Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leap Year

2008 is a Leap Year. This is where the month of February has 29 days. The extra day is to make up for the lost quarter of a day per year we experience due to the rotation of the earth around the sun. I know you all knew that already, but it always makes me think about birthdays. For those who were born on February 29th, I am told they celebrate their birthday on March 1st (Happy Belated Birthday for those that did have a birthday). I don't know anyone born on 2/29 but perhaps you know someone. (Editor's Note: Dinah Shore and Jimmy Dorsey were born on February 29th. ) So what do these people do in Leap Years? Do they go back to celebrating on February 29th for that year? How do they fill out forms, do they put March 1st in regular years and then February 29th in Leap Years? I imagine it is somewhat of a conversation starter. If I were to have a child that had the possibility of being born on February 29th, I think I would tell my wife to either push harder or hold on for a day. I know that is not realistic, but I don't need to make a child's life any more confusing... like giving them a name that no one could possibly spell right after multiple attempts. For those with February 29th birthdays and hard to spell names, I apologize if I have offended you. Just putting some thoughts down...

For those scientific types out there, here is some further description of Leap Year:

Our solar year (the time required for Earth to travel once around the Sun, I know some of you thought the Earth revolved around you, but it really is the Sun) is 365.24219 days. (Aren't you glad this number isn't like Pii going out to infiniti) Our calendar year is either 365 days in non leap years or 366 days in leap years (Feb 29th inserted). A leap year every 4 years gives us 365.25 days, sending our seasons off course and eventually in the wrong months. To change .25 days to .24219, we need to skip a few leap days (Feb 29ths) .... century marks not divisible by 400. S o with a few calculations tweek the calendar by skipping 3 of 4 century leap years to average out our calendar year to 365.2425, which is pretty darn close to the solar year 365.24219.
Here's the history:
The Romans originally had a 355-day calendar. To keep up with the seasons, an extra 22 or 23-day month was inserted every second year. For reasons unknown, this extra month was only observed now and then. By Julius Caesar's time, the seasons no longer occurred at the same calendar periods as history had shown. To correct this, Caesar eliminated the extra month and added one or two extra days to the end of various months (his month included, which was Quintilis, later renamed Julius we know it as July).

This extended the calendar to 365 days. Also intended was an extra calendar day every fourth year (following the 28th day of Februarius). However, after Caesar's death in 44 B.C., the calendars were written with an extra day every 3 years instead of every 4 until corrected in 8 A.D. So again, the calendar drifted away from the seasons. By 1582, Pope Gregory XIII recognized that Easter would eventually become closer and closer to Christmas. The calendar was reformed so that a leap day would occur in any year that is divisible by 4 but not divisible by 100 except when the year is divisible by 400. Thus 1600 and 2000, although century marks, have a Leap Day. The calendar we use today, known as the Gregorian calendar, makes our year 365.2425 days only off from our solar year by .00031, which amounts to only one day's error after 4,000 years.

Alright, if that is not confusing enough, here I am in Afghanistan and they go by Solar Years. So here it is 1386 and soon to be 1387. If you did not figure it out, they do not base their calendar on the life of Christ as we do (AD, Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord). So just another difference that creates a challenge for Americans here in Afghanistan.

The big news this week was that Prince Harry was outed here in Afghanistan. The fact the British press kept a lid on it for 10 weeks is pretty remarkable. But now that he is found out, I think the Brits will be sending him home to reduce the risk to him and his fellow soldiers. If all it took was for the press to find out I was here to go home, I might have been writing letters to Time and Newsweek to get my name out there. Perhaps my presence is not as significant as Prince Harry's and all I would have accomplished is to upset some people and ultimately have extention added to my deployment. Probably better I kept a low profile.

The other big news in the world was the "retirement/resignation" of Fidel Castro in Cuba. I know many people never thought that would happen, so there is hope in the world. The jury is still out on his brother Raul who is taking over, but at least he wears a suit instead of funky old uniform like Fidel.

As far as work here at CSTC-A, I have been helping out in another part of CJ4 and making a little progress each day. I have been working various projects to keep the wheels moving, of course I am looking forward to finishing up here.

I hope you all took advantage of the extra day this year and did something worthwhile.

Peace to you all,


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