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To blog or…

Why Blog?

Be curious, not judgmental.

— Wald Whitman

I attended the Digital Architecture Design Day conference today and was inspired by one of the keynote speakers Eric Schabell who talked about sharing thoughts and ideas to educate, inspire and ignite a conversation.

This got me thinking about how i’ve always felt a tendency to help and educate people with things i’ve learned and also have a (healthy) thurst for knowlegde and understanding and simply to write things down. But i never took the time to share my thoughts and ideas to enable this in a more structured way.

So the proof of the pudding is in the eating and i’m going to use the coming year for exploring blogging and see what comes out of that.

My blogs will mostly be about my work as an Architect at bol.com, my experience with basketball and training kids, living with the auto-imune disease called ‘graves disease‘ and what i’ve done to cope with it, movies, family and my second favorite sport crossfit.

So here goes.

Netflix Health Documentaries part II: Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy

In these corona times I though it would be a good idea to follow up on my previous blog about netflixs’ health related documentaries. So below are two I’ve watched and my thoughts on them.

Cowspiracy

bol.com | Cowspiracy, Keegan Kuhn | 9781608878437 | Boeken

This documentary is from the same people as ‘what the health‘ but cowspiracy focuses on the relation between the environment, polution and the animal industry. As most people know and what the data shows is that animal-stock for food has one of the biggest impact on polution of soil and air and the destruction of natural habitat. Either directly by destroying forrest land or indirectly by polution through manour or the food needed to feed the animals, which again causes destruction of natural forrest and land.

As with ‘What the health’ this is a personal discovery story which includes the political entanglement between environmental protection agencies and the industry & politics from which they should protect us. It does not go into too much detail about health, but again it does point out the need (or lack of) for meat and nutrition. It’s not really needed and we can get most of the protein from plant based food with a much lower footprint.

Again, this documentary is very much oriented towards the US but in the Netherlands this topic is very actual and the reason why the past months their were a lot of protest from farmers. The documentary shows a few interviews with several people and it’s interesting (for lack of a better word) to see how they (from the environmental protection agencies) try to avoid answering very obvious questions.

Now i suppose there is always a nuance and i think the world can have an animal stock for food, but it drives the point home that it starts with human behaviour and education. The last few years these documentaries, scientific studies, vegan and vegetarian diets and meat-substitutes have already started a shift in how people approach meat (or dairyproducts). So a very interesting documentary, sometimes a bit slow, but this in some aspects is better than its better known brother ‘what the health’.

Seaspiracy

Yesterday I watched a sort of ‘sequal’ to cowspiracy but with the sea being the centerpoint: Seaspiracy. Now, if you’ve watched cowspiracy and stopped eating meat….this will definitely make you stop eating fish all together.

The documentary is well made but tries to fit in lots of viewpoints and takes on our troubled oceans which make it feel rushed at some points.

On the other hand, it gets the message across, we are killing our oceans all the way through and thus are killing our selves. I thought I knew quite a bit but lots of interesting facts came up:

  • Fish/whale/shark poop feeds the oceans
  • Algea and oceans in general take up way more co2 than all rainforests take together (sort of logical since it’s really vast)
  • The movement of fish and other creates through the oceans vertically, also contributes to how oceans behave and nutrients are distributed
  • Almost 50% of the plastic soup is made up of fishing gear, not plastic straws
  • Fish population can recover quite fast…if left alone
  • Overall there is 90% decline over the past decades of fish/shard/whale/dolphin population
  • The MSC label of fish is a huge joke since there is little oversight and in some cases people who went along as observers got ‘lost’
  • Entaglement between crime-syndicates, governments and the fishindustry is enourmous, they don’t care about future generations, they care about money.
  • Warming of the planet is not the only cause of coral-reefs dying, overfishing (and destructing by huge fishingnets) is more releated to coral-reefs dying because fish (and poop) is what keeps corals alive.

Now like cowspiracy it takes the worst of what’s going on in the world and focuses on main culprits doing damage like Europe, China, Japan and the US, since in those place, fishconsumption in combination with sheer number of consumers and money is enormous. What’s also, again, apparent is that organizations like MSC or others pretending to protect the ocean all seem to be sponsored by companies who have other interest and close ties to the fishing-industry. They try to put a lot of focus on consumer-plastic being the real problem, but apparently around half of the plastic in the ocean is fishing gear. But that’s not mentioned anywhere on any site, and when asked, people of those organizations often don’t have a good response.

There’s also a philisophical angel about eating fish, as we learn more and more about if fish feel pain. And the way fish are being caught, like killing animals for meat, is quite often inhumane.

Now it does not take enough time to also shine light on improvements some fishing-industries might have made and how for example fishquotas are a (half) attempt at preserving the fishpopulation. I don’t know enough about the topic but I know there is for example ‘pulse-fishing‘ and the site Medium also gives some insights into initiatives being taken and this site contains a paper with a set of proposals. So going to read up on that.

Now in the end hoping people will stop eating fish (which is sort of the conclusion of the documentary) is useless, in my view it’s about bundeling the power of technological innovation, educating (from kindergarden to cool documentaries) and government to bring about change and stop overfishing and destruction of ocean eco-systems. Not by saying ‘no’, but to help the fishing industry achieve a sustainable level, teaching people about the oceans and consequences of human influence on them (where is Jacques Cousteau when you need him), and coming up with alternatives for fish as food.

Will I stop eating fish? Probably not, but I will certainly try to eat less and be more aware of my consumption. The ocean has always had a mystical and romantic influence on me and my diving experience in Australia and Thailand were magical. Would be a real shame if my kids would not be able to enjoy that experience. The weird thing is that it’s solvable right now, but changing people and whole ‘fish-oriented’ cultures is a hard task, but documentaries like these hopefully will open some eyes!

My Corona Questions

Like everyone i’m fed up with the Corona crisis and want it to stop sooner that later. The primary challenge i have is getting good unbiased and/or emperical information about certain topics to form a good opinion.

Everyone seems to know the truth and what to do, but i always ask myself on what to they base that information. Good knowledgable people sometime come up with information and graphs which in hindsight don’t make sense. Social media is full of the ‘screaming wronged’ and almost by definition not a good source for information. So i thought i’d blog about 3 questions i have and see if i can get some answers.

The main reason for this is that i have now 2 statements

  • I don’t want a vaccination-passport
    • it will exclude people who should not be excluded
    • it will we used more widely that just ‘big events’, entering other countries for example.
    • i don’t need to show a vaccinationpassport for other possible diseases i’ve been vaccinated for, so why now?
    • i’m one of the last to get it, what happens untill that time?
    • once we have it, it’s very likely to stay (and misused), so without an exitstrategy…..
    • what about my kids (<12), won’t i be able to take them to large events anymore?
    • it seems like a beginning of the end
  • I’m not sure i want a vaccin, because the data shows that my age-group, if healthy, has almost no risk of dying. So why would i need it?
    • For myself: I have an auto-immune decease, so even the slightest chance of things going wrong, i try to avoid. Otherwise i’m perfectly healthy (i think) and have almost no chance of dying.
    • For others: sure, but the agegroup (in combination with know underlying illness) for whom it’s a possible danger is getting a vaccin. So if they have a vaccin and somewhere between 70-90% protection, then the healthcare system will get back to normal. Because that’s why we’re in a lockdown.

So with that in mind i have a few questions:

1. Is the coronavaccin safe?

In my opinion and what i’ve read from what i feel are reliable sources: yes.

There are a lot of folks out there who have spoken out against it and are reluctant. From the anti-vaxx groups to sceptics, from big-pharma haters to doctors and other medical experts, and just regular people who feel they don’t get told the entire things.

So i’ve been reading about what the vaccin actually does (one example: cdc), how long it stays in the body, etc.. Preferably from a combination of sources, like actual experts on vaccins and people who invented it. I do get the sceptisism because it’s quite a new (rNA) technology that’s being used (although in the making for a long time), but that doesn’t make it a bad technology. Actually it’s very promosing and hopefull for future outbreaks (which will occur).

Moreover, there are almost 400mln people who have been vaccinated, with different vaccins. If it really was bad for you than a lot more people would have died and even countries like China and Russia won’t be able to keep their population in check.

What you do get is a lot of news about people dying after they’ve gotten the vaccin which now even means that some countries stop giving people the AstraZenica vaccin. I found this site to be helpfull which investigated those deaths. And depending on your level of sceptisism, it’s often older people (>70) who have other health-issues as well and simply the ‘normal’ deathrate. Those people would have died anyway and it does not seem to be related.

Now bigpharma haters and conspiracy nuts will most likely not trust those numbers or sources, but then again, anything, no matter how realiable or emperical, won’t resonate with those people. So no use arguing there.

So why won’t you get the vaccin then if it’s safe?

Good question: same reason i don’t get the flu-shot, why would i need a vaccin against something that only affects me like a flu. Sure there is a risk, and if the vaccins started with the healthy population it would have gotten it. But that’s not what’s happening. And i have a firm believe that healthy food and living is protection enough against corona, maybe not from contracting it or even getting sick, but dying…..nope

2. Is corona no worse than the flu?

No it’s definitly worse, however, what you hear it’s 3-5 times more lethal than the flu. Which sounds bad, and it is, but you have to look at the group of people for which it is so lethal. According to the site i shared (worse):

COVID-19 patients with the highest risk of death included those aged 75 and older who also had chronic kidney disease or dementia, and Blacks who were obese, or who had diabetes or kidney disease.

So, although bad for those people which need to be protected because it’s definitly not always their fault (yes, even obesity is not always something just to be solved with eating less and more excercise), it most certainly does not apply to everyone. And that’s where politicians and newsoutlets play the ‘scare’-card to get people in line.

So excellent news that those people will get vaccinated, that is the only way out. But for most people, especially reasonably healthy, if they get it, it’s more like a heavy flu. Yes, there’s always a small fraction of young healthy people who are worse off with the virus, but to base your life on those numbers seems wrong.

3. Who can i trust for corona information?

Everyone looks at it from their perspective and interests so there is no 1 source which has the ‘truth’. I do recommend potholer 54, a medical journalist who does his research well and gets to the bottom of certain public (covid) ‘truths’.

What i also try to do is listen to both sides of the isle and then really look out for specific generic arguments, statements or graphs people use and always aks: what are they showing me, what are they actually saying, which sources to they quote.

Especially regarding the evening-curfew, there is no clear evidence anywhere that it works. I’ve seen someone use a graph with a small decline which they related to the curfew but someone else related it to the weather or another event which seems just a likely. And people were already not going out much at night during winter. But i understand the rationale behind it, most transmissions occur during personel visits so keeping that to a minimal should in theory work.

Same goes for facemasks, there is very little actual evidence from studies that it has a big impact. Sure, it’s not being tauted as THE solution but having a law in place that mandates wearing masks in indoor public places without any clear evidence is strange to say the least.

But the question nowadays is, who can i trust for anything anymore. Difficult, but i have some suggestions.

My suggestions

  • Don’t limit yourself to 1 source, at least use 2 different sources
  • Look at the data yourself, in the Netherlands I use: https://allecijfers.nl/nieuws/statistieken-over-het-corona-virus-en-covid19/ which tells me that although the numbers are up (which is a result of policy change), the percentage is down which is more telling.
  • Don’t just ingest information/opinions, be critical what people tell you
  • Discuss things with other people, they might come up with an angle you haven’t thought of (which possibly could change your opinion, so be carefull 🙂 )
  • Listen mostly to people who actually know something about the subject being discussed. A doctor is not a virologist is not an immunologist is not…..
  • As always, educate yourself and keep learning!

And coming back to my statements, they still stand although i’m less worries about the vaccin.

Talking to Strangers

A while ago i started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Talking to Strangers and i was pleasantly surprised. It’s a really great storytelling book about how well you really (think you) know someone and goes into several fabulous (historical) stories of spies and people from different walks of live meeting eachother and what happens when we start judging people without context.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor talking to strangers

One of the most interesting parts was the story of policing and why it is that in de U.S. the police pull over people for very minor things in the hope to catch bigger fish. Apparently it started as an experiment where the police in one city determined where most crime was committed and based on that started this strategy. This was succesfull in that crimes dropped and thus other cities started to notice.

That’s where it (somewhere) went wrong. Most cities just adopted the strategy all over the place in stead of focussing it in areas where most crime was committed. And that, for example, resulted in the heartbreaking story of a black woman being stopped by a white police officer where the former got shot and killed. While it’s very easy to blame the officer, in my opinion it’s the system in which the officer has to operate and what he has been taught is at fault. Of course using your own judgement still is important but i would not underestimate the training they recieve, that where the more dire the situation gets in their perspective the more they fall back on that training. But this story is about that having asked one or two more questions could have prevented this tragedy.

Applying thoughts to work

All in all it’s a very good book, with more great stories, although it doesn’t really come up with a concrete conclusion or advise. But it got me thinking about how well i know people that i, for example, work with. You talk to them on a daily basis but really getting to know and understand them is something i should do more often, otherwise they remain strangers.

And this is not to befriend them but to understand their background, motives and what drives them. For that you have to take time so one of the first things i did was spend at least half an hour a week with each teammember (team of 5) talking how things other than what’s currently on their plate. Still could be work related but more on a higher level like how they feel about the companies vision, or their ideas on the product that we are working on.

But also about personal stuff which really helps me in understanding people better. It’s not always easy because people don’t always feel comfortable talking about those things, so i usually open up a bit about myself. More over, i work at an e-commerce company (bol.com) where i work with software engineers, which are overall a special kind of breed, mostly with a hint of autistic tendencies and not always good at softskills. Luckily my team is quite good at being honest and open, but also sometimes without a filter. But once you get to know a bit better and understand them it really helps in the relationship and building a team.

Applying thoughts to personal life

After reading the book it also got me thinking about certain stories from my personal life. For example, one couple seemed very happy on the outside and although they were struck by the death of their unborn child, seemed very strong. But a while later, after they had moved, i got a call from my friend and wanted to talk. To my surprise he confessed to have cheated on his wife several times and that they were having struggles. Now, from the outside it seemed nothing was wrong, but we really didn’t know them for real i guess. Although this is always a hard to thing find out. The good thing is that they are still together.

I also have the same feeling about my father, although he cared for us very much and was always there, he never shared much about his youth or upbringing. Sometimes a few fragments here and there. I guess both my parents were like that, never being able to share or help us with emotions or tell stories, which reflects a lot on myself. So altough they were my parents they were also in some sense strangers to me because i never knew what they really felt and what motivated them.

Moving forward

Now i won’t do a deep dive with everyone i meet but i think the most important part is to keep an open mind. It’s very easy to draw conclusions. For example, when you see a young man with a middle-eastern complexion in an expensive car, you think: drugdealer (or something like that), but when you see a white kid in that same car you think: borrowing daddy’s car? Most likely it’s nothing like that. I guess being bombarded with (social) media opinions, bits&bites and screaming headlines makes it hard to keep an open mind.

Even my son, 11 years, already has a certain mindset towards certain types of people because that’s what the news shows him and what he hears in school and from people. And i have to keep telling him that certain behaviour or look doesn’t imply a bad thing, just something different. Unfortunalty certain people keep proving stereotypes right which makes my job as parent even harder.

For me it’s clear that you have to really talk to people to understand them and be respectfull (which can be quite hard) but that something people will remain strangers, no matter how close you are with them.

My Battle With Graves Disease, part 8: you’re fired!

It has been about 18 months since i stopped taking medicine for the second time due to Graves disease flaring up. It was also time for potentially my last call/visit (again) with the docter depending on the latest bloodtest. But also an uncertain feeling popping up.

The call

Since we are still in a lockdown a visit to the hospital was switched to a phonecall which i got on a tuesday morning. So, not unexpected, the results were good. Otherwise i would have noticed something by now (i hope). The call was short and ended with the fact that she would now transfer care to my local doctor. Which basically meant that i was ‘fired’ from her care.

I did ask about numbers and percentages for cases like mine, see said she didn’t have a lot of numbers but said that cases like mine still had a high percentage of coming back. And even if not, she mentioned that my thyroid would eventually ‘deplete’ and start going into hypothyroidsm. But when is uncertain.

The procedure now is that i have to do a bloodtest once a year for a checkup, which i have to schedule myself. Or, if think i have certain symptoms, do a bloodtest then.

The results

Above you can see the latest results, they are both within the boundaries of a goodworking thyroid. However when i look at the trend for the T4 (graph below) i do have some concerns since it’s an upward trend.

I’m less concerned with the TSH values since they are low in the bandwidth.

Hairloss on shins and calfs

A thing i noticed is that i am losing hair on the outside of my shins and calfs on both legs. A search on the internet resulted in a few hits but this report caught my eye which is named ‘anterolateral leg alopecia’, a form of hairloss on the legs which might related to the auto-immune system. So this is something to keep an eye on. I had it before but then it grew back (slowly) but now it’s receding again.

Now what?

I have ambiguous feelings, although it feels good to have been fired from care, the fact that the numbers are showing an increase and seeing how the previous ‘episode’ went takes me in uncertain territory.

Regarding the numbers, of course i would ideally have more testresults over a longer period to see about the trend. So my idea is not get tested once a year but at least 3 times a year. Especially since i was too late the second time.

Do i have a better feeling about it that last time? Yes, i am more optimistic because i’ve also change my diet to glutenfree and cowdairyfree (i do eat a bit of goat/sheep cheese now and then) since then. Also due to the changes in supplements, see this blog at the bottom (although i’ve stopped taking Q10) and adding gypsywort which is a plant that has supposed thyroid supporting capabilities.

The trick is to at least see how the next half year goes, since that was when it went wrong last time. So hopefully i can give a positive update before the summer. But after that…..we’ll see.

Teaching Crossfit during COVID-19

In my previous blog i wrote a bit about my learning experience of starting as a crossfit coach. During these times i’m fortunate that the box i work out at is open as well as the box that i teach at. So i wanted to share how that experience has been.

Start of the pandemic

When the pandemic started, everyone and everything had to shut down. Including gyms. This was (and still is) hard on small businesses where there is usually not a whole lot of savings to endure a long period. So it was for our crossfit box but it was good to see that our community still paying their monthly fee, even though they couldn’t do anything.

So quickly our box came up with 2 solutions which were really appreciated

  1. Lending equipment: from barbells and plats to rowingmachines. Like a library you could pick a few items to take home and return them the next week. Everyone took advantage of this and really took care of stuff
  2. Remote video-WOD’s: which were ok, mostly bodyweight but not a whole lot of interest.

All in all we could remain busy. The box where i teach had to close down entirely and were in more trouble because they mostly rely on income from brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, etc… But because they just started crossfit and did not have a large crossfit community yet, that had to shutdown completely and could not provide an alternative.

Limited restart

Then before the summer the rules started changing which meant we could train outdoors. Luckily this was in the summer and it was good fun. However moving equiment out of the box to a small cemented area (and back) was not ideal, but great to just start working out again.

The distancing rules were applied but in practice it’s hard to prevent people from coming to close to eachother when moving around. Cleaning of equipment was done at the start and finish but the protocol at my box was far from perfect. At the gym where i teach we did have pump-spray which we used after each WOD but cleaning of hands was not mandated yet. Still good to start teaching again, but i had to be carefull with the distance and giving cues.

Summer opening

YES, gyms could open up again and there was light at the end of the tunnel! At both gyms distancing was tried but often not really looked after. As an intructor i tried to apply distance but was difficult when trying to give cues, so i often used the pvc for some pointers but i have to admit i sometimes got closer than adviced.

The box i teach at is smaller and with a max of 8 athletes already a bit crowded. The disinfecting of hands was often not done properly and cleaning of equipment after each wod was also often neglected. However, up till now there were 0 cased of covid in both gyms

Resurgence

Then the second (and currently the third) wave came after the summer holiday and rules got more strict. The good news was that the box could stay open but with stricter rules. They now created areas within the box with tape, only arrive 5 minutes before workouts, mandatory masks when entering and moving around the box, cleaning of equipment and disinfecting of hands at the beginning. At my box there rules were applied more strict. At the other box the rules were more loosly applied but the maximum number of athletes allowed was limited to 6, which is actually a decent fit for the limited space and equipment.

I do keep a mask at hand to help people out during the workout, especially if they are for example benchpressing of squating more weight. What i do tell people is not to help eachother out to keep the distance. But in practice it’s almost inhuman and goes against people’s nature to stay away from eachother.

However the rules felt moot, when working out you could take the mask off but that’s when the sweat and aerosols start moving further because of the heavy breathing. Also when getting equipement it was almost impossible to keep your distance. People forgot their masks now and then, and during a WOD you could still move around.

What was good is that the workouts were a bit more tailored to keeping distant but it felt really weird that up untill that moment we did without the rules and nothing happened.

What’s next?

Because the number of cases started rising really fast despite stricter rules, i fear that coming wednesday (16-12-2020) we’ll get stricter rules and, amongst others, gyms will have to close for a period of three weeks. It feels counter-intuitive, because if there is one thing that’s important is staying healthy and strenghtening your immune-system. So closing gyms feels weird and wrong. As i wrote in my previous blog, it does not solve the pandemic. And the box i teach at might be at risk if they have to close down again so fingers crossed (for them).

And then a few weeks later, if the numbers drop (doubtfull since X-mas is coming up) things will start opening up again with the same rules, but i guess we have to wait untill the summer for anything resembling the way things were for working out.

Crossfit critics

Not really related to this topic but i had to share this. Crossfit people know Jillian Micheals, she for some reason has it in for Crossfit and sees it as something dangerous. She recently posted another video which was hilariously replied to in this video by TeamRichey. TeamRichey also made a video replying to here criticizing crossfit last year in this video.

And i saw some more people criticizing crossfit, however, like most things, people on social media and youtube can blurt out anything they want without any proper information backing them up. And most of all it’s a monologue so they don’t have to worry about a discussion they can’t ‘win’ and can even turn off comments to avoid critique.

We get it, crossfit can be dangerous, but read up on this report with this quote “CrossFit injury rates were similar to those in other recreational fitness activities”. It all depends how you approach crossfit and the coach at the box. It’s about relative intensity and not thinking you can snatch 100 Kg after a few WOD’s.

When people start out i tell them to slow down on technical aspects, apply very light weights and for the first few months get a feel for the different combinations of modalities. Then SLOWLY start increasing the weight, reps and up the intensity. It’s like any other activity, think what you are doing, don’t overdo it all the time, be realistic, know what your limits are and have fun!

Corona: the second wave

In the Netherlands the second Corona-wave seems at it’s peak and on it’s way down. But why was there a second peak, why was it so high in terms of contaminations but far less deaths than before, and what made the Corona crisis so big in the first. I wanted to write down some thoughts on why Corona has impacted us and why the second wave occured. It is by no means meant to pretend i know it all but this is what i’ve gathered from different sources mixed with my own thoughts.

Human-animal interaction

The root of this virus and why it got transfered to humans has everything to do with how we see and treat animals and nature. This particular case was most likely a bat which is a delicacy in China but there are likely more virusses lurking around in animals which we don’t know about. So why are we not more carefull about this?

It’s about the ever expansion of human settlement and agriculture which decreases the size of habitat of animals. You see regular newsitems of people killing animals that ate or destroyed their crops or invaded villages and homes and theatened or even killed people. The decrease of habitat in turn brings animals ‘closer’ to humans which increases the risks of humans coming in contact with animals who carry diseases. This is just common sense and exactly what humans do when their habiat is threatened by famine, war or flood.

Globalization

The term ‘globalization’ has been used for decades to indicate that the world is getting smaller partly due to affordable travel-options and increasing income. We fly all over the world, we take 2 or even 3 vacations and just get around more. The primary solution to stopping a virus is isolating it long enough to die out. But our travel-options (in combination with behaviour) just makes it easy to spread really fast and get to places where normally it wouldn’t. This is what caused the fast spread of COVID-19 in the beginning of this year and also the second wave after the summer holiday. I’m not saying we should stop travelling, that’s a whole different topic/blog, but when rules restricted people from travelling, the global spread stopped. However too late because it was already all over the place.

Overpopulation

This one might be too easy for some, but for me it’s really simple, we can make the cake (read: earth) more efficient and last a bit longer, but in the end there is only 1 cake. And if you have too many people that also aspire to have a western’ lifestyle’ you have a problem. Now this is of course more about food and water, but it translates to the spread of virusses as well. With 8 billion people living relatively close together (mostly in coastal areas) you simply have more people to spread the virus. That in combination with globalization is a recepy for basically one big superspread- environment.

The good news is that the human population will decrease after a while and i always love to see video’s from Hans Rosling about this topic who puts things in perspective about overpopulation. However we still expect to hit 11 billion people which in my opinion is just about more than twice as what’s needed for a sustained future.

Human nature

If you want to stop a virus you need the cooperation of the people and in this pandemic at least in the Netherlands, that helped curve the first wave. Everyone was on board and did what was asked. However, they did this we the expectancy of getting back to normal within a few months. Which at first seemed to happen and before the summervacation we were in decent enough shape to open up borders and go on vacation abroad.

But after the holidays things started going ‘south’ and was the start of the second wave. Lots of kids partying in Spain and France (superspreader), end of the islamic offering-fest (superspreader), people traveling all over europe and the world, and in general slacking in following simple rules like keep your distance, wash your hands, work at home. People thought it was almost over and/or were tired of restriction to their freedom and businesses.

I think in essense we are driven by our lizard brain, at our core we want to survive and procriate, it’s in our ‘genes’. This coronavirus jeopardizes that and the result is that people either fight (protest, misinform, ignore) or flight (scared, isolation).

In Asia they learned from the previous virus (SARS) so they already changed their behaviour and were more preprared. Moreover they are more prone (especially in China) to believe and follow government rules and have a more ‘needs of the many’ mentality. In Europe we have a far more individual mentality so if we are limited in doing what we want to do, we tend to object in many ways. Human behaviour is hard to change and depending on the culture, it’s hard to contain a virus.

Optimization of Healtcare

We have a great healthcare system for a ‘normal’ situation and have optimized it to run as efficient as possible. However with such a pandemic where too many people are getting sick enough so that they need hospitalization it simply can’t cope. Why is this this? Firstly, obvious, is the sheer number of people in a short time, it’s hard to plan for that and can’t be blamed on anyone.

Secondly however, the efficiency (due to free market structure) is based on a ‘normal’ situation where even a slight increase is hard to manage. We should have build in more slack because we’ve known for a long time that a pandemic is not about ‘if’ but about ‘when’. And like most things, we first need to feel the pain before we act on it. But the cost of this learning-curve is human lives. So hopefully we learn from this and always have a bit of overcapacity, not just regarding IC-beds but also medical-material and equipement, and think about having a ‘standby-draft’ for medical personel when you can requisition people from their daily jobs in an emergency.

Politics over science

I’m not a believer in science because science doesn’t need believe, it’s needs verifiable, peer-reviewed evidence. But for politicians to follow science to the letter, especially in this case, is almost impossible because of the consequence on so many levels and for so many people, short and long-term. On the one hand that’s good, science shouldn’t be the only driver.

However in this case it would have been better if we acted earlier and firmer. The reason China and New Zealand are now in the clear (as far as we can see) is in great part because they acted early and strict based on scientific evidence and advice. Every country where it’s on the rise again is where politicians are a bit too afraid of political and economical consequences. But now partial lockdowns have been stretched over a long period and we are still not there.

The most effective and easiest solution is for a full lockdown of three weeks, then the virus should be 99% gone. Combined with maximum testing all over the place we should be fine. I don’t envy top government officials , they have to make tought choices based on incomplete data and information. So next time i hope they will be more swift and strict which hopefull will result in a much shorter pandemic.

Too little testing too late

Yeah, also a bit easy because we simpy did not have the testcapacity (also partly due to optimization of healthcare) in the beginning but we could have ramped up testing much quicker. Now you have lots of commercial testing going on which is fine but not affordable for a lot of people, and not talking about the problems between government bodies and these commercial companies.

The good news is now that we have quick-tests (although reliability seems a bit off) and enough testcapacity. The next steps is to disperse those tests to schools, companies, etc..to identify outbreaks as soon as possible. But again, a few months too late. Is government too blame? That’s always an easy scapegoat, our society and government are simply not equiped to handle these events. That’s no one’s fault but also everyone’s fault. Complacency and hoping for the best doesn’t work in a pandemic.

Social media & misinformation

Personally this is most frustrating to me, all those uneducated and misinformed idiots (e.g. youtube influencers, antivaxxers, far-right wing zealots) out there abusing social media to spew there ‘opinions’. This causes so much unwarranted and unneeded mistrust of science and government that it opens another battlefront of correcting those views.

I’m all for being critical about data and information but most people just look at one-liners or short pieces of information in their own social media bubble and take that as the truth without looking at or understanding the context, and spread that further, infecting more people.

I do however agree with the criticasters that argue that the long term economic and social impact might outweigh the (deadly) consequences for a relative small group of people who seem mostly older, more obese and with more underlying healthissues. The question it boils down to is how much a human life is worth. The numbers now seems to indicate that the casualties are no higher that a very high severe flew outbreak. Information earlier this year indicated that this would be higher. The difference however with flew is that COVID-19 seems to attack the lungs, resulting in many more people in the hospital.

But in the end the influence of social media regarding misinformation is just too large to ignore and i suspect that in the coming 10 years we will see a shift in how people view information and either social media has to re-invent themselves or make way for others that do. Polarisation is such a large problem driven by use of social media that we have to act, although i’m not yet sure how. I guess like everything it starts with education and making (especially) kids more aware resilient.

COVID-21?

Like Asia did with SARS, i hope we’ve learned from this pandemic and start preparing for future scenario’s. Because all the reasons i gave above won’t miraculously change. I hope people will realize that acknowleding the dangers of pandemics and how individual behaviour can help spread virusses, is a first step in changing human behaviour and curbing future outbreaks of COVID-19 or any future pandemics.

If you think i’m wrong or have more information on (other) certain topics, let me know, i’m always interested to learn. For me its mostly reading and learning about topics from different (reliable)sources and viewpoints to form my own opinion so that i can act in a sensible way and not believe the first headline i read. Stay healthy!

Teaching Crossfit: online courses

After i got my Crossfit Level Trainers certificate i was adviced about taking a few extra online courses to broaden my horizon and dive deeper into topics not or partially covered during the training course. In this blog i wanted to write about which online courses i took, what i thought about them and how it helped me during training.

There are a bunch of online courses but the once i took are:

The courses

In general the courses are not cheap compared to what they provide. The anatomy for example is 120$, i understand the busines model behind it and it’s very lucrative but the value for money is in my opinion a bit off and should be reduced by 20-25%.

The good thing about the online courses is that you keep access to the material and that you can print a certificate when you complete the course. However i would have expected more material to be available for each course. For the scaling, for example, it would have been nice to have a downloadable overview of all the excercices with variations of scaling options.

The courses themselves are well structured, take you step by step through the course and provide to-the-point information with lots of visuals and video’s. Especially the scaling was well done with relevant examples.

At the end of each subpart of the course you take a quiz consisting of about 8 to 14 questions. The questions themselves are not that hard, if you can understand and read English properly. Otherwise it might take a bit more time. What is sometimes a bit frustrating is that you have 1 question wrong and you have to take the quiz all over again before you can move to a next block. And then the questions are exactly the same, so it’s technically possible to not read anything and just do the quiz ‘mastermind’-style. But then again, who would do that. I would like to have seen a bit more of a coursera-style where you get maybe 3 or 4 tries before having to wait 24 hours. Also having a variation in the questions as to keep you on your toes would be an improvement

The questions for ‘spot the flaw’ were a bit different because you got videos of people working out and you have to tell if they did it wrong or how many did they do wrong/right. Most of them were okay but with the kipping pull-up it was very difficult and i only got it after 5 or 6 times. At that moment i was just going up or down 1 because i simply couldn’t really see it well. Which can be illustrative for real-world workouts. Sometimes you just can’t see properly.

So all-in-all decent courses, well structured with good material and examples but if you really want quality from people and making sure that a certificate actually has more value then there is plenty room for improvement.

Courses Applied

So how relevant and valuable are these courses in practice? For me personally the scaling course was the one i found most valuable and that’s because in my class if have to scale a lot. The course really helped me with some basic principles for scaling which i can apply to almost anything. Also coming up with a few options for injured athletes and and just having to think about how to scale what for whom has been really helpful.

The spot the flaw was decent and it added a bit of value. However most flaws were addressed during the CFL-1 course so i knew most of them. So this was more of a repetition which is always good. However, as mentiond above, i miss a good overview and was expecting that here.

The anatomy course was a more difficult course, or at least more timeconsuming. There’s lots of (for me) new things to learn and know and from my experience if you don’t use terms on a daily basis you tend to forget. And that is my concern here. It helps me in terms of having more anatomical background and understanding how and why things (don’t) work. Especially the ‘lever’ part will give you some more insight why certain positions work better. But if you aks me in 2 months to name all muscles around the hip & femur, or the 4 joints in the shoulder or all parts of a vertibrea…..i probably have to look stuff up.

Next steps

There are 2 courses still on my list

  1. Masters: in my class there are a few athletes over 40 and i’m just a tad over 40 myself so having a bit more knowlegde and background for that category will certainly help me.
  2. Running: i don’t really like to run and for me it’s a weakness, and i want to see if i can improve and also help others improve there running with some tips&tricks.

There are more online courses that are interesting but like i said, they cost money so i’m spreading the costs a bit. But they certainly have their added values and relevancy that you can apply or at least learn from. So have a look and have fun learning.

My Battle with Graves Disease, part 7: setback scare

When i got back from vacation at the end of august i felt relaxed, ready to go to work. Then i opened my inbox and my first thought was: ‘why can’t things run smoothly for a short while’. The first day back and i already lost my relaxed mindset.

Shortly after i started feeling a bit tired, started sleeping worse, had some trouble with my stomach and thought i felt my heart pumping a bit harder. And more troublesome, i lost a bit of weight. So all sorts of alarmbells went of with my history of graves disease.

Some symptoms like a tight chest and trembling hands were not present. Was this a setback? Was this the moment of truth where all my hard work went undone and my thyriod was in overdrive? This in turn also led to a bit of stress which didn’t help at all.

Last week i asked for a bloodtest, and when you get called back the same day or early the next, you know you are in trouble. So i again was a bit anxious and tried not to think about my phone.

No one called! Was i off the hook? I wanted to know the result because if you are in the ‘range’ you are fine theoretically, but you could also be just on the edge. So when i called and heard that everything was fine (0,51 / 16.8) i felt relieved. I already saw myself going to the hospital and talking about ‘nuking’ my thyroid. Not a pleasant foresight.

But why did i have some symptoms? Well, it occured to me, and i already knew it a bit, high stress after a relaxed vacation puts your body and mind in a terrible mode. Everyone knows too much stress is incredibly bad for you, but knowing what to look for and seeing the first signals can be difficult. Especially when some sings are the same as graves disease. And we are good at making excuses that nothing is going on, things will pass. Not taking care of yourself is the worse decision you can make.

So as a result, i decided to build in more moments of relaxation and a bit of meditation, during the workweek. For me a good signal is tightness in my stomach so breathing deep and relaxing my abdominal muscles is the first things i need to focus on. I have an app on my phone with guides meditations which worked well in the past so i’ll start using that again. Just being aware this can happen is the first step, but you have to be always aware which can be tiresome.

For my next vacation i have to figure something out as to not get into a high-stress situation righ away (or any time for that matter). You can’t run away from work (at least not without consequences) so how you manage yourself is all the more important. This in combination with changes i mentioned in my previous blog should put me into a good starting position. But for now…i’ll just try to breathe and relax.

Stay healthy, always keep learning!

Digital Minimalism: free your mind

As mentioned in my previous blog i got a lot of reading done. This book was also a great read, and more, a call to action for myself to evaluate how technology and social media impacted my life. The book is called ‘Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World’ by Cal Newport.

The gist is to value conversation over connection and to use technology to support what you value important, not what technology companies want.

The book is not about abandoning technology but to use it in the best way for you, but also with the goal of not feeling the need (addiction) to know what’s going on all the time through your smartphone and social media.

The term ‘slot-machine’ comes up a few times and has to do with the urge to refresh all of the time by swiping down (like a slot machine). This is what tech companies use to trick you to come back. A pshychological trick to generate dopamine, a feel good mechanism. This combined with the Fear Of Missing Out (FIMO) is a perfect mix for what is best described as an addiction.

What struck me more was the relation (based on research) between the introduction of smartphones and the rise of anxiety amongst kids, including a rise in suicides for that group. Apple (and other companies) may have done a great job at developing a smartphone, but, inadvertently has caused a social addiction with unknown (and knowd) consequences.

As a parent it’s something that i have to explain to my kids and hoping that they make the right decision. It’s not about keeping them off smartphones or social media or games. But more about the consequences when there is no balance in how you use it in your daily life. Not an easy taks for parents, since kids need to explore and be creative in their own way. Unfortunatly, being stuck to a (mobile) screen is not going to help them achieve that so for now we have to set some restrictions.

Our own system how to limit time involves 4 ‘coins’ which represent game/screentime. 1 Coin = 1 hour of game/screentime. Which for us works really well if you start early, then it becomes part of their system. How long we can maintain that system when the oldest goes to middle-school…..

After reading the book i was even more convinced we need to change things around. So what i did:

  • Removed facebook and linkedin from my phone (not my account)
  • Removed most apps i never used
  • Removed the games (which also apply the ‘dopamine’-trick)
  • Put app i steel feel relevant in a map, so not to clutter the screen.
  • Designated 2 nights as ‘no-screen’ (tv/netflix/app/games) night for everyone. In stead, do something else like reading or board-games or anything else but screentime.
  • Stop listening to music when i’m riding a bike to work (although it feels like relaxation, your brain does not)

Still on the list is to go out for more and longer walks, although that requires a bit more planning. The books describes walking (long walks) in nature as a great way to relax and clear your mind. It does this by proving some great examples, like President Lincoln. But the first results are already in, i don’t miss facebook at all. I don’t miss linkedin at all. I do check those accounts on a laptop now and then, but especially the added value of Facebook is close to zero. Also screenless-nights are more relaxing and i go to bed earlier often.

I would really recommend this book to anyone, but especially to people who use their smartphone for everything all of the time. I (You) don’t want to be that guy/dad that pays more attention to a screen than to his family. So hopefully, just like my battle with graves, i am able to change my lifestyle for the better and not just a temporary thing. Feeling less stressed and not worry all the time what’s going on in the world is more importat than ever.

Range: generalists triumph!

A vacation is always a good way to read a few books from your to-read list in a short period. I managed to read 5 the past 2 weeks, 2 of which i wanted to write a blog about. This blog is about: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein:

Amazon.com: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World eBook:  Epstein, David J. : Kindle Store

The idea is basically about having broad experience, even of several (different) domains/crafts, is just as relevant and even more important than (hyper) specialization which seems to be the focus of todays education & work.

Learning, sometimes it involves putting experience aside entirely

He mentions people like Roger Federer, Charles Darwin, Elon Must and a bunch more as an example that you don’t need to start (at a very young age) focussing on 1 thing but that the experience of other domains and crafts help you further along and to come up with ideas you otherwise wouldn’t come up with.

Part of the book is about education which focusses on short term succes, mostly by assisting students with procedural tricks (just do it this way, than it will work out). But research suggest that it does not really help them in the long run. Students don’t have to try really hard to figure things out. While research indicates that this is wat would help students later on, they can make connections themselves because they have been forced to think harder. This however would result in lower grades and frustration in the short term and that would result in angry parents and frustrated kids.

Also, we expect kids to know what they want to do when they are 18/19 and have to choose the next educational step, when often they don’t even know who they are and what’s important for them. It might be better to allow kids maybe 6 years in college with more options to choose different topics like economics, social studies and sports academy as to experience more things. A great quote from the book i take to heart about choosing what to do next:

Here’s who i am at the moment, here are my motivations, here’s what i’ve found i like to do, here’s what i’d like to learn, and here are the opportunities. Which of these is the best match right now? And maybe a yearw from now i’ll switch because i’ll find something better

Equally with sports (and music), parents tend to want to focus too early on 1 thing ( or too much in my experience). However, the book remarks that having a broader experience in sports (and music) helps kids later on much more because these experiences come together at a certain point and they often come up with different and better solutions.

The difficulty is getting a broad experience and even more so, the time to get that experience.

The idea of the book is that with ‘range’ comes connectivity of ideas across domains and thus solutions to problems that a hyper(specialist) wouldn’t come up with. A striking study was regarding the idea when it’s best to get a heartattack. The common idea is at a cardialogist-convention. However, the study showed that it is best to get a heartattack at that moment but not at that place, you have a higher suvival rate at the hospital because you get treated by people with other experiences and they solves things differently. This is something called:

Overlearned behaviour, that is, they have done the same things in response to the same challenges over and over until the behaviour has become so automated that they no longer even recognize it as a situation-specific tool

The book also challenges the assumption that you have to be young to come up with your best ideas. It’s shows that it’s just as likely that with experience in more domains/functions you’ll come up with ideas at a much later age.

The books provides great and amazing examples where a different perspective solved a problem and was thought of by people who had ‘range’. It gave me new perspective on my own career and choices i can make. So try something different, work, hobby, sport, music, read a book about something you never thought of and get inspired and to end with a quote from the book:

Trying things is the answer to find your talent