Category Archives: Improv

No Rest For The Weary

It’s been a long week and a long weekend. The good news is, the weather was pretty lousy all weekend, so I didn’t really miss much as far as fun stuff was concerned, but the bad news was, I spent more hours than I really would have liked sitting right here … working on one project or another. Ah, the life of the unintentional entrepreneur.

First, the fun stuff.


The Improv Effect had a really good show at The Comedy Zone Tuesday night. It was our first “Improv Only” show, and we drew a good crowd through some traditional and guerilla marketing techniques. Lot of reminders to folks on our Facebook lists, some online stuff on, Austin taped a little video clip with me for The Jacksonville Observer … basically anything we could think of to get folks into the house, and we probably had 75 folks enjoying the show. It’s always a pleasure to play to that kind of a crowd, and we didn’t disappoint, if I do say so myself. We won’t have another shot at CZ until March, but we will be playing the February Art Walk on Wednesday at MOCA. Come on out and Join us.

ANN Cirrus TampaI worked ahead most of the week for Aero-News for the opportunity to fly to Tampa late in the week.  We had intended to fly down Thursday, but with President Obama in Tampa on Thursday, the TRF made getting into any airport there in a private airplane next to impossible. So Friday, it was up early, drive to the St. Augustine airport, and load up in 377SR for the trip down to Tampa. The occasion was the airplanes’ scheduled annual inspection, which means we had to leave the airplane in Tampa and drive back to Jacksonville. The upside is I got to fly the airplane again. Every time, I learn a little bit more. I’m now studying the Avidyne Release 9 manual to learn more about that simple little “does-everything-but-cook-lunch” system. The manual is a PDF file that’s only 177 pages long. Just a touch different from flying with steam gauges. Each thing did one thing, and now the Primary Flight Display and and the Flight Management System take the place of nearly everything in the cockpit, from the old Horizontal Situation Indicator to the sectional and Jepp IFR charts. There’s a reason the manual is 177 pages long.

But I do love flying this airplane. I’ve only gotten my hands on one other airplane since I’ve been writing for Aero-News, but I could fly this Cirrus forever.

The flying on Friday got the weekend off to a great start. Sadly, the rest of the weekend was a bit more … mundane. I worked on an editing project for a sales training manual, and finished my weekly column for The Jacksonville Observer. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and there was time for breakfast this morning at Over The Ditch Cafe and some of the work I did while semi-watching the Pro Bowl this evening. Congrats to David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew for hooking up for a TD in Miami. I also caught up just a bit with an old friend from high school who just recently discovered Facebook.

So Monday, it’s back to the salt mine. A goal for the coming month is to pay more attention to “Life’s a Beach”, and to try to start shedding the extra baggage that I managed to accumulate over the holidays.

Gotta have goals …

Bar Code



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Filed under Airplanes, Beach Living, Flying, Improv, Improv Comedy, Thoughts, Work

Windows 7 and Random Sunday Thoughts

Not so much of a review, because I’ve just installed it. But I will say the installation went (mostly) smoothly.

First, it took a little more than 4 hours to complete. I don’t know why that surprised me, because it is, after all, an operating system, and it had to work around all my installed programs. It only asked me to uninstall three things, and I did two of them. The Windows Live Webcam, which I use for Skype, and the HP Quick Start buttons were pretty easy choices.

But it also wanted me to uninstall iTunes, which I didn’t do. I checked a couple of websites, which assured me that iTunes would work fine with Window’s 7, but I do have the executable for the latest version of iTunes should there be a problem. The next time I need the cam, I’ll plug it in, it’ll wake up and install the software, and should be fine.

At least that’s the plan. If not, I’ll go find it.

I’m sure the laptop will realize soon that I’ve uninstalled the quick start buttons, and restore them for me.

But other than that, the installation went smoothly. I probably didn’t have to uninstall those bits of software, but did anyway. After the initial re-boot, I pretty much sat back and watched.

And watched.

And watched.

Worked a crossword puzzle.

Fixed dinner.

Ate it.


Watched football.


You get the idea.

I’m not sure if it’s easier yet. Like I said, I’m in about the first half hour with the OS. But when a friend of mine who’s a dyed-in-the-wool Mac guy told me at breakfast that this was a pretty good product, and I knew I could justify the upgrade as a business expense, I just went ahead and bought it today.

I’ll let you know about my impressions. As far as the installation goes, it was pretty painless. There were a couple of things on this confuser that had been a problem with Vista, so we’ll see if 7 clears those up. The most annoying of those was with some automatic updates that keep erroring out, and I hope that’s now fixed.

So, no recommendation yet, but since the Office Depot checkout guy told us that once the package was opened there were no refunds or exchanges … we’re committed now.


Speaking of Office Depot, there was something that just didn’t add up in the parking lot today. We’d just parked the car and were going into the store when a massive 4X4 pickup came down the lot … and drove around the speed bump. Now, here’s a truck that’s intended to be used off road, though it’s obvious that it had never been off the pavement. It’s one of the trucks that you see in the commercials having several tons of cement blocks being dropped in the back, or pounding through the desert, or running through the mud, tossing rocks the size of your head off like they were styrofoam in super slow motion. Rugged, manly, gas-guzzling truck … and the weenie behind the wheel decided to drive around a speed bump.


Which reminds me of the drive back from improv rehearsal in Orange Park a couple of weeks ago. A guy in a Prius tried to cut in front of me to get on the freeway, which I thwarted. But on cruise control on the freeway, heading up the incline on the Buckman Bridge … here comes Mr. Prius at about 80 … passing me on the right in his hybrid car.

Now, I don’t mind that he wants to prove that his glorified golf cart can go 80 miles an hour, uphill on the freeway, but doesn’t that kind of defeat the entire purpose of the hybrid? I’m think I’m pretty safe in saying it wasn’t the ELECTRIC motor that was making that happen. But he was finally ahead of me, which seemed to be the point, and I was on cruise control and pretty much beyond caring at that point. It was nice weather, the top was down, and my mileage was probably better than his at that point.

But it’s still not going to convince me that a Prius is a muscle car.


So, that’s kind of the news from lake Woebegone By-The-Sea. The Jaguars had a bye this week, so at least they didn’t lose. Tomorrow is Monday, and it’s time to get back to Aero-News. Improv rehearsal tomorrow night and a show at The Comedy Zone on Tuesday.

And in 10 days it’s off to Tampa for the AOPA convention. The fun just never stops …



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Filed under Beach Living, Comedy Zone, Computer, Improv, Improv Comedy, Thoughts


Michigan State seems to be way overmatched by North Carolina in the National Championship Game.  14 minutes and change to go and UNC leads 61-43.  MSU might as well be playing at home, as the game is in Detroit … but Carolina just seems to be too much for the Spartans to handle.  Still a lot of time to go, but it’s a big, long hill to climb.


Over in Tallahassee … the legislature is past the halfway point, and a body controlled by conservative Republicans, many of whom have taken a “no new taxes” pledge, are facing a deficit of $6.1 billion.  So, to provide political cover, they’ll turn to “user fees”.  From “Florida Capital News“:

If approved, they would hit everyone who drives a car, files a lawsuit, goes fishing or takes out the garbage. College tuition could zoom 15 percent.

The legislature has also “zeroed out” “Florida Forever” … the state’s signature preservation and conservation program.  It’s $300 million budget gone.  Still to come is a potential complete re-write of the business tax code.  It would be difficult to imagine a Republican legislature increasing taxes on businesses during a recession, but I suppose not impossible.  About 1200 state jobs are likely to be cut, 800 currently vacant but that still leaves a lot of state employees in a bind, and the rest likely facing salary cuts.  The session ends in 26 days.


The committee studying the City Budget begins crafting it’s recommendations tomorrow.  I joined this study late, but I’ve learned an incredible amount about how the city crafts it’s budget.  There are so many challenges in our consolidated government, and Jacksonville has been, by almost any measure, fairly fiscally responsible, but still finds it’s self with some serious challenges.  I think when the report is released that people will be surprised at how involved the process is, and yet how basic some of the issues are.  I know I have been.


I’ll likely spend some time Thursday at City Hall at the committee meeting discussing the city’s landfill dilemma.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days talking to people about the issue, from longtime political observers to current city councilmen and one who voted on the original contract.   There will be public comment on Thursday, along with another iteration of the Mayor’s presentation.  No matter what, it’s going to be close.


Wreck 295 cropDriving to improv rehearsal tonight, traffic was at a crawl on I-295 from I-95 to Old St. Augustine Road.   Why?  Someone had managed to flip an SUV in the eastbound lanes.  That’ll make for a really bad evening.  The only camera I had was the iPhone, and since we were staring to get moving again, it was difficult to get any composition on the shot.  I had to make sure I didn’t have a wreck myself while trying to get a shot of this carnage.  I hope everybody was OK.

And speaking of improv … yes we rehearse and I’m getting a little disappointed with people making the “you rehearse improv?” joke.  We rehearse to build trust among the players, to learn the structure of the games, to develop characters, to learn new games, and to laugh and have fun.  All to make sure the audience has the best possible experience.  And if you don’t believe it, just give it a shot sometime with no rehearsal.  Stand up in front of 50 to 100 people with someone you’ve never been on stage with before.  Get a relationship and location suggestion.  Build a scene.  Make it funny.


Nah, I wouldn’t want to do that either.

And now, with 10 minutes until midnight, and North Carolina running out the clock on their 5th national championship (tying Indiana), it’s time to get this up to the server and call it a night.



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Filed under Florida Budget, Florida Legislature, Improv, Improv Comedy, Local Government, Local Issues, Thoughts

More Than a Twinge of Melancholy

Friday was a very strange day.

It began like any other Friday of the past nearly 8 years.  I got up, put on a suit, and went to work.  By 8:30 I was into the first rehearsal for Week in Review.  We’ve always run through twice … once at 8:30 and once at 8:45 … with a live start at 9:00.

By 9:30, it was done.

I thought I could get through my final speech OK.  I’d read it and read it and read it at my desk over the past week.  I wrote it early, knowing it would be difficult, and hoping that by reading it often, I’d be comfortable enough to make it through.  I expected to have trouble.  I didn’t expect to have it be as hard as it was.

I mean really.  I’d never asked to be on TV.  I enjoyed it, after I got over the abject terror of it.  Once I figured out that the camera was just a big microphone with an operator, I was in pretty good shape.  And the confidence I’ve gained from being on television, as well as being on an improv stage, made it comfortable, if not easy.

As John was turning off the lights … a standard breaker-box panel … he got down to the final switch.  “Which one is it?”, he asked.

Dark Set It was my backlight … falling directly on my chair.  We agreed that it was somehow fitting that it would be the last one.  He flipped the final switch, and it was done.  I expect they’ll strike the set Monday.  I understand a commercial photographer is interested in using the studio pretty extensively, but I know we’re planning on having our candidates cattle-call in that studio.  So maybe it’ll stay for a little while longer.


We had a good run.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  Over 400 programs, each one new, original, and probably 95% hosted my me.  We only went back and re-hashed once a year, our “Year in Review” show that fell on the last Friday of the year.  Otherwise, each show was built from scratch, based on the week’s new.

So, here are the people working on the show on the last day.  Not a comprehensive photo by any means.  Don Agnew was laid off in the most recent RIF, and Christina, who’d been producing since then was on vacation last Friday.  We did the final show with just our journalists.  I thought it was fitting for us to have the last show to ourselves.  We finished strong, with a solid show, and no regrets.  But, more than a twinge of melancholy.

But that wasn’t the end of it, by any means

After working through my issues on the final Week in Review show in the morning, I showed up at The Ocean Club Liquor Store for the last improv show, at least for a while, of the so-far short-lived “Milk Comedy Crew”.

In a bizarre twist, Jeff Kalish, who will be our director should we continue, fell playing soccer and blew out his ACL.  He was unable to come to the show, and Don G had something come up at the last minute and was unable to join us.


So, if fell to Scott, Della, and me to close out this chapter of Milk.

When we got to the venue, there was already a band setting up on the stage.  This happened to us last week as well, but we got to them then before a double-bass drum kit was set up on the stage.  After we decided we were going to play at all, we left the stage to the band and played on the floor in front of the first row of tables.

We kicked ass.  We had a bunch of our old friends come out.  Beth and Crystal were there, John Bryan, of course, Andie came to the show … we played a short, fast, funny set of about 9 games and called it a night.  Andre Holloway stopped by and did 5 minutes of standup … and was as funny as ever.  But still when it was over … more than a twinge of melancholy.  It was just that kind of a night.

When it was all done, I lit one of my likely-illegal Cubano cigars and reflected on how much had changed in the span of about 16 hours.

Every week at work, I had a rhythm.  It all revolved around getting Week in Review up and ready for Friday morning.  Meetings with Don, editorial decisions, script writing,  promo and production element creation … it filled a good portion of my week.  That’s all done now.  But much of what defined me at work, and indeed in this community, ended when we turned out those lights.

And from my first improv rehearsal, I loved it.  And I’ve gotten a lot better, if Scott is to be believed.  He really didn’t have any reason to just blow smoke up my skirt telling me that.  See, Scott and Della are moving to West Virginia … a tiny little town of about 10 thousand people with very little in the way of culture or art as Scott knows it.  I hope they’re able to make a go of the bookstore, but if they wind up back here, I hope we’ll have a chance to improvise together again.  Being a member of ImprovJacksonville, and more recently Milk Comedy Crew, greatly improved my public speaking ability, my performance on television and radio, and I made some wonderful friends.  So, I hope as Jeff rehabs from his blown knee he doesn’t lose interest in making more Milk.  We’ll see.

So, a personally monumental Friday.  It’s not often that so much can change in so short a time.  Nothing bad, really.  Not like the collapse of the whole banking system or anything.  But it was a day for more than a twinge of melancholy.

tomorrow’s a new day.  Time to start writing the next chapter.


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Filed under Improv, Life, Radio, Television, Thoughts