Thursday, August 26, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Winding Down

Even the moon is now diminishing, after the Full Sturgeon Moon two days ago. I only got one shot before my camera's battery died, but I rather like the odd effects one gets whilst trying to hold the camera steady and change settings in the dark.

But the title of this post more accurately applies both to the season and to me. The weather finally broke yesterday, and today's been more like very early summer than late. It's 88 degrees out, as opposed to a record-setting 107 on Tuesday, and since most of the mosquitoes were done in by the heat, I managed a nice sit in the garden this morning--enjoying the weather, the paper, the dogs, and a damned good cup of Joe.

There's even chicken soup a-stewin' on the stove. I had the remains of a big fat pullet to deal with, and thanks to the weather I didn't have to freeze it and wait for later. Which means that I finally had a chance to defrost the chest freezer in the potting shed so I can start putting up things to save me a bit of time (or maybe guilt) as the quarter itself winds down and I get too busy with accreditation visits and student projects to cook supper.

Some seasonal activities seem almost instinctive: slowing down, cleaning up, sorting through, clearing out. I've had a hankering for doing some of this for some time now, perhaps due to wishful thinking (Fall is my favorite season, even though most folks I talk to like Spring better) during the hot spell when the heat bore down like a weight. Lethargy is probably also instinctive in such times.

As I enjoyed my garden for the first time in weeks, I noticed that there are still surprises to be had. One clump of chives is blooming mightily, and the steadfast cucumber plant is showing signs of renewed life. The big pot of tiny basil (like minette, but it drapes more) I bought on a whim last spring is still with us, and the sweet basil is starting to come back as well. The mint family is blossoming, and even though my big mess of catmint has pretty much gone under from heat exhaustion, its babies are showing up all over the yard, thanks to a couple of rain showers. My tomato plants have survived--only just--so if the weather stays cool I may actually get some fruit out of them.

I've pretty much resisted the urge to prep for classes today, so I should be able to enjoy my tiny Friday afternoon class (about fifteen students left, I think) and save the real work for Sunday. Thursdays are becoming my Sabbath, offering a moment of rest and recuperation from the heavily laden beginning of the week. Like the garden, I'm slowing down, but showing signs of new life as well. If I can avoid watching the news and get another good night's sleep sans air conditioning, I'll be considerably less curmudgeonly than I have been for the last month.

Enough weak metaphor. On to the weekend, and the lovely skies people share from all over the world. Have a great one, Skywatchers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

SkywatchFriday: Dog Days

Although I suppose they're officially over, we're feeling the Dog Days of summer around here: hot, sultry, heavy, oppressive, and did I mention hot? Even the clouds I've been watching look overheated.

Typically for me the summer heat wave usually corresponds with midterm exams and grading, so I've been out of communication over the last week or so. It rained rather heavily a couple of days ago, and on Tuesday we managed to get a night's sleep with windows open and A/C off. It rained again for a bit yesterday, but it looks like it'll be a while before we get any more. The small photo above is another iPhone shot I snapped as the front began to move in. The opening image is from the Nikon--one of many I took in hopes of snagging something terribly dramatic. I didn't, but I still enjoyed looking up for reassurance that change might come. Cumulus clouds offer a bit of promise, but sometimes a cloud is just a cloud, and nothing happens.

The heat is even getting to the local raptors, and our neighborhood sharp-shinned hawk paid a visit to the yard, looking for water or a tasty tidbit (i.e. a smaller bird enjoying the bird bath). I grabbed the camera and shot through the window, so the result's pretty fuzzy.

The feature section of the Friday paper is always about gardening, and more than one story this morning was about how nobody could work in the garden while the weather's like this--so at least I don't feel like a reprobate for hiding inside. And I actually did read the paper out of doors. It didn't take long for the heat to drive me back inside, but I felt pretty virtuous for a few good minutes. Most of the mosquitoes have been fried by the heat, making it safe to enjoy the relative coolness just post dawn.

Hope everyone has a comfortable weekend and some good skywatching.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Summer Clouds

The summer cobwebs and hobgoblins have entered my brain full-tilt as we enter our second week of 100 degree days. The temperature has been hovering around 105, and in north Texas, this is hot, because the heat index brings it up to about 112. The garden is wilting, and drought restrictions mean that I can't legally water it with a sprinkler except on Fridays and Mondays before 10 am and after 6 pm, although I have done a couple of times because I can't stay out more than five minutes without becoming a mozzie-banquet. All I seem to be able to do is remember what it was like in the summer of 1980, when I was driving a one year-old and a four year-old around in an old VW bus with no air conditioning. For a solid month the thermometer dipped under 100 only after sunset.

The then four-year old is now living in Seattle, where it looks like the high today might get into the '80s. Sheesh.

So I'm obsessing, it seems, about clouds--which promise quite a lot, but deliver little. The next chance of rain is tomorrow night, although the local forecasters' track record on predicting rain is abysmal. But since it's too rutting hot to go out, and I can't stand the stench of even "unscented" mosquito repellent anyway, I went back to the archives for cloud pictures, and came up with these from last summer. Most were taken in the vicinity of the Ballpark in Arlington, and one or two may have been posted previously in conjunction with baseball musings.

Since I have to take these into Photoshop to optimize them for publication (the original files are huge), I decided to run them through "auto adjust" to see what would happen. I wouldn't normally do this, but the program cost a few quid and thought I'd see what it would do to my shots.

For the most part, they're a bit brighter than the originals, but nothing really dramatic happened. I thought they were all pretty, though, and worth sharing--even in retrospect. I'm too fuzzy-headed to rant about anything, so y'all can just enjoy the pictures (as I will yours) on this hot, hot, hot midsummer Skywatch Friday.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. I'm rather envying the skywatchers from below the equator today!