Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Weather Geekitude and the Return of Winter

Well folks, after the spring like weather that we've been enjoying here in the Mile High City for the past few weeks, winter has returned in dramatic fashion.

The weather forecasters told us that Saturday would be the last warm day, so CatMan and I decided to go for a bike ride.

The thermometer at my house read a balmy 72 degrees (22C) when I left my house at around a quarter to 2 in the afternoon. The storm was supposed to arrive later that afternoon, so I was in a bit of a quandary as to which clothes to wear.

I thought about wearing my knickers... that would be these knickers...

... as opposed to these knickers...

But ultimately I decided to err on the side of more clothes rather than less, and I went for my full length insulated tights, with an insulated turtleneck and my warm bike jacket.

I was a little bit too warm at first, and felt a bit overdressed, as the paths were full of people dressed like this:

But about 15 miles out, the winds shifted, and the warm westerly wind suddenly became a bitterly cold northerly one. Holy Moly! It was like the temperature dropped by 20 degrees over the course of about 10 minutes!

So. This might be a good time to put on my weather geek wannabe hat and explain about the winds here in Denver. Denver sits on a high plain, just to the east of the Rocky Mountains. This geography creates a unique weather pattern for us known as the Chinook wind.

It basically works the same way as a heat pump or air conditioner does. When air is compressed, it warms up, and when it decompresses, it cools down. Have you ever felt the air coming out of a tire or an aerosol can? It's cold because it is decompressing... well, the opposite happens when the air pushes down off of the mountains. So upslope winds are cold and wet, and downslope winds are warm and dry - and this is one of the reasons that Denver has such a wonderful climate in the winter time.

Quite often - like the past few weeks - we'll have storms dropping snow by the feet in the mountains, but the temperatures here in town are almost spring-like. But... when conditions are right, the storm will push over the mountains and we'll get dramatic temperature shifts like we did on Saturday, when the westerly winds get cut off, and replaced by a wind blowing in from the north.

Anyhow, by the time I got home on Saturday just a few minutes after 5pm, my thermometer read 39 degrees (4C). Brrrr! My fingers (even with two pairs of gloves on) were so cold that I almost couldn't get my helmet off! I was pretty darned glad I'd opted for the warmer clothes because I would have been an ice cube if I'd been wearing fewer layers!

We had light snow off and on all day Sunday and Monday, but the big snow maker arrived last night.

Ready for more weather geekitude?

So, there are several ingredients required for us to get a really big storm here in Denver. If you look at the Chinook graphic above, you see that when the wind blows up against the mountains (which is called an upslope) it cools, and it leads to precipitation. So winds coming from the east are one ingredient, and the way we get those is when a low pressure system with it's counter-clockwise flow sets up to the south and east of us.

The second ingredient is moist air - generally this is moist air coming up from the gulf of Mexico. And finally, the position of the jet stream has to be right, with us sitting in a big trough, allowing cold air to come down from the north.

This graphic illustrates the phenomenon pretty well:

Here's another one from a different storm, but the same idea.

Anyhow, that's what happened last night, and I woke up to nearly a foot of fresh snow this morning!

Oh well... it was a nice little respite from winter, and I got in three good rides before the snow came back. I did get some good exercise shoveling though!

Well, at any rate. Happy Groundhog Day! At least Punxutawney Phil didn't see his shadow, and that's supposed to mean an early spring. Not holding my breath on that one, since I think his track record is around 40%, but hopefully, he's better at predicting the outcome of football games!

So tell me, how's the weather in your neck of the woods? Does the geography in your area create any unique weather patterns? Geeky minds want to know!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Woo Hoo!!!!

OK, it's been one heckuva weekend for the sports-fan in me.

First of all, we had beautiful 65 degree weather on Saturday (18C) - sorry to gloat East Coast friends, but it was amazing! CatMan and I went for a bike ride and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I would have taken some photos for you, except that we didn't stop! We just rode 25 miles non-stop and I've gotta tell you, my little legs are feelin' it today!

I'm not quite back in biking shape yet, but it was fabulously wonderful.

Then I came home in time to watch the Ladies Free Skate at the National Figure Skating Championships.

I'm sure this won't mean much to most of you, but it was an amazing show! The two favorites, Ashley Wagner (who sorta annoys me) and Gracie Gold (who I just love) had both made major errors on their short programs earlier. This left the door open for the youngster, Polina Edmunds, who took a commanding lead.

Anyhow, Ashley made a few mistakes in her long program, which landed her barely in first place with both Polina and Gracie still to skate. Then Polina came out and skated fabulously.

Gracie was the last skater, and the odds were long. She would literally have to skate perfectly, and score significantly better than she'd ever done before, so I was pretty sure that she was only skating for second.

Then this happened:

As I said, I'm pretty sure this won't mean anything to you since I don't think any of my readers follow figure skating, but that was one of the most amazing clutch performances I've ever seen! Go Gracie!!!

For those who didn't want to watch the video, she was amazing
and scored a personal best to win the championship

OK... so then today, my beloved Denver Broncos were underdogs in the AFC championship game. Once again, I know most of you could care less, but here's the storyline.

Our legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning is nearly 40 years old, which is ancient for an NFL quarterback. He had a rough season, missing nearly half of the games with a foot injury. Our backup QB played well enough to keep us in contention, and many were saying that the great Peyton Manning's career would end with a sputter... sitting on the bench watching a younger guy play.

But then, in the final game of the regular season, with Peyton's foot mostly healed, but still sitting on the bench quietly accepting his new role as backup, things were not going well. We were losing badly and all hope seemed lost. Then the coach decided to give the old man one last chance and Peyton rallied the team to victory.

Peyton played again last week in our first playoff game, and once again led the team to a hard fought victory to land us a spot in today's AFC championship game against the New England Patriots. But everyone figured that was it, and that the Patriots (who won the Superbowl last year) would crush us.

But they didn't count on the tenacity of my Bronco babies. It literally came down to the last play, but we hung on to win the game, giving Peyton one last shot at the Superbowl and a chance to go out with a bang rather than a whimper.

OK... I know that many of you don't share my love of sports, and I know there are plenty of good reasons not to support sports, but for me, the stories behind the competition really hit home.

Things get tough... you get knocked down, and sometimes it looks like everything is lost. But in the end hard work and perseverance can pay off as long as you never give up.

Go Gracie!!!!! (World Championships: March 28-April 3)
Go Broncos!!!! (Superbowl 50:  February 7)
Go Cat!!! (Next bike ride: my legs won't hurt quite so much!)


Monday, January 18, 2016

My Purse (or Lack Thereof)

I've run into a few things on the interwebs recently that got me to thinking about my purse... so I figured I'd show it to you:

Yup folks, this and a phone is all that I carry.

It wasn't always this way. Years ago I was one of those women who lugged around a huge bag with everything but the kitchen sink in it.

Then one day, the unthinkable happened. It got stolen. It was nothing terribly dramatic like getting mugged or something - it was taken from under my desk in my private office at work.

But let me tell you folks... it was a total nightmare!

Thankfully, at the time we had a number of rooms in the music school that were kept locked, so I had a habit of carrying my keys in my pocket - if not for that, it could have been much, much worse.

As it was, by the time I got home and called my credit card companies, several thousand dollars had been charged to my accounts. I immediately froze all of the accounts and thankfully didn't have to pay for the charges.

But that's just the beginning of the nightmare. I had been to the bank earlier that day, and had requested a printout of all of my account balances. So my purse had all of the account numbers with balance info in it, as well as my checkbook.

I called the bank and immediately froze all of my accounts - as well as calling the credit agencies and freezing everything from that end.

So now the real nightmare began.

Everything had been in my purse... EVERTYHING - and now it was gone. I had no ID, I had no cash, I had no access to my bank accounts or credit cards, and I found myself caught in an infinite loop of sorts, because without ID, there was no way to un-freeze any of my accounts or start the process of re-building. And there was also no way to replace my ID without other forms of ID - all of which had also been in my purse.

The only way forward was to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. Now, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I was born during a stint when my father was teaching at the University of Hawaii. We moved back to the mainland when I was an infant, but this fact significantly complicated the process of getting a certified copy of my birth certificate. I looked on the State of Hawaii webpage, and they said they could get me one in a few hours if I came into the office.... well... um... let's see, I'll just hop on a plane without any money... um nope!

I ended up requesting the birth certificate by mail, but I had to pay $14 or so... and my checking account had been frozen... I ended up borrowing some cash from CatMan and getting a cashier's check to pay for the birth certificates - which took several weeks to arrive. (And yes... in case you're curious, it looks just like Obama's - we were born in the same hospital.)

Oh, but the joy was just beginning. I had all of my paychecks automatically deposited into my checking account, and all of my bills automatically withdrawn. The account had to be closed permanently, and thus began the process of contacting every institution that I paid bills to out of that account and redoing the entire process... plus dealing with the bills that hadn't gotten paid in the weeks that it took to get the birth certificate so I could get a replacement driver's license, so I could open a new checking account to start over.


Anyhow, the whole experience was horrible enough, that I decided to make some changes.

The first thing I did was to get rid of the purse! I decided that anything as important as a credit card or my driver's license was going to stay on my person whenever I was out of the house. The little coin purse pictured above works perfectly. It's just big enough to carry a few cards and some cash, but small enough to fit nicely into a pocket.

This does mean that I need to pick my clothing carefully to ensure that I have adequate pockets (preferably pockets with zippers), but that's a small price to pay for never having to go through the whole stolen purse thing again.

The other change I made was to stop carrying everything important with me. I actually opened a second checking account that I call my spending account. I only keep a few hundred bucks in there at any given time, and I have a debit card for that account that I carry with me - no check book. My "main checking account" still has everything automatically deposited and deducted, but that checkbook lives in a locked box in a safe place in my house, and NOTHING with that info on it ever leaves the house.

I also keep some emergency cash in a safe place at home, and only carry one credit card with me - the others stay in the lock box at home.

When I first made these changes I thought it would be a huge inconvenience, but the truth is, it is just SO MUCH EASIER! You never have to worry about leaving it somewhere, or deal with the thing sliding off your shoulder, or lugging it around. I think it's safe to say that I will never go back!

So how about you? Do you carry a big purse with you? Have you ever had it stolen? What do you think about this whole topic?