On ice fog and winter football

The weather in central Texas has been a little bizarre this week. Don’t get me wrong, on Tuesday it was almost eighty, but today, Saturday, the high was twenty-seven, resulting in the rare, if not weird, phenomenon of ice fog–fog that forms when the dew point is below thirty-two. All of this on the day when Baylor football finally won the the Big XII title outright and closed, once and for all, its old football stadium, which is scheduled for demolition sometime during 2014. Has Hell finally frozen over? Everybody is asking. The football game was played under Minnesota rules–temperatures well below freezing, a wicked wind blowing from the northwest, flurries. Is there a colder past-time than watching a football game under winter conditions? The ice fog was testimony to frozen toes, numb fingers, and cold noses. The second game of the season, back in September, was played in the sun and the on-field temperatures had to be above 120F, so today, the last game at Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor played a game at about a hundred fewer degrees than that. Ice crystals hanging in the air made the night a memorable one, to be sure.

On ice fog and winter football

The weather in central Texas has been a little bizarre this week. Don’t get me wrong, on Tuesday it was almost eighty, but today, Saturday, the high was twenty-seven, resulting in the rare, if not weird, phenomenon of ice fog–fog that forms when the dew point is below thirty-two. All of this on the day when Baylor football finally won the the Big XII title outright and closed, once and for all, its old football stadium, which is scheduled for demolition sometime during 2014. Has Hell finally frozen over? Everybody is asking. The football game was played under Minnesota rules–temperatures well below freezing, a wicked wind blowing from the northwest, flurries. Is there a colder past-time than watching a football game under winter conditions? The ice fog was testimony to frozen toes, numb fingers, and cold noses. The second game of the season, back in September, was played in the sun and the on-field temperatures had to be above 120F, so today, the last game at Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor played a game at about a hundred fewer degrees than that. Ice crystals hanging in the air made the night a memorable one, to be sure.

On fake ice (skating)

The city of Waco, Texas, in an attempt to create the simulacra of winter has installed a fake ice rink in the downtown area in order to make people think that it is winter. Today, it was a sunny 72F in central Texas–no winter here, not even a fake one. Apparently, you can skate on this “fake” or plastic ice, but it can’t be the same as skating on frozen water where the pressure of the skate blade creates a thin film of water upon which the blade slides, and as the skate passes, the water freezes again on the surface. The science of ice-skating is actually rather complex. There is also an element of violence in skating that damages the ice surface, so I can’t figure out how a plastic surface can duplicate that particular phenomenon. Plastic ice only functions with a synthetic silicone lubricant that allows the skater to move across the surface. Skates wear out more quickly, and the surface has to be cleaned more frequently. Ice is ice, and nothing can really take its place, no matter how closely the plastic surface simulates real skating. There is nothing like the real thing: ice-skating under the stars, frosty wind on your cheeks, ice glinting under the lights, skates gliding effortlessly over the frozen surface of the rink. Perhaps you are skating with a close friend, talking about nothing, frozen air filling your lungs, maybe a few errant flakes of snow dusting the surface and falling on your face. Plastic ice on a hot day in December doesn’t even come close to simulating those feelings.

On fake ice (skating)

The city of Waco, Texas, in an attempt to create the simulacra of winter has installed a fake ice rink in the downtown area in order to make people think that it is winter. Today, it was a sunny 72F in central Texas–no winter here, not even a fake one. Apparently, you can skate on this “fake” or plastic ice, but it can’t be the same as skating on frozen water where the pressure of the skate blade creates a thin film of water upon which the blade slides, and as the skate passes, the water freezes again on the surface. The science of ice-skating is actually rather complex. There is also an element of violence in skating that damages the ice surface, so I can’t figure out how a plastic surface can duplicate that particular phenomenon. Plastic ice only functions with a synthetic silicone lubricant that allows the skater to move across the surface. Skates wear out more quickly, and the surface has to be cleaned more frequently. Ice is ice, and nothing can really take its place, no matter how closely the plastic surface simulates real skating. There is nothing like the real thing: ice-skating under the stars, frosty wind on your cheeks, ice glinting under the lights, skates gliding effortlessly over the frozen surface of the rink. Perhaps you are skating with a close friend, talking about nothing, frozen air filling your lungs, maybe a few errant flakes of snow dusting the surface and falling on your face. Plastic ice on a hot day in December doesn’t even come close to simulating those feelings.

On snow (especially when their is none and the grass is still green)

So if I can’t get any real snow living in central Texas, I can always write about snow whenever I want to. Snow is beautiful to look at, but terrible if you have to travel, go to work, or keep the sidewalk clean. My relationship with snow has been a long one, but lately that relationship has been from afar, jealously watching snow fall across the country, but never here. Even my annual trips to Minnesota for the Christmas holidays have been bereft, generally, of snow. It snowed a little last year, but this year’s snow totals are zero up to now. Snow is strange: aesthetically, it is very pleasing to watch it fall and cover up everything in its path with a clean white blanket that shrouds the countryside in a frozen swirl of fluffy ice. Heavily falling snow is mezmorizing, but it leaves me feeling grounded. Winter needs snow to cover things up for a few months. Snow gives me a cozy feeling that blank, bare, brown ground does not. Driving in the white stuff is certainly a challenge, if not dangerous, especially if the wind is blowing. Yet I love to be inside on a snowy day, watch the white flakes transform the landscape, and let Mother Nature have her wintry way for a couple of days. Getting a snow day off from school was always a joyous gift from heaven. Yet here I sit in Texas. Green grass, warm temperatures, and no snow on Thanksgiving eve. It just doesn’t seem right, now, does it?

On snow (especially when their is none and the grass is still green)

So if I can’t get any real snow living in central Texas, I can always write about snow whenever I want to. Snow is beautiful to look at, but terrible if you have to travel, go to work, or keep the sidewalk clean. My relationship with snow has been a long one, but lately that relationship has been from afar, jealously watching snow fall across the country, but never here. Even my annual trips to Minnesota for the Christmas holidays have been bereft, generally, of snow. It snowed a little last year, but this year’s snow totals are zero up to now. Snow is strange: aesthetically, it is very pleasing to watch it fall and cover up everything in its path with a clean white blanket that shrouds the countryside in a frozen swirl of fluffy ice. Heavily falling snow is mezmorizing, but it leaves me feeling grounded. Winter needs snow to cover things up for a few months. Snow gives me a cozy feeling that blank, bare, brown ground does not. Driving in the white stuff is certainly a challenge, if not dangerous, especially if the wind is blowing. Yet I love to be inside on a snowy day, watch the white flakes transform the landscape, and let Mother Nature have her wintry way for a couple of days. Getting a snow day off from school was always a joyous gift from heaven. Yet here I sit in Texas. Green grass, warm temperatures, and no snow on Thanksgiving eve. It just doesn’t seem right, now, does it?

On an endless winter

Winter is a strange season. I look forward to the cool weather all summer. As a child I would get up every morning hoping for that first snow which might fall in the dark of night while all were asleep. The cold weather and snow would eventually show up, much to my delight, but by the first of March most everyone, including myself, would be tired of winter coats and boots, gloves and scarves, hats and mittens, our shielding from the icy cold of winter. One expects January and February to be ugly. That’s just the way it is in Minnesota in winter, but March is a different matter entirely, wildly unpredictable, windy, stormy, cold, warm, wet, muddy–a mess. It might warm up in March, but only to make you weep later when the winds of a St. Patrick’s Day storm blow cruelly across the plains. April is usually when things turn warm. Yes, you might get a little snow, but when the sun shines in April, the temperatures go up, the grass turns green, and the dandelions come out. Birds sing, the lilacs smell wonderful, and the trees begin to leaf out. This is a normal April: people get their gardens ready, the snow finally melts in the shadowy places, and people begin to put away the winter stuff. Going out without a jacket is pure pleasure, the snow is gone, and when precipitation falls, it isn’t frozen anymore. This is a normal April. The endless winter of 2013 has had the people of the midwest in chains for quite some time, adding insult to injury by dumping a foot of snow on the midwest on May 2nd. Winter just got ridiculous. It isn’t that I have never seen snow in May, but not a foot. When I was sixteen, I saw a couple of slushy inches fall on May 4th, but they were gone by noon, and that year had not been particularly problematic in terms of cold or snow. This year, the year that will be known as the year spring never arrived, has been the year of the endless winter. April has been brutal with a continuous string of snowfalls that have tested both the patience and the humor of the people in the Midwest. The winds have been icy, the snow deep, you can’t even see the grass, and trees are as bare now as they were by the end of November. The snow shoveling people have been over the moon, making money hand over fist. Cities have used up their supplies of sand and salt, and don’t have money for more. Snowplowing budgets have long since been in the red, and then a blizzard hit the central plains again, this time on the second day of May. Spring is now about a month and a half behind. The farmers are concerned about getting in their crops. Local high school baseball teams have been playing in the gym. Tennis players look longingly at snow-clogged courts and think whimsical thoughts of playing in the sun with sweat dripping down their faces. The grass, plastered under the snow, is brown and dormant, the dandelions are no where to be found. The normally warm, sunny air of May still blows mean and cold, the winter jackets hang wearily from the shoulders of the pale riders of daily life in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Colorado and Kansas, the Dakotas, Iowa. These people, who normally can tolerate a lot of bad weather, are weary, tired of the constant storms, the ice, the huge piles of snow. For now, the gardens go unplanted, prom goers must wear overcoats, slipping and sliding over the ice as they go to dance. The ravages of winter still litter the landscape, no trees have bloomed out, the corn crop is unplanted, and the white-tail deer are beginning to wonder if summer will ever come. In the meantime, the people begin to clear away the snow, again.

On an endless winter

Winter is a strange season. I look forward to the cool weather all summer. As a child I would get up every morning hoping for that first snow which might fall in the dark of night while all were asleep. The cold weather and snow would eventually show up, much to my delight, but by the first of March most everyone, including myself, would be tired of winter coats and boots, gloves and scarves, hats and mittens, our shielding from the icy cold of winter. One expects January and February to be ugly. That’s just the way it is in Minnesota in winter, but March is a different matter entirely, wildly unpredictable, windy, stormy, cold, warm, wet, muddy–a mess. It might warm up in March, but only to make you weep later when the winds of a St. Patrick’s Day storm blow cruelly across the plains. April is usually when things turn warm. Yes, you might get a little snow, but when the sun shines in April, the temperatures go up, the grass turns green, and the dandelions come out. Birds sing, the lilacs smell wonderful, and the trees begin to leaf out. This is a normal April: people get their gardens ready, the snow finally melts in the shadowy places, and people begin to put away the winter stuff. Going out without a jacket is pure pleasure, the snow is gone, and when precipitation falls, it isn’t frozen anymore. This is a normal April. The endless winter of 2013 has had the people of the midwest in chains for quite some time, adding insult to injury by dumping a foot of snow on the midwest on May 2nd. Winter just got ridiculous. It isn’t that I have never seen snow in May, but not a foot. When I was sixteen, I saw a couple of slushy inches fall on May 4th, but they were gone by noon, and that year had not been particularly problematic in terms of cold or snow. This year, the year that will be known as the year spring never arrived, has been the year of the endless winter. April has been brutal with a continuous string of snowfalls that have tested both the patience and the humor of the people in the Midwest. The winds have been icy, the snow deep, you can’t even see the grass, and trees are as bare now as they were by the end of November. The snow shoveling people have been over the moon, making money hand over fist. Cities have used up their supplies of sand and salt, and don’t have money for more. Snowplowing budgets have long since been in the red, and then a blizzard hit the central plains again, this time on the second day of May. Spring is now about a month and a half behind. The farmers are concerned about getting in their crops. Local high school baseball teams have been playing in the gym. Tennis players look longingly at snow-clogged courts and think whimsical thoughts of playing in the sun with sweat dripping down their faces. The grass, plastered under the snow, is brown and dormant, the dandelions are no where to be found. The normally warm, sunny air of May still blows mean and cold, the winter jackets hang wearily from the shoulders of the pale riders of daily life in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Colorado and Kansas, the Dakotas, Iowa. These people, who normally can tolerate a lot of bad weather, are weary, tired of the constant storms, the ice, the huge piles of snow. For now, the gardens go unplanted, prom goers must wear overcoats, slipping and sliding over the ice as they go to dance. The ravages of winter still litter the landscape, no trees have bloomed out, the corn crop is unplanted, and the white-tail deer are beginning to wonder if summer will ever come. In the meantime, the people begin to clear away the snow, again.

On the wind

The wind is not your friend. The wind has been blowing with quite a bit of force in central Texas, whipping up brush fires, dust, dirt, and tumble weeds. I walked for nearly an hour yesterday in a stiff breeze that was blowing from the east. In Spain they say the wind can drive you mad if you let it. They even gave it a name, the “Tramontana.” While I lived in Minnesota, I always feared a sharp “tramontana” because on a cold day, it could be quite lethal. The still air temperature could often be rather reasonable, but a stiff north breeze at 20 to 30 miles per hour could make being outside a really rough business. Yet the wind is blind, blows on the just and the unjust alike, causing a person to zip up their jacket, raise their collar, and stuff their hands into their pockets. I’ve seen perfectly beautiful days ruined by a strong wind that blows everything around, ruins your picnic, brings rain to the parade, drives a gentle snow into a horizontal frenzy, whips up deadly whitecaps on the lake. Strong winds will ruin a perfectly good run, turning it into a torturous exercise in pain, endurance, and will. Sometimes you cannot put on enough clothing to blot out the effects of a cold north wind that started off somewhere in Ontario and is making a clean sweep of the central plains. Evil winds will wreck your garden, drop hail on your unsuspecting head, ruin your kite flying aspirations, ground your flight to Chicago, and tear the roof off of your garage. High winds were the bane of medieval cathedral architects who were worried about their new high structures–cathedral walls make great sails, which is unintentional, but it could be fatal. Today, architects play with all sorts of strange shapes in an attempt to minimize wind damage and baffle mother nature just long enough so she won’t blow down their buildings. The wind is, of course, a natural by-product of an active atmosphere of a spinning planet as high pressure chases low pressure, seeking to release energy and go to entropy. The problem is that human beings are trying to live in the middle of all this active energy, which can be either good or bad. Good if you are sailing or drying laundry, maybe flying a kite, but bad if you are running into it and have a mile or more to go before you can change direction. The wind can blow a truck off a road, tip over trees, cause cars to fly, break windows, scatter your lawn furniture. Yet, what is more comforting than a light breeze on a warm summer night? Is there anything more comforting than the rustle of a breeze blowing through the tree tops at the end of a summer day? Wind is, however, about disorder and chaos, out of which very little good ever comes. Disorder and chaos speak to our inability to control anything at all. Control is an illusion that the wind has come to destroy. We transfer our own insecurities about life onto metaphors involving the wind because the wind seems to exemplify all that is fragile and ephemeral in life. The wind comes and goes without explanation, much like Fortune itself, which is as inexplicable and as arbitrary as a light summer breeze that might cool your sweaty brow and give comfort to your tired bones. Just as the wind can bring destruction and tragedy, it might also bring a cooling breeze that lightens the heart and give hope to the soul. What we cannot predict, ever, is when and where the wind might blow, whether it is an ill-wind or a gentle breeze, whether we will have to zip up or open a window.

On the wind

The wind is not your friend. The wind has been blowing with quite a bit of force in central Texas, whipping up brush fires, dust, dirt, and tumble weeds. I walked for nearly an hour yesterday in a stiff breeze that was blowing from the east. In Spain they say the wind can drive you mad if you let it. They even gave it a name, the “Tramontana.” While I lived in Minnesota, I always feared a sharp “tramontana” because on a cold day, it could be quite lethal. The still air temperature could often be rather reasonable, but a stiff north breeze at 20 to 30 miles per hour could make being outside a really rough business. Yet the wind is blind, blows on the just and the unjust alike, causing a person to zip up their jacket, raise their collar, and stuff their hands into their pockets. I’ve seen perfectly beautiful days ruined by a strong wind that blows everything around, ruins your picnic, brings rain to the parade, drives a gentle snow into a horizontal frenzy, whips up deadly whitecaps on the lake. Strong winds will ruin a perfectly good run, turning it into a torturous exercise in pain, endurance, and will. Sometimes you cannot put on enough clothing to blot out the effects of a cold north wind that started off somewhere in Ontario and is making a clean sweep of the central plains. Evil winds will wreck your garden, drop hail on your unsuspecting head, ruin your kite flying aspirations, ground your flight to Chicago, and tear the roof off of your garage. High winds were the bane of medieval cathedral architects who were worried about their new high structures–cathedral walls make great sails, which is unintentional, but it could be fatal. Today, architects play with all sorts of strange shapes in an attempt to minimize wind damage and baffle mother nature just long enough so she won’t blow down their buildings. The wind is, of course, a natural by-product of an active atmosphere of a spinning planet as high pressure chases low pressure, seeking to release energy and go to entropy. The problem is that human beings are trying to live in the middle of all this active energy, which can be either good or bad. Good if you are sailing or drying laundry, maybe flying a kite, but bad if you are running into it and have a mile or more to go before you can change direction. The wind can blow a truck off a road, tip over trees, cause cars to fly, break windows, scatter your lawn furniture. Yet, what is more comforting than a light breeze on a warm summer night? Is there anything more comforting than the rustle of a breeze blowing through the tree tops at the end of a summer day? Wind is, however, about disorder and chaos, out of which very little good ever comes. Disorder and chaos speak to our inability to control anything at all. Control is an illusion that the wind has come to destroy. We transfer our own insecurities about life onto metaphors involving the wind because the wind seems to exemplify all that is fragile and ephemeral in life. The wind comes and goes without explanation, much like Fortune itself, which is as inexplicable and as arbitrary as a light summer breeze that might cool your sweaty brow and give comfort to your tired bones. Just as the wind can bring destruction and tragedy, it might also bring a cooling breeze that lightens the heart and give hope to the soul. What we cannot predict, ever, is when and where the wind might blow, whether it is an ill-wind or a gentle breeze, whether we will have to zip up or open a window.