Thursday, March 29, 2012

46 BC, the Year of Confusion and Calendars

Every year seems confusing sometimes, but actually “the year of confusion” refers to 46 BC

Until 46 BC the Romans had been using a lunar calendar containing 354 days. Then apparently one day after Julius Caesar began his rule he looked outside and noticed it was the middle of winter even though the calendar showed it was spring.

As all intelligent leaders do, Caesar called on an expert for help. The mathematician Sosigenes determined the solar year to be 365 1/4 days long, and Caesar set up the calendar we use today, the number and length of months, leap year and so on.

In order to get the seasons to mesh with the calendar dates before the new calendar took effect Julius made some changes in 46 BC. He created a year that was 445 days long and contained three extra months, one after February and two between November and December.

And I always thought leap year babies got a bad deal on birthday celebrations. Understandably, this became the year of confusion.

Eventually it was discovered that Sosigenes was off by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. The solar year is just that much shorter than 365 1/4 days. Big deal, right? Although none of us would notice such a minuscule difference in our own life time, that small error did eventually make a noticeable difference. By 1582 the spring equinox fell on March 11 instead of March 21.

This time it was Pope Gregory XIII under the advice of astronomer Christopher Clavius who matched up the seasons with the calendar. To do this the Pope dropped ten days in October. The day after October 4 became October 15.

No one needed to throw a clock out the window to see time fly that year!

So that the error would not repeat itself Pope Gregory XIII decreed the century years should not contain a leap year unless they were divisible by 400. (Yes, the year 2000 did have 29 days on its February calendar, but the year 3000 will not.)

Countries considered to be Catholic adopted the Gregorian calendar right away and others eventually followed. England, for example, started the Gregorian calendar in 1752 by dropping the 11 days it was off. The Chinese adopted it in 1912, the Russians in 1918 and the Rumanians in 1924. Thus, the same event in history may have occurred on different dates.

And I've always found daylight savings time to be a hassle -- :-)

Happiness and Peace...


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The I's Have It

This week's topic is just for fun. I hope you enjoy it.

This week: "The I's Have It"

The alphabet. In English it is 26 letters long. Other languages have more or less letters, but all letters are vital to us as we attempt written communication. Until recently, I’m afraid I took these symbols of English for granted, as though they were always just there.

It happened on a day I was browsing the encyclopedia. (Oh, yes, I’m quite an intellectual, you know. I once got an A+ on an I. Q. test.) As I paged through volume 9 containing the letter “I” I came across a biography for the ninth letter of the English alphabet.

My immediate reaction was, "What’s to know? It’s a line straight up and down. Big deal. Move a stick in the sand or scratch a mark on a flat rock with a white pebble and there’s an 'I.'” Yet the encyclopedia contained a full page doing “This is your Life” for that seemingly insignificant letter.

Apparently the modern “I” is the result of a marriage between the Greek letter “iota” and the ancient Phoenician and Hebrew letter “yod.” I had never heard the word “yod” before except when I was listening to a man from Boston talk about his yard.

The yod was said to look like a backwards upper case “F,” and it was a “semiconsonant.” It sometimes sounded like the “Y” in “yellow” and sometimes like the “ee” in “see.”

The Greeks took the yod from the Phoenicians, called it “iota,” and by 400 something BC had given the “I” the straight up and down line look we know so well.

The Greeks decided the yod, called the iota should be only a vowel. None of this indecisive semiconsonant stuff for them. The Romans, however, learned the Greek alphabet and changed the iota back to a sometimes vowel and sometimes consonant. Then they went one step further. They actually gave the “J” sound in “jewel” to the letter “I.”

The Romans handed off this alphabet to the western Europeans who continued the Roman tradition of the “I” and “J” sounds in one letter “I” until the seventeenth century when “J” became a separate letter.

Imagine if that change to the “J” had never taken place. Jill would be Iill. Jack would be Iack. Jo, Ioe. And the Olympics would have a iavelin throw.

The letter “I” stands for the element iodine in chemistry. “I” represents the word international in abbreviations such as ITT or IBM. It is said the “I” denotes intelligence in the CIA, and it means investigation in FBI. The “I” can even represent numbers as in III or IV or VII.

Imagine living life with no “I’s.” We would be saying “Me and Al are gong to the bowlng alley” or “Me am studyng my Englsh.” Tragic, indeed, yet the worst thing of all is that without “I’s” we could not “C.”


I hope this brought a smile to you today.

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award Winning Author
Fran's Website

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take a Break

(Note: Follow up from Miss Matched, Miss Calculated blog. See the page for the "Montana Moonlight Duo": "Miss Matched" and its sequel "Miss Calculated" Here )

Take a Break

It seems I always have a long list of things I'd like to get done. Like many of you, I enjoy working, and I've got projects and hobbies I like to keep busy with too. Consequently, it isn't easy for me to take time off. Maybe taking some time to do nothing or to do something completely different is difficult for you too.

But all of us need to have some down time. We need to sit in the sun and read, or go skiing, play a round of golf, challenge a friend to a game of tennis or get a group of friends together and play a game of hockey, basketball or croquet.

Recreation does for us just what its name implies: it "re-creates" us. It recharges our batteries and refreshes us.

Just as we do the "spring cleaning" in our houses we need to spruce up our minds and our outlooks too. Doing so makes us more productive and puts us in a better state of mind--maybe even a better state of health.

So...........if you've been needing an excuse to take your "spring break" -- even if it's been decades since you've been a student -- here's your motivation.

Take a few days off from your regular routine, and enjoy things you might otherwise overlook. Refresh and recreate and have a particularly good spring.

God bless you.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author