Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Nothing More Than Feelings

I like to check multiple weather forecasts, and haven't noticed that one is more reliable than another, although I admit to a fondness for the one that says things like "Rain beginning in 27 minutes." I like that level of audacity in a field known for its shruggers and wafflers. Sometimes it's even right. What I don't like is when the forecast tells me what the weather will feel like. I'm supposed to be in charge of that.

It's going to be 39 degrees tomorrow, but it's going to "feel like" 34. Says who? Who's out there who knows how much clothing I plan to wear or whether I'll even roll out of bed? It's presumptuous. They've got all sorts of data and they want to show off. They've got the temperature, the dew point, and the wind speed. They toss all those in the bucket along with some salt and algorithms. Algorithms are little tiny tornados used for stirring. And then out comes the "RealFeel" statistic. It's annoying.

Because I want to figure that out for myself. I want to read that it's going to be 39 degrees with wind gusts up to 30mph and a light fog. That's plenty vivid. I can work it out from there.

Modern weather people would ruin the trip to Grandfather's. Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather's house we go! That's a lot of nice useful information. I can see the horse, I can see the sleigh, I can hear the jingle bells and feel the powdery snow bursting out of the evergreens. Modern weather people would stick Gramps's address in Google Maps and hit "get directions." Sure, you'll get there. But if Grandma hands you a TV dinner it would serve you right. [Children: a TV dinner is a dinner you eat while watching TV. Um, TV is something that lived in a big box and had shows in it, and if you weren't there to watch them that was that. They weren't coming back.]

So I'm worried about the "feels like." It seems like a short walk from there to your whole house deciding how to dress you. Already I've bought a winter coat that, according to the tag, is good down to a freakishly specific minus-four degrees Fahrenheit. There are probably coats for every increment on the thermometer. Soon enough that mouthy little Alexa is going to check the weather app five minutes before you get up and consult with your coffee machine and amazon.com and a drone is going to drop you a nice outfit on your bed in your favorite colors, as determined by what your retinas flick to in the popup ads.

Which means you will never be uncomfortable again. But discomfort gives your soul needed texture. It expands your range of happiness. Witness the whininess of people who are momentarily forced out of their 72-degree air-conditioned comfort zone. Their capacity for joy is all shrunk up.

We were plenty happy when we were little, because we didn't have control over much of anything. The snow would come down, and Mommy would stuff us into our little snow suits and boots after making sure to drain us first and out we'd go. We didn't even notice we were cold because we were busy building a snow bear. Later we'd come inside and pull off our slushy socks and stick our feet up against the heat register until they itched from chilblains. Does the weather forecaster know the state of our boots? Does he know whether we're going to build a snow bear?

Worse, now there's no room for hyperbole. You can't come in the house hoo-boying and stamping your feet and tell someone the wind picked up a load of tiny ice daggers and drove them through the gap in your muffler and now your neck whistles because of all the little holes punched through it. Or that you know your ass froze off over at 33rd and Sumner because you heard it clank onto the pavement. Someone will just make a little frowny face and look at his phone and say, "Well it feels like 34."

Harumph.

It just seems like I should have more of a say in it, somehow. But after all, even when we went to Grandfather's house, the horse knew the way to carry the sleigh, so maybe it was always an illusion.

40 comments:

  1. I, too, consult several weather sites: Accuweather, the National Weather Service, and then the doppler radar. But I usually do my own predictions based on the doppler: "That green blob doesn't look nearly big enough for the downpour they are predicting. I think we'll just get scattered showers." Or, "The trajectory of the storm looks like it might skirt just north of us." And the odd thing is that I am usually more accurate than the meteorologists.

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    1. Plus, you can probably hear the storm zinging by when the pitch drops!

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  2. 34 would feel effin' balmy today. Do they use words like that to describe how things feel? -20 with a 20 mph wind feels friggin' painful. Are they allowed to use adjectives? Inquiring minds want to know.

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    1. I kinda knew if I wrote anything about 34 degrees I'd get some, ah, blowback from the east.

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  3. Anything which decided to dress me on the basis of where my retinas had flicked would be totally unwelcome. Horror draws my eyes often.
    It is the percentage bit which gets me. 50% chance of rain. On the whole area, or fifty per cent of it? Of for fifty per cent of the day?

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    1. Yeah. Come to think of it, I never could figure that out either.

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    2. It is evident that the chaps in the Bureau of Meteorology have the same trouble.I think their problem is that they are consulting TOO MANY sets of data and inadvertently leave out the important bits.I'm going back to licking an index finger and holding it up in the air...

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    3. I think 50% chance of rain means that you would be wise to wear a hat in case precipitation blows into your eyes. It might not, but you look so good in that hat that you may as well wear it anyway. And 50% chance of snow flurries is the weatherman's code for, "Roxie gets a free pass today and can stay inside with books and knitting."

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    4. You haven't seen me in a hat. It's not good.

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  4. I detest Accuweather's RealFeel so much I won't use their site to check the weather. Harumph!

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    1. But don't they all have that now? Or something like it?

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    2. Pretty much. It's just the arrogance of them actually making up a word and actually getting it trademarked. Then there's all the idjits who actually use it, "The RealFeel is blah blah blah." For some reason, this particular thing just grated on my last weather nerve.

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  5. I was just thinking yesterday that I FEEL colder this year just because some forecast is telling me about the Arctic mass pressing down on us. The power of suggestion! I remember it being a darn sight colder back in the mid-eighties and I just dressed up and went to work without thinking about it. Now I pack on the layers and I'm still cold.

    Come to think of it, maybe I'm getting old. Maybe that's the real problem.

    Nah.

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    1. That CAN'T be it. Oh dear, has the fire in your loins gone out? Do we still have loins? Is that what we used to call "down there?"

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    2. Whoa, talk about veering off topic!

      And, uh, I think the answer is "yes."

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  6. A tip of the toque to the snow bear ;) And you nailed one of my new peeves. Don't tell me 'actual' 13 degrees needs to be made any more ominous by 'feels like' numbers. Flash me your Doppler and stand back! I can DO this!

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    1. Oh honey, I have a photo of the snow bear somewhere, but I couldn't find it after slogging through acres of albums. It was a standing bear with a mud nose. Not nearly as fine as your critters but the heart was in the right place.

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  7. I guess Grandfather lives with her, but isn't it Grandmother's house?

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    1. Glad you asked! It was originally Grandfather's house, from an 1844 poem. Later versions drug in Grandma.

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  8. Your pictures are great! Your wind chills, or "feels likes" seem downright tropical to us here in the Land of the Split Thumbs.

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    1. I'm aware I'm not allowed to complain at the moment.

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  10. For some reason, I decided that the "real feel" thing was a meteorologist's feeble attempt to replace the "relative humidity", which we don't hear much about these days. Growing up in the Washington DC area, the data on the Relative Humidity was just as important as the actual temperature. If it is 80 degrees and the relative humidity is 40%, well, then you can open a window if its stuffy inside. But if the relative humidity is 95% at the same temperature, opening a window for some fresh air would result in the wallpaper getting steamed off of the dining room walls.
    And sometime just recently, meteorologists have relegated the concept of Relative Humidity to the scrap heap of Outdated Ideas. Why continue to use a perfectly good piece of (fairly) raw data, when we can (a) assume that people are too stupid to understand it; and (b) run the info through algorithmic hoops and make weather prediction look more sexy and precise than it really is?
    I miss my Relative Humidity! As an adult who lives "in the city built on a swamp", I need to know if it is safe to open a window in August, or if my upswept hairdo will just melt into a pile of flaccid. anemic curls.

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    1. Up here we're all about relative humidity, dew points, and wind speed/gusts. The temperature is meaningless unless you factor in all the other stuff.

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    2. When I lived in boiling hot central Texas, I had my own "Sunshine Factor" (like wind chill, only different) to explain that a hot day felt even worse if it was blazingly sunny. Hot and cloudy wasn't as bad, even if it hit 98 either way.

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    3. You lived in Texas? Anyway, yeah, relative humidity was really important in D.C. They don't even say it anymore??

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    4. And Cheryl--right, but you don't really want it pre-factored in, do you? You want all those numbers and not just one Unit of Personal Comfort.

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  11. You were so cute!
    I like knowing what the expected temperature is going to be, so I can plan accordingly. I'm rarely disappointed if it turns out cooler than expected and if it turns out hotter, then I won't know it until I hear the weather girl say so at the end of the news.
    Who does the rating on those coats anyway? If it's good for -4 and you go out in -5 will you feel terribly cold because the coat doesn't work at that degree?

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    1. Yes, I do believe the whole thing becomes worthless. Worthless, I say.

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    2. But if you layer a sweater that's good down to 36 degrees, under your -4 degrees coat, isn't there cumulative effect? Add in the polypropylene underwear and the silk socks under the wool, and a really good fur lined balaclava, and you can get frisked in any bank or airport in the country.

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    3. But you won't enjoy it as much.

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  12. My mother got into an argument with my father once over whether it was harmful to leave the car outside due to the extreme wind chill. She didn't grasp that the car could never experience a temperature lower than the actual temperature. She worried about how cold the car would feel. She had odd thoughts like that, which is why he loved her, I think. Once she explained that the reason we could not get good TV reception on Channel 2 was that all the really good shows were on that channel, so everyone was tuned to Channel 2 and soaking up the signal so that we didn't get enough. This of course was back in the antenna days. My father, a physicist, engineer and scientist, said, after getting his amusement under control, "That would be like saying that on a really bright day, if enough people went out to lay in the sun, it would get dark."
    Oh, I miss her. He's almost 91 and still funny.

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    1. COMMENT OF THE YEAR! Even though the year is young. Thank you.

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  13. Yesterday two different people, including my wife, told me it was mild outside. It was in the teens (Fahrenheit). Never listen to a Canadian about weather.

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    1. I will not forget the time I visited my sister in Maine and some kids came inside after romping in the snow, and she asked them if it was cold outside and they chirped "No! It's above!" Zero F. They meant zero F.

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  14. I will tell you that one Yellow Rump and one Blue Bird took a bath in the (sorta heated) bird bath on my deck today. The bird bath has a blanket of snow all around it. The temp said 24 F with strong wind gusts! Birds do not grab towels like those sauna folks do. It is all relative, I guess.

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    1. At least, thanks to you, they didn't go skating.

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  15. "But discomfort gives your soul needed texture."
    Love that!

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    1. You always think you want a smooth soul, but you don't.

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