CT To CA — All The Way To Nebraska

Google Location history

I’m writing tonight from Lincoln, Nebraska, continuing our trip to California.

This was a good day on the road. The goal was 600 miles and we did 627… though Google informs me it’s only 563 miles as the crow flies.

Next time we’re going by crow!

Overall we’ve driven 1,384 miles since we left Connecticut. That’s 48% of the way.

Lots of folks have been asking about Doppler. I can’t overstate how good a traveler she’s been, laying on Helaine’s lap with her head resting on the center console. Most of the time she’s dozing. She’s never a bother.

The trip has affected her appetite. She has refused to eat her normal food. We spent an hour or so going to Petsmart in Mishawaka, IN&#185. The dry food we got made no difference!

We’re told she will eat when she’s hungry. She’s still eating treats.

Google’s navigation app is how we find our way. Leaving Petsmart it took us to a road closed for construction!

Google knew the road was closed. It said so on my screen!

We tried to find another route, but Google kept asking us to u-turn and go back.

We ad libbed our own route, skirting around the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. This shopping trip/detour (and stops for gas and the bathroom) is why we only averaged 57 mph today.

Traffic was moderate on the Indiana Tollway. We stayed mostly at the speed limit with little opportunity to go faster. Things slowed down as we drove into Illinois, staying south of Chicago. Speeds finally picked as we moved into rural Western Illinois.

It’s easy to think of the Mississippi River as the center of the country. Not so! We’re 400 miles west of the Mississippi and just approaching the middle.

Next up was Iowa. I expected boring. It’s actually quite pretty. Both Helaine and I were pleasantly surprised.

We passed hundreds of farms along the way. It’s early in the season. The corn is as high as an elephant’s ankle.

What is tall (and huge) are the dozens of power generating windmills we saw. I’m all for clean energy and wind power, but the truth is, they’re a blight on the landscape.

If the folks here don’t mind, I don’t mind. I’m a definite NIMBY on wind power.

Around 6:00 PM CDT, 20 miles short of Council Bluffs IA, we pulled into a rest area to make hotel reservations. Iowa provides free WiFi at the rest areas. I plopped the laptop on the hood and pecked away. Thank you Hawkeyes.

We’re staying across the road from the Nebraska State Penitentiary!

The goal is another 600 mile day tomorrow which would bring us past Denver and through the Rockies. With Nebraska’s speed limit set at 75 mph (meaning a cruising speed around 83 mph) it’s easily doable.

&#185 – Mishawaka is best known as the home of Ann Nyberg’s sister.

You Have No Idea How Pissed I Am!

You have no idea how pissed I am at the moment. In the general scheme of things this is small peanuts–stick with me anyway.

A little while ago I posted my entry on the JDRF walk. A few minutes later a comment from “Alyssa” showed up.

that is a really great cause.

I was looking for something to donate to this year and I think I might have found it.

I read that and felt pretty good. Wouldn’t you? My little blog will benefit kids (and adults) with diabetes.

As is always the case Alyssa’s comment was accompanied by her email address. As is sometimes the case the address of her website was included too.

I wanted to see who this philanthropist was so I entered the URL.

Oh, I saw!

Splayed down the page was picture after picture of a young woman in various states of undress.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no prude. What adults do is their own business–even on the ‘net. And this stuff was tame compared to other things I’ve stumbled over.

Maybe Alyssa was making a contribution from the fruits of her self-shot labor?

I clicked one of photos. The link made it look like it was fetching data from elsewhere on the site, but what it really did was transfer me to a ‘cheaters’ dating page. Its title reads: “World’s Best Personals for Sexy Adult Dating.”

Here’s what was going on:

  • “Alyssa” got her URL on my site… and in a flattering way likely to get clicks.
  • People on my site go to her site to learn more about this fine woman.
  • Finding ‘almost porn’ they click to see more. (Sorry, human nature trumps all)
  • Surfers now end up on the dating site which pays “Alyssa” cash for each hit!

The reason I know this is ‘affiliate referral spam’ is because “Alyssa’s” URL is embedded in the dating site’s URL.

I have run a website for nearly a decade. I understand comment spam and do my best to prevent it. Comments like this are deleted all the time.

What gets me now is this piece-of-crap… let’s call him Brad (because I suspect I’ve figured out who Alyssa really is&#185)… playing the part of “Alyssa” tried to promote his scam using kids with diabetes. Is there no decency? Seriously.

Even worse, the comment was obviously written by a human, meaning someone consciously knew they were promoting hinky stuff through sick kids.

How ticked would you be?

Blogger’s note: I removed the offending links and left Alyssa’s comment so you could see.

&#185 – I’ve changed my mind. Brad probably didn’t do this directly. Most likely he sold someone (someone in Illinois I think) the ‘formula’ to do it. I found his sales pitch promoting this spam on another site.

Harry Kalas

His voice was deep and multi-tonal with the syrup of a southern accent, though he was from Naperville, Illinois. He did not have the precise pronunciation classically associated with the big v/o talent. He had excitement. His call was always in-the-game.

Harry_kalas_with_whitey_1980.JPGI am obsessed with voices. It’s an insecurity thing. When I was in radio the tone of my voice was often called into question. My station in Philadelphia considered electronically lowering the pitch when I moved to mornings so I’d sound like an adult.

I follow voices. I listen to commercials and promos and know who I am listening to. Oh–Randy Thomas, or Will Lyman, or Hal Douglas, or Rick Allison. I recognize their work.

We lost one of those voices yesterday when Harry Kalas collapsed in the Washington National’s press box and later died. Kalas was the voice of Notre Dame football, NFL Films, Campbell’s Chunky Soup and most importantly, the Phillies. He’d been called the games nearly 40 years.

His voice was deep and multi-tonal with the syrup of a southern accent, though he was from Naperville, Illinois. He did not have the precise pronunciation classically associated with the big v/o talent. He had excitement. His call was always in-the-game.

Baseball play-by-play must be a great job. Those who do it often do it long past the point others have retired. Kalas was 73.

I used to enjoy listening to the Phillies games as Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn would chat-it-up. Often the Phil’s had less than a stellar team, but the conversations (sometimes only peripherally attached to baseball) that surounded the balls-and-strikes made it interesting and kept me involved.

Every baseball broadcaster seems to have a signature call. For Kalas it was, “Swing…and a long drive, watch this baby, outta here! Home run .” I wish I could have written those words as spoken. When Kalas said them they were a brightly lit, oversize exclamation point.

Harry Kalas will be missed. I don’t like change.

The Friend Quandary

The bigger question is, who has the time to constantly monitor all of these darn sites?

Are you on Facebook? How about Linkedin? Me too. My friend Jon Wolfert responded via email a few days ago after I tried to connect via Linkedin.

OK, we’re “LinkedIn” now, but I really have no idea what to do with this site. A few months ago I played around with Facebook, mainly because I wanted to see some photos Melissa [his daughter] had posted on her page, and I find that is easier to deal with than this place. But even there I have a seemingly incompatible mix of family, friends and business types.

The bigger question is, who has the time to constantly monitor all of these darn sites? -j

He’s right. It’s a fulltime job.

I forgot to mention Twitter. I’m on Twitter too, but when I tweet it’s automatically relayed to Facebook. Two birds with one stone.

Who should be my friend? Lots of strangers ask. I’ve tried to limit my friendliness to people I actually know–but I don’t want to offend.

If you’re not on Facebook I should explain. Facebook has added one thing life has always needed–an ignore button!

I actually find Facebook reasonably useful. I am watching a community of people I know. Facebook cleverly gives me the opportunity to squelch or amplify certain people without their knowledge.

Now I can look friendly without having to actually be friendly!

I guess there’s also the stalker aspect of this. I know who your friends are. I know where you’ve been. I see pictures from your fun times… and your drunk times. I’ve seen pictures of your friends too.

But I am still in a quandary about who to accept as my friend. I want to be friendly, just not too friendly. Maybe I should take the advice of soon-to-be-former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:

“I’ve got this thing and it’s f***ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f***in’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there,”

Maybe not.

She’s Gone

Am I now just well trained?

Helaine left yesterday for St. Charles, IL. Stef joins her tomorrow. Our cousin, Melissa, is also there. The house will be quiet this weekend.

I came home last night and made my unmade bed–then wondered why? Am I that well trained?

Back To The Sunshine State

I’m writing this while on my way to Florida – again. This time it’s with Helaine and Stef, and this time it’s a more pleasant occasion – my mom’s birthday.

Because of where Steffie goes to school and because you can fly to West Palm Beach non-stop, we’ve opted to fly from Islip’s MacArthur Airport on Lawn Guyland.

This is an interesting airport in an interesting place. It is hemmed in on all sides by the sprawl that Long Island’s become. In that way, there are similarities to Midway Airport in Chicago.

We found our way to the remote long term parking, right on the airport grounds, and waited no more than a minute for the shuttle. The terminal was another minute or two away.

From a distance the terminal looked large. That perspective remained as we pulled up, except now it reminded me of the airport in Rockford, IL.

Stick with me on this.

In Rockford, the airport is large, but usage is not. Same here. Judging by the TV screens, nearly all the flights are operated by Southwest. The few USAir and Delta flights smelled of commuter plane routes. This is an airport where 737’s share the taxiways with Cessna 150s.

As we pulled away from the gate, I saw all six Terminal A gates and jetways. They were all vacant. It’s a shame (though nearby Islip residents might not agree with me on that).

Our flight headed southwest down Runway 24, took off and turned east. We flew over the center of Long Island. Off to the south was Fire Island. North was Long Island Sound and Connecticut.

I don’t know that much about Long Island landmarks, but I was able to pick out Brookhaven Airport, an abandoned Naval airfield and Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach before we turned south, heading over the Atlantic in the general direction of Florida.

The flight was a non-event until the last few minutes. With towering thunderstorm clouds on either side of the plane, the pilot came on the PA. The rest of the flight was going to be “very bumpy.”


On went the seatbelt signs. The flight attendants were asked to take their seats. We headed down.

It wasn’t as bad as the pilot let on. It wasn’t too smooth either. We landed 15 minutes early.

It’s nice to see my folks, even though it’s only been a few days since I last saw them. Florida, as it turns out, has changed. It’s much more humid. Much.

For dinner tonight, we headed south to Boca Raton and a place called Stir Crazy. I forgot to bring “Clicky.” A shame, because this was a very photogenic place.

Basically, you choose your protein and vegetables and then watch as your dinner is stir fried while you stand and watch. Pretty cool. Very tasty.

I’m bushed.

Computers Can’t Be Trusted

“Computer problem.” I’ve heard those two words a million times. Mostly, it’s a crock. Computer problems aren’t usually computer problems but problems which appear when humans operate computers. In other words, it’s mostly human error.

Computers only do what they’re told. Hardware failures that allow them to run amok are relatively rare. It’s that fingertip/keyboard interface where all the trouble arises.

With that perspective, it’s off to Chicago where, earlier this week, WGN radio found itself broadcast all over the radio and TV dial. I was tipped off to this story by Adam Chernow in Wisconsin, but I’ll quote the Chicago Tribune:

In the parlance of the Cold War era that spawned the federally mandated Emergency Alert System, launch codes were issued throughout Illinois on Tuesday morning, automatically pre-empting dozens of radio and television stations as if the region faced nuclear annihilation.

Rather than President Bush reassuring citizens after an atomic blast or some other calamity, the audience of many Chicago outlets was treated to the sound of dead air followed by the voice of WGN-AM 720 morning man Spike O’Dell struggling to figure out what had happened.

It turns out O’Dell’s pair of brief surprise appearances between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on everything from local public broadcasting to music stations — an “unintentional disruption,” a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman called it — stemmed from a FEMA contractor’s installation of the state’s Emergency Alert System satellite receiver in Springfield as part of a nationwide upgrade.

If the contractor had asked me to call all those stations, I would have pointed out the error of his ways. Computers are more obedient and, unfortunately, don’t question authority!

Why do we do this? Why do we allow an automated system take control so an errant human can cause chaos?

I know why. I was there the morning the old system failed!

It was February 20, 1971. As I remember, it was a sunny and mild winter’s day. I was working as a disk jockey at WQXT, located right on the ocean in Palm Beach, Florida. Life was good.

At 9:33 AM a series of ten bells rang out from the Associated Press teletype. Ten bells was the signature for a national emergency, an EBS alert… but this was Saturday at 9:33 AM. They tested the system every Saturday at 9:33 AM.

Somewhere deep within Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, a technician put the wrong put tape in his teletype. Instead of sending the test, he sent the real thing!

From Wikipedia: An EBS activation message authenticated with the codeword “HATEFULNESS” was sent through the entire system, ordering stations to shut down and broadcast the alert of a national emergency. A cancellation message with the wrong codeword was sent at 9:59 AM EST, and a cancellation message with the correct codeword was not sent until 10:13AM EST.

Most radio and TV stations did nothing! They had no way of knowing the message was wrong. In fact, every indication was it was real.

In my case, I heard the bells and disregarded them. It was test time. I heard those bells every Saturday morning.

By the time I looked at the teletype, the alert had been corrected. The few people listening to my little radio station were well served because I totally screwed up!

After that debacle the government worked to change to a better, faster, more streamlined, heavily automated system. And yet, with this week’s problem, the cause was exactly the same – human error.

It’s this automated system that has sometimes allowed cable companies to cut my television station’s audio as they run emergency crawls… even though we’re giving emergency info when they kill our audio!

Society has become so complex, we can’t operate without computer assistance. Unfortunately, that has forced us to put much too much power in someone’s fingertip. The folks in Chicago understand.

It’s Wisconsin

I’m writing tonight from a motel in Mequon, WI – just north of Milwaukee. The story of the day is the trip here.

We left Connecticut on Southwest’s 12:50 PM flight to Chicago’s Midway Airport. Driving to the airport, parking and boarding was no problem. In fact, somehow Helaine has gotten off the TSA’s ‘frisk me every time’ list. We don’t know how.

Thunderstorms were expected this afternoon in Connecticut (and from the radar, it looks like much of the state got hit). That meant building clouds as we flew west and a very bumpy ride.

It didn’t much matter, because no sooner had we left the ground than I had my ‘ox yoke’ on and was snoozing. That lasted nearly 45 minutes, which was when someone right behind us began sneezing.

These weren’t dainty achoos. This was projectile sneezing! Then another nearby voice loudly complained that someone else had spilled a drink on him.

There would be no more sleeping for me.

We were on time into Midway. I know the airport because I’ve seen it so many times from Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. From the air it looks like a square plot with criss crossing runways.

Since it’s the second airport in Chicago, I expected it to be a small facility. Houston’s like that with Hobby versus IAH. I could not have been more wrong. I was very surprised.

While Helaine and Stef went for the bags, I headed to Hertz to fill out the paperwork for our car. Helaine had found an unbelievable deal on Hotwire – better than half off anything else available.

Before I go on, let me mention the obvious. It could have been named Pleasant Experience Rent-a-car. It was not. Though an alternative spelling was used, Hertz pretty much sums up my experience today.

There were two people behind the counter and somewhere between 15 and 20 in line when I arrived just before 2:15 PM! Though two others would be added to the staff, it took a full hour (almost to the minute) before I was served.

The woman behind the counter was nice enough. She slavishly asked each insurance and gasoline question, though she must have known from my answer to question one that I was saying no to everything.

About three quarters of the way through the process, a woman came up behind her and whispered in her ear. Helaine heard the words, “emergency at home.” In a flash she was gone.

Her replacement came out a few minutes later. The first thing we noticed about her was that she didn’t seem to notice us. It was as if we were totally invisible.

She immediately set out to clean her area. She rearranged papers, moved things, lowered the computer keyboard, sanitized the desk. When she finally looked up at us, she said, “Do you think I have a problem?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her how many paragraphs she’d get. Helaine looked at me and said, “This is going in the blog.”

You betcha!

Our car is a Buick La Cross. You know, it’s not bad. Good going GM. It’s got comfortable large seats and a good size tunk… though without a light (or at least a working light).

We headed north for Milwaukee. Midway is an old airport, shoehorned in by neighborhoods that have grown around it. Traffic was heavy and slow as we moved down busy Cicero toward I-55 South.

The idea was to skirt around Chicago and avoid the traffic. Still, it’s disconcerting to get on the ramp for I-55 toward St. Louis.

We took I-55 to I-294, the Illinois Tollway. Illinois has its own RFID toll system – I-Pass. I don’t have one. I should have thought about that before I got caught in an I-Pass only lane! I’ll let you know when they catch up with me and send the bill.

The traffic was horrendous. We stopped more than once. At other times we were cruising along at 4 or 5 mph.

In case you’ve never been to the Midwest, a little physical description: nondescript. It is much less green than Connecticut. The vegetation is significantly more scrubby. There are probably other locales less physically stirring. I just can’t think of any off hand.

Somewhere in Northern Illinois things lightened up and we started to move nicely. The three of us were happy…then a police car raced by… and another.

North of Milwaukee a tanker truck was on the center divider. A set of wheels was at a 90&#176 angle to the truck and connected to nothing. Good grief – another half hour lost I’ll never get back.

We did finally make it to the hotel and dinner with my folks, sister and brother-in-law.

Honestly, I’m so exhausted right now the story will just have to wait.

Storm Prediction Center Gets Scared

I usually take a casual look at the maps from the Storm Prediction Center. In this day of weather specialization, these guys watch for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

In the past I have been critical of their work in the Northeast where severe weather responds to different stimuli than in the Plains. They do a good job in giving people like me a ‘heads up.’ We’re much better off with them, than without them. More flexibility in issuing watches here would be helpful.

I’ve watched with great interest over the past few days as they’ve posted a high risk outlook for severe weather over a large area. ‘High risk’ and ‘large area’ are rare and usually mutually exclusive.


WOUS40 KWNS 151652




1052 AM CST TUE NOV 15 2005

VALID 151652Z - 160045Z























The operative words are “strong” and “long track.” That’s the recipe for disaster.

So far, there’s been one report of 65+ knot wind in Southwest Missouri. The day is young.

This weather system gets to us in Connecticut tomorrow. To quote Dorothy, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” There will probably be storms, just not as intense or with as much damage.

Meanwhile, if I were in the bullseye on the SPC map, I’d be sweating bullets today. Someone’s going to get hurt, or worse.

The Cracker Barrel Experience

Helaine was away this past weekend, at concerts in Illinois and Indiana. She and her friend Renata put a few hundred miles on a rental car out of Chicago.

As they drove through the countryside (certainly beyond the edge of civilization) they looked for a spot to eat. Somehow, early in the trip, they ended up at Cracker Barrel.

For the uninitiated (and until an hour ago, that included me) Cracker Barrel is a chain of absolutely identical kitschy restaurants with a country flavor. In the Disneyworld tradition, the only way in or out is through a gift shop!

Helaine ate her first meal and immediately picked up the cellphone. The food was so good… and unhealthy. It was fried and gravied and breaded beyond belief. It was yummy.

On her quick weekend trip she paid three visits to Cracker Barrel! Thank heavens she took a cholesterol test the week before she went.

As you might imagine, Helaine was anxious to get me to share the experience (and, selfishly, return for dinner herself). Tonight was our night, because as it turns out, there’s a Cracker Barrel in Milford just off the Turnpike.

Somehow we had gone through 21 years in Connecticut without seeing more than this restaurant’s sign, sitting high above the Interstate. We had directions, but even then it was a little anti-intuitive. You really had to know where you were going.

We turned into the parking lot, driving past the sign showing buses and RVs where to park. As we walked in, Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” was playing on the ceiling mounted speakers. A group from “Christian Tours” was lining up to pay and leave.

We were escorted to the back room. In the Midwest, this room was a smoking section. Not so in polite New England, where smoking is prohibited pretty much everywhere… certainly everywhere food is served.

Helaine ordered the “Chicken Fried Chicken” and I had an egg and meat platter. I know it’s sacreligous there, but I am still watching my weight.

While waiting, we played a little game, left on the table, with a rectangular piece of wood and plastic golf tees stuffed in holes. The object of the game was to do better than either of us did!

The food came quickly and was pretty good. My eggs arrived with whole wheat toast which allegedly has only 7 net grams of carbohydrates. Helaine’s chicken came with some sort of gooey, sugary, baked apple concoction and gravy thick enough to caulk a bathtub.

Overhead classic country played continuously.

We finished, got up and began to leave. As we did, the table to our side all let out, “Hi Geoff.” Ratted out again!

Dinner for the two of us was around $20 including the rectangular golf tee game Helaine bought to take home.

I suppose if I made the suggestion, Helaine would go back tomorrow night too.

Daylight Saving Time – Not All Is Good

This weekend, we go from ‘standard’ time to ‘daylight saving time.’ I’m sure, today in the newsroom, someone will read a piece of copy and tell someone else it’s ‘saving’ not savings.’ That’s an act as dependable as DST itself.

Like everything else in life, DST has its good and bad points. I like seeing the Sun later in the day, and since I’m asleep most mornings for sunrise (or just getting to bed), that’s all positive.

On the other hand, I work in an environment that is neither on ‘standard’ or ‘daylight saving time’! In order to coordinate weather readings from around the world, everything I use at work is in Greenwich Mean Time also known as Zulu, “Z” or UTC&#185.

Tonight at 7:00 PM, it will be Friday evening for everyone at the TV station except for me. On my weather maps and models it will be 0000Z on Saturday. 0000Z Monday (after the DST switch) will occur at 8:00 PM EDST Sunday.

Confused yet? It’s nuts because every timestamp I look at has to be translated.

Here’s the real downside in weather. Since UTC doesn’t change as EST becomes EDST, all my computer data will start coming in an hour later.

That was once more of a problem than it is now.

With speedier computers crunching the numbers, some data gets to me an hour, or more, sooner than it did just a few years ago. Still, there will be some model information that I’ll have for 11:00 PM and not 10:00 PM and some that will now have to be ‘flash’ absorbed minutes or even seconds before air.

There is one thing that happens every year on the switch back from ‘daylight saving time’ to ‘standard’ that does irk me. It has to do with smoke detectors and batteries. Though it’s six months in the future, let me get it off my chest now.

It’s not necessary to change your batteries every year and it smells very much like a ploy to sell batteries – nothing more.

I searched Google for the words “batteries smoke detector fire chief,” went to the first link and came up with this quote from the town of Elmwood Park, Illinois.

Change Your Smoke Detector Batteries

The IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs) and fire experts nationwide encourage people to change smoke detector batteries at least annually. An easy way to remember to change your batteries is when you turn your clock back in the fall. Replace old batteries with fresh, high quality alkaline batteries, such as energizer brand batteries, to keep your smoke detector going year-long.

Hmmm. Energizer should have a capital “E,” but you get the point. Whose behind this: battery manufacturers. They have found a way to make money by claiming batteries have a shorter life than they really do!

This is not a lone example. I feel the same way about optical companies collecting unused glasses for charity. I’m not saying the concept is wrong – it isn’t. It’s just when people with an economic interest get involved and try to look like altruistic players, it upsets me. Why would it be in the optical industry’s interest to make sure you don’t have a spare pair of glasses?

Before you say I’m heartless, let’s look at smoke detectors. They ALL have circuitry which makes them chirp or beep as the battery is beginning to wear out. In fact, if you’ve ever heard one, they’re pretty touch to ignore! A smoke detector battery should last years, not need to be changed each year.

Some smoke detectors now have batteries that last 5 years or more!

OK – that’s it. I’m done. I need to go and start banking sleep now for the hour I’ll lose Sunday.

&#185 – UTC stands for Universal Coordinated Time. The acronym is based on the French translation, hence the seem out of place in English.

Rockford, Rickford… What The Heck, They’re Back

When you’re a fan… a rabid fan… you will move heaven and Earth. I guess that’s the best way to put Helaine and Stef’s trip to Rockford, Illinois into perspective. They are rabid Rick Springfield fans. You remember, the Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Talk to Strangers guy?

I’m not sure I would travel to Rockford for the ‘cup of coffee and danish’ period of time they were there. On the other hand, I don’t hang out online with people who decided to call it “Rickford” or “The Rickdom.” They do.

Tonight they’re back home.

For Rick Springfield, the venues are no longer giant stadiums and arenas. However, a dedicated. screaming crowd – mainly women – is still there and as Helaine’s license plate frame says, “Rick Rocks.” He has moved into the retail world of rock and roll where the contact with fans is a little more manageable and the touring a little less frenetic.

I’m not sure how Rockford got involved in this, but the classic and freshly refurbished Coronado Theater was chosen to be the site of a concert/DVD taping. Steffie and Helaine could not resist.

I have asked them in the past how many of the attendees of a Rick Springfield concert have been to see him before? Most. How many have seen him a dozen times or more? Lots.

I know for this concert, women were traveling from all across the US and parts of Europe. That’s rabid fans!

Over the past few years Helaine has gotten more involved in the infrastructure of his fan base, becoming a “Street Team” manager who helped in the promotion of his last CD. For this concert, Helaine and Amy, the Street Team national manager, organized a charity luncheon for 150 guests.

I watched over the last few weeks as faxes and emails and phone calls moved back and forth from the hotel in Rockford&#185 to our house in Connecticut. The fact that Helaine is extremely organized and probably could visualize what she wanted, didn’t hurt.

It was a thing of beauty. Helaine is modest and very talented in this regard. I’m not quite sure how she did it, but I’m proud she did.

Stef pitched in, helping register the attendees as they came in… and finally associating faces with some of the names she’s seen online.

From what I hear, the luncheon went off without a hitch and with the money collected through raffles and auctions of Rick Springfield oriented ‘stuff,’ around $18,000 was raised for the Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross.

Helaine says Rick, who came to the luncheon for a few minutes and ended up spending around an hour, was taken aback by some of the prices paid for tickets and ‘meet and greet’ access.

They said the concert was great — but they always do! The proof will be in the DVD, whenever that’s issued, and the HDTV concert that will also be broadcast.

I think ‘being’ Rick Springfield is a good and lucrative business. He has to look at it differently than he did when he was a soap star and avoiding having his clothes torn off. He understands what his product is and who is buying, and he delivers. In the few times that I’ve been around, he seemed to genuinely enjoy what he’s doing.

When people find out Helaine and Stef are big fans, they are often surprised. Rick Springfield is no longer a household word. Who would expect a 21st century fan base? In fact, in this morning’s New York Times his name was used as a contrast the modernity of today’s MTV.

It was not meant to be complimentary.

MTV’s durability at the place where the fickle music business and the protean television trade intersect can be attributed to a singular mind-set: its 24-year-long insistence that the channel itself is the star. The Rick Springfields of the world can rise and fall, but MTV endures.

The problem is, even without the hits, he’s a talented guy who was a musician before he was a soap opera star. His success is now different, but there’s no denying, it’s still success.

&#185 – You would think a hotel in Rockford would be thrilled to get what amounts to convention-like business, on a weekend, in the dead of winter. They did and I’m told it showed.

Hurricane Alex

This link will get stale quickly, but right now, Hurricane Alex looks amazingly potent as it moves just off the North Carolina coast. The weather website at College of DuPage in Illinois has some of the best imagery for this.

Blown Out of Proportion

I got an email this morning from a mailing list at Sky and Telescope Magazine run by Cary Oler:

It is remarkable how often the news media take scattered facts, throw

them together incorrectly and then claim authenticity. Such was the case in

abundance for the space weather storm of 24 October. Media reports that this

storm would be a “perfect storm” or the “once in a 100 year event” were

shamefully inaccurate.

I guess I was one of those taken in. But why? I’m usually pretty cynical of these things, even when the Drudge headline said ‘Perfect space storm’ coming to Earth… ” I still did loads of research on-line trying to understand what was going on.

If this wasn’t big, then NASA’s website wasn’t helping:

This week researchers have been observing an enormous sunspot the size of Jupiter. As a result of associated flares, NOAA predicts strong geomagnetic storms to hit Earth on Friday with the potential to affect electrical grids and satellite communications. Aurora may be visible as far south as Oregon and Illinois. Meanwhile, scientists are watching another large sunspot rotate toward us with potential for even more powerful and prevalent explosions.

And, from another NASA site:

Earlier this week, a large sunspot region caught the attention of many sungazers around the world. Sunspot region 10484 was associated with several powerful solar flares, including one X-class event (the most powerful category). The sunspots in the region covers more than 1700 millionths of the visible solar surface, or 10 times the surface of the entire Earth!

But hold on! Another region, number 10486, has rotated onto the solar disk, showing even more signs of activity. And this particular region caught the attention of solar physicists while it was still on the far side of the Sun! In the MDI instrument’s far side imaging pictures, it showed considerable development over a short period of time. The rapid growth was noted by KehCheng Chu of Stanford University, but the fact was not widely publicized. “The data were a bit scarce, and there was a chance that the images were influenced by this,” says Phil Scherrer, Principal Investigator for MDI.

The speculations have been vindicated by a lot of activity (including an even stronger X flare) coming from this new region. Although not quite as large in sunspot area (1160 millionths of the visible surface), it is still considered somewhat more likely to produce the most powerful flares.

I’m not upset that I got to talk about the flares and sunspots. There’s great supporting video and hopefully people got a little more understanding of what’s going on in space. I’m more worried that people in the scientific community are willing to exaggerate.

Science is the last place that should happen.