What We Did Before NOAA 

Too often, we take for granted these things which technology has brought us.

You know, it’s great to have a fairly accurate, hour-by-hour forecast; especially in an area of the world where it’s been impossible to have any kind of accuracy in a weather forecast. And look at this, it’s on the phone!

But isn’t it all too easy to take it for granted?

Tonight whilst sitting the sunset, my nose and ears were getting really chilled, and I just knew from old folklore that we were going to get a frost tonight. The sky was clear.

All the things I’ve seen from so many decades of watching the weather, and those bits of folklore passed down from my grandparents say that we will get a hard frost tonight.

I was reminded of those times when we had ‘weathermen’, and not those mere readers of the computerized forecasts from NOAA. The local NBC affiliate tried a new idea instead of the typical scene of having a guy standing in front of a map. I still remember “KING’s Cartooning Weatherman, Bob Hale”. Bob could whip out a finished illustration in the five -to ten minutes they gave him during the evening newscast, and all while going through the area forecasts. Keep in mind, we had several different forecasts that had to be done: The Olympics, Metropolitan Area, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca,  Costal, and finally Southwest Washington forecasts. Even found an old photo of Bob on set:

First thing to understand here is that I live in the Pacific Northwest; one of the VERY most difficult regions in the world for weather forecasting.

In those older times, there were no such things as satellites. TIROS was launched in the early sixties; an East coast observation satellite. Weather was the most blackest of black arts.

It was easier on the East coast: there were more ships at sea and the Atlantic was more predictable. In the Midwest: you could look at was happening in Canada, and then add a couple of days.

But for us, there were no weather satellites; no photos of cloud formations, no idea of what was coming; other than what was sketchily available from the few barometric and sky observations of a very few offshore mariners.

It had been that way forever. Technology began to creep up on the problem, but all we did was add some sophistication and consistency to observations. Weather balloons began to be used; and in the case of a possible big storm, the big guns of sounding rockets were used.

But no matter how much the technology of those days could be applied, predicting our weather remained one of the hardest things in the world to do accurately. But there were a few whose minds could see and interpret the maps with consistent accuracy; and such insight was a Gift.

In the early seventies, I had a radio show, and I had my best-est of all best friends – Dan, whom I still consider my best friend of all time, on the show, to give his forecasts. In those days, we used terms seldom heard now; things like onshore flow, high or low pressure-induced wind pattern vortexes, and others. The thing is, Dan was right, almost all the time.

I still don’t know how he did it, but he did. And this was before the inception of NOAA and all their sophisticated satellites and computer models. Dan’s amazing mind on my little radio show beat all those TV weather forecasters almost all the time. I need to say this: There is a gift of some things of prescience about weather, and Dan had it.

And tonight, I just wanted to remember and to give credit (albeit delayed) where credit is due.

Thanks, Dan. Thanks for being my best friend.

I don’t know how many others appreciated your gift, but I do. And I wanted to make sure you knew that.

Feels Like Snow Tonight

It was a pleasant afternoon today; shirt-sleeve weather. I went out with a few sticks of firewood, to have a nice, pleasant fire in the deck’s firepit. 

But… Within a few minutes, I’d zipped up my heavy sweatshirt, the one that my wonderful wife got me last Christmas from Duluth Trading. I kept looking up from the fire and my musings to remind myself not to take for granted this wonderful place in which we live. The clouds were rolling in over the mountains, and the temperature of the air was beginning a precipitous drop. 

Hat on, to help keep warm… More wood on the fire, but last spring’s culls weren’t proving very productive in making heat.

I’d intended to sit the sunset, but the chill of impending snow was beginning to assault me: the ice-cream headache of the cold in my face, and from both ankles to my knees, I could feel the icy knife-edge of the cold, assaulting my very bones. I could feel the cold air coming off the mountain, an irresistible force.

My bones began to ache.

Even the fire could not stand up to the cold; it was beaten back to a guttering shadow of what it should have been.

I gave in to the reality of the weather and came inside to the sunroom, just in time to see the sun bidding farewell for what might be a few days. 

It’s gonna snow. I can feel it; I can sense it, I can smell it.

My wife has learned that I have a sixth sense about mechanical things, and she trusts me. Last week, I took my four-by truck down to our mechanic to be serviced, and just today it’s back. 

The chill is falling hard upon the mountain, and it’s gonna snow. Oh yes, I can feel it in my bones, my hands; and especially my legs… 

I keep my heavy sweatshirt on, remembering what I’ve learned in the past, and is still good knowledge: warm the core, first. 

If you ever get this cold, please remember this too: warm your core first.

And may God keep us all in awe of his amazing creation.

Socked-in Days

Our temperatures here on the side of the mountain have finally moderated to something like a year’s normal for this date. Our local weather expert notes that we’ve had roughly FIVE INCHES more precipitation / rain so for this year than normal, also.

There’s still stubborn, isolated patches of snow here and there, but I can now be outside without having to wear my heaviest coat.

Back in November, I posted a pic of our favourite local weather predictor, a wooly-bear caterpillar; his amber stripe covering most of his body. And he was right: we’ve had an unusually cold, snowy, Winter.

It’s not over yet: we have snow in the forecast for the middle of next week.

And today, we’ve been socked-in with clouds so thick you could barely see the trees across the back meadow. Rain, coming hard at times, only added to the depressing bleakness. Its cold distraction wasn’t welcome early this morning when I took a big plate of rolled-up sandwiches down to the church for a funeral in the afternoon.

The damp this afternoon drove me to our little sunroom this evening so I could sit and read, practice the presense of God, and try to listen just a bit. And look what was waiting for me…

Again in the Psalms, from Psalm 37:7…

Be still in the presence on the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

So I spent some time in sharing what was in my heart: worries about being out of work so close to retirement, health for my wife, (whom you may recall has Congestive Heart Failure), wondering if I have reached the end of my race, or if there is other service for me to gladly perform.

I laid all these concerns at the base of his throne, but I am the first to admit that my hands won’t easily let go of them.

In trying to do so, I turned to other reading, trying to ignore the inability to see anything outside.

But patience with the weather paid off! For bare moments, we got a break, and the River of Clouds was there-if just for a moment-shouting, “God IS!!”

I grabbed the closest thing that would make a picture, for this lasted only moments. (You should be able to click to enlarge.)

And it was a tremendous lift to my spirits.

May it be so for yours.

Well, the sink’s fixed…

You could subtitle this, “A Story About Admitting My Age”.

Wednesday morning, I went out to the kitchen to start a pot of tea. I’m drinking tea, in solidarity with my wife, who has to do so because of her Congestive Heart Failure. Coffee on a regular basis is no longer a possibility for her. And as I stepped up to the sink, an old problem reared its soaking wet head: a puddle in front of the sink.

Oh no, NOT again.

We’ve had problems with the sink plumbing on and off, ever since we remodeled. The root cause has always been the disposer, which I bought at the same electrical and plumbing outfit where I’ve bought all the pipe and fixtures for the house – even when we built it, some 26 years ago. The disposer was supposed to be ‘better than the InSinkErator’ that I’d installed when we built the house. But it hadn’t been. The last time, I thought I had it fixed for good, since there were no leaks for a few years.

This time it was the disposer AGAIN. Only now the housing was leaking. Time for a new one, and good riddance, you old SOB.

I mean, really. This disposer had been trouble ever since six months out of its warranty: the torque from it would cause the drain pipes to leak on a regular basis.

I went to get out from under the sink, and the agony from my old shoulder would not let me get to my feet.

After I figured out a way to stand up, my wife looked up a plumber in Angie’s List, and we called. God’s hand was on this, clearly:

They’d had a cancellation and could come out the next day.

And they normally carried InSinkErator disposers (an inexpensive one, and a good one) on the truck.

And the price was good.

And the call time would be after our Thursday Morning Men’s Breakfast.

So after I left the Breakfast a bit early, I wasted no time driving home, and found the plumbers’ truck in the driveway. They had arrived about four minutes before I did. After our ‘good mornings’, I showed them in and to the job at hand.

The disposer removal / replacement went just fine; with the guys replacing all the drain piping under the sink. Good for them – always leave a job with confidence that everything you touch is good.

So then there was this quiet voice in my ear: “Have them check EVERYTHING”.

So I asked them to check and then after a moment I was wondering aloud about the cold-water shutoff for the kitchen faucet.

It was bad, and leaking.

No problem, we have some on the truck; they’re high quality and only $12. turned out to be the cheapest thing about the service call.

So after the house’s water was off, the valve replaced, and new line run from there to the cold side of the faucet, we turned the water back on.

The faucet was leaking also. It had a pinhole in the factory part of the piping. And according to the plumbers, that particular brand, while some 20 years ago was a good brand, is not a good brand any longer. They won’t stock it on their truck.

Because they have problems like this.

I had to buy a new faucet.

But we had more than one problem: My wife had picked out that original faucet for its ‘designer-ey looks. It was in three separate parts – a mixer valve, a spout, and a hand sprayer. I’d had to order that particular faucet way ahead when we did the remodel 12 years ago, because we wanted it in an oil-rubbed-bronze finish. And that kind of finish on any kitchen or even bath faucet is rarely stocked. Here’s exactly what I mean:


So then began the online hunt for a similar faucet in the area.. Depot, all stores in the area – only a couple things in oil-rubbed bronze, but they looked like they belonged in a 50’s derelict farmhouse. Lowe’s, same story, nothing that looked like it belonged in a modern kitchen, in stock. The plumber called his supplier: nothing.

I was beginning to get desperate. No kitchen sink faucet…? HOW would we manage without that?

Then the plumber remembered the name of a wholesale supplier that he’d used only a couple times before. I called, and they had some items, but nothing that sounded really promising. The problem was, the store is WAY far away, all the way across town, and about a half hour North, on top of that. And the plumber was standing idle next to me, burning time at his hourly rate.

But he had an idea: He’d go to his next call, and I’d figure out what to do in the meantime, then he’d come back and install the replacement faucet for us. My wife and I had a conversation about ‘style’,.and we concluded that we would take any faucet, any faucet at all that didn’t look like it came from a hardware store, with that finish. That settled, I began to get the feeling that I needed to take the chance to drive all the way up to the supplier’s store.

I figured it to be most of an hour’s drive, what with side streets and all.

I was on the highway, and about a third of the way to the store, and my cell rang. It was the plumber, asking if I had a faucet for him.  Uh, no. But I had a lead on one, and I needed about an hour to get it home. He said fine, they’d go to lunch, and stop by afterward.

I stepped on the gas and prayed the cops were driving the other direction that morning.

I found the store, and found something that would work okay, and even in the right finish: oil-rubbed-bronze. I used the plumber’s name (Christenson) with them and got a discount, roughly $200 off. Then back in the car and more fast driving until I got home.

I pulled in, and the guys had just pulled up. The faucet install went flawlessly.

And my service call for a leaky disposer ended up with all the plumbing for the sink being brand-new, top to bottom. Literally, the only thing left original to the sink was the sink bowl itself.

We have a guy in our Men’s Breakfast group whom we call “Chief Black Cloud”, because this kind of stuff happens to him all the time. So next week, I will have my own “Black Cloud” story.

And I’m going to sit a little farther away from him next week, in fun.

So let me tell you a bit about what I’ve learned from the plumbers, here. This is good information because these guys are working with it every day.

Currently the best faucet fixtures are made by (in order, top to bottom):

Grohe (if you can afford it)

Moen (which is what I bought)



To avoid:

Box-store brands

Price-Pfister (which is what I had that failed, due to poor quality materials)

I’m really, REALLY, ready for the winter storms to be over…

Almost a month to the day, I wrote something similar while sitting in the home office and looking out the window.  And here I am today, feeling the same thing.

Thursday through Saturday, we watched an ice storm roll in and cover everything with cold slipperiness. All the windows on the North side of the house were turned into pebble glass, and it began to feel as if we were living an endless scene from Frozen.

Saturday brought enough thawing so that we could at least see out the windows, so the icy claustrophobia began to lift. Weather reports brought hope that perhaps today (Sunday) we might be able to go to church, and then to the store to pick up a few would-be-nice-to-haves.

That’s not happening.

This morning we have heavy snow showers, and as of the time to get up for church, about a half-inch accumulation. Remembering that there’s probably still a layer of ice underneath that, we’re staying put. Again.

Time to finish touching up my resume’ before I send it to some friends for proofing, and to begin to put together my new website. Last time I was out of work, I hand-coded my entire website; let’s see if I can avoid that, this time.

We have lots to be thankful for: the power is on, which means we have water to drink, and the heat is running, so we’re warm. It’s easy to ‘be still and know that God is’ when it’s this quiet inside and outside.

The snow has let up enough for the trees at the edge of the meadow to show themselves a bit. Those deck railings yesterday had 8″ icicles hanging from them:

Looking forward in confidence

The job hunt has begun.

Fortunately my company has excellent “outplacement resources”, and today I ‘attended’ a webinar that does the basic introduction, description of services, and so on.

There are many things opening up here with the closing of that other door of full-time employment, but I want to make sure that I seek God through all the haste and noise of the changes taking place. Many possible paths await, but I need to have the assurance that I am choosing the correct one.

My wonderful wife assures me that I will know; and she’s okay with me working freelance for a while. I see that as an opportunity to help many people; as a way to serve others and continue to use the gifts that God gave me. There is a balance between the income and the service to others.

I always felt that my job doesn’t define me, but I define my job. I choose to make it both a living and a service by how I approach it.

Service to others is the difference between sitting on your ass and waiting for stuff to come to you; and going out to find how you can be of service to others. I’ve frequently said here in this blog that we need to let others help. It is by offering this help to others that perhaps I can relieve someone of a burden that they would find tedious, but for me it’s a task to which I can apply the gifts God gave me.

This then, is the blending of talents for which God made us. We are all better when we work together.

On to prayerful seeking.

“Your position has been eliminated.”

With that flat statement from our HR person, I’m out of a job.

I could choose to look at this from the negative side, but embracing that kind of mindset gets me nowhere. Instead, I know from being in this same spot 17 years ago that God has something else in mind.

But, just like before, it can be a hard fight sometimes to stay positive. I look at the year and a half I had until I could retire and get Medicare; but there is an opportunity here to continue to serve and do good work.

Meanwhile, I look around me and realize that I’m surrounded by love. I have a unique and in-demand skill-set. And thanks to the work of my former boss, I was moved to a classification whereby my severance is a year’s worth, instead of just a few months. I also have passed my hiring anniversary, so the cash-out from my accrued vacation is for the entire year’s worth.

I was sitting with our pastor and praying about things, and he used the line from Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God…”

So okay, Lord. Here I am. Send me.