Thursday, 30 August 2012
Maybe I should start acting a little meaner as a teacher.

On the first night of class when we were talking about our next meeting, I gave the kiddos options for the time and assignment. (Perhaps that was a mistake but we're all grown ups.) The majority voted for choice B and so I verified that would be the plan. Some kids sort of cheered but one guy in the back laughed and yelled, "Screw you!" It took me a second to realize he was saying it to me.

My blood pressure went from 20 to 80 mph in two seconds. I walked from behind the podium with I'm sure eyes of rage but a smile and said, "Watch it, Mr. Doe. That's over the top and you know it."

He was shocked. He wasn't shocked at my reaction - but I think he couldn't believe what he just shouted out in class. Because of that, I backed off but what I really wanted to say was, "Dear, sir, not even in your dreams."

Welcome back to school.

Class is Back in Session

Saturday, 25 August 2012
My Ethnography class with Dr. Gregory Button is no joke. We read an entire book for each class (meets once a week) and we have to submit three pages of single-spaced notes before class for each book. This may sound like nada to you but the sentences of the books are like this: "In turning to oral historical interviewing, the same basic methodological schizophrenia is encountered" (Briggs, 1986).

As discouraging as this amount of work may seem to some students, I am over the moon. I didn't realize it until our first class but Dr. Button is the man who is FAMOUS (my word) for his research on crisis situations such as hurricanes and other disasters. He is a former journo - working in public radio and TV. Get this, I actually interviewed the man twice as a WATE-TV reporter after the BP Gulf oil spill. He is brilliant and I am fortunate enough to LEARN FROM HIM!! In fact, besides one of my best friends, Dr. Hillary Lake (reporter and anchor for WBIR, Knoxville), Dr. Button is one of the main influences of my decision to apply for the PhD program at UTK.

I'm clearly happy to be taking his class. However, he planted a seed in my mind for a dissertation topic that is different from what I thought I would do. In fact, I've designed all of my research studies thus far around the phenomenon of social media and its impact on broadcast journalism. I think I've found a topic that interests me even more but I don't want to give it away yet. I need to consult the literature as real scholars would say to see if there is a gap in information.

Meantime, I need to get back to reading about Ethnographic methods. 

Arriving in Montreal

Thursday, 23 August 2012
Summer is QUITE cool as a PhD graduate student. I'm not saying you don't have to be a bit hard core and get a modicum of work finished almost every single day (weekends included) but the fly aspect is that you can do said work almost anywhere, especially if you have access to WIFI. My life is nearly complete with access to WIFI (and good food). I need little else to be happy.

All of the above said, I was able to travel to Canada before class started back with James. We spent time in Toronto as you can see from previous posts but one of the highlights was our business class train ride from Toronto to Montreal. Seriously, I adore train travel. Here's a quick rundown of some of the benefits as compared to air travel:

1. No security lines
2. No strange liquid restrictions
3. You still feel like a human rather than an animal when you make it to your seat
4. Smaller crowds
5. FREE WiFi
6. Friendly staff
7. Nice beverage and food service
8. The ability to get up and walk around whenever needed
9. Not as much of a threat of death (takeoff and landing)
10. Extremely rare late departures or arrivals

I could go on for hours but see for yourself. Does this look like two happy passengers (below)?

We weren't stressed, we were able to complete work, have lunch, make plans and take a nap before arriving with little to no disruptions in Montreal. Celebrate train travel! When we arrived in Montreal, the weather was nice and we dumped our things at our fabulous hotel and walked less than a block to Notre Dame.

I didn't have my phone charged (great move, right?) so I didn't get many photos inside but James snapped quite a few. While we were sitting in the pews gazing at the magnificent altar, someone started playing the pipe organ. The sound, lighting, reverent crowd and architecture made for an awe-inspiring afternoon.

Toronto Island and CN Tower

Monday, 20 August 2012

While in Toronto, it is certainly worth the time to take the ferry over to the Toronto islands. The weather was lovely on Thursday. We walked to Ward's Island (the land is connected by bridges) for lunch at the Rectory. It has a fantastic patio surrounded by trees with a view of the water. 

We photographed Monarch butterflies and walked to the pier, watching some people on the beach sun bathe and somehow brave the cold water. 

James snapped some cool shots on the ferry on the way back. The view of the city is incredible from the islands. 

We then walked to the CN tower to take in another unbelievable vista. The crowds are dense and the line waiting to ride the elevator up (114 stories in 50 seconds) is long. James sprung for the advanced ticket which gives patrons a much shorter line (we thought it was worth it). 

In the attraction, there is a glass floor where the brave congregate to snap some shots. The effect isn't easy to capture with a camera but wow! it was exciting. 

Splendido, Toronto

Saturday, 18 August 2012
If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time... you know that I'm an amateur foodie. I like to cook and I LOVE to eat (good food). While in Canada, we have had a chance to eat some gorgeous cuisine.

James is a bit more of a selective (read: picky) eater than I am so my job was to research and select restaurants for the week. (Score!) One of the places that we tried and loved was Splendido on Harbord Street in Toronto.

The mixologist stopped by our table after we were seated and explained some of the cocktails he designed. I ordered the St. Diablo Verde and James tried the My Introduction. We were impressed with the taste!

The house welcomes dinner guests with chilled peaches and cream corn soup, presented in a shot glass with cumin on the rim. The soup was served with lovely little puff pastries filled with gruyere cheese.

For dinner, we decided on the heirloom tomato salad to start. My goodness - this is the season for it! It was served with spicy Canadian bacon, fresh basil, a bit of fresh guacamole and balsamic vinegar. Wow. 

We ordered halibut (me) and the filet (him) for our main dishes. The halibut comes from Haida Gwaii, B.C. and was served with mussels, clams, sweet clover, pancetta and potato. It was delicious.

The beef dish was a Cumbrae Farms 65 day aged ribeye. It was served with basil & parmeggiano reggiano, charred onion and vinagrette. The meat was flavorful and moist.

Not only was our food cooked and presented perfectly, we were impressed by the impeccable service. The staff was friendly, knowledgable (the Sommelier happily discussed and paired wine with our courses) and attentive. As diners leave, they are presented with shortbread cookies for breakfast with coffee. This is one to put on the list to try while in Toronto!

Traveling to Toronto

Friday, 17 August 2012

We arrived in the beautiful city of Toronto on Monday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous (77F, sunny) all week so we elected to walk everywhere. Our hotel in Toronto was in the Harborview/Financial district where brand new glass-front condos tower over green lush parks by the water and marinas filled with sail boats. 

You cannot go to Toronto without visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario and I was thrilled to go through the special Picasso exhibit (yes, a bit cliche but oh well) of 147 works he kept for himself. There were many paintings and sketches of his lovers, wives and girlfriends and self portraits - all that have rarely, if ever, seen the light of day.

The famous St. Lawrence Market was close to our hotel and we browsed the gorgeous produce, smoked meat, fresh fish and the cheese. Oh, the cheese... After visiting Toronto, I've decided I could live there. I'd have to live near the market, however, and shop daily for fresh ingredients to cook with.

I'm traveling with James and while he isn't a professional photographer (just a hobby but the man has talent) he found some interesting vignettes to photograph.  

After a day of art, strolling by the water and shopping at the market, we decided to venture to the Distillery District of Toronto. Pedestrians walk on cobblestone streets and shop in boutiques that are housed in old distilleries.


We stopped into the Mill Street Brewery (above picture) and tasted the Organic Ale. Two thumbs up. Later that evening we ate at Origin (which has a mozzarella bar) and boasts "high energy global food that celebrates diverse cuisines of the world."

From the Origin mozzarella bar: with lemon zest, basil, sun dried tomatoes and basil puree

Patrons can enjoy a gorgeous view of the St. Lawrence church and excellent service. We both loved the food and I would certainly recommend this spot. The bar is also cool and the kitchen is open... offering entertainment to those who love the production of food preparation.

The Academic Conference

Tuesday, 14 August 2012
As a graduate student, trying to earn a PhD, your life revolves around research. Here's the process:

1. Think up a research idea that adds knowledge to the field
2. Design research project
3. Conduct research
4. Write really long and boring paper about the research findings
5. Submit paper to conferences
6. If paper is rejected, see #1 and start over. If paper is accepted, continue...
6. Get feedback from conference reviewers
7. Revise paper
7. Send paper to academic journals for publications
8. Get rejected
9. Begin entire process again
10. Drink heavily (joking)

In the Windy City on Michigan Street

I recently returned from the AEJMC conference in Chicago. My university sent a van from Knoxville to Chicago for a few colleagues but I was in Columbus, Ohio so I drove myself. Even though the drive up was annoyingly eventful (see For Whom the Cash Tolls), I felt my time there was incredibly rewarding.

Colleague Nate presents his poster

Dr. Amber Roessner (University of Tennessee) and I researched and wrote a paper that was accepted for a scholar to scholar session on Saturday. While there, several of our esteemed colleagues came by to see our work (Dr. Erin Whiteside, Dr. Jim Stovall, and Dean Michael Wirth and his wife, Alice.) After the presentation, I was invited to breakfast by University of Tennessee College of Communication of Information and Science Assistant Dean Catherine Luther. She talked with me for more than an hour about how to form a successful dissertation committee and research. Dr. Luther is certainly one of my idols. The time with her was worth more than gold.

Another highlight of the trip was my new involvement with AEJMC's Electronic News Division as an officer. I was recruited as a Graduate Liaison and will be serving on the leadership committee for possibly four years in different positions. In the meetings, I was surrounded by some of the most successful scholars in my field. The great part? Most of them are former TV news journalists and we had quite a bit to talk about. I look forward to our next convention and meetings between now and then. One of my contributions was to start a AEJMC Electronic News Division Twitter account @AEJMC_END that will help our 263 members communicate and stay in touch.

AEJMC Electronic News Division member meeting

For me, life is best when one works hard and plays hard. Playing hard for me equals spending time to seek out good food. On a student budget, that is not always possible but I was pleasantly surprised by Eleven City Diner on Wabash near my hotel on South Michigan. 

Eleven City Diner

Brad Rubin owns the restaurant. He's from Chicago and was raised in Jewish delicatessens and old school diners. I tried the sour tomato and pickle plate for a starter. 

Sour tomato and pickle plate

The presentation is rather dull but the pickles were fresh, crisp and a delicious combination of dill and spice. For my main dish, I was very bad. The mac and cheese with bacon just called out to me. I couldn't help it. 

Bacon mac and cheese

Truly, the best part of the conference for me was spending time with friends who are in academia but are with another university. I was able to spend time with my friend Jessalynn who is at Xavier in Cincinnati and my long-time friend Glenn Hubbard (now in Texas) who worked for Clear Channel Radio in Cincinnati when I was with WKRC.

With Glenn and his wife Holly

For Whom the Cash Tolls...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

I'm an idiot. It is not easy to type those words but this time, I truly am. An IDIOT.

How many times have my loving, intelligent parents told me to never travel without cash? I'm estimating here... but I'm going to guess 543 gazillion times. I however, do not listen. I rarely ever carry cash unless I just know I'm going to be hit up by all of the homeless fellows in the Old City in Knoxville. Even then I just say something ridiculous like, "Get a job!" and move on. (Aside: I'd never say that but when people do I think to myself, what a jerk, but I kind of secretly admire their commitment to whatever "value" it is that makes them say such a thing.)

I'm currently sitting in Brasserie by LM in Chicago a block from Lake Michigan. I drove here from Columbus, Ohio in a rental car Friday and the ride up was eventful. As schooled folks do, I typed in the address of my Chicago hotel into my iPhone, trusting that it would successfully lead me to my destination.

Note: Do not trust technology.

Let me back up. My iPhone DID lead me exactly and directly to my hotel but as some may argue about a lie, an omission of the truth can lead to the same circumstances as a lie. Here's what I mean... when one drives from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago, one may be directed to take I-90 which is a TOLL ROAD. Mapquest knows nothing of what that means.

Toll road, Webster's dictionary: a road for the use of which a toll is collected.

No problem. We've all been on toll roads. The topic would not turn into a blog post except for two things. When I arrived at the first toll, I was a little worried. I thought, "Come on. These are modern days. Surely these toll people take debit cards." Good news: they do. Bad news: in IL they do not take debit or credit cards that are of the MASTER CARD genre. This is only explained by a sign the size of a business card.

When I figured out the toll would not accept my debit card as it was affiliated with the devil (?? I still don't get why they won't take Master Card), I was overjoyed to realize I had the $.70 cash necessary to keep on moving. YAY! I didn't give the sad toll situation a second thought because I figured I'd paid the toll... time to roll into Chicago.


I see a toll sign for toll #2 along I-90 just in time to figure out there are no exits so I cannot get to an ATM. The attendant says, "Oh. You have a Master Card debit card?" Fighting the urge to say, "And what is wrong with Master Card?" I say, "Yes, and my credit card is Master Card as well." She judges me with her eyes. My heartbeat quickens. She says sharply, "Do you have cash?" I don't have the $3.50 required to pass. Imagining imprisonment, never making it to the conference, being stranded forever, I say, "I have checks." She literally rolls her eyes and askes for my driver's license. I hand it over - so thankful that she writes up a receipt that I MUST remember to send in with payment. Once again, I was on my way.

Let me remind you, third time is a charm. Toll booth signs again start popping up and I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Why the h*ll didn't I stop to get cash after the second encounter with tolls? I thought I was out of the woods. I'd paid $4.20 by then and Chicago was in sight. Well.... you have to pay ANOTHER $2.50 to get there.

I pull up to the third toll booth. The operator, a nice, very hip young man was extremely unimpressed with my problem. "Oh. You ONLY have Master Card?" "Yes, sir, and I didn't know there was another toll or that you didn't take Master Card until I came through today. Can you give me a receipt that I can mail in?"

"Nope. You'll have to back up. There's an ATM at that McDonald's."

I looked in my rearview window. The "McDonald's at the toll" was at least 100 yards behind me and cars were narrowing down from the interstate to the toll booths at the speed of approximately 75 mph. I gulped.

"I can't do that. It isn't safe." (BTW - I've NEVER uttered that phrase before in my life. You know it was bad.)

He looked at me with an eyebrow raised. "Look, I'm trying to save you some time. It's going to take the bosses a long time to get here. I've shut down my lane. You need to back up all the way to McDonald's and get cash."

I looked at him. He looked me in the eyes. He was serious.

I put the car in reverse and started backing up...but gingerly. No dice. The dude turned his booth sign back to green and someone quickly ramped up on my a$$ and laid ... I mean LAID... on the horn. I pulled back to the guy. "You can't turn your light back on until I back up, dude!" He sighed the longest sigh in history... one that makes up for 30-something year old Tennessee drivers that attempt to make it to Chicago...

He gestures at the driver behind me to back up and go into another lane and looks at me. It is TIME. I take a deep breath, hold it, and slam the rental car into reverse. I back up at such a speed that with the window down, my hair was blowing in the breeze, steering to avoid cars swerving into the toll area. I had to be aggressive and (I could see it in their faces) drivers who were attempting to perform normal driving techniques were shocked. I don't recommend it.

Steeled to achieve my goal of backing the crazy-long way to McDonald's and getting money, I did not let humiliation stop me. Eventually I made it, turned in and still shaking, withdrew money. I pulled through the toll (to another attendant's station) and paid. The gate rose and I was elated! Green light!

Through a small miracle, I made it to the city and am having a successful conference. I'm surprised too. Don't let this nonsense happen to you. CARRY CASH.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Sunday, 5 August 2012

We would see Green Monkeys on the Royal Westmoreland grounds on Barbados almost every day. They are difficult to photograph because they move so quickly but I was able to snap a few shots with my iPhone. 

The monkeys do not appear to be afraid of humans but they are cautious and certainly not tame. We were warned by natives to just look - don't touch - and keep a safe distance. 

The little creatures hang out in "troupes" of 8 to 60 monkeys! We would usually see about 12 at a time and some of them were tiny babies that clung to their mother's stomach for transportation. 

The adult monkeys were the size of a small dog and the babies were as tiny as large squirrels. Certainly fascinating to watch.

Swimming With the Turtles

Friday, 3 August 2012

By far the absolute highlight of my trip to Barbados besides spending time with extended family was our snorkeling excursion. We took the most amazing sailing tour on a catamaran called Calabaza. This is how to experience the water! There were approximately 12 guests and the crew was attentive and entertaining. They serve lunch, almost hold your hand when you snorkel and for adults, there is an open bar with amazing rum punch. Plus, the vessel is to die for with net "hammocks" that stretch over the water!

In our first snorkeling location, we swam with the hawksbill sea turtles! This is exactly what they look like in the water and I even petted a couple of them.

At our second stop, we swam around an amazing reef near Payne's Bay and saw an amazing amount of wildlife including brain coral, eel and flounder. 

My only regret is that I didn't take more photos of the boat and the crew but I was so busy hanging in the underwater world, I couldn't be bothered. Snorkeling is my new favorite activity. 

Photo of our ride from

Sail Calabaza's crew created a short video to show customers swimming with the turtles. This is exactly what we experienced. 

Fat Free

Did I tell you the one about the book that calls for all women to have a "fat free" day? That means we're supposed to disregard thoughts about being fat, stop talking about being fat or losing weight and generally stop thinking about women in terms of fat and skinny for one day. See if you can do. It is MUCH harder than you think.

The book, which I highly recommend to ladies and even men who have daughters or just have an interest in women's issues, it's called "The Woman in the Mirror - How to stop confusing identity with appearance" and it is written by a renowned Psych Ph.D., Cynthia M. Bulik. She focuses most of her research on body and self esteem and how it develops in girls from an early age and translates to a woman's image of herself. She argues that culturally, women are asked to take on unrealistic body "goals" and that we should stop putting ourselves down, "If I could only lose 10 more pounds... my life would be awesome," and start building ourselves up in ways that have nothing to do with appearance, "I really helped three women today in my clinic rotation. I'm smart." Bulik has even started a website,

Not only does she encourage women to attempt to recognize when we have negative thoughts about our bodies... she asks the reader to start to recognize how many time we apologize with no need. In her studies she has found that women say the words "I'm sorry" at overwhelming rate when there's actually nothing to be sorry about. For instance, she had lunch with female colleagues and one of the women apologized to the waiter saying, "I'm sorry, but I need tea that doesn't have caffeine, I'm pregnant." Sorry? What is there to be sorry about? She said in the same meal the waiter returned to clear the plates and the other colleague said, "I'm so sorry. I'm still eating." Sorry? You should be! You're in a restaurant for goodness sakes. Hurry up and eat. ;) I get her point. She just asks that women start to be mindful of when we apologize and why and how often women around us apologize when it is unnecessary. She found that this is not a recognized phenomenon among men.

Try a "Fat Free" Day and let me know how you get on.