One of my favorite types of winter days - haze and light snow. (The other favorite types are “stay-home blizzards” and “the last day of winter.”) Things in the distance vanish; your world shrinks to a few blocks. Towers vanish halfway up, as though - and I’m quoting Milton here - “they had been overlaid with a gradient set at 50% opacity.” (Sorry; been doing a lot of Photoshop this week.)


The tallest building in town called in sick today.

Hard to get back to work after all that not-working, although I did the same number of columns for the paper. It just all felt like not-working. You know what I mean. So I’m sitting here now looking out the window, all the sirens blaring for the monthly test. They run down in the most peculiar way; there’s nothing reassuring about the way they end. But why? I just realized that - well, I just realized that I think sirens used to be hand-cranked; let’s see if that’s so.

This Yahoo Answers page asks “Does anyone know anything about vintage WWII hand crank sirens?” and the question is “resolved,” because apparently, yes, someone does. Of course there are YouTube videos. Man, this thing is loud:



So that’s why they trail off. But I assume the city’s tornado / severe weather sirens are not hand-cranked. Or cranked at all. The sound is uniform in its duration for every up-and-down cycle. Googling . . . okay, well, there are mechanical ones with motor-driven wind-up things that go around, to use the technical terms, and electronic ones that generate the sound all by themselves. There are two tones - Alert and Attack, for the former being the steady, continuous note that says “crap, tornadoes” and the latter being “crap, nukes.” The one they blow on the first Wednesday is the Attack siren. That’s interesting. I’d failed to realize there were two different sounds. The summertime “Alert” sound means the tornado is waaay away, but BOTL, all cars; when the Attack plays in the summer, it’s down the block and moseying your way. More or less.

There’s our lesson for the day. I didn’t know we were going to have a lesson, but it’s nice to learn something every day; this way you’re smarter every year. Unless you forget an equal number of things. I don’t think I do. I remember everything except what my wife told me to do.

On a related note: here’s a British Civil Defense - sorry, defence - instructional film, notable for many things in the first two minutes: the unblinking seriousness of the man who narrates it; the reminder that FALLOUT was the thing everyone feared; the low-tech options for Fallout warning - church bells (emphasis on the bells; in America we emphasize the CHURCH), puffs of smoke, and a panicked civil servant running down the street blowing on a whistle. Also, Church bells are not common in Scotland. Why?

Also remember that if nuclear bombs are on the way, pour dirt on the fire.


I watched it all the way through. The music at the end is there in case anyone wasn’t completely freaked out, and needed something ominous and official. What a job that must have been. Say, scribble a few notes for the CD films, won’t you? Nothing to undercut the general sweaty dread the previous eight minutes have instilled.





No more Hotbox for Mrs. Myron Bangs:


I love the term "Rock Wool." And I love the fact that they put Mrs. Myron Bangs' address in a national magazine. The house? They didn't lie. That's what it looked like.


If online geneology records are correct, her name was Thelma.

Or Tholma?

That's it for today - column night, and much to do. Believe me: next week is going to RAWK! I did not just say that. Sorry.

Also sorry if the comments are giving you problems; hope to have this fixed by Monday. See you at the Strib Blog and the Tumblr!

Which, I should note, was siren-related yesterday.



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