February 28, 2008
Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column worried about this whole leap year business.We’ve always taken leap year for granted. Every four years, we get a Feb. 29, a summer Olympics, and a presidential election. We’ve always felt kind of sorry for “leaplings” – those poor kids with a Feb. 29 birthday who get shortchanged in the celebration department, and we remember something about women being allowed to propose marriage to men on leap day, but we’ve never really paid much attention to it.This year, though, we started looking into it, and now, not only do we have a headache, but we suddenly feel very insignificant in the greater scheme of things.Learning about calendars, it turns out, can stretch one’s ability to comprehend the passage of time. Our current calendar here in the U.S. – called the Gregorian Calendar – gives us an extra day every four years. It’s been that way ever since we were born, so we can understand it.We start to get confused, though, when we learn about more leap year rules. Because of the actual length of days and the speed of the Earth’s rotation around the sun, every hundred years we don’t have a Feb. 29 when we would expect to. The years 1700, 1800, and 1900, for example, were the normal 365 days.”What about 2000?” we ask. We seem to remember having a leap day during Y2K. And that’s when the whole plan starts to strain our little brain. According to the Gregorian Calendar, if the year is divisible by 400, it gets a Feb. 29. We made a note to ourselves to remember to keep the extra day when the year 2400 rolls around.”Who can keep track of all this?” we wonder. And then we looked into how other calendars work and felt grateful to Pope Gregory and his associates for cooking up the plan we’re familiar with.The Chinese calendar, for one, uses “lunar” months rather than months of random lengths like ours. So, instead of a leap “day,” the Chinese throw in a whole extra month every once in awhile. The Hebrew calendar does the same – adding an extra month seven times every 19 years.Our head started spinning when we realized the variety and complexity of international leap rules. Our favorite has to be from the revised Julian calendar – predecessor to our Gregorian scheme, which adds an “extra day to February in years divisible by four, except for years divisible by 100 that do not leave a remainder of 200 or 600 when divided by 900.”Whew!!! It kind of makes us want settle in with the TV remote and a bowl of Rocky Road.***Patti Maguire, our local wildfire mitigation guru, found the solution to our question about what to do with the little amount of windshield wiper fluid in the bottom of the bottle. It always happens to us, and we found out we’re not alone. Patti, it seems, has the solution. She writes: “Ok … this is really simple. You fill up your windshield washer reservoir, and you leave the bottle at the gas station with the 1 inch in it for some unfortunate person to use in an emergency. You know the person. He/she has been ignoring the ‘low washer fluid’ light for about a week now. He/she is completely surprised when the last spurt of washer fluid dies. He/she just can’t stand the thought of actually purchasing a new bottle when there is a perfectly full, new bottle sitting somewhere at home. Ya think?”Thanks Patti. As she said, it’s just like “Paying it Forward.” ***It’s Friday morning, and we’re out looking for leaplings to congratulate. E-mail us at email@example.com.