Friday, September 21, 2018

The Daily - Friday, September 21, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #23

FLORENCE

Industrialized animal farming: cruel and environmentally unhealthy.
Industrialized animal farming: cruel and environmentally unhealthy.

The effects of Florence continue. Many communities are still dealing with flooding issues. One of the latest threats: water contamination. Much of the danger is coming from large industrial farms that lost thousands of animals and unknown amounts of chemicals in the floods. Decomposition of the animal bodies, plus all the animal waste they produce, are beginning to pose real risk to human health. This is one more example of why industrial farming is a bad idea. Not only is it cruel to the animals, it is bad for the environment and our health. There is a point where cheap food is not really cheap; we crossed that point a long time ago.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Another great jog this morning for 2.12 miles in 38 minutes using Podrunner's "139 BPM - Sudden Summer". I am slowly increasing the pace of my jogs, and it feels great. Sadly, I had to sacrifice my morning Yoga routine due to a late start to the day. Sometimes we have to make tough choices. I had he feeling that today was going to be a very difficult day time wise, so this was the best choice for the day. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to step on the mat and practice.

FINANCES

This will be a really bad month for my budget. I have clearly over-spent in areas I had budgeted nothing for. And I have not even entered data into "EveryDollar" to account for all the expenses incurred this month. There was a certain urgency to some of the things I bought because of an upcoming short trip next week. However, I think I could have managed things differently. And there are some expenses I absolutely did not have to make, like another pair of Zoots running shoes. Alright, I am running everyday. And, yes, the Zoots are super comfortable. And the price was amazing on eBay (70% off!). But it is also true that I did not need them (I think I have enough running shoes for at least a few years). Awareness is a great first step to gaining control — I hope.

TIPS & TRICKS

A few months ago I came across a nice formula for creating toilet tablets to help clean the toilet bowl. It seemed simple enough to make (reference article). I bought the ingredients and went right at it. The first batch … well, you can see from the picture that the first batch did not quite work as planned; too much moisture (as warned in the article). The second batch (left) was much better. And I can tell you that these things are great help in cleaning toilets. Drop one, wait until the fizzle is almost done, and then lightly scrub the toilet bowl.  Just don't add too much moisture to the mix. Perhaps 3-5 squirts maximum would do the trick. However, if your first batch looks like my first batch, don't throw it out. Brake it apart and use the oddly shaped pieces as if they were nicely cubed formations. They work pretty well.

Toilet tablet experiment; batch 1 (right) not so good.
Toilet tablet experiment; batch 1 (right) not so good.

PODCASTS / VIDEOS

I am passionate about bowling. I have been bowling since I was 15 and became a decent bowler in my 30s. I still enjoy weekly league competition/ And it is great to see that older bowlers are still magical on the lanes. Just watch these guys roll 220+ games consistently. They are a great inspiration.


INTERESTING TIDBITS

Do you struggle with the ends of packing and duct tape? Struggle no more! A co-worker showed me how to make it easy to re-use any type of tape: a paper clip! Using a paper clip at the end of the role makes it easy to use the tape again.

A paper clip at the end of any tape for easy re-use.
A paper clip at the end of any tape for easy re-use.

STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 23
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 10
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 13
  • Daily Exercise Routine: not counting for now
    • Cardio: Yes (2.12 miles in 38 minutes)
    • Yoga: No
    • Strength Training: No
    • Stretching: Yes, very light stretching during the day
    • Meditation: Yes (10 minutes in the morning
  • Meditation: day 10
  • Number of tabs open: day 6

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Daily - Thursday, September 20, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #22

Today's post will be short. It was a busy, long day that started when I went to bed too late last night which meant I got up late this morning … and it has been one of those days. It was a good day overall. No, really, it was a great day. I got a lot of things done. I had a great experience with our internet provider technician troubleshooting what I thought was slow speeds. Actually, it is old equipment inside the house: need a new router, new network cards, etc. I bought the new router this evening and will install it tomorrow after I get home.

A SIGN

This is my daily mantra as I drive to and from work:
Source: https://www.facebook.com/IndianHillsCommunitySign/

HEALTH & FITNESS

I came across this funny video on quitting sugar for a month; it is worth watching.


GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Today was the start of something I had wanted to do for years: a regular, daily Yoga practice. It took me a few minutes to get things set-up, but it was so worth it. I will do the same routine for the next few days and then try something different. Tomorrow, with a little more time, I will learn and do an evening Yoga routine; just a 10-minute sequence to end the day on a high note.

PERSONAL GROWTH

As I suspected, going to a digital things-to-do list made it easier not to look at it throughout the day. Fortunately, I was able to check off all the important items on the list anyway, but I could have missed something important by not looking at the list at least 2-3 times during the day. Something to work on.

FINANCES

Not logging in your expenses daily is a bad sign that your financial management efforts are about to collapse; that is what has happened to me in the past, and that is what is happening to me right now. Tomorrow evening I will play catch-up with "EveryDollar" until all transactions have been entered. Fortunately, I have been using my debit card for the most part this month, so it will be fairly easy to get caught up. Unfortunately, using the debit card as the main form of transactions tends to quickly escalate and leads to over spending. The flags are at yellow right now, but the flag person is pulling up the red flags; time to get back on track.

STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 22
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 9 (a little higher today at 128/78; it was a stressful day at work)
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 12
  • Daily Exercise Routine: not counting for now
    • Cardio: Yes: 1.78 miles for 32 minutes
    • Yoga: Yes!  A nice 10 minute workout in the morning. Mostly stretching and great to do.
    • Strength Training: No
    • Stretching: Yes (in addition to Yoga, I did some stretches first thing after getting up)
    • Meditation: Yes, 10 minute meditation first thing in the morning, another 10 minutes in the afternoon.
  • Meditation: day 9
  • Number of tabs open: day 5 (despite a crazy day at work, I managed to keep the number of tabs and windows to a minimum. I have become very aware of this aspect of computing and how quickly things can get out of hand).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Daily - Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #21

HEALTH & FITNESS

I had a super fun jog this morning, logging 2.47 miles in 44 minutes. I used Podrunner's "140 BPM - Superconductor." My strategy this week is to vary my pace everyday aiming to increase my speed a little over time. For the month of September I want to at least be able to jog at around 145 BPM once or twice. In October I want to inch up a little, maybe as fast as 150 BPM. I am actually not too hung up on the actual number as long as I keep making progress and, most importantly, remain injury and pain free.

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

The multi-factor approach to fitness metrics (having four requirements that need to be met in order to qualify for a "successful day") may not be working the way I had intended. This is not a surprise. Growing in anything we do means making adjustments. Life is like one big project made of a myriad of smaller projects; when we follow the project management cycle (plan, implement, measure/ review, adjust) we can ensure success in whatever we try.

Project management cycle: plan-do-check-act
Project Management Cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act (Source)

My biggest challenge has been missing weight training. It appears I may want to split the four into individual action items and once all four, separately, are achieved, then the goal will be achieved. As I pondered this point I realized that there may be an elegant solution to this: Yoga. Having a daily or regular Yoga practice can help us achieve balance in all four areas I have listed. When I practice Yoga regularly my running also improves. So that is my new fitness goal: at least 10-15 minutes of Yoga everyday.

Here is the Yoga routine I will start tomorrow morning.


For those of you that think Yoga is not something they can do, please watch this short video:



Yoga is something best started with a teacher. A teacher will take care of you, the whole you: the physical you, the mental you, the emotional you, the spiritual you. There is a difference, sometimes a huge difference, between a teacher and an instructor. The latter usually deals with form and technique but may be unable to help with the other aspects of a Yoga practice. Once you learn the basics from a teacher, then you can work with instructors or even videos. I was truly blessed to have started my Yoga practice with an amazing teacher; her name is Juliet Hewitt. There is not a time that I step on my mat that she is not present even if she is not physically there. So, find yourself a teacher, learn the basics, and then take it from there. As Juliet always says, start from where you are right now.


PERSONAL GROWTH

Clutter is a sign of trouble. If we look around, clutter is all around us. For many, it is in our homes, our offices, our cars. Clutter has become a huge industry in the USA. All we have to do is look at all the self-storage businesses opening in almost every neighborhood, or the incredible growth of thrift store chains like Goodwill. Look at this video and you can get a glimpse of the problem.


Soon I will share a bit of the purging I have done at home.

TIPS & TRICKS

The nice hand-written to-do lists I wrote about a few days ago have matured a bit. I moved to a digital version using the "Notes" app on my iPhone. The main advantage I see is the time saving from not having to re-write things left to do at the end of the day. The disadvantage, as I have experienced in the past, is a significant disconnect with the list; it is easier to forget to check the list as often once it is in digital form. Having handwritten notes makes the connection with your brain a lot stronger. However, using digital notes can be just as effective with some discipline. Whichever you choose, having a daily to-do list is a definite must for improved productivity (at least for the majority of us).

PODCASTS / VIDEOS

Chi Running is a running methodology designed to eliminate injuries and improve anybody's running efficiency. I have read parts of the book and love the concept. Here is a video explaining the basics of Chi Running.


INTERESTING TIDBITS

Not all cookware is safe to use. Here is a video about some popular but not so safe items we may have in our kitchens.



STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 21
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 8 (down to 111/71)
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 11
  • Daily Exercise Routine: day 0
    • Cardio: Yes (2.47 miles in 44 minutes)
    • Strength Training: No (see above)
    • Stretching: Yes
    • Meditation: Yes
  • Meditation: day 8
  • Number of tabs open: day 4 (still working on this — today was more of a challenge than in days 1-3, but it is definitely better)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Daily - Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #20

HEALTH & FITNESS

Great 2.1 mile jog this morning using a different old pair of ASICS. They still fit, they still feel good. I listened to Podrunner's "138 BPM - Driven."

Today, I learned that there is something called "Slow Jogging" as a formal sport. This is, essentially, the form of jogging I do. Although I once ran as fast as a 9+ minute mile, I never did so comfortably or consistently.



GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

The ritual/habit of having a four-part workout fell through again today. The cardio and meditation were OK, the stretching was iffy, but no strength training session again. I got really busy at work and allowed it to get in the way. So, tomorrow will be another chance to try again.


STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 20
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 7 (nice 118/72)
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 10
  • Daily Exercise Routine: day 0 
    • Cardio: Yes (2.1 miles in 37 minutes)
    • Strength Training: No
    • Stretching: Iffy
    • Meditation: Yes

      (In order to count this one, I am making it a bit challenging. A day will only count if it contains at least 30 minutes of cardio, at least 30 minutes of strength training, at least 10 minutes of stretching, at least six hours of sleep, and at least 10 minutes of meditation.)
  • Meditation: day 7
  • Number of tabs open: day 3

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Daily - Monday, September 17, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #19

HEALTH & FITNESS

The rain stopped and I finally got to use those old ASICS shoes that I wanted to try again. I had a nice 2.1 mile jog this morning. It is so good to be back on the road! Today's session was to the tune of Podrunner's "140 BPM - Swift Kicks." Indeed, it kicked me a little about mile marker 1.75, but I pushed through it and ended the session feeling strong.

And I finally achieved a full fitness day. I was able to put a good 35 minute workout this afternoon at the fitness center. I did not get a chance to finish the whole workout I had planned, but it was better than nothing.

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Rather than listing all the streaks I am tracking (which you can see below), I am going to focus on one habit per week. I will share my struggles and triumphs as I try to make each activity a ritual, a part of my daily behavior, so that it can become a habit and then help me achieve a goal or series of goals.

This week I will focus on the habit of having a daily exercise routine that includes cardio, strength training, stretching and meditation. In a very real way, those four components are discreet and individual; as a whole, they form the daily habit I want to develop. And this brings up a good point. Complex habits/rituals that have sub-components do not have to be done in sequence. For example, there is nothing wrong with doing cardio first thing in the morning and stretching just before going to bed, with a session of weight lifting in the afternoon and some meditation throughout the day. However, habits (helpful and harmful ones) are formed when we do a certain thing immediately after a trigger happens. For example, we wake up and hit the snooze button — that may not help us achieve our goal. What if we wake up and splash water on our face and do ten push-ups? It is likely that we will not go back to bed then, thus kick-starting our day. The trick is to replace hitting the snooze button with splashing water on our face and doing ten push-ups. Once we do that enough times, the ritual will be established and a new habit formed.

A critical aspect of self improvement is to make small changes. Trying to change everything at once is a sure way to struggle. When we make small changes in the things we do we will, in the long run, achieve far more than we would otherwise. This is one of the reasons people struggle with "diets" — trying to modify our whole lifestyle suddenly will simply increase our natural resistance to change.

If you have followed this blog recently, the one component I have missed consistently is strength training. I do not have a gym at home (just a few dumbbells and a resistance band, which should suffice) nor a gym subscription to a facility near my home. I usually try to do strength training regularly when I am in the office because we have a great fitness center there, and it is free. However, the key word there is "try" — many days I let other things pull me away from working out. These things can be anything from feeling tired to work meetings. Most of them are, in reality, excuses.

I find my biggest challenge for strength training is when I am home (weekends, vacations). I am going to establish a sensible trigger that would initiate the process to do a strength training workout. I will keep you posted.

PERSONAL GROWTH

The fewer-browser-tabs challenge went well today. I feel I was more productive having less tabs/windows open. In many ways I pushed myself to finish one thing before moving to something else. There was a lot less jumping around and a lot less confusion. I like it!

STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 19
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 6: excellent reading of 117/79.
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 8 (starting to get more consistent in entering data)
  • Intermittent Fasting: I am abandoning tracking of this habit. I have been doing fairly well without having to track it. I will remove that app from my phone now.
  • Daily Exercise Routine: Day 1
    • Cardio: Jogged 2.09 miles
    • Strength Training: 35 minutes
    • Stretching: Yes
    • Meditation: Yes, 30 minutes overall in 10-minute intervals.

      (In order to count this one, I am making it a bit challenging. A day will only count if it contains at least 30 minutes of cardio, at least 30 minutes of strength training, at least 10 minutes of stretching, at least six hours of sleep, and at least 10 minutes of meditation.)
  • Meditation: day 6 (all-time = 40)
  • Number of tabs open: day 2 (down to two tabs open for more than a few minutes. All other tabs either closed or stored in "Read Later" (see "Personal Growth " below).

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Daily - Sunday, September 16, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #18

FLORENCE UPDATE

Florence passed quietly over the city in the middle of the night. It is still raining today and will continue to do so through Wednesday. Winds have died down to a constant breeze.

TODAY'S NOTES


Today is Independence Day in my native Mexico. This normally is a day of celebration throughout the country, a great excuse to party and be happy. And yet, throughout the last 208 years, Mexico has struggled to free itself from a seemingly endless chain of dictators. Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810. A century later, in 1910, the country endured a bloody revolution that was supposed to benefit the masses. Instead, corruption ate through the country so that an elite class, many of them politicians,became the modern version of a dictator. At the same time, the country has been under the dictatorship of its neighbor to the north, being forced to endure whatever the USA wished to impose on them. Political dictatorship, economical dictatorship, cultural dictatorship — Mexico has seen them all, continues to see them all, strives still to free itself from it all. I miss much of Mexico, especially the people. I do not miss the corruption, the immoral inequality between the few ultra-rich and the many poor; sadly, the same is happening in the USA. It all boils down to greed. When those in power are not satisfied with "enough" and instead they want it all, and they want it all for themselves, all the time, for all times. Historically, this is how civilizations begin to crumble. 

HEALTH & FITNESS

Another wet jog this morning to log 2.83 miles in 53 minutes. I chose Podrunner's "135 BPM - Amplifier" track and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It was wet, with steady rain all through the jog. I have now removed the NHS Couch-to-5K tracks from my phone. It is obvious I now need to work on improving performance and not simply getting to run 30 minutes at a time.

As planned, I opted to use the Saucony shoes with the improved insoles. It was a great choice. The shoes, insoles and socks got thoroughly soaked. The better insoles made a huge difference in the comfort of these shoes. I enjoyed the run and got back home pain free. Although my shoes were soaked, they only felt slightly heavier than heavier than normal. That was a very pleasant surprise.

Today's run was the second in a row in the rain. With the dampness from the rain and the heat of running (and having a raincoat) my old problem of hives came back both days. In the past I would have opted for anti-histamines and scratched the heck out of every bump on me. For the last two days I simply took a cool shower and did some deep breathing. It only took a few minutes for the intense itching to pass and the hives to begin receding. This condition is called cholinergic urticaria, or heat hives. According to something I read today, I may benefit from using cotton instead of polyester shirts. There is also a suggestion of using a vinegar solution to calm the itching down. Further reading indicates Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is helpful. I definitely will try it.

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 18
  • Blood Pressure Readings: 5 days in a row. Apparently I missed a reading on 9/11/18. Today's readings are a tad higher than they have been (130/80). Worked on it a little through meditation and got it down to 116/67. 
  • Logging to SparkPeople: 8 days in a row (began entering food and activity data)
  • Intermittent Fasting: 1 day (I did great last night and fasted for over 13 hours)
  • Daily Exercise Routine: 0 
    • Cardio: Jogged 2.09 miles
    • Strength Training: Nope
    • Stretching: Yes
    • Meditation: Yes, 30 minutes overall in 10-minute intervals.

      (In order to count this one, I am making it a bit challenging. A day will only count if it contains at least 30 minutes of cardio, at least 30 minutes of strength training, at least 10 minutes of stretching, at least six hours of sleep, and at least 10 minutes of meditation.)
  • Meditation: 5 days (all-time = 40): morning meditation was challenging again today. I chose a five minute meditation and my mind was all over the place. I am going to do at least one more meditative period today.
  • Number of tabs open: 1 day (down to two tabs open for more than a few minutes. All other tabs either closed or stored in "Read Later" (see "Personal Growth " below).

PERSONAL GROWTH

I am all into challenges. One of the most challenging thing I face everyday is the number of tabs I have open in my browser. I often have dozens of tabs open at once. Some are open permanently (for example, Gmail) and others stay up for months before I get back to them. My challenge for the next 30 days is to keep the least number of tabs open at any one time. This is in line with being a minimalist. Of course, there is always the worry of forgetting what tabs were open during some research. With help with that, I installed the "Read Later" extension in Chrome. Instead of  10-12 tabs, I managed to keep one to two tabs open. I kept Gmail going, and I kept Blogger open to add items to this post. My computer seems much happier this way. And I am managing to get a lot more done without so many distractions. A win-win situation.

INTERESTING QUOTE

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

TIPS & TRICKS

If you enjoy Starbuck's then you may appreciate the "17 Ways to Save Money at Starbucks" from The Spruce Eats website.

PODCASTS / VIDEOS

I recently came across this video explaining how an old time management system can be adapted to adult, modern life, for increased productivity and improved life joy. I am seriously considering doing something like this for my time management.


WEEKLY SUMMARY

This has been an amazing week. There are many things I am thankful for as we wrap up the week. Top things to be grateful for:

  • Hurricane Florence was only a minor inconvenience for us. Although the wind and rain were worrisome, we were fortunate not to sustain any damage. Many people in North Carolina and some in South Carolina were not as fortunate. My heart goes out to them.
  • I was able to accomplish some major cleaning and purging around the house. My bedroom closet is hard to recognize. There is much more to be done, but the progress is something to be grateful for.
  • I have been able to jog every morning, and have remained pain free. My blood pressure seems to be stable. I feel well. Life is good.
  • I have gotten into some great habits, especially making a daily to do list and sticking with it. The list is nothing fancy but it has been working well for getting much done; at the top of the list are items (rituals) I want to follow and the rest are items I need or want to accomplish. As a past user of DayTimers, I am delighted with the success. Getting back to a normal routine will be interesting and a true test of this system.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Daily - Saturday, September 15, 2018

Writing Challenge- Day #17

FLORENCE UPDATE

Florence is down to a Tropical Storm or Tropical Depression, depends on when the measurements are taken. Regardless, we were very fortunate and suffered no damage. Many others are not so fortunate, even some losing their lives to the storm. We are still experiencing very windy conditions and some heavy rain. The center of the storm is scheduled to go over our home about 2 AM tomorrow with sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. It is not over for us, but it is getting close. The storm path just changed and now the storm center will go 20 miles south of our home; I am not sure if that is good or bad in terms of weather conditions; my guess is that the difference will be insignificant. More on that tomorrow.

HEALTH & FITNESS

I enjoyed a great 2.09 mile jog this morning right after sunrise. It was interesting to jog in tropical storm conditions; it felt much like jogging on the beach when you are running into the wind. I jogged to Podrunner's "138 BPM - Driven" track. It was an amazing experience. I used a slightly older pair of Saucony running shoes that I bought at a significant discount many months ago. I figured I would be OK if they were ruined in the storm. They have not been the most comfortable running shoes. As I removed the insoles to let them dry I discovered why they were not very comfortable. The insoles were extremely thin and probably offered little or no cushioning. Once the shoes were dry I replaced the original insoles with some sports insoles. If it continues to rain (as it is forecasted to) then I will use these same shoes with the new insoles for tomorrow's jog. Otherwise I will switch to an older pair of ASICS that I have not used in a while.

My knees have been pain free despite jogging every morning. That is a huge relief. I have been building up speed and feel terrific. Jogging is definitely my cardio of choice. I recognize, however, that I need to mix things up. I intend to add biking to my routines as soon as I feel it is safe to do so; I think my weight may be too much for my inexpensive bike.

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 17
  • Blood Pressure Readings: 8 days in a row. 127/79 today. Perhaps too much coffee? Time to switch to tea in the afternoon?
  • Logging to SparkPeople: 7 days in a row (began entering food and activity data)
  • Intermittent Fasting: 0 days (I ate a snack late last night, so I am back to starting to day)
  • Daily Exercise Routine: 0 
    • Cardio: Jogged 2.09 miles
    • Strength Training: Nope
    • Stretching: Yes
    • Meditation: Yes, 20 minutes overall.

      (In order to count this one, I am making it a bit challenging. A day will only count if it contains at least 30 minutes of cardio, at least 30 minutes of strength training, at least 10 minutes of stretching, at least six hours of sleep, and at least 10 minutes of meditation.)
  • Meditation: 4 days (all-time = 40): morning meditation was difficult. I could barely finish the ten minutes because I wanted to get out for a run before the weather turned bad. I had a second meditation period in mid-afternoon to try to bring my blood pressure down a little; that did not work.

PERSONAL GROWTH

My efforts to organize and downsize continued today. My goal was to clean my closet's entrance area. Goal accomplished (and then some). In the process I got rid of about 10 dress shirts, half a dozen shorts, and some t-shirts. I also worked on part of our coat closet downstairs. I am quite pleased with the changes. I should have most of the closet done by tomorrow afternoon. The hardest part will be going through a ton of photos. That will take sometime.

TIPS & TRICKS

This video shows you how to simplify any wardrobe in about 10 minutes. I used this technique today to help me purge clothes from my closet. It worked like a charm. I will do the same thing with another section of the closet tomorrow.