The new TV is here! The new TV is here!

Dozens of new shows are filling the primetime line-up this season, but only one has a huge shadow to live up to…these are their stories.

After the usual eternity that is the summer TV season, new shows are starting to pop back up in primetime. While it’s good to see the old standbys return, this year, I’m focusing most of my attention on Wednesday night’s premier of “Law & Order: Los Angeles.”

I was late to the original L&O party, picking up the show in cable reruns more than 11 seasons into its historic run, but it was quickly added to the watch list. The spin-offs never much appealed to me, aside from one episode of “Criminal Intent” that featured a bit part by a friend of a friend.

So as a new run of NBC’s standby gets ready to begin, I’m intrigued, excited and terrified about the new endeavor. My biggest hope is that it’s the same show with a new cast and a new city. Maybe that will be enough to breathe new life into the show, although maybe it will be the same show with a horrific new cast and all that will be moot. Likewise, my biggest fear is that the producers will abandon the formula that made them successful for 20 years and chase the “crime drama” format that’s been done to death all across the 9pm-11pm time slot.

I guess we’ll find out Wednesday night at 10 pm. Chung-chung.

A city that’s deserved its omelet

Of all the places my wife has dragged me on vacation, Denver is now among my favorites.

If I’m good at one thing around the office, it has to be scheduling my vacations right before holidays and other miscellaneous days off. It seems, without fail, that my vacations always end up in a “2 on, 2 off, 1 on, 8 off, 2 on, 2 off” type schedules. So, to honor the “MondayFriday-ness” of today’s one-day work week, let’s get caught up.

First and foremost, if you’re a music fan, or if you’re not a music fan but have a little bit of room in your soul for an “OMG! Breathtaking!” moment or two, you have to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver. Years ago, my wife said that was one place she always wanted to see a show and was slowly starting to move her plans from seeing “a band she liked”, to “a band she could tolerate”, to “a band she had heard of.”

Then something happened this spring.

Not only was her absolute, top-of-the-list favorite, David Gray, going to play at Red Rocks, but he was splitting the bill with Ray Lamontagne, a solid member of the top five “others” on the list. In fact, the only thing that kept her from likely labeling them one-two is Lamontagne’s less-than-stellar history in live performances. Two out of the three times she’s seen him live, he seemed like he’d rather be elsewhere.

Not last week.

An amazing venue, amazing weather and an outstanding show by two great talents. I’ll go see a David Gray show every time, but it was great to see Ray rock it out and restore my faith in his live abilities.

As for the trip to Denver, I don’t know what it is about my wife and I, but we always seem to come back from a trip with a “no way, really?” type moment (or three). For example, our trip to Japan in June featured an appearance on the Jumbotron at a Yakult Swallows baseball game and a 6 a.m. World Cup soccer celebration in the streets of Tokyo.

In Denver, it might have gotten even a little more out there.

First off, we hit a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field. Beautiful ballpark, with (once the sun went behind the roof) great weather and an exciting game. It would have been enough of an obscurity to see a game that featured three triples, a 2-for-3 performance at the plate by the starting pitcher and Manny Ramirez getting booed, taking a strike and being ejected in about a 30-second window, but toss in a foul ball snagged by yours truly and it was quite a trip just seven hours into the day.

Two days later, we hustled a tour of the Colorado Statehouse into our departure plans. My father-in-law had heard some stories and thought it seemed interesting. Always a bit of a history buff, I learned that the dome is plated in 250 ounces of gold leaf, they used every last ounce on earth of a native stone (a type of red granite, I think?) to fancy up the interior hallways and then there were the west steps.

In 1909, local college students measured the height above sea level and engraved the “one mile high” mark on a granite step on the west side of the statehouse. Sixty years later, they realized they measured it wrong, and placed a plaque two steps higher. Thirty or so years later, Congress decided to “officially” designate sea level and the mark was wrong again. So a final (?) plaque was placed several feet lower on the stairs.

So as excited as you could be to see historical markers, we were geeked. Until we came across the abortion rally blocking two of the three monuments. And it wasn’t just a “hey, hey, ho, ho” type picketing, it was a full-on podium and presentation. With a 2:45 flight and an undetermined drive to the airport, we stretched it out about as long as we could, then as the organizers of the rally finally broke things down (20 minutes after we needed to leave) and we got our picture, in between a throng of locals who didn’t even realize the plaques existed.

So to wrap it up, Denver was awesome. A clean, developing city with generally nice folks (though a few too many exercise nuts for me!) and I’d gladly go back again, especially if I was promised such an awesome concert (and 4th row seats, too!)

Sunday, Random Sunday

Catching up with the old week as a new week gets underway.

A quick round-up as another weekend comes to an end:

-First, the “Observation of the Week” (coincidentally, also the “Animated Holiday TV Special of the Week,” because it’s August, we should start thinking about Christmas already!) goes to the co-worker who compared Colts back-up QB Curtis Painter to Hermey, the elf who wanted to be a dentist in the Rudolph special. Well done.

-Sticking with meaningless football games, NBC play-by-play guy Al Michaels made a curious comment at the end of tonight’s SF-Minnesota game. As the 49ers scored a safety on the game’s final play, changing the final score to 15-10, he laughed heartily and mentioned the final point differential moving from three to five points, and that “some people are not going to be happy with that, while others are going to be very happy” (paraphrased).

Obviously, he was talking about the betting line, which, sure enough, ranged from 2.5 to 3 points, favoring the Niners. First off, anyone who is betting preseason football games deserves to be kicked in the gut by a last-second safety.

But more importantly, how did Al Michaels know the betting line of a preseason game off the top of his head like that? Hmmm….

-In related news, I didn’t investigate the story too deeply, but I thought I heard that Pete Rose, who fought for 20 years to be allowed back around the game of baseball, then was finally given that right (in limited capacity), he says he can’t make a ceremony honoring him at a Reds game because of a prior commitment – at a casino.

Maybe he’ll run into Al Michaels.

Week One of iPhone-ness has been a success. Possibly the biggest plus is the WiFi capabilities of the iPhone4, which means work at home is free and, occasionally, a signal pops up at work, making usage in the newsroom free as well. I still think I’ll come in on the high side of AT&T’s 200MB level, but it could be interesting if I can save $10 along the way.

I’m still working on making use of the phone as a work tool as much as an expensive toy, but the play side of it has been amazing so far. It came in especially handy this evening as a run through the Taco Bell drive-thru turned into a 10 minute wait in the parking lot.

Any tips you have to help me catch up to the technology are always appreciated in the comments.

On to Monday!

Welcome to the world!

Help wanted: Middle-aged web guy needs assistance with new technology. A little iHelp, anyone?

After several years of feet dragging, I’ve taken a bite of the poison Apple and bought an iPhone. Although I’m still not sure which side of the “work vs. expensive toy” fence it will fall on, it should help out in several areas of my personal and professional life.

Of course to do that, I have to know how to use it and thus far, all it has done is tease me from afar. After closing my eyes on the AT&T web site Friday afternoon and clicking “Complete Purchase” (or whatever the button said), I expected – because I was told by AT&T and Apple it could be 5-10 business days until they shipped it – to have a wait ahead of me.

And I was cool with that.

That coolness went away when the e-mail came announcing the shipping of the phone. “It will get here someday” was quickly replaced by a neurotic rotation back to the AT&T web site to check the status of my order. By mid-day Saturday, my new toy was sitting in a warehouse in Indianapolis and there was nothing I could do but wait. Seriously, I drive past a FedEx warehouse every day, probably the same one holding my phone hostage, and there was nothing I could do about it for two whole days.

Finally, today arrived and the phone was marked “out for delivery” and the race was on. The delivery estimate was for 3 p.m. and I had to leave for work at 3:30. By 2 o’clock and no phone, I checked the FedEx site again. “Incorrect Address.” Panic. Calm. Phone calls.

To FedEx’s credit, they were very cool on the phone, called back twice to double check our address and at 3:20, the doorbell rang. I’d have better off if they had missed me by 10 minutes.

I had enough time to open the box, look at the parts, plug it in and leave. In the meantime, my wife ordered a new BlackBerry at the same time, it was delivered in the mail this morning and she has been busy playing and configuring all day. Such a tease.

All I know now is this better live up to the hype, because the last two days have felt like 200. (Okay, a little exaggeration there.)

This meandering story of an idiot waiting for his new phone was really a call for help. What do I do now that I actually have the phone? How does a 36-year-old web guy go about best using a shiny new iPhone 4? A call out on Facebook has yielded two parts sarcastic ridicule and 1 part help, but I have access to Indianapolis, and darn it, I’m going to use it!

Apps, cases, gadgets, whatever, help me out Indy! What are your favorite parts about the iPhone and why? What can’t you live without?

How do you socialize?

With all the social media in the world, how do you use it all?

With all the social media in the world, how do you use it all?

I’ve at least tried to poke my toes in the water of most social media “phenomena” that come along (anyone remember Orkut?) and some stick, others are forgotten in the mass of password reminder e-mails buried deep in various inboxes. It’s obvious that not all social media platforms are equal, but do you use them equally?

This question popped up in a recent flurry of LinkedIn invites hitting my mailbox. I forget when I first signed on over there, but I’m pretty sure only about a third of my profile information is relevant anymore. I’ve Facebooked for, I think, at least five years (back when it was a college-based invite system, yet my alumni e-mail address got me in the door) and have Tweeted for pushing two. I’m far more immersed in Facebook, personally, and have gotten a lot more mileage out of Twitter from work than from home.

But where does LinkedIn fit in?

I’m pretty open to who I invite/accept into my Facebook world, with a few exceptions, family, friends, long lost faces from a high school yearbook, whatever. But LinkedIn seems different. It’s probably the layout, but it seems to me that it’s more of a professional environment. Yet a lot of folks seem to be seeking me out lately that would serve me no apparent professional gain.

Am I crazy?

Maybe I’m missing a chance to broaden my social opportunities, but I think LinkedIn should be people that you would be able to recommend for a job, right?

I’m really curious to see where everyone else draws the lines of their social media boundaries. Are you an “everything goes” type person? Or do you pick and choose your online acquaintances as strictly as I do?

Cloudy with a chance of Farmville

With a couple clicks and a push in the right direction, the SkyTrak Weather Team has become the SkyTrak Facebook Team!

With a couple clicks and a push in the right direction, the SkyTrak Weather Team has become the SkyTrak Facebook Team! While several members of the Eyewitness News team you see on air everyday has begun a takeover of the social media “airwaves,” the weather folks have taken off!

Now, in addition to getting your forecast and weather information on Channel 13, you can get it in your Facebook news feed, too!

Check out the fan pages:

Chris Wright

Chuck Lofton

Jude Redfield

Nicole Misencik

If you prefer your Twitter over Facebook, don’t miss Nicole there, too!

And just kidding about the Farmville thing. If I so much as see a lost cow anywhere around Jude Redfield, we’re shipping him off to MySpace!

Local swimmers go for trifecta

Jim Barber and Victoria Rian swim marathons (open water events six miles or longer.) I found myself asking them the very same question people ask me about marathons: why?

From reporter Mary Milz:

I like to run marathons.  Some people ask why would ever want to do that?  Jim Barber and Victoria Rian swim marathons (open water events six miles or longer.)  I found myself asking them the very same question.  Why?

 Victoria, an IPS teacher, didn’t think twice.  ”

Because it scares me to death.” 

Yeah, me too.  Twenty miles in the open sea – saltwater, surf and sharks.   While the Monon has its moments, it’s nothing like that. 

Victoria continued, “By trying to get over those fears, maybe it will help me with the rest of my life.”

 Jim, who’s done the English Channel and Long Island swims, earns the Triple Crown of Swimming with Catalina, a feat only 34 others have achieved.

 I swim some and struggle to finish a mile.  At least with running or biking, you can talk, listen to music or take in your surroundings. Swimming is so solitary.  The thought of pushing through the water for two hours let alone nine or ten is hard for me to imagine.  How do you stay motivated?

Victoria told me she focuses entirely on what she’s doing – her breathing, her strokes, her kicking.  Jim said sometimes he’ll be listening to music on the way to the pool or lake and a tune sticks in his head and he’ll be singing it through.  Other times he works through a problem. 

The two log about 40 miles a week when training for a distance swim.  As Jim swims about three miles an hour – that’s roughly 13-14 hours a week in the water.  Wow.  And did I mention that Jim is 50, married and a father of four?   He may be a bit slower than he was 20-years ago but he’s no less determined (and no doubt a lot faster than many a swimmer half his age.)

I’m in awe of people like Jim and Victoria.   They found a passion (in swimming) and they go for it, and in doing so they demonstrate that we’re all probably capable of doing more than we realize.  I’ll be among those cheering from afar when they hit land in LA.

On a different note – some of the accompanying photos show the work behind the story.  Photographer Jacob Jennings had the challenging task of capturing the story from a dock and the front of a pontoon boat on a hot, sunny and very muggy day.

I don’t know enough about light and color balance to explain the difficulty of shooting on water with the sun directly overhead, but I can tell you Jacob went the extra mile to show Jim and Victoria in action from several different angles. 

He got down to water’s edge, even immersed a small camera in the water to catch eye-level shots.   Also, thanks to Lisa Sidner for motoring us around Morse.

Rough start to the Brickyard

The start to this year’s Brickyard 400 will not be going into the Hall of Fame of Attractive Starts.

The 17th Brickyard 400 is underway and it hasn’t been pretty.

Indianapolis Colts’ tight end Dallas Clark dropped the green flag to get things going and it hasn’t been very pleasant since. Seven cars were involved in an incident in Turn 2 and cars are still feeling the effects. Not only have several of the cars involved been in and out of the pits, but so have most of the other cars in the field for everything from tires to tweaks to capping off the fuel tank. Numerous cars have had overheating problems and Max Papis even had his car catch fire and end his day early.

Speaking of rough, this crowd is pretty sparse, even considering the expectations of a small crowd. Economy, heat or whatever might cause it, there is still a ton of bare metal in the stands this afternoon.

Though that didn’t seem to take anything from the pre-race atmosphere, and in fact, may have enhanced things a little, giving a bit more room for fans (and media types like me) to move around and experience IMS.

Back to the race, we’re now 37 laps in and have found a flow and Montoya is off and running again. And with that, he pits to check a handling issue. Keep it to 55, Juan.

Lap 69: Things aren’t so hot for two-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson coming off a caution flag for debris, he’ll start 22nd. Greg Biffle, who had run down Montoya for the lead heading into the caution, won the race off pit road and held onto the lead as the race nears the halfway point.

Lap 81: We’ve got an official race. Or at least I’d figure we do by Indy 500 standards. Either way, we’re past the halfway point. The new tires have helped Montoya from being demolished by Biffle, but the 16 car is still slowly opening up his lead. Montoya’s Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray is in third.

Lap 100: Another round of pit stops and Montoya, who pitted first, has regained the lead, but Biffle is back on his heels, within a half-second. Jamie McMurray is third, ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

Lap 121: History will have to wait for Jimmie Johnson. Starting from the outside of Row 1 a little over two hours ago, Johnson’s crew got caught in a long repair during a caution and went a lap down. Prior to the yellow, Johnson was the last car on the lead lap.

Through it all, Montoya held onto his lead, then battled Biffle for the lead on the restart, with McMurray sneaking into second.

Lap 132: Another driver has had his attempt at history deflated. Jeff Gordon blew a tire late in the race and was forced to pit under green, dropping him a lap off the lead. Meanwhile, Montoya’s lead is up to almost 3 seconds over McMurray and Biffle, who are battling for second.

Lap 138: Another caution for debris – for the second time, it involves a large piece of metal, apparently – will tighten up and shuffle the field. The top six drivers reportedly put on just two new tires for the final 22 laps. Montoya might have come out on the short end, taking four tires and lining up in seventh coming out of the pits.

Tony Stewart continued his climb to the top, getting out of the pits in second spot, behind McMurray and ahead of Kevin Harvick, Martin and Kurt Busch.

Lap 149: Montoya’s day at Indy has ended prematurely again. After leading the most laps for the second straight year, the #42 car got loose in Turn 4 and hit the wall, then was struck by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at the entrance of pit road.

Kevin Harvick took the green flag as the leader, but was passed by McMurray headed into the final 10 laps of the race.

Jamie McMurray holds on for the historic win at Indianapolis.

It’s always sunny at IMS

The WTHR.com team is back at IMS for coverage of this year’s Brickyard 400!

Despite clouds and even some rain showers for the (EARLY!) morning commute, the sun is shining bright and promising to wreak havoc on IMS today. It’s going to be a(nother) steamy one!

After hanging around last night to make sure a line of storms didn’t do too much damage to central Indiana, the alarm came awfully early for this web guy to get back to the corner of 10th & Meridian for the ride to the Brickyard. It’s a quick turnaround and an early day, but if you’re going to cover a race at IMS, the three hours between caravans from the station can mean a lot of missed opportunities.

So here I am.

I feel a little more out of my element covering the Brickyard 400 than the Indy 500, probably part by being more of an open wheel guy, but also even an abbreviated May schedule gives you a chance to get more familiar with the names and faces in the cars, even at the back of the field.

Speaking of the back of the field, the field for this year’s (This Space For Rent) 400 at the Brickyard is bookended by former Indy 500 winners. Juan Pablo Montoya will start from the pole and, by all signs over the last 52 weeks at this track, have as good a shot as any at winning. In the last spot is 1995 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, a late entry and an even later qualifier.

You want predictions? No clue. Montoya *should* win, Jimmie Johnson probably *will* win, the hunch says a breakthrough for the old fella Mark Martin (ran very well last year and qualified solidly this year), which means someone else will likely end up with the win.

Stay tuned to this blog throughout the day as I document the day at IMS. And don’t forget the Eyewitness News team on Twitter, as well!

Brickyard morning photos

Low tide for Google Wave?

Google Wave was threatening to be awesome. Now, it appears to be all washed out.

Is it just me, or is Google slipping? While it used to be that Google’s newest offerings would be anticipated almost as much as the next iPhone fix, they seem to have fallen flat of late.

Right about the time the Twittersphere was exploding, Google Wave hit the virtual shelves. It seemed like it had potential, especially for a TV station web site looking to spread its social media wings a little. Information on any number of stories could be shared on an “as it comes in” basis, with viewers injecting their own ideas, updates or opinions. And it could be left active for hours – or even days – to let others join in and catch up.

Though it has since gone public, its early use of invitations (Google’s preferred means of forced popularity) meant that while the user base might have been small, it also would likely be dedicated and users would tie their Wave account closely to their personal identity, hopefully leading to honest, reasoned dialogue.

Yes, it could have been awesome.

But the Wave never seemed to hit the shore. I toyed with it amongst friends and aside from the “Wow!” factor, it seemed difficult to go back and follow later. And that was just 60 or so “posts” between four or five people. I couldn’t imagine the maze of conversation between dozens – or hundreds – of viewers.

Also, there was the bane of the Web for all-time – cross-browser slapfighting. Excited to bring my new Wave account to work months ago, I found that the Internet Explorer-based newsroom wouldn’t fly with Google Wave without extensions. An elimination of part of an already small user base is not a good thing. If needed, I could probably twist some arms to get a Wave-acceptable browser installed at my desk. But would IE-loving users follow suit? Seemed like too much hassle for an experimental run.

I thought maybe I had just let technology pass me by a little and that, while I thought Google Wave had fizzled out, it was actually thriving in some corner of the Web. Apparently, that’s not the case. Clicking through Mashable, the social media bible, they hadn’t even touched a Google Wave story since January, and hadn’t written new since November. Not good news for Google Wave.

So what about you, web-using public? Have you caught the Wave? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. 

Next week: “Has Google Buzz lost it’s sting?” and other bad social media puns.