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


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?

Just A Few More New Year’s Resolutions


We’re less than a week into the New Year, and the salad eaters are already getting a little crabby, the non-smokers are downright belligerent and if Rashema, from accounting, tells you one more time why she’s not eating chocolate, you’re going to shove a Mars Bar™ up her nose.  But not to worry!  This happens every January when the “I’m-going-to-get-better” resolutions are still fresh.  In a couple of weeks, things will settle down and get back to normal.  Thank God!

However, in the interests of social progress, maybe it’s time our world made a few collective “I’m-going-to-get-better” resolutions.  Just a couple of minor changes that would enhance our society and make the journey from the cradle to the grave a little better for all of us.  Naturally, I have suggestions.

#1 — It’s time to limit the size of baby strollers.  Yes, parents have to move their kids around somehow, but they don’t need a vehicle the size of a Smart Car.  Some of those Infant Transportation Devices (ITDs) are big enough to have their own WiFi, for God’s sake!

#2 – And while we’re on the subject: let’s give some reasonable thought to carry-on luggage.  It isn’t necessary to haul that much crap onto an airplane that’s only going to be in the air a couple of hours.  And honestly, how much stuff do you actually need for a weekend in Vegas?

#3 — Let’s quit “checking our privilege” every five seconds.  Folks!  It’s still there.

#4 – And could we kindly remember that the collective wisdom of 50,000 years of science, mathematics, art and history isn’t merely a matter of opinion?

#5 – Perhaps we could overcome the burning need to constantly call each other with minute-by-minute updates on our global location.  “I’m on the bus.”  I’m around the corner.”  “I’ll be there in 10.”  If your friends are that worried you’re going to wander off like an absent-minded puppy, give the people around you a break and text them.

#6 – This is the year we should finally stop using the term “speaking out.”  First of all, it’s redundant and secondly, there’s an implication that, at some point, the speaker was silenced.  I can assure you: in our 24/7 Social Media universe, nobody is silent — unless they want to be.

#7 – Let’s not forget there’s a reason we have right and wrong.  Again, it’s not merely a matter of opinion.

#8 – At some point, we need to realize that a 140-character tweet is not a well-thought-out discussion of anything – ever.  Tweets don’t deserve that kind of respect.

#9 – The world would be a quieter, gentler place if everybody who has one would just shut up about their student loan.

#10 – We need to stop thinking people get extra points for being “authentic.”  They don’t!  It’s what people are supposed to be.

But the thing we all have to remember in 2019 – seriously — is:

#11 – It’s not about you!