Extended Forecast


The weather is here

Vacationers tend to obsess about the weather. They pray for blue skies and dread gray overcast horizons. Weather happens because of changes wrought by transient pressure systems. Case in point, an area of low pressure moved over southern New England last night bringing showers and downpours to the beaches. These were not welcomed by vacationing families paying two grand for a week in a quaint cottage with a water view. Stressed out employees who day dreamed of a vacation spent idling away sunny daylight hours with “no or at least low” pressure are not going to be pleased with today’s weeping skies.

The weather experts have predicted a dramatic confrontation between this morning’s low-pressure system and the arrival of a cold front this afternoon. When the two collide we’ll be drenched with thunderstorms that are expected to linger until sometime tomorrow. Fog and low-lying clouds will blanket the beaches. It’s not going to be a good day for Annette Funicello to play bingo.Image

What’s outside the window right now determines what’s going to happen later. The problem with forecasts is that they are based on complex mathematical equations called models. Weather models are subject to changes in winds, currents, and pressure. Weather forecasts are often wrong. Anyone who has ever come across the cover model of an issue of Cosmopolitan or paid attention to fashion knows for certain that models are not perfect.  A fashion model’s errors are made right by airbrushes, collagen, and plastic surgeons.

Too many people rely on The Weather Channel and newspaper weather maps rather than simply taking stock of what’s happening now. Sherlock Holmes once said, “The world is full of  obvious things that nobody by any chance ever observes.[1] It’s relatively easy to become in tune with what is now. First, you have to intentionally pay attention. Don’t just look out the window, it’s impossible to feel the wind, smell the air, see the sky, and touch the weather from the inside of a window. By tuning into some things and tuning out other things we become awake and aware. If you shut your eyes and go outside it’s pretty easy to figure out whether your skin is wet from perspiration caused by heat and humidity or stinging sleet.  We become one with the weather.


Not an optimal time to sail

What happens when we pay attention is that our consciousness slips between what we are observing and thinking about ourselves. Watching the subtle ripples and hearing the soft gurgles of an ebbing tide along a rocky shore or sensing the changes in clouds by the degree of warmth on our body brings forth a deep connection between consciousness and nature. Just as the clouds shift shapes and the winds change direction we change as a consequence of being in tune with our surroundings.

Pressure is part of what is within and around us. The weather, our jobs and vacations are all subject to chaos. The present is a precursor to the future but there is no way to predict exactly what’s going to happen later on.  We get a clue about what comes next by paying close attention to what’s going on right now.  If the barometer is rising the skies are going to clear. Pack a cooler and get outside. If the pressure drops pull out the Monopoly board. Either way, it’s going to be a great day. Obviously, if there was no pressure there would not be anything.


Becalmed – awaiting adventure

[1] The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Royal Rains: Maine Squeeze 42 Redux


Forty two summers ago we planned a honeymoon to Little Dick's Bay in the 
coral blue, balmy waters of the Caribbean. We cancelled two weeks before 
the wedding when it became obvious that the $11.98 balance in George's 
check book would not cover travel and lodging.  

Plan B was enacted. We did a road trip to Bar Harbor, Maine and took a 
ferry to Nova Scotia. The first realism of our wedded bliss was, when it 
pours every day for seven straight days, even the raging hormones of two 
twenty something kids in love succumb to Maine's Rains. 
I  recall looking out the car window back then and seeing a 
dreary vista of endless green trees and gunmetal gray that reached 
from sky to sea. It was exactly the same as it looks today. I doubt 
anyone could return the same compliment to us as we roll up Coastal 
Route 1, the slowest road in the USA that connects sassy travelers 
from Miami with Moose in Caribou.

Today the western world rejoices with the birth of Britain's royal heir. 
He immediately contributed continuity to the human experience by making 
it possible to know the name of the future king of The United Kingdom 
that will probably rule into the next century (the Windsor's are born 
with nearly eternal batteries).

Two items of mine make it possible to intimately connect to a time 
before the birthing of my brood during the last quarter moon of the 
past century. The first is a picture taken of me at a cheap hotel in 
Bar Harbor on my honeymoon. The later is the contents of my suitcase 
opened this morning in a somewhat less modest motel. The first had bugs 
in the shower stall. The present had a free breakfast Buffet.

In the fading photo a skinny 20 year old college kid (between junior 
and senior year) with long dark hair and freckles is wearing a tight 
pair of salmon colored jeans, a multi-striped tee shirt, flip flops, 
and a broad brimmed floppy hat. In my parrot decorated canvass bag 
you'll find a pair of salmon capris, a navy/white striped long sleeve 
jersey, flip flops, and my 5 o'clock wide brimmed sailing hat.  
Fortunately, the same loving man is willing to snap a picture. 

Some say there are two types of people. Those who are always evolving 
with the times. They tend to be open to change and flexible. The rest 
are stuck in some moment of their past that defined their sense of self. 
That pretty much sums up the stereotype of a New Englander. That moment 
is some time between whenever a dominant ancestor walked off a boat 
into a new life and the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. 

PrepAs for me, it must be that the times they were 
changing as I came of age and my life long preference for stripes and 
preppy clothes reflects that era. Stripes contrast what is and what's 
not, and prep is a preference for an enduring clean cut, hopefully 
not snobbish perspective.  It is a costume for someone who rides 
with the changes but keeps some things in life on an even keel. 

Its nice to celebrate the Prince's birth in a place populated by 
descendants of people who long ago revolted against the crown who 
profess deep affection for the Royals. May his grandpa and daddy 
preserve and protect this baby's future as a gilded age of Pax.  
Long  live the King.
royal coat of arms


Sea Roaches

It's Hot



Sea Roach

This week the mercury eked its way up to three digits territory in all but four of the continental states. All along the Rhode Island beaches (Jersey is the shore, the Ocean State is the Beach) swimmers were grossed out by nasty critters affectionately known as Sea Roaches. Body surfers splashed about in masses of quarter to half-inch long bugs that are blessed with tiny but strong claws. When the surf tears the crustacean isopods from seaweed they follow ‘any port in a storm” advice and hold on to hairy chests, swimsuits and the lot.

I admire the critters’ tenacity for life and ability to clear the beach. They are tiny vacuum cleaners that exist on algae and other crud that balance the ecosystem.  Sea Roaches are newcomers to coastal life believed to be part of the new world made possible by global warming. They cope with rising sea temperatures by making lots of love and millions of more critters. This summer swimmers are enjoying the warmest waves in recent memory, calm seas, and fair winds. It’s also as hot as Dante’s Sixth Circle of Hell – the one that burns up heretics who don’t believe in Heaven or that Satan fans the searing fires of their eternal domain.

Sea Roaches remind us that what seems okay for some is hell for others. Vacationers complain that the critters keep giving them little pricks. Actually, Mother Nature is doling out the little pricks.

Everyone knows that high doses of Mercury are lethal but beach goers believe that they can dodge the bullet. It’s not the power of sunscreen – they seek the refreshing balm of cool salt water. Yesterday the heat index in New York City, which is an island surrounded by an ocean current, was 107. It was a killer day with much suffering in brick high rises. Today, the National Weather Service issued an Urgent Heat Warning that advises New Yorkers to reschedule strenuous outside activities to a shady or air conditioned place. People should wear light clothing, rest frequently, and hydrate.

Damn the sea roaches – they are also called Sea Pills! Perhaps the coastal waters are teaming with the ultimate cure for heat waves. Besides, for many of us, enduring the obnoxious effects of little pricks is just another day in Paradise. Grab a cooler and man the beach umbrellas – get thee to a beach!

With respect for all who cannot find respite from the heat in pools, ponds, and seas consider one course of action. Shed all but the most modest of clothing, sit in front of a fan and read Jaws. You’ll be glad you’re not treading water among a million little pricks wondering whether something more lethal lies within these waters.


Jaws & Beer

Apophenia or Chaos Theory?


Less Ado – More Nothing

I was never able to follow the TV show, Seinfeld for two reasons. I taught graduate classes every Thursday night when it aired and there was no such thing as a DVR.

The subject of one of our faculty retreats was the question, “What is Sienfeld about?” It was a heady crew and not having seen many episodes, I thought we shared a rather existential conversation framed by the group’s consensus, “Nothing.”

I just found a word that may define the theme of this blog, Apophenia.

3 Circles & 1 Line

3 Circles 1 Line

Apophenia is a new word for me, freshly discovered by Googling “what does it mean to see patterns between unconnected concepts?”. Somewhere in the Cloud, perhaps generated by the wisdom of Larry Paige and Larry David, the word that emerged was, Apophenia.  Apophenia describes my philosophical proclivity to see patterns and connections between otherwise random data. As a researcher and evaluator, apophenia is a good thing because it helps to identify Type I errors. Type I, as in detecting a false positive or false pattern in the data. This leads the researcher to say, “Don’t jump to conclusions.” In my business, a bad jump can be a career killing error.

Apophenia is something about nothing – it’s a quest to find the something that binds reality.  Sometimes something really is bugging us that no longer exists but still has power over our future. Save that thought for your shrink but avoid it after two margaritas.

Everyone experiences apophenia – conspiracy theorists more than others (are the UFO’s in Roswell, NM hiding the missing bullet from the Kennedy Asasination?). Perhaps the most famous apopheniac was portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. How fast can you count toothpicks or cards?

Butterflies and Chaos


This blog is also about Chaos Theory, the science of surprises. The world is made up of relationships that don’t follow a straight path from A to Z. It’s okay to skip a vowel or consonant whenever we try to make sense of our life experience. Chaos Theory and Apophenia make it acceptable to refrain from predicting the future or worry about things we can’t control. Chaos Theory helps us see connections between a butterfly flapping its wings on one continent and a hurricane in another and between the glaciers melting in the Arctic and monarch butterflies disappearing in Mexico.

These ways of knowing the world call for us to question whether  the nature of the universe is to establish connections. Recognizing connections, seeking patterns in a random world gives birth to fresh insights and great wisdom. Making connections changes the way the world is viewed. Seeing the world through chaos changes what is – to what can be.

There is another word that describes my blog but it’s less exotic. I’ll credit this one to the psychiatrist Carl Jung who used the word synchronicity to describe connecting things in the mind with other events in the world. Jung cautions that two random events are probably just that unless connected by a person’s subjectivity.We want to make sense of the world by believing there is a certain order to existence. There is a more subtle desire implied by synchronicity. People want to believe that many connections have causal relationships. We hear the adage “things happen for a reason” to rationalize misfortune. The optimist exercises synchronicity when giving money to a panhandler believing he will use it for food. Money in a tin cup and food at the quick mart have no real connections unless one wants them to be linked. Reality is mostly in our heads.

It’s all about the word. Is this blog about apophenia or nothing? Chaos Theory or Synchronicity? And if none of them fit and a tree falls in the forest will a bear still defecate in the woods? Imagine a revision of an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza tells Jerry, “I want to pitch NBC a show about apophenia – folks will love it! There’s nothing like it on the air – just people making connections between random things.”

Darn, that was Keifer Sutherland in 24.


Shucking Finesse

Residents of and visitors to Narragansett Bay spend many low tide cycles digging clams and muscles, tying chicken legs to string and crabbing, baiting lines and casting into the sea. We don’t so much sing for our supper as “ing” for dinner. We eat the sea’s bounty in the form of clam stuffies, crab cakes, chowdas, grilled, fried or blackened catch of the day, and boiled anything caught from the chilly north Atlantic waters.


Shuck’ Em?

During many a summer gone by, our family members would crowd onto our sturdy Boston Whaler, zip down river to an undisclosed location and do the clam dance. It is a simple heal to toe movement done walking through sand and silt in a foot or less of water. When a foot makes contact with a solid object lodged about a hand’s span down in the muck a fresh little neck or quahog clam is found. With a boatload of clammers we could be assured of at least 75 clams within less than a half an hour of doing the dance.

SteamersMy job is to wash the clams and sort them by size. From big to small there are quahogs for chowda,  cherrystones for stuffies and cakes, and little necks for grilling or steaming. I use a garden hose in the backyard and then decide how to cook them. There are many options, steaming and grilling them is the first step. Then it’s either stuff them with Portuguese sausage, cracker crumbs and secret seasonings and bake, or make red (Manhattan), clear (Rhode Island) or white (New England) chowda. Yes, those afflicted with a Rhode Island accent drop final “r’s” on all spoken words.

I haven’t mastered is the skill of shucking  raw clams. This involves sliding a special dull knife between the halves making a quick twist and opening the shell. The chilly meat can be slurped down raw, decked out with pepperoni and garlic butter on the grill or baked with spinach and parmesan cheese.



There is a certain finesse needed to shuck a clam. Mishaps can involve nasty punctures to hand muscles and sliced thumbs. This culinary skill can be seen from a positive or negative view. Shucks can mean disappointment, as in “Aww, shucks”.  In life, it’s something you don’t do well and give up on quick. We compensate for our weaknesses by cooking clams and let them open themselves.

Shucking is also a word that means “to open”. It’s pretty cool to open ourselves to new skills, practice them often, endure a few nicks, and savor the joy of our work. Roger Williams University recently announced the “Grow Your Own” program to help people raise their own oysters. The University will provide aspiring aquaculturists with instruction, equipment, and seed oysters. The RI-OGRE (Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement) program will enroll anyone who has a dock registered with the Coastal Resources Council in good clean water. Everyone has to volunteer in the recreational oyster garden program and take a three day course. Finally, something to do during retirement – become an oyster farmer. I’ve got to practice shucking.

Oyster Farm @ Jamestown

Oyster Farm @ Jamestown

Bon Appetite.

Bermuda High


A Bermuda High is pumping sultry heat and stifling humidity into New England. It is a typical high-pressure summer weather pattern that forms in the western Atlantic. This bodes well for vacationers and the beach crowd – in fact the weather is breeding beach bums. We’ve got balmy water temps around 69 (note that’s about 30 degrees cooler than a healthy blood stream) with waves at 1 – 3 feet and the usual dose of SSW summer breezes. We’re having a 4th of July weekend sizzler.

ImageIt’s all-good if you’ve got sunscreen and access to either the Narrow River or Narragansett Bay. Then again, my dear Mom would declare the hot humid cocktail as “oppressive”. There is an unsettling aspect of Bermuda Highs. Comparable to the “good witch” and the wicked witch of Oz, this cyclone has a darker power. She steers the course of hurricanes. Bermuda Highs draw great strength from the oceanic atmospherics that generate humongous clockwise winds that give birth to storms that are pushed toward the eastern US seaboard.

Bermuda Highs interact with other wind and wave patterns, thus what lies ahead, weather-wise is difficult to predict. When the system shifts to the east or west it weakens or gains strength. We can bet on one thing – movement in either direction will spurn hurricanes – when they will be strong enough to wreak havoc and where they will land this season is anyone’s guess.



So it seems this sizzler of a weekend is a calm before the storm. Sooner or later the clouds will come, winds will batter the dunes and great waves will tear up the beaches. I’m not inclined to breakout my yellow slicker and fill the bathtub with water just yet.

Sometimes, our lives seem so perfect that we fear our happiness will be drenched. Looking at the weather map – that seems true. If you’re in Indian Rocks Beach or New Orleans today – you’re stuck in a low. It’s a far cry from my High but hold on, no pattern holds indefinitely in a world that spins through space on an axis. The way a multitude of factors in Earth’s atmosphere interact assures us that tomorrow can never be a perfect copy of a perfect today.

Why not treat today as one does during a Bermuda High in New England? Try to be comfortable and chill out. Tune into what you’ve got and stop worrying about what you may get or could lose tomorrow. Carpe Diem.


Life is Good