Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, July 27, 2007

When George Washington was 20 years old England and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, 170 years after the rest of Europe had. In order to do this, England abolished 11 days in September 1752, going to bed on Wednesday, September 2, and waking up on Thursday, September 14. The rest of Europe had abolished 10 days in October 1582, and since that time the two calendars had gotten another day out of sync.

The Julian calendar, which preceded the Gregorian, didn't skip occasional leap years. Skipping occasional leap years is necessary in order to keep the days aligned with their traditional place in the solar calendar. Over a millennium and a half, the aberration had resulted in noticeable calendrical slippage. Instead of falling near March 21, spring equinox was falling on March 16, then 15, then 14. The Gregorian calendar fixed this.

I knew the calendar had changed in the 2nd millennium, and that 1,000 years before New Year's Day, 2000, had not been New Year's Day, 1000, but some few days off. Around New Year's Day, 2000, I made a bet with my friend Doug that the calendar would change again in the next millennium, and that 1,000 years from then would not be called New Year's Day, 3000. We haven't yet set up the 1,000 year trust account to handle our bet -- but we still have time. Doug didn't necessarily disagree with me, but he took the bet just to be sporting. I think we bet a quarter.

I'm finally getting around to reading an article in the December 2006 issue of Harper's on the current dispute as to whether to get rid of the Leap Second. If we were to get rid of the Leap Second, the calendar would slip again, and 3,000 to 4,000 years from now, we would have darkness at noon. Getting rid of the Leap Second would mean that I would win my bet, but I hope we don't get rid of it.

The people against the Leap Second believe that a year should consist of 60 X 60 X 24 X 365 (and occasionally 366) seconds, even though it takes slightly more time than that for the earth to revolve around the sun.

This is a stupid idea. A year marks the time it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun. Fetishizing a particular number of seconds is stupid.

George Washington was born on February 11, but after the abolition of 11 days from the calendar, the anniversary of his birth fell on February 22.

People call Time a thief -- but everything we have, Time gives it to us in the first place. I complain about Time's cruelties and coldnesses too. But when I remember Time's beneficence, I feel sheepish about my ingratitude. Thank you, Time. Thank you for giving me some of yourself. Even if I always want more of you!

-- Santa Claus and Father Time, 1888, attributed to Lagarde (?)
(I found this image by Googling "Father Time." Is Father Time Mother Nature's mate?)

Sweetie, the earth revolves around its axis. It orbits the sun.
Nope, it revolves around and orbits the sun. It rotates on its axis.
Oh, in Mason/Dixon, by Pynchon, I remember there being a rather enjoyably mystical section about someone living through those missing days.
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