Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Greater Boston has a signage problem

Quick, what the hell does this traffic sign mean?

One of the infrastructure things greater Boston totally does not get right is street signs. For example, you might think, given the fact that the street network is an insane tangle left over from a variety of historical baggage, good street-name signs might be a priority. They are not. Such signs are frequently missing, hidden, and/or oriented incorrectly.

Anyway, the above sign marks a street where the top layer(s) of asphalt have not yet been laid down, but the manhole frames (which are of cast metal, I assume) have been installed. Since said frames are level with the complete street, on the incomplete street they stick up a few inches. I assume “castings” is a jargon term. It is a bit depressing that whoever approved these signs did not empathize with the average driver before doing so.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Post Irene

Last night around 6:30 the storm seemed to have pretty much wound down, so I went out for a walk around Fresh Pond.

Blossom in the street.

This tree had broken off. It has apparently blocked the road and been dragged out of the way already.

There were quite a lot of sticks and leaves strewn around the neighborhood.

This large tree was down across the path around Fresh Pond. (Note that the greenery in the background is standing, undamaged trees.)

After returning home, I paid less attention to the storm, which still gusted occasionally, and went about my business until it was time for bed. I looked out the windows (as I often do before bed) to discover this:

Fortunately, the car was undamaged. However, it seems my assumption that the storm was more or less over was incorrect – I'm pretty certain I would have noticed this when I returned from my walk about 8pm.

In the morning, there was a lot more tree damage in the neighborhood than I expected based on my observations of the storm. Perhaps we have wimpy trees around here? I've been in some pretty memorable windstorms while camping, and it sure didn't seem that Irene was as windy.

Street blocked off with some power lines down.

Another mess in the road.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene Interim Report

So far, Irene is pretty much a non-event in my neighborhood. Currently, winds at ground level are breezy, and often calm. At treetop level, my (inexperienced) guess is that the steady wind is Beaufort force 5 (18-24mph) with gusts of force 7 or 8 (31-46mph). This is significantly less than was expected now, though it's supposed to continue building until 5 or 6pm. The rain has stopped (it was never heavy after I got up today) and radar suggests there won't be much, if any, more. I've opened some windows because it is stuffy and humid in the house (88% according to our thermostat).

Things seemed pretty safe outside, so I went out to poke around.

The most “serious” damage I saw, around the corner from our house. The broken branch is touching some power lines, so there'll be some attention needed on that. (The car is undamaged, and it had been moved by the time I came by again on my return.)

I did not know there was an apple tree in the park.

Berries down!

Another big branch down in the park.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene Is Nearly Here

This weekend has a bit of an impending doom aspect to it, due to the approach of Hurricane Irene. I've never experienced a significant tropical cyclone, and while it will be quite cool in many ways, I suspect, I would prefer to pass. Anyway, here's the status as of early evening here in Cambridge, Mass.

Radar image from Wunderground as of a few minutes ago. Note that radar does not extend too far out to sea, so a significant portion of the storm is omitted.
First off, while the radar image above looks quite dramatic, the likelihood of a disastrous event here is very low. Storm surge will be low (and our house is at sufficient elevation to be safe from all but extreme storm surges), and wind will be exciting but significant destruction is unlikely (more on that below). We're on a bit of a hill, so flooding from rain should not be a problem. I suspect loss of power to be more likely than not, and that will be annoying.

Storm track prediction from the National Hurricane Center's series of advisories for Irene.
Irene is approaching from the south. The currently expected track, as seen above, is for the center of the storm to pass through the center of the state, and for it to be a tropical storm with sustained winds of 70 MPH, gusting to 85; of course, wind here in Cambridge is expected to be less.

I am not a fan of wind.* I find it unnerving and ominous, much more so than rain or lightning. And this house rattles and creaks rather unpleasantly in high winds. My biggest fear is that the wind will knock over the house. Of course, the actual odds of this happening are essentially zero. I read up on wind damage thresholds, and stick-built houses are good for a lot more than a tropical storm several miles inland. Plus, this house is 100 years old and has been through a lot. Finally, I haven't seen anyone boarding up windows anywhere. Even losing the roof is quite unlikely, I believe.

Anyway, for these reasons I have been paying a lot of attention to the wind forecast. Weatherspark (which uses NOAA predictions just like the NHC) has this to say about the wind (note log scale):

Couple of observations on this prediction. First, the inflection point on the wind, where it kicks up from calmish (15mph) to pretty windy (30mph) is between 4 and 5 am. Ugh! I strongly suspect it will wake me up. Peak sustained wind (52mph, with gusts beyond that of course) is at 5pm. It then drops off more rapidly than it built up, but still doesn't calm down until after midnight. We'll see how I feel, but I suspect I won't be able to sleep until it's clearly winding down, so it's looking like a long day, unfortunately.

The NHC also publishes maps which I won't bore you with but which estimate the probability of hurricane-force winds (74mph sustained) at zero percent, 50-knot winds (58mph) at 20%, and tropical-storm force (39mph) at 70%. I think it would be cool if I could look up a probability distribution for my location (and I suspect the NHC's data would support this).

I have plenty of food, cat food, and water (10 gallons potable plus a bathtubful that is a tad grimy). Flashlights are a dime a dozen in this household given our adventure habit, and I've got plenty of charged batteries. My cell phone has Internet connectivity. Potted plants and junk on the deck is inside. I'll wear shoes throughout the day in case I suddenly need to clean up glass.

I think it will basically be a rainy day at home with extra drama, and hopefully not too much extra drama. See my Twitter stream for updates and hopefully some interesting photos.

* No pun intended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Several Dairy Products

I’m reading a book on milk, so today’s trip to the grocery involved a lengthy period of examining the dairy case. I purchased:
  • 1/2 gallon organic whole milk from an apparently local dairy, pasteurized and homogenized.
  • 1 quart organic cultured buttermilk, pasteurized and homogenized.
  • 1 quart kefir, raspberry. It has numerous nutrition claims, but that’s all they seemed to have.
  • 0.76 pounds fresh mozzarella, from Vermont. (One of my favorite snacks is fresh mozzarella with extremely generous amounts of Louisiana hot sauce.)
  • 0.74 pounds not-fresh mozzarella, for burritos.
  • 6 ounces plain sheep's milk yogurt.
  • 6 ounces plain goat's milk yogurt – “this yogurt is made in a solar powered creamery”.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Fun Code Snippet

I was poking around in old Cyclopath scripts I'd written and came across this gem:

if [ `hostname` = $PROD_HOST -a $dest_db = $PROD_DB ]; then
    echo "You are about to destroy the production database!"
    echo "Are you sure you want to DESTROY THE PRODUCTION DATABASE!?"
    echo "If you really want this, type 'destroy the production database'."
    echo -n "> "
    read sure
    if [ "$sure" != "destroy the production database" ]; then
        echo "Aborting."
        exit 0;

Or, I thought it was funny at least. :)