The Blog’s Birthday

This blog started 11 years ago tonight. I wanted a blog, but wasn’t sure why or what I’d write about. My first post was the equivalent of dipping your toe in the water.

4.track.currentIt’s the 4th of July. I have to work on what is a hot and sticky day in Connecticut. There are a few thunderstorms on the radar, but not enough to really worry about. Helaine is packing. Twice, she’s had me get on the scale with a suitcase. Both were light (by airline limits that is). I haven’t done any packing yet. And, I still have a quiz to take to get ahead in my “Natural Disasters” class at Mississippi State.

geoff-and-puppiesThe blog has taught me how to write. That makes sense. I practice every day.

My writing takes advantage of the powers of word processing. Everything is written, then rewritten more than once. I never did that while in school.

A finished blog entry is nearly always shorter than the first draft!

I like short paragraphs.

On an average day around 1,200 pages get read. If I talk about a storm headed toward New England traffic can increase tenfold or more.

More-and-more Facebook makes it difficult to get direct traffic. Do people start blogs anymore? Should I bother anymore? I wonder all the time.

I like it when you read my words. Ego? Probably. It does give me satisfaction to know I can share my thoughts.

This blog is always the truth, but seldom the whole truth. I hide bad news and shield friends and family. This is not TMZ.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m Keeping An Eye On The Radar

It’s a critical weather night. Tens of thousands of people will be out (hopefully) watching fireworks. I’m worried about natural fireworks!

I’m on the sofa. I’m still in pajamas. It’s the 4th of July. It’s a work day.

An email has already gone out to our 4:00 PM producer. She will make the decision, but I said I wouldn’t object to our leading with weather even though it’s partly cloudy and the radar is currently clear.

It’s a critical weather night. Tens of thousands of people will be out (hopefully) watching fireworks. I’m worried about natural fireworks!

So far the day has gone ‘as predicted.’ The rest of today’s forecast calls for scattered late afternoon and evening showers and thunder.

The storms should be done by 9:30 when most towns launch their fireworks. Unfortunately, ‘should’ is not necessarily ‘will.’

I can’t change the weather. My job is to give a heads up. That’s why forecasting from the sofa while in pajamas is what I do.

My Patriotic Ties (photos)

On the 4th and other patriotic celebrations I wear American Flag ties. I have two. Over time you accumulate things, I guess.

There are certain parts of my job that are standard. No one tells me, but I know enough to wear a suit and tie every day. That goes on the 4th of July like any other day.

To add a little fun to holidays I have some themed ties. On the 4th and other patriotic celebrations I wear American Flag ties. I have two. Over time you accumulate things, I guess.

Here they are!


Because of the distance I was forced to go with my 70-300mm lens–the lowest quality lens in my bag. It being dark and all this would be a true test.

This evening, being the 4th of July, I wanted to go and photograph fireworks. The nearest, nicest fireworks are in New Haven.

It’s a fifteen minute drive, but the area around the harbor is pretty crowded. A few weeks ago two guards from Quinnipiac University told me about a vantage point from QU’s new field house. It’s high on a hill a few minutes away from here with a commanding view of New Haven seven miles away.

I loaded my camera, lenses and tripod and headed out. It’s a top-down night with low humidity and cool temperatures.

I was curious if it would be a buggy night… and it was! With our recent rain and a duck filled pond a few dozen yards away the area was thick with flying, biting insects.

The tripod and camera set up quickly in a nice vantage point with a view south. Because of the distance I was forced to go with my 70-300mm lens–the lowest quality lens in my bag. It being dark and all this would be a true test.


I never could find the exact focus point. I was close, but that’s not good enough. Beyond that my long exposure shots were too much for my lightweight tripod. Even after instructing the camera to flip the mirror long before the shutter opens (cutting vibration way down) there was still too much shake.

We’ll call these an experiment even though there’s a 365 day wait until the next practice session.







Roxie’s Toy

Happy 4th of July from Roxie!

My Friend Kevin

I say without fear of contradiction, Kevin Webster is the nicest man I’ve ever known or will ever meet. He is the proverbial ‘shirt off your back’ guy.

I got a call Thursday afternoon from Melanee Webster, my friend Kevin‘s wife. They were at Yale/New Haven Hospital getting ready to come home. It was Kevin’s wish.

I’m not sure what her exact words were, but I knew what she meant. If I was going to see Kevin again, the time was now.

This evening, after our early news, I made the drive to Cheshire.

I remember the first time Kevin and I met. We’re both ham radio operators. A mutual friend, Harold Kramer, had seen my antenna setup in the attic. He thought I’d do better if my wires were flying in the trees, so he called Kevin and another friend, John Fowler.

Kevin came to my house to do me a favor. He didn’t know me. He didn’t have to. He did favors for friends and strangers alike as a matter of course.

I was amazed as he pulled out a slingshot… something I’d only seen in Dennis the Menace cartoons, and shot a lead line into a tall tree. Before the afternoon was over, I had a wire antenna strung between two trees at the 80 foot level!

Where did he find the time? Kevin had four daughters and was extremely active in his church. He was always busy… and yet he was always available. That ‘busy’ and ‘available’ weren’t mutually exclusive was just part of his magic.

Kevin and I quickly became friends. We built radios together, went to computer shows and ham radio events and talked on the phone.

He was the ultimate technogeek. As the allure of ham radio was replaced by computers, Kevin adapted, becoming everyone’s ‘go to’ guy for tech support and help. As with antennas, Kevin helped everyone.

Sometimes, when facing a particularly puzzling challenge, he’d call me for advice. I’d like to think he was more savvy, but he inherently knew two heads were better than one and he didn’t have a jealous or envious bone in his body.

A few years ago, Kevin got into kayaking. One Saturday, he found a kayak for me to use so I could join him for a float on a lazy river. This river was well beneath his expertise, but he gave up a little to afford me a good time.

I say without fear of contradiction, Kevin Webster is the nicest man I’ve ever known or will ever meet. He is the proverbial ‘shirt off your back’ guy.

He was always up, always smiling, always laughing, even when he found out he had incurable pancreatic cancer. That was nearly a year ago. Too damned short a time.

I spent a good part of July 4th weekend last year trying to make sure Kevin would get the best care possible. My weather partner, Dr. Mel Goldstein (a cancer survivor himself and incredibly well connected) made calls to the top specialists in the field.

It was a holiday weekend, but time was of the essence. Dr. Mel just called them at home. I will never properly be able to express my gratitude for what he did for Kevin.

When I first discovered Kevin’s fate, I thought to myself, God must have made a mistake. Kevin’s not the one to take. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve thought a lot about Kevin’s mortality over the past year. Surely he and Melanee have considered it more, but it was on my mind too.

In March, at a poker table in Las Vegas, I sat next to a man who was a counselor at a hospice in Texas. We talked about Kevin and my fears for him.

“No one ever dies scared,” he said.

I was taken aback. I asked him to explain.

He told me he had been with 800 people as they approached death and none of them were fearful as they approached their end. It was among the most reassuring things I’d ever heard. I wanted to write about it then, but I thought it might be uncomfortable or disrespectful if Kevin read it.

My hope is Kevin is not scared about what lies ahead.

My friend Harold and I walked into Kevin’s house tonight and into a downstairs bedroom. There was some hospital equipment, a bed with rails and Kevin sitting in a big chair.

It was tough to look. My poor friend has been ravaged by his cancer. His skin was ashen, his eyes sunk deeply into his skull, his breathing was shallow. His feet were in socks, but so swollen it looked like they were in casts. Later, when I helped him move, I saw his bruises from dozens of injections and probes.

At times, Kevin would just stop all motion and blankly stare ahead as if he were in suspended animation. It was tough not to think the end was coming right there.

He said a few words and acknowledged our presence, but I’m not sure how much he really understands right now. He’s sedated with opiates to control his pain. It’s a guess he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Melanee sat by his side and gently comforted him. She is his life’s partner… the girl he met while they were both students at BYU. They were each other’s only tue love.

Neither of them could have anticipated this outcome when they pledged their love and lives to each other.

Kevin will soon be gone. His body is shutting down piece-by-piece. It’s tough to imagine he’ll live more than a few days in his current state.

Kevin’s last year was spent in pain, while suffering the indignity invasive medical treatment brings. And yet, if given the opportunity to stop the pain… end his life early… he would have said no.

He got to spend time with his granddaughter and watch another grandchild swell his daughter’s belly. He got to see another daughter graduate college; the second to do so.

He was proud when Marlene, his youngest daughter, a high school senior, trained and ran a race for charity in Miami. She showed maturity as she tackled an adult sized challenge.

Kevin spent a lot of the last year being up and happy and smiling and… well, he was just being Kevin. Until the very end, cancer could not strip him of that.

The sadness we experience when someone dies is often so overwhelming, we forget what it really means. We mourn the most those we love the most. As horrific as that pain is, it is worthwhile because of what we got in return.

Kevin, I will miss you every day. Our friendship will live in my heart forever.

Following Elena Dementieva By Remote Control

Elena Dementieva and I have never met. We’ve been just feet apart, at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven. I had just gotten my Canon and was anxious to take some sports photos. I had a press pass already, so what the heck!

Elena is strikingly blond and tall and lean. You catch a glimpse of whatever it is that passes for underwear as her tennis outfit rides up while she lunges after shots.

I was very pleased with the shots I took and put them in my photo gallery. They sat there until Google started crawling through, finding my pictures and their captions. All of a sudden I was on the first page of Google’s images results! In fact, my shot is now on the top line.

Whenever Elena does well, I do well. I woke up this (late) morning to find nearly 2,000 page reads on my site. That’s more than I usually get in a full day – certainly many more than I expect to see on the 4th of July.

I didn’t have to think twice. I knew she had to be in late contention in a tennis tournament. In this case it was Wimbledon. Elena made the round of 8 before being defeated by Maria Sharapova.

By tomorrow, my Elena Dementieva traffic will be gone, only to reappear when she gets hot the next time. Meanwhile, that one photo of mine has been seen 29,000 times! I can’t even imagine what would happen to this site if she won a major.

That Darned Shuttle

The launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, reset for the 4th of July (wouldn’t it be a whole lot cheaper on the non ‘double time pay’ 5th of July) after two weather related scrubs, is now in doubt. A tiny crack has been found in the foam that insulates the external fuel tanks.

We are so petrified of failure that it is becoming nearly impossible to launch. The weather cancellations and the concern over this foam is fear related caution at work! That’s the way it should be, because there’s nothing the Shuttle is doing which is worth a human life.

Enough already. This is old line technology. There are better ideas, more benign ways of leaving and reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. Burt Rutan has already proved that with his “Spaceship One” launch.

Maybe it’s time for the government to get out of the way as far as near Earth orbits and payloads are concerned? It’s time to retire the Shuttle.

Born On The First Of July

Maybe I’m spoiled, being born in New York City? With millions of people there were economies of scale. The Fourth of July was actually celebrated on the Fourth of July! Here in the ‘burbs, things don’t run quite as according to that plan.

My town, Hamden, had their big fireworks show last night – June 30th. I was working.

Tonight, with my friend Harold in tow, I drove a few towns over to Wallingford for their big First of July celebration.

My expectations were low. Wallingford is a small town. A nice town, no doubt, but the number of people paying for the fireworks show is small.

We drove toward the high school where the display would be mounted, only to find a roadblock. The high school was full. A policeman told us there was a plaza where we could park and then hike. That’s what we decided to do.

A few blocks later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Yalesville School. The lot was already half full and some people were hoofing it toward the fireworks. Surprisingly, more were sitting at Yalesville in folding chairs.

I walked over to a woman sitting a few feet from my car. “Could the show be seen from here?” The answer was, “Yes.”

The Eagle has landed. We stayed at Yalesville.

As far as I can tell, we saw 90% of the show. There were ground displays whose glow we sensed, but whose artistry was hidden behind trees and homes. Just about all the aerial fireworks were high enough to see nicely.

Even better, we parked next to a giant pickup truck with Sirius satellite radio. The driver had the broadcast of the Grand Old Opry&#185 on, and it was loud enough to be heard where we stood.

Seriously, this was the perfect soundtrack for the evening, including Jim Ed Brown (he must be 1,000 by now) singing Three Bells – a song I played a zillion times as a disk jockey!

The show was much more than I could have ever anticipated. I didn’t check carefully, but there must have been 30 minutes of fireworks. They weren’t holding back either. This was an excellent show with plenty of action.

I clicked away like crazy. There was really no way to know whether I was striking pay dirt or not. I don’t have much in the way of fireworks experience with this camera.

I did read an article yesterday and slavishly set my ‘film’ speed at ISO 100, my aperture at F16 and plugged in a shutter release cable.

These shots of are a sample of my better catches.

The good thing about seeing fireworks on the first is, I can probably run out and see more on the second!

&#185 – Holy cow! The Grand Old Opry sounds like it’s been plunked directly from the last century. There were live acts, live announcers, a live audience and live commercials (spoken and sung) for such mainstays as Martha White Flour. It was interesting to hear these 1940s type commercials make reference to Martha White’s website!

Working The 4th

It is not as honorable as working Christmas or Easter, so someone who observes can be with family. It is the Fourth of July and I should be off from work… which I am not.

Here’s how it works at work – seniority rules for vacation requests. And, as it turns out, I’ve been on-the-air longer than anyone else at the TV station. I am number one on the seniority list!

I forgot to ask for the Fourth of July off! My fault. I screwed up.

There’s an interesting attitude at work on a holiday like this. Everyone feels more capable of making decisions. Everyone feels more in control. There is no upper management on-site.

It’s not that management isn’t important, it’s just that (for short periods) we can steer on our own.

When people ask me if I’m upset to be working on a holiday, I say “no.” I’m really very lucky. How many people have a job they enjoy… something they happily do? It’s not like I’m stacking boxes or working the wok in the non-air conditioned Chinese restaurant where I bought my family’s dinner.

Next year I’ll try to be less forgetful. Meantime, I’m sitting at my desk, watching the New Haven fireworks on my monitor. It could be worse.

Working On Holidays

The radar is finally beginning to calm down. A few people emailed me with reports of very small hail. Not a major surprise.

I’m beginning to rethink this working on holidays thing. I’ve always done it, saving my days off until I can string them together.

Helaine and Stef went to Monroe to see some friends for a cookout. I put on a suit and shaved for the first time in three days. What is wrong with this picture?

Maybe I should reconsider the 4th of July?

They’re Bailing

First it was my sister and brother-in-law leaving, on Friday night it was my parents. Helaine, Steffie and I decided to take another trip to The Bellagio with them. Forget the casino, Bellagio is a destination in itself (and I say forget the casino only because I’ve never done well playing poker there).

Las Vegas Boulevard was moderately crowded. Friday night means the LA crowd returns. Still, it wasn’t anything like what we saw when we got here on the 5th.

We parked the car and walked into the hotel. Our destination was the Conservatory. This large space, with glass paneled roof, is constantly planted in seasonal motifs. Right now, it’s pretty patriotic for the 4th of July.

Some of what they do I like. Some, I don’t. I specifically don’t like the attempts to create people from flowers. It just looks too contrived for me – as if a molded body was pasted with flowers.

On the other hand, the individual flower plots – large expanses of one flower – are beautiful. And there’s not a blemish or spot on any petal or leaf.

Within a few of these plots are ‘fountains’. The actual nozzle is buried beneath decorative rocks, which allows the water streams to appear from nowhere. A dozen or more of these streams are intricately choreographed to music – much as the fountains outside. In this case, because of the shorter streams, the coordination between water and music is much tighter.

Dinner was at the caf

I Can’t Resist an Airplane Disaster Movie

When I was a kid, I’d watch Million Dollar Movie on WOR-TV Channel 9. Million Dollar Movie (in an era when $1,000,000 was a big deal) played the same movie for a week, each and every day. When there was a good movie, I’d watch it as often as I could.

Every 4th of July they showed Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney. I’m sure if I saw it today, I’d remember much of the dialog.

One of the movies they played was “The High And The Mighty”, starring John Wayne as an airline pilot with a crippled plane flying just past the ‘point of no return’ between Hawaii and San Fransisco. Flight attendants are stewardesses, passengers – geese, and the former knows the name of each of the latter.

“The High and The Mighty” was my first airplane disaster movie. I was hooked. It was obvious the plane wouldn’t crash… and still it held my interest and it still holds my affection.

I love airplane disaster movies! This sets the stage for what I watched tonight on Encore Action, one of the many 2nd run movie channels included in our basic digital package.

Who could ever forget:

Final Descent

Director: MIKE ROBE 1997

Synopsis: A jumbo jet’s crew struggles to land safely after a severe midair collision.


This is by far one of the most trite movies ever made. Every possible clich