Wednesday, January 31, 2007

meet the Beakers

Stonehenge was in the news today. The discovery of a Neolithic village gives me an excuse to show you two photos I've been saving. My daughter gave me a "Build Your Own Stonehenge" kit for Christmas. She might have been inspired by my enthusiasm after visiting Foamhenge near Natural Bridge, Virginia. I've been there twice, once by myself in August and then again in October with my wife and son. Oddly enough, my daughter is the only one in our family who hasn't been to Foamhenge yet. I wonder what's keeping her.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

fun time, good cause

Byron Chesney of the Knoxville Trivia Blog might be a little jealous of the way I spent my afternoon on Sunday. While at the Children's Hospital telethon, I visited with some of his favorite local news people. Most of my time backstage was spent chatting with the dynamic duo of Russell Biven and Beth Haynes. We talked about the new Body Farm novel, our individual eating habits and my improv group's upcoming visit to "Live at Five." The conversation turned serious when we discussed the recent passing of Russell's father. There's no doubt about it. Russell and Beth are good people. In fact, they're better than good, they are excellent people.

Before leaving the telethon, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Julya Johnson and Yvette Martinez, whom I think Byron especially enjoys watching. He had recently posted photo albums of several WBIR ladies, but now I can't find the albums online. Hey Byron, post a comment with the links!

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Monday, January 29, 2007

one remembers, one forgets

"Flesh and Bone" is significantly better than "Carved in Bone." I liked the first Body Farm novel but I loved the second one and finished reading it in only two days. Once again, the story starts with Dr. Bill Brockton recreating a crime scene. This time, the crime scene is especially bizarre and the investigation takes him to a drag club in Chattanooga, among other places. If you come across an article that feels like it might give away any plot twists, stop reading the article and go read the book instead. There's no point in ruining your enjoyment. The many local references give the novel a rich texture that leave you wondering which characters and plot points come from real life. I especially liked the mentions of Big Ed's Pizza and the Fellini Kroger.

While recording my interview with the authors, I realized that the character of Dr. Bill Brockton is just as much based on Jon Jefferson as he is based on Dr. Bill Bass. The 30 minute program seemed to fly by.
I had planned on spending a little more time talking about the evolution vs. creationism subplot but I got carried away with other aspects of our conversation. The show will air on February 11.

After the interview, I felt comfortable enough to tell Jon about a small continuity error I found that his editors somehow missed. Page 323 of my book is now annotated, with the change written in the author's own hand (the word "truck" should be "Taurus" instead). Jon also wrote "congrats to eagle eye Frank." Despite my nitpicking, I did get myself invited to visit the actual Body Farm this Spring. Too bad Bean won't be here then.

I told Jon I would send him the links to some of my blog entries about the Body Farm. There are so many I don't know where to start. Any suggestions?

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

loss of momentum

It feels like there should be a football game on today. We're ready for some football but there isn't any. Bring on the Colts and the Bears! As usual the NFL has given us a feast of good playoff games only to create a famine on the Sunday before their biggest game. Of course, the best solution would be for the NFL to drop the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. Since that is very unlikely to happen, a year ago I suggested that they try moving the Pro Bowl to this weekend. So what if the Super Bowl players miss the Pro Bowl, right? Here's my new suggestion for 2007: a "Consolation Bowl" played by the losers of last week's games. Who wouldn't have enjoyed seeing the Patriots and the Saints play a meaningless game to fill today's void in the NFL schedule? Or instead of it being meaningless, allow a big sponsor to pony up a huge cash prize for the winning team. Without a Super, Pro or Consolation Bowl to entertain me today, I'll have to settle for staring at the Bundt Cake Bowl I saw at Williams-Sonoma the other day:

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

congratulations, I guess

Even after 15 years, the mention of a past love can sting a little bit. That's the way I felt when I saw the news that the current incarnation of WAVA had won the religious talk station of the year award from some group. It's been through several formats and was a rockin' top 40 station when I worked my way up from intern to full time employee. If enough of my former WAVA colleagues send me updates, I would be willing to update the web page I made five years ago on the tenth anniversary of the death of WAVA.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

midnight caller

The reading material that has captivated me today doesn't require a screen, a power cord, a mouse or any of the things I was using yesterday to read blogs. Today I've been using a piece of older technology called a "book." Would you be shocked if I told you that I just started reading the new Jefferson Bass Body Farm novel, "Flesh and Bone"? The catch is that I have to finish it by 10:00 a.m. on Monday.

Late last night I got an email from a publicist at the publishing company. He was replying to my request for an interview with Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. The authors can fit me into their schedule during the day on Monday. We'll record something that will air probably on February 11. I'm really looking forward to it. I've interviewed Dr. Bass at least three times before but never with Jon Jefferson. I met Jon at a party thrown by former Einstein Simplified member Todd Covert. Jon has been to a couple of our improv shows too.

The guy from the publishing company wanted to make sure that I received a review copy of the book with enough time to read it before the interview. When I immediately replied to his email last night, he wrote back asking if he could just call me on the phone. I had to think about it for a second. It was around 12:00 a.m and I didn't want the sound of the phone to wake up my family. But I didn't want to miss out on the interview either. I sent him my home number and grabbed the phone on the first ring. He said that he could send the book from New York for Saturday delivery but that he would try to find someone in Knoxville who could deliver one to me sooner. I came out of a meeting around 10:30 this morning to find that the book had been delivered to the front desk. The courier wrote on the title page: "To Frank Murphy, Dr. Bill Bass." The book had been autographed and delivered by Dr. Bass himself!

At the front of "Flesh and Bone," there is a dedication page that says "In Memory of Officer Ben Bohanan, 1975 - 2004." Ben was a UTPD officer and also the son of fingerprint expert Art Bohanan, who is both a real person and a character in the Jefferson Bass books. The University of Tennessee has a scholarship fund in his memory. Dr. Bass will give a lecture at 3:00 p.m. Sunday as a fundraiser for the Benjamin Bohanan Memorial Police Scholarship. Admission is $20. All the details can be found in the UT press release.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

from beautiful downtown

The time has gotten away from me tonight. I've been reading several entries on a Burbank-based blog written by Lisa Burks. I used to bug poor Lisa for guest bookings when I was a radio producer and she was a network television publicist. Like me, Lisa moved to Burbank in 1992 and fell in love with the place. She sometimes writes about her grave hunting hobby, which I've only done a little of myself. Somehow Lisa found my blog and added it to her blogroll, which then showed up in my Technorati links. I've added Lisa to my blogroll too.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

doing anything intensely

Today a dedicated group of animal activists announced the formation of a new non-profit foundation that will go a long way to help solve the animal control problem in Blount County. It's called the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation (SMACF). Change one letter and they could have used that famous Prodigy song to promote a spay and neuter campaign. I think they might prefer the smoother sound of the Richard Cheese version though.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

a tale of three cities

Dr. Bill Bass was on "Live at Five" this afternoon. It shouldn't surprise you that I recorded the show and watched it when I got home tonight. The Big Bopper Jr. joined Dr. Bass by phone in the first segment and fingerprint expert Art Bohanan was in studio for the second segment. If you missed it or if you're reading this outside Knoxville, you can watch the interview online.

Do we have any readers in Burbank today? If so, you should know that my friend Anja Reinke is running for city council. Go Anja!

Remember the 1982 World's Fair shirt that I sent to Bean for Christmas? He wore it in Los Angeles the other day. Don't you think it looks better than the shirt the Fixx guy wore on TV last June? Check it out.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

the access number is on the back

Mondays are almost the new Thursdays at our house. I recorded five hours of primetime programming tonight, of which I was able to watch three so far. I had to choose which shows to watch in high definition (but in real time) and which shows to watch in medium quality on the TiVo (but with the ability to rewind and fast-forward). I am reluctant to spend the $300 that the satellite company wants for an HD DVR. Of course, I'm spoiled from getting the HDTV setup as part of an endorsement deal.

My son and I watched "Prison Break" and "24" in HD. I also recorded those shows on the upstairs TiVo as a backup in case my wife wanted to see them when she returned from choir practice. After "24" we all went to another room to watch "Heroes" on the TiVo. Next week my son and I may choose to watch "Heroes" in HD and save the "24" for TiVo replay. Although having "Heroes" on TiVo was helpful because there were scenes that we rewound to watch again. At one point we paused the show and I called the toll free phone number displayed on the Primatech Paper business card. Oh yeah, NBC sent out a press release today about the extra features available to fans online and over the phone. I just hope they don't go overboard with the extra stuff like "Lost" has.

What are the shows I recorded but haven't watched yet? "How I Met Your Mother," "The Class" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." I'm not sure how much longer I will continue watching "Studio 60." Yet I say that while realizing that I am a completist when it comes to TV shows. If I decide to watch a series, I want to see every episode starting from the pilot through its eventual cancellation. "Studio 60" started out pretty good but got too "West Wing-y" too soon. Meanwhile, "30 Rock" gets better each week, giving me everything I would want in a behind-the-scenes at an SNL-type-show show.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

in the afterlife

According to a recent news story, more people die in January than any other month. I used to think there was a rush on deaths during the last week of December even though I should have reason to know better. Today happens to be the anniversary of my father's death. I can't visit his grave today but I can look at some photos my daughter took on Memorial Day. Wikipedia has a list of famous people who also died on this date. I'm imagining Dad at some sort of celestial cocktail party with Jack Lord, Peggy Lee and the guy who played Alfalfa.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

agree and add

Einstein Simplified has been invited to make a return visit to "Live at Five." This time they've asked us to appear during the February sweeps. You may have seen us on the show last June.

We're talking with The Comedy Zone about moving our monthly show from the first Saturday to the last Saturday of the month. The club hands out current month calendars to patrons. Most people get the flyer after our show has passed. If we're at the end of the month, everyone who gets a calendar still has a chance to see us.

There was a blurb in the entertainment news this past week about a new improv TV show going into production. It will be an American version of an Australian show called "Thank God You're Here" and will be on NBC eventually.

Last year
I went to the Children's Miracle Network convention in Florida. I'm excited about going again this year because there will be an improv training session for radio and TV hosts to better their interviewing skills. The session will be followed by a reception with Charna Halpern, who literally wrote the book on the subject.

Can you tell that I still love the improv?

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Friday, January 19, 2007

well, exhuuume me

Readers outside Knoxville may not have access to as much Body Farm news as we do here in the decomposition capital of the world. Or do they? Dr. Bill Bass made national headlines again this week when he was asked to examine the remains of The Big Bopper. The University of Tennessee proudly put out a really good press release about it. I was a little disappointed that the News Sentinel ran the Associated Press version of the story instead of assigning their own reporter. WBIR's Abby Ham read an AP story too.

Maybe this information will be helpful to the listener who sent me the following email:
Do you have any good links to share on the Body Farm or Dr. Bass? My daughter is taking forensic science in high school and she is doing an essay on Dr. Bass and his work.
In other news, I saw a flannel shirt on clearance at Wal-Mart today for only $5. It was black and red, almost exactly like the one Dr. Bass wore to his interview with me a year ago. I resisted the urge to buy it and go all "Single White Female" on my forensic hero.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

reading list

The penultimate issue of my Newsweek subscription arrived Tuesday. It's one of the magazines I ordered in exchange for airline miles a year ago. In it is an article about OJ Simpson's canceled book deal. An unnamed source reveals details from the chapter in which OJ describes the vicious murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The magazine writer describes it as "a seeming confession in Simpson's own voice." At least that's what I think it said. My copy of the magazine was missing the first page of the article. My lovely wife made a copy of the missing page for me while she was at the library.

I don't know how anyone who followed the Simpson trial could reach any conclusion other than OJ's guilt. The renewed attention to the case has got me thinking about re-reading all or part of Vincent Bugliosi's great book, "Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder." The book explains how the prosecution lost the case in the face of overwhelming proof that OJ murdered two people.

The next two books I had planned on reading were "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" and "Dearly Devoted Dexter." Can I use the Simon giftcard I got for Christmas to buy them from Amazon or can I only use the card at the mall?

There's another book on the horizon that I may want to read before the Dexter series. Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass have teamed up to write another Body Farm novel using the name Jefferson Bass. "Flesh and Bone" will be released on January 23rd. I liked their first novel and had the opportunity to interview Dr. Bass about it. I should check their press tour schedule to see if I can get another interview.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

from the Greek word for beautiful

There's no doubt that you people know your snack food almost as well as reviewer Patrick Holland does. Last night I posted a close-up photo and asked you to guess what was in the picture. I hoped somebody might think it was the landscape of a far off planet or the pattern on a tortoise shell. However you all recognized the broken pieces of Oreo cookies that my wife used to decorate the cupcakes she made for our son's swim team. She used the blender to break up the cookies but left the pieces bigger than she does when making Oreo Truffles. Bonus points for guessing that the cupcakes were chocolate (duh!) and that the cupcakes are sitting in a box lined with aluminum foil. The little pastry cup liners are foil too.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

share with the whole class

Games Magazine has a feature that I would always enjoy. I even had a subscription when I was young but I haven't seen a copy of the magazine in years. The first page I usually turned to had the Eyeball Benders, extreme close-up photographs of somewhat ordinary objects. In that spirit, see if you know what's in the photo below that I snapped at home last night. Once I get 10 or so guesses in the comments section, I'll reveal the answer. Don't be anonymous. The least you can do is to choose "other" and make up a name for yourself.

Hey, speaking of comments, guess which super attractive news anchor left one on Saturday's post?

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Monday, January 15, 2007

deck the hall

My good friend Bean sent me a terrific Christmas gift. The recent storms in Seattle caused its arrival to be delayed but I didn't mind at all. It's a Cas Walker poster from Yee Haw Industries that Bean had nicely framed. I think it's a much better gift than the 1982 World's Fair t-shirt that I sent him after hearing about them on the news.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

a few minutes with

Didja ever notice that it's impossible to get the last bit of deodorant out of the dispenser? I paid for that gel and I want to smear it under my arms, not throw it away.

And what's the deal with hamburger buns in a package that clearly says "hot dog buns" right on it? Is there somebody at the bun factory who can't read?

88 years is a long time, by the way.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

high five

Willem and Shannon van Tol are the parents of three-year-old quintuplets. We belong to the same parish but had never officially met until yesterday. Last Easter I wrote about an email I had received from Willem. We continue to correspond, especially when he sees something in my blog that interests him. A week ago, Willem sent me an invitation to a birthday party for the quintuplets at the Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. I wasn't sure if I could make it because the party was scheduled to start while I would be at work. I realized that I had to find a way to be there after receiving a fascinating email early yesterday morning.

The new email was from Willem's long lost uncle in the Netherlands. He had done a Google search for "Willem van Tol Tennessee email" which brought him to my blog entry. The uncle was hoping that I would forward his message to Willem. I did him one better. I printed the email and brought it to the birthday party at the hospital.
Last night I got another email from Willem's uncle thanking me for helping him reconnect with his Knoxville relatives.

offense to the cute quintuplets but for me the highlight of the party was seeing Stacy McCloud of WVLT-TV for the first time in a long while. She was reporting on the party for last night's news. Stacy spotted me from across the room and didn't try to flee. In fact, she came over to where I was chatting with Willem to say hi.

Well-equipped radio studios have TVs mounted on the wall for the deejays to keep an eye on the news or even to just get a current temperature. The sound is kept muted. Other local news anchors may be getting all the attention lately but I must confess that I would look at Stacy on the studio monitor every morning that I worked at a local oldies station. Seeing her at the desk took some of the pain out of hearing ridiculous songs like "Judy in Disguise" and "Li'l Red Riding Hood" over and over and over again.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

get ready to rumble

Rosie O'Donnell may have another feud on her hands. This morning on a prerecorded episode of "The View," O'Donnell suggested that if Jay Leno wants to continue working after his NBC contract ends, then ABC should hire him and give him the 11:35 timeslot. Look for possible retaliation on tonight's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (if Jimmy's reply to my email to him is any indication). I'm still a fan of David Letterman but even he would agree that the future of late night TV is Conan and Kimmel, not Leno and Letterman.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

could sell paper to a tree

Tonight's episode of "The Office" was brilliant, as usual. I really enjoyed seeing the way the sales staff closed their deals. It's good to remember that while Michael Scott is a terrible manager, he is an excellent salesman. We learned more about the Dwight/Jim dynamic too. They have a tag team approach to sales. One of the best laughs came from how a makeover helped Phyllis and Karen.

As a former California resident, I got an extra kick out of the episode. I watched it in HD which made it easier to focus on the exterior backgrounds as the characters drove to their sales calls. Although the show is set in Scranton, it's filmed in and around Los Angeles. I spotted some palm trees, one of which was visible from the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot. It felt like Michael and Andy were driving around in my old neighborhood. I had the same feeling last night while watching the characters on "In Case of Emergency" drive around in the Valley.

When I first moved to California, I immediately felt at home in Burbank even though I had never been in the city before. It has to be because I grew up watching so many TV shows and movies that were filmed there.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

keeping up with the Haslams

Part of Middlebrook Pike is a "scenic route." I'm not sure exactly what that means but I once heard it had something to do with restricting billboards along the side of the road. Yesterday I used the camera phone to take some pictures along Middlebrook to illustrate a point. There's an older Weigel's store near Vanosdale Road and a newer one at Gallaher View Road. They both have reasonably sized signs to identify their brand and show their gas prices.

A new Pilot Food Mart just opened on Middlebrook Pike at Joe Hinton Road. It has a sign that seems much larger than necessary with brightly lit gas prices that can be seen from quite a distance at night. There's a Pilot along the Interstate with a similar sign.

Middlebrook Pike is changing. At least two small strip malls are in the works. One will be near my favorite BBQ shack and another will be near the new Pilot. Today I spotted some guys with a backhoe starting to remove the sign at the Weigel's near Vanosdale. They told me it will be replaced with one like the sign at the Weigel's down the street. As long as it's nothing like the monstrosity of a sign at the new Pilot.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

where news comes first

Tearsa Smith was right. I didn't need to call her out over the photos she took while co-hosting the radio show with me. I only mentioned it publicly in Friday's post because I wanted an excuse to reference the famous Casey Kasem rant. As you can see, the lovely Tearsa did send the photos. Standing next to her makes me look older and whiter than ever. By myself, I just look exhausted.

Heather Kovar also left a comment on Friday's post. She writes that she has indeed done stand-up comedy and that she does work at a channel similar to the one on "How I Met Your Mother." Although the news channel on the sitcom is based on NY1, a station that is Heather's competition. Thanks for the comments ladies!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

how to sell papers

Dr. William Bass was on the front page of today's News Sentinel. He was hired to see if he could determine whether a man's tissue was illegally harvested by Biomedical Tissue Services in New York. The catch is that the body had already been cremated.

I was reminded of my first interview with Dr. Bass. I asked if he planned on being buried, cremated or studied at his world famous Body Farm. At the time, he said that he was generally not in favor of cremation because of the way it destroyed the evidence.

Since that interview, Dr. Bass has researched the average weight of cremated remains and could compare the actual weight of his "client's" remains against what they should weigh. If some of his bones had been stolen, like they were from Alistair Cooke, the numbers should show it. Dr Bass
describes the case (with show and tell) in a two minute video on the New Sentinel site.

I interviewed Dr. Bass again eleven months ago when he published his first novel. I haven't mentioned him in a while. Readers outside of Tennessee will want to become familiar with his brilliance. While we're at it, how many other names on the list of famous Knoxvillians do you recognize?

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

three topping sundae, um... three topic Sunday

Something in the church bulletin caught my eye this morning. At their next meeting, the women's guild will watch "Really Bad Girls of the Bible."

The editorial in the current Metro Pulse is one I can agree with. It explains why it's time to ban indoor smoking in Tennessee workplaces. Majority rules, right? Let the 26% or so of Tennesseeans who still smoke do it only in the privacy of their own homes, not in the restaurant where I'm trying to eat.

The New York Football Giants almost won their playoff game tonight. I'm disappointed that we won't get to see any more of the Pillsbury Throwboy, J. Load, the Hefty Lefty a/k/a Jared Lorenzen. He looks a bit like one of the deejays at the hip hop station down the hall. No offense, T.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

long distance information

The restaurant business is tough. I'm still bummed that Copeland's closed shortly before I moved to town almost five years ago. I noticed today that another of my favorite places, Corky's Ribs & BBQ has closed their restaurant over in the fancy-schmancy Sequoyah Hills part of town. I like my ribs like I like my comedy, dry. I would order the dry ribs to get a taste of Memphis, home to the original Corky's. I first enjoyed dry ribs in Virginia at Red Hot & Blue. I even had some on my last trip to Fairfax in October. When I called tonight, the outgoing phone message at Corky's said that they will relocate. I hope they do. They used to have another location that was more convenient to me. We would eat at the Corky's at Cedar Bluff and Peters Road somewhat regularly but I was still surprised by its closing. The restaurant was decorated with the kind of pop culture detritus that can be found in almost every Cracker Barrel, Famous Dave's, Fuddruckers, etc. One of the items on the wall at the Cedar Bluff Corky's was an antique advertising sign for Griesedieck Bros. beer. I wish I could have bought it from them before the restaurant closed. My wife is related to the Griesedieck family and it would have made a good gift for her or for her brother. Maybe she'd like a t-shirt or a hoodie someday instead.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

common taters

The Blogflux MapStats tell me that people do visit my site but it's only posted comments that tell me somebody actually read what I wrote. For example, a guy named Matt recently pointed out an important distinction between the two Chakas that I wondered about last September. This past week, my day was made twice when two TV news anchors left comments on my humble blog.

The first came from WATE's Tearsa Smith in response to another one of my posts about local news. I told Tearsa about my blog on the
Friday before Christmas when she was kind enough to co-host the morning radio show with me. She brought her digital camera, which was great when one of the Harlem Globetrotters made a surprise visit. Hey Tearsa, to quote Casey Kasem, "what happened to the pictures I was supposed to see this week?" I'll post one after she emails them to me.

If you are unsure about the Casey Kasem reference, check out this great animation by Russell Arch, who is coincidentally the husband of the lovely Lisa Kushell, who now goes by Lisa Arch, and once worked with me at the Comedy World Radio Network.

Another TV news anchor left me a comment this week. But this time it was a TV anchor I've never met. In fact, I've never even seen her on TV. Heather Kovar must have found her name in my November 24th post and left a comment that included the kind phrase: "I enjoy your blog!" That's a good thing since her name turned up in yesterday's blog entry too. Naturally I Googled Ms. Kovar to learn more about her. She anchors the morning news on News 12 Connecticut. I found some samples of her on-air work, her personal blog, her work blog and a reference to a Heather Kovar who did some stand-up on May 13th at an industry showcase in New York City. I wonder if it's the same Heather.

Hey Heather, I'm not very familiar with News 12. Is it anything like the channel where Robin Scherbatsky works on "How I Met Your Mother"?

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

more broccoli please

Portion control. That's one of the most important lessons I learned while losing 60 pounds. I've mentioned before that the key to weight loss is 80 percent diet and only 20 percent exercise and that you'd have to walk a whole mile to burn off only 100 calories. Just after Thanksgiving, Connecticut news anchor Heather Kovar posted a bunch of helpful calorie counters to help you calculate how to burn off holiday foods. Today a friend sent me the link to a great site with pictures that show you exactly what 200 calories of various foods looks like on your plate. 200 calories worth of M&Ms looks to be about the same amount that I had determined on my own. The photo of butter shocked me a little. I don't have to try too hard to remember when I used to smear that much butter on a piece of bread and think nothing of it.

Tomorrow I plan to tell you why I was nosing around Heather Kovar's blog in the first place. Don't let me forget.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

cost per ounce

The exercise equipment and diet pills were on display near the entrance of Sam's Club today. They must know that many people are thinking about weight loss at the beginning of the new year. I go to Sam's often to buy salad and broccoli but I can never find any fat-free salad dressing. If they had some, I would buy a lot of it, especially if it came in economy size packages. Even at the regular supermarket it's tough to find any bargains on fat-free products. Our local stores stock only puny 8 ounce glass bottles of two brands of fat-free dressings. If they're on sale, we might buy a little bottle of Maple Grove Farms dressing or a little bottle of Ken's Steak House dressing. Fortunately some (but not all) of the Food City stores near us also carry slightly larger, 16 ounce bottles of Henri's Fat Free Honey Mustard Dressing. If you have trouble finding it, you might have gotten there just after we did. We usually find only a few bottles on the shelf, so we buy them all.

We have a similar problem with reduced-fat peanut butter spread. I have to say "spread" because it's not 100% peanut butter. We can only find Reduced Fat Jif Crunchy in miniature 18 ounce jars. Their creamy variety can sometimes be found in 40 ounce jars. I tried a small jar of reduced fat Peter Pan crunchy and liked the slightly sweeter taste, so my wife bought me a medium sized 28 ounce jar of creamy to try. It seems unfair that the more economical packages of food are usually the least healthful.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

what a hamburger's all about

Watching the Rose Parade became a New Year's tradition in our family as soon as we all arrived in Los Angeles. I had been living in L.A. for almost eleven months before the rest of my family could join me. We moved on New Year's Eve into an apartment that was empty except for the TV I had bought for my semi-furnished "bachelor pad." We slept on the floor and spent New Year's Day watching endless reruns of the Rose Parade on KTLA.

Before moving west, we lived in a D.C. suburb. During those years, our New Year's Day tradition was attempting to decipher "The List" in the Washington Post. Like anyone, we hoped that we recognized more things on the "In" list than on the "Out" list. We kept up with it while living in California, but always a day or two later. This was partly because every January 1st, the only in and out in our lives were the Double-Doubles we'd have for lunch at In-N-Out Burger. At least one of those years, I ordered mine "Protein Style."

For a few years, my sister or her husband would fax us "The List" on their first day back to work after the holidays. Eventually the Internet made it ridiculously easy to read "The List" from anywhere and to look up all the obscure names and terms. Some habits die hard though. Now I never remember to look for "The List" until January 2nd. Hey, that's today!

For me, the highlights of this year's "List" include "How I Met Your Mother," Vince Young, the "Young Frankenstein" musical and "Heroes." But I'm bummed about Jamba Juice being on the "Out" list. My family and I have finally started watching the backlog of "Heroes" episodes on my TiVo. Yeah, it's as good as everyone says.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

sting like a bee

Choosing which Rose Parade coverage to watch this morning was easy. I went with the high-def, commercial free telecast on Discovery HD Theater. It turned out to be (as I had suspected it might) a simulcast of KTLA's coverage. I would have thrown my support behind Knoxville-based HGTV's coverage if it had been available to me in HD (hint, hint for next year, HGTV). The difference in visual quality was enough to keep me from changing channels even if it meant getting irritated at a couple of things about the way KTLA covered the parade.

My blog got a lot more hits than usual today from about 148 people looking for information about Stephanie Edwards' absence from KTLA. Given all the interest, one of the other networks should have hired her for the day (hint, hint again, HGTV). Many will disagree but I thought that Stephanie's replacement, Michaela Pereira, did a very good job. As I listened to her speak after one of Bob Eubanks' comments, the word that kept coming to mind was "perseverance" because it certainly wasn't "chemistry." At the end of the parade, Eubanks announced that his contract was up and that he didn't know if he would be back next year. Now that Stephanie is gone, they may as well replace Bob too. Didn't Bob and Stephanie used to also host KTLA's telecast of the Hollywood Christmas Parade before being replaced?

It's too bad the floats couldn't have been driven a little more slowly. After the last parade entry rode past, Michaela and Bob still had to fill about 25 minutes of airtime. With a two-and-a-half hour time window and no commercials, we should have had plenty of time to see each of the 45 floats and to hear each of the 21 bands. I felt that KTLA spent way too much time instead on the 23 equestrian units. Make that 22 equestrian units plus one llama unit, which was actually somewhat interesting. During one of his overly verbose descriptions of yet another one of the horse entries, Bob described a rider as one of the most famous charros in America. At this point I was thinking that Bob should have just gone ahead and declared him the most famous charro. I mean, can you think of another, more famous charro?

My biggest disappointment was the minimal camera time given to the Grambling State University marching band. The band members were dressed as imperial officers from the "Star Wars" films. The KTLA cameras focused on Darth Vader and the marching stormtroopers and mostly missed the fancy moves of the Grambling band.

KTLA dropped the (audio) ball during Katharine McPhee's performance and during the appearance of their very own Stan Chambers. I understand the difficulty of creating live television but if there is one person on a float that the KTLA audience should have been able to hear, it was Stan Chambers. The audio mistake with McPhee was frustrating but perhaps KTLA can take some consolation in the fact that NBC had a similar audio problem with another "Idol" reject, Lisa Tucker.

I recorded NBC's coverage of the parade and listened to it this evening. I say "listened" for two reasons. First, it was a standard def telecast recorded in medium quality on my old Series2 TiVo, so the floats didn't look anywhere near as good as on the live, HD telecast. And second, I only recorded NBC to hear the banter between Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush, who did a fine job of being both entertaining and informative. They are comfortable enough to ad-lib with each other and smart enough to revert to the script at the appropriate times. I heard them say their telecast was available in HD. I would have watched them live on my plasma screen if they had been commercial free and if they hadn't gone off the air after only 90 minutes. Best of all, they seemed to spend less time on the equestrian units, except for the llamas, which were somewhat interesting.

For a while I thought that Oklahoma had invaded California and taken over control of the parade. All the famous Oklahomans were riding on the state's two floats. Nothing says Oklahoma to me more than Nadia Comaneci. Too many of the floats featured butterflies and hummingbirds. I especially enjoyed the float from the City of Palmdale. It depicted a family of desert tortoises, much like my late great pet Mo. Unfortunately, Burbank's float didn't win anything this year. The best float was the one with the fire-breathing dragons from Honda.

Here's a final suggestion for KTLA. Stan's grandson, Jaime Chambers was really good on the parade pre-show. Maybe you should test his booth chemistry with Michaela. Or with Lu Parker.

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