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7:42 pm EDT 81°F (27°C) in Bow, NH
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With Congresscritters and Senators on their August recess, and King George the 43rd disappearing to his Crawford, TX ranch for five weeks, I thought I wasn't going to have much wrong-wing conservative lunacy to talk about. But then, just the other night, Bill O'Lie-lly and Sean Insannity of FAUX News (Unfair and biased; We distort. You should hide.) sunk to a new low. They have demonstrated a total lack of decency and morality by attacking the grieving mother of an American serviceman who needlessly lost his life trying to fulfill King George the 43rd's thirst for oil.
Cindy Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq earlier this year, has been camping at the main entrance to the Texas ranch ever since the Diebold-assisted Dumbya arrived there earlier this week. She is refusing to leave until she gets the chance to speak her mind to the commander-in-chimp regarding the "war" he is waging to make his Big Oil buddies fabulously rich. It's bad enough that the usual Rethuglican hacks are threatening her with arrest and/or imprisonment if she does not voluntarily leave, but then again, that's typical Communist, er, GOP behavior — silence dissent at all cost.
That said, O'Lie-lly and Insannity have shown just how satanic they truly are by claiming that Cindy Sheehan is a traitor and "un-American." Uhm … her son GAVE HIS FUCKING LIFE to serve this country, and there is nothing more American than that. That's more than can be said about Bill ("I've been in combat") O'Lie-lly; despite the aforementioned claim that he repeats ad nauseam on The O'Lie-lly Factor, the facts show that he did nothing more than cover war as a correspondent. I am bewildered as to why somebody who would piss his pants if he ever saw a military weapon thinks he can question the patriotism of the mother of a dead American soldier.
Let's have a "Larry runs the world" moment of fantasy here: O'Lie-lly and Insannity will be dragged in front of a military tribunal tomorrow at 0900 hours sharp. They will not get lawyers. They won't even get to open their mouths, which will have been fused shut via cauterization of the lips in the closed position. Evidence of their treason and lies will be shown to the assembled public, after which they will be dragged off to the guillotine. The executioner will not stop at separating their heads from their bodies; after the initial beheading, the bodies will be repositioned and further cut up into hundreds of pieces. Immediately following this execution, the Druggie and the "Herb Expert" (Rush Limbaugh and Michael "Savage" Weiner) will be brought in to meet a similar fate. (In case you didn't get my reference, "Savage" Weiner makes the claim on his web site that he is a "world-famous herbal expert." Well, we know what herb he is an expert in, and it's called cannabis.)
As you can see at the top of this page, I am in northern New England this evening. Tonight, I have a delivery in Contoocook, NH, roughly 10 miles west of the state capital of Concord. Once that's unloaded, I will be making my first trip to Vermont in 3½ years; specifically, I will be picking up in the town of Hinesburg, not far from Burlington. It is really quite difficult for an over-the-road driver to see much of Vermont, partly because of a relative lack of non-specialty freight and partly because of strict routing restrictions. I have not been there since February 2002, when my five weeks as a trainee at USA Truck, Inc. were finished. (One of the regular runs in the training program involved making a stop at an auto-parts factory in Bennington, in the southwestern part of the state.)
One other big news item that has come along recently is the passage of an energy bill by Congress, and specifically the provision contained therein that will extend Daylight Saving Time by four weeks beginning in 2007. Starting then, DST will go into effect on the second Sunday in March, and will not end until the first Sunday in November. I have to wonder why, at this point, they didn't just decide to go whole-hog and institute year-round DST; it seems pretty silly to observe Standard Time for less than four months out of the year.
Of course, no matter what you do with DST, somebody is going to get screwed given the current state of time-zone boundaries. In particular, places near the eastern boundary of a time zone, such as Chicago, really get screwed with the current situation — during most of December, it is completely dark by the time evening rush hour begins at 5:00 pm.
A few months ago, I downloaded this wonderful little program called SunGraphPC, which is able to calculate sunrise and sunset times for any place on Earth, given the latitude, longitude, and time zone. (You can find it in Mac and PC formats here.) While writing this (taking a bit of time in between paragraphs and such), I have been playing around with the effects of DST on a number of cities, and I have come to a few semi-scientific conclusions as to what should be done regarding time standards in the United States.
As you go farther and farther north, you notice much wilder seasonal swings in the amount of daylight a place gets. My native Detroit, for example (which is at 42.3°N latitude), gets a mere nine hours of sunrise-to-sunset daylight on December 21 — and a wee bit over 10 hours if you add pre-dawn and after-sunset twilight. This stands in contrast to the 15 hours and 20 minutes (roughly 16:40 counting twilights) of daylight that Detroit has on June 21. On the other hand, a nearly-tropical location like Miami gets 10 hours and 40 minutes (11:20 with twilights) on December 21, and 13 hours and 45 minutes (14:30 counting twilights) on June 21.
My theory is that most business (and school learning, for the kiddlies) in this country is conducted between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, and that we therefore ought to do whatever we can with time standards to make even the shortest daylight periods of the day fall into that range. It is in more northerly locations that this can become somewhat difficult, for reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but it can be done. First, we would have to re-align time zone boundaries to more closely match their proper placements: 82.5°W between Eastern and Central, 97.5°W Central/Mountain, and 112.5°W Mountain/Pacific. Once that is done, the lower 48 states should then be placed on year-round DST — my experimentation with SunGraphPC showed that taking these two steps gave the greatest number of places the greatest amount of 8:00-to-6:00 daylight. (Note: I made this in-depth study of proper time zone boundaries and put it in an update back in May; I recommend reading that for background.)
While the above steps would work well in the lower 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii are at diametrically-opposite extremes when it comes to daylight. Given its low latitude (around 21°N), Hawaii does not experience large seasonal swings in the length of daylight, and DST is pretty much useless there. (In fact, Hawaii does not observe DST at all.) The GMT-10:00 (Greenwich Mean Time minus 10 hours) standard used in Hawaii is appropriate for the longitude of most of the island chain, and considering all of that, I wouldn't change a thing about time observance in Hawaii. (They currently observe GMT-10:00 year round. For reference, Eastern Standard Time is GMT-5:00, and Eastern Daylight Time is GMT-4:00 — you can do the simple math if you live in Central, Mountain, or Pacific.)
Alaska, on the other hand, experiences HUGE seasonal swings in daylight due to its extreme northern location. Even Anchorage, in the southern part of the state, swings from 5½ hours on December 21 to 19½ hours on June 21 — in fact, during a roughly one-month period from early June into early July, Anchorage experiences 24-hour continuous twilight at a minimum. The Arctic town of Barrow sees continuous sun-up for roughly 12 weeks from mid-May into early August, and doesn't see the sun at all from mid-November to late January. Given that mainland Alaska observes GMT-9:00 as its Standard Time when, by longitude, it should observe GMT-10:00 like Hawaii, Alaska sort of puts itself on "double DST" by joining the lower 48 states in their observance of DST. (This results in a June 21 sunset in Anchorage at 11:45 pm AKDT, and in Fairbanks closer to 1:00 am AKDT!)
There isn't enough winter sunlight in sub-Arctic Alaska for DST to accomplish anything in the way of energy savings, and observing DST in the summer leads to insanely late sunsets. All things considered, there is really no good reason to observe DST in Alaska, and I think it should be eliminated. (That is to say, Alaska should observe GMT-9:00 year-round instead of the current GMT-9:00 winter and GMT-8:00 summer. I did say in the previous paragraph that Alaska belongs in GMT-10:00 because of its longitude, but there are two good reasons to stick with GMT-9:00: (1) it is the status quo, and (2) the later you can shift sunset relative to clock time during the extremely short days of December and January, the better.)
(Notice how I've only been talking about Anchorage and Fairbanks so far. Alaska is actually so huge that its mainland alone spans what should be three time zones: GMT-9:00 for the extreme southeast, which includes Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan; GMT-10:00 for the eastern two-thirds of the mainland; and GMT-11:00 for the western third, in which Nome is the best-known city. To top that off, the western half of the Aleutian Island chain should extend into GMT-12:00 territory.)
Well, I've rambled on about time zones long enough for one night. Yes, I know, I am a total geek.