What We Can Learn About Life From Curry's Paradox

Curry's Paradox is a fascinating piece of linguistic confusion that has so far been unresolved to the satisfaction of most. Because it is a somewhat complex and abstract paradox, summarizing it succinctly on a casual blog is daunting if not impossible. Thus, I am going to lean heavily on Wikipedia's entry for the following discussion. 

What I hope to show by the end of this is that understanding the nature of Curry's Paradox can teach us a great deal about our own personal ideas.

The Paradox
Citing Wikipedia, we can express the paradox as follows:

If this sentence is true, then Germany borders China.

Think about this for a moment. When I first heard Curry's Paradox, I had trouble seeing what exactly was paradoxical about it. But the fact that it is not immediately obvious highlights the contradiction perfectly. Breaking the issue up into its components, we have the following:
  • We know in advance that Germany does not border China.
  • As a result of this knowledge, we know that the sentence is not true.
  • But wait... the statement doesn't say that Germany borders China, it merely states that Germany borders China if the sentence is true.
  • So the sentence is actually entirely true.
  • But wait... Germany doesn't border China...
If you're like me, the above statements more or less reflect your thought process upon first encountering Curry's Paradox.

The Main Issue
What's really going on here is not the contradiction in a statement that is simultaneously true and false. Instead, we're looking at a statement that forces us to accept a false conclusion by assumption. What I mean is, when you say that Germany borders China if this statement is true, you are expressing not a hypothesis, but an assumption

Compare that to the sentence "If I hurry, I will make it to the opera before they dim the lights." This latter sentence is still expressed using an "If P then Q" structure, but we're not assuming anything, we're merely providing conjecture as to the direct consequence of hurrying. To prove that statement, we'd have to demonstrate something about speed, distance, and time.

Curry's Paradox, by contrast, involves no exogenous information. It is an apparently false statement that can be proven true only by using the statement itself as the underlying assumption

It is for this reason that I believe that the crux of Curry's Paradox is the choice between a contradiction and a false assumption

That's Logic. What About Life?
Understanding Curry's Paradox gives us insight into debates we may have with others. Often, in the midst of a complicated discussion, people appeal to each other by citing examples and hypothetical illustrations. These are important argumentative tools. However, it's important to keep in mind that your debate counterpart may be tailoring his or her argument to suit.

For example, if I wanted to explain to you why high taxes for rich people hurt the national economy, I might describe a situation in which an over-taxed business owner facing a tax increase opts to decrease production or fire a proportion of her full time employees. There is nothing wrong with this example, other than the fact that its truth is only evident if we assume that it is a likely story in the first place. Of course, assuming it is a likely story is effectively the same as assuming it is true.

Keep in mind that the paradox still holds for statements that are objectively true. I am still engaging in Curry's Paradox if I say, "If this statement is true, then Odysseus is the central character in The Odyssey." The fact that the latter part of the sentence is indisputably true does not mean the sentence itself is any less of a paradox.

Uh, Okay... Therefore...?
Therefore Curry's Paradox teaches us a lesson about our beliefs. We have to be careful about how we construct the reasoning behind our beliefs. We may in fact be starting from the initial belief that our beliefs are correct, and then concluding from that assumption that we were right all along.

More practically useful is the fact that someone you talk to may be engaging in such a ploy. You'll be a better-equipped person if you are able to recognize such situations and demonstrate to your friends why what they're saying is objectionable. 

Pulling Out

The Unpleasant Truth
I guess it's time I bit the bullet...

Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows that sometimes it is not your day. I have seen major contenders pull out of the race entirely just ten kilometers from the finish line. Why do they do this? Are they weak? Are they quitting?

The answer is no. Marathons are not just physically daunting, they are potentially injurious. For some - especially for those interested in winning - when things start to go sour, the choice isn't whether or not to finish; finishing is easy for those of us with experience. (I don't mean to minimize the achievements of first-time marathoners here, but the fact remains: once you've done a marathon or two, the achievement of "just finishing" no longer holds any sway with you.) No, instead these athletes are making what amounts to an economic decision: it is more beneficial to stop, eliminate the risk of injury, and live to run another day

So it is with me today. My calf injury, although incredibly minimal, is nevertheless preventing me from training to the fullest extent of my personal satisfaction. My choice is now as follows:
  1. Continue my pattern of rest for a week / try running and aggravate the healing process / repeat; or,
  2. Acknowledge that if I don't give my leg the time it needs to heal properly, I won't be running until long after the marathon anyway.
Notice that neither of the above choices involve running the Montreal Marathon this year.

Where Did I Go Wrong?
At this point, I suppose it is fair to ask where I went wrong. Is my comprehensive 18-week marathon training program a fool's errand? Did I train too hard? Did I run too long on worn-out shoes? Did I preach about good form, all the while practicing terrible form on my own? If John Stanton runs the Montreal Marathon this year, will he have proven the superiority of his philosophy over mine? Am I just a big know-nothing loser? All talk? 

Well, no. As I described shortly after it happened, my injury came on suddenly. There I was, running a relatively easy fartlek workout, when suddenly I felt a strange pop and my calf immediately began hurting. These are the classic symptoms of a torn muscle. 

The muscle tear occurred a few days after my first 90-minute run of the season, but truth be told, I had missed a few days of exercise over the two weeks prior. What this really means is that I had missed too many workouts to continue my workout schedule "as-is." I was ready enough for a 90-minute long run, but because I hadn't properly built up to it (because I had been missing too many workouts beforehand), I needed more rest than I actually took. The result was a buildup of lactic acid and a weakening of my calf muscle. There was probably also some greater-than-normal muscle tightening as a result of the long run.

Put it all together, and what you get is the makings of a minor muscle tear. The only way to really get over this is to rest. Once I have taken adequate rest, I will no longer have enough time to run a marathon without risking another, similar injury.

My only rational response at this point is to acknowledge that running a marathon this September is an incredibly bad idea for a guy who recently tore his calf. It's not about quitting, it's about letting my body heal in order to run a marathon once I've recovered. I'm not happy about this, but that's life, take it or leave it.

Where do I go from here? Well, physically, I'm going to rest up, put on some upper body mass, and plan to run the half-marathon in Montreal instead. Running 13 miles is very literally a casual jaunt to me. It will be a pleasant way to acquaint myself with the race, the course, etc., have some fun, plan for a run, and keep me going. I will also not have to worry so much about streamlining my body for race perfection, which is a great deal of work. (I'm sure you've noticed how much work it is, especially if you've been following my training regimen.)

Next year, I'll try my race program out again. I'm confident in its ability to produce results, but for me, it just can't happen this year.

In the meantime, I have a series of upcoming projects, most notably Solaris, and my ongoing fun with Ryan Ruins Requests and Insipid Pop Weekend. On top of that, there will be another meet-up in August for the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and my ongoing economics and philosophy blogging. I will be busy enough!

As for the fitness component of the blog, I will now focus on general fitness and exercise more, and marathon-specific training less. I think this will make for a more well-rounded fitness blog, and I hope you will agree.

Up Next: Learning About Life and Personal Perspectives Through Curry's Paradox


Building a Contrarian Position on Real Estate

There is no question that we are still feeling the effects of the infamous housing bubble. When things first started going downhill, I attended a speaking engagement of economist Steven Poloz'. This must have been early 2007, before things really started to get recessiony. In that speech, Poloz rightly pointed out that it would be "at least five years" before the market was able to recover from the housing bubble, and potentially much longer than that. To my knowledge, Poloz is not in tune with the Austrian School of economic thought, but I found his analysis of the housing situation at the time to be very accurate, and time has only confirmed his analysis since. 

My sincere belief is that real estate prices have not corrected as much as they should, and that they continue to be propped up by the actions of both private and central banks, who have every reason to keep the value of real estate as high as possible in order to protect their loan collateral.

In a way, you could say that the world's financial system is backed by a de facto "real estate standard" rather than a "gold standard." While certainly not universal, it does appear to me that a sizable number of financial instruments and loans throughout the world are based on real estate. The credit crisis in many ways is a crisis of loan collateral being collateralized more than once, double-counted, and simultaneously viewed as an asset and an account receivable. At any rate, the final cause of all this financial abstraction is real estate value. this is why the "s--t hit the fan" when the real estate bubble popped. This is why so many economists and finance experts believe that the issue can be resolved by tighter regulation of financial derivatives and accounting rules. Finally, this is also why the Austrian school of economic thought believes that these economists and financial experts are missing the point.

If today were a Saturday and I had more time to write a blog post, I would now provide a discussion of credit and banking from the Mises perspective. Mises' analysis is fully applicable here, and provides good insight into where all this crazy housing/credit/monetary trouble came from. Unfortunately I just don't have the time to go into it today, especially since the purpose of this blog post is to actually discuss something else...

The question on the minds of ordinary people today is, "To purchase real-estate, or not to purchase real estate?" Is it a good buy? Are people better off renting?

The answer to this question depends on a few things:
  1. Will real estate hold any future value whatsoever? Is it a good idea to, in the words of Peter Schiff, "Go into debt to pay too much for a house"? At face-value, I think the answer is a resounding no. But the problem with the face-value analysis is that it assumes homogeneity of real estate. As we all know, every plot of land is different. To cite an obvious example, if you know that an over-priced piece of real estate sits above a huge reservoir of oil, it's still worth it to take that deal.
  2. Can you make a return on the money you save by renting? Let's assume you rent an apartment for the next five years. While you do avoid debt and preserve some monthly cash flow, you also do not build any equity whatsoever. In order to build your equity, you need to invest the money you would have spent on a mortgage in something that provides you with equity. Are you capable of finding such an investment? Will mutual funds, GICs, stocks, etc. deliver a better return than you would have made simply by setting aside some money every month as equity. (The portion of your mortgage payment that contributes to loan principal is equity on your balance sheet; I have heard this concept called "forced savings," even though that's not a great term for it. The idea is that by taking on a mortgage, you commit to building equity, whereas if you simply abstain from spending that money, you lose it to inflation.)
Therefore, the issue as I see it is whether the decline in real estate prices will be greater than the equity you build. In other words, if you pay $300K for a house today, will it only be worth $200K when you sell it? Peter Schiff thinks so.

But my position is that it depends entirely on the piece of real estate you're looking at. Certainly, I think Peter Schiff is correct with respect to those mass-produced homes in overnight subdivisions. These houses are on tiny lots in remote corners of cities. If you buy one of these, you'll want to make absolute certain that the neighborhood will still be appealing in 20-30 years. I don't think they will be.

On the other hand, in every city there are older neighborhoods adjacent to valuable commercial areas, where the lots are larger, the green space is a little easier to come by, and the surrounding area is genuinely appealing. If you're considering a real estate purchase and can find one of these lots, I still think it's in your best interest to buy them. The prices are coming down, the sellers will be anxious to sell, and you will end up with more than just a house, you'll end up with a patch of land that has real value. 

Well, that's my thesis, anyway. I will have to spend more time thinking and justifying it. It's worth considering, though.


Once Upon a Fairy Tale Fraud

Here's your Ludwig von Mises word of the day: statolatry.

C.f. the following quote from Human Action, The Scholar's Edition, p. 689

Economics is not called to examine blind faith and bigotry. The faithful are proof against every criticism. In their eyes criticism is scandalous, a blasphemous revolt of wicked men against the imperishable splendor of their idol. Economics deals merely with the socialist plans, not with the psychological factors that impel people to espouse the religion of statolatry.

Brilliant, Luddie, simply brilliant!

But What About Ryan Ruins Requests?

Don't be discouraged by the advent of Insipid Pop Weekend. As always, I continue to accept requests and dedications for my Ryan Ruins Requests feature. You can think of them as two sides of the same coin. Or two coins in the same pocket. Or two pockets in the same pair of pants. Or two outfits in the same wardrobe. Or two closets in the same skeleton... No, wait...

My primary objective in these undertakings is to experiment with some home recording, song writing, performance, and production ideas. I post them to the blog on the off chance that they are interesting to others; and also as a means to share my music with people I know more closely than my blog's readership, without having to constantly barrage friends and family with emails alerting them to the fact that I have more output available for consumption. But it's all in good fun.

I used to keep a music-only blog, but I found it less appealing to write constantly about music and composition, and didn't like the pressure of having to produce a recording, a piece of sheet music, or etc. each and every time I sat down to write something on my blog. Stationary Waves has managed to become a good repository of all my thoughts, be they musical, economic, literary, linguistic, fitness-related, diabetes-related, or random. 

The bottom line is: please keep your requests coming. Don't be afraid to push me in new directions and challenge me. That's what it's all about. This blog will be a lot more fun and interesting if we maintain a communication feedback loop. 


New Feature: Insipid Pop Weekend (IPW)

As I implied in my Requests Bleg post, I had something new brewing over the past weekend. This new thing is something I like to call Insipid Pop Weekend, or just IPW for short.

The concept behind IPW is straight-forward: Write and record an insipid pop song in a single day. Fill it full of bad musical cliches and make it as terrible as you possibly can... but make it relatively pleasant to the ear and well-performed overall.

Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. Here is the first installment of IPW, a song I call "Medusa."


Comic Book Movies

I love comic book movies on many levels.

At the most "superficial" level (which is not very superficial), they are just great action/adventure movies. They tend to feature strong plot lines, formidable foes, admirable heroes, happy endings, and the possibility of sequel. On this level alone, they are a great reason to go to the movies. But there is more!

Recent comic book movies have taken the lead in pushing new special effects technology forward. They don't just seamlessly integrate computer generated animation into live-action sequence, they also push the boundaries of "Real-D" 3D technology. Best of all, they do so not merely in a mechanical way, but in an artistic way. Every really impressive visual recent movie I can think of is a comic book movie: 300, The Watchmen, Thor, Green Lantern, Sin City, and the list goes on...

But I think my favorite aspect of comic book movies comes from the nature of comic books themselves. At a certain point in the history of comic books - and I'm not sure when, but I'm certain someone more familiar with comic books knows the answer to this - these stories became less about pulp fiction adventure and more about social commentary. The human rights subtexts of the X-Men series has been well-known for a long time. 

In general, though, virtually every comic book story is about a normal person who discovers something amazing about themselves, struggles with self-acceptance, and eventually lives up to being the hero they always were. I cannot think of a better message for children and adults than the idea that we all have the abilities inside of us to be uncanny heroes. In some cases, this idea is expressed through dormant physical traits, as in Superman or X-Men; people are born with certain supernatural characteristics that make them different. After overcoming the desire to be normal, the characters are free to express their nature with confidence. (I have noticed that super-villains tend to accept themselves more readily - with certain exceptions of course - but as yet I don't have a good interpretation of this.) In other cases, though, and maybe in the best cases, superheroes start out as ordinary people who become extraordinary through scientific achievement. I like these stories best because they showcase ordinary people doing amazing things without having a latent superpower.

I never feel as inspired as I do after watching comic book movies. I'm not really into comic books per se, but there is no denying that movies with good adventure, rich plots, a good underlying message, and a happy ending are an excellent way to fire up one's own personal ambitions.

Bangla Word of the Day

নেংটা (nengta) - adj. "Naked." I'm told this is not a proper Bangla word, so it may be slang. Then again, there are few situations in which you'd have to use a proper word for "naked." 


Amy Winehouse: Non Cogitat, Non Est

The world apparently mourns the death of Amy Winehouse. As I write this, the post-mortem report has not been made public, so it cannot be said that Amy Winehouse died from using drugs. In fact, even when the post-mortem report comes in and confirms the obvious, we can never say that Amy Winehouse died from using drugs.

This is because using drugs is a symptom of death, not a cause. Winehouse died long before she ever ingested drugs.

Someone asked me why I don't see this eventuality as being "sad." It is not sad, because it was inevitable. Winehouse was a known cocaine user. While many people in the world seem to have forgotten the constant, unyielding, hellish risk that cocaine really is, I have not. While the mainstream media continues to hum and haw and dance around the fact that drugs are incredibly dangerous and mention Winehouse's "troubles" or "struggles with substance abuse," there are still a few of us left in the world who have enough courage to say it like it is: cocaine can kill you every time you ingest it. It is not just a "dangerous drug," it is the temptation of fate. In order to ingest cocaine, one has to literally set aside the fact that it might very well be the last thing they ever do. Every heavy cocaine user has a scary story about a close call.

In short, Amy Winehouse didn't care if she died. Why should I?

In the libertarian framework - most notably in Mises' praxeology or Ayn Rand's Objectivism, but dating back much further than that - a fundamental assumption is that thinking is living. Cogito ergo sum. No thought, no existence. It is in this way that drugs are an act of self-abnegation. You could think of them as a temporary suicide, which is exactly what they are. Each and every time a person consumes drugs, they have lost the will to live - and often for incredibly trivial reasons like "boredom."

Drug use is a conscious act of self-abnegation. As such, every time a person takes a drug - any drug - they are turning their backs on their own lives. This is not merely because drugs are deadly (and they are). This is because the original motivation to consume drugs in the first place is an act of self-abnegation. Oneself, one's own thoughts, one's own life becomes temporarily insufficient (on any level, even a trivial one), and the drug becomes the remedy. Long day? Don't work it out, forget about it - take drugs. Party not fun enough for you? Don't take it upon yourself to liven up your social situation, forget about it - take drugs. Bored? Don't develop an interesting hobby or creative pursuit, forget about it - take drugs. Not feeling adequate? Have some problems? Take the easy way out, take drugs...

Such is the motivation behind each and every instance of drug use, from a child sniffing glue to the death of a famous singer. In all instances, the solution to a personal problem is resolved not by thoughts, choices, and actions, but by a short-acting drug that delays the working out of a solution. The goal is always to stop thinking as a stand-alone being - to either become one with the drugs or to not think at all.

This is death.

We do not need stricter rules on drug use, nor do we need to create "safe havens" for drugs to be taken with the oversight of a social worker. We do not need to wage further war against poverty-stricken farmers, nor do we need an abundance of grow-ops. Drug use is not a legal problem, nor a shortcoming of our rules and policies. Drug use is a personal, individual scourge that can only be combated on a personal, individual level.

We cannot save a future Amy Winehouse with a revamped drug policy, nor is brainwashing drug addicts to believe addiction "isn't their fault" a useful strategy.

The fact of the matter is that reasonable, happy, self-confident people who are excited about life and their prospects for it don't do drugs. At all. Now is the point of my argument where the millions of drug users come out and proclaim that they are perfectly happy and self-confident and they do drugs. This argument fails for two reasons:
  1. Nothing they do that pertains to living a good, exciting life is done while they are on drugs.
  2. They have no idea how they would look at life if they weren't taking drugs at all.
So, for all you drug-users out there who think that this is all just dandy - that Amy Winehouse's death wasn't about drugs, but about not taking them intelligently - who think everything I've written is a bunch of quasi-intellectual mumbo-jumbo and that the truth is that drugs are just fun but really dangerous, my answer to you is simple and indisputable:

Cogito ergo sum


LvMIC Meet-Up Tonight

Don't forget to catch me at the Auld Dubliner this evening at 7pm for the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada's Ottawa-area meet-up. See you there!

Physical Change

The more years you have spent exercising with some regularity (even if you miss a few months here and there), the more quickly your body adapts to exercise. I am not aware of any documented proof of this, but I have long observed this in myself and others. As a man who has worked out regularly, with no more than 6 months "off" at any given point from about seven years of age, I find that I can go from 0 to 100 much more quickly than people who do not have 20+ years of regular exercise under their belts. I have also observed this in other people I know.

It makes intuitive sense, but if this phenomenon has appeared in the clinical literature, I have not seen it. (If you have, please post a reference in the comments section!)

As a virtually lifelong distance runner, I have always had a gaunt, lanky frame. It comes with the territory - the more you run, and the faster you run, the skinnier your body gets. 

After my diabetes diagnosis in November of 2009, and my marriage proposal about a month earlier, I decided to focus on bulking up my upper body. Having never really asked much of my upper body muscles, I think it is safe to say that they were in a state of near-atrophy. My posture was bad, and I had no muscle definition to speak of. What little I had could be attributed more to an absence of body fat than a presence of muscle tissue.

It was then that I discovered Sean Burch's Hyperfitness book and exercise regimen. (You can read more about Hyperfitness from an "ordinary person's perspective" at the fabulous Food, Fitness, and Other Adventures blog.) First I read the book, then I adapted the exercises and principles to a more sport-specific workout regimen. The result was that I bulked up, and still managed to run pretty fast. (Hey, I even won a couple of races!) I felt incredible, I built up some much-needed upper body mass, and I looked a lot better, too.

I think one of the reasons I responded so quickly was my years of experience with exercise. My body knows how to change and adapt quickly, because I have often asked it to.

Fast-forward to May 2011, when I decided to start training for the Montreal Marathon. Again, my body started to adapt as soon as I started "asking it to." In less than two months, all that fantastic upper body mass had disappeared. I find myself once again to be gaunt and lanky, my posture changing, and my body taking on the general appearance of your average marathon runner.

On the one hand, I am very happy that my body adapts so easily to a wide variety of exercise regimens. On the other hand, dislike having to choose between running a great marathon and having good posture and a good amount of upper body strength. As my wife recently reminded me, I have set myself a goal of running the Montreal Marathon. I will achieve this goal.

However, I think in the future I will concentrate on maintaining a more overall level of fitness. Perhaps I will focus my running efforts on 5Ks and 10Ks, and do more Hyperfitness workouts. This approach conforms to my other upcoming goals, such as my much-awaited Solaris project.

That should give you a window into where Stationary Waves is headed in the longer term.


Values and Art

I wonder what it would be like to read The Count of Monte Cristo if I were a man who never felt vengeful in any circumstance. In many ways, that story is a warning of the dangers of a human inclination carried too far. A man who possessed no such inclination, though, would read the story very differently. The inclination itself would be bewildering. The reader would have no sympathy for the protagonist. It would become a story about a bad man who suffered some bad luck and engaged in bad behavior. A unique depiction of a particular kind of "bad." Rather than playing out as warnings on the limits of inherent human traits, such stories play out as depictions of bad people doing bad things and suffering the predictable consequences. Although there is adversity, there is no conflict; without conflict, there is no plot. Without plot, the story can't be appreciated as a story (even if the prose can be valued as prose). 

The full scope of how a person's values impact their appreciation for art never really struck me until today.


Introduction to the Ryan Philosophy of Diabetes and Exercise

Today I would like to propose a philosophical framework for exercising with type 1 diabetes. The prerequisites for this article are:
Peruse those articles at your leisure, then tackle this one.

Initial Disclaimer
It should be repeated (if it is not completely obvious) that I am not a healthcare practitioner, nor do I have decades of experience managing diabetes. I am a fitness nut with a penchant for data analysis and scientific research - and a former professional health care consultant - who acquired type 1 diabetes at age 29.

What this means is that I have a knack for research and analysis, but of course no such knack can ever replace a real doctor. I offer my thoughts and ideas mainly as a starting point for your own.

What follows is a description of what works for me, not what is right for everyone.

Why Exercise?
It may surprise non-diabetics and type 2 diabetics alike that the medical world does not actually consider exercise an effective blood glucose management tool for type 1 diabetics. In Exercise and Sport in Diabetes (2nd Edition), Jean-Jacques Grimm (pp. 25) writes:
Regular exercise in people with diabetes does not necessarily lead to improved control. Indeed, the metabolic disturbances associated with sustained exercise may lead to worsening control unless great care is taken to adjust carbohydrate intake and insulin dosage.... The desire to play, or to become a member of a team, is often more important, and is driven by social reasons and the need not to appear 'different' from the peer group. The aim of the medical team is to allow the diabetic [person] to participate in the sport of his or her choice and to avoid any form of discrimination...[.] The advantages of exercise in type 1 diabetes relate more to its protective cardiovascular effects than to improved glycaemic control. Exercise is not a tool for improving blood glucose control in type 1 diabetes.
Emphasis mine.

I provide this quote to illustrate the prevailing opinion among medical practitioners about the role exercise plays in type 1 diabetes. In essence, doctors view exercise as a "good practice" to ward off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and also as a means to feel included in society.

My personal experience with doctors reflects this attitude. My diabetes team's efforts - though extremely helpful - seem to be concentrated on allowing me to enjoy exercise as a personal interest, not as a tool to help manage my diabetes. While they have made a herculean effort to keep me exercising at the top of my game, in the end I am left with the feeling that their primary goal is to help me maintain my quality of life. I am extremely thankful to them for helping me with this.

However, my view on the importance exercise in type 1 diabetes differs significantly from that of the medical community. In my view, regular exercise is an important part of managing type 1 diabetes, and the more you exercise, the better off you will be.

That's the thesis statement. Now it requires justification.

Exercise Physiology (Abbreviated) and Using Up Extraneous Blood Sugar
Here's a true story from personal experience. I accidentally exposed my insulin to heat, nullifying its potency. When I injected for my lunch yesterday, the insulin was essentially worthless. My blood sugar shot up from 7mmol/L to 19mmol/L. I took two additional units of insulin two hours later, and my blood sugar was at 20 by about 4pm. Then I went to the gym and hopped on the exercise bike. (Please note: exercise is NOT recommended when your blood sugar is >16mmol/L. I tested negative for blood ketones before exercising, but DO NOT try this at home.) I exercised for about 40 minutes and then went home. When I tested my blood sugar, it was at 8.9mmol/L.

Fact: With moderate cardiovascular exercise, I reduced my blood glucose level by 10mmol/L. 

If you ignore all the really interesting scientific aspects of exercise physiology and just focus on the essential workings of things, the human metabolism is not a particularly difficult thing to understand. Here's how it works:

  1. You consume food.
  2. Your body converts food into glucose
  3. The glucose undergoes further chemical processes for storage within individual cells.
  4. Physical activity triggers a chemical reaction that results in kinetic energy (plus some heat).
  5. If the activity persists for a few minutes, your body starts combining water and oxygen (more or less) to create additional energy.
  6. Steps 4 and 5 repeat until you stop moving or until the body reaches a point of exhaustion.
Now here's the important part: All that physical activity depletes the glucose energy stored in your cells and causes cellular damage that requires protein, calcium, and a little more energy to repair. In other words, your body gets really hungry and starts trying to push glucose back into cellular storage.

This final "step 7" is why diabetics have to be careful not to have a hypoglycemic episode after exercise. It's not a surplus of insulin, it's a lack of blood glucose caused by the body replenishing its storage.

If it's not clear what I'm getting at yet, let me put a finer point on it: Exercise has a tendency to reduce blood glucose in the short term.

The more you exercise at levels sufficient to instigate this process, the less insulin you need. Because exercise is a volitional act (i.e. you consciously do it), you are therefore consciously controlling your blood glucose levels. You can plan on a workout. You can perform a workout. You can reasonably predict what will happen with your blood sugar. You can be consistent.

Get the picture? Because you control your exercise, you control your blood sugar. So, while the doctors will tell you that this does not improve your blood glucose control, in fact it very literally allows you to control (i.e. manipulate) your own blood sugar in a regular, scheduled, predictable, and frankly enjoyable, way.

Step Two: Doing Even More Exercise
As I have learned from working out twice a day, the more exercise you get, the more these physiological effects kick in. Whereas some doctors and patients may see this as another "obstacle" or another "variable to account for" in their diabetes management, I take a completely different view.

My view is: If the results can be predicted, then the activity can become a tool. One example is the hyperglycemic episode I just mentioned. I knew I was negative for ketones, I knew my insulin had lost its efficacy. I could have gone home, injected a huge corrective bolus, and spent the rest of the night feeling bad about myself. Instead, I used a reliable tool to bring my blood glucose down just as quickly as a dose of rapid-acting insulin analog without having to inject insulin or modify my daily schedule.

So why not exercise once a day? Heck, why not exercise twice a day? Since starting my two-a-day workouts, my blood sugar has never been better. An ideal situation would be to remain active all day long. My muscles would constantly be in a state of metabolizing blood glucose. Assuming I take proper amounts of basal insulin, the more I exercise, the better my glucose control should be.

Knowledge is Power
If it is predictable information, then it is a tool that can be used. Similarly, alcohol is not a "variable" in my diabetes regimen. For the most part, I stay completely away from it. However, if my blood sugar has been high all day, I don't mind having a couple of low-carb alcoholic drinks at dinner time. I do this not to enjoy having a drink, but rather to augment the effects of my mealtime bolus.

The way I see it, why spend all night mildly hyperglycemic - and uncomfortable? Why take huge corrective mealtime boluses? I find these things far more disruptive than using the tools at my disposal. I don't have to manage every mmol/L of blood glucose with a corresponding insulin dose. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Putting It All Together
In order to gain good control of your blood sugar, my recommendation is to learn as much as you can, try it out, and then adopt a multi-tiered approach.

First of all, take your insulin correctly.
Second of all, use all the tools at your disposal: insulin, exercise, alcohol, dietary adjustments, whatever.
Finally, embrace exercise as a way of life.

I don't have to tell you about the non-diabetes-related health benefits of exercise because you already know. I simply want to reiterate that if you adjust your mental perspective, exercise ceases to be an obstacle to blood sugar control or a "variable to account for." You control when you exercise, therefore you can supplement your diabetes management by giving yourself regular doses of exercise.

And that, in a nutshell, is Ryan's Philosophy of Exercise and Diabetes.

Speed Training: Sally Forth!

For the record, my calf is healing nicely. Every day it feels stronger, and I'm not currently feeling any pain. I went for a run over the weekend, and the soreness was there, so I'll have to give it a bit more time before I dive back into my regular training.

But don't let that stop you. Today's run was prescribed to be a 40-minute tempo run. These should be very routine and easy for you now. We only have a couple of months left before race day. We're going full-force. The workouts, although difficult, should not "weigh you down," so to speak.

As for me, I headed over to the Goodlife gym near my workplace immediately after my daily grind. My first choice was a stationary exercise bike, but they only had francophone bikes, and I (ha ha) couldn't figure out where the interval setting was. Instead, I found an elliptical machine and put in 40 minutes of pretty intense intervals. That's two minutes hard, and two minutes at basic run pace, repeated 10 times.

Hey, it wasn't the greatest workout I've ever had, but it was better than nothing. That, combined with this morning's workout, means I am still maintaining a good level of fitness while my leg finishes healing. Fantastic.

Libertarianism in Two Sentences

The existence of producers is a condition for the survival of conquerors. But the producers could do without the plunderers.
-- Ludwig von Mises

Requests Bleg

I have a number of things on the go right now, and I am in the process of organizing it all.

What this means for you is that I have until the end of the day to accept last-minute requests for Ryan Ruins Requests. I still have a sizable back-log of requests from which to add to the repertoire, but having done two 80s pop songs in a row, I am looking for a change of direction this week. Hopefully something either more modern or more complex.

Do you have a favorite song you're dying to have ruined? Hit me up in the comments section, or on Facebook or Google+.


I Am Not Alone

My good friend CH (of debt ceiling fame) recently made me aware of an absolutely fantastic blog post over at Nerd Fitness. Spend 45 seconds reading the first couple of paragraphs, and you will quickly understand why I am such a fan of this. If you'd like the condensed comparison of Nerd Fitness versus Stationary Waves, read on. This guy scares me in how closely his ideas resemble mine.

Look How Closely His Ideas About Fitness Parallel My Own
“Nobody believes your excuses except for you.”
I discovered this quote through my buddy  Tyler, and I can’t get enough of it.  I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for over two and a half years now, and I’ve heard pretty much every excuse in the book when it comes to exercise, fitness and weight loss.
 Although I've never blogged about it, I have often said, "There are always a million good excuses why you shouldn't exercise; There is only one excuse not to: Because it's the right thing to do." Same concept, different wording.
If you don’t like running, DON’T DO IT.  If you don’t like lifting weights in a stuffy gym, DON’T DO IT!  There are a million different ways to get your heart racing, from hiking to Ultimate frisbee, kung fu classes to parkour.
Again, I'm not sure if this one has made it onto Stationary Waves yet, but it is absolutely pivotal to my fitness philosophy. Don't do something just because you think it's supposed to be good for you. Do something you love! The way I usually phrase it is, "The exercise you do is always better than the exercise you don't do." In other words, do something that gets you moving!
Here’s a workout I just came up with in two minutes. Do three sets of 15 repetitions of each exercise, waiting 90 seconds between sets:
  • Push exercise (wall push ups, knee push ups, or regular push ups)
  • Pull exercise (body rows or dumbbell rows)
  • Leg exercise (squats, lunges, or box jumps)
  • Core exercise (planks or reverse crunches)
This one absolutely freaked me out. Does this workout look familiar to you? Look closely. It is The Matrix! (Granted, mine is a bit more elaborate, but simplicity was the point in the above quote.)
Let’s take a look at the big picture.  I’ve already taught you how to NOT suck at goal setting, but here’s a quick recap:
  • Be specific. Don’t just “want to lose weight.”  It needs to be something like “I want to lose 10% of my body fat by my wedding in September,” or “I want to do a pull up by December 1st.”  You might set too easy of a goal or too unrealistic of a goal; you won’t know until you start working towards it.  What’s important is that you stop talking and over-planning and start doing.
Do you see that? Where have you seen it before?

Well, the whole post is well worth reading, and I strongly encourage you all to do so. Then don't forget to come back here. ;)

Training While Injured

My calf injury has turned out to be quite persistent. It's not a particularly bad injury, but it's not going away. It's also preventing me from being able to engage in in my full, regular training routine. So what started out as a minor pain has quickly evolved into a significant obstacle. How annoying.

While I am fully engaged in giving my leg the rest it requires to heal and recuperate - including, sadly, foregoing the ten-mile race I was going to run this Wednesday - nevertheless, not being able to run is presenting me with a significant challenge, and I am going to have to get creative in order to train through my injury without losing too much ground.

To be clear, I am not particularly worried about being able to run the marathon. I'm well on my way to being able to finish. However, I might not be able to run it as fast as I had originally planned. Furthermore, the overall flow of my 18-week routine is going to be significantly disrupted. It's unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Well, in the face of bad news, one has to get creative. While I don't yet have a comprehensive plan for accommodating my injury, I can put together a working list of viable ideas and concepts to keep in mind as I navigate training with an injury. Yes, it is my fault for not really going into this with a contingency plan in such an event in the first place. Luckily for all of us, though, this blog can serve as a medium for working out these sorts of things, so that we can keep them in mind later. 

1. The Morning Workout is Crucial
This item is primarily rooted in diabetes management. I have had such a good physical response to twice-a-day training that I am really disappointed whenever I have to cut a workout short for the sake of my injury. That being the case, a morning of regular strength training and/or light cardio becomes absolutely crucial to my training plan. If I can't get a great workout in the afternoon, I can take some solace (and extract many blood glucose benefits) from having a consistent morning routine, at least. 

2. Developing an Alternative to Speed Training
As I learned last year by experimenting with Hyperfitness, plyometrics can be an excellent short-term substitute for speed training. In fact, plyometrics are an integral part to my overall training philosophy. It goes without saying that for the time being, I will be replacing my speed work days with plyometric training. The challenge is that many running-specific plyometric exercises involve the same muscles and motions that running does. In other words, I might still find this a challenge because of my injury. I am going to give it a try, though. As long as I avoid the more drastic squat jumps, etc., I'm certain I'll be able to work out something viable.

3. Keeping Up With the Miles
Naturally, the most important aspect of marathon training is the mileage, and especially keeping up the daily intensity of running consistently. Try as I might, I still cannot get as good a cardiovascular workout from biking or using an elliptical machine as I can by running. Perhaps the only way around this is to simply go for longer. I am not looking forward to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

As you can see, I have my work cut out for me. It can be tempting to set the whole marathon thing aside. In all honesty, I may have to do that yet. However, as my wife reminded me this morning, I have set a goal for myself. It would be a shame to have to fall short of that. There is still some time. I will watch this play out very closely. 


Ryan Ruins Requests: Episode IV - A New Hope

Today's Ryan Ruins Requests is a request from loyal Stationary Waves ready GF of Ottawa, Canada. It's The Fixx: "One Thing Leads to Another."

Don't forget to lodge one of your requests in the comments section of the blog!


Check Out the Next LvMIC Ottawa Meet-Up

July 21st, Auld Dubliner / Pour House, 7pm.

Catch me on Mises.ca, Google+, or Facebook for additional details.

Three Days' Grace

As I mentioned earlier, I seem to have pulled a muscle in my leg.

Best I can tell, the injury most likely stems from last week's 90-minute long run. I had worn out my shoes prior to running that day. The combination of the long miles and the bad shoes may have proven to be a bad mix for me this time around.

The result: Today is the third day I have taken off from running entirely. If you've been following my blog, you'll know that this is a pro-active take on my overall training regimen. With any luck, I'll still have plenty of time to recover and perform well in the Montreal Marathon. As I said in a previous entry:
So, don't wait to treat your pain. As soon as you feel it, take the time to make an assessment and determine the best course of action. Do this in the middle of a run, if you have to. As soon as you feel the pain, assess it. Don't wait until later. Don't train through it. Figure it out and act. (If nothing else, you'll be more empowered.)
In truth, I gave running a try yesterday, but didn't feel my leg was up to it. So I gave it another try to day, and again came to the same conclusion. Nonetheless, my leg feels much better today than it did three days ago. The rest is doing its job, and my leg is healing quickly. I'm not discouraged, I'm happy with my progress.

But three days is a long time to take off. I've kept up with my morning workouts, but it's not enough. Therefore, I'll try running again tomorrow, but if my leg isn't up to it, then I'm going to head to the gym for some cross-training.

It's not about the injury, it's about how one chooses to recover.


Introducing the Stationary Waves Lexicon

This is a work-in-progress that may never be completed, but I have made available The Stationary Waves Lexicon in an effort to aid readers in understanding some of the recurring concepts and themes that appear on this site. There are currently only a few entries, but those of you who have been following me for a while know that I use a great many recurrent motifs when I speak or write. The Lexicon is an effort to house them all in one place for quick-reference.

Incidentally, if you happen to notice a term that you would like me to define and add to The Lexicon, please don't hesitate to send me a comment.

How Did I Miss This??

Occasionally, even the Ludwig von Mises Institute makes a blunder. (Well, okay, we're not talking about a blunder in this case, we're talking about an organization that gives equal billing to a wide variety of libertarian ideas, and welcomes debate.)

Yesterday's blunder came with a re-publication of Leland B. Yeager's argument in favor of monarchy. This reminds me of something I read on the Becker-Posner Blog way back in October 2010, which I have been sitting on all this time, unsure of how to react.

The general argument goes like this: Autocrats are less susceptible to passing democratic whims; autocrats also face less red tape. Therefore, a "libertarian autocrat" could more easily liberalize a nation than a democracy can.

Such arguments are sadly ignorant of documented history. Indeed, doesn't every dictator believe he/she has the nation's interests at heart?

As Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, "morality ends where a gun begins." You cannot force people to do  the right thing. If you do, it is no longer the right thing. You cannot claim moral authority if you require brute force in order to do so. This is one realm where Ayn Rand's ideas completely obliterate the moral bankruptcy of "anarcho-capitalism."

In the libertarian lexicon, we often refer to the "non-aggression principle," which Walter Block describes as follows:
The non-aggression axiom is the lynchpin of the philosophy of libertarianism. It states, simply, that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy, etc.
Libertarians are quick to refer to this "lynchpin" when criticizing the government, however the "anarcho-capitalist" strain of libertarianism consistently brushes aside their tacit endorsement of private aggression. While it's usually better disguised (as in the Robert Murphy article), this Yeager article puts it right up there. (Incidentally, I responded to Murphy's article at the time, too.)

Back to the strength of Rand's position. Whatever else the "anarcho-capitalists" can say about her, Rand never wavered from the non-aggression principle. It was a core of her ethics. In Philosophy: Who Needs It, she put it rather beautifully:
There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic.  Force or persuasion.  Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.
Thus, when the "libertarian dictator" can no longer win over his opponents with reason, he resorts to guns. He throws away the non-aggression principle right along with the concept of democracy or representative government, crowns himself dictator like Simon Bolivar and simply tries to force everybody to do it the "right" way.

But people have other ideas. We don't like to be ruled; not by communists, not by theocrats, and certainly not by "anarcho-capitalists."

No, we don't need a monarchy. We need freedom. We're only going to get it by being reasonable, peaceful, and persuasive.

The Science of Running

The reason I have so much to say about running and marathon training is because running is a scientific sport. For avid runners like myself, this is part of the appeal. Indeed, part of the appeal of any hobby or interest is becoming an enthusiast, expanding one's knowledge about the subject, and becoming a mini-expert in the field.

Movie enthusiasts, for example, often learn about cinematography, special effects, or acting methods. They become masters of film critique, perhaps not on the level of a true professional, but masters of their own kind. Such is enthusiasm. This is a common and delightful aspect of human nature.

Those of us who choose to run for fun are no different in this respect. Moreover, running is one of those hobbies that truly lends itself to the scientific method, to data collection and analysis, to experimentation, fine-tuning, and tweaking. Small adjustments in the short-run can have major impacts in the long-run. So we runners enjoy analyzing and over-analyzing those small adjustments to try to achieve our goals.


Whoa, That Was Weird

In the middle of today's fartlek workout, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my calf.

"Uh oh," I thought, "That could be the end of all of this..."

But it was just momentary fear. While I decided it was probably not a good idea to finish the duration of my my fartlek workout, I was able to run home, making a grand total of 40 minutes of running.

Not bad for sustaining a minor injury along the way. Never let fear stop you!

Inflation and the Debt Ceiling

CH, a faithful Stationary Waves reader, asks the following question:
If we don't raise it, we crash the US economy and several world wide economies, right?
Never one to shy away from a direct question, I will answer that question with the discussion below. In the interest of doing justice to both sides of the issue, I will refrain from the usual yes-or-no-plus-snide-remark that such discussions usually entail. Hold on to your hats, folks, it's going to be a verbose ride...

Part One: Restating the Question
The "debt ceiling" is an arbitrary number the United States Congress set for itself to ensure that the government would not engage in an unsustainable level of borrowing. Borrowing beyond this number (i.e. "raising the debt ceiling" to a new value) does not guarantee that the government will explode. Nor does staying within the boundaries of the debt ceiling guarantee that the government is solvent. It is nothing more than an arbitrary guideline.

You can think of it like what happens when you go out binge-drinking with your friends: In the back of your mind, you have some preconceived idea of what "too much to drink" is. Drinking beyond that level will not guarantee that you will be hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. Nor can you guarantee that drinking less is a "healthy amount of alcohol." It is mostly just your conscience speaking, and so it is with Congress and debt.

Therefore, CH's question isn't really whether the economy will collapse if we don't raise the debt ceiling. The real question is this: The US government is at risk of losing its credibility as a creditor and becoming completely insolvent - What will make us lose our credibility fastest: increasing the debt ceiling or defaulting on our debts?

Part Two: Increasing the Debt Ceiling
The most immediate threat associated with raising the debt ceiling is the signal it sends to lenders. By taking on debt in excess of our entire nation's ability to create a year's worth of wealth for more than 300 million human beings, we are effectively saying to lenders, "Give us money today, but it is unlikely that you will get your money back any time within the next decade."

Ask yourself, would you lend a large sum of money to anyone who gave you a clear signal that you wouldn't get your money back for many years to come? The answer is either "No" or "Yes, but only if I had money to burn and was allowed to charge a usurer's interest rate." Neither answer bodes particularly well for the US government.

But it doesn't stop there. When the government takes on debt, they simultaneously increase the money supply. This increase is called "inflation." Inflation hurts ordinary people.

You can think of it as though we are sharing a blueberry pie, just the two of us. You get half, and I get half. Then, two of my good friends show up and - because I am the government - I decide that they also get to have some pie. But rather than giving them some of my pie or baking a new pie to ensure you get the same sized piece you always had, I decide to carve your piece of pie into three pieces and give divide it equally among you and the newcomers. The result is this:
  1. The newcomers get more pie than they otherwise would have.
  2. You now have less pie than you used to.
  3. There are more of us than there are of you, and we can always out-vote you when it comes to future pies.
As you can see, when you understand the true nature of inflation, you note that it robs from people who already have money and pays out the resulting booty among special interests.

So to summarize thus far, raising the debt ceiling reduces our financial credibility as a borrower while simultaneously devaluing the money held by ordinary people. The only people who gain from this are special interests who manage to get paid by government spending and entitlement programs - at the risk of a total monetary collapse.

The stakes are pretty high.

Part Three: Defaulting on Our Debt
If hinting that we don't plan on paying our debts in the near future sends a bad signal to our lenders, you can imagine what kind of signal it would send if we were simply not to pay them back at all. Obviously, that would reduce our credibility as a borrower instantaneously.

On the other hand, we'd save ourselves from the evils of inflation. (Or, more accurately, we'd save ourselves from future inflation. Unfortunately, the inflation already incurred by existing government debt won't go away until we've paid that debt back.)

Part Four: Uh-Oh. Now What?
Defaulting on our debt causes certain doom; increasing the debt ceiling causes certain doom. We're not just caught between a rock and a hard place; we're pretty much screwed.

At this point, you might want to start listening to Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, Andrew Napoletano, and others, when they suggest that the United States is on the verge of a monetary collapse.

A monetary collapse occurs when people no longer have any faith in their fiat currency. They expect the future value of that currency to be much lower than the current value. As a result, the premium they charge for future payment (i.e. "originary interest") climbs higher and higher - right up to the point where no one can offer anyone else a sufficient amount of future money to convince anyone to lend, invest, or even to receive bi-weekly paychecks. Left without any means to secure future goods and services, people have no recourse but to purchase whatever they can today, right this minute, before the value of their cash-on-hand reduces even further.

Ludwig von Mises called this "the crack-up boom." He lived to see one in Germany. He'd know.

If we don't want to instigate a crack-up boom, then we want neither to increase the debt ceiling, nor to default on our debts. The good news is, that's entirely possible.

Part Five: The Solution
You don't have to read a five-part blog diatribe in order to understand how to fix this problem.

The US Federal Government is currently spending more than it can on wars, social programs, advertising, employee pensions, travel budgets, foreign aid, property management, and god-knows-what-else.

We can solve our debt problems by not spending this money anymore. Stop the wars. Stop the welfare. Stop the subsidies. Stop the advertising. Stop the legislating. Sell off the unused real estate and other assets. Cease foreign aid and foreign affairs meddling. Shrink or eliminate civil service pensions. Give Congress a pay cut. Trim the fat.

See how easy that is? Problem solved.

If that sounds funny to you, keep in mind that I am totally, completely, literally, entirely, 100% not kidding about this. It is my belief that unless the US government downsizes its operations, slashes budgets and payrolls, sells off assets, and eliminates funding, our country will have a monetary crisis.

So the next time you want to talk to me about the importance of the social safety net, you might want to ask yourself if you're prepared to ruin the country and your own savings account in order to try to make it happen.


Motivation and a Projects-Driven Lifestyle

Not long ago, I adopted a new approach to accomplishing the objectives I set for myself.

The Problem
Like many people with a wide variety of interests that they take somewhat seriously, I often found myself short of time. It started getting difficult to, for example, record an album, plan a series of gigs, write articles, and work out hard, while still meeting my day-to-day obligations such as household tasks and, uh, going to work. Not being able to "do it all" is a problem we all face from time to time. This problem compounds itself the more seriously one takes one's hobbies.

The primary obstacle in "doing it all" is that whenever a significant amount of time is dedicated to, say, working out a lot, that steals valuable time away from writing a great piece for Mises Daily or practicing, writing, and recording new music. One begins to feel that the things one loves to do are in competition with one another. For myself, I began to feel that if I sat down and practiced my guitar technique, I was "wasting time" because it didn't produce anything particularly tangible. In contrast, any time spent writing produced an article; any time spent working out improved my blood glucose levels and overall health; any time spent recording produced an mp3. Unfortunately, everything soon felt like a waste of time. I couldn't finish any mp3s, because my technique wasn't up to par; therefore, time spent recording was a waste of time. I couldn't train for a marathon, because I couldn't set aside enough time to put in the proper miles; therefore, time spent running was a waste of time. And so on, and so forth... It felt like a vicious circle.

The Solution
The solution I devised was to break my hobbies into manageable chunks in the form of projects. (I'm not the first to devise an approach like this. Perhaps the clearest expression of this concept is Frank Zappa's "Project/Object" idea.)

Rather than focusing on what I want to do "in general," I instead decided that I needed a paradigm shift. I know conceive of all my objectives as a series of projects. The major advantages of projects is that they are associated with specific deliverables. Focusing on these deliverables costs nothing, because there is an associated end point. It becomes a matter, not of opportunity cost, but of inter-temporal substitution. This has the rather amazing effect of clearing items off my plate and also allowing me to accomplish more of them.

One way this happens is like so: Because I have made my current workout regimen my primary focus, I know that I cannot seriously dedicate large amounts of time to recording my upcoming Solaris album. As a result, the time I spend on it now is far more precise and focused. On top of that, I don't feel bad about stealing 30 minutes here and there to practice my guitar technique, because the tradeoff between that and recording has disappeared - recording is off the table until I run my marathon.

Furthermore, something new and surprising has arisen from all of this: Ryan Ruins Requests. Unable to dedicate sufficient time to a serious recording endeavor, I found myself recording covers as an additional form of practice, and my output has grown as a result!

The first such project (consciously conceived as a project-as-described) was the Prime Numbers show I played last November. We had a limited time to prepare and rehearse our material, and I had a lot of other things going on at the time. I made the strategic decision to focus on the show, and we pulled it off beautifully. Once finished, I quickly dedicated my efforts toward a second project: finding a new job, which I managed to accomplish in just three months.Next, of course, came my 18-week undertaking of training for the Montreal Marathon. It's safe to say that I haven't accomplished this many things in this short a time period in a long time - if ever.

The Challenge At This Point
Nowadays, I find the major challenge with the Projects-Driven Lifestyle is that when a particular undertaking spans a large enough period of time (like eighteen weeks, for example) Motivating oneself to see it through to the end can be somewhat daunting.

I have recently discovered this about running. My goals and desires haven't changed, but it's getting to be quite difficult to push myself to the top of my game for eighteen solid weeks. It seems like such a short period of time, but of course even seconds can feel like an eternity when they involve hard physical effort.

I may not have devised the perfect solution to this challenge, but of course I'm still working on it. My current theory is that I can likely just sally forth with the discomfort, and it will be over before it drives me totally crazy. At that point, I'll be able to start on my next major project, which will be Solaris.


Ryan Ruins Requests: Episode III - Return of the Suck

This one goes out to faithful Stationary Waves reader RR, from Salt Lake City, Utah. Thanks, RR, for your dedicated reading... and requesting!

I can't take credit for the drum track on this one. The magic of these drums goes to other faithful Stationary Waves reader WW. 

Say, that gives me an idea... If you'd like to contribute to the next Ryan Ruins Requests, add a comment and let me know.


The One I've Been Waiting For

That's the trailer for the new movie Delhi Belly. As faithful blog followers already know, I am a big fan of Indian movies. They seem to have a more genuine level of substance to them than American movies. Wait, hear me out... I know they're formulaic and silly, but when I watch them, I never doubt for a minute that the filmmakers and actors genuinely enjoy what they're doing. That's what I mean but genuine.

Compare that to the all-colored-lenses-and-explosions school of American filmmaking that seems to be dominating the industry these days. A great camera shot is a great camera shot, true, but most people don't watch movies for the cinematography; they watch for the story.

Delhi Belly at last provides American fans of Indian movies like myself with a movie to point to that is everything a movie should be, no matter what country it's from. It is the first Indian movie I've seen that can legitimately compete with mainstream American cinema without caveats. The fact that the majority of the dialogue is in English rather Hindi only serves to underscore this point. If you've been looking for a great heist movie without any of the typical cliches and worn-out characters, I think this is the one for you.

It's also far more lighthearted than its nearest American competitor. That lightheartedness is an unsung strength of Hindi cinema in general. In the meat-and-potatoes, Shah Rukh Khan-style movies, that lightheartedness can translate into pure, saccharine cheesiness. In a more serious film like this, it provides a comedic backdrop for a movie that would otherwise be a full-on action film. 

I highly recommend this excellent movie to anyone, anywhere.

Boettke Gives Stiglitz a Chance

A recent post of Prof. Boettke's over on the Austrian School economics blog Coordination Problem asks how best to respond to Joseph Stiglitz' argument that the free market has completely failed and we need government to save us.

Well, gee whiz. Any takers? We might as well be asking how best to convince Jefferson Davis to become a Yankee.

I am joining this discussion late, but I want to point out that principles of debate date back to ancient Greece, where it was well-known that debate is pointless when there is disagreement at the "definition stasis."

Free marketeers share none of the core definitions with statists like Stiglitz. No response can be crafted, because we'll just get bogged-down in discussing what a "free market" is, what "success" or "failure" of said "free market" is, whether "right-wing ideology" is the same thing as a "free market," etc.

There is no point. You can't hold legitimate discussion with someone with whom you hold absolutely no common ground.


The Inevitable Facebook-ization of Google+

Why is Google+ destined to become Facebook?

I am not pessimistic about many things in life, but if there is one human propensity I can count on, it's human beings' desire to ruin every social blank slate with all the same crap that lead us to our fresh start in the first place. I've seen this so many times, I have learned to bank on it.

The first time I remember noticing it was in the eighth grade, when I started my second year of junior high school in a brand new school. This new school consisted of students who were formally attending one of three or four other schools. So when we all got thrown into a brand new school with no existing social structure, what we witnessed was nothing short of amazing. Nerds friends with jocks, beautiful people laughing with ugly folks, all-encompassing open-mindedness. When you break down the walls, people suddenly become good, friendly, and open-hearted. Fancy that.

I don't have to tell you that by the beginning of my ninth grade year, that phenomenon was over. Once the social structure constructs itself, the good feelings that lead to its construction disappear, and people go back to excluding each other judging each other, hating each other. It's kind of depressing.

I'm also old enough to have noticed this phenomenon occur on the internet. When I was a kid, and the internet was first getting started, you could wander into a chat room and meet all kinds of interesting people. It was really cool. Those were carefree days. Anyone could say anything; sometimes others would laugh, sometimes others would argue, but it always had a certain spirit of open-heartedness about it. It was that spirit that brought more and more people to the internet. In the 90s, there was a general feeling about the internet (among young people, anyway) that it was "a place to go where you could be yourself." Remember The Matrix? Sure, it's anachronistic by today's standards, but that movie was huge because it captured this feeling perfectly.

And yet, after about ten years of development, the internet became... pretty much like the rest of life. People started becoming guarded and stand-offish, protecting their words and their privacy. So we had to start over again with a new community without walls or social structure: MySpace. MySpace died before it ever became the corporate advertising machine that we know today. It died because our walls came up. A few spooky episodes of Jenny Jones was enough to ruin it completely.

So then there was Facebook, and we started all over again. This time, it seemed right. People were doing what they do best: posting silly pictures of themselves, putting up funny anecdotal status updates, and generally being the kooky species that we are. Then what happened? We had to put everyone on "limited profile" and make our profile pages into business resumes.

Don't get me wrong -- I get it. I understand why this happens, and that there are a million good reasons for this. Indeed, I'm not really lamenting the fact that people guard themselves more closely in a wider circle of people than they do among close friends or total strangers.

The problem is that we seem to want to break down the walls between us, and yet we keep putting them back up again. Frankly, I think fear is driving this. We're afraid to be who we are, so we try to be who we think people want us to be. None of us are comfortable enough in our own skin to say, "Look, this is who I am. If you don't like the fact that I have a tattoo of a gibbons ape on my buttocks and hang out at whiskey bars on Saturdays, too bad!"

But that's exactly what we need to start doing. We need to grow more comfortable with ourselves. In doing so, we become far more accepting of other people, and we learn, grow, and maintain a genuinely positive community, whatever it looks like.

Why do we insist on turning everything into junior high school?


I've Worn Out My Shoes

A few weeks ago, I bought a new pair of Saucony Grid Flex running shoes. I violated many of my own rules regarding the tools because I was interested in Saucony's new apparent commitment to branching out on its core line with some innovative shoe designs. Simply said, I wanted to give them a try.

Like many gimmicky running shoes, they initially felt superb! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they felt "broken in" on my second day of running with them. I was incredibly encouraging. A lightweight shoe that provides excellent cushioning, and yet can keep up with the impact and mileage to which I subject them is hard to find indeed.

Alas, it was too good to be true. I may have owned them for about a month, and now the souls are worn straight through.

Gimmicky running shoes aren't quite "there" yet. We end up spending twice as much for something that is either a bad-fitting shoe, or one that wears out all too quickly. I am still a huge fan of Saucony's core line of products, but I'll be steering clear of the gimmicks when I buy a new pair of shoes this weekend.