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Archive for February 2012

Thank a Roman: It’s February 29th

February 29, 2012 @ 13:32 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Current affairs

2012 is a leap year, which means today is February 29th instead of March 1st.  Many people probably simply accept leap years as one of those weird little curiosities in life, without really knowing why they occur.

Once upon a time, the “year” was quite malleable, with days and even months being inserted into the calendar by priests when they wanted to keep their favourite politician in power. Julius Caesar found the chaos this caused highly annoying so he decided to sort it out once and for all and introduced the Julian calendar in 45 BC.

His solution did away with much of the chaos, but there was still a certain amount of “slippage” caused by the difference in the length of the calendar year and the tropical year (aka the solar year), which was roughly 365.25 days long.  This “slippage” resulted in an error of 1 day every 128 years, meaning the tropical year started a day earlier every 128 years.

To compensate for this, the Romans added a “leap year” every four years to get things back in sync.  However, due to a counting error, the first few years the calendar was used, a leap year was took place every three years rather than every four.  The emperor Augustus compensated for the extra days by skipping a number of leap years, which resulted in the 8th month of the year to be named after him.

By the mid-1500′s the difference between the calendar year and the tropical year had become about 10 days and calculating when Easter took place was quite difficult.  So,  in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII decided to remove the extra days and align the vernal equinox with March 21st because that’s when it occurred during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

Leap years under the Gregorian calendar occur every year that is evenly divisible by 4, except centuries (eg: 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, etc) unless the century was evenly divisible by 400.

The last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday, October 4, 1582 and the first day of the Gregorian calendar was Friday, October 15, 1582.  However, the Gregorian calendar was not adopted by everyone at the same time.  For example, Spain, Portugal, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and most of Italy adopted it on Friday, October 15, 1582, but other countries waited.  Sweden transitioned to the Gregorian calendar sometime in the early 18th century.  One of the last countries to adopt it was Greece in on March 1, 1923, which followed February 15th.  China seems to have adopted in 1929, after first adopting it in 1912.  (There was a certain amount of chaos between 1912 and 1929.)

None of the national Orthodox churches, however, recognized the Gregorian calendar when it was introduced and many instead adopted a Revised Julian calendar in 1923 which saw 13 days dropped and a different leap year rule.  This will see the two calendar systems in sync until 2800, at which point it will be someone else’s problem.

Other Orthodox churches didn’t accept the Revised Julian calendar, either, so they’ll continue to celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January (until 2100).

Other orthodox churches use their own calendars to set their religious holidays.

With respect to Easter, the eastern Orthodox churches still use Julian Easter.  Except the Finnish Orthodox Church, which uses the Gregorian Easter.

So, all this is to say that it’s Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

Why I’m glad I walk to work

February 24, 2012 @ 15:54 By: gordon Category: Out and about, Weather

It’s days like today that make me particularly grateful that I can walk to work, particularly when the traffic layer on Google Maps shows this:

If you’re unfortunate enough to be out on the roads, drive safely!

Brace yourself

February 24, 2012 @ 11:42 By: gordon Category: Weather

I have to head out at lunch so I thought I’d check the radar to see when it’s going to start to snow.

Apparently, it’s about to start.

In fact, in the time that it took me to grab that image from the Weather Office’s website and type this, it started snowing in Tunney’s Pasture.


Vic Toews, Bill C-30 and Accountability

February 21, 2012 @ 12:14 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General, In the news

By now, you’ve probably heard about An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, otherwise known at Bill C-30, which was put in front of Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews.

Bill C-30 seeks to, among other things, give the government and law enforcement warrantless powers to invade your privacy. In other words, they’ll be able to ask your ISP for all sorts of personal information about you and your online habits without first obtaining a warrant.

Needless to say, this has made a lot of people very unhappy and resulted in a number of campaigns against it, including the #TellVicEverything hashtag on Twitter.

When questioned about the warrantless access in the House of Commons, the minister basically said that there was nothing about warrantless access in the bill and told people that if they didn’t support the bill they were supporting pedophiles. (Even though the bill makes no reference to pedophiles or pornography.)

And then it appears he actually read the bill he’s endorsing. (more…)

Snow on the way in to work this morning

February 15, 2012 @ 09:52 By: gordon Category: Out and about, Photography, Weather

It would be great if I could capture a snowflake like this, but sadly they only seem to show up when I’m on my way to work:

Capturing snowflakes (Part 2)

February 11, 2012 @ 02:09 By: gordon Category: General, Photography, Weather

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about trying to capture and preserve some snowflakes like Leonard did on The Big Bang Theory. So I did some research and determined that it’s a fairly straight forward process involving a glass microscope slide, some cyanoacrylate (CA) glue (aka Krazy Glue), and some snowflakes.

And then I tried actually doing it.


Dark Matter #2: A review

February 09, 2012 @ 01:02 By: gordon Category: Comic books, Reviews

Dark Matter #2 by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Scullie was released yesterday, so I dropped by Silver Snail at lunch and picked it up along with a copy of Green Lantern #6. The second in the four-part series, #2 picks up with our heroes 40 seconds away from being blown up by missiles shot at them by another ship that they know nothing about. Fortunately, they make it out of the encounter safely so we get to learn more about the ship they’re on and where they’re going.

Their robot companion has been able to recover some information from the ship’s computer and they determine they’re en route to a planet. When they arrive, they meet quadrium miners on the planet who are happy enough to help them repair their ship, but curiously would like them to do so very quickly before some aliens known as the Raza show up and kill everyone. The miners are waiting for help to arrive, but the Raza are going to arrive first, so things don’t look too hopeful. (more…)