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Hey yo! For those of you who don't know my name is Phoebus Apollo. I am a Pittsburgh, PA based blogger, web administrator, computer tech, fitness nerd, dad of 3 and once-passed bill writer. I believe in challenging the myths of modern America with nuanced thinking and open minded discourse.

I spent 3 years working in the Portland, OR area for Circuit City and 4 years before that working at Regal Cinemas in downtown Portland, many of you may know me from those places. After moving to Pittsburgh I worked at Sears and Office Depot/OfficeMax. Some of you may have met me via activities in the Pittsburgh area that I host or attend on meetup.com which is awesome. Others may know me from my work with Perverted Justice and their websites @ pjfi.org. A few may even remember that time I founded the alliance Of Sound Mind in Eve Online. My hometown is Greenville, MI where most of my family is located. Currently I enjoy a career with a great local IT company.

This is a home for my personal ideas, projects, fitness logs and other nonsense. Follow me on Facebook for pointless asides and hashtag parades!


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Pre-workout Roundup – 5 reviews for the price of one

Well I haven’t done a preworkout review for some time, so I need to catch up. I have 4 products to take a look at all at once, so I won’t dedicate the time to each one as I did for the previous reviews, but I will take a close look at their various pros and cons. An interesting element of these reviews is that I get some new types of products and some products with changes I’ve asked for in previous reviews, so it will be really interesting to see how everything pans out. The products are: Rari Nutrition Infinity pre-workout, Dub Nutrition Ultimate pre-workout, NutraEdge Edgeblast pre-workout and Vitamin Bounty pre-workout.

Bonus: Also added Jacked Factory’s PumpSurge, a bizarre caffeine-free pre-workout to the list!

I’m going to start with Vitamin Bounty because all the others were ones I receive for review, whereas Vitamin Bounty is the product I actually buy when I want a pre-workout. As a reminder I evaluate all products on a pre-workout basis just by using them prior to working out and examining their ingredients.

Vitamin Bounty Pre-Workout (Watermelon)

So I’ve reviewed a decent number of pre-workouts and this product is the one I buy when I buy them. It’s just simple, effective and has a good value. I want to note that it has basically an identical list of ingredients to another pre-workout I reviewed in the past, Primal Muscle’s “Primal Surge” 10x Pre-workout. So nothing new said here that I didn’t say there besides the packaging and promotion – I will NOT pay more for extra fluff or marketing in promoting a product. It would be interesting to learn someday which of these two products came first (if anyone knows send me a line) and how many other products there are on the market that share the same ingredient layout as these (it is just a very effective mix).

Cover-To-Cover: The Vitamin Bounty pre-workout is a very straightforward product, simple black cover just says “Pre-Workout” in bold letters. In fact it lacks any other brand name besides the manufacturer’s title. Its most basic claim is that it is “for endurance, energy & focus” to “supercharge” your workout. I’ve always appreciated the no-frills, no-nonsense approach but my only criticism of the bottle is that perhaps they’d benefit from a little bit stronger branding – maybe give this product a new name.

Ingredients – Flavor, Look & Mixability: This product is your standard Sucralose flavored product, I’ve asked for ages in my review for more manufacturers to try out Stevia, and it is artificially colored with Red 40 (the flavor I’m looking at today is Watermelon). The mix of silicate/cilicon keeps this product pretty dry and I’ve had no clumping issues, I feel it has a fair mixability as I usually mix it with a spoon in a regular glass. The flavor is watermelon, nothing special to say there just like your standard fruit drink.

Ingredients – Main Ingredients: Niacin (5mg, otherwise known as vitamin B3) is primarily in play as a pump agent in this pre-workout but has a ton of healthy benefits to the body as an essential vitamin. It makes sense that a company called “Vitamin Bounty” would include this. Then you get the very standard mix of pre-workout supplements you expect to see in any well rounded product all at pretty effectual dosages: Beta-Alanine (CarnoSyn brand, still no strong opinions on this vs regular Beta-Alanine), Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG) and Citrulline Malate.

Ingredients – Stimulants & Others: Mucuna L-Dopa 20% is great to add a little focus and better mood, Taurine balances with the Beta-Alanine dose, Theobromine and Yohimbe HCI are both bolstering the fat burning/stimulation factor. Caffeine is 250mg, and I’ve revised my views on caffeine recently and I do consider 250mg to be a maximal value for pre-workouts, I definitely advise staying away from products that go much higher.

Workout Results: This is a very consistent, effectual pre-workout mix with a very smooth up and down influence on training. I always remind people that pre-workouts often have a minor impact on your workout, they are to get you going not to really change fundamental things about the workout experience (sleep and hydration have considerably larger impacts). However I love this pre-workout, and I do often drink it as a pick me up prior to going to work too.

Dub Nutrition’s “Ultimate” Pre-workout (Grape)

This product is a very interesting product that takes a different approach to the pre-workout formula and I think has some hit and miss points.

Cover-To-Cover: This product came in a white/silver labelled container that was clear outside the label, making the flat white product inside show itsel. It describes itself as the “ultimate energy & pump formula”. I found this approach very odd, but I found no major marketing fluff on the product which was good.

Ingredients – Flavor, Look & Mixability: This was a Stevia-sweetened product with Sucralose as a secondary sweetener, which is a good change of pace. It had a subtle grape flavor, and was very easy to mix of all my most recently reviewed products. I found the powder soft and fluffy.

Serving Size issues: So the product defines itself as being “1 heaving scoop”, which obviously means different things to different people. I scooped as much as I could overflowing the scoop and used that. I really believe this product should get a different scoop and define its serving sizes better (two levelled scoops of a smaller scoop or just have a bigger scoop). Some people may want to take two servings, it’d be nice for them to know exactly what they’re getting. Since I could see people wanting 1 1/2 servings of this, a 2-scoop serving makes it easy to get a half serving extra, so that’s what I’d honestly recommend.

Ingredients – Proprietary Blends: I normally don’t like “blends” because while I get that every pre-workout is a formula and keeping some things secret is a “trade secret” matter to some companies, the exact dose of what a pre-workout provides should be known by everyone consuming it and I believe that trumps any concern a company should have about protecting its “secret recipe”. That said, one nice thing this product does is it makes known key values in its blends.

First is the energy blend, which has N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT), Taurine, Glucuronolactone, Malic Acid, Caffeine Andryhous (225mg) and DL-Phenylalanine. I won’t go through every item or attempt to guess doses as I usually do, but I will say that Glucuronolactone is new to me and I don’t have a strong opinion, that I do like NALT, some Taurine, and DL-Phenylalanine as mood-enhancers and elements to balance the stimulation of the caffeine. While a little softer than usual, you do get a good perk from this “energy blend” mix.

Next is the Pump Blend, which has Beta-Alanine (again a good pair with the Taurine although how good is unknown barring knowing the doses), Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG) and Creatine Monohydrate. A very standard mix of performance enhancers and vascular pump supplements that are used very commonly in pre-workouts today.

Ingredients – Vitamin mix: There is a day’s dosage of Niacinamide (I don’t know enough of the differences between flat Niacin and Niacinamide to know if the body processes the doses the same way but this is 100% of daily value according to the package), Vitamin B6, B9 & B12. Extra B vitamins are generally always a good idea in pre-workout supplementation due to how many little things they do in the body.

Workout Results: I found that this product gave me more awakeness and alertness, but was not as powerful as some others I’ve had. I really do like this product, despite the little things like not knowing exact doses on a lot of ingredients and the bizarre presentation on the package.

NutraEdge Edgeblast pre-workout

I’m sorry to say that this product is going to be a non-review. After reviewing the label and the product, I do not want to use this product.

I could go on about some things I don’t like about the product from its spastic presentation on the exterior box and bottle, but it is the ingredient sheet that has me not interested in using this product. I’ve reviewed pre-workouts with lots of ingredients, but this one has a full sheet of vitamins, caloric information as it contains some carbs and a list of other ingredients before even getting to the primary pre-workout supplements which are all shortlisted as proprietary blends.

The problem with proprietary blends is that everyone who buys your product deserves to know what is inside it. Sometimes, if enough information is available, I’ll accept this. But not a single measurement aside from Beta-Alanine is available for anything inside their 5 different proprietary blends, that’s nearly 20 ingredients that are all big question marks. People do have issues with Taurine and I consider it pretty serious to not know the exact quantity of Caffine I’m consuming, especially when it’s delivered as a branded mixture (PureEnergy Matrix) with Pterostilbene – if the promotional material about this is to be believed, this caffeine will absorb more efficiently than normal. Again, I have no idea how much caffeine this even has.

I do not think the trade secret of this product are worth keeping your customers in the dark about what servings you actually giving them of your ingredients, and I don’t frankly care if that is a protected “blend”.

Lastly, if you have allergies (I don’t, the issues above are enough for me to stay away), they say they make this product on equipment that is exposed to nearly every allergen and agitating ingredient alive. Peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, corn, wheat, fish and several others. My stepdaughter might explode if she ever tried this.

As a consumer, until they radically rethink how they compose this product (they need to cut out non essentials and disclose key ingredients at the very least, if not rethink some of their “blends” altogether), I won’t consume this product and don’t suggest you do either. Maybe you think I’m being a whimp by having these concerns, but I simply don’t accept all of these things from a company which wants me to do business with them. As the consumer I should be Nutra Edge’s priority concern, not their competitors or trade secrets. I don’t think anyone is rushing to clone this product’s spastic list of ingredients.

Rari Nutrition’s “Infinity” pre-workout (Strawberry Lemonade)

A very fun pre-workout, I did enjoy this one.

Cover-To-Cover: A simple black cover, has the name of the product in some gold coloring, and has a modest space to claim it gives “unparalleled energy, powerful pumps” and “maximum performance”. I like the inclusion of “suggested use” comments very clearly by the main label with a direct link to the website. It suggests confirming your tolerance, and says that 1 scoop equals “moderate” while 2 equal “intense”. I always appreciate when a product adds that extra info into how they intend for it to be used, it makes me feel they value how we use the product more than just trying to tell us how to feel by describing the product to us (which is how most companies use this type of free space). Love it.

Ingredients – Flavor, Look & Mixability: This product does what I’ve asked for a long time – uses Stevia as a pure flavoring agent. It also uses Beet extract rather than a color dye to achieve the color. Very great! So how does getting what you ask for work out? I gotta say I had the expectation before I even tried the product that it would a little bittersweet because that is how Stevia is, and it definitely was. I admit that the “Strawberry Lemonade” flavor tasted a little bit like powderized sweet tarts. The mixability was fine but as it got old, it did clump up very slightly. I may not be doing the product great justice, but I actually appreciate this approach and while not perfect, I do like it.

Ingredients – “Infinity Blend”: The proprietary blend that makes this product unique comes with something special – exact serving sizes for not one, but two scoops! Awesome. The light 1 scoop of caffeine at 175mg comes with a cavaet that if you ever wanted to double the dose you can safely. I usually like 1 1/2 doses personally of this. This also comes with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT), Agmatine Sulfate, L-Citrulline Malate, Beta Alanine and Bioprene (Black Pepper Extract). I like the Agmatine and find this, while having some of the popular supplements, is a unique mix.

Ingredients – The Rest: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin and several B vitamins join with Folic Acid to top things off. I appreciate this mix of B vitamins to flush out all the positive workout/health effects they offer a pre-workout, but am not sure the diversity is really “necessary”.

My Spoon Is Bigger Than Yours: This product comes with a dumb big spoon. I wanted to note that the handle of this spoon hardly fits in the container.

Workout Results: I never view pre-workouts as having the huge impact that some do, but I recall Rari’s product giving a more stimulating high when moved closer to the 2 scoop window, while giving a good focus. This is all I can really ask from a pre-workout these days, a good clarity and some extra fire to get the workout going. There was no harsh crash from this.

Definitely would recommend this to anyone interested in trying a product whose maker values how you actually use their product. A con for some of you will be the flavor (which is a byproduct of using a more natural sweetener) and the fact that with taking 1 1/2 to 2 servings you may be getting less pre-workout for your dollar than others which will have enough stimulants and supplements to get you by on a single scoop’s worth (if you do 2 scoops a day you may find yourself with 15 “real” servings rather than 30). That said, I like what this product is doing and I will be adding this product to my circulation.

Bonus: Jacked Factory’s PumpSurge Caffeine-Free pre-workout

So I would say more often than not the primary reason I consume a pre-workout is stimulation. So this pre-workout with no caffeine is just an oddball to me.

Cover-To-Cover: This is a very straight forward product which I like, says it provides “laser focus”, “muscle growth”, “powerful pumps” and “endless endurance”. There is clear instructions on how to use the product and a small blurb about how cutting edge the product is.

Ingredients – Flavor, Look & Mixability: This uses some actual pineapple flavor in here, plus Acesulfame Potassium (ACE-K) and Sucralose. The mixability is fine, although my mix foams a little it might be something to do with my sink (again I mix my drinks in a cup with a spoon, not in a shaker).

Ingredients – The Full List: L-Citrulline, Betaine Anhydrous, “Hydromax” brand Glycerol Powder, Rhodiola Rosea Root Extract, Alpha Glycerylphosphorycholine (good grief that word), BioPerene (Black Pepper Extract) and Huperzine A are the list here. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to go through each item, but I like BioPerene and find some of these other ingredients to be good.

My Spoon Is Bigger Than Yours: This product comes with a dumb big spoon. I wanted to note that the handle of this spoon hardly fits in the container.

Workout Results: So I tried this product two ways, one with and one without an extra caffeine pill (200mg). I found the day without the caffeine pill (admittedly I had maybe not the best sleep) to be a yawn fest. Any natural stimulants in this pre-workout just do not pull their weight in the absense of caffeine. With the caffeine pill, I found a little less energy than usual, but it was very smooth and consistent with no crash.

I think the logical conclusion here is that the ingredient mix, for what it does, should have some extra natural stimulants that are more powerful than what it has. It has a good and interesting ingredient list – I regret not having the time to do a fuller breakdown. This product has a very clearcut place in the pre-workout market – for anyone who wants an extra pre-workout to stack around another one or for those who consume a seperate source of caffeine or some other strong stimulants for their workout. For those of you taking this approach, this product is for you. Also this product could be for you if you want a very light pre-workout and feel good about your normal energy level for doing your workout. My workout is powerlifting so for me having a known “peak energy” part of my workout is essential, and without the caffeine I simply didn’t have that from this product. Lastly for anyone else checking this product out I’d simply suggest waiting to see if future revisions to this product give more to offer for their lack of caffeine.

 
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CTD Sports Noxivol Supplement Review

Continuing my supplement review series, this time CTD Sports Noxivol.

Cover to Cover

Noxivol is advertised as a “muscle fullness” product which increases muscle pump during workouts that also reduces lactic acid and increases ligament health. The advised dosing instructions is to take twice daily with one of those being 30-45 minutes prior to working out for an extended period of time (30-90 days). Again as a reviewer I have to stress that normally I take the supplements I’m using directly prior to my workouts, although in this case I took it quite often throughout the day for several weeks just whenever I needed to hydrate.

The title graphic advertises the subtitle of “Endurance” and “Muscle Fullness” as the priorities of the supplement. The side panel talks about the product being designed for muscle fullness, lean muscle growth, strength increase, healthy joints and increased endurance. Of course these are your standard non-FDA certified claims, I appreciate that they are kept straightforward here.

As for the cover, it’s very basic and straightforward which gets a plus from me. Versus my last review which had a gaudy silver/gold motif, this has a simple blue/white motif, the polar opposite in a way and perhaps verging on being too simple.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

This particular supplement commits one of my cardinal sins, the use of “mix” labels in nutritional facts to obscure exact measurements of each ingredient. I’m sorry to CTD Sports but no trade secret of yours is worth the integrity lost when you don’t disclose exact contents of your product. A huge pet peeve, anyone considering buying this should know you won’t know exactly what you’re getting at least as far the label on the product is concerned.

The product uses a basic silica mix with citric acid and the powder maintains a great dryness and mixability being the most mixable of any drink I’ve had lately. It also includes maltodextrin and dicalcium phosphate for reasons not quite clear to me (I assume maltodextrin is to enhance deliverability/absorption of the mix and the dicalcium phosphate is a calcium additive). One thing that aggravates me is the product is dyed with FD&C Red #40 which makes no sense because the product I received is clearly white, there really is no reason to dye this product in my mind. Sucralose is the product sweetener which is typical.

Ingredients – Noxivol Mix

So I’ll have to do a little guesswork to go over the proper ingredients of this drink as none of it is straightforward.

L-Arganine Alpha-Ketoglutarate 2:1 (I’d estimate about 1.5g-2g worth) is present and surely is a backbone of the product’s nitric oxide levels (surely the “NOx” of “Noxivol”) and while I have no objection to this supplement I’ve always been a little nonplussed by it. It surely is correlated to all the positive effects on the label but I never feel it is as strong a correlation as supplement makers would like you to believe. Regardless this ingredient is a core reason behind the claims of this product boosting your vascularity and pump.

Beta-Alanine (based on the parasthetic tingles I’d estimate also is around 1.5g-2g) is present and is in my mind an essential supplement, probably the main basis of the muscle endurance claims of the product. The rest of the following ingredients all share somewhere between 2.7g to 1.7g of remaining weight between them based on my estimation.

L-Ornithine HCL definitely helps the nitrogen clear your system and I’d like to see more of this included in other supplements. You just don’t see it often and I feel the non-protein focused aminos are often neglected, so this is a good inclusion.

L-Histidine is surely here to help the “muscle and joint health” claims, but I feel it is unique as an amino acid for its great antioxidant and immune system effects.

L-Norvaline works in conjunction with the main ingredient L-Arganine to improve that pump and enhance your nitric oxide levels. I believe this is a good way to ensure your pump is good, and I feel like it deserves as much focus as the L-Arganine in a way due to this.

Lastly you have the cissus root extract, while root extracts often have great and interesting effects in this case there just isn’t enough information. Some information online suggests a study here or there supports the product’s joint health claims, but most of the information out there is anecdotal. If anything its long history of being used as a herbal medicinal treatment by tribal societies is about the only real background this ingredient has, which is really not very reliable for obvious reasons.

Ingredients – Nitric Oxide Support Matrix

This “mix” is only 130mg which is such a low serving size divided amongst its components – so little in fact that I question if it adds much of anything to the drink. It contains Choline Bitartrate (surely here for fatigue delaying purposes), Rutaecarpine (helps inflammation and pain), Vanadyl Sulfate (insulin resistance I suppose, but again a low dose), Black Pepper Fruit Extract (I always like extracts, probably for increased absorption of the other ingrecients) and Alpha-GPC (not sure why this is included, but it is good for the brain and liver).

At 130mg for all those things, I hardly consider ANY of the ingredients to be even half the dose you’d want for them to actually do anything. Take choline bitartrate for instance, the primary ingredient of the mix, it should really be 250mg on its own not in a mix of 130mg with 4 other ingredients.

Workout Results

While on Noxivol I do find the drink itself leaves me a little refreshed and I drink it frequently because of this. It’s a very easy to mix drink and I have taken it prior to workouts instead of my normal preworkouts (although if you take it as a preworkout I highly advise taking a good ol’ 200mg caffeine pill with it).

The critical flaws of this product in my eyes are a little bit of a lack of commitment in throwing down on its ingredients, I just feel a serving size should be a little bigger for many of those ingredients especially those in the “Nitric Oxide Support Matrix” mix although it’s hard to be specific when you simply have no exact serving measurements available. Failure to disclose exact quantities to me is a pity and a shame. Supplements like this are always difficult to grade their real life usefulness and sometimes the best way to do so is to simply break down expectations of what the product will do for you based on the dosage of all the particular ingredients – you just can’t figure that out for sure when the breakdown is not provided for you.

I find it difficult to recommend due to these flaws, but I will admit that I got my sample for review and do drink it consistently. Perhaps I’ll end on the note that I think there is perhaps a missed opportunity in advertising the general health benefits of many of the ingredients in this mix (lots of things great for the immune system, liver and brain and your body being healthy definitely affects your workouts considerably) and I definitely could see the product being improved by committing more to key ingredients and upping the serving sizes on these ingredients and perhaps adding an extra stimulant or two (lots of good plant extracts could make for a handy and enticing stimulant to make this mix magical).

 
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Review of SMRAZA’s soldering kit & electronics screwdriver kit

Just a couple quick reviews for some product I checked out, both from a company called SMRAZA. These are going to be super quick, and I’m really only going to post them here because I like to keep everything up on the blog when I can.

First this company makes some cool products for techy people like myself, today I’m going to be checking out two very basic items they make for electronics users. First is a screwdriver toolkit for electronics, second is a basic soldering kit.

The Precision Toolkit

The 38-in-1 Precision Toolkit was something I actually needed for a while, while I have tools I didn’t have a very nice setup mostly just mixed pieces spattered around. Perhaps what sets it apart from the get go (aside from its attractive price) is the very compact, well made case. The hard shell plastic case is just very sturdy and has all the essentials. When it flips open, it does so in a very sensible way with all the pieces very tightly in place (nothing spills out) and a bit selector that just slides out and up (really makes choosing the right bit very easy and keeping the bits nice and tidy easy as well).

This thing has a very nice grip screwdriver with a bevy of modular tips for just about anything electronic – iPhones/iPads, laptops, tablets, watches, routers, anything. The bits are all magnetic and it really has every kind (star shaped, square shaped, triangular shaped, just about anything you’d come across). Thankfully it also includes a pair of tweezers, a couple common screwdrivers and a flexible extender arm for those tough to reach screws. I haven’t used the extender arm but that’s cool to have. It has a suction cup with a little metal probe, I’m not really sure why the suction cup itself is there but the probe is useful. It also is easy to overlook on first glance, but the two guitar-pick shaped pry tools are useful. I did find the plastic to fray a bit using them a bit much so be careful how you use them.

I really think it’s a great toolkit, and at what it sells for its more than reasonable to pick up a couple of these if you like to do a lot of this kind of work. If you want a nice, compact kit without breaking the bank, this is a no brainer.

The Basic Soldering Kit

I am still learning how to solder so I got this kit as a way to sort of test and learn how soldering basically works. There are some pros and cons to this kit, but my overall opinion is that it is very affordable for what it brings to the table. I’m not sure it’s a “good” kit, but I’ll describe what you get with it and what my impression was.

The centerpiece of the kit is a very basic soldering pen, with an on/off switch (which many lack) and an adjustable temperature dial (which also many lack). It comes with several tips to swap out for different situations, I’m torn on which I actually prefer in any way the one it came mounted with was fine for most things (I was working mainly on motherboards). Tips are super easy to switch out.

The pen also comes with a good number of accessories, a basic suction device to suck up solder, a very rudimentary stand (didn’t care for it, but it served its purpose of holding the hot pen). What I really liked was the rosin/copper wire tip cleaner. Putting the hot iron into bristly wire and then digging it into the rosin container really tidies up the hot tips and keeps them nice and clean. You of course get some very basic solder lead free solder which melts alright on this pen.

When I was experimenting with this, I admit to being very clumsy and not really being able to *fix* anything. However, I don’t know how much I fault the kit or pen for that. For what you get (this is a relatively inexpensive product at least when I reviewed it) it seems like a great deal. Perfect for someone like myself who is just getting into using soldering equipment. My only complaint is that while it did appear to heat up and I do believe it was hot, I just didn’t feel like it was totally heated through or perhaps my expectations of how soldering works is off – when the pen did melt solder, it seemed like if I didn’t act super fast it would resolidify rapidly. It also did not seem to heat up hot enough for me to melt solder by putting it into proximity to the heated pad/tip, which is sort of what I was expecting to do with it (as touching solder directly to the pen seems to gets it stuck to the pen itself more often than not).

Perhaps this is my inexperience with it though, so I’ll give it a pass for now on that. It is definitely going to help me learn to solder, came with everything I wanted (except some solder cleaning string and a rosin-core solder which I acquired after getting the kit) and I definitely think it’s a great buy.

Overall Impression

I tend to think SMRAZA is onto the right thing, looking at its other products (Raspberry Pi kits, Arduino stuff) it seems like they appeal to budget-minded DIY electronics crowds and got a lot to offer. Definitely recommend checking out their other products.

 
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Muscletech’s “Myobuild 4x BCAA” Supplement Review

To get away from of all the current political news I thought I’d take a break and do an overdue review of Muscletech’s Myobuild 4x Amino-BCAA supplement drink. Unlike previous reviews this is not a pre-workout, so it has to be judged a little differently.

It’s my philosophy that this type of dietary supplement is a harder review than before because a standard preworkout has a discernible, clearcut pair of effects you can somewhat weigh in on immediately after use – the stimulant factor and how well it carries your energy throughout a workout. The quick recap of how I feel about this product is that while I like this type of BCAA supplement, I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Cover to Cover

The bottle I received is silvery and shiny, with the company logo brazened on each side with flair, one seal saying “bonus!” servings and on the other side a “#1 selling” icon from themselves apparently. One thing I dislike is when a product has a lot going on from the cover, which is exacerbated by the silver sheen. Lots of claims up front with the aforementioned headers, the title of the product, a subtitle caption, lists of non-FDA evaluated claims such as “University tested to build 4x more muscle”, “shown to boost strength by over 40%”, “improves endurance”. Even more information on ratios of BCAA’s, amount of Betaine, amount of tart cherry in a gold sidepanel no less. Gold on silver with walls of black text.

There is also a side label that gives a spiel about how the product is the “world’s most powerful strength-enhancing BCAA formula”. This would be unnecessary in a way, but it lists a few core ingredients and pitches their rationale of being in the product.

Marketing wise, I believe there is such a thing as trying too hard… every product needs one or two things to catch the customer’s eye to differentiate it from sitting on the shelf, but 10 or 12 things makes it a mess.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

The primary flavor of tart cherry is good having about 340mg (or possibly 480mg if I’m misunderstood) of real tart cherry concentrate and coconut water, bolstered with a little of the standard Ace-K (Acesulfame Potassium) and Sucralose for sweetness. Mix-ability is poor to average, I usually get a bit of residual crust in my cups but not unacceptably more than some other powdered drinks I’ve reviewed. Thankfully the powdered mix itself is dry and powdery with no caking. I will give this beverage the standard sass that it would be nice to have some Stevia, but it seems like a Sucralose/Ace-K mix is a fairly standard way to go these days.

I do like the drink flavor though, so I’ll give it a thumb up for that.

Ingredients – BCAA’s

So here we are at the meat of the review. Just to quickly recap for anyone who doesn’t know (I assume most of you do so I’ll keep it short), BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) are particularly important building blocks of proteins (essentially making them a minimized form of food) and having excess free form BCAA’s is shown by a variety of research to keep your system anabolic longer (building muscle rather than breaking it down) as well as improving your recovery and total ability to create new protein. They are also faster acting, at that, since they get sucked into the blood stream almost immediately after ingestion. Your body will make BCAA’s from normal food by breaking apart proteins, but that obviously creates more work for the body vs. receiving them free-form.

The three aminos featured in this (and most other BCAA supplements for that matter) are L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine. Leucine which is a bigger actor in the realm of protein synthesis than the others is appropriately present in a greater dose of 2g whereas Isoleucine & Valine are around 500mg each. If you take two doses of this product daily (the amount they suggest is the maximum recommended amount to take in 24 hours) makes what I’d consider a fair daily dose, however I’d consider it on the low side. I surveyed a random sample of about 10 other BCAA products that were randomly found on the popular Bodybuilding.com online store, and the considerable majority of them had a bigger BCAA serving than this product. Personally I’d like to see about 3g of leucin and 1-1.5g of isoleucine/valine. I do appreciate this product for specifically listing its values though, many BCAA’s just call their ingredients a “proprietary blend mix” and through them all in one ingredient line, and thankfully Muscletech does not do this. +1 point for integrity.

There really isn’t anything more to say than this, one thing about BCAA’s is it is easy to argue that simply consuming more protein through diet or even through whey protein is better or equally as beneficial. Even if you are in the camp who believes free-form BCAA’s are more effective for a variety for reasons, it is hard to reason that the differential is anything more than negligible. At the end of the day, any drink like this truly deserves the label of dietary supplement because this really is a matter of dietary preference. I would not consider any amount of drinking this solution to be a replacement for food sources, but I do think even if the margins are small that the product will be nice to have.

To justify any cost though, a BCAA beverage is going to need other ingredients that also add to the value.

Ingredients – Those other things

My opinion of Betaine Andryhous has not changed considerably since my review of Jacked Factory’s “Nitro Surge”, and appears here in the same dose of 1.25g. It has a variety of positive functions in the body and is a diverse supplement, can lower stress, help fat loss, improve your digestive efficiency & your appetite, help your liver and joints. Not a groundbreaking supplement but a nice one, if you want the positive benefits though you should supplement it often and include it in your diet (spinach, wine, beets all may be good sources).

Taurine is another one of those supplements with a diverse range of biochemical roles, not really being an amino acid as we properly understand it but being essential nonetheless. Many preworkouts who implement taurine will supplement it with beta-alanine (as some of the few negative effects of the beta-alanine are complimented by the taurine), which would be a great throw in, but Muscletech has not taken up this opportunity. Maybe they just want you to get your Taurine in.

Not to be forgotten, this product also includes what plants crave, electrolytes. These are dandy for replenishing yourself after a serious workout, and are generally good. I frankly don’t have much more to say than that.

Conclusion

I feel this offering by Muscletech is weak for what it provides the user, which isn’t to say I think it’s a bad supplement. It could help someone with recovery and protein synthesis as it claims, but so could any BCAA many of which have more actual BCAA’s and a better side panel of other supplements. I can say that while I have it, I consider it a great thing to drink while recovering from a recent surgery to keep myself from being totally catabolic during this fitness downtime, and on that note it has some merit at least for me.

 
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Commands from the King’s Throne, Trump’s first days in office

So as you all likely know, I’ve not been a big Trump fan. Even though I have been firmly against Progressives pretty much my entire life, I was a staunch supporter of Bernie Sanders in the last election seeing him as one of the fewer genuine candidates who attempted to run. To me, a genuine candidate does not have to be one I agree with all the time, one whose narratives I necessarily support, but rather just one whose point of view is in the right place for their political post.

As someone with a classical liberal point of view who has modern interpretations for what that means in terms of our current state of government, I simply have nobody representing me in the political arena. However I feel it is important to document my points of view from time to time to provide a little clarity for myself. Despite my general disdain for the subject right now, I’m going to try to look at the prospects of Trump’s presidency, after only about a week of it going on.

With that I apologize in advance, there is a bit of a wall of text incoming.

Finding Nuance in a Mire of Alternative Facts and Political Narratives

Nuance is one of the cornerstones of my political points of view, because with nuance we look into the finer details of a situation to divulge a wide variety of perspectives. I feel that is important now more than ever to understand just what is thoroughly wrong with the culture and society that would give us the current political climate.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems in the United States is education about government. The United States government since its foundation was founded on the concept of division of powers and the limitation of total government control, but actual propogation of this type of thinking about government essentially ended with the Enlightenment era. In the 1900’s to the 2000’s we find society has progressively rolled back into thinking about government as a top down mechanism with central control happening from the highest levels. Everyone has a reason – some people think they’re doing society justice by thinking government has this right to limit this behavior or another, others think they know better as far as economics, health care, the military. I think everyone with political convictions feels like if people simply did as they said, that the world would be a better place.

However there was a reason the founders of our government created a document built around this idea of limited powers, seperated authorities with checks and balances, and explicit restrictions on what government can do. It is because, at its core, the type of thinking that leads to top down centralized government is the exact same thing every tyrannical dictator, king or regime has used to oppress its people since the dawn of organized society.

What does this rant have to do with Trump though?

Ruling By Edict

When we think of the old monarchies and lordships we think of old men, sitting on thrones and passing down decrees from on high and soldiers scurrying around to force the masses into compliance. Every President of my lifetime, in fact nearly every President since FDR has pushed the United States federal government towards a system like this by expanding the number of executive departments and offices thus increasing the importance of issuing executive orders in managing the country – essentially rule by edict.

Executive orders are basically how the President is supposed to manage all the offices he oversees and have been a thing since the creation of the country. However, it wasn’t until Teddy Roosevelt we started to see them used to any excess to push political agendas – most political agendas in the country have to be pushed through the Congress as laws. While I could say that the House and Senate system lack a lot as a check and balance system, at least it involves multiple groups of people with many different hands making sure nothing that goes in is ever quite one person’s narrow vision. Peer review/validation is the basic essence of any kind of check and balance system.

With more than a century of expanding government with so much legislation creating so many offices, bureaus, departments, councils and whatnot to oversee the country it seems absolutely absurd that massive changes to these policies should be overseen by one central authority. Just a really dumb idea. Yet liberals and conversatives alike – for different reasons of course – have pushed us hard in that direction and at this rate will continue to do so for the next 100 years. On top of that, Reagan and Clinton roll around in my lifetime and demand the power of line item veto be added. After some fighting with pesky lawmakers and judges now when Congress does collectively pass a bill into law, the veto authority the President has can be selectively applied essentially creating a new method to create edict-based decisions about new laws. This to me, the central ruling edict based figure, has been one of the biggest follies of our political process.

Why, all it takes in a system like this is some complete idiot to sit in the “throne” of this modern era Presidency and start passing down poorly thought out, incomprehensible edicts from on high to screw over basically everyone in the country…

Looking at the first edicts of the Trump State

The first week of Trump’s Presidency saw him fueding with the media over how big his inaguration crowd was, blatantly putting the press on notice if they publish things contrary with his vision they will not have his favor. Then rather than look into the legislative process at all, a series of poorly thought out executive orders to begin enacting all his campaign promises. I will take a closer look at each one to just give my sort of perspective on it all.

The media life and campaign of Donald Trump makes it very clear that he is more concerned about his public image especially of that being viewed as a dominant victor in basically everything and I’m not going to go into that. It is telling then that his first actual action as President aside from appointing people into offices was to make an Executive Order challenging the Affordable Care Act of outgoing President Obama. A campaign promise and a fairly obvious “don’t let the door kick you on the ass on the way out” gesture.

Executive Order 13765: The Economic Burdens of Unnecessary Bloviation

Trump in my eyes is essentially the simpleminded man’s idea of what a ruler should be, which we see immediately in his first executive orders which appear to try to well wish away legislative laws by just commanding them to begone. It’d be regarded as proper in most situation to enact new legislature to properly repeal the Affordable Care Act and essentially replaces it, but who has time for that? Hence the “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal” executive order, his first action essentially as President.

His priority was to push out these executive orders so let’s look closer at this first order in detail to see what it actually says.

In Section 1, Trump declares his office will repeal the Obamacare act and that until such time, he will deliberately interfere with how the act is implemented/enforced by “taking all actions consistent with the law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulartory burdens” of the act.

In Section 2, he flatly says any officer “in their discretion” are to waive provisions or defer them that are granted to them by the Affordable Care Act, especially those that pertain to any fees, taxes or penaltys for non compliance. This essentialy means “we can enforce the law as it is unless we don’t want to”.

Section 3 clarifies that executive departments are to “provide greater flexibility” to the States in implementing health care programs, which again amounts to not much, as this is just very vague.

Section 4 says heads of departments and agencies in the government that operate in healthcare should promote the idea of “the development of a free and open market in interstate commerce for the offering of healthcare services and health insurance, with the goal of achieving and preserving maximum options for patients and consumers”. The intent of this is as you’d imagine, essentially just asking people in health care offices to promote non-Obamacare as an agenda, without specifically saying what is being promoted.

Section 5 and 6 are fairly standard reminders that the executive order requires compliance to the Administrative Procedure Act (which regulates and adjudicates rule disputes set by government offices).

So here we see the basic model of the executive order edict-based rule that Trump is seeming to utilize as his “go to” to enact his policies. First you have a statement that there is an intent to change the law (meaningless, we already knew that) then there is a statement that any government official in the offices controlling Obamacare provisions should at arbitrary discretion provide “flexibility” to those effected (again meaningless due to the fact this is arbitrary and any dispute regarding this would go through the APA which would adjudicate it down to “do what the law says until the law changes” and then any real dispute that goes any further will get into the judicial system and be overturned due to the general vagueness of it all). This essentially is more for the President to exert his control over individual officials in government departments than anything else. Lastly, there is sort of a “statement of correct thinking” in that he insists people promote this vague idea that the system is to be changed soon. This is totally non enforceable and most middle to lower tier government officials who know how to stay out of trouble will choose their words carefully before getting into a media circus over any comments.

Applying Nuance

Critics of Trump should look at this order and generally feel okay with how ineffectual it is (anything conflicting with existing law should be easy to challenge in court) the vague tone is more to meant keep people in line. The fact that it has a “right think” provision inside the order itself to remind everyone involved that there is a central agenda to promote, is troublesome. Our time should not be invested in “correcting” the thought of others in this fashion, especially not by our President. Of course if we wanted a government like that we should’ve been spent the last 100+ years rethinking what the President’s role is, and what the parties do.

I am not a necessary proponent of Obamacare, but as a working American who got his health care insurance for the first time in his life during Obamacare (however not through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, rather through my own employer), I have felt like while the program has discernible flaws as does the system as a whole that there is some merit in making insurance more accessable to the average person via this means and the idea should be explored in greater detail. There is no clear plan by Trump to replace it with anything specific that I can tell, so it’s hard to criticize any plan he has at this time.

Let’s continue to look at other orders and see if they follow a similar pattern of pushing agendas while being vague with the details, shall we?

Executive Order 13768: Of Communist Propaganda and High Priority Pipelines

The next executive order (13766 “Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects”) basically starts with a tirade about how agency regulations stymie private project development and business growth. This would not entirely be an asinine point were it not for a very specific agenda – denial of climate change and any need of environmental-related policy making. To that end this decree focuses on “high priority” projects for the country (like oil pipelines) and getting them moving along without all these pesky regulations. I admit, I’m skeptical about environmentalist claims and somewhat tentatively agree with the idea that we may be a bit restrictive with regulation but even I believe that good science shows us it is for our general safety and the good health of our society and environment that we have standards and regulations. It makes business more honest and less sloppy, and environmental pollution is absolutely a private property right issue – polluting someone elses environment, or polluting the public environment, is a horrible abuse of the rights of every citizen. It’s only a hardened denier of basic environmental science that would really push the agenda stated here in section 1.

If the goal is to push forward “high priority” projects, what does “high priority” even mean? How is that determined? Section 2 clarifies, it basically means “whatever the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality says”. What impact is has on the environment to get this special status is also entirely in the chairman’s hands. Who is that chairman anyways? Let’s check that out at the agency website… which is down right now. Actually office is presently vacant and the Trump office has decided to start pulling down the online materials of our government environmental offices to put things more in line with his administrative viewpoints. Trump is a baldfaced climate change denier who believes the EPA should strictly be cut altogether and that environmental regulation is a Chinese myth created to make U.S. less competitive. This is confusing in and of itself – is he saying he wants us to be more like China’s highly ineffectual Ministry of Environmental Protection where people are just okay with basically ignoring most environmental mandates and the major cities have huge instances of smog, pollution and where usable farmland is at a premium?

After another section on deadlines essentially stating that again these “high priority” projects need “high priority” given to their deadlines (redundant) the executive order ends with the typical disclaimers. Again a good healthy chunk of this executive order was spent to prioritizing an agenda (“correct think” again) and providing very little clarification on what people should do besides “Whatever the Chairman of the CEQ says” which, for right now, is nobody.

But it could be Kathleen Hartnett-White, which some online chatter seems to indicate is a potential go-to for this job. Former head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, her ideas are backwards to say the least. A “Clean Coal” advocate who seems to have an opinion that renewable energy is “unreliable” and “uncontrollable” who is unbelievably optimistic about the state of the U.S. (particularly Texas) oil market and the “shale revolution” – frackalicious. It’s one thing to believe that man has an appreciable global impact on the atmosphere’s development (somewhat understandable from a skeptic’s point of view and a debate worthy topic) another thing entirely to suggest that CO2 should be declassified as a pollutant altogether as Harnett-White does. It’s not sure who Trump picks for this spot, but the story of other apparent choices is similar to Kathleen – climate change deniers who work into smaller scale commissions advocating bizarre ideas about how environmental regulation is purely the work of global communist agendas and strong supporters of traditionally extremely dirty businesses like oil and coal.

Of course the first intention of this order was to push the highly controversial Keystone XL project, to link us up with TransCanada’s oil pipeline.

Applying Nuance

Nuance isn’t merely playing Devil’s advocate, but to me at least it is the opportunity to apply judgment from “all angles”. In this case I think we need to step back from differing opinions about environmental policy to see how the actual situation affects the real circumstances at play. I’ll use the previously mentioned Keystone XL pipeline as an example case. While it is true to an extent that projects like this get bogged down in regulation and red tape, it seems hasty to assume the only answer to cleaning through red tape is to slice through it (and anything in the way) with a hatchet. We should ask ourselves what is the red tape is for and what it does for us. For Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois to all want an opportunity to evaluate if a pipe with oil from Canada will be built safely through their boundaries and address matters of property by those who it effects is absolutely fair. It is essential for the success of the project, as well. If we permitted a project like that to be built unsafely or unwisely, it could be a massive waste of both time and money for all involved.

It’s true that from a business prospective, this scrutiny can sometimes kill big projects like this – I might even go a step further and state that some big projects that entail some risk are necessary for thriving national economy (“sometimes” being the operative term there). I don’t personally know as well if I’m collectively for or against the Keyston XL pipeline at this moment. However there is no good reason to think this internalized criticism of the process of regulation getting “in the way” means we should just “high priority” flag projects like this for the fast track and that attitude could prove to be disastrous. Every state involved should have some oversight into this project which at many spots poses an extreme hazard in the case of a sudden oil spill. What recourse or responsibility would the pipeline developers have to the local people and government should something go wrong with development of this project? I don’t always agree with those who wholesale thing big projects like this should exist – they have a right to be heard and considered – but to hit it with the other extreme of wholesale clearance by a single central authority (I’m sure nobody Trump would never put someone corrupt in such a post!) is absolutely bonkers.

Projects that affect the environment can only be considered to big to fail, after all, if that particular environment can afford to be a failure. I don’t think long stretches of land owned by the people of Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois are inconsequential and the concerns of which should be expedited through for little reason. Perhaps extra attention paid to address the concerns, perhaps, but that isn’t what Trump proposes. After all Trump is not putting a massive advisory board who possibly help each state hear out all the problems and concerns of the Keystone XL pipeline or anything like it (like the Dakota Access pipeline) in a faster way which to me is a legitimate means to “expedite” the regulation (extra hands on deck to help manage the massive influx of concerns would always help in a situation like this).

Nope, instead he’s putting this in the lap of a single executive who simply will dictate the solution based on their personal judgment with little organizational support. The exact opposite of what is needed to fairly hear the concerns of those involved in projects like this or others that the order will ultimately impact.

Executive Order 13767: Walls and who should or should not pay for them

Like previous orders, the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” order begins with a bit of a tirade regarding the threat that aliens pose to our society. After all, they could be terrorists or worse yet, they could speak spanish. I will note that this order does not address the entire US border, simply the Mexico border.

Section 2 explicitly states the purpose of this order, first of course to build a wall. Can’t really happen without legislation confirming the outline of the project, establishing contractors and a budget. Trump’s campaign promise was to get Mexico to pay for this wall, so far the Mexican president is not really playing ball which is absolutely no surprise. Like other orders, this talks about the importance to “expedite” arbitrary things like “determining individuals claims of eligibility”. This basically is in a way, forgiveness for the government officials to misbehave in failing to investigate the claims properly as the order entails no actual assistance with actually expediting anything. The other provisions in section 2 are a bit redundant as they essentially state the same thing we all already know, that laws regarding deportation are to be used as the law says. Duh.

It’s noteworthy that Section 3 is entirely definitions as I feel like Trump hammered out the rest of the sections and defined nothing so one of his advisors slammed this section in to fix his afterthoughts (in legislative paperwork of any kind, including government executive orders, specific terms are generally always very well defined in the document itself with redundant definitions for clarity, sometimes this matters a lot in law – I digress).

Section 4 dumps basically the entire project in the hands of the Secretary of Homeland Security (plans to design the wall, find out how budgeting is going to work, long term funding matters and puts on a hard deadline of 180 days that surveys the status of the entire Mexican border). That is… retired Marine General John Kelly. That guy is going to be busy. Again an example of Trump moving his campaign goals onto single figureheads to manage them but at least in this instance, the Department of Homeland Security has an existing staff to work with that will probably be staying (mostly) although Trump’s transition teams are certainly dumping big chunks of these organizations at a time.

Section 5 & 6 establishes the notion that the Secretary is also responsible for creating some detention facilities for those who manage to jump the border, utilizing asylum officers and immigration judges to determine how terroristy each violator is, and what to do with them. I’m sure no human rights violations will happen in this process whatsoever. He also makes sure to note there will be no “catch and release” cases where an immigrate is caught but released within the border for procedural reasons – Trump plans to have a place where every illegal immigrant caught has a stay until they’re booted back to their home country. I mean Trump plans to make Mr. Kelly do all that. Section 8 lets Mr. Kelly delegate hiring more border patrol agents to hire 5,000 more patrollers to the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Section 9 calls for a deadline of 30 days where a survey of all financial aid to Mexico happens over the past 5 years, basically insinuating that all of that money in the future will go to the wall project, which is not near enough to build even a small portion of the wall but I’m sure Mr. Kelly will get that straightened out.

I’m going to admittedly gloss over a little bit of the rest in the interest of not making you, the reader, absolutely mental (which you must be already if you’re this far down) but Section 10 nags local government to get on enforcing stricter immigration rules (essentially a jab at the “sanctuary cities” notion of some local governments being safe havens for illegals, which Trump intends to follow up with threats to cut government funding), section 11 essentially demands that illegals that can be removed should not be paroled because of “illegal exploiting” of the parole/deportation system, which essentially is a problem if the deportation system fails as well as provides more provisions for the Secretary to run his asylums and gives him privilege in interpreting how the Immigration and Nationality Act applies. I get the gist from these passages that the Secretary and his soon to be hired asylum officers/immigration judges will be making many arbitrary judgements on whether or not a hearing for release from detention will be expedited or thrown out and I’m sure no corruption will happen in any part of that process as I’m still sure no human rights violations will happen either.

The only proviso from the rest of the order I feel is worth pointing out is a call for government transparency and reporting for section 14 and 15. This is the first such call we see from Trump, and even if you dislike the rest of this order it actually is a good thing but I fear that the statistical data on apprehended aliens will be misused to promote the idea of immigration fear mongering to keep the project on track. I’m not sure I credit Trump with being clever enough to plan for that, or if it is just a consequence of his inability to exercise proper good will in calling for transparency.

I wish he had at least input a section calling for a bit of transparency on the budget required to pay for all this crap.

Applying Nuance

Nuance is a finnicky thing because the more you apply it, the more you sound like everyone should disagree with you, or you should disagree with them but that is nary the case. Most Americans seem to look with a blind eye over the issues of immigration and will be of polar opposites – either excusing the foibles of illegal immigrants to a degree where they claim there are literally no problems at all whereas others in the opposite direction are fear mongering xenophobes who want “them people” out of here.

Listen, I understand that a society with a lot of exterior immigration can get stressed out with the pressure of a completely different culture floating in and out of their borders. Some of that is criminal like the order claims such as human trafficking and drug trade matters. However a lot of what happens from then on out, and how it affects our communities in our country, is entirely domestic. It’s easy to just say “these immigrants are the reason we have crime problems” and be done with it, but not entirely fair. We have crime problems as a country because a lot of our own citizens are criminals, enabling the trade of drugs (the legality of which is an entirely different discussion) and creating criminal gangs. Sure some gang violence is actual illegal immigrants, but many people involved in these crime circles have completely valid paperwork to be here, and would likely still have it in a revised system.

At the end of the day, nearly all Americans believe the immigration system is to “keep the good ones in and the bad ones out”. So much of Trump’s own order gives people the option to make special exemptions when necessary. However I think we ask a bit much of any immigration system to demand it qualify every immigrant against value to society. Fact is, we don’t know what we want from our immigration system. As for what I want from immigration, I simply want to know who people are (basic national identity information) with other pertinent details like criminal background. Frankly I don’t buy the idea that letting non-citizens travel freely through the country is inviting unfettered terrorism and crime. I believe a lot of our violent crime is homegrown and needs to be fixed within our communities before we worry about the amount of it that is generated by non-citizens. Also I believe if a non-citizen is found violating our laws we should have a simple process to try them according to our laws which they do accept by being here one way or another.

I don’t really believe interviews, competency tests, quizzes or background screenings into immigrants really tell you very much about whether you want any specific person in or out of your country. Those who really believe the problem is within the vetting process honestly are overlooking a more simple solution that they logically must consider as more effective – build the wall as Trump demands but don’t let anybody cross it, in or out, at all. Of course even the most xenophobic have a strong belief in cultural double standards and would reject this idea, embracing this broken paradigm of accepting the desirable vs undesirable. So we exist in this odd inbetween of visas and vetting and constantly throw the demand to do it “right” onto different shoulders.

So that mess is on Mr. Kelly’s shoulders now, so anytime it goes wrong, talk to him. I frankly feel sorry for the guy.

Executive Order 13768: Cracking down on the Sanctuary Cities

The Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States order starts simply directly addressing local cities/towns that fail to report to federal standards on immigrants. Particularly for those who overstay visas or who are caught committing crimes. Trump wants them booted out or at least sent to the nearest available Department of Homeland Security Asylum Detention Camp where the Immigration Judge Commander can determine their legal status.

I was curious what the ruckus is with “Sanctuary Cities”, so I took a look into it. Basically some cities have banned their local law enforcement from investigating immigration matters during routine police work, so it makes sense that in those jurisdictions an illegal immigrant is not going to be readily enforcable.

I’m going to honestly skip a lot of this as it mostly amounts to bloviating about how the local authorities “just should” enforce the immigration laws for Trump. I’ll throw in a couple notes though – in section 9 there is a call for a report on the weekly basis to essentially name and shame jurisdictions with documentation on their crime from aliens (which will never be directly compared to jurisdiction crime overall I’m sure) and ultimately the consequence that seems apparent for being a trouble area is to have Trump threaten to suspend funding to your jurisdiction because “f’ you for not locking up more aliens and shipping them off to the future Asylum Concentration Facilities” I’m sure the reasoning might go. There are also extra provisions on reporting and transparency so the public knows exactly how well we are combating this menace.

The rest of the order has little interest to me in that it really is by this point, a State legislative issue. If states permit these laws, it is their perojative. Of course we have weakened state rights throughout the years so if we wanted States to resist the Federal government’s demand to do its deportation for them, it is possible Trump through orders or the federal legislature will force their hands to comply. However at the end of the day, it may literally take a Constitutional amendment to actually force them to do anything more than pretend like they’re helping the Department of Homeland Security and its new immigrant detention agents.

Applying Nuance

States having the rights to make their own laws on how they practice local law enforcement has a huge impact on limiting the control the federal government has on the people. Liberals and conservatives both find many reasons to think the states should just do the things they want and have entirely eroded the State’s rights in terms of setting their own guidelines for how their own populations should live. It’s just another reason why I believe we have let our instinct to centralize government get out of hand, and it will be interesting to see what if anything Trump can actually do to force this matter more than deliver an edict like this order.

If you were in a state with Sanctuary city policies, and believe the local government should invest resources into policing immigrants, couldn’t you y’know elect a governor to do that? No, because the notion of delegated officials being in charge with specific tasks instead of all of us being centrally ruled by a dictator-esque figurehead is out of the question. If you are against the federal government’s push to demand local government compliance, you should probably ask yourself why it was okay to let the federal government get so out of hand in the first place.

It wasn’t okay, is my two cents.

Executive Order TBD: Keeping Out The Muslims

So new I don’t believe it’s numbered, the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” has been the order that probably raised the most eyebrows. In Trump’s own words he wants to make sure the people coming into the country are “who will support our country and love deeply our people” and not the same terrorist threats we fight overseas.

So the pretense of the travel ban is simple, at least in the eyes of Trump. He wants to totally revise the visa issuance process to better detect the terroristicness of the applicants. Until that time, he wants nobody coming from a shady muslim country in. Not people who are actually coming direct from those countries, rather those with citizenship in those countries. So if you are an Olympian who was born in Somolia so is technically a Somolian citizen but also is a full British citizen (knighted by the queen) who currently lives on the west coast in the U.S. and even own a house with family there and just so happens to be traveling abroad well it sucks to be you. Sucks to be Mo Farah I guess.

So the order continues by listing countries of “Particular Concern”. This ban is temporary so he can have the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to pow-wow and make a report on information they feel is necessary to adjudicate whether or not a certain immigrant traveling on a visa is essentially terroristiful enough to warrant having that visa revoked. Then he’s giving the foreign countries 60 days notice to make sure their visa applicants can provide that information, and if not by the time periods elapsing he’s giving power to the Secretary of State to revoke existing visas and shut down new visas for anyone who does not comply to that extra vital info.

Of course the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have to chip in after this to crease a system to process the adjudications and extra vetting to give the visas out, including the screening process and procedures, to make sure everyone sufficiently loves the country they’re coming into and not planning to blow up any towers or hijack any planes.

This process also is going to be applied to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program after a 120 day suspension for those refugees coming to the country, although some extra scrutiny will be made there. I’m not sure Trump plans to get any actual laws passed so who knows if he’ll actually revoke the USRAP altogether, which would be the thing necessary to actually do what he essentially said in his campaign of stopping the refugee influx. Trump explicitely tells the USRAP that no more than 50,000 refugees will be tolerated and Syria refugees specifically should not be let in. I’m not sure how much water that holds altogether.

Applying Nuance

On one hand, we are definitely not one of the nations greatly affected by Syrian refugee influx like other countries in Europe have been (across the globe there have been genuine problems with the refugees, but not really here) and while we of course have had some bad foreign terrorism in our history (I was awake on 9/11 watching the live broadcasts as many of you were watching and I didn’t forget) we are not exactly a hot spot of foreign terrorism. None of the countries on the travel ban have had citizens who have actively committed terrorists attacks on our soil to my knowledge. So far Trump has insinuated this list of countries wasn’t from him personally but rather from the Obama administration’s list of countries with instability due to the ISIL terrorist forces, just to me leaves more reason to think it was poorly thought out.

It’s important that even those who prefer immigration and cultural assimilation admit that the threat of islamic extremists is not purely fear mongering, there are some very real concerns modern societies should have about what is going on in the Middle East with Islam-inspired fanaticalism. That said, the unspoken truth of the matter is that people who support this hard line against the Islamic countries are not doing so out of practical concern over terrorism. Rather, they are doing so out of open faced discrimination towards cultures that they do not approve of. They see poor, challenged countries and think “well nothing good coming from there” and that’s all the reasoning they need.

Really at question here, more than Trump and his policies are the people who support Trump so ardently and refuse to look at any of these matters critically. Nobody who points out the problems with the failures to plan ahead and expressing any concern over who is actually targeted by these new policies. Trump supporters eager to defend this particular policy appear to me to be out of touch with the world outside their own comfort zone if not outright racists. Were they not, there would be a higher level of discussion than what we see here so far, would there not? For instance, if out of genuine fear of terrorism why would we not put Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in the same categorization as the others on the travel ban? They are after all countries whose citizens were involved in the 9/11 conspiracy and other terror plots, unlike the 7 other countries that are essentially just internally troubled and have not yet directly brought violence to our shores. You’d think a country whose citizens did come over on visas improperly vetted would be the first to be a part of any travel ban.

At the end of the day, the dangerous problem of Trump is he’s very polarizing so people tend to want to support a narrative entirely supporting him or entirely against him but a rational person really wouldn’t be at either end. While his policies are stupid and reckless, the problem of terrorism is a legitimate one. That said it’s not so simple as to point at poor muslims from troubled parts of the world and treat them like lepers. To just assume that crowd are the ones who don’t “support our country and love deeply our people”. To say every traveler internationally coming from every country is in fact a case by case scenario is absolutely an understatement and so far nothing specific has been said about what criterion is to be used to tell the difference or to perform due dillegence in screening travelers from our country.

I believe there are genuine problems with Islamic fanaticism and how it drives modern terrorist groups out of the Middle East, but if the goal is to further vet and investigate those with travel visas to “prevent” this (if this is in fact an effective means to prevent this) then the Trump attitude is simply failing to find objective cause. It is terribly convenient for the strong white contingent that support Trump to overlook these things just to keep a handful of actual “evil Muslims” and “dangerious illegals” out of the country, and just let him openly interfere with the ongoings of all these procedures established and set forth by laws of the land with no clear plan to actually address any of the core problems.

Well, no plan besides issuing more executive orders like these, I predict.

Why we need to Deconstruct this Mess

Some of my friends and family are concerned about what is essentially a fascistic, dictatorial attitude the Trump takes with the office of the Presidency, and anytime someone takes the highest office with such a cavalier attitude I think they have some right to be concerned. Facts of the matter is though, for over 100 years the American political process has built itself up and not a single President in my lifespan didn’t do a slew of things worth ranting about like I have today with Trump. However unlike them, none of them were so brazen as to flagrantly treat the office of the Presidency like a celebrity Emperor or King and just wave around edicts like absolute proclamation. Just absolutely shameful that anyone let this essentially happen. It doesn’t change that at its core, the American government is growing fast and out of control and essentially is easy to corrupt.

Perhaps this is hard to look at after the generally well received Presidency of Barack Obama. Obama wasn’t one to shy away from executive orders and using the full stations of his office to get things done. However, in my life every President up to this point treated the office like a proper statesman, so even if they were momentarily egotistical, ignorant, or hung up on some stupid idea it was something that could be challenged or reasoned with. Trump though, represents something a little different. If you couldn’t tell by his executive orders, his campaign or his life in the media he is one person who will insist he won every fight laid before him and he believes he is doing good. Someone with that type of belligerence might appease the frustrated white voters who felt marginalized by progressives and other cultures, he might even represent them well in a way, but by no means is this right or healthy for our country. There are shallow, murky waters ahead.

Look, our government is growing in a massive way and every way we condense authority to singular figures just makes it more exploitable and at risk for corruption. I know many schools of political thought are based on this idea of central control – with the caveat that their politics should be the ruling class. I believe competing ideas is a healthy part of American society and that means we need to have more nuance and understanding in our discourse.

For instance, the political party system has created two establishments that aren’t really based on any sort of political philosophy, but rather competing attitudes and controlling interests. These political establishments have made government offices established, so many that it’s hard to summarize them all. These establishments build up old executive orders, old laws and old directives from every phase of expansion and never really wind it back. As time passes, we grow at greater risk of someone malicious getting hold of our political process and bending it to their will, essentially deriding the freedoms our society is based on.

If we can’t have a Presidential election for the highest office without it turning into a farce, why not break up the authorities of the President and divide it amongst more people and implement more checks and balances? Why even let the powers of these offices become so consolidated anyways, why not let sweeping pieces of legislation expire and force our government to reissue them? Some people might complain that this type of deconstructed government that is breaking itself down, dividing itself up and revalidating itself all the time might not be as efficient, but it sure as hell would be much more impervious to corruption or the manipulations of the small minded. One bad election cycle wouldn’t put us on our toes. The idea that we need everything central and driven by dictator-like edicts is a part of the New American Myth we live in everyday.

Again, shame on you if you approve of what you see when you look at Trump sitting in the Oval office. You might in fact be the problem with the country, not all those undesirable “other” kinds of folk.

 
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Primal Muscle’s “Primal Surge” 10x Pre-workout Supplement Review

Another pre-workout review would definitely help me provide a little levity considering all the recent serious business blogging I’ve done lately. Today I’m going to review an interesting drink in terms of ingredient list, one I kind of look forward to breaking down.

Please keep in mind while reading that I am on a powerlifting training regiment and that is how I will be evaluating this product.

Cover to Cover

Primal Muscle’s Primal Surge has a fairly straightforward label, I’m not really sure why “10x” is on the bottle I can’t quite tell if it’s part of the product title or not. It states simply that it is a “pre-workout drink” and it is watermelon flavor. I love watermelon, personally, and appreciate the simple marketing on the label.

The side label claims in a discreet area that the product will “blast intensity”, “maximize focus” and “crush workouts”. Well let’s see how that plays out…

Customer Care Experience

Shortly after our purchase of this preworkout we got a nice email from Primal Muscle’s reps. Standard message of thanks for the purchase and also suggested I read their “Primal Muscle Training Guide” in case it is helpful. Before I provide a short commentary on this guide I just want to say, I don’t really have a need for it and I’m not the type to buy muscle magazines. I very rarely take advice on training regiment from random sources.

That said, the Primal Muscle Training Guide was very much composed like the typical muscle magazine. It has some training suggestions, some text blurbs reminding you why supplements are a vital component to a training regiment, an ad for Humatropic (and its “MicroRNA Growth Factory Poly-Peptides”) with promises of “rock hard cuts” and affirmed legality. Also included were similar ad segments for other supplements on their list – MesoFX, Primal BCAA’s, AndroxyFX, Lipotase, TridenosenH intermixed with little articles about workout plan and how cardio, recovery, training variety are all useful/necessary aspects of training.

Look, I have low expectations and if anything I did think the idea of the rep sending over a guide at all was itself cool and appreciated the effort to compose such a thing. If I were to be a smartass and suggest a better “guide” I’d suggest the following: make it a little shorter, keep the writeup for company products each to a page insert and cut out the “op ed” blurbs about these products. Also keep the “blueprint” training guide because (why not) but cut down the sections on cardio/recovery/hiit/etc to 2-3 articles (perhaps “tips and tricks” or “common mistakes”) and maybe also throw in an interesting interview or something you wouldn’t otherwise expect just as something fun for those few who take the time to read the guide. Hell, can’t get an interview? Maybe just slap in a crossword puzzle. It’s in a PDF format maybe you could even toss in some kind of printable poster. Any single fun mindless thing that is otherwise unexpected.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

The flavor based ingredients are mostly sucralose and “natural and artificial” watermelon-y flavor. I will insert here my normal gripe that I’d like to see more pre-workout companies try stevia as a sweetener. Calcium Silicate and Silicon Dioxide make this a nice dry mix with easy mixability and I was fairly happy with it’s day one mixability, it required virtually no stirring on my part to mix.

Another personal gripe is we’ve got a dabble of Red 40 in the mix to give the powder a bold red color. I know it’s supposed to look powerful and watermelonish, but as I’ve stated in previous reviews I am not a fan of adding artifice if it’s not needed. I mean I understand why some foods have dye in them (candies, deserts, other presentation-based foods) but not preworkout drinks. We don’t need it to look pretty folks – we just need it to work. It could gain a better flavor and more natural red color if it simply contained more natural watermelon, I might ad.

As for the actual taste, it definitely tasted watermelon-able. Like I mentioned before I just love watermelon. It tasted kind of like what you imagine any watermelon-like punch might taste like. It’s all good – my palate is like a horse and I could drink watermelon-alose all day long.

Headline Ingredients (Niacin, Beta-Alanine, Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, Citrulline Malate, Caffeine)

One thing I absolutely love about this product is it’s no bullshit ingredient list. Unlike other products that obscure quantities with a “mix” prefix or find artificial reasons to group them, this just has one very definitive list from head to toe on what it’s made of. Bravo! Also the diversity of the list is pretty awesome for a preworkout, double Bravo!

Niacin (5mg) also known as a form of Vitamin B3 is the heaviest supplement on the label, and a surprising addition to the mix. I’m not versed enough to say if it’s “common” to have Niacin in a pre-workout but the overall health considerations of having extra B-vitamins is plenty reason to have it in anything. A true health supplement, more B-vitamins will help the body generate good cholesterol, eliminate bad cholesterol and improves the ability of the body to burn carbohydrates into glucose. At 5mg, this pre-workout is not sufficient to replace a daily dose (it is about 25%-33% of what you’d want to consume in a day) but with a normal healthy diet or multi-vitamin supplement it is nice to get the extra Niacin.

Beta-Alanine (2000mg) is here for a great boost to your endurance, workout volume and generally is an awesome stimulant. A fundamental pre-workout ingredient the 2g dose is probably what I’d recommend someone choose for a pre-workout. I would suggest that if you want the best dietary benefits of Beta-Alanine that you should consider taking a second dose through the day. I will note this is the generic type of Beta-Alanine, which is fine as I’ve not formed strong opinions about the popular “CarnoSyn” brand you see other pre-workouts using.

Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (1500mg) is primarily here for its nitric oxide boosting, but I’m never really fully convinced this has a noticeable training effect this has. It also has those libido gains for those who look forward to it. If you want your product to be the “BEST NITRIC OXIDE PRE WORKOUT” (from their website) this seems like a sensible core ingredient.

Good ol’ Citrulline Malate (1500mg) is also here, the primary purpose seems to be for it to convert to L-Arginine, essentially boosting the Argining supplementation and the nitric oxide boosting. I am assuming the ratio is 2:1 on this Citrulline Malate correct me if I’m wrong (not sure what it means if the ratio is not listed). This of course is a partner to Arginine AKG because the Citrulline will be converted into Arginine as it is processed by the body.

Between the Arginine AKG and Citrulline Malate, the dosages are lower and I imagine they are designed to compliment each other to provide a culmitive effect. Even so, I believe these doses are low for the intended effect. I would prefer either of these be closer to 2g or even 3g (3g being closer to what I hear recommended).

While on the smaller end of the list I put caffeine up here since it is an essential stimulant and at 250mg, it is closer to what I recommend in a pre-workout. Most Americans have a degree of caffeine resistance being we drink so many caffeinated beverages, and most pre-workouts settle on 200mg of caffeine – or less. 250mg is great and refreshing to see and it definitely gives you a little kick.

Other Ingredients (L-Carnitine, Mucuna L-Dopa 20%, Taurine, Theobromine, Yohimba HCI)

These ingredients are in lower quantities than most of the above, but definitely are important factors to the mix. I find some of these the most interesting.

L-Carnitine (750mg) is an appropriate dose for a pre-workout and the primary role here is fat burning and recovery. Keep in mind for the full benefits of this you should be supplementing it at other times throughout the day (I think a 1.5g to 2g total daily dose is best), although your diet and body may do this for you.

Mucuna L-Dopa 20% (450mg) is a new one for me to look at. An extract of the velvet bean, increasing L-Dopa in your system can effect mood and its supplementation as far as I’m aware is shown to directly increase dopamine, which you probably know as the neurotransmitter that fires off when new expansions to Dark Souls 3 DLC are announced. I am not educated enough about L-Dopa nor about what the 20% indicates to tell if this dose is effectual or not, but it’s a nice and interesting addition to the mix. Generally something to help your mood is going to help your workout.

Taurine (400mg), a natural balance to Beta-Alanine, is a logical supplement. It however seems to be a low dose in my opinion, other preworkouts I have used had 1g to 2g. Whether this is even needed or not is debateable as if your diet is normal it is unlikely you need extra, but given there is a healthy Beta-Alanine dose I’d suggest a higher Taurine dose. A bigger dose could earn the pre-workout makers the right to talk more about reducing lactic acid buildup, but I feel like runners are not their primary demographic.

Theobromine (100mg) commonly found in cocoa extract and concentrated best in darker chocolates is a great cardiovascular stimulant and I imagine they are also parlaying this into the mix to improve their claims on nitric oxide production for the mix. The 100mg dose is okay as it is difficult to tell how many times someone might use your product in a day, but I’d probably have a 200mg to 250mg dose.

Yohimbe HCI (3mg) is in a tiny dose because it can in some cases have negative effects, it is a nice adrenaline booster and fat burner. This is a secondary fat burning component that is definitely a play by the maker to claim the pre-workout is powerful. While I normally complain the dose should be higher in situations like this, given there are two other stimulating factors in the mix the Yohimbe can be kept at this level I think and still do its thing. Also I can more safely take a double dose in a day if I want the extra pep or do a second workout without concerns of negative effects Yohimbe can have in extreme doses.

Workout Results

I used this preworkout for a 4 day training week just before beginning my workout. Well I will say that during these workouts I maintained a smooth, steady state of alertness in comparison at least to previous workouts. I definitely noticed an energy boost which was calm and without a crash.

While reviewing preworkouts I have to say, preworkouts are somewhat difficult to evaluate. Your workout quality can easily overridden by the day you’re having, your diet, your rest. However I will say that on this preworkout there was less of a rush to a peak effect followed by a crash and that was consistent every time I took it. It definitely provided consistent energy through the workout which makes this preworkout one of my favorites since I started reviewing them.

Going over the ingredients once more, the pre-workout isn’t perfect. Some doses are low, there are a lot of doubled up ingredients which is smart but also for those doses to be exactly right a lot of research should b done and I believe just based on what I see there is room for optimization, and things like the red dye is just unnecessary. Overall though, the ingredients are a great selection of interesting materials that come together for a good experience.

In previous reviews I typically wrap up by suggesting whether I’d try it again. I will step aside from those previous reviews this time by saying that this pre-workout, if you try and like it as I have, could easily be a staple pre-workout to use. I definitely believe one element of supplements and pre-workouts is diversity but this pre-workout is smart, composed well and would be a good one to routinely use.

 
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A Rant on the NRA & Philando Castile’s Death

I recently went on a little tirade on Facebook regarding the NRA’s response, or lack thereof, to the Philando Castile murder. Philando was a black American with to my knowledge a spotless criminal record who was killed at a traffic stop after announcing to the officer that he had a valid permit weapon. There is no reason at this moment to doubt the eyewitness account of his fiance, who watched him die, that he was in fact complying with the officer’s orders and that the officer had escalated the confrontation to lethal force for pretty much no reason.

This situation is a textbook 2nd amendment rights case, and when you think 2nd amendment rights you think the NRA which is a forefront gun rights advocacy group. After all what is more egregious than the government murdering a civilian for no reason besides that he was cooperating and in compliance with local gun laws? After a bit of pressure, the NRA made a comment that you can read in full on their Twitter account. The NRA refused to mention Castile by name, saying they will reserve comment “following an investigation”. I suspect there will be no follow up to this situation.

Supporters of the NRA might say here that reserving comment on a situation like this definitely warrants finding out “all the facts”, but fact of the matter is we have a fairly credible account of the situation. Listen, I’ll wait for you to go form your own opinion of this shooting as it might as well be any one of a number of other violent shootings targeting black Americans by police officers in our country. Fact is he was a licensed carrier of his weapon, there is no evidence he was doing anything other than cooperating with the law enforcement officer, and being murdered for this is a clear violation of his Constitutional rights. So I posit the question: if the NRA “can’t comment without and investigation” on a fairly clearcut case of a 2nd amendment Constitutional rights violation for a person who was murdered by the government – then what exactly is the NRA for?

The Rant

Like most special interest groups, the NRA has a narrative and agenda to push. That narrative is that inner city violence is self perpetuated by black society and that a well armed citizenry, military and police force is the only way to “control” them. It is a fear driven narrative that meshes well with their message that gun ownership is the only solution to foreign invading terrorist forces.

While the NRA is far from the only special interest group in the United States that puts its narratives before its policy making and principles (there are endless examples), for the NRA to refuse to at least even acknowledge the legitimate concerns gun owners in the country should have when a news story comes out that an American citizen was wrongfully murdered by a police officer – denying him any due process of law – for merely carrying a weapon and following the legal process to disclose it just demonstrates one thing: the NRA’s perpetuation of their narrative is based on their constituency – an older, white American society who believes in more “traditional” policies. A militaristic America, where arming the government more than the population keeps those minority groups and foreigners “in check”.

I fear a government that is armed to the teeth and able to outright murder its citizens without any due process of law, whose agents suffer very few to no penalties for these violations of our rights. I believe every American who believes in protecting their rights should fear the same thing. The NRA is quick to push that fear as a reason to arm the civil population – but fact is, and this is all throughout their own propaganda through all their official sources – the NRA would rather have the police force and military armed to the teeth. This is a more dangerous government, not a less dangerous one, it shows that their gun manufacturer sponsors profits are more important than a strong citizenry.

In the NRA’s narrative, a better society is one where every police officer is even better armed than today, and that is a dangerous society. No well armed civilian population can really do anything to hold a group like this accountable. That puts the NRA at odds with the chief principle of the 2nd amendment – that the primary reason we believe people should be allowed to carry guns is to protect ourselves from an oppressive government. One that would violate our due process and human rights by murdering our citizens, denying them the right to see a day in court.

If the NRA can’t stop that from happening for us, to protect us from a government that is not in any way accountable to us, then what is the point of it? We don’t need any advocacy group that refuses to actually advocate whenever doing so doesn’t bolster their narrative. This is a clear case of the group being ineffectual and potentially making the problem worse by alienating those who desperately need someone to advocate for them.

In short

If it was a white American who died I somewhat doubt they’d be waiting on the investigation to make a comment. Perhaps not every member of the NRA is racist, but the underpinnings of many of their primary concerns with society has a lot to do with pushing a social agenda which has racial undertones. One that can at times compromise their principles. A principled gun rights advocate should be calling for answers and justice for Philando Castile and I think it is out and out ignorant of the situation to suggest anything else.

The point of an advocacy group

Advocacy groups are supposed to, y’know, advocate. To support those who might be the ones who have nobody else to stand up for them. Philando cannot support himself in this cause because he’s dead, so you’d think people in a position to speak out on this kind of issue would be doing it now more than ever. Objectively, these two cases should be very cut and dry as far as what a guns-rights supporting American should think about the situation – they should be all for considering both gross misconduct by the police department and both cases should be looked at as potentially and the NRA refuses to comment. As the go-to group in the country to defend 2nd amendment rights, the distancing from even making statements about either of these situations is out and out troubling. I guess the “carry a gun legal or not and get shot on sight” policy many of these police officers have with our citizens is just an A-OK thing to the NRA.

While the NRA won’t say anything and is probably perfectly happy to never make a comment addressing this situation ever again and just forget it, not everyone in America is going to remain quiet. A great example of a public comment made by a gun rights advocacy group called the Second Amendment Foundation (based in Bellevue, WA) expresses grave concern over the situation involving Castile’s death in a statement in conjunction with the Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

From the words of the SAF founder Alan Gottlieb: “Wednesday night’s shooting of Philando Castile is very troubling, especially to the firearms community, because he was a legally-armed private citizen who may have done nothing more than reach for his identification and carry permit. […] We have received calls of alarm today from many of our members across the country. They are justifiably concerned that a law-abiding citizen may have been wrongfully killed. […] The concerns of our members, and honest gun owners everywhere, go even deeper. Exercising our right to bear arms should not translate to a death sentence over something so trivial as a traffic stop for a broken tail light, and we are going to watch this case with a magnifying glass.”

Whether you believe in gun control or not, you should universally agree that so long as it is within the law people should not be shot and killed merely for being legal gun owners. Even a guns rights cynic should agree to this much. However to expect any American organization to practice principle over supporting their core narratives is just asking too much, it is an inbred facet of our society.

 
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Should Police Officers Have Guns?

I just wanted to repost this rant from Facebook, on the recent issues surrounding the crisis in our country on law enforcement led violence against our citizenry, especially those in the Black community.

Taking another look at Police and their role in our community

When I think of the police department and the public service they provide, I’ve always felt like this: The sole job of the police department in our society is to serve and protect the community, to uphold and to enforce the rights given to us by the Constitution.

That said, if someone were to come and steal from me, to take things from me, the odds of a police officer being able and willing to help me are statistically poor. If someone murdered me, murdered a member of my family again the odds of a police officer being able and willing to help stop the violence is poor. I can be pretty guaranteed that if a fight broke out, if someone wanted to rape someone I cared about, that if I personally cannot stop them that the odds – statistically speaking – of any police officer arriving in enough time to do any good whatsoever again, are too poor to rely on. If I want to protect myself and my family in these situations I need to be willing to act of my own accord to protect myself and my family. Even living close to a police station I just don’t believe anyone in blue can help me in a true crisis, it just is not plausible that they will react in the time needed to help me.

As such, I’ve always held the only thing a police officer can do for me is help investigate a crime after the fact, after me or someone I love is a victim. Honestly, most departments do not have the resources available to do a very good job of this, only seeming willing to help if handed the appropriate evidence to seek a conviction on a silver platter. I have never had confidence that a police department will help me greatly if my car gets stolen, or my wallet, or if someone violent hurts me or my family. They might if the perpetrator is out and out stupid, but if they are smart, once the crime is committed and they are gone it is only my word and my ability to collect evidence that helps me in any way seek a resolution via the help of law enforcement.

As a law abiding citizens when I think of the police I don’t think of a daring do-gooder who is going to protect me when I’m being threatened by violence. I more think of a mundane traffic stop, a levy for a fine, and an interaction with someone who if anything is there to intimidate me more than anything else. When I see law enforcement on the street and in public, I tend to have a genuine concern that even looking at them the wrong way or saying the wrong thing in their presence could get me in trouble, some might say that concern is unjustified but is it really? I see a law enforcement officer as someone who stands before me, looking for ways to fine me or imprison me to make their quotas – and I am the law abiding citizen!

No action without accountability

When I think about what that means for my family, my wife and stepchildren who are black, I have a real constant concern that these minor things could wind up being a tragedy for them, over something simple or stupid. My wife had a gun held to her face by a law enforcement officer less than a year ago in front of her children, over a mundane traffic violation. Because the threat of death is the best way to perform a traffic stop, I guess. For people who have the power of life and death, I kind of have to wonder if they even get more than the most rudimentary basic training in crisis resolution.

As agents of our government, police officers while serving are the opposite of private citizens. This country is built on the idea that citizens have rights, and the police officers being a part of the government have privileges granted to them by us. If the police department is not doing constructive things to prevent crime, if they can’t help me in the event of crime actually happening, then I’m not quite understood as to why they exist the way they do. I get that being an officer is a dangerous occupation, but no amount of that should create a system that protects those who just murder our citizens without any due process of law as frequently as police officers in our country do.

If you share the same concerns, I want to put forward an idea to you. Sure, police can theoretically respond to emergency situations and I’ll admit you can find examples of them doing so – but if you believe as I do that this does not reflect the real day to day ongoings of the police bureau in your community then tell me, why exactly do we as citizens permit our local police departments to carry guns and exercise lethal force at their own personal discretion? I used to think this was a necessary facet of our police department, but after seeing the developments in this country, well, I’m not so sure anymore. Do you actually believe that carrying guns will significantly impact a police officer’s ability to respond to your home invasion, to your mugging or violent beating, to your murder or the murder or rape of your family? Do you think your local police officers can exercise their discretion over applying lethal force – keeping in mind that death is an immediate revocation of any kind of due process – well enough to justify continuing to have that authority and that they should be consistently protected by the legal system when they don’t exercise best judgement with this power?

Protecting the Constitution and the people is the only role for the police department

The 2nd amendment was written to protect private people from their government, not to protect the government from the people. The 14th amendment says that no state shall deprive our life, liberty or property without due process of law which lethal force cannot provide. If police departments cannot create a system to hold their ranks to serious forms of accountability for these tragic incidents we’ve been inundated with for years time and time again, perhaps we should revoke the privilege they have to carry guns. While it may not be as easy as foreign countries to do this in the United States, it is our responsibility to do what is right and ethical in this situation, and most importantly, what protects the rights given to every one of us by the Constitution. The right to due process under the law, the right to a day in court for our crimes, the right not to be callously beaten and murdered just because some traitorous officer has a bad day.

Failure of an officer to exercise good judgement in a case of lethal force is, in my mind, high treason against the Constitution of the United States and personally I’d rather take the risk that I have to protect myself more in the future from violence than see any more tragedies like the kind that are on the news every single day. Such as the tragic circumstances behind the recent murders of ‪#‎philandocastile‬ or ‪#‎altonsterling‬ . I used to be critically skeptical of those saying police were being too brutal, but I think today I have to say we ‪#‎takeawaytheirguns‬ ‪#‎endlethalforce‬ ‪#‎bringaccountabilitytotheforce‬ because ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ ‪#‎alllivesmatter‬ and most importantly because ‪#‎peopleshouldnotbeafraidoftheirgovernment‬ !

One final thought: if I must choose my safety and security over the rights of others who are violated by all this police violence, then I easily choose to be unsafe and insecure. I am happy to deal with those consequences myself, to live in a country that is fair and that respects the life and rights of its people.

Some afterthoughts…

I think a lot of the encounters that you see hit the news have a lot to do with people who are reacting to things with human instincts. Citizens are not trained in crisis management and have every right to be nervous and anxious around officers especially because they know there is a reason to feel threatened – it only takes an officer with a bad attitude and poor judgement to miscarriage justice and that can be a severe disruption in someone’s life. Officers often see the world through the statistical bias that lends them to think minority groups are a higher risk of criminal behavior and it is also understandable that this would set a minority citizen at unease.

When these tragedies happen I believe a big part of why they occur is the officers (who should all be trained in crisis management unlike the citizen) are responding to their behavior with the classic fight or flight reaction – which is not the right reaction to rely on for good judgment with a firearm. So I think the only way to prevent more tragedy is to seriously consider removing the gun from the equation and only having a small class of officers – perhaps those who serve warrants or respond to emergencies with active shooters at the scene – be permitted to carry firearms, then to have a high level of oversight over all incidents where they are used. It is an honor and responsibility to anyone who serves our country to use the resources they are given by us responsibly. We cannot have a domestic police force all having the power of life and death, it just seems outside the scope of what is realistic to expect our domestic police force be trained for. Every deficiency of training an officer to handle a crisis situation results in a person whose rights are taken away. It may seem like a challenge, but revoking their firearms seems to me the only ethical solution.

As a citizen, I do believe citizens should maintain the right to own legally acquired firearms, because the fact is we each individually are the ones who most usually have to defend ourselves in a crisis situation. However that is a separate issue that I will address another day. I do want to be clear that this proposal is merely with regards to limiting what agents of our government – the police force – should be permitted to do. I appreciate any and all feedback should anyone stumble upon this.

 
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Pitch Practice – Dark Souls TV Series

So a new series of blog posts I’m going to do from time to time is where I pitch an idea, just one on the top of my head, and lay out what I think is awesome about it. Whether or not I’d ever expect the idea to take flight or garner interest is something else altogether, just consider this practice. Today I’m going to put an idea I’ve ruminated on for some time, the basic plot structure for a TV series based on the Dark Souls video games.

For those who don’t know, Dark Souls is a game series directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. Critically acclaimed, the series is known for its lauded difficulty, in a world where triple A game titles walk you through them to a point where they are outright holding your hand, Dark Souls challenges the player creating a much more rewarding experience.

Another challenging aspect of Dark Souls, which lures fans in, is the game’s cryptic lore. Told through item descriptions and vague NPC chatter, the story behind the world of Dark Souls is fantastically deep with lots of hidden clues. In a world where television shows tend to be dramatic by just being violent or bludgeoning you with narrative I think the subtle artistic aspect to Dark Souls lore would be perfect to carry into a tv show.

This will probably come off like nerdy fanfiction, but the point of this is just to show I have a basic premise to work with. I am not a lore expert by any means, so conflicting lore issues are generally not the biggest concern for me, instead just having the outline correct.

The Loglines

In the broken and dangerous world of Drangleic two chosen undead must complete a quest to fix their world before they lose the last of their humanity. The quest: choose to light the first flame of the world to continue an age of fire ruled by gods or allow the it to die, bringing about an age of darkness ruled by man.

Background

For those of you unfamiliar with Dark Souls here is the basic story of the game. In this fantasy world set in a medieval setting the world was created as grey and ashen and was ruled by immortal dragons. Then change was introduced in the form of the first flame, from within the darkness of this flame humanity arose. Three humans found great power within the first flame called Lord Souls and took it for themselves, becoming the world’s first lords (or gods). They were: Nito – Lord of Death, Gwyn – Lord of Sunlight and the Witch of Izalith – Lord of Chaos. A fourth Lord Soul was found by a being known only as a furitive pygmy, it was a special Dark Soul with power the pygmy kept hidden from the other Lords.

The three Lords learned of the dragon’s weakness from one of their own who had betrayed them, and used this knowledge to strip the dragons of their immortal scales and destroy them. A new age had begun, the Age of Fire, and the Lords ruled the land bringing about peace amongst the humans. However eventually the first flame began to fade, and with it the powers granted to the Lords. Threatened with destruction, Gwyn committed what is referred to as the “first sin” by linking his own essence to the first flame to keep it burning for another era, but doing so causes humans to start becoming afflicted with a darksign – the beginning of the undead curse. Now each time the fire fades, the undead curse spreads further eventually finding itself a chosen undead who is persistent enough to collect of the old Lords power to relink the flame as Gwyn once did. Even if there is an age of darkness due to the chosen undead refusing to link the flame, the curse continues to spread and become worse until eventually a chosen undead rises that usurps enough power to link the flame and start another age of fire. While there are presumably many ages of fire and ages of darkness to a point where kingdoms from eras of peace are forgotten altogether, it is only clear at this point that the world is stuck in this cycle of fire and dark.

Set between the events of Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III, this series takes a look at the adventures of two chosen undead as they explore the land of Drangleic in search of the power that can grant them access to the first flame. Much like the game, a brunt of the story takes place with the help of supporting characters – humans, other undead, mystical beings like dragons and even gods – who share struggles ultimately culminating in the first flame’s fate. Even though our protaganists can die, they are functionally immortal due to the undead curse which resurrects them at bonfires spread throughout the land – but with every death the chosen undead loses a little of their humanity and sanity. Much of the world is now overrun with “hollows”, those undead who finally lost all sense of self and are only violent empty shells. As it pertains to the storytelling of the series a more important element of the curse is that death and resurrection has another effect – the world in which these characters inhabit is broken in both time and space, and as they die and resurrect the characters shift between realities constantly becoming separated from one another.

Several characters will directly return from the game series itself (characters such as the Emerald Herald, Patches, Darkstalker Kaathe, Kirk the Knight of Thorns and Gwyndolin), however many new characters introduced specifically for the show will be analogues to existing Dark Souls characters or potentially “reincarnations” if you choose to see it that way (there will definitely be a knight of Astora similar to Solaire, a knight of Catarina similar to Siegward/Siegmeyer, and a crossbreed dragon/human similar to Company Captain Yorshka or Crossbreed Priscilla).

Plot Synopsis

The most important element to this story is that it takes place with two primary main characters afflicted with the undead curse, one male the other female who do not have any definitive background or story. I have not given these characters names and I’m not convinced they need them as of yet, the less that is told about key story elements like this the more it retains the original storytelling mystique of the game series. In fact in the plot summary I’m going to just refer to them as the “Male Undead” and “Female Undead” for now. These characters are basically blank slates who react to the things they find in Drangleic in ways that establish their personality types, neither being definitively good or evil but eventually coming at odds to one another. They both meet the same set of characters but besides for a few key moments they will have little direct interaction with one another.

In general the first episode of the series will introduce the world and these two characters, with each one having very similar experiences (albeit both characters will in most cases be completely separated from the other) in almost a deja vu like manner. It will be revealed that the Emerald Herald drew them both to an undead settlement and even though she appears as she did originally in Dark Souls II she makes it clear she is nearing the end of her life. The characters learn the basic backstory to the world of Dark Souls while arriving at the shrine. The Emerald Herald has spent the last years of her life building a shrine to the bonfires – explained as embers of the first flame – which is being tended to by a shrine handmaiden and the last cursed members who are townspeople and workers who find menial labor as their willpower to stop from becoming completely hollow (which teaches the viewer about how hollowing and the curse works). These characters work on the shrine but the Male Undead attempts to speak to them the and Emerald Herald stops him, insisting that any stoppage from the work could lead to them going completely hollow. When the Female Undead arrives to the shrine the events play out nearly identically, she meets the Emerald Herald also – in fact the scenes can be told in parallel – however there will be some subtle differences in her experience, such as the builders being mostly gone (I forsee an overhead shot entering the shrine of workers, with the Male Undead’s scene being busy and then panning to the Female Undead’s entrance with a substantially more thin population of workers).

As the story progresses, we see the Male and Female Undead meet the cast of supporting characters who serve as a backdrop to tell fun/interesting stories focused on human nature, creating a lot of standalone episodes. The first destination for both undead is an asylum of undead, where they find a Knight of Catarina wearing the classic onion-shaped armor who is stuck at a drawbridge with a fierce drake at the other end. The Catarina Knight is helped by both undead in slightly different ways to solve the problem – the Male Undead solves the problem for the Catarina Knight and the Female Undead cooperates with him, encouraging him to help in the solution – and each gain a bit of the Catarina Knight’s respect (albeit for different reasons). Their next stop is to ring the Bell of Awakening and at the base of the church they both meet a Knight of Astora, I envision this being a female character who says her father was a great warrior of sunlight whose footsteps she is following in now that she has found herself now bearing the undead curse. This insinuates she is the daughter of the Dark Souls character Solaire, and she is met wearing his iconic armor and shield and sharing his boisterous persona. This character will introduce the soapstones which allows the undead characters to find each other via a summoning sign, which will be an important mechanic to understand what is going on down the line in the story. The Knight of Astora joins the Male Undead to ring the bell, and helps him fend off vicious gargoyles, whereas the Female Undead also has the Knight of Astora’s help however she has to use a soapstone summon sign to find her help.

Again I reiterate that the male and Female Undead’s journeys meet the same characters in a criss-crossing fashion, often both being in similar situations, but each story is completely separate. It is almost as if they are both in slightly different dimensions. In the first 5-6 episodes we see quite a few phantom images of other characters who especially appear clearer as the undead characters sit by the bonfires they encounter. Through deduction as the story swaps between scenes with the Male and Female Undead, the viewer should begin to notice events from one person’s “world” are being echoed in another via these phantoms, and that some characters only appear in one world or another as a summoned phantom via the soapstones.

In the fourth episode, both undead meet Patches, a trickster who lures them both into a trap. The Male Undead finds a clever solution to the trap which enables his escape, whereas in the Female Undead’s world she finds a method to brute force her escape, finding and beating Patches into submission. When cornered by both undead Patches offers them information, which convinces them to go separate ways to proceed on their journey exploring different areas to seek more power to find the first flame in the upcoming episodes.

The rest of the episodes are not set in stone but I have an outline as to how the story progresses for the two protagonists which I’ll outline below as well as how the plot for the first season resolves.

Story of the Male Undead

The Male Undead explores his path through the world and after traversing a toxic swamp he meets the Flame God Flann – one member of a distant royal family, seeking to find his own solution to the problems of the first flame – who convinces the Male Undead that it simply requires the right person to link the flame to end the undead curse. Flann is trying to find the research of a “scholar of the first sin” to learn more about the cycles of fire and dark, to find a better solution outside of merely linking or failing to link the flame. The Male Undead comes into conflict with a hunter of humanity (the Dark Souls red invading phantoms) Kirk the Knight of Thorns who kills undead over and over again to harvest their energy from their remaining humanity. It is established that Kirk uses an artifact called a Red Eye Orb to invade sources of humanity as a red phantom. It is later shown he does this to feed a young deformed girl with the human soul energy he acquires. At first this invader seems like an adversary, but the Male Undead finds out through the course of his adventure that Kirk is only feeding her this energy because she is the one of the last in the line of the Daughters of Chaos and she needs it to survive, which are descendants from the original Witch of Izalith. Lore fans of the series know The Witch of Izalith used her Lord Soul to try to recreate the first flame, but instead created a powerful horde of demons.

After the Male Undead allies with a Carthus warrior to venture into a demon ruins the Male Undead learns how to manipulate humanity from his own essence using the magic of pyromancy. The two dig deep into the ruins and find a tamed Stray Demon, and the Male Undead learns of the true nature of the relationship the Daughter of Chaos with Kirk from this demon. As it turns out, the demons of this ruin were enslaved by a legion of soldiers from a powerful nearby settlement, and despite their imposing size and power they are in a poor condition. The next time Kirk attacks the Male Undead coaxes a piece of his own soul using his newfound skills of pyromancy and gives Kirk this energy voluntarily. Kirk then takes the Male Undead to the young Daughter of Chaos out of respect and although she is sickly she shows the Male Undead how to create life with the human soul energy, however teaching him this technique causes her to die. Kirk departs, only being seen again in the Female Undead’s world as a hollowed warrior. After all this the Male Undead’s willpower to see his quest to its end is the only thing keeping him from going hollow and the advancement of hollowing is beginning to show in his exposed flesh as he becomes more thin and pale, decayed. Knowing he is almost ready to find the first flame, he is informed he simply needs more power to gain access, being told the only place to potentially find this energy is in the original land of the Lords, Anor Londo.

Story of the Female Undead

Then there is the quest of the Female Undead, which takes her to a citadel in a remote colony where she meets a royal family. These new rulers were the ones who established the undead asylum as a place to put hollowing undead to keep them safe from their mostly human population, a suggestion of their chief advisor. It is evident though that something is amiss, a creeping darkness seems to plague the community. Between this and the curse causing substantial groups of the population to go hollow the human settlement is starting to fall into disarray. The Female Undead journeys to a nearby township of the colony which is being plagued by dark forces and finds a giant grey wolf who fends off the Darkness. At first the giant Wolf attacks the Female Undead, but when she injures her right arm in the battle and the Wolf realizes she is not tainted by the darkness it befriends her. The giant Wolf is showing visible signs of aging and has an emaciated leg, but being giant and powerful the Wolf helps her continue her adventure into the darkness to find where to go next.

While exploring the chasms of darkness the dark beings who reside therein keep a distance from the Wolf or more importantly a silver pendant that hangs around the Wolf’s neck, allowing the Female Undead passage deeper into the chasm. At a distance she finds the royal advisor treading the depths as well and follows, staying hidden. He eventually notices her, confronts her and reveals himself to be a Darkwraith warrior. After defeating him, she finds what he was protecting, the lair of the Primordial Serpent Kaathe. Kaathe welcomes the Female Undead and explains to her how to fix the world – by collecting the power of all the Lords including the lost power of her “progenitor” (the furitive pygmy), which will allow her to become a Dark Lord and stop all those who would seek to kindle the flame. He says the darksign of the undead curse is what allows her to collect this power, and that she must find a way to acquire energy from the Dark Soul itself. If she does this all that remains to become the Dark Lord is to head to the land of the Lords, Anor Londo, to find the remaining power needed.

Kaathe says the Wolf knows the way to the power of the Dark Soul, giving her the Ashen Mist Heart which he explains is an artifact which will let her revisit the memory of those of history to find the Dark Soul energy that she needs. The Wolf somewhat understands what is being asked of him (the Wolf does not speak) and it leads the Female Undead to a graveyard deep in the nearby forest. Not far from a towering grave is a smaller one, where the Ashen Mist Heart resonates and allows the Female Undead to traverse into a dream world of the past, which is really the ancient memory of the Chosen One – the true Abyss Walker. Taking the Abyss Walker’s place in this memory the Female Undead finds Manus, Lord of the Abyss and defeats him.

Acquiring power from the Dark Soul during this challenge the Female Undead returns to her time, but when she tries to leave Wolf steps in front of her. Sensing the power of the Darkness, the Wolf turns on the Female Undead. Despite being old and wounded the giant Wolf takes the Female Undead off guard, his pendant weakening her until an errant blow rips the rope that keeps the pendant around his neck. She ultimately dies in the struggle, after inflicting further wounds the old Wolf. She wakes at a nearby bonfire with the dark energy from the memory still acquired and she chooses not to find the old Wolf again, heading next to Anor Londo.

Supporting Cast

As mentioned before while all this happens the supporting cast of characters sort of criss cross between the Male Undead’s world and the Female Undead’s world. Supporting character story arcs follow up like this:

The Knight of Catarina (analogue to the game’s Sieward/Siegmeyer) is always found in need of aid, and we come to realize that while he is a bit lazy and unmotivated what keeps him going is the need to feel important. The Male Undead settles the Knight of Catarina’s problem for him but realizes he made a mistake near the end, allowing the Knight of Catarina to fight (and die) on his behalf – the Knight of Catarina of course will resurrect at a nearby bonfire having died with his sense of pride intact. The Female Undead however believes in cooperation and teamwork and refuses to let him fight a battle for her and while she is well meaning this leads the Knight of Catarina ultimately to lose confidence, later resulting in him becoming hollow.

The Knight of Astora (presumably the daughter of the game’s knight Solaire) appears at pivotal moments to both adventurers, sometimes via the soapstone and sometimes in person. This character gives the person background and information on what is going on, expressing optimism and it is clear she is on the same quest as the undead (perhaps in her own reality). Using the power of the soapstone the Male Undead helps her achieve her goals, she reveals she is looking for a lost warrior, whereas while trying to help the Female Undead find her way out of the Abyss (where the Female Undead met Kaathe) the Knight of Astora is assaulted by frog beasts which expel a noxious gas causing her to become petrified. I haven’t decided where else to show her these are after all just basic ideas, but I do believe she would be a great character to use going into a second season plot.

Patches the thief will also make several returns to the story, reprising his role as trickster and all around uncouth person. I haven’t decided on any particular story to tell with him, but something about his ego and personality is what keeps him from going hollow and he knows this so he embraces it. In fact he calls his spirit “unbreakable”. Another point I’d add is that while it is generally considered that he lied to each undead when he told them in their first encounter to go each way to seek power, this is not necessarily the case.

Lastly the halfbreed dragon (analogue to the game series characters Priscilla/Yorksha) meets both undead at different points in their journey and convinces them they should work as agents for the Darkmoon Blades. Both undead conscript to the cause, the Male Undead believing Gwyndolin intends to help make him a worthy undead to link the fire (it is later found out this is a deceipt as Gwyndolin is in fact collecting power from as many as he can, killing any undead with strong humanity to absorb more power) and the Female Undead joins with the intent to betray the covenant, knowing that Gwyndolin has the power needed for her to become the Dark Lord. This returns us back to the main plot. A plot point viewers should deduce here is that the syncing between the character’s realities always happens at points of death/resurrection, the Male and Female Undead soon get separated after she dies (the Blades discover her treachery and assassinate her).

The Final Story Arc

Depending on how many episodes the series is greenlit for, the next series of events can either be strung together as a conclusion to the first season or can be segmented by supporting cast stories with the first part being a mid-season break and the second part being the season finale. Either way the story continues with both undead reaching Anor Londo, intent on betraying the Darkmoon Blades and killing Gwyndolin.

Despite the difficulty to get this far in their journies the undead both discover Gwyndolin’s antechamber is guarded by the elite warriors of Gwyn’s old guard. While their names are forgotten they are known only as the Dragonslayer and the Royal Executioner (those who know the game’s lore immediately recognize these two to be the infamous Ornstein and Smough). Both undead initially are unable to defeat the duo of the Dragonslayer and Executioner and the Female Undead who feels she is out of options, lays down her soapstone to offer assistance to others who might seek it and simply waits. The Male Undead sees her summon sign, and brings her back into sync with his world as a phantom. Together they defeat the Dragonslayer and Executioner allowing the Male Undead to meet Gwyndolin in his antechamber. As she returns to her plane of existence she finds herself alone still having to face the challenge of the Dragonslayer and Executioner who still live in her realm and continue to guard the antechamber. From here we skip ahead to each undead meeting Gwyndolin – the Male Undead making his way directly as he defeated his Dragonslayer/Executioner, whereas the Female Undead comes in a little later the fight having happened off-camera – she now carries the lightning spear that the Dragonslayer was seen holding before, however her face is decrepit and you can see she is slowly becoming more hollow. It is insinuated by this that after many attempts she managed to defeat the duo on her own, however this is a future plot point to explore in perhaps a second season.

This finally culminates with Gwyndolin falling to both undead, and they each having the power to access the Kiln of the First Flame, to decide the fate of the world. Before approaching the First Flame, they meet the Emerald Herald again. She explains that she was created to cure the curse but she knew when she was born that her sight, which lets her see the future, shows her that she simply cannot cure the curse. She encourages the Male Undead to link the flame. When she talks to the Female Undead the Emerald Herald is found out to have gouged out her own eyes. She says she gave up her sight to find the cure to the curse and now has it, she tells the Female Undead to touch the darkness within her to cure the darksign making the Female Undead mortal again (I will still refer to her as the “Female Undead” just to keep consistent but she is now no longer cursed). The now mortal Female Undead, still in possession of the power of the Lords, still wants to attempt to confront the challenge inside the Kiln to try to become the Dark Lord despite knowing the risk of failure is a death that is final.

Inside the Kiln, an Unknown Warrior paces around the site of the first flame, warding away any trespassers. The intention is for him to resemble Lord Gwyn from the series, but perhaps to be a little unique as this is not the same character. In the final exposition of the Emerald Herald prior to this fight, she explains that corpses all surrounding the flame are from those who linked it in the past and were defeated, this last warrior being the most recent one to link the flame. In battle the Male Undead defeats the Unknown Warrior using his pyromancy abilities and battle prowess. The Female Undead also defeats the Unknown Warrior in a fairly long and drawn out duel that exhausts all her remaining endurance, coming very close to being killed in the process.

As both undead approach the bonfire that is the First Flame, they see phantoms of the other (in past scenes phantom images become clearer when in proximity to a bonfire so their proximity to the first flame brings them into a very clear face to face confrontation). Unable to speak we see the Female Undead expresses dismay at the Male Undead, almost as if she is yelling at him to stop as she can see him potentially lighting the flame. A subplot to the story I did not mention is that in a previous episode when it was revealed that Kirk the Knight of Thorns went hollow it was in the Female Undead’s reality, and on defeating his hollow form she finds the Red Eye Orb. The Red Eye Orb senses strong sources of humanity beyond the dimensional barriers and begins to act erratic in the Female Undead’s hands, and she uses the orb to invade the Male Undead’s world as a red phantom. On arrival she puts forth a fevered argument over the merits of linking the flame, explaining that she wants to become a Dark Lord as a way to end the cycle and hopefully the curse.

She ultimately loses the fight, which brings her back to her own world (dying as a phantom is not the same as physical death, so even though she is mortal she is not yet “dead” from losing this fight). The Male Undead links the flame and tries to create life but fails, and immediately becomes consumed by the fire. The Female Undead walks away from the flame in intense thought about the situation, and as she looks at the corpses she sees the Unknown Warrior that she fought slain before her. Looking down at him, she sees the crest on his shield which is the same crest she saw with the Male Undead.

While contemplating this she walks past the Emerald Herald, who is blind but hears her, and speaks to her. The Herald tells the Female Undead that the only person who linked the flame who was not undead was Gwyn, and that having cured herself of the curse she might now have a different future if she tries to link the flame. She after all still has the power of Lords from her journey. The Female Undead returns to the first flame and as she puts her hand out to link the fire it consumers her but in a different way. The fire bursts out of her body splitting her into two distinct people, then from that second person flames reach out to all the corpses in sight of the first flame. These bodies stand up, including the Unknown Warrior and perhaps even one resembling the original body of Gwyn. They surround the Female Undead, whose body is now ashen. They let her walk away her sanity intact, giving her a new form of power as her skin cracks with molten fire and the old linkers of the flame begin to merge with her doppleganger at the site of the flame. She is now officially the world’s first Lord of Cinder, and with this the Emerald Herald dies.

The viewer is essentially told nothing during this but one thing that the viewer should extrapolate from the scenes is that this story happens over a large period of time with a lot of shifting in time, and that the Male Undead and Female Undead both exist in two distinct eras (with the Male Undead’s era occurring first). The resurrected characters, summoned phantoms and invaders are the consequence of the curse shifting people in and out of time and space with the help of soapstones to provide different ways to cross that barrier. The one period of time when both undead were in the same reality was merely the consequence of the death/resurrection cycles moving them through time deliberately, this moving them back towards a more consistent time with each death. With this all established, a new era begins.

Prospects for future series lie in the true events of conflict of the Dragonslayer/Executioner and the Female Undead (the Female Undead does defeat the Dragonslayer after killing the Executioner but before she can kill him the Knight of Astora interjects and convinces the Dragonslayer to stand down and leave Anor Londo with her – causing him to throw down his lightning spear that we later see the Female Undead use for the remainder of the series), exploring the consequences of the Lord of Cinder linking the flame and what it means for those with the curse, the story of the rising pilgrims and their quest to restore balance to the world, as well as more game lore elements.

Conclusion

Okay this is a lot of back and forth but I just wanted to lay out what I think would make a great skeletal outline (good job skeleton!) for what could be an honest/interesting interpretation of the Dark Souls video game on the tv screen. What did you think? Did any of this make sense whatsoever or was is just jumbled fanfiction? Feel free to hit me up on Facebook with your 2 cents. Thanks for reading!

Next for Practice Pitch: A video game idea of my own that I’d create were I independently wealthy and willing to learn game coding!

 
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Sports Leg + Lung Pre-Workout Review

Here we are back again for a quick preworkout review, Sports Leg + Lung (Tropical Orange Flavor) from Sports Endurance Inc. Just like previous reviews I’m going to give this product a breakdown to get a total look at what you get and what all the little things mean.

Cover to Cover

Sports Leg + Lung has a very simple package with a subtitle of being a “performance-amplifying workout beverage”. The bullet list: reduces fatigue, reduces leg burn, increases strength, increases energy and increases stamina. We’ll come back to these as we break the product down. I am a fan of the simplistic label.

The one thing I’m not sure of is a quite lengthy writeup on the side of the label, in short the blurb encourages you to take the product daily for best results, and reiterates that it is meant for a variety of physical activities – including lifting which is how I will be assessing it. If I hadn’t read this blurb though I’d have thought it was focused mostly at runners with the leg emphasis in the writeup, but all things considered I think the blurb is unnecessary.

Before I get into ingredients, I want to note one problem I have with the product, it’s not *really* a problem but I feel like it could be handled better. One serving of this is 2 scoops. Generally speaking I feel like a product like this should have a scoop big enough to make one serving one scoop, because I tend to forget the second scoop altogether (as most products dose the serving into a single scoop) and when I goof that up that leaves me going into a workout a little flat. Just a minor issue.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

The flavor components of this drink are natural flavor, citric acid, sucralose. Very basic. Definitely like this although again, as I’ve said time and time before, I’d appreciate more use of stevia in preworkouts like this. Definitely a thumbs up here, one smell of the interior of the container will tell you just how much the flavor relies directly on natural orange flavor.

As for the taste, and I’m really a poor person to judge any taste, it definitely tastes just like I’d think an orange drink should.

Of course silica shows here just to keep the powder dry, which it does a better job of than most of the other preworkouts I’ve looked at. It stays nice, mixable and very powdery and dry with no clumping. It’s odd, it’s almost as if there aren’t many ingredients in this to even cause it to absorb extra moisture in the first place…

Ingredients – Sports Leg and Lung Blend 5120mg (CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine, L-Taurine, Caffeine from coffee beans)

Oh. Well this will be an interesting review. In previous reviews, my gripe was too many ingredients that either have no purpose or place or just are there for marketing and show. In this circumstance, we are literally at a bare bones list of ingredients. Just three big ones and the flavoring/silica and that’s it.

Before I list in the ingredients down for a breakdown, I want to note that there is no reason to list these ingredients as a “blend” and not disclose specific amounts. I like to know roughly how much caffeine I’m intaking for instance, and frankly if these are going to be the only 3 ingredients, just tell me how much each is and leave it at that. I really respect when a product does this for me and doesn’t make me guess.

First of all we see CarnoSyn again, the extra awesome brand of Beta Alanine. I personally have no big opinion on whether CarnoSyn branded beta alanine is better or worse than the regular stuff and my opinion of it hasn’t changed greatly since my last review – I love beta alanine of any kind in any preworkout. I will note it must be a significant dose, more than what I’d normally expect (normally I’d figure it to be about 2g), if I had to guess I’d think 3g (really have to guess just because the quantities are not listed on the label).

On my first full dose of this preworkout I got paresthesia tingles (which I remind the reader is a harmless effect of beta alanine) which I haven’t had for a while. I personally prefer a beta alanine dose strong enough to cause the tingles, it really tells me the beta alanine is there, beginning to be absorbed and of high quality. Definitely a plus. This product will be a great boost your muscle carnosine and get all those great endurance and performance effects beta alanine offers. This I will note is where the product substantiates most of it’s label claims (reducing fatigue, increasing energy, strength & stamina).

L-Taurine is always a great additive to go with beta alanine since the beta alanine depletes it. However it is here for an extra reason, to help prevent buildup of lactic acids which can cause muscle aches post workouts – especially for cardio work like long runs. Runners who get leg aches from long runs will appreciate anything that will help with lactic acid buildup. I have to imagine the dose here is significant since it must be mostly the remainder of the dose – probably around 2g.

Lastly good old caffeine. Good to have it from a natural source although to me caffeine is caffeine. Again no exact information on how much is here, but I imagine is is low. Somewhere around 120-200mg is what I figure it must be. If I’m wrong please correct me. It did not strike me to be particularly high when I took it, which is fine depending on your caffeine tolerance.

Workout Results

During my workout I did not notice any particular spike in energy, the tingles let me know when it was absorbing and really from there throughout I just had a smooth, natural flow of energy. No big boost, but no dips. I felt the product definitely does bolster, and having a good strong dose of beta alanine is excellent for any workout. As a matter of fact I do believe this preworkout was what I was using when I set my most recent deadlift PR.

I do feel like this product has some missed potential. It makes a fantastic boilerplate for the start of a good preworkout – great natural flavor (sucralose supported sure but I feel it’s mostly natural), simple list of ingredients that complement each other and are in significant doses, some caffeine (likely not enough for the average preworkout enthusiast). Anyways those things are all great and fundamental to a great preworkout but… what else is there? I don’t like fluff in my preworkouts so I’m glad none is here, but I would like a few spotlight ingredients added to the list to give it a little extra oomph. Maybe a mix of exotic ingredients like plant extracts. Maybe some basic stuff like creatine or citrulline malate. How about something for mental focus like hordenine HCI or agmatine sulfate. Perhaps even something to help your mood like Phenylethylamine HCI.

If I had to choose a basis for creating a fantastic preworkout, I would definitely consider a mix like this particular product has. But on its own, this mix is just a good preworkout. I definitely will like using it. I do however feel though that it has potential it’s not living up to as it is. Good product though and will use again in the future.

 
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