Thursday, Apr. 28, 2005, 12:35 AM

My name is sunshine



The wonderful spring weather has me thinking about the sun lately. Actually, it is a combination of the wonderful spring weather and the fact that my fiancÚ is not sure that she likes the combination of her first name and my last name. The concept of changing my (our collective) last name to something else was eventually broached. I suggested something like "Fortune" or "Wonder" or something equally awe inspiring until I realized that my first name then seemed woefully inadequate. Of course, "Johnny Fortune" or "Boy Wonder" might work. Well, maybe not "Boy Wonder." In any case I will be changing my middle name to either "Danger" or "Trouble."

(As a brief aside I would like to tell you that a few years back in the heyday of the DotCom boom my company was actually courted by a venture capitalist by the name of Johnny Fortune. I am serious. How could you not accept money from a man called Johnny Fortune?)

And in all of the name changing possibilities and permutations that filled my mind on the roughly hour-long drive to work in the morning, I was brought back to considering the time that Homer Simpson (truly one of the great sages of our time) chose to change his name. He wandered down to the courthouse, plunked down the fee and announced that he wished to change his name. The clerk asked what his new name should be. She suggested something that he wouldn't easily forget. So his mind wandered to the activities of his job, sitting at the nuclear power plant watching the various dials in his office, and settled on the two words marked in red at the far right-hand side of each dial, "Max Power." And so Homer Simpson became Max Power. Max Power the corporate ladder climber. Max Power the socialite. Max Power the ladies man. Max Power the successful and suave. And it just goes to prove that the right name will get you far in life. Whereas a mistake by your parents will forever land you in a quagmire of ridicule and despair.

(Another brief side-note. My family has some friends at work with the last name of "Ng" pronounced like "ing," who were expecting a little girl and were soliciting names via email and billboard at work. After a few minutes consideration I decided that her first name should be "Carol." I am happy to say that her parents wisely chose something else)

"But Gregory, what does this have to do with your pontifications on the sun?" you might ask. Well, on this particular morning I was thinking of new monikers and cursing aloud the concept of daylight savings time. You see, my drive to work is Easterly and my drive home is Westerly. For several months in late Winter the morning sun shines low on the horizon, just lower than my visor when pulled down. Just about the time of year that the sun has crept high enough in the mornings to finally be obscured by my visor this patently evil construct called daylight savings time kicks in and I am forced to leave one hour earlier, which simulates the sun's position for the previous month, which is to say, blinding me on the way to work.

This particular morning I was cursing the sun and thinking about the name "Max Power" and the two blended into one concept. And then I started thinking. If the sun had a name, Max Power would certainly fit the bill. Why? Almost all living Earthly things owe their existence to the sun on one way or another.

First, if the sun were not constantly going about its moment to moment process of consuming itself in its own particular violent and fiery way then the Earth would not be bombarded with radiation that warms it's surface sufficiently enough to cause gyres in the oceans and convection currents in the atmosphere and heat the rocks that lizards climb upon in the morning to heat their otherwise tepid blood.

Second, the particular radiation emitted by the sun is absorbed by all manner of organisms and used as fuel. All of the plants and algae and various other flotsams and scums residing on the planet's surface process the sun's rays into food. And then of course these organisms are chewed upon and slurped up by slightly larger creatures. And in turn these slightly larger creatures are pounced upon and eaten by even larger creatures, and then these are taken down by packs of other creatures. And in some cases these animals are domesticated and raised and slaughtered to provide food to us.

So that means that whether we eat the plants, or the animals that eat the plants, we are consuming little bits of the sun. Feeding off of the sun. Growing from the fusion of Hydrogen into Helium 93 million miles away. All of us. Every one.

You are my sunshine my only sunshine.