Leap years are special, aren't they? It has to be for those one in fifteen hundred or so folks who were born on February 29. How cool is that? Getting one year older every four years constitutes quite a gap, created by just one leap, eh?
Most educated folk know that leap years were invented to make up the difference between the civil 365 day year and the solar year, which is the actual time it takes Earth to make one trip around the Sun. The solar year runs about six hours beyond the completion of that 365th ordinary day; thus, every fourth year we add an extra day to February to "leap" our calendars to more closely match nature.
You can trace leaping the calendar back thousands of years to folks who understood a whole lot more about math and astronomy than the average bear. The ancient Egyptians immediately come to mind, as do the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas in our western hemisphere. Chances are good that the Chinese probably had a handle on the solar year, too, given that their astronomers witnessed and recorded a supernova some 3,500 years ago. In the 14th century - B.C. - the Chinese named the event occurring near the star Antares as "Tianshe."
And so it is that for actually thousands of years, humans have been aware of celestial events, solar and calendar years, and of the abiding need to bridge seemingly mysterious gaps which occur in nature but which, with study, can eventually be explained.
As might be expected, however, superstitions associated with leap years have surrounded the event, as many ancient cultures traditionally regarded it to be unlucky. Leap years have been linked to bad harvests, barren marriages, tempestuous weather and ill-luck for monarchs.
I noticed on the news Friday, which was "leap day" actually, that Britain's Prince Harry was ordered home from the front lines in Afghanistan, where he's been serving with his country's 8,000-member military force despite his blue blood lineage. Seems the Taliban got word of where the Prince was stationed, and stepped up their suicide attacks in an effort to kill a member of the Royal Family.
So it's probably a good thing, given the ill-luck for monarchs associated with leap years that Prince Harry is headed for home.
Friday also constituted a different sort of gap, one spanning some 48 years. The first Playboy Club opened in
Of course, that was really only 12 leap years ago. Hugh Hefner, an Army veteran of World War II, is still making headlines with his liaisons bridging gaps over time. Who knows? Maybe "Hef" is aging in leap years along with his Playboy Clubs.
At any rate, mainstream
Now, you may think I'm about to preach a sermon about how Hefner's quest to build a kingdom by promoting hedonism, sexuality, promiscuity and so forth has led to the general demise of morals and the degradation of society in our land.
Don't have to. It's pretty obvious.
I'm talking about leaps and gaps today, and the big news from the 90-mile-gap south of
Now it may be a gap of only 90 miles, physically, but for those of us old enough to remember when Havana was the absolute shining jewel of the Caribbean Sea, and for all the displaced Cubans who fled to America with nothing more than the clothes on their backs to escape Castro's brand of Communism, Castro's resignation constitutes a leap spanning lifetimes.
The presidential candidates were all asked last week for their thoughts on Fidel Castro's abdication. Most offered some feeble, politically correct statement, but Republican John McCain summed it up best as far as I'm concerned when he said, "Castro? I hope he dies soon."
Over the last 50 years I've known only two real-life Cuban refugees who got out at the last minute before Castro clamped down and started shooting folks who tried to leave. Through my association with them I've come to know that there are no more beautiful, caring, generous, hard-working and heart-broken people in the world than the Cuban nationals who had to flee.
Pay attention. I'm not talking about the criminals from Cuban prisons, folks so bad even the iron-fisted communist control could not control, who Castro duped President Jimmy Carter to bring into
Well, there's a problem. There's a guy in South America, Hugo Chavez,
Nonetheless, despite his anti-U.S. stance, Chavez has some redeeming qualities. Yes, you read that correctly. Go back and read it again if you are still flabbergasted.
Chavez wrought a return to the barter system with
In another controversial move, in 2006 Chavez began providing oil at prices discounted 40 percent to four of the five boroughs of
Now, before you think this is some sort of public relations campaign for Chavez, let me remind you that I'm talking about gaps and leaps. This guy is no friend of ours, and I understand that. But listen to what I'm saying here.
Cuba is about to reach a historical moment in time, when decisions about governmental reform, individual freedoms, economic policies and international diplomacy will radically change not only the island itself, but the way life in many Latin American countries unfold for generations to come.
When I was a boy growing up in rural
Yes, it was the barter system at work. No, I'm not talking medieval times - it was 12 leap years ago.
So what I'm saying is that it might be a good thing, and a good time, for
The GINI gap, as you may know, is the economic gap which exists between a nation's richest and poorest citizens. According to
If you find that hard to believe, for your edification take a short drive around our own neck of the woods and look at the high-end BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Cadillac Escalades parked in front of tumbledown shacks. Then look at the published figures for skyrocketing foreclosures amongst the low-end economic spectrum in
Around the world, the GINI representing greatest equality from rich to poor can be found among nations with homogenous populations - in other words, where there is little or no racial diversity.
Anyone here want to trade their citizenship with any of those guys? What? No takers? I didn't think so.
In this election year, when I see folks from every corner of the political map taking potshots at our current president, it would be good for everyone to think on these things and understand why it is - with all our diversity -
But make no mistake. There is a huge gap between
At issue is whether
That's a pretty tall order.
We'll know for sure how America's November decision brought about either a great leap forward, or created even bigger gaps...just next leap year.