Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Diet Dr. Pepper, Reading and Running

I have some friends who last week attempted to go the week without any sweetened drinks like sodas, diet sodas or variations of coffees that included sweeteners. Thought I'd give it a run and I can report that I'm on the 3rd day of no Diet Dr. Peppers. It has been waters, green teas and black teas only for me.

I can report no changes from dropping the DDPs. My teeth aren't whiter. My sleep is not deeper. My weight is not lower. My focus is not better. The experiment continues for a few more days in honor of my friends doing this and in order to see what this might mean for me, but so far the results are nil.

Have read a number of great books recently and posted some thoughts on diversity from one of them over here on my other blog.

Currently reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis again. And for the first time, I'm listening to the Harry Potter series on Audible while commuting to work.

Oh, and I've started training again for another marathon. The last few days have seen 9 miles, spin class, 1 hour on the elliptical, spin class and 7 miles tomorrow. Planning to run 10 this weekend.

Glad to be here. Hope you are well.

Friday, September 2, 2016

On the NW Passage

We’ve been on a little trip through the Northwest Passage from west to east on a boat. It has been amazing.

Stopped at Dutch Harbor and saw the fishing and crab boats and then off to Nome Alaska. Got a picture of ourselves in full on Thunder apparel for use at future Thunder game to hopefully get on the big screen.

Left Nome and then passed near the Diomede Islands. The small one, close to our passing, is US territory while the one 2.4 miles further west is Russian. This is the one place in the world where the two ‘super powers’ of the cold war can see each other. The international date line passes between so the US island is sometimes referred to as yesterday and the Russian island is called Tomorrow.  

As we passed it was in full on gale winds gusting to 71 miles per hour for a while. The boat was really rocking. Beth and I ran up to the top of the boat, which was probably not real safe, and took a poor quality selfie (not included) of ourselves with the islands in the background. 

Several more days sailing and two more stops in Canada and small villages where we were welcomed by the locals. Have sat in briefings and lectures on the Inuit, ice, climate change, whales, geology of the area, numerous lectures on the history of the NW Passage and its search, Canada sovereignty in the area and other topics. Lots of fascinating material. The boat has about 20 scientists and explorers on board who are doing all these lectures, who are on deck pointing out sights and who are around on the boat all day long. Several have joined us for dinner.

The boat stopped near some drift ice and we got on zodiacs to get close. Saw a polar bear on the ice and was able to get within about 200 yards of it.  We were near lots of year one drift ice. Later than day we saw probably 10 more polar bears as we headed east through Victoria Straight. We’ve been collecting some amazing pictures that others were able to get with telephoto lenses.

We passed through the narrowest passage on our journey through the Bellot Straight where the narrowest part is about 1 mile wide. We believe we are on the largest ship to ever pass through this passage.

Afterwards, the boat spotted large icebergs from Greenland ahead 20-30 miles and we went nearby. Amazing.

At our farthest point north on the trip, we were at Crocker Bay and saw a large glacier flow into the ocean.  We got out in zodiac boats and were able to get up close, but not too close.

And finally a bonus bear pic taken by one of our fellow passengers with a telephoto lens.

Global warming is real. It is affecting eco-systems, communities, people and animals. Change is happening.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Just finished reading the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Very interesting and recommended. The book is about how habits are formed and how they can be leveraged for change. 

Key thoughts were:
  1. to use the cue that gets you started toward a bad habit but insert a new action or reward or better habit
  2. the importance of believing in something and how that enabled you to transform other parts of your life. “Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior."
  3. "As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything."
Consider this:

"Oaten and Cheng did one more experiment. They enrolled forty-five students in an academic improvement program that focused on creating study habits. Predictably, participants’ learning skills improved. And the students also smoked less, drank less, watched less television, exercised more, and ate healthier, even though all those things were never mentioned in the academic program. Again, as their willpower muscles strengthened, good habits seemed to spill over into other parts of their lives."

and this:

“That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician or a five-year-old soccer star,” said Heatherton. “When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour or run fifteen laps, you start building self-regulatory strength. A five-year-old who can follow the ball for ten minutes becomes a sixth grader who can start his homework on time.”

The book talks about habits in organizations and how people believe that their organization is making decisions based on rational choices but really, they are operating with long-help habits and have emerged through thousands of decisions made over time. And the book talks about movements and how they emerge and advance where they are based on social habits, friendships and strong and weak ties across a group or community.

Overall the book is fascinating and recommended.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Through Time

I’ve read a series of books lately that each cover huge sections of world history that were not clear to me before the reading. I’ve read or listened to:
  1. The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
  2. The History of the Ancient World
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
These books tell the known stories of parts of our past in a broad, sweeping fashion. Pieces of a puzzle are fitting together for me and it has been an interesting journey. I think I’ll likely look for a few more of these types to fill in more details.
Here are some thoughts:

  1. The unbelievable brutality of man in situation after situation is so sad. There are just so many places, peoples, kingdoms that were wiped out by others. In some cases in very horrific fashion. When the ‘Latins’ retook Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099, it is reported that they killed all in the city.  When the Khans were insulted by city or kingdom, they would simply wipe out all who were part of that community. The Khans did not torture, but they killed everyone except for those they could keep to help them (engineers, artisans, etc.).
  2. Treasures and libraries were destroyed. Books were burned. Art was destroyed. Seems that some groups still do that with various destructions taking place in the middle east. For example:  At almost the same time of Rubruck’s debate in Mongolia, his sponsor, King Louis IX, was busy rounding up all Talmudic texts and other books of the Jews. The devout king had the Hebrew manuscripts heaped into great piles and set afire. During Rubruck’s absence from France, his fellow countrymen burned some twelve thousand handwritten and illuminated Jewish books.
  3. Single individuals or families or decisions can ripple through time for centuries. The animosity between Muslims and Christians has some of its roots in the behaviors or both groups in the middle ages.
  4. People can use a religious reason to justify terrible actions. Current news in the middle east and parts of Africa as well as the Crusades and many other examples.
  5. A letter or a conversation can change history. For example, I read in the Khan book:
By happenstance, on July 22, 1246, in the midst of the massive gathering of the Mongol leadership, the first envoy arrived at the Mongol court from western Europe. Friar Giovanni of Plano Carpini, a sixty-five-year-old cleric, who had been one of the disciples of Saint Francis of Assisi, arrived as the agent and spy for Pope Innocent IV, commissioned to find out as much as possible about these strange people who had threatened Europe... 
the Mongols eagerly received Carping ... 
Pope Innocent IV offered the khan a pedantic synopsis of the life of Jesus and the main tenets of Christianity, all of which was probably well known to the khan through his Christian mother and his frequent attendance of religious services with her. Guyuk was likely a Christian himself; if not, he was certainly well disposed toward Christianity and relied heavily on Christian Mongols in his administration. The pope’s letter chastised the Mongols for invading Europe, ordering the khan to “desist entirely from assaults of this kind and especially from the persecution of Christians.” He demanded an explanation from the khan “to make fully known to us . . . what moved you to destroy other nations and what your intentions are for the future.”  
The letter informed the khan that God had delegated all earthly power to the pope in Rome, who was the only person authorized by God to speak for Him... 
The first direct diplomatic contact between Europe and the Far East had degenerated into an exchange of comparative theology mixed with religious insults. Despite the extensive spiritual beliefs that the Mongols and Europeans shared in common, the opening relationship had been so negative and misguided that in future years, the entire base of shared religion would eventually erode. The Mongols continued for another generation to foster closer relations with Christian Europe, but in the end, they would have to abandon all such hope, and with it they would, in time, abandon Christianity entirely in favor of Buddhism and Islam. 
The Mongols were very religiously tolerant and in face many of the Khan’s family were Christians but over time, they turn away with this letter and this message as one of the starting points of that turn. Imaging how this might have gone differently.
We just don’t realize how our actions and words can ripple through time into the future and long after we are gone. We need to be so careful of who we criticize, what we destroy, who we elect and what we say.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Much Reading Lately

For various reasons, I'm in a season of much reading. Strictly speaking, some of this is Audible as I do 'reading' while driving, but it is still reading.  I seem to read in spurts.

Here are a few recommendations.

Nearly finished with The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome which I'm listening to while driving. Absolutely amazing. It is a face paced summary of recorded history from the earliest events through the fall of Rome. Mesopotamia, China, India, Persia, Rome, Brits, etc. It is 26+ hours long of narration and I've set the narration to 1.25x normal speed to get through it. The story hops around the world as kingdoms arise, prosper, expand, collapse, conquer, are conquered and ultimately fade away.

It seems we've not changed since the beginning of time. Lots of biblical literature woven throughout. It seems that we've not matured much from a social point of view. I read a sci-fi book years ago that talked about our planet not being very advanced in social 'calculus' and thus we weren't very advanced. Seems true. Watch the news.

And just finished Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery which is the account of a neurosurgeon and his work. Success and failure. Very sobering and scary and causes one to think. I've read a number of medical related books over the years which you can see in prior posts and this resonated with me again.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness is a most interesting book about how we over and over fail when we apply averages that are based on groups to individuals. Lots of interesting stories about how we map individuals against average and how that is absolutely wrong. Teachers might really like this book and it is most recommended.  Averages tend to hide our unique, individual characteristics; our gifts, our talents, our interests.

And I've read several books on running which you might not care about so I won't mention them here.

Currently reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business based on a recommendation from Summer L. and reading A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design based on a recommendation from Ken P.  I've got 10 others in the near queue.

I should say I broke down and bought a new Kindle and I love it. I've been using iPads, etc. for years but this is better. I can read in bright light again.

I've got two books on pre-order and I've got a bunch to read. I'm ready for my upcoming reading binge appointment during a certain vacation.

Always interested in hearing your recommendations.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

In an instant...

Life changes in an instant. My wife's brother-in-law and sister were on a Sunday afternoon drive outside of the city and they hit a patch of gravel on the road. They lost control and spun down an embankment and in an instant, he was killed. My sister-in-law was seriously hurt with serious cuts and worse, she had to deal with the death of her husband. That later trauma is worse than the wounds, I think.

In an instant, our worlds can change.

No more chance for last words.
No more chance to mend wounds.
No more chance to set things right.
No more chance to forgive.
No more chance to tell someone you love them.
No more chance to give a hug.

Take the days that you have and bless each one and bless the people around you. Do what you can. Don't wait till tomorrow. The book of James in the New Testament of the Bible says:
13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
We are a mist that appears for a little while...

Give someone a hug TODAY.

Blessings to you.


Friday, June 24, 2016

We Are Doing This To Ourselves

We have two prospective US presidential candidates neither of which are appealing or really acceptable. One seems to be reckless, egotistical and in many ways, dangerous. The other seems to think the rules do not apply to her and who has repeated leadership failures in her record.

We do this to ourselves because we don't hold people accountable anymore. People can fail and let us down over and over and as long as they benefit our view, we support them.  A US President can lie to a grand jury, but no problem. The senior law enforcement person for the entire company can act that way and ultimately in the end, it doesn't matter. That same person can have severe moral failures in office and again, we don't care.

We have presidents who seem to not follow the rule of law and we have other presidents who seem to do things to benefit their friends. No problem.

We have senior state officials with repeated violations but he is still in office.
We have county clerks with DUIs in their past but are running for office again. No problem.

Our state is running a huge deficit yet some think our governor would be a great VP for one of those candidates above. Here is an idea, let's hold her and the state legislature accountable and vote them all out.

I think we need to applaud when local community people get involved, do the research and decide to stand up and be counted. More of us need to do the same. We need less career politicians and more teachers, engineers, doctors and the like running for office. Even for just one term. And we need to celebrate these people.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Is that a word?

I think a lot lately about being more fierce. How does one become more fierce. How does one become tougher mentally?

Being a runner, I want to be tougher. I read something in a book that said endurance running is about learning to cope with misery deep into a long run. The books I mentioned here talk about this some, but I still have much to learn.

The past few weeks, I've gone to 5-6 college tennis competitions as I know the coach at Oklahoma State University and I've been drawn into the success they've experienced this year. I've become fascinated by the competitions and the athletes who I consider fierce competitors. I aspire to be more like this and to be more fierce. OSU lost in the national championship match yesterday in Tulsa to Stanford. Kudos to Stanford and my compliments to both teams who competed and worked hard to get to that place.

What does fierceness mean and how does one become fierce? People who just go, go, go are fierce. People who don't give up are fierce. People who keep getting out there every day are fierce.

I want to get better at this.

You know, I did move with my family to Singapore years ago. That was a pretty brave thing to do. And I routinely stand up and talk to big groups, that is brave. I did a commencement address two years ago. Maybe I'm close but don't quite understand it yet.

What does fierce mean to you?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Security Thoughts

Gave a talk at church this afternoon on generally good practices to keep in mind with passwords, computers, mobile phones and home networks. I mentioned a few weeks back about growing concerns with Phishing and as a result of that, I went ahead and prepared some material to share with interested parties about how to best protect our assets.

If interested, the presentation and the handouts are posted over on my other blog here.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Runner

So a few weeks ago I once again set out to run a marathon with my dear running partner. We were well prepared, confident, we had a four page written running plan with every detail worked out down to the settings on our iPhones. When I say prepared, I mean we've run on hills, we've run more miles, we've cross trained, we've run in the snow, we've run against the wind, we've run in rain, we've spoken happy and positive thoughts and we had a four page written plan.

Here are some learnings:
  1. Don't bother making a plan when running a marathon. 
  2. Running a marathon is not twice as hard as running a half marathon. It is like eleventy billion times harder.
  3. If you've trained all winter and spring in cool or cold weather, then a sudden warm spell with wind is a real delighter on marathon weekend.
  4. Mental toughness, grit, focus and similar might be needed.
  5. During the later stages of the run, one reconsiders one's friends or any future plans related to running in any form.
  6. Camaraderie is really important when doing really hard things. 
  7. If after the finish, one thinks about going into the medical tent, then one should go into the medical tent.
I stumbled across this great post entitled, What I Learned From Running My Slowest Half Marathon Ever that talks about just finishing well is a great thing. And in fact, learning to finish well in all we do is something to strive for with a projects, our days and our running. My running partner always finishes strong with a burst of running at the end, that is, she finishes well.

I did finish. I've now done two full marathons and four official half-marathons and countless training runs longer than a half-marathon.

I don't run as well as I want or aspire to run. I walk too much. But I enjoy striving to get better and running longer and most days, I'm really glad to just be out there as the sun rises.

I'm reading the book, Runner's World The Runner's Brain: How to Think Smarter to Run Better and in one of the early chapters is says to stop saying you did poorly, or that you are not very fast or that you are not a good runner. It says, tell people you are a runner. You are out there and you are doing it.

I should point out that 241 days from today, I'll be doing another one of these in a magical place.

Monday, March 14, 2016


I wrote over on my other blog about phishing and how to spot such messages. You really need to understand this and learn how to be wary of those emails that come into your mailbox. If you need an update, take a look here.

Really thinking about offering to do a security talk at church on some Sunday afternoon, in a classroom, for anyone who wants to learn more about this topics, passwords, computer updates, etc.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How Bad Do You Want It?

Being the distance runner that I am, I've been reading about mental toughness or 'grit' and the like these past few months. I've read three interesting books on the subject which I'll link to in this post. The latest of these is called, How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Fitzgerald Matt. It tells the story of multiple endurance athletes and how they approach and struggled and succeed with their particular sports. Some of the money quotes from the book are:
Endurance sports are largely about discomfort and stress; hence they are largely about coping. In a race, the job of the muscles is to perform. The job of the mind is to cope. But here’s the hitch: The muscles can only perform to the degree that the mind is able to cope. Endurance sports are therefore a game of “mind over muscle.”
Developing mental fitness requires exposure to these challenges no less than the development of physical fitness requires exposure to workouts. Nobody can do this work for you, or even guide you through it. Coping is a response to discomfort and stress, after all.
Later in life, Shorter acknowledged that the experience may have made him a better runner. In a 2011 interview he said, “I found out as long as you know the pain is coming . . . and you have an idea of how bad it’s going to be and how long it’s going to [last], you develop an ability to ride it out. And I think in a way it may have transferred a little bit over into my running.”
Key themes or ideas are:

  1. You've got to go through the work, the pain, the effort, to get to the result. You've got to do the work.
  2. Get angry and use that fuel your focus and success
  3. Be confident. Approach the race day as a very hard thing to do, but be confident that you've done the work to be there that day.
  4. Leverage your audience, your tribe, your posse. Use them to raise your expectation.
  5. Don't be anxious, get into the flow the day and enjoy the experience.
  6. Smile. Have fun. Enjoy the experience.
  7. Be a performer, enjoy the experience and get into it.
  8. And manage your perceived pain and discomfort. Cope with it.  
This is a great book on this subject for marathon runners, ironman and triathletes and anyone who is working on extreme sports.

I also read Grit: How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up and Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.

The first day of the Seal training the author was told:
The first day SEAL came to move in, he told me I needed to control my mind. I thought it was just a saying or a throwaway comment, but I think there might be more truth to it than I originally thought. Our minds sometimes tell us little lies about ourselves, and we believe them.
which goes along completely with the first book. This training story, 30 days with a Navy Seal directing his training was amazing. At the end, the author did 1000 pushups that one day.

The Grit book addresses diligence, tenacity, optimism, flexibility, discipline, resilience, confidence and purpose.

Did I mention that I ran 18 miles today?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Listen and Think

We need to be different this new year.

We need to listen more and talk less and we need to apply more critical thinking to what we read and hear. We need to challenge our own assumptions and the 'facts' that people share/(shout) at us. Just because something is posted online doesn't make it true and just because your friend posted a story on Facebook doesn't make it true.

Our nation is polarizing into different factions that can no longer listen to the 'dark side.'  We need to stop this. We need to elect people to public office who can work together with others to find solutions to our common problems.

We need to stop sharing on our Facebook timelines dubious stories about a single individual (who may be a moron) to prove a point that you want to make. Single data points prove nothing and there are idiots on all sides. 

Rarely are issues totally white or black. We need to get out of our bubbles and listen to diverse viewpoints and we need to think critically about what we are told, read, hear or share.

I'm resolved this year to read more diverse viewpoints.
I'm resolved to vote for people who want to collaborate with others.
I'm resolved to try hard to validate things I hear.

There are some really hard problems to solve in this country and around the world. We need leaders who are trying to make things better and who are not trying to line their pockets or get re-elected. We need statesmen and not politicians.

Let's be better.

Friday, December 4, 2015

I'm Just Here For A Shot

I've been having some back problem and my neurosurgeon has prescribed some shots into my back near the spine as part of the treatment plan. Wednesday was the day.

When I was young, there was a church brochure that talked about heaven and hell and there was a sign over the entrance to hell that said:

I think hospitals should have a sign over the door that says:

Abandon All Dignity, Ye Who Enter Here.

All I know is I'm getting a shot. I check in at the hospital and they start asking questions like, "do I have a DNR, an Advanced Directive and am I a organ donor."  I tell them "I'm just here for a shot" but I answer their questions. Then I have to answer questions about if I've ever fallen down, or taken aspirin in the last month, or do I have any scrapes. Lots of questions.

Later I'm called into PreOp where I'm told that I need to get out of my clothes and put on this hospital gown and shorts to which I reply, "I'm here for a shot." After changing clothes I'm told to climb onto the bed on wheels and offered a warm blanket which I accept. Seems like I'm in an old Frasier episode. Then I get an IV started in my left hand. "I'm just here for a shot."

Forty-five minutes later, I'm wheeled out of PreOp and say goodbye to my wife where she leaves and goes to the waiting area. I'm thereafter wheeled into the hall where they leave me and I wait as people walk by. I think, "I'm just here for a shot."

When I finally get into the OR (did I mention, "I'm just here for a shot") I'm told to climb out of the bed on wheels and climb into this harness, platform, contraption thingy where my rear is in the air and my back is flat. Excuse me but why have I been in this bed for over an hour when I'm just going to climb out of it onto the platform? I could have just walked in here wearing my jeans and shoes, climbed up and taken off my shirt. Duh. "I'm just here for a shot."

My face is face down into the table. They proceed to talk about the Thunder and one of their work colleague while I'm there with my face pressed into the platform, my rear is in the air and I'm bending over this table so my back is flat.  They open my gown in the back to expose my back and start pouring cold things on my back while they continue to talk about their colleague.

So I'm laying on a platform, in the sky, with my backside exposed and cold liquids pouring on my back while they talk. Abandon all dignity, ye who enter here.

Next thing I know I'm in PostOp. After getting dressed, I remember little and I'm not even sure I got a shot, I'm wheeled out to my car in a wheel chair. Were pictures taken? "I'm just here for a shot."

Oh, and I was informed right before entering the OR that I need to get three of these shots and come back in three weeks for the next one.

Remind me to tell you about the time I had to see my primary care physician and he has a perky, female, twenty-something intern/resident shadowing him that day...

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Running Update

I'm running more now than ever before and have run more than 100 miles in each of the last four months. And I've run over 1000 minutes each of the last four months too (still more days left in this month).
I've read two articles in the last month or two lamenting that average marathon run times are getting longer with more and more people running in marathons. The articles suggested that this was bad because it is not considered as an elite accomplishment to finish a marathon any more. Older runners and runners who are not in as good of shape are taking up the sport.

That disappointed me. It seems to me that just getting out there and doing something is a good thing. Being outside. Seeing the sun rise. Running in the rain and the wind (not the wind actually). Running with friends. Tracking times and distances and paces. All of this is fun and good for you. It sure beats sleeping in and watching television.

Since June my average pace has improved 1:22 per mile which seems really good. Running is funny as there is only faster and longer and there is no real finish line. I want to go faster and longer in a smoother fashion. That is the goal.

And now we enter the cold months... Where the real runners are separated from the pretend runners.