Hooray for Time

Scientists have determined that the exact measurement of time at the molecular level is impossible.

In other words, time is complete and absolute bunk.

At no time is this more evident than Daylight Savings Time, an outdated and archaic practice that arbitrarily picks a day in the fall and stretches it by an hour, then arbitrarily picks another day in spring and shrinks it by an hour.

Now, a lot of people go about gleefully talking about the extra hour of sleep they get when we “fall back”, which is fine and dandy. But those of with kids know the truth.



The kids are still going to wake up when their rhythm tells them to wake up, regardless of any “conditioning” or “preparing” you might have done.

My wife and I thought we were clever. We had slowly been pushing the sprouts’ bedtimes back since about a month ago, so that they could go to bed at the same “time” regardless of the numbers on the clock face.


Last night was Halloween, so any sort of regular sleep schedule was out. And this morning sprout #1 woke up to poop, which he cannot do by himself yet even though the attending adult is nothing more than a cheerleader and heinie-wiper. Oh, did I mention that he was up thirty minutes before his regular time, which was a full hour and a half ahead of the clock time?

Not only did we not gain time, we actually lost time on this exchange, which has me superjazzed about “giving the hour back” in Spring, let me tell you.

Meanwhile, it’s currently seven PM and it feels like midnight.

Thanks, Obama.

Seriously, DST is a joke. You want a non-arse-over-elbows, earth-specific time anomaly to get psyched about? Try the leap-second.

Only Off By a Minute or Two (or 14.4)

The topic for the week in Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday is “ke”.

Which is crap, innit? It’s not a word, certainly not a concept. But it’s more than just a letter. It’s a sound, sort of, though it depends on how you use it. It sounds like itself sometimes: KEy, KEep, KEen; but throw it at the end of a word and its sound disappears entirely: faKE, liKE, smoKE. It vacillates between setting the tone for the thing it’s a part of and being entirely subservient to the rest of the thing.

So I took to the Googles, typed in “ke” and I guess not surprisingly, the first thing to pop up was a wikipedia page, and that seemed promising.

KE is a postal code for Kildare, Ireland, which sounds lovely.

KE is the abbreviation for kinetic energy in physics. Now, I like the thrust of that, but we all know I do more than my share of nattering on about the importance of momentum and doing things and I already feel the gravity of more nattering on the topic, so I will do us all a favor and drive that train of thought into the ditch and move on.

Then you’ve got Ke, which has its own attributions: It’s a translation of a common surname in China, it’s the elimination rate constant (or the rate at which drugs are removed from the body, a topic I know nothing about), it’s also an electrical constant called Coulomb’s Law, which I would have loved to tie in here in clever fashion but ye gods, I had a partial stroke just trying to read the formula:\oiint\mathbf{E} \cdot {\rm d}\mathbf{A} = |\mathbf{E}|\mathbf{\hat{e}}_r\int_{S} dA = |\mathbf{E}|\mathbf{\hat{e}}_r \times 4\pi r^{2}

And I apologize for whatever ill effects it might have had on your system. Finally, a Ke is also a Chinese unit of decimal time measuring either 14.4 minutes or 15 minutes.

Wait a minute.

It’s a unit of measure — those things that we use to determine how much of things there exist in a given system, or the distance between things, or the purity or contamination of things, or in fact any of the myriad of methods we have for making meaning out of the world around us — but we don’t know exactly how much of the thing it sets out to measure that it actually measures.

I thought more about this, and it only made my brain hurt even more, and it was already reeling after trying to read that formula up there. (HALF OF IT IS JUST WAVY LINES.) Think about it. The difference between 14.4 of something and 15 of something is 4%. 4% doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you start doing math of any consequence, 4% becomes enormous. 4% of the world’s population, for example, is 284,000,000 (that’s 284 million) people. 4% of the distance from the earth to the moon is almost ten thousand miles. It’s hard to imagine any measurement having a grey area you could sail the earth itself through.

But that’s the way of things, innit? The Ke is not a contemporary unit of measurement. It doesn’t get used anymore, except perhaps by Chinese authenticists (the measurement, it turns out, was based on the sundial), in large part because we’ve come up with new, better, more precise measuring sticks. So are we always redefining the rules, fine-tuning the specs on our tools, rejiggering the machinations that control and that build our lives. As our goals and, by extension, our accomplishments grow, so too must the means by which we measure them. An “A” in high school chemistry might have been the most important thing in the world to a past version of myself, but today it means precisely bupkis.

I got up for a drink just now, and on my way back to my seat, I had the thought that just about the only yardstick that has meaning in my life at the moment is money, and as I thought that thought, my blood started to simmer. My head filled with insane, tinfoil-hat kinds of ideas and notions that money isn’t real yet our lives and our livelihoods depend on it, that some people in the world can just invent all the money that they want while others live their lives in the shadow of its absence, and ultimately I decided that my blarg is a whole lot more lighthearted than that and the best thing to do was just to wrap this stream of consciousness up.

And to think, it only took me a couple of Ke’s to write all this.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Wasted Time… Like a Leaky Faucet


I’m a little bit obsessed with it. So much so that I’m one of those dinks that actually still wears a wristwatch that’s functional, rather than a fashion accessory.

It’s eternal and unchanging, unless of course you happen to be traveling at the speed of light, or taking up residence within the jurisdiction of a black hole. Then again, if that applies to you, you’re probably not here reading my drivel.

But for all that time is eternal, we, sadly, are not. We get only so much time to operate with, and as miraculous as modern medicine is, it can do nothing to stretch that time out. (I just heard a story on This American Life about a cryonics experiment that went… horrifyingly wrong, all because people are determined to extend their time on this mortal coil. It ain’t happening yet.) Which means that it’s up to each of us to make the most of this non-renewable resource that’s been allotted to us.

So why — why, why, why? — are so many people determined to waste their precious time?

I’m not talking about relaxing after a tough day at work, or watching a few reruns of Seinfeld with your wife. Time spent relaxing, to a point, is not wasted time.

No, I’m talking about the in-between moments, the moments not specifically spoken for but bridging the gap between moments that matter. Driving your car. Walking from one place to another. Shuffling zombielike through the aisles of the grocery store. Moments you don’t even consider, but that end up swallowing up so many minutes — or even hours! — of your day.

I’m a teacher, so I see this one every day: students have five minutes to get from one class to another, and they lurch at the slowest pace possible from Biology to Math II. That I can understand, to a point — you’re not looking forward to sitting through another drone about the Pythagorean Theorem — but still. You eat up every possible moment getting from A to B, then you have to take extra time to get your business together, get your head right for sitting through another class… in short, you end up slowing everybody down since you wasted time on what? dragging your feet?

But that’s a student. That’s a kid. Who doesn’t properly understand the significance of the time he’s wasting.

How about this? You’re in the grocery store, waiting to check out, all your precious foodstuffs on the belt, and the person in front of you is watching the groceries go into the bag, or watching the numbers on the display tick slowly up… and then the cashier tells them, that’ll be entirely too much money, please. This isn’t even an old person, most of the time. It’s a thirty-something guy who looks perfectly ordinary, you know, not like an idiot. Or a twenty-something woman texting on her cell phone. Anyway, the cashier tells them, you know, it’s time to pay, and THAT’S when they reach for their purse or their wallet. As if it was a total shock to them that there was input required from them in this transaction. As if you’ve never been to a grocery store in your life, and you never thought that you’d have to lift a finger to get the food to your house so you can cram it down your beak.

How can you not be prepared for this? Sure, it’s a few seconds, but those seconds add up, and they’re not just your seconds, either — those seconds of your own hesitation get pawned off on everybody in line behind you.

I’m at the soccer match the other night. Match scheduled to start at 5:30. It’s 5:25. Teams are both on-hand, warmed up, ready. Officials are on-site and ready. Scoreboard is set for the start of the match. And everybody is standing around looking at one another. 5:30; nothing happens. 5:35; more milling about on the sidelines. 5:40; finally the teams line up to have their starters announced. 5:45, the match finally starts. Fifteen minutes late. For no reason! The fault could lie anywhere — maybe one of the coaches had to run to his car, maybe the on-site administrator had to deal with an issue and wanted the start of the game held, whatever. But that’s 15 minutes that a stadium full of parents and friends, two teams of players, an additional two teams who play after, can’t get back. For nothing!

We live in a society where, for better or worse, everybody overlaps with everybody else. I cut you off in traffic, you take it out on your husband later that day. You don’t notice the light changing and cost me the traffic light, I assign extra homework for the 90 students I teach. The repercussions of our every action echo outward like ripples in a pond. Yet again and again, I come across these people letting their time — AND MINE — dribble out the corner of their mouths like so much drool. Distracted with something else. Not paying attention. Just not at all motivated to put any pep in their step.

I want to grab them by their collars, shake them until their bleary eyes snap into focus. Impress upon them, somehow, the fact that while they shuffle through the hallways, while they blunder through the aisles, while they dodder at the stoplights, their time, like sands through the hourglass, is slipping irretrievably into the past.

It only takes a half second to look up from whatever’s right in front of you and remember that your actions impact the world all around you. Is it so much to ask that we do so? In fact, if you are alert and aware and moving through your life with purpose and vigor, you actually gain time… what would have been wasted can then be applied to other, more important things. Is it ridiculous, then, to expect the people around us to act with a little urgency, to behave as if time matters to them?

And at what point would one become a total jerkstore for demanding that they do so?

Things Writers Need — TIME

School is back in session, and as you might have noticed if you’re a regular here at Pavorisms, it’s taking a toll.  My writing has suffered a vicious setback at the hands of being back to work and will likely continue to be set back until I get a handle on a new routine for the year.  That said, today’s topic for “Things Writers Need” is particularly salient.

Today’s thing is time, bloody precious uninterrupted sacred time.  Time to make deadlines, time to think up story ideas, time to actually write the blighted thing.  Specifically, I want to talk about the actual time you need when actually actively writing.
Let’s get this straight.  Writing is HARD.  Even when you’re writing about something you love, it’s knuckle-whitening, teeth-grinding, marathon-running HARD.  The best writing is a greased pig with a hot poker applied to its nether bits; it darts this way and that, wails like crazy and will kick mud in your face the moment you think you have a handle on it.  Even if you do manage to lay hands on the thing, without the utmost focus it will twist right out of your arms, leaving you sprawled in the mud and wondering whether the sweet savory taste of bacon is worth all the trouble.  (It is.)  You can’t corner it.  You can’t strategize it.  You just have to chase after it and hope to get lucky enough to scoop it up every now and then before it leaves you in the dirt.  Every once in a while the magic just happens.  But it can’t happen if you don’t have time to chase the pig around the yard.
There’s a quote I loved from the much-adored John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, “What a slut time is.  She screws everybody.” Doesn’t even buy you diner first.
The fact that I am realizing lately more than ever before in my life is that time is a fixed, non-renewable and ultimately precious resource.  Life is filled up with so very many things we must do that it can feel like a mug’s game trying to decide what to do with the time you have left over.  Writing, sad to say, takes up a lot of time.  Even on a good day, I can get maybe 1000 words an hour.  Measure that against the novel I just drafted at 89000 words and that’s ninety hours at a minimum, but let’s be more pragmatic and assume it was closer to a hundred and fifty.  Where does a guy with a full-time job and two full-time kids get that kind of time?
You get it at the expense of other things.  You have to cannibalize the things you hold most dear and use the sweet sweet time you harvest from their still-breathing husks to do the thing that matters.  My thing is video games and TV.  I’ve been a video game junkie since I was five years old and played my first round of “Skier”, in which you steered a pixelated blob down a white expanse dotted with pixelated tree-like green things and pixelated brown lumps and pixelated H-shaped things which somebody assured me you were supposed to navigate between but I was too busy crashing my pixelated blob guy into trees and cackling like a Bond villain to care.  (Seriously, ask my dad about my experiences with “Skier” and he will laugh until he’s blue in the face.)
And TV, holy god!  I used to think that TV was a drain on my life before we got Netflix.  Now it’s a ravenous all-consuming black hole.  On one side you’ve got brilliant network shows one-upping each other with crime dramas and sitcoms, on another side you have cable shows pumping out blistering tour-de-forces in character study and horrible dark drama, on another side you have premium channels hawking epic escapist fantasy and historical fiction, and then there are the on-demand streamers giving you a smorgasbord of bizarre and compelling no-holds-barred excursions in the secret lives of everyday people.  I really think one could watch eight to ten hours of television a DAY and still miss out on some of the incredible programming that’s coming out of TV in the last ten years or so.  I say that not as a rant against television but more as a statement of awe.  There’s SO MUCH GOOD STUFF out there.  As a writer, watching a good show is research, right?  RIGHT??
Point is, it has to go.  Or at least, most of it has to go, because, see, if you want to create, you need large, unbroken swathes of time to let your mind stretch out in.  You need to be able to stew in your thoughts, to fart around with your characters and work on the Gordian knot of tangled plotlines and entrapments that your stories turn into.  I’m not even talking about the actual act of writing, I’m talking about just thinking about writing.  You have to carve out these huge chunks of time in which to operate.  Writing isn’t a microwave dinner, it’s a slow cooker.  You can’t catch ten minutes here, twenty minutes there and expect to turn out Hamlet.  (I understand that some writers work that way, and bully for them.  Honestly.  But how much better could they be if they didn’t have to write that way?)
I read a fantastic article a few months back on NerdFitness.com (yeah, ‘net browsing is another thing that could do with some cannibalizing) called “Why ‘I don’t have time’ is a Big, Fat Lie”.  Steve Kamb has it right here.  It’s true.  So true, it hurts.  In short, the article encourages you to change the way you think about time.  We all have the same amount of time in our day, no matter how much we might wish it otherwise, and some of us are doing amazing things with that time and others are withering on the vine.  Instead of saying, then, that “I don’t have time” to write that novel or run those three miles before work or cook that nice dinner, Steve encourages you to say instead “it’s not a priority.”  Because we make time for the things we prioritize, even if the decision to do so is not a conscious one.  Sitting on your donk and watching TV or playing a video game gobbles up your precious time, so while you’re doing that, you’ve made it a priority.  This is not to say, of course, that TV or video games should be eschewed entirely.  Far from it.  (TV is research, right??)  But we (and by “we” I mean “I,” and by “I” I mean “writers,” and by “writers” I mean “everybody”, really) have to make time for the things we want to do even when the making of time is difficult.  And I really shouldn’t say “make time”, because the time is just there.  You just have to steal it away from the other unimportant sharknado in your life that wants to steal it first.
So you have to fight for your time.  In full battle-armor and with broadsword polished and flailing and a tiny little holdout dagger in your belt ready when the fighting gets really gnarly, if necessary.  You have to carve that time out of your schedule anywhere there is meat left on the bone, and when there is no meat left, you might just have to cut the bone, too.  I operated on six hours of sleep most nights this summer because I’d stay up late writing after sprout #2 went to bed late and then wake up early when sprout #1 popped out of bed like a happy tornado at six AM.  (Of course, my wife operated in staccato bursts of two hours of sleep at a time, so I bow to her masterful experience there!)  It sucked, but I got it done.  I’m trying to find the groove now for being back at work with two kids at home leaving footprints in the jello, and it’s difficult, but I’ll find that groove somewhere.
However you find it, you have to make writing the priority, and that means you have to make the time to do it.  That’s the bottom line.  Writers need time to do what they do if they want to do it well.  If you’re a writer, you have to claim that time however you can.  If you’re dating or married to a writer, well… maybe cut him (or her!) a break once in a while.  Give him (or her!) an hour’s break from the kids — take ’em to the park or something — or take a girls’ or guys’ night, or I dunno, build him (or her!) a temporal displacement chamber in the basement so that he (or she!) can by god create more time and get some damn writing done, paradoxes like meeting your future self or becoming your own grandfather be damned.
No, seriously, if anybody has any leads on that temporal displacement thingy, let me know.

Toddler Life, Chapter 171 – Bathroom Steak

It’s come to this.

This picture isn't symbolic.  It's exactly what it looks like.
This picture isn’t symbolic. It’s exactly what it looks like.  And yeah, my shower curtain has penguins on it.  Represent.

That, indeed, is a picture of my two-year-old in the bathtub and my steak sitting on the counter.  Never mind the clusterfargo of bottles and shampoos and towels on the counter, that’s called sharing a bathroom with a toddler.  I’ll come back to the picture in a moment.

I want to talk right now to those of you reading this blarg who don’t have kids, who are planning to have kids, who don’t have kids yet, or who occupy any other spot on the spectrum between definitely-not-having-kids-ever and having-kids-tomorrow.  I know you’ve read the blogs and websites and books about having a child and the way it will change your life.  It’s all true.  Read More »