Friday, January 27, 2006

So you think you can forecast the weather?

Everyday, I hear it either via email, phonecall or on the street:

"I could do a better job at predicting the weather than those guys."

Or this one:

"If I was that wrong at my job, I'd get fired!"

Now is your chance to back up your tough talk or as they say--"weather smack"--with action.

The following are forecast weather maps for Monday morning, January 30th.

Before you give me the typical "All-you-guys-look-at-are-colors-and-squiggly-lines", here is the technical explanation of what you are looking at.

Each map is the forecast result of a supercomputer cranking out what "it" thinks will happen on Monday, roughly 3 days from the time that I write this. The map on the left--called the EUROPEAN MODEL--is the solution from a different set of mathematical equations than the map on the left which is called the MRF MODEL. If you think you can assemble a 5 or 8 day forecast then you need to be able to accurately interpret maps like this. Can you tell any differences between both maps for northeastern Ohio? Can any of you even find northeastern Ohio?

The map on the left suggests that Monday morning, a low pressure over Michigan will usher in colder air with a changeover from rain to wet snow with temps near 30. The map on the right suggests the low will track through Indiana keeping temps in the mid 30s with primarily rain instead of snow.

If anyone other than another weather person can ascertain the same conclusion looking at those maps, you can have my job. In fact, I'm willing to bet that most of you had absolutely no clue...which is fine. There is nothing wrong with admitting defeat at the hands of the person that you mock whenever the atmosphere doesn't cooperate. I fully accept your white flag.

Seriously, I am not suggesting that being a meteorologist is the toughest job out there. All I ask as your friendly, neighborhood meteorologist is for a little love and understanding. Those maps you are looking at convey a message to you the viewer through us, the meteorologist. We do the best we can with the maps we have. Some are great, others are out of whack. Its up to the meteorologists to determine which one, if any, are more correct.

If you don't like it, learn how to read maps that show northeastern Ohio as a small spot roughly a quarter of an inch long. Once your through here, study some second order non-linear differential equations along with some cloud physics. Finally, assemble your findings in a concise presentation no longer than 3 minutes with a concentration on the differences in the short term forecast between Lorain, Ohio and Chardon, Ohio while someone is speaking to you in your ear piece telling you how much time you have left to finish your presentation. While the person is speaking to you, continue talking as if nothing is happening. Oh yes, your in front of a camera broadcasting your every word to more than one million people whose livelihoods depend on your expert analysis. Oh by the way, don't studder.

Yeah, the job of meteorologist isn't hard at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Evolution of Ones Sweet Tooth

Its amazing how an infant reacts to different stimuli. Over the last several days, my wife and I have been experimenting with different baby foods to see how our son reacts to them. Naturally, we started with the less desirable foods first: VEGGIES!

Peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, he ate them all except for the peas. Then on cue, the fail-safe mechanism that all kids involuntarily utilize to get out of eatting vegetables reared its ugly head. Yep, you've got it. Its the ever- opportunistic gag reflex that's present in all of us as kids whenever we're forced to eat a food--more often than not, vegetables--that we want no part of. I gagged on lima beans as a kid and still do! Now, my infant son has learned of its existence which could make the job of dinnertime parenting for my wife and I that much harder from here on out.

So the next day, we tried the peas again and sure enough, he gagged BIG-TIME! I believe at that exact moment, my son reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out the gag-reflex to use to his advantage. Only this time, it was preceeded by a look that spoke volumes on his vegetable displeasure. Yes, my 6 month old son is officially copping an attitude toward what mommy and daddy are preparing for him.

The next day, my wife decided to try out something that might appeal to him more than peas. So, we busted out the chicken and rice followed by some apple sauce for desert. He wasn't too excited about the chicken and rice probably because it was first time eatting it. But once we introduced him to the apple sauce, his eyes suddenly opened as if he was transported to some baby-food nirvana. The only action that he would allow to interrupt his deer-in-headlight daze was the entrance of more apple sauce into his system. And if you didn't shovel it in fast enough, he would let you know with the loudest grunt an infant is allowed to produce.

Once he was full of apple sauce, he was a happy baby once again and we put him to bed. Later on that night, my wife declared, "Our baby has a sweet tooth!"

Not wanting to believe this, I said, "Come on, that was just a fluke."

I needed more data to be convinced.

The data came over the next 3 days. More gagging on peas and more trips to his apple sauce utopia.

My wife was right. Its just unreal how a baby can develop a "taste" for food so fast. This brings me to my theory on sweet tooths. Here's a brief synopsis:

A person's sweet tooth intensity goes up exponentially when they're born and peaks when they are about 18 months old and stays at that peak until they are probably ten or eleven. There is a small decline in the early teen-age years but it still stays fairly high. In our late 20s to early 30s, we go through a sharp decline only to spike in times of stress mostly due to kids. (My wife added this one). The decline continues until your retirement years when there is a sudden spike, say around 65 or so where it continues to rise until death.

This graph isn't the same for everyone. But after years of exhausting research collecting data from thousands of people, its a pretty good representation.

The bottom line: This is only the beginning of what is to be an interesting first few years of introducing my son to new foods. Just like I did way back when, he'll want the tasty stuff before the food that's good for you. As a result, we'll have to act like the bad guys and force him to sit at the table and eat it.

As you can see, he wasn't too pleased with my photo timing. The blank stare...similar to the look that Clint Eastwood gives the bad guy before he meets his maker.