Monday, May 10, 2010

Blame It on the Sun?

I did a decent amount of driving this weekend (though nothing like a week ago, when I notched 375 miles between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening), and, while I usually love to drive, one thing got in the way of my enjoyment, and no, it wasn't traffic or weather. (Well, OK, it was sort of weather. But read on...)

The problem? Radio reception. It was just hideously bad all weekend, especially yesterday. I'm used to a lot of static on the iPod converter whenever I go on really tall bridges or get within a few miles of downtown Dallas, but yesterday morning, it started this awful whining sound from the moment I drove south of LBJ. And it wasn't just iPod reception, either; the financial show I always listen to on the radio after church took on an otherworldly aspect this week, as the host sounded like he was talking in a computerized Stephen Hawking voice.

Needless to say, I was curious as to whether I was the only one having these problems, so I did what pretty much any red-blooded American would do nowadays: I posted a query to Facebook. And one of my old college friends gave me what's likely to be the answer: There was heavier-than-usual solar flair activity this weekend. And yes, that meant that radio was likely affected:
On May 5th, a pair of solar flares bathed Earth's upper atmosphere in X-rays and caused a double-wave of ionization to sweep over the Americas. This improved the propagation of low-frequency radio signals, which use the ionosphere as a reflector to skip over the horizon.
(Check out the cool pictures and an oh-so-brief video at the link.)

So there you go. I would've never guessed something like that, but I had the answer within a very short time. Thank you, Tom K., and thank you, Facebook.

The principal got a detention: I've been known to tweak school administrators on this blog when they make goofy professional decisions. But here's a Ft. Worth middle school assistant principal who made two really bad off-campus choices: First, she got busted for public intoxication outside a Dallas nightclub after getting in a scrap with the bouncer. Then it was discovered that, while she was trying to get into the club, she left her two small kids alone in a hotel room (all this while her husband is on active duty in Iraq). But here's the kicker: The reason the club bouncer wouldn't let her in? She wasn't in compliance with the club's dress code! (I wonder how many times she's enforced that rule at her own campus, and how little credibility she'll have in that area if she happens to get her job back.)

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