Tag Archives: weather

Meet the New Year … same as the old year!

2 Jan

Ah, the ritual greeting of the New Year.  The calendar turns. You have to get used to writing a new date on checks (although who the hell writes many checks anymore what with e-banking).  Celebrations are had – champagne popped, fireworks shot off, Auld Lang Syne is sung, etc.  New laws are announced.  And people make New Year’s Resolutions.  That are promptly forgotten. 

I put on my Facebook wall yesterday that I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions.  My feeling is if you’re going to commit to something, commit to it.  Why do you need a big milestone to do so?  That said, I made a rough list of things I want to do more and less of … that’s here:

– more guitar playing and singing. Perhaps some lessons too!
– more time spent on reading, less time on social media (yes, I said that.)
– more investment in learning to cook more inventively and more healthy cooking
– more eating healthy meals, less crap. Dabble in vegetarian/vegan meals.
– more talking and joking about bacon. Per above, less eating it.
– more exercise, less sloth. 
– more time spent with friends I don’t see often
– more time spent with family I don’t see often
– less worrying, more positive planning, less stress, more action
– NO big DIY home improvement projects (three were enough for 2014 – sheesh!) instead, finish all the little details on things that I’ve been wanting to finish.

And as I hopped on the train this morning, I thought to myself … and more writing in my blog.

As you know, my muse has been sparse to visit me this past year. I think after the challenges of 2012 I had with health and all, and then my focus in spring of 2013 of making a career change – something that found me but nonetheless took a ton of energy and more than 5 months to close the deal, I was sort of out of topics.  I hope that changes this year.  I’m going to make much more use of the features of WordPress to be able to post interesting content – photos, quotations, reposting of other blogs and more.  I’ll post more about food and cooking, and of course will use my observational capabilities to your enjoyment.  There’s quite a few folks on my train still to introduce you to, plus I’m commuting by bus from the train station to the office right now and that’s a bit of it’s own trip.  So, more “railroaded” posts to come.  I’ll also be traveling a ton for biz, so that’s a good ripe topic to mine as well.

A quick bit of observation for you this morning – it started snowing in Chicago the day before yesterday and it hasn’t let up yet.   That’s 36 hours of straight snowfall, and it might go all the way to 48 hours what with this lake effect thing that has kicked in and is just POURING snow from the sky.  That observation on its own isn’t remarkable.  We live in Chicago. Snow is what happens here in the winter and the lake effect is part of it.

But what is remarkable, always, is how Chicago just sucks it up and deals with it. Living in Iowa growing up, it snowed there too of course – and pretty much the streets were covered with packed ice and snow from mid-December through mid-February.  Highways would often be “tracked” versus clear, and well, that’s how it was.  They weren’t very effective in making it go away.  Here in Chicago on the other hand, fates of Mayoral careers (hello, Michael Bilandic, it’s Jane Byrne calling!) have hung in the balance.  It snows here, and by G-d the city just keeps on going.  Plows are rolling by constantly and a dried ocean of salt is poured on the streets to keep them from icing up.  Usually, within 4-6 hours of the end of a snow storm, the streets are completely clear of snow and ice from curb to curb.  The expressways generally only get wet and slushy during a snow – only when it’s really cold and therefore, the salt isn’t working well, do they get badly snow packed.  It takes an immense blizzard to stop this city.

And it just gets more beautiful with a layer of snow.  I can’t wait to be downtown today and look out at the city from my office windows.

So … Happy New Year, my dear readers.  Have a great day.  Here in Chicago, we’re having a snow day, but it’s not a Snow Day. 

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There’s NO people like SNOW people …

28 Feb

Ever since writing my two editions of “Railroaded”, people keep asking me “Do other people you see, what about people on airplanes, what about people on vacation, what about …”, etc. Glad to hear that a) my writing makes you laugh; and b) that you think I’m a good observer of people. Today’s attempt at humorous observation looks at people’s reactions to snow – drivers, walkers, commuters, etc. Let’s see if this works.

What first inspired this post was driving around this past Tuesday, as Chicago got its heaviest/fastest-accumulating snowstorm of the season. This slow-moving, wind-driven, fast-accumulating snowstorm left about 8-10″ of heavy, wet, “heart attack” snow in the northern suburbs, where I live, and made a mess out of driving for a solid day. It also was a great opportunity to observe folks and their reactions to the snow. Here goes – this will be part 1 of several:

Part 1: Drivers:

Oh, drivers, oh drivers, in snow, how your true colors come out.

The Panicker: In my observation, The Panicker is not someone that likes to drive in the first place. In snow, they freak the hell out. They start driving so scared and so carefully as to create safety hazards for themselves and those around them as they artificially try to control the world around them to their state of panic. They tend to drive larger, conservative cars in colors like beige, white and silver (and either mainstream US brands like Ford, Chevy, Buick or Chrysler or mainstream foreign brands like Toyota or Honda). They clearly are not relaxed at the wheel. Add a few snowflakes in and, “OH SHIT!” – they completely wig out. And, they often do a terrible job clearing the snow off their car, making them also “Mailslotters”.

For example, as I was driving home from my suburban meeting Tuesday AM in the heavy snow (which was great as I didn’t have to commute at rush hour), I got behind a panicker. She pulled out of a parking lot in front of me (cutting me off of course), and then proceeded to drive down the middle of a four lane road! with her left wheels in the right wheel track of the right lane and her right wheels in the left wheel track of the left lane – on a snowy/slushy road where the normal speed limit is 45. She was going about 12 mph with no intention to go faster. Mind you, at this point in the snow storm, it had snowed about an inch. That was it. The road was very lightly snow covered with two bare tracks in each lane. I tooted my horn once and she spun around in her seat to see me behind her and to the right, and in that act, her car started to drift to the right lane. She then realized she was doing that and overcorrected BACK to middle, fishtailing in the process. How you just managed to fishtail a front-wheel drive car on a road that isn’t all that slick in the first place is forever a mystery to me, oh Panicker. I would have had to do a Scandinavian Flick to get my car to do that (see below). After she did that, then she realized that really should get out of my way, so at this point, she puts on her 4-way flashers and stabs her brakes, of course not thinking that perhaps by doing so she might come close to invoking a collision with me. She slides over to the right and slows down to, I kid you not, 5 mph (in a 45 zone of course). I make an evasive maneuver around her and motor on, shaking my head. She probably still isn’t home. Stay home, Panicker!

SuperSUVman: In a way, SuperSUVman is the opposite of the Panicker. Where the Panicker is paralyzed by a lack of confidence in the snow, the SuperSUVman has a case of over-confidence that is ridiculous, and it is borne out of the fact that they believe that by spending $40-$50,000 on a loaded up, 4WD SUV or pickup, that they have somehow also bought the “repeal the laws of physics” package. Ironically, on dry pavement, they drive pretty conservatively. That’s because they know that with their oversize off-road tires (that never see a speck of dirt) and their very heavy, very high center of gravity, that grocery carts generally handle better than SUVs. But put them in the snow, and by God, now they are on the Yukon trail and nothing, but nothing will get in their way. You are most likely to see these folks in ditches, in front yards, at close range with their bumper buried into your side doors, etc. as they discover (but do not learn from it) that even though they can attain prodigious amounts of forward momentum with their 4WD and V8 engines, turning and stopping (and generally staying in control) are entirely different things. Whenever I see one of these guys buried axle deep in the snow next to a rural highway, scratching their heads and dumbfounded that they are off the road, I just smile to myself and think “Karma, you are one cruel bitch.”

SportsCarSchmortsCar: The SCSC combines some of SuperSUVman’s seasonal disregard for physics with The Panicker’s ability to block traffic. The SCSC is someone who drives a small, lightweight, over-powered, performance-tire-clad, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Their attitude with snow is “I’m doing the best I can! Yeah it’s a sports car, but it’s how I roll.” Think Camaros, Mustangs, Z-cars, Mazda RX or Miatas, BMWs, Mercedes, etc. They can most often be found stuck in their own driveways, stuck on a level street or parking lot, spun out on a residential corner, turning 360s on expressways, taking an entire cycle of a stoplight to wheelspin themselves across an intersection and more. As they delay the rest of us, they give us that shrug and hands up in the air look of “well, whatcha gonna do?” Here’s what you should do: Buy a $500 beater for winter and park that stupid thing when it snows! That said, I fully and openly admit to being one of these people having had over the last 8 years a Mazda RX-8 followed by a BMW 330Ci convertible. Both of which were utter nightmares in snow. That said, add front or all wheel drive and proper winter tires to a sports car – like Audis, BMW X-drive cars and suddenly these cars and their drivers become …

WRCWannabe: First an explanation: WRC is World Rally Championship – this is the racing series where guys in overpowered little two-seat racing cars go racing over dirt roads through the woods in foreign countries. Here’s a link to some video of this in action: http://www.wrc.com/video/. So … in the winter, WRCW’s are generally people that own performance cars that are very capable in snow, and therefore, turn into capable boy-racers when the roads get slick. And I admit to being this guy now. You can see them launching hard out of stoplights, doing the “Scandinavian Flick” to rocket their cars around corners, using handbrake turns, and generally having a ball in the snow. This is how driving in the snow ought to be! After getting rid of our BMW, we bought a front-wheel-drive VW GTI and put Pirelli Sottozero 210 winter tires on it for snow season – and OMG – now a drive to a friend’s house in the snow becomes an exercise in “how much fun can I have” versus a white-knuckled “holy crap I’m gonna die” experience.I’ve see guys in everything from Subaru Imprezas and Outbacks, to Audi A3 and A4 Quattros, BMW X-drive 3 Series cars, and of course, my own beloved VW GTI, out blasting around in the snow and having so much fun. Cars equipped in this way truly do repeal the laws of physics in the way that the SuperSUVman can only dream about. But, when other cars are around, we just motor on, knowing that when you all are safe at home nursing a scotch after that harrowing ride, we have the snow-covered streets all to ourselves to go have fun on!

The Mailslotter: We all know who this is, right? These are the people who can’t be bothered to brush the snow off their car – so they clean a little slot on the windshield to see through, leaving a foot or more of snow on the hood, on the roof, the side windows covered, etc. Doesn’t need much explanation other than “stay the hell away from me please” – so when you see one of these guys, just know that they cannot see you.

So that wraps up this edition of “Snow People” – look for the “on foot” edition, coming soon!

As you were,

Stew

It’s not the heat …

5 Jul

So, today it is supposed to be 104 degrees in Chicago.  It hasn’t been this hot here in like, forever (it hasn’t broken 100 in more than 7 years).  If it goes just two degrees higher (106), it will be the hottest day ever in Chicago.  Which, of course leads me to write about such things.  I can’t say I have a concise story to tell.  Just some random observations.  It’s too hot to think enough to make a big story.

I grew up in Iowa – and well … in Iowa, the weather is a LOT more extreme than it is here in Chicago, which as a city, seems to hang its hat on its weather.  We’re windy (although that’s a misnomer), but there are windier places; we have hot weather, but obviously there are places that are much hotter.  We get cold winters but the winters here are so much milder than places like Iowa, Minneapolis, etc. that it’s a bit laughable.  But that said, one of the favorite things to do in Chicago is talk about the weather.  And make news about it.  (more on that below).

That said, Chicago weather IS unique and that’s because of our big blue friend to the east, Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan is an interesting factor on it all – it’s one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, and in reality, since all of the Great Lakes are just one big interconnected body of water, the Great Lakes system IS the single largest body of fresh water in the world.  Lake Michigan is a large “heat sink”.  In the winter it slowly gives off the warmth it developed all summer long, meaning nearer the lake it is a bit warmer than the rest of the area, and it calms down temperature extremes for as far as 100 miles out from the lake.  If the wind turns off Lake Michigan in the winter, we can get crazy amounts of lake effect snow – the cold air picks up lake water moisture and then when it hits the cool air over the land, the moisture condenses out and it snows like crazy.  In the summer, the opposite is true – it is this tremendous cool wall.  Approaching thunderstorm systems from the west begin running into the cool wall of air as much as 100 miles away, and begin to steer around it – sliding south and southwest.  Our area in the northern suburbs rarely has tornados as a result.  And, especially early in the season, you can have what starts out as a hot day and suddenly as the air starts to rise off the ground, the cool air from Lake  Michigan will rush off the lake to replace it – dropping the temps 30 degrees or more in just minutes.  Anyone who has ever gone to an April or May game at Wrigley Field has experienced this on more than one occasion.

And all that makes this hot weather in Chicago that much more newsworthy.  I guess.

Hot weather also brings on all sorts of related silliness and phrases:

“Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk”  And of course some d-bag news guy has to try every time.
It’s a scorcher! (Show me something that’s actually scorched.  I double dog dare ya.)
“Hot enough for ya?”  Huh?
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!”  Umm, it’s the heat too.  I can take humidity when it is 75 outside.

I have a good career pal, Maddie, (someone I’ve met through work) who is from Dallas, TX (although she lives in San Antonio now).  She’s lived around the southwest, and knows hot.  Her way of describing the heat (in her big Southern accent) was “Well, down in Houston, they got that humid hot.  Out in Waco and other places out west, they got the dry hot.  Here in Dallas?  It’s just Hot Hot.”

and etc., etc.  And when the TV news idiots get on the subject, well …

I get a kick out of the news media breathlessly telling us what we should and should not do in hot weather. All of it is “well, DUH!!”  Drink of lots of water. (Nope, going on a water fast!)  Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. (Hell no.  Where’s my NorthFace?) Stay out of the hot sun.  (Are you kidding?  And miss out on the tan of a lifetime?)  Make sure to take care of your children and pets have plenty of water and shelter. (Nope, the little shits are going to fry!)  Check in on the elderly. (I got enough to do with keeping cool.  Grandma’s on her own.), etc. etc.

Holy shit, an “Orange Alert”? Really? Why don’t you just say “It’s going to be f’ing hot out there.” That advice is amazing. “Get lots of Air Conditioning.” Huh, I’d have never thought of that on my own.

Back when I was in school, I originally planned for my career to be in TV news.  Now I look at the state of local TV news and just shake my head.  Really?  Is this all you’ve got to talk about?”

We need more weathermen like Ollie from Family Guy:

So, hey folks, it’s a hot time, summer in the city, back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty.

But I’m not going to give you advice about it.  If you can’t figure it out on your own, well … I think you’ve got greater issues.

As you were,

Stew

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