Sunday, March 31, 2013

Those Were the Days

Yesterday was amazingly beautiful, sunny and mildly cool, with an occasional breeze.  Temperatures were in the high fifties but the "Real Feel" was about ten degrees higher.  I took a boy and a dog for a stroll in the Green Belt park.

Green Belt is not a huge park, but any time you're going to be outside, and more than a few minutes away from a vehicle or shelter, a few things are a good idea to have.  Water, spare socks and an extra shirt, and a lightweight water-resistant jacket are the bare necessities.  At least a little food is also a good idea, though it's not nearly as important as water.  RC got the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator pack, which (though unnecessarily aggressive-sounding- I think it rounds the corner into Fairy Land) is a good lightweight hydration daypack, and I had my trusted Camelbak HAWG, which I've used extensively for the last ten years.  The HAWG is slightly more capacious and heavier than the Predator, but they're both good packs.

Young RC tends to dawdle, so I encouraged him to speed up by giving him Stella's leash, pulling out my Soto Pocket Torch, and lighting up a Perdomo Champagne Noir.


That did the trick.

RC and Stella

And the cigar was good, too. ;-)

It was a good time, and great exercise.  One of the great tragedies of our modern life is how little exercise many US youngsters get.  Some of the responsibility is theirs, certainly, but we adults can do our part by sharing activities and demonstrating healthy behaviors.

A beautiful day, and a dog to share it with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Want to Lose Your Gut? Bacteria Check

A story in the New York Times reports on studies that rearranging bacteria in the gut may be responsible for some of the weight loss experienced after gastric bypass surgery.  Doctors hope that treatment options that isolate these bacteria may be used in the future to help some obese patients without need for surgery.

To test this hypothesis, a study performed surgery on groups of mice.  Interesting reading, though this article contains two words that I had hoped to never hear in sequence: "fecal transplant".

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring. Spring?

So, we're almost into a week into Spring.

I'm not seeing it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What We Think We Know...about Victorians

Every somewhat literate US citizen "knows" we live longer than past generations.  We also "know" that the average height has been slowly increasing since, well, forever, as our nutrition improves.

As I told my classes full of juvenile delinquents at the beginning of the term, says who? Do we indeed live longer and stand taller than previous generations.  Hm.  I think the Masai give the lie to the "modern Westerners are the tallest people ever idea.

This article  on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health site claims that Victorians in general lived longer and were healthier than many modern Westerners, including US citizens.  Diet is the reason claimed, though of course this of course might not in fact be the cause.  Worth a read, in any case.

H/T to Pergelator for the story.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In the Air Today

 I visited a back doctor Monday, and took a PT test Wednesday.  While I passed, saying my run time was "not great" would be generous.  I'm going to take another APFT in two weeks, to get a score closer to what I usually get.  I obviously need to build up some leg muscle and endurance, but my back hurts too badly from the test Wednesday to run.  What to do...

The first day of Spring was just two days ago, allegedly.  I was certain someone had screwed up a calculation, but today was green, sunny, and not too cold or windy. I thought a brisk walk would be a good way to get some exercise and conditioning while still staying inside my current physical limits.  Today even Maryland was beautiful.

I guess even Maryland can be attractive in a certain light

I was walking fast, and Stella was eager to go fast, too.  We burned out three miles in 43 minutes, including a cool down.

A dog, a beautiful day, and a stretch of road.
A bit later in the day, I took RC a little over a mile up the road to Lowe's, where we looked at plants.  Most herbs still aren't being sold yet, but berries and some shrubs are already selling.  As we walked back, we saw a falcon perched in a tree.  I think he was enjoying the day, too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Overheard a Few Minutes Ago...

M: A paragraph's worth of foreign words.

Me:  Is that French?

M:  Yes.

Me:  Make it stop!

(And not a moment too soon.  I was starting to understand it!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the Place Where You Are

I think it's easy for some of us to have the idea that, if we can't run six-minute miles, or knock out 55 push-ups in a minute, there's no real point in exercising.  That overlooks the fact that it takes starting at a lower level to achieve those results, genius!  I have been guilty of this type of thinking myself, sometimes not wanting to exercise if I wasn't physically running near 100%.

Unfortunately, as we age, the times when we don't feel in peak condition are going to increase, and if we don't exercise anyway, we're going to be in even worse condition- it's a continual cycle.  My back has not reacted well to my volunteering to be on baggage detail for the ride back to the States in October.  I am not used to feeling fragile, I'm used to feeling like a pocket battleship, punching well out of my weight class.  Still, doing nothing would mean I would just get flabby and even less robust, so what to do?

Tai Chi is one of the best exercise routines to add to fitness regimens for almost every age and fitness level.  If the practitioner is at a poor fitness level, Tai Chi can safely increase core strength, gently increase flexibility,  and dramatically improve balance.  If the user is already very fit, Tai Chi will enhance fitness, increasing balance and muscle control.  I've had a few Tai Chi videos, but the Matthew Cohen video is a really good introductory one, easily adaptable for more or less effort, not too complicated, and presented in a thoughtful but down to earth manner.  Click the picture for the DVD, or follow this link for the downloadable version.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Google Gets Spanked for Peeping

Internet and computer super giant Google has "Don't be evil" as its unofficial company motto.  Google supposedly fosters a welcoming corporate environment, and even has a "mindful eating" vegan meal at its main office once a month.  Google's Android phone software takes the opposite approach to Apple's iPhone.  Where Apple tries to strictly control "apps", Google shared the system and encouraged as many companies as possible to create programs and hardware that used it.  (There are positives to both approaches, though Apple is still well ahead in sales.)  Google has been a leader in (obviously) search engines, email, video, voice, and text chat over the internet, and even blogging and advertising.  In many cases, a Google user can easily set up an Android phone to easily access most or all of his needed programs from his phone.

With its easy to use multiple-service portal and applicability across wireless devices, along with its attempt to project a positive corporate image, Google could seem like an ideal business model for this century, but there is a darker side to this entity.  Google has been called out for "mining" the mailboxes of customers to target them for ads.  Google protested that it was not truly jeopardizing its customers' privacy since the data collected was anonymous.  As GPS and WiFi-location-based map applications on the ubiquitous smart phones enable continuous data collection combined with locations accurate to within a few feet, privacy advocates are not the only ones reacting in alarm: there have even been national security questions raised. (If you choose to use your Google Maps WiFi location feature on your Android now, you must agree to allow Google to "anonymously" collect your data.)

Karen Bleier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As a historian, I am used to collecting information about a subject from a variety of sources.  The more legitimate sources one has, the more likely a true picture of an event or an individual can be constructed.  Google has claimed that it is acting in good faith, and that only anonymous information is given to advertisers.  Is this true?

In a story from the NY Times, Google admitted to California officials this week that it had collected a variety of individuals' personal information as it cruised around neighborhoods photographing for its Street View application.  A mildly punitive fine has been levied, as well as some other slap-on-the-hand punishments, but it's a start.

The ability to extract an American citizen's exact location and a variety of other personal data without a warrant is especially disturbing, given that the current administration has a "kill list" of US citizens with no real oversight to ensure that US citizens are given due process.  Even more alarming is the 2012 report seeking to base drones out of 110 locations in the US.  

Let's recap: this country has a very popular provider of network services, including real-time geographic location for millions of US citizens.  This provider, Google, has a poor record of safeguarding that information.  This country also has political leadership that is killing US citizens without any transparency, and with little or no oversight.  We even have the senior law enforcement official in the US refusing to deny that the president can use a drone strike on a US citizen on US soil.  

I am not much of a tinfoil hat type, but it would be oh-so-easy, and very convenient, for any political adversaries to have their real-time location pinged...and a missile land on them.  Accidents happen.

Google needs to be called to heel, and this administration needs to have clear, transparent oversight for the decision to use lethal force against US citizens.  If we settle for anything less, we make a mockery of our Constitution and we open ourselves up to living in a prison without bars.