Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm out

I just started a new book called, "Better Off" It's about an MIT grad student that moves into a 'minimite' community. He has no power, relies on his garden and land to provide food and money to support him and his new wife. I love the idea.

The book is extremely well written and unlike most 'anti-stuff' material, the guy doesn't come across as arrogant or holier than thou. At least not yet.

So far my favorite part of the book was when he described the coming of technology. It began with Locke who philosophized a lot about ownership and possessions. The idea of ownership and having something that others do not almost gives that 'something' a persona. That 'thing' is now prized as would be a relationship it is something special and different. It's something that I have and you don't and it makes us different.

As technology grew and these 'things' grew persona, they did not really play by the traditional rules. The author sites a couple of guys were were harshly punished for destroying a piece of machinery that had replaced them on the farm.

This technology was something that the land owner had and used exclusively. He didn't let others use it because it was his. This technology stole from the two men their livelihood. It stole their income and self-worth. It left them with nothing, including no skills to find employment because technology had taken it. So they destroyed their boss' technology so they could have what they felt was rightfully theirs, their jobs.

Had the two men injured someone who had stolen from them they would have been able to make a plea for self-defense, but because it was a machine that plays by different rules, that almost seems an inapplicable plea.

We have Deified technology. We have placed it above the law and we spend most of our waking hours (and in many cases sleeping hours) worshiping it. Technology has become the god that we don't understand, yet that we depend upon completely. It's a true crutch in a world that often considers religion a crutch.

Some of those ideas were the authors, others I expounded on. If you really want to know what he said, read the book.

Here's where I'm going with this. I think it is time for me to take a leave from the internet. Honestly, this falls on my wife's birthday (tomorrow) and that is not a coincidence. I will spend at least a week away from this blasted computer (although I still have to use one at work). I haven't been blogging a ton recently, so I have no idea when I'll be back. I would still like to post pictures and express ideas here, but I want to spend less time surfing and otherwise worshiping a god that I don't believe should have any power in my life.

So ultimately as a birthday present to my wife I'm going to spend more time building relationships with family and less time doing whatever it is that I do on the computer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

new stuff

We made some new friends and our friends are getting chickens. The way it works out, they are getting way more chickens than they actually need. So they will be giving us some chickens. I will be working on a chicken pen here shortly.

I also wanted to post a video for your viewing pleasure. Or at least so that you can see what our boys do. If you're interested.


Yesterday I went to an all day training to be certified as a SilverSneakers instructor. Since I don't think that it's possible to fail, I guess I passed the course. I can now teach classes that are branded with the SilverSneakers label.

I think this is an interesting process. I have all but a PhD in exercise science, yet I had to take this class to be able to teach a senior exercise class. Does anyone else see some irony in that? I feel qualified to help create the SilverSneakers program, yet I have to take a class to teach it. I'm really not bitter and I actually don't feel like I should be teaching the classes anyway. I have all the knowledge that I need to teach, but I lack rhythm. Apparently rhythm is important if you are going to teach an exercise class to music.

Anyway, the point that I want to make goes well beyond SilverSneakers. My master's degree was an exercise physiology, nutrition blend. I was actually only a couple classes short of a combined degree. I opted not to take the classes because it would have prolonged my time there and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Taking the classes and then pursuing a RD would have been beneficial, but it requires a long unpaid internship that was not feasible with a family. So I have more bookwork education than most dietitians, although I am lacking the internship (and that certainly is important), yet I am not able to give nutritional counseling because of liability concerns.

I had a client at my health club who had blood sugar levels that would skyrocket after exercise. She says that it baffled her doctors and I found the cause. That is more specifically my area of expertise than most doctors are educated. Yet, I can't provide council or advice because I'm not an MD and I don't have the appropriate certifications. It's a liability issue.

I understand the need for certifications, but frankly, I think they are absurd. It is as if our society encourages people not to think for themselves. You have to go to an "expert". But I am an expert in some fields, except I haven't paid the money to get the certifications that "prove" that I'm an expert.

Therein lies the basis of certifications. it's all about generating money. Before yesterday I knew a lot about exercise in seniors and I knew that I didn't have any rhythm. After paying money to take an 8-hour course I didn't learn anything new about exercise in seniors and I still don't have rhythm. The only thing that has changed is that I have less money and they have more money, therefore I am highly qualified to teach a class that I wasn't qualified to teach before.

Same thing goes with the RD. I was unwilling to provide free labor for the beginning couple of months of my practical learning, therefore I am not qualified to be a dietitian. Honestly, I feel that my knowledge base is insufficient to provide in depth nutrition counseling, but I know my weaknesses and I know that I could obtain the needed information without doing an unpaid internship. I will never by an RD without giving them that money.

I by no means think that I have the appropriate education to be a medical doctor, but there are areas in which I have done more study than most family practice MDs. Insulin resistance happens to be one of those areas. Most doctors don't know that glucose can get into muscle cells in complete absence of insulin through some mechanical mechanisms. They don't know the role of insulin and the insulin/glucagon ration on hepatic cells, and muscle cells.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rain Barrels

I've recently installed rain barrels on our house. There is one connected to each of the downspouts on the front of the house. I thought it was a phenomenal idea; the barrels collect rain from the roof so I can water the garden when it gets dry. Not only that, but I don't have to mess with the downspouts that dump water next to my leaky basement.

Thus far it hasn't been a complete success. I have two 55 gallon rain barrels that collect the rain from just the front half of the roof. On the first night after installation it rained. I was really excited as I heard the big storm that night just knowing that my barrels were filling with water that I could use in the garden. Both barrels overflowed that night.

That was a pretty big storm, so I was excited to have some rain stored for the dry days to follow. Except the following days weren't dry. It doesn't take much rain to overflow an already full rain barrel.

So the rain barrels overflowed for a bit, thereby allowing the water to collect right next to the leaky basement (which hasn't leaked for us yet). Then one day it was dry! I took my watering can and filled it up from the rain barrels. (I installed spigots at the bottom of the rain barrels so that water removal is easy). It didn't take me long to note that a 1 gallon watering can doesn't empty a 55 gallon barrel very quickly. I need a bigger watering can. I got a little bit of water of the barrels, but not nearly enough. They both overflowed with the next rain.

At this point I was getting pretty worried about our basement leaking. We've heard that it does and I know that if I dump enough water right next to the house it will leak. So I drained the water from the barrel that I was worried about well away from the house. Luckily that wasn't a difficult process. It hasn't rained since. So now things are looking like they'll be dry for awhile and I've only got half the water I could have had.

I've been considering options for the future. I could buy more barrels and hook up several barrels in tandem to collect more rain water, but that would cost more money. Those barrels aren't cheap even though they we've found a good place to buy them used. The less expensive option would be to simply install an overflow pipe that directed the water away from the house. That would be cheap and easy, but I'd be missing all that rain water.

I think I'm going to have to buy more barrels anyway because I currently only have one compost bin. If we keep adding stuff to it there is no way it will ever finish composting. If we stop adding things to it we won't have anywhere to put our compost for at least several weeks.

We'll figure something out.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I have some experience in academic research. I've published some papers and been to some conferences. I've read tons of papers that others have written and quite frankly it's nearly impossible to determine if the paper you are reading has any merit at all.

I've worked with some incredible scholars who are full of integrity. They conduct research following the scientific method and they try to draw conclusions and make inferences from the data collected.

The majority of researchers I have worked with have an agenda. They know the results that they want to find before they conduct the research and they design the 'experiment' to provide the results they want to see. It is easy to overlook large bodies of contradictory evidence when you don't want to see it. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to conduct non-biased research in an area where you have strong opinions.

Why does it matter that most research is not actually research, but rather a bundle of money spent to build the ego of a guy who is able to design research projects that 'prove' his opinion. As a person who looks for primary sources for information, this is a concern of mine, but for the average consumer, it really doesn't matter.

You see, most people wait for the watered down version of research. They wait for a journalist to read a research article, dumb it down and input his/her own biases before they read it. By the time 'research' reaches the public it may not even resemble truth.

I was once interviewed by a popular magazine on some research that I had conducted. I was glad to see that they took the time to email me and verify that what they had written agreed with the research that I had conducted. Most journalists don't do that. It is important to note that when the journalist wrote me, he had completely misinterpreted the research I had conducted.

There we have it; we use second hand information that is generally misinterpreted from primary research that was conducted to build the ego of some researcher. And what do we use this information for? We use this information to make some of the most important decisions of our lives. We decide what is healthy and what is not and we rely on this information to help us in virtually all aspects of our lives.

No wonder the Atkin's Diet seemed like a good idea. Here, I'll give you a specific example. I've seen it reported that the Atkin's diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Did you also know that any diet that puts you in a caloric deficit can improve cholesterol levels? Did you know that in the study on the Atkin's diet that subjects were given fishoil supplements? Did you know that fishoil supplements have been shown to improve cholesterol levels? By putting all of these things together in the same study, the study doesn't really show anything. Yet, most of us have heard that people on the Atkin's diet lower their cholesterol levels.

There is good research out there, it is just difficult to identify. In fact, I have found researchers that were reputable and whose work I trusted, only to find some complete junk science that they had conducted that made me distrust everything else they had published.

This is part of the reason I dropped out of a PhD program. I don't like the dishonesty in science. This is also important when it comes to global warming research and research on genetic engineered foods. Did you know that because Monsanto has a patent on many genetically engineered strains of vegetables, you cannot conduct research without their permission? It's not even possible to get unbiased research on many strains of genetically engineered foods.

Those are my thoughts on research.