Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Last December


The Mayans are well known for their advanced civilization, their devotion to corn, and their scary-ass calendar. That last is getting a lot of press this year because it appears to be predicting the end of days, or at least the end of the calendar. Christmas isn't even on it.

It's an odd thing about ancient knowledge: many people assume it is more dependable than the modern. If the state of modern science reflects everything that has been learned before, it's somehow not as good as if we'd just stopped figuring things out when the goatherds were in charge. This isn't sensible, but the fact is, there are people who would read something dire into their printer running out of ink.

So let's look at the Mayan calendar. There were several. There was a short one that just ran about 52 years, or what would be considered a normal lifespan. That's about all anyone really needs, but then they discovered that it isn't long enough to really flesh out hope and regret, so they developed a long-count one to go with. This is the one currently twisting the panties of the gullible.

The long one is presumed to have begun at a mythical starting point of August 11, 3114 B.C., which is even longer ago than some other culture's goatherds thought there had been a world. Of course the August date is a modern extrapolation; they didn't even have an August that long ago. August was Caesar Augustus's personal month, and he made damn sure it was at least as long as Julius's month. Nobody minded if February was short, because the weather was bad. September through December were named after the numbers seven through ten, although they are the ninth through the twelfth months. Really, these people shouldn't have been entrusted with time measurement. Anyway, back to the Mayans, who, being more mysterious, are presumed to be more reliable, prognostication-wise. They got their calendar started in 3114 B.C. where it could coil down to zero and snap back again, gaining great momentum to slingshot it forward, but all that juice is running out now after a couple thousand years.

Which means that at the very least we could use a new calendar, and there is a movement afoot to do just that. We have a perfectly serviceable one going, the Gregorian (or "regular"). But the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar would reform it to make every year identical, with each given calendar date always falling on the same day of the week.

There's a certain kind of person that is attracted to orderly things like that, but they're the same kind of people who can't go to sleep until they've made sure their pictures are hanging straight. You can't live with them. They alphabetize their spice shelf. They make spreadsheets. They are not well people. They're engineers.

If you do want to make up your own calendar, and you like cake and attention, you could always make every eighth day your birthday. Only then you'll find yourself 300 years old in no time, you'll have a frosting layer at your midsection, you'll sweat sprinkles, and you'll find your house filling up with ceramic hippopotamuses because someone saw that first one early on and word got around that you collect them. Really, you're better off with the Gregorian.

82 comments:

  1. I like cake! I like attention! Imma gonna do it, Murr, the eighth-day birthday calendar! What the hay? As you know, my pants don't fit me anyway.
    (btw, thanks for stopping over and commenting - I may email you more about this topic)

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  2. I used to be married to an engineer.

    I actually saw that Mayan calendar in Mexico City last January. I figure the biggest threat it presents is potentially falling off the museum wall and crushing a few innocent civilians...

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    1. Oooo, I hope it does it on December 20th. That'll keep 'em talking for years. "World Ends For Joe Zlotnik."

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  3. I have a massage scheduled for the Last Day. I hope it waits until after noon before the world ends. :-)

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    1. It's a good way to go out. Happy birthday, Djan!

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  4. My house was built by a Boeing engineer. I keep discovering all manner of Things That Don't Work As Intended. Mostly electrical things.

    I think your cat is trying to tell us something. Maybe cats speak Mayan.

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    1. I hope at least some of your seats recline all the way.

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  5. I don't know if I believe that calendar or not, but it isn't affecting my life. Well, of course, I'm so old I feel as if I helped the Mayans.

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    1. It all probably came down to one old Mayan who just got tired.

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  6. Ancient Knowledge - the stuff I knew fifty years ago. Between the Mayans and Nostradumbass people get themselves in a tizzy on a weekly basis. While I predict that I will wake up in the morning (I've been right, so far) someday it won't happen. The good thing is I won't care.

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    1. Speaking of stuff I knew fifty years ago, Dave and I just tried to remember the state capitols. I am not sure I even got half of them right.

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    2. However, I did get Lansing, Michigan right, after having written it on the board fifty times. That was the only one I got wrong in fifth grade.

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    3. Hey Jono, the one day you're wrong, people will remember forever!

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  7. The anti-food, anti-agriculture people certainly fall into the group who think we are better off to have stopped with the goat herder's knowledge level. Actually, I could name a fair number of groups that fall into that category. Some on the right; some on the left. "Scientific" knowledge is only acceptable if it supports your ideology.

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  8. Well, as long as we're making up our own calendars, I'm going to make up the length of my days/nights, too. Everything should be twice as long, so I can finally get my to-do list done AND catch up on my sleep.

    I love your observation about ancient knowledge. Why is it that it holds so much weight? Sheesh.

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    1. I like your idea of making days and nights twice as long. Let's make weekends longer too! :-D

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    2. I actually think I live on a 25-hour day. Left to my own devices, I would get up one hour later every day.

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  9. I'd be quite happy to live without calendars or clocks. I never believe them - it can't be that time/ day already!
    I'll be interested to see what excuse the doomsayers will come up with when the world doesn't end on the day they're predicting. Will they admit they got their calculations wrong, or say the Mayans made a mistake?

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    1. Judging from historical data, they will say they made a miscalculation, and come up with a new end date.

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  10. Fact: as this new century loomed, with its dire consequences(according to the witless)and predictions of doom, even a name for Pete's sake. YK2000, or something, wan't it? Anyway, our trusty mower died, beyond mortal repair and we needed a new engine.Briggs and Stratton, by reputation, top of the heap.Couldn't get one ex-stock because....so many people in the USofA were buying generators because the entire grid was going to blow up or fade away.
    For readers who may not know-we live in Australia and there was some concern by the local witless that imports of generators may not arrive in time.
    The mower is still going strong.It's even the reason for my on-line persona!

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    1. Whoa. You're actually named after MOWING?

      Now that I think about it, the Mayans might have been right (climate change)...but generators aren't going to save the day.

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    2. Proof that after this calender ends, there will always be mower.

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  11. Personally, I believe there's something to be said for the "old" ways. So much easier to understand how a wheel works than an internal combustion engine! It's why I subscribe to the KISS principle. If more people did this, we might not be peering over the fiscal cliff. Elaine

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    1. Maybe, but we wouldn't have an adorable little machine scooting around on Mars, either.

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  12. I'm working on a calendar that has Christmas every five years (so it actually seems exciting and novel for a change) and has a Saturday and Sunday twice a week (to minimise the working week). I think I'm on to a winner.

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    1. It wouldn't matter what calendar I come up with. I still won't know what day it is.

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  13. Since I often feel over 300 anyway, I might just as well have the birthday every eight days to justify it. Brilliant suggestion dear lady, and thank you.

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    1. Happy birthday!

      Happy birthday!

      Happy birthday!

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  14. Perhaps we have just misread the actual meaning of the Mayan calendar - and instead of predicting the end of the world it was predicting the end of Hostess cup cakes and Twinkies - next to the apocalypse a real disaster.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  15. The years are going by so quickly lately, that it almost feels as though I am celebrating my birthday every 8 days. The Mayans would certainly be entertained, I'm sure, to think that their calendar is being used to predict the end of the world now. I'll bet that they just ran out of room on that first one, and never got around to the second one. Or, there is a secret code that simply means "repeat indefinitely".

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    1. Word. I've been known to wash only the number of dishes I need right now. Chiseling out a calendar for thousands of years seems over the top.

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  16. Mybrothertherocketscientist is a NASA engineer. Everything you've heard about engineers is true.

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    1. I've observed them myself. Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em.

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    2. Yeah. And he's a Republican too. I'm his big sister. Where did I go wrong?

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  17. Wait a minute. What's wrong with an alphabeticised spice rack?

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    1. So you're the kind of gal who likes to keep her anise front and center.

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  18. I don't think the ancient Mayans (there's still quite a few Mayans around today) ever predicted the end of the world. I think it was some Wacko Americans that have made that stuff up. They always seem surprised when it doesn't happen...over and over again. You'd think they'd learn.

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    1. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I met my first Mayan, I spluttered something to the effect that I thought they had died out a thousand years ago. She might not have been amused.

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  19. What a brilliant post. I really like this one because I enjoy reading historical fiction more than anything. Funny historical fiction is the best. Thanks. And I'm not worried in the least because my daughter is one of the few remaining people on the planet to be fluent in Yucatec Mayan and she will surely save her mother. She learned that on one of those Andrew Mellon grant thingies at Duke.

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    1. Everything I write is fiction. One way or another.

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  20. I think they either got bored and said WHY THE HECK ARE WE DOING THIS? or they moved and someone forgot to bring the calendar along. coulda happened!!

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    1. How do you forget a stone calendar?

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    2. If I had to transport it, I'd say, "Forget it!"

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  21. Since the Mayan calendar makes no mention of the demise of the Twinkie in 2012, I just cannot hold too much stock in the rest of their predictions and calculations!

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    1. As long as you don't hold stock in Twinkies...

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  22. Every time I stop by here (not nearly 1/12th as much as I'd like; damn kids), I have a moment during the reading where I have to stop and yell at my monitor: "JEHOSEPHAT, BUT I LOVE THIS WOMAN!"

    Today's moment came here: "...they discovered that it isn't long enough to really flesh out hope and regret..."

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    1. You have a very discerning ear, but I knew that already. Dang kids!

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  23. Me?
    I like the astral calendar, I fit in there somewhere between a quasar and 42.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. It doesn't matter what calendar I use, I still don't know what day it is.

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  24. I'm eating all the bacon I want and running up the credit cards, hoping I won't have to pay the piper or Scotsman, or whoever's collecting on life's luxury tax now days. Don't ruin it for me, Murr, with you dateline logic.

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  25. I always have to laugh when people come up with "permanent" anything, but "Permanent Calendar" really takes the cake!

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  26. Personally, I think the Mayan dude just got tired of calculating, wandered off and invented the martini.

    He saw that it was good and realized that by December 21, 2012, he'd've been dead a good long time so who cares.

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    1. Shoot, he ran out of space. And he had to make room for the cat photos.

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  27. Hubby strongly objects to switching to calendar where the calendar date always falls on the same day of the week. We got married on Friday the 13th in August, so he stands by his assertion that we only have an anniversary once every 7 years. Simplifies his life no end.

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    1. They've all got an angle. I tell my husband it's always our diamond anniversary, and he always takes me to a baseball game.

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  28. I love Tater. I don't care about the Mayans.

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    1. Tater's inerrant ability to plunk her ass down on the one square foot you are using worked well in this photo.

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  29. I thought the world ended already. Like, Jan. 1st, 2000. And then that religious guy had it ending twice in the same year. So, like Terry Pratchett's Pictsies, we are already dead and this is heaven.

    Alternately, the world will end when I do, so you'd all better keep me happy and healthy. Daily cake and Lindor balls would be a good start.

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    1. Or Lindor ball cake. Mmm, Lindor ball cake.

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  30. Really, Muur, it's all very simple. When you come to the end of your calendar, you just start over. Takes not much thought at all. Which is why few people have thought of it, I suppose.

    May your calendar flip happily on which ever day you choose.

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    1. I didn't used to need a calendar. I had all my appointments lined up in my brain. Now that I can't do that anymore and need a calendar, I can't remember to look at it. And when I do, I don't always know what day it is today.

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  31. Is tomorrow Saturday or Wednesday?

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  32. "There's a certain kind of person that is attracted to orderly things like that, but they're the same kind of people who can't go to sleep until they've made sure their pictures are hanging straight. You can't live with them. They alphabetize their spice shelf. They make spreadsheets. They are not well people. They're engineers."

    Oh my god. That whole paragraph is flippen hilarious!

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    1. I'm guessing you have intimate acquaintance with an engineer.

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  33. I believe in the cosmic significance of running out of ink because my printer IS out to get me, right?

    Also, no way do I want my birthday to always be on a Tuesday. I deserve to have a Saturday birthday every 7 years (twice in leap year).

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    1. I don't know about your printer, but mine is psychotic. It's new. I'm trying to type quietly because I know it's taking notes and taking names. Why are you The Bug, BTW?

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    2. I'm The Bug because I wanted to be anonymous on the world wide web. So I chose part of an old nickname (Danabug). My anonymity lasted oh, about 3 months. Maybe. But I stuck with The Bug because it's cuter than I am.

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  34. So you'll sweat sprinkles if you eat too much birthday cake, say, every eighth day? Are these regular sprinkles we're talking about, or some kind of gross sweat-flavored sprinkles? Because there might be a niche market for the sweat-flavored kind if you can mass produce them.

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    1. An even dearer niche if you CAN'T mass-produce them.

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  35. Awww...we engineers get a bad rap. There are two types of engineers: 1) perfectly reasonable people, like me and 2) anal retentive people, like my Hunky Husband.
    Cop Car

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