Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not a whole lot happening on the HR weather scene lately. High pressure has been diverting storms north and south for the most part, and that will continue for the next week.

We did receive a little more rain (0.18") than expected from today's weak front. Another shot of precipitation might roll in on Thanksgiving, but after that... dry...

I've lived in Hood River 32 years now. For the earlier part of that time, it seemed like it would very often snow here on Thanksgiving. Not so much anymore. But I'm hoping that my saying this will shift the odds towards snow.

And from the "wow, I sure wish I'd seen that" category: Five days ago over Alberta, Canada, a desk-sized meteor plunged into Earth's atmosphere, captured on a police car dash cam:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Start Wearing Purple

Maybe this, or something similar, has happened to you. You check your email. There's a link in one that looks interesting, so you click it.

Hours later, you find yourself at a web site far far away from where you started.

So yesterday, I glanced at the email that I get monthly from Atom.com: "New Featured Videos". Here's one: "Impersonator does George Bush Exit Interviews". What the heck. It might be funny. I need a laugh, and lame duck presidents are cool, in their own way. Click.

It's an entertaining impersonation of President Bush. But what really caught my eye (and ears) was the short Yahoo ad that proceeded the videos. People in an elevator. One starts singing a very catchy tune. Others join in, fun is had by all, and the commercial ends.

It was a very catchy tune. So I did a Google search on the song, which was "Start Wearing Purple". Click.

Hours later, after much web research and much clicking, I now know more about the Eastern European/New York musical genre called gypsy punk than I ever imagined possible. That certainly wasn't in my plans for the evening, but that's the thing about plans.

The purple part of the song title is up for grabs: is it the color favored by gypsies? Royalty? Gays? Conservatives? Liberals? It's a mystery, along with why Yahoo chose the tune for an ad (except that it's so darn catchy).

I've embedded the video of the song below. It's by the performance group Gogol Bordello. The catchy tune part starts at 30 seconds or so. Please note that there is actually very little wearing of purple. Or anything else, for that matter. Apparently, gypsies have a lot of fun.

And, accordions are involved.

Don't Breathe Advisory

As I rounded the corner from Rowena to The Dalles on my morning commute today, I was apparently teleported to the Los Angeles air basin. Or at least that's what the sky looked like. Visibility appeared to be less than 5 miles, pretty unusual for around here.

The National Weather Service isn't too impressed with the air quality either. An Air Stagnation Advisory is in effect for the Gorge and Eastern Oregon. The advisory expires at noon tomorrow (if we don't expire first), as a Pacific weather system moves in to hopefully stir things up.

But, by all means, keep burning those piles of leaves and brush!

View this morning looking west towards The Dalles

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Ray Of Hope

I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but today the Iraq government has taken encouraging steps towards mandating total US troop withdrawal by 2011. And, the Bush administration is apparently OK with that, after being against timetables for withdrawal. Thanks, Mr President. Being willing to change one's mind when circumstances warrant is a sign of maturity.

I'm pretty sure Rush won't approve of this weak-spined flip-flopping though, but as far as Rush is concerned, Obama is already President and is directly responsible for this recession (depression?) plus every other bad thing in the world. Maybe the entire Universe. At least the heat is off the Clinton administration. Oh wait... the current Obama administration IS the Clinton administration. Funny stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pushing On A String

This weeks Hood River Weather site poll wonders what we should do about the impending bankruptcy of the Not So Big 3 U.S. automakers.

My thoughts? I believe capitalism and a "free market" system (with just enough regulatory oversight to keep companies relatively honest and/or legal) are probably the best fit for human nature. Capitalism allows companies to take risks and either succeed or fail based on product quality, consumer demand, and how well the company is run. It's far from a perfect system, but much better than economic systems where the government runs the companies.

Of course, we've never had a pure capitalistic free market system. There have been and always will be elements of government control and socialism sprinkled into the mix. But lately the sprinkling has turned into a downpour, as banks, insurance companies, and now automakers have been deemed "too big to fail". Unfortunately, as economists have increasingly pointed out, some institutions may prove to be "too big to save".

So where do we draw the line with taxpayer money being used to sustain companies with failing business models? My opinion is: right here, right now, starting with US automakers. Let the bankruptcy system work. Let creative destruction eventually fill the niches with leaner, smarter companies. Yes, thousands, perhaps millions of people will suffer tragic economic hardships, at least temporarily. Yes, facing the music and letting companies fail will deepen the recession. But recessions NEED to happen occasionally to wring the excesses out of the previous economic boom times.

And besides, governmental attempts to avoid recessions are usually about as successful as pushing on a string.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

They Knew...

Yet another post about the ongoing global financial meltdown. Sorry, but this stuff is really fascinating to me. But then, I would find an asteroid striking the Earth really fascinating too.

It's the popular consensus that the main (or at least initial) cause of this financial mess was the collapse of the housing bubble. Blame for the bubble and subsequent bust is being placed everywhere: Clinton, Bush, liberals, conservatives, greedy mortgage lenders, under qualified home buyers, crazy types of loans, government regulators asleep at the wheel. All of which are factors, but this misses the Much Bigger Question, which is:

We've had housing boom/bust cycles before. Never before did they threaten to take down the entire global financial system like this. What's so different this time?

What's so different is what was done with the mortgages after they were sold. Wall Street investment companies (Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, etc) were buying up as many mortgages as they could from banks and mortgage companies so they could repackage the loans into exotic instruments sold all over the world as AAA rated "safe" investments. Banks and mortgage companies were more than happy to quickly unload these increasingly risky mortgages onto someone else. Every step along the way, big commissions were being made. Unfortunately each step took the underlying risk and magnified it, while at the same time making the increasing risk less and less visible.

The result? The entire global financial system became an extremely leveraged house of cards, with risky mortgages forming the foundation.

To shift metaphors a bit, when the first domino fell (foreclosures and the drop in housing prices), Wall Street investment companies were the next domino in line. And there are a whole lot more dominoes starting to fall that were set in place by greed and lack of regulatory oversight. Insurance companies, pensions, entire countries, and much much more. We haven't seen the end of this.

Speaking of the end of this, here's an excellent (but lengthy) personal account of what was going on in Wall Street over the past decade. Titled "The End", it is authored by Michael Lewis, who worked for a while in Wall Street, and earlier wrote the book "Liars Poker".

When Bear Sterns and Lehman collapsed, putting thousands of investment analysts out of work, the photos I saw of them leaving their workplace for the last time seemed rather odd. They were mostly all smiling or at least not looking worried. Strange, for having suddenly just lost a very high paying job. But it turns out that a lot of them saw this coming a long time ago, and some even placed (and collected!) multi-million-dollar bets that the risky financial instruments they had created from mortgages would eventually take down the very companies they worked for. Not to mention, most of the global economy.

They knew. They knew...

(another really fascinating global meltdown scenario)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Record Rain

1.21 inches of rain fell yesterday at our house. The Hood River Agrimet station reports 1.05 inches. The previous record for the date was 1.03" in 1966.

Looks like we'll get a break from precipitation for the next week or so.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Warm Storm

Today was (and still is) a totally fascinating weather day in Hood River. For me, it started at 5 am as I staggered out onto the deck with my first cup of coffee. I had heard the wind howling earlier in the night and figured the broken clouds might provide an excellent view of the full moon. I wasn't disappointed. I attempted to take some pictures of the moon with the clouds swirling past it. No go. Kinda looks like a blurry streetlight. My picture taking skills definitely need some work.

Anyway, we had a peak gust at our house of 36 mph at 6:23 am. That's the second highest gust of the year here, surpassed only by the 37 mph gust on January 17.

This is an unseasonably warm storm. This morning's low of 57 most likely set a record for the "high low" for any Nov 12. The previous record was 48 degrees in 1999. Then, afternoon temperatures warmed up to 65 degrees, tying the record high set in 1990. At my workplace in The Dalles, the high reached a balmy 74 degrees. (Don't ya just love the word "balmy"?)

As I write this (6:05 pm), it's still 60 degrees out, and raining heavily. Regionally, there is some concern about localized flooding, but this early in the season there's not enough snow to melt to cause more severe widespread flooding. It's more a problem with leaves clogging storm drains and water backing up.

I sure do enjoy stormy weather, just short of the point where it starts destroying things.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

October Revisited

Compared to historical averages, October at our weather station was cooler, less windy, and drier.

The average temperature was 0.1 degrees cooler than long term averages, and 1.3 degrees cooler than more recent averages (2000-2007). Wind speeds were lower than average, with SW winds predominating.

The month started off with lots of rain, but ended up 0.82 inches below average.

There were no temperature or rainfall records set in October at the official Hood River Agrimet station.

The data below is from our personal weather station. The "historical average" numbers for temperature and rainfall are from the MCAREC Agrimet data. Historical wind average is from our own station's 2000 to 2007 data. It's important to note that average wind speeds include all 24 hours of the day and night, which is why they are way lower than daytime peak winds. In addition, the wind speed at our station is considerably lower than on the Columbia River.

High Low Average Historical Average
Temperature (F) 80

Wind (mph) 27


Rainfall (in) 0.56

1.56 (total)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Thank goodness THAT'S over. I don't know how many more Presidential elections I can take. They're way too polarizing, and way too superficial for my liking.

The final Hood River Weather site poll was Obama 60%, McCain 32%. Nationally, the results were Obama 53%, McCain 46%. In Oregon, Obama 54%, McCain 42%. I don't have the results for Hood River County yet.

Meanwhile, the weather continues on its random walk into late Fall/Winter with lots of rain, some snow in the mountains, and tree leaves falling rapidly all over everything. It's almost as if... as if the Universe somehow goes on its way with very little concern about the political and economic concerns of humans on this tiny rock 93 million miles from an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy in a Universe full of so much more than we can possibly imagine.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rhythm of the Rain

November 1, and the rains have returned. October started off wet, but ended up drier than average. Can't complain, cause we've had some great Fall colors, warm sunny days, and some really cool pastel sunrises.

Bring on the rain. We need it. The next 4 months are critical for returning moisture to the soil and adequate snowpack to the mountains.

Every now and again, when it's gray, rainy, and a tad bit melancholy out, I get the song "Rhythm of the Rain" stuck in my head. It's usually the version by the late great Dan Fogelberg, which I can't embed due to copyright, but here's the link.

Looking around YouTube for the video, I was reminded that the song was originally written and performed by the 60's pop group "The Cascades", who are still kicking around in concert and sounding better than ever:

Why they have aged so much while I remain practically untouched by the passing of time is a mystery.

P.S. Good luck getting the song out of your head...