Saturday, August 30, 2008

History Lesson

It's time.

Beginning tomorrow, I'll be heading into the teeth of the storm, wherever that may be. 'Polisher is already out ahead of it. I'm not envious, I had preparations to make at home first.

In the six years that I've been working for the Deuce, I've covered Hurricane's Lili, Ivan (LA and AL aftermath), Katrina, and Rita, not to mention a few tropical storms in-between. Most of those were faced with a bit of trepidation, but that disappeared when I was in the thick of coverage.

Lili was my first, and I was scared sitting in Morgan City staring down a Cat. 5 storm. Luckily it weakened significantly before landfall. It was a good first storm.

Ivan found me in Buras, the southernmost tip of the boot. I spent 3 days there after it turned and hit the AL coast. A week later I was in Orange Beach covering the aftermath and the Gonzalez Jambalya Festival crew who was cooking free food for the workers and citizens.

Katrina was spent in Baton Rouge, because our management deemed the storm too dangerous to send us to New Orleans. I think it was a good play.

Rita hit home, literally. I missed out on the pre-storm trip to Cameron, and it was three days after the storm when I finally got to see the damage to my hometown.

This time it's different. I've got more on the line than I have in years past, and I really wish I could stay with my family. I can't ensure their saftey either way, but I want to be there for them, and hug them close when they're scared.

I can't do that from the inside of a sat truck, but you better believe that I will be doing everything to make sure that I stay safe to come home when the storm is gone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Strong Finish

The Olympics are over, and I don't think I've ever watched the Games as much as I've watched the XXIX Olympic Summer Games.

I didn't watch much of the coverage on the extended networks, mainly because they weren't convenient for me, which leads to my first criticism of NBC's coverage: instead of showing us every match of the beach volleyball tournament the US teams played in, please show us some of the other sports. That's one of the great aspects of the Games; a chance to witness and learn about some of the less famous, but no less important, sports. A great match in table tennis is easily the rival of Federer/Nadal, except at a much faster pace. How about some archery highlights, and why only stills of the shooting? Was that some kind of anti-gun statement?

With all of that, I have seen some of the best athletic performances I can remember. Michael Phelps is just amazing to watch. Usain Bolt...yeah. The USA women's track team taking gold, silver, and bronze in one event. The men doing the same, with the bronze winner not just leaning, but diving for the finish line. That's giving it all you've got. The Women's Discus champion throwing for just 10 feet shorter than the men.

I've also been shown some of the heartbreak that comes when someone's focus isn't all that it could be, or they catch a bad break. Look at all the dropped batons in the relays. Some caused by a mishandling of the stick, but the team from Great Britain got caught up in the Jamaican's mess, lending to more of the crystalline clutter of shattered dreams littering the floor of the Olympic stadium.

The montage that concluded the telecast summed all of this up nicely, and I was brought to tears when I once more saw the feat of strength accomplished by the German weight lifter who lost his wife just before the Games.

I had to stop at this point, and now I've lost my focus, so I guess I'll end it here. My only wish is that we get a network soon that will broadcast the Games in 720p. 1080i just can't keep up with the action. I saw this for myself most clearly during the platform diving competitions. As the divers fell past the stands, everything would digitize. I checked it on the SD channel, and it was there as well, but harder to notice because of the lower resolution. My TV has a freeze frame feature that allowed me to check the image quality and remove the variable of LCD motion blur.

At any rate the Summer Games are in the book, and I'm looking forward to the Winter Games in 18 months.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Heads up!
A kite surfer flies for free in Florida.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Big Boom

Besides being a rockin' song by Jonathan Coulton, it's what an unfortunate woman experienced Tuesday.

I guess her state of fortune depends on how you look at her situation. She got up, and went to the kitchen to fix her breakfast, but before she could get her first cup of coffee, she got an unwelcome wake-up.

When she turned on the stove, it ignited the natural gas that had filled her home, reducing it to a pile of rubble from which she escaped with only first-degree burns and her life.

I think I did a pretty good job on LM's standup, which you'll need to pay attention to for the full effect.

Big Boom


What do these Olympic judges have against us?

As bad as the judging has been, and it has been horrific, I find many of the routines lacking. I'm not a gymnast and the only knowledge I have of the sport is what I've gleaned from years of watching Olympic telecasts. I only say this so you know the authority with which I speak.

Can't anyone stick a landing these days? The majority of the actual routines were spectacular, but it seems like no one can actually stand still at the end of them. Past champions have been decided by something so small as the twitch of a toe, but present day medalists have been outright spasming on the mats.

Which leads to the judging. How can you explain a person winning a medal after belly-flopping on the landing? Apparently you get extra points for landing on your face. I guess it adds a higher degree of difficulty.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reporting Olds

Edouard - the storm that missed.

While 'Polisher was dealing with his trials and tribulations, I was blissfully unaware of what the next 24 hours would bring me.

If I recall correctly, he gave me a ring around 6:30 p.m. I was headed home, he was headed to Cameron. During the second to last day of trial coverage, Mobile 30's generator developed a terminal problem. It only left for the shop the day before Edouard was scheduled to make landfall, so I knew I wouldn't be driving it down to the coast. I didn't question why we weren't sending a crew to Cameron: with no sat truck and Eddy just a tropical storm I didn't see a real need to cover it. The next morning I get a call from the desk and find out I will be headed over there as soon as I get to work. I'll be taking a laptop to FTP the story back, if we don't have time to drive it back.

Let's see, a three hour trip one way, leaving after 9 a.m., and the station wants two packages. Oh, the first is for the 5 p.m. show... it didn't make it.

We arrived at high noon, just after the contingent from the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. We bagged some interviews from them, and I took a ride in a Blackhawk to see what happened on the West Side of the Calcasieu River. It was the fastest way to ensure that we got the video. After I get back on the ground, we found the cluster of three homes with damage, recorded a couple more interviews and decided what to do next.

It was 2 p.m. If the first story was going to make it back for five, we weren't driving it back. That meant that we were going to use FTP. My parents house was a known quantity in that it had power and a working internet connection. What it didn't have was bandwidth. I began trying to send the story at 3:40 p.m. Thanks to the super slow Cameron Communications connection, the FTP server wouldn't stay connected, and the story missed the five.

Eventually we ended up a block away at the Cameron Library parking lot. I found their Wi-Fi and stretched the laptop's power cable across the rain-soaked asphalt to the outdoor outlet. A few minutes later the story was in the station's computers and ready for the 6 p.m. show.

It should be noted that when we called and told the station that it didn't look like the story was going to make the six either, we were asked if we could go to a Starbucks. The nearest one might be an hour away, if it's still open, so it still wasn't going to make it. To let you know, Cameron doesn't even have a fast food chain restaurant, and people there don't really have the disposable income for expensive coffee. The other question was if any of the other stations still had a sat truck in the area, but the last left around one p.m.

They were there to report news...

Great Moments

The Olympics have begun, and already we've seen some great performances.

I wasn't hugely excited leading up to these games, but I think I'm catching the fever. I'm even thinking about loading up on caffeine and calling in sick. Do you think they'd notice if I didn't show up for a few days? I could take power naps during the commercial breaks and sleep through the local station's 30 min. highlight show. It's not in widescreen or HD, so why would I watch it?

I'd like to say that our athletes are making a great effort, with some having to overcome more than others, but in the spirit of the games, I'd also like to applaud the efforts of the other countries.

The Chinese male gymnasts were just awesome on the rings last night. I can't wait to see what they'll do in the finals. I've also seen some great swimming from the other countries in the women's events. These have been some really exciting competitions to watch.

The best so far has been the men's 4x100m relay. If you missed it, you missed a heck of a race.

I also appreciate the stories that I'm seeing from NBC. Thankfully they aren't just focusing on the Americans, because I know everyone at the games has a story worth telling. A perfect example is the story of the oldest female gymnast competing this year. She's 33 and won gold before any of her current competion were born!

Looks like this is gonna be an historic Summer Games.