Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Solar System, My Eclipse

Yesterday, here in Helena, we watched the moon slide overtop the sun until something near 93% of the sun had vanished.  At one time, the Arapaho Plains Indians thought all the celestial bodies were brothers and sisters.  When, on rare occasion, they witnessed a solar eclipse such as this, they were appalled, thinking that brother sun and sister moon might be having sex right there in the sky above them.
We had none of that here, but we also did not experience the level of darkness I expected.  At peak coverage (11:34 AM) we fell into a sort of eerie twilight—something near what you see 15 minutes before the sun is swallowed by the mountains each night.  But this twilight lacked the long shadows projecting from all things upright.
The strangest sensation was temperature. My arms and face chilled considerably as the moon blocked direct irradiation from the sun.
Mosquitoes, shunners of sunlight, emerged from a nearby field, thinking it was time for an evening meal.  I slapped a few of them silly.
Late in the afternoon, long after the eclipse, I received an email from my friend Dan.  He informed me that a mutual friend, Troy, was watching his solar PV power output during the eclipse.  The array output dropped to zero at 11:34.  That makes sense.  PV system output is directly related to the level of irradiation received from the sun.
My array reports daily output for me.  Posted is today a photograph of my solar PV array (taken two years ago) and a graph of my total power output from yesterday.  Each of bars on the graph represents average output over a 15 minute block of time.  You can see the valley in production produced by the array over the 2½ hour stretch of time the moon wiped across the face of the sun.  Though, at the bottom of the valley, 91 watts of output is shown, I assume my system fell to zero at the darkest point.



--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Downside to Ingenuity

If you study the photograph posted at the outset of this blog you will surmise you are looking at a cellphone and a flashlight (torch for those of you from England) duct-taped to broom handle.  But that is only the beginning.
What you are really seeing is pure ingenuity.  And no beer was involved.  Not at this point.
Ingenuity is a difficult and unlikely animal.  On one hand, ingenuity ultimately placed on your lap your laptop computer.  Ingenuity placed a Veg-O-Matic onto your kitchen countertop.
Good stuff, for sure.
On the other hand, ingenuity often turns some hapless (beer-drinking) soul into the next Franz Reichelt.  Franz, for those of you still ruminating about the Veg-O-Matic, was a tailor and early pioneer in the practice of parachuting.  In 1912, Franz climbed up Eiffel Tower, strapped himself inside the world’s first “parachute suit,” and leapt from the tower.
You can find (on YouTube) a surprisingly clear black and white movie of Franz plunging from Eiffel Tower.  If you are the slightest bit squeamish, you might want to find a video of puppies licking kittens instead.            
Getting back to the contraption at the beginning of this blog.  First, I am not going to compare this to the great Veg-O-Matic.  One of the supreme inventions of all history.  When I was seven or eight I gave one to my mother for Christmas.  She was SO impressed.
I can claim that, yesterday, with our duct-taped invention, my young friend Randy and I explored otherworldly places where most men fear to go: the inside of an active septic tank.  If you have ever imagined what the inside of a septic tank looks and smells like, it is much worse than that.
The video we captured begins in the sun and trees and then slowly descends into a hole in the earth.  I will spare you most details.  I can tell you this much.  The inside of a septic tank is an inky and starless universe.  Strange and ugly things suddenly appear before you at each twist of the broom handle.  Frankly, the video we captured is more disgusting than that of Franz Reichelt jumping from Eiffel Tower.
And I can tell you this.  I am looking for drawings of the world’s second parachute suit, because I am going to try that instead of a septic tank should such a proposal arise anytime in the future.







--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Where there’s Smoke

I am sure you have heard the expression “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” more than a few times.
I would like to amend that expression. 
Here is the new: “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke.”  Sometimes a lot of smoke.  So much smoke, my brother-in-law (who often requires an inhaler to help him with his compromised breathing), is on the verge of visiting Urgent Care.
The West is ablaze.  Not just Western Montana.  Bigger.  Fires are presently scouring through all the Northwestern U.S. as well as British Columbia.  The monster fires, the type that throw six-foot logs up in the air, create their own weather patterns, and cause trees to explode into flames like rags dipped in gasoline are, in fact, roiling through the mountains of British Columbia.
This year, with the table set for plenty more fire season, British Columbia has seen something approaching three million acres scorched.  That’s already a grim record.
And that’s a lot of smoke.
Clouds, veils, walls of smoke, and sometimes ash, have invaded our valley over the last few weeks.  Much of the smoke has swooped down from British Columbia.  Some from across the Continental Divide here in Montana.  Some from other states to our west.
We have experienced hours where we cannot see for more than a mile or two.  Our mountain views come and go.
It’s awful.
Most mornings have, fortunately, arrived fairly clear.  As soon as I wake, I scamper from room to room opening windows to let in sweet, cool air while it lasts.  Last night, the smoke in the air was thick as pudding.  I woke this morning to a view of the Big Belt Mountains behind my house and only a light gauze across the expanse.
My windows are open.
I now sit drinking coffee, waiting for the next wall of smoke to arrive.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Attack (Almost) of the Sun Spider

While sitting together in the living room last night, I noticed an expression of bewilderment developing on that girl.  “What’s going on?” I asked.
She pointed to the floor.   An inch-long pale, leggy thing stood facing her on the carpet about four feet away.  “What is THAT?”
We have some creepy spiders and bugs around here.   Topping the list of creepy, in my estimation, is the black widow spider.  Those, I see regularly along the foundation of my house and sometimes in my garage.  They are black and shiny as a new lethal weapon and their long legs shift them along like fast wings.  Everything about them is sharp-looking and deadly.
Second on my list of creepy is the thing that girl claimed (after I captured it my wadded sock and released it outside) “was running toward me really fast.”
This creature has many names: sun spider, wind scorpion, camel spider, solifugid, or what is THAT!  These little monsters are members of the order Solifugae, which means “those that flee from the sun.”  They are not exactly spiders, but they look just as disturbing—coming equipped with eight long legs and inordinately large jaws (chelicerae).  They tend to live in deserts, but are widely distributed around the entire world.  In some regions, sun spiders can reach up to six inches in size. They are extremely fast movers.  Some are said capable of reaching half the speed of a running man.  This is not a claim I wish to test anytime soon.
Sun spiders are both ambush hunters, feeding on insects or small animals, and plant eaters.  They are normally tan in color.  Solifugids do not like direct light.  They are mostly nocturnal and they tend to keep to the ground.
Technically, they are harmless to humans.
Today, I am not feeling that technical.
They scare me.
And, as a point of fact, they can give you a nasty bite if you pester them enough.  Posted is a photograph from sydkab.com.  Also posted is a really creepy video.  If you watch the video, make sure you place another person nearby so you can hug them once the video is done playing.
Sources: Wikipedia, https://sydkab.com/2014/10/08/arachnids-solifugids/



--Mitchell Hegman
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-6K7YS4HH4

Friday, August 18, 2017

List of “I Brake For” Bumper Stickers You Don’t Want to See on Automobiles in Front of You

1. I Brake for Pretty Much Anything
2. I Brake for Those Weird Purple Leggy Things I See When I Take LSD
3. I Brake for Pumpkins…What?
4. This Car Actually Brakes and Comes to a Full Stop at Stop Signs
5. I Brake for No Apparent Reason
6. I Brake by Running into Things

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

About Computers

“A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.”
--Emo Philips
“Computers are like Old Testament Gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”
--Joseph Campbell
“In short, software is eating the world.”
--Marc Andreessen

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Coffee (A Condensed History)

According to the National Coffee Association, Ethiopian legend holds that goats were the first to discover the joys of coffee.  This occurred somewhere prior to the year 1000.  The goats did not brew up a batch of “cowboy coffee,” of course, but rather ate a bunch of the berries and then danced and bleated around the bush all night instead of sleeping.  The goat herder tending the goats, a man named Kaldi, reported this to the abbot of the local monastery and handed over some of the berries.  The abbot threw the berries onto a fire and found the scent they emitted “heavenly.”  The abbot then gobbled up some of the berries.  Next thing you know, I and my friend Sandi are totally addicted to coffee.
At this point, I cannot imagine a day without coffee.  The thought of that causes me to break into a cold sweat.
Early drinkers of coffee considered coffee a medicine.  Moreover, the Muslim regions took to coffee immediately, having eschewed wine and other alcoholic drinks.
The first documented coffee house opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1554.  Worldwide expansion of coffee drinking began with Turkish conquests and the influence of the Ottoman Empire.  It must be noted, however, that Sultan Murad IV, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire, attempted to ban the consumption of coffee.  He made the consumption of coffee a capital offense.  He is said to have wandered the streets of Istanbul posing as a commoner and carrying a hundred-pound broadsword.  When he found someone drinking coffee he would decapitate them immediately.  His successor was somewhat more lenient.  A first offense was punishable by a cudgeling (getting beaten with a stick).  A second offense saw offenders sewn into a leather bag and tossed in the river.
The consumption of coffee could not be stopped.  Coffee soon found its way to Europe and from there it traveled in all directions.
Today, Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world.  Coffee in Brazil owes its existence to the Governor’s wife of French Guiana.  In 1727, a certain Francisco de Mello Palheta was sent from Brazil to French Guiana to get coffee seedlings.  The French refused to give any seedlings, but the Governor’s wife—captivated by the envoy’s good looks—gave him a bouquet of flowers with coffee seeds hidden inside.
From those seeds an industry.
--Mitchell Hegman
Sources: National Coffee Association, The Atlantic, www.npr.org, www,childrenswritersguild.com