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Jewish World Review Dec. 31, 2004 / 19 Teves, 5765

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Overhaul calendars? It's a date! | Jan. 1, 2005, will come and go, but you read it here first: Jan. 1, 2006, could be dicier. That's the date the reformers have set for their revolution. And since, as the boy scouts say, you should always be prepared (the girl scouts say you should always "buy eight boxes of Thin Mints and hide them from your spouse"), it is time I introduced you to them.

Who? The boy scouts? The cookies?

No   —   the reformers! The calendar changers! The deep thinkers (or, possibly, nuts) who believe it is time to throw out our old-fashioned, leap-day-dependent, kittens-in-baskets calendars and adopt, instead, one that never changes.

Yes, they're proposing a calendar you could paint on your wall and consult in perpetuity, because the dates would always correspond to the same days. In other words, if you were born on a Tuesday, your birthday would fall on a Tuesday every year. July 4 would always be on a Friday. Christmas would always fall on a Sunday and so would New Year's Day   —   just as it will in 2006. That's why the reformers want us to switch to their calendar on that date. The change would be seamless!

"The current calendar is remarkably accurate, but it's remarkably inconvenient," contends Richard Conn Henry, the Johns Hopkins professor who devised the unchanging calendar. He came up with the idea a few years ago when he was revising his class' homework due dates. "This is something I have to do every year," he grumbled to himself, "even though it's the same class and same book." The due dates changed only because of the calendar. Anyone stuck scheduling baseball games, airline flights or vacation dates must be dealing with this same inconvenience, he thought. Does it really have to be that way?

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When Henry discovered we have our current calendar only because Pope Gregory decreed it in 1582 and it's really hard to change a system once it's in place (look at America and its measuring system), he drew up a new calendar that's simplicity itself, except for one hitch:

Every five or six years, we would have to wedge an extra week into the middle of the summer to make up for no more leap days. "Newton Week," is what Henry would like it be called, in honor of the physicist-mathematician. He'd also like us all to spend that week studying physics.

So, okay, maybe the guy is not quite in step with most Americans and what they want from their calendars   —   not to mention their summer vacations. Nonetheless, he's got a Web site and a publicist, so by this time next year you could well be sick of the words "calendar reform."

Then again, you could be feeling, as I do, a prickly sense that maybe our current calendar is not going to be around forever, either.

Calendar reform might not take place next Jan. 1. But somewhere in the future, I'm penciling it in.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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