Monday, November 22, 2010

The Finter-Winter-Sprinter-Wummer Sucky Season

BendBroadband, our local cable TV and Internet provider, is running some cute commercials referring to the distinctive Central Oregon season of "Finter." That's the time when according to the calendar it's fall, but it feels like Winter.

Finter definitely describes the situation in Bend today -- it's still two days before Thanksgiving and almost a month before the Winter Solstice and some of the trees still have a few leaves on them, but the temperature is in the upper 20s and up to eight inches of snow is forecast for today and tomorrow.

After Finter, of course, comes the actual official Winter, followed by the Spring-That-Feels-Like-Winter, which might be dubbed "Sprinter."

And then comes the period of eight weeks or so we call "Summer," although even in Summer we experience some days so chilly that the label of "Wummer" might be applied.

Call it Finter, Winter, Sprinter or Wummer -- it all sucks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Big Chill: Dining Out in Bend

A group of friends prepares to embark for dinner in a Bend restaurant.

Not long after moving to Bend, I noticed something peculiar about the local restaurants: Most of them didn't provide any place for you to hang your coat and hat.

After living here a few months and going out to dine a few times in Bend restaurants, I figured out the reason: The restaurants are so cold in winter that you'll need to keep your coat and hat on.

Most of the restaurant owners in Bend seem to think that 45 to 50 degrees is a nice, cozy temperature at which to dine.

And then we have the common phenomenon of Bendites who love to stand in the doorway of a restaurant for 20 minutes at a time blabbing with their friends with the door wide open, letting gusts of 10-degree air blow in over the shivering patrons.

Jack Elliott, my friend and comrade in bloggery, has suggested that the restaurant temperatures are kept low for the greater comfort of the kitchen staff. With all due respect to Mr. Elliott, that seems implausible. If I owned a restaurant I'd worry more about the comfort of my customers than my kitchen staff.

I think the more likely explanation is that Bend restaurant owners are just too damn cheap to turn the heat up.

I'll say one thing for this policy: If you're having champagne with dinner, you won't have to worry about it getting too warm. Won't need any ice bucket to chill it, either.

Getting frostbite in restaurants -- just one more reason why Bend really, truly, deeply and profoundly sucks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bulletin Confirms: Bend Climate Sucks

Bend's local daily newspaper, The Bulletin, is not the place to look for dynamic, hard-hitting journalism. The shadow of controversy rarely darkens its pages. Instead its "news" coverage tends toward the bland and fluffy, with stories along the lines of "Prineville Boy Nurses Ailing Squirrel Back to Health."

One time the paper devoted the bulk of its front page for two consecutive days to an account of a cat that had to be rescued from a tree in LaPine. (Yes, really.)

The Bulletin also is an indefatigable booster of all things Bend, never tiring of reminding everybody about the (supposed) delights of our climate (including our mythical "300 days of sunshine") and our glorious "outdoor lifestyle."

Every once in a while, though, the truth slips through.

A couple of days ago, Julie Johnson, a Bulletin columnist, wrote a piece headlined: "Bend all atwitter over snow." (Yes, really.)

That in itself was no problem; even The Bulletin admits that it sometimes snows in Bend, and even I admit that snow can be pretty, and even kinda fun.

But at the end of the column, Julie recklessly ventured onto thin ice.

"I’m going to take this old-fashioned (non-Facebook) opportunity to explain why so many of us complain about the first snowfall in Bend: It’s because we mourn the other seasons," she wrote.

"In Central Oregon, spring is a no-show, summer is just passing through on its way to somewhere else, and autumn is cut short in its prime. We mourn those seasons we barely got to know.

"But winter, we know. Winter lasts until June. Winter returns before its time. Winter overstays its welcome, and so each year when it comes back, I offer a moment of silence for the softer seasons it usurped."

There it is: Official confirmation from Bend's Newspaper of Record that (a) winter in Bend does, indeed, really suck, and (b) it goes on for seven miserable months.

Julie Johnson sounds like a nice person. I really hope she hasn't just written her way out of a job.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bend Goes on DST (Dismal Sucky Time)

On Sunday, Bend, like the rest of America, went off Daylight Saving Time and back onto standard time. This means that the evening darkness, already arriving ridiculously early, began arriving an hour earlier.

Of course it also means that the sun rises an hour earlier, but who the hell wants to get up to see the sun rise?

Bend's suckiness -- the climatic aspects of it, anyway -- is largely the product of two attributes: its altitude (3,623 feet above sea level) and its latitude (43 degrees, 3 minutes and 23 seconds north of the Equator -- nearly halfway to the North Pole, and just one degree south of Bangor, Maine). These two attributes mean that it's cold more or less year-round, and cold and dark in the winter.

Bend's relatively high latitude compounds the misery of its dreary, cloudy winters: Not only is the sun behind clouds most of the time, but there's precious little time for it to shine during the brief intervals when the clouds aren't there.

There's a slick little gadget on the Web called the Daylight Hours Explorer that lets you determine how many hours of daylight a place at any given latitude receives on any given day of the year. The Daylight Hours Explorer tells us that on Nov. 9, a place at latitude 43N -- like Bend -- gets 9.8 hours of daylight. By Dec. 21, the winter solstice, it will be down to 8.8 hours.

On the other hand, San Diego, California (latitude approximately 33N) gets 10.5 hours of daylight on Nov. 9 and 9.8 hours on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year.

On the third hand, Nome, Alaska (latitude 64N) gets only 6.8 hours of daylight on Nov. 9 and 3.6 hours on Dec. 21. But who the fuck would voluntarily live in Nome, Alaska?

Of course, every place on the planet, from Nome to Bend to San Diego to Tierra del Fuego, averages 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness per day over the course of the whole year. Places like Bend that get relatively short days in the winter make up for it by getting relatively long days in the summer.

The catch is that the long summer days don't really "make up for it." The human organism can't store up sunlight during the summer and release it during the dark, dismal days of winter, when it needs it. That's why people in northern latitudes are prone to such afflictions as rickets and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So if you find yourself in Bend during Dismal Sucky Time, your choices basically boil down to two: 1) buy a light therapy device and lots of cod liver oil, or 2) move.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And Now, the REAL Sucky Season Starts

All in all, October wasn't too sucktacular in Bend. We had more days of sun (20) than suck (11), and even a few days of genuinely pleasant, semi-warm, Indian summer weather.

Since Oct. 22, however, it's been pretty much solid suck all the way, and based on Blackdog's 25 years of experience we can expect more or less continuously sucky conditions to prevail from now until late June.

The Bend climate is truly suckalicious not only because the weather is cold and gray more days than not, but also because the sunny, tolerably warm days are crowded into a pathetically brief period -- two or three months, mostly.

Of the first 10 months of 2010, five (June, July, August, September and October) have had more days of sun than days of suck -- 118 to 35. That's almost an 80/20 sun-to-suck ratio -- pretty nice. Half of the sunny days (59) came in July and August.

On the other hand, the entire five-month period from January through May had only 61 days of sun. That works out to a nearly 60/40 suck-to-sun ratio.

Now that November's here, don't expect the sunny day total to rise significantly. Sunshine is going to be a very scarce commodity in Bend for the rest of the current year.

I'm expecting the final, total annual suck-to-sun ratio to be roughly 60/40, maybe a bit worse. Stay tuned.

October Totals

Days of Sun: 20
Days of Suck: 11

YTD Totals

Days of Sun: 179
Days of Suck: 125

Postscript: In compliance with the terms of my bet that Bend would not record 160 days of sunshine in 2010, which I lost, Jack Elliott presented me with The Shirt of Shame this month, and I wore it in public, once. MORAL: You Don't Bet Jack.