This has been a surprisingly busy and eventful week, including out of town visitors, the brief loss of a a friend's child at Disney which created a bit of drama (kid has been safely found), the hopefully not brief finding of a new obsession, blackberry wine (why oh internet did you not tell me about this before), the exciting discovery that I had not, after all, tossed out my boots, and more, which means I am now pretty much out of it, but, interrupting that state and a rather alarming amount of laundry for a few quick announcements:

1. Barring any potential weather delays from Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, which OH NOES MAY BE KILLING FLIGHTS EVERYWHERE if you believe the media, I should be departing next Monday for World Fantasy Con.

(Don't worry, everyone; I have found my boots, which means that Toronto should be snow free. You can thank me – or curse me – later. I'm thinking curse because I was kinda looking forward to seeing some snow. Which would have certainly happened if my boots had remained hidden. On the other hand if snow does make an appearance Karen Lord will probably kill me, so, all just as well, and wow, could I possibly have mixed up verb tenses any more in this paragraph? I did say that I'm a bit out of it.)

Because my illness is incredibly unpredictable and can strike at any time, and I usually only make it to about half of the con at best, I have not planned any events – readings, panels, dinners, whatever. I'll just be going with the flow. Chances are good, however, that when I am up and about I will be near coffee, at the bar, or in the dealer's room, or have an interest in food in general. (Food!) I also tentatively plan to make my usual graceful and delightful appearance just outside the Tor party which may or may not turn into a graceful appearance inside the Tor party depending upon the state of the door and the crowds.

2. On a writing note, I have another tiny piece forthcoming from Daily Science Fiction squashed there in a month with writers such as Ken Liu and Nina Kiriki Hoffman, so, if you haven't signed up to have these short stories show up in your inbox each morning, and why not, it's free, now seems like a good time.

3. The Edward Eager reread continues over at Tor.com with The Well-Wishers. One more Eager book to go, and then we start a reread that I have been singing about. No, really.

4. And possibly one more announcement coming later today in its own little post.
And now, for my other summer obsession: Say hello to Tropical Depression Five, which will probably be strengthening into a tropical storm later this evening or tomorrow.
On the bright side, the new windows arrived today and are shiny and beautiful. They don't get installed until Friday -- and that will doubtless be a nightmare for many people, and in particular a nightmare for two small furry creatures who are going to be spending the installation time locked in a bathroom (mostly because one small furry creature does not understand that cars=dangerous, and I'm more than a bit worried that he will seize the opportunity of an opening temporarily unshielded by glass to go explore a street with cars) -- but, once done, they are going to be lovely.

On the rainy side, the rainbands from Tropical Storm Debby have arrived, making it kinda difficult for me to get the trike back to the bike store today, although I may end up trying the trip later on this afternoon if the rain stays light. Maybe. We'll see. (The sooner I get the return/recall/refund process started, the sooner I can get the new trike.)

So, while I'm watching the weather, the season wrap-up for Revenge. )
1. This week's Tor.com post, Freddy and the Popinjay, just popped up over at Tor.com.

2. This post from a professional musician about music downloads is long and has been fairly widely posted already, but if you missed it, I think it's worth a read.

3. In the nobody saw this coming bit, Tropical Storm Chris strengthened into Hurricane Chris this morning. It's no threat to land, but a couple of interesting notes: It's rare for hurricanes to form that far north (not unheard of, just rare); it's rare for hurricanes to form in the Atlantic basin in June; and this is the third earliest formation for a third tropical system in the Atlantic season in recorded history.

Statistically, this means nothing for the rest of the hurricane season, and after my disastrously wrong prediction about the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season I should probably not attempt a prediction again, but, just so we're on record with this at the end of the season: I confidently predict that we are in for either a slow season, an average season, a busy season, or an unusually busy season this year. And you can count on that.
I actually hadn't planned on blogging anything about the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season until the official start of the season, June 1st. But the Atlantic, as it generally does, decided to pay no attention to me whatsoever and get started a bit early.

Tropical Storm Alberto formed today in the Atlantic, a couple weeks ahead of schedule, mostly predicted to stay offshore, with a chance of affecting South Carolina in the next few days.

Interesting notes:

1) This is the earliest-forming tropical storm to appear in the Atlantic basin before the start of hurricane season since 2003.

2) This is also the first time tropical storms have developed in the historical record in both the Atlantic and East Pacific basins before the official starts of both hurricane seasons.

3) This is a good reminder to me to buy batteries. We're in a fairly safe part of the state, but if sea turtles are anything to go by, they apparently appeared early in Fort Myers this year...presumably because of the warm sea surface temps in the Gulf of Mexico. So, batteries it is!
....so I woke up this morning to see that the East and Hudson Rivers are overflowing their banks, Tropical Storm Jose formed in the Atlantic, and if the pictures/video/reports of traffic accidents are correct, a significant number of East Coasters have decided to go outside and take pictures and video of the storm.

A few pre-caffeinated comments:

1) I am going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe, just maybe, we are having a busy tropical system. (I checked, and we are still behind the truly hyperactive hurricane season of 2005, when Tropical Storm Jose formed on August 22. So that's comforting. Also, 2005's storms by this point were also more intense.)

2) Ok, yes, I'm not really in a position to talk here, given that I did go outside during Hurricanes Gloria (in Connecticut), Frances (I was going stir crazy), Jeanne (ditto) and actually drove through Hurricane Irene of 1999 (not by choice, though). With that said, and stating the obvious: having driven through Hurricane Irene, let me assure you, driving in even a minor hurricane is not a good idea for anyone.

3) And on that note, hoping all of you in the Northeast stay safe and mostly dry...

4) ....and unconcerned about that storm that just moved off the coast of Africa that looks as if it's going to spin into something more.
Sometime back in July, I heard a couple of people comment that for a supposedly busy hurricane season, we weren't seeing much.

Skip ahead to August and September, where, since the formation of Danielle on August 22nd, we have literally not had a single day without a named storm someplace in the Atlantic basin for at least one portion of the day, one of which with the horrific name of "Igor." (I say, no matter what happens with this hurricane, we retire the name regardless.)

As of now, we have three active storms.

Edit: Meant to add, I don't really have anything profound to say about this; I just find predictions and their outcomes/reactions to them fascinating.
....ANOTHER oil rig explosion in the Gulf?

Also, in case you weren't feeling depressed enough, Hurricane Earl is continuing to barrel along with sustained winds of 140 mph.

Clearly, we are all in severe need of Muppets:

Back in late July I heard quite a few people scoffing about the current hurricane season. "Thought it was supposed to such a major one. And now look at it."

Look at it indeed.

That's four - four - tropical systems to spin up in the Atlantic in the past 11 days alone, with three active systems out there. Now, sure, all this activity could abruptly end in the next few days, leaving us with a lovely, quiet season, but it just goes to show the danger of attempting to predict such seasons.

My guess is that the quick start to two recent seasons (the hyperactive 2005 and above normal 2008) accustomed people to thinking that above normal seasons get off to a bang in July. Actually, as 2004, and now 2010, demonstrate, sometimes a very active season can get going in August.

It also demonstrates my problems with the systems, especially when I also have three storms in the west Pacific to watch: they're mesmerizing, and I end up stopping whatever I'm doing just to watch them go round and round. Satellite technology has not always been good for us.

Meanwhile, good luck to those of you in the cone of Earl, and here's hoping the storm goes through a rapid weakening.

Edit: Since I posted this, the National Hurricane Center has identified yet another wave of thunderstorms and low pressure moving off Africa with the potential to develop. In their words, "Yet another strong..."
1. From multiple sources on the net, this, from the good folks at the Christian Science Monitor, may just be the headline of the year: "Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts....The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys." (I am quoting. Directly.)

Had I but known, before now, that people could actually have careers in enraging monkeys and developing advanced methods to do so, my life would be very, very different. And undoubtedly haunted by raging packs of infuriated monkeys wielding Stitch toys and wearing hulu skirts shrieking that I have halted their can-can lessons. Or something.

Anyway, good to know that in this, the monkeys are On Our Side.

2. Tropical Storm Colin forms in the Atlantic.

2. You know, back in the day, preparing for travel sort of went like this;

Put things in bag.
Put books in bag.
Go.

These days, preparing for travel involves charging the scooter, the phone, the netbook, the Sony reader, the iPod - I could probably add more if needed. Charge then travel. In contrast to the medieval method of travel, then horse charge!

3. Speaking of which, a general reminder that my internet access from tonight until at least Sunday will probably be spotty/limited/not a major priority, although I'll still be trying to check email and Twitter on occasion, and may try to sneak in a blog post now and again.
New Oz post up: The Hidden Valley of Oz.

***********

In other news, to make this more of a "real" post, tropical depression three just appeared in the Caribbean, "seemingly out of nowhere," according to the Orlando Sentinel, and "out of a weather system that we've been monitoring for the last six days," according to the National Hurricane Center, but, who, really, do you want to believe here? Anyway. The point is that things in Florida could get a bit wet. More critically, since the storm is "racing" towards the Gulf of Mexico (or, again, if we are to believe the National Hurricane Center, moving at a slow and measured pace towards the Gulf of Mexico at about fifteen miles/24 kilometers per hour with an uncertain continuing speed since the models are not in complete agreement), BP is halting work on plugging the well.

In unrelated ocean news, a whale fell on a boat. See what I mean about the whole plausibility/making things up thing? The whale is apparently unhurt, the boat, not so much.
Everybody wave hello to Atlantic Tropical Depression One, forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico and send the media into a panic!

(I would advise anyone with actual interest in the progress of this storm to ignore both me and the media and focus on the more measured, and knowledgeable, statements from the National Hurricane Center.)
And now, the more unpleasant welcome to the 2010 Atlantic/East Pacific seasons

The season has already gotten off to a deadly start, with at least 143 people dead from Tropical Storm Agatha, which blasted central America with far, far, far too much rain at once, causing floods and mudslides everywhere. The only good news from this, and I admit I'm reaching here, is that most models are predicting fairly quiet east and central Pacific hurricane seasons, so that may end up being the year's worst blow from the Pacific.

Over in the Atlantic, things are a bit different. My inbox has been lighting up with various dire predictions from everybody short of the Muppets. Much of this is oceanographers attempting to work on wave models to attempt to determine what effect a hurricane might have on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (I will summarize: "It depends.") and in a somewhat more desperate attempt to get clean up crews to place the booms on the shoreline properly, which is not getting done now.

(I do not know that much about the drilling side of things, but those I've spoken to who do sound grim: given the pressures, temperatures, and water density involved at the depth of the spill, they believe that the only actual way to stop the leak may be the drilling of the two relief wells, which as I understand it will not be completed until August. I hope this is wrong.)

(Also, do not talk to me about the Corexit 9500 dispersant BP has been using, which will make your pictures much prettier but are certainly not going to help out your fish, since THEY THINK IT'S FOOD, and will eat it, chemicals and all. Public relations aren't everything.)

But I have gone off target. As I was saying, over in the Atlantic, we have already had a few Invests (this is the National Hurricane Center's way of saying "a storm worth investigating and running a computer model on") and as I type we have one right now, although it's not expected to turn into anything major. This and other factors, including high sea surface temperatures and La Nina conditions, have led various people, not me, to predict an active hurricane season. (Not me, because my last attempt to predict a hurricane season was my disastrously wrong statement that the 2005 hurricane season couldn't possibly be as bad as 2004.)

Here are some helpful hurricane websites:

The National Hurricane Center. The site for official predictions, satellite photos, helpful sheets from NOAA explaining hurricane histories and more.

Weather Underground: Tropical Weather. This site also includes information on Pacific and Indian ocean typhoons and systems. Also helpful: Dr. Jeff Masters' blog, which has some of the most helpful, comprehensible and understandable hurricane discussions around. Many of the commenters on his blog are severe weather addicts and and provide still more info.

Wikipedia keeps track of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season here; other articles detail previous hurricane seasons. Particularly large or important storms, of course, get their own Wikipedia page or pages. Also fascinating: The Accumulated Cyclone Energy page which allows you to quickly compare the overall strength of various hurricane seasons.

And with that, let's all hope for a season as inactive as 1983, everybody's favorite hurricane season ever!
Ok, so technically the season that got off to a quick start this year is actually the 2010 East Pacific hurricane season, which has kindly kicked things off with a bang this year by throwing up a tropical depression a few days before the official start of its season, June 1.

I'll probably have more on the 2010 Atlantic season on that date. For now, I'll just say that this may well be an excellent year for battery manufacturers.
We interrupt the usual fluff on this blog for something fairly important.

Today, the U.S. Senate will be voting on Senator Hutchinson's Amendment #2666, which is proposing to cut NOAA's budget by $172 million and divert the funds to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

Now, to be honest, I don't know much about the State Criminal Alien Assistance program or whether or not we as a nation should be supporting it. But I do know something about NOAA.

For various irritating historical reasons that I won't get into here, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has been trundled into the U.S. Department of Commerce (this is why so many ocean-related environmental lawsuits end up being against the Secretary of Commerce instead of the EPA or the Secretary of the Interior). This has not been a good place for NOAA, since the overreaching goal of the Commerce Department is to increase trade and commercial activity, not study ocean and atmospheric activity. You can make the argument - and I do - that ultimately all commerce is pretty dependent upon the oceans, which not only offer trade routes, shipping, oil reserves and fishing activities, along with other commercial activities that I'm forgetting (tourism), but drive the world's weather, which is what lets us, as humans, eat, but nice though this argument is, the Commerce Department is not, for the most part, interested in this particular viewpoint. (This is true under both Democratic and Republican presidencies.)

As a result, NOAA has often been treated as a sad stepchild and/or engaged in activities that most unbiased observers would not regard as positive for the oceans and/or commercial activity on the ocean. Which is not to say that all of their efforts have been unproductive or useless - and here, I'm specifically chatting about satellite monitoring/ocean buoy studies.

The proposed cuts would directly affect the NOAA satellite monitoring program (and by extension the National Weather Service monitoring program), cut funding for the National Hurricane Center and the Severe Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma, and cut funding for weather satellites. These would be the same weather satellites that help save lives by warning of severe tornadoes and hurricanes.

The language of the actual bill, for those interested: )

Linkspam

Sep. 3rd, 2009 05:24 pm
Bleck. Have just not been feeling well for the last few days. So some links for everyone:

1. If you missed the New York Times Magazine article about what a New Orleans hospital endured post Katrina, and the difficult choices its doctors and nurses made, it's here. A must read.

2. And then, on a totally different note, also from the New York Times Magazine, this article about the making of Where the Wild Things Are. Looking forward to that flick with mingled trepidation and excitement. Where the Wild Things Are was a book I found all on my own and one I couldn't. quite. get. Something more seemed to be just there, just behind the book – and I looked for it, in my bedroom and in the back yard and in my dreams but never could quite find whatever it was. And so it still lingers in my dreams.

Anyway, the bits I've seen from various trailers and so on look marvelous.

3. For the musical math geeks among you: a moebius strip music box.

4. From [profile] gargoylerose: Narwhals hunting for affection.

4. Finally, some marvelous free fiction popped up everywhere this week: Cabinet Des Fees and Ideomancer just published new issues (neither publishes frequently enough), and of course you are all regularly checking Fantasy Magazine and Clarkesworld, right? Right?
The National Hurricane Center informs us that Tropical Depression One has just swirled to life just before the official start of the hurricane season, apparently feeling the need to get an early start, in what most of us would consider an unnecessary gesture of enthusiasm.

This also not coincidentally starts the period in which I begin to spend far too much time watching satellite pictures going round and round. Since I am notoriously bad at predicting hurricane seasons (my worst remains my cheerful prediction for 2005 - "Can't be worse than last year!") I will once again restrain from making any sorts of predictions for this year, but I will reintroduce you to some of My Favorite Sites Ever for hurricanes:

The National Hurricane Center, which lets you watch satellite feeds of clouds going round and round and round. This is actually far, far more intriguing than it sounds, especially since the site lets you chose which sort of picture you want to look at (water vapor, infrared and so on).

Weather Underground, which has a special Tropical/Hurricane section which covers all of the oceans, and gives you more satellite feeds of clouds. This also includes Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunder Blog, which chats about different hurricanes and depressions and so on.

Wikipedia's page on the 2009 hurricane season which is a useful gathering of stats. Unlike many Wikipedia pages, the recent hurricane season pages are fairly well edited and maintained. On a related note:

Accumulated cyclone energy which allows you to quickly compare the strength of various hurricane seasons, and provides proof that it wasn't just your imagination that 2004 and 2005 were unusually bad hurricane seasons.

And on a related note here, note that this century has already seen four above normal/hyperactive hurricane seasons: 2000 (above normal), 2003 (hyperactive), 2004 (hyperactive), 2005 (seriously hyperactive and something we don't need to repeat again), 2008 (above normal).

This means absolutely nothing for 2009. I just find it interesting.

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