David Bouchier

There has been flurry of interest in robotics and automation recently. This is one of those stories that comes and goes. People have been fascinated by automatons since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, and science fiction writers have been speculating about robots and artificial intelligence since the 1920s. But now reality has caught up with imagination, and these futuristic devices are no longer in the future. A lot of people have begun to wonder how we are going to live with robots, and how they will change our lives.

Yesterday marked the official arrival of spring, the Vernal Equinox, surely one of the most welcome calendar dates in the year. Weather has nothing to do with it. We have certainly not escaped from winter on March 21. On this date in 1967, New York had nearly ten inches of snow, and a blizzard dumped almost as much on us at the beginning of April in 1986 and again, in 2014, the last spiteful gesture of winter hit us on tax day, which made it even worse. So don’t relax too soon.

Yesterday a whole hour of sleep was snatched away from us by the arbitrary imposition of so-called "daylight saving time." Not only do we suffer this annual act of daylight robbery, but we waste half of Sunday trying and failing to reset all our digital timepieces, although in this age of atomic clocks they should reset themselves.

When I was a kid we took summer vacations on an island off the British coast. There was always some battered old boat on the beach with a battered old captain in a sailor’s cap offering a "Mystery Cruise." The boats smelt of dead fish, they always seemed on the point of sinking, and the mystery destination was always the same: a pub on the other side of the island. Since then cruising has become a much larger industry, but there’s no more mystery to it than there ever was.

According to an ancient legend, Leap Year Day (today) is the window of opportunity for women to propose marriage to men and, if they are rejected, to claim a silk gown as a forfeit, or perhaps a little item from Victoria's Secret. A Scottish law of 1288 prescribed a fine of "anepundis" or one pound for any man who refused to accept his fate in a gentlemanly fashion. A pound was a lot of money, in those days. More recently, Sadie Hawkins pursued L'il Abner so relentlessly through a thousand cartoon strips that some people call February 29 Sadie Hawkins's Day.

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