Friday, March 22, 2013

Kill the Groundhog!

Last February I posted an article on the practice of divining the weather by groundhog. I noted that the most famous of these prognosticating critters, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, was correct only 39% of the time. A commenter cleverly noted that in fact Phil is quite accurate as a divining instrument so long as you always assume that the weather will behave in the opposite manner. Last year, Phil "saw his shadow" which theoretically put the kibosh on an early spring. The result? Temperatures in March soared above 80 degrees in one of the earliest springs Minnesota has ever experienced. This year, Phil didn't see his shadow - and temperatures are still below freezing with a respectable amount of snow on the ground. So Phil was wrong both times - or, if you reversed his predictions, 100% correct. The continuing winter has not sat well with Ohio County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser, who today issued an official-looking document charging Phil with "misrepresentation of spring," an offense which at least in Ohio apparently carries the death penalty.

On or about February 02, 2013, at Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early. Contrary to the Groundhog day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future, which constitutes the offense of MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING, a Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State Of Ohio ...The people further find and specify that due to the aggravating circumstances and misrepresentation to the people that the death penalty be implemenied to the defendant, Punxsutawney Phil.

This is all, of course, a joke - Ohio is not about to send death squads across the border into Pennsylvania to execute a medium-sized rodent. It does, however, highlight the importance of understanding your divining instruments and how they work in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration. "Opposite Phil" has been two-for-two these last two years, which means that maybe he's who we should be listening to instead.

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