By my ephemeris, yesterday was the last day of 2006 that the sun will set after 5 pm in Minneapolis. The sun won't be visible after working hours again until January 17 of 20071.
Regarding the Hubble servicing mission I discussed earlier, I notice that DrSpiff is less enthused than most, judging it a "too little too late" effort. And while I would correct him on one point (the mission description I saw actually does devote a spacewalk to attempting to repair the STIS instrument), he makes a good argument that the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph doesn't seem like the best use of Hubble's very limited capacity. I also mentioned the possibility that HST won't even make it to the 2008 servicing mission window; DrSpiff pegs this at an alarming even odds chance.
Anecdotal hopeful sign of the times: It's well known that the 18-29 year old demographic has been breaking heavily Democratic for several years now, but can't be bothered to vote. If they do start showing up at the polls, the Republican party is royally screwed for a decade ... and now I'm starting to think that they will. Teaching lab today, I absolutely did not bring up the subject, but the election was just about the only topic of conversation at the group tables. I am heartened. Apparently, so are the pros, as every new analysis that comes out predicts a bigger landslide for the good guys. There's every chance that come January the Democratic majority in the House will be even larger than the Republican majority is now.
So make sure everyone you know votes.
1 The astute will notice something odd here: November 2 is about six weeks before the winter solstice, but January 17 is only four weeks after it. What gives with the asymmetry? As it turns out (I hadn't thought of this until just now, either, so I actually plotted it up!) our earliest sunset will be at 4:32 pm on December 10, even though the shortest day of the year doesn't arrive until December 21. Between those two dates, the sun will set later each day, but the sunrise will be later too, by a slightly larger amount. I'm not entirely convinced that I understand why this occurs.