Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Eclipse

Not satisfied with 98%,
I drove with a friend
to Beatrice, Nebraska,
about 100 miles southwest
of Omaha to find the totality.
We checked weather reports,
and radar maps, and had
several possible destinations:
Grand Island, or Beatrice,
or Falls City, or St. Joseph,
Missouri, or hundreds of
towns between, and settled on
Beatrice as the most promising.
As though a Cornhusker
football game was on the
schedule that day,
traffic was heavy on the
drive to Lincoln.
We noted the water level
of the Platte River,
the two wind towers
north of Lincoln -only one
was working in the morning.
Both were working on the
return trip. We saw the
capitol building, and the
license plates from many states.
The corn was withering a bit
here and there,
but the soy beans looked good.
Through Cortland, I noted the
gas prices were bit higher than
in Papillion. The Walmart
bathroom in Beatrice was a
welcome first stop. From
there we headed to Homestead
National Monument to check
that out and look for parking.
None there, but try the Fairgrounds
one fellow said. We wandered
a few country roads and found a few
entrepreneurial camp sites with
observing parties in full swing.
The Big Blue River was full
of the last night's thunderstorms.
Eventually, we found our way
to the fairgrounds, found parking
in a large open field and set up
our chairs and my telescope with
its solar filter. Dan had a couple of
astronomy magazines with eclipse
articles and those glasses everyone
was wearing. The clouds broke
just enough and often enough
so we got to see almost all of it,
including the totality.
Through my telescope,
the image was forty times larger
than through the naked eye, and with
an orange tint, due to the filter.
I watched the moon encroach
the sun's disk, covering,
one by one, several sun spots.
Clouds came and went
obscuring and then revealing
the event sequence,
and the clouds parted like the Red Sea
just before the
totality occurred and it was a
spectacular sight, that bright ring
around that black void
where the sun used to be.
For a bit longer than two minutes,
darkness gently collapsed around us
with a subtle sunrise/sunset all around.
People cheered, and a few firecrackers
went off. I looked for stars, but
the clouds may have obscured them.
Venus, or it might have been Mercury,
was clearly visible though.
I'm told animals
get confused, and behave as though
night has fallen, but the few dogs I
saw seemed oblivious to it all.
Then the sun gradually
emerged from the other side
of the moon,
daylight filtered back down,
more clouds moved in
obscuring much of the moon's
exit. It was interesting to me
that we could see the
moon only as it blocked the sun.
I don't know if that was true
in other parts of the country
where skies were clear.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Cumulus Clouds

I golfed today with
my friend Bob and
shot a 72. We played
the senior tees today
since we're both accumulating
the years, he more than I.
A blue sky was filled
with fluffy white cumulus
clouds with flat gray bottoms.
Later I researched
why they had flat bottoms
and it has to with temperature
gradients, humidity,
and air currents.
Temperature gradients
tend to be horizontal
so at a certain altitude
the water vapor condenses
in tiny particles attached
to dust particles and floats in
the air. A larger accumulation
of these small droplets
blocks more sunlight
and therefore appear gray.
They float because they are
so tiny and light and the
fact that updrafts are an element
in their formation.
If they grow sufficiently,
they fall as rain drops.
A 72 is a pretty good score
for a golfer on a summer day.
Those floating white cumulus
clouds with their gray flat
bottoms was just a bonus.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Edward Babe Gomez Avenue

Edward Babe Gomez Avenue

The Metropolitan Community College
Campus where I work
Is on the land where the
Omaha Stockyards used to be,
bounded by L St and Q St to
the north and south and
30th St and 33rd St to
the east and west, give or take.
The Livestock Exchange Building
Is still on the site but has
Been converted into apartments
And businesses.
I attended a ROTC Ball there
When in high school. The top floor
Was a ballroom. Might still be.
But the stockyards are gone.
The MCC hallways are lined
With photographs, black and white,
Of the stockyards in full operation, and other
South Omaha’s businesses of the day.
The campus is on Edward Babe Gomez Avenue.
Babe Gomez earned a posthumous
Medal of Honor for covering a grenade
Tossed into his group of soldiers
During the Korean War, a “police action”
By the United Nations.
An elementary school is named after him, too.
Other Nebraskans earning a Medal of Honor
Include Wild Bill Cody and former
Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey.
As I arrive in the mornings about 9:30
I will often pass long lines of brown UPS trucks
Headed the other direction out into the community
Delivering their goods.
I will also pass long lines of areated semi-trucks trailers,
Filled with cattle at one of the
Remaining processing plants
Up on the hill just north and west.
One by one they back up to the
unloading dock to dispense their cargo.
“Processing plant” has a much better
Sound that slaughterhouse, but those cattle
When unloaded meet a sudden fate
At the hands of workers, mostly immigrants,
Making their living.
On warm humid days,
In the MCC parking lots,
You can often smell the “processing” odors
Wafting up from the sewer grate storm drains,
Another reminder of days long gone.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Saturday, Aug. 5

Saturday Aug. 5

It is unusually cool
for August this morning,
currently 65f.
I am sitting on my patio
sipping coffee enjoying the
cool morning air and the quiet
of the neighborhood.
Rain has fallen
and the sidewalks are wet.
Random leftover rain
from the two
decks above filter down
and lands on the outer edge
of my patio in slower
and slower drips.
It’s a grey day.
I see only the occasional
pedestrian through a
gap in the trees by Shillaelagh Blvd.,
exercise walkers.
Even the birds are quiet
this morning, except for those
seven noisy geese.
A small airplane
just flew overhead, its engine working
hard on its climb from the
Millard airport heading
south and east.
At 10 am, though the emergency
siren across the way on a nearby hilltop
screams in preparedness
for severe weather,
or worse.
It’s good to have that siren
nearby and it has warned
of severe weather several times
this summer. I read this week
that North Korea now has
ballistic missiles that
could reach Papillion, Ne.
Our President is on an
extended golf vacation
in New Jersey. I think
those missiles can reach
New Jersey, too.
These are unsettling times.