The Almanac


Illustrations by Kelly Alder

Q & A

A 1998 study by climatologists at Arizona State University suggests that this is more than just a matter of perception. Precipitation levels on the East Coast, they found, are 22 percent higher on Saturdays than on Mondays. Evidently the culprit is not Murphy's Law but the pollution produced in big cities. Factories and commuters' cars begin spewing out carbon monoxide each Monday, and emissions build throughout the week; by Saturday, emissions levels are often high enough to trigger the formation of rain clouds. After a low-pollution weekend the cycle begins anew. Something to take comfort from on yet another rainy Saturday: high pollution levels may diminish the potential force of hurricanes. Hot air trapped by the pollution causes more rain to fall along a hurricane's edges; this in turn weakens the storm's center.


Expiring Patent

No. 4,375,881. Portable desk for use with automobile steering wheel. "A portable reversible desk for detachable mounting on and support by the steering wheel of a motor vehicle comprising ... smooth, planar surfaces for the support of writing material ... a pocket ... for the holding of writing materials; and [clips] for detachably holding the desk to the rim of the steering wheel...."

Arts & Letters

More than 200 objects from Istanbul's Topkapi Palace -- the political and cultural center of the Ottoman Empire -- go on exhibit this month at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. The Topkapi was home to the empire's sultans from the 15th century through the 19th, and at any given point employed hundreds of artisans. A number of the objects in the exhibit have never before left the palace; some are the oldest pieces of Ottoman art ever to leave Turkey. Among the items on display are the well-nicked battle sword of Sultan Mehmed II (ruler from 1444-1446 and 1451-1481); the ebony-and-ivory throne of Sultan Süleyman I (1520-1566); the Topkapi dagger, showcased in the 1964 film Topkapi; and a variety of illuminated manuscripts. Also included are objects from outside the Ottoman Empire, acquired through its far-flung trade; these range from English clocks to the most extensive collection of Chinese porcelain anywhere but China. The show will close in Washington in June, and will travel to San Diego and Fort Lauderdale.


Illustrations by Kelly AlderGovernment

This is the last month in which pets coming into Great Britain from most Western European countries will face a six-month quarantine. In the future animals with "pet passports" documenting effective rabies vaccinations, among other things, will be granted immediate entry. This is one of several phases in ending Britain's 100-year-old quarantine rule, the toughest in the world. The quarantine rule has attracted vehement protest over the years and inspired some unusual measures: in the 1960s Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton housed their four dogs on a yacht moored in the Thames, in order to avoid being separated from them. Also this month primaries or caucuses occur in 31 states. The nominees may be apparent after March 7, when both parties hold contests in California, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Washington, and five New England states (whose contests make up the Yankee Primary), and Democrats hold caucuses in Hawaii, Idaho, and North Dakota.

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The Man Who Owns 40,000 Video Games

A short documentary about an Austrian gamer with an uncommon obsession

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