I've been on a novelty soda kick lately, as the above photo illustrates. The types I've spotted around town range from Christmas-themed to absolutely bizarre, such as the Qadaffi and Leninade sodas, and fun like Avery's disgusting soda line. Of course we can't forget good old Jolt Cola - sugar and caffeine, baby! By the way, many of these sodas actually use pure cane sugar instead of the high-fructose corn syrup used by the big soda companies these days.
My favorite so far is Leninade (here's their website) - it's the best tasting, and as a bit of a cold war buff I get a kick out of it. I bet Reagan would sip this stuff cold if he was still with us today! There are plenty of humorous bits in the label and the inside of the bottle cap as well.
These sodas are awesome - some for their novelty, some for their taste, and some for both. The best collection I've seen to date is at Runnings, although there are a bunch at Mac's Hardware as well. Mac's used to have an enormous display of these, but now they're down to just a single refrigerated case.
If you spot these sorts of sodas around town, please let me know!
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After its hull inspection and a winter spent safely out of the water and potential ice jams, the Lewis & Clark riverboat was ready to hop back into the Big Muddy. It's been up on blocks since the end of last season, prompting questions from my little boys as to how it got there. Well, thanks to a tip from my friend Diana, I was able to take them out to observe last weekend. Even better from a little boy's point of view: they use a huge crane.
Since the boat lacks sufficient anchor points with which to attach crane hooks, it has to be cradled to be moved. That's where this rig comes in. It provides a nice, wide configuration to which they can attach the necessary accoutrements for such a delicate job.
With the rig in place, it's simply a matter of using very large straps beneath the hull to provide a cradle for the gentle lift.
The tricky part: the propellers and rudders. If the rear strap would slip and hook on those parts, it could be disastrous. Proper placement is key.
Once everything is snugged into place and checked as tension is applied, it's time for the slow lift. I presume that the first rule of using a crane is to lift as slowly as possible and only as high as is necessary. Force equals mass times velocity, so getting a suspended load moving too quickly makes it much more dangerous.
Slow and steady. The crane had a lot of counterweight attached to allow it to extend out into the river without taking a dip. As the riverboat slowly made its way out past the shore, crews with guide lines made sure it stayed straight. Lots of eyes were on the payload and communication yelled between the guys holding the anchor lines at each end to keep it straight.
As it eased into the water, these rails kept it from nudging the rocks along the shore. They had been placed there for the lift to provide extra protection. As the waves began to lap against the bottom of the hull, it eased into the water safely along these wooden bumpers.
With the boat safely placed in the river and tension eased on the straps, it was simply a matter of letting the straps relax beneath the boat and slowly easing the rig downriver. Thankfully the straps did not get hung up on the props or rudders, or someone would have had to jump in and work 'em loose. It looks like the lift went without a hitch.
By this point it was too cold and windy for my little guys, so we headed home instead of watching the crane be dismantled. It's always fun to see a big lift, though...even though it moves slowly, it's a really neat spectacle to watch.
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This sign could work well as a picture metaphor of the state legislature and property tax "reform". They're throwing hundreds of millions of dollars in "relief" at a problem which isn't inherently theirs.
- The state legislature doesn't assess property values;
- The state legislature doesn't levy property taxes;
- The state legislature doesn't collect property taxes...
And yet they've managed to not only tie the noose of public anger at property taxes, but they've also stuck their head in the loop and tightened the knot. Meanwhile, the culprits behind high property taxes at the county level get a free pass without any accountability.
I'd expect another Measure Two type initiated measure to appear on the radar soon. In fact, while I opposed Measure Two on the last ballot I would certainly vote for the abolition of property taxes in North Dakota. I just saw the bad mechanics of the last attempt and didn't want to put the state in a bind. If it had simply said "No governing entity may levy property taxes" I'd have voted yes. I imagine that a lot more people will be voting yes for whatever property tax measure hits the ballot, regardless.
I met one of my representatives for coffee back when Governor Hoeven got this ill-fated "reform" shell game started and pretty much predicted the debacle we're facing now. I warned that the legislature will assume responsibility for the tax & spend behavior of the counties, and will be the bad guys in the eyes of voters no matter what they can and can't do to relieve property tax burdens. Here we are.
Some days the legislature makes just about as much sense as the signs pictured above - and those signs would work even better as a descriptor of the failed transparency bills in this session, but I'm not going there...yet.
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As a would-be photographer, I've got a list of certain things on a photographic "bucket list" I keep in my head. Last night I was able to get one: a perfectly straight-on shot of the Provident Life Weather Beacon.
One of the reasons I got into photography in the first place is that my video work takes me to places and shows me things that are so amazing that I wanted to be able to share them with others. One of the others is a love of North Dakota, particularly my home town area of Bismarck-Mandan. As a result, our local landmarks hold special significance for me.
While wrapping up a helipad photo shoot last night I noticed something that had almost escaped me: a perfect vantage point for photographing the Beacon! Naturally I took a few seconds to spring into action and grab a couple of quick shots. Since what I'd been seeking is a simple, direct, squared-up shot, I didn't need to squander any time trying to brainstorm something funky. A few clicks later I had some different shots of one of my favorite local landmarks, just as I'd always hoped.
Here's a refresher on my long relationship with the Weather Beacon:
It was fun to joke about the Beacon, as if it actually made the weather, during my KFYR days. The TV station control operator (me, five nights a week) was in charge of changing the weather beacon to reflect the updated forecast throughout the broadcast day. On our program log in the control room, in between entries for commercials and programs, were occasional reminders to update the weather beacon.
There was a panel in the weather room with six buttons on it: red, white, green, flashing red, flashing white, and flashing green. These switches are still in a rack at the TV station, even though they are have not been connected to the Beacon for quite some time. Last I remember, the KFYR Radio control guys switched it by dialing a phone number (no, I'm not posting that here).
The poor Beacon almost faded into history in 1997. It was showing its wear, and the cost of modernizing it was prohibitive. That was, however, until KFYR Radio rode to the rescue. Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong headed an effort to Save the Beacon!
At this time, Meyer Broadcasting was still intact. While I was hard at work on the TV side of the building, I also freelanced the website for KFYR-AM Radio. As part of the campaign to save the Weather Beacon, we had a couple of pages on the website urging people to help donate.
You can click here to see the original Save the Beacon page from my archives. Yeah, the Web has come a long way.
The campaign was a success in that it raised money toward the Beacon's restoration, increased public awareness of its plight, and served as a rallying cry to its rescue. While the entire cost of the Beacon's renovation was not raised, its importance to the community was indisputably proven. Through a matching grant from local government and plenty of donations, the project was underway.
As part of the KFYR website, we were happy to post that the Beacon would be saved. Cliff Naylor did a report on the Beacon that aired as part of a live telecast from the roof of the Provident Building, atop which the Beacon still sits.
You can click here to see the post-campaign page from my archives and watch the video.
As I recall, and the details in my head are quite murky, the Beacon was restored but still had some gremlins. I believe it was then refitted one more time and has functioned ever since. None of it would have been possible without Phil and Mark. To this day, the controls reside with KFYR Radio instead of the television station. In fact, why don't you call the PH Phactor on KFYR 550 AM and ask Phil about it?
Oh yeah...the t-shirt. We had t-shirts made, and I still have mine. It has caricatures of Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong on the front, and a key to understanding the Beacon on the back:
Weather Beacon white as snow, down the temperature will go.
Weather Beacon red as fire, temperature is going higher.
Weather Beacon an emerald green, no change forseen.
When colors blink in agitation, there's going to be precipitation.
Provident Life used to sponsor TV spots featuring the Beacon and its rhymes. Since they're no longer doing business there, the ads don't run. That means that the weather beacon itself is somewhat obscure now, with newer Bismarck-Mandan residents unaware of its history. For those of us who have lived here a long time, it's good to see the weather beacon standing tall. No matter what the forecast, there's something great about seeing it red in the spring, green when things are just right, and white when Thanksgiving and Christmas approach. Thanks to everyone who helped keep it up and running!
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Let me preface this post by saying I have no animosity toward AJ Clemente. He was nervous, goofed up...sure, we all do that. However, I do think KFYR-TV, my former employer, did the right thing by terminating him.
First, some random thoughts on the whole debacle:
- If you screw up at any job you're likely to be reprimanded. If you screw up really big at any job you can expect dismissal. Dropping the F-bomb in your first sentence on the air is a big screw-up. Period.
- People who I know who know AJ Clemente say he's a nice guy, a good kid and taking it all humbly. Good deal, I wish him the best. I hope he learns this valuable lesson and cleans up his language off camera, like I had to do back when I was in broadcasting. Thankfully I was in the control room instead of on the set, or I may have had a similar incident before I straightened out.
- It looked like there were a few audio and communication problems. For instance, the music cut out during the headlines. There may have been something amiss. Even so, when you're in a TV studio at 5:59pm, you ought to assume that your microphone will be open without warning.
- It looked like AJ said "gay" at first. If you keep watching though, it appears that he's trying to pronounce the name of the London Marathon winner, Tsegaye Kebede. If you had to figure out the pronunciation of that name for your broadcast debut, you'd be flustered too. Of course, that stuff should be figured out before the newscast starts. The sad thing is, people of a certain ideological persuasion won't have any problem with the F-word or S-word, but will be "offended" by the perceived use of "gay" in a bad context. Sad.
- Before I became a Christian, which would be during my long stretch at KFYR-TV, I was well versed in the use of the F-word and other profanity...so I'm not acting high & mighty. I'm speaking from experience: if you don't talk like that in your daily conversation, you won't blurt it out on the air. In fact, I bet AJ would not have said it if Monica Hannan or other KFYR-TV management was sitting in the studio to observe. But when your guard is let down, and your mouth is trained to spout profanity, bad things can happen.
- It's totally ironic that the TODAY Show led off with the story Monday morning, and KFYR had to carry it. I am told that AJ will be making some TV appearances this week, including on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, another show carried on KFYR. Awkward.
- Letterman's Top Ten List was pretty funny, though. Thankfully it's available online so I don't have to suffer through what his show has become to catch the list.
- By the way, there are plenty of broadcasters from my time who I never heard utter a profanity - even off camera. You'd recognize them because they have had long, respectable careers in North Dakota broadcasting and in many cases are still on the air. As you can imagine, it's easy to have additional respect for those people because of their behavior.
- By the way, when I worked at KFYR-TV it was expected that all employees, not just on-air personalities, conduct themselves in a way that reflects the station in a professional manner. That included off the job. When you deal in a product and brand so publicly seen, that's the nature of the business. Every move you make is viewed by thousands of eyes, everybody deals with your business on a frequent basis, and you represent that. My view on it is that if you don't like the scrutiny, perhaps broadcasting isn't the job for you.
- There have been well-known broadcasters terminated because of what they did in their private lives, because it reflects on their employer. Again, that's the nature of the business.
- I'm dismayed at all the people who think AJ was treated unfairly. This is going to be day four of KFYR-TV being dragged through national news because of this incident. If you did something to put your employer in this kind of national spotlight, do you think you'd still have a job?
- This brings up the larger issue: profanity should not be an accepted part of public discourse. It's called profanity because it is profane. The fact that so many people think it isn't is a sure sign that things are heading in the wrong direction in our culture, even here in good ol' North Dakota.
- This event was preceded by baseball player David Ortiz yelling, "This is our f***ing city!" at a baseball game when talking about the Boston Marathon Islamic terrorist attack. People cheered this deplorable outburst, and the FCC said it wouldn't fine anybody. Why? Has this language suddenly become acceptable?
- One interesting tidbit is all the Generation-Y types who say, "Come on, KFYR - your page has had more Facebook likes than ever because of this!" as if that's a meaningful metric of anything. Only in the self-absorbed world of the modern social media junkie, perhaps.
So, once again, I hope AJ can recover from this and hopefully make some vocabulary adjustments. It's too bad to have a simple rookie mistake take on such magnitude. Maybe this notoriety will help him get back on his feet and get a second chance. I sure hope so, and wish him the best. I still think KFYR-TV did the right thing, and will be seen as an establishment which does not condone profanity - a position which I think reflects the majority of North Dakotans.
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