Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't Skip This

This is our first Leap Day ever on Murrmurrs, so I didn't want to skip over it. It takes us, as a planet, approximately 365-1/4 days to get all the way around the sun and back again, and that isn't divisible by anything useful, so we just throw in the extra day every four years, which makes people born on February 29th feel special. It's the least we can do for them, since they die so young.

But we didn't always do this. Julius Caesar got the leap ball rolling, in 45 B.C. It had to be nerve-wracking back then for the ancients, watching their calendar wind down, inching closer and closer to zero, with no idea that at the very last moment Jesus would come along and spin it back the other direction again. On the other hand, it probably gave them a steely view of reality that brought their own lives and work into focus, and they got a lot done. In contrast, we A.D. folk see our lives spooling out into a hazy distance, and are so confounded by the notion of Forever that we waste our time polishing up our piety to trade in on the good seats in heaven, no matter who gets hurt. Or, we play Farmville.

But before the Julian calendar, even without the tension of the dwindling years, things were a mess. The Roman calendar had twelve months, for a total of 355 days in the year, which wasn't really enough to seal the deal, solar-wise. So they put in a fake month between February and March, but not every year. Some years would be 355 days, and others would be 377. Then they left out the bonus month at odd intervals so that the calendar would be right every 24 years. That got it close enough for government work, but unfortunately the Pontifex was in charge of deciding when to heave in the extra month or leave it out. The Pontifex was supposed to be outside of politics, but he had power and, often enough, a fondness for a certain party, sort of like Chief Justice Roberts, so if his buddies were in power, he'd opt for the long year no matter what. It was like they gerrymandered Time. Before you knew it, it was snowing in July and people were bringing hot dogs and sparklers to Thanksgiving dinner.

Worse, even if someone honestly put in the fake month right on time, it didn't mean the word got out to the hinterlands. Those folks would charge right into March too early, and before long they knew who won the World Series before anyone else did, and totally cleaned up. Something had to be done.

Finally someone suggested they just go ahead and make every year 365-1/4 days long, but people got all jumpy on that last day, when the sun snapped right off and fell back over the horizon just before noon. So they decided to round down and add a day every four years. For the most part that did the trick, but it still got things enough out of whack that we lost a day every four hundred years. Only the most anal people noticed; you could spot them frowning and tapping at their calendars and holding them up to their ears. These kinds of people have a way of being annoying and eventually the Gregorian calendar was developed to settle them down. It's just a refinement; we still add a day every four years, except in years divisible by 100, mostly. This works pretty well. The other way of going about it would be to pass legislation declaring that the earth travels around the sun in precisely 365 days. That'll have to wait for a Republican administration.

62 comments:

  1. Hurumph! Leap years. Daylight savings. Why can't they just leave it the hell alone? This one paltry day has screwed up my social security check by a week!

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    1. If you go hungry, you can blame it on Julius Caesar. Although he did make a nice salad.

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    2. Ha! I think that pun is my favorite part of this post.

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  2. .....so if his buddies were in power, he'd opt for the long year no matter what.

    Just imagine the abuses that would result if people could still do this. After November 2008 all the Republican state governments would have added 874 extra months to 2008 and they'd be claiming Bush is still President.

    .....to pass legislation declaring that the earth travels around the sun in precisely 365 days. That'll have to wait for a Republican administration.

    At the rate they're going, the next Republican administration (if we're ever unlucky enough to get one) will declare the flat Earth to be the center of the universe and not orbiting the Sun at all, so that the year will be whatever they damn well want it to be. Thanks to global warming, there will no longer be any winters, so who will be able to contradict them?

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    1. If they're complicit in removing any more mountains for coal, they'll really achieve that flat earth.

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  3. Thanks for numbering my days. Or something. Our Holy Feast days are based on the Julian (Julienne?) calendar, though we use the Gregorian calendar. so I can celebrate Christmas, New Years and Easter twice. Not bad.

    "That'll have to wait for a Republican administration". I am sure Pope Rick Insanitorium will git 'er done.

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    1. Yeah, I love that. Orthodox calendar is a little different, which means the moveable feasts occur on different days, depending on your religion. And you KNOW one of them's wrong, wrong, wrong, and will have a lot of explaining to do.

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    2. Murr's bloggerhood is the last place I'd expect to find another Old Calendarist! Checked out your blog and it's bookmarked - it gets lonesome out here in Appalachia.

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    3. Hey, I'm heading your way next month.

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    4. Are you coming to Julie's? Maybe we'll cross paths. BOTB's 50th birthday bash tonight - clearly Bill and rock & roll are both here to stay.

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    5. His fiftieth, right? A child. I don't know if I'll be able to pop up for an evening or not.

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  4. I also realized that my Social Security check will be late, just because of this ONE DAY. I like the idea of Leap Day, it makes for such a fun blog post here on MurrMurrs... Worth the price of admission.

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    1. You win some, yu lose some. My SS payment will be a day late, though I won't notice because it's always a Wednesday. My husband's, on the other hand, will be a day early because the 3d falls on a Saturday. (Really old people still get their SS payments on the 3d day of the month.)

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    2. You mean, really old people who get the check in the good ole mail?

      Thanks, Djan, it should be worth at least that!

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  5. I'm so glad I'm not in charge of this stuff. I caught myself writing "1987" as the year the other day.

    On a check, no less.

    Lumbering toward the future,

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl, you are MY kind of girl!

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    2. I do wonder what was flitting through your mind when you did that. It's got to be significant. I'm not sure I remember anything in particular that happened in 1987. My dog had her eighth birthday.

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    3. That was too much exposure to GOP candidates. It'll pass.

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  6. When you are retired, all cats are black in the dark, and all days are the weekend. One day more or less in a month - who notices?

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    1. I've always thought if I write a book about retirement I'll call it "Is This Tuesday?"

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  7. Time...that artificial measurement of our lives...always a good topic of conversation, never enough of it. Love Roxie's comment... What did Shakespeare say? "Day after day passes...."

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    1. I always love Roxie's comments. See what I did there? Spent my reply to you praising another commenter. I should be stripped of my blogging license. Hugs!

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  8. But why the term "Leap"? Are we supposed to jump over something? If we convert to metric we can have a hundred days a year, but I would be so much older then.

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    1. You should definitely jump over something. Not me though. I injured myself trying to get a picture of me jumping. And I got about an inch and a half of air. It's sad, really.

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  9. Are you aware that the Hebrew calendar, with months of 29 or 30 days, fills in with an extra month when the holidays start getting too early? It's a weird system -- I never know exactly when the leap year will occur -- but it has worked for more than five thousand years.
    Hebrew calendar

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    1. At least sometimes that gives them more time to shop for Christmas presents.

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  10. Hahaaaa ... I think I'm off to fetch a feller... we can today, y'know.

    nah ... makes me tired, too old to start training anyone else now.

    Got me curious as to why the name 'leap' ... so for anyone's edification and/or amazement... I submit the following:

    Normally, the day that a certain event falls on moves one day each year. For example, Christmas was on a Monday in 2006 and so on a Tuesday in 2007. (This is because 365 days per year divided by 7 days per week gives one day left over.) However, when February 29th is added in a leap year, the days after it are shifted forwards. This means that Christmas in 2008 will be on a Thursday, not a Wednesday as would be normally expected, so has "leaped" a day.

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    1. Or we could call it Hop Up And Down Day.

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  11. I got the drop on y'all, being ahead of you in terms of time. So my post went out yesterday. Or he day after? Or perhaps the Mayans confused me...

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  12. I mostly just ignore it but wonder what those who are born on Leap Day do. LOL

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  13. I actually attribute the Fall of Rome to people not knowing exactly when their extended warranties ended. Can't fix that!

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  14. Once again I am shaking my head from side to side in wonderment at your brilliance. So many great quotable lines I can't choose. Love ya' Murr.

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  15. Dont Skip This? As if any of your devoted followers could. Thanks for another wonderful post. And I would like Daylight Savings abolished please - surely there is someone who could just spend it all.

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    1. I agree completely. I hate Daylight Savings. Although mostly it was because I had to go to bed while it was still light out. Now, in retirement, I'm up till 1:30am most mornings. It might not bother me so much.

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    2. It always takes me a week or two to adjust the 'ole internal clock to the "Spring Forward" bit- as if anyone could spring anywhere when your body is nagging you that it is Too Early To Get Up-

      And forgedaboudit moving the date even earlier in March. Somewhere somebodies are gonna fry for that nonsense.

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    3. Thanks to retirement, my internal clock answers to nobody, there's nowhere to put the battery, and it doesn't matter.

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  16. "...That'll have to wait for a Republican administration."

    Please don't even think of that. Are we ready for more ultrasound and vaginal probes? More men legislating women's health? Please urge all republicans to move to Afghanistan, where the laws they favor are already in place. And use the leap year to do it! We've got until December 31, let's do it well.
    Wondering is Virginia is still under colonial control...or worse. Did you hear what they did?

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    1. Yes! More vaginal probes! MORE VAGINAL PROBES! Wait. What?

      Did you know Virginia is my birth state? I'm not responsible for anything that happened after 1970.

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    2. Neither are any of us Virginians- can't figure out what they're smoking up at the state house this year, but we're not sure whether to laugh, cry or move.

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    3. No reason you couldn't do all three.

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  17. Well, in 1897 the Indiana legislature came close to legislating the value of pi as 3.2 -- I can see Rik Sanctorum going along with that! See http://www.agecon.purdue.edu/crd/Localgov/Second%20Level%20pages/Indiana_Pi_Story.htm

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    1. Arkansas did that too at one point- somebody pointed out later that the laws of the universe were disobeying the state gub'ment, so they took it back.

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  18. And it's Rossini's 55th birthday today! He died 220 years ago...

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  19. LOL of the day: It was like they gerrymandered Time.

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  20. Those last two lines had me laughing out loud! Brilliant, funny and enlightening, what a great read. :)

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    1. As long as it's funny, I don't really care if it's enlightening.

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  21. This is really great stuff!! When I was reading it, it began to sound like Robin Williams in my mind. You really have one of those wonderful bizarre brains that makes it really fun to think.

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  22. Well.. happy belated Leap Day. My SS check comes late as a result, but that's fine with me. I'm just happy it's staying lighter longer each day.

    "Only the most anal people noticed; you could spot them frowning and tapping at their calendars and holding them up to their ears. These kinds of people have a way of being annoying and eventually the Gregorian calendar was developed to settle them down."

    that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD - FOR REALZ!

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  23. Pontifex was my mother's maiden name. What can I say, I'm compelled to be a Julian fan.

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  24. My mom's name was Skari. I don't know what to think about that.

    But I have always wondered, since people get names from their fathers' occupations, how come so many people are named Pope.

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  25. Nice blog post! I believe years divisible by 400 are leap years.

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  26. You are correct. That's why I said "divisible by 100, mostly." I gotta keep these things moving--I'm not Wikipedia! (But I steal from Wikipedia.)

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  27. I'm starting to get the hang of Murrspective and I'm finding I prefer it to all other points of view. Only, should I be worried about addiction or are you fostering mere psychological dependency here?

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  28. I noticed that leaping guy has an extra ball between his legs. *snicker snicker*

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