Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It was cold, I tell ya!


Give the weatherman his due -- they said it would be cold on Monday, and it was frigid. I'm glad at least the mail carriers and schools were closed for the holiday. Pretty sure I heard the kids saying "Free at last! Free at last!"

It all started Saturday night with freezing rain and light snow, and eventually it was like Mr. Freeze had attacked the town and was holding us hostage. (I prefer to imagine the urbane and tragic George Sanders version, but choose your favorite.)

The temperature never got out of the single digits from Sunday night through now (Tuesday morning), and all day Monday we had windchill as low as -21. The snow that had fallen was not deep, but froze over into a candy shell of treachery. I'd crouch from the blasts of wind before they could send me sliding down the hill, AFV style. My four-legged friends -- the only reason I even went outdoors on Monday -- didn't fare much better. Legs all over the place, paws unable to gain purchase. And these are suburban dogs, not used to peeing on solid surfaces; the little guy, Nipper, was baffled. He had a terrible time figuring out where to go. 

I never fell, and we never lost power, thank heaven. I've mentioned before that our furnace can't run without electricity, and winters where random tree limbs took us off the grid would get cold fast.


How cold was it? <carson> It was SO cold, that Gladys Knight froze her Pips. </carson>

Below is a bad picture of ice on the window. Or more specifically, on the window crank mechanism on the inside of the house, above the kitchen sink.


Today it's supposed to go to 26, which will feel like a day at the beach by comparison, and it's said to be a rainy 50 on Wednesday. I think I can live with that.

(Note that all temperatures used in this blog are in that human scale of Fahrenheit, not those other anti-human scales people outside Murca like to use. Just FYI.)


Monday, January 21, 2019

Ink vote!

A friend of mine -- and he knows who he is -- has been threatening to get a tattoo on his upcoming fiftieth birthday. I can't talk him out of it, despite the fact that he's going to think it was stupid by the time he turns fifty-one. But he clearly has no idea what he wants to get. We, his dear friends, have narrowed down his possible choices to a manageable list, and we're planning to vote on which to inflict on him. And you can vote too! Just leave your thoughts in comments.

□ Flaming Skull  ๐Ÿ’€
  "Mom" and Heart ๐Ÿ’—
□ Popeye Anchor⚓
□ Chain Link Fence (Rather Than Barbed Wire)
□ Jesus
□ Entire Ceiling of Sistine Chapel
□ Spider  !
□ Bloody Dagger ๐Ÿ—ก
□ “My Daughter’s Heart & Debts Belong to Daddy”
□ Knuckle tats that say "LOVE" and "SOFA" 
□ Devil
□ Life-size Cross V
□ Evil Clown ๐Ÿคก
□ Unicorn ๐Ÿฆ„
□ Twinkie the Kid
□ 401(k) Management Company Logo
□ Hula Girl
□ Viagra Logo
□ Copy of His Mortgage
□ Skull and Crossbones N
□ PC :
□ Metallica Logo
□ Cheese ๐Ÿง€
□ Barry Manilow
□ Smiley Face J
□ Remote Control on Arm; TV on Butt ๐Ÿ“บ
□ Nickel Slots
□ “Disco King” ๐Ÿ‘‘
□ “Don’t Tread On My Lawn” Flag
□ Evil Clowns Coming Out of Tiny Mausoleum
□ Copy of His Business Card
□ "Mom" and Bloody Dagger

Now, some of these are classic tattoos; a few are peculiar to him, and indicate his Catholicism or career; but most are understandable when you think of the average American male reaching that milestone age of fifty. So what do you think would be the best tattoo? Or do you have a brilliant idea we forgot? 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Being cool when it's cold.

Winter has come to slap New York upside the head -- and not just upside, but downside, east side, west side, all around the town. Today is freezing rain, but tomorrow is just flat-out freezing. Here in the beautiful Hudson Valley, just north of the busy metropolis, we got a few inches of snow overnight, with that freezing rain making it crunchy and dangerous; it's dropping to 3°F tonight and tomorrow the high is 10. So we're cold.

The thing about being cold is, it can be hard to look cool. It it's not that cold, say just below freezing, it's no big deal; you can be dressed for skiing like James Bond and look awesome. But when it dips below zero Fahrenheit, with a windchill in the painful negatives, it becomes harder to avoid looking like a gigantic dork.

Everyone knows that the best defense against really cold weather is layers, right? Yeah, trying looking suave when you can't put your arms down.

every girl crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man

The problem is compounded by the fact that the truly warm clothes are historically dorky. Goofy Christmas sweaters became a thing because all the nice, toasty sweaters were goofy. The hip ones you would wear at the chalet, or for the aprรจs-ski disco, wouldn't protect you ten minutes out in a real winter storm. For that you need Grandma's ugly fair isle knitting with eight billion stitches. Modern protective gear made from space-age fibers are a definite improvement in many ways, but I am telling you, if you want to stay warm, stick to your ugly Grandma special -- although it has its limitations, as will be explored below.

Real animal fur is very warm, they tell me, and looks grand, so assuming you're not as poor as your average writer/editor, you may not have to duct tape squirrels to your parka to get that feeling of fur. Is that an exception to my cool rule?

Not always. First of all, you have to deal with people getting mad at you for wearing fur (some of them in leather jackets... yeah). But also, just slapping on fur is not really enough for truly horrible winter weather. Let me tell you about Roald Amundsen.

According to Roland Huntford's masterful book The Last Place on Earth, Amundsen, a native of Norway, learned how to deal with REALLY cold temperatures from the Eskimos: "He realized that millennia of evolution and specialized adaptation had taught the Netsiliks how to survive in the cold, and he was only too happy to learn all he could from them." As for clothing, which for the Netsiliks was fur-based, "garments had to fit loosely, so as to form pockets of air. They also had to allow air to circulate, so as to prevent sweating; a dangerous enemy, for it dissipates heat, and makes protective clothing freeze, thus destroying the insulation."

We're a long way from Raquel Welch's fur bikini from One Million Years B.C.

Which might keep you warm, but
wouldn't have helped her in the antarctic.

So Amundsen, one of the greatest if not the greatest polar explorer ever, wore fur on his polar expeditions, but a not some Park Avenue fur; what he wore looked more like a fur sack, like the raccoon coats associated with the 1920s. (Waterproofing was less of an issue, since Antarctica is actually a desert.) In other words, he still kind of looked dorky while on the mission.

But here's the point: A lot of coolness -- maybe most of it -- comes from the person inside the clothes anyway. After all, you may be cool, but you ain't Roald Amundsen chilling with his dawgs having led the first successful expedition to the South Freaking Pole cool.

Sorry, you ain't.

He could have been dressed like Randy from A Christmas Story and he would have been just as awesome. Hell, he could have worn Ralphie's bunny suit from that movie and he would have been just as awesome.

So if you want to be cool when it's cold, dress warmly, be smart, and be fearless. That's an unbeatable combination.

And don't duct tape squirrels to your parka. It doesn't make you warmer and it annoys the squirrels.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Do snakes sneeze?

Large dog Tralfaz had a sneezing attack, three in a row, to which each got a "Bless you!" from me. His sneezes really seem to take a toll. I'm the same way.

It occurred to me that sneezing is one of the things that dogs and people do similarly. We don't walk or run the same way, due to the leg-number situation, and on that note we don't release waste products the same way. We don't eat the same way -- dogs have atrocious table manners -- and we certainly don't drink the same way. Dogs' method of drinking is pretty comical when you look at it. They seem to work awfully hard to take in small amounts of water. An alcoholic dog would have a rough time of it. (Or a "ruff" time! Har har never mind.)


True, dogs don't cover their noses when they sneeze, but neither do a lot of people I won't name but will be silently judging.

I suppose that the further something lies from us in the animal kingdom, the less things we do in a similar way. You read a lot of little known facts along those lines online all the time. "The Madagascar Zoonie Fly only drinks by absorbing water through its wings!" -- I just made that up, but it's the kind of thing we learn when we look around at the various critters in our world. Some things on this earth are more alien than anything any SF writer ever dreamed up.

It got me to wondering if snakes sneeze. Reptiles are a giant step away from us, away from live birth and warm blood and into egg-laying and cold blood. I understand that snakes smell with their tongues. But they seem to have li'l baby snake nostrils. So, sneeze?

Yes! Kind of. But apparently it's bad news if they do. It's apparently not a sneeze like we on the mammal side of the tracks know it, because snakes have no diaphragm, which in us is a key mover in the sneeze operation. So if a snake is doing something that sounds like a sneeze, it could be a sign of an infection or another problem. On the other hand, iguanas and some other lizards sneeze salt, which sounds like the makings of a cheap monster movie to me (Saltzooka! King of the Salt Lizards).

Having solved the riddle of reptile sneezing, I decided to see if bugs sneeze. They do not. Which is good. I'd hate to see a little ladybug blow herself across the room.

But maybe they're missing out. There is something almost satisfying in a really good sneeze. I almost enjoy it, if it doesn't hurt and I don't embarrass myself with a lot of nasal discharge. I wonder if the dogs enjoy a good sneezeroo too.

And I note that we're supposed to get a lot of snow and ice this weekend. I wonder if Saltzooka is busy...?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Getting low on anvils.

Drawing up the ol' shopping list for the week and realized that we're in need of some of the things that would encourage a trip to the ol' warehouse club -- paper towels, TP, coffee, and so on.

Good price on anvils!
I kind of enjoy my bimonthly-ish trips to the warehouse store. It's no good for the regular supermarket run; I read years ago that the club stores have about 400 different items, whereas your supermarket has thousands. Much better choices of meats and produce. But once you drag your humongous packs of facial tissues or dog biscuits home, you don't have to worry about buying them for a while. And you save money... or do you?

It doesn't feel that way when I pay the annual fee, which is about $55; it doesn't feel that way when I drag my loaded cart up to the checkout and fly past $300 (usually that high if I've bought toner for the damn printer). And of course, as the movie Wall-E wanted us to know, buying in bulk will destroy the entire planet. (If you haven't heard of Wall-E, it's a small art house science fiction film by some anti-capitalist outfit called Disney.) More practically, or at least more immediately, not everything in the warehouse store is actually cheaper than in a typical market.

My real concern is waste. Not food waste; while some economists and environmentalists are concerned about food waste from people buying enormous loads of meat and such from the club store, that's not something I typically do. I rely on the club for the less-perishable goods. Besides, the way I eat, there's little food waste in this house. In my experience, houses with children are houses where a lot of food winds up in the garbage, because parents shop in the produce section with great intentions and kids wind up snacking on buttered saltines or scooping Jif right out of the jar. No, the waste I mean is behavioral -- the way I act when I know I have a huge supply of something.

I just have a feeling that bringing home a skid of paper towels makes me overly cavalier about their use. Wash hands? Why use that towel hanging by the kitchen sink when there's a more hygienic roll of paper towels right there? Taking a shower? Here, dry off with a roll. We've got tons of it! We're rollin' in it! Hyuk hyuk.

It's the kind of attitude that makes us imagine rich people lighting $1,000 cigars with $100 bills. Why not? It's fun! There's just so many of them!

This goes completely against my upbringing. My family had not gotten over the Great Depression by the time I came along decades later. It was like it had all just happened, and was just waiting to happen all over us again. Waste not, want not would have been our family slogan, if we'd had one. (Despite that I was a spoiled kid -- a very, very guilt-ridden spoiled kid.)

But back to the wasteful habits of bulk shoppers: Has anyone studied this? I haven't found any studies, only krexing about food going to waste. I want to know about the wasteful habits for nonperishables bought in bulk. We have two big dogs and believe in self-preservation through good hygiene, but if I know I only have one roll of paper towels left I'm going to be cautious with it. Not so if I have a package of a dozen.

As much as I dislike mindless anti-consumerism, which is as fractious as mindless consumerism is dumb, I would suggest some clever economist with a means of getting grants look into this. You could start right here. When we buy anvils at the warehouse club, we go through them awfully fast. When we buy them individually at the anvil store, they seem to last longer.