Thursday, March 31, 2016

Night Skies and April Fools

April Fool’s Day: Night Sky and Jokes

We are approaching April Fool’s Day, which brings us one step closer to spring on the East Coast. 

Yet, even in April, it can be very blustery.  I recall a party we had in April, 1995.  Everyone came in springy clothes and we were having great fun on the screened in porch.

But then, the wind came up.  The wearers of madras pants and shirts, shorts and Hawaiian shirts were all driven indoors by the wintry gusts.

Before the weather warms and the humidity starts, please take a moment for a night walk.  The constellations are clearly visible.  In his book, Secrets of the Night Sky, astronomer Bob Berman describes constellations at this time of year as “sharply etched,” before the sky “surrenders to the hazy patterns of summer.”

On the East Coast, I have enjoyed seeing the Big Dipper and Orion, the Hunter.  The experts say if you look straight up from the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper, you will see Polaris, the Polestar, which is also the first star in the handle of the Little Dipper.  So far, a large locust tree has been blocking my view of Polaris but I hope to get a glimpse of this star, so important to navigators, soon.

The Big and Little Dippers are also named, respectively, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.  The idea of two bears in the sky that do not hibernate and watch over all is reassuring.

There are other constellations visible now.  I have been using star charts in Robert Burnham’s Star Book to try to identify them but its slow going so far.  There are also star charts available online. 

April Fool’s Day falls on Friday this year.  In the days before smoking was unpopular, one trick was to call a tobacco shop or newsstand and ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”  When the shop owner said , yes he did have this pipe tobacco brand, the prankster would say, “Well, you better let him out, otherwise he will suffocate!”

If you need April Fool’s laughs, visit Mick Harkin's website   We met Mick through friends Siobhan and Francis John who live in Ireland.  On his website, Mick describes himself as follows: “After a life dealing with things scientific, Mick Harkin decided to pursue something more light-hearted for a change – an investigation of things humorous. Always good for a laugh, he survived the Rise and Fall of Haight Ashbury in the psychedelic mid-sixties California and then shivered through some bone-chilling Canadian winters in the early seventies.” 

Mick is back in Ireland, capably mixing systematic research and wit in a study of what makes jokes work or not work.   The results can be found in his book, Jokes, Quotes and Anecdotes . . . an Anatomy of Wit.  The book is available via Mick’s website and offers an overview of the history of jokes and how they are structured.  The next 27 chapters consider specific joke types, such as those about lawyers, blondes and humor specific to several nations.  Each chapter opens with an overview of the anatomy of the jokes and then a selection of the jokes as examples - - and for the fun of it!

Enjoy the night sky, enjoy April Fool’s Day and let’s hope you are enjoying some real spring wherever you are! 

If any of you have a good stunt for the day, please send it along and I will include it in post's comments. 



  1. In my post, above, I asked people to share any April Fool's experiences they may have had. Russell Dunn, a local writer, who researches and writes about waterfalls, had the following story. This happened when he and his wife Barbara went hunting for a waterfall:

    I have a waterfall-related April Fool’s story. I had located a waterfall near Wilmington using a topo map.

    We set out to look for it on April 1st. Even though it showed up on a map, and we must have walked several miles looking for it, we never found the waterfall. It literally was an April Fool’s joke that nature had played on us.

  2. Happy April Fool's Day!! I like the bit about nature playing the joke haha

  3. Thanks for reading both the post and the comment from Russell Dunn. Hope you had fun on April Fool's Day!