The May Almanac


May 20—22, the 25th annual meeting of the American Society of Indexers, in Alexandria, Virginia. Among the topics for discussion by the 200 professional indexers convened will be a recent revision of the standard on which they rely. The new standard addresses database as well as print indexes and methods of analysis ranging from human decision-making to computer algorithms. The majority of indexers work freelance, and a third are selftaught; a popular educational choice among those who seek formal training is correspondence courses offered by the u.S. Department of Agriculture. Although most indexers still work on books, some now range beyond the word, creating indexes for graphic elements such as photographs and paintings and for “perceptual objects,” such as the sound effects in films.


May 1, a special election will be held in Texas for the Senate seat vacated earlier this year when Lloyd Bentsen became Secretary of the Treasury. Also today, FCC rules take effect requiring local telephone companies to install signaling equipment that will allow customers with toll-free 800 numbers to switch long-distance carriers without losing those numbers, which they may have spent time and money promoting. 4, a special election will be held in Wisconsin for Secretary of Defense Les Aspin’s former House seat. 15, as of today, all retail products containing or manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons or other stratospheric-ozone depleters must carry labels warning of the deleterious effect those products have on the atmosphere.


May 10-14, representatives from the 38 countries of the International Whaling Commission gather in Kyoto, Japan, for what is likely to be a fractious annual meeting. At issue: the eight-year moratorium on commercial whaling in international waters, imposed to let depleted populations recover. Nations with commercial whaling interests argue that minke whales have recovered and want the ban on them lifted. But obstacles to such an action remain, among them the need to agree on procedures for monitoring catches and population totals, and a proposal to make the Antarctic a whale sanctuary. One whaling country, Iceland, has withdrawn from the commission; another, Norway, has said it will resume whaling regardless of the meeting’s outcome. A third, Japan, has chafed at the ban but so far honored it. In the meantime its fishing industry has mounted a nationwide campaign to promote the eating of whale meat. Environmentalists hope that the campaign will be blunted by a growing interest among Japanese in whale watching and a newfound taste for beef.


May 17-18, the American Council for Drug Education’s Scientific Advisory Board convenes in Crystal City, Virginia. High on its list of concerns is lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD — a relic of the sixties which is now the fastestspreading abused drug among those under twenty. Professionals suggest that LSD’s renewed cachet may be related to its low cost—$2-$5 for a 12-hour trip —and to the relative difficulty teenagers today have in obtaining alcohol, now that every state has set the drinking age at 21. The current revival of pop culture from the 1960s is also thought to be a factor, especially among middle-class white teens. These users are too young to remember the negative experiences that many users of the drug reported in that decade, and during the past 10 years drug-education programs have rarely mentioned LSD. Users today typically treat LSD as a social intoxicant rather than as a vehicle for intense mind-altering experiences, and take it in much smaller doses than users did in the past.


May 3, and again on May 30, the bright planet Jupiter lies just north of the waxing Moon. 6, Full Moon, also called by the Cheyenne the Moon of the Time When the Horses Get Fat. 14, Saturn lies north of the waning Moon in the morning sky. 21, today’s New Moon will partly eclipse the Sun in an event visible, in the morning, by those to the west of a sweeping line from north Texas to the New York—Ontario border.

Q & A

Do people who live in warm climates really develop “thin blood"? Floridians visiting Maine for Christmas might in fact have somewhat more diluted blood than seasoned northerners, but this is only a coincidental result of certain physiological adaptations made over time to temperature; it does not in itself make people more or less comfortable in the cold. Those unaccustomed to cold are more sensitive to it simply because they haven’t made the appropriate adaptations, which include an altered ability to regulate heat production through shivering; “waves of dilation” that pump warm blood to the fingers, helping to preserve dexterity and inhibit frostbite; and, most important, constriction of the blood vessels in the skin, for better insulation. This last process displaces blond toward the center of the circulatory system; the body may respond to this shift as it does to an excess of fluids, leading to increased urination and hence to slightly thickened blood. Conversely, over time a body adapts to warm weather by sweating more easily and copiously and shunting blood to the skin for more efficient cooling. Certain hormonal adjustments also occur, which may increase body water and plasma, thinning the blood.