Judging’s Not For Me

Right now, I would like to take a nap. My whole body is bloated. I wish I had some Alka Seltzer

I did a live shot on-the-air this evening. That’s become more of a rarity as my boss strives to separate ‘Fun Geoff’ from ‘Weather Geoff’.

PIC-0088This was the annual “Taste of the Nation,” which benefits the Connecticut Food Bank and other charitable endeavors. It all took place at the Omni Hotel at Yale, in Downtown New Haven.

The live hits were fun, for a variety of reasons. First, I enjoy having the opportunity to play around a little while on-camera. Second, I tried to solve a techno challenge and succeeded.

Until now, there was no way to control my weather equipment from the field. I’d cue the director, who would cue the floor manager, who would push my weather graphics button. Often, there was missed communication, which took me out of sync with what was on the screen.

This evening, I brought in a laptop, connected using the venue’s wireless Internet cloud, and used logmein.com to bring my weather computer’s screen and controls to the laptop in the field. Though it won’t show me the actual high-res graphic I’m displaying on the air, every other part of the system’s back end was there.

This was a huge burden off my shoulders. It worked perfectly.

PIC-0090After the news, I assumed my second job of the evening – judging the food. I had been volunteered for the job. Who knew how difficult judging is?

I’m not talking about the qualitative judgement. That’s not the tough part of judging. The tough part is the shear quantity of restaurants and food. I had to sample some of everything!

Right now, I would like to take a nap. My whole body is bloated. I wish I had some Alka Seltzer.

I guess I’m the wrong guy to recommend for Iron Chef.

Peter Comes To Visit

My friend Peter is coming to visit tomorrow. He’s due to arrive late tomorrow afternoon (though with Amtrak involved, it could be any time tomorrow evening too).

Like many of my friends, Peter is really smart, computer friendly and sports adverse. An article in a New York City newspaper, written while Peter was in his late teens, referred to him as a ‘boy genius.’ He might still be a boy genius – who can tell?

I know Peter a really long time. We first met on a Sunday afternoon in 1973 at the WGAR studios in suburban Cleveland. Peter was working for our sister station (WNCN) and came by to help my boss analyze the ratings book.

Peter brought his calculator with him, a humongous HP that probably cost a week’s salary. It was the first calculator I’d ever seen! I was in awe.

I next ran into Peter in 1975. He was assistant program director at WPEN in Philadelphia. It was primarily because of Peter I was hired. Later he became my boss.

Working for a friend isn’t as easy as it sounds. You really have to separate the two relationships. A friend doesn’t make value judgments about your performance. A boss does.

I was a thin skinned employee in a business where thicker skin is an asset. Peter was a straight talking boss in a situation where a little softening would have been welcomed.

We have stayed best friends all his time.

Peter left Philadelphia, moved to Providence, back to the Philly suburbs and now lives in a small town (which has the word city in its name) just south of Atlantic City. I left Philadelphia for Buffalo and now Connecticut.

Helaine must like Peter. Not only did she bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, she hid them so I couldn’t have any! Seriously.

I noticed they weren’t on the counter last night. After looking in the usual places, and coming up blank, I gave up. This morning, Helaine confirmed my suspicions.

I’m not sure what we’re gong to do over the weekend. The only real planned event is a trip to the trolley museum in East Haven where they’re letting me drive a trolley. Hopefully, Peter can drive too.

We also have reservations for Sunday brunch atop the Omni Hotel in New Haven. With snow forecast for Sunday, the view might not be the best.

There’s not much I’m sure of, but I do know Peter likes brunch.

I’m looking forward to seeing Peter. I just hope I can keep him from being bored.

Old Buildings

I had some meetings today on the 19th floor of the Omni Hotel in New Haven. If you’re reading this from out of town, 19 stories is pretty tall for us. There are only two or three taller buildings here.

During some lulls I looked down at the city. New Haven is loaded with old buildings, most with beautiful features. With the resurgence of Downtown New Haven, many are in the midst of conversion from business to residential.

Obviously, as techniques have changed, so has construction. No one is putting up these little three and four story structures anymore.

Each one, almost without exception, had intricate work on the facade. Many still had the name of the company they were built for.

Who put up the Johnson Building? I have no idea, but Johnson lives on with his name permanently affixed.

Sometimes the name of the company is tough to see. There’s one building which was home to a coal company. You can’t read all of it, but “COAL” shows through.

A few days ago I walked by what probably was the headquarters of the water company, when it was a private entity… and a whole lot smaller than it is now.

This is a blog entry which calls out for photos. I apologize they’re not here. I’ve got to take my camera and capture some of this old school ambiance. Who knows how long any of it will last?

What upsets me is how easy it is to walk by this stuff and never see it! That’s what I’ve been doing for years. In that regard, I’ve got to change.

Today’s Discovery

I am not at work today. I am one of three members negotiating a new contract between my employer and our union, AFTRA. In its annual report, my bosses claim good employee relations, and I can’t dispute that. These are not ‘to the mats’ sessions.

I’m not going to talk about the negotiations.

After today’s session, the three of us and our union rep headed out for a quick bite and strategy session. At a nice new casual restaurant on Temple Street, before my Chicken Caesar arrived, I pulled out my laptop to send email.

I was surprised to see at least eight or nine wireless networks, a few of which were open. I connected to one and hit send.

Earlier, while negotiating at the Omni Hotel, there were even more networks, though none would give me Internet access. I especially liked the one named “Janeisenet.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. This is Downtown New Haven, not Midtown Manhattan. When I opened the laptop, there was no expectation of actually seeing something.

Even here at home, I have seen as many as four unprotected networks show up (all with weak signals). When my Internet service has disappeared, I’ve logged on to at least one of them.

Thanks unknown neighbor.

Over time I expect to see more and more of this free available Internet access. To quote Yakov Smirnoff – “Is this a wonderful country, or what?”

Judgemental for Christmas

My friend Josh Mamis, who publishes the New Haven Advocate, asked me to come to their offices and judge Christmas decorations. Is there a job I am less qualified for?

I said yes.

The Advocate is a weekly tabloid devoted to local arts and entertainment. It is often the best place for ‘bite the hand that feeds me’ expository journalism on local politics and business. I always enjoy reading their longer feature stories.

In the past, the Advocate had been very unkind to my station in a story that I felt was vindictive and a maybe little heavy handed (though they were always nice to me…. even in that article).

Though once locally owned, it recently become part of Times-Mirror which also owns the Hartford Courant and Channel 61.

Josh knows I have a soft spot in my heart for print in general and the Advocate specifically. Though TV has more impact and is much more immediate, the written word has an elegance and permanence that TV can’t touch. That’s probably why I enjoy writing this blog.

I drove into Downtown New Haven and parked under the Omni Hotel. Though cold, today was a beautiful day with high thin cirrus clouds adding some texture to an otherwise blue sky.

It is only in the past few years that New Haven has had a first class hotel downtown. I popped up to street level through the hotel’s lobby and walked around the block to the Advocate’s offices. They are located on the 11th floor of a building over what was the Chapel Square Mall. The building had fallen into disrepair, but looked very good today. Obviously, someone has spent the money to try and turn it around.

The mall is long gone – a failure through a few incarnations. I was surprised to hear it had been converted to upscale apartments. What was the actual mall is now an enclosed courtyard with an open air roof and apartment entrances. Upscale apartments going into Downtown New Haven (and now a 4-screen artsy movie theater down the block) is another very good sign for the city.

Josh’s office is near the receptionist and has a killer view of the Green and then north to East Rock&#185. Very impressive… especially so with today’s weather.

We schmoozed for a few minutes and then it was on to the judging. To my eye, Christmas lights around Connecticut seem to less visible this year. The Advocate’s office maintained that trend. There really wasn’t a lot of cubicle decorating, though I did pick a winner.

The winning cubicle featured a very scrawny little artificial tree but lots of other little homemade Christmasy type accoutrements. It was enough to show real holiday spirit. That won me over.

As I walked around the office, saying hi to people and chatting, I noticed someone working on a page from the paper featuring a photo of a group of people. They were from a store called “Group W Bench.”

I smiled… actually chuckled at that name. No one else did. The name “Group W Bench” only meant something to me. My age was showing again.

“The Group W Bench” was made famous in the late 60s by Arlo Guthrie in his song “Alice’s Restaurant.” For 18 minutes Arlo told and sang the story of his arrest for illegal dumping… in the town dump… on a legal holiday… and led to his day at the local draft board.

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten

color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on

the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, “Kid, I want

you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W …. NOW kid!!”

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s

where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after

committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly

looking people on the bench there.

Hey, it was the late 60s! Times were different and this story of a song became huge.

I left the Advocate a little disappointed – not because they didn’t know Arlo, but because there weren’t more decorations to be seen. But I also left feeling a little better (and this is a continuing, incremental process) about New Haven.

&#185 – At the end of the last ice age, as the ice retreated, huge chunks of rock that had been pushed forward by the glaciation remained in place. East Rock is one of these steep, sharp rock mountains. It overlooks New Haven Harbor and is a few miles from downtown.

Photoshop Seminar

A few days ago I mentioned the Photoshop seminar I had signed up for. It was at the Omni Hotel here in New Haven.

Though the seminar started at 9:00, I showed up around 10:30. The first hour and a half was optional to me. OK – I didn’t go to sleep until 2:00 AM. I wasn’t rushing out of bed.

The seminar was actually a computer generated video presentation. The screen was large, the sound was good. I was able to follow along from my seat halfway back in the room.

There were a few times when I wanted to raise my hand and ask for something to be explained… for the presentation to be rewound. Of course, that’s not possible with this kind of setup.

I took some notes – not enough. I think I learned a lot. It wasn’t as much specific techniques as it was understanding how some tools were used conceptually. Now I have to experiment.

My $25 was money well spent. During our lunch break I went around New Haven taking photos. Later tonight I’ll post them and some observations about the city.