Feb. 26–28, 2010

Joined my girlfriend Joan on a long-overdue, late-winter weekend trip to meet up with our friends in the Washington, D.C., area.

Friday. We left Joan’s place in the city by late afternon. Along the way, we made a brief pit stop at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, which turned out to be a desolate, creepy bus depot (as opposed to a busy, reasonably clean fast-food complex). Thankfully, we encountered relatively light traffic for a Friday night, even on the dreaded Beltway. Checked in at the gorgeous Westin Alexandria, where we had booked a room on for an astounding $95 per night, then kicked off the weekend with drinks and appetizers with my friend Larry at nearby Theismann’s.

Saturday. Enjoyed a delicious late brunch at Jamieson Grille, the stylish restaurant in our hotel, then embarked on a leisurely afternoon walk around the Old Town section of Alexandria. Later, back at the hotel, we met up with Joan’s friends Alyssa and Uzo for drinks at the Trademark Bar, then joined a lively group of my college friends and their wives at the Union Street Public House, where the bacon-wrapped shrimp and shellfish/pasta entrées were superb! We finished the night just down the street at O’Connell’s for a few late beverages, then took a short ride back to the hotel.

Sunday. Started the day with a refreshing dip in the hotel’s third-floor pool and hot tub. Upon checking out, we drove to the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, where we enjoyed a huge brunch buffet (including crab legs!) while seated at the bar at Whitlow’s on Wilson. And after an equally fun-filled and relaxing weekend with old friends in northern Virginia, we even made great time on our way back to Philly.

[ No. 565 ]

Feb. 14, 2010

Last weekend, I expressed genuine amazement at this winter’s heavy snowfall while admitting that “spring isn’t exactly around the corner, either.”

How true those words turned out to be. On Feb. 9–10, we were pounded with a second blizzard in less than a week. The additional 15.3 inches of snowfall (on top of the deep blanket of snow from the previous weekend) brought the greater Philadelphia region to a standstill — even the Schuylkill Expressway, Blue Route, and Vine Street Expressway were all closed!

This latest onslaught also contributed to a new all-time record of 71.6 inches for the season, and winter is still far from over. Incredibly, this season’s snowfall in Philly is starting to approach the massive amounts of snow I witnessed during my days in State College in the mid-’90s.

I’m thankful that I wasn’t among the 100,000 local residents who lost power during the storm. But the evergreen trees that stand very close to my house gave me a great deal of anxiety — they were so overloaded with snow that many of their large branches broke off, including one that landed with a frightening thud on the roof while I was working in my home office.

The local weather reports are calling for yet another moderate snowfall tomorrow night, to my utter dismay. Spring can’t arrive soon enough.

[ No. 564 ]

Feb. 7, 2010

Old Man Winter certainly isn’t pulling any punches, is he?

On Dec. 19, 2009 (two days before winter officially began!), Philadelphia was socked with 23.2 inches of snow. At the time, it was the second-largest storm in Philly history, and it was reasonable to assume that we wouldn’t see another blizzard like that for a long time. But this past weekend’s storm of Feb. 5–6, 2010, packed even more of a punch, dumping another 28.5 inches on the city.

This means that the second- and third-largest Philadelphia snowfalls on record have taken place in the same winter. According to the Inquirer, Philly had never previously recorded two storms of more than 14 inches of snow in the same season, and we’re already up to 56.3 inches for the winter of 2009–10. (And spring isn’t exactly around the corner, either.)

Two related observations:

  1. On Thursday night, I noticed a problem with my cable TV service; my DVR’s display kept automatically reverting to EAS, a routine and typically brief test of an emergency signal. Given the forecasts for a huge snowstorm, the timing couldn’t have been worse. But as the first flakes began to fall on Friday evening, I contacted Comcast through their Live Chat service, and before long, my TV was back up and running. I know Comcast isn’t known for stellar customer service, but their online support works quite well — it certainly beats the misery of waiting on the phone for an hour.
  2. Some people will point to this winter’s huge storms and say, “This is proof that global warming is a hoax. How can those crazy tree-huggers explain away such a harsh winter?” Although I’m certainly not an expert on such matters, I do know that long-term climate trends cannot be proven or disproven by a single storm or winter, and it’s increasingly difficult to casually dismiss other global evidence such as melting glaciers and rising sea levels. And either way, conserving resources and using energy efficiently is simply the right thing to do, especially for the sake of future generations.

[ No. 563 ]