28 January 2012

14 January 2012

2012-01-14, Appreciating the Texas Panhandle

I sent the following very long comment (do I write any other kind?) to a fb friend in Finland in response to this pic: http://on.fb.me/zt2NZT
 and some pix I posted for comparison: http://bit.ly/wyynQ3
 and http://bit.ly/AbaPz7
 . I thought you might like to see it, too.

You've discovered the key to appreciating the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma: look at the sky, not at the ground. The ground is a sea of grass or wheat or maybe sorghum, but the sky is vast and beautiful. (So is the sea of grass, too, but it takes being there a while to appreciate it.) In the dry Panhandle air, you can often see big thunderstorms coming from many tens of miles (~100 km) away, too. They're huge, powerful, and quite impressive. There's often enough dust in the air to make spectacular "sky's on fire" sunrises and sunsets, as well.

Here in central Oklahoma (Norman, Oklahoma City) we get a bit more rainfall, and the air is much more humid. This makes the storms more vicious and tornado-prone. The humidity also often wraps the thunderstorms in other clouds, so often all you see here is a dark, cloudy sky turning greenish (ice crystals in the thunderheads, I think) and a tornado or at least big hail follows. In the Panhandle, the dryer air makes the storms less prone to generating tornadoes, but hail is still pretty frequent (bad news for wheat crops). Here's a tornado frequency map for reference: http://bit.ly/xYK1Bb
 . Central Oklahoma is decidedly the bulls eye.

Those thunderstorms often have tops as high as 45, 000 feet or about 14 000 m, and really strong ones can top out at 60,000 feet (~18 000 m), so it's really good, from both a safety and artistic viewpoints, to be able to see them. Even high-flying airliners have to go around 'em, not over.

I was wondering about the difference in rainfall between Finland and the Texas Panhandle, thinking it might be the reason for all the trees there and practically none in the Panhandle. It turns out that they're not that different. See http://bit.ly/zHNKAp
 for a map of U.S. average rainfall. The 23 inch per year average at my farm near the northeast corner of the Panhandle works out to about 580 mm per year. Surprisingly enough, that's not too different from the rainfall in southern Finland in the areas not right on the coast, as this map shows: http://bit.ly/xmgyv1

The difference must be the long, hot summers that are common in the bottom row of low-latitude U.S. states. (See the U.S. summer temperatures map at http://bit.ly/An5b5T
 . For reference, 100 F = 38 C.) The summers really dry out the land, evaporating much of the moisture from the spring rains. The joke in Oklahoma is that we have four seasons: almost-summer, summer, still-summer, and bilzzard. :^) For comparison, see the table "Seasonal Temperature Averages" for Helsinki athttp://bit.ly/zpFf5f

Growing up in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo is my hometown) certainly gives a person an appreciation of places like Finland that have an abundance of trees. I've filled my front and back yards here in Norman with about as many trees as will fit, because I really like 'em. They're a real pain in the neck in a bad ice storm, though. See http://bit.ly/yN6zGr
 , http://bit.ly/wSYltm
 , and http://bit.ly/wp3ITU
 . Trees will grow well in Amarillo, too, if you keep them well-watered for their first few years so that they can develop a good root system, but they'll hardly grow at all without some early-life watering.

Oh BTW, when you come to the U.S. (put that on your bucket list http://bit.ly/wnExrp
 ), don't miss the very often-overlooked, almost-unknown Palo Duro Canyon just south of Amarillo. It's the second-largest canyon in the U.S. in land area, it's accessible by road in the part that's a state park, and it's really gorgeous. There's an excellent museum in the nearby city of Canyon, Texas, too, that's easily worth a half-day or even full-day visit, The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the West Texas A&M University campus. (See the excellent Palo Duro Canyon panoramic virtual tours at http://bit.ly/wyH3y2
 and my museum album from several years ago at http://bit.ly/wP5Eph

That's all the news that fits--and then some! :^)

13 January 2012

2012-01-13, A Little Word Play from the Washington Post

These quotations from Washington Post articles have been circulating on the 'Net. They're rated, well, maybe PG-13, but funny. Enjoy!

Thanks, Deb! 

I'll claim "fair use" for the copyright.

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:
1.Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2.Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3.Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4.Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5.Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6.Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7.Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8.Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9.Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10.Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11.Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12.Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13.Glibido: All talk and no action.

14.Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15.Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16.Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17.Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

1.Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2.Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3.Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4.esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5.Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6.Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7.Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8.Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9.Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10.Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11.Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12.Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13.Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.