2015 Huskers Predictions

Well the annual fall ritual where every heart and throat in Nebraska is tuned to one and only one thing (no, not the Repug primaries) is almost upon us – Nebraska football, the purpose this state exists (other than to fill in the map and put tea baggers in office). So with demon Pelini gone and thus no sideline and press conference entertainment to look forward to (maybe Pelini should join the Repugs and offer a counter to blowhard Trump as his new career) what is going to happen with the new “nice guy” Riley at the helm.

Actually, despite serious losses of experienced players plus lousy recruiting Bo did, Mike has his work cut out. The biggest challenge will be Armstrong. According to rumor mills Riley is going to try to convert Armstrong (the most violent critic of the Pelini firing and no fan of Mike) into a pocket passer. Good luck at that one. Not only is it just that Armstrong is 53% and often throws the ball into an empty part of the field (no, not actually deliberately throwing the ball away, he just can’t read the field), but his instinct is run, run, run, like most Huskers QBs before him.

Riley thinks he can fix this by coaching up Armstrong, but what Mike hasn’t seen is Memorial Stadium on gameday. Nebraska doesn’t just have a QB run game offense because that’s their personnel or game plan; they do it because the fans love it. And when Armstrong sees a bit of empty green and knows 90,000 fans will go crazy cheering for him, he’s still going to be inclined to tuck it and run. And of course he’ll get yards, rarely strategically relevant, and the fans will go wild, reinforcing Armstrong’s already bad instincts. But who knows, maybe Mike can retrain Armstrong (like put ear protection on so he can’t hear the fans) and maybe there will be some offense. Maybe some running back will emerge and so the fans can get their dose of smashmouth without having the QB getting crushed and rattled.

Meanwhile what about defense. The great defensive genus Pelini certainly fell short on this in the past, an amazing shortcoming the fans never seemed to notice. For those of you who’ve never been to Memorial Stadium you should know that only the defense fires up the crowd – when the offense is on the field (their only purpose being to give defense a rest) the crowd heads for the bathroom break. This is a fundamentally defense loving crowd so it will be interesting to see what Mike does with that (Pelini’s defenses got so bad it may be hard for Riley to do any worse).

So with few stars on either side of the ball, a new coach and new offense, what chance do the Huskers really have?

Well not too bad I think. With only one really tough opponent (MSU, who late in the year might be beat up a bunch so there is still a chance against them) and a few medium tough opponents I think 50% is certainly going to be easy. Nine games – a bit tougher. And anything better than that would be a remarkable accomplishment. Unfortunately, for the stats, the usual initial doormats before conference play hold the possibility of more surprises – so look for a loss either to BYU or Miami (where we’ll see if new guy Riley can handle the usual gutter fight that game is). Minnesota and MSU are the only scary conference games, but let’s hope the losing streak to Minnesota gets broken this year and so only one of these get dropped.

So I rate, 90% chance of 7 wins, 80% at 8, 67% at 8, 49% at 10, and maybe 40% chance at western division title, but almost no chance at B1G conference (unless OSU falls apart with their love of running QBs and gets all their guys bashed; or MSU gets in a funk, and Wisconsin as wild card).

But while the fans are likely to be disappointed (unlikely Riley will revert back to pure physical football even if his skill players are weak) but probably they’ll tolerate this transitional season. Riley can go below 9 wins this year, but not next, and he’ll need conference title in three seasons or he’ll get to proceed with his original retirement plans.

But I’m hoping Riley can bring enough Pac-12 style of play that I can enjoy games that aren’t just the usual ground-and-pound B1G boring football.

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Apathy, messy life and weight maintenance

I haven’t bored you, Dear Reader, for a while with my weight loss (now maintenance) battles, so now I’ll do a quick post, for myself (to keep my attention on this effort). As any long-term readers know this was a common type of post in months past but something I’ve largely abandoned, partly out of disappointment in myself, partly as I don’t want to admit what’s happened. But that’s how it happens, the yo-yo weight loss and so now I’ll put myself on display as part of the incentive to myself to maintain my discipline. Here’s the history, as a reminder:

weekly146-weeks

Note: I’m also suffering from the failure of my WiFi repeater and thus poor Net connectivity that makes posts, especially uploads of these graphs difficult.

So for about 10 months (the left side of the graph) I was on a steady downward march. The red line is the actually once-a-week (Sunday) weigh-in and the green line is a 6-month moving average which smooths some of the bumps. Previous bumps were due to vacations, which is a pardonable relapse of some weight gain, usually quickly reversed, because eating out is part of my vacation fun.

But of late (last five months or so) I’ve struggled to do the harder task (no mental reward of a nice steady decrease) of weight maintenance, better seen in this shorter-term graph:

weekly146

The starting point of this graph is my return from a vacation in Boston, with the usual weight gain due to eating out, but with the usual rapid loss. The next bump is the end-of-year (Xmas, New Year’s) holiday bump, again with fairly rapid decline, although not quite to previous levels.

So it’s the fairly steady gain starting in week 126, about 5 months ago that is alarming. This is how it starts, one over-indulgence after another, one excuse (I’ll get back on track next week) after another, and then over the last couple of months where my life has been turned upside-down by having to put much more time and effort into caring for my 100YO mother with her end-of-life issues.

What doesn’t show on this graph (but in another in my spreadsheets) is the fairly steady 0.33lb/week gain since March 2015, resulting in about 10lb gain since my last low (which was near my target of 185lbs). Lots of reasons why this is happening, but the real message (to me) is that it is happening and undeniable, and unlike the vacation gains, not a short-term, easy-to-reverse kind of gain.

That means I need to calm my life and restore my discipline and get those 10lbs (real fat this time) back off. During my sustained loss I average just under 2.5lbs/week, so IOW, I have five weeks of the same type of discipline I had to get back to where I should be. My life circumstances aren’t (yet) very helpful for maintaining my focus, but I just have to not let that become a perpetual excuse.

So that leads to my first term in my title – Apathy. It was much easier in my first 10 months of significant and sustained loss. I was almost totally focused and rewarded for my effort with a nice set of numbers, providing the positive feedback to stay focused. But now, facing hunger every day for the next five weeks, plus a general tiredness and fatigue doing my exercise, I have a difficult mental battle with myself to actually care enough to put in the effort.

My initial weight loss was triggered by a doctor visit recommending drugs I didn’t want to take. Not only did I succeed in avoiding that I even eliminated the previous drugs I’d been taking (cholesterol control, BP control) and I really enjoyed accomplishing that. But today I’ve already had that “reward” and so I’m just looking at preventing getting back to the bad state I was before, which is, simply, not the same kind of incentive.

So my real battle starts now and as part of that I need to return to all the visible progress (or failure) via these posts, so stay tuned as I really try to turn the corner on all this.

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Repugs hitting new levels of crazy

With the massive field of candidates struggling for attention and Trump sucking all the oxygen out of the race each candidate is trying to one-up the others with new levels of extreme craziness to attempt to emerge from the pack. It’s appalling what these idiots will do just to make ridiculous statements in order to get at least some of the press. If any of thing could actually do even a fraction of what they claim the U.S. would be destroyed in a week, possibly even the world.

It’s really sad that politics has descended so completely into the theater of the absurd to attempt to catch the ear of the most extreme of the Repug base. Most people, Dems and Repugs, are paying little attention to all this noise, so the candidates have to turn up the volume just to get any attention from the tiny fraction of the Repug wingnuts to get any traction at all.

Come on, Huck – the Iran deal is not leading Israelis to the oven. Come on Israelis and American Jews – denounce this extremism; you know what a real holocaust is and letting an evangelical preacher preempt your real distress over the actual Holocaust is pandering of the worst type. People of faith, christian and jewish, should be called on to denounce these extremists the same way you call on muslims to denounce terrorists. Is attention-grabbing claims the only thing left of our politics!

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Closed another gap on Wabash Trace

A whole bunch of things have halted my hiking on the Wabash Trace. First, it’s well into summer and thus the heat (and esp. humidity) of summer that make walks somewhat unpleasant. But second, and most of all, has been the non-stop attention my 100YO mother’s medical conditions and care needs has demanded. In fact this was really getting to me and I just had to get in a hike for some relief.

While I’ve sorta managed to keep up my exercise in the basement on exercise equipment this kind of exercise doesn’t have the positive mental effect on me that real outdoor exercise has. While I lived in Silicon Valley I did tons of biking and while I noticed (somewhat) have that relieved stress I didn’t really recognize this positive effect of exercise until I moved here to Omaha and was unable (for a variety of reasons) to maintain frequent (and lengthy) exercise. I realized that a bike ride (or now a hike) is really good stress relief; I’d start with my mind buzzing with various negative thoughts and the sheer repetitive nature of pedaling (or one foot in front of the other walking) counteracts this and soon I managed to achieve a much more relaxed state, vital for then returning to stressful situations.

So despite less than ideal conditions I just had to get away yesterday and so I used that opportunity to close one of my gaps on the Wabash as shown below:

Wabash10

I had to do a longer hike than just the gap as: 1) the nearest road to the gap (Gaston) has no place to park, and, 2) there is actually about a 3 miles roadless section of the Wabash starting in Silver city before reaching Gaston. So most of my 6.9 mile yesterday was retracing the section of trail heading southeast from Silver City (blue track log). But as you can see on the map I’m now down to some smaller gaps, unfortunately now an added 30 minutes of driving time further south. The tiny segment of tracklog near Imogene (manually labeled in red on the map) has about a 2 mile chunk north of Imogene and then about a 7 mile chunk south (to connect to previous segment heading into Shenandoah). Then as I’ve previously post a hike north toward Shenandoah ended just short of closing that small gap. I’m not sure how many hikes it will take to close these gaps, then leaving only the southernmost part of the Wabash to complete (even longer drive, less interesting trail).

It was interesting that while it was generally hot (although cooler than typical) and humid the Trace creates its own microclimate. While muggy most of the trail is in shade and with considerable ground moisture so it was much cooler. But midsummer has another disadvantage – lots of gnats. So spring/fall are really the ideal times for this Trace.

I’m hoping the situation with my mother will stabilize soon (as in she leaves hospital and returns to care in the nursing home so I have fewer things to do) and thus we can soon make an overnight trip to Shenandoah and close some of those gaps. Shenandoah has interesting memories for my wife and I as once we went geodashing in midwinter and got stuck on a minimum maintenance road just north of Shenandoah and so spent the night in Shenandoah while waiting for a tow of our stuck car. So returning in summer will be an interesting contract. It’s amazing that such a short trip, to basically nowhere, is now about the only kind of “getaway” circumstances allow me to do.

So now I’ve done 89.9 miles total on the Wabash with 33.9 ungapped miles from Council Bluffs to just north of Imogene (out of the 63 mile total length of the trail).  And after I close the gaps on this map I should be up to about 50-55 miles ungapped so it will be fun to finally complete this. BTW: It’s difficult to get precise distances as I have to manually drawn a “route” (in Garmin’s Basecamp) over the tracklogs I actually recorded but that is a tedious process of I sometimes skipped (just do a linear segment) over some detail in the tracklogs.

But at least I got out and am happy about that, just wishing I could have done more yesterday and hopefully soon can do some more.

I actually wish I’d taken my camera (with GPS) and made many more photographs of almost all the details of the trail (bridges, rest stops, road crossings) so even after I finish I suppose I can do that as a project to repeat all these miles. Too bad I create so much CO2 (driving to trail) doing what is otherwise a healthy and green activity.

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Lying with links

The web writing style, using links as references, is a bit different from conventional footnotes and while it appears to be authoritative you need to actually look at the links to see if that source supports the point being made.

Case in point: In the article Acupuncture: Demystifying an Ancient Practice, the author, Elissa Miolene provides a link to a study that sounds like it supports her point:

However, a 2007 NIH study said that of 5,981 patients suffering from long-term pain, the average success rate after acupuncture treatment was near 80 percent.

Sounds pretty decisive, doesn’t it but let’s see what happens when we click the link. This leads to a PubMed abstract titled Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders – a systematic literature review. Now I suppose one can define anxiety as a kind of pain, even long-term pain, but I think most readers would interpret pain differently. But that’s only the beginning of the deception. This is a so-called meta-analysis, i.e. not a study in itself but merely a review of other studies, but here are a few red flags:

All trials reported positive findings but the reports lacked many basic methodological details.

This is common in that the threshold of publishing studies, somewhere (there is a journal somewhere for any kind of woo) is low, but someone who does the meta-analysis is basically recognizing that some of the 14 studies fail (as most woo studies do) to use proper scientific methodology (or omit describing their methodology simply because they didn’t have any, all the usual faults of poor studies).

But this one is even bigger:

CONCLUSIONS: Positive findings are reported for acupuncture in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder or anxiety neurosis but there is currently insufficient research evidence for firm conclusions to be drawn.

Ah, the old bug-a-boo of statistical significance and the usual hideout of woo within anecdotal data without sufficient sample size or unambiguous measurement of outcomes or proper statistical analysis. Positive findings but no conclusions, typical of woo.

This PubMed abstract is one of the relatively rare cases where the full-text of the study is freely available (unknown the usual hiding it behind paywalls). Reading the entire article doesn’t add much but very clear indicates this is all about anxiety and has nothing to do with “pain” (in the sense of the original article or as most people would use it).

btw: If you don’t follow my link to the original article and think my criticism of an anxiety study as a proxy for pain study is misleading, here’s the opening paragraph, clearly addressing physical pain:

I was prepped for what was about to happen, but as soon as I felt the acupuncturist’s hands on my back, my body instinctively recoiled. I braced myself. I’ve never broken a bone in my body—bee stings, bruises, and shots were the closest I’ve come to real pain.

Now, of course, a careful reader of my post will recognize this is a comment about the pain of the acupuncture itself, not acupuncture as a treatment for pain. In fact the article is short on much about why one would even use acupuncture and long on merely describing it is a cool and a growing trend, but we get some clue from:

The reason for the high volume of patients lies in the fact that acupuncture can be used for conditions both mental and emotional, along with physical ailments related to digestive issues, pain, nausea, respiratory complaints, reproductive issues.

Now we get the cast-a-wide-net typical of woo. Yes, Miolene is now talking about unnamed mental/emotional conditions (could, but doesn’t explicitly, cover anxiety), but the laundry list of physical ailments certainly isn’t supported by the study.

In short this is a typical purely opinion (fact-free) article that uses minimal research (a quick search of PubMed can find more studies than the one mentioned, this is lazy authorship) BUT does embed the link with a false description of what is linked to. IOW, the author may not have read the study but certainly doesn’t expect you to read it but wants that impressive bit of blue text to convince you there is some evidence about the opinion claims in this article.

So beware. Read the references, especially links (since that is usually easy). The falsehoods in most woo (and generally also rightwingnut stuff) are readily apparent if you’ll merely be just a bit skeptical (and if you’re gullible, say goodbye to your hard-earned money to all the quacks out there) and do your homework. Your health is important, don’t let your normal Internet 30-second attention span lead you to false information. It could be more than merely wasting your money on useless procedures, it might be your life!

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5 years on a virtual hike

Back on 1July2012 I posted my first description of my virtual hike after two years of collecting daily workout data. Three years ago I stated my goal was to transfer my treadmill data onto real geography so I could create a sense of actually taking a hike as an incentive to continue doing boring treadmill workouts. Since that post I’ve frequently commented on my progress plus expanded my effort to include some real hiking on the local Omaha trails, the MoPac trail (east of Lincoln) and lately the Wabash Trace in Iowa. All of this has given me the motivation to somehow translate all this stationary walking to some long walk adventure while I still have sufficient physical condition to actually accomplish such a thing (before the ravages of aging and joint wear-and-tear take away that possibility). So here’s a few stats of what I’ve accomplished since then.

On 24Jun2015 I completed five years of virtual hiking with a total of 2071.07 miles accomplished in 914 treadmill sessions (an average of about 1 day on treadmill for every two days).

#hikes miles/yr ave per day max in year
256 221.5 0.865 3.28
228 261.5 1.147 3.83
253 603.0 2.383 7.46
96 497.0 5.177 10.5
81 488.0 6.025 11.0

For the first two years, before I retired, my time to exercise was limited and so the average distance per session was much lower than recent results. In the third year I retired and had more time for longer sessions (often multiple sub-sessions per day). Then in the fourth and fifth year my #hikes dropped significantly but that was due to my acquisition of an exercise bike where I’ve now done 14061.2 miles in 2.5 years (447 sessions). But these last two years are the point where I began to significantly increase my daily workouts which is reflected in the average miles per treadmill day and even more noticeably in the maximum distance on some day during each year (my actual hikes are even longer but it’s easier to go further on real hike than a treadmill session due to how boring treadmill is compared to real hike).

As one other metric I’ve also expended 383,074 calories on these five years which translate to 109 pounds of either weight loss (started in the third year of workouts) or weight not gained back (I’ve been fairly level for nearly two years after 70lb loss).

So these numbers may not be very impressive compared to real jocks (or especially the real long-distance hikers who could do this distance in less than a year, e.g. on Appalachian Trail or American Discovery Trail), but for a 67 year old (average age over 5 years) I think this is fairly good. IOW, I’m reasonably pleased with my accomplishment even though in absolute terms it’s not that big a deal.

Now in the first three years or so I was fairly assiduous in transfer my mileage on top of a GPS trace I had of the Pacific Crest Trail as well as several other virtual paths along maps (like going all the way from Omaha to Glacier National Park and then back southwest to California). But over time I found the “virtual hiking” less interesting and mostly stopped updating maps (meanwhile I’ve transferred that kind of thing to my biking (almost done a path to all of the 48 states). And then I have 300+ miles of real hikes on top of these boring treadmill hikes in the basement.

So it’s time and so I’ll declare my goal. Before or at least during my 70th year of life I just have to get out and do a real long-distance walk. I’ve been fascinated with the Camino de Santiago but I doubt that will be my target. I don’t want to do backpacking so the wilderness trails are out. And the America Discovery Trail looks pretty unpleasant so now I’m searching in Europe (mainly due to much closer spacing of towns and thus overnight accommodations) and I’ve just got to do this. Not exactly a bucket list kind of thing but just some goal as an incentive to maintain my fitness as long as I can.

My health is good (despite the brush with a temporary diagnosis of a fatal illness) and my cardiovascular is strong enough to sustain me and my legs, which I maintained in good shape over my life (crew, then backpacking and lots of cycling, a tinman triathlon, etc) feel strong and my knees and hips are still solid enough to manage a real walk. During this time I’ve watched my now 100YO mother decline to the point of now complete immobility (a recent fall and broken ankle ended her walking, even with a walker and assistance) so I am constantly reminded about how we will someday (assuming we don’t die first) will eventually lose this conditioning (of course I read about remarkable people doing amazing physical feats even into 90s or even 100s, but that won’t be me). So my days are numbered and it’s getting close to do the walk soon or never. However I’m glad I’ve managed to stick with treadmill for these five years because as my fitness declines at least I can use this five year period as proof (to myself) I can at least do as much as I can even into my declining years.

So hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to make posts of a real hike and real adventure, but for a while longer (not going anywhere in 2015) I’ll continue with a few more of these boring statistical reports. btw: I pushed over 2000 miles on 26May2015 whereas I passed 1000 miles on 27Mar2013; IOW nearly 3 years for the first 1000 and a bit over 2 years for the second thousand. I estimate that had I not switched mostly to stationary bike I certainly would have done 3000 miles in these five years, maybe even 4000.

So good for me, but I have to reach for something new to maintain my incentive, a virtual hike just isn’t enough to keep me going.

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Absurd religious objection to right to die

Well the fundies imposed their religious views on others, yet again, by killing SB128 in California. Where’s my religious freedom (as in freedom from religion) in all this. What about my strongly held views, don’t they count as much as ancient myths?

Do a religion I reject have the right to tell me how I may end my life? It’s my life, not theirs! Why do they believe they get to decide that very personal issue for everyone else? If they want to define it as sin for their gullible members, fine, but they have NO right to define it for me.

This is what is so utterly rotten about the concept of “religious liberty”. It’s never about a believer’s liberty to do as they wish; it’s about believer’s ability to force and coerce their beliefs through power of law on others. This is so insane to refer to this as freedom. They can have the freedom to do as they wish, in their lives, but they cannot have the ability to suppress my freedom.

If I chose to die I do them utterly no harm (in fact, one less anti-theist in the world would be good for their cause). So I sin, that’s my problem, not theirs. And I totally reject any of their premise, especially that a sky-man I don’t believe in wants me to suffer for an ancient sin I didn’t commit (and most likely none of my ancestors did).

So religinuts, keep your hands off my body and my rights.

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