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Archive for Sunday, January 26, 2003

Calendar creator lobbies for change

Resident says new, simpler date system would save time, worry

January 26, 2003

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Wayne Richardson spends his time thinking about, well, time.

The Lawrence man is convinced there's a better way to measure the weeks and months. His solution: The "Kanasa" calendar that you'd only need to buy once -- every year would start Sunday, Jan. 1 and end on "Worldsday," a New Year's Eve for which there would be no month, number or day of the week.

"It's simple," Richardson said. "The best argument against the current calendar is how confusing it is, and unnecessarily so. With this calendar, you can memorize it and carry it around in your head."

So Richardson is launching a grassroots campaign to persuade the people of the world and their leaders to adopt the calendar by 2012.

There's only one problem, says Kansas University physics and astronomy professor Bruce Twarog:

"He hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell."

Some calendar history

It's not as though the calendar hasn't been through changes before.

The Gregorian calendar used by Americans and most of the world didn't exist until it was decreed for use in Catholic countries by order of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

As a result, 10 days were dropped from October of that year so the spring equinox would fall on March 21. And the beginning of the year was shifted to January 1 from March 25.

The rest of the world was slow to adopt the Gregorian calendar. England didn't use it until 1752. Russia didn't convert until 1918, and the Russian Orthodox Church continues to use an older calendar, so it celebrates Christmas on what is Jan. 7 in America.

Fast forward a few decades to 1973. While writing a journal entry or a letter -- he doesn't remember which -- Richardson misspelled Kansas as "Kanasa."

"I couldn't find a meaning for the word," he said. "So I set about trying to give it meaning."

Inspiration struck three years later. As a young KU student, Richardson was walking through Watson Library, looking for a book he wouldn't find.

Wayne Richardson of Lawrence is promoting a calendar that he
believes is a better way to measure weeks and months than our
traditional calendar. He displayed a poster version of his 2003
Kanasa Calendar on Wednesday.

Wayne Richardson of Lawrence is promoting a calendar that he believes is a better way to measure weeks and months than our traditional calendar. He displayed a poster version of his 2003 Kanasa Calendar on Wednesday.

But he discovered something better: The Journal of Calendar Reform, a publication that documented failed efforts of the early and mid-20th century to create the "World Calendar" -- the timetable that Richardson would adopt for Kanasa.

"I just sat down," Richardson said, "and started reading it."

That sparked a decadeslong process that is culminating in his new effort. In the meantime, Richardson trademarked the "Kanasa" name, and a valuable new technology, the Internet, emerged to help him carry out his campaign.

Maybe not

Astronomers take interest in calendars because the length of a year corresponds to one Earth orbit around the sun. Twarog said there was nothing wrong with Richardson's calendar. There's just no reason to think it will gain acceptance.

For example, he said, the typewriter keyboard was initially designed to be difficult so the keys wouldn't jam from rapid typing. Even with advances in keyboard technology, attempts to introduce demonstrably easier keyboards have tanked.

"It's been tried several times and failed," Twarog said. "People get so comfortable that he doesn't have a glimmer of hope."

The last big change in time measurement came in the early 20th century, Twarog said, with the introduction of time zones. It made time in one location easier to relate to times in other places, he said, making it easier for business to be completed.

That innovation took 20 years to pass, Twarog said.

It will be harder to make the case for a dramatically revised calendar.

"No one's going to gain anything economically by rearranging the sequence of the calendar," Twarog said. "It's (Richardson's) personal view of the universe."

Trying anyway

Richardson says people and businesses would have to buy fewer calendars -- and thus require the destruction of fewer trees -- if the sequence was the same every year.

"Basically, we're forced into buying a calendar every year," Richardson said. "There's a lot of economic impact. It's forced obsolescence, and it's costly."

Several calendar publishers contacted by the Journal-World declined comment on the matter or did not return calls.

Richardson has made a few converts.

"The idea of it really appeals to me," said Lawrence resident Janet Gerstner. "The predictability and simplicity of it, it seems like it could simplify our lives a lot."

Richardson said many people had similar reactions, if he could just get the opportunity to explain the calendar to them. He said an earlier effort to adopt the World Calendar, in 1955 at the United Nations, failed because most people didn't know about it or understand it.

After years of planning, he's ready to make his push.

This week, he goes online with a Web site, www.kanasa.org. He's been selling posters of the Kanasa calendar, he said, door-to-door. And he's encouraging allies to begin contacting political leaders to persuade them.

The effort, he said, is his full-time job. He earns his money selling the posters.

As for those who say the current calendar works just fine, Richardson has a response.

"The calendar that's working," he said, "could be working better."

Whether you call it the Kanasa or World Calendar, the idea is to make the calendar a little more orderly.

¢ The first month of each quarter would have 31 days, followed by two months of 30 days each. The quarter would always start on a Sunday.

¢ The 365th day of the year doesn't fit into that schedule, so Worldsday -- a year-end global holiday -- is created.

¢ Leap Year is celebrated differently. Feb. 29 and Feb. 30 would be permanent parts of the calendar. Leap Day would occur at the end of June every four years, and, like Worldsday, be a holiday with no day, date or month label.

¢ Those whose birthdays or anniversaries fall on March 31, May 31, August 31 and Dec. 31 would find those days no longer exist.

¢ On the other hand, the year 2012 would bring babies born for the first time ever on Feb. 30 or April 31, as well as Worldsday.

"Some people will be born on days that didn't exist," said Wayne Richardson, a Lawrence advocate for the calendar. "For people who'd lose their birthday, I'd hope they'd see it was for the greater good."

The result is that the same day of the year would be the same day of the week every year. Thanksgiving would always be Nov. 23. Christmas would always be Monday, Dec. 25 and a guaranteed three-day weekend.

Such simplicity, Richardson said, would make the calendar like the clock -- where noon is consistently noon, no matter the day, week or month.

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