Friday

Jan. 2, 2009

Denmark, Kangaroo, Orange

by Kevin Griffith

Pick a number from one to ten. Okay, now multiply that number
by nine. You will have a two-digit number. Add those two digits.
Now subtract five from that number. Take that number and find
its corresponding letter in the alphabet (1=A, 2=B, etc.). Now
think of a country that begins with that letter. Now name an
animal that begins with the last letter of the country. Finally, name
a fruit that begins with the last letter of that animal.

"Denmark, Kangaroo, Orange" by Kevin Griffith, from Denmark, Kangaroo, Orange. © Pearl Editions, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, (books by this author) born in Petrovichi, Russia (1920). His family immigrated to the United States when he was three years old, and his parents opened a candy shop in Brooklyn. He spent most of his time working in the family store, and he was fascinated by the shop's newspaper stand, which sold the latest issues of popular magazines. When his father finally relented and let him read pulp fiction, Asimov started reading science fiction obsessively.

He started writing science fiction as well. He published his first story when he was 18, and published 30 more stories in the next three years. At age 21, he wrote his most famous story after a conversation with his friend and editor John Campbell. Campbell had been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature, which includes the passage, "If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which has been shown!" Asimov went home and wrote the story "Nightfall" (1941), about a planet with six suns that has a sunset once every 2,049 years. It's been anthologized over and over, and many people still consider it the best science fiction short story ever written.

Isaac Asimov wrote more than 400 books during his life.

He said, "From my close observation of writers … they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review."

It's the birthday of the playwright Christopher Durang, (books by this author) born in Montclair, New Jersey (1949). He's the author of many plays, including Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You (1979) and Beyond Therapy (1981).

It's an important anniversary for lepidopterists — people who study, collect, or observe butterflies and moths. On this day in 1975, an amateur naturalist, Kenneth Brugger, discovered where monarch butterflies from North America spend the winter. Scientists had been studying monarch migration for more than 30 years, and they had found out almost everything about the butterflies, except where they spent their winters.

Kenneth Brugger was an American textile engineer living in Mexico City. He remembered driving through a storm of monarchs once on a vacation, in the mountains west of Mexico City. He went back there, but he couldn't find anything, and the local farmers wouldn't give him any information. Then he brought his Mexican wife Catalina, and the locals warmed up. A farmer led them up the side of a remote mountain, up to 10,000 feet, and suddenly the fir trees were so thick with butterflies that they looked orange instead of green. Scientists estimated that there were 4 million butterflies per acre.

Brugger was elated, but he couldn't fully appreciate what he was seeing — he was colorblind.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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