Monthly Archives: December 2011

How Tupelo is dealing with changes in the public schools.

December 30, 2011

How a community solves its problems or deals with serious issues says a lot about a place.  Tupelo, Mississippi is one of the best at this of any community I have dealt with. No matter the issue, public dialogue is a major part of the process.  The key is to get problems out in the open and to provide forums where people can discuss the issues.  There is an art to public forums.  People must feel that they can speak about their true feelings instead of what they think other people want to hear.  Tupelo’s success at this is a result of various local organizations, including local government, providing such opportunities.  Another factor is the local newspaper.

Tupelo is now addressing the issue of some changes in the public schools, many of which are rooted in local demographics. For example, when Tupelo’s schools were integrated in 1970, 80 percent of the district’s students were white.  Today, 56 percent of those students are minorities.

The local newspaper is providing a perspective that is thought-provoking, informational and non-patronizing.  The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s “Bridging the Gap” series is well worth reading for anyone involved in education or community and economic development.


England, Mendenhall and Stone named in South’s Best Economic Development Law Firm list

Congratulations to  Bill Mendenhall of Baker Donelson, John England of Butler Snow and Ben Stone of Balch and Bingham have been listed in Southern Business and Development‘s list of The South’s Best Economic Development Law Firms.

Are newspaper copyright notices worth the (digital) ink on which they are printed?

There are those of us who like to share information that we think will be useful to others, and there are those of us who like to receive information that others share with us.  For example, I follow Richard Florida on  I am interested in his links to stories about creative communities, etc.

This sharing is all very good for the most part because much of it is sharing of articles in newspapers and other media.  I’m told that newspapers love it because it drives traffic to their websites, and therefore can be useful for commercial purposes.  But when I read the small print on some newspaper websites it becomes very confusing.

For example, today a Google news alert linked to an article in the  Hattiesburg American that is entitled “Achievement gap threatens city, schools’ future.”  I clicked on it and read a very interesting article on a subject that is of interest to me and presumably those who follow my tweets (@philhardwick) on  It appears that the article is a repost of an article written by Chris Kieffer of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and reprinted in USA Today.  I was just about to tweet it when I read this copyright notice at the bottom of the page:

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Uh, oh.  Being a writer myself I am sensitive to copyright issues so I immediately moved the pointer away from the Tweet logo hyperlink at the bottom of the page.  I wondered whether the newspaper wanted me to retweet, but that AP did not – and wait, wasn’t this from USA Today?  Obviously, there is a trail here, and at some twists and turns along the way the copyright notice got amended, discombobulated or simply not reposted.

I clicked on the home page of the Hattiesburg American to determine what a story written by one of its own reporters revealed about copyright and tweets.  The article I viewed was entitled “Auditor: USM has 3 weeks to gather tablets.”  At the top of the article were the usual tweet, facebook, email, and share icons.  Hmm.  I decided to check out the newspaper’s copyright notice found in the “terms of service” section of the website. Here’s what it said:

Your Limited Right to Use Site Materials. This Site and all the materials available on the Site are the property of us and/or our affiliates or licensors, and are protected by copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws. The Site is provided solely for your personal noncommercial use. You may not use the Site or the materials available on the Site in a manner that constitutes an infringement of our rights or that has not been authorized by us. More specifically, unless explicitly authorized in these Terms of Service or by the owner of the materials, you may not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit, (emphasis added) translate, sell, create derivative works, exploit, or distribute in any manner or medium (including by email or other electronic means) any material from the Site. You may, however, from time to time, download and/or print one copy of individual pages of the Site for your personal, non-commercial use, provided that you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. For information about requesting permission to reproduce or distribute materials from the Site, please contact us.

In short, it appears that one the one hand the newspaper encourages redistribution while on the other prohibits it. Back to the original article about “Achievement gaps…”.  I would love to share it with you, but I don’t know whether I can do that or not.

Obviously, the practice of sharing articles via social media is immensely widespread and encouraged by media websites.  That is a good thing.  It just appears that the copyright notices have not caught up with the practice.

By the way, feel free to share this blog post.  Just attribute it to the writer in accordance with the copyright notice on the left column of this page.

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo

After reading the book and seeing the Swiss version of the movie I wondered if the American version would be up the task of capturing this story.  And for the first five minutes of this film all I could think was that I felt sorry for anyone who was watching this who had not read the book.  They surely must be lost and confused about who was whom and what was happening.  Those thoughts were quickly erased.  
After watching the movie, all I can say is, “Wow”. Not only is this movie a superb adaptation of the book it even adds to it with outstanding cinematography, casting and direction.  The visual effects capture the mood of a wintry Sweden.  This one gets two thumbs up.
Now that you know how much I liked this movie I should warn you that it is VERY explicit and will be offensive to some people.  Sometimes, nudity, offensive language and violence distract from a good movie, however in this case it is part of the story.  Here is a link to an interesting story about the cast and the making of the movie:
‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’: An Interview With Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and David Fincher 


Plot, character,writing style – or story?

In the writing world there is always much discussion about whether plot or character is more important. Proponents of both sides can make a compelling case by using examples that illustrate their point of view.  There are also those that who maintain that writing style is more important.  Many who take this view cringe at some – maybe much – of commercial fiction that makes the best seller lists.  Certainly, some of the worst writing can be found in books on the best seller lists.
I think worthwhile writing begins and ends with the story.  What is a story?  One definition is that a story is, “… a narrative designed to interest, amuse or instruct the reader.”  A story must first of all be interesting. A good story is often told, instead of read.  Some of the best stories I have come across in my work are those in which I interviewed someone and was told a story.  Such stories were not necessarily well-told, nor did they have a plot or were focused on character.  They were simply interesting.  

A great story has all of the elements.  It is interesting, it is about character, it is about plot and it is written in a beautiful style.
I mention all of this to say that I am about to go to see  “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo,” the American film version of the book by Steig Larson.  Larson’s writing style has been widely criticized. Even his characters and plot have been discussed negatively.  And yet the book has sold millions, and is as of this writing the number one all-time seller on the Amazon Kindle sales list.  How can this be?  I think it is obvious.  It is a good story.
I’ll post a review of the movie in the next couple of days.
Happy writing!

No-Littering Signs Have Opposite Effect If There’s Already Litter

It’s the time of year when some people are in such a rush that they just disregard signs.  These same people also seem oblivious to trash receptacles.

Sometimes the blue handicap space zone does not stop some people from parking there.  These same people seem to have no problem tossing their litter in the parking lot.  So would a no-littering sign help solve the problem.  Not if the below research is any indication.

This from The Harvard Daily Stat:
When an anti-littering sign appeared on an alley wall, the proportion of people who littered there declined from 47% to 39% if the alley was clean—but rose from 61% to 70% if the alley was already strewn with soda cans and candy wrappers, say Kees Keizer, Siegwart Lindenberg, and Linda Steg of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. A prohibition sign can become counterproductive if people see that its instructions have already been ignored, the researchers say.
Source: The reversal effect of prohibition signs

Mississippi’s new Congressional Districts (map)

Mississippi’s new Congressional Districts

My newspaper with ads has become an adpaper with news.

It used to be that the advertising department at newspapers supported the news department.  It seems that nowadays it has become the other ways around, at least that seems to be the case with my own local newspaper, The Clarion-Ledger.

I base this observation on what has become a major annoyance for me, and what may be the last straw in my continuing home delivery of that newspaper.  That annoyance is the new practice of wrapping an advertising section around the back of the newspaper and part of the front page.  Lately, on some days when I pick up my Clarion-Ledger and look at the front page I see only part of that page because the left one-half or so is covered by advertising.  I suppose that the way to avoid having advertising on the front page is to have a new half of a front page.

OK, friends at the Clarion-Ledger (and other daily newspapers), I get it.  I know that you have to make a profit to stay in business.  I know that Gannett’s profit dropped 1.6 percent in the third quarter of 2011, and that it is due to”… persistent declines in print advertising and circulation.”  I also understand that daily newspapers everywhere are facing challenges brought on by technology and that the current economy is not helping any.  I’ve read the articles.  I’m a news junkie.  I want you to succeed.  I know that the future of newspapers is uncertain.  I’m on your side.  I just want you to understand my feelings on this issue (pun intended).  Wrapping an advertising section around the back page and part of the front page really irks me.

There.  Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I’m going to read the Sports section.  At least I don’t have to peel something off of it this morning.

How not to ask for a Christmas tip

There seems to be much written about whom to tip and how much they should be tipped.  There is even a website with recommendations for tipping everyone from the teacher to the gardener to the letter carrier.  Oops, scratch the letter carrier if you live in England.  You may be committing the crime of bribery if you tip the letter carrier there too much, according to an article in Forbes. There does not seem to be written about how to ask for a tip.  If you live in New York City, please disregard this post because asking for a tip in Gotham is now a fine art well-known by those seeking tips.

So how NOT to ask for a tip.  First, do not be too direct.  Case in point, I subscribe to two newspapers, my local newspaper and a national newspaper.  I begin my day by gathering those newspapers from my driveway at 6:00 a.m. and settling in with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.  An hour later I am well-informed and caffeinated. I appreciate the fact that those newspaper delivery persons got up at 4:00 a.m. and made their deliveries.  I delivered newspapers when I was a kid so I know what it’s like.  It is certainly worthy of a tip.  These days, things are different from when I was a kid, and did personal collections from my customers.  Nowadays, a customer subscribes online and never sees who actually delivers the newspaper. To encourage a tip the delivery person puts a note of some kind with the newspaper.   I received two such notes this week with my newspapers.  The national newspaper delivery person enclosed a Christmas card signed by him.  His return address was on an envelope.  A day later there was a note enclosed with my local newspaper that read, “Mail Christmas tips to … ”  There was not even an envelope.  You can take it from there.

Second, another way not to get a tip is simply to just not deliver good service.  There are many reasons people give tips at this time of year.  Some do it out of feeling that it’s a duty, while others do it cheerfully because of good service. By delivering bad service the potential “tipee” is making it easy for the person who would give the tip to withhold the gratuity.

Tipping is a way to show appreciation.  It is not a requirement.  It should be a good thing to do do, not something done grudgingly or unwillingly.  For the recipient, a tip should be something that is not expected, but is appreciated when received.

50 Manufacturing Sectors that GREW over the past 10 years

In an online article Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. lists manufacturing sectors that grew during the past 10 years.  Read the list and make your own conclusions, but it appears that government-related and food-related categories grew nicely.  Small arms did not do badly either.  The ethyl alcohol manufacturing growth is related to ethanol.

1.  Ethyl Alcohol Manufacturing

2.  Plastics Packaging Film and Sheet (including Laminated) Manufacturing

3.  Military Armored Vehicle, Tank, and Tank Component Manufacturing

4.  Wineries

5.  Other Ordnance and Accessories Manufacturing

6.  Perishable Prepared Food Manufacturing

7.  Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing

8.  In-Vitro Diagnostic Substance Manufacturing

9.  Digital Printing

10.  Women’s and Girls’ Cut and Sew Blouse and Shirt Manufacturing

11. Ground or Treated Mineral and Earth Manufacturing

12. Oil and Gas Field Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing

13. Spice and Extract Manufacturing

14. Custom Architectural Woodwork and Millwork Manufacturing

15. Wet Corn Milling

16. Coffee and Tea Manufacturing

17. Other Nonferrous Foundries (except Die-Casting)

18. Turbine and Turbine Generator Set Units Manufacturing

19. Tortilla Manufacturing

20. Plastics Bag and Pouch Manufacturing

21. Frozen Cakes, Pies, and Other Pastries Manufacturing

22. Creamery Butter Manufacturing

23. Roasted Nuts and Peanut Butter Manufacturing

24. Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing

25. Small Arms Manufacturing

26. Electromedical and Electrotherapeutic Apparatus Manufacturing

27. Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal (except Copper and Aluminum)

28. Biological Product (except Diagnostic) Manufacturing

29. Metal Tank (Heavy Gauge) Manufacturing

30. Surgical and Medical Instrument Manufacturing

31. Explosives Manufacturing

32. Irradiation Apparatus Manufacturing

33. Cheese Manufacturing

34. Ship Building and Repairing

35. Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Propulsion Unit and Propulsion Unit Parts Manufacturing

36. Sign Manufacturing

37. Dog and Cat Food Manufacturing

38. Power Boiler and Heat Exchanger Manufacturing

39. Distilleries

40. Fats and Oils Refining and Blending

41. Dental Laboratories

42. Mayonnaise, Dressing, and Other Prepared Sauce Manufacturing

43. Frozen Specialty Food Manufacturing

44. Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing

45. Machine Shops

46. Meat Processed from Carcasses

47. Other Aircraft Parts and Auxiliary Equipment Manufacturing

48. Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing

49. Flour Mixes and Dough Manufacturing from Purchased Flour

50. Lime Manufacturing