The Conversation

For the record, I don’t really have an opinion about gun control. But this article about the respectful silence and self-reflection in the pro-gun lobby following the recent school shooting contains a really revealing quote:

Sensing a pause from pro-gun rights groups and individuals, gun control advocates like Huffington Post columnist Robert Cavnar, a licensed gun owner, noted that “the conversation has finally begun.”

I have never seen such an explicit statement of how a “conversation” works in American politics.

Posted: December 17th, 2012 | Res pueriles 4 Comments »

Japan’s year 2033 problem

Japan last reformed its lunisolar calendar in 1844, before adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1873, complete with an educational program and explanatory material, as documented by Matt and by Stefan Tanaka. However, the old calendar is still used for a number of things, like astrological calculations, old festivals, and determining the Earth Cycle Days of the Ox. Alas, all this will go awry in the year 2033, when the calendar will be unsure what month it is for a lengthy period of time.

In the 1844 reform, the month with a winter solstice in it is always called November, the vernal (spring) equinox’s month is called February, the summer solstice’s month is called May, and the autumn equinox’s month is called August. Furthermore, these four days are part of a full set of twelve chuuki, making up half of a solar term. When a chuuki falls during a month, it is assigned a name based on the solar term. If there is no chuuki during a month, it is declared an intercalary month.

Most years, there are only two months between August and November. (But don’t take my word for it–check it yourself!) With intercalary months there are at most three. But this calendar does not allow for there being only one month between August and November, or for two chuuki over a single 30 days. In 2033, as Wikipedia helpfully tells us, the following series arises:

  • Month A: normal July chuuki, clearly July.
  • Month B: no chuuki.
  • Month C: autumn equinox (August?)
  • Month D: one chuuki.
  • Month E: winter solstice and another chuuki together (November?!)
  • Month F: no chuuki.
  • Month G: two chuuki together.
  • Month H: no chuuki.
  • Month I: vernal equinox, marking February.

Therefore, from August 2033 to February 2034, we will not be sure what month it is. If we live our lives by the old calendar, that is.

A very simple adjustment to the calculation of chuuki could be made so that 2033 proceeds without trouble. Also, a rule needs to be set up, like in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, to cover this kind of exception. But both those changes would require an official, legal adjustment to this obsolete calendar.

Posted: December 10th, 2012 | Japan