Wise Advice For Young Female Runners

Or so says LetsRun.com. I’d revise that to read “Wise Advice for Anyone Trying to Find Their Way in Life”.

Beautiful, powerful essay by Lauren Fleshman, a recently retired professional runner to her high school self. The gist of it, short-term success is a trap, form healthful habits, and decide for yourself what’s most important in life.

 

World Naked Gardening Day

Sadly, this month’s most important celebration is crowded out by holiday stalwarts like Cinco De Mayo, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day; not to mention, lower profile ones like May Day and Teacher Appreciation Week (8th-12th).

Are you ready for World Naked Gardening Day this Sunday? “It’s not about exposing your body to other people,” the founder explains. “It’s about body acceptance and being one with nature on your own.”

With apologies to Elaine, I’m in. Skin cancer be damned.

My New Thang—Avocados

Early in my dad’s business career he sold appliances for General Electric. Every year we got one new one, including allegedly, the first trash compactor in the country. And for some reason only my mom could probably explain, every last appliance was avocado green. Turns out those early avocado green kitchens did a number on my subconscious because recently I’ve turned into an avocado eating machine, putting them on damn near everything, as if I’m making up for lost time.

So I got a kick out of this, “Your New Avocado: An FAQ“.

Below is a picture of today’s breakfast bowl of oatmeal which lies buried underneath the red and late 1960’s kitchen appliance green fruit goodness. Some mornings I borrow from professional cycling chefs and sub in two fried eggs. And always, I top everything off with a little butter and a lot of Kirkland Saigon Cinnamon (Costco doesn’t pay me for these egregious product placements, but they should).

Today’s philosophical question. At what point does the balance tip towards the add-ins and I can no longer accurately describe my breakfast as a bowl of oatmeal? That’s what philosophers refer to as a “Seinfeld episode worthy” question.

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That’s right, even our kitchen bowls are avocado green.

The Vitamin D Bandwagon

You on it? Ima gonna pass. Why Are So Many People Popping Vitamin D by Gina Kolata.

Related, below is an excerpt from an important new book by Richard Harris whose science reporting you may have heard on National Public Radio, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions.

The Breakdown in Biomedical Research.

Makes one wonder, why do we tend to put scientists and docs on pedestals?

The New Status Symbol

“The new status symbol,” according to a doctor at UC Berkeley, “is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.” Can you guess? Need another clue?

“For years, studies upon studies have shown how bad sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contributes to depression and other mood and mental disorders, as well as obesity, diabetes, cancer and an early death.”

The rest of the story is here.

 

Is Fat Killing You, or Is Sugar?

The title of a recent New Yorker essay by Jerome Groopman.

The problem with most diet books, and with popular-science books about diet, is that their impact relies on giving us simple answers, shorn of attendant complexities: it’s all about fat, or carbs, or how many meals you eat (the Warrior diet), or combinations of food groups, or intervalic fasting (the 5:2 diet), or nutritional genomics (sticking to the foods your distant ancestors may have eaten, assuming you even know where your folks were during the Paleolithic era). They hold out the hope that, if you just fix one thing, your whole life will be better.

In laboratories, it’s a different story, and it sometimes seems that the more sophisticated nutritional science becomes the less any single factor predominates, and the less sure we are of anything. Today’s findings regularly overturn yesterday’s promising hypotheses.

On top of that:

. . . research seems to undermine the whole idea of dieting: extreme regimens pose dangers, such as the risk of damaged kidneys from a buildup of excess uric acid during high-protein diets; and population studies have shown that being a tad overweight may actually be fine. Even studying these issues in the first place can be problematic. Although the study of the Mediterranean diet, for example, reflects randomized controlled experiments, most nutritional studies are observational; they rely on so-called food diaries, in which subjects record what they remember about their daily intake. Such diaries are notoriously inexact. No one likes admitting to having indulged in foods that they know—or think they know—are bad for them.

What to do?

Amid the constant back-and-forth of various hypotheses, orthodoxies, and fads, it’s more important to pay attention to the gradual advances, such as our understanding of calories and vitamins or the consensus among studies showing that trans fats exacerbate cardiovascular disease. What this means for most of us is that common sense should prevail. Eat and exercise in moderation; maintain a diet consisting of balanced amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates; make sure you get plenty of fruit and vegetables. And enjoy an occasional slice of chocolate cake.

The problem with that, common sense is not common.

Keeping Score—What Matters Most?

Last week, a friend, via Facebook, asked me how I was doing. “Excellent,” I wrote. “My family is healthy and happy.” At this stage in my life, everything beyond my family’s health and happiness is like desert, nice, but unnecessary.

Like individuals, organizations can’t evaluate how they’re doing without first clarifying what’s most important. That’s why so many teachers are frustrated today, schools obsess about students’ test scores instead of whether students are curious, kind, and able to accomplish meaningful things in small groups.

On Sundays, I often wonder how do religious leaders keep score? What’s most important in evaluating how a church, synagogue, or mosque is doing? That the budget is balanced, that attendance is increasing, that a lot of mission work is being done?

Our church is in transition. Sometime in the next four or five months, a new pastor will replace our two departing ones. The reduction is partly due to a 20% decrease in membership and a 13% decrease in giving.

Here’s my imperfect understanding of what’s happened. Four or five years ago we hired two progressive pastors who were left-of-center politically; some key church council leaders were lefties; our synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America decided to ordain gay clergymen and women; our state voted in favor of marriage equality; and we rewrote our “Welcoming Statement” to explicitly reach out to GLBT members of our community.

That pace of change overwhelmed some people. Also, as it turns out, people inside religious organizations have dispiriting personality conflicts just like people on the outside. One of our church members told me the members who won the political debates about gay clergy, marriage equality, and the wording of our Welcoming Statement were not gracious winners.

How do religious bodies negotiate political differences and does that factor into how they are doing? Conventional wisdom is that religious leaders and their congregants should leave politics aside. I disagree. Churches, synagogues, and mosques would be much more vital places if they modeled mutual respect for contrasting political viewpoints. Public dialogue about controversial issues is so anemic right now, lots of people on the outside would take notice.

Granted, that’s easy to assert in the abstract, but when talking about abortion, the death penalty, or even marriage equality, it’s much, much harder to implement. In fact, I wonder, are there examples of political diverse religious communities thoughtfully engaged with contemporary issues? Birds of a political feather prefer to flock together, but is that inevitably true inside churches, synagogues, and mosques as well?

I hope not. And I hope our next pastor considers that challenge among the things that matter most.