Categories
Commentary

It’s Snowy Deck & Patio Furniture Season

_99149104_20171210_145801Christmas is over and back in its box in the attic. The jet stream is blowing hard across the Great Lakes and pummeling us with sub-zero wind chills and lake effect snow, arctic clippers and blowing down across Ohio and, this week, that newest hyperbolic wild weather phenomena–the BOMB CYCLONE (oh how the marketing brahs at The Weather Channel must have sighed whilst excavating that gem of a meteorological wonder)–is hitting the mainstream, joining Snowmageddon and Polar Vortex in that rarefied caste of ratings-generating American Idol Weather Terminology.

This is not to undermine the effects of winter storms and the havoc they wreak. Every time it sleets south of Fredericksburg, Virginia dozens of Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy are lost to, or injured in, wholly avoidable automobile accidents. (HINT: Stay home, Beauregard, that white stuff is slippery.) And Boston got spanked by Flash floods that froze (WTF?) entire neighborhoods in place, which is messed up. But it is Boston and, well, karma. Right? Somebody has to bear the burden of the Patriots’ deal with the devil, and it ain’t going to be living Vegan Ken doll QB Tom “Quinoa Salad” Brady.

winter-snow-outdoor-furniture_lwtirzWhat does trouble me about these Twitter-friendly parade of ridiculous terminology is that shade they’re throwing on the time-honored, proven-to-be-accurate method of winter storm appraisal, the good old-fashioned Deck & Patio Furniture photo. For as long as I can remember (admittedly, not as long as I used to be able to remember), the severity of winter storms has been evaluated using observable scientific method, most recently on the internet but for many years before that in the form of winterizing-snowviewer-submitted photos and filler coverage by local news teams. Three generations learned to analyze the critical level of a “weather event” through this observable, utterly reliable data.

How would I know what winter was bringing to my good, decades-long friend Sally, who lives far away in Montana, if she didn’t apprise me of winter conditions north of Yellowstone with timely and evocative imagery of her deck, live and up to date?  That’s right. These are my actual friend’s actual photos of her actual furniture.

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It goes without saying that the level of personal connection forged between me and my friend–or any one of the millions of Americans who annually apprise the world of their on-deck snow conditions (looks like Sally has a nice 7 inch base with a few inches of powder on top)–exceeds anything a few bozos with an old meteorology textbook can manage with their horror-film vocabulary.

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And, final, overlook the community-building that comes from the ubiquity of patio-furniture. I don’t think it is overstatement to say that these photos–and the sense of kinship they evoke–are one of the deep and abiding bonds that hold us together as a nation, and as a people. Stick that in your Bomb Storm and smoke it, why don’t you.

Categories
Christmas Photo I Like

Christmas Tree & Reflection

Having trouble getting into the spirit? I’ve lined up a couple of weeks worth of fun holiday pictures I’ve scrounged and stolen from around the internet over the years, some of which I’ve shared before, some I haven’t.

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Categories
Journal

Winter Cedes To Onions

Everyone else has been getting snow days–we’re at what is hopefully the bitter end to an uncharacteristic late winter cold and snow snap.  Temperatures have been up and down for weeks, hitting well below 0 degrees Farenheit zero (-18 C) on multiple occasions and, until the past weekend, ascending above freezing for just two days out the the past month or so.  Unfortunately, it rained like hell both of those days, in between snow storms, accumulating inches of slush that turned to the ice that lay beneath everything that hasn’t been constantly shoveled, scraped, and salted.  My wife is a teacher, and her school has cancelled at least 6 days, with at least that many late openings and early dismissals, combined.

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I grew accustomed to my kids are sleeping in morning after morning, classes on what seemd like a perpetual 2-hour delay, due to cold.  I sat at my desk one morning last week and guzzled coffee: outside it was  -4 F, which didn’t even feel that cold.  It was not so long ago I was bundling up in wool sweater, parka, gloves, scarf, and cap to go out to our community’s annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” light-up night back in November.  I remember the gentle winter breeze felt like it was cutting like a dagger.

It was 29 degrees.

If it had been 29 degrees last week I’d have gone outside without a jacket and washed the truck.

No precipitation right now, but it’s supposed to hit 50 degrees–we’ve been above freezing, with highs in the upper 30s and 40s for the past 3 days as well, and not a moment too soon.  If the meteorologists are to be believed (and they aren’t) things look good, and above averages, through the weekend.  Sweet. I’ve got yard work to do.   Apple trees and shrubbery to prune, fallen sticks and branches to pick up, and who knows what else is hidden beneath the foot or so of crystalized mess in the backyard.

Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker--sorry, Eric.
Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker–sorry, Eric.

It will be a treat.  I’ve got this little property maintenance gig, and one of the things I do is clear sidewalks for a local landlord whose student tenants are too lazy and indifferent (as I was when I was a student) to do it for themselves.  It’s always been fun, invigorating, especially since I stopped trying to wrestle a snowblower in and out of the truck and opted to do as much as I could by hand.  It’s good, clean work.  The sound of the shovel scraping concrete pleases me, and despite all those mothers in the world urging us to bundle up I think the cold, fresh air is good for me.  I know getting outside, even under cloudy skies, is a good thing–no seasonal depression disorder for me.  I’m the same level of grumpy as always.

But the level of weather has been bullshit.  I said that the other morning, when I woke to find three new inches when the forecast had called for “a dusting.”

“This is bullshit.” I said.  It didn’t help.

Normally, I expect to shovel 17 times, give or take.  Last year was high with 24 trips around town spread between early December and March. This year there was one day of work in December, nothing even in early January, but I’ve been out 37 times in slightly less than 2 months.  Some of those are two trips on the same day, and some of them were easy–a few inches of powder.  The heavy snow and slush of the past two weeks, on the other hand, has been a mess–impossible to clear without hundreds of pounds of salt, and hell on my arms. I’ve got what I think is tendonitis in my left elbow. Tendonitis!  From shoveling!

On the bright side: I’ve been planting.  My package from Fedco Seeds arrived a few weeks back, and I’ve got my onions growing in flats under lights, and the leeks are germinating and should sprout within the next few days.  We joke around here about “clinging to our guns and religion,” thanks to a certain President’s unfortunate, but astute observations of our regional mores, but at this point it is those little green blades of onion starts that are keeping me sane.

Remind me of this when I’m moaning about the heat.

onion_seedlings

Categories
art Photo I Like

Found Winter Photo: On Thin Ice?

This one caught my eye on Tumblr–can’t get past the Amish feel of the image. I wouldn’t want to be an Amish any of the time, but I especially wouldn’t want to be Amish in the winter.

http://thegirlwithcoldhandsblog.tumblr.com/
http://thegirlwithcoldhandsblog.tumblr.com/
Categories
Photo I Like

Found Winter Photo: Surfing NYC

Brrrrrr.

tumblr_njo8jy8dFN1sn5xdbo1_1280

Categories
meme My Poetry Photo I Like Uncategorized

Monday Meme: Wiener Crash (with poem)

wienermobileI’m thinking on this
Monday Meme thing:
how long can it last?
A good meme is hard
to find, frankly; fortunately
I’ve found this frank foible
that’s far and away
the facebook favorite
of the day..

No Bologna! Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Crashes Near Harrisburg

I’ve noticed, via diligent research, that this isn’t an isolated incident.  Pleasantly, the wienermobile is eminently meme-worthy….
5de90e87e7d915a50075b9537eada20f oscar-mayer-wienermobile-stuck-in-snow-randomLOLz

Categories
Photo I Like

Found Winter Photo: Michigan Winter Ford

I’ve had this happen before–one of the unexpected benefits of switching to an SUV from a pickup: no shoveling out the bed.

http://moore-motor-sales.tumblr.com/image/110899494098
http://moore-motor-sales.tumblr.com/image/110899494098
Categories
Journal

Where Is That Guy?

So, it has come to this: I feel guilty for not posting, and more guilty for not making time to read your blogs.  I’m drowning in notifications…

I was going to write about all the things I’m not writing about–you know, because it’s been a good week with a lot going on, but I’ve been busy–but in the process of telling what they were and what I wasn’t going to write, I wrote some stuff…

And then I wrote some more.

tumblr_n5w2uv2Ntt1s9ahd8o4_1280And now this post is to explain, in advance, why I’m writing about all this stuff after it’s relevant.  Just think of this blog as an old school magazine made out of paper (they had those, it’s true).  Somebody dies on Tuesday, you don’t read about it until next Monday and that’s okay.

Some things, that deserve to be written about, still won’t be, and that’s a damn shame.   I’ve missed more Chris Christie corruption (go figure–somebody should start a pool on when his fellow Republicans are going to turn on this guy and feast on his ample flesh–Newsmax is already eyeing up his flanks with a barbecue pit smoldering in the background), that cartwheeling airplane crash in Taiwan (holy shit! right?) and the worst of the worst: ISIS.

On the plus side: Harper Lee’s staff is sending us a “new” old novel, which I highly anticipate borrowing from the library (because that baby’s going to cost $30 for sure, and Ms. Lee doesn’t need my financial support nearly as much as the small cadre of pulp science fiction authors whose work I buy new just because of, well, karma.  Maybe I’ll write about that sometime, but not today.

And I digress.  As usual.  But who cares?  No good pictures in this post–no one will read it.  I know how the game works.

I’ve been mired in snow. I’m in the property maintenance business when I’m not wearing my SuperBlogger spandex tights and cape, and it’s been snowing for 12 days straight–which means I’ve been salting and scraping for 10 of the past 12 days.  I took last weekend off–it was a good weekend, actually: two bands in bars on Friday and Saturday and a great Superbowl Party, although I should have ditched out on at the latter while a mix of rain and snow fell for hours.

An inch of slush above an inch of clear ice greeted me Monday morning–cleaning the sidewalk was a lot like running a Zamboni over a rink.  I was just sort of polishing the ice–and 250 pounds of salt over 13 properties–about 700 linear feet of sidewalk plus stairs, stoops, and entries–didn’t do a damned bit of good.  Sigh.  We’ve had 1-2 inches of snow each day this week, and I’ve finally got it under control.  And, okay–so I’m going to put some pictures in here after all.  I’m weak.

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It is a good thing that I really like snow. I like being out in the winter, in the cold.  I like how snow looks, I like how it squeaks when it’s damnably cold, and how it sticks to all the branches and shrubs when it’s just below freezing.  I even like the shoveling, though my current workload is probably a bit excessive, and here’s the thing: I have a tractor with a plow, and two snowblowers–but I like the scrape of the shovel on concrete, and I’d rather burn through my biceps and shoulders shoveling than wrestle with those damn machines
IMG_0060and their infernal combustion engines that never like to start  in cold weather.  And not to mention dragging a trailer laden with equipment around town as the streets narrow and get all sloppy–that’s no fun at all.  Just my shovel and me, being all manly.

It’s 5:45am–got to get the girls to the gym for strength training.  More later.

 

Categories
Uncategorized

The Weather-Tainment Industry

IMG_0060It’s snowing outside–actually, it’s not–but I could have written that a day ago, or on almost any day in the young year of 2014 as we slog our way through the coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory.  As of Wednesday, Feb 11, we have enjoyed just 2 days with temperatures above freezing, both of which were accompanied by nights in the low twenties, with much of out time spent below 10 F.  This isn’t particularly bitter weather, especially if you’re from–say–Minneapolis or Calgary or Murmansk, nor is it particularly extreme for us, except that it has been nearly constant ever since the spooky night of our Christmas Party–December 21, when temperatures climbed through the day and maxed out close to 68 at midnight before crashing hard and fast enough to score a (barely, but still…) coveted White Christmas.

IMG_0054The constancy is what gets us.  I live in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, in northern Appalachia, at the eastern edge of the American mid-west.  Geographically, we’re often grouped as part of the Middle Atlantic States–although it takes me a 6 hour drive to smell saltwater.  Our weather reflects the best and worst of all these divisions–hot, humid summers, rainy springs and autumns, fierce winters, occasional drought, blizzards blown down over the great lakes from Canada, and every ten years or so a N’or’ Easter storm that blows up from the south and can deliver snow by the foot.  It’s a crapshoot, but the one thing we’ve come to rely on are the respites–a few cold days, maybe a cold week, for example, is usually followed by a minor melt.

IMG_0056This year, it has just been nasty, and I have to admit that for the most part I have enjoyed it. In my selective–and possible masochistic–reckoning this is how all winters are supposed to be, and how they always were: seasons of relentless cold and giant piles of snow.

What I have not enjoyed is rampant commercialism of the weather reporting industry, both nationally and locally.  Teasing important weather-related news, branding weather as an entertainment feature, exaggerating situations to shock and awe patrons, and even running commercials featuring narrative and imagery from past storms to scare potential viewers into watching “news at eleven” newscasts has reached a shameful zenith, and I fear it will only become worse.

IMG_0039The Weather Teases have been around for a while, and they strike me as both the most dangerous and the most important.  It’s as simple as any news tease: an anchor or meteorologist pops up in a commercial and offers up some cryptic tease, often phrased as a question, of information that viewers ought to have earlier.  For example, “Will local roads turn dangerous as temperatures drop?  Find out at eleven!”  If someone has someplace to go, that’s important information being withheld, in the name of drawing viewers.  If the answer is “No, the roads will be fine,” the broadcaster is guilty of being sneaky and deceptive, but I don’t see a potentially dangerous result.  If, on the other hand, those h0015BE3Ddropping temperatures mean ice on the road after an evening of drizzling rain, people need that information–maybe to get where they’re going early, maybe to get kids home before things get worse.  Those TV Talking Heads shouldn’t be teasing between commercials during Wheel of Fortune–they should be telling us the facts, baby, “Look, compadres–it’s been raining, temps are dropping sharply and the winds are picking up.  It’s getting slippery and it’s going to be worse.”

The next one is more of a pet peeve than a cynical, possibly dangerous practice, and that’s the sudden fashion to report “wind chill factors” rather than actual temperatures.  Every boy who ever broke out of his plastic bubble knows it feels colder when the wind blows–but that TV meteorologist, who used to do traffic on a local FM station–ahem–will have a much easier time holding your attention if he skips telling you about the actual 20 degrees thermometers read in favor of a hyperbolic windchill of +3 degrees–wind chill factor. That sure makes us sit up straight in our seats, eh?  So cynical.

Next up, this is for you, Weather Channel.  If you haven’t noticed, The Weather Channel recently began a policy of naming winter storms, you know, like they name hurricanes, and then copywriting those names.  Though it hasn’t worked out very well (the idea has failed to resonate with audiences, i.e. nobody gives a damn), one can see why they would try this.  People love that hurricane thing–especially when particularly fierce storms turn out to have the same names as our ex lovers and in-laws–damned right Isabelle tore a path of death and destruction through the Dominican Republic; they should see what she did to my heart!  Folks also got a big charge a couple of years ago when a modest storm dumped a bunch of snow on Washington, DC and the media pinned the headline “SNOWMAGEDDON” over the whole thing, as if frozen zombie corpses were roamng the streets of the capitol while Jesus lifted all the pure, clean snowmen into heaven–a gross over-reaction by any accounting, but a perfect precedent for potentially profitable pandering to the public during future storms–and using the hurricane model (copywritten!) releases the dullards from actually having to cook up another catchy name…where do you go from there?  Snowzilla?  The Snow Ness Monster?  The Snow Death?  Snowsquatch?  It thrills me to no end that this marketing plan has been met with complete and total indifference by American consumers.  This year they came up with “The Polar Vortex” which doesn’t sound that monstrous, but certainly has the appropriate ring of a 1950’s science fiction thriller.

Of course I’m making a hopeless argument that few folks care enough to support–most people are sane enough, and restrained enough, to simply ignore this crap, like it’s background static, and get on with their lives.  Not me.  I have to complain about it–but I always believe the ticket to a good bitch-and-moan is a viable alternative to the status quo–and this one is easy: stop reporting weather and news in general as a marketing tactic–stop the “there’s a bad man in a neighborhood that any minute now is going to kick in a door and kill everyone inside–details at 11pm.”  That might have worked before the internet, but when I’m watching TV and the talking head comes on and says “a severe ice storm is bearing down on the region–find out where it will hit the worse at eleven” I’m not waiting until eleven-damned-o’clock to find out if I’m doomed.  I’m headed straight to the internet.  TV stations are going to learn or continue to lose viewers.  As for the storm names: guys, just stop it.  You’re embarrassing yourselves.

Inappropriate, extraneous, irrelavant, possibly sexist, definitely superfluous winter bonus: I did an image search looking for an illustration of a broadcaster with “details at eleven” and, oddly enough, the first picture through the filter was the one below.  Score.

g-travel-us-hawaii-oahu-honolulu-waikiki-girl-1983

 

 

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Uncategorized

Olympics Volume 2–Meryl Takes Down Downton

It was Sunday night, the sofa was soft, the down comforter warm, and the sun was shining on Downton Abbey–it’s always shining on the glacially slow BBC soap opera, you might have noticed, despite what I’ve heard about England, yet it was brighter still inside the ice arena in Sochi, Russia where the world’s finest ice dancers were doing their thing in the short program–see how I’m talking in cool skater jargon?–and lighting things up.  We tuned out of England and headed for the East.

I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at, of course–I know basketball and football (American Football, the best kind 😉 )–but all I know about skating is that skaters have to fit “swizzles” into their programs.  Otherwise, I’m judging what looks good, what looks fluid and graceful and, well, (sorry, gentlemen) what looks pretty.  Last night, they all looked pretty, and it doesn’t help that I’m a guy who, despite feminist leanings, can’t help noticing how beautiful some of these women are–muscles, smiles, short skirts–it’s better than art on a wall.  I’m generally too beguiled by the beauty and the unfamiliar sport to be any kind of judge, unless one of them teeters visibly or falls down.

moir, virtueThe top couples last night all stayed upright.  We caught Canadians Scott Moir and  Tessa Virtue early on and decided they were unbeatable, even if the young lady didn’t have the most perfect figure skater name ever.  Tessa Virtue.  A name like that doesn’t even need a publicist–at least not in theory.

Elena Ilinykh, Nikita KatsalapovA short while later, we enjoyed watching a young Russian pair, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, and you know what? Yep, they looked unbeatable, though I thought–or, more appropriately, felt something that made me wonder if the Canadians were not just a little bit better.  At it turned out, it was close, but I was right.

Fabian Bourzat Nathalie PechalatThe next skaters were noticed were a French pair, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who I think I liked best of all, up to that point, and guess what: I thought they looked unbeatable. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Pechalat wore the most beautiful, most exuberant smile on her already beautiful face throughout their program–I wanted them to do well on spirit alone, and they did, landing briefly in third place behind Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Virtue/Moir.

Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew PojeThey had to know it would be short-lived.  Even though another young Canadian pair–Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje--came out and gave a great showing–not quite unbeatable, but fluid and spirited, and Ms. Weaver’s brilliant blue dress was the hands-down scene stealer of the evening, the night belonged to the last couple to skate.

It seemed like NBC packed an especically dense set of commercials into the space before Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the ice, and why shouldn’t they?  This all-American couple of student-athletes has been anointed as the face of the American Olympic team this year, and for all intents and purposes they were a very good choice: smart, upbeat, and wholesome–some of my favorite images of this Olympics have been of White and Davis off the ice, cheering for their team-mates and consoling them when things haven’t turned for the best.  You have to like that.

c55885bce17cdc211e64e00fb26901b6dc406cd5Of course, they’re also the best skaters in the world right now, and while I can’t quantify why, it was clear the moment they hit the ice–even to a neophyte like myself.  I could not see, so much as I felt the difference–the skill and the surety of their performance, the confidence in every movement.  It is their moment, they knew it, and their world record finish pretty much cemented the fact–while simultaneously burying all but the most emphatic–and nationalistic–rumors of score fixing that had been swirling around. Meanwhile, back and Downton Abbey, absolutely nothing had happened.

More Olympics:

https://oldroadapples.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/the-olympics-volume-1/