Monday, September 26, 2016

The Soyuz Files - A Podcast Review

This may seem like a bit of a departure but I assure you it really isn't.

I have included audio books mostly because they have been readings of actual books.  But I am also a fan of good story telling and The Soyuz Files is definitely a very good story.

Any good science fiction will try to answer the question, "What if?"

What if the Soviet Union won the race to the moon?

What would that have looked like?  What would the ramifications have been?  How different would the world be?

In this wonderful audio drama the Soviets land on the moon on October 31, 1968.

Through a series of investigative reports from November 1, 1968 to July 18, 1969 (right in the middle of Apollo 11's actual mission, by the way) we learn of a conspiracy surrounding the Soviet landing.

The whole story is told over six episodes.  Podcasts are well suited for serialized stories and I found myslef binging on this one.  The sound quality is terrific and the acting is top notch.

I highly recommend this series.

The official website is here:

You can also find it in iTunes here:

If you are interested in real space adventures you should check out Planetary Radio, also a podcast, there you will learn all about what is happening in space right now.   There is a lot going on.

Planetary Radio can be found here:

Ad Astra people!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Little Black Bag - A Short Story Review


A little bit of time travel coupled with a little bit of dystopian present.  With the present being the 1940's

What happens to a down-on-his luck family doctor when a highly advanced doctors' black bag is sent to him from the future?

At first the author sets up a pretty bleak future for mankind but then never really follows up on it.  He does, however, present us with a hopeful look at what can happen when a person's self-esteem is restored.

A good read.

C. M. Kornbluth

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sahara by Michael Palin - Book Report #162


What a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a book by the likes of Michael Palin and to have it read by to you by the man himself.

His voice lends itself to narration so well that I was sad when it was all over.

As in most of these kinds of journeys the trips seldom come about without a hitch, detours are encountered, weather, borders, conflicts, bureaucracy, breakdowns and scheduling all come to play in this circumnavigation of the great Sahara desert.

After listening to parts of the audio book I would spend time with the large format coffee table book and peruse the pictures to actually see whet Palin described.

But it is the people that join him along the way that makes this story so special.  The generosity of strangers to the traveler has shown itself in his and many other travel writers to be consistent through the world.

People are generally open and inviting and even eager to share their way of life.  It just goes to show that governments do not necessarily represent the people of a particular region.

We are more alike than we are led to believe.

That is the power of these kinds of travels: to show us that we are all human.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mars is Heaven! by Ray Bradbury - A Short Story Review


This was a fun story, then creepy.

A mission to Mars!

A landing on Mars!  In the middle of an American small town!

Excuse me?  What?

The air is breathable too.  The captain and two officers leave the ship to investigate.  What they find is peculiar to say the least.  While they try to rationalize what they see I was left with the feeling that something was terribly wrong here.

When the captain figures it out, well, it's a bit too late.

The only problem that I had with the story came from the first paragraph, where it stated that this was the third mission to the planet.  How could they not have communicated with the firs two missions?

The only explanation I can come up with comes from the publication date, 1948.  Sputnik launched in 1957 and Echo 1 not until 1960.  At that time only radio and the telephone provided the quickest communications.  But without the infrastructure of wires and radio towers, even terrestrial exploration would go months without communication with the outside world, so why not a trip to Mars?

Reading these old stories has to come with a certain forgiveness because they are a product of their times.

This was an excellent story.

Ray Bradbury website -

Ray Bradbury

Planet Stories Fall 1948

Monday, September 12, 2016

Red Rover by Roger Wiens - Book Report #161


This a a fascinating story of how one particular science package, ChemCam, came to be built and installed on the Mars Curiosity rover.

What you will come away with is the incredible journey an instrument takes from concept, approval, build, installation and operation.  I was impressed at the dedication and effort that goes into such a project.  For years prior to launch there is a constant struggle for funding and crating the best possible science instrument that can be made.

Don't think for one minute that instruments are built from off the shelf components.  Everything is on the bleeding edge of engineering.  There is nothing about Curiosity that is ordinary.

When you consider the efforts of the ChemCam team is repeated by every other team that has an instrument on the rover AND the team that built the rover itself AND all the components it took to get it to Mars, I was left wondering how anything actually gets built, flown and operated at all.

Usually the public is let in on the launch and landing days, but there is about a decade of work that has happened before the rocket is launched.

Roger Wiens


Monday, September 5, 2016

Eat for Health by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - Book Review #160


A while back I watched a movie called, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross.  In the movie Cross regains his health by going on a fresh juice fast for 60 days.  It was so inspiring that I went out and bought a juicer of my own.

I made maybe a dozen juices but kept thinking to myself that I would rather eat all that good food than drink it.  I went back to the movie and found an interview that caught my attention, it was with Dr. Joel Fuhrman who is the author of a best-selling book called Eat To Live.  Through exploring his bibliography I found the book that has changed my life: Eat for Health.

Instead of being a diet book, it is more a eating lifestyle manual.

I have tried many diets before and always kept thinking that there simply must be a better way to eat.  But with all the conflicting information out there it is easy to run onto the wrong track and simply gain weight year after year.

Like Joe Cross of the film, I was getting sick; overweight, a high-normal blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, sleep apnea and sore joints, I was well on my way to a life of pharmaceutical solutions.  I didn't want to have a bunch of pill bottles in my life.

It was in Fuhrman's book that he laid out a simple mind-set to food choice; what delivers the most nutrients per calorie?  If you look at the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the body needs you need to choose the ones that provide the most for the least calories.  Natural foods tend to be low in calories as a matter of course so the calorie side of the decision making really does not enter into it.

I did not jump right into his eating plan but gradually introduced more and more nutrient rich foods while scaling back, and eventually eliminating, the nutrient poor ones.  He even has a three step plan on how to slowly move away from the traditional North American diet to one rich with plant-based foods.

It is in no way a vegetarian diet but you'd be surprised at just how much vegetarian foods go into this healthy way of eating.  To be honest it feels like I get to eat way more food than before.  However, it is a lot more work.  I have never spent so much time in front of my cutting board preparing fruits and veggies and making meals from scratch.

I've been working on this eating plan for six or seven weeks now and have dropped 25 pounds; from 243 lbs to 218 as of this writing.  ( Saturday, August 20, 2016 )  I don't feel deprived and I can indulge in a pizza and beer night once in a while without feeling guilty about it.  And that is the key to this kind of thing; don't beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon once in a while, just get back on the next day.

I borrowed the book from the public library and will soon by purchasing a copy of my own.  My wife is impressed with my progress and is thinking about following the plan too.

Highly recommended.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman