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Who Said I’d Be Bored?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

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I’m forecasting the weather for the Coachella Valley at KMIR. The physics of weather are the same, but there are different tools to use.

Satellite imagery is a lot more important here. Anything coming from the Pacific is out of radar range nearly all the way to the coast.

I’ve been looking at a plume of moisture from north of Hawaii curving up the Pacific then back down the West Coast. It’s the big weekend weather maker for SoCal. The only way to see it is from the bird.

Saturday, while it’s raining in LA and San Diego, there will be partly cloudy skies over Palm Springs with a few sprinkles. We are protected by steep mountains, some over 11,000 feet tall.

On Sunday the moisture heads in from the south. No protection there! That’s when we get the bulk of our rain.

Some computer models show around an inch of rain in Palm Springs by Monday morning. That’s a lot in a place that floods easily. I spent time tonight explaining ‘washes’ to the tourists and snowbirds watching.

On top of the rain we’ve got wind for Saturday and as much as a foot and a half of snow in some mountain locations.

Who said I’d be bored forecasting here?

The Data Guzzler

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Internet Tools

I wrote a few days ago about the realization I was the IT guy around here. Now I see how much data is actually moving through. It’s scary.

Under my cable provider’s biggest Internet package I’m allotted 400 Gb of data a month. I’ve used 326 Gb so far, including one day I blew through 79 Gb, with a week to go.

I need the bandwidth! It’s worth ponying up for additional service if I really have to. I’ve been told, “Don’t worry.” There is a cap, but it’s not enforced.

Video from my studio is encoded at 10 Mbps. It’s the HD+ mode. Overkill? It seems the right way to go, even though it’s burning through 4.5 Gb of data every hour.

Beyond that I get dozens and dozens of maps, most produced as data comes in. They’re sent to me as movies which can be run through my control room. Movie files are large. Some are hundreds of megabytes. At the moment maps are taking more bandwidth than live video!

Originally I was pulling them in 24/7. I’ve just backed off, cutting the flow by at least 75% (and still having everything available on demand).

As much as I thought I knew about my studio project, there’s some stuff you just can’t understand until operations begin.

Bill O’Reilly And The Truth

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

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I have been trying to avoid the Bill O’Reilly story. It’s tough to keep away. It’s compelling. He’s compelling.

I don’t think he’s been telling the truth.

Let accept one fact first: On-the-air O’Reilly is masterful.

There are few, maybe none, who do what he does better. It disappoints me we’re usually on the opposite side of his political arguments, but that doesn’t take away his TV talents.

Did O’Reilly lie or strongly exaggerate when he talked about his experience in the Falklands War? Yes. I have no doubt.

Did he stretch the truth when in his book “Killing Kennedy” he claimed:

As the reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian, assuring that his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald would never be fully understood.

By the way, that reporter’s name is Bill O’Reilly.

Again. the evidence indicates Bill’s version doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Should he be punished? Brian Williams certainly was for his exaggerations and self inflating fiction.

I wish the O’Reilly answer was a resounding yes, but I’m not so sure. As someone who was harshly punished, I know it doesn’t always fit the crime.

Don’t we all inflate our resume just a little? Have you ever embellished a story to make it better? It’s not like O’Reilly made this stuff up out of whole cloth. He almost did those things he’s claimed… almost.

If O’Reilly does get smacked around it will be because he pushed back too hard. Instead of apologizing or backtracking he mounted attacks against the original reporter of the story and a New York Times reporter later trying to advance it.

During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”

That’s pretty low.

Bill O’Reilly was once sued for sexual harassment. He claimed, as he does now, to be innocent. He said he would fight the charges. In the end he quietly settled for millions.

I’ll be interested to see this play out.

Trip To Riverside

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

RiversidehomesI drove to Riverside this evening to drop off a piece of equipment. Riverside is an interesting city. It’s totally a product of the automotive era. Without cars and freeways (and air conditioning) Riverside would still be dusty scrubland. It’s a valley made for smog!

In 1960 84,000 people lived in Riverside. It’s over 310,000 now. The area is dominated by Hispanic families, many of whom moved here to own a first home.

Riverside is built out, not up. It sprawls out as the capitol of the “Inland Empire.”

I’m sure there’s some special Riverside charm, but it is hidden under a deluge of national chains. There’s nothing in Riverside you can’t also find in Des Moines or Salt Lake City or Albany.

We have been transformed. More and more we are losing our individual identity. It’s the price we pay for our more efficient economy. Local businesses struggle to compete.

I parked between Trader Joe’s and Regal Cinema with a Bank America and Rite Aid across the driveway. Build more homes, get more Michaels or Ikea.

I didn’t stay long.

Rain Shade Is Major

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

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My job is forecasting the weather at KMIR. Our market, Palm Springs, covers a small geographic area. It’s not even a whole county!

People think it’s boring to forecast in the desert. Nah. Sometimes it’s repetitive. I can deal with that. There’s always something interesting going on.

Locales have individual climatic quirks like baseball parks have ground rules. The Coachella Valley, where the vast majority of our viewers live, is a protected valley. We are flanked by mountains. We get “rain shade.” Real term. I didn’t make it up.

The San Bernardino Mountains are north, San Jacinto and Santa Ana Mountains west and the Little San Bernardino Mountains are off to the east. We’re wedged in tight.

A small storm hitting SoCal this weekend will drop nearly all its rain before it gets to Palm Springs! The largest rainfall will be on the eastern slopes of the Santa Ana’s. The east face of the San Jacinto range should drain most of what’s left. The tallest mountaintops will get snow.

The notoriously awful QPF (Quantitative Precipitation Forecast) from the GFS model say .06″ Sunday and another .04″ Monday at Palm Springs Airport (PSP). John Wayne Airport (SNA), west of Palm Springs and on the coastal side of the mountains, is forecast for .33″, over three times as much.

There’s are reasons Palm Springs gets less than six inches of rain in an average year. Rain shade is major.

Now I’m The IT Guy

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

snapshot_000DC5D4C863_20150221162928When I started my studio project I had no idea I’d become “the IT guy.” Everything is digital. Nothing is analog… except me.

The good news is I like this stuff, but this is way deeper in than I’ve ever been. I’ve got servers and a bunch of other single purpose computers, like my switcher and the modem that allows me to send HD video over the Internet.

Nearly every device is sharing with every other device. Files need to be available no matter where I am or they are.

I poked holes in my firewall and forwarded ports to allow the outside world to communicate directly with some of my gear. It’s not without danger. Miscreants are robotically probing for weaknesses in systems like mine 24/7.

In the analog days video and audio were like water flowing through pipes. You could cut the pipe at any point and split it or meter it.

Not today.

The flow is more orderly and intensely complex. Data doesn’t flow, it’s routed. As you might imagine, 1080i video consumes lots of data. Every hour my studio is feeding it sends around 5Gb of data.

Packets are flying through my network at breakneck speed, but it’s still the bottleneck of my system… of most complex networks. Optimization is everything. I’m working with vendors’ experts who know their systems to tweak every last bit of performance.

This isn’t a never ending project, is it?

Tonight’s Tech Experience

Friday, February 20th, 2015

I have a piece of gear at home. It’s a special data modem for a project I’m working on. It comes from Canada. I called tech support tonight. Bucharest, Romania.

Actually it was a cool experience. The tech was knowledgeable and didn’t seem rushed. He was used to dealing with techies. He knew my equipment.

I explained what was to be accomplished. He made it happen. Even better he talked his way through it while I watched.

Sometimes the future is very cool.

I Love You NASA, But…

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

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I was just reading a release on the progress of NASA’s New Horizons mission. It was sent toward Pluto back when Pluto was still a planet. It gets there this summer.

New Horizons is still over 100 million miles out, but closing fast. Low-res images of two of Pluto’s four moons are coming in. It’s an amazing achievement.

But why?

Actually, I know why. Space technology creates many well paying jobs. It’s a political landmine to cut.

Unfortunately, there is almost no practical payoff to space. All the good discoveries happened decades ago. I’ve been hearing about pharmaceuticals and metallurgy in space for the last forty years! Don’t hold your breath.

i19_025588I don’t know what they do on the International Space Station on a daily basis, but it’s the modern version of a ham radio operator’s basement from the sixties. And, it’s expensive.

What we need is to better explore Earth. We need to understand and leverage the natural power around us. There is untapped energy in tides and ocean currents. There is great heat at the center of the Earth.

The same types of skills NASA employs for space are needed for Earth! Only the mission need be changed.

Could harnessing heat from the Earth’s core be any more difficult that sending a mission to Pluto?

This is a pipe dream. I don’t see it happening. I wish it would.

There are so many bright and wonderfully talented people at NASA. Their accomplishments are way beyond mind boggling. They’re just solving the wrong problems.

Hey Skinny Pop, Thanks For The Air

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Skinny Pop popcorn, showing the popcorn and air I bought!

When I returned to the Coachella Valley a cache of food and snacks accompanied by me. Everything was neatly packed away, except for a giant bag of popcorn. It had to be handled on its own. Too big to ride with the other edibles.

It’s tough to miss the screaming large type. “SKINNY POP POPCORN.” “BIGGER SIZE.”

Last night I opened the bag. Look what fills around a third of it. Air!

There are lots of bigger problems to complain about, but I didn’t want Skinny Pop’s slick move to go unnoticed.

Seriously, Skinny Pop? Air?

I Now Have A Hotel Routine

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

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I’m back in La Quinta, back in the hotel. We were on from my home studio at 5 and 6. I drove to Palm Desert for the late news.

There are still a few stubborn, but solvable, roadblocks. It’s worth doing right.

The hotel threw me a curve this time. I’m on the left side of the building facing the pool, dead center. I expect it to be quiet and visually meh.

My room has two Queens instead of a single King Size bed. I’m too tired to kvetch. I can take in boarders. Airbnb?

I now have a hotel routine. Dammit. I hate routines.

Suit off as soon as I get in, then neatly hung. Two suits for five days. Respect the fabric.

The Foxes are convinced as long as I change ties no one will notice. Shhh.

My dirty clothes go in the zipped side of the suitcase. My ties are curled up, then set on the TV table/dresser. Gotta segregate the worn and unworn. Seriously, I’d forget.

My collar stays and cuff links are on the nightstand. There are backups, hopefully not needed.

I came with food! Even away from home Helaine makes sure I’m well fed. It makes being away easier. It makes me miss her more.

There’s fruit and nuts and snacks plus a few microwavable entrees and salad kits. My room has a refrigerator, now holding around 5% of its capacity.

Somehow I’ve gotten another room with an unsettable clock showing the wrong time. Welcome home.