Life’s Changes

I find my life changing very rapidly. To be honest, I don’t live for my work. I work so I can live. My goal in life has always been to make a difference. I don’t always feel like I’m doing that with my regular paying job.

Here is an example. I spent months on a report that was being directed by a Federal Officer high up in Washington D.C. It was supposed to protect the lives of archaeologists and honor indigenous people’s too. I thought it would make a huge difference in the landscape of my work. At the end of many deliberations and changes to the report, I submitted it. I even presented the results to some Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of ****. Wouldn’t you know it, this official told me that the person I was working with decided to go a different direction. When I asked about this, it was very true. All the time I spent on something that I thought was important suddenly meant nothing. You could pretty much throw away all the work I did into the trash. And not only that, it means taxpayer dollars were summarily burned into ashes as well.

It wasn’t any different from when I was a University Professor. It just so happen I caught the wave of a plant disease that greatly affected highly managed turfgrass lawns. Now, to those of us in the trenches, that doesn’t mean a lot. But to a golf course that is hosting a huge event, and to the hosting organization (like the Professional Golf Association), to all the sponsors who invested money to get their names highlighted to generate sales, to all the golfers and spectators who paid for plane tickets and hotel rooms, well, a lot is on the line. When a plant disease can basically wipe out an event on its own in a matter of days or even hours, that’s not a good thing. So I was working on the genetics of plant disease and I sought a solution. Everyone was totally behind me. However, what people didn’t have was patience. And by the time I could even propose a solution, they already changed away from the species of susceptible grass and planted something else. Even if we found a gene responsible for the disease and made some company a lot of money for creating a new variety of grass, it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans anymore.

What you realize is this is the story of just one person’s life. Now multiply that across research that is done all the time. How much of it really ends up affecting people’s lives?

So now, I look at books in my work library that talk about bacterial genetics, molecular biology, and modern techniques of DNA research. I look at Volumes of books on statistical software and techniques for multivariate statistical analysis. I look at Agent Based Modeling and Data Mining. And notable Leadership and Corporate Motivation books. I’m a book person. I cherish books and their meaning. To think of the hours I’ve poured into these books, studying them, and finding solutions to problems. But life changes. If I move on from this career in a few years, what will these books mean to me? Absolutely nothing.

You know what works great for Sharpie permanent marker? You know, possession means you write your name on all your books so if you accidentally leave it somewhere or your colleague borrows it, you can hopefully get it back. Its acetone. You know, the highly flammable chemical that is used to remove fingernail paint. It works great. So I asked my wife to pick up a bottle for me. Its sitting next to all those cherished books to wipe my name and hopefully sell on Amazon. Then I’ll donate what I can’t sell.

I have a lot of other things in my office that won’t mean anything to me in a few years. Not only that, I have the same in my house. I have a wood working router that I never used. I have a band saw that I’ve only used a few times. I have many things I thought I needed but only used once or twice. Why do we hold on to these things? I have year books and things that I never look at. Yes, they are memories. I love memories and I’m very nostalgic. But think about how many times I use them. Maybe someone will copy a few notes from them for my memorial when I die. But what will they really mean to anyone?

Life changes and that’s ok. My purpose in life (now) is to have meaningful purpose. Its not to bide time away or just to fulfill my own immediate enjoyment. I want to make other’s people’s lives better. And I feel I do that really well with my teaching of yoga. I actually change peoples lives. It means something to people. The same is true with my education in Thai yoga massage. I can actually heal people. I can make them feel better. That is huge to me. As someone with chronic back pain and issues that I’ve held for years, I know how well all of this works. I think about the devastation my body had gone through in my 30’s and 40’s. I’m finally feeling like my body is where I want it to be. Its taken this long to figure it out.

Let life change for the positive. Find meaning. Savor every minute. Don’t let wasted time fall by the wayside. Make every moment meaningful.

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Music: The Yoga Experience

I had an interesting thing happen last night while subbing a hot yoga class. I was about 3 or 4 songs into class when a woman came up to me while I was teaching and asked me a question. First, I’ve never had anyone approach my mat while I was teaching. Second, she had an accent so I couldn’t really understand her at first. And lastly, she asked me if I could play music without lyrics. Hmmm?

When I took teacher training, we talked a lot about the proper use of music in yoga. We were advised to use music without any lyrics at all. The tone of the music should fit the intensity of the class. And, like in Ashtanga, music isn’t always desired anyway.

When I first started teaching yoga, I largely abided by these criteria. But that didn’t last long. I happened to teach at a fitness gym that also had physical therapy, massage, and other healing modalities. It also tended to cater to an older crowd. I led a moderately intense yoga class at 6 am several mornings a week. Most of the class were people my age or slightly older. I think the music I chose fit with their general likes as well. And it seemed better when I used music that they could connect with.

I know my music won’t fit everyone’s styles or needs. But the best thing happened when I started teaching Rocket Yoga. Rocket was developed by Larry Schultz, the traveling Ashtangi to the Grateful Dead. So Rocket was steeped in Rock n’ Roll and Ashtanga. So I felt I was given carte blanche to play this kind of music in Rocket. So I play rock, hip-hop, funk, easy classics, and even EDM. I play an intro while we’re warming up of mostly invocations and Bollywood sounding themes. Then, as we are energizing, I kick in the jams. I range from Major Lazer to The Smashing Pumpkins to David Bowie and Eminem. As we start to chill in seated asanas, we stroll into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stevie Nicks, Damien Rice, and Dido. And then I finish in savasana with a mellow sound from my Thai Yoga Massage playlist.

Once, a lady from Australia asked about a song I played. She liked it, but when I suggested she check out my Spotify, she said she wouldn’t be doing that. So she was one of few who likely didn’t care for most of my music. And that’s OK. She kept coming to class. I had one lady who was totally in synch with my music. She used to sing and dance along to what I was playing. I really loved having her in class. We shared a mutual love for music.

However, in one instance, I was teaching Rocket and Eminem came on early in our heating phase. A lady walked out of the room, but came back after the song was over. Afterward, she said she had been on a music “fast” so hearing hard rap music was hard for her. I’m ok with that. But I’m not sure I ever restrict my life to not hearing music. I don’t think I’ll ever do that. Its like saying I shouldn’t drink water for a period of time. Nope, not gonna happen.

I really love music a lot. I like quite a variety of music. My music fits my mood. I play Zydeco when I’m cooking Cajun food. Maybe Mariachi when I’m cooking Mexican food. I play sad music if I’m sad. And when I’m doing CrossFit, nothing but metal will do. And I play it loud. Metallica, Accept, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, and Korn are some of my Go-To groups. They get my heart beating and drive my energy through the roof. Its like a Mosh Pit with Barbells.

I’m teaching a Glow Yoga Party next week. Its so fun because I play music hard and loud. We have blacklights and body paint and funky lights. Its so much fun!! Its really a Rave. Doing yoga like this is so energetic. Sometimes you need energy. It doesn’t always have to be somber and serene. It can be loud and rambunctiously playful too!

Play it loud!!!

 

Old Guys & Ring Tones

When I was growing up, the only option was to pick up the phone to know who had called. There wasn’t caller ID or any way of knowing who called. We didn’t even have an answering machine until many years down the road.

But when I go out in public, there are old guys (older than me) who still have their ringer on high because I don’t think they could hear it otherwise. I notice they don’t even check who called. They just pick it up and say "Hello Joe’s phone!" It doesn’t matter if they are in a line at the bank, at the hardware store, or getting suspenders at Walmart. They just answer.

Meanwhile, the introvert and private person who I am never has my phone on ring. My sound is always off and on vibrate. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll check who’s calling. But do you know what? I have a life. Whatever I’m doing at the moment is usually more important than checking my phone. When I have a chance, I’ll see who called or texted. I’d say 98% of the texts I receive have value to me. But only about 3% of the actual calls I receive have any meaning. Most are telemarketer robocalls. And I don’t have any time for that nonsense. If I have a moment, I’ll take the time to block the caller. Otherwise, I just delete it.

I’m not a phone talker anyway. Its especially true at work. So many miscommunications can be made on a phone call. Sure, you can get a better tenor and flavor in communication by hearing vocal inflection. A much better means is in person so you can see facial expressions and body language. A phone is generally a poor means of communication. And for something technical and specific, transcribing what you hear into notes isn’t very effective. Its much better to get a list, diagram, or picture from someone. And then you have a good record that’s searchable in your inbox.

To me, texts are super awesome. You have emoji’s and other means to show your emotions. You can catch them whenever is convenient. Most often, there isn’t a rush for an immediate response. But you never have more than a half-hour to hour delay in getting a response. Its my favorite means of communicating.

My advice to those old dudes: turn off your dad gum ringer!! Nobody wants to hear that or your conversation that’s not important to anyone but your self-important self.

College Football Powerhouses

Remember back in the day when USC (Southern Cal), Florida State, Nebraska, and Texas were football powerhouses?

Texas used to dictate the rules in the Big 12 (Big 8).

Oklahoma has a long-lasting rivalry with Nebraska. They went back & forth every meeting.

Bobbie Bowden used to have a grip on every game FSU played.

USC had all these Heisman trophy winners and the Rose Bowl was their annual home game on their way to a National Championship.

Shock Jocks

In the old days of radio, and maybe still today, there were Disk Jockeys (DJ’s) on the radio. Their disks were vinyl records that had to be changed over from turntable to turntable and "cued" up to gently overlap the previous song. That may sound obvious to many of you, but it may be new to some.

Back in the day, the FCC rules were a bit more strict, so if you said something distasteful on air, you could get the ax more easily than today. It still happens today, but you can hear podcasts where anything goes and nobody will say a thing. We called them Shock Jocks. These were the guys and gals who pushed the edge. And listeners just waited on baited breath for one of their lapses. It makes some people really happy. I don’t know why.

When I was in grade school, there was always a class clown. They always made people laugh with their antics. Usually, they weren’t the ones who were getting good grades and were certainly out of favor with the teachers. They made inappropriate outbursts and talked back to the teachers. They really only did it to gain approval from fellow students. They all thought they were cool and kids wanted to hang out with them. They were strong enough to buck the system. They were the rebels and people loved rebels. They got all the girls and were the pride of the school.

But the truth of their psychological character was probably far from cool. These were the kids who were often abused at home. They were yelled at and made to feel worthless. They were probably beaten and not fed very well. And not only were they treated this way, but they ended up treating others the same way. They had no respect for authority. They could care less about grades. I would suspect more than 95% of the class clowns we knew are probably homeless, in poverty, or even dead from substance abuse.

Kids aren’t at all perceptive of these issues. Even adults are this way. They love the celebrities who buck conventional norms. They love the celebrities who trash other celebrities. You know them too. They eventually treat people poorly and eventually commit suicide. Think of all the celebrity comedians from Saturday Night Live and other situation comedies who are now dead from substance abuse and suicide. These are the people we thought were so cool and had their acts together. These rebels are gone.

I think kids, and even immature adults, still think this way. They see the straight laced person and want to run from them. Instead, they gravitate toward the rebel. They may even want to emulate that person. They flock toward the counter-culture. They back the 1% not because they truly honor that lifestyle, but just because its cool to be egregiously different.

Yet, when it comes to educating children, we start to want to protect their minds. Those things we thought were cool, we definitely don’t want in our children. We want them to obey you because the rules are set not to hurt them, but to protect them. We lock the doors on our home not as much as for ourselves, but to protect those we love. We put up a privacy fence not as much to keep people out, but to protect what’s inside. We hope that our kids grow to respect authority and make something special of their own lives. Its fine to have someone on TV be a rebel, but we don’t want that for our kids. Let that be someone else’s kids. And lets not do play dates with those kinds of families. Its about protecting our children and them growing into adults we can be proud of.

People always love a rebel. Its a fantasy. Stay true to yourselves. Don’t raise Shock Jocks.

Fake Science: Don’t Always Believe What You Hear and Read

https://www.chronicle.com/article/As-Cornell-Finds-Him-Guilty-of/244584

When I was doing my Doctoral research, I went to a highly respected quantitative geneticist to talk about my research. I was asking which statistical model I should use for my research. He matter-of-factly said "use the model that shows the results you want". My jaw hit the floor!! I mean, this guy wrote the book on statistical models for multiple gene traits. Yet, now my research and all before looks like a sham.

I would bring my results to my adviser. In order to fit the probability of 0.05 in order to make my research valid, I was made to throw out any outliers or data that skewed the results. I think this was valid in many cases because I know all the methods used and where errors happen. But some of the outliers were actually that and should have been kept in.

I remember a story of one graduate student of a faculty member on my dissertation committee. This student basically didn’t do any work. He used a randomizer and created a fake data set without doing any work. The data was too perfect and when the committee started talking with the student, he couldn’t explain his methods.

To be honest, most senior researchers I interacted with didn’t know a lick of statistics. Their graduate students who were deep in the mud in statistics were the ones who knew what they were talking about. My adviser only stuck to one model that he was familiar with. If we strayed to try a different technique, we were ushered back on to the straight and narrow because he didn’t understand it.

And worse yet, the media who publishes and attempts to interpret scientific results follows the narrative of what they want to believe and present. You should listen to Gary Taubes on the "Pursuing Health Podcast" with Julie Foucher. He talks about his interactions with Nobel Prize winning scientists and debunks their methods and statistics. He says you need to be an extreme skeptic if not cynic when reading most research. This is especially true with nutrition and health. Faulty statistics run rampant in these realms. "Morning is the most important meal", "a bran muffin a day keeps the doctor away", "saturated fat is bad for you", all are myths from faulty research. Every day you hear new research that completely backtracks on things like saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt.

As a scientist, I would always recommend being a skeptic first before changing your life. This is especially true with the Pop Sugar and other magazines that try to give you a fresh Tabata Interval Workout when they don’t know the first thing about Dr. Izumi Tabata and his research. I look at their workouts and scratch my head. They don’t get it at all. Always be critical of what you hear and read. Use common sense. And base what you know on real science.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

My formative years from ages 5 to 17 were lived out in rural Kansas. I vaguely remember living in an upstairs apartment for a bit before moving into a very small house. I think my Dad said it was priced at $12,000. It was on a small street in the small town of Gardner, Kansas. I don’t remember a lot, but when I started into kindergarten through 1st grade, I have strong feelings of racism. In fact, I was the target of an attack by a group of kids who beat me up on the playground. I cried to the teachers who stood there and just watched. I mean, I saw them looking at me…eye to eye. I remember gravitating toward friends who were Mexican even though I am Native American. It seemed like a natural thing to do. I remember riding my bike home from school, which as a kid seems like a long way away. I should Google Map it to see how long it actually was. I had to take different routes home because some kids would throw rocks at me. I mean, it was Smalltown USA and racism in the 70’s was still quite apparent. As a kid, I was pretty naive to dangers, but I learned very quickly. Sometimes I walked to school along the main street. Some high schoolers would woo me into their car and take me to school now and then. I know I shouldn’t have gotten in their car. But they told me I was cute and really bolstered me up. Then, one day these same kids walked by my house, held me down in my front yard, and pulled down my pants. I remember going into my house crying. My Mom was on the phone with someone and I was trying to get her attention. I give her a lot of grace since she was young too. She probably wasn’t even 24 years old at that time. I guess she really didn’t want to be bothered by me and just stuck her tongue out at me. That horrific experience still sticks with me. I forgave my Mom in my own mind even though I never told her what happened.

My Dad got a job with Ford Motor Company working with “computers”. Back in those days, “computers” had to be manned around the clock as they processed data. All the binary codes were recorded on cards that were fed into loud machines. My Dad worked nights most of the time. So we would sometimes stay with him overnight. Every few hours, he would load boxes full of these cards onto a cart and wheel them to the warehouse for storage. We would ride the cart with the boxes. In my first years of college and even my first year of Ph.D. studies at Illinois, we would stand in lines for each class and pick up a computer “card”. We would take it to admissions where they would feed the card into the computer so we could be registered. I sometimes wonder where all those gazillion cards went to from those days from all the companies in the world.

When my Dad got his new job, we moved to the country. We lived in a fairly large community out in the middle of nowhere. We had huge yards and dogs roamed freely. I knew about the yard because I would mow the lawn with a big riding mower. I got spanked a few times because I liked to put it in reverse and then back into drive really quickly to pop a wheelie. That would eventually break a pin in the transmission and cost a lot to fix. I also got a good spanking when me and my brother covered the entire side of the house with mudballs. It had just rained and we started throwing them at the house. I’m not sure why we did what we did sometimes. We had to watch out for wild dogs, or even the unleashed tame dogs. I used to ride my bike with the banana seat for miles around. I knew this one farmhouse that had doberman pincers. I would try to stay on the hard part of the gravel road so I wouldn’t make a sound. But they always heard me. I would end up peddling with one foot and kicking at the dogs with the other. I was so scared and surprised I never got mauled. In those days, you also had to fear the guy with a shotgun full of salt pellets. I heard of kids who got shot with them for trespassing. The salt would burn as they picked the pellets from their skin. We spent a lot of time in the woods. We built huge treehouses, made BMX bike racing courses, and anything else you can imagine. We would gig tadpoles and drink from the creek that was probably full of sewer water. You had to watch for the wild dogs out there. One of our friends had huge St. Bernards. They would sometimes wander into the woods and knock us down and put their teeth on you. They were really scary for a little kid who weighed probably 80 pounds against a 150 pound dog. One Winter, we stumbled upon one of these dogs that was shot by someone. It was completely frozen and had been there for a while. I also stumbled on one of my cats in a ditch who was shot by a pellet gun by someone. Life was tough out in the country.

Anyway, what got me to this subject of Kansas was a few Facebook posts I saw from friends in Kansas. As I think back, nobody has really changed very much. They married high school sweethearts and I don’t know of a single one of them who has divorced. I know not all of them were church going people, but all had a great respect for religion. I see it in the things they say. They are all patriotic as ever. Now I know where I got my values and sense of Country. It was not only my parents, but the pervasive culture in which I was raised. We used to have biker gangs who wore leather and were really long-haired hippies. I mean, it was the 70’s. We wore bell bottoms and listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joe Walsh and Cream. They were kind of scary sometimes and you knew not to mess with them. But some of my friends’ older brothers, Dads, and uncles were part of these gangs. Every Friday, this gang would play basketball against the local sheriffs. I’m not sure how that would come about, but you could always go and watch them play at the high school after school got out. One of them dunked a ball and broke the glass backboard. I mean these guys played for real! I’m sure there was still racism, but I remember so many brown friends who were the most popular kids in school. So I don’t think we fared too badly. When I eventually moved to Michigan for my senior year in high school, I was amazed at the lack of brown or black colors. I mean, those white people were really white. Like ghostly white. And they talked funny!

I know I’m not in Kansas anymore but I feel like I am every now and then. It never happens close to the University campus. Those kinds of values and morals are very rare there. You have to wander to the County Fair or down to the Amish community to find that kind of mindset. A local farm store and even a campground is where I find my people. The snobbery and pride in excess is something I run from. I mean, I was a University Professor at one time. I really hated the types of people who thought they knew better than everyone else. It abounds on college campuses. And these types of people are paid to teach our kids. Its the root of intellectual elitism that pervades our country. I like the down to earth people who are true to themselves and their beliefs. Those kinds of people make me feel like I’m back in Kansas again.