August 2009

2009 08 22
One hundred push ups in “six weeks”

Posted by in: Fitness blogging

It seems like about half the people I know have tried this website’s six week push up regime. I’m in the middle of the program, if by “middle” you mean almost half way through the workouts. Alas, I’m not in the “middle” if we count by time elapsed: it’s taken me about seven weeks to get this far.

I shouldn’t be surprised. 100 push ups is a lot of push ups. Imagine doing 50 push ups in a row and then without stopping doing 50 more push ups in a row. That’s how many push ups it is. Over the last two years, my work outs at the gym have been almost entirely cardio stuff. So it’s not surprising that I’m still struggling. Still, the fact that I’m not even all the way to half way after seven weeks pretty much confirms what you’ll notice if you read the site’s notes: that the six week thing is just a gimmick. You’re supposed to repeat days before moving on, take time out to do stress tests to gauge your progress, and so on.

I wonder what the net motivational effect of the bogus “six week” gimmick is. I suspect it may account for the sheer number of people who have tried out the website’s program (and probably made its operator some money in advertising in the process). On the other hand, no one I’ve spoken to has actually finished the program. I wonder if the expectations they may have started with had something to do with that.

If you’re determined to get to 100 regardless of how long it takes, the website has a fairly nice graduated set of workouts. It’s certainly not perfect, though, and I wonder if that’s because for marketing reasons they ended up telescoping several workouts into a single one. Check out, for example, day one of week three. I find this easy. I found it easy four weeks ago. But then take a look at day two on the same page. It’s not just a little harder. It’s much harder. Indeed, I’ve been stuck on it for about three weeks now (this morning I got to 15 on the final set).

Howls of outrage (20)

2009 08 07
How long is a severed head conscious for?

Posted by in: Odds and ends

I have always wondered about that.

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2009 08 05
The time Gawker put the Washington Post out of business

“A less cumbersome way for newspapers to head off the threat of blogs would be to beat us to the punchline.”

I don’t want to get all chin-strokey about blogs and the media and all that, so I’ll just say that one thing that (good) blogs have repeatedly reminded me is that news and commentary can be delivered with more humour and good sense than the norms of journalism and commentary typically seem to permit.

Update: See this too.

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2009 08 03
Recently read: Sowing Crisis

Rashid Khalidi. Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East

I read and enjoyed Khalidi’s The Iron Cage back in January, and so got this, Khalidi’s latest book, out of the library shortly afterwards (I’m only getting around to writing about it now). Sowing Crisis is a more sharply polemical book than The Iron Cage and I liked it a bit less, partly because I have a limited appetite for polemic and partly because Khalidi isn’t really great at it. (He’s not awful; just not great.) Nevertheless, there is a lot in this wide-ranging review of American foreign policy to learn from and by stimulated by. Khalidi’s main objective seems to be to try to get Americans to understand how non-Americans see American foreign policy. This is a worthwhile project, and Sowing Crisis is a worthwhile book.

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2009 08 01
Forget shorter showers

Posted by in: Environmental issues

Oh thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou so much to the internets for this article on a variety of environmentalism that drives me absolutely bonkers.

Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

And so on with lots of illustrative examples. The author concludes with a reasonable meditation on the sorts of political changes we need to bring about.

I think this is exactly right. We’re facing enormous political problems with the environment now that require broad political solutions. Everyone in my neighbourhood can recycle and bike to work for the next ten years and all the good we’ve done can be undone in an instant by a single line in a farm bill. Environmental activism that focuses energy and effort away from that level may be well-meaning, but it can also be positively harmful. At this point we really need to think globally and act nationally.

Howls of outrage (14)