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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Origin of Leap Years

This year, being divisible by four, is a leap year. As all of you probably know, a leap year is when an extra day is added to the end of February (meaning an extra day of school this year...yay?). But how did this (fairly strange) practice originate?

First, some background. Leap years are needed because the orbital period of the Earth is 365.2421 days, not a perfect 365. In order to account for the extra time, every fourth year has 366 days. This prevents the Earth's movement from becoming off-sync with the calendar over time.

The first people to notice the need for a leap year were the ancient Egyptians. Europeans began using leap years during the rule of Julius Caesar. During his reign, an inconsistent lunar calendar was replaced with the "Julian calendar" based off of the sun.

But simply adding leap years is not enough to fix the calendar. Leap years assume that an orbit is 365.25 days, which adds a few extra minutes per year. In order to counteract that, every year divisible by 100 but not 400 is not a leap year. (So 1700 was not a leap year, but 1600 was). This change was first made by Pope Gregory XIII in the modern "Gregorian" calendar.

I hope you found that interesting! Feel free to share any special leap day plans in the comments.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Source: http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-do-we-have-leap-year 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Getting the Most Out of Your Google Search

Don't get me wrong, Google is one of the best search engines out there. But its algorithm isn't perfect. Try out some of these tricks for more effective searches:

  • Use "-" to blacklist words you don't want in your results. For example, search "beetle -car" to remove links about the VW beetle. 
  • Need to read a school book you left in your locker? Try "file:pdf". The command "file:" filters results of only that file type. For example, to find a pdf of The Great Gatsby, try "The Great Gatsby file:pdf" 
  • Use "site: " to find results from a specific website. For example, if I want to find TIME magazine articles about Taylor Swift, I would use "Taylor Swift site:time.com" 
  • Get more specific image results by using "search tools" in the toolbar to filter by certain criteria. For example, you can specify clipart or an animated photo (great for finding GIFs!) or even find photos that are licensed for public use. 
  • Put quotation marks around the search to find results that use the exact phrase, rather than parts of the phrase or other similar phrases. 
  • Ever need to find the source of an image? Try using reverse image search. Simply right-click the picture and select "search Google for this image". You can also search an image from your computer by clicking on the camera in the Google image search bar.
I hope this helps! Feel free to share any other tips in the comments below.

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Neko Atsume ("Kitty Collector")

Recently, I downloaded Neko Atsume (Japanese for "Kitty Collector") at a friend's recommendation. And I must say, it is probably the cutest app I have ever seen. (And I have seen some pretty cute ones.)

Neko Atsume is a simple game. Its only objective is to look at cartoon cats. This is how it works: you use fish (the currency of the game) to buy toys (called "goodies") and food. You then set the goodies and food into your virtual yard and wait for the cats. Cats will come throughout the day and give you some fish when they leave. If you go to the app at the right time, you will find cats interacting with the goodies and be able to take some adorable photos.

There are no other interactions, but the game is more complex than it seems. For example, there are rare cats with special animations that only come with certain objects, and all cats can drop off a unique memento.

The endless ways to customize your yard ensures that the game doesn't become stale too quickly. If you want to give it a try, download it from the app store or Google Play today.

Feel free to share some of your favorite apps in the comments!

Written by Jenna M., Homework Assistant

Thursday, February 4, 2016

3 Things You Didn't Know about the City of Mountain View Part 3

                                                         14. Berlin Wall
Pohle and his friends next to their mark
on the Berlin Wall.
In 2013, the City of Mountain View recieved a large piece of the Berlin Wall as a gift from Los Altos resident Frank Renatus Golzen, a wealthy real estate developer. In July of last year, however, the Mountain View Voice reported on the backstory of the slab's graffiti that reads "Wir liben dich" which translates to "We love you". The man who, along with his friends, created the graffiti Robin Pohle contacted the library to share his story.
"Pohle explained that he had painted...with his friends...to bid farewell to their friend Polly, who was moving to Munich. In fact, the trio even snapped a photo next to the fresh graffiti."Surprisingly, they painted the slab in 1990, which was                                                               actually after the initial fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

5. The Grateful Dead performed at Mountain View High School in 1967
Well..not quite. The performance happened when MVHS was called Awalt High School, so it's not exactly the same thing. But, it's still pretty awesome considering that an iconic rock band had one of its very first performances at a MV high school dance!

6. Shoreline Park used to be a landfill...and a pig farm!
Shoreline Park on its opening day, 1987
Today, Shoreline is home to a nature preserve, an artificial lake, and a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens. Though it wasn't always so picturesque. The land once served as a landfill, accepting trash from San Francisco. Before that, however, it housed a large pig farm and two automotive junk yards. When the park finally opened in 1987, it was haunted briefly by its less-than-glamorous past in the form of several pesky methane fires.

Stay tuned for more little-known facts about Mountain View! Part 4 is coming soon!

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Living "Green" in 2016

Climate change, species extinctions, deforestation, and pollution are all environmental concerns that the world is faced with today. While solving these issues will take the collaboration of many, here are some easy things that you can do to help out the earth:

1. Saving water
California has recently undergone, and is still in the midst, of a record-breaking drought. Save thousands of gallons of water with these tips:
  • Set a five minute timer for your shower. A phone will work, but I recommend investing in a water-saving timer like this so you can see how much time is left. Make 5-minute showers the new norm.
  • Turn off the shower when soaping up. You don't need the water running when you're trying to scrub in your shampoo! Save 3-5 gallons every minute that the shower is turned off.
2. Reducing your pollution
Pollution entails the toxins humans release into the land, water, and air. Try these tips to reduce your pollution and eliminate your "carbon footprint."

  • Leave the car at home: So much of our time spent in the car is just driving a few miles around town. Consider biking or walking one or two miles to your destination and eliminate up to 15 pounds of pollutants from entering our air!
  • Recycling and Composting:  While most items can be tossed in your recycling and compost bins at home, other items need to be disposed separately, including batteries and electronics. Check out this awesome chart that identifies how to properly dispose of waste in your city.
Got any of your own tips for how to live a "green" lifestyle? Share in the comments! 
More easy tips to go green: http://www.50waystohelp.com/

Written by Katia G., Homework Assistant

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Android or iPhone?

The majority of teens today have smartphones, and our devices have become a key part to our daily interaction. The iOS iPhone and the Android phones dominate the smartphone market. As someone who has owned both Android phones and iPhones, I wanted to compare the quality and features to see if there really is a "better" phone.
Which do you prefer? Comment below!

Infographic made with Piktochart.

Written by Katia G., Homework Assistant