30 March 2010

Fourth Week in March 2010

Monday I really got back on the exercise wagon. I was sore pretty much the rest of the week, but it felt good to start to be active again.

Tuesday we had dance practice after work and started to work on the different way that they are teaching Lindy Hop now as opposed to the way I learned it. I think my personal light bulb went on after trying out the new way with Brianne. The whole thing really points out how much I suck as a (real) dancer (not as a social dancer), counting is hard and making your feet do what you want them to do is even harder. I like the style of Lindy Hop I learned, but I certainly think the new way it is being taught can look more interesting from afar.

Merinda believes follows should follow regardless of the style. I'm of two minds to that, but I certainly understand what she is saying. Yes, follows should follow, but Lindy-Hop is hard enough to begin with. Although we're speaking the same language, but the dialects are different enough to allow potential for misunderstanding. A great dance is full of give and take, and quite frankly, I don't dance with a lot of follows who know how or when to hijack the dance appropriately. Merinda will, particularly if she thinks I'm not paying attention. Maeg does too, although in a different way. Follows ... let's dance, not together, but as one.

Wednesday was really busy for on call. Mostly because one of my coworkers kept butt dialing the on call phone. Thursday was even busier, but it didn't have anything to do with butt dialing. I think it is amazing I have coworkers in Mexico City, Shanghai, and Brisbane and I just talk to them like it's no big deal. The delay from light speed in speaking to people in Australia should be right around the threshold for people to be able to detect, somewhere between 1/5th and 1/7th of a second (roundtrip with electronic delays). I can never pick it up, it seems like a normal conversation to me.

Friday I didn't dance. I stayed home and did nothing. I went to Hy-Vee at lunch, does that count for interesting?

Saturday was all over the place.

Troy and Merinda had to put down Cleo. Cleo mostly hated me, at least until Troy and Merinda went on vacation and I was the one feeding her ... then I was the best person ever. She developed a tumor, and it finally got bad enough that she wasn't able to eat. Merinda thought for about a week that something was wrong, and she took her into the vet on Saturday and she never came back home. I will miss her.

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Katie, Laramie, meet Cleo. Show her the way around kitty heaven, let her eat whatever she wants. We'll all see you soon enough. Photo credit: Maeg

I got out and walked, over a mile later in the day, at kind of a breakneck pace ... I guess I'm making up for lost time. Insert token complaint about this past winter.

Later in the evening, Merinda asked that people come over for games and socialization. CJ, Maeg, Ben, and I played Arkham Horror and then more than a few games of Zombie Fluxx. It was kind of a late evening. Merinda held herself together much better than I would have. I appreciate the wisdom she has surrounding herself with friends when something bad happens.

Sunday morning I managed to get out and get to church for Palm Sunday Mass. I love the Passion Play. I like that the congregation plays the part of the crowd, "Crucify Him, crucify Him" we shout, there can be little denial that we would somehow have acted differently. I feel for Peter when the rooster crows and he is left with nothing but his own bitterness. Jesus, fully human, understanding completely the pain he is about to be put through, but still, He follows the will of His Father, and brings us with Him to heaven.

After church I went over to The Game Shoppe (trip #1), as I walked around, I noticed about 25 to 30 men in the store playing games (along with two women). All of these men were ignoring the beautiful woman who was working the counter. I wonder if she ever gets a complex? Now we all know what's up with game geeks, we can be pretty focused on what we are doing, after all, someone has to save the universe in an epic way.

Later in the afternoon, basically the same group from Saturday night went out to eat at China Buffet, and stop me if you've heard this one before, I ate too much. The group kind of split after that, Maeg, Ben, and I came back to the house, Troy, Merinda, Frank, and Joe went to see Hot Tub Time Machine. The three of us went to The Game Shoppe (trip #2) for the said reason of getting Maeg some dice. Ben got the dice, and Maeg bought Martian Fluxx. Which we played for a couple hours until Maeg and I got our camera geekery on.

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Nothing to worry about neighbors, if you look closely, you'll see the camera is pointing up the sky ... and Ben is pointing towards the ground.

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Anyone who has listened to me whine about my camera's inability to take THIS photo will be happy to know it's figured out now. Maeg gave me the clues.

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Zeke showing catdoms usual disdain for human endeavors. Photo credit: Maeg

Yeah, well I took more pictures, mostly of sky, the red dot is Mars, not a really accurate picture, but it kind of came out cool. Maeg took a bunch of pictures too, but only one of the moon made it into the set, what's up with that?

In other news. I am alive in the tourney pool. My highly scientific bracket selection process that involves historical seed data, the Sagarin Index, and percentile dice gave me a final four of Duke, Kansas, Kansas State, and Kentucky. Well my brackets worked out about as well as everyone elses did. That's the bad news, the good news is I am still alive in the pool! If Duke wins out, I am the winner. If Duke has just one more win, CJ wins.

Thanks to my brother David for pointing this out: My brother Carl is the winner of the 2010 Walt Whitman Award, for really really good poetry. Congratulations!

Next week: Holy Week, Batman!

24 March 2010

Third Week in March 2010

So, what is redemption? Since I am writing about it, I am tempted to access a dictionary and provide a textbook answer. However, that is really not what I am looking for, I am talking about myself, and what it means to me. I think redemption is the process by which you go from have 'mean spirited' or 'selfish' personality traits to having 'redeeming' ones instead, clever, huh? When you wrong someone, badly, frequently the only thing you can do is to change your own life to become a better person in an attempt to make amends. Several of my friends are willing to give credit to me for achieving changes via hard work. I am hesitant to take any credit, because quite frankly, I am unsure I've ever wanted to change a thing about myself. Still I've changed, and what's behind the changes? I like to call this process "God".

Even though I've never really wanted to change a thing about me, I've certainly been more than willing to love my Creator. God has taken this love, and taught me that the rest of creation is something that should also be loved. It's not necessarily all about the selfish boy inside me, it's about God and my neighbor too. What is redemption? It is how God turns you into the person you are supposed to be, despite your best efforts to be what you want to be. The good that comes out of me comes out of my relationship with God, I am the Redeemed, and it grants me peace I cannot achieve by my own works.

Number of the week: 107. That's how many days we went in the Omaha area between days with the high temperature above 50F, December 1 to March 17. I did some checking, and over the last five years, the second longest such streak was 68 days (Nov 19, 2007 to Jan 28, 2008). This year, between December 5 and March 3 (88 days) there were only two days that the temperature got above 40F. During that 68 days referenced above, there were 14 days where the temperature got above 40F. I wanted to get a longer baseline to compare numbers, but I found it difficult to find the information. When I thought I had found the correct numbers, I was asked to pay $70 for it, and for just a casual 'hobby' type of project, it wasn't worth it. However, why isn't that data of available free of charge? What does it all mean? This winter sucked!

Monday I finally gave up on the two week long migraine, it was bad on Monday, and I called in to work and then set an appointment with Doctor Lorrie. We had a talk about things that had changed recently in my life, new place, new bed, no girlfriend, and giving up pop for Lent. She seemed to think this last thing was the "BINGO!". So my Lenten sacrifice is officially off, although it wasn't going well anyways ... I have more thoughts on this, but they aren't put together quite yet. I ended up with a shot in my backside, which, must have been good, I basically slept for the next 30 hours.

Tuesday was mostly like the end of Monday, spent staring at the inside of my eyelids, finally around 1700 I felt good and got up and going. I ended up going to dinner with Kevin. We talked about girls, technology, girls, dancing, girls, friends, and dancing ... only not so much the technology, dancing, and friends ... it's the only subject we ever talk about. Kevin waited until I ordered, then he ordered the same thing I did! It's a clear violation of man rules.

Wednesday was Saint Patrick's Day. I don't usually go out, I think of it as amateur night, and this year was no exception. I stayed in and was enjoying a quiet evening when I got a text from Merinda saying people were on their way over for games. Pretty soon Ben was there, and Sarah, and Joe, and well, no Merinda. I guess I'm the host! Merinda did show up, as did CJ and Amy. We played Zombie Fluxx in which I made the zombies win two games in a row, it was great fun ... for me ... but then they wanted to switch games. So onto Catch Phrase, played like we always play it, which may or may not be by the real rules, I've never read them. Actually it can't be by the real rules, because we've never kept score. One thing is for certain, there is a lot of laughing, and plenty of inappropriate discussion that cannot be mentioned here.

Thursday night was supposed to be dance practice. It was my idea to mix up the days of the week, but it didn't work, no one was coming, so it got canceled. I ended up going to game night at CJs. We only played one game, it was Tales of the Arabian Nights. I really like this game, but once again play went longer than I could really stay.

Friday this happened at lunch:
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Following a tradition ... also following a newer tradition of the car being still when I take the picture.

Friday night was the annual "Rite of Swing" toga party. I'm not a big toga fan, but I'll play along...

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I'm not really certain what Rachel is doing, I was too busy grazing.

I took a few more pictures, but it sure seemed I was working more on dancing and keeping my toga in place rather than actually thinking about taking pictures.

After the dance, and dressed in jeans, myself Brianne, Merinda, and eventually Ben went to Village Inn and talked about dancing until 0230. The way they teach Lindy Hop now is different from when I learned five years ago, and this certainly explains why I have so much trouble dancing with certain people, we're not doing the same dance. Styles change, deal with it, but it certainly would have been nice to be told that the styles were changing, I might have been tempted to take a couple classes in the new style, now I'm more determined to learn it on my own ... well with help.

After the late night, Saturday I slept in and bummed around pretty much all day. I ended up going out to dinner with Shannon, Rachel, and all the littles. We went to a Chinese place near 114th and Dodge. The management/owners were very patient with all the littles (not the bigs, of course) making noise and crawling around ... mostly on me. It was a very good time.

After this I headed over to Kaleb's for game night. It seems like game night is becoming more about socializing and less about games. That's okay with me, although some games would be a nice change. We played two games of Lupus in Tabula, and that was it. There was a classic moment in the game when the game was down to Kaleb, his sister Sara, and his girlfriend Merriam. Merriam and Sara accused each other, and Kaleb had to decide which was the werewolf. He chose correctly, but it was fun. There was a couple hours of Ping Pong, which I don't remember being such a contact sport. Then we played Rock Band, oddly enough, the only instrument I didn't play was bass, and that's my usual. Kaleb started Dragon Age, and we noticed that it was 0230, and the party then broke up.

Sunday I had lunch at Fatburger with Troy, CJ, and CJ's mom, Peggy. Troy likes Fatburger. I was not so impressed, although I didn't have a burger, I had a chicken sandwich.

In the afternoon I did something I hadn't done since November 29th. I went for a walk, outside! Boy that felt good. I was so excited to get going that I forgot my iPod, and just went. It was only 0.8 miles, but I'll take it!

Troy and I went out to dinner too. We ate at Imperial Palace. One of their TVs had soccer on it (must have wanted customers to sleep), and the other had 1000 Worst Ways to Die (must have wanted customers to throw up). I had the Orange Chicken, I like theirs because it is usually spicy hot. Merinda managed to nap all the way through us having dinner.

Troy left for Des Moines, and I started to play the original Mass Effect, which is how I spent my evening.

Next week, all the excitement of a Tuesday evening in Blackduck, MN in the middle of the last ice age. Yep, you guessed it, I'm on call.

17 March 2010

Second Week in March 2010

Monday morning, and I'm still sick with the migraine that I said started last week. Grrr. I didn't really get up until 1400. In order to entertain myself, I watched the first season of Big O. I started season two, but I was too tired to stay awake. I obviously skipped my guitar lesson.

Tuesday I felt much better, but not over it completely. After work we did the dance practice thing again. This time we concentrated on swing outs, I guess I can triple step in practice, but it gets lost during social dancing. Sigh. Frank said I was a "solid" dancer except for that one thing. Double sigh.

Wednesday was food day at work, and I ate WAY too much. I have seven plates of food during the day. Unsurprisingly, I was not hungry when I got home. The odd, almost related, part of this story is that I felt that I have been gaining weight over the last two weeks, because I have been eating like mad, not feeling satisfied with my meals until I felt bloated, and not being active. I got on the scale at work and 174 ... huh? Right where I have been for two months.

It has now been a year since I made my last Lenten sacrifice; to give up fried foods. This combined with beginning to exercise in May last year has resulted in, literally, a body changed. Last year at this time I weighed 198 pounds. Forty days of giving up fried foods made me lose my cravings for it, and now, if I can order something other than fries, I do. I'm not a nutrition expert, and I understand that bodies are all different, but eating healthier, eating less, and moderate exercise has made for actual results that are visible. I feel better and feel more confident. This all started by watching Jose eat anything he wants, as much as he wants, any time he wants. I became envious, and it spurred me to action, it's kind of the opposite of 'ends justify the means'.

After work I was determined to do nothing, and so I watched 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'. If you judged it against the first three movies, it probably isn't as good, however, it was quite entertaining. This was part of my plan to do nothing on Wednesday and Thursday. I quite succeeded. Thursday I was in bed by 2100, slept all night, and surprise! I didn't have my annoying several day migraine when I woke up.

Friday after work was the dance, you know, that one dance that happens every Friday that you should be at.
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While I was not paying attention to my camera, several pictures appeared on it, I think I know who took them.

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Debbie has spent all year complaining that I missed her last birthday jam, well I didn't miss it this year.

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Jose is not afraid of jumping into any picture, now if only I can keep my eyes open.

I salvaged more than a couple pictures from the event. Matt put some up too, but you'd have to go searching for them somewhere on his page 4, or so.

Speaking of Matt (that's called a segue), after the dance he and Vivian graciously hosted an after hours pancake party. Thank you. Viv was the chef, and other people brought stuff too. I had a nice visit with Jessica when we went to the store together to search out juice for the party.

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Vivian couldn't make 'em fast enough. Photo credit: Matt

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Look at how delicious these look ... oh, and don't worry, there was no mischief with the whipped cream

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Hi, my name is Cameron ... "Hi Cameron." Photo credit: Matt

Here are my pictures from the Pancake fest. Matt took some too. This particular panorama shot I took came out pretty cool.

Saturday was right back to not feeling well. Grrr! I slept most of the day, but managed to get out when Rachel invited me to Suppers 8 at Shannon's.

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Here is what we got fed...

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...and here we are enjoying it! Mmmmm!

I had originally planned to go to an event afterwards, but the headache came back again and I went home and went to bed early on a Saturday night.

Sunday more sickness. Ugh, will this ever go away? I didn't really want to get up, but I ended up going out to lunch with Troy to Q'doba. After lunch a curious thing happened, we went to several different stores to find a memory card for an XBox 360 so I could play and be able to move my information around consoles. All three places we went were sold out, so we came home. Troy did some additional research and couldn't find any online, with the exception of the MicroSoft website. What I figure is that they aren't being made any longer, probably because MicroSoft is going to change the configuration of the XBox to not be able to use them any longer. That'll show Datel for suing them.

By 1730 I felt better, so instead of resting, I went to the Prairie Cats / The Grand Marquis show at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs. I wonder if I should feel bad, I took Ben out for his first night of drinking, and now I went with him for the first time he gambled ... well at least I didn't get him down the road of coffee drinking.

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Jose is back in front of the camera!

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Kevin and Jessica do the Paso Doble.

As you might be able to guess, there are more pictures of this event. Wait, don't tell you, Matt took some too. Don't forget, Brianne put some up on Facebook, including a priceless one.

Next week: redemption and finally going to the doctor.

02 March 2010

Fourth Week in February 2010

Monday morning, I'm still not used to sleeping in the new house. I used to have this theory that you would sleep better if you stuck with one orientation in relation to the earth's magnetic field. Sure enough, I changed from north/south to east/west, and sleep has been a little rough. Probably has more to do with the change in humidity, noise, and light levels.

After work I picked up Kevin and dinner. Then we, with Troy, headed out to the Creighton Swing Dance club benefit dance for Haiti. I had one odd thing said to me, a dancer who I don't dance with often said "Good thing you have a cute smile to make up for all the mistakes you make dancing." I'm not quite sure how to give the benefit of the doubt on this one. There is a reason I generally choose to dance with people I know. Onto the happy dance pictures:

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Sometimes I take pictures just to capture the spirit of dancing, sometimes it works.

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It certainly appears that Andi is doing most of the work here. Carly, feel free to put some effort into it!

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I actually participated in a dance contest, I entered under the pseudonym "16". Photo credit: Matt

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Good job Jocelyn for putting the dance together, every little bit helps.

Here are the rest of my pictures, Matt took some too, and you probably can't get onto Facebook without seeing more, Lisa put some up, so did Brianne, and Andi too, although hers may all be stolen, er, borrowed, er, from some other source.

Tuesday I headed out to work, and while I was there, they delivered my new bed. Zeke was not a happy camper, but later when I got the bed frame together and he found he could hide under it, he was considerably more at ease.

I headed over to the old place to clean up a bit, and while I was there made a dumb and potentially deadly mistake. I was taking some trash out and I managed to lock myself out of the old apartment ... and my car too ... with no coat, in 10 degree weather. It was cold. Fortunately I had my phone, and I called Troy and he came to get me. Right about that time, my old upstairs neighbor, Leslie, showed up to let me back in.

Wednesday morning I was awoken early because of a mistake from the night before, I left my car in the driveway and Troy couldn't get out. I did discover a lot of personal energy after a good night sleep in the new bed, almost too much for my coworkers.

At lunch, I met Keith and we moved the grill to Matt and Vivian's and my bike to my house. It was nice to sit with him over lunch and talk about, what else, women. After work, I ran by the grocery store, and then home and started cooking for VK. While I was doing this, I watched the Olympic hockey match between Canada and Russia. Every time I turned around to cook something, I missed a goal ... well, it sure seemed that way.

Anyways, I made spaghetti with gluten free noodles. Gluten free noodles pretty much taste the same, but they don't expand so much in the pot, so you get less per box, which kind of was frustrating. Live and learn. For some reason, when I was at the store, butterscotch pudding sounded good for dessert ... yeah, not so much. VK finished off my ice cream and I 'enjoyed' the pudding.

Thursday I woke up with energy, but somehow, no motivation. I was going to go over to the old apartment and finish cleaning, but somehow I just laid around the house and did nothing. Well I've started sneaking movies, since Troy has a ton of them, but as far as actual work, none.

Friday after work was the annual fish fry trip, Vivian and I were behind it and it was Vivian, Matt, Kat, Ben, Lisa, VK, and I. VK somehow managed to avoid the line to pay, then avoid the line for food, showing up the second we got to the front ... nice job VK! We had a good time eating too much, singing along with the musician, and taking an absolutely silly amount of pictures. Between myself, Matt, Lisa, and Kat with my camera, I am sure there were at least 300 pictures taken.

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Vivian came to me and said "I want to photobomb Kat and Ben". So she did.

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Frank sent a picture of us to Lindsay, and I sent a picture of Frank to her (via Sarah).

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Finally, I could see clearly ... wait a second, I don't need glasses.

Here are the 75 or so (mostly) in focus pictures that ended up on my camera, those that I'm certain Kat took, are marked as such. A link to Matt's photo's begin here (no set). Lisa has put a bunch up on Facebook, so you can see them there if you are her friend.

After the fish fry, we went down to Jitterbugs, it was after all Maggie's birthday, and she needed a jam, like strawberry, or grape.

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Hey look it's the birthday girl, she really has two eyes.

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Another good dancing motion picture.

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I tried something a little different here, it looks better at full size.

The rest of this set can be seen here, Kat took a bunch of these too. Both VK and I were tired, so we left the dance around 2300. I went home and slept.

Saturday morning my plan was to get up and go to the old apartment and clean by 1000. Okay, so it didn't exactly work out like that, but it did get done, just leaving a few items for Sunday. The whole thing probably took about two hours.

Saturday night I went over to Kaleb's for social game night. It was kind of weird, because I didn't play many games. When I got there, there was a game going on at the table, but I went to check out the pizza and talk. Eventually we played a game of (what Kaleb calls) Liar's Dice, I didn't win, nor do I ever expect to, since it's a bluffing game. We then played two games of Lupus in Tabula, the second of which CJ and I were the werewolves and were outed on the first two days, thus the shortest game possible ... darn that Ben.

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This happened at game night.

Miriam, Kaleb, Ben, and I then played the game that I wrote, which has a working title of "Mean Ol' Levee". It was a rough alpha test, but it was playable to the end, i.e., nothing broke so hard that it couldn't be finished. Now for a first rules rewrite, a board redesign, a larger leaning towards cooperation, and a couple of gameplay tweaks. The basic mechanic is simple, so that worked. Kaleb won, and said he was impressed. Ben did not say much, but it seemed to me he was trying to figure out a decent strategy. The funniest part was Kaleb spilling a water on top of the game, which is currently just printed on card stock, he felt so bad, but it turned out to be no big deal, because it's all digital anyways.

There were also several games of "around the world" ping pong. We played with nine players. It worked like this, one person makes a legal serve, then moves to the line on the other side of the table, the play then rotates play by play until someone misses, they then get a point, once you have five points you are eliminated. It has more running than you expect, and setting up a shot with spin is difficult because the ball is usually over the net before you are in position. Eventually, the Nothnagel bus left, and so did I.

Sunday I awoke with no motivation again. Ugh, although it might have been more of headache than lethargy. I bummed around until the start of the hockey game. I'm very curious how the game did ratings-wise, but as far as the game went, it was a classic. I didn't think I was that into it, but then I yelled "Yes!" when the USA team scored their first goal, so much for international relations. The US power play sucked, if it was that good. The last two minutes of regulation was intense, and I didn't even have to look at the game clock when the US tied it, I said it was about 25 seconds (24.4 actually). So we went to overtime. I think hockey is kind of anti-climatic when it ends in overtime, well, when your team loses anyways. Congratulations Team Canada on your gold medal, congratulations Team USA on your silver, and go Blackhawks.

After the game, I went and did my final trip through the old apartment. I grabbed the one thing I knew I forgot, my ironing board, which immediately went to Des Moines with Troy. I threw out a couple of items, then put together the overhead lamp in the bedroom. With the keys dropped on the counter, I moved on. One thing is for certain, this first quarter of 2010 has been full of changes.

Check out my weather post.

Next week: dance practice, the resumptions of learning guitar, and more changes.

01 March 2010

The End of the Cold?

As much as I enjoy complaining about the weather, and we surely have around these parts this year with all the cold, but what do the numbers say? It's one thing to say (or think) it's bad, but it's another entirely to have the facts to back you up.

I reviewed the high temperatures for each day in December, January, and February for this winter, and the preceding four years, figuring that would be about the limit of my memory. Data is from the National Weather Service and valid for Omaha.

Below is the the average high temperature for these three months by year.

Year Average Temp
2005-2006 39.9°F
2006-2007 34.8°F
2007-2008 30.7°F
2008-2009 34.9°F
2009-2010 26.6°F

Well, that is really telling, 8.5°F below the average of the previous four years, that certainly makes it seem like it's been a cold, hard winter, but wait, check out this graph.

This graph shows the number of days in the range shown, except for the "freezing" column, which shows the number of days above freezing total. The chart data can be found here.

What immediately jumps out at me on the graph is how comparatively few days above freezing we have had this winter. Five winters ago there were 70 days when the temperature got above freezing, this year, only 27. The one day that the temperature was above 50°F was December 1. One of the three days the high was between 40°F and 49°F, one was December 5. Two winters ago was pretty cold, but it was broken up with 16 more days above freezing, and nine more days above 40°F.

Now that I've done my own research, I'm convinced, this winter has sucked colorful metaphors. Whenever possible, do your own research, because in the words of Mark Twain "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."