Octavo Dia

Friday, April 30, 2010

Run for your life!

What first got me thinking about this was an article, concerning cardiovascular exercise in rats. One group of rats was made to swim in a calm pool for six hours a day. The other group was made to swim in a wave pool for six minutes a day. After a few weeks, both groups showed similar cardiovascular improvements. Most animals, who don't seem to drop dead of heart attacks very often, don't run for hours a day. Rather, something that wants to eat them jumps at them, and they run for dear life.

I then theorized that what signals your body to grow is forcing it outside of its comfort zone. For fast twitch fibers, you do that by doing more, faster. For slow twitch fibers, you do that by exercising longer. However, the smooth and cardiac muscles don't have fast and slow twitch fibers. Therefore, how you raise them above their comfort zone doesn't matter so much as the fact that you do so. You could, therefore, increase cardiovascular fitness with short, intense workouts.

Biologically speaking, physical fitness should be evident in how attractive we find people. If you compare athletes, who are all in the peak of health, the one's with the "best" bodies are the sprinters. We intuitively recognize that style of body as the most successful.

A problem I had with this is that sprinting can easily cause injuries, but so can the repetitive stress injuries of running, so it may be a wash.

The one major flaw I can see to this theory is that humans are distance runners biologically, not sprinters.

Anyway, being of that sort of mind, I decided to do a rough test on myself. With a background in weightlifting, I already had a tendency towards fast-twitch muscles, so sprinting would be an easier fit. Here's how it's gone so far:

Day 1:

I thought I was going to die. I ran until I was winded, and I felt like I had tuberculosis. My lungs were complaining all evening. They were still kind of sore the next morning. As a general rule, when you know you have an internal organ, something is wrong, and I was worried about this one.

Day 2:

Nothing much different, but the next morning, I was breathing noticeably deeper. I don't think it could work this fast, so I'm guessing I just started using spare capacity that I already had, not developing new capacity.

Day 3:

Inner thigh muscles very sore.

Day 4:

Calves hurt. Not shins, which is surprising, because that's what always hurt when I ran before.

Day 5:

I noticed that I wasn't pushing myself hard enough when I slowed from running on the balls of my feet to the heels. Have to make myself go up on the toes.

Day 6:

It is taking noticeably longer to wind myself. The little parking lot I have for a track is kind of short to maintain a good speed. Normally cardiovascular exercise takes two weeks to show itself. It may be that I started from such a low level that the benefits are coming thick and fast, but it hasn't been that long at all.

Day 7:

I rested.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ice Dams

No, not the kind you're thinking of.

I'm talking about glaciers. Glaciers act as natural reservoirs for most of the world's population. Melt water is what keeps the rivers running during the summer. Unlike traditional reservoirs, however, they don't interfere with river navigation, fish migration routes, or drown shoreline habitat. And they're less prone to evaporation, which is a big cause of water loss from a reservoir.

We need to create glacial reservoirs by creating ice dams. Unlike a traditional dam, the purpose of these ice dams would be to slow the rate at which the glacier descends the mountain to lower altitudes. The best illustration of how this would work is to look at a slide in wintertime. The steps up to the slide hold a lot more snow than the slide itself does. What is on the slide, as the name implies, slides off. What is on the steps stays put. Instead of a vertical dam to hold back water, we'd build horizontal dams to hold back ice. In the illustration below, the rectangles are glaciers, the blocks represent a series of dams, and the blue triangles represent the increased water storage:

We'd still need traditional reservoirs, of course, to meet short-term fluctuations in the water supply (it's hard to tap ice, after all). This means of storage would help us meet a long-term, multi-year drought.

Another use of this arrangement is that you could create glaciers in mountain valleys that don't normally support them. Rather than having a spring flood from those valleys, you could moderate the flood and store some of that water for later use, particularly since, by keeping it at higher altitudes, it would be more likely to freeze overnight, thus releasing the water slowly.

Don't fight nature. Just make it more efficient.


Sociologists acknowledge that name formulation is correlated with the kind of society that produced them. A paternalist society, for example, will have names that acknowledge the father, for example, the Arabic formulation: (first name) (father's name) (grandfather's name). A collective society will emphasize the family: (family name) (first name). A caste society will have names that reflect that: (first name) (family name) (caste name). I've also heard it argued that the Hispanic use of matronymics leads to a more balanced society, though I have a hard time squaring that with the machismo that seems pervasive in those societies. If this works at all, I think you'd need a greater emphasis on the mother's name. There are also some cultures in India where the sons take the father's family name, and the daughters take the mother's family name. I have no idea how that would change society.

As we all know, correlation does not equal causation, but for the sake of argument, let's assume you can modify a culture by changing its name formulations. If we had to design a name formulation for a society, how should we do it?

For the sake of efficiency, we need to have a limited number of names. (When it comes to hyphenated names, I'm against it. Someone is eventually going to have to "lose" or you'll pile up name after name after name.) From what I've seen, four names is about as much as most people can handle. Which names should they be and what order should they be in?

As a rule, I would say adding a good bit of maternalism to a society is not a bad thing. Promoting marriage is a good thing as well. Making fathers a part of the family, and thus the name, would be beneficial too. Also, individualism is better than collectivism, so I'd keep the first name first.

So here's my plan: in order to fit all the names, I would eliminate the middle name. You don't really need if you're well identified by your other names. Here's the plan: (first name) (father's first name) (mother's family name) (married name). The father's first name, as in Slavic countries, would incorporate the father into the name. Using the mother's name, and thus tracing descent through the maternal line (besides being more accurate--mommy's baby, daddy's maybe), might add a sufficient dose of maternalism to the society. The married name, besides sorting out relationships, would act as an honorific, with both men and women taking on the other's name when they got married. Also, by being tacked onto the end, it would eliminate the name changes that are a plague on those making identification.

So what do you think? Which of my assumptions are invalid? Does tracing through the maternal line AND having the man take on the married name make a society too maternal?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: The Pulpit Speaks on Race

Davies, Alfred T, ed., The Pulpit Speaks on Race. Abingdon Press: New York, 1965.

Reading this book right after Chapter 1 of Moonotheism was a breath of fresh air. A book of peace, love, and compassion was exactly what I needed. I am always amazed how the Bible continues to speak. When slavery was a part of every society, the Bible pricked men's consciences. When we were divided by race, it goaded us on. And today, the same words, "Love your neighbor as yourself" compel us to examine our actions (and find them wanting). No matter how moral we may seem, how much better than those who came before us, it always forces us to take another step.

A couple of random comments, because that's what I'm good at:

First, coming before Whitcombe and Morris, it is astonishing how deeply evolution had penetrated the church at this point. I remember being shocked at how C.S. Lewis accepted it as a matter of course, and everyone who touched on the subject in this volume accepted it. One minister even referred to Genesis 1 as "the creation myth." I am glad that I am alive when I am alive. Had Creation Science not existed when I wore a younger man's clothes, I doubt I would be a Christian today.

Second, I'm glad I didn't live in the 60's.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 1

Natan, Yoel. Moon-O-Theism. Vol. 1. 1st ed. Lulu.com, 2006.

I'm going to review this book a chapter at a time because, (a) it's an important book, and (b) the author doesn't seem to understand chapters. To me, a chapter is something which can be easily read in one sitting. The first chapter is 322 pages long. My Sitz-Fleisch may be deficient, but that's much longer than my train ride commute. Oddly enough, all of my criticisms of this chapter are about formatting.

First, this book is too short. With such a controversial thesis (which I'll get to below) everything needs to be rigorously documented, which he did, hitting footnote 1777 at the end of the chapter (kudos for using footnotes--I hate in text citations). However, it comes across as a data dump, which means it needs to be rigorously organized. Much more introduction, conclusion, summarizing, etc., all of which would add length to this already imposing tome.

Second, this book is too long. He is much to fond of quoting numerous sources which say approximately the same thing. Paraphrase, followed by a massive footnote, would have been much more helpful.

Third, I think this chapter would have been better organized as a comparative case study. He describes the principles of Jihad one by one, and then provides examples where they play out in practice. This leads to a great deal of repetition, as a single incident, e.g., the 2006 Cartoon Protests, displays multiple characteristics, and is discussed repeatedly. It would have been better to create the theory in the first chapter, and then use subsequent chapters to illustrate how they play out in practice.

And now on to the thesis: the first chapter argues that the violent tendencies of the Jihadists and terrorists are inherent to Islam, and not a later interpretation. An Islamic Reformation, therefor, would lead to more hatred and violence, not less.

This chapter made my blood boil, and unlike some people, I do not like that feeling. I am glad it is past.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burn, baby, burn

Whenever you read an article about the future renewable energy economy, they always add the caveat that some non-renewable power sources will be needed to ramp up when, for example, the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine.

Maybe not.

Europe is apparently having great success generating power through the incineration of trash. That could very well be the answer to having a fully green energy supply. Landfills would become the renewable coal mines of the future, which we tap when need power, and fill when the other sources are sufficient.

At any rate, it would provide another means of smoothing out the power fluctuations that are the bane of green power.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: Exodus

Wendland, Ernest H. Exodus. The People's Bible. Milwaukee, WI; Northwestern Publishing House, 1984.

Hey guess what? I was three when this was published!

Anyway, as commentaries are wont to do, this one explained a few things that had puzzled me. For instance, why were the sacrifices the Israelites wanted to offer "detestable to the Egyptians"? Because they were going to be sacrificing animals which were sacred to them. That sounds reasonable enough.

He also addressed the "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart," which had always bothered me, because it seemed terribly unfair. He points out that God did not harden Pharaoh's heart until the sixth plague--he had already refused to obey God's command five times--and that all God did was end his time of grace while he was still alive. It is no worse than God striking him dead in his unbelief.

And finally, when God told Moses to leave him alone so that he could destroy the Israelites, he argues that it was really a test of Moses as a priest. Moses was to intercede for the people, and if Moses had not, he would have failed.

Interesting stuff, and a quick read too. Just 64 more books and I'll be done!


Book Review: Kanun

I read a mimeographed copy of this, so I have no citation for it. Anyway, it's the Kanuni lek dukagjinit, in English it's called the Kanun.

It's traditional Albanian highland law. The introduction says that it is a good representative of traditional law throughout the Balkans and the Caucasus as well. Which reinforces my theory that mountains are bad for you.

It also reinforces my theory that the present is a good time to be alive.

The mistreatment of women, the blood feuds, the strict code of honor (a footnote says that people had been killed over violations of dining arrangements). There is little in here to like (though my father in law, who is a minister, did like the respect and privileges given to priests).

Some of the laws are so outlandish as to be funny (you can move a road by extending your garden, but you can't get rid of the road completely). Some of them are just odd (the bellwether goat). And some the bloodthirsty among us see fit (you punish your errant son by not allowing him to have any weapons).

Anyway, if you have a desire to read a manual on how to become a Godfather, this is a good place to start. And if you leave an unpleasant comments, I shall fine you 500 grosh, and you shall have to buy me some raki.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010


You've all heard about Wikileaks.

I remember reading an article dated from 1978, of which I can't find a copy of online, that reported that journalists were very often killed because their cameras could be mistaken for weapons.

It's not a new problem.

Why haven't they fixed this? Painted the camera bright orange? Added some glint tape? Carried special GPS broadcasters to let people know where they are? Added a few dealibobs to make it obviously not a weapon?

The news media bears as much responsibility for their deaths as the U.S. military does, because they sent them into harms way without taking basic precautions for their safety.