On May 5, 2011, I posted a blog on the weather vane I built, mainly for the aesthetic pleasure of watching it slowly shift direction as I daydream in a backyard lawn chair on a warm, summer day. That part will be good again when summer finally arrives.
But I have been surprised how accurately a simple weather vane predicts the weather. The first thing I do every morning (or the second thing) is to check it from the bathroom window. If the wind is from the north, it is cold and will stay cold. If it is from the south, it will be warm. From the west, it will change, either from rain to sun, or sun to rain. It rarely comes from the east in Delaware, but that tells me something unusual is going on.
But why would anyone want this old-fashioned predictor when the morning TV channels are filled with weather reports, and weather summaries even pop up automatically on cellphone and computer screens?
It gives a quick warning of what may be coming, and tells me if I should check further for a detailed report. It also gives immediate information right at my house. The weather reports may say the wind will shift and turn cold during the day, but my weather vane will show exactly when this begins for me.
Since the original 2011 posting, I have added a model airplane propeller to the back of the weathervane to get a rough idea of the wind speed. This is very useful in the winter when the bare trees give no indication of even brisk winds. (My flag is also useful for this and is visible from my computer room window on the other side of the house.)
I was given an AcuRite Professional Weather Station for Christmas that I love and am happy to recommend and plug. It has an outdoor component that collects the data—wind direction, wind speed, rainfall, humidity, and barometric pressure—and transmits this by a strong signal to an indoor unit that massages and displays the data, including maximums and minimums, the calculated wind-chill factor, and the rainfall for the day or week. It stores the data for (I think) two weeks that I could download into my computer if I wanted to (I don’t).
All of this may seem like an obsession with the weather, but it is very common activity for retired men. For women, not so much. I think it is mostly about feeling connected to the outdoors while staying comfortably indoors.
In the beginning of the 1997 movie, Men in Black, the young agent played by Will Smith visits the older, retired ex-agent played by Tommy Lee Jones to ask for his help in stopping an alien threat to civilization. “So, what have you been doing in retirement?” asks Will.
“Oh, not much,” replies Tommy Lee Jones. “I watch the weather channel a lot.”
We all do.