Don’t worry, it’s just a weather balloon.

I feel sorry for weather balloons. Anytime somebody wants to deflect from the truth, they immediately blame the poor, innocent weather balloon. I’m surprised Oops, never mind, it was a weather balloon isn’t a meme.

Oh, wait. It is.

Spy balloon spotted over Montana? Not so fast, the Chinese say. It’s just a weather balloon. 

This is nothing new. Weather balloons have been scapegoats for as long as weather balloons have existed. They’re the original government coverup. I’m surprised some conspiracy theorist hasn’t blamed the JFK assassination on a weather balloon. It was probably launched from the grassy knoll by the second gunman.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Roswell incident in New Mexico. In 1947, a flying saucer was captured by the 509th Bombardment Group at Roswell Army Air Field after crash landing on some poor dude’s ranch. At least that’s what military officials claimed, and it made front-page headlines. The next day, that explanation was walked back. 

It was actually a weather balloon, they said. Our bad. 

Five years earlier, in Feb. 1942, air raid sirens sounded over Los Angeles when the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force was spotted offshore. The U.S. Army Coast Artillery fought off the mainland attack with anti-aircraft fire in what was dubbed the Battle of Los Angeles. Chaos ensued. Buildings were damaged and five people died. Decades later, amid Japanese denials that they had ever flown airplanes over L.A. during WWII, the Air Force concluded that the real culprit was…you guessed it…weather balloons. 

As a fella with a strong interest in meteorology, this bugs me. I wish people would stop blaming weather balloons all the time! They’re like the Rodney Dangerfields of the sky, I’m telling you. Weather balloons get no respect. What have weather balloons ever done, besides carry sophisticated instruments aloft to monitor atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed? They’re up there for the good of mankind, dammit, warning us of approaching storms and potentially saving lives. 

Some things deserve scorn. Like drunk drivers and MAGA supporters and Crocs and Nickelback. Weather balloons do not. Give them a break already! 

I always joke that I’m a fountain of useless information, a modern-day Cliff Clavin thanks to the articles I write covering every topic under the sun. I could probably kill it at trivia, I wrote in a blog post last October.

Last Thursday, I killed it at trivia.

Actually, we killed it at trivia. My wife gets half the credit. We wouldn’t have Team MarTar without the Tar. Nor would we have Booze Clues, our trivia team.

I always feel like we’re at a disadvantage when we play bar trivia, because it’s just the two of us. Last week, we were seated next to a team of nine. That’s a helluva lot of brain power there. They’d huddle after each question, discussing answers, and more often than not, coming up with the correct one. They were, in fact, the eventual first-place finishers. I think the next smallest team after ours still had four people. We play trivia just to have fun, but I’m not gonna lie. Winning rocks, too.

We finished in third place, but that was enough for $10. Paid for a round of beers. And given that there were a dozen teams total, all with more people than we had, I feel it’s a respectable showing. Especially considering we moved up from 7th place on the last question by betting the maximum, 20 points, and nailing the answer that most other teams — even the nine-person brain trust — missed.

The question was, which soft drink once used “Out of the ordinary” as a slogan. No, it wasn’t 7-Up or Pepsi or Fanta or Jarritos or any of the other multiple choices offered.

I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, and the answer was Dr. Pepper, too.

What I like about this particular trivia (Mr. Brews in Fort Atkinson, Thursdays at 7 p.m., be there or be square) is the fact that they sprinkle in clues with the music they play. Take the first question, for instance. Which part of the eye regulates the amount of light entering? And then they played “Iris.” The freakin’ Goo Goo Dolls, man. My most-listened-to artist on Spotify for two consecutive years. No way was I getting that one wrong. Not every song is a clue, and not every song that is a clue is that obvious. But some of them are. You really have to pay attention. It just adds an extra layer of fun to the whole experience.

Granted, we don’t play trivia very often. This was only our second time since moving to Wisconsin, and we played in Rapid City just a handful of times. Probably because it’s held on weeknights, and we’ve gotta go to work the next day. Makes for a long night and an early morning. But sometimes you gotta cut loose (footloose!), even if it is a Wednesday or Thursday night.

Do you play trivia? What is something you believe deserves scorn? Do you think UFOs exist, or are they really just a bunch of errant weather balloons?

72 thoughts on “Don’t worry, it’s just a weather balloon.

  1. Good job at Trivia . . . and you only had to split your $10 winnings 2 ways. That “brain trust” of 9 had to split their gift cards 9 ways!

    It’s been a while since I played Bar Trivia ~ probably 20 years. But it was always fun. Here in FL we attended Trivia Night at the Library a number of times. Like you, we were a team of 2 . . . until a hanger on asked to join us. She contributed one correct answer during the 7 weeks she tag teamed with us. That was enough and we went back to playing Trivia at home, on the coach, watching JEOPARDY.

    As far as weather balloons and UFO’s and Chinese double speak ~> ask the brain trust. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually did the math on this. First place won $30, but divided nine ways, that’s less than $3.50 apiece. We still came out ahead!

      I’d consider adding another person to the team but only if they contribute more than one correct answer over seven weeks.


  2. Yet another thing we have in common. I played trivia in person a block from my office (publishing staff make great teammates), and we’re lucky that our brand of trivia has offered online games since the pandemic started, so we’ve continued. Go team Donner Party!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donner Party…ha. That’s a name I sometimes use when waiting for a table at a restaurant. You should see the way people look at you when the host calls, “Donner party, your table is ready!”


  3. I do love some good trivia. Remember Trivial Pursuit? Is that still around? I have moments of brilliance and then flatten out or dive down into clueless land. Some topics (like anything to do with sports) and I would be better off just drinking more and answering less. The youngest and I used to play music trivia a lot. We now have a special bond over Rick Astley…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How can I forget Trivial Pursuit? Great game! It’s still around. In fact, I think we have one of the editions. Somewhere. Buried deeply in the garage. Might have to bust that out again once we’re settled in.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great job on the near Trivia win! I love playing it and have done so a number of times, but that was pre-pandemic when I was still OK with crowds. (not so much these days) The weather balloon is an easy scapegoat!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I looked back on the post I linked to and was surprised to see I never played trivia before March 2022. Seems like it’s something I’ve been doing a long time, but alas, apparently not.

      Good thing “When did Mark first start playing trivia?” wasn’t a trivia question.


    2. We love trivia, too. No, we actually Love trivia. Let me clarify: we LOVE trivia (yes, in caps). And, yes, pre-pandemic for us as well, these days we watch Jeopardy and The Chase 🙂

      Thank you for satisfying my curiosity about what swamp gas looks like 😀 Inquiring minds and all! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We used to have a Tuesday night trivia team at a bar called Pedro O’Haras. Yes, you read that correctly. They served tacos as well as corned beef and cabbage. I discovered one of my favorite margaritas there… the tarantula….but it was a college town and the questions were hard! I’ve been known to annihilate my friends in Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit but the closest we ever came to winning there was 3rd place.
    As for weather balloons, you’re right. They get blamed for everything. Except my husband’s nightmare cellar, that’s all on him.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How close to the border was this weather balloon ajka spy balloon? Was there weather or spying going on in Alberta?

    I don’t play trivia. Doesn’t hold my attention. I know a little about this and a little about that across two continents in multiple languages but it’s never enough to even make 3rd place. But I’ll come for the grub and the drinks. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Poor weather balloons, just trying to make a living.
    I absolutely love trivia nights. In March of 2020, my husband and I attended a John Hughes trivia night and won free movie tickets to the local theater. The next day, everything was locked down, and our tickets expired during the lockdown. Because it was so ironic, I now keep the free ticket as a bookmark. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. We loved Trivia Nights . . . back in the 1980’s! I didn’t realize until recently that it had made a comeback (or that it never left?) We make a pretty solid team as he knows his sports, politics, and current events and I’m the literature, arts, and music person. Macarons deserve scorn as opposed to the delicious macaroon.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a barely-started blog post that’s been sitting in Drafts forever entitled, “I Have No Business Being on a Trivia Team.” That’ should tell you all you need to know.
    Laughed out loud at your list of things that deserve scorn.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Add my heaping dose of scorn to the eminently scorn-worthy items on your scorn list.

    UFOs are possible, but I think unlikely. As you say, all weather balloons.

    Team A-squared won all our family online trivia games during COVID. And it is unbelievably hard to beat a trivia nerd like my Big Brother. We actually had a trivia match at the last family wedding dinner, after dinner and the wedding cake. My table would have won, except Doctor Sis cheated with her phone (only to be ratted out by her kids). Good job placing with only 2 players.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why I’ve never understood how Jeopardy contestants often “study” before going on the show. With a virtually limitless possibility of questions, how can you possibly choose to focus on certain ones?


  11. My ex was a demon at trivia and loved quizzes, so we did sign up for as many as he could find. We were a pretty good team, as I filled the literature & art gaps in his knowledge, whereas he romped home on the rest. I suspect Himself would be great too as he’s an absolute font of knowledge, but he can’t do crowds because of his over-sensitive hearing.

    As for weather balloons – I just love that recognition chart 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We decided next time we’re sitting at the bar, because when you’re stuck in a corner next to a table of nine far away from the announcer, and no companion video display, it’s often hard to even hear the questions!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think it’s be pretty good at trivia in most cases… unless it’s related to history or literature, in which case I have some very glaring knowledge gaps (as I’ve discovered over the years during other games). But I’d probably enjoy it either way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You’re visual comparison chart made me *snort* laugh. U.F.O. means Unidentified Flying Object. If people can’t tell the difference between a rocket ship traveling at high speed and a round, bulbous object hovering over the Earth, “yes” I believe there are many UFO’s. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I hope that the trivia organizer isn’t reading your blog – because if you TWO become any more of a threat, they could start playing misleading songs. Then they’d probably blame it on a weather balloon.

    Speaking of – are they still putting legitimate weather balloons up in the sky? I could look that up but when I’m on a thread with Cliff Clavin, I don’t know why I’d do that. But I love your post – I’m chuckling over here!

    The NYTimes had a line that sparked my interest today but I didn’t click through to read the article because it was just that kind of a day. The line was “The balloons have some advantages over the satellites that orbit the earth in regular patterns. They fly closer to earth and can evade radar.”

    Huh? Who cares if they can evade radar if they are the size of three buses and can be seen by the naked eye?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, yes. Most regional offices of the National Weather Service release weather balloons at least once a day, typically in the morning. Or at least that’s what they CLAIM to be doing…

      Excellent point about evading radar, ha! Fat lot of good that does when they’re so close to earth. I’d rather take my chances evading the enemy inside a stealth fighter.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. UFOs are definitely out there; we’d be naive to think we are the only living beings.
    Booze Clues: I love it!!
    I’m not always so fast on my feet (or brain/mouth), but when I play against TV shows, I’m surprised by how much I get correct. Ok, mostly cultural or movie/music trivia, but whatevs. Congrats to you and Tara; a force to be reckoned with!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The Aircraft identification chart is awesome. Why do people make fun of Nickelback so often? I’ve seen it happen in TV shows several times. It’s like they’re a new punchline, and I don’t quite get it.

    We got second place on our second time doing bar trivia with four of us. The last question, which you can only bid 15 points for, was what two symbols in the periodic table are single letters that don’t occur in the elements they stand for? We got K for potassium right away but tungsten, man oh man. Hubby saved the day there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit, your question about Nickelback stumped me. I know they’re widely despised, though personally, I can take ’em or leave ’em.

      So, I turned to the internet. There are long Reddit threads discussing why Nickelback is so reviled. The gist of it is, they make mediocre music for greedy record executives content on coasting by with mediocre music, never attempting to challenge themselves artistically. Certainly, there are worse bands and much worse music out there. Personally, I’m more scornful of Justin Bieber myself. I regret using Nickelback as an example.

      I never would have come up with tungsten!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, thanks for doing the legwork for me on that. I never had anything against Nickelback, but I never dove deeper into their music than what was played on the radio. I guess that’s sort of the definition of them only being mediocre then!

        I wouldn’t have gotten tungsten either. His suddenly sitting up straight and saying, “Oh, it’s this” with such certainty was a beautiful thing. One of those, “I have chosen wisely with this one” moments for me. 😛


  17. Given that I’ve appeared on Jeopardy, albeit finishing second to a mail carrier from Oklahoma, I thought I’d be way better at bar trivia, the one time I tried it, than I was. As with Jeopardy and many other things these days, trivia has just moved on past me and too fast for me to ever catch up!


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