31 December 2012

Stuff I've Learned in France, Part 1

For those of us whose New Year begins on January 1st, the end of December is a natural time to reflect on all those things we'd like to accomplish, or change, in the coming year.

Instead of looking forward, I've been thinking about what's happened in my life since landing in France on a cold and blustery December afternoon 13 years ago. I never expected to stay this long, but I'm happy I have.

Which is why, on the cusp of a new year, and with the promise of change in the air, it feels appropriate to kick off a new Got-France-in-My-Pants series: Stuff I've Learned in France. Here it is then, an example of the kinds of stuff you might see more of in 2013.

Counting the Months
In the past, if I needed to know how many days were in a certain month, and I didn't have a calendar nearby, I'd mentally rifle through this well-known rhyme

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except(ing) February alone,
With twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

until I got to the month in question; a bit of a laborious operation if I had been aiming for one of the unnamed months with 31 days. 

But no more, because I recently learned a simple, some might even say "childish" technique that will give me the right answer in seconds and takes less mental effort than memorizing the number of days per month, even though that might be ultimately easier. And all you need is the back of your hand.

To begin, make a fist with your left or right hand (it doesn't matter which), making sure the back of your hand (with the knuckles) is facing you. Next, starting with the knuckle of your index finger, say the months in order (January, February, March, etc.), touching each knuckle and then each dip in between knuckles, one for each month.

So the index knuckle is January, the dip in between the index and middle-finger knuckle is February, the middle-finger knuckle is March. When you get to the knuckle of your pinkie finger (July), return to the index-finger knuckle (August) and finish the year at the ring-finger knuckle (December).

The only other thing to know is that "knuckle" months have 31 days (January, March, May, July, August, October, December), while the months represented by the dips in between knuckles, with the exception of February, each have 30 days (April, June, September, November). Or put another way, knuckle months are taller, and so have more days than "dip" months. 

And that's it. This isn't mind blowing stuff for sure, but it is practical. My wife was astonished I didn't know this little trick before. Maybe you've know it for a long time. If not, try it out; you might find it useful. And to think I didn't learn this stuff until I got to France.

Thanks for reading, and see you in the New Year!

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