Category Archives: Research

I can make anything complicated.

I’m happy to report moderate to great success on both of my June resolutions.

First, the nightly touches.  I thought it would be a good idea to spend 15 minutes every night picking up the house and getting ready for a clean start (literally and figuratively) in the morning.  I was right.  The morning AFTER evenings I have done this are much more smooth and enjoyable.  In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that those entire days are more productive and happier as well.  I’m not sure I’ll ever reach 100% on this resolution – nor am I certain I want to.  Sometimes being open to spontaneity means that I will be busy until 11:00 PM and then want, immediately, to go to bed.  My life is not so complicated (no partner, no children, no commute) that I can’t manage when my house is a bit untidy or I haven’t planned my lunch for the next day. Overall, though, I like the idea and will try to remember how much mental energy is saved the next day by 15 minutes the night before.

So, lets move on from this boring resolution and get to what’s really interesting:
my ability to make an information management project out of ANYTHING.

Yes, it’s true.  I can take a resolution about getting outside into the woods and communing with nature into a database opportunity.

You heard me.

Here’s how it happened.

I went on a hike at Bald Eagle State Park.  Yay!

It was a great hike, but it was shorter than I had hoped for two reasons.  One, there was a bald eagle nest somewhere on the trail so the park had closed it to hikers.  Nothing I could do about that.  But two, I left for this hike later than expected because it took me an hour to read about hikes in the area and pick one.  Had more time been available to me, I would have found another trail to supplement my initial hike with.  Instead, I felt pressed for time and added only a short (but lovely, I admit) walk on a butterfly trail in the main area of the park.

This isn’t all that uncommon.  I set aside a day for hiking but I forget that it takes me a while to determine where to go.  I have about 100 hiking in PA books (ok, a slight exaggeration, but I have a lot).  Some are better than others for identifying where the hikes really are or how to get there.  So in addition to picking a hiking distance (usually between 5-10 miles), difficulty (usually moderate), and region (north, east, west), I have to spend time with PA maps, a Gazetteer, and sometimes notes from previous hikes. So I wake up on Saturday morning, gather my supplies, and then spend an hour researching.

I have a great idea!

What if I picked about 20-25 hikes I might do this summer and did all the research ahead of time?

Great, I can read books and put post-it notes on the pages of hikes I like!

But wait! What if instead of putting post-it-notes in books, I created an excel spreadsheet with hike information so I can easily find the hike I want?

That would be AWESOME!

But wait!  What if I defined the regions of PA once and for all (each book uses a different way to divide the state), and made a large PA map with regions and flags for each hike I could hang on my wall?

But wait!  There’s a GOOGLE Maps API that would allow me to make a map online with links and…

But wait! if I’m going to do all this work, shouldn’t my friends benefit from it?

I could make a web page for people based in Lewisburg, and link to all the other cool sites about things to do outside…not just hiking, but camping, and canoeing, and cool day-trips and….

Maybe an intervention is in order.


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Filed under Fitness, Hiking, Relaxing, Research

Now what do I do?

In truth, I should have made my April resolution to finish my thesis.  It’s the only thing I managed to think about this month, and it was, for the most part, all I did (outside of working and sleeping).  It was the resolution that mattered to me most, but it wasn’t a monthly resolution (technically, I started this in April of LAST YEAR).  Plus, I was sick of thinking about, talking about, and (most of all) working on my thesis, so I rejected that resolution completely.  Besides, NOT keeping this resolution wasn’t an option, right?

My misguided attempt to focus on my health was quickly thwarted by spring allergies, a sinus infection, lack of sleep, and poor food choices.  Oh, and lack of exercise.  Ha!

The good news is, it’s done and I haven’t died of malnutrition in the process.

(Done, by the way, means it is submitted, I have defended it, and I passed.  Big time Hooray.)

I could spend my new free time pondering why, when we need it the most, humans are often unable to maintain healthy behaviors and make good choices.   I could, but I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to sit on my porch, have a drink, look at the river, and RELAX.

I will not use this last week of April to research and explore possible resolutions for May.

I will not use this last week of April to ponder the new cooking class I want to start for food stamp recipients.

I will not use this last week of April to begin my home inventory and catch up on minor repairs.

I will sit on my porch, have a drink, look at the river, and RELAX.

Now THAT is taking care of myself.

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Filed under Health, Research, Resolutions, Thesis

Ask a Mormon

Since I’m planning to spend the month of February in a state of abstinence from alcohol, I thought I’d do some research into groups, religions, and cultures that also abstain from alcohol use. Naturally, I started with the Mormons.

Did you know there is a website called “Ask a Mormon?

Here you can ask questions like “Can you define ‘hot drinks?”, “Can a Mormon date an Atheist?”, and of course “Why don’t Mormons drink alcohol?” Unfortunately, despite its awesome name, it appears that this site is very unofficial and that the answers provided are only opinions submitted by members of the church. There’s very little useful information about my question on this site, sadly, so I went next to http://www.Mormon.Org.

Official responses to the question seem to go along a continuum from one end (“We try not to put things into our bodies that could harm them.”) to the other (“God told us not to drink so we don’t.”).  Somewhere in between is the explanation I have heard from Mormons I know, that they believe the body is a temple and that it should be treated with the same respect that such a place deserves.

Whether it’s a Mormon thing or not, I think that taking care of our bodies is a GREAT idea. While I certainly understand that alcohol can be very, very bad for some, I also understand that moderate consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, can be good for one’s health.

In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan attempts to distill all of the current scientific and nutritional wisdom on healthy diets into 64 simple, easy-to-remember rules. (My personal favorite is that you shouldn’t eat cereal that changes the color of the milk). Rule #43 is, in fact, to have a glass of wine with dinner. The fine scientists at the Mayo Clinic do a great job of summing up the research on this topic and attempting to separate fact from myth. Their advice in the end is to drink red wine in moderation or not at all.

“Red wine’s potential heart-health benefits look promising. Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, seem to have a lower risk of heart disease. However, more research is needed before we know whether red wine is better for your heart than are other forms of alcohol, such as beer or spirits.”

So here’s what I want to know. Where do I sign up to be a participant in THAT study?


Filed under Food, Research