Not The Worst Storm–The Worst Time

Travel on Wednesday will be demanding. Air travel will present its own special hell.

Model Analyses and Guidance

I continue to look at the numbers for Wednesday’s storm in the Northeast. Not the worst, but certainly at the worst time. Wednesday. Day before Thanksgiving. You get it.

By this time all the TV mets should be saying the same thing. The guidance is straightforward and consistent.

The exact numbers don’t matter. There will be enough to plow inland. On the shoreline slushier.

Rain then snow in DC before dawn. By sunrise I-95 will be wet from Ft. Lauderdale to Fort Lee!

In Connecticut the action begins in the morning. Schools and businesses might have to make decisions before there’s anything falling.

The snow (and mixed precipitation on the shore) will continue until around midnight before tapering to snow showers and flurries.

Travel on Wednesday will be demanding. Air travel will present its own special hell.

Our spare bedroom is available.

About My Mom

In the back of my mind I understand she is likely to return to where she was a few weeks ago. Still this recent change has been nothing short of miraculous and totally unexpected.

Early in October I wrote about my mom. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Changes in her were noticeable and troubling. Over the last two weeks things have changed again… rapidly… for the good. None of us quite know what to make of this.

The long term plan has been for our little family to get together for Thanksgiving. My sister’s oldest daughter has just given birth to my parent’s second great grandchild. It’s a joyous time. How often could all of us (including Stefanie) be in one place?

The worry was how my mother would travel? We all assumed she and my dad would not be able to attend.

They flew in this past weekend. The trip went well. They’re at my sister’s home.

That’s not the startling part.

When I wrote in October my mother was speaking in monosyllables. She was answering questions with single word answers. She was not engaging with those around her. She would not maintain a conversation.

All of that has changed!

I first noticed it a few weeks ago. My sister noticed it too.

Yesterday my mom joined a phone conversation and kept up her end admirably. I am ecstatic beyond belief.

We are not naive. No one expects my mom will return to the woman she was ten or fifteen years ago. In the back of my mind I understand she is likely to return to where she was a few weeks ago. Still this recent change has been nothing short of miraculous and totally unexpected.

You have no idea how excited we are to join the family for Thanksgiving.

Harold Fox: Wisdom On Holidays

When I was a kid stores were mainly closed Sunday and holidays. I remember family panic one year when my father forgot to fill the tank before heading out on Christmas. Quaint.

Walmart isn’t waiting for Black Friday. They’ll be open Thanksgiving night at 10:00 PM. That change of business hours is national news.

Helaine saw a billboard proclaiming one of the I-95 outlets will also be open Thanksgiving night. It’s officially a trend.

Maybe I’m the wrong guy to write this. I’ve never gotten up in the middle of the night to get a Black Friday deal (and stomp over my fellow shoppers). I’ve usually worked on Thanksgiving myself.

It’s still troubling.

When I was a kid stores were mainly closed Sunday and holidays. I remember family panic one year when my father forgot to fill the tank before heading out on Christmas. Quaint.

My father worked in retail back then. He sold appliances. The stores he worked in were closed Sundays and holidays, but he saw the trend.

“If you don’t want to work Sundays,” he once said, “don’t shop Sundays!”

Do you want to work on Thanksgiving?

Gobblepalooza Oh-Ten Begins Tomorrow

I’m sure the Pilgrims would have gone to Vegas had they thought of it. They didn’t. We go anyway for Thanksgiving tomorrow and our wedding anniversary Friday.

“Stop at Target.” That was Helaine speaking. I was coming home for dinner and she needed me to make one small detour. Baggage tags needed to be replaced.

Gobblepalooza oh-ten begins tomorrow!

I’m sure the Pilgrims would have gone to Vegas had they thought of it. They didn’t. We go anyway for Thanksgiving and our wedding anniversary on Friday.

We’ll have quite the crew this year. Helaine and I are flying in from Connecticut. Stef’s friend Jenna arrives a few hours earlier from Philadelphia. My cousins Michael, Melissa and their son Max have already driven in from Orange County. Stef will be there too with her boyfriend Dean.

On Facebook she posted:

AHHH less then 24 hrs until Gobblepalooza ’10 in VEGAS with the fabulous Fox fam and the Gayle and Stedman to my Oprah ( Jenna & Dean) Could I be more excited?!

Helaine has been tracking our Bradley/Las Vegas non-stop all week. Headwinds have been strong. Midwest storms have pushed the flightpath north. Since she’s been watching the flight hasn’t made it in under six hours. That’s a long time to be strapped into a 737!

It will be cold in Nevada. Most people think of the desert and 115&#176+ temperatures. Not in late November. We’ll be seeing low 30&#176s at night!

There’s always lots to eat and see and do. I promise lots of pictures and stories.

Why I Never Throw Stuff Out

“Is this yours,” she asked? “Maybe it’s Helaine’s?”

ann's-button.jpgAs is often the case I went to dinner with Ann, Noah and Ted tonight. With a tiny bit of snow on-the-ground I had Helaine’s SUV so I volunteered to drive. On the way back Ann found a button on the car seat.

“Is this yours,” she asked? “Maybe it’s Helaine’s?”

This is Geoff she’s asking, the guy who didn’t always remember his wedding anniversary (uhhhh… late November… around Thanksgiving) or his daughter’s eye color (some pastel, right?)

Ann took the button and placed it in the cup holder for safe keeping. I planned on bringing it into the house when I got home. A small opportunity to be a hero.

Not so fast. I was just commanded to go to the car to get the button. Ann discovered it was actually hers!

This is why I never throw stuff out.

Our Second Day In Las Vegas

Seriously, knowing how Vegas works is invaluable because so much is available if you just ask… and you know who to ask… and you know when to ask.

mirage-view-from-our-window.jpgGood afternoon from Fabulous Las Vegas. Gobblepalooza ’09 continues! We’ve been here a little over 24 hours and have had a great time so far.

Helaine and I have been to Las Vegas many times. We know the city pretty well and we know how the system works.

Seriously, knowing how Vegas works is invaluable because so much is available if you just ask… and you know who to ask… and you know when to ask.

venetian-gondoliers.jpgWe went for dinner with my cousins last night. The restaurant, right across from the gondoliers, was Zeffirino.

Not only was it Thanksgiving, it was Helaine and my 26th wedding anniversary. We tried to keep it low key, but when the two strolling musicians came to the table Cousin Melissa let them know!

Normally Zeffirino serves very nice Italian food. Last night it was buffet style and it was very good–especially the desserts. OK–especially the desserts and lamb chops. Yum.

Fun pastime in Las Vegas. We people watch.

An older man was sitting nearby at a large table family style. He was much older than everyone else and the family with him was quite exotic looking. I’d like to pick an ethnicity, but I can’t.

One of the women was probably his wife and the two other adult women her daughters. Our game was “Try and guess what they see in him?”

Money was the consensus choice.

With only three hours bed sleep and another hour and a half on the plane I was bushed. I was in bed before 10:00 PST. Very early for me.

This morning the six of us went to breakfast at “First” a new cafe in the hotel. Helaine had read very good things, but the service was indifferent and slow.

donuts.jpgAt one point a manager came to the table and I told him–nicely. He said he did want to know and I believe him. Vegas is built on service.

As we finished the meal a batch of freshly made donuts with amazing dipping sauces was brought to the table . For the cost of the donuts he turned a bad experience into a much happier one.

Our breakfasts were very good and we’ll probably go back to see if the service improves. This manager gets a save.

Helaine, Stef, Michael, Max and Melissa headed to the Forum Shoppes at Caesar’s. I went to the Venetian Poker Room for the noon tournament. This is a mid level tournament in a very good poker room.

How are poker rooms different? A good room has comfortable chairs and tables, good dealers and attentive waitress service. Bingo!

I lasted around three and a half hours busting out in 36th place of the original 144. Tonight someone will go home with over $4,900. Not me.

I was very happy with my play. My losing move was an all-in with Ace Jack only to run into an Ace King. Oh well.

I walked back through the casino and put a $20 bill in a slot machine. Within ten minutes I’d (mostly) won back my poker entry fee. Go figure?

We’re having dinner at a Mexican restaurant tonight. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay up a little later than last night.

A Thanksgiving Travel Tip

This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

empty bdl terminal.jpgAs we kick off Googlepalooza ’09 I have a Thanksgiving travel tip. Travel on Thanksgiving! The main terminal at Bradley International is empty. The flight should begin boarding in less than a half hour. There will be plenty of open seats.

Today the TSA agents were so bored they were frisking each other! OK, I made that up. They still had little to do.

I’m on the floor right now, plugged in at deserted and unmarked Gate 5. We leave from Southwest’s Gate 6, across the hall.

The pilot and copilot just wheeled their bags down the jetway to the plane. The pilot’s in his late 40s, graying, built like a linebacker. The co-pilot is youngvand doesn’t have nearly enough seniority to be off on Thanksgiving.

I mentioned this before on Facebook, but it bears repeating. This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

It’s a different vibe at the airport today. There are no business travelers. There’s no one around with that smug frequent flier attitude feigning indifference There are fewer chin held BlackBerrys.

Before we got here we dropped the pup off in Higganum with the couple who bred her. Roxie will be well taken care of and have a lot of new friends by the time her vacation is over.

Stef and Helaine were both worried about their own high emotions, which is why we all went, but everything was OK.

They asked if they could call and check on the dog… every day.

baggage at the curb at BDL.jpgWe are substantial travelers. Our suitcases are packed full. They were weighed at home to assure compliance with the 50 pound limit. They still got the striped “HEAVY” tag. The planeside crew will know the “Schleping Foxes” are taking to the skies.

Especially in the cold months flight times vary with the weather. At the moment this flight is forecast to arrive nearly an hour early. We’ll be up at 40,000 feet. Head winds must be very light.

It’s only 49&#176 in Las Vegas now. That will change quickly. The desert sees wild temperature swings. It will be sunny and in the upper 60&#176s upon our arrival.

I’ve got a movie to watch and plenty of tunes on the iPod portion of the iPhone. I’m also carrying a set of Bluetooth headphones. Mostly I’d like to sleep.

Given half the chance I’d fall asleep right now. With only three hours of rest last night I’m really tired.

The Southwest Seat Assignment Game

I am not the only one playing this game. I’ve been astounded to check in seconds after the process opened and still be close to fifty back!

Thumbnail image for mh_logo_southwest.gif12:29… tic… tic… tic. I’m about to play the Southwest Airlines boarding pass game.

Tomorrow’s our wedding anniversary (and Thanksgiving) and we’re heading west to the sun.

For the three of us to sit together we need to get at least one “A” boarding pass. That one person holds the row for the other two. Southwest hands the passes out beginning 24 hours before the flight–exactly.

I am not the only one playing this game. I’ve been astounded to check in seconds after the process opened and still be close to fifty back! There are some reserved for their most frequent fliers, but not that many.

Not that I’m complaining. By using this method Southwest makes seat assignment a skill position.

Gotta go. Six minutes left.

Update: A31, A51, A54. I hit the enter key at exactly 12:40 PM. We’re guaranteed to fly together. Not bad.

Remember The Toyota Guy?

Helaine and I were lying on the bed watching football (kicked out of the family room by Stef as she caught a Law and Order marathon), when the conversation turned to Toyotathon.

Really. Why would I kid about that?

Toyotathon has been a running joke in our family for years. It was the holiday that followed Thanksgiving.

For years Toyota took advantage of the commercial lull after Christmas to mount a huge TV campaign. Nowadays, the ads are running earlier.

They made one other large change. They stopped using Squire Fridell. I was crushed.

You might not recognize the name, but you’ve seen him tens of thousands of times. He was friendly and energetic. He was the ‘everyman’ who enticed you to Toyota. He was the face of Toyotathon for nearly 30 years!

So, there we were watching football and discussing Squire Fridell when I decided to see what ever happened to him. As is often the case, he wasn’t tough to find.

Squire Fridell is a vintner – proprietor, with his wife, of GlenLyon Vineyards and Winery in Glen Ellen, California. Judging by his picture on their website, he’s doing well and looking healthy.

I don’t know him, but I decided to drop him an email anyway and tell him we’d been talking about him. Who doesn’t like knowing they’re being thought of?

Hi Geoff:

Terrific that I actually REPLACED Christmas! That’s a first….

Life is good out here and the wine is even better!

Come out and visit Sonoma Valley where the weather is something to

enjoy (most of the time) rather than report on…. I’ll show you

around GlenLyon!

Cheers!

Squire, The Ghost of Christmas in The Fox Household

It was nice he wrote back and even better he wrote back cleverly!

I’ve come to the conclusion he really is that nice guy they wanted portrayed on TV… true life typecasting by Toyota. I’m glad I sent the email.

NFL Network Sacked For A Loss

So, it looks like the Patriot – Giants game will be on ‘free’ over-the-air TV (seen mainly on ‘paid’ cable or satellite). Originally it was scheduled to be on the NFL Network alone.

This is a complex story, but it seems the NFL is the real short term loser here.

Basically, the NFL created its own sports network and seeded it with a handful of games. In years gone by, these would have been shown on free TV and, in fact, they were still going to be shown on free TV in the teams’ home markets.

The idea was to force cable companies to carry the network year round. That would be the only way to have access to these individual games. The NFL wanted it to be included on cable as a basic service, like CNN or ESPN and not a pay add-on, like HBO or Showtime.

It was a lot to swallow for a few out-of-market games and lots (and lots) of filler.

Unfortunately for the NFL, the cable companies balked and few fans cared. Did you really miss the Broncos – Texans game on December 13 (or the other random match-ups&#185)?

This would have all passed quietly, except for this weekend and the Patriots going for an undefeated season. Now the NFL had leverage. Fortunately, it blew up in their faces.

Under enormous pressure from Congress on down, the NFL relented. Now, this marquee game will be seen on the NFL Network, NBC and CBS! In Boston and New York City it will be on a fourth station as well! ABC might as well run the “All-Star Salute to Cheese.”

In trying to force the cable companies to carry their network, the NFL didn’t have a leg to stand on because of one other move they’d made: NFL Sunday Ticket.

NFL Sunday Ticket is the NFL’s package, offering every game live. As much as the cable companies and Dish Network want that (and I’d probably buy it), it is only offered on DirectTV.

This is a guess on my part, but I’ll bet Sunday Ticket is the most powerful selling point DirectTV has.

The cable ops (and I) wondered, how the could NFL cry about their fans inability to watch these NFL Network games when it wouldn’t provide all the other games to those same poor fans? This is the definition of chutzpah!

There’s an old story about a guy who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. That’s the NFL!

I don’t know how this will all come out. At some point the NFL will have to accept defeat and decide if this in-house network is really a viable concept.

Is it just me, or is there a cosmic thread which runs through America where we root for the evil, greedy corporation to get its comeuppance. At the moment, I couldn’t be happier.

In the Fox house, we will continue to root against the Giants. The Pats achievement is less important.

&#185 – NFL Network 2007 Game Schedule

Week 12: Thursday, November 22 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons (Thanksgiving)

Week 13: Thursday, November 29 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Week 14: Thursday, December 6 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins

Week 15: Thursday, December 13 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

Week 15: Saturday, December 15 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers

Week 16: Thursday, December 20 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams

Week 16: Saturday, December 22 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers

Week 17: Saturday, December 29 at 8:00 PM ET (Live)

New England Patriots at New York Giants

World’s Greatest Live Shot

I’ve been on a lot of TV live shots. I’ve seen a lot of TV live shots. I’ve watched them come from pretty much everywhere (think South Pole) and under nearly every situation (think reporters on a hotel roof at the start of the first Gulf War).

Yesterday, I saw the best live shot ever.

Now that I’ve hyped it, let me add, it was by no means the most important live shot. What it portrayed was pedestrian. However, I’ve never seen a live report that had so much added just by being live.

Ed Lavandera&#185 works for CNN. He travels all over the country as a general assignment reporter. Yesterday, he flew cross country, joined along the way by his family.

What made my ears perk up was when I saw Ed reporting live, sitting on a commercial airliner at the gate! His infant daughter was in his lap. As Ed spoke, passengers walked by on the way to their seats.

On-the-air, Ed’s video was put inside a graphic, allowing it to be a lot smaller than full screen. That’s one way of lessening the impact of bad quality video. It didn’t make any difference. Content trumps technical quality.

I would guess the video was sent via a high speed cellphone data link. That’s similar to my tethering my phone to this laptop. Exactly what equipment he used and how he accomplished this feat is nowhere to be found. I’d appreciate any insight.

It couldn’t be too incredibly complex, because he was live from the plane, meaning really limited space. His daughter on his lap limited him even more.

What made this live shot so great was his ability to let me experience travel on the day before Thanksgiving. It’s something we’ve all heard about. Few of us have experienced it. There aren’t more planes flying, just more people who seldom fly!

The pre-Thanksgiving rush is something reporters talk about, but never deliver – certainly never like this.

Hats off to Ed and whoever came up with this idea and then executed it.

Blogger’s addendum – The CNN website has a ‘package’ that was assembled from the elements of the trip. Here’s the link, but I don’t recommend it. It absolutely pales in comparison to that one live shot while on the tarmac.

&#185 – Amazingly, on CNN’s own site, Ed’s name is spelled two different ways! I think my choice is right.

Into The Hospital

I don’t remember my father as an early kind of person. He is now – big time.

I went to sleep last night around 3:30 AM. My dad rapped on hard my door around 7:30 AM. He was told to be at the hospital between 9:00 and 10:00 and he was aiming for 9:00… maybe 8:45 AM.

He’s going to the hospital today though his procedure won’t take place until tomorrow. Today is a day for medicating. His angiogram uses a dye which is stressful on his already compromised kidneys. The medicine will reduce that stress.

It’s a 20 minute drive from my parents condo in Boynton Beach to the hospital in Boca Raton. I remembered this hospital from when I lived down here nearly 40 years ago. The area was less congested, more residential, but the hospital building is still intact and well kept.

Boca Raton is different now. We pulled into the valet parking area. A Rolls pulled behind us.

When you check in, you become a part in the massive hospital machine. Hopefully you’re getting the treatment you need, though that result seems ancillary. The hospital is just moving you through the system, in much the same way UPS moves packages.

We walked in and sat in a room where patients are admitted. Wrong room. A volunteer was called to walk us through the maze to the correct admitting room.

After a few questions my dad was led to an alcove screened off with a curtain. There are eight beds in this unit, though none but my dad’s is in use right now as I type.

Two nurses walked in and began to prep my dad in much the same way Swift preps turkeys at Thanksgiving. They were fast and efficient – a well coordinated team. It only took a few minutes for my dad to give blood, get hooked to monitors and receive an IV drip.

While all this was going on his cardiologist walked in.

In our society, we encourage the brightest to become physicians. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, they often are not our most coordinated or athletic. That’s OK for diagnosis, but these doctors are also opening us up and sticking instruments inside our most vital organs. That part has always concerned me.

The plan is for my dad to have his angiogram around 7:30 AM tomorrow morning. Most likely that will be followed by the insertion of a stent.

I asked, and was told, bypass surgery (which my dad had 16 years ago) was an unlikely result. Of course bypass surgery is what worries us.

The nurse informs us that my dad’s room is ready and someone will be down to get him in a little while. His trip through the hospital machine has begun.

Flying Low

NEW YORK (AP) – Macy’s is flying its big balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but they will be kept lower than usual because of wind gusts. The last-minute decision allows Snoopy and the other famous balloons to be part of the annual New York tradition.

The TV was on downstairs and I could swear Ronald McDonald was scraping his knees on Broadway!

I suppose half a loaf is better than none at all. It’s still awful outside.

I woke to the smell of stuffing. Helaine is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us. Maybe three just isn’t enough for a ‘real’ family dinner, but that’s all we’ve got here.

Our dinner will come late – around 7:00 PM. That’s because I’m working. The normal 7:24 PM cut-in has been cut-out, allowing me to split right after the news at 6:30 PM.

I look forward to that.

Darlene Love Kills Again

Though I was taping the performance, I still convinced Steffie to let me come downstairs, interrupt whatever slice of reality was currently airing on VH1 or MTV, and watch Darlene Love perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s last show before Christmas.

This is more than an obsession to me. I start pining for Darlene around Thanksgiving.

Tonight’s performance was great.. spectacular… choose your own superlative.

David Sanborn, who stepped out of a box to play saxophone last year, flew in from the lighting grid this year, ending his solo as his feet hit the ground.

Later this morning I’ll convince Helaine to watch, then I’ll watch again… and again. I’m sure I watched last year’s performance at least 20 times.