A Night Of Trouble… Like Most

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Yes, that’s a blank weather map above. Why, in a moment.

I asked a friend who pilots 757s if he ever got into the cockpit to find everything working? You don’t want to know.

It’s got to be the same in the operating room. Are there medical devices that need a tap every once in-a-while to get going? Handwritten signs telling which settings to avoid?

There’s never a night when everything works perfectly here at TV factory outlet. In my 40+ years broadcasting I’ve yet to experience that day. Tonight it was weather maps.

Our maps for Nebraska are produced in Massachusetts, instantly shipped to my in-studio server, then synced with TriCasters here and in Nebraska. Pretty cool. It happens in an instant.

Anyway, the Massachusetts computer producing our maps decided to take the evening off. A bunch of satellite loops came in with the clock running but the clouds standing still. No new data. We got forecast maps like the one above.

I know the guy responsible for the box. I sent a text.

Most of you probably know this already, but the maps I show on TV are not the maps I use to forecast. Most days I don’t see these images until right before air. That’s what happened tonight.

Crashes like this are awful. The bad data passes through our satellite loops like a mouse passes through a snake! It’s glaringly there every step of the way. It can’t be hidden. It waits to be purged.

Tonight’s tsuris was typical of mature but maintained computer code. Over time it all turns to spaghetti. Features are added. New data types are enabled. Stuff no longer used should be pulled, but…

And so with time all software turns to a minefield. Everything’s cool if you step in the right spots.

Computers don’t crash randomly. They crashes specifically! We say it’s random because we usually can’t figure out what happened. On systems with an installed base in the hundreds or low thousands it’s too expensive to find every bug.

So, like my friend in the cockpit or anyone else who interacts with the real world, I worked around the problem and tried my best to hide it in the finished product.

Knowing how to work around problems is what experience is all about. It can’t be taught. It must be learned.

Hey TSA. It’s Geoff.

Hey TSA –

It’s Geoff. I’ve been reading about your troubles. Passengers missing flights in record numbers because you’re understaffed. We’d be less pissed if we thought you were more valuable.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, about 600 passengers missed their flights on March 25 because an inadequate number of screeners led to waits exceeding three hours, airport officials said. Brent D. Cagle, the airport’s interim director of aviation, complained to the T.S.A., calling the episode a “fiasco.” – NY Times

It’s difficult to think you understand security when you look at me as a threat. Hell, you look at my 90 year old father as a threat. Don’t you have lists? Don’t you analyze all those proper names we’re now forced to provide?

Does knowing I’m Geoffrey, not Geoff, really help you?

How much contraband are you finding from middle aged (I’m being kind toward myself) native born Americans who’ve flown dozens of times since your formation?

In the recent past you’ve give me TSA-pre status on one leg of a trip, but not the other. Did my threat status change Saturday to Sunday?

We want to be safe. Maybe you don’t need more people. You need better techniques.

The ‘It’ Girl

Janet Peckinpaugh

Of all the beautiful, talented, intelligent and diligent women I’ve had the pleasure to work with, none had more instant grab over an audience than Janet Peckinpaugh. And believe me, I’m not shorting anyone by saying that. He power was magical.

Whatever “it” is, Janet was dealt an extra portion. Apple pie attractive and extremely approachable, men and women found her appealing.

It wasn’t supposed to be Al and Janet. The other guy just didn’t work out. Al and Janet were much bigger as a team than apart.

In the mid 80s local television was at its peak. I remember Channel 8 getting 50 shares in the New Haven metro. Our audiences then dwarf anything stations get today. Cable was in its infancy. There was no Internet outside labs and universities.

If you grew up on Connecticut’s shoreline in the 80s we were in your house nearly every day as the entire family watched ‘the’ TV! No one gets that kind of exposure anymore.

Was Janet the only reason Channel 8 got hot? Nah. A lot of things came together. Producers, reporters, smarter managers. Better corporate support. Lots of luck — lots.

But for a time in the mid 80s Janet Peckinpaugh’s mere presence made people switch and stay.

I like Janet a lot. We always got along. We were good friends. I went to her spectacular wedding.

It was cool to be there. In Connecticut Janet was Doris Day.

Why Aren’t You Blogging Anymore?

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My father is the latest with the question.

“Why aren’t you blogging anymore?” he asked tonight. “It’s been two weeks.”

It’s unusual for my dad to quantify like that. He’s actually been counting the days. I guess it does seem significant. At one point I’d gone five or more years without missing an entry.

There are a few reasons I haven’t written. Number one is Facebook. I am frustrated to be so dependent on it. When do I post directly on Facebook or make it a blog entry? It’s never clear.

Some of your comments on Facebook show you see my blog link but only read the headline. Do you hear my ego deflating?

Beyond that I had been consumed by politics, but didn’t want to discuss it. That would be BORING.

Also had equipment troubles (solved), but didn’t want to discuss it.

I have been consumed putting together the pieces for a project I’m working on. It’s very time consuming since I’m building parts of it from the ground up. In some cases I’m stopping to learn how to wrangle a new language or rewrite code. I have enlisted a fellow weather nerd to help me amass and smash the data. In my mind the end result is cool. Can’t talk about that either.

So, a little vacation is all it is. Just a slight change of scenery.

Merv said it best, “Be right back.”

The New Optimized Workflow

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I just finished tonight’s shows for Nebraska. Seven segments for five different stations. My new optimized workflow is in place.

And the answer is… OMG.

My hope was to get some improvement in efficiency, but I’m blown away. There are physical limits to how much time can be shaved, but this is like showing up on set and the crew’s ready to go.

The one button start-up macro does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Restarts from tech blowups are mainly gone.

Big savings on font entry too. I write my forecast on paper first. Lots of scratch outs and changes. On-air forecast pages are created in the TriCaster from words and numbers I enter on a spreadsheet. So much easier.

Hit save. Boom. TV.

On this slow weather day I spent some of my extra time making another map to explain why Nebraska is weather blessed this week.

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