Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The economy is fine, but I think winter is here...

Last weekend we got a blizzard with driving wind that left about a foot of snow on the ground.

I went out in it and walked to the grocery story, about a half-mile away, only to find everything in town closed. People stayed indoors and waited it out.

For those of you who don't live in the northern tier of states, up here the on-ramps for the interstate highways have gates. When it gets like this, they close the highway until they can get it plowed.

On my way back, I met a young woman all bundled up.

"Frozen yet?" she asked.

Then she explained her car was stuck in the driveway and she had to go to the store for some things.

"Don't bother," I said. "It's closed. Everything is."

Then I added that the walk wasn't a total loss for me, since I got some great pictures for the paper.

"You work for the paper?" she asked. "You're hard core!"

It's snowing again, a steady, soft fall through the night with hardly any wind. Then this morning it's picked up and is coming down in a hard driving wind from the west.

They originally said, five to six inches, but I think we've gotten that already and it doesn't look like it'll lighten up anytime soon.

I recently had occasion to call the state climatologist for information on the drought cycle. It turns out he's Turkish. We talked a bit about the climate here, and he was so excited to be living in North Dakota. It was like he'd died and gone to climatologist heaven.

"This is the most extreme climate in the world!" he said.

"Oh come now, worse than Siberia?" I replied.

"Oh yes, worse than Yakutsk. In 1936 they recorded the most extreme yearly temperature differential ever, 181 degrees!"

That means the difference between the highest summer temperature, and the lowest winter temperature.

My God.

The good news is, the local economy is fine up here. The small-newspaper chain seems solid, the John Deere Seeding group is actually planning to expand, and in the west part of the state, jobs are going begging because of the Bakken oil field drilling.

I recently did an article on local car dealerships, and all of them are doing fine, or more than fine.

It seems the economic cycle hereabouts is more even. They don't have the crazy highs, but they don't have the low-lows either.

One thing my interview subjects mentioned was, crop prices are good. Another was, the banks are sound.

That last made my ears prick up. I couldn't say it in a newspaper article - and it really wasn't relevant to that specific article, but that's largely a matter of demographics.

The northern mid-western states are almost entirely white. Minorities are a statistically insignificant part of the population.

The social effect is, those that do live here including recent immigrants from India and Asia, soon become totally assimilated. Their kids go to school with, play with, date and eventually intermarry with the dominant group.

And by and large they're doing just fine thank you.

The unassmimilated minorities are the American Indian tribes and the Hutterite colonies. And because we have a small university here, the local black people seem to be mostly Africans.

The eonomic effect of this was, the banks didn't get leaned on by the fed to make those bad housing loans to the "underserved," because there weren't any. Or at least not enough to make the market crash when those loans tanked.

There is an underclass here. I know, I do the police report every morning. But it seems to be a white underclass. And when you think of it, that's logical. A non-white person with a penchant for criminal behavior would stick out like a sore thumb here.

Which is not to say we don't have the occasional illegal immigrant passing through, but the fact is, the weather tends to keep out anyone who doesn't have a good reason for being here.

They say up here, "Forty below, keeps the riff-raff out."

This gives me the somewhat eerie feeling of watching the rest of the country with an odd sense of detachment.

Nonetheless, it seems like a good place to ride this weirdness out.

I miss Jews though. I miss the cultural spice that a Jewish presence brings to a community. I had to write the Hanukkah piece for the paper myself.


  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Do you have any references for the extreme yearly temperature differential of 181 degrees? My brother wasn't buying it. I did a quick search, but didn't find much. Wikipedia mentions -7 in the winter of '36, and 121 in the summer. IT'd be interesting to see which places and when got the temperatures that make the 181 difference.

    I did find that "in Browning, Montana. According to historic records and NASA, the temperature fell 100 degrees between January 23rd and 24th, 1916. It went from 44° F to -56° F in 24 hours. We presume there was substantial shrinkage." And in Antarctica, "Mean winter temperatures are in the -40° F to -94° F range. In the middle of the winter on July 21, 1983, the Vostok Station recorded a temperature of -129° F. That's the coldest temperature on record!" I'm not even sure what they use to measure that.

  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    It sounds weird to me too, if for no other reason, why isn't the record held in Canada.

    I wonder if that "8" should be a "3"? But that wouldn't seem like a record would it?

    Maybe I'll ask that state climatologist again. It was supposed to be the record for the year 1936 if I recall correctly.


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