Same Sex Marriage and Information Technology

An odd combination for a blog topic, but not really.

In the world of IT the pendulum of control has found a logical resting place. For the majority of enterprises those services within the enterprise that are considered common are under the  management of a central IT department. Services like email, data center servers and storage, shared network, remote access, security, and local connectivity are examples of services that fall into that category.

Before the pervasive use of IT, each line of business was best served by doing their own thing and focusing on their own bottom line. As technology became pervasive and the enterprise recognized that information was foundational, the recognized the need to share and interconnect systems. Barriers were quickly seen in technical, process and financial areas and acceptance of common standards developed to resolve those differences and make information readily available so the lines of business could focus on generating revenue.

handshake

You see, most enterprise leadership recognizes that IT is too complex and having each line of business do their own thing is not only inefficient, it leads to high risk from a security and financial perspective. Consistent delivery of connectivity, server, storage and desktop services provide benefit to the enterprise. Even for applications that are specific to a business process, there are still basic guidelines that are followed – not using static IP addresses in code, as an example. It is all for the common good.

The millennium transition (remember Y2K?) and a need for constant security readiness have taught most enterprises that they need to accept and enforce the right level of common infrastructure and standards. Times have changed and business has adapted.

global IT

Now, think about our national infrastructure. What would it be like if Eisenhower and Congress had thought to let each state make it’s own highway decisions? We’d have varying gauges a roads and different numbers for the same streets. Yes, there is a lot of local influence and investment in the national highway system but the foundational structure and rules of operation are mandated by the central authority.

US interstate

The examples of “common good” mandates can go on for quite a while. In almost all cases there is a transition point where local authorities or lines of business are given control, but they have to play within the standards that promote the common good.

When it comes to the rights of individuals, the common good in the United States is synopsized by the first 10 amendments of our Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

It was primarily penned by James Madison and is one of the most eloquent and simple statements of human liberty ever made into law. My favorite of those amendments is the first one, which guarantees freedom of the press, speech and religion all in one simple sentence.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the entire amendment. It means that people have the freedom to practice religion in their own way without government interference. The counter is also true. The government can not force a religion onto its people (no law respecting an establishment…). This is a fundamental difference between what is civil action as expressed in law and what is moral action as expressed in individual religious belief.

Constitution and gavel

Kind of a simple construct. You may legislate civil actions but you may not legislate morality. Morality, expressed through religion, the press, and speech is an open forum, within the tolerances of civil action. Civil action is all about guardrails. Killing someone in a premeditated manner is murder and, as a society, we have decided that it is wrong. There are religions that concur with that fundamental, but it is not because of those religions that we hold it true that murder is wrong. As a society we have made that compact. Clearly, we do not agree on the consequences for murder, but we do agree that murder is wrong.

Marriage is both civil and social. We have wrapped legal fabric around an action that is a social construct so that there are basic rules that we follow in terms of licenses and dissolution. Even then, there are nuances in every state when it comes to how marriage is created or dissolved.

If the only reason for stating that gay marriage is not allowable is because of a religious cannon, then that is not defensible from a constitutional framework. The first amendment does not allow the government to make a law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

We the People

If your religion mandates that gay people can not marry, then do not allow that, but do not force your beliefs on the rest of the country. When it comes to the law of the land, you are totally allowed to follow your beliefs, but a) you must accept that other beliefs are just as valid under the law and b) you can’t ask the government to make your religious cannon into law.

I’ve tried to write a better ending to this post than the paragraph above, and anything I say beyond that seems trite or argumentative.

I often end my blogs with the wish that you run free. That, to me, is the purest expression of freedom. The freedom to move under the power of my own body and enjoy the world around me. Today I exhort you all to celebrate freedom. It can be difficult to hear what other people say, but at the end of the day, we should all be grateful that we have the freedom to say what we think.

Be Free

Just an Average Guy

I am an average guy. But, I am not normal.

And that is a good thing.

Very few things are average when it comes to people. Let’s start with the basic question: How do you measure a person? Height? Weight? BMI? Years of education? Income? Age? How many pushups they can do? How often they have sex?

I don’t want to ruin my reputation as a writer, but I did a lot of math and statistics in college. The first thing I learned is respect for the numbers. The second thing I learned is that with the right perspective, the numbers can be made to represent lots of things. It is a statistical thing. How you measure determines your results. In graduate school I did a really interesting (Hey! It was for me.) thesis that used all kinds of statistical machinations to see if my hypothesis was true. I won’t get into the gory details, but I will say that along the way I had to make decisions on how and what to measure. I was able to find all kinds of research justifying how I did it. I’d be fooling you and myself if I didn’t think I could have found the same amount of research to justify a totally different approach. And that was before the world wide web and Google and wikipedia. I had to use a real library and keypunch my statistical analysis onto Hollerith cards and batch run them in a thing called a mainframe.

hollerith01

Melancholy over numbers taught me one thing; I could measure an entire population, calculate the mean (that is the statistician’s word for ‘average’) and find that no specific sample equals the mean. It happens all the time. So why does average matter? For manufacturing I think these kind of statistics are priceless, but for people? I’m not convinced. Sorry Dr. Oz, psychology and the weight loss industry, but I think you have it all wrong. We don’t exist on a normal density function (normal curve, bell curve, whatever). Only the measurements do.

normal curve

If I look at my height (5’5″) I am in the negative side of this normal curve. But, if I look at the number of men over 50 who have run at least 3 full marathons, written several books, have a graduate degree, most of their natural hair, a US patent, and a hip replacement, I think I’d be on the very end of that long, positive tail.

Like everyone else, I exist on many curves. The average of me is the sum of many measures, many of which are not normal. And I am okay with that.

multi curves

By blurring reality with summary statistics, analysts are missing the micro-trends of normal. Normal is context driven and very subjective since there is no such thing as objective perception. Sorry Ayn Rand. Objectivism belongs in fiction, not in reality. Normal is a blend of traits, attributes and myriad other characteristics that make each of us different.

Why is this important? 

It demands a change in perspective. We focus on all the wrong things when we equate average with desirable. Think about body style, food consumption, exercise, and don’t even get me started on how fucked up our educational system is because we quantify all the wrong things and then apply them to our children.

What is normal?

As I am often willing to do, let’s take it back a few million years. Back when we were developing as humans and became the greatest hunters on this planet. The only animal that has learned to survive in all areas of the planet – well, except for cockroaches.

We didn’t understand statistics while we evolved. (Yes, evolution is a fact.) What we understood was that every person could contribute. I am assuming that unless you were a liability to the pre-history man, you were considered a positive resource to have. That meant that the range of acceptable characteristics was measured by contribution, not focus on a specific attribute. I say that because survival was about getting enough calories to sustain while we had sex to procreate, which led to the need for more calories. During that 2 million year period of pre-civilization our DNA got wired in. We learned to dream because we learned to track animals. Successful tracking meant we had to project our minds into the animal we were tracking to understand where they would go when we lost the trail.

Zip forward to today. (Sorry for the whiplash.) I am seeing people beginning to fight against that averaging of expectations. In some cases they are fighting at the outer edges of the curve (#StigmaFighters) in other areas they are fighting in the middle of the mix (Virgin Industries and other employers who focus on people). There are men and women I know who have found new strength in accepting who they are and then building on it in a positive way. Some lift weights that are heavier than me, others craft words that melt my mind, and others move across the world with fleet feet and strong hearts, touching the essence of what made man dominant – distance running.

You homework is to find one trait you are most average about and one that you are least average about. First, humor yourself that you are the product of 3 million years of evolution. Then have a beer. Then be proud of being just an average guy (gal). Then celebrate not being normal.

Run Free. Run Smooth.

Why Natural Running?

Running is fundamental. I was going to say it was a passion, but it goes much deeper than that. Since I started to get involved in changing to a more natural running style I began reading a lot of material on the technique, biomechanics and human evolution. These areas haven’t quite intersected completely in current publications and so I will bring them together.

Why running?

First, let’s talk about the reason we run. More than that, there is a particular set of reasons that running has sustained us for millions of years and been one of the significant contributions to our mental and physical development.

About 3 million years ago the first human like creatures left the forests and started to roam the savannah that was developing and eating up the rain forest. To survive we needed to walk erect to see above the grasses and small trees. We also needed to move our heads back and forth and keep a constant vigil to find food and to not become food. The more we moved, the bigger our brains got. The bigger our brains got, the more high potency calories we needed. The human brains uses about 20% of our bodies energy. Gathering and foraging is great to keep a basic level of energy, but fresh meat had an abundance of protein and fat calories that our hungry brains needed.

It is probably likely that in those early millennia we scavenged as much as we foraged. Remember, we didn’t really have any weapons for hunting from a distance, like spears and arrows. If we killed game it was up close and personal with instruments that were in close proximity. How, then, did we kill game that gave us huge caloric benefit?  Persistence hunting.

Persistence hunting was done until the 1960s and seems to be the solution that best fits the needs of our ancient relatives. In persistence hunting a group of hunters work together to isolate a large animal from the rest of the herd. This was usually timed during the hottest part of the day. A big animal being made to run hard during the hot part of the day will fatigue fast. This type of hunting was science, not just random work. They managed the situation to the advantage of the human over the beast.

The Art of Tracking cover

As a team, the hunters tracked the animal, keeping it from rejoining the herd and making it sprint repeatedly to get away. It might take a few hours and cover as much as 25+ miles, but the big animal would eventually succumb to heat exhaustion and would either die right then or be unable to flee getting battered with a club or rock. The end result would be very potent caloric reward.

There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, the process of tracking was demanding. At times the hunter would lose sight of the animal and would have to figure out where he had gone. Part of this was learning to interpret signs of movement and part of it was the hunter learning to put his mind into the same space as the animal and finding its trail through sensation. This is arguably the beginning of man’s ability to do abstract thinking. Our ability to feel love, passion and intellect all started with tracking animals during persistence hunting. Our higher capacity for learning all stems from running.

The second factor, is that running down a large prey requires a commitment of energy. It only makes sense to make this investment if the outcome was greater than the cost. Since persistence hunting went on for longer than we have been living in cities, it suggests that the positive outcome in terms of calories was consistent. That is the key point. The cost to get the food had to be less than the value of the food

Keep that in mind while I make this next point.

How to Run

I’ve written before about a number of the reasons our anatomy indicates we are born to be distance runners. They are all drawn from works by people like Daniel Lieberman.

the human body

From toe to head we have biomechanics that only make sense if we are distance runners. Things like our short toes, our foot arches which absorb impact, the achilles tendon which operate as a spring when running, the large gluteus muscles, tendons in our neck that keep our head high, how we breath across multiple steps and the way our skin sweats to cool us. I can go on, but suffice it to say that the evolutionary record seems pretty clear.

Survival demanded the efficient use of energy and resources. If running was the basis for capturing needed calories, then running had to be done as efficiently as possible.

Even with all of the attributes that make us great runners, running had to be something more than just moving your feet fast. It had to be efficient and in a form that did not promote injury. Our ancestors had no shoes, or, at some point, only thin strips of leather to cover their feet. They grew up running in a natural form and they learned from each other the most efficient way to run. It wasn’t a random approach. Random meant inefficiency and more caloric output than could be sustained during persistence hunting.

In trying to find the biomechanically correct way to run I discovered the Pose Method. It is the only method that stems from efficient biomechanics that require the least amount of muscle expenditure while providing the least injury prone form that is fast. It was developed by Nicholas Romanov in the 1970s.

The Pose Method

In the Pose Method, the focus is on simple attributes of effective running.

  • The most efficient running happens when landing on the forefoot. It provides the least amount of time that the foot is in contact with the ground. Either heel or midfoot strikes require the foot to roll forward, which means energy is used to force the body over the foot. You can only heel or midfoot strike if you over stride and an over stride requires more energy.
    • Over stride means that your foot extends outward beyond your hips. An overstride, like heel striking, means that you put on the breaks with every footstep and have to power over with your leg muscles to compensate. That is very inefficient from a caloric expenditure perspective.
  • Forward motion is achieved by falling forward and using gravity to accelerate. The more the lean forward the more speed. There are some nuances to the fall. It is more like being pulled forward at the waste because the torso has to be straight to allow proper breathing and to keep balance.
  • The landing foot is picked up, not pushed off of. A lot of runners push off with their landed foot. This uses a lot of muscle that doesn’t really add value, but does burn calories. By lifting the ankle up in direct line with the hip, the body can just fall to the next step and few muscles are used. An increased cadence (~90 steps per foot per minute) is a cruising speed.

There is more too it, but then again, there really isn’t. The beauty of the Pose Method is that it allows you to run very fast with minimal exertion of large muscle groups.  If you want to see a picture perfect example of how this type of running looks, here is a video of Dibaba.  I am pretty certain she did not have any Pose Method training, but her natural method has all of the elements of a good Pose run.

When you tie together persistence hunting with efficient running form, you have a solution that makes sense. In other words, for millions of years we ran naturally in a very specific way. A way that minimized the calories used but still allowed us to run great distances to capture prey that yielded a very positive caloric reward.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been interesting for you. As a writer, I am compelled to keep asking why something happens and digging a little more each time to get to a kernel of truth that makes for good character motivation.

Enjoy.  Run free. Run easy.