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June 21, 2009

Happy Solstice
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:36 PM * 90 comments

Today is the longest day (and shortest night) of the year.

Sunrise here was at 04:59:34. Sunset is … now … at 20:36:31 EDT.

Comments on Happy Solstice:
#1 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 08:49 PM:

The solstice itself was at 0145 EDT.

#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 08:54 PM:

... and here I thought it was working all weekend that had the day dragging...

#3 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 08:56 PM:

happy solstice, all Lights.

#4 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 09:26 PM:

From here on in, it's all downhill.

#5 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 09:30 PM:

It was* a crisp frosty morning followed by a clear fine day for the winter solstice in New Zealand. Now looking forward to increasing day length.

*Yesterday for us folk on the other side (both longitute & latitude) of the world.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 10:15 PM:

Soon Lee #5: I keep forgetting you live in the future.

#7 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 10:17 PM:

Count me and mine among those who curled up by the fire with an especially good red wine to celebrate the longest night of the year Dow Nunder. This day becomes more important every year to my household - we can fight the cold, which is yet to come, but the gloom of a Melbourne winter mires the heart and mind. Even a few more seconds of light every day makes it feel like the worst is past us.

#8 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Officially, June 21 is the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is silly. Planting season started anywhere from 1 to 2 months ago, summer crops are readily available at local markets, and it's not going to get much hotter even in late July or early August, which most people think of as the heat of the summer.

The ancients had it right: this is Midsummer's Day, just as its cold-weather counterpart is Midwinter's Night. And a happy Midsummer's Day to all!

#9 ::: Errol ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 10:38 PM:

I was lucky enough to share a pair of turducken with 20 friends on a frosty NZ night. Yum! Disturbingly, our hosts had enough Christmas paraphernalia to provide for everyone.

#10 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 10:51 PM:

I'm going to tie my brain in knots figuring out why the winter solstice and summer solstice in opposite hemispheres are one day apart rather than simultaneous.

#11 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:17 PM:

WE took a Wicca 101 course from Mike Nichols here in KC this spring and he explained the whole cycle thing. Midsummer is exactly that, the middle of summer.

Which it turned here about a week or so ago on Kansas City. On the other hand, I'm doing work for a friend that is in a hot place (his attic) and am a) getting much fitter and b) more heat tolerant.

#12 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:18 PM:

Erik: It's an artifact of time zones. The solstice itself is an instant in time. The calendars on which it's recorded are slightly different abstractions.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:18 PM:

The longest day and shortest night aren't necessarily simultaneous, but the Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice and Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice are the same event, and therefore simultaneous.

They're a day apart as measured from Australia and the United States because Australia is more than half a day ahead of the US. That is, the difference in dates is a matter of longitude, not latitude.

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:25 PM:

No, the Summer Solstice is the beginning of summer. Summer is the season when days are longer than nights, but growing shorter.

The boundaries between seasons are like the boundary between yin and yang on the t'ai chi. There's a little spring in summer and a little summer in spring, and so on.

Also: the days are growing shorter in summer, just as adulthood begins when you begin to age. Aging is the characteristic condition of adulthood, though it's not usually noticeable for the first few years (starting at around 25).

So, for reasons of both astronomy and metaphor, I prefer to think of the solstice as the moment when the world turns to summer. The Sun, in His triumph, begins his descent into death. And like that.

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:29 PM:

Arg. "...begins His descent into death."

Give us this day our daily mask.

#16 ::: Bether ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:33 PM:

It may be midsummer elsewhere in North America, but here in the Pacific Northwest the June is often more like spring, giving credence to the calendar's markings. Today was cool enough I had to dig out a wool sweater and put socks on. Spits and bursts of rain competed with sunshine all day. We're going to watch Firefly tonight and celebrate the solstice with champagne.

#17 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:34 PM:

Xopher @ 15: Consistency is all I ask?

#18 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:41 PM:

There once was a fellow named Paul
who fell into a spring in the fall.
Twould have been a sad thing
had he died in the spring,
but he didn't -- he died in the fall.

--anonymous

#19 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2009, 11:54 PM:

Ha! I knew someone would get that! Thank you, Rikibeth, for being the one.

#20 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:00 AM:

I just know it's going to be a long summer because we've started it with what amounts to a 'heat storm," it's going to be over 90 every day this week (and maybe the rest of the next 40 days or so) and not less than 70 at night. I'm working for a friend in a hot place so I'm somewhat acclimatized to the heat, but it still sucks.

#21 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Xopher, apparently lines from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are stored in the same part of my mind as Rocky Horror Picture Show audience response lines -- this would be the Things I Memorized In High School section, I suppose -- and will complete themselves when triggered without any volition on my part.

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:05 AM:

But mine was the response line. You retrieved backwards, which is much harder.

#23 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:08 AM:

I guess I'm used to running quotes forward and backward until I remember where they've come from? I know I do it all the time with song lyrics.

#24 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:42 AM:

> Today is the longest day (and shortest night) of the year.

No, no! Quite the opposite. My daughter's school just had a very nice lantern parade and bonfire night to celebrate the winter solstice, and very nice it was too.

Those who share my mild SAD and programmers obsessiveness might be interested in this Flash thingywhatsit I wrote to help get me through the winter - and to see what other people elsewhere on earth are experiencing. I haven't written the help yet, but I'm hoping it will be clear enough:

http://teapot7.com/sunriseSunset/

#25 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:40 AM:

I've shaken up my sense of Spring versus Summer. I spent 4 days in Las Vegas visiting with relatives and going to two Cirque du Soleil shows. About 100 degrees F every day, and merely furnace-like at night. I cannot begin to fathom how anyone can live there. I'm very happy to be back in the green Pacific NW, where I pulled out warm socks and a sweatshirt this midsummer day's morning.

The Cirque "O" and "The Beatles LOVE" shows are fabulous. And air-conditioned.

#26 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:49 AM:

janetl@ #25, I've been in Vegas only once, and that was overnight. In January. You would have felt right at home, I suspect; my thin Hawai'i blood coagulated. I was really happy to get on a plane to LA the following day.

#27 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:58 AM:

Fragano Ledgister #6:
As an advance temporal scout, I can report that flying cars have not yet arrived.

Errol #9:
I remember a time when midwinter 'Christmas' (in June) feasts were common. It doesn't happen so much anymore. The last decade or so has also seen a change in Australasian Christmas dinners. The roasts and rich stodgy warming foods more appropriate for cold weather are getting replaced BBQs and lighter fare.

#28 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:11 AM:

Sunrise at 2:55AM yesterday, sunset at 12:04 this morning here in Reykjavik.
Xopher @14: "Summer is the season when days are longer than nights, but growing shorter. " I think you missed out 'In the US' at the start of that. This only applies in certain areas of the globe. May and June here are not that much warmer than July, and at the end of August things are definitely cooling down. Conversely, even if January and February are colder, if any one were to come here in November and think it wasn't winter, because that starts on Dec 21st... well...
Oh, and a certain someone wrote about stuff happening at Midsummer, I believe I have an ally *g*.
Over in Sweden they had their 'Midsommar' celebrations last weekend. Quite the festival apparantly.

#29 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 03:07 AM:

So you aren't "Bjorn in the USA"?

#30 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 03:20 AM:

Sadly, no. A US citizenship would be quite a handy thing to have once the time comes that economic collapse here necessitates escape

#31 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 04:32 AM:

Xopher @14: that's a relatively modern definition of summer, and not one that everyone agrees with.

Originally, summer was basically the period after spring, but before autumn, with those seasons defined by reference to the lifecycle of plants. So it would probably have started some time in mid May, and ended with the first fall of leaves some time in September. The only problem with this definition is its inherent ambiguity.

My personal favourite is to simply define it as the quarter of the year with the longest days and leave it at that. It's a useful definition from a standpoint that it characterises how days _are_ (not how they are changing as the days shortening definition does), which I think more accurately reflects how most people think about seasons. This also has useful traditional resonances; summer, for instance, begins on (or at least some time near) Beltane and ends near Lughnasadh.

#33 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 07:08 AM:

Cuddled up with hot drinks and warming food to mark the Longest Night here too. I haven't found quite this on the BoM site, but one of my other favourite useful places tells me, inter alia Sunrise, Sunset & Twilight Times

SYDNEY Lat=-33°52'00" Long=+151°13'00"
Time zone: +10.00 hours
TIMES OF SUNRISE AND SUNSET (for ideal horizon & meteorological conditions)
22/06/2009    Rise 0700    Set 1654

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 07:44 AM:

Hah! You South-Hemispherians! We stole your light! Bwah ha ha ha ha!

#35 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:20 AM:

Bjorn @30:
So the plan is to move to a different sinking ship, on the belief that we'll get our ship patched and floating again sooner? The big lumbering USA vs nimble Iceland. It makes for a Tortoise/Hare kind of competition, but remember that the Hare would of won if not for his hubris. I think that treating the baking collapse as a crime scene, and the willingness to take a few years to build the case against the bankers is evidence that Iceland won't be showing that kind of hubris for a while.

#36 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:22 AM:

34: dammit, Jim, if you mock them like that they'll start stealing ours! (Looks out of window) My God, it's happening already!

#37 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:29 AM:

A quiet one for me, sitting at home and tying up a few loose ends. My place faces east, which is one of the best things about it, for sunrises and so on. I get to see how the emergence point shifts from well in the southeast to well in the northeast over half the year, and back. The south wall gets all orange-gold and I know I'd better shut the shades or I will cook alive. (My body has a bad cooling system or something and the only place I can survive is here in Pugetropolis.) And it was like I never fully understood about solstices before I moved in here. The moon does the opposite, it is quite south these days. Naturally, it was cloudy this year... For me, summer begins with Memorial Day and the appearance of a flower [some purple, some white, related to fireweed] that I have never been able to identify. It ends when the leaves start getting colorful.
My celebration involved Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:41 AM:

I thought summer involved when you could wear white shoes and straw boaters.

#39 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:46 AM:

We celebrated it in a friend's backyard, eating barbecue and watching the planets come out. Perfect.

#40 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 10:07 AM:

Historically in England 24th June is Midsummer's Day - I suspect in fact because it is the most important Church festival (St John the Baptist's Day) round about the solstice. This, however, leads to the saying:
21st of June, first day of summer.
24th of June, Midsummer's Day.
27th of June...

#41 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 10:17 AM:

Jules @ 31: I think what you're talking about is the difference between "meteorological seasons" and "astronomical seasons." Weathermen refer to June 1 as the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere; astronomers reckon summer from the solstice. Here's the usual Wikipedia article: Seasons. (Which also some information on the traditional reckoning you refer to, as well, I notice, which is closer to the meteorological seasons than the astronomical.)

It all depends on your purpose in reckoning, I suppose. Me, I still like marking both the solstices and equinoxes, as well as following the weather. It seems important to pay attention, somehow.

#42 ::: Dirty Davey ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 11:06 AM:

Xopher @13: "The longest day and shortest night aren't necessarily simultaneous..."

I think, by definition, they are--if every moment of a 24-hour-day is classified as "day" or "night", then the longest day either precedes or follows the shortest night.

What IS true is that the longest day and the latest sunset/earliest sunrise are not necessarily simultanous. (Same for the shortest day and the earliest sunset/latest sunrise.)

I was once in England in early December, and checking the almanac showed that the earliest sunset came during my visit--a couple of weeks before the actual solstice. While the sunset started getting later, the sunrise was also getting later, and kept the day getting shorter until the solstice.

#43 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 11:16 AM:

I had a Father's Day brunch with my parents and my sister's family. Lots of fun, though I'm reminded that I would not have the stamina to be a parent! My niece and nephews were in near-constant motion, between riddling me with foam darts, showing off new paper airplanes, and so on. (Ray & Bob gave up on their "no toy weapons" policy when Stephen started making toy guns out of cardboard tubes....)

I brought my new tea brick out to show around, and my brother-in-law Bob brought out a chisel to split my tea brick into its scored sections. (Roughly -- this stuff has about the texture of Masonite, plus some internal layering.) I also figured out that the whole brick will be most of a year's supply of tea (at two cups a day) -- on the order of 400-500 cups. (I think it started out as a half-kilo.) (I did leave a sample with them.)

#44 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:05 PM:

We had a bonfire. We were planning on burning the christmas trees, but didn't get around to it.

That fire was one of the last of the season before the outdoor burn bans go into place due to the general dryness of the surrounding grass and trees. Wouldn't want to light the whole island on fire.

#45 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:11 PM:

Soon Lee #27: Drat! And I was going to ask about matter transmitters.

#46 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:14 PM:

Bjorn #30: You have an economy in Iceland? I thought you had your economic collapse already.

#47 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:36 PM:

Happy anniversary, Aragorn and Arwen.

#48 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:45 PM:

John Houghton @ #35:

Very astute. In bringing up Iceland's baking collapse, you pinpoint a situation that has made their financial crisis into a real tragedy!

#49 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:54 PM:

LMB MacAlister #48:
I knew I'd get a rise out of somebody. This is proof that levity is the only whey to keep us from feeling crumby.

#50 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 12:58 PM:

Bjorn 28: I'm confused. I believe everywhere between the Arctic and the Antarctic Circles the statement 'summer is when days are longer than nights but growing shorter' applies. The qualifier is because I'm not sure quite how it works inside the Circles, but I think it's true even there. It's not summer now in the Southern Hemisphere. Their summer will begin when the Sun crosses the Tropic of Capricorn.

Your statements are all about weather. I said nothing about weather. I was speaking of the length of the day. Could you explain why the long-but-shortening length of day in a hemisphere-specific summer applies only to the US?

Dirty Davey 42: I meant the Solstice doesn't necessarily occur during either of them. I could be wrong even about that.

#51 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:09 PM:

John Houghton @ #49:

I agree. And I was having a pretty unleavened morning.

#52 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Soon Lee @ #27: And I guess still no jet-packs. Damn!

Xopher @ #50: I am not Bjorn, nor do I play him on TV. But, from what I've read *, the issue isn't one of a difference in astronomical placement, it's one of definition. And you know how Amurkan definitions can vary from those on the rest of the planet.

* this link, thanks to an unremembered Fluorospherian in another thread.

#53 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:31 PM:

Indeed, the 'summer starts...' thing is astronomical vs meteorology. Up here, the latter dominates, much for the reasons stated (weather is more important than length of day). In fact in the old Icelandic calendar reckoning, there were six months of summer and six months of winter. I call that optimistic, I tend towards six months of winter, three of spring and three of autumn.
The US seems to go astronomical.
And as to the economy thing, yeah, US might not be in a good way, but any extra exit strategy would be a bonus. At least I have a job again.
As for the baking collapse, everyone is going "Dough!! you should have foreseen that!"

#54 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:34 PM:

A baking collapse?

Did someone slam the oven door again??

#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:40 PM:

Ah. I (obviously) favor the astronomical, largely because I have a holiday for the astronomical moment.

It's also the middle of the worst (for me) period of sunlight intensity, when going out without a hat AND sunscreen is...well, going out naked at the Winter Solstice isn't less healthy, let's just put it that way.

#56 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 01:47 PM:

The way I thought about seasons when I was a kid:

Summer: When school is out, so roughly June thru August.

Autumn: Beginning of school to first snowfall, so roughly September to mid-November.

Winter: First snowfall to Easter or April 1, whichever comes earlier.

Spring: Roughly, April and May, though it may start a couple of weeks earlier if Easter is early. Always ends when school lets out.

Winter gets a long run because that's how the weather in southeastern MI seems to work. If I'd had to separate the year into 3-month units, I'd have said:
Summer - June thru August
Autumn - September thru November
Winter - December thru February
Spring - March thru May

#57 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:26 PM:

#8 Lee

Officially, June 21 is the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is silly. Planting season started anywhere from 1 to 2 months ago, summer crops are readily available at local markets, and it's not going to get much hotter even in late July or early August, which most people think of as the heat of the summer.

Your Northern Hemisphere does not appear to be my Northern Hemisphere. Here, planting season started a couple of weeks ago (we have only a small garden, tomatoes and beans). Local markets are mostly not open yet (fiddleheads were last week) (well, they may have some other wild greens/berries, but I haven't been to see them). It is also quite likely to get hotter over July and August, since that's how most summers here go.

The Northern Hemisphere appears to be large, and contain multitudes. Perhaps it contradicts itself...

#58 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:27 PM:

Xopher, I have only just noticed that you aren't kidding.

So: no, summer is not universally thought to start at the solstice. In fact, the solstice is (feel free to look it up) commonly known as "Midsummer's Day".

#59 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:28 PM:

Lee @ #56:

So, by your earlier method of determination, the seasons where you live now would be:

Summer: When school is out, so roughly June thru August.

Autumn: Beginning of school to first snowfall, so roughly September until sometime in January or February three or four years hence.

Winter: From that snowfall until Easter or April First, which means every few years for 2-3 months, even though flowers are blooming.

Spring: Roughly, April and May, though it may start a couple of weeks earlier if Easter is early. This gets tricky in the Years of No Winter. Always ends when school lets out.

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:32 PM:

Xopher: It used to be there was Summer, and Winter.

Which made the "mid-summer/midwinter" pretty simple.

When autumn and spring came in, the benchmarks got trikier. As Cecil Adams points out, the points aren't universal, nor have they been ever thus.

Me... I'm for Mid-June (about my birthday) being the nominal start (because local weather has the early part of June very cool and cloudy), and mid-Sept. being the end. But autumn here ends in mid-November, and Spring starts in Feb.

All of which is weather/climate driven. It's when I start planting, and when I stop harvesting (for spring/winter, respectively).

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:34 PM:

We spent the solstice collapsed in exhaustion, having had care of five children under the age of ten for three days.

Steve Taylor @24:
I love your choice of the five major cities of the world. It reminds me of how peripheral to the real, white-hot center of It All I have always been.

#62 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:53 PM:

According to the swimming pools, summer begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day.

re 14: I think it would be a major astronomical anomaly for the shortest night and longest day to be simultaneous.

#63 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 02:58 PM:

LMB MacAlister, #59: Hey, I said that was when I was a kid! Living down here produces:

Summer: The period when the daytime high routinely reaches 90, which means generally late April thru mid-September.

Autumn: From the end of summer until it's too cold to wear a T-shirt with no jacket, generally mid-September thru sometime in November.

Winter: When I actually have to put on a coat to go out, generally late November thru mid-February.

Spring: From "don't need a coat any more" to "Jeezus H. Christ, it's hot!" If we're lucky, that runs from late February to mid-April. Some years it lasts about 2 weeks. Summer can also run well into October, especially in a La Nina year.

#64 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Living in Southern California for a while alters one's perception of the seasons. During winter, Persephone doesn't so much go down to the underworld for six months as occasionally pop down to the basement to get something that she needs.

Summer in England, on the other hand, tends to only happen once every two or three years.

#65 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 04:06 PM:

According to my parents, summer ends on the 4th of July.

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 04:30 PM:

Niall 58: I'm well aware of these facts. I prefer (that's all) the astronomical definition.

The term "Midsummer's Day" dates to when, as Terry points out, the ancient Celts had but two seasons, Winter and Summer (in that order). Winter began at Samhain (from an old phrase meaning "three days at the end of Summer"), celebrated at the first frost, and ran until Bealtáine, celebrated at the flowering of the hawthorn. Summer then ran until Samhain rolled around.

With only two seasons, the middle of Summer is clearly halfway between the beginning of Summer and its end, or roughly the Summer Solstice (though the Celts paid more attention to the seasons on the Earth than the movements of the Sun), hence the name Midsummer.

But we observe four seasons, and Midsummer is at the beginning of one of them.

Or such is my take on it. These are all my preferences. Call whatever you want Summer; it's no skin off my nose (UNlike the result of going out without sunscreen this time of the year).

#67 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 06:42 PM:

Xopher writes @# 66 With only two seasons, the middle of Summer is clearly halfway between the beginning of Summer and its end

With any even number of seasons, it would appear to me that the same logic applies.

Also: Samhain, Celts, grandma, eggs, suck on this.

In a good way, I mean.

#68 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 07:51 PM:

I've had a rather melancholy solstice myself, definately a reminder that the year is now on the downhill side. I travelled to Pennsylvania for a memorial service for an aunt who died back in February, but as she had been a good-humored soul and we were all happy to see each other, it was enjoyable in spite of the torrential rains during the ceremony and closing out the picnic afterwards. It was a bit saddening to see my parents' generation aging so much, though - and to see my little brother showing some grey! And to accompany my father to so many of his childhood places that have been burnt down or abandoned over the years. (This was in the neighborhood of Centralia, PA, where the underground mine fires drove so many people out.)

But shortly after the reunion broke up, I got word my mother-in-law died, so I'm hurrying back to Oklahoma so my husband can get to her funeral. She was of a much more discontented disposition than my aunt, though, so my memories of her will be quite a bit more mixed.

#69 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 08:12 PM:

abi at #61 writes:

> I love your choice of the five major cities of the world. It reminds me of how peripheral to the real, white-hot center of It All I have always been.

I decided to keep it egocentric, since I mainly wrote the app. for myself (though the rest of the world is invited to share).

Melbourne: where I live
Brisbane: where my sister and nieces live
Hydrabad: home city of my old workmate Vijay (and also home to a whacking great Buddha statue in the middle of a lake)
Portland: home of my buddy Craig, author of the marvelous http://humanclock.com
Stara Huta: my father in law's birthplace. it was in the Ukraine when he was born but it's in Poland now. Who moved it?

I still have to do a bit more work though - there's no button for my paternal grandfather's birthplace, Woodnesborough in Kent. That should be acceptably close to Holland.

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 09:02 PM:

Well, Niall, I don't know what good way you could mean that, but my apologies if I've offended. I guess I should stop talking about this; it's not important enough for the level of agitation it appears to be causing.

#71 ::: Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2009, 09:26 PM:
Officially, June 21 is the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is silly. Planting season started anywhere from 1 to 2 months ago, summer crops are readily available at local markets, and it's not going to get much hotter even in late July or early August, which most people think of as the heat of the summer.
As Cheryl says above, your Northern hemisphere does not seem to be my Northern Hemisphere.

Here in LA, the solstice is indeed a reasonable marker for the beginning of summer. The locals refer to the typical weather in May and June as "May Gray" and "June Gloom".

The sea warms faster than the land, so the lengthening days in May and June produce thick banks of marine fog and low cloud that get driven onshore and over the hills into the inland valleys by the Catalina Eddy (the circulation feature that keeps greater LA nicely air-conditioned most of the time).

The sun sometimes breaks through in the afternoon, but May and June often have some of the least sunny weather we have. Inevitably, a visit to Venice Beach will reveal throngs of shell-shocked tourists on the boardwalk in shorts and flip-flops pawing desperately through the racks of overpriced sweatshirts and hoodies.

But that ends about the end of June, and then the warmth of summer is finally upon us. July 4 is frequently the first really hot weekend of the summer (though we have occasional heat waves in Spring as well, mostly in March and April, before the marine layer really gets cranking).

But July and August (and even September) are most definitely hotter than May or June. And some of the hottest weather occurs in late October to early November - the 'Dragon Weather' of the offshore Santa Ana winds that parch the hillsides and bring the peak of brushfire season.

And planting season? Around here, planting season starts in mid-November, once Dragon Weather ends - you want to get things in the ground and well-established in time to take advantage of the Winter rains in late December and early January.

But the solstice as start of summer is perfectly reasonable here, in this corner of the Northern Hemisphere.

#72 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 03:56 AM:

It's always seemed more logical to me to think of Spring starting in February, when the first flowers appear, the birds start nesting and the winter migrants start leaving. May sees the first Summer insects appear (butterflies and dragonflies et alia), while August is the start of Autumn gathering - the harvesting of wheat and berries. November sees the beginning of winter - everythings picked and it's down to stored food till spring, while the first skeins of winter geese appear in the sky. This has the advantage of having mid-summer and mid-winter occuring in the middle of their respective seasons. Of course this also means that Autumn often has better and warmer weather than Summer, which traditionally here in the UK is a period of rain (and occasional snow)

#73 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 04:11 AM:

We had a bizarre optical illusion due to the arrangement of a cloudbank. We live on the slope of a long, low mountain behind which the sun slips during much of the year long before it actually sets. We can see the sunlight creeping away from us across town, then over the Near Island Channel, Near Island itself, and away. Solstice was unseasonably cold and blustery and the light looked exactly like an autumn sunset around the time of autumn sunset. I caught myself thinking, "What, the leaves are about to turn already? They just got big!" and worrying about frost.

#74 ::: Azara ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 08:19 AM:

In Ireland, Samhain (1st November) is still the beginning of winter, and Bealtaine (1st May) the beginning of summer, while spring begins on the 1st February (formerly Imbolc) and autumn at Lughnasa (1st August). In Irish, September and October are called Middle Autumn (Mean Fomhair) and End of Autumn (Deireadh Fomhair), so this version has a long history.

And isn't 'summer is the quarter of the year with the longest days' just as astronomical a measurement as
'summer is when days are longer than nights but growing shorter'?

#75 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 09:32 AM:

Apparently, so rumour has it, from the summit of Scotland's Ben Hope http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Hope
at midnight on the solstice, you should be able to see the sun above the horizon. It's just high enough and just far enough north for you to be able to peek over the top of the world.

An expedition sent to investigate this question should be reporting its findings to me shortly, and I will of course relay them.

#76 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 09:48 AM:

Xopher, I'm sorry if I sounded agitated, feel free to discuss summer all you want.

Around here, if summer is to be 3 months, then I think June-August are better than May-July, since August has summerier weather than May.

#77 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2009, 08:14 PM:

I spent the days on either side of the solstice respectively cleaning the house and throwing a party. I'd considered staying up all night, the night of the solstice, but I was tired and couldn't come up with a good reason to stay up, so I didn't. I don't know if cleaning and partying are quite traditional solstice celebration, and I think I might have enjoyed doing something a little more formal to celebrate it, but all-in-all they worked for me. :-)

Happy Solstice to all y'all, whichever solstice and season it happens to be for you.

(Apparently people down the Cape are calling this "Junuary," it being unseasonably cold and rainy for mid-June in eastern Massachusetts. I'm temperature-agnostic between 45-80F or so, but I wish the clouds would go away, because the gloominess is damned depressing.)

#78 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 02:56 PM:

A baking collapse?

Did someone slam the oven door again??

Baker: FATHER? Could that be you? I thought you died in a baking accident.

#79 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 02:57 PM:

A baking collapse?

Did someone slam the oven door again??


Baker: FATHER? Could that be you? I thought you died in a baking accident.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Kayjayoh @ 78... I thought you died in a baking accident.

We need tart reform.

#81 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 04:01 PM:

Reform at the very yeast. We may knead a rising.

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 07:08 PM:

Soda end was bread at the beginning?

#83 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 09:34 PM:

Would I be a heel (or maybe a crumb) to say these puns make me yearn for something butter?

#84 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2009, 11:21 PM:

Steve@69: Stara Huta: my father in law's birthplace. it was in the Ukraine when he was born but it's in Poland now. Who moved it?

Could it be the same people who moved Koenigsberg? (I remember pointing out to David Friedman that the oblast on the "Empire Builder" board was actually site of the famous bridges.)

80-83: are you all still loafing around in here? Shouldn't you take your rye remarks out in the sun while it's available? -- or at least less unavailable that it is where Kevin and I are; the radio this morning said the strawberry harvest is threatened, which means you'll go on short cake rations....

#85 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 02:35 AM:

Steve Taylor @ #69: Stara Huta: my father in law's birthplace. it was in the Ukraine when he was born but it's in Poland now. Who moved it?

Same person who moved the town where my great-grandma's dad was born (she was the first child of their family born in the US, after their joint immigration experience -- born in 1900, died at the age of 97). Currently, it's in the Czech Republic. In his daughter's lifetime, it changed countries at least five times ...

Oh, and note: we are not Czech. We are Bohemian. Apparently this white-line strong distinction makes a lot of sense to people born in Eastern Europe (or their immediate descendants). I must remember it as a point of order with no particular real-world reference.

The only ethnic customs surviving in our line are (a) we call badly-cooked egg noodles [served at all family gatherings. Cooking goodness is an artifact of my grandmother's skill, not a prerequisite] 'spaetzle,' though we know they're not; (b) we say 'dobzhe' when someone sneezes or hands us something, sometimes; (c) there's a rhyme said while circling in the kid's hand when a baby or child 'goes boomie' and has a very minor owwie occur, to distract them; (d) we eat piroshkie and make colachkes at Christmas, though I learned to make the latter with Bisquick and canned pie filling; and (e) we play a game with babies involving getting their eye-contact and saying, "Bedene, bedene, DOONTZ!" while turning one's head left, right, then centering and bonking foreheads gently.

I need to learn the rhyme in (c), since I am newly a parent, and I might as well maintain all of our pitiful remaining ethnic customs. Note: all non-English words above spelled purely phonetically, as seems best to myself; I have absolutely no idea how they're properly spelled, in what character set, or from what language.

Personally, I view my ethnicity as "Urban Great Lakes City-Dweller," since I share more customs with others of that kith than even a lot of my blood relatives who've moved to The Land Of No Sidewalks ...

#86 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 06:14 AM:

Elliott Mason @85: My grandmother had the same issue with her country of origin, although they came from the province further east. She was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, started growing up in Czechoslovakia, would have then been Hungarian, Soviet, and finally Ukrainian if she'd stayed.

#87 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2009, 07:35 PM:

If there's anything to demonstrate the danger of making assertions, weather and seasons would seem to be it.

Planting season started anywhere from 1 to 2 months ago

The SF Bay Area has a 12-month growing season, so this doesn't apply.

summer crops are readily available at local markets

Yes and no. We're just hitting stone fruit season (yay, nectarines — there's a reason their name starts with "nectar", IMO) but tomatoes and peppers haven't begun appearing at the farmers' markets.

and it's not going to get much hotter even in late July or early August, which most people think of as the heat of the summer.

Oh, goodness, no. June is generally chilly, July is slightly better, August starts to get nice, and September is often quite pleasant. Once it gets to October, area natives start saying "Hey, we're about to get our two weeks of summer weather!"

We considered staying up all night (as we generally do for the winter solstice) but decided instead to make it a weekend of lots of sleep and long walks. Oh, and (serendipitously) llamas.

#88 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2009, 02:20 AM:

Steve Taylor: Yep, Bohemian, not Czech, and yes, Great Lakes Urban (one of the distinctions between the Czechs/Slovaks was the former were almost exclusively urban, and the latter were largely rurual).

#89 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2009, 07:01 PM:

C. Wingate #62:

re 14: I think it would be a major astronomical anomaly for the shortest night and longest day to be simultaneous.

It IS possible, but would require an extra planet.

And, of course, the longest day and the longest night are simultaneous, Antipodaly.
/hangfire

#90 ::: Xopher HalfTongue sees polite spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2011, 09:25 PM:

Polite but obvious.

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