Holy crap, it’s a real newspaper!

IMAG0095_PerfectlyClear_0001-w1200-h1200During my tenure at FoxCT I got to work closely with the reporters, managers and staff at the Hartford Courant. It was sad to see them feel they were on a sinking ship. In aggregate, these were the smartest people I’d ever worked with.

It’s not specifically the Courant that’s going down, but newspapers and print media in general. Times have been tough. Profit margins in print have vanished and turned to losses.

When I came to New Haven we subscribed to the New Haven Register and Journal-Courier. Two daily papers in little New Haven. Those days are gone.

With all respect to my friends on Sargent Drive, the Register is a pale shadow of what it was. What a shame. It suffered under horrible mismanagement long before print soured.

I came to California with low expectations for print journalism. We subscribed to the Orange County Register at Helaine’s insistence. She wanted local news.

Holy crap, it’s a real newspaper! If it’s possible to judge by a week’s worth of reading, it’s a pretty good newspaper.

A fat paper has arrived at our back door every day. Multiple sections. Big sections. Real local advertising–which is valuable information.

There is lots of local content from staff reporters and columnists. There is plenty of national news too, including syndicated stories from the New York Times, Bloomberg and AP.

The editorial page makes no qualms about its conservative, libertarian bent. We will disagree.

My cousins tell me the OC Register hit bottom before its current rebound. The reporting staff has been boosted. Its local footprint expanded. You have to pay to read, as its website has been cordoned off behind a paywall.

The economic climate is different here. SoCal is rebounding from the recession faster than Connecticut. There are no Orange County TV stations to compete against, even though the county has over three million residents. The Register is the only game in town.

No one knows if the OC Register’s current incarnation will save it or if its just digging a deeper hole. Spending to put out a better product is a concept seldom seen. Only time will tell.

I’d like to see their investment pay off. We all benefit if print gets healthy again.

Why Is An Apology A Rarity?

At home Helaine and I have talked about this a lot. Should I have said anything? Most forecasters said nothing or tried to spin their way out. Maybe they’re the smart ones?

Last night as we began our news I came on to talk about the weather ahead. Before I did I paused to apologize for what was a busted forecast. Our webguy, Jeff Bailey, posted the apology to our blog. Someone else picked it up and put it on Youtube. A TV insider website, FTVLive, splashed it across their front page.

ftvlive screencap.jpg

Rarity…. Weatherman Takes Blame for Bad Forecast

Here’s a switch! Weatherman says he was wrong and sorry for bad forecast…

Apology lead the news. We have the video….

Talk about breathless prose! I didn’t cure cancer. I just told people how badly I felt for a forecast that went wrong and adversely affect their day.

This afternoon the editor of the New Haven Register asked me to write something for their front page. It will be in the paper in the morning.

At home Helaine and I have talked about this a lot. Should I have said anything? Most forecasters said nothing or tried to spin their way out. Maybe they’re the smart ones?

“Everyone was wrong.” I’ve heard that a lot. The problem is I don’t want to be an interchangeable forecaster. I’d like people to think I have something extra to offer.

Hopefully viewers will see this for what it is. When they give me their trust I take it seriously. That’s the bottom line.

The Pre-Snow Waiting Game

Until this dry air is saturated evaporation will pull the temperature down. That’s a confirming sign we will see that powdery/fluffy snow I expect.

pre snow skew-t.png“I love this weather,” Helaine yelled as I ambled downstairs. Not really. She loves snow like Sully loves geese! Helaine was pre-frustrating, the new family fun game being played at the Fox house this weekend.

We are now in anguish mode. My last forecast has been made. People have already used (or not used) my forecast to make their plans. Now it has to come true or I become the goat!

Speaking of forecast, there’s an article (more like an interview with me) on the front page of today’s New Haven Register. It was written before I upped my totals. The facts are good, but the forecast now looks underdone.

CTCapitolReport, a Drudgereport lookalike, has also quoted me prominently on their homepage. In stark non-proportional Courier type, “Geoff Fox: Storms seldom live up to these massive forecasts.”

I did say that, but here’s the full quote:

Storms seldom live up to these massive forecasts. There are so many things that can change and nearly each of them will mean less snow. Still, 8-15″ on the shore (which is what I’ll say) seems reasonable right now. I’ll go for 5-10″ for most inland sections.

Was the ‘pull’ a little out-of-context? Yeah, I think so.

There’s nothing I can do to change the weather. However, I will still try and will it to conform. It’s like the uncontrollable way I move my legs during NFL football or Helaine steps on the imaginary brake while I’m driving.

My friend Farrell just sent a text from Palm Springs:

“Is the forecast living up to your expectations?

A little early for that. It certainly hasn’t disappointed down south. You actual mileage may vary.

So, what can I tell you now? I’m impressed by how dry the atmosphere is.

I’m looking at a skew-t plot from this morning. Skew-t displays temperature and dew point vertically through the atmosphere. As dry as it was at ground level it was crazily dry up to around 4-5,000 feet.

Until this dry air is saturated evaporation will pull the temperature down. That’s a confirming sign we will see the powdery/fluffy snow forecast.

The most obvious confirmation of the skew-t’s data are the echoes showing overhead on the radar. My friend Bob at FSU in Tallahassee said:

“Indeed this is the longest period of virga i can recall.”

The 12Z GFS model is in reasonable agreement with last night’s run. If I was forecasting now I’d probably leave my numbers intact. I guess that’s as good as it can be for me right now.

I’ll check back later as the snow flies.

Where Was Plum Island’s Security?

Basically you would expect this place to be protected in the manner of a James Bond villain’s lair! High tech security. Constant diligence. Massive law enforcement presence

anthraxresearcher.jpgWhy is no one else disturbed about the recent Plum Island incident? The boater that washed ashore on Plum Island last week may have saved his own ass while also showing how lax security is on a most mysterious and hazardous island!

I hear your question. Why should I care about Plum Island?

Plum Island is located off the North Fork of Long Island. It’s less than 10 miles from Connecticut. It used to be run by the Department of Agriculture. It’s a scary place.

We’re proud of our role as America’s first line of defense against foreign animal diseases.

We’re equally proud of our safety record. Not once in our nearly 50 years of operation has an animal pathogen escaped from the island.

The island houses labs performing dangerous research often with live diseased animals! They publish papers with titles like, “Swine Genomics and Biodefense Countermeasures Discovery ” Some tests are performed on genetically engineered cloned swine–so called “knockout pigs.”

No wonder Plum Island needs “state-of-the-art biosafety practices and procedures to prevent a disease organism from escaping into the environment.”

In case you weren’t already convinced of this place’s importance, “Land, buildings and other facilities of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in June 2003.” You know them–the shoe people from the airport.

Basically you would expect this place to be protected in the manner of a James Bond villain’s lair! High tech security. Constant diligence. Massive law enforcement presence. Actually that’s close to what Plum Island claims.

Restricted access to authorized employees and approved visitors. Trained security professionals and surveillance systems guard the island, laboratory and storage areas 24/7. All employees have pass security clearances.

Last week an unlucky boater drifted across the Sound, landed on Plum Island and walked a few miles across it before being found… but only because he’d stumbled upon the security facility and waited!

New Haven Register: “Security personnel had been away from the office to look for Young and found him upon their return, according to John Olsen, Coast Guard operations controller.”

Just a guess, but had this been a real emergency I don’t think he would have walked to the office and waited, right?

I don’t know everything on Plum Island and probably don’t want to. Even with the little I know this undetected incursion scares the crap out of me.

Has DHS come to the same conclusion I have? God, I hope so.

Tweed/New Haven Airport Is Not A Happy Place

Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

Tweed New Haven Airport USAir Express takeoffI opened the editorial page of Friday’s New Haven Register and was unhappy to read: “Tweed’s prospects fade for new airline.”

In this case, Tweed is Tweed/New Haven Airport. It’s big enough for 737s and DC9s, but the only service nowadays are puddle jumpers to Philly and back.

There was a time when a bunch of airlines flew to New Haven. In the last decade we’ve had non-stop service to Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (though not at the same time). Each time one of them pulled out, the word from within was, the service was doing fine, but the airline wanted to be elsewhere.

It is by far the most convenient airport I’ve ever flown from. The terminal is small and steps from the parking lot. There is a jetway, but it hasn’t been used for scheduled service in years and I’d be surprised if it’s full functional.

My sadness comes from the closing paragraph:

The reality for Tweed is that even with the necessary safety and runway improvements, its ability to attract new air service is severely hampered by the state of the airline industry. Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

I’m sad because it’s true.

The level of airline service says something about a community. Not having it says something too. For the foreseeable future, Tweed has no future.

The Problem With Being Quoted

Abe Katz wrote a winter outlook story for yesterday’s New Haven Register. I was one of the ‘experts’ quoted.

Let’s just say my quotes weren’t the ones you’d put in the first paragraph.

What does this mean?

Not a whole lot, said Geoff Fox, meteorologist at WTNH. “I’m a real non-believer in long term forecasts,” he said.

My problem, however, comes with a quote deeper in the article. I’m not sure whether I was misquoted or just didn’t say exactly what I meant.

There are two problems, Fox said: The forecasts are not accurate, and people live day to day, not season to season.

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life?” Fox said

What I meant to say, or possibly did say, was:

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life day-to-day?”

Adding day-to-day makes all the difference, because you would notice a season that’s three degrees below normal. That small temperature difference would take marginal rain days and make them snow days. Your heating bill would be significantly higher. You just wouldn’t notice it on any particular day.

It’s a tiny difference in meaning, but a significant one.

Continue reading “The Problem With Being Quoted”

Nice Mention In The Paper

I had a nice mention by Randy Beach in this Sunday’s New Haven Register. I am flattered they consider me a credible source.

I like answering reporter’s questions about weather, but it’s really difficult. The atmosphere is very complex.

Unfortunately, you can’t give complex answers. They have to be understood by a general audience with little scientific background. At the same time, in order to simplify, I’m removing exceptions that make it more difficult to generalize.

What I’m saying is, I don’t want someone smarter than me reading what I said and saying, “What an idiot.” Surely it’s happened in the past. And there are lots of really smart people in this area.

Speaking of outside media, I join Faith Middleton on WNPR a week from today. The two Times-Picayune reporters who wrote the definitive story on Katrina will also be there.

What they say about New Orleans will probably frighten people. What I’ll say about Connecticut should frighten even more. The more I look at it, the more petrified I am by another Hurricane of ’38 scenario.

Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to toss that around too.

Continue reading “Nice Mention In The Paper”

Bluetooth And Me

Before I left for Maine, I was interviewed by Jim Shelton for a New Haven Register story concerning Bluetooth technology.

Two More Articles Quote Me

I’ve become the Dr. Joyce Brothers of weather. Need a quote – here I am. Either I’m very pithy or too accessible. Either way, there are new articles from The New Haven Register and Norwich Bulletin.

This isn’t Earth shattering stuff. I’ve put it here more to archive it than to force you to read it.

Continue reading “Two More Articles Quote Me”

About My Friend’s Mom

As Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans, I phoned a friend’s mother to tell her to leave. I wrote about this in an earlier entry.

This past week her story was told in the Connecticut Post and New Haven Register.

I’ve attached both stories after the jump.

Continue reading “About My Friend’s Mom”

UConn versus Army

There are more photos available from this blog entry by clicking here

I wasn’t going to let a sore toe stop me (actually, I would have, but the toe is getting a little better day-by-day). This was my day to shoot pictures at the UConn – Army game.

I left the house around 10:30 and drove to Rentschler Field in East Hartford. I knew where the field was, sort of. I had printed out directions off the computer, but chose to listen to the DOT’s radio station on 1610 kHz to get me where I was going.

Any time I’ve listened to DOT’s network of low power highway stations I’ve been disappointed. Usually, there was no usable timely info at all! Adding insult to injury, the broadcast is sometimes padded with time killers, moving you farther from the content you really want to hear. And the signal strength and audio quality are awful

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

This time was different. The station repeated a recording of simple directions to the field from all the major access roads. This is exactly what should be on.

I turned past the Pratt and Whitney property and followed the cars. If had no idea where to go with my parking pass, but the attendants along the way saw it and waved me in the right direction. I parked about 4-5 minutes walk from the stadium on what looked like well manicured grass.

Thank heavens it wasn’t raining! In fact it was partly cloudy and well into the 70s. In other words, perfect.

I met John Pierson, our sports reporter and Kevin Frederick (who normally shoots video for sports, but was at the game as a ‘civilian,’). I’m glad I ran into John because I don’t think I would have known where to go or what to do once I got into the stadium.

We made our way down to the field level. Both teams were on the field warming up. The stands were 25% full. By game time the teams would have left and returned for their official introductions and the stands would have filled closer to capacity&#185.

I carried my Canon Digital Rebel with the Sigma 70-300 mm lens attached. Over my shoulder was a small camera bag with an 18-125 mm lens, a spare battery and two extra compact flash cards.

By the end of the game… actually before the end of the game, all three cards were filled. That’s over 1 gigabyte of photos! The final count was 317 actual. That’s fewer shots than I anticipated by nearly a hundred. I’m not sure why this particular shoot created such big files.

If there’s one thing I learned at the game, it’s that I need one more card. The prices are down. I’ll order one later today.

John took me to the end zone section adjacent to where the Huskies would enter. He introduced me to four girls, including quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s sister. Then we went and met Dan’s father who has better seats than his daughter!

Dan Sr. and I chatted for a few minutes. Not knowing him, but knowing who his son is, I addressed him as Mr. Orlovsky. Respect under these circumstances is appropriate and fair.

I later found out he’s two years younger than me. Maybe the mister part wasn’t necessary?

There’s an interesting observation to be made here. I have often equated hurricane watching to seeing a car accident in slow motion. Watching Dan Orlovsky is like watching a Lotto winner in slow motion. You know it’s just a matter of time before he’s worth millions of dollars from the NFL. He’s got to know that too. He’s that good – probably a first round pick.

I was afforded an incredible amount of access and freedom on the field. Back a few feet from the out of bounds line and end zone was another line – a dashed line. As long as I stayed behind it, I was fine. It gave me an amazing view of the field.

I started shooting on the first play and soon learned it was very difficult to follow the action on a pass play with a lens. Following with a TV camera is one thing, but my still camera rewards someone who can anticipate where the ball will be in the fraction of a second it takes for the mirror in the camera to flip and the shutter to open.

Often, I’d have my camera at the ready as a play would start, but I’d never get anything to shoot. Other times the player would be turned away from me or blocked by someone else. Sometimes my camera, which is supposed to continually focus while shooting sports action, just wouldn’t focus quickly enough or would focus on something other than what I was tracking.

You can be the judge. I’ve taken forty of the best shots and put them in my gallery. The thumbnails don’t give you a sense of what was shot, so please click for larger versions.

At halftime I went under the stands to a small room for the on-field media. It was surprising to see a number of newspaper photographers downloading their shots onto laptops and sending them on their way. At least one photographer (New Haven Register, I think) was using Photoshop – processing and cropping her shots before an editor even saw them.

As I expected, I saw a lot of much faster lenses – big lenses with wide openings. One of the photographers had a humongously telephoto lens with f1.8 speed. He’s getting 8 times as much light as I am, giving him a great deal of latitude. On the other hand, I can still buy food, something I wouldn’t be able to do as the owner of that lens.

Most of these big lenses demand a monopod. They are too heavy to hand hold for long. The monopod is actually attached to the lens and not the camera body itself.

As the second half was starting I walked by the UConn bench and said hello to Jeff Fox, one of the players. I’m not sure if he got what I was trying to say… that we both had the same name (though one of us spells it incorrectly).

It is cool to have a player with the same name as me. He can’t be related though. None of my relatives, or their families, have any athletic ability at all!

By the time I was finished shooting the stands were back to being 25% full. UConn had cut through the Army like a hot knife through butter. It wasn’t a contest.

This was fun. I’d like to try again. I’m not sure I can quantify what I’ve learned from this, but I’d look back at my shots and try and figure out what worked and why and how I can do it again.

There are more photos available from this game. Just click here

&#185 – The game was a sellout, though that doesn’t mean everyone attended. There were plenty of empty seats.

Why SNET/SBC Won’t Rat on You

Over the past few months, the recording industry has reached out and sued dozens of people who downloaded songs (probably) illegally from sites like Napster and Kazaa. All the RIAA can tell is the IP address of the file swapper.

An IP address is the main way a computer is identified on the Internet. For instance, you probably came to this site by going to www.geofffox.com. Your Internet service provider, using a DNS server, translates that for you into a series of numbers (4 groups of numbers 0-255). geofffox.com is really… click it and see.

This computer I’m on now also has an IP address, as does the one you’re using. Every computer on the Internet has an IP address.

If the RIAA knows a file swapper had IP address, they can go to a central registry and see who the address is owned by. Most likely it’s not owned by the user, but by an Internet Service Provider, like SNET/SBC here in Connecticut. So, to find the culprit, they the have to ask SNET/SBC – and they have been saying no.

There’s a very interesting opinion piece in this morning’s New Haven Register about why SNET/SBC won’t squeal on you.

In the article, they take the high road. God bless them. But, I think there is something else at stake here as well. If companies and individuals are going to start using cable providers, phone companies and ISP’s as their private investigators, there will be lots of money spent and ill will received by the cable companies, telcos and ISP’s. I don’t think they want the responsibility nor do they want to be put in the position of being forced to monitor their customers movements across the net.

There is still a great deal of misinformation, with people thinking their anonymous when they surf or email. It’s just not so. You leave a trail much more easily followed than bread crumbs for all to see.

One more thing – off the topic a bit. If you’re not in Connecticut, you probably don’t recognize SNET, Southern New England Telephone. It is a very old name, associated with the earliest telephone interconnections. It was not a Bell company. Its name will soon disappear beneath the banner of SBC. That will be our small loss in Connecticut.

A few years ago, when dealing with an out of state vendor, who needed to know my phone company, he kept referring to them as “S-NET”, as if it were some Silicon Valley high tech startup. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I will miss the name when it disappears; another sign of the ‘nationalizing’ of big business.

Continue reading “Why SNET/SBC Won’t Rat on You”