Pondering Perseid


As August approaches, imprinted longing for meteors follow. Youthful recollections ebb and flow, the one constant is Perseid. These were the stars I wished upon, my source of wonder, the reason I gazed at night’s sky. Perseid lent perspective to questions I hadn’t asked, cementing the essence of who I became. Effortless memory presses damp grass against my back, heart beating to the pulse of cricket song. Swaddled in darkness, even the wind waits for Perseid.

Every year between July 17 and August 24, Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle.  Swift-Tuttle has a wonky oblong orbit, completing one orbit around the sun every 133 years. during those years ST travels from beyond Pluto to inside Earth’s orbit. Whenever ST crosses the inner solar system heat from our sun “melts” comet ice adding cosmic debris to ST’s tail. Little break away pieces, most no larger than grains of sand slam Earth’s upper atmosphere at 210,000 kilometers an hour – the Perseids have arrived.

This year the Perseids peak August 11-13. Early northern hemisphere evening finds radiant Perseus low on the horizon, if you’re lucky a rare “Earthgrazer”might forge a horizontal blaze across the horizon. As evening becomes night the radiant point rises, Perseid abandons rehearsal for the main event. Perseid’s tantalizing sets play through the night – from midnight till first light’s encore,  expect 50-100 meteors an hour.

This year, a waning crescent moon won’t come up until just before sunrise, setting a dark stage for Perseid glory. It doesn’t matter if radiant Perseus eludes you, Perseids knock loudly. Noted for being exceptionally fast and bright, their ionized gas trails often hang in the sky for wondrous moments. Dismiss concentrating on specific direction – find a dark place, lay back and open your eyes to the cosmos. Perseid will find you.

View larger. | Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography.  See more from Jack here.

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower

 

 

Why The Bartender?


After restaurant meals we tip our server, the individual directly responsible for a pleasant experience. That server “tips out” the kitchen, hostess, bus people, bar and so on. Popped in for a cocktail – we leave the bartender a couple bucks. Tip the valet, coat check, washroom attendant – we recognize unspoken gratuity parameters.

Where polite acknowledgement goes the moment people attend catered events is beyond me. For some reason, every last expression of gratitude goes to the bartender.

Take tonight for example. With multiple events taking place, I found myself in a private home, managing a 70th birthday party with upwards of 70 guests. Multiple events spread our staff thin, translation – my chef and I had to rely on 2 temp agency staff scheduled to meet us on site. Arriving half an hour before their start time, we get to work unloading our truck, rolling tables in place, setting out chairs.

Five, now ten minutes late, I call the agency. Unsure if they’ll make it, now I’m setting up the bar, hauling racks of glassware, beer and wine, and setting up a water station as guests trickle in early. Half an hour late, two bewildered looking women arrive with their driver. Driver immediately compensates for their rather limited grasp of the English language with – we got lost, what time are they off and the bartender doesn’t know how to open wine could you do it for her.

Bartender immediately puts the red wine on ice. Oh my. Have you ever tended bar? “I’ve poured wine at hotel banquets” she replies. Can you pour beer into a glass? Bartender’s face lights up – “I’ve seen it done, you tip the glass a little, right?”. All I can politely muster is “give them the bottle unless they ask for a glass”. I uncork six bottles of wine and hope for the best.

My chef is in the weeds, I should have been helping him organize the kitchen. Our client indicated a few guests would bring food he’d like us to platter and pass. All we could do was exchange silent WTF’s as every last guest cheerfully plonked contributions on the counter. The merciful deposited frilly toothpicks strung with seafood or deli staples. Far too many good intentions arrived with assembly required. “Turn this baguette into crustini, spread it with guacamole, top with poached prawn and decorate with cherry tomato halves and petals of edible flowers”.

Oh shit, the bar! I run outside to find temp one and two debating possible ways of extracting a wine cork in light of a hinged corkscrew. Hard to say which caught my attention first – the bemused guest audience or valiant temp effort. Gotta hand it to those temps, man they wanted to open that bottle. “Where’s your bartenders tip jar?”  slurs one of the guests. “She’s doing a great job, let her have a tip jar”.

My chef hasn’t stopped in six hours, the yard is littered with empty glasses and kitchen looks like a bomb went off. I haven’t stopped moving, patience is becoming a premium and server temp now prefers offering moral support to bartender temp over bussing dirty dishes.

“I want to tip your bartender, where’s the tip jar – your bartender is working so hard”. “Thank you” I reply, that’s very kind.

What is it with bartenders? Did anyone think of the chef or notice temp couldn’t tend bar if her life depended on it? Why doesn’t it occur to anyone to tip the chef? His cheerful competence soldiered for stoic hours. I sent temp one and temp two home at 10 pm. Chef and I took down the tables, stacked chairs, cleaned the kitchen, loaded our truck, drove back to the shop and signed out after 12 hours of relentless shenanigans.

The next time you attend a wedding or catered party – look beyond the bartender. It takes much more than a bartender to make a party fabulous.

 

 

 

 

Mindset


News of the Louisiana theatre shooting ignited a ponder. What makes the U.S. and Canada so different? I came across this excerpt from Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine – Moore speculates the biggest difference is fear. The clip is a little long at 10 minutes – try to spare as much time as you can, it’s worth pondering.

NASA App


Every so often I install an app on my phone – tonight the NASA App joined Google Sky Map on my home screen. An hour exploring, playing and navigating concludes it was a wise decision. Without question, one of the niftiest free apps around. Anyone harboring the slightest space geek should take a peek.

The latest news, images, links to outstanding NASA Science Casts, interactive videos on topics from astrobiology to satellite movie shows – anywhere, anytime, any place.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/iphone/index.html

2015-07-24 05.43.37

Screen shot of satellite images as art.

If apps aren’t your thing – check out NASA Science Casts and Earth Now on your home computer.

Cringe


I can’t shake a recent exchange on Quora. A thread pertaining to Stephen Harper landed on discussion of his foreign policy. A fellow Canadian responded to my comment about Harper’s disregard for Canada’s peacekeeping efforts with this –

“I cringe with embarrassment every time I hear somebody talk about what great “peacekeepers” we used to be.  We weren’t peacekeepers, we were archetypical fence sitters. Why did the Canadian chicken cross the road?  To get to the middle.  Old joke but accurate.”

Astonishment gave way to something best described as sadness. How dare this man scoff at our soldiers? Call bullshit on the United Nations, criticize parameters of peacekeeping missions, but don’t you dare belittle or nullify the valiant effort of Canadian peacekeeping troops. Canadian people believed in our roll, collective pride born of decency and optimism swaddled our nation.

Cringe with embarrassment over Harper thumbing his “warrior nation” nose at veterans. Cringe at the thought of countless soldiers crippled by PTSD. Cringe at the UN for setting ridiculous parameters, dragging their feet or wallowing in bureaucratic shenanigans. Cringe with embarrassment over your assertion Canada wasn’t a peacekeeping nation.

Our soldiers were told to keep peace, they believed in their mission and followed orders. Unfolding travesties will haunt these good men and women to their dying day. How dare anyone joke about Canadian peacekeepers or suggest our nation didn’t support them.  Until Stephen Harper declared Canada a “warrior nation”, ours was a nation bursting with peaceful pride.

Romeo Dallaire, a great Canadian peacekeeper.