Hurricane Joaquin forecast contest begins

Hey! The tropics have awoken and there’s a not-unreasonable chance that the newly-upgraded Hurricane Joaquin will make landfall. Here’s your chance to test your forecast skill:

Submit your forecast by 00 UTC on October 2 (8 PM EDT Thursday). If Joaquin does not make landfall, we’ll just pretend like this never happened. For previous forecast game results, see

New entries in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame

Radar estimates of wind speed aren’t always the most reliable for a variety of reasons, but on Friday, forecasters in Memphis, TN opted to believe the radar instead of the surface observation. Maybe because the Millington station was reporting a 343 MPH wind gust.

NWS forecasters are public servants dedicated to preserving life and property. It should come as no surprise that they are sometimes moved by uncontrollable bursts of patriotism. Chris Hattings in Riverton, WY felt very Jeffersonian on Independence Day.

Both of these discussions have been added to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.

Impact of license selection on open source software quality

I’ve made several vague references to my master’s thesis on this blog, but I’ve never said much of substance. Your long wait is over though, as I’ve finally gotten around to uploading it and creating a research page on the website. If you don’t want to read the full thesis, there’s a condensed version that was presented at a conference in March (and won best paper in the session, I might add).

The even more condensed version is that my research shows (to my dismay) that copyleft projects tend to have higher technical debt than permissively-licensed projects. What’s more interesting than the results is the pile of questions that it brings up.

I’ll admit that my methods are not necessarily the most stringent, particularly when it comes to how quality is proxied (or even the quantification of technical debt). My methodology was partly driven by convenience and partly driven by the dearth of research available on the topic. Of course, the steep price of the C/C++ plugin hampered my ability to get a good sample.

I hope someone else picks up where I left off and does a more detailed analysis. For my own part, I hope to be able to conduct some research in my “spare time”. In addition to the mere study of differences in debt, I’d like to see how non-license project governance affects software quality. There was no analysis in my study of developer quantity, funding, etc. The ultimate goal is to develop concrete recommendations for FLOSS project leaders that would improve the quality of the finished product.


Building my website with blatter

I recently came across a project called “blatter”. It’s a Python script that uses jinja2’s template engine to build static websites. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d been looking for. I don’t do anything too fancy with, but every once in a while I want to make a change across all (or at least most) pages. For example, I recently updated the default content license from CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 United States to CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International. It’s a relatively minor change, but changing it everywhere is a real pain.

Sure, I could switch to a real CMS (heck, I already have WordPress installed!) or re-do the site in PHP, but that sounded too much like effort. I like my static pages that are artisinally hand-crafted slapped together in vi, but I also like being able to make lazy changes. And I really like page-to-page consistency. With blatter, I can create a few small templates and suddenly changes can be made across the whole site in just a few seconds.

Blatter smoothly merges static and templated content. The only downside is that because it seems to touch all files every time it builds (blats), pushing the new content to my website becomes a larger task. That’s not a huge concern because of the relatively small size of the content, but it’s something that seems fixable. So pretty much all of the site has been blatterized now. For the most part, you shouldn’t really notice any changes.

Introducing redacted horoscopes

On Sunday,  I was sitting down with the newspaper. The crossword puzzle was proving to be more of a challenge than I particularly cared to tackle. My eyes wandered to the horoscopes. I started redacting words and realized that they became funny. Channeling my inner Yossarian, I ran my pen through the rest.

The horoscopes were short enough to tweet, so I did. They got a good reception, and I decided this should be A Thing [tm]. Thus, a new Twitter account (@RedactedHoros) and finally some content in the fun & games section. Redacted Horoscopes
will update most Sundays and also on the occasional weekday.

A new item on the weather humor page

The weather humor page hasn’t seen much love in a long time. It’s not that the weather stopped being funny (although this past winter stopped being funny in mid-January), I just haven’t added to it. Fortunately, my friend Scott noticed that the forecast office in Hastings, NE seems to have resumed its bad habit of canceling things it ought not cancel. Sure, it’s silly to pick on a poorly-worded product issued in the middle of a severe weather event, but silly is what I do.

New entry in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame

You have probably already seen an early-morning AFD from Juneau making the rounds on the Internet. The forecaster compares selecting a model to speed dating. Although the bulk of the humor is in the first paragraph, the theme persists through the rest. Certainly this is a cultural touchstone worthy of enshrining in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.

Ten years since Jamestown

Ten years ago, I was sitting in my apartment on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. My last class of the day ended around 1:30 and I was settled in to get some work done on the forecast game that I ran for the University. WFO Lincoln had issued a few tornado warnings and there were reports of cold air funnels, so my friend Mike Kruze and I decided to spend the afternoon driving around getting rained on. Instead, we saw one of the most photogenic tornadoes ever recorded in Indiana. And then another one. And then a third (though this one is unofficial, since we could not see the ground from our position and no damage was observed in the empty field).

This was only two days after Mike and I had returned from a marathon drive to northern Iowa, where the most we saw was vivid lightning and large hail after sunset. By this point, I had been chasing for a year and a half. Chase attempts evolved from some undergrad doofuses piling in the car and driving around to a fairly mature venture with thoughtful forecasts, data stops, and real efforts to be in position. Of course, as luck would have it, April 20 ended up being somewhat of a doofus day. Mike had a data plan on his Sprint PCS phone, and it was just enough for us to pull up the occasional radar image. Without that, we’d never have found ourselves standing in rural Boone County with a tornado directly to our west.

At the time of the Jamestown tornado, wasn’t even a gleam in my eye. I was planning on making a career in the National Weather Service. I figured chasing would be a thing I did with regularity. Ten years on, I’ve earned my meteorology degree, but I’ve never worked as a professional in the field. I have one chase day in the last five years, and I’m less than a year from a decade-long tornado drought. I’ve still only chased west of the Mississippi twice. With a toddler and home and another baby due early summer, I’m not likely to get out this year. But I still feel the gentle tug of the storm, pulling me to go out and seek it. I know I will at some point. I just don’t know when.