February 8th, 2016

Predicting School Closures

So far, our snow day has been a complete bust. No snow that I've seen at all, none sticking for sure. Obvs, if you are near the coast or on the Cape, things are already different, and this storm was never expected to be an issue in the morning for us anyway.

The expected problem is if the snow falls during the school day and the commute home from school, things can get incredibly snarled and kids don't get home until really late. Attempts to maneuver around this by having a half day or 1 or 2 our early release (2 hour release and half day being functionally equivalent in many cases) tend to work very poorly. Any kids in x-day tend to have parents who will fail to pick them up at the early release time (x-day will be canceled in the event of early release), thus requiring staff to hang around, not just until the usual time, but the end of usual x-day, and you're still up against the snarl problem. In really bad situations, staff wind up spending the night at the school with the kids, which can work, but in the event of a medical situation and/or power outage can get very sketchy.

If the edge of a storm is near a school district, and one or more surrounding towns will be hit hard by that storm, then a school district needs to take into consideration the ability of its employees to get to and from school safely -- and whether they will have kids at home all day due to a snow day in their home district. In that event, cascading cancellations by personnel rapidly overwhelm the ability of substitutes to cover -- and substitutes also live in surrounding towns and may be subject to the same dynamic.

Thus, the correct way to predict whether a school will close for a snow day is as follows:

Obvs, if there is a high probability of a storm in town, then school will be canceled.

But school will also be canceled in the event that there is a high probability of a storm in towns where school staff live AND/OR towns where school staff live have already canceled.

There is another factor, which is how many snow days have already been used. If few or no snow days have been used AND we are already well past January 1, THEN it is a lot easier to call a snow day if one or the other of those is not true (hard to snow day in November; hard to snow day in December when you've already missed a week due to weather).

Finally, there is a trust factor. When school has been canceled in advance of the weather becoming visible (that is, trusting in the forecast) AND THE SNOW WAS CATASTROPHICALLY BAD then everyone will nod and go, okay, these people know what they are doing, and they will be much more willing to close next time. When school has been canceled in advance of the weather and it is a bust, then everyone will shake their heads and go, okay, these fools don't know what they are doing. Imma make up my own mind next time.

It should be apparent from this discussion that the following are not actually important in canceling school.

(1) What schools did in previous decades, when you were a kid. Or when your kids were young.
(2) What schools do in other states.
(3) What the weather model says.

Yes, I said it. What the weather model says is very secondary to other factors. Which is why I'm a lot better at predicting school closure than I am at predicting the weather, and my husband is the reverse. He's been expecting a bust up here [ETA: Apparently his definition of a bust includes up to 3 inches.] since I first started paying attention yesterday. We shall see what happens -- it might still mess up the roads before end-of-school day.

ETA: Went for a walk finally around 10 a.m. It is windy and thus feels wicked cold. It's in the 20s, so it shouldn't feel that bad, but the snow is currently sideways which is a Sign. Oh, and it is snowing now. It'll be difficult to measure accumulation unless the wind stops because we'll wind up with bare ground and drifts.

NYT article about lead around the country in water systems


Long, but worth the time.

Highlights include: increased snow leads to increased salt changes the chemistry of the ground water, leads to lead leaching. Lansing is wrapping up replacing all its lead lines. For a while, they were encountering resistance from property owners. Not after Flint. Discussion of other water issues beyond lead.

Weird rant against apple

h/t Nate Hoffelder posted the link on twitter


Short form: writer (sounds like about my age) spills beer on laptop, replaces laptop, laptop has newer OSX, icons too small. Changes screen resolution, gets frustrated, rant ensues.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why she didn't just resize the icons. That feature has been present for at least since Yosemite. Instead, she says some dismissive things about the accessibility features (NOT where the icon resize feature can be found, altho there may be something handy over there, too):

"I might not notice these slightly fascist tendencies if I were sharp-sighted, fit, properly trained to the modern OS and also young and therefore unable to personally remember a looser, more democratic regime of computational life. But I will never be a marathon runner, and it seems odd that a computer technology is confronting us with biological handicaps just for the sake of consistent software design."

Fascist? Really? Wow. The bar for fascism has really dropped.

I don't see any obvious solution anywhere in the piece to the problem as she has framed it (that is, I don't think she has an alternate product in mind). Finding obscure settings to adjust things to your liking has been the case at least since the mid 1980s. It's _possible_ that she remembers earlier computers than that. But I think much before that, you didn't get to adjust a lot of stuff.

I feel like a person who spills beer on a laptop, then can't find the icon resize (took me about 10 seconds), and then calls Apple fascist, is maybe someone who should step away from the computer, go for a walk, do something about the hangover, talk to a friend, I don't know.

Of course, I say that as a person who dropped her fairly new iphone 6S into a toilet, and was very surprised that it didn't stop working at any point. I didn't even have to rice it, altho it was convinced there was jack in the headphones slot for a couple hours, due to moisture in there. And that's a tough place to get a drying agent into (I was reluctant to slide a grain of rice in there -- seemed risky). I was able to use speaker phone throughout, or listen to it through actual headphones using the jack or bluetooth. Naturally, I'm inclined to feel charitable to a company which produces a product _that_ forgiving of my stupidity and absentmindedness after the end of a long walk that I took, talking to a friend, to ratchet my brain back to a reasonably calm and sane place.

I have definitely noticed -- like some of the commenters -- that the complaints about apple have been increasing over time. Of course, so has their installed base. I'm assuming these bear some relationship to each other.

Full disclosure: Long apple since 2004.

ETA: I harbor a suspicion that my moisture problem with the phone jack may well be why Apple is interested in eliminating the audio jack entirely in future designs. But it is only a suspicion and I could be talked out of it quite easily.

ETAYA: Hey, even I am not so self-centered as to think apple cares about what I did to my phone. When I say, "my moisture problem", I mean, I bet this kind of thing is taking up some time in customer service, at the genius bar, etc.