Life it’s what happens while you’re waiting for it

living in the city

Do you like Bucharest? A spanish guy asked me a few years ago, while I was kayaking on the Danube. No, without hesitation in my voice. Strange, he replied, this is the 39 time I ask someone living there this question, and I always get the same answer.  Another friend, moved in western europe, asked me a long long time ago if I am happy in  Bucharest, I said no, so she asked why not move?

During my childhood I had a double life. kindergarten and school in a small city, holidays at the grandparents in the countryside. Each time I was brought back from the country side I started crying.

So now as an adult I tried to reconstruct some of the countryside happiness, a place with an orchard, flowers, dirt, grass, birds, stones, snails, worms, clouds and night stars. It is so refreshing. Still, at the countryside, I got surprised and scared about missing Bucharest.

Is it the comfort I got used to that I was missing? In time, as the countryside comfort grew, I got it that it was not that. It was something else. The people mostly, but not only that. If i compare Bucharest with a  bee hive or an ant nest, I was missing the wonderful structures the collective has build for it’s own delight.  So a little late in my life I got it, how blessed I am to live in a space where people have put so much work in building public shared spaces for everybody to enjoy, that are impractical to have, if they do not have a high enough number of users.

The olympic swimming pool, on top of my list. The running track on the  athletics stadium. The sports coaches and their followers. The quiet streets with beautiful old buildings, that I  enjoy on a late  walk or bike trip. The good restaurants. The kebab. The market with fruits and vegetables from all over the world. The yoga classes. The facebook events. The dancing clubs. The coffee shops. The 3D cinemas. The pizza. The theaters and concert halls. The sushi. The coworking hubs. The bakeries. The relieve that this list is every day changing, that events and places bloom even in the coldest of winters. So yes, now I really like big cities. And I wish Bucharest was a better city to live into, as it has his construction flaws. And hope that  people living here will work and  fight for making this place better, as it has his big big problems, compared to other european capital cities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Reading Tips

Reading more than one book a day? Of course it’s possible, with:

- Blinkist – an app containing summarized versions of thousands of books

- improving reading technique, as explained in 10 Days to Faster Reading, by Abby Marks-Beale

-  Photoreading,  by Paul R. Scheele

Sounds too good to be true, but I found that these techniques work really well. Most of the times avid readers already use the same strategies, without being conscious about it.

Blinkist, I warn you, is highly addictive. I can finally read  summaries of  books I am curious about, and would never have time in my lifetime to fully read. I also use the summary to choose the books that are worthy of the  time to fully read. And cherry on the top, I could read on Blinkist a summary of “10 Days to Faster Reading” ;)

About “10 Days to Faster Reading” I learned from the Personal Mba list (which is also on Blinkist). It did not make a huge difference for me, as I already reading quite fast. But even a 10% increase in speed, which I noticed already, for a book that takes me 5 hours, is 30 minutes of time gain. For a slow reader, using this book, the reading speed could double.

Photoreading is a different story. This technique made in my case a huge difference. Is perfect for reading tourist guides before holidays, for documentation, and for getting an idea about a book that I am curious about, but do not have the time to actually read. I also noticed that photoreading a book, before reading it normally, enhances my level of comprehension and the retention of ideas. Now I “preview” each book I read (I read the table of contents, the subtitles, the first and last paragraph of each chapter). Then I “photoread” the book (it’s all explained  in the photoreading book). Then I actually read it, if I still find it’s worth it.

Now I always have a clear purpose in my mind, when I read a book, no matter the technique. And I have no remorse to decide not to read a book, or parts of it, if they do not help me.

The question is: can I improve this even better? What other strategies do you use?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run for you life

 

At a comfortable pace, and not too far: James O’Keefe at TED

 

One Ted I reviewed these days.

Two months ago I changed my training, using heart rate intervals, thanks to a Mio heart rate watch (no chest strap required!). I noticed big changes:

-  I started again losing weight, even though my cycling and running are now at a lower intensity

-   no pain or  injury after exercising (like stretched muscles, tight calves, etc.)

-  I don’t feel tired after exercising anymore, just fresh and ready for something new

-  In time I saw big progress: in the beginning I had to revert  from running to walking for 5-6 times during the workout, to keep my heart rate interval.  After patiently exercising for 5-6 times,  I am now able to  run  all through the exercise, keeping the same heart rate interval.

And a small review of Mio Alpha 2. I like the heart rate watch very much, except that sometimes I carry also a sports watch, as Mio’s watch functions are minimal. From this point of view, the cheaper Mio Fuse Activity Monitor is more onest. Mio hardware is great, but the MioGo software has one major flaw: no share capability.  I can not post my heart rate recordings on facebook, or email them to a coach or a friend. I really hope they fix this soon.

 

 

 

 

Plantar Fasciitis Exercises

They cured my plantar fasciitis two years ago, no relapse since (and I started to run again). I have them from a foot doctor that made a study on 50 patients, and cured most of the cases in 3-5 weeks.

How they work: by relaxing, increasing the length and elasticity of the calves and Achilles tendon, so that when we walk, the fascia is not forced to stretch. When the back side of the leg is tense, the fascia is stretched and gets microtears because it is “the weaker link”. The second “trick”: making the stretches immediately when waking up, before starting to walk, so that the fascia microtears circle breaks (the leg is so much tenser in the morning).

Exercise 1

Standing up, with hands on the wall. All weight on the healthy foot. Knee, pelvis, back kept straight. Heel always on the floor. While keeping the upper body straight, bend elbows, thereby the upper body slowly gets closer to the wall, until the lower leg is stretched.
In this position remain 15 seconds. Repeat for  10 times (it takes 3-5 minutes). This is the most important exercise.

Exercise 2
Near a table, with the hands on the table, the foot like in the picture. Keep knee hyperextended and get the upper body over the tabletop. Repeat 15 times.

Exercise 3
On a step, with the weight on the healthy/other foot. Heel over the step-edge slowly sink, until the lower leg is stretched. Keep this position for 15 seconds. Repeat for  10 times (it takes 3-5 minutes).

 

Sélection_192

The exercises should be repeated in the morning before walking and again 2-3-4 times in the day as needed, especially after sitting for a long time.

For 3-4 weeks, it helps wearing shoes with a little bit of a heel (2-5 cm), to compensate for too short calves/Achilles.

The original description of the exercises is here, but in German. A detailed description , also in German, here.

 

Manifest #colectiv

Tristete si furie, impletite ca intr-o hora, traite la unison de atatea suflete. Tristete ca prietenii  nostri sau prietenii prietenilor nostri, oameni tineri si talentati, cu toata viata inainte,  nu mai sunt intre noi sau au vietile schimbate pentru totdeauna.

Cateva saptamani nu am putut functiona. Am simtit nevoia sa ma vad cu toti oamenii care imi sunt dragi, sa stam la o poveste impreuna, sa bem un pahar de vin, sa impartasim caldura umana. Cu totii am simtit ca oricine dintre noi putea sa fie in #colectiv, un zar divin a facut alegerea.

A fost o mare maturizare, o constiientizare la nivel de popor a razboiului dintre noi si ei. Cu sange si multe victime. Zilnice. Cand parintii merg la urgenta la spital, si nu pot fi tratati pt ca aparatul cel scump cumparat de la cine trebuie nu functioneaza. Cand oameni isi pierd viata pt ca niste retardati merg cu 120 km la ora noaptea prin oras. Sau cand taxiurile nu stau pe loc la culoarea rosie a semaforului.  Cand copii  primesc medicamente la care sunt alergici.  Cand ne ingramadim pe sosele supraaglomerate pentru ca autostrazile nu sunt gata. Cand ne sufocam de seceta si poluare deoarece padurile au fost taiate la ras fara mila. Lista e fara sfarsit. Si acum nimeni nu e tras la raspundere.

Acum ne-am dat seama ca nu mai putem fi martori pasivi. Pentru ca asta inseamna moartea noastra lenta. Si inseamna o condamnare la moarte pentru parintii, fratii, copii, prietenii nostri. Ruperea dintre noi si sistem a fost constientizata ca un razboi in toata regula. Si #colectiv a fost o mare batalie.

Scuzele noastre zilnice le stim atat de bine: nu vreau sa aud de politica, e o mizerie, nu vreau sa imi stric pretioasele lucruri frumoase din viata mea cu asta. Sau “nu putem schimba nimic, sistemul e prea puternic”.  Insa acum suntem adulti si stim ca asa nu se mai poate. Sistemul trebuie invins. Este singurul mod prin care putem da sens tragediei din #colectiv. Un sens pe care il datoram oamenilor care si-au pierdut viata.

Este si momentul sa preluam toate emotiile, sa nu ne lasam coplesiti de ele, ci si sa le folosim ca si energie pentru partea noastra lucida si rationala. E momentul sa ne folosim mintea.

Pt ca sistemul trebuie invins prin ORICE mijloace, atata timp cat sunt legale. Aceasta include si a inventa cai de aducere in legalitate, asa cum Partidul Pirat a obtinut dreptul de inregistrare a unui partid politic cu doar 3 membrii.

Insa vorba unui prieten informatician, daca vrei sa spargi o pagina web, nu tre neaparat sa spargi serverul de web. Orice alta vulnerabilitate este la fel de buna, atata timp cat obiectivul final este atins. Inclusiv una care nu a mai fost folosita niciodata pana acum. Astea sunt si cele mai frumoase, ca ii invingi si nici nu inteleg ce i-a invins.

Suntem tineri, creativi, motivati, si intelegem lumea cea noua, intelegem tehnologia. Suntem multi. Eu in locul lor acum as tremura de frica. Nici macar la final nu vor intelege. Si nici nu ne va pasa ce gandesc ei, vom fi multumiti sa redevenim stapanii lumii noastre.

Fiecare dintre noi poate duce lupta altfel, si fiecare isi poate aduce propria contributie. Aici sta si puterea noastra. Nu trebuie toti sa ne facem partid politic sau sa fim candidati. Putem sa facem voluntariat pentru un partid politic nou si integru. Putem sa fim observatori in sectiile de vot, sa fim siguri ca alegerile sunt corecte.

Dar putem sa luptam cu alte arme, nu neaparat politice. Putem sa cantam, sa cream comedie, sa fotografiem, sa sculptam, sa scriem, sa distribuim idei, sa conectam oameni. Putem sa invatam. Putem sa ii lasam fara obiectul muncii, fara ciolan (tehnologia ne va fi de ajutor). Putem sa nu mai fim pasivi, sa deschidem procese, sa ne informam. Putem sa avem initiative. Putem sa protestam in strada cu consecventa, pentru orice nu ne convine. Putem sa facem documentare. Putem sa cultivam competenta si integritatea.  Putem sa ne organizam.  Putem sa ne schimbam.  Putem sa ne incurajam. Si putem sa ne inventam propriile noastre arme.

La lupta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep and biorhythm tricks

One winter I stayed so much in the house, that I could not go to sleep any more, my biorhythm was completely off. My luck,  I had the time to make my own research and experiments. In case you want to try (with no warranties), here are my “workarounds” for a good night sleep:

Step 1

Making sure the body knows when the day starts

According to recent studies we need to expose in the morning for 15 minutes to light of 1500 lux. The trick: there are 1500 lux outside, even if cloudy, but not so often in the house. My shortcut: taking breakfast on the balcony, or going for a short walk early in the morning. A lux meter app on the smart phone is useful to check the light intensity.

Some cold face on the face and hands may help to amplify the morning cortisol spike.

Scheduling cardio exercise in the morning also is a good sign we send to our body the day has started ;)

Never tried, but Philips blue light lamp for the mornings seems an excellent idea.

Also it seems that exposure to outdoor light during the day improves the production of  melatonin in the night.

Step 2

Making sure the body knows when the day ends

After a normal day ends it helps not to expose yourself to blue light, which is specific for daytime. To do so:

- use warm light bulbs in the house (approx 2700 Kelvin). I prefer halogens, the color spectrum has higher quality than the economical light bulbs.

- i installed f.lux on my laptop, it makes my screen orange after sunset. I installed a similar app on my smart phone and tablet.

- I do not use a computer screen to watch movies, I project them on a wall, like in cinema.  TV screens have too much blue light, it does not help watching TV 1-2 hours before going to bed.

- special trick: late in the night I close the light on the ceiling and I start a light that stays on the floor (to mimic sunset). We are also influenced by the position of the light source.

- I changed to red/orange colors the background  on all devices that I use after sunset (anything but blue is better)

- no cardio exercises in the evening. If this is not possible, it helps at least lowering the exercise intensity and scheduling it as many hours before sleep time as possible.

- I prefer lower light intensity in the house 1 hour before going to bed.

- in the bedroom there is complete darkness

- I use a kindle paperwhite to read before falling asleep. E-ink technology makes pages visible with very little light, and it does not disturb my sleep quality. It is so much better than using a tablet, and even better than reading a “real” book with a light bulb on

- I try not to use lights if I wake up during the night. Low intensity red lights with movement sensors may help avoiding to turn on the lights. These night lights are easy to find in the stores.

Step 3

Making sure the body knows that you want a high quality 8h sleep

A new study suggests we are hardwired to sleep in the coldes 8h of the  24 day hours. Having a slightly colder bedroom seems to help (19 to max 21 degrees Celsius)

Our body knows if it is spring/summer/autumn/winter  via Vitamin(Hormone) D3 levels. Our metabolism, like the metabolism of all living things on this earth, adapts to seasons, and our sleep patterns also. D3 is a very smart season indicator, used by animals, because naturally you can have it very elevated only during summer, and very low only during winter.  During summer the night is short, so  we sleep without waking up in the night. Nature is abundant in the summer, so the body knows it has lots of energy to use as needed.  In winter nights are long, the sleep is not continuous, we wake up from time to time. Animals conserve the  resources in winter, because they are scarce, and they have a lower metabolic rate. But as we stay all day indoor, working in our offices, our D3 levels indicate to our body that is winter. But we want to stay up at night until late, as it was eternal summer…   Optimizing D3 levels is a long story. There are lots of info at Vitamin D3 Council. There is a blood test called 25OH, to add to the yearly medical checkup. Optimal daily sun exposure is very important. If needed, D3 supplements can be used when the sun is not strong enough.

 

Step 4

Diminishing other potential biorhythm disruptors.

- as low caffeine as possible. Some people (like me) are more sensitive to caffeine, as it is processed  very slowly. Usually I am ok with green tea. I gave up caffeine addiction many times. Always is the same for me: for two weeks  there is hell, then I start feeling as good without coffee as I was before with it. Bonus, sometimes I manage to take a nap after lunch (but not when drinking coffee in the morning). To be able to lower caffeine, I found music gives me a great energy boost, also fresh air and exposure to cold water.

- not (too much) alcohol before going to bed (it lowers sleep quality)

- no eating heavy meals before going to bed

Step 5

Adding good daily routines

- drinking lots of water in the morning, right after getting up

- eating at the same hours each day (small meals if we are so not hungry)

- opening all the house  windows for at least 10 minutes early in the morning, and again before going to bed at night. Also during winter.

I could watch the quality of my sleep improving using my mobile phone. I installed a good sleep app and put my phone  under my pillow (in airplane mode ideally). I liked it more than using a wrist sleep monitoring device, because in the morning I could immediately see the sleep report on the phone screen. No need to synchronize a second device with a phone app. For iphone/ipad I liked a lot an app called “Sleep Cycle”. My prefered smart phone app a year ago was   “Sleep as Android”.

 

Of course, we would not need these tricks if we lived the lives of our grandparents. The biorhythm is disturbed in a soft but definitive way by our technology (artificial light, screens of devices, staying all day indoor, not exposed to the elements). The good news:  solutions like the ones above are very easy to apply.

 

 

Move your DNA- best book I read about health

After my movement quality test, I looked more about minimalist shoes and foot health, so I stumbled upon Kathy Bowman’s book “Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear“, which I read in a blink of an eye. Then I looked about her blog and other books (that I have already read). My mind was blown away by her latest book, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. This I consider the best book about health that I have ever read. And one that turned up side down and made me reconsider everything I knew on the subject. To the point that I could not help bring the subject about in any conversation that I had. So not to bring that any more into the discussion, as it is so full of meaning that is impossible to resume, I thought best is just to write this post about the book, and if you are curious, please read it. Or listen to the audiobook, marvelously read by the author.

Gray Cook’s unit tests for body movement quality

 

Debugging and optimizing the movements involved in running and cycling is a constant need that I have, in the quest to enjoy and progress, pain free, with these  sports that I like. Browsing the internet for new perspectives, I found about, while looking at ideas from Tim Ferris and  Stuart McGill, about a inovative guy named Gray Cook. He was warmly recommended for injury prevention strategies. I looked a few videos on youtube, and decided to read his “Movement” book.

His other famous book, “Athletic Body in Balance“, seemed more advanced, I saved it in my “wishlist”.

The ideas in the book impressed me a lot. As a IT person, I was extremely suprised to see an algorithmical and test driven aproach to the general quality of human movement. The book explains  in extraordinary detail the importance of efficient body movement. And it describes so clearly the principles that one can apply when unit testing and then debugging and improving movement quality.

To have a view of the tests (that are very simple, but the philosophy behind them, explained in the book, has many levels and subtilities), I found some examples on youtube:

Functional Movement Screen:

Self Movement Screen:

Selective Functional Movement Assessment – SFMA:

In my case, I took the time to demonstrate my “unit test” to professional people that know my training history, and already started appling a “patch” at current version. It is not time yet to draw any conclusions, but the feeling that I have is that I choose to follow a very promising track to improve myself. The book explais this in depth, the test is just a test, what to do with the results depends on each person specific case and probably requires input and work with skilled profesionals from other “departments” (physical terapists, coaches, kinetoterapeuts, doctors, osteopaths etc.). So I am looking forward to my improved future version :)

Wizdom of crowds and tomorrow’s batteries

One book that fascinated me and changed my perspective about modern world is The Wisdom of Crowds, by James-Surowiecki

And today is the perfect moment to observe wisdom of crowds in action. As green energy usage has grown from an insignificant less than one percent amount, to a significant slice of the yearly average and more than 50% of power production for the peaks (very sunny summer days or extreamly windy days). But there is a but. The old power grid requires that the power usage equals power generation. This worked ok during the old days, when the power generation was constant, and has become a nightmare when power generation  massively fluctuates .

An extreme example: the solar eclipse at noon, on 20 March, if it will be a sunny day,  will make power management a nightmare for Germany, more  explanations here.

The problem is that we currently do not have a cheap battery technology to allow efficient and  with no significant environment damage to stock the peak green energy  output until the moment it is needed. And this problem is also a great business opportunity, someone could have huge gains from buying energy cheap and selling it at a high price when the demand is great. Not to mention that if the battery is highly reusable, the gain is multiplied by the number of reloads….

Of course we also need better battery technology for our mobile devices (smartphones and laptops), and mostly for electric cars. But this is a secondary issue, we have the current batteries, that do their job, and electric cars can wait, while we use electic common transport in the city, electric trains for efficient long distance travel and the extraordinary already available bicycle technology. The question is how to store for a few days the huge power output of a solar plant or wind farm. Until now the problem could be ignored, while these technologies were not significantly used, but this is not the case anymore, not in Germany, and not in the United States either.

So here it comes the wisdom of crowds. I did a quick search and found quite a few creative ideas for battery technology of tomorrow. Which technology(es) will win? Time will tell. The wisdom of inventors will team with the wisdom of users and the best will win.

Huge liquid metal batteries?

Compressed gas?

Hydraulic rock lifting?

Computer designed chemicals?

Molten salt?

Pumped water storage in dams?

 

My Tuxedo laptop

It’s been more than a year since I have my new laptop, and I feel I  can give it  a onest review now.

The equation was simple: I needed a very light and a very fast 15” laptop. That meant 512 G ssd hdd (no more spinning disks), an IPS Full HD Display, 4th generation Intel processor and arround 2Kg. Of course, with 3 years warranty.

It exists, but for most producers (Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Apple etc.) it is the most expensive (or at least it was a year ago). At Apple I needed  to sell a kidney for the 3 year warranty.

Then on some Ubuntu forums I learned about System76 laptops (rebrended Clevo laptops manufactured in China – as the other  expensive laptops on the market) I wrote them an email, they do not ship to Romania, and  it would be complicated to quickly fix any warranty issue. But from some online forums I found the equivalent in Europe, the Tuxedo laptops:

http://www.tuxedocomputers.com/

They have an online configurator (in german, but google translates well), more versatile than Dell in their good years, and the high-end features (512 SSD, IPS Display) do not double or triple the laptop value.  Warranty, even 4 years. Time to deliver in Romania: 5 working days. They have a good contract with Deutsche Post so the deliveries are fast most times free.

The only downside, the 15” case has a numpad (which for me is totally useless), but it’s so hard this days to find a simple and efficient keyboard. If I were a writer, I would not have bought it. The numpad moves all the “good” keys to the left, so the hands and touchpad do not stay aligned with the center of the screen, which is quite annoying.

But I gave it a try, made the order, and one week later I received my laptop. Than, I noticed the screen was not IPS, so I send it back and received it changed. It was very hard to adjust to the keyboard, so hard that eventually I asked for a replacement, and I received it free of charge (I was able to change the keyboard myself, it was very easy).

What can I say, after using it for more than an year:

- it is incredibly fast (only SSD,  16G Ram)

- it is so quiet.

- the sound is not that great, but I have a good pair of profi Behringer external speakers that compensate.

- no problems installing Linux

- the IPS display is great. the contrast is fabulous.

- I do not miss at all the Nvidia graphics. (I was not playing any games anyway)

- It is so great not to have a spinning disk. Especially when carrying the laptop arround a lot (in the car, on the bicycle, etc. ) And so quiet. And so fast.

- I missed not having a CD/DVD Reader only once. It’s worth having a lighter laptop, I think. I can always buy an external CD Reader. And they have such a short lifespan.

If I would buy it again, I would choose the 2 year warranty and so that I can get the newer model faster. Replacing the laptop is a lot cheaper than for the old Dells. The new models always have better display, more hard space and more memory. I was just looking at the up-to-date Tuxedo configs, you can by a 1000G SSD, and the 500G SSD has a very decent price these days.