Me have an accent?

K., a colleague from work, is also in DC this week. So we met at a Spanish restaurant near Chinatown, in downtown DC last night.  After dinner, I went looking for green tea ice cream (I love green tea ice cream) but Washington DC's Chinatown is too gentrified. No green tea ice cream. They did have moon cakes though, although it was sized for American appetites and I didn't feel like pigging out.

Anyway, this morning, I told my class that I'd gone to a Tapas restaurant yesterday and that the place was surprisingly lively for a Thursday evening. "A very happening place," I informed them.

A student in the back looked at me with a horrified look.  "Where did you go again?," she asked.

"A Tapas restaurant," I repeated, "you know a Spanish restaurant."

"Oh," she sighed in relief, "I thought you said 'topless' restaurant".

My accent's not that bad.

London to Sydney, by bus

When I first heard about a bus service between two islands (England and Australia), I thought it was an obvious way to reel the suckers in.  But, no, a mostly overland bus route exists and takes 12 weeks to make the entire journey.  I've been to several places on that journey -- London, Vienna, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, but oh the places in between: Prague, Gallipolli,  Corbett, Kathmandu, Bali, Ayers Rock.  That, I think, would be an awesome way to spend 3 months.

No sputtering

"Fr. Briggs" (there's a story behind that name, but don't want to bust his privacy here) asks me what I replied to the 5-year's question about what we were praying to. Nothing inspired, I am afraid.

This is of course not the first time that I've sputtered. Usually, though, I can come with a better answer days after the moment has passed. In this case, though, sputtering is still the only thing I can come up with.

Incidentally, on the national anthem before ball games thing, I don't know if you've seen this video:

The adult doing the class act in that video is Philadelphia coach and former hall-of-fame player Maurice Cheeks. Mo Cheeks was inspired -- he knew exactly what to do at the moment when it mattered.

Praying before the game

I took the 5-year old to the OU football game on Saturday.  This is the first time he's had to stand up while the national anthem is being played, so I had to tell him what to do. "Put your hand over your chest," I told him, "and look to your right, towards the flag." There were three flags being raised, so that kept his interest until the end of the anthem.

"What are the three flags?," he asked after the crowd had chimed in with "Sooners" where the anthem ends "land of the brave" (don't get me started).

"The one in the middle is the American flag," I told him, "the blue one to the right is the Oklahoma flag and the red one to the left is the OU flag."

He processed that for a while.

"And which one were we praying to?", he finally asked.

Common sense on the Iraq surge

It often takes a really wise person has pointed out the obvious.  Obama does it here (YouTube video).  Count me impressed by his judgment, especially considering that Congress still can not see the big picture for the bloviation.

The surge has had some impact as suggested ... I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest given the investment ... The improvement in the situation in Anbar has nothing to do with the surge .. the reason for the improvement of the situation in Anbar is political ... we have not seen any improvement in terms of the central government's performance.

The only improvement in the situation in Iraq is in Anbar province where we are paying the Sunni tribes to keep from attacking our troops. It has nothing to do with the surge. In Baghdad, where the surge has been concentrated, the situation is still bad enough that our president stayed away from the city on his last visit there.

Beijing woes

Several people I know are directly involved in the meteorological support for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.  Algorithms developed by my group will be operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Beijing, so even I am indirectly involved.  It is a daunting task -- much more daunting than the Atlanta or Sydney Olympics, where there were also
forecast demonstrations organized by the World Meteorological Organization.

Forecasting rain is going to be very important.  Something like 60% of the days in August, it rains in Beijing.  But it's going to be hard to forecast that rain.
  1. China is deploying new S-band radars (i.e . very good ones), but as in India (where I visited a couple of installations as part of a USAID project this year), the radars are placed right in the middle of cities. The way these radars work, there is a huge blind spot right above the radar, which means there will be poor to non-existent radar data right over Beijing.
  2. The topography around Beijing is challenging in other ways for radar siting.  There are mountains just to the west. The radar beam will be blocked by those mountains, so the radar can not see very far to the west.
  3. The climatology does not help either. Storms initiate on the mountains immediately to the west of Beijing and drop all their rain. Nowcasting thunderstorms depends heavily on extrapolation but there will be nothing to extrapolate.
The air pollution in Beijing is of course what every one talks about.  Word is that gray skies are the norm and that visibility of 30 feet is common. A few weeks ago, the Chinese authorities tried to run an experiment where only even-numbered cars would be allowed on the streets on even-numbered days. Apparently, it didn't help all that much.  With all that pollution, weather forecasting is not going to be driven by just rain and wind. There will be other factors that will affect athletes. But my point is that even rain and wind are going to be hard to predict. Let alone the effect of Beijing air on unaccustomed athletes and spectators.

Overestimating food

On Sunday, during the long weekend, we went with some Indian neighbors to Roman Nose state park.  There's a nice, cold stream (55-degree water) that runs underground and cascades out of a cave at one point -- the kids really enjoyed it.

Like any Indian gathering, there was a lot of food.  We'd decided to take a quick tour of Red Rock Canyon, which was only about 10 miles off our return route to Norman. It got late in the canyon, and everyone was hungry, so we decided to snack on the leftovers of our lunch. Except that the "leftovers" were enough to feed us for dinner too. We had not just overestimated the food that we'd need -- we'd overestimated by a factor of two.