A. B. Clarke

Month: August, 2007

Nude Numbers (#11)

by abclarke

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? Click here

Summary

This was my first week of running since the injury, and it went well. I only did 10 miles instead of 17 because, well, read the assessment for why. My eating wasn’t good (despite best intentions) and so weight and body fat stayed constant. I still think I have a shot at the Sep 7-9 200 mile bike ride, and at the November 5th marathon.

Subjective Data

  1. This was a “rest week” and I did a good job on that. No lifting. And minimal swimming. On the swimming front, my balance continues to improve a lot with kicking.
  2. Did my first run since my injury. I didn’t do the 17 miles I’d planned; I did 10 miles (see the Assessment for why), and stopped then even though I felt fine. The good news is I was walking the next day, but it definitely caused my tendonitis to flare up a little (not much), so it’s still touch and go for November.
  3. My eating was not good this week (despite my plans). And I’m traveling on business this week, so it’ll be hard to stay on track. That said, I didn’t pig out during the week.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

According to plan, this was a rest week with no lifting and minimal cardio. I stuck to that plan with a light swim on Tuesday and Thursday. The big event was a return to running.

My original plan had been do go from no running for 6 weeks to a 17-mile bruiser. I got lots of feedback from the Tubes that this was a, how to put it, spectacularly stupid idea™.

Wow.

I started publishing my progress to keep me motivated to work harder, but I wasn’t expecting to get the benefit of people letting me know when I was an idiot. And I’ll admit now it was a stupid idea. I discussed it with my trainers, and we’ve agreed to ramp me on a different plan with a more gradual ramp back, that hopefully still gets me to the marathon. Thank you to everyone!

So instead, I decided to try one 5.2 mile loop, and then only if I felt fine, potentially do a second. I ended up doing 10.4 miles at a 9.5 minute mile pace on Saturday. I had no pain in my leg, but I know with this injury the pain shows up the next day. The good news is by Sunday my leg felt a little sore, but not bad. I feel I might still have a shot at this.

I didn’t do well on the eating plan this week. I didn’t really pig out any day, but I was consistently 500 calories above target every day (except Saturday where I was spot on). This should lead to maintaining body fat, but not cutting. I’m not really going to be able to adjust much this week as I’m traveling on business most of the week. I’d love folk’s thoughts on what’s the best way to stay active while traveling (an increase in traveling was one of the reasons I let myself get out of shape originally).

For anyone who’s following, I’m also trying to compete in The Six Pack Charity Challenge to raise more money for charity. If you’re interested, go checkout that Facebook group.

As usual, if you have suggestions, leave a comment, or reach me at “art (at) abclarke.com”.

Plan

I’m making big changes in my plan this week.

  1. I’m traveling this week, so it’s going to be hard to keep to my schedule. Still, I plan to lift at least 3 times this week, do 2-3 swims, 1-2 bike rides, and a long run on Saturday.
  2. Keep 2,000-2,250 calories-per-day target to keep weight under control, especially next weekend. I’m going to shoot for staying within target all days except Saturday, but to be only off by 1,000-1,500 calories on Saturday assuming I get the 17 mile run in.
  3. Keep smiling.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

– Art

Help me raise money for people suffering from cancer

The Story so Far…

by abclarke

Did you know, you can sign-up for an e-mail version of every post by clicking here
(and you can remove yourself at any time).

This is my 3-month anniversary of starting this blog. How time has flown. Thank you to everyone for their support (both financial and emotional) as I’ve been attempting this. And major thanks to my wife who, on top of everything else she does, somehow finds time to support me in this by listening, editing, and being supportive of the time this takes.

For any new readers I’ve picked up I thought I’d update my cheat sheet for the blog.

This is Running Naked, a blog where I’m chronicling in public my attempts to “achieve contentment through the pursuit of perfection“. (Don’t worry; I have no misconceptions of ever achieving perfection, but I believe that attempting to become a better human each day is itself the worthy goal).

Here’s a summary of the major posts so far:

Article

What it’s about

The Cortez School of Management

Why I’m “Running Naked”, how I got here, and what I’m trying to achieve.

How I Lost 25 Pounds by Being a Manager

A series of posts where I discuss 5 rules I’ve used for managing change professionally, and how I applied them to lose weight and get back in shape.

The Pragmatic Path to Agnosticism

A series of posts where I “run naked” on how I approach Spirituality and the nature of an Awesome Universe.

Pain, Suffering and Financial Loss

A plea for your help to raise money for people suffering from cancer, and for your support as I train for a 200 mile bike ride (September 2007) and the New York marathon (November 2007).

Why Doctors Use Soap

An introduction to a way of solving problems and tracking progress in both professional and personal contexts.

Nude Numbers

Week by week reports where I “run naked” with transparent data on how well I’m living up to my training commitments. The data is presented in SOAP note format.

Daydreaming, Laziness and Looking at the Negative

How I tackle goals in my life. Seriously J

There are other posts smattered throughout the blog, but those are the major ones. We’ll see where the next three months takes this.

Per a request from a few weeks ago, the next series of articles are going to be about managing and running naked teams. Stay tuned for “Nudity and the Modern Manager”.

If you have other requests, please e-mail me at “aclarke (at) abclarke.com”. Thanks again,

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

The Rise of the Pragmatic Agnostic

by abclarke

(5 of 5 in the Pragmatic Path to Agnosticism)

Inconceivably Awesome!

The CEO of a company I used to work for (we’ll call him “Mike”) was fond of the word “Awesome.”

Actually, “fond of” understates his attachment to the word – it was his catchphrase: Multi-million dollar deals were “awesome”; new technologies were “awesome”; hitting a milestone was “awesome”; hiring a new person was “awesome”; having a good company party was “awesome”; changing the colors of the company logo was “awesome”.

Frankly, I sometimes wondered if he thought getting out of bed in the morning was “awesome”. I snickered to myself (like Inigo Montaya), “I do not think the word means what he thinks it means.”

In this series of articles I’ve shown how I rejected the doctrine, dogma and disciplines of organized Catholicism, and how, after almost ten years as a priest of Fundamentalist Atheism, I gave up my vestments and developed doubts (based on the Scientific Method) on the non-existence of Spirituality.

In hindsight I can see a clear rational path to my current spiritual stance, but it would be a lie to say my journey here has been either direct or directed, or that I have reached its final destination. About the only thing I can say with any degree of certainty is that I currently ascribe to the principles of “pragmatism” and “agnosticism”, and these two principles have shown me something unexpected: “Awesome” does not mean what I thought it means.

Whether Mike intended it or not(1), “awesome” is the right word to use. I just needed to open my eyes.

Pragmatic Calvinists

The principle of pragmatism is simple: look at the data and the experiences and draw conclusions that maximize your advantage (independent of your preconceptions). It’s not sexy. Idealism is sexy. Idealism gets the press. Idealism is remembered in history. Revolution always beats evolution for the battle of mens’ hearts.

But pragmatism, unlike idealism, is far more likely to work. And so, given my penchant for trying to tweak my odds of success, I have attempted to apply pragmatism to the concept of Spirituality.

To start, I looked in some detail at many different spiritual frameworks in the world. There are many differences, but I believe there are two common threads (apologies to anyone who thinks simplistic summaries of world religions are offensive):

  1. A moral code to guide and control groups and societies of people that can be summarized as “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
  2. A belief in the existence of a Spiritual aspect to reality, and a framework for approaching that aspect.

I believe in laziness, and hence pragmatically believe it’s worth learning as much as possible from others.

On the first point, there are many pragmatic arguments for following this code, and so I’m attempting to live by it(2).

On the second point, pragmatism is what led me to see it is impossible to refute the stance of theists. Pragmatism is what makes me realize there may be an evolutionary advantage to exploring Spirituality, and like Calvin above, that it is probably worth my time to don a pair of explorer’s boots and start looking.

And it is pragmatism that ultimately leads me to agnosticism.

Open Agnosticism

I define the term somewhat differently that most dictionaries (which focus on the “doubt” aspect). For me, agnosticism is the willingness to be open to the existence of God(3). It’s the willingness to say “I don’t know”, but be curious to try to know. And I believe if you pragmatically look at the observations I presented in the past few weeks, agnosticism is the only rational choice.

So I have made the philosophical choice to concede it’s possible that God exists. I make no claim that it is probable or “highly likely”, only that it is possible. But I have decided to be open, and I have decided to explore what that means to me.

Dam Pragmatic Agnostics!

This stance may seem a relatively small opening, or change, from the stance of the Fundamentalist Atheist, but it’s not. It is like opening the sluice of a dam to let out one drop of water a year. Once the sluice is open two things happen:

(1) Water begins to flow. This is obvious, but visible and dramatic. The face of the rock begins to get wet and stays wet.

Once I adopted the stance of the Agnostic, once I let a drop of openness seep out, I could no longer dismiss out of hand the faith of others. To be truly open, I had (and have) to challenge myself to understand and discover more. I had to explore what was the biological concept of spirituality. How can one cultivate that sense? I started looking at the mundane and trying to explore what is non mundane or spiritual about it. As a result, spirituality began to seep into my life.

(2) Left to its own, the rate of flow will increase. In a dam, the trickle of water will wear away rock, washers, and doors. It will smooth over hard edges. It will break down barriers. What starts as trickle, with time, becomes a torrent.

For me, it’s been the same with Spirituality. What began as a small crack in my world view has expanded rapidly in the past few years. I find myself wondering more. I find myself looking closer at things I’d previously dismissed as uninteresting. I find myself taking more time to try to observe the universe, and try to see.

I find myself exploring the skyline of Manhattan and wondering how it came to be.

I find myself attending a funeral and seeing both the sadness and the beauty in the occasion.

I find myself watching the floor of Grand Central Terminal and wondering where all the people are coming from and going to. Wondering how some of the most expensive real estate in Manhattan came to be dedicated to a 5-story tall empty atrium, and being so glad it is. Watching tourists create a permanent memory by photographing a commuter on the floor who will never even remember that moment. Watching people dance to avoid each other on the way to their trains, and seeing a scene of gracefulness and grace.

I find myself looking down at the wooden escalators on the first floor in Macy’s on 5th avenue, and realizing that someone cared passionately to keep them on one floor rather than replacing them with the more efficient escalators that are in the rest of the store. And that someone has to know how to care for them. And that someone else needs to make replacement parts. And that thousands of people with different cultures, different pressures, different problems, different joys, cross over them each year. And realizing that all these people share a connection through a set of wooden steps, but never know it.

Awesome!

Conceivably Awesome

The reality of this eludes words for me, but “awe” is the closest word I know of. Ten years ago, I had nothing but bitterness for the ugly world around me. Today, I believe the Universe is truly Awesome, and now I’m so thankful I get to experience it.

It’s an all encompassing emotion and feeling of peace with my surroundings, and one that really helps me through the day. And on days when I’m open to looking for it, I can see it in anything: floors, escalators, families, friends, strangers, lovers and even business deals, milestones, parties, and colors.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days – ask my wife, she’ll tell you I do. It doesn’t mean I believe in any particular instantiation of the Divine, only that the spirituality aspect of nature has become a real concept for me. By being open and trying to experience what spirituality means, I’ve been able (at times) to connect to a harmony I’ve never experienced before.

I can’t say it’ll last – the world of the Pragmatic Agnostic is not a world of certainty. But I intend to keep exploring, and I’m trying each day to be more open, to push more water through. Who knows, my mother could end up being right after all, but I’m no longer scared by that thought.

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

(1)While working for this company, I often thought Mike didn’t know why he was doing things – that an irrational emotional energy he could not control drove his decisions and actions. I was wrong. As I attempt to start my own business, I’ve discovered that more often than not, Mike knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and what he needed to achieve with it. He understood the importance of a sense of urgency to creating a successful venture and team, and that emotional energy is the most effective driver of that urgency – I just didn’t understand that at the time. It turns out you don’t grow a $100mm+ business by accident.

(2) One can make the argument that the rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is gameable via game-theory much as the Prisoner’s Dilemma is. If everyone abides by the rule all the time, then average value for each person is maximized. But if most everyone abides by the rule and one person doesn’t, that one person can gain a large advantage. Therefore is an incentive to appear to abide by the rule, but not actually do so. This is why I believe most religions introduce both moral punishments and some concept of eternal existence (be it Heaven or Nirvana). Why? Because if the person is caught cheating, their advantage is negated, and if you can extend the concept of existence to infinity, cheaters will always get caught. Now, one can ask in a belief system without a spiritual framework of eternal existence, what’s to stop the pragmatic agnostic from cheating slightly on this, or mostly doing unto others as he would have done unto him? The answer: nothing except transparency. The pragmatic agnostic must run naked, because otherwise the rational person will and should always suspect. Ronald Reagan’s “trust, but verify” must be followed.

(3) As with last week, I am using “God” as shorthand for “spirituality and the existence of God(s)”, not as an endorsement of the philosophy of an omnipotent, omniscience, anthropomorphic father figure.

Nude Numbers (#10)

by abclarke

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? Click here

Summary

Time to face facts: I have bad tendonitis, not a stress fracture. This puts the marathon at great risk. And given the big risk, I’m going to take a big chance. I’m going to concentrate training on the marathon, and risk the bike ride. That means I’ll attempt a long run this Saturday. It’s a make-or-break it run.

The other big change this week is I reviewed progress on training, and adjusted targets moving forward (see the dashboard) to better reflect the post-injury world. I also decided to take this week out of the weight room to give my body time to rebuild from a hard 13 weeks of lifting.

Subjective Data

  1. My leg handled a lot of New York walking, swimming, and a little biking this week. It’s slightly sore, but not worryingly so. However, the fact that it gets sore after swimming pretty much guarantees it’s tendonitis, not a stress fracture.
  2. I learned how to kick while swimming this week, and as expected it’s much harder than with flotation devices. My yardage came down (again within expectations). Still, I think my progress here has been great (if I don’t say so myself).
  3. Another great lifting week, but aches and pains are starting to appear. See assessment for how I’ll deal with that.
  4. Weight and body fat headed in the right direction again. But yet again, I pig out on weekends. It was hard not to this week as I spent 8 hours at Giant’s Stadium on Saturday (seeing the NJ Red Bulls against David Bechkam’s LA Galaxy in a high-scoring but no-defense football game) and 8 hours sailing around Long Island Sound on Sunday. Still, I need to tackle this.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

I have bad tendonitis, not a stress fracture – this is demonstrated by the fact that kicking in the pool aggravates my leg. This is definitely bad news for the marathon. The first long-run (17 miles) is this Saturday, and if I can’t make those, I have no hope for the marathon.

I spoke with my trainers and we’re going to try a new (but high risk) approach. I’m going to restrict running to once a week – on the long runs. I’m going to slow my bike riding to the minimum needed for the Sep 7, 8 and 9th ride (which should just be Central Park loops). And I’m going to spend the remaining time in the weight room and the pool where the stress on my lower leg is minimized.

I’m admittedly quite worried about the long runs, and this upcoming Saturday will be a major test.

I learned to kick while swimming was hard this week, but fun. I can now keep my hips level with the top of the water as I traverse the pool and my overall coordination is a lot better. As I thought, my yardage had to drop. Just doing 250 yards was really difficult (I can do 2x that easily with floats). If I keep this up, maybe I’ll start doing tri’s next season. Lots of thanks to Space for recommending Total Immersion, which gave me a solid set of drills and a good understanding of why I’m doing them.

My lifting continues to be a blast, but I have lots of aches appearing. My lower back and deltoids feel sore in the morning. Thinking about it, I went through my logs and realized I hadn’t taken a break from lifting since May 13th (13 weeks, but there were two light weeks in July).

As I mentioned, I pigged out last weekend and you can see it in my early week numbers. But some great eating habits got me in range again by the next weekend. WHERE I PIGGED OUT AGAIN. Clearly I need to work on this weekend eating stuff.

For anyone who’s following, I’m also trying to compete in The Six Pack Charity Challenge to raise more money for charity. If you’re interested, go checkout that Facebook group.

As usual, if you have suggestions, leave a comment, or reach me at “art (at) abclarke.com”.

Plan

I’m making big changes in my plan this week.

  1. Time to recognize that my targets for running, biking, spinning, and body fat are off course and I need new ones. I adjusted them all for my new plan to get to the marathon. You can see the new numbers in the “gray” areas of my dashboard.
  2. This week is going to be a rest week, expect for Saturday where I’ll try a 17 mile run. I run a high risk of injury on that run, but if I don’t do it, the marathon is completely shot. Essentially I’m risking the ride to still have a shot at the run.
  3. Do light biking this week, if weather permits, but I’m not going to worry if I miss it.
  4. Do light swimming (20-40 yards) this week just to keep mobile
  5. Stay out of the weight room for one week. Believe it or not, this is harder for me to accept than you’d think.
  6. Keep 2,000-2,250 calories-per-day target to keep weight under control, especially next weekend. I’m going to shoot for staying within target all days except Saturday, but to be only off by 1,000-1,500 calories on Saturday assuming I get the 17 mile run in.
  7. Keep smiling.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

The Fundamentalist Atheist

by abclarke

(4 of 5 in the Pragmatic Path to Agnosticism)

The Soul of the Atheist

Over lunch recently a friend (a staunch atheist) and I argued over spirituality. I maintained that a pragmatic agnosticism was the only rational response to a growing body of evidence. My friend argued vehemently that atheism was the only stand a principled rational thinker could take. Towards the end of the lunch I asked him, a la Pascal’s famous bet, what did he have to lose in being open to the possibility of the existence of God(s) and the reality of Spirituality(1)?

He smiled, sat back in his chair, and laughed. “I’ll lose my soul,” he said.

My friend’s joke aside, there are many who label themselves rationalists who are vehement and unquestioning adherents to atheism. It’s a natural human reaction, especially to a resurgent fundamentalist religion trend, and for years I was one of them. But it’s wrong.

The Rise of Fundamentalism

Over the last 40 years the various religions have, worldwide, staged a rebirth by returning to the literal scriptures and the teachings of centuries-old leaders. Be it born-again Christians, fundamentalists Shiites, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews, religion has triumphantly re-risen from the ashes of its own corpse after being famously sentenced to death by the secular movements of the Twentieth Century. Fundamentalist sects are by far the fastest growing of any sects in each of the world’s religions. Their progress has been scary. From ongoing battles to roll-back the (good) science of Evolution, to silencing of unpopular opinion, to elongating the suffering of human beings to make political points, to the September 11th hijackers belief in eternal salvation for murdering >2,000 innocents, the march of the Fundamentalist has been unrelenting.

And now secularism and rationality finds itself on the defensive, arguing against an opponent who visibly does not play by the rules of rational discourse and the Scientific Method. How can you defeat an opponent who disregards all evidence if it contradicts with their Faith? Faith (to me) is the act of giving up your ability to question something, and it’s a very powerful tool (for both good and evil). If your opposite in a debate will not question their position, there is no hope of finding a middle ground.

And so the human reaction of rational thinkers is to fight fire with fire; to entrench our positions; to have Faith in the non-existence of God(s). And the battle has been joined. Some of the most brilliant and rational minds in the world have begun a counter offensive to light a fire under the secular community.

Their position is based upon the same logic I based my own atheism on:

  1. There has been a relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe.
  2. During thousands of experiments, we have found no evidence that proves the existence of God.
  3. The culture of science, correctly, puts huge value on skepticism.

Therefore God does not exist.

I pointed out last week that there is evidence that belief in God confers an evolutionary advantage. So what? If we do indeed have an evolutionary advantage to believing in God, it does NOT imply that God exists. (This is a classic logic error: “All pregnant people are female” does not imply “All females are pregnant” despite the wishes of some Japanese politicians).

But an equally grievous logic error is to presume that because the 3 axioms above are true, that it implies the existence of God is “crazy talk”.

The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld

Let’s examine the first axiom: There has been a relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe.

This is undeniably true. However, the view that I presented in The Shiny Ball of Atheism is misleading. To refresh your memory:

This implies that mankind should have hope that one day we will vanquish the unknown, and from there we derive the creed of the atheist Faith: God will no longer have a place to hide from the cleansing light of rational analysis.

The reality is somewhat different. Each discovery we make, each breakthrough we achieve, brings up new questions that we didn’t even know to ask before the breakthrough.

When cavemen discovered how to light fire on their own did know to question how is flame affected by gravity. They didn’t even know it was possible to be in zero-gravity. Flame in zero-gravity was, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, an “unknown unknown“. When Copernicus published his treatise showing the earth moved around the sun, he didn’t know to ask are collections of stars (galaxies) always centered on black holes. Ernest Rutherford, when proving the concept of a nucleus in an atom (a relatively new concept), had no concept that the atom was way more complicated that neutrons, protons and electrons. But we’ve now learned to seek the answers to these new questions because as we answer more questions we uncover more questions to answer.

A better view of the “relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe” is:

We are increasing the amount of the “Known Knows”, but each time the amount of the “Known Unknowns” increase with it. Answers beget more questions. And we have no idea of the size of the “Unknown unknowns”. The idea that the “relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe” will remove areas for God to hide from the cleansing light of rational analysis is wrong.

Uncertainty

Let’s examine the second axiom: During thousands of experiments, we have found no evidence that proves the existence of God.

This is true. Now, let’s refresh our understanding of probability from The Shiny Ball of Atheism:

The lack of evidence does indeed suggest that the existence of God is “Highly Unlikely” among the Known. Similarly, the concept that time passes at different rates depending on gravity, which was contradicted by thousands of experiments done over centuries, was “Highly Unlikely” for most of mankind’s existence. But two possibilities remain for the existence of God:

First, like Gravitational Time Dilation, proving the existence of God among the Known may require tools or mechanisms of measurement not yet invented. Yes, based on current knowledge this is Highly Unlikely, but the counter argument is that to Galileo, it was highly unlikely that clocks on airplanes would have to adjust for the effects of gravity on time – yet they do.

But secondly, even if the tools for measuring God never emerge, if one believes that the concept of God may reside in the “Unknown”, current science, specifically Quantum Mechanics, suggests it is impossible to fully known everything. That is, we can never eliminate the “Unknown.” For this we can thank the German scientist Werner Heisenberg.

In the earliest Twentieth Century, Heisenberg theorized that, even if you can eliminate the tendency of an observer to change a measurement just by observing, it is impossible to measure anything to 100% accuracy. You can get very very very close (specifically, you can get to approximately (1 – (6.626*10-34)/2)*100 percent accuracy), but you can never be 100% accurate.

This theory is non-obvious, and even Einstein railed against it during his life, but it does allow us to successfully make predictions about systems (one of the key tenets of a successful scientific theory). The Uncertainty Principle, like the theory of Gravity and of Evolution, has been shown experimentally to be “Highly Likely” to be true.

And it has a staggering consequence. If the Uncertainty Principle holds true it is impossible to ever prove the non-existence of God. Religious fundamentalists can take the tools of rational debate, and just argue that the concept of God resides within the uncertainty, and while we can argue its improbability, we must concede its possibility. Put another way:

Rational thought suggests it is impossible for rational thought to prove everything.

Skepticism

And finally the last axiom: The culture of science, correctly, puts huge value on skepticism.

Again, this is true. And the Fundamentalist Atheist maintains that this skepticism is one of the foundations of rejecting the existence of God.

But to maintain a firm stance in Atheism (which is the unquestioning belief in the non-existence of God) fundamentally violates this rule. It is not a culture of skepticism; it’s a culture of Faith. When you look at the evidence with a skeptical eye you see:

  1. Evidence suggests God does not exist in the Known.
  2. Evidence suggests there are some advantages to believing in God, and that all growing cultures, independently, invent some concept of God.
  3. Evidence suggests we are constantly discovering new things to discover and trends suggest that will continue.
  4. Evidence suggests that it is impossible for rational thought to fully explain everything.

Therefore a rational thinker should conclude that it is unlikely that Religious fundamentalists have a leg to stand on, but it is equally unproven that unquestioning Atheism has a leg to stand on.

Where does that leave the rational skeptic? I believe it leaves him or her on the Pragmatic Path of Agnosticism.

(which I’ll continue next week…)

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

(1) For this article I’m going to use the term God to mean either “the existence of a God or Gods, or the reality of Spirituality”; please don’t take it as an endorsement of any particular instantiation of Spirituality, just as way of avoiding typing long phrases over and over.

The Wrong Way to Run Naked

by abclarke

This is somewhat timely given the essay I’m in the middle of. A Catholic Priest was arrested last week in Frederick, Colorado in the US for running naked at a high school track.

See the full article here: Priest Busted For Running Naked.

In case anyone is wondering, this is not how I recommend “Running Naked“.

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

 

Nude Numbers (#9)

by abclarke

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? Click here.

Summary

As mentioned earlier, I may have a stress fracture or tendonitis in my lower right leg. Things are feeling better, but the pace of recovery is making my coaches think it might be tendonitis (NOT GOOD). I did my first (very short) bike ride since the injury on Sunday without any follow-on pain. Swimming, lifting and eating are all going very well. The marathon and bike-ride plans are still in danger, but I’m optimistic on the bike ride. The marathon is a long shot now, but I’m going to still ramp up slowly. Never give up J

Also, I signed up for another silly fitness challenge: Read the Assessment below for details on the “Six Pack Charity Challenge”.

Subjective Data

  1. My leg feels better, but the fact that I reinjured it last week swimming (which is non-impact) suggests tendonitis not a stress fracture. That’s not good news.
  2. Swimming felt good this week, and on Sunday I got my first bike ride since the injury in. It felt very good, and there was no pain.
  3. I had a fantastic lifting week. Good lifts, good intensity, and measurable progress from prior weeks.
  4. Weight and body fat headed in the right direction again.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

I am definitely but slowly getting better. I’m starting to ramp up leg work. I did a short (13 mile) bike ride on Sunday at a relaxed pace (16mph average) and I felt fine. That said my coaches think (given the fact that kicking while swimming last week aggravated my injury) I am probably dealing with tendonitis. I’m choosing to not believe that. I’m focusing on the bike ride in 4 weeks for training right now since that minimizes the impact on my injured area, and I’m optimistic I can do that. I hope to try light running in 2-3 weeks.

My swimming is getting much better, and I’m hoping to start integrating kicking this week. I’m getting much more efficient and the breathing is becoming natural. Assuming I remove the floats this week I expect my yardage to drop a bit while I learn kicking. We’ll see.

My lifting was so much fun this week. I mentioned last week that I switched programs to a more intense but shorter program. It’s fun, and I’m amazed at how tired I feel afterwards but how much more power I’m getting. For the record, I’m not doing it to add tons of weight; I’m doing it to improve muscle power. On Saturday I worked my right leg again for the first time in 4 weeks and as I write this, my right quad is very angry with me. But wow, it was so much fun!

I had another great eating week, and my weight got down to 153.5 pounds with 15% BF. However, my father in law is visiting this week, and I allowed myself to way overeat on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll see that reflected in the numbers this week, so my challenge is to be excellent the rest of the week. Why?

Well, I have a new fund-raising-goal / stupid-egomaniacal-challenge that I’ve signed up for with some friends: The Six Pack Charity Challenge. The idea is each entrant puts up $250 and names a charity they’ll donate to. Then all contestants (you can enter at any time provided you do not have a six-pack when you enter) work hard to get a six-pack. On the week of November 5th, we all take and post photos online for the Internet community. Whoever collects the most votes by December 5th gets to donate not only their own money, but the money of all other contestants, to the charity they signed up for. And I aim to win.

As usual, if you have suggestions, leave a comment, or reach me at “art (at) abclarke.com”.

Plan

I’m tweaking the plan slightly as I start adding in leg work again:

  1. Start slowly ramping up work on my right leg. I’ll hopefully get some spinning and biking in this week.
  2. Keep swimming and start adding kicking work. Target is 3 times this week (to make room for biking).
  3. Keep doing the upper-body and core lifting, and start ramping leg work back up.
  4. Keep 2,000-2,250 calories-per-day target to keep weight under control.
  5. Keep smiling.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

Survival of the Holiest

by abclarke

(3 of 5 in the Pragmatic Path to Agnosticism)

Jesus Brought Forth an Egg…

Last week I documented the way in which I came to a hardcore belief in atheism. This week I will break down the first of two reasons why I have drifted away from that stance.

To make my next point, I refer to the King James Bible. Specifically, Matthew 26:26-30, as Jesus sits for the last supper:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. And he took the rabbit, and calling to the Father, brought forth an egg of a sweet and delicious brown shade. And he said, Remember to feast upon these eggs henceforth upon the year, as surely it shall mark both joy and suffering.”

And as we all know, that is why we have Easter Bunnies who deliver chocolate eggs for kids to eat at Easter as we mark the anniversary of Jesus’ death.

And The Egg Evolveth

OK, maybe that’s not the reason we have Easter Bunnies at Easter. The actual reason we have Easter Bunnies is way more pragmatic; as Christianity spread across the west in the centuries after the fall of Rome, it encountered new cultures with new rites and traditions. To more effectively infiltrate those cultures and grow the number of adherents, Christian methods and rites started to co-opt these and other traditions(1). A new convert was far likelier to accept a new faith if the celebrations and holidays were familiar.

In other words, Christianity evolved in order to ensure its reproductive success as a religion. Charles Darwin would be proud!

Over the past few years, I’ve asked myself if religion evolves to reproduce effectively, have we also evolved to embrace religion. Is there an advantage in evolutionary terms to believing in God, to exploring Spirituality? And I believe there probably is.

Lo, the Numbers Spake

What does the research show? Well, this is a hard area to get a bead on as it is fraught with, well, religious feelings. Still, some people have managed to study the question of what advantages, if any, believing in God (or being an adherent to a religion, or being a Spiritual person) confers about lifespan and reproductive success. The data trends towards religious and spiritual belief having a positive impact on all outcomes. See here for a collection of papers. Some highlights:

  1. 7th day Adventists live an average of 8 years longer than average (after controlling for other confounding factors).
  2. People of Faith are 3 times more likely to survive major heart surgery (after controlling for other confounding factors).
  3. People with “conservative” faiths are likely to have more children than those of more liberal faiths, or no faith at all. What could be more Darwinian than that?
  4. Lastly, like it not, most people in the world profess adherence to a faith of some sort.

“Here Ye!” Heralded the Neuroscientist

What’s more, data is starting to emerge that our brains have evolved a bio-chemical mechanism for Spiritual experiences. The Journal Nature published the results of an experiment where several nuns were asked to recall a moment when they experienced a divine revelation while being scanned by an MRI. What the researchers discovered was several consistent areas of the brain that were activated by the nuns. It suggests our brains, if stimulated correctly, can allow even non-believers to have a “mystical experience”.

In other words, our brains can believe Spirituality is as “real” a sensation as touch and sight.

This is interesting evolutionarily speaking because our brain is by far the most ‘expensive’ organ in the body. Space is constrained by our skulls, we send most of our oxygen there, and as a species we’ve invested a lot of our relative mass in that area. The fact that we have not “evolved away” an area that perceives Spiritual experiences suggests there might be some benefit to it…

Confuse Not Correlation with Causation!

…but we must be careful to not jump to that conclusion. There is a big difference between a correlation and causation. What does all the data so far tell us? Well first, here’s what it doesn’t say:

  1. It does NOT in any way prove the existence of God, the reality of a Spiritual aspect to the Universe, or that the earth was created 6,000 years ago.
  2. It does NOT prove that we need to explore and embrace Spirituality because our brains are capable of it.
  3. It does NOT prove that Mohammed was the Prophet of God.
  4. It does NOT prove that Jesus loves you.

According to the Scientific Method (which I still believe in), we must be careful to not jump to conclusions the data does not tell us.

However, the data does tell us the following:

  1. It is likely that belief in God is NOT an evolutionary disadvantage (or its disadvantage if offset by a highly correlated positive benefit), and may actually be an advantage.
  2. It is likely that striving to “connect with Spirituality” is NOT an evolutionary disadvantage, and may actually be an advantage.
  3. More research is needed but the belief (prevalent among hard-core atheists) that the exploration of Spirituality is a waste of time may actually be incorrect in evolutionary terms.
  4. Lastly, God doesn’t like Seventh Day Adventists, so as a result keeps them trapped on Earth 8 years longer than any other faith (OK, I just put this in to see if you were still reading).

Proclaim Not Certainty Lest Ye Be a Fool

Last week I said I had adopted atheism for the following reasons:

  1. There has been a relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe.
  2. During thousands of experiments, we have found no evidence that proves the existence of God.
  3. The culture of science, correctly, puts huge value on skepticism.

This had led me to reject anyone who spoke of the value of Spirituality or belief in God as someone who spoke “crazy talk”.

As I’ve gotten older, the “relentless increase in the things we’ve proven about the universe” have showed me I was too hasty earlier to reject the benefits of exploring Spirituality. At worse, Spirituality is a net-neutral, but there do appear to be advantages.

But what about the possibility of the real existence of God, of a Spiritual essence, that exists in the universe?

To be bluntly Darwinian, the data has shown me that Spirituality might help me get laid and reproduce, but surely science is slowly removing the possibility of God and Spirituality actually existing as real things outside the chemistry of my brain?

For that, let’s talk about Mr. Heisenberg and his incredible uncertainty.

(which I’ll continue next week…)

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer

(1) I’m not suggesting these methods made it into doctrine, only that the Church tolerated their co-opting because it increased the size of the flock.

Nude Numbers (#8)

by abclarke

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? Click here.

Summary

As mentioned earlier, I may have a stress fracture in my lower right leg. This week continued my rehab with swimming and lifting. My recovery is taking longer than I want, and I was (stupidly) overly aggressive this week – I can still feel pain in my right leg. My weight control is back in place, and all metrics are (slowly) moving in the right direction. The marathon and bike-ride plans are still in danger, but if the injury is a stress fracture (hopefully), I can be back on the training plan in about 2 weeks.

Subjective Data

  1. My leg continues to be sore, and healing is not as fast as I’d like. I overdid it with swimming last Wednesday (tried some kicking) and the leg felt a lot sorer on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I’m swearing off kicking for a while.
  2. Missed swimming session on Thursday due to heavy work day (and sore leg).
  3. Weight and body fat headed (slowly) in right directions again.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

It’s all about the healing – or the lack of speed there-of. Still, apart from stupidity on Wednesday, things are going in the right directions. I’m still hopeful that I can begin biking next week, and make the September 7-9 170 mile bike ride. The marathon training will take priority after that – and it will be tight, but I’m still going for it.

My swimming stroke and form has improved, but once I remove the floats (which I have because I can’t kick) it gets much harder. Yardage therefore is misleadingly high.

Weight lifting worked well this week. I switched programs to a more-intensive but shorter duration workout (45 mins as opposed to an hour), alternating muscle groups every day, and only repeating a group after at least 5 days. I’ve been ‘good’ sore all week, and the change-up has been really fun.

My eating habits were awesome all week (if I don’t say so myself), with one cheat meal on Saturday. But it was a doozy, at L’Ecole in NYC. I recommend the place if you’re an adventurous eater.

As usual, if you have suggestions, leave a comment, or reach me at “art (at) abclarke.com”.

Plan

Basically more of the same:

  1. Continue rest, rest, resting the leg.
  2. Keep swimming. Target is 4 times per week.
  3. Keep doing the upper-body and core lifting, and keep with light leg work.
  4. Keep 2,000-2,250 calories-per-day target to keep weight under control.
  5. Keep smiling.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

– Art

Help me raise over $10,000 to help people suffering from cancer