Friday, August 20, 2010

BUTTERED PARSECS -- Slipping into Astronomy

Hi. This is Raker again, not WCC, the STAR of this blog. He’s still a few light years, or heavy-footed miles away on his trip to Texas. But enough about Earth. Let’s talk about something even bigger than Texas: The rest of the Universe, whether Texans admit it or not.

Several years ago one summer my son and I signed up for an astronomy class at a nearby college. He did it for the high school credits that he could get. I did because I “just thought the stars were pretty.” I wonder how many others who figured on some easy credits of relaxing star-gazing got hit with wall-to-wall MATH instead! So that’s how “Parsecs” got into the title today. It’s an astronomy measurement, one of the few I remember, which is 3.2 light years. That’s 19.2 trillion miles, for you who tend to check the National Debt Clock on this page.(Don’t worry, because we are still in the lower trillion dollars of debt.)Things are still just fine, especially for whoever keeps selling printing presses to Washington, D.C.

Back to the class. I hadn’t had algebra for years, and avoided using or thinking about it, preferring to let those mechanical calculators do that for me. But I didn’t drop out like some of the disillusioned stargazer wimps. I plunged into the homework, partly as a good example for my son. He still had years (I hoped) of study ahead, and “Wise Responsible Dad” would show him what it took to succeed in a difficult subject. In fact I began to OVERdose on homework. Facts and figures regarding parsecs, astronomical units, kelvins, doppler effects, red shifts, temps of stars, dying, exploding and newborn from cosmic dust began to fill my world, and our home. Scribbly notes and numbers covered our desks, tables, bedsheets and any flat surface I could find with half-done and crossed-out graphs and problems. Anything ‘blank’ was in danger of getting a ‘number tattoo,' White and light-skinned people began to fear to visit, Fine, because I had no time to entertain anyone who preferred to talk about their babies or work instead of astrophysics. My marriage was in danger too. When I caught my wife trying to throw away a pile of my wrinkled paperwork and yelled “Drop that pitchfork!" it almost caused a supernova explosion.

Now for the happy ending. And any ending to that class would have been happy. I got a final grade of “A.” Wow! I must have had more math stowing away inside that UFO, which my mind had become than I thought! This proof of my Einsteinian brilliance had to be shared! I approached my son, lazing like a Basking Shark in our swimming pool. When you want to make a statement last longer and sound more important, you start with lots of prefaces: ”Ahem. Well, son, I notice you spent a lot of time out here this summer. And your astronomy book isn’t wet so I know you didn’t study. In fact, that bookmark is on the same page I saw it the first week of class!" (No reaction behind the sunglasses.) “But, in contrast, I worked like a dog myself and got an ‘A’ as my reward. But I won’t be angry as long as you learned your lesson about the worth of genuine study. Now what kind of grade did you end up with?"

He took another suck at his lemonade, somehow floating beside his rubber mattress. “Me? Aw, I just scanned that (slurp) book. Kinda lame. A lot the same as my old physics course. So I (slurp) only got a B plus.”

Today’s tip for a cleaner home:
When you tell someone to “Think outside the Box,” make sure your CAT isn’t listening. - RAKER


  1. Where were you when I needed someone to take my Marketing class for me?

    Pffft...I got an A, too...but I had to work for it. It would have been more fun (for me) if you had done it for me.