Friday, August 5, 2022

Gratitude list, partial

A few images of August hot.

Yesterday the heat felt oppressive. It only got up to 97, and there was a good breeze throughout most of the day, so you'd think the heat would be less than oppressive. However, the wind was in the south and it was hot. There were few clouds in the sky until afternoon so the sun hammered nearly straight down and it seemed I could feel the weight of every single photon. Dude, the sun is 93 million miles away! When the clouds rolled in they were mid-level cumulonimbus, flowing through to deliver rain somewhere to the east. As they rolled majestically through the atmosphere they let the hot breeze continue to wash over us. They also prevented ground heat from cleanly radiating up and away. Throughout the day sunset seemed impossibly far away, and the forecast predicted a warm night, with temps falling only into the 70's. These are the dog days of summer.

Surprisingly, the forecast was incorrect and the mercury dipped all the way to 63. It was still 66 as the sun peeked over the eastern horizon. After bitterly complaining about having to endure a hot night, the back of my brain was delighted to be surprised by a not-hot night. Seven whole degrees did that!

So this morning I'm grateful for the relatively cool night. I'm even more grateful for having lived the day yesterday, for all the little moments of beauty and satisfaction I experienced, for the opportunity to accept the dog day challenge and persevere instead of sulking in a sweaty pity party. I'm grateful for a meal and conversation with people I love without reservation.

Yesterday Tommy escaped again. This time he bum-rushed me as I took the trash out and was off like a shot, completely ignoring my commands and not even pretending to hesitate. That's something new. I decided to leave the back gate open. I posted a note on the local lost and found and got on with the day. As I worked I considered what to do with this new, bold Tommy. I thought about different ways to instill discipline in the dog, but eventually I realized that he wasn't the only one who could benefit from some applied discipline. In the early afternoon I stopped home and happened to see Tommy come back into the yard through the open gate. He was tired and thirsty. He seemed glad to see me, and I was glad to see him. After inhaling a big bowl of fresh, cool water, he lay down in the shade and snoozed.

So I'm grateful that Tommy returned safe, grateful for thinking new thoughts about my responsibilities, and grateful for learning a few new things.


Speaking of dogs and heat and August, from the Iliad

Priam saw him first, with his old man's eyes,
A single point of light on Troy's dusty plain.
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.
Achilles' bronze gleamed like this as he ran.

Everybody (for certain values of everybody) knows it, the Dog Days of Summer are hottest and most uncomfortable days of the season.

The term comes down to us from the Greeks and Romans, who noted that the onset of the most intense summer heat -- along with drought and intense thunderstorms -- seemed to coincide with the late-summer arrival of Sirius. The Dog Star.

Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, or Great Dog, and represents the shoulder of the big dog. It is also the brightest star in the night sky (and in fact is a double-star).

The Greeks described Canis Major as the companion of Orion, following the mighty hunter through the night sky. Orion is located on the celestial equator and due to the geometry of Earth's orbit is absent (in the northern hemisphere) below the southeasterly horizon in spring and through much of the summer. It begins to rise late at night in August.
Sirius and the Great Dog are actually located in the southern celestial hemisphere, just below the celestial equator, and appear to trail "behind" Orion as the stars make their nightly swing through the sky.

The Greeks -- and later the Romans -- noted the brightness of Sirius and wondered if that blazing bright star was responsible for the stifling summer heat which arrived at about the same time.

It was a good hypothesis. Now that we're a bit more astronomically accomplished, we've discovered that Sirius A is about twice the size of our own sun, twenty-five times more luminous, and is one of our very near galactic neighbors, being only about 8.6 light years (50,556,178,209,379 miles) distant. Today we know that Sirius is much too far away to add heat to our planet, but you can understand and appreciate the reasoning of the ancients.

As with everything else about climate, the actual warmth of the Dog Days is variable. We can imagine that late summer featured relatively warm and still periods during the last ice age -- roughly 15,000 to 110,000 years ago, but it's unlikely that anyone complained about the heat at that time.

Furthermore, the actual onset of late-summer heat isn't linked to a particular calendar day. The Dog Days can arrive any time between mid-July and early September.

And finally (at least for this post), the Dog Days are a period of heat and stillness which are relatively hotter than the rest of the season, but there's no absolute thermometer reading which defines the heat. During the Little Ice age (Ca. 1300-1850) the mercury may have only touched 75 degrees during the Dog Days, while 115-120 degrees might have been the norm during the Dust Bowl era.


As for 2022 at Kimball, this second dog day (August 5 as I write this) might be the final dog day of the year. The prediction is for a high of 101 today and the electronical spectrum is alive with heat advisories. The hot south wind is expected to continue bathe us in the dog star's scalding and fetid breath. Until just after sunset when the wind is expected to swing west, then north, with the arrival of more late-season monsoonal air flow. The next five days or so are predicted to be 10-15 degrees cooler with an increased chance of precipitation. Overnight lows are predicted to dip into the mid- to low-50's. Which will be delightful. And about which I'm sure to complain, for those temperatures will be on the other side of of perfect.


After I wrote the above, it got busy. and it got hot. The mercury hit 100. I got quite a bit of work done, spent some time with family, and had my brain boggled a couple of times. I planned to write more this evening, but now at 9:30 p.m. when things are finally slowing down and cooling off I find that my writer isn't up to it. A little sleep should put that right. Tomorrow is forecast to be cooler, but also forecast to be busier. I guess it's that time of the year.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Whatever a reader is looking for, they can find it here. Cute wildlife pics, astronomy lessons, confessions that pet behavior is only half of the story, weather reports, weather predictions (at least as accurate as the TV guy/gal), and some casually added lines from Homer's Iliad. You know, there is more in today's post than many kids are exposed to in 12 years of seat time in a government skool.
    Always worth a visit to see what's up in the heartland where real patriots still work and live.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John, that's very kind.
      I was sinker there for a few days, got run over with tasking and other stuff.
      No doubt that gubmint schools are a huge boondoggle and a net harm to kids. Plenty of blame to go around. I can't fix it but I can do what I can to treat kids right and help them learn stuff. Like tossing starfish back into the sea, I can't help very many but I can help some. County fair this week, time for sno-cones and other fun stuff.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!