May 30, 2003

Furry Weather Report: Foggy rain or rainy fog

Returning home today from a trip to Sunnyvale to visit with a client (interviewing a software engineer), I passed through a number of microclimates. Well, for that matter, I passed through several microclimates on my way down. I was reminded of Mark Twain's comment about the weather in San Francisco; something like, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change." Not strictly true; for changeable weather, nothing has the Orkney Islands beat, but true enough.

I love San Franciso—to visit, that is. I don't think I could ever live there, being more of a country girl than a city girl, but I never tire of the view of the Golden Gate Bridge as I swing around and down and out of the Waldo Grade tunnel heading south and west toward the bridge and the city beyond. Those two proud towers painted with that crappy orange rust-preventing paint always lift themselves into my heart. I feel lucky to live where I can see them any time I want.

It would be a great loss to the world were they to be demolished. I used to have nightmares when I was quite young about being in a far future time when the San Francisco Bay was no more—the passage into the bay closed with hills, the bay itself long gone, with the twisted remnants of the Golden Gate Bridge (destroyed by some ages-old war, perhaps, or just the twisting power of time and earth movements) standing in the shallow waters just off shore from the coastal hills. The climate was quite temperate in these dreams. But I digress.

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May 15, 2003

The Furry Weather Report: Warm and Dry

I'm going to resist the temptation to hold forth at length this time and just report that the weather is turning warmer and drier. We've had an unusual (and on my part, quite welcome) amount of rain this year, but the California summer is rapidly approaching. I have a patch of California Poppies beside my driveway, and Sunshine, out big orange-and-white cat who is afraid of his own shadow, was nestled among them yesterday. It was a beautiful sight.

That patch was carefully nurtured back from the death I thought it suffered at the careless hands of some neighborhood boys last year, who yanked out everything despite my pointing out the poppies and telling them to leave them be. The boys didn't bother pulling things out by their roots, though, which meant more weeding by hand this year for me, but it also meant that the poppies they massacred had a chance to come back too. And they did.

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February 27, 2003

Furry Weather Report: Chaos Theory

This morning at 8 AM it was 38º Fahrenheit--clear and crisp, in a shivery kind of way, after an unpredicted rain. (For those of you on the Celsius system, 38º F is 3º Celsius--in either system, just a few degrees above freezing.)

I have gotten used to our meteorologists being fairly good at predicting the near-term weather, and when they said that the rain was moving to Southern California (in a big way), leaving it clear up here for the next few days, I believed them. That is, until I saw the low-lying clouds yesterday morning that definitely looked like rain in the next 24 hours to me. And I was right. Later in the evening. I heard the rain falling hard and steadily on my roof, and the cats started coming in with sprinkles on their fur.

The reason why the weather cannot be correctly predicted 100% of the time is that, although there is a certain kind of orderliness to how the weather works, it is never exactly the same twice. There are many factors that affect the weather, some more acknowledged than others, all of which come together to create that magnificent and ever-changing display in our sky and air.

Many scientists have come to believe in what is called the chaos theory. Now, in the general way, "chaos" means a complete and total lack of order; disorderliness, in some minds bordering on malevolence. However, in the scientific sense, "chaos theory" refers instead to the concept that certain systems are so complex, and are open to influences from "outside" sources, that it is impossible to make specific predictions about what is going to happen, yet there is enough orderliness that it is possible to make general predictions. Because of the complexity of the interactions between the forces in a chaotic system, a slight change at one point can have big results later on.

You may have heard the simple example of how a chaotic system works: A butterfly flapping its wings in Japan could set in motion a series of events that result in a storm in California. Which pretty much encapsulates it rather nicely.

The "butterfly" could be anything, and doesn't have to just be one thing; it could be a lot of little things, or one big thing and some little things, and so on. The point is that there are so many other things in the system, and the interactions between them are so varied and complex, that introducing anything new into the system has big effects. Also, even having something change that is already in the system, or even just having things withn the system go about their daily business of being and acting, will still result in unpredictable results--at least at the level of fine detail, though at a higher and more general level, general results can be predicted.

Using the weather, here's a practical example: We can say with confidence that the Pacific Northwest will experience storms from October/Novemberish through March/Aprilish. That's a general, high-level prediction. However, we cannot predict exactly when those storms will happen, or how much rain will fall, for any given day more than a few days away. We can't say right now that next fall the rains will begin on such-and-such a date. There are too many factors and there is too much that can happen between now and any time too distant in the future.

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January 07, 2003

The Furry Weather Report: Attitudes

Last night, the cats came in several times with frosty fur. I don't mean that their fur was literally touched with frost, but that their fur was so cold that breathing the air in around them, or gently stroking their heads and backs, one could feel the touch of frost in the air outside. After a brief spring-like day which was clear and almost warm, the night's temperatures had dropped to near chilling. I am sure my young fruit trees are quite happy; all the more likely that they will produce good fruit in this coming year.

The temperature during the day is in the mid-sixties (Fahrenheit); a bit cool, but not uncomfortable. It got as low as 42.6 degrees out in my back yard (I have a remote sensor that reports to a clock I have by my desk), and is only up to 47.1 degrees outside now, and beautifully foggy, at 9:48 AM. At 42 degrees, a frost is still some ten degrees away, but it is cool enough to notice. Though the cats don't seem to mind. Their paw pads get cold, though, and when they cuddle with me, I hold their paws in my warm hands, which they not only seem to appreciate, but to almost demand. Or at least take as their due. I don't mind; the warmth in my heart from a loving, cuddling cat, no matter how frosty, snuggled up on my chest far exceeds any chill from their cold paws and fur. I even enjoy their cold wet noses touching my own nose or cheek.

The rains seem to have let up for a while. Though we have had record rainfalls here in Northern Califormia in the past two months (at least for as long as people have been keeping track in this area, which is only for less than a century), yet still I enjoy the rain--for that matter, I enjoy all sorts of weather--and I am glad for every drop we get, for every bit of rain now means that much less of a drought come summer.

It used to puzzle me that people would feel otherwise in this state (California), which is, on the whole, a semi-arid state, meaning sort of a desert. It puzzled me even more that in Tucson Arizona, where I lived for seven wonderful years and which is an outright desert receiving only 11 inches of rain a year, people could ever complain about the rain.

It gradually dawned on me over the years that many of the people who complain about the rain were also the sort who complain about the sun or fog or wind or any other weather. In short, nothing pleases them, and they are always wishing for things to be other than they are at present. It is always too hot or too cold or too dry or too wet. They are constantly looking forward to when they are sure things will be better, toward the day of "perfect" weather, never realizing that the weather isn't the problem--it is their inability to enjoy what is in front of them right now, their inability to find perfection in the rain or the fog or the heat. And anyway, the weather, as I am sure someone has already remarked, will always be with us. (Paraphrasing Jesus's comment from the Bible: "For you have the poor always with you, but me you have not always." (Mark 14:3-9.) I quite presumptuously am sure he doesn't mind.)

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December 14, 2002

The Furry Weather Report: Animal Rights

I haven't posted a furry weather report in quite a while, as the entries would have been quite monotonously the same. "Hot, dry, dusty." It was an unusually long, dry summer here in wine country, though it was good for the grape harvest. Not perfect, but it should be a good year for wines made in Sonoma County.

However, the past month has been a different matter. The winter storms have swept in with vigor. It has been raining off and on all week, and yesterday and today the storm picked up strength. The weather person on the radio last night gave a coastal storm warning, predicting twelve-foot waves, and warned of downed branches and power outages.

Today, as predicted, it is storming hard, with a strong wind and rain coming down so thickly that sometimes the fence in my back yard, a mere sixteen feet from my back patio door, is partially obscured. I love the wild energy of rainstorms, and consider them to be one of nature's ways of pruning trees. Though I have heard today that not just branches, but entire trees are down, and the Russian River, not normally due to flood this early, has overridden its banks and is flowing in some new directions today.

And the cats, like the tide, are in for the winter, cuddled companionably about in various cozy, warm places, such as the baskets around and on top of my desk.

(As I am typing, Merlin, my large Maine Coon-like cat, has crammed his furry and warm 16 pounds of bone and muscle onto my desk between me and my keyboard, and is sound asleep with his head resting on my left arm. This is an arrangement he and I have worked out whereby he gets the cuddling he loves and I am not totally bereft of my computer. It works particularly well with the ergonomic keyboard I use, a rather space-age one I purchased to prevent repetitive stress injuries.)

Even Marigold, my sometime cat, who as often as not had spent her life, until this year, elsewhere, has taken to coming in from the outside, soaked, then swarming up onto my chest and using me as a comfy drying pad and place to sleep. She turns around a time or two, purring, then crams herself under my chin, her back to my neck, stretching her front legs and chin out over my shoulder, then falls asleep. Eats right into my productivity, that it does, but I don't mind. A sleepy, purring cat is a treasure beyond price. The trust it shows, and the love, are heartwarming.

Funny thing about Marigold. Once my former partner moved out at the end of February this year, she very quickly started hanging out around home. She was born and raised here, but as soon as she was an adult, she would take off for days at a time. I suspected that she had another home somewhere, though she is also an excellent huntress and has brought home rats beyond number--sometimes quite big ones--which she kills and neatly eats. Good cat. (Rodents are a bit of a problem in this city.)

So she is quite capable of caring for herself. And she clearly doesn't mind any kind of weather--at least, the kind of weather we have here, which admittedly is not that severe. Her fur is plush and dense, and keeps even the heaviest rain from penetrating to the skin. Since we saw so little of her, I figured she just didn't like us very much.

Turns out I was partially right, except there was only one person she didn't like, and he is now gone. So now she spends much more of her time around home, even sitting on my lap or snuggling with me in bed, which she never used to do. Since she is also my most psychic and aware cat, it makes me wonder what it was that she sensed or knew that I did not. No matter now, as the point is moot, but I am very glad she has decided to be more a member of the family. She is a beautiful and loving cat, very much her own being, very much one who chooses to stay with us.

Which leads me to another, more serious subject: PETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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