Fallen pods

It looks like the remnants of Spring are going away, as Summer digs in here in Israel. These pods have been falling from their trees for a couple weeks now. We had especially hot weather yesterday, and it seems to have accelerated the process. This morning, ground near these trees was covered in these dried up seed pods. I wanted to capture the scene before they’re swept away.

Rain drops in a thunderstorm

We had a somewhat unusual thunderstorm the other day. It took me back to my childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, where we frequently had Highveld thunderstorms after a hot day.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are of those storms, especially lying in bed at night listening to the rain running through the gutters above my bedroom window.

The Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud

Each Winter, Israelis are taken in by the Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud, and someone has to speak out. Today, that someone is me.

As you may (or may not) know, Winter is our rainy season (it’s literally the only time of the year when we have rain). It’s cold, wet, and I like it (mostly). Each year, Israelis are tempted by a wide variety of rain resistance devices, commonly known as “umbrellas”.

They seem like a good idea, when it’s not raining.

And each year, Israelis buy these devices in the hope that they will protect them from volumes of water falling from the sky (ie, “rain”). Unfortunately, this belief is sorely misplaced.

You see, after what feels like 9 months of summer, we Israelis forget that, when it rains, we also often have wind, the strength and determination of which rivals saftas at a gefilta fish sale, the day before Pesach. In other words, the wind can be really strong and it hits you from the side, as if out of nowhere!

Not such a good idea, in the clear light of a cloudless day … after the fact.

At that point, all your well-intentioned plans to not get wet are dashed, like leaves and small creatures swept away by the torrents of rain water down the road beside you. Inevitably, your Rain Saviour is exposed for the sham it really is, and you are forced to abandon it.

Here’s the painful truth: umbrellas are a con that we fall for every year. The only good defence against the dark, rain-bearing clouds is a decent water-resistant jacket of some description.

Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

Yes, you feel more exposed being out there with nothing to hold above your head. But let’s face it, that thin membrane supported by a fragile metal frame is a false sense of cover, at best.

At worst, it’s another fraud perpetrated by seasonal umbrella sales people, taking advantage of those of us with very short memories, and a little anxiety about this strange change in the weather from unbelievably hot and dry to cold, very wet, and jetstream windy!

There is hope. It’s not too late.

Even though Winter already seems to be thinking about heading south, we may still have some wet weather ahead.

Discard your deceptive rain protection device and embrace the rain jacket. Stand tall, stoop only to keep your face pointing away from the deluge, and duck to avoid low hanging, dripping branches.

Ride out the rain for as long as we have it. It will soon be the other season and we can forget these challenges, at least until next year when all the umbrellas go on sale again.

Featured image by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

Sanity check: “Surely you jest?”, you may ask? Yes, I do. Mostly. 😊

Why you’re not a morning person (unless you are)

As it happens, I am a morning person. Our son definitely is. My wife isn’t a morning person at all and we’re not sure whether our daughter is, yet.

Whether you are a morning person or not, it apparently has a lot to do with genetics. Brian Resnick delves into why this is the case on Vox in his article titled “Late sleepers are tired of being discriminated against. And science has their back”.

A couple of weeks ago, I reported on the science of chronobiology, which finds we all have an internal clock that keeps us on a consistent sleep and wake cycle. But the key finding is that everyone’s clock is not the same. Most people fall in the middle, preferring to sleep around 11 pm to 7 am. But many — perhaps 40 percent of the population — don’t naturally fit in this schedule.

It turns out that this is also very much a cultural issue with the expectation being that people who are not morning people are somehow slackers. I didn’t think about it in those terms, probably because I tend to function better in the mornings (at least, once I’ve taken my meds).

Watch this Vox video titled “Late sleeper? Blame your genes” that accompanies Resnick’s article, perhaps with coffee while you wake up.

On a related note, it also turns out that so-called “coffee naps” are great ways to recharge during the day. I tend to nap for around 20 minutes and will do that if I have an opportunity because it works well for me.

Apparently, a cup of coffee right before a 20 minute nap could be just the thing you need to recharge and return to a much more productive state. According to Vox:

It’s counterintuitive, but scientists agree that drinking coffee before napping will give you a stronger boost of energy than either coffee or napping alone. To understand a coffee nap, you have to understand how caffeine affects you. After it’s absorbed through your small intestine and passes into your bloodstream, it crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors that are normally filled by a similarly shaped molecule called adenosine. Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired. But with the caffeine blocking the receptors, it’s unable to do so. Here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. So if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have less adenosine to compete with, and will thereby be even more effective in making you alert.

So, if you’re ever accused of being lazy or slacking off because you’re not a morning person or because you just want to have a quick nap and recharge, there is a body of science backing you up!

If you’re curious, also watch “How does caffeine keep us awake?“.

Image credit: Hernan Sanchez

Our home on a cloudy day in May 1969

May 18, 1969 - Apollo 10 View of the Earth
A view of Earth from 36,000 nautical miles away as photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey toward the moon. While the Yucatan Peninsula is obscured by clouds, nearly all of Mexico north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec can be clearly delineated. Image Credit: NASA

One of the many things I like about having a Chromecast is seeing images like this beautiful photograph of our home planet on a cloudy day in May 1969, courtesy of NASA’s Image of the Day initiative.

Source: NASA