Ask Me Anything–More Work Related Stuff

Here at the Dallas/Ft. Worth TX station I work at our Weather guessers have been accused of being Weather Nazis when any rain starts to fall. They take over and viewers miss their programs. Do you ever get comments like that?

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

From Jon comes: “Here at the Dallas/Ft. Worth TX station I work at our Weather guessers have been accused of being Weather Nazis when any rain starts to fall. They take over and viewers miss their programs. Do you ever get comments like that?”

Jon – I assume we break in a lot less than they do in Texas because we have a lot less ‘short fuse’ weather like tornadoes. There have been some complaints when we’ve gone wall-to-wall but we only do that when there’s a tornado warning–rare here. Our prime time for severe weather is late afternoon so we’re less likely to be blowing out people’s favorite shows.

If you ask our producers they’ll tell you I most often ask them to tone down not hype up coverage. Not always, but mostly.

Ken is wondering, “How much of the work do the on-air personalities do when determining the weather? Is it a job where you filter the analysis from a Weather center (or techies)… or are you doing the leg work yourself? I’ve always been curious about that.

Yes Ken. I was chosen for my shapely gams!

No, actually our four main weather people are meteorologists. One has a PhD in physics. Another was trained by the Marines.

Dr. Mel, our PhD, knows more about weather history than any three people I know. He learned to forecast before computers did most of the heavy lifting. It boggles the mind.

When I first met Gil I was looking down my nose at USMC meteo training. I could not have been more wrong! The coursework he took and the practical experience he gained was second to none. He is among the finest, best trained forecasters I’ve ever met and I don’t throw that compliment lightly.

When I started on-the-air as a ‘weatherman’ I didn’t have a clue! I quickly realized I’d better learn what I was talking about. I did a lot of studying before finally going back and getting certified at Mississippi State University. I was awarded a certificate for academic excellence and finished with a 3.97 GPA. I have the AMS Seal. I also have seven Emmys, though that’s a performance and not accuracy based award.

Jonathon is pushing back a little. “It is my understanding there is only one sky. So why do you weather people say “skies will be cloudy”?

Jonathon, “Home on the Range” influence, plain and simple.

A nearly seasonably topical question from Paula. “Thank you so much for a chance to ask you questions. If you had the chance to fly through a hurricane again, would you? Which one of the adventures that you went on years ago was your favorite?”

In a heartbeat Paula! I’ve done it twice. It’s less scary than you might think. I actually wrote about that trip for my blog and it’s still available–just a click away.

My scariest adventure was flying in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels. We took off nearly vertically, flew upside down and in ever tightening inside turns. All of it was done while sitting on an explosive charge in the ejection seat!

I didn’t lose my lunch.

Craig wants my job… or one like it! “Are there any online schooling you can take to become a meteorologist? Can you reccomend anything for someone possibly interested in shifting career paths. I would like to work for the NWS. Thanks”

My MSU coursework was all online. It’s a lot harder to do it that way than in a classroom. You need a great deal of discipline and motivation. The MSU course isn’t calculus based (which no meteorologist uses in daily forecasting) and is not an accepted course to work for NWS.

The Agriculture Department used to have a distance learning course which was thorough and very difficult. I haven’t heard of it in years.

Job prospects in meteorology are very poor. NWS has fewer employees and TV stations are cutting back where they can.

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 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?

MSU BMP Photos Posted

I’m sure this is of no interest to anyone who was not there. The photos from the Mississippi State University – Broadcast Meteorology Program 2005 Conference have been posted to my gallery.

These are moderate quality and reduced resolution. If there are any you’d like, please let me know and I will send higher resolution, noise reduced, tweaked photos.

Another Day in Birmingham

I didn’t know what to expect. I’m in Birmingham, AL for the conference that concludes my Mississippi State University education.

I’ll go over this in more detail later, but much of what I’ve heard has been interesting. I’m not totally sure it wasn’t covered in my classes for the most part.

We heard from a local meteorologist, Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunter” meteorologist and one of the MSU professors today.

He was actually the surprise of the bunch. His case study on a severe weather outbreak in the Southern Plains was interesting to follow and predict (even though it’s already happened).

The meetings start early (for me) at 8:30 and continues to 7:00 PM or later. That’s a long day.

Each session ends with a tape swap. Everyone brought an aircheck of their work and we all watch together.

I brought a broadcast from Monday. It was an evening with thunderstorms passing through the state and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for Northwest Connecticut.

It’s funny. I’m on TV every day, yet I’m spooked by the idea of my fellow students seeing my presentation.

I’ve dodged that bullet the last two afternoons, but tomorrow’s the last chance and I’m certain it will be shown.

Not that it will get me an easier audience, but I’m here with a bunch of mostly nice people. There are a few spectacular looking women.

Going To School From Home

I am now in my eighth of nine semesters of broadcast meteorology at Mississippi State University. Other than driving through, I’ve never been to Mississippi. Even then, I’ve never been to Starkville&#185, home of MSU.

Of all the school courses I’ve ever taken, going all the way back to 1955, I am currently taking the toughest – Thermodynamics. It’s heavy on theory, often using examples that don’t or can’t exist in the real world.

I’ve always been good at looking a theoretical problems from a real world perspective and using that to shape my understanding. So far in this course, that doesn’t work.

I will pass this course. In fact, I hope to do well in this course. The first homework test was a killer – exceptionally tough. Because it was a homework test, I had unlimited amounts of time to formulate my answers to the questions before I opened up the timed portion, I was able to get a 96%.

Trust me, it was still crushingly difficult. I’m petrified about the midterm which is timed but without the opportunity to answer the questions in advance.

This is one course where there would be an obvious benefit to being in a classroom where I could raise my hand and say, “What the hell are you talking about?” Getting my lectures on DVD makes that impossible.

I’m not sure where my knowledge of thermodynamics will lead. There is probably a good purpose for this which will become obvious later… or not. Sometimes a school’s curriculum just doesn’t make sense. The academic and professional worlds are often far apart.

I have become more sensitive to this course and others I’ve taken, because of a proposed law in Texas. I’m not going to fool you, this proposition is already dead. Still, the fact that someone tried to push it through is pretty upsetting to me.

A Keller lawmaker’s bill regulating TV weathercasters stirred up a whirlwind of opposition in Austin. But the dust-up between scientists and TV personalities hasn’t lost speed and may show up soon on a radar screen near you.

Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, triggered a gust front when she sponsored a bill requiring math and science college studies before a person can use the title of meteorologist.

Under this proposed legislation, my 53 college level credits in meteorology and related subjects would mean nothing! Behind the scenes, it looks like this was pushed by a degreed meteorologist who didn’t feel my coursework was enough… and probably didn’t want to compete with the likes of me.

There is no doubt I am a biased observer. However, I can say absolutely, this course will give me enough knowledge to call myself a meteorologist and much more knowledge than I’ll ever need to be on TV. It was actually devised to pass the scrutiny of the American Meteorological Society and their Broadcast Seal program. Like academia, the AMS is also sometimes out of touch with the professional world.

When I first started the course, my wife asked if I had learned anything new. When I said yes, she asked, “How important could it be if you didn’t need it for the last 20 years?”

This summer, after all my courses are finished, I will head to Birmingham, AL&#178. Birmingham in August – pinch me.

After a few days of on-site seminar lectures I will be done with my schooling. Hopefully no one else will make an end around and try to change the rules.

&#185 – Here’s a town name right up there with Marblehead, MA and Peculiar, MO. Starkville is, I would assume, the opposite of Pleasantville. At some point someone looked at what surrounded him and the best word to describe it was, “stark!” Or, it’s named after someone whose last name was Stark… though my explanation is so much more fun.

&#178 – Birmingham is being used because of the size of our group. In some ways I’m disappointed. Who wants to finish their college career without once seeing the campus?

Mme. Gobstein and the Rest of My Educational Life

Back when I was a student at Harold G. Campbell Junior High School (aka JHS 218Q in Flushing, Queens) I took French. We learned using new multimedia course from ALM, often sitting in little booths with headphones. This was the early sixties mind you, multimedia was a word waiting to be invented.

My teacher was Mme. Elaine Gobstein. Mme Gobstein had the unenviable task of trying to motivate my classmates and me into learning French. I freely admit I was less easily motivated than most.

I floated through the first marking period, getting a courtesy passing grade, though I was doing failing work. I kept up the pace into the next report card, this time getting the failing grade I so rightly deserved. It was my first time failing a subject and I was crushed.

I’m not sure who initiated the conversation between Mme Gobstein and me, but we had one. She told me the only way I’d be able to pass was by participating every day and doing well on the final.

So, I did.

I had my hand up for every bit of classroom participation. I’m sure I was a pain in the ass, but I did what she asked. And, when the final came around, I got an incredible mark (considering). My mother remembers it to be in the 90s. I think it was in the high 80s. It makes no difference now, over 40 years later, but when my report card came… I had flunked.

As strange as it may seem, my mother and I have talked about this more than once over the past few years. She says in today’s environment she would have gone to school and pleaded my case. Back then, you accepted the teacher’s decision and my 55 stood… and is probably buried somewhere in the NYC Board of Education archives on a faded Delaney card.

It’s possible Mme. Gobstein thought I had cheated. I had not. Maybe she didn’t think my spurt in the last grading period overcame my earlier work? No sense asking. After hundreds, maybe thousands of students and four decades gone by, she can’t be expected to remember.

It doesn’t really matter, except I thought she had made an offer and I had delivered my end of the bargain.

Like I said, it’s over 40 years later. I harbor no ill will toward Mme. Gobstein, who was probably a good teacher with a recalcitrant student. Still, even now it hurts.

So, what brings this up? Well, I’m rounding the home stretch at Mississippi State University and taking quizzes and tests on a regular basis. From time-to-time there’s a grade I disagree with – but now I make my case.

The latest came today with a test in Synoptic Meteorology II. I was pleased to have gotten 100%… except when the result came, it was an 80%.

If I was back in Mme. Gobstein’s class during the first marking period, I’d have written it off. But now I had vetted all my answers. The problem is the questions!

I know that sounds strange, but here’s what I’ve found out about multiple choice tests (and that’s what these are): They are more difficult for a professor to write than questions for a test answered in sentences or essays. The instructor has to be very diligent, making sure he doesn’t inadvertently say the wrong thing – making an answer correct only if it is not read thoroughly.

In fact, the more you know – the harder you study – the easier it is to find fault in the questions.

My concerns today had to do with a formula which didn’t exactly match the one in the text and a the interpretation of a sentence.

I am confused by a few of the questions in quiz 2:

Which of the following is a description of precision

a. Measurements that produce the same result for a given repeated


b. Hitting the same point every time (“bulls-eye”)

c. Multiple measurements which read the same, but are not accurate

d. All of the above describe precision

You said ‘c’. I answered ‘a’.

From the video outline:

4. Precision

An instrument

Distance Learning – The Disadvantage

Fall semester at Mississippi State starts next week. For me that means late nights watching my coursework on DVD and thumbing through overpriced textbooks (you have no idea – it’s robbery).

Even though I’ve never been to Starkville, I still get the same emails my fellow on-campus students get. Here’s today’s sample:

AUTHORIZED-BY: John Dickerson, Director of Enrollment Services


Dear Students:

Join us as we celebrate Dawg Daze 2004. Dawg Daze is Mississippi State

University’s welcome week for new freshman and transfer students. Join

us daily from August 15-17, 2004, to enjoy the best food, music,

movies, and southern hospitality that Mississippi State has to offer!

August 15th is open to new freshman and transfer students during our

new student block party with Bill Cooke playing acoustic guitar.

The following events are open to all new and returning students.

August 16th features our Papa John’s Pizza and Movie Night co-sponsored

by Information Technology Services (Feature Presentation: TROY).

August 17th features our back to school concert featuring the Patrick

Smith Band and Drivin’ n’ Cryin’.

Last year, over 6,000 students attended during the three days of

events. Please help spread the word to MSU students so that this year

will be another great success. For more information and a listing of

other events, please see the Dawg Daze website at: For questions or more information,

please contact Bryan Nesbit at

I suppose I could just invite all of them over to the house?

Another Slashdot Submission

My luck with Slashdot has not been good recently. I had a bunch of my earliest submissions accepted and began to think it was easy to get on. No such luck. Since February I have had 15 in a row rejected.

I really don’t want to give up, because Slashdot, like no other website, is ‘geek confirmation.’

Today, I tried again. Since (judging by my track record) it probably won’t get on, I thought I’d post it here too. The links are worth clicking.

For most of the United States (sorry West Coast), this is the season for lightning. It is as powerful as it is spectacular to look at. It is destructive too – by itself or through the hail, straight line winds and tornadoes that often accompany it. As someone who forecasts the weather, I’m often asked about lightning. As you might imagine, there’s plenty to see about lightning on the Internet. The conditions necessary and a little bit of the physics behind lightning are explained by Jeff Haby, a meteorologist (one of my professors actually) at Mississippi State University. Once forecasters get a handle on what’s going on, they put the word out through the Storm Prediction Center. Regular outlooks are issued by SPC for severe storms. Once those storms rear their ugly heads, they’re followed with mesoscale discussions looking at the active areas. The Storm Prediction Center is also the place where Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Watches are issued and storm related damage reports are compiled. Lots of hobbyists like to track lightning strikes on their own, and there’s equipment available to do just that. Getting hit by lightning is never fun, though not always fatal. National Geographic chronicled an amazing story of a lightning strike, and rescue, on Grand Teton.

Back To School

When I was a kid, summer meant time off from school. Not so today. I’ve been taking classes at Mississippi State University for five semesters. A week ago, I started the sixth. It goes on through much of the summer.

Am I wrong? Doesn’t the word ‘semester’ imply there are only two?

During the two cooler weather semesters, assignments are due once a week. The summer semester is compact, so now I’ve got assignments due every five days. Even today. Memorial Day, I had two quizzes due.

Making it even tougher is the anticipation of our summer vacation trip to Las Vegas. Before we go, I need to get ahead. I’ve already started by taking a quiz due Friday this afternoon. Tonight, I’m hoping to finish one homework test which is also due Friday.

This semester, one course is on DVD and the other VHS tape. DVD is my preferred medium. Not only is it more portable (I can bring a portable DVD player or laptop) but I can easily watch lectures at double speed. It is much more understandable than you’d imagine. The DVD software I use allows me to watch ‘sped up’ video while correcting the speaker’s pitch. In other words, it doesn’t sound like Donald Duck.

So far, I’m enjoying the summer’s courses – Applied Climatology and Radar Meteorology. Both are courses I know something about – but I will learn more.

Unfortunately, there is one small thing which is driving me crazy. One of my instructors pronounces ‘es’ as ‘ex’. So, escape becomes ‘excape.’ He knows what he’s talking about as far as climatology is concerned, but each time I hear this mangling of the language it’s like scratching chalk on a blackboard.

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.”

Changing The Rules During The Game

I am not a meteorologist, but I do the same job as the three meteorologists I work with. Over twenty plus years, and with lots of study, I think I know what I’m doing… though that’s for my viewers to judge, not me.

A few years ago my boss thought it would be a good thing if my expertise in meteorology was acknowledged. He offered to pay the cost if I would obtain the Seal of Approval in Broadcast Meteorology from the American Meteorological Society. It would take a commitment on my part to complete a formal course of study to ‘legitimized’ my knowledge.

The best way to go about this was the Broadcast Meteorology program offered by Mississippi State University. I began classes in September 2002.

I am often asked if it’s an on-line program. The simple answer is, sort of. Lectures are given on DVD and video cassette. Tests, quizzes and access to teaching assistants is given on-line. There is a short trip to Mississippi required at the end of the 3 year program.

When I am finished, I will have 53 credits in meteorology and related subjects. The difference between this course and more traditional college meteorology programs is the math requirement. Here, it is fairly rudimentary with some statistics and algebra. In most other courses there is calculus involved.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Mississippi State specifically tailored this program to meet the AMS Seal requirements. Graduates of traditional programs often claim that the MSU program is inferior. However, for day-to-day broadcast meteorology, the MSU program is a magnitude order beyond what is needed.

I have often heard kvetching about how the MSU program cheapens the more traditional meteorology programs. And now, in an end around move, the AMS is changing the Broadcast Seal program in a way that will please the kvetches.

In a few years the AMS Seal will cease to be issued. Current holders (and hopefully I will be one by then) will be ‘grandfathered’ in.

Replacing the seal will be a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist program. The qualifications include passing a test and a degree in meteorology or equivalent. Right now, my guess would be that they will not consider the Mississippi State program equivalent, even though it requires more meteorology related subjects than most traditional programs.

This is a broadside aimed specifically at MSU. If this policy is enacted as proposed, the MSU program will quickly lose its reason for being.

I have been in touch with the director of the program at Mississippi State. A few weeks ago he seemed non plussed. Today I sense he is more concerned about what’s going on.

I have recommended that he make a personal presentation to the AMS boards which will make the final decision. A well thought out and prepared personal appearance might make a world of difference. He says that is his idea too.

Over one third of the broadcast meteorologists in the United States received their training from Mississippi State. Soon, I will too. I will have the qualifications for the AMS Seal late in the summer of 2005.

Some Things Never Change

Every week I have a quiz in both of my Mississippi State University classes. Every third week, it’s a quiz and a test based on my homework.

The idea is, you do the homework every week as you watch the lecture and read the textbook. Yeah, right.

This precedent was set in the first grade back in 1956. I was cruising along in Miss Thompson’s class at P.S. 201. Even then I realized something catastrophic might happen. Maybe a meteor? Possibly the plague or dengue fever. Who can tell? Why do your work early? You might get off the hook – and it would all be in vain.

Last night I got home from work around midnight, washed up, had 2 cookies too many and went to my office. There was plenty of time to do the work, so I fired up the laptop and played a little poker while I answered emails and poked around on the desktop machine.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but normally there are three PC’s in my office. Two are really dogs – old machines with limited resources that used to live elsewhere and were discarded by others for hotter models. The laptop and my homebuilt machine run Windows XP, the second desktop machine runs Mandrake Linux. Sometimes I’m on all three at once.

I played an $11 ‘sit and go’ no limit Hold’em tournament at Pokerstars. The cards were awful. I held on as long as I could, but only came in 4th – meaning I lost the $11.

It was around 1:30 AM when I started my school work. This semester I am taking Synoptic Meteorology and Satellite Meteorology.

The first quiz went very quickly. The first test slower. By the time I finished, everything, it was 6:20 AM – a terrible miscalculation.

Because these get graded at noon each Wednesday, I already know how I did – which was fine. That’s not the point.

Why do I continue to procrastinate? What is it within me (and it’s been inherited by my daughter) that wants to put everything off until the last minute? It’s not like it wasn’t going to be done. Doing it – doing it well – was a given.

I’ll probably never learn my lesson. I just want to learn my reasoning.

The Meat of Meteorology

If you read this blog regularly, you probably already know I forecast the weather on TV. That’s my job and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years (and about 35 years broadcasting in general).

I am not a meteorologist. There are three others on our meteorology staff at work, and we all do the same thing. I do what a meteorologist does. Forecasting is a skill I’ve studied over the last 20 years and, hopefully, mastered.

A year and a half ago, the general manager of our station asked if I would formalize my education, become a meteorologist and get the AMS Seal (AMS is The American Meteorological Society). The AMS Seal is pretty much the ‘gold standard’ for broadcast weather forecasters. I said yes and enrolled at Mississippi State University in their distance learning program. When I’m finished, I will have a certificate in meteorology, not a bachelors degree.

Now, with my Summer ’05 completion looming, I see the AMS is changing the rules for broadcast meteorology again. I say again because 20 years ago there was no formal education component of the seal at all.

This time, they will eliminate the seal program and replace it with Certified Broadcast Meteorologist or CBM. In order to receive the CBM, you will need to have a BS in meteorology, not just the core 50+ credits that Mississippi State provides. The seal program will continue until 2008, meaning I will be able to qualify and receive one, though not the CBM.

Why would the AMS care if you have other credits and a degree beyond the core courses? My guess is, the more traditional universities have seen the MSU program and realize the only way they can compete with it, or have their graduates compete with it, is to change the rules and (possibly) eliminate it.

I have just had an email conversation with the director of the MSU program. I don’t think he realized how this rule change would affect what they’re doing. I think he does now.

The question is, what is the reason for having the AMS Seal in the first place? If it’s to help viewers shop for a scientifically based presentation, with this move the AMS has gone too far. Even the current qualifications provide more than enough screening.

If its purpose is to promote the fortunes of the traditional schools of meteorology, and their students, this change will achieve the goal.

Who Came Here in 2003

I don’t have an incredibly long history as a webmaster. So, for me, it’s often confusing and at the same time interesting to peek at the inner workings of this site. I have owned the domain name for a few years, but it’s only been since late July that I’ve mounted this blog and photo gallery.

My webserver is actually located in Chicago, and run by It is shared with other small websites. I have access to most of the server’s guts through shell programs.

In order for you to see what you’re reading now, I have to upload all the files and images and programs from home. There are a number of programs, like the one that produces the weather forecast meteograms that run on clocks and execute a few times a day. I had to write the scripts to do that too.

Running this website has forced me to learn a little about a bunch of computer disciplines, like php, Perl, bash shell scripts, html and a veritable alphabet soup of minutiae. It’s been challenging and like Blanche Du Bois, I am often dependent on the kindness of strangers. The more I learn about computers, the less I realize I know.

With the year over in less than four hours, I though I’d summarize a little of what’s gone through this site in 2003. Since it was only born in July, the stats are (hopefully) less than what I’ll get to publish in 2004.

7.76 GB That’s the total amount of data I’ve spit out. It melts down to 10 CDROM’s worth… or a few DVD’s. The majority of my hits go to the United States, but most of Europe and the Pacific Rim are represented as well.

271.69 MB That’s what Google slurped up. Loads of spiders and crawlers moved through the site, picking up the data that goes into search engines. Google took down nearly 5 times as much data as the next biggest search engine and was responsible for 6711 page views by users. I have chronicled elsewhere my rise in the Google rankings – a feat which both intrigues and fascinates me.

Giblet gravy That’s the most used search engine phrase that sent people to the site. They must have been disappointed because I used the phrase to illustrate a point that had nothing to do with cooking. The next most requested phrase was Scotty Crowe, John Mayer’s road manager.

Thanks to everyone who’s written to ask me for John’s email address. Even if I had it, I couldn’t give it out. You will be glad to know your admiration is not misplaced. There’s a whole lot to admire about John. I don’t think he’ll be spoiled by success.

I’m not sure how or why, but people searching for dangerous Internet cafes in las vegas nv and she had to remove her shoes airport ended up being sent to

My cousin Michael and his wife Melissa in Sunny Southern California became blog readers. More than anyone, Michael made me realize I could use an editor from time-to-time. I try to spell and grammar check, but you need a dispassionate eye too.

My dad reads the blog every day. That pleases me more than he’ll ever know.

From time to time I’ve looked at my logs, seeing where readers are coming from. There’s someone at NBC in NY who reads pretty regularly, same at the vendor of our station’s weather equipment and Mississippi State University, where I’m taking courses. Most readers are connecting through residential addresses, but I’m amazed by all the different companies and universities that are listed.

Once, I made reference to probes of my home computer by a virus ensconced in a PC at a San Fransisco Honda dealer. I made an analogy that used the word ‘doorknob’. A few days later a computer at a doorknob manufacturer downloaded a significant portion of this site. They’ll be as surprised as the giblet gravy crowd.

In 2003 approximately 17,000 separate viewers came calling to this site. Collectively you visited 30,000 times, downloading 872,000 files. My page counter now sits just north of 60,000.

Every word I write is read, re-read, edited, punched up and perused again before it goes online. One of the more pleasant surprises of blogging is how challenging and how much fun it is to write. I never felt that way about writing before.

Often it is a cathartic experience, allowing me to get something off my chest. Other times it’s fun to let you in on something I observed and want to share.

My family puts up with this to a point. I reveal a lot in this blog, but not everything. A friend wrote to tell me he was surprised to see this ‘warts and all’ self assessment. If there are warts here, they are a small portion of my own personal wart colony. Like most people, I keep a few skeletons in my closet.

Thanks for reading. It really means a lot to me. Really.

Terrorized by Midterms

For the past 1&#189 years, I’ve been a student at Mississippi State University. OK, I don’t drive down to Starkville, but I work online and from DVDs, videocassettes and textbooks. So far, so good.

Last night was midterm time in this my fourth semester. I had two exams to take, Statistical Climatology and Severe Weather.

Climo went very well. Severe Weather – ouch – 77.5%. This is my low point so far at MSU. I looked at the class statistics and saw this was a particularly brutal exam for everyone.

I had taken quizzes and homework tests earlier this semester and had this instructor last year, but this test was more than trying. What made it worse was being able to read others on the class bulletin board, complaining about how tough it was… and then taking it myself, already in full panic.

This is so different from my first college experience when I cared not.

I have spoken to other adults who are enrolled in college courses or have taken college courses and I find the drive to excel is unreal and probably unhealthy. No one but me will care if I graduate with a 2.0 or 4.0, yet I am physically affected when my grades are below the standard I have set.

I am also coming to the conclusion that, to many, college is wasted on the young. Maybe it would be better to let people out in the job market for a while before making them commit to a course of study.