The Storm’s Over — The Numbers Are In

The dry air was the wild card. Radar showed moderate snow over all of Connecticut for hours-and-hours before anything hit the ground.

snow-shovel-on-the-steps.jpgThe snow has come and gone. There’s never a bullseye, but the forecast was reasonably close. If success is judged by number of complaints, or lack thereof, I’m doing fine. Here are the final DOT numbers. I have also added the Boston and New York NWS snow totals, which include Connecticut, for the Dec 20-21, 2009 storm at the end of this entry.

Not everyone was as lucky. A friend who forecasts in Springfield sent a text message saying he’d received nothing! “Bust of the decade,” he said. Ouch. Been there. I know exactly what he’s going through.

I was right about Southeastern Connecticut getting the most snow followed by the shoreline in general. The snow was fluffy and windblown as predicted. Accumulations were generally in line with my numbers. My call for the Northwest Hills and most of the area directly adjacent to the Massachusetts line was a few inches higher than the actual totals.

I wrote about this last night, but it bears repeating the most unusual and interesting part of this storm was the exceptionally dry air. During the summer we sometimes see 30 grams of water content per square meter. Last night it was around 1 gram per cubic meter!

The dry air was the wild card. Radar showed moderate snow over all of Connecticut for hours-and-hours before anything hit the ground. Once the atmospheric column over any location became saturated light snow turned to heavy snow. I’d never seen a situation quite like this before. It cut inches off all the accumulations.

It’s a shame this storm will impact Christmas shopping. Otherwise we’re lucky it came on a Saturday night when travel is usually light.

And now the dig out begins.

(NWS totals after the jump)

Continue reading “The Storm’s Over — The Numbers Are In”

Google Maps Enhances Traffic Reporting While Scaring The Crap Out Of Me

They know where you are. And by they I mean Google and anyone holding a subpoena!

Have you ever checked out the traffic using Google? In the past few weeks a major change has totally transformed the experience making traffic reporting on Google so good I am petrified of the technology behind it!

When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you’re moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions.

They’re reading the GPS on your cellphone. They know where you are. And by they I mean Google and anyone holding a subpoena!

google-maps-traffic.jpgThe cool part is being able to aggregate the GPS data from many phones. Right now Google shows some slowdowns on I-95 in Fairfield County, but they also show Whitney Avenue in Hamden running well with discrete green lines for north and south. There are some minor secondary roads you’d never expect to see tracked which are!

Sometime very soon technology like this will integrate with the data in your GPS to seamlessly route you around traffic in real time. The upside potential is great. Think of the savings in worker productivity and gas consumption.

The scary part is this is one more way we’ve lost any semblance of anonymity.

I’m not sure why I care, but I do. I’d like my thoughts to be my own. I’d like my route… my travels to be my choice without question or oversight.

Who am I kidding? That ship has sailed.

New Canaan

In New Canaan understatement rules.

There are two Connecticuts. There is Lower Fairfield County and there is everything else. Lower Fairfield County is what most out-of-staters think of when they think of Connecticut. Why not, it’s fabulous.

Saturday afternoon Helaine and I traveled to New Canaan, in the heart of Lower Fairfield County. The trip took less than an hour, but it’s a whole different world.

“According to the New Canaan Advertiser’s 2008 town answer book, in 2007, 254 single family homes were sold in New Canaan with a median sale price of $1.85 million and an average sale price of $2,301,608.”

Yeah, it’s all that. We saw some tidy homes along the main road into town. They’d fit in any community, except here they are impeccably maintained with beautiful lawns and mature plantings. It reminds me of “The Flats” neighborhood in Beverly Hills.

It’s tough to walk through New Canaan with high end sedans and SUVs diagonally parked in the center of town and not feel a little intimidated. I suspect Downtown New Canaan today is similar to what it was like 30-40 years ago. I spotted some of the original customers mixed in with newer money residents.

There are tidy stores selling expensive merchandise downtown. Some national chains have taken over where local merchants once operated. The local savings bank is now a Chase branch. The are no garish signs. In New Canaan understatement rules.

Helaine pointed to a store that sold baby clothes and pondered how people could spend hundreds of dollars for an outfit that would fit a child for a month or two.

I wonder how this area will be affected if Lehman Brothers or other huge financial institutions go under or shrink? A lot of Wall Street power commutes from this outpost at the end of its own branch of the Metro-North Railroad.

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Talking Up New Haven

We’re getting some equipment installed at work. That means a support tech in from Madison, WI and lots of extra time on-the-job (for both of us). Tonight he and I and Gil Simmons took a walk from the TV station to get dinner.

I’ve been meaning to say this, because I’ve been noticing it a lot more, but New Haven is becoming a happening place, especially downtown. I’ve been here 23 years and the changes are amazing.

As we walked past the Green and down Temple Street there was plenty of activity at outdoor cafes. I’m going to have to take Gil’s word, but the bar scene is happening. More importantly, there are now dozens of nice places to eat downtown.

People are also moving into the downtown area with some very pricey condo conversions. An old girdle factory, phone company building, and other office space have become apartments and condos. When people live in a city, it will thrive.

Make no mistake, New Haven has plenty of problems. You can’t watch my station or read the New Haven Register for long without reading about a shooting – often gang related. And, New Haven is still a very poor city, with lots of unemployed or underemployed people.

Gentrification often displaces people of more limited incomes who are priced out of the neighborhood. At the moment that’s less likely to happen here because there were few living downtown.

Out-of-towner’s think of Connecticut and visualize lower Fairfield County. New Haven is not Greenwich! This part of the state has little in common with the Gold Coast, beginning with income and housing prices.

I don’t think there was a tipping point – a magic moment when everything began to change for New Haven. It just happened organically. Now the pace is picking up.

Like I said, after 23 years here it’s a very welcome change.

How Do You Deal With It?

I like Noah Finz, our sports guy at the TV station. I like his wife, Kendra, too. I’ve known her a lot longer than I’ve known Noah. They are both technophobes.

Actually, being a little skittish in the face of technology puts them in step with most everyone, which leads me to what happened today.

Noah’s laptop was old. He wanted to upgrade to faster hardware, especially with a two year old, infant and very nice camera for picture taking.

Most people would have unplugged the old machine, plugged in the new and then forgotten what was left on the laptop. Sure, they’re networked together, but how many people know how that works? Few!

I popped in the car and headed to Fairfield County.

His Dell desktop machine was the most quiet PC I’ve ever heard – startling, since the trend has been in the opposite direction. It needed a Firewire and wireless network card. No sweat, except it only had two slots, one of which was already filled by a dial-up modem.

“Put this away,” I told Noah as I handed it to him in an anti-static bag. Truthfully, it will never be used.

The Firewire card was effortlessly installed suing native Windows drivers. The wireless card was more trouble. It didn’t conform to Belkin’s instructions!

It finally installed because I ad libbed. How do they sell and support these things when the installation process isn’t remotely connected to what’s in the instructions?

As with Helaine’s computer, this Dell came loaded with ‘nagware.’ I don’t want programs bugging me. Some are difficult to remove. Others are confusingly described. Most have limited lifespans, meaning you’re later expected to shell out more money for the software that came on your PC!

Hats off to Cablevision, Noah’s ISP. Their Optonline cable modem service has an automated configuration tool which set up Outlook Express correctly on the first try.

We installed Picasa, MS Office, the new free AOL anti-virus suite and a few others. Then it was time to move photos and documents. I couldn’t get his computers to speak to each other. I have no idea why, nor do I know how I finally encouraged them to have limited access to each other.

It just happened.

You never accomplish 100% on a mission of mercy like this, but we came close. Again, I have no idea how Noah or Kendra could have done this themselves, and they can’t be alone.

What do most people do? Or do people like me just drive around on weekends helping out and playing with little kids – they couldn’t have been cuter.

Bye Bye Sydney

I woke up this morning, turned on the TV and saw New Years celebrations from Australia. At the bottom of the screen it said, “Happy New Year Sydney.”

It’s an omen!

Sydney is about to leave. Amy is downstairs with Helaine and Steffie. Sad moment – what can I say?

I started to come downstairs, but Helaine asked me not to. I was in pajamas and looked like a guy who had been rearranged after a night of sleep. On the other hand, Amy’s married. How much better can her husband Rob look when he gets up?

I came downstairs and took two quick shots. As usual Sydney is in the energy preservation mode.

In a little while Sydney will get into the car and drive home to Fairfield County. Our dog sitting&#185 will be done. Sydney was a good house guest.

&#185 – Make no mistake about it, I didn’t lift a finger! Though Helaine provided the bulk of support for Sydney, Stefanie was very helpful (kudos to her). I was pleased to see Steffie often taking the lead with Sydney’s trips outside.