Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Oh, and analog/digital hardware design, and software. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

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Consistent Forecast Temperature Error

A weather forecasting question:

For the past two months we’ve had one heat wave after another here in West Virginia. It’s been awful. High temperatures in the low 90s (Fahrenheit) with humidity giving a heat index around 100F. These conditions are 15 to 20 degrees above normal. Sometimes, it goes on for four or five days at a time without a single break. Then, there’s a one or two day break in the 80s, and then another heat wave. It’s now the middle of September, almost fall, and it continues. The forecast shows another heat wave next weekend, after the first day of fall.

An odd new thing I’ve never seen before that’s happening this summer is that forecast temperatures, both highs and lows, are consistently four or five degrees lower than the temperature actually reached. The forecast says 90, but it reaches 95. The forecast is 87, but it reaches 92. An error the other way around never happens.

As an engineer, I know that true errors are like noise and vary randomly to either side of the correct value. If the error is consistently to one side or the other, then there’s a systemic problem or calibration error.

Here’s the question. As an amateur meteorologist for over 50 years, this got me thinking. Long ago, before the powerful computer weather models of today, the historical average temperature was factored into a weather forecast. I don’t know if that’s still the case today. Might it be that I’m observing one of the effects of climate change? The climate is changing, today’s temperatures are above normal, and the historical weather data is biasing the forecast several degrees too low? Is that what’s going on?

I invite anyone who might know the answer to comment below. Thank you.

Monday Holidays are Useless

Monday holidays are worse than useless — for me, anyway. For some reason, Congress has placed every holiday over which they have control on a Monday. My work week runs from Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday and Monday are my normal days off. Monday holidays do nothing for me. I get no extra day off.

And it gets worse. Monday is the weekday I have for taking care of errands and appointments with businesses that are open Monday to Friday or Saturday. When a Monday holiday hits, those businesses and banks, and post office are closed. I don’t get a holiday and I lose the usefulness of my Monday.

A Tuesday to Saturday schedule makes sense in the restaurant business. But as time goes on, I’ve noticed more and more small businesses like clothing stores and hair salons switching to a Tuesday to Saturday schedule, probably to take advantage of those Monday holidays. Why give those extra days off to your employees when you can just shift your schedule and erase them from the calendar?

Hurricanes and Quizzes

The hurricanes of 2019 have begun in earnest. For a quick review and tutorial, here’s a fun tutorial-quiz on the Maya Paradise web site:

https://www.mayaparaiso.com/quiz/quiz.php?q=276

There here are other fun tutorial-quizzes on interesting subjects here:

https://www.mayaparaiso.com/quiz/index.php

Someday, I’ll Own This Boot

someday I'll own this boot

I like this meme because it captures something shocking that I learned here in West Virginia years ago. I learned a couple of shocking things, to me, anyway. Please pardon the generalizations I’m making here. Clearly, not every single West Virginian is like this. Note that this was before Trump ran for president.

I learned that in the years before the mortgage crisis / crash of 2008, West Virginians were victimized by unscrupulous lenders who convinced people to refinance, get cash out, and end up with a mortgage they ultimately couldn’t carry. Some of these mortgage salesmen came from out of state, which is illegal, but they did it anyway. I doubt any were ever prosecuted. West Virginians fell for this by the thousands and I wondered why they were such easy marks.

I learned that average West Virginians see anyone wearing a suit and driving a nice car as trustworthy and smart. They also assume that anyone who’s rich must be smart or they wouldn’t be rich. (Research shows that this is false. There’s no correlation between IQ and wealth. It’s random chance.)

So, I made it a point when out on the street, at the library, etc., to strike up conversations with random people and nudge the conversation over to this topic and a discussion of being rich. Naturally, everyone I spoke with wished they were rich. Don’t we all? The shocker to me was then asking why they wanted to be rich. Nice house? Nice car? Nice clothes? No. The answer was usually some form of, “So I can f*ck with people and do what I want.”  Of course, this doesn’t square with rich people being smart and trustworthy, but the cognitive dissonance is okay, I guess.

Now we come to Trump running for president and support for him here in West Virginia was virtually 100 percent, and is still heavily supportive of Trump. It all adds up in a sick kind of way, doesn’t it?

Those Tiny Bubbles When You Boil Eggs

If you’ve ever boiled eggs, you’ve surely noticed tiny streams of microscopic bubbles coming from various points on the eggs as the water heats up. I always figured this was dissolved air in the water and there were certain “flaws” on the shell that formed nucleation sites for the bubbles. This is a nice explanation but totally wrong. I’m an engineer, not a zoologist. The correct answer is quite amazing, even mind-blowing to an engineer. It’s also obvious once you know.

The truth is that bird egg shells are fabricated with microscopic breathing holes so the chick can breathe while it breaks its way out of the shell. Those tiny bubbles are air trapped inside the egg that expands when heated and streams out of the breathing holes. For me, learning this was a real “duh” kind of moment because long ago I wondered how the chick manages without air while it’s alive and breaking the shell. Magic? Nope, just Mother Nature’s engineering.

Chai Flavored Iced Tea

My friend and I drink a lot of iced tea, so I make about a gallon a day. I keep two one gallon jugs in the refrigerator and one is always full.

I joke that I make iced tea on a semi-industrial scale so it has to be quick and cheap. While I like plain black tea, I prefer a chai-like flavor and slightly sweet. I use 1/3 to 1/6 the amount of sugar in Southern sweet tea. There are chai tea bags but I can’t always find them and they are more expensive than generic black tea you can get at grocery stores and Walmart for next to nothing. So, I decided to try to get close enough to the flavor of chai by using my own spices. I found a way that’s stupid simple.

You need a 2 quart saucepan. I prefer heavy stainless. You need a 1 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, allspice, and black pepper. I use tagless bags or rip the tags off of regular bags.

Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, I turn off the fire and toss in six or eight bags of black tea, or the equivalent. On an electric stove, you should move the pot to a cold burner. I let it steep for 3 minutes or slightly more.

While the tea is steeping, I measure one cup of sugar. On top of the sugar I place 1/4 tsp of allspice and 1/8 tsp of black pepper. Use more as you wish. You can use black or white pepper.

When the steeping time is over, I remove the bags and squeeze them out. (I know you’re not supposed to do that.) Then dump in the contents of the measuring cup and stir. I put a lid on it to prevent contamination and set it aside for several hours to cool.

Lastly, I take a gallon jug, stir the pot one more time and pour it into the jug. Add plain water to fill the jug and place in the refrigerator. Done. I’ve done this so many times, I can do it in my sleep.

Try it and please let me know what you think.

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