The Foxes Are Heading Back Into Winter

melissaMy niece Melissa is expecting. This weekend is her baby shower. We’re heading to Milwaukee where it’s still winterish.

I’ll let the Weather Service forecasters try to polish this turd of a forecast.



We will see no sunshine in Wisconsin. Most of the weekend will be rainy. There’s a chance for snow late Sunday into Monday, though not much. That’s when we fly home.

It makes no difference. My parents are there, plus my sister and her family. Four generations together. It’s totally worthwhile. We’re very excited.

Of course I’m saying that in the abstract. A little winter might change my attitude.

Departure is VERY early tomorrow morning.

The Family Visit


Trudi and Jeff are back in Wisconsin. They left here late afternoon and made it home around midnight. Pain-in-the-ass that it is, flying still beats anything else we’ve got!

They needed time off from life’s responsibilities. We provided cover.

It was a great time. In retrospect, that’s amazing. Trudi and I grew up in a constant state of conflict. To think, back then, I’d want to spend more time with her was crazy.

In the less enlightened 50s and 60s, the New York City Board of Education separated the Fox children. She went to PS 201. I went to PS 163. This was a major disservice to our family.

We had few common friends. We had few common activities. We grew up in constant conflict.

Funny thing is, as we became adults we grew closer. It’s been quite a transition. Trudi and Jeff are among our closest friends. We speak nearly every day.

Part of it’s shared concern for our parents. We’re of a like mind when it comes to their well being. Trudi and Jeff have taken on the bulk of the responsibility since our folks left Florida.

Maybe it’s our shared sensibility? There is so much about how life should be lived we agree upon.

Whatever it is, it’s great being in each other’s life in a major way. Their trip to the coast was a total success. Let’s do it again.

Next weekend?

Sunday With the Family


This is my sister and brother-in-law’s last full day in SoCal. We didn’t want to waste it!

family-at-breakfastStef was driving down from Hollywood, so we made reservations for a noon brunch. Traffic didn’t cooperate!

When she called, Stef was crawling through the City of Commerce on the 5. I pushed the reservation back to 12:30.

Brunch was at the Back Bay Bistro in Newport Beach. Like many places out here, Doppler is welcome if we’re eating outside.

g-h-and-dopplerWe sat on the patio, directly on the bay. A boat, just large enough to arguably be called a yacht, was moored around 20 feet away. Brunch was delicious and filling!

We turned south down PCH for Laguna Beach. Laguna was the setting for a few MTV shows, but it’s mainly an arty town with beautiful homes precariously placed atop one another on steep hillsides. Downtown is perfect for window shopping.

laguna-hillsWe found a meter at the beach. I swiped in two hours worth of parking. Laguna’s business district runs right to the water. There are shops and restaurants on the tree lined streets.

I think Trudi and Jeff have enjoyed visiting California. It’s very different from Wisconsin, especially this time of year. We will miss them. They’ll be back.

Disney Day

IMG_6343all of us

Trudi and Jeff, my sister and brother-in-law are visiting from Wisconsin. We’re trying to show them a good time. It seems to be working!

We went to Disneyland today. It’s a school holiday in many cities and the park was jammed.

We did a lot of walking in both the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s California Adventure. It’s as much fun to walk around and look at people as it is to ride rides… well, almost. Every shape, size, shade of person was represented.

We saw the Captain Eo Tribute. The color is washed out. The film techniques look dated. Time to ditch it.

Jeff and I discussed the amazing cleanliness of the parks. There was nothing on the pavement. The place is spotless.

We came home and had dinner out with the Irvine Foxes.

It good to get the family together. It doesn’t happen often enough.

It Will Be Cold. The World Will Not End.


Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post

Drudge and Huffington have the same lead. This can’t be good. In breathless prose they build the tension. “Coldest Game in History?” asks Drudge. The cold air will “SMASH RECORDS,” yells HuffPo.

It’s 2014. We have advanced warning. We have central heat. The vast majority of us have appropriate clothes. And, we have shelter for those who need it.

The cold in the Eastern half of the country will be a pain. Few will find it fun. But, with a little preparation, even the folks at Lambeau Field will make it through none the worse.

Respect the cold. You’ll be fine.


Trudi’s Birthday Party

The California Foxes flew this weekend to join the Wisconsin Opads for my sister’s 60th birthday party.

Sixty is a milestone birthday deserving a milestone party! We went to Shully’s in Thiensville for a “Chef’s Table.”

I’m sure I’m about to sound like I just fell off the turnip truck. I’d heard of a “Chef’s Table,” but never experienced one. Exactly what went on was a mystery as I walked into the restaurant.

If you’re in my boat, here’s a quick explanation. The “Chef’s Table” takes place in the kitchen. All the action of meal prep takes place around you. With each course comes a beverage–wine and beer in my sister’s case. It’s as much show as meal!

The party was limited to immediate family. Though my parents moved into Wisconsin the day before, this was just too much, too late and up too many stairs for them.

There was lots of laughter. There was lots of hugging. There was lots of eating and drinking.

I can’t imagine how it could have been more successful.

Heading To Florida


Bad time to have a cold. I’m flying this afternoon. Stef and I are heading to Florida to get my parents ready to move. My sister and brother-in-law are already there.

My parents are on their way to Wisconsin where my sister and her family live. There are grandchildren and great grandchildren there too.

It’s a bittersweet move, but it’s necessary. They’re taking an apartment in an assisted living community near Milwaukee. My folks need the reassurance that comes with having help in the building and family nearby.

My sister says it’s an active community. When she visited there were lots of people socializing.

My dad’s already sold the car and their condo. There’ll be a lot more purging this weekend.

Helaine and I went through the same ritual when we moved here from Connecticut. It’s tough. Who wants to throw away all those things you wanted to save. All those memories.

If everything goes according to plan my parents will be in Milwaukee in a few weeks. Winter in Wisconsin is harsh, but they won’t have to deal with it. Nearly everything they need will be footsteps away.

My Wisconsin Fight Song

After the budget tumult in Washington I’d like to think these tiny elections will signal a change in the electorate’s thinking.

I’ve become way too politically obsessed! Six elections were held today in Wisconsin. I am anxiously awaiting the returns. I don’t know any of the candidates. There are no individual issues involved. It’s really bloodsport now–Republicans versus Democrats after collective bargaining for Wisconsin state employees was eliminated earlier this year.

This is the “Steel Cage Death Match” of the early 2011 election season!

I’m usually checking poll numbers around now. There are few to find.

Nate Silver in the NY Times writes:

Most of the polls have either been conducted by partisan groups, have unorthodox methodologies, or both.

After the budget tumult in Washington I’d like to think these tiny elections will signal a change in the electorate’s thinking. Maybe the take-no-prisoners orthodoxy of the most radical political partisans has passed its prime? Maybe not?

I can’t wait to see.

Webinar World

Is there something missing? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all.

I took my shower and got ready for work early because I had a webinar today. I shouldn’t be excited about this kind of stuff, but I am.

In this case the webinar was from a vendor with some lessons on how to display winter weather. You know, little tips and techniques.

A few years ago I flew to Madison, WI for this same type of lecture. Today it was at the kitchen table. Someone’s saving a lot of money.

The session was hosted on Webex who claims to have an iPod webinar app. I downloaded and tried it, but halfway through it stopped receiving one part of the presentation. It was also very difficult to see small on-screen text on the smaller screen iPhone.

So there’s now an iPhone app I have installed which will probably not be used again.

Is there something missing in webinar world? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all. At a ‘press-the-flesh’ meeting there’s always time to talk, kvetch and learn from the other attendees.

A friend who was monitoring the session from the vendor’s side sent me a text message. “What would the 20 year ago Geoff think of Geoff today?”

He’d be impressed with the technology and it’s ubiquity. He be amazed by my laptop and iPhone and high speed Internet access–things I could only dream about 20 years ago (and believe me, I did dream about them).

There’s another session Thursday. I’ve already tipped off the guys I work with that this might be a good idea for them too.

Interesting Weather Story

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea

I hadn’t heard about Reid Bryson until I received an email this morning. My partner at work, Dr. Mel Goldstein, knew of his work. Bryson was a pioneer in meteorology.

So much of what academicians look at is theoretical – Ivory Tower stuff. This is a story about practical meteorology, practiced before computers and voluminous data made it easy… even for guys like me… to tackle.

This was forwarded to me by a friend who reads the highly regarded (and impossible to get on) Tropical-storms mailing list:

I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate,People and the Environment,it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944),

Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.

Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.

Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.

Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but it was now too late.

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).

I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.

Greg Tripoli


Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Dan Desjardins, from Weather Central in Madison, WI, called me. He was worried, because word was out I’d been fired!

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. -Mark Twain

Though this story starts back in May, I didn’t even know there was a story until yesterday. Dan Desjardins, from Weather Central in Madison, WI, called me. He was worried, because word was out I’d been fired!

A website called listed me as “on the beach.”

Had they called and asked, or sent an email? No. It’s not like I’m that difficult to find.

I went to see my boss. “Uh, Kirk, have I been fired, but no one’s told me yet,” I asked? He smiled… but it was a good smile.

Truth is, back in the early 70s I received a call from my friend Bob Lacey. He’d heard I’d been fired from my job in Cleveland. Only, it didn’t happen until the next day!

That was a pretty crappy day.

So, how does this happen? In this case tvjobs probably took a shortcut when they saw WTNH’s website change. For some odd reason, my picture disappeared from its page with the other meteorologists.

Our webmaster, Jeff Bailey, said, “Looks to me like it was accidently archived at the end of May.” As big an ego as I have, I don’t look to see my picture on the station’s website. Who knew?

My boss, Kirk Varner, fired off an email.

To whom it may concern at

We don’t subscribe to your site, so I can’t verify this personally—but I have it from multiple sources that you are listing WTNH staff meteorologist Geoff Fox as being no longer employed by WTNH (as in “On The Beach”.)

Assuming you are not referring to Mr. Fox’s recreation choices, this information is incorrect and needs to be updated immediately. Mr. Fox is still in the employ of WTNH as he has been in the last 24 years, and a simple check with his employer (that would be me) would have verified this information in less than five minutes.

As I can find no press or internet posting suggesting that Mr. Fox’s employment status has recently changed, perhaps you could also enlighten us as to the source of your information as part of your apology and retraction to both Mr. Fox and this station?

As far as I know, Kirk hasn’t heard back. However, as of today tvjobs requires readers to click through an advisory. Dan, who first brought this to my attention, found this change today. “Now they make you click on a disclaimer about “on the beach” listings before you can look at them. They “clarified” that on-the-beach means the individual has “dropped off the stations web site” And, they’ve changed the text with my photo.

I’ll let you know when my apology arrives. Don’t stay up.

The Snowy Prize

The subject turned to snow and then a little friendly pool the guys were were having. Each threw in $5, with the winner getting the bundle for predicting the January snowfall at Madison’s Dane County Regional-Truax Field Airport.

I am lucky enough to be friendly with a bunch of the service techs at the company we buy our weather equipment from. They are squirreled away in Madison, WI, figuring out ways to make weather a more compelling story on TV.

Last month I was speaking with Bruce, one of those techs, and the subject turned to snow and then a little friendly pool the guys were were having. Each threw in $5, with the winner getting the bundle for predicting the January snowfall at Madison’s Dane County Regional-Truax Field Airport.

I asked in. I know nothing about winter weather in Wisconsin, except it’s cold, windy and snow filled.

My guess was 16″, which led Bruce to post this.

Thought I would give everyone a quick update on the KMSN January snow pool. Geoff Fox jumped in at the last second with a prediction of 16″. So the revised winning snowfall ranges are as follows…

Pat 4.2″, Brian 7.7″, Chris 8.2″ and John and Bruce both picked 8.7″ and Geoff at 16″

So the breakdown is as follows:

5.9″ or less Pat wins

6.0″ – 7.9″ Brian wins

8.0″ – 8.4″ Chris wins

8.5″ – 12.3″ John & Bruce win

12.4″ and higher Geoff wins

After 13 days, KMSN currently stands at 4.5″

My guess was way too high. It was obvious these other (mostly) meteorologists were more attuned to their local climatology than I was.

I sent Bruce $5 via PayPal and forgot about the whole thing until last night. Curious, I fired off an email with just two words: “How bad?”

Smarty pants…you smoked us…everyone else picked less than 10 inches. We are smarting from that.

We got 23.2 inches…which is was the eighth snowiest January on record. December-January of this year was the second snowiest 2-month period in Madison records…which go back to the 1880s. Since we got hit so hard in December, the thinking was that the odds were against back-2-back snowy months. However, La Ninas—if they have any trend at all–tend to make winters over the upper Midwest a bit more potent…whether that be cold or snow…or both.

In forecasting, as in life, it is much more profitable to be lucky than skilful.

Getting “That” Call

I walked into my boss’s open office Wednesday afternoon for some quick kibbitzing, but before we could get very far, my cellphone rang. Wisconsin on the caller ID – area code 262. I thought it was our weather equipment vendor. Instead, it was my sister.

“Is everything alright?” That was my first question to her, because I could sense something was wrong as soon as she said hello.

She had just been on the phone with my folks. My dad was back from the doctor (an almost daily occurrence in Florida senior life). He’s got an arterial blockage. The doctor wants to perform an angiogram sooner, rather than later.

It’s been almost twenty years since my dad had an angiogram and then bypass surgery. That was a tough recovery. We’re hoping an angioplasty can do the trick this time. That’s much less invasive.

My mom sounded concerned when I spoke to her. Of course she was. Who can blame her? So much of their lives revolve around each other. They are nearly constant companions as they head toward their 60th anniversary.

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for me to decide I needed to be there. So, reservations have been made, coverage at work has been rounded up and I head to Florida on Monday.

There’s every indication that this will be a routine procedure. But, of course we all worry. How can you not?

Computers Can’t Be Trusted

“Computer problem.” I’ve heard those two words a million times. Mostly, it’s a crock. Computer problems aren’t usually computer problems but problems which appear when humans operate computers. In other words, it’s mostly human error.

Computers only do what they’re told. Hardware failures that allow them to run amok are relatively rare. It’s that fingertip/keyboard interface where all the trouble arises.

With that perspective, it’s off to Chicago where, earlier this week, WGN radio found itself broadcast all over the radio and TV dial. I was tipped off to this story by Adam Chernow in Wisconsin, but I’ll quote the Chicago Tribune:

In the parlance of the Cold War era that spawned the federally mandated Emergency Alert System, launch codes were issued throughout Illinois on Tuesday morning, automatically pre-empting dozens of radio and television stations as if the region faced nuclear annihilation.

Rather than President Bush reassuring citizens after an atomic blast or some other calamity, the audience of many Chicago outlets was treated to the sound of dead air followed by the voice of WGN-AM 720 morning man Spike O’Dell struggling to figure out what had happened.

It turns out O’Dell’s pair of brief surprise appearances between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on everything from local public broadcasting to music stations — an “unintentional disruption,” a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman called it — stemmed from a FEMA contractor’s installation of the state’s Emergency Alert System satellite receiver in Springfield as part of a nationwide upgrade.

If the contractor had asked me to call all those stations, I would have pointed out the error of his ways. Computers are more obedient and, unfortunately, don’t question authority!

Why do we do this? Why do we allow an automated system take control so an errant human can cause chaos?

I know why. I was there the morning the old system failed!

It was February 20, 1971. As I remember, it was a sunny and mild winter’s day. I was working as a disk jockey at WQXT, located right on the ocean in Palm Beach, Florida. Life was good.

At 9:33 AM a series of ten bells rang out from the Associated Press teletype. Ten bells was the signature for a national emergency, an EBS alert… but this was Saturday at 9:33 AM. They tested the system every Saturday at 9:33 AM.

Somewhere deep within Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, a technician put the wrong put tape in his teletype. Instead of sending the test, he sent the real thing!

From Wikipedia: An EBS activation message authenticated with the codeword “HATEFULNESS” was sent through the entire system, ordering stations to shut down and broadcast the alert of a national emergency. A cancellation message with the wrong codeword was sent at 9:59 AM EST, and a cancellation message with the correct codeword was not sent until 10:13AM EST.

Most radio and TV stations did nothing! They had no way of knowing the message was wrong. In fact, every indication was it was real.

In my case, I heard the bells and disregarded them. It was test time. I heard those bells every Saturday morning.

By the time I looked at the teletype, the alert had been corrected. The few people listening to my little radio station were well served because I totally screwed up!

After that debacle the government worked to change to a better, faster, more streamlined, heavily automated system. And yet, with this week’s problem, the cause was exactly the same – human error.

It’s this automated system that has sometimes allowed cable companies to cut my television station’s audio as they run emergency crawls… even though we’re giving emergency info when they kill our audio!

Society has become so complex, we can’t operate without computer assistance. Unfortunately, that has forced us to put much too much power in someone’s fingertip. The folks in Chicago understand.

Flying For Fun

I walked into work today, passed by a monitor, and saw flames shooting out of an apartment window. Twenty minutes earlier when I left home, there were no fires.

“Where,” I asked?

“New York,” was the answer.

What was my first thought? Yours too, right?

We really have changed. We’re all on edge. Terrorists have made us think differently, whether they threaten us on a daily basis or not. We’ve all become skittish.

We were told to go about our business… don’t let terrorists affect us. That’s how they win. But, how can you not? How can you blot out what happened?

It’s too early to know anything about todays accident (and indications are it was a tragic accident). I checked and conditions were below “Visual Flight Rules.” Ceilings were under 2,000 feet.

I’ve wanted to learn to fly for years. Earlier this year Helaine encouraged me to do it. “Life is too short,” she said. “If you really want something, go for it.”

When things settle down a little more, probably this winter, I’ll start. Mike P., one of my support buddies from Wisconsin has become my mentor. The AOPA, always anxious for new members, sends me a monthly magazine with tips.

It’s actually pretty exciting. I took lessons in my early 20s, but never finished. It’s different now.

Of course at this moment, what happened today over the Upper East Side in Manhattan is resonating in my mind. What was he doing up there over the city on this very inhospitable day? How do I make sure that’s never me?