Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Science Waiting for the Hour

This may well be the busiest spring I can remember, in terms of getting some things done but not others. It's been a couple of months since I last posted anything here on the Farm, in part because I've been healthy enough to be attacking the many garden jobs that I've been AWOL from during the last year (at least), and with all the rain we've had, the half-acre has greened up nicely and is now verging on jungle-hood. Days have been cool enough to enjoy a good deal of time out with the animals, sorting through felled logs, creating barriers between the wild and the tame, and creating new spaces for purposeful planting. I spend a great deal of time weeding, and some of said "weeds" have become pesto, tea, salad components and (ultimately) a good lot of compost.

We had also been awaiting the recent eclipse (like Wordsworth's personification of Science), obtaining the proper glasses, and hoping that for once (just this once) the weather would cooperate and keep the clouds away for a couple of hours on Monday. We got our wish, sort of, and the game of peek-a-boo made the whole experience rather entertaining. Our venue was our back yard, a couple of lawn chairs, and a side table to hold a couple of glasses of wine for celebratory purposes. I had my Merlin app on to catch the (very early) evening chorus of birds as the moon began to obscure the sun, and we were in contact with my daughter in Dallas and my son in Redmond, Washington (where it was cloudy and raining, and they couldn't even enjoy the 30% of the eclipse available to them, because it made little difference in the available light). The area was remarkably quiet, as it can be in the early afternoon before school lets out and rush hour begins, the stillness probably enhanced by the fact that so many were off the highways at appropriate viewing sites. 

We found a spot on the back lawn that provided a fairly good view of the sky, which was a bit of a challenge because the trees have nearly leafed out fully and there are only a few small vacant areas in the canopy. Hence the following photos of the event, which (as is so often the case with photos I post on Skywatch Friday) are bordered with leafy edges.

Nearing totality (via The Beloved Spouse using the Canon Eos):

My iPhone images of totality:



And one from my daughter's iPhone in Dallas (no trees!):


And for anyone curious about which birds might have joined the Ecliptical Chorus, here's a screenshot of the Merlin list:


Science was, I think, well served on this occasion. All manner of data will emerge from the myriad instruments deployed, and vast numbers of children will remember the occasion because so many wise teachers had embraced this momentous teaching opportunity.

In all, it was a terrific experience, and perhaps my last such. I'd only be 97 when the next chance arises, so there is still hope--especially if I've moved back to the Owens River Valley in California by then. Much better chance of really clear skies.

Hope everyone got a chance to see at least a bit of this cosmic spectacle. Happy Skywatch Friday!

The Wordsworth poem can be found in its entirety at Poetry Nook: The Eclipse of the Sun, 1820

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Pre-Spring Ruminations

Dragon figure on the Nankunshen Daitian Temple in Tainan, ancient capital of Taiwan

I got a note on Friday from my local food co-op newsletter that old Phil in Punxsutawni PA hadn't seen his shadow when he emerged from his comfy den, so we may not have to suffer through a prolonged winter. This is good news, even if of dubious folkloric origin, but we've recently enjoyed a few balmy days before having to huddle through another bleak stretch, so the prospect of not slogging through a continuous cycle that lasts beyond the solstice is welcome.

I generally spend February 2 remembering my father, who was born on that day in 1921. Despite his carrying some of the same genes I do (the worst of mine came from my mother's side of the family), he managed to survive two separate coronary bypass operations and several years of thyroid cancer (probably an artifact of his service in the South Pacific during WWII) before he died of that not long after his 83rd birthday. My daughter and I flew out to Porterville, California for a Valentine's Day visit in 2004, and my son drove down from Seattle so we could spend some time with him together, and I made a vast lasagna for dinner one night--which he managed to enjoy a bit of. My Dad was a terrific guy, and these last twenty years have afforded many bittersweet moments. But I never stop remembering how much he helped to steer me towards becoming a more generous and appreciative person than I might have been, and I've never stopped being grateful. One of his final directives was to "write at the end of your stint." So my long rants on this blog are actually a response to my Father's orders.

Four years ago in mid-February, Texans experienced the direst bout of nasty winter weather in modern memory during what we called "Snowmageddon," from the 11th to the 21st or so. The worst day was probably the 14th, during which we had no power for the better part of 24 hours. (I wrote about it in a post called In A Bleaker Midwinter). As I've mentioned recently, we've spent the time between then and now providing ourselves with alternate sources of power and heat. But the state has also been trying to clean up its act, thanks in no small part to the efforts of renewable providers, and the grid held through a spell of sub-freezing weather last month. We did, however, take multi-day advantage of our ceramic-clad cast-iron wood-burner, so we actually enjoyed a few cozy mornings when our house thermostat was registering in the low 50s. Closing off the living room, pulling down shades and drawing curtains all through the house, and using an electric heater in the upstairs bathroom (we don't have a heat source up there, so this was to keep the water from freezing), kept us comfortable until the spell finally broke, with the weather returning to its usual cycle for this time of year. 

As I was writing this (on Monday the 5th) the temperature reached into the mid-60s, which meant that The Beloved Spouse was able to get some tennis practice in, and I managed to do some more garden prep. My usual Phenology 101 exercise this spring (see my 2018 post here) will probably be compromised by the 65-70-degree days we've enjoyed on and off for the last couple of weeks, and which fooled the daffodils into thinking that it's time to start popping up. But we had one brief freezing night that nipped the tips of their leaves, and those of the Byzantine gladioli and the alliums that managed to survive under blankets during the hard freezes and seem to want to get their mojo going. 

Overly eager daffodil

The Lunar New Year begins on Saturday, and this is a special one in our family because it marks the Year of the Dragon. My son was born in 1976, also a Year of the Dragon--a most appropriate zodiac sign for an avid fan of fantasy and gaming. So on Friday night we'll bid farewell to the Year of the Bunny (well, Rabbit to most folks) and hope that the good fortune attached to the Dragon figure will see us through a problematic election. 

Not much sky drama (not much sky, actually) has been visible for the last couple of weeks, but bright blue and puffy white are still worth looking at between grey spells; here are a few that provide a glimpse of the range of possibility, including a bit of yesterday's lovely sunrise:







Happy Skywatch Friday, Folks, and Happy Year of the Dragon!

Photo credit: The shot of that lovely dragon (one of many, but I thought that this photo perfect for Skywatch Friday), "Dragon Roof Sculpture of the Jade Emperor Shrine, Taiwan," was posted on Wikimedia Commons by Malcolm Koo (MK2010). I thought of it when I was looking for an appropriate Year of the Dragon evocation, since I visited this temple as a child and remembered its many wonderful dragons, but haven't yet found a photo among my mother's voluminous archive of negatives.

Monday, January 22, 2024

World Endangered Writing Day: 23 January 2024


As regular visitors to this blog may remember, I've been supporting the Endangered Alphabets Project since its inception in 2011 or so, when I read an article about its originator, Tim Brookes, in the New York Times.

The first Kickstarter project I ever supported was designed to gain the Alphabets a wider audience and to fund an exhibition of Tim's beautiful carvings of passages from languages whose writing systems are in danger of disappearing. I describe this effort in some detail, and my reasons for getting behind it in this post from November 15, 2011: Losing Languages. That campaign was highly successful, and ever since then I've been happy to back every campaign Tim has launched. My favorite has been The Atlas of Endangered Alphabets, but the range of projects has included games (like ULUS: Legends of the Nomads), teaching and learning materials, and even a Sudoku puzzle book.

World Endangered Writing Day represents an international holiday devoted to the projects and results of all these efforts (and many more). At this main link you can find the rationale behind the holiday, the events that will ensue, and ways to support the continuing work to save these remarkable expressions of human intelligence, creativity, and community. 

Except for encouraging folks to participate in various Endangered Alphabets Kickstarter campaigns, I don't usually solicit monetary contributions. But I do urge you to visit the WEWD sites linked to the main page, and consider contributing, even in a small way. The primary purpose of this whole, long, worthwhile endeavor is to preserve the art of writing (and thus help stem the tide of losing traditional languages) and in doing so to keep the histories of these people from disappearing.

In addition, if you're at all interested in the history of writing and its associated technologies, as many of my former graphic design and humanities students have been, please consider purchasing this latest book by Tim Brookes, Writing Beyond Writing: Lessons from Endangered Alphabets. It's available for sale in multiple formats at the link. World Endangered Writing Day coincides with the book's official publication date.

This whole topic becomes all the more important as literacy in general appears to be declining in this particular political and technological landscape. Try to contribute if you can, but even by looking through the linked materials you should be able to enrich your understanding of the critical nature of writing as a vehicle of cultural survival.