“Siri says”

Fernando Llano/Associated Press

Last night Moon did its dance with Earth and Sun, and we went out back to watch. Karen, Teak and I stood for a while, looking south, and then I sat. Shortly, those two lied down.

The cream-colored moon slowly turned blood-orange as predictably as the plot of a movie one watches for the second time. Yet, maybe not so predictably: Science and The New York Times assure us that the dance was to happen between 9:28 PM Central Time and culminate at 12:56 AM Central Time, so why do I feel that the slow, water-boiling-in-a-pot phenomenon might actually not happen as stated? Why do I think that Moon might actually turn fire engine-red, or that the decreasing cuticle-shaped cream color might halt at any minute and have us standing, sitting, lying down for much longer. Hours. Days. Longer. Is it possible that Nature could surprise me? Science is only as good as what scientists have observed repeatedly in the past, until the past no longer repeats itself.


I have to work in the morning. This lunar thing really needs to be on schedule.

Before dawn I take my coffee out onto the back porch. It’s quite light, a silvery light, though I know Sun doesn’t join us for another hour. It has rested in the dance hall over by the punch bowl and, for all I know, it has had a “little too much,” if you get my drift. For all I know, it is planning an eclipse of its own all day today, a bit ashamed that its exchange with Moon and Earth was supposed to have been a line dance, but it actually turned into a scandalous lambada. Saucy minx.

The New York Times says the sun will indeed appear, hungover (my word, not theirs), at 6:42 AM Central. But they’ve been wrong before. They’ve claimed that objects are not real when, a year later, they said the same object is real. Some days, Science and The New York Times come across like they’ve made a deal and spewed speculations onto my desk, charging me $0.99 per month for the first three months and then renewing automatically each year for $129.95.

Last night, Moon took a long time to hide itself behind its orangey veil.

We had each guessed how long it would be before we saw the cream color appear on the left side after disappearing on the right. I guessed a few seconds. Teak said later that he had kept silent about his guess of “30 minutes,” which was the best guess among the three of us though still a ways off.

So I’m drinking coffee a little while ago, and it’s got that silvery light. I walk out past the pecan tree to the left of the house to see that Moon has appeared in all its glory, unobstructed and dancing only a little ways above the horizon in the west-northwest sky. It is alone. Neither Earth nor Sun — sun is still sleeping it off for another hour, or so says my iPhone’s weather app (also suspect if you ask) — get in the way of Moon’s solo performance. It is ballerina-white.

I pull the chaise onto the back lawn past the shadow of the tree and plop myself down with my coffee to “moontan” a little. Ever tried moontanning? It doesn’t require sticky lotion, and you don’t sweat. Yes, there are fewer bikinis around, but there’s no line for the restroom.

The stars join the dance in a supporting role.

They come in from stage north.

My gaze falls lazily somewhere around the northwest, so that the rods in my eyes do their work of seeing lighter objects during the dark. How marvelous that the eye has cones and rods for different purposes as we travel through this Time we call our Life! If you don’t marvel at that, you are clearly an automatically renewing annual subscriber to The New York Times.

The stars zip across the cerulean-blue sky, and I recall a discussion last night about the moon’s speed traveling around the earth.

I had grabbed my iPhone and asked Siri, “How many miles is the moon from the earth?” He — my Siri is an American male voice — said, “Here’s what I found from Nasa dot guv. The Moon is an average of 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) away.” Pfshaw. Like he knows that exactly. Siri, a voice who did graduate work in servitude at UC Berkeley, decided to give me the distance also in kilometers, like I give a fuck, and to virtue signal that he is politically correct in a country where the last time we heard the word kilometer was on July 3, 1776, when General Sir William Howe asked his Colonel how far away the rebels were. He only wished the answer was in miles, not kilometers.

At my command, Siri then gave me the circumference of the moon’s orbit around the earth, based on the radius I’d just asked about. I then Googled — giving Siri a chance to check its allegiance — the circumference of a circle with a radius of 238,000 miles, the answer being 1,495,398 miles. Finally, in my head I calculated 1,495,398 miles divided by 24 hours , and came up with 62,308.25 MPH. (The “in my head” part is a flat-out lie, but since you read the Times, you frankly wouldn’t know a lie if it came up and bit you in the nose.)

That’s how fast Moon was dancing around Earth while turning orange.

I marveled at how those specks of white light must have been traveling just now.

POSTSCRIPT: I just asked Siri, “How fast does the moon travel around the earth?” and he gave a completely different answer than the calculation we both did last night. He said, “Here’s what I found from CalTech dot edu. The Moon orbits the Earth at a speed of 2,288 miles per hour (3,683 kilometers per hour).”

Again with the kilometers.

I then reminded myself that the orbit was an ellipse and not a circle. But Siri told me the ellipse is a “slightly squashed circle,” so that wouldn’t make a lot of difference in the circumference. I’m baffled by my way-off calculations, and even more distraught at how not-fast shooting stars are when they hit the earth’s atmosphere, which were said to be between 25,000 and 136,000 MPH. That’s really not that fast at all, if you think about it. I mean, right?!

The founder of the iPhone function now called “Siri” is a Norseman whose parents called him Dag Kittalaus. Well, they called him “Dag.” His surname was already determined. Mr. and Mrs. Kittalaus decided on “Dag” over a meal of herring and goat milk. Figures, right? Anyhoo, Kittlaus was going to name his daughter Siri which, in Dag’s native Norwegian, means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory.” (True.) His wife gave birth to a boy. (True.) Dag also spoke Mandarin and wanted to name the function “管家,” except that Steve Jobs said that most iPhone users wouldn’t know how to say “Hey, 管家, how long does a soft boiled egg take?” and then all of us would be eating hard-boiled eggs. (That Mandarin does actually mean “butler.” If you don’t believe me, simply type in the two pictographs or say the word, and up will come “butler.”)

If you know why my calculation was off, please do comment below. It may explain why in college I switched majors from Math through a flirt in Geology and landed on English, the least terra firma of the three.

POSTSCRIPT #2: After stepping away for a moment, I realized that the reason the Moon travels so much more slowly than what I had thought is that the Earth is spinning while the Moon is traveling. But it seems that that would create an apparent speed that was actually faster.

POSTSCRIPT #3: Then when driving into town, I figured it must have to do with the phases of the moon, so it travels “around” us much more slowly.

But I’m still stumped.

Comment below if you know the answer. Without asking 管家.