unseen in the infrared
Thursday, July 21 2011
The bird cannon explosions down in the Esopus corn fields did not resume this morning after falling silent yesterday evening. If that's all the fuss they're going to be causing this year, that's not too bad. But I'm still glad I'm over a mile away from those fields, and not just because of the bird cannons. There's also the crop dusting, the grinding farm machinery, and the periodically-vengeful Esopus itself.
But today the Esopus was the good guy in a conflict with another vengeful force: late July temperatures. An unusual high pressure system that had been causing record temperatures in the Great Plains moved into New York today, bringing temperatures up to around 97 degrees Fahrenheit here in Hurley. Such temperatures are not unheard of in this region, particularly on a day like today (which, I believe, is statistically the hottest of the year). But in our household we don't have air conditioning, so we're forced to rely on water to keep cool. We hose ourselves down and go about our business in wet clothes (that works well), or we go wading and swimming in various bodies of water.
Deborah came over and she and Gretchen went off to swim at the Secret Spot on the Esopus. I had some work to do and couldn't get away for over an hour, and when I got to the Esopus they'd already left. So I lay in the water (which, aside from layers fed by local springs, tends to be luke warm, perhaps because of the effects of the Ashokan Reservoir upstream).
I'd brought three plastic buckets with me, so on the way home I gathered gravel at Fording Place (where I came upon two young fishermen who were deliberately standing on dry land in the sun in defiance of the relief spread out at their feet). It doesn't take much work before one is drenched in sweat in this weather, so after I'd loaded the buckets, I lay down again in the Esopus. At Fording Place the water is even warmer than it is at the Secret Spot and there are no cold pockets.
Clarence the Cat didn't show up for breakfast this morning and by this evening I found myself calling for him in the nearby forest while mentally writing his obiturary. What an awesome cat he'd been: always outgoing and friendly with guests (both human and canine), and a reliably good snuggle companion, particularly on occasions when I've been incapacitated by the flu. He'd been here with us since arriving as a kitten back in 2003, having never seen a veterinarian or traveled in a car since. He'd liked the indoors when it suited him, but (unlike all the other cats) was sure to venture outside every day, no matter the weather; I'd never seen him use a litter box. His one character flaw was something that would have been prized by most other people: his exceptional hunting prowess. He killed hundreds of voles, shrews, mice, chipmunks, flying squirrels, a few birds, a number of bats, and a good many baby rabbits (many of which he shared with his "sisters," the dogs Sally and Eleanor). Nevertheless, I was really going to miss Clarence.
But then late this evening he suddenly showed up, a little surprised by the fuss I was making over him. A grimness that had infected all my thoughts suddenly dissipated. Suddenly more seemed right with the world than could be explained just by Clarence's Schrödingerian reveal.
Clarence didn't stick around long; perhaps in this hot weather he has a special place he likes to go. I like to imagine him playing checkers with a Red Fox in a dripping cave somewhere, though I don't think there are any Red Foxes that actually know how to play checkers.
My monitors and computer speakers are all hooked up to power through an infrared motion detector that turns them all off if they don't see motion over the course of two or three minutes. It's handy because it means my computer equipment will fall dark and silent should I wander away for too long. Today, though, I noticed that the monitors and speaker kept turning off even though I was sitting right in front of them, typing or surfing and otherwise making all the motions normally sufficient to placate the motion detector. Then I realized that the air temperature inside the laboratory was just about body temperature: 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If anything, I was probably a bit colder than that due to my wet teeshirt. My guess is that my body no longer contrasted in infrared against the background, so the motion detector could no longer see me. I could still make it register motion if I waved at it frantically very close to the sensor, but having to do that every couple of minutes added to the general unpleasantness of the conditions.
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