The New Pain

There has been a lot of sweating going on around FlockHall 2.0 of late. I know you're all sick of hearing about kettlebells and running and court sports, so I'll now bore you with some other activities some of us are pursuing.

Captains of Crush Grip Trainers

You know those crappy little grip trainers you can get at WalMart - the spring with two plastic handles? Well, the Captains of Crush trainer is their larger, sterner cousin. To put it in perspective, it takes around 30-40 pounds of pressure to close the WalMart special, while the CoC #1 takes approximately 140 pounds to close. When we got it, both Flynn and I couldn't quite close it, but after a few weeks of working with it three times per week, we are both able to close it with both hands. It's not easy mind you - a set of ten reps will make your forearm feel like it's been injected with ignited gasoline - but we both have been really enjoying the sense of accomplishment.

Luckily CoC makes three more levels, requiring 195, 280, and 365 pounds of pressure respectively. Closing the #3 and #4 is so rare that IronMind, the company that makes them, actually certifies anyone who can do it before a judge of their choosing. So far, only 5 men have ever closed the #4.

For the moment, Flynn and I are setting our sights on the #2. Thankfully, IronMind has started offering grippers in between the levels, so a #1.5 is on my shopping list.

100 Push Ups

Some of the runners I visit with on the internet were just getting started on this program a few weeks ago, so naturally I thought, "There isn't enough physical suffering in my life. I should do a 100 push ups too!" I started the program the very next day.

Basically, you take a test to determine where your upper body fitness is to start with, then the program has three levels. You retest after every two weeks to see if you need to change levels. In theory, you should be able to do 100 consecutive push ups at the end of the program, which is six weeks long.

Currently, Flynn, Fleur, SpicyPants, Beckers, Sarah, G-Fresh, and I are participating. Everyone is making good progress - and paying the price in pain. Push ups are a deceptively simple movement, yet they can cause some of the most intense non-injurious discomfort possible in the exercise world. Everyone should try it!

"But why, Linus?" you might ask. Well children, dark days are ahead. I think all of us would do well to take Sarah Connor as our role model. She knew that the terminators were coming, so she made her body fit enough to survive. While I don't think that robots from the future will be marching down main street anytime soon, I do think that a few gasoline riots are a very real possibility in the not too distant future. These are soon to be desperate times - better to be prepared.

Plus - how hawt was Sarah Connor? Super hawt. You want to be super hawt while you repel the coming apocalypse, don't you?

Old Time Religion

Today, the local Flock did something that original Flockers once considered an integral part of the faith. We forced ourselves from bed at 7:30ish and headed out to the soccer fields for some boomeranging!

Long time readers will recall that this was once a weekly ritual that took the place of church for us - we used to call it "Sunday Mass." A description of a typical mass can be found here.

Today was much the same, but many of the faces were new. Spicypants, Beckers, and Sarah all threw for the first time today, and it reminded me of Sundays past. Days when Zeus and I would arrive early to throw MTAs, then the rest of the Flock would show up around 8:00, sleepy and sometimes hung-over. The same lines ("that's totally catchable!"), the same teasing after a weak attempt to catch one ("don't strain yourself... pussy") and the same complaints ("the wind shifted after I let it go!"). The soccer mom was even the same - Fleur set herself up a good distance from the danger zone in her folding chair and held cell phones and keys, and applauded the few catches we had today.

The difficulty of throwing boomerangs at 7200 feet is pretty high. This is not a hobby for those who demand immediate results. It takes patience, both with yourself and the shifty winds around Black Vatican City. You have to balance the angle, the snap, and the force of the throw, to make a circle against the air - very tricky. Some of the throwers had some successes today, but for most of us, throwing 'rangs is like playing fetch without a dog. You throw the stick, then you go get the stick and bring it back...

And that's the point, I think. Certainly the good throws that come hovering back to your hand are awesome, but every throw is a chance to create that beautiful arc, that moment of balance. If every throw came back every time, it wouldn't be appealing for very long. It's the failure rate that makes it challenging and fun, and frankly, failing miserably with friends is better than succeeding alone.

The Kind Mirror

The mirror in my room is one of those narrow ones made to hang on a closet door. It came from G-Fresh's room when we did some swapping around at Flock Hall, and for a long time it wasn't mounted on anything. Mostly it was just leaned against one wall or another. This put a very slight bow in it, and rapidly made it the most popular mirror in the house. Fleur and G-Fresh both loved to use that mirror, and I imagine even Flynn checked himself out in it more than once.

You see, where gravity distorted its shape, it kindly distorted the effects of gravity on the viewer. It made all of us look taller, thinner, and generally more fit and attractive. It was subtle thing - not cartoonish at all - and thus it was incredibly alluring.

I knew it wasn't a true representation of my appearance, but I didn't care; that mirror made me feel ok about leaving the house each day. I'd look at myself in the mirror at the end of the hall downstairs and be unhappy about the results, but the magic mirror in my room always made it all better. For a few seconds, my image in the mirror would match my inner vision of myself, and it was great. I was 6'1" and tipped the scales at about 190.

Today I got industrious about cleaning and organizing in my room. I pulled out the electric screwdriver, and finally mounted the mirror on one of the doors. The screws hold it firmly in place, and flush with the door - thereby negating it's gentle curve. When I was done putting in the last screw I stepped back, and there I was again, my usual, doughy, 5'11" self.

Don't get me wrong - I am less doughy than I have been in years, thanks to running and kettlebells, but I was still saddened by the death of my svelter reflection. Having him die today was bad timing also (although I'll confess that I can't imagine a good time for it), as I am feeling particularly lumpy and unattractive right now. I wish he could have lingered a bit, perhaps dying slowly as I straightened the mirror little by little, so the return to my actual pudginess wouldn't have been so abrupt, but that is a level of self-delusion that even I can't get behind.

No, he's gone now, and it's because I killed him; there is no turning back. I just wish I had taken some time to say a proper goodbye to skinny me. The last time I spoke to him was right after my kettlebell workout this morning. I was dripping with sweat; I looked at him and said, "yuck - you need a shower." Is that anyway to say goodbye to such a kind and generous friend?

I'm trying to figure out how to break the news to the girls...

It's a TKO

I used to love politics. Back when Carter was in office, I made my aunt and uncle (they live in Georgia) drive me to Plains so I could see his house. When I was 13 or so, I actually watched Face the Nation on Sundays. When Reagan was elected, I was so upset that I wore a black armband to school. I worked for the campaigns of Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis, and I am still a rabid supporter of Bill Clinton, the best president we've had in my lifetime.

That being said, I am having a hard time caring this time around. I will certainly vote for Obama, and I am sure all the Faithful will as well (don't make me smite you!), but I have lost interest in the constant tit for tat that the press breathlessly brings to me each day. Since the pollsters have already all but crowned Obama as the new president, I would be fine with just a weekly wrap-up of the candidates' activities. I suppose that makes me just another jaded American, but let's face it - if this was a prize fight, they would've stopped it by now.

I will admit that I'm dreading whatever October Surprise the Republicans have up their sleeves, but unless it's something like video footage of Obama shoving a cigar up bin Laden's ass on a swiftboat named "Monkey Business," it's likely to just make them look even more pathetic. I'm fully expecting some asshat from the religious right to proclaim that Obama's election is God punishing his followers for tolerating something or other. Like God is up there saying, "Well, I've tried hurricanes and tidal waves, maybe they'll wake up if I let a minority get elected."

Hey God, if you're reading this - and first, let me just say I'm a BIG fan of your work - let me give you a head's up. We are no longer able to understand this vague, omens and portents thing. We have mass communication methods now - you have wireless up there, right? So just hit "reply all" and let us know what we're supposed to figgin' do, 'kay?

Oh, and I'm still voting for Obama.

Papal Oddities

Apparently, I'm quite odd. A brief list follows:

-I like peanut butter and balogna sandwiches. I know, it sounds weird - but give it a chance. Of course, I'm using vegan balogna these days, but the taste is remarkably similar. Make sure you use a good organic peanut butter that doesn't have too much sugar added - it accents the spices in the bologna better.

-I like pickles but cucumbers make me vomit. Violently. Something about the pickling process makes the virtually deadly cucumber somehow more palatable to my gut. I think they should do research on this - perhaps pickle juice is like the Water of Life. I would really like to be able to command Shai-Hulud.

-I may be the only conscious person in the United States right now who doesn't care about seeing the new Batman movie (and there are probably some folks in comas who have heard about it and want to go see it - the pre-release buzz has been THAT obnoxious.)

-I have a mole centered over my xyphoid process. It is small and perfectly round, like a period in the middle of my chest. I am considering getting a tattoo next to it that says, "In case of CPR, press here."

-I once ate a live cricket. Ok - not that strange, but please understand; I ate it for extra credit in a high school biology course. I was already getting an A in the class, but those 10 points put me ahead of Mia Wenjen (that competitive bitch) and gave me the highest score in the class. I wonder if Mr. Hammonds is still teaching.

-I used to have an enormous crush on Marie Osmond. That's all I want to say about that...

-I throw, eat, and shoot pistols with my right hand. I play hockey, paint, and shoot rifles left-handed. This I attribute to the Montesori Nazis at my preschool. I can yo-yo with both hands, but not at the same time.

-I grew up in the South, and yet I hate sweet tea. This makes me a pariah at family gatherings, and I'm considered a tainted, Yankee-fied heathen in certain social settings. Of course, these are social settings in which the mention of veganism is likely to get you lynched, so I usually just munch my Clif bars in silence.

Certainly there are many more, but this is a good start. If any of you would like to confess your oddities (or add to my list for me), please feel free to do so in the comments, or on your own page (but let us know here so we know where to look).

And You Think I'm Crazy

The general consensus of late has been that my training regimen has gotten kind of intense - possibly even crazy. It's mostly the kettlebells that people are referring to. Every time we do our kettlebell workout outside - especially when we are working on flips or any of the other juggling techniques - the folks driving by always slow down and shake their heads at the guys throwing cannonballs around.

While I freely admit to being a bit of an extremist, I feel safe in saying,

"No, these guys are crazy..."

I'm not going to lie, though... that does look like fun. Where does one go to gather large, awkward rocks?

Running Gave Me Cooties

Yesterday didn't get off to a great start. My workout schedule called for kettlebells, followed by a run, but when I woke up I was all stuffed up and I had a sinus headache from hell. I was also extremely sore due to kettlebells the day before, so I was a hurtin' unit. My workout partners were no help, as they were both tired and sore too, so we ended up just sitting around chatting for 45 minutes instead of working out. I eventually took some allergy meds and went back to bed for an extra 90 minutes of sleep.

When I awoke, I felt so much better that I decided I would run in the evening. In theory, I like running after the sun has gone down - it's cooler, the streets are less busy, and there are fewer people out and about to see my flabby bulk go jiggling by. I decided that this was a good idea even though I was also planning on playing cutthroat handball with the guys after work - like I said, I felt SO much better.

We played an absolutely brutal set of cutthroat, which I won solely through the vagueries of physics (the good Doktor got robbed by weird bounces repeatedly). After that, on a whim G-Fresh and I decided to drive to another town 45 minutes away for dinner. It was yummy, but by the time we got back home it was almost 10:30. Maybe it was the carbs talking (I had capelinni), but I decided it was still a good idea to go for a run. My plan was to let my food settle, and then go for about 35-40 minutes (about 3 miles). The infinitely wiser G-Fresh decided to go to bed.

I set out at about 11:30. At this point, I should mention a couple things. First, let me say it was as dark as the inside of a cow outside. Secondly, I have terrible night vision. I brought a flashlight with me, but I still spent much of the run stumbling on bad sidewalks and getting hit in the face by low tree limbs. Despite a few scares, I managed to make it to the park and start taking my usual laps around the pond there.

Not many of my running friends will run this course. They call it "Stink Lake" and refuse to go there. Luckily, I have a lousy sense of smell, and at this time of year I can't really smell much of anything, so I like going there to run; I get the path all to myself. It was lovely, until the beginning of lap two. I heard the hissing and spitting sound that accompanies the sprinklers starting up.

"No problem," I thought. "I'll just time them, and avoid getting wet." That plan was going really well until one came to life just as I was passing it. I took a full blast in the right side of the face - got some up my nose, and enough in my ear to stop my earbuds from working. The water smelled/tasted pretty nasty, but not the usual sprinkler kind of nasty - more like an untreated lake water kind of nasty.

It was then that it occurred to me that some of the parks in this town use nonpottable (i.e. untreated) water to keep the grass growing. We've been in a state of drought or near-drought the whole time I've lived in this town, so many of the public facilities and businesses with manicured lawns have a sign in front that says, "Watered with Runoff" or "Watered by Well Water" or something similar to make you feel better when you see the sprinklers running.

Perhaps it's better for the environment, but not so good for drinking. Or inhaling, which is what I did. I left the park and finished my run on the sidewalks of our neighborhood, certain that my body was now a nursery for a new generation of giardia lamblia or something worse. Upon returning home I took an extended, scalding hot shower, but it was to no avail. I am now convinced that I am contaminated.

I got a cootie shot in the 3rd grade. Marianne Stetler (the 4th grader who administered the painful shot, which consisted of drawing a circle on my bicep and them punching me really hard in it) assured me that it was good to ward off girl cooties, loser cooties, dummy cooties - all forms of cootie-kind, in fact - for life. Still, I just don't feel safe...

Steve Cotter

Steve Cotter is my internet hero. Actually, it's more like he's my kettlebell boyfriend - I'm totally in love with him, and yet he never calls...

The first 20 seconds of this video appears to be the result of a weekend in a cheap hotel with a special effects engine and an instrumental guitar loop, but after that it kicks ass.

If you are curious about the kind of strength and flexibility gains that are possible with kettlebells, click on his other videos, and weep at your own wussiness...

Bring the Pain

"Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

Despite the scientific inaccuracy of that statement, I have always liked the image. I also like the idea that it is weakness, not sweat, that pours off me when I workout. Of course, that goes hand in hand with the idea that the pudge around my midsection is made of weakness, not a thick layer of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut...

At any rate, there is a lot of pain in my world these days. I'm not complaining, mind you, just making an observation. My workout schedule has been hampered a bit the last few days due a slight back injury, but I have still managed to get my runs in and do kettlebells on the off days. I'm not hitting the bells as much as I'd like, but I am still getting a good sweat from them and a hard burn in my arms, shoulders, and legs. And that equates to pain. I usually wake up feeling stiff, and able to pinpoint exactly where the previous day's workout hit me hardest. Lately it's been my shoulders and my forearms, but kettlebells are an equal opportunity torture device, and I have woken up hurting just about everywhere at some point in the last few weeks.

Some of the Faithful, especially the lovely and caring ladies of the local Flock, have expressed concern that I rarely move without a groan, and my joints sound like a vigorously squeezed sheet of bubble wrap when I stand up. Do not be troubled - I am good with the pain. Pain, is my friend.

Over the years, I have become very adept at knowing the difference between the "that just hurts because you used it" pain and the "if you keep fucking with it, it will never heal" kind of pain. One builds you, the other keeps you in check. One you can avoid but shouldn't, the other you should avoid, but can't. That leaves you with two choices - continue and get hurt, or quit and fail to progress - which is really only one choice, now isn't it?

Like so many lessons learned in the gym, this transitions to other arenas of life very nicely. Pain is inevitable unless you hole up and quit. Holing up and quitting is not really an option, so get on with the pain. In fact, to live fully, to live large, you have to court the pain. Seek it out, and ram right into it, full speed ahead, and no fair dodging!

At the risk of this turning into a rousing locker room speech, I'll stop - whipping you all into a froth would just turn ugly once happy hour arrived, and who wants that on their conscience?

Persecution In Iran

For most Americans, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is best remembered for a moment of YouTube fame - when asked about homosexuals in Iran his replay was, "We don't have that phenomenon in my country." The audience laughed, and we laughed along. That little soundbite, coupled with his continued denial of the Holocaust just made him look foolish, or slightly crazy. If you take this little tidbit into account however (wherein he claims that Imam Mahdi - the Shiite prophet who is supposed to return after 1000 years in the desert to bring peace to the world - is directing his government's actions), it becomes obvious that he is bat shit insane, and frankly quite dangerous.

Rather than reporting regularly on his incredibly oppressive and increasingly loony regime, the media is more interested in the President's plan to attack Iran to thwart their nuclear program (and take all that oil). Unfortunately, there are other groups in Iran that Ahmadinejad would like to pretend don't exist, and they don't have the luxury of waiting for our thirsty gas tanks to bring US troops to their aid.

This situation was brought to my attention by our roving reporter and Inquisitor Emeritus, Rachel. Even though I follow Bahá'í news more closely than the average American by a long shot, I was unaware of the dire situation they face in Iran currently. Sure, I knew there was oppression in Iran - from the very beginning of the Bahá'í Faith, Iranians have been more than happy to shoot, hang, burn, and torture Bahá'ís in large numbers - but I wasn't aware of the latest developments. If you're completely up on the situation, don't let me bore you; if not, read on.

In May of this year, Iranian authorities arrested 6 Bahá'í leaders, and have held them incommunicado since then. They join another Bahá'í leader who was taken in March, who has also been denied contact with family or counsel. A spokesman for the Iranian government, Gholam-Hossein Elham, acknowledged at a press conference that the the six were in custody. He cited "security issues" as the reason for the arrests, but most observers agree that they, just like the thousands of Bahá'ís who have been arrested and killed in Iran since the Islamic Revolution, are the victims of religious persecution.

As all regular readers know, I am not a fan of most of the organized religions on this planet, but the Bahá'ís are just about the most gentle, innocuous group of believers I've ever encountered. They hold an ethical worldview that makes theirs one of the most decent and logical versions of monotheism you'll ever find. Even if you are a liberal atheist intellectual, I think you'd find the Bahá'ís pretty palatable - I do. Trust me folks, these are our people.

Just like with any case of sytematic oppression throughout history, silence is the ally of the oppressor. Educate yourselves, and make your disapproval known. For more information, click here, here, and here.


From its earliest days as a combination chop-shop and Buddhist escort service, the Ministry of Linus has always strived to bring you the finest in iconoclastic heretical blasphemy, served up in a waffle cone of self-deprecating hypocrisy. For those who are keeping score, today is the 666th attempt to do just that, and we are in luck - today's post coincides with the 4th of July, a national holiday absolutely full to the brim with hypocrisy! That this post bears the number of the beast is fitting - the beast would be proud of the mockery of clear thinking this day entails.

Yes children, today is the day we celebrate our freedom and independence from our oppressive overlord and now BFF, Great Britain. Naturally, we do this by searing dead flesh and then firing small rockets into the night sky. Clearly, I could make an entire post from simply ridiculing each of these activities, but really, it's just too easy. Certainly, the irony of celebrating our freedom by eating the flesh of our slaves (animals) and commemorating our national independence by launching fireworks made largely in Mexico or overseas is quite apparent to all Flockers worthy of that title. No, this post will be about the true hypocrisy of today, and the muddled thinking of nationalists the world over - the idea that there is such a thing as independence.

We have declared for 232 years now that we are an independent state. Well, actually, a bunch of little independent states that are united, but that distinction has long been obscured by patriotic fervor. Ok - so how independent are we?

Do we grow all of our own food?
Do we mine/drill all of our own fuel?
Do we make all of our own goods?
Do we do all of our own labor?

Do we, in fact, stand on our own in any way?

Of course not. We are deeply intertwined with other peoples and other nations all over the world, and always have been. In fact, no nation, no state, no organization, no faction, no party, no clan, no family and no man is truly independent. We rely on others from the day we are born until the day we die - and actually, we rely on others even outside the narrow window known as life. Long before we're born we're counting on another for nutrition and safety, and we hope that after we die someone takes care of our corpse in some way.

The simple act of living entails connection and interaction with others. Even when we try to stand on our own, we consume resources in ways that affect others. Consider the gun nut who builds his own compound in Idaho - even his walled enclosure was made with cinder blocks manufactured by others, and his septic tank enriches the land that will some day be another man's garden. No man is an island, as the saying goes, but even if he was, he'd be polluting the water around him some how.

No, we are all in this together, and today is no exception. By all means, enjoy the pretty lights in the sky tonight, and be thankful for the liberties that we enjoy, but don't kid yourself - America, and everyone in it, is about as independent as one leg of a tripod. Perhaps some day, we'll celebrate a holiday that commemorates the day we all recognized our unity as members of this globe - we can call it "We Pulled Our Heads out of Our Asses Day".

Ok, you're right - "Unity Day" will fit better on the sale flyers...

One Hour Runner

My new running program is listed below. The key to this plan is the long run each week. I'll stick to my Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday schedule, and the long run will take place on Saturday.

Weeks 1 - 3: Run 30 minutes, x3, Weekly total: 90 minutes
Week 4: Run 30, 29, and 35 minutes. Weekly total: 94 minutes
Week 5: Run 30, 32, and 38 minutes. Weekly total: 100 minutes
Week 6: Run 30, 33, and 41 minutes. Weekly total: 104 minutes
Week 7: Run 30, 34, and 45 minutes. Weekly total: 109 minutes
Week 8: Run 30, 36, and 49 minutes. Weekly total: 115 minutes
Week 9: Run 30, 38, and 54 minutes. Weekly total: 122 minutes
Week 10: Run 30, 40, and 60 minutes. Weekly total: 130 minutes

Assuming that all goes well, and I don't have to repeat any weeks (I did repeat a week or two on Couch to 5K) this plan would have me running for an hour by September 12th. That means I could be ready in time for the Hope with Every Step 10K in Littleton, CO, on September 28th. It's not too far to drive to, and it's for a good cause.

This means that my Monday and Wednesday runs will take up more time after about week 5. I'll need to carefully budget that time, and make sure that it's not pushed aside to make room for other silly crap like sleeping or bathing. A man's got to have his priorities straight.

I imagine that I'll have to get acustomed to running indoors toward the end of the program as well, as it will probably snow at least once or twice before race day. As much as I hate the dreadmill, I hate the soggy clothes and pneumonia that always accompany sweating when it is cold outside even more. I have learned from several snow shoeing and cross country skiing experiences that I am not good at cold weather endurance sports.

You see, I'm the sweaty guy - the guy who loses 3-4 pounds of water weight in a two hour workout, and continues to sweat for 30 minutes after the exercise ends. All the well-meaning friends who have said "just wear Goretex and you'll be fine" have no idea how much I sweat. Goretex is great if you're a normal human, but my mutant power is sweating (not super handy in the danger room, but also unlikely to draw the attention of the Sentinels. It's a trade off...). In order to not get a chill and then spend several weeks with a hacking cough, I'm just going to have to run at the gym.

And I hate running at the gym. It's itchy and it smells like freshmen, but I am a man on a mission!

The 7th Sign

A lot of odd things have been happening of late. Stuff that no one would have believed a year or two ago. I'm concerned that the apocalypse (shown at left) might be upon us. As your internet spiritual advisor, I suggest you consider the following:

A black man is currently a viable candidate for the presidency of this country, and a woman was his closest competitor for their party's nomination. Across the aisle, a Mormon was a viable candidate...

Also, did you know that Honda is selling a true zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car this summer to the Southern California market?

Still not scared? Do you realized that the Play Station 3 actually has a desirable title now? (Metal Gear Solid 4)

Ok, how about something closer to home; I began to run, VOLUNTARILY - I was not being chased by a large carnivore, nor was I in pursuit of girls in bikinis. That in itself should be enough to have faithful Flockers reaching for their rosaries in fear, but it gets worse. I actually enjoyed it. The fabric of reality as we know it is fraying.

If all this doesn't concern you yet, try to get your mind around this...

I just got an email from my stats instructor. My grade on the final was an 80.25 out of 80 (there were extra credit questions). Combined with my final homework and lab grades, that means I got an A in the class.

I hate to be the harbinger of doom, but I think it's clear - the end is nigh. It's time to sell your property, donate the proceeds to the Black Vatican and make peace with your dear and fluffy lord. You heard it here first.