People that work in finance or law, seem to have an adult relationship to time, that I lack:
They can always tell you, without blinking, that there's 8 weeks to christmas, or whatever.
I'm actually quite embarrassed sometimes - I don't know what quarter it is,
I can't ballpark things like, or how many days I have left in my thirties, or my life.
A house can be ... 100 years old? But the Romans were ... thousands ago?
.. and there's 10 hundreds in a thousand?
a calendar does nothing for me.
i can't feel it.
if there's anything like an acid-test for the 2000s, it's that
any good product is aligned with intuition -
and if you need an instruction manual, it's wrong.
This idea was not at all widespread until pretty recently.
It's from this idea, UX as first-principle, that i propose some reform to our calendar-system.
An hourglass is a hard thing to get right. Humidity in the air, bacteria in the tube, temperature, and wear on the aperature, can often swing the accuracy over 10% - and that's just measuring an hour.
I laughed at Carl Oppedahl's blog post where he buys every hourglass on amazon and laments at how frequently they actually *stop running*.
I guess this is a common thing.
There are 3 or 4 year-long hourglasses in the world. If it uses sand, it must be around 15 ft tall.
A tar hourglass can take several years, but is junk.
The point i'm getting at, is that without astronomy, we'd suck at keeping time. There's nothing we could do. Weather+seasons could give us a ball-park for the year, but hardly. Astronomy is a necessary part.
The unfortunate part on earth is that the day, and the year do not work evenly together:
Our orbit starts on January 1st, at midnight.
we celebrate new-years 365 days later,
but our orbit isn't finished until 5:46am, the next day.
that's 24% of a day.
The moon is worse:
if the moon and the year started at the same time,
the moon will finish its 13th orbit in on December 21 at 1:20am.
and won't finish it's 14th orbit until Jan 17th at noon.
The moon is 17.5 days out of phase with the year.
Even if we were to stretch the year, so our calendar spans three years,
- 1 year - 14 moons - Jan 17th
- 2 years - 27 moons - Jan 7th
- 3 years - 40 moons - Dec 29
- 4 years - 54 moons - Jan 15th
- 12 years - 160 moons - Dec 23
it's still a mess.
The moon and the year do not agree, and never will.
Calendar as a UX compromise
So astronomy gives us timekeeping, but forces us to choose between its various units.
It's really a UX-compromise problem, not unlike what you'd kick-around at a design meeting.
What fits with our users?
2) moon orbit ('moonth')
Obviously, Julius Cesear chose 1 and 3, and squished them together using leap years.
So the moonth got relegated to a misc google calendar addon:
or the other design questions like:
what's a month?
- and wherefore a week? really?
Months are garbage:
we should truly deprecate them.
yeah, they don't divide evenly into 12, or in fact, any number.
● this is why fiscal-years, and quarterly reports always have asterisks.
● this is why seasons start at random times.
● this is why the solstice and equinox occur at random times.
● this is why easter and other holidays are different every year.
months are junk.
also, have you ever noticed this?
|september:||prefix 7||9th month|
|october:||prefix 8||10th month|
|november:||prefix 9||11th month|
|december:||prefix 10||12th month|
this is technical debt from 2020 years ago.
Weeks are beautiful:
i had a music teacher say that there are 3 intervals to music:
notes in a bar (2s) verse-chorus-verse (20s) movement in a symphony (30mins)
these are like, the natural ways the brain likes music.
I think a 7 day week is a natural brain interval.
and one that people enjoy.
i really don't think we can change the week.
unfortunately, our 365 days don't divide evenly into 7.
could you do a five, or ten day week?
It sucks, because the brain likes it when
the year starts the week.
i wish every year should would like this, like 2024.
sometimes calendar systems will round things by adding 'party days'
Let people party whenever they want, I say.
A calendar should be constant.
That's the whole idea.
Deprecate the month:
what should we replace it with?
● 1. Nothing.
this is isn't so bad - 'week 1, day 18', 'w37 #2 2019'
● 2. Quarters. (4)
this is isn't so bad - 'Q2 #17 2019', 'Q4 #12'
● 3. Moonths. (13.3)
nice idea? - 'm1 17 2019', 'm12 #12'
● 4. Semesters. (3)
people seem to like these - 'Fall #17 2019', 'Winter #12'
● 5. Seasons. (4)
i like this one - 'Spring #17 2019', 'Winter #12'
the issue of course with using seasons as partitions, is that they span the year.
you would have two winters in each year.
which brings us to:
When should the year start?
Jan 1st is a fully-arbitrary point, but has been the start of the year for almost 300 years. It's pretty sticky.
Are there any other alternatives that could help us pick a new month interval?
● 1. Christmas.
● 2. Winter Solstice.
● 3. Chinese New Year.
lunar (sometime in jan or feb)
● 4. Easter.
lunar (sometime in april)
IMO, the best candidate would:
A) always happen on a monday.
B) be mid-winter/spring, in the northern hemisphere.
C) be stable, or have a manageable wobble.
I can't think of one.
so I'll admit that this new calendar isn't really getting anywhere.
- we've decided the year & day should remain, so we have leap-years.
- we've decided the 7 day week should stay, so we have non-uniform years.
- and although we established that months suck, we have no viable month substitute.
Feeling the Year:
You know how authors always hate their first-books?
or how nobody can keep a new-years resolution?
we are a bit like a golden-retriever in this way,
- how we can't keep a thought in our head for more than a few months.
I've always had this fantasy of stopping eveyone walking down a road,
and asking each of them what day it was, and seeing how many can tell you.
A year is just a creepy-enough length of time that it seems impossible to yell something at yourself, at the end of it.
you can never hear-yourself from a year-ago, in a familiar way.
I can't tell if this is a strange co-incidence -
the planets all have different orbit-periods.
Daniel Dennet always talks about our inability to fathom more than a few hundred years.
maybe he's our smartest person.
in this way, new years resolutions are a beautiful thing.
so are weekly pill-boxes,
so are advent calendars.