A time for thoughtful reflection

Tonight, cities across the globe are powering down in recognition of Earth Hour. Over the years, Earth Hour has gathered a great deal of support. For some, the cognizance brought on by Earth Hour has changed how they behave in their daily lives; while others seem to only switch off their lights for that one hour before they again switch off their minds to the world for the rest of the year.

I've tried to make Earth Hour more than a simple act of environmental conservation and observation. Since I began recognizing it in 2008, I have tried to make Earth Hour a time of contemplation personally, culturally, and globally. Tonight, I encourage you to do the same.

As an aide in triggering those thoughts, allow me to share a list with you made by Tony Schwartz which he published in the Harvard Business Review. In his list, Tony presents us with a side-by-side grouping of things he thinks "We need LESS" and things "We need MORE":
Shallow billionairesPassionate teachers
MultitaskingControl of our attention
SugarLean protein
Super sizesSmaller portions
Private jetsHigh-speed trains
BlamingTaking responsibility
Constructive criticismThank-you notes
RighteousnessDoing the right thing
Long hoursLonger sleep
CynicismRealistic optimism
Immediate gratificationSacrifice
Source: http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/30-things-we-need-and-30-we-do.html
It matters little what you may think of specific items from Tony's list; my hope is that this will prompt you to consider the same comparison of "needs" in your own life, as it did for me.

Whether it's during the official Earth Hour (20:30 - 21:30 local time) [Earth Hour] or during a different hour of your choosing, I encourage you to turn off your lights, your gadgets, and your daily routine. In place of your usual behaviors for that hour, light a candle, sit outside, or simply meditate in the solace of your mind and spend an hour in consideration of your choices and how they affect you, your family and friends, your community, your culture, and your planet.


Full Moon during lunar perigee

Tomorrow night (March 19th), the full Moon will rise and appear a little larger than usual; that's because it will be about 30,000 km (approx. 18,600 mi) closer to Earth during what's called the lunar perigee [Wikipedia: "Orbit of the Moon"].

The Moon's average distance from our lovely blue marble is about 385,000 km. The Moon's perigee tomorrow night will put it only 356,577 km (221,567 mi) away. While this is really only 7% nearer, the Moon will appear 12-14% larger as it passes across the night sky. Making it the perfect night to gaze upwards at our lonely natural satellite.

When the Moon's perigee coincides with a Full Moon or New Moon, it is sometimes called a "Supermoon" [wikipedia]; though that title appears more often in astrology and mass media than it does in scientific discussions.

Tomorrow's event is even more rare as it is the nearest approach of the Moon during its perigee since March 1993. More still, the Spring equinox occurs on Sunday; making this lunar affair almost as much fun as the "Winter solstice lunar eclipse" which happened last December.

So, as you enjoy the night, be sure to look up and appreciate the beauty of another unique astronomical experience.


INDY Poll: Daylight Saving Time?

Just hours before the ages-old aggravation of Daylight Saving Time spread across the United States of America for the year 2011, I voiced my hatred of DST in the post "Why I hate Daylight Saving Time". Now it's your turn to add your voice to the debate....


Pi is a lie. Happy Half Tau Day

Pi is a lie. The concept of Pi (π) is confusing and makes trigonometry more complex than it needs to be. Math can be made easy to learn and understand. Michael Hartl proposes that we reclaim that simplicity through the use of Tau (τ).

Enjoy this video made by a Math student who understands the logic of Tau and the need to increase its popular use.

URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7vhMMXagQ

Intrigued? Try tasting this bit of Tau (excerpt from "The Tau Manifesto"):
The Tau Manifesto is dedicated to the proposition that the proper response to “π is wrong” is “No, really.” And the true circle constant deserves a proper name. As you may have guessed by now, The Tau Manifesto proposes that this name should be the Greek letter τ (tau):
τ ≡ C/r = 6.283185307179586…
Throughout the rest of this manifesto, we will see that the number τ is the correct choice, and we will show through usage (Section 2 and Section 3) and by direct argumentation (Section 4) that the letter τ is a natural choice as well.

Happy Half Tau Day! The complete celebration will come on the 28th of June.


Why I hate Daylight Saving Time

In a matter of hours clocks across the United States of America will be "wrong" by an hour due to the onset of Daylight "Saving" Time1.

The advantages and disadvantages of Daylight Saving Time have been debated at length for nearly one hundred years. We've all heard the legend of the great inventor and founding father Benjamin Franklin decreeing DST to benefit agriculture across America. (Really, I think he just didn't like the night life in Paris and thought he'd go about suggesting a shift in behavior by having them "use more daylight". ["Benjamin Franklin: America's Inventor" - HistoryNet])

Daylight Saving Time didn't come into recognizable use until the first World War. During which much of the world's energy was spent on lighting (with fuel which could be put to better use in the war). A fact which really can't be used with current arguments for DST. Lighting is a small fraction of our modern day energy usage; instead, heating and cooling systems make up the biggest portion. Resulting in the following scenario today:
With DST, people return with an extra hour of sunlight. An hour during which homes would have cooled further. Once individuals enter a warmer house, they crank some cold air out of the cooling systems.
So, much for energy savings. You see, they didn't have electricity sucking HVAC systems back when they started this DST thing. Don't worry, though, some would have you push your evening plans out an additional hour if you were so concerned about coming back to a warmer house. (The same hour DST took away.)

Ignoring the involvement of energy companies, there are many industries which claim a benefit from DST. Tourism, sports, and retail; to name a few. Customers of these industries consume more of their products and services during the daylight; if they can catch a few more customers after the workday is through then that's money in the bank. That's not a bad thing for those industries to want, so I don't fault the efforts to take advantage of the time change. It does mask the larger issue, which started DST in the first place.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time is to make the most of the hours of daylight available during the Summer. That's fantastic! Unfortunately, people use DST as a crutch to hobble a few days of good feelings out of "more" daylight. You've heard this before, but I'll say it again: If you want more daylight, then use it when it's there. Consistently. I'm definitely not going to do what Ben Franklin did and tell you how to spend your day though; in fact, I'd rather point out a consequence encountered when using DST.

Tomorrow morning, you are going to feel like crap. You're going to wake up, look at your clock and think, "What?! It's ??:??. How is it so late?!" That feeling of panic is not only because of DST (just as little as that feeling of rest in the Spring); it's because you got an hour less of sleep. If you don't like that feeling, then you should consistently try to get an extra hour of sleep. DST "takes" away an hour of night for most people; moving that darkness from the evening to the next morning. Personally, I think it's your choice to define your sleeping habits as you want. Additionally, I don't think there should be any attempt to dictate whether you choose to play during the day or night. In 1779, however, Ol' Ben thought he knew best and suggested Paris "early to bed and early to rise", but we both know that sometimes more excitement can be found after dark or in sleep.

1 Technically, my clocks are all either radio clocks [wikipedia] or using NTP [wikipedia] and, therefore, set the time automatically according to either the radio signal being broadcast by WWVB [wikipedia] here in Fort Collins, Colorado or the NTP server wwv.nist.gov hosted by the same.


Thumb-cat Apocalypse

In a creative and memorable advertisement for its Cravendale milk, Arla Foods UK humorously presents a very simple question: "What would happen if cats had thumbs?"

Source URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CcxJQq1x8

If they develop the use of thumbs, the whole of human civilization will fall before the kingdom of the kitty. Be afraid. Be very afraid.