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The Last Days on Mars (2013) - A brief movie review

This movie moved at a brisk pace. I might watch it again on TV someday. I may not. But it did lead me to put together some thoughts on how a future Mars research outpost may look like in terms of human personnel and equipment. So here is the list:
Mars Research Outpost 1

Individual Service Term Length: 1 year
Maximum Individual Service Terms: unlimited, non-consecutive years, subject to career performance approval & annual medical certification.

Total Human Personnel: 105

TeamTeam TotalCommentResearch32 Including astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, geologists, meteorologists and interns; also 8 science equipment maintenance technicians. Medical12Including 3 physicians, 3 nurses, 3 first responders, 1 psychiatrist; also 2 medical equipment technicians. Security20 Military police personnel including heli-rover crew, in-house medical team & mechanics. Facility Maintenance16 Including fuel station operators, machinists, plumbers, riggers, electricians, HVAC technicians, computer guys a…

Three brief book reviews

I read these books during a particularly difficult time in my life early this year. And they have left an impact on me.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

A woman giving birth by herself in the bandit-ridden, medieval forests of England. The building of a huge cathedral with not so modern technologies. The long search of her lover through Europe by a young woman carrying her newborn and on foot most of the time. A builder who walks around England with his impoverished family looking for work. The gang rape of a princess. There is love, hate, jealousy, bullying and pillage. There is betrayal...over and over again. I have heard of Ken Follett's bestseller but never bothered picking it up. With a new found convenience of the Kindle app on my iPad, I had this book in front of me after just a single click. I couldn't put it down. Amidst my everyday duties, I finished reading it over a period of two weeks. Over the past years, I have read some really droll novels. Now my standards …

How to get bigger forearms

I woke up to a Saturday morning that was in stark contrast to last Saturday morning. I couldn't find that sparrow from last week either. So I settled for breakfast at Ferrara's, where I noticed more than a few patrons glancing at my forearms. A train of complex thought led to this quick post (it would have been a slower post with my old keyboard).

It is not a forearm training article. There's plenty of those online. This is just solid, generic weight training advice for the fellow who is just getting (back) into training. And don't forget to inspect the graphic at the end of this post.

The lifting program

Objective: Improve cardiovascular capacity, posture, burn chow better, increase or introduce mobility, stimulate the lymph system, put a healthy sheen on your skin and strengthen the whole body. We are going to accomplish all that by starting off with one really tough exercise and then doing a handful of relatively easier ones. Let's not worry about nutrition at th…

To the little girl who broke my heart

What a beautiful Saturday morning! It was around 9.50 AM and I was sitting by the greenway just across from Salem street as usual with my latte and chocolate croissant from the Boston Bean coffee company. I would have to go back to my place in 30 minutes to pick up my laundry...and then think of something else to do for the day. Little did I know that a change will happen in my life in about an hour. I engaged a sparrow for about 10 minutes during which time the little fella consumed a good chunk of my croissant.

A little less than an hour later, I was sauntering along the harborwalk toward the waterfront. I got to the dog park and the area was packed as everyone was out under the sun. What other "birds" were in store for me this day! By the dog park, a rather slim young woman almost slammed into me.
Hmm, must be European. Too young for me though.
"Excuse me", I said and started to walk past her.
A tiny voice spoke in my ear.

"Excuse me", I turned and loo…

Luna

Yes, I am most certainly interested, my dear sir.
Aloof...as only a high quality female can be.
Spying on me again, is he? What's up with this guy?*
*I took this shot by pointing the camera into an empty paper towel cardboard tube.


A brief food review

An unseasonably cold day in April. Perfectly normal in New England, of course. After a business trip earlier in the day to bereft Lowell, I came back to town with a sudden hankering for sushi and a stiff drink. So I went out to Billy Tse across the waterfront.

Spicy tuna maki
Ginger martini
Kung pao chicken with a side order of white rice.
It would have been nice to taste a bit more ginger in the martini. The kung pao chicken was perfect. It wasn't greasy and there was just the right amount of sauce in it to mix with the white rice. And the rice was "sticky" enough for my chopsticks. I wolfed down the sushi before I even laid eyes on it.

Nothing ground breaking here. I was hungry, the food delicious and it got its just desserts!


My 250th post

My lips are quivering, my heart beating fast and my fingers unnaturally tense as I write this. I finally deactivated my Facebook account. It feels sooo good. I never understood why I even got on there in the first place. Sure, it's a great tool to help keep in touch with friends. But most of my friends are hooked up and largely unavailable. And I don't make new friends easily. The couple of friends that are still around are neither ambitious nor energetic. Nothing wrong with that, of course. They are good people but their priorities are not aligning at all with my own increasingly restless nature. I will be there if they need me but its high time I went incognito.

Snow shoeing, flight training and hiking are those activities that I have been enjoying with some regularity in the past couple of years. The lifting will continue. But I have enjoyed them all alone. No one cares or need to care about my thoughts on the way a particular tree leans on a trail, a particular pond looks …

Four brief product reviews

In the last couple of years, I have refrained from buying anything unless I really needed it. I noticed a lot of my friends had developed this habit much earlier on in their lives. Well, it took me a bit longer. Anyway, I brought four products in December 2012 because I needed them and here are their reviews.

Sennheiser RS120


Wireless speakers are not exactly news. But with 2013 the year of the "clutter free", the regular speakers that I had connected to my laptop were displaced by these Sennheiser speakers. It didn't exactly make it clutter free as I still had to connect the base unit to the laptop and, of course, the power plug to the surge protector. But the wireless headset is simply amazing. Previously if I watched a movie later in the evening, I would have to keep the sound really low. And occasionally put up with the couple upstairs having "fun". Not anymore. Plus I can now listen to music while moving about the place. The reception is clear even in the …

How I learnt to swim

Coming next Friday: The anatomy of a chase.

The Indian Experience

This background is necessary since, unlike here in the US where kids grow up swimming and take being in the water for granted, it wasn't exactly a sporting culture that I grew up in. If you have always had a fear of water, you should read this background.

The only bodies of water I saw during my childhood in Madurai, India were local waterholes that were more ponds than lakes and completely covered by green algae. Only buffaloes and little kids, there to watch over the buffaloes, with no thought for hygiene could be found cooling off in them. And there were always flies and mosquitoes buzzing about when it wasn't too hot. Us middle class kids stayed away. Sure, there were puddles of water and temporary little streams -- is there a fully working drainage system in India? -- by the roadside left behind by one of those tropical thunderstorms that came out of nowhere but I couldn't learn to swim in them. You woul…

Big winter storm of 2012/2013

In New England, people get nervous. When a big storm is predicted, everybody rushes to the nearest shopping place to stock up on supplies. I suspect this may be the case elsewhere in the world as well. Having neither kith nor kin to worry about, I take more of a hunter's approach without the gatherer part. The big winter storm began on a Friday afternoon and blew itself over later in the day the following day. So the first thing I did late Friday afternoon was amble down to the Waterfront cafe for my usual:

Steak tips medium rare.
My street just after the storm ended Saturday afternoon. My last meal was almost 24 hours ago at this point. I had slept and read for the most part. I was ravenous. Maybe I will stock up next time.

The snow was so deep that a few minutes of trudging had my calves pumped. It's tricky trying to figure out the best places to cross a street. As you are crossing, a vehicle may be sliding down the already narrow streets of the North End and you have to make …

Anatomy of a scene

This is a version of events that ended in a three day camping/hiking trip outside Yuma in the Kofa national wildlife refuge area a few years ago in October. The starry skies I eventually gazed at for hours at night were...well..out of this world.
Technically, I was stuck in a ravine. The engine had overheated and I found myself pulled over, a rare occurrence that must be in an age of liquid cooling. But it was a rental and this was the southwest. In a way, I was happy for the break. I got out of the car and stretched. Something creaked. I figured I was getting old. I took a deep breath of the tepid desert air and squinted up at the sky. The sun looked like it was painfully making its way through another day. I stood still and cocked an ear. The silence of the desert was deafening. Everything was ancient around here. Brrr.

Not my photo.
It was an unremarkable road, the one I was stranded on. I hadn't seen traffic in a good hour. Dark grayish, the road stretched bare before disappear…

Four brief movie reviews

Since I happen to have quite a bit of time on my hands these days, I have gotten back to an old habit of going to the movies. Matinees mostly.

Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood's movies are always absorbing and this one isn't any different. I thought that the father-daughter relationship story line might prove to be a bit on the heavy side. There are a couple of heavy moments but the overall tone of the movie is light and breezy. Both Eastwood and Amy Adams are experienced actors and these roles do not stretch their talent. The baseball recruiting process stays on the sidelines. There is an obligatory love interest for the daughter which does not detract from the father-daughter relationship either. The rest of the casting is solid if unremarkable. I don't remember the background music. Remember what happens every time A League of their Own or The Sandlot is shown on cable? You usually watch it. Trouble with the Curve looks to be one of those movies.

Premium Rush

The ex…