Over the last couple of years, I have been really into the products produced by Onnit to support human optimization. I think I originally came across the company when I was looking for relaxation and sleep support supplements with 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan, Magnesium, among other things. Their New Mood product seemed to have all the parts so I gave it a shot. Anyway, that got me into their other products, I cycle on and off with Total Human Optimization just to keep all my bases covered, I used the Plant and Whey proteins for training recovery, the Mineral Electrolytes work great while playing basketball or rowing and don't pack so much sugar. AlphaBRAIN can really help to kick the creative process into high gear and also deliver fluent eloquent lectures at school. I guess I am a fan, so much so that nearly all of my workout gear has transitioned to Onnit products (as the old stuff wears out, and I do mean wears out, I am sporting some holey shorts). I usually shop the sales to try not to break the bank and they have a nice rewards program that has netted many of my fun graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts at little or no cost. There is a ton more I could go into (the Onnit-Kyle Kingsberry and Aubry Marcus podcats are weekly staples) but I think of all the things I have gotten from them the most beneficial and transformative have been their Onnit 6 training programs.

I have purchased and completed the Bodyweight, Kettle Bell, and Steel Mace (my favorite) programs over the last year or so and have enjoyed the challenge of each one. They offer a wide range of skill level interfaces and are well produced. Coach John Wolf has a wonderful corny sense of humor that keeps things light during the intensity. There is never a workout that does not leave me feeling it, and a little ego crushed. I now have probably too many very heavy objects in my apartment (dreading moving) some of which are both works of art and next-level training gear. If you are like me and do not love going to gyms with people, then these programs are awesome.



Onnit decided to help people out (and sell some products) by doing an Onnit 6 Challange this winter timed to keep the vigor of new year new you alive. I have been on a break from a lot of heavy workouts for a couple of months, primarily focusing on getting some alignment issues better with Foundation Training and using 2-3X per week RowHouse classes to keep cardio up. When I saw the email for the challenge I thought it sounded like a good time to get back into one of the programs. Of the three that I have done, Body Weight was probably the most challenging and also mobility-focused, so that is what I decided to do for the challenge. I still mostly refuse to engage with social media, but since that is part of this whole thing and I want to be as much of a team player as I can I have even posted a couple of Instagram photos to kick things off.


On to the point, a log of my progress over the course of the Onnit 6 Bodyweight program. I began on Monday, February 10th bright and early at 6am.

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Day 01 :: Monday 02/10/20 :: Prime The Pump 1

The first day of the #onnit6challenge. I was on the fence about participating in this thing, for one I am very uninterested in engaging with social media, and my bandwidth is feeling stretched right now so I was unsure where I will carve and extra hour or so out of my already full days. (it is not so much a problem of the time, but the time with the energy and focus to work hard at this program). Since I have been on a break from intense workouts and I want more motivation to jump out of bed at 6 each morning so last night I decided to sign up and give it my best. I am not sure how much I will be able to participate in the community aspect, but I will try to have fun with it and go outside my comfort zone a little and post some goofy workout pictures.


This commitment will not only continue to build strength, mobility, and resilience in my body but also challenge my mental discipline and keep me on a consistent early schedule to tackle a couple of big projects this month. My goal is to 'pop' out of bed early (at 6) and get on it. Today was a bit of a roll and a stagger so I have a little work to do, but I am feeling the fire.


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Day 02 :: Tuesday 02/11/20 :: Blasted By The Basics 1

The instructors/participants in these videos are amazing. Their ability to keep pace and form with John sets an inspiring example. I am impressed by the grace with which they perform all the rounds of the workouts and keep smiling at all of John Wolf's corny jokes at the same time. Consistency of effort and attention to form are a big focus for me during these workouts and it helps to have such great examples to follow. The pushups during today's workout were a big challenge. I am looking forward to building my upper body strength to support good posture and core stability. I felt my body was much more upright and I could get deeper on the squats than in the past, again I attribute this to the Foundation Training and PT over the last two months. I am looking forward to yoga and recovery tomorrow.


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Day 03 :: Wednesday 02/12/20 :: Yoga 1

Yoga with JJ and Han Solo for an active recovery day three. I found this mentally and physically challenging today, my body is getting back into the higher intensity workouts and is struggling to find balance and smoothness in the flow style yoga. I also have not been practicing my yoga as much recently so the brain-body link is a little rusty. I appreciate this challenge as it brings a slow and steady awareness of my whole body as one flowing system. For me, getting warmed up is usually the hardest part of yoga and most workouts, and I think that JJ does a great job of letting the body ease into the movements and have space to move before really digging into the hard stuff. I feel that my body-mind is building integration of the work the muscles have been doing, opening and aligning all the little parts to keep things moving together. The session does build the heat, and I was dripping and shiny after 15 minutes, thoroughly wrung out after an hour. I am trying to take it slow and remind myself to be mindful of my back, and I can feel that the last two months of Foundation Training have helped build up that awareness. My body feels a little like melting jello now, which I think is a good thing.


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Day 04 :: Thursday 02/13/20 :: Prime The Pump 1 + Rowhouse

Rowhouse at 6 am as a warmup for day four, Prime the Pump. Why? Well, I have an 8X per month subscription of classes at Rowhouse, it is a twice-weekly activity that Lauren and I share to keep us in good cardio fitness, and I enjoy it. So I had to make it stack. I did take things a little easier than normal in the rowing class, making sure my body would have plenty of energy to keep up good form during the workout. Our instructor did throw in a lot of lunches as pushups, just to make things a little more interesting. After completing the Onnit 6 workout my legs are feeling both rubbery and stiff with some light cramping in my calves and quads. Drink my water, keep calm, and carry on. And Hypervolt!


I would also like to say that I strongly agree with John Wolf that the froggy exercises are 'love-hate'. I am never sure I am doing them well since I am here at home without a coach, but I do my best to keep everything tight and aligned with a consistent balance and pace. The position really works my hips, which really need it. My hips are extremely tight and cause a lot of other issues with my back and knees so having the frog open them up is helpful in the long run, but quite uncomfortable at first. They also crush and cramp my toes, which is a funny part of the body to have sore after a workout. I am also developing a nice pair of bruises on the insides of my knees from the pressure against the floor. I know they are good for me, but I do not like doing them very much.


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Day 05 :: Friday 02/14/20 :: Speed Kills 1

I always appreciate the humbling perspective provided by the speed workouts in these programs. These are where the rubber meets the road and all the movement patterns and focus of the other days are put to the test. 20 rounds of Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) performing three movements (reverse lunges, site throughs, frog press) as quickly as possible while keeping good form and structure. The site throughs and frog press are both done from the frog position and really stress my hips, inner knees, and toes. There isn't much time to think during the 20-30 seconds of recovery breathing during each round, but I did have a nice reflection:


We need tests, trials that stretch us to our limits and ask for just a little more than we think we have, By persevering with great effort we discover that we had more than we thought and learn ways to perform the fundamental tasks of movement and life with greater speed and efficiency. A routine of training and testing not only builds the body but opens new territories of learning and growth in all parts of life. We must remember not to shy away from challenges or we will stagnate and eventually regress. We can't be testing all the time, and this high intensity must be balanced with focused training and recovery. I am looking forward to some smooth yoga tomorrow to loosen everything up for the weekend.


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Day 06 :: Saturday 02/15/20 :: Yoga 1

After completing the main fur workouts for the first week of the program I am feeling a lot of soreness in my calves (and shoulders, and quads, and hips). This is a common experience for me when I escalate my physical training and it is a good inspiration to put in some extra effort on recovery. After a very refreshing Yoga session this morning I did some deep foam rolling on my lower legs and around of light Hypervolt massage. While the first round of JJ Yoga was cumbersome and challenging, mainly because I have been out of practice for a few months, this second round was much smoother. I felt the flow returning and my body was much more stable and receptive to the positions. I am feeling open and supple, ready for the day.

The soreness is abating and I feel ready to head up to Columbia for WBB Alumna Weekend (where I usually get to get on the nice court and put up a bunch of shots). Recover can't all happen on the weekend, so I am making sure to eat well and drink plenty of water each day. I am very blessed to have access to some of the best food on the east coast provided by Evolutionary Organics at the Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. Winter is root vegetable season, and I have all sorts of creative ways to combine them, as noodles, as soup and stew, as mash, as stirfry, you name it I have tried it. I once spent a winter eating only the farm's produce (there is a limit to how many raw radishes you can eat in six months).


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Day 07 :: Sunday 02/16/20 :: Recover + Rowhouse


Today is all about recovery. I did a modified version of the Bodyweight warmup before a Restore Rowhouse class thig, which incorporates a lot of mobility and stretching. My back is a bit cramped from playing a lot of basketball yesterday a the Columbia Women's Basketball Alumnae Day. Doing some more stretching later in the day and will follow up with some foam rolling and Hypervolt of my angry calves. I am feeling well worked after last week, but ready for week 2.


Get On It!

Since I spend so much time ingesting works of Science Fiction I figure I should start reflecting on how these speculative realities influence my perceptions of the world and potentially offer ways forward for us all. (aka book reports)

Each yearly visit to Champaign, IL to visit my family is not complete without a lengthy adventure through the maze of books housed within the Jane Addams Bookstore downtown. A charming building from the early development of the railroad town over 100 years ago, it has been a local used and new bookstore for almost as long as I have been alive, and definitely since I could read. Lauren and I love to browse its dense and near-endless shelves for treasures of literature and uniquely unexpected gifts for our friends and families.

This year while navigating the two-layer deep shelves of the SciFi room on the second floor I can across two books by Alfred Bester. We have had a couple of his classic science fiction novels on our list for SkyFi book club for many years, but have never gotten around to it (its a long and ever-growing list). The front layer of books reveled The Computer Connection from 1975 and sneakily placed behind it, Deceivers from 1982. Both are old, wonderful smelling mass-market paperbacks with cracking flaking covers and yellowing pages. Perfect indulgences for travel and the gaps of time on trains and Sunday mornings.

My initial impression of Deceivers, straight from the cover (that is what they are designed for after all), was that this must be some slightly ridiculous classic male hero space adventure. There is a macho man with face tattoos in a spacesuit standing chest proud and ready for battle. He is wielding a tribal spear and large stone with a ceremonial knife tucked in his belt. This has to be some cheesy 60's sci-fi adventure story, set on the moons of Jupiter, filling the background, in the pursuit of a woman, honor, and riches. I flipped the book over and noted the $2.50 price tag, further eliciting my interest in this discovered gem. Even more than the over the top cover art and the easy on the wallet price (I may buy too many books) the back cover description sealed the deal.


(I have copied the text below for easier reading)

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IN A COSMIC CON-GAME OF DEATH AND DECEPTION IT'S WINNER TAKE ALL...


Rogue Winter - king of the Maori commandos, Starstud and Cosmic Casanova - embarks on a journey across the Solar System in search of his kidnapped lover, Demi Jeroux. Cruising the speedy Solar Circuit - From the Paradise of Carnal Pleasures to the bloody torture chambers of asteroid Triton - Rouge uncovers a grisly pattern of evil...a snakepit of spies and skullduggery, blackmail and murder.


Kidnapped by the demonic Manchu Duke of Death, Demi is a pawn in his sadistic struggle for control of Meta-crystals - a super-secret source of unlimited energy concealed deep beneath the surface of Triton, Rogue is one of the few men alive capable of following the Manchu's trail. On his interplanetary voyage in pursuit of the deadly Manchu, Rogue encounters the brutal Meta-Mafia henchmen, their treacherous golden-skinned virgins, and a shadowy terrorist network determined to end the Maori king's reign.


But Rogue's ultimate confrontation will be with the Duke of Death. Their fiery battle of wits will decide not only his own fate and that of his lovely bedmate Demi Jeroux but also the future if the Solar System and its freedom from the Manchu Empire.

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What more can I say, Starstud, skulduggery, Maori commandos in space, the Duke of Death and his shadowy terrorist network? This must either be a cosmic spectacle or the inevitable disaster of a machismo James Bond in space. Shall we venture inside?


(I won't go into too much detail about the story, it was entertaining with a unique and fitting style)


1) The story has a real James Bond (interstellar) man of mystery with a dash of Clark Kent, (anything but) mild-mannered reporter larger than life male fantasy vibe to it. There is even a self-conscious reference to Ian Flemming's stories in the book as a subtle jab at the absurdity of it all. It definitely had that machismo chauvinistic womanizing conquest undertone (overtone) but also provides sneaking moments of self-awareness and even subtle critique. I was very surprised when I turned to the front cover to see that is was published in 1982 as it feels to be much more of a product of the mid-1960s. I kept having the sneaking suspicion that the whole thing is a bit of a gag with a subtly heavy-handed criticism of the lingering culture of mid-century American male superiority complex. I will have to read a couple more of Bester's novels to see if this is a trend or an anomaly.


2) Race, Culture, and Sexuality oh my! Each of these subjects is treated as over the top stereotyped abstractions. There are many instances of cultural or racial denigration that made me a bit uncomfortable to be reading this thing on the subway (do other people know about this book, this author?). I did some quick Google research on Bester and didn't find any Internet gossip of him being a bigot (but definitely a little exccentric) so I again suspect that there was a deeper purpose to this. Was he throwing these absurdities in the face of his readers to challenge us to leave such antiquated notions behind as we move into the future and the starts?

The solar system, at first glance, seems even more starkly divided by racial and cultural boundaries. Whole planets are settled by specific ethnic groups and are often rooted in isolation and tribal superstition. Why has our interplanetary society not progressed beyond the closed-minded world of the 1960s? Again I suspect there is some sneaky subterfuge at play since it is gently revealed that most of these enclaves of ancient boundaries are actually quite diverse and integrated societies. That people have dispersed through the galaxy and found new and better models for social interaction. It is a strange and almost schizophrenic scenario that perhaps is the only possible universe for such a fantastically ridiculous adventure to take place with lighthearted insanity. Maybe my expectations of Science Fiction as a battleground for everything that could be better in humans through utopic vision and brutal critique are giving this dime-store adventure too much credit.


3) The depiction and demeanor of women is another complex and confusing position of the book. Demi is demure and literally melts to her desires for this Rogue. His own alpha male mentality is both overt and also constantly self-critical. The two quickly develop a steamy romance and a timeless bond that know no boundaries or limits of imagination. The female protagonist feigns weakness but displays extreme independence and cleverness. Women are top operatives and assassins, heads of secret societies and news house typists. Perhaps it is a desire for the adventures of a genre from younger days and a struggle with the emerging social organizations of the late 20th century (especially in SciFi). There is definitely a conflict at play, one that is uncomfortable and difficult to resolve, but also entertaining to navigate with a 2020 mindset.


When all is said and done, it was an entertaining and thought-provoking yarn. It was interesting to read something so far removed and yet perhaps so apropos to today's current struggles with race, class, gender, sexuality, and difference. I struggled to place the voice and intention of the author beyond a galactic romp, but I think there are deeper more complex forces at play. There are some dark scenes near the end that really push on the social justice and tolerance buttons, but it is never painted in the light of acceptable or desirable. The protagonist is not a model, but a figure, an aspect of acceptable prejudice that has a fading fire in the universe.


While that should probably be the final note, I will say that the story presents some very exciting ideas about computers in this strange future. They are organic machine hybrids, enslaved or nourished in tanks of vital fluid forming a network through the stars with their own secret society, only slightly revealed in the post-climax cooldown. I am now very interested to dig into The Computer Connection to both have a deeper glimpse at Bester's psyche and see where his speculations of future computer systems were going nearly fifty years ago.



Read. Write. Repeat.


Some mornings during my shower and while I prepare and eat my breakfast I like to listen to a podcast. This is usually something inspiring about human performance optimization or when I am feeling really indulgent, a short story from my favorite SciFi podcast, Escape Pod. I have been a fan of this podcast for the last seven years or so, since very early in their existence. I have taken many wonderful books and author recommendations from the stories to introduce in our sci-fi book club. Many of the short stories have touched me deeply due to the variety of creative themes, eccentric and committed narrators, and exuberant hosts and editors. I found myself wiping tears from my face while consulting onsite at a large office during a reading of Flowers For Algernon due to both the superb narration and the powerful story of a tragic friendship. I had a similar experience this morning (though in my own home) with episode number 689, Spectrum of Acceptance by Nyla Bright and narrated by Maxine Moore.



The story of a faraway colony of Earth that has become a bastion for the neuro-atypicals to explore alternative models of social organization and interaction in pursuit of a meaningful fulfilling life. Since this is a sci-fi story and it takes place on a faraway planet that is set up to support human life, it is no surprise that technology plays a significant role in supporting the complex and diverse society of slightly off baseline people looking for a culture of acceptance. I like that technology integration helps to smooth out some of the more complicated issues with people who may have a harder time being self-reliant without support forming a culture around being who you really are in service of the whole. This allowed me to focus on the subtle quirks of the main character trying to navigate the complexity of her NT emotions in a very foreign environment and calling to attention many things like subtle touch and eye contact that it is easy to take for granted. I also felt uncomfortable (in the good self-reflective kind of way) as the story made me think a lot about how these things, touching and eye contact, along with long drawn out emotional narratives that obfuscate intentions and distract from clarity, cause me a lot of anxiety each day.


Probably my favorite aspect of the story is the protagonist's quirky manner of reminding herself to clarify her thoughts and speech when it comes to metaphors. I couldn't help myself from experiencing the Earth ambassador as slimy and dense, but no he is just narrow-minded, self-important, and unovservant. Or are those metaphors too. The fun game of language, of the imagery that plays in our minds, and the question of are those inferences, interpretations, flashes of insight and predictive models even in the slightest degree-based in words. Words themselves each being a symbol of meaning far greater than the combination of letters and correct pronunciation. It would have bee nice if she began to discover through her encounter with the slimy dense earth man that she need not judge and correct her figurative language, but that there is also value in self-reflection and working through the metaphor to get at deeper meaning that can be shared with others on common ground.


The sacrifice her mother makes to offer her daughter what she knows she needs really got to me, though maybe from the opposite direction, as I greatly appreciate love and affection from a distance. Often just being in silence is completely fulfilling and speaks volumes to me, but probably not everyone. Different strokes for different folks, as they say, and as long as we say it with complete acceptance of those differences as both valuable and meaningful to the richness of life.


As the Vulcans say, infinite diversity in infinite combinations.


I repeat this line to myself quite often during my teaching. I look at the diverse and complex students each day with fresh eyes and optimism in the potential for unique and unexpected thinking. While I am charged with making sure they can in some way be versed in specific skills and concepts, the thing I enjoy most about teaching is guiding them to those outcomes with a broad and gentle hand. Experiencing the journey and trusting that with time and effort the gap between where a student begins and where I think they should be is crossed not by a bridge or zipline to answers, but filled in with questions and discoveries.


...and one more thing from the story (i hope by now you have taken the time to listen to it for yourself so I am not spoiling anything).


"We cared for people’s needs on Acceptance.  You need, really need, you ask. Otherwise, you serve."

This line comes toward the end of the story and is something I really connected to as a frontier outlook on life with the twist of service. Everyone is making their own way in their own way and respects that as a culture enough not to abuse support systems. Likewise, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for any help you need since the entire culture is devoted to being of service whenever necessary. The dichotomy of rugged self-reliance and a devotion to service is aspirational. It would require a lot of discipline and I dream would offer exceptional freedom as the story suggests.


This story also made me remember some of the storylines from Peter Watts's Blindsight. Many of his main characters have conditions of neuro-atypical expression, but the society of the future has found ways to accept them and give them meaning through occupations that take fuller advantage of the evolutionary potential of conditions like multiple personality and sociopathy. Blindsight was one of our favorite books in SkyFi and I should probably go back to it for a deeper dissection. Interestingly, when I went to Escape Pod's site to link to the story I saw that episode 690 just so happened to be The Things by Peter Watts. I know what I will be listening to tomorrow morning.


End of Log