March 28, 2008


Quite the gesture of knitted athletic support

Went yesterday to the last spring training game of the Cleveland Indians Chain O' Lakes Park in Winter Haven. The team is moving to a new spring facility in Arizona next year.

That ends 42 years of spring training in Winter Haven. The Red Sox trained there until about 16 years ago. The Indians moved to Winter Haven when the new facility they planned to occupy in Homestead blew away in Hurricane Andrew. Just so happened to match their existing colors. 'Twas mighty convenient.

In 1993, I covered the deaths of Indians players Steve Olin and Tim Crews after the boat they were riding in hit a dock on a lake behind Crews' ranch outside Winter Haven. That was back when Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga were playing for them. Mike Hargrove was the manager. The team was rocked to the core. Those guys wouldn't have died that night if not for Hurricane Andrew.

At a memorial service a few days later in an auditorium adjacent to the ballpark, Tommy Lasorda stepped on my foot walking into the building. Bastard.

Fans line the fence along the left field berm

Chain O' Lakes is one of my favorite spring parks. Built in the early 1960s, it looks exactly like Old Florida. Spare. Cozy. Worn. Unpretentious. Intimate. Fun.

Support can be beautiful


And other adjectives as well.

Home Team dugout bleachers at Chain O' Lakes Park

What was the mood? Pretty nostalgic. People were stripping signs off the joint. Bob Feller made one last autograph appearance at the park.

This guy walking around with a frown-faced sign said it all:

Someone is sad about the Indians leaving Chain O' Lakes Park

For more photos, click here.

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March 22, 2008


Brian Egg Dip

Brian Egg

Egg Hole

Denim Egg

Basket of Eggs

Basket of Eggs

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March 21, 2008


Cross-posted at The Stew.

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March 20, 2008


Gawker has been in a twist about the Orlando Sentinel showing new photos of Ashley Alexander Dupre at a "Girls Gone Wild" shoot.

Gawker's Ryan Tate writes:

Ashley Alexandra Dupre in the Orlando Sentinel.JPG

Who doesn't have exclusive naughty Ashley Dupre content at this point? The Eliot Spitzer hooker appears topless (and nipple-less, thanks to silly photo editing) in the Orlando Sentinel this evening after the paper discovered it photographed her while preparing an article on video series Girls Gone Wild in 2003. The Sentinel follows in the Dupre-scooping footsteps of Us Weekly (non-nude photos), Girls Gone Wild (nude video), the Post (various, including a nudie cover photo), the Times (non-exclusive but quickly reposted MySpace pics), Daily News (cocaine allegations), Larry King (interview with an alleged Dupre pimp), nightlife impresario Steve Lewis (Dupre's celebrity boyfriend), and Gawker (cell phone video). There is surely more Dupre content lying undiscovered in laptops, cell phones and photo stashes across the country, not to mention social networks, magazine archives and random websites. Find your own EXCLUSIVE Dupre material and publish it to the world before the rest of your friends and relatives do likewise and Dupre finally and mercifully becomes passe, if she hasn't already.

The Sentinel must be crying today. Why? Because they missed covering this beauty/bikini/unfinished-hip-tattoo contest during the 12 Hours of Sebring car race (second one down):

Snap Gallery of the Day.JPG

This proves two things:

* People love them some 70-car pileup.

* Bikini skankfests are Internet gold.

Miss Boner Rods winner at the 24 Hours of Sebring.JPG

Take that, Orlando Sentinel.

::::sing along if you know the words::::

There she is, your Miss Boner Rods 2008

Miss Boner Rods.JPG

Stay classy, Sebring.

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March 19, 2008


Chris Reidy.jpg


In 1988, I was a senior at the University of Florida struggling to finish my journalism degree. A year earlier, my dad had more or less pulled the plug on paying for college, and, well, that's a long story. The bottom line was: I was on borrowed time.

I had a handful of classes to finish so that I could get the degree. One of those was an applied journalism class with a teacher named Hugh Cunningham. The class involved creating a makeshift newsroom and rotating duties among students. Everyone got to be a reporter, a copy editor, a page designer and the editor. Each week, we'd produce a page of campus news that would be printed in the Gainesville Sun. The class was great experience - you got your name on some clips, you were printed in a real off-campus publication, and you got to rub elbows with a guy who helped train Dan Rather.

So, the semester rolls along. About the fourth week or so, it comes my turn to go down to the Gainesville Sun and pretend to be a journalist. Steve, one of the guys in the class, is the editor that week. Carrie is the page designer. I was the copy editor.

I walked into the Sun's newsroom and was instantly smitten. I loved the sound of the place. It hummed with activity. And, you know, everyone looked like they had a purpose. I can't describe it better than that.

Anyway, when you walk into a newsroom for the first time, you might as well be deaf, dumb and blind. You don't know how to use the computers or equipment. You don't know where anything is. You even have to ask if you dial 9 to get an outside phone line.

Each semester, someone at the Sun would act as an adviser to the student class. Back in the day, long before I got to UF, that class used to take over the newspaper and run it for a week. It was a much different time. Now that I was a student, it was a much smaller affair.

The person who volunteered to help us was your dad.

My first impression: Get a load of the guy with the beak nose and the feathered hair.

My second impression: The guy had serious amounts of kindness behind his eyes. He had a great smile. This was clearly a pain in the ass for him, but you could tell that he had a bottomless well of patience.

During the next few weeks, I'd show up every Thursday night to do the page until I finally cycled through to be the page editor. Through those weeks, Chris helped us get familiar with the mechanics of putting it out, logged us in on the computers, helped us with page layout. You name it.

But better yet, he let us just hang. After the third week, I finally started feeling comfortable. I didn't want to leave. So I didn't.

Every Thursday, I'd just show up whether it was my time or not. I'd help out when I was needed, but most of all, I just wanted to be in the newsroom. Some nights, I'd just go run through the archives. I was infected with it. It was the only place I wanted to be. I could tell that your dad knew what had been lit inside me.

My enthusiasm caught Cunningham's eye. It was in his class that an editor for the Pensacola News Journal saw me hanging around during the day between classes and offered me an internship that I had no other possibility of getting. It was Cunningham who called after I had been hired by the PNJ to ask me to come to Anchorage and write a column.

Chris Carolyn and Mary.JPGTo get me to come up, one of the people he mentioned that he was recruiting from Florida was your dad. "You remember Chris, doncha?" Hugh said. Oh yeah, absolutely, I told him. And with that, I was on to have my Alaska adventure.

One of the first people I saw in the newsroom was your dad. It was surreal to be thousands of miles from home and in a very foreign, very cold place and see someone so familiar and friendly and warm. The next couple of years were the most important of my career. I got to meet and work with your mom, who was one of the assistant city editors on the metro desk, and came to love and admire her as well. I was honored when they invited me to their wedding.

He left us today, and while it crushes me to think about you growing up without him in your life, please know your dad will always have a special place in my heart. He was there at the beginning for me, at the start of the biggest adventure of my life. I look forward to the day that he once again is there standing with that smile, welcoming me to another foreign place.

Please know that you and your mother are in my prayers.


My buddy Craig Lancaster has expressed some lovely sentiments as well at his tremendously entertaining new blog Watch Yer Language.

The Hartford Courant's sports editor, Jeff Otterbein, remembers him warmly.

* His obituary can be found online.

* Many friends and co-workers are offering their recollections of Chris at the TFL fantasy football Web site he and several former colleagues from The Anchorage Times still keep. (Click into the "Trash Talk" section to read them.) Full disclosure: I used to be a team owner in the league. For about as long as it took to drink a cup of coffee...

One fantasy league member, Scott Lacy, put together a lovely video that brought all of us to tears.

As for the recollections left in "The Dumpster," I'm particularly fond of this memory, offered by TFL-er Michael Bourque:

The second year I was in the league (at least I think it was the second). Probably 1994, which would have been the year after we played each other for the championship with the future Loons emerging with a win.

Anyway, I went to Chris and Mary's place in West Hartford for the draft. Chris was working the Friday night before the draft so I actually went to work with him that evening. For a guy from a small daily in Maine, spending a Friday at the Courant Sports Department was like getting called up to the bigs. (Of course, the guys who were actually working thought I was crazy for spending a Friday night hanging with them!). I read the wires and tried not to cause much mayhem though Chris had to come over to tell me that I actually needed to get out of some particular wire story because the slot guy was about three minuets from a deadline and couldn't get in if I was reading...oops.

Anyway, the next morning, we needed to get some stuff for breakfast. So, Mary sent Chris and I off to get the necessary brunch. I will never forget Chris picking up the eggs. Really. It is the most momentous egg-shopping of my life. Now, I know the standard egg shopping requires that you open the top of the box to make sure you have 12, and to make sure you have no serious cracks. But Chris took this examination to new heights. He picked up every single egg and checked it out top and bottom. And it wasn't a like a quick glance. He studied the things.

I was standing there next to him, holding open the door to the supermarket cooler, ready in case he found a bad one to snag a new dozen. The music was playing and the place was quiet. Sort of reminded me of the end of the Blues Brothers when they're riding the elevator, heading for the Cook County assessor's office. I remember saying, wise-ass that I was (am?) "You're gonna look at every one, huh?" "Yeah," he said, sincerely "You gotta make sure they're not broken."

To this day, I'm not sure if this is a metaphor for Chris' attention to detail (copy desk guy that he was) or his desire for quality or, maybe, that he was a cheap bastard who didn't want the supermarket man to screw him out of an egg! Whatever, it's one of those strange memories that today gives me solace.

One more note: I'm starting to get traffic from people who are searching for Chris' name in Google. If you're a friend of his, please be sure to stop in at the TFL site and leave your recollections of him. They're being collected for his daughter, Carolyn. (That project was the genesis of my post here.) We're also making plans to take up a collection for a trust fund for Carolyn. Stay tuned for details.

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March 18, 2008


So after a hiatus of many years, I signed up again for AOL Instant Messenger. (Stay with me, this gets better.) It was already installed on my laptop and I knew a couple sources from work who use it. What the heck.

I get an ID, log on and realize that, you know, I only know about four people on the damn thing. Which is about right. I'm forty-freaking-three years old, for crissakes. It's borderline skeevy to be using AIM at my age. I used to use it back when I worked online, but I don't really have as much use for it. (I'm serious. Stay with me.)

Realizing the error of letting AOL back into my life, I decide to maximize the pain by searching for people I know who are on it. Why should I be the only schmuck in the quicksand, you know?

I click on this magnifying glass icon in a ZoomInfo search engine at the bottom of the AIM window (AOL has always had a firm grasp of iconography). I look for my buddy Drew. To my surprise, it finds his name.

But not an AIM screen name. Hells bells. It looks like it's only a collection of Web pages where Drew's been featured. It pulls those results into a "profile" and labels him, a bit belatedly, a battalion commander.

For grins and vanity's sake, I plug in my name. And I get this result:

Jeff Houck list.JPG

Okay. Wow. There are lots more here than I expected to find.

For curiosity sake, I click through them all. Until I come to the bottom, whereupon I note the occupation and laugh a little bit.

I click, only to reveal a window with lots of links to stories I've written and blog posts and articles which have quoted my name.

Next to that list is this window:

Jeff Houck celebrity.JPG

Okay, that's funny on many levels. First, because it's patently untrue. Not untrue in the sense that Drew is no longer a battalion commander and it's inaccurate and dated, but untrue because, well, it's nearly impossible to achieve a celebrity in my own house, much less in the job which I currently occupy.

But what really sent me into a tsunami of hysterical laughter is the notion that although I've held more than a dozen jobs in my lifetime, my only employment on the page was limited to that of celebrity. As if that was something standing alone on my actual resume, just waiting to impress. What I wouldn't give to put that word alone under "PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE" on Monster or and stand back to watch the offers pour in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for rehab. It's what all of us celebrities are into these days.

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March 17, 2008


Happy St. Patrick's Day, Muppet style.

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March 10, 2008


The music industry's biggest innovation in the past two decades?

Gotta give it to the iPod.

The transportation industry?

Probably the Segway.

The newspaper industry?

Parade Magazine with Tina Fey.JPG

Inserting Parade magazine each Sunday. That and double-bagging on a rainy day.

This week's edition of Parade featured Tina Fey spread-eagle on a bicycle on the cover in a dress with a plunging neckline. You don't have to be Marilyn vos Savant to see the marketing wisdom of that bit of Freudian photography.

One cover tease in particular caught my eye:

Parade Magazine - 8 ways to live to 100 cover tease.JPG

Two questions popped into my mind.

First, who the hell would want to live to 100?

Second, there are actually eight? This I gotta see.

Parade Magazine - How to live to be 100.JPG

Repeat after me: Eat healthy. Stay slim. Drink wine. Get married. Produce some offspring. Practice religion. Live in the country.

Wow. Big news here.

And they say blogs are shallow.

The last one at the bottom, though, caught my eye:

Parade Magazine - Suggests reading the newspaper to live longer.JPG

Coincidentally, becoming disconnected, isolated and withdrawn can mark the begining of deterioration and loss of function for newspapers as well.

I love irony in all its forms.

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March 09, 2008


Newspapers could do a lot worse to improve their dull image than to drop a Beastie Boys/"All The Presidents Men" mashup every now and then.

Hell, I'd accept the query "So watcha want" as the sixth W.

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Fun newspaper story of the week:

Seven anonymous women who apparently work in the same building as the Washington Post’s web site have protested the presence of a large white hand visibly sitting at .com headquarters. They believe that the hand, a prop in a advertising campagin, represents the worst of this country’s male-dominated work culture.

Here’s a line from a bulletin that the protesters placed in an elevator in’s building:

“To see this big white male hand as we walk into work each morning is a sharp reminder of our past difficulties and, obviously, how far we have yet to go to overcome bias and workplace oppression.”

Well, soon enough, the disaffected won’t be seeing the hand anymore. According to a source at WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), which runs, the hand is scheduled to leave the premises today. Far from a nod to the charges of sexism and oppression, the move aligns with a set schedule that had the hand sticking around from Monday through Friday of this week.

“This was supposed to be a fun morale thing for WPNI,” says the source.

Other than the fecal odor rising from Tampa's aging riverfront sewer system, (the cloud greets us on the way into the building and bids us adieu on the way out to the parking garage), I'm glad we don't have anything so assaultive at our building at The News Center.

The News Center.JPG

Wait a tick...

The News Center peacock.JPG

Peacocks are male. Network symbol be damned, clearly that's yet another sign of sexism and oppression in the media workplace.

The News Center, sunset.JPG

That radar tower ain't helping things, either.

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Okay, so the backyard smoke ring generator wasn't squat.

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March 08, 2008


Stuff White People Like.JPG




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March 07, 2008


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March 06, 2008


Yes, I'm officially obsessed with the Florida Strawberry Festival. Mostly because I'm endlessly amused by all things freakish and hyper-strange.

Like some of the graphics you see along the midway, for example.

That's Mister to you.

That's Mister Karmel to you, pal.

Massive Headwound Harry

Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.

I love that the impalement could be converted to a hat rack.

Scary clown trash can


Scary clown trash can, with a patriotic nose

Scary, but patriotic.

Cotton candy or gall bladder illustration?

Cotton candy illustration or gall bladder public service announcement?

I don't even want to know what that red dangly thing is.

For more pics, click here.

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March 04, 2008


Wait until about a minute in.

This is delicious in a way that I can't even describe.

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March 03, 2008


Dora the Explorer at Publix

You know how you'll be walking through a grocery store and something will catch your eye?

Dora the Explorer pinatas at Publix

At first you can't figure out what it is, and then you realize: "This is all kinds of wrong."

Dora the Explorer at Publix - No way Im whacking that thing

No way I'm whacking a doe-eyed bilingual little girl for candy.

Boots the monkey? Sure. He's fair game.

I'd even take a swing at Bindi the Jungle Girl. Australians can take a punch. Plus, she's annoying as hell. Going all Buford Pusser on a a Bindi pinata would qualify as cultural therapy.

But not Dora the Explorer. The last thing I need is to be pinata non grata.

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Florida Strawberry Festival T-shirtI understand the cruelties of life.

I am fully aware that things happen and that they happen not always for a clear and easy-to-comprehend reason.

Moments pass so quickly sometimes that you can't always grasp the magnitude of what just took place. Later, when the mind has a chance to reassess in quiet reflection, gravity percolates that moment down to the bedrock of the soul where true understanding is more likely to be possible.

But some snapshots in time just remain purely cruel. They never percolate. They remain on your skin and befoul you so deeply that no amount of emotional soap or psychic disinfectant will work.

In those instances, the best you can do is to grasp, digest and move on with the realization that there will be no resolution and that another moment like this one is just down the road.

But seriously, kid. Did you have to wear this t-shirt to the carnival midway?

Florida Strawberry Festival T-shirt Someday Ill Be Your BossJPG

Hell, the way things are going in my business, it could happen as soon as next week.


Can you hear me now?

Tasty catfish and apostrophes gone wild.

Udders, J. Lo. and Oreo-eating pigs.

Possums and whipped cream.

United we dance.

I think I love you. So what am I so afraid of?

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March 02, 2008


Cellphone Packin Mama

The Florida Strawberry Festival's midway is full of electronic distractions and unique odors.

Cellphone Packin Mama, armpit view

This cellphone just got added to the list.


Tasty catfish and apostrophes gone wild.

Udders, J. Lo. and Oreo-eating pigs.

Possums and whipped cream.

United we dance.

I think I love you. So what am I so afraid of?

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Hand Dip't corn dogs

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March 01, 2008


Having your food blog quoted by name on

Hat tip: Jaden

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Saw this car while coming back from a trip to Anna Maria Island the other day.

Convertible in Bradenton.JPG

Ah, a convertible.

I always start out envying people who drive convertibles, especially in Florida. I assume they're having more fun than I am. Then I remember the last time I was in a convertible and how deaf it made me to drive next to semi trucks while my cranium was being buffeted by 50 mph wind gusts. My envy quickly subsides.

Wait a second...

Convertible in Bradenton - Hey I know that guy.JPG

I think I know that guy in the back seat.

Convertible in Bradenton - Woody from Toy Story.JPG

Someone poisoned the water hole.


Timing is everything.

Haten and hogs.

Drive-by Twinkie.

Jimi Hendrix Edition.

Sit on it and rotate.

I'm your private antenna dancer.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Welcome to Springfield.

Orange you glad you're not this guy?

Everything's better when it sits on a Ritz.

Patriotic turtles.

Bubba's sidekick.

Goin' mobil.

G'day, mate.

Porn as a windowshade.

Jonathan Livingston Redneck.

Buc off, pal.

Such a dirty mess.

How cheep can you be?

I'm super! Thanks for asking.

Would you like an apple pie with that?

Hearse so good.

Drive fast, take chances.

Riding with Fab the deejay.

Beware of the Death Explorer.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.

My other car is a rocket-propelled grenade.

Live long and prosper. In an Altima.

Just two good ol' boys.

Asshats aplenty.

Nicotine is my crash helmet.

Jazz hands moms.

Ugly lug nuts.

Pretty ballsy.

My honor student can kick your ass.

Garfield mudflaps.

Horse and buddy.

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