My Life This Week: Baltimore and Pluto

What a week. Over the weekend, I began my duties as the Press Liaison for the Baltimore Comic-Con. (My most/least favorite part of that site is the countdown clock, which simultaneously reminds me how close it is for fun, yay, and how close it is to have everything done, ARGH!) Mostly, that means I wrangle press passes and send out press releases. If you need help with one of these things, please let me know.

It’s shaping up to be a great show, especially with the Harvey Awards presence, but with the Yankees/Orioles game scheduled for the same weekend, I’m ambivalent about how much talking up can/should be done at this point — if you’re not local and you’ve not already planned to come, then you’re pretty much out of luck in getting a local hotel room. Unless you have cool friends you can crash with.

But if you do fit in one of those categories, this is going to be a must-visit show and you should definitely go!

Anyway, I was saying that I’ve been working with them, all the while getting ready to go on family vacation Labor Day week and coping with being given a new department at work. (Same team, mostly same duties, but they renamed us and revised our task responsibilities.) End result, Monday: worst migraine I’ve had in several years. One of those “come home from work, fall into bed, whimper for a couple of hours, finally sleep, and wake up the next morning in time to go to work again.”

Tuesday was thus catching up on more press duties, and now suddenly it’s Thursday and where did the week go? I’ve missed talking about interesting things online with everyone! Only once we realized that the Civil War delay was real, there wasn’t very much of it, was there?

I’m still reeling from them taking away Pluto’s planet status. It’s now a dwarf planet, along with Ceres, which was a planet back when and then was an asteroid for a couple of centuries and now is a dwarf also. Along with Xena.

Me: “They changed Pluto’s status.”
KC: “No, Pluto’s the one everyone knows is a dog; Goofy’s the one who needs clearing up.”

Most astronomers are male, right? So when Xena came along and by all the existing rules should be a planet… it shouldn’t surprise me that they decided to change the rules so she wasn’t. But Venus has always been, so never mind.

I really need to stop free-associating now. Yeah, so how do they get to say that the planets I knew all my life are suddenly different? What’s with this nebulous “dwarf planet” status that sounds like a government compromise that won’t satisfy anyone? The universe has shifted under me by international vote.

20 Responses to “My Life This Week: Baltimore and Pluto”

  1. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    Guess it’s time to change the text books and come up with a new neumonic for the planets.

    I’m going to the Baltimore Con this year and looking forward to it. We booked rooms in April and they were already getting hard to get and expensive.

  2. Roger A Says:

    No matter what they say, I’ll still think of Pluto as a planet much in the same way as I still think there were Brontosauruses (Brontosauri?). I mean, they did exist, they just decided they were actually Apatasaurs.

    And Goofy was a Dawg. KC should know that.

    See you in Baltimore!

  3. Mike Chary Says:

    Hmm, yes, it is a pity that only one planet is named after a female. What on EARTH could they have been thinking of?

  4. Johanna Says:

    Lisa, hope to see you there!

    Roger, that was KC’s comparison, with the dinosaurs! The only dino names I know are Sinclair. :)

    Mike, yes, your brain is bigger than everyone’s. :)

  5. John Says:

    Terra was a Roman goddess, but I can’t find anything online that specifically says the word, “Earth,” is derived from any particular legendary being male or female. So it depends if you prefer the Germanic word that most people use, or the Latin word that is used mostly in science fiction.

    Finally we have a set definition which doesn’t depend on size. At one time, there was a 3000 mile minimum for diameter, which was only due to Mercury being 3032 miles in diameter. They dropped the minimum for Pluto, but have finally realized they needed something more definitive to go by.

    My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nectarines
    Dwarf Children Prefer Xylophones

    (The latter might get a little longer, though, as I hear there are about a dozen candidates for Dwarf status being analyzed.)

    And, no. Pluto is not a dog. Pluto is a cat.

  6. Mike Chary Says:

    John, the phrase “Mother Earth” not ringing any bells with you?

  7. John Says:

    But is that a modern cultural association…or the etymology?

    Defining Earth as feminine because of Mother Earth could be like defining Pluto as canine because of Walt Disney.

    In the brief internet search I made, none of the sources that went into the Germanic etymology of the word went into what it meant to “them”.

  8. John Says:

    Okay, I found some possibly good information:

    Earth as a planet dates back to c1400, and its Old English meaning was just “ground” or “soil”

    Earth Mother dates to 1904, and Mother Earth to 1586.

    So we were calling our planet Earth before we considered it our Mother.

  9. James Schee Says:

    Gosh I must be spending way too much time at work as I had no idea what you were on about Pluto.

    Then I check my News headlines RSS feed and see. Hmm anyone think this will be one of those “Nerds may try to correct everyone with this info, but the common populace will completely ignore this until it finally gets ignored completely.” bit of info?

    Plus calling something a dwarf planet, makes it not a planet? Fine then, I say all “stupid people” are no longer people.

    Sorry about your headache, and hope work gets better. BC is fun, even if there is a hurricane in the area when you go as I did.:) Yankees/Orioles make that big a dent? Gosh they play 30 something times a year, so odd. No football game this year though right?

  10. Mike Chary Says:

    John, etymology is not defintion, after all. The reason the planets are called what they are called is that the ancients associated those particular pieces of sky with the theological figures so-named.
    I mean, in etymological terms the origins of the names are slightly irrelevant since whatever deity was originally named “Venus” has been lost to the mists of time as the Greek Aphrodite assumed the name. Beyond that, historically, our naming of the planets after Roman gods has taken on ludicrous terms, because while Uranus makes a sort of sense, Neptune and Pluto make none. Neptune wasn’t in the sky. He was the sea. Pluto wasn’t in the sky. He was the underworld.

    Actually, while Pluto and Xena were demoted, Ceres received a promotion, or rather a semi-promotion (Ceres was oriignally a planet and got reclassified.)

    That being, I would argue that Cthonic attitudes have always placed the Earth in a female aspect. Every major mythology of which I am aware that chose to personify the Earth from Gaia to Tiamat to Pachamama has chosen to do so as a female.

  11. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Mike, Isn’t Venus simply the Latin name for Aphrodite? So Venus would be the later name of the two.

  12. Johanna Says:

    So who was Ceres before? (Mythology-wise, not astronomically.)

    And what does all this do to my horoscope?

  13. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, Horoscope-wise your life up to this point has been wrong. ;-} You will have to go back to square one and try to figure who you are, what your destiny is, and what decisions to make tomorrow from square one. You will even have to rethink your compatiblity with KC, because his horoscope has radically changed too!! Guess you will have to cancel Baltimore Comic-Con and spend the weekend working this out.

  14. Johanna Says:

    Thbbttt! You are not a good caster.

  15. Roger A Says:

    Ceres is the Roman goddess of motherly love and plants – particularly grains. That’s where we get the word cereal from.
    She’s also the sister of Pluto.

  16. Mike Chary Says:

    Venus became associatited with Aphrodite through the cultural domination of the Greeks, but prior to that association, she was a different goddess entirely. Who that deity was, however, is lost to the mists of time.

    Upon its discovery in 1800 or so, Ceres was originally classified as a planet, and named after Ceres one of the Olympian goddesses. When it was discovered that there were many, many such bodies in the asteroid belt, the category of asteroid was developed for them.

  17. John Says:

    But Mike…you were suggesting Johanna’s comment that Venus was the only planet named after a female was wrong. You were not suggesting that Venus being the only planet-name we associate with a female was wrong.

    That is where etymology kicks in. Earth was not named after a female. Earth was named after the word for soil, or ground. Venus was named after a female goddess. (As was Ceres, that point well-taken.)

    James – Ceres is possibly good evidence that this won’t just be ignored. I had no idea Ceres was once considered a planet until a few days ago. And I even took a college Astronomy course. I suspect many had never even heard of Ceres.

    It might take a few years, but future students will learn the planets as the IAU declares them to be. If there are too many Dwarf planets for them to memorize, they will only remember the Classical planets. (There are a dozen planets being analyzed for Dwarf status in addition to the current 3)

    Pluto will return to being either a god, a dog or a cat.

  18. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Mike, you could say the same for the gods Jupiter, Mercury, Diana, etc. I understand that before Roman society creatively acquired the Greek pantheon they had their own gods and goddess. Maybe I misunderstood your post. Were you using Venus as an example of how older Roman gods and goddesses were assumilated into the new Hellenism? Or do you think Venus is the only older god/goddess to be assimulated into the new pantheon and Roman society ditched most of the old gods and simply renamed the Greek gods and goddesses to form the mythology we are familiar with these days?

  19. Johanna Says:

    The things I learn from my blog… (Thanks for answering my question, Roger.)

  20. Mike Chary Says:

    John: I wasn’t suggesting anything so much as making a cheap joke. But from serious point of etymology has problems as the baseline of the conversation.

    I mean, if we want to get technical and use etymology as our guide, the Earth (not “Earth”, from a history of language point of view but “the Earth”) but anyway the Earth or Terra or Jord or Gaia or Irving or whatever you want to call it is not a planet at all. Why? What kind of idiot would say that? Well, the Greeks, because the wanderers, or planete, were so-called because they wandered across the sky. The Earth does not do that. The Earth sort of stays under your feet when you look up at the planets wandering around up there.

    Well, I hear you cry, we know better now. But if that’s the case, how do we decide when to cut off the historical use of a word and kidnap it for ourselves?

    I would suggest that for the purposes of accusing the relevant people of sexism which I don’t think Johanna was seriously doing, the cut-off point should probably be the current usages of the word, because, after all, they’re on the front lines now.

    In any event, “what on EARTH could they have been thinking” seems a sufficiently oblique response in that regard and sufficiently glib that treating it as anything other than a cheap shot seems to be giving it an awful lot of credit.

    Yes, “Earth” began life as the word for dirt. Otoh, it did not take so very long for it to take on a female connotation when used by our culture to designate the planet.

    Ed:Neither. I was saying that taking a word back so far as to remove the current associations of the word can be rather tricky because you can end up a) going back before the word was used in the same way and b) deciding when to stop going backward can be rather arbitrary. For instance, from the point of view of etymology, there is no word for “male person” in English. “Man” is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “human being.”




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