To trust or not to trust winter weather predictions?

After the last couple of years, you have to admit, it’s a valid question. And so I read the below article without taking it too seriously (all due respect to the scientists who worked on it; I’m certain they are quite good at what they do).

But hey, I’d rather expect something good and not get too depressed as the days grow shorter and shorter…

Environment Canada cautiously predicts this winter won\’t be as bad as last

October 31, 2008 – 18:37


TORONTO – Canadians hoping for a milder winter than last year’s may have reason for cautious optimism, says a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

“It’s like a moving target,” David Phillips said of this year’s winter forecast. “But it’s rare that you would have two back-to-back winters like that.

“I would bet a good sum of money on the fact we will not have a repeat of last year from a snow point of view.”

Environment Canada’s forecast issued Saturday for November through early January offers some hope to Canadians looking for kinder conditions than last winter, which punished Canadians in the east with record-breaking snowfall and those in the west with bitter cold.

For the first half of this winter, Environment Canada is expecting milder than normal temperatures from the Great Lakes eastward.

The southern and central Prairies are expected to see near-normal temperatures, with the northern Prairies, most of B.C. and the Arctic below normal.

Assuming the forecast holds true, “it won’t seem nearly as harsh from a temperature point of view as last year,” Phillips said.

Precipitation is expect to be near normal in the eastern half of the country, while most of the Prairie provinces are expected to see normal to above-normal amounts of snow. (…)

Phillips said the uncertainty in forecasting this winter lies with the fact there is no El Nino or La Nina – ocean-atmosphere phenomena in the Pacific Ocean that influence global weather patterns.

“It’s what people call La Nada – it’s a neutral situation out there,” Phillips said. “The Pacific doesn’t seem to be a factor so much in this particular winter.”

The traditional December to February winter forecast from Environment Canada is expected to be released in late November.

November 4th post of Dead-Alive for NaNoWriMo 2008

Part 3

I would have preferred staying home that day to continue my research, but I had to take my son to school and then head over to work. Thankfully it wasn’t my turn to stay at home with Shona. I probably would have ended up holed in my office all day, and leaving my four year old unattended was bound to create some major problems.

Patrick was particularly serious that morning as I made him his breakfast.

“Is everything OK, young man?” I asked him as I helped him with his peanut butter and honey making.

He nodded, intensely focused on his creation. I made my own toasts, keeping an eye on him in case we needed help. We sat in companionable silence, munching away.

“Dad?” Patrick interrupted me.

“Yes son?”

“Why do you go for walks in the middle of the night?”

Uh-oh. That was the one question I would never have expected. I retreated into information-seeking mode, hoping that the extra few seconds would give me time to come up with someone Patrick wouldn’t see straight through. That was the challenge of having two absolutely brilliant children. “What do you mean?”

Patrick started kicking his legs, back and forth, under his chair. “I had to go to the bathroom last night. I was going back to my room and you came out of yours. I tried talking to you, but you just went outside.”

“Did you check to see where I was going?” I asked, wondering how disturbing the scene Patrick had described to me would have been.

He shook his head.

“Do you think I ignored you on purpose?”

He hesitated. “Maybe you didn’t hear me?”

I couldn’t lie to him; he seemed so hurt. “Actually, I didn’t. The reason why I go for walks in the middle of the night is because I dream while walking.”

Patrick’s jaw dropped open. “That’s so cool!”

I smiled. “I guess so.”

“Do you actually dream while you walk? Like, see people on the street even if there is no one there?”

I nodded, hoping he wouldn’t figure out the downside. “It kind of looks like a movie.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky. Patrick’s face almost immediately fell. “But that means you can’t see what’s actually going on. What if there is a car and it hits you?”

“Thankfully, I don’t go far,” I lied, “and it seems that somehow I’m still careful, because I have never fallen. You know how in your dreams, you can actually hear loud noises around you?”

Patrick nodded.

“I have the impression that for someone like me, who walks while sleeping, a car or anything else dangerous is the same thing as a loud noise when you are sleeping in your bed.”

“So the car becomes part of your dream,” Patrick said.

How intelligent my beautiful son was. “I’m pretty sure. If not, I would have already been hurt, or someone would have called the police to tell them about a weird man in PJ bottoms walking around the neighbourhood, don’t you think?”

Patrick giggled, relieved. “Probably.”

“It’s a good thing I don’t wear really ugly pyjamas. I don’t think the neighbours would ever talk to us again if they saw me wearing Disney princess pyjamas!”

Patrick started laughing. I stood up, ruffling his hair. “Come on, champion. We have to brush our teeth and get going.”

I managed to slip in the office and tell Talya about my conversation with Patrick. We weren’t happy Patrick had seen me, but if we kept to the same version of the story – knowing Patrick, he would want to validate my story with his mother – we were certain we could avoid worrying him.

“Should we bring it up all the time, as if it’s absolutely normal?” Talya wondered.

“Let’s wait for him to bring it up again. Then we’ll take it from there.”

I took the time to talk briefly to Patrick’s teacher that morning, mentioning that I had been sleep-walking for awhile and that although I was trying to save my children undue worry, Patrick had found out last night.

“Don’t worry,” he told me. “My wife sleep-walks.

“Really! How long?”

“Since she was a teenager.”

“Has she ever gotten hurt?”

He smiled. “Don’t worry. Just like you told Patrick, it seems that sleep-walkers are aware enough of their surroundings that they don’t usually get hurt.”

“It’s good to know.”

He clapped me on the shoulder. “I’ll make sure Patrick knows.”

“Thank you.”

I arrived to work with a bounce in my step. Dave, my colleague and close friend, looked up at me with a stunned expression on his face.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Your cheerful mood doesn’t match the huge bruises under your eyes.”

Even I had to admit that I looked pretty terrible this morning, even more so than usual; but my mood certainly didn’t match, because for the first time in months, I felt alive; I wasn’t a victim of these dreams anymore; quite the contrary. Were our suspicious be proven right, I could become some form of crime-fighter. And the best part was that I wouldn’t have to wear tights.

“I am a study in contradictions,” I told David as I dropped my bag down and sat behind my desk, moving my mouse to wake my slumbering computer up.

“Actually,” David said, “I am going to take advantage of your cheerful mood and ask you about something that has been on my mind recently.”

“Go ahead, I said a little absent-mindedly, slipping my coat off.

“Reena, Connor and I have been worried sick about you. You just haven’t been yourself for the last couple of months, and it’s only been getting worse.”

Ouch. While I knew the last couple of months had been hard on me and Talya, I guess I hadn’t taken into account what it was doing to those who were close to me. And by the look on David’s face, it was obvious he wasn’t going to let me go without a full explanation.

“So what’s going on? And don’t tell me nothing, because we,” he gestured at the door, where Reena and Connor had suddenly appeared, “all know it’s not true.”

I looked up at the doorway and sure enough, there were Reena and Connor, their faces reflecting the same worry on David’s face. To be honest, I had noticed their worry a couple of times in the last few months, but I had been too wrapped in my own world to have the patience or energy to deal with them.

Not that I hadn’t considered it. Talya had, numerous times, suggested that I talk to them. After all, we were a research team dedicated to criminal psychology and nursing care, so it only seemed logical to put this ‘condition’ under their mindful gaze.

But I hadn’t wanted to, not because I didn’t trust them or didn’t want them to know; rather, I didn’t want to have yet another sanctuary of mine shattered by these dreams. Home used to be sweet, but now I dreaded sleeping because of the dreams. I didn’t want to have to dread coming to work, knowing that one of the first questions out of my friends’ mouths would be to ask me if I had any dreams the previous night.

But today it was different; today, I could see a logic to the situation I was in, and even a reason for it. And I would need all the help I could get. “Why don’t we settle in, get our morning stuff done, and then I’ll tell you everything,” I suggested.

“Promised?” Reena said.

I nodded.

“Good,” she sighed. “Because I’m sick of worrying about you, and I have a couple of urgent emails to send.”

“I don’t,” Connor said. “I’ll go make us some coffee.”

“You’re going to need it,” I said.

Finding Ways to Dull the Glamour of Travel

As winter approaches (yes, I said the dreaded ‘W’ word), I find myself surfing more and more traveling websites. But rather than to stare (and drool) at pictures of beaches, I have started exploring articles and blogs about traveling, and have come across yet another gem.

Finding Ways to Dull the Glamour of Travel


IN terms of perspective, it helps to have been toiling at this particular workbench for a while.

I remember the summer of 2000, when corporate travel departments were hyperventilating about soaring airfares and hotel costs. That was when Mark L. Walton, a travel policy consultant, gave a well-received talk during a seminar at the National Business Travel Association convention in Los Angeles.

Mr. Walton read a parody memorandum supposedly announcing new rules from the corporate travel department. Air travel was to be severely limited, the joke memo said. Instead, it said, “hitchhiking is strictly encouraged,” though employees hitching rides would receive “luminescent safety vests” for nighttime travel.

Also, the memo said, “All employees are encouraged to stay with relatives and friends while on company business.”

Everybody thought this was a riot — the hitchhiking and the idea that a proud, hard-charging road warrior might end up not in a nice Hilton but instead sleeping on a cousin’s couch. The joke was on the corporate travel managers.

So I was a little startled last week during a telephone conference held by American Express Business Travel, the corporate travel management subsidiary of American Express, when Frank Schnur, a vice president of the company’s Global Advisory Services, said that some corporate travel managers are actually making some of those suggestions.

“Another one of the things we’re seeing companies ask their employees to do is stay with friends and families when traveling,” Mr. Schnur said. “Or stay together, share hotel rooms, to avoid additional costs.” He was listing some of the ways that corporate travel managers are now trimming costs by as much as 30 percent, while still having employees “travel the same amount.”

It has been a long time since I last spoke with Mr. Walton, a co-founder of Consulting Strategies, which advises multinational corporations on travel.

I called him to ask: Have we finally come to this, to begging for space on a couch?

“I honestly have not heard that, and obviously the social aspect would prohibit most companies from having that kind of change,” he said. I thought immediately of the prospect of sharing a room on the road with the likes of Dwight Schrute, the repellent cubicle dweller played by Rainn Wilson in the television comedy “The Office.”

On the other hand, Mr. Walton said, staying with friends and relatives, if not actually willingly sharing a hotel room with a co-worker “might be an option some people think of” when left to their own discretion to decide how to reduce travel costs.

This might sound counterintuitive, but Mr. Walton thinks that most people actually like to take the occasional business trip and want to remain in the corporate travel lineup.

“As much as people complain about traveling, who ever says that they really don’t want to travel again? Nobody says that,” Mr. Walton said. “People want to get in an airplane once in a while. There is still some enjoyment in that, and people are going to figure out a way to still travel.”

Read the rest of this post here.