Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

 

Back Home In Connecticut

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

I am home. My mom is now in rehab. My dad is supervising my mother’s care.

I usually kvetch about travel days. Not today.

Because of my mom’s condition the reservation wasn’t made until late yesterday. Helaine booked USAirway’s noon flight from West Palm Beach to Washington National then a second flight to Bradley.

Spoiler alert: Everything was on-time!

I fell asleep as we rolled down the runway, woke up 45 minutes later and read Rachel Maddow’s “Drift” until Sully asked me (and everyone else) to turn off my electronic gear. People reading actual books should be compelled to close them too. It’s only fair.

I was in the window seat, 13F. The guy in 13D was reading a book on a tablet too!

We flew the IRONS4 arrival to DCA. This is a standard approach to Runway 4. My right side window was going to have good views today.

It’s a straight shot from Richmond to National flying over the spectacular Virginia countryside. From time-to-time we also flew over interesting off-the-road parcels with huge satellite dishes and radomes. I suspect these are not facilities you can drive up to just to take a peek.

Arrival spectacular, but uneventful.

As I was checking my connecting gate a woman fifteen feet away tripped and fell to the floor. I ran over and helped her to her feet. Still a Boy Scout.

I needed to take the bus connecting the terminals at DCA . As I was walking to the curb the woman ahead of me tripped and fell to the pavement. I helped her up too. I’m a Boy Scout and obviously a bad luck charm!

My second flight was an Embraer 175, an 80 seat jet designed and built in Brazil. Think New York City studio apartment with wings! It does, however, have a huge bathroom for a little plane. Impressive!

I was in my seat kibbitzing with the flight attendant (anyone who doesn’t know how a seatbelt works in 2012 deserves whatever befalls them!) when a voice rang out from the seat behind me.

“Geoff?”

Helaine tells me I have a distinctive voice. It was certainly distinctive enough for Milford Deputy Police Chief Tracy Mooney to recognize me today!

Once the plane was airborne she asked me to pose for a photo with “Flat Stanley!” There is a story. Don’t ask.

Speaking of photos, I believe I can be arrested for the photo at the top of this entry, snapped as we climbed out out from DCA. It was too good a photo not to take. The White House is hidden just under the wing, but the Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Mall, Ellipse and most everything else you can think of for Washington is visible!

Anyway, I’m home and back-to-work tomorrow. Glad I went. Glad I’m back.

Bob Ryan – The Weatherman Pushes Back

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Bob Ryan is a weather fixture in Washington, DC. He’s been on the NBC owned station for around 30 years. Today he is my hero. On this pre-blizzard day when his station will probably show huge viewership he’s in the news.

From the Washington Post:

A dramatic change may be ahead for Washington’s weather forecasts. And it has nothing to do with Friday’s much anticipated snowstorm.

Bob Ryan, the most-watched television weather forecaster in Washington and a fixture at WRC (Channel 4) for nearly 30 years, is considering leaving the station and jumping to rival WJLA, people familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

bob-ryan-dc.jpgDon’t get me wrong. I am not happy because Bob may be leaving WRC. Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

The trend in my business has been falling salaries, not rising. This is the first I’ve seen where that trend might be bucked!

What boss or owner doesn’t want to buy the same thing for less? Bob’s station is owned by NBC which has been very aggressive in that regard.

Some of the cuts anchors and reporters have were huge. Often they’ve been accompanied by added responsibilities and/or reduced benefits and security. All the cuts have been taken with impunity.

Bob Ryan is pushing back against bosses who’ve forgotten that can happen.

Granted, we’re talking about a guy who should receive no sympathy over compensation. If Bob Ryan isn’t making 7-figures he’s certainly in the high hundreds of thousands per year. As a longtime AFTRA member he’s got a very nice pension plan. This is not about whether his family will eat or not.

There will never be another Bob Ryan in Washington. The kind of following he has, built over years when TV stations had much more commanding audience numbers, just can’t happen today. He knows that. They know that.

I will be very curious how this turns out. So will every other high profile on-air performer. It’s more than idle curiosity.

The Storm’s Over — The Numbers Are In

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

snow-shovel-on-the-steps.jpgThe snow has come and gone. There’s never a bullseye, but the forecast was reasonably close. If success is judged by number of complaints, or lack thereof, I’m doing fine. Here are the final DOT numbers. I have also added the Boston and New York NWS snow totals, which include Connecticut, for the Dec 20-21, 2009 storm at the end of this entry.

Not everyone was as lucky. A friend who forecasts in Springfield sent a text message saying he’d received nothing! “Bust of the decade,” he said. Ouch. Been there. I know exactly what he’s going through.

I was right about Southeastern Connecticut getting the most snow followed by the shoreline in general. The snow was fluffy and windblown as predicted. Accumulations were generally in line with my numbers. My call for the Northwest Hills and most of the area directly adjacent to the Massachusetts line was a few inches higher than the actual totals.

I wrote about this last night, but it bears repeating the most unusual and interesting part of this storm was the exceptionally dry air. During the summer we sometimes see 30 grams of water content per square meter. Last night it was around 1 gram per cubic meter!

The dry air was the wild card. Radar showed moderate snow over all of Connecticut for hours-and-hours before anything hit the ground. Once the atmospheric column over any location became saturated light snow turned to heavy snow. I’d never seen a situation quite like this before. It cut inches off all the accumulations.

It’s a shame this storm will impact Christmas shopping. Otherwise we’re lucky it came on a Saturday night when travel is usually light.

And now the dig out begins.

(NWS totals after the jump)

(more…)

What I Don’t Understand About Filibustering

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Embedded in the tumult over healthcare insurance reform is the promise if Democrats try to bring a bill to the Senate floor without 60 votes Republicans will filibuster!

Ooooh–filibuster. It’s the boogie man of Roberts Rules. Anyway, we’re not exactly seeing an insta-Congress now.

OK–I’m sort of slow on this. I’m sure I’m missing something. The last filibuster I remember seeing was delivered by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Good scene. He collapsed convincingly.

I assume the modern version would be a tag-team filibuster with individual Republicans and conservative Democrats taking turns yapping.

Again, I’m sort of slow on this, but why not? Seriously. Why wouldn’t the Democrats want the Republicans to do this?

The latest polls show the vast majority of Americans want insurance reform including a public option. The Republicans may not be scared of the Democrats, but aren’t they scared of the voters? Do they really want to throw a monkey wrench in the works while America stares at them?

A filibuster would open them to all sorts of accusations they currently avoid. It would make them seem smarmy in a much more visible way.

Let them filibuster!

Again, I know I’m missing something here… or maybe everyone else is too damned scared for their own good.

Dental Denial

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I’ve been thinking about insurance a lot recently–especially since I got a denial this morning for some dental coverage.

Routine dental exams are covered. Going in an emergency is not… at least it’s not covered when coded as it was for me.

I tried to ask the insurance company’s CSR how it could have been coded to be covered? Seriously, what was I thinking? They are not giving out maps on how to collect. Their job is to pay less, not more.

I’ve asked someone from my company to help and they’re usually very good about this. I suspect at some point the bill will be paid as a covered claim, though there is no guarantee.

Of course this has me thinking more-and-more about the whole national healthcare tumult going on in Washington and at town halls everywhere. There is a huge amount of vitriol and disinformation being spewed.

Here’s why: It works!

As it is in election politics, Swift Boating is an effective method of turning public opinion and convincing people to support policies which are totally against their best interest! Look how effective Swift Boating was against John Kerry.

Forget political policies and promises for a moment. Forget who you supported on the issues. The Swift Boaters managed to convince a significant percentage of Americans John Kerry, a certified war hero, was a coward and George Bush who flew a totally undistinguished and suspect career in the Texas Air National Guard was Rambo!

The healthcare debate is being Swift Boated quite effectively. People are being convinced good is bad, right is wrong. As long as this tactic works (it is totally dependent on convincing the naive whose votes count one-for-one with the informed) it will be used again-and-again.

You may ask, have the perpetrators of Swift Boating no shame? No, they do not. Individual facts are fungible commodities when you’re looking to a achieve a broader goal. That’s why people are screaming against policies they previously supported.

In many ways the healthcare debate is like a parent fighting with a child. The parent takes a long term look at what he’s about to say. The child, however, is willing to slash and burn to get what they want now.

But the bottom line is, as long as this strategy works it will continue to be used.

Is “The American Game” Rigged?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I am seldom as profoundly affected by an op-ed piece as I was by Frank Rich in Sunday’s NY Times.

What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. It’s the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged — that, as the president typically put it a month after his inauguration, the system is in hock to “the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few” who have “run Washington far too long.” He promised to smite them.

No president can do that alone, let alone in six months. To make Obama’s goal more quixotic, the ailment that he diagnosed is far bigger than Washington and often beyond politics’ domain. What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.

Though President Obama was elected by appealing to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, liberals are now marginalized on the edge. With no one farther left Obama has shifted farther right knowing we’ve no place else to go.

I understand this move to the center as a strategy, but I am left feeling unclean and used. Don’t use me to make your boyfriend jealous.

It’s not just health care that has me bugged. It’s all sorts of national security issues reaching back to policies of the Bush administration that need to be unwound.

To me liberalism is just another name for idealism. Good deeds should be rewarded. Bad deeds should be punished. Governmental rules should encourage good behavior. We continue to do the opposite.

President Obama was nominated and then elected heavily on the backs of people who feel as I do–and he himself made promises to that effect.

There is no satisfaction in this airing of my angst.

The Graduation

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Stef has graduated college. We all attended yesterday in what was a whirlwind weekend!

Helaine didn’t walk at her graduation and though I finished the meteorology program at Mississippi State that didn’t qualify me to walk. This was my first.

We headed to Long Island and got there in time to see some of Stef’s friends and take a few pictures. Stefanie lived in the dorm for four years, but we met at a small house. It was really more of a “housette” on a nondescript street in Hempstead.

One of the girls told me how much she (and by she I suppose she meant her parents) are paying for monthly rent. I did some quick in-my-head multiplication and figured the house goes for around $4200 a month. Seriously? For that it should come with maid service… which it obviously did not. Obviously.

The day was gray and chilly and we walked the few blocks to the school’s football stadium. My parents, both in their 80s but looking and acting much younger, hoofed it without trouble. Yes, that’s very good news.

The parents and guests filled two thirds of the stands while the grads–reported as about 2,000 by Newsday–sat on folding chairs set up on the field. There was rain, but not much. There were three commencement speakers and, as Helaine noted, no valedictory speaker. I wonder why?

First up was Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Here’s what I took away. The most important part of college is Chuck Schumer.

Next was Nichols Negraponte of MIT’s Media Lab and the One Laptop Per Child project. I have been a fan of his for years but his speech was anything but inspiring. This was the definitive speech when people talk about graduation speeches they don’t remember!

The third speaker was Bob Schieffer of CBS News. He is connected to the school by virtue of his moderating the presidential debate at Hofstra last fall. Scheiffer was charming. He just seemed like a nice guy¹. I’m not sure there was anything earth shattering said, but I wasn’t disappointed.

All three speakers acknowledged how difficult it would be getting a job in this horrendous economy. No one wanted to hear it, but it’s certainly the 500 pound gorilla in every grad’s life.

By the time we got back to Stef’s dorm room we were down to two hours to vacate! No problem. We’d taken some stuff last weekend and were prepared. With plenty of time to spare her possesions were packed into the back our Helaine and Stef’s cars.

We were back in Connecticut around midnight. I was exhausted and not alone in that regard. Helaine, Stef and my folks were soon in bed and asleep. I followed a few hours later.

This past weekend is a blur! Even while it was in progress it was tough to see where Saturday ended and Sunday began. I woke up this morning thinking it was Sunday.

Stef has graduated. It’s a hell of an accomplishment. We are very proud.

¹ – Someone I work with was an intern for Scheiffer in Washington and confirms he is a very nice man.

Frost/Nixon–Tonight’s Entertainment

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

nytimes-nixon-frost.gif

The text above, from the New York Times, is a contemporaneous account of the Frost/Nixon interviews. I didn’t watch them in ’77. The pre-show buzz said it was long and ploddingly boring as I remember.

Helaine and I saw Frost/Nixon tonight. Excellent movie. Very compelling. Frank Langella is Nixon. I am a huge Ron Howard fan–that won’t change.

I was no fan of Nixon.

I turned against our Vietnam policy in ’66 or so (against our government’s policy not against our soldiers) during the Johnson Administration. I marched on Washington in the Moratorium and joined more peaceful protests while in college in Boston.

To my contemporaries and me Nixon poured gasoline on an already raging fire. Watergate then added insult to injury. And, as recon missions go, it was stupid. Nixon was going to win by a landslide anyway. Did they really need to know what was in Larry O’Brien’s office at Watergate?

It is difficult to understand the depth of distaste toward Richard Nixon if you weren’t there. Unlike Iraq, ‘Nam was being fought daily on TV. Death and injury were vividly seen. Bush-43 controlled the coverage much better than Nixon who watched public opinion shift away from him as the futility of the war became obvious. And, of course, Nixon was anything but a sympathetic character.

After the movie I wanted to read a little more from the period. Along with the Times article I found a long preview of the show from Time Magazine.

“He is back among us. And, as always, in a memorable manner, both painful and poignant, sometimes illuminating, usually self-serving. The once too-familiar face of Richard Nixon re-enters the homes of America this week for 90 minutes of dramatic television.”

What’s most interesting is this long Time article reads like an outline for the movie! Obviously any two accounts of this event will share facts, but this is uncomfortably similar. Too similar. I suspect Time’s treatment entered heavily into Peter Morgan’s thought process as he wrote the original stage play.

In the movie Nixon’s camp downplays David Frost’s qualifications to hurt them. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t ring true because of Frost’s association with “That Was The Week That Was“–a show whose American version was brutally critical of Nixon (and with this clip also brutally critical of PM Harold Macmillan in its British version).

The Inauguration

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I have watched virtually none of the inauguration hoopla from Washington. I felt guilty about it, but it just didn’t excite me. I am not into pomp and circumstance.

I broke down and watched the inauguration. As the oath was administered I teared up a little.

One can only hope we have turned a corner and are back on the right track. It’s still going to be incredibly difficult.

Harry Wolf

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

harry-debby-andy-wolf.jpgIra Ludwin called me tonight. I haven’t spoken to him in a while. Our mutual friend Harry Wolf was killed in a car crash. I hadn’t spoken to Harry in a while either.

Harry and I, to use the term currently in vogue, palled around in the 70s. We were friends through ham radio. I knew Harry when he met, moved in with, then married Debby. They were married 32 years. They had a son and daughter–both in their twenties now.

Harry was an off-center kind of guy. Bald early, Harry wore glasses and was never confused with an athlete. He was a smart guy who knew a lot about a lot of different things. He ran a self-financed talk show on a little station in Jersey. I understand he was teaching recently–at Temple, his alma mater.

His relationship with Debby was the best part of the story. She was an amazing catch and Harry knew it. She loved him unconditionally from day one. It is difficult to conceive a more nurturing relationship.

Tonight on the phone Debby reminded me of July 4, 1976. I was living in the Philly area. Harry and Debby, along with a few other friends went to Washington, DC for the Bicentennial fireworks.

We sat on a small hill overlooking the Mall. Our section applauded loudly when, from our vantage point, it looked like a shell would hit a plane. I know that sounds awful today, but we knew it was just an optical illusion. It was a good natured example of homogeneous crowd personality. It was a memorable day all around.

What do you say at a time like this?

This is the part of life they never explain when you’re growing up.