Leap Day

Well, it’s February 29 — the day that comes once every four years.  By definition and by invention, it’s a weird day, and it’s not surprising that it’s associated with weird traditions and superstitions.

julius_caesarWe can thank Julius Caesar for Leap Day.  Caesar first came up with a standard 365-day calendar that featured an extra day every four years.  However, because the Julian calendar year did not precisely match the length of a solar year — the period of time it takes for the Earth to make one complete revolution around the Sun — and was instead .0078 days too long, the difference between the calendar year and the solar year accumulated after a dozen or so centuries and left the calendar seriously out of whack.  In 1583, Pope Gregory XIII fixed things by declaring that a “century year” (a year ending in 00) is a leap year only if it is evenly divisible by 400.

Those of us who were around on February 29, 2000 therefore can revel in the fact that, having survived the silly Y2K panic, we experienced a once-every-400-years event.  Just wait until we celebrate it again in 2400!

Pope Gregory’s tinkering is not the only bit of legislation associated with February 29.  If you are born on February 29, when do you officially celebrate your birthday during non-leap years — on February 28, or March 1?  Most states apparently decree, by statute, that you gain a year on March 1.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you’re a Leap Baby you’d be peeved if you had to wait an extra day to take your first legal drink at age 21.

I’m not doing anything special for Leap Day.  In fact, I don’t like Leap Day for two reasons.  First, why is Leap Day in February, which is inevitably the worst weather month of the year?  After all, Leap Day could have been put anywhere on the calendar.  It’s a totally random addition.  Why not put our extra day in a good weather month, like June or September?   After picking February, no wonder Caesar had to beware the Ides of March.

And second, in the United States a Leap Year always coincides with a presidential election year.  That means that, in addition to another day of crappy February, we get another day of spin, insults, political ads, and talking heads.  It’s almost enough to make you want to tell all of the candidates to take a Leap.

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At Scioto Audubon Park

IMG_0604Today was one of those days where you just can’t stay inside.  Kasey and I both felt like exploring, so we set out for the Scioto Audubon Metro Park on the Whittier peninsula, just south of the Brewery District.

It was a beautiful day, with a gusting breeze, bright sunshine and a temperature in the 60s.  It was a perfect day for a man and his dog to take a walk — and we weren’t the only ones who thought so.  We strolled along the busy Scioto Trail, which is part of the Central Ohio Greenways trail network, stopped at the Audubon Park buildings, took in a view of the muddy but shimmering Scioto River, and then walked to the other side of the buildings to get a view of downtown Columbus from the south.  After Kasey showed that she was interested in tussling with, or at least barking at, every other dog on the trail — what the heck, she obviously felt the sap rising — we decided to call it a day and head home.

One of these days Kish and I are going to get out our bikes and head down the Scioto Trail to see where it takes us.

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One Day Without Coffee

Yesterday, at about 7 p.m., I was making myself dinner in the kitchen.  I passed the coffee maker and realized, with a start, that I had gone an entire day without drinking so much as a single sip of joe.

IMG_0583It happened by accident, thanks largely to Kasey.  With Kish out of town, I’m in charge of our little beagle mix buddy.  When I woke up, she needed to be fed and walked immediately — with Kasey, pretty much everything having to do with food or bodily functions is urgent and requires urgent barking treatment — and I decided we would just head in to office after she got her grub.  Once at the office, I kept my office door closed so Kasey would stay put, and I didn’t want to risk her darting out and running around the floor if I left to make myself a cup of coffee.

By the time I was done with work and we had walked home, the morning hours had passed without the customary java infusion.  I set out to a nearby eatery to get some lunch — a meal where my customary drink of choice is always water with lemon — and then puttered around the house doing some chores and reading.  By the time dinnertime rolled around, I discovered that I had been surprisingly coffeeless for the whole day.

This isn’t that big of a deal, obviously.  I’m sure that once or twice during the 40-odd years that I have been drinking coffee that I have missed a day . . . but I sure don’t remember it.  Coffee has been a standard part of my daily routine, but routines are made to be broken.

One of my friends, the Wrestling Fan, decided a few years ago to give up coffee.  He’s happy he did it and says he feels less wired and more relaxed.  I’m not ready to give coffee up entirely — in fact, I’m happily slurping down a cup as I write this — but it’s nice to know that I can skip a day or two now and then without feeling terrible withdrawal symptoms.  Thanks, Kasey, for showing me that living in the coffee-free zone can be done.

Sunday Sunrise

IMG_0578Today Kasey and I got up early and took a very long walk around German Village and neighboring Merion Village.  We passed through Schiller Park just as the sunshine was peeking through the surrounding trees, dappling the landscape, and the ducks were starting to quack and head out onto the water.  There was a slight chill in the air, but the sunshine and bright blue sky were hints of a glorious day to come.

Picking The Real Best Picture

Tomorrow night is the Oscars.  I won’t be watching, but I know one thing:  they’ll screw up the selection of best picture because . . .  well, because they always screw it up!  Year after year, movies that appeal to the general population — movies that move us, inspire us, challenge us, and make us feel good as we’re walking out of the theater — get passed over for some hoity-toity, highbrow “serious” movie.  It’s ridiculous.

witness-harrison-ford-kelly-mcgillisThe movie that encapsulates this phenomenon, for me, was Out of Africa.  It was a slow, dreary, unwatchable piece of crap.  It was a “chick flick” of sorts, but one so ponderous that even women who want to revel in the arched eyebrow/heavy sigh/”the intense drama of real human relationships” school of cinema would find it an absolute snoozefest.  Yet somehow this leaden dud won the Best Picture Oscar, beating out the likes of Witness — a great and touching movie about an injured cop who finds sanctuary among the Amish in Pennsylvania.  As yourself now:  if you turned on the TV and had this choice, which movie would you rather watch:  Out of Africa, or Witness?  Does anyone seriously doubt that everybody except members of the Meryl Streep Fan Club would choose Witness?  For that matter, would any network even broadcast Out of Africa?  It’s probably the least requested Netflix movie in history.

The Washington Post has done a commendable public service by going back through the last 40 years of Best Picture Oscar blunders and telling us the real best picture of the year.  I disagree with some of their choices — I still say Star Wars and E.T. were obvious choices for Best Picture Oscars — but it’s a useful exercise nevertheless.  With rare exception, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences always gets it wrong.  The people who don’t win the Best Picture Oscar tomorrow night probably should be happy.

The Times And The Transcripts

The New York Times has published an editorial calling upon Hillary Clinton to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs.  It’s a good editorial and I’m glad they’ve done it, because maybe now she will finally do the right thing and release them.

This is a simple matter of transparency, which is one of those words that politicians like Hillary Clinton like to throw around, but don’t really mean.  When large Wall Street financial institutions are a political issue — and they are — and one of the leading presidential candidates has given three speeches to one of those institutions for a grand total of $675,000, transparency demands that that candidate release the transcripts of what they said.  It’s not a tough question, and the answer should be obvious.

27CclintonBHillary Clinton’s response is that we should trust her when she says she’ll be tough on Wall Street, and that she’ll release her transcripts if every other candidate, Republican and Democrat, releases the transcripts of every speech they’ve ever given for money.  That’s not exactly a leadership position, is it?   And Clinton apparently doesn’t recognize that one way you build trust is through transparency.  If Clinton released the transcripts and they showed nothing but her observations about international affairs, it wouldn’t undercut her attempt to convince voters that she will be a vigorous fighter against Wall Street excesses.  Of course, the apparent problem is that she said something more to the Goldman Sachs people — and that something more is what voters should be entitled to see.

Hillary Clinton seems to think that she is getting unfairly singled out.  I’m not aware of any other candidate who received so much money for so few speeches, or who, with their spouse, has amassed millions of dollars in personal wealth largely from giving speeches.  It raises questions that are unique to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.  The fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t willing to answer those questions tells us something about her secretiveness and her character, and it’s not positive.