27 Comments

  1. The joke is that you’re supposed to wonder what’s making the “Foom” noise after each “Zap”, only to find out it’s snow.

    It’s an amusing image at least.

    I assume there was a lot more snow around before the zapping; the holes that are left are the after-effects.

  2. I shovel snow even when I could use a snow blower because I need the exercise.

    I think part of joke is that it is March. He’s not just tired of shoveling snow (or even “shoveling” snow, if we assume that he always uses the wand), he is tired of snow, period, and is taking out his frustration by zapping piles of snow that don’t need to be shoveled.

  3. He didn’t stop shoveling show the conventional way and take up using the wand. Using his wand is how the wizard opts to “shovel” snow. Each “zap foom” dispenses with only a bit of snow, hence the repetition of the wife hearing the sound and his being tired of it.

    I think Powers assessment is the gist of the joke:
    “what’s making that sound?”
    Well, wasn’t expecting that. Didn’t expect it to be such a mundane task.

  4. Surely I can’t be the only one who’s fantasized about getting rid of snow with a flamethrower. You don’t have to break your back, and it certainly seems a lot more fun. (That is, until you accidentally melt your car’s tires.)

    The wizard is having a similar fantasy: What if he shot lightning / fire from his wand and just vaporized the snow away?

    However, the lightning / fire only comes out in bursts (during the “Zap” sound), which does vaporize some of the snow (during the “Foom” sound), but it’s about as effective as trying to melt snow by pouring shot-glasses of boiling water on it, one-at-a-time.

    It might sound like a good idea, but it doesn’t work so well in practice.

  5. Sure, but my version of “oh, that wouldn’t really work” (along with the burning tires J-L mentions) is that it wouldn’t manage to flow to the street drains and would refreeze in place, maybe locking in the cars, but for sure coating the streets and walkways with absolutely slick and slippery ice.

  6. @J-L: “Surely I can’t be the only one who’s fantasized about getting rid of snow with a flamethrower.”

    Don’t give Ed Crankshaft any new bright ideas.

  7. How about hooking up a hose to a faucet, and using hot water? The temperature would have to be above freezing, or course.

  8. I had assumed that he was pushing the snow to the side of the path, and that a side consequence was the holes in it. If not, those snow piles look like they’re already off the path, so no need to do anything to them.

  9. Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, when asked to clear a path through snow, declined. “I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow.” (p. 309 of my one-volume edition).

  10. How about hooking up a hose to a faucet, and using hot water? The temperature would have to be above freezing, or course. , asks Ignatzz.

    Yes, that’s another corner of the same fantasy. (I spent some time elaborating these during the recent weeks we were mostly snowed in.) But it has some of the same drawbacks as the flame-thrower version. Will all the water (delivered from the hose plus the melted snow) make it down the street to the drains? Are you going to mop/squeegee the walkways? If there is a cm of standing water left, that is going to be a cm of slip-and-fall just waiting.

  11. Everyone talking about removing snow is only thinking about his/her own jurisdiction. Different approaches are effective in different places.

    Regarding using fire, that’s really quite inefficient. It takes a lot of energy to melt snow an ice. It simply wouldn’t be possible for a large area, like a whole city. Even a large driveway is likely to take a lot more propane than one might expect. I’ll leave it to somebody smarter than be to do the math about how much energy is needed to change 30 cubic feet of snow (a small driveway covered 6 inches of snow) into water and how many gallons of gas or propane tanks or whatever that is. I know some of you are itching to go at it.

    Now, about not being able to melt snow with fire because it will freeze all over the road/sidewalk…maybe. Or maybe not. It depends on the temperature, doesn’t it?

    When I lived in Japan, my region got a crazy amount of snow ( https://www.nippon.com/en/guide-to-japan/gu011047/the-white-canyons-of-toyama-getting-up-close-to-walls-of-snow.html ). Not as much as in that picture in the city, but quite a lot. However, it never got very cold. Rarely below freezing during the day, not much colder at night. So the main snow removal technique was…running water.

    The roads were embedded with what were essentially low-power sprinklers, dribbling out a continuous stream of water (not heated), which would melt the snow and it would all run off into huge storm drains. This happened on sidewalks in many places as well. Waterproof boots were a must, as there were huge puddles, of course. And when it did cool down, you could wind up with some icy patches, but only with standing water. The flowing water didnt’ freeze. One winter we had temperatures of -10C for at least two weeks straight and this approach proved completely useless, of course. But it worked well under the normal circumstances.

  12. How about hooking up a hose to a faucet, and using hot water?

    My laundry/utility room is off the back of the garage, so I could probably get a hose to reach from the water heater to the driveway. Drain the WH and thaw at once.

    Our only significant snow this year came when it was single digit temps, so the snow was very fluffy and dry. Many people reported using their leaf blowers to clear surfaces. I thought about that, but I never use the device in blower mode (only vacuum) and I couldn’t find all the parts needed for blowing. That sucks.

  13. SBill, I was going to mention that system in Japan and scrolled down to see you had already described it. I was perplexed at the constantly flowing water on the streets in Toyama the first time I went there, and asked colleagues what was going on. I couldn’t believe it: I imagined it wasting water on a huge scale, and also turning the city into a giant ice rink. My colleagues thought it was so obvious an idea they couldn’t believe it isn’t used everywhere. The key is that a) it snows a lot but rarely gets far below freezing, and b) water resources are very abundant. It’s not a combination that exists in many places.

  14. The walkways in front of this library get heated from underneath, to melt snow as it lands and forestall any accumulation. I don’t know the nature of the heating.

  15. CaroZ, it’s a delight to meet a fellow Toyamjin! Love the place. Had a great time living there. Yes, Toyama has an incredible amount of water due to the melt from the Japan Alps. We use the runoff from the snow to melt the snow. Toyama is also very proud of the quality of the water, having had it declared the best in Japan by one ministry or another. The second video in my post is from Kanazawa, in neighbouring Ishikawa Prefecture. They probably use this system in other parts of Hokuriku as well. Probably in Niigata too.

  16. I note that wizards in fiction are inconsistent about when they use wizardry and when they do things the ordinary way. Ron Weasley’s mom can fill a bowl with mashed potatoes with her wand but usually just cooks the way muggles do. Same with super heroes. Superman can do anything at super-speed but aside from flying instead of walking he seems to do things in the normal way at normal speed. It’s only when Lois Lane is just about to discover his secret identity that he uses his heat vision to melt the window into the shape of a lens so the sun’s rays converge on the wastebasket and set it on fire to create a diversion.

  17. There are a lot of comments in various stories about how doing it by magic is not actually any easier or quicker than doing it by hand – so magic is good when something can’t be done normally, but most of the time most of the mages use normal methods. Leaving aside the question of being detected. I recall some old stories in which Clark typed up a story so fast he melted the typewriter, or similar – and then had to hide the results and still produce whatever it was he was supposed to produce, so it was more work and took more time to do it fast and then fix the problems that caused.

  18. Some of the comments wonder why he doesn’t get Henry, his fire-breathing dragon,. to take care of it. Basically Henry is only there if a particular joke needs him. And his size will vary as needed, so he’s much smaller inside the house.

  19. Mitch4 –
    The college that Robert and I went to (and met at) was on 2 sides of a main road. There was a covered walkway bridge over the road to remove the need to cross the busy street. (It was called the Unispan – there are now 3 walkways, one of which is a copy of that one, and I call them the tri-spans when we go past. (College is near where we live.)

    The entrance to the Unispan on the main campus side (dorms and student center on other side of road) was an incline and was heated in the same manner to melt the snow.

    Robert wants to know every snowfall why we can’t get our driveway heated like that.

  20. We are not in the best shape to shovel snow. I am in better shape to do so than he is – he gets exhausted easily. When we had 18 inches of snow in the first storm this winter it took us part of each day for several days to get the main part of the driveway and the dirt area in the curve of the semi-circular driveway cleared.

    Driveway is shaped like an “h”. First day we cleared the bottom leg of the long leg enough to be able to back our car (which is parked on that section) out if needed it – I would have to go out in the busy 4 lane main road we live on with a walkie talkie to tell him when to back out as I have to do with our little RV (parked at top of long leg of h) when we take it out. Next day we cleared across the top of the hump of the h. Next day we cleared the short leg of the h – we had to get to our doctor for exams the day after that or he would not renew our various meds. When we got home we cleared between the car and RV. Day after we started clearing the snow around our van -parked on the dirt between the two legs of the h. Robert broke up the snow with a metal garden shovel – at first we were walking the shovelfuls of snow around the car to the neighbor’s lawn, then as those stacks became a bit high, Robert went and stood on top of the packed snow on the sidewalk with our large snow shovel. I picked up shovelfuls with our smaller one and transferred them to his shovel so he could stack it on the grass adjacent to the roadway.

    We had ignored the snow around the RV at the top of the h and walked on it back and forth. Then we had another large storm coming – only 8 inches from that one – but it was to have strong winds. Our solutions since Hurricane Irene (year before Sandy) was, if RV was not winterized to fill its water tanks. Then we if lost electricity and there was a problem with the water (which has never happened in our area) we have 25 gal clean water. We can also cook in (propane 2 burner stove) and spend the evening in it for amusement – watch TV – it has a large antenna on the batteries on for 2 hours, then one on the generator which also recharges the batteries (this is one gallon of gas which is why we use it for this time to not use up its gas). we don’t run the heat (propane furnace) or the ac/heat pump as they would involve running the generator and using up gas. When Robert is upset about the possibility of the losing electricity from a storm etc I remind him we can go in the RV for amusement. In this case we would not be able to as the snow was deeper than the bottom of the doors and covered the 2 exhaust pipes (car/generator). So we had to go and shovel the snow around the RV down to below the height of the doors and away from the exhaust pipes. (We did not need to use it.)

    Then, like others in NYC area, we started getting 2-3 day storms with a day off and then a second one for 3 weeks – luckily smaller storms. The last of the snow in front of our house melted 2 weeks ago (it seems to last longer at our house than anywhere in the area – including those large stacks of snow around light posts in shopping mall parking lots.

    We might have snow later this week.

  21. You certainly can have a heated driveway if you’re willing to spend the money. It’s going to cost thousands of dollars, the exact amount depending on the system and the details of the driveway.

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