Monday, November 29, 2010

Battery Pack Giveaway from Rayovac

'Tis the season for buying and using battery-operated toys and devices. A lot of people will wake up Christmas morning and realize they don't have enough batteries to run everything under the tree. Rayovac wants to help out by giving away huge packages of batteries along with cash money to pay holiday bills.

Rayovac's "Mom Rocks the Holidays" sweepstakes will award three Grand Prize winners $1,000 cash from Rayovac. Twenty First Place Prize winners will receive a Rayovac Jam kit including a Paper Jamz guitar, drum, amp, guitar strap as well as 2 packs of Rayovac Alkaline AAA 24 packs.
Here's how to enter:
  1. “Like” Rayovac on Facebook:
  2. Log on to, complete the entry form and tell Rayovac in 120 words or less how you (or your mom) rocks the holidays.
The Mom Spark blog is spreading the DC joy & teaming with Rayovac to give five winners a $50 Visa Gift Card, Paper Jamz Guitar, and one pack of Rayovac Alkaline AAA 24 pack batteries! Visit Mom Spark to enter.
DISCLOSURE: Followers who promote the Rayovac Mom Rocks the Holidays Sweepstakes may receive gifts from Rayovac. Nothing has been promised to me at this point, but this post is an attempt to win a Rayovac prize package via Mom Spark's promotion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Morning Glory movie review

It was months, or maybe even years ago, that I heard Harrison Ford would be playing a morning show anchor in the movie Morning Glory. Now, I'm not only a huge fan of Harrison's, but I used to produce a 90-minute morning news show, so I've been looking forward to the movie ever since.

My husband and I saw Morning Glory Sunday afternoon. It drew a big crowd, and at least 2/3 were my age or older. I don't remember any really big reactions, like the whole theatre laughing uproariously or anything. DH laughed out loud a few times and so did I; some of my laughs definitely came out of my own experiences working with news people and on-air personalities.

Here's how the story goes: Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, the producer of "Good Morning, New Jersey." When she's called into the boss's office, she expect to be promoted to senior producer, but instead he lets her go. Relentless job hunting gets her an offer from fourth-place network IBS. They want her as executive producer of last-ranked morning show "Daybreak." Network executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) tells it's a next-to-impossible job, but he can't dampen her enthusiasm. She practically blackmails old-school journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to co-anchor the show, and he immediately clashes with female anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) as well as refusing to do most of the stories Becky asks him to handle. Ratings continue to sink, but Becky is determined to turn things around. Through sheer force-of-will, she gets the team working together, the ratings start to edge up, and she gets the job offer of her dreams. Then she has to decide if that dream job is what she really wants after all.

Overall, it was a good movie, well paced and entertaining. The acting is great. Some of the directorial or editorial choices are a little strange, but not overly annoying. The music is mostly unobtrusive, except for a few music video moments, which play out okay.

I feel like the movie fell a little short of what it could have been. The script paints Pomeroy as a stodgy and arrogant newsman who only wants to do hard news; he thinks the softer segments of a morning show are beneath him. The movie would have been stronger and more relevant if it placed his debates with Becky in a broader context. I started in news production in 1999, and I was promoted to producer in 2000. By the time I left the industry in 2007, I had seen a lot of degradation in the news biz, both locally and nationally. Sensationalism and a fancy graphics package became more important than solid reporting. Celebrity reports often seem to overshadow the day's "real news" events. If Becky's a good producer, her show would have a good mix of hard news, information, and fluff. In her drive to get the show's ratings up, she was studying the "minute to minute" ratings, which my small-town station never had. In big cities, the major ratings company, Nielsen, has hooked up boxes to the TV's of willing participants, and it generates reports showing exactly when viewers turn on a show, switch channels, or switch off the TV. A young, single-minded producer could see a spike during an interview with a hot rap star, for example, and start booking more rap stars because that's what her viewers seem to want. That could have given Becky the impetus to reject a "boring" hard news story in favor of expanded music segments, thus earning the ire of Mike Pomeroy. All the same clashes and laughs would be in place, but the story would have a little more meat on it, relevant commentary about news in the 21st century.

A few technical things that bugged me:
When I was the only producer on my morning show, I was in at 11pm to write and assemble the show. At the beginning of Morning Glory, Becky is the producer of "Good Morning, New Jersey" and she's hoping for a promotion to senior producer of the show. She sets her alarm for 1:30am, meaning she couldn't have been at work before 2:00am. I think she mentioned having a story meeting at 4:00am, which is about when my news anchors started arriving at work, but they just read over their scripts and asked me if they had any questions. When Becky is E.P. of "Daybreak," I can accept her coming in early morning, then staying after the show to book segment guests and plan the next day's show. She had producers and reporters under her who presumably would have been in earlier. If anyone's reading this who's produced a morning show and didn't have to go in to work until 2:00am or later, I'd love to hear from you about how that works.

Mike Pomeroy's first day on the job, there's an embarrassing mistake on one of the over-the-shoulder graphics. The picture changed, but the caption underneath didn't. On the systems we used, the caption was part of the picture, so that's a pretty unlikely mistake. Not to say it absolutely couldn't happen, but it's unlikely. The most astounding part, though, was that Becky - who got hammered with at least nine questions, non-stop from her crew on her first day and kept them all straight - apparently got so flustered that she couldn't remember what an over-the-shoulder graphic (AKA an insert) was called. Again, unlikely.

When Pomeroy goes out to do his big live shot on a breaking news story, it appears to be just the driver/cameraman, Pomeroy and Becky in the satellite truck. When they arrive, they all jump out of the truck, the cameraman gets his camera, and they all walk up to the front door. When I was in news, we didn't have a sat truck (the station has since gotten at least one), but setting up a regular live shot required raising the mast and tuning in the shot with master control. Sometimes they had to move the vehicle in order to aim the transmitter in the right direction to hit one of our towers. I don't think it's much different with a satellite truck. Our set-up also required cables to be run from the truck to the camera. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that wireless transmission from the camera to the truck is possible, but "Daybreak" didn't seem to have a very big budget by network standards. It would have meant having an extra cast member -- allowing a driver/sat truck operator to do the set-up while the cameraman jumped out and ran some cable while Pomeroy and Becky argued.

The script wasted a lot of time developing a relationship between Becky and Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), who works at IBS but can't seem to understand the pressure of daily news. Becky talks about never having any long-lasting relationships because she's so career-driven, but she quickly opens up to Bennett and starts sleeping with him. When Pomeroy points out that if she focuses solely on her career, she's going to end up with nothing, we don't see her taking that to heart in her personal life. If we'd seen her with the string of dead-end dates that's referred to in the script, if she'd turned down Bennett before but finally accepted a date with him, it would show that she changed and grew. Also, it's always a little sad for me when movies portray everyone as being loose and having sex with someone as no big deal.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Morning Glory and recommend it. Some of the things that bothered me won't distract someone who's never worked in the news. Overall, it's a well-made film with a good and positive story that should appeal to young and old alike.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cat v. Gator - what's your take?

Have you seen the video of the Louisiana cat who takes on two alligators and wins? On the one hand, it's pretty awesome that this tough little fellow chased off the alligators, but on the other hand....

What were all those people thinking? I don't know if the cats are strays or if they live at the park. Are they someone's pets?

When I first heard about the video, I didn't realize that it was taking place at a gator park. That more or less explains why the people were videotaping in the first place. There's a grown man standing next to the gator, a child and another cat can be seen a few feet away. Do they not realize how fast an alligator can move when he wants to? The man makes a sudden move at one point, and I'm not sure if he was trying to shoo the cat away or the gator.

I guess the most disturbing thing, besides no one either realizing or caring that alligators are dangerous, is that I'm sure that even if the black cat, the Siamese cat, and the kid had all gotten eaten, the video would probably still be generating millions of hits on YouTube.  Cell phone cameras and the internet have made everyone a "journalist" -- there simply to record images, not to interfere or take part in the event.

Finally, just hearing the description of this brave cat reminded me of my mom's little cat Bitsy. She was up for the world's record as the smallest living cat, but her health was just too poor. Despite her small stature, Bitsy was feisty. She took swipes at much bigger cats, and when we were at a rest area once, she looked like she was about to take off after the industrial lawnmower down the hill. She wasn't afraid of anything, and if she'd run into a gator, well, it's not an experience the gator would soon forget.

So, what are your thoughts about the video of the cat attacking the gator? Harmless fun? No one in real danger? Or a sign of how careless and thoughtless people can be these days?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that causes the heart walls to thicken, so that they can't work correctly. It strikes many people without warning, and it's also the most common heart disease in cats. In 2004, I learned about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy the hard way.

Quinn (August 2000 - January 2005)
My husband and I had spent the day working in our new house doing some renovations. When we got home, we found Quinn struggling to breathe. Trying to stay calm, we rushed Quinn to the emergency vet, and they managed to get him stabilized, although it took a while to get a correct diagnosis. Over the next several weeks, we took him in to our vet, as well as to at least two other animal hospitals for specialized testing our vet couldn't do. Quinn was on so many medications, we had to tape a chart to the wall to keep track of what he took and when. He didn't want to eat, so we bought baby food and begged him to "eat just a bite for mommy, baby, please."

At one of the other animal hospitals, he picked up a respiratory infection, which spread through our other cats before we realized he was infected. We added that antibiotic to the drug chart, and of course, we had to dose the others with that as well. Quinn's appetite got even worse. He began to run from us because he didn't want to take another pill.

It was heartbreaking for us. It hurt our bank account, too. In the middle of it all, we got hit by a major hurricane and basically evacuated into the new house.

A few months after his heart attack, Quinn's medications had been reduced significantly. He was finally starting to seem happy and healthy again. We thought we were on the home stretch to full recovery, when he had another heart attack. That time, we set him free. He was four years old.

Many people criticized the money, time and attention that we devoted to trying to get Quinn well again. They didn't understand that our cats are our children. We had to give him every opportunity to survive. Years before, I'd had a cat with an enlarged heart who exhibited the same symptoms. Allie was not diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy specifically, and I have no record of the central Florida vet who treated him. Allie not only survived, he thrived and lived to be 18 years old. I had no reason not to give Quinn the same chance to live a long life. The money we spent also gave us time to tell Quinn over and over again how much we loved him. Would we do it again? I don't know.

A few months after Quinn died, his littermate Remy was at the emergency vet for a urinary tract infection when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. My husband, who was present when Quinn was put to sleep and witnessed the worst of his second heart attack, was ready to have him put to sleep to prevent him suffering. We waited, though, and took him to our regular vet for a second opinion. He listened and listened and listened to Remy's heart and finally found the murmur. He said it wasn't all that pronounced; he could only hear it if he held the stethoscope in just the right place. We had some other tests done, including a sonogram of his heart, and he now takes atenolol every day, but five years later, he's still doing fine.Hopefully, his heart will continue to stay strong.

You can learn more about feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy from the Cat Fancier's Association. Certain breeds are more susceptible than others. If you find your cat gasping for breath, one possible cause could be HCM, and a rush visit to a veterinarian is in order. I hope it's something you'll never have to experience.