Monthly Archives: February 2012

February 29, 2012 – 295 days Until Baktun 12

Survivalist Tip:  Since this is “Leap Year,” it’s appropriate to remember the old English proverb, “Look before you leap.”  It’s likely that some Englishman came up with that after a few pints of ale.  The English – like Germans and Mexicans – could quaff down some brew and end up one shot away from being a frat boy.  But, of course, when you want to gain a good look at something, a pair of binoculars is perfect.  A telescope is even better, but that won’t fit in your backpack.  A good set of binoculars is perfect for surveying areas ahead of you, if you have to flee your home.  But, they also can come in handy even if you’re able to remain at home.  Either way, with binoculars you can see approaching and potential enemies like zombies, vultures and Catholic priests.  If you’re out in the wild, you can spot possible food sources like deer, buffalo and Twinkies.  (Remember, deer and buffalo are great sources of protein, and Twinkies have a shelf life of 5,000 years.)  So, stop into a sporting goods store soon and grab some binoculars.  They’re not just for peeping toms anymore!

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Why We Have the Need for February 29

As usual, you can blame the Romans for this mess, and since they were often aggravated with the Jews, you might as well blame them, too.  If Julius Caesar hadn’t decided to reform the old Roman calendar, we might still be adding a month to it every two or three years.  Like most ancient societies, the Romans used the sun and moon to guide their daily lives; when to plant crops, get married, make human sacrifices, etc.  Thus, the Roman calendar was based on a lunar month, which averages 29.5 days.  Around 46 B.C., Caesar – like most politicians – interfered with something that had functioned perfectly for years and declared, “Ist es ridiculum!” – whereupon he relegated the calendar to a solar-based system.

But, as you might expect, Caesar didn’t get it right.  The Julian calendar is based on a year that is 365 days and 6 hours.  Therefore, Caesar added a day to the month of February every 4 years to try to even out matters.  But, the equinoxes, as marked on that calendar, arrived earlier every year; which, in turn, messed up spring planting and spring weddings.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the spring equinox would arrive around March 25.  But, by the 16th century, it was arriving around March 10.  If this had continued, Easter eventually would have occurred in the dead of winter.  And, that of course, would have disrupted Easter egg hunts and lowered church attendance.  Again, political leaders just can’t seem to leave things alone.

Enter Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585) who stemmed the growing tide of Protestantism in Europe and established a number of colleges and seminaries, including one in Germany called simply the “German College.”  But, Gregory is best known for redesigning the Julian calendar around 1578.  He lopped off 10 days from the month of October, but kept the “Leap Year” anomaly with some strict stipulations:

  1. A Leap Year has to be divisible by 4;
  2. If a year is not evenly divisible by 100, isn’t a Leap Year – unless;
  3. The year is also divisible by 400.

This latter factor explains why the year 2000 was a Leap Year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 weren’t.

Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain were the first countries to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1582.  Sweden and Finland didn’t adopt it until 1712.  But, because they were so far behind in doing so, they had a “Double Leap Year” in 1712; meaning they actually had a February 30.  Great Britain and the United States didn’t embrace the Gregorian calendar until 1752, when they dropped 11 days from the old calendar.  I don’t know which 11 days and from what month, or if it was just done at random, but it got them synchronized with Europe.

Japan replaced its lunar – solar calendar in January 1873, but decided to use the numbered months it had originally used instead of the European names.  China finally acquired the Gregorian calendar in January 1912.  But, different warlords had different calendars, so no one really abided by it.  The government finally ordered a mass conversion to the Gregorian system in January 1929.

Presently, international time is determined by the vibrations of atoms in atomic clocks, which have a reputation for accuracy.  This adds a new term to the confusion: the “leap second.”  I know.  Just when you thought you understood the entire mess, along comes something new!

Keepers of atomic clocks periodically add or subtract one or two seconds every year to keep the clocks in line with a 24-hour day as measured by the Earth’s rotation – which is gradually slowing.  Scientists added the first leap seconds in June and December 1972.  The next leap second is due this June.  In a meeting in Geneva last month, these timekeepers proposed abolishing the leap second altogether.  A final decision on that bright idea is due in 2015.

By then, however, the Mayan calendar will have replaced all that crap, and the sun and moon can revolve in peace.  Thus, we won’t have to worry about leaping anywhere, except into a swimming pool – with chocolate and tequila nearby!

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Today’s Birthdays

Yes, there are people who have the misfortune of being born on February 29th.  Regardless, let’s celebrate their births, while trying to figure out their real ages. 

Actor Joss Ackland (The Hunt for Red October, The Sicilian, A Woman Named Jackie) is 84.


Tempest Storm (Annie Blanche Banks) actress – stripper – burlesque star (Strip Strip Hooray, Striptease Girl, Teaserama) who retired from stripping at age 65 is 84.



Jack Lousma (Astronaut Hall of Famer, member of Skylab space station crew in 1973, commanded third orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1982) is 76.


Actor Alex Rocco (The Godfather, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Blue Knight) is 76.


Singer Gretchen Christopher (The Fleetwoods) is 72.


Actor Dennis Farina (Law & Order, Get Shorty, Saving Private Ryan) is 68.


Former professional football player John Niland (Dallas Cowboys) is 68.


Science fiction writer Patricia McKillip (The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Harpists in the Wind) is 64.


Former professional baseball pitcher Al Autry (Atlanta Braves) is 60.

Science fiction writer Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates, Epitaph in Rust) is 60.


Actor Antonio Sabato Jr. (Earth 2, Beyond the Law, War of the Robots) is 40.


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On February 29…

1704 – A force comprised of Native Americans and French Canadians attacked the town of Deerfield, MA to retrieve their church bell that had been shipped from France.  The town was burned to the ground and more than 100 people were massacred in what was part of the second of the “French and Indian Wars.”


1904 – President Theodore Roosevelt created a seven-man commission to hasten the construction of the Panama Canal.


1920 – Miklos Horthy de Nagybanya became the Regent of Hungary just six months after leading a counterrevolt.

1940 – Gone with the Wind swept the 12th annual Academy Awards presentation by winning 10 awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel.  McDaniel was the first African-American to be nominated for and to win an Oscar.


1944 – The invasion of the Admiralty Islands began as U.S. General Douglas MacArthur led his forces in Operation Brewer.  Troops surged onto Los Negros, following a month of Allied advances in the Pacific.

1944 – Dorothy McElroy Vredenburgh of Alabama became the first woman appointed secretary of a national political party, when she was named to the Democratic National Committee.

1960 – The first Playboy Club opened at 116 E. Walton, Chicago, IL.  The last U.S. club, located in Lansing, MI, closed in 1988.  The last international club, located in Manila, closed in 1991.


1964 – Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser earned her 36th world record, clocking in at 58.9 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle in Sydney, Australia.


1972 – Newspaper columnist Jack Anderson revealed a memo written by Dita Beard, a Washington lobbyist for the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, which connected ITT’s funding of part of the Republican National Convention with a lawsuit the company had settled recently with the U.S. Justice Department.    

1972 – Swimmer Mark Spitz was named the 1971 James E. Sullivan Memorial Trophy winner as the top amateur athlete in America.


1980 – Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings became the first player in NHL history to score 800 career goals (in a 3-0 Wings’ win over the St. Louis Blues).  Howe finished his career with 801 regular-season goals.


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Cartoon of the Day


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Picture of the Day

Beauregard, a Chihuahua, waits with his owner, Pat Day, at the start of the Mardi Gras Dog Parade held Sunday, February 19, 2012 at Baytowne Village in Sandestin, FL.  Beauregard was dressed in surfer garb to reflect the theme of this year’s parade, “Fetch a Wave.”  Just for doing that to Beauregard, I think Pat should be skinned, quartered and hung out to dry butt naked in the town square!  And then, arrest her for indecent exposure.  God save the animals!  Photo courtesy Devon Ravine AP /Northwest Florida Daily.

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Quote of the Day

Yemeni women hold up posters of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the country's vice president and the only candidate in Tuesday's polls.

“Maybe you can call them elections, but for me, elections should have more than one candidate.” 

– Nadia Abdullah of Yemen, after casting a ballot that listed only acting President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

Any American who feels like they have to choose between the lesser of 2 evils next time they head to the polls should consider this statement.  Either that, or they can just shut the hell up and stay home!  Either way thank goodness for a democratic society.

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