Like yoga for your brain...

Christmas Eve, 2008

Christmas is really about children, or the child in us all. Even the normally testosterone-poisoned, self-punishing kettlebell crowd has a soft spot for kids this time of year. Below is a picture of my new kettlebell hero.

If only we could all be so excited about the daily struggle!

Be a child today. Be filled with excitement and wonder. Be innocently alive and interested, and feel no remorse for it. There's plenty of time for that next week, when we all resolve to grow up again...

(thanks to the folks at Kettlebell Stuff for the pic.)

Pope Puts Prada Loafer in Mouth

Ok, it's time we had a chat with the Pope. No, not me - that other guy.

I realize he's old, but doesn't he have handlers to stop him from saying stupid, insensitive, counter-productive things? I do, and my Vatican is so much less regimented than his...

In his recent year-end address to senior Vatican staffers he warned that homosexual and transsexual behavior is a threat to humanity on a par with the disappearance of the rain forests. He called for an "ecology of man," then went on to explain that protecting creation includes protecting man from self-destruction - because anything other than heterosexuality is "a destruction of God's work."

The quote that Reuters ran with was...
""The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.""

Figuring he was on a roll, the Pontiff went on to discard Gender Theory out of hand, and then take an uncalled-for shot at World Youth Day as well. The BBC's write-up of the whole sordid mess can be read here.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you Benny, but I think you're of the opinion that the number of queers is suddenly rising. You've made the classic blunder of mistaking growing awareness for a growing population. There aren't any more of them than there ever has been, Your Holiness. They just aren't as afraid anymore.

They are finally beginning to shake off the self-loathing handed out by your institution and others like it that kept them in the shadows for centuries. They are finally beginning to believe that they deserve the right to be themselves, just as God made them, regardless of what your readings of the old books might say. They are no longer hiding their love and the families it makes, and they aren't apologizing for it not being that love of which you approve. They're taking their rightful place at the table with ALL of God's children, and you should be in favor of that.

In the wake of the priest sex scandal, with attendance declining in the industrialized countries, and more and more Catholics simply ignoring you and your pronouncements, you're sticking to the ancient party line of bigotry and oppression...

How's that working out for you?

All kidding aside, I firmly believe that this pope was chosen because he was expected to be a short-timer. He was 78 at the time of his election, he's had several small strokes, and is on heart medications. JP II was so popular that it would have been hard to elect anyone who wasn't one of his chosen men, so the College of Cardinals figured they could put Ratzinger in the job and he'd die in a decade or less. By then, the winds would be right for a more progressive Pope, and the church could finally try to move into the 21st Century (20 years behind, but better late than never, right?). They neglected to take into account the kind of damage a former Inquisitor could wreak, even in a relatively short term of office.

I know a lot of Catholics who are outraged and disgusted by the comments made by His Holiness. Unfortunately, there is no way for parishoners to recall a seated pope. They could, however, make their disapproval the offering plate. If that started happening in large enough numbers, rather than protecting mankind from the destruction supposedly caused by homosexuals, the church might turn its attention to protecting itself from the destruction that is Benedict XVI.

25 Kislev

I think I would have made a good Jew, had my birth and life been different. The food is great, the humor is self-effacing, and the faith itself is guided by legal reasoning. I like the idea of taking your spiritual grievances to court for a fair hearing (although I bet God has the best lawyers...). At any rate, the 25th day of Kislev begins at sundown today, and with it, Hanukkah. The Black Pope wishes a big ""Hag Hanukkah Sameach!" to all of our Jewish readers. It's also the Solstice, the shortest day of the year - so they can race the Pagans home to see who starts celebrating first!

I went to find an image on teh intertubez to put with this post, but there were just too many...

Do It for the Trees...

I just looked at the required texts for next semester - I'm breathing into a paper sack right now to control the hyperventilation. Even if I buy all used books where available, I am looking at $625... for three classes. If I buy all new books, it would be over $800!

Why are we still printing these things? This article from says that nearly half of the trees cut down in America go to paper making. Why, when there are good E-Book options out there? I have a membership to Questia, and I've used it to write all of my major papers over the last year or so. I'm using it during this break to read Marx's Capital. It's an E-Book library - you pay a small fee and then you can access their collection of books, journals, and magazines 24 hours a day. It also has some really handy features that allow you to organize your projects into virtual bookshelves, and it helps you keep track of works cited and create a bibliography when the paper is done. Accessing the journal articles that are the bulk of most research projects is much easier - no need to print them out, and if you need to find a particular quote, they are electronically searchable. When I was writing my big papers for this last semester, I know I saved about 100 pages of printing on journal articles alone.

Why can't my textbooks be available in a format like this? I see no need to own these books, which will be considered outdated in just a few years. I'd be happy to access them online, or even if I had to store them all on a hard drive somewhere. The wastefulness of the academic process is starting to piss me off.

The technology exists to fix this. You should be able to access these books on an E-Book reader or computer, and only pay for the content, not the dead trees. I've made a decision...

[puts on Black Papal mitre, clears throat]

"The Printing Industry must get with the new technology A.S.A.P., or face censure, including possible excommunication."

There, I said it. Somebody write that down... on a virtual document, not paper, of course.

Two days into my break...

Monday was productive. I got plenty of sleep, did some reading, did a VO2 Max workout (15:15 protocol, 42 sets of 7 - for those who are keeping score at home), started on my laundry, then did a pressing workout (military press and floor press) with friends in the evening.

Today wasn't bad either. I did some more reading, went to Fort Collins, did another VO2 Max workout (46 sets of 7 this time), more laundry, and did all my grip and wrist exercises (grippers, extensors, sledgehammer levers).

I also got my grades for the semester. Shockingly, I got an A in all three classes. I was really quite worried. I reiterate; "worst semester ever," yet somehow I survived. There were some personal problems this semester, plus a full-blown hard drive crash, plus an existential crisis, but the big problem this semester was time management. Some of the mad crush at the end of the semester was due to the hardware problems, but some of it could have been alleviated if I hadn't played so fast and loose with my scheduling.

I've decided I'm taking a different approach to the next semester. Once I get my GA assignment settled, I'm going to put everything - EVERYthing - into my Google calendar. Due dates of course, but also every meeting, every workout, every lunch and dinner, every game of handball or badminton, every run, even sleep and meditation - everything will be in there, and I'll use my iPod to keep me on track when I'm away from my computer.

I also plan to spend more time on campus. Unfortunately, our office is the place where the cool kids like to hang out, so getting anything done in there is tough. Instead, I plan to spend a lot more time at Coe library. I will have a ton of reading again this semester, and I'd like to do most of it at school, so that when I come home I can concentrate on the rest of life. I'm really hoping to schedule being a grad student more like a job - and leave it on campus as much as possible.

Tomorrow - buying books for the next semester...

Free At Last

I have finally put this semester behind me. I turned in my last assignment today around 11:00, and I haven't done anything since but lay about. I think I was the last one of the residents of Flock Hall 2.0 to complete my academic assignments this semester. We shall celebrate in the traditional manner - that's a pic from last year's post-semester ritual up top...

This was, by far, the worst semester I've ever had. Two of my classes were about tragic, depressing topics, and the other one was taught by a tragic, depressing instructor. Glad it's over.

I did enjoy being a Graduate Assistant, though; I really enjoy teaching. I got to lecture twice this semester, on topics that I enjoy, and it was definitely the highlight of the term for me. I don't know yet who I will be assigned to as a GA for the Spring semester, but I am hoping it will be for another section of Intro. I know a lot of folks hate working with freshmen, but I like that they aren't yet jaded and bitter. Well, not as much, anyway...

I don't have to report to classes for the Spring until the 12th of January. That gives me 28 days, starting tomorrow. What will I have accomplished 28 days later?

-reread Pride and Prejudice
-read Marx's Capital
-deep clean my room
-sleep; a lot
-rearrange my room
-plan the workout schedule for next semester
-wake from a coma to find the world overrun by zombies...

Wait... not that last one. I have too much stuff to do for a coma right now.

Sunday Sermon, Thanksgiving 2008 Edition

The tofurkey is cooling, the green bean casserole is almost done, and the rolls are rising. There are mashed potatoes, yams, squash, and much more. We'll be sitting down to this feast in a few minutes and like most Americans, I'll probably focus on the food, forgetting all the other things for which I should be thankful.

In the meantime, let me make a very partial list:
-I am well clothed, properly housed, and warm enough.
-I have friends and family around me.
-I live in a safe place, and there is no danger of violence to me or mine.
-I know my relatives are well, and also safe.
-I have enough money... enough is relative, but my bills are paid.
-I am healthy, and stronger and fitter than in past years.
-I lead the charmed life of an academic, and thought is my only required work.

Most importantly, I have a good bit more love in my life than I probably deserve. My people pour out their love upon me, regardless of my disposition or deserts, and I can in no way thank them adequately.

Instead, I try to use my odd skill set to aid them where and when I can. It is not a clear thing - sometimes it's laughter, sometimes it's a silent hug, sometimes it's a lecture... I do what seems right at the moment, and hope it's what they need.

I hope you are getting what you need, too. If you are, give thanks.

Go in Peace.

New Toys

Just about the only thing that is going really well right now in my life is my workout progress. I do love my kettlebell time - no wonder, when you look at the scenery that my regular workout buddies provide (see hot torso to the left).

I have moved up to the 32kg kettlebell for both clean & press and swings. I realize that means very little to most of you, but trust me - slowly pressing 70 pounds over your head with one hand is pretty tough, and swinging it one-handed for more than a couple minutes is a cardio challenge that few people can even attempt. Recall that when I got the 32kg I was barely able to move it. Now, it feels warm and fuzzy when I grab it. Well... that's an exaggeration - not so much warm and fuzzy, but it no longer feels like it's trying to tear my arm off when I sling it about.

I've recently gotten a few new workout toys too. In the "family photo" to the right, you'll notice a sandbag and a sledgehammer.

The sledgehammer is used for wrist and grip strength, as well as cardio. When you hold it upright at arm's length by the very end of the handle and slowly lower it to touch your own forehead, then slowly lift it back up, you will feel a muscular fatigue that is fantastic in its painfulness. There are a number of similar slow leverage lifts that you can do with it, plus you can take it outside and actually hit something with it in a rapid fashion to get your heart rate up. A few minutes of this gives one a new appreciation for the men who built the railroads, one sledgehammer blow at a time.

The sandbag is a very versatile tool that builds grip, overall strength, and endurance, as well as balance. It has handles, but the best exercises are those in which you grip it by just grabbing a handful of fabric. The sand inside the bag makes each lift slightly different as your small stabilizer muscles have to react to the shifting load. I use it mostly for squats, clean & press, and Turkish get ups. It is especially good for cardio work, as you can pick it up and drop it quickly without hurting it (or the floor). One of my favorite exercises involves doing a ladder of renegade rows and sandbag squats. You do 9 rows, and 1 squat... then 8 rows and 2 squats, 7 rows and 3 squats, etc. When you get to 1 row and 9 squats, rinse and repeat. Continue until nausea sets in.

I am sure my regular readers are sick of these workout posts, but I hope that some of it rubs off on you all. In all seriousness, it is a matter of life and death for most Americans. In addition to the fat loss and strength benefits, it also helps stave off winter depression. You can't imagine how (much more) dark and mopey I'd be right now if not for kettlebells and my workout buddies. Speaking of them, here's another photo. No sweaty gymrats around here - only the finest BCPs bringing the pretty to join His Sinfulness for his daily workouts...

Vegan BESM

My head hurts. Hunger headache. Rarely happens to me, actually. In days past, I could live comfortably off my blubber for months at a time. Now that I have shed my winter body, I am actually beginning to have something approaching a normal metabolism. I am leaving the days of being mistaken for a walrus behind me, although I can still hold my breath for a really long time while I dive for food. I will miss the tusks, though.

I am kicking the caffeine... again. I have wrestled the Mt. Dew monkey off my back more than once. I always stride away resolutely, just after tossing that last 20 ounce bottle into the recycling, but each time, it lures me back with its sweet promise to keep me awake regardless of what mindless drivel college throws at me. Lies. Lies, I say! There is not enough caffeine in the world to make Habermas interesting.

Made potato and kale enchiladas yesterday. Very tasty, but it seems wrong somehow to call them "enchiladas" as there is no cheese involved. Vegans always try to make cruelty-free versions of what they formerly enjoyed - it's like we're saying "I miss the tasty results of torture and death, and I would like to enjoy them without guilt. GO GO magic vegan cookbook!" And like some animal friendly Sailor Moon we wave our seitan wand at the wok and there appears a taste from our bloodier past. I need to just eat some things which taste like what they are.

I have determined that I am the second least photogenic person in the world (after Rachel). Just getting a decent headshot of me requires a digital manipulation effort similar to the making of "300." In the 70+ pics we took tonight, I look like a serial killer, a VERY gay man, the fat and less successful brother of Kiefer Sutherland, an artist's reconstruction of a blonde Neanderthal, or the winner of the 100 meter stumble at the Special Olympics. I am considering plastic surgery to remove my face.

Oh, you're still here? I'm sorry - how was your day?

Investment Opportunity

Do you ever wish you could take your treadmill with you?
Do you wish you could have the fun of driving while running?
Do you ever feel like pushing your own weight up hills isn't challenging enough?

Ok, the answer to all of those questions should be "no." Never the less, someone thought all of the above was a good idea, and now they think you might want to invest in it...

Fred Flintstone would be proud.
Thank god(s) for capitalism. Make sure you invest in this brilliant expression of the free market before Obama makes us all socialists...

Thanks to Tom Gordon over on the Dragon Door Forums for bringing this choice piece of stupidity to my attention.

Can I get some change, please?

Now that the election is over, we all can take a deep breath and get ready. We have just a few weeks to prepare for all that CHANGE we voted for...

So what kind of change do we want, and how do we plan to make it happen? Here's what I've been hearing in the confessional booth of late:

-Economic reform - most agree that the economy needs an overhaul, but there is little consensus on what that means.
-Health Care reform - everyone should get the health care they need. Way overdue.
-Get out of Iraq - this one is kind of a no-brainer...
-Going Green - we need some kind of methadone for our fossil fuel addiction.
-Tax reform - many would be happy to pay a bit more in taxes, if the rich paid taxes in proportion.
-Education reform - it's time for "No Child Left Behind" to get, um... left behind. And not in that weird Kirk Cameron, Tim Lahaye kind of way.

Let me add a few of my own. I'd like to see political reform - but I'm not just throwing around vague aphorisms about "reaching across the aisle" and doing away with "Washington politics as usual." I have a very concrete suggestion - let's do away with the Electoral College. It's a vestige of another time, and we now have the technology to count a nationwide popular vote quite successfully. It would require a constitutional amendment to get it done, and the Democrats have a better chance of doing that during this term than ever.

While we are at it, let's take a good hard look at the whole constitution. The founding fathers were not infallible; clearly we need to do some updating. We could start by clarifying that whole "equal rights" thingy - and include everyone this time. We could also clarify the responsibilities and powers of the president a bit, just to keep someone from expanding executive power to an unreasonable point. We might also need to put it in writing that the vice president is, in fact, part of the executive branch, and add a clause about shooting old guys in the face with shot guns - I'm just working off the top of my head here.

So - what changes do you want to see? Leave your wish list in the comments - I'm pretty sure someone important reads this...


I haven't posted in 12 days.

That's a long time for this blog to be silent. I got an "are you ok?" email the other day because of it.

So much has changed around here... yet I don't really feel like cataloging it all.
Things are - different - now, and you'll all just have to take my word for it.

My rose-tinted Wayfarers have been knocked off by human frailty and crushed under a heel of my own making. I see now what I've long ignored, and it is both good and bad.

Consider, for example, the stark realities of my quiet academic life. My classes are diverse in subject matter, but the message is the same; this world is really fucked up. I have posted before about the challenge of doing something about that, so I won't bore you all with another history lesson. Suffice it to say, it still rests heavily on me at times.

I am almost the "token boy" in my world now. My roommates, my daily workout buddies, my best friends - all female. If not for my male office mates I might die of estrogen poisoning, yet the fierce tribe of women who surround me are all better in most ways than any man I've ever known, or any man I'm likely to ever be. They can all handle truth and suffering and love and misery with a greater grace, and I marvel at their dignity even as they dissolve into giggling in the kitchen. They're probably laughing at me, and that's ok.

I briefly lost my mind earlier today - started talking like the Lucky Charms leprechaun in my office. Except he was a pimp, collecting money from his girls. "Where be me pot of gold, bitch? I've a shillelagh with your name on it here - don't make me break me wee green boot off in your arse!" Surprisingly, misogynist wee folk are hilarious. (I felt dirty just typing that...)

My body has become my own again. I am two inches from wearing the same size pants I wore when I graduated from high school, and four inches from the days right before the patrol academy when I was the thinnest I've ever been. I can't really afford new gear, but clothing that fits is becoming an issue. This past weekend, I counted 12 pairs of black pants that are too large to wear, and a few more that will be too large in a few weeks. I pulled on a pair of jeans the other day for the first time in like 18 years. I'm afraid to inventory the black t-shirts... I'm sure I will find something on the order of 25 or so that are too large to be worn anymore. I don't know what the smart pontiff is wearing this winter, but I really need to go shopping.

So, yeah; I guess I'm ok. Thanks for asking.

Early Saturday Morning

One of my roommates was ill last night. I stayed up until around 3:00 AM with her this morning, as she struggled to find a way to deal with vomiting and a high fever. I did what I could, fluffing pillows and bringing her water, but I felt pretty useless. I was quite worried - she is a very tough girl, so to see her crying because of pain is unusual and frightening. She is somewhat better now, and finally sleeping... so naturally, the roofers have arrived.

A few weeks ago, our landlord decided that our house needed a new roof (very responsible of him), so his contractors started ripping the shingles off yesterday at 8:00 AM. They continued to bang and thump about on the roof until well after dark yesterday, and they returned this morning promptly at 8:00 AM to continue. I've had about four hours of sleep. It's Saturday, guys... can't you come back on Monday, when I have to get up and go to campus anyway?

If you've never lived in a house that is being shingled, let me describe it for you. A crew of 4 or 5 men with kneepads, armed with pneumatic nail guns, hammers, nail bars, electric saws, and a noisy air compressor clamber on to your roof and stomp about. They drag heavy things around. They pry stuff off and throw it in a big dumpster parked conveniently in your driveway. Eventually, they begin nailing the new shingles down with the nail guns. Nail guns are amazing tools; they use compressed air to fire belt fed nails through the shingles and into the roof - which sounds a bit like small arms fire. When two or three of them get going at once it sounds like a war movie is being shot on your roof.

I'll be hiding in the basement until the skirmish up there subsides.

Thus Begins the Hollowdaze...

Enjoy the annual festival of tooth decay, skimpy ill-considered costumes, and binge drinking! (Safely, of course - a toothache coupled with a hangover, frostbite, and a roofie-induced case of herpes is NOT very festive...)