27 Feb. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Richard the Guinea Pig Goes Quantity Surveying

Unlike the Valentine's Day storm about which I was so concerned, today's snow was relatively benign.  And unlike the Eskimos, I have only one four-letter word for snow; adjectives have to do the metaphorical heavy lifting while I do the actual snow moving.  The V-Day snow only amounted to a few inches, but was very heavy, and, worse, icy.  It required quite the effort to get it off the driveway and into the bushes, the grass, and the flower beds.  Today's blanket was of similar vertical dimension, but it was much warmer outside and although each shovelful was heavy, at least it was only heavy due to gravity.  Mr. Van der Waals wasn't trying to hinder me at the same time.  The wind was calm, too, and the relatively benign outdoor environment along with my MP3 player became my snow-shoveling muse.

I can't believe I did the whole thing.  And in fact, I didn't, because I ran out of minutes just about a radian short of finishing the circular portion.  The much larger linear section was spotless by the time I finished.  The snowblower has been steadfastly refractory this season.  I blame lackadaisical maintenance rather than any innate lack of desire on its part.  (And who is to blame for the lackadaisical maintenance?  Don't ask.)  Out I went, Bluetooth earphones affixed, Q in pocket, and zeal for my mission in every muscle.

As shovelful after shovelful was pushed aside, I suddenly had the notion to calculate just how much snow I was moving.  I have this mysterious compulsion to calculate things.  I wonder if there's a diagnostic category for that?  But mysteriously, I couldn't concentrate on the task.  I was mentally weighing each shovelful, timing how many seconds each took, and generally attempting to do simple sums in my alleged brain.  But instead of coming to a conclusion:  2 tons per hour, 4 tons total, or whatever, I kept drifting back to the music!  I was listening to the lyrics, and realized that in many cases I had never heard or paid full attention to some of them.  Mystery indeed, since I'm a serious lyrics dude.  And then it came to me:  I had never listened to the otherwise extremely familiar music in stereo headphones before.  I was finally getting the plot of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake!  (No, I'm in no danger of eloping with a stoker from the coast of Kuala Lumpur.)  The story of Mad John and Happiness Stan was making sense!  Darby was wailing in stereo on the WEW album.  I learned more about Jelly Bean than I needed to know from Myra.  And Kate?  Well, that will take another snow storm or two.  I inevitably listen to music while I'm "working" at the computer or whatever, and it's an anti-distraction more than anything.  But this morning the music took over my calculating center.

How much snow was there?  Well, I've heard that an inch of rain is the equivalent of a foot of snow.  This was especially thick snow, and I'm going to arbitrarily say it was the equivalent of about a half-inch of rain.  Water weighs about 62 pounds per cubic foot, so each 24 square feet of driveway would be 62 pounds, and each 12' by 3' section of driveway would be about 100 pounds.  If the driveway is about 12' wide, then for each 30 feet of shoveling, I moved 1000 pounds of snow.  The driveway has non-uniform dimensions, so my 4 tons total would be somewhat excessive were it not for the fact that some of the snow got moved twice.  It was heavy snow and from some areas I had to stage it.  (Tomorrow I shall hire a surveyor or, better yet, take some aerial photographs of the driveway.  Don't bother?  OK.  Thanks.)

As for the guinea pig part, I have two words for Wall Street Journal health columnist Tara Parker-Pope:  Nyahhh Nyahhh.  She told me, you may recall, that people my age shouldn't be shoveling snow.  Although today's activity would arguably be no challenge for someone 1/3 my age, she recommended teen-agers, so the denominator of that fraction would have to be slightly higher.  Nonetheless, I am neither in repose in an emergency room nor 100% life-free as a result of this unaccustomed exertion. 

But am I ever stiff!   

NP:  "World Entertainment War" - World Entertainment War
"Four Mile Road" - Myra Holder
An unnamed EP - The Bangles
"Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" - Small Faces
"The Sensual World" - Kate Bush

(Sequentially.  This was a five-album snowstorm)

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