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Going by the Window

A high-tech homesickness cure.

In the early days of PenguinRadio, I noticed my business partner was often listening to BBC London in the office pretty much throughout the day.  It wasn’t that he necessarily liked what was being played he said, it’s just that he enjoyed hearing the traffic news as it made him feel a bit like “he was back home”.

If you’re never really been away, you probably won’t understand how “the little things” can often trigger memories or even satisfy some longings you might have.  Once when I was in Happy Valley I could smell grass being cut on the race track, which brought back many recollections of life in the American Midwest oh so far away from now.  Smells, sounds, and sights have a very powerful ability when you are thinking of someplace else.

Which is why this really interesting little “trick” is quite attractive.  A company has developed Winscape which at first glance looks very successful, after all the demo video shows their home in the Marin Highlands overlooking the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  But a closer look reveals that these are mere windows overlooking some spectacular views, but a virtual window running on an HD TV.

Through some high tech gimmicks you can have a window overlooking whatever part of the world you want. At the moment it is rather limited to HD playback, but the thought has crossed my mind of trying to do this with live HD webcams from different places. For example, I called up a webcam from Abbey Road in London and was just watching the morning traffic compete with Beatles fans who wanted to get their picture taken on the immortal crosswalk.



It does open up some interesting ideas.  A virtual window outside your “house” back “home” so you can see what’s going on in your neighborhood is now only a webcam and a bit of streaming kit away.  Watching the neighbors and your home just as if you were looking out the window.

Might have to investigate this a bit further.




Chesapeake Bay wind speed maps for Irene

The net is a great source of information in storms like this.  In fact, sometimes you get too much data, but you can eventually sort through it to come up with a pretty good picture of the current situation.

This weather map from WeatherUnderground shows the potential wind speeds from Hurricane Irene.

Starting from the hurricane icon off the coast of Ocean City, those in the closest rings will have hurricane force winds. As you’ll note they are stronger on the right side than they are on the left. What I’m talking about below is for the circle WHEN the hurricane is in the position in Ocean City area, not when it is moving up to that area.

The next ring is tropical storm winds > 50 knots per hour but less than 73 knots. This includes parts of the Eastern shore just about to Cambridge.

The next ring, the largest ring, is tropical storm winds > 34 knots and < 50 knots. This includes basically everyone East of Bethesda, East of Woodbridge, East of the Mixing Bowl.

Please note the storm will be moving, which is why toward the bottom you see the remnants of other circles drawn. There you will see a large swath of hurricane strength wind to the right of the storm when it the hurricane icon (not seen) is south of Newport News. In this ‘circle’ you’ll see hurricane strength winds extending over nearly the ENTIRE Eastern Shore.

What does this mean in English?  Check out the Washington Post’s story on Wind Speed and what it means for your home and trees.

Direct link to map:

You can monitor the wind speeds on the various bouys in the Chesapeake Bay if you so desire, all from your mobile phone.






Hurricane Irene on the Chesapeake Bay–time to get nervous.

I’ve been quite busy over the last 24 hours tracking Irene. Well that’s not entirely accurate–I’ve been tracking Irene for days, but I’ve gotten quite worried about Irene in the last 24 hours.

The “Oh Crap” moment came yesterday when I took a look at the computer models that showed a distinct Western track of the storm, taking it not up the outer islands of the East Coast of the USA but rather straight up the Chesapeake Bay’s Western Shore, which is where I have my house.


The computer models that were put out by the European meteorological agencies showed a storm track through Southern Maryland’s St. Marys, Calvert and Anne Arundel County. This would have had the eye of the hurricane going over my house, which, while a pretty cool thing to see and witness, would have also brought with it some massive destruction. Trees would be falling like toothpicks and storm surge flooding would wallop low lying areas of Annapolis and Baltimore, much like we saw with Isabel in 2003 (but probably not as bad).

But the GFS computer model, which mirrors much of the NOAA National Hurricane Center’s forecast is now showing a definite Eastern approach of Irene. The storm will actually stay out to sea and not pass directly over the barrier islands with Ocean City, Rehobeth and some of the Jersey Shore. If this comes to pass then that would be good news for the Chesapeake Bay area. Fingers crossed that the track starts to mirror this model.

During Isabel, we lost a few dozen roofing shingles along with having quite a bit of water flood into our house through the ceilings. All told I think it was about $10,000 in damage after FEMA and the insurance companies finished arguing. I also lost quite a bit of soil on my seawall, which spent hours underwater.  The nearby towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach were heavily flooded, with 4 feet of water heading inland a few hundred yards and National Guard troops called out to control security.  We were also without power for 7 days.

The posts are normally 6 feet above sea level



So how will Irene stack up to this storm?  It’s slower moving, stronger, but also further away than Isabel.  The most similar track was that of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which caused considerable rain and flooding along with some tropical storm level winds.

As you can see from the pictures, I’m not really worried about a storm surge taking my house.  That would be basically a biblical level Tsunami to get up the 40 odd foot cliff to my actual house.  I do anticipate my seawall getting another battering from this storm, which means I might need to rearrange the rocks (again) before the coming winter squalls.

The rain is going to be a big pain in that the soil is already pretty wet in the area.  The super saturation along with the winds will likely result in a number of trees falling over in the forests just North of my property.  I just have to hope they don’t come to rest on my roof.  They are a shallow root trees and even a good thunderstorm takes out more than a few, dropping power lines in the process.

For much of the other areas around me, I anticipate some pretty heavy flooding in Southern Maryland mixed with near hurricane force winds.  Tropical Storm winds that will hit the middle Bay will be annoying but many homes there are built with hurricanes in mind (we have hurricane struts in our roofing).

Still, I’m plenty nervous.  This will be a very long weekend staring at computer screens and the weather.





Tracking the hospital ship USNS Comfort in the Chesapeake Bay on the way to Haiti.


5 Days from Baltimore to Haiti


For those in the Annapolis area (and who can see through this bit of fog we have on the Bay today), you might be able to catch a glimpse of the USNS COMFORT hospital ship on its way to Haiti sometime around 11:30. Good viewing points in Sandy Point State Park, the Bay Bridge, or in the Bay Ridge area of Annapolis. Again, it is a bit foggy right now so you might not be able to see it unless the fog burns off

It should be around the North Beach / Chesapeake Beach boardwalk, another great viewing point which is about 45 minutes from DC around 12:00-12:30. It’s not a very fast ship.

ETA to Haiti is 5 days.

The COMFORT is squawking on the AIS frequencies, so you can track it. At the moment it looks like it is just leaving the port of Baltimore.

Track all ships in the Bay:…PORT_ID=95&PORT_NAME=BALTIMORE

This should be the COMFORT directly (select USNS Comfort and then ZOOM):…entery=38.95&zoom=9&level1=130

UPDATE: The COMFORT is battling a bit of stormy weather at the moment.

UPDATE 2:  The Baltimore Sun is live blogging from the COMFORT, due to arrive in Haiti on Thursday.

Ships floating around with no where to go

h_egh_traveller_2548eThe Hoegh Traveller is passing by the house at this moment.  Not really sure what is inside.  It’s supposed to be cars, but who is going to buy them?

As I’ve mentioned, the backlog in worldwide shipping is noticeable here on the Bay with dozens of ships parked in the Annapolis anchorage with nothing better to do.  But if you think that’s bad, you should see what is going on in Singapore right now.  Over 700 cargo ships are at anchor with nowhere to go, no cargo to carry.  As the Asian exporters scale back their offerings, these ships that were a lifeblood of international trade now sit idle.

God it would be a great time to buy some ships and start my own shipping company.  Anyone have a few million to spare?

Gene Kranz on the ‘Kranz Dictum’

Everyone talks the talk about accountability.  I’m looking today at some guy stepping down because Air Force One freaked out a bunch of New Yorkers.  But Gene Kranz is a guy who has walked the walk.  I was doing a bit of Googling tonight came across this quote following the disaster of Apollo 1.  Just a little something while I await the launch of TACSAT 3 over on the other side of the Bay.

genekranz1Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.

What if tankers drove as fast as jet skis?

Really cool video here:

More details:
The first half begins just below the Port of Houston Authority Turning Basin (the very end of the channel) and continues down to Green’s Bayou. The second half takes us from there to Morgan’s Point at the head of Galveston Bay. From there we still have 31.5 miles of channel across the bay to the pilot station outside the Galveston jetties.

Minotaur Rocket Launch from Wallops Island, VA tonight. Please go away clouds!


v_minotaur_000719_02Well hell. It’s grey and cloudy here but if it clears up by tonight you might want to head to somewhere with a good Eastern view (think the Western Shore of Maryland, Annapolis, etc) to catch a glimpse of a big Minotaur rocket going up from Wallops Island, VA
These things are pretty visible for quite a distance so if you want to do something cool with the kids it’s an option (if–if–if it clears up tonight, and the current forecast is not looking good). They put out some really bright flames and can be seen for about 800 miles. Last minute updates here:
Live Stream:
UPDATE:  5/19/09 at 7:55 EDT  LAUNCH!
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