Category Archives: and so it goes


In March of last year, trying to come up with new and interesting science/math related Twitter polls to feature on WREG Daybreak weekend news, I decided to poll people to see if they would be interested in one – just one and only one – forecast to be done in metric temperature measurements rather than the usual English units. The response was about as expected.

What follows was a typical response… (all spelling & syntax sic)

Dear Austen,

I am amazed at the response you received regarding “metric” weather forcasting.  Perhaps there are a lot more out here like me who did not even know until today that there was a poll on the subject.  I would absolutely vote NO.  If you want to use metrics in your forecast, even once a day, you should show the NORMAL forcast numbers at the same time.  I feel the same way about “metrics” as I do our English language.  If someone moves to this country, they should learn to speak, read and write English as well as learn our mathematical system.  We should not have to conform to THEIR language or metrics.  If we go their countries, we have to learn their language, and they must do the same or stay home!!!

I know these comments will not do any good, but please note there are a lot of us who feel the same way.

Thank you,
[Name Withheld]

For those still asking: yes, I did one – just one and only one – forecast in metrics as the poll numbers ran slightly ahead on the “Yes, do the forecast in metrics” selection over the other two choices of “No, don’t do the forecast in metrics” and the ever-popular “Don’t care either way”. As promised, I did one seven day extended forecast in metrics. Many responses of “It’s just not American” were met with “Why is that?” from me. A small percentage chose to respond to my Why? with a repeat of their Not-American choice.

None of them were able (to my satisfaction) explain why they thought that way. It just wasn’t done, and to even suggest using metrics for anything was to invite scorn, contempt, ridicule and cries of “Traitor!” or “Communist!” to the comment section. The cries of foul play from some viewers were devilish in their nature, suggesting my eternal soul was at stake for doing such a thing. There were, by contrast, some supporting statements, but none as dedicatedly staunch as those who compared using metric measurements to an erasure of culture or a government takeover by some shadowy cabal overseas.

The only thing – seriously – that I was trying to accomplish was a gauging of the attitudes of Mid-Southerners (or whomever wanted to participate) of what they felt regarding the metric system, but also to apply the idea of “Why”.

Well, admittedly… it was not entirely the only reason. The “why” of it bothers me. Fear of an imminent hostile nation’s attack, I can understand. Fear of a numbers system <as> an attack? At what point do people fear numbers so much that they have to alter reality to comfort their ideas?

Oh yeah… right….


To this day, I cannot understand the fear generated when the idea of using kilometers instead of miles is brought up, grams vs. ounces, millimeters versus 1/32 of an inch, nor can I understand the double-standards applied when you have two liter bottles of soda readily available at the grocery store, yet not a soul (to my knowledge) lifts a finger to complain via phone or e-mail to the store management that <gasp!> metrics have found their way into a true blue American grocery store!

<<<Five Massive Screw-ups That Wouldn’t Have Happened If We All Just Used the Metric System (Gizmodo)>>>

I am seriously considering another metrics episode in the near future, after another poll to engage the public on their views. Doubtful that anything has changed within the last year to swing the needle towards a positive view of metrics, I would like to be able to bring the idea of metrics to the public attention, mostly for my own selfish benefit: please – beyond the idea that metrics means a foreign takeover of the United States – help me to see where the fear is coming from.

I do not get it in the slightest. I don’t think I am being thick or misunderstanding it. I think that the attitude is ingrained in the national infrastructure of thought, passed down from generation to generation, in that These Here United States are not supposed to work with the rest of the world but set the standard for everyone else.

Conversely, if nearly every other country on the planet uses this cursed system of math, it doesn’t mean that we have to do it because we are the United States. This circular, vicious-circle logic gives me a headache, and makes me want to fight harder to get people, especially students, to understand that they are just numbers and nothing to be afraid of. The two-liter bottle of root beer is 0.528344 in gallons. Doesn’t two liters (easily divided into milliliters) make more sense mathematically speaking? Why do we not have 0.528344 gallon bottles instead, if metrics is such an existential threat to our country’s livelihood and future?


Stay tuned for the potential of another metric forecast in the Mid-South future. Poll to be (possibly) posted on Twitter.


Tagged , , , , , , , , ,


Just gonna’ put this part up front for all the stuck-up stickybeaks in the audience:

Outside of “Linus and Lucy” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack, hardly anyone knows of The Vince Guaraldi Trio, which is in itself a great pity. The entire soundtrack is marvelous and something I like listening to every single year, but I am also an avid collector of the troupe’s music and look for it wherever I go when it comes to used CD / music warehouses in my never-ending quest for stuff-I-can’t-buy-online-and-would-rather-buy-myself-thank-you-very-much. The point is: “Linus and Lucy” is a great song, but it’s not everything that Mr. Guaraldi and friends have to offer.

Another of their great tunes is “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, another wonderful choice for the year’s end and for those days when you are reminiscing or making choices in your near-or-far future. (Note: an extended/remade version from George Winston is a good bet as well.) Piano driven melody that at times is inspiring and soaring, and at times wistful and nearly melancholy. At all times, the instrumental reminds you that while parts of your life that you would love to look back on and reorchestrate mentally are fresh in your memory, they are past, and the future is always ahead, and that better days are coming. A mixture of the high and low notes, quiet reflections and crescendo of various rhythms to a peak before fading away… all good musical metaphors for life in their own time and place.

You reach a point some times that you are tired of the status quo and want to change… the way it always was is no longer good enough, but you also wonder if the Powers That Be where you work are going to be problematic. All to the point that after a long enough spell of time, you just get thirsty for something new, or to re-try something that wasn’t as great as you hoped people would think, if anything just to be able to hone your abilities and put forth into the world what your contribution may be – work of sculpture, blogpost, scientific paper, new cheeseburger recipe – and see where it goes. That’s where I am as I write this: William Faulkner writing his scribblings to see what he can make of them, Julia Child deciding if the world needs an artisan cheeseburger, Michelangelo or Rodin wondering if he wants to inhale any more marble chips in pursuit of the perfect sculpture creation… does the world really need one more person’s opinion, especially when there are so many more powerful (read: loud) ones already having bulit up their level of steam over the last few decades? And, most importantly, would anyone listen to a local meteorologist’s opinion, having more fervent ones to choose from on a daily (nay, hourly) basis across the interwebs.

Why do we climb the mountain? Because it’s there.

Just into a new year, my wife and I were talking about the year ahead after having a quiet lunch with good friends this late New Years Day morning at one of our favorite hangouts. The wife of the couple is a newly-published author and an inspiration to me to get going again on my desire to keep the words flowing, and to see if there is any future in scrambling the words into position for articles or books or papers or columns in my future. The words aren’t going to write themselves, so it is up to me – whether or not anyone is reading is irrelevant, as a writer writes every single day. I have been lazy of late, not willing to put words to paper/screen, but always willing to play one more time-wasting app game on the phone, or one more social media posting, thinking that “I don’t have time to write something significant today” and getting tired of hearing myself give that answer time and again. If I can get 10,001 things posted for my television station social media networks per day, then I can darn sure do at least one post for my own writer’s benefit as necessary. I don’t accept laziness from others, I darned sure shouldn’t accept it from me on a near-daily basis. So, for better or worse, here I go again…

At one point in time, I tried to keep up to date on my Rules For Life, gleaned from various lessons learned, or experiences acquired in time over my last dozens of years on this planet. Going to take up the writer’s pen again (keyboard/dictation microphone/etc.) to see what I can hack out on these pages, to inspire me further. Maybe by the time I hit NaNoWriMo 2020, I might actually be able to finish one of the novels I’ve been working on in between substitute teaching and working on forecasts for the weekend night shifts. Saying it well ahead of time: if you don’t like what I’m writing here, just keep your opinions to yourself and I won’t comment on your comments in return.

New year, and time for renewal of efforts, to remind us that time is limited and there are only so many days to get so many words on screen paper. I can’t guarantee that anything I write will be up to Mr. Faulkner’s level, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. Whatever’s stopping you from doing what you love, maybe you should reeaxamine the barriers you’ve set on yourself as well.

Here’s to the new year. And to all the new opportunities to make our world a better place.

Tagged , , , , , , ,



Plenty more sunshine today as highs warm to well above normal. Also: more rain in the forecast over the next few days.  More on your complete mid-weekend forecast coming up on WREG-TV News Channel 3’s exclusive video weatherblog WEATHER OVERTIME. #ShareAndEnjoy


#WREG #WeatherExpert #AMSMeteorologist #AMSStationScientist @AOnek_WREG3

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An open letter to President-elect Trump about nuclear weapons and nuclear winter — Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists #IWantMyPlanetBack

Your presidency is an unprecedented opportunity for positive change in the world. Reducing the threat of nuclear war and nuclear winter will make the United States safer and richer, and cement your status as a world leader. Please take advantage of this chance to be a real winner.

Tagged , , ,


…those mounds of food, though.

Tagged , , , ,

“When we consider the founders of our nation: Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others; we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders. They were well educated. Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history. They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility. They were fluent in the English language. They wrote their own speeches. They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles. They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week. They knew what to think. They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election. They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living. They were able to bring out the best in us. They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science. They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future — not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory. At that time, there were only about two and a half million citizens of the United States. Today there are about a hundred times more. So if there were ten people of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson then, there ought to be 10 x 100 = 1,000 Thomas Jefferson’s today.

Where are they?

  • Ch. 25 : Real Patriots Ask Questions – The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle In The Dark by Carl Sagan


Tagged , , , , , , , ,



“Reparation,” an independent drama about an Air Force veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, will screen at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Malco Studio on the Square.

The movie was written, produced and directed by Kyle Ham of Baltimore, with an original score by Memphis musician Devan Yanik, a veteran of the local acoustic duo November and of such local bands as Native Son, Yes No Maybe and The Five That Framed O.J” – John Beifuss

My wife’s cousin-in-law is the one mentioned in this article, Devan Yanik, who scored the movie. Debuting tomorrow evening (Wednesday) at Malco Studio On The Square.
“Yanik moved to Memphis to attend Rhodes College and eventually married a Memphian, Jennifer Yanik, who worked as his assistant on the score — Yanik’s first — for “Reparation.”

FYI: Jennifer & Devin also throw the best Halloween parties.


Tagged , , , , , , ,


Cate Blanchett performs the rhythmic poem ‘What They Took With Them’ alongside fellow actors Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman.

The poem was written by Jenifer Toksvig and was inspired by stories and first-hand testimonies from refugees forced to flee their homes and items they took with them.

One of the sources for the poem was Brian Sokol’s photography project, ‘The Most Important Thing,’ made in collaboration with UNHCR. Many of Brian’s photos, along with firsthand accounts from the refugees he photographed, are featured in the film.

Released exclusively on Facebook, the film urges people to sign the #WithRefugees petition to help ensure refugees have the basics to build back their lives – an education, somewhere safe to live and the opportunity to work.

To see the full version of the film and to sign the petition go to

Tagged , , ,



My son, Tristan Onek, and I were on a college trip so he could look around Rutgers in New Jersey as a potential school back in mid-January 2016. After his visit, we spent the day traipsing around NYC seeing as much as we could before our flight back to Memphis. This was just after exploring Wall Street and a trip to Columbia. Emerged between the buildings, seeing the memorial coming into view, hearing the tumbling waters, trying to wrap my head around what happened here fifteen years ago. The rain had stopped falling, and the drizzle was fading as the Sun struggled to shine. Outside of a few kids talking loudly, the entire area was a hush, city sounds around and about, but otherwise, hardly anyone spoke, reading the names and experiencing the location as deeply as possible.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: