Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 11

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Midnight and noon

12:00 AM and 12:00 PM are not ambiguous, just confused. -- 06:05, 17 Aug 2004 (UTC)

What's wrong with the 24-hour clock and the ISO 8601 standard? [1]OwenBlacker 12:57, Aug 17, 2004 (UTC)
But in ordinary writing, "noon" and "midnight" are preferable to "12:00 PM," etc. ISO 8601 can be confusing; for the hours of the morning[sic], one may not know if the time refers to the forenoon or the afternoon. Furthermore, this standard prescribes both "00:00" and "24:00" for midnight. -- Emsworth 13:50, 17 Aug 2004 (UTC)
00:00 is the midnight at the start of the day and 24:00 is the midnight at the end of the day. The 12-hour clock has "12:00 am" for the former but no notation for the latter. Gdr 15:05, 2004 Aug 17 (UTC)
And the standard discourages use of 24:00 unless it really is necessary. I have no objection to the use of the words noon and midnight, certainly; I'm jsut suggesting that 24-hour clock is a very useful solution—an unqualified 09:00 is always going to be taken as being 9am, right? I do think it's suitably helpful for non-native English readers, though; that's the good thing about international standards: they're international! :o) — OwenBlacker 16:43, Aug 17, 2004 (UTC)

Although I personally prefer the 24-hour clock, I'm not sure that the recommendation to always use the 24-hour clock is a good one for Wikipedia. US editors are likely to want to use the 12-hour clock that they are familiar with and as with other international differences it is wise to be tolerant. Gdr 17:13, 2004 Aug 17 (UTC)

For clarity's sake, I'm not recommending that we should insist on 24h times, merely that we should express a preference and then leave it as another "don't bother changing it" point, like British English vs[.] American English. Personally, I think that the whole damn world should use the 24-hour clock, much as I think the whole world should use ISO paper sizes, but I do know it ain't gonna happen and I've better things to lose sleep over ;o) — OwenBlacker 19:52, Aug 17, 2004 (UTC)

Protest to universal addition of metric measurements to US topic articles

I would like to protest the mechanical, universal addition of metric measurements to all US topic articles. I note that the provision to add metric to Imperial units as a courtesy has long been included on this page. That urging had one effect when it was left to the authors' discretion, but it has another when it is mechanically enforced in all articles. User:Bobblewik, assertedly in a spirit of helpfulness (and I have no reason to disbelieve him), and possibly with the aid of a bot, has apparently undertaken to add (though not replace) a metric unit to every mention of "acre" or other US/Imperial measurment[sic] found anywhere in Wikipedia. This includes a lot of US topic articles where the metric conversion is of little value or relevance. The argument that this assists readers from metric system countries only bears up if we also add an English/Imperial measurement to every metric measurement in a European/Asian article to assist readers from English system countries (and no, that is not my suggestion, although the Manual of Style suggests we do this as well[.]). Looking at the Wikipedia:Measurements debate page, I am not seeing a consensus that the metric addition to English units should be enforced universally without editor discretion and regardless of the geographical context of the article. Am I alone in my objection? --Gary D 00:04, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I disagree completely.
In what way does adding metric measurements to articles hurt anyone?
Why should articles about US topics not be of interest to those more familiar with metric?
I would also have no problem with anyone adding Imperial or US measurements to articles which currently use only metric. Increased understandability is a good thing.
I guess I fail to see why this is a problem. Please explain. Exactly what hot button is this pushing?
I support User:Bobblewik's work on adding metric equivalents to articles. While I've occasionally disagreed with the way the changes have been made, he has always been willing to adapt his approach in all the cases I have personally dealt with. —Morven 00:33, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I am also generally a believer in more information being better. The issues as various agendas are advanced are editor discretion and balancing a bulk of additional information that may amount only to clutter against the usefulness/relevance of that information in the specific context of an article. Node ue would like to add native language transations[sic] to the first line of many or all Arizona city articles. The astrological signs of every person mentioned in Wikipedia would be of interest to some readers, and some Japanese readers would apparently be interested in their blood types. All this information would have some, non-zero value, but if we are to advance all these helpful agendas, the value of all these additions has to be balanced against the space they take up and the kinks they cause in the flow of articles' text. Where an editor surveys the context and makes that balancing determination, great. That's why I'm not against the concept of metric measurements added as a considered courtesy. Where metric measurements pop up automatically in every US article at every measurement reference, however, most of those additions will be little more than clutter (to back country Texas land measurements, say, the addition of km squared will be about as useful as George W. Bush's blood type[.]). That's why I'm against the blanket mechanical change. Something that universal, that thoughtless (in a non-pejorative sense) should at least be the subject of a definite policy fiat, and I don't believe there has been one. --Gary D 00:57, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Disagree. There's nothing harmful about adding metric measurements to an article, even if it's done "mechanically" or otherwise indiscriminately. You refer to the "discretion" of the author or editor in your argument. However, we are all editors here, including User:Bobblewik. So, he's doing so at his discretion. I'm from the US, and fail to see this as a problem. Satori 00:54, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I fear a definition that broad would also include a vandalbot as an editor. --Gary D 00:59, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As a rule, I support the addition of metric equivalents to articles, provided they deal with specific measurements and not generalities or idioms ("came within inches," &c.), and the most relevant form is given first (airplanes fly at 20,000 feet; the Camino de Santiago is about 750 kilometers long). On a somewhat related note: when describing guns and firearms, the word "caliber" (or even "calibre") is most appropriately used to describe bore measurements as expressed in fractions of an inch. Writing of a "0.5 inch gun" is nonstandard at best and confusing at worst when what you're really talking about is a .50 caliber gun. On the other hand, I don't think it necessary to include imperial equivalents when writing of metric firearms—Americans know what a 9mm automatic is, better than they do a .354330711 caliber automatic. Austin Hair 01:38, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I have no problem with metric being added to US-focused articles, as long as 1) the imperial measurement is listed more prominently, 2) it is NOT done by machine unless it is a very specific measurement ([I].e. don't convert 55mph into 88.51kph[.]), and 3) as mentioned, idioms need to be ignored. Likewise, imperial measurements should be added to most metric measurements, since the US audience is sizable. ([A]fter all, we're adding metric to imperial because the non-US audience is likewise sizable[.]) This is NOT an invitation to add any possible measurement scheme. --Golbez 02:19, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I disagree. Both measurements are useful. However this could be merged with a suggestion that was (I think) on the village pump a couple of weeks ago. The VP proposal was that for logged in users, text such as ((11.5 km)) (a measurement with double curved brackets around it) was automatically rendered as 11.5 km or 7.15 mi, depending on a users preference setting. This was turned as it was suggesting things like The speed limit is 88.51km/h would not be useful.
However, my variant on this suggestion would be to code measurements in the form ((11.5 km|7.15 mi)), where the two alternatives (metric[|]imperial) are specified in the code itself and no automated calculation takes place. That way you don't have measurements looking out of place. You could have things such as The speed limit on U.S. highways is ((55 mph|55 mph (about 88 km/h))) which would render as either
  • The speed limit on U.S. highways is 55 mph
  • The speed limit on U.S. highways is 55 mph (about 88 km/h)
My second suggestion[,] make use of tooltips to automatically convert all amounts, regardless (although taking significant figures into account). The information is then useful to the largest number of people, and doesn't clutter up the article. -- Chuq 03:03, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Speaking as the original protestor, I like these two solutions quite a lot! Technology to the rescue, eh? --Gary D 07:29, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I disagree that the world should be forced to deal with our system rather than us deal with that of the entire world. Further, I believe that readers are accustomed to overlooking the metric measurements when they prefer the Imperial and vice-versa (unlike Zodiac signs or blood type). It makes sense to me to include these measurements as we work towards world unity and away from mistakes like those that crashed the Mars Rovers.Cavebear42 03:22, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I agree; people are used to both systems of measurement being stated. I don't see where there is a problem. —Morven 05:25, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)

This whole problem should disappear with the fix of bug 235. ··gracefool | 03:45, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Ahh, that is the bug I was talking about above[,] though for some reason I've used curved brackets instead of square brackets. I didn't realise there was already work underway on it -- Chuq 04:08, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Speaking as someone born and raised in the U.S., I protest this absurd protest against adding metric measurements to US-specific articles. I'm embarrassed that my fellow citizens are so mentally hobbled by the English system of measurements (which most have only a partial grasp of, anyway, and which the British themselves were smart enough to dump) that some would actually fight for this mental handicap and against logical practice. I think the fight to enforce Imperial measurements and ban metric must be some kind of foreign conspiracy to prevent US citizens from being able to use simple arithmetic, since the complicated stuff is beyond most of us. The evidence is plain to see everywhere, in any conversation, business transaction, or news report. I'm sure one of the reasons the Roman Empire fell was because they had to do arithmetic with those silly letters. The United States faces the same mule-headed, anti-intelligent, nonsensical tradition today. I say we should free ourselves from the yoke of English rule! ☺ If we can't abolish Imperial measurements entirely, the least we can do is help our progeny get comfortable with sensible measurements, so they won't be as stupid as we are! — Jeff Q 06:38, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Right, it's not like it's useful to have a foot evenly divisible into 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12 inches or anything. - Centrx 05:39, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If you need to divide something into 5 or 10, then thats right, it's not useful at all. (What has this got[sic] to do with the topic at hand, which in case you needed a reminder, is the display of US and international measuring systems?) -- Chuq 07:30, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
You are correct: it is only relevant to the above comment by Jeffq. The usefulness of the many divisions, into sixths, fourths, thirds, and halves far exceeds that same usefulness of the metric system. - Centrx 18:22, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I suspect the objection is that adding metric equivalents to articles with English units while not adding English equivalents to articles with metric units is a not-so-subtle suggestion as to their relative importance. Surely it can be no mystery that this would tick people off. Or are conversions being made in both directions? - Nunh-huh 06:49, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I actually wasn't so much objecting to the direction of conversion as to the bulk of conversions being added in the first place; I would prefer to keep English units without conversion in core US articles, metric units without conversion in core Eurasian articles, and dual units where it mattered or made sense. --Gary D 07:29, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If you understand only one system well, or prefer it strongly, it matters everywhere. Most people raised in the United States have no natural feel for the magnitude of metric measurements. Most people raised in Europe have no natural feel for Imperial or American measurements. Even many young people in the United Kingdom no longer have a feel for them.
I must protest in the strongest possible terms the suggestion of dividing Wikipedia so. There are no "core US articles", "core Eurasian articles". My personal belief is this: Articles may be created using whatever system of measurement is understood by the author. However, other Wikipedians are permitted, even encouraged, to add conversions to the other system..
I have been sensing from the beginning that there's an anti[m]etric feeling underneath this, and a feeling that US authors and readers are somehow being "picked on" by the zeal to add metric equivalents for everything. Something of a feeling that the US measurements, and those who use them, are being looked down upon. Kind of "The only reason to add metric conversions to article, which is of an obscure topic almost certainly of interest to nobody outside the US and few even inside it, is to try and convert Americans to metric".
Is this the case? Am I right in my feeling here? —Morven 08:26, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
Certainly that metric missionary zeal exists; we can see it on this page. That zeal is not my issue, however; clutter is. If system equality were my hot button, I would be pushing instead for cross-conversions to Imperial units in all the articles currently using metric, and that is the last thing I want. What I do want is to give every reader—US, non-US, Martian tapping into the Internet—every possible break in aiding his[sic] reading scansion and comprehension, always. That includes removing all bumps in the textual road. In that light, I would now like to morph my original protest into a backing for the measurement-system-specific-display feature that was mentioned above. With that fix, everybody gets a measure in the format that means the most to them, and clutter is eliminated. Now, I personally might favor implementing that system using manually inserted alternative text rather than automatic numeric conversion by software, but I think I have already generated enough controversy for one go-round, so I'll be happy with whatever pops out of software bug/patch 235. --Gary D 19:25, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I would like to reassure Gary I have never used a bot.
  • For authors/editors[,] conversion is part science and part art. Sometimes the whole article affects the judgement of "correct" conversion. Sometimes culture and domain are factors, even two different metric communities disagree. Many of us can make fair criticisms of existing conversions. Specifications of how to do conversions might make a small difference. But a bigger difference would be made if more people actually did conversions. Most of us here have the skill and judgement to do a few metric conversions "correctly" using the Google converter. Most unit statements are easy to convert.
  • For readers[,] I don't foresee a situation where Wikipedia readers use options for "show metric" and "hide metric". Nor do I foresee a situation where Wikipedia has articles marked as "metric units not appropriate". But if people want to debate that, then it is fine by me.
I want to thank Gary D for bringing the debate here, as soon as it was clear that this was a Manual of style topic. I am interested to read more. Bobblewik  (talk) 09:51, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Metric is not an anti-US system,[sic] it is a worldwide system—which should be preferred even within the US. As such, certainly it warrants inclusion on US topic articles. It is the only sensible measurement system for scientific purposes. Having both sets of measurements though, provides a useful unambiguous value (so as you don't lose probes going to Mars for example). Besides, I haven't a clue how many strides are in a yardarm (well, OK, feet-yards-miles)—we aren't taught anything but [m]etric here. Many people won't have a notion as to what the local measurements mean—conversions are always needed. zoney talk 12:56, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I disagree totally with the protest. Adding a metric conversion doesn't do any harm. Anything that makes articles easier to understand is an improvement. True, adding a thoughtful metric conversion is better than adding a clumsy one, but this is a Wiki and clumsy conversions can be improved. In terms of making articles useful, I don't see how there can be any objection to adding conversions. My perception is that the only possible objection to metric units is a surrogate for some strange kind of nationalistic POV, like fussing over whether a "billion" is 1012 or 109, or whether a Belgian food item popularized in the US in turn-of-the-century World's Fair should be properly called french fries or freedom fries. But even this is misplaced concern, because metric units are part of the US legal system of weights and measures and have been for decades and decades and decades. In fact all the US Customary units are currently legally defined in terms of metric units. By the way, I live in the US and I think almost entirely in US Customary. Just my 0.02 Euros. [[User:Dpbsmith|Dpbsmith (talk)]] 13:09, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I add my voice to the chorus of disagreements. This protest is absurd. I'm a US citizen born and raised. I'm reasonably comfortable with the metric system. In the context of Wikipedia and the Internet, I regard the use of imperial measurements as a bit quaint, even in US-oriented articles. If anything, I'd prefer using metric first in all cases, with imperial measurements added parenthetically as a courtesy, if the author thinks of it. There are a lot of archaic measurement systems out there; the USA just happens to be a big enough economy that it can get away with stubbornly sticking to imperial. Now, all that said, it would be pretty nifty if all units of measure could be made into wikilinks that somehow got converted to the reader's preferred unit of measure on the fly, but my coding skills are not up to that. adamrice 14:13, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If metric information seems to have been clumsily added or seems inappropriate in some cases, then a later editor can do further fixup. Adding it is a good idea. Nor do I want to see automatic conversions by software where I can decide what measurement to view. Give me both (with one in parentheses or otherwise indicated as the conversion) so that I can see which is the basic measurement from which the other has been converted. Don't smudge that information. Also, I wonder why Gary D speaks of core Eureasian[sic] articles. Does he really not know that all countries in the Americas also commonly use metric save for the US? Jallan 18:16, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
"Eurasia" was just a quick and rough reference for those wacky metric folk; I'm happy to give you metric countries in the Americas also. --Gary D 19:25, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
and yet one more .0164 Euros'-worth... There is an excellent, if slightly long-term, reason, for asymmetric treatment of metric and traditional units: Future proofing. Sooner or later, both the US and the UK will acquire governments with enough gumption to complete their transition to the metric system[.] ([B]oth have already started, and both processes were stalled by craven politicians[.]) But no country, ever, having once metricated, is going back to the old system. seglea 19:15, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
It's not a matter of politics. America's infrastructure is huge. Think about jsut one _very_ small portion. Let's consider the sewage. Every Pipe in the ground is standard. New pipes go metric. Every new house/building needs a converter. When pipes are replaced, converters are needed. The tools carried by all of the pipefitters need to be ready to do both. The plumber needs to carry twice as much equipment. You see, this gets pretty big pretty fast. Now consider that this is a matter of a very easily changed field. What about Areospace[sic] or electronics? What happens when you have a 6 foot, 6 inch doorframe and you can only find 2 meter door (close but no cigar)? This is not a matter of politcs, it will take a few decades at best, maybe a century. (FTR, im for hte listing of both)Cavebear42 20:24, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
This is a reasonable point, and in many ways we're already in that awkward transitional phase, as with many car parts and (ahem) NASA projects. The bottom brackets on many bikes have their diameter measured in metric and their thread pitch measured in imperial. So I'll back off slightly from my previous position and say that if it's a measurement canonically given in imperial units, stick with those, and if it's a common turn of phrase, don't convert (A miss is as good as a mile, not 1.609 kilometers). In any case, Wikipedia isn't going to force anyone to change pipe diameters.adamrice 21:21, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I do believe it is a bad idea, and harmful to the metric movement, to run simple mathematical replacements on every single Imperial number (or vice versa). No one, metric or not, wants four decimal points of precision. A meter should be 1.1 yards, not 1.0904 yards, etc. (Not even 1.09 yards.) I am no fan of metrication, just clear communications, and unless you are weighing gold, some judicious rounding will be better for metric and better for readers. That means a much better bot is called for. Ortolan88 22:02, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Another recent example of somebody objecting to metric units is at compact audio cassette. The initial response from the person reverting does not make sense to me, and he has yet to reply to my follow up. Can anyone else explain what is unacceptable about the metric units that I added? Bobblewik  (talk) 10:34, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I'd like to object to the excessive use of fractions in that article. The metric is alright, but those fractions make it impossable to read.Cavebear42 16:27, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
It would seem that an objection[—]possibly not the one you're talking about which I can't find[—]would be that the cassettes were specifically designed to be those measurements, in inches, and not designed on, for instance, "47.625 mm". Also, some of these metric values are approximate rather than certain. As here, we should everywhere be careful because certain measurements are due to a specific prescription that is from an exactness of Imperial or metric units, rather than a measurement of, for instance, physical phenomena that is always an approximate description with no semantic difference between whatever units are decided. Consider a hypothetical unit of hypothetically widespread use, the "flongstre": For a description, we can use flongstre for anything as we can appropriately use any unit system. For a prescription, if the prescription was in flongstres then the article should describe everything in flongstres, at least on the primary non-parenthetical level. If the prescription was not in flongstres but metres, then the article should describe everything in metres on the primary level. Ultimately, in such cases I think that at the very least the parenthetical notation should indicate something like as follows: "The cassette was 20 flongstres (which is 17 millimeters) wide", including the "which is". In these cases, the additional measurements are provided as a service to the reader for their accessibility, and do not have any semantic content like the primary measurement. Unlike these, in descriptions of phenomena, neither have semantic content. It is important to the article that the tape is 1/8 inch wide; it is not pertinent to the subject that it is 3.175 millimeters wide. - Centrx 18:22, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
The guide clearly calls for the same precision to be applied. This is really under debate as is whether or not we should say X lbs (y Kg) on US[-]based articles. Further, this thread is getting really long. I think that nearly everyone is in agreement that there is no harm done to following the guide as it is written and adding the metric, in parameterizes, on articles using measurements, regardless of the articles origin or subject matter. I, for one, digress. Cavebear42 20:48, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

This is the English language [W]ikipedia, not the US [Wi]kipedia. It is entirely appropriate to have dual measurements (1) for non-English speakers who use a sensible system and (2) the fact that metric measurements are used in the United Kingdom apart from some things like a pint of beer [2]. now stop being silly. Dunc_Harris| 19:22, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Mind you, here in Ireland we can buy 568 ml (I think) of milk (a pint), although some sneaky milk producers sell 500 ml cartons at the same price! I don't think we'll see "demi"s of Guinness being sold in Ireland anytime soon though. (Ireland, the only country in the world I suspect that uses metric for distances on road signs, but mph for speed limits—well, until they change to km/h next year!) zoney talk 13:55, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Winding back up several comments... first, thanks for the report on Ireland, Zoney—I was wondering what was happening there. Second, can I join the digressions, and say that I do think it is a matter of political will. Metrication will always be unpopular when you actually do it, because people don't like change, and there are real issues about carrying two tools around; but once a government makes up its mind to do it, it's amazing how quickly and completely it goes through—consider Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, all of which are countries with roughly as much infrastructure per head as the US or UK, and all of which got through metrication, relatively recently, with vastly less fuss than anyone expected, or than present American and British prophets of doom suggest. I don't buy the argument that the scale of the total problem makes any difference—all it does is make it easier to ignore common sense. Yes, of course the old measurements have some advantages—convenient divisibility, and the fact that you can measure almost anything in single-digit numbers, because there are so many different units. And they make people learn their 14 times table, too (see stone). And yes (to gress, or whatever the opposite of digressing is), in Wikipedia we must always include traditional measurements for things that were originally measured in them, like railway gauges. And yes, conversions need to be done intelligently. But for a major international work of reference not to have a preference, other things equal, for the internationally understood system of measurements, would be daft. The obvious way of expressing that preference is to have a convention that all measurements (which doesn't, of course, include turns of phrase) are given in international units, though for good reason they may also, or even first, be given in local traditional units as well. Pretty well everyone agrees on that, I think; this is really a non-problem which only needs 28g of common sense all round. seglea 22:12, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)

congress or progress, duh [as opposed to contragress] lysdexia 21:55, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Disagree entirely with the original point. SI units are recognized internationally, and WP is an international project. All measurements should be given at least in SI. As for a unit-translating bot... my mind BOGGLES at the wastes of processor cycles we manage to invent here -- Tarquin 12:53, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Believe it or not...

Believe it or not, there are plenty of articles with numbers greater than 2070 which ignore the rules about articles for years vs. numbers. 20:08, 6 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Punctuation (A.D. vs. AD)

(I brought this up at Talk:Anno Domini and was directed over here.)

I just did a brief survey of my history textbooks and they all have one of the following:

A.D. xxxx

xxxx C.E.

Now, of course, we expect textbooks to be a bit more rigid about putting the A.D. before the date, and of course a random sampling of my textbooks is hardly conclusive, but I can't figure out why there is no reference to the abbreviations as "A.D., B.C., C.E., B.C.E." instead of "AD, BC, CE, BCE". Has this been discussed? If we decide that either format is acceptable (and I would like to be shown evidence that version without periods is acceptable—is it British English usage? popular usage? non-academic usage? or just not in my textbooks?), we should at least include a note in the article to that effect. See [3], but also [4].

I don't mind picking a standard for use on Wikipedia, but we should explain what the standard is and why it was chosen—and we should also make it clear (perhaps in the relative articles and not here) that this is a Wikipedia standard and does not necessarily reflect usage elsewhere. --[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 14:34, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I thought one of the items in the Manual of Style was that we avoid using periods in abbreviations (with an exception for U.S., to disambig from the word us in capitals, though that grates on me, personally). I must say, though, that I can't find it in a quick scan of the Style Guide, though, so I'm happy to be disproven. I'd suggest that the forms without periods (which are increasingly used, at least in British journalism) are clearer, myself. — OwenBlacker 15:55, Sep 14, 2004 (UTC)
acronyms, not abbreviations lysdexia 21:55, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)