Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 2010: Annual Health & Fitness Letter

The Annual Health & Fitness letter never can settle on June or July. It waffles in that regard. Obviously, this year it is a July letter. Next year, who knows?

Physical Health:
In 2006, I really committed to my physical health. I changed my eating habits and became a vegetarian. I ate healthy: no snacks, no sugars, no white flour. I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages. I kept exercising, basically bicycling at the same rate.

It worked wonderfully. In seven months, I had dropped two pant sizes. I looked good and felt good. My blood chemistry and blood pressure were all where the doctors want them to be. I was pretty darn proud of myself and happy.

I really did not feel like I had given up anything. People would ask, and still do, if I miss eating meat. Really, I do not. What I miss is the seasonings and smells of kebabs. Vegetarian dishes can be spiced and herbed to get similar tastes and smells. It is no wonder why I like Indian cuisine so much.

But I am not writing this letter to re-hash what I have done, but to admit, yuck, that I have backslid. Yes… I said it backslid.

I did not start eating meat again to imbibe once more. No. My vice? My slippery slope? Sugar. It began gradually and simply built. As it built, I began to gain weight. Soon, I found that I was very close to the old habits of denial and always vowing to start anew on the right path… tomorrow. Tomorrow. The problem with that is that it is always today. I am sure many of you know what I am talking about. People can be very good at this postponement strategy. I know I am.

We went to hear the great comedian Jackie Mason a few weeks ago. He is funny and full of insights. He had a shtick that began with a very simple line, and I paraphrase, “Jews never seem to understand the relationship between food and weight.” He had the crowd in stitches right away. But, he did not stop there. He went on and on. “I don’t eat, yet I gain weight. Ask my wife. Do I eat? She responds ‘He eats like a bird.’ It must be my metabolism.” He went on to say how people will get on the scale, shake their heads in disbelief, get off and move it the scale perhaps to a better spot, try again and in huff say, “That’s not right, I know how much I weigh.”

Mason made me think of phrases, motivational truisms, that I have evoked in past Health and Fitness Letters:
1. Eat less, move more.
2. Knowing never equals doing.
If I want to lose weight, and keep it off, I have to eat less, and move more. Additionally, I know what to do and why. Yet, I do not do it or do not sustain it. Knowing is one thing, executing and maintaining a level of execution is something else entirely. Knowing is certainly important, but it is in no way sufficient. Goals are never met by knowing something. Goals are met by putting that knowledge into action. Sustained action requires discipline and dedication into my favorite quote which really and truly should be my motto.

Knowing never equals doing.

As is well established, I am a far better knower than doer. I have been this way as long as I can remember. It is the single thing I have been trying to improve upon. I have made progress and actually have had periods of excellence. But, I have never ever been able to sustain it for years let alone make a permanent change.

There is a certain amount of whining here. Oh me. Oh my. I basically hate this attitude but yet I cannot get that focus and drive needed to make a permanent change. Gee whiz, I know that it is up to me. It is all in my head and heart. It is this dichotomy of knowing versus doing that I feel I live in.

As a few people in my family, and probably in a lot of other families, would say, “get a grip.” People tend to do what they want. I truly believe this. So, if I am not living what I believe my goals are I suppose I am doing and get the results that I really want. There is an adage we use in Quality Management that one’s business processes are perfectly designed to deliver the results you are currently getting. To get markedly different results you have to change the processes.

That basically applies to human beings as well. I am getting the results that my mindset is designed to deliver. If I truly want to change and get different/better results, I have to change my mindset, determination, and behavior. I should change my operating process.

There is a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0. I bought this book because I read that this concept was supposed to be a bigger predictor of success than the Intelligence Quotient or IQ. The basic premise is that emotions govern more of our behavior and social interactions than intelligence alone. This includes, pertinent to my topic here, controlling our impulses and self-motivation.
The physical pathways for emotional intelligence start in the brain, at the spinal cord. Your primary senses enter here and must travel to the front of your brain before you can think rationally about your experience. But first they travel through the limbic system, the place where emotions are experienced. Emotional Intelligence requires the effective communications between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.
This resonated when I first read it because I always felt I had two planes of thinking. I had what I believe I really wanted (what I rationally desired) and the impulses of what I wanted right now. I would make bad food choices on an impulse over maintaining the dietary behaviors I knew would lead to achieving my longer term, rational, objectives. I would trade off working on my work/writing goals to watch a sporting event or movie on TV.

I have felt two planes of consciousness in the right orientation. The rational part was looking down, helplessly, on the emotional plane. It sounds crazy but that is exactly how I feel it.

The trade-offs are always for the short term. The trade-off is for short term gratification or enjoyment. By doing this, I mortgage the future. I will begin anew tomorrow is how I fool myself. I am definitely doing this on my own and alone. But I am not really alone. Lots of others operate under this same condition. A resolution to begin tomorrow or begin anew tomorrow is the easiest thing to do. The problem is that this reasoning works everyday with incredible efficiency. It is always today and I am starting or starting anew again tomorrow. This is a most efficient and effective strategy to never ever start and to amass, at least in my case, considerable angst.

What is angst? Angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity. I would add that angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity that comes from postponing what on an on-going basis that which you forever profess you really want to do. It is not a healthy lifestyle to follow in the least bit but it is a malady that afflicts a larger number of us.
I read a great quote that really sums this up:
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what we want for what we want at the moment.
When I read this, it resonated quirevery well with a major shortcoming in my character, make-up, personality, psyche, or whatever you want to call it. I really have to solve this big little thing once and for all.

OK. This is the affliction. I have even written about it before. The solution has also been postulated: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Not tomorrow. Today. Simple. Easy. Period.

So, what am I doing today? July 3, 2010? Behaving the way I want long term and not caving to short term impulses. Gee, I am even three quarters done with this letter, the Annual Health and Fitness Letter. When I finish this entry today, I will go out for a long bike ride.

This is my one real health and fitness success. Bike riding. I have been doing it for over ten years. I am proud of that but gee whiz… at this ripe young/old age (depending entirely upon your point of view and my own perspective), I really need to out this all together or just stop worrying about it.

Stop worrying about it? What an interesting idea. Live blissfully happy just being and just doing what comes naturally,. iIsn’t that what that most folks think that Maslow fellow was talking about? Could I live that way having actually read Maslow? No, I think not.

So, if I cannot be blissfully ignorant the other goal is to be naturally… well… be blissful. Blissful is a great goal but what does it mean? What is being blissful? I suppose we are right back at that self-actualized thing. True self-actualization not the hedonistic sophomoric version.
that that Maslow fellow wrote about.

There are those periods, those moments, when I actually lived that way. Maslow was right. I felt great. I was just simply lousy at sustaining it.

Well… I have no choice right now. I am on my own business wise i.e. that is not supported by a corporate structure that provides plenty of support, back-up, and slack. I made the choice to have no choice now and that is pretty cool.

So… I will stop whining and start doing. Simple. I will report back next year.

Cycling 2010: It would not be an Annual Health and Fitness Letter without some commentary on bicycling, would it?

I actually bought another bike. I had no right business buying itto, but it was a vintage classic, exactly my size, and priced very reasonably. The bike is early 1990s era Schwinn Paramount. The Paramount was always the top end Schwinn Road bikes. The frame of this red beauty was actually made in Japan. It is equipped with vintage Shimano Dura-Ace components. It is very cool.

Being committed to keep my bicycle fleet size at five or less, I had to get rid of a bike to make room for this Paramount. I got rid of the first bike. I chose the Schwinn mountain bike that I bought in 1996 when I got back into cycling. I was not riding it very much, may one hundred miles a year, so I sold it. I have already logged eight hundred miles on the Paramount so far. It is a great bike and it is the sweetest machine I have ever rode.

Last year I bicycled for a record 3,846 miles. I logged some monster miles in April, May, and June. I had a bit of excess free time not being employed. This year, as of July 4th, I have cycled for 1,340 miles which is 750 or so miles behind last year’s pace. As my friend tells me, “riding less because of being busy is a good thing.” If I could only figure out how to get paid, handsomely, for riding.

The Tour de France began in earnest today with a 139 mile stage from Rotterdam to Brussels. Alessandro Petacchi won with a time 5 hours, 9 minutes, 38 seconds. He averaged 26.94 miles per hour. I went on a 30 mile ride today at a blistering 15.8 miles per hour. Alessandro’s ride was 4.6 times what I did at a pace 1.7 times faster than I went. Of course, they are pros and bicycle for a living. I am… well not that. Though there are those minutes of delightful delusion when I feel that… well you know.

They were talking, on the TV, about how the riders would rest up from today’s vigorous sprint. They would get take showers, get messages, and rest for tomorrow. Except for massage… I did the same thing. They will do another 125 miles tomorrow. I will do another 30, 50 if I am ambitious. Yeah baby.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cycling Musings

5/21/10: I am watching a movie. It is about bicycling.

I watch two movies about bicycling whenever they are on. The first is Breaking Away the classic 1979 that made me want to get back into cycling. I loved the coming of age movie about four young friends in Bloomington Indiana making life choices to break out, break away, from the lifestyles that seem cast for them. At least, this applies to two of the four. One of these two is also obsessed with cycling and racing. The movie climaxes when these “townies” enter and win the Little 500, a rite of spring 125 mile relay bike race at the University of Indiana. Breaking Away is, of course, also a cycling term for a rider or team moving out in front of the peloton leaving the rest in their dust.

I actually bought Breaking Away a few years ago. I bought it because I had not seen it for years and it was rarely on TV or so it seemed. I bought it watched it. Almost immediately, one of the cable networks began showing the movie. I have seen it at least three times fully and probably five more times in bits and pieces.

The second movie which I am watching now is more recent. It is called The Flying Scotsman. This 2006 movie is about James Obree who participated in a Velodrome sport called world hour competition. It is quite simple. It is very simple in concept. How far can you go in one hour on a velodrome. I read about Graeme Obree in Bicycling magazine. I learned about Obree and watched the movie after having gotten back into cycling. He had to deal with bipolar disorder, what used to be called manic depression. He even tried to commit suicide at least once.

The fictional Dave and the very real Graeme are much better cyclists than me. Graeme, in setting his hour record, did 52+kms in one hour. That is 32 miles and change. The best I have ever done is 17 miles and change. I am proud of my personal best but it does not compare.

In both movies, the main characters rode fixed gear bikes at some point. Fixed gear bikes have only one gear and no coasting. They are the bike of choice for velodrome and track racing. They are also popular with bike messengers for many years and more recently urban cyclists and commuters. I have two of them and really enjoy riding them. So, you can see that I clearly relate to both Dave and Graeme.

It is after 11 pm on Friday night. Tomorrow morning, I will hit the road and try not to be passed by cyclists much younger and in better shape than me. Of course, it is, long term, a losing proposition and I am no John “The Legend” Sinibaldi (1914-2006). He was an Olympic champion in both 1932 and 1936. He was US National Championship 18 times, presumably in different age classes. Up until his last months, John Sinibaldi rode 30-40 miles a day adding up to 7,000+ miles a year. And I was elated to have logged a personal best of 3,845 miles last year which was quite an achievement for me. I had a lot of free time last year. This year I will be lucky to log 2,000 – 2,500 and actually that is a good thing because I am busy.

All three stories are fascinating. The Obree and Sinibaldi stories are fact, the other is fiction.

5/22/10: I woke up early this morning. I took my sweet old time to really truly wake up and for the temperature to warm up. I jumped on my Schwinn Paramount and did 17 miles with never being more than five miles from home. It was a rare non-windy day here and I did well. I was not setting any personal best records but I was in the top twentieth percentile of what I do. I did not pretend to be in either of these movies. Rather I kept practicing and memorizing the song I would have to sing later that afternoon. Singing and pedaling go well together. Usually when I concentrate on anything but riding, I tend to slow down. I do not even know it until someone passes me and wakes me up. Hmmm… it is hard to find a multitasking combination that actually works.

I am certain Graeme Obree or John Sinibaldi would have buried me in a New York minute. I am even sure that the fictional Dave would have left me in the dust. But none of this thwarts me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cousin Lindsay

Uncle Rouben Gavoor, Cousin David Gavoor,
 and half of myself circa 1975
"New" Cousin Lindsay
So, I am minding my own business checking e-mails on Friday, July 9, 2010, trying to whittle down my to-do list that seems to grow faster than my capacity for accomplishing things. I checked my blog, the one you are currently reading, and noticed I had a new comment on my May 2004 letter on my Uncle Rouben. I wondered who might be posting on this. I noticed the name Lindsay Greenawalt and it did not ring a bell. Here is what Lindsay posted.

I found this blog post on Rouben Gavoor today and I thought I would contact you to see if you could answer my question. Supposedly Rouben was a close cousin of my grandfather, Paul Manzoian. I am guessing that Rouben and my grandfather would have been related on my grandfather's father's side, since the Manzoians were from Kesserig as well. His father was Ohannes "John" Manzoian. John came to America in 1909 and lived in Worcester before endin up in Providence. John's parents were Boghos Manzoian/Menzoian and Anna Najarian (or Nazarian, no one is really sure which was the correct spelling).

My grandfather was born in 1925 in Providence, and according to my grandma it was his cousin Rouben who tried to get him into the officer training for WWII, but he was 17 and wanted to be "on the boat fighting".

Anyways, I've found that you've done a lot of research on your family and might have an idea of how our families are related. I've been attempting to put together as much of the family genealogy together as possible, despite numerous roadblocks! Any info would be fantastic! You can email me through Blogger.
Needless to say, I answered her immediately. We have been exchanging e-mails since then and have even talked on the phone.

If I had checked with my Father, his brother my Uncle Buddy, or any of their first cousins, I would have known that my Father's paternal Grandmother, Maryam, was indeed a Menzoian. But, I didn't do that. Lindsay being both diligent and a library scientist who really knows how to dig, uncover genealogical gemstones hidden in obituaries, and the on-line database of Ellis Island documents. She wrote me back with Aunt Yeghsa's death notice in the Portsmouth Herald(NH). Aunt Yeghsa was the youngest sister of Uncle Rouben and my Grandfather Aram. In the obituary, it clearly stated "she was the daughter of Marderos and Marion (Menzoian) Gavoorian. Later on this same day, Lindsay sent other gems from the Portsmouth Herald including letters from Uncle Rouben and an article announcing that Uncle Rouben would be retiring from government service and settling in Rye, New Hampshire: State Department Official to Retire Here – 1/4/62.

Since then, my Dad, Uncle Buddy, and their first cousin Florence Shabegian (her Mother Arshaloos was a sister of Aram, Rouben, and Yeghsa) have confirmed the Menzoian connection. They all said I should have asked them first, but my new found cousin is just too quick. She also found my Grandfather Aram's Ellis Island documents including the ship manifest of the SS Rochambeau that sailed from Le Havre to the US on January 25, 1913. She also sent his Declaration of Intention and Petition for Naturalization forms. Cousin Lindsay has immediately endeared herself to the Gavoors.

Underlying this wonderful story that is still unfolding is my Great-Uncle Rouben. His deep devotion to family and perhaps even deeper devotion to staying connected continues to pay off in creating connections like this one with Lindsay more than fifteen years after his passing. Well before the age of unlimited calling, e-mail, facebook, twitter, and our overwhelming channels for staying connecting with friends, family, and well everyone he knew... Uncle Rouben simply "corresponded." He wrote letters and sent cards acknowledging birthdays and anniversaries. He was adamant and dedicated. He would always ask me, "Are you keeping up with your correspondence?" I hear him asking me this now.

Whatever seeds he planted led, in part, to my blog, my postings remembering him, and ultimately connecting with a branch of his family, my family, that Lindsay is part of.

So thanks Uncle Rouben and thanks Lindsay. Uncle Rouben would have loved this.