Resting after a walk (July 17, 2011)
This past Saturday, we had to make the difficult decision to put down our family dog, Blake. Needless to say, it’s been a tough week as we’ve worked our way through the grieving process. It’s amazing how much of a mark these silly, furry little animals make on our hearts and in our lives.
Dogs bring us so much joy, memories, frustrations, and sorrow. They teach us a lot, both about ourselves and about life. Here’s a look at what I learned in the 7-1/2 years I had with Blake.
Compulsory education has existed for over 100 years in our country. The overwhelming majority attend public elementary and high schools. According to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), ~10% of all US students attend private schools. According to the US Department of Education, around 3% are home schooled. If I do my math correctly, it means ~87% of our children our taught by the public school system. A system that is funded by our tax dollars.
Why do we spend the money and time to educate our children? We’ve determined that our society functions better and that people are more productive if they are provided a minimum level of education. And in today’s international arena, having an educated workforce is a requirement if a country and its business want to be and stay competitive.
Education carries such a high level of importance that every state has public funded institutions of higher learning. These exist as community colleges, teaching colleges, and world-renowned research universities. In my opinion, making higher education accessible and affordable is the cornerstone to a state’s growth. As a resident of California, I would content that affordable access to the University of California system was one of the primary elements leading to the growth of California in the second of the 20th century. It does not surprise me that California’s growth has stagnated in recent times as access to this system has been restricted through reduced public funding and higher tuition costs, but that’s a topic for another time.
If education is important enough to warrant public funding, shouldn’t the health and welfare of our populace be handled the same way?
The Guardian has become one of my favorite news outlets due to the quality of its long form journalism. Last month, they posted an article about the dangers of smartphone addiction (click here to read). It wasn’t your standard, “we need to spend time away from our smartphones” rant. It was in-depth look at how smartphones have enabled a small handful of people in Silicon Valley to control the psychology of over a billion people around the world.
For me, working in the mobile software development industry, it was a warning sign. A foreboding of what could happen if we, as a society, don’t heed the warning and take action.
You see, many worry about the development of a superior, runaway artificial intelligence that will destroy humanity. They argue that it could happen within the next 25 years if sufficient controls are not put in place.
After reading The Guardian article, I’m beginning to think that future danger could already be upon us, and we don’t even know it. Instead of the AI confronting us head-on in a war-like manner, it could be destroying us from within by turning us against each other, and ultimately against ourselves.
In the past, I’ve written about privacy and warned how the internet endangers that fundamental right. I’m now concerned that the combination of the internet and smartphones may be one of the most dangerous inventions created by mankind if allowed to go unchecked.
Allow me to explain.
This is the third post of my personal experience with diet modification after reading books such as Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body – Primal Mind, and It Starts with Food. The other posts are Food as Medicine and Weight, it’s all about food, which you can read here and here. As mentioned in a previous post, this post is not medical advice. It is simply my personal experience which you may (or may not) find interesting.
As part of my effort to eat healthier, cutting added sugars out of my diet was at the top of my priority list. Little did I know just how difficult this would be. I quickly learned that you had to be careful with anything processed, in a box, or sealed in a bag. When you buy something in that form factor, the question isn’t whether it has sugar. The question is how much.
Here’s just one recent example that shocked me. To change up my routine and add some spice to my pistachio habit, I wanted to give salt & black pepper pistachios a try. When I saw them at Costco, I couldn’t resist and grabbed a bag. Midway through my first serving, something seemed…, well, off. In addition to the pepper seasoning, I was detecting a bit of a sweetness. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to check the ingredients. Bingo! Sugar. Now granted, it was pretty far down the ingredient list, and it wasn’t a lot. But we’re talking about pistachios. Why is there any sugar added?
As it so happens, this is just one example of many.
I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist. I have no medical training, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. What am I about to share is my personal experience and the results I got when I adjusted my diet based upon the information that I gleaned from Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body – Primal Mind, and It Starts with Food. With that out of the way, I would be curious if anyone who reads this has experienced similar results.
At my last job, I did an extensive amount of travel. On average, I spent about 2 weeks out of every month on the road. What you don’t notice when you travel that much is how you slowly start packing on the pounds. Sitting on airplanes, the lack of exercise, and the regular eating out does not lend itself to maintaining a healthy weight.
I did my best to stay active and eat properly while I was at home and not on the road. Still yet, I peaked at 180 pounds, which was well above what I consider my fighting weight of 160. After I left the job, I decided I would make an effort to lose the 20 or so pounds that had somehow deposited itself on my body.
A couple of years ago, I became interested in the link between food and health. What really set me off was when I noticed how much sugar went into everyday foods. For example, I was completely caught off guard when I realized that there were 20g of added sugar in a jar of tomato sauce, per serving! It really got me thinking about what the industrialization of food has done to our diets.
Around that same time, I met someone during a technology meetup at my office. Somehow, the conversation turned to food, and we both lamented over the effects that processed food has over our body. He made a great comment, or observation if you will, when he said that we should treat “food as medicine”. His comment really hit home and got me thinking about our relationship with food.
For Father’s Day, I wanted to do something family oriented that was more than just going out to eat. Since all of us more or less enjoy the outdoors, I thought a hike would be something fun that we would all enjoy. We’ve done family hikes before, both the Tree of Life Trail and Hollyridge Trail in the Hollywood Hills.
I had always wanted to do a hike in Malibu overlooking the beach. Brad suggested the La Jolla Canyon Trail, which he had done before. As it turns out, we actually hiked the Backbone Trail. Even though it wasn’t the trail we thought we were on, it was still an excellent hike. I would categorize it as a hike of moderate difficulty with a significant change in elevation. It wasn’t as challenging as the Tree of Life, but it was definitely more challenging than the Hollyridge Trail.
Last week, I once again got the opportunity to be a judge for the UCSB ECE189 Capstone project presentations. It’s the fifth year that I’ve been a judge, and it never gets old. The projects are different every year, and the complexity and quality of the projects improves every year. The improvements do not happen by accident or chance. Professor Dr. John Johnson does a great job taking lessons learned from the previous year(s) and incorporating them into the current crop of projects. Bottom line, the quality of this year’s projects is a direct reflection of the effort put into the Capstone projects by Dr. Johnson and his students over the last five years.
This year, six projects were presented. Three were multi-disciplinary projects where multiple departments within the UCSB College of Engineering collaborated. The remaining three projects were contained within the ECE Department and followed the more traditional Capstone project approach.
Here is this year’s synopsis of the projects, the best project winners, and my general thoughts on the class.
As I sit here watching game 3 of the Stanley Cup, enjoying the Penguins up 2 games and basking in the afterglow of an incredible Game 7 win against Ottawa, something doesn’t feel quite right. Yes, it’s fun watching the Pens in the Cup, and game 7 against Ottawa was an amazing game. The Senators played incredible and pushed the Penguins to the limit. The game was highly entertaining, which I suppose is the point. I was entertained.
Growing up in Pittsburgh during the seventies, it was hard not to be a die-hard sports fan. The city practically came to a standstill on Sundays in the fall. There were the team nicknames like ‘The Steel Curtain’. Songs that defined teams like ‘We Are Family’. Individual plays that live on in time like the ‘The Immaculate Reception’. There were the sports personalities that were practically heroes like “Mean” Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, Jack Lambert, Willie Stargell, Franco Harris, Kent Tekulve, John Candelaria, Rocky Blier, Jack Hamm, and more. Everywhere you looked and went there were sports references. It was impossible to escape.
Since Brad has been attending Eastern Michigan University, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area. Each time I go there, I do my best to find new places to go and hangout for a bite to eat. I have my usual favorites that I’ve documented here and here. This time around, I managed to discover a few new places.