Sunday, October 27th, 2019

I just ran across another one of those “asteroid passes uncomfortably close to earth” stories and I have to ask: Why are these stories nearly always written as if asking the question: Why keep track of asteroids when the so-called smart people are obviously crap at keeping the asteroids away from earth? But I know why they’re written that way. It’s because the kind of people doing the writing are the same kind of people who go outside when there’s a hurricane to tell you there’s a hurricane.

And “uncomfortably close” is an odd way of characterizing the path of an asteroid that never got within a couple million miles of earth. I’d call it uncomfortably close when I can SEE it and the sonic boom it makes as it slices through the atmosphere shatters windows. THAT would be uncomfortably close.

near miss | 7:10 am CST
Category: random idiocy, weather, yet another rant
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Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Three o’clock in the morning is too goddamn early to start my day, and yet here I am, banging out some more of this drivel after lying awake for an hour, reading several magazine articles, and catching up on some of my favorite Twitter and Instagram follows before making a pot of tea and sitting down at the keyboard. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

My best night’s sleep this week was in a hotel in Wisconsin Rapids where I tried and failed to stay awake long enough to watch all of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Sorry, Sam! I caught most of it, so I hope I get at least partial credit. I’m just not the night owl I would like to be, which is why I normally watch the show on YouTube, but hotels haven’t cut the cable and moved to the streaming era yet, and that’s why I was trying (and failing) not to doze off during one of my favorite shows. When I finally caved, turned off the television set and surrendered to the enveloping darkness, I slept the sleep of the just until my phone bleeped at around six-thirty. My Darling B sent me a “Good Morning!” text.

I was in Wisconsin Rapids because it’s the time of year when I drive in seemingly random circles around the state, stopping occasionally to pop into a DMV office and audit them. It’s as bureaucratically awkward as it sounds but I’m an awkward kind of guy so it’s a job that suits me, unfortunately. Some of us aspire to do great things and some of us pop into the DMV office where you are waiting to renew your driver’s license, grab the DMV employee who was just about to call your ticket number and drag him into a darkened back room for an indeterminate amount of time. All in the name of improving customer service, I assure you.

Wisconsin Rapids was littered with the branches of trees that were shattered by a line of storms that blew through the area last weekend, and I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say “shattered.” I saw oak trees that must’ve been hundreds of years old reduced to broken boughs and splintered stumps. Freshly cut-up branches were stacked along the curb of every road we drove down. I’ll bet the city lost at least a quarter and maybe as much as a third of their old-growth trees. One of the guys I talked to said in his yard alone he lost fourteen trees. He must have a pretty big yard, but still, wow. As if cleaning up all that wasn’t bad enough, the storm knocked the power out for days so a whole lot of people lost all the food in their fridges and freezers.

I left Madison with a coworker at six-thirty on Wednesday morning and drove in a big 350-mile-long circle that wound through northeastern Wisconsin, then across the midsection of the state, and finally down the middle back to Madison, where we arrived at about three-thirty Thursday afternoon. This was my first overnight trip but not my last. It’s surprising how many people I talk to believe I’m living the high life on these business trips. I can’t figure it out how they get that idea. We spend hours and hours behind the wheel of a compact car marked with The Scarlet Letter of government plates, which means we have to drive exactly the speed limit: any faster and our supervisor gets phone calls about how we drive like maniacs; any slower and she gets calls about how we’re a hazard to traffic. We have to book hotel rooms that have the cheapest rate, so we’re always next to an Interstate off-ramp where I’m jolted awake every twenty minutes or so by the explosive flatulence of a downshifting semi truck as it exits the highway. And don’t even try to make hotel breakfasts sound like a perk. I tend to go for the watery powdered eggs and heartburn in a sausage patty, but only because the bananas are usually ripe enough to attract fruit flies.

From The Ground Up coffee shop in Wisconsin RapidsWe do get to pick the restaurants we eat at, thank goodness, and we can even find a pretty good one wherever we go. In Wisconsin Rapids, for instance, we ate lunch at a cozy coffee shop called From The Ground Up. Not only did it have delicious food at a reasonable price and friendly staff who jumped to help us, it had a genuine Volkswagen bus parked on top of the rest rooms. When I asked how they even got it in there, the young woman who took my order explained they cut it in half so it would fit through the front door.

If there’s anything about these trips I might consider a perk, it’s that we frequently see something that is remarkable. On the first day of this last trip, after we’d been on the road an hour and a half or so, we passed by a farmer’s field which was apparently playing host to a meet-up of parasailers. The sky over our car was filled with dozens and dozens of wedges of multicolored nylon turning lazy circles over our heads, and more were taking off. It was magical.

on the road again | 6:51 am CST
Category: business travel, sleeplessness, travel, weather, work
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Saturday, April 27th, 2019

It’s four o’clock in the morning here in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, and it’s not snowing yet, although the National Weather Service has put us under a winter storm warning all day and we’re forecast to get anywhere from two to nine inches of snow. In April. Barely. I mean, it’s practically May!

If anybody needs me, I’ll just be in a corner under a blanket sucking my thumb.

not snowing yet | 4:08 am CST
Category: random idiocy, weather | Tags:
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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Spring was nice while it lasted.

On Monday, temps were in the 70s. I went for a long walk in a t-shirt and flip-flops. I could’ve worn shorts but I don’t like to tempt the gods.

On Tuesday, temps were in the 60s, still warm enough that My Darling B and I sat outside to read in the sun while we were between shows.

Snow started to fall yesterday at about eleven o’clock. It was sticking to the ground by one o’clock. I don’t know when it stopped, but there was still about an inch of snow on the ground when we left the movies to go home at about ten o’clock. Spotty snow is still sticking to the ground this morning at seven, and the temps are near-freezing. According to the five-day forecast, temps won’t get up to 50 until Monday.

Now that I’m talking about it, this is a pretty typical spring in Wisconsin. Temps warm up, snow melts, people start walking about in shorts and flip-flops, daring to believe not only that winter is over but summer is here, and then WHAM! One last snow.

The film festival was prepared for this. They had an alternate cut of the short trailer they play before the show. The original cut ended with an inside joke about how many years they would continue to use the same song for the trailer, but yesterday the ending was different: one of the characters frowned and asked, “Did she say something about spring?” and there was a fluffy snowfall superimposed over the credits. Nicely done.

snowy | 7:41 am CST
Category: weather | Tags:
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Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

So we somehow survived the polar vortex that sent the temps in the Great Lakes region spiraling down as low as twenty-seven below zero, low enough that, with the high winds swirling around the city, frostbite could kill unprotected skin in as little as five minutes. My Darling B and I avoided that by not going outside unless duty called. It was easy enough to do on Wednesday, when the state government shut down all offices to the public and told employees they could take leave if they so chose. We did so choose. On Thursday, though, we woke up to temps of only twenty-four below zero and a forecast of five degrees above zero by the end of the day, so state offices reopened to the public and our bosses told us to get our butts back to work. Which we did. And Friday was a nearly normal winter day in Wisconsin, temps rising to twelve degrees, which seemed almost miraculous after the deep-freeze we had been in.

Today, we woke up to a temperature of thirty-two degrees and a forecasted temperature in the forties. Naturally, this being Wisconsin, people are out and about in baggy shorts and t-shirts. I wish I had photos, but I was laughing too hard to think of that.

unfrozen | 2:59 pm CST
Category: weather
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Saturday, January 26th, 2019

It’s three trillion degrees below zero this morning in southern Wisconsin. It’s really only seventeen degrees below zero, but after the little needle on the thermometer swings past ten below, the number is essentially meaningless as far as I’m concerned.

frost line | 8:51 am CST
Category: weather
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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

I learned from the radio news yesterday morning on the way to work that southern Wisconsin was under a winter storm warning until the next day and that our part of the state was forecast to get hit with six to ten inches of snow. It’s all anyone could talk about at work. Snow started falling in a fine mist at about nine o’clock and by twelve, people were bailing out early to beat the traffic jams that would inevitably snarl the city’s roads.

My boss gave us the option to get out early. B’s boss did, too, so we bailed out at about twelve-thirty and worked from home. Funny thing is, the snow pretty much stopped by the time we got home and there wasn’t any more snowfall until after dark. More snow apparently fell during the night because I had to fire up the snow blower to clear the driveway of about five, maybe six inches of snow, which is nothing to sniff at, but it wasn’t the snowmageddon everybody was apoplectic about.

never mind | 6:21 am CST
Category: commuting, weather, work | Tags: , ,
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Monday, January 21st, 2019

It was so cold this morning that the thermometer didn’t register a temperature at all. It showed zero degrees. My Darling B doesn’t know how to process information like that other than to bunch herself up into a tiny little ball covered in flannel and quilts and repeat, “BRRR! IT’S COLD!” She felt a little better after I brought her a cup of coffee, though.

After we’d had a little time to get used to the fact that there was no temperature, we bundled up and ventured out into the world in our trusty O-Mobile, which took us first to the coffee shop down the road so we could brunch on breakfast sandwiches, and thence to Half Price Books, where B was hoping to score a copy of “Of Mice And Men.” She did. In all likelihood we now have two copies in the house, one we know the location of, and one that’s “somewhere around here.” B tried to find that other copy last night but gave up after an intensive search of all the places she could think of.

I wandered the stacks, focusing special attention on my favorite sections of the book store but couldn’t find a single copy of any book I had to have. Science fiction? Nothing caught my eye. Ships and trains? No joy. Mishmash of old hardcover titles scooped up from estate sales? Couldn’t find a copy of “Principles of the Steam Engine” anywhere. I could’ve grabbed the hundred-pound unabridged dictionary in near-perfect condition but, honestly, I have enough dictionaries big enough to escape a flood if I stood on them. I should be shedding one or two myself. So I left the bookstore without a stack of books in the crook of my arm, feeling very strange indeed.

Before she joined me in the bookstore, B stopped by Penzy’s Spices to pick up a big bag o’ spices. She needed just one jar but bought twenty because she read that Penzy’s donated money to the city of Memphis to make up for the money the state legislature took from the city because the city removed statutes of Confederates and klansmen.

zero degrees | 2:28 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment, food & drink, weather
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Saturday, January 19th, 2019

And just like that, I shoveled the driveway. Well, I pushed the machine that shovels the driveway. And I didn’t really have to push it all that much. It sort of pulls itself along as it digs its way through the snow. All I have to do is guide it, really, and turn it around when it gets to the end of the drive, and occasionally give it a shove when it catches on a dead weed that grew through a crack in the concrete. Other than that, the snow blower does all the work. I don’t even break a sweat any more. Best three hundred dollars I ever spent.

I do have to shovel the walk, and the steps, and the front stoop, partly because I’d feel silly using a big, noisy machine to clear off such a little patch of snow, but mostly because the snow blower won’t go over the step up to the walk, and it sure won’t go up the steps to the front stoop. If the snow blower could climb steps, yeah, I’d probably do that. I mean, I spent all that money. Hate to let it go to waste.

Just FYI, we got a bit more snow than I thought last night, at least four inches, maybe five or six.

snow blows | 8:31 am CST
Category: housekeeping, weather, yard work | Tags: ,
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Friday, January 18th, 2019

It took something like two and a half hours to get from the Hill Farms office building back to Our Humble O’Bode this evening, owing to the inch or so of snow on the ground. I have never been so embarrassed to be a cheesehead. One inch of snow and traffic all over Madison is hopelessly snarled. In Waupaca County they wouldn’t call school for less than a foot of snow, and even then most of the businesses in downtown Manawa would be open, after they spent all morning digging out. But, still.

Halfway home, we stopped at the Giant Jones brewery to pick up a couple pint bottles of their scotch ale, which is fast becoming my favorite. Then, just a couple hundred yards from our very own doorstep, we pulled up to Fraboni’s to pick up sandwiches, which we ate in front of the television while the snow continued to fall. Ah, Friday.

bon voyage | 8:41 pm CST
Category: beer, damn kids!, random idiocy, weather
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Saturday, November 18th, 2017

The weather outside is frightful. Snow is falling and sticking to the ground for the first time this season, and that’s what I consider to be the official sign that winter has begun. You can measure it on the calendar or by the stars if you want, but it doesn’t mean a thing until the snow starts falling and the ground starts freezing solid. This is it.

There’s not a lot of snow, and it’s pretty wet, but there’s enough of it on the ground that it’s easy to see no matter which way you turn your head, and I can take a picture of it and not have to explain that I took a picture of snow and not just my empty yard. That’s how you know it’s real.

It’s been coming down, on and off, since I got out of bed at eight and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon, so this might be the perfect day to curl up on the sofa with a book and drink gallons of hot beverages. Not that I ever needed an excuse to do that before, just that today I’d be able to use that as an excuse and everybody would nod their heads and say, Yes, yes, perfect day, wish I’d thought of that.

frightful | 9:38 am CST
Category: current events, weather | Tags:
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Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

We got rain today. I woke to the sound of great big sheets of rain drumming down on the roof of the house early this morning, and although the clouds are done dumping heavy rain on us, there’s still a steady fall of light rain this morning, so my plans to take my kayak out for a paddle around the lake are sunk, so to speak. I mean, I could still go. I’ve got foul-weather gear I could wear, and I could stop every so often to bail water from the bottom of the boat, but that’s not really the kind of experience I’m looking for when I go paddling, you know? I like to have the sun and clear skies above me and a gentle swell below, and I don’t necessarily shy away from a headwind but I’d rather not have to exert myself too much. One of the truly beautiful things I’ve discovered about paddling is there really isn’t any need for me to over-exert myself. The natural buoyancy of the boat does almost all the work; I just show up for the ride, and provide an occasional push. I’m not exaggerating here; I admit I oftentimes do that but honestly, if you knew how little upper-body strength I have, you’d believe me when I say paddling is not a pastime that requires great big guns of steel. I do not have those. My guns fire Minie balls. *rimshot* Sorry, gun nerd joke. Had to be done.

sunken plans | 9:04 am CST
Category: daily drivel, hobby, kayaking, play, weather
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Just for the record, yesterday we had the first SUPER MASSIVE SNOW STORM OF THE YEAR that everybody talked about as if it was the end of the world, and when we went out to our car at the end of the work day, it turned out there was maybe an inch or two of accumulation and some ice to scrape off the car. How is it that, every year, everybody forgets what winter was like? We live in Wisconsin! Snow is the default setting here!

I shoveled the driveway this morning, also for the first time this year, also just for the record. I didn’t really have to; our car could have easily driven right over it, but I was insomniac and figured, what the hell, I need some cardio anyway.

In other news …

super massive snow storm | 6:07 am CST
Category: sleeplessness, weather | Tags: ,
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Monday, November 24th, 2014

“Let’s move to Wisconsin,” I said.

“You’ll love the seasons,” I said.

What a maroon. What a gully bull.

seasonal amnesia | 6:14 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, weather | Tags: ,
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Saturday, April 26th, 2014

According to the National Weather Service, it’s supposed to start raining tonight and it’s going to keep on raining indefinitely. There is no end to the rain, according to the forecast. Looks like I should have spent all winter in the garage building a boat.

So in anticipation of being cooped up inside for at least a week, I took a long walk this morning while the sky is clear and the sun is shining. There is literally nothing about the weather this morning that would make any random perambulator you said hi to respond with, “Looks like it might rain.” It is a gorgeous day today and looks like it will keep on being gorgeous forever but, thanks to the National Weather Service, we know that’s not the case.

perambulator | 8:27 am CST
Category: daily drivel, weather
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Monday, January 27th, 2014

“In Madison this morning the temperature is seven below, but with the wind chill it feels like twenty below!”

“Yeah, but if you’re standing at a bus stop for more than ten minutes, it feels like thirty below!”

“And if your hair’s still wet after your shower and you’re not wearing a hat, it feels like forty zillion below!”

Just how many ways do we have to come up with to make it seem colder than it already is?

cold colder coldest | 12:07 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, weather
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Monday, February 8th, 2010

Aaaaand … apparently we’re not going to get any part of the monstrous snow dump we were promised this morning when the goobers on NPR told me at least six times we could expect six to twelve inches by nightfall. Well, it’s nightfall. We got nothing.

It’s not that I was hoping for maybe another snow day. I’m thinking pigs will fly out of my butt bearing gift boxes of Havana cigars before that happens again this winter. And I certainly wasn’t looking forward to driving in it, or shoveling it off my driveway and front stoop again, but for some weird reason I really hate being told it’s going to snow, and then psyche! No snow. At all.

My Darling B, on the other hand, would rather not see any more snowfall at all this season, promised or not. And I have to say I understand her feelings perfectly. She can’t wait to plant her garden again, and the sooner it stops snowing and she can see the ground again, the more it feels as if planting a garden seems like a possibility within reach. So even though I’m pissed off about being diddled by the heavy snow forecast that didn’t pay out, I’m also pulling for B.

dumpless | 8:57 am CST
Category: daily drivel, weather
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