The coots are back

(Sat) I saw a flock of about 100 on the water on the way home from work. I watched a car stop to let two Sandhill Cranes stroll across the street. Despite that fact that it is 34 degrees (1 C) and sleeting (after snowing all morning), I think that means spring is on the way. The loons should be here soon.

The big lake is the only one with ice left. It is shrouded in fog, which means that, when the fog clears, we should see liquid from shore to shore. Right now I can see only to that flock of coots, with the occasional mallard interloper.

(Mon) As I rode across the tracks (living on the “wrong side of the tracks” I was crossing over) I saw a rabbit dash across the road in front of me, in much more of a hurry than I usually see. I followed it (with my eyes) into the park to my right, then looked back left. A fox was loping along in its path, either having given up, or hoping to lull the rabbit into inattention. Ten blocks from the center of town, at 3:30 PM, a fox was acting like this was no big deal.

Urban wildlife here usually means birds; raccoons and opossums at night; foxes furtively making their way along the lakeshore at dawn – but not in broad daylight in the middle of town.

(Sun) I have ruined the last 9 liters of maple sap (what would have been about 225 ml of syrup) by taking my eye off it at the crucial endpoint. A foaming black mass on the stove said “Oops – have fun cleaning that pan.”

(Tues) I heard, then saw, a loon flying overhead on the ride in to work. The lake is now fully liquid. Crews were busy yesterday. The piers and hoists for the university crew coaches’ boats are in the water. The floating docks for the crew’s shells are in the water and this morning, as daylight broke, the water was filled with every 4 and 8 (person boat) the university owns. The rafts of coots were on the move, as they like the same area near shore the crew likes to row on.

I think I saw crocus shoots poking out through the ground. (9)

Snow

If you’ve looked at this blog more than once, you probably know I like sculpting in snow; one of the profile images is of a guy in my backyard.

And there’s this couple in my front yard

I went to a winter carnival last year to see the work of the pros.

I just read about a Finnish architect and his work sculpting on a frozen lake. These images are from the Twitter page of Pasi Widgren:

He does his work on a frozen lake, with a shovel.

No snow sculpting around here this week. I have my front door open, providing passive solar heat from the sunny, enclosed, south-facing front porch.

Groundhog Day/That Was the Year That Was

In these parts, they claim that if the groundhog sees his shadow (Feb 2, the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox in the northern hemisphere), we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter – which is the amount of astronomical winter remaining (duh). A cloudy day is supposed to mean an early spring. Since winter around here lasts at least six weeks after groundhog day, I figure clouds might just mean winter lasts into April. Two years ago on January 30, the temperature here dropped to -26 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind chill was estimated at -50. (It was colder in the infamous wind tunnel by the pharmacy building.) That morning is when I learned that one’s eyes can be frost-nipped, and I bought goggles for cold weather.

The red eyes, not to mention the ice in the lashes, are from cold. But that was two years ago and today (January 28) was our first time below zero since that cold snap. So the one good thing about 2020 was that it was warm, if that can be called a good thing.

January: CPR renewal, when it could be done face-to-face still. Surgery and a long convalescence. My first trip out in the real world was to go to a funeral. The only live concert of the year (Dwight Yoakum for my birthday).

February: The only live theatre of the year (in Minneapolis); a show stage-managed by my daughter, who was sick as a dog (a phrase that dates at least as far back as the 1700s, but I haven’t found a satisfying explanation) but the show must go on. I came home and promptly got sick. The test said it wasn’t COVID-19, but it was the sickest I’ve been in years.

March: Two weeks of quarantine and return to work in scrubs for the first time ever. Still wearing scrubs and probably will until I retire or they wear out, whichever comes first. And if they wear out first, then I will retire.

April-September: All club rides canceled. Instead of riding every Wednesday night with 100-200 friends and acquaintances, followed by a beer and then dinner with a few friends, I rode alone every Wednesday night, then went home and did the laundry and made dinner. (Pro tip: if you want riding gear to last, hand wash in cold water and dry on a rack after every ride. I just retired my 1991 Death Ride jersey because it lost its elasticity after 29 years.)

July: The Death Ride canceled, along with our trip to California to hang out at a cabin in the mountains, where we stayed during the 1992 Death Ride. While I’ve mentioned it before, I haven’t explained it in a while. 200 km, 15,000 feet of climbing, 5 mountain passes, elevation ~5000-9000 feet. (Oh yeah, and it takes place in one day.) At one point they changed the name to Tour of the California Alps for insurance reasons. I guess no one wants to insure an event with death in the name. Everyone called it the Death Ride anyway, so now they use both names (The Death Ride: Tour of the California Alps) – kinda like a scholarly article with a title, a colon, and a subtitle (“Colonoscopy: An examination of the use of punctuation in the titles of scholarly works”.)

August: Camping trip with family. No swimming (too many people at the beach). No live theatre (the park has a resident theatre troupe that does original musical theatre, but not this year). Our daughter moved back in with us after the trip, in order to go to grad school.

September: Canceled century ride, so I camped and rode alone. A different kind of fun, but no less fun.

November: Thanksgiving dinner for 3, instead of the usual 20+.

December: Christmas like Thanksgiving, with an added large-scale Zoom call, with breakout sessions so it almost seemed like work. Bailey (named after George Bailey from “It’s Wonderful Life”) joins the family. While he likes to spend a lot of his time sleeping, he demonstrated his athletic prowess by jumping over me while I was sitting in a kitchen chair. I caught him before he landed on the table. He was a rescue dog, looks like mostly Viszla but with the coloration of a Chocolate Lab. Maybe a little Weimeraner and some breed with shorter ears than any of those three. When not eating things he shouldn’t or running wild laps, he spends most of his time curled up in a tiny ball or watching out the second floor window to keep tabs on doings in the street.

We got a bit of snow this week. Today we added a few inches of heavy and wet snow so the depth has actually decreased from this measurement. I got out the roof rake to take off a few hundred pounds. The snowplow made four passes down our street, so there was a lot of shoveling. The only thing worse than shoveling out the snow left by the plow is not shoveling out the snow left by the plow. It then hardens into a heavy and icy consistency that makes it a lot like shoveling partially-hardened concrete.

A neighbor had emergency abdominal surgery so I shoveled out from the plow on their side of the street, too; then shoveled out the curb cut and the storm drain. A year ago I couldn’t shovel at all. Now my abdominal wall needs some strengthening. Shoveling makes the perfect workout.

Maybe soon we can be freed of our obsession with the news; wondering what atrocity the president will say or do next. It’s no accident that my roundup of the year is not focused on the political events. I will say that I think all newly-elected members of congress who think the election was stolen are welcome to give up their stolen seats. I thought this song summed up the past four years as well as any:

As for the title: There was once a weekly TV show called “That was the week that was”. It was a satirical look at the news, with topical songs by Tom Lehrer in the US version – the original was a British show. He later assembled some of those songs into the album “That was the year that was”.

Today (Groundhog Day) begins my next tour of duty in the COVID-19 unit. My vaccines should be at full strength and the COVID census on Friday was ⅓ what it was during my last tour there. As for side effects: the first shot made me feel a little odd the next day – slight disequilibrium, but nothing that would have kept me out of work, had it been a work day. (We were required to get the injection when we had the following two days off, so if there were side effects we wouldn’t use sick leave.) My arm ached like from a flu shot. The second one came with no side effects – until after the 72 hours we were supposed to be watching for said effects. Then I had a headache for 10 days. It is gone now. Again, nothing to keep me from normal life; just an annoyance.