Time to get back on the wagon – 3A

Just a bit more to add to yesterday’s post about weight analysis.

weekly104-threePeriods

This shows most of my six months of attempt at maintenance (earliest data is a truncated set). The blue markers were where I was add just prior to my camping vacation; in fact the couple of upticks were just some unrestrained eating before leaving.

The red markers, after the gap (no data) for vacation was my return where I didn’t exercise much consumption restraint, but did keep up exercise. That led to the upward drift that got my attention as of post -2 of this series and I began to try to push weight back down. The parabolic curve fit shows this up and down cycle. Note the high volatility of weights toward the end of the red dataset; this is literally salt. A few days in there (since it was tomato harvesting time) it was homemade salsa time, and naturally salty chips and of course also margaritas – booze and salt, one day of that can create a 4lb upward swing, then easily reversed with a day of abstinence.

The green markers (after another data gap for two vacations) represent my attempt to return to “normal”, reduced eating, steady exercise. The slope of the regression line is artificial and silly since the first couple of days of weight loss were the same thing, sweating off the gain from chips and salsa and margaritas in Santa Fe. Now I’m looking at a more steady (and real, but insufficient day yet to get very accurate rate of drop) reduction, hopefully heading back down to my target (just a bit lower than the blue data points).

The total six months or so “trend” is shown by the slightly upward linear trendline all the way across the graph. This has numerous statistical problems due to the gaps in data plus irregular reporting during the middle section, but nonetheless does represent the “truth” of my last six months and probably even roughly the correct magnitude  (e.g. slope of trendline, 0.25lb/week, without any restraint it would probably be more liks 0.5lb/week).

And that’s the classic problem with maintenance. There probably will be a steady drift upward with a lot of noisy changes day-to-day (thus making it hard to detect real gain over time without these simple statistical analyses). So you’re doing OK, but actually at a very slow rate (well below accuracy of any scale) you’re creeping up. By the time you really notice it (letting out a belt notch or going up a dress size) you’ve already had enough gain it will take a real and focused repeat of the initial weight loss regime.

Now I understand completely why the nutrition scolds advocate a change in lifestyle, not just a diet. Your over-eating and under-exercising that led to the weight gain you reversed with diet discipline is going to just come back and sabotage you. Your body wants to be fat and you’re letting it get its way.

So it would be great if it were as simple as changing your lifestyle, basically go mostly vegan and increase exercise. But come on, why is that any easier (or likely to succeed) than dieting? Do you really believe if I eat kale and quinoa for a year I’m going to like them instead of burgers and shakes – get real! The only people who believe this is these naturally slim scolds who feel so superior to everyone else but freely hand out useless advice. Most people, because that’s what evolution did to us (the fat ones survive in bad times and make more babies than skinny ones), have trouble with weight and a lot of useless, impossible to follow advice is stupid.

Now the place where some advice can be useful is getting people to just pay attention. It’s easy to every now and then think before putting something in your mouth (you may not even be hungry, you just want it) or think before skipping exercise. And calorie labeling (forget the other ever larger and confusing (or politically correct) labeling the scolds, even Michelle, are pushing for) can help. Just check what the difference between crispy and grilled chicken is. Little changes due to knowledge are easy to make. Most people have no idea how bad alcohol is, so a little wine won’t hurt, will it (might as well head to donut shop). So raising awareness, getting more information out there, encouraging moderation – terrific!

But the scolds can’t leave it at that. They have to sell you their politics, vegan is the only way, omega-3 is the only fat, anything white is poison – all this extreme stuff not based on science and just someone’s own agenda (looking at you, Bittman). People knew real and useful help, not pet theories or ideas dripping with moral superiority.

And the answer is simple: a) calories in must be ≤ calories burned,  b) if you’ve been fat you’re going to be hungry to stay fit, get over it (hey hungry is better than kale and quinoa),  and, c) there are no “superfoods” which provide silver bullets to make it easy.

So now let’s just see if I can manage to follow my own claims and see where I’m at a year from now. One fun thing of blogging, making indelible records either forces you to do what you say you’re going to do and you end up with a lot of egg on your face (didn’t bother the neocons, they just denied saying (as I saw Cheney) do, what the video recording showing they said). If I drift back up in weight, given I’m totally skeptical of nutrition scold nonsense, then it’s on me – can’t blame the fad diet book I didn’t follow.

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Time to get back on the wagon – 3

… or as alternate title, another boring weight post. Back on this post I declared my intent to return to my weight control discipline as I was slowly slipping back up again and hit a threshold where I had to return to more aggressive control (with some re-loss).

Well, things didn’t go as planned. For a couple of weeks I managed, at least, to halt my gain but made little progress reversing it. Then I hit the road. First a trip to Boston (with social events involving eating, plus eating out in general). Second an even longer vacation. Unfortunately going to restaurants and enjoying meals is part of what a vacation means to me. So after 12 days after my vacation I’m finally back to some discipline again.

For those of you, Dear Readers, that haven’t followed my posts, here’s my overall history (I’m a graph nut):

weekly104-fullHistory

This graph is my two-year history. The red line is my weekly weighin (a few points interpolated when I wasn’t near my scale). The steady decline in the first 24 weeks was when I was really really diligent about the loss, then the blip at week 26 shows the effect of my first vacation during this process, fortunately fairly quickly reversed. Then I made it, in the week 40 time period, hit my target. So off the severe loss regimen and onto a maintenance regimen, what I knew would be the hardest part. The green dots actually do a better job of showing my trends; these are a quarterly (13 week) moving average The first real blip up there was another and lengthy vacation (actually two of them), following by a return to discipline. But it was the slow but steady rise in weeks 70-91 was worried me. Even though the rise is only 10lbs, it was steady and represented a worrisome trend for the future. And while I haven’t reversed the trend as per my -2 post I did halt the rise. Then the most recent part of the red line shows my two recent vacations plus my aggressive recovery from them that started two weeks ago. It’s going to take a while to push the red line down, then slowly bending the green line down, but I’m committed to it, back to my 180 target.

The following graph gives an expanded review of my time in “maintenance”.

weekly104-quarterMA

Again I use the 13 week moving average to smooth out little fluctuations and give a better indication of the trend (btw: to any readers I suggest you consider doing some of this statistical and graphing stuff as individual weights do vary a lot and it takes a lot of data and smoothing to get clear trends, see all my previous posts about scale variability and daily weighin variability). This exaggerated scale makes it look really bad, but bear in mind we’re only talking about a 7% variation of my total weight, enough to be significant, but also small enough to declare I’m not doing that bad on maintenance (and again, almost all scientific articles indicate it’s what happens after initial weight loss that is the hard part). The second cycle of rising weight is more “ragged” (involves many events in my life) than the first one (almost entirely due to a single vacation, up quick and reversed almost as quickly). IOW, the sustained rise during past 25 weeks has been more difficult to control.

This is somewhat due to events (it is hard to maintain when your daily or weekly activity changes) and somewhat due to lack of attention. But the key part is that gathering data like this and then graphing clearly focuses on failure to maintain and what’s needed to get back under control. (In my case, failure to maintain means going back on some meds I don’t like so I have strong incentive to stay on plan, way more so than merely appearance issues). So as of my -2 post I halted gain but didn’t reverse it and now I’ve very slightly begun to reverse.

So far, so good, but some challenges lie ahead. We’re entering the time of year where avoiding excess eating and also maintaining exercise will be a challenge. With upcoming holidays, family get-togethers, and other issues for me, I can’t so single-mindedly just focus on weight (and in last couple of months my daily calorie burn exercising has fallen about 30% as well (time issues) making intake all the more important – you might be able to lapse on one or the other, but definitely not both). And as I recently posted I don’t believe in the gradual approach. I need to do everything I can to get back to the 2.5lb/week loss I managed in my first 24 weeks so I can get the recent blip back under control – no dilly-dallying, DO IT!

And as my final graph, here’s the last year (I roll this graph every week by a week):

weekly104-52weeks-1

Here the blue markers are actual weekly weigh-ins and the red markers are the interpolated points where I was away from scale (given the variability of scales there is no point in getting weights from some other scale). For some people this would be viewed as rather poor maintenance (to some degree, I agree, but I also allow myself to do some of this as I’m not going to obsess about weight all the time + after dropping 65lbs to reach 200lbs, I’m not too unhappy to stay (mostly) below 200lbs for a year). But the trendline (which I believe despite the low r^2) isn’t good: 1) it’s slightly up rather than significantly down, and, 2) its’ about 7lbs over my target (185lbs, the BMI that is my threshold for “overweight”, even though I’ve been below borderline obese for nearly two years).

Now if I duck below the 190 level for next few weeks the trendline will turn down, but that’s deceptive. The real challenge is to get (steadily) back below the 185 threshold which is going to take more discipline than I’ve exercised over past year and then see if I can’t hold that for a while (if I can I’m going to try to go below 180 which I only reached in a few daily weigh-ins).

So we’ll see how well I do and you can hold me to my goals, Dear Reader. Even if I blow it (some, not a lot, I hope) through end of 2014, I’m going to stay on top of this so my 2015 New Year’s resolution will be to not exceed 190 during 2015.

And to anyone reading this who is working on weight control it is persistence and vigilance that really determines success. I have to do this because my aging is making lots of exercise (I averaged over 1000 calories/day during rapid loss) more difficult so upward blips are going to be hard to reverse.

and, btw, stay away from chips and salsa and margaritas as I so much enjoyed while in Santa Fe.

 

 

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SCOTUS is using SSM as a smokescreen

Don’t get me wrong, I completely support SSM (single-sex marriage) and am thrilled the courts, including SCOTUS have decided to get out of the way of justice. Not only is this great for providing rights to an oppressed group of people but I love seeing the religinuts get smacked down (they gloated a bit too much over HobbyLobby’s discrimination so they’re getting the scorecard evened out).

BUT…

I think SCOTUS is pulling one of the standard magician’s tricks. Distract you with one hand (or activity) while then pulling the trick with the unnoticed hand. Since liberalism has embraced rights it sees these victories as the glass half full and, in some ways, fails to notice what the other hand is doing, i.e. and esp. on voting rights.

After all what SCOTUS really is is the patron of corporate privilege. So the rich get everything they want from SCOTUS. But even SCOTUS has to play coalition politics, so the religinuts and gun nuts get a few wins as well and even the libertarians even get some mentions.

The rich don’t really care about SSM, it hardly affects them at all. At worst, it’s neutral to their continuing grab of all wealth and at best it actually gets them some more goodies. So their position is simple – let the libs have a token win in an area that doesn’t affect us while we continue our theft and the libs will be so distracted by their “win” their response to their losses will be muted.

What SCOTUS really cares about is the political power for the rich to continue to rule. That’s what Citizens United and anti-voting rights is all about – keep the rabble away from the polls and/or feed them unlimited BS through political ads. The Repugs will rule forever and thus feed their masters, the greedy rich. Now denying voting rights in Texas, at least this election cycle is probably irrelevant, but come 2016, where Texas with its rising majority could throw the whole election, so let’s make sure those folks can’t vote and thus maybe put someone in national office that might begin to reverse the income disparity the rich have accumulated since Reagan.

So let’s cheer the win for the good guys, over one group getting rights, but let’s not lose sight of what affects many more of us a lot more.

I don’t get hot and bothered about income disparity over “fairness” (I do actually, but that’s secondary). I really go along with the idea that when the rich get too much success exercising their greed, they: a) will dampen economic growth for everyone else, b) will do stupid stuff with their money and create a new bubble-and-panic that will make 2008 look tame, and, c) their greed will continue feeding the nonsustainable growth, esp. through favoring old money and anti-environment.

The real threat the vast majority of us face today is the depletion of resources and the destruction of the environment critical to human survival (at least most of us, since the rich will hire their private armies to continue to control an increasingly dystopian world). Ebola and ISIS show us another side of the global economy. No longer can the rich countries (and their elites) keep the bad stuff “over there”. It’s going to come to our shores. So technologically advanced countries may be able to build infrastructure against rising waters, but as vast parts of the globe are ravaged by starvation resulting from climate change and resource depletion what ISIS is doing in a screwed up part of the world is going to spread to other places and then to the rich countries. This is the threat we’ll all see and that is way more important.

So SSM, great, but don’t let SCOTUS fool you they’ve still stealing out of your pocket and the consequences of that are going to be really really bad.

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Easy target, another nutrition myth

Now that I’m a bit warmed up with my first post for a while I can move on to one of my more favorite targets to bludgeon: no,  not the Repugs or religinuts (too easy) but one of my favorite whipping boys, the nutrition scolds.

You might wonder why I point out the follies of these folks. Well, it’s simple (if you read my other posts). I have successfully lost a lot of weight, going off all meds as a consequence, and I want to keep it that way and not, as most do, drift back to the bad old me. So I need help, real help (i.e. evidence-based) of things I can change. So I read a lot of stuff, almost all of it bad (or silly or dogma or just plain misinformed). So, like I say, an easy target.

Over all the time I have spent ranting about nutrition scolds I realize it’s like most human activity – opinion and dogma with very few facts. So naturally I love it when I find studies that contradict the conventional wisdom, such as this post. While the breakfast-is-most-important-meal is a favorite to flog this one is a bit more subtle – if you are losing (or plan to lose) significant weight, which is better, do it as fast as you can or do it gradually.

The conventional wisdom of nutrition scolds is to due it gradually, on the grounds that rapid loss will just be followed by rapid gain. Now that part, based on what evidence I can find, is not the part that is wrong. The wrong part is that the gradual loss is much more effective. Of course this study, like almost any study (since they all contradict each other) debunks that. And why not? What is so magical about gradual weight loss that it works better. If I can try to get the scolds out of a jam is that what they’re really saying is that you need to change your ways, not just for a brief time during rapid weight loss, but for the rest of your life. Agreed, no problem with that idea. But it’s the next step, of course, about how that gets them in trouble. Either they support silly diets (all diets are silly, except any that reduce calorie consumption below expenditure) or they think some magical foods (their favorites, “superfoods”) are the panacea.

Well, sorry, it’s simpler than that. Prepare yourself, if like me you body likes to get fat, to be hungry a lot. Not fun, not a silver bullet message, but the harsh truth that actually works.

Now in terms of this study why might it be true that rapid gain is at least as good, if not better, than gradual loss. Absent any scientific evidence (this study, or at least the pop reporting of it, has no actual biochemistry to support its conclusions) we’ll have to assume it’s all about state of mind and so a couple of simple things (partly hypothesized in the article) come to mind:

  1. losing weight definitely means being hungry a lot and that’s not fun, so perhaps the less time you have to spend under-consuming calories, with the attendant growling stomach, which evolution gave us to seek more calories so we get off our butts and go find some and don’t starve, will work out better. A few months of thoroughly committed and engaged calorie reduction is a lot easier to handle than many months of being slightly less hungry (we’ll get that when we worry about maintenance)
  2. we all respond to incentives and a nice chart (or just some numbers somewhere) nicely reinforces the unpleasant feelings we’re having – progress toward a goal always helps stay on track
  3. maybe a lot hungry instead of a little hungry also produces the sense of really working at it rather than just sorta trying and for many of us hard work creates the psychological state that we’re really doing something rather than just dabbling at it.

Whatever might be the explanation, which is not proven by this study or any other I’ve found, it also might just be what kind of person you are: I like working hard, I like measuring results (esp. when there are some), and I like the sense I’m really trying. So rapid reduction works for me (I have 70lbs on a chart to prove it, too). What works for you? Well, that’s up to you.

And perhaps that is the main point. The nutrition scolds don’t have answers (at least any evidence-based ones) so if one of their schemes fits your life, go for it, but don’t believe that any answer is going to make it less difficult. It’s hard and you’ll suffer so get ready for that. And good luck.

Now since I hit my goal and now have been bouncing around somewhat above it, let me tell you the real answer about maintenance. You WILL have periods of failure (eating is too much fun, there are too many excuses, like in my case, vacations). But that’s not the bad part, it’s OK to blow it. The hard part is that that little bit of gain is going to be just as hard to get rid of, if not harder, than the blob you had before. You regain weight a little at a time, so set some threshold where you go back into high gear and the full dieting mode (whatever worked for you) after hitting the threshold. Don’t wait, it won’t get any easier. And for me, that means doing the drastic loss again, and then sometime later, again, and, guess what, again and again. So I think the drastic loss is better, you’ll get practice at it and you’ll get good at it, and that you’ll need. You have a little lapse and bounce up a bit, a extra few minutes of exercise or one less muffin isn’t going to do it (I’ve found it takes five days of aggressive loss to make up for one day of indulgence). So don’t put it off. Don’t panic over a few pounds, but just don’t let those few pounds become a few more and few more.

Weight loss, for fat bodies, is about being hungry – sorry, kale smoothies or steel-cut oatmeal isn’t going to fix it. HUNGER is (and exercise, but that’s the easier one for me, at least until I get a bit older and my joints give out).

So it’s simple – more calories in than you burn, you’re gonna get fat; less and you’ll get it off. No magic, just work.

 

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It’s been a month; LOL at ISIS

For a variety of reasons I haven’t managed a post in nearly a month. And we certainly know there is a lot to talk about. What I’m learning is that blogging is a state of mind, sometimes it’s there, sometime it isn’t. So I’ll start getting back into with something easy.

With the fear-mongering the Repugs are doing to try to clinch the election they’re pulling out all the stops. Scott Brown thinks Mittens would have magically kept Ebola from the shores, of course fanning the flames that Obama’s plot to kill us all with Ebola is about to be completed and we need to be very very afraid and vote Repug. Right, Scott – dream on.

So it’s no surprise that poor old ISIS is unhappy they got pushed out of the #1 spot by Ebola, yet another boogie-man streaming across our unprotected southern borders (or the non-existent direct flights from Africa the Repugs want to cancel, even if there aren’t any (I guess they’ve already succeeded, hurrah and pass the voting machines)).

Clearly ISIS knows its PR. I just saw an article that says, as awful as it is, ISIS has beheaded a few people, our oil buddies in Saudi Arabia have done nearly a hundred. The Saudis need to hire ISIS’ PR agency to make sure they get their due.

So now it’s warplanes that will soon be streaming over the border and bombing our cities. I love it, what a thoroughly stupid fear-mongering story, the perfect collusion between the Repugs and ISIS. Now as awful and disgusting as it is, when it comes to beheadings on the ground in territory they control, wait until a bunch of newly minted “pilots” get up in the sky in obsolete captured Syrian jets and take on our A team. The US jet jockeys are just drooling over shooting down some rookie who doesn’t realize a combat aircraft is not a knife used on a defenseless person, well that is, until our pilots take out 7th century warriors in the sky.

But with days to go before the election I’m sure some Repug will find some new way to blame Obama and spread more fear while ISIS is probably smart enough to just put out their propaganda and keep their pilots on the ground.

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My return to Mt. Washington

Almost exactly 50 years ago I first climbed Mt. Washington. I had just started college and some older guys said, “You want to go climb Mt. Washington?” And I said, “What’s that?” and they said “the highest mountain in east coast” and I said “how high?” and they said “6000 feet” and I sorta laughed. Just two years earlier I’d been living in Montana and 6000′ is a hill, not a mountain. So, of course, I said sure, wanting to see New Hampshire for the first time. Now there are two gotchas: a) while the mountain is only 6000′ the trail starts at 2000′, so it’s a 4000′ climb, and toward the end seriously rugged and steep, and, b) Mt. Washington has recorded the worst weather (wind and/or temperatures) in the lower 48 states. But I was young and stupid so up we went, hitting fog so thick I literally could not see my hand in front of my face (good thing or I would have known we were climbing the headwall, not for the faint of heart), then freezing rain, then snow. Of course I wasn’t prepared, no boots, only a sweater, no food or water. Upon reaching the summit we then read about all the people that have died doing this, falling off the mountain in zero visibility (check, know about that), freezing conditions even when it’s pleasantly warm down below (check, know about that).

Just to make things more fun my first ever backpacking trip was on the Great Gulf side (come from the north of the summit), in a freakin’ hurricane. Yes, I knew Boston was in the hurricane (lots of rain, not much wind), but (stupidly) thought it wouldn’t go inland and further north. I ruined a new set of boots walking many miles on the trail that was now a river, forded a stream up to my waist that I’d walked on the rocks without getting wet the day before.

So Mt. Washington and I have a history.

I’m now in Boston for the Centennial celebration of the local chapter of my fraternity and I realized this is 50 years since I first arrived in Boston. So I added a day to my schedule so I could return to Mt. Washington, almost to the day 50 years later.

Now if you’ve been following my adventures in weight loss you know I’ve been doing a ton of exercise and so relatively long hikes in Nebraska (up to 12 miles, but on completely level ground). Since I know the weather can be awful (and reports indicated freezing temps and some snow) I only planned to go up to the headfall which I thought would be about 8 mile roundtrip (it’s more like only 5 miles). Even though I know I’d be doing a lot of climbing I figured I could easily do this especially as some of my hard hikes in Wyoming were at 9000′ and above.

Boy was I wrong (and I’ll be paying for it with stiff and sore for my social events in next three days. So here’s a few pictures along the way (with my new camera that I discovered I don’t really know how to use, properly, yet).

It starts innocently enough with this:

DSCN0113(small)

Yes, it’s a mere 4.1 miles to the summit and only 2.4 miles to the shelter where I expected to go (and, btw, WF, I’d forgotten this was the Tuckerman Trail, believing it was Pinkham Notch trail, as you mentioned you’d do it).

So off we go:

DSCN0119(small)

Piece of cake, a walk through the woods, even with the climbing I’ll be there in no time.

BUT, the early part of the trail was just suckering me (although this is also how I remember it, steep, but good trail):

DSCN0138(small)

Oops, is this a trail or a dried up stream bed! Boulders and more boulders, and

DSCN0141(small)

and it wasn’t just that one stretch, the whole way up! and worse, down! was extremely rugged trail. In fact, there was even “construction” on the trail (I’d seen a warning at the trailhead, big deal, so some rangers are digging in the trail). BUT, I encounter a full Caterpiller tractor, backhoe and grader. The guy running it (not there on way up, but met on the way down) had driven the thing up there and was cutting erosion preventative “ditches” about every 50 feet, so a new obstacle was all the very slick mud his machine kicked up. Oh joy, this is the hardest trail I’ve ever done.

But I kept plugging along and got to:

DSCN0154(small)

the shelter, as advertised about 2.4 miles (just over 4km on my GPS). A welcome rest. Now the time I backpacked in the hurricane there was a shelter just like this, naturally completely filled with people trying to get out of the rain. I remember just wanting to sit in the shelter to get out of the rain and the people who had already claimed its space kicking me (literally) to get out. So it was interesting to see this one empty (and while there were a few sprinkles, also almost completely dry).

So now we’re getting close to my turnaround:

DSCN0160(small)Now, just below the clouds we can see the “bowl” (I met another guy who comes up here in the winter time and skis this and he referred to it as the bowl, i.e. the somewhat flat area just at the base of the headwall). This shot is actually from a short viewpoint trail at the shelter.

DSCN0160(small)

Just a bit further up the trail is a ranger station with a better view. Note the clouds completely obscuring both the headwall and the summit.

DSCN0162(small)

There is a nice lake also just below the bowl (in the background):

DSCN0165(small)

And this is the “base camp”, mostly for winter skiers and climbers with a nice deck, but by now it’s in the low 40s so a bit chilly to see on the deck today.

DSCN0173(small)

If the boulders in the “trail”, plus steepness of the trail, down below looked bad, it only gets worse trying to ascend above the base camp into the bowl.

DSCN0174(small,cropped)

And this sign is announcing the serious change in the ecosystem due to elevation, now about 2000′ above the trailhead, but still 2000′ below the summit:

DSCN0179(small)

You can see we’re getting near the treeline as most of the forest is lower (this photo looks back down toward the trailhead, where it’s sunny). And:

DSCN0181(small)

up in the fog (that hill is NOT the summit, probably only half as high as the summit which is somewhere off to the left), but it’s getting tough for plants up here (remember this is only about 4000′ and in the Rockies the treeline is usually above 9000′, tells you something about how harsh the weather is here in comparison to “real” mountains of the west). And:

DSCN0182(small)

and:

DSCN0184(small)

now we’re looking down the “trail”, guess how much fun that slope is on 68YO knees going back down. In fact, this is basically where I realized going higher might jeopardize whether I could get back down without falling, so this is as far as I went, still a bit short of the bowl, which was completely fogged in anyway. So:

DSCN0186(small)

there is the summit, somewhere up there, with temps already below freezing and the wind was gusting to 20-30mph here! (Mt. Washington has huge winds, driving chill factor far lower, in fact, the highest winds recorded in the U.S.)

DSCN0187(small)

after very slowly coming back down the “steps” I took another shot of a different lake. You can just barely see a set of waterfalls coming down from the bowl. Naturally I used my 1000mm zoom on my new camera to get a nice shot of the falls, BUT, let the camera auto-focus and it picked nearby trees, not the water fall (I should have manually set the focus to infinity to get the waterfalls), so sorry I can’t show you the falls.

So all in all a successful trip, but that extremely rough trail really strained my knees and ankles, but also whatever muscles we have that keep us from falling while going down a steep slope, which in my case are weak since treadmill in the basement only goes uphill, not down. I’ll be paying for this tomorrow, not to mention my shoulders from my way too heavy pack (compensating for my youthful climb where I had nothing!)

Just in case anyone thinks I’m making all this up, here’s my tracklog:

tracklog

That’s New Hampshire route 16, the parking lot at Pinkham Notch where it starts. Put the final coordinate (in red) in Google Earth and take a look.

And here’s the vertical profile of this tracklog:

profile

Pretty steep climb, eh! You try it sometime.

 

 

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Huskers squeak through – is it a pattern?

Fortunately no Husker fans read this blog so I won’t get my house firebombed for such disloyal statements as I’ll make here. The Huskers just barely won a game yesterday that they should have put away without breaking a sweat, but, then, other Big10 teams crashed and burned providing more evidence of how weak this conference. Now ‘weak’ is not usually a word connected with the Big10 since the teams love brute force power football and get the players to push everyone around, but ‘weak’ can also apply to: no offense, clueless coaching, and lackadaisical (and arrogant) defense. Except for the heroic effort of a single player yesterday’s game could easily have gone into overtime (what I was expecting (and dreading since the drive home would be awful)) and evenly easily lost since McNeese State didn’t know they were supposed to lose and go home.

So what is the problem (and has been the problem for years). IMHO, it’s actually fairly simple – Nebraska and even all Big10 football doesn’t send quarterbacks to the NFL. And the promising high school kids have tons of information, even agents, to know that if they want the big NFL bucks they have to go to college where their skills will shine. And, that’s not Nebraska. Simple – when is the last time a Nebraska quarterback has (successfully) gone into the NFL? (successful as in Heisman winner Crouch’s fiasco).

But even if some kid who might be good enough, trained by playing in a good NFL level offense, does happen to get recruited to Nebraska the mindless running game, especially expecting the QB to do much of that running, almost guarantees failure in pursuing an NFL career. Now if the Huskers can’t recruit a top-level quarterback, what about receivers? Is some hot hands receiver going to want to come to Nebraska to learn to block?

So in the time I’ve been imprisoned here and, of course, required to both watch and cheer for the Huskers, I’ve seen the same pattern, over and over and over (as stupid Bo said yesterday when only referring to five penalties when NcNeese also had a TD called back and could complain as well, and after all, aren’t most penalties really on coaching, as Bo fakes taking responsibility for). Anyway, it’s run and run and run, the pre-60s style of play that has been over for decades, but still dominates both Nebraska and the Big10.

So other than putting this on the coaches (for a stupid offense and weak recruiting) and then on the fans (who love QB runs since it’s easy to watch and understand and it’s hearkens back to the glory days) I put it squarely on the QB, i.e. Armstrong as merely the latest in a long string of mediocre QBs who get away with mediocrity because they occasionally thrill the crowd with runs.

Playing QB is incredibly hard and I don’t even pretend to understand it. But if you just look at motion on the field and the strategy and tactics it’s not that hard to understand. Despite many teams who love it, QBs should almost never run. Yes, a few situations still exist where it is appropriate but the real job of the QB is to throw.

And as the press and fans endlessly hounded Martinez for throwing mechanics it’s not about a QBs arm and certainly not about their feet (Joe Willy could hardly move and he routed the old Colts in the Superbowl). What it is about is the eyes and mind and particularly ‘situational awareness’.

You can read lots about this. The Air Force and the Navy study it and try to find ways to improve it, even though it’s mostly an innate skill. It is the single thing that really allows combat pilots and QBs to succeed. To take a quick glance of visual information and create in the mind a mental map of all the relevant bits of matter and their trajectories (both first and second derivatives) in space and predict where all these bits will be in the time for a shot (a missile or cannon, or a passed forward) to intersect precisely, meanwhile with the hostile forces not in a position to interfere with your attack.

And the great QBs, like Joe Montana, have this quality in spades. It is the cornerstone of QB greatness.

Now it’s hard enough to recruit a QB with exceptional situational awareness, it is even harder to train them to maximize this skill. And every run interferes with this.

A QB has an unbelievably difficult task that he must accomplish in just a few seconds. For the great one time slows down and they see the field and all the moving bits of matter clearly; for the mediocre ones they have to study it AND they end up focusing only on a small section of the entire area where they should have situational awareness.

So that is hard enough BUT then throw in running and even the best QB’s senses go to pot. In that 2-3 seconds to intuitively and instinctively plot the course of all the moving bits of matter, distracting that awareness, even for milliseconds to look for gaps to run through destroys the coherency of the QBs view of the field. A QB who thinks running is an option is NOT devoting 100% of his situational awareness to throwing the ball. Many Husker QBs I’ve watched are even worse than Armstrong at this.

But it’s also the fans and the press. A Husker QB is not going to the NFL so the field and crowd at Memorial Stadium will be his glory days. So when he misses a read and tucks and runs, but then gets some yards and the fans, who don’t realize this was actually a MISTAKE then scream their heads off. That goes to the head of a glory seeking young man where those screams from the crowd are the biggest payday he’s going to get.

A great running back doesn’t see the whole field, he sees the obstacles in front of him, instantly computes how to be stronger or more agile than the bits of matter along his route – his focus is a narrow tunnel a few yards long. A QB has to look at about 1/3 acre!! of field and at least 10 moving bits of matter. That’s incredibly difficult and if his focus shifts to that narrow corridor a running back sees, he can not possibly regain his feel for an area 100x larger. The run is poison to a QB.

So the Huskers will stumble along. They face a weak schedule. They have 100+ M$ to put incredible muscle and conditioning on their players. They can move mountains. They just can’t move the ball when they really have to.

Plus in watching this team only once I can remember did they really fight to win. They’re so used to dominating and being safely in front that when the going gets tough they collapse. Independently of how much better Oregon is do you really think the Huskers could have rallied to defeat Michigan State yesterday.

I cringe every time I hear Bo talking about how he’ll have to watch the film and figure out what to do next week. Come on – you’re not getting huge bucks to take A WEEK to figure out what happened on Saturday – you do it in real time. Did USC or Oregon win yesterday because their coach spent hours watching film? No, they adjusted, right there, on the field in real time and turned adversity into advantage. Bo’s brain is just too damned slow to even be on the field on Saturdays – he should get coaches who think fast (which, of course, would embarrass him) and let them run the game if he can’t think fast enough to command the game in real time.

But most of all, absolutely most of all, they need QBs who couldn’t run if you attached jets to their feet so their entire, 101%, attention is focused on one and only one thing – getting the ball to the player who is supposed to run, whether by hand or by arm. DON’T RUN!

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