The Thirty Day Challenge

I signed up for Cal Newport’s email list and as one of the introductory emails, I received a “Thirty-Day Challenge” to focus solely on one project. Nothing else. I was challenged to limit it to just one project.  Note: I mentioned his books here

It’s an intriguing idea. I decided one of things I’ve long wanted to do was update all of my gardening ebooks. Make sure the formatting is consistent across all the ebooks, get improved covers uploaded and get back to testing them.

For the month of January 2022, that’s what I’ll be doing – upgrading all my ebooks. 

I”m also looking at other projects I can tackle in a 30-day window. 

And I’m only taking on one project at a time.

These are the possible 30-day projects I’m considering. Some may last  longer or be shorter than 30-days – I’ve already decided I can repeat a big project over multiple 30 day periods. But as nothing is carved in stone (not yet anyway – see the left hand column, bottom, for stone carving) I will modify the list as I go. It’s one of my “works in progress.”

my 30-day project board

Wrinkles 

You’ll see the 30 Days To Fitness is off by itself. That’s a mandatory one I’m not giving myself an option to ignore. 

In months where the number of days isn’t 30, I’ll modify the challenge to the number of days in the month.  I can track directly on a calendar hanging beside the white board (check mark on the days I hit my goals.) 

Bottom Line

I’m rather pleased with this process (for the moment). It allows me to focus on one area at a time and two things spring to mind.

  • I can continue with any given area for more than 30 days – repeating as I wish and
  • If something goes “south” it’s not the end of the world as I’ve only invested 30 days in that project.
  • Having a well-defined focus for a short period means I can relax knowing I can modify anything in the near future.

If you’re interested in following along as I report on this project (and others) click here

In Secret From The Covid Hordes

My writing, in all genres, has been much like my fitness activities. All have been done in secret from the Covid hordes. So much secrecy you’d never know it was happening. (hint: it wasn’t)

I’m getting quite good at blaming Covid for a lot of things (like forgetting I’ve already been writing other posts about the damned virus.)

But I Have Questions

Why did I gain weight?

  • I was following the Ice cream covid prevention diet. Don’t laugh, I didn’t get Covid did I?

Why did I start to grow a beard and then shave it off?

  • Covid made me do it (plus there’s a lot more grey in it now)

Why did that crazed driver cut me off almost causing an accident at 70mph?

  • He is a charter member of the Covid hordes car club and needs to drive so fast to get to a bathroom. (I had written something more graphic here but my raised finger will have to suffice for emphasis.)

Why I haven’t I published all the posts I’ve handwritten?

  • I read Covid hides in the spaces between the keys on my keyboard.

And now..,

Double-vaxxed and boosted, I’m struggling to reboot a normal life. And given seniors were in the bulls-eye for this thing (and I’m a senior) I’m a little gun-shy of all y’all.

I pushed my office chair back to the office from its former position blocking the front door from the hordes of Covid zombies I expected to invade at any moment. I’ve plugged the extension cords back in (they were used to power up the defensive alerts) and fired up the laptop (unplugged to prevent it from getting the Covid virus too.)

I’m on the last carton of ice cream and I sense a diet in my near future.

But I’m back, ever so tentatively, and the keyboard still works. We’ll have to see if I do.

What’s clear is I’ve written enough about Covid.

Time to move on. And my diet… sigh.

Stay safe folks. Get those shots and boosters.

And subscribe for updates here

Messing With My Memory

Here’s a recipe for making a mess of one’s memory.  I did it so you wouldn’t have to. And yes, I took one for the team. 

In no specific order, I give you the ingredients:

  • Take one pandemic with high stress levels.
  • Mix in a dash of aging.
  • Add massive amounts of addictive news as U.S. empire implodes.
  • Don’t socialize except digitally.
  • Research increasing my social media exposure to drive book sales using advanced software.
  • Adopt a full schedule of social media in a test to see increased book sales result. Abandon it several months later (interesting results not relevant here but a lot of time, energy and short term thinking invested.) IMHO social media is time and brain-sucking software
  • Don’t see family. Miss all more than can be described.
  • Add 20 pounds of chocolate to one’s waist.
  • Blow major leg muscle doing my younger-man-than-you hobby of dry stone walling. Gain proficiency in couch-surfing but reduce my to-read-someday list.
  • Reduce meditations – because why not?
  • Stay in old, poorly-insulated three-season cottage for four seasons because borders are closed. Physical stress? What physical stress?
  • Use iPhone GPS for all driving to schedule ferry terminal arrival rather than have to wait extra time. (I relied on the iphone software rather than the clock in the car and my head.)

  • Write all the above on paper.
  • Think about it seriously.  

Fail.

The Bottom Line: Fail?

Fail? What do you mean “fail?”  That’s not a word I’m accustomed to.

Thinking about it, I realized I had remapped my brain to an extremely short term, social media, 300-word post level of work.

I was horrified. (How do I write books when I think in 300-word blog microbursts?) The appalled look on my face reflected back at me in the mirror that morning.

Note: The brain remaps itself to deal with what it’s presented – yes, even an adult’s brain – and is not a fixed system. This is true for all ages according to all the research I was able to find. 

Even Worse:

I was even more concerned when I realized  – as a digital senior citizen – I was offloading my memory (in things like research, notes, to-do lists and scheduling appointments etc.) both short and long term – to sync across all my electronic devices.  Without the devices, I would be…  

There is room here for a discussion about whether offloading information compared to remembering it is something that’s common and beneficial in our society across multiple age groups and whether this has advantages as well as disadvantages.  

In my case, I found it disturbing when I discovered I was offloading my short term memory to a digital device but a younger person who grows up with this offloading may be less concerned.

For Me:

I asked my brain to do short term work and find information online, and it became extremely efficient at doing this in extremely short times.

I was not asking it to a) remember that information or b) think deep thoughts so that capacity was reduced. 

So Now What?

  1. I’m rereading Newports ‘Deep Work’ book (paper edition) and his Digital Minimalism book (paper) and I’m making copious handwritten notes in a new Doug 5.0 workbook.
  2. I’ve cut way back on short term projects such as social media posts and the software to accomplish this. (My personal health takes precedence over business health.)
  3. I’m writing first drafts of my work using a fountain pen including blog posts such as this one. This forces me to slow down, think more deeply and forms an association with the written word and hand-eye coordination. 
  4. I’m also forcing myself to slow down my reading by making hand-written notes as I progress through my reading list and book piles. I note I’ve been a native speed reader since I learned the alphabet – so this is one of the more difficult tasks I’ve set myself.
  5. I’m investing in paper books wherever possible to avoid digital inputs. (Which is somewhat ironic considering all my work is now online.)
My to-read pile

The Process

Only once the first draft is finished on paper (I write every second line to give myself editing space) will I transcribe those notes via voice dictation to Scrivener software. 

I’ll do the second edit, spell check etc and then cut and paste to the Net or into ebook formats and the job is done. 

Note the initial brain work is (now) all done by hand rather than electronically.  It’s much slower but it’s apparently healthier. At this stage of my career, I’ll vote for health over productivity any day.

But How Long Does It Take To Remap An Adult Brain?

The data I found suggests it takes three to four months for an adult brain to remap itself.

I’ve set the calendar. 

###

Postscripts

Back in the day, I worked in a psychiatric hospital so have some experience with mental issues. I suspect it will be tempting for physicians to do a lot of testing on seniors for Alzheimers (hey, the boomers are aging although we may not admit it)

At issue now, imho is the level of connectivity for individuals because the higher the level of connectivity, the potentially lower performance of short term memory.

###

Jerod Morris over at Copyblogger wrote a great post on this subject. It’s well worth reading given it’s coming from one of the Net’s leading experts on delivering great information. If you read nothing else on the subject, this is the note.

I also wrote a post here about internet attention deficit and your memory. And quite frankly, I’ve slipped back into multiple info-streams albeit at a much lower rate than before but… (Another bad habit.. sigh)

Thanks for reading to the bottom. (And congratulate yourself for being one of the few readers to do so because short and sweet on the Net still rules) But now you know why…

Click here if you want to be advised when I publish something new.

Don’t Start Your Seniors Fitness Program Like This

I started my Doug 5.0 seniors fitness programme off with a bang, setting the goals, starting the workouts, and learning (thanks to some introductory yoga videos), my body really wasn’t flexible.

At this point, I would have shared my goals with you. Indicated how many pushups, situps etc I was doing and inviting, encouraging you to join me at your own level.

Well….

My leg injury put me out of the picture for any kind of exercise – the pain was significant with just walking – never mind knee bends or supporting myself in pushup position.

The numbers of all those things are now zero or close enough to it that I’ve put that on my daily notes. I can do zero pushups, zero situps, zero squats, and …. You get the picture.

My fitness is so bad (and my leg still hurts a bit) that I hesitated to write this post, never mind share my embarrassing numbers. Seriously, I put off writing this post for as long as I could but then decided wtf, this is part of life so get over yourself and get on with it. In for a penny, in for a pound – as my grandmother used to say.

It’s Easy To Forget You’re A Senior

I forgot for a brief moment I was a senior and had to be kinder to myself (the little voice in my head has been unrelenting this past few weeks) when it came to limitations.

For example, here’s a link to my post on deconditioning or what happens when a senior loses fitness for any reason. I can confirm to you this process is very fast. Sigh…

A simple thing like my muscle sprain led me to lose a significant amount of muscle mass.

It’s humbling. Very humbling.

How’s The Leg?

It’s not 100% yet but I did start walking yesterday – it was sore afterwards and again this morning as I write – so I’m still taking it easy and not going for a fast walk (more like an amble) 🙂 But at least I rebooted the fitness project albeit at an extremely basic level.

In the coming weeks, I will (slowly, very slowly) expand the health and seniors fitness work and I’ll report on both the fitness and emotional impact of injuries “soon.”

You can follow along with this and other stories and “stuff” I write by clicking here

Do You Know How Good Your Supplements Are?

Are you as confused about effective supplements? And your health? And do you really know how good your supplements are?

The honest truth is that I don’t know enough myself. It’s a confusing subject and my primary research hasn’t reassured me at all.

You see, there’s so much marketing and self-serving bovine excretia flowing over our media, the average person hasn’t a prayer of understanding or keeping up with the data flow. I know when I decided to lose weight and improve my diet, I immediately felt lost and completely out of touch. There were so many “helping voices” out there, I surely didn’t know where to turn. Or, frankly, in which direction to turn.

This information will be a work in progress. Much like ourselves I note.

Consider it a snapshot of the current state of the art and as I learn more, I’ll update right here. Simply understand, as I said above, it’s a work in progress.

I wanted to get a snapshot of the industry before I began so started searching around on random topics.

It wasn’t pretty.

For starters, the industry is a well-protected one with significant Congressional support in the U.S.

A Time Magazine article said:

“1994 law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which prevents the products from the scrutiny and approval given to other drugs. “I could pretty much create something this afternoon in my kitchen and sell it and not have to do any kind of testing ahead of time,” author Catherine Price” 
You can read the Time article here.

Price wrote a book outlining the industry and its “issues” here on Amazon

OK, but what about the size of this business?

Well now, we run into a few problems getting numbers. There are a multitude of small companies promoting products that fly totally under anybody’s radar. And the industry itself got into a “PR war” between two competing groups arguing whether the industry was a 12 Billion or 37 Billion.

But those numbers dwarf in comparison to the 278 Billion projected for 2024 by Globe NewsWire.

What we can agree on is this is big business.

But It’s All Safe. Right?

Well, here we go again. If you note the U.S.A. regulations above (the largest consumer market for supplements) there are no testing requirements as there are for other foods. As long as you make no outright medical claims on the label, you can sell it as a “dietary supplement”.

And the FDA said

But There Must Be Controls On Production

Well not that I was able to discover. In fact, one of the things I discovered was that you could start your own supplement company quite easily. And if you don’t know how to do this (yet) you can take a course here on Udemy

Celebrities

One of the most famous author/podcasters Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Workweek etc) got his start this way. He formed a company, sold it and funded his empire.

And celebrity endorsements are legion. Here’s an interesting report on which celebrity is endorsing which product and data about the product.

Speaking of sports celebrities and products

Consumer Reports magazine reported in March 2012, “We’ve had more than 400 recalls of spiked products since 2008,” says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s division of dietary-supplement programs. Most were marketed for bodybuilding, sexual enhancement, and weight loss.” That, by the way, was in 4 years.

Are you confused yet? Or a bit hesitant to take a look at your own supplements?

I am.

I’m starting to investigate and research every supplement I’ve read about or take and will report back to you on some of the more interesting information.

Interested in what I write? Click here for updates when I post something new.

Here’s Why You Need To Think About Deconditioning

For the second year in a row, I wound up with a serious cold in January that flattened me for 4–5 weeks. It wasn’t that I just had a cold. It was I could barely lift my head off the pillow. (As an aside, my physician says I likely had pneumonia and if it happens again to “drag my butt into her office!”)

My sense though it was a Christmas cold delivered by a team of children and grandchildren from different schools and continents who believe in hugging Papa.

  • I’ll risk the cold to focus on the love.
  • But now I understand the price that might be paid.

The Issue of Deconditioning

During a significant period in my life, I was involved in “Conditioning” and being physically fit. It’s only the last two years with being sick for a month, I’ve discovered “Deconditioning .“

And yeah, I’m starting to face the fact I’ll never play hockey for the Leafs (which may be a good thing), make the Olympics, drive for NASCAR or… Well, you get the picture I’m sure.

Consider The Following Data: Muscle Weakness & Atrophy In Seniors

This is what happens to a senior citizen who is in bed for a month with almost total inactivity. Carefully look at the time frames involved. We’re not talking months here — we’re talking weeks and even days.

  • A loss of strength 10- 20% decrease in muscle strength per week (1 1–3% per day)
  • 3–5 weeks of complete immobilization can lead to a 50% decrease in muscle strength
  • Loss of muscle mass -3% loss within thigh muscles within 7 days.
  • Loss of bone density due to increased resorption caused by the lack of weight bearing, gravity, and muscle activity on bone mass
  • Increase in resting heart rate (4 4–15 beats within the first 3 3–4 weeks then plateaus)
  • Decrease in blood volume ( 5% in 24 hours, 10% in 6 days, 20% in 14 days)
  • Body Fluids Shift 500–700cc of fluid from the lower extremities shift to the thorax (also known as central fluid shift)
  • Change in Heart Function Increased stroke volume/cardiac output/left end-diastolic volume
  • Depressed levels of aldosterone & antidiuretic hormone
  • By the 3rd day of bed rest there are reduced insulin-binding sites (net effect is decreased blood & plasma volume)
  • After 2 weeks of bed rest, it takes 2 weeks of resumed activity before the glucose response returns to normal

Deconditioning : the consequence of bed rest (pdf )By: Colleen S. Campbell MSN, AARNP — BC, CRRN — A.

From A Personal Perspective

I was down, flat on my back for all of January two years running. I wasn’t bed-ridden in the sense of the data above (I remained mobile but not much of it.) It took me several months last year and several months again this year just to become functional again. This means I’ve had first hand experience with the above results albeit not as extreme as someone who was totally bedridden.

I’m too embarrassed to discuss the personal fitness measurements of such mundane things as situps, pushups and squats. Let us say those are not my finest characteristics at the moment.

I note the only saving grace was that I had to get up for bodily functions. I wasn’t totally bedridden as I could stagger to the bathroom and back.

Working outside this year seems more challenging than last year. I expect as the spring rolls on into summer and I get back to working on the dry stone walls and other projects, I will recover a significant amount of that strength.

I’m also clear as I recover functional fitness, I have to push my body to a higher level and that’s going to take both effort and a plan. I have the plan, I’ll get back to you whether the effort shows up.

But There’s A More Important Component of This

There’s a small part of me — a small voice in my mind — saying “To hell with all that exercise. You get along just fine on most things and you never did like all that strength training stuff even when you were young and played high level sports.

“Let it go… Doug, you’ll be fine…”

And for the first time, I understand what being a senior means when it comes to illness and recovery. And of doing it again and again. Of having to drag up the motivation to recover rather than accept the status quo. Of listening to that siren song of your complaining body over and over again. Of being tired, so very tired.

Let Me Be Clear: I’ve Ignored That Voice

I’ve ignored the voice. I’ve had practice dragging my body to the next fitness level when I was younger and involved in competitive sports. I know the pain of it and I remember the effort.

Friends haven’t though and I now understand the decision they took and (perhaps) why they did what they did.

But just as a voice speaks when I go down stairs. I’m now aware of a second voice.

It won’t stop me either but it’s now a part of my operating system.

Final Thought On Being Young

I also understand when you’re young why it would never cross your mind to even have a voice such as this.

After all, I didn’t and I don’t see why any other young person would either.

But sometimes it’s good to know what’s ahead around a curve so you know how to deal with it when/if it does suddenly appear in yourself or a loved one.

Click here to get all my notes right into your inbox.