Linear Regression by Hand

One of my students pointed out this video showing how it’s done, from Ireland.

Guatemala, Then and Now

One of the things I’ve learned in the many years I’ve worked on this site is that my family has a habit of following in the wake of its ancestors, even if the followers were reluctant to admit it.  Our trips to the Bahamas were in the wake of Chet’s SPA trips; our moving to Palm Beach followed Chet and Myrtle by seven years, and on and on.  My wife and I managed to repeat this with a trip to an entirely different place–Guatemala–but how we got there is an entirely different story.

In the early 1950’s my mother and father departed on what she described as a “Banana Boat” from New Orleans.  Their first stop was in Havana, before the Ugly Guy with a Cigar and Beard Whose Name Cannot be Spoken in Parts of Miami.


The Banana Boat they took to Cuba and Guatemala

After that they went to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and from there ascended up to Guatemala City.  My guess is that they stayed in a guest house of the United Fruit Company, which ran the Banana Boat (with provision for passengers) and was very powerful in Guatemala in those days.

My father never talked about this trip; my mother was another story.  They visited many sites in Guatemala, some of which we’ll see below.  The one place she really didn’t like was Chichicastenango; it deeply offended her Baptistic sensibilities.   That’s a good place to begin the transition to our own visit over Christmas 2019.

I joined the North Cleveland Church of God in 1983.  The Church of God has a strong presence in Guatemala, and our members there don’t think any better of places like Chichicastenango than my mother did.  One of the people I met at North Cleveland was Harvey Harkins, who was raised in our church’s first children’s home (which is celebrating its centenary this year) and was/is something of a legend in our church.  Three years after I joined he announced he was going on a mission trip to Guatemala.  The real nature of the mission trip became clear when he came home with a wife.  We all thought Harvey a confirmed bachelor, so this development was a shock to us (as it happens it was to him, too.)  They had a daughter, who married in 2017.  In the meanwhile they’ve become like family to us, so when Christmas 2019 rolled around and it was time for the new son-in-law to meet the family in Guatemala, we were invited to go, which we did.

It’s strange in a way to retrace your parents’ footsteps in this way, so many years after they came.  But we went to some new places as well, and experienced new things.

In Guatemala we found a beautiful country which, although with problems, is a place of charming people.  I was encouraged by what I saw and experienced, especially as a Christian.  When missionaries go out to do their work, their idea is to win those they encounter for Christ.  What they may not consider is the fact that they are adding people to the church who will enrich the church with their presence.  Pentecostal missionaries went to Guatemala with few resources, but the church is better for the harvest, and that’s something good to keep in mind moving forward.

The Event of the Season

The Christmas/Advent season is upon us at last.  But it’s not the only season getting under way: we also have the Palm Beach social season. This season has its roots in the climate: northerners come to South Florida in the winter to escape the climate and return to their origin when the weather gets hot again in the Florida spring. During this time those who want to be seen spend a lot of time going from one ball (and sometimes a golf benefit) to another.  Between all of these flashy events is daily life, and part of that daily life is going to the grocery store (or sending the help there.)

When my family moved to Palm Beach, there were no chain food stores in town. There were only two private markets: Herbert’s Lafayette and Southampton. Both of these offered a fine (if limited) selection and both delivered.  Chet’s widow Myrtle used this service extensively, not only for the convenience but also because she wasn’t the best driver in her last years. Both markets, however, were dreadfully expensive. My mother would use these from the time time but generally preferred to cross the lake and shop in West Palm Beach, where the prices came down from the stratosphere.

It occured to the Publix people that there might be an opportunity here, so they applied for a permit to build a Publix market down the street from St. Edward’s Catholic Church. Needless to say, the Town, in its usual fashion, was appalled at the idea. How can we have such a plebeian establishment like a supermarket in Palm Beach? How tacky will it look? Who who would lower themselves here to go there? And what kind of riff raff would come over to shop here? (After all, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church just successfully booted them off the island by canning the ladies’ rummage sale!)

But Publix didn’t get where it was then or now by taking no for an answer easily, so they persisted. They invented a Spanish style front for the store, and lowered its profile. They promised to both appoint and stock the store to fit the market (they would have been stupid to do otherwise.) Finally the Town permitted this edifice to be built, many secretly expecting it to flop in an elite place like Palm Beach.

It didn’t. Opening in 1971, its first day was, literally, the event of the season. The Shiny Sheet carried pictures of society figures with their butlers and maids crowding the parking lot and coming to fill their limousines with the reasonably priced groceries Publix carried. Even the rich and famous were sick of being ripped off. Ever since Palm Beach has found that “shopping is a pleasure” at Publix. The chain even adopted the Spanish style architecture for the rest of their stores for the next twenty years, and remodeled the store, re-opening in December 2011.

The first lesson from this is that, no matter how much money you have, saving it is important. In a nation which loves to “flash the cash” or worse the credit, this bears repeating. If people in Palm Beach like to save money, you should too.

Second, some of the most important things in life are the most ordinary. Amidst the ritzy charity balls and celebrity events that mark the season in Palm Beach, the opening of a grocery store made an enormous impact.

RELCR080That’s the way it is with Christmas and the Incarnation. Jesus Christ came in very ordinary circumstances, born of a mother whose family had come down a long way from the time when they were kings of Judah and Israel. After escaping Herod’s attempt to eliminate him as a power challenger, he grew up in Nazareth, than and now not a place associated with the elites of this world. “‘Foxes have holes,’ answered Jesus, ‘and wild birds their roosting-places, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,'” (Matthew 8:20) characterised his life, and after being executed between criminals he was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb.

But the ordinary became the extraordinary when he ended his rest and rose from the dead, making it possible for us to do the same and to have eternal life. Like the opening of the Publix in Palm Beach, the whole history of Jesus Christ–his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return–is the “event of the season,” but in this case the season is human history. We are a part of that history and can be a part of its greatest event by not being ripped off by the Devil and by accepting the free gift of eternal life which only Jesus Christ can give.

If you’re tired of being ripped off in life, click here

Highways in Coastal Regions

Highways in the Coastal Environment

Scott L. Douglass and Joe Krolak
Hydraulic Engineering Circular 25
FHWA NHI-07-096
June 2008

This report provides guidance for the analysis, planning, design and operation of highways in the coastal environment. The focus is on roads near the coast that are always, or occasionally during storms, influenced by coastal tides and waves. A primary goal of this report is the integration of coastal engineering principles and practices in the planning and design of coastal highways. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 road miles in the United States that can be called “coastal highways.” Some of the physical coastal science concepts and modeling tools that have been developed by the coastal engineering community, and are applicable to highways, are briefly summarized. This includes engineering tools for waves, water levels, and sand movement. Applications to several of the highway and bridge planning and design issues that are unique to the coastal environment are also summarized. This includes coastal revetment design, planning and alternatives for highways that are threatened by coastal erosion, roads that overwash in storms, and coastal bridge issues including wave loads on bridge decks.

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events

Scott L. Douglass, Bret M. Webb and Roger Kilgore
Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 25, Volume 2
October 2014

The purpose of this manual is to provide technical guidance and methods for assessing the vulnerability of coastal transportation facilities to extreme events and climate change. The focus is on quantifying exposure to sea level rise, storm surge, and wave action. It is anticipated that there will be multiple uses for this information, including risk and vulnerability assessments, planning activities, and design procedure guidance.

Extreme weather events can profoundly impact coastal transportation infrastructure. In a more general sense, the term “extreme weather” includes severe or unseasonable weather, heavy precipitation, a storm surge, flooding, drought, windstorms (including hurricanes, tornadoes, and associated storm surges), extreme heat, and extreme cold. Extreme weather events can be described as rarely occurring, weather-induced events that usually cause damage, destruction, or severe economic loss. This manual focuses only on extreme events along the coast such as storm surge and waves found in hurricanes, nor’easters, fronts, and El Niño-related coastal storms on the west coast. Tsunamis are also discussed as extreme events.

A Primer on Modeling in the Coastal Environment

Bret M Webb
December 2017

This manual provides an introduction to coastal hydrodynamic modeling for transportation engineering professionals. The information presented in this manual can be applied to better understand the use of numerical models in the planning and design of coastal highways. Here, the term “coastal highways” is meant to generally capture the roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure that is exposed to, or occasionally exposed to, tides, storm surge, waves, erosion, and sea level rise near the coast. The hydrodynamic models that serve as the focus of this manual are used to describe these processes and their impacts on coastal highways through flooding, wave damage, and scour.

The primary audience for this manual is transportation professionals ranging across the spectrum of project delivery (e.g., planners, scientists, engineers, etc.). After reading this manual the audience will understand when, why, and at what level coastal models should be used in the planning and design of coastal highways and bridges; and when to solicit the expertise of a coastal engineer. This manual provides transportation professionals with the information needed to determine scopes of work, prepare requests for professional services, communicate with consultants, and evaluate modeling approaches and results.

The manual also provides guidance on when and where hydraulic and hydrodynamic models are used, and how they are used to determine the dependence of bridge hydraulics on the riverine or coastal design flood event.

The manual also gives recommendations for the use of models in coastal vulnerability assessments.

The General Thanksgiving

Of all the prayers we used to pray from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer at Bethesda, probably my favourite was what the Prayer Book called “A General Thanksgiving,” but I normally attached the definite article to it.  It’s especially appropriate now and here it is:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us, and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.