Thursday, July 23, 2009

Strange Photos and Sundials (Fotografie Bizzaro e Orologi del Sole)

My camera phone saw a few strange things today. An experimental street light at the Dallas Museum of Art's sculpture garden... Maybe they didn't think it all the way through.

On the way to work, I saw a horse getting hauled off to jail after obviously being arrested. I wonder what it did? It looked very guilty.

My elevator on the 48th floor was having all 660 feet of cable replaced because the old ones were fraying and about to snap (kidding, they were reclaiming the much more valuable copper, I think). Maybe I'll run down the stairs this afternoon instead of taking the elevator (stairs actually take 6 minutes and 30 seconds).

Over by Southfork Ranch, someone left a few stacks of gigantic number 2 pencils, they must have forgotten the sharpener.

Sunlight streamed in this morning and hit my muse bust in exactly the right proportions to make it light up as if intentional. This made me think of how that actually probably only happens exactly right once every year. Kind of like the Office episode where all the characters are watching the screen saver to bounce in *exactly* one of the corners in pure diagonal movement.

And this is the roundabout way of getting to the subject of time in the ancient world. In antiquity there were a few obvious ways of telling time better than looking up and just observing the sun's location.

One way was to burn accurate candles. In order for it to be big enough for a whole city to see, can you imagine the Roman equivalent of Big Ben being replaced each day? But it would probably be nothing but trouble, since Roman candles shoot firey exploding balls all over the place.

Another way to tell time which had been around for a while was the water clock. But its operation was somewhat sketchy in freezing weather, plus they didn't have electric pumps to refill the water all the time.

The sundials however, were accurate on most sunny days. They even used the sundials to calibrate the water clocks. So maybe it was sundial during the day waterclock at night? Plus, the sundials were portable. Imagine glancing down at this baby on your way to an important business meeting on the Palantine (Collis Palatium).

I might just be motivated enough to build me a proper sundial that throws down shadows and also points out mosaic months of the year. You know, in case my water clock goes dry. Ooops, its a shade past time to go...


  1. I keep meaning to do a piece of jewelry with a sundial element to it but I haven't quite settled on a design.

  2. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    You know, you are half-past-crazy so a sundial would only confirm things. :) But in my world crazy is a really, really good thing.

  3. Now I understand why Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome launched the “Day & Night” watch (a $300,000 watch) last year.

    The watch won’t tell you what time it is. But it does tell you whether it’s day or night. I first thought Swiss was crazy but now I get that they are just trying to make a replica of the sundials :) But like the sundails and the water clocks, these watches are only for the rich.

    I really hope someone bails the horse out :)

    6 minutes and 30 seconds???!!!!! Do you, like Popeye, eat spinach every day or something?

  4. "In antiquity there were a few obvious ways of telling time better than looking up and just observing the sun's location."

    You missed out the digital wrist watch or cellphone, especially as then, like now, checking a cellphone for the time quickly became the favourite method over the wearing of wrist watches.

  5. I was visiting my friend at the hospital the other day when saw a horse trotting along merrily to the X-ray room. It was obviously accompanied by its vet. Seems like horses are the new chimps now: stepping up a notch on the closer to human status ;)

  6. They might not have had electric motors back in the day, but they did have aquarii to haul water and refill them.

  7. Oh, and you forgot about the developments in portable timekeeping given to the world by Alexander the Great.

    In order to know how long he had been marching with this soldiers, the Greek scientists of the day developed a chemical mixture that they would dip strips of cloth into. As the cloth dried out, it would change colors. Every morning before the army set forth from their camp, the cloths were redipped in the solution. From the color of the cloth, one would be able to tell how many hours from daybreak they were and could thus tell the time. For simplicity sake, these rags were worn around the wrist so that a soldier could look down at his wrist and tell how long they had been on the march and sergeants and generals could call a halt so that the soldiers could rest.

    It helped lead to the development of a functional wristwatch some several centuries later. This early prototype was known as "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

  8. You work at the Spool Hut? Rad!

    also - who allowed that superhairy wrist to model watches? FIRE THAT AGENCY!

  9. It wouldn't matter what method I used to tell time...I'd still be late to everything. That's completely relevant.

    48th floor? Stairs? HELLO hell.

  10. Silly Eric, everyone knows that horses are angry, rowdy drunks.

    ; )

  11. WendyB
    That sounds intriguing, seems like a watch or neckace might work? I kind of envision a lady wearing a flat beret-ish hat with one on top.

    Vegetable Assassin
    :) I'll have to make you a sundial. They work up in Canada, right? Do you have to adjust for latitude?

    Dutch Donut Girl
    I will never understand a $300k watch, sure $30k, but not $300k.
    For fun, some of us would run down the stairs after work to see how fast we could evacuate off of 48 floors. So then it gradually moved to a
    workout thing where you run down ten, up three, down ten, up four, etc...

    You are right, I barely remember what a wristwatch actually looks like.

    A horse in a human hospital??? Wow...
    'I need to see a man about a horse' said the Doctor.

    Thanks! I had not heard about the rag strip thing about Alexander's army. I'll have to get one of those.

    It has been the Spool Hut for a few days now. Just a little bit nerve-wracking to take the elevator these days.
    I agree, I cringed when I saw the prolific amount of arm hair and almost didn't post the picture, but hey, it was a neat-o looking sundial watch. So, I had to.

    I'm always early, so we would totally miss each other if we were supposed to meet.
    The stairs aren't all that bad, except if you haven't gone down (the stairs) for a while, you will definitely feel it the next day.

    Soda and Candy
    They are I think... Always cutely whinnying and carrying on and such...

  12. I would wear that sundial watch!

    Does it adjust for daylight savings time?

    Lol@the wood for the pencils!

  13. I think the sundial watch could really be the next big thing, Eric, especially in view of your excellent write-up. I'd totally wear one of those, if for no other reason than to ditch my standard silly response to those who ask me the time when I'm clearly not wearing a watch: "It's a hair past a freckle."

    Those clever Classical folk thought of everything, didn't they?

  14. Mr. C,
    Hah! Daylight savings... That picture looks photoshopped because of the way the sun hit the pipes, but it is real. I wanted to go over there and put pink spraypainted cardboard on the ends like erasers to see how long it would take for people to notice.

    Girl with the Pink Teacup,
    Yeah, those are neat. I think classical people had lots of time to invent since there was no satellite television.

  15. I love that photo of the beautifully lit bust. I think we'd be much better off if we all used sundials. And who invented this minute business anyway? We think the internet changed everything so much - how about urban lighting? And I hope the horse got sprung :)

  16. The horse is essentially a stripeless Zebra, which proves its guilt. There is no such thing as an innocent zebra. They fart and run, both like the wind.

  17. The pencil comment was really funny, and arrested horses? Excellent! Made my night.

  18. I loved that episode of the office! Still contemplating what that horse could've done to receive such treatment...bucked the system I think.

  19. Margo,
    You are completely right, we all need to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in Florence, who cares about minutes?
    ps - I have it on good authority that the horse was busted for eating grass... lol

    Gorilla Bananas,
    That is a good point. Someday, I'd like to see a zebra rodeo. I wonder if there was ever a medieval knight that used a zebra. You know, to mess with the opponent?

    Millennium Housewife,
    Thanks, and thanks for stopping by!

    Nikki, :)
    I love all of the Office episodes, the entire cast and crew, and especially the writers. So. Great.
    lol, bucked the system... or maybe disorderly horseplay?

  20. All I've ever wanted in life was a giant pencil.

    I could get so much more writing done.

  21. I've been gone for a few days, so pardon the late reply to your comment:

    Not only do I get warnings about my blog content, but you also feel the need to clarify the "going down" in a sentence. Like I'm some kind of pervert or something. Shame. ;)

  22. A giant handy. But really, those Romans had it down..I mean who doesnt love fiery exploding balls? Thanks for the vivid imagery. LOL.

  23. Lopez,
    At some point, isn't the pencil too big?

    Pardon my late response, I didn't see these here until now. On the clarification, I just know you have a twisted sense of humor.

    Thanks for stopping by, and yes, imagery is my thing... :)