Saturday, January 7, 2017

30 for 30 - day 7

So I'm a week into my three 30 day challenges and I have not missed a day yet.

I have successfully read an academic article every day, posting some sort of highlights/notes on most of them to my blog. One wasn't really worth blogging about.

I have successfully written a poem every day so far. Not particularly good poems, but as William Stafford said, I'm lowering my standards in order to get the writing done. Maybe a few of them will be refined later.

And I am 7 days into my second attempt at intermittent fasting (IF). While I feel really good about my first two challenges as worthwhile, I really don't know if this IF actually worth doing. I feel anxious in the morning not getting to eat. By late morning the hunger is distracting me. If I had a job where I had tasks that didn't require overcoming distractions to stay focused, like a real job, I might be more able to ignore the desire to eat. But I've been working from home most of this past week and it's been hard having the kitchen just a few steps away.

One of the problems is I like to drink a lot of coffee, and a lot of coffee on an empty stomach makes me feel nauseous. So I'm trying to cut back on the coffee and drink some herbal tea. I don't really need the caffeine - drinking is more something to do with my hands - a way of working off all the crazy energy I always have.

Another side effect of IF is that I want to eat too much when the clock strikes 12 (my eating period has been 12-8 most days). I'm not sure this is a hunger issue so much as an anxiety response. Then I eat a lot during the eating period - with the result being I am almost certainly not reducing my overall caloric intake. I'll weigh myself tomorrow to see how I am doing, but I don't feel like I have lost any weight.

I have been very good about exercise - I've either gone to the gym or walked every day but one this week. The one day involved too much travel and appointments and was just not convenient.

I don't think I'll be sticking with this diet past the 30 days. I'd throw it out the window, except that I do want to do something that practices my discipline and self control. I've been reflecting on how our society does not value the virtue of self-control and discipline as it once did. Self-control is a virtue of poor societies, not wealthy ones.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

30 for 30 in 2017

So glad 2016 is over. Let's not mention that year again.

So to start the new, much better year off right, I've committed to three 30-day projects. You should think about doing one, too. Thirty days is long enough to help you change a habit, but short enough for it to feel like it has an end. Check out this short TED Talk for a little motivation:

My three projects are:

1) Personal health: 30 days of intermittent fasting. I've tried this before - tried it for a week - was pretty unhappy with it. But my friend B.T. reminded me about it the other day and I've decided to give it another shot - for a longer period.

2) Professional growth: 30 days of reading an academic article every day. I'm going to try to summarize and highlight them on my research blog, but at a minimum I'm going to make a point of reading one every day. I've been trying to reinvent myself as a management researcher, and I really need to spend more time with the literature. This will give me a little bit of discipline to do that.

3) Creative growth: 30 days of writing a poem every day. I tried last year to do a poem a week and failed. I think because there was too much time to not write. Most writers say the key is to write every day. So I'll try to get in that habit this year by doing it every day for 30 days.

What could you do for 30 days? Don't have an idea? Check this list out:

Monday, December 26, 2016

the pointlessness of graveyards

I'm in the town where my parents settled and where I graduated from high school, where I met my wife, and where my mother is buried. My father moved away a few years ago. My in-laws still live here, so we are here for Christmas.

My father asked me to bring a candle to my mother's grave while I was there. So I drove over to the graveyard where she is buried and replaced the candle that had burned out long enough ago that there was a bee's nest in the cover (luckily for me it was winter and there were no bees).

I have told Kandie (my wife), as well as my kids, that I do not want my body buried. I want my body cremated, after any organs that can be harvested have been taken. I do not want my body embalmed or any of that other horrifying stuff that people do to try to extend the process of passing. If Kandie passes before me, I will change my will to have my body passed on for medical research.

Graveyards are pointless. They are selfish indulgences. As I stood there, alone, on the day after Christmas and looked around at the carved blocks of granite, all I could think was, 50 years from now, will anyone, ANYONE, care about the people who are buried here? The answer is, maybe a few. But for the most part, no. No one will care. And in a hundred years, there my be one person still remembered enough that people will actually want to visit that person's grave. But that's pushing it. Probably there won't even be one person.

I loved my mother. She was driven and generous and flawed. She was human, in other words. But the things I want to remember her for have nothing to do with the block of granite that sits in this field of other blocks of granite with strangers' names on them and their bodies in boxes under the earth.

If I want to remember my mother, it will not be here. She was a woman whose existence was characterized by striving, not by sitting still. I was much closer to her when I visited the college she attended a few months ago, than when I lit the candle today over the place where her body was laid to rest. My mother was not her body; my mother was her soul - her driven, striving, giving, imperfect soul. Her body was a fact about her, but not the most important fact. The place where it rests is not where she achieved the things that make me remember her. It is not the place that brings forth her triumphs or greatness. It is just a parking lot for the vehicle that carried who she was.

If I want to remember my mother, it would be at her college where she earned her bachelor's degree when most young women still did not go to college. It would be in one of the many houses we lived in where she made a home for us, despite the fact that we were poor. It would be at the church where she committed herself wholly to service. It will not be this graveyard where we put her body after her soul passed on. This place is not where she is, nor does it represent what I remember about her.

When I pass on and leave this meat vehicle behind, I don't want it buried; I don't want a rock with my name carved on it to burden the future. I don't want random people from the future to walk by my name and ignore it. Sooner or later, all that will be left are words that make up my name, carved on a piece of rock. That is not any sort of immortality I crave. If anyone remembers me, I don't want them to do it by coming to a graveyard.

Like anyone, I don't want to be forgotten.

I want to know my life had meaning. And the only real meaning is in the impact we have had on the sea of others around us. Rocks in fields with rotting bodies beneath them are not any meaningful way of being remembered - they only represent a burden on the present. I do not want my memory to be a burden. And so I have asked my wife to have my body cremated if I pass before her. If she passes before me, I will have my body passed on to a medical school. It is only a piece of meat. If that is the most I have to leave behind, then I don't want to be remembered at all.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

thing guy?

At the beginning of December I purchased a new boat - a Mad River Adventure 16 . She's not actually new, I'd been monitoring Craig's List for this exact boat and she happened to pop up. I picked her up for less than half the list price. All that's wrong with her is she has some scratches on the bottom, which I plan to add to, so who cares? So she's sitting in dry dock in the basement for the winter along side her sisters, waiting for the return of the warm weather.

I was really excited about my find and was telling a colleague at the office about it and he said, "You're a thing guy. You really like things."

This observation caught me off guard. Am I a thing guy? Do I really like stuff? If so, so what? But why did that trouble me so much? And I have to admit, it really did trouble me.

The statement implied a certain level of covetousness, and a value placed on the material.

We are all, to a certain degree "thing" people. We have to be. We need a certain amount of material wealth to maintain our health and safety. But covetousness implies desiring things far beyond what we need for our well being.

There are thing people who are hoarders. I don't think that is what my colleague was accusing me of. But hoarding can be pathological, and people who are hoarders engage in the behavior largely in private.

Instead, I think he was indicating that I get a great deal of utility from the possession of things. Covetousness is a sin because it indicates a sort of disordered love. It is a sign of emotional and ethical confusion of priorities.

Some people love things too much because they confuse things that indicate wealth and status with the underlying values and achievements that should, in an ideal society, make those physical things available to those who have them. This is the mistake many voters who supported Trump made - just because he was wealthy must mean he is virtuous. Wealth and virtue ideally would be synonymous. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth.

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith wrote:
They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, though, I am afraid, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness.
This is what I think my colleague was implying: that I love things more than I should; that I mistake the possession of things for virtue.

Perhaps it is true. It's not like he doesn't know me at all. We talk most days, so he is certainly not a stranger. His insight should not be discarded without consideration. He is almost certainly right to some degree - I know I feel pangs of desire when I see certain things.

I do like to think that the things I most covet I covet as instruments, not as ends in themselves. I give the canoe as exhibit 1. I bought the canoe in the hope that I would be able to get my kids out on the water with me, and spend some time both with me and out in nature. And, I confess, a canoe would be easier to take pictures from (vs. my kayak). In the world of boats, my tastes are pretty cheap. I don't really covet a power boat because I like the physical element of self-propelled travel. I don't really covet a fancier boat than any of the ones I have right now, but I might eventually.

I adore Florence the Machine because she makes baking bread so much easier.

But I really like baking bread. I could buy the bread from the grocery store, but baking bread, even with an awesome mixer, is a vital, personal experience that connects me back to thousands of years of human history.

I do admit, I covet camera gear. If there was one area where I do feel an unfulfilled level of desire, it is that I don't have the lenses I want for my cameras. When I think of what I would do if I had more money, it would almost certainly be to buy more camera gear. But again, why buy a camera? It's for the experience of taking pictures, not to sit and look at the cameras themselves. Photography is an important part of my life and through it, how I experience life. I'm a thing guy, in that sense. The camera helps me mediate my experience. Better gear would let me do more of the things I want to do. Much like the canoe will help me have better experiences on the water next season.

I drive a 14 year old mini-van I inherited from Kandie. And there is nothing wrong with the Adventure Van. It runs great. It's got about 160,000 miles, and I'm hoping it's only half way done.

If I am really a thing guy, I've made a tragic mistake with my life. Being a college professor puts a pretty powerful limit on my acquisitiveness. But with a nine-month contract, and the ability to come and go pretty much as I want when I am working, I have a lot of time to think, read, write, and play. I pay for that time by not making as much money as I could if I were willing to work 50 or 60 hours a week. I buy that time with sacrificed earnings. I figure I spend about $100,000 per year on buying that time. So if there is anything I am particularly covetous of, it is my time. I typically don't think of myself as a "thing guy", but if time is a thing, I am guilty as charged.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal, It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

finding my photography credits

I changed (almost) all of my photos on Flickr to creative commons CC BY 4.0 which allows anyone to use my photos, even commercially, for free as long as they give me credit. They don't have to tell me they are doing it. So I've been Google-stalking myself and found these photography credits out on the web. It's kind of fun to see where the pictures wind up. Luckily nothing too embarassing yet.

(one up from bottom on left)

(same as above)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Newspaper Legend

Kandie and I got to go listen to the legendary reporter Bob Woodward speak yesterday at UNH.

He was interesting and entertaining. He was critical of Trump, but in a manner appropriate of inquiry. I especially enjoyed some of his discussion of the trade that he had with my colleague Meg Heckman. It's amazing to think about the impact an individual like Woodward has had on our country, without ever having held an elected office.

This is one of the best parts about being at a university - every now and then I get to participate in truly amazing cultural opportunities. Kandie and I were saying how we really want to make more of an effort to catch these events.

On a related, but different note, it reminded me of why I still have a newspaper subscription, even though most days I don't have time to read it, and a subscription to several magazines, which more often than not pile up on my coffee table and then land in the recycling bin without ever being opened. We need newspapers and reporters. They provide a public good. They keep politicians honest. They are a critical constraint on power. I may not have time to read them as often as I would like, but I see the days I don't read as a donation to the cause. To keep reporters like Woodward working.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

the way to make America Great Again

There is a relatively simple way to Make America Great Again, and it isn't by giving out sweet heart deals to individual firms to retain irrelevantly small numbers of jobs. The Carrier deal kept 1,000 jobs in Indiana. In the United States in September of 2016 there were 4.9 million job separations (where people left jobs, of their own choice, were fired, or laid off), and 5.1 million hires (see ). While each of those 1,000 jobs in Indiana is connected to moms, dads, families, kids, etc., 1,000 jobs is too small to care about at a policy level. Saving company by company is not only impossible, it's bad policy as has been noted by people all over the spectrum

The number one way to Make America Great Again is to follow the example of the Irish: cut corporate tax rates. The US has the third highest corporate tax rate in the world at 39%. See: for a list. The darlings of the tax-and-spend Progressives, Sweden and Norway, have corporate tax rates of 22% and 25% respectively. If you want companies to stay in the US and you want jobs to stay in the US, and you don't like corporate inversions and off-shoring, make it worthwhile to corporations to stay. It's not a theoretical concept. You can look across the Atlantic and see it. The Irish were an economic backwater. Then in 1995 they started cutting their corporate tax rate from 40% to 12.5% in 2003. Here's what happened:

Real gross domestic product increased by more than 150%. That means if you were making 50,000 per year in 1995, by 2015 you were making 125,000. I like those numbers. I want that for my kids. That's the country I want to live in. Let's make America Great Again, like the Irish Made Ireland Great Again.

It's this kind of big picture policy that can fix the US, not harassing, haranguing, pleading, and promising special favors to individual companies. We need to make the US more competitive for everyone.