Finals Finished

I took my finals in Thermodynamics and Weather Prediction I early this morning. During the spring and fall semesters there’s a quiz due at noon every Wednesday, an extra homework test every third Wednesday and the midterm and final right after weeks six and twelve respectively.

I wasn’t worried about these tests, though I’m always interested in doing well – accomplishing for accomplishment’s sake.

I continue to surprise myself by the very strong, built-in desire I have to put the tests off as long as I can. They became available to take this weekend, but I waited. Then, last night when I cam home from work, I waited some more. I didn’t begin the first test until almost 2:00 AM.

The power to procrastinate, push it back more-and-more, sometimes seems more powerful than my conscious will. I’m not quite sure why. I wasn’t scared of these tests. Even in the courses I’ve been most confident in, I’ve still been motivated to be non-motivated on test night.

Before the test in Weather Prediction I actually calculated what I’d need to get an “A”. All I needed was a 73%. Even that knowledge, that I didn’t have to do well to do well, didn’t speed me along.

There’s not a lot about my college or high school days I remember, but I’m sure this little character quirk didn’t just spring up in time for Mississippi State. Back then I just didn’t fight it as well – much to my detriment.

With these two finals, my MSU career is now 8/9s complete. All I need are two course this summer (May 16 through the end of July), a three day trip to Alabama&#185 for some in-class seminars, and I’m done.

I will ‘officially’ become a meteorologist. That doesn’t mean I’ll be doing anything markedly different than I had in the past, I’ll just have the title.

Going to school has been more trying because of the discipline needed to complete everything on time rather than the difficulty of the course work. Maybe just as important, I’ve learned a lot about the procrastinator in me. He is persistent, but can be overcome.

I never knew that until now.

&#185 – For some reason MSU makes its students trek to Birmingham, Alabama at the end of their three years. I really wish we could have gone to Starkville, MS so I could have seen the school at least once.

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?

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?

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.

My Life in Edumacation

I have just begun my second year at Mississippi State University (These are the Bulldogs, it’s not Ole Miss), studying meteorology.

You might ask, why would someone who has performed the job of meteorologist for the past 20 some odd years now go to school for it… and isn’t the commute to Starkville going to kill me?

It started at my last contract negotiation. Though my boss has a slightly different memory of it that I, the facts are pretty much the same. Our collective boss (The Big WASP Kahuna) thought it would be better, and more promotable if I had the American Meteorological Society Broadcasting Seal of Approval (aka the seal).

At one time, the AMS handed these out like candy on Halloween. That ended about 20 minutes after I entered the weather field when the seal program became the Meteorologists Full Employment Act of 1983. In order to get a seal you would need a core meteorological college level curriculum and then pass a screening.

The station’s offer was, if you invest the time to take the courses (3 years, 17 courses), we will pay your way. So, I’m on a LIN Television scholarship. Interestingly, I will have the seal a few months after the expiration of my current contract.

Mississippi State University developed this distance learning course (what used to be called “correspondence school” ) to scratch an itch. I have recently seen estimates that nearly 30% of all TV meteorologists went through the MSU program.

The lectures are on DVD and videocassette. The textbooks are standard, overpriced, and professor written. Tests and quizzes are given online and are all multiple choice. I guess this opens the program up to cheating, though I have never heard a hint of it.

So far, I’m a straight “A” student. I only mention that because my previous college career (which began in 1968 and is on my permanent record at Mississippi State – and is the reason for the name of this weblog) was a disaster.

I was to college as Gigli was to movies.

This semester my courses are Statistical Climatology and Severe Weather. I actually have enjoyed most of the courses I’ve taken so far, though it is obvious that not every course has the right amount of material for exactly one semester, and not every professor has a flair for lecturing on DVD (It was like chalk on a blackboard to hear one lecturer mispronounce Greenwich, England).

It has been interesting to watch Mississippi State operate. I get lots of emails that are written for students on campus. I found out that cowbells were banned from football games. Who knew? I was invited to seminars to grill perspective administrator candidates.

MSU’s computer system, which is my link to the school, seems rickety. It is constantly down for varying lengths of time. A few semesters ago, during finals, it ran out of space and lost a load of final exams (though not mine). There was no backed up data!

I just went to get an MSU logo to put with this entry… it’s down right now.

A while ago my wife asked, “Have you learned anything?”

The answer is yes.

“But,” she continued, “how important could it be if you haven’t needed it in the last 20 years?”

Good point.