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Certain Doom Averted Again

Yesterday morning I looked outside my motel window and saw only darkness. The sun should have been up. I checked the clock. Dang near 6:30. I track these things. The sun is supposed to be up by 6:30 in August. If the sun didn't come up ... well, that would have dire repercussions that prior to my coffee my mind couldn't even begin to comprehend.

(Though I knew, instinctively, that it would somehow be Cheney's fault.)

We take many things for granted, such as the sun coming up, and then later having the decency to go down again. We need the sun to achieve thermonuclear fusion and do the various things it does in the category of making sunshine. No sunshine, no photosynthesis. No photosynthesis, no food chain. I pictured the panicked rush on the motel's breakfast buffet. "Let go of that muffin!" "That's MY cinnamon roll." Chaos, madness, people being extremely impolite. Doomsday, in a word.

I went downstairs, checked my email on the motel computer, checked the blog, then went outside. Uh-oh. Still dark. Weirdly dark. They say it's darkest before the dawn, but this was after dawn, by my calculation. When its darkest after the dawn you're having a very bad day.

I went back in and looked at the clerk behind the registration desk and the lone traveler at the breakfast buffet and neither seemed as alarmed as people would presumably be if the sun had been destroyed. But right there's the problem with our society: You can't count on people anymore to be accurate barometers of anything. There's so much ignorance, apathy, complacency. People have pampered themselves to the point of disempowerment. They don't rage against the dying of the light. I remember an era when, if the sun didn't rise, people would take immediate action. Lock and load. Kick some butt.

I noticed that the motel had the weather channel showing. They were talking about hurricanes. I found this reassuring, because if the sun were to explode or disappear, the Weather Channel would be all over it. This was not "proof" that the sun still existed, but it was highly suggestive. That's how we go through life: analyzing probabilities and going with the odds, except where strategic denial and wilfull lunacy are more entertaining.

And then you know what happened. It came on faintly at first, diffuse, filtered, soft and gentle and almost pulverized from all the scattering on its journey over the horizon. Some would call it dawn, I would call it civil twilight. Then someone turned the dial a wee bit and it was a brand new day -- hope restored, the world full of promise.

I felt proud of myself that at no point had I panicked.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 29, 2006; 6:12 AM ET
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Whew! Thanks, Joel, for coming to our rescue. Like the kit, too.

It's just not fair that August is so hot and the days are getting shorter all at the same time. Already I'm turning on the porch lights when I go to get the paper. In my corner of the world, the humidity is still oppressively high, but that will change with September.

The nice thing about having four seasons is that what you don't like makes you appreciate what you do all the more.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Since exactly one year ago, all meteorological hell broke loose, let's hope that this part of the year is a bit more calm. Although, I wouldn't mind a bit more, um, *heat* around election day.

I enjoy the separate seasons, such as they are here in DC. Each has its own piquancy -- well, I really do hate the summers, though. Much too hot and humid for me.

I'm off for the rest of the day -- might lurk from time to time. See you all (or you most) on Thursday.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 29, 2006 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I often get into work extremely early. Fortunately the facility is always open. It's sort of like IHOP. So I know all about beating the sun to work. The difference is that I find it calming.

There is a profound pleasure in driving the beltway without traffic. I get the urge to change lanes compulsively, simply because I can. The parking lot is empty and quiet. There are familiar stars above, even if I have never bothered to learn all their names.

The building itself has an unnatural sense of peace. I walk carefully through the halls hearing the echoes of my steps and hoping that I don't wake the ghosts, of which there are rumored to be many. I pour a tall cup of Office Coffee (the richest kind) and settle in before the monitors. I can get a surprising amount of work done before those pesky managers show up and want to help.

Slowly I see the sunlight start to permeate through the high narrow windows. I know, intellectually, that the appearance of the sun means a renewal of life, but part of me wishes it would hold off just a bit longer. I find myself resenting that the calm of the night must give way to the Sturm and Drang of the day.

Yes it is the dawn, but sometimes I have a hard time calling it civil.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Being raised in Chicaga, we were exposed to numerous tornadoes and the accompanying drills to take shelter in the basement. I shared a bedroom with my bro and it had a window that faced the front yard, through which was a view of the magnificent American Elm near the sidewalk. I was always sure the tree would come crashing down on the house during heavy weather, but my boyhood fears were never realised. I lost my fear of heay weather until Hugo passed through Charlotte so many years ago. I now bolt to watch the weather channel and check NOAA for any watches/warnings, etc., as heavy weather approches and descend into what could be fairly characterised as a controlled panic when such events roll through our region. Of course, the lessons of being prepared are lost on me. I'd have to search in the vicinity every paper blob in the house to find a torch that works. Then the pantry for some viennie weenies and saltines.

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Hello, Joel. Glad you didn't panic. You've summed it up pretty good about the lack of attention to minute details like the sun not coming up. And your reasoning, to some extent, is true, but I don't agree with it all. I think people have to so much to process they just get tired. There's so much going on in the world today, and trying to make sense of it all is frightening and scary. We've been through a lot, and fear hasn't dissapated. One must remember we're the country that went through all those terror alerts. That has done serious damage.

And let us not forget the anniversay we're celebrating today. And I use the word "celebrating" cautiously because there really is no need to celebrate. Most people don't want to remember Katrina and all the hurt and damage done to our national unity. Eugene Robinson's take on Katrina this morning reminds of us of the work needed there. It is still painful for so many of us, and I certainly include myself in that "us". What about you?

Good morning, Nani and Error.

I believe it is good to remember that we are loved so very much by our Creator, so much so, that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to be sin for us, that we might have life, and more life, through Him that died for all. Have a good day, and try very hard to love your neighbor. It's not easy, but think of that crown that does not fade, and push forward seeking Christ as your portion in this life and the one to come.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 29, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, boodlers. I have to say, Joel, that I look forward, celebrate when the days get shorter and the darkness gets longer. Because despite the "black-out blinds" in my daughter's room, she has a weird internal clock that wakes her up when the sun gets up. Longer days = less sleep for Mommy.

That being said, I'm dreading daylight savings time in October. That will throw everything off for a while. ScienceTim and other smart sciency-people, is there ANY reason why we still have DST?

Posted by: PLS | August 29, 2006 8:17 AM | Report abuse


Daylight Savings Time doesn't end for a couple months, yanno.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse

PLS: I believe it was established in order that farmers had more daylight to harvest crops in the the late summer. Under ideal conditions, the growing season's third cut hay would be cut, dried and gathered along with other necessaries in preparation for winter. BTW, the Farmers Almanac is predicting a colder, make that MUCH colder, than normal winter for the East Coast and its environs. Hold on to your wallets.

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 8:23 AM | Report abuse

PLS: I believe it was established in order that farmers had more daylight to harvest crops in the the late summer. Under ideal conditions, the growing season's third cut hay would be cut, dried and gathered along with other necessaries in preparation for winter. BTW, the Farmers Almanac is predicting a colder, make that MUCH colder, than normal winter for the East Coast and its environs. Hold on to your wallets.

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 8:26 AM | Report abuse

The submit button is dysfunctional...time warp??? Haaaaalllll...

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Wrong...impatience ruled...doublepost...GOTW

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 8:31 AM | Report abuse


But any reason why we STILL have it? Is it really necessary in today's society?

I'm looking forward to a colder winter (colder = more snow, less rain hopefully), but not looking forward to the gas bills!

Posted by: PLS | August 29, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Must have been that famous Luxembourgian impatience, jack...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

same here in france. damn. maybe it's some kind of post-nuclear-strike mushroom cloud that hides daylight. Did i miss something in recent news ?

Posted by: Gentileen | August 29, 2006 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I have also often wondered if the sun didn't rise, how many would notice, or would they all be distracted by the trivia of daily life. It's been cool and rainy here for a few days and that, combined with the later sunrise, has left me feeling sluggish and in less than the best mood. I don't wake up happy, so early sunrises and sunshine help me to get going. I hate the winter, the darkness in the morning, the cold and snow. And I love DST, more evening light to work in the yard. I will be babysitting today and the original plan was to go to the beach. Have now decided to drag out the umbrella and take them to some museums. All in all, I'd rather be going to the beach. I am a summer person.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | August 29, 2006 8:52 AM | Report abuse

My tune cootie hit and run for the morning:

There's got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let's keep on lookin' for the light

Oh, can't you see the morning after?
It's waiting right outside the storm
Why don't we cross the bridge together
And find a place that's safe and warm?

It's not too late, we should be giving
Only with love can we climb
It's not too late, not while we're living
Let's put our hands out in time

There's got to be a morning after
We're moving closer to the shore
I know we'll be there by tomorrow
And we'll escape the darkness
We won't be searchin' any more

There's got to be a morning after (repeat ad nuaseum)

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Yer CRUEL, yellojkt! *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I've noticed the August fugue for a couple of weeks now; the fireflies are gone, the lawn is a crispy golden brown marred only by the diagonal stripes of the septic field, the scarcity of the sun in those rare morning and evening moments when I don't have to go somewhere or do something other than let the dogs out.

I always take a couple of late nights with the peak of the Perseids meteor showers in mid-August to watch the shooting stars and think about what I'm going to do with the rest of the Month of the Mad Dog (as it's known in Brazil and other South American countries).

While I search the heavens, I recall the recent camping trips and beach vacations with satisfaction. Invariably I come back to those things that I didn't do yet: The museum that I've been meaning to take the kids to, the trim around the back door that needs to be replaced, the boxes of unopened car parts that mock me from the work bench. I try to ignore my growing sense of inadequacy and mortality, as incinerating rock flashes overhead and is gone in the blink of an eye.

As I sit back in my lawn chair, dew falls out of the stagnant summer air which has settled around me like a damp blanket. And something else occurs to me out of thick air: The time is ripe for me to grab a trashbag and a shovel and clear the backyard DMZ of Canine Land Mines.

I have found meaning and purpose in the Month of the Mad Dog.


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "Perseid".



Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Good morning sunshine!
The earth says hello
you twinkle above us,
We twinkle below.

Sorry, this was the tune that popped into my head.

Good morning everyone!

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 9:13 AM | Report abuse

At the risk of passing for some sort of pedantic Frenchie (but that's probably too late for that... ;) ), I would like to point out that the sun did NOT in fact rise this morning, or any other morning for that matter.

As it's been 500 years since Copernicus, wouldn't it be time for our language to recognize that fact?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 9:14 AM | Report abuse

a bea c
I am quite fond of the Johnny Depp rendition of that song in the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

bc - very nicely said.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 9:15 AM | Report abuse

SF: You are quite right. But I'm kinda with that Wittgenstein fellow when he asked "How would it look if it looked as if the Earth revolved around the sun?"

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

bc, your 9:01 post captures my own sentiment and angst to a "t". (Or is that "T" ?) BZ, bc, BZ!!

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 29, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"...the fool on the hill sees the sun going down
and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round..."

I think of that every time someone says the sun came up or went down. SF, how WOULD we say it if we wanted to be correct?

Dawn arrived. Our continent moved into the light. Day broke.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 29, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I thought you said the kit was going to be where you would post those ideas that don't quite deserve a column. This was a column, and a darn fine one.

Up here the geese and the crows are gathering, the leaves on the trees are not quite yellow, but they are looking awfully tired. My flowers are done except for that one late blooming rose, which is just in full swing now. The sun is barely up when I leave the house to go to work. It will shortly be back to normal, when I go to work in the dark and go home in the dark.

I love the fall. there is a crispness to air that you just don't find any other time of year.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Here's the opening paragraph from one of my all-time favorite short stories--I read it several times a year--"To Build a Fire" by Jack London.

"Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o'clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the skyline and dip immediately from view."

Posted by: kbertocci | August 29, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Kbert, beautiful paragraph. Thank you.

What is it the astronauts say as parts of the Earth go from dark to light? I think there is a line in the Apollo 13 movie.

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

a bea c;

I do believe that's the "terminator" reference, although I can't recall the exact line.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

BTW, where is SF's sense of poetry? Another French myth dispelled. Good job SF.

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Daylight savings time is in my considered opinion goofy. It was never a problem before everyone started living with clocks running their lives.

Lets just turf clocks, and do what comes naturally like pls daughter. Sleep when its dark, and wake up when its light. We'd feel better, be healthier, and happier.

Of course if you lived up in the far north, Alaska, or Nunavut for instance, getting up with the sun would be really confusing.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Isn't the line from the Terminator,

"I'll be back"?


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

It'll be back every 12 hours, bc... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

A German-American Canuck, last boodle, asked me why I said I mention my heritage as French-Canadian rather than French, say.

It's very simple. My ancestors beat the Pilgrims here by a few decades. That's over 400 years ago. At that epoch, France had significantly different borders than it does today. It covered much of the Netherlands, and the France-Germany border was also different.

Wilbrod, as I traced the name, actually implies that my ancestors might be from Luxembourg or Belgium, since St. Wilibrorde was the Archbishop of Utrecht, and the patron saint of the Frisians, the only democracy-embracing people in Mediveal Europe and considered odd ducks. Alas, Frisia signed itself over to the Dutch Crown's rule when it could not resolve a dispute over leadership, so Frisia has not been a country for a long time. Good cows, though.

Also, French-Canadians emigrated at a time when the language was pretty much Elizabethian. Contact with France and its literature has kept the two languages from drifting too far apart, but there remains a good deal of unique expressions on both sides of the Atlantic neither side has heard of.

I know in my family historically the men didn't know how to read but could do bookkeeping and add sums in their heads like anything, while the women were the more educated ones and could read.

My research indicates I should be heading down to Marseilles, Beligum, Southern France, etc, if I wanted to "see my roots"-- as though geography means much when it's buried under ultra-modern buildings and skyscrapers that I keep hearing France has so much of now.

Or I could seek my heritage in the town that my great-great grandfather helped found in the wilds of western Canada roughly 150 years ago. family history says he basically talked his family and friends into taking their families and getting free land. He became the first mayor of that town and finagled a post office and railroad stop at that tiny town.

And when you really think about it, we all originally came from Africa. The ancestors that spoke Indo-european languages and helped found Europe likely came from central Asia. So many places to "trace heritage to".

The Y chromosome linage in my family is Paleo-European, found on the west coast of Europe, from spain up to Ireland. I understand the X chromosome line originated somewhere around Iran. I checked out a database and I'm finding people with the same marker in Germany, France, Belgium, America, Canada. etc.

There is as yet no test to bust somebody for being French-blooded.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

NO NO NO NO NO. Summer is still here. Summer is still here. Summer is still here. Summer is still here. If you even MENTION fall it will come. And it comes all too soon here in the Great Lakes area.

Posted by: CowTown | August 29, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Even in ASL the sign for "dawn" and "sunset" iconizes the image of the sun rising and setting on the horizon.

I don't think you'd go far with a kid by saying "Cherchez-vous the earth rotated away from the sun! It's dawn! Yay!"

"Cherchez-vous, the earth spun to the sun, Voila! it's sunset!

Then your kid will be saying "Will the earth roll into the sun and get all burned up?" Then you need to explain no the earth always rotates the same way and it orbits the sun.

I'll stick with sunup, sundown, dark, undark, thank you veery much.

Remember Tevye: "Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, how the days go by...."

(Sorry for infecting you with the tune cootie, but tough battles call for tough measures.)

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Today's helpful pedantic pointers:

I have heard several claims about why we have daylight savings time. Because political power resides with the economically powerful, I find that the most believable is that the times were adjusted for New York stock-market convenience. I just don't understand why that should make any difference. I used to hear claims that DST was supposed to help farmers, but I have also heard the significant counterpoint, "Cows don't care what time the clock says." I suspect that the farm-related thing was concocted to buy votes.

Technically, you are not seeing rock incinerated when you see a meteor. The light is emitted by super-heated atmospheric gas in the shock front. Thus, the spectrum would be atomic oxygen and nitrogen, as well as ionized molecular nitrogen (since neutral molecular oxygen and nitrogen have no dipole-permitted visible transitions). Wasn't that a helpful explanation?

"With a blaze of color (predominantly long-wavelength) and a flourish of birdsong, dawn broke. The Earth continued its (not-quite, but close enough) eternal rotation, bringing my effectively infinitesimal point of observation to a position at which atmospheric refraction delivered the Sun's image, bloated and distorted, above the apparent horizon. Within moments, refraction lessened as rotation continued to bring me towards the meridian, and the Sun's image (now circular) truly could be said to be above the local visual horizon. A new diurnal period was born. I finished my tiny cup of viscous coffee, then crammed my elegantly-superannuated body into my creaky old Citroën DS (a citrine, one might say, but I love it). As always, my beret was toppled from my head by the door-frame, rolling down my striped shirt to hang elegantly from the stickshift. I drove, rattling, down the narrow cobble-stone-paved streets, the leaky suspension periodically spritzing the stones with a light misting of mineral oil. Time to begin another long 6-hour day toiling for L'Homme at the EuroDisney Superconductingfragilistic SuperColliderocious. Mon Dieu! I do so hate theme-park particle physics."

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, that whole show consisted of tune cooties, but they're good ones.

Loved the explanation of your name. Geneaology fascinates me. My mother's family is Scotch-Irish, but my grandfather theorized, based on the original spelling of his name, that his ancestors were French Protestants who went to Scotland and then Ireland after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

In the Odyssey at least, there are many references to "the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn" appearing. Here's another from Book II:

"But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the city of Neleus."

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 29, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The time of sunrise can be determined by the Equation of Time which accounts for the variation in the length of day by latitude and season.

The length of the day depends on the declination of the sun and the latitude of the observer as given by the following equation:


Where Φ is the latitude (north is positive, south negative for antipodians) and δ is the declination based on the tilt of the Earth and can be found for any individual day by


Where n is the number of days past January 1.

The time of sunrise can be determined by

SunriseSolarTime = 12-N/2 (in hours)

That must then be adjusted by the longitude adjustment for local time which is

SunriseStandardTime = SunriseSolarTime + 4*(ActualLongitude-ReferenceLongitude)[in minutes] - (9.87*sin(2B) - 7.53cosB -1.5sinB) [in minutes, and add an hour for daylight savings time]

Where B=360*(n-81)/364

which gives:

Sunrise in DC: 6:39 am
Sunrise in Asheville: 7:05 am

The spreadsheet I made with these formulas (from a rather old textbook) are about 4 minutes off from tables on the internet.

Basically, sunrise is later where Joel is because he is further west and south than DC. Of course, it was dark when he is used to waking up.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

What is this object JA is talking about? The sun? I have not seen it since the beginning of August. Over here the sky consists only of clouds, just different shades of grey.

We are having a strange meteriological year here in Belgium. The winter was cold and long (spring arrived at least a month to late.) Then we had the hottest july ever and now the wettest, coldest August.

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 29, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, is this yours?

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 29, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod do you know the name of the small western town? I'm thinking if it's 150 years ago, it may have been in what is now southern Manitoba, but it could also have been one of the earlier settlements that came to be during the Fur Trade.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't that line from Apollo 13 something about putting 'the crosshair on the terminator'.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't from the Terminator, because I have never seen that movie but I do remember that line.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I theorized the name must be a local saint's name after I was unable to find it elsewhere out of Canada except for Wilbroad in South Africa (settled by french Hugenots as well as Afrikaaners), and that the saint's name fell out of favor after the Protestant Reformation.

So I went a-digging and found St. Willibrord.

(I mean, Wilbrod does not sound really French. Guilbraid, maybe..)

Anyway it is nice to have a "rare marker" to trace back family history with, even if it's just a traditional family name.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

i love love love fall!!! (i hate heat and humidity - so, why live in dc? you ask - i dunno...) already the leaves are starting to change! i love leaving to go to work in the dark and coming home in the dark - makes me feel like somehow i've been working harder...

oh - i'm trying yankee stadium AGAIN this year for my bday - got tickets to the yankees/twins game...

Posted by: mo | August 29, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I can't remember the town's name right now, dr. Manitoba is the right area, indeed.

Yeah, Eurotrash, put that one up in when we were talking about a coat of arms for the motto on an old boodle. I had forgotten about it.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Joel, you wrote the summary or overview:

"You can't count on people anymore to be accurate barometers of anything. There's so much ignorance, apathy, complacency. People have pampered themselves to the point of disempowerment."

Our local metro columnist Carlos Guerra provided the example this morning:

"With more and more people moving up here [to Kendalll County in Texas' Hill Country] we're just going to have to accept that you're not going to be able to put 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water into your lawn every day," Schwope [Larry, of H.W. Schwope and Sons, a water-well drilling and service company, who has encyclopedic knowledge of the regions's aquifers] says. "If everybody conserves, we'll get through it and everybody will have water for the house."

But some clients, Schwope says, seem oblivious to the realities of Hill Country life and its priorities.

"You'd think they would be more concerned about whether they're going to be able to shower or wash their dishes rather than watering their grass. Hey, we're in a drought in a critical area.

"But when I tell them that their well is pumping down, the first thing they tell me is, 'What am I going to do with my grass?'

"Well, I got something that rhymes with that: 'What are are you going to do to wash your ...?'"

How different the Katrina situation muight have been if New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had recognized Max Mayfield's name on Mayfield's first call to the mayor's office (as told in Doug Brinkley's book about Katrina)? How different the Katrina situation could have been if former FEMA director and political appointee Michael Brown had not stuck to the political talking points he had been given and instead had told the truth about the situation on the ground (as Brown mentioned in an interview on NBC this morning)?

Posted by: Loomis | August 29, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

*Tim, ha! Thanks for your PP-age.

Re. 10:17, Scottynuke: Indeed.


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

PLS, That looks like a "revenge site" for those who have to put up with fanasty-footballers. And people who are addicted to gambling will bet on ANYTHING.

Western civilization is crumbling. As always. This blog is a bomb shelter full of cranky people.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Has it really come to this?

Posted by: PLS | August 29, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Eurotrash, that's some good family values you don't normally see in those noble families.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, it was neither Wall Street nor farmers we have to thank for Daylight Saving Time--it was the railroads, and one particular Canuck, Sanford Fleming. (See 4th and 5th grafs below.)

excerpts from from the Web site

The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin ... during his sojourn as an American delegate in Paris in 1784, in an essay, "An Economical Project." Some of Franklin's friends, inventors of a new kind of oil lamp, were so taken by the scheme that they continued corresponding with Franklin even after he returned to America.

The idea was first advocated seriously by London builder William Willett (1857-1915) in the pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight" (1907), that proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September. As he was taking an early morning a ride through Petts Wood, near Croydon, Willett was struck by the fact that the blinds of nearby houses were closed, even though the sun was fully risen.

...About one year after Willett began to advocate daylight saving (he spent a fortune lobbying), he attracted the attention of the authorities. Robert Pearce - later Sir Robert Pearce - introduced a bill in the House of Commons to make it compulsory to adjust the clocks. The bill was drafted in 1909 and introduced in Parliament several times, but it met with ridicule and opposition, especially from farming interests.
...Following Germany's lead, Britain passed an act on May 17, 1916, and Willett's scheme of adding 80 minutes, in four separate movements was put in operation on the following Sunday, May 21, 1916. There was a storm of opposition, confusion, and prejudice.

Standard time in time zones was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads on November 18, 1883. Prior to that, time of day was a local matter, and most cities and towns used some form of local solar time, maintained by a well-known clock (on a church steeple, for example, or in a jeweler's window). The new standard time system was not immediately embraced by all, however.

...It remained for a Canadian civil and railway engineer, Sandford Fleming, to instigate the initial effort that led to the adoption of the present time meridians in both Canada and the U.S. Time zones were first used by the railroads in 1883 to standardize their schedules. ...Fleming also played a key role in the development of a worldwide system of keeping time. Trains had made the old system - where major cities and regions set clocks according to local astronomical conditions - obsolete. Fleming advocated the adoption of a standard or mean time and hourly variations from that according to established time zones. He was instrumental in convening the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington, at which the system of international standard time - still in use today - was adopted.

Although the large railway systems in U.S. and Canada adopted standard time at noon on November 18, 1883, it was many years before such time was actually used by the people themselves.

The use of standard time gradually increased because of its obvious practical advantages for communication and travel. Standard time in time zones was established by U.S. law with the Standard Time Act of 1918, enacted on March 19. Congress adopted standard time zones based on those set up by the railroads, and gave the responsibility to make any changes in the time zones to the Interstate Commerce Commission, the only federal transportation regulatory agency at the time. When Congress created the Department of Transportation in 1966, it transferred the responsibility for the time laws to the new department.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Here is a small biography of Willibrod senior I googled.

Willibrod, St., the "Apostle of the Frisians," born in Northumbria; was the chief of a company of 12 monks who went as missionaries from Ireland to Friesland, where they were welcomed by Pépin d'Héristal, and afterwards favoured by his son, Charles Martel; he founded an abbey near Trèves; when he was about to baptize the Duke of Friesland, it is said the duke turned away when he was told his ancestors were in hell, saying he would rather be with them there than in heaven without them.

I like the Duke of Friesland.

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 29, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

i hate the time change in october and the decreasing daylight in general. that being said, i love the cooler weather and colored leaves, although they are few and far between in l.a. my main beef with life in ca is lack of fall foliage.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 29, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad to know that Joel is watching the progress of the sun for us. The prospect of life at one of the poles, with or without regular solar rotation (is that ambiguous enough?) is unsettling to me. One of the very few things -- some days, the only thing -- I feel secure in is the knowledge that the sun will come up daily, and go away too.

From his infancy we told the Boy about Apollo pulling the Sun in his chariot with fiery horses across the sky. One day, when he was about two, he considered this for a full minute, then said firmly: "It not a chariot. It a backhoe."

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, then you are probably looking for The Red River area French settlements. There is genealogy and census records for those settlements back to 1827.

However, it seems that little is available online. There might be another way, thorugh a government of Canada website I was at once. I shall try to find it again. Ok snuck off and looked. Nothing easy to find but they do have the very very early census (1660) from Quebec and forward. Not done on a last name basis though.

Another great place would be the HBC (Hudson Bay Company) archives., They have all the old fur trading data.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, thanks for sharing about your family. I should make time to find out more about my ancestry.

I have cousins who've done lots of research into a branch of our family that also has a cool story. My grandmother's maiden name was French, but her family was from Upper Silesia. Their name was changed by Napoleon from its original (if there was one) to Translateur, when my ancestor was his interpreter for a while. We know of all Translateurs up to the late 1930's, but lost many for obvious reasons past that point.

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, thank you for the latest update on the adventures of Monsieur Stripey.

Oh come on -- striped shirt, fast sporty car, Superconductingfragilistic SuperColliderocious -- I realize he's incognito, but who else could it be?

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Astronomical timekeeping for the railroads was the major source of funding for astronomers and observatories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Goodsell Observatory at Carleton College (my alma mater) was the timekeeping observatory for all the western railroads from the 1890s to the 1940s, and was built largely for that purpose. The observatory is still there, and still functions as an observatory (though not for railroads), as well as office space and classrooms (I took calculus there).

Posted by: Dooley | August 29, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Excellent, mudge.

Solar time is easy to calculate because the sun is always at its highest at solar noon. It's all pure geometry. When you start setting different reference latitudes and changing to daylight savings time, things get confusing.

On vacation, we went through from Nevada which is on Pacific Daylight Time to Arizona which is on Moutain Standard Time, so we didn't adust our watches. The we drove through New Mexico to El Paso which is on Mountain Daylight Time and the next day as soon as we left El Paso we crossed into Central Daylight Time. We got tired from changing the watches two days in a row. It's completely nuts.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Well now, wait a minute, Loomis. I see how Sandford Fleming was a driving intellectual force behind standardized time, but I still don't see what it was that sold Daylight Savings Time. I've heard about the B. Franklin connection before, but never seen it spelled out why he thought it would matter. Franklin was a very smart fellow, so I assume that he thought it through rather carefully. Presumably, Franklin and Willett wanted a system in which people would be encouraged to arise at or before sunrise and thereby not "waste" daylight. Of course, the fact that people did not spontaneously rise this early on their own should have been a hint that most folks did not consider it to be desirable. A mandatory clock-change seems rather ham-fisted, and pointless anyhow, before the standardization of time-keeping.

AFTER the standardization of time-keeping, it makes sense that it would be less feasible for individuals to set their own schedule according to convenience. But it's still hard to see why you wouldn't just want one clock-setting year-round and let solar phase float around that schedule as nature dictates. Presumably, daylight-savings permitted travel to work during early daylight hours, with travel home before sunset. However, since we (humans) now inhabit such a wide range of latitude within one time-zone, an arbitrary seasonal definition of clock-time seems no longer to make sense. I am one of those who thinks we should scrap daylight-savings time.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm all in favor of Daylight Wasting Time...

Preferably with a well-strung hammock, a tall pitcher of lemonade and a good book or 17.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

a bea c :

SF spend too much time in the USA... French people still have sense of poetry. BTWn here, the sun set (in few hours) just time for me too go back home and cook a a dinner for my girlfriends. Just wish it will stop raining.

In fact here, we don't see the sun for ages...

have a good day.

PS, Superfrenchie : it's was a joke, I know, reading Rostand, you have sense of poetry

Posted by: coyote | August 29, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Oops, I addressed Loomis, but it really was Curmudgeon. Make of that what you will.

It looks like the time-stamps are going screwy again. When I refresh the screen, I see new postings fitting in between some of the old positings that I know that I already have read.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

SCC (again) : girlfriend (no 's' ) there is just one coyote girl ;-D

Posted by: coyote | August 29, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I think it isn't daylight savings time we all hate, it's the return to standard time. Oh sure, that extra hour on the weekend when the clocks go back is nice to have but having an hour less of daylight in the evening makes people cranky. We don't need to eliminate DST, we need to go to it permanently.

Research supposedly supports this as an accident preventative measure as driving in morning darkness when people are in set routines and presumably not fatigued is safer than running random errands in the dark after a long day at work.

Posted by: Toni | August 29, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

coyote, share your recipes...

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

This daylight saving time isn't good for the northern part of the time zones. Congress keeps on imposing it earlier an the spring and changing it back later in the fall. The Canadian Parliement blindly follows, mostly under pressure from businesses who need to stay synchronized with the US. Think of the stock exchange and banking operations for example. What we need to know is why Congress buys those stories of huge energy savings by DST.

Wilbrod, your ancestor met with Pépin d' Héristal ( also Herstal, of Fabrique Nationale fame if the FN assault rifle is familiar to you) father of Charles Martel. Charles and his son Pépin le Bref (i.e. the short one) threw out the Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty that rule the Francs a few hundred years. Great accomplishment by a very short person!

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | August 29, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The leaves of fall are beautiful until they must be raked. The cricket's chirp is a delight until it's heard inside. The rising of the morning sun is great till I must wake. And DST is well and good until the the clocks are changed.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Could the boodlers help me with this? I know this can be done, but need to know how well it works from any of you who may have done this.

A good friend of mine has moved far out into the country and cannot get DSL, cable, or decent dial-up. She needs a decent connection to keep up with her students' (we're all using Moodle) online work. Satellite is very expensive up front, plus monthly fees. I figured she could use a cell phone with internet browsing capabilities and wire that to her computer somehow. She'd just need to adjust her contract to have unlimited minutes during off-peak hours and, I guess, buy a cable or bluetooth device to connect the computer and the cell phone. Has anyone here done anything similar, and how well did it work? Will it be better than the 24kbps she's getting now on her dial-up connection?

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

a bea c;

If your friend's THAT far out, it calls into question the cell coverage, too. There ARE wireless cards for connecting a laptop directly to a cell network, but they are NOT cheap, and neither are the plans that go with them. Connection speeds would probably be higher, but not on a reliable basis, unless she lives under a cell tower.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, for tonight, it would simple and fast, I'm tired.

take two salmon pavé (sorry I don't know the english word),
Put each one in a aluminium sheet with, pepper, salt, lemon slice, courgette slices, tomatoes slices, provençal mixed herb. close the aluminium sheets. Put in the oven.

Serve with rice and créme fraiche.... miam

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The reasoning behind WHY daylight savings time is also found in the article cited by Curmudgeon (very interesting stuff):

"Daylight Saving Time has been used in the U.S. and in many European countries since World War I. At that time, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria took time by the forelock, and began saving daylight at 11:00 p.m. on April 30, 1916, by advancing the hands of the clock one hour until the following October. Other countries immediately adopted this 1916 action: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and Tasmania. Nova Scotia and Manitoba adopted it as well, with Britain following suit three weeks later, on May 21, 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight."

I think this is interesting because many of the the counties that adopted it were fighting each other at the time.

The article goes on to say that the US adopted DST in 1918, revoked it after the war, then restored it during the second world war, again to save energy.

Posted by: Steve-2 | August 29, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

i'll gander that pave = fillet but what the heck is a courgette??

Posted by: mo | August 29, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

nevermind - wiki says courgette is zucchini or squash (are they the same thing? i've always wondered...)

Posted by: mo | August 29, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

A zucchini is a special kind of squash in the same way that a Yam is a special kind of sweet potato. It is a little known fact that the number of zucchinis in the universe, the so-called "Z number" is, in fact, a universal constant despite efforts by gardeners everywhere to give the stuff away.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Before 1920, a lot of people were still using kerosene and other fuels to light their homes. That probably played into the fuel savings. Even electrical power would have been largely fired by fossil fuels.

I don't get it now. If you have people work earlier, does that not mean the air conditioning (not a factor in 1918) runs longer. Surely that takes a lot more power than lights. For you guys in the know of searches and stuff, when the law was writ, just what studies were used to support energy savings claims?

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Not literal ancestor, Shrieking Denizen.

In catholic tradition, children are frequently named for a favorite saint, or the patron saints on whose feast (death day) they are born on or the closest to.

Without a formal calendar in every peasant shack, that was the easiest way to keep track of ages and birthdays and so on.

Anybody born on Nov 7 would have St. Willibrord as his patron saint (Nov 29 in England.)

My actual patron saint would be Jesus, as I was born on a Good Friday, as well as 9 or so obscure saints.
(Mucho Irish, italian, greek, and one French king, and 5 martyrs.)

So I'm stocked up for choice. If you want to find who died/has his feast day on your birthday, check here.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

My recollection is that we tried year-round DST during the first energy crises in the Carter years. Everyone hated it because it looked and felt like the middle of the night in the early A.M. hours when people were driving to work or taking their kids to school, as well as the kids who walked to school having to do so in the dark as well. I happen to be OK with the current system. What does drive me nuts is that, until recently I think, states had the option of whether to go DST or not. At places where several states came together (around Indiana, for instance) it would drive you nuts--fast time or slow time???

Posted by: ebtnut | August 29, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

that was not me giving the recipe. I almost failed french in high school. thanks, coyote. Sounds yummy. I'll save it along with my other boodle recipes.

My friend has pretty decent cell coverage. She's up on top of a hill. Thanks for your feedback, everybody.

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

mo, zucchini is green squash. Summer squash is yellow. Both are good, especially when steamed with onion.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

A friend puts her summer squash on the bbQ, brushes them with olive oil, and seasons with various seasongs to taste and grills them BUT only till they are hot through. They are hot and crunchy and so very very tasty.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

slyness, try onions and zucchini sauteed with a bit of thyme

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

What's with Weingarten getting a month off? The next chat isn't until September 19th. With that much vacation time, he must think he's Joel. Or Dubya.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

SD, I was in right at the conversion from the FN to the C-7.

The Carolingians were originally the line holding the title of "major domus" (Lord of the House) for the Merovingians, who were the de jure rulers. I forget how it all played out but badda bing badda boom, Charles Martel became king.

The Carolingian/Merovingian struggle is replayed in only slightly modified form in LOTR.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 29, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

hello, eurotrash, good to hear from you.

now where is american in siam?

I have pulled up the tomato plants. worms just took over, so many. clean the spot off. don't know if I'm going to plant something else or not. just don't have the time to put into it.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 29, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

He has a cover story to work on, didn't you catch his last chat? Presumably he needs the time to move and get an assumed identity before the S** hits the fan.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: //My research indicates I should be heading down to Marseilles, Beligum, Southern France, etc, if I wanted to "see my roots"-- as though geography means much when it's buried under ultra-modern buildings and skyscrapers that I keep hearing France has so much of now.//

Wilbrod, nice to hear about your family origins.

Not too many skyscrapers in France. Right outside Paris, there is La Defense, which looks like an American business district, but aside from that, not really. Some 8-story project-type buildings in some suburbs, but that's all. Last time I went to Marseille, I can't remember any skyscraper. Where did you hear that?

La Defense:

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Terribly off topic.

According to Rumsfeld, speaking in Utah, we who don't like Dubya suffer from "moral and intellectual confusion". Is it a sin to disagree?

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

No confusion here, when it comes to my opinion on Dubya, a bea c. FWIW, I qualify for Mensa (or did, once upon a time) so I'm not intellectually stoopid. Usually.

Nope, no confusion a'tall.

You can't blame me, I didn't vote for him either time!

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

a bea c:

Ya, but a "Most Wanted" polygamist has now been arrested by the FBI.

I feel so much safer!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I know, slyness. I didn't vote for him, either. And the woman who stole the election for him in FL said last week that enacting secular laws was the same as "legislating sin."

Rumsfeld should look in the mirror when talking about "a new kind of fascism."

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

slyness: you qualify for Mensa?

Then my guess is that Rumsfled was thinking of you when he said:

"What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is"

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The Merovingan kings became symbolic, rather like the Queen of England etc.
The Mayors of the Palaces were kind of like Chief Viziers, etc. You know, people who like having power.

So basically the kings found themselves aggressively steered by their Majordomos.

Here's an instance when the Carolovingian dynasty stopped steering and decided to take action.

"opponents. In 746, he convened an assembly of the Alamanni magnates at Cannstatt and then had most of them, numbering in the thousands, arrested and executed for high treason in the Blood Court at Cannstatt. This eradicated virtually the entire tribal leadership of the Alamanni and ended the independence of the tribal duchy of Alamannia, which was thereafter governed by counts appointed by their Frankish overlords."

In French, "German" is "Allaman" and Germany is called Allemagne.

The Merovingian dynasty is worth reading about just for the really old fashioned Germanic names, although the Carlovingians have more juicy history.

I myself like reading the "Song of Roland" (in translation), which is one of the first known chanson gestes ever.

I once showed a certain passage from the poem to a Muslim when he was telling me his stereotypes about Christians and idolatry because of the crosses, etc.

I showed this to him the part about Sarcacens worshipping idols of 3 demons (Mawmet, Apollyon and Termagant, etc.) and he was like, those must have been pagans. "No, those were muslims, and that's how christians misunderstood them, so long ago." I don't think he got the point, though.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I qualified for Mensa, too, Slyness, but I think my best qualification was that I thought it was too stupid to join ;).

After reading Isaac Asimov's comments on being president of Mensa, that made me dead against joining. That and an older friend who did go to a meeting classified the people she met as "high IQ but seriously retarded in EQ."

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Howard Kurtz's column today also quotes Katherine Harris as saying that our "rulers" are "chosen by God." So, she believes in the divine right of kings, not to mention that she prefers to be ruled rather than governed. And this turnip wants to be a member of our national legislature? In the upper, and more widely-revered, chamber? Hoo-boy.

I wonder what she thinks of the fact that Clinton was our king -- er, President -- for two terms, and could have won a third (rather easily, against the current incumbent) if it were not for that inconvenient Amendment that Republicans like so much under Democratic Presidents, and bemoan under Republicans.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I definitely think we need an organization for people who are smart enough to join Mensa and too smart to fork over the $50 annual membership fee. I know, we can call it "The Boodle!"

Posted by: kbertocci | August 29, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Now, I have a feeling we are headed the way of Friesland. Another disputed election, and Canada will annex us for the sake of world peace.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, hadn't seen your comment. We should ALL feel safer. Don't you know that polygamist, along with a mob of gay people, could at any moment invade your home and force you to marry one of them?

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The full Kurtz report on Harris is worth quoting in full:

""Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is 'a lie' and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be 'a nation of secular laws.' The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will 'legislate sin,' including abortion and gay marriage.

"Separation of church and state is 'a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is 'wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.'"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, I sure hope God doesn't choose her, then.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

If you have never read about that particular fellow, you should, And yes you should be very glad that he is behind bars.

He was wanted for forcing underaged girls into 'marriages' with older men. Seriously oldder men.

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Here are some articles from the Orlando Sentinal about Katherine Harris:

This one includes a link to the speech.,0,3451610.story

This one includes a great line from Larry Sabato:,0,6328992.story

Posted by: pj | August 29, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

FYI, Katherine Harris lives directly across the street from me. She parks her Ford Expedition wherever she pleases, and she doesn't recycle.

Posted by: annie | August 29, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Katherine, it's time to re-adjust your meds' dosage.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | August 29, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Here's a third article from the Orlando Sentinel:,0,6918818.story

Posted by: pj | August 29, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

She's sure helping Bill Nelson with his re-election campaign. I think the entire GOP asked her not to run for the Senate.

re: In catholic tradition, children are frequently named for a favorite saint, or the patron saints on whose feast (death day) they are born on or the closest to.

My birthday is on Saint Hyacinth's Day. I'm glad they named me after my father's favorite sister instead.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I think the simple idea behind DST is to do more of your living during daylight hours. If you're going to be awake 16 hours/day, and the sun is out 14 hours a day, if you get up shortly after sunrise (about 5AM in New York in August), you'll only need to use artificial lighting for 2 hours before going to bed. If you sleep in for an hour past sunrise, you'll need to use artificial lighting for 3 hours/night. Therefore, you use less energy by starting the day closer to sunrise. There are two ways to have a society take advantage of this: 1) Change work/school/business hours depending on the season, i.e. work would start at 8 am during the winter and at 7 am during the summer. 2) Change the clock itself to keep a more constant interval between sunrise and the start of the business day. I don't know why this annoys farmers so much, but I would guess that it is because farmers always operate according to the sun, and fiddling with clocks would be a worthless nuisance to them. Also, of course, if you use the same amount of artificial light regardless of how bright it is outside like some city-dwellers, this will not help.

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I was just in your neck of the woods. My mother lives in Anna Maria.

And Katherine Harris was a sophomore at my high school when I was a senior. I don't remember her, though, someone had to tell me. And it was a small school. But then, my memory isn't what it used to be.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

You live in Longboat Key, annie? I haven't been through there in well over a dozen years, but liked it a lot. Is St. Armand's Key still a neat place?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Ac in SJ, who remembers sophomores when you're an senior? I couldn't remember more than 3 and that's only because I had my memory really refreshed after graduation by chance meetings.

Macaca, not electing non-christians (I bet she also includes catholics in that category...that sort does.)...

Maybe they all drank punch spiked by W. that caused permanent brain damage.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

When thinking about the rising of the sun, Kathering Harris, polygamy, Iraq, JBR, and the Washington Nationals I like to keep the following two observations of human behavior in mind:

1) Anything that cannot be irrefutably disproved is sure to be believed by someone.

2)Very few things can be irrefutably disproved.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I think I need some more coffee...I forgot that Katherine Harris lives in D.C.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I like daylight savings time, because it gives me the illusion that there is more sunshine. It is hard on school nights in spring, though, since our outdoors rule usually is to come in when the sun goes down.

Remember the Robert Louis Stevenson poem:

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping in the tree
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you
When all the sky is clear and blue
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - what a lovely poem. And as any parent can tell you, it is just as true today as when it was written.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinkin' about goin' out to marry up with a coupla good-lookin' gay fellas, get me some o' that homopolygamy. Maybe have a "pet" sheep, too. Get me a nice house on a cul-de-sac, name like Brokeback Court, just off Wisteria Lane. Maybe get me some o' that bisexual randy housewife action, too. Then, I think I'll run for the legislature, so's I can legislate some sin.

Good times, good times.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

No, no, sorry, team. I should have said her *Washington* house is right across the street from my (only) house. Can't comment on the Keys, although I did live in Miami for four years and went diving off Key Largo (Pennekamp Park) almost every weekend.

Florida was deeply weird, and just too miserably hot for me. But the diving was spectacular. I miss that.

Posted by: annie | August 29, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Katherine Harris' comment brings up something from Dan Brown's Angels and Demons (I'm 1/3 through). "Langdon" comments that the Great Seal on US currency says NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM - and translates it as A New Secular Order. The context is a discussion of Freemasons and the US Founders.

Anyway, as a point of interest, here's what the Treasury has to say about the symbology (and note their much more muted translation):

"Q. What is the significance of the symbols on the back of the one-dollar bill? I'm particularly interested in the eye and the pyramid.

A. The eye and the pyramid shown on the reverse side of the one-dollar bill are in the Great Seal of the United States. The Great Seal was first used on the reverse of the one-dollar Federal Reserve note in 1935. The Department of State is the official keeper of the Seal. They believe that the most accurate explanation of a pyramid on the Great Seal is that it symbolizes strength and durability. The unfinished pyramid means that the United States will always grow, improve and build. In addition, the "All-Seeing Eye" located above the pyramid suggests the importance of divine guidance in favor of the American cause. The inscription ANNUIT COEPTIS translates as "He (God) has favored our undertakings," and refers to the many instances of Divine Providence during our Government's formation. In addition, the inscription NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM translates as "A new order of the ages," and signifies a new American era."

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 29, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

RD, if we abolish daylight savings time will the temporal interleaving leave?

Will the sun come up at the same time everywhere?

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow - this temporal interleaving thing we got going here is weird. In fact - it seems plumb unnatural.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Longboat Key is more built up than it used to be and St. Armand's is still nice (and crowded).

My mother lives on the northern end of the island north of Longboat Key. The further north you go away from Sarasota, the more casual it gets, til you get to Anna Maria, where the speed limit is 25 mph (strictly enforced!). Not much to do there, but that's the point.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Ha, kber! How right you are! Wilbrod, my impression was that the people in Mensa were smart but not particularly successful. Low EQ, indeed. I dropped out after I had my first child as part of the rebalancing process. Mensa just didn't do much for me.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse


I think EQ is Emotional Quotient. As in how well you play with others.

Posted by: pj | August 29, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse


Egalitarian Quotient? Evil Queens (Katherine Harris' definition)? Ethics Quotient? Empathy Quotient? Emolument Quotient?

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

EQ is "emotional quotient." The idea is that not being a total jerk is just as important to success as being smart.

Like, duh, as my dear daughter would say.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Temporal interleaving indeed.

My "hip to the hyper" husband uses EQ as "entertainment quotient".

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

You might be wrong on the economic success front for some of them, Slyness. But ah--social success. That's the concept I was looking for.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, SonofCarl. I am disturbed by how much of the explanation was couched in terms of God favoring the American cause, rather than a more Linclon-esque interpretation of America succeeding when it has found a path favored by God. Or, even better, finding a path that is simply good and therefore partakes of divine qualities.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim comments: "Howard Kurtz's column today also quotes Katherine Harris as saying that our 'rulers' are 'chosen by God.' ... I wonder what she thinks of the fact that Clinton was our king -- er, President -- for two terms, and could have won a third"

The retort is easy. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" John 6:70 :-)

I remember reading months ago that the local Republican party pretty much begged her not to run.

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Emotional quotient is basically a theoretical measure of emotional intelligence.

It's an umbrella for "people skills" but also, it can include self-regulation of emotion, and self-discipline skills that are key for success.

Know thyself and know others...

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

All of this talk about time reminded me of something I've been meaning to do: invent a system that will allow everyone to retain their basic human right to an individual reference frame in space-time, and to not have to conform to such silly rigid artifices as "Time Zones" and "Daylight Savings Time".

As yellojkt, Einstein and Lorentz pointed out, the concept of simultaneity is worthless, even in the same time zone. Everyone has their own reference frame in space-time (as is their right), and what's needed is not some abstraction of a chamber of ionized cesium gas at NIST or somewhere with some goofy rigid protocol for separating people by where on the face of the earth they happen to be, but one that takes into account General Relativity and Your Very Own Personal Slice o' Space-Time.

What I propose is to leverage the cell phone, GPS, and Internet communications networks with a system to compensate for everyone's individual Personal Reference Frames. If you go somewhere, you take your individual time with you, and when people want to talk to you or schedule an appointment with you, they can use the system (I call it the Temporal Harmonizer using Einsteinian Nodes, or THEN) to translate their time to your time and back again.

For example, when you want to schedule an appointment with your teenage daughter, you can use the system to tell her "I'd like you to be ready for dinner at 6:00 PM," and THEN it will translate your 6:00 PM to the time in her PRF (probably somewhere in the neighborhood of noon). THEN does the appropriate Lorentz transformations in a simplified Minkowski space and adjusts for the appropriate Lense-Thirring frame dragging effects (including zonal harmonals) to derive the correct time translation for your daughter ("Time for lunch with the Fam, Grrrrlll!").

No more yelling up the stairs, trying to be heard over her iPod, cellphone, and wireless laptop. Or worse, having to pound on her bedroom door, and being confronted with Her Glorious Self in the midst of a raging IM flambé over the fonts on her MyFace page.

Who needs *that* kind of face-to-face interaction?

Don't tell her now, just tell her THEN.

Next: THEN TiVo, so you only have to live through the good parts.


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim wrote, "Get me a nice house on a cul-de-sac, name like Brokeback Court, just off Wisteria Lane."

No need to make up a name. How about "Barefoot Boy Garth" in Columbia.

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the GOP would have liked her to step aside but the stubborn witch kept on going. Th problem with faith candidate is that they come to believe they are the "chosen ones". She probably forgot the part she played in 2000 when God chose Dubya.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | August 29, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I will only say that I never met so many people in one place that I didn't like, as in Mensa. Not that they were bad, I just had nothing in common.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, didja at least keep the cool mood ring, slyness?


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

You know, I went to school with some pretty bright people and work with many who are even brighter. Yet I have never met anybody who belonged to "Mensa." Heck, the smartest people I have ever met seemed to all be into gardening.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Nope, bc, I don't think I have anything at all. I even got rid of the husband I met there.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

That makes sense to me as well, slyness.

Friendship and shared interest comes from the heart, not the brain, and is all the richer for it.

The Mensa tests skew the results to the high-verbal and auditory performers, with some visuospatial skills included.

For instance, I missed some questions just because I was deaf.

Like how the &&%*&% am I supposed to know how phone tones sound and know that ETGFE plays the theme song from the twilight zone or something?
You know, how is that a practical test of daily intelligence? I also saw some other questions that reeked of cultural bias.

I'd like to draft Mensa questions based on your knowledge of life as an obscure Brazilian tribe.

(serrated leaf) is to (round leaf) as (picture of man straining) is to : (man vomiting) (woman straining) (child crying).

The answer is of course, man vomiting, because the round leaf is THE purgative pill, while the serrated leaf treats constipation. Only a moron wouldn't know that.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

And as RD Padouk says, the brightest people like to garden, and thus would know those answers, so it all works!

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

From their web sites, it looks like Mensa national organizations have 50,000 people in the US, 24,000 in the UK&NI, and only 100 in Japan. For a Japanese, I think that admitting that you belonged to Mensa would be considered a social error. Over there, I don't think you even mention that you went to one of the best universities unless pressed to do so. Any Nihonjin out there care to confirm?

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

...Or the brightest japanese emigrate and work aboard, in the UAE, USA, UK, Europe, etc.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Lessee, Wilbrod, I was in my middle 20's when I did the Mensa thing so it was a looong time ago. I didn't qualify on my SAT score or on one of the tests they gave, but I did qualify on the other test and on Miller Analogies, which I took to be admitted to grad school.

The organization originated in the UK, so it's not surprising it's strong there and in the US. When I was a member, I didn't find other members to be particularly intellectual or highly educated. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you would think there would be some correlation.

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Brilliant! I love the idea of THEN. I have a rudimentary system going already...whenever my beloved tells me he's going to finish work at a certain time, I always add about 50 percent more time than his estimate. I'm usually correct, too. Thanks for the laugh.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse


I think that they also have the same problem admitting that they like Mashed Potatoes.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | August 29, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

bummer. no saints on my b-day. i'll have to borrow one from mudge. can i have eutychius of phrygia?

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 29, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

L.A. Lurker, you can have that one, or, being in LA, you can have St. LaBrea of the Tar Pits, patron saint of sabertooth tigers.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

ac in sj, I may use the tagline,

"THEN: It's Time to Relate Rational Relativity Relatively with your Relatives and Relations" Or something like that.

Catchy, huh?


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Mensa questions are like those tricky Marilyn Vos Savant brainteasers. It says more about the question writer than what it says about the answerer. I always thought the part of a Mensa application that asked for money was the last question. Anybody that writes a check fails.

I know that my son's Personal Reference Frame does not overlap with any of the a.m. hours in my PRF. Particularly in the summer.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

great, i'll take both.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 29, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, you're the THEN target market.

Mudge, I call St. LeBrea "Joan of Tar".
May have to get bc industries workin' on The Personal Problem of "Tar Pits". Think about how much we can sell to the French.

Just kiddin' there, SF...


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I have never been invited to join Mensa. I didn't even get invited to join the National Geographic Society.

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

ac in sj went to high school with Katherine Harris, but my husband apparently graduated from high school with Marilyn Vos Savant.

He only knows because she showed up on the "missing" list before his last reunion.

Doesn't anyone in Kirkwood, Missouri, read Parade Magazine?

Posted by: TBG | August 29, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Tell me about it, kt. All I ever got was the AARP. (And I had to ask politely.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

bc, I see a screenplay in this. Entitled THEN!

One of my favorite lines from a movie is from THEM! about the giant ants...someone is frantically and incoherently trying to tell about them and the other guy says "get to the verb!"

Posted by: ac in sj | August 29, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Tar Pits are great! Smack dab in the middle of L.A. Great!!!!

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | August 29, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Since my SAT's were high enough (although not so high as Weingarten's...), apparently I have a life-long qualification to join Mensa. (750V, 670M) Yes, I do still know them. Yes, I am a physicist who is better at verbal skills than math. No, I'm not a super-genius. I think that I remain qualified, even if my brain goes bad on me, or blows a gasket in the cerebellator or throws a rod in the medulla disputata. I'm in, baby!

My innate cheapness, plus intellectual snobbery, have conspired to keep me out of this august institution. Anyway, what meaning is there in a smart-folks club unless you have to solve some sort of slate of puzzles each time that you want to go to the bathroom or eat a crudité? And, I don't like artificial puzzles, riddles, and similar junk, so I would just have to soil myself. Yuck. I'm happy with the puzzles that the natural world throws at me all the time, I don't need extra ones that are invented just to pass the time. Go make compost or something, if you have nothing more worthwhile to do. Stop bothering me.

That's my story.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I feel about Mensa the way Groucho Marx might! And yes, I was invited.

Posted by: Stampede | August 29, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, I went from 1162 the first time I took the SAT as a junior to 1270 when I was a senior. AND I scored 50 points higher in math than verbal that second time around. I shouldn't have improved that much and I certainly shouldn't have done that much better in math. Both these reinforced my belief that the SAT is a waste of time and money. Having gone through the same process with my children, my opinion remains unchanged.

Posted by: Slyness | August 29, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Mensa pick up lines:

- Would you care to postulate on recurrent coitus?

- You'll have to excuse me, but your presence excites me beyond all capacity for cognitive discourse.

- I bet your brain stem reaches almost down to your gluteus maximus.

- Oh, your IQ is 145? I like 'em dumb and beautiful.

- That tape on your glasses really sets off your eyes.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Or this one:

- What say we skip this nerd-fest and hit an all-night symposium on Euclidean geometry?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Excellent, Sf, you're fitting in nicely!

Posted by: Slyness | August 29, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

SciTim - my verbal was higher than my math too, yet I ended up in Physics. One of my Physics profs (not that one, another one) told me that this isn't unusual. I guess its because Physics is so conceptual.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I prefer a limited-seating seminar on re-entrant topologies.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Taking a break from the move again, to state clearly - I have never been invited to Mensa, not that that really needs clarification I am sure it is quite obvious.

More importantly doesn't Firsttimeblogger have a big birthday today! Have a great one (if its someone else Sorry but the sentiment still applies, I just have a bad memory.

My internet will be down during the transition between service providers, anyone know how long it is before withdrawl sets in?

Have a wonderful long weekend everyone.

Posted by: dmd | August 29, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Hah! I was invited to AARP, and I didn't even have to ask! Come to think of it, they somehow knew to send me mail right after my 50th birthday. [stroking chin and brooding about dark conspiracies...]

Posted by: CowTown | August 29, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

In tenth grade my mother forced the school system to test my IQ so that I would qualify for gifted programs that I didn't want to be in. As a guidance counselor she knew the system and was very upset they used the "wrong" test on me since it didn't have a high enough top end. I forbade her from ever telling me my score, so I still don't know to this day.

My SAT's were 730V and 730M. I had a girl nearly pummel me because I scored higher than her on the verbal and she felt entitled to my score. I knew of someone that got a perfect 1600, but she didn't go to our school.

More Mensa meeting pick-up lines:

Shall we to pretend to be observing the submersible vehicle velocity competitions?

I'll give you an Orb of +4 Charisma if you let me be the Dungeonmaster.

I have a dual core processor.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 29, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Not yet invited to AARP, not invited to Mensa that I remember, never appeared on Dancing With the Stars or What's My Line. In high school I was fascinated by the idea of a whole room of smart people and checked out Mensa membership but never took any tests or applied. My mom always refused to tell me my IQ, said it wasn't something you should measure people by, and by the time I found it out I'd already realized she was right. I'm carrying on that way with the Boy.

Down a beer & cheeseburger for me at the BBPH tomorrow -- I'll be 46.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, ScienceTim, yellojkt, you are obviously too slick for Mensa. Cool lines.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 29, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

After my IQ test in grade school, they told my mother that I would be lucky to graduate from high school. She told my older brother who, of course, told me. I thought of that when I received my BS and again when I got my PhD. Now that I am over 50 and regularly receiving invitations to AARP, I finally realized that they were probably right.

Posted by: notthatsuri | August 29, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, you want to know why physicists need good verbals? All those word problems in physics. 'Nuff said.

Actually that's the part I like best about physics. I hate it when physics teachers don't bother to explain what the letter abbreviations stand for.
You know, c can stand for many things, no?

My Mensa jerk pick-up line:

"I am experiencing a hormonal crisis. Would you help?"

Mensa obscure pick-up line:

"... Shall we continue this conversation in a quiet cafe and work on developing emotional memories mediated by pleasant dopamine and satisfactory oxytocin levels as we chat?"

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

RD, I don't follow. I'm only into gardening a little but your post...

Oh. I see. Never mind.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 29, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I knew a guy in college who said that he took the SAT a second time after he got an 800 on the math portion, because he didn't believe that it could really be that easy. Both times, he finished halfway through the allotted time, and chuckled because the test was so darned simple. How could it be real, if it was so stupid? 800 math, both times. I think my verbal was a lot higher, however, so his total score didn't completely shame me. He started out as a physics/math double major, taking sophomore math classes with me when he was a freshman. He quit math after two years and went with physics/psychology. Now he's a practicing lawyer.

(Actually, I also took the SAT twice. 730V, 680M the first time. I took it again, to try to improve my math score. No dice.)

This anecdotal case is one of, um, more than one but not a whole big number, that fuel my argument that the skills required to do well in science and math classes are not tightly coupled with the skills required to be a professional scientist. Patience definitely is a prerequisite, for experimental scientists at least. Early brilliance does not prepare you for the long haul in a lab with a recalcitrant piece of equipment. Mathematical brilliance will not teach you to delicately tune an oscillator for peak performance. What we need are more auto mechanics with good verbal skills. bc, for instance.

We teach physics and math as pure, pristine exercises in cookbook logic, unsullied by fuzzy data or questionable measurement protocols. We teach students that all problems have exact answers, even though this is the rarest of cases. We make them do tedious experiments of 400 years ago, even though the same physical principles are embodied in forefront science being done right now -- that's why the fundamentals are fundamental, because they pervade everything we do.

Rant completed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 29, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid that an even more successful Mensa pick up line might be, "You are SO much smarter than the other Mensa people here."

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 5:27 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, I agree. The BEST physics lab I ever took was with a Ph.D. teaching it and he was also a working physicist of sorts (consulation work), and he had us do standard deviations and analyze the experiments.

I loved it because I felt like I wasn't forced to swallow "cookbook logic" when experiments actually varied wildly from predicted values.

I think more physics teachers need to be actual physicists, and we need firmer grounding in physics for all science teachers.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Wonkette has been doing a running commentary on Katherine Harris for some time now. Here's today's installment:

Krazy Katherine Closing the Gap!

Closing the gap! - Wonkette"Harris routinely pleads with her listeners to ignore polls showing her trailing Nelson by more than 30 points," the Palm Beach Post reports today. "At each stop, Harris barely acknowledges she's involved in a primary and never mentions her GOP opponents."

As usual, the liberal media can't get the facts straight. In an e-mail to supporters today, Krazy Katherine tells the faithful she's actually "closing the gap on Bill Nelson."

Posted by: maggieo'd | August 29, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

That pick-up line deserves withering sacrasm in reply, kt.

"Yeah...I saw you checking my smarts out from across the room. Want me to take my blouse off for a closer look?"

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I bet a lot of Mensa people would be more than happy, maybe even euphoric, to have someone checking out their smarts from across the room.

Posted by: kt | August 29, 2006 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Regarding "Novis Ordo Seculorum," the great historian Page Smith took a little liberty with the Latin and translated this as "A New Age Now Begins," and used that as the title for his magisterial two-volume history of the American Revolution (subtitled "A People's History of the American Revolution"), which also became the first two volumes of his even greater 8-volume "People's History of the United States." A great, great writer.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 29, 2006 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Oops; here's the rest of the Wonkette post.

And she even mentions that it's a GOP primary she's about to lose, not the actual election. "Your immediate contribution today of $25 or more will give me the much needed support for a strong finish during next week's Primary Election!"

Just as the poll showing her closing the gap isn't mentioned, it's unclear whether the Harris campaign considers second or third place a "strong finish."

Posted by: maggieo'd | August 29, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I doubt I would be invited to Mensa, since I can barely operate my own television. But it seems like I wouldn't be missing much. My SAT verbals were 800, for which I credit the nuns; math was another story, for which I blame the nuns.

Can I still be in the boodle?

Posted by: annie | August 29, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey right, isn't it firsttimeblogger's bd today?

If so,Happy Birthday out there. May your day be excellent!

Posted by: dr | August 29, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, annie, I was the one who brought the subject up. Of course, I knew it would be a safe topic for the Boodle. We are such a bright group! Of course you still belong...

Happy birthday Firsttimeblogger! Hope you enjoy!

notthatsuri, your story made me laugh.

Posted by: Slyness | August 29, 2006 6:30 PM | Report abuse

annie, you are not alone. I am good at standardized tests, but I don't think that makes me smarter than anyone else. I scored 2 points from perfect in the Praxis, and 3 points from perfect in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). I scored 8 points from perfect on the Colombian high school exit exam. I had colleges in the US recruiting me because of my high ACT scores. I still wasted my time in college, attended three different ones and switched majors about a dozen. Luckily, I can teach. It seems like a natural extension of my life, going into a classroom and chatting with the kids about languages and why we have so many.

Posted by: a bea c | August 29, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I can't remember my SAT scores. I never took an IQ test. Heck, I don't even know my cholesterol level.
I feel so inadequate.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I have the day off tomorrow in honor of Tropical Storm Ernesto. :)

Off topic entirely:

Every time we visit Key West we dream of moving back there. Housing prices are obscene; it's a game to try to find a house that costs less than a million dollars. Here's one:

Ha, just kidding. It's not for sale.

We do love that island, though.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 29, 2006 6:56 PM | Report abuse

But does it have WiFi? If so, I'm like, so there.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I remember my SAT scores (only 20 points lower than ScienceTim in math!) but haven't a bloody clue what my GRE scores were.

Speaking of Mensa, Richard Thompson has a song called "Hots for the Smarts." You should note that he is British, so 'hots' and 'smarts' rhyme. It's a half-spoken and half-sung song, so I don't mind posting a link to the lyrics. One of my favorite excerpts is:

Now you may like pin-ups
Of girls who do chin-ups
Like Xena the Warrior Princess
But I'll take to dinner
My Nobel Prize winner
With plutonium stains down her dress

Posted by: pj | August 29, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

690 verbal, 560 math on the SAT, yet I went and spent years in the Army for a "physical challenge."

Brilliant, ain't I? *L*

But I DO observe well... Took a summer evening Intro to Astronomy course because the University of Nude Hampsters wouldn't accept an accredited DOD subject-matter test. One evening, as I was nodding off (hard day at work), I noticed the TA was trying to explain Einstein's hypothesis that a star's apparent position would change if viewed during and after a total eclipse, as the Sun's mass would warp space and curve the light emanating from the distant star...

The TA was diagramming light curving AWAY from the Sun. It took me a couple minutes to convince him to diagram it correctly.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Woohoo!! The Boodle made WaPo's home page again!

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I think George Antrobus was much more civic minded about these kinds of issues.

At least we made it past this little piece of plagiarism by the skin of our teeth.

Someday the Washington Post will hire literate editors.

Posted by: Brian Richards | August 29, 2006 8:02 PM | Report abuse

>At least we made it past this little piece of plagiarism by the skin of our teeth.

That was aimed at you, Scottynuke. You know perfectly well that "woohoo!" is a registered trademark of the Live Entertainment Division of Yahoo Media Inc.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 29, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

SoC, I specifically used the open-source license for that sound...

*rereading the documentation*


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:19 PM | Report abuse

A bona-fide, genuine IQ test was kinda snuck on me a year ago. No Mensa. The SATs were such that I gained the teenage hubris to apply to a couple of exclusive private colleges that turned out to be, well, exclusive. So why were people making such a fuss about SATs? Gosh, we've even heard from a Boodler whose kid had high SAT scorses AND a place on the baseball team but got turned down by such a place. Much more important was top scores on the GRE's biology test. Fellowship! After the SAT experience, it was an enormous surprise.

I'm feeling Antrobusian tonight, Atlantic City mode. The Weather Service got rid of the hurricane watch, but is still warning about the wind while NASA has decided stop the Space Shuttle's crawl to the hangar--it's now gliding like a slug back to the launch pad. So should I de-shutter the house?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 29, 2006 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of Darkness, isn't Mel Gibson polishing off a sort of Mayan apocalypse movie with the dialog in Yucatec?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 29, 2006 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of statistics, why does insist on presenting the odds of the Nationals winning? Right now it says 2%. Like watching this team wasn't depressing enough.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Now it's 1%. When Joel wrote, "analyzing probabilities and going with the odds" I hope he wasn't thinking of the Nats. What an existential conundrum that would open up. This is just too sad. I'm going to bed. For tomorrow is another day.
At least I hope so.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 29, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what a day!

PLS, I hate the whole time change thing, and have ranted about it here before (check out the March boodles). It's the transition that gets to me - just leave time where it is (it's all relative anyway, right?). I definitely prefer the "fall back" though - I wouldn't object to a whole extra day or week getting thrown in now or then. (mo, make sure you now what time the game is!)

CowTown, I'm with you - it's still summer! My husband says every year at this time that "It's going to be an early fall" - I hate that! Summer just barely gets going, then it's gone. We don't have great fall colors here, not like PA. I much prefer spring and summer to fall and winter. But then summer here is quite fall-like.

I can't believe how many of you all remember your SAT scores! I can't remember my exact scores anymore - combined was 1300+, with reading way higher than math. There was a story today about the revamped SAT - lower scores overall - and it's almost 4 hours long - yikes!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 29, 2006 10:06 PM | Report abuse

SCC - "know", not "now", of course. Sheesh.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 29, 2006 10:07 PM | Report abuse

*Tim writes: "What we need are more auto mechanics with good verbal skills. bc, for instance."

That's right, the world needs more of *me*.


Posted by: bc | August 29, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Ah, but we're younger, mostlylurking. As for my SAT scores, I was the lone, shy hand when my loud history teacher asked if anybody had scored over 1400 on the SATS.

But I had a brother who scored higher. It's all a matter of the draw-- I actually scored lower on math than on the PSATS because the SATs then came in 3 different versions-- one has more math, one more verbal, and the third is 50-50. So if you take a test that is skewed to more verbal questions, you're more apt to score lower on math if that's not your strong suit.

I liked my GRE scores much better.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:48 PM | Report abuse

And I saw that story about the SAT. I'm actually not surprised that the longer the SAT is, the worse the scores are. It's a BORING test. The irony is that the changes a few years ago were supposed to make it easier, isn't the maximum score now 1800 instead of 1600 or something?

I wonder if the classic SAT would actually show a greater average drop in scores? And does this mean that the modern-day teenager is now permanently brain-damaged by lead, etc.?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 29, 2006 11:55 PM | Report abuse

And to think I spent so much time in school when the thing I like best is tinkering witih bicycles... My career in public education seems so pedestrian...

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: I have never known someone who had roots in Luxembourg. I'm glad to be in good company. I'm proud of my GRE's as well, scoring in the 33rd percentile in bio the first time around and the 93rd percentile after my orals. Not being book smart as the company we keep in the boodle, it was a great feeing to achieve that score.

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 12:23 AM | Report abuse

SCC: feeling...either the "l" is on the fritz or, more likely, fatigue has conquered my digits...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 30, 2006 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Ha, Wilbrod, thanks (I think).

jack, a bea c, Bayou Self, all the other teachers out there - you're doing a great thing, and you get summers off besides! At least I hope you do (I know some teachers have to work during the summer to make ends meet). My Mom was a teacher, so was my sister, and quite a few cousins. It's a hard job - one I feel totally incapable of doing, especially after reading Frank McCourt. I respect teachers so much.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 30, 2006 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I took the SAT test right at the end of slavery and before the right Civil Rights Era, and can't remember my exact score. The test contained questions referring to some household appliances that students in my school had never heard of, and to talk about a bathroom was out of the question. We still had outside toliets. I think my score may have fallen within the range of decent with a lot of variables taken in consideration. Not high, but decent. Giving the students the test at the segregated school I attended was a test in itself.

Getting ready for the walk. Still dark, have to wait for the light. I'll bet it's muggy out. The air is so thick sometimes, one could almost cut it with a knife.

Good morning, Nani and Error.

The folks here in my county are getting ready for Ernesto. I believe the storm will side swipe us, probably get a plenty of rain, which we need. Slyness I got a laugh from your post wherein you leave the husband at Mensa. Naughty girl.

Oh, well, I have prayed for you my friends, seeking God's blessings in your life. And I hope that you remember that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

The daily paper here in my small town has an op-ed piece stating that Katherine Harris would change the country from a republic to a theocracy. This in the heart of the Bible belt!

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Glad you got a laugh out of that line, Cassandra. It worked out for the best. I am happily remarried and so is he. He married a lady 12 years his junior and now, at age 55, he has a 3 year old son and a nine month old son. My 20-something daughters adore their baby brothers.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Reporting on family vacation from OBX

On the way here, we dropped by a vegetable stand and zucchinis were going for $3 a pound. Tough year for zucchinis in my garden in N. VA too. Usually 6 plants can feed the neighborhood, but I didn't even get enough to give away.

My wife and I took my daughter out for her birthday to a "nice" seafood place. the side salad consisted of 1 cherry tomato, 6 leaves of spinich greens and a ringlet of onion served on a plate the size of a teacup sausor... And the waitress snorted when I asked for tarter sauce for the fish I ordered that I couldn't even pronounce the name of, much less spell.

All I know is that I broke 1000 on the SAT and that was good enough to get into George Mason.

My wife complained at me for bringing the computer, but my brother helped me hook it up. I got dial-up for a 1 month free trial period. I suspect there's a cancellation fee.

Straying a little on topic. I get a little depressed knowing I'll never see the light of day, so I ask the strangers that help me cross the street in the morning on the way to work, "What color is the sky?" Some people just answer the question by just saying "blue." like it's a test question and I'm testing their intelligence. But It *is* a test question and the sky is rarely just blue. HeckRight now, the grass is brown, not green.

Posted by: Pat | August 30, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Pat!

Usually this time of day I am stuck in my windowless office and have no idea what the sky looks like. But today I'm home and I can just turn my head and see that, as Ernesto passes by, the sky is a bright slate gray. When I stand in the yard and survey the whole sky I can see some lighter spots, closer to white, and a few places where the couds are almost fluffy white. Where the sun is, there's a brighter spot but not so bright that I can't look at it. Lots of clouds, but only very light rain and moderate wind. No real reason to stay home from work, but we were told yesterday not to come in, and that's fine with me.

I will be doing housework today (I vow!)but this morning I started by re-reading "Certain Doom Averted Again"--it had even more resonance after spending the night in the path of the storm, not knowing what the morning would bring. (As reported, nothing untoward ensued.) Upon second reading, I realized this sentence was a classic, one for the scrapbook:

"That's how we go through life: analyzing probabilities and going with the odds, except where strategic denial and wilfull lunacy are more entertaining."

That is really beautiful, Joel, and I read it three times before realizing that "willful" was spelled wrong. That is a hard word. I had to look it up to be sure.

This is also truer than true:

"But right there's the problem with our society: You can't count on people anymore to be accurate barometers of anything. There's so much ignorance, apathy, complacency. People have pampered themselves to the point of disempowerment. They don't rage against the dying of the light."

I'll be thinking about this as I scrub my bathroom this morning...

Pat, Dave, Cassandra, slyness, everybody in The Cone: I hope Ernesto goes easy on y'all too.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 30, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the good wishes, kber! We happily anticipate some rain, but the predicted amount keeps dropping, so we'll see.

Having survived Hurricane Hugo, I can empathize to some extent with New Orleans. We're halfway through the hurricane season now, and I hope the second half will mirror the activity of the first.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I want Joel Achenbach and Chuck Klosterman to take a road trip together and write about it. Good stuff.

Posted by: rikken | August 30, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Morning, kiddies. Just checking in. Got meetings all morning, followed by a retirement luncheon (no, not mine, not just yet!), and more meetings in the afternoon. Yeah, I know, how does the public's work get done if everyone is sitting in a windowless conference room? Well, sometimes we actually make decisions there! Yes, hard to believe. Likely won't make the BBH tomorrow. Probabaly going to be packing up the car to go to Pittsburgh for the weekend.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 30, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

It's Wednesday, so I think this is appropriately off-topic...

Over the weekend, the local "24-hour" news channel had a quick piece about people protesting in front of NOAA, demanding the agency publicly admit the effect global warming is having on the hurricane season.

Talk about bad timing...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Ernesto is on it's way to NC and, while I am glad it has fizzled and not caused concern for life and limb, I hope it holds out long enough to give us some rain.

BTW, this is the friendliest, as well as interesting, boodle I have mostly lurked on. Not to regress, I especially liked the conversation a few months (weeks?) ago on the trains. I took my first ride since 8th grade last spring. I would do that more often if I could depend on the schedule.

Posted by: notthatsuri | August 30, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I realize now that I seem to have gone out of my way to abuse my teacher friends. Actually, the sort of teacher friends who frequent a forum like this are the sort I think we need more of (inquisitive, outgoing, engaged, ready to learn knew stuff and debate matters of observation and interpretation). My education work is in the area of science-education reform, so it's easy to get evangelistic. Sorry about that. I'm intrigued by the relatively small movement towards making the teaching order into Physics-Chemistry-Biology, instead of Biology-Chemistry-Physics (alphabetical order).

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Aaah, the SATs. I think I was 720V, 640M. I always hated math, despite the fact that my father was a high school math teacher before he went to law school.

You know, I have relatively few pet peeves in life. One of them is a South Carolina/North Carolina thing - North Carolinians tend to forget that there IS a South Carolina, and darn it, Ernesto is headed for SOUTH Carolina, the current path has it making landfall smack in the middle of the SOUTH Carolina coastline. (OK, I'm done now. Back to the regularly scheduled boodling.)

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 9:14 AM | Report abuse

My degrees are in chemistry and I loved biology along with it. I would have majored in biology, but for the advice of my advisor who said that if you can "do math," go into chemistry. Biology was for people who couldn't do math. Now, there is a serious lack of computational biologists. They are mainly chemists or mathematicians with some biology courses. A reform of advising would help education reform.

So my order was a simultaneous chemistry/biology and then chemistry/physics/biology.

Hated physics because I was bored with inclined planes. That's the only thing I remember from it, inclined planes.

Posted by: notthatsuri | August 30, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I don't think there's anyone I admire more than the good teachers out there--the ones in this boodle are most definitely in that group.

That said, I don't think there's anyone who pi$$e$ me off more than the bad teachers.

Posted by: TBG | August 30, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse


Sorry, didn't mean to slight South Carolina. Actually, the tracker shows that it is possible that Ernesto will move up through Florida and Georgia before hitting South Carolina.

I sympathize with the North and South thing. I lived a long time in North Dakota, but everyone kept asking me what part of South Dakota I lived in. It persists to this day, people will tell me they vacationed in my part of the country--SOUTH Dakota.

Posted by: notthatsuri | August 30, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

The new SAT includes an essay portion that is also worth 800 points, so the new perfect score is 2400. That makes those 1600 scores look pretty peebly now.

My son took the SAT in June and although his scores are good, he wants to do better. So this time he is preparing: he got the book 'SAT for Dummies.'

That should help.

Posted by: TBG | August 30, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Being the big fan of avoidance that I am, I can't remember my SAT scores other than I only took it once and that was enough to get me wherever I wanted to go.

Back to the Mensa thing for a second, I've only taken one IQ test in my life as far as I know, one my mom gave me as a kid. She never told me the results. I see the wisdom in that now.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

notthatsuri - LOL, OK, then you get it. When I tell people I'm from South Carolina, I'll sometimes get questions like, "Oh, did you live in the Research Triangle area? Or, how close to Charlotte were you?"

I really do hope that the storm peters out and doesn't intensify when it gets back out into the Atlantic. The NOAA tracker's middle line shows it hitting just south of my hometown.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

In North Carolina's defense, PLS, I will say we here in Charlotte often are victims of the CH-factor. You know, you are asked where you're from, and when you say Charlotte, people think Charleston or Charlottesville. That's annoying also.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I am just grateful that I was a kid back in the 1970s and 1980s instead of now. When I was growing up, you were allowed to be good at just one thing. All I could ever really do was read and write and speak, but that was enough. Now God help you if you don't have perfect SATS in math *and* verbal, if you don't edit the school newspaper *and* have a part-time job as an NIH researcher.

It was also OK when I was a kid to, well, be a kid. You could goof off. It was allowed. Encouraged, even! I remember (though it was long ago) making the rounds of college admissions offices with my parents and having the school reps ask me how I spent my summers. "Well, I don't want my parents to have to fork out the walking-around money as well as tuition, books, housing, and food. So I'm lifeguarding three days a week when I don't have swim team, and babysitting for a month at the beach."

And you could read their faces! Oh, how nice! Athletic *and* responsible. Nowadays? If you're not spending your summers at computer camp, or learning Mandarin in Beijing, or building houses in a developing country . . . game over.

And the backpacks? Where did they come from? At what point did we decide that kids cannot possibly learn unless they are staggering down the sidewalks with at least 50 pounds of books at all times?

So why is it that, even as we are placing all of these extreme demands on kids and young adults, SAT scores and other indicators are declining?

Teachers? How say you?

Posted by: annie | August 30, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Traditional 98'th percentile tester here!

I joined a Sacramento (CA) chapter of MENSA in the early 80's, but didn't really devote any time or energy, and let it lapse after a year or two. Some great folks were there, but I'm pretty sure that the percentage of fun/funny folks is higher in this (un-membership-tested & un-membership-fee'd) group of awfully bright folks.

In school as a kid, I occasionally carried around a somewhat larger-than-average armful of books, but the concept of a baby-backpack was still bizarre to me even when I started using one in college. It seemed to be evidence of poor planning & preparation, somehow! Later, I learned that the same reasoning is why many women would never be caught with a purse much larger than their - hmmm... let me just say: with a large purse. They've told me that being prepared for too many things is a sign that one hasn't planned ahead.

Interesting world we live in!

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