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Daywander: The Penny with the Upside-Down Date

1961 upside down.jpg

In 1961, when I was nine, our family went to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. We took a tour of the town, saw Lincoln’s tomb, and had a lot of fun together. The fair was wonderful. My father ran into Larry Fine (1902-1975) of the Three Stooges at the beer tent and bought him a drink. When we reconvened toward the end of the day (my mother had carnival-ride duty) he had a gift for me: A 1961 penny with the rare upside-down date.

It wasn’t all that rare. In fact, I got one in change at the Mickey D drive-thru this morning. Now, the poor thing has clearly spent some time in a parking lot, but you can see from the photo that the date is indeed upside-down. Well, the nine-year-old I was in 1961 certainly thought so. It took me a week or so to figure out that he was not just pulling my leg, but yanking on it so hard it squeaked. And yes, when I figured it out I thought it was funny as hell.

Today was a weird day. Last night we got almost two inches of rain. Two inches. In Phoenix. In one night. Now, on average, Phoenix gets 8″ of rain a year. So last night represented 25% of our annual rainfall. Oh–they’re predicting another 2″ tonight.

I guess this is going to be a wet-ish year. Our ash trees may survive after all.

Now, has anyone else ever heard of “heat lightning”? When we were kids, we sometimes saw lightning flashing along the horizon (or at least above the nearby houses) on hot summer evenings, with no least whisper of thunder. Nobody explained why it was called “heat lightning.” Light travels farther than sound, and heat lightning is just lightning so far away that the thunder can’t keep up with the flash.

It must be important. Heat lightning has a Wikipedia page, and I don’t. However, the Wikipedia Gawds are threatening to delete the page if some acceptable peer-reviewed studies aren’t produced immediately to provide evidence that heat lightning is real and not a hoax. Don’t you dare suggest a Primary Source. Primary Sources make the Gawds drool on the floor and then start throwing chairs. The only way to escape them with your life is to run while screaming “I’m not notable!” at the top of your lungs until you’re past chair-throwing distance.

Heh. And you think I’m kidding.


  1. Bob says:

    Looks like your area is getting flooding. About a week ago, Gila Bend to your south had major floods. I wish some of that rain would shift five or 600 miles to the west. The Frisco Bay (I do that to annoy the locals😇) area where I live is finally getting smoke from the fires. Very unpleasant. The Democrats say that the fires are due to climate change so their only solution is to shut down the California economy.

    1. We’re definitely having some flooding this year, all across the state, from Flagstaff to Tuscon, and especially in the eastern half of the state. I checked the official stats a little while ago, and Phoenix has had almost twice the rain up to today in 2021 than it got in all of 2020. Last year was a hot, dry year. This year has been cooler, and a great deal wetter. Weather changes, and weather across a few years is not climate. Temp trends are flat or only slightly elevated.

      There is an issue that I need to address here reasonably soon, about the danger of the next ice age drawing down CO2 until there isn’t enough to support photosynthesis. We came dangerously close last time. We will probably survive the next one, thanks to recent emissions. The one after that…who knows? This may be a new term in the Drake Equation, at least for planets that experience ice ages.

      I call it The Ratchet of Doom.

  2. Bob says:

    I would be interested in reading about that. Anything you can do to shed light (pun sort of intended) on a topic that is overwhelmed with politics and hysteria will help. Maybe you could also publicize fact based books on the topic. I like Stephen Koonin’s book on climate science “Unsettled”. John and Mary Gribbin have a good book about Ice Ages.

    1. I’ve read Koonin’s book and liked it. I have other books by John Gribbin, but if you can give me a title I’ll hunt this one down. I do have The Sixth Winter by John Gribbin and Douglas Orgill (1979) which is fiction, about a descending ice age, and enjoyed it too.

      The problem is that cold water soaks up more CO2 than warm water. Get the water cold enough, and the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere goes down below photosynthetic viability, which is about 150 ppm. At the depths of the last ice age CO2 content of the atmosphere dropped to 180 ppm. That’s too damned close for me.

    1. Now on its way. Should get it by Tuesday.

      People bitch about Amazon, but damn, I love their Prime program.

      Now, onlookers may wonder why I didn’t buy the ebook. Simple answer: I’ve had bad luck with nonfiction ebooks if they have significant photos, illustrations, tables, or code. I have a shelf in my library devoted to climate issues, and with my new reading glasses, fine print isn’t the barrier that it used to be.

      I was going to write an SF novel called The Gathering Ice, but damn if Gribbin didn’t do it first with The Sixth Winter. Ok, sure, mine was going to star a bunch of eccentric Neanderthals who have melted in with us as ugly humans for the last 100,000 years. I may still do it, but I have other novels to finish (and several more to begin) first.

  3. Bill Meyer says:

    Heat lightning. Growing up in southwest Michigan it was a summery fact of life. Hot, muggy, mosquito-infested evenings with a smattering of heat lightning.

    Based on my recollections, I would say that the authors of the wiki page are speculating from a lack of experience. First, they seem to imply that heat lightning is not accompanied by thunder. I do recall some thunder, but not the earth-shaking sort. Second, they suggest that the lightning in question is part of a thunderstorm (which raises another question about their notion of no thunder.)

    I think the first time I heard it called heat lightning was by my grandfather, whose record for short-term weather prediction based on observations of the moon and other things I never learned was uncannily accurate.

    Given a choice between gramp’s witness and the too often cocksure and biased WP folks, I will let you guess on which side I come down.

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