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.