Tag Archives: winter

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.

Why I hate hay fever reason #6481

Now, you might be thinking, “Why are you bringing up hay fever in January? You live above the 47th parallel in the northern hemisphere! It’s winter!”

And that is precisely why I’m writing about hay fever and why I hate it: I suffer from moderate to severe hay fever, specifically exhibiting an allergic reaction to every pollen, spore, and mold in existence. Seriously, when an allergist once tested me to see which pollens I was reacting to, it was all of them they tested for. Because I live in Seattle, which is far enough north to experience winter, but moderated by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean, under the best circumstances my hay fever season lasts for 10 months out of the year. Usually some early flowering plants start pollinating in mid-February, and then it’s flowers and trees and grasses taking turns until October, when all of that starts to die down–just in time for the ferns to start sporing. And in the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of native ferns around. Then, sometime in November, mushrooms and toadstools start popping up all over, and the air fills with fungal spores.

If I’m lucky, we’ll have a good solid freeze before December is over. I’ll stop taking my prescription allergy medication when we get some freezing temps and see if the symptoms flare up. If not, I’m usually good until the next February.

The last few years, we never got a solid enough freezing period. I would try skipping my meds for a day or two, but then I’d have a horrific attack of hay fever (red swollen itchy eyes, sinus congestion, headaches, et cetera) and go back on the meds until the next freeze. But it never let up.

This year we got several extremely cold spells, and earlier than usual. Overnight lows not just below freezing, but well more than 10 degrees below freezing, and daytime highs that didn’t exceed freezing. I stopped taking my allergy meds in early December, and no hay fever symptoms came. So I thanked my lucky stars and hoped I wouldn’t have to start again until February.

Then our most recent string of colder-than-normal temps ended rather dramatically. In less than 48 hours we went from overnight lows in the teens (farenheit) and daytime highs right at freezing at best, to a daytime high in the 50s, and overnight lows also above freezing. And during that 40-some hours? Almost non-stop rain. A veritable deluge.

Winter is normally very rainy here, of course, and I was happy the rain had returned. But a few days later, I woke up with itchy eyes, congestion, and a nasty sinus headache. When I stumbled to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, my eyes were red and swollen. I started taking my hay fever medicine again, and as usual, the worst of the symptoms were alleviated. But I’ve been at the low level, semi-congested and so forth stage that I feel during high pollen season when I’m on the meds.

A few days later, my husband mentioned that he had red swollen eyes and such a burning in his sinuses, that he thought there might have been a chemical spill at work. But no one else had the symptoms, no one could smell anything, and they couldn’t find anything. He doesn’t get hay fever nearly as badly as I do, but he keeps some over-the-counter hay fever meds around because on high pollen days in the spring and summer he does get it. So he took a pill, and a couple hours later his symptoms were also helped.

I’m assuming that the sudden jump of temperatures up to a bit warmer than usual for winter, after a lot of colder than usual days, plus all that rain after a long dry spell has tricked a bunch of plants into thinking its spring.

So, I’m back to being stuffed up, sniffly, and very occasionally sneezing. In January. Could you pass the Kleenex, please?

Bleak midwinter

Cat hissing.
Having a bad day?
It’s been a while since I heard the old myth, so I was a little surprised when a detective show I watch had the medical examiner character refer to Christmas as “Suicide Season.” That myth (based on the notions that the cheerfulness {forced or otherwise} of the holidays the makes depressed people more starkly aware of their situation) and the associated one that the stress of the holidays literal drives people crazy, have both been debunked by numerous studies.

It’s not just that suicide rates don’t go up, nor merely that psychiatric admissions don’t go up. The studies show that suicide rates actually go down at each major holiday, and that psychiatric admissions reach their lowest point in the weeks immediately before Christmas.

Continue reading Bleak midwinter

In the lane, (g-d d-mn) snow is glistenin’

Lynx in the snow, by Raymond Barlow (raymondbarlow.com)
“More of this stuff? Really?!”
I understand why it’s confusing. I love Christmas music. Not just like it, I love it. I have 30-some different versions of “White Christmas” on my iPhone right now, for goodness sake! I hate hot weather. I gripe about the heat when the temperature is barely high enough for my friends from California or Arizona to think about t-shirts. I write Christmas ghost stories, every year for newrly two-decades, now. I often illustrate blog posts with pictures of lynxes, which often include snow.

So I totally understand why some of my long distance friends don’t understand just how much I despise snow. I hate snow. I have said many times that if I never have to walk in snow ever again—even if I live to be a million years old—I would be just fine.

Continue reading In the lane, (g-d d-mn) snow is glistenin’

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.