All posts by Dale Connelly

I am a writer and broadcaster living in the Twin Cities.
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner – Anthropocene Defaunation Edition

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, and whenever that happens my cure is to spend some time out in nature. Lovely flora and majestic fauna bring home the beauty of the world, and they convince me that my problems can be managed.

I know others find respite in nature too. And some of them are scientists. I know this because yesterday while I was reveling in the tranquility of a lush summer glade, I discovered a rolled up magazine trampled in the mud at the base of a tuft of prairie grass.

Opening it up, I saw it was the latest edition of a publication called “Science – The World’s Leading Journal of Original Scientific Research.” When I tried to flatten it out on a rock, the pages fell open to an article titled “Defaunation in the Anthropocene“. From the heading I just assumed it was about keeping young deer out of a suburban nightclub, but once I started reading it became clear this was about something even more disturbing.

Dr. Babooner, it turns out some people think the world is undergoing it’s Sixth Mass Extinction, and we humans are the cause.

That’s kind of a paradigm-shifting thought – rather than being the nice, decent people I assumed we were, I’m now told that we’re a disease, and we’re cutting through the Earth’s defenses more rapidly than the planet can protect itself and all the other creatures who live here.

Suddenly I’m kind of down again – the way you feel at the end of a night of drinking when you realize you really weren’t the life of the party, and you might have danced naked on the coffee table well past the point when people stopped thinking it was cute.

I’ve never thought of myself as part of a global plague, but now I can’t think of anything else. Dr. Babooner, how can I ever be comfortable in nature again, knowing I am such a threat to it?

Apocalyptically,
E. Bola

I reminded E.B. of the John Prine quote where he quoted Dear Abby saying “You have no complaint. You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t.” He might have completely made up that line, but if so it just makes him an artful liar. He’s darn good at it, so why kick up a fuss? You’re a disease! The kind that dances naked on a coffee table! The next time you come down with the flu, imagine there’s a microbe just like you in your system, riding through your innards in a top-down convertible, whooping at the stars. Then get out there and have some fun.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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High_School_Cafeteria

False Memory Palace

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, a more-or-less permanent fixture at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey, Mr. C.,

OK, so I get it that you’re not interested in signing a permission form so I can donate my brain to science. I didn’t think you would do it but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Anyway, that means I’m going to have to go back to school (again) in about a month, and the whole Wilkie High experience will happen to me one more time. Oh well. I guess they’d miss me if I was gone – I’ve been there so long I pretty much have seniority over all the teachers and administrators anyway, and they ask me how stuff ought to be done.

Imagine that – THEM asking ME for advice!

One year in early August Principal Peepers was just starting at Wilkie and he got visited by a delegation of parents saying he should change the lunchroom routine around to “the way it used to be” about 5 years earlier.

They had all heard it was better back then but nobody could recall exactly what was different about it.

The teachers weren’t much help. The youngest ones hadn’t been at the school that long and the old timers had gone through so many different lunch management schemes everything was just a blur to them.

So they asked me, figuring that I had such a famous history of breaking lunchtime rules I must be an expert on every single regulation throughout all of time.

“And your brain is young,” Principal P. told me, “so you can call up the details at will.”

But what he didn’t know is that I’d been pretty much sleep deprived my whole time at Wilkie – at first because I was a late-night-TV junkie, and then from staying up super-late to use the computer on the sly because my folks wouldn’t let me on the internet unless one of them was in the room to monitor my “activity”. So I didn’t remember either. But what was worse – I didn’t know I didn’t remember.

There’s this new research that explains it – they say being sleep deprived really opens up your mind to retaining false memories. So like your mind is really open to suggestion and you take something totally fictitious and buy into it like it’s real. My dad says Sara Palin has this same problem, so I know I’m in good company. Famous company anyway, which I think is pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, here are the rules I told them we’d had for lunch five years before. They questioned me pretty hard about it, but I stuck to my guns.

  1. The lunchroom lights must be kept super low.
  2. Everyone comes to lunch in costume.
  3. Extra points for extra appendages.
  4. Talking is allowed in as many languages as possible.
  5. Food and drink should be served smoking.
  6. There’s live music, but the band only plays one tune.

Anyway, nobody in the administration stepped up to “champion” my version of the rules and they wound up going with something pretty standard about keeping your voices down and your fingers off of other people’s plates.

Later on I realized that the “rules” I remembered were not from Wilkie High – that was a false memory I picked up from the Star Wars cantina scene.

Oops! My bad, but we almost had an awesome cafeteria that year!

Your pal,
Bubby

When have you been convinced a false memory was true?

Storm_at_sea

Disaster Pros

Today’s post was found scratched into the underside of a piece of tire rubber that was marinating in oily water at the bottom of an immense pothole in South Minneapolis. Knowledgable sources have verified that it was indeed written by the elusive skipper of the pirate ship Muskellunge, Captain Billy.

Ahoy!

Me an’ th’ boys was watchin’ headline news on th’ satellite when our attention got snatched by word that th’ Costa Concordia was makin’ its way t’ dry dock, more than two years after tippin’ over in th’ waters off’n th’ Italian coast.

Th’ details what caught our fancy was basically th’ monetary ones.

Th’ wrecked vessel was a floatin’ palace wi’ 13 bars, 4 pools an’ multiple high-value amenities. An th’ cost – 1.4 billion dollars t’ turn th’ vessel upright, float it an’ move it, only t’ have th’ thing broken down into pieces an’ sold fer scrap.

As perfessionals in th’ fields of freelance maraudin’, swarmin’, pillagin’ an destroyin’, me an th’ boys is lamentin’ that so much was spent havin’ amateurs do work we woulda took on fer free. Ain’t that right boys?

Pirates is, by nature, scavengers in that we is lookin’ t’ pick up valuables what has been left sittin’ out in th’ open, unguarded. An’ if that don’t work, we forcibly liberates said valuables from their secure locations an’ brings ‘em out into th’ open where they becomes, in a word, unguarded. We then assumes ownership. Same difference.

One thing I can say fer sure – Had me an’ me boys been given unfettered access to th’ Costa Concordia on th’ day before it foundered, we coulda accomplished th’ very same result without any loss of life, usin’ this here simple checklist we employs whenever pillagin’ a cruise vessel:

  1. Acquire Items of Value Directly From Passengers
  2. Traumatize & Expel Passengers
  3. Raid Ship’s Bars, Consume All Liquids
  4. Liberate Items of Value from Vaults, Supply Rooms
  5. Remove Items of Value From Cabins
  6. Tear Fixtures of Value From Walls, Etc.
  7. Inventory Mechanical Items, Sell on Ebay
  8. Abuse, Misuse & Trash Remaining Items
  9. Indulge in Acts of Selfishness, Carelessness, Gluttony, Etc.
  10. Set Ship Afire and Cast It Adrift

I daresay me and me boys woulda left th’ Costa Cocordia in essentially th’ same shape ’tis in today, at much less expense wi’ only a somewhat massively larger amount of significant environmental degradation t’ th’ surroundin’ area.

Whenever calamity strikes, folks lament th’ haphazard nature of what occurs, completely ignorin’ th’ fact that perfessionals already workin’ in th’ field can do a better job of messin’ things up than an of th’ amateurs who ruins things by showin’ off fer their girlfriends.

But no one ever thinks t’ ask us, an so all these here major mishaps tends t’ unfold in a seemingly random, chaotic way. Which gives disaster a bad name!

Me point bein’ this – ’tis th’ same fer all major construction/destruction operations, whether yer puttin’ on a new roof or burnin’ down th’ livin’ room. Yer gonna get a much better job if’n you asks a perfessional!

Your humble servant,
Capt. Billy

When do you hire a professional, rather than do it yourself?

Angry_sun

Here Comes The Sun

Today’s post comes from Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing Minnesota’s 9th District – all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings, Constituents,

I’m deeply alarmed, as I’m sure you are, about news of the latest unprovoked and senseless attack to be launched in such a careless way it could have had serious repercussions for a great many people.

No, I’m not talking about any of the missiles flying back and forth between Israel and Gaza, although of course those are very bad too.

I’m talking about a brazen attempt by our own Sun to take us out .

Information just released by NASA reveals that this sneak attack was so clandestine we’re just figuring out that it happened two summers ago. Fortunately this reckless “solar storm” was poorly timed and flew past planet Earth a week too late – otherwise it would have played havoc with our power grid and destroyed our electrical devices to the tune of 2 trillion dollars.

And as you know, our electrical devices are our very soul.  Not to mention 98% of our memories!

Because I have been in Congress for a while, I know that my colleagues will not let this stand, especially in an election year. I also know that no legislation can pass without an aggressive, vindictive edge.  No doubt within days there will be calls for our weakling President to fire back at the Sun so it doesn’t get the idea that it can wantonly eject supercharged particles in our direction.

I’ve decided this situation calls for an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. It is essential that we respond to this attack – otherwise the Sun will see us as weak and ineffective.

To paraphrase Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, “The only thing that stops a bad ray from the sun is a good guy with another, different, American sun.”

And because I believe I will lose in November if I don’t paraphrase Wayne LaPierre, I propose we embark on a crash program right now – a Kennedy-style moon-shot challenge – to build our own version of the Sun that can shoot back at the terrorist orb we orbit.

Expensive? Of course. Security is always pricey, but maybe it will cost more to do nothing. Let’s say it will!

Fortunately, America has a lot of coal that is increasingly controversial right now because burning it in our power plants fouls the air. My “American Sun” bill will lift that coal into space, where we can burn it outside the atmosphere and use it to fuel our own, better, friendlier version of this legendary “Chariot of Fire” that has so recently been converted into a terrorist threat.

No doubt there are so-called “scientists” who will say defeatist things like “you can’t burn coal in space” and will claim that the sun is an inanimate object that can’t be intimidated.

But I say “find a way to make it work.” Because even if the sun does not back down, there will be economic benefits. With so many nations turning to solar power (I’m looking at you, Germany!), having an American sun in space will put us on top as a global energy supplier. We can position our sun on the dark side of planet, giving us half of every day to get the rest of Earth hooked on American coal powered light.

But how will we pay?

Again, I have taken a hard look at the votes in Congress and I see that there is little support for taking the money from anywhere except poor people and undocumented immigrant children.

I know we are sending these kids back across the border as fast as we can, but can’t we empty their pockets first? Someday they will thank us if we can use their pocket change to build a Counter-Sun to prevent the destruction of the computers and video games these wanna-be Americans hope to someday be able to play secretly at the desk jobs they dream of stealing from people who were born on our soil!

In short, my plan is our only hope. It is expensive, audacious, militaristic, and unscientific (in a good way!). I believe it has the votes to pass. And just to be sure that it does – it also repeals Obamacare!

Aggressively,
Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

What would you do if no electrical devices worked. For a year?

canines

No Turd, No Canine

I love a good study of something that can’t be measured, which is why I fell immediately for some sparkling new research I saw yesterday about jealousy in dogs. It is even more wonderful than another obscure bit of science that I used to love about contagious canine yawning.

It’s not that I’m fickle, but after caring so much about what dogs must think when I yawn at them, I do need something fresh to occupy my mind and keep the excitement alive.

This latest experiment is just so charming.

Researchers emotionally provoked thirty six dogs by having the owners, in the presence of their pets, give attention to three different things – a book, a moving, barking toy dog, and a pumpkin-shaped Halloween candy bucket.

The book was read aloud. The toy dog and the bucket were talked to and petted like they were real animals.

The actual dogs were not interested in their human’s interaction with the book, but had a negative reaction when their owners coddled the fake canine.

A certain amount of butt-sniffing was done with regard to that toy dog. There was no similar behavior around the Jack-O-Lantern bucket because neither dogs nor science can tell us where a pumpkin’s butt is located. Is it on the bottom or at the stem? Time to fund another study.

At any rate, the canines showed a significant amount of alarm when it seemed like there was a new (phony) dog on the scene.

The conclusion: Dogs get jealous.

An alternate conclusion: Dogs get embarrassed for you when you act like a plastic bucket and a scentless stuffed dog are really alive.

But if dogs do get jealous, they will need songs to soothe them through their pain. My nomination: Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

No one loves you like I do
You’re my man, and I’m “Old Blue”
But then you picked up a new dog at the store
Between me and that pup
You know I loved you more.
So it took me by surprise when I snuffed
and found out your new pet was stuffed
Don’t you know that no turd means it’s not canine?
Fundamental to the design.
Let me tell you no turd means that’s no canine!
That’s the news that comes from behind.
Honey Honey, yeah.

What’s your favorite song about betrayal?

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City of Bears

Today’s post comes from Bart, the bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods
He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods

H’lo, Bart here.

The woods are loud this summer thanks to all the people who come up here with the same low standards for noise control that they use in the city. They’ve got every kind of sound maker there is, including smart phones, which more and more bears are picking up. Seems like as soon as a tourist sees a bear, out comes the smart phone to take a picture. And as soon as that bear makes a move toward the tourist, they drop the phone and run.

That’s how getting smart phones got to be easier than picking berries. I have a bunch of them stashed away. As soon as the battery runs out on one, I open up another.

But I don’t get it why people would bring such a loud thing into the woods. These phones are ringing, beeping, chirping, and playing music ALL THE TIME. They’re so demanding! I thought getting out of the city was supposed to be about leaving behind all the racket and the stress. Instead, having a bossy smart phone makes it feel to me like I’m living in a Minneapolis apartment.

Not that I really know how it feels to live in an apartment.

Though I ran into a bear one night at a picnic area in the Chippewa National Forest who shared the contents of an abandoned cooler with me. He said he once was able to rent an apartment in St. Paul by doing it totally online. The landlord didn’t ask for references, he just left a key under the mat and this bear claims he lived like a prince for two weeks until the downstairs neighbors started to complain about the sound of heavy footsteps (and breathing) overhead. He also had this bad habit of rubbing off ticks that had dug into him by using whatever was handy in the main downstairs hallway. He splintered some of the wood paneling and ruined the carpet, which was a dead giveaway and led to them calling a zookeeper and the police. Tranquilizer Dart time! Otherwise they never would have caught him because the neighbors just thought he was an exceptionally hairy person.

Anyway, when I run into city people up here in my territory, you’d kinda expect that they’d quiet down as soon as they laid eyes on me, seeing as how I’m so big and fearsome. But it’s just the opposite – they get louder. Some of ‘em even start banging on pots and pans. What’s with that? People are just weird.

I saw online that urban experts think they can make cities quieter places to live. I’m not so sure about that. Unless you can do something to get rid of the humans, cities are going to be noisy, no matter what.

A city of bears would be pretty peaceful, I think. Not that we wouldn’t have our issues, but we bears tend to keep a respectful distance from one another, which is something humans don’t always try to do. So if you want to come to the woods to learn about patience and quiet, fine. But leave your smart phone at home!

Your Pal,
Bart


What’s the most annoying noise in your life?

Cerebral_lobes

Brain Strain

Today’s post comes in the form of a letter from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

Well it’s past the Fourth of July and the back-to-school sales are about to begin, which got me thinking about starting yet another sophomore year at Wilkie. Some years I wonder if it’s worth the effort. I know lots of people who say it’s a scandal how I keep getting held back in the tenth grade over and over again, but the standards there are high on purpose and there always seems to be a good reason why I shouldn’t advance.

A long time ago I became the poster child for the campaign to end social promotion. So for a lot of families at Wilkie I’m their guarantee that the school is serious about achievement. “As long as that Spamden kid stays a sophomore,” they say, “I’ll know my kid is expected to perform. Imagine! A sophomore forever!”

Anyway, holding me back is now something everybody has gotten very used to, which is maybe the most major reason of all why I’ll never get to be a high school junior. You know how it is when you get into a routine.

So that got me thinking that maybe I need to do something crazy and different to shake things up, which is why I’m writing to you to ask if you could forge my dad’s signature on a form that I have to fill out before I can be allowed to donate my brain to science.

I guess minors need the consent of a parent or guardian to do this, and even though I’m way, way NOT a minor anymore, as soon as they find out I’m a high school sophomore they INSIST I fill out the form. Don’t worry though, you won’t get in trouble because it’s probably not even a crime to pretend to be my dad on a permission form when I’m almost thirty years old!

Did I just say that out loud? Geez, now I’m even more sure there’s something wrong with my brain.

And scientists from all over the world are working right now on solving some of the most complicated mysteries that happen between your ears. So there’s lots of money in the field, and everybody’s arguing over how to spend it.. Some bunch of European brain experts have signed a petition to say the big Brain Project they have going on over there is “too narrow in focus,” which is an odd thing to criticize because when I start flunking tests my mom always TELLS me to focus in on one thing rather than letting my brain “squirm like a toad,” which is a phrase I think she picked up in the ’60’s when people’s brains were really weird. Because toads don’t squirm, they hop. At least they do these days. Maybe things were different back then.

So anyway, they’ll probably decide to do even more research just to keep everyone happy, which is great if you have lots of education in, like, neuroscience and stuff.

I don’t have that education, but I DO have a brain to sell. I’m willing to bet they’ll want to take a really close look at one that couldn’t get out of the tenth grade, just to see what’s wrong with it. I’d like them to take it as-is. I’ve done as much with it as I can and I think the timing is right. Besides, Artie Richter is the smartest kid in 10th grade and he says they won’t have to remove my brain or anything, but I do think if the researchers buy my brain I’ll get to lie around a lot inside MRI tubes, listening to music, which would be an awesome improvement over Mr. Boozenporn’s class this year!

So what do you say, Mr. C.? Will you help me shake things up and change the script this year?

Your pal,
Bubby

Of course I told Bubby that I would not help him avoid going back to school by forging his dad’s signature on a document that allows him to donate his brain to science. But the fact that he thought I might do it suggests there’s some weird chemistry going on inside his noggin, and it would certainly yield some interesting results if the researchers could only get their hands on it.

What could be learned if you donated your brain to science?

Lightning

A Bolt From the Sky

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, Civillians!

After all, it’s summertime – the season when lots of people dream of taking an afternoon nap in the soft grass beneath a shady tree. But before you relax remember this – the outdoor environment is dangerous and unpredictable, and there’s a good chance that just as you begin to drift off to sleep some backwoods cowboy will come riding through your peaceful glade on his ATV (All Terrain Vehicle).

And if you think that’s disturbing, just wait. Because I’m about to ride through your picnic on my ATW (Assume the Worst)-mobile!

Outside is NOT the place to be this summer. Sorry, but in case you missed it, my arch-enemy lightning has recently gone on a spree and is striking people at will.

Lighting is the safety maven’s nightmare – the Ace of Spades – a dealer of almost certain death striking randomly from the sky! This is the reason I became obsessed with security years go, and when it comes to lightning, no one A’sTW more vigorously than I.

People ask how they can be safe outside in a storm and I say don’t go outside! Stay inside! And while you are inside, keep far away from all windows, phones, television sets, reinforced concrete (including floors), electrical things, and plumbing.

Basiclly, if you can suspend yourself in mid-air without any physical support connecting you to the walls or ceiling inside a first floor room that is designed to be a place where you do Absolutely Nothing, then you might be safe from lightning!

Otherwise, you’re exposed.

Even people taking a bath or a shower can be shocked by lightning during a thunderstorm because current can be carried along by pipes and fixtures. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from the New York Times about being zapped in the shower:

Ron Holle, a former meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who tracks lightning injuries, estimates that 10 to 20 people in the United States are shocked annually while bathing, using faucets or handling appliances during storms. “There are a ton of myths about lightning,” he said, “but this is not one of them.”

Just thinking about that gives me the willies. Now I know the true meaning of “Naked and Afraid.

So my advice is to stay indoors this summer. Or if you go out, wear a fully insulated non-electricity conducting head-to-toe body suit.

And before you take a shower in the morning, check the weather radar! Sometimes there are good reasons to go to work smelling like you are a bit past your expiration date.

Yours in safety,
B.S.O.R.

I’m wondering if Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty begins each day mapping his paranoia on a worry chart – will it be asteroids or lightning today? After all, either one could strike suddenly and without warning.

Have you had a close encounter with lightning?

WellsFargo

Wells Fargo Wagon

In what will no doubt become a commonplace occurrence, a commercial space supply freighter was launched from North Carolina on Sunday with a bundle of goods destined for the International Space Station.

The Antares rocket is a product of a company called Orbital. Sending satellites into space is what they do, and this – delivering goods to distant, not readily accessed locations, is a growing part of the business. We tend to get bored when everything is carefully planned and what appears risky winds up going completely right.

Given that, this is probably the most boring video on You Tube.

The launch has lots of things going for it – #1 – lots of smoke and fire. And #2 – animation! Meanwhile, up in space, the excitement is building because there’s a visitor on the way – bearing gifts! And we’ve felt so alone, waiting for in the inky dark desolation of space for what seemed like ages!

What item could you NOT WAIT to have delivered?

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Polar Vortex Redux

Image – NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Today’s post comes from Unreliable Journalist Bud Buck.

Meteorologists and paranormalists are watching with great interest as conditions conspire to raise some serious questions about the true nature of the mysterious forces that propel our weather.

Although I have talked to at least two people and maybe three about this topic, no one has yet been able to convince me that there is not something spooky and ominous afoot!

In a bit of timing worthy of a vengeful and nefarious supervillain, the dreaded weather phenomenon known as the Polar Vortex is coming back at exactly the right moment to make Minneapolis’ All-Star summertime a bummertime.

Starting off what is normally one of the warmest weeks of the year, this Monday will see a high temperature of only 65 degrees with 25 mile per hour wind gusts driving a cold rain into the faces of Important Visitors From Afar – those cherished opinion leaders congregating in Minneapolis for Major League Baseball’s annual All Star Game Tuesday night.

Unseasonably cool conditions are also certain to mar the beginning of a seven day stretch that the city’s mayor has identified as Bragging Week.

Coincidence? I put that question to TV meteorologist Gust Hailstone, who said “What are you talking about?”

I proceeded to explain to the clueless Hailstone that some people are saying the Polar Vortex is actually more than a weather system. These individuals believe the Vortex is actually a sentient being – a roiling stew of temperature differentials and moisture, brought into consciousness by the electricity in lightning, and configured just perfectly to have a vendetta against the city of Minneapolis!

“That’s ridiculous,” Hailstone spluttered. “I’ve never heard anybody say that.”

“You’re a liar,” I replied, “because I just said it, and you heard me.”

The real question is – why is the Polar Vortex trying to ruin our reputation by making all of America and the rest of the world see Minneapolis as a place that is too cold to visit, even in the summertime?

I put that question to paranormalist Jade Seance.

“That’s already our reputation,” she said. “Through the thick mists that separate this life from the next one, I can sense that even the dead people shudder when Minneapolis is mentioned.”

The moment she said “Minneapolis,” I felt a deep, clean chill, almost as if a door had been left open, or a ghost had walked through my physical body. I quickly spun around, expecting to see the Vortex standing before me in the form of a living, breathing arch-fiend!

But no! It was an open door. Her receptionist had quit the day before and Seance propped a chair against the entryway so passers-by could see us gathered around the table, holding hands.

“People will pay you good money and put up with a lot of malarkey if you’ll just hold their hand for an hour,” she said. “Some folks are really desperate to make any kind of human contact.”

Still, I had to ask. “What does the Polar Vortex want with us?”

At that very moment, the lights came back on, the wind blew the door shut and Seance said “Time’s up! If you want more answers it will be another hundred dollars.”

Indignant, I marched into the street, found a cop, and complained that I had been bamboozled by a paranormalist. But as soon as the officer found out I was a local person, she detained me on charges of raising the stress level when company’s coming and violating the promotional ethos of Bragging Week.

The Polar Vortex strikes again!

This is Bud Buck!

Naturally, Bud is trying to make this as dramatic as possible so he can draw attention to himself. But I think he imagined this entire episode, or at least embellished it. I’m confident that weather does not have needs or desires when it comes to complimenting or ruining our events.

Or does it?

When has the weather undermined your plans?