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3:06 pm EST 39°F (4°C) in Hampshire, IL
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Jesus Christ, I can’t believe how cheaply built Gateway laptops are. This morning, I attempted my own fix to a problem that has been plaguing this computer for the last couple of weeks, namely a crack in the chassis that has allowed the LCD screen to wobble. It turns out that one — yes, one — screw is all that holds the screen to the hinge! Technically, there are four screws in the hinge, but when the cheap plastic outer shell cracks all the way across the hinge, the entire weight of the screen is put on only one screw. This screw had worked its way quite loose over time, so I tightened it down considerably.
This crack in the plastic had been developing for months, but I didn’t really think anything of it until the screen began to flicker and shut off with the hinge in certain positions, perhaps a couple weeks ago. Moving the mouse wouldn’t revive it, as one would expect with shut-off laptop screens, but moving the screen to a different position on the hinge did bring it right back up — indicating that some electrical connection through the hinge was probably getting pinched intermittently. My tightening of this one screw will at least keep the screen from wobbling so much on its left hinge, but I’m still going to take advantage of what little remaining warranty I have (18 days!) to send this laptop into Gateway for either a complete repair or replacement.
I’ve missed this by a few days to a week or so, but basically all of the lower 48 states have now seen their earliest sunset of the year. This is not to be confused with the shortest day of the year, which is going to fall on December 22 everywhere in the United States this year; that day, however, does not see either the latest sunrise or earliest sunset of the year. Due to the effect of the equation of time, the earliest sunset of the year precedes the winter solstice by a time period ranging from nine days along the Canadian border (it is December 12 along the 49th parallel) to three weeks in South Florida (November 30 in Miami). Likewise, the year’s latest sunrise trails the solstice by the exact same amount of time; that occurs on New Year’s Day in Seattle, January 4 in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Boston, and way out there on January 13 in Miami.
Of course, we in the lower 48 should be grateful that we even get any sun at all at this time of the year. Roughly the northern third of Alaska, including the town of Barrow and the oil-field settlement of Prudhoe Bay, gets no direct sunlight for (at the very least) much of the month of December. They do get three to four hours of a dim twilight in the southern sky every day, but the sun never peeks above the horizon; Barrow, for example, will next see the sun in late January. Even sub-Arctic Alaska is very short on December daylight; days (from sunrise to sunset) are about four hours long right now in Fairbanks and 5½ hours in Anchorage, the state’s two largest cities. (To continue with the point from the previous paragraph, Fairbanks’ earliest sunset is December 19, just three days before the solstice, and the latest sunrise is on Christmas morning, just three days the other side of the solstice.)
The earliest sunrises (ahead) and latest sunsets (behind) exhibit a similar pattern around the summer solstice. More northern locations experience these sunrise/sunset extremes on dates fairly close to the June 21 solstice; Detroit, for example, has its earliest sunrise on June 15 and its latest sunset on June 27. (In Fairbanks, AK, both of them actually occur on the same day as the solstice!) At the other extreme in the lower 48, Miami’s earliest sunrise is on June 9, and its latest sunset on July 2. These summer extremes occur closer to the solstice for a given place than the winter extremes do; I’m not sure why this is the case.
For one more update, I’m going to include some talk about college football. A couple updates ago, I proposed a conference championship game for the Big Ten, in order that it can join the rest of college football in the 21st century. I am going to flesh out that proposal this afternoon, with a specific plan in mind for a split of the conference into two divisions — whose winners would meet in the title game.
In my opinion, the best way to split the Big Ten is not along east-west lines; rather, it should be split along north-south lines, or more accurately, northwest-southeast lines. For simplicity’s sake, though, I will call the divisions North and South. Here is a breakdown of my proposed split:
Big Ten North Division
Big Ten South Division|
As you can see, this is done with just the 11 current teams — there is no need to add a 12th team in this proposal. (If we really must add a 12th team, I say we expel Northwestern, which absolutely does not fit in with the other 10 schools in the conference, and go after Pittsburgh and West Virginia from the Big East — the Notre Dame pipe dream will never happen.) Basically, North Division teams will play each of the other four North Division schools, plus four of the six South Division schools, in a season; South Division schools will play all five of their divisional opponents and three of the five North teams to fill their Big Ten schedules.
There are several very advantageous aspects of this proposal. First, all but two of the “permanent rivalries” we currently have are preserved as yearly rivalries by virtue of keeping both participants in the same division; it is a trivial matter to ensure that Michigan-Ohio State and Michigan State-Penn State are likewise played every year across division lines. (Not like there’s any tradition in the MSU-PSU rivalry, seeing as Penn State didn’t enter the conference until 1993, but it’s easy enough to preserve it as a yearly meeting.) Secondly, the so-called “Big Two” of the conference, Michigan and Ohio State, are kept in separate divisions to maximize their chances of facing each other (admittedly, in a rematch) for the conference title.
Third, this arrangement restores to yearly status two great traditional Big Ten rivalries, which are currently broken up for two years out of every eight as a result of non-“permanent rivalry” status; these are the “Little Brown Jug” rivalry between Michigan and Minnesota, and the “Illibuck” rivalry between Illinois and Ohio State. (Before the idiots in the conference offices broke it up in 1999 and 2000, the Little Brown Jug had been contested every single year from 1919 onward. Likewise, the Illibuck trophy, a wooden turtle, was contested every year from 1925 to 2002 before the Big Ten’s idiotic scheduling broke up a 77-year rivalry.)
Well, it’s time to go pick up my next load, 20 miles (32 km) west of here in Belvidere, and take it to western Michigan. After that, the following load will be taking me to Virginia.