No, age is NOT “just a number” but…

workout notes:

weights. pull ups (5 sets of 10), Achilles and hip hikes.
bench: 10 x 135, 2 x 180, 5 x 170, 3 x 170, 10 x 155 (rotator cuff)
incline: 10 x 135 (hard)
military (standing, dumbbell) 3 sets of 10 with 40
rows (single arm) 3 sets of 10 x 65 (dumbbell)
pull downs: 3 sets of (7 x 160 traditional, 7 x 100 low)
Hammer rows: 2 sets of 10 x 200
military press (machine) 2 sets of 10 x 90
McKenzie and weightless squats (latter getting easier)


Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 8.10.53 AM

I had to laugh out lout at the headline; I think that it is pretty dumb. The article itself is pretty good though. The gist of the article is that there is evidence that suggests that much of how one acts and feels is directly related to one’s social atmosphere; that is, if one hangs out with people who “act old” then one is more likely to “act old”. Also, such attitudes can show up physically in terms of energy, posture, etc.

But as far as “age is nothing but a mindset”: PLEASE. As someone who is physically active, I can see the long term degradation of my running times, swimming times and lifting performances; my body IS different from what it was 10 years ago.

Note: the better athletes notice even more subtle differences; they tell me that they can see the decline while they were in their 30’s.

On the other hand, I still have the health to get out there and try my best and I have no intentions of stopping. But my performances have decline and will continue to do so, and the amount of training that I can handle will continue to decrease a little at a time. That is reality.

And, the number of PT exercises (shoulder, back, knees, piriformis, Achilles) I have to do will probably go up. :-)

October 24, 2014 Posted by | health, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

President Obama has some good advice about ebola

Yes, I know; many have tuned him out already. But he really is spot on here in what should be a non-partisan issue.

But we are polarized to the degree that if this message comes from the “social and political opposition”, the other side tunes out.
Dr. Andy (a smart, accomplished person who is confused about politics :-) ) sent me this link which discusses this polarization.

Yes, there are hard feelings at times and not just on these sorts of issues either. Yes, some ideas are not worthy of respect and people’s evasive behaviors should be called out.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | barback obama, economics, health, health care, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Depression, Robin Williams and all that…

As many of you probably already know, Robin Williams committed suicide. When things like this happen, many people who did not know the person mourn; I think that when we value someone’s work and they die, we feel some loss ourselves. For example, I was saddened by Tom Laughlin’s (Billy Jack) death even though I didn’t know him personally. I liked his character. I felt bad when Gilda Radner died of cancer too.

So I can understand the public grief; many people loved Mr. Williams’ work, and I can see why.

Then it came out that Mr. Williams, evidently, suffered from depression and that probably lead to his taking his own life. So, the predictable “we’ve got to take depression seriously” stuff came out.

And this, plus the public mourning, was too much for some people.

Yes, I get the push back. For one, there are lots of depressed people who commit suicide and, to be blunt, few outside of their own immediate circle mourn for them. And yes, there are worse events that get little press at all. So why all the grief for one public person who, by all accounts, was wildly successful and lead a mostly privileged life when many die alone after an “anything but privileged” life?

I can understand the complaints too.

But now about depression itself; yes, I understand the skepticism. Oh sure, scientists are working on it and evidently it is far more complicated than bad brain chemistry. I do not deny that it exists and that people indeed have it.

But there are issues.

1. Right now, to me, it appears to be a middle class/wealthy class disease. Why? Well, depression has to be diagnosed by a doctor, and who has access to those? What does a poor person who has the same condition do? Aren’t poor people who show depression symptoms labeled slackers and good for nothings? Yet, life stress is a risk factor for depression and it appears to me that a poor person would have higher risk factors for clinical depression.

2. Diagnosis: for something like eyesight, there are vision tests, and one can see the difference when one puts on glasses. Orthopedic injuries show definite symptoms AND often can be diagnosed by things like x-rays (of course, they should be diagnosed by a credentialed professional; I remember my doctor training an intern by showing him an x-ray of my humorous and the intern getting the wrong diagnosis).

Other things can be diagnosed by blood tests, cultures and the like.

But depression? The symptoms (via the Mayo clinic)

During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness

Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters

Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex

Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much

Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort

Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people

Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still

Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility

Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things

Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide

Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

I’ve had almost all of these, EXCEPT “thoughts of suicide” and “loss of interest in sex”, and I’ve had days where I felt like quitting my job.

So, these symptoms …I’ve had them but I’ve never been clinically depressed. I’ve been down in the dumps, but things like getting out in the sunlight, getting to my workout and teaching classes have always made me feel better.

So, depression is hard for the non-mental health expert to relate to; other diseases and injuries are easier to, well, “relate to” even if I haven’t had them.

And, of course, how can one tell if someone is honestly depressed, or just slacking? I know; a professional can tell. I’ve seen them make a diagnosis and I’ve seen the patients get better.

This is one of those areas that makes no sense to me, but I’ll take the word of the professionals.

August 13, 2014 Posted by | health, social/political | , | 8 Comments

Mind stretching: heterodox economics, woo-woo, entropy and information and Neanderthals

Philosophical question
What does it mean to be “human”: that is, if, say, a Neanderthal were to be brought back to life, would we consider that sentient being to be a human with full human rights? The article I linked to deals with the possibility of cloning one and some of the ethical questions involved.

Entropy, order and what happens when information is erased: If you like thinking about things like this, scientist Mano Singham has an interesting little post about this topic. Interesting side question: what does “forget” really mean?

Woo-woo Scientist Jerry Coyne is a bit surprised to find woo-woo (e. g. homeopathic remedies) being sold at Whole Foods. That shouldn’t have surprised him.

Economics Paul Krugman explains that conventional economics still explains what is going on very well…but it has to be done correctly.

April 26, 2014 Posted by | economics, evolution, health, mathematics, science | , , , | Leave a comment

Quit Smoking!!!!!

April 11, 2014 Posted by | health, science | | Leave a comment

Big money, fragile egos, broken hearts and heart monitoring….

Workout notes I took it easy today; just 2200 yards (2000 m) of swimming:
warm up 250’s: 4 x 250 on the 5.
4 x (100 drill/swim with fins (fist drills, balance drills), 100 swim)
200 in 3:22 (I was hoping for faster)
100 back (fins)
50 fly kick
2 x 25 fly (no fins)

I moved the weight workout to tomorrow (after the on-campus 5K run)

Weather: cold, damp, dark…though it is supposed to clear up a bit tomorrow. Athletically: I fear that we’ll move from the 40’s to the 80’s in a week without time to adjust. I am going to have to do some of my running while overdressed.

Speaking of sports: those this “tape on” gadget is designed for health purposes, I can see coaches using it (is x mpm really your lactate threshold pace?).

Speaking of hearts: Yes, emotional trauma does take a physical toll; there is evidence for this in humans and other animals.

Blogging I did write last night, but not here. I wrote this. Though this math has been well known for a long time, it is very clever and relatively easy to implement.

But I have a few things to say today.

Money and politics Yes, the recent Supreme Court ruling allows for wealthy individuals to contribute to MORE people (it removes the cap one individual can give, though it leaves in place the amount that one can give DIRECTLY to a single campaign…of course there are ways of getting around this.

But this might encourage people to give directly to campaigns (where there is disclosure) instead of to the soft-money PACS (no disclosure required). This article is interesting, but my wild guess is that the very wealthy will merely do both.

Of course, those with power and influence want to keep using it without…well...meanies saying anything bad about them:

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page owns the deluded self-pitying billionaire screed genre, and today, it brings us Charles Koch. From the outside, Koch would appear to have it pretty good. He owns a vast fortune inherited in substantial part from his father. He commands enormous political influence, with hundreds of politicians and other political elites at his beck and call. But Koch’s view of himself is as a kind of ragtag freedom fighter hunted nearly to extinction.
Here is Koch attempting to explain the major source of his grievance:

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

So the trouble is that his critics attempt to “discredit” and “intimidate” him and employ “character assassination.” All these terms appear to be Koch synonyms for “saying things about Charles Koch that Charles Koch does not agree with.” In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy.

Those damned peasants don’t know their place! :-) I suppose that when you are that rich, you can buy whatever you want. So what else is there except for…well…the public just adoring you?

Paul Krugman puts it very well:

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | health, science, SCOTUS, social/political, swimming | | Leave a comment

12 step programs and human variation

I was alerted to this program on NPR:

Since its founding in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous has become part of the fabric of American society. AA and the many 12-step groups it inspired have become the country’s go-to solution for addiction in all of its forms. These recovery programs are mandated by drug courts, prescribed by doctors and widely praised by reformed addicts.

Dr. Lance Dodes sees a big problem with that. The psychiatrist has spent more than 20 years studying and treating addiction. His latest book on the subject is The Sober Truth: Debunking The Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs And The Rehab Industry.

Dodes tells NPR’s Arun Rath that 12-step recovery simply doesn’t work, despite anecdotes about success.

“We hear from the people who do well; we don’t hear from the people who don’t do well,” he says.

Dr. Dodes goes on to say that AA’s success rate (best data available) is about 5-10 percent. Yes, that sounds terrible. But more on that later.

He then mentions that he thinks that AA harms the 90 percent that it doesn’t work for. I suppose I’ll need to read the book to see the evidence for that harm; hopefully that isn’t anecdotal as well.

No, I have not read the book but I am interested enough to read it (this summer?)

What this brought to mind:
If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I lift weights, run and swim.

In lifting: I remember reading Terry Todd’s book Inside Powerlifing. He described some of the workout routines of the top power lifters; more than once he said something to the effect: “this hard routine works for X but others who have tried this have gone stale or gotten injured”.

In swimming: I once saw a college swimming meet and I watched a women’s 1650 event. Two women were way ahead of everyone else. One had a very high turn over rate and took a lot of strokes per length (20?); the other took roughly half as many. Both were creaming the rest of the field.

Or, you can remember the old Olympic distance swimming finals: some of the top 1500 meter swimmers (male) had the long strokes; some of the top 800 meter swimmers had very high turnovers (think: Brooke Bennett; 3 Olympic gold medals!).

In distance running: I read Bill Rodger’s book Lifetime Running Plan and remembered this: he didn’t want to give specific training programs because different runners could reach similar peaks with different methods. He noted that he mostly trained on the roads whereas Frank Shorter’s training was more track oriented.

Michael Sandrock’s book Running With the Legends described the different kind of training that different runners did. For example: two time Olympic medalist (Bronze and Gold) Rosa Mota never trained beyond 90 minutes; she felt that training longer encouraged too slow of a training pace. On the other hand, multiple big-time marathon winner Toshihiko Seko did OVERDISTANCE training for the marathon and …well…it is hard to argue with his success in the marathon.

My point There is a LOT of variation between humans. What works for one might not work for the other; things like “success rate” data really says little about how one program might work for a particular individual.

In sizing up the probability of success of a 12 step program: I would think that one has to be a bit more Bayesian in one’s reasoning. Is it not possible that one approach might offer a better possibility of success for a certain type of individual whereas another type of approach might be better suited for a different type of individual?

Of course, I think that there are serious issues with “mandatory AA” orders from judges and the like.

This book sounds interesting; I am eager to read it.

March 24, 2014 Posted by | health, social/political, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Once again, all over the place: videos, denial, mammograms

Workout notes Treadmill: 6 mile run in 1:02:50. Started off at 11:0x mpm and did 2 minutes each in the following pattern: 0-.5-1-1.5-2 then 10:42 (same pattern) then 10:31 for most of the rest: 0-.5-1-1.5-2-2-1.5-1-.5-0 then 5 minutes each at 2-1.5-1 then I finished the rest at .5, increasing the pace each minute.

Then 2 miles (16 laps of lane 3) of walking in 29:37 (14:23 for the last mile).

What I’ve noticed: while my legs aren’t classically “dead”, it is almost as if someone sucked out my quad muscles with a straw. They are, well, not doing a thing.

Physical Stuff

Since we are talking gym: this “gym stereotype” clip is funny. I am the old man in the locker room; I suppose that comes from the fact that many of us don’t look at others…so what is the fuss? It just doesn’t register any more.

Now for some physical craziness. Yes, the law-and-order person in me wondered if these people had the proper permissions to do this. But, well, the video is rather incredible. Physically, these guys are much of what I am not.

Evidence based medicine and science is hard. We create models and then go with our best educated guess…and sometimes it takes years to gather data. Here is a vast study about mammograms and their effectiveness:

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

The study, published Tuesday in The British Medical Journal, is one of the few rigorous evaluations of mammograms conducted in the modern era of more effective breast cancer treatments. It randomly assigned Canadian women to have regular mammograms and breast exams by trained nurses or to have breast exams alone.

Researchers sought to determine whether there was any advantage to finding breast cancers when they were too small to feel. The answer is no, the researchers report.

Unfortunately, this study will probably be pillared by those whose lives were saved, so they think, by mammograms. Remember: this is NOT a study about regular breast exams; it is about mammograms which are supposed to catch the cancer at the early stages.

So, someone who had a genuine harmful cancer detected by a mammogram and was saved may have well be saved by a later detection via a conventional exam.

I suggest reading the whole article; much of the data that shows “x out of 1000 were saved by mammograms” came out before the newer drugs came out.

I don’t know what to think because this isn’t my field of expertise. But it is interesting, to say the least. I just hope that science and statistics determines the best policy and not emotion.

Now about statistics and onto politics: remember the morons and their “unskewed Presidential race polls”? Well, these people haven’t learned a thing; they are refusing to believe the current data about the Affordable Care Act.

I suppose that instead of breaking people down by “conservative/liberal”, we should break them down by “convinced by evidence/not convinced by evidence”.

Social Views Did you know that people who won lotteries changed their economic views in the conservative direction? Now there are some caveats in this study (e. g. people who are likely to play a lottery might have a different mentality that those who don’t; and yes, the lottery really is a tax on those who can’t do math). But Paul Krugman has a ton of fun with this finding.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | health, health care, political/social, politics, republicans, republicans politics, running, statistics, superstition, walking | Leave a comment

Wow…almost didn’t make a post…

Yes, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl (think Denver will win, but am pulling for Seattle) and I did see a great women’s college basketball game earlier today (in person)

Workout notes: 10 mile treadmill walk in 2:09. Yes, a decade ago, this was 1:52-1:55 with the same effort; a decade makes a difference.

I won’t be saying that much but….


This cracked me up. I’ve NEVER understood the appeal of Waiting for Gadot….never. :-)

Yes, sitting too long isn’t good. So, I pace when I can; and I rarely sit when I teach. For some reason, sitting down too much on the day of a long or a hard run/walk is worse…

Yes, it is cold here and we do have some homeless people. Fortunately we have warming shelters and the fire houses let people in as well..though these shelters aren’t heavily used. But: I was bit surprised to see that many medical doctors aren’t given training in hypothermia:

After four years of medical school and three years of residency, I was struck – in this job – by how little I knew about frostbite, hypothermia and related issues. I was uniquely unprepared to know how to handle the complexities of these medical problems.

Often people wake up to find that a finger or a toe has fallen off in bed.
When I started to learn about the concept of hypothermia, I discovered that Hannibal lost 50 percent of his Army crossing the Alps in 218 B.C. In the War of 1812, Napoleon lost 50,000 troops to hypothermia during their retreat from Moscow. And 10 percent of U.S. casualties during the Korean War were related to the cold. Interestingly, most of the literature about weather-related medical issues comes out of the military and from those crazy mountain climbers. Exposure to the elements is a fundamental part of wilderness literature, but not prominent in everyday medical literature.

Only about 33 to 40 percent of hypothermia cases are related to exposure to weather. Most cases involve an infection that causes the body to lower its temperature or a reaction to medication or use of drugs or alcohol.

The worst cases of weather-related hypothermia we see in our program are not during bitterly cold periods but in the shoulder season between fall and winter. The temperature might be in the 40s during the daytime and people on the street feel comfortable. But when the temperature plummets into the 20s at night, those who have fallen asleep outside can unwittingly experience extreme hypothermia, especially if they have been drinking alcohol or using drugs, or if their clothing is wet from rain or the ground.

Read the rest. Frankly, it isn’t a worry of mine because when I am outside, I am usually moving and almost always a short distance away from a safe shelter. When it is brutally cold outside but the footing is good, I do what I call “small loops” where I am close to shelter at all times, even if I am seeing many different streets. Serpentine type courses through neighborhoods are good for this.

Chris Christie
I never thought of him as a national caliber politician because I think that he loses his cool too easily…(and yes, I roll my eyes at all of the “bully” stuff). So I agree with much of this:

But what some of us suspected all along was that Christie didn’t yell at people because he was a get-results kind of guy; he yelled at people because he had anger management issues. And his office’s bizarre screed against David Wildstein, his former ally now turned enemy, confirms that diagnosis.

I mean, talking about things Wildstein’s high school social-studies teacher wrote about him? Now I’m worried: Did I do anything bad to my social-studies teacher? No, but I seem to remember snickering once in 10th-grade chemistry class. Oh no! There goes my career!

Also, is the official Christie position “This guy is scum. Everyone has always known that he was scum, since he was a teenager. And that’s why I appointed him to a major policy position”?

What’s remarkable here, actually, is how many pundits were taken in by the Christie persona. How could they not at least have wondered whether this guy’s bullying style reflected deeper flaws?

February 2, 2014 Posted by | health, politics, politics/social, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Here we go again….

I sometimes go through this; there are times where I really get down even though I have zero to feel down about. What I’ve noticed: this “down in the dumps” feeling usually coincides with cold, snowy winters. And no, it isn’t just the cold and snow; it often has to do with my doing many (most?) of my walking and running miles indoors. I think that I have something related to this.


Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

1. Depression

Me: a little.

2. Hopelessness

Me: a little.

3. Anxiety

Me: a little.

4. Loss of energy

Me: mostly mental energy. I did run 8 miles and walk 12 last weekend.

5. Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs

Me: sort of true, but mostly following a hard workout.

6. Social withdrawal

Me: YES.

7. Oversleeping

Me: sort of; it is harder to blast myself out of bed, though leaving the bed is a bit easier when my wife is gone.

8. Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Me: not quite so much; part of it is the usual grumpiness that administrative BS gets in the way of a math topic that I want to explore.

9. Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

Me: Uh….I do sometimes crave hot cereal (oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits)

10. Weight gain

Me: not really; I was 186.7 this Sunday, prior to my 10 mile walk on the track.

11. Difficulty concentrating

Me: sort of; I sometimes find myself fidgeting when faced with an unpleasant administrative task.

Note: this isn’t a “cry for help” or anything like that. For example: I still write and work out, and yes, I look both ways before I cross the street. I have no plans to quit my job and, to my knowledge, I am not in danger of getting fired.

Still. This is merely an attempt to record data and to put something out there in case someone else gets like this when they don’t get outside enough.

I suppose that I have to make time to take an “emotional fitness walk” outside during my long break between classes. No stop watch, no change to workout clothes (except for hiking boots); just a short stroll across campus and through the surrounding neighborhoods DURING THE DAY.

January 20, 2014 Posted by | health | | 1 Comment


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