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post #105
bio: stu

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Favorite Things
· The Flaming R. Kelly
· Malfatti
· Johnny Cash
· Chuck Klosterman
· Deadwood, Seasons 1 & 2

Previous Posts
Notes on a Pandemic
Notes on Sobriety
Republicans Are Tough Guys
Brain Fog
Clown Posse
Uber, but For Wrong Numbers

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February Smackdown
Literary Shit
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Life on the Edge of Absolute Zero
I grew up in the Midwest and the Great Plains, so I'm no stranger to intensely cold winters--snow on the ground piling steadily higher for six months. When it's that bad, you just have to either get used to it until it melts or you move.

The snow is actually not too bad compared to a lot of places--most of the winter it's simply too cold for any precipitation. You learn to dread clear days because the light will blind you without warming you--clouds act like a blanket to keep the vestigal warmth in, and should be welcomed. Somewhere around month three you're no longer shocked to hear that it's 30 degrees below out, with an average windchill of 80 below that drops down below -100 degrees on certain gusts. The wind comes blowing in from the west side of North Dakota, and the three dozen trees separating the east and west edges of the state don't slow it down much. That's just life on the edge of absolute zero.

My senior year in high school--the last year I'd spend on the frozen tundra--our charismatic weatherman demonstrated clearly and succinctly just how cold it really got outside. It was a cold day in February, but not exceptionally so by the standards of the month (that year, 1997, the temperature would never get above zero for all of February). On live TV, this weatherman and a cameraman stepped outside of the studio on the edge of Fargo with a saucepan of boiling water and a banana. With a little preamble, he flipped the water into a short parabola--or it would have been a parabola if the water hadn't dissipated into a cloud of ice crystals, like a supersaturated solution given a short sharp shock.

He then turned to address the camera again--his words didn't matter much at that point--it was just filler so those at home could go: "Holy shit!" (or, considering the Norwegian-Lutheran make-up of Fargo: "Oh jeez, uff da, doncha know?") Then he picked up the banana, which had in the space of about 30 seconds frozen so solid that, as he demonstrated, it was possible to pound a nail into a board with it.

Pounding a nail into a board with a frozen banana. That's what growing up in Fargo was like. It wasn't easy, and it didn't even seem possible at the time, but I did it. And there's no reason to try it again.

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