Waiting for the great leap forward

On a day off from work, it is not uncommon that my sole aim for the day, from the moment I get up, is that I will write a post on my blog.

Hmm, on second thought, perhaps sole aim is not quite the right term to use there – I fear that makes it sound like I swan around on my days off, with so little else to do that I really should give the servants a raise, and take up Decoupage.

I did have other goals for the day – if you count all the boring things like phone an electrician about the fan in the bathroom, vaccuum the floors, pick up kid and grocery shopping!!! – but write a post is the creative goal that will make my day feel worthwhile – something that grocery shopping and vacuuming will not achieve, worthy pursuits though they may be.

Each time I plan to write a post on my blog, I hope that it will be a good piece of writing, that it might even be the best piece of writing I’ve posted here so far. Each time I publish I post, I am certain that I fall short of that mark, but nevertheless, I do still get satisfaction from achieving the goal of the doing, and the posting.

After such an introduction, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that today is one of those days, a day where my sole aim has been to sit down and write a post on my blog – and here I am, starting this post at 5.08pm. That doesn’t bode well for producing a high quality piece of writing to post by tonight, since, as we all know, 5pm is the point on any day off where time starts to accelerate. Evidence suggests that the acceleration effect is even more pronounced when you have to work the following day.*

On a day off, the morning is delightfully slow, particularly if you indulge yourself by sitting in the wintery morning sun, drinking an extra cup of tea and reading your book while the laundry is washing. Early afternoon eventually rolls around, and gently nudges you into recalling that you better pick up the pace and finish off those chores if you want that image of yourself sitting by the window writing in the afternoon sun to have any chance of becoming a reality.

Lo and behold, after you’ve done the grocery shopping, put groceries away, made the marinade, prepared dinner ready to be cooked, and answered a few emails, it’s 5pm. Cue that sinking feeling, because you know that time is going to speed up from here, and the next thing you know you’ll have cooked and eaten dinner, cleaned up, had a glass or 2 of of wine, and it will be 11pm and you”ll still be plugging away at that post because you’re so determined to post it today – even though you have to be up at 6.30am and really should be in bed.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s the point where I frequently end up publishing my post, whatever stage it’s at, despite misgivings that it’s not my best piece of writing ever, and in fact a fear that it’s really a very mediocre piece of writing indeed.

Still, the upside is that I do gain a sense of satisfaction from getting the writing done and posted, and thus achieving that goal.

A lot of advice to writers highlights the importance of plugging away and just doing it, and by doing so, forming a habit of writing, and that certainly fits with the contentment I feel in getting a post written and published, even when I sometimes wish I’d written something far more memorable, insightful, witty, intelligent, or (insert praiseworthy adjectives of your own preference here.)

So the good news for me, and people in a similar dilemma, is that today there is apparently an extra second in the day. Yes, on June 30 in the Northern Hemisphere, or July 1 down here where we are always slightly ahead of you all, we had a Leap-Second.* I am not sure how it escaped my attention up to this point in my life, but apparently ever since 1972, Coordinated Universal Time is adjusted by a second every now and then (approximately every 3 years) to keep time with the Earth’s rotation, which is apparently irregular.

Looks regular, but you can never tell from appearances who's regular and who's not.

Looks regular, but you can never tell from appearances who’s regular and who’s not.

Pic: Fact Monster

Now that I’ve discovered the existence of the leap second, not only am I enjoying all the extra time I have on my hands this afternoon, I’m putting it to good use by reading about the leap second. I needed a topic for my post, see, and although this may have seemed like it was a post about writing posts, that little bit of navel-gazing was just a ploy to lead into the topic of the leap second. Or is the topic of the leap second a ploy to pad out a post about writing a post? Well, dear reader, you can decide for yourself, when (or if) you reach the end. (for those who don’t reach the end, please don’t write in to ask what happened.)

Firstly, it’s impressive – when you consider all the seconds that have ticked by since the Big Bang occurred – and let me assure you, there have been quite a few of them, – that this particular second gets to be singled out with a name. Admittedly it is not a proper name, but nevertheless, a categorical name.

The extra second, captured in a photograph taken at NASA this morning.

The extra second, captured in a photograph taken at NASA this morning.

Imagine if we decided to name (even categorically) every second. For a start, we’d have to think of names that could be said in less than a second, so obviously we’d be looking for one syllable words for names – eg,  Jeb, Dan, Syd, Bip, Bam and Pow. We’d also need to think up the names in fractions of seconds, and we’d need to have our Second Naming Department staff do nothing else but think up and name seconds, 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24/7. No toilet breaks. Obviously to undertake this endeavour we’d need a large team of rotating staff and a large supply of speed.

Who even suggested that idea? Clearly naming every second would be an outright waste of taxpayers money. Let’s get back to the second in question – the leap second.

The leap second does not have the upper case status of a proper noun, but nevertheless I enjoy the many references online to the leap second as a noun that needs to be dealt with. I have decided to picture it as Coordinated Universal Time’s equivalent of a little green frog. (which would make the Leap Year a large, ugly, overgrown toad.)

It seems the humble little leap second manages to generate controversy. The Wikipedia entry on the leap second (linked above) has a section devoted to the  Proposal to Abolish Leap Seconds. What – no! Yes, Reader, I’m afraid so. It also has a section entitled Examples of problems associated with the leap second. (I note the careful wording, whereby Wikipedia avoids saying that the problems are “caused by” the leap second, in order to avoid being sued by the leap second. It’s not so cute when it’s mad.) There is also a section on Workaround for leap second issues, which may be useful if your mobile device is telling you that it’s still June 30. (or perhaps you’re just in L.A. and it IS still June 30.)

The poor old leap second. Soon we’ll be reading articles about how it’s been misunderstood and neglected, and then soon after that, articles on its impending extinction.

So there was an extra second today, and that extra second has led to this post. To wrap up, I thought it might be nice to pretend that this was always the plan: here is a list of things that happened in that extra second today*:

– a snail moved approximately 0.1 mm

– a bee beat its wings 270 times

-light travelled all the way from the moon into our range of vision here on earth

– 4 babies were born

-2 people died

-neurons in my brain transmitted a response after I read an article about leap seconds; that led to this post.

 

*

 

 

*references for the list of things that happened within that second:

Top Ten Incredible Things

Ecology Global Network

Space.com

 

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: