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Astronomy and Baseball and Karaoke

The title of this blog post may seem a little random, but I promise if you read it all the way to the end you'll see where I'm taking this. I do have a point, I swear.

When I was a kid growing up outside of Detroit, my younger brothers & I loved baseball. Maybe we got it from our mom-she loved baseball as a kid and told us stories about tucking her hair up under a baseball hat so she could go out and play with the neighborhood boys. As paper carriers for the Detroit News, there were frequent contests for new subscribers and we'd occasionally win tickets to Detroit Tigers ballgames. Our mom, who also worked for the Detroit News, would sometimes get tickets too. I remember my brothers and I breaking the rule about riding our bikes on the main road to go to the party store to get baseball cards, sodas, and candy (although we did stick to our side of the road and didn't cross it).

To this day, my younger brother Bud & I still love baseball. The difference is that he goes to games frequently and I don't (I prefer listening to games on the radio). Bud still collects baseball cards and I don't. He's gone to sports conventions and gotten photos with some of his favorite players, while I stick to comic conventions. Because he's still so into it, he knows a lot more facts and statistics than I do. Yes, it sounds like he loves baseball more than I do, but that doesn't mean I don't still love the game. You don't have to go all out to be a fan or to enjoy something.

That translates to astronomy, too. When people think of astronomers or astronomy enthusiasts, they picture someone spending every clear night outside with a massive telescope. They think of someone who is knowledgeable about the night sky, maybe having memorized the names of all the constellations and many individual stars. They imagine someone who can spout off endless facts about planets, stars, meteors, comets, and other things in outer space. But the truth is, you only need to step outside and look up to consider yourself an astronomer. You don't have to have an expensive telescope or memorize any facts or statistics about space to enjoy the night sky, and enjoying the night sky is what astronomy is at its core. Yes, some people go farther, and that may make them more enthusiastic, but that doesn't diminish your love of space.

So what does that have to do with karaoke? Well, back in the 2000s I was on Ancestry tracking down relatives on my dad's side of the family (he died when I was 8 and I didn't know much about his family), and connected with one of my cousin's kids. We got to know each other and we started talking about things we enjoyed doing. David and his wife enjoyed playing pool and going bowling, and I told him I liked to torture people by doing karaoke stone cold sober. I love music and have great rhythm and musicality, but I am all sorts of tone-deaf. We laughed about that for a minute before he asked me if I thought about taking singing lessons. I told him it was pointless-being a smoker had killed whatever singing voice I had as a kid, which was only slightly better than it is now. He kept on, telling me that I might enjoy karaoke even more if I was able to sing better. He thought maybe taking singing lessons and improving would lower my anxiety about performing (I laughed at that because when it comes to music I have very little shame). With a better singing voice and less anxiety, I would enjoy karaoke a whole lot more.

I never did take singing lessons, but I did take his advice. When I started taking my cooking and baking seriously, I did take some classes, some in cooking and some in cake decorating, and not only did my food improve so did my enjoyment of cooking and baking. When my kids moved out, I applied that to astronomy. I joined some web forums to talk with other hobby astronomers and enthusiasts, I watched a LOT of YouTube videos, read some books (though nowadays I'm more into audiobooks while I'm commuting), and joined a local astronomy club. I visited the McDonald Observatory in West Texas for lectures and star parties. I eventually bought my first telescope; at first, it would take me hours to align it, but after talking to other people about the process and searching the internet and a whole lot of practice, I've got that down to about half an hour, sometimes less. Learning about something I enjoyed doing made a big difference and helped me enjoy it a lot more.

So maybe there's no direct correlation between astronomy and baseball and karaoke for anyone else, but because of my love of baseball and karaoke and great people in my life, I made the connection and it made me appreciate what I learned from them. I know that I don't have to know who pitched no-hitters in the history of the MLB to enjoy baseball and I don't have to learn to sing better to enjoy karaoke. I don't have to know everything about the sky to love it, and neither do you. And learning more about it can make it so much more enjoyable.

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