My Chinese Internet Eyeglasses Have Arrived

This time I decided to try and get my glasses over the Internet from Zenni, which manufactures the lenses in China, bulk ships them to California then repackaged and FedEx’ed mine from there. I paid extra for that. I was desperate.

The new ones are on the left. I should have let you guess.

A few weeks ago I broke my glasses. No problem. I have a backup. But it was old and the prescription has changed.

This time I decided to try and get my glasses over the Internet from Zenni, which manufactures the lenses in China, bulk ships them to California then repackaged and FedEx’ed mine from there. I paid extra for that. I was desperate.

There was one advantage I had over most. I have my prescription. I see an ophthalmologist on a regular basis and asked for one a few months ago. I did measure (or more accurately Helaine measured) my pupillary distance.

I ordered on the 4th and they arrived today, the 11th.

They come with a plastic case you won’t want to use.

Right off the bat I see better. I see clearer. Everything is a little brighter. I’m guessing that’s because these glasses have a thinner lens and a 1.67 index rating. The focus is good for computing and reading.

I got all the coatings but am a little disappointed in the anti-glare, sort of important in my work. It is however better than the glasses it replaces, so maybe I’m too critical.

They look almost exactly like my old glasses, which is the point. This frame seems a little heavier, but with lighter lenses it’s about the same. On the website I found little distinction between most frames. This is one part of online where you sacrifice.

Total price including express shipping and a 15% discount (easily found) $153. I think that’s pretty good for good progressives.

I Make The Maps

There are all sorts of free open source programs to produce maps and charts, but none made them pretty. And for video you need pretty.

Having a TV studio is one thing. Trying to sell my services to non-traditional users is another. Most TV stations have expensive equipment to produce on-air weather graphics. My potential clientele do not.

The solution was to ‘roll my own.’ There are all sorts of free open source programs to produce maps and charts, but none made them pretty. And for video you need pretty.

Together with my friend Greg in Connecticut the problem has been solved. And it’s all done with free open source software.

Each finished weather map is the product of multiple basemaps and overlays. The program I use to contour the data has no idea those other elements exist. They’re all squeezed together like an Oreo to make what you see.

Finished map showing snow totals expected through midnight Friday morning.

Nebraska overlay map
Nebraska background map


The weather data goes through GrADS. The base maps are made in QGIS using data from NaturalEarth. All the colors, which rivers to include and the opacity of county lines is all my judgement. There are at least a half dozen layers at work.

The tools for cartography are amazing and I enjoy using them but it’s exacting and tedious.

Broken Glasses

CLICK TO READ MORE: It has become uncomfortable to read for any length of time. I’m typing this with my laptop actually serving as a kneetop. Adding distance helps.

New glasses

My glasses broke a few days ago. A quick scramble found an old pair. I was hoping they’d be fine. They are not.

First the good news about my eyes: they’re good. That’s no small thing. Part of the collateral damage from cancer was becoming a diabetic. Diabetes can take a toll on your eyes, but my ophthalmologist just cut me back from visiting every six moths to once a year.

I wear progressives, correcting both near and far. My vision has remained pretty steady but this pair probably made the trip from Connecticut. Old prescription.

It has become uncomfortable to read for any length of time. I’m typing this with my laptop actually serving as a kneetop. Adding distance helps.

Trying on glasses in augmented reality.

I’ve got a muscle ache near my right eye as it tries to focus.

On top of this eyesight is one thing I’m crazed about. It’s really important for me to see sharply especially with all my screen time.

In the short term there’s not much I can do. New glasses are on-the-way. I shopped online with H. We both agreed to stick with something similar to what I wear.

I now know my pupillary distance!

A status report after they arrive.

Shooting Myself In The Foot

When you work alone there are no experts. There is no ‘guy’ to call. You’re on your own to find the solution. I knew that going in but reality is sometimes more than expectation.

Alexa powered power strip
Alexa powered power strip.

I spend a lot of time in my TV studio. When I’m not working on-air I’m developing new techniques and tools. The studio lights get switched off and the fluorescent tubes installed when this was a garage come on.

Over time the fluorescents have become intermittent. A poke with a yardstick or golf club gets one back — but not last night.

The studio lights are bright. Too bright for desk work. Since they’re Alexa controlled I pulled out my phone and turned most of them off. Then I went back to my project.

Note to self: When you do something unusual try and remember you dd it.

When I went to record this afternoon my camera was dead. I quickly figured out what was wrong, but now its signal wasn’t getting to my control room switcher.

It took a while but I finally realized what I did and how I turned off a few outlets I forget could be turned off. Twenty minutes wasted.

When you work alone there are no experts. There is no ‘guy’ to call. You’re on your own to find the solution. I knew that going in but reality is sometimes more than expectation.

Daddy, You’d Be In Jail For Life!

My dad and I just finished our afternoon FaceTime call. You would never know his age by our conversations. We talked baseball, President Trump’s father’s birthplace and the Joe Biden thing.

Before continuing it should be noted I worked with the Connecticut woman who accused Biden of inappropriate behavior. She was a nice person and I enjoyed her company on-the-floor where she worked as camera operator.

She’s bright and worked in politics so she surely understands the power of her words. I believe what she’s said.

I also believe Joe Biden who says he never knowingly did anything inappropriate.

“You know,” I began to my dad. He started laughing. He knew where I was going.

“If Joe Biden is in trouble for what he did, Daddy you’d be in jail for life.”

It’s true. The touchy feely flirtatious nature my dad displays is typical of men his age. There’s undoubtedly some in me too. I grew up watching my father and how it was accepted and even welcomed.

He wasn’t hitting on anyone or coming on sexually. It was how he was brought up in our male dominated society. This was his way of showing he was a nice guy.

“Times have changed.” I could hear a little disappointment in his voice as he said that but he understands. He’s also smart enough to know age 93 gives you some license.

He’ll be better, not perfect.

Alex Trebek’s Journey Ahead

Alex Trebek

You can always tell when something’s up. It used to be the phone. Now it’s text messages and Facebook posts. Alex Trebek has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It is Stage 4. He has only found out within the last week.

Today pancreatic cancer is incurable.

Sometimes it can be cut out surgically, but only a limited number of patients catch their cancer early enough to qualify. That’s what happened with me. Mine was found while looking for something else.

If the cancer is detected at an early stage when surgical removal of the tumor is possible, the 5-year survival rate is 32%. About 10% of people are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs, the 5-year survival rate is 12%. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 3%. – cancer.net

At Stage 4, meaning the cancer has already spread beyond the pancreas, they won’t even try surgery. That’s not being cruel. If the cancer has spread the surgery has more danger than value.

In his video Alex says he’s going to fight — exactly what I said. I told my doctors right away I wanted aggressive treatment. In his case it will probably be a combination of chemo and radiation to try and slow the cancer down.

Most patients in his situation also avail themselves of clinical trials, drugs that are being tested but are not yet proven. It’s a crap shoot. Hardly anything thrown against pancreatic cancer has even made a dent. It’s seriously a ‘what do you have to lose’ situation.

For a while Alex will be able to work. Over time the cancer will grow and take the physical space now occupied by vital organs. That’s how it ends. Your liver or other organ is just crowded out of existence.

I remember visiting my friend Kevin in Cheshire the night he died of pancreatic cancer. His condition that night is seared in my memory.

At this point Alex Trebek is just starting to understand the new job that’s been assigned to him. He’s got the right attitude. I wish him good luck and good health.

The Doctor Who Saved My Life

Right there. That’s the difference. That’s the life and death move that spared me. And that technology wasn’t always here to know contemporaneously how well you’d cut.

Someone left a voicemail a few days ago. Voicemail. In 2019 friends don’t leave friends voicemail.

Transcript: Hi, Mr. Fox, my name is Tiffany. I’m calling from Dr. Shaw’s office. I wanted to remind you that you’re due for an annual appointment follow-up appointment. So, please call us back at 949-76x-xxxx. Thank you, bye-bye.

A pre-chemo blood draw to make sure I was strong enough to endure the poisonous drugs they were about to drip into my system

“Helaine,” I called out, “Do I have a Dr. Shaw?”

Anything’s possible. Cancer left me with an army of docs including some who stepped in-and-out for a single procedure. I returned the call.

We were right. No Dr. Shaw. I was really wanted by Dr. Selby, one of the surgeons who performed my Whipple operation. He wants to admire his handiwork which required me to leave the hospital with my belly held together by 16 staples.

This is an emotional moment for me. Lots of people worked hard and were integral in saving my life. It’s different with Dr. Selby and his partner Dr. Staffer. They cut out the thing that was going to kill me.

As they were closing me up a pathologist found they hadn’t gotten a clean margin, meaning a few cancer cells were left. They undid some stitches, went back in to cut some more.

Right there. That’s the difference. That’s the life and death move that spared me. And that technology wasn’t always here to quickly know how well you’d cut.

All my test are clean from a cancer that returns quickly. I likely will survive 10:1 odds against–just a 9% chance. That’s crazy. A lucky early find and skillful surgeons well equipped. No one is luckier than me.

I will hug Dr. Selby when I see him. Last time I whispered in his ear, “You saved my life.” I’m thinking no one tires hearing that… or saying it.

It All About The Rain (and Snow)

During our last drought you couldn’t take a shower to wash off at California beaches, a ridiculously ineffective water saving example of political theater. As it turns out making a gesture isn’t the same as making a difference.

Current Sierra Mountain snowpack readings through 2-7-2019

Tonight’s snowpack in the Sierra Mountains averages a melted two feet of water. In the spring much of that will be harvested in a series of huge reservoirs. Wherever you live you’ll benefit because California grows most of America’s nuts, fruits and veggies with that water.

Water is a constant concern and battle in California. If you live elsewhere and have somehow heard how thirsty almond trees are, that’s one of those water battles that escaped state lines.

Farmers vs city dwellers. Lettuce versus grass (the fescue kind).

During our last drought you couldn’t take a shower to wash off at California beaches, a ridiculously ineffective water saving example of political theater. As it turns out making a gesture isn’t the same as making a difference.

With 2018-19’s bumper crop in the mountains (and more to come) the pressure will be off for a while. A very good year can fill reservoirs for a much longer run.

Here in the OC rain is more a curiosity than anything. Yes, we stop watering but not for long¹. Same goes for the strawberry fields scattered about the area in two and three acre chunks.

Most of our drinking water comes from elsewhere. We don’t even collect rainwater here. Quite the opposite. We have concrete lined river beds and washes to speed Santa Ana Mountain runoff to the sea.

California’s water year begins in October and follows what are usually six or more nearly rain free months. So far this season we’ve gotten a lot. Five months in we’re already well over an average full year.

The strawberry farmers are probably pleased, but I’m ready for the rainy season to end.

Last 20 years of rain at John Wayne Airport, around 8 miles away.

¹ – Our city, Irvine, being a recently built and well planned city has two water mains. The purple main contains recycled water not good enough for drinking but perfect for plants.

My Dad And I Speak

My dad grew up in a slum. “I was scared of black people,” he said today. “If I saw black people walking in my direction, I’d walk across the street.”

I’d not heard this before. He said it with regret in his voice and concern I could see on his face.

My dad and I speak nearly every day.  Often our conversations turn to his memories.  I initiate.  I want to know how he got where he got. 

Williamsburg is in the borough of Brooklyn (Kings County) in New York City.

So much of his life’s experiences are anachronisms, memories of a time that’s passed.  There was no phone in the house growing up.  They lived above  Fox’s Trimmings, where my grandparents sold everything having to do with cloth, thread, yarn, buttons, snaps, etc.  Peddlers drove horse drawn wagons through the neighborhood selling their wares.

That Williamsburg is desirable today surprises my father.  My dad grew up in a slum later torn down to build a city housing project.

“I was scared of black people,” he said today.  “If I saw black people walking in my direction, I’d walk across the street.”

I’d not heard this before.  He said it with regret in his voice and concern I could see on his face.  We were talking about our divided nation today and pre-World War II America.

“I didn’t know.  We didn’t know.  That’s how I was brought up.”

Even as a kid I remember our family referring to black people by a derogatory Yiddish word.  In retrospect our bigotry kept us from seeing what was real.  We stayed in our own prefab fog.

My dad looks back on those days with regret.  You can’t undo the past.  But you can learn from it.

It was easier to marginalize minorities in the 30s and 40s.  They were invisible in the movies and in print.  Much of America was segregated, openly or defacto.

But how can anyone hold these attitudes today?  That’s what we wondered as we Facetimed.  My father was sheltered from the world outside Brooklyn.  Today it’s impossible not to see how wrong he was.

As we finished tonight I asked if it was OK to write about.  He said, “yYes,” without hesitation. 

Who Was Here Before 1900?

There’s a lot of talk about immigration nowadays.  It was always an accepted part of my life.  The US is very attractive.  People come here.

Growing up I assumed it was the norm.

Seriously, when I went to PS 163Q, EVERYONE I knew was from another country or had parents and/or grandparents who were immigrants.  EVERYONE is capitalized because I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

I remember wondering to myself, “Who was here before 1900?”  They weren’t related to anyone I knew.

Grandpa Sol in his Brooklyn luncheonette.

That’s not to say it was easy back then.  My Grandpa Sol arrived from Poland speaking no English with no money nor any valuable skill.  He didn’t ask if America was good with that before he got on a ship with forged papers.  He was a deserter from the Polish Army.   

Now I live in another immigrant infused area (though more educated and affluent).  So many of the traits I saw in my parents and my friends’ parents I see in the parents of this neighborhood.

I don’t want ‘open borders.’  We do need to limit the flow.  I just don’t want to disfavor people because of where they were born or how they choose to worship.  That seems unAmerican–antithetical to the way I was brought up.

It seems to me people come here because they like what they see and they want it too.  That’s my grandpa’s American success story in a nutshell.

Carved By Wind And Water

21st Century problem: No WiFi on the flight back! In 1985 I was smart enough to carry magazines and newspapers on a plane trip.

Helaine and I flew to Chicago this weekend to see my nephew Matt marry Hannah. The wedding was beautiful. The sentiment sweet.

It was a quick trip — LAX-MDW Saturday, MDW-LAX Monday. We were in Chicago under 48 hours and used Lyft where once we would have rented a car.

21st Century problem: No WiFi on the flight back!

In 1985 I was smart enough to carry magazines and newspapers on a plane trip. Today I depend on my laptop or phone to while away the time. I lifted the shade and looked out the window.

Midway is built into a neighborhood. You fly in-and-out over rooftops. It’s a head scratcher in 2018. Short runways. Every square inch occupied. It’s bursting at the seams.

I watched carefully as we headed over Nebraska. You can tell you’re getting close when you begin seeing circular fields, a product of pivot irrigation. Things begin to spread out. There are 23.8 people per square mile in Nebraska (with the majority of that being in the east). In Illinois it’s 230 ppl/mi2 and in New Jersey it’s 1,195 ppl/mi2. Homes are like remote outposts within the intricate pattern of mainly harvested fields.

This is where you begin the see the stark effects of wind and water. The few trees out here grow near rivers and streams. What’s easy to miss from the ground but unmistakable from the air are the large flood plains surrounding many of these lazy rivers.

It’s taken thousands of thousand year floods to make this happen!

We started to see the Rockies not long after we left Nebraska. Many of the higher peaks are already snow covered. From the 31,000 feet ski areas look like scarred mountains. I guess they actually are. Treeless trails down these slopes don’t come naturally.

East of the Rockies is desert. There’s no water to be seen, but where it goes when it’s there is pretty obvious. Deserts often get their sparse rainfall all-at-once. Deeply cut canyons rut the sides of any raised surface.

It’s desolate as we fly over Nevada. Who could live here? And then every once in a while hidden away in the boring nothingness you’ll see a road and a lone home or two.

We left Chicago at 3:10 pm, cruising around 500 mph. Sunset was heading the same direction at twice our speed. Evening shadows moved half as quickly and lasted twice as long.

As is often the case at LAX we landed with another plane off to our left on a parallel runway.

I Couldn’t Watch

What message are we sending home when famous anchors tell you to not do what they’re doing?

I wasn’t feeling well today. Just the run-of-the-mill people get sick sorta thing. I called in sick halfway through my Nebraska workday. I’m starting to feel a little better.

That sent me upstairs to the bedroom where I turned on cable news. I’m a cable news junkie! I couldn’t watch.

I know a little bit about hurricane coverage. Whatever reputation I have in Connecticut established its beachhead with Hurricane Gloria.

I hate seeing people cover hurricanes in the field live, reasonably unprotected. At some point someone’s going to get hurt or killed and it won’t be a surprise. It will bring me no satisfaction.

A case can be reasonably made this is news porn. We can give more information from the studio. What you see in the field is usually anecdotal.

Of course it draws viewers like flies to shit. Same goes for LA’s compelling copter chases (I’m hooked). In that regard it’s tough not to do. AdWeek’s TVNewser even compiled a list of who’s there.

What message are we sending home when famous anchors tell you to not do what they’re doing?

I’ve vented.

Let’s Talk About Florence

The numbers are only reinforced by the satellite imagery which shows a symmetrical pattern. Symmetry means there are no outside forces pushing at Hurricane Florence trying to rip her apart.

I follow a lot of meteorologists on Twitter. Florence has been all they can talk about, even with other storms in the Atlantic and Pacific. Most of the discussions on Florence have been about how she’s evaded forecasts and recently intensified rapidly. Fine for meteorologists. How about everyone else?

Here’s where we stand midday Monday:

HURRICANE FLORENCE SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST…1500 UTC…INFORMATION
———————————————–
LOCATION…25.0N 60.0W
ABOUT 580 MI…935 KM SSE OF BERMUDA
ABOUT 1240 MI…2000 KM ESE OF CAPE FEAR NORTH CAROLINA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…115 MPH…185 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT…W OR 280 DEGREES AT 13 MPH…20 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…962 MB…28.41 INCHES

That’s a statistically powerful storm. The numbers are only reinforced by the satellite imagery which shows a symmetrical pattern. Symmetry means there are no outside forces pushing at Hurricane Florence trying to rip her apart.

Buoys near the hurricane are reporting water temperatures around 84°. The ocean between Florence and the coast gets progressively warmer. Warm water is a hurricane’s gasoline.

Except for some wind shear near landfall the signs point toward Florence gaining strength. That’s reflected in the official forecast which peaks Florence at 150 mph.

The Hurricane Center put out bullet points with their last technical discussion. Wind is their third worry.

Key Messages:

1. A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the
coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and
a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for some of these areas by
Tuesday morning. All interests from South Carolina into the
mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in
place and follow any advice given by local officials.

2. Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged
and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over
the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is
expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the
coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch
will likely be issued by Tuesday morning. Damaging winds could also
spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.

4. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East
Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf
and rip currents.

It’s difficult to believe anyone will willingly ride out this storm on the barrier islands. The damage will likely be major, but loss of life will hopefully be zero.

Flooding is a different story. As Florence approaches the coast it will slow down. That means areas under rain will experience a long lasting deluge and areas near the coast will experience an extended time of storm surge flooding.

In the end, even with major damage near landfall, the biggest potential for grief from Florence might be inland flooding.

Hurricane Florence should arrive late Thursday or early Friday. Over those next few days she will have fits and starts as eyewall replacement cycles take place. Don’t fixate over static short term numbers. Don’t get your hopes up if Florence weakens. This is a major hurricane on the way to the East Coast.

We probably haven’t seen the last forecast correction either. Stand by.

The Funny Thing About Death

No one ever told me I was going to die. We weren’t stupid. It was pancreatic cancer. We knew right away my chances were poor.

A few years ago I was put in the unenviable position of considering my own mortality. I’m reminded today as John McCain ends his fight against brain cancer.

No one ever told me I was going to die. We weren’t stupid. It was pancreatic cancer. We knew right away my chances were poor.

Even finding out I was eligible for the Whipple, something in retrospect I didn’t quite understand, was only likely to be a short life extension, not a fix.

You want to know how serious it was? I prepared a list of my passwords for Helaine.

This post’s title promises funny. Not ha ha funny. This is strange funny.

Death didn’t scare me. Not at all. That’s the funny thing. I’m still surprised to say that because before cancer it definitely did.

I was scared of the treatments and pain I’d have to go through. Those were planned. It was easy to lose a night’s sleep worrying about what they’d do to me the next morning.

Death sneaks up on you… or so I hoped.

As it turns out my doctor’s were fabulously successful. Every indication is I’m the patient they should put on their CV. They were skillful. I was lucky.

My fears of pain weren’t misplaced. I tolerated it better than feared. We put up with a lot of shit when we have to.

It never came to the point where the pain wasn’t worth it. That’s where John McCain is today. That is sad.

Part of the reason death didn’t scare me was my life was in order. I was in a good place. My family and friends knew where I stood with them. My hope is the same is true for Senator McCain and that he doesn’t fear death.

Guns And Teachers And Friendly Fire

The ‘friendly fire’ piece of the story was only revealed this morning. As soon as I heard it all I could think about was arming teachers.

There was a tragic incident this past weekend in SoCal. An argument between a 28 year old man and his grandmother spiraled out of control. He shot her seven times, grabbed her car and headed out. The chase ended when he crashed the car and ran into a crowded Trader Joe’s supermarket.

Briefly, a gun battle ensued. Thankfully, the perp retreated, began talking with the cops on his cell phone and three hours later surrendered.

We got to watch Trader Joe employee “Sean” help fellow employees escape through a bathroom window.

During the crossfire a woman was killed. She was shot by a cop. This is the responsibility of the perp, but that doesn’t make this any less tragic for the woman killed nor the cop who mistakenly killed her.

It’s a terrible story. Justice cannot even the scales on this.

The ‘friendly fire’ piece of the story was only revealed this morning. As soon as I heard it all I could think about was arming teachers.

Even police, well trained in the use of their weapon, sometimes get it wrong — especially when the situation is one of mayhem. I can’t imagine how arming teachers could end well.