Every so often I head outside to do some photography using a drone. It can be a difficult hobby to engage with in the San Francisco Bay Area because drones cannot be flown within 5 miles of an airport. This causes most of the Bay Area to be off limits.
Given this situation, I’ve been scouting in the hills on the west side of the SF peninsula for interesting locations to fly. The wind finally died down today so I headed up Old La Honda Road to see what I could find.
Netflix has become a remarkable player in the world of documentary filmmaking in the last 5 years. The film Bobby Kennedy For President is their latest documentary production and like most of the others it is a great film. This production is split into 4 individual hour-long episodes which introduce the Kennedys, portray Bobby Kennedy’s path into government, and delve into his eventual assassination.
While I certainly paid attention in history classes back in school, none of the classes I took even scratched the surface of modern American history from the 1950s forwards. This gap in knowledge has been gradually filled in over time thanks to books, articles, essays, and podcasts. However, seeing first-hand footage from history provides a layer of historical understanding that the written medium cannot. I certainly did not have a full understanding of Robert Kennedy’s contribution to government and the impact of his assassination until finishing this documentary series.
What I take away from this documentary is just how much the assassinations of the 1960s impacted the course of the United States. The strongest voices for equality and justice were silenced at a time where the country had the potential of going through a vast transformation. Instead of facing this reckoning, the country chose to stick to the status quo of rampant corruption and classism which we still live with today.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism … the one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.” -Theodore Roosevelt (Columbus Day, 1915)
President Woodrow Wilson, well-known for holding racist views against African-Americans, unsurprisingly espouses similar views:
“I want to say— I cannot say too often— any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready. If I can catch a man with a hyphen in this great contest, I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.” -Woodrow Wilson (September 25, 1919)
It is incredibly saddening to realize that the xenophobic views expressed by presidents in the early 1900s are no different than the views expressed by the current president in 2018, more than 100 years later. Diversity brings strength while homogeneity breeds weakness.
Deaths are never good news, but the ones which take people who had a part in your life are especially hard. I certainly didn’t know Tim Bergling as a person. However, the music he produced under the name Avicii is special to me. He greatly influenced my taste in electronic music and simply hearing a few notes from many of his songs takes me back to specific moments and years in my life. Avicii’s monthly podcast called ‘Levels’ was an hour of music I always looked forward to. He helped me dance in the shower, push through many tough workouts, and entertain myself on long drives. The world of electronic music is a little quieter today without Tim Bergling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.