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City of Brass

This is a symbolic New Year’s eve indeed. The hopelessly pedantic will argue that the decade ends next year but the overwhelming common sense consensus is that tonight marks the end of the first decade of the 21st century of the “common era”. And what a disappointing decade it was, from a global perspective – who knew that such a wasteland of fear, wasted potential, and division lay at the end of the fabled bridge to the 21st Century that we were all so eager to cross? Though the seeds for many future triumphs of humanity were no doubt sown in the past decade, it will always be marked and marred by one image, the world over: the burning World Trade Center towers on September 11th 2001. No other single event has so focused and consumed the world’s attention and driven its events.

And yet, that decade is unquestionably over, with the grind of time inexorably pressing us onward. And with its passing we have a fresh – and rare – opportunity to start fresh with our hopes and dreams renewed. It is thus fittingly symbolic that tonight also marks a blue moon:

Most months have only one full Moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28- to 31-day length of calendar months. Indeed, the word “month” comes from “Moon.” Occasionally, however, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full Moons squeeze into a single month. Dec. 2009 is such a month. The first full Moon appeared on Dec. 2nd; the second, a “Blue Moon,” will come on Dec. 31st.

(…) The modern astronomical Blue Moon occurs in some month every 2.5 years, on average. A Blue Moon falling precisely on Dec. 31st, however, is much more unusual. The last time it happened was in 1990, and the next time won’t be until 2028.

Intriguingly, there is also a (partial) lunar eclipse occuring today, peaking at 7:23pm UT (1:23pm CST). The eclipse will be visible over all of Asia, India, China, Europe and Africa, but not the United States:

These dueling (and coincident) astronomical phenomena are symbolically irresistible to me. The blue moon is a rare event, and can signify hope, whereas an eclipse (especially a partial one) is fairly common and usually has a negative connotation. The last blue moon on New Year’s eve was at the start of the 90s, a decade of great growth and prosperity, but also one in which the disasters of the last decade were seeded in many ways (wth respect to both economies and foreign policies). I think that a blue moon is not an omen or a guarantee, but simply a reminder that we can again enjoy prosperity and success, but (considering the eclipse) we must apply the lessons learned during the past 20 years. Or suffer for the next 20. Make what you will of the eclipse’s excluding the United States 🙂

This decade ahead, is the decade that the past decade (the ‘aughts) ought to have been. Let’s make the most of it.

(related – my discussion of the Sturgeon Moon/Harvest Moon from last Ramadan, and the solar eclipse last July).

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