Mistrust And Fear

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market.

The TV was on when President Obama walked into the White House briefing room today. He was ‘walking back’ his comment on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.”

Agreed. Here’s my takeaway on this whole thing.

1) President Obama did what our recent president(s) wouldn’t. He was conciliatory. He attempted to dial down the rhetoric. He admitted he’d been wrong in what he had said and characterizations he’d made. He was a mensch!

2) Here is a problem which cuts and separates our society.

There continues to be a racial divide in America. I am not proud to say I have been frightened by young, black men solely because they were young, black men. I am not alone.

Any time I hear a news story about some perp arrested during a ‘routine traffic stop,’ I think: DWB–Driving While Black. There is no doubt there is some… maybe more than some… racial targeting. It is an institutionalized manifestation of the fear I’ve experienced.

A significant portion of black America originally thought O.J. Simpson was framed because he was black and because… well because that’s what happens.

There’s an old joke: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following you. Similarly, just because there is profiling didn’t mean O.J. was innocent. It is too easy and patently unfair to dismiss any incident as being wholly racial just because some are. It’s the other side of the racial paranoia coin.

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market. It is bad for all of us.

More than likely Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley (the Cambridge, MA police officer involved) came into this confrontation already primed. Tensions and tempers flared. Neither could find the easy way to get out with their dignity intact.

If this incident opens up a national dialogue it will have been worth whatever discomfort these two men have endured. We need that dialog.

The Other Geoff Foxes

I grew up thinking I had this name to myself. Another childhood fantasy gone bust.

I suppose I’m lucky to have GeoffFox.com as my own. As obscure as my name might seem, there are lots of us Geoff Foxes around. More than I ever realized!

There’s Geoff Fox who’s a newspaper reporter in Florida. Tampa Geoff, you’ll be glad to know, I specifically exclude your byline from my “Geoff Fox” Google search. Otherwise, you’d overwhelm me.

There’s an author named Geoff Fox who lives (or lived) in Brooklyn, NY. He owns GeoffreyFox.com. Damn! I could have had that too. To say he is a prolific author is an understatement!

Also up there in the impressivosity (not a word, but it should be) Dr. Geoffrey Fox from Indiana University. Dr. Fox is a professor (whereas I am closer to Gilligan) in the Department of Computer Science, School of Informatics. What exactly is informatics?

The most famous Geoff Fox is probably the guy who owns Fox Racing–well known in motocross circles. He could probably buy and sell us all.

This all comes up because my forward searching brought me news of Geoff Fox who did quite well at the Worcestershire UK Golf Club’s Captain’s Day. Good at golf? He’s no relative of mine.

I grew up thinking I had this name to myself. Another childhood fantasy gone bust.

I Stalk Myself

We’re talking 1970-71. Is there really someone out who knows my career details from 35 plus years ago? Wow!

It’s true, I stalk myself. Google searches for me across the Internet and when it finds a new listing it sends me an email with the link. Thanks Sergey and Larry.

I don’t get that many hits, but every once in a while it’s something juicy. People forget they’re speaking in public. They don’t realize Google reads sparsely traveled boards.

This was posted around a month ago. It was part of a conversation about West Palm Beach radio.

Before that it was WGMW a rock station, co-owned by Tom Kegel (sp) ex of WIRK. He brought over Geoff Fox ex WIRK, WQXT, WMUM and now a TV weatherman in CT. The odd thing was that they had a night time talk show with an older ex-NY radio guy known as Half beard. Apparently in his early days his stunt had been to shave 1/2 his face

We’re talking 1970-71. This guy has just correctly named four stations I worked at. Is there really someone out who knows my career details from 35 plus years ago? Wow!

The guy with the, then, clean shaven face was Mitch Sandler. He had been Professor Half Beard in an earlier incarnation. I don’t remember his air style, except he was older, smart and very liberal. There were a lot of very liberal people back then. Mitch passed away a long time ago.

This was an interesting station. Physically, we had glassed in studios at a failed mall with little traffic in Riviera Beach, Florida. We were automated, meaning tapes and cartridges fired in sequence or by timer. I designed the format and it was impossible to tell we weren’t live. It was a mostly (not totally) dependable system from Shaffer, who served mostly beautiful music stations back then.

To save money, the owners had me do the morning show, but work all-night. Then, they’d forget to saunter in until 9:30 or 10:00 O’clock. Maybe some day I’ll forget that treatment.

Tonight’s other Google tip was for a more recent post by someone who calls himself “TheNews”

“WTNH’s Geoff Fox Out?,” “His bio is off the WTNH site. It would be sad he’s been there since 1984!”

It would, wouldn’t it? This was a screw-up at the station. They redesigned a webpage and left me off. It happens.

“His pic is still on the storm team 8 banner on top. And other graphics. I never really cared for Geoff Fox. At least at Channel 3 when Hilton left they gave him a be party at the end of the newscast and everything,” – Ken.

For those skimming, Ken didn’t care for me. Hilton is Hilton Kaderli, formerly of WFSB in Hartford and an icon in this market. I’m glad to have him as a friend.

I would be lying if I said Ken’s opinion of me doesn’t make me cringe a little. It’s part of my job and I accept it–but grudgingly.

On the other hand, there’s stuff like this from “oldschooltv”

“I think he was on vacation last week (see his blog: geofffox.com). Personally, I like Geoff. Forecasting in Connecticut is not easy with all the various micro-climates we have due to the hills, valleys, inland, shoreline, etc. He knows our area well and has been around for a long time. They’d be crazy to ever get rid of him.”

This is eavesdropping, right?

At the moment, I’m wondering how many of my co-workers and contemporaries do the same thing with Google? I have no clue. I wonder if Hilton will see this?

The Farnsworth Invention

I went to NYC tonight to see “The Farnsworth Invention.” It is the story of David Sarnoff (Hank Azaria) and Philo Farnsworth (Jimmi Simpson). Farnsworth invented television but was robbed of his patent.

I drove to the city by myself. Helaine and Stef were driving east, seeing Joy Behar at Foxwoods.

I was going to meet up with the secretive son of my secretive West Coast friend. He, along with a friend of his from school, had flown east for a few days. My secret friend’s family has a secret small apartment on the Upper East Side, which is where the son and his friend are staying.

By the time I reached Manhattan, they were out. I headed down to Greenwich Village to pick them up.

I’d like to think I know New York City very well, but the lower end of Manhattan where streets no longer run parallel and have names instead of numbers, is another story. It’s very confusing and I left the GPS home.

We drove down St. Marks Place and headed north to 8th Avenue and 45th Street. The Music Box Theater is on 45th between Broadway and 8th.

Lots of people avoid driving in Manhattan. I embrace it. It’s actually a lot of fun, if you go in with the right mindset. Just remember, the goal is to fill any open car-sized space with a car. To the victor goes the spoils!

Parking is simple. You enter Manhattan knowing you cannot park on the street and that off-street parking is ridiculously expensive. With tax, parking was $44.

At least we got to watch the cars ride the car elevator, which not only goes up and down, but also goes sideways!

The Music Box Theater is small as Broadway houses go. We sat upstairs, about halfway through the balcony The site lines were excellent, as was the sound. There’s no doubt we were looking down on the actors, which isn’t a plus.

The Farnsworth Invention portrays both Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff as themselves and on-stage narrators. Sometimes, as narrator, the actors break the fourth wall, acknowledging and speaking to the audience or even clarifying a point by talking directly to the other character, who remains in character!

To pull this off, you need superb timing. That’s how it’s written and how it was performed!

As the first act progressed, I grew to like the visionary character that was David Sarnoff… but was I? Was it really Sarnoff or the way he was being portrayed by Azaria? Sarnoff was quite the businessman, but was he charming too?

Hank Azaria’s voice reminded me of George Burns. I know that’s strange. Of course, Azaria has a million voices, many of which are heard on The Simpsons&#185.

The likability of Philo Farnsworth is less in question. He, a Mormon, electronics savant from the middle of nowhere, stays simple and true to his science even as everything around him gets more complex. I think Jimmi Simpson was a great choice.

The show actually has a large cast. I’m saying actually, because none of them was memorable. That’s a necessity, as they were each playing three or four little roles.

The play was written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Sports Night). It tells two stories… often conflicting stories… simultaneously. From two perspectives, they piece together the life of Philo Farnsworth who, with no formal training and a limited budget, created most of the technology that is TV.

As he worked, Farnsworth raced against RCA and a team led by Vladimir Zworykin. Zworykin would ultimately get the patent, using what the play refers to as “industrial espionage,” to finish his project with bits of Farnsworth’s technology.

In the end, was this amazing discovery better off with scientist Farnsworth or broadcasting entrepreneur Sarnoff, who know how to market TV to the masses?

Maybe I’m too easy on Broadway, but I loved the show.

The entire Fox Family is back on Broadway later this week. It’s a musical.

&#185 – Moe the bartender, Apu the Kwik-E-Mart owner, Police Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera and Comic Book Guy.

(The) Sedaka (Picture) Is Back

What a great surprise. Last night, Paul Tontini visited me at work. Paul is a local photographer who’d been working at the Neil Sedaka concert.

I’m ecstatic, because he printed and brought me a series of shots with me and Helaine. She wouldn’t want them posted, but they’re really nice and I’m forever grateful.

There was also a shot of me with Neil Sedaka (actually, there was someone else in the photo too. Sorry – Photoshop at work. He’s gone) and one of me on-stage at the podium.

Of the stage photo, Helaine says I look like a professor. I’m not sure I can buy into that, but it’s a place I’m often at, and never get a chance to see.

Reframing An Argument

Stef called tonight. It’s Sunday night, but there was schoolwork to be done. We spent a little time discussing an assignment from one of her courses.

The professor mentioned George Lakoff and the concept of reframing an argument.

It’s actually a pretty effective tactic. Can’t win an argument? Reframe it by making the overlying concept something no one could disagree with.

No sooner did I hang up the phone than I read an example.


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

If I’m reading this correctly, Kerr says get used to having anything you say or do connected directly to you.

Right now, where you are, or what you say and do, is your business alone. This blog is out in the open, but if I send you email, it is private. At least it is now.

I’m not sure how this privacy will disappear, but I’m guessing it’s a combination of eavesdropping, spying, snooping and database aggregation.

Who would go for that? Not too many, especially if you use words like eavesdropping and spying. Kerr didn’t, though he works in intelligence, also known as spying.

Kerr reframed the argument. Here’s the operative phrase:

… government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

Of course, safeguard! Who could be opposed to that?

You seldom get to put an abstract concept from a university course into practical terms so quickly. I’m afraid that’s not a good thing this time.

Just Call Me Geoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cramming For Finals – The Other Side

I was up in the middle of the night, playing Scrabble online, when the “buh-duh-dee-doop” of IM came across my speakers. It was a friend, typing from Tallahassee where he’s a professor at FSU.

He made a comment about something I had said hours earlier (how typical is that of IM conversations) and we chatted a few minutes. Then he had to go. He had to grade finals.

That’s right – like students cramming to get everything done, he was up in the middle of the night, hoping to make today’s deadline… which he did, finishing at 8:30 AM.

When I was a kid, I thought school teachers never went to the bathroom. Now another education myth has been busted.

Tough Night To Be Quoted

Drudge was linking to another Northeast Due for Big Hurricane story tonight. In it, along with AccuWeather quotes, was one from a Plymouth State professor, Dr. Lourdes Aviles.

I read it and got upset pretty quickly.

Dear Professor Aviles,

I read your quote from the AP:

Lourdes Aviles, a Plymouth State University assistant meteorology professor, said Reeves’ forecast sounds right. That New England hasn’t had a strong hurricane in 50 years could signal the region’s luck is running out, she said.

I would expect this from a layman, but I am disappointed to see a meteorologist say this. As far as I know, there is no memory in climatology. 50, 100, 1000 years – what difference does it make?

The trouble is, you help reinforce this false ‘overdue’ notion that is being hyped.

It didn’t take long before she wrote back. What had been anger toward her comments quickly turned around.

I have written the AP, hoping a correction will be published, though those seldom come close to undoing the damage.

Hi Geoff,

I actually never said that. I made a point to mention to the reporter that talked to me on the phone to say that there was no way to know if such a strong hurricane would hit us this year or in 10 years or in 50 years. I said that because of the climatology, it has happened in this region and it will happen again, but I never said that it will happen this year because we are due. The reporter just heard what wanted to hear. He never mentioned Reeves name to me and I tried over and over to repeat to him that this is not how it works.

This really concerns me because this article has gotten more exposure than I thought it would get and it bothers me that it appears that I am going with the hype, when I am not.

Never believe that all quotes are exact. The report had a conversation with me and that was it. He paraphrased what he believed I was saying, instead of writing what I said. In fact, what he said I agreed with was the fact that the Long Island, Rhode Island, Eastern Massachusetts coast was more exposed than the rest of New England, but the way he wrote it, it seemed like he was saying that I agreed with everything that Reeves said. I also just realized that the article that you are pointing to is from AP and it is based on an article written by a local reporter of a small Dover, NH newspaper.

In fact, the way I see that the media works, I am wondering if Reeves actually said what the newspapers are saying he said

Vacation… Again

Here’s something new employees never look at, or think about (and not just where I work, but everywhere). If you stay long enough, you get a lot of vacation! Right now I get four weeks of vacation plus ten additional days for working holidays. That’s six full weeks off.

With that in mind, and Steffie getting six weeks between semesters (Wow – college is better than work!), we’ve decided to take a vacation.

I’ve mentioned my Southwest Airlines credit card before, and it enters into this vacation. With a bunch of free tickets stowed away, air fare was not a problem. Now, where to go?

I’m not quite sure how we got to this point, but a cruise was brought up by one of us and agreed to by all of us.

We’ve been all over the Caribbean, so decided to go elsewhere. We’ll be flying to Los Angeles, spending the night, at a hotel. then boarding our ship, the Norwegian Star, in San Pedro for a trip down the Mexican Coast… or as the cruise lines call it, the Mexican Riviera.

Norwegian Star Intinerary
Day Port Arrive Depart
Wed. Los Angeles – – 6:00pm
Thu. At sea – – – –
Fri. At sea – – – –
Sat. Manzanillo 10:00am 6:00pm
Sun. Puerto Vallarta 7:00am 6:00pm
Mon. Mazatlan 8:00am 6:00pm
Tue. Cabo San Lucas 7:00am 2:00pm
Wed. At sea – – – –
Thu. Los Angeles 9:00am – –

Originally the ship was to go to Acapulco first and slowly head north over eight days. That changed a few weeks ago when a problem showed up on the ship’s propulsion system. It can no longer do 25 knots… only 20. Acapulco is too far.

They say the ship will be fine until it gets dry docked in March. I don’t want to see us cruising behind a tow truck.

At first we were disappointed. Helaine and I went to Acapulco for our honeymoon. As time went on, we were told Acapulco isn’t what it once was (and even when we were there the beach had Federales armed with automatic weapons!).

From Los Angeles we go to Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Mostly I will go with the flow, doing what Helaine and Steffie want to do (i.e. mostly shopping).

In Manzanillo I plan on meeting up with a professor from the Monterrey Institute for a day trip to the Colima Volcano. It is just a plan because the professor hasn’t written back in the last day – we’ll see.

There have been changes to cruising since we last went. The ship has its own cell site – though at $1.99/minute mine will be turned off! There is also Internet access. It is also pricey and slow, but I will be checking email (which is how our voicemail will be delivered too). Having Internet access also means the blog will be fed.

We decided to get a room with a balcony. OK – I decided to get a room with a balcony and then convinced everyone else. This way, if there’s any conflict, the offending party can be thrown overboard without breaking the porthole glass. I think it was a practical decision.

I do have one fear on this trip – weather. The forecast for our departure from Connecticut is rainy with a little frozen stuff mixed in. California, though suffering from awful weather for the last few weeks, should be sunny with temps near 70.

We have never cruised the Pacific. Though Magellan thought it was placid when he named it, it can be anything but! I will be popping Bonine like there’s no tomorrow. I once got seasick while snorkeling! Hopefully the waves will be small.

Gee Geoff, You Must Love This Stuff

It happens with every snow storm and every severe weather outbreak. Someone will come to me and say, “You must really enjoy this wild weather.” No. The simple answer is no.

I’m not sure why it happens. Would someone go to their doctor and say, “Boy, you must really love it when someone gets sick?” I hope not.

The truth is, though most weather is harmless… even most severe weather… some is not. A call came in a few minutes ago from a co-worker telling me about all the tree limbs down in his part of the state.

“Was it a microburst,” he wanted to know?

Sometimes lightning strikes. Sometimes bigs winds do blow things down, damaging property, hurting people. Snow storms cost money too, as well as having the potential to hurt you.

There are lots of people who do what I do because they grew up enjoying storms. I can’t blame them for that interest. But, as an adult, it’s time to look at this with perspective.

Last night I watched a lecture in one of my meteorology courses. The professor was practically frothing at the mouth as he talked about the setup for a possible tornadic outbreak. He used phrases like, “what you want,” while talking about what we actually don’t want.

I found it disturbing. I was getting angry as I viewed the DVD.

I’m sure he meant no harm and wouldn’t want people injured or property destroyed. That was, however, what he was excited about. He seemed unable to separate his fascination with storms from their reality.

I read things like this on a weather related bulletin board I frequent too. These don’t seem to be rare instances.

Maybe I don’t get it because I came upon weather later in life. It was originally a way of working inside during Buffalo winters. It wasn’t my passion as a child.

Whatever the reason, I find it distasteful.

Theft and Deterence

Yesterday, I was commenting about protecting my daughter’s laptop. This morning, already sensitized to theft, I read Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the Times with great interest. He was talking about cars and not computers and the thrust of the article was unexpected.

Car theft, it turns out, is a volume business. And so if even a small percentage of vehicles have LoJack, the professional thief will eventually steal a car with one and get caught.

The thief’s challenge is that it’s impossible to determine which vehicle has a LoJack (there’s no decal). So stealing any car becomes significantly more risky, and one academic study found that the introduction of LoJack in Boston reduced car theft there by 50 percent.

Two Yale professors, Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, note that this means that the LoJack benefits everyone, not only those who install the system. Professor Ayres and another scholar, Steven Levitt, found that every $1 invested in LoJack saves other car owners $10.

The article is well worth reading. To summarize Kristoff, there are two ways to protect yourself. One makes everyone safer… saves everyone money. The other saves you, but sends the thieves elsewhere.

I’m not sure how much of this is applicable to my daughter’s laptop, but it makes a topic I always thought was pretty simple a lot more complex and thought provoking.

Visiting Hofstra University

As a parent there are some moments that are benchmarks – signals your child has reached an important milestone. Sunday was one of those days.

We woke up early and drove to Hofstra University, where Steffie has been admitted for the class of 2009.

It was a spectacular day with bright sunshine, dry air and comfortable temperatures. I asked Helaine to shoot a few pictures as we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge, because on a day like today, Manhattan in the far distance is very impressive.

Our trip to Hofstra went without a hitch and took around 1:30. By the time we got there other families were also arriving. There was little need for on campus directions – all we had to do was follow the throng.

As we walked along there were students and faculty wearing ribbons and “Ask Me” name tags. One of them corralled us, took Steffie’s registration information and handed her a cloth bag with school materials and a very large, gray, Hofstra t-shirt.

We stood around in the sunshine for a few minutes and then walked into a large theater, taking our seats in the fourth row.

About 15 minutes before the scheduled start time the Hofstra Pep Band began to play. They started out of sight, but were lifted up to stage level on an elevator in the orchestra pit. Though they weren’t the tightest group I’d ever heard, they accomplished their goal, because we were getting enthused.

It should be noted, there are pep band songs that every school’s band plays. It’s probably very lucrative to own the rights to “Give Me Good Lovin'” originally done by the Spencer Davis or a dozen others that are played wherever hoops are shot.

The first official speaker was the president of the university, brought on the the dean of admissions. The the provost came and spoke a little longer.

Though Steffie has already made up her mind to go to Hofstra, it became obvious that a major thrust of this session was to sell undecideds on choosing Hofstra.

Colleges and universities have a difficult job. They must take enough students to fill their school, but they have no way to know how many who are accepted will really attend… or how many who are wait listed will still be around if they’re needed.

Even as a non-profit, without a neutral or positive cash flow each year, schools won’t survive.

Steffie has decided she wants to major in public relations which is within the School of Communication. In a wonderful talk, Professor Ellen Frisina explained the long painstaking deliberations that came before deciding to call it the School of Communication, not Communications. She admits she still isn’t quite sure what the difference is, but it is singular!

We were very impressed by Professor Frisina and went up to talk with her, as did with many others, after the session.

There is one thing I’ll disagree with. I heard it today, and it had been a theme when we visited other college campuses. The claim is their program will prepare you to walk out of college and into a job, already having mastered in college what you’re going to be doing in the professional world.

I don’t see how they teach, or what they teach, but college is not the real world. I have yet to see anyone, ever, walk in off a college campus “good to go.” There are always nuances and pressures not experienced in college which factor into every job from day one.

This was a positive experience for all of us and I think (at this moment) Steffie is more confident than ever in her choice of a major.

I am more than a little jealous after having read a brochure for their on campus facilities. Each dorm room is connected to the Internet with OC-3 speed – 115 Mbps. That is approximately 25 times faster than my cable modem delivers!

It was also interesting to see this bank of copying machines on the lower level of the library. I’m curious if the availability of ‘cut and paste’ research materials has turned these into expensive dinosaurs?

Our school visit over, Stef asked if she could make a short stop at Roosevelt Field Mall. I’ve written about this mall, built over the airfield Lindbergh used when he flew across the Atlantic, before.

At 7:52 A.M., May 20, 1927, Charles Lindberg left on his solo flight across the Atlantic. The Spirit of St. Louis, loaded with gasoline, lumbered down the runway before finally becoming airborne. He barely had enough altitude to clear the telephone lines at the end of the runway at Roosevelt Field.

You would think Roosevelt Field, though no longer used for aviation, would be a memorial or historic shrine to the bravery, accomplishment and good luck of Charles Lindberg. No, this is Long Island – it’s a mall.

While they shopped, I attempted to sleep in the car. I parked in the garage with the thought it would be cooler out of the sun. That was true. However, the radio reception was awful and I learned everyone on Long Island… OK most people on Long Island… have car alarms which chirp when they’re enabled and randomly wail!

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


Midterms for my two summer courses were due at 12:00 noon today. I finished close to 4:00 AM. That’s par for the course.

As late as midnight I told Steffie (who seems to have inherited her father’s nocturnal lifestyle) I was apprehensive. I’ve done well in both courses but could sense impending doom.

I did everything I could to postpone the inevitable. I went downstairs to snack. Played a quick game of poker (A $15 +$1 sit ‘n go turbo tournament where I placed 3rd and got back $22). Went downstairs again. Finally, I had no choice but to take the tests.

They were both 50 question, multiple choice, open book test (if you don’t know the work a book won’t help. Maybe you could look up ten answers before running out of time). Each test had a time limit of 60 minutes, and a countdown clock on the top of the test’s browser window.

Summer classes at MSU are given in a condensed time frame. What is normally a seven day cycle becomes a five days. Assignments, due on Wednesdays in the fall and spring, float around the days of the week. I’ve had deadlines on weekends and even holidays.

I took the Applied Climatology midterm first. It was difficult, but I think I did all right. Considering no one will ever see my grades, I probably anguish a little too much over this.

The Radar Meteorology midterm was another story. For the past few days other students had been kvetching on the class bulletin board that there was no study guide (a luxury I had never even suspected existed before my Mississippi State classes). The professor replied everything was fair game. But this course had lots of reading, complex formulas and voluminous webpage references. It was a daunting task to prepare.

After his response the tension on the bulletin board became thick enough to cut with a knife.

There’s no doubt, the test was tough. I have no idea how I did. Most likely it will be one of the low points of the last six semesters.

I have no problem with the lack of a study guide, I am, however, bothered by double questions. I’m not sure what else to call them. The way it works is, you’re given two separate questions, true or false. So, the answer could be both true, both false, etc. The problem is, it’s possible to know half the answers in this test and get a 0%. To me, that seems a little unfair.

Unfortunately, it is entirely the professor’s call. I really don’t have any say. I try and go with the flow. There’s no choice.

Usually, tests and quizzes are graded very quickly. But, here we are nearly seven hours after the tests closed and no results. Radar Meteorology should be ready tomorrow, but there’s been no word on the status of Applied Climatology.

I’ve got to lighten up. I really do.