What to expect from Hurricane Michael UPDATED

Atlantic Hurricane Michael will be a memorable, destructive, storm. It is currently about 250 miles south of Florida, and will likely hit the Florida Panhandle the hardest, but nearby areas are at risk. As I write this, the storm is moving north with 105 kt (120 mph) winds. That makes it a stoong Category 3, aka major, hurricane.

Tuesday/Wednesday Midnight

During the wee hours of the morning, Michael will be a Category 3 storm, with winds of about 110 kt (125 mph) but with maximum gusts of 135 kt (155 mph). Tropical storm force winds will be arriving along coast, anywhere from Louisiana to the entire Gulf Coast of Florida.

Wednesday Morning

By sunrise tomorrow morning, Michael will have strengthened somewhat (winds at 110 kt, 125 mph). I’m not sure if Michael will beat any records, but it will go on the short list for how little time it take to go from a tropical disturbance to a major hurricane, and how little time it takes to go from a recognized threat to a land-falling storm. Michael may challenge our process of preparation and evacuation.

Wednesday mid day

The eye of Michael will be looming off shore by mid afternoon tomorrow, making landfall before dinner. Just at the time of landfall, the storm will be a stgrong category 3, with 110 kt (125 mph) winds, with gusts of 135 kt (155 mph).

But long before landfall, the storm will be pelting coastal and inland communities, because “landfall” isn’t the key moment in a hurricane’s life. (See this for more on that.)

Bulls Eye

The bulls eye of the storm, the middle of the range across which predictions say the eye will make landfall, has only moved a little over the last day or so. However, remember that as storms move off the ocean and onto the continent, their track can become less predictable. However, in this case, most of the different tracks predicted by the various models are similar. Also, it is my impression that Gulf storms going north at an accelerated speed into this area tend to stay on track. So, it is very reasonable at this point to suggest the following are very likely:

The center of the storm the eye, will make landfall somewhere east of Pensacola, which is at the western tip of the Florida Panhandle, through somewhere east of Tallahassee. In other words, almost all of the Florida Panhandle is in or very near the most likely spot for landfall. The exact bulls eye a this moment is ther Tyndall Air Force Base, in the immediate vicinity of Panama City Beach.

If this storm puts its eye over Panama City, would somebody please get a picture of the Hard Rock Cave sign inside the eye? I’m actually writing a piece of fiction where that exact photograph is used to make a “Welcome to Florida” post card that figures into the story. Thanks.

Anyway, of extreme relevance is this. There is about a 50-50 chance, or a little less, that the eye will come to shore in such a location that the hard-bunch front right quadrant of the storm will hit the coast at one of the worst possible places to do so in the Gulf. The front right quadrant of a fast forward moving Atlantic hurricane is where maximum damage tends to happen. There are three reasons.

1) A storm with 100 mph wind swirling around the center, but moving forward at 20 mph, can have 120 mph winds in the front right quadrant.

2) All the things that cause a storm surge are maximized in the front right quadrant of an Atlantic hurricane.

3) Even the rainfall is probably greater in the front right quadrant, because this is the part of the hurricane where the corpus of the storm has spent the most time over warm sea water, picking up moisture.

Now we add the coastal effect. When a storm surge moves against the coast, if the coast itself is funnel shaped, or embayed, the surge is narrowed down and concentrated.

If the eye of Michael comes ashore near Apalachicola or to the east a bit, the right front quadrant would be facing into a bight, the embayed area that forms part of the armpit of Florida. Within that bight, at a much smaller scale, are numerous estuaries that run perpendicular to the coast without a lot of barrier island protecting them. There is a very large area where the National Weather Service, which by the way the Trump Appointed Secretary of Commerce (NOAA is within the Commerce Department), who also owns a private weather company, wants to essentially shut down, estimates possible storm surge of over 9 feet. Like this:

Inland, the storm will move quickly north and east, and by the end of the week, tropical storm force winds will be up in the Canadian Maritimes. Within 24 hours of landfall, the wet and windy remnants of Michael will be menacing the region previously flooded by Florence. The storm will probably punch back out into the Atlantic in coastal Virginia or North Carolina.

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Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael just formed in the straits between the Yucatan and western Cuba, and it is heading for the US Gulf. The bull’s eye is currently the vicinity of Port St Joseph and Apalachiocola, not far east of Panama City. The right front quadrant thus is heading for the bight between Apalachicola and Suwannee, where things could be very messy if there is a strong storm tide.

Landfall would be expected in about 48 hours, and the actual bull’s ey could be anywhere between Pensacola and Cedar Key, with areas well outside of that (including Mobile, Alabama) being affected.

The thing about this storm is that just a few hours ago, it was projected to be a Category 1 storm, but is now expected to be a (weak?) Category 3 storm. And, it is coming in fast.

It is too early to say what the storm surges may be, or exactly where it will come ashore. Unlike Florence (or Harvey), Michael is not expected to linger on or near the coast, but rather, will plow through the US Southeast as a storm, probably passing over Atlanta, coming into the Atlantic not far from where Florence went, possibly menacing Washington DC and Philadelphia, the home of the Eagles, recently defeated by the Minnesota Vikings. There could be areas with 6-10 inches of rain in the Florida Panhandle and Georgia.

The two big climate change related stories with Michael may end up being: 1) It formed fast and got strong fast and moved fast, like Patricia (Mexico, a few years ago) and Maria (2017); and 2) Michael is passing over anthropogentic-climate-change-superheated waters (at least somewhat superheated) in the Gulf.

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The Kavanaugh Fight Will Dampen The Red Wave

Why? Because everything that can possibly happen, anything of any sort, will dampen the Red Wave. Why is that? Because Democrats are unorganized, weak, lack knowledge about how the electoral process works, and more self centered than ideology centered. Not all Democrats, but plenty of them.

But that’s just me talking. All I have to offer is experience in campaigns since the 1970s. What you really want to do is listen to Rachel Maddow, who has a whole staff and a big brain. She says different. I hope she is right and I am wrong. (For the record, we rarely disagree.)

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The Truth about the Oxford Comma

The first thing you need to know about the Oxford Comma is actually a thing you need to know about Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a special place on the internet where the conversation the rest of us are having about many topics can’t actually happen. In this case, Wikipedia has determined that the Oxford Comma is actually called the Serial Comma, even though nobody in the whole world calls it this. Somewhere in the history of the current Wikipedia article on this topic, somebody discovered primacy of the word “serial” and insisted that since that word was used first, in 1121 or something, it beats “Oxford.” This silly sort of thing is common in Wikipedia, and I’ve discussed it before. But, I digress.

The Oxford Comma, also known as the Harvard Comma, is that last comma in a list before the “and” or the “or.”

You need it in sentences like this:

“I took a picture of my parents the president and the first lady.”

There are different ways to put commas in that sentence. In one version of this sentence, I am Chelsea Clinton. In the other version of this sentence, I’m a visitor to the White House and the President and First Lady are standing there next to my parents, and I snap a photograph.

Most style guides for writers, including the Oxford Style Manual, the APA, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, Strunk and White, the USGPO and others mandate the use of this ultimate comma. It is less often used in the UK, but the Oxford guide does require it. Overall, the total number of words printed under stylistic guidance use it, though the Oxford comma is not accepted stock and barrel.

The AP style guide eschews the Oxford comma, and generally, journalistic style guides recommend against it.

The reason a style guide would require it is simple, in my view. A missing Oxford comma is an abomination. You can really screw up the meaning of a sentence by leaving it off. But it is hard to mess up a sentence by using it when it is not needed. Most of the time, the only reason to not use it is because you are short of commas. In the old days, when commas were an actual thing, made out of lead, maybe it was worth having a rule that helped conserve them. Perhaps that is also why American spelling tends to diverge from British spelling in the use of fewer letters per word. They had lots of lead type in Great Britain because of a longer history of of type use, or because they shifted to fighting all their wars overseas.

The point is, if you tell your writers to always use it, mistakes will rarely be made.

There are, of course, times when the Oxford Comma adds, rather than subtracts, ambiguity from a sentence.

“I am going to say a prayer for my dog, Jesus, and my cat.”

Am I praying for three entities (two of which exist), or am I praying for my dog, named Jesus, and also, my unnamed cat?

Which brings us to my own personal conclusion about the Oxford-Harvard comma. Which, by the way, is not too different from what each and every style guide actually says.

Most style guides say, “Use/Don’t use the Oxford Comma, unless you must, to make your meaning clear.”

My preference is to say, “Use/Don’t use the Oxford Comma as you please, just make sure your meaning is clear, unless, as a writer, you chose to be unclear.”

This sort of approach is true with punctuation generally. You really should start your sentences with Upper Case letters, and end them with periods. But, you don’t have to. You can be e E cummingS. How does a writer handle quotes within quotes? Up to you. According to many style guides, when you shift paragraphs within dialog, normal quotation rules fly out the window. But, you can do it differently if you want.

Some writers use a lot of semicolons; others do not. There is no rule that forces you to do so, but there are guidelines for when you could. Which you can ignore; I don’t.

Is your text meant to be read aloud, even if just in the head of the reader? Is there cadence that affects the way the words feel? If so, you might find yourself using, as needed, commas that technically should not be there. Or you might leave some off to change the sound your words make in someone’s head. That is your choice as a writer. Seriously. That is your choice, as a writer.

Non fiction that is actually published almost always has to pass through the style guide process, so writers are advised to know the guide they are working under, and adapt accordingly, even if it hurts. Fiction, even if processed by a publishing system, is more personalized. You should be able to argue for your own style because that is the whole point of getting a writer to write something instead of just doing it yourself. Right?

The truth about the Oxford, Harvard, or Serial comma is that there is always optional but usually recommended. Saying you can’t use it unless necessary will cause people to err on the side of caution with their editor, but against caution with their readers. Saves you commas, but in the long run, causes you more trouble than it is worth.

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What is that red line inside my toilet?

And how do I get rid of it?

Here are some theories of what this red line is caused by. The last one is the correct one, but I include the first two because they are examples of wrongness, and we are all about that on the Internet, aren’t we?

The first explanation, historically, is that the red substance found in damp places, which today include the inside of your toilet or other places in your bathroom or kitchen, but in those days (before porcelain toilets) included other human-made as well as natural locations, is that this is the blood of Christ. This wass especially thought to be true when this red substances was found on bread, and especially when the bread was the Eucharist, the piece of bread that Catholics believe is the actual body of Jesus Christ, which you then eat. Blood coming out of anything linked to Christ, especially the actual body of Christ in the form of a wafer of bread, is about as intense as it gets if you are a Medieval Christian.

The second explanation, the one I see all the time today, is that there is something wrong with the water supply. We often see the red film or line forming in toilet bowls, or behind the fixture on your sink, or in showers or tubs, blamed on the poor quality of the city water supply, and often, this theory links the red substance to iron in the water causing rust.

The red substance of which we speak here is not rust, and it is not blood of any kind. It is Prodigiosin, a red pigment. When you see this red pigment, you are actually looking at a very likely thriving and living colony of the bacterium Serratia marcescens.

Serratia marcescens can be a human pathogen. It is responsible for a percent or two of the known hospital based bacterial infections that have become such a problem. It affects children more than adults, can cause urinary tract infections, and sometimes it exists as strains that are resistant to bacteria.

The military in the US and UK used Serratia marcescens as a “harmless” bacterium in germ warfare trials, between 1950 and 1980. This made sense because it was thought to not cause disease, but being red, was easy to find and spot in a culture to test the efficacy of germ warfare delivery devices. Serratia marcescens was, therefore, spread across the San Francisco Bay region once, and a large area of England. In the case of San Francisco, it may have caused a spike in certain illnesses, and may have killed at least one person. In any event, it turns out it is not harmless.

Serratia marcescens is not the blood of Christ, and it is also not from your water supply. It is fairly ubiquitous so it can come from the air, from your body, from wherever. It probably does NOT come from your water supply because living Serratia marcescens would be killed in routine water treatment.

So do get rid of it. Most people don’t need to worry. It is not that pathogenic. But children may be somewhat susceptible, and anyone immune compromised is at risk. Experts concerned with infectious disease don’t have this in their toilets at home.

Do not scrub the Serratia marcescens from your porcelain devices using a metal scrubber. That will ruin the porcelain finish and create crevices and scratches at the microscopic level. Bacterial such as Serratia marcescens love those crevices and scratches.

Do not put bleach in the back of your toilet system. That will ruin metal and rubber parts and cause leaks.

Do use a bleach based cleaner in the toilet bowl, on the sink in the shower, etc. to clean away this red stuff.

Clean it up where you see it, and do a general cleaning of the entire kitchen and bathroom — all of your kitchens and bathrooms and places this stuff is seen in your house — at about the same time. Maybe you’ll get all of it, or most of it, and it won’t come back or it will take a long time to reappear. If you clean a red spot here or there in your bathroom but not all of the at once, it will migrate back to where you removed it more quickly. If you wipe away the line around your toilet bowl but ignore the underside of the rim (that yucky area you can’t see without doing a Kavanaugh) it will come back.

But really, it is going to come back no matter what, eventually. Perhaps you should frequently use a brush without cleaning fluid, and occasionally a bleach-based substance on a brush, to clean these areas on a more regular basis than you are doing now. Chances are you see the red rim around your toilet water in the bathroom you hardly use, and do not see it in the toilet in the bathroom you usually use and thus clean regularly. What you should be doing is cleaning unused toilets in your house on a regular basis (weekly, bi-monthly, whatever) instead of ignoring them.

There is, of course, rust in some water, and that may be what you’ve got. But rust is not pink and does not form that line around the edge quite the same way. Medieval Catholics knew about rust, and thought this red stuff was blood. They just don’t look the same.

Serratia marcescens will, of course, coat the entire surface of the underwater part of your toilet but it tends to concentrate around the edge due to evaporation. It is also left behind when tiny puddles form, say, in the built-in soap dish in your shower or behind suction cups that are meant to hold stuff up in the shower, or behind the fixtures on your bathroom sink, etc.

I personally use one of these (though you might prefer this style) in the bathroom, and yes, I admit, I use this to clean both parts of the shower (down on the floor) and the bathroom (changing brushes, of course).

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The Presumption of Innocence

If I own a cookie store, and you come to my store for a job interview, and I see you stealing cookies, I will not hire you. To me, you are a crook, and I will act on that belief, and I can do that. But, if I turn you into the cops, and you enter the criminal justice system, you have a presumption of innocence, which applies to what happens to you in that system. At no point does the presumption of innocence that is part of our criminal justice system seep out into my cookie business. I caught you with your hand in the cookie jar, and you still can’t have that job.

This rule of justice comes down from the Romans, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, and it is widespread, though not universal in legal systems. But it does not apply to my cookie shop.

The presumption of innocence is not a logical requirement or even guideline for how humans think. It is, rather, the baseline from which the process of proving guilt begins in many of our legal systems. “Presumed innocent until proven guilty” (a phrase coined by William Garrow) refers to a stage in the legal process of acquiring or convicting someone. It is not the logical starting point for deciding, as a human being, if another human being did something wrong.

I do think something like presuming innocence is a good thing to do, and I tend to do it. But when as citizens we do that of each other, or of people in the news, or others, we are not engaging in the legal principle of Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. We’re just trying not to be dicks all the time.

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Now is your last chance to read Isaac Azimov’s Foundation Trilogy

… before it gets made into a TV show.

There have been, I think, two earlier failed starts for a project that turns what might be the number one interstellar long-history science fiction book written. This project looks like it is going to happen. The producer is Apple, so you will probably have to buy their latest computing device to get permission to watch it. (And therein could lie the plot for a very Azimov-like science fiction story…)

Anyway, you need to read the books before you watch the show, so get started. There is no information available as to when this series will be released. And, despite my snark above, it is not know where it will be shown, but it will be streamed. And, it will be in 10 parts.

The three books in the Foundation Trilogy are:

Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation

There is a complex publication history, and there are other stories and books, but that is the central bunch of words.

Alternatively, the Foundation Trilogy plus: The Foundation Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation), The Stars, Like Dust; The Naked Sun; I, Robot

These may also be among the most commonly available used books in science fiction, so check your local used book store, if you can still find one. (Hint: On line, the cost of one of these volumes, because of their continued popularity, used, is above $4.00 with shipping, with the shipping price dropping as the volume price increases, to make the actual cost per volume between $8.00 and $12.00. So, don’t bother with used on line.)

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Conflict of Interest in Science

There is a great deal of overlap and integration between government agencies, private corporations including Big Pharm and Big Ag and Big Whatever, university and other research institutions, and the scientist and others who work in these places.

This topic is addressed in the latest episode of the science podcast Ikonokast, which also includes details about a recent minor scandal involving GMO research and squirrels. And maybe bears.

Check it out: Episode 22 – Ethics, Conflict of Interest, and Science

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Trump: Seven degree increase in global temperature, and nothing we can do about it.

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

That was from this piece in the Washington Post. A must read.

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Kavanaugh is unfit for the bench because of the arguments he made today

Today, Judge Kavanaugh made the argument in sworn testimony, and this argument was backed up by the Republicans in the room, that all the accusations against him are a Democratic conspiracy. He also made the assertion that this conspiracy has permanently and irreparably destroyed his life, his family, his relationship to his children, his career and his reputation. This places a huge dark cloud over the Democratic party in his mind.

The Supreme Court of the United States is often the place where US laws meet their final and ultimate challenge. The Supreme Court Justices have to listen carefully and in an unbiased fashion to arguments that a current law is constitutional, vs. not constitutional. The Supreme Court does other things, they look at other kinds of cases, but this is a very common and critically important mode of operation for SCOTUS.

The lawyers charged with arguing in favor of the standing US law are part of the executive branch. They are part of the President’s team.

If Kavanaugh becomes a justice of the Supreme Court, he will have to recuse himself in any case where a plaintiff argues against the constitutionality of a standing US federal law. He has demonstrated a powerful, permanent, and indelible bias.

He won’t make much of a judge if he can’t really do his job.

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Were the solar plants hit by Florence blown into oblivion?


Faced with Hurricane Florence’s powerful winds and record rainfall, North Carolina’s solar farms held up with only minimal damage while other parts of the electricity system failed, an outcome that solar advocates hope will help to steer the broader energy debate….

When Florence made landfall on Sept. 14, it caused power outages across the region. As energy experts point out, the most vulnerable part of the system is not new at all: it’s the power lines and other equipment that transport electricity to customers.

Rooftop solar did ok as well.

Rooftop solar companies, such as Renu Energy Solutions in Charlotte, say there was little damage to their customers’ home solar systems. However, installers in some of the hardest-hit areas, such as Cape Fear, did not respond to messages seeking comment and there is a higher likelihood of damage there.

So, we’ll see how that goes, but I imagine the biggest problem for rooftop solar is a tree falling on the house, and when that happens, the home owner may have a bigger problem than some solar panels getting smashed.

The details are all here, in this story at Inside Climate News: Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and Rain

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The promise of nuclear. Really, we promise!

Nuclear energy proponents drone on about the advantages of the Next Gen reactors. People should realize that the long list of advantages to that technology does not apply to any ONE technology, but rather, to a collection of different technologies that would not be part of any one reactor. So, there’s that. But now, we have one of the Great Breakthroughs evaporating even without that particular bit of smoke and mirrors being … cleared up and fogged over? Whatever. Anyway, here’s the story from MIT

Transatomic Power, an MIT spinout … is shutting down almost two years after the firm backtracked on bold claims for its design of a molten-salt reactor….

Transatomic had claimed its technology could generate electricity 75 times more efficiently than conventional light-water reactors, and run on their spent nuclear fuel. But in a white paper published in late 2016, it backed off the latter claim entirely and revised the 75 times figure to “more than twice,”…

[This] made it harder to raise the necessary additional funding, which was around $15 million. “We weren’t able to scale up the company rapidly enough to build a reactor in a reasonable time frame,” Dewan says.

So, no there isn’t really a reactor that will use up spent fuel and provide energy so cheap we won’t have to meter it.

Here is one of the articles that originally came out extolling the new technology’s virtues. I link to it here so you know what bullshit looks like.

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