thought provoking

around the web 090315

I've read a few articles this week that were interesting enough to share..

Caffeine Crisis

Caffeine has been the stimulant of choice around the world for thousands of years. Now, suddenly, Americans are overdosing on caffeine in record numbers.

Here's the full story:

How America’s love affair with caffeine has sparked a crisis of overdoses — and what the FDA is trying to do about it

More calories end up in those "bring your own grocery bags."

A study of thousands of grocery store shoppers found that those who brought their own "good for the environment" bags purchased more organic foods. They also bought more cookies!

Here's the full story:

Omega-3 fish oil supplements do not boost brain activity

After studying 4,000 elderly subjects over a 4-year period, researches have determined that any perceived benefit from taking fish oil supplements is only a myth.

Per the article: "It is possible that eating foods rather than taking any specific single supplement may have an effect." Further study on this is needed.

Here's the full story:

Have a great Thursday,

- Chris Butterworth


why the Boston Marathon?

why the Boston Marathon?

I had a post queued up for yesterday's Boston Marathon. I wanted to write a tribute to the Hoyts - the most inspirational father-son combo I've ever heard of. I wanted to write a more detailed follow-up story to the post I wrote about them 5 years ago ("Get Over It".)

bombs explode at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

But I can't; not today. Instead I'm left to wade through my emotions over yesterday's senseless bombings.

Why would someone do such a thing?

A marathon is a race, sure. But there are only a handful of people in the world who have a chance of winning. For everybody else, especially those taking longer than 4 hours to finish (when the bombs went off), the race is about achievement - personal triumph, overcoming challenges, celebration of loved ones. Why would someone choose to punish this group of people?

I'm shocked by it.

The images and video are shocking. The image in my mind is even worse. The instant change from triumphant joy to tragic pain is beyond unfair. Have you ever seen a child playing - running and laughing, when they suddenly fall down or run into something, and you can see their whole body and face change from joy to pain? This is like that, times ten thousand. Or ten million.

I'm not surprised.

I've wondered about something like this for years, ever since the Twin Towers on 9/11. Anytime I'm at a sporting event - Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes, Spring Training baseball - or a crowded office building, or even a jam-packed shopping mall at Christmas-time, I wonder if this is the time some douchebag terrorist is going to take advantage of a large group of innocent people.

Times have changed.

Crowded places become potential target zones. Random schools are outlets for troubled teens' wrath. It's no longer safe to let your kids play outside by themselves..

This is bullshit. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims in yesterdays bombing attack. But my anger is going much further. I want justice, and I want vengeance. I want punishment - swift and severe - for people who do bad things to others.

Sure I'm going down a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line? Rapists? Hang 'em! Armed robbery? Put 'em away! Burglary? White collar crime? DUI?

I don't have the answers - not today. Mostly I have anger, sorrow, and frustration. I'm going to spend some time today thinking about yesterday's events and the people involved. And I'm going to make a concerted effort to enjoy my own life, and my family, that much more, because.. You never know...

-Chris Butterworth


playing the odds - healthy and longevity

playing the odds - healthy and longevity

We've all seen those headlines about diet and exercise reducing the risk of certain diseases, right? Consider this wellness letter from the University of Berkeley in California:

"For every 1% reduction in high blood cholesterol, there's a 2 to 3% decline in the risk of heart attack."

OK - so I reduce my cholesterol and I won't have a heart attack? Well, not exactly. The percentages can be deceiving - they work based on a large population of similar people, but not necessarily for any one individual person.

First lets look at some people who have had unexpected results:

Pope Benedict XVI - the Pope drinks 4 cans of Fanta soda each day, and has ever since he was a kid. (For those who don't know, Fanta soda was created in Europe during the late 1930s. Raw materials were slim due to the war, so they used the "leftovers of the leftovers" for this soda.) Yet, even with all this sugar-soda drinking, the Pope is a healthy 85 years old today.

Jim Fixx - Jim Fixx wrote the book on running. He was a smart guy, he knew about the benefits of being healthy, and he ran a lot. And he died of a heart attack at the age of 52. (turns out he had a family history of heart disease.)

My Paternal Grandfather - My Dad's Dad was not a vision of health. I don't ever remember a time of him being active, vibrant and full of life - he was "old" when I was a kid. (He was very smart though - more likely to challenge me mentally than physically.) He ate pretty much whatever he wanted. He drank more than what was considered healthy. He rarely, if ever, exercised. And through all that, he lived into his 90's.

My Dad - Unlike his father, my dad was Mr. Health. Lots of sports and exercise, with healthy organic foods in moderation. He lived, from a health standpoint, the way every doctor would recommend. And he died from complications of a major stroke at the age of 67.

Taking the emotion out of it, and just looking at the facts - the irony of my Dad's and Grandfather's lifestyles and lifespan brings home the point of this article.

Now let's look at odds as individuals compared with a population

The thing about odds is they work for a population, but they aren't perfect for a small group, and they don't have any bearing on an individual. To illustrate this point, let's go to Vegas:

If you bet $100 on one spin of the roulette wheel to be red or black, you have a 47.4% chance of doubling your money. But the odds don't matter for this one spin; you're either going to have $200 or $0 when the ball lands on a number.

image courtesy of Microsoft clipart

Now, over the course of a thousand spins, you're likely to win about 47.4% of them and lose 52.6%, which means you'll double your money 474 times and lose your money 526 times, which means you'll turn your $100,000 into $94,800 - a losing proposition. (much like unhealthy eating and not enough exercise.)

What if we were able to make roulette healthier, and increase our odds of winning by 20%? (as if we could reduce the game's cholesterol level..) Now, instead of a 47.4% chance of winning, we have a 56.9% chance. That's a lot better, right?

Not necessarily for any one individual. Spin the wheel one time, and you'll end up with either $200 or $0; there still isn't a middle ground. The game might be "healthier", but many single spinners are going to end up with nothing. (like Jim Fixx, or my Dad - the game is healthy, but not everyone gets to live to a ripe old age..)

However, an amazing thing happens when you apply this to a population..

Over the course of 1,000 spins, this new, healthier version of the game is likely to turn our $100,000 into $113,400! (As a population, being healthy returns positive results.)

Bottom Line

You should eat healthier (less) and move more. It'll make you feel better. It'll make you look better. And it'll increase your odds of living a longer, healthier life. But it doesn't guaranty it. Some of you are going to eat healthy and still might not get to enjoy the fruits of longevity. (sorry to be a downer.) And some of you might outlive us all, even without being healthy.

However, if our population eats healthier (less) and moves more, and reduces this current obesity trend, we will have fewer diseases and early deaths among us - it'll be like rigging the roulette wheel in our favor!

Do your part, and help your friends do theirs.

-Chris Butterworth


Lance Armstrong - the ends justify the means

Lance Armstrong - the ends justify the means

Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France

There's been quite a bit of negative news about Lance Armstrong lately, and it's pretty much impossible to believe he wasn't involved with any PED (performance enhancing drug) shenanigans at this point.
  • In August, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced it had enough evidence to strip Lance of his 7 Tour de France titles.
  • Armstrong declined to continue the arbitration process with the USADA, which many took as an admission of guilt.
  • The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are in step with the USADA.
This week, Nike has withdrawn its sponsorship of Lance Armstrong and his LIVESTRONG Foundation, and Lance himself has stepped down as chairman of the charity organization he founded.

livestrong banner

My take?

This is much ado about nothing - a lot of noise regarding nothing that matters in the present - and the ends do justify the means.

Let's talk PEDs in cycling

Cycling as a sport has a long history with PEDs. From a Wikipedia entry titled "Doping at the Tour de France":

"For as long as the Tour has existed, since 1903, its participants have been doping themselves. No dope, no hope. The Tour, in fact, is only possible because - not despite the fact - there is doping. For 60 years this was allowed. For the past 30 years it has been officially prohibited. Yet the fact remains; great cyclists have been doping themselves, then as now."

As much as baseball has a black eye from the "steriod era", we still only estimate about one half of the players might have used PEDs, and we're not entirely sure which half. Many of the all-time greats - Tony Gwynn, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr, Curt Schilling - have never been accused, tested, or even implied as having been on the naughty list.

The same can't be said for cycling.

Lance didn't make a choice of whether or not to use drugs. He made a choice of whether or not he wanted to compete at the highest levels of competitive cycling. Once he decided that's where his goals and dreams lay, the rest was just part of the process of trying to achieve his goals.

Exhibit 1 - Jan Ulrich was one of Armstrong's primary competitors. He won the Tour in 1997, and took second 5 times during Lance's run. Ulrich was later found guilty of using PEDs.

Exhibit 2 - Alberto Contador won the Tour de France 3 times, in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and was considered to be the best climber in the sport. However, he was stripped of some of his victories after being found guilty of doping.

Exhibit 3 - Miguel Indurain won the Tour de France 5 times in a row, from 1991 - 1995. Indurain was found guilty of using a banned substance in 1994, but was not stripped of his titles.

When the sport of cycling is clean, from top to bottom, then I'll join the witch hunt against anyone who cheats. But when the entire sport at the elite level is built around cheating, I'm not getting too worked up about one guy cheating better than his rivals.

Now let's talk charity work

Armstrong has raised $400 Million for cancer-related research and support since 1997. $400 Million! No other athlete has come anywhere close to that amount. Ever.

Barry Bonds used his juiced up numbers from 2001 to earn a 5-year, $90 Million contract in 2002. (after already being one of the highest-paid players in the league.) How much charity work have we heard about from Bonds?

Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 Million contract in 1997. Then, in 2007, he signed another 10-year contract worth $275 Million. Oh, and by the way, he admitted to using steroids for part of his career. Over a half billion dollars earned. And his charity work? He gave about $4 million to the University of Miami to renovate their baseball stadium, which was then renamed as Alex Rodriguez Park.

Armstrong cheated, and used his popularity to raise $400 Million for OTHERS. OTHERS BATTLING CANCER! How he became popular is immaterial. So is how much money he's earned personally. The Livestrong Foundation is his story - his legacy.

If Armstrong had never used PEDs, and his rivals had won, would Ulrich have raised this much money for charity? How about Contador?

Bottom Line

Lance Armstrong probably cheated. He probably isn't the angel we all wanted to believe he was. But that doesn't diminish what he's been able to accomplish at all. He could have easily won his tours, filmed some ads, pocketed some sponsorship money, and gone off into the sunset. But he didn't. He's continued to work hard raising awareness and funding for those who need help, and fighting against a deadly disease called cancer.

You've done good, Lance. Real good. Keep it up!

(more photos below - all are clipped from recent stories online, and I don't have the copyright for any of them. Hmmm, speaking of cheating...)

-Chris Butterworth

** Updated 10/31/12

Armstrong has now been officially stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles. But the USADA is not awarding his titles to the 2nd place rider, or even the 3rd place rider, from those races. Why not? Because ALL the riders were dirty! Which proves my point exactly - when everybody at the forefront of the sport is dirty, there isn't an unfair advantage. Hey USADA - make the sport clean, legitimately, and then get back to me.

Per a Fox News article:

USADA also thinks the Tour titles should not be given to other riders who finished on the podium, such was the level of doping during Armstrong's era.
The agency said 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been "directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations" or other means. It added that of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists "similarly tainted by doping."
20 out of 21 riders. And 36 out 45. This whole thing reeks..

/end update


links I like - 09-11-12

links I like - 09-11-12

A run and a chat with Ultra-marathon man Dean Karnazes, via Karnazes has been running ultra marathons - not just running, but running them faster than just about everyone else on the planet - for a couple of decades. I found a two points from this article to be very interesting:

1.) Dean uses body-weight exercises and cross-training to keep himself strong and flexible enough to be able to run a gigantic number of miles without getting injured. "Running only provides strength in one plain." ** Body weight might not be enough to win a Mr. Olympia contest, but body weight is great for getting healthy.

2.) Dean skips the powders, supplements, and vitamins, and instead gets all the nutrition he needs from his food.  ** If Dean Karnazes can run 100 miles in a single day without any supplements, we can probably put away the protein powder after hitting it for 30 minutes at the gym.

Race Report: Hopi 10k, via BarefootInArizona. This is a really cool first-hand account of a race, run by ancient people along ancient pathways, which very few "white men" have ever seen. The Hopi are a running people, always have been. And this story helps to understand why and how.

image from John McClung's Barefoot In Arizona blog.

If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you've got..., by Seth Godin. If you want to be happy, truly happy, you have to come to terms with the fact that happiness doesn't come from a bigger car, a bigger vacation, or a new pair of shoes. You've got to get off the treadmill of always wanting the thing that's a little better than the one you've got. ** It took me 41 years to get off that treadmill, and life has been more enjoyable ever since.

I hope you found something in here that made your day, and your life, just a little bit better..

-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 07-17-12

links I like - 07-17-12

This was a great week for reading - I had a hard time narrowing down my list to just five that I wanted to share. in fact, I'll probably reach back to this week a few more times in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here are five articles which are definitely worth a read...

Autism: A Brain or Whole-Body Disorder, from MarksDailyApple. Autism changes more people's lives, more profoundly, than anything else I can think of. I really liked seeing somebody who isn't personally affected by autism write such an objective piece. I also really liked seeing how much more research is being done on the nutrition front.

Dedicated but Balanced, from ZenHabits. I've talked with friends quite a bit, but haven't written a post yet, about something similar to this. It seems there's a trend to be "more healthy", to the point of fanaticism. What's wrong with just being healthy, and enjoying life? You don't get bonus points for health martyrdom. A quote from Leo's article: "This is something I have grown tired of – especially the endless promotion of obsession as health, exhaustion as virtue and suffering as dedication." Well put.

Are we Born to Run? a video of Christopher McDougall from a 15-minute video of McDougall sharing the highlights from his bestselling book "Born to Run".

How to Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage, from Steve Kamb at NerdFitness. Steve writes a detailed piece (as he usually does), explaining all the various methods by which you can calculate your body fat percentage. But then he goes one step further (as he usually does), and shares the "eyeball test" - lots of pictures of people, men and women, with different body fat percentages. Look at yourself in the mirror, and then look at these pictures, and you'll have a pretty good idea of your own body fat percentage.

Adidas Sued for Barefoot Running Claims, by Justin Owings on BirthdayShoes. The one knock I hear about people who have had difficulty switching from fully padded running shoes to minimalist-style shoes is that they hurt their feet. Usually it's a case of people still using a heel-striking form. Occasionally it's a stress fracture in the foot or toe bones, maybe when the runner's foot is too atrophied from not using its muscles. But in the case of this article, a person wore Adidas Adipures, and then got a compound fracture (where the bone sticks through the skin) - and he's blaming Adidas..?! Hmmm.

I hope you enjoy these.

-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 07-03-12

links I like - 07-03-12

Here are some of the articles I read this week that I thought you might enjoy..

The Downside of Living in a Need-to-Know World, by Freakonomics writer Stephen Dubner.  Dubner does a good job of adding perspective to the flow of information. Remember when you used to come home and look in the mailbox? Then you started to come home and check your emails. Then email was everywhere, then it became too slow and we had to sms text, which today is dreadfully slow if you're used to live chatting. Give it a rest, people - not everything is this-second-urgent!

Children's Cereal: Healthy Start or Junk Food?, by US News. I love the cereal companies' rationalization that it's a good idea to pack the cereal full of vitamins, then sweeten the bejeezus out of it so the kids will eat it - and voila, they've eaten their healthy vitamins (along with a ton of sugar, artificial sugar, and plenty of other man-made concoctions). Meanwhile they're spending gobs of money advertising with catchy cartoons and joint marketing with other kid-brands. This is one of those challenging parent topics - you want your kids to eat, you want your kids to eat healthy, and you want to go to battle over the things that are most important to you (which is different for all of us)...

Does Sunlight Prevent Myopia?, by I had read something about this awhile ago, but have never been able to find it again, so I was glad when Mark published this piece. My vision was 20-20 until I was about 24 years old, then it went downhill quickly. I've been told, and it made sense to me, that it was because my job required a lot of computer work, lots of working with numbers, and a high level of stress. But after reading studies like these, I wonder: could my eyes have deteriorated because up until about 22 years old I spent a lot of my life outside, then suddenly I was inside the majority of the daylight hours. After a couple years, my eyes got weak. I don't know which side of the argument is right, but I'm going to advise my kids to get plenty of outdoor time, even once they get a "real job"!

Jogging in forest twice as good as trip to gym for mental health, by the Telegraph in the United Kingdom. I already knew this, or at least I know that I much prefer exercising outside compared with going to the gym. In fact, I find the gym to be one of the most uninspiring environments out there, but I digress. Anyway, it's always nice to read a scientific report that backs up what we already knew intuitively.

Independence Day, Wikipedia. Happy Independence Day! This is a good week - it feels like Monday, Friday, then a day off to spend with family and celebration, then another Monday, Friday before the weekend. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.


-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 06-26-12

links I like - 06-26-12

Here are a few articles I read this week which I thought you might like. Please enjoy..

The Top 5 Signs You've Taken The Paleo Lifestyle Too Far, by Justin Miller via Stepcase Lifehack. I haven't written much about the Paleo diet (although it's on my list of things to write about), but it seems to be popping up more & more in daily conversations. Justin wrote a clever piece with some over-the-top examples.

Eating Disorders Hitting Women Over 50, via I was very surprised with the results of this research. My initial thought was that we all get more comfortable with ourselves as we get older, and that teenage self-consciousness and angst mellows with age. Does our society put so much pressure on looks and body image that grandmothers now have eating disorders? That's sad.  Secondly, we need to teach these women healthier options, like eating healthy and exercising.

Foodie Economist Tyler Cowen Answers Your Questions, via Freakonomics. He hits on quite a few topics in this interview, but a couple points jumped out at me: A) "Not every part of a meal can be the best part," when talking about adding greens to your meal. And B) When comparing traditional low-income societies' meals with our fast food value menus, "The rice and beans tastes much better, especially if you puree ancho chiles into the mix, or put a little bacon on top, or best yet both.  It is also cheaper than McDonald's.  It is better for you.  More people should give it a try." Great point!

The myth of the eight-hour sleep, by John Durant at Hunter-Gatherer. Speaking of Paleo... John finds some research looking at our ancestors' sleep patterns. And by ancestors, in this case we're referring to the time before the Industrial Revolution, when electricity for street lighting and regimented time-keeping became part of everyday culture for western civilization.

7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Triathlon, via Dumb Little Man. A long-time friend of mine just ran her first sprint triathlon last week (congratulations Stacy!), and it reminded me of how far I've come over the last couple years, since my first sprint in May 2010. These tips are right on the money for anyone out there thinking about giving a triathlon a shot this summer.

That's all for this week - happy reading!

-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 06-19-12

links I like - 06-19-12

I was on vacation last week, so I didn't get to read as much as I normally do, (and thus don't have as many interesting links for you), but I did find these and think they were worth sharing..

The Tiny Guide to Being a Great Dad, via Leo Babauta's Zen Habits. With Father's Day being a couple days ago, I thought this was a really good read.

Don't Get Boxed In. The Trappings of Modern Society Are Driving You Crazy, by David Csonka at the Naturally Engineered blog. An original take on all the different "boxes" we have throughout our life (and into our death), with some how's and why's to get out of the box.

Financial Advice for a Five-Year-Old, by J.D. Roth on the Get Rich Slowly blog. I have an 8-yr old (and an almost 13-yr old), and I still struggle with allowance - saving, rewarding patience, what is ok to spend on vs save for, etc. I also think the discipline and long-term view of managing personal finances is very similar to that of health and fitness, and starting young can only help (as can setting a good example!)

That's all for this week - enjoy.

-Chris Butterworth


keeping on top of infinity

keeping on top of infinity

It's another Throughput Thursday, so let's talk about getting stuff done..

Today I want to quote from and comment on a post Seth Godin wrote a couple weeks ago, "Dancing on the edge of finished."

Before, when your shift was done, you were finished. When the inbox was empty, when the forms were processed, you could stop.

Now, of course, there's always one more tweet to make, post to write, words with friends move to complete. There's one more bit of email, one more lens you can construct, one more comment you can respond to. If you want to, you can be never finished.

(I'm paraphrasing here, CB) - For those who embrace the new infinity, it's a dance. For those looking to be "all done," it's a grind.

I wrote on a similar theme earlier in the week - when enough is enough. Being successful today lies in creating a good plan, then executing it. Could you do more? Always. But did you do what you set out to do?

Plans can be reviewed, modified, cross-collaborated on - whatever. But without a good plan you're left to fight an uphill battle against infinity, every day! And it doesn't matter whether you're talking about fitness, nutrition, your new year's resolutions, or the spectacular project you're building - you're either dancing on the edge of infinity, or you're grinding against the impossible.

Do what you set out to do, and be happy about it.

-Chris Butterworth

John Cleese on creating boundaries

John Cleese on creating boundaries

Today is a Throughput Thursday - a day to consider how we can get better at whatever it is we're doing.

And while I don't normally turn to John Cleese for my deep-thinking inspiration, I probably should. The man's brilliant, hilarious, and knows a thing or two about creating and getting products to market.

The video below is 10:37. Enjoy.

If you don't have 10 minutes right now, here are the take-away points. (but it's worth the watch - come back when you have more time.)

  1. Learn something new every day.
  2. Put aside uninterrupted time for creativity.
  3. Ideas come from deep within ourselves, not our laptops & cell phones.
  4. Racing full speed all day, checking off items from a list, you won't find any new ideas.
  5. Create boundaries of space and time - allow yourself a space & time without interruption to think and reflect.

The unfortunate thing is, I'm trying to watch a video which will help me become more productive, but then the youtube playlist loads dozens of other John Cleese and Monty Python videos, and the next think I know I've lost an hour of my day! Doh!

* NOTE - these same points hold true for fitness. There's enough to do and enough distractions to fill more than 24 hours in your day. You have to allow yourself time for your health, even if it's just a 20-minute workout 3-4 days a week.

-Chris Butterworth


links I like - 06-05-12

links I like - 06-05-12

Here are a few interesting articles I've read over the last week or two.

The Ability to Multitask Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be, via Stepcase Lifehack.  I've written before about singletasking; it leads to better quality work and a better quality of life.

On Destiny, Influence, and the Impossibility of Being Self-Taught, via the Art of Non-Conformity. I find the destiny section interesting - we have conversations everyday, yet some of them create direction for the rest of our lives.

Understanding stuck, via Seth Godin. People and Organizations - doing something because "that's the way we do it" isn't good enough. If you don't know why you do it that way, perhaps there's a better way.

How to not suck at building healthy habits... Finally!, via Nerd Fitness. a great article expanding on the Slow and Steady concept I often write about.

-Chris Butterworth

happiness is...

… "Your reality divided by your expectations."
          - Warren Buffet

Maybe the most accurate quote ever.

And since it's a simple equation, you can increase your happiness by either increasing your reality or by reducing your expectations.

Reducing your expectations..?  hmmmm.  Easier said than done, but powerful stuff.

- Chris Butterworth