Sunday, February 07, 2010

blizzard treats

For the most part, this weekend was spent waiting for the Super Bowl and experiencing the DC area snowstorm via social media. Since Friday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been filled with photos of the Snowtorious B.I.G.

Aspiring TV writer Mike Nelson is currently working as a production assistant on "The Real World Washington DC." He posted pictures on TwitPic of his car before and after digging it out of the snow.

My wife enjoys weather maps and forecasts. She has been going to the websites for the Washington television stations to get the latest. Thanks to her efforts, we saw lots of great viewer pictures, details of the Facebook-organized snowball fight and the amusing tale of "Sandwich Girl." WRC-TV reporter Pat Collins spoke with a young woman who had decided to walk three miles to a Giant supermarket because she wanted to redeem her coupon for a free sandwich. No wonder I like her story.

View more news videos at:

View more news videos at:

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

snow leopard

Abby Ham realized the problem right away. She knew some blog readers will mistakenly assume I have a shoe fetish. However her choice of footwear on a cold, slushy day makes it worth the risk.

Abby and her husband stopped by while I was working at the radio station's booth at the Healthy Living Expo. One of the first things she said was that she had worn the wrong shoes for the weather. I told her about the last three times the shoes of local news anchors had appeared on my blog. She agreed that it would still be funny to add her pumps to my online collection.

Of all the supermarkets in Knoxville, it made sense that Earth Fare would be the one with a booth at the Healthy Living Expo. I tried several of their free samples, including coffee from the Vienna Coffee Company in Maryville and chocolate milk from Cruze Farm in Knoxville.

One of the last things you might expect to see at the Healthy Living Expo would be a group of zombies. However when the familiar notes of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" played over the speakers, the zombies literally crawled out from under the tables. One or two of them grabbed my legs as they crawled to the stage where they did an outstanding job of replicating the dance from the music video.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

rain, man

A nice swim after a torrential storm feels great for two reasons. First, it's as if I have stolen a rainout back from Mother Nature. Plus, the pool water has a clean, fresh taste from the infusion of raindrops. Tonight it also helped clear my head and burn some energy after one-too-many cups of delicious free coffee at work.

While I was enjoying the water, my thoughts went to two swimmers in the news this past week. Natalie Coughlin exceeded my expectations on "Dancing With the Stars." For the most part I'll be splitting my votes between her and Donny Osmond. Both she and he are posting updates on Twitter.

Another swimming story popped up in one of my Google Alerts. The granddaughter of a man named Frank Murphy swam the English Channel. Samantha Simon is only 19 and plans to go for the Triple Crown of open-water swimming. She hopes to swim around Manhattan and from L.A. to Catalina within a year.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

cool summer

The unusually mild weather this past weekend inspired me to try on something I had been saving for the Fall. I eyed it on a previous visit to Sam's Club but didn't buy it right away. When I returned a few weeks ago and saw there was only one left in my size and at a reasonable price, I snatched it up.

In the hopes of extending my swimming season, I bought a Sea-Doo Springsuit. It's similar to a wetsuit, except with short sleeves. I foolishly thought the zipper went in the front. When my wife and son stopped laughing, they told me to go back upstairs and turn it around.

Once I got the suit on right, I started swimming laps but not before pretending to be a superhero. When I wear it again, I will have to get used to three unusual sensations. The suit made me more buoyant, which was great. However the air and water that got trapped felt weird as they escaped. The air bubbles rode up my spine and out the collar as I swam. The water that got trapped in the suit ran down my legs when I got out of the pool, which would be no big deal except that it had been warmed to body temperature and felt like something else.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

panic in the parlours

Some rainy weather over the weekend caused me to check my pool's skimmer more often. At one point, I lifted the lid and saw two floating toads. The rain seems to wash critters into the pool every year. Thinking they were dead, I avoided touching them as I reached in and pulled up the basket

Fortunately, they were still alive! I held the basket under the eaves of the garage and let rainwater wash over the toads to rinse the chlorine off them. By the way, Sam's Club jacked up the price of chlorine tablets to $100 for a 40 pound bucket. Anyhow, the toads perked up and I took pictures before releasing them into the woods.

These little fellas got me thinking. I like frogs but I prefer the subset of toads and I like turtles but I prefer the subset of tortoises.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

frozen customers

A nearby bank thermometer said 27° but the wind chill made it feel much colder in St. Louis on Saturday evening. The temperature continued dropping into the single digits during the night. Yet that didn't stop some dedicated fans from lining up in the cold to get their concretes from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. A lot of them were wearing St. Louis Blues gear, no doubt celebrating the team's victory over the Wild. Many were underdressed and shivering without coats. During Advent, the famous custard stand also sells Christmas trees and wreaths in the parking lot. Ted Drewes does actually close in January for the coldest weeks of winter. Given what I saw on Saturday night, they could probably stay open year round.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

move that bus

The light rain wasn't bad as we toured Hot Springs last Tuesday. It turned heavy overnight. My wife and I drove through several downpours on our way to the small town of Bigelow on Wednesday morning. Why Bigelow? Somebody there was getting a new house. A few days earlier, my friend Tim Puttre had called to say he was in Arkansas, working on the production crew of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Was I close enough to swing by for a visit? Now that Tim has moved from radio to television, he's gotten his own listing on IMDB.

Bigelow is near Conway, home of the annual Toad Suck Daze. The nearest big city is Little Rock, where the newspaper and television stations had coverage of the deserving family who received the new house. A local radio station's vehicle was on site when we arrived.

Tim instructed us to park in the spectator parking field. The water came halfway up our shoes as we stepped out of our car. From there, we rode a school bus to the muddy construction site. TV viewers won't see all the cars, trucks, trailers and tents that were set up on neighboring properties. Not wanting to schlep through the mud was one reason I had decided against going to Crater of Diamonds State Park. Yet here we were, following Tim through the mud to the catering tent. I told my wife that we should look down in case the rain made any diamonds visible. My friend Jessica says that digging for diamonds is for the truly desperate and the singly-focused meth heads.

In the catering tent, I noticed that volunteers had removed the labels from all the bottled water, soda, juice and tea. They do that in case one of the bottles is seen on camera. The green tea looked particularly unappetizing without its label. About Thyme, the catering company, had sent their truck all the way from the (818) area code. Maybe that's where they got the Sara Lee iced orange cake. Which reminds me, why can't I ever find any iced banana cake in the supermarket? I always loved that stuff.

Tim gave us some clear plastic ponchos and VIP guest passes. We were able to briefly meet designer Paul DiMeo as he passed us on his way to the house. Some nice volunteer gave us the same blue t-shirts that they all wear. The crew has a name for the image of all those blue-shirted volunteers arriving to demolish the old house. They call it the "Braveheart" shot.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


First of all, "WALL-E" is a very good movie, despite what happened. We went to see it yesterday to escape the heat at the Smoky Mountain Invitational swim meet, just like last year when we saw "Ratatouille." If this weren't our fourth and final year going to the meet, we could have started our own Pixar tradition.

Our son had to be at the Springbrook Pool in time for team warm ups at 7:30 a.m. While he hit the water, my wife bought a heat sheet and checked his schedule. With 33 teams and a ton of swimmers participating, there would be a lot of time between his four events. He was due to swim at 9:49 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 6:44 p.m. and 8:46 p.m. The five and a half hour window between his second and third races gave us the perfect opportunity to get away for a while. The well-run meet had gotten 25 minutes ahead of schedule by 11:45 a.m. but that time vanished when everything stopped for half an hour.

Although it's an older theater, all the screens at the Carmike Foothills 12 offer digital projection. I now find it hard to watch movies without DLP. The beginning sequence of "WALL-E" is as good as all the critics said it was. I especially got a kick out of hearing a song from "Hello, Dolly!" that mentioned my old hometown of Yonkers in the first few seconds. Maybe it was the hours we had already spent in the sun or perhaps the cool air in the dark theatre or maybe it was the scarcity of dialogue in the story that made my eyelids start getting heavy toward the middle of the movie. I'll have to watch the whole thing again when it's on satellite next year.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

light 'em up

Like previous years, my TiVo and my HD-DVR got a workout on the Fourth of July as I tried to record as many fireworks shows as possible. I couldn't find any coverage of Nashville's display but there were plenty of other choices. Nashville, Knoxville and Washington DC used Pyro Shows of LaFollette to light up their skies.

The best part of Boston's fireworks came during the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys (no relation). The music and the green explosions were a perfect match. But c'mon CBS, that show needs to be in high definition like "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS.

The musical highlight of the DC show was the "1812 Overture" although it was also pretty cool to have the explosions start while Jerry Lee Lewis was on stage singing "Great Balls of Fire." The worst part was when they cut away from the fireworks to show Jimmy Smits standing at a podium. Why not just let him do his part as a voiceover? Plus the Clark Gable mustache isn't working for him.

Our local Knoxville fireworks were televised after a weather delay. Did it actually rain on World's Fair Park or was the wind enough to put the festivities on hold? The highlight of the telecast for my wife and me was seeing our friend Mike sit in with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. They had him play his accordion during a selection from the "Kit Kittredge" soundtrack. Mike plays keyboards at our church and has a day job in the symphony's business office. As nice as it is to have coverage of our local symphony, there's very little point in televising fireworks without the benefit of HD. I think the viewing audience would have been better served if WBIR had broadcast NBC's HD coverage of Macy's 4th of July Fireworks from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. They could have shown a tape of the KSO from 10:00 to 11:00 or even 11:30. As it turned out, the Knoxville fireworks didn't begin until 10:20 or so.

The music accompanying the New York fireworks had a very Broadway feel to it, whether the songs were early rock 'n' roll or from the big band era. On the song "Give My Regards to Broadway," they made a point of zooming in on an illuminated Macy's logo every time the instrumental version of the tune got to the point where the lyrics would have said "remember me to Herald Square." Okay, we get it. Macy's flagship store is in Herald Square. And there was a "Miracle on 34th Street," we know. Parts of the patriotic medley, they called it "The Nation's Overture," reminded me more of "Fantasmic" than anything else. Although the "Tennessee Waltz" put me in mind of Knoxville, the highlight for me was "Sing Sing Sing." It seemed the best fit for fireworks being shot in triplicate from three barges.

HDNet ran some hi-def fireworks on the Fourth. Except that they were from the Kentucky Derby Festival in May. To make things worse, they didn't bother to pick up the synchronized music soundtrack. Instead we heard the boom of the shells, a hint of the music in the distance and the same crazy woman whooping after every burst. Travel Channel had live coverage of the fireworks in Washington but they had no music and no HD (on DirecTV). What's the point of showing that? At least the spectators near their microphone did some normal oohing and aahing instead of all that overzealous whooping on HDNet.

For me, fireworks are made better by the addition of the right soundtrack. WENS in Indianapolis used to sponsor a fireworks show perfectly named SkyConcert. Friday's telecasts gave me two ideas that, by writing this, I will drop in the cyber suggestion box known as the Internet. The instrumental parts of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" would make a great addition to the Boomsday soundtrack. Secondly, HDNet should bring their fancy cameras to Knoxville on August 31 to record both the audio and video of Boomsday in hi-def.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Today's high temperature was 90° yet I needed my Alpaca sweater from Peru. Why? Because it was only 58° where I was, 126 feet underground in a cave. My son and I went to Cherokee Caverns for a media preview of their upcoming Cool Down in the Cave on July 12. For a (suggested) $5 donation, you can escape the summer heat that day.

There will be another media preview tomorrow. I suggested to the cavern volunteers that they may want to offer the tour to bloggers as well. It seemed to work for the Knoxville Symphony and for Gentlemen's Top Cuts. If any of you bloggers can make it on Thursday evening, contact Jennifer or Jim through the Cherokee Caverns website for an invitation.

Our tour guide was Jim Whidby, who has done a lot to preserve the cave and to make it accessible to visitors. As our tour began, we learned that this will be the final year for the Haunted Cave, a Halloween tradition that has raised money to pay for cave upkeep. Now I wish I had gone to it in the past. I'll have to make my first (and last) visit to the Haunted Cave this October.

Jim told us about the Eastern Pipistrelle Bats which he re-introduced to the cave. The previous population of bats were smoked out after vandals got in to the cave and burned some tires. Dummies. I was hoping to see some live bats, but they must have all been out feasting on mosquitoes. However, Jim had a dead one in his pocket. Near the end of the tour, my son spotted a live Cave Salamander trying to hide from us.

Jim showed us some ancient cave drawings made by prehistoric cavemen Bill Landry for an April Fool's bit.

The natural rock formations were much more interesting. My favorite was the face in the rock. Their largest stalagmite is known as the Capitol Dome, although I thought it looked more like Jabba the Hut.

There were two bullet holes visible in one of the stalactites, probably evidence of the vandalism that occurred during the 1980s. Fortunately the vandals didn't destroy the connected stalactite and stalagmite (the column on the left), which took thousands of years to meet.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

something happening somewhere

Some heavy thunderstorms in the area knocked out our electricity for a few hours last night. Everything went dark except the glowing screen of my laptop. We used it to help us find a flashlight and a little battery-powered lantern. By the time I called KUB for an update, the automated voice told me there were still about 3,000 customers without power.

Rather than just sit there, we watched two old TV shows that had been saved on my computer for almost a year. When my TiVo starts to get full, I will transfer some shows to my laptop using the TiVo Desktop software. I don't always get around to watching them, although I did make a dent in my archived collection during the writers strike.

My son and I watched an episode of "The Loop." The single-camera comedy was a short-lived favorite of ours that was never given a chance to find an audience. In almost every episode, the airline employees are asked to find ways to cut costs. Maybe the show was ahead of its time.

Then my wife and I watched an episode of "Monk," a good show that I rarely see. I only recorded this episode because it was about a radio host suspected of murder. That idea has been used before, going back to "Matlock" and "Perry Mason." I thought that Steven Weber was very convincing as a modern-day shock jock. And I should know.

When the new fall schedules are announced at the upfronts next week, a couple of shows that I had picked last year will be gone. "Back to You" and "Aliens in America" got the bad news this weekend. I'm all caught up on "Back to You" but there are quite a few "Aliens in America" episodes on my TiVo. I'll move them over to my laptop in case the power goes out again.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

silence of the frogs

A couple of weeks ago a kind blog reader sent me a link to a story about a frog that may very well have been trapped in amber for the last 25 million years. That story got me thinking about the frogs in my own backyard. I haven't heard a peep out of them yet. By this time last year, the Mountain Chorus Frogs were singing like crazy, which I suppose makes them Crazy Frogs by definition. Why are the frogs not screaming, Clarice? Could it have anything to do with the weather? It was surprisingly cold this morning with a few stray snowflakes in the air. Frogs haven't survived for over 25 million years by letting their tadpoles freeze to death. What if the frogs know that Spring is not yet here to stay? Could they be thinking about the upcoming anniversary of the Blizzard of '93?

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Sunday, February 18, 2007


The weather has been wintry lately and I've been feeling a tad under it. My current head cold has been lessened by drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest. This weekend I've been able to watch several old shows on the TiVo and one new one ("The Amazing Race: All Stars") in real time on the plasma screen. Now that football season is over, I wasn't expecting whatever it was that caused the CBS schedule to run about 26 minutes late tonight.

With all the old shows and the movies we saw this weekend, it was like traveling back in time to 2006. I watched two episodes each of "Smallville," "C.S.I." and "Shark," all from November. "Smallville" used to have hip songs on its soundtrack. Now all I hear is a lame clarinet score, the overuse of which is even more apparent when watching multiple episodes back to back. Meanwhile, one of the "C.S.I." episodes featured a great cover version of the song "Word Up" while the lab tech from "The Larry Sanders Show" danced the robot.

My family and I watched some DVDs too. On Friday night, we really enjoyed "Scoop." After that, I put on "Snakes on a Plane," which made my wife leave the room. The movie was as disappointing as I had heard. On Saturday night, we watched "The Departed," which was really good even though I think I dozed off for a minute or two in the middle of it.

A dusting of snow last night didn't keep us from going to church first thing this morning. Nor did it stop my wife and me from going to see "The Queen" at our local art house theater. I brought along a box of tissues for my head cold but I wonder if anyone thought I was planning to cry over Diana. My friends and readers probably know that my morbid curiosity keeps me from getting emotional over celebrity deaths.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

bad surprise

Fan's of the now-defunct Bean's Blog will be interested in the update I received from him yesterday. His house and car were damaged in the storms that hit Seattle. His telephone service and electricity are still out. Fortunately he and his wife have someplace else they can stay until the power comes back on.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

old buddy old pal

The snow flurried fast and furiously at lunchtime today. If the temperature had been below freezing, we might have had some actual accumulation in Knoxville.

I thought the snowflakes might make a nice backdrop for a photo of a new marshmallow candy that my wife bought for my Christmas stocking. Marshmallow Pals are made by Frankford Candy. They are decorated with icing, which gives them a lot more detail than Marshmallow Peeps. The shapes reminded me of the delicious marzipan candy that my sister's husband wants every Christmas.

There's no sign of the Christmas pals on the Frankford website but I did see some Marshmallow Pal bunnies and birds toward the bottom of their Easter page. A website called Groovy Candies sells a Halloween version of the Pals. I need to look up how much I'll have to swim to burn off the calories in each Marshmallow Pal. I recently learned that I would have to walk almost a mile per Pal.

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