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January 1, 2009

Posted by Patrick at 12:00 AM * 61 comments

Every man hath two birth-days: two days, at least, in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. The one is that which in an especial manner he termeth his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom of solemnizing our proper birth-day hath nearly passed away, or is left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor understand any thing in it beyond cake and orange. But the birth of a New Year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.
“New Year’s Eve” by Charles Lamb. Thank you, Maureen Kincaid Speller, for the pointer. And a happier, better new year to you all.
Comments on Midnight:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 12:44 AM:

I'll raise a glass to that!

#2 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 12:52 AM:

Here, here!

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 12:59 AM:

Still four hours to go here, but don't wait up for us.

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

#4 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:22 AM:


Raise our glasses to the new year.

#5 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:28 AM:

I'm oddly cheered by the paucity of comments here -- it suggests to me that most folk aren't spending their evening glued to the keyboard :D

#6 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:06 AM:

Not at my house, they don't. I had to coax hard to get people here to simply stay awake until midnight (and only succeeded with five out of seven).

#7 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:14 AM:

I was preoccupied with saving Wretch from Mu'Rakir, so I didn't notice exactly when the big moment arrived. Consequently, I didn't do my breath holding ritual at midnight (after decades of not missing a single year), but the world didn't end; I may have to reevaluate that particular superstition.

#8 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:46 AM:

Well, I celebrated by getting my butt kicked at Dominion (a card game) mere seconds before the tidal curve of midnight washed over me. (But I won the first game a few hours previously.)

Then I went on to win at Race for the Galaxy (but lost the next game, and got *royally* clobbered at the first game a few hours earlier. Really, someone got a 72.)

There was also Galaxy Truckers, which I won, but not by any particular extension of brilliance on my part. My truck just happened not to fall apart. That was amusing.

And my chocolate banana bread pudding was very well received.

That was 2008, basically. Not an overall win. Hoping to do better next year.

#9 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:14 AM:

It's now January 1, 2009 7:11 PM, here in Canberra. I was working all last night, so I made a couple of phone calls at midnight and sent a few greetings emails.

Happy New Year to all at Making Light. Thanks for an entertaining and thought-provoking 2008.

May 2009 bring a world that tries just a little harder to recognise our common humanity and to care about the planet we share.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:27 AM:

We spent the evening watching GYPSY with the younger child (the older child being out with a friend) and celebrated with champagne for me, sparkling cider for Avocado and the Spouse, and cuddles for the dog, who was most disturbed by the local fireworks.

A world of good work, good friends, and good conversation in 2009.

#11 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:38 AM:

Despite invoking the spirit of Charles Lamb, I regret to say that Paul Kincaid and I slept through the turning of the year, being awoken seconds later by the usual outbreak of fireworks. However, we're both glad to be in 2009 and hope it turns out much better for everyone than 2008 did.

#12 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:48 AM:

Now it's morning. Hazel and I couldn't bring ourselves to stay awake for the big moment, either. What wimps we are. Good wishes to all.

Back when Harold Wilson was the British prime minister, Private Eye used to publish ghastly travesties of the poetry his wife Mary notoriously wrote. Forty years ago, from memory, it went like this:

The New Year dawns; the gurgling babe
Is ushered in with bells.
The old man with his astrolabe
Now hears his tolling knells.
So welcome nineteen sixty-nine
Through gales and blasts of fate:
We know that thanks to Providence Divine
It cannot be as bad as nineteen sixty-eight.

(Resident poets may update this as they will.)

#13 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 06:02 AM:

Whose babe this is, I think I know
His balls are in the village though
He will not seize my astrolabe
Or toll his knells on my batteau


I asked John D. Berry: "Is this worth doing?" He replied "It might be worth your doing. I'm going to bed."

Seems like a good idea....

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 08:32 AM:

Joyeuse Année!

#15 ::: tokyoterri ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 09:00 AM:

our NYear's was last night: I've been catching up on work, and feeling happily alone.

but, I took a Making Light break, followed some breadcrumbs, and now I've fallen into and can't get out!:-)

Happiness to you as the New Year dawns!

#16 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 09:05 AM:

Feh, humbugs upon January first. The solstice is when the year begins, all else is accretions and buggering about.

A belated happy new year to all, hence.

#18 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 10:42 AM:

Happy New Year! Let's hope 2009 turns out as well as we hope it will.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 11:28 AM:

¡Año nuevo, vida nueva!

#20 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 12:37 PM:

Now that we're past the existential weirdness of different years on different parts of the planet, happy new year to *all* on my favorite blog!

#21 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:23 PM:

I got destroyed in scrabble when my opponent played quilted, for a bingo, on a triple word, to go out. Up to that point, we were neck and neck.

So, happy new year, I hope it's a good bit better than 2008 all around.

#22 ::: cherish ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:30 PM:

An astrologer friend is dead set on getting people to hold the Taurus New Moon as New Year, since it is in an Earth sign and Earth Day has been assigned to that part of the Julian calendar.

She has noticed that where a culture places its new year in the zodiac shapes the kind of culture they create:

China - Aquarius - inventive, electric, group-centered, rigidly controlling.

Judiac - Libra - Justice, merchant's scales, being pleasant to keep the peace (?Is the State of Israel listening anymore?).

European - Capricorn - corporatist, patriarchal, political organization, status-oriented.

Thoughts from others?

#23 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:51 PM:

What exactly is an "electric" culture?

#24 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:07 PM:

Out you go, 2008. You certainly weren't the worst year on a personal level - but in all other ways, you kinda sucked in a major fashion. And "not the worst" is by no means "approaching the best". I won't miss you.

Here's to 2009. May it be in all ways a safe, happy, and bountiful year for us all.

#25 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Two birthdays? So I'm eighty-five?!

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:11 PM:

One that's shocking?

#27 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Happy New Year, World!

cherish @22 European - Capricorn - corporatist, patriarchal, political organization, status-oriented.

Since when are those in any way European specialities?

#28 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 03:56 PM:

When the clock ticked over here, we were playing Okami, which I suppose is as good a way as any to celebrate the oncoming dawn of Obamaterasu. (I for one welcome our new solar overlords.)

#29 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 04:34 PM:

Somewhere in the first paragraph I thought that this was an anticipatory plagiarism of W. S. Merwin:


Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

-- W. S. Merwin

#30 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 04:36 PM:

(Which is to say: I quickly realized it wasn't, of course, but thought it might give me an excuse to quote the poem...)

#31 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 09:46 PM:

I spent the eve celebrating the end of the year dressed as Madonna at an 80s party. Strangely, life has gone back to the 80s for me, in that I am finding my way again after the turmoil of upheaval, but this time I have a daughter and a mortgage. Here's to forgetting the bad in 2008 and keeping the good in 2009.

Happy New Year to all the Making Light folk!

#32 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 12:58 AM:

Sure enough, the fireworks woke me up and I was awake to see in the new year. Here's hoping the heavenly print shop has fixed that linotype that kept producing typos in the world* and 2009 shakes off the spell that 2008 cast on us.

That being said, it may be time to break out the Ark: it's been raining sabre-tooth tigers and dire wolves here all day and the dogs refuse to go out in the yard. I don't think I've ever seen this heavy a rain for this long in Oregon.

* Please tell me they haven't switched to offset printing with layout by Quark Express!

#33 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 05:09 AM:

Spent it with my family. As for parallels between New Year and birthdays, where I live, they're the two days you're supposed to celebrate with your friends, which means that for me, they're my two regular reminders that all the ones I've left live somewhere else.

#34 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 05:10 AM:

Zarf@8: I've been playing a lot of Dominion myself lately, mostly on BrettspielWelt -- less tedious shuffling there.

That 72 at Race is pretty impressive, though I guess you were using the expansion, which makes for somewhat higher scoring games. (The Alien Toy Shop makes for some nice Consume X2's.) My personal best is 75 in the base game.

Galaxy Trucker is also a fave of mine lately.

#35 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 05:39 AM:

Fortunately, no fireworks here, so Shiva was fine. I cooked from scratch today, not a fancy meal, but still. I think the balance exercises the physical therapist gave me are working. She said they won't make the balance problem go away, because it's in my dead brain, but she thinks I've gotten weaker and that can probably be fixed.

#36 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 08:10 AM:

Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday!

And, since it's time to look back on last year as well as forward to the next...Congrats one more time on that Hugo. May your next trip around the sun find you healthy and able to keep bringing us more great books.

Thanks, Making Light crew and commentariat for all the thoughtful discussions.


#37 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 08:25 AM:

re 25: A man with two birthdays never knows how old he is.

We went to my parents and had the Sacred New Year's Dishes: kielbasa and kraut, black-eyed peas, and broccoli. (I don't know whether the last is properly Sacred, but it's what we always have.)

#38 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:07 AM:

The main event of our New Years Eve celebration was the blackout, followed by the discovery that the food in the fridge was lukewarm to the touch, not because of the 2-3 hour power loss, but because our younger son had somehow managed to turn the fridge off earlier that day. (Coincidentally, I also took out about five bags of trash in the small hours of New Years Day, which had formerly been the perishables in the fridge. Grmbl.)

#39 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:41 AM:

Happy birthday, Patrick, and a whole buncha more of them.

#40 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 11:00 AM:

Happy Birthday, Patrick!

#41 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 11:29 AM:

No one ever regarded the Twentieth of January [every four years] with indifference. It is that from which all POTUS date their time, and count upon what is left. ...

#42 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 12:14 PM:

John Stanning @ #41

January 20 for inaugurating the new POTUS is a relatively recent development.

The 20th amendment to the US Constitution fixed January 20 as the beginning and end of each presidential term, a change effective for the first time in 1937 at the beginning of President Roosevelt and Vice President Garner’s second terms. Previously inaugurations were held on March 4, so the change cut FDR’s first term by six weeks – not much of a difference considering how long he eventually served.

Washington was inaugurated April 30th, 1789. Lincoln's inauguration was March 4th, 1861. FDR's first inauguration was March 4th, 1933.

Love, C.

#43 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Birthday candles, okay.

Fireworks, nicer still.

But the BIG party should be held at Yellowstone National Park, by the north end of the big lake (where the quakes are clustering), just in time for the eruption.

Bring lots of hot dogs and marshmallows, and some really long sticks!

#45 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 01:30 PM:

I liked the March 4th inaugurations. Um, not that I was there for any of them. But the idea (March Forth, new president!) and the fact that March is a much nicer time to be listening to speeches outdoors in DC than January.

(I am completely obsessed with discussions of this year's inauguration. Decided against going myself, but am utterly facinated by the immense logistical planning that's going on. Obama -- eh, whatever, tell me more about the charter bus parking plans!)

Our New Year's celebration got cut short by 20 degree weather and 40 mph winds - they decided that setting off fireworks 20 yards from a huge crowd was inadvisable given the conditions. So we introduced the kiddo to Dick Clark and Robbie Knievel and she was kind enough to wake me up and make sure we were all holding our lucky quarters before the big countdown.

On to 2009!

#46 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 01:40 PM:

Happy Birthday, Patrick!

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:10 PM:

As I said at the celebration I was attending, to one and all, a new year better than the last.

#48 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:39 PM:

Happy Birthday, Patrick, and a joyful year!

#49 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 05:17 PM:

#6 #11 #12 #32:
I'm amazed to learn that it's possible, apparently, to go to sleep before midnight on New Year's Eve in some parts of the world. Where I live the first firecracker detonates several days before Hour Zero, and the frequency and intensity slowly increases, stringendo from about dinner time on the evening itself, only to reach a peak 'round about midnight. Sleep has become an impossibility several hours earlier, and attempting to sleep is fruitless until several hours later.

#50 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 06:37 PM:

Terry (#47) a very heartfelt 'Amen!'

Tho' that was my hope for 2008 …

#51 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 06:41 PM:

Belated Happy Birthday, Patrick.

It appeared that in our neighborhood people were still celebrating until after 2 p.m. with fireworks (it might have been guns but I'm telling myself it was fireworks), Whatever, it was boomy. And I had insomnia so the booms did not help it.

This year has to be better. It just has to.

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Happy birthday, Patrick!

A New Years Eve story: traditionally, I spend New Years Eve at home, quietly, reading or watching a movie, keeping the cats and dog company. This year I was all prepared with Disc 1 of Season Three of The Wire. Armchair? Check. Feet up? Check? Glass of wine? Check. Except -- the damn disc was cracked.

I had a moment of pure superstitious terror; OMG, is this an omen? Does this mean that 2009 is going to be as plain damn rotten -- except for the election Yes! -- as 2008 had been? Then I calmed down, and decided that no, this was just a final goodbye swipe from 2008, going out the door as one would expect it to, teeth bared, claws out.

I read a Jodi Picoult novel instead.

Happy New Year, all.

#53 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 09:32 AM:

albatross @ ##38: Coincidentally, I also took out about five bags of trash in the small hours of New Years Day, which had formerly been the perishables in the fridge. Grmbl.

Coulda been worse. Coulda led to trials, tribulations, and the prominent displaying of eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

( didn't, did it?)

#54 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Ook. Paul A, I was listening to a broadcast of a live recording of a concert featuring exactly that on my Sunday afternoon walk.

#55 ::: Chris J ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 02:04 PM:

Seth Gordon@#17:

Interesting. Standard practice among epidemiologists, when they know only the year, is to assign July 1, the mid-point. (If they know the month they use the 15th of it, for the same reason.)

#56 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 03:41 PM:

Seth Gordon #17, Chris J #55

While working with some insurance data, I created a date of birth chart. It was pretty flat with a shallow hump August through October, except for 1 Jan which had approximately twice the average frequency, and 29 Feb which was a quarter average frequency. The 1 January might have been an artifact of lost, old or just wrong data, but I never got to the bottom of it; there was nothing obviously wrong with the handful of records I had time to check. I think we discussed the lost or unknown date of birth possibility at the time.

#57 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 03:14 PM:

In my work with legal reference texts, we use 1st January if the actual date of a case is unknown. It's very unlikely to be the real date, which is useful.

#58 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2009, 04:35 AM:

This moose spies spam on Midnight.


#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2009, 05:18 AM:

Cadbury Moose @61:
Thanks for the pointer.

It's useful if you change your name for these spam shout-outs; that way we can scan down the last 1000 comments and do hunt and kill missions.

#60 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2011, 03:18 PM:

Playing on our patience, as it were.

#61 ::: Singing Wren sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2011, 03:19 PM:

What a piece of work is SPAM... but not a very good one.

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