I’m sitting in a corner of the lobby of the Radisson Hotel in Birmingham typing this blog entry. Most of my classmates have gone home or gone to lunch. As a chronic snacker, I’ve already had my fill.
We spent all day Friday seeing presentations and lectures. There were a few given by Weather Service personnel from here in the south. What they said was fine, but it was really about types of weather I just don’t deal with… and never expect to deal with.
Later, one of the Mississippi State instructors presented a case study for us to analyze. Again, it was interesting, but it dealt with a type of storm we never see in the east.
Finally, as the afternoon was ending (it was actually evening by then), we began another session of tape watching.
While it was going on, I thought I was the only one dreading this. Later I found nearly everyone was self conscious and petrified of what their classmates would think.
Isn’t strange how we can go on the air, in front of thousands (sometimes millions) of viewers without a second thought. But, to show our work in front of a room full of our peers is a weak kneed moment!
My tape was pulled. I stood up to say a few words before it played. I attempted to crack a small joke at my own expense. Silence. Tough room.
The tape played and I was really squirming. I think it was OK and, of course, the polite comments were very nice. Who can really tell?
What impressed me more than anything were the few people who had no background in broadcasting or weather, adults who had decided to begin a new midlife career and registered for the MSU program. A few of them were the program’s best students.
The session ended around 7:30 and I headed to the room. I was fully intending to stay there for the rest of the evening until I called Helaine. She accused me of acting like an old person. I was in Birmingham. Have a good time.
I changed my shirt and headed to the lobby.
A few groups were organizing, deciding where to go. I joined a group of 14, and we headed to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s no way to say this restaurant chain’s name without sounding like you’re mispronouncing it.
We entered the restaurant and were escorted to a small, private room. That was perfect, because we didn’t want to disturb the other diners, and we certainly didn’t want them to disturb us!
I had lamb chops and broiled tomatoes. The chops were beautifully seasoned, thick and very tasty. I started to explain to the waiter how I wanted them cooked. He just looked at me and said, “Pittsburgh?”
Exactly, Pittsburgh. Some burn on the outside, but more medium in the center.
We left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel. On the way, some decided to go to Danny’s, a local bar. This time I took a pass and continued to the Radisson. There was, after all, another morning of class to come.
I have been getting up very early (for me) on this trip. Even though my commute was by elevator, I was still out of bed by 7:30 AM. That’s just wrong.
Today was the final session. A practice test¹
Hold on… cell phone. Uh oh! Words I never want to hear.
“Hello, Mr. Fox. It’s Mary from Delta Airlines calling.” This is not a social call. “Unfortunately, your flight from Birmingham to Cincinnati has been canceled.”
This blog entry will be picked up when I get back to Connecticut.
Where were we?
In order to successfully finish the course, you need an 80 on a two hour, 100 question comprehensive test. It covers all three years. How could you possibly study?
On the other hand, the instructors have told us 90% of those taking this test pass on the first try. People with A’s and B’s always pass the first time.
I took the sample test. The benchmark was 55 answers correct on this shortened test, to pass. I got 54 right! Better luck next time.
As I checked around the room I realized, I wasn’t alone. This test might have been a little harder, and it certainly wasn’t an open book test, as the real one will be. On a test like this, where I’ll probably know 75% of the answers immediately, open book will be the difference.
There were also awards handed out. I did very well at MSU and was thrilled to receive, along with six others, an award for academic excellence.
You may have noticed, as the photographer, I’m not in many pictures. Well, for this award I handed the camera to another student and walked to the front. At least this one achievement should be documented.
That is how the photo came out of the camera!
Even more impressive, a few of the awards were captured by people who had never been on the air! This course was their first meteorological experience and they scored all A’s. That’s astounding.
We finished off our sessions with a talk about the qualifications for the American Meteorological Society Broadcast Seal. The AMS is transitioning to some new criteria for the seal. In fact, though I’ll be grandfathered in, it’s obvious the AMS is trying to diminish the Mississippi State program in favor of four year, calculus based degree programs.
It’s ridiculous, because the MSU program is more than sufficient for an on-the-air forecaster. It seems to me, this is only a way for the ‘traditional’ on-campus meteorology programs to avoid competition.
The AMS is also starting a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist program, which I will not qualified for! I didn’t have meteorology classes that were calculus based. Of course, no one in operational meteorology ever uses any calculus to produce a forecast!
Angry? Me? Sure – a little bit. I knew all of this going into the AMS program. It’s the meteorological equivalent of a protective tariff.
So, that’s it. The program’s over. I have not yet taken the comprehensive test, but my instructor instructed me to begin referring to myself as a meteorologist… and I will.
And then, that phone call from Mary at Delta!
We spoke for a few seconds, and things didn’t sound promising. Then, I said I’d be willing to fly to Hartford and have Helaine drive me to New Haven to pick up my car.
Delta would move me to an earlier Birmingham to Cincinnati flight and then take me to Hartford. I’d be over 50 miles from my car, but I’d be in Connecticut three hours earlier than previously scheduled.
I packed up my gear and hopped into the hotel’s airport van. Three guys in airline uniforms joined me. As it turned out, they were my crew to Cincinnati.
We got to talking and before long I was asking them, then telling them about meteorology. The pilot, a kite surfer, was looking for a better way to predict ocean winds. I made a recommendation.
Later, during the flight, he congratulated me on passing my course on the plane’s PA system. How embarrassing.
So, now I’m home. I’m really tired, but I’ll be better tomorrow. Going to Birmingham turned out to be a better, more valuable trip than I anticipated (not that I had any choice in going)
¹ – Even though I have totally completed the course of study, there is a comprehensive test of 100 questions in two hours that I’ll have to take within the next few weeks.
2 thoughts on “It’s All Over In Birmingham”
Congratulations on the step from weatherman/weather forecaster to meteorologist, Geoff! And for getting an award, too.
I’m a bit surprised we haven’t yet read any comments/observations regarding Southern accents—from the viewpoint of an Easterner. Being Southern myself, I have always found the accent to be more cringe-worthy than amusing.
Glad you survived the humidity, which I believe must’ve been much worse the week prior to your arrival.
This is a good step toward killing the “Geoff Fox is just an actor paid to read the forecast” rumor.