Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Your personal forecast: increasing darkness toward nightfall

Somebody call IBM.
We will have snow later this afternoon, and I enjoy checking the various forecasting companies to see how they compare.

My favorite has been Weather Underground. I like their Wundermap, which I find useful when I'm going out for a walk and want to know if I'll get rained on. It even has a feature that tells you when the precipitation will start.

Weather Underground seems to use a number of amateur weather sites, and there are a few scattered around my town. That's important, because we live on a plateau. My house is at an altitude of about 650 feet. Just 10 minutes south of here it drops to zero. Needless to say, that can bring vastly different weather. So I try to find a station at my altitude. Weather Underground is personalized in that way.

Even in my town the differences can be striking. I once wrote an article on our weather, and the guys who drive the snow plows told me that they can be sitting in their office with the sun shining outside and get panicked calls from people saying they have five inches of snow and where are the trucks?

I've recently found a new weather site -- www.forecast.io, and right now it's my fave. "io' is apparently a new domain for startups.

These folks have a snazzy site with interesting features like a globe showing weather everywhere. They use a multitude of data sources, which I think is critical. Of course they have to crunch these intelligently.

Years ago when I was working in the Watson Lab at IBM I interviewed a meteorologist there who was working with Florida State University on hurricane prediction. Their secret was IBM's computing power, of course, but also a multitude of data sources, much like what I see at forecast.io.

IBM had worked on forecasting weather for the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. They were able to tell the people in charge to go ahead and hold the closing ceremonies -- thunderstorms in the area would miss the stadium. IBM was able to do that because it strategically placed a large number of instruments around the city.

So it's the quantity of data, the computing power, and the intelligence to mash them together that makes weather forecasting good. I believe it won't be long before our smart phones and smart watches will be recording weather data and sending it a central collection point and receiving incredibly precise, personalized forecasts.

Already Weather Underground lets you click to say if what you see out the window agrees with what it's saying. Forecast.io suggests that its predictions are highly localized. Years ago I interviewed the chief meteorologist at one of the Connecticut TV stations, and he told me that just before he goes on the air he peeks out the door to see what's going on.

The station now has a weather app that is supposed to localize my forecast to my street. Well, I tried to make it find my street, but I couldn't. Well, sometimes I can't find it, either.

Guess I'll just look out the window.

Are you secure in your home?

Jehovah's Witnesses. Not.
Yesterday I wrote about a group in Texas that was raided by officers from multiple branches of government, and I suggested that what mattered was not the group and its beliefs but rather the power of government being used to stifle dissent.

I listed a number of federal departments that have demonstrated this use of force against those it disapproves, and today I can add the EPA. I just missed that one. So pretty much what we have is an all out assault on conservatives by the Obama Administration, using the awesome power of the state. Isn't that a weird thing to say? That government agencies, which are supposedly for all of us, are not for all of us?

That's the kind of thing that got this country started.

A blogger who calls himself The Z Man agreed with me on the Texas bunch.
I tend to think of “secessionist movements” as collections of harmless old weirdos with too much time on their hands. The operative word being harmless. As we see in Europe, the West is well past violent insurrection. Instead, the pissed-off confine themselves to angry posts on Facebook, Twitter and the secession club meeting at the local Holiday, as long as there is a breakfast buffet.
We do, however, have a cop problem, he writes.
In the custodial state the cops function as hyper-violent helicopter parents. If a citizen is doing something the authorities think is unsafe or uncooperative, the state sends in a swat team as a “show of force” or worse. There are over 50,000 SWAT raids a year in America. Most are for things like serving a summons or collecting non-violent parolees. The argument is the cops don’t know what they are getting into so for their safety they send in Seal Team Six.
It’s not just the town clowns stocked up with surplus army gear paid for by the Feds. NASA has a SWAT team. They can no longer hurl a man into orbit, but they have a SWAT team. The Department of Education has a SWAT team. Again, a lot of this is due to the unlimited access to funding for status items that are popular with the managerial class. The streets of DC are jammed with armored SUV’s toting minor officials for the same reason. No matter the reason, it is no way to run a civilized nation.
To all my liberal friends (yes, I have them): this is scary for both sides of the divide. Remember Nixon?

Today, Glenn Reynolds, the law professor/blogger, writes about the third amendment to the Constitution, which places restrictions on the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner's consent.
At common law, the saying was that a man's home is his castle, or, as William Pitt put itin 1763: "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter."

In this post-drug war era of no-knock raids, SWAT teams, and governmental spying, it's sad to think that we are, in fact, less secure in our homes than "the poorest man" in his own cottage was under the English kings we once revolted against. And if that's the case, maybe the Third Amendment isn't working as well as we think.
If we survive Obama he will have done us a tremendous favor: reminding us of the precepts of liberty that are essentially would the United States of America is about.

Morning Rush: Trees, nuts, drones, and more

Here and there on the Web this Tuesday, March 3, 2015:

As a boy?
Did Jesus grow up in this house? 

Hey, you could be a tree

The right way to quit your job

Eat nuts, live forever

He was just as clueless about 9/11

Why we can walk in our sleep

Charm someone you don't know

What immigration is all about

Here's how to enjoy the cold

I'm coming out as a Christian

Duh: The media look down on us

Now they're growing brain cells

The truth must be irrelevant

Oh, that Iran

How to get your drone license 

So what exactly is blue anyway?

Don't move to Charlotte, N.C.

Here come medical labs on paper

Time to shoot higher education

Today's Word: an author of literary works

Hahaha: Boyfriends who aren't speaking

Watch the world's weather happen:

Henry Ward Beecher: motive

"God made man to go by motives, and he will not go without them, any more than a boat without steam or a balloon without gas."  

Monday, March 02, 2015

Let's fetch some firewood

Here is a photo of my woodpile. You can see it out there.
Okay, maybe not. I selected that location myself. Last summer. My friends know me as an excellent planner who is always situationally aware. The next photo shows me heading out to the woodpile to fetch some firewood.
You can see that I'm about halfway there. Well, maybe you can't. The snow is kind of deep. Luckily for you, I took my camera along. Here I am out there under the snow headed to the woodpile.
Finally I got the firewood back to the house in time for my weekly bath.

King George, call your office

There's this wackadoodle group in Texas called the Republic of Texas, which advocates for the secession of Texas from the United States.

Well, to each his own.

You don't have to care about these folks, or endorse them, to be concerned about what happened to them. Your political leanings might lean to a similar group on the other end of the spectrum, and you wouldn't want this to happen to them.

Apparently they sent some documents to some pubic officials. In response, while the group was meeting, an armed and armored force of the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff's Office, the Kerr County Sheriff's Office, Agents of the Texas District Attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI raided the meeting. In the end, at least 20 officers corralled, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, before seizing all cellphones and recording equipment.

As I said, I know nothing about this Texas group, and I don't intend to research them. The point is they have a political point of view. I'm pretty sure Barack Obama doesn't share it.

Who would suspect that our government would use its force to quell views it doesn't like?

Well, I mean other than the IRS, the FEC, the FCC, the DHS, the DOJ, the FBI, and I guess every other federal organization.

Oh my.

Morning Rush: Cold oceans, warm cars, and more

Here and there on the Web this Monday, March 2, 2015:

Global warming washes ashore

Is this a miracle cure for MS? 

The warming up your car myth

Life among the barbarians 

Life in our police state

Can ticks help us stay warm?

Oh, Lois, just keep digging

You could lose your hearing

Obama is Israel's big pal

You can't "shake off" depression

Torture in Chicago's police state

How reading transforms us

A much-need neologism

How long to do your taxes? 

It's time for climate jihad

How we know what others think

Don't let these derail your retirement

How To: restore your rusty old tools

Today's Word: Make sour or bitter

Hahaha: Dress debate turns deadly

Watch the world's largest airplane:

Ralph Waldo Emerson: conformity

"A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist."

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Vespers: Be Still My Soul

This is Aled Jones singing "Be Still My Soul."

Aled Jones (b. 1970) is a Welsh singer best known for his television work with BBC and ITV as well as his radio work.

This hymn was composed by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel. She was born in 1697. The date of her death is unknown. As her name suggests, she may have come from an aristocratic family. Other than that she was connected with a small court at K├Âthen, north of Halle, in Germany, little is known of her life. Some hymnologists suggest that she may have become a Lutheran nun.

This text appears at the time of German pietism, similar in spirit in many regards to the Wesleyan revival in England of the same era.

The tune FINLANDIA complements this stirring poem wonderfully. The melody comes from a symphonic tone poem by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) by the name of Finlandia, Op. 26. Sibelius wrote it as a patriotic offering in 1899 with a revision in 1900. This composition was performed as the final of seven pieces as the music to accompany a series of tableaus, each reflecting portions of Finnish history. Out of agitated and tumultuous opening music, symbolizing the struggles of the Finnish people, emerges the serenity of the hymn-like melody we know as FINLANDIA, symbolizing hope and resolution.

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

What do you think of sin?

"Abortion, gay marriage, contraception, pre-marital sex, the death penalty, euthanasia, school prayer, guns — the list of issues that define the culture war is long. But what if underlying them all is a deeper cultural fissure that determines the shape of many of the more superficial policy disputes?

"I'm talking about the fault line separating those Americans who believe in the reality of sin from those who do not.

"By sin, I mean the general view of human motivation and behavior expressed perhaps most clearly and succinctly by St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans: "I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7: 15, 18-19)

"For Plato, the concept of freely chosen sin — of knowing what is good but choosing to do otherwise, and of punishment as imposed suffering for having made that evil choice — makes no sense. Evil is always the result of an unintentional mistake, and the only just punishment is education or rehabilitation.

"Plato's dialogues may have presented the fullest and most radical exploration of this view, but versions of it animated various strands of Enlightenment thought, and to this day it continues to influence the way many liberals and progressives approach questions of criminal justice and related areas of public policy.

"When someone commits a crime, do your instincts tell you to blame the perpetrator's upbringing, background, education? Do you think that the best form of punishment would involve rehabilitation? Then you are, at bottom, a Platonist who rejects the idea of sinful depravity.

"On the other hand, do you tend to blame the perpetrator's actions on a malicious will and presume that, however worthwhile an education might be, it will never eliminate the possibility of evil, because evil is chosen despite knowing what is good and right? And do you therefore think that the best form of punishment is one that imposes suffering for the sake of retribution and deterrence, hopefully to help scare this and other potential criminals away from making similarly bad choices?

"Then you are, at bottom, a Pauline believer in the reality of sin."

This is my Son

From The Lectionary:

Mark 9:2-9

9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,

9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Lord Chesterfield: time

"Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Casual Friday: Do It Again

Just two working days til Monday!

"What happens if you get scared half to death twice?" ~ Steven Wright

What's with cats and the sun?

Every day I open the curtains and blinds so our neurotic cats can lie in the sun, which they do.

Why they do this has to do with their origins in the Mideast and their metabolism.
With the heat of the sun helping them stay warm, they are actually conserving energy. They like to seek out sunlight for naps because this offsets the drop in basal metabolism that comes with sleep’s shutdown of certain body processes. That’s why they will wake up just enough to inch along with the square of sunlight as it moves across the rug.
I don't think we have to turn this into a research project. After all, humans go to the beach and lie in the sun. Duh.

For the majority of my readers who have trouble figuring things out, here's what it looks like:

Morning Rush: Spiders, teeth, and more

Here and there on the Web this Friday, February 27, 2015:

Someone you know?
The world needs more spiders

What's the tooth fairy market rate?

Eat black beans, live (noisily) forever

Don't eat them in this black hole

You can cut your smartphone costs

The science of meditation

Now the lawbreaker is taunting us

Could this reverse diabetes?

And you thought spiders were bad.
When the Earth swallows people

Now these guys are spying on us

Here comes vertical farming

He's just a beat up old crook

And Hillary is a fat old crook

So what's the deal on vitamins?

What you don't know can cost you 

Another reason to drink coffee

How To: protect your data

Today's Word: the lowest point

Hahaha: Scientists abandon search for life

Let's watch some tai chi fighting:

John Updike: dreams

"Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Andrew Carnegie made his fortune

What would you like to accomplish? Finding it hard? Maybe something here will show you what's holding you back.

Andrew Carnegie arrived in the U.S. in 1848 with barely a dollar to his name. By 1901, he was the richest man in the world.

Here are his 10 rules of success, recorded by the journalist Napoleon Hill:
1. Define your purpose. Create a plan of action and start working toward it immediately.
2. Create a "master-mind alliance." Contact and work with people "who have what you haven't," Hill says.

3. Go the extra mile. "Doing more than you have to do is the only thing that justifies raises or promotions, and puts people under an obligation to you," writes Hill.

4. Practice "applied faith." Believe in yourself and your purpose so fully that you act with complete confidence.

5. Have personal initiative. Do what you have to without being told.

6. Indulge your imagination. Dare to think beyond what's already been done.

7. Exert enthusiasm. A positive attitude sets you up for success and wins the respect of others.

8. Think accurately. In Hill's words, accurate thinking is "the ability to separate facts from fiction and to use those pertinent to your own concerns or problems."

9. Concentrate your effort. Don't become distracted from the most important task you are currently facing.

10. Profit from adversity. Remember that "there is an equivalent benefit for every setback," Hill writes.
Look through the list again. What are you missing?

Morning Rush: Ice caves, eyelashes, and more

Here and there on the Web this Thursday, February 26, 2015:

The ice caves.
Global warming hits Wisconsin

The best length for eyelashes

Another reason to eat breakfast 

It's important for teens, too

Time to rein in the Fed 

Oh look who got a bonus

Do you think he loves us?

Graphene vs cancer

Jeremy's dinner.
It's what's for dinner

This is child abuse

The FCC is lawless, too

Here's how to lift weights

Hey, maybe you're a terrorist

Why we still need cursive

Methodists just keep killing Muslims 

How our brains stay young

Is college really worth it?

Try this tactic when negotiating

The most popular weather sites

Now you can eat your coffee, too

Make your retirement savings last 

How To: design your own type font

Today's Word: main point of a grievance

Hahaha: Iranian missile tests poorly timed

Let's go for a ride, boys and girls:

Confucius: courage

"To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What would you like to know?

I use Wikipedia all the time and have no problem with it, although some think we should be wary of it. Of course I don't depend on it exclusively for anything vital. But for, say, the biographical details of a composer, what's the big deal?

Here's an article listing some alternatives to Wikipedia. I checked out The Library of Congress, where apparently you can ask a librarian a question and get an answer. Wow, let someone else do the work!

I also looked at the Merck Medical Library and Medline Plus, which I use a lot. I primarily go there to check out supplements. In fact, what I do is Google "supplement nih" for National Institutes of health. So: "selenium nih."

The reason I do this is that a lot of the returns on Google are from outfits trying to sell you selenium. The folks at NIH are pretty conservative about these things, which is a safety check. I also check out the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic. You just don't want to fool around.

Bibliomania is kind cool, if you're cheap like me and like to read things for free.

So have fun, research nerds.

If you like your Internet you can keep your Internet

It's hard to know where to begin with Barack. After losing in the midterms, he declared that he was listening to those who didn't vote. And then his recent declaration for his last two years: "I intend to run through the tape and work really hard, and squeeze every last little bit of change.”

As with Obamacare, everything is about federal control: education, the police, school lunches, you name it.

Now it's the Internet.

As is the case with other federal masters -- think Jeh Johnson, Eric Holder, Harry Reid, Lois Lerner, Kathleen Sebellius -- the overseer on this one won't tell us what he's up to.

One commissioner on the FCC says Obama himself  is running the supposedly independent agency. Do you have any doubt? And why would that be? Is it the net's independence? The way conservative voices can use it?

Hillary, just back from the fat farm or wherever she was huddled with her marketing geniuses to count her millions from foreign governments, thinks Obama's secret plan is a good idea. How would she know what's in it?

Well, in 1998 she said, "'We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with' the Internet because of the handling of White House sex scandal stories on Web sites."

Of course she'd like to shut up the people who oppose her. And you won't find them on The New York Times.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is worried, and this is why:
According to the FCC's own "Fact Sheet," the proposed rule will allow the FCC to review (and presumably punish) non-neutral practices that may “harm” consumers or edge providers.
Unfortunately, if a recent report from Reuters is correct, the general conduct rule will be anything but clear. The FCC will evaluate “harm” based on consideration of seven factors: impact on competition; impact on innovation; impact on free expression; impact on broadband deployment and investments; whether the actions in question are specific to some applications and not others; whether they comply with industry best standards and practices; and whether they take place without the awareness of the end-user, the Internet subscriber.
Do you really think a president who used the IRS and the FEC to fight his political opponents would hesitate to use the FCC?

Do you really?

Jesus vs Muhammad

This is hilarious:

Morning Rush: Buddha, peanuts, and more

Here and there on the Web this February 25, 2015:

Lemme outta here!
Hey, there's a mummy in there! 

Preventing peanut allergy in your kid

A brief history of the Squeegee

About those carry on bags

Here come bionic eyes

Best times to ask for a raise

Of course he's shrinking our military

The commandment we most ignore

Here comes a Mideast arms race

Get angry, risk a heart attack

Get in the sauna instead

Another brilliant Obama appointment

Money lessons for your kids

Methodists kidnap Muslims again

Get a job with the feds, get rich

Don't make these shopping mistakes

How To: design your home's rooms

Today's Word: in or by itself

Hahaha: Mom needed a few more days

This will make you get religion:

Amelia Earhart: courage

"Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace."