Thursday, August 31, 2017

August, and Summer, is Gone

As Sam says at the conclusion of the greatest work of fiction in the English language:

Well, I’m back.

Been back five days, actually. All dreadfully dreary. All work and no play sort of stuff.

The vacation, as one should gather from my prior posts, was one of the best I’ve had in years. Though sleep deprived (still am), though I may have had a tad too much to drink one or two nights (days), we did a lot and had a lot of fun in a beautiful corner of the earth, in a gorgeous little apartment light years better than any hotel room we’ve long grown accustomed to. On the ride back Saturday I was mighty sad and more than a little depressed.

Sunday was fun: a trip to the park and library with the girls. One ran, one played in the woods, and one meditated under a tree. I was not the one running or in the woods.

Began Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (abridged; that’s the ancient war between Athens and Sparta) on the ride home. Got halfway through the 190 pages. But lost interest once back in New Jersey. Set it aside, and continued plowing through Silverberg’s At Winter’s End. Nothing else is inspiring me; I’m slightly down because of that.

Sigh. It’s late and I’m tired. The summer shot by incredibly fast (wasn’t it just the Fourth of July like last week?) and it’s unseasonably mild here. That September nip has been in the air the past couple of days. A tree outside my window at work has multihued leaves already, many fluttering down to the ground. Soon the landscape will be bleak and barren.

Goodbye August. You rushed by so fast I didn’t even get a chance to make your acquaintance …

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Not being a man of the sea (or beach, lake, river, etc.) I find myself fascinated with the pattern of the tides here at Hilton Head. Especially since we’re overlooking the Shelter Cove / Broad Creek section of the Hilton Head sound, just slightly south of the island’s center of gravity. Twice a day the tides come in and out, and it’s so drastic I had to snap some pics:

High tide

Low tide

What a dramatic difference in the landscape beyond my window! I asked the in-laws what the height differential was in the tides down here. I vaguely recall reading somewhere in the beginning of Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light that tides on Normandy beach in June of 1944 differed by 24 feet, so I was trying to visualize how that might compare to the island. They guesstimated a couple of feet. Curiosity not sated, I searched a couple of websites until I found what I think the answer is, here. If I’m reading this correctly, the tidal differential is 6.9 feet.

And all due to the difference in the gravitational tug on the near and far side of earth by the moon.

Interesting, no?


Here’s a neat little pdf map of the island. It really does look like a sneaker!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse Anecdotalia

Oh, forgot! What was Hopper’s amateur scientific observations during the overclouded total solar eclipse?

Well, my observances are kinda skewed due to the extremely heavy cloud cover. Ideally, there wouldn’t be a cloud in the sky and the ambient effects of the eclipse would be more obviously correlation does imply causation. But not so.

Also, we were not strict Victorian men of science here. I forgot to log the temperature earlier in the day, something I had half a (nerdy) mind to do.

That being said –

The wife had checked the temperature during her morning walk around 10 am. It was 88 degrees. We had presence of mind to re-check during totality, and it was 83 degrees. On a hot summer day, the temperature dropped five degrees from 10 am to 2:45 pm. In fact, it may have actually been warmer when the eclipse started, around 1 pm. Maybe it went from 90 or 91 to 83, a seven or eight degree drop. But that’s just speculation.

Now, concerning the dimming of the surrounding light … purely and subjectively anecdotal, but, I suggested the guesstimate – and the wife confirmed – that during totality it appeared to be dark to us as it normally is around 8:15 at night. (The sun normally sets around here around 8:30 and it’s dark by 8:45-8:50.)

The wind also seemed to pick up, but then again we were on the beach with dark, heavy clouds overhead. It was hard to distinguish what were eclipse effects verses what were impending potential thunderstorm effects. Possibly – probably – we experienced a mixture of both.

Still, though, it was cool, and a little eerie, clouds or no clouds. Though no clouds next time, please.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Great Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

was a bust. Well, 95 percent of a bust.

Being an astronomy buff (and a subscriber to both Astronomy and Sky and Telescope), I’d been aware of the impending eclipse for about eighteen months or so. So much so that we incorporated the eclipse into our annual trek down to visit the wife’s parents in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I recall seeing a partial eclipse in 1993 or 1994 during my lunch break at work, and was overwhelmed by the dramatic decrease in ambient sunlight and temperature. So I was looking forward to the Great Total Solar Eclipse of 2017, where our vacation destination would be just shy southward of true totality.

We arrived at our “Villa” late Saturday night. Sunday night we did the church thing with Nana, had lunch at her club, and swam in the community pool for a few hours. Then, at dinner with them (my father-in-law is an amateur gourmet chef, and cooked us ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, absolutely delicious chased with some foamy ice cold beer), Patch and I went to work on our home made eclipse viewer.

You see, people all over prepared for this eclipse as if it was the Second Coming. Nary a pair of eclipse glasses to be found. The wife, an expert deal snagger if ever there was one (see prior post on the “Villa”), had her feelers out, but whether she’d snag glasses or not would not be determined until the morning of the eclipse.

So, me and Patch saved an empty cereal box, scored some tape, tin foil, scissors and a pin from Nana’s all-purpose junk drawer, and went to work building our home made eclipse viewer Surprisingly, I, who can barely hang a picture, was able to construct one. Rather, I barked commands to Patch, who faithfully built it.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law chuckled under his breath. “Clouds,” he murmured, a wry smile upon his ancient lips. “Clouds …”

And lo how he was right. Yesterday morning the wife rose early to walk the perimeter of the bay and, mid-walk, stop to stake out a position on line to a business that was anticipating a last-minute shipment of eclipse glasses. My suggestion that she camp out the night before with a sleeping bag went unheeded, but she was third on line. Ninety minutes later, ready to distribute the fifty-cent glasses retailing for ten bucks a piece, the business made an announcement that only two to a customer would be sold. The Mrs. was ticked off, but I thought we could share the two glasses among the four of us. After all, I had the Vanilla Almond Clusters eclipse box, too.

After a quick bite for lunch we drove a bit down the island to the beach. This involved parking in the Marriott, walking into the Marriot, and staking out a position on the Marriott-owned part of the surf. “Act like you own it,” the wife advised us all, and we did, and were able to get in and into position without a single querying look from any Marriott staffer. We camped out on a bridge dividing the sand from the hotel, hundreds of beachcombers before us and hundreds of bar denizens behind.

This was our view of the sun:

Here are my two nerds with their eclipse glasses:

Here are two more nerds with their home made eclipse viewer:

It turns out my father-in-law was correct. The sky was heavily overcast. The girls quickly grew bored. Exhibit A and B:

As did a lot of others on the beach. One dude loudly (and probably drunkenly) announced that the eclipse was postponed a week. But suddenly, people gasped in awe and pointed skyward. The thick, heavy cloud cover did not break, but thinned sufficiently to allow us a glimpse of a crescent sun!

Here are the two best pics of the day:

All in all, a fun day regardless of the less-than-stellar results. The Hopper family showed up prepared, Mother Nature was just lacking. But for the next eclipse, we’ll all be ready …

Monday, August 21, 2017

The "Villa"

Probably the nicest place I’ve stayed at since the Mrs. and I spent a few days at the Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley for our honeymoon oh so many years ago. (Though the richest place I’ve stayed at was the Hotel Crillon in Paris, but that was a trip the wife won through her work and we paid not for it.) Now, not being an experienced traveler, it’s hard for me to describe this place. It’s owned by someone, a person, so it’s kinda like an Airbnb thing, but it’s in a complex (we’re on the fourth floor) so it also has a high-brow hotel thing going. Anyway, the wife, an expert deal snagger, snagged this for us for a week at a price comparable to the Residence Inn we’d normally book when we stay down here.

The place is huge and the pics don’t do it justice. Two floors; the first is a dining room against a mirrored wall (which I’m still not used to), living room, kitchen with a washer and dryer tucked into a cabinet. What the pictures don’t show are the bedrooms. One on the first floor, which extends back the same amount of space as the living/dining room. There’s a full bath there too, along with a closet larger than the one in my house. A spiral staircase takes you up to the second floor, where there’s a daybed on the upstairs landing. The second bedroom, up there, has another full bath, a second bath with a sunken tub (where I’ll be reading Silverberg and Atkinson later this week), and ten feet of counter space.

The balcony off the living room has a view over the Hilton Head Sound, a narrow, meandering east-west channel that nearly bisects the island. We’re pretty much in the direct center, facing north. So far we’ve seen dozens of kayakers, boats, and flocks of snowy egrets and heron seeking tasty treats in the marsh below. But no gators. At least, so far.

Needless to say, the girls loudly and firmly proclaimed that we will be staying here at the “Villa” forthwith and forevermore, every time we visit the grandparents down on Hilton Head.

Well, off to the beach to view the eclipse …

Sunday, August 20, 2017

On Vacation

on Hilton Head Island until August 27th ...

pics and exposition to follow over the upcoming days ...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lakeside Park

Nice bittersweet tune by Rush I listened to a thousand times around 1987 or so. Lots of memories mashed up in this song, memories of Seaside Heights, Wildwood, Lake George …

Midway hawkers calling “try your luck with me”
Merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody
A thousand ten-cent wonders, who could ask for more?
A pocketful of silver, the key to heaven’s door

Lakeside Park
Willows in the breeze
Lakeside Park
So many memories
Laughing rides
Midway lights
Shining stars
On summer nights

Days of barefoot freedom racing with the waves
Nights of starlit secrets, crackling driftwood flames
Drinking by the lighthouse, smoking on the pier
Still we saw the magic was fading every year

Lakeside Park
Willows in the breeze
Lakeside Park
So many memories
Laughing rides
Midway lights
Shining stars
On summer nights

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display
Dancing fires on the beach
Singing songs together
Though it's just a memory
Some memories last forever

Friday, August 11, 2017

21 Ducks Animation

My eight-year-old daughter’s cartoon production company.

The sky’s the limit, they say …

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hey Blogman! Y No Posts?

Good question. Short answer: Nothing to write about.

No, it’s not writer’s block. Or maybe it is. Just that nothing has caught my attention, shouting, “Write about this on the Hopper!” Or maybe stuff has, it’s just that I haven’t been able to come up with a hook. Normally (usually in the shower) I’ll be thinking about something that’s piqued my attention of late and a line or two will come into my head. I’ll compose most of the post standing with shampoo in my hair but will forget 95 percent of it by the time I sit down to write at lunch or whenever, except for those first one or two lines.

That hasn’t happened in a while.

I’ve been in the thick of World War II, specifically the War in France, 1944. Watched Saving Private Ryan last weekend with the girls. Big mistake to watch it with Patch. Not having seen it in 17 years I forgot the sheer gore of Omaha beach. She lasted seven or eight minutes, but Little One watched the whole thing and was fascinated by it. This led me to blow the dust off Rick Atkinson’s third book of his liberation trilogy, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-45. As with his previous two works, an excellent, compelling read. I am already at page 225 of the 640-page history. Will be sad upon its completion. But I understand Atkinson’s turned his pen toward the Revolutionary War. That will be something I will eagerly devour.

In a funk physically and mentally. I have a big birthday coming up, and I’m not at a happy place. Overweight, under-exercised, riddled with insomnia, engorged on junk food to cope on a daily basis, dissatisfied with work and where I’ll be at the half-century mark. Maybe I should buy a Lamborghini and dump the Mrs. for a twenty-something? Nah. Need money for that, money I don’t have. Sigh. A large chunk of my day is spent searching for something to relieve this self-induced pressure. Some form of motivation. Some new way of looking at things. Unsuccessful so far.

Looking forward to six or seven days’ vacation down in Hilton Head, visiting the in-laws. We’ve rented a house – the wife calls it a “villa,” so I have no idea what she’s got us into - as her parent’s house is too small for the four of us and our logistical nightmare. So that’ll be cool. Plus, they generally leave me alone. Sure, I’ll go to the pool and the beach with the family, but I get a lot of time to peruse used book shops, go for walks, watch baseball with my father-in-law, stretch out on the couch and listen to classical music. I’ll be finishing up The Guns at Last Light down there, and I’m also bringing a Silverberg epic and a book on string theory. Should be very stimulating.

Also, the in-laws are excellent cooks and love – love! – freely-flowing wine. And I may have to re-introduce my father-in-law to some ice cold German beer.

Patch is gloriously up over her head in Greek mythology. The same bug bit her sister three years ago. Wonderful – I remember my fascination with the subject forty years ago, especially with the slim Edith Hamilton paperback. We all watched some of 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, and now my children view that creepy Harryhausen scene where Talos comes to life as a highlight of childhood.

Little One suffered through the stomach flu earlier in the week, but none of us caught it. She was up to 1:30 am with her twelfth trip to yak at the commode. My wife shouldered the main comforting duties, but I was up for the whole thing, and didn’t get to sleep until 4. Then had to wake up at 6:30. And, approaching the half-century mark, my body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it did at the quarter-century mark. I’m still so tired I could fall asleep right now at my keyboard.

Too many HAVES on my back right now. Have to jump start the tax stuff for my job in December. Have to take 18 hours of education for it, in fact. Have to get a physical. Have to have the heart checked out. Have to get the – shudder – colonoscopy thing done. Have to get Patch to her travel soccer practices, starting tomorrow. Have to get Little One to the track to run. Have to get me to walk the oval while she’s running. Have to this, have to that. Ugh.

I think tonight after everyone’s gone to bed I’ll put on the headphones and listen to some Sibelius. Or Dvorak. Or Haydn. Or Rautavaara. Or Debussy. Or …

Monday, August 7, 2017

An Intriguing Definition

MUSIC expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.

- Victor Hugo


This might be my favorite elucidation of all time; one that shall be memorized for possible retrieval at the next cocktail party where I might have had one drink too many.

I like it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


Is the Church converting the world, or is the world converting the Church?

How utterly depressing ...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Our Legislative Masterminds

“The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

- G. K. Chesterton, c. 1924

Mm-hmm. Seems about right, even a century later. See recent activities in Washington centered around the “Affordable” Care Act.