Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Love the New Weather Guy

The weekend weather dude on KTVU - Byron Miranda - he is fantastic. I don't know what he knows about meteorology and I don't care.

During an evening news broadcast a few weeks ago as the school year was starting up, the news anchor passed the baton to Byron, asking him to give the back-to-school forecast for the upcoming week.

The camera cut to Byron and he said, and I'm paraphrasing only a little: "That's right kids, stay in school or you'll end up a weather man like me... not that that's a bad thing... I've had a lot of jobs... I was an Oakland cop for a while... they called me Barney Fife... I didn't like that too much... So, let's see what tomorrow's weather will look like..."

It was the best, weird weather intro train wreck I've ever had the pleasure to see on live television. This guy's always seemed a bit weird, but this was above and beyond. I was howling, wondering if he was going to be fired before the end of the broadcast, but no - he's still hangin' on.

Prior to this, his most annoying habit (to me) was repeatedly saying, "So when you head out to Starbucks in the morning for your latte, you're going to want a [sweater] [jacket] [scarf] [etc.]." I thought he must have Starbucks stock.

He's not doing that very much anymore, but it's always exciting to see what his next lead-in might be. "That's right Ken, drug use is a big problem in our country - I've been on meth, H, and the cracked cocaine... So let's see what tomorrow's forecast looks like as you head out to find a hit..."

"Thanks Ken... that toy recall is scary business... That reminds me of a toy I had as a boy - a big, beautiful yellow Tonka dump truck I played with every day, filling it up with my mom's Lee Press-On Nails and dumping them in the backyard... Let's see what tomorrow's forecast looks like as you head out to your local nail salon for that sweet manicure..."

There's some fun chatter on the interweb about Byron and other stations where he's delivered these strange forecasts - sounds like it's always been his unique style of delivery.

This was his last, very serious SEVERE WEATHER TEAM:


Then they photoshopped him out, which just seems cold (and lazy) and the dude on the right came down to just over 7' tall:

And then they became Men's Wearhouse spokesmen with the guy in the middle still a big bigger than his colleagues, clearly bigger than the guy on the left - no doubt as to who runs that weather team:

Anywho - good luck to you Byron. I can't believe they let you go on camera unsupervised, but it sure has added some fun unpredictability to the weekend forecast.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Good golly am I glad to be home. Chicago was great and all, but there is no place at all like home. In the Bay Area. With hills and tall trees and clear skies and the big beautiful bay.

I actually didn't get to see Chicago itself - I was in Rosemont/Des Plains, but there seemed to be no change in the topography no matter which direction I looked. That was weird.

Everyone there is SO nice. Very friendly, down-to-earth people. And I got to eat at the Steak & Shake! I didn't have the shake, but the steak (burger) was good.

There was a greasy-spoon type diner next door to the hotel that delivered, which was nice. The telephone in the room had three buttons for food service: "Pine Grove" (the greasy spoon) and two others that simply said "Mexican" and "Pizza."

I pressed the button for Pine Grove and a hotel employee answered and told me to just call the number on the menu. He must love having that job.

The folks at the restaurant were super nice and my food was good, especially considering how inexpensive it was. A roasted half chicken with vegetables, salad and baked potato, delivered for $15.00. Cheapest room service I've ever had.

When it was time to head home, my new colleagues dropped me off at the O'Hare people mover, which has a large parking area with a waiting area for those being picked up, where you can also be dropped off, aptly named the "Kiss & Fly" area.

We didn't kiss - maybe we'll be ready for that on the next visit - but said goodbye and I went up into the train station. There were two sets of tracks - one on either side of the station - and absolutely no signage on either side as to which track goes to the terminals.

There were electric signs above the doors and when the tram came on one side, the sign said it was going somewhere - not sure what it said - something about concourses - nothing about "terminals" or "airport" or "where the planes are."

I got on & figured I could always jump off & go back the other way if I was wrong. Turned out I was right, but again, no adequate signage or terminology about where it was going and where you might want to get off.

They don't seem to like the word terminal and instead, it's all about concourses - A thru M or whatever - and you sort-of have to know which concourse you need, rather than which terminal - the concourses are in the terminals...

But it looked like AA was in the third group of concourses, so I hoped for the best and got off the tram when I could see similar letters on the signs outside the tram - the announcer/robot never mentioned which airlines one might find at any one stop.

I guessed right and found American Asslines where I was checked in by a very nice woman. I then got to wheel my checked luggage down to an X-Ray area and leave it with some very large Union workers and piles of other bags that all go through the scanner before they go onto the magic conveyor belt.

The X-Ray area looked like an impromptu set-up, right next to the ticket counters with simple fabric dividers between it and all the passers by. No real security to it. I hoped my bag would make it onto the plane, and was very glad I opted to have all my photo equipment shipped.

After all that, I almost didn't make my flight because I got lost amid the dozens of AA gates, but when I found the gate I thought I needed, they'd made a gate change and I had to run from one rambling arm over to another and just made it into the last boarding group.

Once on the plane, it was hard to relax for four long hours - I just wanted to be home already. Flying is sooooo boooooooooring. Thankfully I was next to someone quiet and there was no annoying chit chat. I read my magazines and tried to sleep and took pictures - it helped pass the time.

ginormous maxi pads should be disposed of... somehow... they won't fit inside the washroom, that's for sure.

somewhere over a mountain range

Thursday, September 27, 2007

American Airlines - Almost Unusable

They're little better than getting into a Radio Flyer and hoping someone will pull you down the street to the park.

When we arrived at O'Hare, the space waitress on the plane announced where we could pick up our baggage in the specialized speech reserved for PA announcements that sounds just like the drive-thru speaker.

I kept thinking they'd repeat this information when we arrived at the gate, but no. They were very busy with important things like picking up trash.

Once off the plane, I walked the four miles to baggage claim where there were at least a dozen carousels for AA luggage. Each carousel had big, flat panel screens where you would expect to see your flight and know where to pick up your bags.

Every single flat panel screen showed endless AA ads and if bags were arriving from a flight, for a couple seconds that information would appear on the screen, then quickly be replaced by another round of ads. You had to stand there for a good five minutes to see any actual information.

I gave up and went to the claim desk and asked the automaton to look up the carousel for my flight. She helpfully told me it was 14, but 14 is often broken so it could be 13. Excellent.

I did get my bag, but I've never seen a more inept, annoying use of technology. I want to kick American Airlines in the shins.

How dare you make me stand there and watch your stupid ads when it's after midnight because you delayed the flight without any explanation. All I want to do is get my shit and get to the hotel and sleep. You stink.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Assline Travel

What a treat – flying the wide open skies to destinations hither and yon – I don’t know why I don’t do more of it.

I got to the airport on Tuesday to check in and was told by an enthusiastic “line minder” that I could use any of the available kiosks in front of the check in counter.

While I normally do online check-in or kiosk check-in, this time I had a bag I needed to check (check check Czech) so I wanted a human to do the checking and bag-tagging to ensure the bag would actually have a chance of making it onto the plane.

Last time I checked (check!), I didn't have one of those electronic tag printers nor do I have access to the magic conveyor belt that takes bags through the wall and drops them onto the tarmac.

So, I stood there and waited for the one human at the counter – of 40 or 50 available desks – to check me in and take my bag.

The Line Minder, perhaps bored of telling people they could use the kiosks, said she’d help me and walked me over to the desk. She looked up my flight, found the record number that wasn't available online, checked me in and printed a tag.

The only other human behind the desk picked up the bag tag and absent-mindedly said my name over the desk. I responded that it was mine and she put it on my bag and didn’t say another word.

Was I done? Anything else I need? Do you have everything *you* need? Is that it? I guess we're done. I had my boarding pass and right there in big numbers, the time of my flight – a full hour later than scheduled.

There was no one to ask WTF. Why is my flight now one full hour later than scheduled? Why couldn’t you find this information online where I spent a good 30 minutes trying to look up the flight and check in ahead of schedule?

(To fill the time until boarding, I booted up my computer, and golly - no free wireless at SFO. How is that possible? Of all the airports in the country, how is it that our very own SFO still does not offer free wireless? Gavin, you should be ashamed.)

Why is there NO ONE working where human help is actually important, like at the gate desk, while you have FIVE useless sacks of shite hanging around behind the gate sitting in the airline wheelchairs talking on their cell phones? What are these idiots on the payroll for?

Why am I going to have to schlep my own food and drink on the plane when you could let go of all the dead wood and once again pass out free snacks and sodas? A "turkey wrap" will cost you $5, trail mix, potato chips or a cookie - one cookie - costs $3. What nickel & diming BASTARDS.

I’m amazed that anyone ever flies these airlines anymore when the little guys like JetBlue, Alaska and Southwest have figured out how to at least be more efficient about it, and most of the time it's not a hassle.

I can’t wait for the return flight that will have me seated in cargo taking off four days behind schedule.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chicks & Crime Shows

Why do women like crime shows? I'm one of them - I dig the shows about forensic evidence catching some crazed killer - love that shit - but why?

You can tell there are many of us - all the commercials are for things like diapers, swiffer cleaning gizmos, and maxi pads with wings.

The latest one I just found and love - Haunting Evidence - it's such fun. A medium, psychic profiler and a "paranormal expert" team up to contact the spirits of the murdered to try to find clues that will help solve the cases.

The "paranormal expert" is a hoot. Not sure what the qualifications are, but I might be able to get a job in this field. On the show I saw yesterday, he was pointing out a fuzzy spot on a photo as "clearly a paranormal event."

I've heard stories about other psychics helping to solve crimes - I think it's a great thing. But this Haunting Evidence show needs to start airing update shows if any of their "work" has actually helped solve a case.

So here's what I've learned from all the crime shows I've seen lately, in no particular order:
- If you're a tourist, don't look or act like one - blend in as if you were invisible
- If you're a tourist, don't get lost or drive down streets with only one way in/out
- Don't go out for a hike by yourself - ever - especially in an area that isn't your own backyard, and even then, watch out
- Don't be a female or avoid acting like a female
- Don't be someone's particular type of female or avoid acting like a someone's particular type of female
- Grow eyes in the back and sides of your head
- Know that you are always in danger, always, no matter where you are
- Be stronger than all men in the world - maybe take steroids in addition to working out
- Never, ever, ever get into a car with anyone except your own mother, and even then, be sure she doesn't have the family gun with her and that she's not angry with you
- If you want to kill your wife and throw the cops off your trail, try to write your notes in a different style than your own (this particular show was fascinating - this guy used all negative contractions and no positive contractions in his writing)
- If you leave your bloody palm print on a sheet, they CAN lift that print by removing the repeating pattern of the fabric from the image
- Never, ever, ever pick up some random dude at a highway rest stop for casual sex - gay or straight - it's likely to end badly
- Don't ever stop anywhere for any length of time, ever - always be on the move
- Don't ever get into a dude's car you kind-of know from work, because he's clearly been stalking you under the guise of buying coffee from you, and as soon as he gets you alone he will bash your head into the rocks and throw you into the ocean - see above note about not being female and taking steroids

With all this rich information, I'd like to feel like I'm better prepared to live in the world, but overall, it's really rather depressing. It's great when these guys are caught, but then you think, well there must be hundreds more out there, right?

So, I'll just do what I've always done. Never stop moving and keep taking my roids.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Eyes! MY EYES!

My eyes are getting better - Rx-wise. Every year for the past 3 years or so, my near-sighted Rx gets better, and the left eye that used to be the weaker of the two is now stronger than the right.

My theory? Using a camera a lot more over the past few years has helped my left eye regain some of its long-range focusing power. And now I occasionally shoot with the right eye.

Not spending as much time in front of this idiot box helps, too. And speaking of sight, it's clear the light is already changing - summer is over. I was just getting into it. Bummer.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Laptop

And I don't like it. I like my old one. This one's display is all superbright and kinda cold/bluish, and the touchpad doesn't feel the same, the buttons don't click like I like. The mouse buttons are stupid.

And I had to wait 8 weeks for it. This is where my love of online shopping can be a problem, but I went with a familiar brand. I thought it would be great. Kind-of like the old one, but much faster with better wireless capability.

My old one is so cute - so tiny, so efficient, so portable. Why do they stop making the good ones?

: (

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Photography Training

And I don't mean reviewing f-stops and bracketing.

I had a big job on Friday and by Thursday morning, I realized I'd been preparing for it much like I might a triathlon.

Months earlier I was doing research and talking to other people who have done similar jobs, looking for helpful tips or recommendations. I also enlisted a partner, a very gracious CCraig.

Two weeks before the event we did a scouting trip to check out lighting, possible setups, parking availability and discussed general logistics.

I told my clients I would be unavailable on the day before and day of the event to ensure my schedule would remain stress-free so I could think only about the photo gig.

Early in the week before the job I tracked down all my equipment and gadgets and put them all in one place. A few days later I started charging batteries, organizing lenses, formatting memory cards - making sure I had everything I thought I would need.

Mid week I tested all the equipment, reviewed our test shots from the scouting trip and thought about how to pack it all up in the most logical fashion.

Thursday morning I went for a walk/run and took it easy - it was hot out and I'm still very out of shape - I wanted to get some energy from it, but not get too tired. Thursday afternoon/evening I packed up all my gear in my sweet, rolling bag.

After putting a water bottle into the freezer for the next day, I went to bed early Thursday night and took my time getting out of bed Friday morning. Spent the morning exchanging emails with friends then looked through my wardrobe options.

Another hot day, so the outfit had to be cool & comfortable, but not too casual. Shoes also had to be nice, but comfortable.

When it was time for lunch I thought carefully about what to eat. It needed to have adequate protein for staying power, but not too heavy, and good carbs for extended energy. I made a whole grain pasta dish with albacore tuna.

I grabbed my frozen water bottle out of the freezer and got cleaned up and ready to go. I headed out with all my equipment in tow, bridge toll ready on the dashboard. I was prepared, rested, nourished and well-hydrated.

Now all I had to do was get the shots.

Sound crazy? Probably, but it was a wedding shoot, which I've never done before. For a friend.

Most jobs don't require quite so much thought & planning, but I was hoping all the prep would help me get some good shots for my friends. I think I got a few... so I think it was worth it.