Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More from Friday's Sunset (and a Recap of the Past Week)

Here's a followup post with some more shots from Friday evening's sunset.

Having been spared the full force of winter for most of June - which was unseasonably warm and spring-like, with temperatures in the mid-teens 14-17 deg C and sun during daylight hours on most days - winter arrived full-force last week baring its teeth.

Monday was nice and fine, with warm sunshine (it was ~18 deg C IIRC), and barely any clouds. I suppose that made it a bit easier getting out of bed that morning to drive dad off to the airport for a short flying visit to a conference - admittedly the first time I'd seen the morning sun in several months XD. Then again, that was more than compensated for by a Hotcakes "Hunger Buster" at the new-ish McD's just outside the airport, which was complete with all my favourites - pancakes, butter, hash browns, hot chocolate (Note: I gave up coffee about a year ago, after weaning myself off it in the 2 weeks following having my wisdom teeth taken out on June 4th - it wasn't doing much to aid my productivity, and had actually been making things worse as I'd end up too jittery and scatterbrained sitting down first thing in the morning which just fuelled a bit too much procrastination taking place), and muffins with strawberry jam.

The bad weather forecast to arrive on Tuesday held off for most of the day, bar the few drops of rain that fell on the windscreen on the way back from the airport that evening. But on Wednesday, we really got it, with a chilly temperature drop down to 5-7 degrees for most of the day (and into the negatives overnight).

Thursday not much warmer, though the sun did come out, which meant it wasn't so bad heading back to the department to hear our retiring Algorithms Professor giving his retirement seminar (the room was packed out, with many people bringing in wheelie chairs from nearby offices and/or sitting on tables which weren't meant for several people to sit on). It was interesting listening to him talking about the way things used to be in the earliest days of computing (i.e. machines breaking down once a month at least and taking a while to get fixed, working with code/data on colour coded tapes which they sometimes used as confetti for parties when its job was done), while the latter parts of his talk reminded me of why I prefer not to get too involved in "serious" algorithm design (aka hard/abstract CS) work anymore (i.e. it all makes sense, but only just, if you focus hard enough for long enough, entering a zen-like trance state where you're almost levitating off the ground surrounded by misty water vapour, letting the whir of fans fade away into the distance... yeah, it's tiring to do it if you manage to get into that state, but most of the time, it just leaves you feeling rather dumb :/)

Perhaps my only comment from the day was that IMO, it felt rude + somewhat disrespectful that coming up to the 50 minute mark, the dept. seminars organiser/chair (one of the "junior" academic staff btw) prodded him (albeit, slightly tentatively) that it was coming up to an hour and that he'd need to stop. Now, seeing as the retiring Professor had actually prepared what seemed to be at least double the amount of material he managed to get through during the talk (judging by the blizzard of slides which he ended up quickly flicking/skipping through on screen at that point),the fact that the room being used wasn't actually booked for any other events that day (heck, it's the semester break at the moment, so there aren't any classes going on, especially not in a room in our department's own building), and that the circumstances of the talk were somewhat different from a run-of-the-mill session IMO, I am personally not terribly comfortable with the way things transpired that day. IMO, there were other (perfectly reasonable) alternatives which could/have been taken instead at that point if really necessary. </end rant>

Anyways, by Friday, the temperatures were still rather chilly for most of the day, though it did get warm enough in the afternoon to at least walk around in the garden for a while (at least in the sun) without freezing like an iceblock. Oh, and I finally got around to filing that pesky tax return on Friday (gah! Tax! Bureaucracy! Form Filling! Blegh! Pages of irrelevant jargon about "imputation credits", "Maori credits", "backdated expenses", and other mythical made up things the tax reapers like to busy themselves with), though the walk to find a working postbox wearing the wrong pair of shoes - shoes which are fine for gardening, but apparently not for walking long distances on pavements at a decent speed - left me with sore shins for the rest of the weekend. Damn.


Gazing out my window as the clock approached 5 (Note: "gold glow" for sunsets during winter are around that time, starting about 5-10 minutes earlier, with "red glow" about 10-past, and purple afterglows about 5 minutes later), I saw that the sunset was shaping up promisingly. There was a bit of a partial nor'west arch over the sky, with some of those "folds" (like a layered duvet piled on top of itself) low in the sky. After watching it for a bit longer, I decided to head out to catch some better shots of it than I'd get from inside.

Looking north-west, about halfway through the display - There were the bands of horizontal cloud, with lumpier stuff fading off into the night sky above.

Perhaps my favourite part of this evening's sunset was how there was some complex wispy detail going on (as seen in these zoomed-in shots), especially with the nice rich colours that were going on there at the same time:

Things looked even more spectacular (or perhaps, richer is the word to use) as the "red glow" set in. By that stage, it was starting to get quite chilly standing out there, so I ended up putting on my gloves too. Good thing that Canon's professional grade DSLR's are designed, built, and tested to work for people out in the field in varying conditions, including wearing gloves and other things!

There's something nice, warm, and fuzzy looking with the clouds in the above shots, with the red tints adding a slightly ominous oomph in places.

And finally, as the light fades, you start getting blue-casts to the undersides of the clouds, giving a pretty red-blue contrast which is quite sharp. Around this time, I noticed a strange effect where walking backwards actually increased the feeling of how looming and "big" the cloudscapes were, whereas walking closer to try to get a cleaner "sweep" (without other distractions) would actually diminish them.

The last shot also points out another interesting part of Friday's sunset: There were several types of cloud forms present. The first few here were taken by zooming in while looking north, towards the lower-right part of the main cloud formation. Some of these look a bit like rashes of bacon, eh?

There were also the "duvet folds" I mentioned earlier (Note: the effect was stronger from a distance):

And a final closing shot - one of the few vertical slices I took...

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