Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's NOT a game-- oh, wait, yes it is.

You know, it's not all death and destruction.

Okay, maybe the big battle suit is exactly a death and destruction thing.

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Last week I got to see everything important to the world of video games at the E3 trade show.

That's where video game companies show off all the latest and greatest upcoming hardware and software to other game industry professionals.

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Visually, it was a blast.

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This was another one of those days where anybody who went to work and did NOT get to go to the E3 trade show does not have a job as cool as mine (unless you happen to tend bar in New Orleans, then your job rocks).

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We got to see the mockups of the new Sony Playstation4, the Microsoft XBox1 and the Cronus 5000.

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Yeah, I made up that last one, but I'm actually not all that into video games these days.

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That's probably why I work in news these days instead of the video game industry.

Unless they get that big honking battle suit working.  Who-weee.  Then maybe I'd even give up my dreams of tending bar in New Orleans.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Taking the 110 Home

Sometimes the best part of my day is my drive home. Yeah, everybody likes to go home, but you know me, I actually enjoy what I do for a living and I also love my home life.

My drive to work is congested and I'm often stuck in traffic before (and especially) during my work day. That's rarely the case when I drive home around midnight.

A big city like Los Angeles is an amazing place and I dig the fact that I get to see so much of it.

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I just wish I had the time (or energy) to explore more at the end of my day. I do have a responsibility to my employer to keep the work van safe and I have a responsibility to my family to keep ME safe.

Sometimes I do think about all the cool places I drive past as I follow my usual route home.

I'm pretty sure I'm missing something cool.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Community of Sadness

I was off work the day last week when the shooting happened in Santa Monica.
A senseless and horrible tragedy, my prayers and thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.
 
 
It happened on a Friday and I watched very little of the coverage through the weekend, but on Monday I was right in the thick of our coverage of the aftermath.
 
 
It was interesting to me to see how some were barely affected by the event and others were experiencing what appeared to be deep shock and trauma.
 
 
It's a part of my job to cover tragedy, but I'll be honest, I wish I'd been assigned to another story.
 
 
Some days I'm better able to handle the grief and sadness of others. I was right up front next to grieving family members during the vigil held for those killed in the incident.
 
Unfortunately, I don't have the option of picking the stories I cover. If I had a choice, I would have passed on this story and let it go by without being involved.
 
 
I only say any of this because I'm just being honest about what I experience in covering the news. Still, no matter how bad my day might be, I know at the end of my shift, I'm only a witness to the grief and pain.
 
There are others and in this case many others, who aren't so lucky.
 
 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

To "Be" a Biker?

Am I a biker?

I had a great day on my motorcycle yesterday.  My lovely wife, Dellis, needed my truck for a work related function that she was in charge of organizing.  I'd be joining her later, but I had my own function to attend a little earlier in the day.  My good friend, the writer William "Buzz" Snyder, was in town to promote his latest book, "The Spirit Guide Bar" and I'd made the commitment to attend his book signing (at the Book Frog in Palos Verdes).

There was a couple of clear options for me.  I could either take my wife's car (which is okay, but, you know, just kind of routine) or I could take my motorcycle (and that would be the perfectly awesome alternative to routine).

Let me explain where I am with riding.

I've had my license for just a year (and a coupe of weeks) and I bought my Kawasaki Vulcan 900 last October.  The whole motorcycling experience is very new to me.  Heck, I'd never even ridden before I took the Basic Rider Course in order to get my license.

There are people who ride that probably don't even think about being on a bike.  It's just a natural thing for them.  I'm like that with driving a car, so I know how routine it might be.  That's not the case for me in riding a motorcycle.  Since my life never involved being on a motorcycle before and since it's still such a new experience, I really feel the difference whenever I'm riding somewhere on the bike.  Just about everybody I know has the same basic advice for me.

Be careful.

Mostly I am.  (whoa, what do you mean, mostly?)  Well, I'm very careful when I ride.  Nearly everyone I've talked to has a story of witnessing or knowing of someone who has been in a terrible motorcycle accident.  It's not inherently safe to sit on an engine with two wheels and handlebars while traveling at freeway speeds (on the actual freeway).  I really just don't want people to say things to each other after I'm gone.

"Well, he probably would have died comfortably in bed if he hadn't taken up motorcycle riding.  Who wants more pie?"

I chose the bike instead of the car.

It was time to go.  I already had my helmet and jacket and gloves on; I'd also checked my tires and inspected the bike, so I rolled it in neutral out of the garage down to the end of my driveway.  I turned the key, gave it some gas and hit the starter.  VRROOOOM.  I there and let the bike warm up.  The visor on my helmet was up and I had sunglasses on.  The street was empty.  I squeezed the clutch and stepped down into first.  Gave it a little gas, slowly released the clutch and moved forward.  I own a corner house, so I rolled maybe twenty feet to the stop sign at the end of my street, stopped and looked both ways.  Nothing was coming.  I shut my visor.  VRROOOOOOOM.

It is exciting for me.

I have neighbors who ride.  There's one who buys and sells motorcycles and I've seen him have twenty or more lined up in front of his house.  Just taking off for a ride is just simply taking off for a ride, I'm sure.  Still, I always kind of hope my neighbors see me when I leave.  I also hope I don't do something stupid.  It still always seems like that might be a possibility.

I could go on and describe every part of my ride.  I always drive the long ways around my neighborhood, just in case something is wrong (I'd rather know before I get on the freeway).  I'm pretty comfortable in traffic, but I'm not comfortable splitting lanes.  I thought I'd need to add a windshield to my bike, but I'm actually getting used to not having one.  I like giving the bike some gas when I'm riding next to a car.  Not for any reason other than to make sure the car knows I'm there.  It's all interesting to me, but I believe that's because I'm still new to it all.

I rode to Palos Verdes.  After the book signing,I went had pizza with Bill Snyder, his family and fans. Rode the bike over to Carson for Dellis' event just as the sun was starting to go down.

It was funny, nobody knew I was on a motorcycle until a security guard needed it (and another vehicle) moved out of the loading zone where I'd parked.

That seemed to cause a little bit of buzzing.  Dellis' husband rides a motorcycle.

After the event was over, I helped Dellis load up the truck and we drove home.  She drove the truck.  I was on the motorcycle.  My main thoughts were, of course, don't let me die on this motorcycle while my wife is watching.  She would probably not like seeing that happen.

"I always worried that he was going to get killed riding that motorcycle.  Is there any more pie?"

We made it safely home.  I put the bike away and just felt that the day was pretty perfect.  I got to eat drink and have fun with a lot of people who mean a lot to me.  I got to ride, maybe not as much as most have ridden in a day, but certainly as much as I've ridden.

Does that make me a biker?

I don't know.  As far as I'm concerned, I don't need any sort of label at all.  Just let me get on my bike and ride.

VRRROOOOOOOOOMMMM!

"Let's go get more pie!"

Monday, June 03, 2013

My Completely Unexpected Saturday at the Powerhouse Fire

Saturday I was working around the house and had plans for the evening.  My cell phone rang.

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The call was from one of my fellow News Photographers and SAT truck operators who was out covering the Powerhouse Fire.

The call started out simple.  It got worse.

Routing communications in the satellite truck is difficult.  It's more complicated.  There are options (satellite phones) that aren't available in our microwave trucks and Michael Johnson (the truck op) wanted to make sure he had everything squared away.

During the course of the phone call, the SAT truck's generator died.

IMG_3207_130601.jpgThat's what we usually call a scorched earth situation.

Away from shore power, the truck can't run without the generator.  We ended the call.  Mr. Michael Johnson needed time to focus on troubleshooting.

At this point, I could have gone on with my day.  I didn't.

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The fire was burning in an area where a satellite shot was the only option.

I called the assignment desk and asked if they'd like me to come in and run our newer SAT truck. 

Right now, there's only four photographers who are trained on the newer truck.  One was on vacation; one was out of town; the third might have been available, but it was me who was on the phone and I was just a quick shower away from jumping into my van and heading into work.

The writing was kind of on the wall.

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This was the way things went.

The station took me up on my offer.  I showered and drove in, grabbed the new SAT truck and headed up towards the fire.

In terms of flames, this day was quite different from my Friday.

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The fire had burned overnight and was now in much more accessible areas.

On Friday I was measuring my distance from open flames in miles.

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We were measuring our distance from the flames in feet (and inches) on Saturday.

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It looks dangerous because it is.

I wouldn't want to underestimate the potential for the fire to surprise us, so we're working very carefully.  As long as I have a clear route to safety, I don't worry too much about the danger.

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I do worry about the soot and smoke.  It makes it difficult to see and breathe and some of the embers are still hot when they touch your skin.

This day I don't play around with putting mask and goggles on.

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We find a safe spot to set up for our live shot.  Downed power lines prevent us from getting any further ahead of the fire.

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For the next few hours we do our job, but watch as the fire alternates between lighting up the area and leaving us in darkness.

Bugs are flying everywhere.  We try to keep the van doors closed so they don't swarm around the lights inside.

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I can't speak for what other people feel or think when they witness a fire of this magnitude.  For me, there's a clear sense of the power of fire.

It amazes me and I've covered a few of these, so it's not as if this is my first time seeing the destructive capability of a wildfire.

Sure, it's very humbling, but at the same time your adrenaline is pumping and you're absolutely on the edge because every instinct you have is telling you how much better sense it would make to head away from the fire instead of standing there in its' path with a camera doing live shots.

Nerves of steele?

Nah.  I was making time and a half for coming in on my day off.

Cha-CHING!

My Friday at the Powerhouse Fire

This is my view as I'm heading towards work.  Not the office.  Work.

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I'm not even on the clock yet, but I already have my assignment and I figure I might as well head on up the road.

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I'm covering the Powerhouse Fire and I'm supposed to meet up with our crews about ten miles up San Francisquito Canyon Road, North and East of the Santa Clarita area.

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The fire was burning and doing a lot of damage to the brush, but it was burning in a remote canyon that we couldn't get to in our news vehicles.

Flames were seen earlier in the day, but I was catching the tail end of the fire as it burned through.

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Lots of smoke in the distance, but not much for the background of our live shot.

Folks who owned property in the area were glad to see the fire pass without doing much damage to structures.

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Yeah, me too.

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I mean, it would suck to lose your home in a fire, so I don't want anyone to suffer that kind of loss.

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On the other hand, I'm out there in the middle of nowhere, I'd kind of like to have something to put on TV besides the reporter.

Maybe some warm orange glow at least.

I had a joke to end the post, but it was in really bad taste.

Rubbing Elbows +One

I'm comfortable being behind the scenes and observing.  I don't (usually) attend social or charity functions unless I'm running a video camera.

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One weekend a while back, my lovely wife, as a part of her job (although I suspect also just for fun), needed to make an appearance at a charity event.

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You could look at me as her driver, her escort (hey, now doesn't that sounds kind of risqué) or just as her husband-in-tow).

Any way you look at it, I was there along with my wife and suddenly I was being invited to mingle and partake of the food and drink being provided to the well-to-do of Los Angeles society.

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The setting was quite amazing.  An older hotel on the West side of MacAthur Park, the building is well restored, but serves as a location for other than its' original purpose (Whoa, sorry for getting a little wordy there. It ain't a hotel anymore).

My lovely wife knew many of the attendees and recognize many more.

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It was a "taste of" event and many restaurants were serving frustrating (to me) snippets and samples of their representative dishes.

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We ate, I drank, we socialized with some of the people my wife interacts with in the course of her job with LAUSD.

At the end of the day, I never had to get a sound bite and I didn't have to ship video.

Later that day, my body craved a chili-dog.  I guess a News Photographer can take a day off, but he's (me) still a News Photographer.

Happy Monday.  Anybody want to hear about my weekend?