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Hang on, I think I just got into a Gatling gun duel…

I’ve been getting more and more questions lately from friends and family on how to get into shape and feel better.

Those of you who knew me in high-school may or may not have noticed, I was one out-of-shape, fat, slow dude. I didn’t play sports and didn’t have a very active lifestyle. Aside from Tae-Kwon Do (which I am still VERY glad my parents signed me up for) my physical activity was limited to lurching from chair to couch to bed. I didn’t eat well and was ill quite frequently.

At about the age of 21, I got sick of this and when Jonathan said I should join Extreme Fitness, I did.

This was the beginning of a long period of trial-and-error for figuring out what my body could do, what it reacted to and how it behaved.

I'll never look like him, and truthfully don't want to, but he's the master and an inspiration.

I’m not blessed with the most amazing genes when it comes to body-type, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. There were (and are) so many before and after photographs and stories on the web of people “just like me” with amazing results. So I set about learning.

Here is some of the broader things that I have learned about changing your body that hopefully you guys can apply if you really are interested in changing.

1. And this annoys me a lot, but after 10 years, it’s the truth; most of the before and after pictures you see on the web are from people who were at some point in-shape and have let themselves go. You will see stories usually containing something along the lines of “I used to play football in high school…”, “I was a cheerleader all through college…”, “I used to run marathons…” always followed by some variation of letting themselves go when life got tough and taking control to get in shape again. Sadly, there are now studies backing up what I always suspected; if you start early, your muscles learn and it’s easier for them to go back to that state. Those of us who never had the athleticism of youth are put in a much harder position, but, you can still get to your goal.

2. Speaking of goals, you need to have them. And they need to be realistic. “I’m going to look like Ryan Reynolds by Christmas!” when it’s 3 days before Halloween, is not a realistic goal. I have found that micro-goals (baby steps) work the best for me. Something along the lines of “I’m going to eat healthy this week and not have a single piece of junk food or candy” is more realistic (though for some it may be more along the lines of “I’m going to eat healthy for the next three hours and not have a single piece of junk food or candy” may be more attainable). I would write these goals down and tell them to someone. This makes you accountable. Even better is if you can get someone to actually follow up with you on these. There are applications and websites out there that do this stuff, but I’ve not used them, perhaps they will work for you. You also need to know if you want to gain muscle or lose fat. Most people want some combination of both, but doing both at the same time is difficult.

The epitome of commitment and will-power.

3. If you’re just starting out, you need to know what you are doing wrong, both with diet and exercise. I recommend going a least 3 days, preferably more like a week, and write down EVERYTHING you eat. Don’t leave out anything and don’t change your diet because you know you’re recording it. This should be a record of your current habits so you can assess where you are. Once you have that, you can start making changes. A complete diet overhaul is very hard to do in one go as the cravings, at least for me, are VERY hard to ignore. The site that I use when I want to know some precise numbers (which you really should at the beginning at least, before you can “eyeball” food) is http://www.fitday.com. It’s not the prettiest site out there, and their food search engine is abysmal, but it’s very good at showing you accurate numbers and a breakdown of where they’re coming from.

4. Start small with diet changes. Something along the lines of swapping out white bread for whole-grain. Or cutting out some of the high-sugar drinks you have.

5. Losing weight is not hard, in theory; you just have to consume less than you spend, creating a calorie deficit. This comes back to knowing what you’re consuming at present and then tweaking it. If you are taking in 3000 calories a day, try to knock it down to 2500 with some small changes.

6. Change comes slowly. You will feel a change LONG before you start to see it.

7. Plan your exercise. Know what and when you’re going to do it and make it a priority. There are a million and one excuses for not doing something, make your health top priority.

8. If you miss an exercise or cheat on a meal, don’t throw in the towel. Keep trying. It gets easier.

9. Weight lifting is king. This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ve learned with regards to exercise; lift as heavy as you can. 4-8 repetitions in 3 sets is a good way to start. This is true for men and women, young and old. One of the most inaccurately propagated myths is that if you lift heavy, you will become a giant monster looking like the Incredible Hulk. This isn’t going to happen. Just as the belief (which is thankfully changing) that Yoga and Pilates are for women, lifting isn’t just for guys. A quote I saw a while ago on Reddit (as best I can remember), “Lifting weights isn’t going to turn you into the hulk any more than taking spin class will make me grow breasts”. See all those guys at the gym there for hours? They’re TRYING to get huge. Do you think you’re going to stumble upon the secret to becoming a giant by accident? You’re not. TheCookieMonster is a power lifter with an amazing blog. This link will take you straight to her progress pictures. She doesn’t look like She-hulk, she looks like Supergirl. And that’s a very good thing. Yoga, spinning, Pilates, are all great supplements, but you gotta lift.

Quick addition here: I just hit CookieMonster’s blog today and she’s got a video up of her attempting a 250lb dead lift. She only managed 2 reps, but she’s only 114lbs. That’s more than twice her weight. That is incredible and very inspiring.

10. Learn. Read blogs. Articles. Anything that catches your eye with regards to fitness and nutrition. There is a LOT of information out there. Much of it is inaccurate but most of it is sound advice. It is a changing field and there are always new ideas, but the basics remain simple; eat well, exercise.

11. Those giant bodybuilding monsters know what they’re doing. The same way that reading a car magazine will give you a better understanding of how your car works and what you can apply to make it run better, you can apply what the big guys do to your life and it will help. But just like learning to double-clutch won’t turn your car into a Austin Martin Vanquish, learning to power-lift won’t turn you into Schwarzenegger.

12. The first 3-4 weeks will suck. You will be sore. You will be hungry. Then you will start to feel a LOT better.

13. The pre-fabricated programs are a great way to start. I’ve seen decent results from Power 90, P90X and Insanity, all from the company called “Beach Body”. They are incredibly intense and somewhat time consuming, but they are a hell of a kick start. If you’re looking for an intense was to jump right in, they’re very good.

14. In a decade of doing this, my best results came from when I gave 100% on the diet and the exercise. No cheating at all for 12 weeks. But I could not have done that when first starting; I would have collapsed under the cravings and totally fallen off the wagon.

Blade 3 was terrible, but Mr Reynolds sure sets the bar for body goals.

15. Diet is 80% exercise is 20%. You’ll feel better with just one or the other, but both together will give you results.

16. Finally, find someone who inspires you or who’s body you want to look like. Or both. In this post the pictures are Bruce Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ryan Reynolds. These three guys are my biggest inspiration and they are very different people and body types. I’m never going to look like Bruce or Arnold, but perhaps someday I’ll be able to look like Ryan. Inspiration is key. My desktop background right now is Arnold in his prime.

I hope this points some of you in the right direction, and I’m here if you need any suggestions. I am far from all-knowing and am always learning, but I can tell you what worked for me and what didn’t.

Love the references buried in this one; Shawn of the Dead, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Max Brook’s World War Z among others. Very funny video and song.

Why? Why not?

Ultimate Spidey

The first comic that I ever bought was Spider-man number 8 in March 1991.

I was hooked.

Spider-man always seemed to be a more “accessible” hero than the other “big-two” of Superman and Batman. Spider-man could be me. I wasn’t going to become an alien from a doomed planet, and my parents weren’t murdered billionaires, but hey, I MIGHT get bitten by a radioactive spider, right?

Though it’s been several years since I bought a proper comic book (I’ve switched over to waiting for TPBs for stories that interest me), I still enjoy a good story told in comic book form. Buffy Season 8, Y: The Last Man, among numerous one-shots (self-contained stories) all sit on my shelf and have been read more than once.

When I don’t feel like wrapping my mind around Plato’s The Republic or Melville’s Moby-Dick (or Chemistry 101… man that’s a chore to read), I’ll pick up a no-brainer novel or one of my trade paper-backs, more often than once, it’s been one of the Ultimate Spider-Man books.

I started Spider-man, as I said, in March of 1991 with the “Spider-man” title by Todd McFarlane. From there, I moved over to “Amazing Spider-Man” around issue 314 or so; I can’t recall exactly, but I backtracked to where McFarlane started doing the work beginning with 298, with 300 being the introduction of Venom at the height of his popularity, it was a small victory to obtain that issue.

(Wow, this post is dipping deep into the nerd-o-verse… brace yourself… it will get worse)

What totally threw me off Spider-man, and comics in general for a while, was a single story-line; The Clone Saga. Basically, for those who aren’t familiar with it (I would imagine that’s all of you) the writers decided to “reboot” Spidey by bringing in a clone of him going by the alias of Ben Reilly. I’m not going to go into depth here, but suffice to say, it was monumentally stupid and basically replaced Peter Parker as Spider-man with this new guy. After the Clone Saga DECIMATED sales numbers for Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker was eventually brought back as the web-slinger, but the damage was done. Various other wild things have been thrown at the title since then such as Uncle Ben being brought back from the dead, Aunt May dying after learning Peter is Spider-Man and Peter and Mary-Jane getting a divorce. I didn’t follow these by buying the comics, but watched them from a distance as the title just hit rock bottom then kept digging.

Spidey's got a tough life.

Then along came the Ultimate Universe.

The Ultimate Universe was another reboot attempt, but this time, for the entire Marvel Universe. Beginning with Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, these titles ran with the original universe books, but allowed an entirely new and modern take on the classic heroes without upsetting the existing canon.

And they’re good. Really good. Especially the Ultimate Spider-Man title.

Venom vs Spidey

Instead of Peter being a 30-something married man, they brought him back to high-school, updated all his friends and created new origins for everybody. All the classic villains show up, usually very similar to the original universe versions, but with many twists. For example, Venom, instead of being an alien symbiote from space, was a failed experiment undertaken by Peter’s father for a cure for cancer.

The Clone Saga... done right.

They even re-did the clone saga with a few friendly digs at the previous version and it was not bad at all; I really loved this story arc, especially it’s introduction of the Ultimate universe Spider-Girl (woman?) character.

Spider-Girl!

The series is very well written and drawn with various artists undertaking the tasks for different story arcs. It’s a very “clean-line” style, which I personally prefer over some of the grittier, looser styles that have become popular recently.

Recently, the Ultimate Universe underwent some big crossover event called “Ultimatum” which, as I was only focused on the Spider-Man books, kind of came out of nowhere. I didn’t really follow it as it occurred mainly in Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men, but from what I gather via Wikipedia, the entire Ultimate Universe was tossed on its head with many characters dying and all titles restarting from issue 1 under a new imprint called Ultimate Comics, including Spider-Man.

So Ultimate Spider-Man has 22 volumes. Each of them can be picked up in softcover for between $10-20 on Amazon.ca (cheaper if you go through the marketplace in some cases). I highly recommend them.

My favorite volumes were volume 1, Power and Responsibility, and volume 17, The Clone Saga.

Give them a go if you’re at all into comics or willing to give them a try. I’m currently chewing my way through Ultimate X-men, and though so far I’m not loving it as much as Spidey, it’s a decent funnybook as well… and hopefully it will help me understand this whole Ultimatum thing.

Saw a link to www.thewildernessdowntown.com on Reddit (seems I get most of my stuff there these days) and was blown away by the creativity of this.

You will want it run it in Chrome (though I’ve heard it works in Firefox, I couldn’t get it to work and I have no idea what it will do to Internet Explorer) and it is very system intensive (Chrome ballooned to something north of 500MB of memory used while it was running).

It will re-size your browser windows and open a bunch of stuff after you tell it to play, but it’s worth it, imo.

Blew my mind. Click below.

http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

This image has been floating around Reddit for a few days. I thought it was a cute homage to both Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes and that I’d share it. Not sure where credit is due.

The Expendables

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So I finally got to see The Expendables this past weekend.

If you need a summary or as what it’s about, this movie probably isn’t for you.

All you need to know about this movie to know whether you want to see it or not, is that Terry Crews uses a fully automatic shotgun.

It’s that kind of movie.

I had a total blast watching it. It’s stupid fun that does exactly what it says it will. A throwback to the 80′s action films where it was giant guys beating the crap out of each other and using totally ridiculous weapons to pound, cut, stab, decapitate, impale and otherwise inflict damage to others.

The plot is fairly basic for this type of film; mercenaries go to foreign local for a job, realize this is “more than a job” and have to overthrow evil dictator and traitorous government official.

What makes this fun is all these big action stars together on screen; many for the first time.

Watching Jet Li fight Dolph Lundgren or seeing Li and Statham (though these two have worked together twice before) double-team a bad guy is just giddy juvenile excitement for a child of such films as Rambo, Commando, Rocky, Predator, and the like.

There’s a cameo in it that is the worst kept secret ever; that of Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger (holy cow, I spelled that right in one go). And yes, it’s awesome. If you didn’t grow up with these guys being the heroes on screen, you won’t care, but seeing the three biggest action stars on screen together, even for the VERY short time they are, bantering back and forth with “inside” jokes… well… I had a giant smile on my face for the whole scene.

What’s missing? Well, as far as story goes, it was a little by the numbers. Again, this was all I expected and what I got, so there’s nothing wrong with that. Aside from an unconventional detour to a conventional car-chase, it’s beat-for-beat an old-school action plot. So I would have liked to have seen a couple more twists, but by no means am I complaining.

There are a number of 80′s stars who are not in it, which I would have liked to have seen. According to interviews, Mr. Stallone did try to get these people and for various reasons, they weren’t available. The big three who are missing are Wesley Snipes (could not leave the country to film due to tax problems), Jean-Claude Van Damme (apparently he didn’t like the part written for him… I think he made a poor decision, but whatever) and Steven Segal (has issues with the producer, not Stallone).

Some other names that would have been interesting to see (but probably cost prohibitive): Jackie Chan, Kurt Russel, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Deisel. Even in cameos, if you got these guys, plus the before mentioned names, you’d pretty much have every A-list and former A-list action star in this film in some capacity.

I would have loved to have seen another book-end cameo at the end between Bruce, Arnold and Sly, but I can imagine the logistics of getting those three together would be a nightmare. Perhaps when Arnie is out of office.

With $82 million against a $70-80 million budget, the chances of a sequel are looking good at this point, so hopefully Sly can pull of an even stupider sequel.

I headed up to the cottage again this past weekend, and as usual, a good time was had. I was the only one of my generation up there until Friday evening when Hayley showed up. We didn’t get a lot done with knocking stuff off the “to-do” list (mostly because I was so tired I fell asleep when I got there and it was beer-o’clock by the time I woke up), but that which we did complete, I was little more than manual labour.

It got me to thinking about the cottage lifestyle and how it seems to be a dying breed. Perhaps it’s just my generation, but the prospect of having to look after the cottage when mom and dad are gone is quite intimidating. Hopefully it won’t be for a very long time.

The systems that are in place up there range from simple plumbing to very complex heating systems. What worries me, is that even the “simple plumbing” I wouldn’t have a clue where to start with should something go wrong. Something as mundane as a leaky faucet is beyond my level of skill and knowledge to fix, and that really scares me.

My father and my uncles could have a problem like that identified, analyzed, removed and repaired within a few minutes to at most a few hours. I’d still be looking for the correct size wrench 3 days later.

And it seems to not just be me. My peers (I don’t mean to speak for them and forgive me if I’m incorrect) could not execute these tasks either.

The upkeep of a home or cottage is knowledge and experience that lies outside of the realm of our day-to-day existence, so much so that any foray into the mechanical realm invariably (at least in my case) has the necessity of having access to either one of the previously mentioned parties or Google and a lot of patience.

I’d like to say it’s from lack of paying attention, but I don’t think (at least in my case) that’s the issue. Whenever repairs are made, I try to understand and memorize what has been done, however so much of it is based upon practical experience, that any attempt to replicate it falls into frustration.

I believe that it is because I never had to deal with these things when growing up. Maintenance was always taken care of by dad when it was needed and schooling, instead of a mechanical aspect, an approach to the digital was more interesting so that’s where I drifted (in fact, auto shop, which, I believe, was a staple of high-school education up until at least the 80′s disappeared entirely during my time in school). This leads to quite a divide in knowledge. Whereas previous generations would spend “father and son” time building a car or some other project of the ilk, mine is spent with me either watching him perform some perplexing task (I understand the mechanics of whatever is being undertaken, but don’t ask me to replicate it) or him watching me perform some menial chore on the computer or digital equipment.

And this is a large chasm to cross.

Part of it is that either of us can perform our tasks much more efficiently than instructing the other in doing so. I would imagine having my dad watch me change an electrical socket is as exciting for him as watching him configure Outlook is for me.

My biggest beef with that particular comparison, though, is that if he checks the wrong box in Outlook, he gets an error message; if I touch the wrong wire, I end up 20 feet back with some serious heart issues.

It’s also an efficiency problem. The last time I was at the cottage I asked dad to help me make a little table/shelf thing to fill a gap in my kitchen.

All my years of schooling do not amount to this.

I was going to try to make it, but the problem was that my vision was a board, 4 legs and a few nails. This would have resulted in a very poor table that wouldn’t have even held the milk. So because it would have taken me days to complete the project to a suitable caliber, dad did it. Consequently, I have an amazing table, but I have no idea how to make one.

And there’s no fault there. How can I expect him to stand around and supervise me learning how to change the blade in a tables aw when in the time it takes me to do that, he would have the table built? It’s division of labour based upon proficiencies. But what happens when the one who knows how to do one particular task isn’t there any more?

I think it was Joe Rogen who said “If I give you a hatchet and send you into the woods, how long until you can send me an email?”

The specialization of knowledge that my peers and I now posses is so monumentally useless in any practical situation; I can setup and configure this blog (with a little php help from Steve) but if the lights go out, I doubt I could even fire up the generator without reference.

So all this leads to my biggest fear… when the zombies come how the hell is the computer generation supposed to survive if we can’t build a secure barricade?