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?  


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. 

  • 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. 
  • 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!