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Cargo Ship Diaries

Niall's book is an interesting short read combining two timeframes - his travels to date and his time on the cargo ship.
As a regular follower of his exploit I know and like his writing style and I really enjoyed the elements about the cargo ship. On the other hand there were too many vague statements about his adventures, perhaps there were too many stories with many details left out to protect the innocent! Niall also tends to be too hard on himself; I would certainly have liked to read more about how an ordinary person lives the kind of 4-hour workweek type lifestyle and about the nuts and bolts of the self improvement proects he's been on.
I enjoyed reading it, but I did hope for a little more.
Check it out at Disrupting the Rabblement

Are Only the Un-Free Happy?

Without hesitation I can say that the biggest and most difficult dilemmas I face come about because I have choice.
I can choose a country I want to live in. Unlike many people this isn't a pipe dream, my job is in demand and I've been offered jobs and interviews.
I don't own a house or flat so we rent. That gives us that terrible crossroads of choice. Better to buy and improve, tied to one choice.
Being faced with a choice is a terrible weight. You yearn for guidance, a pastoral hand or a glimpse of the future. It's this human impulse which has given us charlatan priests and fortune tellers. The belief there is a great shepherd over us is infinitely favourable to being alone.
I make decisions, I don't dictate. I try to lead though I have no map. The spine of leadership is simply the will to lead, for who wants to? Who's able to?
Once again, I'm part of a chorus of Atlases.

The Summoned: 100 Word Story

It was dark when I entered the house. The darkness wasn't a surprise but it was the first time I'd opened my eyes in a century.
My senses rushed back to me. I could hear four heartbeats, the four fools who'd summoned me. I heard their voices, a language I'd once known. The tone told me they were nervous. I stayed still as one moved closer. A man, judging by his footsteps. One of the others lit a lamp, filling the room with a weak light.
The man's eyes flashed wide as I moved, opening his throat.

The Restless: 100 Word Story

It was dark when I entered the house. We'd had no power for weeks so I was used to it. I checked the radio. No feedback. I felt safer than I had all day, the house was free of the restless.
The crackle of static woke me, then I heard their low moan. They were coming. I had five shells. In the dark I couldn't see how many there were. The moon came through a chink of cloud, showing the first. The shotgun slug took his head off.
I shot another. Then the clouds parted and I saw them. It looked like half the town.

Making Progress

 Getting stronger and fitter are long term goals for me. I tried using the 5x5 program around 2 years ago and was making good progress with it. The problem comes with the odd hours I work - gyms in Poland and Italy aren't the round-the-clock businesses that American gyms appear to be so getting there when the gym is open isn't so easy. Add to that finding a squat rack and working out at home becomes your main option.
Ideally the home gym would be a proper power rack on a platform with an Olympic bar and a couple of hundred kilos of weights. That takes stability, a floor you won't go through and money. Finding second hand weights which aren't of the 1" fitness variety hasn't so far been possible for me to do in another language.
Enough with the excuses.
What I can do is a mix of dumbbell exercises and bodyweight exercises. I've read a host of books and programs about both of them and have picked out a few commonalities that I'll work on. It's also worth bearing in mind that when I work in summer schools for 3 months of the summer it's unlikely I'll have access to any gym or weights and it'll be bodyweight exercise only.
So far I'm six weeks through this program which is a very basic progression program. I add either reps or weight every exercise with the goal being 3 sets of 12 reps. If I can't manage that I keep adding reps while I can. This is the current situation where I can't hit 3x12 on the overhead press. Whilst I'm working on this I keep adding reps to the other exercises.
The "Making Some Progress" Program
DB Overhead Press
DB Rows
Air Squat
Sit Ups
Press Ups
Bridge Work
DB Snatch

I'm planning on adding DB swings in at some point. I also wish to add pull ups but our flat is so rickety the door frames would collapse. I have debated adding in Turkish get ups but although so many people rave about them I don't like them.

The logic is fairly simple. I want to have bigger arms, shoulders, chest and legs which are in balance.

The overhead press is my favourite lift and I'm currently up to 3 sets of 9 reps at 12 kilos. Rather low, but it's about the progess in the long run. I started with two sets of 12 at six kilos. When I was doing the 5x5 program I stalled around 40kg in the overhead press.

The rows are there for two reasons, firstly to help the shoulders and arms grow and secondly to help me make progress towards pull ups. Today I managed 16,16 and 12 reps of 12kg and I'm happy with the progress here.

Sit ups are something it's possible to read so much crap about your head spins. I need to do some abdominal work to help my stability in the other lifts and until I find something better this will do. I've gone up from 2 sets of 7 to 3 sets of 12 which is a purposeful increase.

Air squats are good for tying everything together and I do them as low as possible (well past parallel) with out bouncing. Now 3 sets of 15 is nothing to write home about, but it's more than it was. I'm not sure if I shouldn't add a more sever workout concentrating on leg work though. I could add lunges, goblet squats, holds at the bottom position, maybe overhead squats and calf raises too. It's worth thinking about.

For Press ups I'm using some of the progressions I've gleaned from Convict Conditioning. I'm up to 27,27,10 today with wall press ups. I need to add some plank work to help with the transition to regular press ups that will be coming soon.

The bridge progressions come from the same source and are helping my astoundingly weak lower back along a little.

The oddity is the DB snatch and this is something I picked out of Pavel Tsatsouline's writings. It's a good whole body exercise and I've gone from 3 crappy reps of 8kg to 8 reps of 12 kg.

As the program says, it's all about the progress. I've chosen the exercises so that whatever happens I can continue some form of them and keep moving forwards. In the long term I'd obviously need to be squatting and deadlifting properly. Maybe I need to build some kind of sandbag for that if the gym problem remains. The only lifts I have real goals for are the snatch and overhead press where 75kg and 50kg are the gold medal standards for me (around 100kg bodyweight)

I am still weak, but I'm making progress.

Podcasts Review

I have recently got into the idea of podcasts, just a decade behind the popular tide. As I am currently using mobile internet or borrowing bandwidth at work it's very useful to have something which is so small and rapid to download. It's also good to have something to listen to whilst I think of something else or write something.

So far, I have managed to come across a few good podcasts I'd like to recommend.
The Art of Manliness is really the standard bearer of the "Menaissace" and the friendly face of the manosphere. The podcast episodes typically run along similar lines as their articles and often interview contributors or writers of relevant books. The podcasts are of a generally good quality and around half an hour in length.

Aaron Clarey, also known as Captain Capitalism, is a great writer and a good blogger who also has his own podcast. Rather at the other end of the scale his podcasts are more stream of consciousness than journalistic and tend to run to around an hour. They are particularly intersting as they either add to themes covered in his books or get onto interesting and new ground.

The Way of Men is a must read book for any man interested in developing himself in a more masculine direction. Its writer, Jack Donovan, has a website with further articles, ebooks and links to some eloquent presentations. He also has three episodes, to date, of his podcast entitled "Start the World" which seeks to address the question of how to form the gangs based on masculine virtues his book talks about.

If the Art of Manliness is the friendly end of the Manosphere then Beige Phillip is towards the other end. Far more of a rejection of conventional wisdom and with greater elements of humour. There are a large number of episodes, coming in at between 50 and 60 minutes with very high production values. I've not listened through many yet but what I've heard so far encourages further listening.

One further point is that I'm listening on my laptop using a rather outdated version of winamp. It works, it's light, it plays stuff properly and it's certainly not bloatware. It's certainly close to the zenware end of the spectrum.


Café Glasses

An older man has helped us move a small table away from the wall, my hands are full of bags from the market. Aubergines in all their polished purple, a veritable fruit basket and the most concentrated flavoured cauliflower you'll ever eat. The bags go under the table and I order two cappuccino.

It comes in a cup little larger than what you'd receive for an espresso in a chain coffee house. Tiny bubbles in the foamed milk with a dash of cocoa on the top. It's a very different beast to the brown liquid- white scum combination served in a soup tureen we've got used to seeing around the world. If you want cappuccino then you really need to be getting it before lunch. If you are after a similar drink later in the day you'll have to order an espressino. It's the cappuccino's baby brother and is in all respects bar size pretty much the same. I've not found out why one is acceptable all day and the other only in the morning.

It's a café we've not been in before, a little on the modern side perhaps. Stainless steel and glass with some religious statues from the garden centre school of sculpture. A few newspapers about, the pink sports paper always eye catching. There's also the gum and chocolate rack just by the till and some of the extravagantly wrapped Easter eggs. It's not a bad place to be and it's not bad to have the shopping done by ten.

An African man comes in. One of the pavement hustlers. He carries a tray of sunglasses.
He offers them to the couple serving behind the bar. She takes some pairs and tries them in the bar back mirror.
"Yellow or blue?" The blue are better the clientèle tell her. Then the haggling starts. 10 euro for sunglasses might be OK, but 5's what they're willing to pay. The conversation swings back and forward with lots of mention of crisis. Eventually the see-saw sits level at 5 euro.

As we pay I ask to see a black and white rimmed pair. They suit my wife. Her classic look. We take them for 5.
They're sunglasses.
They're a souvenir.
They're 5 euros well spent.

Poem XXXI

Before me they stood
Back to that valley in Africa
A line of mothers and fathers
Ending in me.

Dumbbells

I bought a 20kg set of dumbells at the weekend. Not a lot of weight, but it's all about progression.
The first workout today was hard but I've done this before and I know it'll get easier.
As strength is a defining android characteristic being stronger makes a lot of sense.
I shall keep track of my progress.