Saturday, July 31, 2010

Some words when spoken...

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A word, once spoken, never dies in the mode of its meaning, though it passes in the mode of its utterance. Each of us is a word spoken by God in the medium of spacetime, and though we shall become silent, yet none of us shall wholly cease to exist in making the world what it is concretely, in making "the world" mean precisely what it means.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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Tuesday: 30 mins:
Jumping jacks, Jump rope, ab work
(Just some calisthenics to work out some soreness and keep my mind in the game, knowing I will back "on" next week.)

Wednesday: mins: 60 mins:
Jump rope, ski machine, erg, bench press
(This was just an excuse to use my 7-day trial pass at World's Gym, but I had a lot of fun with the jump rope. I have been hunting down clips and tutorials of jump rope technique and tips. (The "three-step breakdown" movie clip near the middle of the webpage I just cited in tips really opened my eyes to running in place with the jump rope!) During this workout, I focused on the "run in place" jump. My first few times I only made 5–10 revolutions before getting tripped up. Then I took a water break, came back, and my brain had seemed to adjust. I did 68 skips, then 96, then 120 or so. I mixed it up with what I call "drop kickers," which is just an alternating jump where one foot extends forward past the midline while the other skips, then switch and switch, etc.

Of note is the fact that I also used an erg after nearly a year away from one. Oh, how I love crew. About which more soon….)

Thursday: 180 mins:
Jumping jacks, jump rope, erg, bench press, ab/oblique leg raises, shrugs, lat pulldowns, grip flexes
(I was just messing around again in the gym. A lot of time today went to chatting with Pac Man and his friend, James, which was fine. I figure I might as well enjoy my trial period at World's. I saw yet more improvement with my jump rope.

Then I moseyed over to the erg for some… erg work… and, lo and behold, I went for a 2000m erg piece! I pulled a 7'32" raw (adjusted 7'00".) I haven't pulled a 2000m erg in… at least a year, so I admit I was pleased by my time, and it's encouraging, in a way, that my weight still gives me a better adjusted time, since I figured I only pulled a semi-decent time due to the fact that I am 30–40 pounds heavier than in high school, when I pulled around 6'30" raw. But, it seems, I still managed to pull with relative power versus just sheer, brute inertia, so, thumbs up for weightlifting and jump rope!

This was followed by a ten-minute coaching session in which I taught James how to row. It really is an art, and it was nice to know I have internalized such a beautiful sport. James has way better pecs and quads than I do, but I can do a sprint at 42 strokes per minute gyar-ha-harrghh!

Then I continued my mosey over to the free weights just to work on my bench press technique and some grip strength and ab training: 4 sets of 30 reps of leg raises and three sets of barbell wrist curls at 27kg (to failure).

The novelty of this workout is that Pac Man gave me some power straps. These allow you to train muscles beyond what your grip strength tolerates. As I mentioned in an earlier post, grip strength limits some muscle training, since if you can't hold on to it, you can't lift/pull it, à la "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." To really develop my lats and traps, I need to be able to "hold on" to more weight for more reps than my wrists can handle. Today, for example, I did 12 reps of shrugs at 160kg, whereas last week, for my trap workout, I did 6 reps at 120kg. For my lats, I did two sets of 12 reps at––I think!––80kg. Needless to say, the straps will help as I go.

Stay tuned. I've got posts on memes, Freud, logic and free will, and linguistic relativism lined up.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Random observations…

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I think Freud missed his target by a few species. All that stuff about stages of anal and fecal and genital fixation in human children––bah! I've never seen a greater fecal fixation than in my new kitten. I had cats when I was a kid but I never realized how fascinated––obsessed?––they are with their own excretions. Cheetoh may be mewling for food and then ear-deep in the bowl, but as soon as I go over to shovel the piss pebbles and sandy little turds out of her litterbox, she drops everything (as it were, since cats, you understand, don't have hands, and therefore…) to sit attentively by the box, watching my every move. It's as if she hid drug money in there and is waiting to see if I'll discover it this time around. Or maybe she's curious to see what I can contribute to the malodorous little sandbox.

Is this normal cat behavior?


Generally, in Taiwan, if it's open, it's open; if it's not open, it's closed. Shops and restaurants, I mean. Despite having heard Taiwanese people tout themselves on how "green" they are as a nation, it is totally run of the mill to see the doors of a shopping mall or a restaurant wide open to the sun, allowing hordes of cold-air ghosts to gush out. (And don't get me started on how much snoke they produce by burning "ghost money" every few days for lunar events.) Often, restaurants won't even have doors; they'll just have retractable metal security walls that roll up for business hours and roll down for security after hours. As a result, customers will be lined up halfway in and halfway out of the place, as those leaving or those just looking buzz and weave around pillars and the crowd at every angle. As long as the doors are open, the shop is open for business, even if it looks dark or slow from the street. By contrast, in the USA, it is my recollection that every establishment has well maintained doors and that the only way you'll know if it's open or not is if the lights are on and customers are visible. How many times have I (or you) heard this line, "Son, go up and check the hours", to ascertain whether a place is open or not?


I saw Predators last week and loved it. It really brought back the old rush from the original. I was a big Predator fan, though I never got into the sequels. Plus, hey, the original was AN AHNOLD MOVIE!

I also watched Session 9 last night, having heard rave reviews of it at, of all places, Dr. Feser's blog, and hoo boy was that creepy, even despite the fact I was on and off busy sorting and haging clothes, warding off a curious kitten from the keyboard, and other such bacheloristic diversions. It's currently available for viewing at Youtube (in nine parts, aptly enough) and I highly recommend it. I'm about a third the way through The Ninth Configuration, for which I have seen many very positive reviews from some friends and Internet-acquaintances. It is surreal and gripping, but also plain funny. Sort of like Catch-22 meets My Dinner with Andre. I understand it ultimately deals with some very profound religious matters, such as evil and suffering, and it was written by Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, and by all accounts a very devout Catholic. Also highly recommended, and also (again, in nine parts!) available for viewing at Youtube.

Time for coffee.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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25 July 2010
89kg, BMI 25
A4 workout: Traps, Tris & Shoulders: 80+ mins
(Since most of these exercises are dumbells, but can be done with barbells, I have listed the total weight, not just the weight for each hand.)

Warmup: Calisthenics/stretching... lots of stretching

Dumbbell military press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 14kg-36kg/32kg/27kg

Dumbbell upright row: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 14kg-36kg

"Kowtow" dumbbell reverse flye: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 14kg-27kg
(I learned this form of the flye from Pac Man [see below], but I made up the name myself. Kowtow is Cantonese for 叩頭 [kou4tou2], which means to bow and 'knock' one's head on the floor in deference to another. You bend down to rest your head on a padded back support, or something around waist height, and do normal flyes in that position. I like these because they also work the neck and abs.)

Shrug: 12x, 10x, 7x, 6x @ 80kg-120kg

Supine triceps extension: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 14kg-30kg

Elbows-out extension: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 14kg–27kg

Rope triceps extension: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 15kg–30kg/25kg (?)
(I'm still too feisty with these, going for too much weight at the expense of clean form. Patience. Humility. Confidence.)

Rowing shrug: 20x @ 50kg;
Barbell grip: 2x @ 60kg (to failure)


A unique workout today. My friend–-call him Pac Man––invited me to try working out at his gym, a World's Gym. I began the workout a bit antsy, since Pac Man was thirty minutes late for the time he had already asked to shifted from 3:30PM to 4:30PM. In this case, that was like the sun beating the moon to the dawn. At least it gave me time to stretch, And practice that subtlest of old virtues, patience.

Once he got there, I pretended to speak no Chinese at all, sort of on the premise that I was "a new foreigner in town" looking for a gym. I got a 7-day guest pass, but bow howdy what a hoot it was to pretend I understood no Chinese at all! It took me back years! I forgot what it felt like to have Taiwanese people talk about me or just past me to "my Taiwanese friend" and I had to catch myself many times before I let spontaneous Chinese out.

Great Scot, World's Gym is so snazzy compared to Central Power! I knew this going in, but I was struck with mixed feelings by the forgotten novelty of a "nice gym" after so many years of working out at home or outside. The AC was a big adjustment and not entirely welcome. After every set I could feel myself tightening up in the cold air, so I had to keep stretching myself out. On the other hand, the equipment was superb: Ivanko plates! I was initially tripped up by the blend of pound and kilogram weights in the free weight section, but did my best to find the right weight by feel. By far the greatest boon is that World's has a hot tub, sauna, and showers with hot water. The owner of Central sees no reason to turn on hot water during the summer and I don't use hot water when I shower at home, so today it was delicious to get warm and loose in the hot tub, unwind and get clean in the shower, and then cool down with a cold rinse and the AC. After a normal workout, at home or at Central (I have no AC at home, either), I generally sweat for about an hour afterwards, but I am happy to report I had stopped sweating half an hour after today's workout. Such a sexy beast, I know!

Today I tried a new exercise, the elbows-out extension, and I agree they really "work the tris." I did them at a slight incline, instead of prone, like I did my barbell extensions. This exercise and the dumbbell military press showed me in short order how much weaker my left arm is compared to my right arm. I'm left-handed but my throwing, hitting, yanking hand is my right, whereas I use my left hand for writing and smaller motor actions (like entering personal PIN numbers [HT to Erick B.!] or talking on the phone). That's why I love dumbbell exercises: they strip the exercise down to the bone, activate finer, deeper accessory muscles, and display weakness right away by way of wobbly form and uneven weight movement. A barbell can mask asymmetrical weakness as the stronger side shifts its power through the body to compensate for the weaker member, thus keeping the bar's motion basically uniform. Meanwhile the weaker arm is hiding, not growing like it should. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use barbells. I also love barbell exercises, since they tend to concentrate the power on the target muscle without losing effort lot on sloppy form. Every now and then, though, you need to use dumbbells as diagnostic tools. Now that I know my left arm is weaker, when I do barbell tricep exercises, I will add a tiny amount of extra weight to the left side so that over time it will catch up with the right arm. There's a fine analogy for life in the Church in all this, I'm sure… oh, that's right! I Corinthians 11:22ff:

[22] On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable,
[23] and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
[24] which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part,
[25] that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
[26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

I lost weight on a few exercises compared to my last A4 workout, but my form was much better and I know I worked really hard today. I made yet another big leap with my shrug, partially because I've broken the glass ceiling and realize light shrugs are a waste of time (truly a case of "go heavy or go home"), but also because I used a shoulder-width grip. Two A4 workouts ago, I was gripping the smooth ring-gap between the knurling (now there's a word I'd have never learned if not for BBing!), last A4 I was gripping the inner knurling. A shoulder-width grip gave me more range of motion; if nothing else, they looked good in the mirror! The weight was so heavy in fact, that I had to use a mixed grip (or deadlift grip) to keep the bar from rolling out of my fingers. Grip strength is one of the most essential but most underestimated components of weightlifting. If you can't hold the weight, you can lift it. If you can't hang on to the bar, you can't do another pullup, no matter how much more you lats might be able to do. And so on. This is why I think I will start wrapping a towel around the grip for curls, extensions, rows, deadlifts, etc. I could use gloves, but I don't like them (not for now, at least) and the added girth of the towel will do just as much good for my grip. Interestingly enough, while looking for a photo of the deadlift grip, I learned it should only be used for competition weight, while a normal prone grip should be used for training evenly.

My rib injury is annoying but I'll just have to keep working around it. It's not a fracture, just an inflamed muscular lamina, or an intercostal, that must have gotten really poked by the weight belt when I did squats last time. Leg raises don't hurt, so I'll work those a lot next week to get my stomach back up to speed with the rest of my recent gains.

Take heart, I've got a couple "serious posts" about Freud, evolutionary psychology, and memes coming down the barrell, so, always, stay tuned.


2 comment(s)
…tweaking a 3-day routine…

A. Ur-Workout 1:
1. Bench Press 5X8,8,6,6,6 [i.e., 5 sets of 8, 8, 6, 6, and 6 reps]

2. Wide-grip Pullups 3X10

3. Military Press 3X10,8,6

4. Barbell Curl 3X10,8,6

5. French Press 3X10,8,6

6. Squat 3X10,8,6

7. Leg Curl 3X10,8,6

8. Standing Calf Raises 5X15

B. Ur-Workout 2:
1. Bench Press 5X8,8,6,6,6

2. Wide-grip Pullups 3X10

3. Military Press 3X10,8,6

4. Barbell Curl 3X10, 8, 6

5. Elbows-out Extensions 3X10,8,6

6. Squat 3X10,8,6

7. Straight-leg Deadlift 3X10,8,6

8. Seated Calf Raises 5X15

C. Off-days:
Abs 3X50

Wrist Curl 3Xfailure

Neck Bridge & Neck Raises 3X & 3X15

Jump rope

Hypothetical week:
Monday A.
Tuesday C.
Wednesday B.
Thursday C.
Friday A.
Saturday C.
Sunday ø

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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24 July 2010
87kg, BMI 25
A3 workout: Hamstrings and Back: 80 mins

Warmup: Stretching/calisthenics

Straight leg deadlift: 12x, 10x, 8x, 7x @ 50kg–90kg

Leg curl: 12x, 15x, 15x, 15x @ 20kg–30kg

Underhand barbell row: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 40kg–90kg

Wide-grip lever lat pulldown: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 55kg–85kg

Lever bench row: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 40kg–90kg

One-arm dumbbell row: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12.5kg–32.5kg [?]

Straight-leg deadlift: 20x @ 40kg;
Wide-grip lat pulldown (negative): ~1min @ 40kg
Leg curls: 35x @ 15kg (to failure) Hanging leg lifts: 30x, 30x (these KILLED my forearms yet again! So much so that I'm having my new kitten type this log for me. … No, her name is not Mr. Bigglesworth. Her name is Cheetoh. Cheetoh Jackson, for legal purposes.);
Stretching… lots of stretching


I tried to move through this workout quickly and you'll notice it was under my usual 90 minutes, even despite the fact that I chatted it up with a Mr. Xie. He's one of the "big guys" at my gym, though he has chicken legs, and when he saw me doing my first or second set of straight.leg deadlifts, he came up to me suddenly to compliment my form. He marveled at how "naturally" I seemed to do it, especially how straight I kept my back. At about half the weight I was lifting he said his lower back couldn't bear the strain. The problem, he realized, is that he lets his back curve at the lower part of the deadlift, whereas my back remained as flat as a board on the way up and down. I explained that my years of training in crew had taught me to keep the back board-stiff, like a platform, and I recommended he try some "Supermans" or hanging back extensions to "get the feel" of a proper deadlift back. Actually, you need slightly to hyperextend your spine while standing so that on the way down, it will naturally (!) level out into a firm platform. Otherwise, a curved back shifts the fulcrum from the hips to the lower back and really is dangerous. Mr. Xie was also really impressed at how flexible I am, saying my body type is better than a lot of the young guys who "just want to get big." I appreciated his encouragement, but also found it ironic, since he is clearly someone who's put a lot of time into getting big, yet without getting flexible or strong in some "big lift" core muscle areas, such as the lower back and glutes.

I worked the hell out of my back today. I made some noticeable weight gains from my last A3 workout, which felt good. So good, in fact, that I was seriously tempted to just stick with my A workout, or switch my other 4-day ("B") workout, as outlined in Arnold's The Education, and forget 'downgearing' to his 3-day full-body routine. We'll see. As with my recent A1 workout, today's workout felt good because it reminded me of crew. I've already put on some muscle, yet today I only weighed in at 87 kilograms. Certainly this drop in weight was due to the fact that I wore sandals today, which I removed for the weigh-in, and because I wore a long-sleeve shirt today, precisely in order to sweat a lot. I wrung my headband out three times, yielding a shower of sweat. When I did my last, cooldown set of straight-leg deadlifts, I left two puddles of sweat under my cuffs at the bottom of the lift.

It dawned on me that neither my A workout, nor the Ur-Workout, nor even the one-set HIT workout I cited in the post yesterday about the Ur-Workout includes a plain ol' deadlift. This intrigues me. I'm eager to try the deadlift, since it is allegedly the purest, rawest lift there is, engaging nearly the entire body in a totally "concentric" motion (versus the usual eccentric-concentric [up-down, flex-reload] motion of, say, the bench press or barbell curls). I realize that between the squat, curls, shrugs, and straight-leg deadlifts, I get all the benefits of the deadlift, so I'm actually intrigued by the idea of training sans deadlift for a few months and then seeing where I stand on the deadlift Chain of BBing. Once I get over this little rib soreness, I need to get back to working the hell out of my abs, albeit every other day. My midsection is getting a bit puffy recently; not exactly pudgy or weak, just… oddly distended. I think it's from the milk I've been trying to incorporate into my diet lately (nuh-uh, sorry, no more of that: I'll have to down a yogurt or something instead before bed; lactose intolerance woes are for the birds) and from the protein loading I've been doing after workouts; I hear the stuff can make you feel bloated. I guess I can vouch for that. Once I finish this canister of it, I'll decide whether to get anymore. My reading in an exercise physiology textbook and the testimony a of BB friend has me mostly convinced powder-protein-loading is just a BB fetish, and that the normal caloric gains from increased food consumption suffice to "bulk up" muscle hypertrophy.

Stay tuned.

Readings from…

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ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO: Forgive and give
There are two works of mercy which will set us free. … Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon [the Lord] says: "Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness." Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar too in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a gift — the gift of God himself. What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive.
(Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 83, 2.4.)

Our prayer is "Make known to me, O Lord, my end." The end is where we are going to stay. When we left our houses, our end was to come to church. Again, from here each of us has the end of going home. We end in the place we are going to. So now here we all are, engaged in life's pilgrimage, and we have an end we are going toward. Toward what are we going? Toward our home country. What is our home country? Jerusalem, mother of the faithful, mother of the living!
-- Sermon 16A, 9
[Quo vades?]

Prayer. You, the Omnipotent and the Good, care for each of us as if each was your sole care, and for all as for one alone!
-- Confessions 3, 11

[1] From this [viz., "Therefore, that which is before all things, namely, God, must be free of all composition." Cf. SCG I, xviii] Aristotle concludes that in God there can be nothing violent or unnatural.

[2] Everything in which there is found something violent and outside nature has something added to itself, for what belongs to the substance of a thing can be neither violent nor outside nature. Now, nothing simple has anything added to itself, since this would render it composite. Since, then, God is simple, as we have shown, nothing in Him can be violent or outside nature.

[3] Furthermore, the necessity of coaction is a necessity from another. But in God there is no necessity from another; He is necessary through Himself and the cause of necessity for other things. Therefore, nothing in God is due to coaction.

[4] Again, wherever there is something violent, there can be something beyond what befits a thing through itself; for the violent is opposed to what is according to nature. But in God there cannot be anything beyond what befits Him according to Himself; for God, as we have shown, is of Himself the necessary being. There can, therefore, be nothing violent in God.

[5] Then, too, everything in which there can be something violent or unnatural is by nature able to be moved by another. For the violent is “that whose source is from the outside, the receiver being completely passive.” Now, as we have shown, God is absolutely immobile [Cf. SCG I, xvi?]. There can, therefore, be nothing violent or unnatural in Him.

Today I want to wish you one of the blessings accorded to Saint Mary Magdalene; not her ecstasies or extraordinary gifts, but imitating her by sitting at the feet of Jesus all the days of our life. Above all, I hope you have the courage to overcome the difficulties that impede you from God. Therefore, continually seek the Lord and do not give up until you have found Him. Seek Him out during this mortal life, not risen and glorious, but crucified and dead. Prepare your shoulders to carry the cross of the Crucified with love, and if the burden is heavy, console yourself, because courage and love will give you the strength.
(Sermons 48; O. X, p. 96)

IT is a sufficient proof that we are not an essentially democratic state that we are always wondering what we shall do with the poor. If we were democrats, we should be wondering what the poor will do with us. With us the governing class is always saying to itself, 'What laws shall we make?' In a purely democratic state it would be always saying, 'What laws can we obey?'

Friday, July 23, 2010

He's here to pump––you up!

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I was a big fan of SNL in my pre-teen and teen years, doing the best "Ahnold" impersonation in elementary, middle, and high school. (Yet another subconscious factor that led me to study German in high school. That, and Indiana Jones!) Well, after a month on my four-day "A" workout, I've been reflecting and reading many articles online, and I've decided to take a step back in my training. Reviewing Arnold's 3-day routine as outlined in The Education of a Bodybuilder, I realize I'm still at the "foundation-laying" level and a 4-day routine is just beyond my capacities right now.

Plus, the point of a 3-day, full-body routine is to develop core strength, whereas the 4-day routine I'm currently doing is "for intermediate to advanced builders in their growth cycle," and a number of the exercises, I now realize, are more about sculpting or toning muscles inside larger muscles groups, rather than building all-around strength for the major muscle groups. Since I still intend to advance to Arnold's 4-day routine as outlined in The Education, which I'd call my "B" routine, I suppose I shall call this "new" 3-day routine "the Ur-Workout".

And it's not just what I read in The Education that's got me thinking. This article, for instance, endorses the same "high-intensity" training for a 3-day split: squats, leg extensions, leg curls, dumbbell pullovers, military press, cable rows, bench press, barbell curls, triceps press, pullups, bench dips, standing calf raises, and crunches. It is outlining a single-set circuit workout for the whole body, while I am a big fan of at least a three-set workout, so I merely note it to reinforce my point: I've put the cart before the horse with an intermediate-to-advanced 4-day split and need to work back from the ground up with shorter, harder workouts. I quote the article:

Stop thinking that more is better! Many bodybuilders who are used to high volume training would laugh at a bodybuilder who does one set per exercise and only works out three days per week. I ask them how many times a week they work their biceps.

Almost always, they say once per week. So they work their biceps, then they let them rest for 7 days in a row? After 1 or 2 days, their biceps are no longer sore, yet they wait another 5 or 6 days to work them again. Their biceps are slowly shrinking during this long rest period.

In our workout you isolate each body part three times per week with a full, heavy set. You hit it on Monday, let it rest one day, hit it on Wednesday, let it rest, hit it on Friday, and then give the poor muscle a two day break before starting the cycle again.

It raises an interesting point, and I admit I am mildly conflicted––ambivalently curious is a better way to put it––about whether to try this one-set, 3-day split or go with Arnold's 3-day program–– but indecision is a waste of time, so I'm sticking with Arnie on this new tack. I can always try the 3-day, 1-set routine sometime down the line, God willing.

In any event, here are a couple problems I see in my A routine, at least for my rank on the Great Chain of BBing. First, my workouts are lasting too long. The article I just cited exhorts,

"The workout should last no longer than 45 minutes! … Studies have shown that after 47 minutes of intense weight training, your cortisol levels shoot up. This means that the longer you workout after 47 minutes, the less results you will get and the more likely you will overtrain. So get in the gym, lift hard, stay focused, and get out."

As you may have noticed, my workouts currently take a minimum of 90 minutes, which, while it includes time for warmup and cooldown, still puts me a good 20 minutes over the "cortisol cutoff" period. As Arnold says in The Education (p. 181), the 3-day workout "should be done in 45 minutes, or at most, an hour." So, bad on me.

Second, partially as a result of the first error, I suspect I'm verging on overtraining. As Arnold says on page 191, "The worst mistake the average aspiring bodybuilder makes is attempting to do too much." On page 192 he adds,

"Training too much is as bad––if not worse––than not training enough. Somehow you will have to trust your body to tell you when you are overtraining. It lets you know through excessive aches and sprains. However, with the kind of program I've given you here I don't think it's possible to overtrain––and you shouldn't misread simple soreness."

Points well taken. Having done sports for most of my life, I am not squeamish about soreness––indeed, I relish it as a sign of growth––but, to paraphrase Arnold, I have an intuition lately that my body is "telling me" to change my routine a bit. Patience. Humility. Confidence.

What, then, is Arnold's 3-day routine? He explains on page 180, "These exercises are to be done three times a week, with one day between workouts for mending and setting. … In the beginning you will be training your whole body in one day. This should be followed by a rest day because it takes forty-eight hours for the muscles to recuperate…." Specifically, Arnold promotes ten exercises for each workout, done in three "pyramiding" sets, unless otherwise specified in the directions:

1. Bench Press 5X8,8,6,6,6 [i.e., 5 sets of 8, 8, 6, 6, and 6 reps]

2. Wide-grip Pullups 3X10

3. Military Press 3X10,8,6

4. Barbell Curl 3X10,8,6

5. French Press 3X10,8,6

6. Squat 3X10,8,6

7. Leg Curl 3X10,8,6

8. Standing Calf Raises 5X15

9. Situps 3X50

10. Wrist Curl 3Xfailure

(I am of a mind to add a bent-over barbell row, since I want to work my back more, so maybe I'll replace the wrist curl with a barbell row and do wrist curls on my off-days.)

As Arnold explains,

"There are no alternatives to these exercises. … If you try to get away from them the size of the muscle will go down. … Basic exercises work directly on the muscle. You fall into a groove and don't even have to think about anything except the pump and the form of the exercise. With the complicated exercises, you have to concentrate all your thought on the exercise and not the muscle. I think the reason some bodybuilders use delicate exercises, which I call chicken exercises, is that they don't feel confident with the basic movements or with themselves. … [Y]ou can't use as much as weight when you make the exercise difficult, so it takes away from the meaning of heavy training" (p. 180).

On page 192 he notes that how long you stay with this routine depends on your goals. "If you are training just to get in shape, you can stay with this program for six months. If you want to get into competitive bodybuilding, you will take less time… and may very likely move on to the next [4-day] program in three months." I am somewhere between "just for fitness" and "for competition," but either way I need to get the cart behind the horse and dig into the discipline of a beginner's foundation-laying.

So, I'll do A3 and A4 this weekend, take next week "off" to swim, jump rope, and stretch, and then begin "the Ur-Workout" the following week. The trick will be spacing it out over six days when my teaching schedule is fulltime again, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. Arnold has long been a personal inspiration to me, and countless others, whether for fitness or for comedic relief, so can I really go wrong by sticking to his foundation training? I say not! Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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22 July 2010
89kg BMI 25
A2: Chest and Calves, 120 mins

Warmup: Jumping jacks, Jump rope, calisthenics/stretching

Incline bench press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 40kg–70kg/60kg/50kg

Supine bench press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 50kg–70kg/65kg/60kg

Supine barbell flye: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12kg–20kg

Cable crossover fly: 12x, 10x, 8x, 12x @ 27kg–36kg

Seated calf raise: 20x, 20x, 20x, 20x @ 55kg–65kg

Standing calf raise (with Smith machine): 20x, 20x, 20x, 20x @ 60kg–80kg

Leg raises: 30x;
Dumbbell flyes: 26x @ 12kg;
Bench press: 30x @ 40kg (to failure… a few times… until I trudged all the way to 30 reps. This was neat, too, since I devised my own safety catch by putting the thigh-high rack around the bench and could lower the barbell to it if I couldn't get it back up on the rack. I also did some deep breathing each time after failure and was surprised at how much I felt the power come back for the next 3–5 reps.);
Leg raises: 30x;
Seated calf raises: 30x @ 40kg;
Hanging leg raises: 20x (these killed my forearms!);
Standing calf raises: 20x, 20x @ 60kg;
Hanging calf raises: 30x (these killed my forearms even deader!);
Ski machine: 5 mins


My chest really is my weakest muscle group. Suffering from such a defect, and admitting it, is a cardinal sin for "serious bodybuilders," since the chest is the celebrity muscle group. But it seems most guys don't understand building endurance and accepting slow but steady gains. (Or maybe I'm just rationalizing!) It doesn't help that a 4-set circuit routine is quite, shall I say, demoralizing. By the time I get to my third set, for instance, my pecs are already pretty drained, so I can't produce massive weight gains on the bar, especially with such a high-rep count. Once I get more comfortable with my core exercises and my basic strength-foundation, I will probably shift to a lower rep-cycle. Instead of 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x, I might, for example, do a 10x, 6x, 4x, 2x cycle instead, for higher weight and greater intensity.

One thing weird about this workout is the mysterious rib injury I have on my lower right ribcage. I think the weight belt dug into my ribs on that side when I did my squats last time. Once–-not if!––I get through Saturday and Sunday, I will take next week off to swim, work the rope, and stretch a lot. Onward!

A review of Wittgenstein Reads Weininger

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[I just posted this review at]

While I enjoyed Mr. Solway's deliciously scathing review of Wittgenstein Reads Weininger (WRW), I must stay my hand from a similar review and warmly endorse WRW. I majored in German in college, after four years of it in high school, so I consider German my "father tongue." I maintain an active interest in Germanic studies and enjoy reading anything that refreshes or deepens my grasp of the German language and Austro-Prusso-Germanic history. The fact is, there are very few books like this on the English-speaking market, and I feel a bit jilted that I only dimly knew of Weininger as a name I must have seen in a dozen footnotes over the years. If you want to get some tantalizing and rare insights into Wittgenstein's intellectual formation, this book is a must-read. Granted, a couple of the essays can start to feel repetitive towards the center of WRW, since, well, all the essays are dealing with the same topic! Nonetheless, a careful reading of WRW, especially the endnotes, will deliver numerous sparks of pondering for the Germanophilic thinker.

I think much of what Mr. Solway complains about (viz., WRW's lack of declarative substance) is based on the relative lack of textual data about Witt's opinion of Wein. Witt is notorious for his aphoristic, erratic manner of expression, so there is no denying the authors in WRW often have to weave a carpet out of what must feel like a few stalks of wheat. Yet, they are explicit about this precarious exegetical position, so it is interesting to see how the authors navigate the data in creative and honest ways. If Western philosophy is rightly considered a series of footnotes to Plato, I think much of modern philosophy could be construed as a series of dissertations on Wittgenstein's footnotes. Arguably, never was more written about less, since Witt's miniscule Tractatus alone has generated a flood of scholarship––even after it has been conceded the positions in the Tractatus are mostly defunct, even from Witt's own perspective. If this kind of asymmetrical exegesis irritates you, WRW will irritate you. (Cf. e.g. Essays on Wittgenstein's Tractatus by [ed.] Copi and Beard for a similar instance of so much being written about so few textual data.) If Witt had said more, or said what he said less cryptically… ah, but then, he wouldn't have been Witt.

In any case, I found the essays about Weininger's all too easily caricatured typology and animal psychology in Witt and Wein the most interesting facets of WRW. Perhaps the best feature of WRW is the surprisingly rich bibliography that appends each essay. This allows the frustrated reader à la Mr. Solway, to dig deeper on his own.

And, lo, in the course of composing this post, I came across this webpage, which offers a nice little synopsis of the main intellectual influences upon Wittgenstein.

What should I do with my life?

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Step 1: Stop considering it to be "your life."

Step 2: Start living it as "Christ's life in you."

Step 3: Read Po Bronson's book for creative options for Step 2.

Galatians 2: "[20] I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Colossians 3: [1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you once walked, when you lived in them. [8] But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices [10] and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Readings from…

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[I've posted quotations from the Fathers and favorite Saints and writers on and off over the years, and, seeing how a lot of FCA's content is currently about my "gym regimen"––which may be worse than Dullsville for some readers––I decided to kick the quotations back in gear, at least on an every-few-daysish basis. This means I will also resume posting a quotation from each chapter, if not a whole chapter, of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa contra gentiles.]

Lawerence of Brindisi: Love follows knowledge of the good

The prophets had a clearer knowledge of God, just as the splendor of sunrise surpasses that of dawn and the first half-light of day. They knew God as the supreme being, eternal, self-subsistent, infinite, the sole origin of all things. Unlike the philosophers, however, they knew him to be the source not only of nature but of grace as well, and the ruler not only of the world but also of the people of God. They knew him as Lord, the most holy, just, good, and great king and judge, of infinite power, wisdom, benevolence, mercy, justice, and love. Yet they had no clear knowledge that God is both one and three, that he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is our privilege that God has revealed to us this divine, incomprehensible, and ineffable mystery, and given us sublime knowledge of himself so that we should love him with the highest, most perfect kind of love. For just as warmth follows the light of the sun, so love follows knowledge of the good. An unknown good cannot possibly be loved, but a known good is loved in proportion to its goodness and our knowledge of it. Now God is infinitely good, he is all goodness, just as the sun is all light and fire is all heat.
(Opera Omnia, VIII, 451-452.)

St. Augustine: The Devil's Entry: Cupidity and Fear

Now the devil does not seduce or influence anyone unless he finds that person already somewhat similar to himself. [Caveat, lector!] He finds someone coveting something, and cupidity opens the door for the devil's suggestion to enter. The devil finds someone fearing something, and he advises that person to flee what is feared. By these two doors, cupidity and fear, the devil gains entry.
-- Sermon 12, 11

Prayer. Lord, you have saved my soul from the constraint of fear, so that it may serve you in the freedom of love.
-- Commentary on Psalm 30 (1), 8


[1] From what we have set down we can conclude that there is no composition in God.

[2] In every composite there must be act and potency. For several things cannot become absolutely one unless among them something is act and something potency. Now, beings in act are not united except by being, so to speak, bound or joined together, which means that they are not absolutely one. Their parts, likewise, are brought together as being in potency with respect to the union, since they are united in act after being potentially unitable. But in God there is no potency. Therefore, there is no composition in Him. …

[4] Every composite, furthermore, is potentially dissoluble. This arises from the nature of composition, although in some composites there is another element that resists dissolution. Now, what is dissoluble can not-be. This does not befit God, since He is through Himself the necessary being. There is, therefore, no composition in God.

[5] Every composition, likewise, needs some composer. For, if there is composition, it is made up of a plurality, and a plurality cannot be fitted into a unity except by some composer. If, then, God were composite, He would have a composer. He could not compose Himself, since nothing is its own cause, because it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now, the composer is the efficient cause of the composite. Thus, God would have an efficient cause. Thus, too, He would not be the first cause—which was proved above.

[6] Again, in every genus the simpler a being, the more noble it is: e.g., in the genus of the hot, Ere, which has no admixture of cold. That, therefore, which is at the peak of nobility among all beings must be at the peak of simplicity. But the being that is at the peak of nobility among all beings we call God, since He is the first cause. For a cause is nobler than an effect. God can, therefore, have no composition. …

[8] Again, prior to all multitude we must find unity. But there is multitude in every composite. Therefore, that which is before all things, namely, God, must be free of all composition.
(SCG, I, xviii)
[Notice how the same principles discussed in paragraph 6 keeps resurfacing in scientific discourse: the simpler a theory is, the better. This illustrates how exact physical science (EPS) inevitably expands into metaphysics, unless, of course, it is hamstrung from doing so by an ideology which has no place for nobility and perfection of being.]

St. Francis de Sales:

When we see our neighbor, created in the image and likeness of God, we should say to one another, "See and consider this creature as the likeness of the Creator." And considering him as such, should we not weep over him in love? Should we not give him a thousand thousand blessings? And this should be done purely out of love of God, from whom he is, whose he is, by whom he is, in whom he is, for whom he is, whom he resembles in a singular manner.
(T.L.G. Book 10, Ch. 11; O. V, p. 206)
[You resemble God in a singular manner. Colossians 3: "[9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices
[10] and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." To seek to resemble Christ in a singular manner is all the Saints have done in their manifoldly unique ways.]

G. K. Chesterton:

MANY clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilization, what there is particularly immortal about yours ?
('The Napoleon of Notting Hill.')

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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21 July 2010
88kg, BMI 25
A1 workout: Biceps and Quads, 90 mins

Warmup: Calisthenics/stretching... lots of stretching, Ski machine

Leg extension: 12x @ 30kg, 10x @ 35kg, 8x @ 45kg, 8x @ 55kg
[I love working my quads and I know I can go heavier on these––notice that I added 2 reps to my 6x set––but I treat them each set like a warmup for the squat, so I must be patient and disciplined, without, however, following the numbers by rote.]

Decline leg press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 100kg-220kg
[My max weight for my 6x set went up 50kg from last week and I love the feeling of power in the decline leg press, a machine, I will add, that I have no recollection of seeing anyone else use for anything besides what I call "calf flicks" or quarter-extension presses. Sigh. What a wasted machine!]

Squat: 12x @ 50kg, 10x @ 55kg, 8x @ 60kg, 8x @ 65kg
[I did my best to squat deep, keep good form, inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. In fact, I went deeper than I ever have on squats, past parallel, closer to a true natural squat, and it felt very good, even though my weight was lower than last time. Patience, Humility. Discipline.

Actually, since my foundation is in rowing, which is all about high rep, high power fluid motion, I may eventually shift to the 20-rep squat routine. Truly, not for the weak-minded! I realize that's why my cooldown set of 32x on the decline leg press felt so good: it reminded my body of rowing.]

Barbell curl: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 30kg-40kg
[I didn't max out as high on these as last time but my form was much tighter. I used a short barbell last time, but I prefer the long barbell, as I used this time.]

Chinups: 10x

Incline dumbbell curl (per arm): 12x, 10x, 8x, 8x @ 10kg-22kg (?)

Hammer/Underhand curl (per arm): 10x, 9x, 8x, 7x @ 10kg-22kg (?)

Leg extension: 30x @ 30kg (to failure);
Decline leg press: 32x @ 100kg (to semi-failure);
Squat: 20x @ 30kg (to semi-failure);
Chinups: 10x, 10x;
Underhand wrist curls: 25x @ 30kg, 22x @ 25kg (to failure), 20x @ 25kg (to failure)
Stretching and bicycle machine


A satisfying workout. No morbid thoughts. I finished quickly, which left me extra time for the bike machine, chinups, and wrist curls. Once again I was struck by how many dudes there are with mad chicken legs! Upside-down bowling pins.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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19 July 2010
88kg, BMI 25
A4 workout: Traps, Tris & Shoulders: 90+ mins

Warmup: 60 jumping jacks, calisthenics/stretching... lots of stretching

Barbell military press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 35kg-50/45/40kg
[Much easier on the Smith machine! Awkward this time because I had to jerry-rig my own kind of bench-cage-spotter-rack-thingy. I also bowed my back way too much. Next time I will do this press standing in the squat rack and just keep the weight low, form high. Patience. Confidence. Humility.]

Dumbbell upright row: 12x, 10x, 10x, 8x @ 15kg-24kg (?)

Prone dumbbell reverse flye: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12.5kg-20kg (?)

Shrug: 12x, 10x, 8x(+2x posterior), 6x(+2x posterior) @ 55kg-95kg
[I still felt like I was doing these wrong: such a short range of motion! I used a slightly narrower grip this time and will try a shoulder-width grip next time. My traps are sore today, so I know they got worked. Patience. Confidence. Humility.]

Cable pushdown: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg–30kg

Supine triceps extension (EZ barbell): 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg-27.5kg (?)
[Much better form this time and they felt good, a good pump and just shy of fatigue the last couple sets.]

Rope triceps extension: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg–30kg/25kg

Cooldown: Rear delt cable flye: 10x, 10x @ 18kg–13kg; Kneeling cable pulldowns: 30x @ 40kg–20kg, 20x @ 40kg–30kg
[I like the cable pulldowns: they work the upper abs and serrati anterior. The rear delt flye is also a nice pump, especially for a cooldown.]


My age was weighing on me this morning, or maybe it was late last night. One of those "liminal" experiences just on the edge of sleeping or waking. I am now 31 years old. I'm "thirty-something." Turning 30 was special because it was a new decade, and a triadic round number, to boot. The Jesus age. And yet in many ways my "Jesus year" was appallingly disparate from Jesus' ministerial "debut." Then again, maybe last year was my own time in the desert, complete with grandiose temptations from the Evil One and my own feeble but ongoing repetant refusals of them. I've been "dwelling" in J.P. de Caussade's Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence over the past year or so, and it's very apt for my spiritual condition these days. A phrase I've adopted after watching Croupier (great little film!), is, "Hold on tightly, let go lightly." Or as I spontaneously rephrased it last night, "When you have it, don't scorn it; when it's gone, don't mourn it." 'It' is anything you value at a certain point in time. Unfortunately, 'it' can all too easily become an idol, a sign of contingency onto which we latch as an illusory raft of permanence. A few months ago I wrote a brief post about the apparent folly of "having a plan":

What's my plan?

Why should I have a plan?

Even if I do (and I 'do'), what good does it do me if things change and I can't fulfill the plan?

Why is "having plans" a superior way to live?

Because it typically leads to frustration, resentment, and despair when those plans don't work out?

Because it clouds the mind with hypotheticals that blind you to the needs of others around you?

Or because it gives a person an air of confidence, a certain unnameable 'edge' over others, in a world of constant change and predictable unpredictability?

Did you really plan to be where you are right now? Did you plan to have the exact, concrete children you have, or the spouse you have, or the car you have? Or, conversely, did you plan not to have any of those things you lack?

This weekend I also had reason in conversation at dinner to cite one of my favorite passages of Scripture, James 4:13–16:

[13] Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain"; [14] whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that." [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

The verses came up because I was recounting to some friends how a few of my biggest plans were dashed to pieces last year and how I have had to "pick up the pieces," as they say, and keep going with a modicum of faith and dignity, a process, I'm happy to report, which is getting easier week by week. As I said at that dinner, "Where am I going next year and what am I doing? I think all I can safely say is that I will probably finish this dinner, get home, and go to sleep. Beyond that…? Who am I kidding?" I was then led to denounce in curmudgeonly fashion the vain attempts we all make to cling to little idols––our plans, our favorite projects, our talents and biases––and to assure my friends that God will shake your life as hard as He sees fit to shatter those idols in our very hands. Better by far, therefore, to be open on a continual basis to the frailty of our own lives and thus be open to the new blessings which God shakes into our lives. Mortality. Humility. Just as I sat down to a dinner after work last night, I heard an objector "in my head" (yes, I hear voices… doesn't everybody?!) tell me that my recent fixation on the erratic likelihood of my own demise is just neurotic, irrational. As Dr. Flicker sagely consoled Alvy:

Not that Dr. Flicker's consolation or his mother's haranguing seems to have done Alvy any good:

The point is that surely a "healthy individual" should never really worry he "might die at any moment," right? Wrong, actually. Despite the trappings of our civilization, we are still as vulnerable to sudden death as any other species in the biological world. Indeed, we may have made ourselves more vulnerable to sudden death by enmeshing ourselves in increasingly complex systems of competing mechanical, chemical, and ideological pressures. Hence, it is eminently rational to keep one's imminent mortality on the mind, which is why the Middle Ages were an eminently rational time, typified by the motto, "Memento mori." Or as I heard in one of my favorite films, Ghost Dog, as "Ghost Dog" reads from chapter 1 of Hagakure:

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.

What does this have to do with my gym regimen and my age? Just some reflections on life as I become one more year enmeshed in the miasma of an entropic universe and a bleat of faith that entropy will not have the last word. Such is my faith. My muscles will shrink and wither, my bones will bend and splinter, my hair shall thin and my sight shall dim, but my will shall only toss itself that much more ardently to the final Good which illuminates my own own transparency in its ongoing decrepitude. We are born and thus begin dying. If perchance we practice dying, we shall live.

Along similar lines, I've been pondering and occasionally commenting on the Web lately about "the problem of evil" and it once more dawns on me that the 'problem' of evil is actually "user-dependent." Typically, an objector says something like, "All those poor Africans dying is proof God doesn't exist, at least no all-powerful and all-good God exists." If you think about it, this is a stupefyingly racist thing to say, for in effect it says, "Because poor Africans exist, the world is evil." Ergo, if no poor Africans exist, the world would be good! Chilling logic, indeed.

At a deeper level, we must wonder how well the problem of evil actually meshes with the Christian claims it is raised to defeat. As surprising as it may seem at first glance, the problem of evil is axiomatic to the Christian Gospel. For, if there were no evil––no need for rescue and healing––there would be no need for a Savior, and thus no Gospel at all. Hence, raising objections to the Gospel based on evil in the world is less than a non-starter, rather like objecting to the truth of the medical arts based on the presence of illness in the world. To cite evil as a proof against God's existence is in fact just to proclaim the Gospel without believing it. As far as its pastoral efficacy goes, the Gospel begins from the reality of evil––human evil and human frailty in the face of natural change––and argues to the goodness of God. Then again, as far as its theoretical coherence goes, the Gospel begins with the goodness of God and thus argues against evil in the world, or, more precisely, rails against human attachment to and propagation of evil. For without an appeal to the absolute goodness of God, there is no problem of evil at all. If the world just is, then the world just is: it is not good and it is not evil. So the argument from evil is an argument about the internal incoherence of the Christian worldview, but again, insofar as evil is axiomatic to the Gospel, it is vain to think you are catching the Christian worldview by surprise, or with its theological pants down, by allegedly ambushing it with the problem of evil. The reason Christianity cannot properly be ambushed by evil, is because the problems of evil have traditionally been the very grounds on which Christians appeal to God as their only hope and light. For, again, if God is not absolutely good, then nothing in the world is absolutely evil, and, as mentioned, there are no evil problems: just sensibly pleasant and unpleasant surprises.

Moreover, in the Augustinian spirit, it is precisely from the contingency, unreliability, illusoriness, treachery, and manifold evil-emptiness (privatio) of the world that Christians look to God as the One, Good Exception to the vanity here below. In recognizing the impermanence and treachery of the created world, we simultaneously recognize it as evil in the light of the good God and are spurred to cling to Him as the one relief from our lowly selves and lowly lives. It thus becomes an empirical question what, say, "the poor Africans" themselves actually think about their own woes. Do they view their sorrows as "proof" against God? Or, rather, do not those with a germ of faith see their sorrows as spurs to confirm their devotion to God as the One-ly True Good? It is because God is Good––wholly free from any lack or imperfection––that the world is "evil", i.e., rife with contingency, lacks (privationes), and infinite remove from God's fullness. The world is not therefore intrinsically evil, in a moral sense, but it is intrinsically 'evil' in a metaphysical sense: were it wholly good, it would be God, for God all-one is good. The world was never meant to be a "proof" of God in His whole being, for only the Divine Logos can perfectly 'reflect' the Divine Goodness, but the world's worldliness––its finitude, extrinsic finality, contingency, fragility, opaqueness, and so on––is meant to point to the Creator as the One Good Source which faith alone can attain, precisely by renouncing the idolatrous imperfections of the world as supposedly complete bases for knowing God.



Speaking of my mortality…

I just did a jumprope/abs workout. It's a hot, breezeless day here and while I was out of the sun, inside my dorm, the mugginess was just stifling.

3–4 mins of jumprope, 60 alternating rowing crunches, 3–4 mins of jumprope, 50 alternating leg drops, 2–3 mins of jumrope, 50 alternating crunches, 1 min of jumprope, 50 alternating rowing crunches

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

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17 July 2010
89kg, BMI 25
A3 workout: Hamstrings and Back: 90+ mins

Warmup: 120 jumping jacks, stretching/calisthenics

Straight leg deadlift: 12x @ 50kg, 10x @ 55kg, 8x @ 60kg, 8x @ 70kg

Leg curl: 12x @ 25kg, 10x @ 25kg, 12x @ 30kg, 12x @ 30kg

Underhand barbell row: 12x @ 40kg, 10x @ 45kg, 8x @ 50kg, 6x @ 60kg [?]

Wide-grip lever lat pulldown: 12x @ 55kg, 10x @ 65kg, 12x @ 70kg, 12x @ 75kg/80kg

One-arm dumbbell row: 12x @ 15kg, 10x @ 18kg, 10x @ 25kg, 6x @ 27.5kg [?]

Lever bench row: 12x @ 35kg, 10x @ 40kg, 8x @ 60kg, 6x @ 70kg

Cooldown: Jump rope 4 mins, stretching


I felt very sluggish and uninspired this workout. I need more sleep. And not just "more" sleep, but enough rest by falling asleep at an earlier hour. Getting to bed early has long been a problem for me, son of two night owls and an individualistic "night reader" (…like Hitler, actually, but less manic). I can feel my past couple weeks at the gym catching up with me, especially my A1 and A2 workouts this Wednesday and Thursday. That's good, actually, since it means my body is investing energy into growth and not just quick exertion for a one-off workout. (My weight seems to have gone up a little, but most of the discrepancy is that I weighed in with shoes on.) My legs and forearms are already visibly stronger and I'm improving on the jump rope. Once again I was stunned at how disproportionate the majority of lifters here are: they're more into shoulder-bicep-and-pec-building than BODYbuilding. Time for a nap and then Mass tonight. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Your friend-approval certification is pending...

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I caught wind of this NYT story by Hilary Stout, "A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding" (June 16, 2010), read these lines--

"We say he doesn’t need a best friend."

That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. ... Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion.

--, and immediately thought of this clip (viewer discretion advised... it's George Carlin):

The counselors opposed to best friends must realize it's so much more sensible to promote gangs of cliquish friends over pairs of them! Next thing we'll see--or have we already seen it and I just haven't read the news yet?--is a proscription on having imaginary friends, since imagination is an irrational faculty unbounded by evidence. In this regard, one is reminded of Richard Dawkins's mawkish handwringing over children's fantasy literature:

The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in "anti-scientific" fairytales.

Prof Hawkins [sic] said: "The book I write next year will be a children's book on how to think about the world, science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking.

"I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books. I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

The article goes on to quote Dawkins about labelling children:

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

Let us note two acute ironies in Dawkins's priggish sermonizing. First, he grossly betrays the importance of imagination in scientific inquiry. Second, he commits his own worst sin, that of "labelling" children, and, moreover, actually promotes a kind of abuse arguably as "evil" as classical religious doctrine.

The first irony is easily conveyed by a quotation from Einstein, who was, from what little seems to have been written about him, no mean scientist: "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Likewise, in this video, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who authored a book on Einstein and clearly has an Einsteinian spirirt, argues that "imagination is the rocket fuel of science." So I believe Dawkins's ideological investments in "scientific rationalism" have him hoist by his own petard as far as censoring imagination in children goes. I can do no better than cite Chesterton at length on this point, from his magisterial fourth chapter in Orthodoxy, "The Ethics of Elfland":

My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland, but elfland that criticised the earth. I knew the magic beanstalk before I had tasted beans; I was sure of the Man in the Moon before I was certain of the moon. This was at one with all popular tradition. Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about the bush or the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of brook and bush. That is what the moderns mean when they say that the ancients did not "appreciate Nature," because they said that Nature was divine. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads.

But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of "Cinderella," which is the same as that of the Magnificat -- exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast"; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the "Sleeping Beauty," which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep. But I am not concerned with any of the separate statutes of elfland, but with the whole spirit of its law, which I learnt before I could speak, and shall retain when I cannot write. I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts.

It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened -- dawn and death and so on -- as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton's nose, Newton's nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.

Here is the peculiar perfection of tone and truth in the nursery tales. The man of science says, "Cut the stalk, and the apple will fall"; but he says it calmly, as if the one idea really led up to the other. The witch in the fairy tale says, "Blow the horn, and the ogre's castle will fall"; but she does not say it as if it were something in which the effect obviously arose out of the cause. Doubtless she has given the advice to many champions, and has seen many castles fall, but she does not lose either her wonder or her reason. She does not muddle her head until it imagines a necessary mental connection between a horn and a falling tower. But the scientific men do muddle their heads, until they imagine a necessary mental connection between an apple leaving the tree and an apple reaching the ground. They do really talk as if they had found not only a set of marvellous facts, but a truth connecting those facts. They do talk as if the connection of two strange things physically connected them philosophically. They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing. Two black riddles make a white answer.

In fairyland we avoid the word "law"; but in the land of science they are singularly fond of it. Thus they will call some interesting conjecture about how forgotten folks pronounced the alphabet, Grimm's Law. But Grimm's Law is far less intellectual than Grimm's Fairy Tales. The tales are, at any rate, certainly tales; while the law is not a law. A law implies that we know the nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As ideas, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the "Laws of Nature." When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o'clock. We must answer that it is magic. It is not a "law," for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, "law," "necessity," "order," "tendency," and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment." They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched.

I deny altogether that this is fantastic or even mystical. We may have some mysticism later on; but this fairy-tale language about things is simply rational and agnostic. It is the only way I can express in words my clear and definite perception that one thing is quite distinct from another; that there is no logical connection between flying and laying eggs. It is the man who talks about "a law" that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist. He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations. He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none. A forlorn lover might be unable to dissociate the moon from lost love; so the materialist is unable to dissociate the moon from the tide. In both cases there is no connection, except that one has seen them together. A sentimentalist might shed tears at the smell of apple-blossom, because, by a dark association of his own, it reminded him of his boyhood. So the materialist professor (though he conceals his tears) is yet a sentimentalist, because, by a dark association of his own, apple-blossoms remind him of apples. But the cool rationalist from fairyland does not see why, in the abstract, the apple tree should not grow crimson tulips; it sometimes does in his country.

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales -- because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him. This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water. I have said that this is wholly reasonable and even agnostic. And, indeed, on this point I am all for the higher agnosticism; its better name is Ignorance. We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstacy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.

But though (like the man without memory in the novel) we walk the streets with a sort of half-witted admiration, still it is admiration. It is admiration in English and not only admiration in Latin. The wonder has a positive element of praise. This is the next milestone to be definitely marked on our road through fairyland. I shall speak in the next chapter about optimists and pessimists in their intellectual aspect, so far as they have one. Here I am only trying to describe the enormous emotions which cannot be described. And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstacy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity. The goodness of the fairy tale was not affected by the fact that there might be more dragons than princesses; it was good to be in a fairy tale. The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?

The second point is equally manifest, since, while Dawkins objects to labelling children, he himself would have no qualms about labelling a child an "atheist child" or a "rational child" or, more to the point, an "irrational child," if that latter child is also a "Christian child." The incoherence of Dawkins's schoolmarmish paternalism is a shrill as it is petty.

The other troubling aspect of his finger-wagging is however a bit more subtle. As I have written before, secular rationalism, especially in its "ecofriendly" forms, has just as much terrifying apocalypticism as its religious opponents. So it is arguable at best that repalcing "hell" with "ecological disaster" is more benign. Yet the harm of a totally finite world has on children runs far deeper than merely scaring them 'in roughly the same way' as Hell allegedly does. (How many Anglo-American people's sense and understanding of Hell began and ended with Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I wonder?) To deny Hell is to deny Heaven and to deny either is to deny the eternal value of human action. To indoctrinate children that no matter what they do in this life, it will not endure past this life, and certainly never endure past the life of this world, is to insinuate that all action is ultimately for naught. Proper human development requires giving people a sense that their actions have a lasting, positive impact on the world, and, by the same token, proper moral training requires admitting one's bad actions have lasting negative impacts on the world. If some actions are so weighty--either because of their intrinsic beauty or intrinsic heinousness--that they generate eternal effects, then people will for that reason take their actions all the more seriously. It is not hard to imagine that the reason Dawkins, and many others, dislike the torture of the idea of Hell is because they themselves loathe the idea of facing up to certain moral inadequacies borne by their conscience. I am forever thankful that I was raised to believe in the lasting importance of my life "here below" as it is invested in "life ever after," rather than being hypnotized and subjugated by the vapid finitism of Dawkinsian secularism.

My point is close that which David Bakan makes on page 119 of Body and Mind (ed. Rieber), "There is a particular disorder that plagues the contemporary world. That disorder is depression. It is very widespread and is characterized by the sufferer's belief that his mental acts can have no impact on the world. I would observe that the materialist and the depressive share the same belief…." As someone who has struggled on and off with depression, and as one intimate with those who have struggled much more with depression, I can attest to the soul-crushing effect it has on one to think, day after day, that you will never be able to accomplish even the simplest of your goals, and if you did, they wouldn't amount to anything "in the long run." make no mistake, the idea of being stuck in a world of no ultimate, transcendent moral significance, as depicted in Sartre's No Exit and Camus's The Starnger, or even Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, is just as terrifying for many as the doctrine of Hell is for some.

What the doctrine of no-hell amounts to is a prescription for futility of mind and spirit. If there is no such thing as Heaven and Hell, not only are we doomed from the outset never to impact the world in any lasting, positive way, but also we are deprived for all time of seeing justice vindicated after all. For if "in the end" villains get off the hook and victims never get compensation and healing, then the world truly is an awful place. Hell is the only doctrine which defends the ultimate integrity of justice; anything less than that kind of eternal moral gravity eviscerates justice into a mere notion à la the slogan, "There is no justice, there's just us." Hence, I agree with Fr. Schall in his essay, "The Brighter Side of Hell", that hell has gotten a bad name, and I encourage you to read his essay for elaborations of some points I have made here and other arguments besides.