Tag Archives: rain

Confessions of a rain-worshiper, or, why isn’t it called non-standard time?

It’s been over ten days since the switch from Daylight Saving Time (Please note: saving is singular, not plural) to Standard Time in most of the U.S., which might be a little late to be blogging about it, but a couple of comments passing through my social media streams compelled me to broach the topic.

I didn’t think to screenshot or bookmark either comment, so I’m paraphrasing from memory. First: "Rather than arguing about whether it would be better to have an hour of daytime before work or an hour after, shouldn’t we be asking why the workday is so long that it covers all the daylight hours in winter?" Second: "We have to get Congress to allow all states to stay on Daylight Saving Time year round! It is unacceptable to have sundown at 5:30 in the winter!"

I’ll respond to the second one before moving to the next: The sun is still up after 5pm where you are in the winter? LUXURY! The day I finished this blog post, November 17, sundown in the Seattle area was at 4:29pm. And it’s just going to keep getting earlier for the next month!

Sunrise on the same day was at 7:19am, so there were potentially 9 hours of daylight. I say potentially for a couple of reasons, one is that November is one of the wettest months of the year in our region, and so many of our days are overcast during that time. But also, it gets noticeably dark outside well before the sun fully dips below the horizon. Even with all of the blinds open, I have to start turning lights on inside the house shortly after 3 during November.

To be fair, the sky starts to light up in the mornings shortly before the sun starts to appear above the horizon. If you’re willing to count that as some of the daylight, on many days it would make up for the early gloom that happens as the sun gets close to the horizon in the afternoon.

When I’ve mentioned online how early sunset is here, I have been met with disbelief. And I get where the second post mentioned above is coming from. The same day that Seattle’s sunset was 4:29pm, Los Angeles’ sunset was at 4:47pm, while Houston’s sunset was at 5:24pm. Latitude (how far you are from the equator) makes a big difference in this!

The shortest day in the year at our latitude is about 8 hours and 26 minutes. Again, that’s counting from sunrise to sunset. so in theory, if you are only working an 8 hour day, technically there would be 20-some minutes when you aren’t at work and could see a bit of daylight.

Now if the person arguing about working hours is suggesting a workday of only 6 hours, that’s great. There’s actually a lot of research out their indicating that workers would be more efficient during such shorter work shifts. Right now, it’s difficult enough to get a job where you aren’t being forced one way or another to work well more than 8 hours a day, so I’m not sure how that would work out.

None of this is to imply that I don’t agree that we should advocate for better work conditions or that we need to abolish this abominable practice of jiggering the clocks twice a year. I am all for getting rid of the switch from Standard Time to so-called Daylight Saving Time. Which to be consistent and accurate should actually be called Non-standard Time. We’re not actually getting any more daylight hours during DST, we’re just cutting off the bottom of the blanket and sewing it to the top and pretending that there is more blanket.

We know that both the switch form ST and DST and from DST back to ST is associated with an increase in automobile accidents, certain kinds of sometimes fatal health issues, and temporary decreases in productivity. So we should stop doing it.

But you’re not going to win me over if you center your argument on how much daylight we get when. For one thing, it is just inverse of the same flawed argument used to justify DST in the first place. And for another, I’m one of the freaks who really likes the dark more than bright and sunny times. I love rainy and overcast days. I don’t mind the nighttime.

Which is part of the reason that from the beginning of Autumn through the Winter Holidays is, for me, truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Here comes the rain again… and I couldn’t be happier!

This picture is actually from a thunderstorm in 1999 (c) Patrick Haggerty/Associated Press
I don’t deal well with warm weather. I have sometimes phrased this as, “I melt at 80 degrees or higher.” For most of the 43 years that I’ve lived in western Washington state, that hasn’t been a big problem, because we usually only get a week or so of weather in the high-80s and up most summers. The previous few years (as the average temperature of the atmosphere has been climbing), have been a different story. Last summer and the summer before we had several weeks of the high weather accompanied by smoke from wild fires in Eastern Washington and British Columbia. Smoke so severe that health officials weren’t just recommending that some people might want to wear masks, but urged everyone to wear particular masks for days on end.

It was awful! The sky was a sick yellow color, the sun was a hellish red color, everything stank of smoke, my sinuses were swollen as if the worst hay fever day was coinciding with a sinus infection, and it was so hot I just wanted to curl up in a deep freeze somewhere.

And the two things — higher average temperatures and smoke — were related. Because wild fires are both more likely and harder to contain because of the heat and how dry all the plantlike growing in the wilderness was.

This summer we had something that was more like the summers of old (which are going to continue to be less likely as we go). We had a week of really hot weather, then a few days of cool weather, a week or too of kinda hot weather, a few days of cool, and then another week of really hot weather, with a bit of a cool down to only sort-of hot weather, and so on.

Then, Saturday night, this happened: Hundreds of ‘insane’ lightning strikes bring chaos to Seatte. And while the actual storm was a bit disturbing, it was part of a big shift in the weather pattern, as we move out of the summer pattern and more toward fall. The long-term forecast is we won’t hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit
again this year, which has me cheering. And the short-term forecast is periods of occasional rain today and tomorrow, partly sunny Wednesday, and then back to rain.

I love the rain. Really. I like listening to it coming down. I like hearing the sound of tires on the wet roads. I like to go outside and stand in it for a while… I’m just really happy.

Another upside to the slightly closer to normal weather over the summer is that I didn’t have as many awful hay fever days. I still had a lot of bad hay fever days and I was taking extra meds a lot, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last several summers.

Of course, I’m not out of the woods there, yet. A lot of flowering plants, some trees, and many grasses will keep pollinated for the rest of this month and into October. And when the pollen starts to subside, all the ferns (which grow all over the place in our damp client) will start sporing. And then some time in November as the ferns stop filling the air with their spores we’ll have mushrooms and toadstools popping up everywhere and the air will be filled with fungal spores and molds until (if) we get a hard freeze.

But it’s a lot easier to deal with hay fever when I’m not also feeling like the air is baking my body as a walk around.

I much prefer to rain.

More confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Picture of a person under an umbrella in heavy rain, labeled Tourists. Below, a man stands in the rain, head tilted up, eyes closed, labeled True Washingtonians.
(Click to embiggen)
Thursday evening, as I was turning out lights and otherwise getting ready to climb into bed, rain started pounding the roof, hard. It had probably been raining for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed the sound until then. We’ve been getting a lot of drizzly days the last couple of weeks, but this was the first time in a long, long time that I’d heard that kind of really hard rain. So I pulled on my slippers and a shirt (since I was just wearing my fleece Seahawks shorts and ankle socks), went out on the veranda, stepped up to the rail, and held out my arms to let the rain fall on my for a few minutes.

It was the first time that evening that I had felt good.

I didn’t realize that I was sick on Thursday until about an hour after getting home from work, when the cough started. I have hay fever for at least ten months of the year, and weather transition periods are one of the times that my symptoms get really bad. And the previous two weeks, while we had had some drizzle and scattered showers with temperatures in the 60s, we’d also had at least one day each week when clouds all vanished and the temp edged up passed 80. So lots of transitions.

My hay fever almost never includes coughing. Congestion, sinus headache, sometimes achey/itchy eyes, and yes lots of sneezing, but not coughing. And if the hay fever has been severe for a few days in a row, I also start feeling really run down.

So all day Thursday I had felt like I had no energy, I had to work hard to stay focused on tasks at work (it was one of the few times I was glad that I had nearly half the day in meetings). My sinuses were very painful to the point that my throat was feeling it. I was in denial that it was an actual cold right up until that cough.

And a funny thing about when I’m in denial that I’m sick: the moment I admit that maybe it might not be hay fever, I notice that every symptom I have is worse. It’s like the denial sets up a dampener that cuts out half the pain signals coming in? I realized that in addition to the coughing, my throat was more acutely sore than I had thought, and my sinus headache was worse, et cetera.

I took some cold meds right away, but the coughing kept going, and it seemed like each coughing fit made my whole body more miserable.

So that moment of standing in the rain and really, really enjoying it was great.

Friday had already been scheduled as a work from home day, so I hunkered down with coffee and tea and got through it. We had to cancel weekend plans with friends—not just because I was miserable, but also because we don’t want to infect anyone. The two times that I had to leave the house, I wore a mask and did a handwash before leaving the house. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning where (along with periodic blood work) I was supposed to get my flu shot, so I figured if the cold hadn’t begun to get better by then, I’d see what the doctor thought.

He doesn’t think I have the flu, but I do have an upper respiratory infection. So! Antibiotics for me!

At several points during the weekend I took comfort in opening the windows so I can hear the rain coming down. I started having the chills on Saturday, so I haven’t been going out on the veranda except briefly to refill the bird feeder, but I can hear the rain just fine with the windows open, and even feel the cool, moist rainy breeze on my face occasionally.

I love Seattle weather when it’s rainy or just cool and overcast.

I love it so much that I get cranky at people complaining about the weather when it arrives in the fall, or when it lingers into June. I try not to say disparaging things to them when it comes up, because I have been know to gripe and whine about the heat during the seven-ish weeks of real summer weather we get most years. But in my head I think of the folks who gripe about our weather as anti-rain trolls—particularly the ones who wax rhapsodic about the great hiking trails or the beautiful mountains that they love to ski or snowboard on.

All that snow? It’s what happens to the rain storms after they pass over us and get to the mountains. All those gorgeous hiking trails? There’s a reason we call most of the forested area of the Olympic Pennisula a rain forest. Yeah, we have pine trees (and other conifers) instead of a tropical plants, but it’s still a rain forest and all those lovely hiking trails wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have all the rain.

So, welcome to one of my favorite times of year! Let me enjoy the rain in peace. I’ll try to whine less about being sick. And I will continue to try to keep my griping about the heat each summer to a minimum. Deal?

One year later, way more than a few April showers

Two cats sit on a log under a propped up umbrella, surrounded by water and rain. “Noah called, he picks us up in 10 minutes.”
(click to embiggen)
I meant to write a blog post for the weekend about the fact that it has been exactly a year at the new place. But I was still sick and run down. My weekend wound up being all about sleeping, doing minimal errands, napping, a little housework, more napping, sleeping, and repeat. But I realized it’s okay that I didn’t make that post, because technically it has not been a year of us living here, yet. A year and a few days ago we signed our first lease here, and we started hauling things from the old place to the new, but it was a few weeks before we were ready for the big moving truck to do the bulk of the move. So early next month will be the anniversary of the first time we spent the night in the new place.

I was trying to remember when I moved the flower pots from the old place, because last week maintaining my collection of pots and planter included a task I didn’t have to do last spring: flood control. To be fair, this is an unusually wet April. The local National Weather Service office observed that if the rains had stopped completely on last Saturday, it would already be the fourth wettest April on record in Seattle. And it kept raining Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and a bit on Wednesday. Spring is usually quite damp around here, so I strongly suspect that even though the long range forecast is all dry, that we’ll get a bit more before the month is through.

I noticed the weekend before last that not only were all of the little catch basins under the pots full to the brim, but that several of the flower pots and planters had at least an inch of standing water around the flowers. I can’t just dump the water off. The thing I call our veranda is a 38-foot long deck at the back of the apartment, and on that side of the building we’re three stories up. There’s a neighbor with a nearly identical deck directly below us, and then the walkway for the basement apartments below that. And the lease actually has a clause about not dripping or pouring water off the decks, right?

Which is why all of my pots that have drain holes sit on a small saucer like thing, and each of those is inside a larger plastic catch basin.

I took a bucket outside, carefully lifted each pot and set it aside, poured the water from the saucer in the bucket, pouring off water from the planter itself if it had standing water, and then poured the water from the second basin into the bucket—trying my best not to spill any. I got through a third of them of them before the bucket was full and I had to carrying it away and pour it out and repeat. The bigger planters where my grandma’s irises and a few other things are planted were a bit more difficult.

I moved the pots and planters that don’t have drains away from the rail, and against the wall, so they wouldn’t keep getting rained on. Clearly until we get to the dryer part of the year, I can’t leave those out from under the roof.

That’s one way our veranda is different than those one floor down. Our deck serves as their roof, and it is as wide as their deck, so even planters put right up against the rail on those decks get a little shelter from the rain. Whereas the roof of the decks on our floor is the eave of the building, and while the deck is five feet wide, the eave only extends four feet out. I thought of this as a feature last year. The planters got plenty of water when it rained and lots of sun when it didn’t.

By the time the heaviest rain was coming down in November, most of the flowers had died back, and I just didn’t worry about the pots getting super saturated. I regretted that a bit when I discovered that the cute otter planter froze and crack in a whole bunch of places. It hadn’t done that during several winters at the old place, but at the old place it was draining into the flower bed. Similarly, the hanging pot I had last year got too heavy when it’s soil was constantly soaked all winter and the plastic hanging parts broke.

They’re all learning experiences.

I now know I need to move some of the planters under the roof during certain times of the year. I’m seriously considering replacing the small pots that don’t have drain holes. The problem is they’re both purple—which makes me want to keep them despite being a bit more work. On the other hand, I have no intention of getting rid of the larger planters. I haven’t seen many that size with drains and matching catch basins. Those few I have seen have very tiny catch basins that I suspect would wind up dripping on the downstairs neighbors during the times of year when I have to do the watering.

Frightful weather

I thought I was going to drown.

While Seattle is known for rain, most of the time what he actually experience is overcast days, with occasional scattered misting. We very, very seldom have downpours. Even the heavier showers tend to be intermittent and scattered.

But about once every winter I get caught in a true downpour that soaks through my waterproofed leather coat, and all the layers underneath.

Last night it happened early in my walk home. When I stepped outside the office building, it was barely drizzling. Three blocks later I pulled the hood of my coat over my head, as the hat was no longer enough. Then, four blocks further, it was as if angels in the sky above had aimed a bunch of firehoses right at me.

The first mile or so of my walk home is along our waterfront. Not right on it, a block away, so that about half the time there is a building between me and the open air. The deluge hit when I was on a two or three block section where there is nothing but lawn and train tracks sheilding me.

The wind was coming off the water.

Even in the height of summer, the Puget Sound only gets a bit less frigid than ice water. This time of year, the water is maybe a degree above freezing. So any breeze coming off of it is like an arctic blast.

Rain starts out high up in the sky as ice crystals. They warm up as the fall, turning into droplets of ice water. In really warm weather they may get all the way up to cool and refreshing, but this time of year, I suspect that they are only about a billionth of a degree above freezing when they reach a hapless pedestrian on the ground.

So I was being hammered by nearly frozen water. Each droplet sucking heat from me, while the cross-breeze was doing its best to finish the job and turn me into a popsicle.

And there wasn’t really any place for me to go to get out of the rain. What buildings were nearby were mostly office complexes. So I moved as fast as I could.

I decided, once I had reached the halfway mark, when my walking route meets up with a bus line, to take shelter in the bus shelter(!) and wait for a bus.

The thinng that worries me about this, is that this is the second deluge I’ve experienced this year. And December is tradionally a month where we dry out a bit after the heavy rains of November, before the heavy rains of January.

I’m getting a bad feeling about this winter’s weather.

Pineapple Express

Statistically, the last two weeks of November are the wettest time of year in Seattle. Unlike much of the rest of the year, where it’s just overcast and damp most of the time, with random drizzles or showers here and there, the end of November is all about downpours.

The Pineapple Express is a nickname for a meteorologic phenomenon responsible for many of those heavy rains. Once the upper atmosphere’s streams switch to the winter pattern, it is easy for an atmospheric river to form running from the tropical central pacific right up at northwestern Washington. The result in the city is ponds springing up on sidewalks and streets. Drivers not realizing that they can’t safely follow other cars as closely as they were just a month ago. Cars kicking up roostertails ten feet tall and drenching pedestrians.

Still, I love the rain. Admittedly, I prefer to listen to it pouring down while I’m inside somewhere dry, preferably with a hot beverage. But I also like walking in it, hearing the raindrops drum on the hood of my coat, walking around the deepest puddles (and occassionally letting my inner five-year-old out and stomping to make as big a splash as I can).

I love the way the air smells and feels while the rain is coming down hard–different than the after-rain smell, not better, just different.

I love thinking about where these raindrops have been. Evaporated from the warm ocean surface, carried thousands of miles aloft on the jet stream, and now returning to earth. Where they will soak into the ground, some to be taken up by the grass and and evergreens, others to form creeks that flow into rivers and one day return to the ocean. They may then descend to the deepest trenches of the ocean, eventually encountering a steam vent or a submerged lava flow, which gives them the energy to start ascending toward the surface, again.

So, don’t complain about the rain. Go out there, say hello, and wish it well on this next cycle of it’s incredible journey.

I love the rain

I love grey, wet days like today. Why, yes, I am aware that makes me a freak in many eyes.

I don’t care.

The rain is not coming down in buckets. We get that sometimes. Rain coming down so hard that the “rainchill” (cold raindrops hitting you and each absorbing a bit of your body tempature, dozens or scores of large icy cold drops every second) making you shiver and worse. I grew up where 25 degrees below zero Farenheit was neither unheard of nor uncommon, so I know from cold, and I don’t like the rain when it comes down like that.

This morning it was just a nice, gentle shower. Cool, chilly, even, but not cold. And not coming down so hard that I would have been annoyed if I hadn’t had a hood on my coat to pull over my head, but just exactly hard enough that I was glad for the hood.

It was a light enough rain that the sparrows were flitting from tree to tree rather than seek shelter. Crows and gulls shrug off all but the heaviest rain, but sparrows are a bit more delicate. They were out today.

The clouds were not dark, just a soft, cool grey. There was barely any wind.

I love the soft sound the rain makes. I love the steady hissing hum of the tires going by on busy streets. I love the smell of the air. It’s different that the wonderful smell after a rainstorm, but ther are hints of that coming scent in it. I love the sound the occasional larger drops make when they tap my hood or hat. I the way everything turns greener and greener as winter receeds and the spring rains transform our world.

I love the rain.