Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Umbral shadow

Who uses it: Astronomers
What it means: The shadow the moon casts on the earth during a solar eclipse, which blocks the sun.
How you can use it: Today, if you live anywhere from West Africa to Turkey.

Since umbra is the Latin word for shadow, this term strikes me as a little Pee-wee Hermanish -- "Mmm, shadowy!" -- but I am not an astronomer, so I bow to specialized knowledge.

We had a solar eclipse in northern Virginia when I was very young, and Mom told Kathy and me that we had to be inside by 3:00 in the afternoon. From that, I got the idea that the eclipse would frizzle us if we were outside, or that monsters might walk the streets in the unnatural darkness. (Even as a child, I was good at the worst-case scenario.)

Mom dismissed the idea of eclipse monsters, but said we might burn out our retinas if we were outside during the eclipse -- and so I replaced the idea of monsters with the idea of smoking black holes where my eyes used to be, because how was I supposed to know what a retina was? I was five. Or maybe six.

Anyway, Ashton's mother, Penny, is in Turkey today, seeing the eclipse, and I hope she is well protected from both eclipse monsters and retinal burns.

The Onion's A.V. Club seems to have discontinued its "Five Random Songs from Your iPod Shuffle" feature -- although this week's issue has an interview with the Beastie Boys, which fills me with joy, because they're older than I am. Since they've let me down, here were the first five songs on my Shuffle this morning.

Cat Stevens, “Sitting.” Come on, who doesn’t like Cat Stevens? Admit it. You know you do.

Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Wow, it’s a ‘70s party this morning. One of the all-time great bad-love songs. “I know-I know-I know-I know-I knoooooow I ought to leave the young thing alone, but ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…”

Big Head Todd & the Monsters, “Tower.” A lot of BHTM sounds alike to me, though it’s a sound I like. This song is a nice mix of alt-rock and funk.

Rosanne Cash, “Radio Operator.” Black Cadillac is the best album I’ve heard so far this year, and some of the songs are so powerful I can hardly listen to them.

The Connells, “Hey Wow.” A great, catchy, happy pop tune about (I think) being in a mental hospital. I love this song.

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