The turning of the year

12 January 2008

(written on the morning of 31 Dec 07)

The frost is thick on the ground this morning, and it seems to have seeped into the air to create a thick fog. Intellectually I know the air isn’t frozen, though I have seen it so at other times, in other places. For now, though, the pack of Steller’s Jays hopping outside reminds me that there is life out there, after all.

Though unmarked by nearly everyone who will shout about tonight (New Year’s Eve), the real turning point seems to me to have happened on 22 Dec, the winter solstice. Though it is neither the earliest sunset of the year nor the latest sunrise of the year, it is the shortest day, with eight hours and about fifty minutes of daylight. [Writing now several days later, we are up to almost nine hours of daylight! yay.]

This 8:50, by the way, compares to 10:57 in Hilo and 3:43 at UAF on the same day. Also, the Sun made its lowest arc across the sky during the day, at the farthest south point in the sky. Which wasn’t quite low enough to beam through our living room windows, down the hallway, and into the kitchen. For which I guess I should be thankful–it isn’t Fairbanks.

I am still trying to catch the pace of seasonal change in the mid-latitudes; six years in the tropics preceded by six years in the polar region have dulled my sense of it. Clearly I need to pay more attention. And celebrate tonight, too.


A striking contrast is presented between the new MacPro that just arrived at work and the definition presented for the first learning tic-tac-toe playing computer laid out in a 1963 paper and reiterated in the O’Reilly Statistics Hacks book I’m reading now. On the one hand, an eight-core CPU, new fast RAM, and an embarrassment of riches in graphics cards; on the other, to quote Bruce Frey quoting Donald Michie, 287 matchboxes and large numbers of nine different colors of beads. That’s right. The arch-nemesis from 1983’s WarGames can be constructed from the contents of your kitchen junk drawer.

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