Time for a New Calendar, They Say


by Tim Moran

So the calendar page has turned, once again, to the beginning of a new year. Most of us did a little partying on 12/31 and got up--however happily--on 1/1 without giving the least bit of thought to what day of the week it was.

But if Richard Henry, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, and his cohort Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins economist, have their way, Christmas Day and New Year's Day, alike, will always fall on a Sunday, for that is how things are with the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar.

Sunday, January 1, 2012, was the official kick-off date of the "worldwide adoption process" for the HH calendar; January 1, 2017 is the duo's target date for the "universal adoption" of the calendar. According to the 21st century calendarists, "just like the present Gregorian calendar, the HH Permanent Calendar fully respects the Fourth Commandment of the Bible, but [it] is much more convenient than is our present calendar."

So just what have Henry and Hanke devised? Well, the new calendar is identical every year--which is why New Year's and Christmas will always fall on a Sunday. But in order to make this work, the duo had to do some real fiddling with time. The calendar is identical every year, "except that, every five or six years, there is a one-week long 'Mini-Month,' called "Xtr (or Extra),' at the end of December. 'Xtr (or Extra) Week' brings the calendar into sync with the seasonal change as the earth circles the sun."

Remember "30 days hath September. . ." etc.? Well, here's a little something that will help you know whether or not a year will have an Xtr mini-month:

subroutine figure(iyear,newton) ! if newton = 1 then the year contains a Xtr (or Extra) Week


do i=iyear-1,iyear





end do

end subroutine

That's the Fortran subroutine used to determine whether or not the year "iyear" contains an Xtr (or Extra). (A simpler way might be to remember that if the corresponding Gregorian year either starts on a Thursday or ends on a Thursday, that year contains an Xtr (or Extra).

Adoption of the HH Permanent Calendar has many more issues that would need to be accepted and managed--all in the name of convenience--for governments, businesses, and citizens alike. For instance, H and H propose that "Universal Time, on a 24 hour scale, be used, everywhere on earth, and forevermore. As a result of this, beginning 2017 January 1, the date and time will always be the same, everywhere, greatly facilitating international understanding."

And Daylight Savings Time? A thing of the Gregorian past: "Daylight Saving Time disappears ... but also, it stays, as changes in working hours. Time zones, such as Eastern Standard Time, still exist exactly as they do now, but are considered to be 'working hours' zones. In Eastern Standard Time Zone, a '9-to-5' job is defined as a 14:00-to-22:00 (14 o'clock to 22 o'clock) job. The next calendar day begins at what we now call 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time zone. (On the West Coast of the US, the next day begins at 4 p.m.) 'Spring forward, Fall back' now means that, on the chosen day, everyone changes their work hours by one hour, but the clock time stays the same. 'See you tomorrow' refers to the sun being overhead, not the calendar."

Got that? Me neither.

Calendar reform such as this has always failed miserably in the past, and H and H are fully aware of that. They do, however, believe their plan is different because it doesn't break the seven-day cycle of the week, which they agree is "completely unacceptable to humankind." They believe, therefore, like Nike: Just do it! "The HH Calendar can be implemented by those companies that want efficiency whenever they please. Just do it! Countries can, too. Just do it, Mr. President! Just do it, Madame President!"

We'll see, H and H. As we start the New Year, I'll pencil you in for now.


2 Comments for "Time for a New Calendar, They Say"

  • William Branch January 05, 2012 8:44 am

    Leave it to an economist and an astrophysicist to take something and make it needlessly complex. I'm sure they could give all kinds of reasons why this makes sense from an economic & maybe even from a science standpoint, but putting myself in the shoes of an average person, this system is a mess. You're asking people to relearn systems that are fundamental to their life and doing so with a calendar that is not intuitive to normal people at all. Welcome to why many IT projects fail. It makes sense to the developers, all we have to do is make the users think like developers, and not the other way around, and everything will be great...

  • Crayton January 03, 2012 4:50 pm

    Moving from a leap-day to a leap-week is a pretty good idea. But a superb idea for implementation is what this idea needs. My take: get rid of the days of the month. That is what people complain most about these 365-day calendars, "the days stop changing." Well, Friday always follows Thursday and we don't complain about that. Just mark holidays by the day of the week and the week of the month, like Thanksgiving. Do we ever complain about Thanksgiving being on a Thursday? No, because it is a Thursday. Made a calendar that takes this into account and also gets rid of the whole problem of celebrating anniversaries of days that were "leaped:" http://craytoncreation.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/double-week-calendar/

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