Coco Goes Cable

I’m just surprised because never considered TBS a player with enough heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest.

It was a shock to hear Conan O’Brien is going to TBS. The fact that I seldom watch TBS, cable’s original Superstation, probably stands in Conan’s favor. They’re not going after me. TBS with its mix of comedies gets a significantly younger audience than over-the-air network affiliates.

The whole economic workup is different on cable. Even with a smaller audience more money can be made–especially if it’s a harder to reach young audience. Cable makes money from advertising and subscription fees. TBS feels they can afford a budget for Conan similar to NBC’s. That’s got to scare the people who run the legacy networks.

Jon Stewart graces magazine covers and hosts big-time award programs, all for hosting a program that airs half an hour four nights a week to an average audience of 1.7 million — or about what Conan O’Brien was averaging in 1994 when NBC was thisclose to firing his ass. – Aaron Barnhardt, Kansas City Star

TV advertising is ageist. Younger demos sell for more because younger viewers are tougher to reach. It seems anti-intuitive because people my age tend to have more money than we did 20-30 years ago, but that’s how it is.

While Mr. Leno now has a median age of 56, with Mr. Letterman at 54, “Nightline” at 55, Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kimmel both at 52, and even NBC’s younger act, Jimmy Fallon, at 50, Mr. Stewart comes in with a median age of 40 and Mr. Colbert younger still at 37.

(Youngest of all late-night hosts? George Lopez on his “Lopez Tonight” show on TBS. He has a smaller audience, but a very young one, with a median age of just 33.) – Bill Carter in the New York Times

I’m just surprised because I’ve never considered TBS a player with enough audience heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest. All I can think about is how TBS baseball telecasts compared to Fox’s games. TBS does not compare favorably.

I’m still waiting for the first high profile mainstream talent to make the jump to ‘direct Internet.’ A successful Internet show (audience successful, not just revenue successful as Leo Laporte’s TWIT TV is) would turn the industry on its ear and change everything we know about broadcasting.

Throgs Neck Bridge Photography–The Answer

The truth is until there’s someone monitoring every car photos will be taken. A person intent on harm isn’t going to be stopped by this.

The MTA has answer concerning photography on the Throgs Neck Bridge. As everyone suspected the decision was 9/11 related.

Dear Mr. Fox:

Thank you for contacting us on this issue. Following 9/11 we instituted a strict no access policy for filming and photography. Since 2002 we have had limited access. Requests for photography and filiming must be reviewed on an individual basis by our Internal Security Department. No security sensitive areas may be filmed or photographed. The news media is accommodated consistent with security concerns.

We do not allow unauthorized photography or filming of our facilities by the general public because of safety concerns for our customers, the safety of our facilities and to avoid interference with operations. I hope this answers your question..


Judie Glave

MTA Bridges and Tunnels

As with so many other well meaning security measures it was taken quickly because it posed no real cost for MTA. It’s a meaningless gesture which only inconveniences those least likely to use photos for nefarious purposes.

The truth is until there’s someone monitoring every car, photos will be taken. A person intent on harm isn’t going to be stopped by this rule.

More importantly, our way-of-living is based on inherent freedoms. There was never a law allowing photography on the bridge. Being able to freely take pictures here is a given as opposed to policies in the old Soviet Union or North Korea

As I said in my earlier post I was on my way to photograph the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, a much more likely place of interest for someone(s) wanting to make an evil statement. And the Throgs Neck Bridge is only one of thousands of potential terrorist targets in New York City.

The sixties liberal in me talking now. Isn’t it a little ironic that some people will take away your freedom in the name of preserving your freedom. You can’t have it both ways.

Make Politics Less Like The Prom

New rule: If a politician is speaking from a podium he/she may thank no more than two people.

obama-queen.jpgI just watched President and Mrs. Obama walk into Buckingham Palace for an audience with the Queen. With all due respect your highness, waste of time.

The older I get and the more I see of our complex world the more I realize we spend much-too-much time on pomp and circumstance. Too much effort is spent by governmental leaders doing meaningless crap.

New rule: If a politician is speaking from a podium he/she may thank no more than two people. Even the Oscars have figured out we don’t need to/want to all those damn names. The person running the PA should have some ‘play-off’ music cued up. We all know it’s just butt kissing anyway.

Unless someone convinces me otherwise we can do without military bands too. As a trade-off U-2 and Bruce Springsteen will be disarmed. Let’s throw in Ted Nugent for good measure.

I feel this way about inaugural balls and political conventions too. I feel this way about most meetings out of politics. Many people feel process equals progress–it does not. My experience with meetings has not made me a believer.

In the past I have daydreamed of being a congressman (for some reason it’s Representative Fox, not Senator Fox). My district’s seat is safely held by the well loved Rosa DeLauro, so this is just a daydream–no more. Every time I think about it I also think about all the traditions which are kept that a pol must endure. Waste of time. My blood boils.

Who are these dozens on minions standing behind Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi when they speak (or John Boehner and his posse). Don’t they have something better to do?

Political life needs to be less like the prom.

Christmas With A Cold

My cold continues to blossom. Last night I felt it make its first move, escaping from my throat. Today, I’m sneezing.

I took some Sudafed this morning, which made a difference for a while. Tonight, it was capped with Alka Seltzer cold tablets. The jury’s out on how those work.

Originally, it was going to be an easy day. Sit. Relax. Forget about work. That was not to be.

We’re very short at the TV station. One of our meteorologists is out of town. Another was injured jumping out of a second story window in a fire (Mostly bruised, he’ll be back shortly)!

I’m in, again, tonight. I’ll be in, again, tomorrow too! I’ll be working 13 in a row and 20 of 21, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Don’t cry for me. It’s not as if I don’t like my job.

PIC-0175Between shows I went with Helaine and Stef to a little pre-Christmas get together at our neighbors’. The tree is up and the house is decorated. It’s really pretty. Dinner was served on Christmas plates.

Yeah, we’re jealous. Having a tree and all the accouterments of the holiday is very appealing.

People always ask, “Why don’t you just get a tree?” It wouldn’t be right. It’s not our holiday. We still enjoy celebrating with our friends.

Our neighbors have the two best behaved, most polite, boys I’ve ever seen. They’re almost Stepford like. I’ve known both these kids since they were born and they both call me Mr. Fox.

They were brought up like that. Respect is a lost art for most 21st Century kids.

Amazingly enough, the younger one, now in the 4th grade, was the bartender! I’m not talking about pulling a beer from the cooler or pouring wine. He had a handwritten set of instructions and was measuring out some pretty fancy concoctions. Martini glasses were frosted and filled.

Maybe it would be wrong under different circumstances, but not here. He was helping his parents and doing a pretty good job of it! This was all about being a team player. It had nothing at all to do with the liquor.

Mr. Fox did not imbibe.

Just Call Me Geoff

Over time, more and more people have taken to calling me Mr. Fox. It’s a little disturbing, because I don’t want to be that old.

I usually tell them, “My name is Geoff. Mr Fox lives in a condo in Florida.”

Of course Mr. is the least of the titles you can have with your name. You could be Dr., or Rev., or Senator, or… well the list is nearly endless.

A few years ago, while perusing the British Airways website I came across their choice of titles. I saw the list cited today on another website and thought I’d post it here – just for fun.

Some are so obscure, I have no idea what they could possibly be. I do know, few holders of these titles will ever be flying with me in Row 39, aft of the wing.

Click the list and choose a title. They’re free.

It’s All Over In Birmingham

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 test&#185

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)

&#185 – 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.

More Power on the Internet

I’m not sure if I’ve told this story before. This goes back to Steffie’s grade school days, so at least 6-7 years ago – possibly longer. She was doing a report on Emperor Penguins and needed to know about their sleep habits. She could find (which means we could find) no data.

So, I sat down and scoured the (at that time) very new World Wide Web. I came upon a site maintained by a university professor, wrote him, and before I woke up the next morning a response had hit my in box.

I forget the exact wording, but the professor basically said, you’ve come to the right guy. There are only a few who’ve done research on the sleeping habits of Emporer’s, and I’m one of them. And then he went on to answer Steffie’s question in a much more thorough and learned fashion than a grade schooler would need.

Steffie wasn’t impressed, but I was, partially because of the answer, partially because he was writing from Hobart, Tasmania in Australia!

That was the “Eureka”&#185 moment for me. I had tapped the real power of the net, reaching the right person with the right knowledge.

In the interim I have corresponded with Nobel laureates, presidents of television networks, the past two executive producers of Good Morning America and other luminaries. With a little sleuthing, it’s often easy to guess at the proper email address (though the New York Times is a particular pain in this regard as it’s an email free-for-all).

Where are we going with this?

In Las Vegas I saw the coolest slot machine… and I wrote to the person responsible.

To Anthony Baerlocher at IGT

Hi Anthony,

I remembered your name from the New York Times Magazine article. I am a small IGT stockholder and have just returned from a week in Las Vegas. In real life I am a TV weatherman.

On my last night at The Mirage I stumbled onto the new Wheel of Fortune machine. The only reason I’m writing is because I was so impressed by what I saw. It is by far the sharpest looking machine I have ever played (I’m talking about gameplay here, not the exterior packaging). The video of Pat and Vanna and the graphic animations were excellent (though neither Pat nor Vanna should make a point of waiting for an Oscar – they were both really stiff)

Luckily for me, the random number generator was in a generous mood, and I did fairly well. Unfortunately, that allowed me to see what I consider a few shortcomings of the game. Every time I entered the bonus round I was slowed down by seeing the same video of Pat and Vanna. It was cool the first time, but I went to the wheel four times. It started to get old.

Couldn’t you look for a pause in the action, or the addition of cash, to determine if there was a new player and limit the number of times a particularly long animation would play for one person?

I also would have liked seeing some different cuts when Pat or Vanna appeared during ‘normal’ winning.

Finally, I was confused about how the bonus game worked. I understood that I’d have to choose letters, but beyond that, it wasn’t until trip four that I began to get it. Even then, I’m not sure of all the nuances.

I wouldn’t be writing at all, except I was blown away. It looked so good on the screen. I hope you don’t mind the comments.

All the best from Connecticut,

Geoff Fox

Last night I got this back:

Mr. Fox,

Thank you for the note and the compliments, it is always nice and helpful to hear from our players. I will pass your comments along to my team.

What you observed is some of the power of our new platform, the AVP. It offers more memory, colors, and multi-media capabilities than our older product. For the next few years, we will exclusively use it for our high-end participation games where we charge a premium to the casinos. Since it is a new platform, we are still working out some of the pitfalls, one of them you encountered – the annoying intro videos that you have to watch. Our design specification requested that the player be able to ‘snap’ through it by touching the screen or any button. However, the software code was not set up to handle that and we decided that it was a better decision to release the product to market rather than wait a couple extra months for the feature to be implemented and tested. The good news is that it is already in the next Wheel of Fortune game as well as our other AVP products – so in future games you can either enjoy the videos or quickly move on with the game.

As more players become familiar with video slots, we are advancing the bonus rounds and trying new idea to try to give the players something they have never seen before. This bonus round is very unique but not exactly intuitive. While there is no skill involved, adding a little complexity seems to keep the player from becoming too bored too easily and hopefully play longer. The bonus itself is really easier than it appears. Three puzzles each have a color and some missing letters. Each time you find a missing letter, the multiplier for that puzzle increases. This continues until you pick a pointer with either 1, 2, or 3 colors on it. The colors on the selected pointer are the ones you win on your spin. The value on the wheel for the selected pointers are then multiplied by the multiplier for that color from the puzzles in phase one. It can lead to some really large wins.

Thank you again for writing and be assured we are working hard and for many hours daily to drive the stock price. Hopefully you have been an owner for at least a year or two and not just the past couple months.


Anthony Baerlocher

Director of Game Design – IGT

Here’s why he asked when I bought the stock. Over the past five years this company has been positively buoyant – and though it’s well off its highs, it’s still 8-9 times what I paid for it.

It’s not Earth shattering stuff, but the kind of entr

Do I Look Like a Crook?

It’s the holiday season. Time to buy gifts. Is there a better way to buy something than with a credit card?

Our credit card of choice is affiliated with Southwest Airlines. As we pay for food and gas and gifts, we accumulate free airplane trips. And, since we pay off our bill each and every month, these trips cost no more than the yearly credit card fee. It’s a great deal.

It’s a great deal for the bank too. They get our yearly fee and make a cut on everything we buy. And, since we charge a lot, they get a lot.

There’s just one problem – the bank that actually issues the card and runs the program has cut it off three times.

It’s not like we’re bad people… this card has never had a late payment. And, we haven’t even been in the same neighborhood as our limit. Our problem is, we’ve used the card too many times in a single day.

I know – you thought they encouraged you to use the card. I thought that too.

Yesterday, as I’m told, our card was used 14 times. None of these purchases were extremely large. We charged a $230 airline ticket, some groceries, a gift or two or three. You get the idea.

To the bank, this looked like the pattern a thief would use. So, they flagged the card, and when Helaine tried to buy something for me online – delivered to our own address – the bank refused to accept the transaction.

I guess they’re entitled to do this, but here’s what bothers me. They cut us off and never told us. All they had to do was make a call. Mr. Fox, did you make this purchase? We found out when we tried to buy something.

My suspicion is, it’s cheaper for them to wait for the customer to contact them, or use the clerk at the store. For me… for my wife… this is astoundingly embarrassing. This time it was a mail order purchase, but the last time a clerk at the grocery store said to Helaine; “That happens to me when I go over my limit.” Great.

As a public person, I try and protect my public image. Now this bank gets to sully it, for no apparent reason. I have received every excuse known to man from the security department and no apologies.

I am beginning to simmer.

My blog – quoted in print

“It’s embarrassing to me,” Fox said. “Forget the movie. This was the perfect storm.”

I got a call from Pat Seremet at the Hartford Courant yesterday. She had heard how I missed my shot at WTIC. The weatherman, unable to attend because of weather. Now that’s news!

I’ve attached her story to the link below.

Let me explain the use of the term “Perfect Storm.” In order for us to have had this teeny bit of snow stop a significant portion of the state, everything had to fall in line in exactly the right order. It was an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances. If any single thing would have changed, we wouldn’t have noticed the snow at all.

Continue reading “My blog – quoted in print”


Recently, I had an email conversation with my Statistical Climatology teaching assistant (quite an important person, as she controls my grades!). We talked about Innumeracy, the book by John Allen Paulos.

His, unfortunate, conclusion is that most people are mathematically challenged. Not knowing math leaves them less capable of dealing with the world around them.

Out of curiosity, I asked some folks at work to tell me the relationship between a million and a billion. Not many knew it was 1:1,000.

Since our government is now throwing billions and even trillions around (a trillion is 1,000 billion or a million million) it seems like this is something we should know.

Flash forward to this past weekend. My friend Bob called me on IM and sent a link to an article in Time Magazine about America’s problems with weight and obesity. On the first page was a chart which said Americans eat “600 Billion Big Macs a year.”

Wow. That’s a lot… something like 2,000 apiece per year. Obviously, we’ve got a problem here. That number’s wrong.

Dear Mr. Fox:

Thanks for writing to us about TIME’s Oct. 20 cover story and the figure of how many Big Macs are consumed by Americans each year. It appears in the online version as 600 billion, but that’s not accurate. The correct figure of 600 million appears in the print edition of the magazine.

We appreciated hearing from you. Sorry for any confusion.

TIME letters

Don’t be sorry to me. Feel sorry for all the people who looked at that stat, wrong as it was, and never realized what that number meant.