One of the gifts we always exchange at Christmas is calendars. Two staples in our house are an Irish Setter calendar and a Tuxedo Cat calendar. In addition to that are page-a-day calendars featuring Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine and, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers. If we are to take the advice of researchers at Johns Hopkins, we could stop buying calendars forever – my, what a dumb idea!
What really amazes me about this idea is the pure juxtaposition of technology and time. Over 400 years, ago, people figured out how to adapt the calendar to match the passage of time as the Earth orbits the Sun. Today, armed with devices that are actually capable of doing date-math, we are advocating reducing accuracy in favor of something that, allegedly, is “far more convenient.”
“Everybody has to redo their calendars,” … “For sports schedules, for schools, for every damn thing. It’s completely unnecessary.”
That quote found in the article in Scientific American reminds me of the commercials for those oddball devices for washing your feet, or stirring your soup or grating cheese, more than anything that resembles scientific research. Seriously, how hard is it to “redo your calendar?” My Outlook calendar lets me schedule events on the same day, the same weekday, the same frequency between days, every other Tuesday, and any number of odd combinations I can dream up. In fact, I don’t do anything on a regular basis that my calendar hasn’t been able to accommodate. Further, I can’t begin to count the ways that their argument, that it would somehow be better if events always fell on the same day (“Christmas would always be on a Sunday”), is stupid. Even if you ignore the Christian bias in making our holiday always fall on a Sunday, and the impact that would have on every other faith’s calendar driven events, who wants Christmas to always be on a Sunday? I love it when Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a Thursday or a Tuesday and we get back-to-back 4-day weekends. Also, if Christmas is always on a Sunday, then my birthday will always be on a Monday – that’s just dandy.
The other thing that amazes me about this article is the notion that a calendar that is always the same would somehow be more business friendly. In the article the author talks about having to “update lecture dates and syllabi” every year, a task that seems relatively trivial to me, as being part of the inspiration for this cockamamie notion. Well, that might be useful to college professors, but most businesses don’t seem to be calendar-challenged in that particular way. We have month-end’s, quarter-end’s, year-end’s, but we don’t publish a syllabus. Since 30 and 31, the only number of days in the months in this new calendar, are not evenly divisible by 7, it’s not like month-end would always be on a Monday or a Friday. The truly weird part of this idea, when considering business impact, is proposed way of handling the loss of Leap Day.
“To account for extra time, (the professors) drop leap years and instead create a “leap week” at the end of December every five or six years. This extra week, dubbed “Xtr”…”
First off, these guys are pretty bad at math. We have a Leap Day every four years, with the added complication of century years being evenly divisible by 400, but I digress. A week’s worth of extra days wouldn’t be necessary for 28 years by my calculation, not every five or six. The big question for business would be “do we have to pay our employees during Xtr week?” If yes, what fiscal year would that fall into, what tax year, what benefit year. If I am about to use up my allotment of 20 Physical Therapy visits, do I have to skip that week or can we start the new counter? Does that week fall into the fourth-quarter numbers? Will shareholders understand the increase/decrease in quarter-to-quarter sales or year-to-year comparisons? Since that week will fall between Christmas and New Year’s Day, are we extending the holiday vacation for school children? That might be a nice idea for a college professor, but what about the millions of people paying for daycare?
I think the thing that truly repulses me about this concept is that, despite being armed with modern day technology, we would advocate convenience over accuracy. Changing from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar required losing 10 days from the calendar and took hundreds of years to be adopted to the degree that it is adopted today – hard work, to say the least. Today, with a gazillion appliances telling us what day it is, and atomic clocks telling us the time with accuracy down to one one-millionth of a second, why we would opt to be out of sync with our orbit by fractions of a week for years at a time? Why don’t we just get a few geeks together in a room and write an App for generating syllabi?