I've noticed that posted hours for some parks are expressed as "Open until 12:01 am." What's wrong with "Open until 12 am" or even "Open until midnight"? Is this because of limited sign space, tradition or some secret code?

—Curious Park User

Before I answer your question (if, indeed, I get around to answering it at all), I'd like to address a menace that's been undermining the foundations of Western civilization for too long. I'm talking, of course, about ranch dressing.

There was a time, not so long ago, when ranch confined itself to salads, or perhaps the odd crudités platter. These days, it's established itself as a side dish in its own right, with obvious designs on full entree status.

Is it coincidence that ranch's steady march toward acceptability has closely paralleled the decline in our civility as a nation? I think not: Anecdotal evidence suggests that your ranch consumption is directly proportional to how much of a boorish hillbilly you are.

If you put it on fries, you're merely a Republican. Need it for chicken wings, too? Your NRA card is in the mail. And if you can't eat a slice of pizza without a bowl of ranch on the side—well, you may as well resign yourself to a life of bad tipping, tooth decay and forcing yourself sexually on poultry, because you're basically Larry the Cable Guy.

As to those park signs, Curious, the reason they don't say 12 am is because there is persistent confusion as to what 12 am means: is it noon or midnight?

Even the National Institute of Standards and Technology—the folks who run the atomic clock that is the final arbiter of time for the entire planet—say "12 am and 12 pm are ambiguous and should not be used." If they don't know, what hope do you and I have?

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