October 2006 Archives
Just announced today, the Hubble servicing mission is back on. This isn't a huge surprise, since there's been huge political pressure on the new administrator to "save Hubble," but it is very good news for everyone involved. Bad Astronomy has more.
Depending on ISS assembly flights keeping to schedule, the servicing mission would happen sometime in 2008. The other big variable here is whether Hubble's gyros keep working that long. At present four of the original six are working. It used to be believed that HST would become uncontrollable with less than three operational gyroscopes, which meant that if one more failed NASA would have to start planning to deorbit it immediately, rather than risk a fourth failure that would greatly complicate a controlled reentry. However, NASA engineers last year demonstrated software modifications that allow Hubble to operate on only two gyros, forstalling this scenario. Even so, it's by no means guaranteed that Hubble can make it through 2008 with even two gyros still working.
Apropos of my previously announced plans, I completely spaced on the fact that we're finishing up a proposal that wants to go in Tuesday afternoon. So I'll be hitting the Tuesday evening performance instead, which will be extra spooky because it's actually on Halloween.
This is turning out to be one of those autumns when the daylight savings hour kicks in, and I'm like, "Sweet, bonus hour!" and actually get stuff done. I forgot to reset my alarm clock, and was thus a bit confused at first when it piped up and Weekend Edition hadn't even begun yet. Guess now we're officially in the season of the preternaturally early sunset.
Now this is interesting. According to the Times today, an investigation may be underway because a maker of electronic voting software may have ties to the Venezuelan government. From what I can gather the concern stems from a series of transactions probably calculated to help sell voting systems to Latin America. You can probably guess how the article is actually spun, of course. (Story originally broke in this Miami Herald piece.)
The reason this catches my eye is its striking resemblance to a standard Republican play. Right after Mark Foley resigned, the Republican talking point was that their candidates had been recovering in the polls, and that if they lost the House it would be all Foley's fault. Or better yet, the fault of those tricky Democrats for arranging for the story to break in late October. Which sets them up nicely to claim on November 8, if they do lose the House (or Senate), that the new Democratic majority doesn't have a "real" mandate. After all, good red-blooded American voters would never break blue unless they weren't thinking straight. Only the inconvenient fact that powerful Republicans tend to be hypocritical sexual perverts could possibly distract the consumers from the overriding narrative of libruls will turn your children into gay suicide bombers.
With that news cycle pretty much over, the media's been starting to turn to the election itself, and there's even been a flurry of stories about electronic voting. So planting1 this story now is clever. Just when people are starting to think (far too late, but whatever) again about the security of electronic voting machines, get people talking about how the anti-American Chavez government is out to hack the vote -- for the Democrats! Thus laying more groundwork to claim that a new Democratic Congress will have gotten elected by cheating, and for that matter to call for recounts and legal challenges before the results are even certified.
The other reason this feels so much like a Republican ploy is that it fits so well with their other major trick, accusing one's opponent of the very thing one is weakest on. Recall the Swiftboat thing, where we had the odd spectacle of John Kerry, decorated war hero, having his war record disparaged by surrogates for Bush, a cowardly brat who couldn't even be bothered to finish out the cushy Air National Guard assignment he specifically got to avoid having to go to 'Nam. And on a smaller scale, they've done the same thing a hundred times in Congressional races around the country this year.
On the bright side, the Republicans wouldn't be working so hard to spin a defeat unless they seriously expected to lose, given that half their schtick is absurd come-what-may kool-aid-drinking bravado. But caution is also advisable here, because it sounds like they're also preparing to supress some votes after they're cast by -- of all the gall, as usual -- claiming rigged voting machines.
[Update: 31 October] -- digby makes essentially the same point, but with less rambling and more quotes to back up the argument.
1 Planting? Well, nothing against Tim Golden, the story's author, but he's basically spent the last two years doing quite decent coverage of Guantanamo -- the detainees, the abuse, the legal wrangling. I expect he was put on this story because of the Latin American connection, but frankly I see little evidence that he has much experience with election law, voting machines, or national politics. So he's mostly just amplifying the Miami article to a national audience.
On a lighter note, it's the Halloween weekend. The first year grad students are throwing a party Saturday, which I might peek in on if I can find the time (this weekend also features a daunting to-do list). However, Sunday evening promises to be awesome in a whole different way.
BareBones Productions presents the
13th Annual Halloween Harvest Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza. I expect puppets, acrobatics, fire, and silliness, in various combinations. Actually, the friend who first tipped me off to this happening sounds to be planning a performance likely to involve all four. Something about giant flaming claw hands.
It's right across the river from Fort Snelling in the Hidden Falls regional park. So it's easy for me to toss a bike on the light rail and just go, but if anyone here wants to make an expedition of it, by all means let's!
The post title, of course, is a plug for Do More Than Vote, because it's increasingly looking like the midterm elections 11 days from now are for all the marbles.
I'll probably be in the field doing get-out-the-vote (GOTV) work the four days ending November 7. Probably some combination of door-knocking with the Wellstone Action Network and whatever the local Democratic party needs done (possibly more door-knocking -- man, am I gonna have sore feet on November 8). Here in Minnesota we've got one seat in the Senate and at least three in the House up for grabs, and the United States needs every one of them to be filled by a Democrat. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise, I've got half a million dead Iraqis they should meet.
It goes without saying, my dozen or so readers, that I shouldn't have to get out any of your votes. (And I'm pretty sure none of you were even thinking of voting for the wrong team, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) So what I want to know is, how many votes are you bringing with you to the polls?
A few examples:
"The first lesson is, is that oceans can no longer protect us. You know, when I was coming up in the '50s in Midland, Texas, it seemed like we were pretty safe. In the '60s it seemed like we were safe."
To which the internet responds, bwah? For instance:
I also enjoyed this Prospect article today illustrating the tendency of conservatives to take their foreign policy cues from science fiction. Seems they mistook Battlestar Galactica for a documentary.
A more recent Bush gem:
This stuff about "stay the course" -- stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change.
So we've been exporting torture for a while now, and increasingly outsourcing it, too. This should have been obvious: now we're inspiring cheap foreign knock-offs:
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 23 -- Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in fighting terrorism, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture said Monday.
Manfred Nowak said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except Jordan.
For great justice! Really, though, this is a delightful idea, using the Googlebomb effect to link odious Republicans up for reelection to the most damning articles about them. Grab the HTML and join in!
--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert
So my bike's bottom bracket has been acting a bit odd for a few weeks now. Inspection suggested that one of the cranks was getting a bit loose in the ratchet mechanism, since it's the peculiar sort where the cranks on either side aren't actually a single unit. Then yesterday something gave, and it did this.
My bike, once I got it home and into our basement shop.
Let's take a closer look.
My suddenly misaligned pedals.
Turns out it's not so easy to ride a bicycle that way. Felt like I was kangaroo-hopping down the street. Modestly awkward, and quite difficult to get good acceleration from a stop.
Apropos of yesterday's post, I'd call attention to this post in which Lindsay highlights a couple of other notable detainees.
Oh, and remember right after 9/11 when the FBI Hoovered up every Middle Easterner they could find? Not all of those detainees ever resurfaced. Turns out Ali Partovi has been held, illegally until yesterday, without charges and apparently with occasional torture. For five years and counting.
Since my workstation is back in one piece I once again have my photo processing tools all in one place. Here, the sunflowers in my front yard immediately before our first taste of fall froze their leaves off. These plants made it, though, and the flowers are doing alright. That front marked the definitive end for my squashes, though.
But since everybody else is doing it, let's give this whole video embedding thing a try.
The Inner Life of a Cell made a splash at SIGGRAPH this year. Apparently is does a pretty good job of illustrating the biomolecular structures and functional relationships at work in cytoskeletons, protein transcription, and the like. Now it is conveniently available as a YouTube embed:
From Cosmic Variance, I can't tell if my old cosmology prof is concerned or relieved at the prospect of computers taking over teaching intro physics.
In other news, Bush signed the Abolishing the Geneva Convention and Bill of Rights bill today (a.k.a. the Military Comissions Act of 2006). So as of this morning, everything I posted about the other day is perfectly legal. The legal types seem to be of the opinion that the Supremes won't save us this time.
It is the rare legal brief that can get away with opening on that famous Neitzsche line. Jose Padilla's lawyers describe, in detail, his treatment in a recent filing. Under the Military Comissions Act passed two weeks ago, everything described here is now legal.
Everyone should read the entire thing. (Via Hullabaloo, Glen Greenwald, originally reported by David Markus.) So I quote the entire relevant passage (emphases mine), despite its considerable length. The least you owe this man is to make yourself read what was done to him in your name; the least you owe yourself is to read what can be done to you on one man's whim:
In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla’s "dependency and trust," he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity. For nearly two years – from June 9, 2002 until March 2, 2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr. Padilla to have contact with his lawyers – Mr. Padilla was in complete isolation. Even after he was permitted contact with counsel, his conditions of confinement remained essentially the same. He was kept in a unit comprising sixteen individual cells, eight on the upper level and eight on the lower level, where Mr. Padilla’s cell was located. No other cells in the unit were occupied. His cell was electronically monitored twenty-four hours a day, eliminating the need for a guard to patrol his unit. His only contact with another person was when a guard would deliver and retrieve trays of food and when the government desired to interrogate him.
His isolation, furthermore, was aggravated by the efforts of his captors to maintain complete sensory deprivation. His tiny cell – nine feet by seven feet – had no view to the outside world. The door to his cell had a window, however, it was covered by a magnetic sticker, depriving Mr. Padilla of even a view into the hallway and adjacent common areas of his unit. He was not given a clock or a watch and for most of the time of his captivity, he was unaware whether it was day or night, or what time of year or day it was.
In addition to his extreme isolation, Mr. Padilla was also viciously deprived of sleep. This sleep deprivation was achieved in a variety of ways. For a substantial period of his captivity, Mr. Padilla’s cell contained only a steel bunk with no mattress. The pain and discomfort of sleeping on a cold, steel bunk made it impossible for him to sleep. Mr. Padilla was not given a mattress until the tail end of his captivity. Mr. Padilla’s captors did not solely rely on the inhumane conditions of his living arrangements to deprive him of regular sleep. A number of ruses were employed to keep Mr. Padilla from getting necessary sleep and rest. One of the tactics his captors employed was the creation of loud noises near and around his cell to interrupt any rest Mr. Padilla could manage on his steel bunk. As Mr. Padilla was attempting to sleep, the cell doors adjacent to his cell would be electronically opened, resulting in a loud clank, only to be immediately slammed shut. Other times, his captors would bang the walls and cell bars creating loud startling noises. These disruptions would occur throughout the night and cease only in the morning, when Mr. Padilla’s interrogations would begin.
Efforts to manipulate Mr. Padilla and break his will also took the form of the denial of the few benefits he possessed in his cell. For a long time Mr. Padilla had no reading materials, access to any media, radio or television, and the only thing he possessed in his room was a mirror. The mirror was abruptly taken away, leaving Mr. Padilla with even less sensory stimulus. Also, at different points in his confinement Mr. Padilla would be given some comforts, like a pillow or a sheet, only to have them taken away arbitrarily. He was never given any regular recreation time. Often, when he was brought outside for some exercise, it was done at night, depriving Mr. Padilla of sunlight for many months at a time. The disorientation Mr. Padilla experienced due to not seeing the sun and having no view on the outside world was exacerbated by his captors’ practice of turning on extremely bright lights in his cell or imposing complete darkness for durations of twenty-four hours, or more.
Mr. Padilla’s dehumanization at the hands of his captors also took more sinister forms. Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors.
A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
Throughout most of the time Mr. Padilla was held captive in the Naval Brig he had no contact with the outside world. In March 2004, one year and eight months after arriving in the Naval Brig, Mr. Padilla was permitted his first contact with his attorneys. Even thereafter, although Mr. Padilla had access to counsel, and thereby some contact with the outside world, those visits were extremely limited and restricted. Significantly though, it was not until Mr. Padilla was permitted to visit with counsel that one of his attorneys, Andrew Patel, was able to provide Mr. Padilla with a copy of the Qur’an. Up until that time, for a period of almost two years, Mr. Padilla was the right to exercise his religious beliefs.
The deprivations, physical abuse, and other forms of inhumane treatment visited upon Mr. Padilla caused serious medical problems that were not adequately addressed. Apart from the psychological damage done to Mr. Padilla, there were numerous health problems brought on by the conditions of his captivity. Mr. Padilla frequently experienced cardiothoracic difficulties while sleeping, or attempting to fall asleep, including a heavy pressure on his chest and an inability to breath or move his body.
In one incident Mr. Padilla felt a burning sensation pulsing through his chest. He requested medical care but was given no relief. Toward the end of his captivity, Mr. Padilla experienced swelling and pressure in his chest and arms. He was administered an electrocardiogram, and given medication. However, Mr. Padilla ceased taking the medicine when it caused him respiratory congestion. Although Mr. Padilla was given medication in this instance, he was often denied medication for pain relief. The strain brought on by being placed in stress positions caused Mr. Padilla great discomfort and agony. Many times he requested some form of pain relief but was denied by the guards.
The cause of some of the medical problems experienced by Mr. Padilla is obvious. Being cramped in a tiny cell with little or no opportunity for recreation and enduring stress positions and shackling for hours caused great pain and discomfort. It is unclear, though, whether Mr. Padilla’s cardiothoracic problems were a symptom of the stress he endured in captivity, or a side effect from one of the drugs involuntarily induced into Mr. Padilla’s system in the Naval Brig. In either event, the strategically applied measures suffered by Mr. Padilla at the hands of the government caused him both physical and psychological pain and agony.
It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this filing, docile and resigned – a model detainee.
Mr. Padilla also wants to make clear that the deprivation described above did abate somewhat once counsel began negotiating with the officials of the Naval Brig for the improvements of his conditions. Toward the end of Mr. Padilla’s captivity in the Naval Brig he was provided reading materials and some other more humane treatment. However, despite some improvement in Mr. Padilla’s living conditions, the interrogations and torture continued even after the visits with counsel commenced.
In sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr. Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some, merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish. It is also extremely important to note that the torturous acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course almost the entire three years and seven months of his captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla’s treatment at the hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction, under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter.
It's worth observing that President Bush is the most powerful human being who has ever lived, not unlike a Roman Emperor1 with cruise missiles and nukes. To disappear citizens with impunity is to escape for all practical purposes from the constraints of democracy. I would be interested for anyone to point out to me the functional difference between America in its present state and an imperial dictatorship.
It may be possible to end this novel form of American government via the upcoming midterms or the 2008 presidental election, and that is certainly a goal worth fighting for. Indeed, one many of us are fighting for, tooth and nail. But I can't shake the suspicion that this doesn't outrage Americans anymore, and that even if we win the distal cause will be the incompetance of this administration2 rather than its lust for absolute power. I fear that means that much of the American citizenry has already given up on the great experiment with democracy that is (was?) our nation.
1Many Roman Emperors were puppets of a hidden or not-so-hidden power behind the throne, so we'll elide the debate over whether Bush is one as well.
2Iraq, mostly, levened with economic pain across the lower and middle classes. But even this description illustrates the point nicely. They had over three years to break the poor fellow, extract confessions, whatever -- and you have to give Padilla credit for surviving that -- but you let them shake off all constraints of law and decency and this is what we end up with? The behavior described here is the stuff of overwrought Kafka-inspired science fiction and bad noir about the KGB. Hell, I bet they even did the "how many lights do you see" routine.
We've been upgraded to snow snowers being likely tonight, although it isn't expected to stick. Which would be a shock, if you think about it, since the ground is probably about 50°F right now. Probably plenty cold enough to finish off my squash vines for the season, although the sunflowers might survive for a couple more weeks.
It goes without saying that if it's snowing tomorrow, we must go out for ice cream or smoothies or similar. (That goes for you folks down in Chicago, too, if it snows on Thursday.)
I plan to finally start rebuilding my hard drive today, so I might finally start posting pictures again sometime soon.
Speaking of which, I heard late last night that North Korea carried through on its threat to conduct a nuclear test.
Since I was down in the basement vacuum testing some hardware, I had a bunch of 3 - 5 minute breaks to browse the web. My first order of business was to scour the international press to find reporting on seismic data as they came out. South Korean officials immediately pinpointed the time of the test based on a tremor in the mid-3s on the Richter scale; the USGS waited to gather more data points before announcing the detection of a magnitude 4.2 tremor. Somewhat later the Russians confirmed that they had similar results, although I haven't seen anything quantitative from that direction. These all seem a bit on the low side for the kind of plutonium bomb the DPRK was reputed to be working on, so I'm inclined to suggest that this may have been an (unintentionally) subcritical test -- i.e. a dud.
Okay, now I see that Jane's Defense is raising the same possibility. Somehow I doubt anyone here is a subscriber, but I'd be mighty interested to see the full text of this article.
The BBC has an article up now on why this is a problem. It's tempting to say that, since everybody already knew the DPRK has nuclear bombs, the test today is showy but doesn't really change anything. And on a certain level, that's true, but misses the bigger picture. A nuclear test doesn't threaten us any more than, say, North Korea's wildly overrated long-range missiles. What it does is put enormous pressure on its neighbors to take tit-for-tat steps that all too easily lead to a nuclear arms race in southeast Asia. And just in case the image of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan glaring across Kashmir hasn't been giving enough of the phantods this decade, the BBC quotes an analysist who obligingly raises the spectre of where this all leads: China and Taiwan build themselves nice, modern nuclear arsenals to up the ante in the Straits.
Handily, Bush and company have fouled up the USA's diplomatic and military posture so well, there's basically nothing whatsoever that we can do about any of this. Knowing Republican chuzpah, they'll probably try to use 9/11 to claim that it isn't their fault if we find ourselves in a five-way nuclear war a decade from now. Funny how stuff keeps breaking but nothing's ever their fault.
Who were classy last week? The Amish.
(By way of commentary, the redeeming public Christianity perspective, a rational humanist despairs that we find forgiveness surprising, and frothing Rethug wingnuts once again prove that they'd waterboard Jesus just on principle.)
Regoster to vote! Announced at MyDD:
If you haven't registered to vote and you live Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, or Washington, do it today. The deadlines for those states fall between October 7 - October 11, which is early next week. Voter registration is no longer hard. I did it a few days ago (change of address) through this site, which produced a nice slick PDF which I mailed in. The whole process took me fifteen minutes.
As a bonus, since I did it through that site I'm now counted as an 'Internet Freedom Voter', or a voter who cares about net neutrality.
If you need deadlines for other states, go to this post.
Note in particular, the deadline is October 10 in Illinois and Texas, and October 13 in New York. (Why? Because that's where my readers are.) Minnesota has election-day registration, because we're awesome like that, but it's still a good idea to register ahead of time. After all, the Republicans are still able to hack the vote, and more desperate than ever. Expect shenanigans.
Which is why you should all do more than vote -- even Diebold can't disappear a landslide.
Yes, I'm still here, but the semester still hasn't let up enough to allow a return to regular posting. Although to be fully candid, this also reflects as a symptom of an underlying condition: namely, for some time now I've been a bit unsure as to the proper nature and purpose of EGAD. Originally conceived as a travel blog with ananthropological tendencies, it has functioned as something of a weekly-ish "away message" during this relatively settled year. Certainly I pondered relaunching as a more locally-oriented medium, perhaps as a photoblog or light journalism, but I must confess that inertia got the better of these musings. There's a good chance that we'll go back to the travel blog format next year, anyway, as the lead-up to my experiment's engineering test flight will likely involve a greater degree of peregrination.
Updates: my workstation persists in its lifeless state, but only because I've been busy. I successfully extracted essentially everything of importance from the drive, so I just need to find a spare day to rebuild the filesystems.
About a week after I got over my cold imported from New York, some similar ailment is starting to make the rounds here. Hopefully it's the same thing, since then I should have immunity to it now.
Speaking of cold, it's on its way. Seems a mite early, but it's been a cool autumn so far: forcast 50% chance of snow showers on Wednesday and Thursday.