Heat. Following is a little bit of a whine. You’ll be even less sympathetic once you read the postscript, but such is life. Once the temperature gets up to a certain point, I can’t think any more. Well, not at the level needed to earn my living, if you see what I mean. Long periods of concentration start out well, but usually just turn into a nap. Not good at all, really. For the second or third day running we’ve had super hot temperatures with little movement of air to ensure a decent amount of throughput. This is not always unworkable, since one can simply nap during the day, do tasks that don’t require much sitting and thinking, and then work in the very early morning hours, but this time around there are two additional effects that ruin that approach.
The first is that the heat has been carrying on into the night (as opposed to dropping away rapidly in the evening as is the usual pattern), and the second is that there are two huge fires nearby, making the air a bit… chewy. (Left is a shot I took of downtown Los Angeles from the South showing the huge clouds of smoke from the La Canada and Altadena fires in the San Gabriels’ foothills in the background. From some views it looks like there’s been a small nuke detonated. Anyone remember 24 a few seasons ago? For some maps of the fire’s progress see here, and a view from one of the Mount Wilson observatories is here*.)
Both of these make for less than great sleeping conditions, and the feeling of lack of clear breathing the whole night results in me waking up all groggy, and with a slight headache, so even if it was nice and cool in the early morning, I’d not be up for working due to sleep deprivation. All of this would not be a problem in and of itself, since I could just focus on simple tasks that need doing (like finally organizing and synchronizing all my calendars on my home and office computers and my handheld – yay!), but the thing is I’m supposed to be finishing an article I’m writing (with another author) for Physics Today. It is due on Monday. The conditions described above mean that every time I try to work on it I fall asleep.
Not ideal, to say the least.
P.S. Ah, yes, air conditioning. I actually do have a central air conditioning system, but (as you may know from my writing about about consumption footprints and so forth) it seems to me to be wasteful to use that to cool a whole house just for me, and so I use it only when I have to, and usually manage the Summer heat using a bit of thought – keeping curtains closed at times – against the sun heating the house up, opening doors and windows to allow air to move and cool things, fitting screens on them to allow one to do that and not be eaten by mosquitoes, and so forth. But when it is extremely hot and the air is still, a lot of this does not work, so I might have to resort to shutting all windows and doors and turning on the A/C if conditions don’t change by tomorrow… [Update: It's "tomorrow" now, and the smoke, dust and ash have made it to my part of the city in significant quantities. Definitely a shut-in day!]
* Thanks Nick W.!