Thursday, May 31, 2007

Green Screen Test 2

More fun in front of the green screen. This one includes some more explanation of how it works.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A New Freelance Job

Some a-hole with a "Choose Live" license plate cut me off at 80 mph on I-75 yesterday. (Note: This person is not necessarily an a-hole because his car sports a "Choose Life" license plate. It's probably coincidence.) If this idiot loves life so much, why was he driving as if he had a death wish? For himself and for me.

I was driving, or attempting to drive, to Englewood in southern Sarasota County to field produce my first story for A Gulf Coast Journal, a TV magazine show that airs on WEDU, the PBS affiliate in Tampa.

Field producing means doing everything a reporter does except that after I write the story, someone else will narrate it. In this case that will be the show's host Jack Perkins. He hosted a series on the cable channel A&E called Biography. That's how I know of him. He also used to be a network TV correspondent.

Our subject is the Sarasota Association of Radio Control Auto Racers, or SARCAR. "Middle aged men playing with toys," racer Dean Yiapis describes them. Races happen on a former tennis court converted into a track at the Englewood Recreation complex. Cars one-tenth the size of normal ones can exceed 30 mph on the track.

Cars are difficult to control and crashes happen routinely. One driver found himself bumping into walls so often he named his operation "Oops Racing." Unlike full size car crashes, the drivers always survive. Usually the cars do too.

Photographer Alex Gazio shoots most of the story on a Sony CineAlta camera, an ultra high-end HD camera which costs around $120,000. But perhaps the most dramatic video comes from a small Sony HandyCam costing only a few hundred dollars. Alex ties it to the chassis of one of the cars and gets an "in-car camera" view. He played back the video and the shots of other cars from that perspective is super cool.

Now it's a matter of logging the nearly three hours of footage we shot and writing a script. This will be interesting because I've rarely written stories for other people and never have I done it for someone whose pace and delivery are so different from mine. Not only do I have to think in someone else's voice, what will be especially challenging is matching Jack's slow and contemplative delivery (think Charles Kuralt) to a story about racing cars.

Jack won't be at the shoot. He won't see the tapes. All he will know of the story is the script I send. He won't be able to adjust his tone to match the tone of the story. I've never met the man so I have no idea if he'd even care to try. So I have to write it in a way that suits his normal delivery.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Google Fun

I once wished that I had a surname better suited to television. "John Cruise" maybe. Now a Wall Street Journal article I read this week gives me reason to appreciate having a relatively distinctive name. The story was about how Googling people to learn more about them -- and to verify resume claims they make -- has become so routine that people can suffer financially and professionally if they don't rank high in Google results.

Not a big problem for me as I wrote here a couple of weeks ago. However, my StatCounter helped me learn something interesting today. Someone came to my blog from a Google search for "john mcquiston" -- all lowercase. That's important I found out when I repeated the search and saw that my site does not come up anywhere in the first five pages. Yet it's the top item in a search for "John McQuiston" with the J, M & Q capitalized. Curious.

Someone locally came across this blog after Googling "chris plumbing tampa" yesterday. That led the person to this entry in which I detail an unsatisfactory experience I had with Chris's Plumbing Service. This blog is the top search result for that business' name -- capitalized or not.

This visitor must have found something interesting because he also went to all of the subsequent entries I wrote about Chris's. It has amazed me how many people have come and read the several lengthy blog entries I wrote about it. I am sure that I have cost owner Chris Hoffman more than the $282 he got from me. And I'm almost certain he knows it. StatCounter has shown people from area law firms searching through this blog. Chris might very well have consulted an attorney to ask if there was any way to compel me to delete the details of my experience with him.

He could not have liked the answer. I have made sure not to call him a crook or a creep or cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. I have merely repeated details of the experience, including my complaint to the local Better Business Bureau, where Chris's Plumbing Service already had an unsatisfactory rating. I have even acknowledged my own culpability by not doing enough research beforehand.

If he did seek legal advice on the matter, what Chris heard was probably something like, "Yes, you are getting repeated kicked in the teeth by a steel-toed shoe. And the only thing you can do is learn to like it because you can't do a thing to stop it. If you sent a threatening letter, he'd publish it and that would only add more fuel to the fire."

He might also be advised to learn better customer relations skills.

Someone got here yesterday by typing into Google "over 30 swingers." It landed the person here, which is probably not exactly what he or she had in mind.

Ain't Google fun!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Live for the moment! Sounds great. Except if I did that, I would not save for retirement, I would not have bought a home instead of renting and breakfast this morning would have consisted of half-dozen donuts from the new Dunkin Donuts store a couple blocks from me. (Or it would have back when my capacity for donut consumption was much greater.)

Instead, for breakfast this morning I washed down vitamin pills with a protein shake then ate tuna (out of the can) with a side of fat free yogurt. And that was after going to the gym, which is another thing that I would never do if I thought only of my immediate comfort rather than my quality of life years from now.

Some weeks I go to the gym every day. And I hate it every one of them. It's hard, it hurts and I spend every minute wishing I could quit. Afterward I'm always glad that I didn't. Nothing else I do the rest of the day will be tougher than what I put myself through at its outset. Most days, anyway.


While at the gym I subjected myself to a particularly torturous device: The television. Two of them hang from the ceiling and face the cardio machines. Both had on the NBC Today show while I warmed up on the elipsis machine. The top story at in 7:30 half-hour was NBC White House correspondent David Gregory's attendance at last night's white tie dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth.

I stated that correctly. The story wasn't the event itself; it was the reporter's presence there. Gregory proudly showed his wife's invitation with autographs from people sitting at her table. He recalled his favorable seating that gave him a good look at the president's interaction with the queen. NBC rolled video of Gregory and his wife entering the event -- twice!

While Gregory did recap the details of the queen's visit, I wondered: How much of an impartial observer could he be when he was a proud participant in the event? This did nothing to dispel the popular impression that the big media are much more closely connected with the powerful elites than they are with their average viewer and are much more enamored with the perks of the job than doing the job.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'd have made a better reporter if I worked harder to make myself the center of the story or if I aimed more at becoming part of the "it" crowd rather than telling stories about it.


Coming out of the gym this morning I smelled fire. It reminded me of Pennsylvania winters when I could smell the smoke from people's fireplaces. It was an odd juxtaposition: The smell telling me that I should see frost and feel cold; My eyes showing me a sunny Florida morning as I stand perfectly comfortable wearing a tank top and shorts.

I wondered if we were having wildfires. We had some at this time last year that shut down a stretch of I-75 that I drive to work. The smell was not strong and I forgot about it as I jogged home to get ready for work.

I noticed it again when I came downstairs ready to leave. I didn't connect it to what I smelled outside the gym earlier. I thought something in the house was on fire. I unplugged the computer and the audio video system, as if that would solve the problem, then walked outside and saw the smoke. So something is burning, just not my house, I assured myself as I got in my car.

A radio report told me the fire's source: Georgia. Yep. Wildfires hundreds of miles away have sent smoke all the way here. It could stay here for another day. People with breathing problems have been advised to stay inside and the clouds occasionally obscuring the sun are not the normal water vapor kind.

Better than (A) being stuck in a Pennsylvania winter or (B) my townhouse burning down.

Smokescreened Sun

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Drive To Boca

I covered the high school water polo championships last weekend, which entailed driving to Boca Raton to get to the venue. I took some pictures along the way. I'd write the story out but I've already told it on camera. See below.

I did not put much effort into either the video production values or the on-camera performance. I did try to cut out some of the particularly aimless rambling when I added the pictures and video later.

This media file's URL: Link