We’re A Week In

“You know, it really does feel like 11:15.”

That was Helaine’s observation as I passed her on my way upstairs to change into pajamas. She’s right.

It’s Friday. The news runs just 15 minutes with an expanded sportscast next.

I was out of my suit by 8:17 Pacific Time.

This last week on WTNH scrambled my circadian rhythm just a little. It’s now nine thirty. It feels like midnight.

“Maybe we should set all the clocks to Eastern,” she said.

To do this right you need to be immersed, but it probably doesn’t help that I’m Straight Outta Chemo.

I watch a little of the news. I listen to it all. My earpiece is connected to a phone dialed into one of News 8’s IFB lines. The producers and I chat a little before my hits. Most often asked: “How long do you need me to go?”

On most days weather is collapsible or expandable on demand. News breaks. Stuff runs long… or short. I’m very flexible.

Phil is also there. “Mic check, Fox,” Phil will say, then add. “How are the girls?”

Next week I’m going to ask the producers if they do anything different just because I’m far away? I don’t think so.

A week in and as far as I can tell no one really cares that I’m in California. Thank you. I was hoping for that.

It Doesn’t Seem Like A Tiring Job

Four days into my seven week summer run on News 8 WTNH and I can feel the lingering effects of my cancer treatment. I’m exhausted!

For safety sake with my remote operation I begin work a little early, around 2:00 PM EDT. That gives me three hours to prepare forecasts for Connecticut and my stations in Nebraska. Though there were a few 100º+ readings in Nebraska today, the forecasts for there and Connecticut were fairly easy.

We have lots of computer help nowadays, but those are always my words on the screen.

My TriCaster control room has not been thrilled with the new tasks I’ve asked it to perform. It takes extra time to make sure everything runs close to smoothly. I am constantly worried something that worked an hour ago won’t work now! It’s happened.

I’m on a 10 second live tease at 4:30, then record a few additional teases that run during prime time. I even get to say “Don’t go to sleep yet.”

Five to six thirty is news time. I do seven hits — long and short.

At six thirty I record my cuts for Nebraska (where it’s still 5:30). The first of those runs at the top of-the-hour, so there is a deadline.

Tonight I finished Nebraska, walked upstairs, washed my makeup off and went to bed. I slept around 90 minutes. I needed it.

I was in the studio at 9:00 to begin updates and prep. Phil Zocco and I ran a quick test of my gear at 9:30. He calls me Fox. He always has.

2,492 miles away and it works! My studio is partially powered by magic.

From 10:00 to 11:35 it’s news time. I’m on often. In between each hit the TriCaster is adjusted for its next playout.

I left the studio tonight as the news ended, walked upstairs and changed to pajamas. If there’s a prize for first News 8 employee in PJs, I win!

“It’s like coming out of chemo,” I told Helaine as I came back downstairs. “It’s like Sunday afternoon when the effects are starting to go away.”

My whole body is exhausted. It’s not a sleep tired (though I’d fall asleep in a second). It’s an everything tired.

I remember a similar situation when I started back on News Channel Nebraska after my Whipple surgery. The first week or two was taxing before I regained strength.

Chemo ended on the 22nd, just two weeks ago. I finished my treatments anemic. It’s going to take a while. You can’t just wish yourself strength.

Meanwhile, the rush of being back on Channel 8 is letting me forget about the fatigue while I’m in the studio. It’s all very cool. I’m enjoying the hell out-of-it.

Thanks for taking the ride with me.

Day One Is Done

My whole day was spent fretting; worrying what would go wrong. My mother called it “eating your kishkas out.” The sky fell in around 4:00 PM EDT. The maps and charts for my longer weather hits were failing.

Bill Koczocik shot this in the Channel 8 studio during the 5:00 PM newscast.

My first day back on WTNH from my home studio was not without its hiccups. My hope is it was cleaner going home than my perception.

To explain my day, I first have to explain what’s going on.

I’m back on News 8 WTNH for a little summer weather. I’ll be hanging around on TV for the next seven weeks.

All of this is coming from my studio in California via the Internet. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Unfortunately, today it failed us briefly, but noticeably. The video froze!

Phil Zocco (who was in Master Control my first day at Channel 8 in 1984) tweaked the recipe that trades lag for dependability. We’re hopeful we’ve fixed the problem or at least moved in the right direction.

My whole day was spent fretting; worrying what would go wrong. My mother called it “eating your kishkas out.”

The sky fell in around 4:00 PM EDT. The maps and charts for my longer weather hits were failing. Macro programs that worked perfectly last night didn’t today! It had to be something I’d done, but what?

Sam Kantrow and I shared the 5:00 o’clock weather was I worked the problem. He took the long hits, I took the short ones.

By the top of the six I’d come up with a solution. I spoke to the boss on the phone and assured him we’d be OK. And, we were.

There were a few other tiny problems you probably wouldn’t notice. An improperly set default skewed the colors on all my maps. Fixed.

I’m going to Home Depot to buy sandbags to keep me from moving all the way back to the wall. That should eliminate a few chroma key shadow problems.

It’s Day One. If bad stuff’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen today.

Meanwhile, I have more macros to write.

Kept Fixing It Til It Stopped Working

Maps from Connecticut are being delivered directly to my studio in just a few seconds.

Spoiler alert: The day was a great success. It was getting there which was no fun.

In order to play TV station my studio has to make some unusual requests of the Internet. This includes opening ports and exposing some of my equipment directly to the outside world.

You’ve heard of a firewall? These are purposely punched holes in that wall!

One hole was needed in order to see the feed being sent from Connecticut. It worked perfectly, but I thought it would work better on another computer.

That’s when all my specially routed ports failed. I fixed it until it stopped working. I’ve committed this sin before.

The file server which sits under my studio desk started rejecting everything sent its way. No maps.

The feed from Connecticut vanished. Not good.

It took hours to get it fixed and I seriously can’t tell you how! I did everything right no less than a dozen times to no avail.

Really. I have no idea.

What was good about the day? Larry Fitzgerald came by. First, he helped set up the lights. We used little lasers pointing toward the ceiling to make sure they’re aimed correctly.

Then he consoled me as we worked our way across India on our way through AT&T tech support hell.

Part of our remote comms with Sam. Most of the screen is from a computer in the WTNH studio.

Larry was happy sitting and watching as Sam Kantrow and I (mostly Sam) converted Channel 8’s maps to my special requirements. Most of the night we were on Skype and Team Viewer simultaneously, often sharing three screens at once. We could see cause and effect instantly though separated by 2,493 miles.

Sam was super helpful as he drove WTNH’s Weather MAX. Each map consists of multiple layers of artwork, animation, navigated borders and weather data. We were assembling frameworks which would later be robotically populated and pushed to me.

One-by-one they zipped to my server. Even for the biggest files Connecticut’s just a few seconds away.

Tomorrow I’ll put together some dummy lineups and run through some shows. That means macro writing. Lots to do.

The Work Really Started Today

Studio 5E ‘control room’ console with WTNH News 8 graphics.

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet. I start on WTNH, News 8, Monday at 5:00 PM. It’s a summer gig like I had in high school.

No one’s leaving. Fred will be hitting the road at five and six and I’ll be handling the maps.

For this coming week he’s on vacation, so I’ll do all the shows… and my forecasts for Nebraska. Busy week.

Working for WTNH requires funneling specially prepared graphics to my server here in Irvine. I worked this afternoon with Sam Kantrow, setting up an FTP connection between the station’s maps and my control room. We created accounts and had holes punched in firewalls.

Nearly everything will be produced using timers and triggers. When new data arrives new maps are made. It’s all the same equipment and maps they’re using in New Haven. They’re just produced in a slightly different way for my very different setup.

Sam and I had to overcome a few bumps. Expected. Everything is working. Adjustments will be needed. This weekend he and I will finish the graphics.

Earlier, Channel 8’s chief engineer, McKenzie Kotuby, and I worked on the outbound video link connecting my studio to Connecticut. It’s all done with high speed Internet and special computers seamlessly compressing video on-the-fly. It’s magical.

Three companies make these video compressors. I have all three here! It’s not exactly an honor.

I’m also getting a slightly lower quality backhaul from a router inside WTNH. I can watch air in near real time. The term in the business is “confidence monitor.” And it gives me access to nearly every video source in their building plus live beauty shot cameras. This is a real plus.

McKenzie’s doing 100%. Exceptionally geekariffic.

My goal is to make the broadcast look as if it’s coming from Connecticut. I don’t want to fool anyone. I’m being 100% upfront. The fact that I’m here shouldn’t really matter. I’d rather you weren’t distracted from that. You’ll see.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is tweak day at Studio 5E. All around production maven Larry Fitzgerald is coming. Everything will be tip-top. He’s a very good influence.

It all starts Monday. I’m not normally nervous or apprehensive and maybe I’m not now. I just don’t want to disappoint.

Let The Dentistry Begin

Today was an exciting day. I went on Facebook to announce I’d be back on Channel 8. More on that in a later post, though I will say the path to this day has been absolutely surreal!

Taking most of my attention today are three teeth removed from my infected gum this afternoon. It feels every bit as bad as you think.

I don’t like taking narcotics. Even after my Whipple they were used sparingly. I’ve made an exception here. Mouth pain is the worst. My dentist prescribed Norco, aka Vicodin.

This combination medication is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains an opioid (narcotic) pain reliever (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen). Hydrocodone works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Acetaminophen can also reduce a fever.

Stuff like that fascinates me. Norco doesn’t make you have less pain. It just allows you to give less of a damn about it.

Hopefully things will begin to turn around tomorrow. Maybe my mouth will allow the rest of me to enjoy what’s about to happen.