Plus, when else but the day after a time change can you buy hours at 50% off?


Look, believe me, fourteen change.org petitions in my e-mail every single stupid day, I have heard your arguments for abolition. But if we got rid of Daylight Saving Time how would we know with certainty which clocks in the house we in fact never use? Hm? Give me an answer to that and then we can talk.

Statistics Saturday: Top 58 Minutes Of The Skipped Daylight Saving Time Hour


  1. 2:57 am
  2. 2:32 am
  3. 2:58 am
  4. 2:19 am
  5. 2:36 am
  6. 2:18 am
  7. 2:55 am
  8. 2:46 am
  9. 2:39 am
  10. 2:33 am
  11. 2:01 am
  12. 2:41 am
  13. 2:00 am
  14. 2:22 am
  15. 2:49 am
  16. 2:04 am
  17. 2:59 am
  18. 2:20 am
  19. 2:24 am
  20. 2:17 am
  21. 2:34 am
  22. 2:14 am
  23. 2:45 am
  24. 2:52 am
  25. 2:43 am
  26. 2:48 am
  27. 2:21 am
  28. 2:38 am
  29. 2:08 am
  30. 2:06 am
  31. 2:25 am
  32. 2:50 am
  33. 2:51 am
  34. 2:30 am
  35. 2:40 am
  36. 2:53 am
  37. 2:28 am
  38. 2:27 am
  39. 2:15 am
  40. 2:09 am
  41. 2:03 am
  42. 2:54 am
  43. 2:11 am
  44. 2:37 am
  45. 2:31 am
  46. 2:05 am
  47. 2:56 am
  48. 2:23 am
  49. 2:02 am
  50. 2:16 am
  51. 2:07 am
  52. 2:35 am
  53. 2:10 am
  54. 2:29 am
  55. 2:42 am
  56. 2:13 am
  57. 2:12 am
  58. 2:26 am

Reference: The Odyssey File, Arthur C Clarke and Peter Hyams.

Selections from the October Catalogue


Emotion-Sensitive Switches. It’s fine having the lights come on or go out depending on whether the room is moving. But what if you want the lights to stay on even when you’re just puttering around in place? Or you want the lights to go out because it’s really important to be sneaking up on the cat? Emotion-Sensitive Switches allow for electric control tuned to various moods, including: cheer, frustration, the nagging sensation you left the car trunk open, overwhelmedness, feeling just how much butter is “too much” butter, and the joy of finding a twenty-dollar bill you forgot existed.

Contact Information. If we know anything about the recent system update, it’s that it has made something worse. Not a major thing. Some tiny, little thing you didn’t even realize used to happen until now it doesn’t. Somebody decided to change that. Someone broke that. For a reasonable fee, you can find out who! And how to get in touch with them! And when to show up at their home to get an explanation. (Author’s note: I’ve already ordered this, selecting for me the person who decided that when I paste a URL in Safari’s address bar and hit return, the web browser reloads the previous page and deletes the URL I just posted in. That’s such an innovative way to just screw things up!)

Dog Flume Ride. This exciting amusement park ride comes home to you, in form convenient to assemble requiring no more than ordinary personal welding equipment. It’s worth it as you settle into the car, float your way forward to the lift hill, and at the top are set upon by a pack of enthusiastic Labrador retrievers and licked all over. Also available in golden retriever, water spaniel, mastiff, were-poodle, and non-vampire beagle.

New Roman Numerals. The Roman system of using popular letters for numbers and having rules about adding and maybe sometimes subtracting them was fun, but it doesn’t begin to handle all the complexities of mathematics since the discovery of multiple-entry bookkeeping. With highly original numerals we can handle digits the Romans never dreamed of, like 75,000, as well as negative numbers, decimals, and transfinite quantities. Finally the Praetor can work on his MA!

Inaccurate Lyrics. What’s more annoying than finding a tune stuck in your head? Not being able to get it out, certainly, but another annoying thing is not knowing what the lyrics to your song are. This leaves an unresolved, semi-complete tune wending its way hopelessly through your mind drowning out all thought. Thus the solution: given the tune, get lyrics that have nothing to do with the original song but will surely match well enough that you can’t get the tune or the new lyrics out again. This will help you more rapidly go mad. It’s also a particularly efficient way to lose the friendship of people who really know and love the song.

Special, Improved Hours. Nobody gets enough sleep anymore, not since the exciting example set by Napoleon Bonaparte, for whom it got him exiled to a desolate island in the South Atlantic Ocean. If you want to avoid that fate you’ll need to cut back your policy of invading every European nation real and imaginary, yes, but you’ll also need more time to sleep. Yet it’s almost impossible to find more hours for sleeping. The solution? Hours with more minutes in them. You may only be able to sleep from 1 am to 6 am, but if each of those hours has upwards of a hundred minutes in it, isn’t that just as good as sleeping over eight hours a day? Sure it is. Don’t worry about what happens to the seconds. Warning: do not get up in the middle of the night to pee.

Self-Propelled Halloween Countdown Calendar. It’s great tracking how long we have until Halloween sets in. But isn’t it better to have the holiday track itself down? Thus this calendar, which will zip around the house letting you know how many days it is until the end of October. Go ahead and try to catch it! Also available in Thanksgiving, Easter, and New Jersey Big Sea Day editions.

Eight Things There Are To Say About Mealtimes


Mealtime. It’s a great-sounding word. It pairs together two great syllables. Well, the first syllable is great. The second syllable is that thing that reminds us we should have got this all done before. Still, “mealtime” together? That’s some nice stuff. Even better if the stuff includes, like, a gravy of some kind. Less good if the mealtime includes one of those Very Internet Persons who wants to argue about whether chili is a sandwich or hot dogs are soup.

How much do we really know about mealtimes? Not as much as we could, surely. The average person knows only about 95% of everything they might care to know about mealtimes. This could be improved, one way or another.

Mealtimes may seem like traditions fixed since time immemorial. It turns out that “time immemorial” usually means something a lot closer to 1956 than people admit. Also it’s not so much “fixed” as it is “it would make someone else’s life easier if we tried a little harder”. That person also deserves a lunch sometime they could predict.

Still, meals have been a lot more flexible in their scheduling and content than we realize. This until we notice that we’ve been “a couple minutes late” on dinner every day for the last six years. Also that by “a couple minutes” we mean 95 minutes. Also that by dinner we mean “two items taken, at random, from the freezer and heated up”. This most recently included a chunk of orange juice concentrate dating to the 2008 Financial Crisis. That usually makes people aware of what they’re doing with mealtimes, momentarily.

Still, there are common patterns in the times of meals. Dinner, for example, used to be a midday meal, had somewhere around noon. This shifted in the early 19th century, when the busy residents of New York City found it was too much bother to get home at that hour. Dinner moved first to 2 pm, then to about 8 pm, then back to 6 pm. In 1934 it moved back to 11:30 am the next day. This had the neat side effect of ending the half-day of work on Saturdays, since otherwise Saturday dinner would interrupt Sunday brunch. And thus the modern weekend was born.

Dinner kept moving later and later, though, and people reasonably got fed up having to wait so long. Oh, that exciting day in 1955, though, when the whole population started to say, “you know, I am fed up with waiting for dinner” and then heard themselves say that out loud. So they started having a quick, supper-like meal, eaten at dinnertime. Dinner as we originally knew it faded away, except for historical reenactments. It’s currently estimated to be around 3:35 pm, two days after.

Lunch has often been around noon. The trick is when noon happens. Yes, we think of noon as being at that 12:00 that has a morning just before it. But that’s just the chance result of the French Revolutionary Calendar. What noon is supposed to be is “nine”. This is not necessarily nine in the morning, nor in the evening. It’s supposed to be nine hours past the moment that’s nine hours before noon. How that ended up at 12:00 remains a mystery. Anyway I usually eat lunch late myself.

Breakfast is an interesting meal to time. In the old days, sure, people were fasting all the time. It added some panache to the famine going on. But even when food was plentiful there were problems. You could see, for example, religious prohibitions against eating meat on Fridays or Tuesdays. Or against eating milk on unseasonably warm days. Against eating eggs that haven’t been kept in a pot of water. Against eating things with the letter “r” in them before the Apocalypse. The trouble with finding a thing to eat was resolved in the 13th century, when a series of church councils came around to the idea that when the letter “r” appears in “breakfast” it is serving as a kind of devotional bread. Happily these councils got the matters settled first thing in the morning, first day of the meeting. And so we have breakfast right at the start of the day.

Will there be new mealtimes yet invented? It’s hard to say. Most of us have settled into a modern pattern where we kind of keep grabbing small things and ingesting them. And we don’t have any time to do anything properly anymore. But what if research projects to inject new hours into the day, such as the experimental R o’clock, works? We might get something good yet.

How Time Works And What You Can Do About That


Over twelve percent of the population has noticed this phenomenon. You suddenly turn your eyes to pay attention to clock of some kind. Preferably one one of those fancy non-invisible clocks. The important thing is it shows time to the second. And the clock takes its sweet time getting around to advancing that second. It can take as much as a half minute to start, and then it goes puttering on at about one second per second. But flick your eyes away and back and you can have it go back to not moving.

So what’s going on here? And what’s with the people who aren’t always checking that their clocks are counting out seconds? Do they not worry about their clocks getting lazy? Do they not worry their clocks are just wrong when nobody’s looking at them? Do they figure it’s all right for clocks to slack off? Would you slack off if you were a clock? I have no idea how to get from this point to where I meant to go. Give me a second. This could take as many as eighteen minutes.

OK, I think I’ve got it now. Consider something else that we’ve all done. You go to Wikipedia to look up germanium. A couple seconds pass. You’re reading about Saul Wahl, who may have been King of Poland for the 18th of August, 1587. The important thing is after this you look up and it’s twelve days later. You’ve missed, like, four Kings of Poland, three Hapsburg Emperors, and the odd Apostolic King of Hungary. How did all that much time pass without your noticing even a little bit?

Consider another phenomenon. Remember as a child being able to finish watching the cartoons at 9 am, then spend about eight hours on experiments like lying on the floor trying to breathe so that a tennis ball rolls out of and back into your belly button before a sibling comes over and sits on your face? And when you were done with that it was still fifteen minutes until Password Plus started at 10 am?

Here we get to the structure of time. The only real way to know time has passed is to see that something’s changed. Like, the clock’s rolled over some seconds. Wikipedia doesn’t have any clocks on it. Web pages don’t, usually. There was a time in about 1996 when web site designers discovered Javascript. This let them turn a boring lifeless web page into one that loaded slowly, tried to put up a clock, and then crashed. Now we don’t try having a clock at all, and when you look at a web site and then look back up again there’s no guessing how long it’s been. It could have been ten seconds. It could have been since 2012.

And think of being a kid. Back then you didn’t have a clock. All you had was the inaccurate clock on you parents’ car dashboard. This is why you had the greatest accumulation of time when you were being driven somewhere. If you did have a clock it’s because you were one of those freak kids who was really really really into clocks. You had a watch that you had to wind, because that made it even more clock, and you forgot to wind it after three days. Which was fine because it had that little panel that showed the day of the month, from 1 to 31. You couldn’t imagine how it would handle the problem of February. No one has ever found out.

So what practical applications does this have? Well, for one, it means that if someone asks you to do something for just a couple seconds? If you don’t have your eye on some kind of timepiece, then there is no guessing how much time their project will consume. It might be half a second. It might be a four-year expedition that takes you to a foreign planet such as Mars. More often it’s having a meeting about coffee mug policy. But if you keep your eye on a timepiece and are clear about when a “couple seconds” have passed, you won’t have such unpredictable demands on your schedule. This will be because people will sigh and roll their eyes several times, and then finally stop talking to you altogether. This is what you wanted? Well, it’s your time, if you do it right.

In Which I Act Totally Casual About How Well-Researched My Jokes Are


Don’t mind me. Just checking whether anyone’s commented on how funny it was that last week’s big piece casually alluded to the pre-1884 prime meridian for French-made maps. And, for that matter, for how France initially adapted to a standardized, Greenwich-based time.

[ Pause ]

Well, I’m sure people are just too bowled over by my geniusnessness and extremely adequate researching and will be praising me for it soon enough. I have time. (That’s not a follow-on joke, but I’ll take it.)

A Reflection On The Fleeting Nature Of Time


I don’t want to make my readers feel any older than they already do. But sometimes you just have to pause and marvel at how quickly time passes no matter what we do about it. Consider: the last Tyrannosaurus Rex lived closer in time to the J J Abrams Star Trek reboot movie (2009) than to us today (2018). Really gives you pause. Also paws, if a Tyrannosaurus Rex has paws, and is stomping you.

In The Aftermath Of The Storm


Maybe you saw there was a pretty major thunderstorm in mid-Michigan last Saturday, what with how they evacuated the Michigan State University football stadium and the game was delayed for over three and two-thirds years before completion. (I maybe wrote that down wrong.) A storm like that’s all good fun except for all the flooding, of course. But where it got personal was it knocked out our power. Not sure how long; after an hour of this we left to see if anything good was left at the Halloween costume stores.

The annoying part of this was having to go around setting clocks on everything again. Whoever heard of spending the first weekend in November fiddling with the time on all their consumer electronics? And I know what you’re thinking. But I use the time changes judiciously, letting the clocks know just which ones are important enough to get changed right away and which ones we don’t even notice and let slide until, like, February. It makes them feel uncertain about their use, which causes productivity.

No, the real pain is in resetting the answering machine, which we still have on our land line, which we still have because shut up. For some reason our answering machine needs these aspects of the time set:

  • Day of the week.
  • Hour of the day.
  • Minute of the hour.
  • The current year.

And … that’s it. Not the month. Not the day of the month. Hit the ‘time’ feature and it will tell you that it’s, like, ‘Wednesday, 4:12 pm, 2017.” It doesn’t report the year when giving the time a message was left, because who ever needs the year of a message except for the first workday of the new year? It’s the most baffling user interface choice I have ever encountered that isn’t related to how iTunes handles podcasts.

Where The Time Went


Over twelve of you have noticed this phenomenon. It’s actually over twelve percent of you, but I’m supposing there’s more than a cent of you out there. There will be anyway. But you’ve seen this. You look at a clock. It’s got seconds on it. That second just doesn’t change. It sticks to whatever time it currently is (let’s say … 8:49:46) for a good long while. More than a second, as you figure it. Maybe five seconds. Maybe as long as fourth grade took. Finally as you’re about to get up and give the thing a good nudge it moves again, going back to about one second per second. Even then, though, look away and snap your eyes back and you might get the second frozen there again. What’s going on here, and why are clocks messing with us to see if we’re watching? Well, wouldn’t you mess with people like that, if you were a clock? What else would you have to do?

What’s important her is a fundamental principle of time. We only know time passes because we see something happen. Like, we see the time that a clock shows changing. This is a good one because we’ve put all our time sense into clocks. If we need to rely on ourselves we just guess that the time feels like three-ish, maybe, or that it might be a Thursday but it sure feels like when you’re at the zoo and get some hay or something stuck in your shoe just outside the camel enclosure. We use the clock to let us know that time is even moving.

Think back to childhood, if you have one. Remember how experiments like lying on your back seeing if you could breathe just right to make a tennis ball roll into and out of your belly button before a sibling came over and sat on your face? And you had to turn to biting? Remember how you could spend as much as four days straight at that between the last cartoon of the morning and the start of Password Plus on channel 4 and still have time to punch another sibling? Well, the last cartoon finished at 9 am, and Password Plus came on at 10. All that time was squeezed into under a single hour.

Mouse running down the Hickory-Dickory-Dock clock at Story Book Land in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
I use this picture to represent the concept of “time” because I had a fun day at Story Book Land amusement park and because people like it when there are pictures.

As kids we didn’t need clocks. We could just have experiences. The most we needed was the clock in school, and the clock in our parents’ car’s dashboard that was set to the wrong time. We would only feel time accumulating during social studies and while being driven somewhere you don’t want to go, probably in another state on a trip that would be fun if you weren’t stopping at educational spots and scenic overlooks where the picnic tables are all like two inches two high for where the bench seats are.

As adults we fill our lives with more clocks. Clocks on the nightstand, on your watch, on your phone, on your computer, on your other phone, on the wall, on the TV, the thing on the DVR that looks like it’s the time but actually is the channel number, on the toaster oven, on the other end of your computer’s screen, on a web page, on your Internet-connected Smart Towels, and on the car dashboard where it’s satellite-tuned to the right time. Every single one of these things is ticking off seconds and of course they add up. These days you can’t have one second of time pass without it being at least twelve seconds all at once.

If you’ve got a proper modern lifestyle you can get all your clock-ready things going and then notice that as best you can tell, 2010 was at most forty minutes ago. This is a sign that you have too many clocks in your life, multiply-counting all your time and slurping it up before you can tell it’s gone. Try de-clocking your surroundings; see how well you do if you get back to the basics of time, the way you did as a child. Then you had the inaccurate car dashboard clock, and a calendar to make sure you didn’t miss Christmas or your birthday, neither of which could ever happen. Maybe it won’t work, but if you do want to give it a try, I recommend you hurry.

Password Plus was never scheduled to air earlier than 11:30 Eastern/Pacific. You were thinking, believe it or not, of Card Sharks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And after getting a much-needed hushing yesterday the trading floor went and rose the Another Blog, Meanwhile index by twenty points, bringing it to another all-time high. At this point I think they’re just trying to cross me up. Why do I not get behavior like this from my money-making investments, like those ten shares of the Tootsie Roll company I own? Schwab.com tells me this is a D-grade investment, but all I can say is, it’s the thing in my portfolio that actually returns something, and if all else fails I can eat forty of them and then remember that’s maybe too many Tootsie Rolls to eat at once.

331

In Which Every Word Up To “Index” Is Completely True And Accurate


I had some fresh mathematics comics yesterday. Including some art! Not mine. Meanwhile I’d include a comic picture or something like that here to fill out the post, but I don’t have anything. I’m still shaken from an actual bus ride I actually took in actual fact yesterday, in which a pair of women behind me went from “oh, is this seat taken” strangers to discussing an awful modern-day adaptation of Richard III to becoming Facebook friends so that the one who’s writing an opera can invite the one who’s a singer to the premiere. That’s more socializing than I do with my love when we’re on an international flight. I was exhausted just overhearing it. Also I broke the strap on my messenger bag so that was my Tuesday and it was a hard day, all right? The only real bright spot is I found a library book about the timekeeping-sales industry of 19th century America. I mean the third appearance of “index” if you count the title as the first appearance.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index gained six points today when traders turned over the Community Chest card and were instructed to advance to Saint Charles Place. They’d have owed something for landing there except that when they traded the card to Dog they arranged for two free landings so they’re all feeling quite clever.

101

What November Was Good For In My Humor Blog Anyway


November was a less busy month around here than October was. At least as reading goes. It was less busy as writing goes too, although that’s just because there were fewer days in the month. Well, I ran more old-time radio bits than usual in the month too. Maybe they’re less-liked by readers than by me. It happens. The Index is a paragraph of fresh text every day, though, and I like it even though I suspect everyone is just wondering when I’ll get this weird thing out of my system. I don’t know either.

There were some 1,219 page views from 708 distinct visitors in November, says WordPress. That’s down from October’s 1,507 page views from 974 distinct visitors. But it’s a little bit up from September’s 1,130 page views from 697 visitors. I’m not sure what I did differently for October. Still, any month I stay over a thousand page views feels satisfactory to me.

Reader engagement drooped. There were 134 likes received around here; there had been 160 in October and 190 in September. Maybe I need to be more pleading. The number of comments was way down, to only fourteen. There’d been 32 in October and 69 in September. I ran a lot of short little list items though, and there isn’t much to comment on in them. I need more open-ended prompts. Also my long-form essays didn’t have any of the ones that stab at social commentary; they were a bunch of silly things. I like silly things, and wouldn’t give those up. But seven hundred words of silliness is also its kind of closed prompt.

Maybe that’s why November’s most-read pieces were older thing. Most of them were comic strip commentary, and one wasn’t even by me. The top six, since two pieces tied for fifth, were:

And the important thing is the list of countries sending me readers. Here it is:

Country Readers
United States 926
Germany 44
Canada 40
India 39
France 29
United Kingdom 24
Australia 18
Philippines 11
Brazil 7
Netherlands 6
Italy 5
Spain 5
Indonesia 4
Finland 3
Malaysia 3
New Zealand 3
Norway 3
Singapore 3
South Africa 3
Austria 2
Bangladesh 2
Belgium 2
Czech Republic 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Japan 2
Poland 2
Switzerland 2
Turkey 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Colombia 1
Croatia 1
Ecuador 1 (*)
Ireland 1
Kenya 1
Kuwait 1
Lithuania 1
Maldives 1
Mauritius 1
Mexico 1
Mongolia 1
Morocco 1 (*)
Oman 1 (*)
Puerto Rico 1
Serbia 1
Slovakia 1
Slovenia 1
Sri Lanka 1
Taiwan 1
Ukraine 1
Vietnam 1

Ecuador, Morocco, and Oman were single-read countries two months in a row. No country’s on a three-month streak. I don’t see the mysterious “European Union” listing there so I still don’t know what that was all about.

For the start of December my little Another Blog, Meanwhile has gotten 43,341 page views from 22,834 recorded distinct visitors. There are 700 reported followers on WordPress, up barely from 698. You can join the followers by using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button. Or follow me on Twitter, where I announce stuff over here and sometimes get surprised by stuff I forgot was on Peanuts specials as @Nebusj.

WordPress’s Insights say the most popular day for readers was Tuesday, with 17 percent of page views then. It had been Monday with 16 percent of page views the last couple months. But that’s close enough to one-in-seven I don’t suppose it signifies anything about my Tuesday publications. The most popular hour is midnight, with 8 percent of page views. That’s down from 10 percent in October. But since I publish at that hour every day of course that’s when people read here.

(I’ve always posted between midnight and 1 am Universal Time. I wonder if there might be a better hour for readers considering most of them are in the United States. On the other hand, midnight Universal Time is afternoon-to-early-evening United States time, which seems like it should be pretty good. Lousy for European readers, though. Might need to experiment.)

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

OK, so this time the alternate and the mainstream traders for the Another Blog, Meanwhile index are sure they’re going to get things organized and re-merge the trading floors. And it happens that the indices were unchanged today, which makes it easier for everyone to say they’re getting all this organized just like they hope.

96

2016 Called, It Wants You To Know Your Prescription Is Ready For Pick-up


We had a power failure. Not a major one. Just one that hit as we were getting ready to go to bed on the hottest night of all time, cutting the air conditioner. The power company’s automated line explained that it was an equipment failure and it should be repaired no later than 8:30 am. The power got back on maybe an hour later, just after we’d found two of the three little contact lights we got for this sort of contingency. Also just when I’d taken the batteries out of one of them to try putting it back in and see if that made the light better. I lost the battery.

Still this sort of thing’s always a good chance to remind our appliances just which of them are important enough to get the time re-set right away and which ones are going to have to perform harder if they’re going to have the time. One of the important ones is the answering machine, which we have because we have a land line, which we have because what if we need to make a phone call during a power outage, which we couldn’t do because it’s a cordless unit and the base was out of power. Still.

As per the custom for answering machines the time-and-date set is on the bottom, in slightly raised print on the moulding, the same color as everything else. This is because designers hate users, and can you blame them? Anyway, the answering machine asks for a couple things to be set: the day of the week. The calendar year. The hour and minute. And that’s all it’s interested in. Because “Sunday, 9:42 pm, 2016” is a reasonable date stamp for a phone message. I am honestly delighted, and delighted to rediscover this every time we have a power failure, which I don’t want to have again because it’s so annoying.

Also, oven clock, no, we have not been accidentally overlooking you. Step up your game.

Time Mystery Deepens


OK, once again, the thing with the clocks? The strange little boring magic-realist novel breaking out in our house where all clocks stop at about the same time? It’s still happening. The mantle clock, the one we’d maybe bring to the mysterious Clock Repair sign-hanger if we could remember the number? The other clock in the living room came to a stop at just about the same time as that. It’s just a dead battery, we think, but still. If some mysterious force is trying to freak us out, they’re going about it in the way that most makes us over-estimate how long is left in The Price Is Right.

In other updates, I am still not learning about the history of socks.

Time Mystery: A Footnote


Oh, another mysterious little thing around the neighborhood. Somebody hand-stenciled a sign with a phone number and the words “Clock Repair”. And then nailed it to a telephone pole pretty near the big strip mall near here. No name or anything. It’s just an implicit promise that if you call this number you will acquire links with the world of clock-repairers who take enough pride in their work they want to advertise, but not so much pride that they want to say who they are or where to find them.

Plus they just hung the sign on one of the roads leading up to the mall, not actually at the mall or anything. I guess I don’t have a better idea where to hang signs on the street to find people with clock-repair-needs. But it’s hard shaking the idea they might do better with some more focused marketing approach, like picking houses at random and asking the residents if they have any clocks that aren’t clocking anymore.

The heck of it is, we have a clock that needs fixing. If they’d just come to us we could’ve worked something out. But now we have to remember to write down the number if it’s still there next time we see it. Don’t think too hard about that last sentence and just trust me that it’s there.

When Time Came To New Jersey


New Sweden was established in the Delaware River valley, in what is now southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania and the Twelve Mile Circle of Delaware, by exactly the nation you’d imagine, in 1638. It carried itself along for just under two decades. In 1655 the colony was conquered by, and absorbed into, the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. But this expanded New Netherlands, with outposts along what they termed the North River (the Hudson) and the South River (the Delaware), would stay in Dutch control for barely a dozen years. In 1667 the whole colony was conquered by the English, New Amsterdam famously surrendering without firing a shot. History moves on: in 1673 the colony would be reconquered by the Dutch, New York less-famously surrendering without firing a shot. But they would be returned to England a year later, in the peace treaty which concluded the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The settlement would be exchanged for various East Indies spice islands, including Run, the legendary fount of nutmeg.

The many states of Europe adopted Pope Gregory’s reformed calendar — our modern calendar — at different times, mostly based on the religious politics of the state. Sweden held fast to the Julian calendar until 1700, when it made an attempt to switch over which went so wrong they had to create a February 30th to clean up the mess. (They would finally adopt the Gregorian Calendar successfully in 1753.) The states of the Netherlands switched to the Gregorian calendar or stuck, ten days behind, with the Julian calendar, depending on the religious preferences of the state. The colony of the New Netherlands was settled by the West Indies Company. The company was organized in the Catholic state of Holland, and so would be on the Gregorian calendar. England stuck it out on the Julian calendar through 1752 while telling itself it was so Protestant that the other Protestant nations couldn’t even see its Protestant-ness from where they were.

Presumably at least some part of the conquest of territories by new powers is to adjust the calendar for the residents. The courts, the tax assessors, all the business of government will naturally cling to the time which the regent keeps. North America may be far from Europe, and farther in the 17th century, but it would be intolerable to have European outposts not even agree what day the 21st of April is.

Therefore a resident of New Sweden should have seen her calendar switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar sometime after the Dutch conquest in 1655, losing ten days but getting a spring that actually starts in mid-March. And then she would have to see ten days stuffed back into the calendar somehow in 1667, with the English conquest. Possibly the Dutch would take the ten days back out again in 1673, if they didn’t have bigger problems to tend to what with being at war with both the English and the Anglos. If they did, then the resident had to stuff ten days back into her calendar as it switched back again a year later.

This surely annoyed and baffled the locals. It was confusing and frustrating enough in Europe where the calendar standards were fairly well-established and known for the whole 17th century. On what they regarded as the frontier these standards must have been even more whimsical and arbitrary. And yet I’ve never heard of any incidents involving the alternating calendars. I don’t even know when New Sweden’s calendars were changed, or New Netherland’s, or whether it changed for the Dutch interregnum. I know about the annoyances of 1752, since that’s renowned in calendar studies. It’s like hearing about the Beatles; if you haven’t, you just don’t know the subject at all. Of course, 1752 I know from the British perspective and people talking about William Hogarth paintings and whatnot. It’s just assumed that the North American colonies went along, things unfolding about the way they did in London. Or at least Sheffield.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the history of New Jersey or the surrounding states. I doubt I own more than ten histories of New Jersey, and fewer than half of them are academic texts. But I don’t remember it ever getting a single line of mention ever. The dates must have changed, but when, and how was it done? And what did the people living with the change think of it all? How much of a hassle was it, and what were people saying about the trouble, especially when it kept coming up over and over again? They must have told at least some jokes about the absurdity of this all; what were they?

So with this to ponder, I think you’ll agree I was right not to do a lick of work today, and I appreciate your understanding, boss. I can’t make promises for tomorrow either. But if you do have any contacts with the New Jersey Historical Society we just might be able to come to some arrangement. Isn’t that everything you could ask for?

Does This Actually Clear Up The Issue?


So Comics Kingdom has been running the Flash Gordon comics from 1961. In these stories, set in the far-distant future world of 1971, life is very different. There’s human colonies on all the good planets of the solar system. And on the moon, a guy’s homemade robot duplicate has swiped a flying saucer and he’s cleaning up on the quiz programs. And that’s not even the stuff I’m making up.

The space parking lot sign warns, 'NO PARKING AFTER MIDNIGHT (EARTH TIME)'
Also, never, ever get your spaceships wet.

So here’s a panel from the strip from Saturday, the 22nd of April, 1961. This ran ten days after Yuri Gagarin’s flight. And now … just … “No Parking After Midnight (Earth Time)”. Does the qualifier “(EARTH TIME)” simplify matters any? And if so, how?

Some guys in a flying saucer are amused by a robot who's cleaning up on the quiz programs.
Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon for the 22nd of April, 1961. It’s uncanny how perfectly they foresaw 1971.

If that’s not enough to think over, well, why not look over some mathematically-themed comic strips on my other blog? Also why not read the Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z glossary that I’ve been building? I’ve gotten to write about stuff I sometimes even understand.

Oh, Yeah, Did The World End Yet?


Oh yeah, we had that thing where the world was coming to an end. Let me check if it did. Um. No, looks like it hasn’t. If the world has then there’s a lot more squirrels underneath the bird feeder than I would have expected. Let me check the seven-day forecast. Well, it’s supposed to be in the mid-60s tomorrow, even though this is Michigan. That’s a bit unsettling but it isn’t precisely postapocalyptic. I’ll leave a granola bar out for the ice phoenix, who I can’t imagine is happy about this.

Also, you know where we had that problem where time kept stopping? The mantle clock kept stopping, the Christmas lights timer got broke, my love’s watch stopped, all that? The watch was just jammed and we could start it again by shaking. Well, it’s gone on and stopped, once again at about the same time as on the stopped mantle clock. Also, the kitchen clock, the one that sets itself based on the radio signals of … some … atomic clock … somewhere? That one stopped too. The battery ran out, it looks like. Still, unnerving, that’s what it is.

When Time Stopped Again


We had a Christmas lights timer that over New Year’s stopped working. It had this simple mechanism, a dial that turned over the course of the day, with lights turning on or off based on whether the pin for that time was in or out. But it stopped at about 8:00. And it got stuck again, and again. Something was stuck in it.

Finally we got desperate enough to avoid other chores to open it up and see if we could fix it. The timer had this outer dial with the in-out pins and, when taken apart, it turned easily without getting stuck. The inner clock mechanism turned easily too. We put it back together — after turning the outer dial and the inner gears some crazy number of times — and it got stuck, consistently, at 8:00 again. That was a little creepy, so we took it apart again and turned the dials some more so at least it would get stuck at a different time on the clock face. But that didn’t work, and it got jammed at 8:00 again. It still does.

Now, we’ve got a mantle clock. It’s charming and gives us a regular steady ticking noise so that we can reflect on how much of the day is going by without our doing anything worth note. Also how we really ought to get the chimes fixed but that’s so hard to do. And it stopped, though it was fully wound, at a little before 8:00. We started it up again and it stopped at about the same time.

And then my love’s watch also stopped at about 8:00. That was easy to explain, as it’s a holiday watch with little decorative bits that came loose and sometimes jam the machinery. It just needs to be shaken and it goes again. However:

There’s a house in mid-Michigan where analog clocks consistently stop at eight o’clock-ish? So far this is the most boring magic-realist novel ever.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Yes, They Actually *DID* Break Time


So the first thing: Margo’s complete bodily disappearance since Tommie used her imaginary stethoscope on her continues. She’s allegedly been checked into Manhattan General and diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. It’s not much of anything, but it will do.

The real shocker this past week was delivered on Friday, and repeated on Sunday. If we are to believe the silly things that come out of Tommie’s mouth then Margo’s entire journey of amnesiac wandering through a city haunted by people she kind-of recognizes was an experience lasting two days. This is staggering news. Besides the months of aimless wandering and two-shots Margo had a bit of business eating breakfast and yelling at people. If I’m tracing all this back correctly she set out on the streets in January, ten months ago. The character makes references to feeling “so tired” in December 2014. (“So tired” isn’t given in-strip as a symptom of hyperthyroidism. But it’s probably meant to be a signal of such, by the rules of soap-opera medicine.)

Tommie explains that Margo's whole calendar year of confusion and aimless wandering has been two days of hyperthyroidism. Meanwhile, the background setting is 'generic apartment' although it's supposed to be the hospital, probably.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 4th of October, 2015. Before you snark that this doesn’t look much like a hospital please consider that Manhattan General is one of those hipster-friendly indie hospitals. It’s got lots of overstuffed old chairs and odd, mismatching mugs for coffee and tea, gluten-free BiPAP masks, and there’s board games that migrate around all the wings and they hold open-mic prescription poetry readings every Monday evening, and the lobby there’s this old taxidermy raccoon dressed like the Eleventh Doctor. So don’t go saying that doesn’t look like a hospital room when you just don’t know the style of the place.

So this entire calendar year has taken up between one and two days of time. This, amazingly, isn’t a record. When Brooke McEldowney first broke free of all editorial control and good taste and coherent storytelling ability his 9 Chickweed Lane spent eight months covering the events of one weekend in Belgium. Rex Morgan is nearing the fourth calendar year of the first trimester of June Morgan’s pregnancy. Still, it’s one of the most lopsided reader-time-to-character-time ratios to be seen outside web comics.

After the preceding week’s bout of actual information being delivered, thus counting as stuff happening, this week looked ready to slump back into absolute nothingness. Eric was declared to have spent the night in “that chair”, presumably in Margaret’s hospital room. Then Tommie has the idea to send Eric to tell Margo’s parents what’s going on. This might be because she doesn’t know how to contact her roommate’s parents. This might be because she knows they aren’t going to listen to the things she says either.

This may sound like I’m being pointlessly mean to Tommie. But remember, her idea is to have Eric convey important information to another person. Eric is the person who figured the best way to let Margo know he was not in fact dead was to haunt her as she wandered aimlessly around Manhattan without identifying who he was or why he was there, in actions which dragged on for months, our time. I would expect Tommie could more efficiently deliver information to Margo’s parents by tossing a bottle into the ocean and hoping it’s found by someone who would then write a message about Margo’s condition and toss it back into the ocean.

'Eric knocks and ... ' talks with Margo's Dad on the streets of the city.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 8th of October, 2015. Margo’s Dad, Mr Margo’s Dad, walks around the streets of Manhattan carrying a small door that anyone wishing to speak with him must knock on. It’s carried below the waist so as not to interrupt people.

But, possibly to get the story ended already, Eric instead rushes directly to Margo’s Dad, who’s on the streets of Manhattan in front of that car that might be facing either direction again. At least on Thursday he wasn’t doing well at getting information across, but he is doing very well for having been dead for five years (in strip time, maybe a week?) and for being Margo’s Dad seen from the other angle.

Margo's Dad and I'm just going to go and guess Margo's Mom have a conversation interrupted by Eric who's Margo's Dad from another angle and a little bit smaller in his shirt.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 9th of October, 2015. It cannot be easy to carry on a conversation with yourself from a different angle.

Oh, yeah, my mathematics blog: Here’s the Monday comics and that wasn’t nearly enough; here’s Friday’s. Please read them in case the flow of time resumes.

Statistics Saturday: The Years 1972 – 2015 Ordered By Length


  • 1. 1972
  • 2. 2012
  • 2. (tie) 2008
  • 2. (tie) 1992
  • 5. 2004
  • 5. (tie) 2000
  • 5. (tie) 1996
  • 5. (tie) 1988
  • 5. (tie) 1984
  • 5. (tie) 1980
  • 5. (tie) 1976
  • 12. 1973
  • 12. (tie) 1974
  • 12. (tie) 1975
  • 12. (tie) 1977
  • 12. (tie) 1978
  • 12. (tie) 1979
  • 12. (tie) 1981
  • 12. (tie) 1982
  • 12. (tie) 1983
  • 12. (tie) 1985
  • 12. (tie) 1987
  • 12. (tie) 1989
  • 12. (tie) 1990
  • 12. (tie) 1993
  • 12. (tie) 1994
  • 12. (tie) 1995
  • 12. (tie) 1997
  • 12. (tie) 1998
  • 12. (tie) 2005
  • 12. (tie) 2015*
  • 32. 1986
  • 32. (tie) 1991
  • 32. (tie) 1999
  • 32. (tie) 2001
  • 32. (tie) 2002
  • 32. (tie) 2003
  • 32. (tie) 2006
  • 32. (tie) 2007
  • 32. (tie) 2009
  • 32. (tie) 2010
  • 32. (tie) 2011
  • 32. (tie) 2013
  • 32. (tie) 2014

* Scheduled.

Statistics Saturday: Count Of Words And Non-Words Appearing In Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Titles


Count of Words Appearing In Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Titles

Word Count
the 48
of 25
part 15
a 10
man 4
Q 4
time/time’s 2
command 3
Data/Data’s/Datas 3
matter 3
arrow 2
best 2
birthright 2
both 2
chain 2
child 2
descent 2
enemy 2
ensign/ensigns 2
eye 2
factor 2
first 2
gambit 2
ground 2
has 2
honor 2
in 2
life 2
mind/mind’s 2
one 2
redemption 2
unification 2
where 2
who 2
worlds 2
age 1
all 1
allegiance 1
always 1
among 1
and 1
angel 1
aquiel 1
arsenal 1
as 1
at 1
attached 1
avatar 1
battle 1
before 1
beholder 1
big 1
bloodlines 1
bonding 1
booby 1
Borg 1
bottle 1
bough 1
breaks 1
brothers 1
captain’s 1
cause 1
chances 1
chase 1
clues 1
code 1
coming 1
conspiracy 1
contact 1
contagion 1
conundrum 1
cost 1
crisis 1
dark 1
Darmok 1
Datalore 1
dauphin 1
day 1
dear 1
decks 1
defector 1
degree 1
déjà 1
devil’s 1
disaster 1
drumhead 1
due 1
duty 1
effect 1
elementary 1
emergence 1
emissary 1
encounter 1
end 1
Enterprise 1
ethics 1
evil 1
evolution 1
face 1
family 1
farpoint 1
father 1
fear 1
final 1
firstborn 1
fistful 1
force 1
frame 1
freedom 1
friend 1
future 1
galaxy’s 1
game 1
Genesis 1
glory 1
gone 1
good 1
goodbye 1
gray 1
half 1
have 1
haven 1
heart 1
heir 1
hero 1
hide 1
high 1
holiday 1
hollow 1
home 1
homeward 1
host 1
human 1
hunted 1
I 1
Icarus 1
identity 1
imaginary 1
imperfect 1
inheritance 1
inner 1
interface 1
journey’s 1
justice 1
ladder 1
last 1
lease 1
legacy 1
lessons 1
liaisons 1
light 1
living 1
lonely 1
long 1
loss 1
loud 1
lower 1
manhunt 1
masks 1
masterpiece 1
mate 1
me 1
measure 1
ménage 1
mine 1
mission 1
most 1
naked 1
nature 1
neutral 1
new 1
next 1
night 1
no 1
now 1
nth 1
offspring 1
Okona 1
outcast 1
outpost 1
outrageous 1
own 1
page 1
pals 1
parallels 1
Paris 1
peak 1
Pegasus 1
pen 1
people 1
perfect 1
performance 1
perspective 1
phantasms 1
phase 1
play 1
power 1
preemptive 1
price 1
pursuits 1
Qpid 1
quality 1
rascals 1
realm 1
relics 1
remember 1
reunion 1
rightful 1
Ro 1
rosa 1
Royale 1
samaritan 1
Sarek 1
schisms 1
schizoid 1
season 1
second 1
selection 1
self 1
shades 1
ship 1
short 1
silence 1
silicon 1
sins 1
skin 1
snare 1
society 1
soil 1
squared 1
starship 1
strike 1
sub 1
suddenly 1
survivors 1
suspicions 1
symbiosis 1
tapestry 1
terrors 1
theory 1
thine 1
things 1
timescape 1
tin 1
too 1
toys 1
transfigurations 1
trap 1
Troi 1
true 1
unnatural 1
up 1
us 1
vengeance 1
violations 1
watchers 1
watches 1
we’ll 1
when 1
whisper 1
worship 1
wounded 1
yesterday’s 1
zone 1

Count of Non-Words Appearing In Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Titles

Non-Word Count
2 8
1 7
& 1
11001001 1

Note: Two-part episode titles are based on the episode’s original appearance. For example, “Gambit, Part 1” and “Gambit, Part 2” increase the count for “gambit” by two. “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things”, airing initially as single, two-hour, episodes, increase the count for the words in their titles by only one.

Note: Episode 139 is titled Time Squared and the title is written that way on-screen. Many sources list it as Time2 and I admit I’d have sworn it was written that way when the episode first aired but you can’t argue with the screen captions even though Time2 is so obviously the title it should have had.

Note: One occurrence of “a” is actually “à”.

Note: You know, considering Troi was a central character for all seven years of the show and kept popping up in other Treks whether she belonged there or not it’s surprising we never learned anything about what her home planet of Betazed was like, other than they get married naked.

Cheese, Spam, Poetry


I’ve only ever committed a few acts of poetry. Mostly they’ve been things written part-jokingly. This way I could run them in the unread left-wing student newspaper back at college in the “Ebb and Flow” literary section but could fall back in a bit of cowardice and claim I meant it for the Humor section (“about herring…”) instead. But my spammers are not so inhibited. Here’s one of their recent masterpieces:

Now I am ready to do my breakfast,

once having my breakfast coming yet

again to read additional news.

But maybe I’m just a sucker for any suggestion that events that are about to happen already happened and might just be happening again if I don’t miss them.

Also, I see in my notes the phrase “time cheese”. I do not remember at this point if it was a spam or funny search term, or if it was notes from a dream, or if I had ambitions of writing something particular about it. All I know is the idea is there, and some cheese-eating organism might be attempting to disrupt the normal flow of time from past to future. I’ll let you know if any cheese is had for breakfast in the past.

(Those were the actual section names for the creative-writing/photography section and the humor section, though the humor section’s name changed with each new editor. So now you know exactly how earnest a newspaper The Rutgers Review was in my day. When I finally was made editor of the humor section I named it “Humor”, because I felt like trying to be funny about the section name encouraged the reader to challenge whether this was in fact funny even before our blistering jokes about the campus bus system or the broken computers in the Roost. So now you know exactly what kind of person I am. Also I never actually got anything into “about herring…”, though I did better under other editors.)

Felix the Cat: Trifles with Time


For today’s video offering let me go back to Felix the Cat, a 1925 short from the Pat Sullivan Studios. It’s a fairly tightly-plotted story in which Felix becomes disgusted with the way cats are treated in the modern day and bugs Father Time to send him back to sometime better for his species, like, the Stone Age. This doesn’t go quite as well as Felix might have hoped, especially considering that the previous year he had been in The Bone Age and might have known what he was getting into. Still, this cartoon has got a pretty good storyline, a fair number of good jokes and one really disturbing bit of the kinds of thing you could do in animation where it didn’t hurt so much.

Time On My Hands


I haven’t got any jokes about the end of Daylight Saving Time for the year because I’ve looked into it and nobody has any jokes about the end of Daylight Saving Time for the year. I see folks trying, but I’ve seen jokes before and they’re coming up way short of them. Plus even mentioning Daylight Saving Time is dangerous because when you do you get swooped down upon by people who rabidly hate it with the white-hot passion of a million disaffected fanboys, who’ll inform you that the time change is directly and immediately responsible every year for more than 224,000 adorable little schoolkids bursting into flame when sleep-deprived drivers run them down. I don’t buy it, of course; numbers that high suggest the drivers are using the pretext to get their cars set on fire. But I’m sure not going to get into that fight.

In the kitchen we’ve got this clock that picks up the time from the atomic clock radio station, which isn’t actually the dullest radio station I’ve ever listened to, and adjusts its time to fit. It’s an analog clock face, so when it adjusts the time it does by rolling the second hand forward really, really quickly, about twelve times normal speed, and the minute and hour hands follow. The result of this, and I’m not joking here, is that it takes about five minutes to rattle ahead a full hour in spring. To rattle ahead the eleven hours that it needs to do to fall back, though, takes it about 55 minutes. I’m just delighted that it can spend an hour rattling around to get done what it could do as easily by sleeping in an hour. It feels like every conference call I’ve ever been on.

Me, I spent the extra hour efficiently, getting done all the blinking I’d had planned for the next week.

Time Saved


Now that the clocks around here all know which one’s the least important we can finally advance the microwave clock to Daylight Saving Time. It’s a harsh policy, a little heartless, but it’s the easiest way to make sure the clocks keep urging one another to greater productivity. The best time with this was a couple years ago when I had clocks on all four walls in the living room, and they were able to keep each other encouraged. Some of them got working so hard they’d fit up to 26 hours of time into every day and everything past the first 24 hours is, of course, pure profit.

Cheaper by the Elevens, Maybe


Like most people I find that I’m short on time to do all the things that I really need to have got done beforehand. At least I assume I’m like most people that way. I know I never hear people wandering around saying, “oh, if only I didn’t have so very much time then I’d finally be able to get around to learning Latin or figuring out how to paint historical markers” since they fixed the water supply. Anyway, I can’t be bothered worrying about solutions for what everybody has to do; my concern has to be figuring out what it is I’m doing, and why I’m doing it, and what historical marker has to be painted in Latin today. The goal, then, has to be getting more efficient.

One of the first points to being more efficient is finding ways to consolidate lots of little actions. You see, it takes some time to start doing anything, what with deciding whether to do it, whether it ought to be done, how it ought to be done, whether it’s worth filing paperwork for, and noticing the time to get it done has long since passed, and then getting around to doing it in a manner just late and awkward enough you feel guilty about having to do it again. If you want to do the thing a couple times over there’s all that setup and possibly clean-up work afterwards. If you don’t do the thing in separate blocks, you save considerably on the setup time.

For example, it’s generally polite to at least make eye contact with someone, but even an introvert like me might interact with people — cashiers, sales clerks assuring me they can find what I want even when I don’t want anything, people in the hallways who don’t actually live here but seem pretty confident about themselves — dozens of times a day. Far better, then, to simply make all the eye contact of the day at once, with whoever the first person I see is, and then don’t dare look at any other person until nightfall. Not only does this save preparation and recovery time but before long people aren’t expecting me to make eye contact with them at all and point out that I may stay home instead.

Another task that can be done all at once is making incomprehensible, animal-like roars at the computer because it has these bizarre ideas of how it ought to behave or thinks it’s important to interrupt my workflow to warn you there are too many icons on your desktop, or that it can’t shut down and restart because it’s too busy shutting down. If I roar at it right now for all the time in the next year I’d spend dealing with the computer’s obsession regarding unused desktop icons it’ll take over two hours solid, but your time after that my days will be my own and people will scuttle quickly past my workspace.

A similarly-spirited approach I’m not good enough to do is to make a single motion do the work of two. For example, suppose you need to eat, but you also have to wash your car, and on top of that there’s that tree in the backyard needing to be reshingled. If you can attach your Fish McDippers to a hammer, and have your meal out by the tree, swinging your arm broadly with each dab of tartar sauce so as to also hammer a nail in place that still won’t do anything for your car, but let me know if any inspiration strikes you.

If you’re really into clipboards and stopwatches a more sophisticated approach is to carefully study the motions you make while doing a thing, in the hopes of dividing them into even tinier motions, until eventually your task is divided into such tiny enough pieces of motion that they evaporate. The result is a considerable savings in time as there’s no longer anything you actually do. Sadly, thermodynamic principles require that you so subdivide and document the motions that you can’t achieve any real savings, but you can be satisfied that what was formerly fourteen motions might be shrunk down to six motions, with an extra eight abstaining and two voting “present, but not sure that a `therblig’ is a thing”. They’re wise beyond my years.