Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Asimov PP 12/1989: "What Are Little Stars Made Of?"

I'm going through Isaac Asimov's F&SF essays in reverse order by date to share the Personal Paragraphs with which he invariably opened each essay.
My dear wife, Janet, and I have a small ritual that consists of tracking each other. We are almost always together, but occasionally one or the other of us is forced to venture out into the wide world alone. Since we grow uneasy if we are at opposite ends of the apartment, you can well imagine that this separation is traumatic.

First, there are the preliminary anxious injunctions about "being careful" and references to madcap traffic, falling cornices, and dubious bystanders. Then, when either of us gets to where he or she is going, a phone call reporting safe arrival is considered de rigeur. And finally, an estimate of the return time having been made, we know when to put are worry machines into high gear. So far, I must say, nothing has happened to either of us, but each new time is a new risk.

Janet is particularly good at this and manages to begin being concerned about half an hour before the time I have set for my return. I sometimes miss because I may get involved in my writing, and when that happens, I often, quite literally, don't know what time it is.

Janet, as it happens, goes out on many Monday evenings to meetings at her psychoanalytic institute, and invariably comes home between nine and nine-fifteen.

Then came one Monday when I was busily involved at the word processor and I happened to look at my watch and notice that it was 10 pm. Janet had not yet returned, but I had forgotten about that. What clicked in my mind was that it was time for "Newharrt," one of my favorite TV shows, so I turned it on.

At 10:05 pm Janet returned, having been kept late by some sort of prolonged discussion at the Institute, and in a semi-frenzy, thinking that I was half-dead with worry, she was about to apologize feverishly when she noticed that my eyes were on the TV screen and that I was waving to her absently.

She said, rather sharply, "Weren't you worried?"

I'm an old hand at the marriage game, of course, so I knew better than to admit I had lost track of time. I said, indignantly, "Of course, I was worried/ Fearfuylly worried. Desperately worried."

"And what were you going to do about it," she wanted to know.

"I was going to call the institute, ask where you were, and if you were still there, I was going to come down and get you."

She said, "When were you going to do that?"

And I said, pointing to the TV, "Just as soon as "Newhart" was finished."

Fortunately, Janet has a sense of humor, so she burst into laughter and said she was glad to know her place in the scheme of things.

Well, after the two previous essays, I am still trying to place the Sun in the scheme of things, so let's continue.

Asimov then goes on to continue to talk about how the solar system and how information about the various planets was discovered.

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