Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Olga needed a quick trip outside in the middle of the night last night. She began scratching around and whining, so I let her out the back door and then stepped outside with her, only to look up and see this. Stars! In London! I never see stars in London. There's too much light pollution, and on top of that it's usually cloudy, or at least partly cloudy. But last night the sky was clear as a bell.

I initially thought that was the Little Dipper at right, but I believe (after some research) it's actually the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major), which would make the bright star at left Arcturus, in the constellation Boötes. I am not at all sure that's right, but the position in the sky -- pretty much directly overhead -- seems correct.

I have never been good at constellations, even though, when I was growing up near Tampa, we could see the night sky in magnificent detail in our outer suburban neighborhood. I remember seeing the pale wash of the Milky Way, with thousands or maybe millions of nearer stars sprinkled across it like white pepper. Most of that is invisible to me here in London.

When I was a kid, my mom gave me H. A. Rey's book "The Stars," which included charts of all the stars and constellations. I tried to make sense of it, but all those Latin (or Greek?) names and rather vague shapes never quite registered with me. I can spot the dippers, and Orion, and the Pleiades, but that's about it.

On to something completely different. This is one of the photos on my iPhone, taken when blogger Sharon and I walked through central London last fall. I love this picture so much I use it as wallpaper, and I also love the way the phone displays the date and time behind the dome of St. Paul's. I just had to take a screenshot of the phone display!

Yesterday I began inventory, an annual task in our library. This is where I work my way through the collection, scanning every book, to see what's gone missing over the course of the year. I've done the short story collections, which is easy -- only about 100 books -- and I did the 700s and 800s in the non-fiction section. (Those are Dewey decimal ranges, for those of you familiar with the Dewey system.) There are about 2,480 books in the 700s, and 1,790 in the 800s. So that was a lot of scanning! So far, ten books are missing, but it's early days and they may show up on the shelves elsewhere.

I LOVE doing inventory. It's one of my favorite jobs, just working my way through books and scanning, scanning, scanning. Finding lost items, organizing as I go -- it's very satisfying. And no one talks to me! Bonus!

Now for a couple of flowers. This is one of our azaleas, a thankfully durable little plant that only ever looks like a bunch of twigs, except at this time of year when it miraculously bursts into bloom. We also have a pink azalea that has buds, but the flowers haven't opened yet.

And here are our two white orchids, which I photographed together to show off the differences in their flowers. At first glance they look very similar, but one has a greenish yellow center, and one has reddish orange.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Nate Cohn wrote a column in The New York Times about why many of today's senior citizens tend to support Joe Biden. In short, it's because they've always supported more liberal candidates and causes, having been of the "hippie" generation themselves. He cites the fictional Mike and Gloria from "All in the Family" as examples of these voters. I am slightly younger than these so-called "Boomers," but I also grew up watching "All in the Family" and learning what NOT to be from Archie Bunker. I have no doubt that show shaped my politics as much as the relative liberalism of my parents. Anyway, it's an interesting column, so I've linked it above.


Andrew said...

That seems very strange to have the time behind wallpaper but I guess yours is an iPhone, and so different. It is a great photo.
There are some advantages to living in the country and to see stars in countryside is amazing, with the sky seemingly to be alight. Like you, I was pretty hopeless with stars as a kid.
I take it from what you wrote that the average #45 supporter would be white and say 40.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

All that scanning sounds like punishment to me so I was surprised to learn that you love it! Perhaps you would also like counting the stars in the sky though you would need very many clear nights for that task.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Thanks for the link. Something to read later today. I’m one of those former hippie boomers who had an Archie Bunkeresque father. I can’t believe you saw that sky in London. Exciting. I went to the Haydn Planetarium for the first time when I was 4. I was hooked. By the time I was 7 I knew all the constellations. By the time I was 30 I had forgotten them!

Jennifer said...

When I worked at the bookstore, one of my most satisfying tasks was "zone maintenance" which was just scanning sections of books. There were different beeps to let you know which were misshelved and which were overdue to be returned. I LOVED it. I imagine your book inventory is the same way.

I love that you got to see the stars, a rare treat in London for sure.

Boud said...

I think if you see that constellation in London you're supposed to call it the Plough! Lovely anyway, and you'd have missed it if not for Olga.

I think older people support Biden because they know experience and judgment when they see it. It would behoove msm to do likewise.

Bob said...

I like order and putting things back where they belong, so I might like an inventory session.
That is a great wallpaper photo!

Susan said...

Your night sky is a very beautiful clear London sky. Taking a full inventory of all the books sounds very satisfying. The flowering azalea is lovely. Your white orchids are fantastic. I especially like the long bloom time. Your cathedral photograph is frame worthy. Given the alternative to JB, the decision is a given for many...not just boomers. The NYC T trial is having difficulty getting people for a jury - most say they can not be unbiased.

The Bug said...

Gorgeous sky photo! And that's very cool how the time is behind the photo wallpaper on your phone. I wonder how to make that happen?

Our azaleas just aren't very happy this year. And in general haven't grown as much as one might expect over the years. Maybe they're in the wrong spot in relation to the sun.

Ms. Moon said...

I have never seen a phone's display of date and time behind part of the picture. That's crazy and I love it too!
One of the things I loved the most about those long-ago summers I stayed on St. George Island was the stars. Unbelievable, the number of them visible in that darkness and as you so perfectly put it- that pale wash of the Milky Way. I doubt it's that way now. It's just occurred to me that that most primal of human experiences- looking into the night sky to be amazed and awed- is no longer a regular occurrence for most of us. I wonder if anyone has studied how this affects how we feel about life on earth.
Does this make sense?

ellen abbott said...

I remember before we got our beach house in Galveston, my parent's best friends had a place in Clear Lake and there was no light pollution from the city and the sky was so dark. I remember one night specifically laying outside in the backyard there looking at the mother I think pointed out the big dipper. this would have been late 50s, early 60s.

and of course us hippie boomers are still supporting liberal causes. why would we not? those of our generation that are conservative were conservative in high school.

Red said...

There are many great apps showing the solar system but, you know more about that than I do.

Ellen D. said...

Well, thanks to Olga (and you) for a lovely view of the stars!
I loved doing inventory also! Especially when you find a book misfiled and can return it to its proper place! So great!

Sharon said...

I am one of those "Boomers" so I can relate. I too, learned lots from watching things like "All in the Family". I'm going to read that column.
I LOVE your phone screen shot. I recognized that image immediately. I might have rethink my screen shot. It's a photo from the Desert Botanical Garden right now.
It's amazing that you saw all those stars in London and even more amazing that you got such a good photo of them. I can even see the dipper.

Pixie said...

We have audits every four years and part of that audit is going through every single thing in our department to make sure nothing is outdated, every single IV catheter, every single whatever. I actually like it too. I tend to try and keep up on slow days and just start opening drawers and checking expiry dates. Nurses can be hoarders, one nurse who shall not be named, in particular.

The flowers are lovely and I enjoy them even more when I all I have to look at outside is snow, again.

Ed said...

One of the things that never fails to catch me by surprise is when I spend a night at the farm and look up and see all the stars and even the mists of the Milky Way. I easily forget about them when I live for the most part in town where light pollution is very bad at night.

How did you get the time stamp to be behind the dome? I have a favorite painting of my mom as my screensaver but the time appears right over her face. I would love to figure out how to move it up or down or even behind as your is.

Debby said...

So ironic that you should post something from 'All in the Family'. I read a recent piece on the fact that Rob Reiner had been dropped by Warner Brothers for 'spreading wokeness'. (It is not true.) But I was amazed at the comments that said, in effect, 'this proves that Archie Bunker was right all along.'




Margaret said...

I don't know the name of it, but John has an app on his phone that, when he points it at the stars/planets, it will identify what they are. It's fascinating. I would ask him for info but he's in South Dakota currently and busy with family. I would love inventory too because it is, unlike much of our jobs in education, concrete with definitive progress.

Wilma said...

Your white orchids are lovely. I see variation similar to that in one of the wild orchid species that bloom here. Some have lips that are pure white, others range through pale pink to dark purple. Otherwise they look identical.

Kelly said...

I'm surprised at how many stars are visible in your photo! As much as I love astronomy, I've never been very good at identifying stars and constellations. I'm a little better with planets. I have a great app for my phone that helps with it, though.

I just googled about the wallpaper on your phone and came up with this:

Tap 'Customize' and then on the screen that says 'Customize Wallpaper,' tap 'Lock Screen. ' The lock screen should now appear in edit mode. In the bottom right corner, tap on the three-dot icon and select 'Depth Effect' from the menu. And that's it!

gz said...

A clear night sky is breathtaking and beautiful

Catalyst said...

Love the Big Dipper picture and the one of the white orchids. And I didn't notice the difference until you pointed it out. Doh! (Or, in my generation, Duh!)

sparklingmerlot said...

Filing used to be one of my favourite jobs. I think scanning would fall in the same category.
The joy of a night sky without light pollution is one of life's simple pleasures.

Allison said...

Beautiful night sky. Tucson has dark sky ordinances, but they're not enforced, it's unfortunate. Orchids are such pretty flowers.

Linda Sue said...

Growing up under a blast of night sky, everything else pales. We never see sky here- from one extreme to another. That is a perfectly clear shot, great phone!
I have often passed that hotel, wondering if it might be possible to stay there one day- Checked it out- NOPE!

River said...

I had no idea you couldn't usually see stars in London, thta's really sad. I know about the constellations, Big Dipper etc, but can never make them out and wonder if I am in the wrong hemisphere to see them?
I used to want to be a librarian when I was at school, but when I asked about it later in life I was disappointed to hear I need certifications to even apply for a volunteer position! Why would I need a certificate just to put books back on shelves? I've been a borrower since age 6, I know the system by now!
I have my kindle now anyway, and a good bookshop just a bus ride away and borrow books from my daughters too.

Steve Reed said...

Andrew: Well, many of them are senior citizens (because not all seniors were hippies) but yes, many are younger. Apparently my age group (Gen X) is overall more conservative than the boomers, growing up as we did in the Reagan era.

YP: Only if they had barcodes!

Mitchell: I think it takes real imagination to look at a random cluster of stars and see a crab or a dragon!

Jennifer: Yes, it sounds very similar!

Boud: Yeah, I'm sure it's true that older voters are more likely to see a positive in Biden's age and experience.

Bob: That's one of the main reasons I like library work. I love organizing!

Susan: Oh, absolutely, I would agree Biden is a must given the alternatives!

Bug: I have no idea, but Kelly (lower in the comments) has some theories.

Ms Moon: YES! It's as if something essential to the human experience has been lost, at least for many of us. Maybe that accounts for society's diminished religiosity -- we've lost an ability to perceive and wonder at something greater than our little world? Is that a stretch?

Ellen: Well, I actually think many people do grow more conservative as they age -- but not all!

Red: I actually don't, but maybe I should download one of those apps? I think I would if I lived in a place where I could see the stars more easily.

Ellen D: YES! That is the ultimate satisfaction! Or a book that was marked lost but is still on the shelf, having slipped behind the others!

Sharon: I knew you'd remember that place! The light was so amazing that day.

Pixie: I suppose there is a temptation to save what seems like it should still be good, but yeah -- on medicines, expiration dates rule!

Ed: See Kelly's comment below yours! I haven't tried those settings -- my phone did it automatically, for some reason -- but it seems likely that would work.

Debby: Oh, Lord. Talk about a fundamental misunderstanding of TV history!

Margaret: Yeah, that's probably part of why I like it too. The results are visible and tangible.

Wilma: It's pretty cool to think you can have such plants blooming outside where you are. I wish I could put my orchids outside. I think they'd benefit from the rain. Maybe I could do it in August.

Kelly: THANK YOU for this tip! I didn't realize it was a setting that could be changed. My phone did it automatically, maybe because that setting is already turned on. (I haven't checked!)

GZ: Isn't it? It's awe-inspiring.

Catalyst: Well, it IS very subtle. What's also cool is both those orchids are rescues. One was taken from someone's trash.

Caro: Yes, I'm sure it IS a lot like filing. I never thought of that.

Allison: I'm thinking so-called private property rights reign supreme in Arizona!

Linda Sue: Oh, I imagine the sky in Wyoming when you were growing up there must have been incredible. Probably like rural Morocco when I lived there in the early '90s.

River: I Googled it. Apparently parts of Australia can see the Big Dipper in the fall, but you cannot see the Little Dipper at all. Or so my very cursory research says. Some libraries discourage volunteers in order to keep librarians employed.

Jeanie said...

That was an interesting column. I saw it too. I think inventory sounds fun -- new discoveries. And I love your wallpaper photo. Very cool! Howyou ever got photos of your stars at night with your camera is beyond me but well done!