Daily Archives: August 25, 2013

House Of Cards


We’ve been watching the new House of Cards (produced by Netflix). Here’s how I can tell it is good. Amanda actually started to watch it, which is unusual because she rarely watches anything. But she watched the first one, liked it, then tuned in to the second one a few days later and I had the opportunity to watch it with her. But I decided not to for reasons I won’t bore you with. However, I did catch the first two or three minutes. Which caught my attention so I caught the next five or six minutes. And so on. I ended up watching the entire episode. Then a couple of days later we watched the next episode. And so on. Now I’m watching it. It’s actually been a while since Amanda and I watched the same series (we hardly ever do that) so this is good.

There is something about House of Cards that I think is worth noting. I’ve only see a couple of episodes so this is subject to revision. Hopefully you’ve never seen it, so I can play this out with you and you’ll appreciate it more when you do watch it later. But if you’ve already seen the first several episodes or more, just go with me on this for a moment while I describe a couple of the sequences.

OK, so there is the Democratic Congressperson, Francis Underwood, who is Majority Whip (he’s in charge of rounding up votes for the party). There is a Democratic president in the White House, and the Democrats seem to be in charge but that does not mean that everybody has the same goals.

So, in one episode the following things happen. First, they are trying to get a major super duper educational reform bill passed, but all the different people at the table have different objectives so it looks like it will never pass, what with the unions and the educational reform people and whoever whoever fighting over it. Meanwhile, in Underwood’s home district in the south, a young girl is killed when she runs off the road texting something about a large well lit (at night) water tower that is designed to look like a giant peach (the local peach industry likes that) but really looks like a sex organ of some kind. She was texting about that when she ran off the road.

So, all the selfish lobbyists and others are fighting over details of the education bill and can’t get their acts together, and all the people at Underwood’s home town, including the bereft parents of the deceased girl, a local political opponent of Underwood’s, etc. are doing crazy things because they are either crazed with grief or crazed with power tripping over exploiting someone else’s grief.

So, Representative Underwood goes down to his home district but stays on the phone with his office in Washington, DC.

The outcome: Everybody in his home district calms down, he gets the Peach Grower’s association to agree to turning the lights on the sex organ/peach thing off at night, gets pro-safety billboards put up about texting, and established a college fund in the name of the dead child. He also delivers a moving impromptu sermon at the local church and makes everybody feel better about everything. Meanwhile, he smooths over all the problems with the education bill and gets it out of committee.

Knowing all that, the only thing you can conclude is that this guy, Underwood, is great! A progressive southern Democrat who knows how to get things done. Oh, and by the way, his wife runs a pro-environment non-profit! Wow!

OK, now it’s your turn. Have you seen House of Cards? Did I characterize it well? If you’ve not seen it, go watch the first few episodes and report back.

Vaccination, Anti-Vax, Measles Outbreak and a Poll

Apparently, there is a Faith Healer [who] Convinces Followers To Never Vaccinate, [and] Now Church [is] The Center Of Measles Outbreak

The Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, run by Kenneth Copeland Ministries, has long been a strong anti-vaccination stronghold. Now, it is the epicenter of a major outbreak of Measles in the United States.

And, here is a poll that asks: Should anti-vaccine parents be held liable if their child spreads an illness?

Say an unvaccinated child has the measles and passes the disease onto a baby who’s too young to be vaccinated. If that baby gets ill (or worse), should its parents be able to sue the infected child’s parents for negligence?

Last time I checked, “No” was winning, with about 7K votes in.

It is reasonable to ask “The vaccination does make the baby cry, so why do it?” Here’s the answer.

Atlantic Tropical Weather Update (Updated)

So, how has the Atlantic hurricane season shaping up so far?

According to data accumulated by the National Weather Service, as shown (with added items) here …
… we should have had about four or five named storms at this point in the season. Since numbers for this time of year are small, variation is large, so this is not too meaningful but it can give us an idea.

So far, we have had these storms in the Atlantic:

Tropical Storm ANDREA
Tropical Storm BARRY
Tropical Storm CHANTAL
Tropical Storm DORIAN
Tropical Storm ERIN

The next storm will be named Fernand, and it may be forming as we speak:

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.27.20 AM

There is a 60% chance that this stormy blob will turn into a named tropical storm over the next few days. Also there are several interesting looking proto-stormy-blobs between the west coast of Africa and the Caribbean that have promise.

This possible named tropical storm, which would be Fernand, is aimed at Mexico.

UPDATE: The stormy blob is now officially a tropical depression, and there is a hurricane hunter heading for it right now. Expect this to become a named storm later today. Then, it will cross the coast in Mexico and turn back into a stormy blog. But for just a short while, very likely (but maybe not), Fernad will exist.

UPDATE: Yup, Fernand formed, is now over land in Mexico, and will dissipate.

So, we have had five named storms. By the end of the month, we’ll probably have six. And that is about right.

From Intellicast, we have a picture of the immediate and near future jet stream:

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.31.43 AM

The arrows-bearing white lines curving up over the rockies, across the upper midwest, and down along the east coast indicate a highly convoluted wave in the jet stream. This convoluted pattern is most likely the result of the Arctic being warmed (via global warming). This reduces the gradient of heat from the equator to the pole. A steeper gradient would result in a straighter jet stream. When you get a bunch of convolutions (waves) in the jet stream, owing to complicated meteorological math stuff, the waves tend to stall in place. Areas “under the curve” (like, right now, the middle of the US) get big high pressure systems that move warm air to the north, for several days at a time. A result of this would be a big giant heat bubble as shown in the following GIF I copied from Paul Douglas’s blog:


Which, in turn, is likely to seriously exacerbate drought conditions in the region, as shown on this map from US Drought Monitor:

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.41.30 AM

So, really, “Tropical Weather” isn’t just Atlantic Hurricanes, but heat waves at places such as the Minnesota State Fair: