Thursday, April 26, 2012


I wore my Team Rwanda cycling jersey for the first time on a ride today.  My friend is a member of the board for the Rwandan National Team and gave it to me as a gift this past xmas.  She's also over there right now donating her time and skills as an architect for an orphanage.  You go girl!

So at the end of my ride I ran into Zach, who used to work with us at the store.  I showed him the jersey and he was very excited - he's from Cote d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast).  Turns out he knew that the Moroccans are some of the best cyclists on the African continent and also knew about the Tour de Faso.  I think he was very surprised that I not only knew these things too, but that I've seen the Tour de Faso on television several times. And that I knew the Eritreans also produce some top notch cyclists.

Now what are the chances that the first time you wear your cycling jersey from a small African nation you run into an African who knows about cycling?  This stuff only happens in Aspen I tell you.  Only in Aspen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Frozen Cows

Now here's a problem you don't run into every day.  Last fall a rancher that had cattle grazing off an allotment in the Gunnison National Forest (think Crested Butte) reported 29 of his herd missing.  Well, they were located this Spring in and around a cabin at the Conundrum Hot Springs here in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness (think Aspen side of the mountains).  The animals took quite a scenic tour of the backcountry before meeting their icy fate sometime this Winter.

US Forest Service Photo
No big deal right?  Just dispose of the carcasses you say.  Not so fast Einstein.  The Hot Springs are in the middle of nowhere.  Literally.  They're eight MILES up a singletrack trail at 11,200' elevation.  And it's a dead end trail that still has large snowdrifts scattered about.  For those of you not familiar with the mountains, these are just hot pools of water geothermally heated from the ground.  Other than the cabin you see in the picture, which is just for bunking overnight, there is nothing commercial about this location.  No signs, no stores, no motorized traffic, heck, usually no clothes either (in the springs).  You hike in, you hike out.

So that leaves a bit of a problem.  And with the very mild Winter we had,  a perfect storm is brewing as pointed out in this quote from the U.S. Forest Service:
"Hungary bears, human bathers and thawing cow carcasses aren't a good mix"

No doubt.  The Forest Service is also concerned about contamination into the Hot Springs.  Makes sense.  They took some water samples for testing so we'll see. 

But the thing is, they can't actually 'close' the Hot Springs.  They can put signs up, but they can't man the place or very well enforce it's vacancy.  Hopefully they just need to shut down temporarily for the cleanup and people will do the smart thing.

Now about that cleanup.  That's the head scratcher.  With just a single track trail and no motorized vehicles allowed (not that anything but a dirt bike could get up there in the summer anyway, and it's too late for snowmobiles) hauling them down out of there is just not an option.  Okay, so what are the options?  These are the three being talked about:
  1. Dynamite the carcasses.  I'm not so sure about this one, I think the Ski Patrol Avalanche Team is just getting a bit excited to use their explosives.  Besides, just imaging the friggin mess.  No wait, don't imagine that, let's move on.
  2. Burn them.  The Forest Service actually took samples of the cabin (a few of them apparently made it into the building itself) to see if it has asbestos.  If not, then trying a controlled burn seems reasonable.
  3. Clean up some chainsaws, grease them with cooking oil, go up there and have a big time BBQ party.  This would be the best use of the meat of course, but with potentially 29 cows up there you would literally need to have a thousand person BBQ.  And this is just not the locations for that.
Too bad though as there is quite a booty of grass fed meat up there.  If you figure I paid about $650 for a quarter of a pastured cow last summer, that could add up to like $75,000 worth of meat.  Geeeezzzz.  For that kind of money you would suspect some ranchers would look into getting GPS chips for their cattle or something.  Actually, now that I think about it, there's probably not a lot of places in this country where you can just lose a herd of cattle.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I had two trains of though collide today, resulting in a funny moment. 

First, let me say that I think about food and nutrition a lot.  That, you already knew.  I read a bunch, I tinker with my menu here and there, I like to see what others are doing and trying.  All good stuff.   The thing I try to avoid, however, is overthinking these things.  Analysis Paralysis as it's been called.  What comes to mind in regards to food is called Nutritionism - the belief, or even obsession, that the health benefits of food derive from their individual nutrients.  In other words, it's the person asking:
Where do I get calcium from in my diet?
What foods are high in Vitamin K, or this or that nutrient?
Am I getting enough Fiber in my diet?
Is there a lot of arterycloggingsaturatedfat in there?
And on and on.  I suppose this is the whole basis behind the government food recommendations where they say to eat this or that many servings from various 'food groups'.  And there's nothing wrong with thinking about these things, it can just become quite absurd in a hurry if you know what I mean ... take this classic for an example:
You don't eat dariy products? ... then where do you get your calcium from?
Right.  Early humans didn't eat dairy and I'm quite certain they didn't fret one iota about where they were going to get their calcium from.  Zoom out on the old nutritional microscope and let's look at our diets for what they are - FOOD.

Alrighty then.  Here's how I kinda got caught in the nutritionsim trap myself today. 

The first train.  A few weeks ago I was looking at salt in the store and came across something called NuSalt.  It's a 'salt substitute' made from potassium chloride.  I thought to myself, I add plenty of salt to my food, but perhaps I'm upsetting the sodium/potassium balance by not consuming enough potassium.  So I purchased some and have used a shake or two on some of my dinners.  (Interestingly, my family rarely used table salt on our foods growing up ... probably a good thing as we had our share of 'conventional' foods)

The second train.  Two weeks ago I ditched chocolate, which I was consuming after my lunch.  After every lunch.   To compensate for the calories I started adding in some buffalo jerky, but that wasn't quite enough.  A couple of banana's rounded out the meals nicely though.  On top of the banana's I started sprinkling an Asian salt blend that I had received as a sample at the store.  Kinda good.  Like peanut butter and chocolate.  Well, not really. 

Trains collide.  Today I had the day off so I ate lunch at home, finishing, as usual now, with a couple of banana's.  As I'm eating the first bite of banana, contemplating how the taste of NuSalt goes with it, I realize that I just added potassium to a BANANA!

Yep, I think I can stop using the NuSalt for awhile. 

You just have to laugh at yourself sometimes. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Trivial Gains

I wasn't planning on doing a follow-up about foregoing chocolate for a week, but I've noticed two trivial gains, one of which is kinda cool.  Firstly, I had trouble replacing the calorie hole left by leaving the chocolate out.  I added some Buffalo jerky after lunch the first few days, but that didn't cut it as I was drained merely going for a walk after work mid-week.  A couple of banana's with the jerky remedied the situation nicely though.  Okay here's the two things:
  1. I leaned out a little in my lower ab area.  No surprise.  Also no big deal.  I'm quite lean already and I've no desire to step onto a bodybuilding stage at any point.    
  2. My visual acuity increased.  This one is cool.  I have high myopia and have required corrective lenses or contacts since I was 12.  Although my eyes stabilized years ago, I guess I've gotten used to vision that is not, well, really sharp all of the time.  It's spot on all day now, and I'm loving it.  So much so that I don't plan bringing chocolate back on a regular basis (WOW)!  We'll see though.
So the thing with the eyes piqued my curiosity.  Was sugar causing or perhaps inhibiting crystal clear vision?  Was it something in the chocolate other than sugar?  I went hunting around the Internet Machine for answers and came up a little empty handed.  There's information on diabetic retinopathy, but that's different.  Some people going Paleo notice a difference in their eyesight, but it appears the majority don't.  You figure if it was sugar, then we would have a myopic epidemic.  Oh wait, we do.  We also spend much more time in front of television and computer screens and under artificial lighting.

Alright, my deal here is not to figure out all possible causes of poor eyesight or if we can better it (I've no illusions of lowering my prescription), rather I was just intrigued by the increase of my visual clarity and how it was brought on by eliminating a substance from my diet.  Is chocolate acting in other ways throughout my body that I just can't notice?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I love how there's so much to figure out.  Life really wouldn't be nearly as interesting if we had all of the answers now would it?

It was supposed to snow here today but turned out fine (bad, bad year for our local weatherman) so I decided to put my new found X Ray Vision to good use and went for a Nature Walk:

As you can see on the left, some busy Beavers are starting to make a lodge in the river (click the pictures to enlarge).  I think they were inspired by the 'house' going up on the ridge above.  House my behind, that thing has it's own gravitation pull!

Hmm, looks like I caught the Beavers during a lunch break.  Maybe the hole is where they're staying until they finish the Lodge.

120 years apart.  In the pics here you see the same area spanned by over a century (down in the valley is where the Beavers are working).  The new bridge was completed in the fall of '08.  They had to construct another one because the old one was originally made for trains and was constantly failing the State's inspection for bridges (yikes).  Anyway, the old one is still there because at 120 years young you're considered historic.

Not much about Paleo in this post, but life isn't all about fretting over diet and exercise.  Once you get pretty darn healthy you chomp at the bit to do things like this Nature Walk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chololate Creep

I do love me some nice dark chocolate.  A couple of squares after lunch is divine.  Well, maybe a 2 or 3 oz. bar.  Followed by a bite or two of some mint dark chocolate squares.  And then possibly another small bar, perhaps one with orange peel in it ... yummy.

Hmmm, that couple of squares after lunch has crept up to like 5 or 6 hundred calories of chocolate.  Every Day!  My oh my.  I'm hitting the reset button by making this week chocolate free before going back to 'a little' after lunch.

As the word creep implies, I didn't plan it this way.  It just sorta happened.  I'm not gaining weight or feeling sluggish or anything - I obviously use the calories, but I really should make an effort to replace some of those chocolate ones with real food.  It's just so darn easy though.  And tasty.

Now, I'm not going to try and justify my actions with graphs and links to the potential health benefits of dark chocolate.  Sure, it's not on the same level as donuts or soda, but I was overdoing it.  And that's my little point here.  Even those of us who have most things (sleep, stress, exercise, most of our food) nailed down, doesn't mean we're perfect.  Yeah, we can 'get away' some things and still look, feel, and perform great, but, but actually, maybe that's my point here ... once you get things pretty squared away, you have more wiggle room to enjoy things without totally driving the train off the tracks.

And by wiggle room, I don't mean it's a game of finding out what can I get away with at this point.  Rather, if, I mean when, I do stray off course, I don't sweat it much.  Case in point is this little chocolate creep.  It was fun and delicious, but it's not my mission to see how much chocolate I can consume everyday before I gain weight or start to feel terrible.  I'm addicted to the stuff, but not that addicted. 

This whole thing reminds me of people with their coffee/caffeine addictions.  A lot of the Paleo people I know try to 'limit' their intake to one or two cups a day.  Perhaps instead of looking at the glass half empty and saying we need to limit our coffee and chocolate intakes, we need to look on the bright side and say, hey, I'm healthy enough that I can ENJOY a cup of Joe or bit of chocolate and know that it's not going to destroy me.  Nice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Formula Swag

Sometimes it can feel like we're swimming up the river here in Paleo Land.  A big river.  So it's nice once in awhile to find an article which has some positive undertones.   I spotted this one at Reuters today about Hospitals being pressured to end free baby formula.  Oh, we could go on about to what extent it will happen, or maybe how it should've never been allowed to happen in the first place, but hey, it's a drop of good news in a big ocean.

From the article:
In a letter to more than 2,600 hospitals, dozens of consumer and health organizations called on the facilities to stop distributing free samples of formula that they say entangles healthcare providers in pharmaceutical and food manufacturers' marketing and could be seen as an endorsement.
Dozens of organizations huh?  That's a good sign.  I think unlike the 'Nutritional Battle' we fight so valiantly (or is that vainly) against Conventional Wisdom, breastfeeding when possible is seen as ideal by everyone.  The only problem, of course, is running into the $$$ - again from the article:
They are also petitioning the $4 billion infant formula industry's leaders - Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Nestle SA - to halt the practice.
Hard to fight Big Boy's like that ... they don't take kindly to people taking from their pockets.  I mean profits.  I heard a long time ago about Nestle giving these 'swag' bags of formula to new mothers in Africa.  People actually started the Nestle boycott over this issue in 1977.

Anyway,  besides groups pressuring hospitals to drop the free formula practice, the article tells us that breastfeeding is on the rise here in the USA.  That's more good news.  However, with only 14% of six month old infants currently being exclusively breast fed, hopefully, we have no where to go but up.

Ah Breast milk, the ORIGINAL Paleo food.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chicken Feed

Did you catch the story in the N.Y. Times yesterday about what scientists found in Factory Farmed chicken feed (called Feather Meal)?  Man oh man.  Let's see ... Arsenic, caffeine, Prozac, Benadryl, antibiotics banned over 5 years ago.  WTF are they thinking?  Let me blow your mind and tell you they actually (in their noggins anyhow) have reasons for including this stuff (from the Times article):

'It turns out that arsenic has routinely been fed to poultry (and sometimes hogs) because it reduces infections and makes flesh an appetizing shade of pink' 
'Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose'
'Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)'
And even when the 'regulators' do get around to banning substances it seem that the industry feels no need to comply anyway (again the Times article):
'One study, just published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that feather meal routinely contained a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics (such as Cipro), are illegal in poultry production because they can breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that harm humans'

Lovely.  And this coming on the heels of the Pink Slime debacle.  You know, you just know, that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  It reminds me of when I did some research on Mad Cow Disease when it was in the spotlight back about 10 years ago.  If you ever have the time, it's a fascinating story of how transmissible spongiform encephalopathies came to be discovered by the way.  My point is, as you probably know, Mad Cow arises from feeding practices that include giving bovines blood and other 'material' from, well, from other bovines.  Cannibalism.  So, supposedly that was banned in cattle feed some time ago too.  Was it enacted though?  I don't have any facts on the matter, I'm just saying that here we have a situation where the Poultry Industry clearly isn't following policy (or Ethics) so it doesn't take a huge leap to believe it could be happening elsewhere also.

So the CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) in this country are using suspect practices and indeed very questionable ingredients.  I knew that.  You knew that.  Why are they doing this then?  Profit.  And because they can get away with it.  People like cheap food at the grocery store.

Can the system change?  Can we as consumers give rise to a shift in these practices?  Perhaps to some degree.  'Voting with your dollars' is a term we've all heard and it's true to some extent.  If we choose not to buy products from CAFO's, or limit them drastically, we'll grab their attention to say the least.  Will it change overnight?  Will our buying patterns get them to stop cutting corners with dubious money saving measures?  Probably not.  But it can't hurt to hit them in the wallet ... to whatever extent we're able to within our individual situations of course (I know we can't all afford grass fed animals).

Anyway, another big point I have in this little rant is - where is the frigging Ethics in business anymore?  Somebody is actually making the decision to put arsenic and caffeine in chicken feed.  Think about that.  Now think about how in the world we can try to create an environment, a society, where that person would be like 'you know, this just isn't right'  What can we do to breed more ethical decisions into our culture?

That question sets up for a whole separate post, but I do have some ideas.  It's NOT in more regulations and ethics classes in schools.  It IS in teaching right and wrong to our children through their everyday actions with the adults in their lives.  It will take everyone in our society looking out for each other and our future generations.  I believe it is the Iroquois Nation that has a saying to the effect (not the full quote):

In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation
 Amen to that.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mild March

At the end of December and beginning of January I was going on about how mild the start of the Winter season was, but I haven't mentioned it since.  Partly because it's kinda boring and partly because virtually the whole rest of the country has had quite a tame Winter as well.  A couple of numbers popped up concerning March that I though I would share though.

Here in Aspen we broke the record for the least amount of snowfall ever, in the history of all time for the month.  Well, all right, at least since they started keeping records in 1934.  We officially had 6.09 inches for the month - SIX of which fell on the 1st and 2nd of March.  That's 98.5 % of the total in the first two days.  In other words, it essentially hasn't snowed here in a month.  

Conversely, last year we had 37 inches of snow in March.  Big difference.  Okay here's the kicker.  I have family in the Portland, Oregon area and in chatting with them throughout March I realized how good we had it here.  The Pacific NW was pretty much the only area in the country that was having 'worse' than usual weather.  And here are the March numbers for those poor chaps ... 7.73 inches of rain!!  Yep, they had more rain than we had snow.  Granted, they broke their all time March rainfall record, but still,  my brother was considering building an Ark in order to get his kids to school.


Chilblains suck
I experienced a couple of benefits from the mild Winter here.  First was that my chilblains were virtually kept under control.  For those of you who don't know, chilblains are swelling and itching that occur on extremities when they get too cold.  I don't know exactly what the difference is between chilblains, frostbite and raynauds ... but it makes no difference to me.  The only thing that is important, is to keep my fingers and toes as warm as possible.  Simply put, this was easier to do this year.

The other benefit was to my Sprinting.  The Launching Pad where I sprint was snow free for all but about 2 sessions.  Although I can sprint with snow on the ground,  I have to be a tad bit more cautious.  In other words, I still get the benefits from sprinting whether it snows or not, but when I get solid traction on the ground I can give it Full Throttle.  Thusly, my top end performance has not only been maintained, it has actually improved because there has been no 'off' time since last Winter.  Nice.

Lastly, a benefit to come.  Because of the scant snowpack, we will be able to hike up in the mountains earlier this year.  Quite a bit earlier.  And there is nothing like a beautiful hike at high elevation.  It tends to put everything in perspective.