Jack's Ruminations

Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

owlThis post is a follow up to the previous one. In my last post, I complained about getting old. Next month, I turn 52, and the last post describes 7 symptoms of “senescence”.

In this post, I outline what I’m doing about this. I’m not exactly “raging against the dying of the light”. But I am announcing, citing Monty Python, “I ain’t dead yet!”.

Here’s what I’m doing to ameliorate my complaints about aging:

1. Cold. I live in Silicon Valley. Winter days here can feel like a spring day in the part of Canada in which I grew up. Up until the last few years, I was a 2 layer guy: layer 1 would be a t-shirt, and layer 2 would be a sweatshirt for the “cold” winter weather.

Today, I’m a 3-layer guy. Same layer 1. Layer 2 has now become layer 3. And the new layer 2 is a long-sleeved warm shirt/sweater. During winter, if I’m not exercising, I’m wearing layers 1 and 2 constantly (even when the fire has our kitchen at 75 degrees), usually with a skull cap.

Easy peasy.

2. Injury/Slow Recovery. Whenever I feel pain while exercising, an old voice says: “Hey, it’s just a little pain. Keep going and the pain will probably go away”. A new, older voice disagrees and says: “Hey asshole, keep on going if you want to be out for 3 months”. I now listen to the second voice.

I’m looking forward to a new voice cropping up before I even start exercising that says: “Hey, how are feeling today, big guy? You know, if your [fill in blank] is a little stiff or sore today, you might think about taking it slow.”

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oldman-512I turn 52 next month. I’m getting old. Not just in years, but how I feel.

I said that to a friend recently, and the friend took umbrage at my claim of getting old. At 52, I’m sub 10% body fat, have tremendous physical and mental energy (for my age), no long term or short term illnesses, and few wrinkles on my face, and my blood test results are those of a much younger man. People tell me I don’t look my age.

But “old” is a relative term. When I say I’m getting old, I’m not comparing myself to the average 52 year old American male. Instead, I’m thinking about the 20-something Peter.

With that introduction out of the way, below are my complaints about getting old. The next post will address what I’m doing about these complaints. I mean, I may be a whiner, but I’m a whiner taking action.

1. Cold. In the last 5 years, I’ve noticed that I’m much colder in cool climates than I used to be. For all my post-puberty life, I was always the “warmest guy in the room”. Other people would be wearing sweaters; I would be in a t-shirt or shirtless, my body pumping out heat. Today, however, within a random group of people, I will be somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of feeling cold.

Now, I’m pretty sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m super skinny. 52 year olds are not supposed to be super lean like me. The personal data I’ve taken over the past five years tells me unambiguously that my body wants to be fat. Today, it is infinitely easier to put on 5 or 10 pounds than it is to lose 2. In my 20s, this dynamic was opposite.

Clever me, I’ve defeated the forces of nature conspiring to make me fat by eating a pure, well considered diet, and little of it, ergo my skinny corpus.

But now, at 52, my reward for rejecting the old man “coat of fat” is that I’m a cold old man.

2. Injury/Slow Recovery. This one has been true for 10 or more years, but it’s becoming acute now. The dynamic here is that, in my exercise — barefoot running and sprinting, wood chopping, power yoga — I am much more likely to injure myself than when I was young, and my injuries heal much more slowly now.

Example: I started doing some uphill 75m barefoot wind sprints on our property a few weeks ago. The second time I did it, I pulled something in the back of my left knee. The injury seemed to heal within a couple of weeks, but I re-injure the knee now and then whenever I “push it” on the sprints. Basically, compared to the lion I used to be, I’m now a fragile old man.

More complainin’ below the fold …

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I’m watching the NBA Finals this year as always. The start to this one seems most interesting. Not just because of what happened last year, but also due to how the first two games played out.

Seemed obvious to me last year that the Effort-System-Fatigue game was in play between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. But explaining it last year might have been too hard for the lay-fan to grok.

But this year, it’s clear as mud for everyone.

You know how rock-paper-scissors work, right? Rock > Scissors > Paper > Rock.

Same way with this model: Effort > System > Fatigue > Effort

Miami Heat = Effort

San Antonio Spurs = System

(Don’t get me wrong here. Miami does have a system. But LeBron is 50% of it. Take LeBron off the Heat, and the Heat is junk. Take anybody off the Spurs — except maybe for Duncan — and the drop-off is sub 10%. And, obviously, Talent plays a big part here.)

Who will win the Finals? Fatigue will determine the result.

Not how well the Spurs move the ball; not how well LeBron shoots or whether Wade’s +/- stays in the red; not the 2-2-1-1-1 format. Not any of that.

When the Heat play with maximal effort (which requires LeBron on the court), that gums up all the pretty ball movement of the Spurs. When that happens, former scrubs like Belinelli, Mills, Diaw, Green, and even starters like Leonard and Splitter are rendered ineffective. Manu becomes “trick or treat” Tony Allen. Only Parker and Duncan can be effective in that environment, and maybe not even Parker if LeBron is guarding him.

So why doesn’t the Heat just play four games with maximal Effort and get this thing over with already? Read the rest of this entry »

What can you say about what went down in CT yesterday? I was driving home mid-morning from a business meeting and sports radio was talking obliquely about some tragedy. I flipped the dial to NPR and learned about it.

Driving by my daughter’s elementary school on the way home, the thought occurred to me that maybe I should stop, and take her out of school. But I realized that that was not only irrational, it would disturb the school. So I drove on home.

Stopped at the foot of our driveway, with the car running, listening to Obama’s press conference. Like everybody else in this nation, I wept.

Got up this morning, and I read that the principal buzzed in Adam Lanza because she recognized him as the son of a former teacher. Just think about that: this rich, secluded school installed a lock-down security system requiring anybody coming in after 9:30 to be buzzed in. A video camera was stationed over the front door so the office people could see who was trying to come in.

The principal (a mother of 5) buzzed in Lanza because he was “one of us”, not the “other” coming to harm us. She is dead this morning. I wept again when I read that.

Weeping is good because it’s human. It’s a way to process the un-processable.

But if that is all we do as a nation, then maybe we deserve our fate.

Me, in between the weeping, I’m thinking. I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, this will be the one.

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I was in the middle of a weekly yoga session with my neighbor when it hit me: civil war is coming to America after all.

This war will be between People and Corporations, just as I predicted in 2003. On the side of the People will be The PNA and India 2.0. On the side of the Corporations, Rump America. Blue people against Red people. (See the previous post re the terminology.)

Nine years ago, I completed an analysis showing that 500 years of “American” history pointed straight to a coming People vs. Corporations civil war.

But at the time, I thought that that was an impossibility. My reasoning went that a corporation is a legal fiction, and you can’t exactly shoot a legal fiction. Ergo, no shooting war.

But the defeat of Prop 37 in California, and the vitriolic fallout after the presidential election two days ago has me thinking otherwise.

There’s two camps in this country: Left (Blue) and Right (Red). Right fears Government domination. “One World Government” is their nightmare.

Left fears Corporate domination. A poisoned planet and sickened people is their nightmare.

The Right thinks the Left is crazy when it talks about “global warming” and “emissions”, “GMO” as “poison”, SSRIs as weapons of death and despair, 9/11 as a bit too funky, etc. Those Lefties are conspiracy theorist nut-jobs. With Obama in power, the lunatics are running the asylum!

The Left thinks the Right is crazy talking about “One World Government” when the sole remaining ruler of the entire planet is the good old USA herself. In other words, if there is a One World Government, we are it! What are those lunatics worried about?

My neighbor tells me the two sides just need to talk more to find their common humanity. I’d say that would be a great idea, if Sandy wasn’t the early cry of a prophecy yet to be played out. Or if the sole remaining world superpower wasn’t on the brink of insolvency.

Let’s look closer at those two issues.

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Changed my about.me tagline today (see the sidebar). It still starts “miner for hidden value”. That’s what I do as a partner for my shared consulting business Lumen SV.

The second part used to say “being in perpetual transition”. Today, I changed that to “always becoming, never become”.

The two phrases mean exactly the same thing. But the second form is meant as “tipping my hat” toward German philosopher Oswald Spengler.

In the 1920s, Spengler wrote a thick text entitled Decline of the West. I’ve blogged about Spengler’s theories before. The short version of these theories holds that great civilizations in history (Spengler counted 8 of them) last for about 1000 years, and end up in a clusterf#$% of money grubbing in mega-cities before dissolving into the sands of history.

Under Spengler’s counting, the Western Civilization in which we in America, and just about everybody else in the world is currently living, is 1000 years old and counting — ergo on its last legs — that is, if the theory holds.

I had been mulling over posting blogs entitled “The Crimes of Obama” and “Livin’ in the USSA”. The first was going to be about how Obama, the great savior of the People, turned out to be the biggest facilitator of the Eastern corporate final grab of American politics. Whodathunk?

The second was going to be about how useless the American media has become — left, right, center, whatever. The list of “verbotten” topics (“global warming”, “9/11 seemed funky”, “the link between SSRIs and crazy mass shooters”, “corporate welfare far outstrips poverty welfare”, “wheat is poison”, etc.) seems to grow by the day. I’m old enough to remember Watergate and how the “Fourth Estate” broke the story. Today, the web has killed what was left of the Fourth Estate as a checking force on corruption. American media today is what the government media was for the USSR.

But you know, those topics are kind of piss and bile-ish. That’s why I hesitated posting them. I didn’t feel like ranting over dead horses (i.e. “Obama as Man of the People” … lol, and “Media as Government Watchdog” … rofl).

Then today I was reading the Wikipedia page on Decline of the West and I felt much better about it all. I mean, things are happening exactly as they should. Hell Romney winning in November would all but resurrect Spengler from the grave.

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Above is a chart of my daily weight measurements going back to late last year. As this chart shows, my normal weight (indicated by the white trend line) hovers around the upper 170s.

But notice the two dips in the chart — the first shortly before “Mar 12” and the second shortly before “Oct 12”.

These sharp dips, that drop my weight into the lower 170s, correspond to the detox programs I undergo every year in March and September.

These dips in weight also correspond to a drop in my waist circumference from 32 inches to 31.5 inches. Using the navy method of calculating body fat percentage, this half-inch drop corresponds to a 1.1% decline in body fat (from 13.3% to 12.2%).

What is the reason for this decline in body fat during the detoxes? Well, the detox programs require a strict diet devoid of wheat, sugar, and dairy, as well as eliminating a number of other foods that are potential allergens. In addition, the programs (particularly the liver detox) include taking one to three supplement-laden smoothies per day. These smoothies tend to decrease my appetite for other food.

If that’s why my body fat/weight drops during the detoxes, then why do those numbers climb back up afterward? Notice in the chart above the period from March to August of this year. You can see a quick climb of my weight back up to the upper 170s, with some peaks above 180.

The reason why I fatten up between the detoxes is that I cheat from time to time on avoiding wheat, sugar, and dairy. If you think about it, almost all human “comfort food” comprises one or more of those three ingredients.

This food isn’t just comforting for individuals, it serves as social glue. Offering and sharing this “poisonous” food is a core way of offering friendship and love in our culture.

So the act of declining this offer of poisonous food can be misconstrued as a rejection of friendship and love.

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Went for a glide today at Castle Rock State Park. Actually, it’s a 6.5 mile trail (or ~7 miles) that runs for two miles along the edge of Sanborn Park and then goes through some sparsely-traveled areas of Castle Rock park (link shows a topo map of the route).

The trail is the favorite of my neighbor Mike, a super-in-shape 50-something who runs a 32 mile uphill “I ain’t dead yet” ultramarathon to celebrate his birthdays.

Now, generally speaking, I’m a bad listener. What that really means is that if I don’t expect you to be saying anything insightfully intelligent, I make the mistake of tuning you out. But if I do think I’m hearing some useful stuff that I don’t know, I’m all ears. Sorry it’s a life-long annoying habit about which I’m just now becoming aware.

So when Mike told me last week about ultra-marathoners who glide along, barely lifting their feet above the ground, I listened.

I listened even though Mike demonstrated the technique by landing heel-first on his glide steps.

What I’ve read is that landing on the forefoot is far preferable and healthier than landing on the heel. Whether that’s true for everybody (and I suspect it’s true for most over time), I know it’s true for me with my wonky old-before-their-time knees.

Landing on my forefoot requires that I bend my knee. That is, when my foot strikes the ground, my knee is bent.

Now gliding is that, plus my feet never get more than about 1 inch off the ground. Many times, during a stride, I can hear the bottom of my shoe dragging a little on the ground.

Put simply, gliding = bend knees at all times + minimize knee lift.

The reason why I stumbled onto this way of “running” today was that I realized this technique puts the least amount of stress on my hips.

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I’m running again! Well, maybe not quite running, but at least jogging. Fine, call it trotting.

You’re right, you’re right. It’s not even trotting. It’s just shuffling.

But what glorious shuffling!

We begin the story back in the late 1990s. Back then, in my upper 30s, I gave up on running. Well, I gave up on basketball. I never was a runner, per se. But I gave up on running of any and all kinds.

Reason: too many injuries, particularly a wonky right knee.

A few years ago, a doctor x-rayed my knees and confirmed what I had been suspecting: I have very little cartilage left in them. That finding settled it for me: “I’ll never never run again, unless some kind of future stem cell treatment comes along to regrow my missing cartilage.”

Over the past ten years, I’ve become a major hiker. First a backpacker. Then a person who hikes for the vast majority of his business meetings. Stanford Dish. Rancho San Antonio. Los Gatos Jones Trail. Castle Rock State Park.

I hike 3-5 times per week, mostly for business meetings, and sometimes for personal pleasure.

A couple of years ago, a friend (Gary Flake) mentioned that his wife had read the book Born to Run, and found the ideas in there about how to run to be very useful. It was the common story: change the way you run to the way described in that book, and your leg and foot issues melt away.

Now Gary is a very smart guy, so when he told me this, I stuck a little post-it note inside my brain on this idea.

A couple of years after that, my mother-in-law mentioned the same book and reported similar things.

So I got the book and figured I’d give it a try.

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I love health data. I mean, data about my body and its functioning.

It’s like my nearly 50-year-old body is a techy toy, I’m a 10 year boy, and I’m using my dad’s tools to test and measure this body, given the bloody thing is “previously owned”, and it didn’t even come with a user manual.

So I’m big on “quantified self” gadgets. (BTW, a friend and client of mine who works at Nike got me interested in these gadgets).

Circa now, 2012, the best “all day” device is, IMHO, FitBit. But I can’t wait for the Basis Watch. (Well, actually, I can wait. I mean I’m 50, not 15).

In the “specialized gadget” class, the prize goes to Zeo. Zeo is a headband that one wears at night while sleeping. The device tracks our sleep, recording when our brain is in one of 4 different states: awake, light sleep, REM (i.e. dreaming), and deep sleep.

To see what their nightly charts look like, go to my body’s Twitter page and click on one of the links in the “See how I slept on …” tweets. That link will show the chart for that night.

Now, a little context about my body and its state of health. Put simply, this body of mine is freaking healthy. I mean, seriously freaking healthy. I mean, 7 years of comprehensive blood test data with optimal scores across the board healthy. I’m talking about body fat at 12%, resting pulse around 41, total cholesterol at 138, fasting blood glucose in the 70s, wouldn’t touch a pharmaceutical with a 10-foot pole, blah, blah, blah.

Sure enough, using the Zeo, I’m finding that I am, surprise, surprise, a great sleeper. Zeo tells me that, overall, on average, I sleep like someone in their early 20s. Must say that I kind of, cough, cough, expected that.

But not so fast there, bucko. Zeo is also telling me something else. Something else altogether. They’re telling me there is a chink in the armor. A crack in the marble. They’re telling me this body of mine is not perfectly healthy after all! The horror!

What is that Zeo contrary data? It’s my deep sleep numbers. Put simply, Zeo tells me that while I may be sleeping like a 20-something overall, my deep sleep numbers are those of an 80-something.

What is going on?

To put this in context, I got three friends to try out Zeo. I was thinking maybe Zeo doesn’t really work that well after all. I mean the gall of these people. Trying to tell me that my body is something less than optimally healthy.

So I got three friends to try it. Three different personality types. Three different exercise profiles. Three different health states. All men. Yet all recorded nightly deep sleep of about 1 hour or more. This is more than twice what I’d been getting!

Again, what is going on with my body?

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