Minimal doomscrolling

The New York Times offers up a widely-shared article on doomscrolling, which prompts me to realize that I’m actually doing pretty well at staying away from that.

In large measure I credit my decision from right after the election to minimize my exposure to internet content designed to maximize my outrage. Outrage comes with its own little dopamine hit, which makes it a treadmill that’s hard to get off of, but I realized that it was a treadmill that didn’t suit me:

I’m going to follow fewer links—so often they go to articles calculated to produce outrage, and I don’t need more outrage. It’s a fine line, because there has been and will be much that is deserving of outrage. Yet: I do not worry that I will suffer from outrage deficiency.

I did pretty well at that, and I doubled down on it after coming across the ideas of (and then reading several books by) Cal Newport. His book Deep Work reminded me of the satisfaction involved in taking the time and putting in the energy to focus deeply on doing something important and doing it well. (I recommended the book at the time.) His book Digital Minimalism helped me understand the harm that comes from participating in the faux social interactions of social media (things that feel like social interactions, but aren’t—things like hitting “like” on a facebook post).

I don’t want to give an impression of smugness here. I’m certainly not holding myself out as a role model. I’m all-to-well aware that at every moment I’m only a few clicks away from leaping headlong down the rabbit hole of internet outrage. But I’m doing okay. I feel the outrage, but I’m not compelled to feed it. I tend not to share the posts that feed the outrage in others (while still sharing the ones that suggest ways to make things better, both individually, and across society).

Maybe one or another of those ideas would be helpful to you.

Barefoot running, actually barefoot

I’d heard this, but I’m not sure I really believed it.

I’ve been running in “barefoot” shoes for a good 5 years now. The improvement in my gait was dramatic and immediate. But serious barefoot advocates are very firm about the point that it’s only when you run with actual bare feet that you acquire the huge upside that comes with barefoot running.

Reduced injury rates (due to the improved gait) are one of those upsides. Increased running efficiency (due to the improved gait, but also due to not having to carry the weight of a shoe on each foot) is another upside.

But there are alleged to be further sources of improved efficiency that come from barefoot running. When you’re actually barefoot, you’re going to hit the ground much more gently (because without cushioning it would hurt to hit the ground hard). Your foot is going to hit the ground with zero forward velocity (because if your bare foot slides along the concrete, the friction will cause blisters almost immediately).

In both cases—not slamming your foot into the ground, and not grinding your foot into the ground—the upshot is improved efficiency.

But it’s one thing to hear that “improved efficiency” is a thing, and another to actually see it. Check out this comparison of a run from one month ago, versus a run today.

Here’s the first three-quarters of mile of a run from one month ago, wearing minimalist shoes:

I left off the first few tens of seconds because it took until then for my heart rate monitor to stabilize on my actual heart rate. Then I went on for about three-quarters of a mile (out of a longer run) to match the distance that I ran today.

The things to note are that I ran at a 14:20 min/mil pace (very slow), that my heart rate averaged 117 bpm, and that the majority of my run was spent in zone 3.

Now check out my graph from today’s run, run with actual bare feet:

I’ve matched the distances (the former is the first part of a much longer run, the latter my entire barefoot run today). Today’s run was at a considerably faster pace (37 seconds per mile faster), while at the same time keeping my heart rate considerably lower (averaging 109 bpm, entirely in zone 2).

I have to say, this is very promising for future endeavors. I need to boost my confidence a bit, so I feel comfortable going for longer runs barefoot. I also need to get a bit more familiar with pacing—my MAF heart rate is probably more like 124. I need to figure out what it feels like when I run that pace barefoot. Because: who knows how fast I can run at that heart rate barefoot?

(The shortcode below won’t work until I get an updated version of the plugin for displaying GPX maps.)

[sgpx gpx=”/wp-content/uploads/gpx/Philip_Brewer_2020-06-27_08-46-36.GPX”]

A long wait for my brolly

Way back on June 9th I ordered a fancy new umbrella. The vendor created a shipping label that very day, and sent me a tracking number. For reasons (perhaps among them, as they claim on their website, precautions in the warehouse against COVID-19), it was six days before they actually handed the package over to the shipper.

As soon as I’d ordered it, I looked ahead at the weather forecast, wondering if there’d be some rain to use it in, but it looked like a full week of dry weather. Of course, after it took a week to actually ship the package, things had changed. Happily, the package was on-track to arrive Saturday—I’d have my new brolly in hand just hours ahead of forecast thunderstorms!

But then the package followed a mysterious path on it’s way from Wisconsin to Illinois:

  • Jun 9 2020 Shipment information received
  • Jun 15 2020 Shipment tendered to UPS MI BELLEVILLE, WI
  • Jun 15 2020 Package received for processing Avenel, NJ
  • Jun 16 2020 Package processed by UPS MI Avenel, NJ
  • Jun 17 2020 Package transferred to dest MI facility Avenel, NJ
  • Jun 19 2020 Package received by dest MI facility Kansas City, MO
  • Jun 20 2020 Package enroute to USPS for induction Kansas City, MO
  • 20 Jun 2020 22:29 Shipment Acceptance at PO Hazelwood, MO

In what way is this a sensible?

I mean, I’m willing to cut the vendor some slack for taking six days between sending shipment information and then actually tendering the package. I’m sure precautions against COVID-19 reduce their efficiency in shipping things out of their warehouse. But sending the package from Wisconsin to Illinois via New Jersey and then Missouri? They spent 5 days getting the package to a different adjacent state, to a city only 72 miles closer than where it started!

Now that the package is in the hands of the post office, I figure it will actually get here in a couple of days, just about the time the wet weather ends and it gets sunny and dry for a few days.