Life On Mars

It’s been 40 days and 40 nights since New Year’s– when we finally kicked 2020 to the curb.  And even though every person on this planet shouted “Goodbye and good riddance!” (I know I did) we’ve largely forgotten about it.  The hats have been thrown away, the champagne bottles recycled, and the resolutions … well … the resolutions really didn’t stand a chance this year, did they?  But not to worry.  You can renew those resolutions with a clean slate and a fresh start all this week– because last Sunday was also New Year’s Day – on Mars.

I’ll grant you, unless you’re a NASA scientist, it’s not something you think about, but now that you are, it definitely makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, Mars has a different rotation from Earth and a different orbit around the sun, so our time – 24 hours/365 days – just doesn’t apply.  Actually, the Martian day, called a sol (pronunciation still in doubt) is 24 hours, 39 minutes long.  (That 43-minute difference is just enough to screw things up.)  And it takes Mars 687 days to get all the way around the sun – a Martian year.  So, since Mars has four seasons (just like us) a quick pen and paper calculation and you have 12 months (BTW, you can name them anything you want; nobody’s done that yet!) and there’s your Martian calendar.

Of course, none of this really mattered before we started sending our machines to Mars to have a look around.  But the minute we did, we discovered we needed a way to keep track of them: Earth time just wasn’t going to do it.  For example, right now in the Pacific Time Zone, it’s about 5:30 p.m. and the sun is going down, but on Mars (where the Rover is) that same sun is shining in the middle of the afternoon.  So far, so good.  But tomorrow (relative to me) Martian time is going to slide backwards 43 minutes, and it’ll do it again the next day, and the next.  By this time next month, me and Mars are going to be out of sync by nearly a whole day!  Oops!  So what NASA did was lengthen the Martian second by (approx.) 1.027.  Then they chose the Martian Spring Equinox as Day One of the Martian year. That allowed them to measure and schedule Martian time accurately from that fixed point.  (FYI, this is no different from Great Britain setting up Greenwich Mean Time in the 19th century, Pope Gregory XIII rebooting the calendar in 1582, or Julius Caesar naming the 7th month after himself when he was running the show.)  Anyway, for some reason (I can’t find out why) NASA decided to backdate Martian time to begin with Year Zero on Earth Year 1955.  That makes this Martian Year 36!

Ever since humans dropped out of the trees and looked up into the sky, the Red Planet has captured our imagination.  It’s our nearest celestial neighbour.  We can see it flickering red with the naked eye.  It has mysterious canals, polar ice caps, volcanos and canyons.  It’s been part of our literary culture for two centuries and part of our scientific world for nearly as long.  So, go ahead and celebrate the hell out of this Martian New Year — cuz the next one isn’t going to happen until December 26th 2022!

Keeping Your Resolutions

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Here we are, basking in the holy glow of our New Year’s Resolutions.  We haven’t eaten anything but lettuce since the December debauch, we’ve taken the books and jackets off the treadmill (that’s a twofer!) and haven’t whipped out the credit cards for two-and-a-half whole days.  This is going to be easy, right?  WRONG!  Statistically, New Year’s Resolutions have a 99% failure rate, and chances are good by the time it’s bathing suit season, most of us won’t be able to cram ourselves into the damn thing — even if we could afford to buy it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The problem is most of us approach New Year’s Resolutions as if we’re contemplating psychological suicide.  Here’s the deal, folks!  You can’t change your personality by flipping a page on the calendar.  In fact, despite what every self-help shyster on the planet tells you, after about age 25, you can’t change your personality at all.  Which means, if you’re like me and love chocolate, wine and promiscuous procrastination, you’re kinda stuck with it.  So rather than attempting a midnight psychiatric makeover, stop the madness and work with what ya got.  Here’s how to bully your subconscious into doing what it’s told.

Get real – Pull your head out of the clouds (or some other place.)  If you owe enough cash to fund a Monaco casino, getting completely out of debt in 2020 is not a reasonable resolution.  Aim low.  25 percent?  10 percent?  5 bucks a month?  Make sure it works before you start shooting your mouth off in some airy-fairy internal monologue.

Quit being so vague – Thinking, “I wanna lose some weight” is crap.  You know exactly how many kilos are too many: you’ve seen yourself naked.  Say it out loud.  Write it down.  Glue it to the fridge.  Now, remember your momma didn’t raise any saints, so pastry is never going to be off the menu.  Check item #1, and precede with caution.

Nothing happens without a deadline – You’ve known this since grade school and, yeah, you might be feeling all adult these days, but that’s not a Hogwarts’ incantation to self-discipline.  Create a date and put in on every calendar you can get your mitts on – including a telephone countdown.  Without a crash-and-burn deadline, our minds tend to wander.  They need to be slapped into focus.

What’s in it for me – This is where most people screw up because you can’t reward a successful diet with birthday cake or a loan payment with a spending spree.  So, if you’re going to show your inner donkey a carrot, make sure it isn’t the very thing you’ve been trying to get the donkey to avoid in the first place.

All it takes is a little psychological warfare, and next November you could be rockin’ a black Look-At-Me/Look-At-Me Speedo at an exclusively expensive tropical resort of your choice.  That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for — aren’t they?

The 2010s: A Look Back

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Good luck trying to explain the 2010s!  So many things went on in the last 10 years it’s going to take us another 50 to actually figure out what just happened.  Think about it!  Nobody on this planet is the same person they were a decade ago.  Ten years ago we didn’t have iPads, Uber, Instagram or Kindle.  Drones were a sci-fi nightmare and Donald Trump was a loudmouth businessman.  The scariest guy east of the Vistula was Osama Bin Laden, and only nerds had heard of Game of Thrones.  History takes time to digest, though, so right now it’s impossible to say what kind of impact the 2010s will have on the Great Scheme of Things.  However, even a quick glance over our shoulder tells us that our world has been a little crazy lately.  Here are just a few remembrances of things past. You decide how far we’ve travelled into the realm of Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.

In 2010, the world was introduced to the vuvuzela, the most irritating piece of plastic in human history.  It was so annoying that governments, social organizations and sporting events around the world banned it, and there was even a fatwa issued against its use.  (You’ve forgotten about it, haven’t you?)

In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street Movement decided to fight corporate greed — and told us all about it on their 500 dollar iPhones.

In 2012, a tubby little Korean named Psy had the world dancing to Gangnam style, while the more serious among us were worried the world was going to end because – uh — a half-dead, ancient civilization in Mexico carved their calendar into a stone tablet.

In 2013, the Pope resigned, Will and Kate were married and Miley Cyrus added twerking to the dictionary.  Meanwhile, Edward Snowden boldly informed us that a bunch of government agencies were spying on us.  He was only 30 years late.

In 2014, there was an Ebola epidemic in Africa, the beginning of the ISIS war in Syria, Russia invaded the Ukraine and Kim Kardashian showed us her bum.  Take a wild guess which one “broke” the Internet!

In 2015, the Mom Porn phenom, 50 Shades of Gray, a hilarious retelling of The Story of O (1954) was made into a film.  According to sales figures from the novel and ticket sales from the totally terrible movie, women feel a lot less sexually exploited if you dress it up in a 3-piece Armani suit.

2016 was just a totally bad year.  Trump got elected President of the US and everybody died – John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Richard Adams, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Tom Hayden, Edward Albee, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, Prince, George Martin, Patty Duke, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Janet Reno, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro.  Coincidence?  I think not.

In 2017, President Trump called Kim Jong-un “the Rocket Man,” it turned out Harvey Weinstein was a bigger pig than everyone originally thought, and there was a solar eclipse.  However, unlike every other solar eclipse since the world began, this one travelled across America. Therefore, they owned it.

In 2018, in a weird reversal of Edward Snowden’s dire warning of 2013, Mark Zuckerberg said he was “sorry” for letting Cambridge Analytica steal your personal Facebook information.  Apparently, that made everything alright.

In 2019, we discovered the oceans were filling up with plastic.  So that’s where all those stupid vuvuzelas went!

And some other stuff happened as well:

We spent a whole bunch of time acting like 12 year old schoolboys, testing the limits of our testosterone.  First, we’d do something stupid and then dare other people to do it, too.  This brought us the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Cinnamon Challenge and the Tide Pod Challenge.  “Hey, c’mon everybody!  Let’s eat soap!”

Duck Face, Fidget Spinners and Hipsters all came and went — with nobody mourning their passing.

Gluten became the scariest health risk since the Bubonic Plague.

The government of China banned time travel.  That’s correct – time travel!  But they weren’t done there.  They also made reincarnation illegal — unless you get written permission.  The scariest thing about this is these folks also have access to nuclear weapons.

Game of Thrones was born, lived and died.  And never in the history of television have so many cool characters been killed off so a useless little twat like Bran could end up running the show – but I’m not bitter.

Instagram beat the crap out of Facebook for social media supremacy — which proves people prefer photographs of somebody’s lunch to cute cat videos.

Media whore became a legitimate employment opportunity, we used YOLO to cover up a lot of pretty poor decision-making and the selfie stick became the weapon of choice for tourists all over the world.

And speaking of tourists – relentless middleclass vacations turned Mount Everest into Standing Room Only and Europe into an overcrowded theme park on the nose of Asia.

Plus:

The unholy rule of the Millennials continued, unabated.

And

Twitter unleashed a global lynch mob that made the Spanish Inquisition look like an argument at a church picnic.  And careful folks: that Reign of Terror doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon.

Happy New Year, everybody!