Alaska natural

If this is 2 p.m. it must be noon

March  7, 2017 

     Confused? Here's how it works. Alaska used to have four time zones: 0ne for Southeastern (Juneau); a large central one (Anchorage, Fairbanks. Barrow); west coast (Bethel, Nome); and one in the western Aleutians.
     Juneau was one time zone removed from Seattle, Anchorage one removed from Juneau, Bethel one removed from Anchorage; and western Aleutians one removed from Bethel.
     Then several years ago the Legislature chose to ignore geography and put everyone on the same time zone. The zone the solons chose was Juneau's which put the whole state except the Aleutians, only one time zone removed from Seattle, and more importantly only four earlier than New York, mostly so stock brokers in Anchorage didn't have to wake up so early to work the markets. Mind you, this was before the Internet. Then in summer there is Daylight Savings Time which adds another hour to the formula.
     So as a result, Local Noon (another name is Solar Noon) in summer is 2 p.m. And in winter Local Noon is 1 p.m., biorhythms be damned.
     Imagine if Gary Cooper had showed up for the gunfight two hours early.
     Why does this matter? Well, nowadays unless you are totally in tune with the Earth's rotation not much, but only a hundred or so years ago it was very important.
     You see, Local Noon is crucial to celestial navigation. It was all the early explorers had. If no one ever explained it to you longitude is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds from the Prime Meridian, and knowing local noon is the key to finding out how far you are from the prime. In order to learn Local Noon, what they did was take sights with a sextant measuring the sun's height above the horizon. From what was believed to be, say, 11:30 a.m. sailors took sights at short, regular intervals. Before noon the angle to the sun would rise slightly with each sight. The minute it showed a drop, they had the best approximation of Local Noon, the highest point reached above the horizon that day. Comparing this with the ship's chronometer set to the time at the prime meridian, they had their longitude. Some mathematical calculations were involved as well. Keep in mind accuracy is necessary, every second the clock is off amounts to a quarter of a mile, so it it is a minute off the ship is 15 miles from where the captain thinks it is. A couple minutes and you could miss Hawaii.
     The problem for the early sailors was no one had a reliable chronometer. They never could be sure of the time at the Prime so to speak. The British Admiralty even offered a large money prize for anyone who could design such a marvel. Seventy years passed before anyone claimed the prize.
     And what does this have to do with Alaska? Well, Captain James Cook was the first to give that chronometer a shot. He explored and charted much of the West Coast and in particular Alaska's coast looking for the fabled northwest passage. He never found it, but his charts were so accurate they are still valid today. So it looks like the thing worked. But imagine if the time had been two hours earlier as it is today. Cook would have been in the Aleutians thinking he was in Prince William Sound. Of course he might have arrived on that beach in Hawaii two hours early and missed the battle that killed him.
     Now wasn't that fun? Just think. You can sleep until noon by the clock, you're really getting up at 10 a.m. not nearly as embarrassing, in Alaska anyway, but the business people get their extra hour of sleep.
A&E network produced a series about the development of the chronometer titled Longitude.

A post script: I have always loved the saying attributed to the ubiquitous Old Indian about Daylight Savings Time: "Only the white man would cut the bottom off a blanket and then sew it to the top and tell you it was a longer blanket."

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

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Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

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Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

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As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

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Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

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"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

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