Asimov in my life

In the summer that I turned 16, 1975, my parents decided to go on a second honeymoon, a cruise to Bermuda.  For whatever reason, they also chose to bring me, and my older sister on the trip.  I had a blast, and the hungry teenager that I was, found the round the clock food great.  As long as I joined them on time for dinner and was dressed nice, told them what I had done during the day and what I planned to do the next day, I was completely on my own.  Two days out I was adopted by a group of astronomers who were going to Bermuda by ship.  This was an Astronomy Island cruise.  With them I got to attend lectures given by Isaac Asimov and others.  While at Bermuda, I got to go with them to a private viewing place where there was, I think, a 14”? and a larger 22”? telescope. Either this day was a new moon or within two days of one, so the sky was just stars and planets - WOW!  I spent part of my time on Bermuda searching every bookstore looking for any Isaac Asimov book to be autographed with no success.  The trip home was overcast so no nighttime star gazing.  I did get an autographed from Asimov signed to my brother, whom had introduced me to Sci-Fi and taught me how to care and respect books while letting me read his collection.


In 1977-1978 I was taking Freshmen Chemistry.  The two instructors for the lectures were the co-assistant deans of Chemistry.  I lucked out, every 4 years they would start teaching Freshmen Chemistry, the next year would be 2nd year, and so on training up a solid set of grad students.  I was taking Chemistry for my Science course as I was enrolled in Computer Science.  About 6 weeks into the first quarter the instructor was talking about how reactions can be endothermic/exothermic and a calorimeter is how the reaction is measured.  He then asked the class what were the results of 3 chemical equations and how many kcal are produced.  This was in part to see if anyone had read the day’s assignment as the first two were given in the book.  I did not bother raising my hand for the first two, because I had determined that the instructors believed that anyone who sat in the first 2 rows was self motivated - which first row sitter me was - and would not call on them, unless no one else in the room knew the answer.  When he asked about the third equation HCl + NaOH and waited and then asked “No one?”.  I raised my hand, he nodded at me and I answered NaCl + H2O and -137.4 kcal.  He asked how I knew that.  I answered I had read it.  He said “No you couldn’t have.  It is not in the book because it is the lab exercise.”  [OOPS!]  I replied “Oh, not the course, this book.” and held up Isaac Asimov’s book _Life and Energy_ opened it to page 99 (by this time the reader has probable realized that I am consulting the book as I write this).  He read the section, glanced at the next several pages as I said “Its a great read as it parallels the class really well”.  By this time he was showing a page a bit further on the book to the other instructor, who just shook his head.  The he handed the book backed to me, he said “Its a very good book, please read it a little bit slower”.



In 1988 I got to thank Isaac Asimov for his book _Life and Energy_.  It was at the SciFi gaming convention Evecon.  I was there as a Clam Chowder roadie.  The dealer’s room had almost no books, so I hopped the metro to visit Moonstone Bookceller.  While I there I mention that to the proprietor that Isaac and Janet were at the con.  He handed me two XL shirts with the store’s logo and asked me to give them to the Asimovs.
The local Washington region SF club was planning a Saturday night bid party for DISCON III to be World Con in 1995.  They agreed to also host Isaac's birthday party.  I expected to show up at the party and deliver the shirts, but first there was set up sound for the masquerade.  Just as I was about to head for the party, the Asimovs came in and were seated front and center and several R/e/d/ Orange Shirts were positioned to keep autograph seekers away.  This was such a good opportunity, that I walked off the front of the stage and introduced myself to Janet.  I presented the shirts on Phil’s behalf, and accepted the honor of conveying their thank-you.  Then I returned to the stage to make my exit, stage left in this case.   Out in the hall I sat down to chat with a friend when a minute or so later four Orange Shirts came running down the hallway shouting to each other about how to find “him”.  Then the sort of Security Chief (I can not remember her name) came quickly striding after them.  I asked her what the commotion was about and she explained that Isaac wanted to ‘Thank’ whom ever had just given him a T-shirt.  (OK, I could have told her then, and I did later.)  I asked her how they, the Orange Shirts, were going to find anyone when they were running that fast.  She sighed and said she best go stop them before they hurt themselves by running into walls.  I told my friend I should go and let the party know that the Asimovs were attending the masquerade and lend a hand.  At the party I helped re-arrange the furniture so that the Asimovs would be sitting in very nice chairs with a table in front of them so they could autograph books.  The last re-arranging I did was to help place that table, trapping myself. “How are you going to get out?” the other table carrier asked.  “I can get out by sliding along the window ledge”, that ran the length of the room on the inside.  I then turned and looked out the window, not noticing what was going on in the room, so likewise, the room did not notice me.  Later, my ears told me that the Asimovs had arrived and sat down.  Focusing on the reflection in the window I saw an Orange Shirt on the other side of the table.  Isaac asked the Orange Shirt if “he has been found yet?”  Orange Shirt said no and that they would keep looking.  Taking this as my cue, I turned, coughed and said, “I believe you are looking for me.”  Isaac looked at me and said yes indeed.  He wanted to add his thanks.  Isaac explained that a previous pair of Moonstone Bookceller T-shirts were used by him and Janet as nightshirts and were almost worn out to point of being rags.  And now they had new nightshirts.  By this time there was a line of folks that wanted to get a time slice and an autograph from Isaac.  However, most folks would only say hi to Janet, so she and I started talking.  After a while I mentioned how his _Life and Energy_ book had got me good grades.  She turns to Isaac and said he had to hear my tale.  I repeated the story and Isaac replied “I only wish I had just such a book when I took freshmen chemistry.”  I thanked him for having written it so that I was able to benefit from it.  After a bit more talking with Janet, someone else wanted to talk with her, so I departed by the window ledge.



The other Asimov book I heavily used as a reference was _Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science & Technology_ 2nd ed.  During the summer of 1995 I took an Astrophysics course in part to fulfill requirements, but mostly because it a neat subject.  I had four weeks of three-hour classes five days a week with lots of reading to do the rest of the day.  In the evenings I would sit outside and read Asimov’s book about the people the instructor and reading assignments had mentioned.  The book gave me a view into how the field of Astrophysics is intertwined with other fields.
Of course my SF collection has a few feet of shelves with Asimov’s fiction in addition to the several feet of shelving his non-fiction occupies.