In 2023 I’ll be focusing myself on other subjects than fitness and reading. However, for the sake of the bots that “read” this site, I’ll post about science.
It’s my birthday! I’m spending it relaxing watching electric guitar ballads because I got an electric guitar for my birthday. I tinkered on a shitty acoustic 27 years ago but I didn’t make time or money to keep it up. But 40 is the new 20, right?
Anyway, this week was tough to fit in a workout, but I made it two times. Work was insane (I worked 44 hours this week, which might seem like nothing to people who work 80 per week but I need work-life balance and at least 8 hours of sleep). I found myself crunching work past 6 pm a few times. Next week is the Thanksgiving holiday, so there will be plenty of time to workout then. We need to offset the eating, right?
I’m always thinking about my next house. Ideally, I’d have enough money to build one that is efficient and robust, but still spacious enough for me to avoid claustrophobia. One idea I came across is Buckminster Fuller’s Dyamxion House.
I don’t need a rotating closet, though, as I’m totally fine with walking into my closet (as long as it’s a reasonable space). What would be cool is to start off with manual controls for various needs that can be adapted later on. A design that’s open to design. However, I’m not sure about the cost of this right now. It may be too prohibitive.
I had a conversation with someone who was so wowed by the AI progress so far (mainly Musks’ AI on YouTube) that he told me we’re going to have a full on replicant on our hands in the near future. As in, maybe we could have a Jetsons style robot maid in 5 years. Or have C3POs walking around. He was convinced, but I wasn’t. This is because you can put anything on YouTube after it’s been edited in Premiere, but also that human brains are so complicated.
I said that unless AI can understand culture, follow directions non-literally, laugh at a joke it hasn’t heard before, and get through an obstacle course it hasn’t seen or been programmed specifically for, and know when enough is enough, then we have created something human-like.
Until then, I’m waiting for the brain-computer amalgamation that would let me do my job while I’m working out.
I picked this book up 10 years ago but got too busy to read the whole thing. Here’s to another try.
Originally, when I began my fitness journey, something in me thought/felt that simply doing cardio wasn’t going to help me reach my goals. That thought was that muscle is metabolically active. If you have more muscle, you are more metabolically active. Which means you can increase your metabolism by putting on muscle. Putting on more muscle means resistance training. And resistance training is easier for me to do than cardio, because wheezing.
I wanted to switch to a program that was more pure resistance training, with a little mobility mixed in. However there are not many YouTube videos to follow of someone weight lifting and you doing what they do. During this search (within the past month or so) I started listening to the Mind Pump Podcast. I liked what I heard about these guys’ approach to exercise, so I got a couple of their programs and am incorporating them. Their resistance training program have phases to help grow strength, stability, and muscle. So I’ll try this out for now and see what kind of changes happen.
So I’m reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I read it when I was 13 years old in middle school and at that time, I remember it as a continous puzzlement of mentally pleading to the characters, “Noooo, don’t do that!” over and over again. I felt like everybody in the book was a slow moving train wreck and when I finished it, I felt “bothered” by it but wasn’t sure how. It felt like a Grimm’s fairy tale with no happy ending. I didn’t understand how people worked (and probably still don’t; see: autism) in the book and couldn’t compare it to real life because no one acted that way in my small 13 year old world. I realize now that no 13 or 14 year old would “get” it, not in a “been there” way. I believe there is a time to read certain things (but I wouldn’t forbid anyone reading, though).
I’d recommend reading East of Eden with at least 30 years’ of life experience. Reading this book in my 40s is another thing entirely. Now, I feel like I understand it. And I wonder if all the women in Steinbeck’s life were “suspicious of fun”, “had no spark of humor and only occasionally a blade of cutting wit”, “a pale inside-herself woman” on which “no open laughter raised the corners of her mouth”. We haven’t even gotten to Cathy yet. I’m on page 132, and I don’t remember what happens next. I’m hoping there is a woman that isn’t miserable or evil or drab, a woman with strength, personality, joy, openness, warmth, and a moral compass. I want to tell Steinbeck that women can have all of those qualities and it wouldn’t threaten anyone’s masculinity, but this could be the 2020s talking to the 1950s. Anyways…
This is a beautiful and introspective book at times. The writing is snappy, flavorful, and sensory. The language is nowhere near as hard as Ulysses (I’m still working through that one). It’s very palatable if one wants a see a master of description at work. The setting and the characters are drawn so well that I can sense their essence. What really is worth reading are the small sections of… Ponderance?
There are sentences that I do agree with and ones I don’t. But I just had to share this whole section – I have no recollection of reading this in middle school; it probably went over my head – but now these are my favorite parts.
Without really meaning to, I’ve decided to try to make this a year (or more) of mind, body, and wallet. Meaning that during the same time frame I’ve somehow decided to 1) focus more fully on fitness, 2) read at least 10-20 books of “literature” for 2022, and 3) limit my spending.
The fitness backstory: 2021 was a year of surprise medical problems. From the months of March to May in 2021, during what I felt was a giant positive upswing in my fitness journey (I was looking fit, toned, and strong; I was using my Olympic weight set), I started bleeding. Like, a lot. I was hemorrhaging. I had to go to the Emergency Room twice because the first time, I’d lost a quarter of my blood volume and the second time, I was well on my way to losing half my blood. Both ended up in hospital stays. I got put on different medicines to try to stop the bleeding. They never worked completely. In May, I underwent a hysterectomy and everything that was wrong in that part of my body was taken out. And after I healed (3 whole months for full healing), I had to deal with weakened muscles that ended up in back pain for which I went to physical therapy. After a few more months, I finally felt ready to start my fitness journey over. But during these months, I had gotten out of shape and weak. I wanted to be strong again. I really started rock climbing regularly and did some light weights to start, but it was in December that I felt strong enough to really take my 20- and 30-pound dumbbells seriously. So for 2022 I decided to finish what I’d started 1.5 years ago.
Reading: 2021 was also a year of loss. Like I mentioned before, I inherited a few old books from someone who was gone too soon due to Covid and never visiting the doctor, like, ever. Reading Ulysses (I’m now halfway through it) has ignited within me a desire to read more literary fodder, as in anything that’s not a “quick airport book from a tiny newsstand.” The types of books that you don’t have to think about. I do enjoy the relaxed non-heavy read. But, it’s not like I’ve never read anything substantial. I went through a beatnik phase and a William Faulkner phase. I had a Tom Robbins phase. I took Philosophy classes in college (which forced me to read Plato, Aristotle, Hume, etc.) and I read stuff like Bertrand Russell for fun. My high school had me read a lot of classics because it was 3 years of Honors English and 1 of AP English. But there were still books that were out of my reach or kind of slippery because I was simply too ADD to focus on them. But now I’m 2 decades older, my ADD is controlled, and I have the time and the life knowledge to tackle books I’ve missed. Which books? Well, I’m not sure yet. There are lists of books all over the place. My first thought is to balance the reading so that I’m not reading War and Peace and Anna Karenina at the same time, that there is a difference in time, place, author, and culture. I’d also like to read across genres and points of view. Variety is the spice of life, they say.
So far this year I’ve finished Circe by Madeline Miller and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. (One of those was deeper than the other.) I’ve got Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino*, All Systems Red by Martha Wells*, Dune, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier* on rotation. And of course, Ulysses. From the library I have one Neal Stephenson book, Fall, or Dodge in Hell. On my “next” list is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu*, and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. On my bookshelf are Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, and the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. There are even more books in my Kindle and on my ebook “to read” list. My intention is to pick books that can make me pause and think, but sometimes, I’m not sure every book I pick will do that. Circe was a lot simpler read than I had thought; it was good but not as dense as I thought it would be. (I’d recommend Galatea by Madeline Miller as a more thoughtful read). In any case, I’m sure I’ll write about the things I read.
The wallet: Suddenly one day I pondered if I could do an entire year of “no spending”. This was after the splurging I did in November and December to set up my workstation at home with 2 4k monitors and a docking station. I also bought a bookshelf. Not to mention everyone’s holiday gifts. Then one day after Christmas, it hit me that I could try to do a “no spend” month where I didn’t buy anything on impulse or that I didn’t really need. I wondered how much money I could save. I thought about what were “approved” spends and “bad” spends — and if you’ve never thought of this before, it is an enlightening exercise. For people doing this, the first thing they must do is to make lists of what’s a “need” versus a “want”, what’s okay to spend on, and what isn’t. (One can look up “no spend year” and find a million links and social media about the topic.) I read this Forbes article to start.
What’s nice about the No Spending thing is that it’s personalized, for the most part. I, for instance, do not need the latest game console or video game, because nothing I do depends on that. Someone else might. Someone else might not need shampoo and conditioner, but I do, or else my hair turns into a giant, out-of-control tumbleweed. I can broadly put down in the “approved” list things like medical bills, medicines, things for health maintenance, insurance, and things for health improvements. Other “approved” spending includes food (nothing carb-loaded or deep fried), gifts (dollar limits depending on what the gift is for), car maintenance, house maintenance, vacation, and replacements for things I already own if they are used up or worn down, like soap. It’s easy to write “No late-night Amazon browsing” and remember it, hence, cutting out the possibility of ordering something half-asleep. Also, it’s easy to remember “no more clothes” and “no impulse buying”. This past week, this “resolution” has reared up at Target, Best Buy, and the grocery store, successfully convincing me to not buy something just for the sake of buying it. It was both difficult and empowering. Once January is over, I’ll try February. I’m hoping that eventually, this will turn into a habit and my wallet will be happier for it.
*Books that are ebook or library loans will have priority.
Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.Wernher von Braun
For the past year and a half, if anyone wanted, they could look to see how science is being done just by looking up research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If pandemics were a reality show… Now season 3 is upon us, cursing us with another variant. Like the beginning of finding out about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and finding out about the Delta variant, science is trying to figure this one out. I know that it’s frustrating that no one knows the answer right away, but one thing people miss about science is that it isn’t about knowing everything, but it’s about finding things out. And in order to find things out, we need time. However, in a pandemic, time is an enemy. What some people get wrong is that this is confused with “science is the enemy” or “those other people are the enemy” or “this country is the enemy”. Let’s skip the philosophical part and say that basically, we’re afraid of the unknown, especially if the unknown can maim/kill us.
Although science is more about questions than answers, it can and does generate light that we can shine on the unknown. For example, every Mars rover. Because of my science background (where I spent an extremely long time trying to figure out which science field I wanted to be in, while taking every science class there was), I can go through research articles and figure out what’s what. Here’s a controversial idea: every person should take a class on how to look up scholarly articles on any topic in high school. (While we’re here, let’s open up a school and call it “School of Hard Knocks”, in which every class is directly applicable to real life, such as How to Do Your Taxes, or 50 Cheap, Simple, and Healthy Meals). Anyway, for an average person without a science background (which I also once was, in the early 2000s), what sources are there for just plain facts and neutral ground?
So far, here is the general answer:
I’m happy to see that BBC is in the center, because a long time ago, someone told me that if I wanted to find something neutral, a good point of view to consider would be from people outside of the country. I mean, how good are we at being objective about the aquariums we’re swimming in? And I’m also happy to see Reuters next to BBC. What was interesting was that I had thought The Economist was more right leaning than it was. Finally, it’s nice to know others I haven’t thought of, like Associated Press, to add to my bookmarks.
So what about Omicron? Do we need a booster shot for that? How bad is it, compared to what’s happened already? The answer is, We don’t know… yet.
Now, once again, the world is watching as researchers work nights and weekends to learn what a new variant has in store for humanity. Is Omicron more infectious? More deadly? Is it better at reinfecting recovered people? How well does it evade vaccine-induced immunity? And where did it come from? Finding out will take time, warns Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust: “I’m afraid patience is crucial.”‘Patience is crucial’: Why we won’t know for weeks how dangerous Omicron is
Talking about sources wasn’t random. I liked this article for its readability, its short length, its international tidbits, and that it shares knowledge (PCR, GISAID database, structural biology mapping) without sensationalizing or politicizing anything. In this day and age, it’s like gold.
Sometimes I come across a sport/activity that one would never think would be at the level of world championship, or even a regular championship for that matter.
World Chase Tag – yup, the old schoolyard game has a championship.
National Air Guitar Championship – maybe the least surprising, but I didn’t expect that one could even judge air guitar in order to pick a winner.
Dods Championship – looks like the opposite of Olympic diving.
Ostrich racing. I knew you could ride on them!
And my favorite, the medieval knight fights. There are many videos of this new (old) form of MMA. It looks like no matter how strong/big you are, it’s still going to be an exhausting endeavor.
I’ve been thinking about the issue of “Individual Freedom” and “Public Health” lately, in light of dozens of news articles, Facebook rants, face-palm anti-vaxxer deaths, vaccine mandates, and me being a nurse who believes in individual freedom but have a huge science background. Are there any law-based article discussing the intersection of individual freedom and public health?
Well, Google scrounged up this article called “Individual Freedom or Public Health? A False Choice in the Covid Era.” It makes a good point: every argument, decision, rant, etc. has been falsedly based on one (individual freedom) or the other (public health). Our communities, politicians, and talking heads have set up this dichotomy and most of us have fallen head first into it and taken sides. They have set up this dichotomy in that we lose whether we choose one or the other. Instead, they could have set it up so that it’s a win-win situation.
For the real sacrifice involved in social distancing and stay-at-home orders is not individual freedom. It is the reality that these measures can cause more hardship for some people than others. For some, that hardship may be lost income; for others it may be the inability to visit their parents in a long-term care facility; for still others, it may be domestic violence…
…we should be providing people with the economic and social supports they need to maintain physical distancing. The problem is that these supports are the very things that many politicians are loathe to provide…
It is not authoritarian to demand that people maintain physical distance to save lives. It is authoritarian to demand it without giving diverse people the means to do it.-Jonathan Cohen, “Individual Freedom or Public Health? A False Choice in the Covid Era“
I just navigated to this article by Scientific American. Even though I am not diagnosed as autistic, it still strikes a chord with me, especially these paragraphs:
But inside, it was very different. Social life did not come at all naturally to her. She used her formidable intelligence to become an excellent mimic and actress, and the effort this took often exhausted her. From the time she started reading at three and throughout her childhood in gifted programs, O’Toole studied people the way others might study math. And then, she copied them—learning what most folks absorb naturally on the playground only through voracious novel reading and the aftermath of embarrassing gaffes.
I feel like this kind of thinking started when I was 13. Even as an adult, I studied other people to try to learn how they acted so I could figure out how to act.
Also, unlike in boys, the difference between typical and autistic development in girls may lie less in the nature of their interests than in its level of intensity. These girls may refuse to talk about anything else or take expected conversational turns. “The words used to describe women on the spectrum come down to the word ‘too,’” O’Toole says. “Too much, too intense, too sensitive, too this, too that.”
My parents also described me as “too sensitive” or “too naive” or “too much”.
She describes how both her sensory differences—she can be overwhelmed by crowds and is bothered by loud noise and certain textures—and her social awkwardness made her stand out. Her life was dominated by anxiety. Speaking broadly of people on the spectrum, O’Toole says, “There is really not a time when we’re not feeling some level of anxiety, generally stemming from either sensory or social issues.”
Story of my life, here.