Posted in Climatology, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION, CULTURE, OLD RESEARCH

My Poster for the Library’s Annual Creativity Showcase!

My Poster for the Library’s Annual Creativity Showcase!

The media blurb from Library: “The Mary Livermore Library will be sponsoring the Third Annual UNCP Research and Creativity Showcase on April 15, 2019 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This event will feature poster and speaker presentations at the newly-renovated Mary Livermore Library. These presentations will highlight the scholarship, research, and creative works of UNCP faculty and staff during the past year.”

Contact me if you want to learn more about my “Meteorology and Myth” project.

Notice: I have updated this article, originally posted on March 5, to include photos from the event on April 15, 2019. I also contributed another poster to the event “Blogging through the GEOG-ing” as per the TLC Directors request,

Next year my library showcase event poster will continue the Meteorology and Myth theme with a new chapter — “A Fair Candlemas”. See you then. 

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Posted in Climatology, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION, CULTURE

North Carolina Academy of Science 2019 “Science Education, Meteorology and Myth”

FYI: The following is the abstract for my oral paper presentation at the upcoming North Carolina Academy of Science meeting to be held in Wilmington, NC March 22-23, 2019.

Science education, meteorology and myth: The lightning and wind gods of Japan.

This project derives from educational modules developed for teaching atmospheric science concepts to non-science, general education college students. Folklore and mythology are not proper history or science fact, however there may be persistent, underlying truths to the narrative themes inherent in folklore. Japan’s Shinto religion holds Raijin as a god of lightning and thunderstorms, and Fujin as the god of windstorms and tornadoes. There are rational, scientific reasons why the activities of these metaphysical sky deities persist into modern, secular Japanese culture. Although Raijin and Fujin were revered as “kami” or gods, they were depicted as demonic, destructive forces of nature in traditional Japanese art and architecture.  This educational project will explain the science analogies which can be used to explain the Shinto allegory in Japanese culture. Meteorological lessons were made to describe, or at least reinforce the mythology as depicted in Japan’s art, architecture and land use. Myths such as Raijin’s penchant for eating the navels of children, or why Fujin’s skin is green, can be used as discussion points to illustrate meteorological principles in an interesting way for non-science majors. For example, all Japanese painters of the Edo Period depicted lightning flashes as red in color, even though lightning clearly is not red. It might have been artistic license, or perhaps there are meteorological reasons as to why lightning was always colored that way. This teaching module explains weather phenomenon such as gust fronts, nitrogen fixation by lightning, the destructive east winds of cyclones, and others. Through the use of atmospheric science concepts in the context of art and mythology, it is hoped that arts and humanities students will come to better appreciate meteorology. Geoscience majors in turn, could have basic meteorological concepts reinforced, and also gain a better appreciation for art, history and culture.

Feel free to contact me for a copy of the full presentation or collaborative ideas.

Update! Here is a slide show gallery of my presentation.

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03/25/2019

Posted in BOOKS, Music, NORTH AMERICA, Popular Culture

“Ceiling Unlimited” song by Rush

Points and stops along the healing road.

Today’s post will be a cocktail mix of part meteorology, part song lyric analysis, and part cross-country geographic transect. How are these three things related? Well, I like to use transects when I teach Geography … and I sometimes listen to rock music when commuting … and I also like to clarify meteorological terminology when I can.

You may have seen a current local conditions status page on The Weather Channel. The meteorological and aviation term “ceilings” refers to the height of the lowest layer of the flat base of clouds.  If you are looking up, how high do you have to reach in order to touch the cloud base – or the “ceiling”? This is a height usually reported in feet above ground level. Modern meteorologists use a ceilometer, which measures the cloud base height with a laser.  What if there are no clouds in the sky? In that case, a number cannot be reported – and so the condition is listed as “ceiling unlimited”.

The term is also the title of a song by the Canadian rock band Rush, off of their 2002 comeback album “Vapor Trails”.

Vapor Trails 2002 album cover art
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=563789

Listen to the song via the YouTube video posting linked here.

Make sure to view the lyrics of the song in the link posted here.

Fans of Rush are well aware of the personal life tragedies which occurred to drummer and lyricist of the band, Neil Peart. In 1997, Mr. Peart’s nineteen-year old daughter Selena was killed in a horrific traffic accident. He and his wife Jackie were devastated by the loss. A year later, Neil’s wife also died — from cancer officially, but many felt that she had died of a broken heart, and willed herself to die because she could not deal with the pain of her daughter’s death. Band members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson agreed that Rush should go on hiatus, and possibly never continue. Neil Peart’s story of grief is told in the book “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” (Amazon link here).

While still in a state of extreme grief, Neil suffered other indignities. His faithful family dog died soon after his wife, then his best friend was sent to prison for marijuana possession.  All alone with this own dangerous thoughts, Neil took off on a solo motorcycle ride across Canada.  A photo of his red BMW Touring Motorcycle, which was a gift from his wife during happier times, is seen in the photo gallery below. (Click an image to view full size.)

His first route (See Google Maps Route above), took him from his home in Quebec, across Ontario, and the Prairie Provinces, eventually crossing the Arctic Circle, then over the Canadian Rockies to British Columbia and Vancouver Island. He later continued riding south into the USA, down into Mexico and across to Belize.

Mr. Peart traveled approximately 50,000 miles, often riding 500 miles or longer each day. The lyrics he later wrote for the Rush album reflect his travels and feelings down this “healing road”.

The ghost rider with vapor trails overhead. A scene from the film documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage”.

Riding a motorcycle through the wilds requires concentration, which helped to take his grieving mind away from his emotional pain. Mr. Peart himself drew the example of how infants can be calmed by taking a car ride. Riding across North America calmed his “baby soul”. The “Ghost Rider” book – written some time later — includes many of Mr. Peart’s observations about the physical terrain and culture. The lyrics intertwine with his mixed feelings of anger, resentment, thankfulness and humility. He kept a journal, which includes excerpts from letters and other supportive messages exchanged with his friends. The Rush movie documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage” has a segment about Neil’s travel linked on this YouTube clip. Make sure to listen to Neil’s observation about travel at time 4:00.

His band mates thought that the group might not ever play together again, so Vapor Trails must be viewed as a “comeback” album for the group. (It was back to Rush heavy-metal basics (… and no keyboards were used!) The album title itself symbolizes the ephemeral nature of existence.  We live —  then soon we are gone — leaving only partial evidence of our lives. That trace will then also soon evaporate.  The record makes for some pretty good “motorcycle music” or for driving those long-distance geographic transects! The other songs also contain Zen-like travel philosophy. You can listen to the entire album, with on-screen lyrics here.

“Ceiling Unlimited” is probably my second or third favorite song on the album — the title coming from a Weather Channel forecast Neil happened to catch on one stop. When Mr. Peart’s experience is considered, these lyrics make perfect sense.

Lyrics are in bold italic, my vapid comments are in orange font.

It’s not the heat / It’s the inhumanity / Plugged into the sweat of a summer street / Machine gun images pass / Like malice through the looking glass

……….. Perhaps this is a grip about bad situations, and negative human interactions one might have when traveling. Neil was known for having a short-fuse and did not interact well with the public. Although Geddy and Alex relished meeting and interacting with Rush fans, Neil hated it. “Machine gun images” may allude to the rapid paced movement of objects coming into, and then out of vision very quickly on a fast moving motorcycle. It might also allude to his own dark thoughts.

The slackjaw gaze / Of true profanity / Feels more like surrender than defeat / If culture is the curse of the thinking class / If culture is the curse of the thinking class

………. Similarly, the “slack-jawed” insult may be reserved for the contempt he felt for ignorant people. I hope that he does not really have contempt for rural people. One will run into people with bad attitudes on a trip occasionally. Educated in the arts, and having an appreciation for literature as Mr. Peart is known for, I also know what a burden it is when you have knowledge of art or esoteric subjects, yet all of your daily interactions are with ignoramuses.

Ceiling unlimited / World so wide / Turn and turn again / Feeling unlimited / Still unsatisfied / Changes never end 

………. Could this be an awakening of some hopeful thoughts.  Now that his former life has been destroyed, is his future all open-sky? Unlimited in possibility? What would his wife and daughter have wanted for him?

The vacant laugh / Of true insanity / Dressed up in the mask of Tragedy / Programmed for the guts and glands / Of idle minds and idle hands

I rest my case – / Or at least my vanity / Dressed up in the mask of Comedy / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man

………. Well, he had to set his luggage on the dressers in many small town hotels as he traveled. The shows and commercials he would see on his motel television would provide nothing useful. Likely, he would have to put on a false face of friendliness when interacting with locals. Being amused or acting friendly on occasion with a friendly clerk or waitress could not ease his pain, but perhaps it was all he had. 

Ceiling unlimited / Windows open wide / Look and look again / Feeling unlimited / Eyes on the prize / Changes never end

………. (Repeats from the chorus)  Perhaps he begins to heal a little, day in and day out. 

Winding like an ancient river / The time is now again / Hope is like an endless river / The time is now again

………. My favorite line is “the time is now again”. Because time in this situation does not matter. There is only the here and now. He had no destination. The natural environment, the river had been flowing and cutting its course for millennia. This may be the temporal version of the old country expression “no matter where you go, there you are.”

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Songwriters: Alex Zivojinovich / Gary Lee Weinrib / Neil Elwood Peart.  Ceiling Unlimited lyrics © Ole Media Management Lp.

It took the sap four hours to flow … added up in total … over the course of one week. If you want to borrow my copy of “Ghost Rider” or “Vapor Trails” see me in my office today!

Posted in MY PHOTOS, OLD RESEARCH, Uncategorized

My entry for the American Meteorological Society T-Shirt design contest 2018

Spoiler Alert: It didn’t win.  I had entered the American Meteorological Society’s annual “T-Shirt Design Contest” last summer. The winner was to be awarded free registration to the Annual Meeting of the AMS that is being held this month. They will  also be selling the shirts — of the winner — at the conference. Here is my design, although I never made it into a real fabric shirt.

I would like to tell you a little bit about how I came to make this design. The t-shirt I designed is just a plain white shirt with black text.  I suppose it could be made in color, but for the purposes of the contest, I just wanted the image to be as clear as possible for the judges.

How did I come up with the idea? I came up with the design from two different ideas. 1) I thought of the National Weather Service map symbols used on the station model on a synoptic weather chart. 2) I also have an interest in Japanese culture and art. (See my current work on Meteorology and Myth.)  The shirt depicts the Japanese kanji for “thunderstorm”.* The Japanese word is raiu.

Background: Kanji symbols are one of the three (maybe four?) methods of writing the Japanese language. There are thousands of kanji symbols. This system differs from our letters in that kanji is a symbolic — or logographic — system. The symbols (or “words” if you will) look like the real things the words represent.

The symbol on the left combines characters for “lightning” on top, with the symbol for “rice field” on the bottom. When the symbol is placed in this context, the symbol no longer means rice field — instead it   means “drumming”.  This is very appropriate! Thunder can sound like the pounding of drums as a thunderstorm approaches the observer. The symbol on the right is the kanji character for “rain”.  Note the symbol includes those four dashes which look rather like rain falling from the flat base of a cloud.  Maybe on to a rice field?

From “The Rising Sky” blog on WordPress.

When you put them together, it “spells” (cough) the Japanese word Raiu – or Thunderstorm. Link: Here is how to pronounce the word “Raiu”.

The other inspiration for my T-shirt design was based on the US National Weather Service symbols used on their synoptic weather charts. Meteorologists place these symbols on a map around a particular station, to represent conditions at a point in time.

Notice that the NWS symbols for thunderstorm, and the various conditions associated with types of thunderstorms storms look like logographic writing.  The basic thunderstorm shorthand symbol is a horizontal line with a perpendicular straight line down on the left side, and a zig-zag line with arrow on the right.  The zig-zag obviously represents a downward lightning path. Perhaps the left line represents the downward rush of rain and cold air, typical of a mature thunderstorm.

Actually, I had thought at first of just using the NWS thunderstorm symbol as the T-shirt design, but then thought the kanji script might be a good conversation starter.  I hope you like my design. Maybe someday I could have the shirt printed out. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might improve the design? Please comment if you want us to order some!

It took the sap about 2:05 to flow through this one.

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*References: I found a WordPress blogger who has posted articles about Japanese kanji script. He also posts interesting articles about Japanese culture. I defer to his expertise here.

https://therisingsky.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/kanji-tip-15-%E9%9B%B7%E9%9B%A8-thunderstorm/

Weather map symbols:

https://www.joshtimlin.com/learning-center?lightbox=dataItem-irgddmlj

https://www.thoughtco.com/symbols-on-weather-maps-3444369

 

Posted in MY PHOTOS

Are You Cirrus?

I took this photo this morning. You can see aircraft contrails in the sky above my neighborhood. “Condensation Trails” or “Contrails” are man-made clouds. These are thin clouds made of ice crystals. They form in the wake of the jet passing over.

The image shows an older contrail and two fresh jet contrails being formed. The older contrail has started to spread out, and looks like a natural cirrus cloud.  Note that as it spreads it looks like it is starting to “hook” and appear to look like a natural cirrus uncinus cloud. 

I’m serious — these are contrails!

Had I not known that this cloud was man-made, I would have thought that it was located on the leading (eastern) edge of a Low-pressure system. If it were a real cirrus uncinus, I would predict that we would get rain in 48 hours.

Just checked the weather channel. It looks like a winter storm indeed is approaching from the west. What a co-inky-dink.

Posted in CONFERENCE PRESENTATION, CULTURE, OLD RESEARCH

“Meteorology and Myth: Rationalization of the Thunderstorm and Tornado Deities of Japan” (SEDAAG, 2018).

The following is a paper I read to the 73rd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, held November 19 to 20th. The conference was hosted by East Tennessee State University, at the Millenium Center in Johnson City, TN.

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Notice: These images are just JPEG files of my original PowerPoint. The Powerpoint had a lot of animated graphics that you miss out on here. Let me know if you want to see the original! — DE