👍 Weather resources

There are two weather-related items I want to share with you today: Dark Sky and Weather West

Dark Sky

When it comes to weather apps, there are a million of them. Some are simple, some are complex, but regardless of what they look like almost all of them represent the same underlying data. That data comes from the National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However, there is a weather forecasting service called Dark Sky that is different from other weather apps.

Dark Sky’s main screen on iOS.

Dark Sky’s primary function is providing hyperlocal weather forecasts. Specifically, Dark Sky can provide precipitation forecasts which are accurate down to the minute-level. While Dark Sky is still using the same NWS weather data that other apps use, Dark Sky does more. They pull in NWS data, process it, clean it, and then use the results to build extraordinarily fluid precipitation maps like the one below. There’s a detailed post on the Dark Sky blog if you’d like to read more about how Dark Sky works.

A rainy morning and afternoon in the Seattle, Washington area.


The forecasts that Dark Sky produces are so detailed and accurate that many other weather apps use Dark Sky’s API to obtain weather forecasts instead of using NWS data. Sun, Weather Line, and Poncho are three app examples and other users include Yelp, Microsoft, Con Edison, and DuckDuckGo.

Dark Sky started life in 2011 as a weather app for iPhone. In fact, Dark Sky came to life with a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised about $39,000, which is how I became familiar with the service. Since then, Dark Sky has grown to include an app for Android as well as a full website.

One reason Dark Sky is able to provide accurate forecasts at the hyperlocal level is because of the reporting features that exist within the Dark Sky app. With a user’s permission, the app can periodically measure and report the barometric pressure sensed by their phone. Users can also manually report the current weather at their location. As Dark Sky collects this data, they are able to refine their forecasting system to produce more accuracy.


While Dark Sky is known for its precipitation forecasts, a lesser known yet particularly stunning section of the service is Dark Sky Maps. Dark Sky Maps provides a Google Maps-like view of Earth with different data layers overlaid. Temperature, cloud cover, precipitation, wind, dew point, UV exposure, atmospheric pressure, and ozone are all covered by layers in Dark Sky Maps. There’s even an emoji layer which fills the map with adorable little icons.

A look at the temperature across the United States during the afternoon.
A detailed look at the temperature across southeastern California and southern Nevada.
A map showing wind patterns in the Pacific Northwest.
A detailed look at precipitation over Washington.
A UV exposure map at 1:00pm on the west coast.
A map where the weather and temperature is represented by emojis.


Any of these maps can be embedded in a website too. Try interacting with the map below:


There’s even a “time machine” feature on the Dark Sky website which lets you view the weather conditions for specific dates in history, such as the day you were born. I don’t know how far their data goes back, but when I punch in the year 1950 I’m still able to see weather data.

I cannot recommend Dark Sky highly enough. While it’s not perfect for absolutely every use case, snow and surf reports come to mind, I have been a daily user of Dark Sky for many years and it has served me extremely well.


Weather West

When I need to know what the weather forecast is, I open up Dark Sky. When I want to know why the weather is going to behave as it is predicted, I open up Weather West.

Weather West is the online name of Dr. Daniel Swain. He is best introduced using the words from his own About page at WeatherWest.com:

Dr. Daniel Swain is currently a NatureNet Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. As a climate scientist, he studies the changing character and causes of extreme meteorological events. Daniel holds a PhD in Earth System Science from Stanford University and a B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, Davis. His full curriculum vitae is available here.

The California Weather Blog is where Dr. Swain posts 2-3 times per month with his perspective on the current weather affecting California. While he does use complicated words such as orographic, isothermal, and prodigious, Dr. Swain’s posts are actually quite comprehensible. It is fascinating to gain an understanding of the current California weather and climate from his perspective. If our climate is a machine, Dr. Swain can point out the individual gears and explain what they are doing. The breadth and depth of Dr. Swain’s understanding of the weather allows him to turn what is usually a dry subject into something engaging.

Dr. Swain’s study of California’s climate has been influential, even outside of the world of climate scientists. If you’ve heard anything about California’s Winter weather over the past 5 years, chances are that you’ve heard something about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR).  That’s a term coined by Dr. Swain which is now widely used.

If California weather affects you in any way, or if you simply share a curiosity about the weather and climate in general, I definitely recommend subscribing to The California Weather Blog.

🏥 Thanksgiving weight goal

Last January I reached a low weight of 180 lbs for the first time in many years. Unfortunately, over the last 15 months I’ve allowed my weight to balloon back up to just under 220 lbs. While I would love losing weight to be motivation by itself, in early March I learned that I’ll be joining my family in Hawaii for Thanksgiving and I really, really don’t want to look like a pile of mashed potatoes when I go to the beach. To avoid that dreaded situation, I’ve figured out that I need to lose about 0.13 lbs per day (0.91 lbs per week) between now and Thanksgiving.

To help me reach my goal, I have implemented a weight tracking regimen. Each morning when I step on the scale my weight is uploaded to a spreadsheet. During the day, I write down everything I consume so that I can tally my estimated calorie intake before bed. This data is then automatically represented in the chart below:

As expected, when my calorie count is high, my weight rises on the following day. However, I’ve been surprised to learn just how much I’m consuming every day. A healthy male my age with my physical activity level needs roughly 1,750 calories per day to neither lose nor gain weight. I am averaging 3,000 calories per day, almost double what my body needs.

A life lesson I’ve learned is that goals are not achieved through the exercising of raw motivation. Like any emotion, motivation waxes and wanes. Some days it will flow abundantly, but on many other days motivation will be lacking or absent. Instead of hoping for motivation to carry efforts to success, goals are achieved by making a habit which is performed regularly regardless of motivation.

In my case specifically, losing 40 lbs is a very tall order. That’s not something I can easily wrap my mind around achieving. On the other hand, losing 0.13 lbs per day or 0.91 lbs per week should be doable. I can incorporate actions into my daily and weekly schedule to lose the necessary weight. Since weight change is simply the result of calories consumed versus calories expended, I need to focus on what I’m consuming and how much I exercise. Success now depends on my ability to stick to a schedule so that lots of small wins add up to a big win in November.

👍 The China Hustle

The China HustleThis documentary comes from the acclaimed Alex Gibney, producer of many other excellent documentaries such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the RoomWater & Power: A California Heist, Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief, and The Trials of Henry Kissinger. The China Hustle provides details about how Chinese companies which are listed on the American stock market are defrauding investors of billions of dollars.

YouTube [$]
Amazon [$]

👍 Bitter Lake

“Bitter Lake explores how the realpolitik of the West has converged on a mirror image of itself throughout the Middle-East over the past decades, and how the story of this has become so obfuscating and simplified that we, the public, have been left in a bewildered and confused state. The narrative traverses the United States, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia—but the country at the centre of reflection is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted political figureheads across the West with the truth of their delusions—that they cannot understand what is going on any longer inside the systems they have built which do not account for the real world. Bitter Lake sets out to reveal the forces that over the past thirty years, rose up and commandeered those political systems into subservience, to which, as we see now, the highly destructive stories told by those in power, are inexorably bound to. The stories are not only half-truths, but they have monumental consequences in the real world.”

This is one of the most moving films I have ever witnessed. It’s not a light one, so be prepared to be deeply moved and disturbed.


Other films by Adam Curtis are also available on ThoughtMaybe.

👍 Finders Keepers

When a man finds an amputated human leg in a BBQ smoker, he instantly conjures up ways to gain money and fame using his discovery. However, news of the found leg eventually reaches its original owner who declares wants the leg back. The ensuing battle for custody reveals interesting characters and a memorable story.


👍 LA 92

LA 92 is a documentary covering the 1992 Los Angeles Riots which occurred following the Rodney King trial. A verdict of not guilty for the police officers involved caused major civil unrest. Sadly, similar situations continue to occur to this day.