Friday, January 13, 2017

Research For A Charm

From the company website, the ingredients (source: wikipedia so a grain or two of salt as you think best) listed in reverse order below, with attached commentary.

1) Vinpocetine: an extract from the lesser periwinkle plant.[2] Vinpocetine was first isolated from the plant in 1975 by the Hungarian chemist Csaba Szántay. The mass production of the synthetic drug was started in 1978 by the Hungarian pharmaceutical company Richter Gedeon.
Vinpocetine is reported to have cerebral blood-flow enhancing[3] and neuroprotective effects,[4] and is used as a drug in Eastern Europe for the treatment of cerebrovascular disorders and age-related memory impairment.[5]
Vinpocetine is not approved in the United States for pharmaceutical use, but it can be sold as a dietary supplement. Vinpocetine is widely marketed as a supplement for vasodilation and as a nootropic for the improvement of memory and cerebral metabolism. Vinpocetine has been identified as a potent anti-inflammatory agent that might have a potential role in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Of the two of us, I'm the more likely candidate for Parkinsons or Alzheimers, although if you want to pop a bleeder in your head, taking a vasodilator with known cerebral blood flow enhancing characteristics might be an option to pursue.

2) Sulbutiamine: is a synthetic derivative of thiamine (vitamin B1). Although its clinical efficacy is uncertain,[3] it is the only compound used to treat asthenia that is known to selectively target the areas that are involved in the condition.[4] In addition to its use as a treatment for chronic fatigue, sulbutiamine may improve memory, reduce psycho-behavioural inhibition, and improve erectile dysfunction. At therapeutic dosages, it has few reported adverse effects. It is available for over-the-counter sale as a nutritional supplement.

Basically this is a synthetic component of Vitamin B. You will recall my Fitness advice regarding taking a Multi-Vitamin? If you wish, consider adding a Vitamin B-12 supplement to that (I do; and, No, not for that reason either :)).

3) Vitamin B-12: See 2) above.

4) Taurine: This one seems a bit deceptive in my opinion. There are at least 5 different (or at least variants of) this amino acid that have human applications, and they all differ in application and effect. The company website isn't specific as to which variant of this amino acid is contained in their product (I'm willing to assume they aren't talking about the sub-species of cattle originating in the Near East :)). Without much more specific chemical detail, we're just uselessly speculating here. 

5) Tyrosine (L-tyrosene): A naturally occurring amino acid in the human body. Dosage is the thing to be concerned with here. From wikipedia: "A recommended daily intake for phenylalanine and tyrosine is 25 mg per kilogram of body weight, or 11 mg per pound.[4] For a 70 kg person this is 1750 mg (phenylalanine + tyrosine).
Tyrosine, which can also be synthesized in the body from phenylalanine, is found in many high-protein food products such as chickenturkeyfishmilkyogurtcottage cheesecheesepeanutsalmondspumpkin seedssesame seedssoy productslima beansavocados, and bananas.[5][better source needed] For example, the white of an egg has about 250 mg per egg,[4] while lean beef/lamb/pork/salmon/chicken/turkey contains about 1000 mg per 3 ounces (85 g) portion."

You're a chef; if you can't generate 1800 mg/day of this stuff from your regular diet, how can any of the rest of us hope to survive? If you're really concerned, there is a supplemental product called some variant of Co-enzyme Q-10 available OTC. You have to pay close attention to the contents (some manufacturers have been busted for putting "no measurable amount" of the actual co-enzyme in their product), but the stuff is a legitimate enough dietary supplement for those concerned about their gibbering capability.

6) Huperzine A: "Huperzine A has been found through multiple studies to be effective as a medicine for helping people with neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, but the meta-analysis of those studies concluded that they were poor quality and the findings should be interpreted with caution."

So, basically we have a selection of faulty studies into the effectiveness of this alkaloid as an Alzheimers treatment, that is known to cross the blood/brain barrier, and has a known association with causing the puking shits. Your call ...

7) Caffiene: I take mine black with 2 teaspoons of sugar (preferably Xylitol instead), but a portion of condensed milk is also an occasional option too. I've not had the opportunity to make you coffee yet.

8) Alpha Lipoic Acid is one of the primary components in the commercial creatine body builder protein supplements available OTC. 

As a long-time gym rat, I'm frankly dubious about the claims made for these products generally. If you want more protein in your diet, you can spend your money here as well as anywhere, I guess, or you could ask a chef (I can recommend a great one).

9) Vitamin D-3: Hearkening back to my Fitness series, you will recall I'm certain that this is the other vitamin supplement I suggested taking on a daily basis (I recommended 5,000 IU dosage). Vit D-3 is naturally produced by the body as a result of direct sunlight on the skin. It is necessary for the body to adequately uptake calcium and other nutrients, so a modest overdose is actually helpful for good health. At worst you will have very slightly more expensive pee.

10) Phosphatidylserine: Associated with cell signaling and blood coagulation (clotting). Occurs in plants and animals/fish (the common source for this in a "western diet" is from consumption of meat and fish). The plant-based product has no known effect on human memory or other cognitive functions. The company website doesn't make clear their source for this lipid.

11) GABA: a derivative compound of a neurotransmitter that is used therapeutically for anxiety meds, sedatives and as an anticonvulsant. 

I'm not convinced the 1,000 yard stare is quite the look for you.

If I may impose upon a friendship just a bit here at the end with an unsolicited personal observation; NO.
You already eat healthy, the stuff in this that you know what it does to you and want done to you (two different things there) you are already taking in sufficient quantities and dosage to achieve and maintain good health. You want to increase your mental focus, ask your sensei. I'm confident he can recommend some useful mental exercises for you.

Final advice; there is no good cheat. Ever. Put in the work and you'll get the results, mental and physical. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Friends Of The Ages

I have collected a series of advisory posts I wrote for my friend Charynn McCurdy here, because I thought I did rather well in putting together my disparate memories of lessons learned, but more because I wanted to retain easy access to my interactions with my friend.

I have had many acquaintances over my 63 years of life, but not that many friends, and of those never a friendship so unlikely seeming at first glance. What does a man nearing retirement age have in common with a teenage girl (beyond the obvious source of attraction - I'm old, not blind, and Charynn suffers not at all in the attractiveness department, but that's still not it) (really :)) (Ok, that's still not ONLY it, alright?) (Jesus Tits!)? Turns out, the differences in her and my individual assumptions makes the least consequential of our statements or beliefs shared with each other into a journey of mutual discovery, and our truly consequential revelations into shared confessionals that armor us from our personal demons and doubts (I hope they do for her too). Or perhaps this is only evidence of why my friendships have been so few, because I imbue them with over-much meaning and significance.

Every question we ask, every statement we declare, every opinion we assert to each other, in every aspect of our lives, all are influenced by and bounded within our assumptions. The unspoken, indeed too-often unasked and unquestioned, beliefs and ideas that guide how we construct our understanding of life and each other. The unquestioned assumption that right-and-wrong = good-and-bad, that truth = justice, that faith = fact. Charynn and I steadily discover that we share a belief in so many things, agree on so many different conclusions, but that we arrive at these shared convictions by means of completely different assumptions.

Do friendships go somewhere? People so often say, "Our friendship has gone ...", and then recite a time travel itinerary. My friendships seem to abide instead, the few recognizable landmarks in my passage through life. We all move on, of course, inevitably apart if history is any judge. And that's probably both good and natural, if more than a bit lonely. Experience changes our assumptions, obligations change over time, commitments tend to compete for our individual time and other resources; perhaps it's only healthy that we gradually withdraw from interaction with our friends over time. Or, perhaps it's a consequence of having over-many shared assumptions in the beginning?

Perhaps Charynn and I will be able to make the time together to discover how that question gets answered.

I hope so ...

Fitness is a journey: Part The Fifth

Archived from my FB page from Dec 30, 2016

Endurance training.
In my friend Charynn McCurdy's pursuit of physical fitness, one of the less well understood aspects of training is often characterized as "aerobic training". This is a bit misleading, in a couple of ways.
First, aerobic activities are basically any physical action that is performed at a sufficiently brisk pace as to induce a temporary anaerobic condition in the person doing it. In reality, "aerobic training" consists of training yourself to continue functioning at an accelerated pace of activity in a condition of the body being unable to input sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream to relieve the anaerobic condition. Aerobic training induces a shortage of oxygen in the bloodstream so that you can train to work in that condition.
Second, weight lifting is an excellent form of aerobic training. You just have to use lighter weights than you ordinarily would, and perform the chosen lifts at an accelerated pace and for extra reps/set. This is an excellent way to break up your strength training routine occasionally.
Mostly, and most of the time as well, people focus on treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and the like for their usual endurance training while in the gym. The primary purpose of which is to elevate your heart rate and air exchange rate, while sustaining a moderate level of muscle stress over as many of the large muscle groups as are involved in the activity, for as long a time period as reasonably possible. There is always the old stand-by, going outside for a walk or a run, but this is frequently difficult for sailors aboard ship.
I'm going to stick to the treadmill here, but do try out the other machines available to you as you can.
As with weight lifting, you want to discover your initial performance parameters, but instead of "how much can you lift?", you want to find out "how far can you walk in how much time?". A reasonable starting point might be a pace of 3 mph for 20 minutes, which would equal 1 mile walked in that amount of time. Don't be disappointed if you can't do this the first time you try. It seems easy (and it is, really), but most of us have no idea of just how little physical endurance we actually have. We can remember doing (insert some memory of past athletics here) back in high school (or wherever) and don't realize just how transitory a skill set physical endurance actually is. Rule of thumb here; every day you don't endurance train, you lose the gains of a day you did.
Once you can do 20 minutes at 3 mph, increase the pace to 3.1 mph and see how many minutes it takes you to reach 1 mile. Increase the pace gradually over each training session in an effort to build yourself up to 3.5 mph, which is about as fast as you can walk.
There is a transition from walking to running on a treadmill that isn't as noticeable when running outside on a track or path. It's harder to maintain your balance within the relatively narrow confines of a treadmill's rails than people appreciate. One of the fundamental training lessons running coaches impart is how to run forward, and not up-and-down or side-to-side during your stride. You're going to have to teach yourself how to do this, or you won't have much success as a runner generally and especially on a machine.
Watch people running; see how many of them have their heads bouncing up and down rather than maintaining an even distance above the ground. Those last ones are the good runners. What worked for me was to put my hands on the rails and jog along (maybe 3.7 or 3.8 mph) and feel what stride motions in my legs and hips resulted in the least amount of movement of my elbows (both laterally and vertically) while maintaining that pace. Then figure out how to make that combination of hip and leg motions your regular running stride. As you up the pace, recheck your stride for excess upward or lateral motion and focus on making the necessary stride movement corrections. It is called endurance TRAINING, after all.
You don't want to spend more than 20 minutes a day endurance training (as a distinct segment of your overall fitness routine), but you do want to train to complete at least 1 mile each session. As with weight strength training, you can vary the pace, distance, and time (if you can run 1 mile in 6 minutes, you can theoretically run 3 miles in 18 minutes - if you actually do that, congratulations, you're an average line Marine grunt; CNO will be so proud) (yes, that is indeed a 10 mph pace - you're gonna be a while getting there). The point of this is to train yourself to a degree of physical capability that is likely to exceed the requirements of your normal duty day (or just life its own self). This reduces the effects of exertion on you generally, and makes you capable of doing more for longer on the hopefully rare occasion when that may be the difference between you living or dying (or only just hearing harsh language from some bystanding CPO).
On the days when you simply don't have the time to do anything but one form of training, choose endurance training over anything else, as physical endurance is what is most necessary over the broadest range of activities you can find yourself confronted with.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fitness is a journey, Part The Fourth

Archived from my FB page of Dec 28, 2016

Strength training.
I have directed these monologues at my friend Charynn McCurdy, but they are more or less my accumulated recollections of lessons learned, over a few more years than are comfortable to remember these days, bumming around different kinds of gyms. I've largely avoided referring readers to any particular source material, but we have reached the stage when doing so becomes a necessity.
For detailed instruction on pretty much anything to do with weight training, Mark Rippetoe is your go-to source. His book "Starting Strength - Basic Barbell Training" (Amazon link below) will teach anyone who can read English how to safely and productively train with weights. He basically starts from the pretty much irrefutable premise that, if you want to get strong enough to lift heavy things, you need to lift heavy things, and do so in the manner that your body naturally does that sort of activity.
That said, and I have no argument against his position, I'm nevertheless going to advocate that a beginner, especially one in Charynn's position (a young sailor who will have to alternate her training environment from a shore-based gym to the facilities that can be built into whatever ship she deploys aboard), would be better off starting out working on the machines available in almost any gym not dedicated to a specific training regimen (or not a martial arts gym - these sometimes have their own "machines", but they are combat specific, and not for beginners either) (personal note; Charynn and I first met in a martial arts class. This is mostly me just covering the different types of gym that might be available to any reader, she's well aware of what martial arts training is comprised of). I think it reasonable to assume that the gym/fitness center available on a modern US Navy base will be reasonably well equipped and maintained. I use Anytime Fitness personally for my weight and endurance training.
There is another aspect to this advice that should be commented on. There is a form of "gym etiquette" that basically holds that others should be left to their own training unless they ask for help or are obviously in trouble. This gets observed more in the breach than in practice. You know that whole clubbing/bar scene of getting dressed up to attract a "date"? People (not just women either) routinely dress much less provocatively to get laid on a hot Saturday night than they do to get sore and sweaty doing exercise.
- [Pro Tip: Wear utility underwear (especially knickers - the "wet fart" is a real and all-to-common weight training gym event) (or pretty much any other physically strenuous environment come to that; grappling training anyone?) underneath uniformly dark-colored sweat pants or long-legged shorts, a long-waisted (a size too large might be in order here as well) T-shirt/sweat shirt, and good weight training athletic shoes (something that provides a uniformly level foot structure that doesn't pre-load your ankles to twist to the side under stress - the old-school Converse high top basketball shoes are a reasonably available example) (For women, I can recommend the Otomics brand name of shoe as well). Also, roll a pair of sweats or shorts into a compact shape and keep them in your gym bag with your towel and the other gear you will gradually accumulate (see: wet fart, above). You'll know you're accepted by the experienced, serious lifters when they give you a little friendly stick about the quality of your fart. It's that kind of atmosphere, if you'll pardon the terrible pun.]
Everybody occasionally gets distracted by the scenery at the gym. Be polite, nod your head in a friendly fashion (if you think you won't attract a shark-pack by doing so) (being a more-than-attractive girl, Charynn no doubt learned how to dodge that years ago), maybe offer a compliment on form or technique, and get on with your own training. You will get hit on at the gym (even my old ass, to my considerable surprise - the End Times may indeed be upon us). Try not to be a hitter yourself; it's poor form, if nothing else.
The thing to keep in mind about weight training is that it is data-heavy driven behavior. That is, there is a number (more commonly a complex of inter-related numbers) for literally every exercise you can do with a weight. I've touched on this in earlier essays: "Max weight", "max rep". For a complete beginner (or anyone starting out again after a long-ish lay-off from weight training), there are a few basic body areas to concentrate on initially. In no particular order of importance, they are:
Leg Extension
Leg Curls
Leg Squats
Calf Raises
There are machines designed to focus your workout on these muscle groups solely. Any modern gym has a staff trainer; do consult him/her as to which machine is which, and how to use it properly.
It has to be acknowledged that this isn't actually the most optimum training you can do. All of these muscles come into play on any of the basic Olympic weight lifting forms, for example. Your initial focus is to determine how much weight you can lift in each of these body categories, and how many times you can lift that weight in each category. Be prepared to take notes (seriously).
Keep in mind, max weight is how much weight you can lift, one time, using correct lifting form for that body part.
- [One of the less-than-compelling arguments for machines over free weights is that a machine forces the lifter into more-or-less "correct form". Whose definition of correct form is left unanswered, of course. My argument in favor of machines initially can be divided into two areas of concern: ease of initial data division by body part/area, and reduction of distraction from training at all. The first seems obvious to me; the second is an aspect of motivation I haven't touched on earlier. If you rely on a training partner or group or class, you will fail to train regularly due to schedule conflict. Training on machines is by its nature a solitary approach to weight training that relies on no one but yourself.]
Max repetitions is how much weight you can lift a certain number of times (commonly 8 to 10 times) in a row, and for how many reps in a set of reps (max set isn't an actual "thing"; commonly lifters will train for 8 to 10 reps per set, and adjust the time between sets, as well as the number of reps in each set, or the weight lifted in each set, to prevent "plateauing" - not something a beginner needs to worry about). A common weight training routine might be: 3 sets of 10 reps on each major body part/area, each training day (this will change with accumulated experience - dividing the body parts into complimentary training groups [arms/calves, chest/back, shoulders/legs, for example], to be trained on different days, is an idea that naturally comes along with adding weight and training devices to your routine).
- [A common rule of thumb to give your training some external point of reference is that you "should" be able to lift roughly 25% of your body weight directly overhead in a Military Press, at least your own body weight for your chest Bench Press, and at least 150% of your body weight from your Leg Squat. You will be a while getting up to these levels of lifting performance. Probably well into the free weights stage of your training. Don't get frustrated; nobody can do this when they are getting started. This is a generic example of the sort of external training metric you can use to guide your training development on your own.]
Once you have accumulated this basic training data and physical capability, you will be ready to consider adding dumbells to your training routine. When you do, you will no longer be a beginner at weight training, but expect this to occur only after probably 2 months of regular training (4 days a week minimum), and more likely longer than that. A regular training session for a beginning lifter will probably average about 20 to 25 minutes of weight training, with at least 20 minutes of endurance training (topic of Part The Fifth, forthcoming).
Keep in mind that your initial training is to achieve a desirable muscle mass to body fat ratio, as well as a generally firmer body composition, before beginning to add muscle mass. You need to achieve a desired physical dimension before adding to your body weight, or you will simply be adding bulk to an already over-padded form. This is only achieved when your diet reduces the quantity of body fat to the desired level, and thus the routine experience of having to allow additional time before beginning training to add specific muscle bulk (a note on that: women have an incredibly difficult time adding very much visible specific muscle bulk without resorting to extreme physical training or chemical assistance. Frankly, women just don't "bulk up" in the same way that men do. Get over it, and don't let a fear of that result stop you from beginning weight training).
Remember, it's a journey.
Post-script: I see that I haven't mentioned abdominal muscle training. Can you do a sit up? Whether or not you can (yet), can you do a supine leg lift? Lie on your back on some available area of reasonably clean (don't get pissy about a little dirt, you're already sweaty and stinky and it will all wash off, I promise) floor, place your hands palm down beside your hips, now lift your straight legs about a foot off the ground and lower until your feet are almost touching the floor again. Repeat at least 20 times.
Once you catch your breath, move your hands to the side of your head, now sit up (if you need to lodge your straight legs or feet under something at first, you're cheating) (keep in mind the ancient training adage: if you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough to get good enough that you don't have to). Repeat at least 20 times.
On a related note, can you do a regulation push up? If you can't, don't drop your knees to the floor, use the "snake motion" by pushing your shoulders up until your arms are fully extended and then snaking your hips up until your body is in alignment again. Lower yourself until you are almost touching the floor and repeat at least 20 times.
These three daily exercises will keep your abs well toned, and your back strong enough for them to have something to leverage all that strength against without injury.

Starting Strength has been called the best and most useful of fitness books. The second edition, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, sold over 80,000 copies in a competitive global market for fitness education. Along with Practical Programming for…

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fitness is a journey: Part The Third

Archived here from my FB page of Dec 22, 2016

There are whole sections, never mind shelves, of libraries dedicated to the concept of "motivation". Much of psychiatry addresses the ways in which humans motivate themselves in ways both healthy and un. Fortunately for us, we only need to take a passing glance at the complexities as our focus is on a very narrow application of the most fundamental of the ideas that make up human motivation.
Basically, it needs to be understood that motivation consists of two supporting, but not necessarily interacting, parts. I think of them as "internal" and "external" motivators.
An example of an external motivator that very much will be applicable to my friend Charynn McCurdy in the not-too-distant future, will be the physical requirements necessary to performing successfully on a working party during an underway replenishment evolution at sea.
In Navy-speak, unrep - underway replenishment of consumable stores and supplies - is probably the most fully worked out example of the concept of "organized chaos" known to human civilization. It seems a virtual certainty that, as one of her commands most junior members, she will be detailed to be a working party member during the regular unreps a modern warship requires to meet the operational demands we place upon them (and necessarily their crews). A typical working party requirement is to manually transfer cases of consumables (anything from beverages to preserved foods to lubricants to - pretty much anything that can be packaged in a cardboard shipping case for transport) from the pallets they are shipped on into any available storage space that can be free'd up to meet the demand for short-term storage. It isn't actually a requirement that this be in the most inaccessible location aboard the ship, it just seems that way when you're doing it.
The usual method is to form a "chain" of workers (who, if they are smart, stand on opposite sides of the passageway from each other alternately, so they can pass items from one to another with the least difficulty) and pass each individual case from the pallet to however far down a twisting passageway is necessary to get to the stipulated temporary storage space. A case of canned Cokes weighs 25 lbs as I recall; a case of #10 cans of preserved food can weigh in excess of 30 lbs (but the Navy is pretty good about keeping the case weight down to about that amount at most). So, here is an external fitness motivator that Charynn must be able to meet, prior to her first at-sea deployment, in order to not be THAT GIRL (the one who exemplifies the stereotype "girls don't belong in combat arms" to the assholes).
We will take a look at the training requirements to achieve this very basic fitness goal as a separate topic.
The internal half of motivation is always a personal choice, more idiosyncratic in nature. It can take almost any form, but the essential requirement is that it be a thought or idea that inspires you. Very commonly this takes the form of some imaginary standard of approval you are willing to work to achieve.
Lemme 'splain.
We all have someone whose approval we seek. It is common for athletes to imagine a physical goal (again, often appearance based) they wish to achieve that "Person X" would be ... fill in the space with your preferred adjective. It is important that this set of goals not be something a real, actually breathing-on-his/her-own person really wants you to do. I mean, think about it, that has to be a pretty creepy conversation no matter how intimate X is. More importantly, that removes you from control of the desired result and we are talking about your fitness.
So, an imaginary version of someone whose good opinion you desire is created in your imagination to give specificity to your otherwise pretty random fitness objectives. "X would really be happy if I looked like this when s/he walks in the room when I get back from this cruise." Whatever. This isn't about what X might or might not really want, but about keeping you engaged in your fitness pursuits when the inevitable distractions arise. Working to gain the approval of someone important to you personally is a very common technique for doing this.
For the more practical minded among us Charynn , next time you're in your quarters alone and get out of the shower, look in the mirror and take note of what you see. Notice your profile, face-on and sideways. Not in any kind of critical way, but simply as a baseline observation. Following a period of training (and this varies considerably for a lot of different reasons) you will subsequently observe that your waist will have reduced in circumference by an inch or more, your hip profile will have probably remained about the same overall measurement but the tissue placement will have altered (fat tissue tends to be more susceptible to gravity than does muscle, so your hips will be about the same size but shaped differently), your thighs will begin to display greater size and definition, especially above the knees, with more mass in the hamstring muscles and less fat tissue along the sides, and your calves will become more defined as well as simply larger (stronger). So too your shoulders and, less noticeably probably, your neck will gain in muscle density and visible size. Your bra cup size will remain essentially the same, but your chest diameter will increase by possibly as much as a couple of inches (this depends in part on how much muscle growth you experience in your back). There will be other changes as well, but they tend to be less obvious to the casual glance until very much further along the fitness path.
Your external motivations are in considerable part the result of factors you can't control. Your internal motivators are the result of factors you largely must create from your own experience of life. An added factor helps to coordinate these two impulses in my experience.
I can't say who, but I read somewhere that an English family "of yore" had as their family motto (suitably gussied up in properly declensioned Latin, I'm sure) the phrase, "Be as you wish to seem".
I've always found this to be profound enough to be useful in virtually any fitness application.
"To seem" is any aspect of appearance or strength or endurance qualification you can imagine. "Wish" is always a factor governing our choices. "As you" confines the choices and selections to those acceptable (or maybe just available) to the circumstance you presently, or anticipate to, inhabit. "Be" though, that's the magical bit for me; the successful culmination of two distinct but inseparable things. I must achieve a capability I do not currently possess by acting as if my possession of that capability is the normal standard of my existence.
To a large degree, physical fitness is an ill-defined standard we all pursue (or ignore) with very little practical reference to what and how others pursue that exact same goal. By actually being as you wish to seem in your own mind, soon enough you will seem as you will have become. You will know - and demonstrate - that you have the ability to master the physical demands placed upon you by the circumstances of your chosen life, and you will maintain this condition through motivating factors that have intense meaning only to you.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fitness is a journey; Part the Second.

Archived from my FB page from Dec 18, 2016

Since Charynn McCurdy specifically mentioned she has no kitchen in her quarters, I thought I'd do this one a lot earlier than I would have otherwise.
Everyone fixates on what the pros do. No one stops to consider the differences between themselves and the physical demands pro athletes routinely live their lives with.
In an effort to keep it honest and the pain at a minimum, you ain't that. To be honest, the specialized diets that professional (or even "only" high level amateur) athletes require would be almost entirely wasted on someone just beginning their athletic journey. The actual food consumed would be healthy, but it wouldn't be in the proportions your body needs, so you wouldn't achieve the results top level athletes would from such a refined diet plan.
What anyone needs to focus on in the beginning is discovering their physical limits and refining their existing body from that of a sedentary human into an athletic human (and not all that athletic, when you get right down to it). That means learning how to perform the most basic physical activities, and healthy calorie restriction.
If you can reduce your food and beverage consumption of calories to a daily average of 1600 calories, you will lose body fat. If you can perform a daily exercise routine (particularly one that varies from day to day to include all of the major body parts as well as aerobic activities like brisk walking or slow running) along with that, you will gain muscle tone and some muscle mass. Only after you have achieved the basic muscle-to-fat ratio and physical strength-to-weight ratio your body is naturally capable of are you ready to begin building beyond your natural body parameters of muscle mass or perform any of the more extreme physical activities.
How to get started? Go to the store (or the commissary, if the .nav still has such a thing). Start reading the data printed on the packaging of the food items you can keep and prepare in your quarters. The only really vital data point you should be noting down for now is the total calories per serving amount. While you're there, buy a jumbo bottle of a daily vitamin (one with an iron supplement included would be useful since you're a woman) and a bottle of vitamin D supplement (I recommend the 5,000 IU dosage). This will provide you with the basic vitamins necessary to good health, even if your diet were to be much more restricted than what is proposed here. Do drink enough clear liquids to keep your urine clear-ish, mostly not-too-odorous, and of reasonable quantity to keep your kidneys working.
Anyone can make a sandwich if they have a refrigerator to keep the makings in. How many calories in a couple slices of bread? How many calories in a tablespoon of mayo (or mustard or ketchup; insert the condiment of your choice here)? How many calories in a slice of your preferred sandwich meat (don't forget to include things like tuna here)? How many calories in a package of shredded lettuce or a tomato? When you reach a total of 400 calories, all you have to do now is put it all together into some form you can get down your neck instead of your shirt front. :)
Look around the store for the powdered drinks. Buy one each of every flavor of Crystal Light you think you might like and at least two 1 quart tupperware drink containers. If you have to have fizzy drinks, buy a bottle or two of carbonated soda water. For regular drinking, mix the Crystal Light as directed and drink as much as you want. If you are completely fiending for a fizzy drink, mix a package of Crystal Light with about 40% of the usual water required, stir like crazy until it's reasonably well mixed, fill a glass about 60% full of carbonated water, top up with the concentrated Crystal Light mix and belch with gusto. If you let both containers get cold first, you can do it without ice even. Oh, and Crystal Light flavored ice cubes are an excellent way to make a glass of tap water seem a whole lot more palatable too.
When you absolutely cannot face another sandwich, total up the calories from a salad instead (just go with a vinegar-and-oil dressing and look around for small packages of different kinds of nuts for variety. Other than peanuts, most nuts are surprisingly high protein for their caloric content). Again, 1600 calories total per day.
Total calories in a packet of ramen noodles? 190. Get about 200 calories of diced meat from the deli, add a splash of soy sauce (go on, splurge, make it two splashes), cover the lot with water from the tap and you're about 2:00 minutes away from post-nuclear dinn-dinn.
The critical factors to keep in mind are: kiss is more than fun or a really glam rock band, it is an acronym for a simple way to go about making you into someone you want to look at in the mirror (or just not have to buy new uniforms for), a little fore-thought makes keeping to a training/diet regimen equally simple, and you don't really care what percentage of your calories come from what segment of the dietetic spectrum of foods at this point. What you want are an average of four meals a day consisting of a total of 1600 calories. It's nice to divide them into 4 meals of equal stomach volume if you can, but don't stress over that too much either.
Sugar-free gum and non-peanut nuts are good items to have around for those "gotta have something in my mouth" cravings, but you gotta remember to add them to the daily total when you give in (which you will; welcome to the human race, we're none of us perfect).
Get your head space around the idea that sugary, fizzy drinks are a thing of the past, as are pretty much any type of fast food. Candy is right out, unless you want to add the calories to your daily total. Your call there.
A few small size ice cube trays, a couple three tupperware bottles for drinks, a couple nuke-safe bowls for salads and hot soups. If you can arrange routine access to a 'frig and a microwave oven, this process doesn't have to be uncomfortable or especially expensive to begin. Which is good, because you aren't going to have any of that aboard ship, so you're gonna need the time you have to figure out how to get the same levels of nutrition from your ships galley before you actually have to do that thing.
Actually, once you achieve your initial goals of weight-to-fat ratio, you want to increase your caloric intake as you will then be adding exertion levels to your physical workouts at the same time. If you can get in the regular strength training in addition to the other exercise routines you will have developed, you'll probably be looking at a 2000 calorie average daily intake. That's when you'll want to start paying attention to how many calories are from fat or protein or carbs, etc. In the beginning, not so much, so don't stress yourself.
For the record, my usual daily diet consists of a single bacon and egg Hot Pocket, with two sandwiches for lunch/dinner. All the Crystal Light Iced Tea or Fruit Punch flavor drink I can stand, and a non-sugar sweetener for my coffee called Xylosweet (24.99 plus shipping from Amazon for 5 lbs, made with xylitol which has about a third of the calories of regular sugar, but is used in the same proportions as sugar for cooking or flavoring). When I absolutely will kill someone if faced with one more sandwich, I cheat. Sue me. Actually, I mostly go with a tupperware bowl full of brown rice and some quality steak chopped into bite-seized pieces for easy nuking and chewing.
My exercise routine consists of about 30 minutes a day of either boxing training on the heavy bags (and Bob - you need a precise target to really focus your punching training and Bob's THE go-to guy for that) usually 4 times a week, or roughly the same time on the weight machines at Anytime Fitness with some added time on the treadmill. One or the other, every day. That's the key. Devise a routine you can do, and structure your day around doing it - and staying employed, of course. I find it extremely important that my martial arts interest in historic pugilism and the Backsword (which uses essentially the same foot work) is a critically important contributor to my continued willingness to put in the work. You will have to find your own motivation, but everyone has to so I'm confident you'll have no difficulties there.
I hope you find all this encouraging and helpful in your efforts to achieve greater fitness and general health.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fitness is a journey, Part The First.

Archived here from my FB page of Dec 16, 2016.

My friend Charynn McCurdy has finished her A School training and is settling in to her new command. For the immediate future, this will keep her ashore instead of at sea somewhere. Lots of advantages to that, of course, but one disadvantage is that much of what you learn doesn't easily transfer to shipboard duty.
Returning to my opening gambit, maintaining fitness ashore can involve many activities that simply aren't practical aboard ship (even a large ship like an aircraft carrier; you can run on the flight deck only as long as the airplanes aren't using it, you see :)). My thought is that if Charynn can use these suggestions aboard ship, they ought to be equally useful to the rest of us (that would be me, still looking around my gut in an effort to see my ... feet). The trick, of course, is to establish a shipboard usable routine before you have to make the actual transition to shipboard duty (with all the unavoidable struggle that initially involves). Then it's just a matter of making the time to do a little of what you already do, instead of being one more new thing you have to learn. For those of us determinedly ashore, having an exercise routine available that doesn't require expensive gear or facilities (although there are swords involved eventually, so there is that :)) ought to be an obvious attraction, I would think.
For an initial suggestion, I direct your attention to sword instructor and author Guy Windsor's free video on breathing and general flexibility. I recommend his books and am thinking about spending a little money his way in the new year on the linked-to exercise course in the video below, once I've actually earned a little money, you understand. For now:
Breathing is a fundamental part of being human. You can learn to use your breath to control stress, increase fitness, and improve every aspect of your life. ...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

You Are As Old As You ...

Aging, the relentless march into senescence, seems to have gradually morphed from a scientific and philosophic certainty into more of an open question of late, at least as a scientific assertion.

(all above links provided by Brian Wang's Next Big Future)

Over the last year, we have learned how to treat some of the effects of MS, create a replacement heart for a patient, re-grow parts of different organs, grow blood from our own stem cells and produce large quantities of that blood, build replacement joint structures from living tissue for joint replacement, how to treat skin burns at a much accelerated rate of healing, how to create mice entirely outside a living body, how to replace damaged neuron cells in a living patient, how to create quantities of pluripotent cells from an adult stem cell source, and much else. It seems entirely unreasonable to believe this discovery trend won't continue, or that further developments won't result from what we learn.

Despite the regulatory burden placed on development of specific therapies up to now, it seems clear that these therapies will become available, either from within the health care system in the United States or elsewhere. From that it seems only reasonable to begin modifying our life styles so as to make ourselves into viable candidates for the treatments as they become available. Achieve and maintain a general level of physical fitness. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight and muscle/fat ratio. All the obvious things we are familiar with.

One form of technically (perhaps "technologically" would be better?) available therapy I think needs greater emphasis, is that of blood replacement with pluripotent stem cells derived from our own adult stem cells and introduced in a serum matrix on a unit-to-unit basis over an extended period of time. Perhaps 500 cc's of whole blood removed and replaced with an equal amount of pluripotent stem cell bearing neutral saline, every other week, for 20 weeks. The intended object being to reduce the presence of damaged proteins as a percentage of overall blood volume in an aged patient, and to infuse existing body tissues with young stem cells generally, thereby restoring at least some of the normal cellular function of a younger body to an older patient.

Even without benefit of specific genetic modifications, providing one's body with a supply of your own youthful stem cells seems likely to be of general benefit to extending healthy life span. I suggest that cancer cells being defective cells by their nature, they would not benefit from a procedure such as this, but that cancer development monitoring could easily be incorporated into such an extended time frame as suggested here. Should cancerous cells increase, stop the serum replacement and begin cancer treatment instead (since this would suggest the existence of previously undetected cancerous cells in your body before you began the blood replacement regimen).

I wonder if there aren't D-I-Y'ers out there doing something very like this already? It just doesn't seem all that technically challenging or expensive.

As to the philosophic issues; I suppose I'm too much a believer in the concept of Individual Rights to accept anyone having final say over me without my consent, or at least my passive non-aggression to such an assertion. I understand that there are many who are afraid of change, or of any perception of elevated risk/threat to themselves even indirectly, but I'm too well grounded in classical strategy precepts for that to be an option I can accept for myself. Every old (or young, come to that) gym rat is familiar with the mantra, "No pain, no gain". The strategic principle of "risk = opportunity" is simply a restatement of that same idea. To gain from a perceived opportunity, you must accept an elevated exposure to increased risk (pain).

By causing to be created (from a reputable laboratory source) pluripotent stem cells from your own adult stem cells, you avoid any risk of tissue incompatibility. Replacing a limited quantity of your blood with these stem cells over a controlled time span permits observation of results via available blood and other testing metrics (like for elevated levels of cancerous cells, for instance). Doing this repeatedly for multiple replacement cycles (I have suggested 10 cycles over a 20 week time span, mostly because it seems a reasonable framework to begin with - I am open to counter arguments on this point certainly) allows for recursive effects (that is, an effect in one area of the body to stimulate seemingly unrelated effects elsewhere) to develop within the body's cellular structure, thereby increasing the improved level of health one can expect to achieve from this procedure.

In order to still be alive to receive more refined (and hopefully genetically personalized) treatments and therapies, we must still be alive when they become available. Doing what we individually can to assure that eventuality ultimately falls to each of us, as individuals, exercising our individual rights of choice, and accepting personal responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions.

You know; adulthood?

At some point in humanity's journey into the future, we will all make just such choices as the one I have suggested here. I believe such a choice is upon us now, not next year, or next decade, or after someone else has put in sufficient work to make us feel less frightened.

It remains only for each of us to decide, and then act.  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Much Ado About "How Much ... ?"

8 years ago I wrote a post that linked to another post I had written some 2 1/2 years previously on the strategy of money. In recent weeks, the good people at Extra Credits on YouTube have addressed the same concept as a straightforward history lesson in a series of videos (the 6th, and presumably final, video still forthcoming as I write this). At the end of video #5 we are at the point of paper money abandoning commodity currency (refined gold and silver generally). This prompted me to make an effort to at least outline what I regard as the necessary final step to completing the strategy of money into the traditional closed loop of thought that Sun Tzu actually practiced.

I postulate that "money" is a purely intellectual concept, having no basis in physical goods or commodities. Indeed, that commodities serve to distort the money concept and inject malignant influences on its function. That being said, there still is needed a mechanism whereby transactional value can be derived against an immutable quantity (the function refined metals are supposed to fulfill).

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe (as far as human science can determine), and as such the possibility of "cornering the market" or any other type of currency valuation manipulation becomes effectively impossible. This aspect alone makes hydrogen a very suitable candidate for determining the relative value of a given currency. Consider ...

A single molecule of hydrogen can theoretically be converted to a known quantity of energy, which can in turn be expressed in a number of practical values depending upon how the released energy is expressed. A 21st century currency issuing entity (not necessarily a single country) is comprised, in part, of electrical generation capabilities, all of which consist of identical calibration metrics regardless of nationality, ideology or any other political or societal influence (Ohm's Law being just as universal - and effectively untamperable with - as hydrogen, as far as we can tell). The electricity generated, powers in turn a host of economic "value added" activities, if only the direct sale of electricity to another currency issuing source.

I propose that some measure of electricity (the erg perhaps?) be established as the baseline metric whereby any currency can be valued by any user. The issuing source (alright, this is becoming tedious - country hereafter) has a measurable quantity of electrical production as part of its domestic economy. This provides an independently measurable metric to determine a value for that country's domestic economy as a whole, against which the influence of domestic or international government meddling can be measured, and from which a unitary value can be derived for that currency against a known and fixed standard of measure. When this process is applied to other currencies, it makes comparative currency valuation a reasonably impartial (and importantly, more difficult to tamper with) process.

This resolves the intangible aspects of paper and digital money by pegging them to a known and hopefully immutable reference source, along with making manipulation of a country's currency much more detectable and thus defensible against.

Adopting such a system of currency valuation in the United States would seemingly not require a Constitutional amendment (see, Art 1, Sec 8, US Constitution, which explicitly charges Congress with the authority to  "coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures") (which also, BTW, effectively prohibits the dis-continuation of physical currency, whether coinage or paper, absent a Constitutional amendment IMO). As the United States dollar remains the planetary reserve currency, it can be expected that other countries would adopt this standard as their domestic political process allows.

Being my idea, I hope no one will be surprised at my enthusiasm for it. I'm also self-aware enough to know that there are undoubtedly a number of potential objections to the basic concept itself, whether theoretical or practical in nature. I hope to read and reply to those as I can.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Operations Within The Boundary Layers Of Stellar Impingment

A Stellar object is more commonly referred to as a "star", but what follows has absolutely nothing to do with celestial mechanics, astronomy or astrology.

Within military culture (not quite the oxymoron it is assumed to be by those who haven't been party to it), Flag Officers is the generic classification for Generals and Admirals, since officers at these levels of command sport their own distinct flag (commonly a small pennant or license plate type badge on a vehicle) which features the number of stars their uniform displays as a mark of their respective rank within their particular branch of military. In the US military, the Army (and by direct extension) the Air Force Flags are ranked one star to four star or more properly, Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General and simply General. While the US Marine Corps Flag Officers use the identical designations, their structure developed uniquely from that of the Army due to their function as part of the US Navy, but for this essay's purposes the surface similarity will suffice. The US Navy only has three ranks of Admiral however, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral and, Admiral. Much to the dismay of many a Major General, the Navy divides the rank of Rear Admiral into Lower and Upper grades, so it is not uncommon for a Major General to address a Rear Admiral as "Sir" when s/he actually outranks the particular Rear Admiral (Lower grade) being addressed (a minor point of confusion the Navy feels very little sympathy for).

That all having been said, this essay is actually about the general circumstance that might be most easily summed up as, "Notes on the Care and Feeding of Flag Officers".

There are a whole host of individuals and professional occupations designed to achieve this tenuous condition, many of whom can be characterized genericly as "Staff". Beyond these are the minor galaxy of others who work in all the ways major and minor, direct and remote from the Halls Of Power in which Flag Officers spend their work-a-day lives. This essay will over observations on the interface between those two extremes of military service.

Surrounding any Flag Officer is his (classical English usage here) immediate staff of Aide(s) and Orderlies. These are the people who keep their Flag focused on the task at hand, rather than life in general. In Army parlance, a General's Aides are commonly referred to as "dog robbers", in recognition of the dedication to duty they frequently display, to the (metaphor alert) point of robbing an actual dog of its bone, if the General indicates in some fashion he might desire the use of a toothpick. The Orderlies are those who keep the Flag's transportation, quarters, and wardrobe functional and presentable under the Aides' direction. All of which has it's own infrastructure as well.

Working in the Flag Officers Mess, for only one example, is an exercise in professional as well as political organization. The cooks and other kitchen staff have the to-be-expected occupational challenge of creating and serving nutritious meals that seriously over-worked flag Officers will most likely never pay more attention to than making sure they're not trying to fork up a mouthful of soup.
Which is not to say they don't appreciate all the hard work by so many; if the soup doesn't taste good it will be noticed. The simple assumption is that Flag Officers expect a base line of performance from those who support them professionally that is ... well, stellar.

The political organizational skills are called for when interacting with the Aides and Orderlies of a Flag Officer. Not only does the Flag Officer himself need to feel properly cared for, the staff have to feel the same way. This frequently creates opportunity(s) for friction between conflicting priorities.

One obvious conflict is that their particular Flag isn't likely to be the only Flag being served in the Mess. A certain amount of schedule shifting has to be expected ... and required in turn when necessary. This is one reason a Flag Officers Mess is usually so overloaded with senior personnel compared to any other dining facility (another reason being that occupational experience is also commonly expressed in the form of rank attained). This gives the kitchen personnel a bit of an advantage when some Admiral's orderly wanders onto the mess deck with menu advice or the like. The sheer number of Senior and Master Chiefs (and in an Army kitchen Warrant Officers) is sufficient to adequately whelm anyone under the rank of Commander/Lt. Colonel - and I'm pretty sure MacArthur was the last 4-star Flag Officer with a staff officer of that senior a personal rank. Anyone assigned to a Flag Officers Mess who isn't also at least a Chief Petty Officer/Sergeant First Class, would be well advised to very politely point out one of those august individuals to any interloper, then quickly fade into Doing Something somewhere else.

Basically, The Admiral and Mrs. Admiral can absolutely love your culinary skills, but if the staff have a problem with you, you have a problem, and the easiest solution for everyone else involved (who isn't actually Mr. and Mrs. Admiral) is to erase you from the equation. I don't care how great a chef you are, everybody else in the kitchen has their own set of knives too, and they wouldn't be in the room at all if they weren't just as good out on the edge as you are.

A great kitchen is much like a great Rock band or any other pressure-packed creative work environment, the normal work day is spent right on the edge of a major fight between the members. A great Flag Officers staff is usually an active conspiracy tip-toeing right along the edge of outright criminality, if that's what duty requires. Watching how these two organized chaos benders interact with each other must be truly awesome ... from a safe-enough distance.

If you should find yourself assigned to a Flag Officers Mess, or Staff, you need to keep in mind that someone in a position to know thinks you are smart enough to do the basic job, and are smart enough to learn the real job while you're doing it. In other words, you belong there. If you want to stay there however, you have to force yourself to focus only on the task at hand, at refining the skill set that got you there in the first place, to the point of routinely consistent, elite levels of performance.

You'll know you're almost there when no-one tells you what to do, just what is wanted next.