Saturday, January 28, 2012

Needful Things

So I'm getting ready once again to head to the Superstition Wilderness in Arizona. I leave next Sunday for a week of some good desert running. The inevitable packing unpacking repacking cycle is in full swing. Oh yeah. I start out with a pile, load up my pack and then start to edit edit edit. And edit some more.

I ended up with the following needful things:

Counter clockwise from lower left: Sleeping bag, food sack, orange tent, SS bottles, green sleep pad, black camp stove, green misc bag, black water pump, and green clothing bag.

I edited out all this:

It still has some potential editing. For example, the big blue sleeping bag on the left. I have one half that size and weight, but the smaller one is only good to about 45 degrees. The big one is good to 20 degrees. Last year, we got caught in a canyon where an cold temp inversion set in, plummeting the temperature to 19 degrees. Ugh. My water froze over-night. It was the oddest feeling, standing around the campfire and literally feeling the cold air rising up your legs, bit by bit.

I have to think about it. The line between safety and comfort is always a tough one. I don't mind being uncomfortable, but not to the point where safety becomes an issue.

On the other items, two are 'community' gear in a water pump and camp stove. I am the strongest hiker, usually with the lightest load so guess who gets to be the mule. So get behind the mule.

The stainless steel bottles serve four purposes: 1) drinking water on the hike in; 2) they serve as a backup to the camelbak reservoir which can always spring a leak; 3) they serve as backup to the stove, in that you can put the bottle (sans cap) directly in the fire to heat water; 4) since you can heat water, they serve as a back up to the filter pump, in that you can boil to purify your water. I love things that do many things at once. In backpacking, its a huge bonus.

Clothing is a tough call. I always vow to take less, but with temperatures fluctuating last year from 19 to 88 degrees in a single day, any extra space in my pack usually gets taken up by 'one more dry shirt' or 'one thin fleece'.

The Paleo diet I'm on should be a real challenge. I'm still working on it. Stay tuned, more to come soon............

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dump it Out

Modern life is so full of everything: we are so busy. If you expect your glass is always going to be full, you will be disappointed or stressed and busy juggling too much. I want full, but as in complete, not full as in I have no time for myself; no space to think.

Money, work, health, relationships, really all aspects of my life I see this. There is a desire in my soul to carving out the extra: making it simpler, less. Admiral Byrd, who spent 7 months alone in an 800 square foot cube buried beneath the arctic surface, said: "Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need".

Sometimes the glass needs to get turned over. We have to right it, and fill it again, not until we are full but until we are satisfied, complete, whole.

Fill what's empty: we all do. Fill it up fill it up. I say Dump it out dump it out: we also need to empty what's too full. Dump it over, spill it, and start again. Simplify. Create space. Add back whats needed. Its hard. Its about letting things go too, and that can be especially hard.

Getting dumped over is part of life. Sometimes its a bigger slosh than others. It only leaves opportunity to fill it again. A Buddhist might say that pain and suffering only opens a hole in you that you can then fill again.

What are you doing to continually fill yourself up? What are you doing to spill yourself, so you can fill it again?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Soup Machine

There’s this chemical soup that is so amazing that it’s often confused for a machine. You can put almost any organic thing into it, and it just keeps jugging along. The less than perfect organic materials do seem to slow it down, but mostly that’s attributed to something wrong with the soup mix mistaken as machine. So other substances are often dumped in to correct it. Sometimes it helps, but mostly the extra stuff just masks the real issues with the mixture. Sometimes Hydroxyl group chemicals are dumped in just for fun, and then the soup really jumps around. Eventually however, the soup mix degrades and just plain stops working.

The soup, of course, is us.

Often, the ‘machine’ analogy used for the human body is over-simplified. It has parts, yes, but chemical - biological parts that re-generate (and only to a point). Stress the parts out long enough and things break down irrevocably.

I myself have often used the machine analogy, to justify bad habits such as over-eating, eating the wrong things, or drinking too much alcohol. Justification can come in many forms, but it’s usually something like this: Well, I really want another donut, so I’ll just have to run a few extra miles…. Ah, I haven’t drunk any beer since last week, so I’ll have an extra one now…… I’m an athlete; I need simple carbohydrates for fuel. All of which are either false or simple justification for bad habits.

The problem is of course, the soup is already stressed out from eating donuts, drinking beer and continually dumping over-refined products into it, and they can be a lousy fuel for extra miles on a system already stressed out from bad habits.

Simple carbs are not the thing for long term recovery and cellular repair; they can be the thing for fuel during activity, when used correctly. Here’s simple for you:


Last week I started on a regime of eating more raw foods. I started slowly, and right in the middle of a cold virus. The virus actually made it easier; nothing tasted good anyway. I recovered about 3 times as fast as many people around me with the same bug. I am up to about 35 – 40 % of my daily calories as completely raw foods. The other bonus, besides the extra nutrients is that the ‘bulk’ takes up space in your stomach and digestive tracts, so you don’t feel as hungry, another is that raw foods take more energy to process.

Oh, and here’s another earth shattering bit of news: the raw food diet doesn’t have to be expensive. A one pound bag of carrots is about a buck and a half; a pound of broccoli is about two bucks.

I enjoy eating, but there is a balance of eating the foods that are good for you, the foods that taste good, and the foods that are both. The western diet of refined products is killing us. And therefore, I quit.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Elemental K

So I am a week away from seeing the doctor about my heart issue, which really seems to be more related to an electrical issue than a 'functional' or 'mechanical' issue. Which is good, in many ways.

Well, now I have some new symptoms that really point to a systemic problem, rather than something directly related to my heart.

Worms. No, not really worms, but restless legs when I sleep at night, along with spasms in my calves ALL THE TIME. When I look at my calves, I see twitching going on, like there are live crawlies under the skin. Its weird to look at, and really more annoying than anything else.

So, looks like an electrolyte imbalance to me. My potassium levels were low-normal during the blood tests, and mind you that was done after a fast, and essentially no exercise.

So, the at the very least the Potassium levels are likely dropping below normal during an ultra event. That's my guess right now anyway.

When I see the doc, I'll try and get a better feel for any other electrolytes that might cause this. Like magnesium, or calcium.

I am taking some supplements, but either they are not absorbing correctly, or I haven't found the right one yet.

More as I find out.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Freedom Price

Today I am talking about Freedom in a conventional sense: not Free Will, not political or free speech types of freedom. Free will is too big for me to tackle. I don't have the brain power.

I'd like to focus this question on Financial Freedom. What price does this freedom come with?

If you want monetary freedom, do you need to give up anything extra that might require funds? Or do you just have to plan on being well-off? It seems to me that 'giving up' is easier than trying to get rich. In other words, does the monetary freedom come from 'not wanting' as opposed to 'having an abundance'?

Do you ever feel that your desires trap you, and enslave you from being free? Example: you own a big house because you can afford it, or you want/desire it. Then you spend your days in a career to able to afford it. Are you now a slave to your material desires, specifically your house? Are you suddenly a slave to your own circumstances? Are you a slave to other peoples expectations and dreams?

Does a five year old have a desire to keep up with his peers? Or is he happy, content in his own sandbox, his own world? When did we 'learn' or get imprinted with the idea that 'the great american dream' was worth pursuing? How come there are not more alternatives? As a collective, the media and advertising pretty much push one agenda. Make money, spend money to be happy; make money to be financially free. To me, the chains that bind are rarely the one's that set you free.

As part of a greater society, there are certain things we are not free to do: take other peoples things, not pay our fair share of taxes, hurt someone, run red lights, etc. Beyond that, there are a lot of freedoms that we should be grateful to have. One of them is to choose how and what we value on a personal level, what we choose to do with our limited time here on earth. For me, its how to get off the money merry-go-round; achieve real financial freedom in the abandonment of its pursuit.

Your Money or Your Life. Why didn't this idea catch on? This was published nearly 20 years ago.

So, Foolish Question of the Day: Are you making a living, or making a life?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happiness Gene

I have heard it said (can't remember where) that lottery winners and paraplegics return to a pre-set level of happiness about 6 months after their life changing events. One goes up, one goes down, but only for a while. Then. Back.

If that is a true statement, I have a strong empathy for many people. Those who seem to go through life as if happiness, contentment and a sense of well-being are always just out of reach, around the next corner, "if only this" or "if only that".... THEN. I would be happy. Then there are those people who seem to look to others for their source of happiness; a spouse, family, children, friends. THAT. Is a big burden to put on someone(s). Or, we could go on with 'the great american dream', the one that used to be the very definition of what it took to be happy. Materialism and consumerism replaced that dream sometime ago; I think it was in the late 70's. The replacement hasn't worked out so well either.

The Foolish Questions for the day are:

Do not only genes play into the happiness equation, but environment too? No matter how strong the happiness gene is in, say a starving child in some third world country, how could they be happy?

Lastly, Can someone's happiness quotient be re-set?

Monday, January 16, 2012


It is winter....... somewhere. This was Michigan, at ABR in Ironwood MI. This was the Hemlock trail.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stay Hungry

Random bits and bites for the day.
A while back I read several books by Michael Pollan, mostly revolving around Americans and their food habits. One of the edicts I garnered, maybe even indirectly, was that 'we' tend to eat until our plates are empty, or we get to the point of feeling 'full'.

Michael's advice was this: eat only until you are NOT hungry, stop eating before you are full. This sounds like a small distinction, but think about it. How much more do we eat when we keep eating until we are full? I think its a lot. I have been practicing another tactic too: at least once a day, I wait until I am really hungry before I eat, instead of letting the clock dictate when I eat.

I've lost 2 pounds of my extra 7 already in just one week. I'm hungry a lot. Sometimes its hard to sit with this hunger, because my immediate response is to satisfy the craving and put something in my mouth.

But sit I do.


Quote from Steve Jobs, which I really liked. This was from a commencement speech he gave.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."..........“And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”


I've suppressed or worn out another kind of hunger. The hunger for gear. I have multiples of most everything now. So I think that hunger for the next best thing has finally past. I finally reached a point of satiation. Running gear? Got it covered. Camping gear? Got it covered. Kayaking gear? More than covered, and I am selling some of it off. Biking gear? Got it covered with a lot of used stuff that's good enough. Backpacking gear? Well, there is always something that looks enticing, but if I take a lesson from my adventures in tents: I'll stick with what I have.

That hunger. That desire for the 'next thing'. Really, all we want is for the desire and hunger to go away. Because if we are smart, and we are paying attention, we realize that the having isn't nearly as fun as the getting.

But after a while, you get tired of the getting too. Gil Fronsdal, a renowned Buddhist philosophy teacher once said we shouldn't be called human BE-ings, we should be called human DESIRE-lings. We can't just seem to be, we are always moving, always getting, always hungry.

As we get older, I think we start to see the rock of Sisyphus more clearly. We finally tire of it, and just don't want to push that boulder up that damn hill anymore. For some folks I am sure they just move onto a different stone, but for me, I just see more pushing.


Lately I've been much more intellectually hungry. I have a appetite for knowledge right now, that seems to have me heading in several directions. That hunger is a passion for a all kinds of different subjects: The life of Descartes, the understanding of logical argument and common fallacies, Some business related topics, like Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, the Culture and effectiveness of Corporate meetings, the continued arguments about the existence of god, Buddhist Psychology.

Its hard to find time to fit it all in. But its always: One page at a time.


That's all for today and this week. I am headed to Ironwood, MI for 4 days of Cross Country skiing and Winter Camping.

Friday, January 6, 2012


“What I point out to you is only that you shouldn’t allow yourselves to be confused by others. Act when you need to, without further hesitation or doubt. People today can’t do this - what is their affliction? Their affliction is in their lack of self-confidence. If you do not spontaneously trust yourself sufficiently, you will be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects and being changed by those objects, unable to be independent.”

"You take the words of these ordinary Zen teachers for the real Way, supposing that Zen teachers are incomprehensible and as an ordinary person you dare not attempt to assess those old timers. You are blind if you take this view all your life, contrary to the evidence of your own two eyes.”

Quoted from the book, ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Less Wrong

I got into Sudoku for a while. Its sort of a game of math, and is solved not by 'assertions' but by 'elimination' of all logically incorrect answers.

In other words, eliminate all possibilities until only one remains: If a row contains a 5, no empty cell in that row or quad can contain a 5. Therefore, any empty cell must be another number; by eliminating ALL incorrect numbers you arrive at the most correct one. Interestingly, this thinking relies heavily on being wrong (can't be, can't be, can't be), and then rejecting the wrong answers to arrive at the correct answer.

In a sense, this is like making 8 mistakes to find the one answer.

I'm wrong a LOT. Ho boy. I find myself SHOUTING from the top of mount stoopid all the time. Just today I discovered about 10 ways NOT to do something, and I still haven't found the right one. I bounce off the rails, But I keep plugging away anyway.

Are you afraid to fail? Are you afraid to admit you are wrong?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On the Bias

Do you ever find yourself trying to solve a problem, when you already have an idea of how you WANT the resolution or answer to be? This would be an example of confirmation bias. Think of bias as a kind of rationalization, prejudice, blinder, or pre-conceived notion. The one's we are aware of are easy enough to deal with; its the ones we are NOT aware of that can be tricky.

I am guilty of it all the time in my work life: I see an issue, and instead of fully investigating the underlying premise I'm already solving the problem the way I think it should be. I look for the things that support my position and emphasize those, discount any strong argument against my bias, and point out only the flaws of weak arguments against my understanding and perceptions.

There are all kinds of bias: hindsight bias outcome bias, false consensus, belief bias, Halo effect, and confirmation bias, and this is just a few.

I am trying to be careful about this confirmation bias. When I am aware of it, this is my way of seeing it better. First ask the question: Am I considering the alternatives correctly? Next question: Have I got all the information I need to make a decision? Last: I try the opposite position on for size and see what happens. Sometimes, it actually fits with a few adjustments. Sometimes, it doesn't fit at all. If nothing else, it illuminates my own faulty, or correct mental processes.

The Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not. (Lawrence M. Krauss)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Seven Pounds

UGH. I gained seven pounds since Glacial in October. Not so much from the holidays, but I think not changing my calorie intake as my activity decreased over the past few months. I don't really worry about the extra weight, it will come naturally when changes are in place. I don't usually even get on a scale, but my pants were a little tight.

Time for some changes.

First: Stop eating between the hours of 6 PM and 8 AM. Its surprising how much we eat out of boredom after 6 PM. When I do this, I usually go to bed hungry, but wake up the next day feeling better.

Second: Water. Water is what the body is calling for many times we 'think' we are hungry.

Third: Get the activity level back up to normal. The heart issue is almost non-existent. I can tell my upper end of my aerobic level has suffered. At the FA 50K on New years eve, I was gassed after the first 9 miles. I ran it pretty hard, but still. Time for some extra mileage.

So, how about you? What did the holidaze do for your fitness level?

Sunday, January 1, 2012


How much of your life do you feel responsible for? Do you have moments that you feel your life changed because your course was re-directed by someone? Maybe it was a traumatic event. Maybe it was someone else's decision that affected you. Maybe someone's health changed and you were 'required' to act in support.

Free will. More and more every day, I find reasons to think that we are not as in control as we consciously think we are.

Random events, reacted to by our subconscious bias, not just the long term bias that come from how we were raised, but even more so the short term bias.

Example: When the Packers lose, the Green Bay Police see a rise in spousal abuse. Explain to me how the outcome of a sporting event causes these reactions, and has affects on people and families.

How in control are we really?

This is what I am thinking about today.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone.

Where are you going this year? How is your life changing?

I don't make resolutions for the new year. I pretty much make adjustments at any point it seems necessary.

Certainly, the new year can be a time for reflection on how things are going, and where we think we are headed.

2012. I am going to try and make it a good year.