Tuesday, March 31, 2009

V-Diet: Day 2

3/31/09: DAY 2

Today was much rougher than yesterday in terms of cravings and just general good feelings. This, though, almost certainly had to do with the fact that because of getting to sleep very late last night, I only got about four hours of solid sleep, which is not good at all considering it was also a weight-lifting day yesterday. However, the cravings I had today actually led to an interesting mental breakthrough.

I had my HOT-ROX capsule at 5:30 this morning. I'm going to be upping the dosage to the regular two capsules at a time starting tomorrow; my body is handling them just fine, and I could use the energy boost from some extra stimulants, not to mention the body fat loss.

I had my breakfast shake at 6:30, which was a strawberry and which was quite refreshing first thing in the morning. In fact, I liked it so much that I took the strawberry Metabolic Drive to work today. I of course also had Flameout.

When I got to work, I found out that the co-worker who had bailed out yesterday was actually going to be out ALL WEEK, which is concerning. We may be getting a new co-worker soon, that's all I'll say. But on top of him not showing up today, the OTHER co-worker that usually comes in today and Thursday, and who I've worked with for almost a year now and is very dependable, was AWOL today as well. Thankfully, it was a much less hectic day today than yesterday, but still. Things are weird at work right now.

I chewed on two Fiber Choice tablets at 9:30, and they actually picked me up a little bit; my energy levels had been feeling low for a couple of hours.

At 12:30, I had my lunch shake, another strawberry, and Flameout. This lunch shake was the first time so far that I actually started to savor the shake, as in not just down it or drink it slowly to cater to a long meal with others, but just sip it and enjoy the texture and the taste. It also filled me up.

At 2:30, I had my second HOT-ROX of the day. I actually took this while taking notes in a class, and my energy levels shot up quickly. Again, I'm amazed at how unjittery I feel when taking HOT-ROX.

At 3:30, class got out, and I ran to my car, made my mid-afternoon shake, another strawberry with Flameout, and drank that at about 3:40. It was then off to another class, and I was feeling good.

I got off work at 4:45 today, drove home, and for the first time in about 36 hours, got to just relax and do nothing. Such a nice feeling. I had my dinner shake at 6:30, this time a vanilla shake with Flameout. One thing that was strange was that right when I got home, I started to have solid food cravings. They weren't overwhelming, but they were more intense than when I went out to dinner last night! I guess it's just that I associate home and dinner time with solid food.

I went for my NEPA walk at 8:30, and for some reason at that late hour, lots of households were cooking dinner around my neighborhood, and the smells got a bit intense. The one that almost made me snap a little was garlic shrimp, which is one of my absolute favorite foods. I have a weakness for creamy foods, so the image of garlic shrimp with maybe an alfredo sauce started to enter my mind.

But then, I had a minor breakthrough. I started to realize that there was no way that a creamy, fat-filled dish would make me feel any better or healthier than I do right now. In fact, there's no way it would do anything other than give me momentary pleasure and not contribute to my goals as an athlete. Sure, I can still cheat with my favorite dishes every once in a while when I'm done with the V-Diet, but I'm starting to become conscious of healthy food and why I'd prefer to eat it over just mindless eating of tasty but bad foods. Excellent!

I walked a little over three and a half miles in fifty minutes, and got home pretty winded and sat down to write this. When I'm done here, I'll blend up my delicious chocolate almond butter shake, and crash into bed.

An interesting day today. Parts were good, parts were bad. I'm most pleased with my mental response to the cravings I started to have at night today. Until tomorrow...

Neato Dating Tips

Dating etiquette for females from 1956. Man, these are great. Personally, I took notes so that when my lady leaves me at her door without anything so much as a cursory thanks, I'll remember that its not a diss, but the proper thing to do. Also, you've gotta love the phrase "'Taint fittin kitten!" I'm DEFINTELY using that on my next date.

If you enjoy these as much as I do, check out the entire book here. Some of the hip slang phrases are priceless.

Free healthcare (sort of)!

This seems like a pretty big deal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

V-Diet: Day 1

I've decided to paste the entries I make on my thread at T-Nation about the diet I'm on here. These are going to be long and comprehensive, but might prove interesting. Also, there will be references to supplements that you very likely don't know. If there's enough interest, I'll put a glossary up. Enjoy!

3/30/2009: DAY 1

Well, I had a tremendous first day on the V-Diet. I felt great pretty much all day! My energy levels were almost completely level all day, my stomach had no disturbance whatsoever, and I was able to get everything in despite an insanely packed day.

At 5:25 AM I woke up and consumed my first ever HOT-ROX, and man, was that a rush! I've handled Spike perfectly fine in the past, but this was at another level. The feel-good quality it gives you is unreal. The best part is that it didn't make me jittery or dizzy or anything, just pleasantly high on life. What terrific stuff!

At 6:00 AM I made my first shake, a Chocolate shake, and as I posted above, it was really delicious. Superfood definitely didn't look like I expected it to, but it tasted just fine. I almost always skip breakfast, so having a shake to start the day was perfect. After the diet is over, I will almost certainly continue having a shake for breakfast to guarantee that I get a solid nutritional start to the day and that I have breakfast. I should also note that I loved chewing on the flaxseeds in the shake; it just felt different and like more work than just drinking a shake. I bet I'll appreciate it even more as I get deeper into the diet. I also took Flameout.

I then drove to work (I work in the Disabled Students department at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles as a test proctor and in-class note taker), which was kind of interesting on a HOT-ROX buzz. When I got there, I discovered that the co-worker who assists me wasn't going to be there, and that I'd have to manage by myself. Usually, this would stress me out and make me irritable, but because of the HOT-ROX and breakfast, I took it in stride and went about my long, exhausting day.

Despite being more stressful at work than usual, I was able to get all of my shakes in; I actually brought MD, L-Leucine, Flameout, and Surge to work and just shook them up them while proctoring.

At 9 AM I got a bit hungry, so I munched on two Fiber Choice tablets. I figure since they're optional that I could fudge this aspect of the diet a tiny bit, and since the RDA on the bottle says two a day, I stuck to that. I'll probably keep doing that throughout the diet.

At 12:10 I had my lunch shake, a Vanilla one, along with another Flameout. The Vanilla wasn't nearly as good as the chocolate flavor, but still went down very smoothly and was just fine. I felt pretty full and satiated. I should note here that already by this point I had taken in more water than I usually do on any given day. That's another habit I'm desperately trying to break.

At 2 PM I had my second HOT-ROX of the day. I didn't really feel the buzz the same way I did from the morning HOT-ROX, but not a big deal. I also felt my first tiny craving for food around this time, and I got a bit sleepy. I usually get sleepy around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. The difference was that this went away much more quickly than usual, and I didn't feel sluggish like usual. Good stuff.

At 3 PM I had my mid-afternoon shake, another Vanilla, with Flameout. One thing I was realizing at this point was that as a runner, I'm used to eating lots of carbs, and this diet is obviously quite protein-centric. It'll be a transition, but based on how I did today, I think I'll manage.

I got off work at 4:30, and sped over to the gym to do my first workout. I'm doing the Advanced version; I have over six years of weightlifting experience, and my strength gains from powerlifting have somewhat remained. I'm also a very fit athlete in terms of cardiovascular ability, so I figured it'd be good to start at the top and if it's too overwhelming, go downwards to the Intermediate level.

My workout went brilliantly. I felt really strong and man, the short rest periods were exhausting! I timed them to the second, and I was huffing and puffing after the first two exercises like crazy! Here are my numbers:

All Heavy, All 20 reps (4-5 rep max), 30 second rest periods

Bent Over Barbell Row (underhand): 135x4, 135x4, 125x4, 135x3, 135x3, 135x2

Overhead Squat: 75x4, 75x4, 75x5, 75x4, 75x3

Dip: 193x5 (BW +15 pounds), 193x4, 193x4, 193x3, 193x2, 193x1, 193x1

Ab-Wheel Rollout: 4 sets of 5 (I'm not sure how to increase the difficulty on this exercise. Wear a weighted vest, maybe?)

Again, I was exhausted at the end of this, and sweating quite a bit. I started the workout at 4:50 and ended at 5:25. I got into the car, shook up some Surge, and slammed it down at 5:30.

I then drove home, and went out to dinner with some good friends from New York City. That's right, on the first day of my V-Diet, I had to deal with eating out with friends. And not just eating out at a nice restaurant, but also going out for frozen yogurt after the main meal!

I was able to do it; I brought my dinner shake to the restaurant (which I made Strawberry/Vanilla, by the way) and sipped on it throughout the meal, from about 7 to 7:45 PM, along with Flameout midway through the shake. I actually didn't crave anything except the frozen yogurt at the end, but I held my ground. That was a powerful motivator, actually, being able to survive going out to dinner no problem. It just required willpower and commitment to the diet, and with those two things, I had virtually no problems.

I got home very late (about 9:30), changed clothes, and went on my NEPA walk. I walked for about three and a half miles in fifty minutes or so; I was actually breathing pretty hard during it, which surprised me considering my running background. But I had a non-stop day, and I was walking at a steady clip.

I got back from my walk about 10:25, whipped up my bedtime shake (I got organic almond butter from Whole Foods; soooooo good), downed it at about 10:35 with one last Flameout, cleaned my shakers and my blender, and sat down to write this post.

All in all, a terrific first day. I had a lot of challenges to meet today that I don't usually have, from the long stressful day at work to the new dietary regimen to having to survive going out to dinner with others while on this diet. But I met them all, and felt pretty great the whole time. If I can make it through a day like this, I know I will succeed!

Interesting decision by Japan

Japan has decided to allow Japanese citizens to marry foreigners in same-sex marriages, and to have those marriages recognized under domestic law. It is a bit strange that they would allow this and not allow same sex marriages inside of the country itself, but this has to be looked at as a step in the right direction.

Inspired playlist

When I drive to work, the only radio station I can stand to listen to is Jack FM (this should tell you about the sorry state of LA radio these days). Usually the playlists are quirky, and they tend to play stuff I like, so it works out. But because they don't have DJs, the playlists tend to be random and not that interesting in the end. This morning, however, there was a four song stretch that was just inspired; everything flowed well, and the songs were great. Here it is.

Gnarls Barkley- Crazy
ZZ Top- Legs
Yaz- Situation
War- Low Rider

LOVE IT!!! :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My V-Diet Starts Tomorrow!

So it begins. I will be tackling the Velocity Diet starting tomorrow. Here's a link to my thread on T-Nation (warning, really ugly pictures up there, but that's what it's going to take). You can also check out all the info on the diet at the same page. I probably won't be posting about it too much here, or if I do, I'll just write the same thing I write on my thread. But this should be quite an experience. Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Revelation about Homicide: Life On The Street

I've been addicted these past couple of months to the old show Homicide: Life On The Street. Not only is it the precursor to the show The Wire, but it is also the show where the character of John Munch, played so well by Richard Belzer, debuted. It's an absolutely brilliant show, with the ensemble being superb (it may be the overall best ensemble acting job I've ever seen on TV) but also the writing being as good as it gets. The writing is particularly incredible in the first season of the show, but I'm midway through the third season and the writing is still extremely good; there honestly hasn't been a bad or even mediocre episode yet. I can't recommend the show enough, and amazingly, it's all available on DVD, including the movie and the crossover episodes with Law And Order.

Ever since I started watching the show, I've been trying to figure out why I enjoy watching the characters on the show interact so much. Tonight, I figured it out. The characters interact as if they're doing theatrical improv. Being exhausted, quirky homicide detectives, they often say completely inane or crazy things which are usually personal and the kinds of things that you and I would ignore if someone else said it to us or just brush them off as weird; for example, one character in the first season is obsessed with Lincoln's assassination being a conspiracy, and brings it up as much as possible.

But on this show, the characters listen intently to each other and try anything out or respond in kind to what the other is saying. Anything and everything is fair game; nothing is brushed aside as stupid or pointless. It's both immediately refreshing and compelling to watch, because the characters, even though they are as cynical and jaded as characters can be, still deeply care about each other and entertain anything. Just like professional improv, the characters never say no to each other's crazy thoughts or ideas, but listen. They may strongly disagree, they may be mean or callous, but they always listen and respond.

I guess in a way I wish life was more like that, where everyone would at least listen to everything someone they cared about said and try to thoughtfully respond. But at least we have Homicide: Life On The Street to show us what a world like that could be like. Kudos to the writing staff and the actors for pulling it off.

Assorted Videos

Again, sorry about the lack of posting. I had ANOTHER ridiculous stretch of days, only this time during the week, and involving one incident/event as opposed to several. And this time, I can't comment publicly yet on it until I feel it's right/the whole thing is over. But I will be posting much more here because, on Monday, I'm starting the V-Diet! Look for much more in a post tomorrow. Anyhow, here are some random, wonderful vids for your weekend enjoyment:

Jesus Is My Friend (best song EVAR)

Hugs With Lions: How cool is this guy...

And totally NSFW, but terrific parody of the ShamWow guy's new product:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Way

No friggin way.

Signs of Spring

I know I link to The Big Picture a lot, but I only do it because of the insanely high quality of their photo sets. This one, representing the first signs of spring, is one of the best they've done; the international flavor is tremendous. It also features one of the greatest squirrels of all time in photo #26. Enjoy!

"Spiderman" Saves The Day

I'm posting this as much for a good friend who works with autistic children as I am for how neat the article is. Autism is such a fascinating and intense condition; I really should learn more about it.

Synaptic Pruning

For whatever reason, I've lately been getting very interested in science, especially physics (it might have something to do with this textbook I picked up at a free book giveaway they had at the college last week; one of the best textbooks I've ever read).

This article on Yahoo covers something scientific that has always befuddled me; why we typically can't remember events from our early childhood very well. It always amazes me how little I remember clearly from when I was about 12 and younger. Even 13-15 is a little hazy for me, but certainly much much clearer. This idea of synaptic pruning makes a lot of sense.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Weekend

Well, ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed a certain dearth of posts around here this weekend, which is usually when I have the most time to post. This weekend, however, was so insane, so full of unplanned events, so out of control that I've had virtually no time to do anything except react to events and/or vegetate for as long as possible after and in between said events. Here's a day-by-day recap (just to note, I was randomly off of work on Thursday and don't work on Fridays, so it was a four day weekend):


The plans for today included picking up presents for my mother's birthday and getting to sleep early for a film shoot I had agreed to do at six thirty in the morning the next day as a favor to an old friend from college. A nice easy day, right? Here's what actually happened.

The presents I had planned to get my mother (DVDs of Rachel Getting Married and Happy Go Lucky, two of her favorite films from last year) were only available at a Borders bookstore in a shopping mall near our place. So I went there, and then realized that Watchmen was playing in an hour and made the terrible decision to go see it (you can read my review of the film in the post before this). So instead of just dropping in to pick up her presents, I ended up staying at the mall for close to five hours.

When I got home, I was tired and needed to get to sleep as soon as possible. So I got my wardrobe for the film shoot together, and dried some of the clothes that needed to be unwrinkled along with a load of bath towels I had washed earlier. About ten minutes later, I stepped out to my car to clean it out in preparation for the shoot (we were filming inside of it) and noticed that there was a burning smell in the air and that there was smoke coming from the service porch where the dryer is. I opened the door of the dryer, and to my complete shock, flames leaped out! We don't have a fire extinguisher in the house, and my mom, who was also home, immediately called 911. While waiting for the firefighters to arrive, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and use a garden hose to fight the flames, which at this point had started to spread. Without thinking about my safety, I ran right into the service porch and doused the flames with water. I actually got them noticeably down, but then the fire department arrived, and I ran away to let them take over. They extinguished it pretty quickly, but it took them a while to clean out the destroyed things, which included of course the dryer and all the clothes in it, as well as a bunch of t-shirts my father had stored in the service porch. All in all, we were extremely lucky that the fire didn't spread much, since the room right next to the service porch has a lot of electrical outlets in it. Oh yeah, this event spread into....


So my mom and I were exhausted from the fire incident, and it was around 1 in the morning by the time the firefighters left. I had taken in a lot of smoke from battling the flames and was coughing like crazy. The house also smelled terribly of smoke, so we left to get some food and just take a breather. After we did that, we finally got home around 1:45, and we were both still running on adrenaline, but also exhausted. And I still had to get up at 5:30 for my early morning shoot.

I went to sleep at 2, and got almost no sleep thanks to my coughing and just being wound up. But I woke up on time, and was all packed and ready to go by 6, except for one thing... my car keys. They were nowhere to be found, and after tearing the house apart for hours looking for them, I realized they were totally lost, and since I didn't have a copy of them, I was completely stuck. I ended up having to postpone the film shoot for a day not directly because of the fire, but because I had somehow lost my car keys in the chaos of the fire. It was at this point, when I called my friend, that he informed me that the actress I'd be in the scene with was a professional actress, and that she was extremely pissed, understandably. Needless to say I was not looking forward to the shoot the next day.

Anyways, I ended up getting AAA to create new keys for me. To my amazement, they can create keys for cars without the original copy if you give them the registration number, the model number and the year of the car. It's expensive (100 bucks), but talk about being worth it in an emergency like this. So I got the new keys, and then realized that I had to pick up the cake for my mom's birthday party...in half an hour. So I pealed out, and made it to the cake store in time to pick up the cake. I got back, and was at this point so exhausted I didn't know what to do except fall asleep. So after grabbing a quick dinner, I got into bed, and slept for close to eleven hours, all the way into...


I woke up feeling amazing (I desperately needed the sleep). However, I had to get going right away for the film shoot. I then realized that I hadn't gone grocery shopping for my mom's birthday (my dad and I had planned to make potatoes au gratin for the first time). So I sprinted out to the market, got most of what we needed (I'll explain later) and got back as quickly as I could to drop off the groceries. Then it was off to USC to meet my friend and the actress, Chelsea. As it turned out, she was extremely cool, quirky, funny, and nice, my favorite combination of traits in a person. She was very understanding of the fire; my friend had blown her anger way out of proportion.

Then we drove deep into Malibu (my friend, who doesn't drive, claimed that the location was right after we got into Malibu; we were driving for over an hour and a half from USC to the shoot) and got to a "secluded" beach for the shoot. The only problem was that it was on Saturday at lunchtime, and was understandably crowded. And we had to shoot two very difficult scenes to do in a crowded situation: a scene where she ran into the ocean topless, and.... a sex scene in the back seat of my car. With me and her. That I found out about that morning.

So yes, ladies and gentlemen, I shot a fake sex scene this weekend. It involved lots of sweaty kissing, grabbing in inappropriate places, rubbing (there was no actual nudity, but we were both in our underwear), and for me, fondling of a breast. Yes, I got to get extremely intimate with someone I had just met about an hour before. I felt both used and, at the same time, kind of awesome. We actually ended up being as comfortable with each other as possible, and laughed about the whole thing afterwards. Also, Chelsea is a lesbian, so it was a rather odd experience for her, but again, we were comfortable together, so it wasn't a big deal. We chatted for a long time afterwards, ended up exchanging phone numbers, and Chelsea thanked me for being so easy and fun to work with and completely uncreepy, and said I was quite a catch. All I can say is that she is as well. :)

I ended up sticking around after my scene for a couple of hours to help shoot the other scene in the ocean, mainly because Chelsea said she felt more comfortable with me around, which was very nice of her. The scene went well, and at around 5, I left to get home, which of course took forever because of how deep we were in Malibu. I got home around 6:15, went out to dinner and then, for a blessed couple of hours, I got to relax and not do anything. I did have a chat room discussion I had planned to attend/help moderate at midnight, but that was so far away. Then, at 11:30, I discovered I had forgotten a couple of things for the potatoes au gratin. So I again sprinted out to the market, got the missing items, and got back just in time to get to the chat room. I was in the chat room for an hour, signed off and helped my father make the potatoes au gratin. Oh, at this point it's...


By the time we finished making the potatoes (which turned out very delicious, by the way), it was around 2 in the morning, and I was exhausted from a long day of driving and having fake sex. So I collapsed into bed, slept for seven hours, woke up at 9, and got ready to go to my mom's birthday party. Finally! My dad was very tired, so I ended up driving out to my cousin's place which included me driving for the first time through the extremely curvy and long Topanga Canyon. The party was very fun and relaxing compared to the rest of the weekend, but my body just gave out half way through; it finally had a chance to absorb all of the events of the weekend. After the party, I drove us home, and now sit here writing this post.

As you can see, this was an unbelievable weekend. It was a weekend of many firsts for me, of terrible lows and wonderful highs. It's certainly a weekend I'll never forget, but I do know one thing for certain: it is finally OVER.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Well, I went into Watchmen expecting to be disappointed. I am an enormous fan of the comic book; it is one of my three favorite comics of all time, along with From Hell and The Sandman series. I have always felt that Watchmen was unfilmable, and was extremely wary going into this film as a result. However, some people whose taste I tend to trust AND who love the comic told me it was very good and did the comic justice. It also got rave reviews from people in the industry like Wil Wheaton. So I went in uncertain but again, wary. What happened was not what I was expecting.

I HATED WATCHMEN WITH A FIERY PASSION. It has been a long time since I've actively disliked a film so much. I have no idea how people who are fans of the comic can claim that this film does the comic justice. It completely butchers the slow, meditative feel of the comic with ridiculous over the top action scenes and a horrific soundtrack (honestly, the original score was so deplorable it was unreal). It also removes much of the psychological depth of the comic and the characters by either glossing over certain characters (Dr. Manhattan's origin being a prime example, as well as Jamie Slater, and Hollis Mason getting killed by street thugs) or omitting vitally important interactions between characters (I can't believe they didn't include the final scene between Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan, one of my favorite moments in comics).

But it was more than that. Some of the actors were terrible (the actresses portraying Jamie Slater and the original Silk Spectre leap to mind), and some of the characters were just badly done; I can't believe how lame Ozymandias was in this film. He's not just the smartest man in the world, filmmakers, he's also the strongest and most attractive. Hell, he makes his entrance in the comic as a circus performer, and is supposed to reflect Alexander the Great as a heroic figure, not just be the cold owner of a huge company and spout gibberish. I could go on and on, but ugh. It's depressing to me that people who don't know the comic will think of Ozymandias in the simplistic way he is presented in the movie as opposed to the remarkably deep, profound character he is in the comic.

The places where the film worked by far the best were when it literally aped the comic. The whole burial scene of the Comedian, which was done virtually panel by panel, was by far the best part of the film to me. It's the only point in the film where Zack Snyder just let Alan Moore tell the story, and the flashbacks and various scenes flow beautifully and paint a vivid picture of the Comedian. For a moment, I was swept up in why I love Watchmen. Also, the terrifying flashback where Rorschach encounters the killer of a small girl and goes crazy is done perfectly, but again, is almost panel for panel from the comic.

What disturbs me the most in a way, since I already was quite confident that Watchmen was unfilmable, is that a lot of the blame for why this movie doesn't work belongs to Zack Snyder. I've kinda liked his other films (I enjoyed 300 quite a bit), but this film is a huge step down for him. The pacing is at times very odd, certain scenes are terribly done, the soundtrack is at best cute and at worst mind-numbingly terrible, and there's a lot of pointless slo-mo and over the top violence and sex. Almost everything that was wrong in this film had to do with the directing choices he made.

The biggest problem with this film was that it had no idea what it wanted to be. It claims to be set in 1985, and then uses hard rock from the present during its action scenes (the fact that the end credits come up to an intense blast of bland rock music says it all). It makes little "insider" nods to the comic (like including the newspaper guy and the young kid at the end) and then completely changes/omits integral parts of the comic (changing the final scheme of Ozymandias, not having Silk Spectre slap the Comedian).

Following from the last point, the film includes the original ending of the comic book with a scene that doesn't have nearly the relevance in the film that it does in the comic because we haven't been following the newspaper subplot, and then adds a pointless, final line. Why would you include the original end scene of the comic, and then not only change the final shot of the comic but also add a line? This is what I mean; the whole thing feels disjointed and badly done.

Watchmen is, without question, one of the great psychological works of all time. Its subject matter is nothing less than the human condition, and it explores this while creating extraordinarily complex and fascinating characters and telling an engaging and at times complicated story. It is absolutely worth reading if for no other reason than to witness a master storyteller and visionary thinker (Alan Moore) at the peak of his powers. The film, on the other hand, tells a scattered, sadly neutered version of the same story, and also provides maybe the worst original score I've heard since the first Spiderman movie. Don't see this movie. Please, go read the book. Please.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday, 3/18/09: Day 5 of Get Ready

This was not a good workout at all, for several reasons. The first and most important is that I suddenly felt very out of it when I got to the gym, and while that didn't lead to me being weak, it led to me feeling discombobulated the whole time and not up for doing a very difficult exercise like a deadlift. Also, for some inexplicible reason, the gym was very crowded at close to 9 at night on a Wednesday. As a result, it would have been hard for me to a deadlift anyways with the floor being so crowded. Sigh. So I did my best.

35 Reps (Medium Weight):

Underhand-Grip Lat Pulldown: 10@130, 10@130, 10@130, 5@130

Dumbbell Standing Shoulder Press: 10@30, 10@30, 10@30, 5@30

Goblet Squat: 12@20, 12@20, 12@20 (I accidentally did 36)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, 3/16/09: Day 4 of Get Ready

This was a really excellent workout. I felt very strong throughout, and went up on all of my weights. I was also quite efficient, getting through the whole thing in twenty-five minutes. I'm also thrilled at how good dips felt tonight; dips used to be one of the exercises I just couldn't do, but now I feel strong doing them with added weight. Excellent!

25 reps per exercise with heavy weights

Standing Mid-Cable Pulley Row- 5@130, 5@130, 5@130, 5@130, 5@130

Dips- 5@190 (Body weight + 10), 5@190, 5@190, 4@190, 4@190, 2@190

Dumbbell Split Squat- 5@50, 5@50, 5@50, 5@50, 5@50

Monday, March 16, 2009

One of the best Dinosaur Comics in a long time

I can't get the comic to format right on this site, so here's a direct link. There's just something so true about this one. It also helps that it's damn funny.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An excellent crossword

As some of you may or may not know, I am obsessed with crosswords; I do an average of three or four a day, sometimes more. By doing that many crosswords, they tend to blend together, except for the occasional great theme or standout clue. Every so often, however, a puzzle stands out as a whole, a combination of great clues, an excellent theme and just plain good construction.

The New York Times puzzle for this past Sunday, 3/15/09, called "Prioresses," stands out in this way. The theme is very fun and executed perfectly (and there are 12 theme entries!), there are no bad or annoying answers or clues, and a number of the clues are extremely clever. It's also a perfectly balanced puzzle in terms of difficulty; some answers are rather difficult and others are quite accessible to the average solver. This is about as good an example of an introductory Sunday-level (i.e. medium to slightly hard level of difficulty) puzzle I can think of. I highly recommend it; it's worth buying a Sunday New York Times for. Enjoy!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Couple of Tremendous Videos

Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo and Hoots the Owl amongst others, is one of the funniest and most talented performers we've had in the past twenty years. Here are a bunch of videos showcasing how funny he and Elmo can be.

Outtakes from a brand-new episode of Sesame Street with Elmo and Ricky Gervais

Elmo Talks to Rove McManus (there's another more recent appearance on Rove too that's just as funny)

Elmo Interviews Kevin Clash Himself

Friday, 3/13/09: Day 3 of Get Ready

Solid workout today, except that I discovered that my squat strength is WAY down from what it used to be. Other than that, this was a nice, hard workout.

3/13/09 (Light weight, 50 reps)

Cable Standing Low-Pulley Row w/ Rope Attachment: 20@50, 20@50, 10@50

Pushup: 20@BW, 20@BW, 10@BW

Squat: 15@65, 20@BW, 15@BW

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday, 3/11/09: Day 2 of Get Ready

This was an interesting workout; not great, but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I was quite tired from a long day at work, but I was able to lift pretty well regardless; I just screwed up on my weight with shoulder presses, which have always been a big weakness. I'm still pissed off about how much strength I've lost since my heavy lifting days in college, especially on the deadlift, but that's just going to be how it is. I'll lose much more brute strength when I start running, but I'll gain speed and motor efficiency. Not a terrible trade off.

35 Reps each, medium weight:

Underhand Lat Pulldown- 115@12, 120@10, 120@10, 120@3

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 30@12, 35@10, 30@10, 30@3

Deadlift: 135@11, 135@10, 135@11, 135@3

Monday, March 9, 2009

U2: A Rant

Let me begin this by giving a summary of my taste when it comes to U2. I am an enormous U2 fan; they used to be my favorite band ever, and they absolutely shaped my musical tastes growing up. I own everything they've ever released, including some rare singles thanks to The Complete U2 Digital Box Set from iTunes. They remind me quite a bit of Bob Dylan in that none of their albums are flawless through and through (each one always contains at least one decent/mediocre song), and they've released quite a bit of mediocre stuff, but all of their material is worth listening to, and when they are at their best, they are absolutely extraordinary.

For example, The Joshua Tree is a seminal piece of work, and the first three songs on that album (Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, With Or Without You) are probably the best triplet of songs ever to open an album; each one is a masterpiece of production and songwriting, and they flow perfectly from one to another. Really, that stretch of albums from War to The Unforgettable Fire to The Joshua Tree is one of the great periods of any band. Achtung Baby, while containing some tremendous songs (One, Mysterious Ways, and Love Is Blindness, for example), is a very mixed album to me in terms of song quality (The Fly is incredibly lame, for example, and Even Better Than The Real Thing gets stupider every time I listen to it).

I tend to like experimental U2, especially Zooropa and Pop. Zooropa is a very mixed album in terms of song quality, but it also has my favorite U2 song, Stay (Faraway, So Close), and has a very organic feel to it. Pop is almost the exact opposite of organic, but I simply love the production value by Flood, and some of the songs, like Please and Staring At The Sun, are wonderful. I also think that Pop holds together as an album better than most of their work; I think most people get turned off by the sound of first couple of songs, like Discotheque and MOFO (Mofo is admittedly pretty terrible, although it does have a neat, eerie submerged message about mothers in it), and don't listen the rest of the way through. Pop is, in my humble opinion, one of the most underrated albums of the 90s.

With all of that said, I am now going to say the truthful words that almost no U2 fan will say: U2 have gone WAY downhill this decade. All That You Can't Leave Behind had traces of excellence in it. Beautiful Day is actually one of their best songs, and easily the best thing they've done this decade, although Walk On and Stuck In A Moment That You Can't Get Out Of are pretty great too. But we should have all seen it coming; ATYCLB has some simply atrocious stuff on it, like New York, Elevation, and Peace on Earth. That kind of material is stuff they would have left on the cutting room floor in earlier years. The lyrics are stupid and the music is uninspired (especially on New York and the lyrics for Elevation).

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was even worse; there were two good songs (Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own and City of Blinding Lights, and even Sometimes could be argued to be too pappy), three decent songs (Vertigo, One Step Closer, and I'm stretching with Miracle Drug; also, Vertigo's lyrics are terrible, but the music is fun), and the rest were crap. You could argue that Yahweh is decent, but the more I listen to it, the sillier and more unsuccessful it gets.

And now the new album, No Line On The Horizon, which has, and I'm not kidding here, ONE good song on it, Cedars of Lebanon, the final track. The rest just sound completely uninspired and like tired retreads for U2, and Get On Your Boots has got to be hands down the worst first single off an album they've ever released. Yes, even worse than Discotheque.

There are two huge problems with U2 right now. One is simply their reputation. They bill themselves as the biggest and best band in the world, and the media plays along. Hell, The New York Times declared Atomic Bomb U2's best album ever, and Rolling Stone just gave No Line On The Horizon a perfect five star rating (there's a reason I stopped both reading Rolling Stone and trusting the New York Times for unbiased reporting a long time ago). But they're simply not anymore, not when they're putting out material as lame as this. They do have an extraordinary array of material from the 80s and 90s to play, and they perform them well. But let's face it: Bono can't sing anywhere close to what he used to be able to do, and they're getting older. Their live shows are inevitably going to suffer, no matter how hard they try.

The second problem is Bono's lyrics. I got into a great epic argument with a friend in college over this, when I still drank the U2 Kool-Aid. She was arguing that the lyrics in Atomic Bomb were incredibly lame, and I couldn't accept it at the time. But now that I'm a little older and wiser, I see she was completely right, and that Bono's lyrics have been terrible in general all decade except for rare occasions. He needs topical subjects or very personal events to focus on now in order to write good material; the days of With Or Without You are long gone. Beautiful Day really does strike me as a fluke, since it's an abstract song. But just look at these lyrics from No Line On The Horizon, the first song from the new album: I know a girl who's like the sea/I watch her changing every day for me/One day she's still, the next she swells/I can hear the universe in her seashells. My eyes are rolling just typing that. And those are some of the better lyrics on the album in regards to rhyming and "cleverness" (the same song rhymes linear and ear). Cedars of Lebanon is the only topical song on the album, and it really stands out. Bono's well has more or less run dry.

The thing about U2 is that they're smart when it comes to production. They have long worked with arguably the three best producers in the game: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, and Steve Lilywhite. So for example, the new album, which is loaded with terrible material, sounds fantastic because of the production. I have a feeling this might be one of the major reasons so many of us thought U2 were still putting out good stuff: everything sounded great. But if you look past the sheen of the production, you're left with tired, recycled melodies and terrible lyrics. To bring up Cedars of Lebanon again, it also stands out on the album because it is the ONLY song that isn't heavily overproduced; the song speaks for itself, and Lanois, the solo producer on the track, smartly lets it shine through.

I don't know what could bring the old U2 back, if anything. Part of what made them such an exciting and brilliant band was their youth, and how they attacked it full throttle with songs like Out of Control, and vented their youthful anger with songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday and Bullet The Blue Sky. Back then, the music was fresh and raw, and Bono's lyrics had a piercing, insightful quality to them that they've completely lost. Their songs meant something back in the 80s and early 90s, and now they feel like just plain, boring rock songs from a group desperately trying to maintain their image and status as "the world's biggest band."

I would like nothing more than for U2 to come back to their old selves, to write more material that had a point, and to experiment with their sound again like they did in the mid to late 90s. I really hope they do. But for now, we are left with a group of old men who have been trying unsuccessfully for a decade to sound young and hip again. Guys, if you honestly think "Get On Your Boots" is the path towards sounding fresh and hip again, you might as well just hang up those boots now rather than saddle us with crap like your new album for another decade.

Monday, 3/9: Day 1 of "Get Ready"

Here's the first post about my training/journey towards the Boston Marathon. For now, I'm starting by not changing my eating patterns yet, but paying close attention to how I eat throughout the week. I typically skip breakfast, have a big lunch and dinner (both not at all necessarily healthy) and have no snacks during the day. Oh, and I also drink almost nothing, which I know is really bad. So as you can see, my eating habits suck. Hard.

I'm doing a three-week preparatory program for Chad Waterbury's V-Diet Training, called "Get Ready" in his book "Huge In A Hurry." This isn't required for the V-Diet at all, but I figured since I had three weeks and I had the book, I might as well try it out. The program is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The gist of it is to disregard the concept of sets and just lift a specified number of reps with a specified weight level (i.e. light, medium, heavy) as fast as you possibly can with good form. It's a fast workout, and it utterly tires you out when you do it right.

3/9 (reps to 25, heavy weight):

Cable Mid-Pulley Row: @120- 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 2
Dip @ 5 pounds added- 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
Dumbbell Split Squat @45- 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Future Plans

All right, here's the big announcement I mentioned earlier. I am going to fully dedicate myself to being a fast long-distance runner, which I know is my forte as well as something I just flat out enjoy doing. I won't pretend that I'm going to win races or anything at this point, but I'm sure that with a lot of hard and smart training, I can be competitive and maybe even get to the level of winning long races.

My long term goal is to run in the Boston Marathon, the most elite race in the United States in terms of qualifying. This will take years, not months, so this is quite a long-term goal, but a solid one. I will be following the Run Less, Run Faster program from the Furman Institute that Runner's World popularized to get there; the logic of that program just makes sense, and it will help relieve some of the boredom that comes from just running and doing nothing else.

My short-term goal at the moment is to lose body fat. I am currently at a frightening 25% body fat percentage, which is WAY too high for me to be at. If I don't suck in my stomach, which I often do unconsciously, I have a developing gut. My health is also not what it should be; my eating habits are flat out terrible, and I often feel very sluggish throughout the day.

Needless to say, I'm pissed off at myself, and want to make a drastic change. That is why I'm going to go on an extreme diet for a month, the Velocity Diet designed by Biotest. Biotest is probably the best supplement company in the United States (I can personally vouch for the effectiveness and quality of their products), and while the diet is expensive at first (550 bucks or so at the beginning), it also gives you an entire month's worth of high-quality eating and has been shown time and time again to give people extraordinary results.

I'm doing the V-Diet as much for the health benefits and for the changed eating habits as I am for the weight and body fat loss; I really have no idea what will come of it, but I'm excited to do this diet for a month, to FINALLY have discipline with my eating, and to get healthy and strong for my training.

I'm going to start this diet on March 30th. This will allow me to eat normally during a busy March in regards to family events (and chiefly, my mom's birthday), as well as let me save up some money to pay for the diet. It will also give me a chance to do some preliminary strength training to get ready for the intensity of the V-Diet weight program. Since the program on the V-Diet follows Chad Waterbury's new system, it seems logical to follow his "Get Ready" program in his new book "Huge In A Hurry" for these three weeks. I'll be posting exactly what I do on this blog. Should be a blast!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guido Beach

I believe I mentioned at the very beginning of this blog that one of my all-time favorite websites on the internet was Hot Chicks with Douchebags. I also realize I haven't really posted anything from it yet. Well, here's a video that HCwDB propelled into the spotlight; it was taken down at one point, but is now up again on Facebook. Hopefully this link will still work for a while. The video is of a beach in New Jersey that features a simply unbelievable array of epic douchebags and hott yet nasty chicks. "Enjoy."

Thru You

My apologies for not posting for a couple of days. I've just been very busy for the past couple of days, and will make a major announcement on this blog next week. But for now, here's a simply unbelievable project from an Israeli musician named Kutiman. Reminiscent of DJ Shadow and the seminal album Endtroducing, Kutiman has taken nothing but clips from YouTube and spliced them together to create completely new, often revelatory songs. The work must have been enormous, but the results speak for themselves. Below are my two favorite videos, and the link to the official website is simply http://thru-you.com/, but it's often down due to heavy traffic. Enjoy.

Mother of All Funk Chords

I'm New (my favorite track, and really a beautiful piece of music)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pain of Playing Super Mario Bros.

I've seen this video posted on several different websites that I go to regularly, and it is downright hysterical. Any videogamer will identify with the frustration factor that can go into playing a difficult game, and for those of us who were actually around to play Super Mario Bros when it was first around, this video brings back memories. This is actually just as funny with the sound turned off; who knew Mario was so good at slapstick?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Check out my guest post!

If you head on over to Chocolette's fabulous blog, Adventures of a Chocolate Lover in New York, you can check out a guest post I made regarding a 99% chocolate bar I got to try this past weekend. The post is called "The Lindt 99% Cocoa Bar." Enjoy!