It’s as if the director had called out, “Cue the snow!” And suddenly winter got dumped on us. I have a vague idea the scenario was much the same last year. A long fall, with relatively mild temperatures. It snowed a couple times, but Mother Nature, in a mellow mood, perhaps from a couple Margaritas too many, forgot about it and let it all melt away. And then, last Saturday, she suddenly remembered she’d dropped behind on her quota. So she dumped several inches all at once. The temperatures dropped like… like my car keys from my insensate fingers on a morning when it’s 20 below. And suddenly it was the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (if you’re Andy Williams. Who is dead. Which is the only thing that would make winter bearable, in my opinion).
Now and then I ask myself, why do I live someplace where I hate the weather at least a third of the year? The obvious answer is that I’m masochistic and self-destructive. Other reasons are that I tried living in the south, and it didn’t work for me. No spring (I love spring). Too many bugs. Too much distance from Norwegian-American culture. No Viking reenactment groups.
The ideal thing would be to be one of those old farts who migrates south during the winter months. Stick it out here till Christmas, then toboggan south to Florida or Arizona, where I can doze in the sun wearing one of those Cuban shirts and Bermuda shorts, maybe with socks and sandals to complete the ensemble. That plan, however, calls for a) retirement, and/or b) lots of money.
Not a good plan, really. We all know that guys who retire die of coronaries within a few months (unless they’re cops who, according to the TV shows, always get shot the week before retirement). Too much comfort and ease will kill you faster than anything. If you live in the subarctic and work until you drop, you can expect to live to 90 or 100. The Siberian Health plan, much admired by Democrats.
You won’t enjoy it, of course. But you’ll be alive. Because if there’s one thing nature abhors, it’s human comfort.
Our friend Ori posted a graphic on Facebook, showing a series of limerick versions of classic poems — “The Raven,” “Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” etc.
I couldn’t find the original source, so I don’t care to republish it here. But I will publish the one I came up with on the spot (well, after a few minutes’ thought). It requires a sloppy but common pronunciation of “Ulysses”:
There once was a Greek named Ulysses,
Who angered a god with his disses.
He paid for his crime,
But got home in time
To wedding-unplan for his missus.
Our friend Anthony Sacramone has mostly “gone dark” on the World Wide Woof these days, but occasionally he pops up to trouble our peace. I was directed to this article which appeared at The Federalist today. In it he describes the Gregorian calendar reforms, in terms sometimes reminiscent of his glory days at “Dr. Luther at the Movies”:
Many people thought their lives were being shortened by 10 days and started doubling up on their retirement contributions. The pious worried that saints might not listen to prayers that came 10 days “later” than the traditional saints’ days (saints being a petulant and petty bunch). Everyone’s birthday moved to a calendar date 10 days later, ruining party plans like nobody’s business. Rents, interest, and wages had to be recalculated for a month that had a mere 21 days. Boy, people were stupid back then.
The stalwart Prots in Britain and the Colonies held out for the old ways until 1752, at which point everyone woke up 10 days late for work. And those dentist appointments it took so long to book? Well, these are Brits. What dentist appointments?
The big news on the literary front today (you’ve doubtless heard already) is that a Minnesota native (unfortunately not me) has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The somewhat mystifying choice is Bob Dylan.
I’ll admit I don’t get it. In fact I never “got” Dylan. Even his much-praised lyrics do nothing for me.
But then I pretty much didn’t get anything that happened from 1965 to 1980 or so.
In other news, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to Keith Richards.
We have received your application for a Spontaneity Grant. Please fill out the enclosed forms in triplicate, and return them to us complete before the specified date. In addition, you are required to provide a detailed timeline of your plans for spontaneous acts, along with an estimated budget and certified copies of applicable local permits.
Thank you for your support for the Spontaneity Initiative.
The other day, for reasons I don’t recall, the word “hoosegow” entered my mind. If you’re like me, you know it mostly from Westerns. It’s what crude cowboys called a jail. “Throw him in the hoosegow!”
It occurred to me to wonder about the origins of the word. Off the top of my head, I guessed it was one of those American borrowings from Dutch, like “boss.” The “hoose” element sounds like the Germanic “hus” or “huis,” meaning house.
So I looked it up. Turns out it’s not Dutch but Spanish, from the word “jusgado,” meaning jail. One of those cowboy borrowings from the Mexicans, like high heeled boots and sombreros.
And now you know too. Because I’m generous. Not a master of languages, but generous.
A Spanish-speaking friend tells me jusgado does not mean jail, but a male prisoner in a jail. This means dictionary.com is mistaken. I want my money back.
My back yard seems like an entirely different place in winter. Places where I could walk easily in summer are hard going — or dangerous — in winter. The contours are different. The colors are different. That muddy place I try to avoid in summer doesn’t even exist (conceptually) now.
It’s like I’ve moved.
I’ve lived in the north and I’ve lived in the south. As I’ve said many times, I hate winter with a hot hate that I only wish would warm me up.
But winter does give us the opportunity to travel, so to speak. My yard in Florida was pretty much the same all the time. My yard in winter is a foreign country.
Not a very nice foreign country, I’ll grant. But it’s a change. A poor man’s holiday. In Siberia.
An eponym is “a person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.” An example given by Merriam-Webster goes, “Toadfishes burp the songs of their eponyms; one sort of toadfish is called the singing midshipman. —John Hersey, Harper’s, May 1987.”
Someone shared the video at this link on Facebook today. It’s “The Battle of Maldon, the Lego Version.” The creators went to the trouble of staging the story in Lego figures. They commit the sin of horns on Viking helmets, but let’s face it, you can’t be too scrupulous when you’re dealing in Legos.
“The Battle of Maldon,” of course, is a famous Anglo-Saxon poem describing a battle between Englishmen and Norsemen in 991. The Norsemen won, due either to cheating by the Vikings or the stupidity of the English commander (depending on your point of view).
By the way, it’s generally agreed that the Viking commander that day was Olaf Trygvesson, a major character in my novel The Year of the Warrior. Some years back I read historians saying they’d decided it wasn’t him after all, but now everybody’s saying it was. So I guess they changed their minds.
Now and then – not every day – I come up with a Grand Unified Theory that explains one or more of life’s great puzzles. And being the generous soul that I am, I share my insight with you.
Because I’m all about the giving.
Here’s what I figured out this summer.
I have observed, from my own experience and from comments on Facebook from sea to shining sea, that pretty much everywhere that people live in the US, all the streets are being dug up this summer. I mean all the streets, as in, if you try to find an alternate route because your usual route is under construction, you’ll certainly find that route under construction too. And if you find a tertiary route, behold, there the bobcats and scarifiers will be also.
Obviously this is a massive conspiracy. But what is it in service of?
This is my insight:
Under pressure from animal rights activists, behavioral scientists have been severely restricted in their use of laboratory rats in mazes. Funding for animal experimentation is drying up.
So the behavioral scientists have turned to the government for an alternative experiment. Streets are being dug up all over each metropolitan area, not for maintenance purposes, but to construct increasingly complex mazes. The progress of our automobiles through these mazes is being systematically tracked by drones in the air.
I think this is the only sufficient explanation for the disruption in our daily commutes.
Remember, if the government denies this obvious truth, that in itself is proof that I’ve guessed right.