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10:12 pm EST        29°F (–2°C) in Byron Center, MI

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The last six days have been some of my least productive, in terms of miles driven, in five-plus years of truck driving — and basically none of it has been my fault. As I wrote last Wednesday night, I was waiting to get a load that would not be ready until 4:45 am EST last Thursday; I was so close to running out of hours at that point that I had to just get it to the nearest en-route truck stop and call it a night. It turned out that that load was 140 lbs. (64 kg) over the maximum legal gross weight of 80,000 lbs. (36,227 kg), so once I had hours to run with again on Thursday afternoon, I had to return to the shipper to have the load cut.

It would be almost 10:00 pm EST Thursday before I was out of the shipper with the truck at a legal weight. I ran that to the point of being out of hours again, about seven hours down the road, and took another break. I was going to run from Breezewood, PA to Hazleton, PA on Friday afternoon to deliver the load, but it turned out that several Pennsylvania Interstates — including I-81, which I would need — were STILL closed, some two days after the massive blizzard hit the Keystone State. (You may have heard about the serious problems on I-78, which is to the southeast of where I was running; people were trapped in a 50-mile (80 km) backup for over a day.)

Finally, by Saturday evening, all of the affected highways were re-opened, and I could go deliver that load. I was assigned to pick up another one later on Saturday night, back down near Harrisburg; but somebody obviously wasn’t thinking when they scheduled two separate deliveries some 60 miles (96 km) apart within an hour and a half on Monday morning. I made the first one with no issues at all, but it looks as though the second one — originally scheduled for 8:00 am EST yesterday — is going to be shoved all the way back to Friday at this point.

I used a fair bit of the extra time, especially on Friday and Saturday, indulging my geek side. As my American readers may know, and as I have mentioned here previously, we are changing our observance of Daylight Saving Time this year; it now starts on the second Sunday in March (this year, March 11) and extends to the first Sunday in November (this year, November 4). Recently, Microsoft has been patching Windows XP systems by sending out one of its weekly automatic updates; I checked my system, and it has in fact been patched, but that didn’t stop me from looking through the system registry and doing some time-zone hacking.

The four mainland U.S. time zones may be fine on patched computers, but it’s still amazing how terrible of a job Microsoft did with time zones in Windows XP. They got the nationwide DST-related changes right, but somebody missed Indiana’s change to statewide DST observance — a change announced three months earlier than the nationwide DST date changes. These recent updates did not remove the separate “Indiana (East)” entry, intended for the 77 counties that formerly observed Eastern Standard Time year-round, from the registry; it is completely useless now. They also failed to include a separate entry for the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska, which observe the same time zone as Hawaii (UTC–10:00) but do observe DST, unlike the Aloha State.

Canadian users of WinXP, specifically in Newfoundland, were also ignored by Microsoft in the recent updates; in fact, the Newfoundland entry never was right. While Canada’s other five time zones (four of which are shared with the mainland U.S.) were all updated, the Newfoundland Time Zone was still shown as “springing forward” on the first Sunday in April and “falling back” on the last Sunday in October, as had been the case in both countries until this year. Additionally, WinXP incorrectly had the DST changes occurring at 2:00 am local time, as they still do in the rest of Canada and the U.S.; this has never been the case in Newfoundland, though, as Newfoundland has always made the changes at 12:01 am local time.

This use of a different DST change time probably is a remnant of Newfoundland’s pre-1949 status as a separate Commonwealth realm independent from the rest of Canada, and could also have something to do with Newfoundland’s unique-in-North-America use of a half-hour offset from UTC (UTC–3:30 standard/UTC–2:30 daylight, or 1½ hours ahead of Eastern Time). And yes, this means that on the “fall back” date, Newfoundlanders actually go back to the previous day — 12:01 am NDT on the appropriate Sunday becomes 11:01 pm NST on the preceding Saturday!

I went into the Newfoundland Time Zone entry in the registry and manually hacked a few of the keys to get it correct. The other thing I did, while in the registry, was combine and/or delete the many redundant European time zone listings that were in there; there were at least FOUR entries for what amounted to Central European Time! The vast majority of Europe, except for Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, the former Soviet republics west of Russia, and Finland (which are all on Eastern European Time, UTC+2:00 standard/UTC+3:00 summer) and the UK, Portugal, and Iceland (all on Western European Time, UTC standard and UTC+1:00 summer in Portugal and the UK), observes this UTC+1:00 standard/UTC+2:00 summer time zone. With that in mind, I have no idea why there was one entry for “Amsterdam/Brussels/Paris,” another for “Rome/Vienna/Berlin,” and another for “Copenhagen/Stockholm/Warsaw,” when they all observe the same time zone with the same DST rules!

Coming back to North America, it should be noted that the Newfoundland Time Zone is NOT North America’s easternmost time zone, as many people erroneously conclude. There are at least two places on this continent that are a half-hour (UTC–3:00 standard, UTC–2:00 daylight) ahead of Newfoundland Time: the southwest coast of Greenland, a self-governing Danish territory which is the world’s largest island, and the tiny French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon off Newfoundland’s southern coast. As both of these are the property of European nations, they observe the European Union’s DST rules (forward at 0100 UTC on the last Sunday in March, backward at 0100 UTC on the last Sunday in October).

That reminds me, one of these days when I have the money and the time, St-Pierre and Miquelon is one of the many places I want to visit. It would obviously be part of a longer Atlantic Canada trip, as the only reasonably-priced way to get to SPM is via ferry from Newfoundland. We’ll just have to see if and when I ever manage to get that kind of money and time, though.

Well, it looks as though I have two-plus days to waste here, so I’m off to take care of some tasks I need to do.