JetBlue’s Problems

jetBlue is in the midst of a meltdown. They’ve scrubbed a boatload of flights tomorrow, the fifth consecutive day of cancellations following a Northeast ice storm. Passengers are up in arms.

There was a call for congressional hearings after a recent debacle by American Airlines in Austin, TX. Whether hearings accomplish anything or not, I see them as certain now.

I don’t know much about the airline business, but I can tell you why jetBlue is having the problems they’re having. To a large extent, it’s because there is no jetBlue!

I look upon jetBlue as a virtual company. It doesn’t own its planes. It doesn’t do most of its maintenance (much of which is performed in El Salvador). Its telephone reservation system is based in Salt Lake City and mostly staffed by women working from home.

Is jetBlue the top priority of any of their contractors?

jetBlue is perfectly staffed… as long as nothing goes wrong. In real life, things go wrong.

Unfortunately, what has happened to jetBlue will happen in more and more places with more and more companies. Since passengers won’t be locked in place for ten or twelve hours we won’t hear as much about them.

Companies are cutting away as much cost as they can and that certainly extends to any protection against unusual failure. There is no profit in standby contingencies.

You see this all the time in stores, with fewer staff members or less competent staff. Here’s what Floyd Norris of the Times said in his blog about the former chairman of Home Depot, Bob Nardelli.

He was a man who thought he was worth unlimited amounts, and yet messed up the company by a desire to slash compensation expenses. He pushed out experienced store workers, figuring part-timers were cheaper, and did not realize in time that those knowledgeable workers were critical to the willingness of amateurs to shop there&#185

In some ways, we bring this on ourselves. We’re willing to shop entirely on price. I’m guilty myself, even though it’s often bad in the long run.

Years ago, when most stores were closed on Sunday’s, my father used to say, “If you don’t want to work Sunday, don’t shop Sunday.” The same applies today. If you don’t want to suffer bad service, don’t shop where service is not a priority.

Easier said than done, I’m sure.

&#185 – When he was drummed out, Nardelli received a king’s ransom in severance. Norris added, “Perhaps Lowe

Another Mention In Print

Wow – two print mentions in the past week. This time Joe Amarante of the New Haven Register called to ask about our lack of winter.

I’m not sure “alarmist crap” is be a phrase I’d use again for attribution. It was inelegant and crude. Unfortunately, it’s an accurate quote. Sometimes stuff just comes out.

I think writers, like Joe and Charlie Walsh at the Connecticut Post (who quoted me last week), have a distinct advantage over TV people. We need to haul our sorry butts to the scene of the crime. Newspaper people can just pick up the phone and interview a half dozen people in the time it takes us to drive to some far off little town.

Continue reading “Another Mention In Print”

What’s Up Hurricane?

Here’s a quote of a quote of a quote. I was reading Dr. Jeff Master’s weather blog this morning. He put numbers on the tropical weather of 2006.

In a word – average

The Atlantic was down. The Eastern Pacific was up. The rest of the world helped make the average… well, average.

Strong storms are up numerically, but experts now think strong storms were vastly underestimated in the pre-satellite, pre-radar, era. We were pretty blind back then.

Then, he quoted a recent statement from the World Meteorological Organization concerning hurricanes and global warming.

A consensus of 125 of the world’s leading tropical cyclone researchers and forecasters says that no firm link can yet be drawn between human-induced climate change and variations in the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones.

In a statement issued in Costa Rica at the World Meteorological Organization’s 6th International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones, it was also declared: No individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change. Tropical cyclone is the umbrella name for hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones.

The recent increase in loss of life and damages from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.

In other words, if you build on the coast, you’re going to be hit when coastal storms come along. Period. End of story.

There’s no need to use global warming as a stalking horse to invoke fear. There will be devastating ‘big ones,’ because people have aggregated where big ones have always come in the past.

The Gulf Coast, from Florida through Texas, is alive with people. Same thing for the East Coast. Sure, Florida has been populous for a long time, but now there’s major development farther north in Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas.

Even here in Connecticut… no, especially here in Connecticut, our shoreline is crammed with people, few of whom have heard of, much less remember the devastation of the Hurricane of ’38.

You don’t need to worry about ‘Super Storms.’ What Mother Nature naturally packs is bad enough already. You’ll see.

How Do They Know It’s Us?

Helaine is out-of-town for a few days. She left from Hartford this morning.

Yesterday afternoon we spent about twenty minutes, including a call to Southwest, trying to ascertain if food was as explosive (and restricted by the TSA) as mouthwash or toothpaste.

It is not.

She left Bradley and flew to BWI Airport outside Baltimore. Terminal B arrival. Terminal A departure.

Southwest flies to Houston’s Hobby Airport’s (I wish it were professional as opposed to a hobby&#185), and this particular flight went to Gate 50. Yes, there are gate numbers higher, but none more remote.

How do they always know we’re coming to make it as far as is humanly possible? They do, you know.

A few years ago, when it was a United hub, we changed planes in Denver. We literally walked the walk between their two farthest gates. It was like taking the tour of DEN!

Another night, changing at Detroit’s Wayne County Airport (DTW if you’re checking your baggage tags) we were so far away, with so little time, I slipped some money to a person driving one of those long motorized carts and got chauffeured.

The terminal was so crowded, I’m still not sure we ran someone down. I closed my eyes except when I was staring down my watch. We got to the gate in the nick of time… well, it would have been if the flight hadn’t been delayed.

Back in my SciFi Channel days I changed planes in Minneapolis. I was talking on the cell phone walking slowly to my gate – 15. As I walked, I passed 19, 18, 17, 16, 31, 30, 29!

You’ve got to be kidding. They were out of order! I almost missed that plane.

Of course this is one reason I enjoy flying from Tweed New Haven Airport so much. There’s only one gate currently in use. Unfortunately, you can only fly to Philadelphia.

Actually, if more airlines would come in to New Haven, I’d promise not to kvetch about the walk.

&#185 – I know, Hobby was a Texas governor – Governor William Pettus Hobby. I just can’t resist cheap humor.

Rainy Saturday

My friend Jon flew in yesterday from Texas, via Long Island and a few other spots. We’ve spent the day together… and I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the problem of flying in your own small plane is, you don’t want to fly out in the weather we’re having. So, Jon is spending the night.

Tomorrow he heads to Evansville, IN before returning to Texas.

Not Meant To Be Alone

Steffie, as has been well established, is away at college. Helaine took this weekend and joined a friend from Texas, seeing Rick Springfield concerts in the Midwest. I am holding down the fort at home.

The house has grown eerily quiet since Steffie left. It is even more quiet now.

I got home from work last night, changed out of my suit and went downstairs to play poker, watch TV and put off bedtime. ESPN Classic has begun running old episodes of ARLI$$ and I tape every one.

I didn’t get to bed until after 5:00 AM. I have no willpower when it comes to going to sleep.

My boss asked if I would work today and knowing there would be post-Rita explanations necessary, I said yes. Without that, this would have been a totally purposeless day. As it was, it was only partially purposeless and very, very quiet.

That’s it. It’s too quiet.

I’ve said this before, but even when we’re not chatting, having Helaine and or Steffie around the house is reassuring. It doesn’t make sense, but the house is different even when I’m downstairs watching TV and Helaine’s upstairs, hours into sleeping.

Tomorrow morning I get up early for the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation “Walk to Cure Diabetes” (that’s a lot of capital letters). This is one of the most rewarding charity events I’m involved in all year. How can you say no to something that affects so many kids and their families?

By Sunday afternoon, the solitude returns. I’m sure there’s something worthwhile to do. I’m sure I’ll never be self motivated enough to do it.

New Orleans, Again

lake-charles-radar.jpgI woke up to see live pictures of a levee breach in New Orleans. I did not expect this.

Hurricane Rita is well out in the Gulf. Though New Orleans is under a Tropical Storm Warning, the winds have been out of the East, but only around 20 mph. Obviously, I underestimated how precarious the situation still is.

I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering of those there, but is this now a significant setback? These homes are already destroyed. They’ve been underwater before.

It certainly does point to how much thinking will have to take place before New Orleans is rebuilt… if it is rebuilt.

Speaking of precarious; we’re going to find out a little more about whether our nation’s finances are secure or precarious. The potential for damage in Texas is just as great, maybe greater, than New Orleans.

Though Galveston could flood, those waters would naturally recede. I’m just as, or more, concerned with the type of damage that took place on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts from Katrina.

It’s possible, no… it’s probable we’ll see houses and industrial facilities leveled – again. Where are we going to come up with all this money?

The best view of this storm is radar, again. The eye is clearly visible on the long range scan out of Lake Charles, LA. Later, as the storm gets a little closer, I’ll start probing it with the Doppler capabilities of the radar to try and get a better feel for the wind speeds within.



A lot of ‘ifs’ in that discussion. Nothing to do now but hope and pray.

Rita On My Mind

I woke up late this morning to hear Hurricane Rita had been upgraded to 140 mph. This is a major hurricane.

My favorite observational tool is radar. You really get a feel for the structure of the storm with radar that you can’t get with satellite imagery, but Rita’s now too far from shore to get a meaningful radar return.

The satellite shows everything you don’t want to see. Rita remains symmetrical. There don’t seem to be any external forces distorting the shape, implying Rita is not being tugged or prodded by the outside environment. Further strengthening in the short term seems likely.

The Hurricane Center has shifted the projected landfall south. That’s farther away from Galveston and Houston… but still in the neighborhood.

There is an area between Houston and Corpus Christi that seems to be less densely populated. It’s not as desolate as the area closer to Brownsville. Still there is a nuclear plant there. There’s also a large industrial complex I can’t identify, except to say a railroad line runs right through it

We don’t have any say in this.

I don’t envy the people of Texas. A train is coming down the tracks – they can see it, but they can’t stop it. And, the memory of Katrina is so fresh in everyone’s mind.

Katrina Shifts West Again

Earlier this afternoon, before the Hurricane Center issued its 5:00 PM update on Katrina, I sent an instant message to my friend Bob at FSU. I told him I was putting up a dollar that Katrina’s forecast would be shifted left.

It was.

I had the exact same feeling tonight… and NHC moved it again.

Maybe feeling is the wrong word, because this isn’t intuition or guesswork. I could see signs. The storm was refusing to make the predicted right turn. In fact, it was traveling south of west.

To the north there was some sort of convergence. Feeder bands from the hurricane were meeting something moving from the north. Clouds were showing up bright white – a sign they were developing vertically.

Whatever it was to the north, it would impede that right turn forecast at the Hurricane Center.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. The best hurricane information is often contained in the forecaster’s technical discussion. These really were meant to be ‘internal use only’ documents, but you can’t do that when you work for the government.

In these the lead forecaster discusses what has gone into the latest forecast package. I’m sure it’s very helpful at NHC after the hurricane season is over or whenever post mortems are done.

I’ll attach tonight’s at the end of this message so you can get a feel for yourself. This one was written by Dr. Lixion Avila, one of NHC’s hurricane specialists. Four of the six specialists are Ph D’s. This is specialized work.

Sometimes, I sense, things are thrown in with the understanding that it’s more than meteorologists reading.




No one trained in weather needed that line. Some surface water in the Northern Gulf of Mexico is 90&#17+. Without a doubt, this is a dangerous storm and getting more dangerous by the minute.

My biggest fear is Katrina will head west of New Orleans and strike the coast there. A Category 4 storm (which is the forecast) in that location would be devastating. For a variety of reasons, New Orleans is incredibly vulnerable and a strike like that would be the worst of all possible scenarios!


Man, I hope he’s right. So far, this storm has been poorly forecast&#185. And, recently, each succeeding forecast has moved the path farther left… farther to the west.

Today alone, the center of the forecast path for landfall has moved a few hundred miles.

More on Katrina later. We have a few days with this storm at sea before the real trouble begins.

&#185 – By poorly forecast, I don’t mean NHC did a bad job. I mean the ability to forecast this particular storm was beyond the capabilities of science at the moment. Something’s there that no one can get a handle on. That we don’t know exactly why it went wrong is as troubling as it going wrong… maybe more.

Continue reading “Katrina Shifts West Again”

Discovering Skype

Earlier today, I got an email from my friend Bob Wood in Austin, TX. He’s having a computer problem, as Windows XP fights with an application written in the ‘golden days’ of computing.

I picked up my cellphone and gave him a call. We ran through the typical trouble spots and found nothing.

As we went through a list of programs in msconfig, I looked at the cellphone and saw we were already 20+ minutes into the conversation. Hey – I’m not made of minutes!

I think it was then that Bob mentioned Skype. Skype is a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service.

VOIP isn’t a new concept. In fact, we already use a VOIP service at home as an extra phone with unlimited Connecticut calling.

What makes Skype so different is its excellent integration into your PC. It took under 5 minutes to download, install and activate my Skype account. From that point forward, I was talking to Bob PC-to-PC. In that mode, Skype is free!

There are also ways to use Skype to call an old fashioned phone. That’s what my friend Peter did while traveling through France. Calls from a PC to a telephone cost a few cents a minute – even when calling from Europe.

The voice quality was excellent. There is no noticeable lag. Bob said radio stations could conceivably use Skype for remote broadcasts. I agree.

Where Bob and I disagree is his contention that Skype is a telephone killer. It’s good, but it’s not convenient. You need to be near your computer. It’s not portable.

It’s an adjunct, not a replacement. However, it’s a pretty darn good adjunct.

My Friend Bob Blogs

I got an email late last week from my friend Bob, newly landed in Austin, TX. He wanted to start a blog and he wanted to know how?

This is one of those good news, bad news stories. The good news is, you can blog easily. The bad news is, if you take the difficult route you’ve got a lot more flexibility (and work). Since Bob isn’t computer-iffic I recommended the easy way out.

Bob is now firmly established on Blogspot, the Google blogging tool. I’ve added these links to his site because that will help Google and the other search engines find it&#185.

I’m pretty impressed with the ease at which his blog was created. I don’t think he can do all the tricks I can do here – though I’m not quite sure if that’s to my advantage or not. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to post on a regular basis.

In the meantime, in the more established ‘blogosphere,’ Arianna Huffington’s new, mainly liberal, blog community has made its debut. Walter Cronkite, Larry David, Mike Nichols and a host of other luminaries are there. That’s pretty impressive for a maiden voyage.

Again, like Bob’s blog, it will be interesting to see how it looks in a few months and whether there is enough discipline among her unpaid writers to keep it up.

&#185 – Getting links is good. I’m always appreciative when someone adds a link from their webpage to mine.

Culture Shock Texas Style

My friend Bob recently moved from Minneapolis to Austin, TX. Is there anything these two cities have in common? I assume there’s culture shock… in fact I know there is.

Last night, while talking the dog outside to do her bidness, I encountered my first scorpion. It was parking itself in Terri’s space in the garage, as she’s away in Dallas, learning how to drive the Wells Fargo loan stage.

This Lobster mini-me danced across the cement like an effeminate waiter with two full trays, its claws in the air with an invisible WELCOME TO TEXAS banner stretched across them. Its tail was curled in challenge.

The siege had begun.

Then Mister Shoe stopped the show. And added another just for crackling sure.

I’m gonna get a gun!

My best,


OK – we’ll scratch Austin off the list.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”

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?

Friday Night Lights

Earlier in the week I asked Helaine if she wanted to go to the movies Saturday. She did. In fact, she already had a movie picked out, “Friday Night Lights.”

The ads will tell you this is a movie starring Billy Bob Thornton. Actually, it is a true ensemble cast. Billy Bob just has the biggest name (length as well as notoriety).

It is the story of the Permian High School football team in a year when they have been anointed to win the state championship.

Is it possible for a movie to be excellent and still not enjoyable? This is not a feel good movie. In fact, in many ways it is a feel bad movie.

The lives being portrayed are tortured lives. These are people in a place devoid of beauty. Odessa, Texas is portrayed as a place, seemingly, devoid of intellect or culture.

Let’s talk technique. Within the first fifteen minutes, I had the feeling this movie was shot without the benefit of a tripod. I suppose for short spurts, handheld camera work intensifies the action and emotion. As the film moved on, I found it was just exhausting.

The football hits were violent. This film certainly gave the physical sense of football more than what is seen or heard on NFL broadcasts.

There was blood. There was pain. You could see it in the faces and hear it when bodies collided. Broken bones were accompanied by the sound of those bones breaking.

Though you knew, early in the movie the star player would have a dramatic letdown, most of the script was unpredictable and realistic. The actors themselves were excellent (as an ensemble, I’ll address them as one).

If there was a standout, it was Tim McGraw as the alcoholic father of a star player. He was powerful and believable.

Here’s my problem. When the movie was over, I was left disturbed by what I had seen. It was well written, well acted, shakily shot and emotionally troubling.

Maybe I’m too much of a sap who needs happy endings? There was no happy ending here.