Sunday, December 28, 2008

The future's so bright...

I'm still home. I'm in Denver. I have never lived in Denver, but I'm familiar with the area so I still feel like I'm home. I have lived in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado. Since I've traveled from state to state, I have also spent a bunch of time in Wyoming and Idaho.

As we were leaving Utah yesterday someone asked if I had a map with me. No, I'm going to Denver. It's just like being home, I don't need a map. I could have used better weather, but a map wouldn't have fixed that. The roads were awful in Salt Lake City and then cleared up over the first pass. Then the roads were fine except for some icy spots and blowing snow in Wyoming. It was a little like 'home' was trying to hold us in.

We're spending a couple of days with my dad in Denver before we leave. When we leave, we'll be heading East. I've never really been East. The future lies in the East. I am excited to explore a new area. As I've been looking at the weather for our drive, it looks like it's going to be warm and sunny the entire way. I hope that's a good representation of the future.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Family traditions

I made brief mention in my last post of family traditions that I like during the Christmas season. My favorite is our stockings. I would take a picture and show you (and I still may at some point), but the wire to connect the camera to the computer has been packed and is currently in no-man's land.

The tradition is simple. Each member of the family has an inexpensive stocking. Each year we sew something on the stocking that we feel represents the year. My wife and I started this tradition the first Christmas we were married and it's fun to see the space on the stocking changing from plain red to a variety of symbols that represent our lives.

My stocking has several symbols of college (because that has been a big part of my life for several years). I think my favorite symbol is the slug that I put on in 2005. The slug was the symbol from my first real attempt at gardening. I was living on the Oregon coast and we had a SERIOUS slug problem. I would go out every morning with a spray bottle full of ammonia and shoot the slugs. I counted on an typical morning and I shot well over 100 slugs with ammonia (ammonia kills slugs like salt, but it is better for the garden than salt). I also tried containers of beer to drown the slugs (it works, but yeast and water work just as well). Enough about slugs. To make the symbol, I cut a slug out of a piece of fabric (not an easy task). Most of the time we just find a picture on an old t-shirt or something so it takes minimal artistic ability, but in 2005 I cut the slug from an old shirt that my grandfather had given me because that was the year that he passed away. No, I do not associate my grandfather with slugs, but I truly enjoy the memories of my Christmas stocking.

This year I put a bike gear on my stocking. It was a simple iron-on decal that I ironed onto a toilet cloth (as a symbol of the importance of the environment in my life and my efforts to take action).

My wife sewed on a walking stick because she had some back problems and got around with this old nasty walking stick for some time this year. We called the stick a 'Nancy stick' in fond memory of a neighbor in our last house.

The mugwump (5 year old son) sewed on a plus sign because he started school and he enjoys math. Actually I think he enjoys reading and history more, but we already have a book on there from last year.

Six-Pence (3 year old) decided to have a puzzle piece sewn onto his stocking because he loves to do puzzles. I don't know that puzzles are the most monumental thing in this 3-year old's life, but that is what he wanted to put on there, so we did.

Jaguar (the 10 month old) obviously didn't have much say in what went on his stocking, but we decided to put a musical note because when music starts, he really likes to dance. Of my three sons, the youngest has by far the best rhythm.

So what are your favorite holiday traditions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pagan Holidays

I don't usually write about religion on my blog, but today happens to be my favorite holiday (If I've said that before it is because I have several favorites). Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. One of the reasons that I like today as a holiday is that Halmark hasn't figured it out yet (and I would really prefer to keep it that way).

Today is my favorite holiday due to the symbolism. I'm going to be honest, I know very little about paganism and I don't know completely my church's thoughts on my celebration of this pagan holiday. I'm OK with that because the symbolism surrounding today brings me closer to things that are extremely important to me.

When we talk about the Christmas story we say that it's the day of Christ's birth and then we talk about the shepherds in the fields. Ummm... if the flocks were in the field during Christ's birth then it wasn't the dead of winter, it was likely spring. So why do we celebrate Christmas in the dead of winter? I think it is because most Pagan groups celebrate today, the shortest day of the year. After today the days will get longer and longer (until June 21). The Christians of old didn't know the day Christ was born, but the Pagans in the neigborhood had a 'dead of winter' celebration and they wanted something at the same time. (You will find that in the Bible in the book of Sans)

So I like my Pagan 'dead of winter' celebration.

The reason that I really like this day is because it is the returning of light. Think of light for just a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of an ancient civilization that doesn't live in an equitorial region. What does light mean to you? What does light bring to the world?

Light brings heat. Light also allows photosynthetic plants to do their thing and grow. Plants are sort of important in the world that we live in. We rely heavily on plants for food, and even if you have succumbed to the ills known as the Atkin's Diet you rely on plants to feed the flesh that you eat. So we all rely on light for food.

Oh and something about photosynthesis and the use of carbon dioxide and production of oxygen. Without plants, that wouldn't happen and we wouldn't be able to breath. So without light we would have no food to eat or oxygen to breath. That makes light important for our existance. So I think it's important to celebrate light and what it brings to the world.

More importantly, on this date, this Pagan season for celebrating light, the Christian world has chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christ is the light and life of this world. While I think the early Christians missed the mark by four days, that's OK, today is the real day of Christmas. Today is the day to celebrate not only the return of sunlight, but also the the light and life of the world, Jesus Christ. Like the sunlight that is returning brings all life to the earth, Christ, through his life and death brought life to all who live on the earth.

So today is my Halmark free celebration of light. A day for meditation and reflection of the lights in my life. Obviously I've spoken of nature and Jesus, but also those things that make my life enjoyable like my wife and kids, the oportunities to learn and experience life, and my family and friends that I love and appreciate.

I'm not a big fan of Christmas because I feel that consumerism is working hard to destroy it (although I very much enjoy the traditions my family have), so I want to wish you all (or should I say both of you?) a very merry Pagan celebration of light. Take time to reflect on what light does in your life as well as the sources of light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have been doing so well at my New Year's Resolution for this past year. I am currently at about 4,200 miles on the van for the year. I was really hoping to stay under 5000 miles, but there is no way. Sure, if you do the math it seems like it would be easy. 800 miles for the last two weeks of the year should allow us to use the car extravagantly, but then we decided to move to Kentucky. I've got about 800 miles before I reach 5000 for the year, but it's about 1600 miles to Kentucky and we hope to be there by new years. Unless someone knows a shortcut that is eluding us, I'm going well over my goal for the year.

On the bright side, I still put more miles on my bike than the van this year. Additionally, our apartment that we got in Lexington (actually it's in Georgetown, just north of Lexington) is about 20 miles from my work. If I ride daily, that will be just under 200 miles/week. I am not, however convinced that I will ride every day. While the main reason for the move is to take a job that I feel will better prepare me for a career than where I was previously, I also intend to spend more time with my family. I've had a couple years of 60+ hour weeks and would rally prefer to cut way back on that number. If I add an hour bike ride to each side of my 8 hour workday, it may be a bigger sacrifice than I'm willing to make. I'll try it out a few times and it's certainly something we're considering as we look for a house to buy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sans Couture

Here's a little story to demonstrate how uncultured I am. This is a conversation between me and the guy next to me on the flight home from Lexington KY... Actually I guess Lexington will be home soon, but anyway. Actually it's probably important to note that the conversation started when he noticed I was reading a Kentucky real estate guide.

Him: You lookin' to move out this way?

Me: It looks like it.

Him: This is a great place to live.

Me: I'm excited about it, but really it's all new to me.

Him: What's your name? What business are you in?

Me: They call me Sans, of the infamous blog, Sansauto (I didn't really say that, I just told him my name). I'd be working with the YMCA helping get people going with exercise programs. What was your name, and what do you do?

Him: I'm Eddie and I'm in the entertainment industry

[At this point I was uncertain about 'the entertainment industry' I could be sitting next to a rock star or a male stripper, why was he being so vague?]

Me: Nice. (I think I say that too often)

[Long moment of silence when we didn't know what to say. He listened to his iphone]

Me (as I was looking through my real estate guide): Do you know anything about Versailles?

Him: Brother, I used to play in every Honky-Tonk in Lexington, but I just don't know the area anymore.

Me: That's fine, so you're in the music industry (he wasn't a male stripper, so I dug a little deeper)?

Him: Ya

Me: So what band are you with? Is it someone I would have heard of?

Him: Are you into country music?

Me: Uhhh. Sort of. I listen to it on occasion, but mostly I listen to NPR and they don't play music. WHo are you with?

Him: Montgomery Gentry

Me: I think I've heard of him, but I couldn't name a song he plays. Do you play guitar for them or something?

Him: It's a Duo

Me: Right, so do you play the guitar with them or something?

Him: No, I'm a lead singer.

Me: So that would make you either Montgomery or Gentry?

Him: Something like that.

I proceeded to have a very nice conversation with Eddie Montgomery. On my trip out to Kentucky I was on four flights and this guy was probably the easiest to talk to. He wasn't into himself and was far from what I expected from a Music star. We didn't talk the whole flight, but he was really a good conversationalist. (Just in case you were wondering, he was listening to Boston on his iphone). He really seemed interested in why I was there. He seemed sincerely excited about me getting a new job and bringing my family out to Kentucky.

The flight ended and as he got up, he turned and said, "Congratulations on the new job, I think your family will really like it here. It sounds like you're really doing what you love; that's important."

Since he was officially standing, the others on the flight who had been eavesdropping took their opportunity to ask questions like, "When are you going to play in Lexington again?" (Maybe next new year, if not before) and "Did your song reach number one this week?" (yes).

So I yelled up to him, "-and congratulations to you on having the number one country music song in the nation this week". OK, I didn't say that. Should I have?

Anyway, I don't get starstruck. Music stars do nothing for me. They're just normal people, except I perceive them as being more arrogant than the average person. This guy surprised me. He made me feel like a million bucks and congratulated me on my career as he flew off to New York to play on the CBS Morning Show. He was far from arrogant. He taught me a thing or two about humility.

The last I saw of him was entering the Cincinnati airport where he held the door for a line of people who were on the plane with us. Now we're preparing to move to his town.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Success and Failure

I haven't been writing a lot lately. You see, there has been a lot on my mind, so I've struggled to put together blog posts. So this is a sort of catch up blog of what's going on in my life, but also includes some interesting thoughts.

I am currently attending school seeking a PhD. I have finished all of my coursework and have a dissertation to write. I looked around at jobs. I contemplated what I wanted to do with my life. I considered what a PhD would do for me and what jobs would do for me. I thought a lot about success and failure.

What does it mean to succeed in life? Often in our culture we think of the accumulation of monetary wealth as success. The attainment of higher education is often considered success. Accumulating letters behind your name is considered success. Why is it that having more is considered 'success'?

Our culture's definition of success differs from mine. I think that success is doing what God wants you to do. I do not think that God considers wealth as success. Don't get me wrong, I believe that wealthy people could be successful, I even know some, but success does not depend on wealth or status.

I had a decision to make. I am in doctoral program that would lead to a prestigious degree if I continued, or I could take a job and pursue what I really love in life. If I drop out of a doctoral program, is that a failure? According to many it is. On the other hand, is it a failure to pass up what I could consider the best step for my career?

After much thought and prayer I looked at the options and tried to consider what God would have me do. I am going to give up a PhD (although I may pursue an opportunity to finish a dissertation if it arises) and pursue a relatively low paying job in Kentucky doing what I love.

Here's the thing. A PhD will open doors that I'm not interested in. So what is the use of opening the doors? The job opportunity is with an organization that is doing something I've always wanted to do (providing opportunities for physical activity to those who need it most whether they can afford it or not). Sure, the position isn't typically for someone with my education, but it is a position that I really care about with an organization that I'm excited to move up in. I really feel that I would have regretted missing this opportunity and continuing with a PhD more than I will regret dropping out of a PhD program.

Unconventional, maybe even illogical, but I'm going to discontinue my doctoral studies, move to Kentucky and follow my dreams of helping people improve their health. Truth be told, I feel more successful now than at almost any other time in my life.

Hopefully, I'll post a little more frequently now. Although I also need to pack up my stuff and my family and move across the country. I may be busy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This morning

I was getting ready for my ride into school today when I heard footsteps in the living room. Although it's a little too early for the kids to be getting up, it's not that uncommon. I tried to be quiet just in case he decided to return to bed.

I watched him. He went into the kitchen and was struggling to get into the cabinet where we keep the garbage can. (The second rubber band was too much for him). He was determined and i was really hoping he would go back to bed, so I went and silently helped him.

I opened the cabinet. He wiped the booger off his finger into the trash can and went back to bed.

I have the most incredible wife. She has my kids trained that it is not only bad to eat it, but also that you can't wipe it on random objects. Wow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The other kid

My last post was a video of the two older boys. I neglected to talk about the little one. So I thought I would write a couple of things about him today.

First off, I think he has started walking. He is a covert walker. My wife and I will sit across from each other and try to get him to walk (just like in all of the home moves you see). As soon as we let go, he sits down. However, my wife and I have both found him taking steps in the middle of the room when we came into a room. I think he's hiding his new talent. Don't get me wrong, he only takes a couple of steps away from the furniture, but I have a feeling that he's going to chase his brothers across the room before we are able to encourage him to walk on our agenda.

So I was going to the bathroom the other day and he wanted to join me. I don't know what his thing is with the bathroom, but the kid would live in there if we didn't keep the door shut to prevent him from sucking on the toilet seat.

Anyway, I came home and rushed into the bathroom and didn't close the door (bad habit, don't worry, if we invite you over for dinner, I'll remember to close it). I'm standing there doing my thing and in crawls my son with a huge grin on his face. He pulls himself up on the cabinet and starts reaching as if to wash his hands in the 'running water' I lifted my leg up to prevent the hand washing and he instantly clung to my let. So I was essentially standing on one leg, going to the bathroom with an infant clinging to my other leg. The next thing I knew, the kid had swung around and his head popped between my legs and he looked up at me with a great big grin. I think the grin may have said, "I WON!". Anyway, he was lucky that I had already finished, otherwise I would have likely peed on his head.

So close the door if you are going to go to the bathroom.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


My grandmother has this tendency to cook in one set of pots and then transfer everything into serving dishes to be placed on the table. While I certainly don't think it's bad, let's just say I've never been the type to do that. I'll be more specific; in college I would cook my noodles in a pot on the stove, drain the water, add red sauce and eat out of the pot. An entire meal and I would dirty one pot and one fork. It was incredibly efficient. And I could store my dishes in my room and not be accused of contributing to the pile of dishes in the sink.

So the other night we were eating and I realized why Grammie used serving dishes. She had distracted kids (mom?). Anyway, we got a video of the older two boys at dinner. Notice that as they talk, they are looking at the pot instead of us. I think that they like their distorted reflections.

I especially like the end when the Mugwump is flexing in the reflection. Just like his dad, the only time it appears that he has muscles is when the reflection is distorted

Friday, November 21, 2008


A friend at school recently started a new business and made a really good looking green and black cycling jersey. The first thing I thought of when I saw the jersey was that I had a pair of Briko Stingers from the mid 90s that would match the jersey very well. The sunglasses have green reflective lenses and black frames with a little piece of green between the lenses. I paid $100+ for those glasses about 15 years ago. They were a prized possession like a pair of Oakleys, except I seem to follow a different code of style. Anyway, I gave my friend this pair of glasses. No charge, no big deal. In fact, I was sort of happy to get rid of them so I can have a little less 'stuff' in my house. I hope he likes them. I think it has been long enough that they may be back in style as a sort of 'retro' thing.

We have an umbrella stroller that folds up nicely for outings with the kids. Most of the time we use our big stroller that will haul LOTS of stuff, but sometimes the foldability of the umbrella stroller is priceless. Anyway, our stroller is falling apart, so my wife bought a new one. She found it at a garage sale and paid $4 for the stroller. It was perfect... until it was forgotten at the park. Sure, we've got the $15 or whatever to buy a new umbrella stroller, and if not I'm sure someone would get us one for Christmas, but there was more value in the one we had. The beauty of the stroller that my wife found was that it was already used, so we didn't have to buy a new product. That means a lot to us. (So if you want to get us a stroller for Christmas we are in the market for a small USED stroller).

I find it interesting that I gave away one of my prized possessions from high school this week and I am distraught over losing a $4 stroller. I hope that with the current economic crisis it changes what we place value on. Really, sunglasses should not be 'worth' $100.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Our separation from reality

I have often heard people say, "you aren't living in the real world" refering to someone's sheltered life. It is generally considered an insult to say that someone doesn't live in the real world. It suggests that they are sheltered and different. It suggests that they are ignorant of what is real (whatever that is).

I'm going to suggest that very few, if any, Americans are really acquainted with the real world. Sure, we all have experiences that expose us to some brutal realities, but from the grand perspective, we are ignorant of much of what goes on around us. It's not that we are trying to shelter ourselves, but we live in a deceptive culture and, intentionally or not, we are not exposed to what is going on around us.

I think this is going to work better with examples.

When is the last time you saw a chicken or cow slaughtered? What are the sights, sounds, smells and feelings involved?

What are the effects of auto emissions? When is the last time you really examined what comes out of the tailpipe? How does it smell? what color is it? how long could you breath it (please don't conduct any tests to answer that)?

Who made the shoes that you are wearing? What was their working environment? How much did they get paid?

I could think of more examples, but I'm going to stick with these three because I'm a little more familiar with two of them. I also feel that sticking with just three examples will help exemplify the fact that I am not claiming to be all knowing or experienced in the world. I am just as ignorant as the next guy but I'm trying to recognize that and trying to learn.

Back to the examples...

I have never seen a cow slaughtered. I've seen pictures of clean slaughter houses, and I've heard the sounds of a screaming cow as I road by a slaughter house the other night (I assumed it was being slaughtered, but it may have just been unhappy about dinner), but I've never really seen it. I have seen a chicken slaughtered, but it was a long time ago. I remember it running around with its head cut off. I remember lots of blood. I remember being disgusted trying to get the feathers out, I didn't like that at all.

My goal here is not to be gross, but this is a real process that is closely connected to the animals that you eat. Being unaware of it doesn't mean that it didn't happen, it just makes you ignorant to that. I think the meat industry wants us to be ignorant, and I don't think it's good to be ignorant. We should understand what goes into our food.

Another comment related to food, but not meat- I gave out sunflower heads to students in my golf classes as prizes. I was amazed at how many people commented, "you mean the seeds grow in the flower?" Everyone in the class was familiar with sunflower seeds, but not more than 5% knew how they grew.

Now I'm going to talk about car exhaust. I could talk about bike rides stuck behind stinky trucks or other experiences on my bike when the air was less clean than it should have been because of automobiles. I'm not though. I think this is the perfect time to share a story about my first car.

Even before I turned 16, I owned my dream car. It was a 1972 VW bus. I remember taking my bus to get the emissions tested. I was a little worried that I would fail, so I did everything everyone told me to. I warmed it up, and I added stuff to the gas tank. It was running great. I went to the station and they put me up on the treadmill type device (it really just lifted the rear wheels so they could spin). I 'drove' the bus while the guy stuck the sensor up the tailpipe to measure the exhaust. I'm not completely sure how it happened (there are a lot of things that happened with that bus that I couldn't explain), but as the test proceeded, smoke started pouring out of the vents in the dashboard. I continued the test because the engine wasn't overheating and there was no sign of fire (well, except for the smoke). The test continued and it got hard to breath in the bus. There I was with my head hanging out of the bus to breath, just sure I was going to fail my emissions test and have to find a way to get the bus fixed. Just as I was contemplating getting out of the bus and seeking air to breath, the tester came back with the paper that said that I had passed. I didn't tell him about the smoke on the inside, but I would be surprised if he hadn't seen it. In hindsite, I'm guessing that the only reason that the bus passed emissions was because all of the emissions were coming out the dashboard instead of coming out of the exhaustpipe where things were being measured.

The moral of the story is that you can't breath car exhaust for very long. Don't try this at home, but realize that just because your exhaust is going into the open air doesn't mean that we can do that forever without consequences.

The third set of questions was about your shoes. I don't have any idea who made my shoes (I'm actually wearing slippers right now). This is the point that I really want to make. We, the consumer, has been seperated from things that we should care about. If I had to purchase my shoes from the factory, and I saw that the workers at the factory were being treated poorly and and were not making enough money to survive, I would try to find a different factory to buy my shoes where the employees were treated properly. I would pay more for shoes made by a factory dedicated to improving the lives of my fellow man.

In large part, consumers don't have any idea what goes into the products that we buy. We see misleading advertisements and a picture perfect display case. We see prices and sales, but we don't see the consequences of our purchase. We don't have any idea of the reality of those providing us our goods. We are ignorant and separated from reality. At this point, commercial ventures are seeking to keep it that way. I think it would do us all a lot of good to see where our products come from. It amazes me at how difficult that is.

Wow, that is bordering on the world's longest post. I'll try to be concise next time, then maybe someone will read it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sans American Auto

I've been hearing a lot about a potential government bailout of General Motors. Of course my first thought is, "We are winning!", but I don't actually think that is true. While I think that the vast majority of car drivers should be on their bikes far more often than they are, I do not think that cars should be completely eliminated from 'the system'. Even more importantly, I recognize that GM going under would not only mean that lots of jobs will be lost by car builders in Detroit, but car lots and mechanics across the nation may feel the impact. I don't like the idea of people losing their jobs, even if I think the products of their job is destroying the health of the world and it's people.

This is quite a situation we have here. The American automobile industry provides a lot of jobs, that is good. Evidently the American automobile industry is unable to provide a desirable product because they have been in financial distress for a decade or more (companies with desirable products are generally not in financial distress because they can sell them and make money). Is it worth pouring tax payers' money into a company to prevent jobs loss so they can continue producing a product that has a decade of demonstrating that they produce a less desirable product? You may find this hard to believe, but I would prefer that my tax money be used for something else. Lets convert Detroit into a city producing solar electric cells.... and then they can sell them from car lots around the country. OK, maybe that's not the answer. I don't have an answer.

This leads me to bigger concerns for the economy. One of the big messages going out is, "BUY, BUY, BUY!" That will help the economy. Well, I understand that more money going through businesses will improve the economy. I understand that. BUT, that happens to be against what I stand for. People don't need a bunch of junk that they don't need (That is the profound statement of the day). While the economy is tanking, I am glad to see more people out on their bikes and saving money rather then spending it on stuff that they don't need. Sure, it's contributing to the economy tanking, but isn't frugality a good thing? Isn't living within one's means a good thing? Isn't conserving resources rather then meaninglessly buying them and disposing of them a good thing?

So here's what we've got:

Economy tanking-Bad
People buying less- Good
Less Waste- Good
Job losses- Bad
Increased frugality- Good
More bikes- Good
overspent people- Bad... although it's their own fault

I'm going to call it a push. I think that we need to take advantage of this financial crisis and change the economy in this country. Lets run all of the little shops selling disposable goods out of business (Just to be clear, those shops would include Dollar stores, Circuit city, Wal-Mart, much of what is in grocery stores, and most of the other stores at your local strip mall). Remember that I really do care about people and I want them to have jobs that pay sufficiently. We need to replace those stores with businesses that sell durable goods. While we're at it, I think we need to redefine durable goods. $200 Dishwashers that will break in two years are not 'durable goods'. Appliances that last 50-100 years and then can be repaired are durable. Yes, durable goods cost more, but they also last longer. Since people will need to buy fewer things, fewer stores will be needed, but we will need more repair shops to keep these durable goods in tip-top shape.

I know, I'm dreaming; and that's the problem. People have become more conservative with their money so instead of investing in long lasting items, they are finding the cheapest (and most disposable). How do we move to an economy of durable goods and repair instead of disposable goods and growing landfills? Hopefully someone out there is better at economics than I am, but I see that we are in need of some drastic changes for the sake of the people, for the sake of the economy and for the sake of the environment. Our current economy is quite troublesome.

This is the first of a six part PBS program from quite some time ago. It's worth watching ( you know, like all six of them).

I'm done. This whole economic thing just keeps me in a state of confusion. I know about milk and my dissertation is moving forward (I hope), but economics isn't my thing. This entry was intended to flow much more smoothly than it actually did. Oh well.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Is anyone else sick of hearing about the election? I had a subject come to the lab on the afternoon of election day with an 'I voted' sticker on his chest. While I think it's great that he voted, my study was being conducted among adolescents and this boy was no older than 14. So I asked some questions. OK, the main reason we got into the conversation is because someone double booked the room I was supposed to be using, so I was waiting in the hall with this kid and I figured talking would be better than standing there looking at each other in silence. Let's consider this my first ever interview that I conducted for this blog.

Me: It says on your chest that you voted. Can you do that?

Him: We voted at school, it really doesn't mean anything.

Me: So who did you vote for?

Him: McCain.

Me: [trying not to sound disappointed or question his reasoning]: If you don't mind me asking, why? What did you like about him or dislike about Obama?

Him: Moral issues are part of it, but mainly because of the war. If Obama were president he would pull all of the troops out of Iraq and 'they' would come and get us. McCain, on the other hand, will send more troops and take care of the problem and keep the bad guys away.
[He continued before I had time to ask a follow up question, although I was sort of speachless on that one anyway]
I also like Palin because she is from Alaska and she wants to drill for oil. We need more oil and nuclear, and Palin will be good for promoting the drilling of more oil in Alaska, as well as here in Utah. There are plenty of oil reserves, we just need to drill for it. [I was a little confused by the nuclear comment]

Me: Aren't you concerned about pollution from drilling for oil?

Him: It doesn't concern me, I can't see it and I don't think it will affect us here in utah.

Me: How about air pollution?

Him: I don't care, I don't think it matters.

Me: [I didn't know how to respond to that, but it didn't matter because our room opened up and I could go perform the test I needed to do.]

Listening to Obama's acceptance speach made me excited. I talked with one person who said he felt that Obama was back-pedaling in that speach, going from campaign promises to saying that he needed help and that it wouldn't be easy. That isn't what I saw at all. I felt that Obama hit it right on the money. He can't do it all as president. In fact, he can't do all that much on his own, he needs congress and he needs the Citizens of the United States. I think one of the biggest faults of the American people is expecting someone to come in and fix everything. 'We the people' need to make some changes too, and I think that we, collectively as a people, have far more power than does the president. The day that someone runs on the platform of 'Americans needing to take responsibility for their own actions rather than blaming it on their leaders', I will vote for him/her.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The ball thing

I got two votes for being able to do it in three uses of the scale. I can do it in two... Keep thinking.

Spoiler Alert!! The Woulfes have correctly answered the question. If you want to figure it out on your own, don't read the comments!

Election day

I think you should vote.

I was given a little mind teaser the other day and thought I would offer it as something to think about while you are standing in line to vote.

You have 8 balls that are identical in size, shape and color. They are all indistinguishable from one another, except one of the balls weighs just a little more than the other seven (you can't tell by holding them). The seven balls are of identical weight. You have a balance scale and your boss wants you to maximize your efficiency. What is the fewest times you can use the scale to identify the one ball that weighs a little more than the rest?

Now go vote. You get extra credit if you talk to the person next to you in the voting line about the ball question.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween II

I figure since there were nearly a dozen Halloween movies, I could make a sequel to my previous post on Halloween. Now I have pictures.

Here are the boys all dressed up. The Mugwump is an explorer. He has a GPS, an exploring bag and hat. Six-Pence is a cowboy, and Jaguar is a frog.
So they were all looking at Mom instead of the photographer, but that's OK. That was better than we've done in the past.
Six-Pence looked distraught that when he found his horse dead on the ground. OK, I don't know what happened here, but I think the horse looks dead and think it's a funny.

The boys went trick-or-treating at the nursing home (it's a tradition we really like). The residents love seeing kids and the boys get to do service. They also don't get gobs of candy and it's a nice protected environment. I think it works out well. After the nursing home, we had time to go up the canyon and play in the leaves and take a few pictures.

Here they are:
I just think that's a good picture of Six-Pence. My wife takes good pictures.

That is the Mugwump sliding down the hill that he had just climbed up and explored.

And that is Six-Pence making a goofy face. He's good at those.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I'm a day late, but that's OK. I don't like Halloween anyway. We dress up and pretend we are something we aren't and go around asking strangers for candy that we shouldn't be eating anyway. And why is everything supposed to be scary?

Truth be known, I take a little pride in Halloween. I enjoy being 'that house'. You know, the weird one that gives out healthy stuff. This year we gave out glow sticks or play-do instead of candy. I thought that was a good idea, but really most of the credit on this year belongs to my wife.

Last year was the highlight of my Halloween career. I didn't dress up and I didn't go out. Last year we gave out candy. We found a vase shaped dish that we served the candy from. When children came to the door and said trick-or-treat I would just hold out the vase and watch the kid put his hand in with huge eyes. As a kid I always looked forward to the houses that let me grab the candy myself, because I was more generous than they ever would be. So the kids would reach in and get a huge handful of candy and you could see the excitement in their eyes as they prepared to pull 15 pieces of candy from the jar. Then they realized that their hand was stuck in the glass vase. I then had the opportunity to watch the kids drop one piece of candy at a time, watching their bounty literally slip from their fingers, until their hands would again fit through the top of the vase. Most kids could only get one or two pieces of candy. The kids that were really good at it could get three pieces. We'll just call it my little 'trick' for the evening.

The battery died on the camera this afternoon, I'll post some pictures of the boys' costumes soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Real Life Parable

23 ¶ Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would atake account of his bservants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be asold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him aan hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very asorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that adebt, because thou desiredst me:
33 aShouldest not thou also have had bcompassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had cpity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

OK, so I cut and pasted a parable from the Bible (Matt. 18:23-34). I want to compare this to our current economic crisis. I think I should state that I don't agree with the approach the government is taking, but what is happening closely parallels the scripture that I cited.

So here is what is going on, in case you live in a cave. Banks got themselves into financial trouble by loaning money to people who were unable to pay the money back. Some banks failed and many more were on the verge of failure, so the government decided to intervene to prevent a complete fallout of the financial market. It was along the lines of $700 billion. For someone who makes under $20,000 a year, that seems like quite a bit of money.

The idea was that this would give banks some cash on hand so that they can continue to make wise loans and provide people with the money that they need to keep the economy afloat.

As we compare this to the above parable, this was the government (the Lord) forgiving the banks a debt. I know that they didn't really 'forgive' anything, but they pumped a bunch of money into the private sector so they didn't fail.

In the parable the servant then turned and demanded payment from one of his fellowservants. In real life, the banks took the money and are decreasing available loans on people who have always payed their bills on time so that the banks can make more money.

I am eagerly awaiting the moment when the banks get to meet their tormentors.

The parable may not be a perfect fit, but when I read what was going on in finances, I thought of that parable.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Family pictures

We were taking some pictures and rather than just posting the good photos, I thought it would be interesting to post some sequences of photos along with the dialogue that was going on at the time.

--Hey boys, sit on the pile of corn stalks and smile!!

Mugwump, you were supposed to be on the corn stalks. Jaguar, I think you are going to need to stay for another picture and Sixpence, I think looking at the camera would be helpful
Good job Mugwump and Sixpence. You are on the cornstalks and smiling. How about if you try looking at the camera.
Thanks Mugwump, that was a valiant attempt, but somehow that wasn't exactly what I was envisioning with this photo.

How about a different background, the corn stalks look poky

Hey boys. SMILE!
Mugwump, that wasn't a smile. That was a lot like a squint. Let's try again.
Um, Everything fell apart there. Mugwump, thanks for opening your eyes, but that isn't a smile. Sixpence, that is definitely not a smile. And Sans, you were far more discrete in the first photo.
You know I think this works better with a 'less complex' subject.

We'll try a different pose of the boys.

Hey boys. SMILE! (while it is evident that the Mugwump is making faces, you cannot tell that Sixpence has his tongue going in and out constantly).
Mugwump, that's an awful face. Sixpence, stop sticking your tongue out. Good work Jaguar in the background, although a smile wouldn't be bad.
Thanks Mugwump, that's a step in the right direction. Sixpense, what are you doing? Wait, what did the backrow kid just stick in his mouth?
Mugwump, you look like you are causing mischief. Sixpense... that's not getting any better. And the Jaguar in the back is looking to put something else in his mouth.
Sixpense and Jaguar, that is looking pretty good. Mugwump, we didn't need to see your tongue.

OK, this set of photos did not have a happy ending. We never really got the boys together to cooperate on a good picture.

How about this one...

--Hey, Sixpence, smile for the camera.

No, don't pucker up, I wanted you to smile. Hey, the Mugwump is under the thing you are sitting on, Mugwump, look up!
Sixpence, I was really hoping for Mugwump to look up, not you. Let's try this again. Mugwump, look up. Sixpence, look at the camera.
You know, when all is said and done, this photo would have been better without the Mugwump.

Truth be known, we didn't get any great pictures of all of the boys together... or in pairs for that matter. We did, get a couple good pictures of the boys individually. I need to get better at photoshop if I ever want people to think that my boys sat nicely together for photos. Here are the best photos of each of the boys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just for fun

I found this the other day and feel that it describes the American people far too well. I watched this and didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Impact of Living

I regularly read no impact man. I think that you should too. I once wrote an email to Colin (no impact man's real name). I simply wanted to let him know that I appreciated how his blog had a similar topic that I wanted mine to have, but he had a way of ALWAYS putting a positive spin on everything he writes. I fear that I often come across as bitter and upset. I'm not really. It just seems to be my writing style. Colin, on the other hand, will sometimes apologize for a post that he felt was too negative, when in reality it would not have even compared in negativity to my more positive posts. That may be a slight exageration, but I really feel that my writing poorly reflects my actual feelings, whereas his blogs accurately reflect his feelings. OK, I don't know what his feelings are, but his posts accurately reflect my feelings.

He posted the other day about whether it would be better if everyone committed suicide because it would drastically reduce human impact on the earth. Of course I feel that is not what the world is about, but I think that the concept is thought provoking.

Environmentally, no matter what we do, we will have an impact. Breathing consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, which is classified by the EPA as a pollutant. Most of us in life will make a greater impact than just the carbon dioxide that we produce. Let's start at birth. How much energy is in a hospital to deliver a baby? Don't get me wrong, I understand and believe that a birth is worth a little extra energy to help assure the life of the newborn, but is a hospital really necessary? Sometimes, sure, but always? Likewise, C-sections are amazing procedures that save babies and mothers. That's great. They are necessary in about 1-2% of births. They are used in some hospitals in more than 40% of births. That is waste. It's a waste of energy, a waste of resources and a waste of health. Sorry, that was a tangent I didn't intend to follow.

What other impacts can we make in life? Life is about a lot more than environmental impact. If that is all that life was about suicide would be a viable option. Fortunately life is about making impacts. When it really comes down to the purpose of life, environmental impact is of a minimal importance. The impact that we have on others is huge. What do we do to lift those around us? What do we do to make the world a better place? How can we improve the lives of everyone on this earth.

While I don't think that environmental impact is the basis for evaluating our lives, I think it is telling. What does it say about a person if they are concerned about the state of the earth for generations to come? I would say that person is caring about others and trying to improve the condition of the earth for future generations. That's a positive impact on others and is good.

Contrarily, what does it say about a person when they 'don't care' about the mass quantities of resources that he is using and the impact that it has on those around him and those who will come in the future? Is that a person that is making a positive impact?

I want to make some clarifications. I do think that some negative environmental impacts are well worth it when they contribute to greater positive impacts of a different nature. However, I think that those impacts need to be considered and compared with what is being gained when doing good.

Make an impact in life. Do something to help others. Sure, helping prevent the degredation of the environment is a good impact, but making others smile and helping individuals do things they couldn't do themselves are also important impacts. Make your impact on earth worth the environmental costs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What if...

I was referred by minus car to a great post today, and it was along the lines of something I was going to write about. I have the time and interest, I'm going to write. First, you should go read the original post that I read today, here.

So the stock market is tanking. That's fine, I'm 'in it for the long haul'. I know that the market has 'normal fluctuations' and I know that historically, 'the market has always been a good investment over time'.

I'm not a dooms-day sort of person, but I want to think a little. Almost everyone seems to think that this is a dip in the market. We can call it a recession and it may develop into a depression; that's fine. The final assumption that almost everyone makes is that in the end (whenever that is), the market will return to 'normal' and our stocks will increase in value and go back to how it once was. But what if it doesn't? I think we should think on that point a moment.

We have some money in retirement accounts. We have lost $10,000 so far this year. That's OK, I'm quite content without it. Honestly, I don't feel the impact of this financial issue. If it weren't for the news I get from NPR and the internet and the fact that I checked my stocks recently, I would have no idea that Americans are in financial turmoil. How is it that I'm an American, and this is a really big deal, but I haven't noticed?

Next question. We have some extra money lying around. Should we invest it? I know that the stocks are currently 'on sale'. The big index funds are currently available for ~30% off previous prices. What a bargain, I should buy. I should take the $10,000 out of my savings account and put it into a big mutual fund, it's bound to go up if I give it enough time. Just think of the money I could make.

From my understanding of the stock market, now is the time to invest and history shows that I'll be glad I did in the future. But, what if the stock market doesn't increase in value? What if things continue to decline? What if financial institutions as we know them cease to exist? Surely the financial system that we have now has evolved from an ancient financial system that at some point came to an end. Who is to say that this evolution isn't about to speed up?

This is the point that I wanted to make and also the point from the blog I referred you to at the beginning; I don't think anything is a sure thing. While I think that things will likely return to 'normal' at some point, I have this little thought at the back of my head saying that it is quite possible that HUGE changes are in store. What would I need if the financial institution as we know it dissolves into nothing? I would need just a few things. Top on that list would be a home and some land where my family could live. Next on that list would be more knowledge than I currently have on how to grow enough food for my family for a year. I'd probably also need some equipment to do that much farming.

Maybe instead of investing in the stock market I should invest in a house on a couple of acres of fertile land with sufficient rainfall. Boy would my family think I was a freak if I sold everything I have in order to buy a farm in preparation for a financial disaster. (Don't worry family, I won't be buying a farm anytime soon).

What is the sign that it's time to buy the farm? How bad does the financial system have to be? I feel like I'm trying to predict the future, and I'm not good at it.

Don't take the wrong message from this post. I don't think that everything is going to fail, and if it does, I think it will put up a long grueling fight before it's ultimate collapse. The point that I want to make is that we shouldn't assume that everything is going to return to 'normal' (does anyone else think it's odd that we refer to prosperity as normal). If peak oil is real and banks are in as bad of shape as some people say they are and there are other major issues in the economy, things could get ugly. I certainly don't hope for that, nor would I predict that, but I think it's a bad idea to neglect to recognize it as a possibility.

Then if you really want to get the meaning of this post, go back to the site I have referred to several times and read about things of value and things that have no value. It's thought provoking.

I hate it when I post on the economy, I'm far from an economist. Next time I'll try to post more about the conference I attended. I'll give you a little glimpse into what it was about. It was about obesity and everything they said could be generalized to be either about eating less or exercising more to prevent obesity.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Plastic water bottles

I just got back from a conference in Phoenix on obesity. It's hard to live environmentally on the road. I used way more disposable dishes than I would have liked. I ate more meat than I would have liked, and I was in Phoenix where everything is air conditioned all the time.

There were also a couple of things that I felt went well. I did a lot of walking and carpooling and I shared a room with others. The big thing was that I never bought a disposable water bottle. That is one of my new goals in life, not buy disposable water bottles. In fact, I'm going to make a valiant attempt to not buy any beverages in disposable containers. They are extremely wasteful. Some people pay more per gallon for water than they do for gasoline. And they could be getting the water for free or virtually free from a tap. To exemplify this point, the hotel I was staying in had a 1 quart bottle of water in the room for the bargain price of $5.25.

So why is bottled water so bad? It's not so much that the water is bad, or that it's overpriced; the problem is the container and the fact that the container makes it portable. They use petroleum to make the plastic containers that will later just be thrown away or 'down-cycled'. Then with the new container, they use mass amounts of petroleum to ship it around the world providing over-priced water in petroleum packaging. It gives everyone the convenient opportunity to pay more to pollute the world when they could simply fill a glass with water from the tap for a very low price. Or you could even go to a public drinking fountain, forgo the glass and have free water.

The funny thing is that 40% of bottled water is tap water put into a bottle and even the really expensive bottled water can't be distinguished from tap water in taste tests. Do the world a favor, stop drinking out of plastic bottles.

Oh, and if you have a Nalgene bottle, I learned at the obesity conference that the bisphenol A that can leach from Nalgene bottles and other plastics is associated with obesity (as well as other issues such as cancer, etc.). My family has moved to stainless steel and glass for our drinking pleasures.

The Woulfes just commented that they thought that the Nalgene bottle thing was silly and there are many other things that cause obesity to a greater extent than bisphenol A. Eating too much, for example, causes obesity. I agree with the Woulfes completely, but I thought it was interesting that there was any link at all between plastic bottles and obesity, so it tied in well. Getting rid of Nalgene bottles would be a very poor weight loss method.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some pictures and random stuff

I'm going to start with a video that I hijacked off of the minuscar website. He used it a couple days ago and I can't stop sharing it. I think it is absolutely hilarious. In case you can't tell, the toe truck is pulling the other truck with a rope or something.

I was going to put other pictures and video up that are currently just sitting on the camera, but as I was importing photos, the camera ran out of battery. Maybe later I will have another moment to post pictures and stuff, but evidently it won't be today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I'm too busy for a real post, but I have a few on the burner. Until then, there are a couple of other blogs that you should really read. First is a 'bike blog' that where the poster isn't afraid to deviate from bikes, and he seems to know what he's talking about. He has a great, unbiased look at some politics (OK, maybe there's bias, but I agreed with him, therefore there is no bias). Go here.

The other blog has a great description of autumn. You should read it, it is one of the best nature essays I have read in awhile. Go here.

I'll be back when my dissertation finishes writing itself. While I have been tremendously pleased with my new Mac, it has not helped my dissertation progress any faster. Evidently the user is still lazy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Just a couple thoughts on bikes.

First, my middle son made me really proud the other day. When he first wakes up my wife will always ask him what he wants to do on that day. First response, without fail is, "eat". To which my wife will respond, "what else". And my son will say, "ride bike". That's my son! Is there really anything else in the world besides riding a bike and eating?

Second, I sold a couple bikes. I currently only own one bike. I have my fixie that I commute on and that's it. No road bike, no mountain bike, just a commuter. My wife has two bikes, I feel that I now have some leverage in getting her to sell the minivan so we can take this simplicity thing to the next level. Actually, I have no leverage, and I never will, but I feel I've taken a good step toward simplicity. Who really needs three bikes? I would say, however, that I would like to get another bike at some point. I want something that I could use for touring or racing. I want something with relatively steep angles, that will use 700c wheels and accommodate either skinny road tires or knobbies. I also want something that I could put panniers on. If you know someone who sells the bike I want, let me know, otherwise I'm in the market for pieces to start building it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feelings vs. Science

I had this post all figured out until I read another blog that I frequent. Don't go to the other blog until you finish with mine, it will be better that way.

I woke up yesterday morning and with fall coming, the open windows made it sort of chilly. I looked at the thermometer (that I keep in Celsius because I'm sort of a snob like that) and it said 13.5. I know that 10 is the cut-off for needing to wear my long underwear top, but I was cold in the house, surely the long underwear wouldn't be a problem.

I ignored the tried and true rules I've established over the last two years of commuting and I went with my feelings. I perspired profusely on the way to school and was absolutely soaked when I arrived at 7:30. In fact, I put cycling clothes on that were still wet when I left for home at 5:30.

Today I returned to my normal rules. It was 13 degrees outside when I left, I was cold in the house, but I left the long underwear at home. I was cool for the first minute of the ride and perfect the rest. No sweaty mess in my locker and my clothes should be dry by the time I leave today.

While I study science and understand the scientific process, I also believe in following feelings. They aren't always reliable (as demonstrated by my clothing choice), but they are definitely meaningful and are what provide the really important moments in life. Feelings can't be ignored.

Anyway, the little blog in the big woods posted recently on this topic as it pertains to politics. He says that democrats bring to the table logic and solutions, while the republicans seek to go after the emotions. So whether the republicans have a solution or not, they have hit the emotions and people respond to that.

I would add that I too let my emotions win yesterday when I put on that extra layer. It didn't provide the solution I was looking for, and I knew that before I started, but I felt that I should. In the end, logic was the best answer to providing real solutions.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Since Sans is sleeping and the boys are entertaining themselves, I'm taking over. We have taken a few good photos, so I wanted to share them...

Here are all the peaches from our tree this year. I was impressed because it is only our peach tree's second season. There will be lots more tomatoes; these, I made into spaghetti sauce.

We all went to the park today. Here is Mugwump.

and Jaguar. He LOVES standing. He's getting good at it, too. Only 7 months old! Yikes, we're in for it with him.
A nice shot of Mugwump.

Have a great day!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aerobic exercise

First, I would suggest that anyone who is looking for a good in-home workout check out the comments to the last post. The Woulfes recommended "Never Gymless" by Ross Enamait as a resource of exercises that don't need equipment. I knew there would be one out there, that is probably a better way to go than my thoughts expressed on a blog.

Then Emily asked the question that I wanted to answer next. Yes, running is the way to lose fat. I'll got into more detail. I'm going to write about running today, but what I really mean is aerobic exercise. The best aerobic exercises are repetitive movements of large muscle groups. Cycling is my favorite, but running, walking, rowing, cross country skiing, in-line skating, and swimming would also fit the bill. The thing is, all you need to run is shoes, so I'm going to write from a running perspective, but keep in mind that any aerobic exercise would work.

The key to fat loss is burning more calories than you consume. The American College of Sports Medicine says to participate in 30 or more minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise most if not all days of the week. That would mean at least four days a week. I think that is good advice.

Moderate intensity and 30 minutes or more are getting to the idea of duration and intensity and I think those points need to be discussed together. The faster you run, the less time you will be able to endure the torture... I mean running. Also note, that the faster you run, the more calories you will be burning. The slower you run, the fewer calories you will be burning, but the longer you will be able to run before exhaustion.

Do you know those little charts they have on exercise machines that show the "fat burning zone"? Forget everything you know about them, they're dumb and misleading. It doesn't matter if you are burning fat or carbohydrates, if you burn more calories than you consume, in the long run that will come from your fat stores. Sure, you may burn some protein from muscle and you may deplete glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, but the carbohydrate stores will return when you eat and the protein... there's not much you can do about the protein except weight training. So do that.

If you go and do wind sprints (10 second sprints with 30 seconds of rest repeated for 30 minutes), you will burn almost entirely carbohydrates. If you sit on your couch watching television, you will burn mostly fat. The difference is that the wind sprints will burn a lot more total calories. The next time you eat after the wind sprints your body will replenish carbohydrate stores with the calories in the meal, and use fat stores to provide you energy while it is replenishing carbohydrate stores. Eventually, caloric deficit will lead to fat loss. That's just how it works.

I still haven't addressed how long and how hard. How about this. Run for 30-40 minutes and when you are done you should be completely spent. So find the pace that you can barely maintain for 30-40 minutes. If you really want a heart rate to go along with it, look it up on the internet, it's around 70-80% of your max heart rate. If you don't have that much time, run faster. If you have more time, or need to get somewhere, walk instead of driving.

Emily asked if it was OK to walk, as long as you keep your heart rate up. No. Well, I mean it's fine to walk, I'm not trying to be a nasty drill sergeant that is just mean, but running burns more calories. When you are running, you're burning lots of calories. When you walk, you are burning fewer calories, even if your heart rate is still up. Run as much as you can. Or walk briskly. Here's the thing. The harder it is to do, the more calories it is burning. Sorry, you just can't get around that.

As an interesting aside, I've seen a study that showed that the greater the energy flux, the better the body is able to accurately gauge energy intake with hunger. That means that the more energy you are expending with exercise, the better your body is at regulating how much you eat, without you having to think about it.

4 days a week of aerobic and 2-3 days a week of resistance training would be a good mix.

I have to go do something now...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Weight training.

Before I get to the part about weight training I will address comments.

Emily-- No, I'm not going to go on a tangent about mental image and physical fitness, but did you know that regular aerobic exercise has been shown to be comparable in effect to many anti-depressants? (Nobody should stop their prescription meds because of that comment) I know that my last post was a bit tangential from your question, but I felt it was a better place to start what I had been thinking of discussing for quite some time.

Anonymous pregnant lady-- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-40 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise most, if not all days of the week for pregnant women. You shouldn't lay on your back because the baby can compress a big vein on the front side of your spine and cut off a major source of circulation. You also shouldn't do things that are risky for impacts to your belly. Dodge-ball, for example, is out. Sit ups are also no good during pregnancy. I know that your specific comment was on energy levels, etc. I can't give you more energy, nor can anyone else, but the regular light exercise is going to be good for you, help your health for the delivery and also be good for the baby. And when you reach the end of the third trimester and REALLY want to go into labor may I recommend a pogo stick workout. (That was a joke... I should probably put on here somewhere that I shouldn't be a substitute for medical advice).

Woulfes-- Can you lose weight by lifting light weight lots? Sure, the lighter the weight and the more you lift it, the more likely it is that you could use it as a means of losing weight. The lighter the weight and the more you lift it the more it resembles aerobic exercise and you stop getting the weight training benefits from it.

Does any increase in metabolism help in weight loss? Yes, but let's take a reasonable look at this. Those tips that you read in the popular press about exercise substantially increasing metabolism for ~24 hours post exercise were taken in large part from a study on college cross-country runners who ran 60+miles/week. That is not the typical exerciser. The typical exerciser sees some increases in post weight training metabolism which is good, but still not sufficient to use as a sole weight loss strategy.

One more thing to consider... In general, the heavier a person is, the more muscle they have. Yes, body fat percentages go up with weight, but it takes muscle to carry around that fat, so in general (body builders and extremely muscular big people are usually excluded from this) heavier people have more muscle. For those people (at this point the majority of the population), running will be a great step in taking the layer of fat off of the hiding muscle. Yes, you will also lose muscle with a heavy running program, and weight training can help you look more toned, but for the majority, losing the fat that is hiding the muscle is the biggets obstacle in a fit appearance.

On to a home workout program.

My major obstacle in designing this program was repetitions. The ideal number of repetitions for building muscle is between 8 and 12. When you are doing a weight training program, we need to understand the importance of reps and how many to do. If I am able to do 100 push-ups (I'm not), but know that 8-12 reps is the 'best', so I only do 10, I will get virtually no benefit from the exercise. So when I say 8-12 reps is the best, that means that you will do your last rep and then you will try to do one more. On that last attempt I could tell you that I would give you $10,000 if you completed it, but you would be unable to do so. Not because you didn't want the money, but because no matter how hard you exerted yourself, you simply could not do one more rep. The problem with a home workout is that your resistance is limited, so when you get to 13 reps, you can't just add a another weight to the bar, you have to find the perfect object around the house, which can be awkward to lift and even dangerous in some cases. If you are serious about it there are big rubber bands available that you can use for resistance that are really good (the link is the first I found, not necissarily the best. You should do your own search for exercise bands).

So here are a few really good exercises that you should be doing.

Push-ups- It works the pectoralis muscles and triceps. If you need to do them from your knees in order to get to 10, then do so, but as you improve you should add some from your toes. The key is to not stop until you absolutely can't do any more consecutively. I know that I said that 8-12 reps is best, but for the best results you need to do as many as you can consecutively. This should also be easily done with a kid. When you can do 12 reps from your toes, put the kid on your back and use the kid as resistance.

Planks- This is simply making your body into a plank that is suspended by your elbows in front of you and your toes. It works the core muscles. Hold it as long as you can. Or if you want to prolong your missery (and maybe get better results) hold the plank for 15 seconds and then take a 5 second break and repeat as long as you can. You should also do these on each side by using just one elbow and making your body more verticle so you are balancing between one elbow and the side of your same foot and looking at the wall.

Row- This one you stand next to a chair, bending one knee and placing it on the chair. You then bend from the hips, keeping your back straight and lift something heavy
There, the picture is better than my description. Use a gallon of milk or something else that you can easily hold, canned goods probably aren't heavy enough.

Pull-ups- Yes, that one where you hang from the bar. It works muscles in the upper back and you should be doing them. If you can't do them, join the club. Rest your feet on something behind you with your knees bent while you hang from the bar. You can then use your feet to help you a little in the pull-up until you can do it unassisted.

Dips- You can sometimes do this if you put two chairs back to back with about 18 inches in-between. You can put one hand on the back of each chair and go down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and then straighten your arms. Again, if you need to use your feet a little that is fine. I would recommend a stool or something to put your feet on so that you aren't tempted to just stand up, but it is still easy to do so if you need to.

Squats- This is my favorite. Since you won't really have anything that will provide adequate resistance, I think you should do jump squats. So you bend your knees and squat down and then stand up as fast as you can and jump into the air. When you come down, bend your knees to absorb the shock, sink down to your original squatting position and jump again. It becomes a series of jumps. See how many you can do in a row. (This is a bad one for pregnant lady, whereas all of the others should be fine.)

That's a start. If anyone has other recommendations, let me know. I'll add more as I think of them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A move to health

I've been thinking of changing gears for some time, but just haven't yet. I figure that since I'm working on a PhD in Health Promotion and over 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese, I could have some valuable information to offer. But for whatever reason I like to write about a bunch of stuff I'm really not an expert on... and I will probably continue to do so. But I recently got a comment asking for help with an exercise program. I'm going to work on answering this question, but it's going to take several posts. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, please post them and I'll answer them. So here's the first question I'm going to address.

"So, I need your help. I want to start an exercise routine and getting your help to maximize my benefits with what little time I have would be greatly appreciated.

I am hoping you can help me with the weight lifting/load bearing exercises. I want to work out at home 3 times a week to gain strength.

Can you post a blog about a good routine to do at home with free weights or canned goods that will help me gain muscle? How many reps are ideal...what exercises work various muscles in the body...etc.. I am hoping you can provide me with a whole body routine.

If you would do that, I would love it! I figure I can get in some exercise at home with the baby playing next to me and do the cardio outside the apartment whenever I have time. Are you up to the challenge? I am! I'm tired of this baby weight/fat!"

First I'm going to interpret the question because it doesn't fit with what is known about strength gain, weight loss, etc. The question begins by asking for a weight lifting program to gain strength. I'll get to that in a future post. The comment concludes with a comment about being tired of body weight/fat.

Here's my major thought for the day. Strength training is the worst method of weight loss available. OK, I take that back. A television and potato chips is probably the worst way, but strength training just doesn't create a caloric deficit, and it's a caloric deficit that is responsible for weight loss.

I should probably be clear that I by no means think that weight training is bad. In fact, I would consider it an important part of a weight loss program, but that is not the source of weight loss. So today I will talk about establishing a caloric deficit.

To start, maybe I should define a caloric deficit. If you are in a caloric deficit, that means that you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Weight training doesn't burn nearly enough calories to really make a difference in weight loss. Aerobic exercise is a far better way to increase caloric expenditure, but still isn't the real cause of weight loss.

Weight loss occurs most readily when caloric consumption decreases. Diet is the key to weight loss. I'll talk about that sometime, but for now, just know that if you aren't seeing weight loss results, it's generally not because you aren't exercising enough (although that could be part of it). Time and time again diet has been shown to be the most effective way to lose weight. Diet induced weight loss is more likely to be permanent when it is accompanied by regular aerobic exercise. Weight training helps maintain muscle mass.

That's all that I want to write today. The main point is that diet is key to weight loss while aerobic exercise and weight training also serve important purposes, but it's not generally the cause of weight loss. Next time I will talk about weight training at home to work all of the major muscle groups, but I wanted to be clear that it is a poor weight loss strategy by itself. Later, I will also address how to eat less and how to get more aerobic exercise.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I remembered what I was really going to post about competition the last time I posted, and thought that it would make for a better post than the drizzle that came out last week.

I was riding into work like I do every morning and I wasn't in a particular hurry. I was just meandering along. I wasn't trying to go slow, but I also wasn't trying to go fast. Anyway, I got caught by an old guy who was also riding his bike into town. I don't especially care that I got caught, or even that I got caught by an older overweight guy. I wasn't racing and even if he did beat me in a race, my self-worth isn't completely dependent on my performance on a bicycle.

He passed me just before we turned on to University Ave., which is a fairly big street in Provo. Just a couple hundred yards after the turn there's an overpass that involves a really short climb and subsequent descent. After he passed me, I sort of decided to let him go because I find that there's nothing more annoying than passing someone and then have them accelerate to demonstrate that they aren't really that slow.

I was that annoying guy, but I really didn't do it on purpose. You see, he down shifted on the way up this little hill and I was in the only gear that I have, so I had to maintain my cadence in order to make it over the hill. The old guy laughed at me as I passed him. As he should have.

I waited for him on the other side of the hill because I still didn't want to be 'that guy' who races off to demonstrate his cycling superiority, when in reality it doesn't matter. He caught me at the first light and we rode together for a mile or two. I asked him where he was going because I think that it's a good conversation started to start talking about jobs and what you do, etc. He was going to North Provo, I was going to central Provo. One point for old guy, zero points for Sans; old guy had a further distance to travel from where we were at that moment.

I then asked what he did up in North Provo in an attempt to get the topic away from the competition. He's a social worker, but he wanted to compete. He came back with the next obvious question: Where are you coming from? Sans: Spanish Fork; Old guy: Payson. Two points for old guy, Payson is further away than Spanish Fork. Actually that's three points for the old guy because he also beat me in the 'race' that I didn't know I was participating in.

Did I score any points? I don't think I did in his book, but I want to say that I stopped for the stoplights that he ran. I consider that a point for obeying traffic laws, although it doesn't make me faster.

Why does everything have to be a competition? Why couldn't I have a simple conversation with this guy about social work and the people that he helps instead of having to compete over who rides further and faster and whatnot?

OK, last comment on politics for a bit. I mentioned last time that I liked Obama for the reason the McCain camp is saying he's no good... Lack of experience. One of my biggest concerns for Obama was something that Bill Clinton tried to place as one of his strengths. He compared Obamo to JFK and himself (Clinton) as being young and relatively inexperienced. While I'm not old enough to really know tons about JFK's foreign policy and such, I believe he did a good job with it. Clinton, on the other hand, I would argue was one of the leading reasons that the US invaded Iraq. I know that it is Bush's war and he's the one that made all of the bad decisions, but he also took over office after 8 years of Clinton's inaction against a growing threat (if they were, in fact, a threat). Is Obama going to be 4 more years of inaction? While I don't think the war in Iraq is good, I also don't think that inaction is good. Appropriate action is good and I don't think that is what Clinton provided and I hope that Obama would take a different path. Did you notice how I made the paragraph on politics really long and rambling? That was in hopes of you not reading it, but I did want to write it.