Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recommended reading

Learning Diary of an Israeli Water Engineer. Some of his posts are about his work in various water engineering projects, and some are about his investments and economy. This gives the whole blog a nice no-nonsense "thoughts have consequences" attitude, and it spills out to his general commentary.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Movie: Dear John (full of spoilers)

Dear John tells about a soldier named John who falls in love with a college student named Savannah during his vacation from the army.

This chick flick is the first sob story which I have seen on the silver screen. The audience was 3/4 female, with a few token boyfriends in tow. In the most intense scenes of loss, you could hear sniffs from several directions.

Why did I pick this film? I just walked in the theater and chose the least descriptive film name. "Haikein terveisin" won. If I try to choose a 'good' movie I usually end up watching crap.

The best part of the movie is the beginning where John and Savannah meet. John has just finished a day of surfing in the beach and is walking topless. OkCupid profile picture research supports that males showing muscles is attractive.

From Mystery Method's three big value-demonstrating character traits (leader of men, preselected by women, protector of the loved ones) John hits heavily on protector of the loved ones from the very beginning. There are no other women involved. His absence of leadership is balanced by painting him as a lone wolf with dark and mysterious background.

From the game perspective, John does not demonstrate much psychosocial dominance. Others talk more and Savannah decides the next steps all the time. However, there are many scenes where other men crumble when placed in conflict against John. It is not about John having great character, rather it is about other men around Savannah having terrible character. John is a bit simple athlete who has gone through rough places and made it alive.

One theme in the movie is the autism of John's father. Frankly, the person who is supposed to play autistic seems merely introverted to me. There is only one scene where he loses his nerves and escapes and is clearly crazy. Then again my own standards may be twisted, since I had very weak emotional connection with my father when I was young.

If I could change one thing in the movie, the final hour would contain more scenes where communication breaks down and characters can't agree on a common frame of reference. Instead, they would laugh at each others, question their views, change the subject and blame the other for overreacting. It would have been better acted by amateur actors who can't deliver a single line of dialog right, since people under strong emotions can't punch straight verbal blows either.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Apocalypse. Now.

Smoke blots out the sun, creating eternal night
gone is humanity, trampled to the ground
suffocated by the ashes, utopia of thy design

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Long, hard and 5 cm thick

The newest addition to my collection of bodyweight training toys is a dancing pole. It is an order of magnitude more versatile than a pull-up bar - that's why there's no such thing as pull-up bar dancing.

It is also much heavier. If you don't exert any force against the pole, you will be sliding downwards. By contrast, to stay on a pull-up bar you only need to keep your hands curved.

Thus far, I've been mainly climbing the pole upwards - and it took months before my hands learned to use the force they already have for this purpose. As expected with new moves, I've found some 'pole dancing muscles' from my body, which don't get much exposure during regular gym training and get sore when gripping the pole puts disproportionate stress on them.

My weightlifting book is written by a coach, whose profession is to train university athletes in the weight room. The book aims at thoroughly strong, functional physique. During training, 'realistic' moves like shoulder press or pull-up are preferred, so that the strength is functional. The point is not to get as strong as possible, but to get moderately strong and train away all weak points. This brings resistance to injury when your body is strained from an unusual angle. The main ingredients of it's recipe are:
- Favor free weights and positions, where you don't get too much artificial support. This way, you can exert comparable force in real situations. For example bench press is just barely kosher - it is good for training strength but has too much artificial support to be a valid measure of strength. Practical situation where your back is against a wall and you press with hands are extremely rare. Shoulder press or squat are paragons of functional strength.
- Upper body exercises are not divided by muscle groups, but into 4 categories - vertical/horizontal push/pull. The individual muscles will get trained on the way. If weightlifting is not you main sport, exact muscles don't matter. What does matter is that the muscles are used to working together.
- Exercises are variated, for example between narrow and wide grip, between pronated and supinated grip, and between dumbbells and barbells. This way, choosing a wrong basic exercise does not leave any point of your body untrained.

If I manage to avoid all injuries with the pole, I can thank this piece of advice afterwards. Now they are just hypotheses which sound reasonable. In one year, I'll have experimental data about the validity of the hypothesis in one case.