23 June, 2012

P90X Day 57: Phase III Begins

Ah, Chest & Back. It’s now the start of week 9. I haven’t done Chest & Back since week 3. I had forgotten just how hard this workout is.

It’s mostly push ups and pull ups, if you recall. I exceeded—by large margins, usually—my counts on all the pull ups. That made me feel quite a bit better. But I think I only exceeded my previous push up count on one of the push up exercises. And two of them, I didn’t even match my last count. I’m pretty sure I’m going deeper on all the push ups, though. That’s something I’ve been working on during the other workouts that contain push ups. So, I’m not disappointed. In all cases, I pushed myself hard. I’m happy with the results.

Of course, since it was a strength training day, that means that Ab Ripper X followed. Now, that was awful. Today was the worst I’ve done at Ab Ripper X in several weeks. Part of the problem was the week and a half off, I’m sure. I had problems the first time after the last Recovery week as well. Also, my legs were a little sore this morning, and that noticeably slowed me down on a couple of the exercises.

It probably sounds like today was a step backwards, instead of forward. Perhaps. I don’t think so. Today just proves that every day your body is different. And that if you want to improve, you have to keep at it, every day. Monday will be another Ab Ripper day. I’m sure I’ll do much better Monday than I did today. As for the Chest & Back part…well, I keep saying that it’s all about form. My form on all of these exercises is much better than it was 9 weeks ago. And that makes the exercises both harder and more beneficial.

Oh. Today I had a Pop-Tart for breakfast. Not the healthiest thing in the world. But I was celebrating the fact that I can have carbs again. With all the vitamin supplements I’m taking, I can afford the occasional meal that’s not very nutritious. My snacks today so far have been apple sauce and crackers. Tomorrow, I’ll likely have a banana and a smoothie of some kind. Nice change of pace from all the protein bars, peanuts, almonds, and cashews I’ve been having the last 8 weeks.

Taking the family to see Brave tonight at the drive-in. I may even have a little bit of popcorn. Celebration!

I think this is likely the best way for me to increase my carbs. I’m having little 100 calorie or less snacks that are more carbs than protein. I had been doing it the other way around. I’ll also add a few more carbs to my meals. I’m still not going to have a giant bowl of pasta, or a big plate of Chinese food with white rice. I’m easing into it. I’ll probably end up a little lower than where Beachbody recommends even still. But I can slowly ramp up and watch my BG, then back off if I start having issues.

Tomorrow, Plyometrics. The week after Recovery week sucks.

22 June, 2012

P90X: Diet

Sometimes I almost envy those of you who are overweight and doing P90X. Well, not during Plyometrics or when I’m doing pull ups. Then I laugh at you. But, the rest of the time…

One of the first things you do before starting P90X is to figure out how much you’re supposed to be eating. I’ve mentioned this before, and gone into my calculations. For most of you, if you’re overweight, you’re going to be cutting your caloric intake by a pretty hefty margin, while increasing your physical activity.

That’s the way to do it, for maximum effectiveness. And you’ll feel it, and you’ll see the body changes pretty rapidly. And, once you figure out what the right calorie number is for you, you’re pretty much set for a while.

For thin people, it’s a little harder. When I started P90X, the calorie number was 50% more than what I had been consuming. I tried doing it. I really did. But the first week, I never even made it to the calculated number. I got within a couple hundred calories a couple times, but I felt like I was gorging myself.

And worse, I gained weight. Since I knew I hadn’t been on the program long enough to start increasing muscle mass, I knew exactly what the weight was. Fat.

Well, that didn’t make me happy.

So, I cut my caloric intake back severely again. But it’s not as if I can just pick a number and use it. I have to find the maintain number. Which isn’t that easy. And since I’m working out every day, and hopefully growing muscle, I don’t even really want to maintain. I’m ok with gaining a little weight, as long as it’s not fat. Worse, assuming I do grow muscle, I need more calories to support the increased muscle mass. So, the number isn’t even constant. It’s always changing. Figuring out my ideal calorie number is kind of like trying to hit a moving target with a warped arrow while blindfolded.

And, just when I think I’ve got it figured out, I hit a “Recovery and Ab Focus” week like this week. You still work out every day during the Recovery week, but it’s a much less strenuous week than the typical week. I gained three pounds this week. During the last recovery week, I gained two. And I actually consumed slightly fewer calories than the week before, both times. Still, this shows that I’m going to have to keep doing pretty strenuous workouts on a regular basis if I’m going to keep my weight and my blood sugar in check.

Phase III starts tomorrow. In addition to the challenges I’ve been having, the nutritional elements are quite different during Phase III than during Phase I and Phase II. I can dump the protein bars and shakes for more fruits and veggies, and the occasional smoothie. This means I have to watch my blood sugar even more closely, so Phase III is going to be quite the challenge for me.

Blegh. If only I were fat. Winking smile

In case you’re wondering, my body fat dropped to 10.7% during Phase II, even after gaining three pounds this week. It looks like I should be able to get under 10% by the end of the program, assuming Phase III goes well. In fact, I was almost certainly under 10% at the beginning of this week. Grrrrr.

But the end result of this will be that I’ll be in much better shape, and I’ll know exactly how to eat and what to do to maintain or even improve that shape. I get closer every day. I’m not as close as I’d like to be, but there’s really no comparison between how I feel today vs. how I felt just one year ago.

P90X Days 53-56: Phase II Complete

Day 53: X Stretch

Again, “why do we stretch”? “Pain goes away” -- during the most painful stretch of the day. Ow. Still, there’s no doubt that this is the least strenuous of all the workouts. It’s the only one that doesn’t require me to hop in the shower immediately afterwards. I like this workout, but I continue to wish that my hamstrings weren’t soooooo tight.

Day 54: Core Synergistics

A friend of mine complains about “Legs & Back” because he “goes cardio” early in the workout, and never drops out of it. I didn’t totally understand him on that until doing Core Synergistics this week. This particular time, one of the early exercises really caused my heart rate to increase. I was breathing like a steam engine by the end of it. And I never really came down from that until the workout was over.  Now there are some cardio exercises as part of this workout, but most of it is more ab focused, or focused on strengthening the core. It’s hard to focus on your lifts when you’re…breathing…like…this…and…your…heart…is…pounding. I probably should have taken a longer break at some point and let my heart rate drop some. Too stubborn to do that, I guess.

Day 55: Yoga X

For the first time ever, my Twisting Triangle Pose was actually recognizable. Now, I still don’t look like the peeps in the video, but at least I don’t look like a crippled hunchback on his deathbed. Half Moon and Twisting Half Moon continue to be disasters. Oddly, I had more trouble with Royal Dancer than I’ve ever had before, also, even though I didn’t really have any trouble with the other balance poses. More and more I wish I’d been doing more yoga and stretching over the last 20 years. It’s not too late for me to increase strength, lose weight, and get my heart pumping better, but I fear that I’ll never make significant gains here. Only thing to do is to just keep on keepin’ on though. See what happens.

Day 56: X Stretch

Because I’m a masochist, I pushed myself harder on Bow today. I think it was so I wouldn’t have to hear Tony telling me that the pain goes away during stretching. Why couldn’t I hear him? All I could hear was “unnnnnnngggggghhhhhhhh!” Seriously, Bow is probably the only truly painful exercise in X Stretch. Yes, I still hate the hamstring exercises, but Bow is ten times worse.

Today ends Phase II. 8 weeks down. 5 to go. It’s time for the stretch run now.

21 June, 2012

June 21, 1964

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan for their efforts in registering black voters in Mississippi.

I grew up in the deep south. While I haven’t spent much real time there in almost 20 years, I can say that the attitudes that lead to this lynching were still prevalent when I was growing up.

We’ve made much progress in this area, but we also have so much farther to go. Sadly, today, we have people that use events like this to promote more racial discord rather than to end it.

I can only hope that these people, who often pretend to be part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, will actually remember his words from Aug 28, 1963:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

20 June, 2012

Wide Receiver Is Not Fast And Furious

President Barack Obama’s (D-USA) administration and Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is deliberately being confusing and obfuscating the truth over the two ATF programs named Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious. Sometimes they pretend they’re the same thing. Sometimes they tell us that when individuals mention one, they in fact mean the other. Sometimes they pretend that Wide Receiver never existed, and there’s only been one program, Fast and Furious, and that it’s been going on for years.

It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Wide Receiver was an ATF program run during the administration of President George W. Bush (R-USA). It was a gunwalking program, with the apparent goals claimed by Fast and Furious. However, there are some key points worth noting about Wide Receiver. The goal was apparently to “catch some big fish” in Mexican drug cartels who were using U.S. manufactured guns in their operations. This program was done with the consent and participation of the Mexican government. It involved a fairly small number of weapons, which were carefully tracked, often even with electronic tracking equipment.

Of course, what happened next will be surprising to no one. Despite the careful tracking, ATF lost some of the guns. When that happened, the program was shut down. You can certainly argue that this was inevitable from the beginning, and the entire program should have never been implemented. I might even agree with you.

Fast and Furious was an ATF program run during the administration of President Barack Obama (D-USA). The claimed goals were the same as Wide Receiver, but there were some significant differences. (And remember, Wide Receiver had already been shut down by this time, due to the inherent and somewhat obvious problems with the program) The differences included, but were not limited to the following. The Mexican government was not involved, and in fact was unaware of the program. The gunwalking was on a much larger scale, and the guns were not tracked (at least as far as we can tell) at all once they left the point of sale.

These differences are significant and are at the heart of the problems with Fast and Furious.

Now, you are probably asking yourself why would someone start a program that’s clearly an expansion of Wide Receiver and without Wide Receiver’s controls, after the failure of Wide Receiver? Or you might be asking yourself, how the people in charge expected it to succeed at the stated goals when the guns were not tracked at all?

Those are the two key questions regarding this program. And, of course, there others, such as, who was in charge of this program, and who approved it? And, if there was a cover-up afterwards, as now appears likely, who ordered the cover-up?

I’m sorry this post is not littered with links as is typical for my posts, but all of the information and much, much more is available in Katie Pavlich’s excellent book, “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up”.

I’m Thrilled That Obama Has Asserted Executive Privilege Over Fast & Furious Documents

Yes, you read that right. For the first time in two years, thinking about Fast & Furious is bringing a smile to my face, rather than raising my blood pressure.

I have said all along that this scandal is bigger than Watergate. And it has infuriated me to no end that it’s been continually brushed under the rug and ignored by the MSM. Attorney General Eric Holder’s stonewalling, lying, and obfuscation over the issue has been making me pull my hair out. As has the long slow slog by Congress to proceed with contempt charges against Mr. Holder.

So, why am I happy today?

President Barack Obama (D-USA) has officially involved himself in this mess now. By asserting executive privilege on the subpoenaed documents, he now owns it. Obama’s ace in the hole this entire time has been that the lapdog media is willing to cover for him. To say that they have not pursued this topic with any diligence is the understatement of the year. NBC Nightly News first mention ever of the scandal was on June 12, 2012! For those keeping score, that’s a mere 545 days after the murder of border patrol agent Brian Terry.

That’s pathetic. It’s beyond pathetic. Its disgusting.

But now, with contempt charges looming against the U.S. Attorney General, and with Obama’s assertion of executive privilege, it will be much harder for the MSM to ignore. We’ve been told for months now that Fast & Furious was a regional program, and that no one at the White House or the upper echelons of the Department of Justice really knew anything about it. That’s been obviously false for some time, but that hasn’t kept Holder from repeating it. But the assertion of executive privilege makes it more difficult for Holder now. If Holder’s been telling the truth, executive privilege wouldn’t be necessary, and in fact, wouldn’t even apply.

This is a big, big problem for Holder and Obama now. And while we still have a lapdog media, there are a few that still try to do their jobs. There are more still that may be biased, but also will smell blood in the water. Another of the many infuriating pieces of this whole story is how Holder and the DoJ have shut down access to the people with firsthand knowledge. You can do that merely by preventing them from appearing before Congressional inquiries, but only if there are no (or few) nosy reporters poking around.

There are going to be more nosy reporters poking around now. And, if there’s anything to find, they’re going to find it. Or they’re going to eventually convince one of these people to talk. And then a second will talk. And then a third. And every time one of these people talks, it’s going to be the lead story of the day. Don’t believe me? Go read “All the President’s Men”. That’s exactly how it went down.

As I keep saying, this is bigger than Watergate. I’m not the only person making that comparison, and after today’s assertion of executive privilege, even more will do so. When people think of executive privilege and scandals, they think of Nixon. That’s not a comparison Obama wants anyone to make.

Again, don’t believe me? Here’s what’s on Drudge right now.

nixon obama

President Obama today just made Fast & Furious a legitimate election issue. It may turn out to be the second biggest issue after the economy. I couldn’t be happier.

19 June, 2012

Microsoft Surface: Fizzle or Flash?

Unless you were out having a life or something, you know that Microsoft yesterday unveiled their new tablet, the Microsoft Surface. You can watch the presentation video below:

There are two models, called Surface and Surface Pro. I’ll go into the differences in a little bit.

There are some impressive features. The integrated kick stand, and their keyboard cover are wonderful. In fact, I’ll admit it. I’m drooling over the keyboard cover. This is without a doubt the best keyboard for a tablet that’s available, anywhere. It is one of the best keyboards, period, available anywhere. Their claims about the dual wifi antenna are impressive. They’ve angled the cameras so that they’re automatically pointed in the right direction when using the kickstand. That’s also impressive. As is the camera integration with Microsoft Office. I’m thrilled about the stylus and digital ink. My iPad still sucks when it comes to writing anything.

And, this device shows off the biggest strength of Windows 8, Microsoft’s ace in the hole. What is that? Enterprise support, and the ability to run essentially the same OS across the desktop, tablet, and phone spaces. That’s a huge deal for business consumers. Tell me that I can run Microsoft Office on my tablet, and interact with my Word and Excel docs in the same way as I do sitting at my desk, and you’ve just made my day. Apple can’t compete with that. Google can’t compete with that. iOS and Android may be nice, but they’re different. I have to relearn how to use Pages. It’s not the same as Word. It doesn’t display quite the same way. Make no mistake about it. This will be a very big selling point for the boys in Redmond.

So, is the Surface an iPad killer? (I’ll discuss Surface Pro in a minute)

In a word, no.

It’s an iPad competitor. It’s got some features that the iPad doesn’t have, that’s for certain. It has ports for one thing. But the Surface is not head and shoulders better than the iPad. And it runs Windows 8, rather than iOS. Windows 8 definitely has some issues. I think it’s a reasonable first attempt at a tablet oriented OS (and make no mistake, that’s what Windows 8 is), but it’s going to need an iteration or two to work out the kinks.

As an iPad competitor, it’s not much competition. Not because it’s not impressive. It is. But because, let’s face it, Apple owns this market. Unless it’s much better (it isn’t), or much less expensive (it won’t be), it’s going to have a hard time competing with the iPad, in terms of sales. At least initially.

So, the folks in Cupertino aren’t worried about the Surface, but what about the folks in Mountain View?

They should be terrified this morning. It’s no secret that outside of the Kindle Fire, that Android tablets have not exactly been flying off the shelves. If the Microsoft Surface can be cost competitive, or even close to it, to Android tablets, Google is in trouble. There’s no way I’d even consider an Android tablet over this device. I wouldn’t even look at one. Game over.

Now, I have been talking about Surface, not Surface Pro. What’s the difference? Well, the Surface runs on an ARM chip and runs Windows 8 RT. That means you live in the Metro UI all the time. That’s where Microsoft wants you to live regardless, but they know they have to care about backwards compatibility. That’s where Surface Pro and Window 8 (non-RT) come into play. In addition to the Metro UI, there’s a traditional Windows desktop, and you can run all your old Windows apps. As time goes by, you’re not going to run many old apps on your Windows 8 devices. But initially, these Metro apps will be limited. You’re going to want/need that backwards compatibility.

So, the Surface Pro is just Surface with backwards compatibility? No. It’s a more powerful environment. This will be something not just on the same plane as the iPad, but clearly superior. It's a desktop computer disguised as a tablet.

So, the Surface Pro is an iPad killer??

In a word, no.

It’s a MacBook Air killer.

The Surface Pro will be more expensive than an iPad, thus out of the price range to be an iPad killer. But it makes the MacBook Air look big, clunky, and twentieth century. Again, unless I really had a need for MacOS, there’s no way I’d consider a MacBook Air over the Surface Pro. I’ve been looking at the Asus Zenbook, and the Dell XPS Ultrabooks. They’re without a doubt the best Ultrabooks available on the market. I’ve been holding off buying one because I wanted to see a real Windows 8 Ultrabook. I knew they’d be a lot better. The Surface Pro is that Ultrabook, and looks like it should blow the doors off the Zenbook and XPS.

So, fizzle or flash? Flash. Definitely flash. But the cost, and the apps will decide everything. Without great Metro apps, it’ll be an uphill climb for Microsoft. Still, they showed yesterday why they’re still the elephant in the room, or the sleeping giant, whichever metaphor you prefer.

Here’s a short summary on specifics on the Surface and Surface Pro from Engadget. Read.

18 June, 2012

P90X Days 49-52

Yes, yes, I know. I’ve got to get back to daily updates. I promise I will. Tomorrow. Smile

Day 49: X Stretch

Well, it’s X Stretch. But it’s also the last “real” day of Phase II. There’s a funny line in X Stretch. At one point Tony asks, “Why do we stretch?” And then he gives several answers, one of which is “to reduce pain”. Of course, he asks this during the most painful stretch of the day (Bow), and I’m always thinking to myself, “reduce pain? riiiiiiight”. Still, I know what he means.

Day 50: Yoga X

And I’m still hopeless at Half Moon and Twisting Half Moon. Maybe not quite so hopeless at Twisting Triangle, although I don’t look much like the people in the vid. I’m starting to almost like Yoga Belly 7. Almost. At least I don’t hate it as much as Ab Ripper X.

Day 51: Core Synergistics

This is a very hard workout. I enjoy it, for the most part, but as I have said before, it is probably the most complete workout in all of P90X. And there were a couple exercises that I figured out that I wasn’t doing correctly last time. Yes, that was 4 weeks ago. I did them better yesterday. And ended up cutting my reps. I hate to do that, but doing the exercise right it was just too hard to match my reps from before. Especially with the pace they set on this video. It goes just too fast. And there’s not enough time between the exercises. There are three places where I have to pause the DVD, not because I need a break, but because they’re moving on to the next exercise, and I’m not finished with the current one yet. I push every single exercise as far as I can take it, and I don’t reach the breaking point on those quick enough. Possible my form isn’t the best, so I need more reps. Will have to watch more closely next time.

Day 52: Kenpo X

Punch. Punch. Kick. Kick. Well, again I’m having a little trouble getting my heart rate up really high. Better reason now, though. My resting heart rate is a lot lower, so I have farther to go. I’m probably getting “in the zone” now at a lower heart rate. That’s nice. Before I started P90X I measured my resting heart rate at 69. I checked it again today, just for fun. 57. It’s never been anywhere near that low in my entire life. I’m beyond thrilled with that number.

Tomorrow is Stretch X again. I also plan on doing a post on diet again either later tonight if I have time (ha!) or tomorrow. Stay tuned.