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Myriad ways to predict earthquakes

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July 24, Monday — Last Quarter Moon. Rotary-type printing press patented, 1847.

July 25, Tuesday — St. James. Luxury liner Andrea Doria sank after collision, 1956.

July 26, Wednesday — St. Ann. George Bernard Shaw born, 1856. U.S. Post Office established, 1775.

July 27, Thursday — Panmunjon Armistice, Korean War, 1953. Grasshopper plague, 1931.

July 28, Friday — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis born, 1929. Earthquake, Tangshan, China, registers 8.2 on the Richter scale.

July 29, Saturday — Sts. Mary and Martha. Moon rides high. First asphalt road, New Jersey, 1870.

July 30, Sunday — New Moon. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, 1975. Casey Stengel born, 1891.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Are there any almanac-endorsed predictors of earthquakes? — B.B., Las Vegas, Nev.

Answer: Endorsed? No. Almanac-published? Yes. In 1991, The Old Farmer's Almanac published an article on a county geologist in the San Francisco area, James Berkland, who had an amazing record of predicting earthquakes. His secret? He tracked the classified ads to count the numbers of missing dogs and cats in the area and he tracked the area's tides. If it was a time of unusually high tides and if pet disappearances were at particularly increased levels, he began to advise taking precautions.

Other "short-term signals" of a potential earthquake have been theorized, including the release of radon from wells; an increase in "creep" — the slow movement of land near a fault; flashes of bright lights in the sky; a rise or drop in well-water levels; a time when the moon is riding high or riding low (check your Almanac) or is on the equator (as on July 22, this week); an increased intensity of low-frequency electromagnetic waves; cattle bellowing; and a presence of fog, mists, darkness or "lurid" vapors.

Beyond these factors, scientists have begun to study seismology, the seismic waves or shock waves produced by earthquakes. Seismographs in earthquake-prone areas, such as near the San Andreas fault along the Pacific coast of California, chart these shock waves, before, during and after earthquakes and their smaller aftershocks, in hopes of giving us a pattern that might predict future quakes.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: You once printed a column about "keepers" in the old New England proverbs and words of advice. I think "keeping good hours" was part of it. Can you run it again? — R. S., Galveston, Texas

Answer: Sure, we don't want to keep you up, worrying about it. If you don't keep good hours, you might burn the candle at both ends, or burn the midnight oil. Not a thrifty thing to do, and you know Yankees are frugal. While you're keeping up with the rest, you might keep touch with some other keepers of advice.

First, keep your powder dry, keep your courage and keep prepared. Be sure to keep your own counsel and not spout off at the mouth. If you decide to keep company with someone of the other sex, to help you keep body and soul together, start out by keeping one another at arm's length. Once you're sure you can keep up the friendship, then you might propose keeping house together. If you decide the other is a keeper, don't keep it dark, but be sure you tell them. Offer a suitable keepsake. And finally, if, over the course of time, small annoyances make you ill-tempered, keep your breath to cool your porridge. Keep your countenance, keep your wits about you, and you'll be apt to keep your spouse. Now we'll keep quiet or, as they say, keep our tongue from wagging.

Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Any new ideas for an old lemonade stand? The grandchildren have plans to revive it. — H.P., Cataumet, Mass.

Answer: Hot summer afternoons on Cape Cod should make any lemonade stand a natural winner. For an added boost, however, suggest the children peddle the real stuff, rather than the imitation mixes. If you have a hand juicer, lots of fresh lemons and plenty of sugar, good clean water and plenty of ice, you should be in business. (Check with local authorities about the need for a permit.) Be sure hygiene is up to standard and consider an umbrella to keep your young storekeepers out of the hot sun. You'll want a conspicuous sign, advertising the day's offerings and rates. Have the children design and paint it, for authenticity.

If business is good and the hand juicer becomes too slow, show them how to prepare larger quantities in advance. Old lore says that you get more lemon juice from a lemon if you pour boiling water over lemon slices. With your help, have them cut up the lemons, mix them with roughly equal parts of sugar, then pour hot water over this, using about a pint of water for every two lemons. Leave it to cool, strain out the lemons, and chill, adding ice when it is served. Another refreshing twist is to add a handful of fresh, clean mint sprigs before you pour the boiling water over all. Strain the mint leaves out with the lemons, after the liquid has cooled, but then add a fresh sprig or two to each glass, with perhaps a slice of lemon over the edge. Provide extra sugar for anyone who prefers his or her lemonade extra sweet.

For the very industrious, consider adding lemon squares, lemon cookies or lemon meringue pies to the fare. Keep a wire egg basket or a cobalt-blue bowl of fresh lemons in sight, and a bouquet of mint, if you have it handy. As summer berries ripen down the lane, add a basket or two to your shelves. Then watch the profits roll in!


Send your questions to: Ask the Almanac, The Old Farmer's Almanac, Main St., Dublin, NH 03444. www.almanac.com © Yankee Publishing Inc.