A Santa Spotter

Santa should arrive tomorrow, (if you’ve been good?), 4 days after last week’s Winter Solstice. The sun arcs across the sky on a different path every day for 6 months (from solstice to solstice) so when sunrise this morning came wavily through the old sheet glass and shone on a south facing wall

Sunrise spot on wall_4811

I put a small mirror on it with Silicone and tape so I could get just the right angle.

Santa Spotter Mirror_4820

On the opposite wall I placed a Santa image.

Santa waiting_4823

So set one up and tell your would-be astronomer kids .  When the the sun spot first shines on Santa there are 8 days to go. When the sun lights him up again it should be Xmas Day.  You can set it up for any time of day that sunlight shines into your house. Sunrise, midday or Sunset are perhaps more interesting times at which to observe the seasonal changes of the sun’s position.

Santa Spotted_4812

If the distance is good, and the mirror is flat (I still have a few 25 mm squares if you’d like one?) then the sun’s path across the wall should be different every day.  Perhaps John M. can show me how to take a pinhole camera image of the tracks?

Meanwhile, down by the cold Maumee River one of our two Bald Eagles waded in for a drink and waited in vain for a foolish fish to swim by.

 Eagle in water 092

 Two weeks ago (Dec. 15) it got to 56 F (13 C) on a sunny day and the bees came back to life. Some even brought in some yellow pollen from I don’t know where.

Bee with pollen 118

The  harvest is all in. Pounds of honey poured.

Honey pour  027

Pumpkins gathered from the fields.

Pumpkins 1664

And Ohio grain is trucked to the silos by the I75 bridge

Trucks 1773

where I see it shipped to the world. A moving image in today’s  turbulent times.

Grain Freighter 062

Finally a present to you from Santa: A frost-free windshield. If you park your car outside at night be sure the windshield (windscreen) faces dense trees or a house wall so you don’t get frost and ice on it. 

No ice on front facing house 058

When the back window ‘sees’ a very cold (perhaps -100 C or less) clear night sky, the glass can cool (losing heat by radiation) to 3 or 4 degrees C below air temperature. This easily creates dew on the glass which turns to ice if the air temperature is near freezing.

Ice on back window facing sky 057

Very Best of Seasons Greetings and Happy Solstice to All, Everywhere.




It’s a Jungle in Here

My wonderful indoor Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm/composter (totally odorless)

has little, millimeter size, “springers” in the basement swimming pool of “worm tea”

but they seem to be totally harmless; meanwhile the red wiggler worms toothlessly digest our fruit and vegetable peelings (see image below of the underneath of the top tray lifted up for the photo).

Each tray rests on the contents of the one below so the worms can travel easily up an down. After about 3 months they produce the most wonderfully beneficial vermi-castings for my indoor plants. Fresh food is in the top tray (left) – fresh worm castings are in the bottom one (right). 








But if I don’t put enough shredded newspaper on top of the peelings, especially bananas, it can grow fruit flies.  The best trap for fruit flies is a wine bottle with its “lees” (a good crossword puzzle word) plus a little water and a drop of liquid detergent so they sink instead of dancing on the surface of the wine.

But they are useful as totally independent and unbiased wine tasters: after one week they conclusively preferred (by a count of the happy drowned carcasses, and after adjusting for time exposed) a medium body Argentinian Malbec to a variety of California and New York Finger lake red and white wines, and even a Mexican Corona beer.  Francis Ford Coppola’s designer label Rosso fared very badly!

Meanwhile out in the conservatory my poisonous Oleander insists on producing tropical aphids despite occasional application of so-called ‘insecticidal soap’. Why anyone would ever label product that lists 1% “Active ingredient” and 99% “Other” is beyond me. (or why would I ever buy it?)








They have the strangest 3 tails, plus a big proboscis to suck the flower buds dry (photo below shows one on its back with the damaging nose visible).

Outside on the balcony the ants take care of them and the flowers are great in summer. Next winter I might have to invite the ants in too.

Now, to make matters worse, I’ve just discovered a similar 3 tailed form, but black color, aphid on an orchid from Ikea which has been nicely flowering for the last month (see the black dots on the top flower stems).








FYI, all the bug photos were simply taken by holding my cell phone lens to this simple 50 x magnifier.

2011 Winter Solstice or Your House as a Solar Observatory

A simple but great sculpture by Nancy Holt in Utah, celebrating the ancient ceremonies at winter solstice is on my all time favorite website: www.apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap111222.html
I celebrated the Solstice at 8:15 this morning (December 22) in Perrysburg when the sun rose and shone right through the house from its unique Southernmost direction.

The left side photo is taken from the North side of the house looking straight at the sunrise.

The right side photo shows where I am hanging a print of the first photo, in the exact spot on the North wall, illuminated by the sun only on December 21 or 22 (the sun spot is not on the photo because it had moved away by the time I got the iPad stuck to the wall!).

It worked for me  on both first and second floors (see second row of photos). I hope to repeat the measurements for the Summer Solstice and the Equinoxes, but it helps here not having leaves on the trees right now.






(Alice is more interested in Aya’s catnip mouse than astronomy).







(The Black Prince, Pinot is more interested in sitting on the warm radiator).

Here’s a good alignment that occurred a week after the solstice. There are no trees near this line of sight and the spot on the wall is small and relatively precise being a good distance from the window where the sun shines into the house.








I’ll place a photo there and see if it is directly illuminated again same time next year.

I found this 6 month old sunrise photo, taken in July about 4 weeks after the Summer Solstice, looking North-East along the top deck.

It shows the sun is rising about 78 degrees further to the North than right now at the end of December.

The best fun will be at the March and September equinoxes: then I’ll only have to wait 6 months to see if I can get two sunspots to occur in exactly the same spot.

In the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago a few days ago I found this most timely still life by Windsor, Ontario artist Iain Baxter.

It brought back fond memories of Glenn Osborn’s Photoshopped great collage masterpiece “Homage to DeHeem” which won Best of Show (Area Artists) at the Toledo Art Museum in 2007.

It’s almost two years since Glenn sadly left us, with a great musical wake to remember him by.

Happy Solstice and Holidays to all, with a Photoshopped image of what the Maumee Xmas lights, just over the river, would look like through rainy glass – we have NO SNOW, or ice yet!