The Unswung Bat

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Hot House

"André, check out the roof, it's steaming!" says Dave.


"From the sun on the rainwater," he says. I go see.

Sure enough, when I pull open my shades, a gliding mist is rolling past my window, over the roof which is an arm's reach away, and off every other roof in the neighborhood, dissipating as it crosses over the edge. It's quietly a stunning sight, in no small part because it also provides my first look at my absolutely gorgeous surroundings since I put up that curtain at the beginning of winter.

But I realize as I take in the view that those vapors fringing the rooftops couldn't be caused by the evaporation of water in the sun. For that to be, the roof would have to be heated to 100 degrees Celcius. I assume that heating roofing tar that much could be dangerous, and a quick glance at the EPA Air Toxics Website yields the following:

Roofing tar is composed largely of polycyclic organic compounds (POCs, a subgroup of PAHs (never mind)) that have melting points between about 65 and 175 degrees Celcius, depending on the tar's hardness. The benzo(a)pyrene used in roofing tar is a very nasty chemical when airborne, with concentrations of 1.1 nanograms per cubic metre considered significant, and is found to have chronic, reproductive and carcinogenic effects in concentrations of 6 ppm (80 mg/m3) or higher. Heated enough to boil water on, even if the tar were still well below its melting point, it would pose a severe and long-term health risk to people living in the area. Also, our roof clearly can't possibly be boiling hot, or we'd have more immediate problems than tar-related cancer.

So while I look at the scene my brain riffles through my Physical Geography index and realizes that the mist is actually there because our roof is colder than the air passing over it. By cooling the sun-warmed air slightly, our damp roof causes some of the airborne gaseous water to condense into drops of suspended liquid, which make up the fog swirling by my window. My handy index further reminds me that the same thing causes mist beds over lakes and blanks out mountain passes when chilled alpine air sinks down into warmer valleys. Of course, the transfer of heat from the air to the water on our roof causes some of evaporation too, but that's invisible.

Cool. Also beautiful to see after it rains on a warm day when the air is saturated, the temperature just above the condensation mark.

- - - -

Edit: Well, I wrote that a little while ago and took it down because I wanted to edit it more. And I just did. So y'all know, I kicked the ass out of my Physical Geography exam. Finally done with school! 'Till summer school starts! Temporary yay!

Thursday, April 21, 2005
I need a title for this post.

Oh, good, they've rolled out a movie about the Crusades. Sorry, a Crusades movie. Heaven forbid anyone should think that Kingdom of Heaven is meant to teach anything about the Crusades. No, much like a baseball movie focusses intently on the emotional theatrics that can be justified (or not) by the backdrop of a hard-fought series, and is minimally, if at all, concerned with conveying such salient details as the infield fly rule, so promises this historiesque comedia del'arte to be not so much about history as around it. Or in front of it. Standing, waving and doing cheap cartwheels, directly between the audience and the actual Crusades.

"I'm not fighting another holy war here," says the director, Ridley Scott, "I am trying to get across the fact that not everybody in the West is a good guy, and not all Muslims are bad."
"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

As touching as those words are, the trailer for the movie does indeed seem more than a little preoccupied with the idea of holy war. Also, casting the damned elf and surrounding him with blazing fireballs and speeches about honor and steel does little to diminish the sense that the movie wants nothing so much as to make a sensation, any damn sensation. And then there's Saladin, decked out like a Dark Lord of the Sith.

My first reaction to the concept of this movie would involve a lot of question marks and explanation points if it were to be transcribed. I wrote a post on it yesterday just after seeing the trailer, so of course it was junk and I didn't put it up. It generally turns out better if I can wait a day and see if I've calmed down at all, but I just watched the trailer again and I'm as angry as I was the first time. Thankfully I'd already articulated most of this post by then. But look at that. Honestly, look at that. It even has hacky rock music. And a giant ripoff of the Helm's Deep battle sequences. And check out the end of the trailer, when, also just like in Lord of the Rings, "they're here." Only instead of evil orcish hordes, there's Muslims. But it's all in the name of history, to show that They're not all bad and We're not all good. Plus they're filmed at a distance, so you can't see their faces.

So, you know, it's okay.

Friday, April 15, 2005
Limited Time

Here's something for you to read instead of studying. Be quick, though, since due to some publishing deal it's only online for a short stay before they de-internet it and print the book.

I wouldn't say the story points to some platonic model for writing, but if a lot more autobiographical fiction were like this, there'd be a lot more good autobiographical fiction.

(Click the picture.)

Sunday, April 10, 2005
Running Story

Twice now, in three days,
I've gone running,
   paved Broadview giving into
   a bridge, dirt path beaten
   beside steel guardrail, and the
   cul-de-sac: supermarket parking
And twice seen you, too big to be
a hawk,
wings, spread translucent at noon,
panning gold slow circles, preying above,
thrown wide, implicated, sublimated.

I bruise my lungs traversing
the distance you elide in one-tenth my time.
Bird, what injustice they do you,
with that silly German commandment:
"Be aloof."
Lufttiere, you are nothing of the kind,
watcher, mixed like a worm into
this earth.

I come to the bridge strutting that ravine,
Bridle cables, spans and rivets,
     tree river tree trail wind traffic.
Each foot dives for ground
that pushes forward, up,
I breathe,
implicated, supplanting
I cannot rest.


Quite simply, I run because I don't know how to pray. To quote Little Mike: "Stupid soccer players! Why would you run for a purpose when you could run endlessly?" I made good time today, and saw that bird again, and this came of it. I tore an old notice off of a pole ("Important meeting September 30th, 2004, in the Library - babysitting available.") as palimpsest on which to scratch the first draft, which was awful, of that poem. I don't usually have drafts, first or subsequent, but on the run back I pretty much rewrote it in my head.

Our dishes aggregate themselves on the kitchen counter, almost like coral growth, forming increasingly precarious columns. Now, to satisfy my domestic obligations, I must wash enough of them to at least knock a couple feet off the top, thereby ensuring ongoing stability.

Monday, April 04, 2005
Hit me Over the Head. Hard.

That time of year? Laid in bed all last night, seeing the walls, the sides of the bed, the white sheet I use for curtains, cast wan-bluish by what moonlight it caught, feeble sail. And I did not sleep. Acknowledging the inevitable morning, dredged myself up from the useless bedsheets to boil and strain myself a pot of coffee. Wrote my exam.

Came home. Laid down on sofa, pulled the heavy artificial-fiber blanket over myself and let it be stiflingly hot. Balled up a piece of blanket to be my pillow, and stared at the living-room wallpaper, which an obscure part of my brain said to be the color of yeast.

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