MathJax

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hickory Nut Falls

Looking up from the base of Hickory Nut Falls in Chimney Rock State Park

What's Happening

Erin and I returned from out Asheville, NC/Atlanta, GA trip at 3:20 AM on Monday, May 22. On Saturday, May 27, we will begin the Cottonwood 200, a 3-day bike ride through the Flint Hills of Kansas.  The following weekend, on Saturday, June 3rd, both of us will run the Dam-to-Dam half marathon in the Des Moines area. I'm going to follow that with a few days of Dad-time. 

Number of the Day: 98

Age of Dr. Brenda Milner, who still works at Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. Many believe her to be emerita at her age, but she is still working some 7 decades after she began. She is currently weaving together the biology of memory and a hemisphere specialization: how the halves divide up labor. 

I saw this article appear in the Science Times on Tuesday, May 16th although it appeared first on Monday, May 15th. It was of interest to me as I was reading The Power of Habit at that time. In chapter 1 of this book, it describes a patient "Eugene" who loses the ability to create new memories. The scientist studying Eugene was professor Larry Squire.  When Larry was a PhD student a MIT, he worked alongside "the group" studying Henry Molaison. 

Whether he worked with Dr. Brenda Milner, I could not assess, but Dr. Brenda Milner was one of several scientists to have studied Henry Molaison extensively.  

Atlanta

Flights to Atlanta are much cheaper than flights to Asheville, NC. Since our friends Rachel and Dennis live in Roswell (northeast of Atlanta), we thought we could carpool with them to Asheville to meet the organizers of this trip, Gerrit and Kristi. They graciously let us crash their trip when we caught wind of it a month ago.

Rachel picked us up from the airport Friday evening and we stayed a night with her and Dennis in their new place. We had a late dinner of leftover Indian food, and stayed up late catching up.

The following morning we had a brunch at Another Broken Egg before taking off for Asheville.

Asheville

True to our nature, our first stop in Asheville was at a brewery: Catawba Brewing Co.
We made plans on the fly. I chose a brewery to go somewhat at random, and decided on Burial Brewing Company. In our attempts at parking in the area of Burial, we were unsuccessful at first, and finally found a lot that happened to be right across from Catawba. Since there was no rhyme or reason that I chose Burial in the first place, we walked into Catawba. It suited our needs and desires for that particular moment.

When Gerrit and Kristi arrived, we were able to see their 4 year old twins Gatlin and Gillian for the first time in several years! However, they had just ridden several hours in a car, and so they were wound for sound.  A beer later, we decided on ordering Indian food and joining them at a local park where we ate and let the kids play before heading to the cabin. 

The Cabin

Our cabin was in between Black Mountain and Bat Cave, NC, about 40 minutes outside of Asheville on some of the steepest and windiest roads I've been. It was a mansion of a cabin that could have very comfortably held at least one more couple. We each had our own rooms with our own bathrooms. 

Dennis captured this wonderful panoramic picture of the dinner table

The view from the deck. 
Left: Cuddle time with Gatlin and Gillian. Right: Erin cooking us an amazing breakfast.

Chimney Rock State Park

Saturday plans were made on Saturday morning. We decided to go south from the cabin first and enjoy some time at Chimney Rock State Park, so we packed for a picnic. It cost a little more than we were expecting to get into the park, but it was worth it. We chose the hike to Hickory Nut Falls as that seemed to be the easiest one for the kids and the one with the most reward.

Shots at Hickory Nut Falls
It wasn't until later that I found out this was the sight for many of the shots taken in the movie The Last of the Mohicans.  

Taken during our picnic at the base of Vista and Chimney Rock
 The scenery and company were great. Once we were finished with our picnic and playing around, we went north to Black Mountain to enjoy Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery as well as Pisgah Brewing Company. They were right beside each other.

A selection of ciders and mead makes Pleepleus happy.

A quick beer at Pisgah since there were no shaded tables or comfort available
That evening, we interrogated Dennis to make sure he was holiday meal ready. He flawlessly passed, navigating around our intense and rigorous questions effortlessly.

The Trip Home

We were in no hurry on Sunday morning, so we had breakfast at the cabin and some much needed R&R. After a late lunch at the Straightaway Cafe, we parted ways with Gerrit, Kristi, Gatlin, and Gillian, and headed back to Atlanta where Erin and I had a late flight out.

Left: Pre-dinner beers at Taco Mac. Right: Erin told me to order anything I wanted. I ate the entire boat.
It felt like it was my birthday at the Japanese Sushi and Steakhouse. Erin told me I could get anything I wanted! I ordered a sushi boat for two just for myself. It was delicious. I ate it all, and even had a few bites of her dish.

We couldn't thank Dennis and Rachel enough for their willingness to drive us all the way to the airport for our late flight out, which meant they also had a late night getting back to Roswell. It was a fantastic time catching up with all of them. Postcards are coming soon! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Neophilia

Erin enjoying a margarita flight


What's Happening?

This is my second day of summer break. With more time on my hands, I will probably be writing more often. I'm going to try a format similar to how I began each of my statistics classes during the Spring 2017 semester.

On Friday the 19th we fly to Atlanta, GA where we will be picked up by the newlyweds Dennis and Rachel Ho. They will drive us to Asheville, NC where we will meet our friends Gerrit and Kristi Scholten. Once together, we plan to paint the town and do all things fun. We may send you a postcard if you're good. 

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Erin and I will be riding the Cottonwood 200. This is a 200 mile, 3-day bike ride that starts as Washburn University in Topeka on Saturday, May 27th and ends that evening about 75 miles away in Council Grove, KS.  On Sunday, the ride is an out-and-back that goes to Cottonwood Falls and returns to Council Grove, which is approximately 50 miles. On Monday, we ride back to Topeka.

Did You Know?

One of my 2017 resolutions is to bike 2017 miles. At the time of this writing, I have 1641 miles to go. This means I am 18.6% finished with my goal. Tuesday, May 16th is the 136th day of the year, which means that I am 37.3% finished with the year. Although behind, the summer rides are coming and will most likely get me ahead.

Number of the Day - 44

On Saturday, April 22nd, Erin and I met friends Jonathan and Sarah in Columbia, MO to participate in the March for Science. According to Pew Research, the 
percentage of U.S. adults who say the protests, marches and demonstrations about science held this April will Help/Make No Difference/Hurt public support for science
is divided evenly at 44% for both "Help" and "Make No Difference." In fact, 7% believe it will hurt public support for science. This was one of FiveThirtyEight's Significant Digits on Friday, May 12.

March for Science

Neophilia versus Neophobia

I'm currently reading what will probably be a contender for the most influential book I've read in 2017. On shelves in 2012, I'm five years behind. It is called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. 

This has been such an influential book, that I expect to weave much of what was written in that book into several more blog posts. I will build a foundation with this post. 

Haidt first brings up neophilia while giving several moral foundations of politics in chapter 7. The six moral foundations are 
  • Care/Harm
  • Liberty/Opression (introduced in Ch. 8)
  • Fairness/Cheating
  • Loyalty/Betrayal
  • Authority/Subversion
  • Sanctity/Degradation 
If you think of a spectrum of very liberal on the left to very conservative on the right, imagine a graph of six lines that measure the importance of these moral foundations to individuals (use the picture below to get an idea, which is not to scale and slightly inaccurate). Starting on the left, the lines from top to bottom represent each of the moral foundations given above, respectively. 


Hence, the more liberal minded individual puts a lot more weight in the top three (and especially the top two) than the bottom three. While the more conservative minded puts about an equal weight to all six foundations with a near opposite ordering of priority. 

In the section on Sanctity and Degradation, he introduced the terms neophilia and neophobia. 
  • Neophilia is a desire to experience and try new things, along with a general distaste for routine and tradition.
  • Neophopia is a fear of new experiences, with a general comfort in what is "tried and true."
In my search of a more positive word that describes a general desire for routine and tradition, I was unsuccessful.

Neophilia describes me very well. Haidt claims that liberals score higher on neophilia, being more open to experience "new foods, people, music, and ideas."  Conservatives, on the flip side, scored higher on neophobia.

Why was this in the sanctity and degradation section? If one thinks in the specific terms of sex and the sanctity of marriage, consider the following bumper sticker.


This would be on the car of a neophile, and most probably, one that leans to the left.

The primary reason why I believe The Righteous Mind to be so influential is that it has helped me "trade in anger for understanding." I encourage you to do the same, whether you read this particular book or not. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Failure

This is the name of the exam that I failed
This morning I woke up a little before 5:30 and remembered that yesterday was the first Tuesday of the month. I failed at getting my post in on time. This wasn't on purpose, but it completely fits into what I was going to write about.

A week ago (well, a week and a day ago now), I sat down for a four hour actuary test. Through the Society of Actuaries, it is the third exam and it is called Exam MLC, which stands for Models for Life Contingencies. I did my best. That, however, was not good enough. I failed.

There were three steps I went through that were not too different than the steps my friend Jonathan suggests in his blog post: Failure is Good. So are You Failing Enough?  These three steps were as follows:

  1. Feel the pain. Failing the exam gave me a depressing feeling. I felt very psychologically drained. I knew it would pass eventually, but I did not force it to go away. I let myself feel what I was feeling. After all, we're human.
  2. Begin focusing on whatever positives that come from this. I couldn't see these right away, but they surfaced soon enough.  I was able to share the experience with my students, show some vulnerability, and let them know that I knew what it was like to be in their shoes. I noticed Sharing Your Failures came in quite handy. 
  3. Think about what I have to do for next time. There was a simple fact: I wasn't ready.  I didn't realize that until about a week before. I now know what to expect, and the strategies I need to use in order to pass it. 
The next MLC Exam will be in October. Since this is too much time, I will need to do some fortnightly drills to stay with the material over the summer before I begin to go into full study mode when the Fall semester begins at the end of August.  My Fall semester will be light this year with old and familiar preps, so those two months will be sufficient enough time to master the material. 

Yesterday was full of failures. It was quite the unusual day. 

I failed to get to a candidate breakfast on time. 

At dinner with my wife, Erin, we found out that our calendars were a week apart with regard to a two and a half week period of time that involves the Bike Across Kansas and our trip to the Pacific Northeast. I failed at communicating with her for the past several weeks - specifically, noticing that the dates she was mentioning were not the dates I had in my calendar.  We have some work to do to rectify this failure in communication. 

Although I'm getting better at using a calendar for my day to day activities, yesterday was a clear indication that I have some work to do. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Card Trick

If you can memorize this chart, you can do a really cool card trick.
My basic statistics class gets to learn a new thing about me each class period.  Today, they learned that I like card tricks, especially mathematical ones.  Want to try?  Grab a deck of cards.

Count out 27 cards, because that is all that is required for this trick.  The next two instructions can be done in any order.

Pick any number from 1-27. Let's suppose you picked 23 like my student did this morning.

Go through the deck and choose a card as your card. Shuffle it anywhere in the deck.  Put it in a specific spot if you want.  It doesn't matter.

Here is the math part.  You need to take the number 23 and come up with three instructions.  In my picture, I want you to notice that 23 is in the middle of its most inside block.  It's block, is in the middle of the outside block.  Finally, the outside block is the bottom block.  OK, so it isn't the bottom, it is the far right, but I couldn't put a huge vertical photo in the blog.  You will need to remember middle, middle, bottom.

Now, deal the cards face up into three piles, one at a time, alternating piles.  To be specific, the first card defines the first pile, the second card the second pile, the third card the third pile, and then deal the rest accordingly.

While you are doing this, keep an eye out for your card.  You will need your participant to do the same thing later when you are performing.  Note which pile your card is in.  Once the piles are all turned over so that the cards are face down, you place the pile in the position of your first instruction: middle.  (Yes, I know that it didn't matter if we turned the cards over for that instruction, but for top and bottom it does.)

You do this again two more times, making sure you place the pile in the intended place.

Now, count out the cards from the top until you reach the 23rd card.  That is your card.  If you find yourself going "wow, cool!" then you just enjoyed some math.

Try it again for a different number.  Say, 6.  Can you tell that the instructions for 6 are bottom, middle, top?  Each number has a unique set of instructions that forces any card in the deck to the position you want it to be in.

Cool, huh?

For a slightly different explanation and a video tutorial, you can watch that here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Meaningful

Is what you do on a daily basis meaningful to you?  

Yesterday, Erin asked me to mow the lawn. It was the first time that we mowed this year so you can imagine how overgrown it was (we live in Kansas).  As I was mowing, I remember thinking these several thoughts: 
  • Wow, our lawn looks really shitty!
  • As shitty as our lawn looks, I really don't give a shit. 
  • I don't find meaningfulness in giving a shit about my lawn. 
  • I wish I had rocks for a lawn so I wouldn't have to mow and I could get back to doing things that are more meaningful to me. 
  • How does the guy with the immaculate lawn across the street find any kind of meaningfulness in giving a shit about his lawn?
I admit, the last takes am unnecessary jab at people who care for their lawns, which is completely fine. People find meaningfulness in different places. 

Others would ask the same question about some of the things I find meaningful:
  • Brewing my own beer.
  • Roasting my own coffee. Every. Single. Week. 
  • Studying for the MLC Exam (If I pass this exam, it will not qualify me for a promotion in my current position. It gets me closer to a certification that will also not qualify me for a promotion in my current position.) 
  • Reading incessantly. 
  • Getting rid of shit.
  • Going for a hike.
  • Riding my bike.
  • Running. 
  • Journaling (who's going to read these in the future and give any kind of shit about them if they survive entropy or the Trump administration?)
  • Writing in this blog. 
These things are meaningful to me. Meaningful. This word has been floating around in my mind a lot. I let it dominate. Trying to figure out why things are meaningful will bring on the unnecessary ponderings of whether I'm having fun or am happy. To that, I will defer to Matt Inman's "How to be perfectly unhappy."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Break 2017

View of Taos and Taos Pueblo from the Devisadero Loop Trail
On the Saturday morning following Saint Patrick's Day in 2017, Erin and I started our Spring Break. We had lunch with Erin's brother Nathan in Colby, KS, and spent a little time with him before leaving for Fort Collins.

Jody and Erica greeted us in Fort Collins at their new digs. We stayed in that night, had a fire in a fire pit they designed and built out of a washer drum, and played darts until late.  Sunday funday, we celebrated the 22nd birthday of Damon (Erica's son) by painting the town in this order:

  1. Bloody Marys and Brunch at Blind Pig Pub
  2. German Beer Tasting at Prost Tasting Room.
  3. Whisky Tasting at Feisty Spirits Distillery.
  4. A beer, a short nap, and several push-ups at New Belgium
  5. Scrumpy's Hard Cider Bar & Pub for some cider and a snack.
  6. Social for cocktails and small plates. 
  7. Drinks and dinner at The Mayor of Old Town

Social is a speakeasy in Fort Collins with a very cool ambiance, amazing cocktails, and delicious small plates.
On Monday morning, we ate breakfast at Jody's and drove to Lee Martinez Park where we both ran on the beautiful Poudre Trail.  That worked up an appetite for lunch, so we ate at the Colorado Room

Before skipping town we had to make a final stop at The Welsh Rabbit to get some cheeses and meats for the road and to share. The only problem with stopping there was that the bean to bar place, Nuance Chocolate, was right next door.  There was some chocolate tasting and purchasing, as well as a Theo brew and coffee blend that I took for the road. Yummy. 

We drove to WeeCasa in Lyons, CO. I didn't realize that Lyons is where the original Oscar Blues Brewery was founded. We had food and drinks there, and a last drink at the Lyons Fork which is where we probably should have had dinner.  Mike, who had an adorable Burmese Mountain dog named Brohdi, gave us a hiking recommendation and $2. He wanted us to bring him an iced coffee in the morning. That didn't happen. 

On the Button Rock Trail. Frank Price Resovoir in background. 
The hike did, however, and it was gorgeous. It was almost a 5 mile hike, and we had to pick up the pace at the end. That evening, we arrived in Taos, NM and enjoyed some corned beef and cabbage for a late St. Patrick's Day meal, and a fire in the chiminea. 

Joseph took me hiking on the Devisadero Trail Wednesday morning, which was an out and back hike of about 5 miles.  
Devisadero Trail Hike
All of us took a pretty drive to Vivac winery later for a tasting. 

On Thursday morning, Erin joined us for a hike down into the Rio Grande Gorge along the La Vista Verde.  There were several bighorn sheep spotted. 

The view at the end of La Vista Verde
How many Bighorn Sheep can you count?
That evening, it began to snow! This was good news, as I planned a ski day to the Taos Ski Valley on Friday. We went to the Love Apple for dinner and snapped a selfie before our consumption of wine and delicious food. 
The snow is really coming down! 
On Friday, I drove to Arroyo Seco, almost half way to the ski valley, to find out that there were road closures and power outages, and that the ski valley was closed. This was a big bummer. I really had looked forward to this! Instead, we enjoyed the Taos Plaza.  

Since I didn't get to ski Friday and the Taos Ski Valley had regained power and opened back up by that evening, we rearranged our plans so that instead of leaving Saturday morning, I would get a half day of skiing in and leave in the afternoon. This would mean a stop overnight before getting to Topeka, but it was worth it. 

Saturday morning, I hit the slopes. 

I took both of these routes at some point during the day. 

Skiing gives you the best views. 
Thanks to Jody & Erica, and Joseph & Trish, we enjoyed almost the entire trip without having to pay for lodging. 

We got into Hays, KS that night around 10:30 pm.  There was a lot of wildlife in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. We saw many wild horses, elk, antelope and deer, and our driver's side rear view mirror was smashed by a pheasant.
On our way home Sunday morning, we decided to stop in Lindsborg, KS, which has a big Swedish influence. I like all things Scandinavian, so it has been on the to-do list for a while.  After a coffee at the White Peacock, we had lunch at Farley's Bar and Grill. We stopped by Hemslojd for some postcards and then took a drive up to Coronado Heights before heading home.  
Erin and I at the Hemslojd, Inc in Lindsborg, KS

Erin & Pleepleus hanging out at Coronado Heights
It has been a fantastic Spring Break, but it is great to finally be home with the kitties! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our First Tiny Home Experience

Erin and I have just stayed the night at the WeeCasa in Lyons, CO. Their claim is that they are Colorado's first Tiny Home Hotel.

Ever since we minimized and simplified our lives, Erin has been very fascinated by the Tiny Home movement. As much as I admire the idea, I have to be honest with myself in that it would be very difficult to get to this level of tiny. I had to crawl over Erin - and squash her a little in the process - to get out of bed this morning.

There was no room I could escape to in order to write. The kettle was put on 10 feet below her head.  The table I'm writing on was folded down from the wall. It behaves as extra counter space as well. You cannot be overweight and navigate around this table to different parts of the room, as the passage is very narrow.  I have already bumped into it a few times.

In order for us to live here, we would have to get rid of everything we own, and by everything, I mean about 95% of our stuff, which would essentially be everything. None of our furniture would fit in this place. We would have to be very selective in the number of dishes we could keep. There are four drawers for clothes, so most of our clothes would have to go.

You know that hobby I have of home brewing? Nope. That wouldn't happen here. The bike would have to be locked up and stored outside somewhere.

All of that being said, this place is really cool, and fits our lives in many ways. Even though I woke up with a purpose of writing, there weren't many other options. It is great for focused work. After some focused work, I will want to get outside. That will require a plan. Will I want to go for a run, or maybe just a quick walk to Lyons for some coffee?  I could go for a hike, or run up to the library in town.

We are only one night here, so as soon as Erin gets up and around, we will take a small drive to some scenic views and get in a hike starting at the Button Rock Trail head. During the hike, we can talk more about tiny home living and what it would take. I know there are designs that we could make work.

This evening, we should be taking in a sunset in Taos, NM if things go to plan.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Focusing Rhythmically

Part I: Scheduling Deep Work


I'm slowly making my way through Deep Work by Cal Newport. Although I am not yet finished, I can tell that this will be a game changer and have a significant impact on my life.  Let me fill you in on how it has changed my life in the past week.

In the Rule #1 section, Work Deeply, Newport discusses the four philosophies of working with depth. As soon as I read about the example and case study of Brian Chappell, and what Newport describes as the rhythmic philosophy of deep work scheduling, I knew I had found gold.  

Chappell was finishing up his dissertation when offered a full-time job, along with an arrival of his first child. His failed attempt at scheduling 90 minute chunks of time - the amount of time that intense focus can be sustained in a work period - in an ad hoc manner led him only to a single chapter written in his entire first year. 

This drove Brian to begin waking up at 5:30am every morning and working until 7:30.  He would then go to work totally finished with any kind of dissertation obligations for the day. This resulted in getting a chapter written every 2-3 weeks.  

It was this concept that totally resonated with me.  I admit, I am weird in the fact that I don't need an alarm to wake up this early and start working (after making a cup of joe, of course).  My morning routine has usually consisted of snoozing or slumbering restlessly later than this natural wake up time, enjoying a cup of coffee while I leisure read either the news or a book, and then having a quick bite before heading out the door.

This changed last week.

My first week of rhythmic deep work scheduling began on Tuesday, February 28th and this has lasted through today.  I've used most sessions for my own MLC Exam studying purposes, with the exception of one day last week which I used for class preparation when I got a little behind. 

These deep work sessions will continue beyond passing the MLC Exam. Studying for this exam will be replaced by working on publications, further professional and personal development, or anything else that requires intense focus. Eventually, I can see filling that time with learning a language or a musical instrument.

Part II: Nobody Really Gives a Shit


Newports 3rd rule is to quit social media. Check.

OK, so I quit for different reasons than he gives, but the deed is done. Now, after reading about the reasons he gives, I'm pretty sure I will never go back. I really appreciated and admired his analysis of what the draw to Facebook is in the first place.

Prior to Facebook, he describes, it took a lot of work to get a significant number of people to read whatever you write. Facebook created an avenue to get a lot of people to read whatever you want to blabber on about. There seems to be this code of "you like my stuff and I'll like yours."  It is highly addictive.

But here is the kicker. If/when you quit Facebook, and if you don't announce it on Facebook before doing so, nobody will notice. OK, by nobody, I mean out of the 400 Facebook friends that you have, 395 will not notice.

That is kind of a hard pill to swallow. The masses don't care what you have to write or say. If they do, that took some very hard work to get to that point, and it most assuredly did not happen on Facebook.

This has me thinking a lot about what I'm writing, and the content that I want to produce. Do I want to write something that the masses will eventually find their way to?  Do I care to reach them?  Maybe I just like writing whatever it is I like to write, and find it meaningful to reach the extremely small number of people that actually do read this.

I don't know. It does give me something to think about. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Double Standard

This year in my basic statistics classes, after I give the announcements I begin class by giving them two pieces of information.

  • Something interesting about myself.
  • The number of the day.
The purpose of the first is so that the barrier between professor and student can be breached. Getting to know me as someone that has a life outside of work and does things that are fun and interesting can help build a connection with students that I never had.  Today, I went to the skeletons in the closet, and informed them of something I'm not proud of for the purpose of showing them I'm human and I can overcome difficult times. 

Today's "Did You Know" segment of the two times in my life, one at age 18 and one at age 23, when I spent a night behind bars.  I didn't go into specifics, but I could tell they did find this information very intriguing. 

The number of the day was 50, which is a percentage of Americans who answer NO when asked, "When people claim to be Muslim and commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, do you really believe they are Muslim, or not?"  This came from the Public Religion Research Institute and was included in their article, "Americans' Double Standard on Religious Violence." 

The double standard becomes apparent when you ask Americans the other question, switching Muslim/Islam with Christian/Christianity.  Then, 75% answer NO.  This is very interesting.  

When I present such data I need to be careful.  Instead of drawing any kind of conclusion, I remarked on how it made me think of how I would answer the question (using Christian/Christianity or Muslim/Islam) without having read about the study previously.  Would I answer yes to one and no to the other and have a double standard? Or would I be consistent in my answer and say either yes to both or no to both?  

Indeed, this is a difficult question to answer.  I can find in both the Bible and Quran passages that would condone and encourage acts of violence, so I could see somebody using those verses and thinking they are acting as a true Christian or Muslim.

However, I feel all of these verses are antiquated and do not deserve merit. The modern day and reasonable Christians and Muslims understand this, so to act out in violence in the name of either is an act of ignorance of what being a modern day and reasonable Christian and Muslim means.

It is complicated, but it deserves thought.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Biking the Beermuda Triangle

The Biermeister for the Greater Topeka Hall of Foamers emailed me with a subject line "Bike the Beermuda."  He was interested in setting up a bike ride that visits the three breweries in Topeka.  This sparked my interest because of two things:

  • Bike Riding
  • Beer
This email came to me early on a Friday. I'm faculty. I was like... 

So I hit the trail.  Less than 5 miles in, I'm at Happy Bassett brewing wetting my beak with an Irish Red and a juicy Wit. 
Time is a ticking, so I'm off for the longest leg of the ride that will take me across town, past the Capitol Building, over the Kansas River to NOTO (North Topeka for those that aren't from around here), and to the Norsemen Brewing Company. 
The Odin's One EyePA was a great calorie booster on this crazy adventure.  After sucking that down, it was back across the bridge, through the detours, and then on the Shunga and Landon Nature Trail for good (so in case of falling over it wouldn't be in a street).  Almost at the end of the Landon Nature Trail, I had a steep climb to my last brewery visit of the day: Blind Tiger. 
I enjoyed a Henry's Bitter more quickly than I normally would (hey, there is daylight we're racing here folks), and got back on the saddle. There was only 7 miles of trail riding until home. 

The trial ride was worth every moment. It was a little over 28 miles of riding for me. Since 3 of those miles were from my house to the triangle and back, I'm advertising the Beermuda Triangle at 25 miles. 

Interested? Bring your bike. You know where I live.

Update on 2017 resolution to ride 2017 miles in 2017: I have 1837 miles to go. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Weird But Not Uncommon Excuse

In Jonathan Vieker's wonderful post, Does Failure Encourage Compassion for Others?, he mentions a student excuse for not going to class anymore. 
I missed biology a few times. I meant to start going again, but I was really embarrassed about walking into the classroom after missing a week and a half. So I just ... didn't go back. 
That is what will happen to my blogging if I don't come back.  I'll just stop.

One of my unwritten resolutions of 2017 was to blog an average of 1.5 times every 2 weeks. There were several reasons why I did not write it down.

  1. I already have a pretty solid, exhaustive list that will keep me busy.
  2. Originally, by "Blog Post Ideas" list grew more quickly than I could write blogs. At the time of writing my resolutions, this list was shrinking more than growing. In short, I was a scaredy-pants. 
  3. Quitting Facebook was my first blog post after quitting Facebook. I think I knew in the back of my head that blogging more was going to help me make that transition, and I didn't know what would happen once that transition was complete.
  4. One of my resolutions involves studying and passing the MLC exam. This requires a LOT of intense study time. 
  5. My blog doesn't have much structure.  I'm torn between liking that fact and just going with it, and building more structure so that I could possibly build my readership. 
To give myself a much easier and much more attainable resolution for 2017, I think I will resolve to write at least twice a month: on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday. 

Now it is written!  I'm accountable to you, so keep me to it.  

Off the record, I will probably write a little more. The idea of the twice a month is to begin adding some structure. I want to write at least one blog a month in the form of a newsletter and let my readers know what is going on our lives. The other blog that month will rotate among my different passions.  

You may hear about personal development, beer brewing, problem solving, or my take on current events. Who knows?  Stay tuned to find out. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Fisherman's Buoys: The Most Influential Books of 2016

I've only read five of these books. But I plan to read them all.
First, I should mention the book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Although I read this book in 2015, I believed it has paved the path to all of my future reading by putting a name on a philosophy that was already part of my being.

When it comes to human psychology and philosophy, I think labeling is important. Prior to reading Minimalism, I was like a fisherman floating around an endless sea every now and again finding a spot that was good for fishing.  Then I would aimlessly set out again to find another good spot, sometimes getting lost in the process. Once I had read the book, it was as if monstrous-sized buoys with LED lights were placed in all of my good fishing holes. Not only could I easily see them now, but I could navigate between them with ease.

The buoy system is my philosophy of Minimalism. The buoys themselves are the tenets of that philosophy, focusing on passions, relationships, contribution, health, and growth.  How I decide to navigate between them defines my psych, I suppose.  It was this navigation that led me to all of the books I decided to read in 2016. 

So, which were the most influential? (A total of 33 books were read in 2016, just FYI).
  • Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
  • Give and Take by Adam Grant
  • The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig
One of my passions is reading. There are several books I have read for the pure enjoyment of reading them or to learn something new.  One such book that I found very moving was Half the Sky. It is a tough book to get through, but a very important one.  It opened my eyes to a world I think very little about in my own little bubble, and that is the way women are treated globally.

Did you know, for example, that the U.S. is the worst among developed countries and ranks 61st globally in maternal health?

The Primal Blueprint has changed my life health-wise. I now live as Grok would, the fictional primal being referred to quite often in this book.

Republic, Lost has educated me and given me the depth I will need in order to make the contributions that I want to make in society. In particular, advocating for Represent.US and Our Revolution.

Daring Greatly has done wonders for my personal development and growth. I cite this often now, and most recently on the first day of my statistics classes.

Although Give and Take may fit more into the contribution and growth categories, I'm using it here to highlight my relationships with people. In Give and Take, you will read about givers, matchers, and takers, and it will get you thinking of what type of person you are in life. When I thought critically about my relationships with students, I feel like I've been more of a matcher. This book has been very influential in how I will develop relationships with students from now on as I strive to be more of a giver. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Low Information Diet and Why It Doesn't Work

Taken at the Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta: One Week Before MLK Day
It has been a long time now since I was reading The Four-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. I didn't read it all the way through, because I got to a point where he was talking about how to read quickly through books, and how you can skip most of the stuff.  He tried to convince me that his book was different, though, and that I should read it in its entirety. I didn't.

In chapter 6, he speaks of a low-information diet. He makes some very valid points, one of which was retention. When most of us read the entire book, or the entire article in a news source versus the headline and some highlights, we can't regurgitate or retain much of anything past the headline and highlights anyway.  So why bother?  I agree with that to some extent.

In chapter 7, he talks about how he never accepted anything less than an A in college and his technique for doing so. It involved taking whatever paper that had a grade lower than an A to the professor/instructor/grader with hours worth of questions for two purposes.

  1. To get every last detail about how papers were graded, down to the grader's pet peeves and prejudices. 
  2. To instill a standard that this would happen every time the grader assigned something lower than an A. 
This bothered me so much as an academic, I think this is where I had to stop reading the book.

Back to the low information diet. I did this for a while, ignoring the news. Letting the news come to me was refreshing. If something was important for me to know, I waited for someone else to tell me.

I noticed that I cannot be a good citizen, nor can I make the contributions that are part of my philosophy without informing myself of the current events. Granted, I use the spirit of his idea, and keep my reading of current events to a bare minimum, but I want to be up to speed.  I want to be able to discuss them with people, and not just get the word from them. I want to be the progress I want to see in the world. In order to do that, I need to keep informed.

Contribution to society may not be part of your philosophy, and perhaps this isn't as important to you. If that is the case, a low information diet is just fine for you. Indeed, it is blissful. Ignorance is bliss.

But I despise ignorance. So, a low information diet doesn't work for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Less Than a Week Left of Winter Break

Standing on the Top Platform of the State Capitol Building in Topeka
It was Tuesday, with one more week until class begins, and the alarm went off at 5am. I put on my suit and tie, had a leisurely breakfast and some coffee and went over my speech one more time. Then, I drove to the Sunrise Optimist Club of Topeka. 

Once I mingled with them for a while, drank some more coffee, and they went through some announcements and drawings for a few different raffles, I was introduced as the morning speaker. Then, I gave one of the most passionate talks of my life about the Represent.US movement. 

There was a naysayer in the crowd, which was great. Although this caught me off guard, I eventually got him to admit out loud that he really didn't care about what the general public thought. It was too bad that this admission wasn't during my talk (it was in private afterwards), but I got it out of him nonetheless. It was a great learning experience, and I will be better prepared for the next talk. And the next one after that. 

After just giving a talk in Atlanta at my math conference on Friday, it hit me that I've been getting a lot of public speaking in lately. According to Warren Buffet, I'm getting some good practice with the number 1 skill that will increase my worth by 50 percent

After my talk, I changed into something a little more comfortable and went to the office to work on getting my classes ready. Somewhere around noon, I needed a break. 

I thought to myself, "Hmmm. I've never been to the Capitol. When's the next bus?"  

Over at the northeast corner of campus, I struck up a quick conversation with someone waiting for the bus. The bus arrived quickly. My campus ID gets me anywhere in Topeka for free on the Metro. I really love this since it provides an easy avenue to reduce my carbon footprint. 

The Kansas State Capitol Building has about five floors to explore. One of the highlights was this mural of John Brown outside the Senate Chamber. It is called Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry.
Kansas is very proud of John Brown. This picture is recreated in many different murals in businesses around Kansas. Take Wichita Brewing Company or John Brown's Underground in Lawrence as a few examples. 

The literally breathtaking highlight of the Capitol visit was to get a Dome Tour. I was the only person on the tour, so it turned out to be a private one! The tour guide must go on the tour with me, however, which meant that she had to ascend the 296 stairs to the top with me. I kind of felt bad when she started breathing very heavily.  Like I said, it was literally breathtaking. 

It was also figuratively breathtaking as the opening picture suggests. When I walked out on the platform, it was hard to combat the vertigo. In the year and a half that I've lived here, I had no idea that you could go outside on the platform on top of the Capitol!  

When you come to visit, and the schedule isn't packed, can guess where I'm taking you?  

On a complete side note, it got to 60 degrees today in Topeka. That means a bike ride has to occur since I'm trying to ride 2017 miles in 2017. Well, 1995.5 to go! 



Friday, January 6, 2017

When a Bloody is a Prior.


A Delicious Homemade Bloody Mary with Homebrewed Coffee IPA as a Chaser
A close second to a delicious craft beer is a spicy Bloody Mary with all kinds of pickled items and a slice of bacon for garnish. I have found an amazing recipe for one made from scratch called the Elixir Bloody Mary. The link will not only give the recipe, but it also includes a short video on how to effectively make one.

I've taken the liberty to also add other items to it along with the pickle and bacon garnish. The celery stalk, olives, and a pepperoncini are all my additions. Also, instead of Tabasco, I use whatever hot sauce I have on hand, which is usually far superior to Tabasco and almost always hotter. This results in a top shelf, spicy-ass, Bloody Mary.

This isn't a post about Bloody Marys, however.  It is actually about an intention to go running or biking (or engage in some other physical activity) later in the day. 

Are you going to pass up one of these bad boys because of that? Or, alternatively, will you not pass one up, but then use it as an excuse to not go for that run or bike ride later?  

Why?

I was on a run around Washburn's campus one evening when I remembered I had a Bloody Mary that morning. It is different, but nowhere near impossible. Not too long ago, a few friends of mine joined me in drinking 12 oz. of Founders Breakfast Stout before a 4 mile run. We all finished just fine. In fact, I don't think any of us would have done better or worse had we not partaken in this consumption. 

The point isn't to drink before working out. Indeed, it generally is not a good idea.  The thing I want us to think about is why some of us choose to make it an excuse, or let it into our head that we simply CAN'T do whatever we set out to do because of something that really doesn't have to be an excuse.

I'm not sure about the science behind it, so I probably shouldn't be even suggesting this. But, which of the following seems like the healthier option?
  1. Having a Bloody Mary in the morning, and then vegging out all day.
  2. Having a Bloody Mary in the morning, and then having a low heart rate 30 minute jog later that day.
Yes, obviously there is a more comfortable 3rd option... 

3. Having a low heart rate 30 minute jog in the morning followed by a Bloody Mary. 

Or, an even better and healthier 4th option...

4. Having a low heart rate 30 minute jog in the morning and skipping the Bloody Mary.  

The 4th option is too boring, and the 3rd option is always what we shoot for, but sometimes life gets in the way and we're faced with a given situation. That given (which is sometimes referred to as a prior), is that we've already had a Bloody Mary.  

Now your options are 1 and 2.  It is that simple.  If you're trying to be healthy, you know which option you should choose. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Time Spent Watching TV

I'm not watching TV right here, but it is on inside.
We are awake approximately 960 minutes per day. With 366 days during the leap year of 2016, I was awake for very close to 351,360 minutes (350,400 minutes during non-leap years, just FYI). 

This is also approximately how long you were awake during 2016. So, how did you use your time? 

In 2016, I kept track of the amount of TV/Movies I watched. I added 500 minutes as an adjustment for all those times when I was sitting in a restaurant or sports bar and there was a TV on the wall, or I was at another person's home and their TV was on.  These times I did not log. My total time: 15498 minutes. 

That is 4.41% of my time, or about 42 minutes and 20 seconds of TV/Movie watching per day, on average. Counting days in terms of awake time (960 minutes rather than all 1440 minutes of a 24 hour day), I watched TV for 16 total days of my life in 2016.  

Many of you know that I don't watch very much TV. Erin and I don't have cable. We've canceled Netflix. Still, I've managed to be in front of the tube 42 minutes each day.  

When I think of what I could have accomplished during those 16 days, I get a little nauseous. What if I practiced playing the guitar for those 42 minutes each day?  What if I practiced learning Finnish?  

I could probably play guitar somewhat decently by now, or perhaps speak, write, and read fluent Finnish.  

It is a little unreasonable to think I can utilize all of that time. We all need some of our time to be entertaining, and there were several shows and programs that I thought were very worth my time. On the same token, there are many more programs that I would have been perfectly fine having not watched. 

If interested, here was my list for 2016. I've italicized all those that I believed worth my time in terms of the quality of the movie, the company I was in, the educational aspect, or the pure entertainment value.  

Movies/TV Time
Mozart in the Jungle S1 & S2 480
Everest 121
Bridge of Spies 142
Spectre 148
Sicario (2 viewings) 242
Suffragette 106
Creed 133
The Guard 96
Vikings S3 450
Mad Max: Fury Road 120
The Big Short 130
Spotlight 128
The Revenant 156
The Martian 144
The Americans S1 612
Fortitude S1 528
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 138
House of Cards S4 635
Deadpool 108
Van Wilder 92
Sherlock Holmes: The Abominable Bride 44
Californication S1 348
Game 7 NBA Finals 140
The League S6 288
Bosch S1 & S2 1020
Walking Dead S5 672
Palio 91
Magic Mike XXL 115
Fargo S2 530
Whisky Tango Foxtrot 112
Hail, Caesar! 106
Better Call Saul S1 460
Daredevil S2 700
The Fundamentals of Caring 97
Tallulah 111
Ip Man 106
Beasts of No Nation 137
River S1 360
The Hateful Eight 187
Dope 103
Vikings S4 450
The Last Man on the Moon 95
Cartel Land 100
Brooklyn 117
Sons of Anarchy S7 Ep1-Ep6  345
Luther S4 174
Mr. Robot S1 460
Game of Thrones S5 560
The Nice Guys 116
Eye In the Sky 102
Anomalisa 90
Triple 9 115
Knight of Cups 118
Midnight Special 112
The Lobster 119
Star Trek Beyond (2 Viewings) 244
The Man Who Knew Infinity 108
The Kettering Incident S1 e1 50
Sausage Party 89
Central Intelligence 107
The Intern 121
Supermensch 85
Pricele$$ 58
Hell or High Water 102
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 134
Citizen Koch 90
Pay 2 Play 87
The Jungle Book 106
Zootopia 108
~ Adjustment for TV in other places 500
Total Time Watching TV/Movies 2016 15498

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Resolutions of Twenty Seventeen

Upper Iowa River flowing through Decorah, IA
New Year resolutions are usually not my thing. Minimalism admonishes one of the negatives of goal setting, which is what resolutions seem to be.  It is good to have goals, but it is also good to understand that goals can sometimes evolve, morph, or even disappear completely as life (or shit) happens. 

With these things in mind, I'm going to write a few of mine down. This list has evolved over the last several weeks, and I imagine it will continue to change and evolve as 2017 progresses. 

Personal
  • Maintain a weight between 163-169 lbs. 
  • Ride my bicycle 2017 miles.
  • Watch less TV and fewer movies than I did in 2016.
  • Remain off of social media.
  • Make my own limoncello, orangecello, and ginger beer.
  • Kayak all the lakes, rivers, and small bodies of water in the Topeka area (including Perry and Clinton Lakes)
  • Complete at least one triathlon
Work/Career Related
  • Work toward creating an SBG/SE2 Professor of Actuarial Science position through the Washburn foundation and Security Benefit Group and SE2 in Topeka. 
  • Pass the MLC Exam through the SOA
  • Explore NSF grants that will build either the pure or secondary education math programs
  • Submit at least two papers for publication in a peer reviewed journal. 
Community 
  • Firmly establish the Topeka Chapter of Represent.US
  • Follow Through with my role as the Secretary of the Greater Topeka Hall of Foamers.
Along with resolutions, one should also have a plan to achieve or stick with them. I won't go into my work or community related plans with this post, but I will spell out some actions I will take on my personal (health, growth, and passions) list. 

To maintain the weight I would like, I plan on having two weigh-ins a week, on Tuesday and Friday mornings.  Ideally, most all of my weigh-ins will be between 165-167.  With the amount of travel that Erin and I do, I'm going to allow myself no more than 4 weeks of being above 169 (this could be as few as 4 weigh-ins or as many as 8). 

I plan on riding 17 miles tomorrow (Jan. 2) since the temperature is supposed to get as high as 60, just to get it down to 2000 as quick as I can. I really like to ride my bike and use this activity as my favorite kind of exercise. The purpose of the resolution is to try and get myself to do what I like a lot more often. This may be my most lofty resolution, but I'm going to give it my best. 

In 2016, I kept track of the amount of TV and movies I watched. I will blog about this near exact amount soon. This year, I plan on keeping track again.  I want the number of minutes that are consumed with this activity to decrease in 2017.  Since this time is approximate (but a very good one), I mean to decrease it significantly enough to be certain it was an actual decrease (say, well over 1500 minutes less).  

After the election, I quit Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is possible, just to let you know, and I'm enjoying life a lot more. I want to remain off of social media in 2017. 

My friend and mentor, John Mullican, makes his own limoncello and orangecello and it is amazing. I want to make my own, too.  Also, I want to make my own ginger beer a few times this year for the purposes of some state-of-the-art Moscow Mules. 

We bought a kayak out of season at the end of 2016. Erin and I kayaked this year in Maine during our East Coast Extravaganza, and during our 6th anniversary celebration in the Des Moines area. I was instantly hooked, and want to delve into the sport. At the first sign of some warmer weather, I'll be taking it to Shawnee Lake.  

Upon adopting the Primal Blueprint style of living, the training for runs, rides, and races has become much less taxing on our bodies. Running, riding, and exercising in general has become so much more easier to insert into our everyday life now that we are familiar with Primal Endurance.  Besides the swimming, I feel like I'm ready for a sprint triathlon right now.  I just need to get the swimming in this summer.  

Do you have resolutions? Take some time to make a plan! Otherwise, you may see those resolutions drop off in February, and this will just be another year, instead of the great year of 2017!