In honor of New York City and my Willamena who is now 14-years-old...

we take a look back to past Howl-oween jaunts.

Click here for THE WILLAMENA NEW YORK CITY HAUNTED TOUR It's the official tour of Willamena's favorite haunted spots in New York City. No costume was needed for this trek across the city.

However, the next year, Mena found a phone booth on the Upper West Side to transform from Clark Kennel to SUPERMENA! Click here... It's SUPERMENA!

Mena the Mutt-ador
In a land of labra- doodles and other hybrids- we decided since Mena was part MUTT and part labrADOR, she had to dress as a MUTT-ADOR.
She visited the Bowling Green Bull in NYC. and here...

Willamena has traded Central Park for Central Texas in her retirement years.

Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) and London's new skyline icon: The Shard

Picture from February 2012

Later this month when the summer Olympics kick off in London ( London 2012- click here for schedule) you will no doubt be inundated with iconic images of London. You'll probably even hear more on the controversy of how Big Ben will soon officially be considered "Elizabeth Tower."

If you take a look behind Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower, you'll see London Eye, the big wheel. This picture was taken right around the corner from 10 Downing Street.

From another angle, in Hyde park, behind London Eye, you see a building rising tall from the south side of the Thames.
The new all-glass structure is called The Shard.
Shot of the SHARD just prior to completion. June 2012
Click here for the official website which includes views from the structure.

The Shard is set to open to the public July 5th, 2012.

The Shard is the tallest building in London, as well as the tallest building in the EU. There is a hotel, offices, condos and observation tower.

As I walked London over the past few years, I watched the Shard grow. Scroll down to see the 1,020 ft tall building from different locations. You can see it from different angles around London, just as you can the Empire State Building in NYC.

(The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall.)

Click here for a map of the Tube.

Around corner from London Bridge Tube Station.
January 2012
October 2010
See the Shard popping up over Tower of London. 2011
January 2012. Shot from St. Thomas street.

2011. Steps from Borough and Southward Tube stations.

Near Temple Tube Station. See the Shard on south side of the Thames. 2011
Outside Waterloo Tube Station. 2011.

Colorado Wildfires

I woke up this morning to read that more evacuations are expected as firefighters continue their efforts against wildfires west of Fort Collins, Colorado. More evacuations are expected.

You know how it is when you know someone who lives in an area where there is destruction. There is that little gasp, and you hope they are okay.

This past year at the SXSW music festival in Austin, I was lucky to attend a showcase of Fort Collins, Colorado music called Spokes BUZZ.

The musicians were out speaking to the guests, they gave me a couple of C-D's and I shot video of the performances. (I'm actually working on editing some of their performances which I'll post later.) One of the promoters, Bob Carnahan, told me about the
Mishawaka, a venue where many of the featured artists perform. His description stuck in my mind, saying something to the effect of it being the prettiest place to see live music. Rolling hills with sheep, a river, even an occasional BEAR!

I contacted Bob as soon as I read that wildfires tore across more than 56-thousand acres west of Fort Collins, destroying at least 181 structures.

He wrote me back saying his beloved Mishawaka amphitheater on the banks of the Poudre River has become a staging area for firefighters.

The owner of the Mishawaka is the president and founder of SpokesBUZZ. At this point, he says the owner hasn't been able to "get back up the canyon to see anything," but has been getting updates from firefighters.

Bob went on to say it is a nasty wildfire and "although it is still several miles from the city proper, the smoke occasionally settles across the community as the wind shifts."

What he says next reminds me of the wildfire that ravaged much of Bastrop, just outside Austin, almost one year ago.

He says everyone knows someone that has been impacted in some way and that there are "hundreds of families staying in hotels and with friends until they get an all clear for their area. I have a friend who believes he lost his cabin early Sunday morning after the fire chased him out."

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Queen...

Following her Diamond Jubilee, wonder what Queen Elizabeth II got for her 86 birthday on June 16th?

On the occasion, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an official statement.

 You can read it here on my New York Press Club blog post.

Egyptian Elections

Reading about people in Egypt voting for the first time in nearly 30 years, I thought about my trip to that country last August.

I wasn't in Cairo where the trial of Hosni Mubarak was being held.

I was southwest of there in Sharm El-Sheikh on the Red Sea at a resort.
 I longed to witness the trial, but who can complain about a relaxing time on the beach on southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, with views of the mountains and all you can eat and drink service.

The people working at the hotel were Egyptian, but they didn't have much to say about Mubarak. It was Ramadan, so they mostly spoke of how they couldn't eat most of the day, drink or have sex.

Sharm El-Sheikh is south of Mt. Sinai. I didn't take the two day trip up to the mountain, but I did take a bus into Wadi Mandar in the middle of the desert.

Camels then took us into an area where bedouins fed us and hosted a dance around a fire pit. There were also telescopes set up to look at the stars. I've never seen the rings of Saturn so distinct.

This historic election comes after mass protests led to the ousting of Mubarak. I like the way this Washington Post blogger put it... "After a revolution, a dictator’s flight and a year of debate, the people go to the polls." It's a two-day voting event, Wednesday and Thursday May 23 and 24. There are 13 candidates. If one doesn't get 50-percent of the vote, people return to the polls.

The Diamond Jubilee

Raise a cuppa in honor of the Queen. 2012 is her 60 year Diamond Jubilee.

She took the throne in February of 1952, but according to the official website of the British Monarchy, the big celebration weekend is 2nd-5th June. June 2nd is a special date because its the day of her actual coronation in 1953.
Click here for the official Diamond Jubilee website.
I found this tea cup in a friend's cabinet. It's from the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977. Much like plans for the upcoming weekend in June, the previous celebration included street parties, pageants and parades and a Royal Tour of the UK and Commonwealth.

 Both of the websites can serve as a refresher course on history. Quite honestly I had an "oh, that's right" moment when reading about planned visits to some of the Commonwealth countries, Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories. Click here for history on the Monarchy from 400 AD to present.
Pour me another cup while I have a go at some history lessons.

Battleship Texas

So many "100 year" celebrations this year.

Chevrolet is celebrating it's 100 year anniversary.(Click for 1912 pic.)
Grand Central Station is 100. (Okay so it was actually complete in 2013. But it took a decade to build and a "celebrating 100 years" sign is currently on display.)
Bryron Nelson, Eva Braun and Woodie Guthrie would have all turned 100.
In March of 1912 Tokyo gave Washington D.C. 3,000 cherry trees.
Of course all the media won't let us forget the Titanic.
And there is another ship with a centennial this year.
Battleship Texas.

I only paused to click on the information because I saw Battleship Texas is part of the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, and just recently on a drive from Houston I stopped to take pictures of the monument. After spending time in London and seeing all the memorial obelisks, I was interested in seeing the "world's tallest monumental column."
However I didn't notice Battleship Texas. But then I didn't go to the site, just pulled over on the side of the road. Maybe I did capture the Battleship in my pics? Nope. Looking back, doesn't look like it. I got a nice sunset.
I've probably read about Battleship Texas in the past, I just don't recall. I guess that is why we have 100-year celebration reminders.
According to the state media release, Battleship Texas was launched May 18, 1912 and "served the country in both World War I and World War II and was the only battleship to serve in all theaters during the last world war."
(READ the release here for details of the Saturday, May 19th event.)
It goes on to say she (oh, it's a girl!) "was presented to the State of Texas and commissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy on San Jacinto Day, 1948 and retired on the site of the San Jacinto Battleground, the state’s most significant victory. She has served as a museum memorial since 1948 and is anchored on the Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel."

In all honesty I had to look up details of the Battle of San Jacinto. Wikipedia not only offered a concise description, it gave options to read of other San Jacinto battles.
As for the event that happened where Ms. Battleship Texas is stationed, most websites sum it up at the "decisive battle of the Texas Revolution." Led by General Sam Houston, it's said to be a fight that lasted a mere 18 minutes and delivered Texas it's independence from Mexico.
However it happened in 1836.
So while this summer we remember 200 years since the War of 1812, we'll have to wait until 2036 for a proper bicentennial bash for the Battle of San Jacinto.

Every Four

Four years might be the life span for a computer.
Back in January of 2008 I was celebrating my new Mac Book Pro. (Read the blog post here)I was really excited about all the igadgets I would be needing.

Now, four years later, celebrate isn't the term I'd use for things I say out loud while using my laptop. Actually, it's not that bad. It just needs more memory and an electrical outlet nearby. The laptop has to always be plugged in because the machine keeps killing the internal battery.

But I do have another computer and I can use my Mac Book Pro as an external drive. I bought a special cord- and if you hold down "ALT T" as you turn on the computer you want to use as the file source, you can drag and drop and access all your content. Well, most of it.
This weekend while staying with a friend in Austin she told me her computer is four years old and she also has to keep it plugged in. Her other problem is her N. It doesn't work well. You have hit it really hard. It made me realize how often I type New York. And, no getting around not using N in Austin. (See I used N in every word?)
N-nee way...
While in Austin I heard the *n*ews Apple is dramatically increasing the size of it's headquarters there.
Then I drove to the Apple store at the Domain and bought an iPad Camera Connection Kit. For 30-dollars the two adaptors allow you to import pictures and video from an SD Card or USB.
Which basically means I now have a USB inport for my iPad. (N-port:)
Too bad I saw the sign in the window reminding me I need a new iPad. The third generation has now been out for a while. I'm still using the first one- and it's doing just fine. I bought mine in April 2010 so using the four year rule, I should have two more years to go! iPhones are a different different story. I've bought four in the past two years. Only one still works (despite it's busted screen and broken status.)

Back in 08 when my shiny new laptop was full of free GB and hope, it was a year of election coverage.
Read about the use of twitter in the 08 elections on our way to November 4th of that year. Every four. Hmmm does anyone know anything about numerology? Are we living in quads? I did in college. Here's to the next quantum leap.

Cinco de Mayo - Dia de deportes. (Day of Sports)

When I first heard Cinco de Mayo was also the day of The Kentucky Derby this year, I vowed to celebrate "Cinco de Derby."
Get the fancy hats and mint juleps ready for the 138th Kentucky Derby. Previews begin on NBC at 4pm ET and don't blink, the race is  6:24 p.m. ET.

But first, don't forget to cheer on the New York Rangers in the conference semifinals at Washington starting at 12:30.

Quite honestly if you like sports, your team might be playing today. We have baseball: The Red Sox at 1pm, the Mets at 4:00 and the Yanks at 7:00.

The NBA has matchups. My Mavs play at 7:35pm.
And there is soccer. The New York Red Bulls are playing for the first time without Thierry Henry against the Galaxy in Los Angeles. But you might want to tune in at David Beckham is supposed to make a return to the Galaxy tonight. Mr. Spice himself.

If you like Football- (the European kind) as I'm writing this the Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich is already over, ending in a draw.

THE BIG game over in London town is at Wembley where Chelsea is taking on Liverpool in the 131st FA Cup Final at 5:15 pm. (That's London time.)
It's a classic race of red and blue between two old rivals. Read this post where I sort of compare the teams to the Yankees and Red Sox.

Actually having the derby on the same day as big soccer match ups reminds me of a match at Stamford Bridge. One of my female friends from London had never been to a match so I was explaining which team we were cheering for and which goal post they were aiming. She made the comment: "These men are like race horses, THOROUGHBREDS."

Click here to check out last year's Cinco de Mayo blog. It ended up being about Manchester United.

Thank you Easter Bunny, BOK BOK!

Easter has always been a favorite holiday of mine. It arrived with candy, a treasure hunt of eggs and in this picture from the 1970's- a large stuffed bunny!

Even my favorite commercial on TV was the Cadbury Bunny. Oh, how I love my creme eggs which are only available this time of year (another reason to be excited for Easter.) However in the UK- Cadbury Creme Eggs are on the shelves year round.

Anyway- since the Cadbury eggs aren't an Easter exclusive in the UK- they didn't have the Cadbury Bunny commercials.
Ha- and in searching for an old commercial to post here, I realize in my mind I'd merged the M&M "thank you Easter Bunny" commercial with the Cadbury bunny. No wonder people in London had no idea what I was talking about when I imitated the commercial, "Thank you Easter Bunny! Bok Bok!" But then I got used to saying things people who spoke English didn't understand.
I thought maybe I was on to something considering the Cadbury buyout in 2010- but again, upon looking it up, Kraft bought Cadbury. Why did I think it was Hershey? ***here is an update - since my newly purchased Creme Egg says Hershey on it... I checked in with Wikipedia. Here is what whomever says:
Creme Eggs are produced by Cadbury UK in the United Kingdom and by Cadbury Adams in Canada. They are sold by Kraft Foods in all markets except the USA, where the Hershey Company has the local marketing rights.
Here is the M&M commercial-
And here is an old Cadbury Bunny commercial. Still love it.

Going back not quite so far in Easter bunny history, here is an old blog post I wrote at News 12 Connecticut. From 2004 through like 2008 photographer Lori Golias and I took our pic with the bunny at the various Connecticut malls to use in our weekly "What's Going On" report.

This pic to the left is from Stamford Town Center, but the others are at Westfield Trumbull.
Wouldn't you know it the first mall I go to in London is a WESTFIELD?

Yes, I checked. Same company. There is also a Westfield in STRATFORD- Stratford, East London. It's near the new Olympic stadium. You will probably hear quite a bit about Stratford late this summer during the Olympics.
I just think it's funny- Westfield Trumbull is in Trumbull, CT.
Westfield Connecticut Post Mall is in Milford, CT.
and Westfield Stratford is in Stratford, East London. (For people not familiar with Connecticut, Stratford, CT is between Trumbull and Milford.)

TX Independence Day Ties with London

Because New York City reporter in London is originally from Texas...

March 2, 2012 marks 176 years of Texas Independence from Mexico.

The Convention of 1836 declared that freedom. The same year, The Republic of Texas fostered ties with London, Paris and Washington, D.C. by establishing legations (a form of embassy) in each place.
In London, Texas history is marked by libations.
You can enjoy a margarita at the Texas Embassy Cantina near the site of the 1836-1845 legation. (It was closed when the Republic became a state. Supposedly the British Empire supported keeping it independent, offering to guarantee its borders.)
The cantina is just off Trafalgar Square.
The actual Texas Legation in London was in a building that was also home to a wine merchant’s firm. “Berry Brothers and Rudd” is still there on St. James street and has been since 1698.

These are pictures from “Texas Embassy.” It’s just off Trafalgar Square on Cockspur street. Have some chili then head to the National Portrait Gallery for a free drawing lesson. (Drawing- of people, not guns.)

The signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836 by 60 delegates happened in a place called Washington, now known as “Washington-on-the-Brazos” or the Birthplace of Texas. It’s between Brenham and Navasota, (uhhh, okay, north of Houston.)

According to the Star of the Republic Museum, in the 1830’s the fledgling village also had marriages, divorces, lawsuits, balls, horse races, was a hub for medical practices, land offices, hotels and TAVERNS.

Today, (March 2, 2012) is the dedication of a monument tracing the heritage of the six flags that have flown over Texas. It’s located along Highway 105 in August Horst City park in Navasota.

I went to SMU in Dallas, and attended SMU-In-London’s summer International Communications Program back in 1995. So I found my flag at the London Texas Embassy.

CHEERS! To Texas History?

Sorry Walter

Home in Texas visiting Willie, Wanda and Willamena, I almost feel I owe you (and your agent and lawyer) some money.
While spending an enjoyable evening reading your 1996 book "A Reporter's Life - Walter Cronkite," picked up for a buck at my favorite family run chain "Half Price Books," I notice on the inside flap of my hardcover edition "FPT U.S.A. $26.95 Canada $35.00."

This realization at least curbed my lingering laughter over the use of " babushkas" on the first page of chapter 1.
People in Connecticut know how my former tv news weather cohort Paul Piorek uses the same word on the air (in the winter.) And how for more than eight years he had me repeating "babushka alert" six times by 6:00am.
He used it to mean large warm hat, or scarf, or something.
But then one day on air Paul said a viewer called and told him babushka meant grandmother and we envisioned wrapping a grandmother around your head and probably said silly incoherent stuff on TV.

Would I actually owe money if I reproduce Walter's babushka sentence?

Well right there, first page, after using the word babushkas, Walter has "grandmothers" in parenthethis.

Already the book is worth double the dollar. Plus our Texas connection and that Walter worked for CBS and I'm freelancing in London at CBS---- and add the fact his book incited a blog post- and more to follow: the font in the front flap had two lines though the dollar sign. Typing this up on my iPad I can only get one line through. For all I know that could be a different currency and one day it could mess someone up on Ebay.

And why list Canada? Why the different price? We don't list the conversion of price for other countries we border.
Living in London I was told America didn't trade with Canada (England's commonwealth.)
Oh I stood up for America's vast dealings with Canada- how I used to walk across the Buffalo border and buy stuffed moose (stuffed dog toy moose- another blog post.)
But then I started thinking. What are the stipulations and dealings and why would an intelligent successful person believe America doesn't trade with Canada. Does "trade" mean the same thing in UK as it does in US? The word "arrest" has a very different meaning in England versus America.
It's something to be aware of- so we won't jump to attack words or defend the way we understand a system. Maybe neither is wrong. Or right.

Also made me think- I have no idea what America really trades or what the tax implications are- despite the fact I sat next to a man from 530 am to 9 every day for years- who basically lived and worked on the Canadian border his prior job. (I seem to know everything else about him- including how he broke a fast with a ring-ding while keeping score at a high school hockey match-)
So I can research and I'll ask my former colleague.
Another blog.
So thank you Walter.
And I'm only on page 1.
There are 384 pages.
Readers of my blog might ask Walter and his cronies for retribution if this pace continues. I just peeped at page 384 to write the previous sentence. It's a poignant page. See you there.


The BAFTAS just might be able to help you win next year's OSCAR party pool.
(Breaking news, I know.)
But this year being two weeks apart I noticed the similarities -- such as same nominations, same winners...

CLICK HERE to read the post I wrote for the NEW YORK PRESS CLUB.
Plus some cocktail recipes from both the US and UK for the occasion.
(just scroll down the page once you get there)
And no worries- no mention of who wore what or who stood how. I had my say on "dress coverage" during the 2011 Royal Wedding.

OOPS.... I called Liverpool a London team???

How does the quote go? You aren't doing if you aren't making mistakes? Or you aren't creating if you aren't being criticized?
I don't know. And if I got the quote correct I don't know who to credit it to because I think I read it on someone's Facebook status page- anyway....

In mere existing we make mistakes. At least I do.
Here is a blog post about saying something wrong on TV News. (It has a Brighton connection:)
And let me put something in writing- it will most likely return in red ink. (That reminds me of my favorite Stephen King book, On Writing. He writes how he learned to keep writing short from a sports editor.
Oh and I read there is a something different in the UK version versus the US version. I really want to find a copy.)

In the meantime I need to put some red ink to my writing.

Recently when writing ON THE FRONT page of my New York Press Club blog, I call "Liverpool" a famed London football club.

AHHH! Let me explain- I was writing about the former General Manager of the New York Mets, Bobby Valentine, who had just accepted the position of GM of the Red Sox.
(He's the one pictured on my right. The GM of the Yankees is on the left.)
The owners of the Red Sox now own Liverpool- so I wrote: "OH and as for the LONDON angle- Recently the owners of the Red Sox bought the famed London football club LIVERPOOL.
No telling what random rant I could keep going on this topic."

Luckily a Brit pointed out how stupid that made me look. :) Imagine, calling Liverpool a London club????
I wonder, worse than me cheering for Chelsea by saying "Go Samsungs?" (That WAS a joke. In American football, the name of the team is on the shirt. Adverts are EVERYWHERE else. Even during the televised game. At least there is a chance to go to the bathroom or grab a beer... )

I wasn't trying to justify calling Liverpool a London team, but I asked- "Didn't the band, the Rolling Stones, consider themselves from Liverpool? And isn't the band known as a London band?"
I don't remember his exact response, but he explained to me the difference and why calling the Liverpool football club a London club would SINK me:)
So, to correct my statement and redeem my knowledge of Liverpool Football Club, established 1892, which plays at Anfield Stadium-- a three-hour and 45-minute drive from London--

Wait... Anfield is nearly four hours from London? The Red Sox play about four hours from New York.
The Red Sox colors are red. Liverpool is red.
The Brit was right! Calling Liverpool a London team was like calling the Red Sox a New York team.

Never again.
But remember it's easier in America. The front of the Red Sox uniforms either say "Boston" or "Red Sox."
This year the front of the Liverpool jersey reads "Standard Chartered."
Let's go Standards!

First Snow of Season in London

Maybe the groundhog shadow theory has some truth. If it sees it's shadow February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, expect an early spring.

Just two days after my ground-hound saw his shadow, (see previous blog post) London got it's first snow of the season and I saw my first fox.

On Groundhog Day: How's the Weather in London?

The question usually comes in a sympathetic voice through half snarling lips, "How's the weather ... in London?"

After living here through all four seasons, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to let in on reality. I guess it also depends on if I'm answering friends from New York or Texas. There hasn't been any snow this season. And the amount of snow that shut down airports LAST season in London wouldn't have even caused LIRR or Metro North delays.  

Plus it hasn't been cold (New England standards.) As for rain- oh that London rain!!! If it falls, it's for a brief period followed by gorgeous crisp sunny skies. ( I guess like Florida.)

And get this- a common term used by weather people on TV here- is CHANGEABLE.  That's the forecast. Not mostly sunny or partly cloudy. Changeable. (I guess like Florida and Texas... and .... )

Since it's Ground Hog day, and since winter hasn't really began yet in London (New England standards) I thought I should report that Denis Dog saw his shadow in the UK.

I've read there is a bit of controversy in the states whether there will be six more months of winter or an early spring since Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow (six more months) and Staten Island Chuck did not see his shadow (early spring.) I read it on a breaking news email alert from ABC 7.  I'm still subscribed. Here is the link. 

As for my former station, News 12 Connecticut,
I can't really tell if my favorite weather man Paul Piorek saw his shadow, but he did wear photojournalist Lori Golias' groundhog hat. Lori and I spent several years covering the big event, usually checking in with Bridgeport's Beardsley Bart.

(If and when I find a copy of that piece I'll post it here. I like a good laugh at myself now and then.)

I don't know of any ground hog celebrations here in London, but then I have to admit I didn't really dig around. I did find that next Monday the movie Groundhog Day is showing  at The Prince Charles Cinema.
 It's part of the cinema's "double BILL season." Following Groundhog Day is Animal House.  It doesn't just mean Bill Murray. Clerks and Clerks 2 is coming up- and so is Dirty Dancing with Flashdance.

Quite a good find- if you are in London you can see movies you've already seen elsewhere. Just kidding. This looks like a place to keep an eye one, especially for independent film makers. I'm glad I googled groundhog day London.