Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lesson Learned: Never get your astronomy tips from e-mail

For MONTHS I have had this weekend marked on my calendar with the word "MARS!!!" Why? Because in May my boss circulated this provocative e-mail to us staff:

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.

Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

Well? Wouldn't YOU mark your calendar, too?

In a lather of excitement I sent a reminder notice to my father (a.k.a. The Great Spoiler*) and sister (a.k.a. Couldn't Care Less). My father's reply was a consolation for having gotten suckered by an out-of-date, but still circulating, message. The hyped encounter occurred two years ago.

Damn. Balls. Shite.

*The Great Spoiler has revealed these things to me through the years, among countless others:

1. Halley's Comet would not have streaked through the sky like Mary Chapin Carpenter sings in "When Halley Came to Town;" it would have appeared as a bright stationary object.

2. "Have you ever seen a vole? I have one here in this bucket. See him? [poke poke] Of course he's dead."

3. "Remember Buckey? The Squirrel that ate peanuts from your sister's hand? He fell from the power line and broke his leg. I put him out of his misery."

4. It was wrong for me to have freed our neighbor's turtle from the 5 gallon bucket he was desperately trying to climb out of for hours on end.

5. The [insert migratory bird species here] that I just saw, he's been seeing for weeks.

6. "So, what do you think? You like it? Do you know blutwurst means blood sausage? Here, have some more."

7. The [insert butterfly species] that I just saw, he's been seeing for weeks.

8. The [insert bird, plant, insect species] that I saw in Costa Rica? That's nice, but he doesn't believe in contributing to the global warming problem just so he can travel to see exotic species. He finds pleasure enough in the organisms outside his front door.

9. The beautiful new bookshelf in my son's room could tip over and crush him if he ever tried to climb it.

10. My personal best 5K race time is more than ten minutes slower than the world record. Huh! Isn't that interesting?

o.k. enough therapy for today.


Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...


Aren't family a great way to stay...grounded and humble?!


1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You once called me Dad and now I am feeling insulted. I would never be so blunt with you ;)

Gotta love 'em!

My Father firmly believes that neither I, nor my children are capable of learning anything that he has not told us. He must warn us all about the inhumanity of the human race, how mean, stupid and incompetent the human race is (excluding himself).

I on the other hand prefer to let the planet teach my children a thing or two so I may not be the sole source of their information.

For example, if the ball goes between your sons legs while he is playing baseball, don't be a jerk of a parent and yell, "Close your legs!"

Give the kid some credit, didn't he just figure this out, no #$*$#@!!

Allow your kids to learn from their surroundings. The teacher will give them an F if they don't turn in their homework, that is a far better lesson then hearing a parent nag incessently. Whose problem is it anyhow?

I am clearly a Love and Logic parent..

6:09 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Why was it wrong to help the turtle? Were you interfering with the process of natural selection, or what?

9:26 PM  
Blogger A. said...

Doulicia- I have a scary feeling that we might be cousins, because you just described my father to a T.

12:39 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Anonymous/Dad: Thank you for the reminder about love and logic parenting. It makes such sense to me and I try to abide its methods. But I tend to point out the obvious. And letting the consequences happen, can be so unpleasant that I often try to avoid them.

Julie, while it wasn't wrong to help the turtle, it was wrong to userp my neighbor's property rights. My father also has a puritanical sense of property rights. To this day I cringe if I step off the sidewalk into someone's yard because that is not MY property to walk on.


10:48 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Ah, I see. I hadn't noticed the neighbor aspect.

10:02 AM  
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