Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Five exercises I like - Part 3

This is the third of 5 parts.

Over the years I have tried many movements and exercises. Some felt like a waste of time. Others helped me add on pounds and absolute strength (thereby making me look muscular than my 165 lbs) while at the same time keeping me light on my feet (like I was when I was a 100 lb kid). Here are five movements that I seem to have settled on now. They get done on a regular basis although not in each and every training session.

Overhead Shoulder Press

To achieve and maintain optimal shoulder health, everyone should do at least one overhead movement on a regular basis (once a week or so is sufficient). The overhead shoulder press is the perfect way to keep the shoulder girdle (which includes the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles) and upper arms (especially the triceps) healthy and mobile.



You should do this movement standing to allow your legs and lower back to stabilize the lift and reduce compressive forces on your spine. When you go heavy, this can become a productive total body movement.

This video beautifully demonstrates the right way to do the press:


When the palms are turned toward you at the bottom position of the movement, this exercise is also known as the Arnold Press (after Schwarzenegger who apparently popularized it in the 70s). I like it this way as my shoulders are placed in a very mobile and comfortable position. Occasionally you could use a barbell for variety. I use a barbell as part of a Hang Clean and Press move. But I recommend dumbbells for the most part as they are forgiving on the joints in each arm while forcing each side of the body to work to its maximum potential.

Acceptable Substitute: None. A strong shoulder press is indicative of perfect shoulder health. But...you could do a variation of the Pushup, if you can't get to a gym. Just remember to keep the elbows tucked in. That is, your upper arms should be close to your torso. This will put the shoulders in a stable position. I don't recommend the bench press for anyone (did that just fall on deaf ears?).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Oh, ye of little faith

Apparently Walmart is coming out with a full line of religious toys.

The Samson on...I mean, and Goliath toy. Hey, where's the delectable Delilah? Are they fighting over her?

If toys have to put the faith in kids, then that to me is an act of desperation by those who want to send the message. Of course, I can't discount the possibility that this (out-of-control kids who need to be showered with the latest toy) is also an economic opportunity for some shrewd people to make money.

It will always be difficult for a high-consumption, fully democratic society and religion to "integrate" the way religious leaders probably want the general population to. Because if it were any easier, then there wouldn't be that much of a difference between the societal "morals" of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Guess who this is? Yup. David. That discerning young man who slayed Goliath. This was a sculpture by Donatello (circa 1440). Of course, its hardly want you want your kids to see and play with in Walmart during these enlightened times...

Original BBC article here

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Creative juices

So last night, in my Art History class, we started discussing High Renaissance art. The paintings had started getting controversial around this time. The human organic form was shown more often and more vividly. One such controversial painting that we discussed was the Venus of Urbino by Titian.

Venus of Urbino, Oil on canvas.

Naturally everyone chimed in with their opinion of what was controversial. Everyone generally agreed on what was controversial about the painting: the position of the left hand...and what it was possibly doing. So while everyone was going back and forth, I wondered how I could have made this picture more erotic (and then had myself burned at the stake). Essentially, I would have had her cover her left hand with the flowers in her right hand. This might give an impression that she is trying to be modest. In essence, everyone will know for sure what that left hand is doing under those flowers but no one can see sh*t. Plus I would have made her place that right hand behind her head and slightly open her mouth. Finally I would add a little bit of moisture to her upper lip and perhaps the upper thighs. Heck, given the right mood, I might even have had Fido there loll his tongue and wag his tail as he stared in the general direction of where the fragrance was coming from. Uplifting!

Maybe I will get to do a painting like that someday. Can you imagine that?

Dude 1: "So, dude, where is that Rajaseharan you had hanging on that wall there...next to that Rembrandt?"
Dude 2: "Mmph. Oh, that one. Its still there. It just got f*$&@#^ censored!"

Incidentally, does anyone remember that drawing Leonardo makes of Kate W. in Titanic?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back when...

I am a big fan of Louis L'amour. I grew up on his Westerns as a kid in India. I would regularly bicycle to a small library a few kilometers from my house. It was really a rectangular, dusty room that always looked like a tornado had just gone through it. For the most part, I was the only person there. Sometimes I visited after school. Sometimes I would go weekend mornings, rent a book and finish it in a couple of hours if it were a small Western and maybe in 5 or 6 hours if it were a bigger book (like a Robert Ludlum or Frederick Forsyth novel). Then I would go back again immediately after.

The library was owned by an old man with red and black colored teeth. He was always chewing betel leaves. Once I took a couple of friends with me and one of them pinched a book. He wasn't going to read it. He had done it for the thrill of it. Anyway, I didn't feel too good about it. I didn't encourage my friends to go to the library with me after that time. I did, however, eventually end up striking a friendship with that old man over a period of three years (from 9th through 11th grade), a period during which I used the library almost everyday.

I rarely visited the library during 12th grade. I was spending a lot of time in a gym, taking lone trips to the countryside on my bicycle and trying not to be too distracted by girls. Then one day in '93, high school was suddenly over and I left for the United States shortly after. I didn't go back to India until 2000, when I looked the old man up. He was still in that old chair. He looked up at me through thick glasses with his mouth open. He didn't recognize me at first. Then he broke into a toothless grin. He held out both arms from his seated position,


I had originally planned to stop by for a few minutes but ended up chatting with him for close to an hour. The library looked the same as always...like a tornado had just gone through it. When I visited India again in 2004, it was gone. I never saw the old man again.

Here are 4 lines often used in a Louis L'amour novel:

4. He was a big man, wide at the shoulders and lean at the hips.
3. "Pa always told me that a man..."
2. "The coffee was strong".

And the number 1 line...

1. "I made coffee".

Yeah, I still read 'em :-)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Five exercises I like - Part 2

This is the second of 5 parts.

Over the years I have tried many movements and exercises. Some felt like a waste of time. Others helped me add on pounds and absolute strength (thereby making me look muscular than my 165 lbs) while at the same time keeping me light on my feet (like I was when I was a 100 lb kid). Here are five movements that I seem to have settled on now. They get done on a regular basis although not in each and every training session.

The Rack Pull

Ever leaned into your car trunk to pick up those grocery bags or a heavy case of books? Ever helped a friend carry a couch up the steps to the 5th floor (because an elevator wasn't available in the building)?

If you are female, do you like wearing clothes with a plunging neckline (men already know the answer to that one)? Well, most pulling action will help you quickly develop that shapely neck, shoulders and arms.

Enter the Rack Pull (aka Top Deadlifts or Deadlift off Blocks). It develops your grip strength, strengthens the back and neck and teaches proper lifting technique when you are in a position where you cannot fully flex your knees. Now I normally would have recommended regular deadlifts (where you lift the weight off the floor). The regular deadlift remains the standard by which one's overall absolute strength should be determined. But regular deadlifts require that you concentrate quite a bit on technique especially when you lower the weight back down. That means you need to have very good flexibility in the ankles, knees and hips to prevent injury. The range of movement in a rack pull is very limited: the barbell is set at a height close to your knees.

Besides there are certain benefits when a chick pulls in the gym...benefits to men, I mean :-) Seriously, don't wait too long to pull the weight. As soon as you are set...pull!

Note: Once you master the squat (which means that you have achieved optimal flexibility in your joints), you can attempt regular deadlifts.

Me getting reaady to pull 405 lbs. The rack pull has no aerobic effect since the bar only moves a handful of inches.

I attempted a 425 successfully that day. The movement does have an effect on your nervous system when you go heavy (the psyching up can tax you and you need to give yourself time to recover).

A broken callus was a painful reminder.

(Acceptable substitute) The Romanian Deadlift

These are a great way to develop the hamstring and hip musculature. You will see that this is also a great movement to recruit the powerful buttocks muscles, something that is necessary to prevent lower back injuries in carryover to real life activities. You can do these with a barbell or dumbbells. Also try with a sack loaded with sand or a weight plate held to your chest.

Note that when you perform a rack pull with the barbell reaching down well below your knees, you are essentially doing a Romanian deadlift.

Tip: To start the movement, do not simply bend over while holding the weight. The trick is to push your butt back...and then push it some more until you are automatically bent over with the weight somewhere below your knees (just before your spine starts to hyperextend).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Picture of the times

Seagull becomes crisp shoplifter, Aberdeen, Scotland. Picture courtesy BBC News.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Five exercises I like - Part 1

This is the first of 5 parts.

Over the years I have tried many movements and exercises. Some felt like a waste of time. Others helped me add on pounds and absolute strength (thereby making me look muscular than my 165 lbs) while at the same time keeping me light on my feet (like I was when I was a 100 lb kid). Here are five movements that I seem to have settled on now. They get done on a regular basis although not in each and every training session.

The Front Squat

Feet positioning: whatever keeps you stable.

If you don't or can't squat, you don't know squat about human kinetics. The squat gives you an accurate idea of your capacity to do hard work. If you have flexibility issues, the squat again will let you know exactly how much inflexiblity you have in a particular spot. It aids greatly in digestion/elimination and will help strengthen the inner abdominal wall. The squat will also allow you to develop and maintain the proper strength balance between the quads (front of the thighs) and the hamstrings (the back of the thighs). Your hamstrings should be roughly 66% stronger than your quads. Most people (even some pro athletes) have an imbalance! For instance, if you have a quad/ham imbalance, then you will develop a lot of soreness in your quads after a session of running. The worst case scenario: your knees won't track correctly leading to a host of other serious issues. I know that the strength ratio between my quads and hamstrings is finally up to par now because I never develop any soreness in my quads after a hard session of sprinting.

An alternative grip like this is easy on the joints.

Although the back squat was the foundation of my earlier training years, these days I primarily concentrate on the front squat. I feel the effort put into the front squat translates well into my choice of certain recreational activities, namely snowboarding and simply showing off my legs in the beach. The squat is also the main reason why I don't bother with "cardio". Just squat 25 times with your bodyweight and tell me if your heart isn't going like a steam engine.

You can do this at home with perhaps a backpack loaded with books strapped to your chest (instead of your back). You could also hold a sack loaded with sand to your chest (more challenging because the sand tends to shift).

(Acceptable substitute) The Overhead Squat

The Overhead Squat demands total concentration. Hah! You thought I was going to suggest an easier substitute, didn't you? Remember this: the easier an exercise, the less benefit you will derive from it.

While the overhead squat does not tax the leg musculature as much as the back or front squat, it does allow you to develop a stupendous amount of rotational balance plus the endurance necessary to hold a heavy object overhead for time and distance. Additionally if you have flexibility issues of the shoulders and/or a weak lower back, that will become evident right away during this exercise. I do overheads maybe once every 5 weeks or so.

Again you could hold a sack of sand or a loaded backpack above you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Between Rockport and hard bodies

Rockport, MA.

So I was out in Rockport last Saturday. I took the 2.15 commuter train and returned by the 7.30. The weather was awesome. The (young) people looked good. I was one of very few people in the entire town who wasn't white. I thought that I had stopped thinking on such terms a long time ago. Actually I have. But I must have been quite a standout (from the number of people who stared at me) that I couldn't help think on those terms, even if only briefly. Anyway, other than me, I noticed a black family and an Indian family. The latter comprising of the usual married couple with a bawling kid and another guy (looked like kin) who looked like he couldn't wait to get married. On a side note, I have seen his demeanor before. He was probably finding all the skin around him a major distraction and needed release from...a guaranteed traditional source :)

Testing the Olympus C-5000 that had been rusting for a while: My calves are now about 1/2 inch bigger from all that sprinting this year and I showed my legs off (with glee) while in Rockport.

So back to Rockport...on the beach, yeah, I was definitely the only non-white person. I noticed what looked like a couple of Chinese kids but they were clothed (so we can "discount" them). But a lot of the young white women there looked pretty vanilla. From the way they kept casting glances over my way, I gathered that they've probably never attended school with anyone non-white. I enjoyed the attention. There was one girl that I noticed on Beach street shortly after arriving in town. She was probably 19 or 20 years old with a flawless body in a not too radical bikini. I casually took my sunglasses off and gave her an appreciative (not lascivious) down and up and then let myself briefly linger on her eyes. I imagined myself at the Museum of Fine Arts back in Boston appraising one of those female Greek statues. I noticed a twitch below her right eye as she walked past me. I realized later, rather refreshingly, that she hadn't been wearing sunglasses.

By the way, they had a shop there that promised good Austrian style, apple strudel but I came away unimpressed. I did dine at the Beach Street Bistro which looked more like fine dining inside (outside it looked like a rickety shack). Man, that roast pork was good after a long afternoon! Did I mention I bought a painting...of boats out in Gloucester harbor by a local artist? Between the strudel, dinner and sunbathing, I managed to finish reading the wonderful The Millionaire Next Door. I will post a review of that book one of these days.

When I left town roughly 4 hours later, I spotted Ms.Flawless amongst the 100 other bikinis strutting their stuff between the beach and Beach street. My heart skipped a beat.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Four and then some

Two or three days a week, I have a big breakfast at the Country Kitchen in Weymouth, a couple of miles from my office. This morning as I was settling down to my usual 3 scrambled eggs, 4 slices of bacon (done soft, Irish style) and wheat toast, I noticed a group of four people in one of the tables. Normal. Now these folks were clearly in their eighties. As the minutes wore on, I began to notice a lot of enthusiasm and involvement in their chatting. Were they strangers who had met only 4 days earlier? Or have they been neighbors for the past 4 years? Or have they been friends for the past 40 years?

Having come off several first dates in the past few months where the attention span of my dates had been miniscule, and disparate attempts on my part to start a conversation with utter strangers, I was starting to find the camaraderie amongst these folks infectious. I had to fight back an urge to get up, walk over, introduce myself and steal some of their moment. Instead I finished my meal, took one last look at them and left.

Note: With this posting, sarcasm week officially closes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

30 year old camera!

Ken Rockwell made this picture with a 30 year old film camera. Amazing!

Just check out some more stunning pictures Ken has made from this ancient model camera.

This is another reason why I am amused when people insist on having the latest model of any device to do "things" better (I know. My blog has been dripping with sarcasm all week).

I suppose if the intention is to just have the latest (and maybe show it off), that might be okay. I mean, I show off my muscles, my attitude, etc. all the time :)

Bride fined for wedding day fight

A bride arrested on her wedding day for fighting with her husband while still in her dress has been fined by a court.

That guy is a loser. No self-respecting man would put up with that kind of behavior from a female (or anyone else for that matter).

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rowling's tears at Potter book death

Original BBC article:

I have never read a Harry Potter book or watched any of the movies. I find something wholesomely buffoonish about the whole concept. It is beneath me. So when I read that JK Rowling cried about an important character she killed off, it only evokes guffaws from me.

JK Rowling. In my opinion, her boobs definitely carry more weight than her writing.

But I still like certain children's books such as The Book of Brownies and The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends...probably because I read them as a kid and so have continued to carry a certain fondness for them.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It wasn't a blast

So I was over at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) last evening. David and I were supposed to attend a get together of sorts for singles. The moment I walked into the Old Masters paintings gallery, where the party was being held, I knew I wasn't going to like the atmosphere.

I had been expecting quiet socialization, champagne and an intelligent discussion of art. Instead it looked like another meat market with loud music. There were women who were only half-clad in clothing. I have no problems with that. But this wasn't sensual or seductive clothing. It was flat out obscene type of clothing and it didn't quite gel with the general demeanor of the MFA. If it weren't for the phenomenal paintings on the wall, I would have left earlier. To be fair, some women were dressed tastefully. In that sense, the older women there (the ones in their 40s and 50s) actually appealed to me more so than the 20 somethings. Something to do with bearing and poise, I guess. And no one seemed to be really looking at the paintings. But it was good to see Allen there. I hadn't hung out with him in a while.

It was getting late and I had had a bit of hard training at the gym earlier in the day. It was time to hit the pillow while the rest of them were just starting to hit the bottle everywhere else. So after hanging out for about an hour, I left the Old Masters gallery to briefly enjoy some of the nearby European art galleries before heading home.

The MFA has what it calls "Winesdays" on the last Wednesday of the month in the summer. I will try the one this month and see if it is more to my...taste. Now off to Portsmouth in a couple of hours. Its going to be a slightly rainy day, I think. But I am not the one to care about little inconveniences like that :)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Man Sues Over Gay Marriage Question On Bar Exam


And where, pray, is the $9.75 million this douchebag wants going to come from?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Well, I have decided to stay in to complete a paper that is due tomorrow in my Art History class. The fact that it is drizzling outside has made it an easier decision. But I am pretty sure that I will still go for a walk later, perhaps toward the waterfront. But I did take the time to make a nice juicy steak earlier.


A few seconds later...

Now where did I put that glass of Brandy?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Old School, baby

There is an article in the BBC today about Framingham here in Massachusetts. It is a brief story of about 5,000 volunteers (starting from the mid 50s) who have been contributing to an extensive study on "why and how we get or inherit heart disease", the results of which are used for diagnoses around the world. Winnie Toy, 88, is one of the volunteers. She signed up for the study in 1948. Here is a brief extract of the conversation between her and Humphrey Hawksley, the BBC author of the article.

"And eggs," chipped in Winnie. "We were great egg eaters."
"So who's healthier?" I asked.
"Well I'm still here, aren't I," said Winnie.


Now all she needs to do is add a bit of Whiskey to her everyday diet for the ultimate touch :)