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Archive for the ‘Mother Nature’ Category

First Weather Satellite Photo

First Weather Satellite Photo

Fifty years ago, in 1960, I recall the world’s first satellite weather photographs hitting the prime-time news. They revealed a grainy, black and white band of thin clouds shrouding the eastern coast of the United States. There was some detail thrown in there, a mountain ridge or maybe a shoreline?

But most of all, I remember the television interviews afterwards, the ones with incredulous scientists from all over the world discussing the images. Many of these people — like the viewers — were just beginning to grasp the implications of what the new technology they were witnessing could offer the world of the near future: advanced storm tracking, air traffic control, hurricane warnings, crop forecasting, military shenanigans, on and on and on.

Pretty heady stuff.

Long before the satellites came, I remember Grandpa Brandt stepping out the back porch screen door every morning, placing his hands on his hips and gazing along the horizon line and the tips of the trees, testing the Indiana weather. It was a routine he performed every morning. Sometimes he would wet a finger and hold it up to a breeze. Other times he’d lick his lips as if tasting something, or pick up a handful of dirt and crush it between his fingers, feeling the texture as it fell away. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.” Done deal: the day’s weather forecast had been proclaimed.

This is NowThis morning, a friend called and suggested I flick on my computer and check the weather; that he had just had 5 inches of rain dumped in his driveway and it was heading my way. Within seconds I called up WunderMap, where I spent about 20 minutes cycling through the video loop options. Never once did I consider the technology I was using.

After a while, I stepped out on my patio, placed my hands on my hips and gazed along the horizon line and the tips of the trees. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.”

* * * * *

Tim says: as I was getting ready to publish today’s article, I noticed the advertisement in the lower right corner of the WonderMap screen capture. I wonder what Grampa would have to say about all those hot cuties in the right hand corner vying for my attention?

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For the first time in years I missed my annual “PLUNGE IN THE WATER NO MATTER WHAT PILGRIMAGE” off the end of my dock on the first day of May. In the past — no matter what kind of day it was (rain, snow, it didn’t matter) — I’d jog as quickly as possible around the house, down the sidewalk, onto the weathering 2×6 decking (screaming like some wild animal caught in a trap!), up, up, up into the air at the end of the dock awaiting without gravity for a huge SPLASH that was my body hitting the frigid water like a fish staked on a plank.

Instead, this year, I forewent the jogging, moseyed on down to the far-end of the dock with a hot cup of coffee in hand, and stared knowingly at the surface squiggles of reflected grey clouds. A few raindrop globules were scattered about out there, almost as if carefully placed for my amusement. I knew that in a few moments those globules would become streaking lances hitting the water with enough force to cause LARGER globules to explode upward like those slow motion pictures we’ve all seen of exquisitely-shaped crowns of milk caught in the action of becoming something else.

I’d like to think I’m getting wiser as my personal time-clock self-adjusts to these early stages of what I call the “Social Security Years”; that I know better now and can recollect bygone moments of Maydays, plunging carelessly into that Polar Bear Club water, rather than having to relive them in the flesh; that standing on the end of a dock in deep and unsympathetic meditation is WAY safer than taking a leap.

But I am not so sure.

Perhaps there is, instead, a greater loss happening here,  one that nibbles away at our souls in bites so small we don’t even notice them.

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ZZZst ZAP!

This post is a friendly reminder that Mother Nature — and lightning, in particular– are not friendly to electronic equipment. Like most folks, my computers and TVs are hooked up to “Uninterrupted Power Supplies” (UPS) that also act as sophisticated “surge protectors”, designed to minimize the risk of serious damages to your expensive equipment during such events as — let’s say, THUNDER STORMS.

Well, about 2 weeks ago my house was struck by lightning from an errant, but tiny and easy-to-ignore “THUNDER STORM”. Okay. Wait. Let me rephrase that: about 2 weeks ago my TELEPHONE WIRES were struck by lightning from an errant, but tiny and easy-to-ignore “THUNDER STORM”.

Sadly, like most folks, I had NOT routed my telephone and DSL lines through my UPS, and had them wired directly into my DSL router and computers. Same thing with my TV, wherein I had the phone line connected directly to my DIRECT-TV box.

POOF. When the lightning struck: PZZZZZzzz! Off went my computer. Off went my TV. And off went my telephone. In other words, “OFF WENT MY HEAD!”

That’s where I’ve been these past 10 days. No TV. No telephone. No computer. The ultimate “OHHhhhh, NOoooo Land!” I could not believe the disruption this caused in my daily goings on. I was in — shock. It was like I was wearing a concrete suit.

Which leads me to the point of this post: make sure you provide surge protection for all your phone outlets before it is too late. Trust me, the “Everyman Nightmare and Cyber$pace Blue $creen of Death” is NOT where you want to end up.

UPDATE: Well, my Mac died again. Seems like I haven’t seen the worse of that lightning. The Black Screen of Death, so very rare for a Mac. I am now on my PC, which has just finished 4 hours of Windows Updates because I never use my PC. (I put the PC in the shop last week, too, and picked it up today.) The Mac goes back into the shop tomorrow.

Sigh.

Each trip to the Apple store is a 160 mile round trip for me. Sigh all over again.

At least I’m online again.

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Very similar to Spring Cleaning but occurring one or two weeks later, “Plant Day” has always been one of my most pleasurable household chores. Plant Day is that particular moment in time when all wintering indoor plants are moved outdoors for the summer. A kind of healing quest where, over time, all the winter-damaged miscellaneous plants of every description are carried outside (dead and yellowed leaves forming a Hansel & Gretel bread-crumb pathway through every doorway in the house) to a screw-hook fastened to a wizened tree or overhead porch-space, with a garden hose outlet nearby.

So it will be today at Lake Gaston.

One by one, the south-side houseplants are removed from their dangling chains and crowded tables, transferred to a seasonal space out-of-doors where varying degrees of sunlight soon performs a triage of sorts. Out comes the kitchen scissors amid screams heard only by me, as lagging shoots, roots, and leaves are snipped off in a massive shearing operation not unlike that shared by draftees at boot camp, sheep farms, or possibly even guillotine inductees.

But after a while the screaming subsides.

A positive type of attitude adjustment is occurring, one that works quite well in tightening up the ranks of straggler or confused plant limbs and dangling vines. By the time evening trickles through the leaves of nearby oak and maple tree neighbors,  the indoor house plants will have become OUTDOOR house plants, no longer flinching when I walk by browsing casually through their foliage, looking for last-minute edits, like a needle-wielding dentist.

By nightfall most wounds will be healed and plant-heads will be carefully exploring their new surroundings, murmuring semi-contentedly to themselves just loudly enough so I can hear — new night sounds melding with the screeing of tree frogs, hoot-owls hooting, and the flap-flaps of bat wings chasing insects overhead.

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Spring on Lake Gaston

With the mild type of winter we’ve had here in North Carolina, it’s hard to feel that Spring hasn’t already happened. March came in like a sacrificial lamb, and even though it’s long gone, there’s still a passive bleating going on out there that’s becoming more and more like a whimper. The daffodils near the edge of the lake are thoroughly confused, as are the azaleas—now in full bloom. Leaves have puffed out from tree branches like lime green popcorn. (I would think the maples and oaks have been fooled by unseasonably warm weather before, and are smart enough to know better. But they are actively frolicking like children in the warm afternoons as well.)

But for now, everything seems right, and even though the mad prance of Spring seems to have passed like a ghost, I’m sure there’s a surprise or two greening just around the corner.

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A while back I mentioned a tiny plant Mom had received from one of those 1-800-SendMomaPlant holiday florist-type shops. Sent to her for a Valentine’s Day “IrememberU” gift by a granddaughter, it was a small, 6-inch, green-foil-wrapped potted gardenia whose tiny buds were miraculously in full, miniature bloom.

Like most such live potted love-plant gifts, it was doomed to a slow, windowsill death.

On the last morning of my Valentine’s Day visit, Mom said, “Why don’t you take this plant back up to North Carolina with you and plant it somewhere safe rather than letting it die, neglected, in my room?”

When I got home, I set “Gertie the Gardenia” on a living-room table that had a bright, Venetian blind-protected Southern exposure: right from the start, Gertie was happy. In the winter months — with the sun very low on the horizon — she blushes like hell sitting adjacent to “Ollie”, an indoor oregano plant, with whom she has become (I suspect!) a bit more than just good friends. As the years passed, and seeing how well she had adapted to her indoor home, I transplanted Gertie several times, until she sits — even as I write this — in a 25-inch pot.

Valentine's Day Love-Plant with Lots of Blooms 2B

Last time when I told you about Gertie, I mentioned how great she smelled when she was in full bloom. And that — yes, indoor gardenia plants do, indeed, bloom. “Pictures!” you all cried out. “Show us PICTURES!”

Well, by golly, and since I never forget, take a look at Gertie, who has just begun one of her robust blooming campaigns that will last for a month or longer. Sometimes, she does this more than once a year.

Just thought you’d like to see what can be done with one of those “doomed to a slow, windowsill death” Valentine’s Day love-plants. (Okay, I admit it. In-between bursts of around-the-clock spiritually cleansing fragrance, Gertie asked me to write today’s story.)

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Tim says: I found this story in my “unpublished” archives. I have no idea if I ever got around to publishing it.

+ + + + +

Sometimes folks amaze me. In the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel (September 18, 2003) — and due to the fact that Rich, Walt, and I lived in the hurricane’s path — Recipe du Jour received literally hundreds of emails wishing us well. And then, for no apparent reason, we received an odoriferous email like this one:

Damage: $4.3 billion (2012 USD)

“I always find it difficult to feel sorry for victims of hurricanes. People who move into these areas get to enjoy the best of locations . . . summer home resort quality living . . . year around. They know full well they are moving into a hurricane prone area. Unlike a tornado victim, they get plenty of warning and not a surprise attack at 2am in the morning. Knowing this, I feel they should prepare for living in such an area by carrying proper insurance instead of relying on donations as heavily as they do. I’m relieved you all are okay but I just can’t drum up the sympathy.

An Ohio resident

Usually I just let these types of emails roll off my back. They don’t even deserve a response. But this particular one kept haunting me. Why would anyone write a note like this? What purpose could it possibly serve? Should I reply? What should I say?

I attempted to write a response several times, but I realized nothing nice would come of it.

Hurricane Isabel cut a path along the eastern United States hundreds of miles long, reaching more than 400 miles inland. Look at a map. Find Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is about 50 miles from the Ohio state line. Spring Mills, the tiny town where Walt lives, is nearby. Certainly a summer home resort area if I ever saw one. Same with Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina (near where I live), to which tourists flock year around. (Humor!)

Strikes me as strange that an Ohio resident living in the infamous “Tornado Alley” could write such an ignorant and insensitive email. Even though “people who move into these areas . . . should prepare for living in such an area by carrying proper insurance instead of relying on donations as heavily as they do”, I certainly remain sympathetic when tornadoes touch down, devastating entire communities and causing millions of dollars in property damage.

Hereto forthwith nameless Ohio resident, you need to get out more, take more time sniffing the roses. Maybe even join the human race.

That, and buy a lot more insurance.

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One of my Grandfather’s favorite places to find fishing worms was behind the old Freelandville, Indiana Mill, where tons of spent grain husks and chaff had piled up for decades. The resulting heap of decomposition produced layer upon layer of truly bizarre habitat, and one that to a small boy was downright frightening. Although “Papa” did most of the digging, he always brought along an extra small shovel and encouraged me to find my own worms. “Bigger fish will bite on worms you dig yourself,” he explained.

So, off I’d wander into the rank, steaming mounds of the old Freelandville, Indiana Mill, with coffee can, toy shovel, and teddy-bear in tow.

Whoa!

One day I had just uncovered a particularly nasty patch of compost. Underneath, was the biggest worm I’d ever seen. Even with small, kid’s fingers, the worm was twice as big around as my thumb. “Papa!” I shouted, grabbing hold of it. “There’s a great HUGE worm over here!”

Papa rushed over, thinking I had found a garden snake. He stared down at the worm. “Let’s see what you’ve got there,” he said, stooping as I let go of my discovery. The worm-thing began to pull itself deeper into the compost, its slimy coat glowing faintly as it contracted and expanded its body segments in an attempt at getting away. Papa grabbed it and began pulling on it. The worm tightened, giving up a foot or two, then broke in half, the severed ends exuding an awful smelling pea-green fluid. In his hand was a three feet section of— what?

The front end disappeared down the 3/4-inch diameter hole.

Papa examined the elongated tail section for several minutes. “I’ll be dog-gone if I know what this is!” he exclaimed, dropping the still squirming THING into my can, wiping his hands on his coveralls. (Meme wasn’t going to like that!) Then, we packed up our shovels, hopped in Papa’s 1950s  Ford, nicknamed “the Green Hornet” (based on the radio show series), and went fishing. Later that day I learned something very important to a fisherman’s way of thinking: not only do bigger fish bite on worms you dig yourself, even bigger fish will bite on BIGGER worms you dig yourself!

Thing in a Can Planet

Papa never mentioned the thing in a can again, and to this day, when I lie in bed, tossing and turning and unable to sleep, I sometimes think about the bygone Freelandville, Indiana Mill and wonder…

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Galaxies Everywhere: these from a tiny sample of the universe.

The next time you step outside on a clear, starry night and gaze upwards—consider this: our planet circles our sun within what we have come to call the SOLAR SYSTEM. A solar system contains a  sun and its planets. Our solar system, along with 100 BILLION (100,000,000,000) other solar systems, make up something we call a GALAXY. We live in the Milky Way Galaxy. How many galaxies are there? Well, let’s just say there are TEN galaxies out there for every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth. In other words, there are approximately 170 BILLION galaxies in the known universe, each one containing over 100 BILLION stars.

Think about that for a second.

That’s a LOT of stars. That’s a LOT of planets. And if your mind can expand enough to comprehend the sheer mathematics of it, astrophysicists now believe there may be BILLIONS more universes out there.

I don’t know about you, but my mind bogs down long before it reaches the moon.

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Ah, Fall

The past couple of weeks mark the first days of what I call the “Cool Season”. Nestling somewhere in-between SummerFall and Winter, the Cool Season is sleeping under a quilt with the windows open, and morning cups of coffee that warm the hands as well as the spirit. Soon, roadside views will thrill the full turning of leaves and rich color, churning intensely as long as Mother Nature lets it.

The Cool Season is restraint; first-launch leaves, unsure hatchlings whose feathers — not ripe for flight — leap from the nest any way, swooping like Fall, but not quite right. Yet.

In a few days, overnight perhaps, Fall might splash down like a brushstroke from an artist’s wild varnish wash, fixing all things for a little while so we can look at it. Not quite Fall, though. Yet.

It’s the Cool Season.

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