What’s Up With You?

Strange weather we’re having around here. Two straight days over 100 (plus or minus local micro-climate variation), and then yesterday it was a good thirty degrees cooler.

Not because of any normal weather change. No offshore winds breaking up a high pressure zone or anything like that. This is totally due to smoke from the fires to the north.

I hasten to add that they’re all a significant distance away from us. There’s been no suggestion that we’re at risk, at least from the existing fires*. We’re as safe as we can be in an era where the California state motto seems to have become “Burn, baby, burn.”

* Our vegetation is just as profuse and desiccated as anyone else’s. A poorly timed and aimed firework or discarded cigarette could cause plenty of trouble around here.

But even the smoke was unusual. There wasn’t much scent of burning, and visibility was nearly as good as normal, because the smoke was staying high up.

Really, really thick, though. Thick enough to make 9:00 in the morning feel like late evening, and make 6:00 PM feel like a torrential downpour was immanent. Regrettably, the later was not the case: a heavy rainfall would be a big help with the fires.

Maybe we just need more moisture in the air. Let it condense around all those ash particles, and we’ve got a flood of biblical proportions.

Which would bring its own problems, of course, but we’re used to floods around here. A homey little well-known disaster would be an almost pleasant change.

I did say “almost”.

Though, come to think of it, heavy rains and (minor) flooding would tend to encourage people to stay inside; quite different from outrageously high temperatures that lead people to go to parks and beaches. Solving our social distancing and state burning problems at the same time?

No pitcher is going to sneer at a double-play ball.

The unusual conditions have some of the cats a bit off their feed, but not to the point that we’re worried about anyone.

In short, we’re doing about as well as can be expected in the current conditions. Hope the same is true of you all.

Such Fun!

Congratulations, Northern California!

While most of the US has had exciting weather for the past few years–blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes, punishing heat–it’s been quiet around here. Sure, we’ve had a drought going for more than five years, but you can’t call that exciting. “Yep, no rain again today. Guess we better hide in the no-storm cellar till it passes.”

But it looks like things are starting to change, and we’re getting a little weather excitement of our very own this weekend. According to the Chron, meteorologists are saying the storm expected to hit Sunday “…is shaping up to be a significant event.”

We’re being warned about flooding in all the major rivers, possibly at record-setting levels in some cases.

OK, so maybe it’s not much for those of you in the soggier parts of the country, but a foot of rain is pretty darn thrilling around here.

Coming as it does after an unusually wet fall–some weather stations around the Bay Area are running as much as 150% of normal rainfall–there’s much rejoicing over this storm. “The drought is over!” goes the cry.

Not so much.

Yes, most of the reservoirs are full and the snowpack is more than 80% of normal levels. (The snowpack provides nearly a third of the water the state uses during the spring and summer, so 80+% is nice to see.) A foot of rain will help, right? Nope.

The problem is that most of what we’re going to get this weekend is going to fall as rain, not snow, even in higher elevations. The snow is thoroughly saturated already, so when the rain hits, the snow is going to melt. A good chunk of that 80+% is going to be headed downhill. And, as I said, the reservoirs are already full.

Thus, it “…could be the most significant flood in six years, and more significant than that in other parts of the state.”

Don’t bother with ankle boots and hip waders, folks. Stock up on wet suits and personal flotation devices.

Stay clear of trees and power lines, try to enjoy the thrills the rest of the country’s been hogging for the past half-decade, and pray that the rest of the winter will be slowly wet to re-replenish the snowpack.

Weather Coming

We were supposed to get the first rain of the year Thursday. Not just any rain, but the beginning of several days of storms, accompanied by wind gusting up to sixty mph.

While we were checking to be sure we had imaginary gas for our non-existent backup generator (the one we don’t have and thus can’t use when the power goes out), the neighbors made it clear they weren’t worried.

The turkeys left their galoshes at home.

And the cats didn’t bring umbrellas to the backyard bowl at dinner time.

Why should anyone worry? It was blue skies and temperatures in the sixties all day. So naturally the feline politics went on as usual.

Hopefully everyone has someplace dry to hole up. For those of you east of the Rockies, I’ll add “warm” to the wish list.

Still Too Darn Hot

Yuki isn’t the only one who has trouble with the heat. I, for example, loathe it. Given the opportunity, in temperatures over 90, I too would sprawl on the bed and refuse to move. Alas, work forbids. It’s impossible to write coherent prose while lying flat on your back. Don’t ask how I know that.

And I’m not the only one around here with that problem. The official high Wednesday was 96 (the average high for 5/14 is 74). Rhubarb and Watanuki adopted the usual strategy: lie down, spread out, and think cool thoughts.

Mind you, even in dire extremity, ‘Nuki will remain watchful. Note the baleful yellow eyes, even as he pants like a, well, you know. Dignity–and a high regard for the integrity of my skin–prevents me from completing the comparison.

It’s Too Darn Hot

We’re having a heat wave this week, with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s.

Those of you in Texas and India can stop laughing. It may not be much of a heat wave by your standards, but it’s obnoxious enough that I’m working on a plan to ship some of the heat to the East Coast, where they could really use it.

We do have air conditioning, but it only does so much.

Especially for those who wear unremovable fur coats.

That goes double for long, floofy fur coats. They’re great in the winter: they capture air next to the skin and hold it there to be warmed by body heat. Nice and toasty. However, when the weather warms up, they’re not nearly so nice.

Poor Mr. Yuki. I came into the bedroom and found him sprawled across the bed, trying to flatten himself out to force as much insulating air out of his floof as possible.

Note the legs extended off the bed to promote 360 degree airflow. Note the hint of pink tongue extended to encourage thermal radiation. (Apologies for the blurred view of Yuki’s head. Apparently when I leaned over him to take the picture, the body heat I radiated overloaded his cooling system and his face melted. Yuki was later seen lurking outside the refrigerator, waiting for Rhubarb to vacate and let him have a turn.)

Happy Earth Day!

Mother Nature sucks.

Today is Earth Day. In order to celebrate, we’re asked to reduce our use of fossil fuels, cut down on pollution-generating activities, and generally be good to the planet.

So what does she do in response?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, we’re expecting record high temperatures – crank up those air conditioners. Yes, I’m fully aware that a mid-80s heat wave in the Bay Area is pleasantly cool weather for those in, say, Central Texas. It’s all what you’re used to, y’know. I suppose we can figure that our wimpyness is made up for by those in Mexico, Central America, and points further south who are (a) experiencing temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s and (b) who don’t even have air conditioning.

I’m sure those in western Montana and Wyoming currently experiencing below-freezing temperatures will be happy to avoid using their heaters in support of Mama Terra. Likewise those in Alaska and across Canada, where the temperature ranges from 28 in Galena, AK to a positively tropical 50 in Deka Lake, BC.

(For those of you outside the United States, all temperatures are in Farenheit. Feel free to subtract 30 and divide by 2 to get approximate Celcius values.)

Looking a little wider, I see temperatures in the 30s and 40s across most of Europe and Asia, 80s and 90s throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Northern Australia.

Basically, if you’re going to tread lightly on the earth today, as far as temperature goes I hope you’re in India, Hawaii, or South Africa, where temperatures are in the mid-70s. (Yes, I’m aware that it’s the middle of the night in India, mid-morning in Hawaii, and early evening in South Africa. Kinda makes my point, doesn’t it?)

There’s also “Severe Weather” in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and much of the Mediterranean. High winds in the central US, flooding along the Mississippi River, and fires throughout East Texas, Mexico, and Central America.

And this is a good day! As far as I can tell, there have been no major earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or typhoons anywhere in the world. (Of course, it is still only a little after noon here on the US West Coast – plenty of time left for Momma Earth to throw in a couple of natural disasters.)

So why are we being nice?
Yeah, OK, so I’m being deliberately obtuse. Not the first time.

It does kind of point out a problem with this kind of one-day event to promote a cause: no matter what day you pick, it’s going to impossible for much of your target audience to participate (and I’m not just talking about environmental causes here – the same thing will be true in any area). And the majority aren’t going to observe the day later when conditions improve: how many of you currently shoveling snow, hauling sand bags, or sitting in front of an air conditioner will have a belated Earth Day next week/month when you think you can do it without risk to life and limb?

What Earth Day risks is that people will focus on the one day a year to go easy on the planet, and forget about the other 364 days. A one-day event is a great way to raise the profile of your cause and bring it to people’s attention, but by making it an annual event you risk losing ongoing support. The same effect can be seen elsewhere. Consider radio and TV. (Non-US readers: “publicly-supported” radio and TV stations in the US are not fully funded by the government; a large portion of their funding comes directly from listeners and viewers.) Commercial stations run commercials throughout the day every day. Publicly-supported stations run pledge drives a couple of times a year. One guess which model produces a more reliable and consistent income. Hint: it’s not the one that concentrates the effort in a few days scattered across the calendar.

Before you object that commercials and pledge drives have different audiences and can’t be directly compared like this, consider the model of satellite radio: commercial-free with an annual subscription fee. The model supports one broadcaster. Or consider Pandora. Advertising revenue accounts for more than 80% of their income; more than eight times as much as subscriptions.

Consider exercise. Ignoring the health benefits of regular exercise, just ask yourself which is easier to do consistently: a brief session several times a week, a long session once a week, or a really long “make up” session when you get a chance?

People just seem to handle unpleasant things (whether spending money, cutting down on fossil fuel usage, or working up a sweat) better when they make it a habit than when they try to do it on an occasional basis. Thinking in terms of the long run and making your cause a habit will do better over time than a splashy event once a year.

Happy New Year

Today is the first day of the new year for those of us who follow the One True Faith. I speak, of course, of baseball.

Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, the day when the fans of every team can still believe that their faith will be rewarded and This Will Be The Year.

Hang on. Someone in the back of the room has their hand raised. You have a question? Ah. For those of you who couldn’t hear, the question was “But what about the Texas / Houston game last night? Didn’t the season start yesterday?”

Well, yes. The season started yesterday, but that game was was a made-for-TV event. And it was played in Texas. That in itself should be enough to invalidate it as a holy day: Texas is, after all, the state where High School Football is the predominant religion.

As I was saying, Opening Day is today. 24 of the 30 teams play their first game of the season. And for this one shining moment, we are all equal. We all know that Our Team (the only one worth rooting for) will overcome a lineup loaded with untried rookies, aging veterans, a bullpen full of pitchers who need to be reminded of the direction to home plate, and/or a coaching staff and front office far gone in senility.

Soggy morning at the Bay BridgeWe even believe we can overcome the weather.

The view this morning at the Bay Bridge shows just a bit of rain, but as any believer will tell you, it will dry out by game time.

Tomorrow we’ll wake up, and half of us be euphoric, with our faith confirmed and renewed for another day (fans in Houston, take note: there are still 161 games left: plenty of time for disaster to strike); the other half will be in despair, ready to declare the season over (fans in Dallas, take note: there are still 161 games left: plenty of time for additional disasters).

Full disclosure: Some of you may detect an element of bias in my remarks. “Our Team” is the Seattle Mariners, who just happen to be in the same division as the two teams from Texas who jumped the gun with last night’s game. As mentioned above, “Our Team” is the only one worth rooting for. Rest assured that trashing the Rangers and Astros is just the start. The other 27 teams will get theirs over the course of the season.

But I digress. Enjoy this moment of joy and renewal. Soon enough, the season will go to hell, and the age-old cry “Just wait until next year!” will be heard through the land. But until your team reaches that point (which should be along about next week for several of them), enjoy. And until then, I offer you all my heartfelt best wishes for a winning season – as long as you win one game less than Seattle. (Note: offer does not apply to Yankees fans. If you win 63 this year, it’s too many.)