Thursday, February 26, 2015

Forecasting In My CSA Home - And It's Not The Confederate States Of America

With a life-long interest in weather, it's no wonder more than a few of my classmates referred to me as "WiHi's weatherman." when I attended my 50th high school reunion last year. It all began six decades ago in the western Maryland mountains in a population measured in the tens of thousands. In the same manner that weather and climate change, my location over those decades has changed. The huge difference today is both the size and geography of "home." To call Atlanta "home" means looking at what the Bureau of the Census calls a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of almost 7 million people living in more than forty counties covering almost 11,000 square miles. Add to that a physical geography ranging from the coastal plain at an elevation of 300 feet to the Appalachian Mountains approaching 4000 feet.

I can only imagine the difficulty of forecasting a winter weather event for this area sixty years ago. There's no question weather forecasting improved significantly over those decades, but the CSA's size and variation still makes forecasting for Atlanta a serious challenge. Our National Weather Service (NWS) does well in what I would call a macro-forecast two to three days out. By the sixth day accuracy begins to drop at an accelerating rate. That's why you see seven day forecasts these days, something the NWS has done since 2000. Looking in the other direction we can see some remarkably accurate spot forecasts measured in hours. It gets complicated when you have a lot of spots.

That brings me to the big snow non-event here at "home" over the last two days. Readers may recall that Atlanta was pilloried in the national media last year over "Snowmageddon," an ice and snow event in late January that paralyzed north Georgia. Those who were not here to experience it should be aware that the media chose to ignore reporting that snow concealed a nice blanket of freezing rain on virtually every paved surface. In addition, limited storm preparation at all levels worsened the situation.

This time, they took every precaution from multiple coats of brine sprayed on major roads a day in advance to distributing the usual tons of road salt to preparing scores of emergency shelters. They said "Snowmageddon" wouldn't happen again. And this time for the most part they were correct. The freezing line snaked across the middle of the CSA rather as expected. Yes, there was snow and ice yesterday followed by "black ice" on the roads this morning around "home," but for millions it was a best case scenario. As for our spot on the Atlanta matrix it was a rainy non-event. I'd like to think these non-events will continue for many weeks in this aging winter.  In the spirit of the transition there is much to enjoy wherever we live. If you don't believe me look out the nearest window and listen to this:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Peace Symbol Meets Mercedes Benz

Readers usually find lots of birthdays in my posts. Today is no exception; however, the center of our attention is a thing rather than a person. Yes, today is the birthday of the "Peace Sign". It was introduced on this day in 1958 by Gerald Holtom a British artist who developed it as a logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The anti-war movements of the 1960's readily adopted it as an international peace symbol.

The design was quite simple. The vertical line was derived from the British semaphore code symbol for "N" - standing for "Nuclear." The arms came from the symbol for "D." - standing for "Disarmament." Both were set in a circle symbolizing the world.

We've come fifty years and two generations from those early demonstrations and its new symbol. That's plenty of time for symbology to change but in this case most contemporary demonstrators still get it right. Most demonstrators but not all.

Perhaps this phenomenon is little more than a common oversight. On the other hand I suspect that the huge growth in American prosperity and marketing over those decades may be a greater influence. It is a comfortable journey from the houses most boomers experienced as children to the bourgeoisie dwellings we own - perhaps "finance" is a better term - in today's world. Add trust fund babes to the mix and one can see where there may be some confusion with historic symbols and the branding going on in Mom and Dad's three- bay detached garage. If they only knew.


Gerald Holtom earned nothing directly from designing the peace symbol, an image that cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. Commercial users have made billions off the symbol now ubiquitous in our culture 57 years following its introduction.

Wikipedia, Gerald Holton
Center for Nuclear Disarmament
The Peace Symbol Celebrates Its 57th Birthday, But Still No Peace,

Friday, February 20, 2015

Legislation To Restore The Pour

It wasn't until my early thirties and the help of friends and colleagues at Tybee Island that I learned to enjoy a glass of beer. The journey has its beginning a decade earlier at the University of Maryland in College Park. In those ancient days of the 1960's one could not buy a beer legally in Maryland until the age of 21. Fortunately for Maryland students, the campus was little more than two miles from the District of Columbia where beer could be had at the tender age of eighteen. The situation was absurd on several levels least of which was the blurring of jurisdiction and enforcement. It brings us to this February 20, 1933 and legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, a mere eight miles from the Maryland campus. 

In 1933, Prohibition - with mixed results - had been in effect across most of the nation since 1920. The halls of Congress were no exception and "the man in the green hat" served his constituency well. His name was George Cassiday and his business was supplying Congress with booze during Prohibition. From 1920 to 1925, he worked for members of Congress out of his office in the Cannon House Office Building until he was arrested for bootlegging. After a brief hiatus, he returned to serving his loyal customers from 1925 to 1930 out of an office in the Russell Senate Office Building. In a confession in a series of articles in The Washington Post prior to the midterm elections he wrote that at least 80% of congressmen and senators had enjoyed his services over the thirteen year period. The series and a sympathetic electorate soon change the political landscape. Voters took revenge on the Republican majority and replaced it with an anti-Prohibition Democrat majority who wasted no time introducing legislation for repeal.  

With the February 20, 1933 introduction of legislation proposing the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution the process of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment began. Within ten months Prohibition came to a happy end. If you enjoy a beer or something a tad stronger take a moment to remember this day and the good times it has afforded you and your friends over the decades. You may want to toast the man in the green hat as well. Regardless, I think it makes good sense to remember what cultural research tells us about the subject: we have enjoyed a brew for many thousands of years.  In fact, fermented drink is perhaps the earliest foodway tradition in virtually all cultures.  May the tradition continue verumtamen in iudicio: ut dux vester.

See information section of the video for a translation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday 2015: The Beginning Of The Journey To The Cross

This is one of the most solemn and discomforting days in the Christian world for we are marked with ashes and made so very much aware of our sin. This day also marks the beginning of forty days of prayer and abstinence leading us to Christ's death and resurrection. 

Although the ashen cross we bear today will fade over the hours we can take hope knowing that God's love for us will never fade. 

Psalm 51

Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness; According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged. Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and stablish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness. Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise. For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar. 

                                                                                   English Book of Common Prayer, 1662

Here is Gregorio Allegri's (c.1582 - 1652) Miserere , the famous Latin setting of  Psalm 51:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Washington's Birthday: An Official And Very Flexible Holiday

At one time the nation had a Washington's Birthday holiday on February 22, the actual day of the man's birth, but that changed in 1971 when the "Monday holiday rule" took effect. The rule was a postlude to a torturous twenty year saga of federal bickering, ineptitude, and state's rights issues over the national failure to honor our presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln, with their very own holiday. The fallout left us with what is in reality a Washington's Unbirthday holiday and a three-day weekend. Honest Abe didn't make the official cut.

Never keen to let a good shopping opportunity pass, American capitalists liked the idea of a President's Day, especially one that could be stretched over a full week . And Lincoln and Washington were a perfect match.  Merchants saw the advantage of the patriotic fervor generated by matching silhouettes of Lincoln - log cabins - and Washington - axes and cherries - positioned over merchandise and big red signs reading "SALE." The concept caught on. Today, about all Americans have left with the third Monday in February is the opportunity to buy stuff, mostly stuff they don't need. On the federal level, this not only leaves us with nothing for Old Abe but also nothing for the other presidents save George.

I figure one could sooth this insult by ignoring the mess and shopping the day away. Even that strategy may not work. I seriously doubt shoppers can beat the price and associated costs that one can enjoy from on a 24/7 basis. A bit of research and we can find similar sites for those big, big ticket items like cars.

So what is one to do? Perhaps it's best to forget the issues of a misnomer and the neglected presidents and return to Lincoln and Washington as our February presidents. And they have more in common as presidents who share the quality of American exceptionalism, a term we've been hearing more often these days as the republic drifts ever deeper into its golden years. With that in mind, I suggest readers find a comfortable setting and reflect on these men and their place in the American experience. If readers need a bit of encouragement here are two statements, one so very brief, the other a bit longer, both reflecting the greatness of their authors and the hope they shared for our unique national experience:

Washington's Farewell Address, written in 1796 on his coming departure from the presidency;

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863.

The postcards date from the first decade of the 20th century and are from the family archives.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Happy Valentine's Day 2015

These 1910 Valentine's Day postcards come from the family archives 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Birth Of Rhapsody In Blue

"The King of Jazz," Paul Whiteman,  a strong-willed innovator and perfectionist  became the most popular band leader in the U.S. during the Roaring Twenties.  He encouraged many talented artists and composers through his interest in fusing jazz with other musical styles. Furthermore, he appreciated experimental music and sponsored several concerts featuring new compositions and artists. For one of these concerts he asked his friend and collaborator, George Gershwin, to compose a "jazz concerto." Although faced with a short performance deadline, Gershwin reluctantly agreed. In two weeks, he completed the new piece and entitled it Rhapsody in Blue. After two weeks of orchestration and eight days of rehearsal, Whiteman premiered the piece at the Aeolian Hall in New York in February 12, 1924 with Gershwin at the piano. The performance certainly enhanced Whiteman's reputation but more importantly it affirmed Gershwin place as a leading American composer. 

There is no recording of the premiere but the bandleader and composer did appear in a memorable performance of Rhapsody in Blue in the 1930 film, King of Jazz. The film itself is an important piece of cinema history.

Gershwin was born in New York in 1898. He went on to become perhaps the most beloved American composer of the last century through his many compositions for the musical stage, the concert hall, and what has become known as the Great American Songbook.  Gershwin's appeal comes in part from his colorful and lively incorporation of jazz motifs in all his music. He died in 1937 with what could only be called a wonderful career ahead of him. I often imagine what he could have brought to us had he lived.
As for Rhapsody in Blue it seems as fresh today as it did in 1924 ranking among the most popular of concert titles in orchestra repertoires around the world. 


"Rhapsody in Blue cover" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -