Thursday, December 2, 2010

Contextually Based Mindfulness

I just finished my lunch (leftovers) and it was one of the best meals I've had in awhile. Let me explain.

Yesterday my group at work had a holiday lunch at Perry's Steakhouse. We had a private room and were given free aim at anything on the menu. So I scratched my chin and order appetizers, apple-smoked bacon chopped salad, butternut squash puree w/ Brocollini, a bone-in ribeye steak and dessert, with a capuccino to top it all off. Walking out of the restaurant, I couldn't help to think the entire meal was mediocre but the ambiance was fantastic. I ordered so much, I had to take part of my steak home and left it in the fridge to eat for lunch the next day. I remember distinctly the caption under the steaks very boldly stated "Dry Aged".

I'm also in the midst of moving out of my apartment so I threw together all of the remaining vegetables in my fridge and put it on the steak. My expectations were low, but I never remember enjoying a piece of steak so much as I did for lunch today. I forgot about the whole lucious environment at Perry's and the Dry Aged caption. It was microwaved and a day old, but only after I separated myself from those expectations was I allowed to appreciate the quality of the steak. Walking into a place like Perry's, you're not allowed room to anticipate anything but a stellar meal. Their to-go bags have rope handles for crying out loud.

Rather than being completely present and mindful of the food we're eating, there's always a basis for comparison, making us more critical. Today's day old steak taught me a profound lesson: we're never satisifed. We get off from the hunt and anticipation, not necessarily the discovery. Not only until we're deprived of having our comforts (such as being away from home for awhile) do we learn to appreciate the craving in question, usually for lower quality substitues like Whataburger, not necessarily the best option. Only when we have low grade equivalent at our 24 hour disposal do we shun it for hunting down its superior counterparts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's your conviction? Show it off.

I had lunch with someone today who I hadn't seen in 4 years. It was a bit odd that he asked me out of the blue, but the purpose of the lunch revealed itself after 15 minutes of small talk - he was witnessing to me. This was the first time I felt alienated from Christianity as a spectator on the other end as a "lost soul."

It intrigued me how gutsy it was on his part to engage in conversation and nearly debate at some points on the philosophy of Christianity. I've already considered (in great detail), a lot of the doubts, fears, facts, philosophies etc of Christianity to land me in my current belief system, so it was a bit of a regurgitation exercise. However, passion can trump logic sometimes, and this guy was passionate about his beliefs without going overboard to warrant a lot of respect.

Sharing the gospel is a fundamental ideal of Christianity and this guy was certainly upholding that. So rather than engaging in a heated discussion, I heard him out, nodded my head and smiled, although I didn't appreciate the part where he presumed to know what my future held as if he knew me better than I knew myself. I live with my current belief system because the objective and critical thinking I've performed as opposed to the numerous Christians who are quick to judge non-believers but fail to scrutinize their inner convictions or uphold its ideals.

This conversation also made me question some of the Christians I know much better on a personal level. If a near stranger can come out of the blue and challenge my beliefs, I wonder why the clergy & church-goers I know better aren't doing the same (and not necessarily specific to myself). If Christianity is a part of one's belief system, isn't witnessing a core part of the philosophy to share your joy, especially with your friends or younger peers regardless of how uncomfortable or doubtful it makes you feel? The stoicism I see in some proclaimed Christians convinces me further that there is a greater distribution of belief in Christians ranging from lukewarm acceptance to passionate conviction vs. non-believers, who simply reject the ideas. If fear (of judgment, damnation, not fitting in) is the culprit for hanging on to Christianity, do more research because that's the ultimate cop out for having a belief system which should define your identity. That's glorifying yourself, not God.

Your strongest convictions show through your deliberate actions. I simply don't see this in a lot of the Christians I know. Today's lunch buddy was a resounding exception.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Daniel Haddad

I just found out yesterday my buddy from college was diagnosed with cancer back in March and has been undergoing intense chemotherapy since.

I encourage you to check out his blog, in which he writes about his cancer journey. It's quite humbling to read his experiences on the symptoms, suffering, and family/friend support. The pictures alone show a lot of pain and emotion you can't help but empathize with.

Reading through it and remembering times with him in college really shakes my core because he was the tall, athletic guy who didn't take his youth or health for granted. He was the guy in school you were convinced was untouchable and that future success wasn't a question. It reminds me that we need to grip tighter on to the things we cherish and let go of menial things we waste too much time praising.

Our trivial complaints, worries, and fears are peanuts compared to the struggles he's enduring.

Wish you all the best, Dan.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Century of the Self

This BBC series is very powerful and really makes you question your niche in Western consumerist, desires-based culture. It’s long, however, so Fight Club will deliver the same message in a more entertaining package. If you’re interested in the history of how our culture became this way, however, keep reading.

The film is a documentary on the studies of Sigmund Freud and its applications by his nephew, Edward Bernays, to create PR and mass consumerism by appealing to humans’ irrational desires. Yes, irrational. Bernays used Freud’s theories to drive America from a needs culture to desires in the 1920’s, allowing humans to identify themselves with products and advertisements. For example, Bernays started the trend of female smoking by appealing to a woman’s desires for freedom and individuality. Female smoking sky-rocketed as a result and Bernays realized he had discovered a way to control the masses. Later, he staged a fake media company to create Communist-ties propaganda against the President of Guatemala (Arbenz), who was speaking out against the political vice United Fruits (now Chiquita) had over the governments of Central America through the production of bananas. As a result, President Arbenz was overthrown in a coup and Bernays successfully duped Americans and Guatemalans into believing Arbenz had Soviet ties, when in fact he had none.

Now go figure why certain countries despise the US. By threatening our so-called liberty with an irrational fear of Communist rule, Bernays achieved his political and business agendas to create more wealth at the expense of Guatemalans’ chance at economic independence from the US. So how much can you trust the media and politicians whose agendas are wealth and power?

The film even dives into the roots of representative democracy, which we believe to be the ultimate means of freedom and liberty. But is this conventional wisdom correct? Bernays master-minded techniques to appeal to our over-arching selfish desires by creating a system which we believe we have complete freedom over, when in fact it meets others’ agendas by convincing us we have the upper hand through a false sense of security. So what happened to us over the past 90 years? Granted, it’s not directly our fault. We were born into a very keenly devised marketing campaign which tailors to our desires. The average American watches 120 hours of television a month, or 5 full days. The human mind doesn’t stand a chance against a barrage of advertisements and media driven fears in that quantity.

What we fail to do is dig deeper to discover our real needs and identities by simply accepting the status quo. The same techniques Bernays used to dupe us into a false sense of true democratic liberty and Communist threat still pervades today through media, television and consumerist ideals. We identify ourselves with new purchases, which we believe expresses our personalities and uniqueness because we personally identify with advertisements, when in fact, the person driving next to you in the same car also has the same outfit, same phone, same sunglasses. Business / political agendas are met and we believe our personal ones are too, but are they? It creates drones with a narrow self-fulfilling interest, not unique individuals with an outward looking focus. It leads to an all-consuming self who fools him/herself into believing that by having monetary desires met, often times at the expense of our health, democracy is at its best. But is it? Happiness is still on the decline here despite more advancements and products to fit every niche of our desires. Question whose agenda created this culture and how we continue to contribute to it. To believe in it and defend it fully is to plead ignorance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Self-Acceptance is Sexy.

Being comfortable in our own skin. A trait we all strive for. Accepting our emotional, physical, mental, what-have-you flaws. It goes in hand with confidence, and confidence is sexy, regardless of what flaws people have. Insecurity breeds a lot of things which manifest themselves differently in people. Jealousy, hatred, bragging, over-compensating.. It also causes us to pass judgement on to others when they don't meet our rigorous standards, which are set due to our insecurities. It's something I'm certainly guilty of and still trying to progress, mainly because it creates so much bias and prevents me from seeing the perspectives and values of others.

While a healthy dose of insecurity is necessary, I believe, to help us self-reflect, it can also significantly impede us and divide us.

I believe all of our problems certainly need to be addressed, but that in the grand scheme of things, someone is suffering more than you. That brings comfort to realize, it's never all as bad as we make things out to be. Perspective is powerful.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I'm a strong believer that failure is a key to learning anything. There's no way to understand success otherwise. It breeds out fear, enhances our experiences and builds confidence in hindsight. We tend to avoid too many things and situations that intimidate us of failure or judgment.

With weight lifting/running/cycling, training to failure is a proven method that forces muscles out of apathy to re-adapt to the stress and grow with ample recovery. Our bodies are so resilient, we have to constantly shock it to adapt to new levels of training and skills, otherwise our efforts are fruitless and our desires to become more fit remain pipe dreams of hope.

Our minds work the same way, but our fear of failure keep us from pushing the envelope further. In a way, our mental fears are analogous to pain but far more complex and conservative in that we seek to avoid failure rather than test our limits. We all have varying physical pain thresholds to push our bodies to the extent it can handle training. Do you ever notice how kids have the least amount of fear when skiing or playing? They don't have the phobias we develop slowly with age to become conventional wisdom. They don't rub Purell on their hands at every chance. They get sick, re-adapt and play hard again. They don't stereotype or judge others until their parents and peers hand these misconceptions over.

We tend to look for comfort in the wrong places these days to alleviate what our fears are preventing us from capably doing. Job security, over sized Joneses-type homes, domestic comforts, and gadgets we don't really need. In a way these play into a mentality of wanting approval from others and that time is so precious, a gadget must cut available corners to prevent us from failing to meet a time criteria we put too high of a value on.

I like this website, which posts humorous, yet insightful cartoons on life lessons. The Fear post from yesterday doesn't ring true with me, however. I believe we're all capable of facing most of our demons and living up to them through experiences of failure. We can all tackle our mental and physical challenges.

The buck doesn't simply stop at identifying our fears and conceding to them by looking for comfort in material items we have control over. This is a menial pursuit we all have to face up to or die submitting to a boring existence of consumption and comfort.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm going on a road trip with my good buddy next week from San Fran up to Portland, camping in Redwood parks along the way. It'll be a good time to clear my head and hopefully realize more what I want to do next. There's nothing like exploring nature to re-awaken your senses. The solitude helps re-align your priorities and get a more objective view of yourself. It'll also help me escape from the STUFF and conveniences at home I've become re-accustomed to again. I've bought more menial things recently so taking a trip and living out of a single bag always helps me realize how useless so much of it is when I get back home.

I planned the trip so we purposely don't have a shower for 3 days, but Ed is a laid back guy who goes with the flow. He can rough it like the best of them. Actually there's a few cold rivers we can take a dip in so we'll have some semi-showers. I don't think I'd take the trip solo with many of my other friends because I probably wouldn't hear the end of it from them about missing their conveniences or luxuries. My sister was on the verge of going, but her last day of teaching is next week, which is a bummer since she can rough it better than most guys I know! We'll be stopping by some good craft breweries (Rogue, Russian River & Lagunitas) to recharge along the way.

Here's a LINK to our trip.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


On the back of a comment left on my previous post and the recent doping confessions by Floyd Landis, I want to expand a bit more on what I believe is a current de-evolution.

Sports are one aspect of modern activities where competition has led people to consider extremes in order to stay "competitive" at the expense of their integrity, putting the entire sport and true competitors in question. We've come to praise athletes with so much adoration through television viewership and support, that certain sports have lost their sanctity. This defies pure passion and talent, one-upping the man who goes against those principles simply for a taste of personal glory. I still have a lot of faith in people, however, and the bio-feedback mechanism for such actions presents itself as a guilty conscience. Floyd Landis went so far as to publish a book defending his honor as a clean rider, spending millions in legal fees, and pleading his case on Larry King Live. Now that the beans are spilled after no longer finding himself capable of living down such a profound lie, his reputation and credibility are shattered. He didn't help the sport of cycling either.

These sorts of actions have led to a de-evolution of sports and humans in general. Fitness
exists at a myriad of levels because tens of thousands of years ago, the fittest individuals scored wild game before slower individuals to ink out the best of our species. The Romans competed in sports and I'm sure our hairy ancestors did the same to pass the time because our complex minds need the mental challenge of risk/reward to accompany the physical aspects associated with it. Then modern techniques such as mass farming came 10,000 years ago and transportation came along more recently, providing the means to increase our population hand over fist. We're a clever species. We discovered a way to go from one end of the world to another by hopping on a plane and to consume an articially processed meal for a fraction of what it costs for food our bodies are designed to eat. We now have to actively (no pun intended) look for ways to be more fit and mobile, forcing ourselves out of apathy sitting in front of our TVs over a microwave dinner. The current state we've evolved to has led to a series of unnatural extremes, both of which are contributing to this de-evolution. The doping super human athlete vs. the man 500 pounds heavy. We've taken these things so far to create more wealth, fame, comfort and new records that it goes against the preservation of sports and humans as they're intended to be. We've shifted to a mode of exponential growth at others' expense, not preservation and long-term betterment. Poverty only exists because a baseline is set from standards of wealth. Therefore, a relative niche of poor folks must be present along the statistical bell curve. That's acceptable. The unacceptable part, however, does not have to do with their relative lack of wealth but their condition to be on the brink of death / survival in order to be classified as extremely poor.

The positive aspect to all this is that clever minds used to put us in this predicament are also available to research health and crack down on the extremes. The daunting part is, however, that money still drives the desire for achieving more even faster at the expense of someone else, even if that includes the perpetrator as the victim. Case in point - Mr. Landis.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wealth Anomaly

What is it about Money and having more than we need that makes us delusional?

Give a man a dollar, he will strive for the next one. Generally speaking, successful, hard work is accompanied by more money. I'm not downplaying that ideal to strive for success. But what is it about an accumulation of wealth and resources that cause humans to become greedy, pretentious and delusional to believe material items supersede reality? We lose touch with it.

Competition serves to filter out the weak and bring the market to balance, but its evil accompanying twin is greed. The funny thing with greed is it fails to serve as a system of checks and balances to keep those chasing money to temper their behavior. It only feeds it.

The beauty of ecosystems and biological systems are their natural abilities to achieve balance amidst chaos. Our bodies are so resilient to physical stress and injury that it adapts in its own beautiful ways to adjust. A glut of money creates chaos, but there's no inherent system built in to strike a balance between too much and too little. Economics is the study of the production/distribution/consumption cycle, but its theories make sense because humans are no longer able to afford certain items, not because the desire for them subside. Greed is the quality in humans that debunks economic theory and creates outliers.

A glut of money is not natural to us. We've grown so accustomed to having products tailor to very specific niches of our desires (not needs) and marketing standards, that those failing to meet them can't hold our interest or our business. We no longer appreciate food, health and shelter for its core purposes - to sustain our well-being. Rather we take it for granted and only look for the best money can afford in each one - an over sized house, too much food to get us fat, clothes that serve no purpose for warmth but flaunt our wealth. We're mentally in starvation mode to want more, but it ironically serves to shorten our lives with accompanying obesity and stress.

Does anyone else notice how obvious this is? Yet we're too ignorant to change that about ourselves because the accumulation of more wealth makes us too delusional to desire less.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roger Waters to play The Wall In Houston

Any Pink Floyd Fans? Roger Waters is playing The Wall from start to finish around the nation starting in September (Houston Nov 20th). I saw him play Dark Side of the Moon back in May of 2008 - amazing show. If you've never heard The Wall or seen the movie, don't fret. It's guaranteed to be visually stunning and psychedelic with a lot of themes I highlight in my blog.

The album has a lot of powerful messages about fear and its effects to keep us apart, naive and dependent on the wrong things for answers.

You can take the album simply at face value because it's so easy on the ears, but if you listen carefully, Roger Waters takes you through a mental journey of breaking down the walls that separate us from progressing, highlighting the accompanying fears, isolation and finally liberation.

Even if you can't catch the show wherever he's playing for the tour, pick up the album and the movie.

This is the blurb Roger Waters has written about the upcoming show:

I recently came across this quote of mine from 22 years ago:

” What it comes down to for me is this: Will the technologies of communication in our culture, serve to enlighten us and help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart?”

I believe this is still a supremely relevant question and the jury is out. There is a lot of commercial clutter on the net, and a lot of propaganda, but I have a sense that just beneath the surface understanding is gaining ground. We just have to keep blogging, keep twittering, keep communicating, keep sharing ideas.

30 Years ago when I wrote The Wall I was a frightened young man. Well not that young, I was 36 years old.

It took me a long time to get over my fears. Anyway, in the intervening years it has occurred to me that maybe the story of my fear and loss with its concomitant inevitable residue of ridicule, shame and punishment, provides an allegory for broader concerns.: Nationalism, racism, sexism, religion, Whatever! All these issues and ‘isms are driven by the same fears that drove my young life.

This new production of The Wall is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent lost in the intervening years.

In some quarters, among the chattering classes, there exists a cynical view that human beings as a collective are incapable of developing more ‘humane’ ie, kinder, more generous, more cooperative, more empathetic relationships with one another.

I disagree.

In my view it is too early in our story to leap to such a conclusion, we are after all a very young species.

I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other.

I feel it is my responsibility as an artist to express my, albeit guarded, optimism, and encourage others to do the same. To quote the great man, ” You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

"In my view.

RELIGION provides A WALL between US and the reality of OUR lives.


There is a WALL between:




It is A WALL of FEAR and GREED

There is enough of everything in THE WORLD for us all to have enough to eat, to be warm and dry and to have a colour TV and a car. WE are taught to FEAR that if WE share what WE have with THEM, WE won’t have anything left for US.

WE also FEAR that THEY may try to take what WE have away from US, so WE spend WAY more than THEY would need to feed, house, clothe, and EDUCATE THEMSELVES, on weapons to prevent THEM from taking what WE have away from US.

There is another WALL between US and the reality of OUR lives.

This WALL is called THE MEDIA. This WALL is a tool that is used to divert US from inconvenient truths.

Perhaps I should stop now, before I alienate anybody."

- Roger Waters, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

Fantastic read. Easy, short reading. I already gave my copy away for a friend to read. If you want the cliff notes, watch the movie. It's fairly accurate and powerful.

Chris is a young man who grew up in suburbia with a father who expected a lot out of him and never cut him slack in spite of his accomplishments. Chris is a smart, independent guy who successfully graduates from Emory University with top standing and entertains the idea of following his education with law school as his parents have envisaged for him.

He however decides to donate his life savings to a charity and trek his way toward Alaska instead. He takes on a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and essentially sheds his past behind him with nothing but his backpack. His charm, passion and tough work ethic allows him to befriend strangers easily through parts of the US and up toward Canada, where he ultimately dies after reaching Alaska. It's a tragic tale but a very romantic one in that Chris is able to go against his grain and deeply imbibe himself to his passion of exploring nature away from all consumerism. He idealizes writers such as Jack London and Henry David Thoreau. The author does well to paint contrasting views of Chris's actions as a passionate man following his heart to an irresponsible, thankless romantic whose naivety eventually led to his own death and family abandonment.

Chris's deeply rooted convictions are tied back to the revelation that his father abandoned his previous wife to wed his mother. That ill feeling never washed away from Chris and caused the rift with his father. This led him to embrace deep values of integrity, hard work, and simplicity.

I really liked identifying myself with Chris because his insistence on a naive approach to viewing people coupled with an unforgiving attitude to some iniquities.

One bit about the book I didn't appreciate too much was how the author wrote his own survival stories and contrasted them to Chris. Chris is almost a martyr for simple, bold, reckless living whereas Jon simply writes about himself to try to help us identify with Chris's plight. Chris's tale was enough for me. His character is a force to be reckoned with.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Marketing gone too far

Look at these ads for High Fructose Corn Syrup, funded by the Corn Refiners Association. Amazing how they can market something that's killing America through obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease as something healthy. Let the public's dependence on your HFCS products sell themselves.. don't fool the public into believing it's actually good for them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Becoming Minimalist Blog

I'm featured on Becoming Minimalist today. Cool. Thanks Josh for sharing my story.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Case Against News

I opened CNN this morning to see the public's insight on the Deepwater Horizon incident vs. what I know internally. These are the headlines, word for word pasted here. Take note of the buzz words.

How will Greek tragedy play out?
UK's Brown apologizes for 'bigot' gaffe
* Thai police, protesters clash
* Markets fall amid Greek debt crisis
* Myanmar leaders resign ahead of vote
* Iraq PM denies secret prison torture
* Pilot blamed for Kenya Airways crash
* Gulf oil slick may be burned off
* U.N. eyes tribunals for pirates
* Car bomb attack kills 4 Pakistani police
* China praised for repealing AIDS ban
* U.S.-born cleric in al Qaeda video
* Danish restaurant named world's best
* Mourinho hits out at Barca 'obsession'
* Kuwait comic publisher lauded

Nearly every one has a negative, fear-inducing connotation. Sometimes we even need to limit our media consumption because of reasons such as this. It's not in order to make ourselves ignorant, but to limit the negative effect it has on our thinking and actions. They choose topics and brandish them with words to instill a response from us to be careful or have some resentment toward a particular party. It makes us cautious, less likely to travel and to live in a state of walking on eggshells.

Take Fox News as another example. The people who work there are very gifted at choosing stories that seem mundane, but are spun in a way to project a right-wing bias. Whenever I watch it (it’s set on default here at an oil/gas company go figure), I notice how they can spin any story toward the political right. What does housewife Jane think watching all this? Hate the Dems more, impeach Obama, guns good, capitalism good. It pushes so much drivel into her brain at warp speed that she’s unable to make any opinions for herself. This isn’t to say any extreme left-wing programs don’t do the same.

According to news websites, the world will always be in a state of chaos – that will never change. When is the last time a news article made you check something? Bearish market news – check your investments to make sure they’re ok. We’ve all done it. We do things in reaction to news more often than we like to think.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sprint Intervals

MS150 was good fun, but I'm hanging up the bike for a few months to gain some weight back. My cardio will now only be sprint intervals 1x-2x/week.

Today I did some barefoot sprints. There's nothing like running without shoes.. didn't even put the Vibrams on. Barefoot all the way.

100 meter sprint, 5 push-up burpees, repeat. 30 seconds rest. Repeat. 1 minute rest after 3 sets.
Do this for 15-20 minutes or until you start seeing spots on the horizon. Killer. Dodger usually keeps up with me chasing after me when I sprint but he couldn't hang today... chump.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inspiration for Joe and Jane

If these stories and videos don't motivate you or inspire you, check your pulse. Turn off the TV, get off your ass, get on a bike, go for a sprint, lift something heavy, eat something wholesome.

“So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.” ~ A.J.Materi

Friday, April 9, 2010

MS150 Training VO2 Max Results

Back in January I volunteered for a study to see how 9 weeks of MS150 training improved fitness. They strapped me into one of these machines to test max heart rate, lactate threshold, max aerobic pedaling wattage and finally VO2 Max, which is the max oxygen consumption the body can use and transport during exercise.. basically reflecting physical fitness.

Over 9 weeks, the researcher said I increased the most out of his test subjects and even asked me to be honest and tell him if I was doping or taking something. lol.
  • My Vo2 max went from 53 mL/kg/min to 64 mL/kg/min.
  • HR Max went from 183 beats per minute to 194 beats per minute. (+11)
  • Lactate Threshold went from 83% to 86%. (% of HRMax before the body starts making more lactic acid than what it can get rid of)
  • Max Aerobic Wattage stayed steady at 350+ watts... at which point I was nearly dead from exhaustion.
He said the average male in my age group is in the upper 30's to low 40's Vo2 Max range so I'm far ahead of the game... but to put it into perspective, Lance Armstrong is around 83 mL/kg/min, Lactate Threshold of lower 90% , HR max of 201 BPM and max aerobic cycling wattage around 600... what a freak.

This is the most fit and lean I've ever been and now I know if a group of us ever gets chased by a bear, I won't be the one who gets caught first :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Einstein's Riddle - Brainteaser

Albert Einstein wrote this riddle early in the 19th century, claiming 98% of the world population would not be able to solve it, but I don't agree just have patience. There are no tricks, just pure logic, so good luck and don't give up. There's only one answer.

1. In a street there are five houses, painted five different colors.
2. In each house lives a person of different nationality
3. These five homeowners each drink a different kind of beverage, smoke different brand of cigar and keep a different pet.



1. The Brit lives in a red house.
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
3. The Dane drinks tea.
4. The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house.
5. The owner of the Green house drinks coffee.
6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
7. The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill.
8. The man living in the center house drinks milk.
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
10. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
12. The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Prince.
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A disproportionate spread of wealth

The richest 20% of people consume 76.6% of the world’s resources, while the world’s poorest 20% consume only 1.5%. Use this to see where you fit into the world. If you live in America and are able to access the internet, you're easily sitting in that top 20%.

While we may moan we don't have enough money or resources amongst the perspective of fellow peers, as Americans we're far richer than the vast majority of the world. 1 in 100 chance seems like pretty small odds to be chosen out of a group of people, but that's the luxury we're blessed with. I challenge you to forgo the money you want to spend on something new and give it to a friend or family member who's lost their job or just had kids. Or give it to a charity. Appreciate what you have. As Warren Buffet puts it, “I’m in the luckiest 1% of the world right now.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I love this simple photo. 3 girls w/ 3 different emotions. Leaves you wondering what the person on the right out of the picture is holding.. how tall are they? what do they look like? Where are the girls going? Why are they dressed alike? The caption gives part of it away. The girl on the right looks to be the mischevious one, the middle the worrisome and the left the depressed mom-type but definitely all different personalities. All w/ a beautiful backdrop. I'm glad it's just a photo.. if I heard their accents it would likely kill the beauty of the photo. Kidding….

Thursday, March 25, 2010

IT Band saga

Did sprint intervals Tues, rode to work yesterday.. IT Band feeling peppy so far. I made myself a PVC roller for $8.35 w/ materials from Home Depot and Michael's (see pictures).. works like a charm.. websites were selling something similar for $40-$50.. hogwash.

The real test of the IT band will be tomorrow.. I spent yesterday mapping out a 60 mile ride (see map)from my friend's house in Austin out to Lake Travis and back. Elevation change is 3700 feet up, gonna be killer!

The cheap materials. 4" PVC pipe, 2 $0.99 Foam sheets..

Sanded it all down w/ 80 grit sandpaper to let the glue bind better.

Moistened PVC and used Gorilla glue to bind. Align foam, squeeze out air pockets and rubber band to hold together for a few hours.

Trim off excess foam w/ razor blade, re-glue hanging parts.. just saved myself a lot of money and works like a charm.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A young guy I worked w/ a few years ago at BP died skiing Friday afternoon. He apparently lost control and slammed into a tree, dying at the scene. 27 years old. Way too young. Parents should never have to experience burying their own children. He was a solid guy.

Another reminder to live your life, care less what others think and do what you enjoy. Don't let the shit you own or any preoccupations with material items end up owning you or your life. Don't regret anything, don't lie, don't cheat, don't leave a mess behind for others to clean up. Keep learning. Everything boils down to perspective, of which we all need a strong dose of sometimes.

Rest in peace Josh.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human

Good easy reading. I picked it up after seeing it on The Economist's Best Reads of 2009. Let me forewarn you if you’re religious, this book won’t be for you as the author delves deeply into anthropology, evolution and science.

I’ve recently become interested in the history of food and how it changed slowly with humans. If you think in the grand scheme of human history, grains are even relatively new since farming techniques only began about 10,000 years ago. The processed food revolution began very recently, just around 100 years ago, so a lot of marketed drivel isn’t tailored to our bodies for consumption.. (but damn does it taste good). The new era seems to be heading toward GMOs.

I could see why this book would turn a lot of people off because he uses the eating behavior of gorillas, great apes and chimps as analogues throughout the book; however his theory on the use of fire and cooking to shape human physiology is really good reading.

He points out our proportionately smaller mouths, teeth and guts and breaks down how cooking food significantly decreases chewing time (cows chew up to 20 hours a day, chimps 7+) in addition to increasing the digestibility of food. Rather than the common logic that we manipulate fire, he points out that cooking and its benefits to taste, time and digestibility led to bigger brains (which use a lot of energy) and smaller guts. Even today’s animals whose diets consist of raw food prefer cooked food if given a choice simply because it tastes better. A cooked food eating animal will gain more weight than its raw eating counterpart given the same amount of caloric density since cooking increases the uptake of food by the gut. He even goes into details on how cooking shaped gender roles still apparent today in modern hunter-gather cultures as well as our own. The presence of fire to do the cooking, illuminating darkness, defending against predators and keeping ourselves warm is central to his ideas that the presence of fire played a major role in the development of humans.

I have my doubts on some of his claims, but it’s definitely a thought-provoking read.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

IT Band Flare

Beautiful ride in Fayetteville today, but I waited too long at the last rest stop, body went cold waiting for some people to pace with. As soon as I hopped on, my IT band flared again. It didn't help my situation that I pushed w/ a paceline in pain the last 20 miles. Didn't seem that bad until I drove home and could barely push the clutch in.

So it's 2009 all over again. That sidelined me for months last year... a 10 hour hike in New Zealand was the culprit. Couldn't cycle for months, got cortisoid injections, the works.. hopefully this is just a one-time flare up, otherwise MS is out the window.

Going to Home Depot tomorrow to buy a PVC pipe to roll my leg. Yes, that's the most hardcore roller you can get. It will make any grown man wince in pain, but hopefully it'll put this IT problem to rest. Not gonna cycle this week.. take 2 weeks off and see how it feels then. If it acts up then, MS training stops and alcohol training will be in full swing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize

A great TED video in which Jamie Oliver highlights the food problem in America and the UK. There's another good one by Ann Cooper as well.

The bit that really stuck out to me is the first few minutes where he shows the graph of food related deaths in red with homicide at the very bottom.

I go back to my post about Fear as a Tool. I will reiterate how much American media uses fear to have consumers questions themselves, am I pretty enough, good enough, smart enough to sell more and drive our consumerism engine. News is the same. It uses dramatic cases as fillers to what's important to increase viewership and ratings. It blows homicides and death out of proportion to buy guns, trust no one and travel with the notorious uptight American style we're known for. (Seriously, non-Americans can pick newbie American travelers out of a haystack) On the flip side, highly processed food, high fructose corn syrup and all shit which is actually shortening our lifespans gets a glorious rap from the media.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'm rich and poor

Poor in that I've simplified even more. Rich because I sold various things over the past week and as a result have freed up more time and resources. I got rid of...

Canon 70-200 Lens
Canon 10-22 Lens
Canon External Flash
Canon Camera Bag
Apple 12" Laptop
Klipsch Surround speakers

All I'm left w/ that's vital in my apartment are bed, clothes, bikes, french press, computer.

Next to go are old DVDs, some clothes. Someone buy my damn S.T. Dupont lighter! I guess it's karma for such a bad purchase years back.

TV, receiver, surround sound system is on the verge of joining my Craigslist historical sales.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Depression's Upside

Great article about depression in the NYT… have a read.

I'm fascinated by depression. I like movies or books that deal with suicide and depression because I've found those people most interesting because they think non-stop, albeit in a self-mutilating type of way. They're not side-tracked by anything superficial because they need to focus very deliberately on how to function for themselves and it makes them more 'real.' It also has very personal roots which I'll expand more on in some future posts. I went through a severe episode in 2002 - 2004 when I gained 40 pounds, withdrew from school and admitted myself to a hospital.. and a family member has committed suicide. I like the way this article sheds light on the matter.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A good problem

57 miles today in just under 3 hours.. lot of wind, lot of sun, lot of rider’s snot. Good times. I was surprised how high my energy level was.. pushed near my max the full 3 hours.. even walked my dog afterwards and didn't nap. Food intake was:

Berry smoothie w/ almond butter, yogurt, whey protein, cocoa, & coconut milk for breakfast.
2 Clif bars
3 coconut ball concoctions
A few handfuls of dried fruit
Fig newtons
Another cup of coffee
2 handfuls of almonds/walnuts/pecans
Chicken for lunch w/ sweet potato, half an avocado, veggies, cheese, olive oil
2 dried Korean squid, more almonds, some cheese.
Bowl of berries
Salmon for dinner w/ veggies, quinoa, avocado and more cheese.

Not sure how many calories that equals but it must be in the 4000+ range w/ all the high fat food, but I’m still hungry… and I lost more weight in the past 2 weeks. How do I gain it back is the question while maintaining my habit of eating healthy. My grocery spending went from $165 last month to $340 this month so I’m definitely eating a lot more. But the engine must be fed.

So in order to minimize more lean mass loss, less riding this week (if I can help it).. more eating, more lifting. Kettle bells and body weight are the only weight lifting I enjoy.

Bloodtest from my doc came out good. Cholesterol 171, Triglycerides 38.. everything was normal except my B12 levels.. he said due to my chronic drinking. He told me to cut back even more.. all this while a 1.75 litre bottle of Johnny Black sat in his office. What a trip this one is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fear as a tool.

So much of marketing is geared toward our natural and unnatural fears as humans. Natural in that we want to protect our kin, our families, ourselves, health & well being.. so we purchase health care insurance, disability coverage, fire-proof for our homes. These are a given and understandable since they are used to sustain our lives, not our social status. But what becomes unnatural is all keenly developed through marketing. They know human weaknesses and tailor to that to drive consumerism up. Psychology is a huge part of analyzing how to sell items to people in marketing firms, which is why their ploys are so effective; humans are predictable.

So some unnatural phenomena of this is selling items in order to simplify our lives and eliminate stress because of an outcome we fear may happen when in fact, the culmination of all events happening are not likely. We try to avoid too much risk at the expense of our livelihoods so when the chance comes along to go on vacation or make a drastic change in our lives, there's more loose ends to tie or sever. By trying to manage our busy and hectic lives, it ends up managing us because we're constantly trying to close any potential gaps we see in your loops. These add more clutter to our lives and as a result it compiles to the list of things we want to avoid as potential hazards. Marketing makes our view of the loop get bigger and bigger.. beyond the realm of what we need to get by as essential. It paints fantasy-like pictures with dialogue that isn't like we experience day to day. We constantly try to avoid fires around the things we see can go wrong.. got a fear or problem, buy this! Afraid of your potential health issues? Take these pills, which have side effects, so take these as well. It ends up making us dependent on our paychecks and deathly afraid to lose our jobs to ultimately supplement our lifestyles. These can even be manifested in little things… bike salesmen always try to warn me how I need particular items to avoid the cold, heat, bonking, pain, being stranded with a flat and I've certainly been sucked into it. But the days I forget my cold gear and gloves? Sure it's not the most pleasant ride, but I still get by unscathed. You really have to read between the lines and try hard not to get sucked in.

Fear is one of the most useful tools used against people. It causes us to take action to avoid what we imminently fear is possible, not necessarily probable or likely. Take scary movies as an example. Some people avoid them like the plague because the human imagination is so good at creating images and fantasies. These movies paint pictures of what could potentially be real.. grotesque images, murder, demons.. and our imaginations automatically apply this to our everyday lives and the possibility that it can manifest itself somehow. But the reality is it's a movie and the chances are minuscule. Possible? Yes. But not likely. So how do advertisements and news creating fantasy-like pictures or bringing these fears into your living room television set differ? They don't.. we start to imagine things in our lives going wrong, causing inconveniences and the like. We then see purchasing something as a way to alleviate the feared outcome. Our reckless purchases only feed the demon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Get Stuffed

George Carlin (RIP) puts it well in this comedic bit. We all have too much stuff and our dwellings are simply places where stuff accumulates. "Their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff!" I hate stuff, but I'm still a victim to it. My journey to the side of minimalism came from various factors of living abroad, my personality, age, an improved self-esteem and travels.

  • Living abroad. I moved to Australia knowing my stint would be a year. I was given a container the size of a full size bed to fit my belongings into to live on for a year.. clothes, shoes, accessories. My mentality shifted a bit there because I no longer bought things knowing I would have to stuff (no pun intended) those into my container back home so I made economical purchases and learned to let go and give away those things I couldn't take back when my time was up. I lived in a furnished apartment with everything I needed provided so it was like living out of a big suitcase with only a few things being my own. This attitude stayed with me on my move back and I no longer hoard things.. also because I want to move out of Houston within a year.
  • My personality. I'm an economics major so I've learned to put a value on everything so anything I purchase, I intend to maintain and see through till the day it dies because a lot of what we purchase is an illiquid asset. That said, the more STUFF I own, the more there is to maintain and worry about. You could waste a whole day running errands on dry cleaning for clothes you don't need, cleaning/polishing unnecessary furniture, cleaning extra living space, organizing all the extra stuff lying around.. on top of that the clutter becomes an eye sore. Who really needs those 4th grade papers dear George refers to? So after shedding a lot, there's a lot more leisure time to get on my bike, play w/ my dog, have a meal w/ my parents, read and just veg. Less stress all the way around, less resources used and more money to pad the bank account.
  • Age. I used to try to impress others by the things I owned and outdo my friends' posessions. But that's an exhausting slog. You own something and your friend may not beat you, but something or someone eventually will so then what, waste more resources to continue the tug of war? This makes you lust for what's new and not appreciate what you have. I've noticed how Americans are much less thankful people as a whole than others.. small gestures and things around us are taken for granted completely. (The cheaper price of gasoline relative to other countries, free restrooms everywhere, free to sit anywhere) We all have our weaknesses, though. I'm tempted all the time to go out and splurge on a $4000 carbon bicycle with all the fixings. But I realized the exercise and training I put in on my current bike will allow me to ride a lot harder than simply upgrading an item, of which the most crucial part is the rider. I don't have to fill a void w/ the pang of temporary joy filled by something new and shiny. Others' compliments used to give me a sense of pride that I had good taste or by convincing myself they envied it. This uplifted my spirit, which is sad if you think about it since it was rooted in some self-esteem issues. I saw those unneccessary items as "needs."
  • Travel. I did a lot of traveling in 2009. It first started off in New Zealand, where I took an oversized bag and way too many things I didn't end up using or wearing. As the year wore on I packed lighter and lighter, taking old clothes I now shed during the trip to make room for anything I might bring back as gifts. By the time I traveled to Europe in December, I only took essentials in one small carry-on size bag and wore things multiple times. Worst case scenario if you run out of something, you just buy it where you're traveling. It helped me appreciate how much stuff we have back home is unnecessary to survive.. they're simply fluff conveniences and luxuries we've been accustomed to see as "needs." The more we accumulate, the less we're able to have the option to drop everything and move somewhere because you're financially tied down more on top of having to unload it all or store it somewhere. We overvalue our things and it becomes an unhealthy attachment to identify ourselves with our possessions, belongings and money.
I still make bad, unnecessary purchases today, but I have a much keener eye to ask myself before buying something if I'll really use it or if I can get away without it.. which will be the case most of the time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Recovery rides

Rode 70 miles yesterday in Katy. Headwind was horrid going on the 70 loop averaging 14mph one way, but a nice 24-25 on the way back w/ the tailwind. It was fun heading to the 3rd rest stop because a lot of people were heading there so I got a good gauge for my speed and endurance. I even caught up w/ some pacelines to avoid all the wind. One of them appeared to be a group of friends, some of which included members from the UH cycling team. They had some sweet bikes and I don't think they really appreciated me in their paceline but it helped my confidence I could hang w/ them at 24-25 mph.

Of course over 4 hours on the bike was tough on my body. Lower back was aching, hamstring cramped 65 miles in, lateral knee pain brought back bad memories of my ITB flare.. so I went home carefully, ate some good meals the rest of the day and took it easy. Dodger slipped out when I opened the door so chasing him 2 blocks down to get him back was a nice surprise.

I got a full 9 hours of sleep but my body was screaming when I woke up. So I got some chow and headed to the gym to yes, cycle. I did some spinning for about 30 minutes at low resistance to get the blood flowing to the muscles and did some stretching for another 20. Then I sat in the dry sauna for another 30. It's amazing was a recovery ride can do.. a few hours later I feel no more soreness in my legs. From my limited understanding of biology, recovery rides get the blood flowing back to the legs to deliver nutrients and flush out lactic acid. I sat in the sauna because after all the stretching the heat helps me feel more loose. The initial instinct with people who do long rides is to rewards themselves w/ a lot of food (generally junk), veg and do nothing the next day... but a recovery ride is the key in my book combined with a good diet. The food you eat directly after a ride is what replaces your glycogen stores and is ultimately delivered to your aching muscles.. so quality carbs (to restore glycogen) and protein (help muscle repair) are pretty important.

More on my recent nutrition in another post.

Monday, February 1, 2010

False Identity

Remember back in our adolescent days we would be nervous about buying cigarettes and booze or anything that could potentially put us at risk of being called out? I used to try buying cigarattes when I was 16, walking into a convenience store like I owned the place and asking for a pack of lights. The dodgier the place the better because some of them weren't concerned with upholding legal values but rather pocketing the extra few dollars. After I turned 18, that worry then shifted to booze. This proved more difficult since shops are prone to card you more often.. let's face it booze is a lot more risque so I conceded and drank at dodgy Korean establishments notorious for serving underage, past 2 AM to make it worse!

After 21 there really are no more worries or self-conciousness with being put on the spot or coming up with a dumb excuse to save face. One thing still remains for me, however. Back in 9th grade I was 5 foot 7 and I figured I was still young and growing. When it came time to apply for my driver's permit, I filled out 5'9, sure that I would grow a few more inches. Today I'm 28 and still 5'7.. and my license still says 5'9. I've also shaved my head since so I don't resemble my license very much. It hasn't happened yet, but most times I go to a bar, the bouncer will do a double take to make sure I'm the person but the height question hasn't been raised yet (probably due to the shaved head and weight loss). But what if it does? Do I go on a spiel about how I foreshadowed growing 2 inches 12 years ago and never corrected my license after 3 renewals? The DPS makes it far too easy to renew our licenses online with a click. They should take more responsibility in forcing its people to take a trip every five years and do a proper update of their records.

Oh my license also says I don't need corrective lenses but I've been wearing glasses/contacts for the past 5 years but I figure the bar guy won't be staring into my eyes to detect lenses.

Time for a trip to the DPS.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Has anyone seen this dog?

I did a ride out in Katy again today. Cold, cloudy, windy. No matter how fast you spun, your legs never really warmed up.. it chilled you to the bone. At the rest stop, the guy organizing the ride advised everyone to take the short route back because the headwind.. so I did (36 miles).

The ride back was easy because there was a nice tailwind to help me along. When I got to Brookshire, I saw one of those houses on the side of the road that stands alone, has no fence around its yard and has a child's toys everywhere. I saw a big dog that resembled a sharpei coming at me like a T-Bone. So I went to the car lane and sped up knowing what I was in for. That bitch was fast.

I had to hit about 23 mph before I lost the thing and it still got right on my tail. I warned some others coming the other way to watch out, and who knows how many more people it chased taking the same route behind me.

My first instinct was to go into the car lane without looking and speed up. I was lucky no car was coming behind me. That would have spelled disaster. I owe my thanks to something today!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bike rage

This past Saturday was a kick-off to the Conoco Phillips training rides. This one was an optional 28 or 36 mile ride and I was eager to test my legs. It was my friend Teresa's first time riding a bicycle longer than 6 miles so I stayed with her at the beginning but after mile 2 I went ahead. She refused to ride near the front because she had some uncertainties, but she fared well and finished the whole 28 without a hiccup.

Anyways on to etiquette. After I stretched my legs on the bike and started cruising comfortably, a guy started to draft behind my wheel. I'm no experienced rider so I can swerve at anytime, but this guy stood on my back wheel for a good 4-5 miles. I pushed hard but w/ the headwind, there wasn't much I could do to get him off of me.. I was breaking the wind for him anyways so he wasn't really working hard. Finally after a bend in the road I got fed up, stood up on the pedals and left him in the dust. I pushed up to 27 mph on the flat to get him off. I thought cycling would lead to better manners as opposed to driving since you don't have a shield to protect against any misbehavior, but I was wrong. This guy was definitely no pro and I'm definitely a beginner so riding my ass was a recipe for disaster if we clipped each other. After he caught up with me at the rest stop he said "thanks for the pull back there." I wanted to degrease his bicycle chain.

On to happy thoughts. The ride proved well and I was able to cruise comfortably at 21 to 22 mph on the flats and down to 18 with the strong headwinds. 36 miles was no problem. 45 miles this weekend at a forecast of 32 degrees..

Thursday, January 14, 2010


93 days till the MS150! I always seem to underestimate bike rides and runs (or I overexert myself to keep up w/ the guy who passed me up).. when I'm in the middle of one I always think to myself, what the hell am I doing this for? That said I'm trying to ride this one for a cause and really be ready for it physically.. I'm already in pretty good shape, but I don't want to think 50 miles in about cashing in… I've been good about riding to work most days and lifting on occasion so I'm starting training at a lean 145. I've been trying to gain weight since training will probably make that number go down more, but my metabolism has been on full throttle.

Anyways (cue drumroll), I'm going to eliminate or cut back on alcohol. Luckily I don't think anyone knows about this blog, so I should be okay and not lose face if I don't succeed!

My training will consist of:
  • Weekend long rides starting gradually from flat/30 miles to hilly/70 miles. Do back-to-back rides late March/April since the MS is 2 days long.
  • Climbing stairs/plyometrics to build power for climbing hills in Austin
  • Squats/leg work on weekdays to build pedal stroke strength.
  • Core work/lower back for stability and to minimize fatigue on the bike.
  • Lifting during the week.
  • Rest mid-week w/ 1-2 offdays.
  • Light cycling during the week.
  • Nurse and massage my ITB 5x a week.. if that fucker flares up I won't be able to ride. It sidelined me for 7 months last year.
I can't finish without a plug to donote to sponsor me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I've been all about simplifying my life these days. It came to mind when I cycled to work yesterday and saw an apartment building completely gone from a fire.. 24 units destroyed with most people escaping only with the clothes on their backs. It reminded me that STUFF can disappear in seconds, so I despise how media and marketing places it on a pedestal and convinces us to value it so highly. Since I've moved back from Australia, I've gotten rid of:
  • An extensive cigar collection and my oversized humidor. This was liberating, and I made a good buck off of it.
  • My need to eat out all the time. I do simple meals at home which leads to eating healthier and saving some dough. That said, I need to reduce my alcohol consumption this year. I looked at my 2009 spend on all alcohol vs. eating out… it was almost 3x the amount!
  • Lots of books. I used to have the hoarding mentality of wanting to supplement my knowledge with books I'd heard were good or topics that interested me just a little bit.. to Half Price Books these went.
  • Clothes. All the clothes that I told myself I'd wear one day went straight to Goodwill… 3 full garbage bags worth.
  • Papers. Lot of old paperwork, schoolwork, receipts… when would I ever look at these again? Straight to the bin.. recycling bin.
  • Cable TV. There's nothing more unsatisfying to me at home than sitting on the couch letting the cable TV wash over you.. it becomes background noise your mind gets so used to, it feels foreign to have it turned off. I'm happy with the local news at night so I built my own rabbit ears antenna from leftover wood my parents used to redo their floors and metal coat hangers… works like a charm.. the 3 channels it actually picks up.
  • Data plan. Do we really need to see the weather, get directions and browse the internet from our phones?

There's still some more things I need to unload… anyone interested in surround speakers, SLR gear and fishing gear ??