OK, so we are officially in the “Dog Days of Summer.” Let’s be quite clear about this. While the term is generally applied to the sultry days of summer, when the temperatures are the hottest, it’s original meaning, and therefore physicist’s meaning, goes back to Roman times when the dog star Sirius rose just before or coincident with the rising of the sun. It is, in fact, the case that due to what is referred to as precession of the equinox, this coincidental rising is not longer true. What’s that you say? The Earth spins on it’s axis like a top. The top tilts slightly and the axis rotates slowly about the vertical, see Figure 2. The top was a subject of endless amusement in Dr. Victor Franco’s classes on advanced mechanics. This precession is also why we declare it to be the “Age of Aquarius,” the sun no longer rising on the day of the vernal equinox in the constellation of Ares, as it did in ancient times but rather in the constellation of Aquarius.
This is a time of wonderful late summer light in New England. We have effectively seven seasons here, each beautiful in its own right: winter, early spring, late spring, summer, late summer, fall, and winter. I spotted a wonderful old apple tree in a forgotten orchard meadow. It was surrounded by gloriously golden lazy Susans. The light was not what I wanted. So I have returned four times in early morning, but have yet to find exactly what I am looking for, and now the lazy Susan’s are beginning to give up the ghost.
So, after another disappointing failure with the apple tree, I decided to visit my winter haunt – our local mall – to see what was about. It is a quiet time in the mall. Still it is fun to people watch and to search for photographic opportunities. Mall security can get a bit testy if you snap away with a long telephoto. But the IPhone provides a degree of anonymity. It is already fall in the mall, and I observed the various indigenous peoples: beautiful and fashionable women who, since we are in the safety of the ‘burbs, will share a smile with you, long-legged teenage girls who, one can only hope, will find the rest of their clothes before school starts, and babies brought there to be entertained but really delightfully entertaining themselves. They too are ever ready to share a smile or wave with you. There are also the sulking teenage boys trying unsuccessfully to look as threatening as possible. This included one young NY Yankees fan, who wore and A-Rod tee shirt and seemed oblivious to the possibility of abuse by hoards of Boston Red Sox fans.
I wandered past the new Microsoft store. I was tempted to go in an find out what all the fuss about the “Surface RT” was. I am a loyal advocate of PC products. Perhaps it was old geezer prejudice, but there was something not so reassuring about the clerk with aqua blue hair. I have no problem with dyed hair – but really, aqua! It seemed a bad fashion decision and did not instil confidence that this woman would know what she was talking about. Or maybe it had nothing to do with the young woman with blue hair and more to do with years of experience with products that Microsoft assured you that you had to have and then abandoned.
So I moved on. And then I found it at the altar of the Lego Store, “The Tower of Orthanc!” And there was Gandalf the Grey about to be rescued by eagles. When you have young children you make the excuse that the magic of such places is to see them again through a child’s eyes. It is nonsense. The reality is that you yourself still have a child’s passion, still believe in magic, but are too proud and self-conscious to venture in. And good thing. The glorious “Tower of Orthanc” cost $195. The magic ended there and I bid a hasty retreat town the steps that spelled “Escape from the Tower of Orthanc.”