Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Years Explained (????)

The Gregorian Calendar (partly Adapted from Formilab's Calendar Converter &

In the year 1572, Ugo Boncompagni became Pope Gregory XIII and there was a crisis of the calendar. One of Christianity's most important dates was falling behind with respect to the seasons. Easter, which is based on the date of the vernal equinox was being celebrated too early in March. The cause of this confusion was the over 1,600 year-old Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar in the year 46 BCE.

Julius Caesar took control over the chaotic Roman calendar, which was being exploited by politicians and others with the haphazard addition of days or months. It was a calendar out-of-synch with the seasons of the earth, which are the result of the rotation of the earth around the sun. Caesar's new calendar of 364.25 days, closely approximating the length of time it takes the earth to go around the sun from the beginning of spring until the next beginning of spring.

Caesar's calendar year was normally 365 days long but included an extra day (a leap day) every four years to account for the extra one-quarter of a day. The intercalary day was added prior to February 25 each year.

Unfortunately, while Caesar's calendar wasn't quite accurate enough as the year isn't 365.25 days, but approximately 365.242199 days. Hence, the calendar of Julius Caesar was 11 minutes and 14 seconds slow each year, which would add to be a full day in error every 128 years.

It took from 46 BCE to 8 CE to get Caesar's calendar functioning properly as at first leap years were observed every three years instead of every four years. By the time of Pope Gregory XIII one day in error every 128 years had added up to a full ten days. It was only by coincidence the Julian calendar happened to have leap years on years divisible by four as during Caesar's time the numbered years of today didn't exist.

A serious change needed to take place, and Pope Gregory XIII decided to repair the calendar. Gregory was aided by astronomers developing a calendar that would be more accurate. The solution developed was almost perfect.

The Gregorian calendar was proclaimed by Pope Gregory XIII and took effect in most Catholic states in 1582, in which October 4, 1582 of the Julian calendar was followed by October 15 in the new calendar, correcting for the accumulated error between the Julian calendar and the equinox as of that date.

When comparing historical dates, it's important to note that the Gregorian calendar, used universally today in Western countries and in international commerce, was adopted at different times by different countries. Britain and her colonies did not switch to the Gregorian calendar until 1752, when Wednesday 2nd September in the Julian calendar dawned as Thursday the 14th in the Gregorian.

Only a few countries were ready or willing to change to the new calendar in 1582. It was adopted that year in Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and France. The Pope issued a reminder on November 7 to nations that they should change their calendars, many did not comply. Had the calendar change been ordered a century earlier, more countries would have been under Catholic rule and would have done the Pope's bidding. By 1582, Protestantism had spread across the continent and politics and religion were in disarray; additionally, the Eastern Orthodox Christian countries would not change until years had passed.

Other countries joined the fray over the following centuries. Roman Catholic Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands switched by 1584; Hungary in 1587; Denmark and Protestant Germany by 1704; Great Britain and its colonies changed in 1752; Sweden changed 1753; Japan changed 1873 as part of Meiji's Westernization; Egypt changed in 1875; Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Turkey all switched between 1912 and 1917; the Soviet Union changed in 1919; Greece switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1928; lastly, China switched after the 1949 revolution.

Change wasn't always easy. In Frankfurt and London, people rioted over the loss of days in their lives. With each change to the calendar around the world, laws established that people could not be taxed, paid, nor would interest accrue over the "missing" days.

The Gregorian calendar is a minor correction to the Julian. The Julian says every fourth year is a leap year in which February has 29, not 28 days, but in the Gregorian, years divisible by 100 are not leap years unless they are also divisible by 400. Therefore, the years 1700, 1800, 1900, and 2100 would not be leap years, but 1600 and 2000 would. This change was so accurate that today, scientists need only add leap seconds every few years to the clock in order to keep the calendar matching the actual year. As in the Julian calendar, days begin at midnight.

The average length of a year in the Gregorian calendar is 365.2425 days compared to the actual year from equinox to equinox of 365.24219878 days, so the calendar accumulates one day of error with respect to the solar year about every 3300 years. As a purely solar calendar, attempts aren't made to synchronise months to the Moon's phases

Speaking of "Gregorian dates" prior 1582 is incorrect, but, the calendar can be adjusted to prior dates. This uses the convention that the year prior to year 1 is year 0, which differs from the Julian in which there is no year 0, the Julian year before year 1 is year -1. Thus, December 30th, year 0 in the Gregorian calendar corresponds to January 1st, year 1 of the Julian calendar.

A slight modification of the Gregorian calendar would make it even more precise. Add the additional rule that years evenly divisible by 4000 aren't leap years. This results in an average solar year of 365.24225 days per year compared to the actual mean year of 365.24219878, an error of one day over a period of about 19,500 years; this accounts for errors due to tidal actions on the rotation of the Earth.

After the change dates were written with O.S. (Old Style) or N.S. (New Style) following the day so people examining records could understand whether a Julian date or Gregorian. So, George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (O.S.), his birthday became February 22, 1732 (N.S.) under the Gregorian calendar. The change in the year of his birth was due to when the change of the new year was acknowledged. Before the Gregorian calendar, March 25 was the new year but under the new calendar it became January 1. Since Washington was born between January 1 and March 25, the year of his birth became one year later.

Today, we use the Gregorian calendar to keep us almost perfectly in line with the rotation of the earth around the sun. If such a change were mandated today, chaos would likely reign. If you have any technical (or ANY) questions as to how this all works, I'm definitely NOT the person to ask! Until next time. Take care.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cleaning Out The Trivial Stuff Files Again

Being too lazy to write anything of my own, it seemed the perfect time to clean out some more of the 'trivial junk files'. Have fun!!

~Born 4 January 1838, General Tom Thumb's growth slowed at the age of 6 months, at 5 years he was signed to the circus by P.T. Barnum, and at adulthood reached a height of only 1 meter.
~Because they had no proper rubbish disposal system, the streets of ancient Mesopotamia became literally knee-deep in rubbish.
~The Toltecs, Seventh-century native Mexicans, went into battle with wooden swords so as not to kill their enemies.
~China banned the pigtail in 1911 as it was seen as a symbol of feudalism.
~The Amayra guides of Bolivia are said to be able to keep pace with a trotting horse for a distance of 100 kilometres.
~Sliced bread was patented by a jeweller, Otto Rohwedder, in 1928. He had been working on it for 16 years, having started in 1912.
~Before it was stopped by the British, it was the not uncommon for women in some areas of India to choose to be burnt alive on their husband's funeral pyre.
~Ivan the terrible claimed to have 'deflowered thousands of virgins and butchered a similar number of resulting offspring'.
~Before the Second World War, it was considered a sacrilege to even touch an Emperor of Japan.
~An American aircraft in Vietnam shot itself down with one of its own missiles.
~The Anglo-Saxons believed Friday to be such an unlucky day that they ritually slaughtered any child unfortunate enough to be born on that day.
~During the eighteenth century, laws had to be brought in to curb the seemingly insatiable appetite for gin amongst the poor in England. Their annual intake was as much as five million gallons.
~Ancient drinkers warded off the devil by clinking their cups.
~The Nobel Prize resulted form a late change in the will of Alfred Nobel, who did not want to be remembered after his death as a propagator of violence - he invented dynamite.
~The cost of the first pay-toilets installed in England was tuppence.
~Pogonophobia is the fear of beards.
~In 1647 the English Parliament abolished Christmas.
~Mao Tse-Tung, the first chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, was born 26 December 1893. Before his rise to power, he occupied the humble position of Assistant Librarian at the University of Peking.
~Coffee is the second largest item of international commerce in the world. The largest is petroleum.
~King George III was declared violently insane in 1811, 9 years before he died.
~In Ancient Peru, when a woman found an 'ugly' potato, it was the custom for her to push it into the face of the nearest man.
~For Roman Catholics, 5 January is St Simeon Stylites' Day. He was a fifth-century hermit who showed his devotion to God by spending literally years sitting on top of a huge flagpole.
~When George I became King of England in 1714, his wife did not become Queen. He placed her under house arrest for 32 years.
~The richest 10 per cent of the French people are approximately fifty times better off than the poorest 10 per cent.
~Henry VII was the only British King to be crowned on the field of battle.
~During World War One, the future Pope John XXIII was a sergeant in the Italian Army.
~Richard II died aged 33 in 1400. A hole was left in the side of his tomb so people could touch his royal head, but 376 years later some took advantage of this and stole his jawbone.
~The magic word "Abracadabra" was originally intended for the specific purpose of curing hay fever.
~The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas Carols, judging them to be out of keeping with the true spirit of Christmas.
~Albert Einstein was once offered the Presidency of Israel. He declined saying he had no head for problems.
~Uri Geller, the professional psychic was born on December 20 1946. As to the origin of his alleged powers, Mr Geller maintains that they come from the distant planet of Hoova.
~Ralph and Carolyn Cummins had 5 children between 1952 and 1966, all were born on the 20th of February.
~John D. Rockefeller gave away over US $500,000,000 during his lifetime.
~Only 1 child in 20 is born on the day predicted by the doctor.
~In the 1970's, the Rhode Island Legislature in the US entertained a proposal that there be a $2 tax on every act of sexual intercourse in the State.
~Widows in equatorial Africa actually wear sackcloth and ashes when attending a funeral.
~The 'Hundred Years War' lasted 116 years.
~The British did not release the body of Napoleon Bonaparte to the French until twenty days after his death.

Now you can impress your friends(or bore them to tears). Until the mood to write strikes again, take care.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Getting Around

Having spent considerable time traveling and living around the globe, I've had a chance to experience many types of public and private modes of transportation. These are only a small part of the total transportation picture as I've seen it. I'll likely post more at a later date. So, here goes......

...a "tuk-tuk" in Thailand, named for the sound of the 2-cycle engine at idle.....

....a similar method in the Philippines made by hooking a sidecar to a small motorcycle, usually 225cc or less.....

.....the same style in the Philippine countryside, probably a family outing.....

....infamous 'Rabbit Bus' used around Manila, stops for very few things and is a genuine 'white knuckle' riding experience......

....a 'Rabbit' in a more rural setting, much faster and less stopping..... of the famous Philippine 'Victory Liner' buses in a city environment.... in a more rural setting, where the approach is 1st noticed by the loud exhaust, which is often barely muffled......

......and one in a very rural setting. These are the backbone of the Phillipine inter-city transit system, and they might........

.......slow and possibly swerve for a farm cart, and might even stop.....

........for a kid on a 'carabao' who wanders onto the roadway.

And then there's a whole world of adventure awaiting travelers in Japan who use buses, taxis, or private vehicles to navigate streets......

....such as this (note the little 'covers' on the sides of the road, these are usually just laying there and cover drainage ditches. They often come loose and unwary drivers can end up with 'square wheels' if they go in a ditch at night)......

.......or this........

.......or this.....

....or even an alley-like lane such as this. The simple rule seems to be that if you can get down it and it's not marked 'do not enter', it's a road. If you can drive down it and it's not marked 'one way', you can drive either way, no matter how narrow. This causes many problems, such as blind corners. These are overcome by using these devices.......

.....'intersection mirrors' placed at......

....almost every blind intersection. A major rule driving in Japan is "if the car ahead of you pulls to the right, do not pass on the left as it may be swinging wider to turn down the tiny street ahead on the left." There are only a few dangerous maneuvers the drivers there make and, since they all get trained exactly the same, they generally all do the same few dangerous things. If you learn these few oddities of driving there it's really safe and easy. There is one area I always had trouble with though. My employers invariably gave me a small van to use and ......

....always had mirrors such as this.....

......or these installed as the transportation folks in the USA deemed them necessary for 'safety' on the Japanese streets. I don't think any of them really had experienced driving in Japan first-hand. I first learned of the hazards during my 'orientation' trip as a VERY young man. Anxious to try my newly learned language I attempted to give a Taxi driver on Okinawa the destination we sought. Not knowing the local dialect, this was proven to be unsuccessful when the driver turned to me and in a NYC/Japanese accent asked, "Where you wanna go, Mac?". After I told him and mentioned to that we were in a bit of a rush (big mistake!!!) the former NYC cabbie commenced to show us how to make time down the back streets of the city. This resulted in us reaching our destination with time to spare, along with the loss of the mirrors on both sides of the taxi on the narrow streets. That this was common was confirmed by the driver laughing and saying he had plenty of spares.
After taking up residence there I learned, thanks to the van mirrors, just how common it was. Concrete poles inching into the narrow streets take a toll when there's approaching traffic to deal with. The transportation guys, who were Japanese, finally convinced my employers to make an exception for me after many, many, many mirror 'removals' by yours truly. At first they got to......

....try this style, which merely reduced the losses until, finally, they....

....convinced them that this would be better. They told me later that they convinced the 'stateside' safety guys that it'd be just as safe to use them on my van and far cheaper to repair occasional body damage than to replace the mirrors constantly. They were correct. Not once did I ever hit another pole, wall, tree, bus, or did I ever have an accident there. Until next time, take care and drive safely.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

President's Day Trivia

I thought it only fitting to insert a bit of Presidential knowledge(?) in the old blog, and what better excuse for White House Occupant trivia than our day to honor Presidents? The 1st bit of trivia is that although G.W. Bush is counted as #43, he's actually only had forty-one predecessors in the post. So, by 'position # sequence', here goes.....

1) G. Washington, 1789-1797, was the only American president to be unanimously elected and the only one who did not represent a political party.

2) J. Adams, 1797-1801, the 1st president to reside in the White House. He moved in November 1800 while the paint was still wet.

3) T. Jefferson, 1801-1809, the main author of The Declaration of Independence was also the 1st inaugurated in Washington, D.C. Helped found the Democratic-Republican Party.

4) J. Madison, 1809-1817, at 5 feet, 4 inches & only 100 pounds was the shortest & the lightest president. He was also the 1st to wear trousers rather than knee-breeches.

5) J. Monroe, 1817-1825, 1st president to ride in a steamboat and his daughter was the 1st to be a bride in the White House. The last Revolutionary War veteran to be president.

6) J.Q. Adams, 1825-1829, the 1st to be son of a former president & the 1st to be photographed.

7) A. Jackson, 1829-1837, 1st born in a log cabin & 1st to ride on a train. He was also the 1st to experience and survive an assassination attempt.

8) M. Van Buren, 1837-1841, was 1st to be born in the USA. Raised in Kinderhook, N.Y., he was called 'Old Kinderhook', and soon he became known as 'OK', and that's how the word 'okay' evolved.

9) W.H. Harrison, 1841, the only president to study medicine, served the shortest time. He died of pneumonia one month after delivering his 105 minute inauguration speech on a cold day wearing no hat or overcoat.

10) J. Tyler, 1841-1845, 1st to become president due to the death of a serving president, he also had the most children, fifteen of them.

11) J.K. Polk, 1845-1849, 1st to have his inauguration reported by telegraph and the 1st to keep ALL his campaign promises.

12) Z. Taylor, 1849-1850, didn't vote until age 62 because he moved so often as a soldier he'd never established official residency anywhere.

13) M. Fillmore, 1850-1853, refused an honorary degree from Oxford University because he felt he had "neither literary nor scientific attainment."

14) F. Pierce, 1853-1857, had the 1st Christmas tree in the White House.

15) J. Buchanan, 1857-1861, was the only unmarried president.

16) A. Lincoln, 1861-1865, the 1st to wear a beard, the tallest at 6 feet, 4 inches, and the 1st to be assassinated in office.

17) A. Johnson, 1865-1869, was impeached for removing Secretary of War E. Stanton and was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate.

18) U.S. Grant, 1869-1877, a Union Army Commander during the Civil War and established Yellowstone as the 1st national park in 1872.

19) R.B. Hayes, 1877-1881, he banished liquor from the White House and held the 1st Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.

20) J. Garfield, 1881, was the last of seven presidents born in log cabins and the 2nd to die by assassination, only two months after taking office.

21) C.A. Arthur, 1881-1885, was called 'Elegant Arthur' due to his great sense of fashion.

22) G. Cleveland, 1885-1889, personally answered the White House telephone and was the only president married in a White House ceremony, June 2, 1886.

23) B. Harrison, 1889-1893, only president to be the grandson of a president and the 1st to have electricity in the White House.

24) G. Cleveland, 1893-1897, he's the reason for G.W. Bush being #43 with only forty-one predecessors. He was the only president to be elected to non-consecutive terms, also the 1st to have a child born in the White House, his daughter Esther in 1895.

25) W. McKinley, 1897-1901, 1st to ride in an automobile, 1st to campaign by telephone, and the 3rd to die by assassination.

26) T. Roosevelt, 1901-1909, the 1st to use the term 'White House' for the Presidential Residence. 1st American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

27) W.H. Taft, 1909-1913, the 1st president to own an automobile and the only president to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of The United States, 1921-1930.

28) W. Wilson, 1913-1921, the only president buried in Washington, D.C. He's interred at Washington National Cathedral.

29) W.G. Harding, 1921-1923, the 1st president to speak over the radio and the 1st newspaper publisher to be elected to the office. He also had the biggest feet at size 14.

30) C. Coolidge, 1923-1929, lighted the 1st national Christmas tree in 1923 on the White House lawn and refused to use the telephone while president.

31) H. Hoover, 1929-1933, approved 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as the national anthem & was 1st president born west of the Mississippi River, in West Branch, Iowa.

32) F.D. Roosevelt, 1933-1945, the only president to serve four terms.

33) H.S. Truman, 1945-1953, 1st president to give a televised speech and 1st president to travel underwater aboard a submarine.

34) D.D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961, commanded Allied troops during the D-Day invasion of France in 1944 and the only president to serve in WWI & WWII.

35) J.F. Kennedy, 1961-1963, was the 1st Roman Catholic president, the 1st president born in the 20th century, the 1st to hold a televised press conference. At age 43 he was the youngest American elected president and, at 46, the youngest to die in office.

36) L.B. Johnson, 1963-1969, before going into politics he was a high school teacher in Texas.

37) R. Nixon, 1969-1974, 1st president to visit all 50 states, 1st to visit China, and only U.S. president to resign the office.

38) G.R. Ford, 1974-1977, once worked as a fashion model and became vice-president & president without being to either office.

39) J. Carter, 1977-1981, was the 1st president to be born in a hospital.

40) R.W. Reagan, 1981-1989, at 69 the oldest to take office and the 1st actor to be elected president.

41) G.H.W. Bush, 1989-1993, 1st vice president elected president since Van Buren, and also the 1st vice president to lose re-election since Van Buren.

42) W.J. Clinton, 1993-2001, the 1st president to be a Rhodes Scholar.

43) G.W. Bush, 2001-2008, the 1st son of a president elected to the office since J.Q. Adams.

Now wasn't that just informative? It sure cleared out a buncha space in my trivia files. Until next tme, take care.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"if you don't like the weather here, just wait a few minutes..."

Mention snow to most folks, and this is what they associate with the white stuff.

But as the TV tower cam shows, on a clear day you can see the mountains. We're on the extreme right side of them thar hills.

But there's also other images folks around the place have found, such as this...

....and this....

.....and this. All being enjoyed by..........

.......this wise fella, and......

....this handsome Irish wolf-hound/bull-mastiff mix,........

.....and several (???) perching waxwings. But, if you crave.......

.....doing this, or.......

......especially seeing or doing this. I'm afraid that if you live near our place and are staying here for the time being. Then be prepared for more........

.......scenes such as this, starting again tonight. Bundle up & take care.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"and now for something completely different..."

A trait I've had all my life is collecting trivial facts about anything and everything that catches my interest. This generally includes any and all information I stumble across. This has resulted in a collection of minutiae that I can rarely recall unless prompted by a question, statement, or anything else that rings the 'weird information repository bell' in what passes for my gray matter. This causes a bit of a problem at times with those folks who find themselves living or working in my general vicinity, as I have another related tendency. Since I have a bit (?) of difficulty recalling these tidbits at will, I find myself constantly afloat in a sea of post-it notes and scribbled memos, many of which are totally indecipherable, even by me. This would include numerous notations in various reference materials as well as phone books, calendars, recipe files, etc.
While I like to think of myself as a somewhat erudite possessor of a vast amount of general information, the wonderful Irish Lady who shares my life and my surname tends to think of me as, in her words, "a Crazy Old Geezer". A very close friend expresses her thoughts on my mental prowess as being "a Crazy Old Coot". Feel free to associate your image of me with any of the above images. At any rate, lacking anything vaguely intelligent or constructive to ramble on about this fine day, I have instead decided to regale whichever poor, unsuspecting souls who wander this way with a little of my vast store of absolutely useless knowledge. Hope you can find a use for some of it because, other than winning a few bar bets and games of Trivial Pursuit, it hasn't helped my social status one iota.

-The average person ingests about a ton of food and drink each year.
-Red coral became a symbol of immortality to the ancient Greeks, presumably because of its branching shape and vibrant color. The Greeks believed it to be a panacea and protector against gout, poisons, and enchantments. Red and pink corals are still said to bring good luck to their owners.
-Since the Lego Group began manufacturing blocks in 1949, more than 189 billion pieces in 2,000 different shapes have been produced. This is enough for about 30 Lego pieces for every living person on Earth.
-Maine has the USA's highest percentage of homes with at least one cat at as a pet at 56% while Wyoming has the highest percentage of households with at least one dog, also 56%.
-John Philip Sousa didn't invent the Sousaphone. He contracted instrument creator J.W. Pepper to develop it in 1895.
-The name 'alligator' comes from the early colonists eventual mispronunciation of the Spanish 'el lagarto', 'the lizard'.
-Before she became an established film actress, Sharon Stone was one of the top ten models at the famous Ford Agency between 1977 and 1980.
-A bee could travel 4 million miles (6.5 million km) at 7 mph (11 km/h) on the energy it would obtain from 1 gallon (3.785 liters) of nectar.
-A single orchid plant of the genus Cymbidium was sold in the United States in 1952 for $4,500.
-Henri Nestlé was originally a baby food manufacturer. His work and research with condensed milk aided Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter in inventing a method to successfully combine chocolate and milk in a solid form, the first milk chocolate, in 1875.
-Forty-six percent of the world's water is in the Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic has 23.9 percent; the Indian, 20.3; the Arctic, 3.7 percent.
-A cow weighs about 1,400 pounds and eats about 55 pounds of food per day.
-Quincy Jones composed the musical score for the TV miniseries Roots.
-Vanguard I, a defunct US satellite is the oldest known hunk of 'space junk' having been in Earth orbit over 43 years.
-In 1965 US astronaut E. White lost a glove on a space-walk. The glove orbited Earth at 17,000 MPH for 30 days before burning up on re-entry to the atmosphere.
-The USSR Space Station Mir released over 200 objects into orbit in its first 10 years of use, mostly bags of trash.
-The Sami people of Northern Scandinavia and Russia have over 400 words to describe reindeer.
-The European variety of 'white' asparagus is grown in the dark and thus contains no color producing chlorophyll.

There, now tell me you don't feel a teensy bit smarter knowing all this stuff? Until next we meet, take care my friends.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Our Little World Seen (mostly)Through Our Windows

Our Spring sees mud dry, and ice floes to go.
Our Summer sees the grass, struggle to grow.
Our Fall's vibrant hues, set the trees all aglow.
But Our Winter, ahhh Our Winter, has a carpet of snow!!

Yes, two shots (1 & 4) are of the same tree on consecutive days this week. And the snow on the left side of image 2 isn't a tree, it's SWMBO's eyeview of the snowpile beside the car out back. And yes, I KNOW it says 2009. That's because no matter how hard we try, we can't convince the digicam it's really 2008. Some sort of glitch the manufacturer claims. Yeah!! Maybe like instructions in English given to the Asian chip maker?? But, I just love living where the seasons make such spectacular entrances and such timid withdrawals. Kinda makes you feel alive with anticipation of what comes next while enjoying what you have.