DUBLIN, N.H. - Presidential candidates, be warned!
We're listening to your words, but many voters who swear by the Old Farmer's Almanac also are checking out your nose, lips, eyebrows and hair.
As they refer to the 2004 almanac's forecast for a winter of extreme temperatures, its tide charts and fashion trends, discerning voters might turn to the article on page 178 of the 212th edition: "The History of Face Reading."
"Each facial feature represents a different personality trait," says the article on personology, described as the art of studying facial features to identify character and career paths.
Jud Hale, editor in chief of America's oldest continuously published periodical, has been reviewing the presidential field. He finds most of the candidates have flared nostrils, revealing a degree of self-reliance, or self-confidence. Not a bad trait for a president.
"I would look at the nose first," Hale advises. "Then, I would look at the eyes, and where they are placed."
The article said the spacing between eyes determines tolerance. "The wider the space, the more tolerant a person is."
The latest edition will be released today, and if the almanac's traditional "80 percent" accurate weather forecasts are on the mark, many Americans face wild extremes in the coming year.
Winter will hit just about everywhere east of the Rockies with an early cold blast, the almanac predicts, but the Southwest will see one of its hottest years ever. The almanac says the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states will get less snow than last winter and most of the country will see near- or above-normal rainfall.
The almanac is coming off a pretty good year, claiming 68 percent accuracy on precipitation and temperature forecasts - even though the publishing deadlines mean forecasts must be made as far as 18 months in advance.
Last year's edition even hit the February blizzard that paralyzed the East.
The new almanac touches on a bit of everything, from weather to history to cultivating vegetables.
The little yellow magazine with the hole in the upper left-hand corner (so it can hang in outhouses) still contains tide charts that were so accurate the government considered banning them during World War II, fearing they would help German spies.
One of Hale's favorite articles is a collection of New Jersey elementary schoolchildren's responses to adult questions.
Asked "How would you make a marriage work?" Ricky, age 10, advises: "Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck."