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Charles Pannunzio: One less Friday in Samoa

Anybody see what happened in Samoa on Friday?

It was a momentous event -- one for the history books. Something you don't see every year, or even every century. Something everyone in Samoa will talk about for years to come.

What happened Friday in Samoa? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Niente. Nada.

See, there was no Friday in Samoa. In an effort to strengthen business ties with Australia, New Zealand and other island nations to its west, Samoa asked to be moved to the other side of the International Date Line. Instead of being as much as 23 hours behind some of those countries, the move puts Samoa an hour or two ahead of them.

To accomplish this, Samoa had to skip Friday. They went right from Thursday night into Saturday morning, Dec. 31.

I really cannot blame the Samoans. I've had a few days I would have rather skipped in 2011. These include any Sunday the Redskins were playing.

It's also interesting that just 30 miles away, about the same distance as Berryville is from Leesburg, they will remain a day behind in American Samoa. If someone wants to make a similar comparison between Berryville and Leesburg, they may do so, but I am not wading into those shark-infested waters.

Rather, this playing with the calendar got me thinking again about the way humans mark time. Losing a day in Samoa is not quite like losing 11 days when the British Empire, including the colonies, switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian in 1752. In that case, Wednesday, Sept. 2, was immediately followed by Thursday, Sept. 14. I'll leave it to readers to decide how a similar change in 2012 would affect the calendar for Shenandoah County Public Schools.

I am thankful to whomever came up with using your knuckles to remember which months have 31 days and which ones don't. Sure, there is that little poem, but it includes the word "hath," and uses it twice, so I'm not sure how up to date it is.

Every once in a while, someone will propose a new calendar to attempt to deal with the issues caused by a year that is actually about 365.24 days long. The Gregorian does a pretty good job, although we might need to remind software developers that 2100 will not be a leap year. (In more pressing news, 2012 will be.)

I was always intrigued by a proposal I first heard about in "The People's Almanac" about 30 years ago. In the third edition of this rather odd, catch-all book, there is an article about several possible calendars that have been considered as replacements for the current system. One that the writers referred to as the "Liberty" calendar turns out to have a more formal name, the "International Fixed Calendar." This calendar consists of 13 28-day months and a New Year's Day that is not given a date, nor a day of the week.

The 13th month is placed between July and August and is either called "Liberty" or "Sol."
One of the advantages of this calendar is that every month starts on a Sunday the 1st and ends on a Saturday the 28th, so it becomes easy to remember what day of the week a date is. One of the disadvantages is that 13 cannot be divided by four to make for an easy quarter system, something businesses don't like. And if your business sells calendars, it's doubly bad, since each month looks the same.

Another disadvantage might be the fact that every month would have a Friday the 13th. And that's a day a lot of folks would just as well skip.

• Charles Pannunzio is assistant managing editor of the Northern Virginia Daily.

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