Worldview: The Rambling Road: A wheeze on the wind, or the sound of a fat boy running

So, it turns out that, after years of trying to ignore it into going away, the simple fact is the best way for me to jump start the process by which I’m not going to be perpetually fat, tired, and sick is by running.

Yeah, I know, running…

To be fair, I used to run. For a few years in my 20s, I ran 2-3 miles nearly everyday. Then I stopped. That in itself is a long story, but one that likely helped set the stage for where I am now. Now, 20ish years later, I’m going back to the thing I once did, I guess.

One day, perhaps even soon, I hope to document the research that led me to that conclusion so that, at the very least, it’s out on the internet for anyone else searching for answers to judge for themselves, but for the moment let’s suffice it to say that running engages the specific biological pathways that help reduce fat around the liver, which fat is likely one of the main culprits of my complaints.

In several important ways, this running is going to be, lacking a better way of describing it, medicinal running, and the best way to describe this phenomenon is to do so by what it’s not going to be. Unless something in my own psychology changes, this running isn’t going to be about 5ks or marathons, not about PRs or ever increasing distances, and not about proving myself in any other way but one.

Along with a controlled diet and plenty of walking to complement the running, this effort will be about weight loss. It’s a ham-handed standard, I know, but the fact is that at my current weight–295lbs and counting, for those keeping track at home–it’s the single most effective way for me to measure whether what I am doing is achieving my primary goal.

I appreciate every piece of advice I’ve already received about this undertaking, and I always want to hear more of it, but please understand that I hear and evaluate any of it through the filter of what I already know I am trying to do. It may be that something you say helps me advance that cause, and I want to hear it, but please don’t be disappointed if I decide it doesn’t fit with what I am trying to do. It’s not that I haven’t listened. It’s that I am very focused on what I am trying to do.

To that end, I also plan to post a weekly update documenting my progress so that interested parties can keep track and so that I can have a log of what I’ve been doing for my own use. If you are keeping track and don’t see that update, please ask. I need the accountability.

For now, this is what it is: a fat boy running for his life. Literally. Stay tuned to see how it works out.

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Gaming for the Rest of Us: First Impression- Civilization VI: Rise and Fall

Before I can review the first expansion for Civilization VI, let’s get something out of the way. There have been a lot of complaints about Civ VI, and Civ V before it, and I think they all boil down to two basic problems.

First, starting with Civ V, the team at Firaxis tried to incorporate real time strategy elements into the Civilization franchise. I don’t think many people will seriously argue there is even a close competitor to Civilization in the 4X strategy genre, so I believe most of Civ’s competition comes from the RTS genre, of which there are many good titles. Unfortunately, that attempt on their part was a mixed bag, leading to some of the problems players complain about in specific.

Second, and perhaps far more important, Civ has always had an AI problem. Back in the halcyon days of Civ I or II, nobody expected sophisticated AIs, and the game took full advantage of that fact by plain cheating to make the game harder. Modern players with modern hardware expect a modern AI, but the expansive nature of Civilization makes designing a good AI for the game a challenge at best. I’m not saying the team at Firaxis couldn’t do better, but I understand the challenge they face in doing it.

Keeping those things in mind, most of the things I could say bad about the Rise and Fall expansion are things I’ve already said bad about Civ VI itself. The game play is somewhat convoluted, the AI just dumb sometimes, and the execution sometimes excruciatingly slow.

It’s always dangerous to lead with things I don’t like in a review because that’s what people tend to remember, but the fact is Firaxis has one of the greatest gaming franchises in history in its care, and it needs to do better if it doesn’t want to go the way of EA and lose the loyalty of once fantastic titles like SimCity or Ubisoft with the Anno series.

All of the new elements to Rise and Fall add value to the game, but they’re understated and seem to be designed to add that familiar RTS anxiety to a 4X game. It doesn’t always work because I think it faces the player in the wrong direction. When Civ VI introduced things like districts, it was an intriguing advance on Civ’s core ideas. Instead of building on that, Firaxis has doubled down on the 4X in RTS clothing gambit it seems to have committed to in Civ V, and it still doesn’t quite seem to be working all the way.

Overall, I’d say wait on this expansion a bit yet. It’s not really worth the $29.99 Firaxis is asking for it for what you get, but if they’re listening to the community, future patches and DLCs may yet fix some of what doesn’t work as well as it could yet. If they don’t, there’ll be room for a new king of 4X. Or we can all go back to playing Civ IV, probably still the best entry into the franchise so far.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Walking away

Don’t worry: I’m not quitting.

No, instead, this blog is about a realization. It’s one I’ve stated here before, yet at least for me, I’ve realized it in a new way.

As far as my physical health is concerned, walking is going to be what saves me.

Once upon a time, I was a walker, a rambler in the truest sense of the word. Starting in junior high, I started walking to school any day I could, a journey of several miles. Once high school was upon me, I walked except when the weather was the worst for four years despite the distance.

Along the way, I developed an affection for trail hiking that carried me into my mid 20s. Then, a lot of life happened–the details don’t matter so much–and I kind of quit. It wasn’t a sudden thing, just over time, I walked less and less and hiked less and less, until I wasn’t doing it at all.

Since I got sick a year ago, on the days I’ve been able to walk, I’ve felt better, but walking every day has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. My new realization is that I’ve failed to deal with those reasons, and that is what is keeping me from walking.

I’ve decided to change that. First up is dealing with one of the colder Ohio winters in recent memory. It turns out that, since I got sick, I can’t stay warm like I used to. Cold weather takes it out of me, so walking in the cold is a struggle. That’s also an excuse. We have the technology for that, and it’s time I started using it.

So, next week, I have an extreme sports designed balaclava, cold weather over-mitts, and wind-pants arriving. They should do the trick most days when the temperature is below freezing an help eliminate one more excuse.

Next up will be rain gear. And, before you know it, I’ll be rambling along again like days of old.

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Agriculture is still a strange game a quarter of a century on…

It turns out that I will have been doing work related to agriculture for 25 years this year and will have been doing it full time for a decade this August. It’s strange to imagine having done anything for that long, and the fact that thing is growing food is sometimes even stranger to me.

A rather ridiculous comment on a post I wrote eight years ago brought me back to this blog with a thought: why, after all this time, are we still unwilling to have a rational discussion about the issues facing food production in the 21st century?

Honestly, if there is anything I have learned over the past 25 years, it’s that this business is crushed by presumption, hyperbole, traditionalism, and tribalism to a degree that makes talking about the fact it is also slowly failing nearly impossible. Even making the statement I just did, if anyone reads it, will provoke ire and attacks before it incites thought or a desire to discuss.

To me, that reality is the biggest reason agriculture is in the state it is in. We, as a society, simply can’t be calm or rational long enough to admit that this undertaking is as big and complicated and unpredictable as the weather it depends on and, until we’re willing to embrace the tolerance and flexibility the weather demands, we’re going to just keep seeing things getting worse.

I wish I saw a positive trend here, but I don’t. I’m not sure we’re capable of figuring this out anymore. If I’m wrong, show me. I’m willing to listen.

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: When excuses aren’t excuses

A more bitter part of me wants to demand that, before anyone gives anyone with a chronic or enduring illness advice about what they should be doing, they should have to live through my past couple of weeks before giving it.

Now, before anyone panics, it’s just been a tough couple of weeks. I’ve been caught in what I call an “autoimmune loop,” first triggered by allergies, then flowing into everything from debilitating insomnia to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Good times…

I will grant, that having endured that, I’m particularly sensitive when people start throwing around, “Well, all you have to do is…” advice. I admit it. It pisses me off. After spending two weeks feeling like you’re a combination of drunk, high, coming down with the flu, and hopped up on way too much caffeine, that kind of advice hits wrong.

But I’m also listening, and in the course of listening, I have my own advice. I understand those of you trying to help people like me mean well. You sincerely want me to feel better. You believe you have answers, and the fact is that you do.

You’re also not listening.

Almost every conversation I’ve ever had with someone who believes they know how to fix me revolves around a single premise: everything I have to say about why their advice is a struggle is an excuse. I’m here to tell you, no, it’s not.

Yes, I can be doing more than I am. Yes, sometimes, I have to push through the terrible consequences of my current state of health in order to make it better than it is. That is true.

It is also true that, when my blood sugar crashes while I’m walking around the grocery store, so I have to cling to my cart like a lifeboat, and thank God my wife is with me to drive me home because I might not have made it otherwise, and I’m still shakey more than 24 hours later, it’s not an excuse. This stuff really happens. It really does limit what I am able to do. I have to keep in mind that every expenditure of effort I make comes with a cost I have to pay, sometimes for days. That’s not an excuse. It’s reality.

All I am asking you well meaning people to do is to understand that. Modify your expectations by the reality of the health I have right now. Not the theory of how healthy I could be. Not with a guilt trip about how I’m unhealthy because I did it to myself. With the fact that, right at this moment, what I’m experiencing is what is.

Help me with my reality. That will actually help.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: It’s been a while

I figure it’s about time for an update if anyone is still paying attention. This year has been a roller coaster health-wise, but in general things are improving, so there’s that.

Recently, I started to re-engage myself with something I haven’t done in a long time: active accountability. In general, that means making a minimalist list of what I want to accomplish over a given period of time so as to be able to check against that list whether I am doing what I said I was going to do.

Some people will probably nod sagely at that confession, but my style of active accountability isn’t quite what most people do (is anything I do quite what most people do? But that’s a different conversation…). For example, rather than having a notebook or a calendar, I have a private blog. I use that blog as much as a checklist as I do a project management system. I tend to limit myself to five tasks a day, even if I know I have time for more because I realize that the stress of over-expectation is the second biggest reason I don’t get what I plan to done (the first being physical incapacity to do it).

The moral of the story is that I use this system to keep the things I am working on fresh in my mind and focused. I can tend to wander off if I don’t only to discover long periods of time have passed without getting anything demonstrable done. Active accountability helps me stay focused when I won’t otherwise be.

Updating this blog is now part of that accountability. I hope to make at least monthly updates, as much because I promised myself and others I would as because the act of writing is both invigorating and cathartic for me.

More will follow.

DLH

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