12.28.2018

Rock-n-Roll Rescue

I am playing a few shows with YOUR MOM (the band) over the next few weeks due to their bass player breaking his hand in an untimely manner.

I tell you this mainly because one of said shows is tonight and I'd like you to come get your game on. I have busted my hump to learn a pantload of songs, if you need a little guilt to motivate you...

YOUR MOM
@Bowl-a-vard Lanes (MAP)
FRIDAY 12/28/18
9 PM to 1 AM
Free Admish

12.25.2018

The Greatest Gift - A Post-Holiday Post

The greatest gift is no gift at all.

I have never been a fan of Christmas commercialism, and that's even more true now that I work with economically disadvantaged people and I see the human cost of commercialism on mental and physical well-being. It is morally and ethically questionable to coerce* people who already have very little discretionary time and money to spend more of it for a dumb reason.

A better way to celebrate the joy of the holidays, and one that my family has largely embraced, is to rest and relax, while enjoying pleasant company. It's much more beneficial to do a lot of self care and low- or no-cost activities. Board games are an excellent option. Definitely don't work overtime at your job just to make enough money to then go fight zombie hoardes at shopping centers for material things that will lose their value in a few days or months. Instead, do something collective and cooperative, like hosting a potluck meal where everyone brings a dish, for example. Watch a movie at home or at a theater on the day that admission is discounted (Tuesday where we live...which also happens to be Christmas Day this year).

What are some other non-commercial ideas? Share yours below.

*Note: Advertising is a form of psychological coercion. If you doubt that, then how do you reconcile the fact that Corporate America spends billions of dollars on advertising? They would not do that if there were not a big return on that investment.

12.24.2018

The Year of Living Un-Dangerously - A Holiday Post


DISCLAIMER: This post may contain "alternative facts." That is by design. It is my ethical responsibility as a blogger to promote critical thinking by my readers. Do not simply accept information here without question. I hope that you will call me out (constructively, or at least civilly) in the COMMENTS section below each post. Also, do not try anything reported in this blog at home. That could be self-defeating.

It is close enough to the end of the year that I can now report on my year-long experiment to live as un-dangerously as possible.

The results...

I lost about 15 pounds, give or take, and my current weight is just under 200 pounds, the lowest it has ever been in my adult life (or at least since college, the time period when most of said weight was established...and it's questionable if I was functionally an adult then either...). My blood pressure is now consistently around 100/60. I thought this was actually too low, but it is in the normal range, according to two oft reliable sources - my wife, the registered nurse, and the Giant Internet Brain (90/60 is the lowest normal blood pressure allowed, according to whoever decides such things). The lowness of my blood pressure may explain the slightly heady feeling I have been experiencing when I stand up too quickly. Also, my arthritis pain (in my toe, from an athletic injury over 15 years ago) is 95%-98% gone. This joint inflammation was the source of a great deal of low level, but annoying, throbbing and burning in my foot for a long time. Gone! (Mostly!) Mentally, I feel happier than ever and my daily mood is ridiculously good as well, although I am not sure if this is attributable to my diet, per se, versus high self-esteem from both my mad physical wellness and academic gains (another straight A semester under my belt for grad school in Marriage and Family Therapy). I have definitely noticed significant improvement in my stress response. My resilience to stressors that would typically* annoy the crap out of me is subjectively much greater. I don't even know if there is an objective metric for that, but I am fine with perceived elevated resilience, if it gets the job done, even if it's a "placebo effect."

The methods...

I essentially made three lifestyle changes toward an un-dangerous lifestyle. At the start of this year, after turning 50 and returning from Hawaii, both my wife and I adopted a vegan diet, 99% devoid of any animal-based/derived foods (the 1% comprises** ingestion of accidental animal ingredients and maybe some honey here or there). We successfully stuck with it, notwithstanding a few minor challenges, such as vegan-apathetic restaurants. I lost some decent weight initially on this diet, but then plateaued, notwithstanding regular exercise, which comprises** the second lifestyle change. I have always exercised, but I increased the regularity of it during this past year, and I increased the amount of weight training (more muscle mass burns more calories at rest...). The third change toward un-dangerous living was to start counting calories in my diet, using a Smart phone app and a simple digital kitchen food scale. That last change was the really the proverbial kicker. Weight starting sloughing away once I became cognizant of what a realistic portion size looked like for various foods, compared to the way I had been eating (Hint: salads bowls are big, pasta dishes are small...). I was also surprised that I was not a much heavier person before starting this experiment, given how much caloric food I used to eat (i.e., a full bag of potato chips in a day!).

So that is the long and the short of it. It is an absolute myth that people over 50 cannot get in shape and easily lose weight. That myth is promulgated by the food industry, whose policy makers would very much like you to give up the will to be healthy and instead eat yourself to death, literally. The reason some middle aged people (but not all) get fat and seem to have more difficulty losing weight has nothing to do with biological metabolism slowing down [SOURCE]. It has to do with lifestyle choices and priorities. If your metabolism were to slow down, all that would mean is that your body requires fewer calories to run it's basic biochemical machinery, and if you continue to consume the same number of calories as you age, then of course you would gain weight. However, due to natural aging, the body is actually less efficient as you get older and requires MORE energy calories to run itself normally [SOURCE]. So, you can actually have an easier time losing weight as an older adult, if you use common sense and adhere to a healthy diet, which maintains the body's biochemical machinery at maximal performance [SOURCE] (similar to maintaining the functionality of an automobile by using quality motor oil and mechanical parts).

Reversing the aging process is actually quite simple once you know the not-so-secret science behind it. Although it is essentially calories in/out, it's much easier to regulate the inputs than the outputs. Consider this: If you want to lose a 3,500-calorie*** pound of fat from your body, you can try to go to the gym seven days per week and expend 500 calories each time (500 x 7 = 3,500). That would be a high/moderate intensity workout of about 30-45 minutes each time. Or, you can simply eat 500 calories less each day (this equals about 4-5 slices of bread per day, as an example). You can probably figure out which option requires less effort! Not doing something (eating) is always easier than doing something (exercising). #FACT. The science is pretty solid on this point...exercise is an inefficient way to lose weight, due to the body's evolutionary tendency toward energy homeostasis. When your muscles expend energy, your body actually slows down metabolism in other organs and tissues in the body to conserve energy. That's why exercise is naturally anti-inflammatory and slows the aging process.

So why do some people struggle to lose weight? It's clear that very few people are willing to change dietary habits that have been established over several decades of life, especially given the food industry's prime directive: To get as many people hooked on calorie-dense, nutrient-poor (profitable) foods as possible. However, for those who can free themselves from the hype and misinformation, the solution is really quite straightforward. It's too simple to say, "Take in fewer calories than you burn off." You also have to know the ratio of calories to nutrient content. Most vegetables and some fruits have low calorie-to-nutrition ratios. This is why no study has ever shown that eating these food groups is harmful to health. Nuts also actually have a good calorie-to-nutrient profile, supplying high protein and healthy oils to the diet. However, the calorie content is still very high due to the, albeit healthy, fat content of nuts. So, they should be eaten in limited quantities.

Enjoy the holidays!

*Note: I hesitate to use the word "normally," because I honestly believe that the excellent health and wellness that I now have should be the norm(al). So, "typical" is a better choice of word. Your thoughts?

**Note: This is the correct grammatical use of the word "comprise." Many people confuse it with the word "compose," as in "composed of." However, "comprised of" is wrong. Now you know...don't eff it up in future.

***Note: A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, more or less.

Alternative Fact Patrol - Oats

Hi, Readers. Happy Holidays!

So...the back of the old-fashioned rolled oats box would have you believe that a half cup of dry oats weighs 40 grams and contains 180 calories.

Since I have been weighing out my foods consistently for about 3 months now, I can tell you that this nutrition info is false by even the most conservative interpretation of how much dry oatmeal one can fit into the leanest of half cup measures. A level half cup of dry oats weighs in the ballpark of 60 grams ± 2 grams, almost 50% heavier than the nutrition label on the box suggests. That actually amounts to around 270 total (90 extra) calories, a significant deviation if you are counting calories and trying to eat healthy (as I know many of you do and are).

That being said, oats are healthy and good and you should eat them. But always weigh out your portions and and disregard the serving size volume measurement indicated on the oats box. It is wrong.

12.05.2018

Almost Done

I am not quite done with school for this semester, but I almost am. Today I submitted my last written paper and gave my last class presentation of the term. Next week, I have to do a video interview with one of my professors on a topic that I wrote and submitted a paper on last week (about dietary factors in ADHD). Then it's smooth sailing till late January, academically at least. I am still interning as a therapist-in-training at a local mental health facility, mainly on Mondays and Thursdays. My winter vacation trip is planned and booked. My spring classes are registered for. I need to take care of a couple tasks on my TO DO list, but there's no great urgency on those. I have lost 18 pounds over the past roughly two months and I am down to 200 pounds now, about the break through the weight barrier into the high 100s. That was accomplished through exercise and healthy eating habits, and it's pretty fantastic, considering I have been overweight for a lot of my adult life. But I have learned a lot of motivational skills as a therapist, and I figure if I am going to teach SMART* goals to my clients, I need to be able to apply them to myself too. And so I have. Life is good.

*Note: Small, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Limited

11.22.2018

Giving of the Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Or as it has been re-classified...Black Friday Eve.

On the day when the privileged strap on their feedbags to gorge on the cornucopious bounty of America's heartland, I thought I would take this opportunity to share an ironic achievement for which I am thankful - losing 14 pounds, approximately, over the past two months.

In early October, I set a fitness goal for myself to get my body weight down to 200 pounds, from a starting weight of 218 pounds. This morning, I weighed in at 204 (203.8, if I am being totally as accurate as the scale in our bathroom allows). I did not do it by sheer will power alone. I harnessed the power of the Giant Internet Brain to help me. To wit, I downloaded some apps* on my moderately "smart" phone that were designed for just this sort of random fitness challenge that I periodically assign and accept for myself.

The long and short of these apps is that they use an algorithm to establish a daily calorie budget from food that is derived from input of the user's age, gender, and goal aggressiveness (how fast you want to lose weight...maximum of 2 pounds per week). A kitchen scale to weigh out quantities of food is a somewhat essential accessory for utilizing the full power of these apps, notwithstanding the ability to easily scan bar codes on most pre-packaged foodstuffs.

When I started this weight loss challenge, I hypothesized that I would shed pounds rapidly at first and then more slowly as I neared my weight goal and my body began to resist changes to its historical state of weight homeostasis. This hypothesis was borne out. My body's homeostatic set point for weight seems to be around 205 pounds, and I have been hovering just above this mark for several days, unable to punch below it until, apparently, today (notwithstanding 2 pints of IPA beer at open mic night last night, which had me in a slight caloric surplus, according to the app).

The main revelation I have gleaned during this challenge is not how relatively easy it has been to lose weight by controlling food intake, but rather disbelief that I was not a 450 pound obese invalid prior to starting this challenge. This revelation was directly correlated to my observations of what realistic portion sizes of food actually look like when meticulously measured and moderately consumed - they are a fraction of the portions I have been eating for most of my adult life. For example, a regular portion size of plain potato chips is pathetic by even the minimum standards of hedonistic consumption. The same goes for things like pasta and olive oil and even legumes, staples of the supposedly healthy Mediterranean-style diet. Beer is right out. Conversely, and not surprisingly, much fruit and most vegetables are quite low in net digestible calories, a fact that probably mostly explains why no scientific study has ever shown fruits and vegetables to be detrimental to health and/or longevity. That being said, the beauty of the approach to weight loss I am using is that I can eat whatever I want, just as long as I don't eat too much of whatever I want. And the more fruits and vegetables I incorporate into my daily meal planning, the more food I can eat (I do love to eat) without straying outside the algorithmic parameters of my handheld, robotic nutrition coach. I can still enjoy those salty, starchy, oily potato chips or a slab of vegan banana bread. Indeed, I probably enjoy them more now that they have become so much more rare in my diet.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. Comments welcome below.

*Note: There are many available apps. The two I have made most/best use of are Lose It! and My Fitness Pal (MFP). The former has slightly better functionality, so I have predominantly used it. The latter has the advantage of being manufactured by and digitally entangled with the Map My Ride (MMR) exercise app that I sometimes use, which means it automatically harvests my workout information and incorporates it into the algorithm MFP uses to calculate my daily calorie budget. Since we have now entered the colder months of the year, I have not been using MMR as much, because I am going to the warm and inviting athletic club we subscribe to. So, MFP has fallen out of favor as my go to weight loss app of late. I sometimes use it to calculate the calorie content of batch recipes I make that will be eaten in partial portion sizes over several days (like chili or banana bread).

11.20.2018

Thanksgiving Officially Re-Named "Black Friday Eve"

I almost completely forgot that BLACK FRIDAY happens this week, a consequence of a moderately successful 50-year effort to remove holiday commercialism from my life. In fact, this year may be the one in which Christmas shopping has been reduced to negligible levels, by consensus of most family members to abstain from gift-giving (and by association, gift-buying). Even some of the more staunchly conventional family members have recognized the folly and foolhardiness of obligatory, mindless gift exchanging, which has a net zero return for consumers, while fattening the coffers of corporations that will in turn go on to lobby politicians for un-Christian policies. There is a reason corporatist right wing politicians so adamantly defend Christmas, and it isn't for the benefit of mythical deity Baby Jesus, who is, after all, a God who does not, by definition, need any defending. The so-called fabricated "War on Christmas" is really a war on the status quo of Corporate America.

Your comments below, please!

11.19.2018

I Think I Am On Vacation?

I may be on vacation already, a bit earlier than anticipated. I was supposed to run a motivational group tomorrow afternoon, but that was canceled. Since I don't have class on Wednesday and Thursday is a holiday, I believe I am officially on holiday. I only have a minor task to do on Friday and then it's the weekend. Of course, I will pretty much be studying and doing homework the entire time, so it's not really a brain-free, self-care holiday.

Deborah and I had a good gym workout tonight and then pounded out some grocery shopping, even though we were both pretty spent from a long day.

Today's random thought: They say happiness is more valuable than money. But don't try to pay parking tickets in happiness. #fact

11.06.2018

Mad Push

I have lost 12 pounds in a little less than a month, using a couple of free calorie and exercise tracking apps. I am down to 206 pounds as of this morning's weigh in, from a starting weight of 218 on October 8th. There is nothing rocket science-y about it. It's just calories in/out. That being said, I have never been this light in as long as I can remember, and I still have a way to go. My weight loss goal is to get down to 200 pounds, which will entail burning off some fat stores that haven't been disturbed in decades. Those fat cells aren't going to relinquish their hold without a fight. But relinquish they will.

If you'd like to know which apps I am using in the current fitness challenge, leave a comment on this post and I will gladly tell you.


All You Need to Know About the Election Today in One Easy Graphic

Voting matters and if you are thinking about not voting because you feel you aren't informed enough, this is all you really need to know: Republicans are the party of Corporate America and Democrats are the party of America. In other words, Republicans will ALWAYS govern by putting corporate interests ahead of your interests (unless you are a wealthy donor). Democrats will ALWAYS govern by considering what benefits society the most, emphasizing humanity and compassion (and their wealthy donors tend to be people-centered, like non-profit civil rights organizations and unions).

Also there is no graphic. Piss off and go vote.

10.27.2018

What I Learned Using a Free Fitness App

I had been resistant to using diet and exercise tracking apps for years, mostly because of the extra effort involved in entering gym workouts and counting calories. But I started using one again and now I love it. So what changed?

Well, the available apps have come a long way in terms of user-friendliness. The one I use includes a bar code scanner that makes entering all but a small number of foods super quick and easy. The one I use is also manufactured by the same company that made my exercise tracking app and the workout data automatically transfers over. Seamless. The main driver though has been that my weight has been slowly creeping up in spite of the fact that I adhere to a healthy vegan diet. I decided to try a fitness tracking app for a fortnight (conventional time boundary for a fitness challenge) and see if it made any difference.

The app I started using was Lose It! I'd probably prefer that app over My Fitness Pal (MFP), except the latter pulls in my exercise data from Map My Ride (made by the same developers, as I said earlier). So a few days into the challenge, I switched to MFP. The algorithm is pretty simple. You enter you age, weight, gender, and a weight loss goal. The app then formulates an equation, which is basically food calories eaten + exercise calories burned = total daily calories I can eat to achieve the desired goal. At first, I set my goal to the maximum aggressiveness allowed by the app (lose 2 pounds per week), but I found I was always hungry and could not realistically stay below the allotted daily calorie intake, even with decent exercise. I lowered the stringency on my goals until I found a happy balance. I am currently down to 210 pounds from a starting weight of 218 pounds when I began the challenge. That's actually about 4 pounds lost per week on average, even though the goal set in the app was for 1 pound per week. It's possible the app is geared toward users who are less obsessive about success than I am, so it assumes many people will exceed their allowed daily calorie intake. Not me, man! I actually got down to 209 pounds yesterday morning, but I allow myself one "free day" each week - when I don't have to adhere to the daily goal - and that day was also yesterday, so my weight was up slightly this morning.

So what have I learned since using the app?

The main thing I have noticed is how many fewer calories fruit and vegetables have compared to legumes, grains, and especially oils of any kind. It encourages me to load up on veggies during meals, especially if I want to eat a bigger meal with less calories. No study has ever shown that more veggies are bad for you. Ever. And I use far less oil now when cooking. I've been using a kitchen scale to weigh out certain foods and the app database accesses the previously entered information of all other users of the app, so it is usually pretty easy to find a particular food and it's calorie content in the app. If the food has a bar code, it is even easier. If I know I am going out to eat on a given day or I am not going to the gym or I want candy, I can frontload my daily diet with low calorie foods so I can splurge a bit later on. The main thing I have taken away from using the app is that you are never to old to lose weight and get in shape. I am 50, well into middle age, and by conventional wisdom I should be on a gradual decline toward overweight and chronic disease. But there's no excuse to fade away and die in this technology rich 21st century. I'm healthier and lighter now than I was at 25. It's all about good habits and being reslistic. That said, I didn't need or want a weight control app before now, but it is proving useful.

I figure I will use the app going forward until I hit my weight goal of 200 pounds. After that I will probably use it intermittently as a guide to maintain that healthy weight.

Why should you care? I guess you really shouldn't...unless you are struggling with finding a simple, easy way to lose weight. The free apps are basically like Weight Watchers, functionally speaking. But you don't have to throw money away to use an app on your phone.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

10.21.2018

Balance

At present, my hatred for Ticketmaster far outweighs my combined sum total love for Weezer and the Pixies, which is disappointing.

But principles must be upheld if we ever hope to see positive change in the world.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

10.19.2018

An Irony

It's ironic to me that the lowest calorie (190) Lärabar flavor is Chocolate Chip Brownie. Most other Lärabars range from 200-220 calories.

Your thoughts?

Leave a comment below.

10.13.2018

A Less Marathonic Weekend Road Trip

This year we decided to make our annual "mecca" to Oshkosh for the Northeast Wisconsin Horror Film Fest a less marathonic day trip rather than a full weekend endeavor. This was far more enjoyable on many fronts, including doggie day care options and overnight lodging expenses.

We carpooled up to the fest with some good friends mid-morning and our timing was perfect for grabbing some warm, caffeinated beverages at the New Moon Cafe when we rolled into Oshkosh, before the fest started. We enjoyed various and sundry short and long horror films, interspersed with ample breaks, during one of which I won a door prize! I was geeked, because I almost never win door prizes. During the 90-minute dinner break, we feasted with some friends from Oshkosh that we see only about bi-annually, with horror fest weekend usually being one of those times.

The films ended earlier than anticipated and so we grabbed more warm, caffeinated beverages before driving back to Madison, where we arrived home at a decent hour.

Dietary habits were thrown to the wind on this road trip, as they often are, but we had anticipated this and scheduled a dietary "free day" to correspond with this trip. This allowed for some flexibility to eat popcorn and enjoy a fulfilling dinner at a waterfront brewpub. However, Deuteronomic and gastronomic reforms will be re-implemented tomorrow.

I have been successfully using the Lose It! app to quality control my eating and exercise habits to conform with my nutritional and wellness goals. It allows me to make wiser dietary and fitness choices in order to stay within specified goals, which are easily tracked with the app. I lost seven pounds within the first three days of using the app, because I had set my goals at maximal aggressiveness. But I subsequently made the goals less stringent.

How was your weekend? Leave a comment below.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

10.03.2018

Perfect Storm of Quietude

Due to a conflagration of non-events, I find myself with a "free day" on my hands, for the most part. I intend to exploit it for self care purposes.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.30.2018

SMART Goals

Deborah and I created bullet lists on our giant whiteboard. A bullet list is a ridiculously simple and somewhat artistic way to establish and, more importantly, measure process goals.

First off, what are process goals? They are DO* goals...things that you do, rather than things that you achieve. So, for example, a GET (achieve) goal might be to lose 10 pounds, but the corresponding DO goals might be to go to the gym 5x per week and adhere to a particular diet regimen for 5/7 days of the week. These DO goals should, logically, move you in the direction of your GET goals.

The advantage of DO goals over GET goals is that GET goals are pass/fail. You either lost the 10 pounds or you didn't, and if you didn't, it's marked in your mind as a FAILURE. And nobody likes failure. It's demoralizing.

DO goals can be graded on a continuum, are adaptable to change, and are less prone to failure. For example, if you were only able to adhere to a particular diet 4/7 days of the week instead of 5/7, that's still better than 0/7. You were successful 80% of the time, a solid B-minus. Far from an F grade!

If, after several weeks, you realize that you can consistently get to the gym 3x per week, sometimes 4x, but almost never 5x, you have permission to modify the DO goal to a more realistic objective. You learned something about this goal and that information is factored into the DO goal algorithm going forward, so it is self correcting. That's a win, not a failure.

GET goals are still very useful though. If you really want to get to the gym 5x per week, but you find that work interferes with 2 of those times, a GET goal might be to find a better job. GET goals generate more DO goals. If you want to GET a better job, you can set a DO goal to send out 3 job applications per week. Again, you may not GET a new job, but your chances are much higher when you send out resumes than when you don't.

In summary, ordinal DO goals are superior and more achievable and adaptable than binary GET goals, but they work together synergistically.

Anyway, Deborah and I set some DO goals using bullet lists. You have bullets for each time you DO the thing you set out to do. I set DO goals for practicing music, exercising, meditating, and eating. Associated GET goals are to lose some weight and reduce stress/anxiety.

*They can also be DON'T goals.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.27.2018

Saving Animals is Secondary

There is no compelling case to be made against a vegan diet. This is supported by the fact that no scientific study has ever shown that eating more fruits and vegetables is bad for your health. Ever.

But individual health benefits aside, a vegan diet has other advantages societally as well. Most people know, even if they avoid acknowledging it, that animal-based foods require roughly 10 times the natural resources to produce as do plant-based foods. This is Ecology 101 stuff. Each level of the natural food chain wastes about 90% of the energy obtained from the level below it, due to metabolism and waste. This is illustrated by the fact the 99% of the corn you see growing in midwestern farm fields is feed for livestock. It's not even edible for humans.

The ecological argument for avoiding meat, eggs, and dairy is strong and explains about half the variance in why I began being vegan. My eco-footprint is 90% smaller. That may seem insignificant, since I am but one person, but my contribution adds to a growing subset of humanity that is making informed dietary choices. Most of the rest of the variance is explained simply by the significant health benefits I have gained since starting on this diet. I haven't felt this healthy in years and my annual preventive lab tests quantitatively support my qualitative perceptions. Very little of the variance is explained by my desire to promote animal welfare, but if a few less cows, pigs, chickens, emus, or bison die over the course of my lifetime thanks to my dietary choice, that's just gravy.

Vegan gravy.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.23.2018

There is No High Like the Runner's High...

...is a statement I seldom make. The implication is that there is no high BETTER than the runner's high. However, that's hard to back up unless you have a specific operational definition of what "better" means. If better means "higher," then I don't think that's a supportable claim. There are a lot of things - drugs mostly - that could likely get you much higher than running.* If better means "more natural, with fewer side effects," a fair case can be made. However, when I run, the side effects are unpleasant. I am not a runner by nature and when I run after a long period of not running, I often suffer uncomfortable muscle pain (in muscles that haven't exerted themselves that hard, if at all) for several days after, which is a deterrent to further running. I also have an arthritic injury in my left big toe that remains fairly pain/inflammation free as long as I do NOT run. That being said, an endorphin/enkephalin induced euphoria similar to that obtained by running also can be obtained by other highly aerobic activities like biking or swimming. So there is an argument to be made, albeit semantic, that there are at least two highs like the runner's high: the biker's high and the swimmer's high. I consent that the descriptor "runner's" is a catch-all, albeit discriminatory, for many other aerobic highs. If better is defined as "more health promoting," the statistics probably back that up. Take a look at most dedicated runner types. They are seldom portly individuals, as compared with sedentary people, or even with bikers. However, my observations suggest that regular swimmers are even less rotund, on the main, than runners.

The point of this post is to illustrate the importance of operationalizing the definition of something and to always compel others to operationalize their definitions, so you know what the hell they are talking about.

*Note: I work in the mental health field...and my qualitative observations support this.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.17.2018

Road Trip: A Solid A-Minus

I am fully back from my road trip with my folks, driving them back home to Ohio after their summer up north at our family's cottage.

The trip went really smooth, notwithstanding seeing some harrowing moments of human error on the Interstates and Tollways. I give the trip an overall grade of A-minus. It exceeded expectations. I generally give a B-minus when expectations are met, but not exceeded. An A-plus would only be warranted if something gratuitously awesome and unexpected happened. An A-minus is a solid grade. I would have given it an A but for the fact that I had to dock a few points for dairy toxicity.

As many of my readers (possibly all 7 of them) know, I chose to adopt a vegan lifestyle at the beginning of the year and the elimination of all dairy has had incredibly unforeseen health benefits for me. The arthritis in my left big toe joint all but vanished. I lost a goodly amount of weight and kept it off without any purposeful caloric restriction. My thinking is clearer and I have a general feeling of being "more healthy than healthy." That's a fancy way of saying my constitutional resiliency is higher, such that I am able to ward of negative environmental challenges more easily and consistently.

Anyway...on the two day road trip, we overnighted in Angola IN...not a bad little town. I googled and found a restaurant with potential vegan options and we went there. I ended up ordering a pasta dish that had a much creamier sauce on it than expected, and notwithstanding my conversation with the waitress about the vegan options at the place, the cook(s) put Parmesan cheese on top of the noodles. I could have sent it back, but I decided to power through it...elevated constitutional resiliency to negative environmental challenges and all.

The dairy-ness of the meal was a bit of a shock to my system, which had gotten used to an exclusively plant-based diet. My gastrointestinal tract cried out in protest, in the form of mild cramping. My sinuses also got congested. I attribute the symptoms to the animal antigens in the meal and even though it was my choice to consume them, it mandated a slight lowering of the overall road trip grade.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.16.2018

Fat Burning Ambiguity

Americans generally collectively have an obsession with losing weight, specifically with the obstacles toward doing so. Billions are spent on marketing of various products and services for shedding pounds and trimming fat, while people bemoan the ineffectiveness of most of these offerings. This is why it always surprises me that the low/no-cost, low-hanging fruit of weight control seem to be neglected by a lot of people.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at American airports. I am in one now and here are two pertinent observations I have made:

1. In the food court, McDonalds has by far the longest lunch line.*

2. Almost everyone takes the escalator or moving walkway instead of the stairs or stationary walkway (aka, walkway).**

*Note: I am in no way discouraging people from eating at McDonalds. I own Mickey D stock and the obesity epidemic is directly proportional to my retirement savings. The net gain to my Etrade account is far greater than the net loss to my health care budget, notwithstanding the contribution unhealthily overweight people make toward inflating the cost of health insurance (no shame...just a fact...keyword UNHEALTHILY).

**Note: A case can be made that some people are carrying excessive baggage, both internally and externally, that encourages the use of automation assistance. However, this cannot explain the neglect of physical exertion by those with minimal encumbrance while traveling, such as those with small backpacks and carry on bags with wheels. WHEELS, mind you!

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.14.2018

Dietary Challenge Test

As a vegan, it's not always easy to find decent food options when eating out, especially in rural "Trump Country." That being said, it does offer an opportunity for some scientific testing of dietary effects. Trapped in Angola IN tonight, we sought out and found an eatery with some potentially vegan entrees. However, the pasta dish I ordered proved to be considerably "cheesier" than anticipated. Even as I ate my first bite of the meal, my body seemed to psychosomatically reject the food, so conditioned am I to a healthy, animal-free, plant-based diet. I got mild stomach cramps, stuffy sinuses, and a runny nose. I also think my thinking got foggier, but that might have been due to the beer I ordered with dinner. I still ate the meal, because I had to eat. But it was clear that I had presented a dietary challenge to my body that illustrated the low-level, chronic toxicity of an animal-food based diet. On the short term, such a diet is fairly low risk, but subjecting a human body to that chronic inflammatory state over a lifetime is why such a diet is linked to all manner of deadly chronic diseases. I hope you will consider this and if you disagree, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your take. I am not trying to persuade anyone to adopt a vegan diet. You can do whatever you want...it's your life. I can only report the vegan diet's effects on my own health. My arthritis is gone. I have clear thinking. I feel great. My cholesterol and blood sugar is healthier than healthy. It works for me, but maybe it's not for you. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself...are you following the healthiest possible diet, or are you simply justifying your desire for animal-based foods? I care about your long term health, but ultimately your choices are your own, and I am OK with that.

Travels in Trump Country

I am deep into a road trip with my parents, which means I am also deep into Trump Country, doing my best to avoid interaction with undesirables, and mostly succeeding. They are such a bunch of turd nuggs and they drive like @#$%.

I should do some case progress notes tonight, but I am still a little too anger escalated from this past week at school and internship. Best to calm down and de-escalate for now. I am feeling a lot better, after a few hundred miles of Interstate, which allowed me to ground on the fact that I need to give less @#$%s about stuff and people I can't change. Incompetence is a fact of life, so I need to let my high expectations and perfectionism go sometimes.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.07.2018

Trombone Trance

After a four hour road trip up to the cabin, I'm chillaxing on the couch and decompressing to some mellow bebop jazz playing on my dad's Bose radio. The song, whatever it is, features a trombone. I think it's public radio. Groovy stuff like this doesn't get played on commercial radio.

My chillaxing was interrupted a moment ago when I had to take Deborah's dog Maddie out to poop. I'm back, but the bebop playing now is a bit more frenetic. Still relaxing and trance inducing. It makes me want to throw a jazz rhythm section together and play some gigs. In a perfect world, I'd do it in a pinch. But the town I live in doesn't have the quality resources to do it properly.

I still wanna put my instrumental surf rock band concept together. It will only play November through February in Wisconsin, designed to create a balmy tropical musical paradisic bubble inside which the brutal reality of the midwestern winter is totally banned. See? Fabricated reality can be a positive and good thing when not in the hands of douchy evil-doers (#truthisnottruth). And when it's a choice. Picture Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts, sandals and ukuleles, inflatable palms and bikinis. UV lamps will be aimed at the audience to simulate actual sunshine...people can go home with mild suntans.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.05.2018

Lounging

Self-care is very important. There is a time for hard work and a time for idle lounging. Never let anyone tell you different. Furthermore, when you work, work hard. When you lounge about, lounge about hard as well. Partition these things clearly, with well-defined time boundaries.

I've gotten much better at this in recent months, concentrating my periods of hard work into smaller and smaller time intervals, through efficiencies, and keeping my lounge time free from anxious rumination. I'm still not perfect at this. Last night, I had planned some self-care, but I decided to spend a few minutes prepping for a concentrated episode of work I had planned for today. This mild preppage rapidly escalated, and before I knew it, I had completed and submitted one of my graduate school homework assignments, well in advance of its deadline.

It was good that I pounded out that first assignment ahead of schedule as I did, because it allowed me greater discretion in completing a second assignment, which I worked on for the better part of today, even though the professor of that class had made it clear that we would "pretty much get full credit just for submitting something." I have never been one to submit mediocre work though, notwithstanding an open invitation to do so.

In conclusion, the above information would seem to suggest that I am not an idle lounger at all. But I am. It's just that I'm strategic in my idle lounging, planning out when and for how long I can be idle without sacrificing the quality and quantity of my work output. It makes no sense to waste mental energy worrying about assignments well before they are due, especially when the amount of effort involved in completing the assignment is a known, fixed value. A better approach is to save that mental energy in reserve and channel it into the task at hand when the chips are proverbially down.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.04.2018

If I Did Not Have West Nile Virus Before...

Leaving "work"* today, I decided on a whimsy to exit the building through a service entrance on the south side of the building, which opens onto a grassy knoll next to some woods. That was a mistake.

With all the rain and flooding the past couple of weeks, the mosquito population has exploded, while the number of blood engorged victims has largely not. As such, I was set upon by as ferocious a swarm of the hungry little blood-sucking critters as I have ever beheld before in my life. Many of them had their probosci in my flesh before I realized what was happening and the rest pursued me as I beat a hasty path to my bicycle on the other side of the building.

Luckily, I had packed a bottle of deet in my saddle bag and quickly sprayed a cloud of the chemical repellent around myself with one hand while crushing frail insectoidal exoskeletons (and entire future mosquito bloodlines) with the other, until I was able to secure a perimeter, mount my bicycle, and flee the area completely.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

School's On...Drive Safely!

Another level of madness was added to the motorways today with the official start of the school year. There are now two afternoon rush hours, one that occurs just after 3 pm and the usual one about 5 pm. Throw into the mix the packs of teenage track and field athletes running pell mell through roadway intersections and it's something of a "Wild West" out there.

KEYWORDS: bike commuting, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.03.2018

Labor

It's Labor Day. Long weekend holidays like this always seem to bring out the worst in automobile drivers. You see stuff on the roadways that no one should ever have to see. That's why I took the "scenic route" home from the cabin this weekend, circumnavigating the heinousness of the Wisconsin Dells.

Because it is better to be doing 60 mph on a 55 mph road than 25 mph on a 70 mph road. I was actually amazed to discover that very few other people share this philosophy with me, as evidenced by the scarcity of traffic on the single lane county highways, notwithstanding the holiday and the documented fact (thanks Google Maps) that the avoided Interstate Highway was chock-a-block with cars.

KEYWORDS: punk rock, lifestyle coaching, labor day

High Expectations

I set my goal too high. It was, if you recall, to journal daily. I missed the goal yesterday, in large part because I fell asleep before accomplishing it. I need to lower the goal threshold. Let's reset it to journaling five days per week and see what happens.

KEYWORDS: journaling, lifestyle coaching, punk rock

9.01.2018

Biking in Trump Country

This daily journal entry needs to be short for the simple reason that in 2 minutes it will be tomorrow and I will have failed in my goal to journal daily...

Mission accomplished.

8.31.2018

Automobile Drivers Go Mad When Their Routines Get Altered

Daily Journal Entry - 08/31/2018

Road construction should probably be outlawed as a public health menace. Largely, I am not adversely affected by road construction due to the nature of both my occupation and my values. But I care about other people, and when I see the mental health of others in my community precipitously decline due to environmental factors, I feel I should speak out.

There is currently some road construction happening not far from my home, near the route along which I normally bike commute to work. As a result of this civil engineering in progress, automobile traffic has been re-routed somewhat, meaning that I have been observing first hand the lack of coping skills that many motorists are afflicted with. Routine is comforting and when forced outside of their comfort zones, many peoples' limbic brains kick in with a sort of "fight/flight/freeze" response. The limbic brain was not designed for fine motor skills and impulse control, which is the domain of the rational brain. So the net result is a complete breakdown of roadway conventions. I'll grant you that the recent road closures due to floods in our area are not helping matters.

Well, there. I have spoken out. Of course, I have no solutions. Or rather, my solutions would not be embraced by the general public (i.e., bike commute more). For my part, I am simply being more vigilant when I bike commute. The morning ride isn't bad, but by about 2 PM, the roads are largely an unregulated "wild west."

Unrelated to any of this, this weekend is the annual BIKE WITH JOE social bike ride event up north.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, bike commuting, punk rock, vegan diet

8.30.2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The great thing about having my own blog is that I don't have to follow any of the normal conventions of writing. I don't have to adhere to any style guides. i can write in all lower case letters. I CAN WRITE IN ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS. The latter style is conventionally considered the written form of yelling, but that's on the reader, not on the writer. In fact, my posts are quite silent. They only make sounds inside your mind.

Today was the last Thursday in August and the second to last day in August. This upcoming weekend, the first weekend of September, I'll be driving up to the cabin to host another annual BIKE WITH JOE (not yelling!) event. I believe I started hosting this social bike ride in 1999, so this would be the 19th year. Next year, convention should dictate that I do something special to commemorate 20 consecutive years of hosting the bike ride. But as you can probably tell already, I am all about non-convention.*

For one thing, it hasn't always been a bike ride. A couple of times, it was an approximately 10 mile run-walk. In fact, one of these years I would like to try kayaking the entire 10 mile circumference of Shell Lake, the body of water alongside which sits my parents' cabin.

This morning I rode my bicycle to "work."** It was a beautiful day, sunny and 70 some odd degrees. I was slated to see two clients and co-facilitate a smoking cessation group today, but no one showed up to the anti-smoking wellness group and one of the clients did not show up, so it ended up being a pretty laid back day of administrative paperwork. I met Deborah about 2 PM for a late lunch at a pub near "work." My bike ride home was almost as pleasant as my morning non-motorized commute, with the slight disadvantage of there being a lot of crazed and disoriented motorists on the road. Notwithstanding, it was still a lot better to be biking than driving.

When I got home, I did a few chores, like loading laundry and unloading the dishwasher, and packed a few things for my weekend trip. I ate a modest dinner. Deborah arrived home whilst I was making it. Some TV was watched and then I decided to free write this blog entry. Going forward, I think I am going to try to make at least one short journal entry each day, just to keep the writing chops limber.

I'm going to wrap this up now and go read a book that I am almost done reading: "Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey Into Australia," by Roff Smith.

A good day to you, dear reader.

*Note: Also known as "unconventional."

**Note: For all intents and purposes, my unpaid internship at a community mental health center is a job, albeit pay- and benefit-less.

KEYWORDS: punk rock, lifestyle coaching, family therapy, bicycle tours, bike rides in australia

8.25.2018

I Am Still Staying Ahead of Global Climate Change...but Barely

On Wednesday morning of this past week, I woke up to discover that our house was now atop a small island surrounded on all sides by a newly formed lake. This was due to a proverbial "100 year flood" that hit the part of Wisconsin where we live. Our basement began to fill with water, but thanks to a reliable sump pump that worked overtime, this was more of a mild detriment than a major disaster. However, the event made me realize that global climate change is accelerating and gaining on us faster than we have thus far been able to outrun it. Deborah and I have been toying with the idea of moving for some time now, but clearly we need to get much more serious about that agenda, with an emphasis on attaining "higher ground."

In an absolute sense, I don't mind global climate change. In fact, I greatly enjoy observing "extreme nature" in action, especially storms. But I don't like to observe it that close up. I am also accepting of the fact that humanity as a whole has little will to address climate change. I no longer engage in arguments about whether humankind's industries are causing global climate change, but as a realist, I also do not deny the observable reality that the climate is changing. Even global climate change deniers like to point out another true fact...that the Earth has always gone through natural cycles of heating and cooling, with the implication being that what is happening now is "normal." So that argument suggests the deniers also must accept on some level that climate change is happening, even if they don't believe humans are perpetrating it. Their passivist argument has one glaring flaw though. While it is true that the globe has warmed and cooled cyclically throughout its history, it is also true that humans were not around for 99.9% of that history. Human technology and ingenuity notwithstanding, our species is fragile and can only survive within a very narrow range of climatic conditions. You only need to listen to people complain about how cold or hot the weather (not the same as climate) is on a daily basis to know that humans experience a lot of discomfort outside a very narrow temperature range from about 65 to 85 degrees F. That's why we have furnaces and air conditioners and bring space heaters into workplaces.

Global climate change, natural or not, is intolerant of human survival. Since collective humanity isn't doing much to reduce climate change and its associated severe weather, those of us who are not deniers have to do what we can individually to secure ourselves against the consequences. Ultimately, climate change will catch up...when freshwater and edible crops diminish to dangerous levels. But that won't happen in my lifetime (I don't think) and I don't have kids, so my goal is simply to outrun the floods, fires, storms, and earthquakes for as long as I can, and I thank Mother Nature for the stern reminder this past week.

8.19.2018

Dry Roasting Almonds

I don't like raw almonds. I do like dry roasted almonds. The great thing about raw almonds is that they can be converted to dry roasted almonds in about 10 minutes, via alchemy.*

*Note: Alchemy = 10 minutes on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F oven.

8.15.2018

I Got an A

I somehow got an A in one of my summer classes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I seemingly rock at my new career field of marriage and family therapy. For whomsoever cares, the class was Working with Kids and Adolescents, and it was all about doing therapy with children of any age up to 25 years old (still considered adolescents). As is often the case, I appeared to be "a natural" in as much as I did well in spite of not really knowing what I was doing about half the time. I have started working with some adolescent clients at my internship site and they are generally good kids, just misunderstood or overlooked. Often they are crazy smart and have a lot of strengths that aren't appreciated. In short, they just don't fit the very narrow and homogenized norms of society, even those of somewhat progressive Madison WI.

8.03.2018

Weatherbeaten

The weather in northern Wisconsin this weekend is not conducive to water testing the new tandem kayak that arrived earlier this week, half of which was a birthday present for my wife Deborah and the other half of which was mine! On top of sour weather, Deborah could not join me at the cabin this weekend to help me baptise the vessel...

8.01.2018

Moderate Success

I just finished my summer semester of classes moderately successfully. On paper, I appear to have completely dominated them with full marks. In practice, I have to admit that I did not give it my usual 110%. Honestly, I only gave it about 96%, for very legitimate reasons. Most notably, I am also devoting considerable mental bandwidth to both my clinical internship in Marriage and Family Therapy and also fun, outdoorsy summer activities, like biking and kayaking and hanging out with family up north at our cabin. Deborah and I just purchased a tandem kayak that needs to be lake tested STAT! Now that summer school is behind me, I need to maximize on fun before the fall semester begins in just three weeks! Only one year of classes to go, then I can graduate, get licensed, and start figuring out how to pay off student loans on a meager resident's salary.

7.27.2018

7.09.2018

A Guideline

As a general guideline, I find it unwise to meditate late in the day, particularly if I still have things I want to accomplish. These late day meditations tend to segue very smoothly into power naps, which have a tendency to sap my ambition for further evening activities. What is your experience with this? Leave a comment below.

7.02.2018

People...Are Dumb

I don't know what chemicals they put in the American junk food supply these days to dumb people down, but some people must consume supratoxic doses.

Case in point...

I am at the airport, near the gate where I will board my flight in about 90 minutes - and I grant you this is probably excessively early to be here...but let my caution serve as a counterpoint to this exemplar of stupidity...

As I was walking down the concourse toward my gate, I heard gate agents making a last call for passengers on a flight that was about to depart from that gate very soon. Not only that, but they were specifically calling for a passenger who had not yet boarded...by name...urgently encouraging them to get there ASAP or else!

So, I seat myself near the gate and go about minding my own business. The gate agents close the door to the plane 10 minutes before departure, as they always do. About three minutes later, a woman and her pre-teen daughter (who I had seen when I was going through TSA security...clearly not in any kind of rush) SLOWLY saunter up to the gate, expecting to board. The gate agent gives them a look that can only be described as incredulous, before telling the mom she is too late to the gate, as they say in the vernacular, and she cannot board. The mom then throws a fit, arguing that the plane isn't due to leave for another - by this time - four minutes, and she should be allowed to board.

It is hard for me to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, but I will assume she has not flown domestically in the U.S. since before 9/11. Nonetheless, the gate agent communicated to the woman the absolute impossibility that she and her daughter would be boarding this particular plane, even though their baggage had probably indeed done so, and would be waiting for them at their destination when they arrived there on a later flight.

My hypothesis about the toxicity of the American junk food supply as the underlying cause of this woman's mental flatulence (aka, "brain fart") is the most parsimonious one given the observable facts available to me. However, I am open to other educated guesses that my admittedly groggy morning cognition has not yet fathomed.

If you have any thoughts to share about this, please leave a comment on this post.

6.30.2018

Bring the Tropics to Me

I have tried to persuade Deborah to move someplace tropical. We briefly considered Florida before circumstanes changed and I went back to school in Madison WI. Additionally, the case has been made that Florida may be under water in 20 or 30 years, and that would suck for old people, which is what we will be on our way to becoming in 20 or 30 years. By the same token, meteorological models indicate that with current trends in global climate change, Wisconsin will get a lot warmer and wetter over the same 20 to 30 year time period, essentially becoming more tropical. So really all I need to do is be patient and the tropics will eventually come to me. Win-win.

6.23.2018

Relativity

There are some absolutely revolting nutrition bars on the market. But I learned something today. If you eat an absolutely revolting nutrition bar after eating an even more absolutely revolting one, the second one tastes RELATIVELY good by comparison.

That is what relativity means. A good day to you.

6.16.2018

2CM

Today might be a "two coffee morning" (2CM). I slept an ample number of hours last night, and fairly deeply, I might add. So I have little in the way of rational explanation. The mind is a terrible thing...

6.15.2018

I Love Heat

Wisconsin is supposedly under a heat advisory this weekend. Bring it! I love heat. I once rode my bike 110 miles in 110 degree heat in Iowa in July. I grant you that I literally had to stop and drink an entire bottle of iced cold Gatorade about every 12 minutes while doing this, but boy were my pores cleansed. The high this weekend will be 92. Child's play.

5.29.2018

A Potent Holiday Weekend in Colorado

Deborah and I got back from Colorado last night, just about midnight or so. It seems like often times when I depart from the Denver airport, there is some kind of weather incident afoot and yesterday was no exception from this perceived norm. In the couple of hours prior to my sister driving us from Colorado Springs to Denver, I had been watching storm clouds muster over the Front Range around Pike's Peak, grumbling thunder and flashing lightning. Often these afternoon rumblings amount to nothing and the storm's moisture dissipates in the thin, arid Colorado air. But yesterday the inclemency gained potency right around the time we hit the road for Denver and torrential downpours seemed to follow us on most of the trip.

Notwithstanding this, our plane took off on time. We got to the airport plenty early, anticipating holiday traffic delays. My sister backroad shortcutted a good bit of the route, eliminating a lot of that congestion, and so it was only the weather that slowed our travel a bit. When we pulled into the Terminal West departure area if Denver International, the eye of one of the thunderstorms was nigh upon us, though we were moderately protected from the precipitation by an overhanging awning.

Airport security was a bear, highly inefficient and disorganized and slow. In an absolute sense, I don't normally mind TSA weak sauce, given that modern aeronautic technology allows me to fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour to pretty much any destination in the world I want to go. But from a relative standpoint, it was pretty awful. Apparently, a bag of deluxe mixed nuts looks "pretty scary" (direct TSA staff quote) when viewed via x-ray machine (three times!). Yet even with the airport security gods working against us, we still made it to our gate with ample time to seek food before boarding our flight. Finding vegan options at the airport is never easy, but after a little searching, we found a place that could customize us a vegan salad, more or less. The only caveat was that they were out of the tofu they usually substitute for various meats on their salads. Sigh... The world is not vegan friendly, but we knew this when we signed on to this beneficial dietary lifestyle change, so we coped with the avocado that substituted for the tofu that substituted for the meat.

By the time our plane took off, the aforementioned thunderstorms had moved off to the east of Denver. The down side of this was that we had to fly east to get back to Madison WI. For safety, our pilot flew us north for a spell, into Wyoming, before turning east to bypass the apparent wall of storms now barreling across the Great Plains (which, incidentally, should be rolling into Wisconsin tomorrow some time). The flight was plenty turbulent, notwithstanding thunderhead avoidance, so much so that the flight attendants could not safely bring the drink/snack carts through the aisles but had to deliver their product manually. It wasn't tremendously bumpy in the sky, I didn't think, but they weren't taking any chances I guess. About midway through our flight, things settled down, but by then the flight crew had pretty much served up all the mini pretzels and juice cups manually.

Once we landed in Madison, everything was smooth. I retrieved our car from economy parking whilst Deborah scored her suitcase from baggage claim. I had wisely taken Deborah's credit card with me to pick up the car, because for whatever reason the auto pay machines in that lot do not like my credit card. Driving across town from the airport to our house in the middle of the night is always pleasant, because there are few drivers (Madison has some of the worst) on the road. We tried to watch some TV when we got home, but we were so tuckered out from the fun weekend in Colorado that we had to hit the hay rather expediently.

The weekend itself was action packed. We watched my niece and nephew compete in a homemade boat regatta race as well as some volleyball games. We also went up to my sister's partner Carl's mountain compound, where we partook of his wood fired sauna and made some pizzas on a barbecue grill (because his oven was on the fritz...that being said, the grill pizzas turned out really well and there were even some vegan ones!). We even had some down time to study for our summer classes and I took a two mile walk around my sister's hilly Manitou Springs neighborhood for some much needed exercise.

Those are the highlights. I hope you had a good Memorial Day holiday weekend too. I'd love to know what you did, if you feel like leaving a comment at the end of this post telling me how you spent it.

KEYWORDS: vegan diet, best weight loss diet, lifestyle coach, punk rock

5.16.2018

It Is Rare That I Pound Out a Day as Potent as Today

I biked all over the place today. In total, I rode 17.77 miles. That wasn't my initial plan for the day. It began as a rather humble and short 3.5 mile round trip bike ride to the post office and back to mail a small package to my sister and her family out in Colorado (Hi Sis! Keep an eye out for a small package, the contents of which are self-explanatory). En route to the Middleton USPS branch, I swung by my wife's place of work and caught her at the tail end of lunch just to say HI. It was a phenomenal weather day (aka, a perfect day, in the vernacular). After returning home from leaving the package in the trusty hands of the USPS staff, I got a text from a friend who had lent me her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) last year for a class. She wanted it back to study for her licensure exam. We coordinated to meet at a coffee shoppe for the handoff and I decided to bike there and back, given the fantastic weather. That was about a 12 mile or so round trip. After Deborah got home and we had dinner, I decided to go to the gym, whilst Deborah had plans with her family. I had gotten ample aerobics biking during the day, but I wanted to lift some weights at the gym (see my prior post about Popeye arms). I biked to the gym anyway, because it is close to our house and the route is pleasant - relatively flat and passing through a scenic nature area. Plus, I had not driven in an automobile yet today and I wanted to keep that trend going....you know...to save the planet! The weight room at the gym was overrun with testosterone engorged blood sausages, so I did my weight lifting expediently and left before I got splattered with explosive raw machismo. On the way home, I stopped in at the Common Ground coffee shoppe, a new local venue that hosts live music. I actually performed there last Saturday. I wanted to enquire about the open mic nights there. As it turned out, an open mic night was happening when I arrived. It was a low key affair, because other than the host, there were no performers present. The host asked if I wanted to play. I did want to, but I was sans guitar. The host said that was no problem and let me play his guitar. I punched out 4 tight songs to an audience that numbered in the single digits and then stuck around while the open mic host, Alan somebody, rounded out the night. I biked home feeling like I had really maximized my day, even though I hadn't really started it until shortly after noon and some of the successes were happenstance. Well done, if I do say so myself. The only downside is that I only burned about 900 or so calories with all that biking. I thought it would have been at least 1200 calories, based on my caloric burn when I do the exercise bike at the gym for an hour. I grant you that I took the biking at a leisurely pace today, but it was still over two hours in the bike saddle, all told. Nonetheless, I am fully satisfied with today's level of potency.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, punk rock

A Solid Yard Work Day

The weather yesterday was not originally supposed to be phenomenal...but it was. And even though I did not get out into said weather until about noon, it was action packed when I did. I mowed our sizeable and substantially overgrown (due to a lot of recent rain) yard, using some of the grass as mulch in various weed prone places in the yard. I also cleared the back deck of tree litter from the accursed weeping willows that loom over the back yard. I even fired up the grill and cooked some vegan veggie burgers for Deborah and me. Then I hypothetically planted the vegetable garden. What I mean by hypothetically is that I put seeds* into the soil in the raised bed and I hope to soon disprove the null hypothesis that they will not germinate and grow, thus supporting the alternative hypothesis that I successfully planted the garden. Once that milestone is achieved, the next hypothesis to be tested is whether I will get any yield from said vegetable plants. I planted green bean, scallop (aka, pattypan) squash, and habañada pepper seeds in the soil of the garden. I did transplant one preformed seedling into the garden, a roma tomato plant I picked up at the local grocery store. So, to the extent that it takes off and yields, as romas oft do, I technically have, at present, a tomato garden. This acts as a sort of control group in the aforementioned empirical gardening experiment. This experiment is confounded by the fact that I am using grass clippings as garden mulch this year. According to my web research, grass clippings make good mulch for raised beds. They are rich in nutrients and proved a weed preventing thatch, while also being porous enough to allow the soil to breath. In previous years I have used landscape fabric to achieve this goal but why not make use of already available and easily applicable yard waste? Our lawn is ridiculously dandelion free due to a professional "weed and feed" application we have done semi-annually. So I am not worried about dandelions infesting the garden at the moment. Anyway, I have rambled on far too long about the garden. After completing all the spring cleaning in the yard, I somehow still found the energy to go to the gym for 30 minutes of aerobics and 10 minutes of weight lifting. This morning, I can quite exquisitely feel many of the muscle groups in my body that had been underutilized this past winter, notwithstanding regular gym attendance. Mowing, raking, sweeping, and hauling use a wide assortment of the body's available musculature that simply cannot be replicated at a conventional gym.

Anyway, it was a potent day yesterday. The weather today looks to be comparably awesome, and since most of the immediate yard maintenance needs are taken care of, I am not entirely sure what to do with myself. I will take it moment by moment, starting with the preparation of a nice breakfast. I will probably read some articles in anticipation of my summer class that begins a week from today. It's a class about working with children and adolescents in marriage and family therapy and I expect it to be both educational and practicable. I was not expecting to have pre-assigned readings before the first class, but that would appear to be the case. So much for a week off between spring and summer semesters! But at least I love what I am studying.

*Note: Thanks go out to my buddy Brandon for sending me a sampling of garden seeds, as well as some coffee beans that I am going to try to cultivate indoors.

5.14.2018

A Lull

I wrapped up a potent semester of graduate school at the end of last week. I think I got all A's in every class, although I did get docked a point or two here and there. Mostly the small demerits were for good and minor reasons and included constructive feedback. There's only one I am somewhat ambivalent about, and I'll journal it forthwith as a form of catharsis (see below). But first, I wanted to say that I currently have a week off between finishing my semester and starting my clinical internship training next week. To say it is a week off is really a bit of an exaggeration, because I actually have to cram a pantload of spring cleaning and yard work, weather permitting, into this week and next weekend. But I should find time for ample self-care and mental recharging.

This past Mother's Day weekend, I performed a music show on Saturday night, and I have been kind of riding the afterglow of that the past couple days, doing pretty much nothing directly useful on Sunday and Monday. I did study a bit of Spanish whilst at the gym both days, and I made a vegan dark chocolate chip banana bread today, mainly to use up three overripe bananas. But Deborah forbade me to keep the decadent loaf of sweet, warm, moist goodness in the house, and so I promptly delivered it to Deborah's mom, who lives not too far away, on my way to the gym this evening. I also did an hour of hospice volunteer work on Saturday morning, now that I think of it.

Speaking of the gym, I am implementing a modified fitness regime of doing five 30-minute aerobic workouts per week, instead of three 60-minute ones. Mathematically, this saves me a little bit of time on the gym floor, although the time saved is probably going to be lost to the additional driving to the gym and changing into and out of my gym clothes. Still, it feels easier to find 30+ minutes on any given day to work out than 60+ minutes. Additionally, the modified plan is also designed to allow me 10 minutes or so on either side of the aerobics to lift weights a little bit. I was noticing last week that I am starting to get "Popeye" arms, losing muscle tone in my biceps and triceps. My forearms have always remained well toned because I use those muscles a lot in everyday activities like writing and music. So that's about all that I have going on. I suppose it's time to commiserate on the aforementioned cognitive dissonance about one of the project grades I received this semester.

For my final presentation of the semester in my last class of the semester, I put together a really nice Powerpoint presentation and honed it to a razor sharp edge. I included lots of redundancy on the infrastructure side to prevent technical difficulties from derailing me at any point, including emailing it to myself as well as the professor, and uploading it to the proverbial "cloud." In an effort to save the planet a little bit, I decided to bike to class that night, giving myself ample time for the 3.5 mile bike ride. I had packed a change of shirt in my backpack in case I got sweaty on the ride. Nonetheless, as I was leaving the house, I had a slight feeling I was forgetting something. But in my head, everything had been checked off on my TO DO list. I arrived at the remote adult continuing education campus of my school, where my class was held, with plenty of time to cool off and don my fresh, clean tee shirt.

When I arrived in the classroom, the professor noticed my attire (shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt) and informed me that it was not up to snuff for a formal class presentation.

"Were we supposed to dress up for this?" I asked, surprised. None of my classmates had gussied up very much for their presentations the prior week.

"Yes, it's supposed to be a formal presentation," the professor said. "You are supposed to dress like you would at a professional meeting."

"Bust! I totally missed the fine print on that," I admitted, chagrined.

"It was in the assignment description on Blackboard," chimed in one of my classmates who had overheard this exchange. Blackboard is the online assignment submission interface we use in some classes.

"I biked here," I said, for lack of any other justification for my normal casual classroom attire.

"I gathered that," the professor said. I should note here that I am paraphrasing the conversation as I remember it. This is a skill I will need to hone during my internship as a marriage and family therapist, although I have no idea how good I am at doing it.

I was furious at myself for overlooking this minor thing. I brainstormed and decided to call my wife Deborah and ask her if she might bring me a collared button down shirt, since we live not far from campus. She kindly abided the request and delivered me a crispy pressed shirt just in time for me to change into it before I presented. Granted, I was still wearing sandals and shorts, but the shirt gave me a serious upgrade in my appearance and I was even able to incorporate the incident into my presentation in a clever and humorous way.*

Even so, when I got my grade a couple days after presenting, the professor had docked me two points (out of 25) for the dress code biff, notwithstanding my partial save (this meant I only got a 92% on the presentation...an A minus! NO!!!). I can't argue against it, since on paper I had failed with regard to the fine print on the assignment (I really should have read it more carefully). However, a part of me thinks I ought to have gained two points of extra credit for quick thinking in a crisis situation, which would have canceled out the demerit. After all, I am well on my way to becoming a marriage and family therapist, which will necessitate improvising in crisis situations, which I did in this case. Plus, I was saving the frickin' planet by biking to class! Conversely, I appreciate that this professor was trying to keep my humble by slapping me with a small fine. So I'm torn...

What do you think? Should I have been docked the two points or was it a wash?

*Note: The presentation was on "The 5 Love Languages," by Gary Chapman, and one of these so-called languages is doing "Acts of Service" as a way to show love and admiration for your spouse or partner. Deborah illustrated this love language in bringing me the shirt and so I incorporated that into the presentation with a bit of humor.

4.17.2018

Pounding It Out and Burrowing Through

Today was potent. I burrowed through.

I was tired most of the day. Because I got up earlier than usual. Much earlier.

In school, the mad push toward the end of the semester has begun.

Assignments are coming due. I need to focus and pound out project work. I did so today.

The projects are fun and educational. But they still consume considerable mental bandwidth.

I ate a vegan breakfast of porridge, with the usual fruity and nutty add-ons.

Shortly after Deborah left for work, I went to the gym. I spent an hour on the stationary bike, at a light-moderate intensity. I read about the neurobiology of trauma. I eat that stuff up. So interesting.

I spent the afternoon at a coffee shoppe, drinking coffee to stay awake and reading about models of group therapy: cognitive and rational emotive behavioral therapy, solution focused brief therapy, narrative therapy, and even feminist group therapy. It all made sense. I took good notes.

I went to class in the evening. I ate dinner during the break. It was vegan chili with lime over brown rice. I made it yesterday.

When I got home from class, I chillaxed with my beautiful wife for a short while. Then I went to my study area and finished the chapter on the neurobiology of trauma. I didn't finish it at the gym.

I wrote this post. Now I'll head off to sleep.

KEYWORDS: vegan diet, best weight loss diet, punk rock, lifestyle coaching, group therapy, trauma informed care

4.15.2018

Bliss Hard

I live in Madison WI. One year ago today, it was 80 Fahrenheit degrees, sunny, and a little bit windy. I know this because I got married to my beautiful soulmate Deborah on April 15 of last year (Happy One Year Anniversary to us!).

Here is a picture from a window of our house today...

It's currently 30 Fahrenheit degrees and we are under a so-called Winter Weather Advisory. In short, it's a snow storm! This is the nature of weather variability in Wisconsin from year to year. 50 degrees different!

Deborah and I had signed up for a day long meditation retreat downtown today, but it was canceled yesterday due to a forecast of predicted travel treachery today. So we have a "snow day." I guess we'll probably laze about and watch some TV.

But we shall see what the day holds in store. In honor of the kiboshed meditation retreat, I am going to focus on being mindfully present and in the moment today. So right now I am going to wrap up this post and go eat a hearty vegan bowl of oatmeal porridge with pecans, blueberries, grapes, apple, maple syrup, flaxseed meal, and unsweetened almond milk.