Thanksgiving – Timing is Everything

Last year, as Helaine and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, we took a few days and went to New York City. We’re close enough (about 100 miles) to day trip, but this was going to be special – and, of course, it was.

I was about to write how everything went as planned until I remembered a Broadway show that was canceled at the last moment, a less than stellar hotel and a very, very long wait the night before Thanksgiving to see the balloon inflation. It was a wait we finally gave up on, before we got to the balloons.

The high point was going to Central Park West, just a half block from the Dakota, to watch the famous Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Yes, we got up well before dawn and taxied to the Upper West Side. Yes, I napped on the sidewalk, waiting for the parade to get underway. But what a vantage point! And the parade was everything we hoped for.

Thank God we went last year!

It has been raining all day today. Right now the visibility is approaching zero over most of New York City and Connecticut. There’s a chance for thunderstorms on Thanksgiving morning and enough wind to force the parade organizers to consider not flying the balloons, or flying them low.

We really lucked out. Last year’s weather was as close to perfect as is possible.

I had been thinking about last year and the hundreds of pictures I took. In fact, I was thinking of putting this very entry in my blog. Then, just a few minutes ago, came email which made me know adding this entry was the right thing to do.

Dear Geoff,

I’m an English teacher at an International School in Venezuela, and this week I’m teaching my students about American Thanksgiving customs. I was thrilled to find your pictures of the parade! There are tons of great shots of the balloons, floats, bands, clowns, etc. I’m showing your slide show to my students — it’s the closest we’ll be able to come to watching the parade.

Thanks for making these excellent pictures available.


Erin Balcom, ESL Teacher

Morrocoy International School, Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela

That’s very cool. I feel lucky to be able to share my experience with these students so far away. To a kid, what could be more attractive about the United States than Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

This year Thanksgiving will be a lot more quiet – we’ll be home. Actually, I’ll be at work for part of the day, but will go home and have dinner with Steffie and Helaine.

In the time since we went to the parade I have pondered whether this is better left a once in a lifetime experience or if we should do it again. I’m still up in the air. It doesn’t make a great deal of difference because even if we had plans now, the weather would have canceled them for us.

I’m Not That Nice

A few months ago, Elizabeth McGuire (no Lizzie McGuire jokes, please) asked if she could interview me for Hartford Magazine. Never the shy one, I said yes.

I have just read the article, and can now guarantee, I’m not anywhere as nice as she portrayed me. I am grateful, however, she lied on my behalf.

Only part of the article was on the magazine’s website, so I retyped it to place here on my site. Other than changing the spelling of my daughter’s name, and my length of service at WTNH, I’ve left it as is.

Hartford Magazine / February 2004

WTNH weatherman Geoff Fox doesn’t mind being call a weather geek. In fact, he finds it flattering. Fox loves the scientific process of predicting and forecasting the weather. “I’m the kind of guy who does like to look at lists of numbers, charts and gr4aphs. It’s a different math puzzle every single day, and no matter what you do, you’re presented with another math puzzle the next day,” Fox says.

Day after day for the past 19 years at WTNH-TV, Fox has pored over the maps, graphs and charts; analyzed the data; and then translated the information into “plain English” for his viewers. Fox gets two to three minutes during evening newscasts to tell viewers how the weather on any given day is likely to affect them. Without being asked, he answers dozens of questions such as, “Should I wear a raincoat, start that outdoor project or cancel that backyard picnic?” Fox says many viewers listen critically to his forecasts, and they hold him accountable when he’s wrong. “Believe me, people can be tough if you are wrong – and they should be, because other than the Psychic Friends Network, there aren’t too many people who come on television and predict the future for a living,” Fox explains.

As we sit at the kitchen table in Fox’s spacious Hamden home one recent afternoon, Fox explains to me that advances in computer technology have increased weather forecasters’ ability to develop more accurate forecasts. Suddenly, Fox excuses himself and leaves the room. Moments later he’s back with his laptop computer. There begins my tutorial on weather patterns. A map with curvy lines shows barometric pressure, one with splotches of color shows precipitation, and a pretty blue graph shows, well I’m not sure what that one showed, but it sure is colorful! Though much of what Fox explains is lost on my unscientific mind, his main point isn’t: The mathematical calculations and other technical information computers offer weather forecasters are essential tools of the trade. Like blueprints to contractors, or EKG printouts to doctors, computers make it easier for weather forecasters to be correct more often. “We can get more detailed information about what the atmosphere is doing… why it’s doing it… how it’s doing it…”

But once Fox comes out from behind the computer, he is able to deliver important information in an easy-to-understand, conversational manner. And he just about always throws some humor into his forecasts, often catching his co-anchors off guard. “I’ve always been the guy who told the jokes and made funny little remarks. And I think I have good timing,” says Fox.

Fox honed his timing during his 11 years as a morning-radio personality in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo. In 1980, Fox became the host of a Buffalo TV magazine show at WGRZ-TV. That’s where he became interested in weather forecasting, applied for a weekend weather position, and got the job. Fox realized meteorology was an area in which he could use his math and science skills. Fox says he was always good in those subjects and was even on the school math team as a kid growing up in Flushing, Queens, NY.

Even though Fox says he scored higher than 700 on the math portion of the SATs, he tells me he was not a very good student, especially in college. “I was in the accelerated dismissal program at Emerson.” he jokes. In fact, he flunked out the first time he attended the Boston college that specializes in communications.

He is now, however, getting straight A’s in his course work to become a certified meteorologist. He’s enrolled in a distance learning program at Mississippi State University. But most of what Fox needs to know to get a degree in meteorology he already knows.

After years of on-the-job training and watching New England weather patterns, Fox has a pretty good track record of predicting the weather. A classic example of getting it right was his forecast for the so-called “Storm of the Century” (as some television promotion departments dubbed it) that took aim at Connecticut the first weekend of March 2001. Most of the computer weather models were indicating the strong possibility of at least three feet of snow with blizzard conditions. But Fox didn’t think they were correct. He had been using a different computer model (maintained by a major university) during the 200-2001 winter season, and it had been extremely accurate. So, Fox was pretty certain the site’s calculations on heights, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere were reliable. He stuck with his prediction that the storm would bring mostly rain, sleet and perhaps a few inches of snow. “If you’re confident in your abilities, you have to give what you think is best, in spite of the pack,” he says. Fox’s news director at the time questioned the accuracy of his forecast but then decided to trust it. Gov. Rowland, however, put his faith in the blizzard forecasts and practically shut down the state. The “Storm of the Century” never materialized. Fox would later write an Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register that he was “hurt” by an article in that paper, which led readers to believe that all area forecasters got it wrong.

That’s not to say, however, that Fox gets it right all the time. Even after 20 years in the television business Fox says he is still “incredibly bothered” when his forecasts don’t bear out. “there will be times when I wake up on a Saturday morning and I will be upset that it’s sunny. If I said it’s gonna rain, than a rainy day is much nicer than a sunny day.” Fox has been know to apologize to his viewers on the air when one of his forecasts has proven incorrect.

In the family room of Fox’s house, the fireplace mantel is crowded with pictures of his 16-year-old daughter Stefanie, in various stages of childhood and Fox’s wedding pictures. Fox and his wife Helaine recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Next to the mantel, behind the glass door of his entertainment center, Fox displays his seven shiny gold Emmy awards – meticulously lined up in a row. He earned those awards for weather and science reporting. Along with his work at WTNH-TV, Fox has hosted a show called “Inside Space” on the SciFi Channel and has been a fill-in weathercaster on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Fox says he would like to do more work for ABC because the experience was “cool.” He’d also like to host a game show but says those jobs would be in addition to his work at WTNH-TV.

When Fox isn’t working, he spends his time with his family, maintains his Web site( with his daily postings and plays Internet Poker. Fox also does charity work, and his favorite charities include the March of Dimes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Fox sums up his feelings about the charity work and accurate forecasts this way” “Look, I’m not living in a hovel. I’m not driving a ’65 Pinto, and the reason I have whatever success and nice things I have is because of the people of Connecticut, so I feel there’s an obligation to give something back.”

20th Wedding Anniversary

I only have time for a short entry now, but I wanted to mention Helaine and my 20th wedding anniversary today.

When you get married, twenty years, or any concrete goal, is the last thing on your mind. You want your marriage to work – period. Everything else follows that.

I was totally confident the day I got married. I knew she was the one for me. I had been married once before. I was scared the first time – not the second.

Of course that commitment didn’t come quickly for me. There was a long period of time where I tried to avoid a permanent relationship.

The marriage works because I trust and respect her. I never question Helaine’s reason for doing something. There is no subtext, no hidden agenda.

I am very lucky, and I hope she considers herself lucky too.

Years ago, my dad told me when he married my mother, he made a commitment to fidelity. I think it has served them well for over 50 years. I have that same commitment. A marriage is built on trust.

Crunch Time for School

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up tomorrow, so I am rushing to finish my school assignments so the day can be free and dedicated to celebrating.

It’s funny, but in the beginning of the school year, Severe Weather was the tough course. Now, it’s Statistical Climatology.

Tonight, doing some homework necessary for a quarterly test, I worked for a half hour on a problem only to realize the data was split between two pages, so I had left half of it out. This problem had dozens of individual little steps. And, after a point, everything became dependent on what you had previously calculated.

When I realized how long it would take to redo everything, I went a little crazy. If only I knew how to do it on a spreadsheet!

I tried getting my friend Bob on Instant Messenger. He’s Mr. Meteorology (actually Dr. Meteorology) and a math wiz. Nothing. So, a quick call to Paul in California who has used spreadsheets for years to do budgets… but never stat work and never using any functions other than add, subtract, multiply and divide. I needed to do square roots and other obscure functions.

As I was hearing about Paul’s limitations, Bob answered the IM call. I hung up on Paul and phoned Bob. In two minutes I had accomplished as much as I had before I discovered my error earlier!

I don’t want to sound like George HW Bush at that Grocery Convention a few years back&#185, but I have no experience with spreadsheets. They were, after all, the first ‘killer app’ for computers – beginning with Visicalc. I should have a working knowledge.

It is astounding what I was able to do, accurately, and in very short order. And, to do the simple stuff was fairly easy. I should be able to go back without trouble.

I am using the spreadsheet built into, which is a Microsoft Office look alike/work alike… and it’s FREE! I would like more if it was supported by books. There are dozens of books on Microsoft Office but hardly anything to buy on

With the homework now finished, tomorrow I can take my tests (actually, later today).

&#185Today, for instance, [Bush] emerged from 11 years in Washington’s choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket.

Visiting the exhibition hall of the National Grocers Association convention here, Mr. Bush lingered at the mock-up of a checkout lane. He signed his name on an electronic pad used to detect check forgeries.

“If some guy came in and spelled George Bush differently, could you catch it?” the President asked. “Yes,” he was told, and he shook his head in wonder.

Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.

“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”

Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the President in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.

Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.

From The New York Times

You Can Smell the Giblet Gravy

Helaine, Steffie and I have decided to take a little getaway (this being the Internet, I won’t say when) to New York City. Part of the reason is to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

I made hotel reservations on Priceline. Right now, I have buyer’s remorse. Not that the Millennium Hotel – Broadway won’t be nice. The reviews I’ve read were great. I only saved $15 or $20 from the rack rate and then, when I asked for a rollaway bed for Steffie, was told that would be an extra $50 for the 2 nights.

I wonder if there would be that charge had I made my reservation directly? I have never ever paid for a rollaway bed and have never heard of anyone being charged for one before.

We decided we’d see two Broadway shows while in The City. I’m sure I love Broadway as much, maybe more, as any straight man in America. Hopeful, I’ve passed some of my love on to Steffie, who has seen many shows with me.

We chose Tennessee Williams “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and a new play “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” with Polly Bergen and Mark Hamil. SDLSW opened last night.

The New York Times was savage in its review which ran in this morning’s paper. This show is such a turkey that you can probably smell the giblet gravy as you enter the lobby. Let me just quote from the last paragraph:

Toward the end of Monday night’s performance, an elderly man in the front row collapsed, gasping for breath, and the Emergency Medical Service took him to a hospital, where he recovered. It turned out he had choked on a candy. Now that’s a metaphor.

We’d better find another show. This one won’t last until we get there.

This was originally written on a computer without access to a spell checker. I’ll try not to do that again. Ouch.