Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pushing a 2 Ton Baby Giant on a Swing

You can't push all at once. Use the momentum of the swing, silly!

Imagine a 2 ton baby giant on a swing, and it is crying at you to push her.  You feel obliged since it could possibly crush you with a swat of her arm.

Although difficult, when your hard pushes are timed just right, the giant will begin to swing higher and higher. However, it takes quite a mighty push, and it takes a mighty push at a specific time during the swing. Specifically, on the apex of its back swing. 

Learning Something New and Very Difficult

When you are first learning something that is really hard to grasp, it will take a lot of your time. In fact, it better take some of your time every day. Otherwise, you will lose what you've gained. 

Say you want to pass a class with an A. That is equivalent to getting the baby giant up to some high level on her swing. Trying to cram everything in the night before the test is like pushing the baby giant to that level with one push.  It isn't going to happen.  

If we think as each swing forward and back as a day, then we can reach that A level with a timely push every day. Skipping a push, and the giant will quickly lose its momentum and it will take an extra day to get back on track.  

A quick review of notes is the equivalent of giving a simple maintenance push, that will keep the giant at her same level. Anything extra, and you can gain a little more toward your goal. 

This idea came to me while listening to a similar analogy in Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave on my way back and forth to work. I hope it provides an avenue for you to hack your own mind, and perhaps conquer that difficult challenge that looms in front of you. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


As an avid reader, I often ask myself what is the purpose of reading so much if I'm not going to apply what I read.  For example, the book Give and Take by Adam Grant outlines the benefits of giving to others. Here are a few ways in which you can give:

  • Nominate someone for an award.
  • Download all the birthdays of friends into your phone and set reminders to send physical birthday cards.  
  • When traveling, send postcards to friends and family.
  • Volunteer for duties that need done.  
  • Follow through with friendly inquiries.  
When books are read that are not in a personal improvement category, look for parts that you can write about and share with others. This is how one can "apply" that knowledge. 

Books of fiction are for entertainment. You can "apply" these books by smiling, laughing, or simply being amazed.  Then one can tell of their experience to others. If this application isn't possible, then the book should probably not be finished.  

Application may not be that important to you. There are a few camps of mathematicians: those that enjoy the pureness of mathematics, and those that don't see the point unless it can be applied.  Even the purest of mathematics will have an application someday in the distant future.  It is good to keep that in mind when you're reading, even if you're enjoying it for enjoyment's sake. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Drama is Resistance

Erin and I about to enjoy solar eclipse totality in Highland. We are shooting this picture blind, as many of you know.

The Email

One of the forms of The Resistance, as defined by Steven Pressfield in his amazing book, The War of Art, is drama. Our species is so addicted to it that we can become a prisoner of our own self inflicted version of it.

Let me give you an example. 

A student emails me about what I'm going to do about class for the solar eclipse, which is on the first day of class, a Monday. 

The class to which he is referring is a Tuesday, Thursday class.  I slap my forehead.  Literally. 

Now, prior Jason would have been so beyond disturbed about the stupidity of this. Prior Jason would have written an email that would be littered with hidden sarcasm. He would have spent perhaps 30 minutes to an hour trying to wrap his mind around how someone could bring themselves to make such an error. 

Eventually, any email that was created would be edited down to this: 

Dear Student,
Our class meets on Tuesday and Thursday, so you don't have to worry. 
-Dr. Shaw

That's it.  That's the email.

Yet I would spend more than a half hour of my time stewing about it. I would be angry about the fact that I couldn't, as a professional, send the more snarky email.  Even getting back to work, I may have to take a break and visit a colleague's office just to tell them the story about it (now wasting TWO people's time). 

However, I am not prior Jason. This time around, I literally did slap my forehead. However, I followed that up by closing my eyes, taking a few deep breaths while thinking to myself how much time I could waste with this individual if I let The Resistance take its course.  I pulled the solar glasses over my eyes, so to speak, and shut all of that other stuff out.

After a few deep breaths, the above email is produced and I move on, because I've got stuff to do (don't we all).  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Google ABC's

"Everybody lies." - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

New Way of Getting Data

Polling people doesn't reveal what's true anymore. We all found that out when Trump became our president. The reason behind this is explained very well in the new book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.  

There are many points made in the book (so far, I'm not yet half way) that are not surprising, but a few that are.  For example, one of the depressing but not surprising realities that surface from Google searches are that

  • "Parents are two and a half times as likely to ask "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?"" (Reality: Girls are 9 percent more likely to be in gifted programs than boys in school). 
  • "Parents Google "Is my daughter overweight?" roughly twice as frequently as they Google "Is my son overweight?"" (Reality: 28% of girls and 35% of boys are overweight).
  • "Areas that supported Trump in the largest numbers were those that made the most Google searches for "nigger.""

There were a few surprising findings in this enlightening book.  Here is one example.  Select two people at random from any given news site, whether that be Fox News or ThinkProgress.  What would you think the probability would be that the two have different political views?  

My idea of the internet led me to think that it is segregated in the sense that conservatives tend to mainly view conservative sites while liberals view more liberal sites. This led to a guess that would be closer to 0% (a perfectly desegregated site would give close to 50%).  

The result: 45.2%.  


My ABCs of Google Searches

This idea of Google searching providing an avenue of who we really are gave me the idea of finding out who I really was by looking at my Google search history. Simply by typing each letter individually into Google, Google will fill in "suggestions" for you based on what you have searched for in the past.  

Here is a glimpse of my Google ABCs: 

a. amazon music
b. beersmith podcasts
c. cyanide and happiness
d. duolingo norwegian
e. eagle statue washburn campus
f. fractional reserve system
g. great taste of the midwest
h. homebrewing podcasts
i. international monetary fund
j. jse data sets and stories
k. kansas v. board of education
l. loop de loop decorah
m. mirepoix pronounce 
n. nonparametric statistical methods
o. ordering prints online
p. public service announcement vertical videos
q. quantasia sharpton
r. rgb for washburn university
s. sagbraw
t. top paying statistics jobs
u. us news and world report statistician
v. videos not coming up on gopro mtp client disk volume
w. wings of freedom washburn
x. xkcd
y. yo
z. zillow

This speaks very highly about how big of a dork I am.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Homebrew Daily

The beginning of Not Breaking the Chain

As I read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, I eventually found myself wondering where I was giving into the Resistance. It takes his entire Book One (pages 5-57) to define the Resistance. Generally speaking, it is anything and everything that keeps you from harnessing your creative side.

My Creative Side

Along with the occasional blog post (writing), I think my creative expression is most prominent in my home brewing.  I like to make really good beer, and I've always wanted to gain the knowledge it takes to create my own recipes.  It does not take much to create a recipe.  Make sure some malts, hops, yeast, and water are included and you have a recipe. 

That is not what I'm talking about, though. I want to create recipes that make outstanding beer. I want to become a better brewer. 

However, I've been fighting the Resistance without even realizing it. It was telling me things like
  • "There's plenty of craft beers out there to choose from. There really is no need to brew your own beer."
  • "It takes several hours to brew a batch, and you don't have that kind of time."
  • "You're probably never going to make a pilsner-lager, so there is no need to read that email from Brad Smith."
So I made a game plan on how to fight this Resistance. A while ago, I commented on Jonathan Vieker's wonderful blog post, The Secret to Doing Hard Things Daily.  In that comment, I vowed to "use this method of not breaking the chain to achieve the next big goal, whatever that may be."  

The chain to which I was referring is the streak of days in which you have devoted to building the habit or skill you want to build. Once a solid streak is in place, you don't want to break that chain. 

The reason it works is as Jonathan says,
It substitutes a highly specific, immediate goal (avoid the psychological pain of seeing the chain broken) for a vague, long-term goal (develop a new skill or habit). 

How I'm Going to Do It

Obviously, I cannot brew every day.  I do not have the time, money, or the desire to do such a thing. The good thing is, that you don't have to brew every day to get better at brewing.  There is plenty of literature out there about brewing, and there is always something that needs cleaned, measured, or manipulated in the brewing process.  

My plan is to devote some block of time to the following every day.
  • Brewing better beer
  • Pre- and post-brewing related activities (yeast starters, dry hopping, racking, cleaning, etc.)
  • Learning about brewing (reading literature or newsletters, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, etc.)
  • Writing about brewing
Last night, I began reading the book For the Love of Hops, by Stan Hieronymus. Today, I have a keg and tap to clean since I just cashed my Mosaic IPA.  There are home brewing podcasts that I can download for when I'm traveling or walking back and forth to work. I have 54 emails in a folder labeled "Home Brewing" from Brad Smith (his Beer Smith Home Brewing Newsletter).  

In other words, there are things I can choose to do that will take 5 minutes, and some that will take 5 hours.  Whatever I choose, I'm not going to break the chain. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Self Motivating Speech

The Finish of Ragbrai XLV

Somewhere on Day 5 or 6, I remember thinking of my self motivational speech and letting Juan in on a little of it. It goes a little something like this.

The Setup

You are in the middle of doing something very grueling, challenging, and taxing on your body. If that isn't bad enough, there are other elements that can get in the way such as Mother Nature to name one. 

The truth of the matter is that it wouldn't be that big a deal to quit.  Why go through with the rest of this?  Maybe you've accomplished something like this before.  Maybe you've had your fun, and now it is just too much work.  

Those voices in your head are the Resistance.  For more on the Resistance, read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, or Seth Godin's Linchpin.

The Decision

You've all but succumbed to the Resistance, and have decided to quit.  Really... it is no big deal. 

The Ultimate Decision

Now that you've made a decision, you can now make the ultimate one: to continue.

But why? 

Because having made the decision to quit, accomplishing the goal will mean so much more.  When you finish, you will break out in goose flesh and tears will come to your eyes. The Final Countdown may be playing in your head. 

Training yourself to overcome the Resistance is difficult, but defeating the Resistance after it already won is quite a feat.  

It is the best feeling ever.

Ragbrai XLV

Juan and I would never had let each other decide to quit, but the Resistance was there. It was in our individual heads.  We were tired.  Our legs were sore.  

Together, we conquered, and it was a proud and beautiful moment. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ragbrai Over the Years

The Big Question, and the Great Answer!

Next week, I will begin what will hope to be my seventh full Ragbrai experience. Before I hit the road, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the fun times we've had over the years.


Our first Ragbrai in 2009 went from Council Bluffs to Burlington, IA with overnight stops in Indianola and Ottumwa. At a distance of 442 miles and a total of 22,806 feet of climb, it was the hilliest Ragbrai that we've ever experienced.  Our second and third day ever of having ridden Ragbrai had us climb 5096 feet and then 4470 feet. The hilliest and third hilliest days of Ragbrai we have ever done.

It was the year Erin and I became engaged, as I put together a big engagement party at my mother's place it Ottumwa. See the opening picture.

It is hard to describe now the awe that I felt on the first morning as we took off from Council Bluffs. We had just taken down a soaking wet camp (from dew) and there was a pretty thick fog.  I was mesmerized by the number of bicycles all around me.

The fog hasn't quite lifted

Mike and Cara Corey, and Cara's dad Ron on our way to Ottumwa (to surprise Erin)

Newly engaged, we celebrate with Cory and Jake in Ottumwa

It was just Erin, myself and Dad that rode the whole distance in 2009.


Our second Ragbrai ride was the the second longest clocking in at 451 miles total (the patch says 442, which is inaccurate).  This was the year I kept a journal. On Friday evening before we got on our charter with Lake Country Cyclists, a tornado went right by dad's place in Indianola. He witnessed it coming directly at his house, but it turned and they missed the damage. Having missed his house, he was able to still go on Ragbrai.

Missouri Dip in Sioux City, IA

Lonnie joined our small crew for the 2nd year. Erin and I thought it would be fun to wear the same shirts the entire week. Here you see us wearing the Novinger Coal Miner Days 5K shirt. We were big into races back then.

In Storm Lake at the end of Day 1

In Algona at the end of Day 2

In Clear Lake at the end of Day 3

On the campus of Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, end of Day 5

One of the highlights of the week for me was swinging from this amazing rope swing. Not too long after I had left, someone went off nude and they had to shut the whole thing down. They had it roped off, were charging $5 to get in, and then you had to sign a waiver. 

The 2010 Ragbrai was also the one that contained Potter Hill. It was brutal, as only a small percentage of riders could make it to the top without walking their bikes. From what I understand, walking your bike up the hill was tough enough.

I was very proud of having climbed that hill. 

We finished in Dubuque for another fantastic year. It was the year of my favorite jersey, which I still have and will wear this year.  

Lonnie almost matches.


At 450 miles, 2011 was the third longest ride I have done (although it may as well be tied for 2nd since 2010 was 451) and the second hilliest at 20197 feet of climb. The first two days were brutal, climbing 4298 from Glenwood to Atlantic, and then 4719 from Atlantic to Carroll.  These two days were the 2nd and 4th hilliest days of Ragbrai that I have ever done.

Erin took a break from Ragbrai in 2011, and would continue the streak until her return in 2014, as she was putting a lot of focus on her dissertation.

Jason, Ralph, Lonnie, Chuck, Don, Larry, Bitz

Prior to Ragbrai 2011, I created several ideas for a video that I would create. This script was more detailed than my entire journal of Ragbrai itself. The videos I took were only during the first two days. Apparently, I gave up on the idea.

So, instead of any decent photos, I have a bunch of crummy videos that could not be used for anything.

One of only four photos taken during 2011. 


Setting off on the 2012 Ragbrai together: Jason, Mike, Lonnie, Ralph, Chuck, Don, Bitz, Larry (not pictured: John)

There were nine of us that started the longest (at 471 miles) and hottest of all of my Ragbrai rides, and only four of us that finished. The heat took out three, and a storm in Marshalltown the last two. It was myself, Don, Larry, and John that made it the whole way. Turns out Don and Larry are the oldest of this crew, too. They are rock stars. 

Opposite of 2011, I captured both videos and pictures and had a much better plan in place of creating a big video.  I also journaled a lot more and wrote down some very good advice for my future self: 
  • Do not bring reading material. You will not read it.
  • Do not bring MP3 player & headphones. You will not listen to music during the week unless it is on stage. 
  • Get pedals and shoes that are more Ragbrai friendly (which I have sense done). 
  • Pack a laundry bag. 
  • Pack things in watertight bags.
  • Sweats and hoodie for air conditioned places and cooler evenings. 
  • A small bit of laundry detergent for hand washing clothes. 
  • You do not need a tripod or selfie stick. There are several thousand people all around you willing to take your picture.
  • Do not use a front bike bag. You do not use it. Get a mount for your phone. (Front bag is gone now, and a mount for my phone is in place!)
  • Do not pay for tent service. Putting your tent up is not that big a deal. This saves money and gives you more freedom to pick a spot. 
  • Bring clothes pins, hammer, Swiss Army knife, and zip ties. (I forgot clothes pins on B.A.K. but not on Ragbrai this year!)
  • Look into creating a team or joining a team. I like The Motivators. This team should consist of individuals who can coach & encourage others having difficulty while conquering hills/weather/fatigue etc. 

I had forgotten about the last piece of advice. The idea came from encouraging people up hills and coming up with a speech in hindsight that I could have delivered to my dad and Lonnie on the fifth day after a storm took down their tent and soaked all their stuff. It would have motivated them to keep going. Someday, I will bring this idea to fruition. 

Here was the highly unedited and way too long video I put together of 2012.  I've learned my lesson on keeping videos like these under 5 minutes, and preferably, under 3. 

My 20th blog post ever happened to be about Ragbrai 2012! I'm not sure why I didn't post any pictures.


"Rabrai is over and it was the best ever. I suppose I only have four others for reference, but it was pretty awesome. I'm sitting here relaxing and listening to Radiohead when I should be blogging about this instead."  - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Journal Entry

Dad, a fellow Lake Country Cyclist, Lonnie

Ragbrai 2013 was unique to the previous years, as my core group shrunk down to just Dad, Lonnie, and me riding with Lake Country Cyclists. Don and Larry were still on the ride, but they were with a different outfit. My friend Jonathan and his sister Becca were biking it, too, with my friend Sarah (Jonathan's wife) as their driver.

My Karras Loop patch with John Karras himself. 

Here I am with some goats. Because why not? It's Ragbrail

When I look through the pictures of Ragbrai 2013, I took a LOT of selfies. Many of them included a picture of me in front of each pass-through-town's sign. I'm not sure why I thought that would be a good idea. We all live and learn.

Outlaw, Chops, Scrappy, and Stilts

Don and Larry!

Ragbrai went through Des Moines in 2013. I hung out at the craft beer tent in downtown Des Moines for hours with friends Cory and Simpson. Although they had ridden that day, I couldn't wait long enough in any of the towns for them. They simply could not catch up.

I had an extremely brief paragraph and four other pictures of Ragbrai 2013 in my blog post, My Busy Summer.   One of those pictures includes Cory.

Simpson and I riding together from Des Moines to Knoxville

Here we are in Fairfield after some Indian Food.

I recall walking up to the square in Fairfield, IA and almost passing out from low blood sugar. I began sweating profusely, and went into a gas station really quick to down some sugar in the form of soda and cookies (I think). It gave Jonathan, Sarah, and Becca a little scare, but it soon passed. 

By the time we got done with the Indian Food Buffet downtown, we had forgotten about it. Not really. 

A fifth Ragbrai conquered. 


Chops and I with chops

I was able to blog about Ragbrai 2012 much more extensively!  However, there are definitely elements missing from that blog. Take these videos of Jonathan for example, where he plays Taps at three different campgrounds. Try and follow me here... Chops with chops showing off his chops.

Jason and Erin on Ragbrai again!

My fifth century ride on Ragbrai (I skipped it in 2009). 

Wonder what I was doing in there? 

Chops being a good guy and riding with me on the day after my concussion.

We're close enough to done for a finish photo. What's the matter, Chops? Bike a bit heavy?
Dennis, our driver, made Ragbrai 2016 the actual best Ragbrai I have experienced. It will be hard to top this. 


Left to Right: Jason, Ted, Erin, Alyce, Dale, Cory, Sharon, Mike, Dave, Jonathan, Juan

Our move to Topeka hindered us from doing Ragbrai 2015.  Even for Ragbrai 2016, we did not fully commit, but only went for the Thursday and Friday rides of the week.  

Cory, Simpson, and Juan rode Wednesday from Leon to Centerville and camped there for the evening. Mom took Ted, Jonathan, Erin, and me over to Centerville to join them Thursday morning. While Jonathan, Ted, and Erin beat us all to Ottumwa, I rode with Cory, Simpson, and Juan almost the entire day. 

Here we are on the ride from Centerville to Ottumwa. Bloodys!!!!

Before Erin took off for Ottumwa ahead of us, we all had some Turkey Toms to pass around.

As Mike pays attention to whatever is being said, Cory is distracted from the inflammation in his taint. 

Two miles from home, we're all taking a necessary break at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent

Around the corner from the Iowa Craft Beer Tent, I threw my shoulder out of socket on a slip in side. This had just happened during my first softball game in two years just two weeks prior. I tried to coach people to get it back into place, but to no avail. Instead, I instructed someone to go up to the roadside and ask for a doctor. 

Within 10 seconds a doctor pulled down the driveway exclaiming, "I'm a doctor. BUT. I'm a drunk doctor."  

Once we explained that it was just a shoulder out of place, he said that wouldn't be a problem. A few instructions later, it was back into place. The crowd that had accumulated cheered. Someone else has the picture of the doctor and me. 

I was very skeptical of my ability to ride with Erin, Ted, and Jonathan the next day (Friday) from Ottumwa to Washington.  Ultimately, I decided to ride the first few miles and turn around if my shoulder hurt too much. Turns out, the shoulder felt better by leaning on handlebars. And to think, I was really close to calling it quits. 

It was tough, but Chops and Outlaw were Day 6 Champions. The sign was just for us. 

Always stop for the Iowa Craft Beer Tent!

Ted is well rested here. He had a long nap waiting for our arrival. 

I convinced these guys to go much slower and enjoy the ride on Friday. That we did. When we arrived in Washington behind Erin at the Hy-Vee, we purchased a 4-pack of Tallgrass Top Rope IPA and drank them in the parking lot while we waited for Mom to come get us from Ottumwa. She was such a big help. 


So... Ragbrai is next week. This year, Juan and I will be the only ones riding the whole week. Erin, Cory, and Mindy will be joining us Thursday and Friday so they can experience Decorah. Mom is planning on taking their camper up to Decorah on Sunday and staying the entire week. 

I'll report back on how it goes.