I have come to that time of life–or maybe it’s a passing phase–where I really like the apparent extra hour of sleep you get when you turn the clocks back in the autumn. Those sixty extra minutes in bed seem like forever, the luxury coming when you finally climb out of the sack and it’s still kind of early (or at least not noon). The business of turning the clock ahead and “losing” that time–gee, whoever said the forty-seven-hour weekend was a good idea. Yeah, I know it all balances out, and that an hour is an hour, and that the seasonal turning of clocks ahead and back doesn’t add a single minute to our time on Earth, and it doesn’t take a single minute away. (The foregoing rumination is probably triggered by the feeling that, man, do I have a hard time getting the prescribed x number of hours of sleep that researchers say I need to be a healthy, happy, organism.)
Here’s another sign of the turning of the seasons: baseball. Last year, we got kind of involved with the A’s again after years of distance born partly the team’s indifferent performance on the field and partly from disgust with an owner who seemed to be doing everything possible to alienate the team’s fans in advance of moving the team to somewhere else. But last year was really fun. The team dragged along below .500 for the first couple of months of the season, and then with a bunch of rookie pitchers and an unbelievable run of clutching hitting, they started winning and didn’t stop until they ran into the Tigers in the playoffs.
Our enthusiasm was such that we sprung for partial season tickets this year. The team sent them this week. When you buy tickets that way, you generally get a specially printed batch that features pictures of the team’s stars. We got those this year, packaged in a little bit of extra swag–a very cool A’s lunch box. We’re ready for opening day.
I always have a little pang of loss when we turn the clocks back. The days have been getting shorter for months, of course; it’s dark in the morning; but for me, the fact we’re moving into the dark part of the year finally hits home these first few days after changing the clocks. The light at dusk is just as pretty; but the night starts that much earlier. The good news: the current daylight saving law, under which we go to standard tiime (maybe it should be called winter time) the first Sunday in November and then “spring ahead” the second Sunday in March, means that we’ve only got four months to go before we move the clocks ahead again. (Yes, I concede: if I were a morning person, I’d absolutely love setting the clocks back.)
In the meantime, here’s something to do with the early dark: Go out and look for Comet Holmes. I didn’t hear about it until yesterday, when I saw an item from a space-launch email list to which I subscribe that describes a comet that has suddenly become visible to the unaided (a.k.a. naked) eye. The Sky and Telescope site has an excellent guide on the comet and how to find it (if we were in the back yard together I could show you: “You see Cassiopeia up there, sort of in the northeast? That sort of ‘W’ shape. Good. OK — now go down and a little toward the horizon to that next group of stars; not down to the brightest star — that’s Capella in Auriga; just between the W and that bright one. Look up there by that little group of stars and you’ll see this fuzzy little Q-tip thing that you’re not really sure is there, but it is. Here — look through the binoculars. See? Isn’t that amazing?”) The comet actually has a pretty interesting story. Seen from Earth, it’s usually quite dim, even when its at its closest approach to the sun (that point, called the perihelion, is about twice as far away from the sun as we are). But for some reason, it has a history of “outbursts” — episodes during which it brightens suddenly (not unlike me when I find my lottery ticket has a matching number). Go out and see it.
And if you’re looking for another sky sighting, and you are a morning person, I note that the International Space Station/space shuttle tandem will make five-minute passes over New York City at 5:52 a.m. ET and (two orbits later) over the San Francisco Bay Area at 5:54 a.m. The New York appearance will occur shortly after the vehicles have undocked.
[Comet Holmes update: It looks even brighter tonight. Yesterday, the Boston Globe ran a nice piece on our overnight sensation.]
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