Bear with me on this one. I wouldn’t ordinarily use the blog to be a Budweiser shill, but I just love this promotion. And since it’s for Budweiser Canada, we don’t even get to see it here in the US. First, watch the video above. Go ahead. It’s less than a minute long. Then, read Raju Mudhar’s explanation a month ago in the Toronto Star:
Budweiser Canada is launching an ambitious campaign that it hopes will literally score with consumers.
The brewer’s one-minute ad [on Super Bowl] Sunday will launch Budweiser Red Lights, replicas of the goal light that shines whenever your favourite NHL team scores. It has created a spokesperson, Ron Kovacs, the hockey-loving inventor of the Red Light who — beyond just appearing in the spots and teasers — may actually come to your home to install it.
The home version can be synced to your favourite team. It will flare and a horn will blare whenever your team puts one in the net, even if you’re not actually watching the game. It’s a piece of the rink in your home, or more likely, your man cave.
Kovacs’ entirely fictional back story is that of a hockey-crazed inventor who wants to bring a bit of the game experience into homes. Beyond the main ad, which shows him in action installing the light at a home where people are watching a game, there are extended clips online telling his story, including his second in command, Vance, who helps with installations. It’s a sort of hockey-mad spin on the “most interesting man in the world” beer-spokesperson trend.
“If I come to your house to install it, you’d better bet we’re going to talk hockey,” Kovacs says.
Available online at Budweiser.ca on Sunday after the spot airs, they will cost $149.99, although the company say it is taking a loss in hopes of creating buzz and demand for the product.
“We’re not making money off this thing, I can guarantee you that,” says Norrington. “The opposite, quite frankly, but we spent a lot of time to get it right. It is simple, and it’s not going to make you breakfast in the morning, but it’s going to go off every time your team scores.”
My days of intense hockey fandom are past, but I have to say, there was a time when I would have thought seriously about buying one. Especially if Ron came over to install it.
I recommend a look at the CBC interview with Ron Kovacs, which you can find by going here, scrolling down a bit, and clicking on the video. You’ll have to sit through two ads, but then you’ll be treated to Monika Platek’s interview.
Tempted? You can order one here. New orders are scheduled for shipping the week of June 10. That’s just in time for the Stanley Cup finals.
Gail, what do you think? (And Russ, do you have one yet?)
During our trip to New York last week, we wanted to get from Manhattan out to Long Island. Between gas shortages, tunnel closures, power outages, non-working traffic lights, uncertain commuter train schedules, and blocked roads, we weren’t sure how good an idea this was. But the Hertz outlet four blocks down the street from us had cars. From there, we could hop on the FDR Drive, go over the Triborough Bridge, and be on the island. Plus, at the end, we could return our car as is, not worrying about 3+ hour waits to refill the gas tank. So off we went.
It was Sunday morning. Traffic was light. Soon we were over the bridge into Queens, past LaGuardia, onto the Long Island Expressway, and headed east. There were few signs of the storm from the road itself. As we passed from Queens into Nassau County, we could see a caravan of orange trucks filling the middle lane of the expressway ahead. Maybe a dozen long, all from Asplundh, which I’ve long known as a tree service company, but only now learn is specifically focused on clearing lines for power companies.
Since 1928 the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. has been dedicated to safe, efficient and innovative line clearance services to the utility industry. Reliable, uninterrupted power is an important service provided by the world’s electrical utilities and Asplundh has the expertise to help keep the power flowing. …
As a full-service utility contractor Asplundh performs tree pruning and removals, right-of-way clearing and maintenance, vegetation management with herbicides and emergency storm work and logistical support.
A few miles later, we pulled off the expressway onto local roads. Heading down one, we understood the purpose of the caravans. On this heavily wooded road, another caravan of Asplundh trucks was spread out over a stretch of about a half mile, turning the two-lane road into an alternation of one- and two-lane stretches, with wood chips and debris all over as they removed giant branches and downed trees.
Soon we were at our family home. The yard had taken a beating. Above, you can see a tree down in the front yard. Fortunately, it fell toward the street. To the back, a tree fell toward and partly onto a corner of the house, pulling power lines with it. More than that, the pressure on the lines split a telephone pole. The lower third stuck up from the ground. The upper two-thirds fell to the ground, along with a transformer, as pictured below.
In late afternoon, as we left the house, we could hear a crew working a little farther down the line. Soon they came to the house and discovered the downed transformer. That was six afternoons ago. Two days later they had a new pole and transformer up. Only this afternoon was power restored, six days after they began work in the neighborhood, twelve days after Sandy came through.
Our drive back into Manhattan was uneventful. The Asplundh caravan was gone, the road we passed them on now clear. Traffic lights were still out, with a detour in place at the big intersection of the main north-south road and the east-west Long Island Expressway service road in order to manage traffic flow. (The north-south road is some 7 lanes wide. A simple stop-and-go pattern wasn’t going to work well. Westbound traffic was forced to turn north, with the option a few hundred yards later of turning back south in order to get across the intersection.) Once through the detour, we entered the Expressway, headed back into Queens, over the Triborough, and onto FDR Drive to go south along the East River. I should have gotten off at 96th, but instead got greedy and stayed on, aiming for an exit closer to Hertz, only to encounter our only traffic of the trip. One mile and 15 minutes later, we exited, drove up 1st Avenue, down 2nd, and into Hertz. Easy trip.
Northern Nassau County got hit pretty hard, but we knew we hadn’t seen anything near the worst of it. We are thankful for all the crews from around the country who have been working tirelessly to clear roads and restore power.
It’s not entirely news that there are eagles from time to time in our neighborhood, but when I see one, I still get excited. Three Junes ago, I wrote in passing about an eagle sighting on the north end of Foster Island. Today, at the same location, I saw the juvenile pictured above.
We are fortunate to live close to Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum, a city park managed by the University of Washington as part of the larger entity, UW Botanical Gardens. (The UWBG is directed by my friend Sarah Reichard whose book The Conscientious Gardener was the subject of a post of mine last June.) Foster Island is its northernmost portion, as you can see on the map below, on which north is to the right. Our house is on the map too, making it a short walk to the island.
You’ll also see the island’s one drawback, the fact that State Route 520 happens to run across it. A pedestrian tunnel provides access to Foster Island’s north end, with the highway well hidden visually, but not aurally. On weekends such as this one, when SR-520 is closed to traffic because of maintenance work or construction, a walk across the island is mandatory.
Once through the tunnel, it’s a straight walk of about 200 yards north to a clearing on the edge of the island, on the shoreline of Union Bay, with an outlook across Lake Washington to the east, the Montlake Cut (an artificial waterway with a drawbridge) dividing the north and south sides of Seattle to the west, the university to the northwest, and the Laurelhurst neighborhood to the northeast. The northernmost tall tree on the east side of the clearing is the eagle hangout. I zoomed in below.
Not the best photos. Sorry.
I don’t want to make too big a deal about the weather here this week. It’s not like we’ve gotten all that much snow, though other parts of western Washington did. And it’s not like getting snow is all that unusual, though some winters we don’t get any. (It’s typical when the colder winter storms move through that temperatures hover right at the rain/snow line, bringing snow to higher elevations or to areas a little outside Seattle that lack the dual moderating influences of Puget Sound and Lake Washington, with just traces of snow falling within Seattle.) But I have to say, it’s unusual to have six consecutive days of snow. And today’s sleet/ice/snow caught the forecasters by surprise.
I should explain or remind readers that snow tends to stop traffic in Seattle, especially when it turns to ice, because we’re a city of hills but not a city of plows. When I first moved here, roads just didn’t get plowed. Now the major roads do. But when snow is followed by falling temperatures and ice, the city comes to a standstill.
I wrote on Sunday about the early stages of this unexpected weather. On Saturday, it snowed briefly. I got in the car, dashed down to the local commercial neighborhood, and took care of some errands, but the snow had stopped before I got home. Sunday brought big snow in some areas, 3-4 inches here. Monday was cooler. Not too bad a day. No significant accumulations. The snow on the roads was packed hard and we kept the cars in. We walked down to the commercial neighborhood for lunch and to buy provisions. (Monday was a holiday, so getting to work wasn’t an issue.)
Tuesday was supposed to be the calm before the big storm on Wednesday. I drove to school, with temperatures in the high 30s. To my surprise, it was precipitating when I arrived, a sleety snow. By noon it was flat out snowing, and did so for a couple of hours. Very light, and with the temperatures still well above freezing, nothing stuck. From late afternoon through the evening, there was lots of melting. The drive home was easy, and at home I could hear melting water pouring through the downspouts.
The Wednesday storm (yesterday) was initially predicted, days ago, to be part of a big warm front with early snow followed by heavy rain and melting. Then it appeared that the storm would come through farther south, bringing very heavy snow here, on the order of a foot. By Tuesday night, the prediction was downgraded to 2-5 inches here, and that turned out to be about right. The big issue was whether I should get up early and walk in to school for class. Or could I drive? Or would school shut down, something it never used to do, but has in recent years in order to keep thousands of commuters off the roads? By 10:20 PM Tuesday there was no closure announcement, so I went to bed ready to get up early. But I awoke around 12:45 AM, reached for my iPad, and discovered I had missed the closure announcement, which had come through around 10:45 PM. No school. I shut the alarm.
The snow didn’t start yesterday until 4:00 AM, and never fell heavily here in Seattle, but didn’t stop until early afternoon, leaving another 3-4 inches on the ground. As predicted, snow was much heavier to the south, as much as 12-15 inches over southwest Washington. And still farther south, in Oregon, the warm front we were supposed to get had arrived, with temperatures of 50 degrees. An icy precipitation continued to fall later in the day, but nothing significant. Nonetheless, at 8:50 last night, the university announced a closure for today too. Today was supposed to be a transitional day, cold but with little precipitation, with warm air and rain finally arriving tomorrow.
Well, that didn’t happen. As local weather expert Cliff Mass explained this morning, everyone got the prediction wrong. What we got instead was an ice storm. Real bad to the south, where there are power outages. Not too bad here. But a complete surprise based on last night’s outlook. Still, as of this morning, the sleet was to stop by 1:00 PM this afternoon. Instead, it turned to snow, which is still falling. Gail and I walked down to the stores again a couple of hours ago, got some lunch, bought some food. It wasn’t too bad. Packed snow on the roads, crunchy snow where no one had driven or walked. The snow still falling is light.
We’re still supposed to get warmer weather starting tomorrow. Days of it, 40s and rain. This will all be gone quickly. The big question is whether the roads will be safe in the morning, before the warming and rain do their work. In particular, will the university close again? If it doesn’t, will anyone besides me show up to my class? It’s a disaster either way — missing yet another class, or holding a class to which few people come. With the Monday holiday, this whole week is turning into a disaster, making a mess of the start of the term.
I took the photo at the top with my iPhone on our return from this afternoon’s outing. Just for the heck of it, I offer a contrast below, a shot of Sankaty Head lighthouse in Nantucket taken last September as we cycled back from ‘Sconset to Wauwinet. I would say I’d rather be there, but, you know, it’s actually quite lovely here.
Maybe we get a little too excited when it snows in Seattle. Several local Facebook friends were quick to post photos of today’s snow. And here I am with my own. I know, it’s not that big a deal. But today’s snow did produce some lovely scenery.
Several fronts are moving through, and the weather conditions are just right for a potential sequence of four independent separate snowfalls, starting with a small one yesterday (Saturday) and continuing through Wednesday morning. Famed local weather expert and faculty colleague Cliff Mass has been providing details at his blog, explaining this morning that the
situation has four stages:
Stage 1: Snow with the front yesterday, with convergence zone snow.
Stage 2: Today’s snow with the coastal trough
Stage 3. Later tomorrow snow with another trough
Stage 4: SLUSHMAGEDON on Wednesday AM.
The current model runs suggest that the next week will bring some of the most intense and active weather in a long time…windstorms, rain, snow….the trifecta of NW weather.
The snow today began early, but was light and intermittent until noon, when things got serious. Over the next hour and a half, big flakes filled the air, leaving 3-4 inches on the ground hereabouts. We’re in a lowland part of Seattle, often the least affected by snowfall. I imagine much more fell farther from the water and at higher elevations.
Around 2:15 this afternoon, I headed out to take some photos, three of which you see here. We’ll enjoy it while we can. It should be gone by late in the week.
I love Apple and all, but it’s never fun when I have to put on my IT hat and pretend I know what I’m doing, especially without Joel around to calm me down when I get frustrated. This was quite the IT week for Apple captives around the world. I seem to have survived.
I got home Wednesday evening and immediately set about updating my iMac, preparatory to installing the new operating system, iOS 5, on my iPad and iPhone. I had to update the iMac with the new version of Lion, then the new version of iTunes, then sync my iPad with the iMac, then download iOS 5 onto the iMac, then install it on the iPad. Success. On to the iPhone: sync, download iOS 5, install. Success again. Then put the new Lion and iTunes on the MacBook Air.
Yesterday, more of the same. Gail’s iMac was stuck back in the Snow Leopard days, so first I had to do a new install of (the updated version of) Lion. Then iTunes. Then iOS 5 for iPad and iPhone. In parallel, off in North Carolina, Joel performed the same operations on his MacBook and iOS devices.
Now that we’re all lionized and iOS fived, we can take advantage of the new features. Like what? Well, iMessage should prove useful. It’s the text messaging emulator that’s built into the text message app on the iPhone and installed as well on the iPad, allowing you to text fellow iOS 5′ers through the internet. This may allow us to drop our AT&T message plan, depending on our usage levels. I don’t know yet. More important, I can text from the iPad, then leave the house and switch the conversation to the iPhone. I like that.
And I like being able to use the volume-raising button on iPad or iPhone as the camera shutter release. The virtual button on the screen has been an ongoing nuisance. It’s about time.
Also in the “about time” department is tabs in Safari. It’s always a pain when I accidentally hit a link while browsing on iPad or iPhone and a new window gets launched, forcing me to hit the window icon, close it, and return to the original window. Now such errors won’t be so annoying. I can just close the new tab and be back at the old one.
I’m still playing around with the split keyboard capability on the iPad, not sure whether I like it or not. The halves that open up within thumb’s reach of either side are small, necessarily so, that being the whole point, but maybe too small. I make more errors, so far anyway, and have to depend more on the built-in spelling correction. It’s a good idea in principle I just have to see how well it works for me.
What else? I know I’m forgetting something. I’m glad the music app is finally called just the music app, rather than the vestigial “iPod” app. Not that that is important functionally, except that when I wanted to play music, I had to take an extra couple of mental steps to realize that “iPod” meant “music”.
The big question is, when do I get an iPhone 4S? How long can I live without Siri? In just two months, I’ll be eligible to update at the base iPhone price.
[Trent Bell for The New York Times]
Regular Ron’s View readers know how much Gail and I love Nantucket. It was thus a pleasure to see the featured article in the NYT Home section two days ago. It’s hard to miss, right on the top of the front page, a photo of a house that couldn’t be anywhere but on Nantucket.
Except that I did miss it when I pulled apart the sections of the print edition Thursday morning. I got lucky Thursday night and noticed the article online, along with a 17-photo slideshow that makes the online version the better one to read in any case.
I carried the printed Home section into the den to show Gail, and she shared my reaction that we must have walked past this house. I suppose we haven’t. It’s just that the 1800s houses in town pretty much look alike, and we’ve definitely walked past this house’s brethren.
The focus of the article is on how the new owner furnished the house rather than on the house itself. The wonders of eBay. You can get a good sense of what she has bought by going through the slideshow. I don’t imagine we’ll ever buy a house on Nantucket. It wouldn’t make sense, on many levels. But we talk about it on occasion. And we have yet to decide whether we’d look in town or a ways out. I did find the perfect location three summers ago. We got back from our visit and out of curiosity I looked at listings online. There was a house available in Wauwinet, on the thin bit of land on the eastern edge of the island that extends northward, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the eastern end of Nantucket Harbor. There are just a couple of dozen homes there, north of the Wauwinet Inn, beyond which is several miles of undeveloped (and undevelopable) land on the way to Great Point. These are unique properties, and in case I thought otherwise, the listed price of the house confirmed it — $14 million. Oh well. We’ll just visit.
We’ve had some unexpected guests this spring. They’re pretty much in the mainstream as far as wild animals go. They just don’t happen to be the sort of animals that drop in on us.
One morning in mid April, Emma was outside on the back patio, tail twitching, on alert for something. I went around to the kitchen, looked out the window, and there was a mallard couple, just sitting on the lawn. They seemed content, but Emma wasn’t. They soon stood up and waddled around, covering a fair bit of the backyard before flying off. I thought that was that, but they’ve since been regular guests. Above is a video I took on my iPhone one afternoon in late April, after having to drive around them to pull into the driveway. For the next few weeks, they would hang out in the backyard every day.
Thanks to the bird feeder Jessica got me for my birthday, we’ve also had a steady stream of other commonplace birds visiting. Most notable are the Stellar’s Jays, who are too big to sit on the feeder perches. Instead, they hang out in our cherry tree preparing for the attack, then fly over and grab onto the bottom of the feeder, hanging upside down and rocking it to spill seed onto the ground.
Two days ago, after our Memorial Day barbecue, I was stunned to see a rabbit in the backyard. I know, rabbits are as commonplace a mammal as there is. But not in our yard. Squirrels, sure. Raccoons. Coyotes. But not rabbits. Yet, there he was, sitting out there. Gail and I both grabbed cameras. He fled to the edge of the yard. I shuffled out to meet him, one small slide step at a time, taking a sequence of photos in which he got bigger and bigger, culminating in the one below.
Another step and he took off across the yard, back towards our patio, as you can see in the next photo.
Emma was upstairs taking her afternoon doze, so she missed out on all the fun. The rabbit hasn’t returned.
Things have been a little too quiet here at Ron’s View. Sorry about that. I had some grading to do this past week, and although that didn’t occupy every waking minute of my days, it did interfere with regular blog posting. At 4:00 PM yesterday, with just an hour to spare, I got my grades submitted. Time to relax!
Except it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. Not yet. It didn’t help that I did something really dumb right after submitting the grades. I wanted to clean up both the physical and electronic documents for the course, clearing my real and virtual desktops in preparation for my course next quarter. My last step was to move my grading spreadsheet into the course folder on the computer. When I did so, I found that some strange file had appeared in the folder, and when I went to delete the unwanted file, I managed to delete the entire folder instead. That wasn’t good, all the more because I intended to use some of the now-deleted files as templates for next quarter’s course. After writing an embarrassing confession to our computer support staff, I headed home, imagining the worst. I never did relax last night and enjoy the quarter’s work being done.
At 7:00 this morning I opened my email to the happy news that the staff had restored the files. Time to relax at last. I thought. I let Emma (the cat) out, went about my business, looked forward to catching up on assorted tasks. Then, maybe an hour later, I heard outside the window that screeching cat sound that always makes me worry that Emma is being attacked. I opened the window, then the front door, then the back door, then ran upstairs to see if maybe Emma were actually sitting in her usual daytime locations, which she wasn’t, then came back down and opened the side door off the kitchen, then the garage door, then went out to look for her. Not in front. Not in the side yard where she sometimes hides if she’s uncomfortable. As I came around to the backyard, I saw two cats, seeming mirror images, facing off about three feet apart on our back patio. I couldn’t tell which one was Emma, whether the interloper was between her and the house or whether she was keeping the interloper away. As I approached, the cat farther from the house ran toward the bushes and the other (now revealed to be Emma) ran to the back door. When I came closer, she raced through the door, faster than I’ve seen her run in years. I followed her in and watched her disappear down the basement stairway. I reached the stairway and she was a few steps down looking up, but when she caught sight of me she turned and ran again, down I imagined to her usual remote safety zone, the guest bedroom.
Which brings me to the next part of the story. I need to note that a week ago we had some of the heaviest rains in decades here in Seattle, what’s called a Pineapple Express, when a warm weather system comes straight in from Hawaii and dumps inches of rain. I was afraid to go down to the basement, lest I discover some flooding. Not that there has been flooding lately. None since October 2003, the last and worst of our many basement floods, after which we finally re-did the whole drainage system outside, where the drainage contractor could. One area couldn’t be reached. But that’s okay. It was by the basement bedroom, which in 17 years has never flooded.
Well, when I finally did head down to look for water last week, with Joel beside me since I didn’t dare do it alone, I found no water in any of the old bad spots. The guest bedroom though I wasn’t sure about. No standing water or anything, but a sense of dampness. I told Gail, thought we’d check again on Friday when our contractor was going to swing by to deal with a different issue, but when Friday came I completely forgot.
So now it’s Tuesday morning, a week after the Pineapple Express, and Emma draws Gail and me down to the bedroom. The carpeting still didn’t feel obviously wet, but the odor suggested that it surely was. Two hours later, our friend Bert (longstanding employee of the contractor) came over from another job, pulled up some of the carpeting, and the pad was soaked. Another two hours later and two more members of the contractor team pulled out all the carpeting and pad. We have a pretty good guess where the water came in and why, but more diagnostic work needs to be done. A dehumidifier is hard at work. With the pad gone, the odor will disappear in due course.
Sigh. This isn’t how I wanted my break to begin. I don’t feel relaxed at all. And there are all the blog posts I have to write. Better get to work.
I know a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. But what value do we put on a bird flying around in the house? An outdoor sparrow, that is, not an indoor pet. Joel shouted to me from upstairs an hour ago, a shout that made me think flood. Or leak. Not a good shout. I ran to the stairway and shouted, “What?” “There’s a bird in my room.” I told him to open the window, figured he had it under control, and went back to get the two copies I was printing of tomorrow’s NYT crossword, one for each of us.
Now, I forgot to say that we had our first snow of the year this morning, and an unexpected one at that. It was supposed to snow to the south of us, and well north, but here in Seattle, as the temperatures dropped, we weren’t supposed to have enough moisture to bring snow. Around 6:30 this morning, there were traces. I figured that was that. What I didn’t realize is that it was just beginning. An hour later, there was an accumulation on the grass, on our outdoor table, and on assorted other surfaces, though not the road yet. A couple of hours later, Gail drove me to campus. I figured I’d rather hitch a ride with her all-wheel drive and walk home. The snow started and stopped through the day, just passing snow showers, nothing big. But when I started walking home, it was blowing right into my face. The wind has picked up tonight, the temperatures have dropped, and the snow continues to fall.
When I got up to Joel’s room, crosswords in hand, it was snowing there too. He had the window wide open, and the sparrow was having none of it. There might be a reason he had chosen to fly in and take up residence. I sure wouldn’t want to go out that window. And there was Emma, pacing around, meowing away. We got her out the door, leaving just us and the bird, but no plan.
Joel reminded me that we had wild bird seed. He went down to get some. We chased the bird around a bit. I went down and did the crossword. I came back just as the bird landed on the window ledge, by the seed, but he showed no interest in either the food or the stormy outdoors.
We resorted to trying to get a towel or blanket over him. I succeeded once, but next thing I knew, he ran out the side. Many minutes later, Joel and I got him covered on the floor, we slid a piece of cardboard under him, Joel got a box over the blanket, we got him wedged in-between, Joel carried him down, I opened the back door, and Joel placed the ensemble on the ground. Released, the sparrow flew right off.
I hope he manages out there. We’ll be sure to spread some of the wild bird seed on the back patio in the morning.
Alas, I took no photos of the snow or the bird. I’ll content myself with the generic image above.