My issues with the Weather Channel

24 05 2012

The Weather Channel is just terrible. In the past, it served a useful purpose. I remember watching it as a kid in the 90s. (I was a weird kid.) It was fairly straightforward with its purpose and implementation. It was a 24/7 cable channel where people could go get weather information for their own area as well as the rest of the country. It had incredible utility and was very good at what it did.

Unfortunately, as television executives are prone to doing, they took a perfectly good thing and fucked it up, royally. They must have had some top-level executive meeting ten years ago where they talked about all the things they could do to remove all but the most subtle signs of utility from the Weather Channel.

First, they added programming. They started putting on shows like “Storm Stories,” where rednecks are interviewed about their impressions of the inside of a fucking hurricane. It is a show that showcases the stories of people either unlucky enough to be in the path of a tornado or stupid enough to sit through a Category 4 hurricane.

Second, they added advertising. Granted, ads were on the Weather Channel for a long, long time. Unfortunately, there are way too many and they get more screen time than the weather itself.

Third, they have a morning show. It has Al Roker, no less. The Weather Channel has a morning show. You might be thinking, “Oh, great! I will get some national news while I get my weather!” Nope. “Wake Up With Al” has as tenuous a grasp on news reporting as Roker’s last show, the horrendous “Today” show on NBC.

There is, however, still weather on the Weather Channel. “Local on the 8s” is the last remaining fragment of TWC’s focused and purposeful lineup. Local on the 8s gives a minute or so of actual weather information every ten minutes.

What really pisses me off about weather reporting in general is the lack of climate change coverage. On TWC and local news channels, they go on and on about how we are having record temperatures, record precipitation, and record drought but do not ever once suggest why these things are happening. I know, it’s the Weather Channel, not the Climate Channel. Still, these two are inextricably linked with one another and with virtually every other area of our lives, yet climate change gets virtually no coverage on a network that is dedicated to reporting the weather. I would not expect much, maybe something like, “Hey, you know it’s 120ºF in shade because…” It should not be a big deal.

In a television world where shows and news coverage is mediocre at best, one would think that we could get something as basic as weather reporting right. Unfortunately, due to focus groups and TV executives trying to appeal to a “broader audience,” we are left with another shitty, half-assed news channel like CNN, Fox, or MSNBC. Of course there alternatives to finding weather information, such as local news stations, NOAA, and the old standby, looking out the god damned window.

The education of Patrick Proctor

19 08 2010

As someone who is not psychologically prepared to leave school after over 16 years, I have created a rough draft of my educational “Master Plan.” This could be childish rationalization talking, but I think that one should not simply stop after a bachelor’s degree. If you have a reasonably well-paying job, try to stay in school and broaden your education. People often do this with a Master’s degree or, sometimes, a PhD. I am talking about moving beyond a single area of specialization.

I recently graduated, just three months ago, with my first college degree, a Bachelor’s degree in Informatics from Indiana University. Two years prior, I began making plans to stay at IUPUI for graduate school. Then I became inspired to go back to IU Bloomington to finish my Astronomy/Astrophysics degree, which I abandoned during sophomore year. My long-term personal education plans look something like this now:

Okay, so that does look a little crazy. Also, I plan to be working full- or part-time while doing this. Yeah, I’m certifiable. I plan on spending all of my 20s working on degrees in two vastly different fields of study with no real idea or plan of how to apply this knowledge and experience to the real world. Things will work out, I am sure of that.

I will reevaluate my plans as I go, of course. I will keep deciding whether this is really the thing I want to do. I think that if I continually decide this is really the thing I want to do, it can only lead to good things. Who knows? Maybe by the time I start working on my second Master’s degree, IU will decide to give me a volume discount on degrees.

Change is still coming

19 10 2009

I keep hearing a lot of bitching about how Obama and the Democratic congress have failed miserably to change things for the better. I feel that this is a fair judgement and an unfair judgement, simulatneously.

What I see is the continued presence of a vocal minority, a group of ideologues perched on the fringes of the political spectrum, left and right. The extreme right wing is rallying people who are mostly right-wing extremists themselves into action, creating a furor that will inevitably garner attention from the mainstream media because, let’s face it, extremism sells. So, these people who carried out the teaparties and other right-flavored protests against nonexistent political actions. On the far left, there are people calling those people “teabaggers” and “facists” while they themselves are called “communists” and “socialists.”

(At this point, I want you to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Do it three times. Relaxed? Good.)

I think that despite whatever this minority says or does, change will come because we all know the status quo is unsustainable. We HAVE to change. It is a fact. It is an inevitability. I believe that the majority of the American people are sane, calm, rational people who simply do not have the time, money, or emotional capital to invest in fervent political polarization of America. They have to go to work. When they get home, they don’t have the energy to get too invested in what’s going on beyond their walls. However, I feel that that same group of people is not satisfied with the status of the economy, energy prices, or other things that directly affect their lives. That is what matters to them. If there are enough people who want something and they see that many others want the same thing, then they will start to speak out. They will start to demand the action that they think is necessary to put things in the world right.

I do not care how loud the ideologues on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, or any other outlet get, they cannot match the power and scale of the broader American public. They can yell and scream and shout all they want, but eventually we will all get wise to what they are doing and walk away. It is within our power to get dramatic, meaningful health reform. We can get ourselves off dirty, nonrenewable fuels and create jobs in the process. I do not care what those noisy naysayers claim. The general American public will come around and demand these things.

(At least, I really hope I’m right about this.)

Why climate change is so controversial

28 07 2009

I realize that the title of this blog post is a bit loaded. This is not a simple situation to understand. There is so much controversy in American politics regarding climate change. It is extraordinarily frustrating to see one’s own leaders, the people who can make the greatest strike against a global problem wasting everyone’s time with endless bickering. Then the bickering that starts in Washington spreads out to the general American public, polarizing many people.

The question is why? Why do our leaders waste precious time, energy, and money fighting each other over trivial issues when the real fight goes ignored? They are used to fighting. That is all Congress has done over the last twenty years. Passing meaningful legislation that will benefit the majority of the American people has become a secondary concern. What really seems to matter to them is winning the next little argument, the next tiny spat. It all seems to be about members of Congress masturbating their own egos at the expense of America and the rest of the world. It is disturbing, it is unproductive, and it is selfish.

As for the American people, it comes down to laziness, fear, and an unwillingness to change. For the last sixty years, we have become accustomed to a way of living that, while very comfortable, is unsustainable. The resistance to accepting the reality of climate change stems from natural conclusion that a large part of the solution and keeping our planet habitable for human life involves them making life changes that they are unaccustomed to and will probably be difficult. We are indeed a nation of whiners and fear-mongers. It would be terrifying for us all to accept the reality of the situation is because the situation is so dire and the moral imperative to do something is inescapable.

The fact is we need solutions and change, not one or the other. We need to make changes in our lives so that we threaten the status of the global climate less. We need technology innovation and risk-taking so that we will have the tools to implement an industrial transformation. We have can have the ability to avert a catastrophe for mankind, but we must have the courage to admit to our mistakes and our flaws.

We all breathe the same air. Despite this, we put massive amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, long-chain hydrocarbons, benzene, and all kinds of other poisons into the air that we all breathe. China has some of the worst air quality in the world. About 400,000 Chinese die every year because of poor air quality. I used to think we humans don’t shit where we eat. I guess I was wrong.

Related reading:

Does Wikipedia have a place in the classroom?

31 01 2009

I am a college student. When I was in high school, Wikipedia became more and more popular as a source of information among my peers. I was among the few in my age group to be suspicious of Wikipedia. The thought of anyone being able to edit what so many consider absolute fact was frightening to me and still is today. Even today, as a junior in college, I see many of my peers regarding Wikipedia as the gospel truth on everything. It is a quick way to push actual research out of the way.

I certainly think that Wikipedia has its place. I believe that it is excellent as a starting point for research, to point people in the right directions. I believe that it is good for looking things up quickly, when accuracy is not necessary or the subject in question is unimportant. I really love social media. I love how democratic the internet is and that everyone gets an equal voice. However, I think that Wikipedia is an exception to that rule. Everyone having an equal voice on Wikipedia may not be a good thing. Hacks, propagandists, vandals, and just plain idiots can post anything they like on Wikipedia. Since so many people take Wikipedia so seriously, it has the potential to become a frighteningly powerful tool for misinformation and propaganda.

How would I approach Wikipedia? With caution. Everything that is printed there should be taken with a grain of salt. I would not use it as a source for a paper or some other assignment. I do use it for research. I use it to give me a general idea of the subject at hand and then use the references at the bottom of the article to find better, more accurate information that will probably become by cited sources.

I think that Wikipedia has its place in academia, but that place is not as a primary source. It is a search tool and can be used for a very limited summary on a given topic, no more. We have to be very careful about what we read an believe on the internet, as well as what we repeat and pass on to others.

Why Santa is a criminal

23 12 2008

This is my obligatory holiday-related post. What crazy, pointless point will I try to defend this year? Brace yourself… Santa Claus is a criminal. Here’s why.

Who is Santa Claus? He is a mythical figure ingrained in modern popular culture. He has been around for years. In fact, the notion of a man who gives presents to children on Christmas Eve goes back hundreds of years. So what could be wrong with this? The simple fact is, that while this is an innocuous story told to children year after year, if someone in real life we caught doing what Santa does, he would be in jail in short order.

Santa Claus is an eccentric old man who happens to own a sweatshop at the North Pole. That is so Connery-era James Bond. He basically flies all over the world and breaks into every house on Earth and gives presents to the kids. That’s right, there’s an old guy breaking into your house in the middle of the night and he’s got something for your kid. So what charges would Santa be brought up on?

  • B&E – The first obvious charge would be breaking and entering. According to most versions of the myth, Santa enters the house through the chimney. Personally, I think it would be easier to break into a house through a door or unlocked window. On the other hand, we are talking about a man who dresses in bright red and lives at the north pole.
  • Immigration violations – I am not a legal expert, so I cannot list any specific regulations. However, he does technically reside in international water, which is where the north pole is located. Other versions of the myth claim that Santa’s residence is in Canada or one of the Scandinavian nations. Either way, he does violate the airspace and borders of 195 nations in one night every year. That, I am almost certain,is against American immigration law. I am sure that other nations on Earth would take issue with him doing this.
  • Labor law – This is more of an ethical area than a legal area. According to most modern interpretations of the Santa Claus myth, he has a factory at the north pole where his elves manufacture toys for Santa to distribute to the children. However, no mention is made of Santa ever compensating them for their labor. This would seem to indicate that Santa uses the elves as slave labor, clearly violating UN policy as well as the moral scruples of the developed world. This does not make Santa look good in the eyes of human- or elf-rights activists.

Santa is a criminal he must be stopped. Parents all over the world continue to tell children of the jolly, kind man who gives them presents every year. However, it seems as though the children never hear about the real man behind the beard, the criminal. Santa should be feared and reviled by children. However, it is difficult to convince children of an ugly truth like this when it is so much more satisfying to believe that Santa Claus is nothing more than a kind, magical man who only spreads joy across the world. Yet year after year, kids are taught to idolize a man who violates the airspace of 195 nations, breaks into millions of homes, and uses slave labor to produce toys. It needs to end here. I call on all parents to stop teaching children about Santa. At the very least, they should expose him for what he really is, a criminal.

Merry Christmas.

Update: Where is global warming when you need it?!

31 05 2008

A couple days ago, I wrote a blog post mocking mother nature. Apparently, she lacks a sense of humor and has the time and will to punish my impatience. The day after, the temperature jumped from the low 60s to the mid 80s, as did the humidity. Then, last night, we got a crazy lightning/thunder/rain/cat/dog/shit storm that I have not seen the likes of which I have not seen in many years. Since the garage was occupied by boats and my sunroof has yet to be repaired, I had to put a bucket in the driver’s seat in my car, not before the seat was already soaked.

Look, I’m just saying that I didn’t know nature was that vindictive or read blogs.