If It Looks Like I’m Showing Off…

If it looks like I’m showing off weather maps lately it’s because I am.

It’s pretty amazing how far Greg and I have come. We’re doing something very different, adapting tools made for more scholarly pursuits.

These are not the maps I’d use to prepare a forecast. They’re designed for show and tell — to point at.

This project might be more detailed than even building my studio. I’m certainly learning more.

Greg writes most of the back end code, I handle the stuff you see, mainly written in an arcane macro language called .gs. Each map is hand crafted with all sorts of decisions for look and feel. They’re all similar but different depending on scale, topography or my judgement the moment of creation.

What’s posted here are 800×450 gifs. Internally I use 1920×1080 mp4s. The maps look good.

This would be impossible without Open Source programs like QGIS, ffmpeg, GrADS, NaturalEarth database and even the OpenSans font family! And it all runs on Centos Linux, also Open Source.

About 80 tasks are in the scheduler. Half run every hour 24/7/365, the others four times a day. Each frame in an animation is an individually rendered map. Tens of thousands are produced daily. Most are never be seen before being overwitten.

My box doesn’t do everything yet, but it’s getting closer. Each additional piece makes it easier to code the piece that follows.

It’s good to get excited.

No One Wants To Get This Text

I got that shitty text no one wants to get this morning. Cousin Gary was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December. This morning he died.

It is an awful disease–a cruel killer with no regard for who you are or how good you were. Gary was a good guy. My friend Kevin, taken by pancreatic cancer ten years ago, was a good guy too.

Don’t get a false impression by my ‘cure.’ There is no actual cure for pancreatic cancer. My cancer was found and removed before it spread. That is the only way in 2018.

“Clean margins,” was the surgeon’s verdict after six hours in surgery. It was what we wanted to hear.

Only one in three can get this surgery. Only one in three of those have this result.

People call all the time to talk about pancreatic cancer. It’s a role I’ve taken on willingly. Most of the time I know how things are going to end before we begin.

There is research ongoing, but this is a particularly tough disease. There is no definitive test for pancreatic cancer other than a physical biopsy. It’s not a routine test because it’s surgery.

Though only 3% of all cancers, pancreatic cancer accounts for 7% of deaths. It’s fast and efficient. The five year survival rate for those whose cancer was detected after it began to spread is 3%.

So, we root for smart doctors and the really brave patients who let them experiment on them with trials, so far mainly ineffective. And we remind the families, like my cousins today, how much we love them and how much of their pain is shared deep inside.

It hurts me Gary suffered for one minute. I hate this damn disease.

I’m A Coder… Sort Of

When I mention I’ve been coding most of you have no clue what I’m talking about. A little explanation today. Coding is among the most rewarding and frustrating things I do!

First, an acknowledgment. I have a mentor in Greg Senia from Shelton. The amount of help he’s given me is immeasurable. I’d be dead in the water without him.

Atom text editor handling two files simultaneously. My new favorite text editor.

Coding simply means writing instructions a computer program can read. Each program has its own little language with strict rules. They’re all similar, but all different.

Spelling counts and only 100% passes. Keys you didn’t know existed like “|” and “`” and “{}” and “[]” become critical.

Most of what we do with computers and cellphones is done in real time. We’re in control. The programs I write run autonomously, sometimes without a keyboard or monitor, triggered by a clock. They won’t run years without any intervention, but they’re pretty dependable day-to-day.

My goal is animated maps at HD quality. Some of these short movies contain 120 separate maps. Each map is rendered individually and sandwiched between a basemap and overlay. The mp4 HD movie is made next. Once created it’s scanned to produce the optimum 256 color colortable for the animated gif. Phew.

My code has to communicate with three separate programs and the computer’s Linux operating system. Files and values are passed back and forth as the different programs perform different parts of the process. One of my scripts takes nearly a half hour to run while gobbling up a few gigs of data, writing over 7,000 separate maps and producing more than fifty animated HD movies.

TV stations purchase expensive systems to do this. This seemed like a better idea for me. It’s a ton of work and extremely unforgiving but the payoff is huge.

The programs I’m using, GrADS, ffmpeg and QGIS are all open source and free as is the Linux operating system, the cartography and weather databases and even the “Open_Sans” font family I’m using.

These programs are thinly used. Help is often tough to find. A few weeks ago I spent a full night looking for a problem causing a crash every time a certain program ran. Greg found it within thirty seconds. He’s a lot more experienced. Beyond that, my text editor conspired by breaking up long lines in a way which hid the cause. A true FML night.

Tonight Greg figured out how to label the correct time and time zone on forecast maps, stumbled upon a bug that would have randomly bit us later and showed me how to re-write all my code as a series of modules.

Yeah — rewrite all my code. I’m working toward long term efficiency, but it will cause pain today.

He’s given me some sample code and hints at approaching problems. Now I have to make it happen.

Write once. Run many.

Still to come, radar maps in real time and numbers on my forecast temperature maps. I am very pleased with how this is working out. Take a look at some samples below. The high quality mp4’s have around ten times the resolution!

If You Forward, You’re Responsible

I got another email today about Fabrizio Brambilla. Among people who know nothing about how computers work Fabrizio is a feared man.

Notify your contacts in your messenger list that they do not accept anything from Fabrizio Brambilla. He has a photo with a dog. He is a hacker and he has the system connected to your messenger account, if one of your contacts accepts it you will also be Jackeado , make sure that your contacts know it and paste it. Thanks

I don’t know what Jackeado means, possibly a euphemism for hacked? Whatever.

This message (or a close relative) hits my inbox at least four or five times a month. It’s always from someone who thinks they’re out ahead of a big story and has forwarded it without checking.

You can check these things with Google. Just enter Fabrizio Brambilla. He’s well known.

Though I have a problem with folks sending this stuff, my bigger problem is the lack a responsibility often taken by the senders.

It was sent by a trusted friend & to tell you the truth, I didn’t think about it! I figured better safe than sorry! If I was obligated to check all the garbage I receive I wouldn’t have time for anything. Sorry I sent it to you!

Of course this is BS on its face. This isn’t about what my Facebook friend received. It’s about what she sent.

My guess is I’m a little too tough on people who send these to me… but there are so many… and it’s so obviously a hoax… and the ulterior motive of being first with the news is so obvious.

Meanwhile, as I was wrapping up with this message, in comes…

Hi, I’m Mark Zuckerberg The Director of facebook.

Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, facebook use will cost money

If you send this string to 18 different from your list, your icon will be blue and it will be free for you.

If you do not believe me tomorrow at 6 pm that facebook will be closed and to open it you will have to pay, this is all by law.

This message is to inform all our users, that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking for your help to solve this problem. We require that our active users forward this message to each of the people in your contact list in order to confirm our active facebook users if you do not send this message to all your facebook contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of Lose all your cont the transmission of this message. Your SmartPhone will be updated within the next 24 hours, will have a new design and a new color for the chat. Dear Facebook users, we are going to do an update for facebook from 23:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. on this day. If you do not send this to all your contacts the update will be canceled and you will not have the possibility to chat with your facebook messages

Will go to pay rate unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts

Send this sms and the logo will turn red to indicate that you are a user

Confirmed … We finish it for free Tomorrow they start to collect the messages for facebook at 0.37 cents Forward this message to more than 9 people of your contacts and it will be free of life for you to watch and it will turn green the ball of above do it and you will see.to 9 of you

Give me strength!

Connecticut: I Remember Nights Like This

Tuesday night 7:00 pm EST surface analysis. Click the map — it’s immense.

I remember nights like this, staring at my computer screen, hoping the next piece of data would give me confidence. Tonight it won’t. No matter what the computers say at this point it’s too late. No one trusts the output.

It’s not a question of being mostly right. This storm heading toward the Northeast demands forecast perfection. A mile or two misplacement, or degree or two missed forecast, will make the difference between ten inches of snow and zero.

Where the frustration comes in is, it’s not a question of me not working hard enough or missing a sign. Science just isn’t good enough yet.

There will be a storm. It will be an awful day. For folks off the shoreline it will be a day to find a reason to stay inside. Actually, shoreline too. Just awful

Winter is nearly over.

Update: My Buddy Kevin In Scotland Has Disappeared

Kevin Lyon
Just before Christmas I noted I’d lost track of my friend Kevin, a fellow pancreatic cancer patient from Scotland. He and I had the same diagnosis and underwent the same surgery and treatment.

We met via Twitter and chatted a bunch. We understood life in a way others couldn’t.

And then he disappeared.

I got an email this morning about Kevin. It was what I’d feared and expected.

Hi Geoff, hope are you well. This is Claudia – I was the former partner of Kevin Lyon (Scottish).I have seen on you blog that you are looking for Kevin. Unfortunately he passed away on December 6th. He is in heaven resting.
Thank you for your caring – I’m praying for you.

Best regards.


It’s a horrible disease. Stories like Kevin’s remind me how very fortunate I am… how lucky really. I put up with a lot of shit, but I get to live. I am cancer free.

Why me? Why not Kevin? No one knows.

Dear Students – My name is Geoff.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you pissing in the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you. I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office.

Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam – October 15, 1969

Dear Students –

My name is Geoff. It’s OK for you to look at me as old. I am.

You’ve gotten a lot of attention for yourselves recently as demonstrated by the amazing pushback by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, FL. Make no mistake, it’s a movement.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you just pissing into the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you.

I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office. The issue was Vietnam and it divided America as we are divided today. I shudder to think what 1968 would have been like with the Internet.

On one side were people who questioned the war and what we were doing there. On the other side were people who wished to follow the course. I thought they were misguided They thought they were patriots. Looking back there are similarities with Second Amendment defenders today.

The pictures at the top of this entry are from “The Moratorium” in 1969 — I was there. I marched on Washington. I protested on The Commons in Boston. And the country began to listen. Support for the Vietnam War turned.

Back then the voting age was 21 (and the drinking age 18 — you got screwed on this trade). We had much less power. Today nearly every college student and many high school can and should vote.

My generation has felt special for the last fifty years because collectively we did something good. It was probably the first time in American history that ‘kids’ became a political force. We had a positive impact. Now it’s your turn.

Go with your conscience, but please understand we made a difference before and you should now.

Because this post has spawned some heated comments I am imposing limits. One comment per person (except I will allow Judy to support her statement). All comments must be directed to me about what I wrote, not another commenter’s thoughts. I welcome comments on all sides, but keep it civil.

His Life Is Full Of What He Can’t Do

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor says water. My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

Charlotte and Great Grandpa Harold earlier today
Lots of buzzing today. Family conferences taking place between my sister, me, our dad and LaTonya, his aide.

My dad went to the hospital after his fall, then on to rehab. He has returned to his apartment weakened. Yesterday he got a bag of iron via IV and he’s wearing a cannula for oxygen. He’s stronger Saturday than he was Wednesday.

He’s brain sharp but physically weary. No one is really healthy at ninety two. You’re always on the edge.

The good news is my dad can regain what strength he had. The bad news is that means doing things which are uncomfortable or bothersome including exercise. At ninety two my dad should stand every hour and walk up and down the hall a few times a day. This is at the edge of his abilities.

I’m not sure I could blame him for saying, “Screw this.” He says he wants to get stronger, but sometimes it’s tough to match action to those words.

At ninety two you can get away with a lot of shit. I asked him not to be a schmuck to others. I’m sure it’s frustrating to have physical life become so difficult. He said he understands.

Few of us can know what it’s like to be trapped inside a body that no longer works right. If my dad drops something it might as well be on Mars. He could bend down to pick it up, but he’d never get back up!

Part of today’s conversation centered on drinking more water. That my father’s kidneys work at all is a surprise. Allowing more fluid in his body makes their job easier.

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor favors water.

My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

She’s right. Water is better than Coke, but he’ll probably drink more this way which is good.

I texted LaTonya. “I think we need to consider his life is full of what he can’t do.”

And so we’re all agreed. Let him drink Coke!

Please Don’t Embarrass Us

As a true fan Helaine viscerally understands no lead is insurmountable. As a Philadelphian she anticipates the worst. And then came this season. The Eagles did nearly everything right. We’re not used to this. Early on they won against the Giants on an improbable 61 yard field goal kicked by a sub who’d never played as a pro before. Their quarterback, Carson Wentz, became a potential league MVP. Last year’s disappointment, Nelson Agholor, became this year’s find. They won consistently.

Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, pa.
I remember my first Philadelphia Eagles game. My friend Marlene invited me. Her dad, Frank, had a handful of season tickets. Back then, in 1976, a season cost less than a single game today!

It was fall, but it felt like summer with a bright blue sky. The seats were in Section 614 at Veterans Stadium, high on the shady side near the 30 yard line. We walked out of the concourse and into the stands as a field sized American flag was being unfurled. Ten seconds in and I was hooked on the experience.

I ended up buying a pair of tickets from Frank for the remainder of that season and a few afterwards until I left Philly.

My first year the Eagles went 4-10 with me sitting in the stands in December, freezing. I always still stayed until the final gun.

I was a season ticket holder first, then a fan. It was the experience that got me hooked. Caring about the team came second.

And then I met and married Helaine. Her father was a rabid sportsfan. Only child Helaine had little choice. It was she who came into our relationship with a subscription to Sports Illustrated! She’s the most knowledgeable sports fan I know.

Nearly every Sunday for the last 35 years she and I have watched the Eagles… maybe anguished with the Eagles is a better way to put it. As a true fan Helaine viscerally understands no lead is insurmountable. As a Philadelphian she anticipates the worst.

And then came this season. The Eagles did nearly everything right. We’re not used to this.

Early on they won against the Giants on an improbable 61 yard field goal kicked by a sub who’d never played as a pro before. Their quarterback, Carson Wentz, became a potential league MVP. Last year’s disappointment, Nelson Agholor, became this year’s find. They won consistently.

And then, in a most Philadelphia way, Carson Wentz went down. The star was gone for the season. Hope was lost.

Except it wasn’t. The new QB, Nick Foles, started rough but finished strong. The Eagles totally dominated Minnesota in the NFC Championship game. And they’re doing it without real stars. It’s a team of role players with a very smart coach.

So, today is the day. It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Eagles are in it with a decent chance to win. In true Philly fashion, Helaine says, “I just don’t want them to embarrass themselves.”

Stef is coming by with some friends. Helaine has cooked/baked enough for a small army. We are hoping for a win or at least they don’t embarrass themselves.

The Fruit Trees Will Be Heavily Supervised

I’m on a mission. It’s about my fruit trees. They haven’t produced much fruit. This year I’ll change that… maybe, hopefully.

My concern centers around my potted orange and grapefruit trees and a ground planted plum tree. Of the three, only the plum has produced fruit, four very tasty plums last year and one the year before.

The orange and grapefruit trees have both set fruit, but none has grown bigger than a golf ball. My opinion, the growth has been too spread out. In the end it was more than the trunk could feed.

This year these trees will be heavily supervised as they grow. Energy previously spent on new branches will be redirected to the fruit.

This has meant brutal trimming. Any thin branches from last years growth were chopped. Growth off the main steam has been pinched back where there was congestion. The trees are scarily bare, but very vital.

Since the purge three days ago new growth has exploded on the orange and grapefruit¹ trees. These pre-blossoms are off the main stems and should be more able to get nourishment. My hope is this will serve them well. I can’t be sure.

Should I thin the miniature clusters of orange and grapefruit blossoms now forming? Some of the fruit will naturally fall away while tiny, but can the process be sped up with more benefit to the plant? And how much is the right amount to thin?

I only have a few plants. I’d like them to count.

¹- From past experience the plum tree is a very late bloomer.

His Life Has Changed

When my father says, “Geoffrey, you really don’t understand,” he’s probably correct. The family can only guess the impact his physical conditions bring to daily life.

I started to list some of them, then backspaced. You don’t want to know. Life at 92 is challenging.

Among his biggest problems, deafness. Without hearing aids, nothing. With hearing aids, not much better. He can’t understand my sister on the phone at all.

Two weeks ago, in the hospital and struggling to hear, the staff there let him use a PocketTalker Pro from Williams Sound.

My sister Trudi ordered one from Amazon. His life has changed.

That’s a photo of my dad having lunch with the guys. It’s like he’s been sprung from prison. He ate alone in his apartment because he couldn’t converse. Now he can.

He’s in rehab the rest of this week. They want him stronger so he’ll better avoid falls. He says physical therapy he’s receiving is having a good effect.

He’s back home and ready to talk to the neighbors next week.

Last Night’s 4.0 Quake

It happened today at 2:09 AM. A minor 4.0 earthquake let loose on the other side of our nearby mountains.

It woke Helaine from a sound sleep. As she came to her senses, “I could still hear the house moving.” That’s sufficiently scary.

Doppler, who was also sound asleep, woke up and stood up.

Seismograph from Pinon Flats, CA

I had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs while watching TV¹. I never did wake up for the quake.

The large faults that run through Southern California aren’t nearby. Irvine isn’t considered earthquake challenged. Though a 4.0 will get your attention, it’s not enough to do damage, especially with the more stringent building codes here.

This is our second noticeable quake and the second time I’ve been sleeping. The last time Helaine woke me quickly enough that we were still in motion.

Of all the bad things that can happen in this world earthquakes continue to be near the bottom of my list.

This map shows the plotted responses to the USGS’s “Did you feel it?” page.

¹ – It’s well established in the Fox house if I’m watching TV on the couch with my glasses off sleep is imminent.

Ask Me About Cancer

Those are my feet from December 2, 2016. I have no clue what procedure I was about to undergo. There were many.

Helaine and I just spent some time with a friend of ours who’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught early. She’s going to the right hospital. The outcome will be positive.

Today it’s very scary. The “C” word always is.

We’re glad she spoke with us. H and I learned a lot as we moved through the medical industrial complex. There’s a lot of ground we can help her cover more easily.

She is not the first ‘fellow traveler’ I’ve spoken to. There are three of you I’m chatting with on Facebook and Twitter as you or a parent undergoes treatment.

Let’s face it, I’m a good guy to ask. My treatment worked miraculously. Who wouldn’t want this outcome?

Our friend was shy. She didn’t want to intrude or burden us.

It doesn’t work that way. I know how helpful friends and family were to me. Cancer is not a one person job!

So, go ahead. Ask me about cancer.

Fear Of Trimming

The plum tree in happier times, June 2016
One of life’s great pleasures when we moved to Connecticut was growing things. The first 34 years of my life were spent in apartments. Having my own soil was a novel concept.

Here in California we have a very limited space, but amazing growing conditions. If it can’t grow here, it can’t grow.

In fact overzealous plant growth is an actual problem here. Things blossom, bloom and reach for the sky, quickly. I need my plants short and compact.

The first time you cut back a healthy plant to within an inch of its life you shudder. No one wants to kill a plant. But my results have been consistently rewarding. Every plant I’ve chopped has flourished.

Bushes I cut back last year had become leggy. My friend and plant expert Dennis Westler explained the higher growth was shading the lower. Today they’re closer to the ground and fuller. Instead of concentrating growth in increasingly thinner branches the trunk has added girth. It looks stronger.

Plum tree today looking just a little shorter and bare.
In some cases it looks a little scary. This is the second time I’ve cut my plum tree to this height. Actually Stefanie did this cutting, lopping off a good four or five feet a few weeks ago. Today I removed all the suckers, the thin branches coming off the main stem.

It looks very sad. It shouldn’t have any trouble coming back. There will still be some worrying.

We’ve harvested five astoundingly tasty plums from this tree–four this past summer. I’m hoping for more.

Nearly Everything I Know About Live TV I Learned From Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales at WNEW-TV in New York City. Photo by by spykerdarracq

Growing up there was one TV in the Fox apartment. It was tuned to Soupy Sales every afternoon. He was live daily on Channel 5 in New York City. Must see TV for me.

He’s back on TV every day, this time on the thinly carried JLTV, Jewish Life Television. I knew Soupy was Jewish, though it was never part of his schtick.

I watched a few shows and was initially disappointed. This was his late 70s show from KTLA in Los Angeles. Different cast. A little more slick.

And then a Channel 5 episode played.

OMG, he was doing my act! Except he was doing his act. It’s me doing the ripping off.

His whole show was being performed for the crew (and there was lots of crew back then) who could be heard lol’ing pretty regularly. He did a bit and mentioned names. It was the crew’s names and I recognized nearly all of them.

Soupy was constantly breaking the 4th wall, speaking directly to the audience while in the middle of something else. He was fast as he turned and paused to adlib some line then went back to what he was doing.

Soupy did six shows weekly on Channel 5. Monday through Friday were live and Saturday, as I remember, was taped. My guess was they went in with enough material to fill part of a page and hoped for the best. I was wrong.

Though much of the show was formulaic there were a lot of setup/punchline jokes performed by Soupy and Frank Nastasi who played all the other parts including all the arm waving, face hidden, men at the door, two dogs and a hand puppet lion. That stuff had to be written. In 2018 I’m impressed to figure this out.

Impressionable Geoff sat there slack jawed and watched this stuff every day. Soupy taught me how to do live TV. I liked what Soupy did and what’s become more obvious to me now, I copied him.