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Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Resolution for 2012: The Year of Fitness

In 2012, I've decided to take up and carry out a resolution - arguably the most over-resolved resolution ever: to be more fit/healthy in 2012.

How will I carry this out?

I'll be following weightlifting workouts prescribed in The New Rules of Lifting. In addition to this, I'll be doing light amounts of running intervals on my off-days.

To support this (relatively) high level of physical activity, I'll be supplementing with Dymatize's Elite Gourmet Protein, eating relatively healthy, and following the Mobility WOD's provided by Kelly Starrett.

The key here is to establish the habit of healthiness. That means:
  • Being active every day.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Sticking with it, day in and day out.
I've tried to do as much homework and preparation in advance as possible, so all I have to do when Monday comes is to just live it. I know I can't possibly prepare for an entire year of fitness in advance, but I'm doing the best I can. I'll check in weekly here on the blog to help myself along.

 Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Radio Silence?

This is a huge guilt post - I haven't posted a single thing in the entire month of December!

This is due to a few things:
- Crazy end-of-the-year schedule: finals, bowl game trip (Poinsettia Bowl this time, against Louisiana Tech - we won it!), and a Christmas trip out to Florida with family.
- Chores and errands galore
- Getting ready to hit the ground running on my New Year's Resolution... More on that coming tomorrow!

If you're reading this, I really hope you stick with me. I plan to make next year a more interesting one, both on and off this blog.

Friday, November 18, 2011

GREAT video - apply this today!

Even if you're not a health fan, chances are you want to live a long and decent life that's pain-free as much as possible. Watch this video, start working on these two concepts (they're not easy at first), and you can eliminate a lot of pain and strain.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Now Playing #5: Halloween Movies Edition

For about 2 weeks, my roommates and I hosted daily movie nights - mostly horror/thriller movies. Here they are, in no exact order!

- The Others

I had seen it before, but I still got goosebumps from this one. Not gory or super scary, but uniquely spooky in a way that gets under your skin. A generally good movie.

- Cry_Wolf

As a fan of the Scream series, I really hoped this would live up to the teen thriller genre. It didn't disappoint. Very nice twist at the end!

- Scream

You've got to love a movie this self-aware. Endless props to Wes Craven

- Cabin Fever

Given the amount of hype I've heard about this film, I expected a LOT more from it. It was a beating to get through. The only relevant scenes are the Shaving scene and the Pancakes scene - anyone who's seen it knows which ones I'm referring to.

- The Thing

The Thing is a good movie. It's not often you see horror in the snow, and less often that you find a movie that keeps you guessing and speculating all the way throughout.

- The Descent

Jumpy, but not scary. It shouldn't be billed so much as a horror film, I think. I'm not sure how best to genre-lize it, but it feels more like an action film at points. A cathartic journey for a scarred protagonist.

- 28 Weeks Later

I really like the two "28" movies, but this is the lesser of the two in my opinion.

- Quarantine

A good entry in the new POV-style horror genre (like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch). Frustrating storyline at points, but the final scene is undeniably creepy.

- Planet Terror

Not too scary, just a fun Rodriguez/Tarantino-style ride.

- High Tesion

This foreign (French, I believe?) thriller was much better than expected. Very intelligently directed, and the twist will have you talking after the credits roll.

- Drag Me To Hell

Newer Sam Raimi - very campy for sure. It'll have you wincing out of hygiene concerns more than anything.

- Cloverfield

One of my favorite films from the past few years - features real characters and powerful imagery. Stop whining about motion sickness!

- Let Me In

Not scary at all. Let Me In is a remake of a (reportedly better) Swedish film. It's a romantic horror film. Confused? Watch the movie and you'll get it better.

- Night of the Living Dead

THE classic zombie film. Romero pioneered an entire genre of films with this one, and it deserves the respect it gets. Be patient with poor Barbara, she's very stressed.

- Young Frankenstein

Timeless comedy. I love you, Mel Brooks.

- Saw

One of my favorite series. I just wish the acting was slightly better in this movie, but oh well. While it may have pioneered the infamous "torture porn" genre, the Saw movies have plot twists and morality questions that will throw you for serious loops.

- The Fly

This movie is a horror film unlike any other I've seen. Not particularly jumpy, but it makes you think about things - and the thinking is what creeps you out. What does it mean to be human? As a side note, this film has great makeup and general effects.

And that's all, folks! I wish we could have had a list filled with more classics, but we had to work with movies that we all actually owned. All in all, it was a good time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What are my priorities?

I've been a regular blog reader for far longer than I've been a blogger myself. One of the blogs that I've enjoyed reading since its inception is Advanced Riskology. It's run by Tyler Tervooren, and promotes "better living through uncertainty." As a part of sharing a more adventurous lifestyle, Tyler is on his own quest for 1% - experiencing or accomplishing things that less than 1% of the world's population will ever get to do. Tyler updates his Quest for 1% on a monthly basis, and typically asks a reflection question to his AR community at the end. This month's prompt is as follows:

This month was all about recognizing and re-organizing priorities for me, and now I want to hear about your priorities.
What are the top three priorities in your life, and why? Why are they important to you, and how do you make sure you give them the attention they deserve? What do you do if you notice you’ve been neglecting one?

I think priorities generally shift over time. Anyone who knows me personally or has been reading here for any amount of time knows that I'm currently in my sophomore year of college, which has huge influence on my priorities. So for now, my top three are: getting good grades in school, staying involved with people and projects that I care about, and staying in good health.

  • Grades are important because they define a lot of college for me. If I don't maintain a good Grade Point Average, I'll lose the scholarship that brought me here - and then I'll really be scrambling for what to do.

  • Being involved with great people and projects has great benefits: having a full AND fulfilling social life while also doing things to help me grow. 

  • Good health is important because I think everything links back to it - no matter your goals in life, you can reach them better when you are in good health.

I can't quite seem to grasp how to give them all just the right amount of attention. I seem to have to "binge" on each every now and then and neglect the others, which keeps me locked in a difficult cycle. I NEED those grades - but I also need to maintain relationships, activity and health. But as I struggle through trying to figure these things out, I also wonder: what comes next? What happens when the need for grades, arguably the most critical of my priorities, goes away after graduation? Will I consciously pick the new priority, or will it be handed to me?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How My Life Changed This Summer

It's about time I take a look back and reflect on the summer, since I've just finished my first break of the school year. This summer was HUGE for me in terms of personal growth. I'll try and put up each major highlight and it's description in this post.

- Personal Contract

At the beginning of the summer, I began to get that nasty "it's going to slip away and won't get to do anything I want to do" feeling. This feeling has come up (and proven true) in several summers past, so I decided to head it off by making a tangible promise to myself. So just after midnight on May 7th, 2011, I wrote this short personal commitment statement:
I'm writing this as an open proclamation - No longer will I allow myself to go down the path of failure. No longer will I perform in a lackluster manner and simply say "I tried." NO. I have been given far too many opportunities to let myself fail. I will not shy from the road less traveled-by, nor will I ignore te advice of others. This summer will not be one of laziness and regret, but one of growth, achievement, and fun. In short, it's time to step my game up.

In frustration, renewal, honesty, and hope;

Christian Buckler

- Watching Mustache Man

I watched this video through the Art of Manliness:

And quickly fell in love. This is a key example of what I want to be like for the rest of my life. In great fitness, challenging myself through fun obstacle races, and not being afraid to go a bit crazy.

- Kentucky Trip (Gpa's funeral, painting, scholarship)

I made a casual trip out to Kentucky this summer for two main reasons: My Grandfather's funeral and picking up a scholarship. However, this being my vacation, I thought it would be "cool" to strip and repaint my grandparents' back porch while I was in town. This taught me a couple short lessons. The first: Once you hit flow in a certain task, it's best to ride it until completion. For instance, If you figure out the best way to paint the handrail of that porch, paint ALL the handrails - not just the handrail of one section. By leaving that task, jumping to another one like painting side rails, and coming back to the handrail; you're less effective at handrail painting than you were at the start. I would attribute this to reacclimation, and I'm sure it would depend on how different the tasks were.

The second lesson was simply that wasps aren't that bad. As a quick confession, I'm near-phobic not a huge fan of stinging insects like wasps, bees, and yellow jackets. That porch had nooks and crannies all over the place that made for GREAT wasp nests. Cool. Long story short, I killed a bunch of the things so not I'm not as skittish of them.

- Gym Internship

I worked as an unpaid intern this summer at a local gym, and observed on a daily basis the ins and outs of small businesses, particularly that of a small franchise gym. I also got to see health professionals at work, including personal trainers, homeopathic product promoters, bodybuilders, massage therapists, endurance athletes, and one potential NFL recruit. Overall, I met a lot of great people and learned a lot - oh, and I had some fun along the way, too.

- LeaderShape

I could write many, many posts about LeaderShape. I was one of 4 TCU students sent to the LeaderShape institute this past summer, and came away with several great experiences and great friends. I left LeaderShape with a new outlook on life: one filled with hope and potential. Above all else, LeaderShape taught what it means to live with integrity, and also the power of the individual.

- 24-hr romance

I had a brief romantic fling with a girl back home, one that really showed me what actual compatibility and chemistry looks and feels like. She called things off pretty quick for reasons I won't describe here, but I'm still reeling from the beauty of that moment.

- Give a Damn

I wrote about Giving a Damn earlier this summer, a realization I had after LeaderShape. We could all do a better job of sitting in the front row of our own lives - and lining up our thoughts and actions while we're at it.

- Mormon Friends Leaving

I had a handful of good friends leave for their 2-year missions this summer, and I'll miss them dearly. That being said, I'm very excited about the awesome opportunity they have to travel to another place and experience life with all kinds of people for so long.

- Argument With a Friend

Perhaps I was a little too gung-ho about my GAD attitude. At the very end of the summer, I attempted to call a good friend out on a discrepancy between the opinions she was stating and the actions she was taking. This resulted in a bit of a spat (most folks don't like being told "you're wrong." Odd.) that has since been resolved forgotten.

These events were only a few points of my summer, but they illustrate the overall themes and growth that occurred. And to think I was so worried about wasting it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Now Playing #4: Still More Independent Study

Dumping a LOT of videos this time.

Politics/International Relations


Sasha Dichter: The Generosity Experiment from TED Blog on Vimeo.


Entrepreneurship and Success


Leo Babauta and Jennifer Gresham's presentation on Finding Your Passion

Passion Webinar: Intro from Leo Babauta on Vimeo.

Passion Webinar: Jen Gresham on Careers from Leo Babauta on Vimeo.

Passion Webinar: Leo Answers Questions from Leo Babauta on Vimeo.

The Benefits of Self-Tracking


The 80/20 Guide to Finding a Job You Love

Ramit Sethi has some cool stuff to share on this topic. Jump over to his site and check it out!

Life as an Adventurer

Tyler Tervooren recently interviewed Dave Cornthwaite, a solo paddle-boarder and overall adventurer. Inspiring and exciting!

Sleep Study

Joe Betts-LaCroix - 28 Hour Day from Gary Wolf on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Just Saved a Life

How? By buying this book. You should too. Check this out for a better description than I could write. And visit here, while you're at it. Save a life on End Malaria Day, that should make your day a little brighter.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Advertising's effects on the economy?

I was reading a chapter from my Advertising Book (Contemporary Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications by Arens, Weigold, and Arens) when I came across this section of the history of advertising (bolding is my own emphasis):

"In 2001, the combination of a mild recession, a stock market decline, and the bust of the dot-coms contributed to a record decline in advertising activity. On September 11 of that year, terrorists attacked the United States and suddenly all marketing and advertising seemed to stop - not just in North America but also around the world. The end result: spending in the United States declined 6.5 percent to $231 billion, and overseas spending dropped 8.6 percent to $210 billion."

Advertising/Marketing clearly has a huge impact on what we spend our money on, and judging by this excerpt, how much we spend at all. I wonder if we could have avoided the post-2001 slump if advertisers had continued as if everything was business as usual. Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Now Playing #3: Self-Studies Edition

Not much has changed since my last Now Playing post, but I have been checking out some online material in terms of self-study. Leaving some neat links here for others to check out, and for me to find this stuff again later.


This  is a really cool article on the psychology of eating. A lot of really useful material there.

Fitness (Paleo)

"Organic fitness: How to train like a hunter-gatherer" by James O'Keefe, MD from Ancestry on Vimeo.

"MovNat: evolutionarily natural fitness" by Erwan LeCorre from Ancestry on Vimeo.

"The Lost Art of Play" by Mark Sisson from Ancestry on Vimeo.

(^ Can't necessarily vouch for those, haven't watched them yet. However, a lot of great ideas were shared at the Ancestral Health Symposium - I can see the potential for the Paleo lifestyle).

 Time Management

You're probably already familiar with his Last Lecture. This one comes in a close second.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Give A Damn

Through a lot of self-growth this summer, I've come to the conclusion that I can overcome many fears and avoid many regrets by just living like I actually give a damn. This is not to say I'm apathetic, but more a realization of all the blessings I've received. Basically, I know I am so blessed, so what right do I have to not sit in the front row of my own life?

This "Give A Damn" philosophy can apply to almost any aspect of one's life - for instance, oral hygiene that gives a damn might include ALWAYS brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, avoiding soft drinks or teas, and shelling out the cash for teeth whitening services/products if you so need or desire them. It's all about recognizing the necessary sacrifices to get what you want, and then making those sacrifices. The GAD mentality relies on truly going after the things you want. You can say you want to be in shape, but if you actually gave a damn you would get off the couch more often, eat a little better, and get some support from others.

Giving a Damn is so challenging because we so rarely do it. It gives you a kick in the seat of your pants and forces you to attribute relative importance to a goal. So try living like you Give a Damn - you just might enjoy it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Now Playing #2

I guess I'm really taking this Semi-Weekly thing seriously. And by that I really mean the semi part. Ooops.


I'm currently juggling 5 books, but trying to move forward at a decent pace with all of them.

- On Writing - Stephen King

About three quarters of the way through now. Still good. King proposes a writing exercise to his readers - 5 to 6 pages based on a setting and situation he describes in the book. I'll try it soon, and perhaps post it here if it turns out well.

- Walden - Henry David Thoreau

One more chapter of this masochism. It'll be rewarding enough to finish it sometime tomorrow.

- Peak Learning - Ronald Gross

I'm more and more interested on "Learning How to Learn." Gross' book is supposed to be one of the best on the subject. Just barely cracked this one open, I'll keep you posted.

- Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert T. Kiyosaki

Started this last night and I'm burning through it at a quick pace. Good stuff, so far mostly talking about how people have the wrong mindset about money - and how that mindset traps people in the "Rat Race."

- The 4-Hour Workweek - Tim Ferriss

 I know, this book is fairly controversial and often downright hated. But I already own Ferriss' 4-Hour Body, and have enjoyed it. The 4-Hour Workweek (so far) is useful because it questions the status quo and asks the reader to step outside his/her comfort zone. I've heard enough about the book to know that upcoming sections will be a bit more in-your-face and possibly even unethical. I think I'll do a post on Tim Ferriss later - most people tend to love him or hate him, I tend to walk the line between the two.


- Pandora

Quick formula for an enjoyable Pandora station: Use Mae, Green River Ordinance, and OneRepublic as artist seeds. Sit back and enjoy.

- Tim Halperin

Tim's a great guy (and a graduate of TCU!) who had a short run on American Idol, and has ever since been a regular feature on Kidd Kraddick's radio show. Here's a couple samples for you:

Tim's funnier side - Awkward at the Clubs

Tim's New Baby - The Last Song


- For Your Consideration

Pretty rough, despite the star talent involved. Some funny moments here and there, but I think it is a movie best appreciated by people who act in/work on movies.

- Leaves of Grass

Edward Norton plays two twin brothers - one an academic, the other a marijuana grower (farmer?). Originally starts out as a comedy, but grows into a deep film about returning to your roots. Definitely recommended, if only for the sight of two Edward Nortons on screen.

- Invictus

Morgan Freeman: Check. Matt Damon: Check. Inspiring story: Check. You'll like it. You have no choice!

- The Road

Bleak, but good. Some may be disappointed by the end, but I think it suits the film perfectly.

- Bigger, Faster, Stronger

A pretty biased documentary about steroids, but it will make you question some things and it might even teach you a thing or two. What else could you ask for from a documentary?


Quantified Self on a Budget from Ernesto Ramirez on Vimeo.

Ernesto is doing what QS people often blitz past - improving the quality of his life. If you're a bit of a nerd, check it out. I think I might start using 750 Words myself.

Buckler, out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Fight Life's Problems As They Arise

I've been evaluating Where I'm At vs. Where I Want to Be a lot recently. This is due to a few things - romantic frustration, a quickly approaching fall semester, and a curiosity of where life will take me. One thing I've struggled with is grabbing life by the horns while still letting go of things sometimes. So, without further ado, here is my basic process for tackling problems in life while maintaining sanity.

1. Strength

As if you were filling out a Pros/Cons chart, look for one "Pro" (strength) of your current situation. Commons Strengths include: a lesson you've learned, an unexpected blessing, or something that's always been in your favor. Then amplify it. Write down that lesson and explore what it means. Express gratitude for the blessing and use it to your full advantage. Get over yourself and recognize your advantage, it's time to capitalize on it.

2. Weakness

The easiest step for most. Find ONE "Con" (Weakness) of your current predicament, and find a way to reduce or eliminate it. If it's something out of your control, recognize that fact and move on. You'll be better off accepting external influences for what they are than you will be trying to influence them.

3. Talk It Out

There's someone out there you can talk to about this. Find them and do so. Seeking advice is optional, but getting it off your chest is completely necessary. Depending on your problem, this could be a confession, a rant, or a bid for mentorship.

4. Get Away

Find someone else, and talk about anything under the sun - except for your problem. This may or may not be difficult depending on the issue at hand, but interacting with others will boost your mood - which will leave you in a better spot to hit your problem again AND also let you live your life without your issue's stress hanging on you so heavily.

I know this is all relative to what you're facing, but try it out. I bet you'll have an easier time resolving whatever troubles you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Now Playing #1

Decided to start a semi-weekly series here on the blog to keep up with the media/arts running through my life. Here goes nothing!


- On Writing - Stephen King.

About halfway done with this. It's Stephen King's pieced-together memoir of his life and writing, or more writing and his life. He shares memories, and explains how the craft of writing has shifted in his life over the years. Inspiring for anyone (especially a creative type), in my book. King has a great sense of humor and has certainly seen a lot of highs and lows over the course of his life.

- Walden - Henry David Thoreau

STILL trudging my way through this. The book is deceivingly small, and a bit of a struggle to get through. Still, it's been recommended (or mentioned) to me by several people I look up to, and it's interesting to read about a different take on life.


- Pandora

Made a radio station for the artist You Me & Everyone We Know. Jammin.

- CD

My friend Kat burned me a sweet CD for my birthday, so I'm still checking out her tunes.


- Super 8

Cool flick. Goonies meets Cloverfield (with optical flares everywhere).

- The Last Exorcism

Had great potential, TERRIBLE ending.

- Get Him To The Greek

Funny flick. P Diddy stole the show, but I would LOVE to get the soundtrack.

- Righteous Kill

Pretty bad. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro shouting about "f*cking perps" for an hour and a half. Twist ending, but easy to call.

- Mr. Brooks

Seen it before, but I never get tired of it. Check it out.


- Follow me!


- Best News Source Ever



- COD Black Ops

I wish. Having withdrawals since I only played it in the dorm at TCU.

That's all, folks!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Funeral for a Stranger

On Thursday, I went my grandfather's memorial service. The service was fine, and he was remembered well. However, I was struck by the amount of crying and sobbing I heard around me. He seemed so... missed. 

I never really got to know my grandfather well enough to miss him, honestly. He divorced my grandmother while my mother was a teenager, leaving my grandmother with four kids to try to feed, clothe, and support in a time when single mothers had a rougher time than they do today. My mom never really forgave him for that, and resisted his attempts to mend the wounds he left behind. As a result, I never really got to know him. He visited maybe two or three times, and those were only in the past few years. Occasionally I would talk to him on the phone to thank him for a gift he had mailed, or to update him on my progress in school.

I wish I could have heard his story. I wish I had called him to see how he was doing. I wish I hadn't felt a sense of guilt every time I talked to him. He seemed to be so special to so many people, and I just wish I could have seen why.

So here's to you, Grandpa Bush. You deserved far better from me, and I'm truly sorry for that. I hope you rest in peace, and I look forward to the chance to chat with you on the other side.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Wow for a number of reasons. Wow, I haven't posted in what feels like forever. Wow, I just had an incredible freshman year at TCU. Wow, this summer promises to be awesome. And most recently; Wow, I just had a mind-blowing conversation with a personal trainer.

See, I'm interning at a gym this summer, so I did an observation on one of our Fitness Evaluations today. Afterwards, I started talking to the personal trainer who performed the evaluation. That conversation quickly turned into a 45-minute lecture on his beliefs about health and fitness. And this guy is good. Crazy good. He's pretty radical, but I like that - he might be the ticket to helping me break through some of my barriers and reach the fitness levels I currently want to attain.

Basically, I want to:
- Look good. Not my primary concern, but something that I'll admit is important.
- Feel good. Reach a level of overall fitness/athleticism where I can consistently enjoy an active lifestyle.
- Play good, or uh, well. Yeah I had to correct that - but I want to be able to have sport-specific levels of conditioning for trail running/obstacle races, sand volleyball, and playing marching cymbals.

If I can satisfy those three areas by some means, I believe I can go into next school year with a firm foundation for an enjoyable active lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pareto's Principle?

Hello all, long time no see.

I got my graded business stock project back today, and comparing it to others in the class left me thinking about Pareto's Principle. I'll come back to this example, first a bit of background on the Principle.

Pareto's Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule or the law of the vital few (or for the economics nerds, the Principle of Factor Sparsity), is a concept seen everywhere in our world - 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. It originated with Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 when he noted that 80% of the land in his home country of Italy was owned by the wealthiest 20% of the population. Joseph M. Juran later applied it to quality control (80% of your problems come from 20% of your causes) and named it Pareto's Principle. Today, most people generally know about the Principle either through school courses or through the spread of Tim Ferriss's works (the 4-Hour Workweek and the 4-Hour Body). To keep it short and sweet, the LifeHacking community LOVES Pareto's Principle. Why? Because if correctly applied, you can get a lot of results for a little effort - that's something I can really get behind.

But how does this apply to my Business project, you ask? Let's take a look, shall we? I'll put mine up against two other projects that stood out to me. Quick FYI: The project entailed playing with $200,000 of fake money - $100,000 invested in stocks of our choice and the other $100,000 invested in an index containing our stocks.
- My Project was in a plain paper folder, and had little Post-It tabs to make reading/grading slightly easier. The writing quality was pretty spot on, but most of my analysis was my thoughts instead of quantifiable percentages and values. I had the required graph of the success of my portfolio compared to a similar amount of the relevant index (in this case, the NYSE Index), but also several optional graphs (one charting the price of each of my 4 stocks). I did most of the project without advice from the professor other than his preferred formatting of the pages. Much of the hard work (making graphs, assembling the pieces of the project to form a cohesive whole, etc) was done the night before.
- My neighbor's project was spiral bound with a slick cover. It had several embedded images and graphics to better illustrate his decision process. His tabs were built-in instead of Post-It notes like mine. I didn't get a good look at his project, but it looked like something a company would put out to shareholders for an annual statement - again, very slick. I heard him speak with the professor many times over the course of the project, he was clearly keeping close tabs on his portfolio and working hard over the ~ 9 weeks.
- A guy across the room was really on his game. He had three graphs for each stock and his individual write-ups for each company were about 1.5 pages each, while mine were confined to a page with a large graph. His project was also very polished, with a lot of attention to detail and obviously a lot of time spent over the project period. Different quantified analyzes were EVERYWHERE. Our professor hinted that he figured this guy put in the most effort overall out of the entire class.

So, now the grade rundown. My project: 91. Neighbor: 94. Crazy-effort guy: 99. At first it may seem like I'm a slacker, but let's really put this in perspective. The lowest grade in class: 70. Average grade (not sure what method he used to determine "average," but I'm assuming either mean or median): 89. Highest grade: Crazy-effort's 99. So all of a sudden, I'm running with the big dogs with considerably less effort than they put in. Hmmm.... 2 points over the average, guesstimated 20-30 hours less work than the higher grades I pointed out. Not an exact 80/20, but the idea remains the same.

What have I learned here? Focus on what Ramit Sethi calls the "Big Wins" in the personal finance realm, the victories that hold the most weight. I could have bumped my grade up 2-3 points by spending a lot more time adding graphics, keeping close watch on my stocks, or going out and putting my report in prettier packaging - but that doesn't interest me. I have a solid A in the class already, and I would get little joy out of putting so much time or money into so little results. Most people would start by making things pretty, but that's not me. I'll stick to my relative expertise - clear and supportive writing, and a clean look sans embedded graphics. And I'll walk out of class with an A report in hand and a smile on my face.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Official Spartan Sprint Recap

On 3/26/2011, I dined in hell.

Or something like it. For those of you who haven't heard about my preparations for the Spartan Sprint, here's a quick recap:

- The race is run on a 3.5 mile course, with 16-17 obstacles interspersed throughout.
- For preparation, I mixed Coolrunning's Couch-to-5k (running) with Mark Rippetoe's infamous Starting Strength (lifting).
- This event was sure to be a pretty big challenge for me - I'd never run a 5k distance in one sitting before, and the Sprint adds a ton of obstacles to that distance (including hills... Should've known that after I read the race location: "Rocky Hill Ranch")

Before I sum up the race, here's a few things I learned:
- An injury on the bottom of my foot kept me from running for a couple of weeks at the end of my training stint. I really needed that running conditioning.
- I could definitely benefit from working on Burpees. I used to do sets of 10 at home as a part of my workouts in high school, but the race called for painful amounts.
- I feel like the race could really benefit from having obstacles placed at more even intervals. I realize that the slopes of the course made obstacle placement difficult, but it would have been interesting to see nonetheless.

Enough of that crap. Here's how it all went down: 

Our ambitious crew of 8 runners (we had 4 of the initial 10 sign-ups drop, and 2 people jump in late to fill spots) departed in three separate vehicles, to attempt to get people on the road ASAP after their Friday classes ended. I was in the first car, which headed straight to RunTex in Austin (awesome shop, by the way) to do Pre-Registration for the whole group - and eat a last supper at Hut's Hamburgers on 6th street (always delicious).

Through a long ordeal of consulting incorrect internet directions, calling park managers late at night, and following a Boy Scout troop; we finally all made it to Buescher State Park together. We got up early the next morning, ate a frugal breakfast of Nature Valley bars and water, and headed off to the race.

The Race
The race went well for all of us, and everybody had a great time. The amount of hills took us all by surprise and really sapped everyone's strength. I'm not kidding, the hills on that course were easily some of the steepest I've seen in Texas. Here are the obstacles, to the best of my memory:

1. Fire pit (could be counted as 1 or 2 obstacles) - Right off the bat, you're jumping over knee-to-waist height flames into a mud pit. (This is the "This is really happening" moment, Spartan)
2. The Over/Under/Through obstacles - First is a 5' wall to vault over, a second wall with a narrow space to crawl under, and a chest-to-head height tire to climb through. Then you do it again, only the second tire is lower and narrower. Most of us lost our bibs trying to crawl through one of the tires, but oh well.
3. Balance Beams - 2 x 4's of roughly 8' or 12' length (can't quite remember). The boards were laid on the side so that racers were balancing on a 2" surface. Each "beam" was really 4 boards laid in a zigzag pattern of 90º changes. Took a nasty spill right when I started my first one.
4. Rock Drags - Grab onto a rock weight (~30 lb. rock attached to a rope) by its rope, drag it about 20 ft and then drag it back. Relatively easy if you commit to power through at the beginning.
5. Barbed Wire - A competitive Spartan's favorite obstacle to pass by faster runners, this obstacle has racers crawling around 20-30 ft under strands of barbed wire.
6. Cargo Net - climb up a big net to around 15 or 20 ft in the air, then climb down the other side.
7. Tunnel - there was a fancy name for this, but I can't recall. Basically it's just a small tunnel that racers have to crawl through. Not too difficult, the worst part of it was just coughing up the dust that racers in front of you kicked up.
8. Water Crossing - Jump into a pond and try to wade/walk across as quick as possible. The water came up to about chest/neck height on me (I'm about 5'7", a bit short), and there were tree limbs scattered throughout the murky water to trip racers up.
9. Tunnel #2 - Could just be considered part of the Water Crossing, but at the end of the pond racers had to scramble up a second tunnel. This one was slightly higher, and most could go up on hands and knees instead of crawling the whole thing. Steep slope, and lots of mud.
10. The Big Wall - An 8 ft wall, this was a make-or-break obstacle for a lot of people. I helped my running buddy over, helped out a few strangers, and finally managed to find someone willing to help me out. Thankfully I got over, and kept moving.
11. Bucket Brigade - My favorite obstacle of the race. Racers grabbed two 5 gallon buckets, jumped into a pond, and marched around the pond's perimeter in waist high water with each bucket half full. After getting around the pond, racers carried their buckets up a steep slope by using tires embedded in the mud as footholds. Dump out your water and get moving, Spartan.
12. Small Net - A second cargo net, this one was much shorter and was probably placed as a filler obstacle to tag on extra seconds to a racer's time.
13. Horizontal Wall - Cross a 20-30 ft wall, using small little wooden squares on the wall as handholds and footholds. Seemed somewhat unfair for racers late in the day, since mud accumulated rapidly with each person crossing.
14. Javelin throw - Essentially a broomstick with a long nail for the tip, thrown at hay bales about 20 ft away. If it stuck, you pass. If you missed, or your javelin fell; you fail. I'm guesstimating that about 1 in every 5 Spartans actually made the throw.
15. Soapy Wall - A plywood slope with soapy water thrown on it for extra slickness. Racers could grab onto knotted ropes for assistance, and upper body pulling power saved the day for those to make it past this obstacle.
16. Gladiators - You're almost there, Spartan! A few sound blows with the Gladiators' weapons, and you're through to the finish line. Watch out for low tripping swings, though.

And that should be all of them. Sounds doable, right? What if I told you that missing an obstacle cost you 30 burpees? Yeah, that's right. You've been running up and down hills, scrambling over rocks and obstacles, wading through mud pits, AND you have to muster up the strength to pound out 30 burpees in a short span for competitive time. I missed three obstacles: Balance Beams, Horizontal Wall, and the Javelin Throw. Yeah, that equals 90 burpees altogether - a "normal" person's workout for a day.

I personally finished last out of my 8 friends, but I don't care. I challenged myself, and still managed to make it through just after the halfway point in our heat. We're all officially hooked and can't wait for the next race.

Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!


One Suggestion: Post-race, hit up a buffet after you take part in the race's festivities. You've earned it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

For anyone figuring out what college they want to go to.

Check out this video from Hack College:

By far the best concise advice video I've seen for students looking at colleges. It won't give you all the answers, but it will cast some reality on the craziness that is the typical college search.

** Also, I hope to be back with another post this week to talk about the Spartan Sprint!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Education AGAIN?!

I typed up a quick response to the "Advise the Advisor" program on education from the White House, but unfortunately it was 1,277 characters too long. Whoops! Oh well, I trimmed it down to more of what they were looking for (math and science strengths), and copied it to put up here. As a quick disclaimer, you may have already heard some of this before in my last post about American education.

Here's the prompt:

In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st century, America’s students must be prepared with a strong background in reading, math and science along with the critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity needed to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce. How has your education prepared you for a career in the 21st century? What has worked and what challenges do you face?

And my original, lengthy, and slightly off-topic response:

My education thus far (currently a college student) has been somewhat lackluster. I think I, and many others, learned more general concepts at shallow levels than detailed knowledge at deeper levels - and I'm a former AP student, current Honors college student. If I doubt the quality of my education, what are others experiencing?

 In the math and sciences dept, I feel that students could really gain from an emphasis on practical aspects as well as more rigorous standardized exams (most students will agree, standardized tests are a joke for the majority of the student population - I will address working with the students who can't keep up momentarily).

 In English, students need to focus on 2 major pursuits - writing and reading. Simple enough? Not for many. I say have students write VERY often, which is key to building communication skills. Reading should be a balance of classics and contemporary works, both fiction and nonfiction. Students will retain reading lessons more by having critical-thinking assignments on readings, and can also benefit from supplemental content (for instance, watching a live version of a play read for class, with a discussion on the similarities/differences right after).

History can be taught easier if students are taught how to study it better. Most kids can get good grades in history by merely assembling a study guide of main concepts and relating them to one another. Unfortunately, many students don't realize things like this, and then spend outrageous amounts of time getting lost in readings. Again, critical thinking assignments will boost knowledge acquisition.

Foreign languages need more emphasis in schools. All students should be learning something language-wise, even if it's ASL (probably the least emphasized). However, curriculum needs an overhaul. In the short-term, we can see greater rates of bi, tri, or poly-lingual students if we push for more immersion-based classes from the beginning, and trim fat by cutting down on "busy work" - which runs rampant in foreign language classes.

Greater math and science skills can be encouraged by having more students take computer science classes. Computer science helps students work in our technology-saturated world, builds critical thinking abilities, and reinforces mathematical concepts. Big victories, in my opinion.

We need to emphasize the arts just as much as we do sports. An artistic background encourages creative thinking and requires absolute dedication to perfection. Think about it: in a musical performance, a single flaw can ruin an entire tune beyond repair. If students can learn this behavior and apply it to their studies (and lives), we'll have a nation of productivity masters within a generation.

As for dealing with so-called "problem students" who frequently under-perform on exams (and all too often drop out of school early), their problems stem from a few root causes: poor family situations, a lack of self-confidence, and inexperience with studying and managing time effectively. While the education system may not be able to directly attack the former issue, it can work with the latter two. One program with a history of success in this area is AVID. As a student with a few friends who are AVID high school alumni, I'm actually jealous of the supportive environment and resources they were given - and I was often "beaten" academically by AVID students. Can we expand this program, or create more like it?

That may be long, but as a student I take education seriously - as do many of my peers. You may not hear it much from High schoolers or below, but most students really do have an interest in learning something and getting somewhere through education. Please feel free to contact me with a response!

I'd love to hear what other people have to say! Until next time!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MAJOR guilt post and overall life update

I haven't posted anything since the day after Valentine's... Ew. I plan to get a lot of really cool posts coming soon, but for now here's a mildly entertaining post - shot straight from the hip.

1) 8tracks

Currently one of my favorite pastimes. It may grow to surpass as my favorite online music destination, but we'll have to see on that one.

2) School

I'm definitely still fumbling about in figuring out "my way" of accomplishing things in school. Main goals: get a decent amount of sleep, leave time for extracurricular reading (and blog posting!), get (and hold) a GPA of 3.5 at minimum, settle into a major, and have a good time. Buckle up, this one might be a bumpy ride.

3) Exercise

I am, and always will be, passionate about fitness. But sometimes I forget that despite my outrageous appetite for health info, I'm still inexperienced. On Tuesday, a guy stopped me in the midst of a set of squats at #235 to inform me that I'm "about to f*ck [my] back up." A really straightforward guy who retaught me squatting technique in about 30 seconds - awesome. Dropping weights down to refocus on getting perfect form, and then build back up from there.

4) The "Wow" Moments

I want to try to spend more time in the moments that take my breath away, as cliché as that sounds. Standouts in the past include: serving others on church mission trips, sitting in a coffee shop to listen to my buddy Vince Kelly play some raw and beautiful music, road tripping out to Ennis (TX) to a drive-in movie theater, picnic-ing with my (now ex) girlfriend, and sitting in my friend Alex's backyard at the end of a fantastic Mardi Gras weekend in Thibodaux, LA. How will I make and hold onto more of these? Not sure, but the last one reminds me:

5) Mardi Gras (and Louisiana!)

My beautiful friend Alex is this year's Queen of her family's Krewe, and invited 30-40 of her friends out to Louisiana to celebrate this past weekend. We attended her Tablau, Ball, and caught the Krewe of Ambrosia's parade twice (2 separate locations) the following day. Overall, a whole lot of friends, food, pictures, and fun memories packed into a short period of time. In addition to all of that, I was reminded of how much I enjoy Louisiana - especially Cajun culture (and food). I'll have to find a way to keep going back. Hmm....

6) College Major/Minor

If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick an area of study RIGHT NOW, my choice would probably be this:
  • Double Major in Strategic Communications (Advertising and Public Relations) & Psychology
  • Minor in Environmental Technology and Management
  • University Honors
The issue? I don't know if that's all possible to accomplish within 4 years. 

7) Maths

Been a while since I've seen this one, but my neighbor reminded me how funny it is. Try to catch all of the random humor! Our favorite: The option to set Calculator to "stun."

That's all for now, stay tuned folks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shoutout for a fellow blogger

I'd just like to use this oh-so-brief post to plug for my buddy Nick's blog. A self-professed music nerd, he's going against the grain on a musical journey that will open your ears to some underloved tunes from days gone by. I can vouch for Nick's unique taste - and while we may not always agree, he's always got a new idea fluttering around that encyclopedic mind of his. Enjoy the journey, I know I will!

Check it out here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Paper: Response to Dr. Roy Germano's "The Other Side of Immigration"

“The Other Side of Immigration” Review/Response
Last Monday I attended a screening of Dr. Roy Germano’s “The Other Side if Immigration.” This film (and following Q&A session with Germano) was a revealing and interesting experience and an entertaining evening. Germano filmed “Immigration” while doing research for his doctoral thesis in Michoacán, Mexico. Originally he began filming his interviews with local residents out of curiosity, but his curiosity quickly grew into a large project that would involve interviewing over 700 families and receiving funding from the National Science Foundation.
            Within the film, I was introduced to the Mexican side of Illegal Immigration and migrant workers for the first time. While viewed at worst as an affront to the United States’ sovereignty (and at best a severe annoyance) in Texas, Mexicans see “the issue” in an entirely different light. For instance, Mexicans view immigration as a temporary engagement in order to provide for their families. Migrant workers find the cheapest accommodations in town, and pack themselves in to the brim – often resulting in 10 to 12 roommates in a small apartment. Many work multiple jobs and live off of pennies on the dollar, sending the rest home to their families. Illegal immigration to the U.S. has become a necessity for many because of a lack in local well-paid work, since the funds given by the Federal government to lessen unemployment and empower small businesses are quickly scooped up by corrupt local officials. Another interesting aspect was the opinion of Mexicans about American response. The strict regulations and border maintenance by Americans are viewed as a personal insult to many Mexicans, giving rise to my favorite quote from the film: “It is wrong to build fences between people.” Simplistic in understanding, yet deep in meaning.
After the film, Germano opened up a short Q&A session. During this time, Germano hammered home his personal beliefs regarding the issues at hand. Germano talks about immigration problems in a way many doctors talk about disease – you can manage the symptoms, or address the root cause. And addressing the symptoms in the form of a $4 million-per-mile fence isn’t the solution to our ailment. When asked if he thought a revolution lies in Mexico’s future, he suggested that what we should expect is a lessening in Mexico’s government corruption. Germano suggests that an increase in education could make citizens “feel more comfortable holding their politicians accountable.”
Overall, I really enjoyed the evening. Others found issue with the music, but I enjoy both groups I recognized (Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket) and therefore had no qualms about the soundtrack. The cinematography was also pretty solid for candid interviews, only a few minor audio hiccups from shifting the camera distracted viewers. I wish the showing had been a larger event, and would definitely recommend the film to anyone interested or uninformed about current immigration issues.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paper: Neorealism in Egypt’s Interstate Effects

Neorealism in Egypt’s Interstate Effects
Egypt has taken the news media by storm over the past few weeks. As the local political scene is flooded with citizens voicing their protest against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the international scene watches on with varying degrees of concern. Two nations in particular demand notice because of their unique relationships with Egypt – relationships that may change dramatically if political control is wrested from Mubarak’s hands.
The first of the aforementioned nations is North Korea, as covered in a recent article by The Christian Science Monitor. North Korea, a nation at odds with much of the world, has a surprisingly close relationship with Egypt. Egypt is home to “the biggest foreign investor in North Korea,” and has a history of cooperation with North Korea’s military (Kirk 2). At first glance, this may seem as if Egypt desires open conflict against North Korea’s enemies, but after further analysis Egypt is revealed to be merely a nation operating under neorealist motives.
Both North Korea and Egypt have neorealist philosophies when interacting with each other. Each is self-interested: North Korea gains a potential ally, a hub for weapon sales, and a mobile phone network (from Egypt based Orascom). On the other side, Egypt gains weapons training and technology, revenue for Orascom, and aid from North Korea as well as the United States.
At the Individual level of analysis, two factors are significant: Kim Jong-il’s relationships with Mubarak and Naguib Samiris. Mubarak actually forged ties with North Korea’s ruler after a long relationship with his father, Kim II-sung. This relationship has continued to present day. In fact, Kim Jong-il recently wished Mubarak a Happy New Year – regarded by many as “evidence of North Korea’s decades of support” (Kirk 1) and a pledge of future aid. Naguib Samiris heads Orascom, the “biggest mobile phone company in the Middle East” (2) and the biggest foreign investor in North Korea. Orascom recently created North Korea’s only mobile phone network, Koryolink, in 2008 (2). Jong-il relies on Orascom’s business and investment immensely, and has “honored Mr. Samiris with the kind of state dinner generally reserved for the few chiefs of state who have visited Pyongyang” (2). Samiris personally prefers the democratic side of the current political debate, but cannot change the fact that his company “thrives on close ties to Mubarak” (2) So for the foreseeable future; Egyptian politics, Egyptian-North Korean relations, and the future of the Orascom group appear to be intertwined.
Egypt’s influence in North Korea demonstrates the different definitions of power. North Korea is dependent on Egyptian investment and the Egyptian-made mobile network, demonstrating Egypt’s immense economic power – even as the United States sends Egypt foreign aid because of its emerging/developing nation status. Also, because of Egypt’s relevance to North Korea, Egypt is indirectly protected by North Korea’s deterrence strategies.
However, North Korea is not the only country with a large interest in the political situation in Egypt. Israel is also very aware of the doings of the country, and its role as an uneasy spectator was highlighted in a New York Times article. In this article, Israel is portrayed as a nation walking the border between neorealist and neoliberal while “following events closely” (Kershner 1) Israel is clearly self-interested, acting as a defensive neorealist seeking self-preservation. Most of Israel’s neighbors are strongly opposed to Israel’s existence, so Israel has kept its relations with Egypt – the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel – as civil as possible. While attempting to remain optimistic, some Israelis proposed “the tumult in the region and the uncertainty of the future would make it harder for Israel to take risks for a peace agreement or to make far-reaching decisions” (3). Yet still others like Oded Eran, director of the Institute for National Security Studies, remain confident that “almost any government in Egypt would want to maintain the pact,” leaving the Israeli plan for dealing with Egypt just as ambiguous as Egypt’s political future (2).
Israel and Egypt also share committed relations on the Individual level. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly “confers regularly with… Mubarak,” sharing in strategic discussions as recent as January 6th (1). Binyanin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli politician known for his connections with senior Egyptian officials, was quoted in the article saying “’the cooperation between us goes beyond the strategic’” (1). However at further levels, a few factors exist that complicate the situation. Domestically, Israel is still being boycotted by Egyptian society after over 30 years of peace (1). Palestinians - Israel’s traditional enemies - appear satisfied with peace today, but may not be tomorrow if Egypt reneges on the long-standing peace agreement (2-3). At the Interstate level, Israel stands against the vast majority of the Arabic world on a daily basis, and having the long border with Egypt open to enemies could potentially ruin Israel.
Chaos within Egypt affects both Israel and North Korea’s futures for years to come. Despite this relevance, both do nothing more than wait out the storm and observe from a distance. Each nation is thinking in its own self-interest and will not attempt to intervene unless the previous status quo in Egypt appears under serious threat. The United States is also a spectator rather than an influence in Egypt’s behavior, laying down the typical role of hegemon for the time being. The United States is also acting as a defensive neorealist. Overdrawn in Middle Eastern conflict and recovering from an economic recession while facing one of the most politically divisive legislatures in history, the United States is in no hurry to dive into another conflict on behalf of another nation. Egypt’s instability leaves the rest of the world to consider the possible outcomes – many expecting the worst. Egypt’s future stance on peace or conflict (allied with North Korea against Israel, the United States, and other nations) seems like a complicated Prisoner’s Dilemma. By continuing peaceful relations, Egypt would be rather well off – but the spoils of war could prove a significant temptation to a new leader looking forward to an uncertain Egyptian future.

Using a neorealist lens, systemic levels of analysis can link together various aspects of Egypt’s situation in a way that explains the lack of intervention yet increasing levels of concern by other states, especially Israel and North Korea. Although peace agreements can produce short-term results, each state examines interstate ties with self-interests in mind. Political ambiguity within Egypt reflects the anarchic system of global politics – countless groups and individuals vying for power and opportunities to give voice to concerns.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowy Day Posting

Greetings! I'm sitting at my desk on the 2nd day of closed campus due to snow and ice here at TCU.

* Update: School is officially closed for tomorrow, as well *

Whew, back from hallway celebration. Now for the real post.

Today, February 2, 2011, marks the 1 month anniversary of this humble blog. It's been fun thus far, and hopefully will be for some time to come. A few developments since that first post:
  • My second semester at TCU started. No more (official) marching band rehearsals, only 1 honors class, and a more explorative approach to class selection. I came to college chomping on the bit to progress as fast as possible, but I've since realized that I need to actually figure out my field of study before I blitz through it. So far this semester has been a lot of fun socially, but marginally less successful than the last. I have a lighter class load, but I find myself a bit lazier because of it. So let's buckle down, get a plan together, manage time better, and reread Kick Ass in College.
  • I bought Tim Ferriss's The Four Hour Body. So far, it's been immensely popular among my circle of friends (about 5 friends trying to borrow it) and has been an enjoyable read for me as well. Although currently I'm preparing for the Spartan Sprint, I plan to use the 28 days after the race to test out Tim's "From Geek to Freak" section for myself. Also, my roommate is exploring a few polyphasic sleep ideas and soon will test out some of the sleep products recommended in the 4HB.
  • I've made some progress in deciding on a major. I've really enjoyed my Public Relations class since Day 1, and I'm going to really seriously explore Strategic Communications as my major.
  • I got a Twitter! And I'm officially back in the ranks of a social media rookie. I have to get one for a PR project, but so far it hasn't been too much of a chore.
  • On that Twitter, I exposed this blog to the public for the first time in a link to my education rant. Not a huge deal, since I just got the Twitter and don't really have any presence there yet. But this did result in my first comment, from my friend across the hall at TCU. I also emailed that link to my parents, who seem to have enjoyed it - but I don't think they realize that post is just one of many on this blog. Oh well!

An uneventful semester thus far, but I plan to pack many experiences in before this sucker is through. If you're looking for cool further reading, check out The Christian Science Monitor's coverage of People Making a Difference. Lots of cool stories showcasing - you guessed it - people making a difference. It may sound a bit hokey, but I find it a cool and positive news angle to keep you aware of the world's events. Until next time, live the dream!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's happening to America's education system?

Yesterday I read Robert Brokamp's guest post over at Get Rich Slowly. For those who don't have the desire to read his post, he questions America's standards of parenting and education in contrast to standards in other countries like China and India. The apparent catalyst for his post is Amy Chua's recently published memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her book recalls her upbringing as a child of Chinese immigrants, and also covers her attempts (and failures) to mimic her parents' strict parenting with her own children.

But for every voice calling for sterner education and parenting, there is another arguing for less stress and more individual respect. In this post I hope to walk the line between the two and discuss my personal views on the subject. Stick around, you might find something to talk about.

Brokamp uses a few videos to highlight his point. First, the trailer for Two Million Minutes:
This documentary follows teens in America, India, and China. Unsurprisingly, it looks like the Americans are at the bottom of the totem pole.

Next up, the trailer for Waiting for Superman:
The overconfidence of American youth clearly goes hand-in-hand with the lax education standards. If a privleged American believes himself to be ripe with potential and gifted with talent, what incentive does he have to work his tail off for an education?

Yeah, I don't see any either.

But remember the other side of the argument I mentioned? They have videos too. First off, the trailer for Race to Nowhere:
Wait, so we're stressing and overloading our kids too much? What happened to the lazy, shallow students? These kids look to be working just as hard as the Indian and Chinese students.

Finally, a video of Erica Goldson, Valedictorian of her class at Coxsackie-Athens High School questioning the legitimacy of her education as a poster child for "Unschooling":
Well didn't that come out of left field? Crazy.

In the midst of this torrent of information and outcry, what's really the issue? What's really at stake? And - most important of all - what should we do?

I happen to have a few thoughts on the subject. Surprise, surprise.

1. Calm down, everybody!

Personally, I think these "issues" aren't completely out of hand. Have we lost all concept of what a great (or even good) education is? Perhaps. Can we drastically improve the American education system? Definitely, but it's time to buckle down and do it.

2. Only math and science?

While math and science standards seem to be all the rage, have we forgotten all about essentials like Language or Social Sciences? I think that's where our strengths have been for a while. And if there's anything I've learned thus far in my education, it's that focusing on building on your strengths is far more productive than attempting to fix problems. Why? Easy. You have far fewer major strengths to work on than you do perceived problems. Plus, you probably already know what it takes to work on your strengths. That's why they're strengths! You're a relative expert.

3. Suggestions regarding math.

The question you'll hear out of the mouth of every frustrated math student across America is this:

"When am I actually going to need this?!"

Teachers need to be able to demonstrate this, well before that question forms in the student's mind. Math teachers need to be able to offer positive models of what good mathematicians can do: show engineers working on NASA spacecraft, an Accountant keeping a failing company from bankruptcy, a computer programmer designing the physics engine in the next big video game. Beyond that, break down math concepts into tangible parts, and push kids to master them. It is my opinion that most of us could be working multivariable calculus problems without life-threatening issue if we had built up our math skills over time with a solid foundation.

4. Suggestions regarding science

I believe all students should be held to higher standards in science. Most kids just do the labs, put forth lame efforts, and are done with it. But again, if we hold them to a high standard, I'm convinced they'll rise to it. And also again, I'm pretty sure some examples of successful and cool (note: non-nerdy) scientists wouldn't hurt either.

5. They're not kidding when they say they're stressed.

American youth are cast into this role of competition: trying to be experts at everything. The Tiger Mother knows better than this for her children. Instead, she relegates them to strict educational and extracurricular roles and demands nothing but the best from them. Now I'm not saying this authoritarian style of parenting is the ideal, but I'm saying that the Tiger Mother has got something going for her. She's honest with her kids about their performance, she shows them the potential of deliberate practice, and she picks a few select skills to excel at.

The current way of doing things in American education leaves kids burnt out and unfulfilled. That's why Erica Goldson spoke against her education. That's why Brittany and Neil choose to party and procrastinate - they're looking for a way out of a broken system. Today's college freshmen are experiencing more mental health problems than ever.

6. It's time to reinvent ourselves, just a bit.

In today's world, the United States has to take a step back and reexamine the current status quo. We're trying to solve the economy, healthcare, social security, energy demands, poverty, third world conflict, and education problems all at the same time. Maybe it's time to look at the examples of other nations who have their game together. We can reverse-engineer a great education system by looking at, for example, the unconventional Finnish school system. No standardized tests, comprehensive learning, and an earlier start on consistent education - and it works. Finland is consistently rated as having the best education in the world, so we might as well learn from the best. And if we really want to kick it up a notch, we need to change the way we look at learning. I think President Obama said it quite well in his recent State of the Union Address:

“We need to teach our kids that it’s not only the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.”

That's right, parents: This is your responsibility, too.

And with that, I'm done with my soapbox for today. Thank you for reading this long post, I hope you got something out of it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spartan Sprint, here I come!

Hello all,

This past week I've begun my training for the Spartan Sprint, a race I'll be running with my friends on March 26th. My training plan is basically as follows:

Weightlifting (essentially Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" novice program)

3x per week, alternating between "Workout A" and "Workout B." Any substitutions to the original program (as pulled from this site) will be denoted in italics.

Workout A
3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press
1x5 Deadlift

Workout B
3x5 Squat
3x5 Press (on Overhead Press Nautilus machine instead of free weights)
5x3 Power Cleans (replaced by 5x3 Shrugs and 2 sets of dips to failure)

 Running (from Cool Running's famous "Couch to 5k" plan) .

Also a 3x per week deal! Clever, eh?

Week Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3
1 Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
2 Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
3 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
4 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
5 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
  • Walk 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog two miles (or 20 minutes) with no walking.
6 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1 mile (or 10 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1 mile (or 10 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2-1/4 miles (or 25 minutes) with no walking.
7 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes).
8 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes).
9 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes). The final workout! Congratulations! Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes).

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All other physical activities will either be for fun, for experiment, or for gymnastics (1x per week, 2 hours). I believe this blended approach should give me some decent results in strength, cardiovascular endurance, and pure looks in about 2 months. The diet I'll be following is fairly simple - just avoiding soft drinks (which I already do) and highly processed foods (ie: junk food, a lot of carb-heavy foods) while using whole milk as a protein source outside of meats and normal dietary foods, and eating a varied diet. I'll also be taking one diet "cheat day" per week (normally Saturdays).

In order to track my results, I took measurements today in a few key areas:
R arm (at peak of bicep, unflexed): 30 cm
L arm (same): 28.5 cm
Waist (horizontal at navel): 82.5 cm
Hips/Ass (approx. at the base of... uh, you know): 87.5 cm
R leg (mid-thigh): 48 cm
L leg (same): 49 cm
R calf (about 8 cm beneath the knee joint): 36 cm
L calf (same): 36.5
Chest (horizontal at nipple-level): 86.5 cm
Shoulders (horizontal at armpit-level): 105.5 cm

I decided to take measurements in centimeters because it's more accurate when using lazy measuring technique (rounding to the nearest centimeter leaves a much smaller margin of error than rounding to the nearest inch). I performed all measurements by myself, being as careful as possible. I chose the spots I did because they reflect a blend between standard spots for measuring weight loss and for measuring muscle gain, which is what I'm trying to achieve. I know the calf measurement seems random, but that's more to satisfy my own curiosity about how that area will grow/shrink as a result of indirect strength training (squats, deadlifts) and running. Oh, and all of these were performed with joints in neutral or unflexed positions.

That's all for now, I'll be sure to post with any updates, changes, and results!