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Friday, September 10, 2010

8 Reasons to abandon the Gregorian calendar


Each day we inch closer toward artificial intelligence. As exciting as this is, there are vital implications that we as a society should start paying close attention to now. You see, there will be no forewarning when the final hurdle is overcome and when it happens we don’t want the computers to figure out how stupid we are right away. The Gregorian calendar, unfortunately, will be a dead give-away.

We encounter this compilation of seat-of-our-pants compromises and midgame fixes that make up the Gregorian calendar every day but because it’s a constant we rarely think about how mind-boggling moronic it really is. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII adopted this system to replace the even more counterintuitive Julian calendar. After noticing dozens of problems with the existing standard, Gregory decided to fix exactly one of them. The transition through Europe took a brief (in geological terms) 341 years. Greece finally adopted the system that was introduced during the Ming Dynasty about the same time that Yankees Stadium opened in the Bronx.

It’s important to note that when Great Britain adopted the new calendar in 1752 they did so by skipping from September 2nd to the 14th. This seemingly innocuous and clearly necessary change was not exactly embraced by the populace. Actual riots broke out with actual rioters chanting “Give us back our 11 days!” as though this was going to cause them to miss an episode of “Ice Road Truckers”.

It probably looked like this, except in black and white
This one already thought you
were kinda slow.
The point is that people don’t like change. For a time the “Save Pluto” movement was outpacing real movements that were trying to save real things from real dangers. And the only difference Pluto’s reclassification made was the changing of a mnemonic. If we try to adopt a new calendar, cars will burn in the streets.

All that being said, it must be done. It will be worth the violence and bloodshed. We must cloak our stupidity from the machines if we hope to remain earth’s dominant species. If you think that I’m overselling this, consider this:



#1) September literally translates to “7th Month”

That’s right. Septem means 7 and Membri means month. Think about that for a second. When they were naming the months somebody said, “What should we call the 9th month?” and somebody else suggested “7th month” and then they ran with that! Not only that, but they decided to start a trend there. Octo means eight, folks. Novem means nine and deca means ten. The last four months are in the midst of an identity crisis.
If I called this a hexapus, you'd call me an idiot
Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t Julius Caesar’s fault. In the pre-Julian calendar for some odd reason January and February were cast out of the year altogether and this 69 day period was not considered to be part of any month. Instead, the Roman’s referred to this part of the year as “close the freaking door, I’m FREEZING!” Back then the year began with the spring thaw in March.

Eventually, somebody had the great idea to not confuse the crap out of themselves and added two extra months to the year. Julius Caesar promptly took credit for the idea, named one of the months after himself, named the calendar after himself and made it law. Apparently having a salad dressing, a hair-cut and a method of birth named in his honor didn’t quite satisfy his ego.

Google only knows why the names of the months weren’t changed then. As stupid as it seems that we now call the tenth month “Eighth Month”, back then they were actually speaking the language in which it meant eighth month. It wasn’t something curiously ironic to blog about, it was a straight up spit in the face of logic and reason.

"I know, we could call it a purple!"

#2) Tuesday and Thursday start with the same letter

Alright, so do Saturday and Sunday and while we’re fixing one we might as well fix the other, but the whole Tuesday/Thursday thing comes up all the time. It is this discrepancy that leaves college administrators the world over abbreviating Thursday with an R. Really? We’re going with the 4th letter here? Could we not just use the H? Thursday, after all, is the only day with an H, while Friday and Saturday both have Rs.

But of course, why change the abbreviation when we could just change the names of the days? Nothing against Thor or Odin (though I do have issues with Frigg... she knows what she did), but if we just renamed the days they could all start with different letters. Heck, we could even make them alphabetical. And we could finally stop those pretentious folks who pronounce Wednesday phonetically.

This would be fun anyway. We could name the days after presidents, influential world figures, Star Wars characters… we could even do it American Idol style with people text voting for their favorites. Sure, this might leave us with day names like “Squeeze Cheese” or “Vaseline Sandwich”, but think of the ratings!

This dork picking the names of our days.  What could go wrong?


#3) 12 months, 8 starting letters?

What the heck is this guy doing
in our calander anyway?

Okay, so this is an extension of my issues with the day names and it doesn’t cause quite as many problems, but it is still indicative of laziness. With the exception of the fact that the name JASON appears as you abbreviate the months, there is no valid reason for sticking with this system. How hard would it be to come up with 12 new month names that each used different letters? Heck, we could use a different letter for each day and each month without any overlap. We would still have 7 spare letters.

While we’re at it, they might as well be alphabetized as well. Have you ever tried to name the months alphabetically? It’s really hard. Seriously, try it. I’ll wait.



#4) The seasons don’t start with the months

Why not? Why can’t we just line up the months with the equinoxes? Must we start our seasons on the 20th and 21st? This oversight has caused us to create terms like “Meteorological Winter” as opposed to “Astronomical Winter”. The definition of the former is, essentially “It’s like regular winter except it makes sense.”
You know it's bad when you're baffling the guy who reads this for a living

I understand that there are phenomena beyond our control that dictate the seasons. We can’t ask congress to pass a law making June 1st the longest day of the year, but they could pass a law making the longest day of the year June 1st. Sure, the case for doing this is minor, but the case for not doing it is essentially “We don’t want a bunch of rioters chanting ‘We want our 11 days!’”.

And the machines are coming people. The clock is ticking.

Contrary to popular belief, this is actually
the longest day of the year.
#5) The Leap Day is in the second month

Once upon a time, this made sense. As mentioned above, the year used to begin on March 1st, making the logical day for the leap year the day before the year began. Now, this vestigial tradition just means that there is some other weird calendar thing there to confuse us just as we’re getting a clear handle on what year it is.

We’re always confused at the beginning of the year. While the notion of writing the wrong year on a check is a bit outdated, we are still suffering from a little “year-lag” on January 1st anyway (the alcohol doesn’t help). Why not just add leap day here?

Like this guys needed any help forgetting what year it was...


#6) You need a poem to keep track of which months have how many days.

What the heck is the point of that, anyway? Let’s pretend that there was no way to create a calendar that didn’t have 1 28-day month, 4 30-day months and 7 31-day months. That isn’t true but for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that it is. Why the hell wouldn’t you just put all the 31 day months together? Why not lead off with the short month and then get all the 30 day months out of the way?

It doesn’t exactly rhyme, but “30 days hath everything from February to May” is a lot easier to remember. But no, instead we opt for a system that has a counting on our knuckles like a bunch of fingerless kindergartners.
On the downside, this would eliminate
the only remaining function of poetry.
But then again, why make the months have different numbers of days at all? That brings me to my next point:



#7) You need a graphing calculator to figure out which day a date will fall on.

Imagine you met somebody who could instantly tell you what day a given date would fall on. You would say “June 11th 2024” and he would say “Tuesday” (except he would get it right). You’d be pretty impressed, right? There are people like this out there. We call them “geniuses”.

Seriously, have you ever seen the formula for figuring this out? It’s called Zeller’s Rule and it looks like this:

f = k + [(13*m-1)/5] + D + [D/4] + [C/4] - 2*C.

where

• k is the day of the month.

• m is the month number. (Note that in this formula March is considered 1, February 12… shouldn’t this be a red flag that this is way too complicated?)

• D is the last two digits of the year.

• C stands for century, or the first two digits of the year.

"Yeah... definitely calculate the
proper remainder... divide by 7 and
find the greatest multiple of 7 less
than -17... definitely"
So you got all that? Wait, we’re not done yet. Once you solve for f you have to divide it by 7 and take the remainder. (Note that if the result for f is negative, care must be taken in calculating the “proper remainder”. Or, as “Dr, Math” puts it: “Suppose f = -17. When we divide by 7, we have to follow the same rules as for the greatest integer function; namely we find the greatest multiple of 7 less than -17, so the remainder will be positive (or zero). -21 is the greatest multiple of 7 less than -17, so the remainder is 4 since -21 + 4 = -17. Alternatively, we can say that -7 goes into -17 twice, making -14 and leaving a remainder of -3, then add 6 since the remainder is negative, so -3 + 6 is again a remainder of 4.”)

This formula is often expressed with the following abbreviated mathematical notation:
w(t/f)?


#8) There aren’t enough months

A solid case can be made for having twelve months. Twelve is a number that is easily divided into thirds or quarters of halves and seems a compelling argument if your job includes any kind of bookkeeping. But if you’re a bookkeeper, you probably already know that our present year can’t be divided in halves, thirds or quarters because of the odd-ball, wackaloon number of days in each month.

There is a pretty easy solution to this. Thirteen months with twenty-eight days in each gives you a 364 day year. You simply add one day that doesn’t fall in a month (or, if that’s too wacky for you, we can just have one 29 day month at the end of the year) and BAM, problem solved. Not only does this make the year infinitely more divisible, but it has the added benefit of days always falling on the same dates. Under this system, the 9th of every month might be a Tuesday. This replaces the clumsy, lengthy Zeller’s rule with the slightly easier Davies rule which looks like this:

9th=Tuesday

Seems like a step in the right direction, eh? We could just as easily say that this extra day doesn’t count in the week and then the 9th would always be Tuesday and Reverend Zeller could fade into historical obscurity (with a pretty healthy head-start I should think).
You didn't even know this wasn't
him, did you?
I know what you’re thinking and yes, those pants do make your butt look big, but that’s beside the point. Oh, not what you were thinking? Crap… very embarrassing for me, sorry. Oh, you were thinking about your birthday… you ego-centrist you. Yes, this would mean that your birthday would always fall on the same day. Not so bad if you get a cool Saturday or Friday birthday, but it kind of stinks if you get saddled with a Wednesday.

That problem is easily solvable as well. If you let the days of the week advance normally then each year the dates would move back by one (except on leap years, which kind of suck to begin with). This means that once every eight years you would get at least one birthday on each day of the week.

There are other problems that this would solve as well. For people who pay bills (here’s looking at you human race), this would mean that the days between your paycheck and the due date on your Snuggie payment would always be the same. For those with monthly deductions coming out of biweekly checks you could stop feeling stupid twice a year.
Your Snuggie

Clearly, there is work to be done. We have to come up with a few new day names (we don’t have to call any of them Aaronday, though that would be thoughtful), a few new month names (we don’t have to call any of the Aarontember, though it would be nice) and a name for the new calendar itself (we don’t have to call it the Daviesian calendar, though it seems the least you could do). But all of this work will be worthwhile in no time. Accounting would be easier, computer programming would be easier, scheduling would be easier and you would get a bonus cute puppy picture (or exploited woman) in every calendar you bought.

Send this to all your friends. Find somebody more popular than you and send it to all of their friends too. It took more than three centuries to switch over to the Gregorian calendar and we don’t have that much time. We must start immediately… the robots are coming.

Aaron Davies
http://www.blognoscor.blogspot.com/
This thing already exists.  Time is short.

2 comments:

  1. Another Awesome Blog! It was just as fun to read as it was to have you read it to me! Your really amazing at this, and funny to boot!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Gregorian CalendarOctober 27, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Davies!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete