Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'm 60 Years Old and Took the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT): Here's My Score

When we compete against ourselves, who sets the standards? We do, of course. We set the minimum standards and the goals.

One practical rule of fitness is to compete against yourself rather than against others. You're less likely to push yourself to the point of getting hurt when you compete only against yourself.

But every once in a while it's useful to compare your core fitness against well-established standards. The standard I use is the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).

The APFT is a three-event physical performance test used to assess endurance. It is a simple way to measure your physical strengths, abilities, and cardio-respiratory fitness.
The three PFT events are two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a timed 2-mile run. Your results from each event are assigned a score. To pass you must Score 180 points or higher with at least 60 points in each event. Your age, gender and the amount of repetitions or time elapsed for each event determines your score.

I wrote about the test in This Nation's Devolution from Quality to Convenience (January 4, 2010).

I turned 60 in December 2013, and wondered how I'd score on the APFT with no special training, just my usual fitness routine. I had some free time this past Sunday so I did the three tests.

I want to specify a few things about my typical training and how I took the test. I am not a gym rat and in fact never go to a gym. I don't lift weights or do any extraordinary training. I walk or bicycle every day, often as a means of doing errands, and I run two kilometers (1.2 miles) once or twice a week. I limit running to avoid pounding my knees too much; when I was a production carpenter/builder, I carried a lot of weight and various joints reflect that wear and tear.

I do tai-chi/chi-gong type stretching and simple exercises like jumping jacks, and do sets of push-ups and sit-ups a few times a week. I do not do hours of strenuous exercise or push myself to the point of pain or passing out. Easy does it is my credo. I've seen too many people injure themselves by acting like they're still 25 years old. In other words, the key part of being an athlete is not competition against others--it's being aware of your own limits and being able to press up against that line on occasion without exceeding it.

Once you're injured, then your fitness program is severely limited. So my Number One priority is to avoid injury.

(If you have no fitness program, be sure to consult a doctor before starting any fitness routine. Get a comprehensive physical and baseline tests of blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, etc.)

In taking the test, I did not push past my limits; I only did only what was comfortable. Test results where the person is exhausted and in recovery for days are not valid results in my view; the point is to test your fitness on an average day, not your maximum. That's especially true if you're older like me.

Once again: do NOT attempt the APFT if you have no regular, sustained fitness program, and do not start a fitness program without consulting a physician who has access to your medical history and current records. Also, do not view the test as a competition against me or anyone else; it's only a baseline standard, not the Guinness Book of World Records. There is no prize awarded, other than fitness itself.

Finally, remember that fitness, diet (eating a variety of home-prepared real food) and mental health are one system--they cannot be separated. Total fitness builds not just strength and endurance but health, mental fortitude and a sense of well-being.

Push-Ups
I did 50 push-ups, two sets of 25 with a brief pause in between. I finished in about 100 seconds and did not use the full 2 minutes, as there wasn't much left in the quiver after a quick 50.

As for test scores, I used the tables for males of course: The minimum for Army Rangers is 49 push-ups, so I met that standard. For Army personnel ages 17-21, the minimum number of push-ups to get a passing score of 60 is 42. So my score was 71. For male personnel ages 37-41, the minimum is 34, so my score is 76.

I don't have any illusions about my ability to meet all Ranger standards; carrying a full pack for miles and doing a 5-mile run in 40 minutes are well beyond my capabilities at 60 years of age. Nonetheless, it was fun to meet at least the push-up minimum: Army Ranger PFT.

Sit-Ups
I did 55 sit-ups in 2 minutes, and am annoyed that I didn't push myself a bit because I could have easily done another five and reached 60, meeting the standard for Army Rangers (59). For Army personnel ages 17-21, the minimum number of sit-ups to get a passing score of 60 is 53, so I passed for that age group with a score of 63. For male personnel ages 37-41, the minimum is 45, so my score is 71.

2-Mile Run
The local high school track was closed on Sunday, so I ran a course I'd previously measured with my bicycle odometer. The course is not quite level and so the slight uphill part probably hurt my time. The distance may not be perfectly accurate, but I think it's quite close. Nonetheless there is a fudge-factor here due to the limitations of the street course.

My time for the 2-mile run was 16:12, with a very consistent 4 minutes per half-mile over the course of the run.

This is a minute off the Army Rangers minimum, and slightly under passing for Army personnel ages 17-21, where the minimum time needed for a passing score of 60 is 15:54. So my score was 56 for the 17-21 age group. Since we're talking about a measly 16 seconds here (4 seconds per half mile), I am sure I could have reduced my time by 20 seconds with a bit of extra effort.

For male personnel ages 37-41, the minimum time needed to earn the passing score of 60 is 18:18, so in this age group my score is 78.

A minute after the run, my pulse was around 70. My resting pulse is around 60. My blood pressure an hour later is usual for me, 124/73. In other words, I didn't push myself very hard to make 16:12, though this is a longer distance than my usual jog.

Once again, my Number One priority is avoiding injury. I want to be jogging for many years to come, so I have to protect what's left of my joints. As an older athlete, this requires leaving my body time to recover (i.e. not running every day) and also staying lean so I'm not punishing my joints with extra body weight.


My Score
In the 17-21 age group, my score is 190 (passing is 180). I missed the minimum score for the 2-minute run by a lousy 16 seconds, but my overall score is passing for people 40 years my junior.

My score for the 37-41 age group, 20 years my junior, is 225 (passing is 180). I easily exceeded these standards with no special effort.

I met the Army Rangers standards for push-ups and missed the sit-up minimum by four, something I am confident I could make up with a bit of effort. I missed the 2-mile run minimum by a minute, not something I could make up without some devoted training. Nonetheless, only a minute shy of Ranger standards isn't bad for a 60-year geezer.

For baseline purposes, my weight this morning was 171.6 pounds, height 6-foot 2-inches, yielding a BMI (body mass index) of 22. My cholesterol (last tested in August 2013) is 190, triglycerides 57, HDL 54 and LDL 125. These are not stellar results, they're merely normal.

So what's the point? Simply this: it isn't that difficult to be fit, folks. I am not a gifted athlete (just ask my buddies on my high school teams); if anything, my endurance, strength, skill, etc. is mediocre or even below average.

I don't spend hours at the gym or training to meet some sort of crazy endurance/strength goals; I only do common-sense cross-training, and do errands on foot or on a bicycle. I do push-ups and sit-ups no more than twice a week, and this takes only a few minutes. I jog two klicks (Kilometers), around 1.2 miles once or twice a week. I bicycle around 25-30 miles a week.

The lower we set our standards, the less we expect of ourselves. In a world of global competition, this isn't a strategy that improves the odds of success.

When we compete against ourselves, who sets the standards? We do, of course. We set the minimum standards and the goals. If the goal is convenience, then we get results to match.

Being fit isn't about meeting standards, it's about feeling good and being able to enjoy activities and meals, eating what you want, not what you're limited to. I chose the Army Physical Fitness Test to make the point that minimum fitness isn't that difficult to reach, even of you're 40, 50, 60 or older.

The lower our standards and goals, the less we accomplish and the poorer the quality of our lives.


Next day report: I can feel the previous day's 50 push-ups a bit, but this is normal when you push up against your limits. This is actually the ideal in terms of building endurance and/or strength. I enjoyed my usual 2-klick morning walk and look forward to jumping on my bicycle later in the day. As far as I'm concerned, it's just another day of fitness routine.



Want to give an enduringly practical graduation gift? Then give my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy, a mere $9.95 for the Kindle ebook edition and $17.76 for the print edition.



Join me on May 2 for the Sonoma Wine Country Conference: Investment Ideas Hidden In Plain Sight: great speakers, good cause (benefits Autism Society of America):





Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20
"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated." Laura Y. 








Thank you, Harvey D. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.Thank you, Helen S.C. ($5), for yet another sublimely generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your longstanding support and readership.

Read more...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This Is How Empires Collapse

This is how empires collapse: one complicit participant at a time.

Before an empire collapses, it first erodes from within. The collapse may appear sudden, but the processes of internal rot hollowed out the resilience, resolve, purpose and vitality of the empire long before its final implosion.
What are these processes of internal rot? Here are a few of the most pervasive and destructive forces of internal corrosion:

1. Each institution within the system loses sight of its original purpose of serving the populace and becomes self-serving. This erosion of common purpose serving the common good is so gradual that participants forget there was a time when the focus wasn't on gaming the system to avoid work and accountability but serving the common good.

2. The corrupt Status Quo corrupts every individual who works within the system.Once an institution loses its original purpose and becomes self-serving, everyone within either seeks to maximize their own personal share of the swag and minimize their accountability, or they are forced out as a potentially dangerous uncorrupted insider.

The justification is always the same: everybody else is getting away with it, why shouldn't I? Empires decline one corruptible individual at a time.
3. Self-serving institutions select sociopathic leaders whose skills are not competency or leadership but conning others into believing the institution is functioning optimally when in reality it is faltering/failing.

The late Roman Empire offers a fine example: entire Army legions in the hinterlands were listed as full-strength on the official rolls in Rome and payroll was issued accordingly, but the legions only existed on paper: corrupt officials pocketed the payroll for phantom legions.

Self-serving institutions reward con-artists in leadership roles because only con-artists can mask the internal rot with happy-story PR and get away with it.

4. The institutional memory rewards conserving the existing Status Quo and punishes innovation. Innovation necessarily entails risk, and those busy feathering their own nests (i.e. accepting money for phantom work, phantom legions, etc.) have no desire to place their share of the swag at risk just to improve sagging output and accountability.

So reforms and innovations that might salvage the institution are shelved or buried.

5. As the sunk costs of the subsystems increase, the institutional resistance to new technologies and processes increases accordingly. Those manufacturing steam locomotives in the early 20th century had an enormous amount of capital and institutional knowledge sunk in their factories. Tossing all of that out to invest in building diesel-electric locomotives that were much more efficient than the old-tech steam locomotives made little sense to those looking at sunk costs.
As a result, the steam locomotive manufacturers clung to the old ways and went out of business. The sunk costs of empire are enormous, as is the internal resistance to change.

6. Institutional memory and knowledge support "doing more of what worked in the past" even when it is clearly failing. I refer to this institutional risk-avoidance and lack of imagination as doing more of what has failed spectacularly.

Inept leadership keeps doing more of what once worked, even when it is clearly failing, in effect ignoring real-world feedback in favor of magical-thinking. The Federal Reserve is an excellent example.

7. These dynamics of eroding accountability, effectiveness and purpose lead to systemic diminishing returns. Each failing institution now needs more money to sustain its operations, as inefficiencies, corruption and incompetence reduce output while dramatically raising costs (phantom legions still get paid).

8. Incompetence is rewarded and competence punished. The classic example of this was "Good job, Brownie:" cronies and con-artists are elevated to leadership roles to reward loyalty and the ability to mask the rot with good PR. Serving the common good is set aside as sychophancy (obedient flattery) to incompetent leaders is rewarded and real competence is punished as a threat to the self-serving leadership.

9. As returns diminish and costs rise, systemic fragility increases. This can be illustrated as a rising wedge: as output declines and costs rise, the break-even point keeps edging higher, until even a modest reduction of input (revenue, energy, etc.) causes the system to break down:



A modern-day example is oil-exporting states that have bought the complicity of their citizenry with generous welfare benefits and subsidies. As their populations and welfare benefits keep rising, the revenues they need to keep the system going require an ever-higher price of oil. Should the price of oil decline, these regimes will be unable to fund their welfare. With the social contract broken, there is nothing left to stem the tide of revolt.

10. Economies of scale no longer generate returns. In the good old days, stretching out supply lines to reach lower-cost suppliers and digitizing management reaped huge gains in productivity. Now that the scale of enterprise is global, the gains from economies of scale have faltered and the high overhead costs of maintaining this vast managerial infrastructure have become a drain.

11. Redundancy is sacrificed to preserve a corrupt and failing core. Rather than demand sacrifices of the Roman Elites and the entertainment-addicted bread-and-circus masses to maintain the forces protecting the Imperial borders, late-Roman Empire leaders eliminated defense-in-depth (redundancy). This left the borders thinly defended. With no legions in reserve, an invasion could no longer be stopped without mobilizing the entire border defense, in effect leaving huge swaths of the border undefended to push back the invaders.

Phantom legions line the pockets of insiders and cronies while creating a useful illusion of stability and strength.

12. The feedback from those tasked with doing the real work of the Empire is ignored as Elites and vested interests dominate decision-making. As I noted yesterday in The Political Poison of Vested Interests, when this bottoms-up feedback is tossed out, ignored or marginalized, all decisions are necessarily unwise because they are no longer grounded in the consequences experienced by the 95% doing the real work.

This lack of feedback from the bottom 95% is captured by the expression "Let them eat cake." (Though attributed to Marie Antoinette, there is no evidence that she actually said Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.)

The point is that decisions made with no feedback from the real-world of the bottom 95%, that is, decisions made solely in response to the demands of cronies, vested interests and various elites, are intrinsically unsound and doomed to fail catastrophically.

How does an Empire end up with phantom legions? The same way the U.S. ended up with ObamaCare/Affordable Care Act. The payroll is being paid but there is no real-world feedback, no accountability, no purpose other than private profit/gain and no common good being served.

That's how empires collapse: one corrupted, self-serving individual at a time, gaming one corrupted, self-serving institution or another; it no longer matters which one because they're all equally compromised. It's not just the border legions that are phantom; the entire stability and strength of the empire is phantom. The uncorruptible and competent are banished or punished, and the corrupt, self-serving and inept are lavished with treasure.

This is how empires collapse: one complicit participant at a time.



Want to give an enduringly practical graduation gift? Then give my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy, a mere $9.95 for the Kindle ebook edition and $17.76 for the print edition.



Join me on May 2 for the Sonoma Wine Country Conference: Investment Ideas Hidden In Plain Sight: great speakers, good cause (benefits Autism Society of America):






Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y. 







Thank you, Joe G. ($10/month), for your outrageously generous re-subscription to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership. Thank you, John K. ($100), for your outrageously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Political Poison of Vested Interests

Once vested interests take control, the only possible "solution" left is collapse.
I have long identified diminishing returns as a key dynamic in the current unraveling of the Status Quo. Why is this so? We can summarize diminishing returns as dumping more money, capital, energy and effort into a system just to keep the output from falling to zero.

But as the costs of keeping the system from imploding rise, they soon consume all the oxygen in the system, and the system implodes anyway.

The Fatal Disease of the Status Quo: Diminishing Returns (May 1, 2013)

Our Era’s Definitive Dynamic: Diminishing Returns (November 11, 2013)

Sickcare, higher education and insanely expensive weapons systems are all examples of this dynamic. The higher education cartel has raised gargantuan sums to fund its poor quality product by turning students into debt-serfs via student loans.




We must add a second definitive dynamic: protecting vested interests. There are many ways of describing powerful constituencies with an enormous stake in maintaining the Status Quo--vested or entrenched interests, for example--but the key characteristic is the enormous political pain that these groups can inflict on self-serving politicos.

Once confronted with an aroused vested interest--public union, cartel, corporatocracy, Power Elite, etc.--politicos cave in and do what is politically expedient: avoid any real reform and simply shovel more money into the gaping maw of diminishing returns.

A good example is soaring higher education costs and the decline of actual learning and the real-world value of a college diploma. The long-term study Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses concluded that "American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students."

But rather than enable (or even insist) on real reforms that dramatically lowered costs and improved results, the political Status Quo responds to the higher education cartel's screams for more money by extending more student credit and taxpayer-paid aid to the cartel.

(I address all these issues in my book The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy: The Revolution in Higher Education.)

Once politicos respond to the cries for more money and protection from diminishing returns from vested interests, the real problem festers, unsolved and addressed, while the politically expedient "solution" drains resources away from real reform and exacerbates the underlying problem.

You see the end-game this cycle of vested interests and political expedience creates: as the real problems go unaddressed, they further diminish returns, which triggers even more frantic calls by vested interests for more funding and more protection from the creative destruction of diminishing returns.
Meanwhile, the opportunity cost of supporting diminishing-return vested interests continually increases as scarce resources are squandered on supporting entrenched interests.

Eventually the parasitic entrenched interests have consumed all the oxygen in the system and the system collapses under its own weight.

In a political system where money buys concentrated political power, decisions that affect 100% of the populace are made to benefit the 5% most powerful entrenched interests. How can wise decisions be made when all decision-making centers around placating politically dominant interests? Answer: they can't. Decisions made to protect and favor the few at the expense of the many are intrinsically unwise, as they are blind to the consequences heaped on the voiceless 95%.

Vested interests span the entire political spectrum. The "progressive" favorites, banking, higher education, public unions and sickcare, are all able to veto any reforms that threaten their share of the swag or that demand higher returns on the ever-rising sums poured into these systems.

The "conservative" favorites, banking (every politico is beholden to financial Elites), weaponry, energy, and corporate welfare, are equally able to squelch reform that threatens their share of the swag.

Combine diminishing returns with the political dominance of vested interests and you get a system incapable of reforming itself and incapable of stopping the slide off the cliff. Vested interests have no concern for the unintended consequences of their self-aggrandizement; the entire poilitical structure is based on the faith that there is always more money to feed the insatiable hunger of entrenched interests for more funding, more protection and more power.

That there might be limits that cannot be surpassed without imploding the entire rickety, corrupt system is a danger that cannot be recognized, much less discussed in the halls of power, lest the faith that unwise decisions and spending can pile up year after year and decade after decade forever be questioned.

And so the only possible "solution" left is collapse. This is the lesson of the book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, which illustrates that the solution has always been collapse when corrupted, self-serving vested interests gain control of the political system and the economy.



Want to give an enduringly practical graduation gift? Then give my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy, a mere $9.95 for the Kindle ebook edition and $17.76 for the print edition.



Join me on May 2 for the Sonoma Wine Country Conference: Investment Ideas Hidden In Plain Sight: great speakers, good cause (benefits Autism Society of America):





Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y. 




Thank you, John S. ($50), for your superbly generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership. Thank you, Steve B. ($50), for your splendidly generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

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