Thursday, August 30, 2012

Finite Element Art

Sometimes I work on a project and "all of by sudden," to quote a professor of mine, something appears that looks really cool. Take a look for yourself:

Finite Element Bolt Simulation

A coworker and friend pointed out to me a few weeks ago that I spend all of my time looking at the same eight colors. Sometimes they are all distributed in a way that is simple aesthetic.

To give you an idea of what you are looking at, the lowest part of the bolt is the part with thread engagement. The middle section we machine to a smaller diameter for testing purposes and that is the area we are most concerned about. Finally the top is unchanged from a normal bolt. Yes, it is science and engineering, but it is art too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finally Down to Skim Milk

It has taken me several years to go from 2% to 1% to skim milk, but now I'm there! Why is this significant? First of all it seems that humans absorb calcium better from low fat dairy products than higher fat dairy products. Second, when I see the people finishing ahead of me in races I see people even more fit than I. The assumption is that is I want to run up there with them I will probably have to have less fat. Not weigh less necessarily, but a lower percentage of fat compared to total body weight.

The math is simple, if 1% milk has 100 calories per cup, and skim has only 80 then that is 20 fewer calories I consume for the same protein and volume. Assuming I drink two gallons per week (that is on the high side, but realistic) that is 32 cups of milk for a total of 640 extra calories. Assuming I use 80 calories per mile that's eight more miles of running just to make up for the difference between 1% and skim.

I realize this sounds drastic. Most people already think I am thin. But lighter than the average American isn't exactly all it takes to run a 2:18 marathon. Plus I have learned through experience that milk is one of the best recovery drinks available. I'm not about to drink less of a higher fat milk, but then again I need it to taste better than water. I like my flavored drinks. It is hard to drink a gallon of water or more per day. For years skim milk tasted like watered down milk to me. Now it tastes normal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 71

I did not have the most productive week or the most personally rewarding, but in terms of building and developing relationships, and myself, it was a great week.

At work I was simply, not very productive. I finished some work, but the amount of work that I finished was not up to my own standards. What kept me from being more productive? I suppose I have been a little tired lately. Maybe trying to multitask too much.  On the positive side, we are about to begin physically testing one of the projects I have been working on for nine months. I am excited! Also nervous that I missed something that will be a show stopper!

I also had the chance to be involved in a supplier meeting this week. I do not interact with our suppliers very often and it was interesting. The sales guy probably talked 40-50% of the time and at one point I was showing some of my strain contour plots and we were having some trouble communicating what we were looking at. It was a great experience because after staring at this type of stuff for a year and a half it seems pretty simple to an engineer like me, but to him it might as well have been a Jackson Pollock painting. It was good to be involved in that so that I can learn to communicate better.

I ran a whopping 68 miles over 11 runs. That includes a few longer runs that were at 6:40s pace. Plus I did at least a couple strides like four times! This was the first week of cross country practice. We have 34, or maybe 35, people nearly three times what we had last year, and some of them are quite fit. Fit enough that an 18 year old ran away from me on a four mile tempo at the end of a 12 mile run. Sure a 5:39 mile is nothing special and I am not in great shape right now, but the fact that I am really being pushed is a great sign. I think we are going to have a great year!

On the lazy side my programming class is not getting done on time. I haven't done any work in a week and a half. I will finish it, and write an app or two, but it's not at the top of my list.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non-Linear Productivity

It has occurred to me through reading other people's stuff, specifically Linchpin, that productivity is non-linear. At it's most fundamental it isn't. If the task is to move a pile of rocks from here to there, every trip of the wheelbarrow will go roughly the same speed and carry the same amount. However, as you get into tasks that are more mental or emotional the results will be more inconsistent.

Take the nobel prize for example. It usually takes overturning previously held ideas. There is usually opposition during the work. It is the type of thing that is extraordinarily difficult. Thus only a handful of people have been able to double down and get a second. No one has gotten a second in the last 30 years because science and technology has expanded so much that the list of qualified people to pick from is growing. A nobel prize is likely the highlight of successful career and probably takes 10-20 years of work in most fields, but most people have 30-40+ year careers. Why can't winners replicate their success?

I notice this with my coaching. Some days I say something, and I am shocked that I could come up with something so appropriate for the person I am talking to. Other days I'm trying to explain something simple and I feel like I can't communicate anything. I do think with experience we often try to mediate the highs and lows so that we are more consistent. In other words, a waitress who does a really amazing stand out job versus an average job will probably get one or two dollars more while a bad job will be four or five dollars less.

This article is really an attempt by me to justify some unproductive periods I have been having the last couple months. This morning one of my friends is running a 5k, it is the farthest he has ever run, despite looking more like a runner than I. The advice I gave him Friday was simple, "just keep going," because in a race forward progress is better than stopping.
I do a lot of thinking in pictures and graphs instead of words. Here is a little graph that shows what I am thinking. With more experience the productivity gets higher but it goes up and down. It also speaks to my mentality of always being somewhat productive. I suppose that the lows could hit zero productivity. In fact, it seems retired sports stars can have extremely low productivity after retiring.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doesn't Everybody?

My mind does not work like normal people. I drive over the Mississippi River and I want to swim across it. Apparently most people don't have that urge. I see Devils Tower, and I want to climb it.
About 2/3 Across the Mississippi River Monday Night
I want to run at the Olympic Trials, so I wake up at 5 AM to run. Sometimes that is not pretty. But the pursuit of goals is worth little pains. Of course in my mind it makes total sense that I would sacrifice a little river water in the stomach or blood on the sock for something greater. 
Sometimes My Ankle Rubs Raw During a Run Tuesday Morning
I don't think most people are like that. I'm don't know what people want to do. I suppose from my point of view, the things that I do seem so logical that it seems like everybody would want to do them. I mean, doesn't everybody want to do this stuff?

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 70

I'm starting to get into some pretty big numbers. I don't know what to think about that.

This was a more interesting than usual week at work. I spent two days in a "Working with India" class. We learned about Indian culture and traditions and styles of communicating. Quite interesting stuff. Two big take aways where that people in India really respect hierarchy and this influences how they communicate because they like to "save face" which is to say not show weakness. We of course do the same in the US sometimes, but we often whine about work too, or preferably, admit that we do not yet know how to do the task. After all Americans rank number one in confidence!

I also had the opportunity to have a job shadow this week. I feel it is important to get kids into engineering early. Why? Engineers are economic value creators. We design stuff that never before existed. We innovate. Do other careers innovate? Yes of course, in fact art skill and exposure in education is probably one of the driving factors that is helping the US to remain an economic superpower. In other words, being able to solve the equation or click the buttons in the right order  will get you an engineering job starting at $50k with a bachelors and no experience, but the idea of connecting people on a website to really map social relationships, that's given Mark Zuckerburg billions. That's the kind of thing that you can't exactly teach in a class, but you can teach how to look at problems and solutions and abstract ideas. Moral of the story: exposing kids to engineering first hand = awesome!

Cross Country started this week! We are going to have a great team! We have 34 I think compared to having 11 last year. This story will surely develop.

I ran a bunch, I think 46 miles, but I haven't logged Saturday (13 miles) yet. I also bicycled a fair amount.

My sister came to visit Saturday and we went rock climbing! We also did some other things.

There is more to say, like I have a new gel foam bed! However, I am tired that will have to wait for another day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Between Autocracy and Autonomy


This has been on my mind recently because a number of situations have come up when things either seemed to be handed down by a leading decision maker, or decided upon by stake holders of a common nature. I am certainly an egalitarian type of person and that is my preference for decision making, unless it happens that one person is uniquely qualified to make the right decision (such as an expert). However I have witnessed the painful silence many times as no one offers a suggestion, despite an easy or obvious answer. Then one person takes the lead and directs the group. 

We are talking about the difference between a dictatorship like North Korea and  something like the Occupy movement. Neither one is probably the best form of organization. On the one hand, dictatorships can accomplish significant things due to their alignment, but history has shown us many times even in the last 75 years when the people under a dictator are taken advantage of, marginalized, and often killed. On the other hand the collective decision making of something like the Occupy movement is a utopianism because everybody gets a say, but coming to a collective decision even in a small group over simple things, can take hours. 

I have witnessed this in every aspect of my life recently, from corporate work to coaching to road trips. It is interesting because sometimes I feel that it would be nice for someone else to make the decision for the group. Other times I feel we should discuss the issue more so that we come to a more well understood solution. 

The solution of who makes the decisions or how the decisions are made lies somewhere in the middle. A parent would be an autocratic ruler to an infant, yet a group of adults deciding when to stop for food on a road trip would be an autonomous or collective decision. I don’t have the answer. I just want the right one.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Climb of Devils Tower

Once you begin climbing there are certain things, at least throughout the United States, that stand out as something worth giving a try. Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Enchantments, Mt. Rainer, Moab, the Tetons, My. Washington, and Devils Tower among others. The sight of Devils Tower is just strange. It does not look like anything else I can think of. 
Devils Tower from the KOA parking lot with my 287,000 miles experienced van in the foreground
Since a few coworkers and friends in Dubuque were getting into climbing, and I have more or less been on hiatus from climbing since 2010, I started to do more of it this year. After a few climbing outings I wanted a goal. Something worth going climbing to train for. My family saw the tower from a distance in 1999 and it came back up in memory. A tower around a thousand feet tall, a couple hundred miles from any other long multipitch climbing objective I know of. It seemed like the perfect weekend road trip. A grade two (typically a half day) climb and a moderately long (13 hours) drive one way from Dubuque. The kind of thing worth spending a weekend doing, but a dubious expenditure of precious vacation time. 

The Newbie, at the Trailhead
So we left Dubuque at noon Friday and drove and drove and drove. Actually with four drivers, it is not bad at all. After a few hours someone can take a rest in the back. Plus, we drove my van, and without the middle seat there is a significant amount of room so the people in the back can really stretch out their legs. These things helped us pass the time until it was around 1AM mountain time when we arrived at the 1/3 full campground below Devils Tower.

Th original plan was to wake up at 4AM and go from there. However, 4 AM came and our most excited climbing advocate woke up and tried to get the rest of us up, but it had rained the night before and I wanted the rocks and dirt to dry out a little more, so we slept another hour or hour and a half. We finally woke up, and it was light enough we didn't need headlamps. It was interesting, I am the kind of person that once I'm up, I'm ready to get going, but most people are not like that. So my comrades brushed their teeth and changed their clothes and stood around eating. I suppose I learned years ago that the way to get things done is move in that direction and not stand around. In other words, when you are getting ready for a mountain adventure, why put on a long sleeve shirt after you wake up if you intend to take if off in 15 minutes?   This kind of goes back to some sort of desire I have to be the first ready or fear of being the person everyone is waiting on.

The climb was interesting. I consider it a resounding success. We all went up and down safely with no permanent injuries. Two of the four of us made the summit. (One was not planning to climb at all and only did the fourth class approach.) It was nice to have him along for at least that bit. Then one of us only made the penultimate belay, a mere 100 feet below the summit. Of course, the last pitch was not a piece of cake and it started raining, hailing and lightening minutes after I arrived on the summit. 

Roping Up 
A few things, we didn’t have the greatest approach. We started around 6:30 AM, later than planned but it had rained the night before and we decided more time to let it dry would be good. I think it went well but we ascended the talus too far to the east of the tower and not the south of the tower where our route was. So we ended up doing some traversing I am not sure we had to do. Then I didn’t lead very fast. There have been many times when I have led things lickety sizzle, moving up the rock with a strong rhythm. Today, I write this on my laptop hours after the climb, I did not have a strong rhythm. Many of the pitches and moves were very physical. I suppose that when it says “mostly fists and off width” that it means this is not your standard little ledges and finger cracks trad climb. I would describe the route as very physical. Knees and elbows were used for many key jams along the route. That’s not normal traditional climbing.

Me Leading Pitch One on the Durrance Route
Another interesting factor was having two novice climbers with me. So I did all of the leading and the belay site management was a little more hectic than with more experienced climbers or just one rope. As far as the route was concerned, we did the Durance route with the direct finish. The second pitch was somewhat hard and the last 15 feet of the last pitch really gave me a hard time. Also the penultimate pitch I went part way up, but wasn’t so sure about the chock stone so I descended and tried two other no go options before deciding the let the party behind us pass us, and trail a rope up 30 feet to the next belay. Then I climbed it on top rope, feeling incompetent because the move was not that hard. That is the way it is sometimes. Collaboration is used to acquire the objective, even if not every individual does the originally intended task.
I struggled significantly the last 20 feet of technical climbing. It was an inside corner with a not terribly steep face with 1 inch ledges every four feet and on the left was a flaring off width between the face wall and the left wall which was slightly overhanging. I ended up using painful  left arm jams with small holds for my right hand and feet. Plus I had introduced a ton of rope drag based on a weaving route so I was pulling the rope up as I struggled just to push myself up. I will have a few more back of the hand scars after this jam fest.

Once on the top, the rain started. It was late, probably 3 PM or so when I topped out. I had significant difficulty belaying the second because of the rope drag. This is actually a common problem in rock climbing. The leader will end up with a lot of rope drag and after climbing the route gets no rest before having to pull all the rope up for a second. So the climber below is yelling “take... take... up rope!” and the leader is but it goes slowly. After a quick summit video we started the rappels down. The rain started in earnest and then some hail, but not significant hail. While it was uncomfortable, I was pleasurably sucking the water off of my shirt and arms because I ran out of water about a half hour before and my mouth was very very dry, so the rain was a blessing in that respect. Plus, rappelling in the rain, is not all that bad. The ropes are so heavy that you go even slower than on a dry rope. Then since the rappel devise is squeezing water out of the rope the device is getting water cooled, which is much more efficient for heat transfer. So you can almost take your hands off of 10mm ropes on a double rope rappel when it is wet without worrying about picking up too much speed. At least a 130 pound person goes slowly. As we were setting up the second rappel the rain diminished and the third and fourth rappels were nearly dry. 
Me halfway down the second rappel. 
When we reached the ground our friend who had gone bicycling and hiking during the day met us and we walked back along the paved trail to the van. Lest any climbing story end at the parking lot we went to the KOA and had hamburgers and buffalo burgers and texas toothpicks, which is a local dish with jalapeƱos, onions and green beans fried, as we watched the beginning of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We took a shower and headed to South Dakota. It’s funny to take your pants off after such a physical jam fest. Our ankles and knees were red and green, scraped and inflamed. There are aesthetic routes for climbing and this, while perhaps aesthetic from the ground, was not aesthetic climbing.

Enjoy the video! It is two minutes that sum up the adventure. 
video

It has taken me a week to get this posted and I have had some time for reflection. First, it's really hard to watch myself on video. I feel like there are so many things to critique. On that note, in the video from the summit, I was wasted! I was so physically exhausted and somewhat mentally as well and perhaps a little emotionally. In fact, the physical exhaustion that you see there is about as worn out as I get. Sure it is worse after a marathon, but not much, and certainly not much exhaustion in my upper body like in this video.The strange thing is I watch this and it doesn't look like I am struggling much. I suppose I put on a good show. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Never Enough?...

With every accomplishment there is a desire to take the next step. With every success there is the desire to be more successful next time. We road trip out to Wyoming to climb a tower, and even on the drive home I already wonder, 'how do I top this?' I finish a huge project with significant technical hurdles and I wonder, 'how do I top this?' It is like a race of attrition. There is no finish line unless one stops. There are no limits unless one creates them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 69

A busy week filled with working, running, bicycling, and driving. This will be short because it's 8:20 and I have to go grocery shopping before I go to bed.

I worked on some projects and was rather effective this week. I hope you liked my Jacobian article, I deal with that stuff all the time so I decided to tell the world about it. Other than that we are nearing the end of a big project which means the things that have been hampering our progress are continuing to hamper our progress, but many of the big issues have been resolved. One week closer to shipping as they say.

I ran a fair amount. I haven't logged it, but I did do a 12 mile run in 1:15 on Sunday and a 14 mile run at low 7s pace on Thursday. For me that means I'm back enough to run with whoever wants to run with me. On the Sunday run I threw in two separate miles hard near the end of the run, and they both ended up being at 5:35 pace. Moral of the story, for what I consider good shape, I am not in shape.

Bicycling I discovered Strava! I downloaded the iPhone App and the GPS tracks my ride. Then when I am done it compares my times up various hills to others. I easily become competitive... (I am king of the  mountain on most of the hills I have cycled up.)

As I mentioned last week my parents were here Sunday and that was nice. There is an article forming in my head about moving many times growing up and the ability to develop long term relationships and I think that my relationship with my parents will be a prominent component of that article...

The weekend was spent driving to and then climbing Devils Tower in Wyoming. Here is a teaser. Taken by my friend and coworker Cristof L. from Brazil.

Me Leading the First Pitch on the Durrance Route Devils Tower

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Jacobian: Finite Element Mesh Quality

This is as technical as engineering comes. Bring up a Jacobian to a bunch of finite element engineers and hopefully they will all know what you are talking about. This is so technical that it it typically only covered in senior level college classes or graduate school classes. Although, if you do cover it in college you will probably do the actual matrix equations, even though in real life (the business world) a computer does it in fractions of a second.

Now more specifically the Jacobian, which is short for the Jacobian Matrix Determinate, is really the best measure of finite element mesh quality. It is one number which defines how good or bad an element is. The Jacobian is a measure of the normals of the element faces relative to each other. Unfortunately, Hypermesh does not show the element face normals on solid elements, but it is basically an arrow on each face pointing out perpendicular to the face. The range of a Jacobian is from 1, a perfect cube, to something lower, -1 or even lower. The smallest Jacobian I have seen was -1.45. When the element face normals start to cross, that is they are not perpendicular to each other, your element quality gets worse.

For several examples I created the image below. In all of the elements, except for the red one, I simply translated one node (vertex) to a new location and kept the other seven in the original cube positions. You can see that as the node moves farther away from the cube position the element quality gets worse.

Sample Jacobians (J): Orange Cube J = 1.0; Blue J = .942 (z is .9 for one point); Purple J = .883 (z and y are .9 for one point); Pink J = .398 (z and y are .5 for one point); Green J = -.409 (z and y are -.1 for one point); Tan J = -.130 (z and y are .1 for one point); Red J = 1.0 (z is 3 for all four end points); Light Blue J = .072 (x y and z are .5 for one point)

How bad is bad? Abaqus will not run a job with a Jacobian below 0, at least not for me. Ansys on the other hand has less strict mesh quality requirements. Often times Abaqus will not run a solid element Jacobian below 0.2 and a shell element Jacobian below 0.3. And yes, I have had one element with a negative Jacobian prevent an Abaqus job with over 100,000 elements from running. If you can get all of the Jacobians in your model above .5 you can typically say you have a good quality mesh.

If you liked this click on something below or leave a comment, please. I can do more like this, but only if there is demand.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Time Independent Education!!

I am way behind on my Coding Together iOS programming class! Close to three weeks behind. However, that's acceptable. It is acceptable because there is no grade for me when I finish, there is no tuition bill or next semester I need this prerequisite for. For the first time I can remember, there is no deadline for me to learn the material. There is no penalty for not learning the material by a certain time.

This is revolutionary. I'm serious. Kids sit through class for years learning the same material as a whole bunch of other kids because a teacher doesn't have the time to have 25 students all on a different page of the text book. Every so often a kid skips a grade or gets held back to repeat the lessons again. However, perhaps instead of maintaining a constant rate of learning, or a generally constant rate of learning because not all classes progress at the same rate, the rate of learning would depend on the student.

For example, given about four (12 hour) days if I were to just work on my iOS class I could complete the whole thing, except for the final project. However given the plethora of other things that I do with my time it will end up taking me three months or more. That is fine because the end result is nearly the same.

Extrapolate that to a high school trigonometry class. Perhaps there is a series of lectures, better yet interactive lectures, out there that could be used as material for the class. Students could progress with the lessons and assignments at their own rate and the teacher would be able to help students one or two or three at a time as each one needed help. Obviously there would be some bar, some set of minimum requirements, that grades would be based on. However, it allows students to go ahead if they had the time and motivation. Looking back the computer science classes I had and CAD (computer aided drawing) classes I had followed this kind of format. After a short lecture there would be an exercise to work through and some students would finish it before class was over, others would have to work on it after hours as homework. That is still like the tip of the iceberg. It allows the students to progress at their own rate, but every class like that I have had had limits on the material. It's like a text book with 300 pages that takes a year to get through. Well, some students could go through 500 pages in a year. Plus, different students are good at different subjects. If a student gets bored, even for a little bit, the chances of losing the interest of that person for more education grow.

This is on my mind because of the class I am taking, as well as the upcoming McGraw-Hill Education spinoff. As it turns off McGraw-Hill has a large office in Dubuque by the Mississippi as well as a printing operation on the west side of town. I feel that we are in the midst of an education revolution. I don't where where we will end up or if it will be better than what we have now. I don't know how long it will take or if we will go kicking and screaming or running and jumping. I do think that it will mean customized instruction for each student or at least for many different types of students. Kind of like the Star Wars clone army or Star Trek Vulcans. Education will no longer be primarily pages of written text (I'm predicting the death of my blog I suppose) but interactive experiments, even if they are mostly digital.

The Internet has changed things. It may have taken 25 years for us to have an idea of how to use it, but the sharing of information and the connecting of people sharing that information seems to be a major theme. Especially now that we have all of this information accessible from our phones and we have applications that we can touch that react to our actions.

These thoughts have been brewing in me for some time. I feel it is all about the next generation. That's part of the reason I coach. That's why I worked four summers at Boy Scout camp. I want to tell others about the great things I have discovered. So I plan to do more education on my blog going forward. The plantar fasciitis and shins splints thing is an example of what I have to share. It's not perfect. I would only call it semiprofessional, but it is a little more information that others can use to improve the world.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 68

Short entry today. The last week I have put out some of my best articles so read up on them if you have not yet. They are interesting because they include graphics or videos, and those things are just a little more interesting than writing. In fact I endeavor to include more media in the future.

At work I worked. Some weeks include climactic fulfillments of big projects, other weeks include smaller projects or not as much clear progress. This was one of the later. In the long run all of this experience is serving me incredibly well. I am learning patience and communication skills and to discern what is important and what is not as important. I should say that any time that my attitude about work seems less than thrilling, it's like complaining about a B. Overall I am in a good situation, and that's why I am here.

Exercising I ran and bicycled, but I haven't filled out my running log for the week so I don't know how much I ran yet. I think it was probably in the high 20s. After a whopping 37 miles last week I decided to cool it and I ended up taking two day off of running, although one included a massage and the other a 42 mile bicycle ride so they were contributing to the big picture of training. No workouts this week because of my foot. My tendonitis was on the 3rd metatarsal between my second and third metatarsals. I not longer feel pain there, but I do feel soreness over my 1st metatarsal behind my big toe. This is a common problem in injuries. One area gets hurt and a fraction of a degree change in biomechanics leads to a surrounding area to hurt. So I am taking it easy on myself. It is not painful, but it is sore.

I went rock climbing twice, which is kind of high for me since I have officially become an engineer. We are preparing for a road trip to Devil's Tower. We are going to drive out, climb it, and more or less drive back. At least 26 hours of driving in one weekend. It's going to be fun!

The real highlight for the week was my parents coming to visit. They toured the northern east side of the west including Aberdeen, South Dakota, Williston, North Dakota, and Glacier National Park. The later by the way is eight years away from not having any permanent glaciers. The first two are towns suffering from an oil boom. When I say suffering I mean they don't have enough people to fill all of the jobs. Aberdeen apparently advertises 1000 job openings. So if you are still unemployed, and you aren't an engineer who would like to come to Iowa, go to the oil! They are hiring all types of positions and if you manage to have a college degree and stay for three months you will probably be making $23+ an hour. Now you know. What you do with that information is your choice.

My parents are so incredibly awesome! Somehow or other they did really well with my sister and I. The older I am the more I enjoy spending time with them and talking to them. They end up being my main source to complain to. It was great to have them in town, and yet another reason I need to buy a two bedroom (or more) house so that guests can stay with me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Cure for Plantar Fasciitis and The Cure for Shin Splints

If you run long enough (20,000 miles or so) chances are you will learn something about injury recovery and injury prevention. After helping a number of teammates and now athletes I coach with injuries I thought it is about time I make some videos about it.

Plantar Fasciitis involves pain on the plantar on the sole of one's foot between the heel and forefoot. It is common in runners. What causes runners to get plantar fasciitis? My theory (from first hand experience in the fall of 2008) is wearing shoes with significant support weakens and atrophies the muscles in the foot which are then unable to handle faster paces or long runs without tearing. In my opinion the best way to recover and prevent the dreaded PF is to run barefoot. Even 10% of your weekly mileage barefoot goes a very long way toward not getting the injury.

0. Run barefoot. Even walking around barefoot helps strengthen your feet. Wearing Vibram Five Fingers counts as barefoot although a little time without anything on your feet is even better. It doesn't have to be fast or far either even a few minutes will strengthen your feet.

1. Toe Curls. Curl up a newspaper or towel that you are standing on, or several newspapers or towels. See the video below for an example. How many times should you do it in one session and how frequently should you do a session? Start with one set of 2-3 feet worth of curled material per day and progress to two sets of 5-6 feet of material per day over about two weeks. Once you are healed 2-3 feet of material curled 2-3 times per week with likely keep your feet strong.

2. Shin Ups or Toe Raises. Leaning up against a wall with your feet about a foot away from the wall about shoulder width apart slowly raise and lower your toes 30 times without ever completely lowering your feet to the ground then without stopping do 30 fast toe raises and during this part your shins will start to burn, because your shins are weak. Runners get shin splints because they are running on hard surfaces strengthening their calves with every step and not strengthening their shins. The muscle imbalance is an injury waiting to happen. This is the best cure for shin splints I have encountered in 21,000 miles over 11 years. If it doesn't work, you might not have shin splints. See the video below for an example.

3. Pianos. I might have actually created this one. The others I learned about from coaches or one of the running specific websites. This is a great plantar fasciitis exercise because it causes the muscles in your feet to pull against each other breaking some of the unwanted connections that happen between muscle fibers and contribute to knots. At least, that's my interpretation of why it works based on my experience with muscle knots. All you need to do is stand up without leaning on anything and press your big toes down and lift your four outer toes up, then press your four outer toes down and lift your big toes up. Continue to go back and forth between the two positions until you can't any more. It takes practice when you start and the focus should be on getting the toes extended not any specific number of repetitions. See the video below for an example.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am a Master of Science, but in Materials Science and Engineering. These exercises have not been approved by a doctor or medical board, but how many doctors run half as much as I run or work with patients that run half as much as I run? In summary, you could die doing these exercises don't blame me for it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Buying and Selling a Stock: Part 6

DHT Holdings recently released their quarterly earnings. You can read the earnings call transcript at Seeking Alpha. There were a few things of interest to me on this call. Their earnings per share for the quarter were only $0.23 and they are giving a $0.24 dividend, which is not sustainable by itself but better than giving a dividend off of negative earnings. Bank of America anyone?

The other bad news is that the "downturn" looks to be longer than hoped for. In fact management said, "...the tanker market recovery is some time away." Given the rise of pipelines and alternative energy, is this is the beginning of the end for oil tankers? Perhaps. Also, keep in mind that DHT deals with used tankers and they said that "...way too many new buildings..." were coming up, which could mean trouble for an aging fleet. Although, that might also mean they will be able to ship for lower prices than competitors.

On the positive side, they prepaid all of their debt until Q1 2015, which is great! No debt payments means more money for earnings. Plus interest rates are low, and they hinted that they were looking for ships, or even an entire fleet to buy. So they could use the money raised from the rights offering as a downpayment on new ships, bought at low interest rates.

For the next two quarters they have 59% charter coverage, which means if their spot ships (ships operating on a day to day sort of basis) made no money, they would still be profitable for the next two quarters. In 2013 on the other hand they have only 29% charter coverage, which means they have to make money on the spot market ($6,000 per day), provided they don't get any more charters. They do seem committed to a $0.24 dividend per quarter for the next two quarters (three dividends), but look to change (lower?) the dividend in 2013.

The share price has gone down and down and down, so I bought more this week. It's goes ex-dividend Tuesday. At a closing price today of $6.35, a $0.24 dividend is a 3.78% return, in basically a week. Provided you sell it at the same price or higher, although given how the price of this stock has changed in the last six months, you stand to lose it all.

A few last financials. With 15.3 million shares including the preferred shares not yet converted to common stock, at a price of $6.35, that's a market cap of $97.2 million. They have $71 million in cash in the bank and a book value of $287 million. The last four quarters their book value has gone up and their debt has gone down.

I am long (meaning I bought it and am waiting to sell as opposed to "short" which means sold waiting to buy) DHT.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

That Can Happen?

Every so often something happens that is beyond what I would ever expect or even think is possible. Tuesday night had one of those incidents. Two of my coworker friends (S and J) and I went to Pictured Rocks to go rock climbing. As we were roping up to climb a little 30 foot 5.3-on-the-easy-side tower that wasn't in the guidebook, a girl in a bikini, S, walked up and started talking to us because she thought she knew J.

After a few minutes of talking and learning that she was a rock climber as well, who went to the same college as J, we convinced her to put on a harness, borrow a pair of shoes, and climb the tower, which was in fact her first trad climb. Okay, the reasons this is so strange, is that not very many women climb and most that do have only climb with significant others or only climb with other women, people don't just show up at the bottom of a climb and actually put on a harness and try it, and not very many women walk around in bikinis on a Tuesday afternoon in rural Iowa.

The point is, I have been climbing for years in many different places and a girl (a nurse actually) walking up in a bikini and then putting on a harness and shoes and going for a climb in Iowa... That can happen?

The lesson to be learned from this is to not limit possibilities. I wasn't hoping this would happen. I didn't expect this to happen. I didn't even know this was a possibility. Plus, I don't expect it to ever happen again, but it could I suppose it could. As they say, "fact is stranger than fiction."