Category Archives: Grumble Flap

Dream Academy 

The Dream Academy did not have a very long career as a hit-making group. However, they linger in my mind as a timeless grasp. Sonically innovative and vocally evocative, I’d say, with some striking lyrics if you can make your way to them.

“The Edge of Forever” appears in a few places in Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, and when we watched it again recently, I thought, “hey, this song is really cool. I like it. I wonder what band this is.” Well. There here you are.


ICYM: A Couple of Weeks Ago it was Really Cold Where I Live

Beginning in late January, and running into the first couple of days of February, it was super-duper cold here. Schools closed for days and days. What with one thing and another, my children had eleven consecutive school days off in that period. There have been some school years have had shorter holiday breaks in December. Yikes.

And, in Michigan, the entire state was asked to conserve natural gas for two days. This came as a request for major industrial consumers of natural gas to shut down (which they did), and for residential consumers to turn their thermostats down to 67 degrees. Daytime temps were warming up to not negative degrees F during this period.

Holy cow. The cause? A polar vortex, which is a phenomenon I had not heard of before a couple of years ago, descended on the midwest. How? Global warming. Rising global temperatures, and shifting warm and cold patters affected the flow of the high-atmosphere jet streams. The arctic air warmed up, and in those couple of weeks the warm pushed the cold air south.

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Desperately cold weather is now gripping the Midwest and Northern Plains of the United States, as well as interior Canada. The culprit is a familiar one: the polar vortex. A large area of low pressure and extremely cold air usually swirls over the Arctic, with strong counter-clockwise winds that trap the cold around the Pole. But disturbances in the jet stream and the intrusion of warmer mid-latitude air masses can disturb this polar vortex and make it unstable, sending Arctic air south into middle latitudes. That has been the case in late January 2019. Forecasters are predicting that air temperatures in parts of the continental United States will drop to their lowest levels since at least 1994, with the potential to break all-time record lows for January 30 and 31. With clear skies, steady winds, and snow cover on the ground, as many as 90 million Americans could experience temperatures at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18° Celsius), according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The map at the top of the page shows air temperatures at 2 meters (around 6.5 feet above the ground) at 09:00 Universal Time (4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) on January 29, 2019, as represented by the Goddard Earth Observing System Model. GEOS is a global atmospheric model that uses mathematical equations run through a supercomputer to represent physical processes. The animation shows the same model data from January 23-29. NWS meteorologists predicted that steady northwest winds (10 to 20 miles per hour) were likely to add to the misery, causing dangerous wind chills below -40°F (-40°C) in portions of 12 states. A wind chill of -20°F can cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes, according to the weather service. Meteorologists at The Washington Post pointed out that temperatures on January 31, 2019, in the Midwestern U.S. will be likely colder than those on the North Slope of Alaska. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC #nasagoddard #polarvortex #science #cold #weather via @nasaearth

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Make like a banana

and split.

I live in a place. It’s visible on this map, pretty much. Because of my home’s proximity to Lake Michigan, I can find my hometown almost instantly, even in pictures taken from space. It’s bad enough I have to worry about things like failing infrastructure, sale of ground water to international food conglomerates, and the possibility of Line 5 busting open underwater somewhere, now I find out that the entire planet is looming in the quakey shadows of my tectonic neighborhood. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Yosemite.

xkcd | Midcontinent Rift System

Prompt: Water

The Lump of Water

Built up from drips, sculpted by the thoughtless hands of temperature and wind, a small ice sculpture sits at the back corner of our home, squatting beneath the rain gutter drain pipe. It is the natural result of the combination of physics and human activity. Evaporation, condensation, freezing, melting, running, falling, separating, coming together, slushing, and oozing play out within a built environment where a hilltop was flattened, soil was paved, and a house—built to shelter against those processes—redirects water to a particular place. I come along, observe the gleaming, clear ice stalagmiting up in a smooth surfaced but jagged form, and think, “what a unique shape.”

The thing before me, towering from the ground to the side of my ankle, is one of thousands in my neighborhood. They rest beneath down spouts, exhaust pipes, spigots for garden hoses, garage eaves, and everywhere water drips. There is nothing special about this small lump of ice. No lump of ice is identical with it, though. The forces brought to bear on its creation, in their character and timing, cannot be recreated, and this lump is in constant flux as those forces continue to flow, eddying around this particular place. This lump exists, dynamically itself, as drip follows drip, and changes from itself into itself as the locus of energies flowing around and through it.

This lump sits, resting, attached to the poured concrete walk from our garage to our back door. I cannot lift it. The rough texture of the human compound is gripped by thousands of tiny coils of ice. Curls of ice clasp wherever an opening permitted the smallest traces of water to ooze. Each descending twist of ice tightens the clinch between lump and ground. Every curve of the lump, from the spires pointed toward the downspout lip (or slightly away, depending on how the wind blows), down to the subsurface grasp holding the lump in place is an expression of a particular drip of water, called into existence by the demands of place and time.

Every drip fallen from the final edge of the downspout vanishes when it touches the ice that formed before. Some, as they follow the surface ground-ward, leave traces I can see, looking like veins on the back of my hand. Most of these will smooth over time, covered over by later accretions, or worn and pressed into the slick surface by thaw/freeze cycles, wind, and gravity. Every drop of water exists when it must, and joins when it must. No drop ever returns.

An average snowflake contains one hundred ice crystals. An average ice crystal contains trillions of trillions of water molecules. The number is something like ten followed by eighteen more zeros worth of water molecules. The molecules come together, form a droplet, crystalize in the hexagon of snow, join other hex crystals in a snowflake, and fall. The snowflake lands on the roof of our home. Others land on it, next to it, a little bit away from it. A blanket.

These snowflakes merge into ice crystals and vanish in plain sight. They melt, some in the sun, some because I toss snowmelt pucks up there to keep icicles from forming. New drops form, roll down the roof, and vanish, again in plain sight, when they join the flow of water in the eavestrough. More freezing and thawing, and eventually running water flows down the pipe. Turbulence separates drops from the downward flux, and turbulence brings these drops back into the flow, and gravity pulls it all down. A rushing stream of braided water runs out the end of the downspout.

Then the run slows, and a trickle of water clinging to the inside of the aluminum pipe makes its way out. In liquid form, water molecules continuously trade their hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a slippery soup of electrons and nuclei. Water is water in its relationship to itself. Surface tension holds droplets in place for a time, they merge into drips, which reach the downspout mouth. New drips form from pools formed of past drips. When the surface tension can no longer hold, the potential drip escapes into the present, and falls.