Lessons Learned 2009-8-30

The week ended on a strong note. Here’s what I learned:

1) Don’t cry about working hard. Just get the job done.

Pity parties are infinitely more annoying when the goals and hard work are self-imposed. Nobody cares because everyone else works just as hard as you. 80 hour weeks in the bank, weekends at the firm, 3 AM calls from the hospital, broken finger with 0:04 left in the Super Bowl. You want it, go get it.

2) Karate Kid theme song

You know the song by Joe Esposito, “You’re the Best Around”? It was actually written for Rocky 3, which is why there’s the line “history repeats itself”, since Rocky wins again. Esposito tried to make the song along the same lines as Survivor, who wrote the first Rocky themes. But it was rejected, so Esposito took it around Hollywood until a producer realized it was jabroni gold. The more you know.

3) Speaking of jabroni gold…

The bachelor party will be done entirely in black beaters and the music will come entirely from mix CDs. DJ Bro-ni in the house, bitches.

Goals from the week:
1) Invitations were mailed out, but hand deliveries haven’t finished yet. It turned out we ran a little short on the first batch. Call it half-done.
2) Kind of decided on tux style but haven’t locked it down
3) Fell short on workouts but satisfied nonetheless. Will add more.
4) Missed a few days
5) Got the juggling but not the sleight of hand
6) Nailed the halo
7) Not even close to stretching every day
8) 330 quiz questions, 68% right. Would fail exams.
9) Hovering at 163 lbs. Can not outrun a bad diet
Verdict: A good week. Not quite there but definitely better.

Kimchi Spam Fried Rice recipe

I’ve always wanted to make this ever since I was introduced to it in the Asian ghetto of Berkeley. It’s a deliciously unhealthy snack that combines the saltiness of spam, spiciness of kimchi, and irresistible temptation of fried rice into the Voltron of quick Asian foods. It’s made much like any other fried rice dish, but just with kimchi thrown in.

The portions aren’t strict, depending on how much Spam and kimchi you like. My recipe has a pretty good amount of Spam in it, so I personally would advise against putting more in because it might be too salty. If you want to cook it like the restaurant in Berkeley, fry an egg sunny-side up while you cook the fried rice, then top at the end.

2 cups rice, cooked
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 block Spam, diced
1 cup kimchi (4-5 heaping spoonfuls from a container)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame seed oil
chopped green onions and sesame seeds for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat and when hot, fry Spam for a minute or two until it’s a dark pink
2. Mix in egg and stir until scrambled
3. Mix in rice, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil and stir fry until well mixed
4. Reduce heat to medium-low, mix in kimchi and stir until all the rice is red, about a minute
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste
6. Plate and top with green onions and sesame seeds

Note that you can switch steps 3 and 4, if you like your kimchi to be more limp and hotter from being cooked longer. Personally, I prefer it crunchy and just warm (as a contrast to the softer spam and rice), so I put it in later.

Lessons Learned 2009-8-23

Things I learned this week:

1) It’s up to the leader to be enthusiastic, it’s up to the team to be passionate

I’ve been around long enough to see groups rise and fall, and this is one of the Catch-22s that often happens. If the team is struggling, the leader often begins to lose enthusiasm, which further hurts morale. This can be extremely difficult to reverse, which is why you see football teams desperately try to switch coaches or eliminate cancers on the team. By passionate, I mean the team has to be consistent, have good work ethic, and care about doing a good job. By enthusiastic, I mean the leader has to be firm, attuned to the team’s needs, and inspirational.

2) Wikipedia was the worst thing to ever happen to movies.

I haven’t seen District 9 or Inglourious Basterds, and now I won’t because I already know what happens. Not only do I know the plot, I know the symbolism as described by the director, the details of the marketing campaign, and reviews both good and bad about both movies. Perhaps I’ll rent them at some point in the future or watch them on HBO when they come out, but the movie theater just lost my $9 because I went to Wikipedia. More than DVDs or downloads, that is more devastating to the artist’s work because now I may never see it at all. I haven’t seen a scary movie in a theater for years, but I can tell you what happens in every Saw movie, all because of the power of the Wiki.

3) Amateur sports is the new exploitation

Do you realize that BCS football and March Madness are each billion dollar events? They make more money than any other sporting event except the Super Bowl. Little League World Series is probably ESPN’s biggest draw in the late summer, in that dead period before the race to the finish for baseball and before the football season begins. Yet these amateur athletes don’t see a single dollar for their effort. Oh sure, the little league kids win a year’s supply of free stuff and that’s very special to kids from countries other than the US and Japan, but in proportion to how much ESPN and Little League makes, it’s nothing. The term “student-athlete” is the biggest farce in the world, because most of these kids are trying to be athletes, not students. I don’t know if the solution is to start paying the kids or at least giving them a bigger slice of the pie, but there’s no doubt that these events are exploiting their games.

Goals from the week:
1) Fell just short of 200 questions, did much more poorly than 80%
2) Got the pullups, pushups, and squats, only did 60% of the situps and none of the running
3) Minimal foreign language studying
4) Minimal sleight of hand practice. BTW, by “minimal”, I mean “none at all”.
Verdict: Pretty awful, but give me a break, demo practices more than filled the gaps

Quote of the Day 2009-8-24

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.

-Catch-22

Scientific-Mathematical folklore: terminology

Scientists and mathematicians have extremely wide ranges to pursue in expanding the boundaries of their knowledge, so the term “good” is vague at best. The pursuit of knowledge has many forms, which is why academia is entirely about personal ambition and has almost nothing to do with competition. But what terms do scientists and mathematicians use for the major areas? Well, this is folklore, because they have their own language that might be difficult to understand or easy to misconceive for the layperson. I will lay out the terms and their definitions.

-Problem-solving: a major breakthrough on an important problem
-Technique: a masterful use of existing methods or developing a new tool
-Theory: a conceptual framework or choice of notation which systematically unifies and generalizes a body of results
-Insight: a major conceptual simplification or the realization of a unifying principle or theme
-Discovery: the revelation of an unexpected and intriguing new phenomenon, connection, or counterexample
-Application: the use of tools in one field to solve problems in another
-Exposition: a detailed and informative survey on a timely topic or a clear and well-motivated argument
-Pedagogy: contributions to education, a lecture or writing style that enables others to learn and do the subject more effectively
-Vision: a set of conjectures, which are long-range and fruitful
-Taste: a research goal which is inherently interesting and impacts important themes, topics, or questions
-Public relations: an effective show-casing of results to a group of non-experts, either laypeople or experts in other fields
-Meta-(subject): advances in the foundations, philosophy, history, scholarship, or practice of the subject
-Rigorous: all details are correct and given in full
-Beautiful: results are easy to state but hard to prove
-Elegant: achieving a difficult result with a minimum of effort
-Creative: radically new and original techniques, viewpoints, or ideas for results
-Useful: a method which will be used repeatedly in future work on the subject
-Strong: a sharp result that matches the known counterexamples, or a result which deduces an unexpectedly strong conclusion from a seemingly weak hypothesis
-Deep: a result which is manifestly non-trivial, capturing a subtle phenomenon beyond the reach of more elementary tools
-Intuitive: an argument which is natural and easily visualized
-Definitive: a classification of all objects of a certain type, the final word on a topic

Obviously the various sciences have their own opinion on the weight and value they attach to each term.

Quote of the day 2009-8-21

It is a mistake to suppose that men succeed through success; they much oftener succeed through failures. Precept, study, advice, and example could never have taught them so well as failure has done.

– Samuel Smiles

Training with Acute Injuries

There’s a common misconception that someone should stop training when they have an acute injury. That is in fact wrong and it is a primary reason that people begin to ignore and resist medical advice. Forcing someone to stop training also adds to the psychological burden of being injured, the mourning of the loss of function and training time. It also atrophies the rest of the uninjured body.

So why should one train with an acute injury? There are several reasons. First, it promotes healing through increased blood flow and the body benefits from the cross-over effect, or the fact that training one side of the body will lead to similar adaptations in the other. It also keeps the body’s sense of training and discipline intact, a big problem that often occurs when a very serious injury or other event forces someone out of activity for a prolonged period of time. It’s far easier to keep someone’s training regimen in place if they’re continuing to train, even if it’s at a reduced level, than to bring them back and try to rebuild their old habits from scratch. More often than not, a person with too much time finds new ways to spend it and loses their desire to go back to rigorous training. There’s also the psychosocial aspect, that a person feels relieved to continue their training and be around their comrades. When a person leaves for a long time, you also have to consider the fact that the group will grow together without that person, sometimes making it difficult to accept them back into the group. Also, training reinforces the supporting tissues that take the lion’s share of the work and decreases compensatory patterning. In short, it helps to prevent bad habits that form when the body tries too hard to avoid putting pressure on injured limbs and return the athlete to normalcy and regular training more quickly, or teaches the person to deal with a newly weakened structure.

Mostly, training with an injury means you’re preventing rot. This goes with the new paradigm that every structure in the body is use it or lose it. The body is in a constant state of adapting to the habits and loads that the person puts on it. Start eating McDonald’s every day and stop working out, and the body’s metabolic rate will plummet as it starts to hoard fat and stop feeding muscle; after all, that’s what you’re telling it to do by your actions. If you aren’t stimulating your muscles at least twice a week, then they atrophy and reduce its level to whatever your new activities are.

The biggest thing you want is intensity. Get the body working hard and you will see dramatic improvement in healing time, confidence, and metabolism, as compared to a person who is idle and nursing an injury. You may need a new regimen and absolutely one that avoids re-injury, but you don’t want to kick someone out and let them feel sorry for themselves.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a talk for being stupid with your injury. You should be gritting your teeth through a certain level of pain, but it should be the pain of intensity and not the pain of re-injury. You can ignore calls to stop training and be completely idle, but you should be taking all the other advice of your health care professionals. If the doctor says you need ice and compression, then do it. At the very least, you can always go to the exercise bike, elliptical machine, or a swimming pool.

Biology Folklore: “Kings Play Chess On Fat Girls’ Stomachs”

This is a mnemonic device to remember the hierarchy of classifications for biological species, or taxonomic ranks. A couple friends and I actually invented this in middle school to help us remember. It goes large to small, and the first letter of each word of the phrase stands for:

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Species

It is a nice way to remember the basics.