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Question of the Day

The current year is A.D. 2008. If the time before Christ was B.C., why is January 1 the start of the new year? Shouldn't the new year start on Easter? What year was it between B.C. and A.D.?

A.D. stands for anno Domini, which is Latin for in the year of the Lord (in other words, after Jesus was born). There isn't any time between B.C. and A.D. The Christian church decided when to designate A.D. in the sixth century. Easter is when Jesus was crucified and died. Christmas is when he was born (33 years or so before the Easter event). It makes sense that the new calendar was based on when he was born. Since nobody can pinpoint exactly when Jesus was born (including what year), it's not necessary to get too literal. At one time, the new year was celebrated in March to follow the agricultural year. Different cultures have different calendar years. For instance, the Chinese New Year moves in relation to our calendar -- it often falls in February (but not always). The Hebrew calendar (which Jesus would have followed) has the biblical new year (Nissan 1) in the spring; the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah, on Tishri 1) occurs in the fall and is when the number of the year increases.

Last 7 Days

    How do I get rid of fire ants for good?

    You don't. There are several species of fire ants--some native, some imported--but by far the most active and most aggressive are the imported red fire ants. Nothing has yet been devised to eradicate them. The only recourse is to knock the population down to a manageable level with baits and mound drenches.

    Can I use herbs to deter moths in my woolens?

    Yes, sewing a small pouch of herbs together can be a great way to protect your winter clothes. Dried rosemary leaves is a great choice. Also try a combination of equal parts ground camphor wood and wormwood; southernwood, wormwood, and lavender; or cedar wood shavings and ground sassafras root.

    Where in the continental United States is the average annual temperature the highest?

    Phoenix, Arizona, has had the highest number of days in a year with temperatures above 90 degrees. For the past 38 years, Phoenix has had 167 days each year with temperatures at least 90 degrees F. Just for the record, the highest temperature ever recorded in the continental United States was 134 degrees F, documented at Greenland Ranch, Death Valley, California, on July 10, 1913.

    What exactly is a waning or waxing gibbous or crescent Moon?

    First, gibbous refers to the shape you can see when the lighted surface of the Moon is bigger than a crescent shape; the crescent shape is defined by the distinct points on the lighted sliver. The Moon moves in these phases: new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter Moon, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, last quarter Moon, waning crescent, back to new Moon. So waxing means the moon is on its way to being full; waning means the Moon is on its way to being new (the phase you really can't see).

    What does one call a group of hogs?

    A group of pigs is called a drift, but we couldn't find any specific term for a group of hogs.

    My grandfather always spoke of a disease called "St. Vida's dance." Do you think he meant cerebral palsy?

    No, St. Vitus' (not Vida's) dance is the common name for Sydenham's chorea, a disorder that can follow an infection and occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. It is a neurological disorder that features involuntary muscle movements (like those experienced with cerebral palsy). Sydenham's chorea can be the result of rheumatic fever. The name "St. Vitus' dance" derives from the late Middle Ages, when persons with the disorder attended the chapels of St. Vitus. The saint was believed to have curative powers.

    How long is it safe to keep unrefrigerated, stored tap water for drinking?

    If you stored the water in a safe container (one not contaminated by any other foreign substance!) your tap water will be fine for up to six months. However, it may taste bad after that long. To improve the taste, add oxygen by pouring it back and forth from one container to another several times.

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