Author Archives: Vironevaeh

Apple Watch: Water Polo and Swimming

I am a verified stat head. I keep a spreadsheet of my swimming yardage. I love to swim on intervals and work against the clock. I always missed that feedback playing water polo.

I recently got an Apple Watch. I intended it mostly for swimming, but I wore it for a few water polo scrimmages, out of curiosity. I’d never had any statistical insight into those workouts.

Below are examples of heart rates for a swim set and a water polo scrimmage.

The swim set is so orderly. The first plateau is my 500 yard warm-up. I go really hard to see how I’m feeling that day. Then a gap, then kicking. Then I take a break before the main swimming set. While I’m swimming, the trace is pretty constant (sometimes even more than this one), and when I take breaks, the trace drops. The fluctuations at the end are 6 x 50s, alternating between sprint and recovery.

The water polo trace is so noisy. They all look this way. You can see my warm-up and some inactivity before the play starts, but after that it gets fuzzy. The whole last 3/4 looks like the sprint/recovery set from swimming. The average BPM are nearly the same.

I love water polo and swimming, but these traces lent insight into why some people like one and not the other. I hadn’t realized just how different they were as workouts.


Soviet Anti-Alcohol Propaganda

After visiting the Museum of Communism in Prague, I have been fascinated with propaganda posters. They share attractive design and typographical movements from their brethren in advertising, but they are grounded in darkness. Advertisements appeal to desire, ambition, family, and goodness (to a laughable extent, seriously is there anything more candy-coated than a McDonald’s or a Coca Cola ad?) ; propaganda posters appeal to fear, resentment, social-approbation, and shame. Advertisements recede into history, but they retain their emotional glow—we still enjoy old neon hotel signs and Coca Cola ads on the side of brick buildings. Propaganda maintains its darker emotions too—some of the kinder ones, like Rosie the Riveter, have crossed into pop culture, but war bonds posters from WWI and racist posters from WWII have understandably vanished.

Propaganda posters from other cultures fascinate me because they contain grim honesty. What people were meant to fear and how that fear was instilled is telling. It seems to me that propaganda varies between nations more than advertising because differences are often the source of fear.

The publishing company FUEL has a series of interesting books about Russian and Soviet culture. Their book Alcohol collects dozens of Soviet anti-drinking posters. Some of their are stylish. Some are tacky. They depict every manner of disordered drinking–children drinking, drinking during pregnancy, factory workers drinking, drivers drinking, people drinking poisonous moonshine. These are distressing ideas; they must have occurred often enough to cause anxiety.

I’ve mentioned this book to several people, and they are always surprised to hear that Russia ever suggested drinking less. They find drinking and Russia to be synonymous. Most of these posters are from the 1980s, as part of an initiative under Gorbachev. If American perception is any measure, the propaganda seems to have been ineffective.

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February 17, 2018

I haven’t disappeared; I have been traveling a lot for family illness. I’m finding rhythm again, so I think I’ll be posting again soon.


Tea for December: Week 3

It’s been a challenging week, but tea has been my companion. At the beginning of the month, I wondered if I would be able to stay interested for 31 days. The more I learn, the more curious I am. This little challenge will stick with me for a long time.

Little tea factoid of the week

Tea is like wine: there are many different cultivars (cultivated varieties) and teas taste different when grown in different soils and in different weather. Like wine, teas that grow in challenging environments gain interesting flavors; many famous growing regions in China, India, and Taiwan are over a mile in elevation.

Unlike wine, tea can be picked multiple times per year. Darjeeling autumn crescendo is the fourth and final picking of the year. For various teas, there are spring pickings, summer pickings, monsoon pickings, and winter pickings. Some teas are made only from specific leaves; Pai Mu Tan white tea is made with the bud and the first two leaves. Some premium teas are even more selective.

With all these variables, there are many ways to make a tea. 31 days starts to seem like not so many days to fill.


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Tea for December: Week 2

The tea consumption continues! This weekend I went to the shop and got adventurous. It’s going to be a flavorful December! Some days I revisit an old stand-by, some days I try something brand new. Every day I learn something new about tea. This week, I tried straight Assam tea for the first time, and had my first Taiwanese and Thai teas.

Little tea factoid of the week

Tea all comes from the camellia sinensis plant. There are two subspecies: var. sinensis and var. assamica. Sinensis is the Chinese version that has been cultivated in China for many centuries. Assamica was first globally known in 1823, found in eastern India.

Before the discovery of Assam tea, China supplied Britain with tea. Britain really wanted tea, but China only wanted silver bullion in return. Britain began introducing opium to China to create demand for a product more easy to produce than bullion. Between 1821 and 1837, British delivery of opium increased fivefold. During this time, Britain also began extensive tea plantations in India. Britain got their tea fix and China went on to suffer the Opium Wars.

Today, Assam tea is still grown in the Assam region of India. It’s maltier in flavor, and if you’ve had English Breakfast tea, you’ve probably had a blend with some Assam tea. I don’t drink my tea with milk, but Assam tea is supposed to be especially good with it.


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Tea for December: Week 1

It’s been an exciting week of teas. Someone said my project sounded like an advent calendar, so I decided I could make that work. I’ll continue to fill it out as the month proceeds. I’ve been posting my drink every day on Twitter; you can find my feed on the right side of my home page.

Little Tea factoid of the week

Do you know what oolong tea is? Oolong tea is partially-oxidized tea. When you leave an apple on a table and it turns brown, that’s oxidation. Green tea is unoxidized, and black tea is fully oxidized. (The oxidation process is fancier than letting it sit out, but that’s the basic chemistry.) Oolong is the tea in between. There are green oolongs (less oxidized) and black oolongs (more oxidized). Above all else, oolongs are delicious.


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Tea for December

I love tea. Even in elementary school I began the day with tea; when I was little I drank herbal and eventually I transitioned to true-blue camellia sinensis. Today I drink about 3 liters of tea every day. It starts and ends and fills my day with joy. When my stomach was upset, when I was on a restricted medical diet—tea was there. On my desk right now I have a Darjeeling 2nd Flush black tea and a sweet Genmaicha green tea (green tea with roasted rice in it). I am drinking English breakfast tea with rose that I brought from home.

Only recently did I seek to learn more about tea. I knew I liked black teas and smoky green teas and, with that constraint, I’d go to the tea shop, sniff around (literally), and pick out some winners. I realized that, other than the flavor, I didn’t know anything about the teas I was drinking. What made them different? Could I find more teas that I would love if I could understand my tastes better? I bought a copy of Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties, from which I learned about where tea is grown, what kinds of tea each country grows, and how they differ.

As with everything, I get into habits with my tea drinking. Lately, I drink English breakfast tea (EBT!) with rose most mornings. For a strong treat, I drink New Vithanakande Ceylon black tea. For a fancy treat, I drink Yunnan Golden Buds black tea. For a mellow treat, I drink Tie Guan Yin Oolang tea. My local tea shop, New Mexico Tea Company, is wonderful.

So this December I plan to drink a different tea every day. December is a wonderful time to drink warm drinks. Tea is a calorie-free treat in a season filled with pies and cookies and roasts. And tea is delicious and it’s a good way to try new things.

Suggestions (especially of fancy blacks) and fellow tea drinkers are welcome! Happy drinking!