So, snow already!

Off and on for the last week we have been alternately pelted with what I call ‘granola snow’.  It starts out as little grains of snow and eventually creates a crusty, slipper surface everywhere you step.  This goes on for a day or so and then the sun comes out (or tries to) and then the temperature edges up and over freezing resulting in melted granola.

While mentally composing this post, I ranged way back 60-some years and recalled the snows of winters past.  I am sure everyone does this from time to time; comparing snows “like it used to be, Sonny” with a chuckle more like a cackle, but I really seem to remember a lot lustier winters in my past.

Take Fairbanks (please).  We were up there from summer 1947 through summer of 1950.  I was age 5 through 8.  Perhaps it was because I was closer to the ground, perhaps not, but it did seem that snowfall, any snowfall, seemed to reach my waist fairly fast.  I definitely remember walking to school pushing snow ahead of me like a two-legged snowplow the whole six blocks.  When I arrived (or, in fact any kid arrived), our first order of business was to dance about and shake wadded snow and ice down our snowsuit legs.  This was done in the entryway and under the supervision of stern-faced teachers who would inspect each and every one of us for contraband (i.e. hidden snowballs).

Once inside, we progressively shed outer garments until we were steamed dry.  This was because the school used a monstrous coal-fired boiler and steam heat.  Steam heat, as we all know, is the bane of any kid regardless of age.  When the heat was on, we sweltered; when it was off, we froze our little tushies off.  But, I digress.

We were overjoyed when our dad came home and told up we were moving to Washington, D.C.  Whoopee!  No more snow!

To put it mildly, we were disillusioned the very first winter.  That was the winter of 1951 and it was brutal.  It actually made me wish for the sunnier days of Alaska.  At least in DC we had buses to take us to school.  Only on rare occasions would they fail to get through.  It was pointless to sit there in the kitchen listening to the radio and praying for a snow day (or week, sometimes) because they would never fail to pick us up.

This amount of snow was not the norm though.  In most winters (we were there from 1950 through 1955) the snow levels were somewhat disappointing to us kids.  It rarely ever reached our waists.  Instead, it mostly hung around our thighs or lower.  Since my age was from 8 through 13 there, perhaps it was because I was taller than before.  By now, however, boys my age were now more interested in building, charging, and defending snow forts as well as making the lives of girls miserable by snowy antics.  I would like to state here and now that I really didn’t have any axe to grind when I did stupid stuff like that.  If any of those girls are still around, I apologize.  It was just ‘stuff boys did’ back then; stupid, but necessary by the ‘Code of the Male Animal – preteen years’.

Moving onwards, we spent the years 1955 through 1958 in Southwest Germany – specifically at Bitburg AB near Trier.  This was a different snow it seemed.  Weather patterns weren’t like those in the States.  It seemed as if snow could come from any direction – and usually did.  My dad, who was in the hierarchy of the 2nd Weather Wing on base, had a particularly hard time predicting weather patterns for quite a while until he got used to there not actually being a pattern.  In my 13th through 15th years there, I came to welcome hard snows.  Since we were housed in a central area, and the school was plonked down smack dab in the middle, we rarely got a chance to actually miss school because of snow.  We did have what they called ‘delayed opening’.  This is similar to what that call the same thing nowadays except that it meant we would gather in the gymnasium or smaller lunchroom and play records and dance until the teachers actually arrived.  Now I recall that snow was beginning to work towards my aims instead of against them.

The Germans also had tons of sports and festivals all winter long in which snow played an important part.  Cold weather would not daunt them from carnivals and the like.  All of which would allow some cold-weather activity on the part of good male-female relations.  In face, it outright demanded it in some instances.  Ice skating was high on the list as well as bundling on horse-drawn hay wagons (real wagons with real hay and real horses) so we could “watch the scenery go by”.  And, best of all, there was nothing like walking your girlfriend home in knee-deep snow, carrying her books, and trying to catch flakes on your tongues.  That was something to die for.

The following years, I spent mostly in California.  When that ended, I spent a year in college and then joined the navy.  My first few years were spent down in Southeast Asia where the only snow you saw was coming from the press reports on how well we were ‘winning the war’.  I did spend three years in Misawa, Japan.  The snows were great there with drifts sometimes high over the roof of the car as I drove to work.  It seemed strange , however, that Japanese snow only fell from right to left.

Now, in this new year, all I see (so far) is snow that barely reached your shoe tops.  I realize that we may have more snowstorms for a while, but I’d bet they aren’t anywhere near as deep or as good as snowfalls of the past; dammit.  I really miss a good hefty snow.  Maybe, since it is an election year, we’ll see some great snowjobs.

Holiday, part 1, is over

Well, Christmas of 2011 is now over.  Today, being the 30th, is almost the last day of the year too.  Our Christmas here was very quiet.  Our granddaughter is down in Texas going to college there so there was just three of us to exchange gifts.  We have a friend, who we’ve known for over 40 years, living in our basement.  Of course, he was invited up to share Christmas dinner with us.

We had a great dinner – probably ate too much – and then settled down in the living room to open gifts.  I got some very nice pocket tee shirts.  They are very hard to find, especially in short sleeves.  I dislike getting tee shirts that don’t have a pocket because (now) I carry around a small notebook to jot down things I want to remember.  The old brain cell isn’t functioning as it should since I’ve gotten older.

I got a couple of books from my wife.  Both are in my small group of favorite authors, and both were brand new releases.  Unfortunately, I’ve already blown through Griffin’s book, but Clancy’s book will take a lot longer.  My most surprising gift came from my friend Rick.  He gave me a 30G iPod.  Only recently have I discovered that if I use larger, over-the-ear, earphones I can hear music very well.  I can’t use ear buds because I have to take out my hearing aids and that negates hearing music because I can’t distinguish the middle frequencies enough to enjoy it.  Now, I have to get busy and continue transferring my vinyl collection (450 records strong) over to MP3 for the iPod.  To that end, I bought a USB turntable a while back.  It works well but the bundled software that came with it was really badly written and difficult to work with.  I now just fire up Audacity, start the record playing, and come back in a half hour to stop recording.  Then, all I have to do is chop up the half hour recording into tracks.  Easy.

Regarding my post a while ago about my rusting truck I now have to consider putting inner tubes into all four of my tires.  I paid almost a hundred dollars to have all four tires remounted (after cleaning the rims) but since they are aluminum alloy wheels, they have developed corrosion enough to cause air leakage.  They are still slowly leaking.  Short of buying new wheels (which I definitely cannot afford) tubes are the next line of defense.  I never knew that there were inner tubes specifically designed for radial tires.  They are a bit more expensive, but will keep the heat down from the sidewalls friction.  Conventional tubes will blow out quicker due to all the heat.

The weather has not been cooperating at all.  We’ve had lots of rain, blustery winds, and even a tiny bit of snow for the last ten days.  Definitely not what I’d consider proper Christmas weather.  Right now, I went out to refill the bird feeder and add another cob of corn to my squirrel bungee.  As I look out the window, I see that the little brown chickadees (or whatever they are) are having a blast picking out the smaller seeds and kicking the larger ones down to the ground for the larger birds to eat.  I don’t mind that, but in the spring some of the seeds sprout instead of being bird food and then I have a darker patch of grass to deal with.  Every year I move the feeder to another branch so I can clean up the sunflower shells.

My squirrel family across the road have been hunkered down in their nest most of this winter so far.  They venture out only when they spy a new corn cob on the rope.  I’ve lowered it somewhat so that the younger squirrels can jump up to it.  A couple of weeks ago I watched an older squirrel carefully pulling the rope up to the limb he was sitting on.  Once he wedged the cob into the fork of limbs, he went about stripping it of kernels.  Tricky animals, these squirrels.

My remaining desktop computer developed a case of ‘fan-itus’.  The cooling fan at the back of the case began to sound noisy from time to time.  I removed it and manually spun the blades.  They wouldn’t even make one revolution before stopping.  One, or both, of the bearings appeared to be bad.  This explained why, when I booted up a couple of times, I got told that the “system fan has failed, press F2 to continue”.  That sounds ominous, but it only means that the RPMs have fallen below what the BIOS has deemed to be safe.  It was still turning, but not moving a lot of air.  I ordered a new fan from Newegg (I love that place) and it arrived yesterday.  It was installed and now the temperatures inside the case are back to normal.  One strange thing though: The shipment started out as a UPS shipment but when it got to Dayton, for some very strange reason, it was turned over to the US Postal service for delivery.  Since I was tracking it, I noted that it arrived in Dayton very early one morning, but wasn’t delivered until TWO DAYS later by the Post Office.  So, this package took two days to come eight miles from central Dayton to me.  No wonder the Postal Service is whining about money.

That’s about it for now.  Not planning much for New Years.  I did note, however, that Lady Gaga will be putting on a couple of performances before the big ball drops.  I haven’t watched Dick Clark’s narrative of the Times Square happenings for years, but I just might this time.  For some undefinable reason it turns out that I like Lady Gaga’s music.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I do.  I’ve watched the DVD I made of her “Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden” performance on HBO several times.  The ‘A Capella’ rendition of Born This Way during the closing credits is great.  I guess you’re only as young as you feel.

Snow, snow, everywhere

No pictures today.  I looked outside this morning and saw that we had already accumulated almost three inches over the last eight inches we had before.  Even then, I had to run my granddaughter over to the next town for her college class.  Luckily, my truck had been repaired from it’s bout with a blown hydraulic hose in the steering.  Four-wheel driving all the way there are back.  Not much fun.  We found, when we got back, that afternoon and evening classes had been canceled.

So, here I sit, penned in by the snow, and nothing to do.  Right now, the satellite is “in”, but with all the snow it just might go “out”.  I have a lot of DVD’s to watch though so all is not lost.  I might even try to do some more work on one of my virtual railroads.  Chippy has been asking for an update to my German route “Echternach to Erdorf” so maybe I’ll work on that.  It is unfortunate that I didn’t use the real terrain for the route, but, instead, just did a rough approximation.  Back in 1955 (through 1958) my dad was stationed in Bitburg which is right in the middle of my route.  To get names for surrounding towns, I just went out on Google Earth and mapped out the old train route.  It doesn’t even exist any more now.  The line stops at Bitburg and doesn’t continue down to the Luxembourg border.

Even I, a great lover of all things snowy, am ready for spring.

Bill

First snowfall this year

It wasn’t much, but it was the first snow to fall this year.  The storm blew through in about an hour right after the temperature dropped almost 15 degrees – down to 28.  This was two days ago and now the temperature this morning is a steady 16.  Wind chill makes it seem as if it was 12, but, actually, is there any difference between 16 and 12 when you’re outside?

The gloomy day kept up until about an hour after the snow and then the sun came out.  Didn’t melt the snow though.

My huge woodpecker friend came back but stayed mostly in the tree out front.  He started on one side, worked his way around the trunk, and then hopped from one branch to another.  All the while pecking at, presumably, bugs; or, at least looking for them.

Bill