Archive for category Wellness
While motoring down to a beach in southwest Florida yesterday, I listened to this NPR interview of Sonja Lyubomirsky on her book “The Myths of Happiness”. Evidently people have a natural ‘set point’—like a thermostat for mood—that helps them withstand terrible events and be happy again. It’s called hedonic adaption.* Sadly most folks suffer the flip side of this mood regulator: They finally get what they want, such as a coveted Christmas gift, but it does not make them any happier.
There is a nifty way around this—rather than gratifying your greed, do something for someone else. It needn’t be much: Every little bit adds up to leading a happier life.
Such behavior is twice blest—good for the giver as well as the beneficiary.
“The pleasures associated with our own acts of consumption tend to be short-lived. The pleasures derived from doing something for others linger.”
*I dictated “hedonic adaptation blog” into my (supposedly) smart phone and it transcribed “add on a caterpillar engine block”—presumably thinking I meant to increase the horsepower in my road grader. Ha ha!
At my annual physical before my heart attack in December of 2004 I was advised that, although the cholesterol came in a bit high, it would not be necessary to go on medicine to reduce this. Would I have been spared if I had? This sort of speculation really does nothing for me but it underscores a big question that is debated in today’s Wall Street Journal: Should Healthy People Take Cholesterol Drugs to Prevent Heart Disease.
You be the judge whether the answer is yes or no—it is far too problematic for me to say. However, here are two points I want to make on the WSJ debate:
“we need clinical trials that actually follow healthy people treated with statins for the long term to see if treatment really results in lower mortality.”
I remain very skeptical of “experiments” comprised in a metamorphic manner by happenstance, as opposed to being truly controlled from start to finish and done double-blind (if possible).
Today’s Science Friday radio show made it known that willpower is a very limited resource. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can build up your willpower by proper exercises, just like you do for toning up muscles. This is the premise of Florida State University psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister, whom Science Friday host Ira Flatow interviewed. Baumeister and co-author John Tierney reveal all in their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, chosen as one of the Best Books of 2011 by Amazon’s editors.
Here are a few pointers I picked up from Science Friday that will prevent depletion of your willpower reservoir:
- Do not start in on all of your New Year’s resolutions all at once – pace yourself: Work on one resolution at a time.
- Pick off the easiest resolutions first, such as making your bed every morning or taking your dog for a walk daily.
- Exercise and build up your willpower with trivial things such as sitting up straighter and using your non-dominant hand to mouse around the computer.
For an inspiring demonstration of supreme willpower see this video of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.
Unfortunately, according to Professor Baumeister, testing your willpower on something as compelling as a sugary snack can be very perilous, because once you fail it goes downhill from there. That’s why my goal is to first eat all the Christmas cookies before giving up sweets.
Happy New Year — best wishes for achieving all your resolutions…
For the 2011 Annual Management Improvement Blog Carnival,* I reviewed the Unfolding Leadership blog (the second of three looked over by me and my son Hank). In his meme** inspired SMALL WORLD entry Dan Oestreich explains how he began blogging in 2004 as an outlet for creative expression, not only in words, but also photography. The pictures are what caught my eye and made Unfolding Leadership stand out from the pack. This blog of October 7 provides an example of Oestreich’s eloquence in words and visuals.
I found the mid-year blog ON HYPOCRISY AND SELF-PROTECTION very thought-provoking because of its forgiving dissection of why so many leaders say one thing but do the other. Oestreich provides an inside look at just such a fellow who happens to be in charge of a technical group. From my experience, competence in science and engineering correlates inversely with people skills. However, if one is willing to put himself under a microscope and be open to change, improvement is possible. I urge anyone in a leadership position, especially those with technical backgrounds, to read this blog.
Going back to the first Unfolding Leadership blog of 2011 titled SCAR one finds a very poignant story of a woman who had the courage to speak up at work, but, unfortunately, it created a very bad outcome. I really like the accompanying photograph and found it very apropos. Read the comments for further insights on this issue of trust.
* For all the 2011 blogs see this list http://curiouscat.com/management/carnival_2011.cfm. Background on the carnival itself can be found here http://management.curiouscatblog.net/about/.
**(An idea that is spread from blog to blog – see this page http://thedailymeme.com/what-is-a-meme/ for the provenance)
Spiritual teacher Jaya Row, a microbiologist by training, provides a simple formula for happiness in this article on Timeless Truths which I saw in The Times of India while vacationing in Aurangabad last month. Here it is: Happiness Quotient (HQ) equals the number of desires fulfilled divided by the number of desires entertained. She advises that we focus more on the denominator than the numerator of this HQ ratio. I interpret this as trying to be happy with less, rather than being greedy for more.
While in Aurangabad I came by the tomb of the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb. His father, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal – the most beautiful building in the world, in my opinion.* Aurangazeb was an ascetic who followed a particularly austere from of Sufism. At the ripe old age of 88 the emperor was buried according to his wishes in a simple tomb purchased with money he earned himself by stitching caps. Sometimes the apple does fall far from tree. One wonders who led the happier life – Aurangazeb or his father. Now I think that the Taj Mahal really symbolizes the desires that never can be fulfilled in anyone’s life, that is, a monument to unhappiness.
Ending on a happier note, I offer up this photo of monkeys scampering along the road to Chand Minar, the Tower of the Moon, built by the Mughal conquerors of what came to be known as Aurangabad.
*Another story: While working for General Mills in the mid-1980s as a purchaser of Indian agricultural products, my agent bribed the guard at this monumental set of tombs in Agra to enable a private tour for my wife and I under a full moon and candlelight. Priceless!
I always thought that if I was in a car that went into water, I’d be cool enough to roll down the windows, or wait until it submerges before opening the door (otherwise the pressure differential makes it impossible). Based on actual experimentation, the hosts of the television show Mythbusters felt the same way, that is, until viewers pointed out that many cars turn turtle as they sink. So in a show I watched last month they [Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage] tried this. It was a disaster! The Mythbuster driver [Adam] survived only by breathing from an emergency air source, and the safety diver had to cut his way out of a seat belt that wouldn’t release! See this recap to learn what went wrong. What they don’t show is how at first the car just floated, so it seemed like no big deal; but then when it sank, the automobile went down incredibly fast. En route to the bottom of the lake the car spun around so much that the occupants would’ve drowned for sure. Scary!
After this epiphany, I ordered several of these inexpensive (<$5) safety hammers (see one pictured) for cars owned by me and my offspring.
Check out this post by First Aid Monster for another video showing how fast you can go underwater when a car runs into a canal, river, pond, lake or ocean. They suggest buying a safety hammer and provide a link to one similar to what I bought.
When I advised family and co-workers to be prepared for being trapped in a car that goes underwater, it was met by a few with great skepticism.
One individual wondered how many people die this way, figuring it being so unlikely as to not be worth any worries. From internet research, the best I can figure is that about 10% of all drowning occur in submerged cars. Then using statistics from this graphic by the National Safety Council putting the odds of death by drowning at 1 in 1000, I figure that dying this way in a car occurs at about a 1 in 10,000 rate – somewhat less likely than dying in a plane crash. I’ve flown hundreds of times and never yet come across anyone refusing to buckle up as required when taking off and landing. Why not?
Another person expressed strong doubts as to whether the hammers could break an automobile window. I cannot yet say from first-hand experimentation, but this video provides convincing evidence, I feel.
Anyways, I’m putting the little <$5 safety hammers in all my cars. Why not? It could come in handy some day, if not for me to escape a submerged car, then maybe for some other event that requires breaking glass – someone trapped in a car crash on land, for example.
Bear in mind that I am a Minnesotan — a state that boasts of having 10,000 lakes and where a bridge fell down into the Mississippi not that long ago. Furthermore, I live in a town (Stillwater) with a rotten old lift bridge that may be the next to fail according to this recent report by The History Channel.
I found it amusing that, when forced to try modeling my weight data (see previous blog), my DOE software recommended a fifth order polynomial* model! That’s a bit more ‘tayloring’ (Ha ha – inside joke) than I really needed. In fact, just to show how silly this is (5th order!) I offer the following scenario as a cautionary tale. Perhaps it may help to dissuade others who make similarly nonsensical models from what is really just (naturally) randomly generated data.
Looking forward to a work/vacation trip to Tampa in late March (I really will be going there, I am happy to say!), let’s pretend that I use this fifth-order model to help me decide whether to bring a swimming suit. Hmmm, extrapolating out to day 75, when I finish my conference and head for the Gulf shore, the over-fitted model (really should just use the mean!) predicts that by then I will balloon to nearly 100 pounds over my norm. In this case I may easily be mistaken for a beached whale!
It’s just not right to apply model-fitting tools to what is not a DOE, but rather simply a process run-out at steady-state conditions. Extrapolation makes this even more dangerous by far. See the graph for a case in point.
*(A math-phobic person I am acquainted with, whom I will not identify, mockingly refers to these equations as “poly moles” — hence my title for this blog.)
This is the greeting from Steve Halls, MD, at his web weight-calculator. After a fair amount of searching on the internet, I found this site on body-mass the easiest to use and informative. However, I cannot speak on its accuracy. I will only admit that it provided far less scary news (and realistic, I feel) about my own weight than other websites giving advice on this vital subject.
According to the “updated hall.md v2” standards, I am “marginally overweight” at the 53rd percentile of other American males at my age and height. As we like to say in Minnesota, this could be worse, so it’s not so bad.
Discussing what should be the “ideal” weight would take up a great deal of time and energy: Never mind that. What I want to do is focus on monitoring weight. For example, I just completed the pictured outlier-detecting run-chart* on my 20 weighings** thus far this year. Notice that none of the results fall outside of the 95 percent confidence limits.
Even so, after I penciled in my number for the highlighted point, my wife hassled me a bit about going overweight when she saw . I predicted that she would see a regression to the mean, which didn’t impress her one bit. Nevertheless, the value of being patient by charting data over a period of time can be seen in this instance – it vindicates me not reacting to one result.
Coincidentally, our contract trainer Doug Hubbell came to Minneapolis for our new Advanced Formulations workshop. He is the author of a handbook for managers seeking quality improvement (Managing for Profits – to be published soon). Doug is a plain-talking straight-shooter who rifles in on what’s needed to stop chronic manufacturing waste. Charting is a powerful part of his arsenal of quality tools. His reaction to me mentioning my monitoring of weight was “I hope you do not expect this chart to help you lose pounds.” Naturally I wouldn’t admit to that, but, honestly, it did cross my (hopeful!) mind. However, I am mainly just trying to track a very gradual increase of about 1 pound per year since my high-school graduation, when I was in the best shape of my life.
The battle against the bulge continues…
*Using Design-Expert® software’s diagnostics tools. I focused on a chart that deletes each point before calculating its deviation in terms of standard deviation, which makes it more sensitive to statistical outliers. For details, see this Wikipedia entry on Studentized residual (it explains internal and external methods).
**Done with a new bathroom scale that I really like – this Precision Digital model by EatSmart.
I took a high-school classmate out to lunch today for his birthday. Now in his late 50s, my friend has aged well – evidently as healthy as can be. Being that he graduated 6th in our class, my buddy’s exceptional fitness of body and mind fits a profile of well-being that’s characteristic of individuals who excelled academically, according to this report by the New York Times. In a nutshell, a long-term longitudinal study of over 10,000 aging students found that, by their early 60s, those near the top of their class were half as likely to report declines in health than their academically-inferior peers. It seems that the studs for studying end up being a lot heartier than the partyers.
“Academic performance is strongly linked to health in later life.”
- Pamela Herd, associate professor of public affairs and sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and study-author of Education and Health in Late-life among High School Graduates
The recent collapse of our Hubert H. Hump-free (ha ha) Metrodome makes it seem like we Minnesotans must be completely deflated (pun intended) from the extraordinary snowfall this month. However, there is an upside to this weather – excellent cross-country skiing conditions. As you can see, this has brightened up my disposition. I like nothing better than a ski through the woods near my home in Stillwater, where I often find myself all alone except for a startled deer — I almost literally ran across a doe (the female ungulate, not a design-of-experiment ) yesterday, for example.
Being in good spirits myself, I wish the same for you this holiday season. Enjoy!
“He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.”
- Excerpt from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
PS. The shot from ground-level provides the perspective of one of our indigenous snow fleas, which I often see in late winter when it warms up a bit. It’s fun to watch them jump around at random.