April 23, 2021

“Away” with Hilary Swank on Netflix

You can add “Away,” the Netflix tv series about a manned mission to Mars, to the list of passably entertaining shows about space travel. Hilary Swank plays Emma Green, the NASA commander of a five-person international team on space ship Atlas headed for the red planet. A freak accident at the beginning of the journey makes the other four astronauts doubt Green’s ability to be an effective leader.

Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”), Green’s husband back on earth, is a failed astronaut due to a hereditary and life-threatening illness. He continues to advise NASA however, trouble-shooting engineering problems on the space craft containing his wife. Emma Green has also left her teenage daughter, Alexis, behind to deal with hormones and her husband’s health issues during this three-year voyage.

The program also delves into the back stories of other astronauts and staff. Lu Wang (Vivian Wu) is a Chinese astronaut and chemist who has a clandestine affair with a female Chinese NASA translator. Misha Popov (Mark Ivanir) is a veteran Russian cosmonaut and engineer who has sacrificed his family life for space travel. Kwesi Weisberg-Abban (Ato Essandoh) is a botanist from Ghana who was raised by Jewish-British adoptive parents. Second-in- command, Ram Arya (Ray Panthaki) is a medical officer estranged from his family in India. It is a bit of a soap opera plot with all the characters, but the episodes are engaging and Swank is fantastic.

The series was cancelled after one ten-episode season, but I would have liked to see how the story played out on Mars and whether they would make it back to earth. Some reviews took the series to task for putting too much emphasis on the personal lives of the people back on earth, but I liked this fresh take on how astronauts put their personal lives on hold while they are “Away.”

“My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix

Who would have thought a documentary about a man who befriends an octopus could be riveting and emotionally engaging? Certainly not me, until viewing “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix.

While the doc stars Craig Foster who produced the film, the project was directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed with underwater cinematography by Roger Horrocks. The footage was filmed for almost a year, but it actually took ten years for the project to come to fruition.

The result is an amazing look at a kelp forest off the shore of South Africa. Craig Foster dives daily for 300 days without a wetsuit or oxygen tank in this beautiful underwater enclave, observing co-operative and predatory behavior in nature. We see gorgeous-colored plants and creatures as they go about their daily life.

A female octopus Foster encounters literally reaches out to him in heartwarming scenes of human-animal contact. There are scenes of chase, danger and drama, plus a little octopus romance resulting in procreation.

While the spine of the film is the friendship between man and octopus, we watch as Foster becomes a happier human. He improves his relationship with his son who also becomes enamored with this underwater world. The son actually discovers a little octopus which may be the offspring of our female star, bringing the story full circle.

The octopus has indeed been the teacher of this filmmaker needing a reboot. Have a Kleenex box handy.

Vitamins D and C for stronger immunity

I ran across a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci from four years ago where he touted daily doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin D. (He has back-pedaled a bit in current day however.)

Vitamin C is purported to be an anti-oxidant, an anti-histamine, an anti-inflammatory and an immune system booster. Vitamin C is water-soluble and is not readily absorbed by our body’s membrane walls which are made up of fatty acids. Enter liposomes which are nano-sized fat-soluble vehicles that may deliver Vitamin C more effectively to your blood stream.
I ordered 1,000 mg per serving Liposomal Vitamin C capsules. Please be sure to consult with your health care professional to determine what your daily dosage should be.

Sunshine and fresh air can be in short supply during this time at home so Vitamin D might need to be supplemented. Vitamin D3 may protect brain function and memory, reduce risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, improve mood and sleep, plus boost your immunity. Again, I ordered Liposomal Vitamin D3 for better delivery to my blood stream.

You could always take a daily tablespoon of cod liver oil for Vitamin D, but I prefer more palatable Liposomal Vitamin D3 capsules. Again, consult your physician because you can easily overdo your Vitamin D supplementation.

Stay well. Good sleep, healthy food and a few well-chosen vitamins and supplements may just help keep your immunity strong. And remember to bring masks and gloves when you are out and about.

Online sources I have used to purchase over-the-counter vitamins and supplements:

Amazon – amazon.com

Mercola – mercola.com

Swanson – swansonvitamins.com

Vitacost – vitacost.com

I welcome you sharing your vitamin and supplement protocol as well as where you have obtained them.

The Week paper magazine


Just when I had given up all paper news sources, along came The Week, a weekly magazine that a friend started giving me when he was done reading it. Their tag line below the title says “The Best of the U. S. and International Media” and that about says it all.

This is a concise news source for quick overviews of world and national politics, along with blurbs on issues of culture, science, technology and the arts.There are also editorials from around the world on mainstream and lesser known subjects.

For in depth articles, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and magazine web sites like The Economist and The New Yorker take me further into selected topics, but for general news, The Week is easily perused in one sitting and gets me up to speed on most of the current hot button topics.

Curiously, I have visited The Week’s electronic magazine site, but greatly prefer their old-fashioned paper magazine format. They amply use both eye-catching photos and drawings for many articles, including the always amusing cover color cartoon.


A black and white cartoon page slants toward the political and is always hilarious. The crossword puzzle on the back page is like dessert after a several course meal of various issues.

Some may criticize the thumbnail approach to hard news, but in the words of Sgt. Friday on Dragnet,  “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”As far as I know, The Week is giving me just that in one digestible format.


Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story on Netflix

My mother was movie-mad and one of her favorite actresses was the beautiful Hedy Lamarr. Hedy had an accent but I knew virtually nothing about her background.

A documentary on Netflix, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story will surprise and enlighten you about this Hollywood star’s vertiginous journey.

Like German-born Marlene Dietrich, Hedy, an Austrian Jew left her Nazi-leaning country for California to pursue a movie career. She became an ardent supporter of the U. S. cause selling millions of dollars worth of war bonds.

Her scientific interest and natural talent at devising inventions was the real shocker. This gorgeous dame was also smart. She shared a patent for frequency hopping with composer George Antheil, a concept that is used in both civilian and military applications in current day. Unfortunately, she earned not one penny from this brilliant invention.

Her beauty was also her curse. Six failed marriages were perhaps a result of men falling in love with the Hollywood image but not the actual woman. As she aged, she became one of the first devotees of plastic surgery in an attempt to hang on to her storied face.
Her last years were spent in seclusion, much like Garbo and Dietrich. Were these beauties unwilling to let the public see them as older versions of their movie images?

If Hedy Lamarr had been born with average looks, would a scientific career have resulted in a more stable life and even more successful inventions?
The documentary allows the viewer to ponder the remarkable life of Hedy Lamarr and draw their own conclusions.

A trusted friend recommended the documentary and pointed out these words quoted by Lamar towards the end of the movie. An internet search indicates that the quote was erroneously attributed to Mother Teresa. The full quote was actually written by college student Kent M. Keith in 1968. Here are all ten of the inspiring ideas:

1: People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2: If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3: If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4: The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5: Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6: The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7: People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8: What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9: People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10: Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Driverless van in downtown Las Vegas

My excitement rose as I saw a free driverless shuttle in downtown Las Vegas. In truth, this is a PR stunt to get people used to seeing and perhaps riding in a van that can drive itself. Walking the few blocks would have been faster albeit much less novel.

For now, the modern-looking van seats 8 with seat belts and another 3 for staff. The day I tried the shuttle, downtown construction necessitated having a human along for unforeseen obstacles. The standing driver intervened a couple of times with controls that looked like a gameboy device. The shuttle itself did successfully avoid hitting a car that got too close to us. A company companion car follows the van as it makes its way through the downtown area for an added layer of safety.

The project is sponsored by AAA and the city of Las Vegas with the vehicular service being provided by a French company named Keolis S. A. Our Keolis representative said that there are currently over a hundred cities across the world with driverless pilot programs. The driverless shuttle service is slated to be widespread in 2020. Two years from now, people!

The staff sheepishly told us about the Navya-built shuttle’s first day of service in Las Vegas. A delivery truck hit it causing a minor fender bender. Local police placed blame on the human driver of the truck however. If his vehicle had similar sensors to that of the shuttle’s, the accident may have been avoided entirely.

For now, driverless vans are a rare sight, but we are on the brink of a brave new world where we have to trust machines to do a better job than the human behind the wheel. Ready or not, automated transportation is speeding towards us.