Poor Pluto. One day it was spinning through the galaxy, meandering around the sun at a stately 248.54 Earth years per lap, rotating in the wrong direction as compared to the other planets, minding its own business, and then-Bam! It got downsized, reclassified as a planetelle or planetina or planette, whatever they've decided to call it.
Reminds me of some businesses I know. One day everything's A-OK, to use space parlance. Next thing you know, Pluto is putting all the stuff from its desk into a cardboard box while two security guards stand nearby, and the other planets go off to a corner to whisper fearfully about who could be next. The only thing missing was the memo on the corporate e-mail:
To: The Solar System
Today we announce a profound reimagining of our collection of planets, a reorganization aimed at creating a leaner, more efficient and more productive Solar System-one that will be perfectly positioned to attract and serve the needs of astronomers and stargazers in the allimportant 18-to-34-year-old Science Dweeb demographic, which in turn should result in enhanced financial performance for our shareholders and, of course, whopping bonuses for the senior executive committee.
This exciting new chapter in our history comes as the result of much hard work by our market research department, which is second to none at coming up with conclusions out of thin air, then creating focus groups to reinforce them.
Unfortunately, after no planets took up the buyout offer of one orbit for each year since discovery (Earth not included), with six months of medical insurance, plus a party with cake and ice cream, we were forced to make some tough decisions concerning reallocation of resources and shifting of responsibilities.
Toward that end, Pluto has been relieved of planetary status. Although it will remain with the System, it will be shifted into a new category we are calling Not A Planet Anymore.
Responsibility for being The Planet Way Out There On The Fringes Of The System has been reassigned to Neptune, which will be assisted if necessary by the planet formerly known as Uranus, which we have rechristened Stop Snickering, with the nickname of Lloyd.
Also, the Dinkiest Planet In The Bunch chores will now be assumed once again by Mercury. Mercury, you'll recall, did an excellent job with this before Pluto was discovered 70 years ago, and we anticipate no problems in its picking up right where it left off. Incidentally, there is no truth to the irresponsible "news" reports saying Mercury and Venus were to be combined into one larger planet known as Merven. At this point, that is nothing more than an idea.
We have decided to leave the gas giants as they are for the present, although we must keep open the option of size reductions for both Jupiter and Saturn if the expected financial benefits of jettisoning Pluto manifest themselves more slowly than anticipated. In a similar vein, Mars will be monitored closely to ensure that it does not duplicate services provided elsewhere, such as conditions suitable for life.
All remaining planets (Earth) will remain unaffected.
This new Solar System will be rolled out with an ad campaign beginning immediately called "We're Easier To Remember." Market research tells us the mnemonic device, "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas," had outlived its usefulness as a way to remember the names of the planets, seeing as how nobody could remember the mnemonic device, either. "Duh," as today's teens and outer space hepcats like to say.
Therefore, we'll soon be all over the Internet and television with a brand new mnemonic: "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles (With Asteroids, Comets and Certain Trans-Neptunian Objects)." We think it's a winner. Focus groups tell us the younger folks will really "dig" it.
Of course, some of you will wonder why we couldn't stay with the status quo. The answer is simple, and the same as when we outsourced Customer Service to the system around Pulsar PSR1257+12: The Solar System of the past simply won't perform at the necessary levels in today's competitive galaxy. We must always be on the lookout for ways to do what we do faster and cheaper without sacrificing quality. Well, faster and cheaper, anyway.
Please join us in wishing one another well as you all do everything you can to make this the best Solar System in the Solar System. Now get back to work.
Mike Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly.You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.