Friday, February 27, 2009

On Hold

I completed another zootoo story this week that turned out well enough to prompt one of the editors to e-mail me:

Just wanted to email you and say how amazing a job you did on the Diagnostic Cat story. The video and audio as well as delivery was fantastic.

As usual, the story was amazing before I got a hold of it: A cat that with a sniff of your breath can tell if your blood sugar is outside of its normal range and will alert you to the problem.

No, I am not kidding!

The story should appear Monday. I'll post the video and the link to the text article then.

I also spent half of last week finishing another story for zootoo that it says it can't run for a couple of weeks and maybe not for three months.

They had assigned me a story about something at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. Only after I deliver the completed story do the editors notice that the shelter is one of the contenders in a shelter makeover contest it's sponsoring. To avoid the appearance of favoritism, zootoo decided to hold the story until either the contest ends or this shelter is out of contention.

I hate that it's been delayed, not just because I don't know when I'll get paid. Here's a preview.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chris's Plumbing Service Still Ranks

It has been more than two years since I detailed an unsatisfactory experience I had with Chris's Plumbing Service in Riverview, Fl.

My one-man campaign drew the interest of people including the author of the Church of the Customer blog, which wrote about how blogs have given disgruntled customers effective recourse against companies they felt had wronged them.

Church of the Customer noted that a Google search for Chris's Plumbing Service would bring up my blog as the second result, behind only Chris's own site.

I mention this because my stat counter tells me that people still find my blog after visiting Church of the Customer. Not only that, even now -- more than two-and-a-half years later -- that same Google search for Chris's STILL ranks my blog as the second result.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Here I Am

In case you thought that this trip was a fantasy. This is me in front our lodging site in Key West, the Southernmost Hotel. You're within walking distance to the island's center of action, Duval Street.

What this tree did before I came along to offer it support, I don't know. But I got there just in time. This was at Ft. Harrison State Park, one of the prime viewing spots for sunset.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bum's Best Dinner

Key West Tip #4: Be aware that you will eat well but you will not eat cheap. We haven't had a dinner entree for less than $25 yet. Last night's $27 special was scallops with cheese tortellini in a pesto alfredo sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus.

Very good but too much for one sitting. I took the rest to go not knowing when I'd ever eat it. Not 200 yards from the restaurant, we passed a bum. I was sure he was going to ask for money. I thought, "if he'd ask for food, I'd give him this."

The bum asked for food.

"Oh, boy!" He said. His face lit up when I described the meal he had just won. He was less pleased when I told him I was going to take his picture. Hey, pal. There's no such thing as a free dinner.

Jim bought a beer and a cigar from sidewalk vendors. I had an Oats-N-Honey bar and a glass of water when we got back to the room.

Yes, I Got That Close

An iguana and I startled each other at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden yesterday. Once we both realized that we didn't want to eat each other, the iguana returned to his previously scheduled lunch plans and I stayed and took his picture.

Key West Butterflies

I spent part of yesterday at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory right across Duval Street from our hotel. Twelve bucks to get in. If you're not staying just a few yards away, bring an extra shirt. They keep it warm and humid in there. When I first went in, my lens fogged up and I couldn't shoot for the first 5-10 minutes.

The title of the post is a misnomer. Only one of these butterflies is native to Florida. The rest are exotics from as far away as Australia.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hello Key West

First tip when traveling to Key West: Buy gas on the mainland. It's as much as 40 cents per gallon more expensive here than back home.

Second tip: Don't take the parking space under the tree at the Southernmost Hotel thinking that it will give you some shade. It will do that. But most of what blocks the sun is the layer of bird poop that covers your car the next day.

More tips to come as the wisdom becomes available. In the meantime, here are some pictures I took my first morning here. I got out of bed before sunrise. Hey when your alarm has gone off before 3:30 a.m. every Monday since mid-August, you're not going to sleep til noon. Especially if you fell asleep before 8:30 the night before.

The idea was to try to catch the sunrise. But I hadn't scouted where I could go to see it beforehand. So I walked up and down empty Duval Street, the main tourist drag in town, trying to capture whatever caught my eye.

The moon was full. The Denny's here serves beer and wine. The lights stay on even after daylight dawns. "Bottoms up" has a different meaning at 7 a.m. than it does at 2 a.m. The cats are on guard.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tampa Bay Downs

Ugh. I still need a lot of practice. Here were the ten best of my more than 250 unimpressive attempts today at Tampa Bay Downs, the thoroughbred horse racing track in Tampa.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Nice To Be Remembered

Someone landed on this page of today from a Google search for "John McQuiston WCPO."

More than four years has passed since I left Cincinnati's ABC affiliate after working there for only a little more than two years. Yet occasionally my statcounter will tell me that someone from the Cincinnati area has Googled my name.

The link above goes to the page on my site where I have a few examples of my work at WCPO. I watched them today and I can see why I'd remember them. They make me proud even now.

But I don't have enough ego to believe that they could have etched my name into someone else's brain strongly enough for the memory to last so long.

Video Courtesy: WCPO-TV

I Won't Get Much Sympathy

But it's cold. I realize that the cold we get here in Florida is not the same kind of cold I fled in the north. Our overnight lows in the 20s match the high temperatures in other parts of the country.

Even as temps struggled to reach 50 degrees yesterday even under bright clear skies, there's a part of your brain that looks outside, sees the palm trees and the sunshine and thinks, "how cold can it be?" Without a coat on, it's very freaking cold!

I don't need a thermometer to measure the temperature. I can tell by how friendly Annie is. If the cat sleeps on the bed, it's going to be a cold morning. She has spent the last two nights parked right next to me.

Don't worry, though. I understand if you don't feel sorry for me, especially since forecast highs return to normal for the weekend and rise to the mid to upper 70s next week.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just Said No

A local Dunkin Donuts franchise sent the station two dozen donuts specially made to reflect the theme of this weekend's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa.

And I passed.

This, even though no Junk Food January has ended and I also successfully completed my related resolution to work out every day last month. That means that on a day when I could indulge in donuts and skip a workout I skipped the donuts and went to the gym.

What's wrong with me?

You know what I think it is? I'm starting to see improved definition in my physique. I'm not totally ripped or anything but unmistakable signs of riptitude have begun to appear. As much as I like donuts (and cake and cookies and ice cream and you get the idea) I don't like them enough to ruin the fitness progress I've made so far in 2009.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


No, it's not an automaton-like news anchor robotically reading a news story she barely seems to understand. It's news from our friends at the Onion of the latest innovation designed to protect military service members who undertake some of the most dangerous duty anywhere.

Facing the slings and arrows of the media.

It's a "mobile press engagement unit" a.k.a. a "spokesdrone."

Thanks, Jess, for the tip.

Traffic Update

My tenure as traffic reporter at WTSP-TV will end Friday. For a week at least because I go out of town on vacation. I don't know what the station will do in my absence. I was the fill-in. I wasn't supposed to be here long enough to need a substitute.