Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dog Days of Summer

Canis Major
You know it when it hits you, but what are the Dog Days of Summer, anyway? That's what I've been thinking about when I have no energy to do anything and not a creative thought it my head. There's so much going on that it is driving me absolutely crazy, and I am stuck in a torpor of heat and overload. Here are a few things that I could rant about, but because of these Dog Days of Summer, I have gone silent. These all fall under the category of WTF?
1. Changing the language: War on Terror to the Struggle Against Global Extremism.
2. Nominee John G. Roberts can't remember if he was a member of the Federalist Society.
3. The Bush team won't release all of Robert's relevant and pertinent paperwork, but the Senate is asked to advise and consent without them (see if they hold papers, we can talk about that and not about Karl Rove). Did I ever tell you how much I hate these people?
4. The gears have begun grinding to do troop withdrawals from Iraq before the 2006 congressional season is upon us. (Planning the future, ten steps ahead.)
5. Karl Rove got a raise.
6. The Wingnuts think you can't be both a patriot and a democrat, even if you are career, covert CIA.
7. The MSM still seems woefully ignorant of what a free press is supposed to do when traitorous and treasonous activities have taken place in the highest office of our country.
8. There's been an insidious extremist right-wing takeover of our country that has been encroaching since 1974, and I'm not sure it is at all un-doable.
9. Jane Fonda on a bio-fueled bus. (This bothers me because of the attention it will get.)
10. The smirking, arrogant Bush is more teflon-coated than Reagan. (Why is this man so lucky?)
11. Will Bolton be an interim United Nations appointment?
12. Just how much money does the new Energy Bill give in tax credits to companies?

So what are the The Dog Days of Summer?

It is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was reckoned as extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun. It also refers to a period of stagnation or inactivity.

But where does the term come from? Why do we call the hot, sultry days of summer “dog days?”

In ancient times, when the night sky was unobscured by artificial lights and smog, different groups of peoples in different parts of the world drew images in the sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The images drawn were dependent upon the culture: The Chinese saw different images than the Native Americans, who saw different pictures than the Europeans. These star pictures are now called constellations, and the constellations that are now mapped out in the sky come from our European ancestors.

They saw images of bears, (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins, (Gemini), a bull, (Taurus), and others, including dogs, (Canis Major and Canis Minor).

The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that the ancient Romans thought that the earth received heat from it. Look for it in the southern sky (viewed from northern latitudes) during January.

In the summer, however, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. During late July Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days” after the dog star.

The conjunction of Sirius with the sun varies somewhat with latitude. And the “precession of the equinoxes” (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome. Today, dog days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11. Although it is certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. No, the heat of summer is a direct result of the earth's tilt.

So, basically, I got nothing but these Dog Days. Heading out to Marrowstone Island this afternoon to explore Mystery Beach. Maybe I'll find inspiration there.

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