The point at which the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator is the Summer Solstice, well it is for the Northern Hemisphere. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone.
Here in Southern Oregon, the moment of the Summer Solstice will be at 2:43 PM or 14:43 PDT on Saturday, i.e. today! For the United Kingdom it will be at 22:43 BST on the same day or 21:43 GMT/UTC.
A quick web ‘look-up’ finds that the word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time, albeit momentarily.
At the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge in Southern England, the prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect, for many years the Druids have celebrated the Solstice and, undoubtedly, will be doing so again.
There’s a good article over at EarthSky on this year’s Solstice. I would like to quote a little from it:
At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that our world’s North Pole is leaning most toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23 1/2 degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer – named after the constellation Cancer the Crab. This is as far north as the sun ever gets.
All locations north of the equator have days longer than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have days shorter than 12 hours.
Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature? Everywhere. For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of the day. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of almost all light and warmth on Earth’s surface.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice the early dawns and late sunsets, and the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might see how high the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.
If you’re a person who’s tuned in to the out-of-doors, you know the peaceful, comforting feeling that accompanies these signs and signals of the year’s longest day.
Is the solstice the first day of summer? No world body has designated an official day to start each new season, and different schools of thought or traditions define the seasons in different ways.
In meteorology, for example, summer begins on June 1. And every schoolchild knows that summer starts when the last school bell of the year rings.
Yet June 21 is perhaps the most widely recognized day upon which summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and upon which winter begins on the southern half of Earth’s globe. There’s nothing official about it, but it’s such a long-held tradition that we all recognize it to be so.
It has been universal among humans to treasure this time of warmth and light.
For us in the modern world, the solstice is a time to recall the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in what’s now England and aligned them with the June solstice sunrise.
We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn’t limited to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.
How does it end up hotter later in the summer, if June has the longest day? People often ask:
If the June solstice brings the longest day, why do we experience the hottest weather in late July and August?
This effect is called the lag of the seasons. It’s the same reason it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noontime. Earth just takes a while to warm up after a long winter. Even in June, ice and snow still blanket the ground in some places. The sun has to melt the ice – and warm the oceans – and then we feel the most sweltering summer heat.
Ice and snow have been melting since spring began. Meltwater and rainwater have been percolating down through snow on tops of glaciers.
But the runoff from glaciers isn’t as great now as it’ll be in another month, even though sunlight is striking the northern hemisphere most directly around now.
Just a few weeks ago new neighbours moved in to the property that adjoins us to the South.
They are Mike and Hannah Mills and they have three children; Hunter, Scarlet and Clover. Hunter is the eldest and he will be 9 on May 27th. When we went across to meet them I very quickly learnt that Hunter is a budding writer. Just as quickly I offered to publish a story from him in this place.
He used the following picture as a writing prompt.
Here is his story!
A Big Dog
By: Hunter Mills, May 2020.
It was a cloudy morning.
A man was walking on the street and all of a sudden a big, big, big, big dog appeared out of the clouds.
The man was so cold, but he had to run! He ran fast, so he had to stop and rest and he stopped to rest, and hid. He got a little breath but the dog had a super good nose so he sniffed out the man and he had to run away again.
The dog was so fast it caught up to the man and it only licked him! The dog licked him again and the man ran away to a nearby building.
The man thought the dog was mean, but it was just trying to snuggle the man.
He went to the dog store and bought some dog treats and a big, big, big, big leash for the dog. He bought a new house so the dog could fit in the house.
So the next time a big, big, big, big dog starts to run after you, you should see if he wants to eat you or snuggle you.
If he lays down next to you, keep him. If not, run for your life!!
I have not changed a single word of Hunter’s story. All I have done is to alter the formatting so that it is easier on the eye.
This is Hunter with his two dogs Soldier and Hank.
Hunter is already a good writer and it’s a delightful work of fiction.
Hopefully, this is the first of many that I may have the privilege of publishing!
May I ask a favour? That is that if you ‘Like’ this post you also say so in a comment. For I am sure Hunter will be along to see what you all thought of his creative juices! Thank you.
Way back in 1978 I started a company called Dataview. It was based in Colchester, Essex and I sold Commodore Computers; the ‘PET”, standing for Personal Electronic Transactor.
Now I was a word-processing salesman for IBM previously and didn’t know a thing about computers. I operated out of a small shop at first in Church Street and people came into the shop and played around with my demonstration models. Unbelievably I sold some!
Later I got involved with a software program known as Wordcraft. The first comprehensive word processing program for the PET. Indeed, I had the exclusive world distribution rights to Wordcraft. One thing lead to another and soon I was operating from much larger premises down at Portreeves House at East Bay, still in Colchester.
I appointed a Head of Marketing, Amit Roy, and the company grew and grew. I focused on appointing distributors across the world, and that included Dan Gomez in southern California, and he became a close friend being my best man when Jeannie and I were married in 2010.
Anyway, back to the story of Dataview. Eventually I sold out and escaped the country (and taxes) by moving to a yacht in the Greek side of Cyprus before April 15th. I went to Larnaca Marina. That was in 1986.
On Sunday, through a link from a mutual friend, I called Amit, the first time we had spoken since 1986. We had the most delightful of telephone conversations.
Amit was born in Burma, he is now 79, and lost his wife some 13 years ago. The counsellor who saw Amit after the death of his very dear wife said that he had to be strong and to take up something he could become passionate about. Amit joined the Colchester Photographic Society and took up studying again, in photography, and became a very good photographer.
With Amit’s permission I share some of his photographs with you.
These are just a few but they are superb; absolutely marvellous.
That is the most welcome of connections – thanks to Roger Davis for suggesting it!
In the last twenty-four hours I was in communication with a person in Essex, England about dog training (and hopefully there will be a guest post from him) and it caused me to think of Angela Stockdale.
I then did a search on my blog for posts where I had mentioned Angela and came across quite a few in the early days of blogging. Then I thought it would be nice to republish one of them; Four Years Old.
So here it is again.
How time flies!
Four years ago this day, the first post was published on Learning from Dogs. Here it is again:
Parenting lessons from Dogs!
Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way). That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off. The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be. Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!
Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.
Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs. In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses). Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.
When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents. Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.
As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!
By Paul Handover.
As it happens, it feels a little like ‘what goes around, comes around’. Why do I say that?
Because just last Saturday, I sent off a selection of pictures and videos to Angela Stockdale. Stay with me for a while as to the reason why.
Angela trades under the name of The Dog Partnership and, frankly, what she doesn’t know about the behaviour of dogs isn’t worth bothering about!
Just take a peek at the page on her website under the heading of Teaching Dogs. Here’s a little of what Angela writes:
I consider myself so lucky for dogs alone to have been my teachers. I learnt from watching how my own dogs responded to another dog’s body language and vice versa their language. Watching, learning and working with Teaching Dogs was the only way I knew.
I was and always will be in awe of a Teaching Dog’s dogs ability to consciously adapt their body language in accordance to how the other dog was feeling. The result being, they could relax nervous dogs but at the same time maintain control of a problem situation. Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.
It came as quite a shock to me when I learnt about other approaches. It seemed foreign for people to have so much input in resolving what were described as ‘ behavioural’ issues. For me, working with these dogs was far more than resolving a behavioural issue. It was about improving the quality of lives of dogs who were not coping with everyday life. If they found dogs or people worrying, sometimes this was shown in displays of aggression. It is important to understand, these dogs were not aggressive, they simply displayed aggressive behaviour.
Now, I would like to introduce you to the world of Teaching Dogs and how these special dogs change the lives of less fortunate dogs, who never had the opportunity to really understand how to communicate with their own species.
Back to why those photographs and videos had been sent to Angela. A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed an evening meal with friends of friends, so to speak. This other couple owned a beautiful-looking male German Shepherd dog: Duke. Duke was 4-years-old. Our hostess remarked that he was very boisterous and had nipped a couple of strangers who had called at the house. She added that he seemed difficult to control. Duke had been there for about a month and he was a rescue so they had little or no knowledge of past behaviour.
Well, I’m no expect with dogs, that’s Jean’s domain. But there was something about Duke that captivated me. Something in the way he looked at me, his eyes linking so directly with mine, allowing me to see a dog that offered an honest openness.
More or less on impulse I stood up, held my right arm up at 45 degrees, looked Duke in the face and said, “Duke! Sit!”
Duke held my gaze and sat back on his haunches.
I moved my arm in a complete circle, around to the right, and said, “Duke! Lie down!” Duke lay down.
H’mm, I thought. Fascinating. This dog has been professionally trained at some point in the past, using the same ‘command’ system of voice and arm signalling as I had learnt with Pharaoh way back in 2003/2004.
The food was now on the table. I grabbed a small piece of meat off my plate and returned to Duke who had, of course, resumed his pottering around the room. “Duke! Here boy!” Duke came over to me. “Duke! Lie down!” Duke did so. I placed the piece of meat on the wooden floor about three feet in front of him. Duke’s eyes were riveted on the meat. “Duke!” Duke’s eyes reluctantly engaged with mine. “Duke! Stay!” I repeated the Stay command a couple more times as I backed away about 6 or 8 feet.
“Go on, Boy. Take the meat!” Duke gleefully grabbed the piece of meat. Gracious, I thought, this dog is magnificent. I wonder ……..
I took another piece of meat, “Duke! Sit!” “Duke! Stay!” I then backed off that 8 feet again, got down on my knees and placed the piece of meat just between my lips. I knew this was potential madness with a dog I had only met some 30 minutes previously, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind. I voiced in my throat for Duke to fetch the meat. Duke came straight over and confidently and carefully removed the meat from my lips.
What a truly fabulous dog! It was a wonderful evening and once home both Jean and I were eulogising about Duke.
Then two days later, our dinner hostess rang me. “You know, I have decided we can no longer keep Duke. He is too strong a dog, I can’t control him. Is there any chance of you finding a new home for Duke?”
Without question, Jean and I would have offered Duke a new home; in a heartbeat. The only thing stopping that was me wondering if this strong-willed, male German Shepherd might be a Beta dog, as Pharaoh was. Or just might be too dominant a male dog to fit in comfortably with our dogs, especially Pharaoh who was at the stage of life where the last thing that should happen is for his happiness and contentment to be disturbed.
I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer that question. But I knew someone who would know: Angela Stockdale.
I rang her, caught up on old times and then explained the background to Duke’s situation. Angela said to repeat the exercise that I had witnessed when I took Pharaoh to her all those years ago, when I wondered if Pharaoh was an aggressive dog. My uncertainty with regard to Pharaoh followed a number of times when walking him in a public area with other dogs and he had been very threatening, both in voice and posture, towards some of those other dogs.
This is what Angela arranged. I took Pharaoh up to her place at Wheddon Cross, near Minehead in Somerset. When we arrived, Angela was standing just by a gate into a fenced paddock, maybe a half-acre in size. In the far corner were two dogs.
Angela asked me to bring Pharaoh to the gate and let him off the leash. It was clear that Pharaoh was going to be let into the paddock. I cautioned that Pharaoh could be quite a handful with other dogs and, perhaps, it would be better that I walked him into the area still on his lead. Angela said that wouldn’t be necessary. So as she held the gate open sufficient for Pharaoh to enter the paddock, I slipped the lead off him and backed away, as requested.
Pharaoh had hardly taken 2 or 3 paces when Angela called out, “Paul, there’s nothing wrong with him!”
I was astounded and stammered, “But, er, er, how can you tell so quickly?” “Because my two dogs haven’t taken any notice!”, came the reply.
Later Angela explained that in the paddock were her female Alpha dog and her male Beta dog. Ergo, the two top dogs in terms of status so far as dogs see other dogs.
In fact, Pharaoh was utterly subservient to these dogs, in a way that I had never witnessed before. Later on, as Pharaoh relaxed and started playing, Angela said that she thought that Pharaoh was a Beta dog. Mixing some of her other dogs into the group was later able to confirm that.
So back now to present times and Duke.
Thus last Saturday, as Angela recommended, we selected two of our dogs, Cleo our female German Shepherd and the most socialable of dogs, and Casey, a strong but not aggressive male (he had some PitBull in him).
Duke arrived and was allowed freely to nose around the large grassed area some way from the fenced-off horse paddock that we were using for the ‘introduction’.
Duke pottered around and then caught sight of Cleo and Casey in the paddock.
Then the meetings began!
And play didn’t seem to be too far off the agenda!
So all the photographs and videos have been sent to Angela, and we will see what the conclusion is!
As Angela put it, “Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.”
Yes there’s no question that dogs talk dog far better than we do!
Space becomes sonified in this visualization of a cluster of galaxies imaged by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz. Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones. Most of the visible specks are galaxies housing countless stars. A few individual stars shine brightly in the foreground. Stars and compact galaxies create short, clear tones, while sprawling spiral galaxies emit longer notes that change pitch. The higher density of galaxies near the center of the image – the heart of this galaxy cluster, known as RXC J0142.9+4438 – results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video. Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 acquired this image on August 13, 2018.
Here’s the original Hubble image of galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438, later “sonified” by Russo and Santaguida. NASA wrote: “Galaxies abound in this spectacular Hubble image; spiral arms swirl in all colors and orientations, and fuzzy ellipticals can be seen speckled across the frame as softly glowing smudges on the sky. Each visible speck of a galaxy is home to countless stars. A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very center of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.” Read more about this image, which is via ESA/ Hubble & NASA, RELICS.
Bottom line: Musicians and scientists turned a Hubble Space Telescope image – of galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438 – into music.
That is so lovely.
It’s only just over half a minute long but is still precious!
We were listening to the radio early on Tuesday morning and the BBC News played a tribute to the recent death of Dave Greenfield. Here’s a little bit of that BBC News piece:
The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19.
Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems.
He penned the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982.
The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a “musical genius”.
He said: “On the evening of Sunday May 3rd, my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020.
“All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to [Greenfield’s wife] Pam.”
Drummer Jet Black added: “We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world.
“Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”
There’s more to read but I wanted to republish one of the photographs taken:
Then to close my tribute to Dave here’s a beautiful rendition of that most famous song – Golden Brown.
Yesterday morning, well before 7am, we let all the dogs out for their morning walks, smells and ablutions! They are let out on our property.
Ten minutes later all of them were back home save one: Brandy!
Then followed a good couple of hours while I, and then later Jeannie and I, walked the entire property, all 13 acres, looking for Brandy. To no avail. He appeared to have disappeared. It’s not helped by the fact that Brandy has poor hearing and can’t really hear calls more than thirty feet away.
At one point I went out with Cleo, our GSD, who has a supreme sense of smell and excellent hearing, to look for Brandy. No luck!
I was getting very stressed and while Brandy at times does go for a walk on his own he had never been gone for this long.
Well eventually, with the help of our new neighbours, we located Brandy and, in time, got him back in the house. The only way off the property is via Bummer Creek, which flows across our property, under a bridge built on our driveway, that is not fenced. Only Brandy sometimes takes a stroll down the creek. Brandy had done so this morning and ended up past our neighbours property, a good quarter mile or more downstream.
It was then time to go across and thank our neighbours for their help. I was invited in for a coffee and also spent time with the eight-year-old, soon to be nine, chatting about this and that, and, towards the end of the coffee, about writing!
This was lovely and I said that if aforesaid young man was to write a story about one of their two dogs I would love to feature it as a guest post in this place!
Then when I came home I was thinking more about encouraging the young man to write some more and came across the following. I trust it is OK to republish.
Creative writing techniques for kids: a step-by-step guide to writing a story
Encouraging children to write a story of their very own can give them an enormous confidence boost, as well as help them consolidate their literacy learning by putting their phonics, grammar and reading skills into practice. Primary teacher Phoebe Doyle offers parents tips on how to get their children’s creative thoughts flowing.
The way literacy is taught in primary schools has changed radically in the last couple of decades; when I was at school in the 80s we copied from blackboards, had whole hours of handwriting practice and sweated over spellings without any formal teaching of phonics whatsoever. While I think the more structured approach to literacy teaching we see in classrooms today makes learning more fun and accessible, my one worry is that there’s little time left for writing creatively.
When I was at school I adored writing stories – even stories with chapters and illustrations. I know my author brother did too – we found some of his old stories a few years back, and I felt so pleased he’d had the time to write these endless pages of action, adventure, characterisation and twisting plotlines.
As a primary teacher I ensured I would have a week each term when, during literacy sessions, we would focus solely on creating stories. I wasn’t deviating from the curriculum – far from it. During this week children would be consolidating their learning of phonics and be ‘writing for purpose’, considering carefully the aspects of story and who their audience might be.
It may very well be that your children write stories at home regardless of whether they’re required to for school, because most children have a seemingly natural urge to want to do so from time to time. This is just a little guidance on how you can support them and encourage a more structured approach to their story writing.
Firstly, ask your child where the story is going to take place. It could be somewhere fictional or real, it could be a planet, a country, a town or a house – anywhere!
Then, ask when the story is taking place – now? In the future? In the past?
Finally ask what they think is going to happen. Remember that this doesn’t have to be accurate and they don’t have to stick to what they say; many of the best writers say that their plots develop organically as they write. If they do have a firm idea of where they want to go with the plot, though, they can create an outline by completing a story planner, which could look something like this:
Ask your child who is going to be in the story. How do they want their readers to feel about each character? Again, they may want to jot some ideas down. You could make a table for them to help them organise their thoughts, with these headings:
Name of character
Relationship to other characters
What he/she looks like
Ask your child to think of some fabulous words to use in their story writing. They might be long words or simple ones, or they might be great descriptive words or words that help create pace and tension. Encourage them to jot these down and refer to the list as they write their story.
All writers know that you’ve got to capture the attention of your readers right from the start; you want to make them desperate to read on. Ask your child to think of some good story openers that’ll entice people to find out more. Here are a few examples:
First sentences that are mysterious…
Molly had no sense of the day that lay ahead.
Story starters that use language tricks like alliteration…
It was damp, dark and dreadfully dusty when Molly entered the house.
Story openers that create tension…
Molly could hear her heart beating faster than ever before. Could this really be happening?
Stories that go straight into dialogue…
“But I don’t want to go to school, Mummy,” groaned Molly.
Encourage your child to look at some of the books they like to read and see how they begin in order to offer inspiration.
Once they’ve got all of these ideas in place, they can start writing. They could do a draft in the first instance and then a neat, polished version later. They may wish to write in short chapters, use illustrations, or make their own book to write in – let them use their imagination and creativity when it comes to presentation, and make sure you show how much you value the end product by keeping it to read again with the other books in your house.
My grandson, Morten, who had his birthday yesterday, he is now nine, took some photographs recently. They are fabulous and are republished here with Morten’s permission. Completely untouched by yours truly!
I think these are fabulous. Morten used the following camera.