What I’ve Learned After Nearly One Year of Keto: My Best Tips For Newbies

“Keep it simple when you’re just starting – don’t get overwhelmed by all of the recipes out there. Focus on meat, chicken, cheese, eggs, butter, bacon, avocado and green veggies like broccoli and spinach. Riced cauliflower will also be a very close friend of yours. Once you’ve got keto down, you can always branch out to other recipes.”

—keytolifeisketo. “What I’ve Learned After Nearly One Year of Keto: My Best Tips For Newbies.” Reddit.com. January 2, 2018.

2018 Experiment: Daily Meditation

Background:

“Mere intellectual understanding is not enough. It is not by leaving the doctor’s prescription by the bedside or learning it by heart that we are cured. We must integrate what we have learned so that our understanding becomes intimately bound up into our mind’s flow. Then, it ceases to be theory and becomes self-transformation. Indeed, as we’ve seen, that is the meaning of the word: meditation: familiarization with a new way of being we can familiarize ourselves with all sorts of positive qualities in this way — kindness, patient, tolerance — and continue to develop through meditation.”

—Matthieu Ricard, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017.

Meditation is popular. Tim Ferris informs us in his book, Tools for Titans, that 80% of the +200 people he interviewed for the book have “some form of guided-meditation practice.” Physicians have developed an eight week plan of guided meditation that they have used in clinical trials to treat depression. Neuroscientists studying long-term meditators think that meditation involves temporal integrative mechanisms that can change the connections of neurons and the brain itself. Many different religious traditions have established meditation practices, whether it is the reading of the Psalms to the whirling dervishes of Sufism. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that some form of meditation is good for you.

In our society, our focus is often on utility. Will meditation make me more effective? Will it keep me healthy? Will it help me to manage pain? What can it do for me?

In the Zen tradition, there is sometimes talk of five stages/styles of Zen:

  1. Bompu Zen or “Usual Zen” is meditation undertaken for utilitarian reasons, such as increased personal effectiveness, the ability to focus, enhanced mood, etc.
  2. Gedo Zen or “Outside Way” is meditation used as a spiritual exercise, particularly for any religious tradition that is not Buddhist.
  3. Shojo Zen or “Practice of Jhana” is meditation to reach enlightenment for oneself.
  4. Daiju Zen or “Great Practice Zen” is meditation made for the benefit and eventual enlightenment of all sentient beings.
  5. Saijojo Zen or “Great and Perfect Practice Zen” is, as far as I can tell, meditation for the sake of meditation, without striving for any particular result.

All of these reasons seem like good entry points into meditation practice. For my purposes, this experiment is not attempting to achieve any particular result other than to develop a consistent meditation practice and document some of the experiences in making the attempt to practice every day over the course of one year, while holding out the possibility of extending the attempt further into the future.

Methods:

“If you practice regularly for only five or ten minutes a day, without straining your body, you will soon want to extend the time you spend in sitting because of the increased feeling of bodily health as well as the great peace of mind that you will enjoy. Once you begin to experience bodily discomfort, stop sitting; otherwise, you will grow tired of doing Zazen [meditation] and come to dread the time when you think you should be doing it…Even in a big monastery, one does not normally sit for longer than forty-five minutes at a time without a short break. This is because the strain of keeping the mind taut at the beginning is very great, and this lessens the value of the actual sitting. Five to ten minutes done really well is worth a whole day done badly.”

—Jiyu Kennett, Selling Water by the River: A Manual of Zen Training. New York, Pantheon Books, 1972.

I am committing to doing at least one session of 25 minutes every day in the coming year. If desired and possible on any particular day, I will either do multiple sessions or do longer sessions of no longer than 50 minutes. I will use the Meditation Assistant app [F-Droid or Play] as both a mediation timer and log for my meditation sessions.

I will use the standard practices outlined as exercises in Ricard’s Happiness as a starting off point to focus my meditation practice. I will also look into other sources for understanding meditation, whether from traditional sutras, contemporary commenters such as Ayya KhemaChagdud TulkuSharon Salzberg, etc. or other sources, particularly those in the Zen tradition.

I will also write a weekly summary of practice for myself including: questions that come to mind, trouble spots, failures to practice, etc. Anything I find particularly interesting I will post to this blog. Quarterly, I will briefly summarize my experience and edit the results section to reflect my experience. At the end of the experiment, I plan on discussing the experiment and provide some conclusions, if there are any.

Results: TBD.

Discussion: TBD.

Conclusions: TDB.

2018 Experiment: HIIT Burpee and Running Program

Background: Maintaining a minimum fitness standard is a challenge, particularly as we age. American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations focused on HIIT strength training and running suggests two sessions of HIIT strength training and three sessions of running for twenty-five minutes each.

physical-activity-in-adults

HIIT program criteria:

  1. It can be done anywhere.
  2. It requires no equipment.
  3. It takes less than 20 minutes.

This program is an experiment to see what kind of results can be obtained from HIIT training using one program with one exercise in combination with an easy program of running. It is as simple a plan to meet AHA recommendations for physical activity as I could come up with that incorporates strength training and meets a minimum running goal of 10 miles a week, which is a very low weekly mileage for runners.

Methods: Use the Bats! HIIT Interval Timer. Set up eleven phases. Work, break and rest are in seconds. Blk is for block or number of sets. #/Blk is number of timed intervals per set. Min. is total number of minutes required to complete.

Phase Work Break Rest #/Blk Blk Min.
P0 10 60 30 12 1 15
P1 15 60 30 12 1 16
P2 20 60 30 12 1 17
P3 25 60 30 12 1 18
P4 30 60 30 12 1 19
P5 30 55 30 12 1 18
P6 30 50 30 12 1 17
P7 30 45 30 12 1 16
P8 30 40 30 12 1 15
P9 30 35 30 12 1 14
P10 30 30 30 12 1 13

Do each phase for a month, twice a week. For the work interval, do burpees (standard or an easier variation). During break time, I plan to rest completely. Then, rinse and repeat until complete.

Initial plan is to do this program Tuesday and Friday. After HIIT training, do an easy run/walk of 25 minutes. On Monday and Thursday, do a minimum run/walk of four miles or approximately 40/80 minutes, respectively. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays are rest days.

Experiment will be considered a success if Phase 10 is done four weeks in a row. If I go for four weeks without doing the strength training or reach December 31, 2018 without completing Phase 10 for four weeks, I will consider the experiment over. On completion, I’ll write up a post mortem with results and conclusion and if I want to try it again, how it should be modified.

Results: For four months, I followed this program. I got to phase 3. At the end, I completed 6 burpees for 12 sets for a total of 72 burpees in 18 minutes for 6 weeks. There were dramatic improvements in cardiovascular fitness. Strength was improved. I also gained 15 pounds, which was the reason I stopped doing it.

Discussion: If I were to do this again, I’d focus on the number of burpees per work set and bring down the number per set and add sets over time. For example, I’d start with doing 1 burpee per minute for 10 minutes. As able, I’d add 2 minutes a session until I was at 20 minutes, then I’d drop down to 2 burpees per minute for 10 minutes and repeat the process.

I found that I could do 1 burpee every 3 seconds. So, you could work up to 10 burpees every minute and still have a 30 second recovery period per set. If you did that for 20 minutes, it would be 200 burpees. This is enough fitness for the vast majority of people.

The program above, in contrast, required doubling the amount when you go to the next level. It was very difficult. There needs to be a more gradual adaptation. Using the program outlined in the discussion section, I suspect it would probably take two years to start at 10 burpees in 10 minutes and work up to 200 burpees in 20 minutes.

Two sessions per week is reasonable. As long as you were doing the more gradual program, you might be safe doing as many as three.

The major issue is that doing this kind of exercise is going to fundamentally change your body composition and your weight is going to go up. I think it is worth doing. But, if your goal is to lose weight, then you’ll need to do that first and then do this program when you are ready to build your strength and fitness.

Conclusions: Properly modified per the discussion session, this technique is worth exploration as a way to maintain fitness and strength. But, it should not be confused with a weight loss program. This program will put weight on you, a lot of it.

2018 Experiment: A Reading List

Background: I have thousands of books in my book queue that I would like to read, but never seem to find the time for. In 2018, instead of reading whatever seems good at the moment, I’m going to try sticking to an idiosyncrastic list of 101 books and/or collections I’d like to read in the coming year.

I’ll consider it a success if I manage to read a quarter of the titles on this list by the end of 2018. If I can manage a third of them, I’ll consider that an excellent outcome.

In the end, it is alright if I end up reading a handful of these books. I also intend to either do a book review when I complete a title or post interesting quotes as I find them.

Methods: Stick with the list. If I want to read a book off list, I’ll review this book list and ask: Is this off-list book more interesting than all the unread titles on this list? If not, then it can wait for next year’s list.

Results: All the titles below that are in bold I read about eight titles completely. Those that are in italics  I at least checked out and either skimmed or read portions of them. For each, there are around fourteen titles a piece.

Discussion: There is a real disconnect with a list and the actual reading. Each had different problems. For example, I read about half of a Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and lost interest. The Art of Looking Sideways is really better as a coffee or side table book, and it is not something most people would read straight through. While I am interested in reading SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, its availability from the library didn’t coincide with motivation on my part.

Conclusions: If a list like this is going to work. It needs to be fewer titles, and the titles there need to be either really short, really good or something that really interests me. A lot of the books here missed for one or more of those reasons.

List:

  1. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah.
  2. Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations.
  3. Beard, Mary. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.
  4. Bowles, Paul. The Stories of Paul Bowles.
  5. Bradbury, Ray. The Stories of Ray Bradbury.
  6. Browne, Harry. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.
  7. Butler, Octavia E. Bloodchild and Other Stories.
  8. Calvino, Italo. Italian Folktales.
  9. Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities.
  10. Carroll, Peter J. Liber Null and Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic.
  11. Carter, Angela. Burning Your Boats.
  12. Cerón, Rocío. Diorama.
  13. Chagdud, Tulku. Gates to Buddhist Practice.
  14. Congdon, Lisa. A Glorious Freedom.
  15. Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1).
  16. Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
  17. Dinesen, Isak. Carnival: Entertainments and Posthumous Tales.
  18. Endō, Shūsaku. Silence.
  19. Epictetus. Discourses and Selected Writings.
  20. Etheridge, Chuck. Border Cantos Trilogy: Book I.
  21. Euripides. Medea and Other Plays: Medea / Alcestis / The Children of Heracles / Hippolytus.
  22. Ferriss, Timothy. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.
  23. Fletcher, Alan. The Art of Looking Sideways.
  24. Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon.
  25. Galbraith, Carrie. Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society.
  26. Galeano, Eduardo. Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone.
  27. Gallwey, W. Timothy. The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.
  28. Garson, Scott. Is That You, John Wayne?
  29. Gessel, Van C. The Shōwa Anthology: Modern Japanese Short Stories.
  30. Girard, René. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.
  31. Gorey, Edward. The Gashlycrumb Tinies (The Vinegar Works, #1).
  32. Gracián, Baltasar. The Art of Worldly Wisdom.
  33. Grass, Günter. The Danzig Trilogy: The Tin Drum / Cat and Mouse / Dog Years.
  34. Graves, Robert. I, Claudius (Claudius, #1).
  35. Greitens, Eric. Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.
  36. Gyasi, Yaa. Homegoing.
  37. Hadot, Pierre. Philosophy As a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault.
  38. Hagy, Jessica. How to Be Interesting: An Instruction Manual.
  39. Hamel, Christopher De. Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts.
  40. Hansberry, Lorraine. To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: An Informal Autobiography.
  41. Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
  42. Hwoschinsky, Carol. Listening With The Heart: A Guide For Compassionate Listening.
  43. Ingalls, Rachel. Three Masquerades: Novellas. 12/2017.
  44. Jaeger, Werner Wilhelm. Paideia 1: The Ideals of Greek Culture: Archaic Greece: The Mind of Athens.
  45. Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son.
  46. Keene, John. Counternarratives.
  47. Kelly, Joe. I Kill Giants.
  48. Kennett, Jiyu. Selling Water by the River: Manual of Zen Training. 12/2017.
  49. Khema, Ayya. Be an Island: The Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace.
  50. King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
  51. Kreider, Tim. We Learn Nothing.
  52. Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness.
  53. Le Guin, Ursula K. The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories.
  54. Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko.
  55. Van Lente, Fred. Action Philosophers!
  56. Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph. The Waste Books. 12/2017.
  57. Lin Yutang. The Importance of Living.
  58. Liu, Cixin. The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1).
  59. Liu, Cixin. The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2).
  60. Liu, Cixin. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3).
  61. Manguel, Alberto. The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.
  62. Matthiessen, Peter. The Snow Leopard.
  63. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.
  64. McLuhan, Marshall. The Book of Probes.
  65. McMurtry, Larry. Lonesome Dove.
  66. McPhee, John. Draft No. 4.
  67. Mercier, Hugo. The Enigma of Reason.
  68. Mirtalipova, Dinara. Imagine A Forest: 45 Step by Step Lessons to Create Enchanting Folk Art.
  69. Miłosz, Czesław. Selected and Last Poems 1931-2004.
  70. Moore, Alan. Jerusalem.
  71. Moten, Fred. The Little Edges.
  72. Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
  73. Novy, Adam. The Avian Gospels, Book I.
  74. O’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories.
  75. Ōe, Kenzaburō. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness: Four Short Novels.
  76. Palmer, Ada. Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1).
  77. Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects.
  78. Rothenberg, Jerome. Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Bought.
  79. Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1).
  80. Sanderson, Brandon. Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2).
  81. Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3).
  82. Sapolsky, Robert M. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.
  83. Scharf, Caleb. The Zoomable Universe: An Epic Tour Through Cosmic Scale, from Almost Everything to Nearly Nothing.
  84. Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms.
  85. Seneca. Letters from a Stoic.
  86. Shakur, Assata. Assata: An Autobiography.
  87. Shepard, Lucius. The Jaguar Hunter.
  88. Shklovsky, Victor. Zoo or Letters Not About Love.
  89. Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
  90. Spiegelman, Art. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1).
  91. VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction.
  92. Vargas Llosa, Mario. Conversation in the Cathedral.
  93. Vonnegut Jr., Kurt. The Sirens of Titan.
  94. Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing.
  95. Ware, Chris. Building Stories.
  96. Willink, Jocko. Extreme Ownership: How U. S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. 12/2017.
  97. Wilson, August. Three Plays: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom / Fences / Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
  98. Woodring, Jim. Congress of the Animals.
  99. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own.
  100. Zehme, Bill. Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman.
  101. Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday.