A confession about the Final Astronomical Calendar

If you could have looked down through my ceiling during the evenings – not just the evenings – of October 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, November, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 (yesterday), you would have exclaimed: “No more! I can’t bear this!  Basta!  Of course this has to be the last Astronomical Calendar!  Go to bed!”

Finishing the thing has always been a crisis in crescendo. No, not for the first few years. We used to celebrate the sending of it to the printer by going for a feast out at the restaurant by the lake in Table Rock state park, in the mountains north of Greenville, and this was in October, just at the time when the forests were in the zenith of their famous fall foliage, rich with orange maples.

But the Astronomical Calendar became better, by adding features, and these had to be included from then on. Like a snowball. And the methods became more streamlined, and yet the process kept taking longer. I began starting work in late summer, then earlier summer, leaving only the spring for diversions. One summer I camped in a field north of the Furman University campus, in the morning washed in the lake and then paddled my rubber boat across it and began work in the room my friend and patron Professor Bill Brantley let me use. Later, the sense of pressure reached back into the spring; later, I felt I’d better get started on the next Astronomical Calendar right after finishing the last. The streamlining came to be done by computer, so that what had been done in hours or days, by careful fingers with pens and straightedges and French curves and Exacto knives and rubber cement and Rubilith, and a calculator and card indexes and studying of lines of numbers in the US Naval Observatory’s Astronomical Almanac, and lists of procedures that were supposed to become a Manual for Compiling the Astronomical Calendaar, was done in minutes and later seconds. And now, quicker than you can take your finger off the key it has just hit, the computer has flashed an answer or created a chart by searching nine catalogs, multiplying the six hundred terms for the position of the Moon, solving Kepler’s transcendental (that is, strictly unsolvable) equation by iterating until the correction is less than 0.0000001, solving it for every position of every moving body, and trigonometrically twisting everything through celestial and ecliptic and galactic and altazimuth frames pf reference and viewpoints from the Sun and the Earth and your eye, all this before you tap the keyboard to go to where you can see the picture it has created; and yet, the time consumed did not become shorter. It became ever longer. Things that could be done with the computer suggest more things that should be done.

One time, a friend sent me to meet a businessman in Maryland who was interested in being a distributor for the Astronomical Calendar. In his house we talked about it, and he liked it and said he was interested in being my sole distributor, relieving me from a lot of fuss – if I could have it ready by August.

No way. To make a wall calendar for 2016, you could find twelve nice pictures; you could see to that in, say, January of 2015, or, to have even safer lead time, in 2014. You might even do that with an astronomical calendar. But not with a book (which the Astronomical Calendar had become) about the year, including its looming comets.

Another time, Doug Roosa, who had been my first part-time helper, talked with me from where he had moved to and said: “I expect by now you just press a button and the Astronomical Calendar comes out!”

I wish. Given another 43 years, that could come about.

Professor Benny Soldano, hardened cynic, said to me: “Smart scheme, eh, making this annual so people have to pay every year?” And he suggested I incorporate (which I never did), otherwise rascals would steal it from me as they had stolen his profound cosmological theories. Yes, my substitute for a regular job. But I had never meant to spend my life doing something like this. (I had meant to spend it wandering in Asia.)

Every year, the “final throes,” as I used to call them when explaining why I couldn’t attend to anything else, dragged on longer than ever before. Or so it seemed, but since the previous years’ ordeals had faded into a haze there was no saying which was really the worst. But I think this year’s was. There was a night when I went to bed at 8 AM and lay for half an hour and got up; surrounded by days starting at 3 AM and nights with four-hour holes in them.

I couldn’t tell you about any of it. In this blog I said that I’d have to keep posts brief “because it is more important to make sure Astronomical Calendar 2016 is in print next month.” But that was on October 14, and as days passed I was blogging not only briefly but rarely, letting the Orionid meteors pass, along with Muslim New Year, the Venus-Mars-Jupiter “trio”, the dichotomy of Venus, the twisting of clocks back to normal time, and the Creation of the World, which according to Archbishop Ussher took place on October 22 in 4004 BC, at nightfall, by Garden of Eden Time presumably. I didn’t have time to think about them, yet I couldn’t explain that this was because I was still working on the Astronomical Calendar. You might have feared this meant it was running behind schedule (I was the only one who knew it had no such things as schedule and deadline) and would get printed inconveniently late for you to give it to your husband for Christmas, or sell it on to your customers, the shops that need to stock it for the Christmas trade, and you might cancel your order or think again about making it.

That is my confession. I’m happy to tell you that it looks as if printed books will be ready Nov. 23.

Finis Day came on November 2. This was the sending off of the files through cyberspace. Or, since that was somewhere near another hazy midnight, it could have been into November 3. I’m calling this epoch Finis Day not only because it is a neat term that I hadn’t thought of before but because it happens to fit with the final Astronomical Calendar. The cover picture shows pilgrims walking through a night of the year 1000 AD toward a headland, beyond which they see, towering out of the Atlantic horizon, the Milky Way. The headland is Cape Finisterre, called in ancient times Finis Terrae, end of the land, or of the world.

Finisterre

As we speak, pilgrims are walking through the nights of 2016, streams of them northwestward. I’ve been too busy to read the daily news about the refugees, or anything else, but now I’ve read “Ten Borders: one refugee’s epic escape from Syria” in the New Yorker of Sunday 8 November. A piece of journalism stripped of the author’s self, of opinions and judgments, of everything but the minimally described facts of a few selected people’s stories; compelling you to see what it’s really like to be a migrant.

After the Finis Day of each Astronomical Calendar I could relax, turn to the “After the Rush” box, and go to bed early, a wholesome plan that I somehow never manage when alone; sleep maybe my average six hours, if I have such a thing as an average. After what surely has been more work than on any previous Astronomical Calendar, I even dare to hope, as each previous time, that it may be the first to be perfect, at least the first free of errors; even the first without later-occurring regrets for things I could have done but didn’t.

Not quite. In the course of the year I hear from helpful people, “I’m puzzled by a difference between pages 8 and 41,” “The time given by the Connaissance des Temps is an hour later,” “The running head on pages 52-53 says Astronomical Calendar 2014,” “Surely there is something wrong in the positions for Ceres,” “Yet again you haven’t understood my point about the reason for this,” “Surely you know that the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer differed at that date.” This hasn’t begun. But that’s because nobody has seen the book.

Finis Day is for me a moment, an epoch, but it’s not and cannot be a definitive one. There are things to do after it even if nothing goes wrong. It’s like an earthquake that’s followed by aftershocks; it seems like the Normandy landings, but it proves to be like the Normandy landings if the Allies had been partly driven back out to sea and had to ask to come back ashore. Final throes have after-throes, because files sent through cyberspace and “preflighted” by the printer’s tech team turn out to be unopenable, or contain traces of magenta and yellow in pages that should have only black and cyan, or claim to use a font called Myriad I’ve never heard of or used and to lack Greek letters that I have – how would the stars cling to the sky without them? – or drop a picture out of its box because PDFCreator didn’t understand GIF format, or turn overprinting off so that the Moon’s shadow on the Earth isn’t transparent and the seas don’t show through – this last problem happens every time and the printers forget how they were persuaded to rectify it last time. And in the course of re-making and re-sending the pages I notice, say, a typo that hadn’t been caught even by the clear eyes of John Goss (see my acknowledgment to him for proofreading) because it was in a page finished too late for me to send to him.

And so, looking down through my ceiling even after Finis Day, you would have seen me reaching only voicemail at both of my Customer Service Representative’s numbers and trying, with earphones on my head because PCs don’t have microphones, to learn from a YouTube sent to me about how to zip files because DropBox can’t make a public link from a folder. And settling, with a sigh or worse, to re-do what has to be re-done.

But while doing this I also noticed small improvements, which now are not too late to make. They wouldn’t drive the schedule later, because the printers are asleep till tomorrow morning. Several of these bright ideas related to the cover picture story, which is so long that it had to be continued on pages where there was space – threaded through the book.

ho1000-0725AndromedaHourFor instance, at the end of the story I had filled a space with a chart of the sky the pilgrims on the front cover are seeing; but because I wanted it to show the arch of the Milky Way over their heads, which is the point of the story, I made it with the usual convention of the south at the bottom. It is what those pilgrims would see if they turned their heads left. And it is the sky of the Andromeda Hour: hour zero in sidereal time. The Andromeda Hour was the theme of the cover of the third Astronomical Calendar, and the basis of the concept of the “Heavens by Hours,” which Fred Schaaf has taken up in his columns for Sky & Telescope and which I hope he will make into a book. Of course! The time in the picture is the Andromeda Hour, because I had arrived at it so as to have the Milky Way standing in the west.

All this was done, safely packed into the book, along with the rather heavy point, presumably not original to me, that the superstitious pilgrims don’t just see the Milky Way as the extension of their pilgrim road into heaven, they see its centerpiece, Cygnus the Swan, long neck and outstretched wings, as the Cross. (Of all Julius Schiller’s suggestions for Christianizing the constellations, this is the most obvious, though I think Boaz for Boötes along with Ruth for Virgo are the most likable.) But at my next inevitable circa-3 AM waking I thought: did I mention anywhere that besides Deneb in Cygnus, the other two parts of the Summer Triangle, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila, are in the picture and you can make out the Lyre and the Eagle, faintly (they had to be painted not too obviously)? So I had to go back to work and check. No, I had not. It was simple to do, with a small caption. The caption became larger when it occurred to me that what the great constellation should be is neither a swan nor a cross but an Albatross, which is almost a cross between them. Its wings are twelve feet from tip to tip, it lives over the oceans. “Instead of the cross, the Albatross / About my neck was hung.”)

Well, I think that was a bit of an enrichment. And I think you’ll find some others that crept into the calendar-pages sky scenes and their captions, precisely because they ended by being scrambled together, in such a last-minute – well, last day or two – hurry that I even abandoned my usual care to to keep files harmonized with each other and just made changes on the page, that is, in the desktop-publishing application that I still use, called Quark. It isn’t handy to write in Quark; it’s rather like cooking the dinner on the table instead of in the kitchen.

It’s after Finis Day and I’m getting to bed early, sometimes. But the 3-AM waking seems engrooved in my brain, for a while; and the thought that turned it into a getting-up, last night, was the first regret. There was one phrase in the cover-picture story to which I could have added a word. Trying to describe one detail that we saw on the pilgrims’ route, I had said: “these propositions are engraved” – referring to some words cut into the surface of the road. I had wondered whether I should write something like “these interstingly varied propositions are engraved,” or “these subtly different propositions are engraved,” meant to come back to it, but forgot to, so the phrase remained: “these propositions are engraved.” – But this is going to take a whole lot more explanation, deserving a new chapter, and damn, it’s past midnight again, so that’s enough for now.

 

27 thoughts on “A confession about the Final Astronomical Calendar”

  1. Guy, thank you for all the years of enriching our lives with the AC. I was late this year in purchasing my calendars and the AC and just now discovered my 2016 AC was the final addition. I will miss having it on my coffee table for guests admire. I always used it to plan my observing and throwing starpartys for family and friends. Take care and clear skies.

  2. As an amateur astronomer, the son of a professional astronomer, and a student of the presentation of data in understandable ways, knew when I looked in my first Astronomical Calendar that I had a unique treasure in my hands. I had a vague idea that its hand-drawn diagrams appeared nowhere else and took much care to render, but I had no idea that this careful work could grow to be so all-consuming.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the AC and the reasons for ending its triumphant run. I am pleased to see that you’re going to put some of its information on your web site. Thank you for keeping us “clearly” informed for so long. Your reward is a total eclipse of the Sun brought to your doorstep! :-)

  3. I’m late in saying this but I did want to express how much I’ve enjoyed the Calendar these last years – it’s always the first item on my Christmas list! And I can understand how it’s too personal and idiosyncratic (in the best way) to think it could be taken over and retain the same feel. All the best in your future endeavors – I’ll keep an eye on the blog!

  4. Even though I have every past issue (O.K., I back-ordered the first 3, after buying the 4th), I was shocked that it has been 40 years of continuous use! (We’re getting old…) I don’t know what happened to create the 2007 shortage problem, but ‘Thanks Guy!” for your personal assistance on my behalf. Even though our flesh gets weaker, keeping our minds strong (by observing heavenly bodies) is the way to go.

  5. Thank you for so many wonderful years of the Astronomical Calendar. My collection only goes back to the early 90’s but I have kept them all. It was obviously a true labor of love and it wil be sorely missed. I will sign on to your blog so I can keep abreast of the info for the 2017 eclipse. Living in SC, I am really looking forward to being able to go to a point on the exact centerline just as I was able to do for the annular eclipse in 1994. Although, I had to travel to Osceola, Missouri then. It was a wonderful trip full of many memories. Best wishes for happy “retirement?” years.

    1. Thanks, David, and I hope we’ll meet for the 2017 eclipse in South Carolina, where it’s hot in August! The question-mark part of “retirement?” is the truest – when I have to fill in a form I continue to give “self-employed”.
      Path of the August 2017 total eclipse
      (A picture is supposed to show here but I can’t yet get it to work.)

  6. It’s funny the things that hit you the hardest that you never saw coming. I bought my first Astronomical Calendar in 1977 (at age 11!), and have every one since plus 1974 and 1975–only missing 1976. To say that it has been a small but significant part of most of the chunk of my life that I can remember is not an exaggeration. I don’t know much about you personally, but somehow I imagined that this enterprise would just go on and on forever. So yes, it was a bit of a shock to see the “final issue” notice on the flyer that arrived last week in the mail. Honestly, the only time I can recall having something feel quite the same way was when Charles Shulz announced the end of “Peanuts.” That was something else that stretched back throughout my past, and at the time it seemed equally unimaginable that it could end. So good luck and best wishes, but yeah, it’s a sad day.

  7. Thank you for this confession and congratulations for all your inspiring work, Guy. I feel obliged since I ordered The Astronomical Companion about thirty years ago. (Quite a bold move if you are seventeen and need your father’s collaboration to draw up a check –no on line shopping back then…). It really made an impact on my perspective of astronomy and the cosmos. Alas, I couldn’t afford the Calendar until many years afterwards, which I have regretted.

    I do feel that Guy has being planning some time in advance. He has told about plans for a smaller sized Astronomical Calendar which many readers seem to have criticized before even seen it. Also, he begun this weblog and a Twitter account, which I think is no lesser task specially if one wants to publish original text and graphics. And we also have his books (I have got five — eight with the different, much improved editions). Incidentally, I don’t think there is anything comparable to the Calendar in Spanish. I myself suggested to Guy a translation about ten years ago, which I still think would have been a great idea (but the publisher wasn’t interested and I didn’t have the right contacts then). I read French, so I appreciate the suggestion to follow Guillaume Cannat.

    1. Gracias, Carlos. If your French is as good as your English, you’re trilingual. Anecdote: my wife Tilly happened to tell me recently about a furniture salesman in Kansas City who apparently coulnd’t say her father’s name, Carlos, and always called him Carmen.
      There have been feelers in the past about German and Japanese translations of the Astronomical Calendar and Companion, but nothing transpired.

  8. As a student astronomer at USC’s Melton Observatory in Columbia, SC during the late 80’s, the release of your calendar was the third most exciting annual event after the equinox parties :) Thank you for many years of enjoyable reading!

  9. Guy, your calendar (a woefully inadequate term) does indeed provide a unique synthesis of information and insight into so many aspects of astronomy, philosophy, history, literature, etc. Having read some of your earliest calendars (I think 1978 is the oldest one I’ve managed to find), and then slowly building up my collection from 1981 until the present, it seems that early on you had a greater variety of material from one issue to the next, but then settled down to a more standardized format. So for me, what I will miss the most is the anticipation of *how* you are going to explain and inform about the coming year’s astronomical events. As much as I will miss having the AC each year, we will probably all be more enriched if you are freed from the burden of publishing and allowed to focus more on creating content on a wider variety of topics that wouldn’t necessarily fit into a calendar of the sky.

    It sounds so inadequate, but there is nothing left to say but, “thanks!”

    1. My early groping from one layout to another was partly because I kept adding explanatory sections – double stars, precession, calendars, mapping projections, celestial navigation, observatories, binoculars (no, those last four are examples of pages I expected to create but never did); then I realized that repeating every year matters that applied to all years made no sense, and I spalled them off into my Astronoical Companion.

      For a while it could be said, perhaps, that the A C(al) took a step nearer to perfection each time; or, that it was being poured into a mould. There had to be a lot of fixed format, to save timer. But I didn’t much like repeating the Moon text with changes almost only at places where something differed “This year”. It will feel better to write something freer.

  10. Guy,I guess we’re all getting a little long in the tooth at this point and are looking at life a little differently now.Sometimes it seems to be a time of great endings but also of new beginnings-more yesterdays than tommorrows.I myself have spent a great deal of time pondering eternity and have come to the conclusion that it is best studied from a distance I feel sure that you like I are coming to that understanding!.Funny,it seemed like not that long ago when I was a fairly young man that my dear Mother (God rest her soul) bought me my first Astronomical Calendar for Christmas and continued the traditions through the years until her passing a couple of years ago.Well, I seem to be a fairly oldboy now and have to buy them for myself.Anyway,I was sadden when I learned of your decision to end the calendar with the 43rd and final edition this year but after reading your confession(you and Augustine) I truly understood.Granted,we all have stories from this drama that we call life but yours,sir,in my humble opinion,is a truly noble story,a prideful thing and a cherished thought.I congradulate you on your achievements!.After all,in the grand schema of things the greatest gift that one could give to another would be that of themselves and you have exceeded the quotium,my friend.It would be my extreme pleasure to put my hand on your arm and say well done,Guy,Thank You!.Cum aspera ad astra-Sam Jr.

    1. Sam, that’s lovely. “Eternity is best studied from a distance” – that should go into the dictionary of wry quotations alongside a few from Mark Twain and Abe Lincoln. Yes, I’d like to reach across and shake your friendly hand, am substituting for that the pleasure of picturing your mother giving you my book as a Christmas present. It’s so wide and floppy she could have rolled it up and put it into your Christmas stocking.

  11. Guy,

    The AC has long been your tour de force. Your sobering peek behind the production curtain is, I know, but a hand wave at the highlights and that there are myriad elements in the form of sketches, formula and algorithm testing, research, correspondence, and overcoming equipment breakdowns that all fed into each year’s glossy book. Doing all of this intertwined with trying to having a life with responsibilities to family and friends demonstrates the utter dedication you have brought to bear on this publication. The astronomical community will be bereft its most most complete and intellectually engrossing annual guide.

    For you I wish many more days and nights under the sky, pondering both the ancient and modern views of our lowly place in the cosmos. That we will continue to hear from you is consolation and remedy to our loss.

    1. Larry, that is eloquent. The idea that you put into your “handwave at the highlights” phrase is that any set of actions by a person, such as a day in the office, a production of 43 Astronomical Calendaars, a night in bed, a journey from Greenville SC to Middleburg VA (private allusion between me and Larry!), or even the making of a cup of tea – you may think you can a give description of it, but there’s always even more to it. Only you and Sherrie know how much you have to do to keep Celestial Products operating year after year, with its great variety of items to be stocked or created and kept track off and otherwise worried about. You’ve bee doing that multiple operation as long as – or longer than? – I’ve been doing my fewer-products one.

      1. 37 years now for Celestial Products, so you have me beat by a few. The reality is that seldom is there ever a viable replacement to the original founding person’s artistry, vision, work ethic, and zeal. That may very well be the predicament for the Astromical Calendar enterprize. That you have largely been the sole (and soul) author and artist all these years is an unparalled feat.

        1. Thank you, Larry. There are other annual books which are made by teams, such as the official Astronomical Almanac and the Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society, so I agree that my book may have been the most ambitious made largely by one person – in English.

          However, Guillaume Cannat sends me – free – the astronomical yearbooks he publishes for the French-speaking world. They are thick books, consisting of many chapters, and filled with abundant photographs, tables, and other graphic information. These books are stunning. I avoid using that word, so hackneyed in journalism and so absurd. Nobody has been stunned by a book since Samuel Johnson knocked a bookseller down with a folio. But, figuratively, I am stunned, and humiliated, when I open one of Guillaume’s books. If it took me most of the year to put together the Astronomical Calendar, it must take five years for Guillaume to bring one of his yearbooks to perfection, ergo there must be five, or more likely six, Guillaumes. Guillaume’s “Guide du Ciel” appears in May and covers the span from June to the next June. The 2016-2017 issue will be the 22nd. He does not confine himself to that, but creates a more popular-level “Ciel à l’Oeil Nu,” covering the calendar year. More recently he sent me something of a different kind: “Carnets de Nuits,” poetic meditations on the universe opened to us by the night.

          If you have some French (you? – I realize that by now I’m not talking just to Larry), Guillaume’s books can be found at
          http://amds-edition.com/editions/index.php
          If you don’t, you could do two things at once by browsing in one of these treasurable books. French isn’t difficult for English-speakers, because half of English words were borrowed from French, and I know someone (my daughter) who learned French one year by picking up a novel and reading it through.

          In my occasional correspondence with Guillaume, I have sometimes struggled to write all in French, and Guillaume can write English (almost as perfectly as Jean Meeus), but now we have a system that I highly recommend: I write in my own language, with scattered words of French when I feel like it and am sure of them, and he writes in French with rare bits of English (le planning). On receiving his French I pronounce it aloud, with great relish, thereby understanding it readily. Take the opening of his latest courriel (email): Bonsoir Guy, Voici quelques précisions…

  12. For all the nocturnal disturbances –
    Skies unseen, events unattended,
    Missed meals, sleep unslept,
    Conversations interrupted,
    Stars, planets, moons, conjunctions,
    Evanescent meteors and aurora
    Left languishing –
    We who have been enriched
    By your prescient presence
    At our sides in The Calendar,
    Give you thanks and praise.
    “Hail, Guy, we who are about to observe,
    Salute you!

    You shall be missed annually and recollected often as we turn again to your wonderful work. May you retire and rest and enjoy again the splendour of the sun, the moon, and the stars for themselves.

    May your pigrimage end, as Dante’s,
    “(W)Here force failed my high fantasy; but my
    desire and will were moved already – like
    a wheel revolving uniformly – by
    the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
    (The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto 33, lines 142-145; Mandelbaum, 1995, Everyman’s Library, Knopf.)

    Thank you!

    1. David! This precedent you set is one I already intended to follow: to let my reactions shape themselves, sometimes, from prose into poetry (though the border between them is as uncertain as that between waking and dreaming). There’s an ? Anthony Burgess novel called “Inside Mr. Enderby” about a poet (a rather dignity-free one) who finds he’s grown out of being a poet, the flow turns off after a certain age. I sometimes remember that and trust it isn’t true.

      You allude to my pilgrim picture, and to “Ave Caesar, morituri te salutamus”, and to at least one of the times I’ve mentioned the “stars” endings of Dante’s Divine Comedy, even perhaps to “At the going down of the sun we shall remember them” – all considerably more solemn than the occasion requires, but I, like you, relish maze-like connections.

  13. It has always been a pleasure working with you! Let’s keep our thinking caps on.

    Clear skies from the Astronomical League!

  14. Well, you do leave a vacuum. Where would you suggest that we go from here? I fully understand that we all reach a point in time when things must be passed on to younger hands. Five years ago I sold my irrigation business to a younger man who had been a part of our business for 20 years. I worried greatly about the many clients that I had accumulated in over 30 years of endeavors. I knew that they would feel deserted if I just up and announced that I was no more going to be doing what they had come to expect. I planned to make certain that things would go on without any unpleasant bumps in the road. And for the most part they did. But now, I rather feel that I am now in their shoes and adequate provisions have not been planned for and provided. I have been with the Astronomical Calendar only since 1990, but feel that it is a major part of my astronomical life. Sorry, but I feel deserted. You should have planned better. I really thought that you would done so.

    1. Derryl, I well understand all that. My Tilly was once in the same position as you: she needed to move and therefore sell her business (a pet resort), which had a trusting clientele, and she made every effort to make sure that those who took it over would continue it in as trustworthy a way. In this she was successful, and I’m glad you had about the same luck.
      I, however, am not in the same situation as her or you. Nobody will take the Astronomical Calendar over from me. I won’t attempt to tell any of the history of the several organizations that, either at their initiative or mine, have seriously considered taking it over. The Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Handbook of the Canadian Astronomical Society were started seventy or so years ago by some enthusiast, taken up by teams, and institutionalized – I imagine that that’s what happened, haven’t googled it – so, when I first started thinking ahead in this way I thought, Why shouldn’t that happen for me? The organizations negotiated long, asked me for reports and figures and projections, and after five months or so their bean-counters advised that it wouldn’t be worth it for them, unless perhaps I continued to do most of the work.
      I had thought, and still think, that a team could take over, in whatever way they choose, someone handling the comets and some other amateur or teacher the planets and someone else the overall design, keeping me on for a while if they wish me to make cover pictures or merely suggestions. From time to time a team has glimmered through the email inbox, then faded. I had contributing writers for parts of the book, starting I’m not sure how far back, 1980s at least, recently five; so one plan was to build that team by adding more, until all I would have to do would be to step out. My contributing writers were great, but in sum they added months to the time it took to get the Astronomical Calendar actually ready, not only because I had to read what they wrote very carefully, edit, discuss tactfully if it really had to come down from three pages to two, but because I had to wait. Some were remarkably prompt, but others might, for valid reasons of health or other stress, not turn it in till just before my Finis Day, or at all; and until every one of the contributed elements was in place I could not know how the page numbers of the book would have to be reshuffled or even how many pages there would be, and so could not send out my requests for printer quotes, which should have been sent weeks earlier if books were to be printed in time. You get the picture? So for Ast. Cal. 2014 I cast around for a new plan that would make it more bearable for me (the smaller page-size part of the plan had to be abandoned by popular demand), regretfully took all my contributor friends off their hooks and saved time by doing it all myself.
      Yes, Darryl, it would be gratifying for me and perhaps a service for the amateur astronomical community if the Astronomical Calendar were to live on, nor would I mind if it had a different look, and now that it’s known I won’t be doing it any more someone with imagination may yet spring forward, but I shan’t be investing any more time in looking for them.
      What I shall be doing is continuing this blog, with more leisure to do it right; and open-endedly producing books, which will germinate as blog posts or website pages, and may or may not metamorphose to printed documents – I’m old-fashioned and always dream of the end product of a cluster of ideas as a book. For instance one, I’ve long thought, could be like the Astronomical Calendar in that it would offer you a chart of what Jupiter will be doing, but instead of the chart being for Jupiter in 2017 it could be for the whole coming 12-year cycle of Jupiter.

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