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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!

Meaningless War: 7 tips to wealth

What I mean by this is the concocted wars created by left and right. There is no war, only facts. These are the facts.

The number one problem is kids having kids irresponsibly. The most responsible way to have kids is to first have an income. You wouldn’t (or couldn’t) buy a car or a house without first having a means to pay for those purchases. Parental planning is key. You need to have a plan for the future. Don’t have kids without having first created a stable home. A Robin will first create a nest before laying eggs.

Irresponsible use of mind altering substances. This could be alcohol, cannabis, or any other drug. This leads to problems at #1. A lot of kids have been made when you are out of your mind and not using protection. Passion does funny things to us. Its irresponsible to do this. It creates many other problems as well, like poor education, poor work life, and poor health in general. And don’t drink (or get high) and drive!!

Having a support net. Believe me, the government shouldn’t be your support net. Your significant other is the first level support net. In my household, its divide and conquer. My wife and I have our own responsibilities. And when one of us is down, the other can pick up the slack. After 31 years of marriage, I don’t know how I would have made it without her. If you live life without that kind of commitment to someone, you have lost your first line support net. Even better if you have kids. You take care of them, they take care of you. I always think about my parents and in-laws. I know it will be my responsibility to make sure they are OK when they can’t care for themselves. Beyond that, parents, other family, community, church; these are all important pieces to your support net.

Get an education. My rule through college to my Ph.D. was to never miss a class. Go to class and pay close attention. If you strive to learn it the first time, then it will save you so much time trying to catch up and do it on your own. I learned this in high school back in Kansas. Unlike where I graduated in suburbia in Michigan, I lived in rural Kansas where most of us had jobs. We were farmers, we baled hay, I worked in a train yard some times… we worked! So we didn’t get a lot of homework since our teachers knew we worked. You had to listen and do your work in class and in study hall because you didn’t have time to do it at home. An education is also learning a trade. Maybe your parents have skills as a plumber, welder, mechanic, seamstress, crafter, or other trade. Maybe it helps to go to a tech or vocational school. Or maybe you go to college, which I would say is generally less useful than the vocational school. Some majors in college don’t translate into a job. So if you go to college, know how it transitions into making money and a career. In my many years, I’ve learned on my own how to do brake jobs on autos and other skills. I know wood craft. I’m about to begin welding. With skills gives you opportunities. YouTube is great for learning. Then go apprentice with someone. You need knowledge. There is no excuse for not getting educated. Anybody can do it.

Live by a budget. Have you read the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad"? If you haven’t, you should. Just like you don’t get marriage advice from a celebrity, or take fitness tips from someone drastically overweight; don’t seek financial tips from a homeless person. Learn from a rags to riches story how to be successful. We see the flashy people out there who are new to money. But for many wealthy people, they drive a very modest car, live in homes they can afford, and don’t eat out all that much. Some wealthy people are very frugal with their money. Many of Dave Ramsey’s flock of financially literate people sacrifice a lot to be in a good position in life. I guarantee, if I walked around with someone who doesn’t make a lot of money, I could point out precisely the mistakes being made.
-Junk food and fast food; that includes Starbucks.

-Flashy clothes and shoes.
-Expensive travel that you can’t pay for.
-Buying and leasing autos you can’t afford.
-Paying for your home with Rent (BIG money down the drain)
-Buying too big of a house.
-Not buying in bulk or seeking wholesale prices.
-Not diversifying your sources of income.
-Not diversifying where you invest.

Have an emergency fund. An emergency fund is essential. Before saving, before paying off debt, before anything; have an emergency fund. That should be at least 2 months of your expenses, preferably 3, optionally 4-5. This money is set aside and never touched. Its not your Cayman Island fund. Its not your new car fund. Its never to be touched unless you have an emergency. Its apropos to today. When done right, nobody should be in crisis.

Get out of debt and never go back into debt. Though I list this as #7, its the #1 killer of wealth. Its like carrying a canteen of life saving water, but you have big holes drilled into the sides. The holes are debt. It sucks the life out of you. I know some people who buy things and take vacations completely on credit. That’s a huge STUPID NO-NO! Do you hear me? Don’t do it. Its STUPID. Create a vacation fund. If you are planning a big vacation and it takes 3 years to save up for, then that’s what you can afford. Create a car fund. Then buy your next car with cash. That’s how you live within your means. I’ve found the Dave Ramsey way to be the best way to snowball yourself out of debt. Take your smallest debt first and get rid of it; FAST! Then, use the amount you were using to pay that debt and even more for the next smallest. By the time you get to the last and biggest debt, you snowball all that money into the debt. Get rid of it! NOW! And never ever go back into debt. Save, save, save. Plan, plan, plan.

The government wants you dependent on them. The banks want to take what you own. You need to watch out for numero uno. Having kids outside of a committed relationship is extremely troublesome. It comes first down to firm personal beliefs and a value system. When you play with fire, you are bound to get burned. You go to a party, drink too much, inhibitions go down, and then you start getting busy with anyone and everyone. You can blame all the people you want for a poor start in life. It takes two to tango and both are responsible (for being irresponsible). But what it came down to is selfishness. You gave into your own pleasures. You had a poor understanding of your belief system. You had no self control. And you started skipping classes at school. You didn’t listen to teachers. And then you wonder why you are making minimum wage. It starts early. It takes a family who loves and cares for you to bring you up with those values and beliefs so you can succeed in life. It starts from infancy. It has nothing to do with a political or class war struggle. It comes down to personal responsibility. Refuse to be a victim. Refuse to be a token to anyone’s cause. Never seek handouts, only hand-ups. Seek people who help you reach your dreams. Seek positivity; not negativity. A winner always wins.

This is the truth!

Vegetarian vs. Omnivore

This is tongue-in-cheek y’all!

I did a Warrior Dash with friends a few years ago. A carload of us went to a far suburb of Chicago to do this obstacle course race. It was a fun, muddy time with lots of laughing.

Afterward, we wandered to a breakfast place that serves waffles and all things wonderful. But what was most amazing that all my friends at this event were vegetarian or vegan or other iteration of that ilk. I was the only omnivore.

As it happens when you are in the minority, they talk about things like you aren’t even there. They were joking about how non-vegetarians think they eat. They talked about how people ask how they get their protein. They were laughing about what omnivores say about veggie-people’s hair falling out and other problems. And about how we only think they eat salads.

The problem is, when veggie people talk about omnivores, they talk about us like we are only carnivores. I think that would be ok, but its not true of most of our diets. The same when people talk about Paleo or Keto or Primal. Yes, we may decry carbs in the form of sugars, pastas, and flours. Yes, we are against what grains do to our bodies. But if we’re honest, we still love cookies, cakes, and pastas; we just know they are not good for us.

The real truth is that omnivores who aspire to Paleo/Keto or other similar ideal will fill up our plates first with colorful veggies. Our meats and fats are always paired with the perfect veggies. We may snack on veggies too (if we don’t have a beef jerky stick around, haha!) Nutritious and low glycemic is what we love the most. We love our veggies. But we love other stuff too.

We all find the niche that works for us. I had an awesome discussion with a veggie friend of mine. We talked about a lot of things I’ve already mentioned. We talked about ethical treatment of animals, but also about harmful pesticides that are nearly unavoidable with veggie crops.

With COVID, the store shelves are fairly bare with products. Knowing what I know about how unregulated certification is for organic products, I usually avoid those products. A farmer can charge 3-5 times as much if they have the organic label, when I know that those products have not been tested by any authority. So with COVID, this idea has been even more pronounced. I had to buy a few things that were organic even though it was much more costly. When we get back to free choices and stocked shelves, I’ll go back to my ways. The only way to really know the source and quality of what we eat is to grow food ourselves. Second best is to know an ethical (truthful) farmer and actually visit their farm. The reality is people have to pay their bills. For some, if a pest invades a crop and can potentially devastate it, they’ll probably spray it with a pesticide to save the crop. Otherwise, its a very expensive loss of seed, fuel for tillage and planting, and fertilizer. It would be difficult to let all that go to waste. Then to take an additional loss in revenue by not providing a certified organic crop knowing they can charge more for it. Some may even still stay its organic to get that price point. So, if you can, grow food yourself. Grow animals too if that’s what you do.

I hope you are staying well. Whatever food choices you have, be smart about it all. If you follow one diet, know how to balance it to get essential vitamins and macronutrients. Remember that healthy food is always the best first choice. Supplements, juices only, or other magic elixirs are not the way to go. Then, if you need to supplement after that, then do so. To me the key elements in order of priority are:

1. Get enough sleep. If you don’t sleep, all the rest of this is for naught.
2. Drink water. Coffee, tea, soda, and even alcoholic drinks are OK if in moderation and if you’re countering their diuretic effects with more clear, unadulterated fluids. Our bodies are composed of mostly water and every cell depends on full hydration to function properly.
3. Nutrition. Always healthy food first. Shop the outer aisles and not the processed foods in the middle.
4. Sun light. The sun is good for many things. It sets the stage for our circadian rhythms. It regulates serotonin, melanin, testosterone, and cortisol. It also produces more Vitamin D than anything we could possibly eat or supplement. On the standard American diet, we get about 300 IUs of Vitamin D. A glass of milk has about 100 IU. Whereas, we get 1,000 IUs from a good dose of sunlight. The good thing is, we store Vitamin D. Enough exposure through Summer will get us all the way through Winter.
5. Exercise. Our lymphatic system doesn’t have its own circulatory system like we have for blood. You have to move or manually massage lymph to get it to move. Lymph carries most of our immune products as well as bad toxins. Breathing, pumping blood, and lengthening muscles is key to good health.
6. These latter aspects are the links to good mental health. We could do items 1 through 5, but if we have stress, it all goes to pot. Working stressful jobs and living in a toxic relationship counters all the good things you could do. Yoga, tai-chi, physical activity, meditation, and connecting spiritually are all ways to de-stress.

Quarantine Workouts

Its been a while since I’ve last written. I hope you all have been well. As I think back to the past long weeks with our Stay-At-Home order, I’ve seen tons of growth. When this all started out, I had a bad allergy outbreak. My throat was so sore I couldn’t swallow without lots of pain. I struggled teaching yoga classes since it hurt to talk. So I took a few days off from work. Then, the day I came back to work, Corona had started to take off and my Boss required me to work from home. I grabbed a few folders of work and my laptop and headed home. Never in my wildest dreams would I think it would be extended this long since the lockdown began.

To be honest, since this started out with me being sick, I was already in a sick mindset. If you know me, I’m still doing things when I’m sick since I feel good blood circulation and getting the lymph moving is important to health. Even if I’m just walking, light running, or even strength workouts, then that’s what I’m doing. I’m also taking hot Epsom salt baths and lots of soups. I don’t mess around when it comes to healing. It still took about a month for my seasonal allergy to be relieved.

The problem, when I started working from home, I wasn’t very focused. It was temporary, right? So I was making do with the time already expecting I wouldn’t be very productive. I was also working on a big contract so that kept me focused. But I wasn’t getting all the bang out of my bucket of time.

On the personal side, I was going about 3 days without a shower or shave. I wouldn’t really change clothes either. I was pretty gross. I chocked it up to being sick. But it was probably a little mental too. I was working out a little, but not very well. And I was eating like crazy. Every walk through the kitchen meant I stuffed something in my belly. After the first week, I realized I had to change something. I started into a more regular schedule of working out twice a day and taking a shower every day. I was lifting heavy stuff and I could feel strength and size increasing. I justified my eating as bulking. I even thought about reaching 200 pounds for the first time in my life. Then I’d cut back.

Native Americans are often predisposed to diabetes. Actually, I don’t know if I’d call it as much of a predisposition as a cultural lifestyle thing. But much of my family has been plagued with this disease. My younger brother and Dad both have type 2 diabetes. So as I was playing games about reaching 200 pounds, I started to think, "what if I got diabetes while playing this game?" And both of these close family members had heart attacks too. It was time to stop playing games. It was time to clean up my body and mind.

In the 2nd week of quarantine, my yoga studio, which had closed, also started broadcasting Zoom yoga classes and I was asked to take a day. So on Saturdays, I teach a 10am class. With my nearly 200# of bodyweight, I could really feel my yoga suffering. So two days later (the day after Easter), I decided to go strict [again]. I got back on the FatSecret app. Its one of many tools that I find incredible. I started tracking what I was eating. No more handfuls of GORP as I passed through the kitchen. No more eating a full plate of dinner then a full plate of leftovers the next day. No more adding a cheese Danish to my cart when I shopped for groceries. FatSecret hides no secrets. It tells the truth. And it also tells how many calories you burn with your various activities. I’ve been eating between 1,400 to 1,800 calories per day (kcal). I also try to include colorful veggies and healthy fats. I still try to restrict carbs and be a bit Keto. I feel better and have better clarity when I don’t have carbs (aka sugars) clouding my brain.

The other biggie is going back on the Zero app. I know most people can Intermittent Fast (IF) without a tool. But I find it helps me keep track. I’m an analytical person anyway. My minimum is 13 hours and I probably do that 80% of the time. Sometimes I fast up to 16 hours; not intentionally, but sometimes I’m just not hungry and I don’t eat right away. Now for people who Poo-Poo the idea of IF, its not about doing something that’s a fad. The bunny veggie people talk about eating many meals throughout the day. They say it keeps your metabolism up. That’s a crock!! For people predisposed to diabetes, its about constant insulin being cranked out through both eating frequently and eating carbs/sugars. The opposite is having big breaks in eating (IF) and very few carbs. That makes you more insulin sensitive and your system works properly. But IF also encourages fat burning because without glucose in your blood, your body turns to fats. And that’s an amazing side effect. Sometimes I’ll break my fast with something Keto, so I am really extending my insulin fast.

Now I haven’t even talked about working out. Kudos to you if you’ve made it this far. Like I said, I was doing 2 strength workouts a day the first weeks of quarantine. I was also following a split that was horizontal vs. vertical. Horizontal means things you do with your body parallel to the ground: bench press, flyes, bent over rows, cable rows, situps, back extensions… Vertical is: squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, dips, pullups. I still like this idea and maybe unintentionally follow this. I would always workout before I ate so I’m fully digested. I would do a strength workout before lunch and a CrossFit metcon before dinner.

So as I take you to current time and a few weeks of this, I’m 7.5 pounds lighter (maybe more since I haven’t weighed in for a couple days). I feel amazing. I am especially focused in the morning when I’m fasting and get so much of my work done. I’m doing a lot of yoga throughout the day. And my workouts are amazing. Before lunch, I do a fasted cardio of either weighted treadmill walking/running, ski erging, or rowing. Before dinner, I do a CrossFit workout. It follows this scheme:
Strength movement (Squat, deadlift, other). I try to stick to 10-20 mins.
Metcon – usually a 21-15-9 or AMRAP (as many reps a possible); 5-12 mins.
Accessory – often a skill movement or bodybuilding specific, <10 mins.

I have a Google Keep sheet on my phone. When I think of something or see something from YouTube or elsewhere, I jot it down on my workout list. I routinely review the list and move things I need to do right away to the top. Those ideas turn into workouts. I’ve had the best workouts of my life. I feel great. And I’m super productive. I’ll be happy to get back to the office, but I know what’s possible at home too. It has all been a growing process for me.

If you are at all curious about my day, this is how it looks:
Wake – yes by my Sleep App. It wakes me between 0445 – 0515 am.
Brush teeth, barefoot walk with dogs, coffee, watch news, social media.
0630 – work – usually reading, assimilation, the grind.
(frequent coffee breaks, loving my pups, get sunlight, fly my drone)
1130 – fasted cardio (if not a keto breakfast in the late morning)
Noon – eat with dogs & wife – often just a protein shake or salad.
1230 – work; or power nap 10-15 mins, then work
1530 – post work chill, drink iced tea, watch motivational YouTube fitness.
1600 – CrossFit workout; shave/shower; fresh clothes.
1700 – healthy dinner; often begin fast, or have a snack early, then fast.
p.m. – watch TV, yoga wheel, lacrosse ball self massage, yoga stretching.
2030 – go to bed; read either smartphone with red screen or use red lens headlamp to read a book. No white or blue light.

Making (Efficient) Shapes

Do you remember seeing Phoebe from Friends running with Rachel? It cracks me up. The video is here:

While we can laugh at this, there are actually people who are not far from her running form. As I sit at my home office in quarantine, I am looking out a window to the front of my house. A lady ran by that made me think of Phoebe. Her knee lift, foot kick behind, and exaggerated running arms were way overboard.

I studied running form from a very early age. As a little kid, my Dad would take us to the KU Relays at the University of Kansas. It is a central event that often shapes athletes for the Olympics. I saw many amazing athletes there. I was in awe of their efficiency of movement. The power of the sprinters. The strides of long distance athletes. And all the nuances in the field events. It led me to become a middle distance runner and discus thrower myself. I was the smallest thrower in our region. The reason I could compete was because I studied how to perfectly rotate in the ring. For those in the know, you know what I mean. It was technique over strength and size.

I had as many books as I could get a hold of. I had Jim Fixx’s running book. I read Runner’s World and anything else I could find. But mostly, I watched other people. Then I tried to mimic what they were doing. Then I would hold events in our huge yard. Yeah yards probably seemed huge as a kid. But ours was really large. Having spent countless hours on a riding mower makes me think its true. I mapped out a 1/4 mile loop and held events with all the neighbor kids. I would teach them how to run with more efficiency. The older kids and the older brothers and sisters would laugh at me. They called me "teach" since I was always teaching people.

Something else that honed my abilities early on was Hawaiian Kenpo Karate. You do a punch and the teacher comes around and adjusts your position. Same for kicks. Over and over your positions are critiqued. Its all about having a solid stance and creating more power. I practiced Karate for several years and it shaped my life in so many ways.

Funny story: When I was stationed in Germany with the Army, there was a group of inner city guys who were all into boxing. They did the amateur on-post competitions. If they qualified, they went to Europe-wide events. They won medals and wore them around the barracks when they were in civilian clothes. In those days, we all got along pretty well when we were in uniform. But it got bad sometimes when we were out of uniform. Some of these black boxers became bullies and were pretty mean to people. Well, during one Oktoberfest, there was a carnival just up the hill from our post. There were fun rides and the regular carnival scams. They had one of these boxing bags that recorded how much force you hit it with. We were watching all the boxing guys trying to outcompete each other. So I decided to step up to the bag. I totally creamed those guys. From my karate as a kid, I knew how to focus my force onto the bag. Much of force comes from good technique. It was also a lot of fun to knock these guys down a notch, though I’m sure they would out-box me without a problem. But I was a wrestler, so I never worried about that. As long as you can take a first punch, a wrestler will always win.

When I got into CrossFit, I watched all the videos in the CF archives. I studied bar path, how to run even better (like the Pose technique), and how to row more efficiently. I learned how to do butterfly kipping pull-ups and muscle ups on my own. But the most technical of everything I’ve ever done is Olympic lifting. Like I said, most of how I learn is by watching. And as much as I’ve studied and trained, my technique is still way off. So even though I can see inefficiencies, it doesn’t mean I’ve made my body perfect in this regard. However, I can surely see it, especially as I see myself do an Olympic snatch. I still have much room for improvement.

Now, as a yoga teacher, I see even more. I know exactly where the energy and focus (through drishti) is directed. I can picture the anatomy of a person while they are in a pose. I can see what is weak, what is strong, and what can be changed. It is super important for me to be able to do that.

I hear a lot about the narcissism of social media platforms like Instagram. But for yoga, I’ve found pictures to be invaluable. There are many things I didn’t realize about myself before seeing a picture. That’s not to say I want mirrors in a yoga studio, because I am totally against that. I know dancers find them useful for the same reasons. But the mind-body connection in yoga where we are focusing inwardly would find mirrors to be a huge distraction. However, in personal practice, pictures can be super helpful. You compare NOT to see that you are less than someone else or to make yourself frustrated. You compare to see how you can improve what you are doing. Then the mental picture allows your muscle memory to make that shape again.

Take pictures and video of yourself. Or, if you are a coach or teacher, take pictures and video of your students so you can study and share with your student what they are doing. Apps like Coaches Eye allows you to slow a video down and write on the screen to show lines and energy. When you learn how to be more efficient, you become faster, stronger, and more defined in what you do.

Went Grocery Shopping

Skip to the end if you need my 5 Tips for staying healthy.

This isn’t my pic, but it wasn’t far from what I saw this morning. Thankfully, we were able to get most of what was on our list. I went when the store opened at 7am, though it is usually open 24 hours. I half expected shelves to be full. I didn’t want to go on the weekend when everyone was likely rushing to the store. I thought, early Monday morning would be different. Maybe it was.

While I found most of what I needed, it was sad that I got the last couple of each of the items I wanted. That stuff probably won’t be there by now (10:30am). I don’t expect a lot of re-stocking until the overnight hours again.

Haha, you realize the kinds of things people really don’t like or want. I’m mostly Paleo/Keto, so I don’t buy bread things. But we were going to have hot dogs in a dad-gum biscuit (aka, pigs in a blanket). They had a small shelf of Hawaiian crescent rolls (which nobody appeared to want). There was one Pillsbury crescent roll package and I bought it. I wanted some heavy cream and I bought the last 1 of 3. I was happy they had lots of bird food. At least I can do my part and attract some birdies that I can enjoy watching. But they haven’t been coming around as much either.

I’m working from home indefinitely. It is such a pain. At least the huge TV screen (that didn’t work before) worked with my work computer. So I have that going for me. Its been a pain to do all communications online. Our work has a limited number of VPN slots and we get kicked out after 2 hours. I guess that’s OK. Then I have an excuse just to get down to work and not be bothered. I can still use my home wifi to look up stuff. So it should work out. And I’m still in my jammies, so that’s good too.

I took wet wipes in the car to the grocery store. I was careful to wipe my hands, door handles, steering wheel, when I got back to the car. Then, we wiped all the groceries before putting them away and then the chain of events walking into the house (door handles, etc.). I washed my hands for 20 seconds a couple times each as well. We made sure not to pet the dogs until we had washed up.

Like my trusted doctor on TV said, we should be doing some of this anyway when we are in flu season or other contagious outbreaks. So its a good test of our skills.

Honestly, my undergrad degree was in microbiology. Well, my Master’s and Ph.D. were technically microbiology related too because I studied fungi. We use the aseptic technique when plating samples to petri dishes. We also double autoclave utensils, plates, media, and other equipment. So its something I know a lot about. And its super easy to see on a Petri dish, even with good skills, how easy it is to get contamination.

What many people don’t realize is there are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other allergens (like pollen) that are floating around all the time. You are never free from it. They are in oceans, soil, clouds, everywhere. You are always getting them on your skin and breathing them in. Its not all bad either. I won’t go into all of it. But imagine all the dead skin, fingernail clippings, leaves, and all other organic debris that we produce. If we didn’t have these microorganisms that are good at degrading and recycling those products, we’d have a real mess. That little piece of meat or cheese or tofu that you drop on the carpet is likely rendered harmless and seemingly non-existent when the microorganisms do their work.

But in the same mind frame, our exposure to microbes is unavoidable. Its not always harmful and mild exposure builds immunity. When you open a tub of yogurt and leave it there for even seconds, a swoop of millions of microbes just entered your product. Believe me, from using a Bunsen burner and small metal hoop under a flow hood with the best technique, we still get contamination. So having a glass of water open on your dinner table means that water now has lots of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Its unavoidable and nothing to freak out about.

We still need to be as cautious as we can. Our first line of defense is being healthy. That means (in order of Dr. Andy’s priorities):
1. getting good sleep
2. eating healthy foods; veggies, proteins, fats, et al.
3. staying adequately hydrated
4. getting your blood pumping; did you know your lymph that carries many immune cells doesn’t have its own pumping mechanism? You have to move to make it circulate. Walk, run, lift, yoga, sweat,…its all good for you.
5. exposure to sun light (even through clouds) – and for more reasons than just UV light and infrared exposure. It affects hormones (testosterone, cortisol, melatonin,…) circadian patterns. This is all super important to our health!!

Best workouts of my life

I had self-quarantined not for any old virus, but just a sore throat. I think the sound of my voice alone would send people running the other way. So I didn’t want to cause panic.

Meanwhile, I’ve had some of the best workouts of my life. Despite feeling a little down, painful swallowing, and a mild headache, my body has felt good. Even though I wasn’t super excited to workout, when I did, it felt wonderful!

My best result was doing a half-Cindy CrossFit workout. I got over 10 rounds in 10 minutes. That’s pretty good for me. However, I did scale the pull-ups a bit, though I’d have to say they were only a couple percentage points easier. Usually, I would kip or butterfly kip pullups. But since my shoulder injury, I put a stacked foam mat under my feet. I could grab my bars with about 1 inch of leeway. It has hurt my shoulder to totally hang. Then, when I got to the bottom, I wouldn’t bounce. Instead, I waited a millisecond and then pulled up again. So basically I was doing all strict pull-ups. Here is what Cindy looks like:

20 minutes AMRAP (I did 10 minutes, as many rounds as possible)
5 pullups
10 pushups
15 squats

I’m still feeling the squats a little today. But for 150 squats, I’m not that bad off.

I’ve actually had some amazing workouts overall. I’ve had lots of strength. My shoulder pain has been going away dramatically in the past month. Chaturangas (yoga half-pushup) have still felt painful, but getting better. I also feel some pain with bench presses, but that’s slowly getting better. Overhead work and pullups are better. I’m super happy with progress.

I was thinking of a CrossFit competition later in April. We’ll see if that gets cancelled or not. But I’m feeling close to being able to do something like that. Since my yoga studio is closed for a while, I will use this time away from yoga teaching to find true healing and strength. I think its all possible.

I would encourage everyone to look at the bright side. There are so many opportunities for growth. Maybe up your pushup game. Do a lot more squats and lunges. And by all means, do a lot of yoga. Especially crow pose and inversions. Explore and find new ways to build strength and flexibility. And do your self-study. Learn more about your body and mind.

To Serve and Protect

Being an Army Veteran means I know what its like to put on a uniform. When I was in Basic Training and later as an Infantry Drill Instructor, we recited our Code of Conduct:

I am an American fighting man. I serve the forces which guard our country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

We all know what we sign up for hoping that the day will never come when blood is shed. I didn’t know a single soldier who found glory in death. But that’s the price that is sometimes paid for freedom.

So when I think of the men and women in Blue who are out there every day, I feel for them. I see people, even friends of mine, who post news articles heavily slanted away from support of our police officers. Yet, I know if their lives are in danger, they are going to be the first ones to dial 9-1-1. Its all convenient in the comfort of a safe home with a computer keyboard in front of you. But not when you are alone and in trouble.

I have many friends who are police officers. They have families like we do. They have the same hobbies, crafts, and favorite things to do. They care for people just like you do. Yet many people make them out to be storm troopers. Honestly, people watch too much TV. I think these villainous images are the product of the media that’s placed in front of us on a daily basis. People lose track of reality. The real problem is hate. People love to hate. They love to scapegoat. They always want someone to blame. And the evil Police Officer is who they often set their sights on.

Can I tell you a secret? If every police officer witnessed responsible citizens doing the right thing every day, then that makes their day. They never want to pull their handgun from a holster. They never want to have to arrest someone. Its the best day ever when everyone is lawful.

But guess what, sometimes police officers see the worst in society. They see when children are abused and neglected. They see pets that have been mistreated. It breaks their hearts to have to see all of that. They see when someone is assaulted. They see death. They see things the average citizen never wants to see. They see pure evil, the worst society can fathom.

Yet, you complain about being pulled over for going 20 mph over the speed limit. When that is chump change to the horrors they may have seen the day before.

You don’t see the acts of kindness that they do every day. You heard a rattle at the window so they come and make sure all is ok. There is a service the County Sheriff’s office provides when you are on vacation. You can ask and they will check your house periodically to make sure everything is fine. I know of officers who will give someone gloves or a coat when in need. I know of many who listen and offer their sympathy. Yet the general public refuses to acknowledge their kindness.

To people who are always filled with hate and looking to blame others, why not think the best in people? Always assume people are good first. It doesn’t matter what they wear, if they have tattoos, what color their skin is, or what car they drive; assume the best first. The same for the person in blue. Assume first that they are there to help. They have families they want to go home to. They are there to maintain peace and to keep you safe.

More love, less hate.