Pick a decade, any decade – and other end of year potpourri

The media is full of lists of the “_____ of the decade.”  Best movies.  Best TV shows.  Worst of each.  Political turning points.  You name it, someone has a list.  Which decade do they mean?  Apparently, the one ending tomorrow.  So, to be clear, not the first decade of the 21st century, but the decade that runs (or, as of Friday, ran)  from 2000 – 2009.  Yes, it’s time to remind ourselves of the same discussion we had ten years ago – believe it or not.  While many wondered what would happen to our computers when the calendar odometer turned over, we calendar purists were reminding everyone that the third millennium would not begin for another year, on January 1, 2001.  OK, let’s put that millennium term in perspective, too.  I mean the third millennium of the calendar that counts the years of the Common Era, estimated by Dionysius Exiguus as the “incarnation of Jesus Christ,” and using the months of the year named by the Romans and later modified by Pope Gregory to fix the leap year problem and settle the date of Easter.  After all, there are other counting systems extant, including the Hebrew (now 5770) and Chinese (now 4705 or so). Exiguus began counting with year “1,” not year “0,” so if one follows the logic that the first decade comprised years 1-10, then the last year of the second millennium was 2000, and hence the last year of the first decade of this millennium will be 2010.

But most of us find it easier to think of time the same way we watch our car’s odometer turn from 9 to 0.  So we name our decade after the tens place – the roaring twenties, the fabulous fifties.  What alliterative adjective should we apply to the “aughts?”  Maybe in the U.S, we could call it the “xenophobic zeroes.”

As for my New Year’s Eve, perhaps I’ll do something nostalgic, like get out our 10-year-old New Year’s Baby doll, which when you press its head shouts, “Welcome to the year 2000! Happy New Year!” It was quite the novelty a decade ago. As my typical day begins at 5:30 A.M., it will take some effort to make it until midnight, but I’ll give it my best effort.  This will be our first New Year’s Eve in our Ohio home, and we’ll be missing our daughters and their husbands at the stroke of midnight.

Since I’ve not blogged in four months and it is the end of the year and perhaps your decade, the time is ripe for some not-quite random commentary.

First, climate change deniers, and this means you S.P. and everyone at Fox News, here are two points to chew over.  First, since you are so eager to jump on some leaked email messages that discuss putting the best face on some arguably inconclusive data, where were you when the Bush administration flat-out lied about evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction?  Second, yes, the earth does have cyclical long-term climate changes. Those can be seen when going through the geologic record.  But those cycles are that – long-term.  The changes in the last few decades (that term again) are like nothing seen in a period shorter than thousands of years in earlier eras.  And the only empirical difference between now and then is mankind’s influence on the environment, most notably more than six billion people burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate.  There are not unusual levels of volcanic activity.  There has not been an extraterrestrial object impact like that thought by many to have led to the mass extinction 65 million years ago.  Just 150 years of ever-increasing emissions of CO2, and the conversion of forests and jungles to asphalt and concrete.  Mind you, I’m not claiming to be an innocent bystander – I’m as much of the problem as is anyone else.  But I don’t lie about it.  Or, maybe they aren’t lying, maybe they really are just stupid and ignorant.

Second, mainstream media, get some perspective.  A shimmering object floating across the sky that might have one person inside is boring after five minutes, would be sad for a family if it had not been a hoax, but really is not newsworthy.  The latest news about the Gosselins is not news, it’s gossip.  And Tiger Woods is entertaining only in that he serves as an abject lesson in how to destroy your unearned reputation.  (He did earn a reputation as a focused individual who is one of the best, if not the best, golfer ever.  But what evidence was there that he knows cars (Buick), managing technology (Accenture), or has a face that is particularly difficult to shave (Gillette)? ) Let’s focus on the things that truly affect thousands or millions of us – the economy, the lack of affordable health care, the wars.

Third, Susan Boyle, you sing well.  Enjoy what’s come your way.  Few can think of “Les Mis” without now hearing your voice.

Everyone, best wishes for a wonderful new year!

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