Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Living Frugally, Staying Healthy

It's a been a rough summer. This is the first year of my life that I rode my bicycle everyday regardless of the weather. We had a period in June that was crazy hot, a heat wave even by Arizona standards, so hot that some flights in and out of the airport were grounded. It was this summer, the summer of 2017, that I rode my bicycle in 116 degree heat, on multiple days, the hottest temperature I've ever experienced.

The only thing that made it bearable, the only thing that made it possible for me to endure the three mile ride in 116 degree heat, was to completely submerge my bicycle attire in cold water, in addition to wearing a long sleeve sunshirt also soaked in cold water, plus sunglasses, sun visor under my helmet, wet bandana over my face, and drinking lots of water and gatorade. The wet clothing made all the difference, it was a lifesaver. Without it I don't think I would have made it.

Why do I do this? Why do I ride my bike even when the weather is so bad that it is dangerous?

A lot of it has to do with money, I choose to live frugally, for the sake of buying more time, which next to health, is the most precious commodity on earth. Riding a bicycle is a huge factor in my strategy of saving money. I've got it set up so that I can fully support myself working part-time, and what makes this possible more than any other factor is the fact that I don't drive a car and that I don't have health insurance.

Riding a bike saves me a lot of money, but it also helps that I love riding a bike. In fact, even if I came into a large sum of money, and didn't need to live frugally, I would still ride my bike, I would still live car-free. That's a fact. Maybe I'd hire a driver from time to time, but for the most part, I honestly don't like cars, and prefer riding the bike to riding in a car.

Another reason for riding my bike everyday of the year regardless of the weather, is that I hate taking the city bus. I absolutely hate it. Yes, I would rather endure riding my bicycle in 116 degree, rather than take the bus. It really is that unpleasant.

But honestly the only thing that makes it possible for me to live this way, to ride my bicycle all year round as my primary mode of transportation, is the fact that I am healthy enough to do so.

If I wasn't healthy enough to ride my bike, I would be forced to take the bus, and I would be forced to work more hours to pay for the added expenses of transportation and having health insurance and all the bills associated with the loss of health. In other words, a primary component of living simply and frugally as a strategy for optimizing quality of life, via increased free time, is staying healthy.

Being healthy is the essential ingredient, the primary factor that makes it possible to experience prosperity with less money and more time.

If you lose your health, all the time in the world suddenly isn't worth much at all. Having abundant time, but little money, is only worth something if you are healthy enough to appreciate what you have and to put the time to good use.

It is possible to experience prosperity by living simply and frugally with little money, but only if you are healthy. It's really the most important thing on earth. Without your health, nothing else matters.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blogging as a Life Changing Tool

Nice tidbit from Vagabond Journey, a blogger I've been reading for years, who started out as a rough draft amateur blogger with typos galore and hardly any readers, and has since become a professional international journalist:

"A blog is a testing ground for incomplete ideas. It is a place to shoot off random observations, opinions, and less-than-conclusive conclusions. This is done for a reason: putting such raw ideas and observations out there is a way to see how well they hold up, it’s a way of testing how far they can go.

Sometimes doing this is just going to make you look amateur, but sometimes it will lead you to somewhere you would never get to otherwise."

I agree. Thanks for the inspiration, Wade. You inspired a blog post!

For those so inclined a blog can be a personal creativity and brainstorming think tank laboratory, a tool for self-improvement, and creative insight. You write about what you're thinking, what you've done or are planning on doing, and seeing it on paper, or in this case, the screen, is like putting the ideas under a microscope, your thoughts are magnified for closer inspection, anything off base or unclear will be visible for all eyes to see, most importantly your own.

You see a glimpse of a thought photographed in words, and you can than proceed to evaluate its validity, how well it worked, how true it is, was it written from the heart and with a clear conscience, and also was it clearly communicated, is anything missing, or embellished, could the transmission of this idea be improved, and where do we go from here, can this idea be developed further, should we even bother, or are there more important avenues of thought to explore? Sometimes you reach a dead end, and you just have to let it go, change course, do something different, think something new.

All that can occur from the blog. It's a personal experience that by way of having an audience becomes a shared experience. The blogger transmits the information, the audience receives it. Reading this has a subtle influence on your state of mind, which in turn may stimulate changes in thinking. Whether agreeing or disagreeing, all parties reading become participants in the blogging as creativity brainstorming think tank laboratory.

Having an audience puts your ideas out there, makes you accountable, that what you say has consequences, that if you say something nasty or untrue, be prepared for a negative response. But if you thoroughly believe in what you said, in what you wrote, if what you wrote was written in the clarity of truth and a clear conscience, the resistance will only make you stronger. The truth has the strength to support its own weight, and isn't dependent on other people believing in it or accepting it to lift it up, it's self-supporting. But if there is any problem with what you said, if it's not true, if it's flawed, it shines forth for all to see under the illumination of the screen, and it is subject to either correction or rejection.

Either way it's a laboratory, an interactive diary, read by people from all walks of life. And that is what makes it exciting. Knowing that anyone could be reading, and knowing that you are having an influence on the lives of other people, bestows a certain power, and with this power comes responsibility. When you write in a blog you are accountable for what you write in a way that would never occur if you were writing in a private diary, and that's what makes it potentially more powerful.

This is true of all published writers, whether professional or amateur, but in the case of the blog, what sets it apart from professional peer reviewed writing, is that this medium is most suited to experimentation, it doesn't have to be perfect so there's more freedom to explore. I think of the blog as a rough draft. Every post is a rough draft. And that's why it is most befitting to refer to this medium as a creative brainstorming idea generating think tank. You don't have to worry about it getting perfect the first time around. Write what you want to say, if it's not right, write it again. If after repeated attempts you just can't seem to get it right, it's like you've reached a dead end, well maybe you just need to take a break, or maybe you need to go a different way, explore a different avenue of thought. Why not?

This is where the blog excels. Herein lies infinite possibility. Use the blog as a means to change your life. Don't like the life you're living, write a new life worth living into existence. Explore the possibilities in writing. On the other side of things, if you love your life, you're experiencing success and prosperity, write about it. Write about what works and doesn't work for you. Write about whatever you want, but just know that writing in a blog can be a useful tool for stimulating your life in a positive way. And that's what I aim to do.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

In Defense of Secrecy

Reading a fun book called Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The subject being among other things longevity and immortality, which if you know me based on my writings here, is right up my alley.

Anyway, I found this fun passage to quote, which seems in my mind to be a pretty good defense of secrecy, of why some things shouldn't be open source and freely available to any fool who lacks the wisdom and integrity to properly understand and apply what they learn in the way that it was intended. Doing so opens the doors of such wisdom being misused and abused in such a way that it no longer resembles wisdom.

From Jitterbug Perfume:

"Those who possess wisdom cannot just ladle it out to every wantwit and jackanapes who comes along and asks for it. A person must be prepared to receive wisdom, or else it will do him more harm than good. Moreover, a lout thrashing about in the clear waters of wisdom will dirty those waters for everyone else. So, a man seeking knowledge must be first tested to determine if he is worthy. From what I have gathered, rudeness on the part of the master is the first phase of the test.

"You mean, if you allow the master to be uncivil, to treat you any old way he likes, and to insult your dignity, than he may deem you fit to hear his views of things?

"Quite the contrary. You must defend your integrity, assuming you have integrity to defend. But you must defend it nobly, not by imitating his own low behavior. If you are gentle where he is rough, if your are polite where is uncouth, then he will recognize you as potentially worthy. If he does not, then he is not a master, after all, and you may feel free to kick his ass."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Health Update April 2017

Back to the land of the living. Well, getting there day by day at least. Just getting over a very bad respiratory infection. Had a very rough past three weeks, it was so bad at one point that I almost went to urgent care. But the worse appears to be over now. My life saver has been eucalyptus oil and various concoctions of herbal tea, the best so far being Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea. Have to stock up on that. I have a job that requires me to speak on the phone my entire shift, so it can be quite taxing on the throat.

There are two main factors that I think contributed to my illness:

One, it's been unusually windy here the past few weeks, and I ride my bike 50 miles a week, and I know I picked up something in that wind because that's when I first started feeling sick on my bike ride to work during a dust storm. I now always ride with a dust mask on windy days, which for now I've improvised using a wet bandana. I'm using a white bandana which I hope will make me look less like a bandito. It's been a life saver, and the temperatures being really hot already, we're talking upper nineties, the wet bandana helps cool me down some too.

Two, the other factor that I feel contributed to my illness is that I let my weight drop too low. You see I'm burning so many calories that if I skip a meal I lose weight really fast. For my height I feel best being around 120 pounds, but I dropped down to 105, and that is I believe when all my troubles started. I read that recently having too low of a body mass index makes a person more susceptible to respiratory diseases such as asthma and pneumonia. So I've been forcing myself to eat, I start the day with a banana and protein powder shake, make sure I always eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have snacks in between. I'm also no longer a vegetarian. I may go back that way again, but for now I feel that I need to eat meat, though mostly it's just chicken and fish, and the occasional burger, but overall I don't eat that much meat, maybe only three times a week. I want to be clear that I do not feel that eating meat is necessary for a person to be healthy, but lately I have been enjoying the taste of it, and enjoying the flavor of food is critical to making sure that I get enough to eat and do not skip meals.

But the important thing is that I can't ever let my weight fall below 110 pounds again, because I think it made me sickly. Oh yeah, and also because of my health scare, I've also started taking vitamin supplements again, mostly B-Complex and Vitamin C. I don't know if it's done any good, I've heard pros and cons for and against it, but I feel at this point it can't hurt.

I've also cut back on the beer drinking, just can't hold my liquor like I used to, I get a hangover from 3 beers, so pretty much two beers is my limit now. And yes I drink them everyday, which according to the Mayo clinic is still too much, they say I should drink no more than 7 drinks a week. Well, I may get there eventually, but I really love having my two beers after a long day. I don't consider that excessive and especially if I keep my weight up and keep taking my vitamins I think I should be okay.

As far as exercise, I'm back to doing pullups. I hadn't done them at all for years because I haven't had access to a pull up bar or a tree branch. Well I decided to go ahead and buy a door frame mounted pull up bar so I can do them whenever I feel like it. Best 20 bucks I ever spent. When I first started, I could barely do one. Now I'm up to six. And feeling significantly stronger as a result. It's a great workout, much better than lifting free weights, it's like a whole upper body workout, more balanced than lifting weights that only exercise one or two muscles at a time.

Haven't been doing any walking. Instead I ride my bike everywhere. The library, the grocery store, the bank, the post office, my job. I ride my bike about 50 miles a week. Would like to get back into running, would be happy running 3 miles regularly, but every time I start any kind of running routine it always seems to make my sinus problems worse, but we'll see what happens, as I keep getting healthier in other ways maybe I'll be able to handle the running.

As far as education. I'm back to taking a mathematics refresher course. It's amazing that a person can be a high school graduate and yet be only at a 5th grade math level. Well, it is what it is. I saw the problem and sought to do something about it and I did. I have since graduated the 5th grade and am now in 7th grade and moving at a rapid pace. Maybe in another year I'll be ready for college. Yeah, I've made it my goal to get through all the math lessons at Khan Academy. I do a few lessons every morning and it feels like I'm accomplishing something real. Probably the most practical real world benefit I obtained thus far from it is the ability to figure out percentages rapidly in my head.

Haven't been reading much at all. Just mostly reference material. For instance, I've had a lot of fun perusing the 2017 World Almanac, it's a great inspiration, great food for thought. As far as books I've read in their entirety I've only read one book this year, and it wasn't even that good, just so so, it was an anti-socialism book. And I'll leave it at that. That's way below my previous years average, where I used to read 50 books a year, mostly non-fiction, and some massive 1000 plus page classics too. Just haven't been in the mood. Haven't had the patience, haven't had the time.

Been working so much, only part-time for my day job, but also doing some work at home stuff that is sometimes more lucrative than my day job, and between the two I'm easily working 40 plus hours a week. It's a big change. I've sort of been slacking off the last ten years. Well now I have no more free passes, I'm entirely on my own now, and no one will help me if I get into trouble. If I lose my job and run out of money, I will get evicted and become homeless. There is absolutely no one that would help me now. No one.

So that's a huge source of stress. Usually people have someone. There parents. A sibling. A relative. A friend. Nope. I've got no one. It's all on me now, I can't afford to mess up. It's all about the money right now. Building a nest egg. Financial security. Once I have that I can go back to the dreams, the philosophy, the poetry.

I wonder what I will do with this blog. I guess for now I will use it for whatever. Eventually it will become something... different, but for now it is what it is.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Strange Dream

I've sometimes used this space to record my dreams, usually ones that stood out as being exceptional, powerful, or personally meaningful in some way. So I feel I must record the dream I had last night. It's short, but powerful.

You see my grandmother died last May, and it was completely unexpected. She was 89 years old and seemed perfectly healthy, looked younger, was of sound mind, but then she had a stroke, which completely destroyed her, and she died seven weeks later.

I've had a few dreams of her. But last nights dream stood out the most powerful to me.

In the dream I was going to the public library to print out a copy of my grandmothers obituary. It was strange because this particular library usually has about 30 public computers, which are connected to a printing station, but when I got there there was only about ten, with empty spaces where the computers should have been. There were different security guards too, and I approached one and asked about what had happened to the computers and they said they had some kind of power outage and those computers were damaged as a result and were being repaired.

So anyway, I log into one of the few remaining computers and proceed to print out my grandmothers obituary, two copies. The picture was different than the actual, but I won't elaborate. So then I go outside, and parked outside of the library I see my grandmother sitting in the driver's seat of her car waiting to give me a lift. Yes, the very same person whose obituary I held in my hand was alive and well waiting to give me a ride. I get into the car, and for some strange reason didn't get the connection that this was a peculiar event. It was like I instantly forgot what had happened. Forgot that my grandmother had died. Forgot that I had printed out her obituary. Forget that I was holding the obituary in my hand of the person who was offering me a ride. It was just like complete amnesia.

So I go for the ride with my grandmother, heading towards the last place she lived when she died, but somehow ended up back in my hometown, down a popular drive beside a wooded park. I won't elaborate. At some point we got out of the car to take a walk. My grandmother trips and falls. Her glasses fall off her face. I help her up, she's okay. Just happy to be with her. And then I wake up.

That's it. That's all I remember. Pretty strange. Think about it, someone you know who died. You're printing out a copy of their obituary, and then when you're done that same person who died, who is written about in the obituary you hold in your hand, is waiting for you outside to give you a lift.

Sounds like an episode of the twilight zone, right, but for me it really happened. Well it happened in my dreams, however real that is. Probably about as a real as the life you lived, once you are dead. Yeah. That's when reality crumbles away, if mind survives death, what than is real? It's a huge mystery, the mystery of death, of the possibility of life after death. It's the greatest mystery ever.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Getting Tough

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I had a little bit of trouble with somebody messing with my bike, breaking off my bicycle computer when it was left outside at work, and since that incident I have been extremely worried that my bicycle would be stolen.

You see, I commute to work everyday, and the bicycle is left outside for hours, and realized that if I want to continue this setup I needed a better lock. I thought I had a good lock, and it's not a bad lock by any means, but I needed the best. So I went ahead and purchased the New York Fahgettaboudit mini U-lock by Kryptonite. It's the best U-lock they sell, and retails for over a hundred bucks.

I'm very happy with it. It gives me tremendous peace of mind. Even though at the same time I am dismayed that, yes, any lock can be defeated if a person has the right tools and enough time, but this one at least will protect against the most common methods, namely bolt cutters and leverage attacks, and so I feel much more comfortable than I did before.

I use the new lock for the rear wheel, Sheldon Brown style, which is you lock the U-lock to the rear wheel and object your locking it to, as opposed locking it to both the frame, the wheel, and the object, simply because it's not big enough for that, which is also one of its strong points. As long as it's positioned between the frame's rear triangle it is impossible to remove the rear wheel from the frame without destroying the wheel in the process.

For additional peace of mind I use a second U-lock, my old one, for the front wheel and frame, locking that too to a fixed object, as well as an additional cable lock for my rear rack.

I'm very happy with the setup. Hopefully, my bicycle will be safe for years to come, and won't encounter any more problems with anyone messing with my bike while I'm at work.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When the Darkness Clears

Been riding my bike everyday for months now. It is now my primary mode of transportation. I used to be a very avid walker, I've written about it here, but now I ride more than I walk.

There are a lot of reasons for it. Mostly because I love to ride. I love the freedom of being outside, the freedom of the open road, being completely self-powered and self-contained, and not contributing any pollution. I hate being in confined spaces. And I absolutely hate riding the city bus. But I also love saving money, and walking is too slow. Therefore, a bicycle is the perfect fit for me.

For the first time in my life I am now a full-time bicycle commuter. I average about 50 miles a week. And that's not for recreation, that's entirely commuting to work and running errands. I ride my bike every single day of the year, rain or shine, daytime and nighttime, in temperatures below freezing and temperature way above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I've been a cyclist all my life, but until recently it was mostly just for recreation, as I usually walked or took the bus to work and school, never road the bike more than maybe a few times for those purposes, but now I do it every day, and have no plans of stopping. Been doing it for six months now and so I've been putting a lot more wear and tear on my bike. Finally reached the 3000 mile mark on my odometer, which means 3000 miles on both my chain and tires, and so finally retired them. Got new ones, new chain, new tires, and installed them myself. It was the first time I ever replaced my own chain. Was quite the adventure, thank goodness for YouTube! Because I would have been lost otherwise.

Very happy with my bike. The original tires were Continental Top Touring 2000, only got one flat tire, and that wasn't until 2000 miles. Wonderful tires, but they stopped making that particular model, so this time after careful research went with the Schwalbe Marathon tires, which are supposed to be the best, virtually puncture proof, but got a flat tire the first 20 miles. Can you believe it? Well to be fair, it was a long screw, and the conditions were wet, and think it probably would have caused a flat tire no matter what kind of tire you were using. It was just bad luck, happened on the way to work too, so that sucked. But fortunately was only about a half a mile away, so just walked it, and fixed it after work. Nothing like fixing a flat tire in the dark on a cold rainy night, with a mini pump that I soon learned couldn't reach the high pressure my tires needed. Still it got me home, and I quickly ordered a new pump, a Topeak road morph with built in pressure gauge. Haven't had to use it yet for an actual new tube replacement, but tested it out, and is at least better than the other one. I also never leave home without two spare tubes, not just one, like I used to, because there's nothing worse than being stranded in the dark on a cold and rainy night miles away from home all because you forgot to pack a spare tube. How about fixing a flat tire, but getting another flat, but not having another spare? Not something I want to experience. That's why it pays to be prepared.

Oh yeah, I almost forget. Since I got new tires, which I installed around January 1st, I also replaced my cycling computer/odometer with an inexpensive Cat Eye one. My old one still worked, but the mounting hardware was falling apart, held together by Gorilla Tape, so I figured it would be fun to start out with a clean slate of zero miles for my new tires and chain.

Well guess what, everything was going smoothly until last night some piece of shit stole it off of my bike, by forcibly breaking it off. But see the computer is no good without the sensors, which they left on the bike, the only thing its good for without it is a clock. So it was completely a senseless act of destruction. Either the idiot didn't know that the computer was useless without the sensors, or it was not so much an act of theft, but an act of vandalism. Now I'm worried the piece of shit is targeting my bike, and is going to try to steal it too, so am now going to carry two u-locks, instead of just one.

I do lock my bike very well, use three locks, a cable for my rear rack and frame, a good u-lock for my frame and rear wheel, but only used a cable for my front tire, now I'm worried they may cut that to steal the front wheel, so like I said now I'm going to have to bring a second u-lock. My secondary u-lock isn't as good as my primary one, but it's better than the cable. But will plan on investing in a more expensive second lock within the next few weeks. I'm leaning towards a Kryptonite Mini Evolution to be used strictly as secondary security to lock the front wheel to frame. My bike isn't even that valuable, it's almost 15 years old now, but I've kept it in really good condition, and except for a few scratches, and sloppy touch-ups using blue nail polish that doesn't quite match, it looks almost like new. So people that don't know, such as the piece of shits that steal a cycling computer that they've made unusable by destroying the mount and not taking the sensors, may assume it's more valuable than it actually is.

Anyway, despite the minor setback, all is well. As in all things I've complained about and lamented about over the years, both here and elsewhere, I feel that all the hardships I've endured have only made me stronger. As they say, all life is a school, you learn just as much from the good times as you learn from the bad times, and sometimes it seems like the worst of times are actually the most educational, but no matter how bad things seem to get, if you get through it in one piece, things are bound to get better in time. If nothing else maybe you'll see that you've gained the perspective of what it means to feel tragedy and what it means to feel hope materialized into the reality of prosperity and peace, and you realize that no matter how bad things had been, and still can be, when the darkness clears you'll see that once again all is well.