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An App for a New Kind of Holiday

SHIn 2009, while watching the closing credits of Invictus, the film about Nelson Mandela’s first years as South African president, I heard Yollandi Nortjie sing “9000 days were set aside / 9000 days of destiny / 9000 days to thank Gods wherever they may be.”  Mandela spent 9,000 days in prison (about 24.7 years).

For some reason, I started thinking about the power of expressing the passage of time in alternative incremental units, and after playing around on Excel, I figured out that my spouse and I would soon have the opportunity to celebrate our “ten millionth marriage minute” (a little over 19 years).

It struck my fancy that this was a length of time worthy of observing in some way – even if just as an excuse to share a nice bottle of wine.  For whatever reason, I loved discovering these additional, arbitrary moments of celebration and I decided it would be pretty easy to alert people when an unusual holiday was about to occur.

So today Greg Conyers and I are happy to announce that we’re launching a free iPhone app, Secondhand Holidays. Our app will alert you when unusual moments of celebration are about to occur.  If you liked “500 Days of Summer,” you might enjoy telling your boyfriend or girlfriend when you’ve been in a relationship for 100 million seconds (after 3.17 years).

If you want, the app will also calculate “secondhand” holidays for Facebook friends that you select.  Because of this feature, I now know that next week will be a billion seconds since my friend Betsy’s graduation from Indiana University (about 32 years ago).  The app makes it easy to send to a friend an email, text, or Facebook message about an upcoming holiday.  Using the app, I was able to text my nephew the exact moment when his twin toddlers will be a million minutes old (when they’re 1.9 years old).  The app also lets you easily create calendar events for any of the holidays and, if you want will even warn you 7 days in advance.

On our Facebook page, you can post photos and vines of how you celebrated the moment of your own Secondhand Holiday.

We tend to celebrate the “anniversaries” of events – from the Latin for “returning yearly.”  But Secondhand Holidays alerts you to what I hereby name an “exigiversary” from the Latin (with some poetic license), for “returning after small or minute periods of time.”

You might wonder what this app has to do with law.  The answer is not much.  The app is a frivolity that surprisingly required relatively little of my attention (thanks to the efforts of Greg and a stupendous programmer).  But I couldn’t resist including a few Easter-egg alerts that let you know the legal significance of particular birthdays. For example, the app will tell when your friend is about to get kicked off her parents’ health care coverage (age 26) or when congress thinks you’re so old that you might be the victim of age discrimination (age 40).  You’ll have to use to the app to find the others.

The app also doesn’t have much to do with economics.  Unlike my buddy and recidivist coauthor, Barry Nalebuff, who has launched yet another legit entrepreneurial venture, this is an endeavor bereft of a reasonable revenue stream.  We might make a little money from banner ads – which might make it easier for you to send flowers or chocolates to friends who are about to celebrate a heretofore unnoticed event – but we don’t expect to even cover the few thousand we spent on programming.

At some subconscious level, I was probably motivated by my hometown memories of Hallmark. (Shout out to my high school classmate, Hillary Hall).  You can take the boy out of Kansas City, but you can’t take Kansas City out of the boy.  In the unlikely event that the app takes off, one might imagine a line of cards helping to commemorate the passage of notable numbers of “marriage minutes” or “birth seconds.”

GPS technology has created new destination oriented tourism where people seek out points that only have significance on a coordinate system.  There are a few souls out there – including my brother-in-law Pat – who get a certain thrill out of being the first person to stand on 40ºN90ºW and recording their presence.  Our app does the same thing with time: we use an even simpler technology to identify moments that only have significance because we have challenged the standard measurement conventions.  It wouldn’t surprise me that most people have no interest in these moments (just as most don’t have an interest in GPS tourism).  Even so, I hope there are a few like-minded souls who might take a moment’s pleasure in learning about these additional moments of potential celebration.

For those people, we wish you Happy Secondhand Holidays.