Are you a Twenty-Firster?

Saturday was the first day of summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and of course, winter in the South. However, it was also the first day of the opposite season for each part of the world if you’re a twenty-firster.

It’s a term I first heard on a program called Garage Logic, from the Twin Cities, and which I listen to from time to time via podcast. Basically, the premise of being a twenty-firster is that you consider the shortest day of the year, and consequentially the beginning of longer days a day to celebrate. The longest day, however, is a day to be depressed as, since the days get shorter, you know winter is on its way.

In other words, a twenty-firster considers the start of summer the beginning of the end of long day, and the start of winter the beginning of our trek towards summer. Never mind the fact that the worst weather of each season doesn’t happen until a month or two later (more so for winter than summer, unless you consider the hottest days the worst days — mostly because of the storms that accompany them…).

To be honest, I don’t really care what season the calendar says it is – if it’s snowing in July and I’m up here, then I know something’s wrong. Just the same as if it’s 100 degrees in March, then there’s an error somewhere else. But generally, the rules about when it should be warm and cold are upheld from year to year and from quarter to quarter.

So, the big question is – are you a twenty-firster? πŸ˜‰

I know there’s bad weather. Stop squeezing my picture, though!

One of the things I’ve been grumpy about a lot is the way that severe weather warnings are presented on local TV. Do they need to be presented? Yes, because it is a public service to inform the viewing audience of where storms are and if you need to take cover from said storms. That’s something we all can agree on. However, there are good ways and there are bad ways to handle informing the public of severe weather.

Let’s look at a bad way first, shall we?

Composite (May 25)033

This picture comes from just a couple of weeks ago, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, when we had some (as you can see on the radar picture) storms in the area. They weren’t severe (at the time), and there was just a watch issued for the area.

However, the fine folks at channel 12 decided to do what they do every time there’s a watch issued for the area – squeeze the picture so that it’s completely unwatchable and essentially waste about 1/8th of the screen with their graphic telling you that you’re watching channel 12’s weather bar. Of course, not to be outdone by the weather department, you also have the convenient reminder that you’re WATCHING CHANNEL 12 in the lower right hand corner. By the way, the reason for the black bars is that this was taken from their digital feed, and if it were not for the watch bar, the show would have been in HD, and the 12 logo would have been about 1/4 the size.

By the way if you think that channel 12 are the only ones who do this kind of thing, here’s what channel 58’s bar looks like (note that this is from September 2006, during which time they were running a promotion and squeezing the picture even further than they had already with their weather bar!)

WDJT (Sep 12)007

Channels 4 and 6 at least use a bit of sense (though how much sense is questionable because it just happens that they wind up wasting more space by doing this) and just shrink the picture so that the aspect ratio isn’t messed up; only the picture is smaller.

Now, let’s take a look at how this kind of thing should be pursued (or, at least how it was pursued by the local stations in the past). First off, I should commend channel 12 on their old way of doing this – they would just put up text at the bottom of the screen that read, for example, "T-STORM WARNING ___ COUNTY". It was simple, didn’t interfere too much with the picture, and was a perfect solution to a complex problem.

However, what really got me going on this was the fact that I was able to pick up stations from out of the area yesterday (ahh, the old days of TVDX, you might say, and that’s true, and this was my first time doing some digital DXing, which made it that much cooler πŸ˜‰ ). Thanks to the weather, a lot of the stations had their warnings up and showing for you to see.

On every single occasion, no station had squeezed, squished, crunched, or even re-sized a picture to accommodate the warning information. All they did was put a simple overlay of the affected counties, and text telling you what warnings were out (along with the counties affected). In another instance, an ABC affiliate broke into their programming (game 2 of the NBA finals), but did something that I think would give Milwaukee TV bosses heart attacks (well, except for channel 6 back in 2007) – they kept the game on in the bottom left and had the meteorologist in the upper right!

So, you may ask, what did warnings look like in the "olden days" of TV (i.e. anywhere but Milwaukee yesterday). Well, I could show you a picture I took of one station that is literally stuck in the early 90s with just showing a storm cloud in the lower left — which is what they used to do on local TV; sometimes with an S or a T to tell you what kind of warning it was. However, as it so happens, I have an old picture from channel 4, from a taped airing of "Days of Our Lives" circa I have no idea – maybe late 90s or early 2000s.

Composite (May 20)004

Look! A full-screen picture (though it wouldn’t be in HD because none of the major stations have the technology yet, but you’ve got the feeling it’s coming) with a simple overlay. Can anyone tell me why the TV stations can’t make such a simple step backward that would, in the end, be a huge step forward?

Oh, and by the way, I must also give kudos to the PBS broadcaster in the area – channels 10 & 36 – because they can do an HD overlay, and the size of it is very comfortable – it looks like a postage stamp on an envelope. When viewed on a 42-inch screen, I bet it’s the perfect size.

What I’m curious about is if Milwaukee is the only TV market that does this stupidity. I have this inkling that we are. That should be a lesson to them, but I don’t think they care to listen…

This is now the rule…

…not the exception when it comes to TV weather casting. For some reason, when the storms went through the area tonight, we didn’t have one station go into full-blown coverage. I guess when it’s just rain, lightning, and some hail and wind, you don’t need to have extensive, breaking-into-everything coverage on TV.

By the way, a funny moment I heard on the weather radio when they were talking about precautions of what to do if you’re in the path of a tornado (as there were some spotted this evening to the northwest of here), the live announcer (who had broken into the taped programming supplied by robovoice) said that you should “stay away from radios…radios…windows…stay away from windows” in the event of a storm. Erm, oops :blush:

The clip here is from a WLKY-TV, channel 32, Louisville, KY, from 1997, and they made sure that their coverage was probably the most extensive in the “Kentuckiana” area (that is one of my favourite made-up words, just because it sounds so ridiculous, plus you can tell from which side of the Ohio river this name came from πŸ˜‰ )

The person who uploaded this said that a rule of thumb for TV presenters is that if you have nothing intelligent to say, go back to regular programming.

Unfortunately, now the adopted rule of thumb is “if you have nothing intelligent to say, just say something and spruik for people to send in their photos and text messages and mobile videos to show what is happening out there, even if that is someone standing outside in the rain.”

Just remember, “32 is for you!” Yeah, right. πŸ˜‰

Snow, along with macro Salmon

The never ending winter seems to have given itself an extension today, with one last hit of snow getting us on Good Friday. In fact, it pretty much rounds out the whole Lent season perfectly – fish fries were cancelled or postponed on Ash Wednesday, and the same thing happened today; though the one that has to be the largest on Good Friday, if not all year round (sorry, Tennessee, I think a proper fish fry is only held on Wednesdays and/or Fridays, not a week-long event, but if you’re certifiably larger, then so be it πŸ˜‰ ), was open to serve their two tons of fish.

Out here in the ‘burbs, the big story was that nearly every church didn’t have their services today, along with the fact that over 10 inches of the white stuff fell today, which, officially at the airport (which was closed, stranding hundreds of Easter travellers), makes this the second-snowiest winter on record (even though it is technically Spring, in both meteorological and astronomical terms, the snow season runs from July 1-June 30), with at least 94.3 inches (239.5cm) of snow falling in the official gauges.

In a bit of a change, I went out and did quite a bit of shoveling of the snow – usually we’d let our semi-contracted plow handle all of it, but since the cars are now on the other side of the house, we really don’t want them to get plowed in. Plus, I suspect that with less of the driveway having to be plowed, it might save us some money on the bill, if they come by. The first time I did some shoveling, I took the camera along with me, and snapped this picture looking back toward the door at how much snow there was –

Shoveled path

Of course, since this is Good Friday, this is the one day that we absolutely do not eat meat (though apparently eggs are OK), so dinner was going to be a fish fry benefitting the local fire department, but that’s been postponed to next week. As I had mentioned on the Aussie Blogger Forums, the alternate would be baked salmon, and that is exactly what we did for our dinner tonight. This is part of the same salmon that has been sitting in the freezer for a while now, when we bought a whole darn thing for $1.99/pound at the grocery store, but it was still in decent shape. The seasoning was simple – a fish seasoning that we bought from the store a long time ago, Szeged brand seasoning, with Hungarian paprika in it.

I let the salmon sit for about a half hour while I went out and did quite a bit more shoveling; ducking when my mom came out with her still camera to take shots of the snow (that plan worked perfectly btw πŸ˜‰ ), then put it in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 15 minutes, along with some asparagus that was seasoned with olive oil, garlic, black pepper, kosher salt, thyme and basil. I also chucked a couple of potatoes into the microwave to warm up for baked potatoes (btw a great hint on those potatoes is that you can buy the ones that heat up in a bag, and they work perfectly; they’re more than regular baking potatoes, but the convenience paid off).

While waiting for the stuff to cool a bit, I had my camera by me, and did some experimentation with the macro feature; it’s a function that I didn’t really understand until last year, but I’ve learnt how to get great results from that now. Here’s what the salmon looked like in macro –


And here’s the asparagus, also in macro mode. These pix were all taken using an F-setting of 3.2, that’s why you see the blurring in the immediate foreground and background. πŸ™‚


I’ll have some more pictures of the snow on Sunday; I might also take some pix while out tomorrow, if I get the chance, to show what more of the area looks like covered once more in snow. πŸ˜‰

One last thing, this is another experiment of using an offline blog editor; let’s see how it handles the picture uploading…

The Janu–no, February thaw…and, who is that guy?

It might seem like a long time since it’s been this way, but today we actually had the first decent day for thawing the ice that has accumulated on the driveway (which is up around an inch or so – around 3cm). I took some time during the day to take the ice chipper out and clear a bit of the ice.

By no means did I get all of the ice cleared away, but I did manage to clear out a space that fills around a square foot or more. Needless to say, there’s another, oh, 150 feet by 8 feet to clear out – a herculean effort at the least, a miracle at the most if it is all cleared away before baseball season starts in just over a month.

Either way, it’s expected to actually get above freezing tomorrow – which means a lot more thawing than we had today (it was only a few degrees below freezing, but thanks to the sun’s natural heat, the thawing happened).

Naturally though, this winter wouldn’t be complete without the threat of yet another storm – this time on Monday, possibly into Tuesday. Just so long as I can get out by 12:00 on Tuesday so that I can head out for my appointment with the job service I contacted today, I’ll be fine. πŸ™‚

One of my favorite shows on Discovery (and one of the few shows that I’d be willing to get digital cable for if it only aired on the Science channel) is How it’s Made. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to hearing the voice of Brooks Moore giving the details of how the QuΓ©bΓ©cois make the things we use in everyday life.

With a new season, though, comes a new voice – one that is very annoying. He’s got that “Listen to me, I’m an American” type of voice that tends to overhype everything and anything – in other words, he could work for ESPN’s SportsCenter and work out just fine. Apparently, he’s Zac Fine (according to Wikipedia), and he isn’t popular with the fans of the show.

All I can say is that hopefully, the Discovery Channel’s head honchos will come to their senses and bring back Brooks Moore and his more dulcet tones – along with, possibly, the more standard music. However, in any case – keep up the letterboxing. Unlike just about everyone else out there, I love it when shows are letterboxed – that means if we had proper systems to distribute programs, they’d be in widescreen. πŸ˜‰