January 2006

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             The uniformity of winter in Colorado is the subject of this newsletter. If you don’t believe in that, this is a good place to stop reading. If you do believe in it, you are a good candidate for employment at Up The Creek. In other words, nuts. Actually, winter is consistent, if you ignore the fluctuations. It’s just that the fluctuations can be so extravagant as to make it impossible to characterize winter in short sentences.

             For example, on December 7, the temperature hit minus 2°, but that didn’t count, because it wasn’t winter yet. On the day winter officially started, we were at 53°. A few days later, it rained. Then in the second week of January, we went from 50° to 10° to 44° in five days. Now, on the 23rd, we’re shivering again. So, you could state that the average weather in winter is about anything you want it to be, and few could dispute it.

             However, it could be worse. Years ago, I spent some time in Boulder “studying” at Colorado University. In October of my freshman year, a hailstorm put down six inches of ice, which melted and flowed through the streets in a tsunami of slush. I was shocked, but the old timers (sophomores) said it was nothing. Shortly afterward, a wind of 117 mph roared through, knocking down everything not made of stone. They said it happened all the time there. They said that was why CU was made of stone - the “Stone Campus,” I think they called it. Then in January, the temperature fell to minus 22° and stayed there until a sudden 80 mph zephyr came down the mountain, blew away the marijuana smoke, and warmed things up to +50°. This, too, was normal, they said, but they argued about whether the wind was a “Chinook” or a “Foehn.” I went with Chinook, since that other word looked suspicious to me, and I never learned to pronounce it, which contributed to the revocation of my Boulder citizenship, followed immediately by the U.S. Government’s written invitation to join the Army. In Uncle Sam’s opinion, the military suited my aptitudes better than CU, and he was right. In the Army, the Chinook was a great, noisy helicopter. And “Foehn” was not a word the drill sergeants used, although it was close.

             All of which might explain why Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, has achieved his importance in the field of meteorology. In my years of writing this newsletter, I have remarked on Phil more than once. But, I have never twice spelled the name of his town the same way. This time, seeking strict accuracy, I went to the Internet. I got sidetracked, and never did learn much about the P word, but did discover some modern collegiate opportunities that weren’t there 44 years ago. If I were at CU now, I could major in Groundhog Day. If I wanted to continue on to postgraduate work, I could purchase a doctoral thesis from a website called The Paper Store Enterprises, Inc. for $9.95 per page. I could choose from papers titled Groundhog Day and Aristotelean Ethics, or Friedrich Nietzsche, Gay Science and Groundhog Day, both of which strike me as unbearably profound.

             It’s a shame that my own natural indolence and the Army’s need for airborne targets in Southeast Asia precluded a scholastic career that might have made me the leading authority on Groundhog Day as it relates to diverse philosophies and human sexuality, not to mention weather prediction. But, as said before, things could be worse. The Dan Hawkins currently in residence on the Stone Campus is the football coach. They say he makes $900 thousand per year. Given the recent history of that program, I wonder if the pay is enough.

              I’m thinking it’s better to be up the creek, from whence I am wishing all Aristoteleans, Neitzscheans, and philosophically unaffiliated water users a happy Groundhog Day.



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