Crack Goes the House!

It’s been a weird couple of days here in the Midwest, with the coldest temperatures and wind chills in memory testing even the heartiest of souls. “Stay inside!” the meteorologists all implored. “Don’t go anywhere unless you absolutely must!” Well alrighty then, all good Minnesotans replied, as we essentially shut down our state for about 40 hours. Starting last week Tuesday afternoon, as the mercury fell and wind chills began hitting -30 to -40 degree below zero (yes, you’re reading that correctly),  businesses closed and sent employees home, posting notices on websites and Facebook pages that they would’t reopen until Thursday morning. Schoolchildren got another winter day off from school as parents who were considered essential workers and didn’t get to stay home from work scrambled to make arrangements for what to do with their kids. School bus drivers in rural areas breathed a sigh of relief that they were given one less white knuckle driving day with high winds and poor visibility.

If you’ve never experienced this bone biting cold, consider yourself lucky. Going out to get the garbage can is an adventure, necessitating multiple layers of fleece, wool, down and other protective gear. I take care of my neighbor’s dogs several days a week, letting them out midday, and I have to selfishly say getting texts from them saying they were working from home this week and there wasn’t a need for me to run over was a gift!

There is a really interesting phenomenon that happens with temperature drops, something my husband and I discovered a few years ago. It seems to only happen when the temperature get below about -20, so it’s infrequent, and if you’ve never had this happen before, it can scare the daylights, or in our case nightlights, out of you. The first time it happened, it was probably around midnight, and we’d just been asleep a short time when there was this loud “crack”! that startled us both out of sleep. Asking each other “did you hear that?” and “what the hell?” we got up, looked around and found nothing. A short while later it happend again…and again. About a half dozen times during the night, scaring us half to death each time. It was so loud, if you can imagine someone throwing a baseball at the side of your house, that’s about how it sounded. At the time we didn’t have any idea what it was.

Since then, I’ve learned that it’s something that happens when it gets very cold in winter.

From an article at CBS Local:

Joe Nelson owns Twin City Home Remodeling. He says our houses are made of all different materials — steel, concrete, vinyl – and all of these materials expands and contract as the temperatures change.

Huge temperature drop-offs like we’ve seen recently cause all those materials to contract.

“When they rub up against each other or misplace, they’re going to pop,” Nelson said.

Well, this week with the dropping temps it happened again. Fortunately it was during the day this time, but startling nonetheless.

I also read that one of the major fuel suppliers in the state had so much difficulty keeping up with the demand for natural gas that they had to ask customers all over the state to reduce consumption and keep their homes at 63 degrees this week. Folks, that’s NOT very warm. To remain comfortable at that temperature, you’ll need sweaters, blankets, warm socks and slippers and even then you might be chilled. But we Minnesotans are tough and hearty, and we do what we must. So we lower our thermostats, and bundle up a bit more. It’s a darn good thing we did, too, because the wind chill was as cold as I’ve seen it since I was much, much younger. Here’s how cold:

IMG_2904Note that the actual temperature was probably ONLY about -32 degrees. It just felt like -52 with the wind chills. Just. Brrrr. What’s really bizarre was that the next day was  24 degrees. Above zero. That’s a 50 degree swing in two days, and wow, it hit 36 on Sunday!

I also heard that the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin declared that he thinks we’re getting soft (the country, not necessarily Minnesota) because “school districts were being too “soft” on kids when they canceled classes due to chilly weather.” He later said he was being only “slightly facetious”. Well @govmattbevin, feel free to join us up here any time in January, in your bermuda shorts and flip flops, since you seem to think that it’s not so very cold. Personally, I think you spoke on a topic that you have little to no knowledge on. But I’m sure someone here could take you ice fishing (without an ice house!), teach you about the great outdoors in Minnesota in winter. We’ll see who’s soft. I’m guessing Governer Bevin lasts less than the time it takes a fish to bite.


What’s in a Song?

Ah, the classics. Whether it be a book, or a song, we all have our favorites. When we read or listen to them again (and again) they never feel old or tired, but more like a comfortable blanket, cozy and warm. Winter is chock full of songs like that, especially around Christmas time, although I have to admit sometimes for me it’s as much about the style of how the song is being sung as it is about the song itself. I can rediscover a new twist on an old song and find it’s become a brand new favorite.

A few years ago a couple of movies came out that got a bit of buzz. I didn’t see them right away, but when I did I found a whole new genre of music I didn’t realize I would appreciate, a cappella choirs. Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 were fun, peppy and silly, and if you’ve not seen them, they’re a good time, especially if you think you might like to sing along to something. Since then I found out my nephew joined a mens a cappella choir in college, and I’ve been able to see him sing, and I’ve also discoved a wonderful group called Pentatonix. If you’ve never heard of them, I’d encourage you to check out this video of “Hallelujah”, along with some of their other ones. I thought when I’d heard the version of Hallelujah sung by Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes and Kurt Nilsen, that it was one of the most beautiful versions I’d ever heard and promptly downloaded it. Pentatonix brings an entirely new vision to it, and it’s amazing. I hope that Leonard Cohen would be proud.

Another song that I’ve always liked, and it seems we get a new iteration of this one every few years as well, is “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Searching for it in iTunes brings up at least 100 different iterations, with a message at the bottom saying “less relevant items are not displayed”. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times…haven’t we? But what do you know about it?

The song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, near the end of WWII, as a duet with his wife for their Navarro Hotel housewarming party as a way to signify to guests it was time to leave. According to  Wikipedia’s page about the song:

Frank would introduce himself as the “Evil of Two Loessers”, a play on the theme of the song, trying to keep the girl from leaving, and on the phrase “lesser of two evils“. Lynn Garland (his wife) considered it their song and was furious when Loesser told her he was selling the song. Garland wrote, “I felt as betrayed as if I’d caught him in bed with another woman.” He sold it to MGM.

Now, I’ve listened to the song, and heard the words, and never was very much bothered by them. Perhaps I should have been, or perhaps I’m not a deep enough thinker, because I ran across an article this morning where a couple from Minnesota has imagined the lyrics and changed this from a song of creepy coercion to one emphasizing the need for consent and my first thought was “huh?” I actually had to go and read the original lyrics (which you can do here) to fully understand everything they were talking about. I’d never learned all the words, and honestly, my impression of it was more one of gentle teasing between two people, probably because of how it’s always been sung. After reading the new lyrics they’ve come up with, I can see how – viewed through the lens of the world in which we live – the original lyrics are more disturbing than I’d realized.

Having said that, while I’ll use that to educate myself and become more aware, I’m also not going to stop enjoying the song when I hear it, and will probably continue to sing along. The mental movie that I play will be a cheery scene where the woman isn’t pushed or coerced, but is strong and confident and can leave any time she wants to, and the man is confident enough in himself as well to not stop her, as it all should be.