Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jukebox Saturday Night for Oct. 31st, 2015: The "Only a Partially Halloween-Themed" Edition (Plus Brief Update)

We will start out with something Paul Hardcastle wonderful ...

"Rhythm of Life" by Paul Hardcastle from The Jazzmasters VII (2014)

This particular video features a still scene of a young lady in an outdoor Jacuzzi of some sort in what appears to be a South Pacific tropical resort.


Let's continue with a really nice 1970s song with a strange title ...

"Strawberry Letter 23" by The Brothers Johnson from their album Right on Time (1977)

Very nice.

The song was written and composed by Shuggie Otis but The Brothers Johnson version is more well known and among the duo's top hits. As for The Brothers Johnson, it consisted of brothers George and Louis E. Johnson, who passed away just this past May. .


And since it is Halloween, what better time than to feature this one from the late, great Michael Jackson ...

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson from his cornerstone album Thriller (1982)

This is the short version of the music video. The longer (13:43 minute) version is available here.

I actually wish I could feature a song that my dad wrote and composed -- yes, my dad -- about Halloween. It's called "Magic Halloween," and it's actually my favorite of the numerous songs he wrote over the years. Alas, I cannot feature it since it is just on a CD.


As the briefest of updates ...

I just got back from the gym where I had a mostly decent multi-part workout that ended with a swim. It follows a good workout on Thursday as well.

I'm heading over shortly to Fred and Doug's place next door in the much nicer Northumberland building for dinner and a movie. We are either watching Auntie Mame or The Women. Both movies feature the great and wonderful Rosalind Russell.

Thereafter, my plan is to go to No. 9. For reasons I've already discussed, I daren't dress up in any Halloween costume. Nevertheless, it should be quite a Saturday night here in D.C. for people viewing. The customs that folks wear, in particular the Millennials, tend to be very creative including with political humor.

It IS Washington, D.C., after all.

We also "fall back" tonight to standard time -- where we should be all year since daylight savings time is basically a sham, but let's not get into that topic now. It does mean I have an extra hour tonight.

I'll try to update the blog tomorrow, including on Cyclone Chapala, a topic that keenly interests me.

However, my plan is to take either a walk or bike ride, especially with the leaves at peak this weekend around here.


Update on Cyclone Chapala: An Impending and Highly Unusual Arabian Peninsula Strike, Severe Flooding Likely in Yemen and Western Oman; Images of Cyclone Gonu's 2007 Muscat Mayhem

**This entry was posted October 31, 2015.**

MODIS image of Cyclone Chapala taken by NASA's Aqua satellite at 0905Z (5AM EDT) Oct. 30, 2015.


Warning from Oman Meteorology / PACA for Cyclone Chapala issued 1700 local standard time (LST) [9AM EDT] October 30, 2015.

This is something kind of awesome to read.

The warning is from the Oman Meteorology twitter account of the General Directorate of Meteorology in the Public Authority for Civil Aviation for the Sultanate of Oman. The specific link is here.


As a follow-up to my earlier blog entry about the almost unprecedented impending tropical cyclone strike of the Arabian Peninsula by Cyclone Chapala, below is a reposting of a New York Times article with other relevant images (including those form Cyclone Gonu that caused so much damage in Muscat, Oman) that are interspersed to break up the text.

Cyclone Chapala, Gathering Strength, Heads Toward Oman and Yemen

By Liam Stack
Oct. 30, 2015
The New York Times
Source here.

A cyclone gained strength rapidly on Friday as it spun westward through the Arabian Sea, becoming one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the region and threatening the coasts of Yemen and Oman with a potentially destructive landfall.

U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) advisory 10 issued at 0Z Oct. 31, 2015 (8PM EDT Oct. 30, 2015) for Cyclone Chapala showing track and intensity.


The storm, called Chapala, intensified to the equivalent of a powerful Category 4 hurricane on Thursday and Friday, packing maximum sustained wind speeds of almost 150 miles per hour and gusts of over 180 miles per hour, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a project of the United States military based in Hawaii.

ECMWF (Euro) model's rainfall total forecast for the Arabian peninsula from Cyclone Chapala via map from The Weather Channel.

I do not know what time run this is of what I am assuming is the deterministic "Euro" run (rather than the ensembles), nor through what time period.


Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, told Reuters that the storm would bring "very high gale force winds in an area that is just not used to seeing this," and said its greatest threat was the possibility of torrential rain. "The winds are a threat, but we expect the biggest impact will be from the very, very, very serious rainfall," she said. "I've seen some reports that the area might get the equivalent of more than a year's worth of rainfall in a couple of days."

Blog Editor's Note: Certain places might get a lot more than that, esp. just inland from the coast. We're talking 10 to 20 years' worth of rain in a couple of days (if the storm holds together). (BTW, what exactly does the WMO do?? I mean, other than come up with lists of tropical cyclone names??)

Satellite image with other info as of 11PM EDT Oct. 30, 2015 from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center for Cyclone Chapala.


Those rains are likely to cause flooding, mudslides and damage to buildings and other infrastructure along the coasts of both Arabian Peninsula countries, which are two of the most arid in the world, the meteorological agency said in a statement. "The forecast rainfall would represent an extremely unusual event for the area and it is highly unlikely that the natural water courses and drainage systems would be able to cope with this amount of rain," the agency said.

Meteorologists with the Oman Meteorology / General Directorate of Meteorology at a morning briefing in a tweet sent out at 730AM (local time), Oct. 30, 2015.

It might be the case that the guy on the far left is the same one in the YouTube video and screenshot image below near the bottom of this entry, but I can't quite tell.


The tracks and intensities of ALL known tropical cyclones on Planet Earth from 1851 to 2008 with the Arabian Sea area highlighted in the box on the far left.


On Friday night, the storm churned over the open water about 875 miles west of Mumbai, India, and 480 miles south of Salalah, Oman, according to the India Meteorological Department, a government agency in New Delhi. It predicted the storm would make landfall in the early hours of Monday morning.

Cyclone Gonu aftermath: Destroyed cars and mud-clogged streets in Muscat, Oman, June 7, 2007.


Officials in Oman watched the approaching storm closely. In 2007, a similar storm, Cyclone Gonu, killed at least 50 people and caused as much as $5 billion in damage when it struck the country, knocking out power to the capital, Muscat, and briefly halting oil exports. This time it is another of Oman’s largest cities, Salalah, that lies in the path of the storm.

Destroyed and flooded streets in Muscat, Oman in the aftermath of Cyclone Gonu, June 7, 2007.

For all the damage with loss of life that Cyclone Gonu did to Oman, in particular, Muscat, it looks as though its center just barely brushed the easternmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula.


A partially submerged oil truck on a street in Muscat, Oman in the aftermath of Cyclone Gonu, June 7, 2007.


In messages posted online in multiple languages on Friday, Oman's state meteorological agency warned residents of its southern and central provinces of torrential rains, thunderstorms and flash floods that it predicted would begin on Saturday, as well as rough seas and waves over 20 feet high. It urged residents to avoid low-lying areas and to avoid crossing rivers during the storm. It also advised fishermen to avoid venturing into the sea.

Yemen's largest cities and most of its infrastructure are in the west of the country, which faces less danger from the storm than its largely isolated east.

People marvel at the crashing surf ahead of Cyclone Gonu on the Iranian coast in the city of Bandar, June 6, 2007.


The weather forecast from Oman Meteorology / General Directorate of Meteorology on October 30, 2015 discussing Cyclone Chapala:

The guy in this video is a sort of TV weatherman in Oman.

Here is a screenshot from the above video:

A few thoughts ... First, who is this guy?? I'm kinda curious. (God, I'm such an American.)

Secondly, it's all simultaneously so very similar and yet so totally alien.

Thirdly, only indirectly related, I had this weird dream years ago -- one of many involving family members in disturbing relations that continue -- in which I was with my late paternal grandfather in some seaside desert place with rocky terrain falling down to the ocean that was in some extreme theocracy with severe limits on all behavior.

Cool outfit and hat, dude. I like it.

Yes, that's 32C or just a whisker under 90F.


That aside, returning to Cyclone Chapala, it looks as though the bulk of the storm will hit the far western part of the country and into sparsely populated eastern Yemen. But where it hits, if anything like 6 to 12 to 18+ inches of rain falls, the results will be catastrophic -- a fast-moving, wet cement-like slurry of mud and water that destroys everything in its path.

The 0Z 10/31/2015 operational (deterministic) GFS showing precipitation totals for the Arabian peninsula and adjoining regions through hour 163 / valid 18Z 11/6/2015.

It bears repeating: This is an extremely unusual forecast.

Note, as well, how much precipitation falls over other parts of the Near and Middle East from northeastern Egypt to Iraq and Iran, not to mention Afghanistan. Not sure if that is "real" or some weird feedback loop in the model physics. (Honestly, I haven't really previously paid much attention to the Africa domain run.)


OK, that's all for now. I intend to update the blog later this Saturday. As for my Friday night, I went out with Andrea and Imara after work to this place called Mai Thai on 19th Street near Dupont Circle and then to Floriana before heading home.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Cyclone Chapala to Make Very Rare Arabian Peninsula Strike, Up to 20" of Rainfall with Disastrous Flooding Possible; Atacama Desert Floral Profusion; and D.C. Area Rainfall Stats

A church seen beneath the vibrant fall colorful leaves of a large tree in Burke, Va., October 29, 2015.

Photo by Bruce Sorrell that appeared in this CWG entry.


While I didn't get a chance to post another entry last night -- it was already 1AM by the time I would have started, and I was quite tired, I would like to update the blog now with a weather-related posting.

I am re-posting this entry, in part, because I have to note a remarkable weather event as described in excellent detail in this Capital Weather Gang entry:

Cyclone Chapala among strongest storms on record in Arabian Sea, targeting Yemen

By Angela Fritz
Capital Weather Gang
11:03AM EDT October 30, 2015

Source link.

Caption: Cyclone Chapala is forecast to make landfall in Yemen as an extremely rainy Category 1 (Meteosat)


The rapidly intensifying Cyclone Chapala is spinning westward through the northern Indian Ocean, challenging the strongest storm on record in the Arabian Sea, and threatening just the third hurricane-strength landfall on record for the Arabian Peninsula. Though the storm is expected to weaken before landfall, more than 20 inches of rain are in the forecast for the incredibly arid region.

Chapala formed as a tropical depression on Wednesday, and since then has quickly strengthened into a powerful cyclone. The storm rapidly intensified from wind speeds of 65 mph to 155 mph in just 24 hours from Thursday to Friday. Since then, the storm has weakened slightly to 150 mph, but remains the equivalent of a strong Category 4 hurricane.

Cyclone Chapala is only the first storm this year that has managed to reach hurricane-strength in the region. Though reliable satellite records over the northern Indian Ocean only go back to 1990, Chapala is the strongest storm in the Arabian sea since Super Cyclone Gonu in 2007, the only Category 5 storm on record in the basin. Gonu's powerful winds maxed out at 165 mph.

The official forecast suggests Chapala will strengthen to Category 5 status on Friday, reaching wind speeds of at least 160 mph and eventually making landfall in Yemen -- or possibly Oman -- as a Category 1. But Chapala will have a lot to get through in order to reach that intensity -- there's a lot of dry air to overcome, and cyclones rarely maintain hurricane strength as they approach the very dry peninsula.

Even if Chapala weakens significantly over the weekend, it will still come ashore packing strong winds and high waves that the region is not necessarily accustomed to. More importantly, it will bring a significant amount of rain to an extremely arid region. Global forecast models are suggesting as much as 20 inches of rain could fall over Yemen, enhanced by the region’s mountainous coastline. According to the U.K. Met Office, this region typically gets less than 4 inches of rain per year.

Cyclone Chapala forecasted track showing a landfall on the Arabian Peninsula. Source: Weather Underground


For comparison, Cyclone Gonu weakened to a Category 1 as it passed by the Arabian Peninsula to the north in 2007. But the cyclone's strong winds, big waves and heavy rainfall still managed to do $4.4 billion in damage to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Cyclones in this region are not uncommon -- on average a few weak to moderately strong storms spin up each year. However, landfalls in this region are rare. According to the Weather Channel's Michael Lowry, there’s no record of a hurricane-strength storm making landfall in Yemen back to 1945. And, if Chapala maintains hurricane strength at landfall, it would only be the third hurricane on record to make landfall on the entire Arabian Peninsula.

This tweet from Michael Lowry shows the tracks of Gonu (2007), Phet (2010), and Chapala (2015 - 5AM forecast today) on the left and on the right, a model output of forecasted precipitation (without caption).

Tropical cyclones are known as just "cyclones" in the Indian Ocean, but they’re the same kind of storm as typhoons or hurricanes. The Indian Meteorological Department is responsible for tropical cyclone warnings in the North Indian Ocean.

End of CWG entry.


I looked up the 6Z 10/30/2015 operational GFS for the Africa region to find the forecasted precipitation totals. Here is the image:

This is the precipitation totals for the region through hour 147 / valid 9Z 11/5/2015.

Quite astonishing.


As for other unusual weather, here is another CWG entry about all the rainfall in the Atacama Desert as a result of the major warm ENSO ("El Niño") event underway. Back in late March, Antofagasta -- which averages just 0.07" of rain a year -- had 0.96" of rain in a single day. A slurry of muddy flood waters killed at least 9 people.

The rains have caused the lovely pink (mauve?) malva (mallow) flower to bloom across the Atacama Desert in a display not seen in 18 years (in the 1997-98 El Niño event).

Oh, and frickin' Death Valley, Calif., had 0.55" of rain on Oct. 5th, a new 24-hour record rainfall for the month of October, and this was followed by more rain on Oct. 16th.


Rainy, mild, autumn evening at the edge of Lafayette Park along H St NW, Washington, D.C., 6:34PM Oct. 28, 2015.

I was walking from McPherson Square Metro after work to Old Ebbitt Grill, where I met LP at the Old Bar for dinner. Later, we went to No. 9, where we met Gary.


Back home here in the Baltimore/Washington region, the three-day rainfall from a low pressure system that was the very indirect "ghost" of Hurricane Patricia ranged from 1/4" to as much as 4" with the highest totals in Frederick County, Md.

NWS Doppler radar-estimated rainfall totals for the extended Metro D.C. and Baltimore areas for Oct. 28, 2015.


The three-day totals at the four regional climate stations were as follows (with the bulk falling on Oct. 28th):

KDCA: 0.68"

KBWI: 0.70"

KIAD: 1.99" (with 1.97" on the 28th, a daily record)

KDMH: 0.39"

The monthly totals through Oct. 29th are:

KDCA: 3.04" (-0.13")
KBWI: 3.40" (+0.29")
KIAD: 3.95" (+0.92")
KDMH: 2.41" (-0.47")

Note: KDMH does not yet have a full 30-year official NWS climate base period.

The region is below normal since Sept. 1st but above normal for the year because it was so wet through June.

It might rain again on Sunday into Monday. Next week is forecasted to be warm with temps. around 74F as a large ridge dominates the Eastern U.S. and a trough is over the Western U.S. There is still no sign of an Eastern U.S. polar vortex regime.

At this point, it does not look like an early winter here.

OK, that's all for now. My next planned update will be tomorrow (Saturday).


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reposted: Phil Plait's "If Global Warming Is a Hoax, Then Why ...?" -OR- 20 Questions To Ask Your Nearest GOP-T-Bagger ...

Sen. James "Mountain" Inhofe with his trusty magic snowball.

Jesus communicates with Sen. Inhofe through his snowball and tells him to do really self-embarrassing things that you would expect of a nutty octogenarian.


I think it important to repost this entry from Phil Plait's always-a-must-read Bad Astronomy blog that is hosted on Slate.

I've mentioned my own weird indirect relationship with Phil Plait, although to be clear, I've never actually met him and he has no idea who I am.


If Global Warming Is a Hoax ...

By Phil Plait
October 28, 2015 9:00AM
Source here.

If global warming is a hoax ...

... then why was this September globally the hottest September on record by a substantial margin?

... then why were seven of the months in 2015 (so far!) the hottest of those months on record (February the hottest February on record, and so on)?

... then why is 2015 on track to be by far the hottest year on record?

... then why was the last warmest year on record just last year?

... then why are the 10 hottest years all since 1998?

... then why did summertime Arctic ice thin by more than 80 percent from 1975 to 2012?

... then why is Arctic sea ice volume dropping so fast it's called a "death spiral"?

... then why is the percentage of older ice in the Arctic dropping?

... then why are we losing 450 billion tons of land ice every year?

... then why have we lost 5 trillions tons of land ice just since 2002?

... then why are Earth's sea levels rising by more than 3 millimeters per year?

... then why are the vast majority of glaciers across the planet melting?

... then why do at least 97 percent, and perhaps as high as 99.9 percent of climate scientists say it's real?

... then why don't climate change deniers publish papers?

... then why do global warming deniers keep using long-falsified claims?

... then why has the fossil fuel industry dumped more than $36 million (so far!) into the 2016 elections, with a staggering 93 percent of it going to Republicans?


Don't expect any actual answers. The GOP portion of the country lives in a post-factual, post-policy, Bizarro World reality, courtesy the conservative (rightwing) entertainment complex.

Oh, and I should point out that the latest "party line" from the GOP is that, yes, climate change is happening but we don't and can't possibly know why this is so -- raising allegedly some "profound" philosophical argument about the theory of knowledge that in reality is just a pile of horseshit that seeks to cloud a simple and obvious truth -- but let's save that topic for another time.

Anyway, I'm going to try to post another entry later tonight. I just got home from the gym after a regular workday, and need to make some dinner.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Rainy, Relaxing October Night That Wasn't: An Overview and Anatomy of the Usual Multi-Pronged Dashing of D.C. World Expectations

A path in Deerlick Park, Annandale, Va., October 22, 2015. Photo by Razan Altiraifi, source here.

Note: Some of images in this entry are primarily taken from recent CWG entries or the CWG photo pool. For the ones that appear in the former, I link to the entries in question but not the original Flickr pages. For the latter, I link to the photo pool page.


I was in a horrible mood for most of tonight (much less so now) because my planned evening totally failed to materialize -- all for reasons beyond my control. This would have been an intensely vitriolic entry but for the fact the last hour or so was much better, and now I'm just tired and need to go to sleep.

Another view of the path in Deerlick Park, Annandale, Va., October 22, 2015. Photo by Razan Altiraifi, source here.


As background / context, I went to the gym on both Sunday and Monday precisely in order to be able to take off -- without any fretting and feeling guilty -- two consecutive days (nights), including Tuesday and Wednesday.

From last October and originally posted in this entry:

The intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and 12th St. NW, Washington, D.C., on a rainy, gloomy fall evening, 6:19PM October 21, 2014.


I was specifically looking forward to the cool, rainy weather that was forecasted and the ability to walk home from work and stop here or there for dinner and/or a drink. This is because I've been waiting for wet, cool autumnal weather following the prolonged dry weather we've had for much of the past three months (with only one major exception, the very indirect effects of Hurricane Joaquin). The rain we are (were supposed?) to get is the indirect remnants of Hurricane Patricia.

So I had it all planned out. But it all went awry on Tuesday ("day 1"). And the prospects for Wednesday ("day 2") are iffy at best.

Colorized satellite image (from one of the NOAA GOES floaters) showing a large portion of the eastern half of the U.S. and Gulf of Mexico on or about October 26, 2015 (the date wasn't provided). Image source here.

The cloud formation is actually the remnant circulation of Hurricane Patricia that got incorporated into a low pressure system along the Texas / Louisiana Gulf coast.


For starters, the day indeed dawned gray and chilly with temps around 50F when I left the apartment. But it featured my usual morning agony walking the short distance from my apartment to the U Street / Cardozo Metro. I also tripped and fell on the station platform (although that was more funny to me than anything else).

The Sun visible through the trees near a stream in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, October 19, 2015. Photo by Pablo.Raw and posted here.


Of note, yesterday, I was almost hit by a bicyclist crossing 14th St. and W St. walking to the gym around 735PM because I was so engrossed at the stunning nearly full Moon. He whizzed past me less than a foot away. Perhaps he had the situation properly assessed. I sure as hell didn't.

Perhaps also all of this is because GOD-ON-HIGH looked after me while biking back from Cathedral Heights after the Saturday night party in Ft. Totten following a ride back to Nick and Luana's place. I don't really remember the ride back, although I know I stopped briefly at Larry's Lounge. While the ride there was nearly all uphill, that ride was all downhill.

Nearly Full Hunter's Moon as seen from Dumfries, Va., Oct. 26, 2015; Photo by Barbara S. Parker and posted here.


About that party, I had a great time, although I briefly got stuck in the bathroom when the lock jammed. However, that's a story for another time. The last time that happened was at a restaurant in Brussels (or maybe Mons) in January 1976 when I was 6 shortly after my mom and Ray had gone there at the start of Ray's SHAPE assignment. I would soon return to Long Branch, New Jersey to live with my dad and grandparents.

Yours truly and my mom outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on a rainy day, August 18, 1979.

I was visiting her that summer and about to return to New Jersey 17 days later (just in time for Hurricane David!). My mom was a number of years younger then than I am now.


Anyway, at lunch, I left the office and headed over to Union Station to meet my mom at Thunder Grill. (Our lunch was reschedule from Monday to Tuesday). She rode the MARC train in from Anne Arundel County. We had a very nice time there.

I walked back to the office at L'Enfant Plaza (rather than deal with the Metro -- but it was a bit farther than I anticipated).

The grounds near the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon, Washington, D.C., 2:34PM October 27, 2015.


For tonight, I was all set for a quiet and pleasant night walking in the light rain and brisk air, bundled up as appropriate. Instead, it just kept milder -- reaching nearly 60F by 7PM -- even as the frickin' rain kept holding off interminably thanks to a frickin' high pressure over Maine that refused (is refusing) to weaken its grip as shown below:

NWS high resolution surface weather map for the northeastern U.S. and adjacent regions, valid 0300Z (11PM EDT) Oct. 28 (27th), 2015.

Frig you, high pressure.


I got off the Metro at McPherson Square and walked to No. 9, where it was very crowded and noisy, unusually so for a Tuesday night, and I soon found out it was the goddamn annual 17th Street high heel race, my LEAST favorite of all the gay-themed events here in D.C. during the course of the year.

I cannot stand that event, but every year, like clockwork, it arrives in all its one-night awfulness.

It is a gay safari for the thousands of annoying straight millennials who fill the city...

... while the gays who participate either directly or indirectly all decide to dress up as though this were Mardi Gras in the French Quarter.

Oh, and as ever, the gay service industry mafia that runs 17th Street cleans up.

KA-CHING!! -OR- Pimp My Pride.

More generally, D.C. is always like this: Too crowded, too noisy (whether from traffic, sirens, rap music, endless and stupid Metro system announcements, any television set tuned to anything, you name it), too warm, and too often a smell that is some combo of sewage and pot (which seemingly everyone smokes now that it is not only legal, but encouraged).

On a personal note, I HATE that smell of pot, in particular, when I have to smell it in the hallway outside my apartment. It's offensive to me.

As for D.C., in many ways it has transformed from a bad-ass urban ghetto (though sizable pockets of that most definitely still exist) into an upper middle class millennial generation ghetto with a variety of commodified cultural "flavors" from hip hop to hipster but all very self-important, bourgeois, and annoying.

This random image I found on the internets of four young millennials -- likely from some unspecified ad campaign -- sort of captures the feel.


Anyway, deeply annoyed and upset that my night was ruined, I walked on a circuitous route home (avoiding 17th Street), had some lousy soup, got more upset as I watched the radar crap out, and almost went to bed. (The radar was showing the precipitation getting closer ... closer ... closer ... but never frickin' arriving. I really hate when that happens.)

A squirrel eating acorns in an oak tree in Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2015. Photo by Nienke Beintema and posted here.


However, I still owed Gary some money from the Jersey shore trip, and he was at Larry's Lounge, so I walked over there. It was breezy and mostly cloudy with lots of autumn leaf fall. (The autumnal leaf display this year is beginning to peak, but it will be less-than-stunning owing to the dry weather the past few months.)

I got to Larry's Lounge, which was mobbed with a overflow crowd from 17th Street. Gary was there and it was pleasant enough. There was this couple there who had gone recently to New Zealand and Australia.

Among their New Zealand stays was Queenstown, and I saw pictures of it and Lake Watapiku, whose name was at the tip of my tongue precisely because I see it all the time on the Queenstown stage of the 6-stage New Zealand South Island course that I often do on the treadmill at the YMCA Anthony Bowen.

Sweeping aerial view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.

The image was taken either from a mountain above the city or on one of the cable cars on the edge of it.


Their pictures looked just like in that treadmill course stage -- including of the lake-hugging town, the willow trees along the mini-beach in the center of the town, and the Remarkables in the distance.

Nearly Full Hunter's Moon as seen through fall leaves in Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., October 26, 2015. Photo by Jim Havard and posted here.


Anyway, I walked home. It had started to rain very lightly off-and-on even as it was breezy -- now the wind from the northeast. The full Hunter Moon was (is) occasionally visible among the clouds (or, to paraphrase Alfred Noyes, "a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas").

The Sterling (LWX) NWS frickin' radar in enhanced base mode reflectivity, 11:54PM EDT Oct. 27, 2015.

Note EVERYTHING missing the District of Drive-By-Umbia. The looped image really shows this, but it is too annoying to me to feature.


At this point (about midnight), the frickin' radar has cleared up again over the D.C. area -- but it's still supposed to rain later this Wednesday.

NWS/WPC QPF forecast map for days 1 and 2 valid 0Z 10/28/2015 - 0Z 10/30/2015 with legend.


Honestly, I won't be shocked at all if we get, like, 0.02" at the completely-useless-as-a-weather-station KDCA (and that's supposed to be some big, huge deal.)

I guess the Palka-Cabra She-Dragon is working her anti-weather black magic.

"And you know what, Morris?? I now think all the rain will miss us and it's just going to keep getting better and better! Aren't we lucky?! Where's my mascara??"


Now I do "get" the fact that virtually NO ONE else even notices what the weather is doing -- less it is actively precipitating or otherwise extreme --  much less gets upset about it, esp. in my inverted way (i.e., wanting it to rain or snow, or at least be NOT sunny and hot).

This makes me the odd one.

Also from last October and originally posted in that same entry:

Also from last October: A rainy evening outside Elephant & Castle along Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., 6:28PM October 21, 2014.


OK, that's all for now, except to note that I'm also taking tomorrow (i.e., this Wednesday evening) off from the gym again, and I might be meeting Nick after work at Baan Thai or some such place.

I'm signing off now. I'm probably not going to take the computer home tomorrow night, so my next planned update won't be until late Thursday night / early Friday.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reposted: Andrew O'Hehir Ruminations On That Paranoid Style of American Politics -OR- Life Eternal in the GOP Benghazi-Verse (Interspersed with Pics of the Actual Port City of Benghazi)

Below is a reposting of a characteristically outstanding piece by Andrew O'Hehir that appeared in Salon this past Saturday, this one on the deeper meaning of "Benghazi" in the Republican psyche, in particular, the rightwing, paranoid segment of the GOP.

I decided to break up the text with some pictures of the actual Libyan port city of Benghazi. I read up a bit about it (yes, on Wikipedia) and found some innocuous pictures on that site**.

Not surprisingly, it is an interesting and complex city with a deep and rich history. The city has had multiple names over the past 25 centuries since it (or its predecessor city) was founded as Euesperides.

The name "Benghazi" itself appears to come from the 16th Century name "Marsa ibn Ghazi" that morphed eventually, at least in its Anglicized version, into Benghazi.

**The pictures are mostly taken from the Wikipedia page to Benghazi. For info on them, see that page.

I'm not going to post any pictures of the Libyan Civil War or the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound that night in September 2012. Am I'm certainly not going to post any of the horrible death of Muammar Gaddafi.

Torturing and killing someone -- even a despotic leader -- is barbarically wrong, full stop. Furthermore, nothing good ever comes of it because you cannot have a good outcome based on an atrocity. As for Gaddafi, let's recall he was a frickin' 70-year old man who was whacked out most of the time on whatever.

Anyway, without further ado ...


SATURDAY, OCT 24, 2015 12:00 PM EDT

Benghazi, Joe McCarthy and the witch trials: Trey Gowdy's farcical hearings tap into a deep, dark American current

Sure, Hillary trounced those clowns. But Benghazi true believers will fight on to save America -- or destroy it

By Andrew O'Hehir

Source here.

Benghazi is many things to many people, but it's not about Benghazi. What I mean is that the meme or mantra or ideological touchstone known as "Benghazi" has virtually nothing to do with the Libyan port city of that name, or what happened there in September 2012. (Which -- can we just say this? -- barely registers in the historical scale of American foreign-policy tragedies, blunders and miscalculations.) For the Republican Party and its agonized cadre of true believers, Benghazi is like Yoko Ono, in the legendary National Lampoon spoof from the early '70s: a concept by which we measure our pain.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, before which Hillary Clinton testified for nearly 11 hours on Thursday, is not really investigating the Benghazi incident, in which Libyan militants overran a United States diplomatic compound and four Americans were killed. Or to put it another way, Gowdy's committee is seeking the truth about Benghazi in the same sense that Joe McCarthy investigated actual Communist spies in the U.S. government, or that Cotton Mather pursued actual witches in Salem Village. Those things are all connected, at least in the nightmare imagination of the Benghazi-verse: If one of the committee members had had the temerity to denounce Clinton as a Communist and a witch (as well as a traitor and murderess and lesbian and whatever the hell else), the "Republican base" would have risen from its collective sofa and roared in Old Milwaukee-spumed delight. It must have been hard to resist.

Nothing quite so revealing occurred, but it was revealing enough. To get back to history, Joe McCarthy genuinely feared the Reds and Cotton Mather feared the Devil; those guys may have been sociopaths, but they were not hypocrites. But like the Benghazi-hunters, both men were really after something else, something larger and more numinous and almost impossible to define. That fatal vagueness and sense of mission-creep was precisely what enabled Clinton to humiliate the Benghazi committee's leading Republicans so thoroughly and repeatedly. She stuck to the putative subject matter, which largely does not interest them.

To Gowdy's most zealous followers on that committee and among the public, the Benghazi incident is not important in itself, despite the ritual utterances of patriotism and the semi-divine status accorded any American who dies in defense of the empire: Dulce et decorum est, and all that. Benghazi is important because of where the faithful believe it will lead, and what they hope it will prove. Let me hasten to add that Democratic loyalists who cast the Benghazi hearings as a purely partisan exercise aimed at sabotaging Clinton's presidential campaign only reveal their own limitations. Do not misjudge the scale, ambition and imagination at work in the Benghazi myth! Gowdy forcefully rejected such insinuations at the opening of Thursday's proceedings, telling Clinton, "Not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your email."

Let's give the chairman a point, or half a point, for irrelevantly dredging up the email scandal just in case we had forgotten about it, but in a sense he is correct: The true mission of the Benghazi committee goes far beyond a crude effort to destroy Hillary. It is much, much crazier than that. This was precisely what got Rep. Kevin McCarthy pitched into the Dumpster of history by the zealots of his own caucus. Sure, it was a media faux pas for the presumptive House Speaker to suggest that the Benghazi investigation he and John Boehner had authorized might have had a political agenda. Heaven forfend! But it was also, and far more importantly, too cynical a note for McCarthy to strike, at a moment when Republican true believers are fighting (as they see it) to save America's soul.

No, I'm serious. Defeating Clinton and electing a Republican president, while clearly desirable, are collateral benefits the GOP fire-breathers hope will flow from Benghazi fervor. But the driving force behind the Gowdy hearings, and the hard right's inability to let go of the Benghazi meme in the face of widespread mockery, lies in the profound belief that America, or at least "America," is isolated, persecuted and under constant attack. Such a belief may be objectively insane, not to mention historically and politically ludicrous, but if you think it does not exist or is not genuine, you simply haven't paid attention to the last 40 years – or, we might say, to the last 400. Joe McCarthy and Cotton Mather represent earlier manifestations of the same tendency, immortalized by historian Richard Hofstadter as "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."

Hofstadter's original essay was published in 1964, largely in response to the apocalyptic anti-Communism of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, which marked the birth of the New Right. Paranoia has come a long way. For all his nutso John Birch leanings, Goldwater hewed to a reasonably coherent set of libertarian principles; set against today's Republican radicals he looks like Voltaire. In the 21st century, we see the paranoid style honed to near-perfection among a significant cadre of Americans -- predominantly male and Southern, and almost entirely white -- who are ideologically and geographically exiled from their own society but who see themselves, paradoxically or otherwise, as its spiritual inheritors and most ardent defenders. They perceive themselves surrounded on all sides, at home as around the world, by murderous, treasonous and corrosive anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism (and in many cases also by anti-white racism and anti-Christian bigotry). They discern those forces at work in the Democratic Party and the big cities and multiculturalism and Planned Parenthood and "political correctness"; in the spread of mosques and taco trucks and ambiguous gender assignments; in Black Lives Matter and the still-baffling black president with the funny name, in the stagnant or declining real incomes of the last several decades and the fact that the mightiest military superpower in the history of the world has not conclusively won a war since 1945.

What Benghazi promised the paranoid faithful, or still promises – we can't presume that one embarrassing hearing will bring an end to this charade – was a chance to turn the tide, to strip the scales from the eyes of their benighted and deluded fellow countrymen and reveal the scope of the hideous plot to destroy America. For the conspiratorial right-wing hive mind, Benghazi is the gate and the key to the gate, like H.P. Lovecraft’s ancient and indescribable entity Yog-Sothoth. But as with the One-in-All and All-in-One of the Lovecraftian universe, opening that gate leads only to madness and oblivion: What lies beyond is the "amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity," otherwise known as the legislative agenda of the House Freedom Caucus.

It's important to stress that many "conservatives" (an especially ridiculous term of art in the contemporary American context) still believe they can win in a fair fight, if they can only overcome the mind-control tactics of the feminazis, socialists and Muslim-coddlers in the "liberal media." For the Republican Party's Beltway leadership and its financial backers among the plutocrat class, the equation clearly looks different. As I have previously argued, the Koch brothers' many-stranded assault on democracy represents a sophisticated strategic response to the demographic challenges facing the GOP. As it becomes increasingly difficult for Republicans to win elections -- at least when a representative sample of the public shows up to vote -- the oligarchy's most efficient path to hegemonic rule lies in paralyzing the political process, depressing or restricting voter turnout and making elections appear meaningless. Or, better still, making them become meaningless.

Those tactics have produced the largest Republican congressional majority in more than 70 years, and have shifted the GOP's ideological center of gravity sharply toward the Puritan right. As we’ve learned over the last few weeks, that is turning out to be a double-edged sword when it comes to the party's ability to govern and its electoral future. The Tea Partyers and Boehner-scourgers and Benghazi-hunters elected in 2010 and 2014 are largely free of Machiavellian and/or Kochian cynicism and calculation. What they believe may be difficult to describe and impossible to achieve, but they believe it. They are men of principle (with a woman or two thrown in for effect), who were sent to Washington by "real Americans" to save the country from itself, by destroying it if necessary.

To the ideologues of the Freedom Caucus and their public cohort, it is axiomatic that Benghazi, if properly understood, will reveal the perverted depths of the left-wing conspiracy to enfeeble America still further and enslave us to Sharia law and soccer and gender-neutral bathrooms.

If polls suggest that a large majority of the public does not want Congress to shut down the government or slash "discretionary spending" to zero or cut taxes for billionaires even further or spend millions on a pointless investigation of a murky but minor three-year-old tragedy -- well, those polls reflect the dire effects of leftist media brainwashing and Communist witchcraft. The exaggerated and enduring power of the paranoid right in American politics stems from a quality that is otherwise rare, and has been virtually extinct in the Democratic Party since 1972: They know they're right and they know they will win, and all evidence to the contrary is simply ignored.

Sorry for this sideways panoramic view of Benghazi. It is a nice picture, but if I posted it as it should be the vertical dimension versus horizontal would make it vanishingly small.

Cotton Mather never repented of his crusade to drive Satan out of Massachusetts, and Joe McCarthy felt sure that history would vindicate his purge of imaginary Reds, even as he drank himself to death at age 48. (His ideological heirs have done their best: Consider McCarthy's Wikipedia entry, which amounts to an extensive whitewashing of his legacy.) The paranoid style admits no doubt or ambiguity, let alone the possibility that the diabolical forces it perceives are nothing more than its own fears projected onto the world.

Considered on its own dubious merits, Benghazi may look like a feeble parody of those more famous campaigns of persecution, one that is more likely to help Hillary Clinton and hurt the Republicans than the other way around. But even if the Gowdy hearings collapse and the issue fades away (which is no sure thing), "Benghazi" will always be with us. It marks the resurgence of a toxic and dangerous current that has flowed beneath American politics and culture since the first Europeans arrived on this continent, and finds itself newly empowered and militant. That current yearns for a final victory that reaches far beyond such petty matters as politics and elections, all the way to Salvation. Failing that, it will take the Day of Judgment.


Brief comments / micro-update ...

Andrew O'Hehir really is a terrific writer. And as Frank Rich started out as a theatre critic, O'Hehir is basically a movie critic -- but in both cases, they make outstanding political observers.

OK, that's all for now. I had intended a regular update, but instead this is the entry I posted.

I made it to the gym yesterday and today (after work). I'm not going for the next two days. I'll try to update the blog tomorrow evening.

Oh, yes, I'm looking forward to the promised day and a half of rainy, cool, fall weather.