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Monday, 30 July 2012, 2024
Back in May, I went down to Fort Lauderdale to attend the Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference (GHC). An annual event for emergency management professionals, the GHC offers attendees a selection of over forty training sessions and nearly sixty workshops.
It was an exciting time for me. I had recently been promoted at work and on the day before I drove to the GHC was named the Child Advocates II Board Member of the Year at the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program's annual Guardian ad Litem Appreciation Day. A week in a beachfront hotel, albeit during a business trip, was certainly welcomed.
Both an excellent educational and networking experience, I was impressed with the overall organization of the event. In the future, they need to blanket the place with wireless internet though. I had to rely on my personal smartphone's cellular connection to monitor email, occasionally tweet and refer to the schedule.
view the entire National Hurricane Center Tour photo set
It was a forty-five minute transit south by coach from the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. Looking out the window and spotting familiar locations along the way—like the large shark painted on the side of Paul W. Bell Middle School—I could not help feeling as if I was heading to Key West, my destination every other time I passed through here.
Upon our arrival, we were met by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Public Affairs Officer Dennis Feltgen who guided us to the security reception desk where we showed our government IDs and signed in.
It was Feltgen I asked if photography was permitted and his affirmative response elicited both joy and regret in me. Since the trip was not recreational, I had previously decided to bring only my pocket-sized workhorse, the Canon A540, but I immediately wished I had my Canon EOS 550D for the tour.
Our first stop was the Media Briefing Room, which is used for training, public outreach and media broadcasts during tropical events. Broadcast studio lights hanging above, the entire left wall of the room is made up of floor to ceiling sliding glass doors beyond which is the broadcast desk and Operations Area.
Feltgen and his colleague first went around the room having us introduce ourselves. Our contingent was fairly diverse with members of state and local government, military, law enforcement and a few non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross.
After describing the history of the NHC and describing its present-day organization and functions, we split up and my group started the tour.
With two forecasters on duty at all times during hurricane season, the operations area is the heart of the NHC. Hurricane Specialist John Cangialosi showed us the various tools and resources staff use to collect data, analyze it and apply computer models, eventually producing public forecast products and guidance.
It was the first day of the Pacific hurricane season and the day before, a tropical disturbance organized sufficiently to be designated as Tropical Storm Aletta. It was cool to watch as the forecasters on duty in operations processed real-time data on Aletta and prepared for the upcoming Atlantic season (which ended up spawning two pre-season storms as well).
Senior Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown was present and working as well, pausing from his paperwork to say hello.
Public tours of the NHC are only offered from 24 January to 26 April, obviously to avoid distractions to the staff during tropical events. Even though Aletta did not become very strong and never posed any danger to land, I felt fortunate to be able to tour the facility while something was going on.
The NHC frequently holds coordination conference calls with other NOAA weather entities when preparing forecasts. During tropical events, they also provide daily briefings and expertise to the counties and State Emergency Response Team (SERT), of which I am a member.
The part of operations area familiar to most people is the broadcast desk from which NHC personnel broadcast tropical updates and provide media briefings.
Next, we walked to the Chief Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination All Hurricanes (CARCAH) office and met Meteorologist Steve Feuer. Feuer briefed us on the fleet of US Air Force and NOAA aircraft deployed by CARCAH to investigate a storm, the technology used and their flight plan methodology.
A typical "hurricane hunter" mission lasts ten or more hours, permitting a multi-vectored course through the storm in different directions and at different altitudes. Despite it likely being a bumpy ride, I would jump at the opportunity to go on a CARCAH flight and photograph the crew, equipment and storm.
Complementing on board instrumentation, dropsondes are also deployed from the aircraft allowing for the collection of data in and around the storm and water.
I asked Feuer if dropsondes are collected and reused, but he said that they are designed to be expendable and contain some components—the batteries for one, if I am not mistaken—designed to be more bio-friendly.
Moving on to behind the operations area, Cangialosi next took us to Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB) workspace.
As one of three major NHC branches, TAFB produces tropical cyclone position, intensity and precipitation estimates, tropical weather discussions and year-round marine forecasts through its Atlantic, Pacific/Classification, Atlantic/Pacific Analysis and Backup desks.
Responsible for a fourteen million square nautical mile region, TAFB issues over 100 marine forecasts and/or warnings every day. Their marine products include high seas and offshore waters forecasts; sea surface state, wind wave and wave period analyses; and tropical cyclone danger area graphics.
Our next stop was the NHC Storm Surge Unit (SSU), responsible for forecasting the abnormal rise of water from a tropical system above the predicted astronomical tide.
As detailed by NOAA Commissioned Corps Officer Lieutenant Jeffrey Pereira, the SSU provides evacuation and mitigation planning tools using the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) computer model to calculate maximum envelope of water (MEOW) and maximum of maximums (MOM) inundation analyses and forecasts.
While their acronyms may be amusing, the SSU's role at the NHC is critical. Storm surges are "often the greatest threat to life and property" in a tropical system.
Backtracking through offices, we made our way to the other entity that calls the NHC home, the Miami-South Florida Weather Forecast Office (MFL WFO). Providing full-time weather services for the region, MFL WFO was originally established as Miami's first Weather Bureau Office (WBO) in June 1911.
On this day, WFO staff were closely monitoring a local storm system with the potential to produce severe weather. As a staffer briefed the group on the office, I watched as meteorologists analyzed the storm and prepared their forecasts.
I was also interested in three things located in the back of the room. First, I discovered the WFO's amateur radio station used for Skywarn and its amusing vanity call sign WX4MIA.
To the right of the ham radio desk stands a black equipment rack housing vintage weather station equipment including an anemometer and a barograph. My photograph's resolution is unfortunately too low to make out the hardware's date of manufacture, but I would guess late 1950s or early 1960s.
Finally, next to the weather station is a beige rack holding the equipment and control panels for NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) in south Florida. Now automated by computer, this NWR console has manual control interfaces for WXM58 162.400 MHz in Belle Glade, KEC50 162.475 MHz in West Palm Beach, WWG92 162.525 MHz in Naples and KHB34 162.550 MHz in Miami.
Before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed and it was time to head back to Fort Lauderdale. I am glad to have been able to take part in this special NHC tour, especially after being in classes taught by many of its staff the day prior.
I would like to thank all of the NHC staff who hosted and spoke with our group. After having hosted the Federal Highway and Safety Administration (FHWA) in April for a briefing and tour of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Tallahassee, it was fun to be on the other side.
The balance of my time down south was great for many different reasons. I may elaborate on the GHC and trip more in a future article, but in the meantime I present these four groups of additional notes and highlights.
- The Hotel
- The Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel was nice, although I wished that my room had a balcony or at least windows that opened.
- The partially-covered walkway from the hotel over Seabreeze Boulevard was fantastic. I used it to walk to the beach every evening before dinner and again before bed.
- The "gourmet" coffee in the room was undrinkable. Thinking I had done something wrong, I tried it again using more and less water but it was still terrible. This was fine though as I brought my own beverages and the GHC provided free soda and coffee during breaks.
- The Convention Center
- I liked the convention center well enough, although it was air conditioned way too much. I kept dashing outside during the breaks just to catch some fresh air and warm sunshine. I mean, I was in south Florida after all.
- During a few of the training sessions, we were distracted by sounds emanating from the echoey service corridors: food service carts going by, dishes clanking and conversation.
- Manufacturers of projector remote controls should go out of their way to design a simple, usable product for presenters. One was obviously built with a hair trigger; each time the presenter pushed "next slide," three would quickly go by.
- The Restaurants
- I do not plan to wait another six years before next dining at my favorite German restaurant, Old Heidelberg. The food and service were both as exemplary as I had remembered.
- I had the Old Heidelberg Oktoberfest Mixed Plate consisting of bratwurst, Thüringer, knockwurst, smoked pork chop, meatball and kielbasa with red cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, split pea soup and bread.
- My patty melt meal at Lester's Diner was also delicious. The service was acceptable although the waitress seemed a bit distracted.
- The Good Fortune
- I am glad that I heard the train coming before I called a taxi to fetch me at Lester's, otherwise I would have paid for the pleasure of waiting thirty minutes for it to pass.
- It was good to see and hang out with my friend Keith during my visit. Fortunately, his work schedule allowed him to visit on two evenings.
|1 Comment||The National Hurricane Center | http://mtsutro.org?p=1019|
Hurricanes Personal Photography SciTech Travel
Sunday, 06 May 2012, 0247
|1 Comment||The Perigee-Syzygy | http://mtsutro.org?p=1017|
Local Photography SciTech
Tuesday, 28 February 2012, 2235
In the two years since I purchased my Lenovo ThinkPad W500 with a Samsung MMCRE28G8MXP-0VBL1 128 GB SSD, its speed can only be described as scorching. For the past several months however, I have been monitoring a troubling performance issue with the drive.
The most notable symptom is an apparent hang during larger file transfers, although I have seen it happen during more unusual circumstances. During instances of this behavior where I was able to capture diagnostic data, the drive seemed to be saturated and overworked. Given the age and health of the drive, I should not be seeing this.
Imagine my surprise when I determined that although Windows and the drive itself support TRIM, the installed firmware on the drive does not. I had previously checked to ensure TRIM was enabled, but I apparently did not use a tool that was more thorough in its analysis. I suspect the firmware to be the cause of my problems.
Amazingly, Lenovo has still not provided a firmware release that remedies this issue, for which I found numerous threads on Lenovo's customer support forum. Since Samsung no longer even acknowledges this drive on their website, I thought I might be screwed. Thanks to resourceful individuals on the internet, that no longer seems to be my situation.
Samsung had previously released a firmware update on their site that addressed this and presumably other issues. Some people figured out that it was possible to load this firmware, erase the drive and start over with TRIM enabled and functioning.
I was excited to find that a RAR with all the necessary software—the firmware update along with tools to make boot media—had been put together and then equally disappointed to see it was hosted on the now-shuttered Megaupload.
Long live the internet. After several requests in the thread, alternative download locations surfaced and I now have a copy. My plan is to perform the upgrade procedure this weekend, hopefully not bricking the SSD in the process, use the built-in factory wipe utility to zero the drive, and reinstall my system.
Should all go well, Windows will be back up and running in eleven minutes leaving the installation and configuration of my software, which will take the balance of the weekend. I have read numerous success stories from those brave souls who have already done this, on both Lenovo and other hardware, so I feel fairly confident in the procedure and firmware.
Should all not go well, I will suddenly find myself in the market for an even faster and larger SSD. Of course, they are $350+ so keep your fingers crossed that my upgrade goes well.
|4 Comments||The Solid-State Situation | http://mtsutro.org?p=1008|
Saturday, 29 October 2011, 1405
FeedBurner feeds will be discontinued today. They should redirect from Google for thirty days, but you should update your subscriptions immediately. The shortcut links below are to the new locations, hosted locally, at Flickr and at Twitter respectively.
The Linkage feed through Google Reader will be discontinued today. Future Linkage will appear on Twitter.
I have always preferred to run everything on this site locally, without relying on third-party services. On a few occasions in 2009, I lightened up on this policy and expanded a few things outside my control.
Most notably, I migrated the photograph gallery to Flickr, started using Google Reader to publish shared links of interest ("Linkage") and began providing RSS feeds through FeedBurner. Overall, I have been pleased enough with these arrangements.
While I continue to worry about the future of Flickr under Yahoo!, my experience there has been excellent. Although my primary motive was to reduce the overhead in managing the gallery and costs of hosting, the unanticipated result has been the far-wider audience my pictures have received worldwide.
Since I was already using Google Reader as my RSS aggregator, using its sharing feature to publish Linkage was a logical progression. I enjoyed the fact that this content could be viewed as a list in the sidebar, on a stand-alone page with images and via RSS.
Yesterday I learned of Google's plans to "clean things up" as they said, referring to the discontinuation of sharing, following and friending inside Reader. Instead, new Google+ integration is designed to take over. By forcing this change, the usefulness of this product for me has just gone to zero.
Mozilla Thunderbird, my first choice as an alternative RSS reader, has so far proven to meet my needs. I did not find any add-ons to share feeds from Thunderbird, so I will now be posting Linkage on Twitter. This works immediately, the only issue being that my script does not yet interpret the newish Twitter shortlinks (e.g. http://t.co/AkgyGG0v). With that fixed, I think this will work out fine. UPDATE: this issue has been resolved.
Finally, I have decided that the cons outweigh the pros with regard to using FeedBurner. I had originally sought the compatibility features and web front-end, but I find that my site's feeds are often delayed for no reason. RSS is ubiquitous and while Chrome still mysteriously has no internal means of displaying feeds, the other four major browsers now do.
I hate that it may be a hassle for those two or three subscribers to update their feed software, but think it is better to cut this cord before I have an even more compelling reason to do so.
|Add Comment||The Dark Clouds Loom | http://mtsutro.org?p=1005|
Personal SciTech Site Notes
Sunday, 23 October 2011, 0930
For the past few months, I have been developing a new website for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program. Serving Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties in northwest Florida, the program is part of a statewide coalition of volunteers, community partners and professional staff. Guardians ad litem are court-appointed volunteers who protect the rights of and advocate for the best interests of a child involved in a court proceeding, frequently as a result of alleged abuse or neglect.
I could not be working pro bono for a nicer group of people or a better organization. The work the program does is important and so are their fundraising, recruitment and training efforts. My greatest hope is that the new website will help the program better meet their mission, improve overall efficiency when dealing with volunteers and the public, more efficiently provide information and increase the program's online profile.
The people I have met are extremely friendly and a pleasure to work with, a trait that should not be uncommon but my experience says differently (see Clients From Hell). Special thanks to Deborah Moore, Leigh Merritt and Stacey Burns for making the entire process fun and painless.
It has been a challenging but extremely fun project. With my current day job workload—among other duties, I am an assistant project manager on the massive data center consolidation project for the Florida Department of Transportation—I have been working on the website nearly every weeknight and weekend. Although it has been an exhausting time, getting this website built and online as quickly as possible has been a driving force.
In addition to significantly improving my PHP programming, WordPress theme development and regular expression skills, this project has rekindled in me a powerful urge to work for good. I last felt this way when I was running a small law office ten years ago. Going home each day with the knowledge that my day's work made a tangible difference in someone's life was a wonderful reward. In the near future, I shall investigate what opportunities may be available for me at not-for-profit organizations. Because you never know—and I would like to have that feeling regularly again.
Please take a few moments to check out the website and learn about the program. I would love to hear any feedback you may have.
|2 Comments||The New Website | http://mtsutro.org?p=1003|
Local Personal SciTech
Thursday, 21 July 2011, 0654
|2 Comments||The End of an Era | http://mtsutro.org?p=995|
News & Politics Photography SciTech
Wednesday, 20 July 2011, 1837
— Neil Armstrong (CDR)
Fifty-six seconds after informing Captain Bruce McCandless II (CAPCOM) of his intent to take humanity's first photographs on the lunar surface during extravehicular activity, Neil Armstrong adjusted the settings on his 70mm Hasselblad—loaded with Kodak Ektachrome SO168 160ASA color film, Magazine 40/S—and snapped a series of photos for a panorama starting with this one. The result is AS11-40-5850 "Lunar Surface with Lunar Module Strut" shot by Armstrong just west of the Lunar Module ladder looking east-southeast.
You can watch video of this sequence, learn more about Apollo 11 photography and panoramas, browse the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal including the entire mission image library and read the official transcripts.
|Add Comment||The Moon Landing at 42 | http://mtsutro.org?p=994|
News & Politics Photography SciTech
Thursday, 07 July 2011, 0047
Are you a fan of the brilliant British television comedy The IT Crowd by Graham Linehan? Do you frequently feel the need to vent because of impossible users, clients or people in general? I think it is important these two demographics have an appropriate outlet and since I enjoy efficiency, how about a twofer?
"People, what a bunch of bastards."
— Chris O'Dowd as Roy Trenneman
As if that was not entertaining enough, Pam made a request for a version including her favorite Moss quote. Who am I to refuse a request like that?
"I like being weird. Weird's all I've got. That and my sweet style."
— Richard Ayoade as Maurice Moss
The sound clips are available to download via the Reynholm Industries logo on each page. I might be up for another one; suggest your favorite Jen Barber quotes and I can complete what may as well be a trifecta.
2011-07-09 — I rewrote things using HTML5, jQuery and jPlayer for better platform and browser interoperability. I did not find a Jen quote but I did find another of Moss appropriate for this impromptu YTMND inspired project.
"I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk."
— Richard Ayoade as Maurice Moss
2011-07-10 — Taking Pam up on her suggestions in the comments, I found a great albeit longer quote from Jen and also added Douglas Reynholm to the mix. Ladies and gentlemen I'd like to present to you…
"Wouldn't it be better if I could actually bring one of these wonders in to show you it? Say oh, I don't know um, The Internet! I think it would and I have! Ladies and gentlemen I'd like to present to you, The Internet! Oh please no flash photography, you'll harm The Internet."
— Katherine Parkinson as Jen Barber
"You there, computer man. Fix my pants."
— Matt Berry as Douglas Reynholm
2011-07-16 — This one is for Marc by email request.
"You'd better put seatbelts on your ears, Roy, 'cause I'm going to take them for the ride of their lives."
— Richard Ayoade as Maurice Moss
2011-09-12 — This amusing addition is for Marta in San Jose, California via Marc by SMS request.
"You've got big balls, Roy."
— Richard Ayoade as Maurice Moss
2012-09-05 — This has nothing to do with The IT Crowd but when Marc said that I should have my own Picard facepalm to link to online, this domain seemed like an appropriate home.
For those wondering, this now iconic image originates from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q" which originally aired in 1990.
Original Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
|2 Comments||The Reynholm Way | http://mtsutro.org?p=991|
Media Personal SciTech