A passing thunderstorm chased us all into the basement – me, My Darling B, and both cats – and though I made sure we had flashlights and candles down there with us, we didn’t have to use them. The lights flickered once or twice, but the power stayed on in spite of howling winds and ping pong-sized hail. Ping pong-sized? Yes. That’s the technical term now. Hail the size of all ping-pong.

On the up side, My Darling B’s garden badly needed the rain, and all of us needed a break from the heat, especially the cats, their being covered in fur and all. With temps hitting the high nineties this week, I programmed the central air here in Our Humble O’Bode to keep running through the day at a reduced setting, then kick in full-blast at four o’clock, an hour or so before we came home, to chill things the heck down so we wouldn’t be walking into a sweat lodge, whatever that is. I’ve never been in one before but it sounds hot, doesn’t it?

And the storm brought some relief from the heat wave. I could open the front door for the cats this morning, something I couldn’t do earlier this week because of the waves of steamy heat that would come surging through the door. The cats love to sit behind the screen and glare at the chipmunk who lives under the stoop and comes out in the morning to mess with them, but I just couldn’t do it until this morning. The storm has air-conditioned the whole neighborhood so it finally feels good again to open the door.


Ah, these are truly the days of summer, the days that start cool and clear with a slight, freshening wind. They warm up to temps in the seventies by midday, they’re not too humid, and the evenings are long enough to sit on the back stoop with a beer after supper where we can enjoy watching the birds at the feeder without too many bugs flying around our heads. These are the days I wait all winter for. And they’ll last maybe four more weeks, if we’re lucky. Then, either the mosquitoes will begin relentlessly feasting on us in swarms so insufferably large that spending more than five minutes out-of-doors will be considered lunacy, or the temperatures, together with the humidity, will climb so high that the act of merely getting out of bed in the morning will be enough to make me pop a sweat. At some point in August both the mosquitoes and the sweat will combine to make the end of summer the most miserable time of year, and I’ll dream of the subzero days to come.


Earlier this week, the weather forecast called for rain, rain and more rain starting on Wednesday night and continuing through the weekend. I am pleased to tell you that they were wrong, wrong and are still wrong. More to the point, nobody is more pleased than My Darling B, who takes vacation time from work to expand this from a standard, regulation two-day weekend into a giant, economy-sized four-day weekend so she can get her garden planted, and for the past couple years that she’s tried this tactic, she’s almost always been stymied by rain. This year, though, she’s had almost entirely sunny days, except for yesterday when the tiniest bit of rain came spitting down now and again. She didn’t care, though. She kept working through it. She’s determined to get as much planting done as she possibly can, and to that end she was out there again this morning at eight o’clock, the time when she is normally sitting on the sofa with me, a cup of coffee in one hand and an ear on the radio as we listen to the weekly broadcast of Says You.


I ate my first bug today. That makes it officially summer, doesn’t it?

In point of fact I sucked it up my nose while I was riding my bike home from work and went right through a cloud of gnats. It was probably more than one. Couldn’t get it out with an air hankie so I had to pull off to the side, get my real hankie out of my pocket and blow, then dig a little bit, then blow some more, then wipe. Sniff in and out to test it. Blow some more, wipe again. Sniff. Sniff again. Seemed like I got it after a few tries. Made it all the way back home without snorfling up any more.

Willis Carrier

Thank goodness for Willis Carrier, that’s the best thing I can say about the weather we had yesterday. If it weren’t for the awesome power of air conditioning I would’ve ended up looking like a sad little wrinkled prune in the middle of a puddle of my own sweat.

I kept the airco dialed back to eighty degrees, just so everything I touched in the house didn’t feel sticky as a post-it note and all my clothes didn’t hang off me like damp rags. Did you know that’s why air conditioning was invented in the first place? Carrier was looking for a way to control humidity in a print shop. He knew cold air holds less humidity than warm air, so he blew air over coils of pipe filled with chilled water and invented the nirvana that we know today as central air conditioning. Also, he made himself stinking rich, or at least I hope he did. Right now, I can think of few inventors who deserve it as much as he did.

We have a hard-core understanding about the use of the air conditioning here at Our Humble O’Bode that’ll make the Texas side of the family shake their heads and doubt our sanity. We don’t crank up the airco first thing in the morning and leave it running all day. We tough it out until at least lunch time before we freak out from the oven-like heat and flip Mother Nature the bird, but yesterday she was trying really hard to provoke a response. Yesterday the humidity was around ninety-eight percent. At ninety-eight percent humidity you can plug in all the fans you’ve got, put them in every corner of the living room and lay flat on the floor in your underwear and you’re still going to feel like a boiled noodle. “You” meaning “me,” and, me being a great big wuss, I cut to the chase, closed all the windows and fired up the airco.

Even so, at a moderate eighty-degree setting the compressor was chugging away practically non-stop, all day long, and the drip tube hanging from the condenser unit in the basement was projectile-vomiting into the drain. Texas may have the heat, but they’ve never had humidity like that, I’ll bet. Not that it’s a contest I’m wanting to have.

Polar Cub

image of table fan

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Polar Cub, a table fan with sharp-edged metal blades and no safety cage to speak of. Turn it on and the blades whirl so fast you could lose a finger to this thing faster than you can say “Emergency Room.” Now that I’ve restored it to working order I imagine there’s a guy in whatever federal safety office watches out for these things kneading his forehead as he struggles to regain his breath and muttering, “I feel something terrible has happened.”

I picked this up at a thrift shop some months ago and yesterday finally got around to replacing the electrical cord, which was so old it had gotten brittle enough to crack and fall apart in more than a few places, making it even more dangerous than the original designed called for. Replacing the cord was a quick fix but I’m not a quick worker, so here it is, July, and I’m just getting around to it.

It works great except for the oscillating mechanism. The gears were so badly gunked up the motor couldn’t get them going again. I could turn them slowly by hand, though, and it seemed to help free them up, so I got the bright idea to chuck the shaft in my power drill and give it a good, long high-speed turn. Moments later the gears were stripped beyond all repair. Brilliant.

The motor’s got just one speed, corresponding to F-5 on the Fujita tornado scale where winds from a force five tornado cause the maximum damage conceivable. Still, on a really hot July day in Wisconsin that’s about what you need to move enough air past you in order to keep cool. Come August, we could put a truckload of these things to good use.

Today’s another day off from work for both My Darling B and I, but the great big green and yellow blob that’s hovering over our part of Wisconsin on the NOAA Doppler radar screen means we probably won’t be doing any yard work today.

B’s taking full advantage of this development and sleeping in late this morning, after spending Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday in her garden, pulling weeds, setting down soaker hoses and generally tidying up. And I’m, y’know, doinking around on the internet. Because it’s there.

lightning bug day

We made out like bandits at the thrift store this morning! You’re pretty excited for us, I know.

Both of us managed to get out of bed very early and get to the farmer’s market before the foot traffic was shoulder-to-shoulder all the way around the square, so we were able to finish up our shopping a bit sooner than usual and head on over to our next stop, the thrift shop on Willy Street. It was all happening so smoothly that I got there before the doors opened (B was at the co-op picking up a few items).

I had the book store all to myself as I prowled the aisles, and the pickings were good: I scored a copy of Edward Teller: The Real Dr. Strangelove, and can’t wait to crack it open so I can read more stories about Teller that will utterly fail to alter my opinion that he was one of the greatest menaces to world peace ever to walk on two legs.

Okay, I it turns out I can wait: I also took home a copy of The Great Influenza, the story of the Spanish flu epidemic. I made the mistake of peeking into the first few pages and ended up reading the first chapter right away. Great, now I’m working on two books at the same time.

I took home two more books, one about the grat depression and one about Eleanor Roosevelt. I’ll have to share the latter with my Mom, who adores all things Eleanor. The woman was a force of nature. (I meant Eleanor, but now that I think about it my Mom was, too.)

My Darling B always picks through the china while I peruse the books. She likes to bring home any plate or platter that has an interesting pattern, so our china hutch is filling up with mis-matched flatware, just the way we both like it. She found three plates with a retro pattern, to go with (or not go with) the retro plates she already has. She also found this super-cool lunch plate with a scene featuring an adobe arch and picnic basket laid out on a sarape. Another plate had the same kind of southwestern theme but was not part of the same set. She didn’t want to bring that one home because of a few chips around the edges, but I could see myself eating lunch off it so I brought it home rather than leave it behind.


Last night I woke to the noise of rocket engines on the space ship to Mars blasting off right in our back yard. I’ve never been present at the launch of a rocket powerful enough to lift a satellite into orbit, but I’ve heard it described as a sound that you feel with your bowels more than your ears. That’s what this sound was almost like. It was the sound of a cloudburst, thirty million billion zillion tons of water falling on our rooftop in the space of about fifteen minutes. Cats and dogs doesn’t begin to describe it.

I think this must have been at about two or three o’clock in the morning. Sorry for the approximation but I didn’t flip up the blind on my alarm clock to check. I’ve got a digital clock with an LED face that glows with what I suppose the designers thought of as a soothing green light. They thought wrong. When I turn out the lights to go to sleep, I want darkness. If I didn’t, I’d leave the lights on. So the thing I did after plugging my alarm clock into the wall was tape a flap of cardboard over the face. That way I never wake up to its digital glare of greeness in the middle of the night. I can still lift the flap up when I want to know what time it is, if I really want to. Last night I didn’t really want to, so the exact time the deluge fell on our house remains a mystery.

And I thought briefly about getting out of bed to check the basement for leaks. That has happened before, but then I put extensions on all the downspouts to channel the rainwater out into the yard instead of into a great big pool of swirling mud around the foundations of the house. Seemed like a problem begging for a solution. We haven’t had a leak in years, but I still like to check when it rains really hard, just to reassure myself. I must have already been feeling more than a little reassured last night, though. The need for a warm fuzzy quickly passed and I fell back into deep sleep while the dogs and cats were still pounding on peaks of the roof.

When does summer start for you? What’s that first day you have to do something, or something is done to you, that you stop and think, This is it. This is summer. We turned on the air conditioning for the first time this week when the weather got all hot and sticky. If I hadn’t stopped and thought about it before then, I did as soon as that cool, sweet air began to fill the rooms of Our Humble O’Bode.

And lately I’ve noticed, as I’ve been standing in the kitchen window taking those first few life-giving sips from my morning cuppa joe, that the temperature hasn’t dipped below sixty all week. A couple mornings back I glanced at the thermometer right after I turned on the kitchen lights and it was seventy. That doesn’t happen unless it’s summer.