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<I>Old Farmer's Almanac</I> Tells It All

How do you change your pants in the woods? Why are foul-ups on your IBM called "computer bugs?" Oh, and what's the weather going to be?

Mixed between astronomical charts and farmer's calendars are the answers, or possible answers, in the 209th edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac. It hits newsstands Tuesday.

Like the newer Farmer's Almanac published in Maine, the 2001 edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac predicts more snow than normal this winter from New England all the way to Washington state.

Of more concern than the snow is the possibility of another significant summer drought from the desert Southwest across Texas, Oklahoma, parts of the deep South and the Great Plains.

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America's oldest continuously published periodical boasts an 80 percent accuracy rate, "never 81 and never 79," Editor Jud Hale said Monday.

"We are definitely consistently doing better than if you were guessing," he said. "And we are consistently doing better than if you were doing weather averages."

Hale wishes they had done better predicting this year's cool and wet summer in New England. He said he has taken a lot of heat from nonplussed neighbors.

"If we'd missed it in South Dakota it wouldn't have mattered so much," he said. "I wouldn't have gotten so much ribbing."

Even with some misses, people still call for help planning things such as outdoor weddings.

"They often say something like, 'August 21st, we're outside Oklahoma City and we're wondering whether to rent a tent or not. Is it going to rain that day?'" Hale said.

"I'll say whatever it is, 'It's going to be hot and clear, but why don't you rent a tent?'"

Hale's favorite article in this year's edition tells how to change your pants in the woods without getting your socks or feet wet. The key is always having at least one shoe on, and having one leg of each pair on at one time. Details on page 251.

According to another item, Grace Hopper, who helped program the first large-scale digital computer in the country, coined the phrase "computer bug" in 1951 to describe computer problems when a moth shorted out two tubes in an experimental computer she was working on.

And in its "Tastes and Trends" section, the latest almanac predicts pantsuits will be back for women, the mustache will be back for men and women will be wearing pajama bottoms in public.

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