Dog days of summer

Up in the trees, the male cicadas seem to relish the increasing summer heat this time of year and quickly contract and relax their internal timbal muscles causing their timbals to emit a sustained, resonating clicking sound that attracts female cicadas.  Most cicadas have a life-cycle of two to five years, but some, such as the Magicicada, have a 17-year cycle and, with a combination of a long-life cycle and periodicity, are sometimes called 17-year cicadas.  Cicadas live underground most of their lives, but eventually tunnel to the surface and molt (see one shedding its skin here).  The Golden Cicada in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West, illustrates the belief that transformations in life can lead to enlightenment and immortality.dsc_0010-cereus-vertical-night-sky.jpgSo we are now in the dog days of summer, the hottest, most sultry days of summer, usually between early July and early September.  The ancient Romans called these days Caniculares dies (days of the dogs) after the “Dog Star”, Sirius, which is in the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest star in the sky besides our Sun.  The ancient Romans noticed that in their summers Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun and they thought that their combined heat caused this stretch of hot, humid weather.  The ancient Egyptians noted the peak of their seasonal flooding of the Nile River occurred after the heliacal rising of Sirius, which became their “watchdog” for this event. Some people believe that this is an evil time when dogs become mad and men hysterical.  Politics fray and town hall meetings become raucous.  This is the season when hurricanes churn, wildfires rage, dragonflies swarm, and spiders grow and proliferate.  Others see it as a time when dogs lie lazily about and ants accelerate their march in search of food and water.Indeed, while I was researching this and more on my MacBook Pro laptop computer, I noticed an Argentine ant walking across the beach scene of my computer’s wallpaper. (See CNN News article, “Are ant invaders taking over San Diego?“)  While unsuccessfully brushing it off with my hand, I noticed that this ant was actually inside my computer’s display panel.  I tried to ignore its random explorations back and forth on the beach in hopes that it would just find its way out for some water, food or fresh air.  But when it became apparent that the ant preferred to stay on my beach, I became concerned that it would eventually die there, and become an eyesore and a permanent distraction.dsc_0125-ant-on-dock-macbook-pro.jpgI then noticed that the ant became very interested in my computer’s cursor (in the form of an arrow) which I moved about with the computer’s mouse.  The ant must have thought that the image of the cursor arrow looked like another ant and when I brought the arrow near the ant it followed the cursor as if it were following a brother ant and I was able to use my mouse to lead this ant safely off the beach onto my dock where I put my finger down on the subject.  Better to stabilize it on the dock at the bottom of the screen than risk having it litter the beach, I thought. Everyone was amused during my next Apple one-to-one session and they suggested that I show it to the Apple Genius Bar.  They laughed and took pictures of it with their iPod camera and, to head off any long-term consequences of an ant deteriorating in the computer, they authorized a replacement of the display panel under warranty (Apple lived up to its great customer service!)Most of my dog days of summer, however, were spent as the third alternate juror in a gang-related murder case.  I was never actually called upon to deliberate the defender’s fate, but I did find the case fascinating and probably equivalent to a Gangs 101 college level course.  I learned what criminal gangs do (criminal acts), how they recruit (give marijuana-laced cigars [“blunts“] to young teenagers), and how gang members increase their gang-standing (commit more criminal acts).  I learned about gang culture, clothing, colors, symbols, tattoos, graffiti, hand signs, and music (Gangsta rap).I learned how police fight gang-related crime (document gang members using field interview reports, arrest gang members, interview witnesses, and collect and process evidence).  Forensic evidence, such as DNA, GSR (gunshot residue), fingerprints, and ballistics, is playing an increasingly important role in criminal justice.  A career in forensic science offers an exciting combination of science and law studies.  Forensic science is now playing a major role in helping jurors decide on a guilty-beyond-reasonable-doubt verdict or a not guilty verdict.  The Deputy District Attorney (see him prepare and present another San Diego case) instructed us jurors about the felony-murder theory (besides the actual perpetrator, all conspirators present in aiding and abetting a murder may be prosecuted for mu
rder).The trial ended earlier this month and the defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder. It was delayed by another prisoner in the county jail contracting Swine Flu, which resulted in a 10-day medical lockdown of prisoners (who could then not meet with their lawyers or attend court).  (As of August 12, 2009, there have been 1,005 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in San Diego County, including 16 deaths.)  During the many trial breaks, I was able to finish one of the books, True at First Light, written by Ernest Hemingway when he returned from Kenya in 1953, seen on our patio table in my “Stepping into summer” article.The Nightblooming cereus seen above and below were blooming on a full moon night earlier this summer.dsc_0012-nightblooming-cereus.jpgRecent cool breezes in San Diego have made these dog days of summer more tolerable, at least for the moment.  So now that my ant problem has been resolved and the jury case concluded, things are looking up…dsc_0220-bird-of-paradise.jpgand I can relax and listen to “Dog Gone Day’s 2009” music, while contemplating our next Airstream trip.