Sorry for seeming to break my promise to blog more. Generally, my most productive blogging time is on my lunch break or at the tail end of the work day just before I go home. Unfortunately, the itty bitty brains that run our IT department have decided that the functionality of internet browsers on our office computers should mimic that of Netscape Navigator, circa 2002. In other words, the updated web version of WordPress, on which I publish and host this blog, won’t run on my work computer. WordPress has a pretty good BlackBerry app, but it isn’t easy to insert and format images. And by the time I get home in the evening, I either face a to-do list a mile long or am just too tired to put a coherent sentence together.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a steady stream of blog topics at the ready at the aforesaid lunchtime and end-of-workday periods. So if it’s alright with you, I’ll do more text-only posts. Those of you who prefer the pictures will have to be patient.
From the novel Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross:
Strange, the workings of the heart. One could go on for years, habituated to loss, reconciled to it, and then, in a moment’s unwary thought, the pain resurfaced, sharp and raw as a fresh wound.
No, I haven’t been in Australia, just stuck under an undetermined (and undeterminable) amount of snow.
The Blizzard of ’13, annoyingly dubbed “Nemo” by the hypemasters at The Weather Channel, is history. But the memories—and the snow piles—linger. I couldn’t tell you how much snow fell in my yard. Depending on where on my property you put the yardstick, snow depth by the time the storm ended measured anywhere from a dusting to four feet. That’s because after it fell, it blew around. A lot.
According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard is defined as a storm which produces, for a period of three hours or longer, sustained wind or frequent gusts of at least 35 miles per hour AND considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility frequently to less than ¼ mile. Those conditions were upon most of New England from Friday afternoon into Saturday. In my location, the cold temperatures produced fluffy snow that blew around rather than sticking to the ground. Winds during the storm blew from the north and, later, the northeast. Add to that the orientation of my house on a hill that slopes downward from south to north, plus the topography of my front yard—most of which was leveled out, thus created a steep slope facing north—and you had Bernoulli’s principle in action. The high winds accelerated further as they hit the hill, picking up the accumulating snow and dumping onto the other side of the yard.
If you’re thinking, “Uh-oh, Den Mother, the other side of the yard is where the driveway is,” then you win.
I had quite a chore ahead of me, beginning with getting out of my house. I have four doors to the outside, and each one had about 18-24 inches of snow in front of it. I’d had the good sense to keep the snow shovel inside the door just to the left of the garage, so I started by pushing the storm door out as far as I could and then wedging my body between it and the door frame until I could reach out with the shovel and, very awkwardly, start shoveling the show out of the way. Once I got my whole body outside, I spent 20 minutes shoveling the snow away from the garage door (which opens out and up, a bad design now that I think of it) so I could open the garage and bring out the snow blower.
Now let me tell you about my snow blower. It’s a beast. Much bigger and more powerful than my little driveway ordinarily warrants, it was handed down to me by my real estate agent when she downsized to a condo, and far be it from me to refuse free outdoor power tools. In the few times there has been enough snow to actually use it, I’ve felt a big ridiculous. If I were a man, I’m sure someone would have accused me of compensating for small genitalia. So you can imagine my shock when I discovered on Saturday that it wasn’t quite big enough.
At right is what the driveway looked like after I had taken two painstakingly slow passes down the length of it and realized that not only was the snow deeper than the snow blower blades, but in some places it was deeper than the top of the chute. I put this picture up on Twitter with the comment, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger snow blower.” (The Den Son, right on cue, replied with, “THIS IS NOT A BOAT ACCIDENT!” He makes me so proud.) It was clear at that point that I needed Plan B.
A quick aside to mention that this storm came just a couple of days after the 35th anniversary of the New England blizzard of 1978, a calamity of epic proportions with consequences far worse than this weekend’s storm for a number of reasons, one of which was that there was already a significant amount of snow on the ground from another winter storm a couple of weeks prior. Try to clear three feet of snow from a driveway that is flanked by banks five feet high. My father was in despair over how to clear our 120 foot driveway when a private snow plow operator drove by and offered his services. He started at the street, pushed the snow off the driveway to the left, then backed up and pushed more snow off the driveway to the right, lather, rinse, repeat until he got to the end and had created a corridor just wide enough for a car. So that became my Plan B, except with a snow blower instead of a plow, and blowing the snow only to one side because my neighbor’s driveway was on the other side.
I won’t go into the details of exactly how I handled the situation where the snow blower ended up tunneling under the snow such that when I backed it up, a ledge of snow fell down onto the area that had just been cleared. I also won’t explain the effect of the wind, which was still blowing, from the north of course, thus sending much of the snow back onto me and the driveway. Let’s just say that every square foot of my driveway had to be cleared at least two, sometimes three or four, times, bit by bit, until at last I ended up with this, which I captioned on Twitter as, “Vengeance is mine, saith the snow blower.”
It took 2½ hours.
Before I quit for the day, I decided it would be a good idea to clear the some of the other entrances into my house, in case there’s a fire and I need an alternate means of escape. So I shoveled off the top of my front stoop (below, left) and cleared an arc outside the back door onto the patio (below, right). You can now get out of the house via those doors, but after that you’re on your own. Visitors might consider bringing a pair of emergency snow shoes, just in case.
I’d have loved to clear the walkway from the driveway to my front steps, but at the moment there is five feet of snow on it. I predict it will be accessible again sometime in late April.
When finally I was finished, I was cold and wet, my face windburned, ice encrusting the hair that stuck out from under my hat. It wasn’t until I was back inside, shedding my wet clothes onto the kitchen floor in preparation for a warm shower, that I realized I had a hematoma the size of a small potato on my upper thigh from where the snow blower had reared back into me, apparently at a time when my sensory nerves had ceased functioning. Which is probably just as well.
Today, my arms and back ache. It was strenuous work, clearing all that snow, even though the beast did most of the heavy lifting. But that’s winter.
May it soon be over.
It was tense.
That isn’t merely a kick-ass bit of grammar humor; it’s also a good way to begin what I hope will be the post that gets me back into regular blogging. I’m more than a little embarrassed that I’ve only blogged twice since mid-October. A lot has happened and continues to happen, so let’s jump right in, shall we?
The previous four months were not without incident. In November, I hosted my second annual Thanksgiving dinner, this time without the plumbing calamity that afflicted my 2011 effort. Just over a week later, in early December, my house was broken into and some of my jewelry stolen. My employer moved to a brand new building in January, giving me indoor parking for the first time in my working life. And earlier this week, a visit to Boston to see off the Red Sox’ Florida-bound equipment truck ended with an unexpected trip into Fenway Park’s home clubhouse, courtesy of my BFF, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino. But that’s a story for another post.
Those of you who haven’t been living in a cave these last few days know that a big snow storm is coming to New England. If it’s as bad as the meteorologists are predicting, it could rival the infamous Blizzard of ’78, a two-day ordeal that ended 35 years ago today.
As usual, the forecasts vary. Right now, AccuWeather is calling for my area (southern Worcester County, near the Massachusetts/Connecticut/Rhode Island “T”) to get blizzard conditions and snow accumulation of “around a foot.” The Weather Channel is calling for 18-24 inches throughout southern New England. The National Weather Service office in Boston includes my location in the blizzard warning area and is predicting snow totals over two feet.
My biggest concern isn’t the snow. Temperatures will be cold enough that it should be the fluffy stuff that is unlikely to weigh down tree limbs and is relative easy to clear. The worst part of a blizzard is the high wind, one of the main characteristics that distinguishes a blizzard from any other big snow storm. All those trees that won’t be damaged by the fluffy snow could be brought down by wind. If they land on power lines, say good-bye to electricity and heat for at least 24 hours.
It’s a good thing I replenished my firewood supply, filled the snow blower with gas, charged my spare cell phone batter, and stocked up on fixings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
More so recently than in quite a while, I’ve been pondering my future. None of us really knows what tomorrow will bring, much less next month or next year, but for some reason I am more acutely aware than usual of all the ways that my future is out of my control. Perhaps I’m having a premonition of big changes on the horizon, though I have no idea if they will be bad or good. What I do know is that I am strangely at peace despite the uncertainty. That may not last, especially if something happens not to my liking. For the time being, though, I feel uncharacteristically fine with letting things be.
And so it happened on the tenth day of the first month that the Den Mother emerged from her slumber and said, Damn, there’s a lot to talk about.
A belated but most sincere merry Christmas and happy new year to not only my regular readers and also the multitudes who stumble in here daily. Let me say how glad I am that 2012 is over. It wasn’t the worst year I ever had, but it did include two new experiences which I hope never to repeat: the Den Son’s hospitalization following a suicide attempt, and my house break-in and theft. I’m not equating the importance or severity of those two events except to say that both could have resulted in deaths but didn’t. For that I am grateful.
Now comes a whole new crop of potential blogging material, from the Sandy Hool school shooting to the fiscal cliff to the Baseball Hall of Fame election that wasn’t to the return of NHL hockey, and dozens of bloggable stories in between. Which I will actually turn into posts will be a surprise even to me. On any given day, I have up to a half dozen flashes that could turn into posts if only I would drop everything and write for 30-60 minutes. Unfortunately, most of those flashes occur when I’m working, driving, or falling asleep. Which explains why this blog has been idle for more than two months.
I make no promises, except that I will do my best to make sure it isn’t another two months. There is too much to talk about.
10. Another 4 years of the ever-entertaining Crazy Uncle Joe.
9. We get to laugh as the President continues to blame all of his screw-ups on Bush.
8. We’ll find out exactly what “flexibility” he was talking about with Medvedev.
7. New gambling game—guessing how much more energy prices will “necessarily skyrocket” under his plan.
6. Literacy rates jump as record numbers of Americans learn how to spell “Benghazi.”
5. Finally, an answer to the 32-year-old question, “What would a 2nd Carter term have looked like?”
4. Federal budget? We don’t need no steenkin’ federal budget!
3. QE 4-7.
1. Taxpayers can have the satisfaction of sending the First Lady on more of those lavish vacations we can’t afford to take ourselves.
As U.S. readers may have seen on national news, investigators seem certain that missing University of New Hampshire student Lizzi Marriott was killed. Her body has yet to be found, a suspect has been charged by the State of New Hampshire with second-degree murder.
Authorities obviously know more than they have told the public, but details continue to trickle out. Lizzi apparently knew the alleged killer from the Target store where she worked. According to some news reports, he was reportedly the boyfriend of the friend Lizzi was going to see when she went missing. Police believe he either strangled or smothered her, though they haven’t indicated what led them to that conclusion. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has the latest here.
I am horrified by so many aspects of this story. I’m told by my own parents that the death of a child is the worst thing a mother or father can experience. Prior to knowing what happened to their daughter, the Marriotts endured the uncertainty of not knowing her whereabouts or her condition. Then they learned she had been murdered, something that for most of us only happens to strangers. Now they await the recovery of her body so that she can be laid to rest.
As a Christian, I believe that the body is only a person’s temporary home. But we know each other as body and soul; it’s difficult to separate one from the other. Although the essence of Lizzi has passed on, taking proper care of her body and having a funeral are the last things her parents can do for her. They shouldn’t be denied that opportunity.
So I’m asking my readers to pray again, like I asked you to pray before, but this time for the recovery of her body. Please also pray for comfort for her parents and—I can’t forget as someone who has lost a sibling—for her younger brother.
This blog gets visitors from all over the world. Today, I’m asking you to please pray for the safe return of a young woman named Lizzi Marriott who has been missing since Tuesday evening. Lizzi is from Westborough, Massachusetts, and is a student at the University of New Hampshire. She and her family are also long-time friends with the Den Son. Her parents are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
We all hear news stories about cases like this and our hearts go out to the people involved, but I can tell you that it about 1,000 times worse when it hits closer to home. And I’m only indirectly involved. I can’t imagine what Lizzi’s parents are going through. I don’t want to imagine. That’s why I’m keeping my mind not on how these cases often turn out, but rather on prayer that this one will be different. I hope you will join me, even if you don’t know Lizzi, the Marriotts, the Den Son, or me.
Anyone in the vicinity of UNH can also help in another way, by viewing and/or distributing the flyer that can be found at this link. You can also click on the image below for a little more information.
From WNEW-FM in Washington, DC (emphasis mine):
“I very much intend to win this election,” Obama told donors in San Francisco Monday night. “But we’re only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive for the next 29 days.”
From Merriam-Webster Online (emphasis mine):
ob-ses-sive > adj.
1 a : tending to cause obsession
b : excessive often to an unreasonable degree
So Obama thinks that the only way he can win re-election is if people give him unreasonably excessive support. One might say that’s the only reason he was elected in the first place.
Nobody’s perfect. I know I’m not. Sure, my co-workers consider me their personal IT help desk, my friends know they will always lose to me in Trivial Pursuit, and my son calls me a wellspring of useless information, although he insists that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which is why he’s still in the will.
All that notwithstanding, there is plenty I don’t know. Some of it I didn’t know I didn’t know until something happened to enlighten me. Such was the case the other night while I was watching the 1975 movie Tommy for probably the third or fourth time in my life. At the scene when Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed take Roger Daltrey to a doctor who, they are told, “can cure the boy,” I realized for the first time that the doctor is Jack Nicholson. How did I never notice that before?
Then there are things we think we know until we are told otherwise, often in embarrassing fashion. Years ago I heard a motivational speaker, a woman named Rita Davenport, describe the moment when she realized she had always mispronounced the word “omnipotent.” Rather than saying “ahm-NIH-puh-tent,” she was saying “ahm-nee-PO-tent.” I can see why that would be a problem for a professional speaker, but her point was that we all make mistakes and we all have things to learn.
But sometimes what we learn is wrong, or at least incomplete. I used to think that every human being who ever lived was either blue-eyed or brown-eyed. Sure, I realized that there were many more actual iris colors than just blue and brown. But I managed to get through most of my life thinking that what we called them was either blue or brown.
I’m not a geneticist and I don’t play one on the internet, but I got that notion somewhere. I blame my teachers. Does this look familiar?
That’s the kind of chart we were shown in science class to demonstrated how a dominant genetic trait subjugates a recessive trait. Specifically, the lesson purported to explain how two brown-eyed parents could have either a blue-eyed child or a brown-eyed child based on whether the parents pass on dominant (B for brown) or recessive (b for blue) alleles. But two blue-eyed parents (each with two bs) can’t have a brown-eyed child, we were taught, because neither has a dominant B to pass on. I never was quite sure how any combination of Bs and/or bs could result in eyes that were really neither brown nor blue, but that didn’t prevent me from going on my merry way believing that amber eyes were a variant of brown and all those gray-eyed and green-eyed and hazel-eyed people were what geneticists would call blue-eyed. And that if two blue-eyed parents ended up with a brown-eyed baby, said baby was either adopted or bore a striking resemblance to the mailman.
A green-eyed co-worker recently tried to set me straight. Not willing to take her word for it, I looked it up and sure enough, what I had learned was a gross over-simplification of reality. A green-eyed person isn’t blue-eyed by any definition. And it turns out that hazel eyes are actually considered a subset of brown. I therefore extend my humblest apologies to those over the years whom I complimented for their “blue eyes” that weren’t the least bit blue.
As disconcerting as this revelation was, it wasn’t as embarrassing as a mistake that many people make: singing along to a song and, in the presence of others, belting out the wrong lyrics. This phenomenon inspired a web site named for a misheard lyric from the Jimi Hendrix song “Kiss the Sky” (“‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy”). Some of the user-reported errors are understandable and others leave me scratching my head wondering how anyone could possibly hear what they claim to have heard. Then there are the errors that are practically universal. Let me just say that I’m glad I’m not the only person alive who sang along to that Doby Gray song “Drift Away” for decades before it was gently explained to me that it has nothing to do with the Beach Boys.