Saturday, December 17th, 2016

We have somehow survived Part One of The Great Blizzard of 2016! But wait! There’s more! (That’s why they called it Part One, see.) More snow is on the way! No one will blame you if you cannibalize your spouse!

Seriously, we got two, maybe three inches last night, about the same as last weekend when another storm was coming in and everybody was talking like we were all staring into the heat death of the universe. Come on, people! We live in Wisconsin! Put on your hat & gloves and grab your shovel! We’ve done this only a couple thousand times before! I think we can get through the next one just fine.

frozen | 10:30 am CST
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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
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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
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Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Among the things I will not be doing this morning is shoveling the driveway, even though I set my alarm clock to go bleepity-bleep-bleep a half-hour earlier than usual because the all-knowing National Weather Service said there was supposed to be somewhere between five and twelve inches of snow on the ground this morning. The driveway’s on the ground. So is our car. And when our car is separated from the driveway by twelve inches of snow, it doesn’t take us to work in the morning.

That’s why I gave myself an extra half-hour to shovel it all off this morning. It was a brilliant plan, except that, when I peered blearily out the window at the driveway this morning, there was no more snow on it or the rest of the ground than there was when I went to bed last night. Relieved, I went back to bed, reset my clock and burrowed into the bedcovers, where I laid for five blissful minutes until the cats began to dance on my head.

forecast | 5:30 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, sleeplessness, work | Tags: , , ,
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Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Friday morning, I opened the garage door to see if the snow that had fallen the night before was enough to need shoveling. It was. I grabbed a shovel and started to work.

I’d cleared about ten feet of the part of the driveway closest to the garage when I noticed that the plow had come by and piled up a wall of snow at the end of the drive that the car would never be able to get past. Shoveling a path down one side of the drive, I figured I’d start on the wall, to get the worst of the work out of the way.

When I got there and tried to chop it into chunks with the shovel, I found out that the plow must have come by last night when the snow was mostly slush, because it had an inch-thick shell of ice that was almost impossible for the shovel to get through. I had to tramp back to the garage to get the ice chopper.

After ten or fifteen minutes of chopping at the ice, then shoveling the chunks away, I had cleared a pitifully narrow path all the way to the street. It was back-breaking work made even worse by the high banks of snow piled up around the end of the driveway, making me lift every shovel full waist-high and pitch it up over the top of the bank.

As I started to chop at the ice again, a city truck came up the street, spreading salt. He slowed down as he got closer and stopped right in front of my driveway, so I stopped working and watched to see what he was up to. He turned the truck so that it looked as though he was going to come right up my driveway. I stepped back, thinking, What the hell? but before another cuss word crossed my mind, he dropped the plow and shoved that whole wall of ice off to the side.

I pumped my arm up and down and shouted, “YOU’RE AWESOME!” I don’t think he heard me, but he probably got the message.

awesome plow | 8:26 am CST
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Thursday, January 31st, 2013

We were on our way home, the car crawling at twenty miles per hour over slush-covered roads that were slowly freezing solid. “It’s the end of the world, isn’t it?” My Darling B asked me.

“No,” I chuckled. “The world is not ending. The world will be around for a long time.”

“No? Yesterday it was warm enough for people to play golf. Today it’s snowing. That’s not a biblical end-of-times?”

“Oh, that,” I said. “Yeah, that’s what’s happening.” I thought she was talking about something like a killer asteroid or the heat death of the universe.

end times | 6:00 am CST
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Sunday, December 30th, 2012

My fingertips are bleeding! My hands are chapped front, back, and now on the fingertips! What new ring of winter hell is this? I can’t type without fingertips! It’s like a kneecapping! I tried wrapping Band-Aids around my fingertips so I don’t bleed all over the keyboard, but I had to backspace and retype every other word at least three times because of fat-fingered typos! And the mousepad doesn’t react when I touch it with a bandaged fingertip! GAHHH! WINTER SUCKS!

fingertipped | 7:49 am CST
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Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Let me tell you about the woman I almost killed while I was trying to get to work this morning.

Driving to work in the snowstorm we have been experiencing on this fine pre-apocalyptic day was a challenge. The O-Mobile is a fine car, but in anything more than two inches of snow it steers like a cow and can’t find any traction. I hate the idea of shopping for a car so much, however, that we won’t be replacing our trusty steed any time soon. I’ll probably go shopping for tire chains the next time I get the chance and call it done.

I shoveled the driveway first thing in the morning, but realized before I got to the end that the O-Mobile wouldn’t be going anywhere until the city’s snow plows cleared the street. I didn’t even shovel all the way to the street until they came by and did that thing where they pile up a snowbank as high as an elephant’s eye right at the end of all the driveways, then speed away, cackling maniacally. That happened at about a quarter past seven, right after Tim came over to help dig out. All alone, it would’ve taken me at least twenty or even thirty minutes to chip away at that pile of snow, but together we murdered that snowbank in about ten minutes.

After a long, steamy shower to get all the snow-shoveling sweat off me and soothe my aching shoulders, I finished off a cup of coffee and headed out. The roads were a horror story. Our street, freshly plowed, was not so bad, but the main road through town was covered in slush, as were the roads further on. I wasn’t steering the car so much as suggesting which way it should go by ruddering the front wheels in what looked like the direction least likely to result in an accident. The O-Mobile decided to go in that direction or in another, apparently random direction, but the process it used to make that decision remained unknown to me.

This resulted in a more or less safe trip right up to the point I arrived at the office building where I work. The six-lane road it’s on, Washington Avenue, is one of the main traffic arteries right through the middle of the city and had been recently plowed, resulting in the aforementioned elephant-eye-high snowbank across the side street I would have to turn into to get to the parking lot. To get a good look at the street I cruised right past it, driving further down Washington to double back on Johnson, where I got stuck in a snowbank. The irony was not lost on me.

After a good Samaritan helped dig and push the O-Mobile out of the snowbank, I circled around the block and was coming down Washington for a second pass when I saw that someone had already turned into the side street and left two deep grooves in the snow. With some careful maneuvering and a little bit of luck, I thought, I should be able to make this turn if I can manage to get my wheels in those grooves.

Luck seemed to be with me. There were no cars behind me and none beside me, so I had the luxury of swinging the car into the middle lane and setting my speed just where I wanted it so that when, at the critical moment, I began a wide, sweeping turn into the side street, everything looked exactly right. But luck, she is a bitch sometimes. Just as I came to the corner of the building and could see around the snowbank, a woman on a bicycle appeared, riding out of the side street toward Washington in one of the tire tracks I was aiming for!

She jumped off her bike. Whether she was jumping off in reaction to the appearance of a 2005 Toyota Camry suddenly careening in her direction, or because she was tired of trying to pedal through slushy snow, I can’t say. I was kind of focused on trying not to turn her into road kill. Swerving to one side, I ran the O-Mobile into the snowbank. Momentum carried the car through the snow as it fishtailed back and forth, and I sailed past her, up the street and into the parking lot in the space of about five heartbeats. Five resting heartbeats. I squeezed about fifty heartbeats in the same amount of time. How I didn’t have to pick the broken remains of the woman on the bike out of the grille of my car, I can’t explain.

The storm continued pouring down snow all around the city and even got worse as the day went on, so I punched out at noon and made my way home ever so slowly along roads that were freshly-plowed on the Madison side of town. Further around the lake, though, the roads didn’t appear to have been plowed since I drove in four hours earlier. As the O-Mobile wallowed and swam along the slush-covered roads through Schenk’s Corners, another bicyclist appeared through the murk, riding right down the middle of the road. I smooshed him. He was asking for it.

kill death murder horror | 8:33 pm CST
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Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

First snow of the season fell from the sky this morning as I was backing the car out of the garage, headed down the street to Crema to see if they could sell me a bag of coffee beans after I let our supply run out. I’m a bad coffee janitor.

The snow came down as those tiny little blobs that look just like Styrofoam. They even bounced off the windshield the way Styrofoam would, and they didn’t melt until the defroster warmed up the glass.

Back at home, there was enough snow built up on the back porch to be impossible to ignore, and it stuck for about an hour, so I think it counts as a real first snow.


first snow | 10:13 pm CST
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Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Bonkers sucked all the heat out of his cat bed heater. I’m not sure how he did that. From what little I know about electricity and stuff, the juice is supposed to keep coming out of the wall socket for as long as I have the thing plugged in, but Bonkers seems to have violated the laws of physics, or overdrawn his electron account. The thing was nice and warm for a month or two, then it went stone cold.

Twice. He sucked the life out of the first one we got him and I wasn’t happy that he went back to sleeping on my head, so we got him another one and in just a couple months he killed that, too. Two heating pads were enough to get him almost all the way through the winter, though, with just a few weeks of chilly evenings when he would sneak into the bedroom early and curl up on Boo’s bed, which went on being warm. Sometimes she’d let him sleep on it all night but sometimes she wouldn’t. She probably knew he’d steal all heat from hers, too, if she didn’t chase him out of it.

When winter weather returned and Our Humble O’Bode began to get a little frosty around the edges at night, Bonk climbed right back into bed with us, having no warm bed of his own, and could not be persuaded to sleep anywhere else, not with a polite nudging, not by not-so-politely shoving him, not by picking him up and dropping him at the foot of the bed. He’d wait until we were settled and starting to drift off to sleep again, then tiptoe his way back up to his favorite spot between our shoulders and wedge himself there, stealing all the goddamn covers.

Until Tuesday when the new cat bed heater that I ordered after spending too many sleepless nights was waiting under the mailbox when we pulled into the driveway after work. I got a tingly feeling all over from opening that box. It was just like early Christmas. Couldn’t even wait until after dinner to unpack it and stuff it into Bonk’s cat bed. I wanted that thing toasty warm before the house started to cool off.

Worked like a charm. He was a little upset at first when I picked him up and plopped him in his cat bed. I suppose he assumed that, because it was not Boo’s bed, it was not going to be as warm as he expected it to be, but he caught on almost right away that things were different and was curled up like a big rollie-pollie soon enough. I made sure I got the king-sized bed warmer this time, big enough for a dog, really, so it should take him at least six months of round-the-clock cat naps to suck the life out of this one.

OMFG more drivel about cats? | 1:04 pm CST
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Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I am shoveling snow off the driveway. Yes, right now. No, I’m not holding an actual shovel in my hands right now. Okay, I’m not in the driveway right now, either. I’m in my basement lair, drinking coffee, but my belief is unshakable that, if I’m only taking a fifteen-minute break from shoveling snow, I can still say I’m shoveling snow, sort of like you can be in the break room at the office and still say you’re at work.

I’m not even sure why I’m shoveling snow today. I’m certainly not going to drive the car anywhere. Neither one of us has any inclination to do so and won’t, unless the other one manages to cut off a digit in a freak kitchen/home improvement power tool accident. Now that I think about it, that wouldn’t be so very freakish, considering our motor skills, coupled with our love of powered gadgets that come with lots of sharpened attachments.

We will be traveling to the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest later this afternoon (phone pictures of drunken B & O will be available in near-real time this year thanks to Twitter and a new cell phone!), but that will be by taxi. I guess I’m shoveling snow off the driveway so that he can pull up to the front door and we can walk to the taxi without getting our shoes full of snow. That makes sense. I’ll get right back to that as soon as I finish this cup of coffee.

Almost everybody else on the block has a snow blower now. The air was abuzz with the sound of two-stroke engines as I stepped out of the garage, shovel in hand, and I counted no less that four people clearing their driveways of snow using great honking big steel-body snow blowers. I, on the other hand, still do it the old-fashioned way, and not because I’m a snob about it. I love snow blowers. They are the ultimate power tool: Driven by a gasoline engine, one makes more noise than all my other power tools combined. A snow blower has not one, but two sets of whirling blades that will snatch the fingers off an unwitting operator before he can say “Oh, shit!” A snow blower is really a snow cannon: It shoots a salvo of snow in an arc broad enough to get it off your driveway, and it’s self-loading! You don’t even have to push it! All you have to do is follow along behind it and steer a straight course!

The reason I don’t have one of these awesome toys is just this: I’m a bit of a snob. I won’t buy just any snow blower. If I’m going to do this, I’ll do it right: It’ll have to be all-metal construction, self-propelled, powered by a four-stroke engine big enough to handle a massive dump of snow, and it’ll have to start itself. My dream snow blower costs thousands of dollars, and that’s the other problem: I’m cheap. Some day my aching back will trump my tendency to pinch pennies, but today is not that day.

This has been so much fun, but My Darling B has gone out to shovel snow now, which means I’ve got to get out there, too, or I’ll look like a total piker. To entertain you while I’m freezing my ass off and ruining my back, here’s a link to a story about a guy who built his own snow blower using a V-8 engine he had laying around his garage. Enjoy, and stay warm!

shoveling | 10:17 am CST
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Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The temperature this morning is zero. We have no temperature. This is Wisconsin. At least once each winter, we’re not allowed. I hear that, farther north, they take away temperature as soon as the snow flies and don’t give it back until July or so. Here in the land of cheddar we’re a bit luckier than that, but only by a tiny margin. Today, we will not go outside except to walk from our homes to our cars, then from our cars to the places where we work. We will have to cover every square inch of skin with fleece and wear big, poofy, down-filled jackets that make us all look like ambulatory hand grenades. We will have to take very shallow breaths when we step out of our cars or suffer the surprising pain of frozen nostril hairs, as bad as an ice cream headache. And we will all greet each other with the phrase, “MAN! It’s COLD out there today, isn’t it?” or some variation thereof.

Happy Zero Day.

low | 5:57 am CST
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Thursday, January 12th, 2012

There’s snow on the ground. Time for every Cheesehead in Wisconsin to act as if they’ve never seen snow before. The ones with great big honkin trucks will drive faster than they normally would, because they’ve got four wheel drive and no amount of snow is going to intimidate them. The ones in cars will drive slower but will still turn corners as if the rule about not breaking traction doesn’t apply to them. The first pileup starts in about a half-hour. Be there.

snow | 6:41 am CST
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Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Ah, yes. Shoveling snow off the driveway. The wintery exercise that blows the flabby coronary muscles of dozens of aging, out-of-shape Wisconsin men every year. Will this year be my turn?

After I “retired” from the Air Force, I moved back to Wisconsin because I remembered liking four seasons, and after living in so many places that had two or less, I thought I wanted to go back to having the full four.

Oddly, Misawa was the last place I lived before I came back to Wisconsin. There are four seasons in Misawa, just like Wisconsin. Also, just like Wisconsin, I had to shovel snow in Misawa. Lots of it. I wonder why that didn’t set off alarm bells in my head?

Anyway, today was the first day in winter when I had to shovel the driveway. In my mind, that ought to be the first official snowfall of the year. If you don’t have to shovel it, it really shouldn’t count.

snowfall | 9:25 am CST
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Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Slowly, tentatively, I’m adjusting to the warm(er) weather. Monday night, I peeled off the topmost quilt layer on my side of the bed. On the other half of the bed, My Darling B was sleeping with, I think, just a sheet, and laughing at me. She’s always been the warm one, and I’ve always been the one who has to bundle up.

Even though I rolled back the topmost quilt, that still left me with a quilt over a blanket, more than enough, I thought, to keep me warm all night. It was more than enough, all right. I woke up after about an hour because I was too hot and had to peel off another layer. Also because I had gas, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the quilt.

It was just a little cooler last night so I had to keep the blanket and the quilt on all night, and the morning commute is going to be a bit of a test to see just how badly I want to keep biking to work. At least I don’t have the chills all day in the office.

The ride to work is a lot easier thanks to the NEW! NEW! NEW! pavement that was laid along the first mile or so of Monona Drive. When they widened it, they were even good enough to mark off three feet from the curb for a bike lane so the SUVs, pickups and delivery trucks aren’t grazing me as they go past. Shooting the bottleneck between Buckeye Road and Cottage Grove Road still gets my heart going, but it’s a short distance, maybe two hundred yards long, and at seven in the morning the traffic isn’t all that thick yet. If it is, I ride on the sidewalk all the way to the bike trail. Might as well; there are no pedestrians.

Chills | 5:47 am CST
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Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I think our dusty house may be trying to kill us.

By the time we get to the end of the winter season, when the windows have been closed more or less continuously since October, our house has dust bunnies so numerous that the president takes them off the endangered species list. Granted, that’s mostly our fault. We could be more diligent about hunting them down. It seems like such a waste of time, though, when there are still books I haven’t read, naps I haven’t taken and web sites I haven’t doinked away the afternoon poking through.

This year has been especially dusty. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been remarkably non-diligent about cleaning. I don’t doubt that could be the case, but I’m not ready to make that admission yet. It could just be an especially bad year for dust. The cats have been shedding quite a lot. I’d feel a lot better about blaming it on them than taking responsibility of it myself. Tell me you wouldn’t do the same.

And up until now, having a dusty house hasn’t been a problem, so we haven’t wasted a lot of thought to mull over how to make it less dusty, or energy to do anything about cleaning it up. This year, though, we discovered that a dusty house is, in fact, a problem. This year it’s come to light that dust can make you really, really sick.

My Darling B ventured into the basement last weekend to clean up the room where she starts her garden vegetables under a bank of grow lights. Really, just veggies. Tomatoes and peppers. Nothing else. If this was a basement operation for growing other things people seem to be growing in there basements year-round, B’s growing area wouldn’t need a clean-up every spring to clear away the stacks of boxes, magazines and whatever else gets thrown in the basement “just for now.”

She cleared all the collected junk away first, then swept up the floor. An hour or two later she had a nasty cough. The next morning she was coughing up lung cookies. She thought it was a relapse of the chest cold she’d been suffering the week before, but the doctor she visited said her symptoms sounded like an allergy, and she she asked B what she’d been doing right before the coughing started and B told her, the blame fell on the dust.

Kay. That made sense, given that we already know our house is infested with dust bunnies and that B got the hacking ickies last year at about this time. First thing I did the night she got back from the doctor’s was change the furnace filter because I don’t know when I did that last. Probably last fall, but maybe a year ago. Maybe more. I always forget to write the date on the side of the filter. Didn’t forget this time, though.

And after summer I vacuumed the basement stairs where some of the biggest dust bunnies have been hanging out. It’s been live and let live up to this point, but I have to draw the line when they keep My Darling B up nights.

Then today when we did our housecleaning today we vacuumed and wiped and dusted like maniacs. And B’s been looking for a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter, a high-priced acronym meaning that it’s supposed to clean all the dust out of the air and/or all the money out of your wallet.

Heepah! | 4:36 pm CST
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Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Was I right about last week’s warm weather being a tease? Yes, I was! I got it so right when I said we’d all be freezing our nipples off this week! BOOyah!

Why can’t I be right about something useful, like lottery numbers?

frigid | 8:26 pm CST
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Monday, February 14th, 2011

This was the first time in almost two weeks that I was able to take a long, leisurely stroll around the neighborhood on my lunch break. I took two lunchtime walks during the recent deep-freeze, but they were much less leisurely and more like trotting than strolling or walking. I was torqued so tightly with cabin fever, though, that I didn’t care how cold it was, and it was pretty damned cold. But I only did it those two times.

We’ve got some kind of freak warm weather cell hanging over us right now, just like we’ve had a freak arctic weather cell hanging over us for the past halfmonth. Temps were in the fifties when I went out today – in my windbreaker! – and the snowbanks I had to climb were only half as tall as when I clambered over them a week ago. The sun was out, a fresh wind was blowing – it’s almost enough to make a fool think that winter might be over.

But I’m no fool. I was born and raised here. We’ll get one or two more days of this before the ice curtain descends again and we’re all buried in snow. It happens every year in Wisconsin at about this time. If I believed there was some kind of inscrutable cosmic plan I’d think it happened on purpose to thin the herd of the ones that aren’t bred for this kind of thing, and to scare the transplants back to warmer climes. It works on the transplants, so who knows.

Sunny Day | 8:34 pm CST
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Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

image of me shoveling snow

Here’s the obligatory snapshot of me and T-Dawg shoveling about a foot and a half of snow off the driveway. I can’t tell how much snow actually fell – probably only six or eight inches – but the driving wind heaped up drifts at least a foot and a half high of snow like cake frosting, the good kind made of powdered sugar and butter. We started at the end of the driveway where it was packed solid by the street plow. It took us about a half-hour of manic shoveling to clear a spot big enough for T to pull his Honda Civic in off the street.

I decided to take the day off when we got news yesterday afternoon that the governor had declared a state of emergency and called out the national guard. State offices were closed to the public and the governor urged everyone to stay off the roads but he stopped short of releasing state employees from work, urging us to use our best judgment and allowing us to use our personal holiday time if we wanted to stay home. Well, when a snow storm as big as the North American continent is hovering over us and the governor calls out the national guard to clear roads and rescue people, I don’t have to think about it too much.

When we went to bed last night the wind was howling, literally howling outside, and the view out the front window was pretty much limited to a wall of driving snow blowing down the street. I almost expected to wake up this morning and find it had drifted up the sides of the house in drifts so high I’d have to dig my way out, but it was only up to the doorstep. T showed up at seven-thirty this morning, just as I finished brewing the morning pot o’ joe and was wolfing down my last spoonful of granola, to help me shovel the driveway, and a good thing for me, too. I’d have spent the whole day, no exaggeration, shoveling all that snow off the driveway if I’d had to do it myself, but he showed up without me even calling to beg for help. What a good lad.

Now that the driveway’s cleared and The Snownami™ has moved on, the rest of my day will be mostly sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee. I’ve got a great view out our picture window of everyone else in the neighborhood as they shovel snow off their walks. Actually, most of them have snow blowers. I’m one of the few cheap-ass holdouts on the street who doesn’t, but that’s likely to change soon.

Attack of THE SNOWNAMI! | 9:38 am CST
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Saturday, December 25th, 2010

We opened presents last night because I couldn’t wait any longer. The kids aren’t as jazzed about Christmas as they were when they were wee little bugs, but I was so excited about seeing My Darling B open the prezzie I got for her that I knew I’d pee my pants if I had to wait until the next morning, so I lobbied for early Christmas and won.

I didn’t get her diamonds or anything like that, because she’s repeatedly warned me that, if I did, she’d only hock them and use the money to pay for a tropical cruise or a trip to Japan. I think she possibly overestimates the amount of money I’d feel comfortable spending on jewelry.

So I got her a zip-up hoodie and a t-shirt from Batch Bakehouse, our favorite bakery, just opened on Willy Street and always filled with fresh, delicious baked goods, except on Monday and Tuesday, which must be their weekend because they’re closed then. Probably a good thing because it’s just three blocks from the office where I work, so I walk over there once or twice a week for something to nosh on. I know I shouldn’t. All that butter. But it’s so good.

She got me a copy of The John Varley Reader. Remember the dream I had about trying to find the name of a science fiction story? It turned out to be Air Raid by John Varley, and it’s in this collection of his short stories. I read Air Raid again this morning and it’s every bit as good as I remember it. Much better than the novelized version (sorry, Mister Varley).

The boys didn’t get us anything for Christmas, so we stiffed them right back. Just kidding! T-Dawg got a recipe box, already loaded up with three or four of his favorite recipes, shepherd’s pie and stuff like that. The Seanster got a crisp new fifty-dollar bill because he gets harder to buy presents for every year.

And then we hung out until a little after nine o’clock before we started drifting off to bed, because we’re all lightweights, except for Seanee-boy who lives on Moscow time. We still have the stockings to dig into this morning, if and when the boys turn out of bed and gather round for Christmas cheer.

Prezzies! | 10:09 am CST
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster, T-Dawg | Tags: , ,
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Monday, December 13th, 2010

The degrees are two. Those are the degrees. There are so few degrees that it wouldn’t make much difference if there were any fewer, except that I would have to change to the singular verb if there were one degree all by itself. I’m not sure what to use with zero. I think at that point we just say “Zero” through clenched teeth and stomp our feet.

According to those guys who for some reason get paid to look at satellite pictures of weather, we are supposed to get as many as eleven degrees today. See? It doesn’t make any difference, does it? Two degrees, eleven degrees, I’m not going out for a walk during my lunch break either way. Besides being insufferably cold, if I tripped and fell, I’d probably freeze solid before I bounced. I could die! On my lunch break! From the cold!

When it gets like this My Darling B keeps asking me why we moved to Wisconsin after I retired from the air force, instead of some place warmer, like Siberia. “Because I like the seasons,” I tell her, an answer that makes as much sense as anything else I could tell her when it’s two degrees. Two. Freaking. Degrees.

Two | 6:16 am CST
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Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

After a scalding hot shower and a hot cuppa java, I think I may once again return to the class of warm-blooded creatures. Last night was about five million years long and it was all because the cat in the middle of the bed kept hogging the covers, keeping me awake most of the night. It’s very difficult to sleep when half of you is toasty warm but the other half of you has become a meat popsicle. This has got to stop.

I didn’t used to mind. I’ve tolerated a cat in the middle of the bed for as long as I’ve been married. My first cat also used to sleep between us, and that was back in the days when we slept with our arms around each other and our legs all tangled up. We’re not any less in love now, it’s just that our bones are not that flexible any more. Catface was usually somewhere else when the lights went out, but in the morning she would be well and truly wedged deeply between us. We never did figure out how or when she did that.

Our current cats also creep into bed sometime after we curl up and start sawing logs. This feline stealth mechanism has got to be come kind of evolved self-preservation technique. They’ve learned that people can’t stay awake all night to keep them out, so they wait until the snoring starts, then crawl in. Or they think we’re purring, and it’s irresistible as a siren’s call.

But I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with staying warm on these long winter nights, and now that we have two of them, we have twice the problem of cat-wedged-ness. If I don’t come up with a self-defense mechanism of my own, I’m going to end up frostbitten and bloodshot-eyed.

Bloodshot | 6:18 am CST
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Saturday, December 4th, 2010

The snow came, just like they said it would, but it didn’t stop us from going to the farmer’s market just the same as we do almost every Saturday. It came close to stopping us, if only because My Darling B didn’t have any boots to wear, just her regular street shoes, but since the farmer’s market is at the Monona Center and we can park in the ramp, she didn’t have to walk through any slush to get there. Neither did she have to worry about the snow or slush to shop for groceries at the co-op, and when we stopped at Batch Bakehouse for some of their fresh-baked yumminess I let her hop out of the car after pulling into someone’s newly-shoveled driveway before parking the car. And that got her safely around town before we stopped at Monona Bootery so she could find a pair of new winter boots and we wouldn’t have to even think about parking shenanigans like that ever again.

I was going to completely blow off shoveling the driveway until tomorrow, but just after we finished a scrumptious lunch (B whipped up a cheese spread made with sun-dried tomatoes and all manner of good things) our own T-Dawg stopped by to see if us old folk needed any help clearing the snow off the sidewalk and driveway, so I suited up and we each took a shovel in hand to finish off the job in two shakes. Then he came in to sit for a few minutes and swap stories with us before heading off to scare up some lunch for himself.

Snowfall | 9:26 pm CST
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Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

image of first snow

Woke up this morning to see the first snow that fell overnight and stuck. It made My Darling B cry a little tear.

So now it’s really winter. I know that the solstice is supposed to be really winter, but everybody knows it’s the first snow. Solstice is when the days start getting longer and I can look forward to spring, so how can that be the first day of winter? No, the first morning I wake up to find snow on the ground is the first real day of winter. And it’s here.

Only twenty more days until solstice …


First Snow | 6:55 am CST
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Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Time for a few stray thoughts. I haven’t done this in a while, and I can’t come up with anything but complete randomness right now, so the timing seems auspicious:

Granola. I eats it. I didn’t used to because I thought it was ucky, and I thought it was ucky because it was pretty bad granola. Dry enough to suck every molecule of moisture out of every cell in my mouth and gritty enough to use as traction if my car got stuck on the ice. I don’t know who made that stuff or why, but as granola it was crap. Or maybe that’s just the way granola was made back then, and now they know better. We started bringing it home from the co-op when Tim asked for it, and as he asked for it more and more I started eating it, too. Crunchy and sweet, it’s pretty tasty stuff and comes in more flavors than the multicolored plastic stuff they sell to kids as breakfast cereal. There was a spell after Tim moved out where we didn’t bring much home for a while, and then a while back we started stocking up every week because both My Darling B and I were eating it for breakfast in the morning, and neither one of us are breakfast-eating people. Or weren’t. I guess we are now.

We practiced our dance steps last night and we were freaking AWESOME! By our standards. And the bar’s still set pretty low, but only because we’ve been at it for just five weeks, folks. It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve got all the steps down, for instance, but that’s about it. Grace, poise, timing, that’s all stuff far in the future. BUT WE’VE GOT THE STEPS DOWN, OKAY? That’s gotta count for something.

I thought we’d be able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep now the weather’s warmed up and the cats have wandered off to find other places to bed down for the night, but the recent cold snap brought them right back to cuddle up alongside us like a couple of heat magnets. Last night they had me pinned to the mattress like Lilliputians pinning Gulliver to the ground. They were purring like great big furry purring things. They were just like another metaphor that I can’t recall right now.

We had one of those weekends where we didn’t go out much and it seemed as though we didn’t really do all that much. I mean, we weren’t inert blobs of protoplasm; we washed some clothes, took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and unblocked the bathroom drain, things like that. Stuff got done. Also, I finished a book I started last weekend (no prize for guessing what it was about) and My Darling B got herself up into the biggest snit ever talking to me about the book she finished.

And some of us had plans that were dashed by the cold snap that brought us that one last dump of winter (at least I’m hoping it’s the last dump). B wanted to break out her roto-tiller and turn over some soil in her garden so she could plant lettuce, and I think she may have been just a teensy bit bummed out that she couldn’t. With temps in the fifties all week, she was living in anticipation for too long not to be utterly gobsmacked by the change in weather. I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded, but I’m a little more excitable than she is.

strays | 5:59 am CST
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Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Bangor and AroostookWhoo! Just finished shoveling snow off the driveway. Gotta sit down a minute.

I found this coffee mug at the thrift store yesterday and had to bring it home because I got a thing for choo-choos, but also because “Bangor & Aroostook” sounds enough like a phrase you’d hear in a foreign-language porn film that it makes me grin.

We got rain coming down on snow that’s turning to ice. The Great Ice Storm of 2009 cometh. There was barely a half-inch of snow on the driveway but it was all locked in place by a glaze of ice and soaked through with enough water that I might as well have been shoveling away a half-inch of crushed granite. My arms and legs are quivering like jelly.

Walking back to the house up the sloping driveway turned into a mad scramble on the layer of ice I exposed. Made me wonder if I’d done the right thing, but I’m sure as hell not putting all that snow back.

Bangor and Aroostook | 10:29 am CST
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Thursday, December 27th, 2001

Tim and I went sledding today. Last time we went, we drove out to the “ski hill” on the other side of the base, but this time we tromped a block up the road where, it turns out, there’s a great sledding hill right next to one of the tower apartment blocks. The best run looks like instant suicide when you’re standing at the top, but once you’re shooting down the inside of that first turn, you’re having the time of your life.

And what better way to enjoy a great sledding hill than on a saucer? Santa found one somewhere and left it under our tree, so I had a go and they’re every bit as much fun as I remember them. Right out of the gates I was going sideways, then backwards, and on my third or fourth run I just about flattened a kid. It was dead easy; he wasn’t even looking. I screamed “Heads up!” over and over, but he was too busy yelling at one of his buddies to pay any attention, so I put up my arm to shield my head from what looked like was going to be a whopping body slam, but just brushed him on the way past. Drat.

flying saucer | 5:44 am CST
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2001

This morning I opened the curtains and found myself looking at seven and a half inches of new snow under a clear, sunny sky and temps well below freezing. I spent a half hour or so digging the walks and the car out of the snow; there were cars in the street that needed an hour of digging just to make them visible.

The kids will remember this forever as their first snowy Christmas. They’ve seen snow before, even seen lots of it, but they’ve never seen snow that lay on the ground for more than a month, and never this deep, except in the mountains, which were a novelty themselves. They’re already sick of shoveling, did I tell you that? Getting them to go out there to keep up with the falling snow is more work than doing it myself. Then, while I’m hunched over a shovel, I get a head popped out the door saying, “I’ll do that, dad.” I never know what to say to that, so I just snarl over my shoulder and they disappear.

Got a bit of a scratchy throat this morning, probably coming down with the same hacking crud that everybody else has had in the last week or so. Hope I don’t give it to Barb. We did a little cuddling last night, after she dragged me away from the biography I’m reading on Teddy Roosevelt, “unless you’re more interested in Teddy,” she said. “When I’m more interested in Teddy, you might as well shoot me,” I told her.

seven | 6:30 am CST
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Saturday, December 22nd, 2001

Washed up after PT, then took B to the post office so she could put in her hours for the volunteer service she does there. She says the post office is feeling the big crush now, getting truckloads of packages many times a day. When I picked her up in the afternoon, they’d just received 400 pieces, some pieces being bags filled with packages.

During PT, I was thinking of something I wanted to search the internet for; even had the search strategy planned in my head, but because I was running the treadmill and didn’t have a pencil and paper handy, couldn’t write it down. Think I can remember a bit of it now? Can’t even recall the vaguest notion of what it was I was going to search for. In the march toward drooling senility, I’m just one step closer.

Japanese workers have begun to put steel shutters around the TOW housing across the street in preparation for demolition; B’s old house is already behind the barrier, almost completely out of sight. Might never see it again.

B’s about a gnat’s whisker from cooking up ramen the way they make it in town. She sorta just threw together a bunch of stuff that looked right – chunks of chicken breast, carrot shavings, diced onion, and some bean sprouts – and what do you know, it tasted pretty good!

Finally received some snow worth bragging about. It was coming down this morning when we first went out, and was still coming down, even heavier, this evening as we were sitting down to supper, only to stop shortly after. We must’ve got at least 4-6 inches, although it sure seemed like a lot more when I was shoveling it off the walk ways over and over again.

[11/24/14: “TOW housing” is what they called the wooden houses built on the hill across the street from our house. The only explanation I heard for this was that “TOW” stood for “termination of war,” the time period when the houses were built. They looked to be about fifty years old, so that explanation is probably as good as any.]

jumble | 6:18 am CST
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Sunday, December 16th, 2001

Now this is winter!

Snow’s been on the ground for weeks, it’s cold enough to freeze farts, and the wind’s blowing hard enough to dry your eyeballs into shriveled raisins. Still nothing to brag about, the way they do here. The kids sure like it, though. They go outside just as soon as everyone’s done shoveling the walks and have a snowball fight that lasts for hours and spreads the snow around evenly.

One of the side effects of winter here is the icicles. The houses are insulated for shit, so as soon as we get a heavy snowfall, it all immediately starts to melt, and every building on base is left hanging with icicles as big as telegraph poles. Then the clouds break for a day and the icicles weaken at the eaves and they come crashing down so that it sounds like sex-starved elephants are mating with the side of your house. That can go on all day.

We have to make sure the sidewalks in front of our quarters are cleared before eight in the morning, so these last few day watches I’ve had the pleasure not only of getting out of bed at quarter to five, but adding a brisk morning shovel fest to my list of chores to do before the sun comes up. Snow in these amounts is such a novel thing to him that Tim still thinks shoveling it off the walks is great fun, does it with a smile. Works for me.

I’ve been on day watches for the last three days, so I’ve seen very little of the snow except for when I have to drive through it on the way to work. If the Japanese speed limits are good for anything, they keep people driving at a sane speed when the road is a sheet of ice. Top speed allowed on the road up to work: 36 mph on the home stretch. Most other places it’s 20. Drives most people nuts, but I’m in no hurry to end up in the ditch.

I also get to tromp through it on the way from the car into the building, and that’s the last I see of snow until I leave at night. We do mobilize a snow removal detail at work that goes out with snow blowers and shovels to clear the walks around the buildings, but I’m not allowed to do that because I’ve got too much rank. Any other place I’ve been stationed and had to pull scut-work details like that, I would’ve killed to ride a snow blower around; now they won’t let me. Figures.

Dave Arnzen replied: First of all there’s never too much rank, except for maybe during any war tribunals in which you ended up picking the wrong side. Second, think back, when you were an airman, the MSgt’s and TSgt’s didn’t have to pull any details either, but that sure didn’t stop them from grabbing the paint brush out of my hands, painting “This Stinks” on the wall that I was working on and say, “Better cover that up Airman before the Commander sees it!” … likewise, grab a snow blower, say they missed a spot, take it for a ride, cover the flt. cc’s [flight commander’s] car in a mountain of snow, park the blower out front, then let the detail get yelled at by facilities for leaving it out. TA DA !


never too much | 4:17 pm CST
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Thursday, December 13th, 2001

We’re going on a ski trip in January to Moya with the Mogul Mashers, a ski club here on Misawa Air Base. Another organization called Outdoor Recreation also sponsors ski trips, and we’re going to try them too, so we have some basis for comparison. Outdoor Rec will bus us to the site and back, and supply all the ski equipment, for a bargain-basement price. The Mogul Mashers don’t provide equipment, but will provide insurance, transportation to and from, breakfast on the bus outbound, wine & cheese on the return trip, and a stop at an onsen, or hot bath, after skiing. Sounds pretty spiffy. The price is a little steep but, as I say, I wanted to try it for comparison, so I figured we’d splurge on the membership and a couple trips with the Mogul Mashers this year and see how it works out.

We’ve still got snow here, although quite a bit has melted away by now. The weather squadron is saying we should get another big storm this weekend, but they’re always saying that. An interesting side-effect of the heavy snow is that all the buildings on base are so poorly insulated that the snow on the roof melts away instantly and icicles as big as telegraph poles come crashing down off the eaves. Our quarters have an overhang in back that the icicles hit so hard it sounds like a freeway accident involving lots of trucks carrying empty garbage cans.

skiing | 6:59 am CST
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Saturday, December 8th, 2001

With about six inches of fluffy snow on the ground, Tim and I had to try out the sledding hill north of main base. It’s not too bad, but it’d be better if it were steeper, or if we had a couple saucers to get going really fast. Remember saucers, the most insanely suicidal thing ever made to travel on snow? Couldn’t steer them, couldn’t even be sure if you were going to face forward, but you knew for damn sure you were going to reach speeds that would get you airborne if only you had wings, and sometimes you didn’t need wings. I don’t see them for sale here, so I’m guessing that lawsuits have finally eliminated them from the face of the earth.

Something else the sledding hill could use that has probably disappeared because it makes insurance companies pee their pants: a tow rope. Back in the snow-covered wastelands of Wisconsin where I froze solid many times, you could sometimes find a sledding hill where somebody had jerry-rigged a rope they’d wound around the wheel rim of an old tractor parked at the top of the hill. The rope was a big loop that hung over old tire rims on telephone poles on the way down, and dragged along the ground on the way back up. All you had to do to get back to the top was lie on your sled and grab the rope. You had to know how to ride it; if you didn’t grab it just right, it’d rip your arms out of their sockets, and you had to pay attention on the way up or you’d get dragged into the telephone poles. In a lot of ways, it was a more exciting ride on the way up than down.

Funny how all these things come back to you. I remember going about a hundred miles an hour, screaming my lungs out all the way down the hill, which Tim did this time, except that we were going about walking speed because the snow was so thick and hadn’t been properly packed down for speed. Somebody built up a ramp, which Tim managed to hit two or three times; that really made his day. He’s got a small ramp built right outside our front door, and he can shoot across the yard standing on his sled. There are quite a few other hills right in the neighborhood that are probably good for sledding, and I imagine he’ll find them all; he’s pretty crazy for the snow.

crazy for snow | 6:53 am CST
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Friday, December 7th, 2001

More snow today, and the weather squadron expected it to keep coming down all weekend, with temps just below freezing. By Sunday morning we might even have enough to build a decent snow man.

decent snow man | 6:50 am CST
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Thursday, December 6th, 2001

I woke from sleep after a mid to a sound I remember hearing a long, long time ago: a snow shovel scraping across concrete. Popped out of bed expecting to see another light dusting and instead was pleasantly surprised by about four inches on the ground and more coming down fast. (When I say things like “pleasantly surprised” about a lot of snow, you can tell I’ve been here only four months, can’t you?) Now this was a respectable amount of snow – nothing that lives up to all the bragging they do around here, you’d have to cover Japan in a sheet of ice a mile thick to come close to that. This had a lot of potential, though: fluffy wet flakes about the size of softballs that make for back-breaking shoveling, but easily pack together into killer snowballs. If it keeps up, we’ll be sledding by the weekend. I’m pretty sure Tim will just about demand it.

shoveling | 6:48 am CST
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Monday, December 3rd, 2001

An earthquake! We had a real earthquake last night that went BOOM! and made the building rock back and forth just like a boat on rough water. Buildings aren’t supposed to do that, y’know, which is I guess why my brain sort of short-circuited and went south for a little while, leaving me feeling a little punch-drunk, like I needed help falling down just then. I had to bend my knees and ride the floor like a surf board just to stay upright. It was a 6.5, centered underground south of here a ways. No damage that I heard of; B says one or two things fell down at home, and the food in the freezer shifted so that the door swung open in the middle of the night and everything in there thawed. Calamity!

And there was snow on the ground when I woke up in the afternoon. (I was sleeping off a mid.) Not a lot, sort of a pitiful amount, really, but snow on the ground nevertheless, which you really should have by December if you’re going to brag about it, which they do here all the time. The 1st Sergeant asked me, “Have you heard how bad the winters are here?” I said yes. “Well, it’s not true. They’re much, much worse.” I’ve heard that last year they got two feet of snow before Thanksgiving and they never got rid of it until spring. I’ve heard a lot of things, but this winter is pretty disappointing so far, to nobody more so than Tim, who has big plans for igloos and snow forts and tunnel systems that reach from here over the north pole to Canada. He waits by the front door every day with shovel in hand.

B’s a holiday helper at the base’s post office, which makes me a teensy bit apprehensive. The other day I was in line at the counter to mail a package. One of the counter workers stepped out and, through the open door, we could all clearly see two people in the back putting on those bright blue moon suits that biowarfare reaction teams wear when they have to go clean up anthrax or nuclear spills. Everybody in the lobby sucked air through their teeth before they realized it was an exercise.

[11/23/14: The earthquake hit while I was at work. I was walking across the operations floor when I heard the BOOM! Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked around at one another. The building seemed to jump into the air; maybe it actually did, or maybe that was just something I associated with the sound. Then it started to slide back and forth; that’s something it actually did. I learned later that the foundations of earthquake-resistant buildings are standing on cement pilings that are driven deep into the ground, and there’s a thick layer of rubber between the foundations and the pilings. The energy of the earthquake is gently transmitted to the building through the rubber pads, “gently” being a relative term in this case. Then the energy is slowly dissipated as the building rocks back and forth. It’s a big building, so it rocks for a long time, maybe five or ten minutes. It’s a very sickening feeling to stand on what had been the rock-solid floor of a building that is now swinging and swaying. Your brain doesn’t want to accept that that’s possible.

I’d been working a mid, hence the reference to sleeping it off. I think mid watches ended at six in the morning. I usually went straight to bed when I got home and slept for as long as I could, usually until about an hour before or after lunch time.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the mild winter. We got hardly any snow the first year we were in Misawa; again, “hardly any” is a relative term here. We got enough that I would have to shovel, but everybody kept bragging about how we were going to get buried in snow. I didn’t believe them until the next winter, when we got buried. In fact, every winter after that first winter, we got buried in snow. The first one was a freak, apparently.

Speaking of getting buried, every December the post office put out a call for volunteers to help keep up with the huge volume of Christmas packages that were shipped to the base from the States. My Darling B volunteered for several years, but that first year, remember, was the crazy year when nutjobs were mailing envelopes filled with anthrax to various people in the government. We never got any at Misawa that I know of, but people were still pretty nervous about it, me no less than anyone else.]

1 down, 1 to go | 6:10 am CST
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