All posts by Andy Yoga

Yoga Teacher & Photographer serving East-Central Illinois RYT-200 Yoga Alliance Ashtanga Immersion 50 hr CrossFit Level I trainer CF Olympic Weightlifting Gymnastics Movement Former Army Drill Instructor Microbiology, mycology, plant pathology, Ph.D. Fly fisher, kayaker, backpacker, musician Husband, friend, dog lover Runner, Olympic weightlifter, CrossFit (Rocket Yoga 100 hour, Feb 2016)

Concentric/Eccentric Lifting

Since hearing some ideas from Julien Pineau of StrongFit and others about concentric loading during lifting, I’ve been experimenting with these ideas in my workouts. Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve found.

We’ve known for decades that Olympic lifters in Bulgaria often train 6 days a week with 2 sessions a day. All this while the Western world talks about the dangers of overtraining. While not an easy program to follow, there is a reason why they can do this and survive. First of all, the book Squat Every Day by Matt Perryman will change your life. It goes way beyond squatting every day but into many other outside-the-box ideas. He and others have taken the Squat Every Day philosophy to the nth degree and have gone months and years of squatting every day. I myself have taken one to two months a year for the past 5 years of squatting every day. It does wonders for your body. You adapt super quickly and its totally possible to do that kind of hard work every day. You ask how?

The muscles in our body are made up of many types of fibers. If you think about striated heart muscle fibers, they were made to pump over and over throughout our lifetime. So overtraining the heart is not something we usually talk about. Muscles in our legs and hips are made to do amazing things. We were Born to Run as the book says. Endurance athletes have gone nonstop in 72 hour events. Yes, that’s probably in the realm of overtraining, but it tells you about what the body is capable of doing. You can squat every day and grow! And you can do that sustainably.

So back to the Bulgarian weightlifters—a part of their program was squatting. So we’ve explored that. What about all the heavy lifting they do with the Olympic snatch and clean & jerk? That’s the beauty of bumper plates. Being able to drop a barbell from overhead changes everything. Olympic lifting is largely concentric. The only part that might be eccentric is catching the weight and lowering into a squat. Actually, if you don’t go super heavy or just do "powers", you can completely avoid the eccentric load (lengthening fibers). The eccentric is where most of our soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) occurs. The concentric can largely avoid DOMS. If you make it a study of kinetic energy, the ground is where the action potential is zero, whereas the highest point is maximum action potential with stored energy. But instead of lowering the weight in a controlled way, you drop it. This avoids the eccentric load completely. So this is the main reason why the Bulgarian method allows for such work volume.

So here is a summary:
1). You can Squat every day because of how leg and hip muscles work.
2). Concentric loading, like in Olympic lifting, reduces the possibility of DOMS.

I teach yoga and in order to teach yoga, you have to be able to demonstrate poses. If I do a lot of bench presses and pushups the day before a class, I could be so wiped out that I couldn’t even demonstrate poses. So I avoid chest work and eccentric loading the day before I teach. But what I Do, Do, is lots of concentric work. I no longer take a rest day the day before I teach. And its been amazing.

Here are some Concentric exercises that I do:
-Olympic lifting with no lowering of weight.
-Lots of strongman work–
-soft stone over the shoulder throws
-farmer carries and stone carries
-axle lifts with dropping
-One-arm Kettlebell lifts with assisted lowering (a little eccentric but OK)
-Pullups and drop with a mat underneath – no eccentric lowering
-Box jumps with easy step downs (little eccentric)

Some exercises I would like to add with more equipment are sled drags. You can pull a sled with arms or driving with legs. Pineau does this a lot. It can totally kill your body without a lot of after effects.

Conversely, in the days after I teach yoga, I focus a lot on eccentrics. This is where you throw in old-school bodybuilding negatives, partials, and other time-under-tension type movements. Soreness isn’t something that is necessary for growth, but it is an indicator that you’ve done some muscle breakdown. So I don’t mind being a little sore from those workouts.

What are some of the best eccentric movements?:
-lunges (I can almost guarantee I’ll be sore from lunges)
-dumbbell or machine pec dec flyes
-any curls focusing on the negative
-pullups, again focusing on lowering
-leg curls or hyperextensions

So the list above for eccentrics are also the types of movements that I avoid on my concentric days. The other advantage of concentrics is that you can do those movements prior to a competition. Then you don’t hit the starting line with soreness.

I hope this jogs your mind and let’s you think about exploring these ideas for yourself. You don’t always have to be sore for growth. But there is a time and place for soreness when you want it.

Michael-ish

Today, I’m doing a scaled version of the CrossFit workout called "Michael". You can look up the full variation. I often do variations of this since it is such a good fundamental workout for core muscle groups. And none of the muscle groups really interfere with other work that I do.

Here is the version I’m doing today.

4 Rounds for time:
Run 400-300-200-100m (begin each round with each)
40-30-20-10 reps of–
hyperextensions (or GHD extensions)
sit-ups (regular or GHD)

Working out withOUT soreness?

Some research has shown that soreness isn’t a necessary component of muscle growth. No pain, no gain has largely been debunked. However, some would say that people who say that want the quick fix or the little pill to swallow that avoids hard work to get what you want. We always need hard work for growth. So I’ll say instead, getting sore every workout shouldn’t be a parameter that you check off your to-do list when seeking growth.

Soreness can be caused by many different stimuli. But you can almost guarantee an eccentric component is part of the picture; maybe a big part of it. Just to refresh, concentric contraction of muscle is the muscle shortening phase. If you measure the extreme ends of the muscle tendon from insertion to attachment, that shortening can be physically measured as muscle contracts. Then, when you release the contraction, the eccentric phase is the lengthening of the muscle. However, muscles don’t completely relax while it is under load. It still puts out little myosin-actin bridges or micro contractions to lower a load with control. The lengthening, or eccentric contraction, is where most soreness occurs. It happens as you lower into a squat, as you release a barbell curl to full arm’s length, and when you lower a military press from overhead to the rack position. Sometimes you want to maximize eccentric contraction with tools like negative reps and partner assisted lowering with extra pressure. It has been a big part of old school bodybuilding forever. So yes, eccentric is still essential, but soreness isn’t always the desired outcome.

So, can we really avoid eccentric contraction in a workout?

The answer is an emphatic YES! Haha, I say that tongue in cheek because you’ll see where we still go a little eccentric at times. But here are a few ideas for eccentric work:

1. Sled drags – when you pull a sled horizontally across a surface, it is nearly 100% concentric. You never have to kinetically lower a sled from a high action potential (excerpt from my days of physical chemistry). It is always on the ground. Your quads and glutes are burning on all cylinders, but its all concentric. Yes, you still may get sore because it is really hard, but once you are trained for that kind of effort, you may not get sore anymore. Movements like Farmer Carries are close to this as well because you don’t pick up the weight very high and you lower it a couple inches back to the ground.

2. Olympic weightlifting – this is where tongue in cheek comes into play—yes, there is still a squat in Olympic lifting. When you catch a clean at the rack position and lower into a squat, that is eccentric. The same is true when you catch a snatch. But, what if you used a manageable weight that you caught either in a power clean or a clean where you don’t lower when you catch. Then, it would be almost all concentric. The key is dropping the weight. So if you are not in a gym that allows weight to be dropped and that doesn’t have bumper plates, you’ll be in a jam. Again, kinetic energy. From floor to overhead is concentric, but if you use any effort to lower the weight, it adds the eccentric. Let’s say you are doing power cleans. You clean it, then drop it, then do it again. Its a great workout without any eccentric contraction.

3. Throwing/lifting movements – a strongman atlas stone or soft stone lift is perfect! You can lift it to shoulder or overhead, then drop it. Med ball slams are pretty good too. Lift it and drop or slam it to the ground. Try a 30 or 50 pound ball 20 to 100 times and you’ll realize what a sick workout it is. And its nearly all concentric. You can also do a wallball drop. You can’t catch it or that will be eccentric. This is better for a heavier med ball. Do like a wallball throw to a mark on the wall or rafters, then let it drop. Clean it and then do it again.

You can get really creative with this. Basically, anything that starts from the floor (no potential energy) to some height (maximum potential energy), then drop it. That will most likely be concentric in your body.

When do you use strictly concentric lifting?

You use concentrics when you don’t want to or can’t get sore. I teach yoga classes and I need to be able to demonstrate poses to students. If I can’t do a pushup (chaturanga) or a squat (chair pose), I’m not going to be able to demonstrate. I can’t afford cramps either, especially in hamstrings or biceps. So, either I don’t workout the day before class, or I do concentric work instead. Also, maybe you are on a deload for competition; maybe you’re running a race on the weekend; or maybe you are working as a massage therapist or tire changer and you need to be able to function at work—-that’s when you use concentrics.

I hope this gives you something to think about. Have fun and keep at it!

Train smarter!!

The Goggins Effect

My YouTube feed is full of workout videos, lots of fishing, some travel, and motivational videos. And by workout, I mean Strongman, CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, a little bodybuilding, yoga, Ashtanga yoga, animal yoga, and Tai-Chi. Yes, I end up watching a lot of Joe Rogan too.

If you subscribe to Joe’s feed, you’ll notice a lot of talk about David Goggins. Not only directly with David Goggins, but other people talking about him as well. But I was never very interested to watch. I mean, I would start and quickly change the channel.

To be honest, when I first started watching videos before YouTube or any social media, there were other venues to see such things. Often they were web pages, listservs, and bulletin boards. What turned me off about David Goggins was the same thing that turned me off about this video called "Every Second Counts". There was this brash guy who couldn’t talk without cursing every other word. Mind you, I was raised in a household that never cursed. When I got into the Army, there were guys who couldn’t say a single sentence without a curse word in it. It was just how they were conditioned to speak. I never felt the need to communicate that way. Even when I later became an Army Infantry Drill Instructor, it wasn’t something I had to do to be hard and get my point across.

But eventually, this guy on "Every Second Counts" broke me down. I started to see through the inflammatory language and get to his point. This man was David Castro. He has been the 2nd man-in-charge throughout the life of CrossFit. He was an ex-Navy Seal and instructor, so he has built this vocabulary over the years. Since I was also in the military, I gravitated toward what he was talking about; and it lead me down the path of CrossFit that I still do today. The actual video that hooked me was one called "Nasty Girls". It was a workout done by 3 ladies who got after it to the original tune Nasty Girls. They did cleans, strict muscle ups, and air squats, really killing themselves along the way. I was amazed at how they could do that. But that path is a whole other story.

As I circle back to David Goggins, all I could hear at first was the coarseness of his words. I couldn’t see through that and walls were built in my mind. But something finally broke through a month ago and I decided to give him a chance. Like my wife says, if there is good character development in a story, she can listen or watch a story or movie and be totally engaged. That’s what got me in his book. His book doesn’t start out about how great David Goggins is; it started at how broken he was. The story of his abuse as a child was my hook. I felt anxious and in pain as I read. And then I couldn’t put the book down. I ended up staying up 4 hours past my bedtime that night.

Mind you, I’m intelligent, but not necessarily a fast reader. Fortunately, I had some air travel ahead of me and that’s where I can read voraciously. I finished his book and let it settle into my mind for a while. Then I started watching Goggins Clips on YouTube and anything else I could find on him. When you go back to the broken boy, the 300 pound depressed man, and mental challenges of his intellect, it opens your mind to what he has accomplished in life. It goes beyond the physical into what the mind is capable of.

Since I have a history of ultramarathoning, backpacking, and even CrossFit, I really connected with what he was saying. I’m also a Yoga teacher. Believe me, more than any other practice in life, I feel yoga helps us deal with limitations. Either you are very strong but inflexible or very flexible but weak. Some people can bind into pretzels but can’t do an arm balance. Others can handstand for 10 minutes but can’t do a half lotus. It explores the limitations we put on ourselves and opens your mind. This is exactly what Goggins is getting at.

Goggins has reinvigorated my mind. And, in turn, my mind is changing my body. The past week has been amazing for working out. I’ve explored more of what is possible. But not only have I evaluated on paper what I’ve done, but how my mind has faced adversity. I won’t regurgitate all the ideas from Goggins book (though I probably eventually will). Let me just say its very profound. Its nothing like I’ve experienced before.

Give his book "Can’t Hurt Me" a chance. And if you’re like me, you can buy the "clean" version. I hear the audiobook is even more amazing. More to come on the after effects in my life.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon…errr, Racism

Ever heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? It a parlour game that connects Kevin to any arbitrary actor. That’s what people are calling systemic racism. Its why every statue, monument, historical document, and living person can be called racist. You buy an iPhone or Android, you’re racist. Why, because it uses slave labor in Africa to gather cobalt in the mines. If you trace back anything, people will point to a source in racism. If you think a thought, its racist. No matter what you do, people will call you racist. Like when Mark Wahlberg tried to say something in support of a movement, he received a severe backlash of people decrying his early days of life when he did something wrong. There isn’t forgiveness or grace in society. Everybody is a racist. Not far behind that, sexist. Then, you’re privileged. Then, you’re a bourgeois this or that.

You know what, just stop calling people names and categorizing people who you don’t even know. Just stop it all! It is so hateful to do. Instead love and support each other. Actually talk with people before flaming on social media.

A Mexican immigrant said the other day on Joe Rogan that 2nd and 3rd generation Mexican immigrants in California are the worst. You are not allowed to state facts about any situation. There is no rationalizing with someone or carrying on an intellectual conversation. A very prominent politician from the same State said "facts don’t matter". Instead, burn them at the stake on social media. Then cancel them. Cancel out anything good they’ve ever done. Cancel all the money they’ve donated to charities. All it takes is one step off the path of the narrative and you’re cancelled. I made one comment about something recently and two of my yoga students unfriended me. That’s what they do. They do it from a keyboard in some dark room. That way, nobody can point the finger back at them. What they don’t realize if we turned back on their hypocrisy, the Six Degrees of Racism, Sexism, and Privilege will come back to haunt them too.

Before you condemn a person, first walk a mile in their shoes.

Black & African-American Charities to Give To

I’m a very responsible steward of my money. I never just give someone money without knowing something about the charity, organization, or person I’m giving to. Its the smartest way to give.

Also, I think a lot of people talk about giving but don’t really give. If they do give, its not substantial enough to consider filing on their taxes. The tax benefit of charitable giving is enormous. Its a great strategy to include in your portfolio. I mean, every little bit helps. If everyone gave $5 to a cause, then great. But I’m talking about people who really give. Not just talk about giving.

Quick story, the year when Barack Obama and Joe Biden showed their tax forms the first year of their election, my family gave more to charity than both of them combined. And we’re not rich. We’re not poor but fall in a more average income. And I wouldn’t say we give like Walmart gave $1 million to minority scholarships just the other day. Or a Bill Gates or someone like that. Be we probably give much more than your average person.

So if you give, you want to know that the money you give actually goes to the cause they profess. Many charities and organizations just pad rich fat cats who do nothing for their cause. For instance, consumer reports gave in Nov 2019 their best and worst charities to give to. It is surprising. Like:
Animal welfare – one of the best (PetSmart Charities) – one of the worst (Gentle Giant’s Draft Horse Rescue)
Cancer – one of the best (Cancer Research Institute) – one of the worst (Children’s Leukemia Research Association)
Heath – one of the best (American Kidney Fund) – one of the worst (United Cerebral Palsy)

https://www.consumerreports.org/charities/best-charities-for-your-donations/

Likewise, Charity Navigator gives ratings and assessments of various charities. Here are some of the best Black & African American-Focused Charities.

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=7983&c_src=WPAIDSEARCH&gclid=Cj0KCQjwrIf3BRD1ARIsAMuugNsyZuAIsFUwqf0Pd9lK7aMZ8Enr4JuYt56gVSuLEGKl5Vgs1d7yJGcaAiN8EALw_wcB

On the other hand, organizations like Black Lives Matter do not have any data supporting their cause. For some reason, people have never really given to this charity despite my seeing so many people telling me to give to them. If it weren’t for a few celebrities giving to them just now, they haven’t been a charity of focus. Its amazing how people jump on bandwagon’s without any deliberation. They just do it. Its not a smart way to live life. I’m not putting them down or saying they are not effective, but there is no proof that I should invest in them. Whereas, there are other causes listed above that would probably be a better place to put your money. Here is all they have for BLM.

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.profile&ein=474143254

People decry the rich and their philanthropy, but that is where most charitable giving happens. Yes, the $5 you give is appreciated and, when crowd sourced, can add up to a lot. But its the big donors where things really happen. And believe me, they study what they are giving to. There is a reason rich people are rich and its not what you think. They actually know how to make money. They also know that charitable giving is good for their company and good for their portfolio. The same is true for individuals. Charitable giving has so many benefits for smart consumers. And the best part, you are doing something good for someone.

Be smart about your money. And do your best to build and grow communities and people.

American Views On Race

Views on race in America are largely American-centric, and for good reason. Its where Americans live. But from a world-wide perspective, our views are narrow.

I lived in Germany when I was in my first tour of duty with the Army. While many of my caucasian brothers and sisters in arms were of Anglo-Saxon or even of Germanic descent. Other than how we dressed and our short haircuts, many of us fit in with the host population. But for those who are brown or black-skinned, we sometimes stood out. In many places where I traveled in Germany, the cab drivers and service people were other than German. In that, I mean predominantly Turkish or sometimes Indian in heritage.

In fact, as a Native American, somehow I passed off as a Turk at times. I had a lady friend who would invite me to a Turkish bar with her and there was never a problem. I mean, back in that time where I lived, some of the Turks had a violent temper. I once saw two American soldiers badly beaten by a group of Turks. These guys looked like your average nerdy white guys and they weren’t being belligerent. They were racing to get their car door unlocked and down the road. But it was like a movie. The driver dropped his keys and couldn’t get in since he was rushing so fast. So the two guys got beaten badly. I didn’t have the courage to step in because I would have been beaten too. I once saw a guy suplexed by a Turk. As a wrestler, I can still see that beautiful move in my mind. But the American had his head bashed in pretty badly when it hit the cobblestone.

Another time, me and a white buddy of mine were walking down the street in Kaiserslautern (K-town) and we saw a group of guys just off the main street. I yelled out, "where’s the party?" (maybe in German or English, I can’t remember). When they turned and looked at us, they were skinheads. They had leather and chains and didn’t look at us too kindly. So we kept moving on.

Another time, I was certain we were going to get beaten up. I’m sure we looked like drunk, gullible, harmless Americans as we left the Monster’s of Rock Concert. As we entered the concert earlier in the day (like in the morning since it was an all-day festival), they didn’t allow us to bring certain things in the stadium. So we wandered to the woods nearby and stashed our gear. Late that night, we went back for our gear. There were faint street lights, but then it was dark where our gear was. As we walked down the path, a big group of German guys were ahead of us. They kept looking back at us. As we were walking, part of the group stopped and we passed them. We came up to our gear and as we walked back onto the path, both groups had turned to approach us. We were boxed in. So we at first moved slowly into the woods and then started sprinting for our lives to get away.

While in Germany, we had the chance to go to Paris for a tour sponsored by my unit. That was a terrible choice because everybody got drunk and were fighting, but that’s another story. My problem was I didn’t know anything about Paris. I was a 19 year old soldier and not very worldly. Since the aforementioned drunken soldiers were unruly to hang with, I ventured out by myself. I like it that way. What was not super great was all my travels were by foot. I couldn’t catch a Taxi cab. I was totally discriminated against. I couldn’t speak French, so all the cabbies just ignored me. No habla, right? I couldn’t get on the Metro (subway) system either. Nobody would help me. I didn’t know how or where to get tokens or passes. Heaven knows I tried. So I ended up walking everywhere. I even had trouble getting food at times.

I’ll take you to last year in Thailand. First of all, when you visit a country, you obey their rules. If you get thrown into a Thai prison for doing something stupid, that’s on you. Even the U.S. Embassy would have their hands tied to help if you did wrong. You can’t step on or deface the Thai Baht, their money, because it has a picture of the King. You can’t say anything bad about the King. Its so different from the U.S. where people freely bash politicians. You also can’t buy a Buddha as a trinket, wear a Buddha image, or take a picture with your head higher than a Buddha. If you post to social media and they see it, they’ll look you up and catch you at the Airport before you leave. But you know the most tricky part of it all? There is an outright gouging of foreigners. There is a sign that says "Thais" and the other "Farangs". One line for one and another for the other. There are different prices for entry. Often you pay a higher price for food and transportation. Its just how it is.

As I’ve been researching a trip to Costa Rica, many "Ticos" frown on Yankees. Yes, we are loud, impatient, lack understanding, and are downright obnoxious. Whereas the Ticos are on their own time, they are so chill and laid back, and they don’t like American’s getting loud and angry. They also don’t like Divas.

All over the world, I’ve seen Americans think they are special and want things their way. Well, the world ain’t Burger King. Sometimes, you get what you get. We don’t make the rules. If you have to wear long pants and long sleeves to visit a temple, that’s what you do. If you need to wear a head and face covering, then you do it. If you can’t wear short-shorts or go topless on the beach, then tough. They make the rules.

Joe Rogan called it the "pussification of America". He had a guest, a Mexican immigrant who was recently naturalized. He said the people in American who treat recent immigrants the worst are the 2nd and 3rd generation Mexicans. Somehow, they’ve fallen into following the narrative put out there. He said "Facts don’t matter". He would tell of what was happening in Tijuana (TJ) when the caravans were going through. The locals didn’t like it at all. Much of it was orchestrated by the cartels. In 100F heat, guys in black hoodies would herd women in children in front of them. They had tattoos from head to toe. They had to hide behind innocuous looking people to get across the border. When generous food agencies would come and give the immigrants food, the cartel would take that food and re-sell it out behind the building. But somehow, this guy was chastised heavily for telling the truth. It didn’t follow the narrative.

As a pre-teen boy, my parents adopted two children from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I’ve said before, some reservations make the ghetto or barrio look like Disneyland. It is in a barren place out in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing there. Not even trees. There are not many businesses other than a grocer. There are lots of adults wasted laying along the streets. We visited an attorney to help us with adoption. The lady was overweight, which was odd for a place where people are starving. We sat on some chairs and boxes. The floor was either a dirt floor or dirt was covering the floor. All I know is it soaked up the pee that shot across the room when the lady coughed. That is a distinct memory I’ll never forget. When we did a Bible school with a missionary there, some of the college students were gathered around a cute little dog. The Indian boy who brought it over said they were eating it for dinner that night. It was the reality. Years later, I read how gangs have taken over. They extort people or their own families out of their monthly checks from the government. Many of these people have nothing. You don’t see racism because there’s no other people around to be racist to them. Years ago when the American Indian Movement was super active, they shot FBI agents who came on the reservation. The agents had like 50 bullets each in their bodies. We had a close personal friend who was a U.S. Marshall who went to the reservation to issue a warrant to a murderer. It was a scary time with machine guns and lots of bad feelings. And our U.S. Marshall friend, he was Puerto Rican.

One last story from the reservation (I have many). We had another missionary friend who preached at a church at Sharp’s Corner, a remote community miles from Pine Ridge. He lived in a small trailer next to the church, which was broken into many times. He said he didn’t keep anything of value there. You could sense a lot of fear when he talked. When we came to visit, he was doing a funeral of a gang member. He had us sit close to a door where we could escape should the other gang show up. Then he said we should just drive away as fast as we could. He was really afraid. It would have been a mass firefight. It was life on the Rez.

I think people should stop protesting and doing things they know nothing about. They don’t know the real problems and the sources of those problems. I told someone, there are probably 5-10 problems for each community before you ever get to racism. If you want to help someone, there are other ways to do it. It is such a difficult situation. Like on the reservation, I’m not sure what the answers are. If there was an easy solution, people would have done that already. One huge key is education. I’ve heard such positive stories about inner city kids being schooled at home because of the pandemic who are actually learning now. In the schools, teachers spend more time disciplining and dealing with unruly students than actually teaching. Smart kids are often placed in peer groups to bring up the numbers of the lesser performing students, which is chaotic for them. I know a local teacher in our town who quit because of the meanness of kids. When you think of the problem of unruly kids, it makes you wonder how they were raised. Sometime in the past, somebody went to a party, had a good time, had unprotected sex, and then ended up with a child. Parents are not ready to commit to a child, they don’t have the means to support the child, and often kids are left in neglect. It is a lack of values and no responsibility that are the primary source of the problem. They turn to the streets and the vicious cycle continues. It comes to having responsible relationships, actual planned parenthood where a loving family wants a child, having a home with means to support a family, and then raising them with values and a good education so they can survive in the world. Giving people free money doesn’t work if you see how Native Americans are treated on reservations. It doesn’t help anyone to pay them off for having no sense of self worth, no contribution to society, and no reward from doing hard work.

That last part is key. Its why socialism never works. Everybody gets paid the same and nobody is rewarded for working harder. So why work harder? If the State controls everything, then why do anything? Why not just stay at home and do nothing because you’ll still get paid. There is no self worth in that.

As for me, I take pride in anything I do myself, and that’s a lot! YouTube is great for everything. There is nothing you can’t do outside of YouTube. I installed a carburetor and other parts on my lawn mower not really knowing how to do those things. And the mower runs great. I did that myself and I pat myself on the back for it. I feel so good about myself when I do things on my own. Yes, I pay for expertise when I need to because that’s what you do. You pay for expertise because they’ve earned that with education and experience. Their hard work is why you go to them. But if there is no benefit from making something of yourself, then why do it? I went to school for 12 years to earn my Ph.D. I had better damned well get something out of all that hard work. Otherwise, why do it?

I’m a proud Native American. I’ve made something of myself. There are so many examples of all races of people who are successful contributors to society. But there are also a lot of people who don’t have real responsibilities, they don’t have kids to care for, they don’t have employees, they don’t have a mortgage to pay and gain equity. These are often the ones who want socialism. They usually rent, move from place to place, live out of wedlock, and usually don’t have kids. They see disparity in income from the outside never asking why that is so. They see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But they never seek solutions. Socialism is not the answer. Its the reverse of success. In many ways, race is like a caste system, like in India. In Thailand, its the common people and royalty. In Marxism, its the proletariat, bourgeois, and peasant classes. Everybody has a purpose. And they aren’t getting paid the same. People get paid for what they contribute to society. If they don’t contribute, they don’t get paid. If they don’t have a skill, expertise, or other capacity to contribute, then they’ll struggle finding success. Believe me, everyone can find a skill. Minimum wage jobs are meant to be stepping stones while in school or developing a skill. Maybe minimum wage is for when you work on your GED and catch up what was lost in youth. But minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. Its a contribution to yourself until you find your success.

People need to think about what they say. They see things so clearly in their minds, but they don’t connect the dots. Politicians sit on high horses totally disconnected from the people. Its why term limits are absolutely necessary. One Detroit city councilwoman said a US congressperson is there "to bring home the bacon". That’s it. But that’s not it. How does a congressperson making a modest wage end up being millionaire’s? How does a Bernie Sander’s become a millionaire when they never made anything outside of the government? Its not right. Representation of the people is what we need. Not 20 year politicians who have built caucuses and networks that benefit themselves, but not necessarily for their constituents. Its a broken system. Its what is most broken about America. Even the President is limited to 4-8 years. But a Senator stays in his or her cushy seat for life. That’s what’s sad. No representation. No progress. No limits. Its the primary source of all our problems.

Life is Precious

When you get older, you start to realize how fragile life is. My best friend from high school when I moved to Michigan my senior year of high school passed away a few years ago. But I had just found out last week. He died of a heart attack. I will express some memories of him soon because I feel its good to write. But you realize it could be "you" or "me" at any time.

Can I tell you the truth? A few years back late one Summer, I caught a weird lung thing. I think it was borderline pneumonia. In the heat of Summer, you would think its weird to catch something. But then I think of something like Legionnaire’s disease or the like and you know its possible. I developed a dry, weak cough and started to feel very fatigued. Who knows, it could have been a corona virus because the symptoms were similar. The truth is, I got so weak and light headed some times that I think I could have easily passed out and that would be it. It actually wouldn’t be a bad way to go. I was at total peace. I wasn’t panicked or scared. I just accepted where I was at the time. When elderly people die of pneumonia, which is super common, I wonder if that’s how they feel? I think I could easily have written and said my goodbye’s with clarity. And then just gone to sleep. It would be that easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love life. I love all of life. I don’t want to see anyone or anything die. As a soldier, I would still have felt the conviction to defend my brothers and Nation. I wouldn’t savor taking a life, but war is terrible. Sometimes you have to take a life to save lives. I know that’s what happens in war. I would feel intense pain for that, but no regrets.

I am an omnivore. Yes, I kills plants to eat. I’m a biologist and I know what life is. I don’t mix up social issues of convenience or the "bothersome" responsibility of bringing a life into the world. Its not an option to kill for convenience. I know what fertilization means across all organisms. I would have gotten tests wrong if I said that when zygotes unite, undergo meiosis and genetic recombination, and create uniquely different life, wasn’t life. Yes similar to parents but different. The point is, when those gametes intermingle, its life. I don’t kill that life. But I do.

Do you eat fruit? A vegetable is a "vegetative" part of a plant. It may be a leaf, branch, parts of a flower, but not the fertilized egg. The fertilized egg is new life. A "fruit" is a fertilized egg. When you eat it, you are eating life. When you kill it, you kill life. People don’t seem to have any trouble eating strawberries. Ethically, they are OK with it. They are OK with killing a mosquito or fly that’s bothering them. They spray repellents to kill termites and ants. They are even OK with aborting a child for convenience. But are against killing an animal. Their moral justifications are hypocritical. One person explained to me that eating an animal takes its "soul". OK, so now you are saying that we, as humans, now get to determine which animal has a soul. So a puppy dog has a soul but a shellfish does not? A dolphin has a soul but a fly does not? Who are we to say that? And how do we really know? Is the the presence of a central nervous system the standard? Who are we to say? Did you know many plants feel touch? They can sense CO2 changes. They can see sunlight and water. Are you telling me cows have a soul but plants do not? Who are we to say that? Ethical justifications always fall apart.

I love animals. Even hunter’s love animals and their beauty. I would encourage you to expose yourself to more. Watch a show like "The Last Alaskans". You see how people who live off the land marvel at life. There is so much beauty and life to cherish. But you also know how valuable it is to have food. In remote places, like parts of Alaska or places where indigenous people have lived since the beginning of time, you can’t go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want. You have to live off the land. Sometimes those lands don’t have growing plants in Winter. I studied field ecology where bioavailability, assimilation coefficients, coevolution, symbiosis, and other aspects of eating for life come into play. Do you know what dietary fiber really is? Its undigestible pieces that we as humans don’t have enzymes to break down. So we say we like that they are scrubbing our intestines and arteries, but its because we can’t use them. There is no assimilation or nutritious value in fiber. On the other hand, ruminants have cellulases that are capable of breaking down grasses and plants that we can’t use. Its almost like cattle are made to coexist with humans because of what they can eat and provide to us.

Yes, I love animals. But everything has a purpose. Sometimes the strawberry gives hundreds of progeny for our consumption in one fruit. Sometimes, cattle and other animals are used for food. Its like they were made to give up themselves for us. "Domesticated" animals wouldn’t exist without humans. Most roaming free Schnauzer’s, poodles, and Dachschunds won’t live for long on their own in the wild. A coyote or wolf would see them as very easy to obtain food sources. Same with a cow. They wouldn’t roam wild like their ancestors, like a water buffalo, bison, or wildabeast.

Speaking of wildness. I studied field corn for my Ph.D. I had to know all about corn, its history, and its survival. The truth is if we stopped cultivating corn, it would likely die out as a species in just a few years. If you left a field of corn to the wild, the wild would take it over. Weeds, native species, trees and shrubs would take over. Same with soybeans. Yes, a majority of our world’s food consumption comes from these two crops. We have flours, oils, proteins, and other products from these crops. Most processed food has corn or soybean products in them. Yet, without human interaction, these species would go away.

Life is fragile. Its amazing how we ever last a day. If you knew biology and chemistry and physics, you’d know what a miracle we are. Study even just one cell. Study how it survives. Study all the organelles, plasma, and how membranes interact with their environment. I’ve had not only courses in microbiology (single-celled organisms) but in cell biology too. I’m fascinated by the miracle of life. Where we get life wrong is in human thought. We get mixed up in origins, evolution, consumption, and ethics. Its us who get it wrong.

What spurred these thoughts? I just killed a fly; and I felt bad about it. Yes I did. Why? Not because it was living. Not because it was in my house. But it annoyed me. And I felt I was a higher creature that couldn’t be annoyed by such a simple life form. It buzzed in my face and on my computer screens. So I killed it. Isn’t that sad? But we all do it every day. Most of us aren’t Buddhists. And even in that ideal, there are hypocrisies. Because some life is considered less than others. A Buddhist has to eat just like we do. Some things are OK to kill and eat while others are not. Life is fragile. Its a social construct to think otherwise. We all draw lines in the sand of what is OK and what is not.

Life is precious. All life. No one more than another. But life couldn’t exist without nutrients. And those nutrients come from life. Giving one life supports another. Fungi and bacteria that consumes debris that we no longer want or need supports their life. A cracker crumb that slips into the carpet is consumed by microorganisms even if we don’t know it. Life supports life. Its the cycle of our existence.

Education: A Thought for the Day

One big revelation from the COVID crisis is its effect on our education system in America. The main reason why college is recommended and expected by parents and schools is to find employment as an adult. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

As a personal example, I went into the Army directly out of high school to pre-pay for my education and to also see the world. It was kind of my gap year(s), but I worked my butt off for that money. It also gave me other opportunities throughout life and shaped who I am today. I’m convinced I would have been a totally different person today without the military. I wouldn’t have it any other way for my life course.

My goal out of high school was to become a physical therapist. I’ve always been interested in health and athletics, so it made sense to help these athletes heal and reach their goals. Well, first of all, my grades were OK in high school, but not good enough to make it into a PT program. I realized this after my first semester of college. I decided to transfer to a local community college to get my basic education out of the way and to make high enough marks to get into PT school. Yes, I did improve my grades, but my goals had changed.

I had interned as a student in the PT ward of a hospital. I had the fun duty of taking the laundry and other yucky stuff to where it needed to go. There was one room with critical patients who were in traction with extreme back pain, hip or shoulder replacements, and other serious issues. It was kind of dark and unpleasant. In addition, when I got to help a PT with a patient, it was never an athlete. It wasn’t someone who wanted to improve their back squat or 100 m dash time. It was an 70 year old lady who had carpel tunnel surgery. The PT used a goniometer to measure range of motion. So after treatment and with tears in her eyes and her gripping tightly to my hand, the PT would say "we need to get a few more degrees of motion today". It was painful to watch. Yes, I still would have become a PT, but it was different from what I had first thought.

So as I went for my Bachelor’s degree, I found myself attracted to the courses at the cellular and molecular level. This led to my degree in Microbiology with a minor in Biochemistry. I was fascinated by microorganisms. I love studying physiology and deeper aspects. So when it came time to graduate, I started interviewing with companies. One was a filtration company who made microfilters and other medical devices. These companies wanted practical experience, like studies in hematology, and specific skills of phlebotomy and other technical aspects. I was largely unqualified due to lack to hands-on abilities. I was over-qualified because of the courses I took.

So what does any highly educated person do? Get more education. My trade-off for not finding a job right away was to go to Grad School. One of my courses that I loved was Mycology, the study of fungi. I took more courses with the mycologist and ended up doing my graduate studies with him. I also took more courses in microbiology, field ecology, virology, and statistics. After all of that, I knew there was no way I was going to get employed with that education. Haha!

So the next step? Ph.D. studies. I wasn’t smart enough to get into PT school but definitely smart enough for advanced studies. I studied plant pathology. Now that definitely had application to real life. I had worked at the plant disease clinic helping people solve problems with lawns, trees, bushes, and field crops. But, outside of the clinic, it wasn’t an employable degree. I actually studied disease resistance in field corn, which included a lot of genetics and breeding techniques. Once again, when I tried to find jobs with corn breeders, I was under-qualified to do that specifically. And there weren’t jobs as a pathologist other than the few with the USDA labs.

So what does a highly educated person do? They teach. So I became an Assistant Professor. And, after years of begging for money and making far out claims of what I could do for people, I used my military background to reach out to the Corps of Engineers. It has been a good place to work, but not without issues of politics and bureaucracy. The truth is, I still beg for money. And some of my work gets tossed into a trash heap, just like some of my University work. But a good amount of my work goes toward improving the lives of every day people. And it helps with our National Security.

The truth is, I would say at least half the people I know where I work and the people who work out in the real world; most don’t work in the field they were educated in. I know a lot of college graduates who work in sales, retail, insurance, and various trades. The work I do right now has nothing to do with my specific fields of study. But its the analytical tools and abilities to do research that makes the difference. Does that mean I am a better researcher than my colleagues who have a B.S./B.A. or Associates Degree? Not at all. The Ph.D. just gives me a little extra street cred. Even if you look at the highest levels of leadership in my organization, there isn’t always a Dr. in front of their name. I would say the Dr. only gives you a little extra boost, but not by much.

The statistics show that college graduates make more money than people who don’t have a college degree. But in all my studies in statistics, I know the data is often skewed. I don’t think you can look at an Annual Salary as a true indicator of wealth. You have to look at the cumulative effect of an education. I spent a couple years in the Army before school. Then I spent 12 years in schooling. Yes, I made some money for college in the Army, but I also didn’t pay into social security or a pension plan. The same is true as a student. I did work part-time jobs which helped, but its nothing like a bigger annual salary of full-time employment. I was way better off than most because nearly all of my education was paid for. But most people go into huge debt to go to school. Even worse are professional degrees like M.D. or J.D. (law school). Paying for those degrees is like paying for a mortgage on a house.

A short story: When I was in my undergrad, my church had a young couples group. We’d have get togethers at each other’s homes. Most of us were still in college, so we had apartments or small homes. But one of the couples had a total McMansion. I mean, when we met in their basement, it had these gaudy Greek columns and mirrors and a full bar area. This guy didn’t go to college. He worked in his Dad’s business as a kid, then full-time after high school. He ended taking over the business. I had friends who were electricians and plumbers who started work one or two years out of vocational school. They had families and homes and country club memberships. Whereas, I didn’t start making real money for about 15 years out of high school. That was 15 years of very little employment other than the military.

Would I do that all over again the same way? Probably, because I would never have predicted. In fact, I think it would have been better to stay in the military for a 20 year career. I finished college at age 32. I could have retired from the Army at 38. I mean "RETIRED!!" Wow! And I could have come out of the Army with a degree too, which many do. I gained so many skills with the military. I think of how much money I save by knowing how to repair cars, fix mechanical things, and build stuff. Its a super huge cost savings in life. And I would have had a ton of respect finishing a full military career. I was an E-7 when I left the Army. You only go up to E-9. So I could have made a lot with my career.

For most people, college is a crutch. Its something you do because you don’t want to be an adult yet. When I went to college, kids were acting so stupid. It was like high school again. Whereas I had lived in Germany and was responsible for lots of expensive equipment. I had a much better head on my shoulders than the students around me. In the news, they call an 18 year old who dies in a car wreck a child, a teenager, a kid. But an 18 year soldier who dies in combat is called a man or woman. It is a totally different distinction. Some people never finish being kids. They live in their parent’s basement to age 32. They never take on responsibility or push themselves to make more of their lives. That doesn’t mean college. It means seeking a trade or experience that makes money.

I know some young people who even decry money. They are totally disillusioned by society. They call it greed or selfishness. But I’d like to talk with them when they are 60 years old. They will sorely realize the error of their ways. They will be the sad stories of people living on the street, no retirement income, no pension, nothing. They may be ill of health and not have a way to pay for treatment. At 60 is when you’ll know that you should have done something different in life. But then, there is not a whole lot that you can do about it.

We sow seeds early in life. Some of us don’t sow at all. We travel all over the world and live in constant debt. We always rent or lease and never own anything. There is no equity in our lives. We don’t have an investment in ourselves. We just gave into every pleasure and called it Woke. When in reality is was just a dream. A dream that floats away with the wind. And when your Woke eyes open, you realize you have nothing. When a crisis, a pandemic, or whatever comes your way, you become dependent on everybody else and have nothing socked away for a rainy day. That’s not Woke. That’s just plain not smart.

Education comes in many ways. The best way is to jump into the fire and learn the hard way. Its sink or swim. But there are smart ways too. Learn a trade. Be a commodity. Be someone that people need in life. Don’t be optional. Don’t be non-essential. Be essential in life. To be honest, where I sit for my home office looks out a front room window. With very little traffic because nobody goes to work, one thing keeps ticking. Those trash trucks. The different companies pass by and you can hear their distinct sounds. A trashman always works. Rain, sun, snow, or hail, they are out there hustling their butts off. Many make good money. We always need the trashman. A funny side note on that: why aren’t there trash women? What happened to equality? I’m sure the trash companies would take women. But why aren’t women signing up to be trash men? There’s a story in there somewhere. There are always jobs to be had. When I was a janitor in high school, I could have done that the rest of my life. I would have always been wanted. I could have worked as many or little hours as I wanted.

Be essential.

A Long and Winding Road

I hope you all have been well. Despite being home all the time, I have been defunct in my writing. So here is my update.

Each week of being locked down at home has brought new (and better) life. The idea of "temporary" is looking more like "normal". I’d love to share my life with you because, let’s be honest, I’m old! (haha!) And maybe "old" sometimes equates yp a bit of "wisdom". Time will tell (pun). So before I start -splaining things to you, I’ll give you the punch line.

My New Life Strategies (for the foreseeable future):
– Use FatSecret app to monitor food intake on the weekdays (M-F). 1,500-2,000 kCals
– Use the Zero app to monitor Intermittent Fasting on weekdays (M-F).
– Do weekly weigh-ins on Friday, a.m. and p.m.
– Try to eat an early dinner (before 530pm) and start my fast.
– Try to fast for a minimum of 13 hours but up to Noon (18.5 hours).
– Don’t monitor anything on the weekend (530pm Fri to 530pm Sun).
– But also don’t go crazy. I don’t want to erase all my gains.
– Primary goal in diet is to stay under 100 g of carbohydrates during the work week.
– Secondary goal is to be mostly Keto/Primal. Stay keto through breakfast and maybe lunch.
– CrossFit every day (except Friday):
Strength – but don’t overdo it – 5×5, 3×10, 7×1 – to failure but only 80% total intensity
WOD – usually a couplet, sometimes a triplet. Nothing crazy, aim for 5-15 mins.
Accessory – a skill or focused exercise to work on. Maybe a couple exercises.
– Friday play day – usually trail run, but may be combined with mountain biking, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing.

I’ve done this specific plan for the past couple weeks and it has been so freeing. I love it. I’ve also been working longer days early in the week so I can take more time off Thurs and Friday. I used to have half days on Friday. Now I have the full day off Friday most weeks or a half day. Then I may even take shorter Thursdays. Depending on the weather, I may switch my Thursday and Friday around.

If you have Memorial Day off, have a wonderful celebration. I don’t have plans yet, but its going to be fun!