Archive for May, 2010

Weather: Vermont Smoke Attack

May 31, 2010

I woke up this morning in St. Albans Vt. thinking the house might be on fire. I smelled smoke.

The view from St. Albans Hill on a clear day

The house is fine. Forests in Quebec are not. It’s really smoky outside because of some big forest fires in Quebec. There’s a north wind, and the breeze is blowing that smoke down here into Vermont.

I went outside early this morning and the moon was a strange orange. I wanted to cough right away and my eyes teared up some. Not a lot, but it was vaguely uncomfortable.

As dawn breaks, visibility is poor. Usually I can easily see  Lake Champlain from my house. Not this morning. I can barely see into the city of St. Albans, two miles away.

Same view, in this morning's smoke from Quebec forest fires

The first pic in this post shows the view from St. Albans hill, overlooking the city of St. Albans and Lake Champlain on a clear day. Second pic is this morning in the smoke.

I will be exerting myself outside a lot today, and the smoke is not good for my lungs. They tell even healthy people like me to take it easy because of the smoke particulates in the air. But I gotta work.

Up in Montreal, news reports say a lot of people have called emergency numbers, reporting smoke, but city officials are telling people not to worry. Normal activity, even in this smoke, won’t hurt much, we’re told.

NECN is reporting smoke is covering much of the northeastern half of New England.

Luckily, the wind is expected to shift to the south during the day today, and that will push the smoke away.

Media: Oil Spill Nostalgia

May 30, 2010

That “Top Kill” move, shoving mud down the gushing oil well pipe in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t work.

Didn’t think it would. Ever try to plug a burst pipe with rocks or dirt or something?

Yeah, doesn’t work.

So the oil will keep gushing, and the Gulf of Mexico will get worse and worse for God knows how long.

Turns out we’ve been down this path in the Gulf of Mexico before. For a trip down memory lane, we go back to  1979, when an oil well down there sprung a leak.

Kudos to Amber Lemay for pointing out this Rachel Maddow segment, where she finds the 1979 episode is just like now, except in 2010 the oil well is in deeper water, making the job oh so much more difficult.

I wonder why  almost nobody noticed or reported on the eerie similarities between 1979 and 2010.

I guess we never learn. Or, my cynical side says oil companies figure there is money to be made to learn how to drill for oil in new and harder to get at places, but there’s no money to be made in learning how to stop oil leaks, or better yet, prevent them.

So they went for the money.

Vermont Peony Season

May 29, 2010

Now that the lilacs have pretty much bitten the dust for the season, it’s time for my next favorite flower season. Peonies.

They’re big and showy, and flop to the ground in the rain when they are in full bloom, but I love them anyway.

The peonies in this post are growing behind the Chittenden Superior Courthouse in Burlington, Vt.

I have some that are growing in a really bad place on my property. I will transplant them eventually, but I have to figure out where. Probably behind the stone wall, in the front of the house, if that ever gets done.

Hurricane Matthew

May 28, 2010

I’m so excited that they’re going to name a hurricane after me.

Would Hurricane Matthew look like this?

Well, not exactly. The list of names they’ve picked for the tropical storms and hurricanes that form in the Atlantic this summer and fall include “Matthew,” which is my name.

Somehow I don’t think whoever names hurricanes had me in mind when they selected the names. But I’ll just pretend they did.

The even better news is they might actually get to the “M’s” during this year’s hurricane season.

Every year, they start with a name that begins with the letter “A” and work their way up through the alphabet until the season ends. The next year, they start over with another “A” name.

Some years, there’s not enough tropical storms and hurricanes to get up to the letter “M”

This year, however, the National Hurricane Center predicts a really busy year, so if the forecast is right, we will have no trouble having a Tropical Storm Matthew or a Hurricane Matthew.

The tricky part is what I want my namesake tropical storm to do. I would somehow feel insulted if it only amounted to a disorganized little tropical depression that just spread a little drizzle on some no-name Caribbean island.

Yet, I don’t want a Hurricane Matthew to turn into some Catagory 5 monster that destroys the entire city of Miami or something and kills a zillion people. People named Katrina are still reeling after the hurricane by that name spread destruction, despair and death across New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005.  I like to joke around, but I really don’t like seeing people killed, as you might imagine.

So, here’s what I want to happen:  Sometimes in late September, Hurricane Matthew turns into a huge, very frightening, major hurricane off the East Coast and scares the bejeezus out of everyone living from Key West, Florida, to Eastport, Maine. But after snarling and threatening for awhile, I veer harmlessly out to sea, but not before throwing a nice spell of sunny, Indian Summer weather northward into Vermont, where it lingers through the foliage season.

Media: Spoofing BP

May 28, 2010

I can’t help but cry over the oil spill in the Gulf. But in tragedy, we have to laugh, too.

Check out the fake BP public relations Twitter account for some gallows humor.

Leave it to Second City to remake a BP advertisement to reflect the current, uh, situation:

Beer, Baseball and Boffo.

May 28, 2010

It’s the start of the Memorial Day weekend, when thoughts for many of us turn to beer, baseball games and other assorted outdoor fun.

Yes, it feels wrong to say that, given we’re supposed to be remembering those who fought and died for our country. But they helped make the life we have today possible, right?

In any event, found this video taken at Chicago’s Wrigley Field during batting practice before the game. The featured fan is multi-talented, indeed:

Vermont Heat then Bang!

May 27, 2010

Yesterday was quite a great day for a Vermont weather geek like me.

A bank temperature sign in downtown Burlington, Vt. reads 101 degrees during the peak of yesterday's heat wave. The actual temperature was 92 degrees; the sun was affecting the sign's reading.

First we had record heat. It soared to 92 degrees in Burlington, making the day tied for the second hottest day ever in the month of May.

Then there were those thunderstorms. They formed abruptly in far northern Vermont and turned into monsters spitting a ton of lightning, quarter sized hail, winds to 70 mph and torrential downpours.

At least the air cooled down during those storms.

Last evening, I was mowing a hot, sunny lawn for a couple in Georgia, Vt. As I mowed along at about 6:45 p.m., I noticed a few little showers forming far off to the north. I figured that would help. I little cool air from those showers would be just the ticket as I finished up the lawn for the evening.

By 7:15 p.m. those innocent little showers abruptly turned into towering black clouds, spitting lightning like a science fiction monster that had just eaten a foul-tasting person.

The lawnmower ran out of gas by about 7:25. I figured the storm was still pretty far off, I could gas up, and get more of the lawn done before anything hit.

Tina, the homeowner, came out of the house, frowning at the rumbling in the sky.

“You’re not going to keep mowing, are you,?” she asked.

“I can get more done,” I said.

Just then the sky flashed with lightning again.

“I won’t let you mow anymore,” Tina said.

I admitted defeat and packed up for the night. I was hot and thirsty anyway. I started driving home, but realized the heart of the storm was heading toward the road I was just on. I saw a rolling, tumbling cloud race southward.

I turned around and headed into the maelstrom. I stopped the truck as I entered a swirling mass of hail, battering winds that rocked the truck and rain that made me feel like I was inside an out of control automatic car wash.

Here’s the vid I took:

The Burlington Free Press also has some great storm coverage.

I filmed the loud storm from inside the truck as shredded leaves and a few small branches flew past. I was in weather geek heaven.

I wanted to storm chase some more, but got caught behind a couple incredibly slow moving vehicles. The person behind the wheel of the minivan in front of me slammed on the brakes every time lightning flashed, which was every three seconds or so.

The storm ran off to the south. I gave up the chase and went home. Jeff greeted me at my door with a beer, and we went out onto the deck to view the distant lightning.

Ah, bliss.

Seasick on a Bridge?

May 26, 2010

Sometimes I get annoyed on my commute by potholes, bumps, errant motorists and narrow lanes.

That’s especially true around bridges. Bridges seem most prone to wear, tear, and people who don’t quite know what they’re doing.

But things aren’t nearly as bad as on this Russian bridge in the following video, which was buffeted by high winds. Try driving on this road:

The Russian bridge is apparently new. This is just like the famous “Galloping Gertie” bridge in 1940. The Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington state had a design flaw when it was built in 1939. It collapesd in 1940 after twisting wildly in a November windstorm.

Guess you’ve got to design your bridges correctly, no?

That ’70’s Cheese

May 26, 2010

Back when I was a kid, I loved the cheesiest, ickiest songs of the 1970s.  It’s still my secret vice. So I’m coming out now as that ’70s Cheese Meister.

The band Looking Glass, who gave us "Brandy"

I mean, who can beat “Brandy” who is a fine girl, what a good wife she would be.

Then there’s Mandy, probably Brandy’s  sister. “Mandy”, by Barry Manilow, to this day makes me laugh out loud, especially at the climactic end to the song:  The cymbols crash, the violins screech, the drums boom, a background chorus moans and  Manilow screams, AND I NEED…..YOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!!

Run, Mandy, run!  Anyone who falls apart like that is way too unstable for you.

A lot of these ’70s cheese songs were waayy over the top emotionally. One that sounded like “Mandy” was “Without You” by Nilsson.

Nilsson, who can't live without you.

Remember that?   Talk about overwrought. Again, with the agonized screaming. “I can’t LIIIVVE, if living is without YOU-OO-OO!!!!  Like Mandy, the girl in “Without You'” ought to flee,  if only to put Nilsson out of his misery.    

What brought the rant in this post on was, last night, an oldies station played a song I haven’t heard in over a decade: “How Do You Do,” by Mouth and MacNeal. Yep. that was the name of the act that sang it.

Watch the video: It’s hilarious.

I mean, who can beat these lyrics: “I thought why not na na na na. Just me and you and then we can na na na na.”

We can all na na na na with Mouth and MacNeal

 Na na na na? You forgot the words to the song? Or you’re so embarrassed by what you’re going to do that you just tell us you’re going to na na na na? Inquiring minds want to know.

I especially like how Mouth’s part of the song stomps along like an angry King Kong marching down the street, while MacNeal, with her blue eyeshadow,  sweetly coos like a four year old girl playing with her dolls.

There’s an infinitie list of 70s songs that are like this. Smile a little smile for me, Rose Marie. I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates, and you’ve got a brand new key. Love grows where my Rosemary goes. 

I can safely say they don’t make songs like that anymore.

Vermont Heat Wave

May 26, 2010

Today, Burlington tied the record high for the date of 91, set in 1946. It was yet another example of a topsy-turvy weather year.

A bank sign in downtown Burlington Tuesday shows the city tying a record high temperature for the date.

We were actually on the southeastern edge of the heat wave. Up in central Ontario, where it is normally barely the start of spring about now, it was in the mid-90s. Really bizarre.

Burlington was at least one of the hottest cities in the United States today. I can’t prove it yet, but Burlington might have actually been the hottest city in the U.S.

Traditional hot spots, like Phoenix, Arizona, or Orland, Florida,  were only in the mid-80s.

So if you want desert heat, come to the Sahara Of The North, Burlington, Vt.