Archive for May, 2011

My arms and shoulders are finally getting stronger  You know how I can tell?

I can do two chin-ups.

Okay, so they’re kinda sloppy and I just barely get my chin to the bar and two chin-ups sounds pathetically wuss.   But the fact is this is a 200% improvement for me, ‘cause until fairly recently I couldn’t even do one.

Better yet, my overall shoulder and arm strength are pretty good now, especially when you consider that I haven’t been pushing myself in the weightlifting department.   My darling reader Robert Read once wrote a very informative comment here about how to work with weights.  I’m going to try to look it up and maybe with his permission post it here, in case any of y’all need some guidelines.   I certainly do.

Usually there isn’t a place for me even  to try chin-ups, but today I was in the park near my home and, while trying not to look like too much of a dork (not easy for me), I tried my luck on the jungle gym, of course avoiding the kiddies on it.

And I pulled myself up!  Sloppily, but twice!

I also tried my luck on that thing-a-ma-jig that’s like a suspended ladder and you swing by hand from one bar to the next (monkey bars?).   Strength-wise, it was no problem, but I had to let go before the end  because my hands were stinging.

It made me remember how years ago, when I flew trapeze, I learned fast to wear hand guards and encourage calluses to grow on my palms; maybe my skin got coarser but that was better than blisters.   It also helped that the trapeze bar was wrapped in tape and we used chalk on our hands before each swing.

Of course in real life chalk and tape and hand guards aren’t usually available for action heroes on the move.   So maybe this means I’ve gotta start growing some calluses again.  At the very least I should start strengthening my hands.

Elsewhere in the muscles department, here’s a handy tip that might be of more interest to the ladies than to men.   In an interview a ballerina remarked that when she switched to more Russian-style dance training her muscles began to look longer and leaner because its style is “…not as quick, and you’re not contracting your muscle all the time.”   She said she could relax in the movements instead of contracting her muscles all the time.   Since I still do some old dance/ballet exercises, I might try slowing them down and emphasizing the stretch and lengthening of the limbs.   After all, the last thing I want my already solid thighs to do is bulk up even more.

Now if only I could bulk up my bustline.

Yes I know!  For a few weeks now I’ve been showing up only sporadically at my own blog.  Then when I finally make an appearance it’s for a once-weekly posting.  Pathetic.

My apologies, along with a heaping sense of inadequacy.  Truth to tell, I’ve been crazy busy and  not with fun Layla stuff.   At least I can report that FINALLY, AT LONG LAST…

My manuscript for The Compass Master is at CreateSpace.  Even whilst I type this blog its techie elves are putting it into digital format (for both e-reading and hard copy).   I figure that maybe by next week the elves will show me the first chapter, I’ll go back and forth with them on layout style details, and then in another week or so they’ll send me the digital copy to proof.  Oh joy!  Yet another chance to read my own novel for the umpteenth time!  But at this stage proofing really is critical so I’ve got to look at every last word and punctuation mark in it.

In the meantime, I’ve started to get back into Layla-like language studies again.  Nothing formal at this point, instead I just find it relaxing NOT to be plotting and planning for my novel and instead to pick up a book on Arabic and memorize a few words or look over some grammar rules.

As you know, the world is yet again supposed to end this weekend on the deadly date of May 21.  Despite the efforts of some ministers, priests, rabbis, theologians and others who have tried talking sanity to the masses, at least several thousand followers of some nutcase preacher are convinced that on May 21 the Rapture will take place and all us sinners are going you know where.  In preparation I’m reading the very funny book, “How to Profit from the Coming Rapture – Getting Ahead When You’re Left Behind.”  Unfortunately, I don’t personally know any of the followers who have given away their savings and belongings in preparation for this weekend.  But I can at least hie myself over to 11th and Broadway here in Denver to get a look at the billboard announcing our impending demise.  Some individual actually paid a couple thousand for that very public advertisement.   Similar advertising has popped up in other cities, too.

Oh, if only we writers had such loyal followers!   The kind who’d happily shell out major cash to advertise our upcoming literary releases.   Then again, I’ve met members of some cults (I used to live in Boulder) and they creeped me out.  I’d much rather like my readers, all of whom would be way too intelligent to pay for some tacky billboard.

I saw the movie Limitless this last weekend.  There’s a scene in it that just about every writer can identify with.

It’s the one where Bradley Cooper’s character is trying to write his novel and can’t even get the first sentence down.  He stares at a blank computer screen forever.  He looks and feels like hell.  He has a contract with a publisher that he can’t fulfill.  Then along comes a Magic Pill that makes him use 100% of his brain and he writes the whole book in just over four days.  The publisher swoons in ecstasy over the manuscript.

Talk about the ultimate writer’s fantasy.

Then again, an unpublished novelist getting a book contract without a track record or even a manuscript is the ultimate fantasy element in this movie.

Anyway my point is that if it weren’t for the nasty side effects of the Magic Pill, it would be so tempting to have a supply of them and that way be like Bradley and get stinking rich and learn languages nigh instantly and write whatever you want perfectly and freaking fast.

Of course I’m talking action hero fantasy here.  But I couldn’t resist tracking down a few rumors about brain-enhancement science research.  Here’s an interesting factoid I found:

There’s a field of research dealing with something called a transcranial magnetic stimulator.

Basically the researcher applies a bunch of electrodes to a subject’s forehead, which attaches him/her to the stimulator.  Electromagnetic pulses are then directed into the person’s frontal lobes to “enhance” them.  Doesn’t hurt in the least.  But after about 10 minutes you can ask the person to draw something like a cat and, while the electrodes are still pulsing away, the odds are pretty good the individual will draw a far better picture than he/she ever has before.

This same researcher used TMS on a group of university students, 40 percent of whom exhibited new and “extraordinary” mental skills including performing mathematical functions.  Take the students off the machine and they go back to being normal.

And that’s the interesting angle of Limitless – the scenario of a poor, unemployed schmuck writer morphing within minutes into a genius.  Of course the drug’s brain enhancement ability is temporary, and like I said the side effects are hell.  But in real life maybe something like TMS will turn out to be safe and the effects permanent.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep plugging away at my usual sub-genius level.  And writing my books over a LONG period of time.

When it comes to body weight, I’ve pretty much been lucky.  I’ve been generally slim all my life, but whenever I did put on fat it went to really bad places.   Bad as in butt, thighs and waist.  Bad as in it has meticulously, assiduously, determinedly avoided my breasts at all costs.   Never, ever has fat gone north above my ribcage.   Like the bones up there were made of Teflon or something.

You know those overweight women who are extremely bell-shaped?   That’s what I’d be like if I ever put on weight.   Some “overweight” women look great.   They look voluptuous.   They look sexy.

Me? I would look like the Liberty Bell from the waist down and Olive Oil above that.

Which is why I’ve really had to be careful about not putting on weight.   I would so not be sexy, and voluptuous is not in my body vocabulary.

But my body paranoia has not kept a few extra pounds from sneaking onto the wrong bones in my body.   YOU try keeping every last excess pound off once you get deep into middle age.  T’ain’t easy.

Nowadays, of course, I at least have more upper body development (including some to my ever humble breasts), but that’s purely because of workouts.   Fact is, for too long I was too skinny from the waist up.   But FINALLY, especially thanks to fencing and my Layla workout stuff, I’ve put on some muscle in my shoulders and arms… and little extra tissue or something or other to my two little friends.

This is good news.   Especially because this last week some really nasty medical news was announced, to whit:


Talk about a horror story.

In a study done right here in Colorado, researchers examined test subjects (nonobese women) with “protuberant thighs,” etc. who had liposuction on said offensive thighs, then the researchers followed up with them a year later.   Guess what?   The fat came back.   “It took a year,” but it all came back UPSTAIRS, primarily in the upper abdomen but also in the shoulders and thighs.

It did not go to their breasts.

Why did it come back?   Blame the women, it’s their fault?    Not in this controlled study.   Instead the researchers are theorizing that the body “defends” its fat.   Doesn’t matter if you lose it by dieting or sucking it out through a tube.   That gross yellow stuff comes BACK.   Just like can’t-die-monsters in movies.   With dieting, it can go back to the same places.   But with liposuction it seems that the procedure so violently messes with the “fishnet structure under the skin where fat cells live” that when the ugly stuff comes back, it has to find a new neighborhood, usually to the north.   In the wrong places north.

If you want to get even more depressed, here’s the link to the story as it ran in the New York Times.

I’m now gonna have celery for lunch.   Damn it.

Navy SEAL Team 6 has the best real action heroes ever.

As you know I’ve had lots of fun doing some action hero training stuff and generally getting myself banged up and sometimes doing okay and sometimes making a fool of myself.  Okay, most of the time I make a fool of myself.   I also poke fun at fictional action heroes from James Bond to Lara Croft.

But since Sunday evening we’ve all learned about the real thing.

You know the news so I won’t belabor that phenomenal forty-minutes-on-the-ground mission executed by the team of Navy SEALs who went on to execute the now rotting-in-hell bin Laden.  God bless those anonymous soldiers.  Instead, I figured you may want to know something about the training and profiles of those men on Team 6.  Here are a few facts:

Team 6 is the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.  The men in it never stop training.  First of all as Navy SEALs they are pushed to their physical and mental limit in training that includes combat swimming and diving, navigation, weapons, demolitions, and parachuting.  The dropout rate in this period is 80%.  Up to 30 months is the standard training period before a Navy SEAL sees his first deployment.

Besides the ability to pass this training with flying colors and possessing phenomenal mental and physical toughness, Team 6 members are chosen for other qualities.  These include:

Extreme mental agility
The need to be challenged
Reserved and dedicated character
Usually a family man
Usually has earned a Bachelor’s degree
More cerebral – the kind of man who plays chess instead of poker
Usually are more mature SEALs in their late twenties or early thirties.

Also, these Team 6 members have probably been involved in 100 previous operations and have done multiple deployments.  Much more than this we’ll probably never know because Team 6 also works in strict secrecy.  In fact, there are former members who are shocked that the Team was identified at all by the government and in the media.  These are men who really, truly work below the radar.

James Bond ain’t got nothing on them.