Saturday’s the Summer Solstice: Five signs we’ve reached (another) Houston summer

Saturday’s the official beginning of summer! The day with the most sunlight (in the northern hemisphere), we’re now in the time of short shorts, trips to the beach, ice cream and vacations (and our Mixers & Elixirs Summer Solstice Party).

But summer in Houston is unique. We certainly know how to have a good time, but the weather doesn’t always make that easy. Here are five signs that we’ve reached summer in Houston:

YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SWIMMING (WITHOUT THE REFRESHING PART)

The humidity in Houston is nothing to scoff at. Seriously. Stepping outside now feels like stepping into a hot mouth — or like you’re swimming, except you’re overheating.


AIR CONDITIONING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE

Seriously, try and stay cool folks. Heat stroke is a real problem for Houstonians, especially for those on the younger or older ends of the age spectrum from June until August. Here are some helpful tips to keep cool.

YOUR ELECTRIC BILL HAS DOUBLED IN THE LAST MONTH

Again, AIR CONDITIONING = LIFE. However, this means your electric bill will almost certainly be the highest it’s been all year, especially if you’re using window units. Here are a few ways to be more efficient and lessen the impact

FORGETTING YOUR SUNGLASSES IS THE WORST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN

We’re no strangers to sunlight, but it just. gets. so. intense. Keep an extra pair in your car (you’ll be glad that first time you forget). Besides being able to see on the road, you’ll want them on whenever you’re outside to help fight against skin cancer, cataracts and macular degeneration

SLEEVES AND PANTS ARE NOW THE ENEMY

It’s just too hot to wear any more clothing than you need to remain decent in public. Besides, sweating is your natural way to keep cool. Don’t let fabric get in between you and comfort.

Now for some sweet relief: you can always come visit us and enjoy our cool exhibits away from the summer sun! So what are you waiting for?! 

And of course, you can beat the heat with Mixers & Elixirs this Saturday, June 21 at our Summer Solstice Party. Because when the Houston heat and HMNS coolness come together, things are bound to get steamy — the good kind.

Nature’s Smaller Creatures

The bulk of our summer field season is over, which means the real work of dealing with the fossils we found begins. Part of that is making sense of the 1000 or so photographs on the computer- sorting by person, place, thing, animal, vegetable and mineral, as well as the good, the bad and the ugly.  This sorting process has also spawned other categories such as “NSG,” (“not so good”),”NSB,”(“not so bad”), not to be confused with the worrisome, “NBS,” ( “Nocturnal Bigfoot Shot”) folder, where you’re not sure what you photographed or why. A cool-ish artsy one in this category turned out to be the lettering on the inside of the lens cap. There is also the “SFB” (“Suitable for black mail”) or “PUF” (“Particularly unflattering”) category-  I keep those in a folder labeled “Machine Parts” so that no one will stumble across them. However, I will have to rename the folder now, since I just told you all.

Working the Craddock has many rewards and being close to nature is a big one. Baylor County has some great photo opportunities. As a paleontologist you spend most of your time with head bent and eyes focused on the ground, which gives you great opportunities to encounter the smaller creatures in nature. This post focuses on two of my favorites: the dung beetles and, for Rebecca, my lizard loving Alabama cousin, a uniquely American creature- and also the Texas State Reptile, Phrynosoma cornutum - the Texas Horned Lizard.
 
This lizard was once a common site all over the state of Texas (including Houston) but development, pesticides, and fire ants have it in retreat. During this field season at the Craddock we had nearly a dozen sightings in just two weeks.

The dung beetles are interesting because of their position in nature burying manure. They are remarkable in their skill and speed, quarrying out sizeable hunks and then rolling it to a suitable spot for burial. They are not above stealing the work of their fellows and in one case double dipping;  that is creating one ball, rolling it a distance from the mound, and then going back for another. Something few of us would be tempted to do. As a paleo guy I also like them because they are very ancient; their relatives were disposing of dinosaur poop, the family business has remained unchanged for millions of years- giving a deeper meaning to the phrase (put politely) same stuff, different day.
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