Archive for January, 2010

Subzero Moonset

January 30, 2010

It was the coldest morning of the winter this morning, but in some respects one of the most gorgeous.

As you can see from the photos, I saw a beautiful moonset over Lake Champlain this morning. I took the pics from my back deck at 7:05 a.m., while the temperature was 11 below.

In case you missed it last night, the moon appeared bigger and brighter than usual, because it was closer to the earth than usual.

I whine about the cold all the time during the winter, but the occasional beauty of a frigid morning tempers the chill’s sting.

Branching into winter cold

January 29, 2010

The January thaw that hit last week offered a chance to evaluate the severity of the winter so far.

It’s been pretty nasty.

It hasn’t been particularly cold, and snowfall for the most part hasn’t been extreme.

But the real measure of the storminess and harshness of the winter is the number of fallen branches and twigs in my yard.

The melting snow on Monday revealed my lawn is really littered with tree limbs, as you can see in the photos.  Click on the pics to make them big for a better look.

The winter harshness index is high.   We’ve had quite a bit of wind, some ice and weird temperature gyrations, so I’m not surprised the lawn that was twig-free at Thanksgiving is such a mess now.

Granted, they aren’t big branches, there’s no property damage and it won’t be hard to clean up. But the trees have taken a beating. They are as ready for winter to end as I am.

Winter returned with a squally vengeance yesterday. The wind was strong enough to blow a few more twigs down, and the temperature dropped to the lowest levels of the winter. It will be interesting to see how many more branches come down between now and spring.

The cold wave that hit yesterday and deepened today is run of the mill for a Vermont winter, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s supposed to be 10 below tonight, so we can’t even come close to calling it record cold. But I will hear the house creak and groan in the cold, as I would if I was outside. And I’ll picture the dollar bills floating out the chimney as the basement furnace burns relentlessly to keep the chill at bay.

Subzero cold is my least favorite kind of weather. It’s too much work. It takes forever to get dressed in the morning. Too many layers. I prefer the freedom of throwing on a t-shirt and shorts and flying out the door.

I feel so claustrophobic in my Under Armour inner layer, the flannel, the sweater, the fleece and the overcoat. I just want to stay inside and not bother with it all.

But, I have to go to work, buy the groceries, run errands. And I don’t want to be a hermit, alone in my house. So I gear up in layers and brave the elements. 

Other people confront the cold more fully than I’m willing to.  Before dawn this morning, while the wind chill was in the teens below zero, I saw a miserable looking jogger trudging up the icy, steep hill in front of my house.  Whoever it was had too many layers on to determine identity or gender. Was this person crazy, dedicated or both?

As for me, I went to the gym, where I worked out in a heated room, enjoyng the freedom of wearing a nice light t-shirt and shorts. It’s the best I can do until summer.

Awesome Vancouver

January 28, 2010

With the Winter Olympics around the corner, host city Vancouver, British Columbia is in the spotlight.

It was in that spirit I found this incredible time lapse video of the the city. As a weather geek, I am fascinated by how the fog and clouds roll and move over and through the city.

Notice, too, how the clouds, fog, lights and traffic sort of pulse in time with the video’s soundtrack. The great music in this work really pulls the video together.

I’ve always wanted to visit Vancouver. The city is no doubt booked for awhile with the Olympics coming on. But the video REALLY makes me want to head out there at some point for a look-see.

Bad singing

January 27, 2010

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a preview of the Vermont Stage Company’s  play “Souvenir.”

The play is based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York City socialite in the 1930s and 1940s who fancied herself a professional singer. She was absolutely awful. As she “sang,” her notes spun off in all kinds of strange directions. She squawked, hiccup, shrieked and yelped her way through her performances.

In her mind, her performances were brilliant. She became hugely popular, as audiences laughed at her, uh, remarkable singing. Jenkins was oblivious; in her mind, the audiences adored her.

In a way, they did. The singing was so funny, they loved it. They probably loved Jenkins’ chutzpah, too.

“Souvenir” while hilariously funny, was surprisingly touching, in that the socialite was lost in her music and singing. What she heard from her own voice was beautiful. That’s because in a way it was. The singing, the performances, the musical scores gave her absolute joy, and that was the beauty.  “Souvenir” points out that her joy is what really mattered.

All of us probably like to do something we’re horrible at. Even though Jenkins had no clue about her lack of talent, we probably do acknowledge our own shortcomings . Few of us have the guts to put our passions on display like she did, if we’re not good at those passions.

But the message I took home from “Souvenir” is to revel in our passions, even if we’re incompetent at them.

My singing voice is as bad, no, much worse even than Jenkins. I would never be as brave as her and sing in public.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it when I’m alone.

This morning, on the way to work, a favorite old Elton John song came on the radio. So I belted it out, loud and proud (with the truck windows rolled up, of course)

“And he shall be LEVONN!!!  And he shall be a GOOD man!!! He Shall BE LE -VONNNNNN!!!!!!”

That was fun.

Hang up and Drive

January 26, 2010

Am I one of the only ones who is astounded they actually have to pass laws banning texting and driving?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s obvious that squinting at a tiny little screen in your hands while stabbing it with your fingers and thumbs takes your eyes off the road? 

According to a recent article in USA Today, most states either have banned texting and driving or are considering it.  The Vermont Legislature  is considering the texting ban, and I obviously like the proposal. Vermont State Police said there were 42 texting-related vehicle crashes last year, including three fatalities. Puts new meaning into saying “I’d kill to have a conversation with that guy.”

 I’m confused. Has anyone out there talked to people who text and drive, hopefully not via IM.

I’m curious, why do they do it? Why don’t they pull over? Do they really think they can drive like that? Or do they simply don’t give a crap if they run over somebody while texting?  Hey my email is more important than some slob walking on the sidewalk, right?

I’m being holier-than-thou when I say this, but I don’t talk on the cell phone and drive, either, since studies show it’s as dangerous as driving drunk. Maybe I have a self-esteem problem or something, but I d0n’t think I’m so important that I must answer the phone no matter what I’m doing.

Related issue: Don’t even get me started on people I encounter doing their business in the men’s room while having a spirited cell phone conversation. FLUSH!!!!

Feel free to weigh in on this one, folks

Sunshine snow

January 25, 2010

The darkest days of winter always slow me down. Back in December, when the light was the shortest and dimmest, I hit my annual low point. It happens to a lot of people in the season of sunshine deprivation. It’s not like I was depressed, but I was just lacking that pizazz and energy I’m used to enjoying.

There comes a point, sometimes in mid to late January, when the first hope of light returns. The days are getting longer, and the sunshine begins to work into your brain, It starts  to erase the seasonal blahs.

Usually, one particularly sunny day breaks the logjam. That happened to me in the White Mountains of New Hampshire Saturday.

My friend Ellen and I went snowshoeing on a crystal clear day. There was no wind, the sunshine actually felt warm on our faces. The snow, the mountains and the crisp air were bracing. I took the bright pictures for this post during our excursion. Both photos show views of Mount Washington from Weeks State Park.

It helped that I was with Ellen, too. She’s an old, great friend; we’ve known each other for close to 3o years. It’s easy to talk with her, and she’s always interesting. Our conversations veer effortlessly from the superficial, to deep, back to light. The nice flow of the conversation was as good for my frame of mind as the sunshine was.

The long, slow climb toward spring has started, even if we have a helluva a lot more winter to trudge through. But with sunshine and friends, we’ll get through the harsh days of February.

Politicians in the Hood

January 23, 2010

For all you political partisans out there, I throw you some raw meat.

I ran across this funny advertisement on YouTube asking Democrats in Congress to have a little more spine. It’s the first beer and babes ad I’ve seen in awhile that I liked.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Video is probably NSFW.
Not everybody agrees with me on political stuff like this, So:Discuss

Wordplay

January 21, 2010

Just because I’m in a goofy mood today, I want to discuss my obsession with words. Not real ones. Made up ones. Or at least wrong ones.

What good is a language, especially one as nonsensical as English often is, if you can’t play with it a little bit?

My coworker, John Briggs, started this thread off by noting he felt “glunky” this morning. A perfect word that actually sounds the way  one feels while under the weather.

Brigss also made reference to the word “dooflus,” which is another way to describe somebody who is not too bright.

When something creeps me out, I usually tell people I feel “hinky” about it.

For some reason, unpleasant things become flowers to me. For instance, take  that  problem at the Vermont  Yankee nuclear plant, with the contamination in the wells.   The contaminate is radioactive tritium, but I perfer to call it trillium. Trillium is in reality a nice springtime flower, so picture the absurdity of having your property “contaminated” by a pretty bloom. This trillium idea isn’t original. I shamelessly stole it from a Facebook post from Seven Days columnist Shay Totten.

Flowers come into play with a notable former Illinois Governor. I can never pronounce former Gov.Rod  Blagojevich’s name.  So I call him “Governor Begonia.”  Well, sometimes he’s about as smart as a begonia (no offense to all you begonias out there)

While thinking of wordplay, I also think back to the unfortunate mistakes I have made in writing for the Burlington Free Press. Luckily, the following were caught and corrected before publication. I once referred to the senior U.S. Senator from Vermont as “Patrick Lengthy,” rather than “Patrick Leahy.” Well, he is tall.

I once described an injured accident victim as being taken away by the “Essex Rescue Squid.” Well, the patient was in good hands if a creature with eight arms was treating him. All hands on deck, right?

OK, this post is really strange. But it’s also an invite. Has anyone out there been creative or goofy with language? Do confess.

A New York Minute

January 20, 2010

I have a few random  questions regarding my trip last weekend to New York:

—Did the guy who was selling “Obama condoms” in Times Square have a lucrative evening Friday?

—Speaking of selling, why were there such huge throngs of people actually buying the knockoffs of designer goods? And why did one entrepreneur have handbags from “Goochi” and not “Gucci?”

— Could I have gone to Radio City Music Hall and danced like a Rockette, even though I’m the wrong gender and REALLY don’t have the legs for it?

— Who pays the electric light bill for Times Square and how expensive is it? Would it be cheaper if they took advantage of Central Vermont Public Service cow power, if it were available? (the pic of Times Square shows me, enjoying all the lights)

—- At the chi chi foo-foo Versace store on Fifth Avenue, would I have been thrown out of the place if I’d entered the way I was dressed, in black Carhartts and a fleece jacket?

— Why was the crazy man following us almost the entire hour and a half we roamed around the World Trade Center site?

—-Is there any place on earth more disgusting than the Penn Station men’s room?

— How is it that the hotel could charge $19 for a breakfast consisting of a small bowl of Cheerios, a lame bagel and iffy coffee, while the Carnegie Deli could charge $10 for an omelette big enough to feed the army of a small country?

Should I feel smug that we paid $67 apiece for good tickets to a play, while others paid double that for worse seats?

Should I feel sorry for the actress in “God of Carnage” who must vomit at each of her performances?

Do I want to go back to New York? You bet.

Great Minds Thinking Alike.

January 19, 2010

In this post, the first photo you see is a re-run of the photo I posted yesterday. I  took it Saturday. It shows the World Trade Center site in New York, as seen through windows in the nearby World Financial Center.

The second photo is one that appeared in today’s New York Times, about the global glass industry. The second photo is by John Lane/European Press Photo Agency. Looks like Lane took his photo before I took mine,  since the World Trade Center construction isn’t as far along as it is in my photo.

Looks like we each took our photos at the same time of day, judging by the sun angle. I took my photo at about 11 a.m. Saturday.

Rest assured,  I was unaware of Lane’s photo before I saw it in today’s Times. Both are nice photos, though.