Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's SAD (Sucky Affective Disorder) Season

When Hell freezes over ...
... it'll be just like Bend.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or Sucky Affective Disorder, as I like to call the Bend version) afflicts millions of people in the United States during the gray, gloomy, dark months of winter, causing depression that can be severe enough to trigger suicide. The grayer and gloomier and darker conditions are, the more likely people are to develop SAD. (It's estimated that as much as 8% of the population of Alaska gets it.)

If you're prone to SAD, that's another excellent reason for NOT moving to Bend, Oregon.

First, there's the darkness. Bend sits at 44 degrees north latitude, which is almost halfway to the North Pole. That means in winter the days here are short -- not as short as Alaska's, but damn short. At this time of year the sun doesn't come up until about 8 and sets a little after 4. That's barely eight hours of daylight.

And then there's the grayness and gloominess. Chamber of Commerce bullshit about "300 days of sunshine a year" to the contrary notwithstanding, Bend is NOT sunny. It isn't even significantly sunnier than notoriously gray and drizzly Portland, as a look at the objective data shows.

Take a look at this chart from the Web site tracking the amount of daily sunshine in Bend through the year. Notice that the dark green line representing Bend's sunshine is BELOW the national average almost all year. Only for a brief period in July and August does it creep above average. From mid-October to mid-March (six months a year) Bend is far less sunny than the national average.

Now contemplate this chart showing Portland's sunshine levels. Notice it's almost identical to Bend's.

How can Bend possibly be as gray and gloomy as Portland when Portland is so much rainier? The explanation is pretty simple: The storms that blow in from the Pacific dump their rain on Portland (and snow on the Cascades) so there isn't much moisture left in them when they get to Bend -- but Bend still gets the clouds.

And then there are our sucky INVERSIONS, which we have described at length earlier. Portland doesn't get them as a rule, so it's sunny there on many winter days when Bend is socked in with iron-gray skies and freezing fog.

If you develop SAD, of course, you have various options for handling it -- antidepressant drugs, light therapy, taking a vacation in Cabo or Palm Springs. But the best option is to avoid it by living someplace that doesn't suck as hard as Bend does.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a Sucky Christmas

You'd think that, since they have to endure eight months of winter a year, Bend denizens would at least get the partial compensation of a white Christmas, right?


White Christmases are a rarity in Bend. (I'm talking about IN Bend, not up on the mountains outside of Bend.) Blackdog has lived here for 25 years and can remember only three or four white Christmases. One was last year, when we had a shitload of snow. Another was the year I arrived. There were one or two others in between.

Almost every year the weather in Bend at Christmas is like it is today: gray, dreary, drizzly and dismal. In other words, it sucks.

Just the same, from here in gray, dreary, drizzly, dismal, sucky Bend, your old friend Blackdog is wishing you a merry Christmas and a suckless New Year.

Postscript: 2:30 p.m. Christmas Day. No snow. 23 degrees. Another of our delightful inversions -- cold, gray, grim. Freezing fog in the forecast. Gosh, Christmas is just SWELL in the "Oregon sunbelt."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Sucktacularly Stupid Transportation System

Should you be stupid enough to disregard old Blackdog's friendly advice and move to Bend, you will soon discover that this city of 80,000 has a transportation system that's more appropriate to a cowtown of 20,000, and consequently has traffic jams like those you'd expect to find in a city of 200,000.

Two-lane farm roads are made to serve as main arteries. There's no rhyme or reason to the street layout in most of the town -- streets change names in mid-route and stop dead, to resume somewhere else a couple of miles away. As Blackdog's Yiddish-speaking friends would say, it's completely meshuggah. And the public transit system is a joke. (In fact, incredibly, until a few years ago there was no public transit at all.)

The best part, though, is the railroad line that runs north-to-south through the town, dividing the west side from the east side. Sometimes a single long, SL-O-O-O-o-o-o-w freight train blocks all of the major east-west crosstown roads at once. (The railroad seems to like to schedule such trains during rush hours.)

Replacing the railroad grade crossings with overpasses would solve the problem, of course. But for the past 30 years the city has encouraged haphazard growth without worrying about how to pay for the public services that growth demands, and consequently it's now broke and can't afford to fill potholes, much less build overpasses.

But at least when you're sitting in your car for half an hour waiting for a freight train to pass you can enjoy gazing at our beautiful mountains -- provided that you're headed west rather than east and that there isn't a shopping mall or some hideous STD (suburban tract development) blocking the view.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Really Suctackular Place to Retire

The forecast in yesterday's paper called for "snow flurries." As I write this there's about eight inches of snow on the ground and the temperature is in the single digits. Sub-zero temperatures are predicted tonight, and more snow is expected on the weekend.

There's been a big PR effort to promote Bend as a swell place to retire. A couple of magazines even got conned into putting it on their "Best Places to Retire" lists a few years ago.

Take it from your friend Blackdog: If you're considering retiring in Bend, or Central Oregon -- DON'T.

Do you want to be shoveling snow and falling on your ass on the ice and busting your hip when you're 70 or 80? No, you want to be out on the golf course or out on a boat fishing or sitting by the pool with a drink in your hand.

Besides, our winter weather makes travel "over the passes" to Portland and the Willamette Valley even more difficult (sometimes impossible), heightening the sense of isolation that comes from living in the ass end of nowhere.

Bend also does the shittiest job of snow removal of anyplace I've ever lived. The main arterials get plowed and sanded, more or less, but the residential streets -- fuhgeddaboudit.

The only people who should even THINK about retiring here are the fortunate few who can afford a second home in a warmer place to flee to during Bend's frigid season -- that's October through May.

FOOTNOTE: Here's some medical evidence why Bend is a sucky place to retire:

"We heart surgeons have long known that there are many more heart attacks in the winter -- in fact, a whopping 50% more. When you go outside in the freezing cold, your blood gets thicker and your blood pressure rises, which creates the perfect storm for a heart attack. Plunging suddenly into freezing cold water can cause this to happen, but just being outside when it's cold can increase your risk if you are unprotected. Cold air also causes tiny cracks in lining of the bronchial tubing in your lungs which then swell and produce fluid. The expression "come inside and put a coat on before you catch a cold!" was referring to this process -- there weren't more cold viruses out in the snow that your grandmother was referring to, your poor lungs were just having a heck of a time with cold dry air. Flu viruses thrive in cold temperatures also, and we have an entire season named for the flu as a result."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Sucky "Inversions"

We are currently experiencing a particularly sucky weather phenomenon, common to Bend in winter, known as an "inversion."

When an inversion happens, a blanket of (relatively) warm air slides in on top of a layer of cold air, trapping the cold air beneath. A layer of cloud forms where the two layers meet, producing a cold, gray, gloomy, dreary weather situation.

Often the cloud layer extends all the way down to the surface, producing fog. And when the air is cold enough -- as it usually is in Bend in the winter -- we get the delightful phenomenon of freezing fog.

Until a new weather system moves in to push the blanket of (relatively) warm air away, the inversion will linger -- often for a week or more. You haven't experienced the full suckiness of Bend until you've been through 10 days of an inversion with sub-zero temperatures and freezing fog.

What makes an inversion doubly infuriating is that it happens during periods when high pressure dominates, so if it wasn't for the sucky inversion we would be enjoying clear, sunny skies. During an inversion the tops of the nearby Cascades mountains are cloudless, as they are today. (See Mount Bachelor's webcam.)

Bend's inversions are so famous, or notorious, that the locally based Deschutes Brewery has named one of its ales in its honor -- Inversion IPA. Only in Bend would people actually celebrate sucktackular weather.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Sucky Snow Whiners

It happens every year around the end of September: Bend's skiing and snowboarding population starts whining about the snow. Or, more precisely, the absence of it.

"Waaaah, waaaaah!" goes the whine. "When is it gonna snow? When are we gonna get our snow? We need some powder! Waaaah, waaaaah!"

(In fact true powder snow is pretty rare on our local mountain; we're more likely to get the heavy, wet, sticky stuff known as "Cascades concrete.")

Ironically, many of these same people complain when I gripe about Bend's sucky weather. "If you don't like it here, Blackdog, then move!" is the typical line.

Well, as for moving, I'm working on that. In the meantime, YOUR damn infantile whining about the snow irritates the hell out of me. If eight months of winter isn't enough for you and you want 12 months of snow, move to Fairbanks.

Meanwhile, just STFU. Please.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Is the End, My Friend

Today is Halloween, which traditionally marks the start of the Great Sucky Season in Bend. Say goodbye to those nice, sunny Indian summer days we've had once in a while for the past month and say hello to seven and a half months of relentless suckiness. As I'm writing this (10 a.m.) it's still bright and sunny, but clouds are rolling in from the south, southwest and west, and we'll be deep in the suck by the time the trick-or-treaters start making the rounds.

My colleague in bloggery, Jack Elliott, who pretends to actually enjoy Bend's sucky climate, has made a bet that I won't be able to keep doing the Daily Suck Index for a year and already is trying to wriggle out of it on a technicality, so I'd better catch up on the past week.

Tuesday was mostly cloudy with some drizzle in the morning and occasional "sunbreaks" in the afternoon, temperatures reaching the low 50s.

Daily Suck Index for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009: 5

Wednesday was pretty much the same as Tuesday.

Daily Suck Index for Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009: 5

Things got considerably better on Thursday -- a lot more sun, high in the low 60s.

Daily Suck Index for Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009: 3

Friday was almost completely clear with a high in the low 60s. Unfortunately a blustery wind spoiled what would otherwise have been a 2 or even a 1 day. (Blackdog does not like wind.)

Daily Suck Index for Friday, Oct. 30, 2009: 3

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Wind Suck Factor

Bend has an amazing variety of weather. Unfortunately, almost all of it is bad.

Take the wind, for example. It blows a lot -- not like in Kansas or Wyoming, but a lot. And it has the unique ability (at least Blackdog has never encountered it anywhere else) to blow from all directions at once, so that in whatever direction you're walking, running or biking, it's blowing in your face. Blackdog knows this must be scientifically impossible ... but ... somehow it does.

Monday was a genuinely sucky day, with gloomy gray clouds, highs only in the low 50s and some pretty heavy rain off and on all day.

Daily Suck Index for Monday, Oct. 26, 2009: 6

After a little freezing rain overnight and in the early morning, Tuesday turned out to be a pretty nice day -- pretty nice for observing from inside a warm house, that is. There were occasional "sunbreaks," but the temperatures barely made it into the 40s and a biting wind (blowing from all directions at once) made it feel colder than the proverbial witch's tit.

Daily Suck Index for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009: 6

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Suckiness of Fake 'Friendliness'

A lot of newcomers to Bend comment on how "friendly" the people here are. It's true, in a way. Restaurant servers are never (well, hardly ever) surly. People will chat you up in the Costco checkout line, in the line at the bank, in the movie ticket line -- almost anywhere.

People in the checkout lines at the supermarket, the coffee shop or wherever also will strike up long conversations with the clerk or barista about their children, their grandchildren, their latest vacation, their planned vacation, etc., etc. -- which Blackdog thinks is pretty damn rude to the people waiting behind them in line, but again, this is what passes for "friendliness."

But is making small talk with strangers really "friendliness"? How deep does such "friendliness" go? How sincere is it?

In Blackdog's experience, the "friendly" folks of Bend will stab you in the back just as quickly as people on the East Coast, or anywhere else. And I've never lived in a place where vicious rumors were spread so quickly and eagerly.

Blackdog would rather have a few real friends who I can trust and rely on than any number of smiles from waitresses or cheerful chats with strangers in front of the ATM. Fake friendliness sucks.

About yesterday's weather: It started out nice but turned overcast, windy and kinda chilly (low 50s) as the next sucky weather front started to move in.

Daily Suck Index for Sunday, Oct. 25: 5

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Little Morsel of Unsuckiness

Saturday was -- painful as it is to admit it -- a surprisingly pleasant day. It appears the weather gods are doling out tiny little tidbits of Indian summer this year -- a day here, a day there. Saturday was almost cloudless with very little wind and temperatures in the mid- to upper 50s. If it had been 10 degrees warmer I'd have been tempted to give it a 0. As it was ...

Daily Suck Index for Saturday, Oct. 24: 1

But fear not: On Halloween, six days from now, winter REALLY slams down.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catchin' Up With the Suck

Blackdog has been goofing off for a couple of days, so we have to play a little catch-up.

Wednesday was a somewhat sucky day: temps in the low 60s (although the wind made it seem colder) and mostly cloudy skies, with occasional "sunbreaks."

Daily Suck Index for Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009: 3

Thursday was an almost perfect fall day -- temps in the low 60s, not much wind, almost cloudless. If it had been a little warmer Blackdog would have given it the coveted (and rare) 0 rating. As it was ...

Daily Suck Index for Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009: 1

Suck-free and almost suck-free weather doesn't last long in Bend, and sure enough, suckiness returned today. Heavy clouds, no sun, occasional drizzle, temps in the mid-50s.

Daily Suck Index for Friday, Oct. 23, 2009: 4

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moderately Sucky, With Increasing Suckiness

Well, it wasn't TOO sucky in Bend today -- a fair amount of sunshine, temperatures in the upper 50s to lower 60s (although the wind made it feel a lot colder). But that wind means more suckiness on the way, and sure enough the forecast calls for rain and a high in the 50s tomorrow.

Blackdog rates a day for suckiness on how pleasant (or unpleasant) it is to be outdoors without a coat or sweater and/or rain gear. On that basis, today was a little below the midpoint on the sucky scale. Therefore ...

Daily Suck Index for Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009: 3

Just Another Sucky Monday

Today was more like a typical Bend mid-October day -- gray and dreary, with heavy clouds and temperatures in the mid-50s. There was no rain, snow or sleet, fortunately, but all in all it wasn't the kind of day for a picnic in the park.

Daily Suck Index for Monday, Oct. 19, 2009: 4

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Surprisingly Unsucky

The forecast called for a far more sucky day than today turned out to be -- pretty sunny, no precip, not much wind, temps in the mid-60s. If it had been just a tad warmer Blackdog would be forced to give it a 0. But since 0 is reserved for absolutely flawless, totally suck-free days (just as 10 is reserved for the most sucktacular possible days, e.g. blizzards) Blackdog can't hand out the 0 rating like candy at Halloween. Therefore ...

Daily Suck Index for Saturday, Oct. 18, 2009: 1

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Return of the Suck

As predicted by Blackdog, Bend weather has begun reverting to suckiness. Today started out beautifully -- sunny and almost as warm as yesterday. But a strong south wind was blowing, and that is an infallible sign that things are about to get sucky pronto. Sure enough, the heavy clouds began piling in from the southeast in the afternoon. Look for significant suckiness for the rest of the week.

Daily Suck Index for Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009: 3

Friday, October 16, 2009

Whaddaya Know, a Suck-Free Day

Even here amidst the suckitude of Bend, Oregon, the weather gods throw us a consolatory bone once in a while.

They did it today, serving up a perfect gem of an Indian summer day: virtually cloudless, light breeze, temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s. Try as I might (and believe me, I did try) I could not think of a single sucky attribute. Therefore ...

Daily Suck Index for Friday, Oct. 16, 2009: 0

But don't worry -- less than two weeks ago we had seven inches of snow on the ground, and we'll be back into the suckiness before long.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Only a Mildly Sucky Winter Ahead?

Source blogger Bob Woodward, who's been in Oregon forever (I think he came with the Lewis & Clark expedition), writes that our remarkably sucky weather in October -- we had seven inches of snow on Oct. 4, and a couple of days ago the temperature was in the 30s with sleet and freezing rain -- presages a mild winter.

"It's my humble opinion that we'll have a mild winter," he writes. "This is based on my thirty-two years in Central Oregon. During that period, every time we've had lousy weather in October the ensuing winter months were mild. ... I'm betting on a mild winter which will be a comfort to those who moved here recently expecting Bend to have mild temperate (read no snow) winters and those fabled '300 days of sunshine a year.'"

Well, the "300 days of sunshine a year" line is bullshit, as anybody with an IQ higher than his shoe size should know. And what makes Bend winters truly sucktacular is not that they're extremely cold and snowy (they're not, usually) but that they're gray, dreary and dismal -- and they go on FOREVER.

Speaking of gray, dreary and dismal, we had a pretty gray and dreary day in Bend today -- no rain, but less sunshine than yesterday and temperatures in the mid-50s.

Daily Suck Index for Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009: 5

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Semi-Sucky, Portland Sort of Day

Today was a Portland sort of day in Bend -- temperatures in the mid-50s, broken cloud cover, rain showers of varying intensity interspersed with dry periods and even some sunbreaks.

For the benefit of non-Oregonians, a "sunbreak" is when the clouds part and the sun peeks through momentarily. Oregonians, especially Portlanders, get orgasmic over "sunbreaks" -- presumably because seeing even a little bit of sunshine is such a rare treat for them.

All in all, a much less sucky day than yesterday, which felt more like mid-winter than fall. Mid-50s and rain is a lot easier to take than low 30s and sleet.

Daily Suck Index for Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009: 5

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Introducing the Daily Suck Index

Today Bend Sux is proud to introduce a new feature: The Daily Suck Index.

The index will rate each day on the basis of its suck factor on a scale of 0 (no suckiness) to 10 (extreme suckiness). Suckiness will be determined by various factors including temperature, precipitation (if any), persistence of precipitation, nature of precipitation (rain? snow? sleet? hail? all four?) and amount of sunshine (if any).

At the end of each month a Monthly Suck Index will be compiled and posted based on the average of the Daily Suck Indexes, and at the end of a year the Grand Annual Suck Index will be announced, based on the average of all the Monthly Suck Indexes.

On days when Blackdog is not present in Bend to observe conditions personally, the Daily Suck Index will be compiled on the basis of official National Weather Service data.

So without further palaver, let's get down to it.

Today's conditions: Temperatures in the 20s to low 30s, heavy overcast with sleet and freezing rain.

Today's Daily Suck Index: 7

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mostly Sucky, With a Chance of Increasing Suckiness

One thing I've noticed about the little weather blurb that appears at the top right-hand corner of the front page of our local daily rag is that it never quite tells the full, sucky weather story.

For example, a day that's going to be in the 20s with the wind blowing 50 miles per hour will be described as "cool and breezy."

Or a day of almost continuous rain will be listed as having a "chance of showers."

A mostly cloudy day becomes "partly sunny." A completely cloudy day is "partly cloudy." And so on.

Once -- just once -- I'd like to see the weather blurb say something like: "Sucky today, sucky tomorrow, sucky all week, and sucky every damn day until the middle of June. That's what you get for moving to Bend, suckers."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sucky Season Arrives Early

September is barely over, but Bend already has given us a taste of the spectacular suckiness to come: Four to seven inches of snow dumped on our little "paradise" yesterday, knocking branches off trees that haven't lost their leaves (or in many cases even turned color) yet, knocking out power to 8,500 homes and pretty much killing the second day of the Bend "Fall Festival" (not that the first day's weather was that much better).

Of course, as they always do, the people I call Bend "lifers" -- born here, never left here, will die here -- were insisting they enjoyed the wintry suckiness. Bend lifers are the queens and kings of denial; they will always claim that they had a good time no matter how sucky the situation. (I've even heard them claim to enjoy cutting and splitting firewood.) Put a Bend lifer in a Nazi concentration camp for six months, ask him later what it was like and he'll say something like: "It was FUN! I made a lot of new friends, met a lot of really unusual, interesting people -- that Dr. Mengele is a fascinating character -- and I lost 55 pounds!"

OTOH there's my brother-in-bloggery, Jack Elliot, who moved here from Southern California about a year ago and still maintains he likes our climate. He's in denial, I think. But he seems like a smart guy and I bet he'll wise up eventually.

But enough carping about the weather. There are so many other sucky things about Bend -- our corrupt real estate industry, for instance -- that I've decided I should devote more attention to them as well. So starting with the next post, I will.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Still Waiting for Spring

Well, wasn't the first half of June simply spectacularly sucky? At least the cold has moderated somewhat; temperatures are now soaring into the 60s on some days. Damn, break out the shorts and flip-flops!

Speaking of suckiness, they've cancelled the Bend Brew Fest this year because the OLCC was riding their ass -- some bullsnot about not being able to "monitor" the event adequately. Now how sucky is THAT??? One of the precious FEW things that doesn't suck about Bend, and now they've taken that away from us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Cold Really Sucks

Well, it's now mid-April, well into what is considered "spring" in most parts of America, and the high in Bend today was 44 degrees.

Tomorrow promises to be even more sucktacular -- a predicted high of 41 degrees.

And snow.

Of course everybody in Bend is saying this weather is "unusual." Whenever the weather in Bend sucks (i.e. most of the time) the locals will tell you it's "unusual."

Unusually cold, unusually rainy, unusually windy, unusually snowy. Or all four at once.

The thing to remember is this: Unusually sucky weather is USUAL in Bend. What is truly unusual is really NICE weather.

But stick around -- the suckiness should start to moderate a little bit in the next month, and within about a month after that our "summer" will arrive. All eight weeks of it.

Then you can enjoy playing outdoors -- but look out for the thunderstorms.