On winter, the 787 Dreamliner, Gopher men's hoops, spring flooding, and the Final Five...

Winter, winter go away, come again a December day
Winter, winter go away. Come again some December day. The official first day of spring is Wednesday, March 20. It certainly has been difficult to notice tell-tale signs of a new season through four feet of snow on the ground. Any robin red-breast that happened to return early has probably gone into hibernation. The word on the street is the Easter Bunny is in contract negotiations with the Snowshoe Hare Association for basket delivery services in the North County. Let us keep our fingers (and toes, at this point) crossed for the great warm-up that surely must be on its way. Right?

787 no ‘Dream’?
Safe and sound down here on the ground, fire can do a lot of good. We can roast marshmallows in it as we gather with friends on a camping trip, at the lake or in the backyard. And fire is obviously a source of important heat. But when you’re in the sky, in a plane, specifically, you don’t want to hear anything about a fire, much less try to deal with one. Which brings us to the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner,” its newest passenger plane and pride of the Boeing fleet. Regulators grounded all 50 planes in January in the wake of a series of dangerous mishaps, the most high profile of which had to do with its battery pack catching fire and melting. Now, the planes, after some tweaking, have been cleared to fly, and Boeing says they should be back in the air within weeks, with a “fortified” metal case around the battery pack, and more insulation and venting, etc. around said batteries. So it sounds like the batteries haven’t changed much, maybe just what they’re housed in. Hmmm…the plane sure sounds dreamy and all, but would you want to fly on one and have your trip turn to a nightmare?

Gopher basketball fans torn as Big Dance commences?
It’s hard to know how to feel about the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team as it begins play in the NCAA Tournament this Friday. Despite playing essentially unwatchable basketball over the past two months or so, with a big win over #1 Indiana surrounded by several ugly losses, the Gophers were expected to make the “Big Dance” and they did, drawing a #11 seed and taking on #6 UCLA in Austin, Texas. And they’re getting all kinds of respect, too. When their matchup came up on the big board during the Tournament Selection Show on CBS Sunday, two of the basketball pundits in the studio groaned, saying UCLA got a terrible draw in the form of tough, physical, veteran Gopher squad, who could dominate when they want to. Uhhh…have they watched the fellas in Maroon and Gold lately? Sure, Gophers fans want them to shock the world and go all the way, but that’s a far-fetched notion at best. Maybe it’s better that they go out with a whimper and the realization is made that Tubby Smith as a coach is overrated and that maybe he needs to go.

We may have to prepare for a spring flood, after all
It’s becoming more and more obvious that winter is going to stick around longer than it did last year. We got incredibly spoiled last year, with all of the snow melting before mid-March.  Because of that, it’s likely that residents in the Red River Valley are anxious for warmer temperatures to come soon. However, that’s not such a good thing. In snowy, long winters that this one is aiming for, there is a track record of April turning up the heat and melting the snow all at once, thus creating major ice jams on the river. Of course, we don’t know how April’s weather will be. Nevertheless, we should start preparing for the worst case scenario, especially those who live closest to rivers. Keep an eye on river forecast outlooks and have a plan in place for protecting your house should the temps rise too quickly. It never hurts to be prepared early. Amanda Wagner, Times’ intern

It’s Final Five time!
Christmas comes this week for college hockey fans as the WCHA Final Five begins Thursday and goes to Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The thing is, though, it's the final Final Five as we know it before many of the top programs bolt for new conferences. This last one promises to be epic with St. Cloud State and Minnesota playing their best of hockey of the season as the top seeds. North Dakota and Wisconsin are always postseason powerhouses and there are great storylines with Minnesota State coming in as an underdog and Colorado College upsetting Denver in the first round. Who's going to win it all? Will North Dakota win their fourth straight Broadmoor Trophy or will Minnesota prevail? Is St. Cloud State really good enough to win it all? Throw on the favorite team's jersey and get ready for the best hockey tournament in the world.