Timely notice

2020 is a leap year starting on a Wednesday. If you save old calendars to display when the dates line up correctly again, you’re out of luck unless your collection extends back to 1992. However, calendars for 2014, 2003 and 1997 will be correct in 2020 for January and February1, and those for 2015, 2009 and 1998 will work for the rest of the year.

PSA

As Pixy points out, “There was no year zero.” Therefore, today is the “Last Day Of The Second Last Year Of The Second Decade Of The First Century Of The Third Millennium.”

Robbo reiterates, “As we all know, Wednesday is January 1, 2020. 2020 is not the first year of the next decade. It is, instead, the last year of this decade. Those failing to recognize this will be set upon by rabid honey-badgers.”

In other words, everyone compiling “best/worst/whateverest of the decade” lists is jumping the gun.

Further year-end notes:

The Babylon Bee proposes a reformation I can get behind.

• Dave Barry’s summation and dismissal of the year can be found here — but you have to allow ads to see it, grr.

Odds and ends

The United States’ copyright laws are insane. Canada’s are more reasonable. I recently discovered quite a bit of Cordwainer Smith is available at the Canadian site Fadedpage. It’s missing some essential stories, e.g. “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” but it includes some of my favorites, such as “Under Old Earth” and “Western Science Is So Wonderful,”1 as well as many others such as “Think Blue, Count Two,” “A Planet Named Shayol,” the Casher O’Neill stories and, of course, “Scanners Live in Vain.” (Update: there is a fair amount of Smith at archive.org, though most of it is less convenient to read than the offerings at Fadedpage.)

There’s plenty else available at Fadedpage. A few old favorites: Till We Have Faces, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats2 , My Life and Hard Times.

Isegoria discovers my favorite of Poul Anderson’s books, The High Crusade. I gather there was a lousy movie made from it, but I have a hunch that it would serve well as the basis for a good anime series.

Those who know their Who might hear something familiar here:

(Via Dustbury.)

To the list of famous coke-heads, you can add a pope or two.

(Via Pergelator.)

Words of wisdom Further silliness from here and there:

Checkmate, stalemate, forfeit

Tomorrow, for the first time in 46 years, an American, Fabiano Caruana, will challenge the world chess champion for the title. The last time this happened, it was major news. This time, though, apparently no one much cares. I searched the online edition of the Wichita newspaper today to see if there has been any mention of Caruana. This is what I found:

These don’t seem to have much to do with chess.

Out of curiosity, I did a search for “chess.” Here are the first few results:

So the Wichita Eagle squanders thousands of column inches every year on tedious ball games and incredible quantities of tripe, drivel and sanctimonious BS, but it can’t be bothered to spare a few inches for chess unless there’s a political angle to exploit.

You can follow the games live here for $20. There will also be coverage here.

Nobel note

John Walker:

Oliver Heaviside never won a Nobel Price, although he was nominated for the physics prize in 1912. He shouldn’t have felt too bad, though, as other nominees passed over for the prize that year included Hendrik Lorentz, Ernst Mach, Max Planck, and Albert Einstein. (The winner that year was Gustaf Dalén, “for his invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys”—oh well.)

Memo

To people who run websites:

  • If you have Flash anywhere on your site, please get rid of it. If your online catalog requires Flash, I won’t look at it.
  • If I need to disable my ad blocker to see your site, I won’t bother visiting it.
  • If you’re discussing music, podcasts make sense. Otherwise, I have neither the patience nor the time for them. (No, I don’t “multitask.” If I listen to a podcast while working on something else, I will both miss much of the podcast and do a poorer job on the task at hand.1)
  • Similarly, unless you’re discussing a dramatic presentation, video reviews and the like are also wastes of time.

Check

Chess was front-page news during July and August of 1972 as Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become the first USA-born world chess champion.1 (Or the second, if you count Paul Morphy.) Fischer didn’t defend his title, and since then no one from the USA has made it to the world championship finals.

Until now. This November in London, Fabiano Caruana, born in Miami, faces off against the current champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. Caruana, the third-highest-rated player2 in chess history behind Carlsen and and the now-retired Garry Kasparov, is having a terrific year. After winning the candidates’ tournament, he went on to win the GRENKE Chess Classic and Altibox Norway tournaments over strong competition. In the latter, he finished ahead of Carlsen, though he lost to the world champion in their match. (He did defeat Wesley So, who had earlier defeated Carlsen.)

Caruana seems to be decent, likable guy, not a demanding neurotic like Fischer. His candidacy is an occasion for national pride. So why isn’t this front page news? The Wichita paper reports in excruciating detail about football players’ knees, yet there has been no mention of Caruana (or of Sam Shankland from San Francisco, who recently joined the 2700 club and is also having a very good year). I suppose that unless something is easily politicized, it doesn’t exist. The Cold War is over, and apparently to the media there is nothing interesting about white males3 who are merely among the best in history at a deep, fascinating game.

Snapshots from work

Over the years, we’ve acquired a modest collection of doorstops at the office. The above are currently exhibited on a shelf near my desk. The average price of each was around $25; none of them were of much use. I’d say that they illustrate my observation that the thicker the manual, the less helpful it is, except the thin ones were also pretty much useless.

This poster was taped to the elevator wall. Just wondering: do such posters actually do any good beyond making the persons who post them feel momentarily virtuous?

Additions to The Rules

Walker’s Law: Absent evidence to the contrary, assume everything is a scam.

The Strong Misanthropic Principle: The universe exists in order to screw with us.

(From here.)

Walker, incidentally, is one of the most interesting book reviewers around and is always worth reading (except maybe for the coding stuff, which is Not My Thing).

Just wondering

  • Is there any significance to Valentine’s Day being Ash Wednesday this year, or April Fool’s Day Easter?
  • The celebration of “Disney princesses” is a major international industry. Where are the Disney princes?
  • Is it possible to be both a good person and a successful politician?
  • The nearest grocery store recently put its carrots in a bin labeled “organic.” Do there exist inorganic carrots?