Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canada Day

The great nation to which I currently pay my taxes is celebrating the anniversary of its existence. As with people in countries all over the world, we do this by setting fire to things... like police cars, apparently, but usually we restrict ourselves to rockets. Instead of sticking around for the fireworks, I'll be taking Aeneas to a cottage on a lake where we will torment the local fish population with sharp things. The weather looks like it's going to be good, so I'm looking forward to it.

In lieu:

In the process of converting hydrogen into helium, the sun produces a considerable amount of exhaust, about 2 million tons each second. This exhaust is a superheated plasma (a charged gas) commonly referred to as the solar wind. Traveling at more than 400Km/s, the solar wind is not a gentle breeze and could easily sweep life from the surface of the earth if it weren't for the planet's magnetic field.

An interesting thing happens when high-energy particles encounter a magnetic field: they radiate. As the particles spiral along the lines of magnetic force, they give off a fair bit of light that we call the Aurora or Australis Borealis (in the north or south, respectively). Actually, we don't call it that. We let scientists and weathermen call it that. We call it the Northern (or Southern) Lights.

I've been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights a few times during intense sunspot activity. A curtain of light, shimmering and rippling as though caught in a breeze. It's faint and ghostly and almost transparent, and it never fails to make me shiver at the magnificence and complexity of our beautiful, impossible little planet.

Talk about fireworks...

This is the Aurora Australis as seen from space.

Happy Birthday, Canada.

While I'm depleting the piscine community, you'll be interested to know that the latest winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have perpetrated their crimes on the reading public and been justly rewarded therefore.

I laughed like a hyena. Not like the the Striped or Brown hyena or even the Aardwolf, which isn't really a wolf and is native only to some parts of Southern and Eastern Africa and not at all to Tasmania, which is an island I'd quite like to visit one day. Not at all like those, but more like the Spotted Hyena, like the ones shown in nature films and the Lion King, only I don't think they sound like Whoopi Goldberg but rather more like Bobcat Goldthwait, who once starred with Whoopi in the movie Burglar, which was funny but didn't make me laugh this much. And I don't think they're actually laughing. I think they're barking, but it sort of sounds like laughing. It sounds like Uncle Bernie would if he sucked in a whole helium balloon and then heard a really funny joke like that one about the two lawyers... only not that one, the other one with the bucket of paint and the Orangutan, and boy did I laugh at that too, but not like Uncle Bernie who doesn't laugh at all like a hyena, but then hyenas don't laugh so I suppose that's alright.

I laughed like that.


Dawn Pier said...

I looked for a place to email you directly, but alas none was found. So I am commenting in the hopes that you will not post this, but view it as the email it is intended as. I like your blog. I like that you are Canadian, like me. And I like that you too understand the depths to which we will go to procrastinate, rather than do what we were put on the planet to do - write. Happy Belated Canada Day to you as well.

Ulysses said...

Procrastinate? Procrastinate? I assure you, I know not whereof you speak.

I was planning to procrastinate, but had to put it off when something came up... you know how it is.

...and thanks for the kind words. I hope your fireworks were loud and bright.