February--Dear to My Heart

Turning Point

As we put together this February issue of Production Machining, I got to thinking about the month of February itself. You see, I’m not convinced it’s a month at all.

I Googled it and found tons of facts about February such as it once had 29 days and 30 in leap year. Its name derives from the Latin word “Februm,” which means purification. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, took off one of February’s days and gave it to August, which is named after him, so no month would have more days than his namesake, thus giving us our current 28/29 day rotation. It’s good to be Caesar.

In addition, my search listed the many things that occur during February: Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day; it’s a long list of facts that you can Google for yourself if interested. But back to my premise about the month worthiness of February.

In general we Americans believe in majority rule. That alone would “rule” out February as a month because it fails to meet the minimum 30-day qualification found in the other 11. That darn Augustus.

Another weird thing about February is that leap year thing. Again, no other real month has anything like it. I feel bad for souls born on the 29th who biologically age as the rest of us, but who mathematically get their birthday cake quadrennially.

A solution that might help February fit among its monthly peers might be to take back August 31 and give it to February. It was pure vanity in the first place. And for good measure, give it March 31.  

So when leap year comes February would get a best in class 31 days and the other three years it could have a respectable 30 days. But wait—there’s more. For those born on the 31st, instead of dealing with the every 4-year birthday thing, we could take the leap day, divide by 4 and add 6 hours to each non-leap year.

People born on the 30th would also enjoy a 0.25, 0.50 and 0.75. That way, nobody would technically be born on the 31st; rather, they would be born on the 30th plus a fraction. I agree that it’s a stretch, but does solve the problem—sort of. An issue would be who makes the decision take away the days.    

By pointing out its shortcomings (pun intended), you may think I’m picking on February. But the fact is, I’m kind of fond of the rogue nature of it. Mostly I’m sympathetic. While there are many events, celebrations and famous people born in February, for me, its most significant date is the 16th.

February 16 is really the reason I’m writing this rather meandering column. It’s actually an homage to my dad, who would have been 87 on that date. I lost him 7 years ago. He had a singular sense of humor and would have enjoyed reading this journey of farce about his birth month written by his son.

I credit my dad with instilling in me the fundamental curiosity about how things work that has been a prime driver in my career. He was one of those guys that neighbors, friends and relatives called to fix something or help with a project because he could do almost anything.

A prime reason for this was he had no fear of trying to figure things out, or as I like to refer to it, “take the covers off.” As far back as I can remember, I was at his side helping. Together, we did plumbing, carpentry, car repair and electrical work, and those projects are among my favorite memories.

Most of us aren’t born with a bent toward things mechanical, electrical or wooden (maybe some are), however, I credit my dad, with his patience, showing me and teaching me how to approach real world problems with giving me an interest in learning about such things. I still have it, and it’s served me well in my career.

I’ve been very lucky to get paid to indulge in the process of learning about how things work, get made and are used. Those fundamentals were instilled by my dad, and I give him full credit.

I realize this column is a bit self-indulgent, but I think many of you involved in manufacturing precision machined parts—solving problems—had a dad like mine. I wanted to share my story and perhaps rekindle similar memories you might have.

If you’re able, you might give your dad a call and thank him. I wish I could.