Dave Child's Workshop


On Thursday, 15th January 2009, I went to the pub. Fear not, the story, for once, does not end there.

I was out with my wife, Lindsay, and a couple of friends. They asked us how long we'd been married. "Six hundred years", I replied, in the time-honoured tradition of husbands through the ages. And then, after a couple of minutes, I updated my guess ... "you know, I think it might just be one thousand days today".

Unfortunately, this conversation happened at the wrong end of several pints of lovely local ale, so working out what should have been something relatively simple turned into a small project. And after a few more ales, and some arguments about leap years, we settled on a number. It was 999 days.

Later, at home, mischief presented itself. Lindsay went to bed, and I got to work making a "Happy 1,000 Days Married" card. It was crude, but the point was not the make the world's greatest card. At the time, this was about points.

You see, it was inevitable that one day I'd forget a birthday or anniversary. Apparently everyone does. But I knew Lindsay wasn't going to have prepared anything for tomorrow's one, because she only found out about it two hours before. This was my chance to get ahead.

So, the next morning, with a great big shit-eating grin that husbands only wear on very special occasions, I presented my card to Lindsay. 1-0.

Later, at my desk, it occurred to me that these sorts of events must pass by every so often, and usually without fanfare. I started checking into what occasions I'd missed. It turns out I'd be 10,000 days old a couple of years before. 15,000,000 minutes old has passed by without mention. I was approaching my first Curium 243 half-life. This cannot stand! I can't let these things pass by, they matter every bit as much as annual birthdays and anniversaries.

So, off I went writing a little bit of software to solve this problems. It started as a post on my website, and a short 923 days later graduated to its own domain.

Mathaversaries will take any date you give it, and tell you what interesting time intervals are approaching or recently passed by. If you give it an email address, it'll email you when one of these things happens.

Later, I added a little bit more code, this time to message celebrities on Twitter and tell them when their interesting date intervals came up. To my great pleasure, several of those celebrities noticed these occasions, including Neil Gaiman, Simon Singh, Richard Herring, Robert Llewellyn, Nick Frost, and Andy Zaltzmann.

I'm a huge fan of those people, and many of the others who noticed this little bot doing its little bot thing. But as a huge Terry Pratchett fan (seriously, I'm on the cover of one of his books), I was chuffed to bits when this tweet caught Pterry's attention for a moment and earned a little retweet.

At this point, you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd spend a lot of time lording it over Lindsay and being a very smug little boy. You'd not be wrong, I did ... for a time, at least. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. Although I had built a website to tell me about weird time intervals since important dates, and I'd built in the ability to notify myself when these dates happened, I had forgotten to add our wedding date to my notifications list. So, on the morning of Thursday 13th October 2011, when Lindsay walked into the room with her own shit-eating grin, holding a suspiciously homemade looking card, I realised very very quickly that I was in for a nice big portion of humble pie, and my points lead, so carefully guarded for 1,000 days, had gone. 1-1.

Edit: Three thousand, four thousand and five thousands days have all now passed, and we both remembered. Lindsay has alerts set up from my own site. However, I think the six thousand day email may just get lost along the way ...