IN anticipation of a few days off after a whirlwind week, I found myself wishing for the dog days of summer.
I was thinking of a slow, sultry respite. I would lie on my screened porch with a good book and a cold drink. The book would fall from my hands and the condensation would bead on the glass as I slipped into a blissful nap.
The thought was appealing, but I decided to fact-check my notion of "dog days."
Wikipedia burst the peaceful illusion.
The phrase dates to ancient times, when people believed the hottest days of summer were caused by Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation known as Canis Major, or "large dog."
They believed late July to late August to be an evil time when "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies," according to Brady's Clavis Calendaria, 1813.
You could laugh off the beliefs of those ignorant Romans and Greeks, but just consider some of the events of this week.
Kanawha County Prosecutor Mike Plants, apparently shaken by threats made during the investigation of the 2003 sniper killings, urged potential witnesses to arm themselves with guns or ball bats.
Hordes of people stirred by controversy over gay marriage formed long lines and waited in the hot sun for chicken sandwiches.
The mayor of the biggest city in the country called on hospitals to lock up their supplies of baby formula so new mothers would be forced to breast feed.
Korean badminton players threw a game so they could draw a weaker opponent later in the Olympics.
Could these be "phrensies?"
If I can overcome my newfound fear of Sirius, I already have my good book loaded and ready to go on my Kindle. I'm well into "The Power of Habit" by New York Times writer Charles Duhigg, and I hope to wake from the nap and finish it.
After that I may dive back into "Nudge," a book with a similar theme by professors from the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School.
Both books explore the idea of using small motivations to spark big change.
Habits have the power to make things go very well or very badly. I learned this early in life.