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.