2007 Hurricane season

I’m waiting with bated breath for the final hurricane season forecast. First they’ll remind us that hurricane season isn’t over until the end of Nov. although we all know that if nothing is happening by mid October, nothing is going to happen. And then they’ll predict a below normal season. duhhhhhhh.

What I wonder about is why they bother to make predictions at all. I understand that the complexity of forecasting weather even a few days out is high so making a forecast 6 months out is crazy. Crazy to make the forecast and crazy for anybody to pay any attention to it. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they do it. What are we supposed to do when they forecast an above average season, or a below average season, or even an average season. Do I go out and buy 2 generators for an above average season or more batteries or what? You’re either prepared for a storm or your not. I can’t see how you’d prepare any differently for a forecasted bad season.

This year’s predictions were particularly interesting since this is the second year in a row that above average seasons were predicted – in fact this one was projected to be the worst on record. Why it’s most interesting is that the forecasters were challenged openly after missing the 2006 season so badly – another record bad season predicted; another below average actual. They had a definite scientific reason why this season would be bad and why the previous season had not been. It was the el Nino, La Nina thing. The 2006 year was La Nina and even though they had forecast a horrible hurricane season, in hindsight they realized just why they had missed it. And since El Nino is the opposite of La Nina, it was scientifically clear that this season was really going to be the worst. What I enjoy is how they can make these statements so positively and just can’t bring themselves to say, “hell, we don’t know”. What hubris.

So why do they do it? Some possibilities are:

1. The American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Service have a pre season pool. The forecaster who wins the pool gets to pick the names for next season’s storms. If the winner has a large family, then he projects a big season so all his relatives can get a storm named for them.

2. The budgets at the NWS and AMS are based on the forecast. There’s no upside at all to predicting a quiet season since it probably means a budget cut and no overtime.

3. There’s a big Fantasy Hurricane league that we don’t know about and you can’t play if there’s not enough storms in the forecast. I only offer this possibility because I’ve noted that the number of hurricanes forecast has increased over the years as the success of Fantasy sports games has grown.

4. Women lib groups got pissed off that hurricanes all had female names. So when males names were added, the name pool doubled and it became necessary to increase the forecast to accommodate that fact.

To make the missed forecasts a little less noticeable, they started naming weather systems that would have gone unnoticed in the past. Have you noticed how many storms form or at least seem to be forming, are named, and then just go away? I think the first storm of this season that got noticed was a “C” name. The “A” and “B” storms only existed an hour or so. Enough to name them for the 5 PM news and cancel them by the 8 AM news the next morning. Deep down inside, I believe some storms really never existed at all but the bad forecast is so embarrassing that the predictors need some face saving cover. You’ll notice that they form one day over an area in the middle of nowhere, far from any shipping lanes, and then, as if by magic, they go away. How about when they point out a storm area in the Caribbean and then to show you a center of rotation where none exists. You are looking at the radar track and see absolutely no sign of a center of rotation but they are pointing one out about a jillion miles from the storm. In Florida we’re further treated to the scene of an intrepid reporter on the beach in full weather gear while the natives are swimming and surfing. I’m not making that up. We’ve reached the point where normal, Florida afternoon rain storms are tracked as intensely as hurricanes were 50 years ago. Back then, each hurricane season you acquired a hurricane tracking map and then plotted each storm yourself based on new coordinates given out by the weather service twice a day. That was it. When a storm really looked like it was tracking your way, you started calling around to find out who’s turn it was to have the hurricane party.

But the thing to remember is that the same guys (scientists) who are doing the hurricane forecasting, are among those scientists pimping the global warming scare. Of course they have developed computer models that show exactly how things will look 50 years from now. Same modelers, using the same data that forecast hurricanes. Or for that matter, next week’s weather. Of course the local weather has the advantage of good historical averages and the advantage of saying there’s a 20% chance of something happening. Who can argue with that. Here in Fla, even when it’s raining hard and wide, the forecaster will be giving it an 80% chance of rain. Or when there’s not a cloud in the sky for 500 miles in every direction, they give it a 20% chance of rain. We’ve had a cold front dropping temperatures 5 days out for about a month now. Eventually we’ll actually have one and as we all know it will be in October or November. Same modelers, same data. And I suspect the same motive – no problem, no budget; big problem, big budget and lots of face time on the tube.

Fall Garden Report

Time for the first fall garden report.

I have high expectations for the fall garden because of the amount of time and effort (and money) I’ve put into straightening out the basic soil problems. I’m using a dual approach of organic and chemicals to cover all bases and have systematically added new patches in increments of 10-20 SF in which I work the soil deeply to get rid of imbedded gravel and building debris and add home grown mulch, purchased manure, ashes from the burn pit, and heavy duty chemical fertilizers. I work a patch then let it sit a couple of weeks to “cool” it off.

The other major improvement is the watering system. I have a portable automatic sprinkler system to water the garden. Last year it was mostly hand watering on a catch as catch can basis. I’ve set this system to water daily for 90 minutes early in the morning. That should make a large difference.

In parallel with the garden mechanics I start plants in plastic containers for transplant into the garden at a later time. From seed to garden is on the order of 4 weeks depending on the particular variety. I also did some direct seed plants into the garden.
The first in the ground was a set of 9 tomato plants. All but one survived the first week. The lone drop out ran afoul of some kind of critter who nipped off the stem about an inch above the ground and consumed all the foliage. Interestingly, I checked yesterday and leaves have sprouted off the stump so I’m back to nine tomato plants although one is a dwarf at this point. I would say the plants were on the order of 4” tall at the start and have more than doubled in size so far. At about the same time I put in 18 pepper plants – 9 jalapeno and 9 bell peppers. The same buzz saw critter got one of the jalapeno’s immediately and 7 of the 9 green peppers. So from that you could formulate that green peppers plants are the tastiest.

Being fall, I loaded up on the cool weather stuff and planted 18 cabbages and 18 broccolis. They all seemed to take well with no immediate overnight losses. But I did notice some holes in the leaves. Within a week it was clear that something different was gnawing through the leaves, in some cases leaving nothing but a bare stem. I’m not an insecticide kind of guy but that was too much so I hit Lowes and got something that was a combination insecticide, mildicide, and fungicide. But supposedly you could eat the veggies within 24 hours of the spray. So I gave everything a good soaking and that seemed to stabilize the lunching. One thing of interest was that the broccoli was the preferred meal. After 2 weeks only about 6 broccoli remain in good shape as compared to about a dozen cabbages. These are planted side by side so it’s easy enough to tell which is most susceptible. It looks like I need to spray weekly instead of every couple of weeks as I had planned. And perhaps I’ll have to go to something a bit more lethal. The label said that this was ok to use on organic gardens which may be code for t’s too wimpy. What’s also interesting is that suprisingly, I had no bug problems at all with the spring crop.

The good news is that I have already started replacement seedlings and will fill in the blank spots in a few weeks and I’ll spray the stuff before I put it in the garden. In addition to new broccoli, I have started cauliflower and kohlrabi that I plan to load into the garden at the end of this week.

I mentioned direct seeding. That would be zucchini and cucumbers. Both of those crops are going gangbuster with no critter bites at all. So I guess the empirical evidence is that broccoli is the number one tasty veggie followed closely by green peppers and cabbage. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini seem to be the most immune to leaf eaters.

Next month I break out the lettuce, spinach, peas, carrots, and beets so by January I should have a great handle on exactly what works and what doesn’t.


Years ago, in the 50’s, we lived on Patrick Air Force Base. Our next door neighbor and good friend, Cliff Lewis, used a term that I latched on to. He called the local newspaper “the Mullet Wrapper”. A mullet is a fish and the term referred to the fact that the primary use of the newspaper was to wrap fish. Fast forward to last weekend. We were invited to another friend’s 50th wedding anniversary in Fairhope Alabama. Nancy found a quilt shop in Foley about 15 miles from Fairhope. With the help of our new GPS navigator we found it flawlessly. As I waited outside I noticed a newspaper dispenser. I had to take the picture above. By the way, Cliff Lewis was from the Mobile area, a few miles away from Foley. I wonder if they picked up the name from Cliff too or was Cliff referring all the time to the Foley paper.

The trip was fun. My sister Eileen joined us as far as Pensacola where her son, our nephew Glenny, lives. We took a side track though Destin and Fort Walton to find Nancy a quilt shop and to let me see an area I hadn’t visited in 35 years. Of course it was totally unrecognizable. Once again the developers have turned quaint, Gulf towns into Fort lauderdale. So I guess from that standpoint, it was totally recognizable. Along with dropping off Eileen at Glenny’s, Nancy brought the long awaited quilt she had made. He was the last close family member to get his quilt – a long time in the making but really worth the wait.

From Pensacola we went directly to the hotel – or almost directly. Madge (the navigator) gives a voice notice when you reach the final destination. Sometimes she’s off by a few feet. We were staying at a Holiday Inn Express and Madge alerted “you have arrived”. I looked and Nancy looked – no hotel. Wind back to the recent trip to the Outer Banks. We had reservations in Kitty Hawk at a Holiday Inn Express. No navigator to aid us and it was just turning dark. On the main road down the banks there are prominent mile markers starting with 1 and working down to 12 (if I remember correctly). All the places are referenced to the mile markers. So, for example, the AAA tour book showed the Holiday Inn Express at MM 4. We started looking at MM 3 and went to MM 7. I finally pulled over and called the hotel. Julie told me that it was at MM 4 next across the street from K-Mart. Ok, we remembered the K-Mart. We slowed down as we passed the K-mart but saw no Holiday Inn Express. Did a U-Turn and tried again. No luck, so I called Julie again and she gave me an even closer landmark, a restaurant which was directly in front of the Inn. Did this 3 times before Julie said, “oh , wait, maybe the lighted sign is out. That time change thing”. Sure enough she pops on the light and we were a few hundred yards away. The Inn sat back a few hundred feet from the road and the restaurant she referenced was closed and totally dark. Julie and I became good friends. Back to Fairhope. Having experienced Kitty Hawk, I pulled over the first place I could and called. The clerk said they were right beside the Burger King. We remember the Burger King and drove back the 1/2 mile and sure enough there it was – set back from the highway with a nice lighted sign on the road. I asked the clerk if he had just turned on the light after I called and he said “yes, haven’t got used to that time change thing”. So if any body from Holiday Inn Express is reading – hello, daylight savings time is over. The clerk put us on to a great restaurant, Wintzel’s Oyster Bar, that had Yeungling on draft and 25 cent oysters. I had some fantastic spicy seafood gumbo and a half pound of boiled shrimp. Nancy had a dozen raw oysters and a fried oyster salad. Not a fancy place but maybe the best seafood on the planet – at least the shrimp and oysters.

The next morning at the hotel breakfast, hooked up with Emory Ketchersid, his companion Ida and a few other people going to the anniversary party that night. Joe Richburg showed up about 9 AM and gave the four of us a grand tour of Fairhope. Fairhope is a very wealthy community on the Gulf with incredible homes and a quaint, old fashioned downtown. Maybe 2x Cocoa village in size but with more upscale shops.

After the tour, back to Wintzel’s for lunch with Emory and Ida. I had a soft shell crab po-boy; Emory had a crab meat omelet Po boy; Nancy had a classic oyster Po Boy; Ida had a roast beef Po-boy – she doesn’t like seafood – but there’s just something wrong about a roast beef Po-boy. Six Yeungling’s and 2 ice teas. Nancy and I broke off to go to Foley and the mullet wrapper.

That evening we went to the Anniversary party at a community center – the likes of which you have never seen. It would be the type of reception center you would expect to find at the top of a Trump Tower or something like that. I could go on about the place but won’t. Well maybe a little. In addition to the large ball room, there was a room with half a dozen pool tables and a bar – these would be those huge, antique pool tables worth $10 each; a card room with about 30 tables and a long bar. The tables and chairs were the heavy, almost red wood and leather – at least $3K per setup. An exercise room with a few hundred grand worth of equipment. Exquisite art and exhibits scattered throughout. It was the kind of place where you automatically whisper as you roam the halls.

The party was nice. There were about 80 guests of which we knew 5. Interestingly, the only people there who knew everybody were Joe and Joan, the celebrities. But it worked. Joe and Joan, have had a rich life which included 4 kids and several moves around the country. They are very social folks so have made friends all over the country, and as we expected, all the people would be highly social and easy to meet. I think the farthest travelers were from Las Vegas with a New Hampshire couple coming in second. At 44 years Nancy and I came in second among couples long married. Lots of good food, drink, music, and people.

A couple of asides. Turns out that Joan’s sister married a guy I graduated high school with and hadn’t seen since 1958. Sammy Staples ( he’s now Sam) lives in Indian Harbor Beach but just never attends reunions. It was fun hooking up with him again and comparing notes. The other funny one was that we ended up seated with 3 nieces. Over the course of the evening we found out that they were from Slapout Alabama. The gal had to repeat it about 7 times because I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying – spoke Alabamese. She went on to explain that a long time ago the only thing there was a small general store. Patrons looking for specific items would often hear “we’re slap out of that”. After a while, the area became known informally as Slapout and eventually became a town. I couldn’t find it on a map so it must really be tiny.

The trip back was uneventful; all Interstate amd three unsynchronized bladders.