Beware The Ides of March


William Shakespeare wrote “beware the ides of March” in his play Julius Caesar. A soothsayer warns Caesar to beware the Ides, two acts later Caesar is assassinated. In the play and reality, Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, March 15 in the year 44 BC.

Ides derives from a Latin word, meaning “to divide”. In the ancient Roman calendar every month had an ides. In March, May, July and October Ides fell on the 15th, the 13th of every other month marked the Ides. Ancient Rome meant for Ides to mark full moons within calendar months, a concept which soon ran afoul of unapologetic differences inĀ  lengths of calendar and lunar months. In Rome the Ides of March resembled our modem day deadline to file income tax, Romans considered March 15 a annual deadline for settling debt.

By penning caution to Caesar in the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare immortalized the Ides of March 15. Fear not, Julius Caesar’s coincidental demise on the Ides of March is nothing more than a historical footnote. Superstition has nothing to worry about.

https://www.history.com/news/beware-the-ides-of-march-but-why

January 1, 45 B.C.


Good morning 2018. January 1 has welcomed you since 45 BC. The year Julius Caesar frowned upon the Roman calendar, proclaiming we could do better. Tired of a woefully inaccurate lunar based calendar, one tolerated since the seventh century BC, Julius Caesar called bullshit on constant corrections to out of sync lunar fancy and nailed down a solar year.

With the help of Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, Caesar abandoned lunar year in favour of the solar year. Calculated at 365.25 days long, Caesar added 67 days to solar year 45 BC. Consequently the next year started on January 1 rather than in March. He also decreed an extra day would be added to February every 4 years to avoid pitfalls of runaway time.

Caesar and Sosigenes meant well but their 365.25 day solar year was actually 365.242199 in a calendar year. A miscalculation of 11 minutes a year that by the mid 1500s added 10 days to the year. In the 1570s Pope Gregory XIII enlisted astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a solution. In 1582 the Gregorian calendar replaced Caesar’s Julian calendar with leap year rules capable of managing untidy extra minutes. See – https://www.timeanddate.com/date/leapyear.html

Much as I doubt anyone cares why they drank too much last night, take solace in the rising sun and know its the reason January 1 marks a new year. Happy New Year to all.

Image result for new year 2018

Saddened By Fidel Castro Passing


News of Fidel Castro’s death ignited a curious sadness. Politics, propaganda and perception of the Cold War are complicated. It upsets me to ponder how little is remembered of how and why the revolution took hold.

Revolutions aren’t born of prosperity or contentment, they fester in a population oppressed by corruption and greed. Everyone knows of Castro, how many regard his predecessor Fulgencio Batista with contempt? How many Americans schooled on evils of Castro fathom the injustice of Batista’s Cuba, grasp simmering disgust for his roll out the red carpet invitation to organized crime and American profiteering? Batista governed twice under vastly different circumstances – duly elected president in 1940 on a socialist platform, Batista left office in 1944. Eight years in America later he returned as a candidate in the 1952 election, facing certain defeat Batista orchestrated a military coup, seizing power as an unelected dictator.

The U.S. government fawned over Batista, a dictator who suspended the constitution, revoked the right to strike, handed American based corporations exclusive rights to resources and welcomed U.S. mafia into Havana – all with financial/military support of the United States. Obviously America was rattled when Havana lawyer Fidel Castro called bullshit.

Cold War propaganda, a super-power pissing match, threat of nuclear annihilation – vilifying Castro was effortless. Who could blame people for thinking Communism their greatest enemy, the hammer poised to eradicate civilization. America wasn’t bothered by dictator Batista”s Cuba, his Cuba suited them nicely. Batista death squads, torture, state controlled media, suspension of elections and corruption could be overlooked – irrelevant details considered part of doing business.

Pondering sadness over Castro’s passing has nothing to do with pro/con analysis of his legacy. I’m not defending human rights violations, or claiming sunshine and roses for Cubans under his rule. My sentiment comes from the realization so many forget, or never knew why Castro orchestrated the revolution.

America condoned corruption and terror in Batista’s undemocratic Cuba because it suited them. America played a starring role in driving Castro to revolutionary desperation. In my opinion Fidel Castro began as an idealistic young man, a man appalled by greed, brutality and social injustice. Unfortunately 1950s hysteria called poking fat U.S. money bellies in the name of social justice Communism. By virtue of the era, Castro himself had no choice but to profess his ideology Communist. Castro seized power in a world indifferent toward human rights atrocities of a corrupt dictator who played well with American interests.

Remember this when pondering Fidel Castro. Before making broad generalizations, understand the Batista Cuba Castro abhorred. History’s puzzle isn’t complete without all the pieces. Pieces of time, place, circumstance and consequence won’t snap in place until we see the whole picture.

http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/fidel-castro

Below, a link to another of my posts on Cuba

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/cuban-embargo/

Mystery Of 1952 Killer London Fog Solved


December 5, 1952 – residents of London, England woke to cloudless skies characteristic of a prolonged pattern of unusually chilly weather. Shivering citizens fed coal burning fireplaces with earnest, soot belched from thousands of chimneys. Within a few hours thick fog settled over the city, by afternoon fog began to turn “sickly yellow” in hue.

Unaware of temperature inversion caused by a stalled high pressure weather system, Londoners had no way of knowing warm temperatures 1,000 feet above ground blocked noxious soot’s escape. Reeking of rotten eggs, poisonous sulfur rich smog halted air, train, boat and surface transportation. Those who ventured outside reported streets thick with sticky goo and blackened faces of coal miners. Over 5 days an estimated 12,000 succumbed to the killer fog. A government investigation resulted in the Clean Air Act of 1956, restricting burning of coal in urban areas and grants to convert coal heat to gas, oil or electric.

Knowing coal emissions trapped in fog are lethal isn’t the same as understanding chemical interactions at play. It took a trip to China (a coal burning nation, home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world) by Texas A&M researcher Renyi Zhang to publish findings Oct. 9 2016 in Proceeding of The National Academy of Sciences. Research indicating the same phenomenon takes place today.

“People have known that sulfate was a big contributor to the fog, and sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning for residential use and power plants, and other means.

But how sulfur dioxide was turned into sulfuric acid was unclear. Our results showed that this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning, and occurred initially on natural fog. Another key aspect in the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfate is that it produces acidic particles, which subsequently inhibits this process. Natural fog contained larger particles of several tens of micrometers in size, and the acid formed was sufficiently diluted. Evaporation of those fog particles then left smaller acidic haze particles that covered the city.”

http://www.history.com/news/the-killer-fog-that-blanketed-london-60-years-ago

Female Revolutionaries


Ponder International Women’s Day, ask yourself why women need a day of recognition. Let others quibble about reasons for lack of International Men’s Day or international days paying lip service to minorities. Forget social conscience lip service paid to atrocities and injustice. Dismiss tired debate of pay and gender equality. Take a moment, click on the link below and understand why women kick ass.

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/10-female-revolutionaries-that-you-probably-didnt-learn-about-in-history-class/