Sunday, December 16, 2007

ain't it thrilling

It's this time of the year. This time when I get emails from friends and relatives who I haven't heard of the last 12 months. Do you have snow, they ask. Well, yes, we do have snow. Let me tell you how that looks like here.

    When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
    Though your nose gets a chilling

I try to leave the house in the late morning but find I can't open the door, since the wind has pushed up half a meter snow in front of it.

So I leave the house through the back door just to realize that it's still snowing rather heavily, and I either can't see where I'm walking because my glasses are all snowy, or I can't see where I'm walking because I'm not wearing the glasses. Fighting with the glasses I drop the house-key on what I think should be lawn somewhere below the layers.

I spend 10 minutes searching the stupid house-key, just to then find that it was actually not the house-key I took with me, so I have to go around the house back to the front door.

Where it dawns to me that the reason why the walkway isn't cleared is that my landlord is on vacation since yesterday. And since I haven't really socialized with the neighbors, this means there's nobody who will let me into the house.

I shovel away the snow enough to squeeze myself into the hallway, and then spend another 10 minutes trying to convince an elderly lady that I am neither trying to rob her nor will I sleep in the lobby if she lets me in. I convince her with proving the key I took with me fits to the mailbox, which reveals 3 weeks worth of Pizza delivery flyers.

I then find it would be a better idea to take the car. My timing turns out to be excellent because somebody is just leaving directly in front of me. That somebody courageously makes it down the driveway, where his car gets stuck with the headlights halfways buried in snow where the sideway ends.

It takes 15 minutes to dig out the neighbors car and shove it onto the road. After which I start up high speed and hop on the road as well. The radio announces an endless list of closures and cancellations, and informs me the government of Ontario recommends to drive only in case of emergencies until the roads are cleared.

    Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
    In the lane, snow is glistening

A couple of cars slide around, make 360° turns on the street crossings, or spray snow fountains while unsuccessfully trying to get through the tougher parts of the road.

I consider getting winter tires, what do you think?

People walk on the streets because the sidewalks are a disaster. Dogs dig their noses into the snow where other dogs have pissed holes. In rare places snow has been piled up already on the hills from last week, that easily exceed several meters height. Some street signs get buried in these hills. And folks, this is just the beginning of the Winter fun!

    Later on, we'll conspire,
    As we dream by the fire
    To face unafraid,
    The plans that we've made

I think you get the picture? Let me just add the above describes a rather average winter day. For me this year is a definite improvement over last year, because I now have a garage to park the car in, so I won't have to enter through the trunk if the doors are frozen shut.

Some other things I've learned last winter:

  • Get the Coke out of the car before it gets really cold and it bursts, thereby splashing frozen Coke chunks all through the car's interior.
  • If you didn't get the damned Coke out of the car in a timely manner, scrape off the frozen Coke chunks before Spring time.
  • Don't wear shoes with laces. They will become completely stiff after two days because of all the salt on the streets.
  • Your CD player, Ipod, Digital Camera, they all have a minimum working temperature below which they will refuse to function. I recommend pairing the Ipod with one of these Chemical Hand warmers. (No idea though why the guy says there is something new about it, I've had them since I was a kid.)
  • Consider wearing socks with your Flip Flops.
  • Dry your hair before leaving the house. Dry it thoroughly.
  • Softness of chewing gum depends crucially on the temperature.
  • If your stupid sliding window doesn't open, better leave it closed. If you'll try to unfreeze the ice, chances are you won't be able to close it again which is much worse.
  • Don't cry if the outside temperature is below - 25 ° C.


  1. Wonderful. Mark Twain is not dead! He was reincarnated as a German woman.

  2. Reminds me of Roughing It and The Innocents Abroad.

  3. Hehe PI is in a bit of a snowbelt zone. Here in Toronto 60 kms away, the palm trees are swaying in a warm gentle breeze. NOT!! Baddest storm in 60 years and I'm locked in the house no doubt for about 3 days.

  4. It's so amazing to hear something like this "first hand." I'd always felt as if actual "enough-snow-to-cause-problems" weather was only found in stories... but no, it's happening somewhere I've actually been! Soooo weird.

    Yeah, in Pasadena it might get down to 5 degrees C at night... and maybe one night in twenty-five, it will rain. California just does not have weather, I think.

  5. Hi Kris:

    I am very flattered. The only thing I ever read by Twain though was 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', maybe I should put one of those you mention on my amazon wishlist :-)

    Hi Whatyouworry:

    Hope you have sufficient DVDs to make it through the 3 days. If not, you'll have to kill time with reading blogs ;-) The weather report from Montreal usually cheers me up though.

    Hi Domenic:

    Hey, I didn't know you're in Pasadena. I will likely be in the area some time next year. Despite the snow it's not yet actually really cold here. Yeah, I enjoyed the Santa Barbara winter :-) I am afraid though I will have to leave the house now, out of coffee and Monday is coming. Hope they cleared the roads by now. Best,


  6. Sorry, but I can't help feeling a bit of envy as well as compassion.

    We hardly ever get snow.

  7. I had the coke can in the car explosion thingy happen when a bunch of us drove up from New Mexico to Detroit in February one year to go to a computer programming contest. Except it was four cases of soft drinks. With that many experimental objects, you get to see the full panoply of what happens to coke cans when they get too cold.

    Some of the cans blew up, but others leaked their contents in more imaginatively. One can perhaps had a small flaw (maybe a dent) in a corner, and sprayed a thin stream of syrupy liquid onto the ceiling of the trunk, where it froze instantly. A lot of them grew pregnant and popped their lid.

  8. 1) Oh Canada!
    2) Rain-X treatment lessens ice sticking to (automotive) glass.
    3) Canadian winter is much worse than Canadian autumn.
    4) Ask Nobel Laureate Al Gore to visit - and bring his Wild Weasel bikini bottom to wear while eructating Global Warning about Global Warming.

  9. 5) Canadian Spring is worse than Canadian winter.
    6) Trying to picture Al Gore shock frozen in a bikini as statue in park, icicles hanging from his nose, feel much better now.

  10. Bee and Stefan,

    If you come to Santa Barbara, you have a standing invitation to stay at my place in Isla Vista. We're still in global warming mode here.


    P.S.: Stefan, the announcement of the Gravity Probe B frame dragging results, scheduled for this month, has been pushed back another six months.

  11. Your description is almost equivalent to Jarek Nohavica's song, Ladovská zima.

    Nohavica alternates romantic pieces of music about the "winter of Josef Lada", a well-known late Czech artist who painted many pictures including those with villages in winter (and good soldier Švejk).

    The other tune of the song explains how the winter sucks, the white junk is everywhere, children are frozen and they now do winter sports just because it's their duty. When I look the (Czech national hill) Říp under snow, I say: forefather Czech (who picked the place), you were a terrible CIP. (Just to be sure, CIP is an insult in Czech.)

    If the forefather picked a better place a few miles to the South, we could be spending out time by the sea. Instead, we must go to Tesco, being afraid that its vertical roof would collapse under the thick snow. Moreover, radio stations still annoy me with the song of the provocateur Nohavica ...

    "Ladian winter... is behind the windows... and the heart is captured by a white nostalgy. Ladian winter... children and sliders, and I am going with them to the church of our Lord. Bim bam bin bam..." :-)

  12. Of course some people have REALLY cold winter weather -- and think of REALLY stupid things to do in it:

  13. Hello Bee,
    these Mark Twain books mentioned
    are highly recommended!
    Especially the chapter dealing with his
    efforts to learn a real language (German).
    "Chemical Hand warmers":
    Is this name in use in Canada/US?
    I ask because the action of those
    gadgets is pure physics.
    Or are You ashamed of them and try to move them
    out of the borderline of Your profession? :=)

  14. Well, I can honestly say that I don't feel deprived not having experienced that kind of snowy mess. But Winter Wonderland is one of my favorite holiday songs. :-)

  15. "Dogs dig their noses into the snow where other dogs have pissed holes"
    [ "why does a dog lick its ass..because it can!" ]

    haha!! That conjured an image of researchers blindly following flawed research paper. I will use your quote when I attack bandwagoneer researchers.

    "Who is the bigger fool..the fool [ dog #1 ] or fool who followed him [ dog #2 ]?"
    -- Obi Wan-Kenobi, Star Wars

  16. At least the snow brought me a heart-warming science moment. My just-back-from-his-first-semester-in-college son and I were shoveling out the snow in our driveway. After a while, he said "Did you know that snow can melt without turning into water?" I admitted that I hadn't known that. He said "Think about it! It never warms up above freezing at the poles. If snow couldn't sublimate, all the water on Earth would have piled up on the poles by now." "So where did you learn all this?" I asked. "Chemistry class" he said (that was the heartwarming part).

    It must be hard for you, living alone in the city when the environment gets funky. I live in a small town, and there is a burst of neighborhood spirit whenever the snow comes. Even so, I've been wondering for the last 30 years why I ever left Florida ...

  17. "Who is the bigger fool..the fool [ dog #1 ] or fool who followed him [ dog #2 ]?"

    Neither. Doggie chemical communications are outside the human ken.

  18. That was a quite funny post Bee. And I was most happy to have my first day on the mountain yesterday!

    I recommend you look into Nokian Hakkapelitta tires to make sure you don't get stuck in that finest of precipitates from the sky nor slide on its previously liquified brethren.


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