All posts by Stocker Cary

Training notes

Ryan Flaherty is a speed coach. He tunes up future NFL players before they participate in the NFL combine. There’s a lot of money riding on the combine outcomes. It’s serious business so he’s paid well for helping these athletes improve their numbers.

Flaherty claims speed is a skill, something you can learn, train, and get better at. He says, “Speed has everything to do with how much force you create. The two main factors in speed are stride frequency and stride length, and both are products of how much force your body creates with the ground. So if I can improve the amount of force an athlete creates on every step, I’m going to greatly affect his or her speed.”

Step counts, Flaherty thinks, are an incredibly reliable indicator of race results. After adjusting for height, the athlete taking the fewest steps during any race will win. Longer strides indicate the athlete is generating more force per step than his competitors.

Extra distance per stride compounds. In a 100-meter sprint it means a step or two less. In a marathon, with about 20,000 strides, an extra three inches added to the stride puts a runner a mile ahead of his previous (shorter stride) pace.

Flaherty uses the “Force Number” to accurately predict an athlete’s speed. The Force Number is the peak force applied to the ground decided by his body weight.

His go-to exercises are the trap bar deadlift and box squat, one performed early in the week and the other done later in the week.

Other than the trap bar deadlift and box squat, Flaherty says every lower-body move you do should be done on one leg.  The coach’s favorite exercises include Dumbbell Bulgarian Split-Squats, Barbell Reverse Lunges and Single-Leg Bounding.

He also likes “push-up starts”  – Lie on the ground and hands on the ground next to your chest push-up style. Explosively push yourself up and immediately sprint forward maintaining a forward lean; don’t stand straight up.

Art Devaney who’s a very fit 70 something backs a 15-8-4 sequence for his workouts, 15 reps with a light weight, 8 with medium weight, and 4 at your max weight. All done with no rests in between, and never going to failure.

Negatives (also called eccentrics) are when you lower a weight that you don’t have the strength to lift (yet). You just do the negative part of the movement. Devany likes negatives because you can work with a lot more weight, about 40% more.

He also sprints up a nearby hill. Sprint up and walk down several times, and then switch it up and sprint down to train to go faster.

Someone else pointed out that your 3RM should be about 90% of your 1RM. Once you have that 3RM, you can just use it for all your subsequent percentages.

And finally, A quick workout is the side plank on your palm. The palm support and a straight arm benefit shoulder health by keeping the shoulders down and latissimus tight with the body ramrod straight. Hold one side for 30 seconds, then the other, back again for 20, 15, 10, and 5 seconds, alternating sides. You can do it daily.

The intruding guitar

Here’s the thing, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

I’m practicing the guitar and slowly getting better but I’m slowly blogging less frequently.

When I started learning the guitar last year I began practicing a little bit every day, so something had to make room for that practice time. That thing has been my blogging. My blog is a place where I can make notes to myself which means that not blogging as much doesn’t really impact anyone else.

Industrialized communication

I don’t generally use social media because there’s just not much that’s interesting enough to make scrolling through worth the bother. But I do realize  most people like it.

What happens when you take a break from it? Here’s what a heavy user found after taking a break from social media for a week. “Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.”

One-on-one communication is degraded a bit using electronics because some context and so many subtle physical cues become unavailable. Most effective communications happen best in person, then by phone, and finally via email.

When an author was asked how he was able to gather so much material for his book, he said his secret was, “The lesson I’ve learned again and again is this: when you see folks in person, they’re motivated to look for and pull out old things, and that doesn’t happen when you simply call them on the phone.”

When you can do it, personal communication trumps industrialized communication. Here’s a good talk on conversation with NPR host Celeste Headlee.

Whitehouse woes

Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It’s the phenomenon in which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Looking at the situation in the Whitehouse from the outside and without all the data, President Trump looks like the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

So is Trump the orange tapeworm of American politics or a victim of an enormous witch hunt?  It seems like we’re getting ready to find out.

If he is a problem, I hope the medicine required to expel him isn’t too disruptive to the system. Maybe he’ll step down to save face, which will be the least disruptive medicine.

A generational shift

How many people under 30 use a wristwatch? Not many. They grew up using a cellphone for a time piece. These snippets of info about US golf courses shutting down might be another interesting generational shift:

”Playing golf was once a celebrated pastime. But today, many of the country’s golf courses are on the brink of shutting down or have already closed. Over 800 golf courses have shuttered across the US in the past decade, and data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association has shown that millennials between the ages of 18 and 30 lack interest in playing the game.”

Do the closures reflect changing preferences for leisure activities? Since 2003, participation in golf is down 20% according to the National Golf Foundation. Plus, Nike and Adidas have stopped making golf clubs. I haven’t met many young people who play golf, most golfer I know are well past fifty.

What happens to the real estate occupied by those shuttered 800 golf courses? Maybe there’s a higher or better use for land than as golf courses. Some have donated golf course land to nature trusts and local parks, taking a tax break in return for preserving the open space. That also alleviates the fertilizers and pesticides that are needed to maintain a golf course.

The golf industry went through a building boom in the 1990s and early 2000s, driven by developers using the golf courses to help sell homes. Many shuttered courses were built on land that’s protected from redevelopment either by local zoning codes seeking to preserve open space, or by deed restrictions intended to protect homeowners who paid a premium to live near a golf course. What will they do?

I’m not for or against playing golf, but I’m curious to see how this will unfold.

Plants reaching out

We can’t perceive changes in plants because any position changes they make are too slow to be notable in realtime.

By using time-lapsed photography, some plant “movement” can be sped up. I don’t know the best descriptive word to use, but there seems to be some intention, plan, or drive behind some plant movements.

Check out Michael Pollan discussing how time-lapse photography reveals the hidden life of plants, pretty interesting.


Squatting article

After leaving childhood, our ability to get into a deep squat gradually disappears, at least for most of us in the Western world. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’re a couple of points, and a workout, from a New Yorker article by Jamie Lauren Keiles that will help reclaim your squat.

Trainer and author Mark Rippetoe writes, “A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence.”

The (workout) app was designed by the Belgian fitness expert Mehdi Hadim, based on a classic five-by-five routine—five sets of five reps for each of the lifts, increasing the weight with each successive workout.

On Workout A days, I row, bench press, and squat. On Workout B days, I deadlift, do overhead presses, and squat again.

Tyler Cowen and reading

Here’re a couple of observations from Ryan Holiday about Tyler Cowen the bestselling author, economist and thinker. Tyler has a blog called Marginal Revolution that I check daily.

Read However You Want — People are amazed at how much Tyler reads (it’s a lot) but they miss that he has his own set of rules for doing it. He skips around. He quits books he doesn’t like. He might read a novel from only the perspective of one of the characters. He’ll ruin the ending. He just does whatever—and so should you. This isn’t for a test. It’s for your own enjoyment (he does the same with movies apparently).

Knowledge Compounds — I think what he’s also saying there is that the value of reading compounds over time. Reading more makes you a better and faster reader, learning about stuff makes it easier and faster for you to learn more.

I read a lot, but I haven’t found that I’m reading faster as time goes by.

Meat at a wedding

Developing stone tools along with  controlling fire initiated a nutritional revolution for our ancestors. Until blades chipped from stone were employed in East Africa some 3.4 million years ago,  our hominid forebears couldn’t slash through an animal’s hide to access nutrient dense meat and organs.

Partly due to the fat and protein rich food available after stone tools came along, our ancestors’ brain and body size increased rapidly, culminating in the emergence of anatomically modern humans about 200,000 years ago.

More recently… About a week ago, I went to a family wedding. This meant I knew many of the people there. It was great catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in many years and meeting their kids for the first time.

Out of all the people there, my vegetarian and vegan relatives seemed to be the least hardy. I wasn’t quizzing people about their diets, I found out they didn’t eat meat because of the special considerations the party givers made.

To go back in time again, the Americas were likely populated during an ice age when sea levels were much lower resulting a pretty big stretch of land between Siberia and Alaska allowing humans and animals to simply walk from Asia to North America.

We forget that 95% of human history happened before the rise of agriculture when we spent most of our history wandering over both land and water.

Why did our ancestors wander so far and wide? Hard to know really, but part of my guess is that they were following and looking for animals to eat.

Our culture and concepts have outpaced our biology, meaning  just believing that you shouldn’t eat meat (no matter the reason) is probably sub optimal for your health. I appreciate not eating meat, but I don’t think it’s ideal for health.


You need the right key to open a lock, and can’t be sure you have the right one unless you can try the key in the lock. So psychiatrists usually won’t make a diagnosis from afar. But sometimes a person’s behavior is unusual and problematic enough that a professional feels compelled to say something. Earlier this month, two prestigious psychiatrists sent this opinion piece into the NYT:

 ‘Protect Us From This Dangerous President,’ 2 Psychiatrists Say
March 8, 2017

To the Editor:

Soon after the election, one of us raised concerns about Donald Trump’s fitness for office, based on the alarming symptoms of mental instability he had shown during his campaign. Since then, this concern has grown. Even within the space of a few weeks, the demands of the presidency have magnified his erratic patterns of behavior.

In particular, we are struck by his repeated failure to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and his outbursts of rage when his fantasies are contradicted. Without any demonstrable evidence, he repeatedly resorts to paranoid claims of conspiracy.

Most recently, in response to suggestions of contact between his campaign and agents of the Russian government, he has issued tirades against the press as an “enemy of the people” and accusations without proof that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, engaged in partisan surveillance against him.

We are in no way offering a psychiatric diagnosis, which would be unwise to attempt from a distance. Nevertheless, as psychiatrists we feel obliged to express our alarm. We fear that when faced with a crisis, President Trump will lack the judgment to respond rationally.

The military powers entrusted to him endanger us all. We urge our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to protect us from this dangerous president.


Dr. Herman is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lifton is a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia University and professor emeritus at CUNY.

I’ve often wondered how mental health professionals evaluate their patients and arrive at the treatment options for them. What is taught in four years of residency, for example, that gives that young person deep insights into the mental state of another person? It seems like a short time to get (some) people tuned into what’s happening at a profound level in someone else. Anyway, in general that training is recognized as effective and these two high level practitioners sound very concerned about President Trump’s inner world and its possible negative effects on the rest of us.