Thursday, February 23, 2006

Home Again!

Hi everyone. I am once again home in Iowa.

I am sad that I had to leave New York City. There are SO many things I didn't get to see. Hopefully I will get to visit NYC again.

Before we left the hotel this morning, I asked Kristin to take my picture with a sculpture near the entrance. There were many of these figures throughout the hotel. Kristin says they remind her of the game Monopoly. I just think they are neat!

When we arrived at the airport, LaGuardia, we waited in the business lounge before boarding our flight. Keith and Kristin saw someone they knew from Muscatine and visited with him for awhile. While they were talking, I watched planes take off and land. One of the runways at this airport is VERY close to the gates where they park the planes. It is so cool to see planes land and take off. They go very fast down the runway!

Then, just as we were about to board the plane, Keith and Kristin ran into someone else they know. Man, they sure seem to know a lot of people!

I was still tired from my adventure in NYC so I slept all the way home. But I did help Kristin unpack Geoffrey and my UN bear when we got back to her house.

Once again I want to thank my friends Keith and Kristin for taking me to another exciting place!

Goodbye until my next adventure......

Making Radio, The UN and More!

Hi everyone!

Today was another great day here in NYC!

I spent the morning with Keith and Kristin as they continued to work on their radio program. Today we visited a recording studio where I got to meet another member of their radio program team. His name is David Brancaccio. He is very, very nice. Kristin says he is a very famous television reporter. He has his very own show on PBS...the same station that shows Sesame Street every day.

His name is hard for me to I will just call him Mr. B. Kristin says his job is to "host" the program. This means he is like a television anchor...except he is on the radio! Kristin says Mr. B has worked on the last two radio programs she and Keith have worked on.

His job today was to read all of his lines. This is very important and as I soon discovered, something that isn't very easy. I couldn't understand why Keith and Kristin had spent so much time working on the computer yesterday. Now I know they were working on their script for Mr. B.

The script is broken into small sections and each has a number. There were more than 30 sections for Mr. B to read. Kristin calls these sections "tracks." This is very confusing! To me a track is a round outdoor path that I run around in gym class.

To complete his task, Mr. B and Kristin sat in a small room with a few microphones. Keith was in a room that looks similar to the radio studio at the Stanley Foundation. And their friend Simon was on the phone from Washington DC.

Kristin said I could stay in the studio with her as long as I was VERY, VERY quiet. So I didn't make a sound!

It was very interesting to watch this process. Mr. B would read his lines and sometimes read the same line two or three times. They sounded the same to me so I asked Kristin why he was repeating himself. Kristin says sometimes Mr. B was making what she calls a "safety" copy. I think this is like a back-up copy just in case.

Other times, Kristin says Mr. B was changing the tone of his voice. This will allow her to pick what she thinks is the best version as she gets ready to complete the radio program.

I also realized that it didn't matter that Keith and Kristin were really prepared before we arrived, Mr. B sometimes made changes to the script. Keith says this is normal. Sometimes the way we write something on paper doesn't sound very good when it is said outloud. I had no idea, but I guess it makes sense.

Here you can see me watching Mr. B and Kristin make changes to the script.

The entire process lasted about three hours. Kristin says Mr. B's script...of voice tracks...are now saved on a CD. It is Kristin's job to find the best voice tracks and get rid of the rest. She says she will start working on this next week.

After we left the radio studio, Keith and Kristin took me for a brief tour of the United Nations...or the UN. Keith says this is a very important place. He says this is where leaders from all over the world meet to try and solve very big problems. Keith and Kristin told me the Stanley Foundation does a lot of work with the United Nations, and they have visited this building several times.

Here you can see Kristin and me standing across the street from the main UN building. Kristin says this build is called the Secretariat. Did you know it has 38 floors?

There are 191 countries in the world that are members of the United Nations. Each country has a "delegate" or representative assigned to work here in NYC. I think the UN works similar to the way Congress does in Washington, DC. Except here, there is only one representative from the United States.

Keith and Kristin took me inside to see part of the UN. We had to go through security to get inside the building. Yes...I got to go through the x-ray machine again! But I also had to be checked after the x-ray machine with a hand-held tool Kristin calls a "wand." I had to hold my arms out very wide so the guard could pass the wand over my body. The machine beeps when it passes over a metal object like a zipper. I've never had to go through this kind of security before. Kristin says there are many important people who work at the United Nations and security must double and sometimes triple check everyone entering the building.

Inside, Keith and Kristin showed me a few art and photo displays in the main visitors lobby. They were very interesting. Kristin says these displays are changed every few months so if I ever visit the UN again I will see new items in the lobby.

But one of the displays that you can always see is a series of pictures of several men. The pictures are actually handmade carpets but they look like real pictures. Keith says these men are the past leaders of the United Nations. The leader is called the "Secretary General" and this person is elected to serve in the position by the representatives of all of the countries that belong to the UN.

The current Secretary General is a man named Kofi Annan. Keith says he is one of the most important people in the whole world! He is from the African nation of Ghana. See if you can find Ghana on the map.

Here you can see Keith and me standing near Kofi Annan's portrait in the UN visitors lobby.

As I looked at the picture of Mr. Annan, I realized that he looked very familiar. Then I remembered that he is in one of the pictures in Kristin's office at the Stanley Foundation. In the picture, Kristin and Keith are interviewing Mr. Annan. WOW! They have interviewed one of the most important men in the whole world!

After we finished in the lobby, Keith and Kristin took me downstairs to the United Nations bookstore. There, Kristin bought me a few books about the United Nations so I can learn more about what actually happens here. Kristin also bought me a UN teddy bear to add to my collection of items from my many travels. The bear is an interesting blue color. Keith says this is the official color of the United Nations, and it is special or "unique" to the United Nations. I had no idea!

I was so tired after our trip to the UN that I took a nap in Kristin's room with my new bear.

After my nap Keith and Kristin took me to a famous restaurant in Times Square called Roxy's Deli. I learned it is famous for its meat sandwiches and cheesecake. Kristin shared a piece of Snickers Cheesecake with me. It was made with real Snickers bars AND the slice was almost bigger than me! But it was sure yummy!

Kristin says NYC is famous for cheesecake. It seems to me that NYC is famous for many things.

We then walked home...through Times I could see all of the lights one more time. We are headed home tomorrow.

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bright Lights, Big City!

I’m sorry it has taken so long to write but Keith and Kristin have been working very hard and I have been too busy exploring New York City!

Have I mentioned that New York City…or NYC…is SO cool?!

After Keith and Kristin finished their work yesterday afternoon, they took me to Times Square for dinner. WOW! I have never seen anything like Times Square. There are so many billboards, ads, bright lights, and interesting people that I could have spent all night in Times Square and only seen a small part of it. Here I am standing with Kristin in the center of Times Square. One of the large screens behind us shows NBC news.

Kristin says near the top of the building with the NBC screen is a giant ball. This ball is lighted and “dropped” several feet to mark New Years. She says millions of people stand in Times Square every year to see the giant ball drop. I think I am still too young to stay up to “ring in the New Year” as Kristin says but someday I want to see what this giant ball looks like.

Kristin says Times Square is the heart of NYC. It is called Times Square because the building that houses the New York Times newspaper is at one end of the square. But, Times Square isn’t really a square. I thought it would be like the square block around the Muscatine County Courthouse. But it is more like a long triangle. The street that runs through Times Square is called Broadway. Kristin says it is a very famous street. There are many theatres where actors perform plays and musicals all around Times Square. When someone says they are headed for Broadway…they are likely headed to the theatre. Who knew?

We didn’t go to any theatres last night but Keith and Kristin gave me a grand tour. We ate dinner at the Hard Rock CafĂ©. It is a famous restaurant chain that displays instruments, clothing, and other items from famous musicians. Keith says the one in Times Square is brand new. Kristin and Keith were amazed when we walked in because there was a large display case that included the suits worn by members of a band called the Beatles when they first visited New York in the 1960s. I don’t know anything about the Beatles but Keith and Kristin tell me they are one of the most famous bands ever. Who knew?

I liked the Hard Rock because they gave me crayons to color with while Keith and Kristin waited for their food. They also have bottles of Heinz Catsup on every table. I wonder if it was made in Muscatine?

After dinner Keith and Kristin showed me the ABC studio where they tape Good Morning America. Of course we weren’t there in the morning so no one was in the studio. But, the building has a neat sign that shows news and sports headlines. Kristin calls it a “news ticker” and she says she could stand for hours just watching the news headlines. I think this is boring.

We also walked past the NASDAQ building. It is REALLY neat! The whole front side of the building is like a giant computer screen. And as you can see in this picture, this large screen that displays pictures wraps partially around the building.

As we walked through Times Square I noticed a number of people eating large pretzels. Guess what, you can buy these pretzels and lots of other food right on the street! I have never seen such a thing. Here I am with Kristin by a pretzel cart.

Keith and Kristin saved the best part of the night for last. There is a HUGE Toys R’ Us Store near the middle of Times Square. It is the largest toy store I have ever seen! And guess what? There is a full-sized Ferris wheel like the one you can see at an amusement park INSIDE the store! Can you believe it? I was too scared to ride the Ferris wheel but you can see part of it behind Keith and me in this picture.

I have never seen SO many toys in my life. There is a large dinosaur that roars on the second floor. There is also a large Lego section. The Lego section includes large versions of famous New York City buildings like the Empire State Building. Kristin says it was once the tallest building in the world. I am told it is the same building King Kong climbs in the famous movie of the same name. Can you see me as I try to climb the Lego Empire State Building?

This store also has a very large candy store. I felt like Charlie in the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But Kristin said I didn’t need any sweets so I settled for a picture with one of the characters in the candy area. Don’t you think this looks just like one of the figures in the game Candyland?

I could have stayed in Toys R’ Us forever but Kristin said we needed to get back to the hotel because it was WAY past my bedtime. Kristin did buy me a new stuffed toy. It is Geoffrey, the Toys R’ Us mascot. But this one is dressed up to look like the Statue of Liberty. I learned this is a famous monument here in New York that was given as a gift from France many years ago.

Keith says that some people call NYC “the city that never sleeps.” Well if I wasn’t SO tired, I wouldn’t sleep. There are way too many things to see here. But, I must have been very tired from my Times Square adventure because I was sound asleep before we got back to the hotel. So, Kristin tucked me into bed with Geoffrey.

Until next time…..

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Greetings from New York City!

WOW! I was really surprised today when I got off the airplane today. I am in New York City! Kristin says “The Big Apple” is a nickname for New York City! See if you can find New York City on the map.

I can’t say I’ve seen any apples here so far but New York City is REALLY cool.

We arrived here by taking a plane from Moline to Chicago and then another plane to New York’s LaGuardia International Airport. Kristin and I left her house before 5AM! I was so tired that I slept the entire way. So you can imagine my surprise when Kristin finally told me that we were in New York.

Kristin says New York City is divided into 5 “Boroughs” or regions. They are called Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. We are staying in Manhattan.

We had to take a cab to the hotel and I immediately noticed that ALL of the cabs in New York are yellow. Some are cars, some are mini-vans, and some are SUVs but they are all yellow. I found this very odd. The cabs in Washington DC were many different colors. Kristin says the city government here says all cabs have to be yellow. This is why all of the cabs look the same. And, Kristin says New York taxicabs are very famous. Here you can see me as I study the map of Manhattan during our cab ride to the hotel.

I now understand why Kristin said Dubai reminded her of New York City. There are TONS of VERY tall buildings and skyscrapers. But here the buildings are much closer together. The traffic here, however, is even slower than the traffic in Dubai. I’m glad I packed my walking shoes!

We are staying at the Hilton-Times Square. The hotel is very nice. Kristin’s room is much larger than the one she had in Washington DC and she has what the clerk at the front desk calls a “city view.” I don’t really understand what that means but I can see many tall buildings from Kristin’s window. I can also see the Hudson River from her room.

Kristin says the building behind me in this picture with the clock on it is home to the New York Times newspaper. Keith says it is a very famous newspaper.

Keith and Kristin have spent all afternoon working on the computer and making tons of phone calls. Kristin says they are trying to finish the script for their radio program. Do you remember what a script is? I first learned about it in Doha.

It is starting to get dark here now. I think we are going to dinner soon. I will check back in when I can.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Big Apple?

Hi again. I am so excited that I forgot to mention in my last note that Keith and Kristin have asked me to come with them on another trip this week.

Kristin says we are going to a place called “The Big Apple” to gather more material for their radio program. I’ve heard about a book called “James and the Giant Peach” but I had no idea there was a place called “The Big Apple.” Have you heard of this place?

I think Kristin is trying to surprise me. I guess I will find out on Tuesday. Kristin says I will have to go to bed early on Monday night because we will leave for the airport at 5:00AM! Wow! Keith and Kristin travel at the strangest times.

I’ll check in once I know more about my next adventure. Bye for now.

My Trip to the Office

Hi everyone. I hope you are staying warm.

Since it is far too cold to play outside today, my friend Kristin asked me if I wanted to go to her office with her today. I thought this might be interesting because I only see her when she is traveling.

You might be wondering why Kristin was working on a Sunday. I had the same question. Kristin says she and Keith and their friend Simon (who I met in Washington DC) are still working on their radio program. Kristin says they are now on something she calls “deadline.” She says all of the material for the radio program needs to be ready to go by a certain date. I think this must be similar to homework assignments at school. I might get in trouble if I don’t turn my homework in on time and I think Kristin wants to make sure she gets all of her work done on time.

Kristin has a very nice office at the Stanley Foundation. I can see the Mississippi River and the big bridge from her desk. I can also see the building where Aunt Lynn works. Here you can see me sitting in Kristin’s office chair.

I noticed that Kristin has a number of small masks, boxes and wooden dolls on her bookshelf and walls. Kristin says these items she brought back from her many trips overseas. This makes sense. I brought home Oasis and my new bear from Washington so I could tell my friends about my trips with Keith and Kristin.

Kristin also has many pictures of children in her office. She says they are pictures of children she has met all over the world. She says they hold a special place in her heart. I’m not really sure what that means but I can tell Kristin takes good care of the pictures.

I noticed that many of the children look sad and are wearing torn clothes. Kristin says many of these children don’t have many clothes or toys or even a house to live in. I had no idea that some children around the world don’t live like I do here in Muscatine. I can’t imagine not having toys to play with! Kristin says this is why I should be thankful for all of my toys. I promise I am going to be thankful for everything I have from now on.

There were so many things to see in Kristin’s office that I could have spent all day wandering around. But she said we didn’t have time. We had work to do! So she took me down a flight of stairs to the foundation’s radio studio. It is a very little room full of many electronic items. The studio is similar to the control room I visited at Al Jazeera but this one is much smaller. Here you can see me on a machine Kristin calls “the board.” It is a series of buttons and slides that move so you can hear audio. The board looks very confusing. I’m glad Kristin was there to make it work right!

The tall tower on my left in the picture is something Kristin calls a “rack.” Basically it is an open metal box that holds machines that play CDs and allow her computer to play audio.

The studio computer is very cool. It has TWO monitors. Today, Kristin was using the computer to download audio from something called an “FTP” site. She says the FTP is a special Web site that allows her friend Simon in Washington to send her audio from his computer. She says this is much faster than having Simon send her a CD in the mail. Very cool! I think this is similar to downloading songs to an ipod or mp3 player.

Wow! I had NO idea all of the many skills things a journalist must know to do their jobs.

Until next time…..