Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A different view on project management

I am really interested about the current solutions around cloud computing. That is the idea that you build an application and put it in a cloud. The application can then easily handle a surge in user demand as easily as one that trails off. So you don't have to worry about adding more servers and databaes and the whole malarky. You just deliver your app and care about your customers. Fantastic idea and I think it's bound to become a pretty common solution soon enough. 

What if you were trying to get something done, in business say and it was possible to do the same with the people you work with. What if you had a solution that could handle lots of people working on a project at all sorts of different times and tasks which could help you easily track and manage all the tasks and make it easy for everyone to get involved and take breaks as and when they desired. 

Something that could also scale up quickly and scale down just as quickly when desired. I don't know if anything remotely like this exists but I think it's possible and would help inexorably. You could focus more time on figuring out what you actually want and less managing the mundane tasks of getting it done. 

As a solutions developer I've been thinking about how to make it happen.

First you'd need to  break down the work into small little chunks and then get people to pick them or a manager allocate them out. The reason for breaking down the tasks as small as you can is that they're easier to manage in the long run. I'd expect an id to be automatically added to them which can be tagged to anything related to it. I expect it to be easy to link all relevant resources to each task. The use of an id makes it easy to track tasks and everything relevant to them. This means much better coordination of tasks and processes. 

Why bother? you ask. 

Better for both the organiser and those doing the work. The organiser can see exactly what's happening at all times. She knowa what's finished what's not etc. If some one is sick all their work can be taken by others but in appropriate chunks. All associated work, notes ideas etc is available to who takes on the work. Thus simple quick handovers, people get up to speed asap, work gets done well and quickly, so, good for theorganiser. 

Good for the guy doing the work because he can suddenly take the day off even on important work. He knows everything will be picked up. If he's a manager himself he can watch this happen or even encourage it. When he comes back to work he can pick things back up. 

Point being. Whilst there's lots more detail I could add, I know that it could be built and the basics of how to build it. I also know that running a business and getting things done and thus making a decent profit would become exponentially easier with a tool like this. It's about delivering the ability to expand and contract your worker pool very quickly yet having full control, reporting etc. It wouldn't work for all markets but for many it would be a break through. 

Some one will build it sooner or later. There are probably systems that already do a lot of it. But it's what I've been developing in my head for years because it means getting things done in a group becomes so much easier. People can come and go but the project carries on as normal. So humans can get on with their inherently variable lives and projects can carry on regardless. 

It means you could consider allowing works much more flexible hours and work in apparently un connected locations while carrying out your esential task with the ability to see the whole project as required. 

Monday, 30 March 2009

Hector Ruiz: The power to connect the world

Just thought I'd share this tidbit from the CEO of AMD on his vision to connect 50 percent of the world through the internet by 2015. It's an inspiring talk. I feel I am really watching history in the making these days. Obviously it's always being made but I think it's really dawn of a new age stuff.

The internet and the related technologies along with mobilephones have changed the world and the way we live so much it's easily comparable to the invention of the steam and combustion engines. It's just the time frame is even shorter. 

The idea that my mum remembers milk being delivered on horse and cart is just a completely different world. Well my kids are gonna be amazed that I used to write things down, couldn't get hold of people because they weren't at home where their phone was and that shops weren't open at the weekends. 

How it's changed. But I really do love where things are going. We know so much more about each other. 

Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do, and how we can do it better


Genuinely. Just watched the TED presentation by Tony Robbins titled 'Why we do what we do, and how we can do it better.' This is a man with a great message who knows how to spread it. 

What's his message. That we all have the power to change our lives. Not always in a material way but through our own view of the world. Whether you are fulled or not is done to your own assessment of what you've done. I can't do justice to his views here, you have to watch him to fully understand. 

What I can say is that rarely do I find someone that I agree with almost from the first point they make right until the last. In such a short space of time he tells stories and explains things that go right to the heart of my life and remind me of what has shapes me and still does to this day. So his presentation kept my gripped til the end. The humble yet empassioned style is one of the most human and real presentations I have witnessed. 

Just thought I'd share it

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The internet is a giant database: Tim Berners Lee talks about the future

I caught a really fascinating talk from the man who invented the internet Tim Berners Lee that introduces the idea that the internet is essential becoming a giant database. 

Ajax, Web services, Mash ups. They're the current solutions. He goes further to say that done properly all applications could unleash their potential by providing apis directly to data. Providing quick answers to the questions we ask. The current interfaces may become less relevant quickly because the cost of maintenance may become too high. 

This assumes that there will be providers who specialise in taking this data and making it relevant. But then that's already happening isn't it.

Sport as an exam

Sport as an exam has been re-produced at my new blog The Competitive Urge.

I realised recently that sport is like n exam. In most exams it's not about how good you are at any particular subject. It's how well you answer the questions you are posedon the day. Nothing more and nothing less. Course work isn't so much like this.

In this situation you could know everything about the subject or sport. You could have all the answers, know all the shots, be the fittest and still lose or fail if you don't know how to make it work on the day. 

That's what I was taught about exams. Don't assume they're an exact test of your ability. They're a test of your ability on the day and how well you answer a question, or set of questions you haven't seen before. 

Sport is just the same. No matter how well you prepare you can still come up against an opponent who asks questions that you just don't know the answer to on that day. Any other day you'd win but not today. 

So those who really reach the top learn that their ability to form the best answer from what can do or what they know at the time they're asked is what determines how high they rise. The more consistently they do this the better they're chance of being the best. 

Could sports training strategies help with headaches and migraines?

Given many of my recent posts I'm now coming close I feel to a theory that can explain many headaches and migraines as the brains way of telling us that our brains have been pushed too far and they need time to recover. 

Partly this is because there is no real concept of the brain being injured, except for having a bump to the head, yet all the evidence is that it functions much like our muscles do in that as we focus our energies on a task certain areas of the brain consume more blood and thus oxygen and carbohyrdate. This also implies that they can get over worked. 

I've yet to find a physiological process that doesn't suffer from overwork.  so it's only fitting if the brain can suffer too. I think that's probably accepted. My point here is that I feel the concepts from sports science to deal with this overt training/overwork effect that I feel is happening.

I say overtraining as well as over work because I generally notice migraines in myself and others when I haven't been sleeping well and I've been pushing myself particularly hard. Often with out any build up or training to get my brain ready for the exertion that will occur. Put this way it's clear I'm talking about training. Try it yourself think back to the headaches you've had. 

Not all will be be due to over work but many are likely to be. some headaches are caused by other factors but I'm just trying to highlight that knowledge of how to train our muscles to deal with the demands they are put uunder, particularly scarce resources such as fuel and water could be equally applicable to treating and preventing headaches. 

If you approach the problem with this mindset you may get some results that surprise you.
feel headaches n migraines may reflect a brain being pushed 2 far.
Over worked n the body can't keep up with repairs. Perhaps leading 2
injury. If the brain is like a musc why do we not accept it may get
injured? Thus maybe we should learn how to treat the injuries

intense exercise can it smash blood clots?

I was reading a back issue of Peak Performance (article 229). I'm floating around a theory in my head that we all experience mini traumas in our bodies on a regular basis. Not sure exactly how regular but maybe once a month. Maybe even daily. By micro trauma I mean something bad happening that if not dealth with properly could cause serious damage. Something as simple as a tiny blood clot or tiny fragement of something travelling round our blood stream could ultimately block a capillary. If enough capillarties were blocked in a key area such as for part of the herart muscle or brain we'd suffer problems.

We always notice the big traumas and then realise that we've been building to it for a long time. Our lifestyle has been leading to it. Well, if this is the case then what makes the difference between a clot blocking a capillary and it getting through, perhaps being broken up in the process.  Conventional wisdom suggests don't let them form and eat perfectly etc. That's fine but that assumes you've done everytying necessary to stop them forming. Logic is that you probably haven't. 

So my answer, or hope, is that there are natural ways to deal with this kind of situation. Namely decent exercise. Particularly sometimes pushing yourself as hard as you can. Why? well if your blood is being pushed around really fast then it'll be under a lot of pressure. If you've built up to this over many sessions then your body will be strong enough to resist the pressure. However the blood clots and other articles that shouldn't be there won't. Hopefully they'll be smashed or made sufficiently smaller so they don't present a risk any more. 

Well that's the theory. I just wanted to log it here cos it was left in my notes and could have got lost. Maybe something to support it will come along.

It's also worth mentioning that there is growing evidence that intense exercise every so often is great for preventing osteoporosis and diabetes. it's essentially about challenging your body regularly and pushing it to keep up with the maintenance required to support these activities. Essentially by pounding your bones you force the body to strengthen them preventing osteoporosis and by forcing your body to conserve its carbohydrate use it must maintaing its sensitivity to insulin. 

How alike are we all? One persons health advice is anothers warning

Sometimes I think we forget that the human gene pool is pretty diverse. Until relatively recently we have survived in many different extremes, desserts, ice belts, tropics, temperate climates. Places where food is scarce, places it's everywhere. Thus our gene pool should contain abilities to survive on many different diets. In fact I think it's more likely that many different peoples would have subsisted on very varied diets and would have quickly adapted to this. 

I've read that many asian people cannot stomach milk because they have no lactase in their bodies to break down the milk sugar lactose. Europeans rarely suffer from this. That's because European lifestyles involve dairy produce and asian people don't. That's a generalisation but it shows the effects each culture can have on its population. Now that, as people, we mix much more than before it could be that all these genes will eventually merge but I don't think enough time has passed and there's no proof it could all merge. 

What I'm saying is that there is no evidence that we're all exactly the same. In fact all the evidence is to the contrary. We're all slightly unique in our own way and that should mean that the perfect diet for each individual will be slightly unique too. In fact it means that the perfect lifestyle as a whole should be slightly unique. Maybe now it seems a bit silly that we should all be encouraged to eat the same things. Especially when no one can agree.

Feast and Famine: Is that what our bodies expect?

Feast and Famine: Is that what our bodies expect? has been re-produced at my new blog Cell Your Sole.

I thought I'd already blogged about this but I just checked and I haven't. Ok, then background. I was in the OU library a couple of weeks back. I had the urged to pop down the human biology section and see what caught my eye. I know I shouldn't admit to that it's far too sad. But that's how much this stuff fascinates me.

Anyway I picked up a book named 'Human Biology and Health: An evolutionary approach' and I was hooked for the first. I can't remember every detail but basically began forming a few theories based on what I read here. I also used other references but can't for the life of me find them. Oh well. I'll just have to launch in. 

the theory I was working on is basically a way toxins can build up in the body and how they can be got rid of. With this knowledge we can adjust our lifestyles to take advantage of this. Eliminating toxins from our body should be a great way of minimising their bad effects. Much like taking out the trash. 

The way this works is because the body has certain mechanisms in place to get energy from cells that aren't needed by the body or are marked as dangerous. This mechanism is not used if you eat plenty. Thus those who eat less than others are more likely to use it and thus get rid of bad things from their body. I think I've held off putting this out there in case anyone reads this too literally. You still need to eat enough high quality food to thrive. My approach is through using intermittent fasting so I flush my body with great food regularly so I'm always healthy. Then when I think it's full of nutrients I fast for a day or so to encourage my body to break up the bad cells for food and get rid of their contents.

Ok, here I'll explain this in a little more depth. 
From human biology and health I came across a possible explanation why people who eat little could live longer.  The theory began with how toxins build up in the liver and ultimately cause it to fail. 
  • Toxins in food get absorbed in gut and sent to the liver.
  • Liver doesn't get rid of toxins. They get more concentrated.
  • Toxin build up causes problems.  These mount up. 
  • Organs start failing.
  • Then u die.
Then I came across research that showed another pathway by which our body get energy. From devouring its own cells. Apparently it's not a random act. The immune system is constantly patrolling our body through killer b and t cells. Any bad cells that can't be devoured on the spot are marked for deletion. Since we've normally lived in a periods of feast and famine you body seems to assume that during the next period of famine these cells will be lost and the body will be cleaned. 

The main problem these days in western societies is that few of us have problems getting enough to eat all year round. Thus it's entirely possible that we're all slowly building up bad pollutants and cells in our bodies and over time their effects show as all the diseases and problems that affect western society. 

Obviously that's a big claim and I can't vouch for exactly how much it all stacks up. It does make sense in a logical way though. That our bodies mark up cells for deletion is something I've heard a lot before. That they'd be the first to go if we couldn't get enough food. That makes sense too. That only recently has there been enough food for all. That's well known. That all those who reach truly exceptional ages over a hundred are all on the thinner side and seem to eat frugally in general. That seems to be the case too.  I have noticed many times that while larger people can be very healthy there seem to be less and less of them that make it to an older age. That said I'm not sure if they just get thinner as they get older. Maybe they were larger when younger but not when older. 

What also makes sense is that cells that have become cancerous would, in theory, be ejected from the body in this way reducing the likelihood that a cancer could take hold. It also implies that without this mechanism risk of all related diseases would be higher. That seems to be the case according to health statistics. 

I do wonder if our bodies are essentially well adapted for feast and famine and thus our constant feast is something we're not suited to. If that's the case then coming up with safe ways to implement a famine (I'd prefer just a simple fast of a day or two) could be useful. As long as we're aware of the risks and don't get carried away. Don't forget just living your life according to hunger. That often works for me. If I'm not hungry I don't eat. If I am I do. 

It sounds like a very simple answer to a complex problem that fits with what is currently known and explains how we could survive in the tough conditions we've faced over the years. There could easily be a lot that I haven't thought of or I could have misinterpreted things. 

Either way I look forward to seeing if this theory holds water over time. 

What you put into your body or how you get rid of it: What's the most important?

Does any one know what we're supposed to be eating any more? Seriously I really think it depends who you listen to. Everyone has a different answer. Think I'm crazy? well first it was low fat, then low saturated fat, then low carb, high protein. It goes on.

Ok we've all heard that debate. Well what do the oldest people in the world eat? Shouldn't that tell us something? It's not to say that this is a prefectly representative example. It could be that they have genes that can survive no matter what diet they eat and the rest of us don't. That's a perfectly plausible explanation.  

I also like to question the idea that we're all alike and so generic advice can be given. I don't really feel this is the case.

I think in truth the answer is plainly that we just don't really know what is the best combination of foods that humans should eat. Stepping back a little I'm not entirely convinced that what we eat is infact the be all and end all. I look to evolution as guide because it's practical. It deals with real life issues over time. What I find when I consider the evolution and how it would affect length and quality of life I conclude that organisms that survive well must be well adapted to dealing with the challenges of the lives they lead. 

Ok, that's a simple but obvious point. What does it mean? It means that we need to be good at dealing with the dangerous things we are exposed to, particularly if they get inside us, either by choice, through being eaten or by other means, through infection for example.

When we prevent bad things by controlling what we eat we assume that's the only way bad things get into our body and assume that we have complete control over what's in the food we eat. I haven't even started to rip apart these assumptions. Suffice to say it's inherently flawed. No matter how much you analyse the food chain and try to improve it there will always be a possibilty that something bad gets in. Of course that assumes you know what's bad in the first place and can isolate it and remove it and leave everything else intact.  I don't believe that's an easy or worthwhile thing to do. 

While I'd love to have complete control over what goes in me I don't trust at this point that I know exactly what that should be. Don't forget they've only just decoded the human genome. That the software that makes us up. They don't claim to know what it actually means yet. Also most studies on what we should or dshould not be eating simply track what we have the ability to track. If it can't be tracked or no one thinks it's important then it's ignored. I've never found that kind of approach to be particularly reliable. I'm not saying it's bad. Just that I take the results with a pinch of salt. As we get better at tracking everything and the tools to analyse this wealth of data become more accessible. Then our interpretations will become meaningful but I don't think we're so close yet. 

Ok, so what do we do instead? I can only speak for myself of course, but I feel we got by pretty well before we had all this amazing knowledge. That's not to say that disease wasn't rampant but for those with enough food and water, and appropriate shelter, survival rates were pretty good, assuming there were no wars going on and you didn't live in the land of a tyrant. 

What I'm saying is, our bodies seem to survive pretty well themselves. That's not to say they can survive everything we throw at them. I think it does come down to our ability to get rid of toxins and the things that are doing us harm. I would expect evolution to equip us with this ability. OUr immune system and other components would be able to recognise things in our body that either shouldn't be there or shouldn't be happening and do something about it. 

I think this sounds logical. If you can't stop it happening in the first place then make sure you can stop it once it's started and clean up the mess afterwards. I think we're all familiar with this approach in our daily lives. so is there any evidence? Funnily enough there is. I'm not sure how well accepted it is or how thorough the research is  but I wrote an article titled Feast and Famine: is that what our bodies expect? to cover exactly this. The basic theory I talk about is that our bodies slowly accumulate toxins and pathogens. Their effects can be seen in cells and the immune system simply marks these cells as bad and in need of destruction. During times of scarce food these cells are used for energy and their contents disposed off which meets two needs. Fuel and getting rid of rubbish. Given that in many areas of the world food is either abundant or scarce it makes sense that animals including us would be adapted to both survive and even take advantage of this fact. 

That's just theory but ever since I came up with it, it has fitted much of what I see. What it also does is say that I shouldn't just care about what I eat, I should care about how bad cells and toxins are rid from the body. That's something I've been considering for a while. This research gives me an answer I can work with. 

Right now it's highlighted the potential benefits of approaches such as intermittent fasting. I don't particularly like a rigid approach, rathe rone that just goes with the flow of my life. What this has done is make me question the appropriateness of having 3 set meals a day. I have to confess that I've followed all sorts of routines over recent years and now I'm wondering if it really matters when exactly that you eat. Unless your body is especially sensitive to fluctuations in nutrients I would expect that our bodies are simply designed to make good ue of nutrients when they're available and preserve them when they're not. 

I wrote another article suggesting that our bodies could be better at preserving the nutrients they are given. A lot of this really comes from research I read many years ago during either A levels or degree. It showed that rats uptake of essential nutrients depended on how well stocked their bodies and diet were already with that nutrient. In english that means that if you're body isn't low in a nutrient then it is pretty wasteful with it. Yet if it's in desperate need then it's adept at getting what it needs. As long as enough is available in an appropriate form in the diet. 

Ok, to the layman this isn't so much help. it still begs the question how much is enough. That's where I think we don't have the real answers. We can talk about requirements in terms of milligrams but few people can work out what that means in terms of the meal they last ate. So it's not practical. That's why I just ensure I have a few nutrient dense foods each day and ensure I have backups frozen, tinned and  dry so I never run out and they're always easy to hand. 

Now that I am confident my body can deal with any mistakes that occur I can just focus on putting good things in my body. If I fast a little here a nd there then I can encourage it to get rid of what's not good. 

That's the theory any way. We'll see how this pans out. 

A New Software Manifesto for India

Wow, here we go again. I come across one old email, follow a cool link I'd forgotten about and a few minuts later I've blogged about 200 articles. That's what happens when I'm insipired.

In this case it's about the rise in the open source movement.  An article showing several calls for open source software to underpin democracy in India.  I'm hearing time and time again articles and speeches from very high levels such as president Obama of the US enthusing about the benefits of open approaches. 

Perhaps the best slogan I've heard is 

That kind of says it all. I'm excited because I really can see a time when so much of what used to cost becomes free ,or virtually free through micro payments. I keep wondering if this kind of rhetoric has been around for years and I haven't noticed it. Maybe because I'm working in OSS I'm just hearing more about it. Yet in truth the places I'm hearing about it bbc news, cnn etc are all public places that didn't report these things before. 

I also believe it's because the current rich nations are feeling much stronger competition from those developing across the globe. I've heard a lot about many including the giants of inda, russia, brazil and china who all have the potential to eclipse the current elite, particularly the US. This new class are looking for efficiency and driving down costs. Building new business models all of this following the old adage of necessity is the mother of invention. 

Put it another way I just see it as evolution but applied to humans, populations and markets. To bring about the rise of developing nations sooner they put pressure on the incumbents grazing in their pastures and putting evolutionary pressure on the entire ecosystem. A simple way of looking at things is that we all need to feed. That's what the competition is really about. But in markets and communities feeding is not just about resources such as food and water. There are plenty of solutions there. It's generally about money and thus how we can all trade for the resources we need. 

So it makes sense for those with less developed economies to address this need by finding ways to bring the cost of resources down thus increasing the value of money by ensuring it can buy more resource. Of course this means that the pressure goes back on the supply end of resources. Because more and more people will be able to afford things. However right now, particularly with the internet. The ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently and consequently provide real solutions to those in need is increasing exponentially. 

For example the ability to help those without water, get it by all sorts of means is improving by the day. All because it's easier for many people with lots of dfferent ideas can connect with those in need and suggest solutions. Entire groups of people can engineer a solution and explain to those without water how to replicate the new solution. I could go in depth but I don't have time. The real point being that we can all help each other more easily and movements such as open source will soon spread to open manufacturing where I can see people documenting their mechanical solutions simply for others to follow. Match this with the previous example and you could provide fresh clean drinking water for thousands accross the globe. 

Why would you do it? For many reasons, because you'd save thousands from water borne diseases and because you just wanted to help. 

What do you get? the satisfaction that you're paying it forward. You get to watch news of the changing fortunes of these people and know you made a difference. YOu could probably make a little money. Putting a donation link on the site. If the community you helped got on its feet they could very well contribute and maybe for a long time. I wouldn't expect that to be the point though. 

I can see I'm now going on. Getting a tear in my eye as I dream of a better future :-). It's an exciting time. I feel that quite a bit of history is happening and this new century is marking important new approaches. 

Let's see how it all pans out

Producing Open Source Software

I was just going through old emails and came across some great advice on producing open source software.  It's a site that came recommended by a team I worked with previously who really did have a great handle on how to do good development. 

It's not the only resource but I just did a quick perusal and it has a nice style and good depth. Definitely wortha  read. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Chocolate covered brocolli, games, education and a changing world

I bumped into Liam Green Hughes today. He mentioned he'd been to a conference about games in education. It sounded good and he said he'd written a full report on his blog so when I got back I check it out straight away.

True to form it sounds fascinating. I'm really interested and excited about how education is changing or preparing to change at all levels. I feel the moment and support is building and the tools and initiatives required are becoming commonplace. I also didn't realise that there were so many free games out there being used by so many people. 

If education is like this when I have children then I'm gonna want to join them. Sounds like so much fun. 

Monday, 23 March 2009

How does the brain learn?

I love it when I find a site that contains articles that speak to me. This one about how our brains learn. Does exactly that. It could easily fit on this blog since I've written several articles that cover similar topics.

It's always nice to feel other people have the same views and can also back them up with research. 

Top 10 scalability Mistakes

Webserver performance and how to maximise it. Always a useful thing to know. Here are the notes from a presentation entitled Top 10 scalability mistakes by John Coggeshall. John is a former senior player at Zend, the company behind PHP. Reading the notes I noticed common threads that followed my experience. He mentions some tools I wasn't aware of so there's something I learnt. I was glad that several of the practices I have both used and found to be as usual as he says. 

I noticed this talk when I came across oreilly's oscon sessions. reading the bio you'll see why I had to read it and put it on the blog. 
In my travels working with clients worldwide, I’ve had the .. Pleasure .. of working on many of the biggest PHP code bases and applications on the planet. Often, I’m there because they are broken, and I’m always responsible for getting them fixed. One thing is for certain—there are a lot of developers, managers, and architects out there who are making the same mistakes as everyone else. From growing your development team from 5 to 50, or your code base from 10,000 to a million, there are clear patterns and mistakes. Join me as we investigate some of my favorites and how to both avoid and learn from the mistakes of others.

Monday, 16 March 2009

the real crisis? We stopped being wise

Another great talk from the people at TED. It's about practical wisdom. It's inspiring and well thought out and useful talk about the problem with excessive bureaucracy. 

Friday, 13 March 2009

Peak fitness without injuries: Can it be that easy?

I've blogged before that achieving your potential in the physical spehre such as sports and activities reliese on your ability to understand and balance you bodies requirements for stimulation, nutrition and relaxation. Each has its place and when one dominates at the expense of the others then injuries and other problems always occur. 

In chatting with a friend I feel I came up with a good way of explaining how this all works. How you can both chase your dreams and train your body to achieve amazing things whilst also preventing injuries or enhance rehabilitation from them.

The concepts I introduce are the kind of thing that I feel should be taught in schools. I feel they're that essential. Mainly because school is about teaching you the things you will need to know through out your life. That's my view any way. Well the knowledge I include here I used all the time. Often every day. It helps me channel my efforts so they take me forward yet help me figure out when I'm pushing too hard and my body will break. So I adjust and focus on other things until my body is ready again. 

the first point is that, our bodies needs regular maintenance but we can't provide that directly. We have to let our internal processes take care of themselves. We can however nudge them along. The maintenace is about maintaining a body that's fit for purpose. All you can do is push it within reasonable limits and effectively say to it that this is the level you expect. As part of adjusting to these levels your body then becomes capable of reaching higher levels. Hence a little progression which reflects a training effect. Do this for long enough and you get a lot of improvement. 

That's the essence of training but it leaves out one thing, well it's implied. Your body needs time to maintain and upgrade itself properly. You can't expect it to work strictly to your schedule do you? If you keep putting it through a lot then it will get the hint and speed up its remodelling work but there are limits. We don't know exactly what they are yet and unless you spend your days working with the healing process like doctors and physicians do then we have to trust our bodies and err on the side of caution. All I'm saying is rest, learn the concepts of active rest, of dialling back your activity in such a way that you can still play sport or whatever while giving your body time to heal. 

Remember, if you get an injury you almost always get a related weakness somewhere. Until you address that weakness there's always a risk of the same or a related injury occurring. If the injury is around a joint like the shoulder there is generally related weakness in both the tendons, their attachment to bone, and the muscle itself. Normally you can fix it. Tt's best done during the healing process, experts know the exact timescales. The healing work done simply ensures the cells and fibres are aligned correctly and that scar tissue is minimised and functional tissue is maximised. Then the training is designed to get the whole joint, muscles etc back up to the strength, speed as before but, very importantly, in the same ratios as before so there is balance in the join. No one muscle pulls out of turn or over or under strength. 

If a joint can't be coordinated like it could before injury it is likely to get injured again. It's kind of as simple as that.To put it another way, most people are unaware that when a joint is used there is as much activity based around slowing the joint down and reducing force as speeding it up and increasing force. The net effect is whether the joint speeds up or slows down. It's very much a tug of war that's very closely coordinated by the nervous system. You've probably seen in tug of war that the whole thing falls apart when just one person from either side loses their footing or lets go of the rope. This happens for many reasons often because the rope is just moving too fast or they themselves can't support the effort their giving. Just one person doing this can affect the whole team as they then have to support that bit more. It often leads to others being pushed too hard and eventually they all let go. Almost instantly the other team who have won also let go of the rope, they generally fall backward but can also hurt themselves because they're pulling so hard but suddenly all that effort throws them backwards and they weren't prepared for this. 

This is in effect what can happen to the muscles, tendons and even bones of your joints. They're all involved in a tug of war. When well coordinated no slips or tears occur anywhere but when something is out of proportion then small tears do happen. Often these go unnoticed but they very slightly weaken the entire joint and so more tears occur more easily. Eventually if the body is unable to do its repairs in time the tears and weakness in the joint will become enough to cause an injury. Either a significant tear or just enough for the nerves to intervene and send pain signals and limit what the muscle is allowed to do. It sounds funny but the nervous system plays more of a role than is oten taught. The lesson being learn how to get your muscles and infrastructure well coordinated and working together well. Take a lesson from the pros. Those who are at the top of their game in any sport are invariably those who can produce the most power, speed and strength with the least effort. This implies their bodies resist the movements less than in other players. Current research indicates this and top coaches have been saying this for years. Let this help you. 

My point here is that joints in the human body are all highly coordinated. The greater the speed and force used across them the greater the coordination required. Thus the greater the need for all elements involved to be appropriately matched for strength, speed, innervation (how readily they accept control signals from the nervous system). Thus rehabilitation must focus on this to ensure further injuries are prevented. Moreover individuals must understand this so they can ensure their sports participation helps rather than hinders their joints and other bodily parts over time. So basically you need to understand this because your technique and approach to sport and particularly tennis is often what causes any injuries. If you want to play big shots you need to build up to them and learn how to know when you're ready or not. So in many ways your chance of injury is entirely under your own control. 

Putting this into practice that's why I'm taking up touch rugby for fitness to allow me to work on technique and patience in tennis. If I try to get really fit through tennis then my game and enjoyment of it suffers because it's difficult to get really fit through tennis. The entire structure of the game just doens't lend itself to developing high level fitness. You have to play 5 a side football or touch rugby to really appreciate this. 

Now tennis for me is just about technnique and strategy. I'm actually enjoying the focus of trying to stay in pretty much the same spot and dictate play. So I'm actually enjoying resting and staying still. My upper body works out but my lower doesn't. It gets a little run around but nothing intense. My intense training is very intense and just once or twice a week in the rugby field. Do you see how there's plenty of time for my body to recover and rebuild while also plenty of stimulus. 

Try it for yourself. Apply what I'm saying and see if you agree. If find it works wonders for me and is derived from people like the legendary Steve Backley. An amazing British Javelin thrower who, if I remember correclty, held the world record and was number one until Jan Zelesny cam eof the scene. They had a fantastic rivalry. I remember steve saying in an interview that he didn't train for maximum strength or power in any one muscle. He trained the whole kinetic chain so everything was in balance. 

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Integrative Biology 131 - Lecture 01: Organization of Body

I'm blogging this because I dont' have time this instant to watch the class I just came across. Got work to do, boo. 

But boy do I want to watch this. Mainly because the teacher just really inspires me. Even though this is going to be lower level stuff I just want to experience things with this teacher. 

She really seems to understand how to teach and how to motivate. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

application use is going mobile

I'm really excited about what's coming with the Google Android platform and what it can mean to developing and using applications when mobile. We've always been so restricted in how we can use the amazing applications that have been developed. 

Finally I can see the opportunity to take all this ability with us whereever we are. 

So as part of my research before I take the plunge I watched an intro lecture.  

It began by showing a graph that clearly shows that the future of software is mobile. Not just internet use. I've begun to feel that for a while. This made it clear. In 2007 there were 1.1 billion pcs in the world but over 4 billion mobile phones. the disparity is increasing. That makes total sense to me because pcs are big, expensive and aren't designed to be on all the time and go where we go. Phones are. 

Everything I want to develop I want to be able to use whenever I get the urge. I want it to travel with me. Thus I want a few things. Devices that I can take everywhere or that are in the places I go and easy for me to use. I also want an operating system that can run on these devices. 

That's what android is. I like the concept of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) that is trying to coordinate all this.  

the talk also explains the 5 groups involved at present that comprise the 20 or so partners of the OHA
  • Mobile Operators
  • Handset Manufacturers
  • Software
  • Semiconductor
  • Commercialisation
I'm glad that this was explained. It's how I see things and why I prefer the Google (Open) approach to those of Microsoft and Apple. My understanding of economics is that if you want to make a lot of money so your company can effectively feed and grow and become nice and fat then you need to dominate a market. Several markets to get really big and fat. You can probably see the biological influence in my analogy. The best way to achieve this is not to control the market and keep it small which is how I percieve Microsoft and Apple do things. Very much the 20th Century approach to control everything and hold things back. 

It's much better to find ways to make the market much bigger. Get more and more consumers interested. Make things people want to pay a lot of money for, make it easy to create newer and better things so there is a constant churn of cash. A real cash cow is when your products and services make it easier for your clients to make more money. If you do that then they're just gonna keep wanting what you provide. As they get fat on their profits so will you. Pure symbiosis in action in markets. To me that's the way to go about making money and operating a business in a market. Develop symbiotic relationships with customers and partners. Isn't it better to just keep growing the market. That way you're less concerned with the number of competitors because there's plenty of food for everyone. As long as each participant in the market adds something to it and everybody learns to share or atleast they find the balance between what to share and what to keep private. Everybody wins. 

It's a dream, but you can probably see why, I'm following what happens. I hope, like many things that are going on at the moment, it's a lesson for the future on how to get more with less and spend more time enjoying life. 

so any way. The concept of the OHA is that everyone in the alliance needs something from the other partners. They all depend on each other. Apples iphone doesn't open things up to everyone. It keeps a lot of things both hardware and software related under tight control. That means only certain companies can join the party. OHA's approach invites everyone and tries to help many kinds of customer not just those who can afford or are attracted to an iphone. 

One key apsect for me is that I can develop for android and it this app will work on my netbook as well as my mobile and of course it can work on my pc or laptop. e.g. everywhere. In the short term this will be awkward but long term I bet it will become simple. With the iphone I can't do this. 

I've already found out that android is essentiall j2se or me. Not sure yet but it's a standard language. so it's gonna be familiar already. 

I think in some ways I'm suggesting that this is just part of the evolution of both software and hardware. I feel the processes of natural evolution are being played out and we've already seen much of this. Business models, development processes, technological advances. As these all improve it's only natural tyhat tools built using these will also adapt and improve ahnd often change fundamental. Leave the water and move to the land for example. 

You see they've just been explaining how open the approach is. One key thing is that the develop does not have to get permission or pass a test to release their app. I understand that companies like Apple do this to ensure that everything is of high quality. That's great but there are other ways of achieving top standards without restricting things. It's just that it takes more effort. People often perceive that there are more risks but I feel there are as many risks of being too closed and controlling as there are of being too open. If you're too closed you just cannot match the evolutionary speed of open aps. You also can't meet the security standards because it's dependent on your ability to both identify and fix bugs. In these and so many other areas more eyes, hands and minds are better than few. It just demands better tools to handle masses of opinion, ideas and discussion. Better tools to help individuals gain meaning from the relentless oflow of decisions and info. And tools to manage the huge number of requests and ideas a developer, for example, may receive. 

So basically to be more open we need tools adapted to this new environment. I feel Google and others are addressing this need, often while providing tools that are free at the point of use. So I prefer the business models and approaches of the newer companies and those who have adapted their models to suit such as Sun, with their Java language, to those using outdated models.

Could humans hibernate?

We spend so much time worrying if our bodies get enough nutrition. We're told that key nutrients are required daily. If you accept that other animals have similar physiology to us and therefore similar daily needs for nutrients then how can we explain hibernation. In this article I wonder what would make hibernation possible, whether it's possible that we hibernated at any time during history, whether we have evolved the ability and whether this could make it easier to stay healthy in the modern age?

Crazy idea eh!!

Well I got to thinking this morning that it's not as crazy a notion as it first sounds. Maybe we've lost the ability to now but 10,000-40,000 years ago food will have been scarce for lng periods. So did we just keep moving like nomads or did some, it doesn't even have to be all, of us simply hibernate?

Why should we care? Well apart from just wanting to know, I feel it could teach us a lot about how our attitude to food and drink affects our health. Lots of people around the world restrict their diets for long periods, ramadan springs straight to mind, lent is a much shorter version, those trying out intermittent fasting. There's evidence there may be something to learn from these practices that maybe animals take for granted but humans have forgotten over the millenia of domestication. In effect wild animals are forced to learn just how capable their bodies are. They have no choice. So often it seems that in our domestication we no longer teach our minds or our bodies how to reach their full potential. 

Ok, so it still sounds pretty crazy. Well it really occurred to me whilst watching 'Planet Earth' by the BBC. Watching a polar bear and her cubs coming out of their den for the first time in four months, yes four months!!! Maybe you're thinking 'so what?', well aren't we told that a human's gonna have terrible health unless they eat three meals a day and if they don't have 5 portions of fruit and veg a day then they're gonna have all sorts of troubles. 

Now granted we're not polar bears but it strikes me that they simply can't be that different from us. My understanding of animal biology is that there is often a lot of similarity at the basic level such as structure of muscle, heart, nervous system etc. The essential nutrients are just that because they support our physiology. Now we may be extremely removed from polar bears but then they aren't the only animals that hibernate. Squirrels and foxes do, so do so many others. 

OK, OK I'm not going to say that we're actually descended from polar bears. No. What I'm interested in is how they're able to get by without any food or water for months on end and apparently feel no worse for wear whereas we aren't. How could their bodies maintain sufficient supplies of essential nutrients while we can't. Are they really that different or is it just that their habitat requires this ability and so they've simply either gained the ability through evolutin or similar or they already had the ability they just learnt how to use it. 

Yep, you heard me right, maybe they already had the ability, so I am implying that maybe we still have the ability. Maybe not to go without food for months but maybe a month or so. I'm still struggling to understand how people in very remote locations or during famines and such where fresh food wasn't just scarce it just wasn't around. Particularly during winter.  How did people survive before fridges and freezers were developed to preserve all the nutrients.  What about before we had regular access to cattle and grain. All year round food. Were we always able to find fresh fish, meat and vegetation all round and thus keep food. Did we learn ways of preserving food and its nutrients so we were able to get enough nutrients. 

These are all possible. But I'm talking about how we survived over 40, 000 years. During an ice age. The only example we have today of surviving in an ice age is the poles where if you can't fly and thus reach warmer ground then you're likely to get stuck. Many will build boats and sail to warmer climes but many will be stuck and have to stick it out. 

Polar bears hibernate. Penguins don't but they also don't feed for months while they incubate their egg. As is usual with nature they had to figure this out, they just didn't have a choice. So I'm asking have we ever faced such challenges and did we develop this ability. 

Maybe now I'm starting to build a case. Ok, well, I thought I'd blogged about this earlier but I can't find the article, horizontal gene transfer is an increasing understood process of evolution. It's not something I was taught it's something I figured out, though may be there was research around and quickly found that really is a very important process by which one species can learn from another through sharing genetic material. 

For a short summary I'll give my reasoning. The dna of each cell and species defines what it's capable of. Viruses among other things are known to be able to directly change the dna of a given cell to make it work for their purposes rather than the host animal. This proves that genetic material can easily be changed and that viruses among other things could be used to transfer genetic material from one species to another. I get that this is a huge leap of faith. I actually went a lot futher in this explanation but that's a topic for another day. Suffice to say that it's already being widely accepted and research so it's not a silly point. 

Ok, now I've shown that it's entirely possible for one species to gain capabilities from another it shows that if so many species have the ability to hibernate then it is quite possible that so do we. We can also see that hibernation is generally down to needs. Squirrels in England, particularly near where I work don't hibernate much, if at all, any more simply because there is food available all year round. In fact in the UK there's plenty of it. I hear all the time about foxes and badgers who have moved into towns and cities because it's both warmer and there's plenty of food left in rubbish bins they can find. So they just don't need to hibernate. 

I just wanted to show that animals that could quite as easily hibernate, don't when there's plenty of food around. Ok, so what's all the fuss about. Well it's because I keep feeling pressure to conform to the 'normal' rules of society and have three square meals a day with meat and 3 veg and plenty of fresh fruit. Yet it doesn't all add up. 

I can very easily make a case that this routine makes our bodies dependent on regular supplies of fresh food and link this to many of the diseases of the western world. I can't mention this to anyone because then I'm labelled a freak because apparently it's all proven. Much like you couldn't suggest years ago that the world was round because everyone 'knew' it was flat. 

I was taught that science isn't biased and thus you should simply work with the 'facts' that you can ascertain and attempt to explain them. For me one thing I keep finding is that my hunger does not have a cycle that ties in exactly with three meals a day. In fact I find that as my routine changes, which it does regularly, my hunger adjusts to suit. I've recently been feeding according to hunger. Just making sure I've got plenty of good choices around for when I'm hungry. Lots of fruit, grains etc while also having plenty of fun stuff. I feel fine. Time will tell if I have any problems but my experience say I won't. 

I've changed my diet so many times with little real change I'm not convinced that diet, as long as it's sufficient and of good enough quality and variety, makes little difference. My point being that there is evidence that humans can adjust to the diet they live on much like we can adjust to most things. Some times we can adjust very quickly,  like we do for hot and cold climates, particularly when we go on holiday, or it may take time. Either way I feel that our genetic code contains solutions that have helped us over thousands of years. What hibernation requires is that the body have ways of preserving the essential nutrients. To stop them being oxidised, effectively it's just rusting, and going off in other ways. Animals that hibernate must have ways of correctingthe effects of, or preventing altogether, these processes to ensure the body can still function.  We also know that the metabiolism simply slows down a great deal and thus all processes in the body slow down. 

There is plenty of info out there about people who have looked at slowing their metabolism. Some well researched, some not. However I feel that we must have the ability to preserve nutrients for far longer than is currently believed possible. I just have that feeling that we're capable of more. We just don't know how to utilise this ability. Again I would just like to know what people did before fridges and freezers and also further back during ice ages and other periods where food just wasn't as scarce. 

I feel what we'd learn would help us now. I'm not saying I want to hibernate. I just want to know if we have the inner ability to preserve nutrients and understand more about our bodies true requirements.

I just found a related article human hibernation: secrets behind the big sleep so I know I am not alone in this question :-)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Virus 'triggers child diabetes'

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that our ability to fight infection on a day to day and long term basis has more impact on our lives than we realise.

I heard today that a an entero virus has been linked as the cause of many cases of child hood diabetes. Apparently the same virus is also linked with adult on set diabetes. 

Let's see how things progress.