Thursday, November 1, 2007

Time and time again, doggone it

It was about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, and I was still huddled under my quilt, because it was so dark and chilly … and Elvis had stopped wiggling.

It must be time to change time again, a task which rates right up there with cleaning toilets, filing for unemployment or having a tax audit.

Staying in bed sounds better and better.

In past years, you see, we’d already have gone through this agony by now. We’d be on standard time and the sun would be up by 6:30. This year, the time change won’t kick in until 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.

To prepare, we’ll twist those stem-winders and button-push on every clock and coffeemaker, microwave, telephone and thermometer, printer and pocket watch in the house.

It could be worse. We could be on 24-hour military time … or each of our clocks could have calendar mechanisms. If either of those describes your household, I hope you weren’t planning to do anything else this weekend.

But back to Elvis.

We have a campy Presley clock, a gag gift that’s supposed to shake its booty 24/7. Twice a year and regular as clockwork, so to speak, the King keeps on ticking but his hip-shimmy mechanism quits.

I suppose dust mice, lint fragments and an occasional deceased spider clog the rock star’s wiggle-works. So, once again I’ll beg Jay Foreman at Once Upon a Tyme to give Elvis the clock-equivalent of a colonic.

Searching for a time-changing short-cut recently, I bought two self-setting atomic clocks. They’re linked via radio waves and voodoo to a Big Daddy that keeps them marching in clock-lockstep from Colorado, about 1,200 miles away.

I went online and learned that millions of devices worldwide are regulated from afar by a system of four ultra-precise, control-freak Master Clocks. How bizarre.

According to http://science.howstuffworks.com/atomic-clock.htm, atomic clocks are super accurate. “Without atomic clocks, GPS navigation would be impossible, the Internet would not synchronize and the position of the planets would not be known with enough accuracy for space probes and landers to be launched and monitored.”

So how do my little clocks work, you ask?

HowStuffWorks explains in part, “oscillation frequencies within the atom are determined by the mass of the nucleus and the gravity and electrostatic ‘spring’ between the positive charge on the nucleus and the electron cloud surrounding it.”

Got that? Great. Now explain it to me. In English, please.

But if the Jedi Master clock remotely tells all our little clocks exactly what time it really is … then why, on Oct. 27, did the atomic clock in our living room read 8:57 while the one in the dining room said it was 8:54?

Is one of them a black sheep that merrily clocks away to an alternate rhythm, perhaps in rumba time? Great. Just what I need, an inaccurate atomic clock that’s ready to debut on “Dancing With the Stars.”

I rationalized that maybe our atomics were on the same wavelength, but I was slow. I dashed back and forth between the two rooms, trying to catch both clocks with the same time.

Didn’t happen, but I wound up feeling like the spying mother of quarrelsome twin teenagers.

Then on Oct. 28 — the Sunday on which we would have “fallen back” if this had been 2006 — I arose to find the dining room atomic clock correctly on daylight time … but the living room atomic clock had somehow reset itself to standard time. A week early.

Totally confused, I went back online.

The notably unreliable Wikipedia.com, said in part, “typical radio ‘atomic clocks’ require placement in a location with a relatively unobstructed atmospheric path to the transmitter.”

This is Cambria, Wiki. Nothing has a relatively unobstructed path to anything here.

So, Tanner Manor now has self-setting clocks which work (or don’t) in the same manner that all Cambria cell phones do (or don’t).

I give up. I’m going back to bed. Elvis can meditate all he wants. The atomics can disagree. And I don’t even care what time it is.

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