Archive for June, 2007

Close to Home

June 29, 2007

Mike Inouye

The Angora Fire, in South Lake Tahoe, has been center stage in all of our newscasts this week. It is a concern for most of us because of the enormity and proximity.

Lake Tahoe is a favorite vacation spot for a lot of us here at the station and holds many fond memories for me, growing up skiing at both the North Shore and South Shore slopes as well as rafting down the Truckee River many a hot summer day.

Though not directly in the line of the flames, this fire rekindled some old memories for me. Some of you may have heard me tell Laura and Brent that my house burned down during my Mtn. View High School years. Everyone got out safely, thanks in part to my Grandma and Uncle who lived next door and woke us up. (Here is a picture of the hallway leading to all of our bedrooms. The sunshine pouring in where the ceiling used to be, and charred pieces of the ceiling covering the floor.)

Much of the furniture was also saved thanks to the quick work of the fire crew that moved and covered the furniture before they doused the house in water. (As you see in this photo of the dining room with the tables and chairs under tarps, ash and debris all around, and the ceiling gone leaving only the framework to hold up our chandelier.)

The fire started in our garage (see the Jeep Wagoneer we had?) and the loss of our cars wasn’t the worst. Photos like this one and this one from the fire, remind me of that image.

As I’ve come to discover, over the years, the major loss for the family was the memorabilia, crafts, holiday decorations and other special things my brother and I had made as kids, or that my parents had kept thru the years. Most of these things were in our storage space above the garage. Nothing from that area of the house is left.

While I don’t even pretend to understand the loss of the families who were in the path of this fire, I can feel for them when they talk about deciding what you pack, what you leave behind and what you wish you could have saved.

Thankfully, my family has our memories, most of the photos were saved, and we have each other.

The rest?

I guess I’ll have my kid get started on macaroni art and paper-chain garlands as soon as he’s able.

Mike Inouye
NBC11 Traffic Anchor


Boys, Guns and Clowns

June 28, 2007

Scott McGrewIf you’re worried about kids and video games, I highly recommend the book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence, a provocative book about children, violence and the media.

The author, Gerard Jones, brings up some interesting points.

His central thesis is that children need aggressive expression. Children watch violent content because it fulfills some sort of inner fantasy. It may even calm their fears and allow them to deal with anger in a safe way.

The problem, he posits, is when adults then add their own bias to the children’s behavior. For instance, adults may worry when a child sees the hero in a story shoot “a bad guy.” Adults become anguished the child will somehow learn shooting someone does not carry consequences. Note, the author says, that it is the adult who brings the violence into real life context. The child understands what he sees is fantasy — it’s the parent who takes the action out of the TV set and places it in real world context.

This thought reminds me of something out of my own life. Back when they were younger, I allowed my children to play “war” with plastic guns (they’ve since lost interest). I saw no harm in it — I did it myself as a child and grew up to be a reasonable, normal person (and we had MUCH cooler guns back then).

I emailed a relative a picture of my youngest dressed up in old Army surplus stuff — helmet on his head, canteen strapped to his waist — pointing a squirt gun at his brother.

The email returned to me with a bit of a dressing down: “you should NEVER point a gun at a person! You should tell your children that!”

I felt badly. Perhaps I was being too lax about my children’s behavior.

But reading this book, I am suddenly aware of the absurdity of the argument. He wasn’t pointing a gun at a person. He was pointing a hunk of red tipped plastic capable of squirting water at a person. We adults brought the concept of real guns into the picture. using the Three Stooges.

Killing Monsters points out studies show the best predictor of whether a child will use a gun in his adult life is not whether he grew up with toy guns, but rather if he grew up with real guns in his household.

Jones also dissects the studies of violent media’s effect on children and brings up some interesting points.

First, the seminal study of the effect of violent media on children — the one everyone quotes whether they know the details of the study itself or not — is from 1960. The media used: The Three Stooges.

The study found 10% of children shown violent media acted aggressively shortly afterward. Nothing is said about the remaining 90%.

Many subsequent studies did not start from scratch; they did not perform new tests. Rather they reanalyzed the data from the original study. So even some modern day studies are still

Further, the studies tend to show a “link” between violent media and aggressive behavior. A link is not a cause. One could say kids who watch violent media act aggressively. One could also say kids who act aggressively watch violent media. Starry eyed romantics, Jones points out, like romance novels. There’s a link there too. But it does not mean the reverse: that romance novels cause people to enter bodice ripping relationships.

And what about that aggression? We label aggression as bad. Why? And what, exactly, is “aggression”? The studies do not delve into that. If children run around shooting each other with their cocked fingers after seeing a Western, what exactly is the harm of that? Sure, kids who saw a clip of an Old West gunfight seem to then re-enact that gun fight with their fingers. And we all tut-tut. Jones dares to ask “so what?”

One last thought: Children who saw video of another child punching a plastic inflatable clown were far more likely when left in the room with a plastic inflatable clown to punch the toy than children who did not see the video.

Scientists say this indicates the video causes children to be aggressive.

Jones points out something we all seem to ignore: the children are punching A PLASTIC INFLATABLE CLOWN.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

The (Unconventional) Diary of Shannon O’Donnell

June 26, 2007

Shannon O'Donnell

So if you know me even a little bit and can read between the lines, you’ll know that my last blog wasn’t REALLY about Milky the Cow. I don’t remember the cow. I don’t remember the commercial. But I DO remember the story that I detailed in my last blog entry, having heard it over and over again over the last few decades thanks to my Mom. I lost my Mom very suddenly this past fall at the age of 61. We were closer than close, so the past eight months since have been a surreal and difficult journey. And the stories about my childhood as told through my Mother’s memories, that’s something I’ll miss the most. However, through entries she made in my baby books, plus various emails and letters, those stories will live on, and in her words.

I’ve never been much of a writer (and truthfully cringe every time it’s my turn to log in a blog entry, as creative writing was never my thing), but I have managed to keep a running diary of sorts over the years. Initially, it was in the traditional form, a little pink plaid book complete with a lock and key that somebody probably gave me around my ninth birthday. I found it a few years back, and laughed at the ten or so entries I’d made in it, most of which professed my profound love for Ricky Schroeder and my high hopes of marrying him some day (which is funny considering that the man I DID marry was told he resembled Ricky Schroeder many times around the height of Silver Spoons’ popularity…).

By junior high, I began adding little ‘one-liners’ about what was going on in my oh-so-dramatic-teenage life to my large Webster’s dictionary. Every time I’d look up a new word, I’d add the date and a tidbit of adolescent angst. Next to ‘prolific’ you might find out about my adoration for one adorable fellow 14-year-old. Near ‘onomatopoeia’, the details about him breaking his leg (how funny–didn’t I just blog about my HUSBAND breaking his leg, too? I never thought about it–guess you don’t want to date me if you want to keep your limbs in tact!). Scribbled next to ‘pejorative’, ouch! The break-up. Come to think of it, this first boyfriend also resembled Ricky Schroeder quite a bit, too. That dodgy Ricky was always breaking my heart! But I guess I was breaking his leg…

In early adulthood, I found myself opening cookbooks more often than the dictionary. So my ‘diary’ transferred to those instead. For instance, I’ve made ‘spicy sausage rigatoni’ about a dozen times, at least according to the dates and inscriptions next to the recipe. The mini-entries next to my faded ingredients are a timeline of dating and marriage, trials and triumphs, births of my boys and the early loss of two of their grandparents.

So while my Mom isn’t here to continue chronicling my life for me, maybe these short excerpts will keep a running journal of ‘what was going on when’ in her place. If my children look through the cookbooks someday, they will see how their lives were unfolding at the time, too. Probably in addition to stories I will have told them dozens of times, to the extent that they can’t remember if it really was a memory of their own, or just one of their Mother’s. Kind of like Milky the Cow.

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

Big Kahuna

June 21, 2007

Brent Cannon

Mike Inouye now calls me the “Big Kahuna.” That’s because while Laura and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in Maui I learned how to surf.

I took about a two hour lesson from Island Style Adventures, and they did a great job. If they can teach a 46-year-old man from Colorado how to catch and ride a wave, they must be doing something right.

They start with about half an hour of instruction on the sand. You learn the best way
to stand up on your board, as well as a few tips about being in the water with waves coming at you.

Then you head out and put what you have learned to practical use. The weird thing is they have you wear a thin wet suit called “rash guard.” It does exactly what the name implies – it protects you from a type of rug burn you get while laying on your board and trying to stand and paddle. I felt like a little fat stuffed sausage. It was like being an over-inflated Michelin man.

Anyway – I paddled out and the instructor in the water helped me line up for an incoming wave. I almost got up, but fell over. However, I got a pretty good sense of how stable the board was, and on my second try, I got up! In fact, I went on to catch 12 out of 14 waves. I quit at an even dozen because I was exhausted. It takes a lot of work to paddle out – surf – and paddle back again. I was very happy. I had simply hoped to get up once – but twelve times – awesome dude!

Keep in mind I’m not a top shredder by any stretch. I can’t really steer. If somebody is in the way, or there is a rock or coral, I’m in trouble. But I can stand and ride a wave in. And the waves I was on must have been all of two feet high. There is no way I rode anything like what the great surfers ride at Mavericks. I am what they call a “newbee.” But I tried something new, and I did it.

Now I can cross another item off my list. Since turning 40, I have come up with several new things I’d like to try. Fly fishing was one. I still do that. Kayaking in the ocean was one. Did that. Snowshoeing was another. I still do that. Now surfing. I may have to incorporate that as a new, regular activity. I still have to “bag a 14er” – which is hike to the top of a 14,000 foot peak. I did that in my 20’s but I want to redo it as an “older gentleman.”

Brent Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

Kimo’s Rules

June 13, 2007

Laura Garcia CannonI just came off a week vacation with my dear husband and co-anchor Brent. We spent a week in Maui celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. It’s not always easy for us to get time off together (understandably, they have to replace two people not just one!!), but it was so nice for us to get a chance to get away from work. Spending time on the beach together is much different than spending time at work together! No suits, no tv makeup, no hair dryers (which could be a scary thing judging by the crazy curl in my hair) no cares, ahhhh just the sound of the ocean and the one I love! It was so relaxing. What is it about vacation, or maybe specifically Hawaii that just mellows you out? At least it mellows me!! Upon arriving and getting our rental car, I was still driving like I was in rush hour. The 40 mph speed sign seemed so painstakingly slow! Funny how that all drifted away after a few nights of good sleep, good food, and good laughs. Pretty soon I found myself going 35 mph and loving it! No rushing around, no lists of things to do, so this is why they call it ‘vacation.’ A vacation from everything… reconnecting to what’s important. Slowing down and enjoying life. On one of our last days on the island, I ran across the something called “Kimo’s Rules” in a little touristy gift shop. It really summed up the ‘don’t worry be happy’ way of life that enveloped me on our week long break. I don’t know who Kimo is, but he got it right… I hope it doesn’t take another vacation for me to remember how to live by his rules.

1. Never judge a day by its weather

2. The best things in life aren’t things

3. Tell the truth, there’s less to remember

4. Speak softly and wear a loud shirt

5. Loosen up, the unaimed arrow rarely misses

6. He who dies with the most toys still dies

7. Age is relative, when you are over the hill you pick up speed

8. There are two ways to get rich: Make more or require less

9. What you look like doesn’t matter. Beauty is internal.

10. No rain, no rainbows.

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

No More Homework, No More Books

June 12, 2007

Scott McGrew

No More Homework, No More Books

Those of you who don’t have children probably don’t realize it, but we’re just about to hit a major yearly milestone: summer vacation from school. The old joke is that parents can’t want for school to start again, but I think that may just be an outdated cliche.

You see, I’m as excited as my children are that the school year is ending, and for the same reason: homework.

I do LOTS of homework. My junior high aged son brings home loads of it, and it has to be corrected before he turns it back in. While correcting an English assignment is easy (son, the word “you” is not spelled “u” – this is not instant messaging), correcting social studies means you have to actually UNDERSTAND what it is you are correcting. What’s the difference between the Upper and Middle Kingdom in Egypt? Do you know? Me either. Wikipedia is my friend.

Math of course is the hardest, for two reasons. First, I’m a writer. There’s a reason I’m a writer and not a mathematician – I sometimes feel like I can’t add two numbers together to save my soul. I was in a bank a few years ago when a teller tried to break my $10 bill into four $5 bills. Yes, you read that correctly. I am so self-conscious of my math handicap that I stared at the money thinking “that can’t be right.” Hesitating, I asked if she had counted correctly and she said she had. Still thinking that four $5 bills does not add up to $10, I stood uncertainly at the counter until she finally said, “oh, wait.”

I tell you this story so you understand my pain when my 12-year-old brings home the math problem about the train that leaves the station at so and so o’clock. When you’re a parent, you have no choice but to buckle down and learn, once again, how to do story problems. And divide fractions. And solve for x.

That would be tough enough – but kindergartners have homework too. My 5-year-old brings home less complicated math, it’s true. But still it’s one more bit of work for me. This on top of working a regular job and cleaning the house and making dinner before the wife gets home. “I cook and clean and work my fingers to the bone!” I can hear myself saying.

Why do kindergartners (kindergartners!) have homework in the first place? It’s your fault. And mine. All those reports in Time and Newsweek that claim our kids are “behind” the rest of the world? The end result is more homework. Voters and taxpayers say “we need higher standards!” So the schools up their standards and toughen their tests. However, there’s no extra time in the school day, so teachers drop subjects like art and music to concentrate of the fundamentals. Still, that’s not enough, and the rest is left to homework and parents.

There are a number of studies that say this simply doesn’t work. Author Alfie Kohn has gotten a lot of attention with his book The Homework Myth. A different book, The Case Against Homework points out studies that show absolutely no correlation between the amount of homework assigned and how well the child does in school. In other words, what you want – smarter kids – and what you’re getting – more homework – is not working.

And of course, studies say homework is more likely to be done (and corrected) in stable homes with educated parents. The kids who don’t have two parents at home – or parents who are always at work because they’re trying to feed their families – just suffer that much more.

Teachers are as frustrated as parents. Those new “standards” are so specific, teachers are essentially checking things off a list – called a rubric – that is handed down to them by the state. Remember your favorite teacher from school? He or she probably had some special activity – only in Ms. Smith’s class do you get to have reading circus or go to the zoo or whatever. They don’t do that anymore. There is very little time for “unique” teaching when you have to check off the state requirements.

My most dependable source on homework (particularly amongst kindergartners) comes from a fellow with a PhD in education, the former Illinois School Superintendent of the Year with 40 years experience in school administration. He says “kindergarten should teach you not to stick beans up your nose, and not much more.” On homework he told the New York Times “We tend to give more homework than many of the other countries, especially Germany and Japan. We have this almost-religious belief in homework. Is it producing anything? Maybe we ought to give less homework (my emphasis) and make it more focused.”

In all fairness, I should point out this fellow is also my dad. And he made me do all my homework. I do recall bringing home a “word search” as homework once and watching my dad – who keep in mind was my teacher’s boss’s boss – nearly burst a blood vessel.

I can hear you saying “it’s important to make sure our children are first in the world.” And I agree with you. However, there are a number of studies that say what you worry about – that our children ain’t learnin’ – is a false assumption. I’ll leave that for another blog entry.

In the meantime, I’ll be singing that old children’s rhyme “no more homework, no more books…”

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

Shannon & The Marvelous Milking Cow

June 11, 2007

Shannon O'Donnell

Normally I can’t stand email spam, and delete such items from my inbox (which I suppose means I will have countless decades of bad luck for not forwarding each tidbit about the meaning of life to my 10 closest friends within 3 minutes, but you have to draw the line somewhere). However, I do admit to reading through the ‘You know you’re a child of the 1970s when…’ lists. You know, the ones that take you down memory lane with quips like ‘all skaters, change directions’ and nods to Dorothy Hamill haircuts and Schoolhouse Rock.

So recently on the 10AM newscast, we were talking about toys from the ’70s, and I mentioned my memories of a toy cow that you ‘milked’ by pumping its tail. Apparently, I was the ONLY one with this memory, because I got three blank stares back in return.

I don’t know that I so much remember the toy itself, or even the commercial. But I do remember my interpretation of the commercial, because my mother told me about it roughly 557 times. She loved to tell the story about the time my grandparents were visiting, and I explained to them (in the deadpan, serious tone that only a 6-year-old can muster) that to milk a cow, you simply poured water in its mouth, pumped its tail and voila! Out came the milk! I guess they laughed their you-know-whats off and made me explain just how to go about extracting a bovine beverage, well, ’til the cows came home, as they got such a kick out of my ignorance-er–innocence.

So how in the world did I come up with such an idea? In this case, you really CAN blame your television for the dumbing down of America. As you can see by clicking the link below, I was the unwitting victim of the boardroom geniuses at Kenner toys:

Well, at least it wasn’t just an overactive imagination at work! On the bottom of said link, you’ll find yet another link, courtesy of YouTube, to the very 1970s commercial that incorrectly informed me in the ways of cow-keeping. But. Maybe that will jog your memory, too. And maybe the next time you get that ‘You know you’re a child of the 1970s email spam, it will include the line ‘you were under the impression that you milked a cow by giving it water and pumping its tail, thanks to the Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow commercial’.

{On a side-note, since I really AM a genuine, in-the-flesh child o’the 70s, I am a bit behind on the wonders of Youtube and MySpace. Wow! Looking for this commercial online, it was as if I’d opened up a portal to my childhood. You can find all kinds of commercial jingles and now-vintage 1970s toys on there. Snoopy Sno-Cone machine, anyone?}

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

I Hope I Don’t Get Carded

June 8, 2007

Mike Inouye

Okay, I’m pretty old to get “carded” for ID when ordering wine at the restaurant but this is a different issue… Tonight is an event held in connection with the Alameda County Library Foundation. It’s a fundraiser kickoff and I’m honored to have been asked to emcee the evening. This group is responsible for getting the necessary funds to all the library agencies throughout Alameda County, including services such as Adult Literacy, Homework Help and even literacy/life skills services for those held in county jails. (You gotta check out this blog site maintained by the “Librarians serving those serving time.”)

Now, the emcee part of the evening is sure to be fun, no stress there.

The entertainment lineup looks to be interesting and I have no doubt the event will end way too soon.

The stress, though, is because I don’t actually have a library card.

Before you get all in a huff about that, please realize that I used to frequent the book stacks pretty often. In fact, I love hanging out at books stores and always have. Admittedly, though, I’d not set foot in a library for years. That changed, as most things do, with our baby.

My wife has a library card and we’ve taken our 17-month-old to the library a number of times. He can’t read yet but he loves the stacks and having the same book read to him time and time again.

Don’t believe me? We currently have “Busy Penguins” on loan. It discusses “penguins meeting, penguins greeting, penguins bumping, penguins jumping…” you get the idea.

I have my completed library card request form and will be getting it shortly. Until then, and especially at tonight’s event, I just hope they don’t card me…

Mike Inouye
NBC11 Traffic Anchor

Where the Laughs Come From

June 7, 2007

Pandy ArrietaThe Director is yelling, “Whats wrong with Laura?!!! She’s crying! Somebody please tell me whats going on!”

On headsets I say, “Shes laughing Ken, and she can’t stop!” Hi…my name is Pandy and I’m the weekday Stage Manager.

Behind the scenes is a whole different show that I wish we could record for you, but we can’t! Apparently, during a pre-recorded taped story Brent conveyed something hilarious to Laura that set her off laughing and she just lost it. She reached into Brent’s jacket pocket to grab a tissue but his pocket was bare. This set her off laughing again. As soon as the mics were muted for the commercial break, the studio floor exploded with laughter. One of the hardest parts of my job is being quiet…very quiet! I am, however, allowed to laugh out loud when we’re on air if I find something humorous. So, if you were wondering who that is laughing in the background…it’s me.

I always marvel at the ability Brent and Laura have to be able to work so closely together day after day and yet still act like Honeymooners. Even more amazing is that they are about to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and they are still best friends…you can just tell! It’s quite an inspiration to watch them as they show how wonderful being with the right person really can be.

So many funny things happen behind the scenes during our show that it makes it hard to take a day off…I don’t want to miss anything! I’ve never had a job before that I missed when on vacation! I feel so fortunate being part of the behind the scenes team because I get to work with some of the smartest, funniest, creative, & caring people on the planet (Brent being one of the funniest). I get to park my car in the morning and without leaving my spot, travel around the world every day. I learn so much about so many different things it never gets boring on the floor!

It’s truly a team effort between Production and News producing our on air content, be it News or a Community show. Recently our 10am newscast won an Emmy. News was front and center proudly posing with their trophies, while Production quietly watched the celebrations after the fact with an extreme amount of pride. Thank you for watching us and giving us the chance to do the jobs we love while bringing you the news you want to know.

Until next time that’s a wrap!

Pandy Arrieta
NBC11 Stage Manager