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Some thoughts on the Western calendar

(Stream of conciousness....(found on net))

Julius Caesar (or more correctly, perhaps,
Gaius Julius who lived from 100-44 BC, a Roman general, statesperson 
and writer) had a fascination with the calendar although he made some
awful mathematical errors in his decrees regarding same. He named one
of the nice summer months after himself. The word Caesar itself probably
comes from the French 'ruler' or 'emperor'; one to whom civil obedience
is due; a temporal ruler. It would apply to any of the dictator/rulers
in that time who succeeded Augustus Caesar (who also has a month in the
summer named after him).

Anyway, after meditation and consultation with his astronomers and others
he realized that 365 days in a year was not quite accurate. Using the
tools at his disposal he decided there had to be an extra quarter day
tossed in each year to make things work out right. So the new calendar
was devised according to his instructions. They went along that way for
quite awhile, adding one day every four years to account for that left
over bit each year. The error was not big enough to notice even over
several hundred years.  

Well, along about the year 520 in the Christian era (although they did
not call it that, they still used Roman era numbering) the Pope at
that time got annoyed about something (in those days, and clear through 
the 16th century the Popes were just plain *weird*, there is no other
way to describe them; the saints in the 13th-14th century were even
more *weird*, but I am digressing again ... so the Pope called on one
of his scholars and bright young men, a monk by the name of Dennis
Aloysius (I think) and said "Dennis, figure out a new system of years
to go by."  Dennis thought about that for quite a while and after some
serious calculations told the Pope that Jesus had been born in the
720th year of the Roman Era and that henceforth that would be known as
year 1, and that therefore it was now the 520th year in the Christian
era. The pope bought that argument and made his own decree accordingly. 
He let Julius and Augustus continue to have months each year named in
their honor. There were a few other months named after persons real or
mythical which he allowed to remain in the calendar and the leap year 
thing seemed okay, so he kept that part also; only the year number would 
change. There were days of the week to honor the moon and the sun; the pope
left that alone also. But Dennis made some errors in his work also that 
would not be rectified or discovered for about 11 centuries.

Fast forward a thousand years or so, and Pope Gregory has been told by his
advisors and confidantes that the calendar is going to be adjusted again. 
As they explained it to Pope Gregory, Gaius Julius had gotten it all wrong:
instead of a year consisting of 365.25 days, it really only consisted of
365.2422 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 49 seconds. As a
result of that 11 minute difference each year unaccounted for in Gaius
Julius' calendar, it has gotten way out of whack, being some several days 
short of where it ought to be.  By the time they can enforce this on
all of Europe however, several more years have passed. In 1582 --
I forget exactly what date -- a general adjustment was made throughout 
Europe with the calendar; several days were just chopped out to make
up the shortfall. 

In England a few years later, King James decided to write a new Bible.
It was to be that the version King James authorized would be truthful
and more accurate than earlier scriptures, especially those that the
earlier Popes had had anything to do with. He put Archbishop Usher in
charge of the project, and soon the Archbishop and his scholars were
busy at work. They thought it important to provide exact dates for all
the various occurances in this new Bible they were writing for King
James, and in the process of proving to the King that the world was
created on Tuesday, October 8, 4004 BC at 9:30 in the morning, they
discovered an error in the work Dennis Aloysius had done centuries
before.  It seems he had miscounted somehow and left out four years.
Oh gosh ... well, said King James, we are not going to change this
year from 1612 to 1616, we already changed the calendar once and
dropped off all those days we were short, we are not going to add four
more years. A few people including the Archbishop almost lost their
heads because of that bad news they brought the King.  They just
decided they would backdate everything, and take ancient history and
move it all back by four years instead as to *reported dates*. So they
went through their scriptures and moved every date back by four years
including the birth of Jesus Christ. This of course meant that Jesus
Christ was born in the year 4 *(B)efore (C)hrist, and that seemed odd
to King James and Archbishop Usher as it seems odd to me. Still, they
decided to let it go, and if you look at the KJV Bible today -- still
one of the best selling Bibles around, 380 years later -- the little
references and margin notes come to Jesus' birth and refer to it as
the year 4 BC, in other words he was born four years before he was
born (?!?). Trivia, they said, don't bother us with that trivia.

Just on general principles, England and her colonies in America did
not go along with the adjusted calendar. England did not make the 1582
adjustment until 170 years later. By the middle 1700's though, this
calendar dispute was getting awkward and embarassing for the colonists
in the New World. After all, they still did some trading with Europe
and other business with them and it was getting a bit weary for folks
here to say it was Tuesday, May 1 while people in Europe were saying
no, it is really Tuesday, May 12.  Not only that, there was a movement
afoot to change New Year's Day to January 1.  Someone had thought,
wisely, from long before that the perfect time to start the New Year
was when spring started; a new year, new birth and all that ... so it
has always been that March 21 was 'New Years Eve' and March 22 was New
Years Day. For example, March 21, *1610* was followed by March 22,
*1611* ... it was always done that way for however long.  Wasn't that
one of Gaius Julius' ideas also? ... I think so. Finally the Americans
gave in and agreed to adjust their calendars also with the new year
starting on January 1.

September, 1752 saw the new Gregorian calendar take affect in America
and England, and the calendar for that month looked like this:

   September 1752
 S  M Tu  W Th  F  S       Note that Wednesday, September 2, 1752
       1  2 14 15 16       was followed by Thursday, September 14,
17 18 19 20 21 22 23       1752.  We had to yank 11 days out while
24 25 26 27 28 29 30       Europe only knocked about 8 days out since
                           extra time passed before we finally did it.

This, they assured us, plus following the new rules for leap years
would keep everything in good shape for quite awhile. The problem had
been we were only entitled to pick up .2422 of a day instead of .25
of a day. When we did the pick up every four years, we claimed an
extra day when we were only entitled to an accumulated .9688 of a
day. That extra .0312 of a day we should not have would accumulate 
after a century (25 leap year days added) to us being .78 of a day
away from where we should be. So by taking one less leap day every
century, instead of being .78 of a day ahead, we would be .2512 of a day
behind. It was that extra .78 of a day per century accumulated over
all those years that we had to deal with finally in 1752. After four
centuries of losing .2512 of a day each century, we come out to 1.0048
days short of where we ought to be, so we go ahead and take another
leap year day, leaving ourselves only .0048 of a day out of whack. 
The exact rule we follow is that every four years is a leap year
*except* if the year ends in two zeros *unless* the year (ending in
two zeros) is also divisible by 400. The year 1600 was a leap year.
1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years; the year 2000 will be a leap

As Carl points out, omitting a leap year every 128 years makes more
sense; under Pope Gregory's formula we have to get all the way to
the 33rd century before another arbitrary adjustment has to be made,
but under the rule of skipping a leap year every 128 years we could
go several more centuries later than that. Or, they could adopt *my* 
formula and never have to worry about it again:

The rule of Saint Patrick (and you may think I am weird also, but
I did not live in the 15th century so I am not as weird as *they*
were) is this:  every year at the stroke of midnight on New Year's
Eve, we set the clocks back to 6:12 PM and have another 5 hours and
48 minutes of New Year's Eve partying.   :)  I have also thought about
building a clock which had 74.5 minutes per 'hour'; it could probably
be marketed in one of those fancy mail order catalogs such as Sharper
Image. Marketed as 'natural earth time', it would be so cool to watch
how every four years or so the 'natural earth time clock' would be
nearly in synch with the arbitrary time shown on our 'real' clocks.
Always *nearly*, never exactly; then the time on that clock would
diverge widely from ours for another four years then begin to come
in line again; closer than the last time, but still frustratingly
different. Then perhaps once in our lifetimes the clocks would be
just seconds apart ... as close as we would ever see them ... and
they would begin to diverge again. I'd put the natural earth time
clock in a case with a 'regular' clock and a caption saying 'the
real time is ...'  but we say the time is ...'. 

Here is your homework assignment for tomorrow: assuming the 1752 
adjustment left us in perfect synch as of zero hours zero minutes GMT
on Thursday, September 14, 1752 (which it didn't, but let's say it did), 
and the time now is commonly accepted to be five hours 54 minutes GMT
Tuesday, April 4, 1995, what would be the 'real' earth time right now?
Day, date, minutes and hours please.     

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