newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog

newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog.

Yes, I’m still socially-insecure and still deemed too primitive a life form for a bank account. I still can’t say ‘water’ correctly and voice-recognition software still doesn’t understand my number 8.

Meanwhile Superalien is still as super (at least in my eyes), Male Mini-Me is taller than all of us and Mini-Mum has returned to the home of the Mini, only popping back from London to sleep, be fed and help balance out testosterone levels.

But in my new home of Chicago, I can at least lay claim to my own subgroup. I’m now Chi-rish as in Chicago Irish. Apparently the hyphen is important so as not to be confused with Chinese Irish or the town in Armenia. But I’m trusting my readers not to be churlish and to forgive these, my (hyphen-less) Chirish chatters…..

Friday, February 28, 2014

Polar bares and river rabbits

On pain of boring everyone rigid about how frigid it still is here in Chirish-land, the Arctic conditions are at least allowing one upcoming event to live up to its name.

The Polar Plunge is held annually in Chicago to raise funds for the city’s Special Olympics. As the name suggests, it involves a plunge (or a paddle) in the wintry waters of Lake Michigan. Usual attire is a swimsuit and little else, giving a new meaning to polar bare. Last year, the water temperature was a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit which is basically freezing in Centigrade. This year, the concern is that it will be frozen – literally.

As of the middle of February, some 88% of the Great Lakes were covered with ice, the highest percentage since the mid-1990s. We had a few days last week when temperatures nudged into the positive column and everything started melting. That was fun. It was a bit like a sunny day in Northern Ireland in the summer. People started wearing shorts and tried to use their BBQs. Except the tops were still frozen over.

But just like summer in Northern Ireland (as in “What did you do last summer?” “Oh, I went to the hairdresser that day”), our “spring” was short-lived and we’re back to Defcon 1 duvet coats and Dangerous Temperature alerts.

Interest in this Sunday’s Polar Plunge is heating up however due to the participation of Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and comedian Jimmy Fallon. Emanuel was the first on board after promising to take part if Chicago schoolchildren read more than 2 million books in the Summer Learning Challenge.

Fallon, who just took over the Tonight Show this month from Jay Leno, was then lured into signing up after Emanuel promised he would appear on Fallon’s show if he took the plunge. Fallon is now calling himself “Swimmy Fallon” and says he will be wearing a suit and tie. Apparently Emanuel is asking for a recount of the two million books, just in case.

The forecast for Sunday is suitably polar – temperatures of around minus 10 degrees Celsius and snow showers.  But the temperature in the lake is currently around minus 1 so it will actually be warmer in the water.

And at least Swimmy and co won’t have to worry about the giant attacking fish that people have been emailing me about recently. 

That stems from a report Chicago is looking at how to prevent Asian carp overrunning the Great Lakes. The carp, introduced to the southern US in the 1970s to keep catfish ponds clean, are now in public waterways such as the Mississippi river. 

Thanks to their impressive rate of reproduction, they have become known as river rabbits which is doubly appropriate as they can also jump. But not quite a bunny hop, rather up to three metres into the air. And into nearby fishermen. According to the Environment Protection Agency, there have been reports of injuries ranging from black eyes to concussion. And the fishermen didn't look too good either!

The good news is that scientists have only discovered river rabbit DNA and no actual carp in the Great Lakes and in reality current numbers are thought to be very few, if any. So the only things leaping out of Lake Michigan this coming Sunday should be the very cold and very brave Polar Plungers. Woolly hats off to them all.