Power outages! Food shortages! Computer chaos!
With all the potential horrors of Y2K looming just around the millennium, it would be hard to think of a worse imaginable time for someone to try to introduce a new calendar.
Or at least that would be the conventional wisdom -- a school of thought in which Valley math whiz Scott Flansburg is not, nor ever has been, enrolled. After 10 years of successfully promoting instructional math books and teaching programs via infomercials, the double-digit self-promoter has turned his mathematical skills to a timely new numbers racket.
Hang on to your datebooks! With possible turn-of-the-century cataclysm a mere three months away, Flansburg blithely proposes doing away with the 12-month Gregorian calendar that's been in use since 1582.
Flansburg's alternative? A new -- and, reportedly, far more user-friendly -- calendar made up of 13 months of 28 days. The premise: All months will begin on Sunday and end on Saturday, making every day of every month fall on the same day of the week. Under this system, for instance, the dates 1, 8, 15 and 22 will always fall on Sunday. Likewise, Christmas will forever fall on Monday, conveniently making the holiday part of an eternal three-day weekend. To avoid the onus of "unlucky 13," he's even dubbed the first month zero. And because 365 can't be evenly divided by 28, the first month will contain a "free day" known as "00."
Dissing current calendars as hopelessly "inconsistent," the thirtysomething human abacus asks, "When's a leap year? How many days are in September? What day does Christmas fall on this year? Nobody knows any of this stuff.
"Of course, companies like Hallmark are loving it," he continues. "Every year, you need to buy a new calendar. That's the beauty of mine. Once you've learned it, you'll never need to buy another one."
Until everyone's up to speed, however, Flansburg has established a Web site where he'll sell chronological visionaries one of their "human calendars" (price undetermined as of press time), a disc with 12 months arranged in a clocklike configuration around an additional 13th month in the center. Flansburg's calendar -- which can be personalized with computerized images of friends, relatives and pets who represent that month's "virtue" -- will reportedly be accompanied by a much-needed 28-page user's manual. Internet users will suggest new names for the months.
What could be simpler? Uh, Chinese calculus, maybe?
"Our 'human calendar' does take some getting used to," concedes Flansburg's partner Bruce Hammrich, the self-dubbed "anti-math guy" of the pair. Nowhere near as proficient with the system as the calendar's creator, Hammrich spends more than 15 seconds mentally calculating a specific day/date/month combo during a timed test. That proved to be longer than it takes to manually check the same date on a standard calendar.
"But how many people carry calendars around with them?" counters Flansburg. "Besides, I can't tell you how impressed people are when you're in a business meeting and you can toss off the day of the week whenever someone happens to mention a date."
While Flansburg admits it'll probably be a while before the world's movers and shakers adopt his system (don't expect to see 13 Playmates of the Month anytime soon), he's confident that the public at large will quickly see the advantage of his numerical brain child. The system, he says, will be a huge boon to women who can't seem to keep track of their menstrual cycles, as well as to that unspecified group (werewolves, perhaps?) to whom the phases of the moon are of vital concern.
For reasons that aren't quite clear, Flansburg even claims his calendar will benefit employees who get paid on the first and 15th days of every month. "A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck," he explains. "The Gregorian calendar really screws them up."
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If some aspects of Flansburg's project don't seem to add up, well, he's way ahead of you. Asked how the 12 signs of the zodiac will align with a 13-month calendar, Flansburg announces he's already created a new sign: Cat. And what about people whose birthdays will never again fall on a weekend?
Flansburg smiles broadly. "That's another great thing about this calendar," he responds. "If you don't like the day your birthday falls on, you can change it to anything you want."
Even to the 12th of never?
Contact Dewey Webb at his online address: email@example.com