More On Ivy

I so want the drugs to help Ivy, but so far they are not.

Helaine sat on the sofa in the family room, with the laptop, watching and stroking Ivy. Ivy’s breaths were short. Her chest pulsing rapidly.

A quiet dog to being with, Ivy is calm, her motions measured.

It’s sad.

My Life in Edumacation

I have just begun my second year at Mississippi State University (These are the Bulldogs, it’s not Ole Miss), studying meteorology.

You might ask, why would someone who has performed the job of meteorologist for the past 20 some odd years now go to school for it… and isn’t the commute to Starkville going to kill me?

It started at my last contract negotiation. Though my boss has a slightly different memory of it that I, the facts are pretty much the same. Our collective boss (The Big WASP Kahuna) thought it would be better, and more promotable if I had the American Meteorological Society Broadcasting Seal of Approval (aka the seal).

At one time, the AMS handed these out like candy on Halloween. That ended about 20 minutes after I entered the weather field when the seal program became the Meteorologists Full Employment Act of 1983. In order to get a seal you would need a core meteorological college level curriculum and then pass a screening.

The station’s offer was, if you invest the time to take the courses (3 years, 17 courses), we will pay your way. So, I’m on a LIN Television scholarship. Interestingly, I will have the seal a few months after the expiration of my current contract.

Mississippi State University developed this distance learning course (what used to be called “correspondence school” ) to scratch an itch. I have recently seen estimates that nearly 30% of all TV meteorologists went through the MSU program.

The lectures are on DVD and videocassette. The textbooks are standard, overpriced, and professor written. Tests and quizzes are given online and are all multiple choice. I guess this opens the program up to cheating, though I have never heard a hint of it.

So far, I’m a straight “A” student. I only mention that because my previous college career (which began in 1968 and is on my permanent record at Mississippi State – and is the reason for the name of this weblog) was a disaster.

I was to college as Gigli was to movies.

This semester my courses are Statistical Climatology and Severe Weather. I actually have enjoyed most of the courses I’ve taken so far, though it is obvious that not every course has the right amount of material for exactly one semester, and not every professor has a flair for lecturing on DVD (It was like chalk on a blackboard to hear one lecturer mispronounce Greenwich, England).

It has been interesting to watch Mississippi State operate. I get lots of emails that are written for students on campus. I found out that cowbells were banned from football games. Who knew? I was invited to seminars to grill perspective administrator candidates.

MSU’s computer system, which is my link to the school, seems rickety. It is constantly down for varying lengths of time. A few semesters ago, during finals, it ran out of space and lost a load of final exams (though not mine). There was no backed up data!

I just went to get an MSU logo to put with this entry… it’s down right now.

A while ago my wife asked, “Have you learned anything?”

The answer is yes.

“But,” she continued, “how important could it be if you haven’t needed it in the last 20 years?”

Good point.

Ivy Comes Home

Ivy is home. I picked her up at the vet early this afternoon. But, she is still not well.

Earlier, on the phone, the vet had run down a laundry list of things that were wrong or could be wrong with Ivy. Heart problems, fluid in her lungs, possible emphysema, possible cancer. It’s too much to fathom. Yet watching Ivy in the hospital cage was cruel and unusual punishment for her and us.

She is not panting like she was when we brought her to the emergency clinic last Thursday. Her breathing is still shallow. She’s now taking three sepearate pills a total of 7 times a day. The pills could help.

We continue to hope and pray.

Visiting Ivy

Poor Ivy is still at the hospital. I went over around 7:00 PM tonight. Everyone was busy, and treatment was taking place in proximity to Ivy, so I was asked to come back.

Fine. Enough time to run over and try and help my friend Harold, who had crashed Windows 98 while installing the latest DirectX. I couldn’t help.

I got to Ivy about 8:00 PM. It was a good visit. Ivy came out wearing one of those cones they put over dog’s heads so they won’t touch sutures or IV tubes. She wasn’t panting. Her breathing seemed normal. This is a very good sign.

Ivy ate 1.5 pieces of American Cheese before turning away. That’s her norm when she’s full.

She has heart troubles. The ultrasound tonight showed that… and it had been expected earlier. But, more than likely, medication will control her problems.

We will all be happier when Ivy returns. Maybe tomorrow.

Small Sites and Search Engines

This is a very small website. I get very few hits… and that’s fine, for now.

Part of the challenge of a website is growing your hits, and I try to do that. I look at logs that tell me what’s being viewed, and how people got here. There is knowledge to be gotten from those logs.

For instance, I have learned one of the best way to get traffic is to misspell words!

It’s true and here’s why. Google, which drives lots of traffic on the net, decides which page to list first by a complex formula that rates websites on (among other things) their popularity with other websites. So, who links to you is important.

For a while, the page on my site that was drawing the most referrals from search engines had to do with a show Helaine and I saw, featuring Carrot Top. In the normal scheme of things, that wouldn’t be so. But, I had spelled Carrot, “Carrott.”

So, instead of competing against all the big websites, I had a corner on the very esoteric group of misspelled Carrot Top searches.

I have since corrected that spelling, and the spelling of movabltype.org (where you’ll find the blogging software I use). My hits will be down, but my English teachers will be happier.

On the Internet, spelling counts.

What I’m Working On

Note: I know a lot of people are linking here looking for my fake hurricane photo. You can find it by clicking here. When you’re done, you might enjoy the rest of my blog, starting with today’s entry.

I found a very cool applet called Weathergraph. The idea is to chart a graph of temperature, windchill/heat index, and wind on 4 graphs; daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Because of a graphing database tool call RRD, the database stays the same size even as the graphs ingest more data.

If it were only this easy.

The program required installing a Perl (Perl is an interpereted computer language heavily used in web applications) module call Geo::Metar and RRD Tool. So I won’t become a pain in the butt to my webhost, I decided to install these myself… local to my site. I bet if I knew Perl or even Bash scripting this would have been easier.

Perl modules don’t want to be installed locally, and when they are… they cry.

There’s a concept in Linux (which is what geofffox.com runs on) called ‘superuser’ or su. I don’t have that privilege on this server. That means there are lots of things I can’t do. Many of those would make all of this easier.

I got it done, but please don’t ask me to retrace my steps. I have no idea!

Immediately, I realized I didn’t care as much about windchill/heat index as I did in dew point. No problem. Just rewrite the program.

Again, I don’t know Perl. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that most computer languages are very similar, and with the help of a few books, I think I figured it out.

Unfortunately, every time a graph was plotted, the dew point and temperature were the same. No good.

Back to the program. If you’ve never seen what computer programs look like, here’s a small sample:

$req = new HTTP::Request GET =>

“http://weather.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/mgetmetar.pl?cccc=$site_code”;

$response = $ua->request($req);

if ($response->is_error) {

$failed[$i] = $response->as_string;

sleep(90);

}

}

if ($response->is_error) {

for ( $j = 1; $j <= 5 ; $j++){print $failed[$j];}die;

I’m still not 100% sure (because once this program gets running it takes a significant amount of time before it will actually plot a graph) but it seems like the problem was in the windchill/heat index routines. I had turned all mentions of windchill/heat index into dew point, but didn’t realize the program still wanted to apply the rules of windchill/heat index to the dew point. And tonight, there is no windchill or heat index.

I pulled that section of code from the program.

This may be way beyond me. Who knows? I am nothing more than a 53 year old ‘script kiddie.’

When the graphs go ‘live’, I’ll post an announcement. I expect to have one for each ‘official’ weather station in connecticut and maybe a few others. Each graph will cost me 233 Kbytes of my limited space.