Organization? Intensification? Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.


Line drive to center field!

The question is now not how strong, but…. How wet? The color here indicates total precipitable water. Looks pretty wet over the storm itself, and that’s before any localized effects like cold air inside the system smacking into hot wet air over land. Anyone else remember t.s. Irene some years back?

Erika’s travel plans…

The final points in the computer models now show potential landfall areas for the storm.


Wind shear is still very present and limiting strengthening of the system, though.


This is a good time to make sure your supplies are in order, trim some trees perhaps, but don’t panic. We get normal summer thunderstorms with wind speeds only a few ticks below this. The stronger portions of the storm are fairly small and organization isn’t great.

Oh, if you signed up for the Cone On Your Phone, consider yourself officially laughed at. Ha-ha! Ain’t media fear mongering great?

11 pm advisory on T.S. Erika


The computer models are all in strong agreement that this storm is coming near Florida on Sunday. It’s forecast to be a tropical storm until just before nearing Florida, at which point intensification to category 1 hurricane is expected. I’ve enabled the sea surface temperature color overlay on this map to illustrate why.

Yeeeowch that’s hot.

Sorry, my One State Under Rick Scott has banned me from saying “CLIMATE CHANGE”.

The sea creatures are out there drinking frozen martinis to cope with these sea surface temps. Boaters are advised to watch out for tipsy porpoises.

As always, if you want to play with this cool data visualization tool, QSY to the University of Wisconsin CIMSS tropical page and click on the system of interest.

First impressions with Shark FM

Simulated Walnut Grain Finish. It's almost as great as Tri-Color Foaming Wax.

104.3 changed format from talk radio to —???

I still haven’t figured it out but it seems like a re-themed Bob FM or Jack FM. The original theory was that it’s rock or alternative but then it inexplicably plays bits of top 40 EDM?

Yes, I’m listening on an old scanner because their processing is currently so bad it’s unlistenable on better speakers. Hopefully they’ll improve that very very soon.

Going down?


I used to think that escalators arrived in pieces and had to be assembled on site like some kind of Ikea furniture.

Apparently not. They come in one piece and get hoisted right in there!

Note the featureless rectangular pit that the bottom of the escalator sits in. I’d seen these pits in the remains of the Omni Mall in downtown Miami during a bit of good ol’ urban exploration and wondered what the heck I was looking at. Well now I know, and knowing is half the battle…??




One of these days I would love to get my hands on the husk of one of these stupid machines, install a wobbly fascia over the card slot mimicking a badly installed skimmer, hollow it out, put an ill fitting monitor behind the window and a single board computer inside. Upon a user inserting a card and entering a pin number, both of which will promptly be discarded by the software, a small but powerful blower will launch a shower of glitter over the user and a receipt will print yelling at the user for swiping their card on such a dodgy piece of crap and explaining the risks.

Maybe then others will realize just how dumb these mini ATM’s truly are.

They’re insecure, can even be outright completely replaced by a compromised device, and are likely a pretty good source of card skimming fraud.

And even if it isn’t compromised, the fee is $WTFPILLAGE.

Look at this stupid unmatched pin pad. Could you even remotely consider taking this seriously? I can't. WTF.

Orange! Yeah, that’s right.

GE put up a really cool video with a point of view shot of one of the CSX juice train’s daily voyages from Bradenton, Florida, to Kennesaw, New Jersey.

From the data shown at the end of the video, this got 4.55 gallons per mile (0.22 mpg).

That is, however, towing and refrigerating 41 cars packed with oranges.

That’s amazingly efficient. 🙂

Watch it roll!

Mold-Mart. The mold at Walmart.

So I’ve already contacted store management about this several times and it hasn’t been fixed beyond a quick wipe down of the surface the price labels are on — I’m hoping if I publicly yell about it here this will get fixed. This is the dairy case at the Walmart in Hallandale Beach, Florida, on Hallandale Beach Boulevard. And here’s your glamour shot of black furry mold. Delicious, right?! Ewww. Come on guys, mix up some bleach and water and spray that crap down till it’s gone. Pressure washing the shelves may actually be necessary the first time around but a maintenance procedure is gonna be needed to keep that mold off.


The Tri-Rail GP49 mod, and where it went wrong


I kind of have a sixth sense thing going on when it comes to engineering. Everything around me gets pretty severely disassembled, at least in my mind. The first time I saw one of these, my sixth sense was NOPEing hard. I was baffled. Why did they do this?

So this is a General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) model GP49. It pulls or pushes things on rails. They were made for the Alaska Railroad and contain a radar guided wheel slip detection/control system for use in icy conditions.

Here, they’ve been made to do a very inappropriate job, and all of us are suffering from the resulting failures.

What’s wrong here? Everything.

First, these units have two cooling fans for the engine, one for the dynamic brakes (resistor grid used as an energy sink, using the motors as generators). Normally, a locomotive of its size would have three.

Above: radiator air intakes. The fans are on the roof below them.

Below: air intakes to cool field installed head end power generator.

Passenger train cars use head end power (HEP) supplied by the locomotive to power lights, air conditioning, cooking equipment for dining cars, etc. This is usually a 480 volt ac 3 phase circuit. The GP49 did not come with a HEP generator so a separate engine/generator pack was added below the radiators and these air vents were popped in to wash cold air over it and keep it from roasting.

Only problem, oops— this allows a lot of air to bypass straight to the exhaust fans without passing through the radiator.

The hot engine alarms and shutdown kick in. A lot.

Currently it is not uncommon for Tri-Rail to run two of these units together, one with only the main engine active, and one only supplying HEP. This reduces the heat load and usually prevents the whole thing catching a fever.


Now you may have seen me mention a radar.

Wheel speed sensor on an F40PH. Sand nozzle at left.

On smarter diesel electric locomotives, there are protection systems in place to deal with wheel slippage. A speed sensor is usually provided on each axle. Analog or digital electronics will test the wheel speed and compare. If one or more axles are spinning too fast, indicating a slip event in progress, corrective logic will activate, reducing the amount of current available to the traction motors by cutting the main generator field current, and possibly applying sand to the rails to make things grip again.

With the GP49, the logic goes a step further. A radar detector actually measures the speed of the train moving over clips and plates on the track.

The idea behind this is that a wheel slip event affecting all wheels can be detected and corrected.

The only problem here is that this system is a little too paranoid. It won’t let the kilowatts flow until it sees the wheels all turning at the right speed to match the radar reading, and it only allows for very slow takeoff.

As of late, either due to updates to the control systems or (convenient?) equipment failure, this seems to be disappearing on the GP49s and they actually…. move.

The overheating problem is still there and very bad, though. Yuck.

How could it be corrected? This would be a tricky one. My best ideas would be to add the third fan, or otherwise increase airflow. Perhaps add a baffle under the radiator and open up the area below to more air for the generator? This one’s gonna be tricky due to the narrow body of the locomotive.

Or just completely reverse the hep modification and place the generator in a separate power wagon? I seem to recall Amtrak having done that.

Train pee. Eww.
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