What was that? Sunshine!

A brief period of sunshine on Dec. 27, 2012, in Albany: Is it an omen of something good?

Park & Ride: Take a look

Here's a glance at the new North Albany Park & Ride lot, which the Albany Transit System and the Linn-Benton Loop will start using on Jan. 2, 2013. The lot  at North Albany Road and Hickory Street features a paved loop to allow buses to turn around along with 33 parking spaces and extensive landscaping. The overall cost was reported to be about $840,000 -- about half of that in construction and landscaping alone -- or about $25,000 per parking space. The city had bought the site about 10 years ago.

From Elisa: Waste of money personified... RIDICLOUS!

Park & Ride: Take a look

Here's a glance at the new North Albany Park & Ride lot, which the Albany Transit System and the Linn-Benton Loop will start using on Jan. 2, 2013. The lot  at North Albany Road and Hickory Street features a paved loop to allow buses to turn around along with 33 parking spaces and extensive landscaping. The overall cost was reported to be about $840,000 -- about half of that in construction and landscaping alone -- or about $25,000 per parking space. The city had bought the site about 10 years ago.

From Elisa: Waste of money personified... RIDICLOUS!

Science at work: The effect of AC

Oregon in December, when no one worries about air conditioning.

Oregon in December, when no one worries about air conditioning.

I see in the paper that scientists have made another breakthrough. They have studied the issue long and hard and discovered that since the advent of air conditioning, deaths from high heat in the United States have declined. At least that's the conclusion the Washington Post reported in a story that made local papers on Sunday.

This new study, as summarized by the story, "has found that home air conditioning played a key role in reducing American death rates during the past half century." How did air conditioning accomplish that? You would never have guessed it on your own if the report had not told you that it was done "by keeping people cool on extremely hot days." Yes, that's what air conditoning can do. Amazing.

And mind you, this was not the wild idea of some lone academic laboring away in his ivory tower on a hot day. No, it was the result of the combined efforts of a whole team of researchers from Tulane and Carnegie Mellon universities along with the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They looked at patterns of heat-related deaths between 1900 and 2004, and they determined that a lot fewer people died on very hot days after 1960.

Now this paper was said to be still under review at a scientific journal. Let's hope that the reviewers don't find something wrong with the study. It would be a big disappointment to discover that air conditioning does not work after all.

 
Oregon in December, when air conditioning is not an issue.

The reporter in this story included a helpful hint for people in countries like India, where it's hot much of the time: They might want to install AC before global warming makes it hotter still. Wow, isn't science great? (hh)

And now — Merry Christmas!

An outdoor Christmas tree in Oregon, where the good news is that winters are generally mild.

An outdoor Christmas tree in Oregon, where the good news is that winters are generally mild.

For weeks now people have been wishing each other "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or some such thing. The phrase has become as common a "Have a nice day" and sounds about as sincere. I realize that people mouthing the words mean well, or at least they don't mean to be a nuisance. Still, you'd think the Christmas holiday would mean more to individuals if the buildup to it did not seem to last -- in public anyway -- for more than a month.

Christmas always brings forth memories of childhood. In my case it's associated with freezing on an arctic scale. When we were little kids in Berlin, my sister and I would fill glass bottles with water and hang them from the bars outside the bathroom window of the apartment where we lived. Then we would wait -- usually just a few minutes, it seems to me now -- and listen for the "Crack!" as the ice made the bottles explode.

Bitter cold -- that's one of the things I recall every year when Christmas rolls around. And yes, there was the time my sister and I got a scooter with balloon tires for Chistmas and took it out late on Christmas Eve along with a ruler -- both of us bundled up against the cold -- to measure the depth of snow on the streets.

There were several tennis courts behind the apartment block. In the winter they would turn a hose on one section. With borrowed skates clamped to our shoes, we sometimes got to use this rink. But what I remember most was standing at the fence surrounding it and freezing to the point I couldn't feel my feet. Maybe that explains why in recent years, the orchestrated alarm about global warming has cheered me up no end. If the alarmists are so fond of cold, let them spend a childhood within reach of the Siberian wintertime air.

As I said, the world has been peppering us with Christmas-this and holiday-that for weeks. Now that it's at hand, I hope you can spend it with family or other people you like -- and in a warm place. (hh)

From Shawn Dawson: I have similar memories from my childhood (1970's) when we spent some time in Anchorage, Alaska.  The playground was asphalt, but in the winter, the Fire Department would come and hose it down to create an ice rink.  In the hall outside the classrooms, all the student's skates were lined up, and during recess we would skate.  It's a wonderful memory.  I wonder if the schools still do that in Anchorage?

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