Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts April 2007

You Talkin' to Me?

On Saturday, at least three people talked to me - at the same time - for about two hours straight.

Here's what happened.  I went to Penn State for one of my occasional freelance gigs as a font coordinator for a televised sporting event.  Basically, what I do is communicate with a stats person during the game, and work with a font operator to put relevant statistics and other electronic graphics on the air.

The font operator uses a machine that looks very much like a typewriter keyboard to generate these electronic graphics.  The machine accesses a computer disk which contains some pre-produced fonts (team logs, etc.), and which is loaded into a drive in another part of the production truck.  The production truck is a tractor trailer loaded up with pretty much everything you need to put a television broadcast on the air.  So, when I work these games, I spend 8-10 hours sitting in a truck.  (Television is not nearly as glamorous as we make it look!  )

Crew call for these events is generally about six hours before the start of the game.  Often times, the font operator has some kind of problem getting the machine up and running. The problem usually seems to involve the disk.  For example,  some elements may not be there, or the font operator who last used the disk may have done something he/she shouldn't have.  In most cases, the problem is eventually worked out, and then I can start my work.

On Saturday, however, the problem could not be worked out.  I don't know what the exact problem was, but I heard the words "software" and "failure" being thrown around.  Without a working character generator on-site, there wasn't much for me or the font operator to do except hang around and wait for further instructions.

I had some hope that those further instructions might be "go home."  And, the font operator eventually left.  But, no such luck for me.

The solution was to build the essential graphics at the studio in New York and insert them from there.  The producer emailed his list to New York, and a communication line was opened so that I could talk to those folks through a headset.  Through the same headset, I also communicated with the stats person, and I could hear the New York person I was talking to, talking to his font operator.  Sometimes, I had to stop listening to and talking to those people so I could listen to and talk to the producer sitting just in front of me.  Sometimes, I heard the assistant director, who was sitting right behind me, talking to the people in New York.  Sometimes, they were all talking at once, and I wasn't sure who to listen to first.  And, once in a while, I forgot to talk to someone I should have.

Adding to the confusion was a delay of at least five seconds (maybe more like eight seconds) between the signal we sent to New York and the signal that got sent back to the truck.  That's an eternity in television time.   By the time I told the people in New York to put the graphic on the screen and then take it off, I was just seeing it go on the air.  Very weird.  It was kind of like watching live action, but listening to audio coming from another source.  They're always out of sync by a couple seconds.

Overall, things worked out about as well as could be expected.  We managed to build a few more graphics while the game was going on and work in a few stats.  The show wasn't clean, but mistakes were kept to a minimum and the people watching at home probably had no idea that anything was wrong.

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Plan D

Or, When Smart People Do Stupid Things.

It's Sunday, a day of rest.  And, I guess my brain decided to rest today because it certainly wasn't doing much thinking - at least not any that made any sense.

For example, earlier in the day I wondered if the Phillies problems were somehow my fault.  Because, it seemed like every time I watched a game or listened to one on the radio, the Phillies would lose.  Twice I had the radio on when the Phillies had a late-inning lead, and twice I heard the announcers describe the action as ace reliever Tom Gordon promptly gave up the tying/winning runs.

Yesterday, however, I did not have a chance to catch the game.  What happened?  Cole Hamels pitched a complete game and struck out 15 batters.  The Phillies turned a triple play, and Chase Utley finally started to hit.  And, oh yeah, the Phillies won.  So, you can see why I thought I might be the source of their problems.

Today, I listened to the game off and on, and the Phillies still managed to win.  So, I guess I'm off the hook for their early-season problems.  But, the faulty thinking, that's all me.

On this day of rest, I decided that a good project might be to rinse out my trash cans and waste baskets.  I took the largest one outside and rinsed it off with the hose.  I inherited the hose and a few plastic nozzles from the previous homeowner.  Like a lot of other stuff in the house, the hose and nozzles are probably 20 years old - or more.  One of my initial "home improvement" projects was to buy a reel for the old hose so it wouldn't be lying in the driveway in a tangled mess. 

Anyway, I'm out there rinsing out the trashcan with the old hose and the crappy nozzle.  And, I think, "Hey.  I still have some money left on a gift card.  I'll go to a home improvement store and buy a new hose and a new nozzle.  Then, I'll put them on the reel, and get rid of the old hose and the old nozzles."  That was Plan A, and it was a good plan.  I thought.

Until I got back from the store, that is.  I unhooked the old hose from the reel, and piled it in the driveway.  Then, I hooked up the new hose and started to wind it onto the reel.  Then, I had a problem.  The new hose is 150 feet long (because, hey, you never know, right?).  But, as I discovered when I actually bothered to look at the label on the reel, the reel is only big enough to hold a 100 foot hose.  Yes, I know, maybe I should have looked at the label BEFORE I bought the new hose. 

I'll remember that for next time.  But, anyway, now I had a problem.  My first thought was to simply coil the rest of the hose and let it set it on top of the reel.  That was Plan B.  I turned on the spigot to see if the hose worked.  It did, but there seemed to be a leak, probably from the point where the hose was hooked to the reel.  I quickly decided that, for aesthetic and practical reasons,  I didn't like Plan B.  So I came up with Plan C. 

Plan C called for returning the 150' hose and exchanging it for a shorter hose which would fit on the reel.  But, would the store accept a hose that had already been used and would probably be returned in somewhat of a tangled mess?  Confidence was not high, so I came up with Plan D.

Plan D was go to the store and buy a reel big enough for a 150' hose.  Of course, if I did that, I'd have two perfectly good reels.  And, there's really nothing wrong with the old hose except that it's old and grungy.  My real issue was with the old nozzles.  So, I'd buy another new nozzle, too.  And, that's what I did.  I bought a new reel for the new hose and a new nozzle for the old hose.  Then, I came home and put the hoses on the appropriate reels and the nozzles on the appropriate hoses.

So, now I have two hoses, two reels, two nozzles and one outside spigot.

What I wish I had was some common sense.  Then I'd have had Plan Pre-A:  buy a new nozzle.

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VA Tech

After watching two days of covereage on the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, here are a few thoughts:

1.  Initial wire reports Monday morning said one dead and about 20 injured.  Later, when bulletins regarding the first police briefing started coming in, the figure jumped to at least 20 dead.  Everyone in the newsroom went, "What?!?"  My first thought, since I was working on other things and hadn't actually heard the campus police chief say that number, was that the AP had it wrong, and what they really meant to do was confirm the figure of 20 injured.

2.  When I saw the cell phone video that one student had taken from outside the classroom building, my first reaction was to count the number of gunshots.

3.  I've been very impressed by the composure and thoughtfullness of the students at Virginia Tech.  The students I have seen interviewed have all been well-spoken.  Even more impressive, I think, is that they generally refrained from making snap judgements about criticizing or placing blame, instead saying they want to learn more before forming definite opinions.

4.  At the convocation this afternoon, Bush sounded more like a preacher than a president.

5.  The shootings have raised a lot of questions about the gun laws in this country.  Maybe some of those laws need to be strengthened or changed.  Maybe we need new laws.  My belief, however, is that someone intent on carrying out an act like the one at Virginia Tech will find a way to do it.  Laws will not matter.     

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Deja Vu All Over Again

Well, the Phillies finally won a game last night - 5-2 over the Mets.  The Phils now have TWO wins to go along with their six losses so far this season.

I know it's early, OK?  But, despite a fairly significant roster turnover, the problems they're having this year look an awful lot like the problems they had last year, namely a shaky bullpen and a dismal rate of driving in runners in scoring position.  In other words, their pitching is suspect and their hitting is not very timely. 

I also see a lot of impatience from hitters when they really ought to be taking at least one pitch before swinging from the heels.  Last night, for example, the Mets pitcher walked the bases loaded, and the next batter for the Phillies comes up and proceeds to foul off the first pitch.  Let's see.  12 of the last 14 pitches have been balls.  He's sure to throw a strike NOW!  What kind of sense does that make? 

Another case.  In one of the games against Florida, the Phillies got some guys on so the Marlins made a pitching change.  The next batter for the Phillies - a pinch-hitter, BTW - swings at the first pitch from the reliever and hits a weak grounder to second to end the inning.  Let's see.  I'm a rookie catcher who's coming off the bench cold.  I've now seen a few warm-up tosses from this pitcher.  The bases are loaded.  I think I'll swing at his first pitch.  What kind of sense does that make?

You know what would make sense?  Putting on the "take" sign!   

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I hadn't planned to blog today, but this was too good to pass up.  One of the local newspapers had this little gem posted online as a "latest headline."

Woman slaps another woman in her driveway

On Tuesday, (woman's name here) of Saylorsburg stated that a woman, who is 5 feet, four inches tall with dark brown hair, pulled into her driveway in a small red car, possibly a Dodge Neon or a Chevrolet Cavalier.

(The complainant) said the person got out of the car, approached her and struck her once in the face and three or four times in the ribs. She said the person got back in the car and fled on Silver Valley Road toward Route 209.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Pennsylvania State Police at Fern Ridge (570) 646-2271.

OK.  Judging by this article, it appears that some woman pulled into some other woman's driveway on a whim and starting slapping her around.  The woman wo got slapped around has no idea who was slapping her around.  Right.  Because, as we all know, that kind of stuff happens all the time.

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