Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Week 2 of "Opposite December"

 

So, my week 2 of “Opposite December” went as planned with one major exception and that is the focus of this post.  Last week I wrote about the positive effects of abstaining from alcohol and they hold true.  But, last Monday, just as I was ready to take it up a notch exercise-wise (including the treadmill for cardio) I started getting pain in my feet, specifically in my Achille’s tendons.  I chalked it up to my feet adjusting to using my standing desk full-time, but Tuesday, the pain went exclusively to my left foot and Wednesday it transferred to my right foot with a vengeance.  My right foot was swollen and purple and it got so bad that I had to work from home Thursday and Friday: I could barely walk.  The pain wound up radiating from one focal point below my right outside ankle.  This, to me, indicated that I was having another gout flare up even though my uric acid number has fallen significantly since last June when I had my last major flare-up.  It is still affecting me today but is subsiding. 

The lesson in this is that bad health can ruin everything – health must be your number one priority regardless of what stage of life you are in.  I have more energy and focus because of the abstention from alcohol; however, having severe pain saps that energy and my attention very quickly while my brain tries to deal with the pain.  In my case, having lower uric acid levels is not the cure for the gout flare-ups and reducing or eliminating alcohol is supposed to be one of the most reliable tactics for battling gout.  With those variables controlled for, something else is going on and it is probably the stressors that I have in my life that, unfortunately, cannot be realistically reduced at this time. 

I am still trudging forward with my opposite December experiment regardless of the health setback.  I am ahead in my post-doc deliverable due by the end of the month and I had two major epiphanies toward that work that helped me to better contextualize the value of the product and knowledge to the field.   


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Week 1 of "Opposite December"


I am a week in to my “opposite December” where I am taking a 180 degree path away from what most of us do in December – slowing down, more merrymaking, etc.  I decided to take an opposite tack, to only drink twice during the month (during a team happy hour on the 17th that closes down my work year and on New Year’s Eve) and to hit the throttle on work, projects, and exercise while most are slowing down.

A week in to no alcohol has opened my eyes to the many benefits of abstention.  My reason to dial back on the alcohol is related to my health and weight and I’m noticing a significant difference already.  My sleep is profoundly better.  I am sleeping through the night (a sign of getting the deep slow-wave sleep that is foundational to consolidating memories) and I am having my old vivid dreams again.  My memory is better, I feel a greater sense of attentional control, I have greater mental acuity, and I have more energy.  I definitely feel a gastrointestinal difference – I don’t get bloated after meals and my stool is normal versus loose (I know that’s gross).  Alcohol hijacks your liver, so you temporarily have trouble metabolizing other nutrients.  I drink Rumple Minze, which has a high sugar content, making the problem worse.  So reducing or abstaining from alcohol has many metabolic and health benefits – my blood work, though good, will probably improve and the weight will probably come off easier (I am not overweight, I just need to get back down to my fighting weight).  My skin looks better and my eyes are wider and whiter.  

I have a major post doc deliverable due by the end of the month and I have made more progress toward that in the past week than in the past several months.  My attention is focused on those things that really matter; it’s easier to do when I am accelerating while the world slows down.  I have cooked two meals from scratch in the past week, which I’m endeavoring to make a daily habit.  Keep in mind that dopamine (the stress blocker) is not released as the result of an action, it’s released during the process of action (think exercising).  Doing the thing, moving forward in the right direction is the dopamine producer, so making positive steps forward helps to battle cortisol and epinephrine, the stress produced enemies of the body and brain.      

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Brave New World?

2020 represents the beginning of the world’s spiral into a dystopian abyss, the death of a republic, and the creation of a purgatory where truth is dead.  Leftists, globalists, and technocrats may believe that this is the beginning of a brave new world but, in reality, it is a world of cowards and snakes who will prosper in agreed upon lies.  SARS-CoV-2 is but an excuse to create a world run by deep state fundamentalists whose only goal is self-aggrandizement at the expense of yours and my freedom and labor – we are serfs to be used and lied to.

Big tech giants and the mainstream media seek to silence the truth in alliance with these technocrats; they seek to create a world of social control where freedom is mocked and the voices of reason are silenced.  The newspeak of 1984 is not only here, it’s far more pervasive and dangerous than George Orwell could ever imagine.    

What do true patriots who believe in the innate freedom of the individual over the body politic do to combat this slide into horror?  We continue to believe in the truth, we keep speaking the truth, we keep living the truth.  Unlike the cowards who vainly ridicule us, we have the strength of faith – faith in our Lord, faith in individuals, and faith in the incredibly prescient ideals of our Founding Fathers. 

More to come…


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Trades, Talent, and High Value Work

 

I returned to the office in June as part of a "Return to Office" pilot program because I am, in no way, set up to work from home. During this time, my employer has been doing renovations to prepare for the workforce to return after the pandemic. As part of the renovations, there is work being done on the escalator banks that require scaffolding. All of the escalator banks are 4 floors in height with the exception of one which is five floors in height. I am completely awestruck by the work it takes to build the scaffolding and the talent and skill that goes into it. There are several other trades in the building doing renovation work and I admire and value them all.

The skilled trades have not become irrelevant as society grows in technical sophistication, nor will they, but there is going to be a shortage of skilled trades workers if we don't do something about it.  High school curricula and guidance counselors push college as the future of choice for students; however, it is not the only route to professional success.  I had two fathers involved in racing (both were mechanics) and so was my brother, but I never got involved...and I wish that I had.  I wish that I had learned to build racecars, engines, transmissions, rear-ends, etc., but I was too involved with football and other not so healthy endeavors.  I took shop classes, but I sucked at them, thus never tried to become proficient (FYI - you always suck when you first try something).  

Getting back to the trades, we need to start following the lead of Mike Rowe and re-emphasize the skilled trades in schools and trade schools and apprenticeships after high school. I am a proponent of having degree programs that integrate professional programs with trades.  For example, combine a computer-aided machining trade with mechanical engineering or combine carpentry with architecture. I want to partner with the states' boards of higher education and colleges and universities to make this a reality.        

Thursday, October 8, 2020

I beg to differ Joe Rogan

 

I am a huge fan of Joe Rogan; however, he has repeatedly stated something in which I have a differing opinion.  Joe Rogan, and I am paraphrasing here, says that the difference between a cult and a religion is that in a cult the leader is alive and in a religion the leader is dead. I would like to offer my apologetics for Christianity to the discussion. 

My indefatigable truth - nobody would ever willingly die for a lie. Most people's argument against that statement has been that Muslim terrorists die for their religion.  That's fallacious reasoning and here's why.  Muslim extremists have no idea if their beliefs are a lie or not.  For that matter, neither do modern-day Christians, we have faith in the truth; we will not actually know until we die, which is the same for any other faith.  

In the case of Jesus, there are several differences.  There is no arguing that the physical man existed and that there was a crucifixion. Two historians, both of which were alive in the natural lifetime of Jesus, wrote about Jesus and the crucifixion (a natural lifetime being a period in which Jesus would have lived had he not been executed).  Josephus, a Jewish historian, refers to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate.  Tacitus, a Roman historian, referred to the same as well as referring to the early Christians in Rome. The natural lifetime context is important because people who actually knew Jesus were still alive during Josephus' and Tacitus' time.  There is no argument that the man Jesus existed during the timeframe that the Bible references and that he was executed (crucified).  The argument is over Jesus' divinity.  

Now, let's get to the point of nobody willing to die for a lie.  Of the twelve Apostles who actually knew Jesus, all but one were martyred for their faith, some with more historical clarity than others. Other prominent disciples outside of the twelve who also knew Jesus were martyred.  Here is my argument - all of these men knew the truth, they knew whether or not Jesus was actually who he said he was, they were there during Jesus' life and resurrection.  Can you honestly say that these men would willingly be tortured and executed in very cruel ways if they knew that who they claimed Jesus to be was, in fact, a lie?  I have a hard time believing that, personally and intellectually.  Would you die for what you know to be a lie?  No, you wouldn't. The early Christian martyrs died because they knew the truth.  And that is my truth.   

EPILOGUE

There has been no credible anthropological or archaeological research that has disputed or dispelled the Bible, only confirmational findings.  To Joe's point that the early Christian bible was a product of the Church three centuries after the fact (the fact being Jesus, though the bible refers back many more centuries before Christ, mostly through the Jewish Old Testament), the church actually studied the documentation to determine authenticity and veracity just like scholars do today.  There were points of disagreement within the church; however, they came to a general agreement regarding what should be scripture and what shouldn't. And yes, they knew how to deal with the multiple translations (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin).


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What I Believe.

  In this cynical world, it is easy to expound on the things that bother us, what we're against, what we'll fight (and I am guilty of this).  However, here is my statement of what I believe:

I believe that Jesus Christ is my redeemer and died a cruel and horrific death as salvation for my sins.

I believe that all lives matter; therefore, abortion as a form of birth control is inhuman and wrong.

I believe that the United States, even with all our warts, is an anchor for the world and has kept humankind from self-destruction.

I believe in the wisdom of our Constitution and its intent to limit government, not individuals.

I believe in science, the rigor of the scientific method, and open scrutiny of scientific results.

I believe in open dialogue on any subject free from any form of censorship.

I believe that education (free from political bias) and skilled trades are the great equalizers of socioeconomic disparities.

I believe in the power of individuals; therefore, I believe in equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.

I believe that our planet is precious and should be protected from harm but based on reasonable (non-political) and evidence-based solutions.

I believe that humans are explorers by nature and we should always endeavor to reach for the stars (both in space and here on Earth).



Friday, July 10, 2020

Stop the Recurring Negative Tape in Your Head

There is a process in our brains called neuroplasticity whereby the brain reorganizes itself based on learning, experiencing new things, and even brain injuries. Now the bad part – neuroplasticity is in action with our thoughts. If you are obsessed with COVID-19, politics, etc., your brain is rewiring to think this way and you become a running, recurring tape of negativity that will damage you, physically and mentally. And neuroplasticity happens fast. Research has shown that the brain can start to reorganize neurologically in hours!

Put a stop to this rewiring of your brain toward negativity. One way to do this is to completely eliminate reading and writing negative posts on social media. Do not respond to negative narratives whether they are something aligned with your views or not. Even if you are responding to something that you're allied with, if it is negative the result to your brain is the same - you keep rewiring the negative tape that eventually sets up a harmful pattern of conceptions that have very real mental and physical consequences.

Turn off the news! I realize that in this 24/7 world of digital information streaming to all of your devices it's almost impossible to not see the bad things that are going on. But you can filter info out on these platforms. I just went through my Google account preferences and eliminated all news sources. Most of the news now is not news anyway, it's not journalism - it's a narrative slanted toward a particular orientation. Worse, it's usually a negative spin on whatever storyline is being presented - and that just keeps that negative tape rolling and reinforcing your brain's unhealthy rewiring.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Hiring the Right Person (the system is broken)

When I was a Vice-President with JPMorgan Chase I had a need for a junior project manager on my team.  I put in the requisition and business case to HR and they went to work.  I started receiving resumes that had been vetted through their application management system and I was receiving junk as though the wrong job had been posted.  The recruiter was a friend of mine and I called him and asked him to send me ALL the resumes received.  He told me that there were over 80 and I told him "that's OK, I want to look at them all." 

As I went through the discarded resumes (the applicants had no doubt already received the obligatory "you suck" letter), I realized it was the application management system that sucked.  My eventual hire came from the discarded resumes and he went on to, not only be my "go-to" project manager, he eventually became a Vice-President with JPMC before moving on to bigger and better things. 

Most hiring managers abdicate their responsibility to HR and their broken application management systems.  My advice - don't.  For professional positions, a hiring manager should go through every resume received and not rely on HR to vet the applicants.  It's another subject, but when I wrote curriculum for the University of British Columbia, I taught that 50% of a manager's job is the development of their staff and that includes the hiring process.  I do not listen to the malarkey of "I don't have the time", BS, it's your job (notice that my moniker is "no BS", you will get that a lot in my articles and lectures). 


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Rarity of Greatness



"And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man." - Gene Hackman at the end of the movie The Replacements.
I recently watched a replay of the 2013 ESPN E:60 program where they profiled pitchers that have thrown a perfect game in baseball. This feat is a rarity, only 23 official perfect games have been thrown in major league baseball in the last 151 years (218,400 games as of mid-2019). This got me thinking about winning championships. Though I don't have the data to back this up, winning a championship is also rare. Considering the number of athletes competing in EVERY sport throughout time, winning a championship has to be rare. The Tom Bradys, Michael Jordans, and Dale Earnhardts of the world are a rarity, the vast majority of people who have participated in sports have never won a championship.

In the many years of multiple sports that I participated in, I only have one championship to my name, the 1974 Copper Bowl (Tucson) in youth football where we beat Montebello, CA 40-14. We were undefeated (9-0-2) and a motley crew of misfits with a coach who, in only three years of coaching, won 3 straight championships; he knew what he was doing, he knew how to win a championship. The team I quarterbacked was his only undefeated team (it was also his last).
The point to all this is that nobody can ever take that championship away from me; I will forever be a champion and to paraphrase Gene Hackman, that will always stay with me. I have achieved something rare and it does mean something all these years later. The feeling never goes away and it's a good anchor for anything in life - I know how to win. This applies to any endeavor that I take on. I have been on top many times in my life and that lone championship so long ago taught me how to get there and continues to do so.
Shared with Your friends of friends
Friends of friends

Friday, May 8, 2020

Using My Credential

I have been the focal point of some criticism about my use of "Ph.D." after my name on social media.  Most comments are by people who vehemently disagree with my opinion on various subjects, namely the current COVID-19 overreaction and corruption.  I am not giving these walking comic books any of my time, I am just clarifying why I use my Ph.D. credential.

Earning a Ph.D. is no easy feat.  It took years of hard work, dedication, and focus to go through the program which included doctoral-level classes in psychology and statistics (a Ph.D. is a research degree); classes in which the doctoral learner begins to understand the discipline of academic writing.  There was also a residency required.  I was in the program for over seven years and the dissertation itself took four and a half years.  During the dissertation itself, I went through two divorces, the birth of a child, and a major heart attack.  My dissertation was a meta-analysis, which is considered an advanced research methodology, that required me to defend it to the College of Doctoral Studies before I ever started my primary work.  GCU recently hit the milestone of conferring 1,000 doctoral degrees - of those, my dissertation was the only one using a meta-analytical methodology (GCU is 71 years old and started offering graduate programs in the late 1980s when it transitioned from Grand Canyon College to Grand Canyon University). 

People use credentials all the time, both academic and professional, to convey their standing.  Earned credentials vary in value depending on the field and profession, but they are valuable to the person who holds them.  Some use an alphabet soup of credentials while others use their most advanced degree and everything in between.  I choose to use my Ph.D. credential because it defines my aspirations and endeavors.  It also sets me apart because it is a terminal research degree held by only 2% of the population in the U.S.  I only use the salutation "Dr." in the academic world, which is standard practice; students, other faculty members, and administrators call me Dr. Gartrell.  I definitely don't correct people when they call me Mr. Gartrell, that would be pompous and rude, and frankly, it isn't me. 

So, I use my Ph.D. credential and I do not apologize for doing so, it was well earned and I am proud of my accomplishment.  For those who criticize me for using my credential, well...I would put up my life accomplishments against yours any day, any time, but life is too short and time is too precious to waste on your insecurities.  If anyone is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in any field I would be happy to discuss it with you.  If you are considering it, be prepared for the most intense work of your life and to go through many ups and downs.  In the U.S., Ph.D. programs have about a 50% drop-out rate because it is HARD, very hard.  That said, all it takes is the determination to finish and you'll get there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Science, Statistics. Misinterpretation, and Missing Data

From a medical and immunological standpoint, we know a great deal about the latest strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  We know how it works, how it puts the body's immune system into high gear, how it kills, and how it's primarily transmitted, etc.

What we don't know, or refuse to know, is the true data behind the outbreak.  We know in science that statistics, when misapplied, can shield the true nature of the data and worse, they can lie.  Statistics can be misinterpreted leading to false conclusions and actions taken that are based on bad data.  Missing data will, to varying degrees, skew statistics and the inferences made from those statistics.  In hypothesis testing, there are two errors - Type I and Type II.  Type I is a false positive, seeing an effect in the data that is not actually present.  Type II is more insidious and generally carries a greater consequence - it's when there's an effect present and you missed it  Let's say that you're being tested for antibodies that indicate cancer may be present.  If you get a false positive (Type I error), it may scare you and cause an emotional reaction, but you don't have cancer and subsequent tests will reveal that.  However, if your test comes back negative, but you actually have cancer (Type II error), the consequences are potentially very bad.  When hypothesizing and estimating the impact of the coronavirus, we have no clue if we are committing either type of error or are not committing errors because we are not scientifically testing the data; there is just not a reliable data source yet from which to draw samples.

We are seeing lots of statistics from many different sources on the coronavirus outbreak, some are confirmatory with other data and some are contradictory to other data.  So which statistics are correct?  The long and short of it is that we don't know.  There is no single source of the truth.  The numerators and denominators for basic rates and ratios are inconsistent at best and completely wrong at worst...and everything in between.  We do not know the actual transmission rates, we do not know the rate of natural immunity in the population, we don't even know how many true cases that we have in the population because not everybody is being tested.  We just started to reveal data on recovery rates, so our understanding of the true impact of this virus in the population is not yet known.

What does the data tell us that we can trust?  Not much; however, there is mounting evidence (though still anecdotal) that the transmission rates are not as bad as we thought. The story of the Grand Princess cruise ship is a case study in bad data, but the data that we do have indicates that even in a closed environment like a cruise ship the rates of infection are low.  There were over 3,400 people on that ship.  It was isolated for a time at sea and then the passengers were quarantined in close quarters at Travis Air Force Base.  Of those passengers, there are 103 712 (updated 5 Apr 20) confirmed cases and two confirmed deaths; however, half of those who tested positive did not present symptoms.  Albeit, only 1,103 of the passengers and crew were tested (again, giving us missing data), but the transmission rate does not appear to equate to what we are hearing from various sources.  The death rate doesn't seem to be much higher than a serious influenza outbreak and neither do most estimates of the death rate. Some estimates are based on untested models, so here again, we have issues with the data. 

In the end, keep up the social distancing, keep up with the recommended hygiene practices, and don't panic; there is nothing in the data to suggest that this is the end of the world.  Our behaviors and reactions will determine how long this will last and when we can expect normalcy.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus and the Future

As the world is practicing social distancing, mandatory quarantines, and more to combat the spread of the coronavirus, I find myself reflecting on what the future will be like.  My first thought is that life for Americans will permanently change just as it did after 9/11.  The social fabric will undergo a transformation, but what that will look like I don't know.  We can go in a positive direction where we become more neighborly, more helpful to others who are at risk, and more prepared as individuals and as a country for disruptions of many stripes.  Or we can become more cynical, less trustful, and more controlling over personal freedoms. 

South Korea has provided a glimpse of what a positive transformation could look like (https://www.aier.org/article/south-korea-preseved-open-infection-rates-are-falling/?fbclid=IwAR2rwNeVMurwOyxBlgEF1Zuw9t-j22f7NSy8v9TbgdmKjz8DsIsVfT1Lwto) by maintaining an open society that is prepared and optimistic. Is this a model for the United States?  It certainly could be; however, like all societies across the globe, there are nuances and circumstances that make cookie-cutter solutions difficult to implement. 

On a personal note, though healthy (especially for a man about to turn 59 years of age), I am in a high-risk category because of my heart attack that destroyed the bottom of my left ventricle.  I have "heart disease" for the rest of my life, I am on blood thinners, and I have moderately reduced kidney function (a result of the heart attack).  All three issues put me at a higher risk of death if I contract the virus. I am also currently living in a hotel that no longer serves food and finding an apartment is more difficult because leasing offices are closing down.  I am working remotely, as are millions of Americans, so I am practicing social distancing.  Regardless of my personal circumstances, my aim and focus are on the future - building a better world centered on love and using my talents, skills, experience, and education to help others on many fronts and in all aspects of life - personal, professional, and spiritual.  Having an aim narrows one's life to the important things and helps in the avoidance of the trivial. 

God Bless, good luck, and keep in mind that we will get to the other side of this crisis.  Human beings have a HUGE capacity for resilience and perseverance.       

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Meaning of Outlaw Ph.D.

I have had some looks of concern when I mention my brand - Outlaw Ph.D.; however, most have thought it to be a pretty cool moniker.  I would like to take a moment to explain what it actually means.  At the age of 58 (almost 59), I am too old to leverage my Ph.D. for a tenure track faculty position at a college or university, so I am, through my brand, creating my own tenure, thus "Outlaw."  It's that simple, no big backstory.  That said, we plan to do some cutting edge, but tasteful photo shoots for the brand.

What will Outlaw Ph.D. do?  First and foremost a media company to get my words, teachings, and philosophy out to the world.  But, more than that, to contribute to science and education using many different platforms to advance knowledge in a variety of fields. 

And yes, I use the traditional "Ph.D." with periods.  Either way is correct, but I like the old school version better. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Reboot of God Knows Physics Podcast

Back in 2009, I made an impetuous decision to end my podcast, God Knows Physics.  At the time, it had over 17,000 views and who knows where it would be now if I had continued the broadcasts.  The podcast was essentially an extension of my book, Life is Simple.  The book is trifurcated into three sections - personal, business, and spiritual. The primary point of God Knows Physics is that science and God are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they are complementary, thus the moniker, God Knows Physics.

The broadcasts will be eclectic, covering a broad and diverse spectrum of subjects.  I will also kick-off at least three more separate podcasts - one with my wife focusing on relationships, a sports podcast (because sports are a passion of mine), and a podcast dedicated to statistics reform, namely ending the misguided practice of Null Hypothesis Significance Testing (NHST) and providing more applicable alternatives.