If there's one thing that folks like to talk about, it's the weather. Newscasts lead with it -- tourism boards boast about it and forecasters live for it.

So does Bill Searfus, a Montclarion with a high-tech weather station above Thornhill Nursery. We'll get to his prediction for winter in a minute, but first, let's look at how he developed this passion.

"I have always been fascinated by weather reporting," says Searfus, who credits the Boy Scouts and his dad -- a former Navy pilot. "My father taught me to observe the weather ... since being a pilot in the Navy requires a great deal of understanding of how weather works."

Searfus is part of the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP), feeding the government data that supplements what they get from airports and military bases. "Some of the local TV stations use this information for regional observations," Searfus says.

As for Bay Area rain predictions, he says we're in "pre-drought" conditions -- way behind normal. "The thing about weather now is that the 'norm' is no longer becoming the 'norm.' Climate change is a significant event, and I can already see changes -- I am a third-generation Californian -- in the trees, the rain being very unpredictable, the high winds ... all kinds of signs, if you ask me," he says.

The bottom line, Searfus says, is it's getting harder to predict the weather. "I do, however, think we are in for more of a dry spell and that could be a problem if we go back into a drought like the '80s." Check out his weather data at http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=KCAOAKLA22.

Holiday happenings: Speaking of scouting, it's the 40th year for the Boy Scout tree lot in Piedmont. Readers Chris and Terry Lee say there are plenty of trees, stands, garlands and wreaths and the scouts will help you load and even deliver them to your home. Everything is set up in the Piedmont Corporation Yard at 890 Moraga -- open 4 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Joyful noise: Hills columnist Frosene Phillips is producing her 22nd International Christmas concert Friday at Oakland's Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 4700 Lincoln Ave. This is my favorite choral event -- free to the public and chock-full of voices and instruments, including a heavenly harp. See www.groca.org for more information.

Animal tales: Here's a gift for the animal lover on your list -- Oakland Animal Service's colorful 2014 calendar. From bunnies to kittens to puppies, each month features the heartwarming photo and story of a little guy with "plucky resilience" who has bucked the odds. My favorite calendar critter is Henry the goat, who was looking for love in all the wrong places (namely, a school playground). He kicks off January and it only gets better from there. To order, see http://oaklandanimalservices.org/calendar.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.