: Don’t be discouraged by your competition’s resources or by your resources. “Community newspapers can win,” he said. “They can break stories that can provide the kind of in-depth coverage that’s often written off as a thing of the past or believed to be something that only large papers can provide.”

One professional who’s a believer in Perry’s mantra is Matt Miller, news director of WMBF News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (TV news partner of the Myrtle Beach Herald.) WMBF has been running the Liz Gilland story full throttle but with appreciative full attribution to the Herald.

Miller believes the Gilland story is important inasmuch as the county council chairwoman is a key political figure in Horry County. Plus, she’s another name on a list of politicians in South Carolina who’ve recently gotten themselves into trouble, and the public has a right to know about such.

In the case of the Myrtle Beach Herald, according to Miller, its small targeted circulation area, much smaller than, say, the likes of the Sun-News, works in its favor.

“They can focus on their community, and I think the Herald and the Chronicle do an excellent job at that. They don’t just do press releases. They go after investigative journalism. That’s why we’re partners with them. Charles (Perry) and Michael (Smith) are just awesome. They do a fantastic job.”

Larry Timbs is an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., where he teaches courses in print and Web journalism.

Monday, October 12, 2009

If it can happen...

Stephanie Johns, a former student of mine (now working at a TV station in Columbia, S.C.), sent me these funny tidbits.

All of these were actually published somewhere.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dog licks inside of computer screen

If you've read the old blogster for very long, you know I love dogs--big ones, small ones, smart ones, even unintelligent but loyal slobberknocker ones.

In that spirit, I present you a dog that cleans the inside of your computer screen.

As a friend, put it to me, "You know that you should clean the outside of your computer screen every so often. However, did you know that you're supposed to clean the inside of the screen, too? Not many people know this or how to do it. So, here's a complimentary cleaning."

Click on the boldface headline hotlink above to see the dog cleaning your screen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One of my old favorites

Whodda thought that I'd be singing along with one of my all time favorites, Ms. Dionne Warwick?

Turn your sound up and enjoy this podcast of yours truly and Dionne.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Son-in-law cuts but leaves very few scars

If anyone out there needs a hysterectomy, check first with Dr. Patrick Yeung, a board-certified (OB/GYN) surgeon at Duke University Hospital.

He does minimally invasive surgery and leaves few tracks (scars).

Need a hysterectomy? You're in and out of the hospital in only one day or night.

By the way, Patrick is married to my oldest daughter, Dorothy.

He hits a mean golf ball, too.

For a TV clip of Patrick and one of his patients, turn your sound up and click on the boldface headline above.