But I wanted to report back about the Finger Lakes. I thought there were five Finger Lakes, like the fingers on your hand. And there are five main lakes: Cayuga Lake is the longest finger, with Ithaca and Cornell University sitting at the base of the lake. Seneca Lake, considered the middle finger, is the deepest lake. Then there is Skaneateles Lake to the east, and Keuka and Canandaigua to the west.
But I discovered that there are actually 11 or 12 Finger Lakes, depending on how you count them -- all long, thin lakes running north and south, spread out like fingers across central New York State. The region is known for its wineries and breweries, as well as hiking and fishing and boating. If you really want to know more about the area, including the names of the other six or seven lakes, you can check out the Finger Lakes website.
Meanwhile, to answer Dianne's question, the large lake near New Orleans is Lake Pontchartrain. But in fact (I had to look this up, too) Pontchartrain is not technically a lake. It is an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico through several other waterways including the Rigolets strait.
The Signal and the Noise, that the weather reports you see in the newspaper or on the internet have what he calls a "wet bias," meaning they exaggerate the chance of rain. Why? Because meteorologists know if they say it's not going to rain, and it does, then the audience will get mad at them. But if they forecast rain, and it doesn't rain, then the audience considers this a bonus -- and doesn't blame the forecaster for being wrong.
This "wet bias" will typically predict a 20 percent chance of rain when there is really only a 5 - 10 percent chance of rain. But TV weather people are the worst. One study showed that when the TV meteorologists said there was a 100 percent chance of rain, it actually rained less than 70 percent of the time.
Still, according to Silver, weather models have actually improved over the years and are pretty accurate, at least with their five-day forecasts. They miss the average daily high temperature three days in advance by an average of only 3.5 degrees. But when forecasts go out eight days, they are virtually useless, and at nine or more days in advance, they are worse than what you would guess just from looking at average seasonal precipitation and temperatures.
U. S. forecasters have also made significant improvements in predicting both hurricanes and earthquakes in recent decades. It may not be news to you that your chances of being in an earthquake are higher in Anchorage, San Francisco or Los Angeles, than they are in Miami, Dallas or Houston. But did you know that Charleston, SC, is seismically active? There was a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1886, and Charleston is likely to get another earthquake long before there's a significant tremor in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Denver.
And finally, largely because of better weather forecasting, it turns out your chances of getting hit by lightning are much less than they used to be. The chance of an American getting hit by lightning in 1940 was about 1 in 400,000. Today, in 2015, it's just one chance in 11 million.
Which reminds me of an old golfing joke: What should you do if you're caught out on the golf course during a thunder and lightning storm?
Grab your 2 iron and hold it up as high as you can. Why? Because even God can't hit a 2 iron!