Happy Birthday WWW

First_Web_Server

The Worldwide Web turned 25 today. Mazel tov. That’s a photo of the first web server (above).

I was there at the beginning, watching from the sidelines. I’m not Al Gore! However, there was an Internet before WWW and I was on it.

Thanks to Dr. Mel Goldstein I acquired an account on the CTState network. That got me online, which at that time was a bunch of very simple servers. There were gophers and Archies and Veronicas. You used a terminal program, not a browser.

I remember manually routing myself through strange dial-up ports. Downloading a 1Mb file could take an hour.

There were no pictures (though porn wasted no time finding the Internet), nor decorative fonts. It was text.

Tim Berners-Lee created “http,” the Hypertext Transport Protocol. That’s how website data is sent and it was a breakthrough concept. Brilliant.

It took a few more years before the first web page appeared. It is preserved at its original address!

It was all geeks and dweebs at first. We early adopters test drove the kinks out for you. No thanks necessary. It was our pleasure. Really.

In many ways the web is showing its age. It just isn’t designed with the security necessary to safely accomplish its daily tasks. We are walking on eggshells at 25.

Ask Me Anything–Are You Related To Dr. Mel?

Mel tells me Arlene gets upset when people ask–as well she should

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

Here’s a question I get all the time. It comes from Andy. “Geoff…What is your relationship with Mel Goldstein?”

The rumor started a few years ago. People began saying Dr. Mel was my father-in-law! I have no idea how it got started.

Nope. Not true. Dr. Mel and his wife Arlene have two daughters, but they’re married to others.

Mel tells me Arlene gets upset when people ask–as well she should. She’s much too young to be my mother-in-law!

I’ve known Mel since I came to Connecticut. Early on we had a rocky relationship. That’s been behind us for a very long time and we get along famously. Our skill sets are different and each is willing to help the other–and we often do! Dr. Mel even came to the JDRF Gala to present me with my award.

Thirteen years ago Mel was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. He never accepted that diagnosis. There is a lot to learn about life from Dr. Mel!

He realized early on he had to be his own advocate to get the treatment he needed. Dr. Mel became an expert in multiple myeloma so he could help guide his own care. When he heard of groundbreaking research at a hospital in Arkansas Dr. Mel called and spoke to the lead researcher. After a lengthy conversation the voice on the other end asked, “Dr. Goldstein, are you a physician?”

Though his cancer is currently responding to treatment it’s an ongoing battle. The disease itself has caused irreparable harm to his spine and back and left him a half foot shorter and in near constant pain.

Instead of kvetching Mel has dedicated himself to helping others with cancer. He’s raised a fortune for research, lectured and personally counseled others often giving hope to those who’ve lost theirs.

When my friend Kevin discovered he had pancreatic cancer Dr. Mel called heavy hitters at home in the middle of the 4th of July weekend. This way Kevin would have the best treatment as soon as possible. I’ll never forget that kindness.

You could do worse than having Mel and Arlene as your in-laws.

A Storm Unlike Any Other

I called and told him I was confused because I’d never seen this particular setup before. Neither had he!

dot greenwich camera.jpgEarlier tonight I took a quick look at one of the CT DOT traffic cameras on I-95 and gasped. The camera was in Greenwich-adjacent to the New York State line. While the rest of Connecticut was seeing moderate to heavy rain with temperatures mostly in the 40&#176s Greenwich had limited visibility with heavy snow. The snow had begun to accumulate!

dot westport camera.jpgA few miles up the road in Stamford there was nothing but rain! Even now, hours later, only the communities in Lower Fairfield are seeing the snow stick.

In retrospect the Greenwich blitz doesn’t change my forecast. It was scary to see–sure. The weather had done a rapid about face. It was all part of the forecast, but it happened so quickly and with such fury I was originally taken aback.

Let me qualify this because it’s easy to lose sight of what I’m talking about.

Something’s been falling from the sky since early Tuesday. One storm came and went. This is Part B of Storm 2. However, this unnamed¹ winter storm is so unusual scholarly papers will be written about it!

Thursday while Atlantic City was seeing snow Albany, NY was getting rain. Friday morning New Haven, CT will see snow while Bangor, ME gets the rain! Crazy.

90fbw.gifThe barometer is so low it’s approaching the range usually seen in hurricanes and tropical storms. We get pressure readings this low every decade or so.
Tonight, as the wind in New London shifted from east to southwest the temperature dropped 9&#176 in one hour! Cold air advection from the southwest! Isn’t that where warm air comes from?

Seriously–that’s nuts.

I called my weather colleague Dr. Mel Goldstein this afternoon. I’d developed my forecast but was unsure about one aspect. He’s a great weather historian so I called and told him I was confused because I’d never seen this particular setup before. Neither had he!

My concern was how much warm air would remain and how much water would stay on roads as the snow fell? How would this affect Friday? My guess is a great deal of the storm will just melt as it hits the pavement–not all of it. What does accumulate will be wet and sloppy and very heavy to move.

After Friday I’ll know better how my speculation comports with the real world. I am working totally in a theoretical world right now.
I am exhausted. This week has been a killer. There’s been no forecast where I could let up because they all were jammed with critical information.

Bring on the weekend.

¹ – As long as I’ve been in Connecticut WFSB has been naming storms. It’s probably a good promotional tool for them, but on those occasions when people refer to a storm by the WFSB given name I gag. These are people who also call the Fiesta Bowl the FedEx Fiesta Bowl.

Fireworks At Dr. Mel’s House

Sunday night was the scheduled holiday fireworks in East Haven. For this display, a barge full of explosives is towed out into Long Island Sound. The show can be seen from any point along the length of East Haven’s shoreline. That’s where Dr. Mel Goldstein, my partner in the weather department, lives with his wife Arlene.

This is where the fireworks should be watched from. I appreciate their invitation.

They have a beautiful home–the kind you get after your children are grown and elsewhere. As far as I’m concerned, the house is in move-in condition. I like their taste.

The show began around 9:15 PM. It wasn’t perfect weather for a sky show. The state had been threatened with strong storms all day and into the night. Visibility was reduced in fog and haze. The cloud ceiling was low. The deck was wet from some earlier showers. The tide was in and directly below the railing.

I brought my tripod and an assortment of lenses. I am lost with fireworks. I really don’t know how to set the camera. Since it’s fixed and stable, I can chose as long or short a shutter speed as I please. Too many options!

I think the answer is a reasonably high f-stop, f11 as an example and around one second exposure at ISO 200. Maybe you have a better setting. I’m open to anything.

Longer shutter times bring more light and more of the frame filled. But longer exposures also make the fireworks look less sharp.

I like some of these, but I’ve seen much better. I need to learn the techniques used to get those shots.

Interesting Weather Story

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea

I hadn’t heard about Reid Bryson until I received an email this morning. My partner at work, Dr. Mel Goldstein, knew of his work. Bryson was a pioneer in meteorology.

So much of what academicians look at is theoretical – Ivory Tower stuff. This is a story about practical meteorology, practiced before computers and voluminous data made it easy… even for guys like me… to tackle.

This was forwarded to me by a friend who reads the highly regarded (and impossible to get on) Tropical-storms mailing list:

I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate,People and the Environment,it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944),

Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.

Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.

Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.

Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but it was now too late.

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).

I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.

Greg Tripoli

Professor

Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Tragedy In Bangladesh

The news coming out of Bangladesh is minimal tonight. The AP reports ‘at least’ 41 people dead from Cyclone Sidr, which came ashore Thursday.

That number will surely rise after this powerful storm hit one of the world’s most susceptible points.

Around 20 years ago, I was invited to Western Connecticut State University by Dr. Mel Goldstein to listen to Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center.

Sheets talked about the potential for tragedy in Bangladesh… the futility of knowing a storm was coming, but there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.

The Ganges River Delta, where Bangladesh meets the Bay of Bengal, is low lying land. Storm tides easily wash well inland and up the river toward Dhaka, a city of 6,500,000.

This is a country of poor people, living in mainly flimsily constructed homes and shacks. Many people live directly on the water.

Sheets said one of the things done was build earthen berms, allowing people to rise above incoming water. It was low tech and not totally effective, but it was better than nothing.

Today’s solutions seem similar:

Thousands of coastal villagers moved to cyclone shelters

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.

My Friend Kevin’s Battle

I have mentioned Kevin before. We’ve been friends for 15 years or so.

Kevin is the nicest person I know. Believe me, this takes nothing away from anyone else. He’s just that nice.

A few weeks ago Kevin called to tell me he was in the hospital. He’d recently undergone back surgery and didn’t sound too distressed. I popped by the next afternoon.

Kevin related the story of having some pain and nausea, seeing the doctor and being told to go to the hospital then – I’m mean then.

It was a blood clot in his pancreas. I’m smart enough to know blood clots can be disastrous. Precaution is good.

When I got back to work, I started researching blood clots in the pancreas. It’s not something I’d heard of before. Then I saw, it’s often a marker of pancreatic cancer.

But Kevin was in none of the ‘favored’ groups. He was a non-smoker, non-diabetic, caucasian with no family history. It made no difference.

The tests came back the next day. Kevin had pancreatic cancer and in a pretty advanced stage. It had begun to spread to nearby organs.

I know all that, because we’ve talked about it. But if you just spoke to Kevin, you’d have no idea. He’s up, positive, sunny. He’s his regular self.

Still, he knows what’s going on better than anyone else could. Pancreatic cancer is terrible. It’s fast and usually fatal.

He’s begun chemo, hopefully to extend his life. Who knows? Nothing’s certain. Dr. Mel Goldstein, who I work with at the TV station, pulled lots of strings to get Kevin hooked with the right people. If there’s a chance for help, he’s properly situated to get it.

It’s tough not to remember Dr. Mel was told he had incurable, fatal cancer ten years ago. He ‘should’ have been dead years ago. That’s why you can’t give up.

Kevin knows his family and friends want to know what’s going on. Some of them are sheepish about asking. That’s human nature. So, he’s started a blog.

Kevin has begun putting entries on CureKevin.com. The blog is still in its early stages, but he’ll catch on quickly and start foaming at the mouth, as I often do.

We’re throwing a party when he gets to the 1,000th entry.

Best Of New Haven

Last night was the annual New Haven Advocate “Best of” awards. I was the emcee… though this year I wasn’t the winner in my category. My weather cohort, Dr. Mel Goldstein takes home the framed certificate.

Second isn’t bad, but from now on I will hold a cute puppy every time I appear on TV.

These ‘best of’ competitions are interesting, because it was years before I realized they were very much advertising vehicles for the publication that sponsors them. I’m too naive, I suppose.

The event was held at Anthony’s on the water in New Haven. It is a beautiful spot, especially on a night like last night. The water in the harbor was calm. The sun was setting in the distance. The night had all the promise of our summer to come.

I also like Anthony’s because they have really good Italian food – especially the seafood.

In order to be as inclusive as possible (remember – advertising) there are a zillion categories. Yes, there is a best place to buy a futon! There is also a best funeral home (whose owner admonished me not to say funeral parlor). I won’t be surprised if they introduce a best street between Whitney and State.

When you’ve got so many people, businesses and organizations to honor, you end up with the Yale University Art Gallery and an ‘adult entertainment facility’ getting a certificate within seconds of each other.

It is possible some facility workers go to Yale and some Yale workers go to the facility. That’s synergy!

When I go to this type of event, I love to schmooze. I am a good schmoozer.

I hope they ask me back next year.

I Cannot Tell A Lie Radio Shack Style

What’s Radio Shack’s slogan: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers?” As it turns out, not all the answers were true – at least as they applied to the CEO. He resigned yesterday after revelations that the two degrees from non-accredited colleges he claimed, didn’t exist.

First of all, as long as you’re going to lie about it, why a non-accredited bible college? Why not Yale or Harvard?

I’ve never lied about my lack of education. I am an official high school graduate. I went to Emerson College on the accelerated dismissal program, flunking out during the height of Vietnam.

That probably tells you more about my intellect than anything else. Were it not for my high draft lottery number, who knows how my life would have changed?

My resume has always said, “attended Emerson College,” which of course I did (though infrequently). It was more like, “lived in dorm,” but that’s beside the point.

Now that my three years at Mississippi State University are complete, I’m still just a high school graduate.

MSU’s program is a certification curriculum. It’s as if you were allowed to attend college and only take your major subjects, no humanities, math or language. I learned everything I would have learned in an Earth Sciences BS program – no more.

I work with a PhD in physics, Dr. Mel Goldstein, and when I’d tell people I was completing my education at MSU, they’d often ask if I was getting my doctorate. I wish.

This Radio Shack guy, David Edmondson, lied and got caught. He probably deserves what’s coming to him, but the story is much deeper than that and it goes to the core of what college confers upon you.

I have a daughter in college. Steffie, stop reading this right now. I don’t want to throw you off the track.

There are many things college prepares you for, and many ways it broadens you. But college is not always necessary to succeed in a job or career – even some careers that are associated with specific courses of study.

Did I suffer in my career because I didn’t have a degree? Who can say for sure. I’ve certainly done OK for myself.

On the other hand, before I got the job here, I got a call from a news director in Boston. He had seen my tape and was interested in hiring me. Was I a meteorologist?

End of story. He said he liked me but he’d be lambasted in the papers if he hired me. I understood.

Back to this Radio Shack guy. He didn’t just come in from a craigslist.com ad. He was inside the company for well over a decade; a guy who worked his way, literally, to the top. He had been judged on what he could do, and really, it didn’t matter that he did it without a degree!

If you look closely at higher education, you will see it is designed by academicians, not practitioners. When we get interns here at the TV station, they learn more on-the-job than they ever learned in school. The same goes for fresh grads.

I’m not saying college is worthless. That’s just not so. I think it serves a valuable purpose and provides a good background and, hopefully, broadening. It is not the end all, be all, in career preparation.

It would serve companies well if they stopped using a college degree as a crutch and began looking at an applicant’s real skills. That’s what they’re going to use anyway.

This guy from Radio Shack – I feel bad for him, but he lied. There’s really little excuse for that, especially when he’s is the company’s credibility.

Wrongly, instead of proving what he could do without college, he felt it was necessary to lie. He felt his skills would never have been recognized… no one would have looked past his lack of academic credentials.

We overlook too many talented people this way, every day. Where’s the upside to that?

I’m More Pessimistic About Hurricanes

Recently I was interviewed for an article in Business New Haven concerning hurricanes. I’ve linked to the text.

Over time I’ve become more pessimistic of what might happen in a repeat of the hurricane of ’38 scenario for Connecticut. There would be little time for warning and difficulty explaining where the damage might occur.

Even in 2005, a tragedy seems unavoidable. That’s not what I want to say, but it is a realistic expectation.

I’m glad to see, though Dr. Mel Goldstein and I were interviewed separately (I didn’t even know he had been interviewed), we are in agreement with our concern.

Unlike Katrina where good advice was ignored, I’m not sure what we could do today to help prepare us for a hurricane approaching us at 60 mph. The entire East Coast would need warning. What good would that do?

Continue reading “I’m More Pessimistic About Hurricanes”

Party for Dr. Mel

About 7 years ago, one of the people I work with in the Weather Department discovered he had cancer. Dr. Mel Goldstein, known by everyone as Dr. Mel, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Mel had discovered his disease after back pain from a car accident just wouldn’t go away.

Today, Mel and his wife Arlene threw a party. They have a home right on Long Island Sound just east of New Haven. The weather was perfect, making their view of the Sound even better. Long Island was clearly visible on the horizon.

I remember going to Mel’s home right after he found out what he had. I was with Jeff Bailey, our webguy at the station. We went to install a PC at Mel’s house so he could track the weather from home. We hooked up the computer and a modem and then proceeded to show him how to search using Google. This was a while ago and not nearly as many people were web savvy.

We reached the site of the Multiple Myeloma Society. It was a good first example, because Mel and his wife were desperate for information. We all read along silently, not realizing that the page contained a reference to the average time from discovery to mortality – how long someone normally lived after finding out he had multiple myeloma.

I don’t remember the number, except it was was under 1,000 days.

Obviously, Dr. Mel has outlived those projections. This is not to say the disease hasn’t taken a toll, because it has. Not only has he lived with the specter of death, but also the physical pain caused by the cancer’s effect on his bones.

He has lost 6-7″ in height and walks with a cane. At the station, we’ve installed a ramp to allow him to reach the studio floor easily. At home, a small motorized chair saves him from walking the stairs to the second floor. I know he is in pain each and every day.

Today’s party was to celebrate another milestone in living beyond anyone’s expectations. But this is not a story of luck. He is alive because of his own persistence. Dr. Mel became his own best advocate for care. Though not a medical doctor, he became an expert on multiple myeloma and was able to help his physicians guide his own treatment.

Without dedication, Mel would be dead. If he had given up, gone through the motions with his cancer treatment, he would be dead. But he chose not to die. He chose to aggressively fight.

There is no cure for multiple myeloma right now. There is therapy which is working. How long this fire hose treatment will keep the flames down is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, today was worth celebrating.