Archive for May, 2006

It was a test… it was only a test

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The hurricane season hasn’t even started yet, and already I’ve made my first mistake: the computer model track that I gleefully linked to earlier was a test, not anything based on a real storm, according to Charles Fenwick (who, unlike me, is an actual meteorologist, or at least a Ph.D. student in meteorology). My apologies for the error!!

Anyway… the first Tropical Weather Outlook should be out in about 3 1/2 hours…

Good news!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

As you can see, my revamped homepage is up and running — just in time for hurricane season — and, unlike last time, it appears to be stable (knock on wood).

The layout may not look all that much different, but it’s actually operating off of a completely different set of templates (albeit ones that I modifed to look quite a lot like my old ones). The new templates allowed me to add the right-hand sidebar, and make other beneficial changes — including fixing the pop-up comments! That’s right, they aren’t just functional, they’re actually working better than ever! I finally figured out how to make the “Preview” feature work in the pop-up window, so if you leave a comment, you can now see a real-time preview underneath the “Submit Comment” button. It updates as you type. Pretty nifty!

Also, to alleviate confusion among guestbloggers who would like to comment under nicknames (or as themselves when another guestblogger is logged on using the same computer — hi Mom), logged-in WordPress users will no longer see the regular “Name,” “Mail” and “Website” fields, which are meaningless when you’re logged in anyway. Instead, they will see a message that says, “You are logged in as [Your Name]. If you want to comment under another name, click here to logout and then reload this page.” Hopefully that will clarify things and make the comment section more user-friendly for all you guestbloggers.

As always, this is a work-in-progress, and I’ll be tinkering with it over the coming days and weeks. Slowly but surely, I hope to move toward some of the longer-term redesign goals that we discussed months ago… but for now, I’m just happy to get my hurricane blogroll up-and-running (to be followed by others, like my “Notre Dame blogroll,” my “USC blogroll,” etc.) and make a few other important changes. Anyway, I welcome any and all comments, suggestions and complaints. (On the latter point, if something appears to be broken, please let me know! And by the way, yes, I know commenting has been painfully slow in the last couple of days. I’m not sure what’s up, but I believe it’s a server issue, not a redesign issue; I’m looking into it.)

Why don’t they go back to their own damn country?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

BoiFromTroy says the breeders are taking over West Hollywood… and it’s the MSM’s fault! Heh.

P.S. Commenter Jake writes:

I don’t mind the straight people in our bars, but I wish they wouldn’t kiss, hold hands or touch. Do they have to do that in public, almost like they are rubbing our noses in their sexuality.

Heh.

And so it begins?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Will I rue these words?

From the way the media and politicans are talking about [June 1] — from the ominous tones in which they refer to “the start of hurricane season” — you’d think that at the stroke of midnight tonight, a bevy of Category Five hurricanes will spontaneously form off the U.S. coast and start moving toward land.

Well, let me make my first Official Weather Nerd PredictionTM of the 2006 season: that ain’t gonna happen. :)

Hmm… well, looky here, it’s not even midnight yet, and already, something has caught the computer models’ attention. [CORRECTION: It’s a test, not a real storm. Sorry!] And Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro writes: “hopefully not an omen, but maybe it is — there’s already a disturbance spinning in the Gulf of Mexico and an unusually large amount of convection in the deep tropical Atlantic for so early.”

But, uh, I’m still pretty confident in my prediction. :)

Of more genuine significance is this article (hat tip: Kristy), which reveals that New Orleans is sinking much faster than previously thought — a fact which may help explain some of last year’s levee failures, and may spell trouble for this year and future years:

(more…)

Topless protesters get maximum exposure

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I received an email from Brendan highlighting this article, however I am unsure what part of the article caught Brendan’s interest.

It could have been the plans to amalgamate the National Art School with the University of NSW, the two female students covered in gold paint who exposed their breasts, or the anti-logging protester, dressed as a koala, who failed to attract the same attention.

I will let you all decide :)

The Purpose Driven Death

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Some of you may be familiar with the Left Behind series of books, for those of you who aren’t they basically tell the story of people left behind on earth after the faithful are taken up to Heaven by God as part of the end times. The series is quite popular especially among the Evangelical/Born Again Christian communities. So far there are 15 books and 3 movies set in this world. So what cames after books and movies? Video games!

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a real time strategy game (think Warcraft, Starcraft, Command and Conquer). You can play as either a member of the Tribulation Force (the good guys) or the Anti-Christ’s Global Community Peacekeepers. As a member of the GCP you are of course trying to, you know, ruin the world. As a member of the Tribulation Force though, you are a good guy trying to save the world, including converting everyone to becoming Born Again Christians (or killing them if they don’t).

But what is particular disturbing about this game is its connection to Rick Warren, author of the best selling “The Purpose Driven Life” and named by TIME Magazine recently as one of the most influential Evangelical’s in America. The internationl director of Warren’s Church serves on the advisory board of the game company.

Now don’t get me wrong, my problem with this isn’t that its a violent video game. I play some violent video games, and i think its up to parents to make sure their kids are playing age apporpriate material (well as best they can). My problem is that the message here is its ok to kill as long as you say you are doing it for God. Not to mention that fact that Jews, Muslims, Catholics, etc are all fair game targets based on the teachings of this group and I assume (although I can’t confirm) in the game as well.

This quote from A. Larry Ross, President of the Christian PR firm that helped market Passion of the Christ and the three Left Behindmovies, says it all:

“In addition to the youth audience — that’s the primary target — there are parents who are concerned about what their children are exposed to and are encouraged by products that are biblically based,” Ross said. “I would assume, if there is violence, it’s the cosmic struggle of good versus evil, not gratuitous violence.”

In a time where we are struggling to find peace in a world filled with diverse religiuos beliefs is it really a good thing for a prominent Evangelical group to be supporting a game that basically amounts to a Crusade/Jihad? And frankly if any of these groups or the parents who belong to these churches have EVER forbidden their children from playing violent video games but turn around and by this one? I think the hypocrisy meter will blow through the roof.

UPDATE

So I watched the “trailer” on the games website which doesn’t show any gameplay at all, but it does start with you zooming out on the famous painting The Creation of Adam. Only, in their version Adam is wearing boxers, instead of well, being nude in the original. Hilarious. You’d think for such literal readers of the Bible they would remember that the whole clothes thing came a bit after Adam’s creation :)

Superfluous cat bloging

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

For those needing a quick mid-week cat fix…

Ian McKellen rocks

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

It’s a couple of weeks old, but here’s an entertaining interview with Ian McKellen from MTV.com.

Sir Ian’s two movies, The Da Vinci Code and X-Men 3, have made a combined total of $268 million in the last week-and-a-half. Not too shabby. (I really want to know if that’s some sort of record, for films opening on consecutive weekends both featuring the same actor in prominent roles.)

A note on the start of hurricane season

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

With less than 24 hours until the Atlantic hurricane season officially gets underway, I have to point something out. It feels very strange, as someone who has been following hurricanes for nearly two decades, to see the near-frenzy surrounding the date June 1. (It reminds me of how I felt, as a long-time political junkie and Electoral College nerd, about the sudden explosion of media interest in the electors’ formal voting process in December 2000.) From the way the media and politicans are talking about it — from the ominous tones in which they refer to “the start of hurricane season” — you’d think that at the stroke of midnight tonight, a bevy of Category Five hurricanes will spontaneously form off the U.S. coast and start moving toward land.

Well, let me make my first Official Weather Nerd PredictionTM of the 2006 season: that ain’t gonna happen. :)

The fact is, there’s nothing special or magical about the “first day of hurricane season.” Mother Nature, you see, doesn’t own a calendar. Tropical storms can form before June 1 (just as they can form after November 30, as we learned last year). Such “pre-season” tropical storms are, admittedly, rare — but then again, it’s also rare for tropical storms to form in early June! Indeed, if you were to compare the likelihood of storm formation on May 31 versus June 1, the difference would be virtually nil. Like most beginning and ending dates of “seasons,” the boundaries of the hurricane season are fundamentally arbitrary. The climatological reality is that there is a slow climb through the spring and summer toward the peak of tropical activity in mid-September, and then a slow decline from there — not a sudden start and a sudden stop.

Of course, I say all this as someone who loves to observe, document and comment on arbitrary milestones. My parents, who endured my obsessive chronicling of a family car reaching 100,000 miles not once, not twice, but three times (with three different cars), can attest to that, and I’m sure regular blog readers can think of various examples as well (frequent discussion of Daylight Saving Time transitions comes to mind). So I’m not knocking the phenomenon of giving undue weight to utterly arbitrary temporal milestones. I’m just amused that so many people are joining me on this occasion in that peculiar pastime. :)

Anyway, when we all wake up on Thursday, I can think of two things that will be different, hurricane-wise. One, the National Hurricane Center will resume publishing its Tropical Weather Outlook four times a day (and you can bet I’ll post the first one, which I believe will be published at 2:30 AM MST, here on the blog before going to work Thursday morning). Two, the Weather Channel will start broadcasting its “Tropical Update” every hour at :50 after the hour. Both of these developments are very exciting for me personally, but I can’t imagine why anyone else would care. Hehe.

I’m being a bit silly, of course. I understand perfectly well why the “near-frenzy” is occurring. From the media’s perspective, the approach of June 1 is an obvious “hook” to justify publishing long-planned post-Katrina features, back-burner hurricane stories, and scene-setting articles about impending doom (always a favorite journalistic topic, but much more salient than usual after last year). And from the politicians’ and public officials’ perspectives, the official start of the season is an excellent opportunity, in light of heightened public receptiveness because of last year’s disasters, to try and get people’s attention and encourage prudent planning (something I, of course, whole-heartedly support). I just hope people won’t start resting easy or getting complacent — or complaining about “hype” — if the first few weeks of June come and go without any tropical activity whatsoever, which is precisely what climatology tells us is likely to happen.

Then again, you never know. Maybe we’ll have a Hurricane Alberto to worry about right away. The first two months of last season were very active, foreshadowing the insanity that was to come, so it certainly isn’t impossible. Personally, I’m hoping for a long season full of interesting, enchanting, beautiful, powerful hurricanes — that stay safely out to sea.

PLEASE NOTE: The original version of this post stated that the Tropical Weather Outlook is published “once a day at 5:30 AM EDT.” That’s not correct; it’s published four times a day, as this page makes clear. I believe the times are 5:30 and 11:30 AM and PM (4:30 and 10:30 afterDaylight Saving Time ends). Anyway, I apologize for the error.

Hotlanta, here I come!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Earlier today, I bought tickets on eBay to the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech game in Atlanta on Saturday, September 2. Woohoo!


I doubt our seats will actually be this good, but man, that’d be *sweet* if they were!

I’ve been pondering the possibility of making this trip for a while. It has a dual purpose: in addition to watching the season opener for the Fighting Irish (not to mention being on ESPN Gameday again!), a visit to Atlanta — my first ever — means I can hopefully redeem the promise from my post-Katrina contact at The Weather Channel to arrange for me a private tour of TWC’s studios. I know it’s ridiculously nerdy, but touring TWC been a dream of mine since I was a little kid! :) In fact, if it happens, it will definitely qualify as an item to cross off “life’s to-do list.” And if I could somehow meet Jim Cantore to boot… oh man. Hehe. Also, as long as I’m in town, maybe I’ll get to meet everybody’s favorite right-wing redneck… Charles, you gonna be around that weekend? :)

Anyway, Becky is a bit skeptical of this endeavour, as she usually is (at least initially) of my plans for whirlwind memory-making travels. Hopefully I can convince her to come along, though… especially considering I do have a game ticket for her! Whether we drive (676 miles, which should be about 10 hours at Becky-speed) or fly to Atlanta remains to be seen. Indeed, pretty much all the details remain to be seen. What’s certain is that there’s now a seat in Bobby Dodd Stadium with my name on it!! (Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.)

GOOOO IRISH! BEEEEAT JACKETS!

No high-school diploma? No problem! Just go to college!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

This is pretty much the ultimate proof of what I’ve been saying for years: that “college has become the new high school.” At the risk* of sounding ridiculously elitist, if the doors of college education are open so wide that virtually anyone can get in, regardless of their intellectual acuity, doesn’t that at some point devalue the very notion of “higher” education?

*Okay, okay, it’s not so much a “risk” as a “certainty” — but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong!

P.S. My dedicated-server-mate Texasyank blogged about this before I did.

Lots of people are blogging about it, actually.

Jinx!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Padres pitcher Chris Young has a no-hitter through seven innings against the Rockies.

UPDATE: …aaaand Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe leads off the 8th with a double. The title of this post was right!

The Moon and Mars

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Two days after telling me to look west for a beautiful view of the razor-thin crescent Moon shortly after sunset, Dr. Tony Phillips of SpaceWeather.com sends along another hot tip:

Step outside right about now and look west toward the glow of the setting sun. Can you see the crescent Moon? That red “star” just to the left of the Moon is the planet Mars. So if you’ve been wondering where Mars is, now you know.

Here’s a sky map.

UPDATE: Dammit, this could have been such a cool picture if it was in focus, and with a longer exposure…

That’s Mars in the top left-hand corner, and a passing plane in the lower right.

UPDATE 2: This photo, on the other hand, is quite cool, even though it doesn’t show Mars:

That’s Phoenix’s funky-looking City Hall at center-right, and the edge of the Wells Fargo building at far right. Photo taken from the northwest corner of Patriots Square Park, at 1st and Washington, while waiting for Becky to come pick me up from work.

LET’S GO, BUFFALO!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

In a must-win game at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, the Sabres, trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2, lead the Hurricanes 1-0 at the end of the second period of Game 6. They’ll start the third period on a power play.

If this keeps up, quite a few Buffalonians are going to have heart attacks this evening.

UPDATE: The Hurricanes tied it up with less than 4:00 to go, and they’re going to overtime. Dammit!

UPDATE 2: YESS!!! Buffalo survives!! Daniel Briere — the same guy whose double-overtime goal in Game 1 of the Flyers series got me on the Sabres bandwagon in the first place — scores another OT game-winner, and Buffalo lives to see another day!! GAME SEVEN, BABY!!!


He did it again!

Now, to break those Carolina fans’ hearts on their home ice in Game 7. Yes, even the guy who was wearing the Whalers jersey at the last game. Sorry, Whalers guy. GO SABRES!!!

P.S. The Hurricanes’ season will end… on the first day of hurricane season. It’s fate, I tell you, FATE! :)

P.P.S. Bfloblog has the game-winning goal.

Constitutional issue or just bad management?

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Today the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos. In the 5-4 decision the court decided that the first amendment and whistle blower protections do not protect someone acting in their official capacity. More in the New York Times

The gist of it is Mr. Ceballos complained to his boss that ethically questionable practices were being used to obtain search warrants. Mr. Ceballos was subsequently passed over for promotion. The central issue, according to Mr. Justice Kennedy (via the NYT article):

The controlling factor in this case, Justice Kennedy wrote, was that Mr. Ceballos was acting purely in an official capacity when he complained internally about the search warrant. “Ceballos wrote his disposition memo because that is part of what he was employed to do,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “He did not act as a citizen by writing it.”

Anyway, interesting article and interesting issue. Among other questions this raises, does this mean the a government employe that complains about ethical issues to his boss has less protection than if he aired his grievances live on 60 Minutes? Which, any constitutional issues aside, is a poor management position to take. I would think one would want to encourage employees to come to them first before they light the whole bridge on fire so to speak. However, that does not mean that the Constitution mandates good management practices.

So, just out of curiosity, I was wondering what the peanut gallery thought of this ruling…