Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Sometimes "blogworthy" things happen but I'm not worthy of the effort needed to detail them for you. I've been on vacation visiting my brother Jim in Alexandria, Virginia.

Saturday we went to Old Town, which I mention only to create an excuse to show a picture I shot from inside the restaurant looking out at Duke Street.

Sunday we visited Arlington National Cemetery, which I had not seen since childhood.

There are numerous signs reminding people to behave respectfully and quietly. What's interesting as that people actually heed them. (The one pictured above is near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) It's not totally silent but considering the crowds, it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful.

So quiet that at one point, the sound of this woman's sandals scraping the walkway seemed disturbingly loud.

I don't know how many thousands of grave markers of various sizes and shapes line the lawns at Arlington. I am sure there is a story behind all of them. What struck me was the disparity in the death dates for the men and their wives. Widows often lived decades after their husbands died.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I've had this feeling lately that time is running out for me to do something. But I don't know what the something is that I'm supposed to be doing. Seize the day and all that.

I did some writing, some guitar and keyboard playing and a roughly 2-mile walk today yet still feel like I will regret wasting an opportunity. One that I apparently won't recognize until it has already passed.

Traffic Survived Again

It wasn't great but it was. I've mentioned that my rare spot duty substituting as the morning traffic anchor on WTSP means that I will never get comfortable doing it. It is victory enough that there weren't any major mishaps. At least not for me. The guy who died while driving the wrong way on I-4 early in the morning might challenge my assessment. If he were alive.

His ill fortune gave me something to talk about, which is par for the course in television news. I remember once telling a Cincinnati cop when covering a story up there that we both relied on stupid people to make our living. It's as true for traffic anchors as it is for news reporters.

My next scheduled appearances are August 24 and 27.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Traffic Practice

My very occasional gig doing the morning traffic reports at WTSP-TV happens again Monday. This will be only my fourth day filling in this year. I did three days in April.

Because I so rarely do this, I usually go in the day before to refresh myself on the format and procedure. This morning I went in to practice in front of the green screen wall used for some of the traffic reports. (If you click on the "Green Screen" label below and go to the oldest entry, I explain what a green screen is and how one works.) Last time I filled in, I consistently found myself out of position relative to the things on screen that I wanted to point out.

For traffic and weather, which is ad-libbed, they have it set up so that when you look in the camera, you can see yourself. This is how you know what shows behind you without having to look away from the camera. At first, it seems like looking into a mirror. Except it's the opposite of that. See the picture below.

If that were a mirror image, the "10" behind me would show backwards. Similarly, in a mirror image, if I turn to my right, my reflection will turn to its left. Here, however, when I turn to my right, my reflection turns to its right too.

This is surprisingly disorienting. When you see yourself on camera and want to gesture at something on a part of the screen, your brain tells you to turn toward it based on its training from all time you spend looking at yourself in the mirror. That, of course, is the exact opposite of the direction you should turn.

I had gotten accustomed enough that I rarely had to start a turn, see my mistake, then wheel around the other way -- looking even more like an idiot than usual. First of all, I learned not to make sudden, quick turns. If I start slowly I can catch myself before it's too obvious that I'm going the wrong way.

But more practice would do me good. I didn't have to wake up too early, since the studio wouldn't be available until after the local morning show ended at 7 a.m. and the CBS Early Show began. I go in and see the regular traffic anchor, Meredyth Censullo, who seems supernaturally suited to her job. She can rattle off details about crashes, lane closures and slowdowns with nary a note in her hand. Me? I have to write that stuff down or I'm dead.

I told her that I felt reasonably comfortable with the computer system but that I needed practice on the chroma key, explaining my occasional positioning problems. She showed me how she almost always stands on the same side of the screen and leaves some extra room on that side of the graphic so that she's not blocking anything important.

Problem solved before I even step in front of the camera. Why couldn't I have thought of that? It would have saved me about 40 miles of driving, plus tolls.

Now I'm free to spend the weekend in abject terror that I will not set my alarm properly (like I did this morning!) and sleep through the job.

Monday, June 11, 2007


The chance of rain is 50% less than the weather forecast says it is if I remember my umbrella.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New Freelance Job Update

I've detailed the freelance field producing job I've started for WEDU, the PBS affiliate in Tampa. There's one part of the production process I didn't mention.

Before I can write the script, I have to watch all the tapes (almost three hours worth), transcribe the interviews and note all of the shots. That's called "logging" in TV parlance. Instead of having to arrange a time to do this at WEDU, the production manager has copies made on DVD and she sends them to me so I can log the tapes at home.

How about that? There's a part of this job I can do sitting in my underwear! Actually, I do all my jobs wearing underwear. Customarily, though, I wear other clothes on top of them. If you must know, I probably will do the same when I log the tapes (in their DVD form).

This should happen soon. The DVDs arrived this week. I sat down to log them only to discover that only one of them (the one with the footage shot from the "on-car" cam) had any audio. The production coordinator promised to send another set soon. I can verify that the video looks good -- at least from a cursory scan through them.

Logging is tedious and it's the least fun part about doing most stories. It's also one of the more important. The better you know the contents of your tapes, the better your script turns out usually. Logging the tapes often takes more time than writing the script.

There will be time to worry about that later. The DVDs will arrive soon enough. Perhaps this time I'll be able to hear them!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blisters On Me Fingers!!!!

If my fingers had a mind of their own they would wish that I had more of a social life. Or at least cable TV. Sadly for their miserable existence, I don't.

I got home from work Friday with nothing planned and no ideas how to entertain myself until I had to go back to work Monday. Story of my life: Busy trying to get through the week, not daring to think ahead to the weekend, then it's there and you're staring at two days of loneliness with only a hungry cat staring back.

Then I remembered the guitars. I'm always telling myself that I'm going to spend more time creating music. I decided that it was finally time to listen. After dinner (leftover pizza for me, something probably better tasting for the cat), I retired to the computer room upstairs, found a drum loop I liked and started playing along to it.

The creative process works like this: First I find a tone sound I like then I play until I have the chords that work with the drums. I'm not a trained musician and my compositions are usually neither terribly original nor too complicated. Three chords may be as intricate as I get. Sometimes I add bass before guitar. Usually guitar comes first.

Sometimes the rhythm is bass only (played on my synthesizer) or bass and keyboards. Since I can barely read music and can't write it using conventional musical notation, I can't get a melody in my head, write it down and then play it. Instead I put the song on a loop, run it over and over again and play along on guitar until I come up with a melody. Then I have to keep playing until I can play it fairly consistently before trying to record it.

It would help matters if I practiced regularly -- even semi-occasionally -- before I decided to go on a create-new-riffs riff. Attempts at writing and recording new music usually test my pain tolerance as much as my musical skills.
By Sunday night I had the blister on my left ring finger (and soreness in all the others) to prove it. You may be able to see the blister in the photo above. I also had two songs to show for my pain. They show the range of my musical interest as well as the narrowness of my musical talent.

The first one is crank-it-up hard rock. It's the one that worked my fingers to their nubs.

Good Times With Nuge

This second one didn't hurt my fingers. It probably won't hurt your ears as much.

Funky Mood Three

I should have mentioned that although the bass and drums are looped (short segments repeated over and over), I played the lead guitars all the way through -- what's called a "one-shot" in Sony Acid Music vernacular.

Music © John McQuiston
Not that I expect a problem with that!