29 April 2013

Good Luck with That

This is on the outside west wall of Westminster Abbey. I was going through some photos and found it on my camera. The camera is probably overdue for a purge.

I'm an atheist but I appreciated the economy of phrase.

27 April 2013

Arm Balance Workshop: Yogaworks

I just completed my arm balance workshop at the local Yogaworks. Enh, 'completed' is maybe a bit much. I walked out early, which is gauche. Not too early, but still: before it was finished.

So: My first workshop. Goal was to learn some new arm balances. Stretch goal was to maybe meet some new people, since I go to yoga often but never meet anyone. Which is fine, but if there's an opportunity then maybe that would be nice. Or something.

Couple things going in that became relevant later on: I should have eaten more food before the class. It was at an odd time (1 PM), so usually my lunch. Also, I underestimated how long three hours actually is. To be clear: its a really fucking long time to do yoga even if you have a good instructor and the class is well paced. Our teacher was okay, but I didn't like the pace.

Since class was 2x as long as a usual class, I should have brought 2x as many towels. It makes sense in hindsight.

Teacher was very small, athletic type: maybe 5' 5" tall, 90 lbs, very skinny. Felt like she was kind of into herself. Which, I get it, I'm into me too, in a self-hating sort of way, so I make allowances. And yet...

She was also into how awesome her yoga practice is. And she does have a very strong practice. But if you're 5' 5" and weigh 90 lbs and are very flexible: no shit. She was probably skinny before she ever started doing yoga. She said that she had gained a lot of 'strength' from her practice. What she meant was her strength-to-weight ratio had improved, which is not the same thing, and it bugs me when people get that stuff confused. Because people are built differently, and what is possible for the teacher, or me, or you, might vary wildly, especially if you aren't shaped like a stick figure. Recognizing this variability, and teaching accordingly, is important.

Anyway, class starts and we do an intro. 1/3 of the people's goal for the class is to 'do a handstand away from the wall'. What the fuck people! If you want to do a handstand without the wall, the trick is to do a handstand... AWAY FROM THE WALL. Crazy, right? You don't need a workshop for that. You need to practice without the wall. How do you not know this? Not much to talk about - you can either do it or you can't. It's possible you suck at handstands or have never gotten good instruction. The wall is irrelevant. Learn how not to eat shit if you kick over too far. If that is beyond you, forget about doing a real unaided handstand. But I digress.

So we do the thing and it goes on and on. I sweat a lot. Like, more than you can imagine. Usually it's not so bad, but class goes and goes and I keep sweating, and after a while my towels are all completely soaked through, and the sweat is pooling adjacent to my mat. Everything I touch is soaked through, sweat is streaming off my shorts. I'm sweaty, is what I mean.

The arm balances were good, as far as it goes. The instructor's strategy was okay, but the class as a group can't do most of the stuff she demo'd. You'd think we would go over a lot of the biomechanics of how to get into a handstand away from the wall (see above), but instead we practiced how to pike into handstand, which exactly zero students could do. Useful? Not so much. It's not a matter of practice, it's a matter of looking at the students and realizing that it's not fucking happening, not today, and probably not ever, so maybe we should practice something else. Eventually we did.

We move on and spend a lot of time on core work, which is key for balancing. Then it's a mix of core and balances. It was okay, although the pace was inconsistent and not enough effort was made to help individual students. We also did some partner work, which I loathe. No one wants to get near me because I'm such a sweaty mess, and I don't blame them.

Another point: people that are very good at something often make poor teachers because it comes naturally to them. This teacher had a massive disconnect between telling us what to do (bring your hands down and pick your feet up) and how to do it. Doing a good demo is less important than describing how to align everything, especially in arm balances and inversions. Where are your hips? Your knees? What is your core doing? The teacher covered some of this but not nearly enough. I attribute this to her natural ability. She never had to think about it so simple explanations suffice. Or maybe that's her teaching style.

I wanted to finish the class but I became so frustrated with sitting in my sweat puddle that after 2.5 hours I packed up and walked out. Trying to do poses on a slippery mat/towel is difficult at best, dangerous at worst. The teacher thought I was tired. I'm not tired. My 20 minute crossfit workout yesterday was more challenging.* I created my own personal swamp and couldn't take it any more. Next time: more towels. Like, a lot more.

All workshops are different, and this was a good experience, even with all the stuff I mentioned above. If I had enough towels to clean up my space I could have gotten through it, so that's a lesson learned. As for the teacher, her style wasn't my favorite but it was still worthwhile.

Now, who wants to practice handstands?

*20:15 if you're keeping score. Only 155 lb deadlift though (back issues), and regular jump rope with 3x the reps.

26 April 2013

The Crib

Looks like a nice place to put your head down after a long quest.

Speaking of quests, Ze Newbs writes that he was one of the readers distinctly unimpressed with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in book form.  I understand. But it could make for good television.

25 April 2013

Crazy Breeds Crazy

It turns out that the murderous bastards that attacked the Boston Marathon were motivated in part by crazy, ridiculous conspiracy theories.

Their parents believe they are innocent of all charges because, wait for it... it's all a conspiracy!

It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. It's much easier to blame someone else for your progeny's awful behavior than it is to accept a difficult truth. So: here we are. Ugh.

22 April 2013

Babel-ing: Lovers Eyes

The not-new-any-more Mumford and Sons album is uneven. Some great songs, some meh songs. This is a great one. It's a live version from I heart Radio or whatever. I got to see Mumford and Sons perform twice last year and it was awesome. I mean that literally: inspiring awe. If you like the music you should do it. I can't deal with crowds very well in my old age, but it's worth it. I promise.

The other great one was featured last year, although they took it down.

Gear Loadout - Tactical Response Fighting Pistol

There are many like it but this one isn't mine
Spent some time last week doing some training with Tactical Response. I took their Fighting Pistol class and quite liked it. Learned a lot, go to do some cool stuff, had a good time.* Wrote a lengthy After Action Report, some of which I may post here later, but in the interest of space and limited readership appeal here's an excerpt.

It's a summary of the gear I used during the course. I wrote it in part to satirize the breathless wanking that frequently accompanies gear commentary on the intertubez. There is a huge emphasis on gear over other, more useful/practical elements, such as mindset and physical fitness. One (very nice) guy in my class was 100 lbs. overweight and wore the same pricey "tactical" pullover two days in a row, in two different colors. Dude, sweet shirt (in both colors), but how about adjusting priorities and spending some of that money on a nutrition program? It will help every aspect of your life, including your shooting. That second pullover? Not so much.

(I don't know if the same thing happens in other hobbies, like golf, but given how much advertising I see for golf clubs and related accessories, my guess is that it does. The funny thing is that the best way to be a better golfer / shooter / skier / whatever is to practice. But practice is hard, and buying crap is easy. I should know because I make the same mistake.)

My loadout for Fighting Pistol with Tactical Response: 
  • Super sweet Solomon hiking shoes (saw Haley wear them on youtubez, you know I bought that shit immediately - did you know Zappos sold tactical gear? You do now.)
  • REI cargo pants that I got on sale; they cost 1/10th as much as my Crye Precision All-Weather Field Pants but performed just as well. There's a lesson there, but fuck that noise 'cause I'm not hearing it.
  • Ares Gear Ranger belt (this belt is actually the shit; no joke)
  • Cane and Derby OWB holster with hardware that I neglected to loc-tite so one of the screws backed out (I am an idiot) – it finished the class without issue, with a Comp-Tac dual mag holder (good kit).
  • HK45 (overcompensating because I have a small penis, but thankfully large enough not to buy a .40) 
  • XS big dots, because YEAGER!!!!!111!!!11!1
  • Youth-medium sized t-shirt because I like to show off my guns at the range (see what I did there? HONK!)
  • Dead bird” hat (too tacticool to call it Arc’Teryx) with USA flag patch because I fucking love  America (not even kind of joking about loving America)
  • Enough tactical SPF 70 sunscreen for all of DevGru; the sun is a bitch, yo. 
* During intros we mentioned what we did for a living and I said I solved computer problems. After a couple hours on the line an instructor (Yeager) stopped behind me and said, "Nice shooting, geek." I laughed.

21 April 2013

Greek Salad

I was in a fraternity but the greek system at my school was only about 15% of the student population. Which is to say, rather small.

It's a bigger deal at other schools, and it prompts letters like this one, which I found hilarious. It was written by a member of a "lower-tier, very awkward" sorority that set up an event with a "pretty good" frat.* She writes (in part):

I do not give a flying fuck, and Sigma Nu does not give a flying fuck, about how much you fucking love to talk to your sisters. You have 361 days out of the fucking year to talk to sisters, and this week is NOT, I fucking repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. This week is about fostering relationships in the Greek community, and that's not fucking possible if you're going to stand around and talk to each other and not our matchup. Newsflash you stupid cocks: FRATS DON'T LIKE BORING SORORITIES. Oh wait, DOUBLE FUCKING NEWSFLASH: SIGMA NU IS NOT GOING TO WANT TO HANG OUT WITH US IF WE FUCKING SUCK, which by the way in case you're an idiot and need it spelled out for you, WE FUCKING SUCK SO FAR. 

I laughed because it's true.

 * I keep typing 'frat' as 'fart', which probably says more about my experience than any story I could tell.

17 April 2013

Good News (for a narrow subset of people)

One of my all time favorite books has been picked up by the BBC so that they can turn it into a minseries.

Says the Paper of Record:

To a television lineup that includes time-traveling adventures and clone-related intrigues, BBC America is adding a little magic. That network and its British sibling, the BBC, said on Monday that they would produce a television adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s best-selling novel, “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” which would be shown as a mini-series in 2014.


This is probably not going to be terrible, and it might be really great. Because the book was really great. Although many (all?) of the people to whom I recommended it didn't like it as much as I did. Philistines.

Politics Alert!! (Apologies in Advance) THINK OF THE CHILDREN

Big vote on gun control legislation today. I made the mistake of listening to the White House Press Briefing. It used to give me apoplexy back when W was in charge (and I use that word very loosely) so today was a pleasant jaunt down memory lane.

In his daily press brief the White House Press Secretary just drew a straight line from Newtown and Aurora to the background check bill currently sitting in the Senate. Specifically: "A vote against the bill is a vote against the people grieving in Newtown, and the people still grieving in Aurora." Wait, what? So I either support the bill or I approve of killing children and innocents? I'm not strictly opposed to gun legislation that makes sense, but if that's how they're going to frame it then they can get f*cked.

Bullshit rhetoric is bullshit.

Sometimes even the village idiots get it right. For example, Rand Paul, who is an embarrassment to sentient humanity in general and his party in particular, accused the president of using the Newtown families as 'props'. Which is horrible, but also true. No one gives a damn about the kids getting shot in Chicago on the regular but if 21 white kids get shot by a sociopath we have to make new laws for 320 million people immediately if not sooner. Except: No. 
In related news, the proposed legislation would have had no impact on the Newtown shooting, nor will it help the kids in Chicago. So what is the point of it, exactly?

16 April 2013

Not Much

No news on this end. It can't all be stories of my ineptitude.
Enh, I guess it could, but I'd rather not.

I'm looking forward to when they catch up with the bastard(s) that set off bombs at the Boston Marathon. The sooner they are caught, the sooner they (and their cowardly ilk) can be removed from circulation and squashed, like cockroaches.

Civilian targets? At the Boston fucking Marathon? Wow. Just: wow. 

12 April 2013

Kind of a Big Deal

My writeup of Irv and his inspiring effort last Friday made the blog for our gym space. You can read that writeup here: http://www.crossfitbalboa.com/2013/04/self-discovery-and-triumph/

Not much new information is added, although BenOS (pronounced Ben-oh-ess, which is easy enough for any windows OS geeks to remember).

I had posted a link to the writeup for BenOS* to read and he liked it enough to share. So that's fun.

Yoga storytime:

Before yoga class starts there are a few minutes when everyone is getting their mats out, doing some stretching, placing water bottles and towels, chatting, etc. Some people take the opportunity to do some early warmup, or work on a pose they want to try later. Handstands are popular, but doing a handstand in the middle of a crowded room is kind of aggressive and/or douchey. I call them 'statement handstands', because it's very look-at-me. In yesterdays class a d-bag in the front row went for a statement handstand but crashed into the wall when he tipped over. It looked like he hurt his foot; his pride was sorely wounded. Ahhh what a douche.

I know exactly how he felt because it was me. It was embarrassing and also funny. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The girls that were near me didn't make fun of me at all, although I hope they had a good laugh about it after class. I did, although it makes me blush to tell the story.

Chances of me attempting the same thing at tomorrow's yoga class are fixed at 100%. Some people never learn. And my toes don't hurt any more; it was a glancing blow. Note to self: don't try to save it next time. Just let go. And move away from, or closer to, the wall. Intermediate distances are no bueno.


* I use nicknames on the blog because they are easier to remember and also more fun.  Also they are unique: There are many Scott's in this world, but only one Spud. Anyway, BenOS's (say: Ben-oh-esses) is funny mostly because he has a hyphenated last name that starts with the letters... wait for it... O and S.  When I asked him how that came to be, he said (actual quote), "Because my dad is a pussy."

11 April 2013

Not Very Supportive

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. As such, people often ask me for help with their computer issues. I don't mind; I like solving problems. Also, once I get started on something I can't leave it until it's done. This characteristic makes me at times helpful, at other times annoying. So I've fixed all kind of computer problems.

Once I fixed a computer on a blind date. We went to dinner and on the way home the girl invited me in for a drink. I wasn't in the mood for kissyface so I focused on technical problem solving. We didn't go out any more but became friends.

Another time I fixed a buddy's computer because he had visited an adult content site and accidentally installed something, then purposefully installed something else to remove the thing he had accidentally installed. Oops. That was one of the more funny experiences because when I started up his computer (the main screen can only be described as SEVERE) I had to ask him what happened. He said, "Well..."  We left it there; some things you don't want to know.

Recently I spent an hour on the phone because my mom had a printer issue so she called HP technical support, ended up on the line with some guy in India who tried to sell her a $350 anti-virus plan for her PC. Yes you read that right. Let's break it down:
  1. Printer suddenly stops working, light is blinking. According to my mom, the cartridge "cannot be the problem - it is new". (We'll come back to this.)
  2. Mom tries to click through a solution at HP tech support on hp.com, unsuccessfully. 
  3. Mom calls HP 800 number, is routed to who knows where. 
  4. HP tech support guy listens to her PRINTER problem, makes her log into showmypc.com and lies at length about how she has a virus, and needs to pay $350 to get her computer working again. 
  5. My mom realizes that maybe this has gone a bit far, so she calls me. 

I talk her through some anti-virus stuff, review what the HP guy told her. Turns out that nothing is wrong with her PC besides it is old. It was old and sucked when they brought it home from costco in 2007. 

The printer issue? I googled "hp deskjet 5740 blinking light" and  found a solution in 5 seconds. It's almost like someone, somewhere, had the exact same problem and HP put the info on the web to help them sort it out. It can't be the cartridge, except when she followed the instructions it started working again. Weird.

As for HP 1-800 tech support? Never, ever again. There's a special place in hell for scam artists that prey on the old and unsuspecting.

08 April 2013

Do Work

Click to Embiggen
(Photo unrelated, except that when I dig down deep and look for extra effort I think of Reese and how strong she was, and I can go a little bit further. Toughness comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes it is 48 lbs of sweet, sweet sugar. Also it's a lovely picture, cropped from a larger version I posted last month.)

Crossfit has a huge, devoted following. I'm not sure all the devotion is warranted - people are crazy about it - but I enjoy the structure and variety of workouts.  Last week we did the crossfit qual workout (13.5?). I don't give a shit about qualifying for "The Open"; maybe I'd get more excited if they held it every four years. The workout was 15 thrusters followed by 15 pull ups, repeat as many times as possible, in 4 minutes.

Anyway, we did the workout, and this is what happened:

For Friday's crossfit qual workout we had to do it in stages with partners. My partner Irv was a guy I had only seen once or twice and never formally met. Irv was relatively new to crossfit, close to me in age but not in very good shape. The partner's job is to judge your workout and 'no rep' you if you don't meet standards. I can be kind of intense; Irv didn't really know what he was in for. He figured it out once we got under way.

Did my workout and it was fine. I try to put the bar down instead of waste the energy on a no rep thruster. So we went over standards for him and Irv can't do chest-to-bar or kipping pull ups so we planned for max pull ups and then jump ups. He could do the thrusters at lower weight so that was fine. I told him before we started that those were the standards and I would no rep him. He thought maybe I was joking. Mistake.

We get started and he does awesome for the first 12 thrusters (we're going to 15), and then he decides to take a rep off. NO REP. The look on his face says, damn, this guy is for real. So he gets under the bar and does two more, and of course he decides to flail on rep 15. NO REP. Oh you're tired? Tough shit. Do it right or don't do it. So he resets and hits 15 (it's amazing what you can do if you focus) and we move to the pull up bar. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He cranked out 15 but he's starting to look a little wobbly. I am encouraging him every step of the way. Talking him through his breathing, telling him to get on the bar. I don't think he's worked that hard in a long time.

Back to the thrusters. Now it sucks. He can only do a couple at a time and I am in his ear. Same thing as last time: he gets to the end and flails. NO REP. It is possible I am the only person in the gym hitting my partner with no reps. I am intense like that. But he is really pushing himself and even he can't believe how well he is doing.

Back to the pull up bar for round two. He is suffering. His grip isn't very good. We have about 45 seconds to do the pull ups. I tell him: "we are going to finish this set and do one thruster for a 61 rep total. No problem, but you need to get moving." Can Irv get to rep 61? Unknown. We are going to find out. We're on a voyage of discovery together, except only one of us is paddling and it's not me.

He is doing triples on the pull up bar, barely. Now I'm talking him through it, step by step. On the bar, one two, breathe. "Get on the bar, Irv. The extra rest isn't helping - we are past that now." ("We"? I'm not doing dick.) The clock is ticking. "GET ON THE BAR." He is down to singles. On rep 15 he blows it. NO REP. He can't believe it. I am screaming: YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH THIS REP AND GET ON THAT GODDAMN BAR AND GIVE ME ONE THRUSTER. YOU GOT THIS LET'S GO LET'S GO LET'S GO. The professional crossfitters that dropped in at the gym that day are like, holy shit.

Irv finishes his last pull up and moves to the bar for the final thruster. I have one eye on him and one eye on the timer. We have 3 seconds. I am screaming: GET ON THAT BAR LET'S GO HIPS DOWN CLEAN SQUAT BURST FROM THE HIPS GET YOUR HEAD THROUGH GAHHHHHHHHHHHH and bam he crushes it: cleans the weight up to his chest, squats down, hips explode, arms extend, head through, 4:00 on the timer. 61 reps. I lost my shit. Epic triumph. He shakes his head, can't believe he did it. Fist pumps and handshakes.

I've seem some amazing athletes at crossfit but I'm most impressed by the people that work the hardest, push themselves beyond what they think they can do. Way to crush it, Irv. Respect. You earned it.

04 April 2013

Majestic Nature Loves Greens

Majestic Nature Loves Greens
This comes courtesy the regularly excellent Alligator Sunglasses.
It's better if you read it in a really deep voice. Try it. You know you want to. Yeahhh... That's right...

Wait, where was I? Oh, veggies. Right. Got it. Uhh, yeah. Eat your greens.

02 April 2013

Mix in a Salad

Samoa Air is charging passengers based on their weight. They say it's the future. That's funny, because I bitched about it to Jetblue back in 2009. And I'm sure I was late even then. This has been going on ever since commercial air travel got started.

The issue, as I explain at length in my post, is that people that weigh more cost more to fly, so if you're wedged next to a fat slob on an airplane you are not only suffering because they take up all the room on the armrest but also because their fat ass costs more to transport but they can buy the same price ticket as you do. Which is bullshit, if you think about it.

Why do you have to front the cost of their obesity? Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Making someone pay their fair share would be discriminatory. I don't agree, but that's the way the law is interpreted.

This new fare program sounds great to me. Samoa Air even takes the weight of your baggage into account. An unexpected winner: people traveling with kids. They don't weigh much, and the tickets are priced accordingly.

Is it a coincidence that Samoa Air serves several countries with, according to Forbes, the fattest populations in the world? Probably not. 

01 April 2013

Jam of the Day

Yeah it's not really the Jam of the Day (since when did we start doing that?) - it's just a jam. Hat tip to Big Cheese for sending this to me. The original is pretty good too, but I prefer the remix. So that's where we are.

Hope you had a good weekend / Spring fertility celebration / Zombie Sunday.*

* A horde of twice-a-year "Christians" clogging up my local thoroughfares to celebrate the undead is my version of the Zombie Apocalypse.