Flooding Damage in Knoxville

Monday, 28 February 2011
Severe flooding in Knoxville today due to heavy rains. Here's my live report from the Second Harvest Food Bank, a local charity that feeds thousands of needy people each month.

The New Nama - Two Thumbs Up

Sunday, 27 February 2011

I was introduced to Nama Sushi by my good friend Adrian. I moved back to Knoxville approximately a year ago and had the pleasure of staying downtown with the Jay family on Gay Street. We would walk the 3 blocks to Nama Sushi and pick up amazing to-go orders. So far, it is the best sushi I've tasted. The chefs are inventive, the fish is fresh and the rice has the perfect consistency.

The only drawback of the old Nama was the venue size. There were 5 booths and if you had a party of more than 5 people, you were out of luck. That has all changed with a brand new space! Nama moved up Gay Street directly next door to Regal Cinemas and staged a grand opening this week.

Hillary and I went and were seated at the sushi bar. Owner, Bert sent over an order of the cerviche appetizer (highly recommended) and we each tried the Spicy Tuna Roll and I had the Phily as well.

My first impression: friendly hostesses, great bar tenders and FAST sushi chefs. The place was absolutely slammed as you would imagine for an opening week. We waited for 30 minutes to be seated and even though the bar area was so packed you couldn't move, a bar tender quickly made eye contact with me, smiled and took my order.

Our server was very busy but quick to bring water, keep it refilled and check on us every time he walked by. (Can you tell I'm a stickler for good service? Aside -- the reason I concentrate on good service while dining out is because I can cook. I'm able to create a nice meal and I enjoy cooking. If I'm going to spend the extra money, I prefer a waiter or waitress who takes care of me, makes me feel special and turns the evening into an experience.)

The food at the new Nama, as expected, was wonderful. I'm also pleased with the rolls I ordered and they were presented with flair.

Ambiance was spot-on. I love the high ceilings, the soft but modern green paint, the shiny, translucent subway tiles behind the sushi bar and the chic lighting. Also, Hillary and I both commented on how comfortable and luxurious the chairs are at the sushi bar. We felt quite happy with our experience.

P.S. - I didn't order a cocktail but check out the menu (Green Tea Ginger Gimlet)! We plan to go back just for an adult beverage.

Social Media Saturday - Monitoring

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Tomorrow night I'll be watching the Oscars (on my dinner break). While I'm watching the Oscars, I'll be tweeting comments and will post occassionally on Facebook. Why? Because I like to "monitor" what others are saying about the dresses, the awards and various celebrity gossip. It's fun to interact while the event is live.

Social media allows users to be "social." Suddenly there is someone else to share an experience with, and the parties don't have to get too close.

The Super Bowl was a good example of social media monitoring. People tweeted and "Facebooked" about the half-time show, the commercials and the game. Even if I didn't have my eyes on the TV, I didn't miss a moment because comments were streaming into my social media feeds. For me, the viewing experience was better because I used social media to discuss it in real time.

What about you? Do you like to read Twitter and Facebook while watching TV? Is being entertained by a television show too boring by itself these days? Will social media advance to be part of every aspect of our lives?  Is life better with social media?

I'm Addicted

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Have you seen Mad Men on AMC? My best friend Casey ordered Season 1 for me for Christmas. Best. Gift. Ever. Except now I'm hooked. Like a drug, I can't get enough! The fictional series is set in the 60s and shows the behind-the-scenes lives of men who work for an advertising agency in New York City.

The fashion is amazing. I have become a big fan of costume designer Janie Bryant. She captures vintage glam perfectly. Even the furniture is from the 60s. The ladies play the best characters: Betsy, Joan and Peggy.

Season 5 will start this year. Don't miss it!

Knox Public House

Sunday, 20 February 2011
I have dreamed of patronizing the new Knox Public House on Magnolia since I first caught wind of it on Twitter. Imagine my disappointment when the girls decided to stop by one Friday night and we had a bad experience.

The venue is amazing. I must say, the artwork behind the bar is racy but tasteful and the lighting provided just enough glow to make the space feel mysterious. The menu is interesting and consists of bar bites such as bowls of popcorn with truffle oil, dips for chips and cashew nuts to snack on.

We arrived around 10 p.m. and noticed the place was crowded. People were sitting at small tables and at the bar. It was my turn to buy drinks so I found an opening and stood there. And stood here. And stood there some more. There were only three people working behind the bar on a Friday night at a new establishment.

How embarrassing is this? I stood there so long waiting to be served that my friend actually came back up to the bar to ask if I needed help. To add insult to injury, one of the bartenders (large guy wearing a UT orange baseball hat, flannel plaid shirt and large beard) finally came over to me and asked the girls standing BEHIND me for their order. I was horrified. When I finally waved my hand in the air (so rude to do in a bar, I think) after he served them, he asked what I needed. I ordered a gin and tonic for Melissa, 3 beers and a bowl of the truffle popcorn. The bartender said, "We're out of tonic. It'll be a moment," and got the other drinks. Then, he forgot about me. I asked about the gin and tonic later and he brought it right over...while I was still standing there waiting.

The popcorn? It was BURNED (check the picture - see the black??) and there was no taste of truffle oil whatsoever. I watched the guy put a bag in the microwave and pop it. Not what you'd hope from a trendy new spot. I would've asked for my money back but I wasn't about to wait at the bar again.

The positives? Again, I like the venue. Someone later told me the owners poured the bar themselves and it has an amazing look. There's also parking next to Knox Public House. That is such a bonus for people who like to go out downtown where parking is at a premium. I also enjoyed the Gaelic ale they have on tap.

I'm sure I'll be back sometime this summer to try it out again, but for now, I'm sticking with Crown and Goose - a pub with parking, amazing outdoor space, excellent service and a fantastic happy hour.

Melissa (in picture with me), Melissa, Hillary (in the booth in the background to my left) and I still had fun chatting and laughing it up.

Social Media Saturday - Journalists and Social Media

Saturday, 19 February 2011

All journalists should be familiar with social media.

My former news director, Jenny Kuglin is now working at KOMO News in Seattle as the new Social Media Director. Her job is to drive social media content and also teach older journos how to use Facebook and Twitter. I can imagine some of them are kicking and screaming to hold onto the "old" way of reporting and gathering sources but the age of instant communication is here. Those who choose not to embrace it, lose out quickly.

Kuglin helped KOMO Anchor Kathi Goertzen start a Facebook page this month. In just one day, 35,000 Facebook users "liked" Goertzen's page. That is amazing. (Read an interview with Kuglin concerning social media and the impact of Facebook here.) By starting a Facebook page, Goertzen instantly connected with THOUSANDS of viewers.

Not only have I obtained news story ideas from Twitter and Facebook, I've also located story sources and connected with viewers who would interview on-camera.

Friday, I followed up on a viewer tip concerning panhandling on the University of Tennessee's campus. Our tipster said panhandling was becoming more prevelant. Without knowing if the viewer just experienced a lone incident, I turned to Twitter. I asked, "Hey tweeps. Have you noticed panhandlers on the UT strip?" Within three minutes I recieved five tweets from people saying "yes" and sharing their experiences. The information helped our news staff decide that I should pursue the story.

Facebook and Twitter are also free sources of self promotion. Every journalist should use these sites to promote their reports, co-worker's reports and the news station/publication.

Also on Friday, I posted on my WATE Facebook page, "Is panhandling a problem on the UT strip? I went to find out myself. The report tonight on 6 News at 11." I have 1,030 "friends" on my professional account and perhaps 500 of them glanced over my status during the day. Even if a 10th of them tuned in, that's an extra 50 viewers. Every viewer counts during sweeps (television news ratings period which determine advertising prices).

Do you use Twitter and Facebook in a professional aspect? Another news director I know now lists "social media use" as part of the job description for journalists. I'd like to know how it's used in other industries, please post a comment.


Friday, 18 February 2011
I went to Columbus this week to celebrate my mom's birthday. Part of our fun was to clean out her old jewelry boxes, find gold pieces that she no longer wears and take it in to her jeweler. I've been suggesting she do this for months but finally I convinced her to dig through it all and sort it out. This was also a chance for me to try on every piece she owns and help her inventory it.

Admist the clean-out, I decided to put on her old wedding band (she hasn't worn it in years). We have small fingers (size 4 1/2 ring finger) but her band must be a size 4. I forced it on to see what it looked like with my engagement diamond. Bad move. I noticed it was pretty tight but didn't give it much thought. Mom didn't mind if I wore it so I tried not to think about her wedding band being stuck on my finger.

The next morning, I tried to force the ring off and got it to my knuckle. My finger turned red and then purple. I stopped trying. Later that day, I stuck my hand in ice water, hoping to shrink my finger enough to inch the ring off. Didn't work. I called our jeweler and he said he didn't have a tool to even cut it off - that I would have to go by the local fire station to get it cut off. I called my dad at work and asked if he had tools. He also suggested the local fire hall. When I said, "Okay, but what about the embarrassment factor?" He replied, "Tell them you're from Tennessee."

Man, I was hating life at this point. Who does that? Why force a ring on that is going to be impossible to get off? Wow. Big trouble. I wasn't about to go to the fire station and make an idiot out of myself.

Thursday night, mom broke out the Crisco and ran cold water over my finger. She started twisting the ring up my finger rather than just pulling it off. She edged it to the middle of my ring finger knuckle and I was mentally in a dream state, attempting to rise above the pain. My dad was watching and finally said, "It's not going to go. The knuckle is bruised. I'll try to hack saw it."

We went downstairs to his work shop while I did lamaze breathing pushing the ring off of my knuckle again. He put my finger in a vice grip upside down and got out a tiny saw. I didn't see that going well so we tried a heavy duty pipe cutting tool. I held my breath while he eased the tool over the band, carefully to not pinch my skin. He gave it some pressure and thankfully it cut the little band easily. We pried it off. No blood, some sweat and no tears. You have to love a Daddio with good tools. He saved me.

Thankfully my mom remains patient with my bizarre actions and wasn't angry with me. She no longer wears the ring and can get it repaired if she wants to. I'll be footing the bill for that. I'm starting to finally get feeling back in the finger as well. Things are looking up!
Interesting video on how to get a stuck ring off your finger. This wouldn't have worked for me.

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, 14 February 2011

A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
-Thomas Carlyle

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Fortune and love favor the brave. 

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. 
-Mother Tereasa

Social Media Saturday - Social Media Will

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Image from Mid Coast Law

Wish I could take credit for the topic of this Saturday's post but I owe it to one of my Twitter followers, @Odin_. He posed an interesting question on Twitter:  Who has a social media will?

For those of us who spend way too much time online Tweeting, Facebooking, Blogging and YouTubing, I want to know what we're supposed to do if something happens to us. I apologize for being morbid but Odin raised an excellent concept. Should we all have social media wills?

If I died this evening on the way home from work, what will happen to my blog? What will happen to the blog I made giving special details about me and Kings? What happens to my Facebook content (dozens of pictures), 118 videos on YouTube and 12,000 Tweets?  Should social media content die along with the author or should we outline what we want to happen to it - in a will of sorts?

A quick Google of "social media will" doesn't turn up content about how to establish one. Perhaps this is something we should design ourselves.

Is a social media will necessary? Do you know what you want to happen to your contributions to social media if you are no longer around to monitor your content? 

What Cha Got?

Thursday, 10 February 2011
I thought I'd listen to a couple of Tea Party leader speeches online today. I'm not fully liberal or fully conservative but I am against extremism so I don't buy into the Tea Party. However, every political movement, in my opinion should at least get a look from people who believe in democracy - unless it is full of hate and racism.

Most Tea Party leaders seem very passionate but they seem passionate about only one thing: getting President Obama out of office. Okay, so that's a common goal among the party, but what plans does it have for the future of this great nation? The only thing that really sticks out to me in the discourse (granted I only sampled four speeches) is an anti-immigration, anti-Obama, anti-big government string. I understand what the party is against. What is the Tea Party for? How will they make life better and equal for all Americans?

My loyalty at one point in the last election was behind the great John McCain. He knows what it's like to be in government, he knows what it's like to go to war but some feel his party made a major mistake when it selected his running mate. After that, many people who preferred him lost respect for the party because of the vice presidential candidate. Granted, ultra-conservatives LOVE her and she is a Tea Party supporter but here's my point: you win an election on votes, not on taking chances.

Should the Tea Party and GOP get back into the same groove and grasp this next presidential election season in a more practical way - together?? There are fringe voters. There are Democrats who are disillusioned by the current administration but will they go for Tea Party ideals? If the Right could come back to a more objective position, a place where more religions, races and people in various socioeconomic statuses feel welcome, then this next election could shape up to be pretty competitive.

However, the Tea Party does not seem friendly to those who are not patriotic, hard-core Christians. This nation is made up of voters who fall into different categories and may not feel comfortable wearing a red, white and blue, star-spangled sweatshirt to protest at the Arizona border.

Please post your opinion here. I respect what you have to say. 

Catfish and Winter's Bone

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

If you haven't seen these movies, you may not want to read this post. *Spoiler alert*

Redbox is great because you can rent a DVD for $1. Only problem is, the DVDs usually are so cheap, they skip. Se la vie.

Catfish is supposed to be a documentary about a young photographer, Nev who starts getting artwork in the mail from an 8 year old. She paints the pictures he takes and has published in various newspapers and magazines in New York City. His friends see this going on and they decide to make a "documentary."

This is not a true documentary. There are various aspects that are obviously staged and I have to believe a guy in New York City in the crux of his media career would not be so gullible to fall for the clear online "scam."

First clue that this isn't what it seems to be? The notes Nev receives from the 8 year old (Abby) are perfectly written in large cursive. The lines are straight and there are no spelling errors. Abby takes a mature voice in her notes and mentions Nev and his friends. 8 year olds tend to talk more about themselves (I have a new trampoline, we got a kitten...)

Soon, all of Abby's family "friends" Nev on Facebook (her brother, her older sister, her mom and her dad). Does Nev think this is strange? Nope. And he talks with the mom on the phone often. In one early phone conversation we overhear the mother (Angela) telling Nev that some of Abby's paintings sell for $7,000. No way. We see the paintings that she sends to Nev and they are not that good, maybe for an 8 year old but hardly worth $7,000.

Nev finds out that not only is Abby's family all artists, they're all fabulous musicians too. The break comes when he starts to fall in love with Megan, Abby's older sister. He has never met her, talked to her on the phone a couple of times and sees professional photos of her on her Facebook page. Does she have real friends on Facebook? We don't know. Does she have normal photos with the family on Facebook? No. This suave New Yorker doesn't notice any of this? Hard for me to believe. He then finds out Megan has recorded songs for him... a quick search on YouTube shows they are just ripped off from others and not her work at all.

Guess what? The "documentary" continues from there. Nev still believes there is a Megan but she just lies about the music. ??? The crew decides to confront the family and Angela who they now think (ding! ding!) is lying to them. They go to Michigan. Abby is a real 8 year old but admits she doesn't paint. Do they confront Angela at this point? No. They keep the ruse going and Nev still believes there is a Megan but when they go to her house, his postcards are in the mailbox and there is no horse farm.

This was a pretty good movie but very slow once they meet the real Angela. This is not a documentary though. I think they found someone online who would play the part and gets a cut of profits. Angela did interview on national television to say the story is real. But come on, that has to be part of the movie contract.

Excellent movie. The acting is amazing, the story line believable and the darkness of the situation is captured so well that the viewer is left with an aching heart. To my great surprise, though, the writer managed to end the film on a high note.

Not for the faint of heart and certainly not for romantic comedy lovers, Winter's Bone is a movie about survival in rural areas that are charred by poverty. Specifically set in the Ozarks, the main character is 17, the care taker of her 2 young siblings and her mother who is a drug addict.

She's on a hunt for her father because he put the house (their only home and means of survival) up on his bond release. Authorities are looking for him and say if she can find him alive or prove that he is dead, they can keep the house.

Family feuds are alive and well in this part of the grey mountains. Cousins kill cousins and sometimes officers are in on it. Everyone seems to know everyone but there is a great deal of love loss - even between neighbors. Although poor, most people in the movie regularly partake in drug use (weed, cocaine, pills, prescription pills) and they all have guns. It seems there isn't much else to do and guns and drugs take away the sting of hunger, loss of hope and give a false sense of control.

This movie is good because it is extremely believable. The main character is on a mission to save her family and she has to go through hell and back suffering unbelievable things to get there. There is also a thread of loyalty and commitment to family that helps Winter's Bone end on an uplifting scene. I think you'll like it but it is certainly not a feel-good flick.

Social Media Saturday - Positives and Negatives

Saturday, 5 February 2011
Welcome to Social Media Saturday. Watch this space for giveaways and guest posts by other social media folks.

David from Carson-Newman College contacted me recently to ask me questions about social media. He is gathering research and perspective for a student seminar. Here's a look at his questions and my answers. Feel free to post your thoughts too.

How do college students use social media different than other adults?

College students use social media as a regular social interaction tool. While adults may have to remember to log in to Facebook once or twice a week, some college kids remain logged in all day.

College students also use social media as a constant source of information. Whether it's to monitor national news or find out if a friend is feeling better, students now rarely use the phone to stay in touch.
What are the benefits of being active in the world of social media?

Those who are active in the world of social media are "in the know." Social media users were the first to know about Michael Jackson's death, the first to know about Giffords' shooting and the first to get updates on the deteriorating conditions in Egypt.

Social media users also learn modern interaction skills. Some people may be able to connect with friends, make new friends and stay in touch with peer groups more easily.

What are the negatives?

I think the main negative aspect of social media is a loss of privacy. Opinions, pictures and status updates are not easy to "delete." Once on Facebook or Twitter, a person's words can easily and quickly be used against them. That's where the term "viral" comes into play. If someone passes on one's information (video, picture, post) to someone else, it can quickly spread to other users and possibly ruin reputations or negatively impact a job or school opportunity. The social media world is instant. A post which is presented in anger, but later regretted, is difficult, if not impossible to reverse.

What protections would you recommend for those tweet, facebook, etc.?

Social media users should use privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook page is private and I only allow friends to see photos and status updates. I also have a "work" Facebook page where I interect daily with viewers and friends but do not list private information.

I also have a "locked" Twitter account. That means only those with an active Twitter account can request to follow me. This prevents any random person from follow my tweets and "watching" me online.

The use of 4-Square or applications which give the user's current location is alarming. The "check-in" is a marketing tool for restaurants, book stores and retail corporations (and isn't interesting to other social media users). It provides an easy way for others to see where someone is and what time they arrived.

Are there new trends or sites that are rapidly growing in popularity?

LinkedIn is a site I would recommend to senior undergraduate students. It is a "professional" sort of Facebook where people in an industry can network. This is a great tool to use while searching for a job or internship.

Whohub is also an interesting site. Users can post mini-blogs about themselves while answering certain questions. This is a helpful self-awareness site and a fun way to learn more about friends and professors.

We Raised Money!

The Friends of Literacy bachelor auction brought in $5,000! I'm so excited for the turn-out and amazing support from women who are clearly Money Bags. Some of the gentlemen auctioned for $500. Of course, the guy comes with a fabulous date but wow. We are thrilled and our guests seemed to genuinely have a good time.

I had fun and decided to do my own hair and makeup. Kingsley taught me how to do "s" curls with my GHD hair straightener so I curled my entire head of hair. Then, I teased the crown, pined back the sides and added adornment in the form of mother-of-pearl flower clips. I used quite a bit of hair spray so the curls and partial up-do thankfully stayed in place.

The evening began with the VIP champagne reception. 50 lucky ladies got to mingle with the bachelors. The men all had a calling card of sorts to hand out which told a little bit about them. The event was enhanced by music from a live band and looking around, I could already sense some "love" connections.

There were two other notable media members participating on stage with me: Lauren and Dino from WVLT. Lauren and I emceed the event and Dino was our auctioneer. He was amazing and worked the crowd into a frenzy over almost every guy. He accomplished so much for Friends of Literacy and helped our bidders to have fun and loosen up.

Mingling continued upstairs just before the event when the general admission ladies arrived. The open bar prepared Love Potion #9 (sangria) as a signature cocktail for guests to purchase. Before the bidding began, I paused to take a picture with my bachelor recruits, Chris (L) and Ben (R). Together they raised $580 on dates!!!

Bachelor Auction Tonight

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Tonight is the night we've planned and prepared for! I will be hosting the Friends of Literacy Bachelor Auction with WVLT's Lauren Davis at The Orangery in Knoxville. The event begins at 6pm with a VIP reception including champagne and appetizers. The VIP ladies get a chance to mingle with the bachelors and make decisions about who they'd like to bid on. 

All of the gentlemen come with a specialized date (donated by local businesses) so participants are also bidding on a nice evening that may include tickets to the opera, time at a spa and dinner at a nice restaurant.

This week I've been working on my script. I will be announcing half of the bachelors and talking them up so as to build excitement and get the bids coming in. My humor can be dry but I've done my best to write descriptions that will get a laugh and maybe applause on behalf of these great guys.

I have two favorites.

Ben is a co-worker and friend. He works as a TV News Producer at WATE 6 News and is not only funny and kind but very smart. He plays tennis and is active in another charity, United Way. I hope he goes far (read: brings in lots of dough) and in my opinion is one of the cutest guys on the list. Thank you to Ben who was one of my recruits and agreed to donate his time and energy to the project!

Chris is a personal friend and very interesting to talk to. He's from California originally, is extremely stylish and works in Marketing at a large theater company in town. I have no doubt that Chris will woo half the room during the VIP reception. He's funny, intelligent and an excellent listener. Plus, he's soon to be the proud daddy of a bulldog puppy (anyone who likes animals is tops in my book). Thanks to Chris for agreeing to help me out with this special event! He is another one of my recruits.

My dress is steamed and heady. High heels are lined up ready to adorn freshly painted red toes and I have high hopes for this night of fund raising. I'll post an update tomorrow. 

Piano Lesson

Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Last night I went to my very first piano lesson. I learned how to play the C scale and tonight I sat down at my piano at home and played a song, from a music book. It's simple c, d, e, f, g, g kind of thing but it is a song.

I'm realizing my dreams but you know what's funny? The cats seem scared when I practice. I'm not horrible but they are clearly unimpressed by my efforts so far.