Thursday, December 14, 2017

Not looking like a white Christmas

Have you seen the Aleutian Low? It appears to be lost. But maybe we can work together to bring it back?


I have a new personal computer at work and setting it up for weather data wrangling has been a slow and sometimes painful process.

We have a new supercomputer at work and setting it up for weather data wrangling has been an excruciatingly painful process.

Anyway, I made a movie for you of the 10-day GFS forecast and it looks really, really dry.

Instead of a low pressure system near the Aleutians, bringing in storms into the Pacific Northwest and sometimes into California, we have a variant of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (R3).

I plotted the Geopotential heights of the 700 mb isobaric surface (about 70% of normal sea level pressure and about the height of winter moisture.). The red area sitting over the western US is about 200-300 meters higher than surrounding areas.

This is the equivalent of a 200-300 meter high mountain range sitting between you and winter rains.  The rain is going to find a lower energy path.

Around December 20, an offshore Omega Block pattern forms.  Alaska is going to get some dramatically atypical December weather!

I'll be with family in CA and we will probably be dry, cold, and windy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mturk and fauxtomation

Did you know that Expensify's “SmartScan” technology is actually people working for Amazon Mechanical Turk? Read more.
SmartScan is presumably a selling point for Expensify, since the receipts it handles can contain sensitive personal information, like names, purchase details, email addresses, and even bank routing numbers. So it was awkward when, last week, the company was caught posting receipts to an online marketplace for freelancers so that their contents could be transcribed not by SmartScan, but by humans.
No, I do not want Alexa or Google listening in on my conversations at home.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Old Indigo

I want to blog about water, but work, family stuff and sleep is getting priority these days.

I just want to give a quick link to this lovely story about Thao Vu and the artisans she works with in Vietnam--the people behind Kilomet109.

Hand batik.  Living and dead indigo.  Embroidery.  Interesting Shapes.

Detail of reversible tank top. Photo courtesy of NYT

Batik and indigo reversible tank top. Photo courtesy of Kilomet109
This is my favorite dress from the online store.

Photo courtesy of Kilomet109

But I would be happy if Santa brought me this coat.  I've been very, very good.

Jacket photo courtesy of NYT

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

'Free college for all' or 'Free college for most'?

'Free college for most' doesn't sound as catchy as 'Free college for all!'

In a perfect world, the government would have enough money for all. But, in the current political climate, I'd settle for directing the money to the the most financially needy. I want government to give away subsidies to people in need or to change people's behavior. Giving money away to people who have enough and were already going to buy a product (college education) does neither.

New York may make waves for offering tuition-free college, but there is still the pesky problem of books and living expenses.  Meanwhile, California has been quietly charging tuition, but rebating it back to low and middle-income families.  In fact, most families will pay less under the CA system because CA offers more aid for living expenses.

Consider the University of California budget for 2018-2019 that was recently adopted.  It includes a small increase in tuition, but the bulk of UC costs is not tuition.  Living costs and books dwarf tuition two to one.

By charging tuition, and then redirecting those dollars to financial aid for needy students, many students and their families pay negative tuition.  That is, their financial aid is greater than the amount of tuition.

The median family income for CA families with children under 18 in 2010-2014 is $61,991. 


Under the new UC budget, tuition is ~$13,000/year and the students and parents would be expected to contribute ~$15,000.  (Undergraduate students can take out subsidized loans of up to $7,500/year or roughly half of the family contribution.)

If students start at a community college (CC) and live at home for the first 2-3 years, they can reduce the cost even further.  About half of CA CC students received full tuition waivers.  They only had to cover books and transportation costs, and those were subsidized for the neediest students.

Starting next year, the first year of California community college would be tuition-free for everyone.

One third of all UC graduates were CC transfer students.  They typically move away and live on campus at an UC for only the last 4-5 semesters.

CA has effectively had free college for most, if they can get over the hurdle of being prepared to take advantage of it.

This is where I think CA--our entire nation--could do better.  Notice that families with children under 18 have a lower income than families without children?  Not only are children expensive, but they impair their care-givers' ability to work for cash income.  This is why we need cash transfers from the unencumbered to the people who work hard to raise the next generation of citizens/tax-payers.

Look at the incomes for families with children under 18 by CA state assembly districts.

Consider the median family incomes in South LA, district 59.  Imagine raising kids on $26,341/year. Note that families with children are poorer in district 59 than those without.

That is one quarter the income of families in the South Bay region, district 66. Although families in this area with kids enjoy higher incomes than families without kids, the income difference is slight compared to the cost of childcare and other child-related expenses.  I want to be clear that, given the high cost of living in LA, $100,000/year is not luxurious at all.


But you cannot compare two-parent families earning $100k/yr with one parent families earning $25k/yr.  Every family in the latter group that manages to raise their children to be college-ready has achieved something heroic and earns my enthusiastic support.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

The dinosaurs among us

Another day, another Republican plan to take away healthcare from anyone who is unlucky. Insurance is for the things you can't predict, like a child that gets sick with something really complicated. I think that Rs that already know that, and are lying to us anyway.

I am so sick of lies and the lying liars that tell them.  I am so sick of constantly having to rebut lies.  Can we have a plan where we don't get sick with those diseases?

Meanwhile, let's think about something happy, like the fact that we walk among dinosaurs. FYI, Thornton is slightly north of Denver.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beware of false moral equivalence

Speaking of recent bullshit, I am surprised by the lack of pushback in the media with respect to false moral equivalence. For instance, consider this article about the taking down of a confederate monument in Hollywood.  (I added the bold face.)
A spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy explained the group’s decision to remove the monument this way:

“I was afraid to leave it overnight,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisal. “We have had the cemetery remove it until we decide what to do.”

Those calling for the monument’s removal are “erasing history,” she said.

“I do not believe in slavery — no sane human would believe in that today,” she said. “But back then, they did.”

She condemned the violence in Virginia and expressed sorrow for those killed and injured.

“We weep for the people who are involved in all of the things that are going on in our country — on both sides. We find hatred among white supremacists, we find hatred among Black Lives Matter,” she said. “We should all come together and become one under the United States of America.”
On both sides?  ON BOTH SIDES?

Why didn't the LA Times reporters press this unnamed spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy to clarify what kind of hatred from the BLM movement she is referring to?

One side wants to celebrate the treasonous people who went to war for the right to enslave other people.  All BLM wants is for the police to stop killing them.

There is no both sides about this.  There is no moral equivalence.

There was a concerted social media effort to portray the BLM movement falsely.  A great deal of money was spent to smear BLM so that they would lose public support..  Zeynep Tufekci ably explained how this was done in Twitter and Tear Gas.  Read it!

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Learn more about the Russian propaganda tool, 'whataboutism,' that is widely used by authoritarians, climate deniers and the right around the world.

I don't know what to call this

I am so effing tired that we have to even fight the dark forces that are threatening our country right now.  If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Zeynep Tufekci has been studying the intersection of authoritarianism, technology and protest for decades and you really, really want to learn from her.

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Meanwhile, I have an example of how adept the spinmeisters of satan are at manipulating technology and algorithms, I give you my search results yesterday for the "Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map":

An ad or two appears before the search results, as is typical for Google searches. But look carefully. Notice that the top ad is for a website that exists solely to discredit the splc.org with completely fabricated lies? Who paid for that ad?  How do they act so fast?  There are literally armies of people working on spreading disinformation so that people give up and say that the fault lies with 'many sides.'  Don't be that dumbf*ck.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet the screen capture to Google. Enough people must have done it because searches for the same phrase and SPLC in general are devoid of ads and go to the organization's site and map. BTW, this is the SPLC Hate Map tonight.

Less well-known, but deserves to be better known, is the Map of White Supremacy mob violence.


Don't miss @JuliusGoat's thread, 'Imagine if these people ever faced actual oppression.'

The white militia is here to demand your obedience with their guns.

AP photo via Mother Jones
Call me a feminazi, but I've never had to resort to carrying a gun to make you agree with me.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why are white people so afraid?

It turns out, white people who live among white people are at highest risk of being murdered or dying of illicit drugs.  Mike Males crunched the numbers in an LAT opinion piece.
I examined Centers for Disease Control statistics on murder, gun killings and illegal-drug overdoses among white Americans.
...
Rates of homicides, gun killings and illicit-drug fatalities are highest in counties where nine in 10 residents are white and where President Trump won.
...
Such counties are not limited to one geographical region. They include Boone County, W.V.; Washington County, Utah; Baxter County, Ark.; and Brown County, Ohio.
...
Overall, white Americans who live in predominantly white and Trump-voting counties are 50% more likely to die from murder, gun violence and drug overdoses than whites who live in the most diverse and Democratic-voting counties. The more white and Republican a county is, the greater the risk for white Americans.
...
Correspondingly, the white Americans who are safest from such deaths are those who live in racially diverse areas such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, where two-thirds of residents are nonwhite, where millions of immigrants live, and where voters favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. Nonwhites also are safer in these areas overall, though rates vary by location.
The last sentence is at the crux of the BLM movement. If you examine the evidence, white on black crime due to irrational fear, is the bigger crime problem in this country.  Trayvon Martin is not an isolated case.

Stand your ground laws make it impossible to convict someone of murder if they claim that they felt that their life is in danger.  If white people persist in irrationally believing that black people are dangerous, then they can legally get away with murder.  This is the new lynching.

It is the job of all of us to push back against irrational fear.  Don't let people like Trump get away with spouting lies without pushing back.  The lives of our fellow human beings depend on this.
Chawne Kimber's Self Study #4: the one for T

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The end of tapwater

Trevi Fountain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Italy has neglected infrastructure so badly that Rome, their capital city, will begin rolling water shutoffs
.
One-third of the city’s residents are set to have their water supply cut off for eight hours every day, possibly beginning as early as Friday; different neighborhoods will take turns in sharing the burden. It’s an unprecedented move for a major Italian city, said Giampaolo Attanasio, a public infrastructure expert at the advisory firm Ernst & Young. But it may soon be routine.

"Rome could be just the beginning. If the situation doesn’t improve, other large cities will have to ration water as well," Attanasio said in a telephone interview. "Small towns already have."
The math is damning.
as much as one-fourth of water pipes in Italy are more than 50 years old, and that it will take 250 years to replace the whole system at current rates.
This means that the pace of water pipe replacement has slowed in recent years. Otherwise, the % of older pipes would be higher.

Moreover, they lose 44% of their water through leaks in the pipes!

Climate change compounds the problem.  With higher temperatures come higher evaporation rates.  This means less water will flow from the mountains to the cities below, even if rainfall stays the same.

Rainfall patterns do not remain the same with climate change.  Storm tracks change with the weather, but the climactic average of storm tracks vary much less.  Those average storm tracks are being disrupted around the globe as the jet stream becomes more wavy.

In Spring 2017, Italy received 50% of the rainfall that they received over the 1971-2000 reference period.  At the same time, it was the second hottest Spring since 1800--1.9 C warmer than the 1971-2000 average.

Austerity measures compounded the body blow dealt by climate change and normal variation.

Lack of public funds meant reliance on so-called 'public-private partnerships' with for profit companies who cut maintenance to increase profits.

There is no time to lose.  The longer we wait to slow global warming, the worse these problems will become.

We should be spending more on infrastructure to build for climate resilience rather than less.

Will it be expensive?  Yes.

But the alternative, doing nothing, is even more expensive.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Water views

When I was visiting family in San Diego last winter, we went for daily walks around this reservoir. I overheard some other walkers discuss why this reservoir was so low, if they had been getting so much rain lately. It took a great deal of effort for me not to run up to them and explain at that time. ;-)

Most of the water in the reservoirs near where people live in coastal California is imported!  They are really just decorative water storage tanks.

You can see more land along the shores of Lake Murray in this photo than you do during dryer times precisely because people in the reservoir's service area need to use less piped-in water during rainy periods.

Moreover, they want to leave some room in the reservoir to catch the runoff from the storms in the local area.  Local rain augments the imported water supply (and not the other way around.)

Remember during the drought and last winter when the newspapers showed this weekly reservoir status map?  You can download it from the CA Data Exchange.  Click on Selected Reservoirs Daily Graphs PDF.

This well-designed graphic shows the relative sizes of reservoirs. The scale breaks down for the smallest reservoirs in the southern end of CA but you get the overall idea.

It doesn't matter if some area gets 200% of normal precipitation if that normal is 3". It's not as significant as another place getting 120% of normal (PON) when their normal is 65".

Check out the wide normal rainfall variation at the California-Nevada River Forecast Center.

It also matters where that rain falls.  Is it over a wide area?  Did it fall in a drainage basin connected to dry areas by our plumbing (rivers and aqueducts)?

The plumbing that brings water from where it falls to where it is used is a complex system of aqueducts, ditches, rivers and pumps.  About 20-25% of the electricity consumed in California is used to move water around.  (Water is heavy.)


Read the in-depth, California's Water Supply, A 700 Mile Journey to learn more about the CA aqueduct. I'll write about the Colorado River later.

Los Angeles is a semi-arid place surrounded by tall mountain ranges and the ocean.  Bringing enough water to it is a challenge.  That is why it had to become a leader in water recycling.  There is really no choice.

The takeaway is that your water travels farther than you think.  It isn't just the total distance, but the number of (vertical) lifts required to get it to you.  Lifting water uphill is energy intensive and we can not cut our carbon footprint without lowering our water footprint.