The Great White North - Day 12 (Finale) by Mark

Reporting from SFPPN HQ, Grove City, OH

As you complete a vacation, you pass through familiar territory. This was doubly true today, as we drove from my college town to northeast Ohio where I grew up, and finally to home. So, I just have a few notes to wrap things up.

First off, the hotel was VERY nice. In fact, I was shocked we got such a good deal on it. It was a “business hotel”, and so I guess they don’t get a lot of Sunday night business? I checked the rates for next weekend (College Homecoming), and it’s at least 3X as expensive.

We just make a few stops on the way home—to have lunch with some old friends, and a local orchard we like to visit when we get up that way. We left with apples, pumpkins, cheese, squash, and hedge apples (look it up).

Then a boring trip down I-71 to central Ohio and home.

My top memories of this vacation?

Mindy making her own kazoo

The Star Trek set tour

The abandoned space shuttle replica

Our 25th anniversary dinner on the dock

Glass bottle houses

The friendly B&B on Prince Edward Island


High and low tides on the Bay of Fundy

The Starway to Nowhere

Avery Soda

and spending lots of time with my lovely wife.

That does it. We’re wiped out—time to unpack and do laundry.

I promise to do more blog entries soon.

The Great White North - Day 11 by Mark

Reporting from Grove City, PA (Latitude 41.14, Longitude -80.15)

Today was the cross-Pennsylvania journey.

The hotel at Wilkes-Barre was nice, if a bit strange (the rooms had hardwood floors).

We headed off to Bill’s Old Bike Barn, which started with bikes and became a destination for—stuff. They weren’t open yet, but we got a good idea of the place.


Next, a trip to the food factory where Chef Boy-Ar-Dee was “born”.


Then, we had lunch at Doolittle Station, a melange of cafes, restaurants, trains, and goats.


Finally, we wound up in Grove City…PA. It’s not only the home of my Alma Mater, but listed three sites there. They turned out to be art installations/parking signs.


The final run back home is tomorrow.

The Great White North - Day 10 by Mark

Reporting from Wilkes-Barre, PA (Latitude 41.22, Longitude -75.88)

This was another day of hopscotching all over the Northeast.

It started at the hotel, where we caught a glimpse of Catwoman driving away.


Our first stop was the Avery Soda Co. There were hundreds of small independent soda pop companies a hundred years ago—this is one of the few remaining still in business. We got to see where they make the soda, and then picked out a selection of their flavors.


We then stopped for a sentimental lunch at Friendly’s. The chain used to be all over the midwest, but it has shrunk to a tiny presence on the coast. Of course, I had to have a Fribble.

An old friend worked at Friendly’s, and met his future wife there.


We then journeyed to the Holy Land—an abandoned “educational” park in a bad section of town.


Then it was two displays—a giant Santa at a storage facility and a statue of P.T. Barnum in his hometown (Bethel, CT).


It took us a while to find thge next oddity—a rock that balances on some smaller rocks, which allegedly happened naturally. I call shenanigans.


Finally, it took a half-mile walk thru a graveyard to find the border of NY, NJ, and PA (actually out in the river near this stone).


Then we found a hotel and a place to eat—an Italian restaurant where we were underdressed. The food was good, though.

More to come.

The Great White North - Day 9 by Mark

Reporting from Windsor, CT (Latitude 41.87, Longitude -72.66)

We’ve just completed a whirlwind tour of the Northeast, going from Maine to New Hampshire to Vermont to Massachusetts to Connecticut.

We started the morning at a coffee shop (it rhymes with Schmarbucks), so we could post stuff online after the hotel beefed it with the wifi.

We then went to Yarmouth, ME and DeLorme/Garmin’s HQ, home to the largest rotating globe (other than the Earth itself). It’s like 3 stories tall, and situated inside an atrium.


We then started south into New Hamphire and a great sammich with homemade bread at Northwood Diner.


A quick comment regarding Google Maps—people don’t ALWAYS want to get somewhere in the fastest time possible. There should be a way to set a “scenic drive” option. We had to keep either adjusting the app or ignoring it to stay off freeways. Also, it would be nice if I could rearrange stops without getting out the laptop…

We did find a bizarre monument at Keene State College—a guy set up an endowment in order to find a way to CONTROL GRAVITY. Thanks,!


The same site brought us to “The Stairway to Nowhere”—the remains of a mansion in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowhere (it took us two apps on two phones to track it down). The mansion burned down in the 60’s, leaving only the stones.


One the final leg to the hotel, we checked out the Yankee Candle Superstore (or whatever it was called). I was O.D.’ing on whimsy.

Tonight on Land of the Giants…

Tonight on Land of the Giants…

Winter is coming (so get your candles now).

Winter is coming (so get your candles now).

OK, that’s enough for now. More tomorrow.

The Great White North - Day 8.5 by Mark

Reporting from Freeport, ME (Latitude 43.81, Longitude -70.14)

Note: Actually at a nearby Starbucks, since our hotel had a different idea of wi-fi, in that they didn’t have any although they said they did. This is also why this is late.

With better weather than yesterday, we checked out of the Tara Inn and headed over to nearby St. Stephen for the Chocolate Museum. Ganong is a high-end Canadian chocolatier, and they set up a museum in their old factory. It was rather interesting—plus free samples.


We then found a local diner, where I had some great homemade clam chowder.


We followed that up with the day’s main event—seeing the high tide at St. Andrews.

You could barely see these boats at low tide.

You could barely see these boats at low tide.

Remember the causeway from low tide. Now, not so much.

Remember the causeway from low tide. Now, not so much.

That wrapped up our time in Canada—we jumped over to Maine (which was just as easy as it was the first time), where we were promptly attacked by a giant lobster.

We tampered in God’s domain.

We tampered in God’s domain.

I took the crustacean by the claws and turned it into a lobster roll.


A late afternoon trip down US Route 1 followed—here’s a cool bridge—


--and here’s a tourist mainstay, as referenced in John Hodgman’s Vacationland (which we were listening to during the drive), Perry’s Nut House.

It’s everyone’s favorite mascot, _utzy.

It’s everyone’s favorite mascot, _utzy.

More to come.

The Great White North - Day 7 by Mark

Reporting from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada (Latitude 45.09, Longitude -67.06)

We headed back to the mainland, after a very fun 3 days on PEI. We had a wonderful stay at The Lookout Inn, a great B&B:

We stayed in the “Turret Room”, which you can see on the right.

We stayed in the “Turret Room”, which you can see on the right.

Unfortunately, our string of great weather ran out, so this was a typical view for much of the day.


We drove down to New Brunswick, and made our was to the Bay of Fundy. Why? Because it’s the biggest difference between high and low tide on the planet (about a 20 foot swing here, with as much as 50 feet elsewhere in the bay).

We stopped at the village of Alma and had our first poutine (a Canadian dish with french fries, cheese curds, and gravy). It’s kind of like mashed potatoes, but different—and very good.


We wound up at St. Andrews and the Tara Manor Inn. An old style motel, but comfortable. It’s just across from Minister’s Island, where an old industrialist has a mansion. It’s only accessible via a causeway which is above water at low tide only. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.

You can see part of the causeway in the background. It’s much larger at low tide.

You can see part of the causeway in the background. It’s much larger at low tide.

Mindy is standing on the ocean floor. She would be underwater (and then some) at high tide.

Mindy is standing on the ocean floor. She would be underwater (and then some) at high tide.

We’re planning to hang out here until high tide in the early afternoon, and then return to the USA and Bar Harbor tomorrow. More tomorrow.

The Great White North - Day 6 by Mark

Still reporting from New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada (Latitude 46,40, Longitude -63.35)

Another big day started with breakfast—today, it was tasty Eggs Benedict. Then we were off to Le Musée de la Pomme de Terre, aka The Potato Museum. PEI is a major source of tubers, especially “seed potatoes”, grown to grow other spuds.

They grow ‘em big up here.

They grow ‘em big up here.

This is the Oscar for potato growing.

This is the Oscar for potato growing.

We followed that up with the West Point Light House, where we were able to climb up to the top. Stairs became more like ladders as we ascended.

It’s still an active beacon, except it’s automated. The house is also an inn.

It’s still an active beacon, except it’s automated. The house is also an inn.

Don’t look at it, Marian!!!

Don’t look at it, Marian!!!

More fun was found at the Glass Bottle House—actually three houses, using old glass bottles and cement for the walls, along with pretty gardens.


We ended the afternoon at the Island Honey Wine Company, where we tried out a few varieties of mead. I particularly enjoyed the Apple Cider, made with their own apples and honey.


We wound up the day at the Blue Mussel Cafe, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a little more casual than expected, but the food was top notch.

We shared the Lobster dip

We shared the Lobster dip

I had the Seafood Bubbly Bake

I had the Seafood Bubbly Bake

Mindy had the Stuffed Chicken (!?!?!)

Mindy had the Stuffed Chicken (!?!?!)

Well, that’s plenty for one day. We leave PEI and our B&B HQ tomorrow—off to New Brunswick.

The Great White North - Day 5 by Mark

Still reporting from New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada (Latitude 46,40, Longitude -63.35)

(A quick note—I’m posting my content in the evening for awhile, including Facebook and Instagram, since cell service on PEI is spotty at best).

Our first full day on PEI was fairly packed—a great breakfast at the B&B, and then off to the the home that L.M. Montgomery used as the basis for Anne of Green Gables. We went through the historically-correct house, and then walked the trails that “Anne walked”—Lovers Lane and The Haunted Woods.


We also visited two beaches—Cavendish in the late morning and Robinson’s Island in the late afternoon. Both were gorgeous, breezy, and cold.


We also found a possible investment opportunity—an abandoned Science Center right on the coast of a bay. Did I mention the full-size replica of the Space Shuttle? Or the massive Planetarium?


Before we went down into downtown Charlottetown, we stopped at a tea shoppe in the middle of nowhere for lunch. This included a tea leaf reading. I’m supposed to ride a horse, and Mindy is to learn to play the guitar. Life goals!


Well, we’re worn out. More fun tomorrow—and a big occasion.

The Great White North - Day 4 by Mark

Reporting from New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada (Latitude 46,40, Longitude -63.35)

We are now “north of the border”, after a day of mostly driving with few stops. We started off from the Howard Johnson’s in Bangor, ME (in a related story, Howard Johnson’s still exists) and went downtown to the hipster zone for bagel sandwiches. We declared them “not really bagels” (they looked like bagels without the chewiness) but good anyway.


We then headed to the border, not sure how long the process would take. Turned out to be about 60 seconds. I’m sure it will take longer the other way around.

We drove through Saint John’s, New Brunswick and saw a blurry cruise ship at the dock.


Once we figured out how to set the car to kilometers, it was more driving in very pretty (but monotonous after a while) forests and mountains. Then we crossed the bridge into PEI.


We are now ensconced at a lovely Bed and Breakfast somewhat near the north shore, which will be out HQ for the next few days. Tired out—more tomorrow.

The Great White North - Day 3 by Mark

Reporting from Bangor, ME (Latitude 44.78, Longitude -68.81)

After an interesting night (the motel room’s floor undulated, and the bed creaked LOUDLY), we found a very fine coffee shop in town, and then moved on to the main event, just down the street.


I was tamping down my expectations, in case it was a bust—and the outside display wasn’t promising.


Once we got inside, it was another matter. WOW!!! A complete, meticulous re-creation of the Enterprise sets. Here’s just a few highlights.

Beam us down!

Beam us down!

Risk? Risk—is—our—business!

Risk? Risk—is—our—business!



Crayola-style doors.

Crayola-style doors.

I’m a doctor, not a…

I’m a doctor, not a…

A tall ship, and a star to sail her by…

A tall ship, and a star to sail her by…

Me wee bairns won’t take it!

Me wee bairns won’t take it!

Captain’s log…

Captain’s log…

I’ll post the whole set on Facebook (once I can find some decent WiFi).

Later, we stopped at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory. No pics are allowed on the tour (company secrets), but I did take a shot outside, at the “flavor graveyard”.


We got to the hotel later than we had planned, but it was definitely better than last night (not a hard hurdle to jump). More tomorrow, including our first day in Canada (assuming we make it across the border).

The Great White North - Day 2 by Mark

Reporting from Ticonderoga, NY (Latitude 43.84, Longitude 73.43):

After an early start (traveler’s tip—unplug the hotel alarm clock so it doesn’t wake you up at 6a), we grabbed breakfast, used the pool, then headed off for adventure.

First stop—The Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, NY. This is where Jell-O was born, although it took a few owners (and a lot of advertising) until it became a hit. Some very interesting exhibits. Here, Mindy presents some Jell-O molds.


Our second stop is one of those “Roadside Attractions”. It’s a traffic light in Syracuse that is upside down, with the green light on top.

Check out the  link  for more info.

Check out the link for more info.

…and then we made our way to Ticonderoga. Not exactly a bustling metropolis. Here’s our lodging for the night.


Let’s just say an enterprising fellow would do well if they wanted to build a hotel here. We made a reservation a week ago, which is good, because every room in town is full. Why? I guess there’s a bunch of small events in the area every fall weekend.

There’s a “Hot Biscuit Diner” across the street that doesn’t have a lot of competition, so they just microwave pre-made biscuits. At least that was our guess.

Why Ticonderoga? Because there’s an attraction we’re going to in the morning here—a place I’ve wanted to go since I heard about it. One hint: “Risk? Risk—is—our—business!”

More tomorrow.

The Great White North - Day 1 by Mark

After a long hiatus, I’m back with another blog entry.

We haven’t taken a real vacation in quite a while, and remembered that we really enjoyed the long “Southern Sweep” drive. With our 25th anniversary imminent, we decided to drive to Canada’s Prince Edward Island, site of “Anne of Green Gables”.

Day 1 - a drive from Columbus to Batavia NY (Latitude 43.01, Longitude -78.19).

Basically, drive to Lake Erie and turn right.

Like I said.

Like I said.

We stopped for lunch in Ashtabula (the bridge made our decision for us).


We had deviled eggs and a Cuban sandwich at Rennick’s Meat Market (quite the hipster locale).


Then a touristy stop at the Original Kazoo Company in Eden, NY. Mindy made her own kazoo!


We made it to Batavia and got dinner at Ken’s Charcoal Pits—I made the mistake of getting the special, and they treated it like I had ordered the “Gutbuster”.


Tomorrow—there’s always time for Jell-O.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 18 and Closing Ceremony by Mark


From last night—

  • All the screaming by the commentators seems to have caught up with them. The Bobsled guy seemed genuinely out of breath—I was momentarily concerned he was having a heart attack. Scott Hamilton at the Skating Gala had a raspy voice. Hope the norovirus hasn’t struck Kabletown.
  • I thought the gala performance of Alina Zagitova (Gold Medal winner), as well as her outfit, was a LITTLE racy for a 15 year old.
  • TIrico wraps up Primetime coverage with an interview of the US Curling team (I believe for the second time).
  • The final “prime plus” coverage includes the 50K cross-country ski competition—the marathon (actually longer) of Winter QISE--and an interview with QISE President Thomas zBach.
  • XThe latter confirms the decision that Russ—sorry, Olympic Athletes from Russia—will NOT be allowed to show their flag at the Closing Ceremonies. Not sure why that was back in question, considering that 2 of the 4 cases of doping during Pyeongchang came from that team. That fact this aired at the tail end of that night’s programming tells you that QISE and Kabletown would like to forget this. There was a strange glitch in the interview where Bach repeated the same phrase twice—bad editing.
  • Well, the final medal count is in—Norway tops the list with 39 total medals, 14 of them gold, followed by Germany at 31, Canada at 29, and the US at 23, with 9 gold. The US got 28 medals at Sochi, also with 9 gold.

And now the final day and closing ceremony…

  • We have another number—102 medal events throughout Pyeongchang (98 at Sochi).
  • More 50km racing, this time for the ladies. At one point, an athlete (and the commentators) were confused after a wrong turn was made on the course.
  • The remainder of the final afternoon’s coverage is a 90 documentary on the Mexico City games 50 years ago—probably the beginning (for good or ill) of politics at QISE—followed by something that’s been done since the Peacock took over QISE coverage decades ago (and maybe before then). A huge extended list of production credits alongside QISE highlights, running 10 minutes, showing the army of staff and crew  involved.
  • Primetime begins with “QISE Gold”—a one hour review of the games, along with a preview of the closing ceremonies. Tirico checks in for a final time from the Fortress of Solitude. Overall, Tirico’s no Costas—yet. Based on how long Kabletown has the QISE contract, he’s got a decade plus to grow into the role.
  • Over at the stadium, Tara went with bedazzled black, and Johnny with white—including a star in his hair. Oh, and there’s the generic commentator guy too. Speaking of the stadium, it cost $109M to build, and will be used exactly four times (opening and closing of QISE and ParaQISE), then torn down.
  • The QISE review seems to have turned into a histories of Snowboarding at QISE and Korea itself. In fact, there’s a number of segments which played earlier, which begs the question—why is this show running long, delaying the (already delayed by 14 hours) closing ceremony?
  • Finally, the closing ceremony gets underway, with lots of dancers and music borrowed from The Simpsons. Then it’s kids dressed like pandas (why not?) presenting the South Korean flag.
  • Now it’s time for a rock concert by a member of the Goonies, classic musicians, and an electric violin player. Somebody get that cat out of here! It’s all to introduce the “Queen of the Closing Ceremony”, Miss Korea.
  • Then the flagbearers and athletes come in as a group. Just like a cafeteria in high school, each country keeps largely to itself.
  • Wow, Comcast cranked out a third version of the “small town watching the event in the middle of the night” ad, now with shots of Jessie Diggins carrying the flag.
  • More drones, this time in the shape of the games's mascot, a white tiger, changing into a heart.
  • Oh no, the "in memorium" concept has made it to QISE. Like this wasn't already too long. "Finally, the turtle goes through a time tunnel." Okaayyyy....
  • And now a large dose of K-Pop. I'm sure the singer sees this as a way to get her music to the US.
  • I noticed we're not getting much in the way of Johnnyisms--Tara is being more talkative. Maybe Weir is out of his element?
  • Back to the formalities. The QISE hymn, the QISE flag transfer, and the official Beijing 2022 preview.
  • Finally Johnny wakes up—“PANDAS!” We also get a huge light show for Beijing, reminiscent of Tron, then a video presentation with flying pandas. QISE won’t be leaving Asia until 2024, by the way (Paris).
  • QISE President Thomas Bach does his “this is the greatest QISE of all time” bit, then officially closes QISE. There’s more dancing, a guy playing a theremin, a Jeep gang, and yes, more K-Pop straight from the Korean Teen Choice Awards.
  • Hey, it’s the kids from the opening ceremony with their Palintirs! A comically large gift box opens to show a giant show globe of Pyeongchang, followed by yet another light show which extinguishes the QISE flame.
  • More dance music as the athletes swarm out to the stage, while random and chaotic interviews ensue, with Tara, Johnny, and the other guy blathering on.
  • Back to Tirico, who wraps it up at the Fortress. We'll miss you, overblown sets!

Well, after 140+ hours of main coverage, plus the Today Show and countless amounts of streaming and VR, that about does it. If I don’t do something in this blog before then, see you July 24, 2020 in Tokyo.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 17 by Mark


Back to last night—

  • Yet another new event, Alpine Skiing - Team Event. Two skiers go down a dual shortened slalom hill at the same time, with a drop in the middle, and the fastest one wins. It’s like when you were a kid, and you made up a new board game using parts from your other games.  Not sure this is a winner.
  • In case you’re worried about upcoming QISE withdrawal, Kabletown reminds you that they have you covered. there’s still the ParaQISE games starting March 9—and the QISE Channel will cover events going forward (aka a lot of reruns).
  • Yet another event using existing parts: Snowboarding Parallel Giant Slalom. It’s like the Peacock is saying, “we’re running out of stuff to show—come up with something—anything!” It did allow Ester Ledecka to win gold in two sports—a first for a woman at Winter QISE . It also allowed Norway to break the overall QISE record for medals won.
  • In “prime plus”, we got a preview of a documentary to be shown Sunday afternoon, about the Mexico City QISE 50 years ago. It looks very interesting. It’s great to hear Jim McKay announcing an event.
  • In an attempt to sell Bobsledding to the NASCAR crowd (seems like an easy sell), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. interviewed the US 4 man team.
  • BTW—when you hear “this broadcast is presented by the authority of the International QISE Committee…”, you know it’s the final segment of the show. 

Moving to today—

  • America woke up to the US Curling Team with an improbable gold medal. The Weekend Today Show team was already back in the US, so they had to interview the team via satellite. They dubbed it “Miracurl on Ice”.
  • Rebecca’s back for the afternoon session at the Fortress with the Gold Medal Curling match. They kept cutting back to a viewing party at the home club in Minnesota. The Peacock was ready for an otherwise barren schedule with segments on the 1988 games and the ParaQISE Sled Hockey team.
  • The Calgary ’88 segment was actually a documentary about the figure skating competition, narrated by Rob Lowe. “It was LITERALLY the greatest competition ever”. (A Parks and Rec reference).
  • The final ratings are starting to come in, and it’s not good for Kabletown. Down 15% from Sochi in the coveted 18-49 demo, even when taking NBCSN and streaming into account. It’s still profitable, but considering the billions spent to get the rights, and the continued drops, it won’t be forever.
  • Primetime begins with Tirico at the Ski Lodge, sending us to YET ANOTHER new event—Speed Skating Mass Start. There’s an unnecessary point system that makes it very confusing—why not just have the first to cross the finish line wins? Why make it so difficult for the audience to follow? I just looked up the rules online, and I still barely understand it.
  • After another Lindsey Vonn review, it’s off to the final Bobsled event (unless there’s one that involves doing tricks in them). 
  • We’ve now made it to the “Champions Gala”, where the winning skaters do special routines, generally as an audition for skating shows—or Dancing with the Stars. The adults (Scott, Andrea, and Tanith) were brought in for this.
  • Things are really winding down now. Tomorrow is the Closing Ceremony, which like the Opening, will actually happen early in the morning Eastern time. I will NOT be getting up for it this time—I’ll wait for Kabletown’s version with Tara and Johnny 14 hours later.

The big wrap up tomorrow!

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 16 by Mark


From last night—

  • Tara and Johnny are really building up the US Ladies’ skaters—just to dash our hopes, or maybe to keep people watching? Later, they were apologetic after underwhelming performances.
  • Johnnyisms—“That’s a crazy score guys. Anything 220 or up is Russian territory” “Comparing her skating to others is like comparing a Picasso to a finger painting” “A swan has gotten her wings, Clarence!” “Like skipping stones across a placid pond"
  • We get a “tale of the tape” from Tanith White before the top Russ—sorry “Olympic Athletes from Russia”—compete.
  • The Peacock is taking full advantage of the “primetime” period by show it live in all time zones. As a result, Eastern/Central goes to local news afterward, while Mountain/Pacific continues coverage, and then both come back together for “Prime Plus”. Depending on the scheduling of events you’re interested in, it’s easier for the East or West Coast to watch.
  • Ladies’ Figure Skating kicked up the TV ratings for Kabletown, but the overall numbers have not been good—below the Sochi numbers.  It’s not the streaming options dragging down the numbers, since they are being included in the Pyeongchang figures.

Moving to today—

  • The US flagbearer for the closing ceremony was announced on the Today Show--Jessie Diggins, Cross-Country Gold winner. It's not as big an honor as the opening ceremony.
  • We also got our first Tokyo 2020 preview package during the morning show--882 days and counting...
  • Since many of the outdoor events got pushed up due to weather concerns, the last few days are going to be a little less jam-packed than originally expected. I’m sure you will be seeing even more pre-taped packages and rerunning major events between now and the closing ceremony.
  • Speaking of, in today’s afternoon coverage, we got a segment about the US military force in South Korea—narrated by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.???
  • …and then we got a rerun of last night’s figure skating. You know this is available on the website, right?
  • Primetime begins with Tirico at the Fortress, handing us off to Four Man Bobsled. If the team screws up getting into the sled at the top, it looks like the Three Stooges going through a doorway.
  • We’re also wrapping up Speed Skating tonight. Shoni Davis, who earlier inferred that a coin flip to choose the flag bearer was racist, didn’t do well.
  • Then it’s Men’s Big Air Snowboard, and a second chance to see phenom Red Gerard. Since his initial appearance, he flew back to the US, appeared on Kimmel, CBS This Morning, Kelly and Ryan, did a People magazine shoot, a video for Sports Illustrated, and flew back (14 hours each way). What you can do when you’re 17…

More to come.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 15 by Mark


From last night—

  • Reaching into the refrigerator magnet word salad, it’s Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Halfpipe. All the temperature changes in Pyeongchang are screwing up the snow in the pipe (uh, dude…EXTREME?)  A great quote—“So the man from Reno on his third and final run rolls the dice and it comes up Yahtzee!”
  • If you’ve been watching QISE much at all, you’ve probably seen these micro-ads, mostly from Toyota, that run maybe 10 seconds between ski/board runs. Kabletown is squeezing in as many ads as they can, even with a live event going on.
  • For some reason, Natalie Morales was doing interviews at the bottom of Men’s Slalom. Was there some contractual issue going on? She seems a strange choice.
  • Chloe Kim was flown halfway around the world to New York—just so she could be on the 5 minute micro-Fallon show.
  • Tara and Johnny dropped by to chat with Tirico—Johnny is wearing a Seinfeld-esque puffy shirt and a bird in his hair. BTW—they announced they are hosting the closing ceremonies.
  • The Peacock stretched out “prime plus" and got the Women’s Hockey Gold win for US live—38 years after the “Miracle on Ice".

Onto today—

  • Of course, the Today Show began with the US Women’s Hockey team, followed by Lindsey and Mikaela, then the US medal winners of Men's Halfpipe, the Women’s Bobsled, and the Women’s Cross-Country Team Pursuit, respectively, and finally Jamie Anderson. The Today Show has been waiting for a day like this.  The US leapfrogged to fourth place in medals overall since yesterday.
  • Rebecca Lowe begins afternoon coverage hanging out at the top of the ski jump—clearly terrified at the height involved. She quickly throws it to Curling.
  • Primetime begins with an intro to the marquis Winter QISE event—Ladies’ Figure Skating. We’ll see when it will start on the main broadcast (it’s already on streaming, showing the lower-ranked competitors). Tirico, in the Fortress, tosses it to Tara and Johnny, the latter wearing what appears to be a formal tablecloth.
  • Then it’s off to the final night of Short Track. I’ll say it again—why isn't there a pro league in the US? I mean something like Monday Night Short Track. It’s a shame we won’t see this for another four years.
  • Also, what’s with the “Ironside” theme as background music at the event?
  • To tease the audience, we get a package on Evgenia Medvedeva, the Russ—sorry, "Olympic Athlete from Russia" figure skater.  It’s all about her interest in anime.
  • We finally got to figure skating 90 minutes into Primetime. Based on what’s on the live stream right now, the Peacock mothership is picking out earlier performances to show. The Americans, and the leaders, will come up later.

More to come.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 14 by Mark


From last night—

  • Well, Lindsey Vonn ended up with (as they call it on The Simpsons) “shameful bronze”. She teared up at her post-race interview—this is catnip for Kabletown’s cameras, and we got long extreme closeups of her crying. You could count her individual eyelashes.
  • Back to Figure Skating. Johnnyisms—“She usually sells that short program like the rent's due tomorrow and she hasn’t gotten her paycheck yet!” “She rotates so fast—it’s like a hummingbird’s wings” “Her jumps were like fireworks"
  • At sone point, Tara said that a skater should score better than another—then after the commercial, and that didn’t occur, she said she knew it wouldn’t happen.  It’s all due to what they euphemistically call the “reputation” of a skater (Russians—sorry, “Olympic Athletes from Russia”) tend to get a pass more easily from the judges.
  • Looks like my TiVo’s schedule was off tonight—or the Peacock made some last minute changes—so my “prime plus” recording is a bit fragmented.
  • At QISE, all announcements are made in the local language, France, and English. This sometimes means different names or pronunciations for countries. I keep hearing “CAN-ada”, then “Can-A-da”. I reply with “Canad-A”.

Moving on to today—

  • The time difference between Pyeongchang and the US left the The Today Show with a scoop—a surprise win in Women’s Cross-Country overnight, and the first medal in this sport since 1976. Kabletown finally has a story to tell.
  • Watching the finale of that event online, all I can think of is—get that commentator a lozenge.  He is absolutely screaming into the mike.
  • We’re hearing more about Liz Swaney, the Hungarian Half-Pipe competitor whose runs included virtually no “tricks”. She previously ran for governor of California and tried the Skeleton as a sport. So it’s not clear if she’s delusional or looking for publicity—or both. She was in a very uncomfortable interview on the morning show.
  • Primetime begins with Tirico’s voiceover, shooting us directly to Men’s Slalom. After a bit of that, we get the US cross-country win already discussed 12 hours earlier on the Today Show. I was worried the color commentator’s head was going to explode. Somebody get him a lozenge!
  • We knew that event was taped hours earlier, but it was still impressive that Comcast re-edited a commercial featuring those athletes which showed immediately after the win on the broadcast.
  • Over to Bobsled, starting with the “joke” teams—Nigeria and Jamaica. Kabletown—you can’t complain about Liz Swaney, and then swoon over these runs.
  • Moving on to Women’s Super Combined, with the storylines of a) Lindsey Vonn’s last event and b) Mikaela Shiffrin’s run for redemption.

More tomorrow.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 13 by Mark


Back to last night—

  • We make it to Ice Dancing just as the “also rans” are finishing up. Personally, I think the event works when the performance seems like the pair is making it up as they go along. When it gets to “ok, we’re prepping for a really difficult lift”, it loses me.
  • An “Inside Baseball” note—the other US broadcast networks are giving QISE a pass in primetime, showing mostly reruns through the games. I do not understand the logic in this. Winter QISE are always problematic due to weather delays and obscure events, so assuming they will be a big hit is questionable. You’re not going to get a Tonya Harding every time. So far, Pyeongchang is not doing well for Kabletown, and with no other broadcast alternatives, where did the viewers go? To cable and streaming—and every time they do, a few don’t come back.
  • “Prime Plus” begins with a 5 minute Micro-Fallon show (that’s just about as much of him as I can stand). Not sure if it’s a contractual issue or not.

Moving to today’s coverage—

  • The audio on the Today Show seemed muddled. There was something going on in the background—the downside of doing a live show in an open environment.
  • In the afternoon, watching Biathlon. The sport of secret agents—skiing and shooting. There’s a “penalty lap” if they miss their shots, and I noticed a few people sitting in lawn chairs inside the loop. I assume they are judges—or just spectators with really good seats.
  • Prime Time begins with Tirico at the Fortress, throwing us to Tara and Johnny for Ladies Figure Skating-Short Program. I'm shocked that the petite Lipinski can hold her head up with all that make-up on. The Peacock has their fingers crossed that the US will be a factor, but it seems unlikely
  • One US performance—then Figure Skating is shipped off to NBCSN until Americans return. We’ve got Bobsled and Short Track to show! I’m following the skating event on the “enhanced view” stream (stats, standings, and trivia surrounding the screen.
  • The big draw tonight is Lindsey Vonn, with a teaser promo a half hour before her Downhill run. Kabletown made some early bets in terms of their promotion, and they just haven’t panned out.
  • There’s a story over the last day or so about Liz Swaney, a Hungarian Half-Pipe competitor whose runs included virtually no “tricks”. Turns out the native Californian (her grandparents are from Hungary) gamed the qualification system by competing in lightly attended events so all she had to do was not fall and get points. In some cases, the top 30 would qualify—and there wouldn’t be that many competitors. It’s really not her fault, it’s a broken system, which I’m sure will be adjusted to avoid this in the future.
  • Well, despite an error, Bradie Tennell is holding onto the top position at the skating arena—at least so far. The main threats haven’t reached the ice yet.

More tomorrow.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 12 by Mark


Back to last night—

  • We begin with an update. Adam Rippon will NOT be a Kabletown correspondent. Someone reminded him that it would invalidate his “amateur” status—he would have been kicked out of the athletes' village, and couldn’t participate in the closing ceremony.  Johnny Weir breathes a sigh of relief.
  • When I see the “Shib Sibs” Ice Dancing, I think it’s a bit creepy that siblings are doing that—especially a Latin dance.
  • Tara and Johnny joined Mike at the Fortress to preview the top Ice Dancing teams. Johnny was wearing a kimono with hair from the Hunger Games collection. It’s clear that they are an audience draw, to the point that they had to be jammed in to the coverage.
  • We’ve already had one “wardrobe malfunction” in Ice Dancing—now a second case. Gabriella Papadakis’s partner, Guillaume Cizerone, accidentally unfastened a clasp near the start of their dance, and the French pair gave the arena’s audience an upper view. The actually issue on TV was minimal—I doubt it would have been noticed if Tanith White hadn’t pointed it out. The short dance involved Latin steps, which meant skimpier outfits, which increased the likelihood of this happening.

Onto today—

  • We haven’t heard much about drug testing since the Russians were (partly) kicked out—until now. A member of the “Olympic Athletes from Russia”, Alexander Krushelnitsky, failed his initial post-game testing, and now will be tested again to confirm. The drug? Meldonium, which increases blood flow and endurance. The strenuous sport involved? Curling.
  • By this point in QISE, the Peacock has enough footage to create bizarre “co-branding” opportunities. I just saw an ad for the upcoming film "Ready Player One" that included audio from the movie, and switched back and forth between film and QISE visuals. It’s very confusing. 
  • Rebecca Lowe interviewed speed skater Maame Biney and her father this afternoon—she only decided recently to try this sport and made it to QISE. Kabletown has been pushing this story very hard.
  • Primetime begins with Tirico at the Lodge, throwing us to a commercial and then Bobsled. Since the runs are almost identical each time (that’s the goal), you’re really watching for crashes like NASCAR.
  • Due to previous weather delays and the threat of incoming bad weather, the women’s skiing events are being compressed, and as a result, Mikaela Shiffrin has pulled out of the Downhill. She was on the fence anyway—Women’s Combined is her best bet.
  • You just can’t get away from Tara and Johnny—they are doing Google Home ads as well. Who would have thought that little boxes on our counter we would converse with would become a product category?
  • The Peacock spent of lot of the early evening on Women’s Ski Halfpipe. Unfortunately, there’s not a compelling story here like Shaun White, so it’s a bit of a slog. I really wish they would show earlier rounds of Ice Dancing on the Mothership instead (it’s on NBCSN)—at least it’s pretty.

More to come.

QISE Review - Pyeongchang Edition - Day 11 by Mark


Back to last night--

  • 1000m Short Track—the very definition of contrasts. A lot of strategy and waiting, followed by a wild scramble for the finish. Another sport that should have become big between QISE but hasn’t.
  • We’re not hearing much about Men’s Hockey from Kabletown, and for good reason. The NHL decided to prevent their players from participating for the first time since 1994, and while that affects many QISE teams, it really handicaps the US. The team is composed of older athletes, college players, and those from minor-league teams, and the result isn’t pretty. It’s doubtful they will advance into the playoffs and finals.

Onto today—

  • Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, Kabletown just hired skating sensation Adam Rippon as a commentator for the rest of the games. Johnny Weir—you’re on notice.
  • Sunday Today had an inspiring story about Billy Kidd—1964 QISE Alpine winner who has been an instructor at Steamboat Springs since 1970.
  • The long cross-country skiing events do not make for arresting television.  It’s good to take a nap to, though.
  • OK, I admit it—I’ve fallen in love with Rebecca Lowe’s British accent. She anchors the afternoon coverage.
  • Team Pursuit Speed Skating is more interesting than the individual heats.  You can immediately tell who’s in front.
  • I mentioned earlier about Norovirus at Pyeongchang. The most recent updates say there are 275 cases among volunteers and staff. The security team was initially hit, forcing the addition of South Korean military at the last minute. The cause was contaminated water used in food preparation at the “Youth Center”, and 53 are still quarantined. The athletes (supposedly) have not been impacted.
  • Primetime begins with Tirico at the Fortress, throwing to—Bobsledding from last night. Keep in mind that it’s 7p on the East Coast, but 5a in Pyeongchang. So, the Peacock will need to vamp for a while until people wake up there.
  • Those Blobsled shells are pretty sturdy. One of them flipped over at the end of a run, and the athletes got out without a scratch.
  • We get another new event tonight—Women’s Snowboarding Big Air. Think Ski Jumping with a snowboard, and a trick at the end. A failed jump was described as “squirting out on your tail”…and we all know how painful that can be.
  • Sometimes I think the commentators aren’t listening to what they’re saying. During a skiing training run, I heard something like “they are comparable in age—she’s much younger of course”. Huh?
  • I’m not going to say Kabletown doesn’t have much to work with tonight, but they are currently hyping a training run from Lindsey Vonn.

More tomorrow, including Ice Dancing from late night (sorry, “prime plus”).