Chloe didn’t want her picture taken. We tried to get one when she was sitting behind the couch, but she ran away and hid under the entertainment center. She figured she couldn’t be seen under there, what with that big, old cat figurine in the way.
On overcast or rainy days around here, it’s fairly common for the bottoms of the clouds to be lower than the top of Lavender Mountain. Those low clouds become thick fog for us up here on the mountain. Sometimes the fog closes in and visibility drops to a few dozen yards. We have had that kind of weather several times over the last few days.
We have flood lights on the corners of the house and some bright low-voltage spot lights at ground level behind the house. When I walk the dogs around the house late on a foggy night, I cast a shadow on the fog itself. It’s hard to get a decent photograph of it. This is the best I could do.
I had to enhance this image in Photoshop Elements. That caused a lot of noise in the image that makes the fog seem grainy. But one thing you can see is the brightness of the fog around my shadow.
This is what you get when you use a flash. The reflected light completely washes out anything in the scene, and the resulting image is nothing but noise.
Zeke sat down to wait for me while I fiddled with the camera. I tried to get a shot of him, but, even though he was close and there did not seem to be much fog between us, this is all I could get.
I took shot of the front of the house. It was a kind of neat scene, but it was also a hard image to get, especially with the little point-and-shoot camera I was using.
All of these images illustrate some of the interesting things that happen when light goes through fog. The effects are caused by the scattering of light from water drops. Water drops tend to scatter light strongly back towards the source. That’s what happened when I used the flash; a lot of light was scattered (reflected) right back at the camera, flooding the sensor and washing out anything that otherwise have been visible in the scene.
Light is also scattered strongly into the forward direction, that is, the direction that the light was originally traveling. When you see a bright light in a foggy scene, like the floodlights in the picture of the front of our house, you will probably notice that the light itself looks bright, but there is also a lot of glare around the light. That is light being forward scattered.
The way light is scattered into all directions around a water drop is called the scattering phase function. If you could see it plotted, you would see that some light is scattered into all directions around a water drop, but there is a lot more in the backward (towards the light source) and forward directions.
All this is fairly wonky, but it leads to some really neat things, like, for example, the glory. The glory has been noted for hundreds, if not thousands of years, mainly in regions with high mountains where the clouds are sometimes lower than the tops of the mountains. If a person is on the top of a mountain, and there are clouds below the top of the mountain, and the sun is behind his back, sometimes if he looks down towards the clouds, he will see his shadow cast on the clouds, and there will be something that looks like a halo around his head. That is the glory.
If two people are standing together looking down at their shadows, each one will see a glory only around his own body. It’s easy to understand why someone who doesn’t know what causes a glory to think that it must mean that the person who sees it is special.
Probably the most common place to see glories today is from an airliner. If the sun is in the right place, and the plane is flying over clouds, and you are in the right seat to see the plane’s shadow, you will probably see a glory around the shadow of the plane.
There are several explanations for the glory, but they seem unnecessarily complicated to me. It seems to me that the scattering phase function explains it pretty well. When the light is coming from directly behind you, your head will cast a shadow, but the light that passes around your head will be scattered strongly back towards the source; in other words, directly back towards you. Thus you will see a bright area around the shadow of your head. The glory is often colored, which also doesn’t seem to require a very complicated explanation, since a similar effect can be seen in every rainbow.
You can see a more pedestrian version of this almost any time the sun is out. Just stand so that you can see your own shadow. Most of the time whatever surface you are standing on will tend to reflect light more strongly directly back towards the source than in other directions. This will cause the ground or other surface to look brighter right around the shadow of your head. This is often a subtle effect, but if you look carefully you ought to be able to see it. A roughish surface, like grass, is better than a smooth surface like a concrete patio.
So, when you’re out looking around, keep looking up, but don’t forget to look down sometimes, too.
There are lots of deer around our neighborhood. We see them just about every time we drive in the evening on Technology Parkway, which goes through an industrial park developed on Berry College land. We see their bodies fairly often where cars have hit them, and have even seen one as it was hit. I hit one myself further out Huffaker Road. Mine survived long enough to jump up and run away. Several hang out near our house. Some of them have decided that our shrubs are a buffet, like they did a few years ago during the worst part of our drought.
Deer season for firearms opened here in October and lasts until January 1. Berry College, which owns 27,000 acres, has three short firearm seasons with 1000 permits for the first two and 750 for the third. Berry College extends along Lavender Mountain fairly close to us. It’s more than a stone’s throw away, but certainly within a bullet’s range.
Aside from the damage the deer cause our shrubbery, I am pretty much neutral on deer hunting. I don’t hunt and don’t really understand the appeal, but that’s a personal shortcoming rather than a judgment. Several of my coworkers hunt deer and they seem to be pretty normal people.
I’m sure most deer hunters are responsible citizens, but this area seems to have a significant population of a different kind. I mentioned seeing partially butchered deer carcasses dumped along Fouche Gap Road. I have seen them in prior deer seasons, but this season is the worst. I counted five confirmed and a possible sixth so far this year. There are four (or possibly five) within two miles on Fouche Gap Road and one on the few hundred yards that Wildlife Trail extends from our house to its dead end.
Apparently the practice is to take some meat off the main body of the carcass, leaving the rib cage exposed and the legs and the head untouched. Then the remains are tossed out of the back of a truck. Probably a truck, but who knows? Maybe these people haul dead deer in the back seats of their cars.
All I know for sure is that I don’t want to meet these people in the woods. Or any other place, for that matter.
Last week we talked about how the cats sleep. Now we’ll see where they sleep. For our inside cats, the house offers a world of opportunities for places to sleep. Here are a few.
One of Zoe’s favorite places is in his carrier. It’s kind of strange since the only place he ever goes in his carrier is to the vet, and he usually ends up getting a shot there. He usually cries all the way to the vet’s.
In the winter Chloe usually spends all day outside and then comes in at night. She usually sleeps on the end of the bed right next to my feet.
Sometimes when something spooks her, or Zoe is chasing her around, she’ll get between the headboard and the wall.
Smokey usually stays outside at night, but during the day he likes to go down into the basement and sleep on an old piece of carpet lying on an unfinished door. You can’t quite see here that we have a fire in the stove in the upper left corner. That’s what he likes.
I think Sylvester is the champion. He has a bunch of favorite places. Here he is in a dog bed near the kitty scratching post/playhouse.
Sometimes he likes to squeeze into the tube to sleep.
Other times he likes to get high.
Smokey, Sylvester and Zoe spend the night outside now, even in the cold weather. They all have several choices for warm shelter, but we aren’t sure what they use . Rusty and Dusty are strictly outside cats. The only time they have ever come in, it was just long enough to find another door to get back outside. We think they sleep in a two-story cathouse Mark built, but sometimes we think Dusty may sleep in a culvert.
When my brother was moving back to Atlanta from San Diego, he needed someone to drive his old car back east. My friend Tom and I thought it would be a nice trip, so we agreed to do it over Thanksgiving week. The details are fuzzy now, because it was about 20 years ago, but here’s what I remember.
First, of course, we had to arrive in San Diego without a car. Tom’s idea was that he would drive to Georgia from New Mexico in his little pickup, and we would drive back and catch the Amtrak train from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. It sounded good to me, so that’s what we did.
The first part of the trip was uneventful. We had both driven back and forth between Georgia and New Mexico many times, so the trip through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee was pretty boring. About the time we reached Arkansas on I-40, it started raining. Hard. We heard a weather forecast on the radio for snow, and we both thought it was ridiculous with all the heavy rain. But as we kept going into the night, it got colder, and the rain turned to snow.
It snowed hard. The interstate started getting slippery. Tom’s truck was four-wheel-drive, so we didn’t have much trouble, but we did have to slow down quite a bit. The highway was covered with snow that was packed by the traffic. We watched a big truck driving up a long grade curved to the left. The tractor was in the right lane, and his trailer was sliding along in the left lane.
It was pretty tiring, so we stopped for a while at a motel in Amarillo. The next morning had turned bright and sunny with only a few icy spots between Amarillo and New Mexico. We headed up towards Lamy, which is where the Santa Fe train station is located. We intended to buy a ticket for the next day’s train, but found that that day’s train was late. It had been behind a freight train that had come apart on a grade, so we were able to get tickets for a compartment on that day’s train.
We had a while to wait so we went over to the Legal Tender Saloon for a little nip, and then came back to the station. Tom was a fan of detective novels, so we joked about Murder on the Orient Express and whether there might be a death on the train.
It was so late after the delay that they started serving dinner almost immediately after we left the station. We went up to the dining car and sat down to eat. After a while, we looked outside and then asked each other whether the train was slowing. It was. Out in the middle of nowhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a drunk had decided to take a nap on the tracks, and the train had run over him. The almost imperceptibly slow stop was called an emergency stop.
It was a long time before the ambulance and police cars came, and a lot longer before the train started again. And then it went almost immediately into a siding where every wheel was inspected for damage. Apparently that’s required after every emergency stop.
Eventually the train went through Albuquerque and then headed west across Arizona and into southern California.
I think traveling by train may be the best way in the world to travel. The western Amtrak cars are two stories tall, so you sit up high. In the compartment we had, the seats faced each other on either side of the window. There was almost no sensation of motion, just the western landscape passing silently by. At night the seats fold down to make one bed, and the upper berth lowers immediately over it. It was a comfortable ride, but I had a cold so it was hard to sleep. Even so, when I got off the train in LA, I felt like I had just walked out my front door. There was none of the drone and low oxygen levels of airline travel, which usually leaves me exhausted after a four or five-hour flight.
We rented a car to drive down to San Diego. My brother, who was back in Georgia, had told me that his car, a 1967 Porsche 912, would probably need a tune-up. We got some tune-up parts and I started working. The car kept running worse and worse as I worked, but finally, at the end of the day, I had it running about as well as it had been before I started. At that point it seemed best to consider the job done.
We left the next morning. It was ice-cream weather in San Diego, but the cold weather we had passed through in the middle of the country was still there. In case you’re not familiar with old Porsches, I’ll explain. The 912 looked exactly like its bigger, more expensive brother, the 911, but it had a four-cylinder, air-cooled engine more powerful but otherwise not much different from an old Volkswagen’s. Since an air-cooled engine doesn’t have cooling water that can be used to heat the passenger compartment, Porsche and Volkswagen got heated air into the cabin by putting an envelope of sheet metal around the exhaust manifold and a blower to push hot air from the engine at the back up ducts to the front of the car. It’s a perfectly logical solution, as long as there are no exhaust leaks, but it sounds much better in theory than it works in practice. We never could feel any heat from the little vents. Riding inside the 912 didn’t seem much warmer than some of the cold days I have spent on a motorcycle.
When we decided it was too cold to take it any more, we found a K-Mart and bought a Sterno stove. A Sterno stove uses a little can of jellied alcohol placed in a small, squarish metal stove. You light it with a match and it burns with a weak flame. We put it down in the floorboard between the passenger’s legs. The main problem with it was that it produced a lot of water vapor that kept fogging the windows.
This seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was probably a worse idea even than the original Porsche heating system. It did, however, provide enough heat that we were almost comfortable.
Around that time the Porsche’s starter stopped working. Our first idea was to make sure we parked on a slope so we could push it off. That idea also turned out not to be so good, but at least it gave us some exercise. After one stop, we couldn’t get the car started again until someone stopped and helped push it off. After that we decided to simply drive straight through the rest of the way without turning the engine off. That might not have been a good idea, but it worked.
On Thanksgiving day, we pulled into a truck stop, filled up the tank and parked in front of the truck stop restaurant. We left the engine idling and went in for our Thanksgiving Day dinner.
We managed to make it back to Georgia without any further adventures. We parked the car in my parents’ driveway in Rome and turned the engine off. My brother had to come up from Atlanta to get it. I think he had a hard time getting it started again. I don’t remember how Tom got back to Lamy to pick up his truck from the train station.