Leap year story

The Covington News - - Opinion -

The idea of Leap Year was first pro­posed by a guy named Aloy­sius Lil­ius, who was also known as Luigi Lilio or Luigi Giglio. Whoever he was, he was a pretty smart guy. Al, as his clos­est friends called him, was a med­i­cal doc­tor, as­tronomer, philoso­pher and chro­nol­o­gist.

I’m hop­ing he made a de­cent liv­ing as a doc­tor, be­cause I’m not sure the other three jobs paid very well.

I’ve known sev­eral peo­ple who have had de­grees in phi­los­o­phy. There is not a big de­mand for philoso­phers. Flip over to the clas­si­fied ads in to­day’s pa­per and I can just about as­sure you that there is not a sin­gle ad for an open po­si­tion for a philoso­pher.

Al’s abil­ity as an as­tronomer and a chro­nol­o­gist has served us well. But it had to be tough. The first real clock wasn’t in­vented un­til the year af­ter Al died.

First of all, telling time is done by mea­sur­ing when the sun comes through the crack in the wall or the moon is over the top of the church or some such way.

He came up with all this be­fore he died in 1576. But they didn’t con­vince Pope Gre­gory XIII to adopt the cal­en­dar un­til 1582.

Most of us now fol­low the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar. The good pope named it for him­self. If Al hadn’t fig­ured this out in some rudi­men­tary way, we would be way off sched­ule. If my cal­cu­la­tions are cor­rect (and bear in mind I’m not a math­e­ma­ti­cian), we would be off by 106 days.

I’m not smart enough to fig­ure this out, but we would ei­ther be get­ting ready for Thanks­giv­ing or cel­e­brat­ing Me­mo­rial Day with our long han­dles on.

The rea­son the pope was wor­ried about the cal­en­dar was be­cause of Easter. It was com­ing too late.

What’s re­ally con­fus­ing is we use the lu­nar cal­en­dar to fig­ure out when to cel­e­brate Easter. This year it is on the sec­ond ear­li­est day that it can hap­pen, March 22. I cer­tainly want to be cor­rect, but that’s a tad early.

I’ve got a seer­sucker suit that I usu­ally pull out on Easter, along with my white buck shoes. One of my daugh­ters thinks I look like an ice cream man. This year I might look more like an ici­cle if I wear them.

But there are other pe­cu­liar­i­ties of this sea­son. Ev­ery year on March 19, which in­ci­den­tally is St. Joseph’s Day, the swal­lows fly back to the Mis­sion of San Juan Capis­trano in Cal­i­for­nia

They have checked th­ese birds and found that none of them is wear­ing a Seiko. They just show up, par­don the pun, like clock­work.

Four days be­fore that, on March 15, the buz­zards re­turn ev­ery year to Hink­ley, Ohio. Same day ev­ery year, look out­side and there are the buz­zards.

Now the part of this that is re­ally amaz­ing is that buz­zards and swal­lows don’t fol­low this whole leap year busi­ness, but on those par­tic­u­lar days in March, they come back.

I’m not sure what kind of bird came back to the place where Al lived in Italy, but I guess he made some tally marks on a slate. Ev­ery four years, it took an ex­tra tally mark be­fore the birds came back and Al put two and two to­gether and fig­ured it out.

Re­gard­less, if there’s go­ing to be an ex­tra day ev­ery four years, why can’t we take it be­tween Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day or the day be­fore your taxes are due?

BLACK­WOOD

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