Saturday, July 18, 2015

Minding the Nones of July

We’re frequently reminded that an exercised mind retards the onset of senility. Minds aged eighty or thereabouts and higher tend to notice stories like that; the ballpoint marks the article for closer reading. Keeping the mind sharp is our excuse, hereabouts, for working crossword puzzles, as in “you learn something new every day,” e.g. that OREO is an almost indispensably useful word in crossword puzzles. Well, the other day, we had the following clue: July 7, e.g. Brigitte and I always do puzzles together; and what with our respective backgrounds, we fill in our respective gaps of knowledge and never fail to solve a puzzle. This time, again, we found the answer to that clue—but only by finding the other words that intersected with it. The answer was NONES. But what does that mean?

Nones, of course, vaguely hinted at the ninth canonical hour, but the clue was July 7. So how do we get from 9 to 7. To get an answer to that illustrates what might be called the useful activity of “extended crossword puzzle solving.” One has to research the subject. Well, Brigitte and I are both quite familiar with the Ides of March; assassinations of important people have a way of lingering in racial memory. We also knew that it was the 15th of the month. Oddly enough, as we discovered, counting backward from 15, with 15 being 1, the 9th day turns out to be the 7th. So if you count back from the Ides of July by nine, including that day in your count, the ninth (nonae in Latin) day will be the 7th.  Nones is always the 9th day of the month in the Julian calendar—but it falls on the 7th of the month only in March, May, July, and October—because the Ides falls on the 15th. In all other months, the Ides fall on the 13th and hence Nones is on the 5th of the month!

Having discovered this, we learned that Roman naming of the days was rather awkward. The Romans only had three “named” days, Kalends (the first day of the month), Nones (5th or 7th depending on the month), and Ides (15th or 13th, again depending on the months). All other days were defined with reference to these three. The following table shows the naming conventions, which seem very hard to remember for us, for the month of July:

Kalends (of July)
Day 15 before Kalends
Day 5 before Nones
Day 14 before Kalends
Day 4 before Nones
Day 13 before Kalends
Day 3 before Nones
Day 12 before Kalends
Day 2 before Nones
Day 11 before Kalends
Day before Nones
Day 10 before Kalends
Day 9 before Kalends
Day 7 before Ides
Day 8 before Kalends
Day 6 before Ides
Day 7 before Kalends
Day 5 before Ides
Day 6 before Kalends
Day 4 before Ides
Day 5 before Kalends
Day 3 before Ides
Day 4 before Kalends
Day 2 before Ides
Day 3 before Kalends
Day before Ides
Day 2 before Kalends
Day before Kalends
Day 16 before Kalends
Kalends (of August)

The Romans used a standard annotation to name a day. Lets take the 13th of July here. They would write that as “a.d. II Id. Iul.” Spelled out: “ante diem II, Ides, Iulius.” Ante diem  stands for “day before”; it amuses me, however, that A.D. was used in calendars once—and still is, but with a different meaning. Iulius, is, of course, our July. The phrasing on the day immediately before the named days (e.g. July 14) was “prid. Id. Iul.”; the prid. is pridie and means “the day before.”

Keeping track of the days, particularly in the second half of each month, was rather a chore, it seems, best left to scribes who had desks with appropriate writing instruments on which to record time's passage.

Now, knowing that it takes such exercises to ward off the onrush of senility makes you kind of wonder just how bad senility really might be…

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It's a Gamble

What with Donald Trump suddenly so very visible in the Media, Brigitte got to wondering just where gambling is classified in the U.S. economy and, furthermore, just how big it actually is. An earlier post here, measuring the advertising industry as percentage of Gross Domestic Product was in the background of this question. How does the gaming “industry” compare to advertising? No doubt, to be sure, matters of chance were on her mind too—in view of the rather awkward fact that she managed to break an arm when, accidentally, slipping as she got out of the shower…

Well, gambling is part of Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation Industries (NAICS 713), specifically NAICS 7132, Gambling Industries. As best as I can determine, the industry’s revenues in 2013 were a shade over $33 billion, amounting to 0.2 percent of GDP in that year. Advertising, by contrast, was around 1.03 percent. Advertising is barely visible—and gambling is too small to see.

But if you go to Atlantic City and stand before the Trump Taj Mahal, especially when it’s lit up for the night, you get an altogether wrong impression of gambling’s importance—or Donald Trump’s as a presidential candidate. To be sure, if Trump triumphs, in both of his ventures—to get nominated or to rescue the Taj Mahal from bankruptcy— it will at least prove that our times are reaching the highest improbabilities even for a truly crazy state of the world. As for Brigitte, she’s got a few more  days before the present (sea-foam-green?) cast gives way to the (oyster-beige?) last one and the process of relearning to write with her right hand can be taken up in earnest…