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About Me
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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Exercise Log 12.29.13 (Chest & Shoulder Day, No Cardio)

You know sometimes when you decide to take on challenges, only to realize it wasn’t worth it? That was what my workout day was like today. I wanted to stay inside today, screw going outside to drive to the gym. I have limited equipment and workspace here in my room at home to work out, but I was damned to try doing a chest day at home, and be damned if I didn’t accomplish that technically speaking.

It’s somewhat suitable that what I did while working out at home (one advantage to a home workout: I can watch tv) was catch up on old episodes of the “Angry Video Game Nerd” on Youtube. I don’t know why I watch shitty stuff on Youtube all the time, but I actually remember a lot of the games played on his show from my own childhood and it’s amusing… primarily because the games were awful. This was in tune with the workout, because the workout was fucking shit!

I meant to say this workout doesn’t even qualify as shit because it was the equivalent of a shit taking a shit!

First a quick reminder of the minimal gear I had to work with… a tight room with floor space to lay down barely, an ez curl bar with max load of 65lbs of weights, and three non-uniform dumbbells (10lbs, 15lbs & 30lbs), an old furnished space heater I use as a stool and pedestal and any old shit I can find laying around that I need to make up the difference.

While I made a chest workout somehow out of it, going through the whole thing from front to back after planning it was a cavalcade of horribleness. So I figured it’d make a good blog entry.

If you want to work out your chest with shitty gear, first and best route is pushups. Lots of pushups. So I made a fun pushup medley, well presumably it was going to be fun. 4 sets of 10 reps of 4 different styles of pushups. How did it go you ask? Thanks for asking.

First up, standard pushups. Those are alright, after doing so many pushups you can really focus on the chest area, but boring. Second up, wide armed pushups with hands facing outward. This really widens the motion to more of the chest surface area, a bit of a drag but at least it’s something different. Okay next up, alligator crawl pushup. A short video will illustrate what those are here…

Basically you alternate your hands and legs as you push up, creating a sort of crawl… got it.

The first few times you do one of these it’s confusing as all hell, but that’s okay it’s good to learn. But see how the guy in the illustration moves forward and back? I tried to do that and well, I just don’t have the room. I got one step forward and one step back, which isn’t enough space. So instead I settled on doing these in place, just alternating hand placement rather than doing the crawling action. Sort of a pain in my ass. But then came my fourth pushup in the medley, a hopping pushup. Simply use your hands to press your body up off the ground then land it into a pushup. You don’t have to do full contraction, but it’s a hell of a way to end a circuit of pushups because if you’re fatigued you’ll smack your face into the ground, which I nearly did twice.

Next up, I don’t have pairs of any of my dumbbells because I’m cheap and usually do exercises out in the gym. I know I could go on craigslist, and buy someone’s used set for something cheap, but I don’t have a ton of places to stash weights and honestly, that’s a big hassle I don’t have time for. The little bit I had was great for losing weight, but it’s a challenge not to have anything in pairs because if you want to do two armed exercises you gotta improvise.

So next up was dumbbell presses superset with flys… one armed. I did these on the ground for added stability since I don’t have a good bench. Now when you do one armed motions with dumbbells, you notice the first problem is that you don’t get that same level of stability. You gotta use your other arm to really stabilize yourself, which was fine though because to the left and right of me was objects I could grab to make myself sturdy on both sides. Still it was twice the time it’d take to do the normal exercises, and awkward. Sometimes working stabilizers by doing an imbalanced move is good, maybe there is wisdom in doing it sometimes, but it’s definitely a waste of time and kind of shitty, especially since I did 4 sets of 12 reps (that’s 12 flys and 12 presses each set).

You gotta push volume in home workouts with minimal gear, so I was far from done there. I did some dumbbell pullovers next. Now dumbbell pullovers are a legitimately interesting exercise, and I had a good pedestal to lay back on to do it. Here is a quick video so you know what I mean.

An interesting exercise, but you gotta kind of see what it’s all about before doing it

So I grabbed my dumbbell and started, but this exercise works your shoulders and your back on top of your chest, so it’s hard sometimes to see if you’re really doing it right. I had to stop in the middle of it and kind of be extra sure. The part that focuses the chest work is the part where you physically squeeze the dumbbell itself in your hands to provide solid support for it, then as you go up and down you contract the chest to pull up. If you focus real hard on these points it’s helpful. Although admittedly I wanted something to focus on the chest more. I did 4 sets of 12 reps with my 30lb dumbbell here, it was alright.

While I was doing that I thought a real great way to really get that chest activation would be to do a squeezing dumbbell press. That is take a dumbbell with the ends in each palm, and physically squeeze it together like you’re trying to crush it in your hands, then slowly go up and down. This actually provided great chest activation and I did 4 sets of 16 reps each. This was a lot of volume, so it sure did make me sore. My body felt confused by this point in the routine, but I plodded on.

So next I wanted to do some presses, but as mentioned I only have an ez curl bar with a max load of 65lbs. For pressing patterns, that’s not much weight, so extra volume and focus is needed to get the necessary intensity. However for me, the intensity was in finding a comfortable way to actually press from different angles. For one, declined pressing without a declined bench is fucking impossible. I don’t have a work shop to fashion some kind of angled bench. Secondly an inclined bench was a pain in the ass to load because literally to do an inclined press, I had to sit upright against my pedestal using a piece of old laminate board, nestle the bar in my crotch then somewhat awkwardly load it up to my shoulders. After a little practice, it went alright… but a sort of pain in the ass. So 3 sets of 16 reps and I was sick of that.

For the flat bench, being on the floor was a little too limiting so it took me some time to rearrange the pedestal in such a way that I could lay on it, load myself on it without scooting it all around, and also have the actual room required to bench the bar without knocking shit all around. So all said, I finally got it figured out and did 4 sets of 16 reps, which was fine.

I was about sick of the whole process, it probably took over 2 hours, but I still had to do something for shoulders. First I did 4 sets of 6 reps military presses with the max load on my curl bar, 8 reps on the final set actually. This was pretty damn fun honestly compared to the rest of day. Then I did a superset of one armed side raises and one armed dumbbell front raises. Did each of those for 15 reps with a 15lb dumbbell, the side raise works the long top head of the shoulder whereas the front raise works the anterior deltoid. I only managed 3 sets of this, because it was very long to do the focus and volume each set required on top of the fact that I was working at half speed only having the one dumbbell.

So after like 2 1/2 hours of rolling around on the floor, laying uncomfortably different kinds of furniture, fumbling awkwardly with the limited bit of equipment. It doesn’t help that my knees still feel like absolute shit from earlier this week, so every single time I got up to take a breather or change position I was kind of sore just from doing that. Mainly this is all my fault but I thought I’d share a rant while I was at it, and what makes a better blog post than a rant? Angry rants are basically what the internet is founded on.

So in the end, was it a good workout? I guess, I mean I don’t feel like going to the gym now. My chest will probably be sore and I had enough volume I think to work. I don’t know if next week when I go back to the gym for chest day if I’ll be any better off on the real bench press because of it. Well experiments are called experiments for a reason. I skipped cardio today, but if I remember I will try to stretch before bed.

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Exercise Log 12.28.13 (Back Day + Cardio)

Alright quick log of back day. After warmups I went ahead and hit the deadlifts hard, by the time I was done (probably spend 40 minutes on the barbell) I was completely beat up.

Deadlifts: Set 1) 12 reps @ 135lbs (warmup). Set 2) 8 reps @ 195lbs. Set 3) 5 reps @ 235lbs. My attempts for set 4 was to set a new one rep max of 265lbs, but I failed 4-5 times. This was very time consuming and it’s own thing, so I scaled down for the next set. Set 4) 5 reps @ 225lbs. I had the idea while I was racked with a good amount of weight to penalize myself by doing forced negatives, slap a lot of extra weight on the barbell and do beyond max weight for the eccentric portion of the movement, then ditch the extra weight to deadlift it back up and rerack. So for my heavy eccentric movement, I went to 275lbs, then on the upward deadlift motion I unracked 50lbs for a 225lbs. Set 5) 5 reps of forced negatives 275lbs down, 225lbs up. Set 6) 10 reps @ 185lbs (drop set, faster pace).

This was absolutely brutal, but just the beginning of back day. Tore another callus… I guess I gotta work on my grip strength some.

Not sure if it’s a badge of honor, or a thing in need of a bandage.

T-Bar Rows: 5 sets, 6 reps @ 90lbs.

Seated Rows: Sets 1-3) 10 reps @ 105lbs. Set 4) 8 reps @ 120lbs. Set 5) 6 reps @ 135lbs. Set 6) 4 reps @ 150lbs.

Lateral Pushdown: Set 1) 10 reps @ 40lbs (slower tempo). Sets 2-3) 6 reps @ 55lbs. Sets 4-5) 10 reps @ 40lbs.

Pullups/Chinups: Again I did 4 sets of 7 reps, starting with wide grip pullups but as I fail out, switching to chinups. First set I did all 7 reps wide-gripped (yay), second set 5 reps wide, 2 reps chin. Third set was 4 wide, 3 chin. Final set was 5 wide gripped pullups then instead of doing chinups I instead did 2 reps of forced negative wide gripped pullups with a slow controlled descent.

Bent Over Rows superset with Stiff Legged Deadlifts: 4 sets of 8 reps (each) @ 110lbs. Then a final dropset of 16 reps (each) @ 40lbs.

This was absolutely devestating on my body, but I felt great afterwards. It was a gorgeous day today, so I ran out in Boyce Park for 3 miles with a shabby pace, but felt real good going up and down the many hills. Basically ran the same 5K course I ran in the early fall. Of course I feel woefully inadequate because my running partner ran 10 miles today… I’ll catch up!

For those interested in knowing, there is snow on the Boyce Park Ski Lodge hills! Those are some damn good snow machines to keep the hill snow covered in this weather.

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Exercise Log 12.26.13 (Dev Day, No Cardio)

Alright quick exercise log for today just to lay it down. Had a short workout but tons of volume, it was very efficient. Today is developmental day, and my legs still feel shot so I wasn’t developing them today. That’s okay though, I could use some work on my bench press, so that’s what I did for developmental day.

First I did 6 sets of 10 pushups to get ready. Then I did 6 sets of 12 reps at a moderate to light weight (105lbs). By the final sets, I was starting to need to rerack and breath for a second before I could finish the set, which was what I was aiming for. Then did a 7th set of 5 reps at 125lbs, then an 8th set of 5 reps at 135lbs. Was really focused on tempo and form.

Alright after this I hate to leave a lot of pushing without some good reverse motion, so I did bent over reverse dumbbell flys, 3 sets at a light weight of 15lbs and 2 sets at 20lbs. I’m a big believer that in shoulder exercises if it’s not a situation where you can really make yourself stable for the motion (like bench pressing) you should go light, to focus on the contraction of the actual muscle in this case the rear deltoid. Otherwise you do bad form things like sway, recruit the back and arm muscles which you weren’t really intending to work. You want those shoulders to do the work because their strength is important to prevent injury. For instance take the cable suspension machines… it’s easy to use your whole body to prime a motion by leaning into the cable or not keeping still enough because your weight is too heavy and in the process lose focus on what you intended to work out in the first place. I feel the same way about most flys where you don’t lay on your back or sit down. Anyways, rant aside, one thing I was thinking during all this was that I didn’t get a good trap workout last chest/shoulder day, so before the next thing I did some trap dumbbell shrugs, 4 sets of 16 reps @ 160lbs, just nice and slow and very focused on good form again.

As touched on earlier when doing a lot of presses I like to support the reverse motion, because the opposite muscle groups control your stability for the pressing action. Your traps and upper back are what hold your upper body taught, they keep the bar from tilting in your hands and let you firmly apply the pressing force. A strong back, traps and rear deltoids will allow your arm and upper shoulder stabilizer muscles to recruit into the pressing pattern too, giving a cleaner, stronger pressing motion. Anyways second rant aside, I did some body rows to reinforce the reverse pattern and build that aforementioned stability, 3 sets of 8 reps.

Finally, one muscle group I felt this week needed a little extra oomph was my scapula adductors and upper back region. It’s always important to be strong up there for good thoracic extension, which strengthens so many natural movements. So I did 5 sets of 12 reps at a modest 105lbs on the seated row machine to work that out. Slowed the tempo a bit, and felt it work it’s way in.

I did skip cardio today (boo!… I know, it was a long day for me though and as said before, my legs feel like shit) but I didn’t skip the stretching tonight. Spent a good 20 minutes stretching out my back, chest, arms, legs. I used a cat toy platform with a curve in it to roll my back and body out, and man it was painful for the first minute or so, then I just sorta sunk into it and all my stress just went away. I also did a fun thing, got a tennis ball and pressed on an old injury that left a mass of tissue behind my right hamstring. I’m still not sure to this day if it’s an actual hamstring tear that tore off, or something else, but it’s never hindered my mobility or strength. That said I’m going to use the techniques I learned to pinpoint that spot with the tennis ball and roll it out more often… see if it helps reduce that tissue to a normal size.

A lot of tangents for such a short log. Oh well, better to get it all out of me, right?

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Exercise Log 12.25.13 (Arm Day + Cardio)

Alright quick log for my Christmas day workout. Started early in the morning and had to work out at home since the gym is closed. Going to keep the log short, nothing surprising, again at home there is little equipment to work with.

Did warmups, just light curls and overhead extensions with extra light weight. It’s arm day, so per the usual I did exercises in supersets, one bicep focused and one tricep focused.

The first superset was 4 sets of bicep curls (65lb curl bar, slow tempo, 10 reps) and 30lb dumbbell tricep kickbacks (8 reps). Second superset was door curls (as mentioned in the previous log to failure, which was about 20 reps) and dips (again to failure, about 16 reps) for 3 sets. The third superset was hammer curls (30lb dumbbell, 10 reps, slower tempo) with overhead tricep extensions (curl bar, narrow grip, 35lbs, 10 reps) for 4 sets.

My wrap up was pull ups off the door jam. I’m in a basement so there is a place to grip the support beam above a doorway, it’s not a very comfortable grip so it’s a little hand strength involved in it, but I did it anyways. 4 sets of pull ups (10 reps) superset with push-ups focusing on tricep extension (10 reps).

Later in the day, rather than run outside because it was omfg cold, I did three M100’s (or M300 if you prefer to say that). This was probably 20-30 minutes of time to do simply because I’m still feeling a little rough from earlier in the week workouts. Burpees are brutal, but that’s why we love them so, right?

Starting to get a bruise on my quad, must’ve done a number on it, developmental day will definitely not be squat-focused like it was last week. Also my big toe still kinda smarts from dropping a barbell on it earlier this week. All in all though, I’ve been blessed to learn so much this year and not get injured in any way! Thankful for that going forward.

Oh, merry Christmas!

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Exercise Log 12.23.13 (Leg Day + Cardio)

After yesterday’s chest workout (which is logged if you care to read it) I decided I needed a more time efficient workout. Something that would be demanding, but also not wasteful time-wise or excessive.

First after doing basic warmups I did front squats. Because front squats are just really getting down to business on leg day. It’s just such a complicated, powerful compound lift. Alright so to get extra warmed up, I did a set of 10 reps with the bare bar. Then I got to work.

Set 1) 5 reps @ 125lbs. Set 2) 5 reps @ 135lbs. Set 3) 5 reps @ 145lbs.

Keep in mind that my max rep before is 145lbs. So doing a whole set at that weight was very encouraging for me to continue. I felt pretty good too. So I upped it to 155lbs and tried for a rep, and got two out. Then I reracked and completed a set of 5 reps at my new max! So, yet again, adding +10lbs to a fundamental lift. Now a quick note on form. Every time you do a new max on a lift like this odds are form won’t be the best. I didn’t try to exceed 155lbs because I noticed on my last rep, I felt like my squat depth was suffering. Also while much better than previous weeks, I was beginning to do elbow dipping at the bottom drive up. So I knew going beyond this today was not wise but I felt pretty good not only making a new max, but making a whole set out of it.

So that was set 4 of 5 reps @ 155lbs (yay) and then I went to do set 5 of 5 reps @ 135lbs hoping to restore my form a bit. However I felt like the form breakdown and fatigue from the previous set really carried over. So I dropped the weight real low for set 6 and did 10 reps of 95lbs. I gotta admit, after doing nearly 38 working reps of heavy (for me at least) front squats (not including 10 extra bare bar reps I did for warming up) had me feeling a little qweezy. If I did anything more here I might’ve gotten literally sick.

So I decided I needed to continue with something I could sit down at, and did the seated angled leg press. Watched some videos this week about form on this press, so I decided to stick to a lower weight and just focus on that. This was a superset, as always, of one set of presses followed by one set of calf raises. So sets 1-3 were 8 reps @ 360lbs. Then set 4 was 6 reps @ 540lbs. For anyone reading this who might be confused about form on a seated leg press check out this handy Scott Herman video on a Cybex machine (same principles apply to basically all leg press machines).

Don’t let your knees travel forward past your toes, maximum compression is at when your legs are 90 degrees at the knee, push through the heels… got it.

Then I did a new circuit workout I found online which I thought was very fun, from one of Mike Chang’s video workouts. It was very rough, I did mine with a 40lb curl bar. My sets were 15 reps, then 8 each leg for the two middle exercises, and 20 high knees. I skipped the warmup session as I had already warmed up with those bajillion squats and leg presses I did earlier.

An explosive workout indeed, definitely wore me out fast

Alright after this great workout, which itself is composed of 4 major actions, I did a few Romanian deadlifts. Again before coming to the gym, I refreshed myself on form and the Romanian deadlift is one you can definitely do poorly if you don’t remind yourself on form once in a while.

This is definitely one of those exercises it’s less about how hard you push yourself and more about how well you do it.

Alright and that was it! About an hour. Not to neglect cardio I wanted to do something different today. So after 2-3 minutes of a brisk walk on the treadmill, I started sprinting intervals. Did one sprint of a little over half a mile at 7.5 mph, then took a breather for a minute, then 8mph, and worked my way up to 9.5mph. At that juncture, I could only really maintain a good run for .15 miles. The great thing about interval speed training is it helps raise your VO2 Max, which is the peak threshold for oxygen uptake for running. This can help to contribute to overall better runs at any pace. Total mileage for the interval training was about 2 miles.

Fun times! Wasn’t expecting leg day to be so fun. After I got off the treadmill, I was drenched in sweat and I got the qweezy feeling back. I also had a hard time getting out of my car on my way back… I’m definitely gonna be sore tomorrow. But that’s the point… right?

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Exercise Log 12.19.13 (Dev Day + Cardio)

Alright a quick exercise log today for today’s workout. Today was developmental day, which means I did what I felt fills in what bothered me the most this week. I felt like after my last leg day a couple days ago that I really needed more work on my squat form… so it was squat-mania! I’m going to syndicate this post because I feel like it, but it doesn’t have any fancy content so if you care to skip it go for it…

My warmup was fun I tried medicine ball squats and medicine ball spikes, 3 sets, didn’t keep track of reps it was more about revving up my system probably 12-14 reps each exercise. After that, straight to my front squats.

Front squats were brutal, like 40 minutes or so in the power rack. First I did 6 sets of 5 reps at a moderate weight (for me) of 105lbs. Keyword: volume. I was focused especially on good form and pausing at the bottom for 2-3 seconds to really focus on my drive back up. Inbetween sets I started doing 6 sets of 4-5 vaccuum strength breathing. For those who didn’t see the video I posted before, this is a breathing exercise to build the muscles inside the abdominal wall that stabilize your core, strengthening your “natural” weight belt around your girdle and making you stronger for compound lifts (like squats).

After this high volume I tried to increase weight in sets of 2 reps. Did 125lbs good, did 135lbs fine as well. Then I hit my sticking point at 150 (which is better than my max by 5lbs). I must’ve failed 3-4 times before deciding as a penalty for failing to rep a new max I decided to do isometric holds of 185lbs in a standing clean grip. What that means is I racked the weight up by my shoulders and just stood there with the weight compressing my spine, holding my thoracic extension upright as best as possible. This is an incredible exercise, did 4 reps of 30 second holds.

I felt after doing this that maybe the resting combined with the holding of the unbearably over-heavy load might make me feel more easy doing my new one rep max level. I tried twice again and on the first rep, I really feel like had things gone even slightly differently I could’ve had it, but failed again. That’s okay though… all this work I feel like is contributing to improvement. Front squats are hard, but one of the best exercises you can do!

Needing something that let me actually sit down for a bit, I racked 360 plates on a heavy sled on a vertical leg press and did controlled, slow sets of 8 reps of leg pressing and calf raising. Just to build more quad energy and of course, might as well hit those calves while I was in a good position to.

After that, I wanted to do some isolation on quads and hamstrings to just really push through the parts I felt were sticking from the failed reps. I did 4 sets of 10 reps with an increasing weight (from 210lbs-255lbs) on the quad leg machine. Then I did the hamstring leg curl machine for 4 sets of 10 reps @ 125lbs for a good burn there and on my final reps I was failing hard. You always know you have a good workout on a body part when you hit failure right near the very end and have to eek out 1-2 more reps to finish.

I need more energy. So I felt like the best wrap up here was box jumps! I don’t know how high my jump is, but like before I did 10 plastic thingies high of 10 reps. Then I incremented a box pedestal (I don’t even know what to call them) by one, doing 10 reps at 11, 12 and 13 units high. Lastly I tried to do a box jump at the level I failed at before, 14 units high. Did 2 reps and made it! Felt pretty damn good.

This workout was very leg heavy, so my cardio today was a 2 mile jog on the treadmill and I took it very easy. Leg heavy days are always rough for cardio for me, but I felt good about it and feel like I really worked.

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Catching Up: Random Thoughts

Alright well I don’t actually blog about random things as much anymore, partly because I’m CONSTANTLY typing up and posting exercise logs and trying to stay active enough in real life to NOT have the time. Today is a day off though and despite a lazy morning I got shopping and working out in and still have plenty of time in my evening. So I thought I’d just post a few thoughts to my blog.

Catching up on TV

I’m a bit out of the loop these days and one of the things I’m out of the loop on is reality tv. I really watch very little television these days (some current series I watch are shows like Once Upon a Time, American Horror Story, Justified, The Walking Dead… I think my Netflix subscription only exists these days for catching up on Sons of Anarchy which I’m very, very far behind on… also I watch wrestling, but that’s not really tv as much as it is video noise). Anyways, for whatever reason reality tv is still pretty popular these days and I know one show a lot of my friends have been big on was Duck Dynasty. Now all I know (which is literally nothing) about the show is that it’s a bunch of Louisiana hillbillies who got rich making duck hunting gear.

So just from the premise of this show I’m sort of expecting the show’s cast to be less than educated, perhaps really technically proficient in some way as far as business goes but probably not the most tolerant or intelligent. So it follows from that situation that I’d sort of expect them to have unconventional and perhaps socially unacceptable viewpoints about homosexuals as it pertains to orthodox religious beliefs. I think that kind of comes with the show’s premise, doesn’t it?

If you want to catch up on what I’m talking about, watch this trendy entertainment review show recap on the subject

Anyways you might think I have a lot to say about this. I’m particularly ambivalent about it, if everyone in popular culture had sit down interviews and enough time the vast majority would say something that’d be controversial in such a scope. It’s just that we put people out into notoriety because they’re charactures, cartoon representations of real people and cultural tropes. Also as far as the ignorant comments go… the only way you’re going to know people are ignorant people is to let them speak their mind. How else are you going to confront those points of view?

As for the future of the show? I don’t watch it, but I suppose it shouldn’t have it’s principle cast member kicked from the air. Maybe if you watch it and don’t think those kinds of ideas represent your points of view, maybe you should just use the show as a way to be vocal about that issue. I’m nobody to be talking about the quality of what airs on tv after all… I spend my time watching tv wondering stupid things like why kids these days like John Cena and not CM Punk, I’m not sophisticated enough to judge anyone else’s preferences.

Catching up on Games

It’s the winter, which means more indoor time. I still try to prioritize heavily on hanging out with my friends and working out routinely (as you can tell if you dig through my fitness log), but frankly it’s not surprising that I’m playing a few games in the inbetween hours curled up under a cat, a blanket with my Dyson air multiplier space heater blowing max on me.

One game I completed recently with a friend was The Stanley Parable. For those who haven’t heard of it, if you are a fan of first person games with less of a focus on action and more on narrative and game design – such as the Portal series which I also recently finished (I’m WAY behind on games) – then The Stanley Parable is well worth the money. Without spoiling the adventure ahead, you guide an office worker named Stanley and go on an adventure to discover the meaning of choice. Not just choice in games or choices as they affect a narrative story structure but choice as a facet of life. The Stanley Parable is one of those games that only a game conceptually, but it’s exploration of narrative tropes in video games is hilarious for anyone who has spent years gaming.

This is your 10 hour adventure theme courtesy the game’s composer

Sometimes I think my life is like Stanley’s, where my choices don’t matter – most of what is in my day to day life is just stuff I’m obliged to do if I want my life to be happy or successful – that life is just more about the experience of having it. If nothing else, sticking to the metaphor, we’re all stuck wandering the same office, the same coridoors and walking through the same doorways while the same narrator tells us what to do, where to go and how to feel. It’s just how we respond to it that matters.

Another game I’m having a fun time with, which is dated a bit, is the latest Tomb Raider. Found it cheap on Steam a few months ago and finally decided to play it. The action is great with every moment making you wince in pain as you see Lara Croft, the game’s protagonist, get bloody, beaten, stabbed, jabbed, arrow’ed, shot at, crushed and brutalized throughout the game’s many cutscenes and action sequences.

Also exploring the lush island is fun, with a lot of arbitrary objectives to revisit areas for… for instance in the first real area of the game, you’re in a forest and as you find relics, camp sights and strategic objectives (in the first level that’s finding hanging relics and smashing them) as well as a fast travel system to revisit areas you passed up. Doing these side objectives you get clear indicators as to your progress and even if you do enough exploring you’ll find a treasure map to locate most of the rest of the unlocated objects so the process never seems tedious to be completionist.

This depiction of Lara Croft just gets you into the game like a good movie. You feel in touch with the heroine and nothing is better in a good video game than feeling like you care if the main character doesn’t die or get smashed, impaled, thrown off a cliff perhaps several times… I just want Lara to get all those valuable relics back home and then have a nice bubble bath. Forget all the horrible things that nearly killed her, and all that blood, mud and tombs filled of corpses and all the people she had to kill to get home.

Another game I played not long ago… Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. It’s pretty cheap on Steam and again in some ways it’s not much of a game there are a few basic environmental puzzles but mostly it’s just wandering through dark and spooky places and avoiding the game’s few monsters while you’re exposed to a horrifying story. If you’re not even a gamer and you just like horror as a genre, you should really consider playing both Amnesia games (the first was A Dark Descent, you had inventory management in the first game so it was a little more of a trip game mechanics wise).

Catching up on the internet

I watch a lot of Youtube to find fitness videos and just to entertain myself. Well one thing I think is worth noting is Youtube changed it’s copyright policies and more heavily automated, and a lot of content creators – especially those doing game reviews/playthroughs – are having their videos flagged by this new system in a systematic way to revoke their rights to any ad revenue from the system. This is a problem on a number of levels, but first I’ll note, one of the biggest discouragements of me personally doing video blogs when I used to do them was as a regular user I’d have copyright flags on some of my videos for content matching they used back then. Disputing that was a huge discouragement to producing content for it at all.

I always believed that fair use should be very liberalized, that you should really classify almost everything except for literal reproduction as fair use. That said, the problem isn’t just in the whole copyright issue I’ve gone into length about copyright and patent abuse before. The newest issue is that a lot of copyright claims under the new Youtube system is systematically driving ad revenue to a ton of very largely unverified copyright claims, and downright copyright trolls. A lot of the automated claims Youtube processes are not even being done by copyright holders, and the system takes away ad revenue from Youtube’s largest content producers and gives it to whatever copyright troll is the first to create the copyright claim.

Anyways I think it’s important we start laying in a system to penalize those who misuse copyright claims. The internet policies that stem from current copyright law really create a system where it’s simply too easy to create fraudulent claims, which is a big problem being faced on Youtube right now. If copyright holders were held to penalties for creating fraudulent claims, the need to pre-emptively censor questionable content and to not actually scrutinize claims (now Youtube seems to be relying on robots to enforce the policies) would disappear.

Here are some thoughts on the whole situation by Youtube game player jacksepticeye, because all things are better in an Irish accent

I admit this rant wasn’t well formed, but hey it’s my day off, give me some slack, it’s been a while. Hope you all are enjoying your holidays!

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Breakfast of Champions! (pt. 2)

Man what better way to wake up, a warm bed, a cold Coke Zero and a bowl full of deliciousness! What more could a man ask for (besides a sexy lady and a livable wage)?

Sorry I was hungry again and posted nearly exactly the same thing I did a couple months ago, lol.

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Exercise Log 12.12.13 (Dev Day, No Cardio)

I guess I should start planning to publish my exercise log as my personal memoirs because they keep growing out of control every day. I just have so much to record, so many thoughts go through my brain. Some people think exercise and fitness are jockular, brain-disengaged activities (PICK THINGS UP PUT THEM DOWN PICK THINGS UP PUT THEM DOWN). To some people it probably is. But I’m quickly discovering that fitness is easily a very nerdy, neurotic and downright geeky thing to do if you approach it with the right mindset.

Today I skipped the gym because I woke up and it was stupid cold, like so cold I felt stupid being awake and not in my bed. So it took me two hours to get up and eat breakfast, which depleted the time needed to really roll over to the gym. So I decided instead I’d just have a short, fun, quick workout at home.

I wanted to keep it simple, so I went with something I don’t normally do – extra high volume very few exercises. First I did 6 sets of curl bar front squats (which I showed off a few weeks ago in my Youtube channel… one of these days a sexy lady will buy me a barbell and power rack, and in return she’ll get my undying love… fair trade right?). Since the weight on the curl bar is minimal I decided to go with high reps… 12 reps. Focused on depth of squatting and hip contraction, particularly in the glutes. I superset this with bicep curls with the same curl bar (6 reps) focusing on form. The weight was light for squatting but heavy for bicep curling. 6 sets is normally beyond the volume I’d normally do, but I felt like it was well worth it.

Second superset not to neglect other major muscle groups was to use my makeshift “roman chair” at home and do a core workout, 10 reps of suspended ab crunches and then I did 10 reps of hip pressing the curl bar. Again, I did 6 sets of this… in fact I’m convinced somewhere I lost count and did 1-2 extra sets, but whatever. It was a lot of reps is all I recall now that it’s over.

Finally I did a new exercise, because my dumbbells are only singles no pairs, I did a one armed dumbbell snatch. I am not trained in snatching motions although I know I should use them more often. The dumbbell snatch I always felt was almost like a somewhat cheating shoulder pressing type motion, due to how the dumbbell goes over your head. In fact what it is though is a force coupling exercise of your hip motion because the hip motion you make is what actually drives the weight up. If done correctly the arm just holds the weight slack and taught at the right times to guide it straight up and down so it’s not flailing everywhere. Here is a great video with Christian Thibaudeau teaching the move.

The next time you get a dumbbell and a little free space, give these a shot

Actually after doing this 10 reps each arm for 4 sets, my butt felt pretty damn sore as I used a tight hip squeezing action to drive the weight up. Sometimes when I felt fatigued I did a little double bounce at the bottom to go back up. Surprisingly my arms or shoulders felt not much work. Done right it really is a lower body exercise, and great to train the nervous system and learn the force coupling actions of the squat motion and also snatching in general due to how you do practice a little shoulder shrug at the peak of the motion to do the final drive up.

All in all a fun time, all at home with very minimal equipment (one curl bar with little weight and one relatively light dumbbell). A workout like this is definitely a great way to get warm on a cold morning.

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Exercise Log 12.10.13 (Arm Day, No Cardio)

Worked late today, so didn’t have time to hit the gym. Not accepting that as an excuse, I continued my exercise program at home. Since I can’t work out legs at home, I swapped leg and arm day and did arms. For those that don’t know, I have extremely limited weight equipment at home, so I have to be a little creative. All that is available to me, an EZ curl bar with minimal weight, a handful of low weight dumbbells (no paired weights so it’s all one handed stuff) and of course my body and average household stuff (things to lean on and sit on).

Alright so after warming up with a few sets of extra low weight, I started with a cool exercise I found, towel body weight bicep rows.

Basically like this, only at a lower angle and more focused on the bicep curling motion to pull up

So started with sets to failure of body weight rows, did mine off a open door with two weight lifting wrist straps wrapped around each side of a door handle, leaning low with my hips just barely grazing the ground and curling my body forward and back. Failure was around 20 reps of this and it was really tough so nice volume and my forearms had a good burn from it which is always nice at the start of an arm workout. After each set I did failure on dips for my triceps (about 16 reps) and just did 4 sets of this.

Second set was 4 sets of 10 reps using my curl bar (55lbs) superset with french presses. Then worked on 4 sets of 8 reps of hammer curls with my 30lb dumbbell and 12 reps of tricep kickbacks with my 15lb dumbbell. Then I worked on 3 sets of 21’s with the curl bar at 45lbs and then did 12 overhead tricep extensions with the curl bar. Finished up with another new exercise, one I tried before once but didn’t feel like I got the grip of that I did now, a kind of squatting close grip preacher curl (45lbs, 10 reps), paired with 16 reps of overhead dumbbell tricep extensions. Here is the video of the squatting preacher curl…

Check out the close grip curl at 1:20

Alright so for those, just gotta try it a few times and keep the knees tucked in. It’s nice and was a great way to finish up.

Simple dimple, skipped cardio tonight just had a long day between work and everything else, so that’s where I’m at but it was a great workout and I was able to chug a gallon of Coke Zero while watching the latest episode of Marvel: Agents of SHIELD while doing all this which is an extra plus of being at home. Also after my Monday chest workout, I just needed a break from all the meatheads at the gym. Hope you all have a fun workout at home this week, if not plan for one! Later!

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