DDP Yoga: one month in

I’ve been doing DDP Yoga for a month now, along with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, and working at a standing desk. I’ve been eating a mostly ketogenic diet, with Bulletproof Coffee for breakfast, Muscle Milk and a Quest bar for lunch, and a half dozen eggs for dinner. I have one cheat day a week, which still starts with Bulletproof Coffee, but from lunch on I eat whatever I’m in the mood for.

So far, I’ve dropped thirteen pounds, and my belt is two notches tighter than when I started. My squat is up to over three hundred pounds, my deadlift is up over four hundred, I can press one eighty five, and I can bench two eighty. More importantly than my raw numbers, though, I don’t hurt the way I used to.

The combination of yoga and powerlifting is pretty much magical, as far as I’m concerned. My strength is up, my pain is down, and I’m losing weight at a pretty good pace, despite a few, ahem, indulgences here and there. I’m very happy with how this program is progressing.

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The lunatics running the assylum

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Old Main:

Old Main

It was the central building of the Utica State Hospital, but in a past life it went by another name: the New York State Lunatic Asylum.

Look at that thing. This creepy mother fucker is straight out of an episode of Supernatural. And once upon a time, a thousand inmates were housed inside its cold, stony walls.

The New York Lunatic Asylum opened in 1843, and was the first state-funded hospital for the mentally ill. It was also the home of the Utica Crib:

Utica Crib

Sleep tight. We’ll be back to let you out in the morning.

So of course when they announced that they were opening Old Main to the public for the first time in half a decade, my wife and I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, so did about four thousand other lovers of all things weird.

The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, which is apparently a thing, announced tours from five to eight. We arrived at around five fifteen, and there were already about two thousand people in line. We waited in line for four hours, and by the time we made it near the Asyum’s imposing doors, the sun was falling.

The director of the Landmark Society informed us that the tour was being shut down, and everyone still in line was going to be sent home.

The crowd, by fiat, decided that this was not true, and simply remained in line. Someone called our Congressman. Someone else called the Governor. And I swear to God I am not kidding about that. People really wanted to see the creepy interior of the spookiest building in the county.

The director gave in, and the remaining tourists were allowed to (quickly) pass through the Asylum’s bottom floor.

The results were less than spectacular.

We were expecting horror. We were expecting torture. We were expecting tales of lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Hell, we were looking to see the damn Utica Crib, since we invented the thing. Instead, after four hours in line, we saw about a dozen rooms, which had been renovated into office storage, and a handful of photos of what the place had looked like back in the eighteen hundreds.

So far, my experience with haunted houses, both purportedly real and admittedly theatrical, has been wholly unimpressive. The brightest part of the evening was when we went out for pizza afterwards.

Regardless, I’m going to write a story about Old Main. It’s just now going to open with a couple of pretty young murder victims who break in after standing in line for half a day, and want to see what the forbidden Fourth Floor is all about.

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Editors and editing

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’m starting to hire my own copy editors. So far, my results have been very mixed.

One of the people I’ve worked with has been fabulous. She’s reasonably priced, she’s quick, and she’s caught dozens of errors and typos that slipped by me. Basically, everything I could hope for in an editor.

The other two … well, my results were less than stellar. When I did a final read-through of the manuscripts they returned, I found dozens of typos my “professional” editors missed. And that leaves me a bit torn.

On the one hand, it’s kind of hypocritical to complain about someone missing typos that I both injected and missed on all of my previous read-throughs. On the other hand, if I’m paying someone hundreds of dollars to copy edit my work, I’d really appreciate it if they did the job I’m paying them for.

Between editors and cover artists, I’ve spent close to a thousand dollars on various publishing expenses this month. That’s a lot of money, but it’s also kind of expected, as I’m trying to get four books out the door in the next three months.

The project I’m trying to wrap up right now, though, is a bit different. One, it’s the longest work I’ve published to date, at slightly more than one hundred thousand words. That means it’s going to be more expensive to have edited, by a considerable margin. Second, it’s kind of my baby, and I really want it to be the absolute best product it can be. The idea of spending hundreds of dollars on someone who’s going to treat the project carelessly is, to say the least, depressing.

My plan right now is to go back to the editor who’s done the best work for me in the past. Going forward, I also plan to write a short “audition” script that I’ll send to new editors before I buy more expensive services from them, to see how they perform. I might end up posting the close-to-final versions for some crowdsourced editing, too.

What say you, internets? What’s the best way to get a novel edited?

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To Serve and Protect

I don’t know what happened the night Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.

Some witnesses say Brown was executed while trying to surrender. Others claim he was shot while trying to grab Wilson’s firearm. I don’t know which version, if either, is true. A family friend has claimed that Wilson suffered a fractured orbital bone while struggling with Brown. I don’t know if that’s true, either.

I do know that Michael Brown was eighteen. I know that he was unarmed. I know that he was black.

And I know that I’m glad that I’m white.

That isn’t a racist statement. I’m glad that I’m white because it means this will almost certainly never be my story. I’m not going to be shot by a police officer. I’m not going to be shot by a drug dealer. I’m not going to go to prison.

But the story is different if you’re black. If you’re a black male, there’s a one in three chance that you’ll be incarcerated at some point in your life. Black people also recieve harsher punishments for the same crimes. You can read more about that here. If a white person shoots a black man, it is more likely to be ruled justifiable homicide than any other kind of shooting.

I also know that the police frighten me.

That, I believe, is intentional. You don’t walk around like this:

Because you want to appear friendly. You don’t drive around like this:

Because you want to inspire confidence. You do it to intimidate. You do it to dominate. You do it to instill fear.

You don’t do it to serve and protect.

American police departments are being given surplus military equipment; during the Obama administration alone, tens of thousands of guns. They’ve also received armored personnel carriers, aircraft, and grenade launchers.

Ostensibly, these weapons of war were meant to fight drug cartels. Now, they are intended to fight terrorists. But in reality, they’re toys.

Pulaski County Sheriff Michael Gayer had this to say about our beloved nation: “The United States of America has become a war zone.” Speaking of his military surplus, mine-proof war wagon, he said, “It’s a lot more intimidating than a Dodge.”

Michael Gayer lives in a different country that you and I do. He lives in an America that is beset with violence, on the bleeding edge of chaos. He lives in an America where the only thing between good, decent people and violent anarchy is a thin blue line of police officers … in tanks.

Michael Gayer’s America does not exist. Violent crime in America had been trending downward for years. Legalization of marijuana has actually decreased crime wherever it has been tried.

America is not a war zone, but Michael Gayer is working to make it one. In his mind, he’s fighting a war, and there is only one available enemy: us.

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Is Wonder Woman … (spoilers/speculation)

Rumors indicate that Wonder Woman’s origin is being tweaked for the upcoming Batman v Superman – Holy Shit They Might Actually Pull This Off. In the comics, Wonder Woman is an Amazonian, the princess of a mystical race of warrior women who have separated themselves from the world of man. In the Nu52, DC’s latest continuity reboot, she’s a demigod, and has assumed the mantle of the God of War.

But in BVS

Click through for my wild wild accusations and assumptions!

Read the rest of this entry »

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DDP Yoga: Three weeks in

I’ve been doing DDP Yoga for about three weeks now, and so far, I’m entralled.

I have a lot of fitness goals right now, and Yoga plays into most of them. The main reason I’ve incorporated it, though, is to rehab previous injuries, prevent new injuries, and gain back some flexibility. Three weeks in, I’m very happy with how this is working.

The thing I really wanted to touch on, though, is how well thought out the progressions are. In any activity, you’re going to go from beginner, to novice, to expert. That’s as true for lifting weights as it is for writing software. And the fastest way to make someone give up? Screw up that progression.

If you take someone who’s never even touched a weight before, and ask them to do a squat snatch, they’re going to hurt themselves, and they’re going to decide that this weightlifting shit is too hard. If you take someone who’s never even written a web page, and ask them to create a distributed data entry system, they’re going to fail, and they’re probably going to forget this whole coding thing altogether.

The style of Yoga DDP is based on, Ashtanga, is focused on the flow between positions, but DDP starts you off very simply, with what he calls the Diamond Dozen, thirteen basic movements or poses that form the backbone of the system. There’s no flow to worry about here, no transition to screw up. It’s just “here, stand like this, and squeeze your muscles.” Very easy to accomplish, and a very early “win;” right off the bat, you feel like you’re doing something right. That kind of reinforcement is important to keeping someone going.

The next workout is called Energy, and it adds some simple transitions between the poses you learned in the first workout. This is also where you really start to learn the brilliance of DDP Yoga’s regressions and progressions. DDP does the “main” poses, but he always has at least one person doing a regression, or modified version, that’s slightly easier, and there’s usually someone doing a progression, or more advanced version, as well.

That means one workout really becomes three; the modified version you might try the first few times, the main version, and the advanced version that you eventually work your way up to. It also means that people who are struggling can look up at the screen and see someone struggling, too. And this isn’t a case of DDP holding himself up as the ideal while someone else does the “easy” workout, either; sometimes he’ll take a knee or stop for a water break. There’s no condescension on display.

The next workout is called Fat Burner, and it builds on the foundation laid in Energy, and adds in some more difficult positions and transitions. I’ve been doing two-a-days for three weeks now, usually a mix of Energy and Fat Burner, and I’ve gotten pretty good at most of their positions.

Tonight, I did Diamond Cutter for the first time … and it kicked my ass. It’s twice as long as any (Yoga) workout I’ve done before, and it finally includes positions that I either can’t hold, or just plain can’t get into at all.

But the way these were introduced is also very smart. DDP will give you a position to try. And then, if you’ve got that, here’s something you can do to make it a bit harder. And if you’ve got that, here’s how to take it to the next level. There’s never a sense that you should be doing something, and that you’re failing if you can’t. But he’s always introducing things for you to try as you get stronger and more flexible.

That, I think, is the best part about this system; you’re rewarded for what you can do now, and you’re given something to reach for tomorrow.

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The Ten Commandments in America

In conservative areas, it’s all the rage to build a monument to the Ten Commandments on government property. This doesn’t violate the separation of church and state, they lie, because it’s funded with private donations, and any other religion would toooootally be welcome to set up their own monument.

Ahem.

And anyway, America is a Christian nation! The Ten Commandments are the foundation of our democracy!

Or are they? Let’s take a look and see just how well the Commandments underly our American legal system.

1: I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt have no other gods before me

Well, we’re already off to a bad start. The First Amendment explicitly prohibits this from being codified into American law. Not only is this not a foundational idea of our nation, it’s expressly illegal.

2: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image


A graven image of President Lincoln

A graven image of some old, dead white guys

A graven image of the anthropomorphic realization of lLiberty

Uh huh.

3: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

The First Amendment also prohibits this from becoming law. You can say “God,” “YHWH,” “Jehova,” “Allah,” or “Xenu” all you want.

4: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

We actually used to have Blue Laws, which first prohibited all work, and later the sale of alcohol, on Sunday (which is not the Sabbath, by the way; that’s Saturday), but these have fallen out of favor as of late.

5: Honour thy father and thy mother

A nice sentiment, but still not codified into law.

6: Thou shalt not kill

We finally have a winner! We had to go more than halfway through the Ten Commandments before we found one that actually applies to modern-day America, but Thou Shalt Not Kill is a pretty reasonable rule. Of course, this isn’t unique to Judeo-Christian law, but yes, this one counts.

7: Thou shalt not commit adultery

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), and a bevy of other moral crusaders, who just happen to be serial adulterers, are living proof that this commandment had no place in American government.

8: Thou shalt not steal

Another winner! So far, we are two for ten.

9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour

And the hits just keep on coming! Perjury is expressly prohibited by law. Three for ten.

10: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s

This is so laughable it almost hurts. Coveting thy neighbor’s stuff is what capitalism is built on. If we followed this commandment, the US economy would collapse.

So there you have it, folks! Proof positive that the Ten Three Commandments are the cornerstone of American law! All hail Baphomet!

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A new take on the Dark Knight

We all know that Batman v Superman – Holy Shit Finally is–loosely–based on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, the story that, after decades of camp, returned Batman to his gritty roots. That story was set in a “possible future,” where Reagan was declared President for Life, nuclear fallout had created a race of evil super mutants, and Superman had become America’s enforcer in chief. This made Batman sad, and as we all know, when Batman gets sad, he spends a billion dollars over the next decade synthesizing the one element in all the universe to which you are vulnerable, then builds a suit of powered battler armor to shove said glowing green rock up your ass.

Show us on the doll where the Batman touched you

The rumor mill has also stated that BVS will feature an older, grizzled Batman. Because of this, I always assumed that the movie would fast-forward, and show us events several years, maybe even decades, after Man of Steel. That latest news, though, shows that isn’t true.

The first footage from BVS has been released, and it shows an older, gray-templed Bruce Wayne … surveying damage to a Wayne Enterprises building caused by Superman’s battle with Zod.

This means BVS is happening in story-now time. This also means that Batman, in 2015, has been active for about thirty years.

The rumors are that this Batman became active sometime in the eighties, and has managed to stay below the radar that entire time. As of BVS, he’s still an urban legend, and has never been so much as photographed.

Except this time

It’s Superman, and the possible threat he poses, that finally draws him out of the shadows.

This is fascinating, and unique as far as Batman movies go. In Burton’s original film, Batman was an urban legend, but by the end, the entire city had seen him (and his giant, bat-shaped jet) fight the Joker toe-to-toe. Nolan’s film started with Batman announcing his presence to the world by stringing up Falcone on a dockyard spotlight. Nolan did show us an old, grizzled Batman, but by that time, he was a well-known entity in Gotham City.

A Batman that has flown under the radar for decades is completely new, as far as I know, and I’m really excited to see what they do with it.

More rumors indicate that the same is true of Wonder Woman; she’s been active for some time, but never made her presence known until Superman popped the world’s superhero cherry.

The image we’ve seen of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman indicates that they’re staying true to the latest versions of the character; a Greek-themed, ass kicking warrior who is physically on par with the Man of Steel.

Yes, please

When they first announced this movie, it sounded like a disaster in the works. But the more I hear about it, the more excited I get.

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Coming Soon: The Janus Project

Emily is like any other teenage girl. She goes to high school, has a crush on her best friend, Duncan, and is stressed out about college applications. Oh, and one more thing: Emily isn’t real.

She’s actually Nocturne, the leader of a team of super soldiers created by the Janus Project. Genetically engineered. Surgically enhanced. Chemically altered. Psychologically conditioned.

Perfect. Driven. Deadly.

Emily’s cover identity is so convincing that even Emily herself doesn’t realize she’s a government weapon. When a crazed soldier from the rival Ares program comes gunning for her, Emily’s perfect life is shattered, and Emily has to discover who–and what–she really is.

As promised, my next story will be coming out soon. I just heard from my editor, Morissa Schwartz, and she told me that she should have my manuscript back to me by the end of the week. It will take me another week or so to get the formatting right, and then The Janus Project will be released.

This story has also been turned into a television screenplay, and we’re shopping it around as we speak. So if you’re a television exec, buy my story and get me out of here!

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North Korea’s elite martial artists

Well, if North Korea is ever invaded by patio blocks, these guys will have it covered.

(via Vice)

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