Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hydrate And/Or Die

I read yet another newspaper fit section encouraging people to work out, and listing important tips, "do"s and "don't"s. It continues to amaze me how so-called experts can give such bad advice. Items I often see on advice lists:
  • Drink lots of water -- don't wait until you're thirsty. Typically those telling you to not trust your thirst are the same people who want you to learn to listen to your body. Imagine, these experts can't even listen to themselves. In point of fact, you can die from drinking too much water while exercising. It won't happen unless you are in a multi-hour session, but if you train yourself to drink as much as possible, and then run a five hour marathon, you are putting yourself at risk. There is zero scientific basis anywhere for the claim that you should drink eight glasses of water per day. In fact, the latest studies show that drinking when you are thirsty while you exercise is just as good for your performance as any formula for number of ounces per hour.

  • Don't exercise too intensely -- you burn the most fat at 70% of your max heart rate. The fact is, you will burn more fat by going harder. Your body will continue to burn fat longer after you stop. And not only that, you will get stronger, faster, or better at what you are doing by stressing your body occasionally. Not all the time. But if you don't spend 10-15% of your workout time per week breathing hard, you are not making good use of your exercise time. And do you really think there is much difference between casually pedalling the recumbent bike while reading a book and sitting on the couch watching TV?

  • Don't forget to warm up. Ok, warming up before going hard is good. But doing all your favorite stretches is not warming up. In fact, stretching without first warming up can easily injure you. Warm up by doing some light aerobic exercise, throw in a couple short harder efforts, make sure you are starting to breathe hard. Then you can do your stretches (and your hard workout).

  • Don't eat during exercise unless you are going longer than two hours -- you don't need the calories. Yes you do. If you don't fuel your workout, you will lose more than you gain from it. Less than an hour you're probably ok. But anything longer and your body will start breaking down those muscles you are trying to build. And definitely eat before your workout. Don't do a long or hard workout in the morning before breakfast and expect it to be a positive experience.
Bottom line: just because someone is an expert or because something is common wisdom, doesn't mean it's all that smart.

Unless, of course, the expert is me.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Competing While Male

An Indian runner, Santhi Soundararajan, took the silver medal at the Asian Games in the women's 800 meters. But she was literally stripped of her medal when she failed a gender test.

This almost certainly humiliating test has been abandoned by the International Olympic Committee, but apparently is still performed in Asia. It involves an anatomical test (Your Honor, I can't tell you exactly what a woman is, but I know one when I see one); a blood test (I suppose if a female vampire sucks the blood of a male victim the results could be suspicious, but then she would probably drop dead during a daytime race); a genetic test (in algebra, y ≫ x ∀ x ∈ XX → y ∉ XX); and a psychological test (as Aretha said, "(you make me feel like) a natural woman").

If it is truly so hard to definitively tell the difference between a male athlete and a female athlete, it calls into question the whole practice of having separate competitions based on gender. In fact, when I compete as an amateur in triathlon, the competition is divided not only by gender but also by age, typically in five-year increments. Is there a blood test for that? In some races, there are also separate categories for heavier men and women. These categories are typically won by someone who looks suspiciously small. I wonder how they feel standing on the podium, looking down at the larger athletes they didn't officially compete against and who may have finished with a faster time.

Face it, the way amateur competitions are organized, most of us have no chance of winning. The fastest women my age are faster than me. Some guys 15 or 20 years older than me are faster than me. I say, sports are rigged so that only the fast can win.

I read about one race in which the organizers waited until everybody entered, and then divided the competitors so that everybody was in his or her own age group and could go home with a medal. A competition in which nobody loses!

There's a running race here in Boulder called the Colder Boulder 5K, in which separate races are run for people with finish times in given ranges from that year's Bolder Boulder 10K race. In theory, everybody who finished the 10K between 48:00 and 49:59 should be pretty close in speed and should have an equal chance at winning the 5K. But in fact, the individual races generally go to those who slacked in the 10K, not those who competed consistently in both.

There's a local triathlon, the Boulder Peak, in which the organizers calculate the difference between the recent years' performances of the men and the women. The professional women are given a headstart based on that calculation, and the men spend the entire race trying to catch them. Clearly that's symbolic of something in our society, but I'm not sure what.

The last race I was in, a 5K running race, I came in 32 in my age group. However, I was feeling pretty strong in the last 100 meters, and put in a final kick to pull ahead of a 12-year-old girl. Boy, did I feel good about myself!

What's my point in all this? I'm not sure, but isn't there some way they could come up with a race that I could win, just once?

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Camera Get the Last Word

The Daily Camera recently published my letter on Amendment 41. After endorsing Amendment 41 prior to the election, the Camera's editors are now calling on the Legislature to enact clarifying legislation to fix the problems they didn't see at that time. In my letter, I pointed out that, since the Amendment was added to our state constitution the legislature could not legally modify it.

Having to get the last word, the editors added a note after my letter, stating that "Amendment 41 allows lawmakers to enact clarifying legislation 'to facilitate the operation of this article.'"


In other words, Amendment 41 specifically states that the legislature cannot materially change the provisions of the law as voted on by the people of Colorado. I don't know how much more clear it could be. The new law states that government employees can't accept any gifts with a few explicit exceptions. Any clarifying legislation that expanded the list of exceptions would obviously limit or restrict the provisions of the article.

I continue to call on the editors of the Camera to admit that they were wrong to endorse Amendment 41, and to suggest realistic measures to fix it (presumably involving an initiative for our next election.)

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Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm Ethics-Challenged

The Daily Camera endorsed Amendment 41 in the recent election. I opposed it.

Well, Amendment 41 passed. And now a number of problems are cropping up. For example, there is some concern that the law would prevent CU profs from accepting awards like the Nobel Prize. There is also concern that children of university employees may not be able to accept scholarships.

These things should be no-brainers. But, go back and re-read the new law. (Or, read it for the first time if you were stupid enough not to read it before voting for it.) Yes, we the enlightened voters of the State of Colorado voted to ban all monetary gifts to all government employees at all levels.

Now the Camera is back-pedalling a bit. They are calling on the State Legislature to clarify the new law. Unfortunately, this doesn't work, because Amendment 41 was written as a constitutional amendment, which can only be changed by a vote of the people. That is unless the courts (read: activist judges) were to weigh in.

Clearly this is exactly the sort of situation that the diabolical authors of the amendment intended, and they are probably giggling to see the liberal university wondering they can keep their elitist awards.

I wrote a letter to the editors of the Camera, which they may or may not publish:
When the editors at the Camera endorse a ballot issue, they have the responsibility to read and understand it first. In the case of Amendment 41, they obviously didn’t (not even its blue book summary.)

The new law enacts a gift ban for elected officials, government employees, and contractors. They cannot accept any monetary gifts. Neither can they (or their immediate families) accept non-monetary gifts with cumulative values over $50 per year. There are exceptions for gifts from friends or relatives on special occasions and for items of trivial value and items received as part of the person’s job duties.

The law does not restrict the limitations to gifts from lobbyists or in exchange for special consideration. The purpose of the law is to provide a clear, unambiguous standard of behavior, and that standard is clearly described.

The Camera’s editorial staff has fallen prey to Amendment 41 campaign materials, or their own wishful thinking about what they want this law to cover. But wishful thinking does not change what was approved by a majority of Coloradans.

Now, the Camera wants the legislature to enact clarifying legislation. But they should know better. Amendment 41 is enshrined in our state constitution. It can only be modified by the courts or the voters. The authors knew that when they wrote it and convinced us to vote for it. And now we’re stuck with expensive court cases and the loss of public employees who don’t want to be held to the impossible standards of the new law. I’d quit now if I had a government job.

At a minimum, the Camera should apologize for contributing to this situation and should be the first to sponsor an initiative in the next election to fix the problems in this initiative.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Love Attack

The Boulder City Council voted last night to move closer to adopting a hate crimes ordinance. The ordinance, when passed, will double the fines for certain crimes if they are motivated by bias.

I've never been a big fan of hate crime laws. If the underlying action is already a crime, then this is essentially punishing people for what they think. Now, the U.S. Constitution doesn't explicitly protect free thought, but it does protect free speech. And in spite of the fact that some people seem to not link their thought to their speech, there does seem to be a pretty fundamental link. My assumption is that free thought is in fact protected by the fourth amendment's right to privacy, and the ninth and tenth amendments' reservation of rights not explicitly listed.

But if we must consider hate when prosecuting crimes and assigning punishments, then I think we need to consider other thoughts and emotions as well.

For example, what about a love crimes ordinance? If a crime is motivated by love, then perhaps we should cut the fine in half. I punched you in the face for your own good!

If the crime is motivated by confusion, perhaps we should apply a random punishment.

If the crime is motivated by boredom, we should wait longer before determining the punishment.

In fact, if we want to find out what is truly behind the crime, we need find out exactly what the criminals are thinking and every emotion they experience. Only then can we evaluate why they committed their particular crimes and make sure the punishment fits the thought crime.

Or perhaps we can do something that is clearly constitutional, and that is to use a physical punishment for the physical crime, and to think and say bad things about the bad thoughts.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Doing Elections Right

There's been lots of discussion about electronic voting and all of the potential problems. In fact, across the country in this most recent election there were major problems with reliability of the systems, long lines, and people unable to vote (Denver being a nearby example).

Personally, I'd love to see punch cards come back to Boulder County. Reliable, paper trail, hard to mess with. But that's not going to happen.

Contrary to the rest of the country, I was very pleasantly surprised with how the election was handled here. Some highlights:
  • Anybody who doesn't want to wait in line on election day can vote early or absentee.

  • Boulder County made paper ballots available to anybody who didn't want to vote electronically. This also guarantees that people can vote even when there are problems with the voting machines.

  • The electronic voting machines printed a paper record of every vote and gave every voter a chance to confirm that the paper ballot matched their intentions.
Every voting location in the country should do every one of these things to create a fair, reliable, and well-trusted election result.

What would I change? A couple of little things. First, the optical scan paper ballots we use are incredible clumsy. For every vote you have to entirely fill in a huge box with a ball point pen. No little bubble on a standardized test, a technology I thought was well understood back when I took the SAT a hundred years ago. Second, work on the readability of the electronic voting machine screens. In particular, some of the print is in a disturbingly small font. Yeah, most people don't care that much about voting for or against judicial retention. But at least pretend, and put the judges' name in a typeface that someone over 35 can make out.

One other thing. We need to recognize that we live in a representative democracy, and stop letting every kook put every little pet cause onto the ballot. Because, some of those kooky pet causes actually pass, and then they become "the will of the people". And people generally write notoriously bad laws.

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