Monday, November 28, 2022

The Stranger in the Lifeboat

 Another book another blog about my thoughts.

I have never read any book by Mitch Albom. He has been quite popular from his Tuesday with Morrie book but I never got into it. Now I decided to pick up his latest book. I will admit, it was an intriguing read. It kept me engaged throughout the book. It was written in three story lines - the lifeboat, a future in which the lifeboat has been found and a reporter's accounting of what is happening when the lifeboat has been found.

The book is about 10 people stuck in a lifeboat when a man boards the lifeboat and claims that he is God. The book is written from the perspective of one man, Benji, who is writing the stories of the survivors of a boat explosion. The lifeboat is stranded in the middle of the ocean. God has said he would save them all, but they ALL need to believe in him. Well, that does not happen, so the survivors are dying one by one. 

In the future, a man comes to a police officer and shows him the lifeboat that has floated to the island. There is the journal found in the lifeboat which the police officer does not tell anyone about. It is the journal of the Benji that he is writing about his day to day survival to his wife and about the impending doom/death. 

There is a little girl also in the boat who never speaks. One of the survivors takes a knife and kills the man who is calling himself God - so that means he was not God. The little girl says she is God when only she and Benji are left. The thing about Benji's story is that he first thinks his cousin caused the explosion and then later realizes that he may have been the one to cause the explosion. The girl/God makes him realize that he did not in fact cause the explosion and he actually jumped off the yacht to commit suicide. He was really depressed and decided to end his life, but he did eventually got saved by God. It was actually Benji who showed the police office the lifeboat.

Now Benji lives to make life good for people, he helps them get through tough times. 

I feel sometimes that just like any other thing in our life, books also come in our lives at particular times. Another book I just read was "Many Masters Many Lives" by Brian Weiss. It was about how Weiss, a therapist, cured his patient through hypnosis. But the main part of the hypnosis was that the patient went into her past lives during that time. During hypnosis she recalled more than 80 past lives. My friend had told me to read this book 15 years ago, but I read it only now. Similarly the Albom book, I just decided to pick it up. Both books are about spirituality, believing in God and doing good.

I don't have many spirituality issues, and am usually quite happy. Lately though I have been wondering if there is something that is bothering me. Maybe that is why these books are coming into my life.

Sunday, October 2, 2022


Two book reviews back to back...but one year later. Does not mean I have not read any books! I just felt like writing about this one. 

Breathless by Amy McCulloch is her first adult fiction about murders on Mount Manaslu. She is the youngest Canadian (Chinese-White) woman to climb that mountain in 2019. It is a feat as it is about 8163 m (26781 ft) high. It is quite something! She had a few mountain climbing before but this was her first eight thousander, as mountain climbers call more than 8000 m high mountains.

The book itself was a great read, it kept me engaged throughout the journey of Cecily Wong, the protagonist. In fact just as Cecily was pushing herself to finish the summit, I was eager to find out what happens at the end of the story. The book makes you feel like you are part of the journey with Cecily. Of course it helps that Amy herself has climbed the mountain, so anything she writes is going to be from personal experience, except the murders, of course! 

The story is about Cecily, a journalist, invited by a charismatic climber, Charles McVeigh, who is scaling the last of the eight thousanders without the use of ropes etc. that are used for other climbers. So alpine climbing - that is what they call when you do climbing without any commercial help. Cecily will be writing his story on return from the summit. She is joined by three other team members, an influencer, a film maker and a Tech entrepreneur, the sponsor of this trip. No one knows anyone before. And then the murders start occurring.

She takes us through the base camp and all other camps in very detailed manner. I was right there climbing with her (from the comfort of my home!). I enjoyed all the details of the trekking, the gear, the food, the Sherpas, the tents and just the living in the base camp at such high altitudes. The mystery is also good. It just shows that you never really know anyone and what their ulterior motives are. And also that everyone was practically a stranger at the start of the trek, but you have to depend on your team mates throughout the journey.

The mountains seem isolated enough, yet just crowded enough to make them seem like a tourist spot, as there are so many people on the trail. Ever since reading this book, I have been exploring on the internet for pictures and found many. One blog I read was of Jackson, an Australian climber. He has amazing pictures if you want to see. 

I know I will never be doing this trek. I have done two mountain treks only - Wayna Picchu (next to Macchu Picchu, 2667 m) and Mount Sinai (where Moses received the ten commandments from God, 2285 m). And that was sufficient! 

The only other mountain trek book I read was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. That was a bit confusing, but still good. The movie was more enjoyable. I will recommend Breathless to anyone who likes adventures and thrillers! 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Madhouse at the end of the Earth

 "Madhouse at the end of the Earth", by Julian Sancton. I just finished reading this book. I have not enjoyed reading a book so much for such a long time. 

This book is based on the journey of Belgians and other countrymen (Polish, Danish etc.) to Antarctica in 1898 to reach the South Pole. The journey starts from Belgium goes to Argentina to go to the Antarctica. All the time I was reading the book, I was completely immersed in the journey. It was written so well that I felt I was there with the adventurous sailors. So well written.

There were all kinds of people on the ship, the captain - Lecointe, commander de Gerlache, second in command, first mate - Armundsen, scientists and of course the ship engineers. The one addition they did not do a good job of recruiting was a cook. All the time I felt that they could have used better food! One person he could not recruit in Belgium or Europe was a ship doctor. This is where the one and only American, Cook, came in. I think he really saved the Belgica - the ship and its crew. If he had not been on board, then all would have died of scurvy. If not scurvy, then they would not have been able to saw out of the ice. 

The book was all engrossing and so interesting despite the fact that the ship was stuck in Antarctica for a year - all of winter. There may not have been much going on but the way Sancton wrote the book made it all so good. I felt I was there with the crew, walking on the ice, singing with them, feeling cold as they were freezing. 

There was so much science happening on the ship, biology, physics, astronomy, geography, medical science and of course anthropology (from the doctor). Some of the crew members were always into learning and making the most of each moment they had. I found that really inspiring. Except for the crew who abandoned ship in the beginning, all the crew seemed really dedicated to the ship and the commandant. Despite all that was going on, there was no mutiny or major fights. It seemed they really all were a team. 

I would recommend the book to everyone. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Covid Continues

It has been just about a year of Covid now. I would still like to call it the Wuhan virus since it originated from there. 

Life is becoming a routine at home. I am actually liking it. Is that weird? I must be an introvert! 

Work - This is possibly the thing that I miss most - that is seeing my students in a class. Zoom is just not the same. The class participation is abysmal and so is the attention span. The interaction is not smooth and not being able to see them is the biggest drawback for me. Also - I am a little bit of a performer, I need an audience to tell my jokes and show my chemistry demos. I feel a chemistry class is incomplete without demos. I am really missing those! And regardless of whether the students will remember the demos in the future or not, they are missing the fun part (they don't know it).

I have been going to teach the labs since Sept of 2020, which is really helpful for me and the students. All of us get to come out of our shells and be with people again. And it has been very successful.

What I am totally not missing about my work, is the office hours. That was 90% of just sitting in my office for nothing. Students rarely show up for anything. No faculty ever came by to socialize so it was like imprisonment for me. I can do grading and course prep at work, but it is so much easier at home. I am more productive with my time at home.

Personally - My personal life has improved a lot. I am more relaxed, I have been walking 2.5 mi daily and now 5 mi daily. I get up at 6:30 am to go for my walk so it does not get too hot. Don't know how my evening walk will work out once summer is here. My eating is a hit and miss. The one thing I have followed diligently since Aug 2020 is intermittent fasting. I am surprised that I don't much hungry at night. I do eat a bit of junk food - but that is normal for me. I would say overall my calorie intake has gone down by about 300 Cal.

Ever since I got the hedge cut off at my front entrance I have gone a little cookoo about gardening. I am really enjoying planting different kinds of plants. I feel this is the time for me to do this. After this semester goes, I don't know when I will at home like this. This is so relaxing. I have become a little thief of plants, I buy cheap plants and I ask for plants from whomever is willing to give me some. I have cleared out more area for gardening on the southern side of my house. It gets a lot of sun, so hopefully I can grow plants well there. 

I have been able to hang out with a few of my friends, we go out to eat and talk about work and other things. My social life was not that much to begin with, so this is quite okay for me. 

I have not been able to binge watch too many shows as other people do, I don't know why! Maybe I don't have the patience to that long or I cannot find anything that interesting. But I have kept myself entertained with movies and the current shows I watch. That is sufficient.

And then I have to also convert my Blackboard class to Canvas and write questions for the chemistry app. All that is also moving along slowly but steadily.

I think it will be tough for us to come back to work full time once all is normal.

Speaking of normal - the Vaccine! Z great vaccine is out and there but the people who are working and actually need it are not getting it. Only 65 and above age group is getting it. They are getting ready to party! While we, the workers, are still waiting. USA is weird! They should have prioritized teachers and grocery and restaurant workers after the health care workers and then given to the senior citizens. And there is no vaccine for children yet so we are not entirely out of the woods yet. 

The main thing I miss I think of being normal is psychological normalcy - when I can go out without a mask and without feeling that I will get sick if I don't do this or that; when I feel comfortable enough to eat in a restaurant; when I can feel comfortable in a classroom full of students. I think that may come only after vaccinations and maybe another year of seeing low or no cases. I am waiting for that time to come.....

Monday, February 22, 2021


I really miss collegiality. I have had an active social life all my life starting from high school. BS and MS were amazing experiences with my friends and then came PhD. That was possibly one of the best times I had of my life. There was so much learning and so much fun. It was incredible time of my life when I was 21 years old. My PhD friends are still my close friends.

The two postdocs were okay. I did not know what to expect, but in both cases I was able to have great friends with some semblance of a social life.

Then came my first job at Park University. That was my "growing up" time of my life. There was constant learning of new things and that included chemistry also. But what was really good was my colleagues. It was a small university and I had a group of faculty, all of us of the same age group, and we would hang out all the time. People came and people left, but I was able to maintain a good level of social life. In my 11 years I had done so much there and made so many friends in so many walks of life. 

Most of my colleagues were quite supportive, except for one, because of whom I had to leave. Except for that one, I could walk into anyone of my colleague's office and they into mine and we could talk about anything. I did not need an appointment or worry they would be rushing anywhere. Our teaching load was 12 cr hours so most faculty were in their offices, working. I could go to anyone, talk to anyone for however long time and about anything. It was awesome. Our brown bag lunches, seminars, workshops, all helped us learn from each other, get to know each other - and the rest was up to us. There were many social events to get us together. It really was quite a family feeling. 

I still had some really good friends at Park. I feel that I really enjoyed my time there and learned A LOT from my colleagues.

Then came Shenandoah University. I think I have some really bad luck with having at least one colleague who is my absolute nemesis, and not because I said anything, but because of their own insecurities. In my two years there I made some really good friends - they are almost all lost now because it was a very short friendship, but I am still in touch with a few.

My college PBSC has been the least collegiate of all the places I have ever been. Faculty and staff work here like a factory worker, they come in, do their work and go home to their families. If they hang out, they do it with their family. No friends allowed. I have been here 11 years and I still cannot say I have a good friend/colleague here that I can trust or hang out with. Whatever conversations I have had with my colleagues has been because I initiated them. No one is interested in me.

The administration has encouraged this kind of lack of social contact among faculty. So we all work in isolation, we cannot learn from each other (if I have, I have to make an effort - it is not natural conversation), and we definitely don't socialize. Everyone here is out for themselves. They don't think of the collective, they are vicious, competitive and will stab me in the back the first chance they have. It is a tough place to work. 

I love living in Florida and I am also getting too old to move anywhere. So regardless of whether this place supports collegiality or not, I am stuck here. I just keep my head down and teach my classes and come home. I have made some friends outside of work but collegiality is something else for a career.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Trump Impeachment - 2

 The previous president of USA has been impeached a second time for inciting violence on 6 Jan. I watched almost all of the event that occurred on 6 Jan - it was a horrendous attack on the capitol building. It was hard to watch and I cannot even imagine how it must have been for the people inside. Some important personalities like VP and speaker of the house are protected, but the staff? They will also suffer the PTSD of this event. 

Here is the video that the impeachment managers put together and presented to the senate. It is powerful and has video that has been obtained from security and personal videos.

What is sickening is that the senate will exonerate him. No one needs to see the video above to convict him. Just the event on 6th Jan was enough. But this GQP senators (grand Qanon Party) are traitors and should not be sitting in that building. Anyone who can let anyone maraud their house like this and not hold the perpetrator accountable does not deserve to be there. 

I think these GQP senators don't want to hold anyone accountable because they want this kind of thing to happen again and they like the violence. That is the only answer possible. It has been so whacky to see the impeachment managers defending VP Pence, when he himself has not spoken up about this. And none of his party members are supporting him. Pence's own boss sent the mob to kill him, and the party is okay with that? This is all so messed up! What is wrong with the GQP??? How does one not have nightmares after such an incident? The video of Pence being shoved away by the secret service was really impactful for me. This kind of shoving has never been done anywhere else to any other VIP because it has never been this unsafe. But it was unsafe in the US Capitol building? Caused by USA's own president? 

I know that elections can take care of some this people but what if they don't? What if their constituents like this kind of violence and power grab? How did McConnel and Graham get reelected at all in the first place? I am sure there is some rigged election there. 

The GQP is as responsible as Trump for the mob attack on the 6th Jan because they also did not acknowledge the Biden victory. Trump could not have done it by himself. The entire GQP has been supporting him since the beginning. What I have not been able to understand is why? I understand about the power thing and all...but the man has no character or morals. He is a narcissistic sociopath. Anyone willing to kill his own very loyal VP is dead in my books. But this GQP is still by his side. How can they be willing to compromise so much for his voter base? If they tell the truth, the base will understand and move on. Trump will not live forever - but the party will....or maybe now it is time for the party to die. 

I am so mad and so disappointed in this whole process that I don't even know how to deal with my emotions. It has been frustrating to watch all this and feel normal about this country anymore. We seem to be spiraling down into some hellhole of our own making. These White people will forever be grieved and because of them we will all have to keep on suffering. I am not saying all White people are like this, I am talking about the ones who support Trump.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Last Days of Trump Reality Show

People have always thought that Trump was the president and should be treated like one. In reality he was always just Trump with all the perks of the presidency with none of the responsibilities. He never cared about anyone but himself throughout his four years and its ending on that note as well.

People voted him in to bring about change - and they got change. One of the things that republicans always want to do when they get into the government is to break it. Why? And then they want to keep getting elected again and again so they can stay in the broken government. They are completely demented. And obviously they don't have need to help the people who elected them because they are in it to break the system.  And their electorate is so stupid they keep electing them again and again - masochists. Or actually their leaders are so good in convincing them that the "other side" is preventing them from doing anything - when reality is something else.

Trump was the chief of all. He is the ultimate con man. He has been perfecting it all his life. All he can do is bully, grieve, be a victim and not take responsibility for anything. All he wanted was personal benefit from the presidency. He only knows how to do transactions in money so all his dealings were purely bank oriented and the more for him the better. He completely took advantage of doing business at his properties where ever he could. It was all about him and his family. His daughter and son in law are as big of grifters as he is and his two older sons are equally selfish.

I don't know why reporters were always respectable to him - he wanted to use them or they were the enemy. Reporters should have treated him like the reality star he was and held him to that standard. He was never the president that everyone wanted to think he was. He had no respect for the office, for his cabinet, for his colleagues or even his voters. He is a person of no character and no morals and never will be. All throughout the pandemic he had super spreader events making his own supporters sick. How can such a person be taken seriously?

The presidency meant nothing to him except power to do whatever he wanted, punish whoever he wanted, fire anyone and of course make money....not to forget enjoy golfing on his own clubs. Again, no character.

Despite all this everyone is talking as if his words have any meaning. They don't. He is not ruining democracy by not acknowledging the results. He sounds like a deranged old geyser and a sore loser. I know he has that position of presidency but until now he has never done anything to be deserving of that job so why now? Our democratic systems are working just fine - voting was fine, counting was fine, people stood by the results ethically. 

What is really not working is the republican party - the congress - they are the ones who are the true enemies of the people and looking to end democracy. They are the ones providing oxygen and water to Trump. What people are not able to see is that the republicans are the ones who are doing the most damage. All of them should be held accountable - but the will not, because they are lucky, their constituents are stupid and ignorant. 

Sadly, we are going to be stuck in this rut until people start becoming more educated and understand what is happening in their own lives - who is for them and who is against their interests. But again, sadly their interests are so narrow and short term that they cannot see far enough for what is good for everyone. When you cannot see a human being as a human, everything is lost.