STEM Tuesday’s New Year’s Celebration — Part One

Part One: A Great Conjunction

Last year, I volunteered to do the STEM Tuesday New Year’s Eve post. It was full of shiny optimism with a hopeful eye to what was going to be a fantastic year in 2020. I was wrong. For this year’s post, I knew I had to do something different or else risk being exiled from the wonderful STEM Tuesday team. In an act of desperate redemption, I had to bring in an expert. With the upcoming Chinese New Year ringing in the Year of the Ox, I felt it appropriate to head to the ranch and consult with the expert bovine, Dr. Bull Loney. 

“Hello, Dr. Bull Loney. Did you enjoy the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn last week?”

“Oh, it’s you. Yes, I found tracking the planets over the past few months absolutely fascinating and it’s been a fantastic show. The views we get here at the ranch are absolutely spectacular. Amateur astronomy is right up my alley.”


“Excellent. I bet you’re wondering why I’m here.”

The tail swished back and forth while he pondered my last statement. “Not really,” he said.

“Well, I need help.”

“Everyone knows that, Hays.”

“You’re not as funny as you think, Bull Loney.”

“That’s Dr. Bull Loney to you,” the bull replied. “Anyway, my fellow bovine appreciate my humor and wit.”

I didn’t want to head down the path of Dr. Bull Loney’s humor and wit so I got straight to the point of my visit. “I’m writing the STEM Tuesday New Year’s Post and need your help.”

“Ha! Why did they let you do the STEM Tuesday New Year’s Post again this year?”

“Quality, I guess?”

“Bahaha. Now, that’s complete humbug!“ The bull turned and sauntered off toward the feeder.

I followed. “Please help me?

“My guess is everyone else is on vacation and the STEM Tuesday Team found themselves, once again, in desperate straits.”

“Whatever. Can we just get to my idea? I was thinking about a STEM Tuesday Word of the Year to look back on 2020 and another word to look forward to 2021.” 

”You mean like last year’s ‘Optimism’? If a bull can laugh, I swear Dr. Bull Loney belly laughed. Thank goodness he’s a bull or else there might be milk-through-the-nose laughter happening.

“Are you going to help me or not?” I said, running out of patience.

“Let me defer to you, Nostradamus. Show me what you got so far.”

I walked away from the giggling bovine and faced the open pasture.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the 2020 STEM Tuesday Theme of the Year is—.” I froze in my tracks.  “Ugh! I stepped in cow$%@#!”

The laughter stopped.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Back it up a minute. What’s wrong with cow$%$@#, anyway? It’s a necessary part of being a bovine. And can you refer to it as cow poo? We do have certain standards at From the Mixed-Up Files…Of Middle-Grade Authors.” 

“Well, right now, cow poo is all over my boot.”

The bull looked at the bottom of my boot and turned away to hide its joy. “Ah, there’s 2020 in a nutshell.”

“What are you talking about?” 

“You stepped in cow poo. That’s about as 2020 as you can get.”

“I did not just step in cow poo on purpose. It was an accident. In fact, it’s probably your fault anyway.” I said standing on one foot trying to decide how to proceed.

“My fault?”

“Yes. You appear to be the only cow around right now.”



“Bovine or Bos taurus will work also.”

“Whatever! The fact remains you are the only bovine in the barnyard so it has to be your, um…deposit that I stepped in.”

“That is so very 2020.”

“Can we stop with the 2020 bit and get back to the STEM Tuesday Theme of the Year?”

“I just did.”


“I think cow poo is the perfect STEM word for 2020.”

“That is not an appropriate word to use.”

“It’s perfect.”

“It’s disgusting.”

“It’s perfect.”


“Listen for just one minute, okay? Why did you step in it?”

“I wasn’t paying attention?”

“See? The perfect 2020 word.”

“And you neglected to warn me it was in my path so it’s your fault.”

Silence. I tried to avoid the death glare of a 2000 lb. bull by focusing on my soiled boot.

“My fault! You’re the one who wasn’t paying attention to the data staring you in the face, or, in this case, under your foot. You are the person who stepped right in it.”

“That’s ridiculous! Complete cow$!@#.”


I thought for a moment. As much as I hate to admit it, Loney actually made sense. I wasn’t paying attention to the data in front of me. To make matters worse, instead of accepting my mistake and accepting responsibility, I threw the blame everywhere except where it belonged…back on me.

“You win. Cow poo is a good representation of 2020. You can make the official announcement.”

Dr. Bull Loney’s tail swished in delight. He pawed the ground and snorted just to prove his superiority. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your efforts during this unforgettable year of 2020. I dedicate this Year of Cow Poo to all who trudge through these tough and difficult times. We wish you the best and can’t wait to see what you’ve created this past year and what lies ahead for each of you in the middle-grade universe.”

Loney walked over to me with the look of great accomplishment in those large, round black eyes. “How was that, Hays? An improvement over last year?”

I patted his flank. “You did well, Bull Loney.”


“I know. I know. It’s Dr. Bull Loney.”

“Thank you, Hays.”

We walked to the barn side by side. 

As I slid the barn door open, the bull said, “Come to think of it, cow poo is also the perfect word for 2021.”

“I’m not buying it,” I said.

“Let’s get that boot cleaned up and tomorrow I’ll tell you why #CowPoo2021 deserves to be our theme for the New Year.”

To Be Continued Tomorrow...

Anya Adora [CC BY 4.0 (]

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

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Mike Hays
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports related topics at and writer stuff at He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.