I'm not sure where the word "almanac" comes from, just as I'm not sure where Rick Perry is coming from, although I know where he will be on Inauguration Day 2013.
And by this time next year, shortly after the election, I'll be able to tell what the moon will look like on Inauguration Day night, that moon at which Messrs Perry, Gingrich, Cain, Romney, Huntsman and Madame Bachmann will be baying. That's because I am a big fan of almanacs of all sorts.
As a kid, before there was an internet, I would wile away many happy hours sitting in my hollow tree, reading the World Book, the dictionary, and various almanacs. Almanacs come out in the fall of every year, and they are little soft-bound volumes containing information on the phases of the moon, tide tables, planting dates for farmers and gardeners, and fascinating little articles with tips on how to clean any stain with baking soda and vinegar. I always make sure to ask Santa to bring me the Hagerstown Almanac and the Old Farmers' Almanac, and then there is the one I get free for nothing from the Johnson Funeral Home on Loch Raven Boulevard. They call that one the Farmers' Almanac, so I guess one can be of any age to enjoy it.
A lot of us old timers used to keep the Almanacs hanging on twine near the phone, in case we suddenly needed to find out if there would be a full moon right after St Swithin's Day, but now, with more people using a cordless phone, or just a cell, I guess we need to find a web-based version. I don't know if it would be as cool to thumb through a tiny Android almanac, though.
There are also the big jumbo almanacs - the Information Please Almanac, the World Almanac, the New York Times publishes one. These are walloping hearty meatloaf-sized books, full of information. Suppose the dinnertime conversation over at your house turns to the which countries are the greatest importers of Retsyn®, the golden chemical which cures stankbreath. Or, say, someone is interested in knowing what is the state flower of Alabama (the camellia), the real name of Red Buttons (Aaron Chwatt) or what the flag of Moldova looks like, this is the place to turn.
Even in the faraway Retsyn fields of Moldova, the world is a better-informed place because of almanacs. Here we see some happy Moldovan farmers, preparing for the annual Harvest Festival. The guy in the middle - what's he holding? Why, an almanac, what else!