Saturday, October 27, 2007


The weather this past week has been cooler, so Fall is definitely here. I doubt that we will have any more days in the 80's until next spring, unless we get a tropical system moving right over us. That is possible, but I doubt it. Last winter was wet, this whole year overall has been wet. We had several dry years before this one, and a year ago the entire state of Oklahoma was under a ban on outdoors burning. The ban even included rules for outdoor welding. Wildfires affected large parts of the Tulsa area, including some towns close to me. I'm glad that threat is over.

Many people look forward to winter weather, but I don't! I can handle heavy rain, but I prefer to do without snow, sleet, and ice. Snow I can live with if I have to. But sleet and ice are another matter.

We usually don't get much sleet around here. When it does happen, it doesn't build up much before it turns onto snow. Back in January or February, we had a winter storm that laid down about 3-4 inches of sleet. It looked like snow, but it sure wasn't! I managed to get outside and on the ground right in front of my house where there was a strip that was bare because it was on the sheltered side of the house. I noticed the sun had loosened up a corner of the sleet on top of the concrete porch. I took my shovel and pried off a chunk and tossed it out onto the yard. It didn't sink like it would have it had landed on snow. It just hit with a thud and slid. That sleet pretty much kept me inside the house for the better part of two weeks.

The part of winter that affects me the most is the cold. My mucous membranes defintely do not like the cold! I usually have at least one bad cold every winter.

The weather is not the only thing that is changing at my house. I haven't said much about my family or home life. I live with my mother in a house that once belonged to my grandfather.

My uncle was staying with my grandfather, then my uncle got sick and died. He had heart problems and I believe that's what did him in. My granfather needed someone to stay with him, I was out of a job, my mother and I were living in a garage apartment in Sapulpa and she was paying the rent. We moved in with my grandfather because it was a mutually beneficial arrangement for all of us. My grandfather left the house to Mom, even though she was not his daughter.

Mom has retired since then, and about 3 - 4 years ago she began volunteering to spend Sunday nights at a Christian women's halfway house in Sapulpa. She has been pretty steady there since the place opened. She was the first volunteer they called on to spend the night when their first resident came in. She has volunteered on other nights when they needed someone.

Things have changed at that place, and not for the better. Mom will be spending her last Sunday night there tomorrow night. I think she would like to continue, but she does not agree with some of the things they do, and going there has become a burden. I am concerned, because that place has helped several women that have become Mom's friends. I hope the place doesn't close. Maybe Mom's leaving will send them a signal that they need to change.

I was used to having the house to myself on Sunday nights. I usually did things that I normally wouldnt' do when she was home, because she wasn't in my way. Oh, well, I'll learn to adjust.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Global Warming

I've been reading some discussions on Global Warming lately on a website I check almost daily, the forums. I've not posted anything there, because the site is for storm chasers, and I'm mostly a wannabe. I suspect that my opinions would not be highly regarded, and so they would probably not add much to the discussion.

I am a skeptic. I not only have doubts about anthropogenic GW, but GW itself. I admit I have not looked into the research behind GW claims, so I classify myself as a doubter more than a denier.

GW proponents claim they have the numbers to show that worldwide average temperatures have risen. My question is, where did those numbers come from? In the few college-level science courses I have taken, the validity of numbers from measurements depend on the accuracy of the instrument used, and any envrionmental factors that could affect the measurement. Are the thermometers of 100 years ago as accurate as the ones we use today? The placement of those thermomters could also be an issue. Before WW2, in the US, themometers for the Weather Bureau (now the NWS) were placed in downtown areas where the Bureau offices were. As the use of radar spread, NWS offices moved to airports where the radars where. With the modernization of the NWS, Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) stations were placed at airports near the ends of runways. Sure the sensors are now placed in areas away from heat-retaining buildings, but they are now exposed to jet exhaust. Have these GW studies accounted for these changes?

In Introductory Meteorology, I learned that the earth's heat budget is always balanced, unlike our federal budget. All the heat that enters our atmosphere eventually leaves by radiating out into space. Greenhouse gases are said to retain heat, so the questions that come to my mind are these: How long do the gases "hold on" to the heat? What will happen because of this reatined heat? How much heat is retained?

Another thing I learned in Intro Meteorol. is the compostion of the atmosphere is a known mixture of gases of known porportion. If man is adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, are we changing the compostion of the atmosphere? Is it enough to account the amount of warming claimed?
Combustion of fossil fuels not only produces carbon dioxide, but water vapor as well. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. Do the climate models account for water vapor? Have humidity values gone up?

Averages are statistics. We hear of scientists conducting studies that produce the GW claims, but have statisticians reviewed the math?

I suppose I shall have to look at these studies for myself to find the answers to these questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sometimes things work out better than you think!

I created a form for keeping track of the number of cases I handle each day. I log calls from new clients into a database that automatically generates a number for each record. I record the number of the first and last case for each day. One day about a week ago, I thought I had taken only 6 calls, but when I checked the database to get the numbers for my form, I had 9 calls! It just didn't seem like it had been that many. I guess I'm getting better at this job.

Yesterday I had a chance to get into Sapulpa to take care of some things. I got to buy some much needed pants. I'm hard to fit and I have several pairs wearing out. In particular, I was looking for jeans. I was wearing a pair with a 54" waist (yep, I'm a big boy!), and found 2 pair of 50 x 32. In my haste, I thought I was getting 52 x 30, which I was sure would fit because the 54's are a bit loose. Last night I tried on a pair of the 50's and they fit almost as if they were made for me. Actually, I need about a 28 - 29 inch inseam.

Sometimes things do work out better than what you think they will.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Strange Thing Happened Today

I've been working at home providing installation support for Autodesk student products for 6 months. I have served about 300 clients. I have had a few send me e-mails to say thanks for the help I provided. Those client were ones that I had sent instructions to by e-mail on what to do.

Today, for the first time, one client called just to say thanks! I had sent him some instructions yesterday, and today he had an unexpected warning come up in the middle of the process. He called me to determine what to do. Workng from clues in the warning message and the instructions, I determine he could proceed with the process. The warning said he had restricted the permissions on a particular item to the Owner. According to the instructions, he would be granting Full Control to Everyone.

After I told him to go ahead and finish the process and that he might have to repeat the process to clear a bunch of error messages. But he had to go through the process only once to get his program installed.

I'm not posting this to brag on myself, but to brag on him. He could have gone on using the program and not said anything.
Most people that call will say thanks towards the end of the call, and I believe that this guy did on his previous call. He still had some of the process to go through after that call, and he could have not called back just to say thanks. But he did.

This illustrates how often we don't take time to appreciate the good things we take for granted. Also, we often don't take time to express our appreciation to others. We may say "Thank you," to someone who holds open a door, or to the clerk that waits on us at the convenience store, but are we just being polite, or do we recognize the value of what they did? Something to think about...

Oh, and if you live in California and you know a guy named Ron Holt who uses AutoCAD 2004, treat him like a special person, because he is!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on weather

While I was watching the radar loops of the storms that moved through eastern Oklahoma last night, I noticed something that I'm not sure is nomal. Some of the squall lines seemed to fragment. I'm not talking about gaps in the line but the forward edge of all segments stay aligned. I'm also not talking about a bow echo that breaks away from the rest of the line. What I saw was a portion break away and move forward a few miles ahead of the rest of the line. I don't know what it means, but I wouldn't be surprised if topography contributed to this happening. I also noticed that as the main squall line approached the Arkansas line, it solidified.

I wish I knew more about interpreting the forecast models. I read the forecast threads on the Stormtrack forum, and much of what they say on there goes over my head when they mention the models. I think I may have a strategy to simplify things.

In spotter training, the NWS mets always mention the four ingredients for severe weather: Moisture, Instability, Lift, and Shear. Moisture is needed because moist air is buoyant, that is, it is less dense than dry air and so it tends to rise. Instability is the tendency of rising air to keep rising once it starts. Lift is a mechanism, such as a front or a hillside, that gives the process a start. These first 3 ingredients will account for rain or basic storms, but shear is needed to make a storm severe. Shear is a change in either wind direction or speed as altitude increases.

If you look at the the initials of those ingredients, they spell MILS. I think that I shall call my system the MILS system.

The models show all kinds of parameters plotted on maps. I could look at the models and try to figure out what all the numbers mean. Or I could look at just these ingredients.

Before I launch this system, I need to do a little study to determine the critical values for each ingredient, and then figure out a way to plot these values on maps. Sounds like a good winter project to get ready for next spring!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not a bad birthday

Well, I didn't get to see much today in the way of directly observing severe weather. But I did get to follow some of the coverage of storms that blew through my area. I am still listening to the weather net on the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club's UHF link system at this time (2200 CDT). Storms have moved out of Okahoma, and I suspect the net will end soon.

My problem with storm watching right now is a real estate issue - location, location, location! I live close to the bottom of a ridge line that runs mostly north and south, and the ridge is to my west. Another ridge that runs east and west lies to my north. The ground to my east gently slopes uphill, but the treeline of a creek sits about half a block away. Lots of trees to the south, too. So, unless something is almost right on top me, I can't see diddly, or the storms!

Not long after 1 PM, I made my run (walk, actually) to the PO and then headed towards one of the two convenience store for something for a special b-day lunch. As I approached the local car wash, I noticed a young police officer WASHING a brand new patrol unit! I stopped and told him he must have really wanted it to storm! We talked for a bit about the storm threat for today. I had talked to him some last year when I volunteered to do some spotting for the town. (That hasn't worked out so well, due to my limited transportation options.) I found out he is taking over as Chief for a year as the regular Chief is going to Afghanistan for a year as a consultant to the police forces there. I told him that I might be able to get a car soon, and then I can start working on helping the town put together a spotting program.

Later, as I headed south down my street, I could feel outflow from a cell to my southwest hit me in the face. When I got home and woke up my computer, it showed me the Press Cntrl-Alt-Del screen. A power spike must have struck while I was away.

Anyway, I enjoyed a lunch of salad, boneless chicken strips and nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips. The first wave, mostly rain, moved through soon afterwards. I didn't bother to look at it bacause a gap developed in the squall line and guess where the gap headed - right at Kiefer. Redevlopment filled in the line, but with rain that lasted a while. Skies cleared between 4 and 6 PM, and then next wave moved in.

Storms that first developed west of I-35 moved into Pawnee and Osage Cos. A crescent shaped line popped up in Creek Co. south of I-44 with the center of the arc near Bristow in the middle of the county. This crescent moved northeast towards Sapulpa and Sand Springs. Part of this storm developed a funnel between Sapulpa, Sand Springs, and Tulsa.
Soon afterwards, around 7 PM, straightline winds lifted, then dropped a large tent and its poles in west Tulsa in a park on the Arkansas River. A private, corporate event was going on at the time in connection with Tulsa's Octoberfest, and about 40 people were injured. The genereal manager of KTUL-TV, the local ABC affliate, was there and reported from the scene. One of my fellow hams, Fred Williams, KD5NBR, and a chaser for the station, reported in and also sent in video of the first responders and the downed tent.
The sad irony of the Octoberfest incident is that Jim Giles, the chief meteorologist for KOTV, the CBS affliate, had been very involved with the event in the past. He passed away late last year, and he had worked so hard throughout his career to protect lives.

Anyway, in between the storms, I had pizza, which has been a rare treat for me the last two years.

I didn't get any presents, unless you count the pizza my Mom paid for, and she gave me a handmade 'card'. That doesn't matter much, as I pretty much enjoyed myself today. In case you're wondering how old I am, I've reached the point where I don't mind having a birthday, I just don't care to count them anymore!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And now for the weather...

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman OK is forecasting severe weather for my area tomorrow, October 17, 2007. That would be a fitting present for my 53rd birthday! It would also help with this disease I have, called SDS. I know it sounds ominous, but it is just Supercell Deprivation Syndrome.

SDS started as a joke on the website of Texas stormchaser Steve Miller. (Not to be confused with the Oklahoma storm chaser, Steve Miller of Moore) Many storm chasers, wannabes, and other severe weather enthusiasts have picked up on this and speak of it as a real disease, and for some, it is a very serious condition. But even those people will probably admit that SDS is a humorous way to deal with an extended lack of severe weather.

I look forward to seeing at least parts of some storms. The last supercell activity I witnessed was in the spring of 2006. I saw a storm near Mannford in northern Creek County that was moving to the northeast into western Tulsa County. It had a vigorous flanking line of towers quickly growing into the main storm tower. I tried to report this to the NWS in Tulsa, but the batteries in my handheld transciever ran out of power. I'll try not to make this mistake tomorrow. I've got one HT charging up right now, and I'll plug in the other one before I go nighty-night.

For those who don't know what a supercell is, it is the type of severe thunderstorm that is most likely to produce a tornado. Not all supercells produce tornados, in fact, most don't. But supercells are always considered severe because they often produce large hail and potentially damaging winds.

You might have seen a supercell and not realized it. The most visible features of a supercell are a main storm tower at its center, an anvil cloud that spreads downwind from the top of the main tower, pouch-like mammatus under the anvil, a rain-free base, and a wall cloud extending down from the rain-free base. If the wall cloud is rotating, the storm could be ready to drop a tornado, or at least a funnel cloud.

This is a "picture" of what a basic supercell looks like, minus the mammatus under the anvil. You can also see a backsheared anvil on the backside of the storm, and an overshooting top, or dome above the anvil. Some supercells will have striations on the main storm tower that will give it a "barber pole" or even a "stacked plates" appearance. These indicate strong rotation in the middle of the storm, and the potential for severe weaher or tornados. I might add these extra features later, but you can see a much, much better illustration of a supercell look around at for a drawing by Charles Doswell. The view is to the northwest, and the storm moves from the southwest to the northwest.

Well, this thread is not intended to be a tutorial on severe weather. I just hope I get to see a real supercell soon instead of a drawing!

Chances are good that I will see something. The Day 2 Convective Outloook shows Tulsa in the middle of a Moderate risk, 45% hatched area! Some of the chasers posting on the Stormtrack forum forecast thread have noted the possibility of busting tomorrow, but we shall see!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Some Thoughts About Work

I had a busy day today. I took 9 cases. Some cases required more than one call, several required sending e-mails. I struggled through most of the day because of an addiction I have. Yes, I am about to reveal a deep, dark secret.

I am addicted to Stargate SG-1. I don't have cable, so I don't see any first run episodes until they are shown on the air in Tulsa. The local station that carries Stargate SG-1 doesn't show it until 1 AM Sunday nights. So, most of the day I was dragging a bit, even at my best.

I get paid by the case. Some days I don't make much, some days I do fairly good. Today was one of my better days. The annoying thing is that most of the calls came in the afternoon, after my paycheck arrived, and they kept preventing me from leaving to go to the bank. I have to walk to the bank, and I didn't get there until well after the lobby closed. Even though I was on foot, I used the drive-thru. The teller is familiar with me, so she was willing to serve me.

On busy days like this, I do have to remind myself of my philosophy of work. Work is worthwhile. Nothing happens in this world without it. Work has given this country the highest standard of living anyone in the world has ever known. I do not work just to get a paycheck, but to earn a paycheck. Anyone who takes that attitude will eventually succeed.
Too many people see their jobs as just a function they perform. Every job exists to solve a problem. If you approach your job that way, you will see the value in it. One of the greatest feelings in the world is to solve a problem, to finish a task, to do a job well.

Having said that, I also see the value of rest and recreation. So I will end this post with this:

A deputy was patrolling the backroads near the county seat when he comes across a farmer and a sheep walking towards town. He pulls over and asks the farmer what is going on. The farmer replies, "I'm taking this sheep to the sale barn to get the money to buy the part I need to fix my truck." The deputy informs the farmer that the sale barn is closed that day because the owner is sick, but it should be open the next day.
The farmer says with a sigh, "I guess I'll just go tomorrow," and turns back the other way with the sheep following him. He doesn't go but a few steps when the deputy says, "I'm sorry, sir, but I must give you a ticket."
"Why? What did I do wrong?" the farmer reacts in disbelief. "Well, sir," the deputy replies, "you did make a ewe turn!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My first entry

Welcome to Random Contact, the blog of Douglas D. Lee. I will post here information, thoughts and ideas on a variety of subjects that interest me. Two of my biggest interests are weather and ham radio.

The title came from a title I thought up for a column I wrote for a while in the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club's newsletter. The editor decided not to use that title, but made up one that sounded more like I was writing a series of opinion pieces. My intent, then as now, was to present more than opinions. I will present opinions here, but sometimes I will just present information.

First some background info about me.
I was born in Wichita KS, and have lived most of my life in northeast Creek County, to the southwest of Tulsa OK. Currently I live in Kiefer, a small but growing town southeast of the county seat, Sapulpa. I also work at home providing installation support for people that have bought student versions of Autodesk software. Autodesk makes the leading computer drafting program, AutoCAD, as well as a popular animation program, 3D Studio Max.

The company I work for is Star Training Institute. Their main business right now is workshops about AutoCAD and other software. They used to have regular classes in drafting, computer animation, and computer systems. I went through those classes to learn drafting. About a month after finishing those classes, they hired me to do drafting and 3D modeling on a contract basis. My drafting experience covers various areas, but most has been mechanical parts or overhead cranes. My car died a couple of years ago, and I couldn't always get rides in to work when I was needed, so I was out of work for about a year. Six months ago, Star set me up to work at home because they needed an extra person to help with the support calls. I've been saving up to get another vehicle and get back into drafting.

Ten years ago, I became a storm spotter and a ham radio operator. I spotted for Creek County Emergency Management from 1997 to 2000. Since then, I have spotted from home or work, and reported directly to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Tulsa by ham radio.

My interest in weather led me into ham radio. Beyond storm spotting, I also enjoy public service and emergency communications, antenna building, and hidden-transmitter hunting (foxhunting). Just before my car died, I was involved in the ham radio response in the Tulsa area to Hurricane Katrina. I spent one week recruitng and scheduling HF operators to run the station at the Red Cross center in Tulsa. Then I spent two days recruiting and scheduling hams to provide communications at Camp Gruber, a National Guard training base near Muskogee that became a shelter for evacuees. This exerience led to my first published article as a writer. It appeared in the March 2006 issue of QST, the magazine of the American Radio Relay League.

I guess that's enough for now. Further posts will range from the personal to the intellectual, from the political to the spiritual.