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.