The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 18, 2012

Scenes From a Snow Day in Downtown Bellevue

Filed under: Bellevue, weather — Brian Lutz @ 11:00 pm

Given the relatively temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, even in the middle of Winter snow is a fairly infrequent occurrence around here.  During most Winters here we rarely get more than 2 or 3 snow events, and most of them are relatively minor (at least unless you’re trying to drive in them, in which case you’re pretty much dealing with a horrendous mess no matter how much or how little snow actually ends up on the ground.)  Every so often we do get a major snowstorm here, but these are relatively rare, with the last really significant one being back in December of 2008.  The one we’ve got going on here right now doesn’t seem to be quite that bad (at least not here in Downtown Bellevue, I understand most of the really big snow totals happened to the North and South of here,) but it was still enough to close down all the schools and make a mess out of the roads. 

Fortunately, living in a walkable Downtown area means that even in the snow it’s not too terribly difficult to get around, even while leaving the car safely parked.  Even then, given a recent unexpected change in my employment situation (not that big a deal really,) I don’t really have anywhere to be right now anyway, so I can just stay at home and not have to worry about any of this.  Even so, after a while cabin fever does start to set in a bit, so I did took the opportunity to go for a little walk this afternoon and see how Bellevue is faring underneath all the snow.  After the jump, a look at a few scenes from a snow day in Downtown Bellevue.


January 17, 2012

How to Panic in the Snow

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 5:42 pm

There’s no getting away from it now, at least not unless you’ve got travel plans already and happen to be able to get to the airport sometime in, oh, about the next 20 minutes or so.  That’s right, there’s snow on the way, and plenty of it (or a moderate quantity of it depending on where exactly you happen to be, but that’s just nitpicking anyway.)  A Winter Wonderland of Doom awaits all who dare to venture out into the elements.  While it’s true that reasonable precautions and preparation now can save you from serious trouble later, who’s got time for that?   Sure, the warnings have been out there for days now, but why bother being prudent and taking reasonable precautions when you can just put everything off to the last minute?  Besides, under certain circumstances, I hear that panicking can be quite rewarding.

That’s not to say that you should just go out and run around in circles screaming with your hands up in the air.  Sure, it’s a pretty standard method of panicking, but ultimately it doesn’t really accomplish much, and it mostly just makes you look silly.  You see, in order to panic properly, you need to combine the usual irrational with rash decisions and counterproductive overreactions.  There’s a fine art to proper weather-related panic, and with these handy tips, you can be panicking like a pro in no time.

    • Start by cleaning out a supermarket or two.  Any experienced worrywart knows that the first thing you do when it looks like there might be snow on the way is to head for the nearest supermarket and go clean out the canned goods aisle, but anyone can do that.  In order to do it right, you can’t just go in with a shopping list like you’re making your weekly grocery run, you’ve got to rush in at the first sign of peril and fill a cart up with the first thing you see on the shelves.  Sure, that tends to mean you’re going to end up with a year’s supply of canned garbanzo beans and 12 boxes of Corrugated Fiber Crunchies (The world’s first 100% recycled breakfast cereal!) which doesn’t sound like much fun, especially when compared with the sumptuous looking boxes of Macaroni and Cheese  right next to it on the shelf, but remember, this is a crisis, and you’re not panicking properly unless you treat it like it’s a crisis.  Besides, you can always go download a few thousand recipes for canned garbanzo beans off the Internet, right?  Oh, and be sure to keep some of the stuff in the car, you never know when you might find yourself needing to live in there for a while…
    • Don’t forget the essentials.  Even after you’ve cleaned out the nearest canned goods aisle, you’re going to need some other stuff to survive.  For example, you might want to consider having some firewood around, just in case.  Sure, you may happen to live in an apartment with no fireplace, but if you’re going to make it through this crisis you can’t let little details like that (or other insignificant trivialities like the terms of your apartment lease) deter you.  After all, the last thing you want to find yourself having to do is to burn up your supply of Corrugated Fiber Crunchies to stay warm, right?  (Then again, after you actually try the things, you might find yourself looking for a convenient excuse to do so…)  Oh, and according to some very reliable sources I’ve found on the Internet, just hours before a potentially threatening snowstorm is supposed to be a great time to go out and buy yourself a team of sled dogs.  If you buy them from the right place, I hear they’ll even throw in a handy instructional DVD, so all you need to do is get the dogs to watch it so they know what to do, and you’ll be ready for anything.
    • Batten Down the Hatches.  Obviously the best way to keep yourself out of trouble is to stay away from it in the first place, and there’s no place to do that than in the comfort of your own home.  Sure it might be a little crowded in there now that you’ve filled the place with canned garbanzo beans, firewood and quite possibly even a pack of soon to be dangerously bored and undertrained sled dogs, but at least this way you won’t have to be out in the snow.  If you want to be extra careful you might even board up the windows and shove a dresser or two in front of the door.  Sure, you won’t be able to tell that is’s snowing outside, but isn’t that what Facebook and Twitter are for?
    • Go out for a nice drive.  Over the years, the denizens of the Pacific Northwest have become famous worldwide for their Winter driving prowess, and Northwest drivers in the snow have been the subject of many popular viral videos.  Sure, common sense tells you that you don’t want to go out driving in the snow if you don’t really have to, but why pass up what may be your only chance at Internet-wide fortune and fame?  (Well OK, maybe not the fortune part, unless you count your car insurance bills afterward.)  Sure, you may find yourself trying unsuccessfully to climb a 45-degree slope in an old beater Honda to get back to your house, sliding back to the bottom and hitting 2 or 3 Bimmers on the way back down, but remember, anything that is worth having is going to be difficult, and driving home in the middle of a snowstorm is no exception.  Then again, if it all gets to be too much for you to handle, you can always just ditch the car, walk home and go retreive it after the Spring thaw.  Sure, some people might have some issues with this (especially if you happen to do it right in the middle of the freeway) but when we’re in the middle of a weather-related crisis sometimes we must all make sacrifices.
    • When all else fails… Run away.  I hear Florida is lovely (or at least has a lot less crummy weather) around this time of year.  Granted, that leaves the problem of finding flights that don’t cost a small fortune and haven’t been delayed to next Thursday due to the weather, and then getting to the airport when there’s an inch of ice on the roads (as well as potentially a car you recently abandoned sitting in the middle of the freeway,) but that’s just a minor detail.  Maybe this would be a good time to try out those sled dogs, assuming you remembered to buy a dogsled to go along with them.  Um… you DID remember to buy a dogsled, right?


Anyway, with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a full-fledged Seattle snow panicker.  Now stay safe out there, and if you’d be so kind, try to leave some pasta on the shelf at the supermarket, I haven’t made it over there yet…

July 22, 2011

Summer Has Been Cancelled Due To Lack of Interest

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

A typical October Day in Seattle... The only problem is that it's supposed to be the middle of July right now.

Normally here at The Sledgehammer,  I have a longstanding policy of allowing myself only one complaint about the weather per month.  I do this mostly because if I didn’t limit myself this way I don’t know if I’d ever write about anything but how crummy the weather is, and the seven or eight people who actually read this Blog would get sick of it really fast (well, I think they already get sick of my stuff really fast, but if I did that they’d get sick of it even faster.)  Even allowing myself a monthly complaint about the weather, I’ve actually tried to refrain from doing too much complaining about the weather lately, even though the historically bad weather we’ve been getting around here for the past few months would certainly provide plenty to complain about.  And even though this past Spring was one of the coldest ones on record for the Seattle area, I think most people around here have learned to expect that kind of stuff.  Besides, we need something around here to scare off the  Californians every once in a while, right?

The conventional wisdom regarding Seattle weather is that Summer doesn’t officially begin until July 5th, but with some of the weather we’ve had around here this year, I’m starting to wonder if they got that one backwards.  The Fourth of July weekend this year was, rather uncharacteristically, quite nice this year.  The problem is that just about everything after that has pretty much sucked.  To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the really hot weather (mostly because I tend to get hot very easily, as I’m sure I’ve discussed and\or bored readers with here previously) but I’m even less of a fan of having to wear a jacket and carry an umbrella to walk to work in the middle of July.  OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the weather we’ve been getting here lately, particularly over the past week or so, seems to be straight out of October.  I’m not saying that it’s the end of the world or anything like that, but you know that daydreaming that most people tend to do about going somewhere nice and sunny to get away from the weather when they’re stuck in the middle of Winter?  I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to happen in the middle of Summer, but there seems to be an awful lot of it going around here lately.

Then again, with some of the weather the rest of the country has been stuck with while we’ve been busy wallowing underneath an amount well in excess of our recommended daily allowance of clouds, it’s not like there’s really anywhere that much better to go, unless you happen to like temperatures closer to the ones you’d normally find on a cake recipe than on a weather map.  With the big heat wave over in the Eastern United States there’s a lot of talk about something called a Heat Index over the past few days, which seems to be some obscure mishmash of temperature and humidity that I don’t really understand, but the short version is that it’s basically sounds like a fancy of way of telling you just how miserable you’re supposed to be at any given time.  In theory, we’re supposed to have one of those here as well, but it seems like we’re still struggling to get out of wind chill factor territory, so I don’t think anyone’s paying too much attention to the heat index right now.  But just in case you’re interested, this site is currently predicting that there’s a 1% chance of reaching a heat index of 100 degrees next Tuesday.  Don’t like it that hot?  Well, there’s a whopping 20% chance of reaching a heat index of 80 degrees next Thursday, so don’t toss out that sunscreen just yet, because there’s at least a 1 in 5 chance that the weather might not completely suck sometime within the next week or so.

In spite of all the gloom and/or doom in the forecast these days (although I don’t think that the local weathermen have broken out any awkward eschatological proclamations like Overcastpocalypse for this weather pattern JUST yet, I’d give it another week or so on that one)  I have to imagine that there have to be some people out there who actually like this stuff.  I suspect that most of them are named Cullen, sparkle and engage in thoroughly contrived teenage drama on a regular basis (yes, I actually saw Twilight once, under duress, I’d rather not talk about it,) but that doesn’t really count unless you’re a teenage girl anyway.  For non-ficticious beings, I think the list of people who enjoy this type of weather includes, um, well…  cranky old people (some of them anyway) and, um…  people who hate solar energy?  Well OK, I’ve got nothing.  But there’s got to be someone out there who actually likes this stuff. and the sooner we can identify, locate and officially not take the guy seriously, the better off we’ll all be for it.  As for the rest of us?  Well,  I suppose there’s always the option of packing up and moving to Florida.  Sure there’s ridiculous heat, monsoons, hurricanes, alligators and about half a zillion crazy people down there, but at least July actually looks like July down there, right? 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go find out what it would take to find myself a rewarding career in the lucrative offshore tax shelter industry.

February 24, 2011

Random Thoughts: Slightly Under the Weather, Need More Input

Filed under: Random Stuff, Technology, weather — Brian Lutz @ 2:11 am

It took a bit longer than it was expected to (just long enough for the usual mess of overheated Internet commenters to whip themselves into a frenzy blaming the weather forecasters for all the social evils they haven’t already blamed on the Republican Party earlier,) but it looks like we finally have some decent snow going here again.  Although with my walkable commute it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference to me how bad the roads are (as long as I don’t slip in the middle of a frozen crosswalk and get plowed into by some jackknifing semi I don’t get affected much by road conditions these days.)  A trip to the supermarket a couple of evenings ago means that I’ve got just about enough food in the house to make it to the Spring Thaw, and if it came down to that point I could probably walk to the supermarket if I really needed to.  For the most part I just leave the car parked down in the garage when the weather starts getting dubious these days, but I don’t actually think my car would have too much trouble driving in this weather anyway if I conveniently ignore the usual traffic messes that result from this type of thing.  The snow was also nice enough to conveniently wait until I got home from work to start, which means that most of the evening commute was done by then, and even then, it didn’t start actually sticking to the roads until a couple of hours after that.  Based on what I’m seeing out the window right now I’m guessing we haven’t got more than an inch or two.  I suppose if I wasn’t lazy I’d actually go down to street level and check, but that “if I wasn’t lazy” part seems to be the big hangup for that plan right now.  I suppose that surviving this type of weather would be the type of thing that would build character if I wasn’t conveniently staying out of it here in my high and lofty perch and contemplating whether or not I want to take the opportunity to go swimming at 2am in the middle of a snowstorm just because I can.  I think the answer to that is  probably not, since I still have to work tomorrow and even the weather doesn’t really make a good excuse not to be there when you’re two blocks away. 

Anyway, while the snow keeps falling outside, a few random thoughts:

  • In the corner of that photo is a gift certificate for a free pizza from Mod Pizza that I need to figure out some way to give away.  I won one from a trivia question on Twitter, but due to a mix-up in the mail I ended up with two.  I’ll probably come up with something in the next couple of days, so watch for this in an upcoming post.
  • You’ll probably get sick of hearing me talk about this soon enough, but the cruise is now about 4 1/2 weeks away, and to be honest I haven’t got much to wear for it right now.  Which I suppose would be fine if I was going to go spend the trip hanging out on Orient Beach in St. Martin, but I hear the dining rooms on the ship tend to frown upon nudity, so I should probably do some clothes shopping between now and then.
  • Even with the snow outside, it looks like there’s still construction work going on right now out on 405.  Of all the people who might take a day off for weather you’d think they’d be pretty high on the list as far as having a legitimate excuse goes.  I suppose as long as you’re equipped for it snow might actually be somewhat easier to work in than rain.
  • I’ve still got the leftover sheets of acrylic from the Christmas ornament project in November sitting next to the desk here, presumably on the basis that I might theoretically find some use for the stuff again at some point. 
  • About a week ago the right button on the mouse on my desktop PC decided to stop working, and had to be replaced.  It’s one of those things that just fades into the background and rarely gets noticed until something breaks, then it turns into a borderline crisis.  When you reach that point, it’s usually a bad idea to order a replacement online and go for the cheapest shipping you can get away with in order to save a few bucks, then spend the next six days dealing with a broken mouse.  Not that I’d ever do something like that…  *whistles innocently*
  • Come to think it, I’m still using the el cheapo keyboard  I bought as a stopgap when the fancy ominously glowing Logitech keyboard I had previously decided to bite the dust, and planned to replace as soon as possible.  But then that requires shopping for a keyboard, and we all know how much fun that turns out to be.  I’m really not too picky about this type of thing, but most keyboards are either cheap garbage (as seems to be the case with this one,) have “features” that do more to hinder their usefulness than to enhance it, or just plain cost way too much money in the first place.  I suppose one of these days I should really do something about this, but I’ll probably wait for this one to provide some convenient excuse to replace it first.
  • Speaking of keyboards, I’ve been meaning to pick one up for the iPad before I go on the trip so I can actually type on it, but the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to think that an iPad isn’t really the right solution to the problem I’m trying to solve here.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a device that has its purpose (and serves that purpose well) but the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to believe that it’s a great device for reading things, but a really lousy device to create things on.  As an alternative, I’ve been looking at some of the various subnotebooks (stuff in the 12-14″ screen size range)  out on the market, and finding that the one perfect device for everything I’d want to do with one of these pretty much doesn’t exist right now, but there are some that are fairly close (particularly some of the Asus and HP models.)  I have yet to see a netbook that I could stand to use for any length of time, and the Android tablets seem to be some distance out still and saddled with high pricetags and ridiculous carrier restrictions.  This is something that’s more in the “Nice to have” category than the “Must have” category right now, but right now I almost think I’d have an easier time spending $5-600 for a new subnotebook than I would spending $70 on an overpriced Apple keyboard for the iPad.
  • If I do buy a new portable computer around now, it would make an interesting bit of symmetry.  I happened to buy my current notebook (a 15″ Dell Inspiron 6000) at just around the same time I went on my last cruise on the Star Princess back in 2005.  After six years, I’d say it’s probably a good time for an upgrade and another cruise.  Don’t you agree?
  • In the time I’ve spent writing this, most of the roads I can see from my desk here have now been plowed.  Good news for drivers, not so good news for people hoping for an excuse to skip work tomorrow.The overpasses seem to be pretty icy still though.
  • I should probably wrap this up before it turns into another Fun with Insomnia post.  If I had a bedtime I’m pretty sure I’d be up past it now.

January 14, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Scattered Doom

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 1:59 am

It seems that a couple of evenings ago there was a little snowstorm that passed through the area.  I just thought I’d let you know about this in case you missed it for some unknown reason like the fact that you were busy napping at the time or something.  The snow arrived fairly late in the evening and lasted only a few hours before turning to rain and quickly melting away, but not before it managed to put down an inch or two and stick to the roads for a little while.  Unfortunately, the fact that it arrived so late combined with relatively low traffic volumes meant that once again I was disappointed in my search from some good traffic carnage on 405 to watch from my high and lofty perch, but there’s still 2 1/2 months of Winter left for that (Note:  the preceding statement does not imply any desire for additional Winter beyond the standard allocation, and is in fact about 2 1/2 months more Winter than I’d really care to deal with in any given year.)  All in all, if you happen to be one of those questionably sane people out there who actually likes Winter weather for some reason that modern science has yet to develop a suitable pill for, there’s a good chance you would have been just a bit let down by this storm.  Especially given the fact that the various TV weathermen have been talking this one up for at least the last five days.

For some time now, I have  been following a couple of the local weather guys on my Twitter feed.  For the most part it seems to be a pretty good way of getting whatever basic weather info I might need, and the weather guys around here also do a pretty good job of explaining how things work and why things happen.  Most of the time, this is a pretty good arrangement, but there’s just one little issue with it:  The minute anything “interesting” shows up in the weather forecast, you might as well just sit back and grab some popcorn, because you’re in for wall-to-wall coverage.  Take for instance this most recent snow.  As much as a week in advance the various forecasting models were starting to show predictions of a potential snowstorm on Tuesday of this week.  In fact, for several days they were showing potential for as much as 6-10 inches of lowland snow.  Obviously if there’s potential for some sort of disruptive snow event it’s best to make sure people have as much advance notice as possible, but even after all the various disclaimers and explanations they’ve posted about the inaccuracy of the forecast models that far out, they sure seem to spend a lot of time hyping up whatever weather system is allegedly on the way.  Even as the forecast models kept going back and forth as to what the severity of the expected storm was going to be, the play-by-play coverage of just how much next Tuesday’s commute was going to suck continued unabated. 

When it reached the point where the storm was only a day or two off the models quickly trended toward much lower snow totals than what had been previously reported, meaning that even by Seattle standards the expected snow wasn’t going to be too much of a big deal.  But by this time so many pixels had been spilled on the coverage of the impending snowstorm that they were all but forced to keep up the breathless wall-to-wall coverage.  Thus by the time the snow actually arrived, it wasn’t much more than the usual dusting of snow that we get around here every once in a while.  By the time on Tuesday evening when the earlier forecasts seem to suggest we’d all be building igloos and rounding up our sled dogs, the front page story on the KOMO website had to go all the way out to Hoquiam to find some pictures with a light dusting of snow on the ground.  The snow did eventually move inland well after the evening commute and drop an inch or two on us here (as seen above) but quickly turned to rain and never really amounted to much.  Even as the snow turned to slush and the weather reverted back to the usual Seattle January weather (rainy with a side of high winds) they had to get one last shot in.  Until someone thought better of it, the front page story on KOMO the next morning even briefly featured the term “Slushageddon” in the headline.

Oh, and another thing, while I’m on the subject:  This one isn’t necessarily the fault of the weather guys, but since when has it become fashionable to turn every single weather event into some sort of eschatological cataclysm?  Two inches of snow on the ground for a couple of hours?  It’s a Snowpocalypse.  It’s raining outside? Better declare a Floodageddon.  Before long we’re going to look out the window, see that visibility is limited outside and declare it to be a portent of Fognarök.  Oh, and as long as we’re at it, I call dibs on Pärtlyclöuderdämmerung.  Which would, incidentally, make a good name for a death metal band.  But not a particularly good one, just one of the ones that opens for the garage band playing down at the teen center on Wednesday evening.  But I digress.  Still, I think we really need to chill out on the existential panic every time weather happens, because at this rate by the time something actually happens we’re not going to have any adjectives left to describe it.  It’s gotten to the point where we’ve now got some sort of Friendly Neighborhood Snowpocalyptic creature thingy taking credit for whatever frozen precipitation happens to show up around here and generally fomenting chaos, panic and/or disorder among the populace (particularly those supporting opposing NFL teams.) 

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on with our weather around here this year.  All I know is that one way or another we’ve got two more months of the stuff to deal with, and it looks like if it’s not the weather making a mess of things, it’s going to be people talking about the weather potentially making a mess of things that’s going to make a mess of things.  Anyone know who I could talk to about that whole hibernation bit I’ve been hearing about?

November 19, 2010

It’s Not 40 Miles In the Snow Until the Grandkids Hear About it

Filed under: Random Stuff, weather — Brian Lutz @ 1:13 am

Between settling down into the new job and a project that I am currently working on (you’ll hear more about this after Thanksgiving, when the results of said project will be revealed at our family’s traditional annual ornament exchange,) I’ve been fairly busy lately.  In theory, this new job is supposed to mean that I’ve got more time to do other things like Blogging (mostly by merit of not having to commute to Seattle and back) and eventually I’m sure I’ll get there, but it seems like just as soon as I get more time there’s always something there to fill it.  I suppose I’m the type of person who isn’t particularly good at doing nothing (at least not without the proper circumstances) but those tendencies don’t leave a whole lot of time for Blogging.  I do have some posts in the pipeline that I’m working on, but in the meantime, I’ll toss out a few random thoughts to keep the place warm for a while.  After all, the weather reports seem to indicate that warm things are going to be in short supply for the next few days…

One of the nice things about my new job is that I now have the ability to easily walk to work.  In some ways this is nice.  I get some exercise out of the deal, my company pays an extra $30 a month for not driving, and I’ve already found that I’m doing a lot less driving than I normally would (not that a commute that short would be putting much mileage on my car in the first place.)  I describe the walk to work as being roughly 2 1/2 blocks, but if you’ve walked around downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue, you’ll find that a “block” is a bit of a relative thing.  If you compare the two downtowns on a map you quickly find that Bellevue’s blocks are much larger than Seattle’s blocks, and that 2 1/2 block walk turns into roughly 4/10ths of a mile each way.  For comparison, back when I was working at Teleca in Seattle the walk from the International District station to the office at First and King was roughly six blocks, and came out to a bit more than 1/3 mile each way.  On most days if I can catch the crosswalks at the right time I find I can make the walk to the office from here in 10 minutes, give or take a minute or two.  That’s actually not far off from how long it would take to drive to my last Microsoft job from my old apartment at a distance of about 2 1/2 miles.

All in all, it seems to be working out pretty well, but there’s one pesky little detail to the whole thing that I may not have thought all the way through:  The walk to work is, as one of the various panic-inducing news stations might boast, ten minutes of uninterrupted weather.  And lately, most of that weather’s been pretty lousy.  So far I haven’t managed to get myself caught out in the rain yet, but especially over the past week it’s been windy, ranging from merely breezy to some of the just plain mean stuff that wears the term “Wind Chill Factor” like some sort of twisted meteorological badge of honor.  Combine this with the fact that the North Face jacket I’ve managed to somehow get fifteen years of reliable service out of doesn’t seem to do so great with the wind, and that it seems to now be showing signs that it may be approaching the end of its useful life (my mother might argue that this happened roughly a decade ago) and it looks like it might be time to make some updates to my winter wardrobe.  After all, we’re still a month away from the start of Winter at this point, and something tells me there’s going to be a lot more of this stuff to deal with.

And that’s even before the much vaunted cold snap we’ve been hearing about from the local Weatherati shows up sometime this weekend.  Most people would probably argue that whether or not they are fans of the snow, last year’s winter was just a bit of a letdown.  There were no major snow events anywhere in the Puget Sound lowlands, and aside from the one big December cold snap we got, the vast majority of the Winter weather we got was just one big generic mass of cloudy-and-45 for three months straight.  In fact, there really hasn’t been much snow here at all since the unpleasantness back in December of 2008 that made a huge mess out of, well, pretty much everything.  Naturally, this means that the various weathermen have grasped onto the first thing that looks like it might be snow in the forecasting models as far back as last Wednesday, and have been playing up the whole thing as some sort of potential snowpocalypse…  except for the fact that the models really don’t show much chance of lowland snow at all.  Most likely it’ll end up getting reasonably cold for a while, but won’t do much more than that.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that they all were so busy watching the forecast models several days out that pretty much everyone completely missed the windstorm we got on Monday that managed to cause some widespread (but ultimately fairly minor) power outages. 

Oh well, until I manage to turn into some sort of evil genius, build a diabolical contraption to change the weather and use it to hold the world for ransom there’s not much I can do about it except bundle up and slog through the stuff.  Still, I’m sure there will be something in the forecasts sometime during the next three months that I can exaggerate into a story I can tell the grandkids, right? 

(Well, I’m afraid we’re gonna’ have to count this one as your monthly weather complaint post.  -ed.  Yeah, so what else am I supposed to write about, cute little frozen puppies?)

December 6, 2009

…But it’s a DRY cold.

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 5:40 pm

After having spent the last 31-and-a-half years hanging out in this planet’s Northern Hemisphere, I suppose that by now I should have figured out somewhere along the way that it tends to get cold around here in December.  This November arrive with its usual complement of rain and wind (including sustained high winds for the better part of a week up North of here)  but never really got all that cold, with daytime temperatures hanging out in the low to mid Fifties, and overnight lows never really threatening the freezing point.  Then December first came around, and with it came one of those big Arctic fronts that show up around here in the Winter and generally make a mess of things.  This one, on the other hand, somehow managed to not really bring a lot of moisture along with it, so for the past week or so it’s been rather dry (and even occasionally sunny) here, but it’s also been reallyfreakin’ cold at the same time.

Exactly how cold this is depends, of course, on what one’s definition of “really freakin’ cold” happens to be.  Some people who live in warmer climates might be heading for their jackets  the minute the thermometer hits 59 degrees  (I was going to take a cheap shot at California here, but then I remembered that the four hours of waiting in line at CBS Television City to go watch a taping of The Price is Right a few Januarys ago wasn’t exactly one of the warmer  experiences I ever had.)  By the same token, you probably wouldn’t need to go too far North of here to find someone that would be out working on their tan in sunny 34-degree weather.  In fact, if it weren’t for all this Arctic air we’ve got hanging around it actually would be rather nice weather for this time of year.  And if there was any moisture behind all this cold air we’d probably have six inches of snow on the ground by now and be well on our way to a repeat of the mess that was last December.  The weather reports say that we should be clear for the next few days which should hopefully be enough time for the cold air to move out before any significant moisture arrives in the area.  Basically, for the time being, all we have to worry about is cold, and plenty of it. 

Unfortunately, it does look like we’ve got a few more days of the stuff to deal with at this point.  The weather forecast is calling for a high of 31 degrees tomorrow, and are predicted to remain below 40 degrees through this Thursday.  Then on Friday it’s supposed to get a bit warmer (emphasis on “a bit”) but there is the possibility of some snow (which would be relatively short-lived) around that time.  In other words, you might want to keep a few extra blankets handy.  And don’t forget the ice scraper…

November 13, 2009

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (Somewhere Else, if You Don’t Mind)

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 10:26 pm

Don’t look now, but in case you haven’t noticed, somehow we’ve managed to end up nearly halfway through November.  and more than halfway through Autumn already.  Sure, there’s still leaves on some of the trees, but it’s pretty clear they’ve all served the trunk with their notice of intent to vacate the premises.  I suppose the part where it started getting dark at 5pm should have been a bit of a tip-off that we we’re heading for the cold season, but somehow I manage to keep telling myself that it’s not really quite as late in the year than it actually is.  Then again, it’s kind of hard to ignore the ominous little snowflake that appears on the dash of my car when the thermometer registers a temperature of 39 degrees or colder, indicating that it’s probably a lot colder than I think.

On one hand, this means that Thanksgiving is now less than two weeks away, and Christmas isn’t all that much farther away(as the stores have been quite helpful to point out to you for the last month and a half,  just in case you somehow managed to miss that part.)  Unfortunately, it also means that Winter is on the way, and if the current weather forecasts are to believe, might be even closer than you think.  The mountains have already either begun to accumulate their annual blanket of snow or will be getting a good head start this weekend (a couple of ski areas have even managed to open already,) and this weekend’s forecasts suggest that some of that snow might even reach some of the higher hills here in the Puget Sound area.  I can’t exactly say that I’m thrilled by the prospect myself.

There has been some disagreement on the prospects for this year’s Winter around here, with the National Weather Service suggesting that El Nino conditions and the global warming bogeyman will result in a warmer than usual Winter around here, while the Farmer’s Almanac seems to think that we’re going to be in for a colder than usual winter.  Either way, If last Winter’s weather is any indication, it might not be a bad idea to prepare for some snow.  As anyone who was caught unaware by last December’s snowstorms (or, in some cases, anyone who made an ill-fated attempt to dodge it by heading to Florida for a few days, only to get home in time to catch the worst of it) probably figured out from unfortunate experience, by the time the snow showed up, every store in a 100-mile radius had been completely cleaned out in the shovel department.  Since a lot of stores seem to sell these things as seasonal items (meaning that they bring in one big load and don’t bother restocking once they’re gone) even when the snow had passed most stores never got any more of them in.  In order to keep the walkway in front of my apartment clear, I found myself having to improvise a bit, until I eventually manage to come up with a big metal dustpan that would do the job, albeit not particularly well, and with a whole lot more bending than would have liked (apparently I’m getting to be practically old enough for Arthritis at this point, so that’s probably not such a good thing.) 

Eleven months later, the Winter gear has managed to make its way back into the stores, and as I wandered over to Target for no apparent reason this evening, I found myself contemplating the purchase of such a shovel.  On one hand, if we do get anything close to last year’s Winter weather, I’d be really glad that I’ve got one of these around, and that I don’t have to trudge through forty miles of snow and ice in an effort to find one (uphill both ways, of course) trying to find one of the things.  On the other hand, if the Winter turns out to be milder as some people have predicted, then the thing would end up seeing little use, and would just end up taking up space in the closet for the next 12 months until next Winter.   I’ve also got all of about 20 feet worth of walkway in front of my apartment that I’d even need to shovel if it did actually snow.  So is it worth getting a shovel on merely the possibility that it might snow?  I guess I won’t know the answer until Spring arrives.

August 9, 2009

A Bit Too Slow to Beat the Heat

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 11:53 pm

Around this time a week ago, we were all broiling in the tail end of a record-breaking heat wave here in Washington that managed to sell out air conditioners everywhere, and in fact made just about everything with a temperature below eighty degrees disappear from store shelves in surprisingly rapid fashion.  People reported trying just about every place they could think of within thirty miles of here in search of fans and air conditioners, to no avail.  A week later, it looks like supplies have caught up:

As long as you aren’t picky about random off-brand stuff that you’d probably need to ship off to some random address in China to get any warranty service on, you should have no problem finding an air conditioner at this point.  Or a few dozen air conditioners, for that matter.

In fact there’s just one little problem with the whole thing:  As soon as the heat wave left, it was quickly replaced with unseasonably cool temperatures in the upper 60s to lower 70s (and even rain in the forecast for the next few days,) which isn’t exactly optimal weather for selling a couple of truckloads of air conditioners.  Oh well, with any luck (and barring any further heat waves that might show up over the remainder of the Summer) I might be able to grab one on closeout in October.

July 28, 2009

OK, That’s Hot Enough, Thank You Very Much. (Updated)

Filed under: Random Stuff, weather — Brian Lutz @ 6:53 pm

In spite of its rainy reputation, Seattle has always had a fairly temperate climate.  To this point (at least at the time of this writing,) there has never been a recorded temperature in Seattle over 100 degrees, nor had there ever been a recorded temperature below zero degrees.  The next couple of days promise to threaten that record, as the current forecast for Wednesday is quite suggesting the possibility of a temperature as high as 103, and predicting temperatures well into the Nineties for pretty much the rest of the week before finally cooling down to vaguely reasonable levels sometime early next week.

Naturally, just as the whole Seattle area turns into one ice-encrusted mess the second anything resembling snow shows up, people around here seem ill-equipped to deal with a heat wave of this magnitude.  A run on fans and air conditioners (presumably by the same people who wait for a snowstorm to arrive before thinking about the potential need for a snow shovel) has cleaned out every store in the area, and this morning I heard a report of 100 people camped out in front of Costco for a shipment of 60 air conditioners.  I suppose it’s either that, or they were just waiting to get in so they could go hang out in the big walk-in fridge for a while.  On a hot day like this, that actually starts to sound like it’s not such a bad idea.

Fortunately my apartment is on a ground floor with relatively low exposure to direct sun and large slabs of concrete under it, so it doesn’t get quite as hot as some places might.  Unfortunately, when it manages to stay this hot for this long, all that doesn’t matter too much, as the place is still going to end up uncomfortably warm.  Checking in what is probably just about the most unscientific way possible (an instant-read thermometer intended for kitchen use) showed a late-evening temperature of roughly 79.5 degrees in my apartment, with an ambient outside temperature in roughly the same range.  Not unbearably hot, but definitely heading in that direction.  Fortunately, the evening temperature made for great conditions to head out for a late-evening drive with the windows and sunroof on my car wide open, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album (which seemed oddly appropriate for the circumstances) on the stereo.  Even with the temperatures still being in the upper 70s to lower 80s, the stiff breeze generated by driving at highway speed still proved refreshing.

That still leaves the question of what I’m supposed to do with the next few days.  Here at work the air conditioning seems to be holding out for the time being, although I understand other buildings on campus have experienced AC failures, including some server rooms.  On a good day an AC failure in a server room is bad news, but with heat like this, an AC failure is pretty much a “shut everything down and hope nothing melted before you got it off” level crisis.  Having worked in some test labs full of computers, they’re not a fun place to be when the AC goes off. 

Come to think of it, when it’s this hot outside, just about anywhere is not a fun place to be when the AC goes off (or doesn’t happen to exist in the first place.)  In the meantime, Stay cool out there, or at least try to melt in a location that’s easy to clean up, OK?

Update:  To give you some idea of just how rare this kind of heat is around here, this is what today’s extended forecast (as reported over at KOMO’s website) looks like for the next few days:

As you can see, that 101 showing for tomorrow’s expected high doesn’t exactly fit on there.  Apparently whoever it was at KOMO that designed the page figured that they’d never need to put three-digit temperatures on there.  Of course, given the fact that there’s never been a recorded temperature in Seattle over 100, I can’t exactly blame them for that one.  I’d hate to think what a 104 (which some of the forecasting models suggest is well within the realm of possibility tomorrow) or even a 106 would look like on that template though…  Let’s hope we never have to find out.

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