Happy New Year! Sort-of, ish. – by Alma Boykin

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Happy New Year! Sort-of, ish. – by Alma Boykin

The sun is shifting farther and farther south, shortening the days and lengthening the nights. The geese are flocking south, with a few Sandhill cranes following. Athena T. Cat has moved from the front couch to the master bedroom and now reposes on my bed, toasting her toes in the afternoon sun that spills under the deep eves. The year turns, the sun moves, plants and animals respond, and time passes.

Happy New Year! Right?

When does the year end, anyway? When does it start? What defines a season?

If you use the Western Christian liturgical calendar, New Year’s Day fell on December 2 this year. The previous Sunday was Christ the King Sunday, when the church looks to the time when Jesus will return as king of the world, to judge the quick and the dead, or as a different part of the liturgy says, “When Christ shall come in final victory and we feast at His heavenly banquet table.” Except we don’t throw wild parties or wear lampshades on our heads to all those things people are alleged to do on New Year’s Eve. Instead we sigh about “where has time gone” and wonder if this year the music director will make good on her threats that Christmas carols will only be sung during Christmastide, that being the period between December 24 and January 6. And everyone grumbles about how long HallowThanksMas lasts.

How many calendars do we live by? There’s the January 1 to December 31 cycle that most of the world uses, or at least adds to their own particular calendar when needed. There are religious calendars, some of which impinge or overflow onto the secular world (Easter, Christmas, Ramadan, Passover and Yom Kippur, the legal holiday of Corpus Christi*.) Personal calendars with anniversaries, birthdays, death days, years in remission, years sober or clean. Academic calendars that count down the days until breaks and summer, often watched more closely by teachers than by students and their parents. Tax calendars that go by quarter or by year and that culminate on April 15, or the first or last days of the fiscal quarters, and that bump into the federal fiscal year.

There are also ghosts of calendars past, like the Thermadorian Reaction, April Fools Day, and the October Revolution that happened in what is now November. Halloween, once Samhain, the end of the year for pagan Irish and others, when the hard times of the year began to draw near as the sun disappeared and took heat and light with it.

Usaians have High Holy Days centering on July Fourth.

For me, the year starts in autumn because the days grow short, planting has started along with planning for the next farming year, and school is in session. This is my favorite time of year, with cooler days, longer nights that give me more time to be out and about, winter music, and the mystery of Christmas. DadRed really dreads autumn and winter, for equally good reasons. I don’t care for spring and summer. The world slows down from the heat, I’m trapped indoors or forced to be up by 0500 in order to do outdoor things before the sun rises, and it’s when storms roll through.

Humans mark the year through different ways and with different start and end points. Some calendars work better than others, at least in the world as it currently is. Some have been adapted to the dominate sun-based fixed calendar that dominates the western world, others remain free-floating and lunar and proudly refuse to adapt. Into the 20th Century (and probably still in some pockets and hollers), some Western Christians maintained that Christmas was not December 25 but January 6, the “Old Christmas” from before the Gregorian to Julian switch. Some calendars are deeply personal, based on when a family came into being, or when life began again after chemo or another life-shattering and rebuilding event. “Only 245 and a quarter days to LibertyCon, not that anyone’s counting.” “Summer doesn’t begin until we reach the lake-house.” “I don’t care what the calendar says, it is winter already.”

Regency London had “the Season.” A lot of Europe still does, focusing on the wild weeks between New Year and Ash Wednesday, the time when the rules are a little looser and satire a little fiercer, when the Fools point out the emperor’s nakedness and people attend the great society balls and parties to see and be seen.

I suspect that deep down, there are as many ways of marking time’s passing as there are people. Wet and dry seasons. Times of flowers and the moon of falling leaves. Religious feasts and secular feasts, the fasting and weeping and wailing leading up to April 15. We watch for migrations and the succession of plants as the sun moves north and south. People in Canada giggle at Santa on water-skies in Australia, while Australians snort at declarations of “Hurricane Season is upon us” from the ‘States. “Hottest year on record,” pronouncements while crops droop under snow in South Africa or South America generate more than chuckles. My new year is somewhen in August, because my life is tied to the academic calendar, then the liturgical one, and the secular one. Half the world’s population marks the new year by the moon, but doesn’t object to parties on December 31 (unless their government is cracking down that year.)

I suspect humans will take our various calendars into space with us, and layer them onto newer systems. In the background to part of Fountains of Mercy, rabbis are (once more) trying to decide how to calculate the High Holy Days and other things for Jews living away from Earth. And people trying to adapt Earth systems to planets with different year lengths. The characters on Shikhari focus on the dry and the wet, and base their social year on those seasons, while trying to sort out what the government on Home meant by “four weeks after receiving this memo, the local Commander is enjoined to…” Whose week?

*I giggled a little too much when the government of France announced that it would cut back on the number of paid federal holidays, and the Communists and trades unions vehemently insisted that Corpus Christi remain on the list.

147 responses to “Happy New Year! Sort-of, ish. – by Alma Boykin

  1. [Sniff. Sniff-sniff.] This doesn’t have that New year Smell — I suspect it of being a refurbished, recycled Old Year. I don’t know how else to explain the popularity of Socialism n an era when bespoke living is only an app away.

  2. Asimov wrote a number of articles about calendar systems and calendar reforms, and how it gave historians fits, because not every place using one system changed to a different system at the same time…

    Then computers came along, and added new problems…

    Given my druthers, I’d go with Julian dates, but I seldom get a chance to use those.

    • At this position, since we work in banking, one of my favorite interview questions is “One date is one month from January 30th?” I am less interested in a right answer, as this is so context dependent it isn’t funny, but on what the thought process is.

      In computers, there are few things as hard as coherent date math systems.

    • I was very surprised to learn that Russia didn’t convert to Gregorian until the 1920s. The US has always been (colonies, not so much). Britain in 1752.
      One of my favorite words is “proleptic”. It applies to a lot (e.g. Columbus discovered the Americas. No he didn’t; it wasn’t the Americas until much later), but is primarily used with calendars. Obviously people before Christ did not have “BC” in their dates 😉

      • I once read a scholarly article that asserted that Jesus was born in 3 B.C. While the author was concerned with the religious implications, I just thought “ah, calendars…”

      • It makes studying the Russian Revolution…interesting to say the least.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    In one of the early David Weber Honorverse novels/collections, there was an infodump about the Calendars of the Star Kingdom.

    First, the Star Kingdom (like most worlds in the Honorverse) used the “standard” Terran Calendar.

    Then each of the three planets of the Star Kingdom had its own calendar because of the different planetary years.

    The infodump ended by saying that Star Kingdom computers had special software to “convert” between the various calendars. 😈

    • I remember that, and I giggled when I read it, because I suspect the State Department has to have just that kind of software today.

      • I know one of the spreadsheet fits has to do with converting the calendars on reports. Weekly doesn’t match monthly, obviously…..

    • Iran uses three different calendars. Standard Gregorian, to fit with the rest of the world. Islamic, to know when the holidays are and such. And the pre-Islamic Persian calendar.

      Makes predicting when exercises and such will happen all sorts of interesting.

  4. “Chinese New Year” gets celebrated around here. A lot of MMORPGs also take some time out for it, which makes sense given the large number of Asian video gamers.

    • And customer service reps, and program-repairmen.

      • If there are goodies at the Oriental grocery for it, I am for it. (Okay, I do reserve the right to decide something is too pagan. But within reason, I am a celebratarian.)

    • Japan just had a very extended New Year’s celebration. Lasted until the 4th. Might or might not have had something to do with the Emperor’s birthday, which was the Sunday after Christmas. It’s his last year on the throne, before he steps down, apparently. Their calendar is synced to the reigns of the Emperor.

  5. I agree that the year begins in September and ends in August, but that’s because when I was growing up, that was true for both myself (school) AND my Professor Father. I lived my first 18 years, more or less, in Academia. Which is one of the reasons that college degrees fail to impress me. Tell me a man holds a Ph.D. and I want to know, what has he published? Is he a Scholar or a drone? Do his professional accomplishments actually amount to anything? Of does he publish just enough socially acceptable drivel to keep his position?

    • Been lucky and worked with two PhDs who were both “oh yeah, btw, I have a PhD ”
      Both were essentially farm boys, more along the lines of Jeff Foxworthy, than the “You will respect me, I have a degree, damnit” sort I also worked with. Don’t know what or if they published, but both have patents.
      The annoying type was one to take credit for the work of others, even when much of that work occurred before she even hired on

      • Aye, have met various kinds. The smartest Ph.D. I ever met (as far as I know or could tell) said there are times and places for it… and times and places to hope it never becomes known. Poor fellow died of AIDS complications… got the virus from his doctors, sort of.. blood products supposed to keep the hemophiliac alive eventually killed him.

        • Sad. Iirc my cousin did his room in The Band Played On because someone he knew got it something like that.

        • stupid phone fixin:
          My cousin did his roll in The Band Played On. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being Taofledermaused by WP or my phone.

          • role not roll.
            that’s my uncaffeinated self there.

          • We grew up rather differently…
            So, when I hear/see “…(and) the band played on.” I think of the old tune with Casey dancing with the strawberry blonde.
            $HOUSEMATE thinks of Ball of Confusion.

            But then, the National Anthem to some means what it is supposed to mean with regards to the nation. Some expect, “Play ball!” and others, “(Gentleman), Start your engines.” My reaction upon hearing it on TV before a ball game was, “Wait, it’s not nearly the end of the broadcast day[1].”

            [1] For the younger reading, once upon a time TV transmitters shut off late in the night (early morning, really) and the anthem was played after some specifications (video, audio power, transmitter location, claims of operating “in the public interest”) followed by a moment of test pattern and then… snow as TV’s didn’t ‘blank’ the no-signal condition. A few hours later, they’d sign on again, with considerable time of showing a test pattern to allow things (both at station and at home) to be tweaked as the equipment came up into a hopefully stable operating regime.

            • …I expect to hear a bugle doing “carry on.”

              (Dat-dat-dat-da, da-da-da.)

            • addendum sorta
              Also there were one a few stations to watch. We had 3, maybe 4 if the antenna was tall enough and you had something to turn it, once I even got a fifth! (station, not whiskey . . . weather musta been right, and Rhinelander came in)

              • I was reliably within the Rhinelander (ch. 12 NBC) broadcast area. You didn’t miss anything save perhaps the early SatAM broadcast of Rocky and Bullwinkle before the network stuff started. I knew a fellow who worked there, and he related it really was a place of “we’ll hire almost anyone’ (many got there start there, got the x-amount of experience required by other places and moved on). The station engineer told this fellow that he’d LOVE to do more neat stuff, but it was all he could do to keep everything from failing even faster. At one point in the 1980’s NBC invested in some serious upgrades to all the *network* stuff (including downlink receivers..) and the switch from local news to network (10:30 or 10:35 PM) was with a clearly visible jump in video quality.

                It *vastly* amused this fellow that, upon visiting once after moving to Chicago, that he just happened to watch his old station and the new newscaster screwed up and gave out his _actual place of residence_ on air… which just happened to be the EXACT SAME APARTMENT the fellow had been renting before he moved. That he wound up in that apartment was easy to believe. That he was so broadcast-clueless to REVEAL it… well jaw-floor collision.

                • heh, having been to Rhinelander, likely, everyone already knew where it was.
                  My cousin’s kid is a radiologist there, btw.

                • oh, and it was a sunday morning, so nothing was on anywhere, anyhow.

                  • Aye, Sunday morning was for pretty much anything other than TV.

                    • Locally for me Sunday morning featured the aforementioned Rocky & Bullwinkle as well as the oft neglected Beany and Cecil — both considered by my siblings and myself excellent reasons for eschewing Sunday School (not that we needed reasons.)


                      One of the saddest aspects of growing older is discovering for just what a mess of pottage one was willing to condemn one’s immortal soul. Still, the mid-show cartoons o B&C initiated a love of Offenbach, so perhaps not eternally damned.

                    • Beg Pardon: The Offenbach reference is made clearer by this episode of Harecules Hare:


                      Of all the Harecules cartoons t choose from (two) I picked the one without his Guided Muscle!

      • The worst insist on being called “Doctor”.

        The best I’ve worked with are basically like Doc Travis, or at least as he appears to be from his teevee show – i.e. normal people (well, actually Odds, but not full of puffery and credential-based self worth) with deep pools of knowledge if relevant.

        • My Father only pulled “Dr. Schofield” once; some moron had parked across the entrance of a cull-de-sac and Father really needed to get out. So he called the police, who weren’t much interested, and promised to ‘get around to it’. So when they asked my Father’s name he said, “This is Dr. Schofield”.

          The car was towed in ten minutes.

          • I had a professor whose first name was Dean. He related one class about how, as an undergrad he needed access to various documents he learned to call ahead to the department and inform them, “This is Dean [Smith], I need [such and so] documents. I will send an undergrad over to pick them up shortly.” After which, of course, he would trot on over to collect them.

            Never failed.

            • I had a Dean in college whose first name was Dene (homonyms). She, of course, became known as Dean Squared.

              • I had one class taught by a grad student who was very insistent that he NOT be called professor, he had not yet earned that title, that he was to be addressed with the honorific “Mister.”

                While I generally enjoyed a high level of class participation I was never able t bring myself to raising my hand and beginning a question, “Mr. Mann …”

                • Met a prof at a military history conference who was Dr. Sanders. One of the grad students clued me in that he was also a US Army colonel. If you wanted to flunk really fast, you used his military rank, not Doctor…

            • Been thinking about Doc Roberts a lot lately….

              She was a retired Army doctor, also was a doctor forthe Raiders, then retired like three times to Surprise Valley. Kept going “I’ll only work a few hours one day a week” and ended up doing full time, every time. GOOD doctor.

              A LOT of the folks in the valley were vets, so she had to deal with late 70s early 80s VA.

              She started calling into the VA saying “This is Colonel Roberts, Commanding officer of Fort Bidwell-”
              And they all bought it.

              Fort Bidwell was a fort. A long time ago. Now, it’s a town. Next to a reservation.

              But not a one ever argued with her. ^.^

              (In part because she only pulled it on morons who would argue with HER in the first place!)

              • There is a story (and it might well be only that – I think I recall it from a filler bit at the end of a 1940’s Reader’s Digest article) where a call to some military folks was never getting through. The call being from a certain food company. Finally, the executive asked the secretary to give him the phone… “THIS IS GENERAL MILLS! AND I WANT TO KNOW WHY….” and suddenly the call went right through.

      • “We’ve had some complaints from your students.”

        “What about it? They all bought this year’s books, didn’t they? My royalty checks looked okay.”

        “Most of them are saying they’ve never seen you.”

        “Why should they ever see me? They bought my book, my TA babysits them, what do they want, blood?”

        “Well, you’re on the payroll as a professor…”

        “So? What does that have to do with anything? Now you want me to babysit student? What next, you’ll want me to clip the hedges and mow the lawns?”

    • The only PhD that I’ve had much interaction with was a retired Rocket Scientist (Literally), who worked part time in his Son’s Computer Store (where I also worked). He was nice, hard working, and didn’t look down on any of us. Most of the Computer Techs at that place were self-taught, and had never gone to College. The ONE a-hole that worked there that looked down his nose at everyone was a guy who was working towards his BS in Computer Science.

      • I remember articles from back in the Nineties, concerned over the problems college computer science courses were facing. Not only was anybody qualified to teach such courses making too much money in industry to waste their time in academia, everyone in such programs was staying long enough to get the basics then dropping out for industry jobs which paid far better than college and enabled much more rapid development of one’s skills.

        The fact that programming languages had half-lives less than that required to earn the typical BS degree was probably a factor.

        • When we were living in the DC area, it was a well known fact that many of the best programmers for the Beltway Bandits were drop-outs from the Johns Hopkins Computer Science program.

          Of course the fact that the program still required a lot of Electrical Engineering courses (‘Signals’ was often mentioned with loathing) into the 1980’s didn’t help any.

  6. Further and further south? I thought the winter solstice was December 21. At this point, shouldn’t the sun by coming back to the north?

  7. Minor nit, but the shortest day of the year, and the longest night, occurred at the Winter Solstice on December 21. We are now on the uphill climb adding a few minutes of light every day. We’ll reach the Vernal Equinox on March 20, the Summer Solstice on June 21, and the Autumnal Equinox on September 23.

    • True. I sent this in just before the Solstice, and I think it got buried by more important stuff.

    • What I want to know is, who’s the Verne for whom the Vernal Equinox is named?

    • The Nelson Ledges racetrack used to do a “Longest Night of Nelson Ledges” 24-hour endurance rance, but it looks like they’re only doing the “Longest Day” race now.

      You’d think it would be easy, it’s only driving… but even alternating drivers, some teams DNF through exhaustion even if the car doesn’t break.

      • isn’t the Longest Day race a 25 hour event? Or is that at a different track?
        I was watching the Suzuka 8 hour motorcycle race and a honda team rider tossed the bike away at the fast bit before the cross under, and yardsaled it, managed to get it restarted and back to the pits, and 4 hours later they were leading the race.
        Crashed again (just a low-side into the gravel and a single roll of the bike) and dropped positions, but they were gaining again when damage from the first crash caused a failure and drop out.

    • This was written almost a month ago. Sorry. I’ve been…. going through hell barefoot.

  8. And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, everything is upside down weather wise… LOL

  9. Does the Atomic (or Nuclear) Age start.. 16 July 1945? 06 August 1945? 02 December 1942? Somewhen other?

      • That’s 02 Dec 1942.

        • thought so, but was at work and boss walked up about then.
          Past Due report. “No Product/No Order” and one “That’s on the truck ready to go north”

        • I guess the pile of graphite bricks in the squash court, being the first self-sustaining reaction, would technically be the beginning… but I’ll always think of it as when the light of ten thousand suns shone at Trinity Site.

          I don’t know if anyone ever tied together all the stories of the people in the surrounding area, but there were quite a few people up and about at 5:30 in the morning…

          “John R. Lugo was flying a U.S. Navy transport at 10,000 feet (3,000 m), 30 miles (48 km) east of Albuquerque, en route to the west coast. “My first impression was, like, the sun was coming up in the south. What a ball of fire! It was so bright it lit up the cockpit of the plane.” Lugo radioed Albuquerque. He got no explanation for the blast but was told, ‘Don’t fly south.'”

    • I don’t know about the Atomic Age, but the Present must begin in 1950, because that’s the baseline for radiocarbon dates listed as BP or YBP.

      • Most people think the Present started either the day they were born or when the first event they remember occurred.

        Keep that in mind and a lot of politics makes a lot more sense.

        • My favorite memory related to that is when I realized that teachers– and the vast majority of those scornful about “educate yourself”– were pissed that not everyone recognized that Everything Important had started after they started remembering things, and failure to know what they knew from living through it was a sign of stupidity, laziness, or willful ignorance.

          They don’t get any better when you point out that you don’t know enough about a subject to find good information, since it happened before you were born. ^.^

          • “That’s before my time.”
            “Just like the Beatles, Elvis, Bach, Mozart…”

            or

            “Before mine, too.”

            or

            “So’s the atomic bomb, but I you probably are have heard of it.” (Of course they have, one the games played is Fallout…)

            • “That’s before my time.”
              “Just like the Beatles, Elvis, Bach, Mozart…”

              See, the contrast between how folks reacted to “huh, never heard that, where can I find more?” for Mozart or such vs for the Beatles or such is part of what caused that enlightenment. ^.^

        • Some seem to think it all began yesterday. Or perhaps that everything is “After Turnip-truck.”

    • Carrington Dixon

      Well, the Unix Epoch begins January 1, 1970.

  10. Are fiscal calendars standard, ours go from July 1st to June 30?

    • Federal, and the corporations I have worked for use October 1 to September 31

      • That depends on where the money comes from – company calendars vary wildly in Semiconductorland, but most I’ve worked at used Jan 01 – Dec 31, but others varying randomly. One big one as I recall uses the one Craig noted, Jul 01 – Jun 30.

        Only the mil contractors used the weird Fed calendar.

        • our old owner used the Fed calender, just because, but the new multinational ownership is also a contractor, so still the same. The companies I worked for at the airport also did the Fed style, as iirc the autoparts place. I just recall doing inventory in September a lot in my life.

          • My last job when someone called about end of year issues, the first question we asked was “Fiscal, Calendar, or Federal?” We dealt with all three depending on who the client was. They were all government. OR/CA are fiscal (7/1 – 6/30). WA – Calendar. Tribes – Federal. Not that the process changed, but it gave us an idea how far ahead or behind they were running; FYI, usually behind. One of those processes that was not only well documented, with pictures, lines, circles, & an explanation of what each step was & why it was necessary. But the document was online. I’d just send the link. Yes. They only dealt with it once a year. We got to deal with it, by the time the federated tribes came on line, all year.

    • I believe that per IRS rules a corporation may choose any fiscal calendar they want as long as they are consistent. i.e. you cannot keep switching your fiscal year to achieve a tax advantage. And none of that affects the requirement for income tax payments to be due on April 15 unless otherwise designated as later by the IRS.
      The first fiscal year for the U.S. Government started Jan. 1, 1789. Congress changed the beginning of the fiscal year from Jan. 1 to Jul. 1 in 1842, and finally from Jul. 1 to Oct. 1 in 1977 where it remains today.
      I used to track historical NASA budgets as a side job and always had to account for that odd quarter year in 1977.

      • Donald Stephens

        There are no consequences for a “C” (regular) corporation picking a fiscal year, as long as you assert a business reason. For an “S” corporation (a choice you can make if you only have a few shareholders; the advantage it acts as a pass-through entity to the shareholders) the company has to place money on deposit with the IRS to cover the difference between the fiscal and calendar year when they make the election.

    • Hewlett Packard used November 1st as the fiscal New Year. (At least, as long as I was there; no idea after 2001.)

  11. I was thinking of this just the other night. When is the “real” start of the year, and how quills I decide how it should be.
    I think from the point we are furthest from Sol would work or the closest. Either would be my start.

    • No, no. Quills is totally close to will, even when your finger goes nowhere near the s.
      Stupid phone

    • I think we should be thinking ahead here – I recall seeing somewhere that the New Year happens to align with when Earth’s point in its orbit kinda sorta aligns with the center of the Milky Way. That works for me for colony worlds.

      Hm, unless the orbit is perfectly orthogonal to the line from the local star system center* to the center of the galaxy. Then I think we flip a coin.

      *Center here short for the barycenter of the colony planets orbit around the local star(s). Your mileage may vary. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

      • Donald Stephens

        A look around found a statement that the earth is at perihelion around January 4 – today – and the core of the milky may is approximately on the other side of the sun at the same time.

        I do actuality believe in coincidences. A lot of life is many random things.

        • Donald Stephens

          Oh, the typos.

        • Wait, so Neil dewhatzit Tyson was wrong with that snotty tweet about it being random?

          *cheers up*

          • Donald Stephens

            It’s not really random, since these are continuous macro processes. it’s an interesting coincidence that we have this alignment now. The earth’s perihelion precesses because of relativistic effects, just much more slowly than Mercury’s. And, of course, where the perihelion and aphelion are ‘aimed’ relative to the galactic core depends on the current position of the Sun in its orbit.

            There are enough interesting things out there that the line through the foci of the earths solar orbit would likely point at, or be orthogonal to, something worth looking at.

          • Neil “hands, off buster” Tyson’s random snotty tweets only prove that when one is in the #WhatSheSaid doghouse, one’s innate snottiness is exposed more readily.

  12. Usaians have High Holy Days centering on July Fourth.

    And we should have a second one 16 days later, but somehow 50 years on that is not a national holiday.

    It should be.

    We could clear Presidents’ Day, Columbus Day, and MLK Day to make room. We shouldn’t celebrate individual people with national holidays (and don’t get me started on the naming of aircraft carriers).

    But we should celebrate accomplishing one of man’s oldest dreams.

  13. I decided that my writing year would run from NaNo to NaNo. I’m not sure how that will work in the end, but that’s my current plan.

    • Mine runs the Sunday of the first week containing a date in the new year to the last Saturday in the year.

      Makes my daily writing spreadsheet with weekly targets easier to reset.

    • I’d go with from NaNo to NaYes. (My mileage is highly variable.)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I wonder how obnoxious a calender could be designed with the requirement that the year must /vary/ between 1.5 and 2.5 years, and one is allowed to use fourier series.

      • I’d say something about your being a bit mean-spirited here, but it would fail to surprise me if someone already committed such a thing. Calendars are all sorts of weird, and if that isn’t enough, ask an astronomer how long a “day” is and prepare to get multiple answers.

        How light we reck of those who mock
        By this we’ll make t’appear, Sir,
        We’ll dine by the sidereal clock,
        For one more bottle a-year, Sir.
        But choose which pendulum you will,
        You’ll never made your way, Sir,
        Unless you drink, and drink your fill,
        At least a bottle a-day, Sir.

        — The Astronomer’s Drinking Song (De Morgan)
        http://historyofsciencesongs.blogspot.com/2009/02/astronomers-drinking-song.html

  14. I’m quite happy with Dec 2nd this year. Not least because I have so much fun wishing my fellow church members “Happy New Year” each year and seeing who managed to figure it out since last year. I think about 70% have got it now . . . Pastor helped them, if they were listening to the sermon.

  15. And let’s not get into the types of calendars time travelers use…

  16. c4c

  17. I guest the citizens of Ultima Thule will use the standard Terran calendar, but who decide what the standard Terran calendar is?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Depends on what the original settlers of Ultima Thule considered the “Standard Terran Calendar”. 😀

      Or if they didn’t originally use a “Standard Terran Calendar”, then it depends on what later visitors considered the “Standard Terran Calendar”. 😀

  18. I think the “three weeks from now” problem would be solved by giving the interval in megaseconds, where the standard second is defined in terms of how long it takes a photon to travel a certain distance in vacuum.

    Recall that Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit, Will Travel” had an alien civilization that used half-lives of various radioactive elements to measure time intervals.

    • Except humans tend not to think like that.

    • I recall a teacher who was greatly amused that the roughly 50-minute class period was at least close to a micro-century (52 minutes, 34 seconds).

    • There was, not so long ago, an attempt to define lengths according to certain wavelengths of light, so that a meter was x number of angstroms or y frequency. Because they were back-filling, attempting to meet already extant standards I don’t think the principle ever caught on, but in principle it has its merits. One could easily enough develop it to establish a unified field measurement of time and distance.

      • When you get down to it, you might need to go to the fastest (or most consistent fast) thing and the the smallest thing, to get a smallest interval and work up. Time light (in vacuum) takes to move (electron, proton, hydrogen atom [electron quantum cloud])… and then one wonders if the resolution of the Universe is 1 Planck or such. And just what does that 377 Ohm impedance really mean, anyway?

        • just what does that 377 Ohm impedance really mean

          I believe it is the number of times the average person can say “Ohm” before requiring chiropractic help to escape the lotus position.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I think you may have to arbitrarily define a certain number of units before you can develop the rest from physics. I’m not sure that digging into the physics can ever be more than an exercise in changing which units are arbitrarily defined. Obviously we should be doing whatever it was I wanted to do in the first place.

          My memory isn’t great today, and I haven’t been keeping notes.

      • In 1960 the meter was defined as a certain number of wavelengths of a specific frequency of light – one of the spectral emission lines specific to krypton-86. (No, I don’t know why they chose krypton-86. Was Kal-el involved in the decision somehow?) That definition only lasted a few years before being replaced by the current one, which is tied to the speed of light.

        • in a Tubes of You video about precision measuring, someone was stirring the imperial v. metric pot, a commenter said they preferred metric because “Imperial is just made up” and I replied that so was metric, and without the early leaders in precision using imperial, they would not have been able to come up with the metric system. Now if they want to say they prefer metric because the math is easier, go right ahead. But every time someone claims it is so obviously better based in reality or some such, I point them to how often they have had to change what they base the standards on, or what they thought was the standard turns out to be off.

      • Pet peeve here, and recognize I am peeving from an engineering education and career: They could just as easily do this in feet. The US landed on the Moon using feet and inches. Sure, decimal makes the fast conversion math easy and all that, but go watch the lunar landing vids on Youtube – not one frigging meter mentioned:

        04 06 43 26 LMP (EAGLE) At 400 feet, down at 9.
        04 06 43 29 LMP (EAGLE) … forward.
        04 06 43 32 LMP (EAGLE) 350 feet, down at 4.
        04 06 43 35 LMP (EAGLE) 30, … one-half down.
        04 06 43 42 LMP (EAGLE) We’re pegged on horizontal velocity.
        04 06 43 46 LMP (EAGLE) 300 feet, down 3 1/2, 47 forward.
        04 06 43 51 LMP (EAGLE) … up.
        04 06 43 52 LMP (EAGLE) On 1 a minute, 1 1/2 down.
        04 06 43 57 CDR (EAGLE) 70.
        04 06 44 04 LMP (EAGLE) Watch your shadow out there.
        04 06 44 07 LMP (EAGLE) 50, down at 2 1/2, 19 forward.
        04 06 44 13 LMP (EAGLE) Altitude-velocity light.
        04 06 44 16 LMP (EAGLE) 3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.
        04 06 44 23 LMP (EAGLE) 11 forward. Coming down nicely.
        04 06 44 24 LMP (EAGLE) 200 feet, 4 1/2 down.
        04 06 44 26 LMP (EAGLE) 5 1/2 down.
        04 06 44 31 LMP (EAGLE) 160, 6 – 6 1/2 down.
        04 06 44 33 LMP (EAGLE) 5 1/2 down, 9 forward. That’s good.
        04 06 44 40 LMP (EAGLE) 120 feet.
        04 06 44 45 LMP (EAGLE) 100 feet, 3 1/2 down, 9 forward. Five percent.
        04 06 44 54 LMP (EAGLE) Okay. 75 feet. There’s looking good. Down a half, 6 forward.
        04 06 45 02 CC 60 seconds.
        04 06 45 04 LMP (EAGLE) Lights on.
        04 06 45 08 LMP (EAGLE) Down 2 1/2. Forward. Forward. Good.
        04 06 45 17 LMP (EAGLE) 40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking up some dust.
        04 06 45 21 LMP (EAGLE) 30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.
        04 06 45 25 LMP (EAGLE) 4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.
        04 06 45 31 CC 30 seconds.
        04 06 45 32 CDR (EAGLE) Forward drift?
        04 06 45 33 LMP (EAGLE) Yes.
        04 06 45 34 LMP (EAGLE) Okay.
        04 06 45 40 LMP (EAGLE) CONTACT LIGHT.
        04 06 45 43 LMP (EAGLE) Okay. ENGINE STOP.
        04 06 45 45 LMP (EAGLE) ACA – out of DETENT.
        04 06 45 46 CDR (EAGLE) Out of DETENT.
        04 06 45 47 LMP (EAGLE) MODE CONTROL – both AUTO. DESCENT ENGINE COMMAND OVERRIDE – OFF. ENGINE ARM – OFF.
        04 06 45 52 LMP (EAGLE) 413 is in.
        04 06 45 57 CC We copy you down, Eagle.
        04 06 45 59 CDR (TRANQ) Houston, Tranquility Base here.
        04 06 46 04 CDR (TRANQ) THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.
        04 06 46 06 CC Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

    • The issue is always getting the People element to care about and use the system (be they human or otherwise). People measure things off what is important to THEM and it’s hard to change. When I was active duty Julian Date (what they called it, it was the numerical day of the year. Yes, we had a debate about whether it was actually legitimate to call it that. It was 2 am and we were trying to stay awake.) was the benchmark for everything… theoretically… on paper. The only time it was ever actually used was when paperwork had to be submitted officially for record. It was usually an also-ran on other things that got entered into record but weren’t as formal the primary was only rarely the ‘official’ baseline of Julian Date.

  19. Halloween, once Samhain, the end of the year for pagan Irish and others, when the hard times of the year began to draw near as the sun disappeared and took heat and light with it.

    It is a coincidence that Halloween and Samhain fall on the same date. The Irish, like everyone else, celebrated All Saints’ in April. The innovation of November was German. The Irish were, in fact, particularly late adopters of it.

  20. Rich Rostrom

    “Whose week?”

    Something I cannot find anything about is “the week” in non-Western countries pre-contact.

    Apparently, China, Japan, et al had a seven day week which derived from the Middle East.
    Were these weeks in synch with the Western week? What happened at European contact?

  21. In ancient Egypt, I read once, they started the year with the River Nile’s annual flood, because it was absolutely reliable, to within a day or two, year after year.

    Here in New England, I would consider two choices for the start of the year. One is the spring equinox, when the biosphere is (at least theoretically) starting to wake up from its long winter’s nap, and plants and animals both begin filling the world with new life. The other is the winter solstice. I used to snicker at the birds I heard singing in late January and February, with inches or feet of snow on the ground… until I realized that even birds need practice time. Especially young ones. That’s what those winter-singers are doing: practicing their songs well in advance. The lengthening day is what cues them to start tuning up, so a logical time to start the year is when the days start lengthening. And I like hearing the chickadees and titmice singing when the land is still besnowed. As the owner of a mild case of SAD (seasonal affective disorder, the fancy name for “I HATE HATE HATE that part of the year when it’s dark before 5pm”), I sometimes really need that reminder that spring is really not that far away…

    Meanwhile, baseball nuts believe that the year really starts when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

    • I notice, since moving back up here, the dark days affect me a bit more than when I was younger. Too long living in the southern parts, I guess.

    • Meanwhile, baseball nuts believe that the year really starts when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

      One could argue that those who do not revere baseball are the nuts. There are two schools of thought regarding the start of the year.

      Why Time Begins on Opening Day Hardcover – April 1, 1984
      by Thomas Boswell

      See also:
      How Life Imitates the World Series Paperback – March 31, 1983
      by Thomas Boswell

    • The Roman New Year was March 25.

      Julius Caesar changed it to Jan 1.

      Medieval times, a lot of people reverted, in part because it was also the Annunciation.

  22. Calendars to mark the year-beginning are old.
    https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/08/henge-discovered-at-newgrange-might-have-been-used-for-ancient-astronomy/
    “A historian and astronomer, Murphy also says that celestial alignments may be represented with the newly found henge. He told Irish Times that there are two times in the year that the alignments would have occurred. One of these is Bealtaine, he says, “which marks the beginning of summer,” and Lughnasa, “which was the time of year when the fruits had ripened and the crops were ready for harvest,” Murphy explained.

    The most famous nearby monument is Newgrange, where a prominent neolithic circular mound bearing stone passageways within its interior stands. Dating back to around 3,200 BC, the Newgrange mound predates both Stonehenge and the pyramids at Giza; all of these ancient structures appear to possess alignments with celestial features, a common attribute to various monuments and cultural heritage sites of the ancient world.”

    I thought we were all supposed to use Stardates for interstellar travel.
    (What was that again about “made up” measuring systems?)
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/68741/how-do-star-trek-stardates-work