Standing desk: one week later

Sitting, they now say, is the new smoking.

Anyone who works a white collar job probably spends most of their eight (or nine, or ten) hour day with their ass firmly planted in a chair, and only get up to go to the bathroom or the cafeteria … where we also sit. And then we get in our cars (sitting again), drive home, and sit on the couch, watching the TV and shoveling junk food down our gullets, until it’s time for bed.

God, we really have become a sad, sedentary species, haven’t we?

We weren’t meant to sit this much, and doing so comes with a host of potential health issues: injury (from weakened, shortened muscles), obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name just a few.

I have a laptop at work now, and I finally set up a standing desk. I now spend most of my workday on my feet, typing at about chest level. One week later, here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s a lot easier than I expected I thought standing for eight hours a day was going to be torture, and I actually waited to do this until I had a laptop so I could wimp out and sit back down if I had to. Turns out, that fear was unfounded.

But my feet and legs are sore I’m not in any pain from standing up so long, but my feet and legs are a bit sore. The same kind of sore you get after your first post-break workout, actually. I expect this to fade after another week or so.

I’m more flexible Most of this is from the Yoga I’ve also started doing, but I don’t get the “Jesus I’ve been in a chair for the past six hours” stiffness anymore, either. It’s significantly easier for me to bend down and touch my toes now.

It was harder to concentrate standing up But only for a little while. Apparently, “sit down and get to work” was etched firmly in my mind, and when I came into the office and just stood there, some part of my brain didn’t register that the workday had begun. I had to force myself to get to work, but after a couple of days of that, I fell back into a natural routine.

I move a lot more now I shift from foot to foot a lot, and lean against the desk, or pace back and forth. Sometimes, I’ll just leave the office and go for a quick hallway walk while I puzzle something out. This constant, low-level activity mimics that of our hunter/gatherer ancestors, and I’m pretty sure it’s the ideal form of physical activity.

I can literally take a step back I find myself moving away from my screen sometimes. This physical action helps me mentally look at the bigger picture. It’s an interesting little trigger for switching my focus, and something that just happened naturally.

My coworkers probably think I’m weird: But fuck those guys, right?

So far, I love my standing desk, and the health benefits are very convincing. If you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge, I can’t recommend it enough.

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The latest Flash trailer shows Barry in action

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Palestine, Israel, and everyone caught in between

As I’m writing this, missiles are falling from the sky onto a place called Gaza, and about one thousand people have been killed.

Sadly, it almost seems like it’s not worth talking about. What, another armed conflict? What, more innocent civilians dying? Must be Friday.

But I don’t want to just look the other way on this, because what’s happening is terrible, and at least some of it is our fault.

Palestine is controlled by Hamas, a radical Muslim group. These people are evil, and they have murdered innocent people.

Here’s the problem. Israel? They’re kind of evil, too, and they have also murdered innocent people. It’s just that when they do it, it’s called “civilian casualties,” instead of “victims of terrorism.”

Israel has a right to defend itself, just like any other country. But I have a hard time believing that that’s what’s happening right now. The thing that started this whole conflict, the kidnapping and murder of three Isralie teenagers by Hamas? Well, it wasn’t really Hamas. This “war” is being fought on false pretenses.

Also, it isn’t really a war. This is a completely one-sided conflict. Israel destroys whatever they want, and the people of Palestine are almost completely unable to retaliate. As I’m writing this, more than one thousand Palestinians have died, and about fifty Israeli Defence Force soldiers have died. That’s twenty-to-one.

Most of the Palestinians who have died are civilians, too. Twenty-three civilians were killed by a stray shell. Israel bombed a UN-run school, killing at least fifteen. Some people are calling Isarel’s actions war crimes. Experts wonder is this is a matter of poor training, or if Israel just doesn’t care.

Hamas is evil, but the kids in that school? I doubt they were a threat. Their loved ones, though, are probably thinking about taking up arms. I mean, after your whole family is killed, what do you have left to lose? This is how terrorists are minted.

And on top of all this, America supports Israel’s actions, pretty much unquestioningly. Part of it is because of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who spend about $70 million every year lobbying for pro-Israeli policies.

But a lot of it is also due to this country’s weird religious fetish. In America, we have a small, but very vocal, minority of apocalyptic Christians, people who take the Bible literally, and believe that we are a few years away from living through the Revelation. In order for their Messiah to return, they believe, Israel must exist. Because of this, and because they believe the Jews to be “God’s chosen,” they will support Israel with a terrible fury. This sect of Christianity has a powerful degree of control over the Republican party, and over US politics in general.

And that disgusts me. The fact that we give bombs to people because some barely literate Bible thumpers think it will speed up the end of the goddamn world is the stuff of nightmares. For me, figuratively. But for the people terrified that they will die tonight, quite literally.

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What I’m working on these days

There’s a difference between an author and a writer.

An author is a guy who wrote a book. It’s cool being able to call yourself an author. You’ve got a book on a shelf, you can brag to your friends about it, and every once in a while someone will actually give you money to read the words you put down on a page.

It’s less glamorous being a writer. Because to be a writer, you have to go away, get by yourself, and make up stories. You have to tack one word after another, over and over again, forming sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, and eventually, whole novels. It takes a lot of work, and for long, long stretches of time, there aren’t any rewards.

But calling yourself an author is kind of resting on your laurels. Calling yourself a writer means you’re still hungry, still in the game.

The other day, I realized that the last book I published, Debutante, came out over a year ago. I’ve kind of stopped blogging, too. I don’t recap The Vampire Diaries anymore, and without a weekly commitment, there really hasn’t been an urgency to my writing. I had become, I realized, an author, not a writer.

Part of it is because I’m focused on other things. I’m working with a screenwriter, and trying to get some of my projects picked up by an honest-to-god TV studio. But a lot of it is because I’ve been making excuses about how busy I am.

That’s got to stop. I’m not an author, damn it, I’m a writer.

So here are the stories I’m committed to publishing by the end of the year:

The Janus Project: A sci-fi thriller type story, about a girl who leads a double life: a happy high school senior, and a deadly government assassin. This has been turned into a screenplay, too, and is currently sitting on a lot of important people’s desks, so I’m super excited about this project.

The Demon in Keystone Apartments: The first John Rose adventure. These are Lovecraftian adventures featuring a powerful sorcerer with a dark secret. This series will provide a home for a lot of the story ideas I have that don’t quite fit into one of my main series.

Wish: A Godless Saint Story: A short (10,000 words or so) story featuring my newest, and favorite, protagonist, Caden Lyndsey. In this story, Caden battles a demon possessing a cheerleader for control over an evil, powerful Jinni.

The Wild Hunt: The Godless Saint, Book One: The first Godless Saint novel. I’m actually more excited for this series than I am for Janus. Janus will make a great TV show, but Godless Saint is the kind of series I could literally spend the rest of my life writing. In this episode, Caden battles a pagan sorcerer planning to unleash Wotan on an unsuspecting town.

All four of these stories are finished, and ready for copyediting. Which is another change I’m making; from now on, I’m going to hire actual copy editors to go over my stories, rather than relying on crowdsourcing. I’m very grateful for everyone that has helped edit my novels in the past, but I want to start putting out a more professional product, and that means dropping some cash on a person who is able to spot all the red squiggles under all those words I type.

I’m also going to start the next Vampires of St. Troy novel, Wolf, sometime soon-ish. Probably after I finish the second Godless Saint novel, Love and War, which is about halfway done right now.

And who knows? Maybe in a couple of years you’ll see my name on a television screen, too.

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Putting Humpty back together again

I was the strongest guy in my high school.

Now, my graduating class was about 40 people, so that isn’t saying much, but it was still a point of pride. I was also the captain of my track team, which was an even bigger point of pride. I’m not a natural athlete, but I worked my ass off. My coach told me that he didn’t pick me to lead because I was good, but because he knew I put everything I had into it.

I didn’t compete in college athletics, but I did get into the martial arts. In my karate classes, my teacher called me a holy terror, and used me as a sparring dummy to show the other students what it was like to try and out-punch, or get grabbed by, a guy the size of a small oak tree. I got into Judo later, and the grappling skills I picked up there saved my ass a couple of times. PCP is a motherfucker, but even a motherfucker goes down when there’s no blood going to his brain.

After college, I got into powerlifting and something that you’d probably call Crossfit if you squinted at it sideways. I bench pressed 315lbs for reps, squatted 425lbs, and deadlifted 500lbs. These aren’t world-shaking numbers, but again, they were the best amongst the group of people I knew.

My adventures in circuit-for-time workouts and protein-shakes-and-more-protein-shakes dieting allowed me to drop about 70 pounds of post-college weight, and get into the best shape of my life. People came to me for advice on how to get fit, and a couple of people even asked me to get them in shape for Basic Training.

I’d always suffered from a collection of minor ailments. My knees have never been great; squatting with shitty form and running on hard roads when you tip the scales at somewhere around two hundred and fifty pounds do bad things to already temperamental joints. I got tossed on my head–literally–by a brown belt Judoka, and separated my shoulder. Then, a month later, I got tossed by my sensei, and popped it out again. That was the end of my martial arts career.

After I turned thirty, though, all of the aches and pains, bumps and bruises, started to add up, and new injuries didn’t heal the way they used to. I also went through an emotional crisis that left me an empty, bitter shell for a couple of years.

I’ve tried to get back into fighting shape a few times since then, but never with any kind of consistency or results. When all was said and done, I was walking around at three hundred and fifteen pounds, weak, stressed, stiff, hurt, and generally unhealthy.

I hurt myself again a while ago, dropping off the chin-up bar. Yeah, I blew my knee out doing chin-ups, because that’s how my life works. I’d been injured before, but never this bad. I was in pain all of the time, and as depressed as I had ever been. I was always the biggest, always the strongest, and now I couldn’t even take my dogs for a walk.

For the first time in my life, I went to a physical therapist. I had always assumed that these people were glorified personal trainers, and that they didn’t know anything I couldn’t teach myself. My PT, though, was a magician, and in a couple of months she had me back in the rack and squatting again. It was amazing.

I decided that it was time to rebuild myself, from the ground up. To start with the basics, relearn how my body worked, unlearn some bad habits, and get myself strong and healthy again. I started Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program, focusing on the fundamentals of safe movement under load. After a few months of that, I transitioned into Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program.

I’ve been doing 5-3-1 religiously, two days a week, for a couple of months now, and I’m pressing 175lbs, benching 280lbs, squatting 305pounds, and pulling 390lbs. Again, not world-shattering weights, but they’re better than I’ve been able to do in a long, long time.

In hopes of dropping a little weight, and just maybe staving off an early heart attack, I’ve started adding bike sprints into my life, too. Once a week, usually on Saturday, I’ll hop on the bike, sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 90, and repeat the whole thing for a total of five circuits.

My diet is falling back into place, too. I dropped soda, even diet, and drink about three liters of water a day. I’m eating mostly a ketogenic diet: breakfast is Bulletproof Coffee, which I absolutely hate but know is good for me; lunch is a Quest bar and two scoops of Muscle Milk, the only protein shake on the planet that I don’t hate, and dinner is a Big Ass Omelet; six eggs, peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and usually either bacon or sausage on the side. Yeah, I eat breakfast for dinner. It’s amazing, and everyone should do it.

I’ve been eating like this for a week now, and I’m down five pounds. I still weigh three hundred and eight pounds, but it’s a start.

There’s only one problem: while I’m getting stronger at all of the power lifts, and my weight is starting to come down, my body just can’t handle things like it could in college. My knees ache, my shoulders grind, and I generally have a surly disposition.

I’ve been reading a lot about gymnastic training lately. These guys are, pound for pound, some of the strongest athletes in the world. They are also some of the strongest athletes in the world, period. A lot of these guys can move weights that would make dedicated lifters blink. They also have a remarkable resilience to injury, because their progressions are so slow.

Because I had so much luck with the bodyweight exercises prescribed by my PT, I considered starting my own gymnastics training. I looked into Gymnastic Bodies (warning: that site has an auto-playing video that is loud as all fuck), Gold Medal Bodies, and Ido Portal’s work.

Gymnastics, though, seemed a bit out of my reach. For one, I’m thirty-four years old, and most accomplished gymnasts started when they were five. For another, I’m six foot four, and most passable gymnasts are about three foot seven. I needed something that would provide the same benefits–strength in the muscles and joints, developed through isometric tension–as gymnastics, but catered to a guy of my somewhat sullied athletic history.

Like any red-blooded American male, I was a pro wrestling fan in my teens. Diamond Dallas Page was one of my favorite stars, because his ethic–no matter how many times you knock me down, I’m gonna get back up and come back at you–was so powerful. When I heard he was teaching Yoga, though, I thought it was a joke.

Then I saw the video.

If you haven’t seen this video, go and watch it now. It’s one of the most powerful four minutes I’ve ever seen. Arthur Boorman is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever read about. He’s a Persian Gulf veteran, and when he came home, he was pretty much crippled. He weighed two hundred and ninety seven pounds. He couldn’t walk without the assistance of two crutches, which were always attached to his wrists. He lived his life strapped into a back brace and a pair of metal knee braces. His doctors told him he would never walk unassisted again.

Then he started doing Yoga.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation. The workouts were painful for him. He fell a lot. You can tell that a lot of the time, he would rather just give up, sit on the couch, and eat a pizza. But he didn’t give up. He kept going, kept fighting. “Just because I can’t do it today,” he said, “doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it someday.”

In six months, he lost one hundred pounds. He can walk without his canes. He can run. And do handstands, and headstands, and a whole bunch of other gymnastic-type movements that I couldn’t hope to pull off.

Diamond Dallas Page has made something of a career out of taking burned out, washed up men and putting them back together again. He got Scott Hall off drugs. He saved Jake the Snake Roberts’ life. He put Chris Jericho back together again.

I’m going to see what he can do for me.

I’ve known about DDP Yoga, and Arthur’s transformation, for a while now. It wasn’t until I heard DDP on the Onnit podcast that I really thought about giving it a try. Listening to DDP explain how he put himself back together, and how many benefits Yoga can confer–not just flexibility, but also strength and conditioning–finally convinced me.

I ordered the six-disk “max pack”, and bought a Yoga mat. I’ve been doing the workouts for a week now, twice a day, once if I have another workout planned. I’m not doing handstands yet, and I can’t even get my heels to touch the ground when I do Down Dog, but just because I can’t do it today doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it someday.

Namaste, mother fucker.

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A look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Want to relive some old memories (and get ready for Guardians of the Galaxy? Check out this recap of the MCU from ComiCon.

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Ten life skills everyone should have

A response to a thread on Reddit, here are ten skills I think everyone should possess:

First: how to balance your budget. Note that I didn’t say “balance your checkbook,” because it’s 2014 and we have computers to do our math for us now. Sure, look over your statement (which you should be getting online) for errors, but come on.

By balancing your budget, I mean knowing how much money you have coming in, knowing how much money you have going out, and making sure the first number is bigger than the second. If you have a steady job, this is dirt simple. It might not be easy, because middle class wages are currently a joke and the cost of living is skyrocketing, but it isn’t complicated.

Ramit Sethi has a great post on how to automate your finances, which everyone should read and follow. Again assuming a steady job, there is no reason not to have your bills pay themselves, and automatically set money aside in savings.

Second: how to do your own laundry. This is simple and easy, and if you’ve lived your whole life with mommy washing your underwear, it’s time to grow the fuck up. The Art of Manliness has a lesson for all of you mamma’s boys out there.

Third: how to cook. You don’t have to be a master chef, but your list of recipes needs to be more extensive that “a cell phone and a credit card.” You only need to know a handful of dishes, maybe fifteen or so, and you can eat a different, healthy meal three times a day, every day, for a week. Tim Ferriss can help you pick up the skills you need.

Fourth: how to exercise. I know, you’re hot shit now, but trust me, some day, maybe some day soon, you aren’t going to be able to drink a fifth of whiskey, eat Taco Bell, pull an all nighter, and hit the next day running. Your knees are going to start to hurt. Your belly is going to go from “cute paunch” to “Jesus what the fuck happened to me?” Your stomach is going to start violently objecting to the calorie-dense, nutrient poor, semi-solid masses you currently refer to as “food.” So do yourself a favor, lift weights, stretch, and get your heart racing every once in a while.

Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength is the best program for people new to weightlifting, bar none. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a great program for more experienced people. Bike Sprints will keep your heart working for the long hual. If you’re pressed for time, Tabata will kick your ass in four minutes flat. Kino MacGregor will teach you the basics of Yoga, and if that’s too girly for you, hearing Diamond Dallas Page scream namaste motherfucker! might be more up your alley.

My recommendation: lift weights twice a week, and end the session with a five 30-seconds bike sprints, then do some kind of bodyweight/yoga work three days a week.

Fifth: how to back up your computer. Everything lives on our laptops now, and if your hard drive crashes, you’re screwed. If you’re an Apple fanboy, you already have Time Machine installed on your computer; just hook up an external hard drive. If you’re a dirty Windows user, Crashplan is probably your best bet. If you’re using Linux, you don’t need my advice.

Sixth: how to use your mouth. Public Speaking is one of the most common, most debilitating fears. If you can speak confidently in public, people will think you’re some kind of wizard, and shower you with love, money, affection, and sexual favors.

Seventh: how to use your mouth. Here’s a lesbian who will teach you how to eat pussy, and here are some tips on the art of the blowjob.

Eighth: how to argue. Your friends, family, and lovers are going to piss you off, because people suck. You are going to piss off your friends, family, and lovers, because you suck, too. Don’t keep that shit bottled up. Fight. Fight quick, fight fair, and fight to heal. Here are some tips.

Ninth: how to not get pregnant. Maybe you want to never sleep and dedicate all of your finances to diapers and formula, but personally, I like to stay up late, get up at noon, and blow obscene amounts of cash on alcohol and cars. No glove, no love, folks.

Tenth: how to think critically. The world is full of people trying to put one over on you. Marketers. Newscasters. Con men. Swindlers. Politicians. Bosses. That girl you met at the bus station last night who is a little trashy but still kinda hot and she’s totally gonna bang you but first she needs to borrow a hundred dollars. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you.

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Just Show Up

I don’t want to go to the gym anymore.

When I wake up, I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m stiff. It hurts to walk, but I have to take the dogs out anyway. And Willow refuses to be potty trained, so I have to clean up a pile of dog shit. Or two. Or three.

This is all before 7am, and by the time it’s over, I don’t want to go to the gym. But I make myself go anyway. And you know what? The bike sprints aren’t as hard as my brain was telling me they were going to be. The weights aren’t as heavy. When I get done, I feel better, physically and mentally, because I went to the gym and put in the work.

That’s why I have a plan, a schedule, that tells me exactly what I’m going to do, every day, whether I want to or not.

Just showing up is 80% of everything.

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This week in the gym – Rest and Recovery

Over the last few months, I’ve learned that I can go full out, one hundred percent of the time anymore. I used to be able to do MetCons six days a week, and play Ultimate Frisbee, and eat like a starving Shaolin monk, and feel great.

But not anymore. And really, that’s okay. I used to think that this was a personal failing of mine, that my body was betraying me or I wasn’t dedicated enough. But I’ve learned that the MetCon MetCon MetCon style of training, and the always go hard or don’t bother showing up way of thinking, only works for so long.

For most people, it works for about a year. You can go balls to the wall for a year, before you get too banged up. You can go all out for a year before you become adapted. You can leave everything on the weight room floor every day for a year, and then it stops working.

And when that year is up, you have to adapt.

I’m using wave progression now. Basically, effort is divided into different “zones”:

  • Zone Zero – normal, sedentary American life
  • Zone One – you’re working comfortably. This is the kind of exercise you could do pretty much every day without needing to recover from it.
  • Zone Two – a bit harder, but you could probably still hold a conversation
  • Zone Three – more strenuous still, and you’ll need more recovery.
  • Zone Four – ever harder. This is the “today’s max” zone; you’re not setting a PR, but you’re giving it your all
  • Zone Five – you’re working your absolute hardest. This is the kind of workout that leaves you wrecked for days afterward.

With wave progression, you start week one in zone one. In week two, you’re working in zone two. In week three, you’re working in zone three. Finally, in week four, you’re working in zone four. Rocket science, I know.

After the fourth week, you take a recovery week, which is back down to zone one, and start all over again. The idea, though, is that all this work has made you able to work a little harder and still be in the right zone. It’s kind of a three steps forward, two steps back thing.

For example, last month my highest working weight for bench press was 225lbs. At the end of this month, it will be 240lbs.

I’ve changed up my schedule a little, too, to add in some extra High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Here’s what my plan looks like:

  • Monday – Metcon
  • Tuesday – 5/3/1 – Overhead press and deadlift
  • Wednesday – HIIT – Bike sprints
  • Thursday – Metcon
  • Friday – 5/3/1 – Bench press and squat
  • Saturday – HIIT – Elliptical sprints

This lets me hit most of the important types of exercise, HIIT, strength, and MetCon, but I’m never working the same muscles or the same energy systems the same way two days in a row.

Mon 12 May

  • Metcon – 5 circuits
    • Pushups, 5
    • Pullups, 1
    • Air squats, 5
    • KB Swings, 40lbs, 5
    • Dragon flags, 5

Tues 13 May

  • 5/3/1
    • Overhead Press
      • 65lbs * 5
      • 75lbs * 5
      • 90lbs * 5
    • Deadlift
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 185lbs * 5
      • 210lbs * 5

Wed 14 May

  • HIIT – Bike sprints
    • 1min on, 1min off, 5 rounds

Thur 15 May

  • Metcon, 1 circuit
    • Front squat, 45lbs, 15
    • Overhead press, 45lbs, 15
    • Banded chinups, 15
    • Dragon flags, 15
    • Hypers, 15

Fri 16 May

  • 5/3/1
    • Squat
      • 110lbs * 5
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 160lbs * 5
    • Bench
      • 100lbs * 5
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 145lbs * 5
    • Pullups, 3s

Sat 17 May

  • HITT – Elliptical
    • 1min on, 1min off, 5 rounds

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This Week in the Gym

I finally got to the last week of my 5/3/1 + MetCon experiment, and I have come to a conclusion: I am a weak little girl.

And I’m not twenty anymore, so I can’t recover from six-days-a-week MetCons and serious strength training. So I’m going to take the prescribed recovery week, and then redraft my plan. Here’s what I think it’s going to look like:

  • Monday – Metcon
  • Tuesday – 5/3/1 – Overhead press and deadlift
  • Wednesday – Bike sprints
  • Thursday – 5/3/1 – Bench press and squat
  • Friday – Metcon

This is more days per week that I was doing before, but one less MetCon, so we’ll see.

This week’s training

  • 06 – Tuesday
    • 5/3/1 – Overhead press
      • 105lbs * 5
      • 120lbs * 3
      • 135lbs * 7
    • Metcon
      • Pushups, 20
      • Chins, 2
      • Bench leg raises, 20
      • Hyper extensions, 20
      • Air squat, 20
        • 5 rounds, 12:15
  • 07 – Wednesday
    • 5/3/1 – Deadlift
      • 250lbs * 5
      • 280lbs * 3
      • 315lbs * 7
    • Metcon
      • Ring pushups, 10
      • Ring rows, 10
      • Ring jumping lungs, 10
        • 5 rounds, 9:04
  • 08 – Thursday
    • 5/3/1 – Bench press
      • 108lbs * 5
      • 200lbs * 3
      • 225lbs * 7
  • 10 – Saturday
    • 5/3/1 – Squat
      • 185lbs * 5
      • 205lbs * 3
      • 225lbs * 10

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