The sound of ice

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Ice on the Hudson 1/25/03If there’s anything that makes me feel 15 again, it’s walking along a frozen river’s edge. This was the Hudson, not the Mohawk of my youth, and I could hear the ice crack, threatening, as the tide lowered beneath it. Instead of using a tree branch to test the ice, I had very expensive trekking poles. The feeling of being out there on the edge of the frozen expanse, the crackling of the ice, the sound of the slate ice shattering under my poles and my snowshoes — it was just the same as when we were kids growing up along (and, often, in) the Mohawk River. I would have loved to have been able to venture out there, but that would have been deadly — tides and ice don’t go together. So instead, I just stood and listened to the river.

When we were younger, the Mohawk froze solid, sometimes right down to the bottom, and it was very safe to walk out there. Other times it would be perfectly thick in the middle but sketchy on the edges, and after a day of playing out on the ice, skating for miles or playing hockey, we would try to step up to the riverbank and would plunge into the cold water. (That happened quite a bit, in fact, and I still feel the effects of frostbite in my toes.) We always carried big sticks out on the ice, or used our hockey sticks to chop at anything that looked questionable. Sometimes you wanted to break through with the stick so that at least your feet would hit something more solid below. The scariest adventures would come during the thaws, when there was perfectly thick ice but it would start to break up and pile up behind the Western Gateway Bridge. Then there would be water moving among the ice, and it would refreeze but there would remain fault lines in the ice that were hard to predict. Sometimes you’d put a foot through some thin ice, and you’d hit water that was sitting on top of more ice — very slippery. But there was nothing like a day spent out on the ice, in a place that only exists for a few days each year, a place where no one else was. Sometimes it would just be miles of sheet ice like this picture, clear and skatable and beautiful; other times there would be gigantic blocks piled up, making ice caves and other dangerous attractions for 15-year-old boys.

So, Saturday afternoon was like that. Girls had a birthday party to go to, I invoked selfishness and went down to Schodack Island State Park to snowshoe. Did some vigorous work through deep snow as well as walking along the river’s edge. There was deer sign everywhere, and I found some significant owl pellets (fur only, no bones — must not have been done with that yet) and flushed the owl that had made them. The tremendous beat of its wings scared the hell out of me. Did about an hour and a half of hard hiking, snapped a few pictures, went on back home. Yesterday, nice skiing in super conditions, took the girls over on a trail that has never had enough snow to be open before, and that was a lot of fun, just a nice little jeep trail through the woods with perfectly fresh powder. I love watching them ski. Today, about 6″ of new snow in the morning, plus it’s cold again, currently a whopping 5 degrees.

The last word on cold, I hope…

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I know, it’s boring to keep on saying it, but this ain’t Alaska, and we’re not really set up for days and days spent around the 0 degree mark.The furnace is getting overworked, and the Hudson is now pretty much completely frozen, so the oil barges are stuck down at Rondout. We’re supposed to climb up around 20 tomorrow, which will be a start. That said, I have no sympathy for people complaining about how cold the walk from the parking lot is when they’re dressed in a summerweight jacket, no hat and blue jeans.

Googlism for cold:

cold is
cold is cold???
cold is it in ithaca?
cold is the evening breeze
cold is not a cold
cold is too cold?
cold is here to stay
cold is the sea
cold is the antarctic?
cold is not to be encouraged as a tournament theme
cold is this
cold is “cold”?
cold is it ?
cold is it outside?
cold is used
cold is it
cold is too cold
cold is the absence of heat
cold is siberia?
cold is the grave
cold is key to a smooth bicycle ride
cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract
cold is more than
cold is it where your’e at?
cold is a hard pill to swallow
cold is bad news for belugas
cold is cold??? it?s really a matter of perspective
cold is still a big factor
cold is not a cold by dr
cold is the interior
cold is it? hawaiians declare a two
cold is here to stay temperatures will remain about 10 degrees below normal by kevin aldridge the cincinnati enquirer
cold is cool?
cold is winter
cold is it? 60 degrees f californians put on their sweaters
cold is this?
cold is the absence of heat
cold is everything in an alaskan winter
cold is cool
cold is the heart
cold is it outside? mailing list
cold is used here come the low tech stuff
cold is both a network sniffer and a protocol analyzer
cold is it? it’s pretty chilly here
cold is much better
cold is cold? posted by
cold is relative
cold is creepin’ in
cold is a killer by saturn_169
cold is it outside
cold is the grave by peter robinson
cold is critical
cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract
cold is more than a cold
cold is it? it is so cold i saw a lawyer on the street the other
cold is one of the most annoying
cold is ‘mech’s best friend
cold is less likely to get cancer?
cold is it where you are?

Wandering off

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Sometimes it’s a shock to be in the middle of a conversation, a one-sided one at that, and find the other person has just wandered off. Physically or mentally. And you go on and on and eventually realize no one’s listening at all. Sometimes you know you’re going to lose the signal, and you can hear it disappear, but sometimes there’s just no clue. Very disorienting.

Quick! Get me those leather stockings!

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It’s 0.1 degrees, and I’ve got to drive a state vehicle to Cooperstown today. If there’s no heat, I’m going to start a little fire on the floor. That’s what Natty Bumppo would have done.

Thought I’d better Google that name to make sure of the two p’s, and this brings me the distressing news that there’s some character in Kentucky practicing as a “country lawyer” under the name Natty Bumppo. I wasn’t really prepared to see a link that said, “Natty Bumppo, Attorney at Law.” I’m providing no link to that mess. As it is, I’m going to get weird hits for the “leather stockings,” I just know it.


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It is bone-chillingly cold here, and if you’ve never lived in a cold clime and don’t know what that means, or if you’ve moved away and forgotten, it means this: as you walk down the street, your nose hairs freeze. You become aware of the bones in your feet. It can actually hurt to breathe. Anything down to 20 degrees is just cold; below 20, it’s really cold, and you constantly feel the heat being sucked from your body. Even inside, in a nicely insulated house, you feel the effect of constantly losing heat. Stepping outside, you are instantly aware of exactly where air can reach skin.

There is a particular sound that comes with this kind of below-zero cold, too. The ground is hard and your feet creak as they walk on it. Your jacket hardens. The sound of cars is muffled. There is a certain hush to this kind of cold. There is no wind and, ironically, it is brilliantly sunny, which is the only thing that makes it bearable. The snow cover is packed and hard, and the ice on the driveway is there for the duration.

I went for a snowshoe hike in the woods on Sunday . . . the quickest way to overheat in these temperatures is to snowshoe in full winter regalia. It wasn’t long before my hat was off and my jacket open. Even in this cold, the snow was giving under my snowshoes, and in the deep woods it was a slog. There was a little streambed, and here and there, seen through holes in the snow, there was still water running underneath. There were crystals, gigantic crystals like ornamental snowflakes, in the streambed where little bits of water had frozen. It was intensely beautiful. And there wasn’t a sound.

The Polenta Incident

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No idea what to do for supper last night; we’ve eaten everything in our repertoire, twice. Then polenta springs to mind. I make a wonderful polenta. I probably have the right cheeses, or at least enough cheeses, and I know I have cornmeal. What I do not have, I learn, is my polenta recipe, which came from a bag of Hodgson’s Mills cornmeal. Best polenta recipe, hands-down, but I can’t find it anywhere. Searched the web, and Hodgson’s Mills is the last commercial entity on the planet without a website. There’s a website for a company in Brooklyn that makes exactly ONE kind of refrigerator magnet (and a superstrong kind it is, too). There’s a website for potted meat. But no website for Hodgson’s Mills. And no other polenta recipe that quite looks like mine. Well, says I, I’ve made this a lot, I know everything but the measurements, so I’ll wing it.

All I can say is, no matter how much water you think you need to add to cornmeal to get it to boil up, add some more. I ended up with a burnt mess (yes, several of the recipes extolled the virtues of double boilers, but I’ve never had to do that with my recipe). Separated out the burnt from the unburnt, added more water, went on. Cheese — let’s see, enough mozzarella for about half a layer, and then . . . no other hard cheese. None. Except: Swiss cheese slices. Desperate now. Into the food grinder they go. Oh, shit, I forgot to mix the jalapenos in with the cornmeal. Okay, add them as I’m layering. Temperature? Let’s say 450, and let’s guess somewhere between 12 and 18 minutes. In the end it came out fine, though, in fact it was quite tasty, but I think I need to find that recipe again.

Word of advice for those who find themselves with a heap of unused, boiled cornmeal: it will not serve as cornmeal mush for breakfast. Just trust me on this.

Note to Chimera fans: Yeah, sure, it’s a great browser. But it won’t load the Blogger homepage. Or a bunch of other stuff. I think if we had just outlawed free software, we’d probably have a workable web browser by now. Take away the profit motive, let Microsoft kill off everyone else, and we’re stuck in permanent beta.

Time to alienate some people

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Two things: war and cats.

Listen, there’s plenty about this administration that brings out the libertarian in me. Ashcroft, the Communications Decency Act, the Patriot Act . . . a free and secure society does not need these things. And I will admit that the relentless drumbeat against Iraq has lacked specificity — we know they’ve done wrong things, but you’ll just have to wait and see what they are. But here’s the thing:

Good people fought long and hard to rid a scourge from this earth, many of them the same kinds of people who are protesting today. They went to every corner of the earth, worked with people of all races and languages, and to every one of them they promised one thing: “You will not die from smallpox. Your children will not die from smallpox. No one will die from smallpox.” They did not qualify that promise by saying, “Unless some madman decides to use it as a weapon, and we decide that we need to talk about it until he unleashes it.” War is awful and I don’t want it, but we’ve been using the talking weapons against Iraq for many years now without much success (and with appeasers in this country decrying our inhumanity, because the lightweight sanctions we’ve imposed only hurt the innocent. From which the only conclusion possible is that we should do nothing, which is absurd.) I’m personally of the belief that anyone who is working to bring smallpox back to the world should not be allowed to live. Period. Whatever it takes to get to that point is what it takes. Threatening Iraq with a good talking-to isn’t going to get us there.

Okay, now to tick off the other half of my readers. I’ve been scanning a lot of blogs lately, and many of them feature a fair amount of personal information about the blogger. That’s nice, that’s part of the point, and it’s enjoyable. But I keep running across people who call their cats their “kids”. Cats are wonderful, I love them, I wish my allergies allowed me to have one. Love dogs, too. Don’t happen to believe you need to pick one over the other. But for people who think having pets is just like having children: get over yourself. It’s not. This is why: I last had a cat when I was 15. It was a beautiful tortoiseshell, affectionate but independent, and it lived mostly outdoors. It was run over while playing in a pile of leaves, and it died. I was very upset for a while. Then I got over it. That’s why cats are not kids.

Zoiks! I promise, I’ll be nicer next time.

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The odd thing about blogging is that you really do want people to read what you’ve written, even though you know it’s truly not that interesting. But still . . . so now and then I try to promote the blog and link up to other things. Yesterday I linked up to Geourl, a sort of geographical locator (but not a mapper, quite) for blogs, and within hours I’d been looked up through it by about 10 new people. Well, shut my mouth!

Cold morning for ski lessons, and I think instead of blowing $25 on and hour and a half of skiing while the kids are in lessons, I’m gonna strap on my snowshoes and hike up the hill. Anything to keep warm. Plus, I’ve got those fancy Leki trekking poles I’ve barely gotten to use, so this would be a good chance. Not that I wouldn’t like to ski again, but it’s going to be unsunny, so the saving grace of a morning on the slopes in single digits will be gone. Snowshoes it is.

Right now, the kids are in the living room looking at things under a very nice microscope my mom gave Hannah for Christmas, the kind with a screen so they don’t have to press their eyes up against a lens. Bekah: “Air! I want to look at air!” Tangerine strings and cranberries have been a great success so far.

Songs by which to take down the Christmas tree

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I know, I know, but we’ve been intensely busy, and tired in the evenings. Do you have any idea how many strings of grape lights a determined woman can put on one 6-foot tree? Still, the takedown is a bit easier than the up-put. Some nasty things are finally getting thrown out (nothing precious or handmade, don’t worry — the clothespin reindeer will survive). Apparently, the music to do this to is off-kilter Elvis Costello, meaning the “Bespoke Songs” collection of odd covers, and Anne Sofie von Otter’s collaboration. Most of it is usually too jazzy and way too down for me, but today it was perfect for putting away ornaments with brilliant sunshine streaming through the windows and heating up the room, sprays of dust coming off the tree as I moved the branches. And I think it’s also the perfect music to put behind my iPhoto slide shows, so that’s the next thing to work up (currently, it’s Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery”) (for those keeping track).