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Mercury in retrograde 

As if The Observer didn't have enough to worry about, Spouse flitted past the other day while we were relaxing at The Observatory and told us to watch out: Mercury is in retrograde between now and Nov. 10, and at HALLOWEEN no less!

It struck us kind of funny to hear her say all that. She's never been one of those mumbo-jumbo types, never one to consult the Farmer's Almanac for moon sign before planting beans nor fenceposts, hoping the stars would somehow keep her vines full of pintos or her gate free from socket-wobblin', as the case may be. Still, it's October, that dark and windy month of ghosts and change, and the way she said it bugged us enough that we went to the Electrowebs to try to figure out what the heck she's talking about. We've found that figuring out what the opposite sex is talking about and funny cat pictures are pretty much the only thing the Internet IS good for — unless you count the pearls of wisdom and understanding that tumble forth daily at arktimes.com (Papa needs a new pair of shoes, kids!).

Once squeezed into our Tron suit and interfaced with what the kids call "The Net," we found that Mercury in retrograde is a periodic cosmic something or other that can supposedly create havoc in our lives, making us more susceptible to failure. Or something.

Some of us don't need any help in that department under the best of conditions, but to read about it from the anonymexperts on the Internet, you'd think it was going to kill us all, in the most slapstick and/or boring ways imaginable. Got involved in a bizarre and pointless argument? That's Mercury retrogradin' for ya. Electronic gizmo on the fritz? Yep. Travel delay? That's it too. If you're to have any hope of surviving it, one site we looked at said, you should back up your data, realize that your crazed loved ones are in the grip of retrograde-induced madness, read the small print before signing a contract and take advantage of your housebound downtime to clean out the closet (possibly so you can hide in there).

Then again, we can't get too worried. The last time we got a weird bump on our elbow, the Internet convinced us that we should immediately start cooking blue supermeth to provide income for the family we would soon leave behind, so we tend to take anything we read in an electronic format with a grain of salt. Now, if anybody is looking for The Observer, we'll be at home, under the bed, safely reading a non-electronic book.

Speaking of cosmic screw-ups which none of us has any control over: The government is open again, praise the Lord, important if you're a federal employee or a Social Security recipient or someone who wants to go visit Yellowstone. Things didn't get desperate enough this round to monkey with the lives of everyone, gladly, but such a blow is surely coming soon to a pocketbook near you if such shenanigans don't cease.

Even so, is it wrong that by the time Shutdown Crisis 2013 was over, The Observer's political outrage button was so burned out that our only thought was: "You know, I'll bet when Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sit down for a talk, it sounds like an argument between two cartoon turtles."

You think that's crazytalkin', but seriously: Go to youtube.com, cue up a speech by each, and play them simultaneously with your eyes closed. Turtle City, man, and lots more entertaining than the daily cartoons in Washington.

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