Finally

In the early weeks of 2020 - when the first Covid cases were being detected in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, and the mask shortages were reported, and the scientists said not to have any expectations on a vaccine or a cure - Australia faced a new and uncertain realty.

Australia is a big country, with a relativity small and dispersed population. The challenge posed by a global pandemic seemed too large for us to conquer. But in the face of this adversity we did not surrender meekly, nor panic (much), or bury our heads in the sand. The smartest people got together to make plans. We gave up on things we took for granted. We sacrificed. We distanced, isolated, persevered through a long autumn and even longer winter. Slowly yet surely we took steps to hold back the virus, to keep each other safe, to bring back normalities we thought we'd never be able to take for granted again.

And you know what? Ultimately we succeeded. We managed to run a records-book acceptable version of an AFL season concluding today with a grand final barbecue and table tennis.

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Well done Australia. Let history remember that when tidings of great significance came calling we stood up and achieved what was important.

Table tennis doubles being played in a dark driveway.

That said, table tennis at night was less than ideal.


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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.


Potash

Cold mornings post Spring equinox. The ugg boots and gym shorts combination has its charm, but tracksuit pants and bare feet disperses its own sweet set of endorphins.

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Both options come with own pros and cons when it comes time to pluck the red strawberries from the garden in your backyard.

23° and sunny. The wind carried on it the aroma of white roses.

...

Time to put the bird puppy netting up.

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Breakfast Fast

Almost every morning I crack two trays of ice into a smoothie jug, lovingly cascade creamy milk over the crystalised cubes, scoop some protein powder on top, along with extra flavour like cinnamon, cocoa or desiccated coconut, then add a banana and something from the repertoire of mango, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, blackberries or grapes. I put some tunes on. I pour another 200g of low fat, vanilla yogurt on top of everything and then blend for thirty seconds on “crush” followed by another little while on “pulse” and finally three to five minutes on “blend” - with a break at some point to pour excess fluid into the first of three large cups, as the two litre jug is not tall enough to handle the total volume of a blended Brad breakfast. I then proceed to drink this concoction through the thinnest of straws available, occasionally choosing to scoop it with the tiny spoon on the end of the straw while I read the news, or watch TV.

The whole process, particularly in winter, can take from twenty, up to over forty minutes. COVID19 related working from home arrangements have not helped with this. That’s a considerable portion of my waking hours, all things considered. A very enjoyable portion, for sure.

I’ve been listening off and on to an audiobook that is essentially a short summary of tricks and tools that a bunch of rich and successful people attribute to their wealth and prosperity. It has provided some fascinating insights into what life could involve if I was loaded enough. Fasting, ice baths, psychedelic trips, holding your breath, fancy teas, hanging upside down, meditation and underwater deadlifts to name just a few of the “tools” that these powerhouses of technology, business and recreation believe gives them an edge in life. I’m not rich enough myself to dedicate fully to any of these approaches, but among them one consistent theme which comes up throughout this very long book is that many successful interviewees have a very quick breakfast, or skip it entirely.

As a man with fifteen pages of journal entries tagged “breakfast” I found this concept particularly confronting. But what is 2020 other than a chance for everybody to subvert their own tropes? So I decided to set myself a goal of one work week where I consumed a balanced breakfast as absolutely fucking quick as possible, to see how my life would change.

To justify this experiment I knew I’d need to approach it scientifically and part of that was recording before I started what I would do with the forty minutes I gained each day. I elected to split it: twenty minutes would go towards extra sleep, and twenty minutes would go towards dedicated personal development time.

According to my sleep tracker my average nightly shut-eye is six hours and forty-three minutes, and I figured this was a chance to see if a round seven would have any benefits to my health.

The personal development time would be spent on things I wanted to understand at a higher level for my career, like octagonal microservice architecture patterns, and OpenAPI modelling best practices.

After a long bike ride and big lunch on a sunny day last Sunday, I was able to have a reasonably early night and set my alarm for 6:40am - seven hours of sleep later.

On Monday morning I woke, dressed for work, and walked downstairs. Initially I’d wanted to replace my breakfast with a single protein/health bar that I could ideally eat on that walk downstairs. Something with 35 grams of protein, some carbs, no added sugar and a little bit of fat. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to find anything suitable in the discount chemists or supermarkets of Adelaide. Perhaps I wasn’t rich enough yet to find the vegan protein breakfast bars that met these conditions and that had been mentioned in the book. So instead I ate a decent-sized banana, and a big scoop of protein powder in a shaker full of skim milk. I got through it all in less than three minutes. I didn’t even sit down. It was a little daunting to realise just how quickly you can insert 450 calories into your body, almost without even noticing.

And then an energy crept into me. I was done. I was ready for work and it was barely 7am. So Monday was a bit of a misfire, as I spent another ten minutes working out if I should ride my bike to the office straight away. (I wanted to save the personal development portion of the day for a time separate from breakfast). In the end I took the dog for a walk, then took off down the greenway. I arrived in town slightly before 8am and spent more time maneuvering my bike into the bike cage and getting the lock through the various bits than I did eating my breakfast.

I repeated this recipe for the remainder of the week, and I have to say, I have a newfound appreciation for the benefits of a quick breakfast. The energy I mentioned only grew and I can only assume it is due to going almost immediately from slumber to my daily tasks and goals. I don’t believe this energy is related to the extra sleep. In fact, I found that aspect to be the most challenging of the whole experiment. Because I am used to 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep, each night I found it harder and harder to fall asleep, and thus my sleep time and eventual waking time crept forward each day. There are potentially health benefits to the extra sleep I was getting, but at the rate our planet twirls on its access they risk pushing me into my own sleep orbit which - despite COVID’s new work schedules flexibility - I don’t think I want to try.

Personal development wise I did learn things and it was nice to feel like I had twenty “bonus” minutes each day to focus purely on education and learning. Sure, I could dedicate twenty minutes a day to that anyway, but there was a vibe knowing I’d earned that twenty minutes by smashing a banana down my throat earlier that morning which made it easier to learn, and also I guess helped me commit to focusing, otherwise what was the sacrifice of a relaxed and delicious breakfast experience for?

I think I’ll keep doing this on work days until my brain adjusts and the energy dissipates. Who knows, maybe I’ll become rich and successful following this in just a few short weeks. Maybe then I’ll be interviewed, and you’ll find me inside the big book of tools.


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Almonds are Calorie Negative, prove me wrong

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When I was a young man, still learning the difference between a magazine article and an advertisement, I discovered that almonds were a "superfood". These hard, brown lumps are rich in monounsaturated fats and contain high amounts of vitamin E and the amino acid arginine. Almonds are also a source of potassium, magnesium and zinc.

Greatly interested in improving my health, I bought a kilogram packet of raw almonds and - given the packaging was about the same as a packet of potato crisps - began consuming them in similarly sized handfuls. What I didn’t realise was that - along with protein, healthy fats and antioxidants - a kilogram of almonds contains nearly 6,000 calories.

In the following years I adjusted my intake of almonds down to a small handful - 30-50g a day. Eating them became a habit, and most weeks since 2006 I would say I've eaten almonds at least five times a week. In that same time period I have maintained low body fat and a healthy physique, which confused me in some ways because I also drank a lot of beer, ate whole family sized pizzas on weekends, considered a bowl of Weet Bix, yogurt and banana as a "snack", and, you know, other lifestyle choices. I always suspected that my consumption of almonds was doing something inside my body to keep me healthy.

There came a point this year where I decided I needed to gain some weight. I calculated my base metabolism, nutritional needs and set a calorie goal that made me nervous. In order to achieve those lofty numbers I made several changes, including incrementing my almond consumption to 50-60g a day. But as the weeks went on I did not see any increase in body mass. And it was at that point I came across an article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which essentially said that a large percentage of the energy in almonds (and in fact most nuts) was not absorbed by the body.

Understand: A calorie is "the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius". Food labeling uses the Atwater system.

The above study, if you decided not to read it, proved that almond energy didn’t get absorbed because when they burned the study’s almond-eating participants' poop there was more fire (I’m a journaller, not a scientist, so don't attribute me on any of this).
The cellular structure of an almond is intense, compared to a slice of apple, a cup of milk, or a puff of donut. The human digestive system has to do so much work to break the almonds down into absorbable molecules that most of them don’t even make it into the body before the nut reaches the end of the ride. Roasting, slivering, or turning them into nut-butter obviously reduces this cellular intensity.

What’s more, the study found that eating raw almonds along with other foods contributed to a reduced caloric intake overall. That is, the more almonds you eat in your diet, the less calories you take in from other foods too.

For participants the discrepancy in almond calories absorbed compared to the Atwater system measure was a reduction by 33% up to 66%! Calories from other foods were reduced by on average 5%.

However, 66% less calories is not the same as calorie negative. That’s true. I can explain further...

The concept of calorie negative foods typically intends to describe foods that are so low in energy that the body uses more energy chewing and digesting the food than it gets in energy from the food. For example: celery. A kilogram of celery contains only 140 calories. It’s high in fibre, and takes a decent amount of munching. Unfortunately for the calorie negative argument, it doesn’t take 140 calories of energy to eat through a kilogram of celery. The body burns different amounts of energy depending on the type of food it’s digesting. For proteins it’s as high as 30% of the total energy content. For fats it’s and carbs it’s closer to none.
Celery is high in water, and mostly carbs, so unlike a raw almond the cells don’t put up much resistance on the way down. The same applies to other "calorie negative" foods like watermelon, strawberries and cucumbers. They’re healthy, but even if you include the effort to pick them up, chop them, lift them to your mouth and carry the bowl back to the dishwasher you’re still not going to burn more energy than you consume.

An almond is not high in water or carbs. It does not break down easily inside your guts. I experienced a stark demonstration of this fact on my return to the office recently after a six month shutdown. It seemed that at some point prior to Coronavirus breaching Australian borders I’d dropped one of my morning almonds behind my desk. Despite the office being "deep cleaned regularly" as part of a "safe return to work program" the almond on the floor had never been vacuumed up and, as you can see, a newly formed city-state of bacteria barely made a dent in it over half a year. Imagine how little your digestive system is going to achieve over just 30 hours.

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A roasted or slivered almond, or a gram of nut butter on the carpet might have resulted in a different picture. And now you know my secret to making almonds a calorie negative treat - swallow them whole.

Sanctity

I've been thinking about death a bit lately. Well, thoughts about life more accurately. I opened with "death" because after two weeks and dozens of midges, my trap finally caught one.

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The odds that our reality is a simulation is quite high. Why? Because, consider the amount of possible universes that contain life, and in which that life achieves the ability to create a simulation so realistic that the inhabitants of the simulation aren't able to tell they're in a simulation. Probably not many, relatively.
Then think, if some life did make it far enough into an Agile project to deliver one simulation there's nothing much stopping them from creating infinite other simulations using the same software and hardware. Or even cloud technologies.

And also, sometimes I think things before they happen. Plus 2020.

The compelling thing about living in a simulation is that it brings the afterlife and the concept of cosmic judgement for life's deeds back into the picture. What if, after death, our simulated souls are weighed on the scales of good and evil? It makes me feel bad about all the times I put truss tomatoes through the self-checkouts as gourmet tomatoes.

Then I thought, if that's the thing I feel the most guilty about, I'm probably doing okay.

I hope there's no commandment about the sanctity of midges. Or moths for that matter.

Potentially called "Bradism"

I went for a walk along the beach last Sunday with Vanessa and the dog and it's incredible how many bad things have happened since then.

That said, I did decide to watch a Netflix documentary about coaching, featuring Doc Rivers, as it appeared on my TV on the same day Doc was fired from the Clippers.

One of the things Doc mentioned in the episode was his rule of "Don't be a victim."

Many years ago on a walk home from work I was contemplating setting out my own philosophy/ideology - potentially called "Bradism". By the time I got home I decided that the easier approach would be to let other people come up with ideologies and I would simply adopt the one I found the most appropriate.

Since then I've stolen an technique from the Agile Methodology to adapt other people's successful philosophies and ideologies iteratively, in small chunks.

So I'm taking a "Don't be a Victim" approach to the current diagnoses and challenges life has thrown at me lately.

I mean, there are definitely victims, but the trick is to not be one.

Doc Rivers signed a 5 year coaching contract with Philadelphia in this same week that he was fired, so I guess that approach is working for him.

Actually, I've just realised that the philosophy of Bradism is to pick and choose facets of other ideologies as needed.