Saturday morning, I was the expert for the New Haven Register concerning what was left of Ernesto. Randy Beach called Friday for some quotes and wrote the story.
Being in the newspaper is scary. If I’m really wrong, people can wave it right in front of me!
Still, how often do you get to see a quote like this:
Helaine’s out-of-town for a few days. It’s very quiet here.
I am very surprised how much more efficient I am at amassing a mess when she’s not around, even though I’m not sure how I do it!
The mail, which I was asked to leave in a provided plastic bag, is piled on the kitchen counter. The newspapers are piled, one upon the other, on the kitchen table.
I have thumbed through the Times each day, but the New Haven Register has only had its cover perused. Sorry inside advertisers.
Knowing I’m an organizational nightmare, Helaine left “oatmeal kits” – literally pre-measured bags of oatmeal! Still, when I went to cook my oatmeal this morning, the first step was to wash out yesterday’s pot and escort yesterday’s dish from the sink to the dishwasher.
Some things never change, I suppose.
I went to work yesterday leaving the stove on! It was on low. Still.
The pills I take on a daily basis are in one of those little compartmentalized plastic holders (which in the absence of a drivers license can be used to qualify for any senior citizen discount). I’ve been good with the pills, but only because I remember what happened when I wasn’t taking my antihistamine.
I am off work tomorrow, so I plan on doing the wash and straightening up… or, possibly, not. I have some friends coming over tomorrow night. The downstairs will be presentable. That’s a given. And, even if it’s a mad dash to the finish, everything will be fine when Helaine returns.
Before she left, Helaine pre-positioned snacks. No shopping necessary. They’re the Hershey’s equivalent of M&Ms, but in order to make sure they’d be here for my guests, Helaine has hidden them. Where they are is on a need to know basis. I currently don’t have the proper clearance.
This is trash night. I could take the cans out now, but tonight (when there’s the chance of rain) is when I’ll do it.
I’ve always firmly believed it is correct to put off anything, with the thought the world could end between now and when the project is due. Unfortunately, this is the kind of dominant trait passed from father to child. My bad.
Helaine is only gone a few days and look where I am already. Imagine what I was like as a bachelor? Good lord!
I had a ketchup bottle stuck to my kitchen table and science projects growing in the bathroom.
If left to my own devices, like most men, I’d revert to my caveman concept of neat and clean. Why don’t we ever really grow up?
This is the week of the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and RTNDA (Radio, Television News Directors Association) convention in Las Vegas. Most people who do what I never get a chance to go. For a few years, I demoed weather equipment, and so I got a chance to look.
NAB/RTNDA is more a hardware than idea convention (though the people selling the hardware have ideas of how your should use their products). In fact, I was very surprised at the percentage of non-broadcasters there. Most of the attendees, or so it seemed to me, represented production companies – people who shoot video and produce programming directly for clients.
I’m not at NAB this year, but I’ve been reading a few blogs from people who are, including Scott Baker, writing for MediaBistro’s TVNewser blog.
Nearly all of them, when pressed, indicated a general sense of — what the heck do I do now?”
There’s a sense that, in the future, the classic model of a television station might not be the best way to distribute programming. Make no mistake about it – it is now, but everyone is looking toward the future.
We’re not alone. There’s AT&T vs Vonage and the other VOIP carriers, The New Haven Register classified section vs Craigslist, and any company that provides telephone support in the US vs low cost operators halfway around the world. These are all competitors that didn’t exist, or couldn’t have existed, before technology matured.
There seem to be two obvious questions. Can we make as much profit from the new technology as we did from conventional TV? Are we agile enough to compete with very low cost competitors?
If a transition from old to new business practices becomes necessary, how do we decide when to make the switch? Too soon and you’ve lost your business model. Too late and you’re way behind your competitors.
It’s all very scary.
The good news for viewers is, you’re about to be introduced to ‘slivercasting’. A perfect example is PhotoshopTV, a weekly half hour’ish show totally devoted to using Photoshop.
There’s no room for PhotoshopTV on the air, but there’s plenty of room on the web. It’s not my interest, but I assume there are analogous shows for knitting, car buffs… for any affinity group.
To advertisers, these are reasonably good deals (I don’t know how much they charge, but I’m talking in the abstract). If you sell Photoshop related products, what could be a better way to show your stuff?
A few paragraphs ago I said this is good news for viewers. It’s also bad news… or it might be. Will inexpensive, slivercast, programming drive more expensive broadcasts out of the market? It’s Gresham’s Law at the TV station¹!
Broad versus sliver. Expensive versus low cost.
It’s not around the corner by any means, but it’s possible to see how that could be a reality if trends continue and broadcasters stick too closely to their current core. Agility will be rewarded.
There’s an expression that says, “The good old days are always in the past.” I suppose, that knowledge always leaves us fearful and pessimistic about the future. On the other hand, the future might be an incredible opportunity we just haven’t discovered yet.
That’s my hope.
¹ – I probably have this all screwed up, but this is my 21st century interpretation of Gresham’s Law. Let me borrow from the Wikipedia:
So, how do we get to TV? Gresham (who’s been dead over 400 years) implies that less expensive programming, with less potential downside, will dominate if the relative rewards of both are reasonably equal.
I was introduced to Gresham by Martin Wolfson, my very learned and totally screwball, history teacher at Brooklyn Tech. I’m sure he’s gone now. If he could read this, he’d be pleased I remembered Gresham and not bothered by being called screwball.
I’ve been quoted on-and-off in the New Haven Register for years. Today was the first time since my studies at MSU ended, and so the first time to be called “meteorologist.”
But with all that wind, “I don
This isn’t Earth shattering stuff. I’ve put it here more to archive it than to force you to read it.
All that changed September 27, 1985 when Hurricane Gloria made landfall in Connecticut.
For me, it was a career changing event. It was a chance to let people know, though I might screw around when the weather was nice, I was trustworthy when weather was critical. At least that’s how I saw it.
1984 doesn’t seem so long ago, but it was eons ago in technology and forecasting technique. The possibility of this hurricane came up in a conversation five days before landfall. A friend noted an interesting system and some rudimentary computer guidance brought it vaguely up the coast.
As I remember it today, each successive day continued with the storm on a fairly consistent track.
Looking back, I realize I was a sucker. These forecasts were well beyond the capability of the available models. That they were right was dumb luck!
A few days before Gloria struck, I started sharing my concerns with my boss and he put together a plan. Again, in hindsight we were so innocent. Today, wall-to-wall coverage would begin days before the storm struck. In 1985, with the storm due midday, we planned on running Good Morning America in its entirety!
I stayed after the late news, doing cut-ins through the night. No one was watching, but I was there.
We had little morning news presence back then. I don’t even remember who it was, but a single person produced and reported in the morning.
At 7:00 AM we switched to GMA. Every half hour their meteorologist reported the national weather, including the upcoming hurricane. The graphics on GMA were wrong¹. Every half hour I’d follow Dave Murray, asking the viewers to believe me and not him.
Before long, we were on-the-air non-stop. The station really did an amazing job. I still remember some live shots, especially David Henry’s from Bridgeport, as if they happened yesterday.
Gloria had been a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, but was a shadow of her former self when she hit Long Island and then Connecticut. Officially, Gloria hit Connecticut with 90 mph sustained winds. Today, I doubt even that number. Whatever it was, it was frightening. Half the state lost power.
My friend Diane Smith lost a beautiful sailboat. Other friends and co-workers would lose trees and power – in some cases for a week or more.
I watched the storm on the Weather Service’s ancient radar. As it approached Connecticut, the eye opened up. We had one eyewall pass overhead and that was it. The southern half of this north moving storm no longer existed.
By nightfall Gloria was gone and Connecticut was picking up the pieces.
A day or two later in the New Haven Register, Carolyn Wyman didn’t talk about my coverage, she wrote about my disheveled hair, wondering if it was an affectation. I was crushed. I wonder if Carolyn (who seems like a nice person) knows I still remember? I wonder if she still feels that way?
On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know.
Hurricane Gloria was where I first realized, no matter how important it made my job, I didn’t want really bad weather to come here. Some forecasters do. Some meteorologists salivate over tornadoes and hurricanes. I, on the other hand, had my fill on that one day.
Years later, Governor (now prisoner) John Rowland told me he was waiting for houses to start blowing through the streets of Waterbury. To some, the storm was a disappointment. To others, especially along the Connecticut shoreline, it was a few hours of terror.
I am looking forward to seeing some of the old video and trying to remember what it was like watching it the first time. I am petrified that among the old clips will be a little cut of me, 20 years younger, looking like I was 15.
¹ – As far as I could tell, a graphic artist preparing the maps traced the correct forecast track. Unfortunately, the line she/he drew wasn’t centered on the pen, but was actually to the right of it. That was common back then.
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:
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.
This essay was written for the New Haven Register and will be published Friday March 19, 2004 in their Op-Ed Section.
Spring arrives Saturday morning at 1:42 AM. It’s about time. I can
A few months ago, Elizabeth McGuire (no Lizzie McGuire jokes, please) asked if she could interview me for Hartford Magazine. Never the shy one, I said yes.
I have just read the article, and can now guarantee, I’m not anywhere as nice as she portrayed me. I am grateful, however, she lied on my behalf.
Only part of the article was on the magazine’s website, so I retyped it to place here on my site. Other than changing the spelling of my daughter’s name, and my length of service at WTNH, I’ve left it as is.
Hartford Magazine / February 2004
Day after day for the past 19 years at WTNH-TV, Fox has pored over the maps, graphs and charts; analyzed the data; and then translated the information into “plain English” for his viewers. Fox gets two to three minutes during evening newscasts to tell viewers how the weather on any given day is likely to affect them. Without being asked, he answers dozens of questions such as, “Should I wear a raincoat, start that outdoor project or cancel that backyard picnic?” Fox says many viewers listen critically to his forecasts, and they hold him accountable when he’s wrong. “Believe me, people can be tough if you are wrong – and they should be, because other than the Psychic Friends Network, there aren’t too many people who come on television and predict the future for a living,” Fox explains.
As we sit at the kitchen table in Fox’s spacious Hamden home one recent afternoon, Fox explains to me that advances in computer technology have increased weather forecasters’ ability to develop more accurate forecasts. Suddenly, Fox excuses himself and leaves the room. Moments later he’s back with his laptop computer. There begins my tutorial on weather patterns. A map with curvy lines shows barometric pressure, one with splotches of color shows precipitation, and a pretty blue graph shows, well I’m not sure what that one showed, but it sure is colorful! Though much of what Fox explains is lost on my unscientific mind, his main point isn’t: The mathematical calculations and other technical information computers offer weather forecasters are essential tools of the trade. Like blueprints to contractors, or EKG printouts to doctors, computers make it easier for weather forecasters to be correct more often. “We can get more detailed information about what the atmosphere is doing… why it’s doing it… how it’s doing it…”
But once Fox comes out from behind the computer, he is able to deliver important information in an easy-to-understand, conversational manner. And he just about always throws some humor into his forecasts, often catching his co-anchors off guard. “I’ve always been the guy who told the jokes and made funny little remarks. And I think I have good timing,” says Fox.
Fox honed his timing during his 11 years as a morning-radio personality in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo. In 1980, Fox became the host of a Buffalo TV magazine show at WGRZ-TV. That’s where he became interested in weather forecasting, applied for a weekend weather position, and got the job. Fox realized meteorology was an area in which he could use his math and science skills. Fox says he was always good in those subjects and was even on the school math team as a kid growing up in Flushing, Queens, NY.
Even though Fox says he scored higher than 700 on the math portion of the SATs, he tells me he was not a very good student, especially in college. “I was in the accelerated dismissal program at Emerson.” he jokes. In fact, he flunked out the first time he attended the Boston college that specializes in communications.
He is now, however, getting straight A’s in his course work to become a certified meteorologist. He’s enrolled in a distance learning program at Mississippi State University. But most of what Fox needs to know to get a degree in meteorology he already knows.
After years of on-the-job training and watching New England weather patterns, Fox has a pretty good track record of predicting the weather. A classic example of getting it right was his forecast for the so-called “Storm of the Century” (as some television promotion departments dubbed it) that took aim at Connecticut the first weekend of March 2001. Most of the computer weather models were indicating the strong possibility of at least three feet of snow with blizzard conditions. But Fox didn’t think they were correct. He had been using a different computer model (maintained by a major university) during the 200-2001 winter season, and it had been extremely accurate. So, Fox was pretty certain the site’s calculations on heights, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere were reliable. He stuck with his prediction that the storm would bring mostly rain, sleet and perhaps a few inches of snow. “If you’re confident in your abilities, you have to give what you think is best, in spite of the pack,” he says. Fox’s news director at the time questioned the accuracy of his forecast but then decided to trust it. Gov. Rowland, however, put his faith in the blizzard forecasts and practically shut down the state. The “Storm of the Century” never materialized. Fox would later write an Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register that he was “hurt” by an article in that paper, which led readers to believe that all area forecasters got it wrong.
That’s not to say, however, that Fox gets it right all the time. Even after 20 years in the television business Fox says he is still “incredibly bothered” when his forecasts don’t bear out. “there will be times when I wake up on a Saturday morning and I will be upset that it’s sunny. If I said it’s gonna rain, than a rainy day is much nicer than a sunny day.” Fox has been know to apologize to his viewers on the air when one of his forecasts has proven incorrect.
In the family room of Fox’s house, the fireplace mantel is crowded with pictures of his 16-year-old daughter Stefanie, in various stages of childhood and Fox’s wedding pictures. Fox and his wife Helaine recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Next to the mantel, behind the glass door of his entertainment center, Fox displays his seven shiny gold Emmy awards – meticulously lined up in a row. He earned those awards for weather and science reporting. Along with his work at WTNH-TV, Fox has hosted a show called “Inside Space” on the SciFi Channel and has been a fill-in weathercaster on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Fox says he would like to do more work for ABC because the experience was “cool.” He’d also like to host a game show but says those jobs would be in addition to his work at WTNH-TV.
When Fox isn’t working, he spends his time with his family, maintains his Web site(www.geofffox.com) with his daily postings and plays Internet Poker. Fox also does charity work, and his favorite charities include the March of Dimes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Fox sums up his feelings about the charity work and accurate forecasts this way” “Look, I’m not living in a hovel. I’m not driving a ’65 Pinto, and the reason I have whatever success and nice things I have is because of the people of Connecticut, so I feel there’s an obligation to give something back.”
A few weeks ago Jim Shelton, of the New Haven Register, called to ask if I’d like to participate in a story on gadgets. Absolutely!
I’m a sucker… err… early adopter… when it comes to high tech stuff. I’m on my third digital camera, and our computer network at home has five PCs for three people (though only two could be considered close to leading edge technology). Of course, I’ve been playing with computers since 1967 and have had a PC at home since 1978 (TRS-80 Model I), so this is a deep seated illness.
The attached photo (right) was taken by Peter Casolino of the Register staff, using a Canon D1, I think. You could actually see the bulb light up above his head as he had one of those “Eureka” moments, realizng what he wanted to shoot.
It’s not a trick. That was my photo being displayed in the laptop. In this morning’s paper, the photo takes up fully 40% of the top of the first page in the Living Section.
Click here to read the article.
I know there are some people who’d rather not see their name in the paper… and others, like Saddam Hussein, who are wishing there would be a new photo to print. But for me, it continues to be fun to think anyone would value my opinion.
This morning, The New Haven Register reported the story of a man who claimed employment discrimination against McDonald’s. He contended he wasn’t hired because of his size.
I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the case, because I just don’t know them.
What did come out in this case, as it does in so many others, is the settlement has been sealed. To quote the attorney for the plaintiff in The Register, “This matter has been resolved amicably, and without further litigation. The terms of the settlement are confidential, and both parties are prohibited from discussing the terms of the settlement.”
It seems to me, and I’m certainly not a lawyer, that settling charges of discrimination without revealing the settlement shortchanges the rest of us who might benefit from hearing about the actual practices of the defendant. Did McDonald’s discriminate? Did the plaintiff fold under overwhelming odds? Are there others, under similar circumstances, who might benefit by knowing what went on and who got what?
Isn’t the press being used when litigants are willing to talk only until they get what they want?
I’m not sure what the proper term is – emcee, host, moderator? I personally like facilitator, though I can’t give you the exact definition of the word. Whatever it is, I did it today, as I shepherded a roundtable discussion on air quality at Southern Connecticut State University. I think it went very well.
This is a skill I never knew I had until Dave Brody, producer for Inside Space, had me moderate a few “Star Councils”; panel discussions on space¹. Once, I told a panelist (I think it was Bob Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society), “I’m not calling on you until I actually see smoke coming out of your ears.”
My approach is to be the opposite of anyone I’m questioning. I don’t care what your beliefs are, I’m your antithesis, and I’ll make you justify every position you take. It really forces people to become more passionate and factual as they begin to speak.
It becomes clear from the start that no statement will go unchallenged.
Being contrary is its own reward. So, this is totally fun for me.
When I was first approached to do today’s panel, I was skittish because it looked like the panel members might be all of one mind. A lovefest with no critical thinking would be worthless. I was assured there would be diversity of opinion and I was not disappointed.
Sometimes, I think I’d like to try my hand at doing this at some tech or broadcasting convention, but I have no idea where to go or who to contact to get the ball rolling.
¹ – I am reminded by Dr. Frank Tavares at Southern Connecticut State University, that it was he who got me to moderate my first roundtable. It had to do with the future of communications. My boss (who I never really got along with) was a participant, as was the GM of the local cable company and a few others. We pulled no punches.
It was Brody who got me to do these in quantity, with world renowned experts, on the road at scholarly meetings, with an audience of opinionated and well informed experts. And, of course, doing the “Star Councils” on-camera made them even more fun.
I like Theodore Roosevelt. I especially like his concept of “The Bully Pulpit.” He felt, if you have a stage, use it for the public good. And so I try, as best I can, to help out charitable organizations.
For nearly ten years I’ve been associated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I’ve put in a lot of time and effort and feel the results have been very worthwhile. I’m only upset that this year, because of Hurricane Isabel, I haven’t been able to give as much in the way of on-air plugs to the JDRF Walk, being held this Sunday.
There was a nice mention in The New Haven Register this morning.
Helaine and I took the trash to the curb a few minutes ago. The town doesn’t pick-up recyclables every week, and we don’t bring them to the curb every time we can, but the scene outside is not to be believed. There are three trash cans, a recycling bin full of bottles six grocery bags full of the New Haven Register and New York Times and assorted cardboard tied with string.
There is more outside our house than used to sit outside the apartment building I grew up in!
To me, what makes this ridiculous is what we recycle; glass and mostly paper. What do they think, this stuff grows on trees? Uhh… forget that.
Trees are an easily renewable resource and glass comes from sand. As far as I know, there’s no shortage of sand in the offing. Here is Connecticut at least, the percentage of forested land is higher now than it’s ever been. Aren’t there things to be recycled which would make more sense?