Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pedal While You Work (Day 8)

My standing desk is great and all, but what if I had this? (Well I guess I would have to get a trainer too.)

P.S. Did this post count as writing? I signed into blogger with the intention of writing something as yet to be decided, but then I saw a blog post about this topic... And it all went downhill from there.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So Maybe the Young Doctors Are Better? (Day 7)

Today I visited a chiropractor for a free Active Release Technique (ART) session. She turns about to be quite young, and I suspect not long out of school, and is likely trying to build up her practice.

I wasn't sure if she would be able to do anything for my toe problem, as it has been termed a "joint" problem, but she surprised me from the start by discussing the two different forms of hallux limitus and noting that I have functional hallux limitus. Neither of my previous podiatrists had tried the test for the functional variety (applying pressure to the ball of the foot while trying to bend the toe up) and therefore had told me that my range of motion was basically fine. She also identified that farther up the metatarsal, some bones had become jammed as a result of the jamming at the toe. That probably explains my upper arch pain that no one had previous been able to explain! She performed an "adjustment" on this location.

I can't say if the 20 minute session helped my toe enough for Sunday, as that is a lot to ask for a 20 minute session. But I was extremely impressed with this doctor's knowledge. I guess paying hundreds of dollars for a top-notch podiatrist doesn't always buy you the knowledge that comes fresh from school.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How the Energy Efficiency Industry Can Further Water Conservation (Day 6)

One of the current trend lines I see as central to western water and climate change issues is the attempted return to large infrastructure projects, including a proposed peripheral canal in California‘s Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, Las Vegas’ simultaneous plans to build another intake pipe in Lake Mead as well as to pipe groundwater from a desert hundreds of miles away, and plans for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline to the Front Range of Colorado (which recently was dealt a setback). While shoring up supply is important especially in the face of climate change, many of these projects have been decried by the public for both their environmental risks and the potential that they are not truly necessary.

I believe that in many cases, this latter claim may be true. I have been working in energy efficiency for the last few years, and as I return to the water industry, I hope to bring important knowledge and ideas with me. Energy efficiency has been a quickly exploding field. Many states now have decoupled utility revenue from sales, meaning that utilities are not penalized for successful efficiency programs. In addition, some states, especially California, have allocated significant funds for evaluation, measurement, and verification programs that help ensure utilities that their money is actually saving energy. In fact, utilities often do not receive payment for their energy efficiency programs unless savings have been proven.

While water conservation has been in force for many decades, it has not reached the level of implementation, oversight, and especially evaluation, as has energy efficiency. Many water utilities still struggle with the loss of revenue that results from successful water conservation programs. Some have cut back on their conservation programs as a result. In addition, evaluation of water conservation programs has been extremely lacking in many locations. It is hard to avoid seeking new water supplies when you cannot trust that your conservation programs will save sufficient water.

There are many opportunities for the water industry to learn from the energy industry in the efficiency and conservation arena. Whether or not large infrastructure projects are necessary in a given case, utilities or municipalities should ensure that the public can trust that all potential demand management opportunities have been explored prior to developing additional supplies. Similarly, as states are beginning to adopt aggressive renewable portfolio standards (which have their own implications for water that I will not address here), water utilities should make sure that any new supplies needed are as sustainable and renewable as possible. The New York Times recently ran an editorial suggesting that San Francisco has not explored all possible local resources (i.e. water recycling, groundwater, and rainwater harvesting) that would reduce its reliance on water from Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. There are many other locations (including, ironically, New York) that have similarly not thoroughly explored such local options - which may not always look good, depending on their own environmental and energy impacts.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Frustrations of Medical Care (and My Body) (Day 5)

Last spring, a newly-found problem in my right foot prevented me from running a marathon. It started after an 18 mile training run, went away, and eventually came back on runs over 5 miles. Then I couldn't even run 4 miles without pain. I attempted my 20 mile run and by mile 14 it was so bad I could barely walk.

First I went to a PCP at my medical group with a focus on sports medicine. Extensor tendonitis, likely, he said. Ice it. It will get better.

Then I went to the physical therapist who helped me with my sprained ankle. She fit me in before the marathon and I wanted to see if she could do anything for me. She suggested I see a podiatrist. Also suggested that maybe half-marathons were enough to me; she herself had never been able to run a full because her body seemed not to handle it.

I went to an in-network podiatrist to whom I was referred by my medical group. She listed to me for about half a sentence, then informed me that I had hallux limitus and send me for x-rays. On my second visit with x-rays, she confirmed that yes, I did have hallux limitus, basically arthritis of the big toe joint. She recommended a shoe store to get me set up with over-the-counter insoles and suggested I might want orthotics. Also noted that eventually I would decide whether running was good for me or not.

The first run with the insoles I was fine, and I grew excited. But on the next run, the pain came back. My body worker suggested maybe I should go see a podiatrist (out-of-network) who specializes in sports injuries. I had heard of him before as he gives clinics for Team in Training. He is well known and regarded by many famous runners.

So I gave him a try. He looked at my foot and my x-rays, and said, no there's no arthritis. I think you just have a "highly mobile" first metatarsal that is causing jamming of the big toe joint with every step. He videotaped me running and quickly reviewed it. Based on the fact that the over-the-counters had not fixed me, he recommended expensive orthotics. He guarantees them for a year and gives you free appointments to have them adjusted. And he was sure they would work for me. So I went for it. The orthotics were created just by scanning my feet while I was standing on them.

Unfortunately the orthotics did not give me immediate relief. Apparently foot irritation takes a long time to go away. By this time I had taken up cycling for something to do instead of running. Eventually I was able to start running without pain again, although I had other issues with this that eventually led to my diagnosis of anemia. On the day I was scheduled to go in to check on my orthotics because my foot was starting to bother me again, I sprained my ankle, and it took a long time to recover from that. So I didn't start running seriously until probably 6 months after I received the orthotics. I started to notice some discomfort, so I went in for an adjustment. This actually seemed to make a difference.

Sometime during this period I decided to get new shoes, as the doctor had suggested that with orthotics I no longer needed motion control shoes. I went to a highly recommended store where the proprietor is a physical therapist. He spent a lot of time talking with me, but talked me into buying shoes which I felt were too snug for me. He said they should be snug to hold my foot on my orthotics and that I would get used to it. I believed. The shoes first started causing me pain in my little toe and then just caused general discomfort in other places. When I went back to the podiatrist he said I shouldn't be wearing shoes that narrow because it was pushing my toe. There's a waste of $100. I went back to my motion control shoes.

However, last weekend, the pain cropped up again, and in a big way. I was only able to go for a 5 mile run instead of a 15 mile run as planned. The pain did not immediately stop upon walking. However, I discovered there was no pain when walking barefoot. When I got home I discovered that my orthotics seemed to be wearing quite thin under the big toe joint and were extremely flexible. These things are supposed to last 5-10 years...

The pain also cropped up while cross country skiing the next day, although probably not until 20k or so. I got through 32k. The next day the foot was fine while snowshoeing. I didn't run that week, and when I went to see my bodyworker, she taped my toe and calf (which was extremely tight). I skied 16k on Saturday with limited discomfort, but I quit skiing early to avoid irritating it. After all, my event is next weekend.

So Monday I will try to make an appointment with the podiatrist to see about getting my orthotics fixed again. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, one of my coaches recommended that I try barefoot shoes. This has been suggested to me before, but not by anyone who actually used them to fix a big toe problem. This person told me he could not run with regular shoes but has no pain with barefoot shoes. It took him a year and a half to work up to a half marathon in the barefoot shoes, however. But he swears by them. He said that all running shoes have something of a heel, which naturally pushes your foot forward into your big toe joint. This  kind of makes sense. So I'm thinking maybe I will actually try it, although I think my podiatrist will refuse to treat me if I injure myself further while running barefoot.

So once again my marathon plans have been shot, and I'm just hoping to get through the ski event next weekend. The good news is that I'm told I'm not doing damage to my foot, just irritating soft tissue.

It's so hard to know how to find the proper doctor, physical therapist, shoe store, or anything. How do you know who you should trust? How do you know what shoes or orthotics to trust? How do you know if barefoot running is for you? There are so few relevant medical studies on these topics. What works for one person does not always work for another. I just want to be able to exercise without pain. Maybe I should have become a doctor so I could figure this out for myself. I know I would spend enough time with myself at my own appointments, after all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

American Haiku (Day 4)

Today skied on ice.
Alaska please have good snow.
Now I go to bed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crusty Old Men (Day 3)

I have often worked in fields that expose me to lots of crusty old men. I don't have a precise definition for crusty old men, but generally they are part of a good ol' boys network, insular, and not terribly friendly to women. Historically, I've had fairly good success with dealing with these types of people. For example, my editor at the Los Angeles Times was widely regarded as quite crusty. I always found him fairly complimentary and helpful, if not a bit gruff. At the end of my time there, another editor who sat nearby commented that she had never seen this guy be so nice to someone.

When I worked for the State of New Mexico, I spent a good amount of time in a car with a crusty old man, driving down to stakeholder meetings in the south of the state, and counseling him on how I felt the meetings were going. Basically trying to get him to be less crusty and stand-offish. There were definitely times that I had trouble handling him, which seemed to be isolated PTSD-ish incidents. But in general, I lasted longer in his company than most employees.

Recently I attended an annual meeting of an association of mechanical engineers. 95% male, I was told. I was able to meet a number of crusty old men working in the water conservation arena. Shortly after this meeting, one of the men I met emailed one of my co-authors on a paper to complain about how he had not been interviewed for it. (It was a literature review.) I was miffed that although I was the first author and I had just met him, he had not emailed me. My co-author (a self-proclaimed crusty old man) told me to give the crusty old men a break.

After a phone call with said crusty old man today, he again emailed my co-author to ask for a document. Naturally, I responded. His "thank you" email contained his signature with the following quote (which was interestingly not attached to the previous email he had sent my co-author):
"There are three things I like about Italian ships.  First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed.  Second, their service, which is quite superb.  And then – in time of emergency – there is none of this nonsense about women and children first."  Winston Churchill (on why he prefers Italian cruise ships to British cruise ships)
Now I realize he probably thinks this is funny in light of the recent cruise ship tragedy (although a sense of humor in regards to that is questionable), but I just don't see how this is appropriate in a work setting. Yes, he does work for himself. But really? I don't think I have to buy the whole "women and children" chivalry to find this somewhat offensive. But at least it gives me ammunition for continuing to asses his nature as a crusty old man. I don't intend to give them a break - giving them a break perpetuates the ongoing anti-female nature of these fields.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GleickGate.. Or So Some Call It (Day 2)

I'm not sure how much the general public has heard about this topic. It's all over the news, in various places, but mostly on news blogs that have to do with science, and in particular climate science. I'm fascinated by this saga more than I should be, so I have trolled all sorts of websites looking for juicy bits of information.

Here's the summary:

In mid-February, several documents were leaked to the "internets" (i.e. websites that are willing to post things with no confirmed genesis) that showed internal Heartland Institute information including fundraising, donors, and climate strategy. Heartland is a libertarian outfit that has this to say about the environment on it's website:
The Heartland Institute's Center on Climate and Environmental Policy produces an ambitious program of research and educational projects in defense of free-market environmentalism. It has assembled a team of leading scientists and economic experts to participate in the production of books, videos, a monthly public policy newspaper, events, and other public relations activities....

Heartland has organized and hosted six International Conferences on Climate Change, events that attracted extensive international attention to the debate taking place in the scientific community over the causes, extent, and consequences of climate change.
Hmm, guess what? The Heartland Institute is what you might call a climate change denier. Sure they don't say it explicitly, but "debate" in the "scientific community" over climate change? Sure, about the exact extent and consequences, but it's pretty well settled that humans have played a big role. Heartland also specifically points out they have "assembled a team" to do public relations, essentially on their behalf. Okay, so they are paying scientists or "scientists", right?

So the documents leaked to the internets basically confirm this. Heartland has an "anti-climate" agenda. Heartland acknowledges that all the released documents are authentic expert for a climate strategy memo. So what did the leaked documents tell us that was surprising? Nothing, I think. Sure there's some big name donors like Koch, sure they're funding "scientists". What exactly did everyone think they were doing?

Here's the appalling part:

Peter Gleick admitting to being the source of the leaked documents. Peter Gleick! As a hydrologist with an interest in conservation, Peter Gleick is one of the luminaries of the field. He founded and runs the Pacific Institute, which is one of the few organizations putting out good research related to water resources and conservation. He's right here in Oakland. I've many times dreamed of being able to work there. He's also, as you might suspect, something of a climate scientist.

Why would Peter Gleick basically wreck his career to fraudulently obtain confidential documents of a known libertarian group? The consequences do not seem to justify his actions. He claims that in January someone anonymously mailed him the climate strategy memo that Heartland claims is fake. In an effort to verify this memo, Gleick impersonated a board member and conned a staffer into emailing him internal board documents. These documents do in fact back up the data in the supposedly faked memo. But again, I don't see anything all that shocking or surprising in the contents.

Would Gleick's actions have been justified if something truly groundbreaking and environment-saving have come out of them? I guess that's for each of us to decide. But here's something else. Gleick was chairman of the American Geophysical Union's Task Force on Scientific Ethics (from which he has since, obviously, resigned). He's been involved in many panels on scientific integrity. Regardless of Gleick's scientific research has indeed had integrity (and I would like to believe so), this seems a serious breach of ethics for someone so invested in the very importance of ethical behavior. And again - for what! The Pacific Institute, after expressing support for Gleick when he first confessed, is now reviewing his actions.

Here's my fear - what happens to Gleick's influence on the California water debate? This article sums it up. There may be a void to fill for California legislators who are looking for good scientific information to inform their policies. Sure, I'll admit, Gleick's on my side. I agree with the Pacific Institute's assessments. Who's going to fill his shoes? Will he still be trusted? Will the Pacific Institute? Will all the proponents of dams and canals and desalination and other crazy things use Gleick's ethical breach as a reason not to trust his research? I would if I were in their shoes.

My other fear is that Gleick is actually the originator of the supposedly fake memo. There is much speculation in the media, and my favorite is here. Of course there's also the speculation that this was an elaborate set-up by the Heartland Institute itself - mail an enemy something they suspect he will let loose and comment on, then make fun of him. They may not even have expected him to fraudulently obtain additional documents. Well, probably it's just a conspiracy theory. But still - someone wrote that memo and maybe some day we'll know who.

Many are complaining that the focus of the media's attention has shifted from the information in the leaked documents to discussions of Gleick's guilt. That's true, and of course I'm taking part in that for my own personal reasons. No one is on a pedestal. No one is infallible. Just because a person shares your views on many things does not necessarily make that person a good person. I feel let down by Peter Gleick, but maybe that's because I never knew him in the first place.

Just to finish up by placing my horror in the hands of the Heartland Institute - they are in fact funding development of a climate curriculum to teach "both" sides of the climate "debate." So climate change may go the way of evolution - taught hand in hand with intelligent design. Here's an interesting piece on what effect this might have. Or perhaps it will have no effect at all.

Peter Gleick, I have just one question: Why?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Days of Writing (Day 1)

So here begins a project that I am extremely unlikely to finish. One of my cycling buddies posted a link to a Facebook site called 40 Days of Writing. Since I have been neglecting my blog and lately I have actually thought of things I wanted to write about but haven't actually gotten around to doing it, I decided to take the challenge. It's lent after all. I am by all means no longer a practicing Catholic, but I think we could all agree that there's something good to be said about lent. It is a time of reflection and of trying to be a better person. The sign outside the church down the street (which often has good things to say) currently suggests, "Instead of giving up a bad habit for lent, try a new practice such as compassion or patience." I like this idea. All the times I gave up soda and swearing probably didn't do much good for me or anyone else. I still swear although I drink much less soda. While I will also try to shoot for compassion, here I will focus on writing. Something. Maybe nothing long. Maybe just tweet-sized. But hopefully I will have something worthwhile to say. Thanks for sticking around.