thThat’s not right now, thank goodness. Current temps are in the mid-70s and the sun is benevolent rather than punishing. Flowers are blooming and the sky is blue and generally cloudless.

The grass is actually alive, vs. brown and spotted with swatches of gray snow mold (which is what we’ll see in Anchorage once our disappointing snowfall melts away).

Come March or April the Phoenix metro area will turn into Satan’s Fry Daddy and continue to sizzle until autumn. I expect those nice green lawns will sunburn themselves into dormancy pretty quickly. For the moment, however, I understand why so many people want to visit the place in the winter.

Walking around in shirtsleeves, not worrying about slipping on ice, feeling a breeze that doesn’t have teeth in it – I so wish that DF were here to enjoy it with me. Maybe when we retire we’ll become like so many other Alaska snowbirds and escape the Last Frontier for a month or so each winter. (No longer than that, probably, since he likes to ski.)

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31bj+FtE-zLReaction is always enthusiastic whenever I give away one of the “Tundra” comic strip collections. Why shouldn’t it be? Chad Carpenter is a very funny guy.

He’s also resourceful, having come up with an extremely portable and dual-use version of his best-selling anthologies: “Tundra” playing cards. (Insert your own “playing with a full deck” joke here.)

A set of the playing cards are up for grabs this week. As the artist suggests, use these for a poker game and see if anyone at the table can keep a straight face.

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th-1Our unnaturally warm weather (mid- to high 30s) has finally gone away. Temperatures have been near or below zero for the past few days, which means we’re about as cold right now as Chicago and St. Paul.

(But nowhere near as chilly as Fairbanks, where the daytime highs have been in the minus-20 range – and that’s nowhere near as nippy as it often gets there.)

The cold, clear days have brought two bonuses:

The chance to send the bedclothes outside. DF and I like putting the comforter, blanket, top sheet and pillowcases on the clothesline a few times per week, but only if we can be sure they won’t be targeted by sleet or freezing rain. Sleeping in an air-freshened bed is one of life’s simple joys.

The reappearance of the aurora. Activity has been high for the past few days.

An “interactive aurora borealis video” has been galloping around the Internetz lately. I couldn’t get the film to post here, but you can click the above link to see it. (Note: Turn off the auto-rotation if it makes you dizzy.)

Even here in the light-polluted city I’ve been able to spy the aurora several times each night. In part that’s because I keep checking, hoping for a glimps. But it’s also because the cold, dry weather makes me extremely thirsty – and if you drink water all evening, it’s likely you’ll get up at least a couple of times per night.

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Winter salsa.

thYears ago a co-worker of DF’s – and a newcomer to the state – was puzzled by all the references to a “Mexican holiday” in December. Finally she asked him a most Emily Litella-like question: “What’s all this about ‘winter salsa’?”

This so charmed DF that he brought corn chips and salsa to work in honor of the misheard word. He continued to do so annually because who doesn’t need a little bit of spice in the waning days of the year?

On Sunday, winter solstice, the light came back. Or, rather, it stopped going away. We gained five seconds worth of sunshine on Monday and by gum we enjoyed all five.

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2015_Wall_Calendar-257x350-1I know you guys like Chad Carpenter’s “Tundra” comics, because the response is quite enthusiastic whenever I give away one of his books.

And why not? His is one of the fastest-growing comic strips on the planet — and the third-fastest on Jupiter, according to his home page.

So here’s a gift for the person who has everything: a 2015 “Tundra” calendar, signed (and doodled!) by the author.

Just think: an entire year of silliness hanging on your kitchen, office or workplace wall. That is, unless you decide to make it one of your holiday presents.

My personal favorite is the August illustration, which features a TSA agent looking askance at a porcupine. Caption: “I’ll opt for the pat-down.”

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