It was not an auspicious start to the day. Before we could even leave for my son’s commencement at UW Madison, we had to clear the 6″-8″ of snow that had fallen overnight from our driveway. Then we had to flounder through unplowed roads to the highway. Then we discovered near-blizzard conditions of blowing snow on the road, but we persevered. We told ourselves that it would get better the farther east we went — Minneapolis always has wimpier weather than we do.

Then we got to the freeway…and it got worse. The roads were icy and slick, everyone was limping along at half the speed limit (except the idiot drivers of 18-wheelers, who were howling along at over 70mph in the left lane, stirring up billowing clouds of snow as they passed that would blind us all with a temporary white-out), and scattered all along the road were cars that had spun out and ended up in a ditch. We were held up by multiple car crashes. The final straw was when we pulled over to ask at a gas station about conditions further east, and were told a tale of apocalyptic catastrophe further on, with the freeway in both directions snarled with flipped and smashed cars.

We gave up, and came home. It was just too dangerous.

Now we are Disappointed Monkeys — we have to miss our son’s graduation. It also means he is stuck in dreary, uninteresting, barren Madison for Christmas, since we planned on bringing him back with us.

At least the university will be streaming the 2008 Winter Commencement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so we can watch it, but it’s not the same. If any of you happen to be going to the commencement for your own kids (or perhaps because you’re graduating, too), could you listen for the name Connlann Myers and give a little whoop and holler for us? We’d like to have been there, but we thought that orphanhood would be a really lousy graduation gift.


  1. Tor Arne says

    Don’t you have winter tires over there? In Norway we change wheels every fall and spring because driving on snow with summer tires is just dangerous.

  2. says

    I’m surprised you got that far. I heard on the radio that there 25 counties issuing “DO NOT TRAVEL” advisories up there due to the conditions.

  3. says

    Damn, that blows. Sorry to hear that.

    But, it’s better to miss the graduation than to miss everything that comes after.

    Sad Monkey is never sad for long.

  4. James F says

    I’m so sorry to hear this, PZ. Of course, this just means Connlann needs to get a graduate degree so you can attend that ceremony.

  5. bastion says

    Aw, poor PZ and Trophy Wife–and Connlann. Such a terrible disappoinment.

    Curse those weather gods!!!!

    Sad sad monkey. :-(

  6. Tim says

    We have “all season” tires that are legally snow tires, but not quite. Tire & lube departments at discount stores usually won’t stock winter tires, though Minnesota, with it’s heroic snowfall, may be different. And ice can be treacherous with any tire.

  7. TheWireMonkey says

    Happy Monkey anyway! Your son graduated! And from an EXCELLENT program too.

    Were I still a grad student at UW Madison, I would attend especially to give a cheer.

  8. Crudely Wrott says

    The two basic rules of winter driving are:

    1) Slow, steady and deliberate. Anticipate. Make extra allowance for the Oops Factor.

    2) Know when to turn around and go home.

    I’m pleased that you have applied your mastery of these rules and thus we are insured of your continued presence in the present. Still with us, that is.

  9. Cruithne says

    It’s a disappointment but you’re home and safe, and that makes the rest of us happy monkeys.

  10. Billy says

    I spent one holiday while I was an undergrad at UW-Madison. He won’t be bored- if he has a friend or two there, there’s a good chance he’ll find a watering hole in which he can celebrate.

  11. says

    That’s pity. Sorry to hear that you’ll miss such a once-off family occasion.

    My own first graduation ceremony was a good day out for the family. Unfortunately, they don’t do that kind of thing for my current programme, so there’ll be no day out for anyone :o(

  12. Nerd of Redhead says

    As a Superior lake effect area survivor, sometimes getting off the highway is your bestonly option. I didn’t mind driving around northern Michigan in bad weather, as everybody else was used to it. I always hated it once we hit “civilized” country, and people didn’t know what to do if there was an inch of snow on the roads. Where I live now, I prefer to stay in on snow days due to the terrible driving by a large number of the locals in bad weather.

    Sorry to hear your couldn’t make it to your son’s commencement. Good to hear your are home safely.

  13. Jimminy Christmas says

    Somebody up there in the great white north must have a SnowCat, snow plow, or souped-up/tricked-out snowmobile they’d be willing to loan PZ for the weekend.

    Or just catch a plane down to Phoenix, PZ. It’s 60 degrees and sunny here.

  14. says

    That really sucks PZ. I was at first going to skip my graduation, but really I’m glad I went. Congrats to you son.

  15. says

    Damn! That rotten Bill O’reilly must have been praying for you, again.

    Seriously though, I’m really sorry you didn’t get to your son’s graduation.

  16. 'Tis Himself says

    At least you were smart enough to turn around and go home before you became part of a multi-car pileup in the middle of a blizzard.

  17. Dahan says

    A tough blow PZ, but glad you didn’t try to “soldier on”. It’s nasty here in the Twin Cities too.

  18. porci dio says

    look PZ, you can brag all your 6″-8″ appendages you want but over on this side of the economic crisis we’re hanging out the full 10″ of evolutionary acceptability.

    eat it.

  19. Louise Van Court says

    It sounds like you tried as hard as you could to get there, what a bummer. Congratulations to your son though. Isn’t it great that they stream commencements these days so family members can share the moment. I hope maybe your son can find another way to get home for the holidays.

  20. SC, OM says

    Sorry you have to miss it, but glad you’re safe at home.

    How many UW graduates have people around the world, from California to Japan to Sweden to Australia, celebrating their accomplishment along with their parents? Not many, I’d wager. It’s not much, but it’s something. Congratulations and Happy Monkey, Connlann.

  21. says

    If Amtrak has availability, they go from Columbus WI to St Cloud, MN… actually, they run a bus from Madison to the train station, if the roads are open. It’s pretty late in the day for this, but it looks like it might be possible. The train gets in to St Cloud at 1240AM, a horrible time of night, though.

    Amtrak: Portage WI to St Cloud MN on 23DEC. It’s also available on the 22nd…

  22. says

    Sorry you couldn’t make it down here. We got about 10 inches yesterday and more is coming down today and tomorrow. I’m not going to commencement, but I’ll say congratulations to Connlann too.

  23. says

    Sorry to hear that you missed it. We get nothing like the weather you get in WI hear in the north east. We did get about the same amount of snow yesterday (all day) so finals were cancelled. Friday finals will have to be taken on Monday which really sucks for the students that had plane tickets home for this weekend. Anyhow… it is also why we do commencement and graduation ceremonies at the end of the spring semester in May. Students who graduate early and want to participate inthe ceremonies just have to come back for a day in May.


  24. Parker says

    Ah man, I’m sorry to hear this. Glad to know you’ll be in touch with your son soon though. It’s nice to see dad’s reaching out to his son still and I wish you all the best in gettig your family back together for some good ol’ godless fun!


  25. The Swiss says

    uh, I know how you feel. This can happen in Switzerland too, where we use winter tires and we have wheel-chains in the trunk, just in case. One nice Easter morning twelve years ago I left home with my mum and a couple of brothers, heading toward a well-deserved week of ski holiday. It even started to snow, so everything looked perfect. Only it was just snowing a little too much. In fact, we saw pretty much the same kind of scenes you did on the highway, with cars skidding in all directions (ah! those suckers who thought spring had come and had already put on their summer tyres!). So we tried the mountain pass. Bad, bad idea… Well, at least I got to put on the chains for the first time in my life. They sent us back at the border (the alternative route went through an Italian valley), for security reasons. We made it back home in the end, six hours after we left.

  26. IST says

    Tor Arne@1> We do have snow tires over here, but since people invented all weather radials most of us don’t have them put on… I think you can still stop and have chains put on, but since I haven’t lived anywhere where it snows regularly in 12 years, I’m not even sure about that anymore.

  27. Tor A says

    Ok. It sucks that they didn’t get to see their sons graduation.

    I just thought it was odd that a whole community would be so unprepared for winter in december. It doesn’t help if one person is prepared if everyone else fucks up and blocks the way either.

    I live a little above 69°N. We’re used to snow and a constant layer of ice here and the ploughs clear the roads immediately and continously if it snows.

  28. varlo says

    You have my sympathy, but blame in on Blowhard Bill who surely prayed against you (after hearing the weather news, of course). (Tried to drive across greater Kansas City one Thanksgiving. Got three blocks and showed the white feather.)

  29. Anon says

    You must have connections in Wis-con-sin; find a sympathetic prof who would be willing to flunk your son. He’ll be forced to attend another semester and graduate in Spring, when at most there will be a couple of inches of snow.

    Come on–which is more important, a few thousand more tuition dollars, or the chance to see your son’s commencement?

  30. says

    “dreary, uninteresting, barren Madison”


    You just tell that son of yours to give me a call, I’ll get him into all sorts of trouble.

  31. Louis says

    I am a Sad Monkey on your behalf. My wife is currently expecting our first kid and I’m looking forward to its graduation already.

    Wow, that came off pushier than I expected.

    Anywho, sorry that that callous bitch Dame Nature spilt her milky madness on Minnesota and prevented your attendance. I’d stop blaming Billo, and start blaming those gays and assorted other people. Hey, it works for Phelps et al, so it can’t be all bad can it……oh wait. Did I done make a mistake?

    Happy Monkey Anyway.


  32. Nick Gotts says

    Sorry to hear of your disappointment – but I’m sure your son would rather have his parents safe, than present for his graduation – turning back was the right decision.

    I skipped both my graduations – I wasn’t bothered about the ceremonies, and I’m afraid it didn’t really occur to me that they might be important to my parents.

  33. Nick Gotts says

    OT but perhaps some consolation: Obama has appointed marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head oceanic research. According to wikipedia “Her research interests include biodiversity, climate change, sustainability science and the state of the oceans.” No mention of cephalopods, I fear.

  34. olivermcrae says

    Sad, sad monkeys all around. I am in Connlann’s position, trapped at a shuttered university with 15cm of snow and a windstorm separating me from home. I never thought about setting up my webcam and making family members watch me be needed – ’til now…

  35. says

    Oh, I’m so sorry you have to miss your son’s graduation. That’s an awful thing to have to miss. I’m sure, though, that he would rather you be safe and sound.

    Congratulations on his graduation, anyway. To you and moreover, to Connlan.

  36. Noni Mausa says

    Snowmobile, my lad! Snowmobile! Or maybe a Snow Train, ‘twould get a lot of use in the land of the bland. Wouldn’t it be great to hear the lonely whistle of a train cutting across the fields outside of town? *sigh*


    Hoping you’re enjoying some eggnog with extra Monkey Juice, anyway

  37. JakeS says

    I got caught in the “blizzard” that hit Las Vegas this week. As a recent immigrant to the city from Colorado, I thought the amount of snow received here was nothing to worry about and actually found a giddy thrill in handling a familiar challenge getting home from work. Though I was mostly worried about the drivers who have never driven in the snow. I encountered everything from people who thought that snow storms meant that they should form small convoys with their hazard lights on to truck drivers who thought that the laws of physics didn’t apply to them and they could go 40mph.

  38. says

    Pobrecito! Morose Monkey, all around…

    Hearty congrats to the scion when next you espy him. What’s his major? Will he follow your furrow?

    Discretion IS the better part of valor–sez I, no paragon of either…

    The good news is that, in a couple of days, the sun is coming back…

  39. Annapolitan says

    PZ and TrophyWife, I’m sorry to hear of your disappointment at missing your son’s graduation ceremony. I guess this is why they’re usually scheduled for May or June.

    Does anyone have photos or video of the ceremony that they could post on YouTube? We could post whoops and hollers and congratulations to the new graduate in response. ;-)

  40. Longtime Lurker says

    Hey, your safety is the most important thing. Condolences all around, though.

    Hopefully Connlann can find a nice gin mill to hunker down in for the holiday, as Christmas Eve (babe) in the drunk tank is a time-honored tradition.

  41. Sabazinus says

    Sorry PZ. Sad monkey news.

    We’ve had snow here in central MA all day. Was supposed to have ended some time this morning. Storm began yesterday afternoon. Now, we have storm #2 looming on the horizon which should begin sometime tomorrow morning. Will end up with about 16-18 inches of snow by the time it’s over.

  42. says

    Bummer. I wish you guys could have made it, but better to be safe and warm than stranded or worse. I’m sure he’ll understand, and would want you guys to be safe.

    Here in Seattle, my bf and I had to nix our night out because of the snow and ice, but I figure it’s better than being caught in the snow and ice. We’re not too familiar with the area, and so driving around in ye olde snowstorm doesn’t appeal to begin with, but then there’s the added danger of slicky icy roads. (Just four streets down from our street, a bus nearly went over the edge of an embankment and ended up with the front wheels hovering partly over I-5.)

  43. says

    Sorry you’re missing the goings-on; glad you’re safe. Congrats to Connlann and to you all, too, on his graduation.

    It took me about 30 years to get around to doing anything remotely related to my English Lit. degree to make a living, but I actually used my education constantly; still do. Easier access to the shoulders of those giants we stand on is what I got in college.

    *However, pace Dustin on the other thread, nobody’s ever asked me if I had a degree when I applied for a job.

  44. Liz Tracey says

    Mazel tov and Happy Monkey to one and all. I’m sorry that you’re missing the graduation, but as others have said, it’s best to be safe. Maybe you can dial in via cell phone and yell loudly when Conlann walks? I know it worked in “Friends”!!! :)

  45. Gerry L says

    Midwesterners are a hardier bunch than those of us living in the Pacific Northwest. I know that’s where you came from, PZ, so that’s probably why you had the good sense to return home.
    We are on our 3rd storm — since last Sunday. I worked from home all week. (My tire chains are virginal.) Snow has been coming down for 12 hours now, and we are waiting for the ice storm that has been forecast to hit around midnight.

    This impossible weather is hitting wide swaths of the country, interrupting holiday travel plans and preventing people from buying gifts to put under the tree. Why isn’t Bill O’Reilly railing about this assault on Christmas?

  46. says

    Aw, c’mon, there’s gotta be someone in Madison who reads your blog heading your way for Christmas! It should clear up between now and then…

    Rides, people!

  47. Jadehawk says

    well, that certainly sucks, but it’s a good thing you turned around, because judging by the nightmare outside my window, the weather in MN and WI will only get worse.

    As for Amtrak… the Empire Builder doesn’t run if it can’t cross the Cascades or the Rockies, so it might be stuck in Seattle this week. I’m not aware of them running the train from Chicago to halfway through Montana and then turning it around…

  48. Mal Adapted says

    Ehem! “dreary, uninteresting, barren Madison?” As a Madison native, I represent that!

  49. sparkomatic says

    Dreary? Barren?
    I was stuck in a blizzard in Madison some years back…amazing weekend(bring on the Lineys!)it took serious counseling to recover…wound up in Jaynesville under the cow…never mind…good times.

  50. Stardrake says

    Glad you turned back–the winds are supposed to get even worse as the night goes on, and your son wouldn’t want popsicles for parents!

    And for those who are saying “Snowmobile!”–bear in mind that the trip from Morris to Madison is 368 miles as the crow flies–and much farther by road! That’s a long way to go on an open snowmobile…

    And a lot of that distance (especially near the beginning) is very flat land! There’s nothing to stop the wind, and the roads can drift over faster than the plows can clear them. Snow tires or even chains aren’t much help if you can’t see the road–and the ditch is waiting to eat you!

    Speaking as a lifelong Minnesotan, PZ did the right thing–Minnesota winters must not be underestimated. Minnesota, being in the center of the continent, can have conditions more like Siberia than Scandinavia–we have no oceans to moderate the weather.

    (And right now, some poster in North Dakota or Alberta, Canada is thinking “Ya wimps”….)

  51. Enkidu says

    What a bunch of wimps! Everyplace has it’s weather-repated problems! For example, I had to sunscreen the kids before we went out on our Solstice-shopping expedition today, and brave the sub-90F temperatures at the malls.

  52. says

    Boring? Madison? YOU JEST.

    DrBadger, I have probably run into you numerous times at the graduate seminars, but I have no idea who you are.

  53. GaryB says

    Sad to hear you are going to miss such an important event, but as many have said, it’s better than being dead.

    You guys get tons of snow and we in Western Canada get -40 wind chills. Now is when I wish AGW would speed up just a tad. Of course in Summer that wish reverses.

  54. John C. Randolph says

    Sorry to hear it, PZ. Still, you made the right choice. Discretion is the better part of valor.


  55. Jim says

    Sorry to hear you were held up by the weather, PZ.

    My sister is getting her master’s from UW tomorrow, so I actually will be at the 10am ceremony (hopefully that’s the same time Connlann will be walking). I’ll be sure to give a shout when they call his name. What’s his major, so I know when to expect him?

    Side note – we were planning a big party at the house, but with the weather, and family coming from out-of-town, I beet a lot of them won’t make it either.

  56. GaryB says

    (And right now, some poster in North Dakota or Alberta, Canada is thinking “Ya wimps”….)

    Actually Alberta gets some mild winters, it’s Sask and Manitoba that get far too cold for all-season tires. They harden up and lose their grip. Even driven on square tires?

    We don’t get the snow you guys do though so we really can’t call you wimps (although we would really like to).

  57. John C. Randolph says

    I got caught in the “blizzard” that hit Las Vegas this week.

    I have been present for 30-year snowstorms in Chicago, DC, and the Santa Cruz mountains in California.

    The 30-year storm in Chicago was about 18″, drifts up to five feet or so. In DC, it was about 12″. In Santa Cruz, it was 3″.

    That 3″ snowfall knocked our power out for a week. California is a strange place in many ways.


  58. says

    One thing about blizzards is that one does not quite notice the difference about the roads until one slips…

    I was once in a blizzard once, and it was high enough, that it was completely stuck.

  59. akg41470 says

    You’re not a real Minnesotan until you’ve gone to a Dairy Queen in weather like this – which we did – tonight – in south minneapolis. (is there a DQ in Morris?)

    Blame the pregnant wife for THAT great idea…

  60. Newfie says

    recovering catholic
    Newfie–thanks for the links!

    you’re most welcome.
    I love traditional Newfoundland and Irish music at this time of the year. And we’re very proud of that trio. Great ambassadors for our province. They tour across Canada each year, medium size venues, mostly ex-pat Newfs, but the audience will bring non-Newf friends to see them. My friends in Texas enjoy their music and comedy too.

  61. says

    Yes, the neuroscience seminars.

    I can’t attend the seminars next semester, but I’ll be attending the Center seminars. Those are lots of fun, but there’s nothing to eat. Seriously, what is up with having a seminar when you don’t serve edible objects?

    Poring through your blog and the grad student listings, I think I know who you are, and I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever actually met you. Maybe I’ll run into you next semester.

  62. says

    Yeah, my research description in my blog pretty much gives it away. Hope to see you at the center talks (though it’s hopefully my last semester, so more likely, I’ll be one of those grad students that no one ever actually sees).

  63. Krubozumo Nyankoye says

    A few years ago I finished off some field work and had to drive to Denver to catch a flight across all of Wyoming in November. It was snowing fairly lightly climbing up the long
    hill on I-80 to Evanston. We reached there about sundown. East of there the conditions deteriorated considerably. We managed to get past Rock Springs but were then halted for nearly two hours by an accident some miles ahead of use that shut down the highway entirely, in the wilderness. We began to move again, heading east. We had no choice really but to continue even though we were equipped to pull off the road and sleep in the vehicle contentedly until conditions improved. There was no where to pull off the road.

    The worst aspect of the whole experience was just what you described, being passed by large trucks driving as if the conditions were normal. Not only did their slipstream create a huge visibility gap, but it also tended to deflect the trajectory of my own vehicle which I had to struggle against in the very slick conditions.

    You made the correct choice. It is unfortunate that you cannot participate in the graduation ceremony, but I am very sure that your son will be much happier with having all the future interactions in store with you, than grieving over your untimely demise.

    One more point I would offer. The graduation itself is just a symbolic ceremony. What truly matters is the body of work that led up to the qualification to graduate. Since you could not possibly have observed that process directly, I think that it will be adequate to the well being and confidence of your son, that you pat him on the back when you next see him and tell him simply, well done. Coming from a sincere father, that means more than all the degrees in the world could mean.

    Happy monkey! Several million fold.

  64. says

    I went to school right off Lake Erie, same problem. Flat, high winds and lots of snow.

    They would find people who pulled over, got buried when the plow came buy, and DIED !! Not even freak occurrences.

    Better to live to drive another day.

    The was one time we threw a quarter keg of beer in the back seat with tap, put a parka on it as a disguise, ate some acid, then headed over to Columbus O for the weekend.

    Blizzard the whole way, but it was my good old VW bug, the unstoppable snow car, and we had St Stephen looking after us the whole way.

    You don’t have the white-out problem if you’re tripping, just don’t swerve for fractals, and you’re fine.

  65. says

    Having spent a winter (not of my own free will) in the frozen north, I was smart enough to move (back) to Northeast Texas. We have maybe one or two really bad weather days every 3 or 4 years. I’ve never understood why anybody would willingly put up with Minnesota winters. And before any of you make any cracks about hurricanes, note that Texas is a Really Big Place, and the last hurricane to hit Texas missed my house by a little over 250 miles.

  66. rmp says

    This sucks PZ. I picked up my daughter at Madison on Wednesday (after her last final) and got back to SE MN before the weather turned.

  67. Dean says

    “the idiot drivers of 18-wheelers”?

    Is that everybody that drives a truck or just the ones passing you PZ?

    Those guys drive every day in all kinds of weather. Most people don’t get on the interstate more than once or twice a year, if at all. It probably seemed like they were going 70 because you and the rest of the morons who choose to take a road trip in a blizzard were only doing 5 or 6 mph.

    The truth is that 90% of all car/truck related accidents are the fault of the person in the car. Sure there are some idiots out there but for the most part they are much better drivers than you. Many of them drive 150,000 miles a year or more.

    I know because I’m one of them. I drive to and in Chicago five days a week sometimes twice a day. On average I drive about 1600 miles a week.

    Over the last few years I have met several former teachers who stopped teaching and took up truck driving because it pays much better. One guy even said he was making twice as much driving as he was teaching. That’s a pretty sad comment on our school system if you ask me.

    Personally, I used to design and build automated industrial equipment but I can’t stand the 9-5 cubicle life. I like designing robots but I don’t want to be one. Besides, being a truck driver gives me lots of time to read. (I just finished The God Delusion and now I’m on Herndon’s, Lincoln.)

    Next time I suggest you take Amtrak. It’s safer, more comfortable, they have a bar car and you meet a lot of interesting people.

  68. Don in Rochester MN says

    Dog intervened and kept you from the Skid Demon before harm befell you; I am SO glad I preyed for you! Or maybe it was the incest I burnt. In any case I’m glad you’re OK!!

  69. Benjamin Geiger says

    I have nothing but respect for about 99% of long-haul truck drivers.

    But that remaining 1%… hoo boy.

  70. clinteas says

    So let me get this straight,gawd chose for gawds own country for his chosen people the americans a place where you cant drive places in winter?

  71. Bart Mitchell says

    Thanks for your comment Dean.

    I love PZ, and feel for him today.

    I have family that drive truck (down from Regina, Sask) and I think most people have little understanding of that tough job. I’ve only heard of a few drivers that are truly reckless, but never met them. Most professional drivers I know are exactly that, professionals.

    It always strikes me how rational atheists can come to a disagreement on issues like this, and talk to each other in calm rational terms. We can easily debate an issue, and quite possibly change our minds on that issue. And at the end, if we still disagree, neither of us feel the need to strap on an explosive, or shoot the other party.

  72. elbuho says

    Commiserations to you and Mrs M, what a nightmare journey and what a shame to miss the graduation… and a virtual WHOOP for Connlann! Well done, sir! I suspect you won’t be the only one stuck away from home due to the weather, and I suggest you stick together with other strandees and make yourselves a great Xmas!

  73. cirrus2000 says

    Should have prayed for safety, then soldiered on.


    Glad you’re safe, and congrats to Connlann!

  74. Pygmy Loris says

    I’m sorry to hear you won’t make your son’s graduation, PZ. That really sucks, but at least you made it back home safe.


    Most people don’t get on the interstate more than once or twice a year, if at all.

    Really? Most of the people I know drive on the interstate everyday. Is this a city v. rural thing? In St. Louis, many people must use the interstates to get to and from work. For example, if you live in East St. Louis (or any of the Metro-East) you have to get on the interstate to get to St. Louis (by car anyway).

    What I really think is quite brave is driving a semi in the city. I cannot imagine driving through Chicago in a vehicle any bigger than my parents old F-150. Kudos to you for tackling that job.

    One other thing, do you have a source for your statement:
    The truth is that 90% of all car/truck related accidents are the fault of the person in the car.

  75. MikeInJapan says

    Man, I gotta say I’m glad I’m not back home in Northern Iowa at the moment. According to weather.com it’s about -23C with a wind chill of -38C. T_T and here in Tokyo today it’s an average December day at +18C. Too bad with no insulation in my apt it’s also 18C inside. T_T

  76. Keviefriend says


    I am glad you didn’t die. I’m sure your kid is too.

    I’m agreed in the previous statement that you should have left sooner, like in May.

    We’re in Minneapolis and we went out in this, but it wasn’t *that* bad, however, we stayed in town and waited until after 3pm.

    Kev :)

  77. Steve Blair says

    Dreary? Uninteresting? Hardly.

    It’s not quite as applicable when the lake is frozen over, but head down to the Memorial Union any time during the spring, summer or fall and ask someone on a dock for a sailboat ride. You won’t be disappointed. Besides that, we’ve got parks with trails, some nice museums, a steamy indoor botanical garden, a state capital with an atheist solstice plaque, plenty of walkable shopping downtown, and any number of places to kill brain cells (if you’re into that)

    And with the foot+ of snow we’ve gotten in the past three days, the hills are ripe for the sledding. Or do like I do: find a big parking lot and practice your handbrake turns. :D

    I actually just drove 150 miles south home to Madison and let me tell you, it was quite the adventure. A 2 1/2 hour journey was instead 4 1/2 hours. A similar experience to yours, PZ, except that I actually made it through, slowly.

    Sorry you had to miss the big day. I didn’t even go to my graduation – the postal service brought my diploma right to my door – how’s that for convenience?

  78. Bride of Shrek OM says

    I’m so sorry you couldn’t be there for your son’s grad PZ. Its moments like those that make all those unsung hardships of parenthood worthwhile.

    If it makes you feel any better, my parents haven’t attended any of my three ceremonies. Dad was always too busy working and mum was too busy having lunch with her socialite friends. My last one though I had a husband and three children at and that, truly, was more precious that gold.

  79. Kitty says

    I’m so sorry you missed your son’s graduation. I missed my daughter’s because of illness, though her dad was there. I saw it on video later but it just wasn’t the same.
    I’d much rather have cried with pride in public!

  80. says

    I live about an hour south and east of Madison. I was supposed to go to NJ this weekend for my mother-in-law’s wedding, and I didn’t make it out of my own driveway. The Prius got stuck in a snowdrift that was WAY deeper than I anticipated, and I had to be towed out.

    Then, my flight was cancelled.

    This is my first year in the Midwest – I’ve been in Oregon for the last 5 years. All I can say is that the Midwest sure does make living itself a difficult chore.

  81. Patricia, OM says

    Don’t feel too bad PZ. I’m in the belly of the beast too. Our interstate closed last night, and still is. People trying to get here can just give up the idea.

    Those trucks you were grinching about have your food and toilet paper in them, just as a reminder. My old Grouch is a truck driver. No trucks are going fast or other wise here. The stores are a battle zone.

    It’s 16 degrees, cold out there shoveling chicken paths, brrr!

  82. emk says

    10 a.m. or 2 p.m. ceremony? ’cause I’ll be marshalling, and will surely whoop if I hear your boy’s name.

    Congratulations to the proud parents for helping to see the project through to the end…or at least, to the end of this part!


  83. Nerd of Redhead says

    The cold air pushed through the Chiwaulkee area last night. I woke up to -12 F outside. The high winds are blowing all the snow back into the shoveled areas. Keep warm everybody.

  84. Julie says

    emk – In a different post PZ said Connlann was getting a degree in English. I think that would mean he would be in the 2pm ceremony.

  85. emk says

    That’d be my gig then – I’ll give him a good holler, both for being in “my” college, and from “my” department. ;)

  86. freelunch says

    PZ, the weather here in Madison is so disappointed that you aren’t here to see our -6F (-21C) midday temp with 20 mph breeze. No doubt it’s balmy in Morris (checks Weather Underground, ah, nevermind).

  87. Interrobang says

    -8C outside right now here at Chez Geek, and a -18 wind chill. If I didn’t really have to go out, and/or I figured it’d be any warmer tomorrow (no), I’d just stay in. It’s not like I don’t have a million chores to do anyway…

  88. Angel Kaida says

    Sorry PZ :( That made me a sad monkey too! Congratulations on your son’s graduation; I’m sure he knows how proud you are, even though you couldn’t make it. Give him extra hugs for us. Are you going to be in North Dakota, by the way, anytime between now and Jan. 5? Weather permitting?

  89. emk says

    I *think* I heard the right name and gave a wOOt! This had the effect of startling the students I was lining up for the grand walk. So, would you believe me if I said we missed you? (Considering there were about 900 grads who walked this afternoon, you’d be wise to be skeptical.)

    Hope you enjoyed the streaming video. If you need programs, I think you can get them from the Secretary of the Faculty.

    Again, congratulations, and I’m sorry you couldn’t be there. Commencement is always fun. (No streakers this time. I wonder why…)

  90. says

    Our temperatures are relatively mild and it’s snowing more to the north & south of us. I stayed off the roads on Friday when the first storm was rolling in. There’s another one tonight and more to come.

    PZ, you were wise to go home. You can drive as safely as possible but if others aren’t as careful, you can end up in a chain reaction regardless. Friday there was a 15-car pileup on one of our highways, which is notorious for its whiteouts. Then the people who take it easy and the people who “keep their speed up to normal” (shudder–you can tell which group I’m in) start to collide. I don’t crawl but I do slow down and leave extra space.

    The streaming video was a nice touch.

    Trucks have a lot of momentum and I regularly see car drivers drive into their paths as though they were other cars.

    I have snow tires. I did without them for years because Toronto doesn’t have a lot of big snowstorms and does have a fleet of snowploughs to clear the roads. But they make a big difference in being able to keep going, steer, and stop. I really like them. We can’t use studded tires or chains on the road because they damage the roads. But if you carry chains you can lay them out in front of the driving wheels for traction if you get stuck and they are a huge help.

  91. marilove says

    “Is that everybody that drives a truck or just the ones passing you PZ?”

    “It probably seemed like they were going 70 because you and the rest of the morons who choose to take a road trip in a blizzard were only doing 5 or 6 mph.”

    So are those morons all the drivers on the road, or just the ones passing you, Dean?

  92. charlie says

    Being currently stranded in Seattle since Saturday on my way home I can certainly understand your disappointment in missing your son’s graduation. Luckily my eldest’s will be in May and in Oregon about the only thing that could interrupt a graduation at that time would be an earthquake. Odds are against it.

    Glad they had web cams anyway.