Dec 28, 2019

Compost drum roller

Entire family gladly spent two hours last Saturday setting this recycling drum. Loaded it with waste, I had stocked up in compost box since September and seeing good speed of composting in a weeks time.

Looking forward to planting plants in Spring 2020.

Dec 21, 2019

Orange Is the New Black

"Orange Is the New Black" is the story of the year author Piper Kerman spent in a federal prison. The famous series by the same name is based on this memoir. I had watched few seasons of the series but did not finish it. Had gifted the book to my wife this summer but managed to read it before her. 

I liked the book better than the series. The book is less sensational and manages to take nuanced stance at things going on in a prison. It's all drama in the series, but the book succeeds in explaining what makes, prison a "prison". It's not just the lack of finer things in life, but leading your life without a sense of purpose. No wonder prison life wears down a person, physically and emotionally. Time spent must have several times bad effects an abusive relationship or work environment has on a person. 

Like all good authors, Piper is reflective and tells how her actions had effects on lives of people's lives and families. Although she advocates in the futility of institutionalization system, she doesn't deny the ugly consequences of her actions. That's an important lesson to take from the book. Winning at all cost is not so important, because the pie is always growing. It's important to do the right thing. 

I am yet to read the notes and discussion section in the book. Looks like good food for thought. Looking forward to read it.

Oct 26, 2019

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I picked up "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" at library sale in Columbus this summer. I read the book while traveling, in the hotel and early in the morning before going to work. I am glad that I took the time to read it. Rebecca Skloot has done a amazing job of telling the story about Henrietta Lacks whose cells were taken without her or her family's consent and used by scientists world over to study cellular biology.

The cell line is known as HeLa cell line and is one of the most famous cell lines. In-spite of her contributions to science Henrietta or her family wasn't recognized by for a long period of time. This book explains how HeLa cell line was established, spread and why it became so versatile.

Rebecca tells the tale of what happened to Henrietta's family after she died at a young age. How her five children suffered and didn't get neither recognition nor compensation from "royalties" of the cell line. It's sad to know about Henrietta's daughter Elsie who died in the facility for the mentally retarded but the family didn't know much about. Rebecca researched the Lacks family in Virginia and Maryland. She interacted a lot with Henrietta's daughter Deborah who was reluctant even to talk to her at the start but over a period of years developed great relationship. I was surprised to know that Deborah (Henrietta's daughter) wasn't able to afford health insurance. That's so absurd given the sheer number of areas of medicines HeLa cell line has helped researchers.

I admire Rebecca for presenting the facts at length. And while she does that she doesn't take sides. She has rightly asked thorny questions about bio-ethics and compensation with human tissues but she took the time to explain role of a researcher like George Gay.I am impressed to learn that he was willing to donate his organs for research on pancreatic cancer when he was diagnosed of it in later stages. He was willing to donate his cells for cancer research.

I recommend everyone to read this book to understand "standing on giants shoulders" and why we should be kind. Everything we do leaves behind a footprint and what an amazing legacy Henrietta has left. 

Aug 22, 2019

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

I have been reading "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" every summer since 2015. Listened to this book on this time and like every-time I loved this book. I remember the fine day in March 2015 at the public library in Charlotte when I first found this book, read a few pages and was hooked. I had started losing weight by end of March 2015 and was lucky to find this gem. I used to get up early morning to go to the gym and worked very hard. I must be in the high intensity (maximum heart rate - 25) zone for at least 15 minutes every day at that time. And instead of tiring me out these workouts gave me lots of energy. Spark explained why exercise is important not only for physical fitness but also helps to keep brain younger. 

What I loved about the book is - 

1)The idea that one man's easy workout may be other man's ideal HITT workout. That is the reason workout needs to be tailored for each individual. Heart rate monitors help to measure and track intensity of the workouts. 
2)Why and how people who need the exercise the most are least motivated to do it. Example - if the Physical Education (PE) class in school is only sports based, heavy and weak kids can never compete and are left behind in PE. Because of this they don't get any exercise. These kids need exercise the most and would benefit from a regimen which encourages them to work hard and be graded accordingly. If a weak student works hard but produces outcome which seems less effective than a stronger kid, the weaker student should get at par grades at least. This is the same reason I appreciate obese people working out at the gym. It's very hard to get out of comfort zone and start a exercise program. 
3)How exercise prepares kids body for education. Exercise forms the brain circutary needed for learning and once the brains are ready we can solve the hard problems we face. 

4)We all know that the problems which can't be sorted out after a long walk are real thorny problems. Also remember the countless time when something seems so hard and undo-able but worked out after a quick run or bike ride. 

I had gifted this book to a friend on his birthday and he loved it. With the audio book now there is no excuse to not read the book. Highly recommended. Thanks Dr. John Ratey for doing the literature survey and sharing the amazing research with us. 

Aug 6, 2019

Compost City : Practical composting know-how for small space living

Compost City : Practical composting know-how for small space living 
Rebecca Louie 
Roost Books 

It has been 13 years that I graduated college and started work. All these years I have always tried to do my best to make things better than what they are. The amazing book - "The Man Who Planfed Trees" has been my guide. I turn to the book when things are hard and I have to think hard. That and long walks are two things that have never failed me.

My wife, office colleague and friends kid went for tree plantation activity in Huntersville, NC in fall of 2014. It was a balmy early winter morning and we worked planting trees for about three hours. Coffee and hot chocolate was served and we were happy. The organizers blessed us with parting gift of Dogwood sapling. We didn't know what to do with the sapling and requested my friend if he would like to plant it. My friend graciously accepted the offer and planted the sapling. He and his wife took great care of the sapling, it grew and it grew tall. If grew so tall that my friends neighbors trees won't grow because of it and the Dogwood got a trim. This summer I got to see the tree standing mighty. Today morning my Dad showed us flowers from our Champa tree in Goa. I got the sapling from Mr. Farmer in 2006 and my Mom and Dad took care of the tree. The point I am trying to make is that imagining, planning and taking action is so important. And there is nothing like taking care of mother earth by planting trees, reduce - reuse - recycle, and composting that can help us think, plan and do.

I picked up the book - "Compost City" this week from the local library. Because I was so busy proving that someone is wrong on the Internet and because social media is designed to be addictive I did not find time to read the book. When I remembered how much I used to read not too long back, I had to take this challenge to read this book un-distracted. So the smart phone went on airplane mode and I began reading the book. Like all addictions social media addition had withdrawal symptoms and it's hard to focus for the first 15 minutes. But because the subject was easy to understand, I was on the bus and wanted to compost for quite sometime, I managed to read the book. Of course I didn't read the book cover to cover, because I wanted to know the basics of composting for a small family to start with. But it felt good to understand the subject and got to know where to look of I want to dig deeper.

I will of course ask more questions and be critical of the process but will start composting soon. It would look stupid not to do it. Will log my progress on my blog too.