On snow, rain, and vehicles that can drive themselves...    

    • If we get hammered over the next few days by snow that’s being predicted in measurements involving feet and not merely inches, I fear for the states of mind of my wife and others like her...people who realize that living in northern Minnesota means that accepting the reality of winter every year is part of the deal, but that deal isn't supposed to commence in early October...two winters in a row.

    I recall winters with little to no snow on Thanksgiving. I even remember taking photos the week of Christmas a couple of times way back when I was in college and there was nary a flake on the ground. (Yes, this was Moorhead, but that’s only an hour or so closer to the equator than Crookston, so it’s not like it’s some tropical blast furnace.)

    Early winters with little or no snow? Those days appear to be behind us. We were nailed by a major winter storm the first week of October last year and the weather never truly rebounded, at least not to the point where the remnants of the storm were completely erased. Winter's arrival at any time in October sets the stage for a particularly long, cold, blustery slog, and if you have any negative mental or emotional reactions to darkness on your way to work in the morning and more darkness on your way home from work, it's no fun. It can seriously mess with the chemicals that keep your brain on at least a semi-even keel.

    Speaking of the weather, more often than not around these parts, summer's home stretch can be counted on to be fairly dry. We don't water our lawn, meaning that in August and September large swaths of grass typically get pretty brown and crispy. Obviously having to mow less frequently during these dry stretches, sometimes it would be hard to stay on our rows with the mower because the grass was so far from lush.

    But these past few weeks, holy heavy rains, Batman. Every rain event, it seems, has been significant enough to put an inch or more in our rain gauge. And our yard? It's as plush as Augusta National Golf Club. Not only could you could play The Masters on it, the stuffy old guys in the green jackets would put the “lift, clean and place” rule into effect.

    But what does it mean when your grass changes color, apparently because it’s too saturated? In a turn of events we've never witnessed, the grass in many large areas of our yard has turned a lighter shade of green. Is that happening in your yard, too? If so, do what I did the other day. Find a reasonably dry spot if you can, then lay down on your stomach and be real still and super quiet. Turn your head to one side so one of your ears is submerged in the lighter-than-usual green blades, and then listen. Listen intently. Soon, you'll hear the high-pitched, almost dog whistle-like plea from the grass blades, in unison: "No more water! No more water! No more water!"

    (Yes, it’s possible the pending early winter wallop is already messing with my mind, too.)

    • More vehicles are being manufactured that are equipped with more driver-less capabilities. First, there were vehicles with collision-alert systems. Then they would automatically slam on the brakes if their computer sensors and cameras indicated an obstacle in the vehicle's path before the likely distracted human behind the wheel did. Now, vehicles will do things like back out of a driveway on their own, or parallel park.

    The latter skill is particularly interesting, because for many drivers, the prospect of parallel parking is particularly petrifying. I struggle to understand this reaction, since I am likely the best parallel parker in Minnesota and probably in the top ten in the nation.

    But, please, in the various TV commercials that show-off this particular vehicle capability, can the drivers stop taking their hands on the steering wheel and raising their hands and arms into the air? It’s impossible to make this look cool. For the male drivers, it’s even a bit emasculating; instead of showcasing what your vehicle is able to do, it’s as if you’re proudly acknowledging for all the world to see, “Hey, look what I can’t do!”

    I’m available for parallel parking lessons. Make an appointment.