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:

LOCATION…25.0N 60.0W

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.

I Probably Owe Kevin Hart An Apology

Helaine and I were the lucky tag-a-longs with my cousins the “Original Irvine Foxes™” and our friends Farrell and Vered¹ for a Saturday night grown-up date night. We had Italian at Angelina’s (real Italians from Italy — not an easy find here) then headed to the FIVEPOINTS Amphitheater to see Kevin Hart. The amphitheater is a temporary 12,000 open air venue adjacent to Irvine’s Great Park (the former El Toro Marine Air Station).

If I knew about the Kevin Hart tickets before yesterday that thought was long forgotten by Saturday afternoon.

I was ambivalent. I’d seen him on TV, probably grazed one-or-two of his movies on cable and decided, “Meh.” He was loud and profane and super egotistical. That’s how I judged him. And I was worried a large part of the show would be about a black experience I only know from reading.


Kevin Hart at the FIVEPOINTS Amphitheater, Irvine, CA.

The guy who came up on stage was a father, husband and maker of decisions good and bad. More than that, he was a great storyteller. This was not setup/punchline/repeat. Kevin Hart is a monologist. He took us into his life warts and all. He is a charming, thoughtful, flawed man.

The cursing I worried about was dolloped on heavy. I can see how some (many) people might be put off by this. I heard it from our friends. In the end content trumped shock for me. Your tolerance may very.

Kevin Hart did an hour ten minute set (I’ll have to ask, but I suspect there’s a 10:00 PM curfew for the venue) and was funny for all seventy minutes. Before he left he mentioned how he always made Irvine a part of his tour. He’ll be back. Hopefully me too.

If I would have gone with my gut (and had a choice) I would have passed up this show. I had no choice, luckily.

Additional note: I have never heard better sound in a concert venue. I would recommend this place for any show.

¹ The term is not really trademarked, but my cousins are well known and liked wherever they go.

It Didn’t Snow In Santiago, Chile — Uh Oh!

If I got a snow forecast wrong people knew and were VERY upset. After all, I claim I can predict the future. People would come up to me on the street or at the market and let me know. No one wants to disappoint the people who trust you — certainly not me.

American GFS computer mode – 12Z 10June2018

It’s winter in South America and the forecast in Santiago, Chile called for snow. It didn’t snow. Snow is a rarity in Santiago, Chile. They get snow, not often. It’s a Mediterranean climate — just what we have here in SoCal.

Which brings us to the message I got Monday afternoon from a reporter at Las Últimas Noticias, a national newspaper in Chile.

Hello Geoff.

Thank you for answering.

Last week, all the forecast said it will be a snowfall this Monday morning. Even the schools closed. Most of people took the prediction as something extremely catastrophic. Well, the predictions failed. The TV weather men and women had to give some explanations. There are a lot of complains and jokes on Twitter about this. So here are some questions:

-How difficult is to predict a snowfall?

-What factors do you have to consider make it?

-Is it a matter of technology? The snowfall forecasts in US don’t fail too much?

-Have you made mistakes in situations like this? What do you do next? Is it good or not to try a kind of apologize?

-In Chile, at least, the weather in TV channels is a kind of terrorific issue. A heavy rain prediction, for example, is almost the end of the world, even with a terrorific music in the background. What do you think about that?

-Do the weather sell in TV?

Thank you
Ariel Diéguez
Las Últimas Noticias

I’m not sure how he found me, but of course I answered.

Of all the predictions meteorologist make, snow is arguably the most difficult. It is a multistage forecast. It’s not just how much moisture is in the atmosphere, but the temperature at different levels in the atmosphere. A small change in temperature is the deciding factor between rain and snow, or even sleet (ice pellets) or freezing rain (rain falls as liquid but freeze immediately on contact with trees, power lines, roadways, etc.).

We used to do this all ourselves. Computers have made life much easier because computer models follow the drops as they fall and figure out their state at every stage. Humans can’t do this alone — much too complex.

The technology has gotten much better over time, but snow forecasts are much more complex than most others. Cloud temperatures decided how fluffy snow is. Snow can range from 6 or 7:1 (7 cm snow from 1 cm liquid) to 30:1 or higher! So, how much snow will fall is very difficult to forecast and almost never exactly right.

I was on TV for 30 years in Connecticut, about 100 km northeast of NYC. If I got a snow forecast wrong people knew and were VERY upset. After all, I claim I can predict the future. People would come up to me on the street or at the market and let me know. No one wants to disappoint the people who trust you — certainly not me.

The number of wrong forecasts is definitely a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. No one is happier about that than me!

I have apologized on-the-air. Absolutely. I take responsibility. The forecast is mine, not the computer’s. I ask you to believe me.

Weather is the single most cited reason for people to watch local TV news. People accuse us of hyping storms, or making them scarier than they are. No. No. No. No. There is no upside to being wrong.

One more thing — Chile doesn’t make the forecast easier by sitting alongside the Pacific. Though we now have satellite observations, much of the Pacific has no surface weather observations. This leads to poor initialization of the computer models and garbage in/garbage out.

Ari – let me know if there’s anything else you need.

Glad to help,

A Connecticut Facebook friend in Santiago promises to keep an eye out for the story.

A Few Moments With My Dad

Just got off Facetime with my dad. He’s feeling a little tired today.

We chatted for a few minutes. Nothing important. Roseanne. Politics. Somehow, how surreal it was to think of him as a sailor.

I had never heard this before. He told me what his father said as my 18 year old father left for WWII. His recollection: vivid.

“Don’t kiss any strange girls.” Thank you Grandpa Jack.

In another part of the conversation we were talking… well, does it make a diff the topic because this really works in all situations.

“Geoffrey, I am 92 years old. I have seen stupid people in my life.”

Yes he has.

So Here’s The Plan

A few weeks ago my sister told me the good news. My dad’s doctor said he was healthy enough to fly. We began to make plans to bring him west.

Then reality set in. My sister was never strong on the idea, but didn’t have the heart to stop us. My niece was wary too and told me so.

It led to one of those awkward conversations where father and son sheepishly came to the same sad conclusion. Practicality over fantasy. My dad had permission to fly, but was he prepared to spend a full day traveling then do it again on the way back?

And so the trip was scotched. Of course that’s not the end of the story.

I purchased tickets tonight. Helaine, Stef and I will be heading to Milwaukee for Father’s Day weekend.

“What are we going to do with Doppler?” Helaine worried. We have no one close-by to leave her with. So guess who’s taking her first airplane ride!

My father got the news on Facetime this afternoon. “I’m very excited,” he said. Me too. Us too.

In spite of having grown up in Queens and her husband Jeff in Washington Heights, my sister and brother-in-law have planted their roots in Wisconsin. Three children. Four grandchildren. And, of course, my dad.

Can’t wait to see them all.

And the Phillies will be in town!

The Political Come To Jesus Meeting About To Take Place

I watched cable news this morning as reporters and anchors tried to explain how Michael Cohen’s accepting money from AT&T, Novartis, Korea Aerospace and a billionaire pal of Vladimir Putin’s was probably legal and the job description of loads of Washingtonians. Business as usual!

What I’m saying is we needn’t worry how retired US Senator John Boehner will afford his newly embraced pot love. Selling access in Washington is big business. Boehner’s easy to pick on but it’s Democrats too.

I’m hoping this will open a national dialog about the position of money in government. I’ve used “come to Jesus meeting” in my title with the understanding it means a frank discussion about a very serious problem that needs immediate action. That’s us.

Obviously, AT&T, Novartis and the others who ‘gave at the office’ felt there were real profits to be made by buying Michael Cohen’s time and shaping his opinion. I find that entirely disgusting.

Before the recent tax bill was passed, The Hill reported this tidbit from Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) had been describing the flurry of lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions when a reporter asked if donors are happy with the tax-reform proposal.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins replied.

Here’s who they are:

Fewer than one in fifty of Collins’ campaign dollars comes from small individuals. Those weren’t little guys asking for this bill.

When you see obviously unpopular legislation (net neutrality and consumer financial rules as two examples) and wonder how could that possibly become law–see above.

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 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.