Friday, January 25, 2013

Why do we have Lake Effect Snow?

Winter has returned to Western New York. It has returned in the form of lake effect snow. As I understand it, lake effect snow occurs when Canadian air tries to invade the United States by streaming across the Great Lakes. As it travels across the great expanse of water, it gets tired and when it finally reaches land, it falls apart. During the winter, this falling apart is in the form of snow.

This leads to some unusual circumstances. The most notable is the very localized areas of snow, which makes it hard to forecast exactly where the snow will occur. Even though Canada is a large country, it does not meddle in other countries affairs. Therefore, when this Canadian air tries to invade the United States, it is psychologically unprepared for the task. In long finger like bands, the air collapses, forming flakes (which insults that friendly invader from the north) that land on the ground. Meteorologists call these fingers, plumes, thus further insulting this brave, albeit misguided, Canadian air.

In response to this invasion of Canadian air, the National Weather Service, an office of the US Department of Commerce, has decided not to include snowfall totals from lake effect snow events. This is based on a well established psychological principle for extinguishing behavior, called planned ignoring. It works with children in the store. When a child pesters for a treat and the parent gives in, it rewards the behavior and they beg and plead the next time they go shopping. If, however, a parent ignores the child’s begging and pleading, eventually the child will learn that the parental unit is not going to give into the requests, and the child eventually stops pestering.

The National Weather Service has been trying planned ignoring on the invading Canadian air for years. When asked if it is working, there is no comment. This is not actually typical government stone-walling or hiding of motives and facts; it is an integral part of planned ignoring. If a parent says to a child who is asking for a treat, “I am ignoring you,” then the parent is not actually ignoring the child, thus defeating the purpose. That is why there is no official record of lake effect snowfall by the government. They are simply ignoring it, hoping it will go away.

I think this planned ignoring might work. So the next time invading Canadian air flakes out over us, I am going to ignore it. I am sure it will go away.

Sometime in June.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Love New York, Where we are Thirty Percent Safer

Greetings from New York State, where we are safe; at least we are thirty percent safer than we were a week ago. The beloved Governor of New York introduced a bill to the esteemed congress that, among other things, limited the capacity of clips from ten bullets to seven. By applying the simplistic property of statistics, this will result in thirty percent less gun violence in our fair state. Therefore, we all feel much safer, by a third. It is also better for the planet, since there will be a thirty percent reduction in resources used in making bullets.

Some of the arguments for this lucky number of seven rounds per clip are that if you were in a bad situation and someone was firing a gun you would only need to find seven strangers to hide behind. Unless you are a big lumbering guy like myself. I would find my seven strangers to hide behind and would probably quickly find that those seven strangers were hiding behind me.

It is also a known fact, as is blatantly evident on prime time television shows, that the bad guys have notoriously bad aim. It takes them at least seven shots before they can zero in on their target and cause any damage, therefore it is only the last three bullets in the clip that are deadly. This is because bad guy bullets are aimless and lack proper guidance.

In contrast, the good guys can, with only one bullet, at 100 yards, take out the bad guy. This is why Deputy Barney Fife only carried one bullet, in the pocket of his shirt, that was all he needed. Not only that, but the bullets fired by a good guy are compassionate little buggers. If the bad guy they were fired at is simply a misguided soul, forced to eat brussel sprouts as a child, and doesn’t deserve to die, the bullet will not kill that bad guy, it instead will compassionately embed itself in his leg, causing him to immediately regret his past bad actions and instantaneously become a model citizen.

And if it is on TV, it has to be true.

Also included in the law is a requirement that mental health professionals report to the government if any of their patients might become violent and dangerous. This has resulted in cancellation of many therapy appointments by people who own guns and a total redefinition of the meaning of confidentiality within the health care field.

But we are thirty percent safer.

As a disclosure, I do not own a gun. I have never owned a gun. Except for that cap gun I keep in my sock drawer as a memento of my childhood, and I think it holds eight rounds. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Middlest Gets her Learner's Permit

Middlest turned 16 earlier this week. That meant a trip to our local DMV office so she could test for her permit. As with any teenager, this is an event which is anticipated for weeks and months before it arrives. Middlest was no exception; she mentioned a few times during the past few months that she was looking forward to getting her permit.

On the day of her birthday I picked her up from school for our trek to DMV. As we pulled out of the parking lot she looked at me with the eyes of an adoring teenage girl who realizes her father is the most brilliant man in the world, and asked quite matter of factly, “So Dad, tell me all I need to know to pass this test.”

I looked at her with a bit of concern. “Middlest, did you study the manual.” Her reply was clear and concise, “Nope.”

I was aghast. Middlest is a good student. She studies and works hard. How could she not read the driver’s manual? It turns out that since I learned to drive the first time, DMV has invented the internet and installed practice quizzes online for the younger generation to use in preparing for the written exam.

“How did you do on those exams?” I inquired.

“Oh, I passed most of them by the end of last night.”

Middlest had just started taking the practice exams the night before. This was not an encouraging sign for the outcome of her exam.

The staff at DMV were their usual soldiers of efficiency. Whisked from station to station, Middlest had her picture taken, signed the requested official New York State forms, and finally was escorted by a security guard to take her test. I sat down, texted Beloved to tell her that Middlest was taking her test. I no sooner had sent it, when Middlest was standing up. She had finished her test.

The security guard, who stood at least seven feet tall, took the test, and in a deep rumbly voice said, “I bet you got a hundred on this test.” Middlest giggled and shrugged her shoulders, “I dunno.”

The DMV clerk checked the test and much to my surprise, especially after only studying a few moments the night before, she really had gotten a perfect score. When the guard saw that he grinned a huge toothy grin and said, “High Five” while holding his hand high in the air. Middlest, who stands a full five feet and one inch tall, floated up to his hand and gave him a high five. The clerk also congratulated her on passing and wished her a happy birthday. Then the clerk looked at me and said, “That will be $80, dad.”

On the way home, while I was driving down the expressway, Middlest called Mother to share the good news. After telling her she passed, I heard Middlest say, “Yeah mom, Dad’s letting me drive for the first time ever down the expressway AND talk on the phone at the same time!”