Beat The Heat?

The Columbus area is bracing for absurd heat today.  The temperature is supposed to reach the mid-90s, and the “heat index” (which is kind of the opposite of the wind chill factor, and looks at temperature and dew point, to assess overall mugginess) is supposed to hit 105 degrees.  That’s hot enough that the National Weather Service has issued an extreme heat advisory, and some businesses, like my nephew’s pizza kitchen, are adjusting their schedules and practices to try to avoid exposing workers to dangerous heat levels.

1280x720_50116b00-xayzgIn short, we’ll be reaching the thermometer point at which, traditionally, your air conditioning goes on the fritz.

Is there a way to beat the heat in the beachless Midwest?  Not really.  The National Weather Service heat advisory recommends wearing lightweight and loose fitting clothing (no duh!), drinking plenty of water, spending more time in air conditioned or well-ventilated places, and avoiding doing much outside except in the early morning or late evening.  So you can stay inside, drinking cool beverages, crank up their air conditioning, and watch movies — but that’s really just avoiding the heat, not beating it.

Or you can follow the post-enlightenment advice of the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day and go outside and embrace the heat.  Recognize that summers in the Midwest are often crushingly hot and that’s just part of the deal.  Walk around in air so scalding and moist that it feels like steam.  Note that the squirrels and birds aren’t exactly doing industrious things.  And sweat until even that lightweight and loose clothing that the National Weather Service recommended is soaked through, weighs a ton, and is clinging ferociously to every damp, broiling inch of your skin.

And then, when you realize that you are behaving like an idiot, come back inside, drink a cold glass of water, and hope for all that’s holy that your air conditioning doesn’t go on the fritz like it did last summer.

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Fly Clapping

It’s summer in the Midwest.  That’s means it’s fly season, indoors and outdoors, and any Midwesterner that wants to be freed from fly-blown annoyance must assemble their fly-swatting arsenal and prepare, at any moment, to do battle with the pesky creatures that are constantly buzzing around.

common-house-flyThe other day the B.A. Jersey Girl and I were talking in the firm library when a housefly landed on a nearby notepad.  It was a big, ugly, hairy, disgusting granddaddy fly that probably had been buzzing around the office for months, getting fat on whatever leavings he found.  By landing where he did, in full view of humans, he was basically taunting us.  You could almost see his alien, compound eyes brimming with arrogance as he rubbed his forelegs together with undisguised glee.

The B.A.J.G. rolled up a document to ready herself for swatting.  But I have seen too many such swatting attempts prove unsuccessful, so I waved her off and positioned my hands about a foot above the fly, with a hand to each side and the fly roughly in the middle.  As I quickly clapped my hands together, the fly flew straight up — as flies typically do — and met his doom in the midst of the clap.  The formerly overconfident fly fell to the paper below and was swept into the wastebasket — the appropriate fate of all household flies.

The B.A.J.G. had never seen the fly-clapping technique used before, but it is a time-honored Webner method for sending flies to their ultimate reward.  In my experience, it works a lot better than fly swatters, or rolled up newspapers, or other techniques.  And, you get the satisfaction of knowing that the last thing the fly feels is a handclap — as if you are celebrating its demise, which you really are.

Feel free to use the fly-clapping when you just can’t take any more of the loathsome creatures buzzing around your house.  Clap on!

Why Opposable Thumbs Exist

Why do opposable thumbs exist in humans and other primates?  Scientists generally agree that the appearance of the opposable thumb was a key evolutionary point in the development of our species.  It is what allowed primates to grip and climb and move into the trees, away from the realm of large predators looking for a meal.  Opposable thumbs also proved to be pretty handy from a toolmaking and tool using perspective, whether the tool was a stick to be manipulated or a rudimentary axe.

All of this is true,  Curiously, however, scientists haven’t fully explored whether the opposable thumb was developed in anticipation that modern humans who are too cheap to buy a nozzle for their garden hose might need the thumb to water their yard and plants on a beastly hot summer day.  Sure, the opposable thumb might not have been evolved specifically for watering and hose wielding, but it sure works well for that purpose — whether you want to generate a gentle sprinkle or a high velocity jet to reach the side of the yard beyond the length of the hose.

How do we know for sure that our distant ancestors weren’t big on watering?

White Birch And Birds

There is a white birch tree growing from the rocks at one corner of our side yard. It’s a beautiful tree — who doesn’t have a soft spot for trees with white bark? — but it’s unfortunately lacking any avian occupants.

Stonington is home to lots of birds; in the morning you hear their many different calls. In hopes that one of the birds might call the birch tree home, I put up a nifty birdhouse that a good friend got us as a Maine housewarming gift on the birch tree. it’s freshly painted, has a solid roof, and is in a safe neighborhood. Now we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that a discerning bird will decide it’s their dream house.

Freed To Weed

Today I’m celebrating my freedom — specifically, my freedom to do whatever I want on Independence Day. In my case, that means weeding the side yard garden and lawn. Judging from the sheer number of weeds that have made their home there, I’m guessing it hasn’t been weeded in years. We’ve got friends coming next month for a visit and I want to give the grass a fighting chance, so now’s the time for some serious stooping and pulling..

After I dispose of a few hundred more dandelions and broad-leaf invaders, I’m going to celebrate my freedom to drink an ice-cold Allagash White.

Fat Tire Bikes

Today is a perfect day for cycling; it’s bright, not too hot, with a few clouds in the sky to break up the sunshine. No high-speed travel for us today. We’re just going to enjoy a leisurely journey around town, exploring the surroundings.

For our rides we’ve selected vintage-looking, single-speed, “fat tire” bikes — the kind where you brake by moving the pedals backward and can stand on the pedals when you’re going up a hill. They’re a Schwinn and a Huffy, the brands many of us had for our first bikes as kids.

No baseball cards in the spokes, though — at least, not yet.

Flying Through A Time Warp

On this morning’s flight, the snack distributed with your beverage order was a little bag of . . . Lorna Doone cookies. Seriously . . . Lorna Doones! I felt like checking to see if I had mysteriously appeared in an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show.

What other snack from the ’50s and ’60s might make an appearance on a plane flight into the past? Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy? Fig Newtons? Dots? Ruffles Potato Chips? Homemade Chex mix? A Swanson’s Swiss Steak TV dinner?