Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 163

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 163

Gray Cook: “During the first four weeks of strength training, cellular metabolism and cellular structure don’t change. What happens? Movement learning happens . . . if we give it time.”.… [CONTINUE READING]

Ireland Christmas WW

I will be heading to the airport in a just a bit to go off to Ireland. I’m taking my wife and mother-in-law for a short two-week vacation. My mother-in-law, Gaylynne, has had tough go of it for over a few years caretaking her husband and now her brothers.

From my observations, caretaking might take more than it gives, honestly. Hopefully, Ireland, which I swear has magic properties, will revive her in some ways. It does for me.

My daughter, Lindsay, got engaged on Christmas Eve. It was, by the way, also the 30th anniversary of me asking Tiffini to marry me, so Thomas and Lindsay have some history behind them.

This has been a quiet week on the internet. That is a good thing sometimes. I found this article on “how to practice” to be much better than some silly New Year’s Resolution that will be forgotten by January 2nd.


1.     Seek out instruction: A good teacher will help you understand the purpose of practicing and can teach you ways to make practicing easier and more productive.

2.     Write out a schedule: A schedule helps you organize your time. Be sure to allow time to review the fundamentals because they are the foundation of all the complicated things that come later.

3.     Set goals: Like a schedule, goals help you organize your time and chart your progress…. If a certain task turns out to be really difficult, relax your goals: practice doesnʼt have to be painful to achieve results.

4.     Concentrate: You can do more in 10 minutes of focused practice than in an hour of sighing and moaning. This means no video games, no television, no radio, just sitting still and working…. Concentrated effort takes practice too, especially for young people.

5.     Relax and practice slowly: Take your time; donʼt rush through things. Whenever you set out to learn something new – practicing scales, multiplication tables, verb tenses in Spanish – you need to start slowly and build up speed.

6.     Practice hard things longer: Donʼt be afraid of confronting your inadequacies; spend more time practicing what you canʼt do…. Successful practice means coming face to face with your shortcomings. Donʼt be discouraged; youʼll get it eventually.

7.     Practice with expression: Every day you walk around making yourself into “you,” so do everything with the proper attitude…. Express your “style” through how you do what you do.

8.     Learn from your mistakes: None of us are perfect, but donʼt be too hard on yourself. If you drop a touchdown pass, or strike out to end the game, itʼs not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, analyze what went wrong and keep going….

9.     Donʼt show off: Itʼs hard to resist showing off when you can do something well…. But my father told me, “Son, those who play for applause, thatʼs all they get.” When you get caught up in doing the tricky stuff, youʼre just cheating yourself and your audience.

10.  Think for yourself: Your success or failure at anything ultimately depends on your ability to solve problems, so donʼt become a robot…. Thinking for yourself helps develop your powers of judgment.

11.  Be optimistic: Optimism helps you get over your mistakes and go on to do better. It also gives you endurance because having a positive attitude makes you feel that something great is always about to happen.

12.  Look for connections: If you develop the discipline it takes to become good at something, that discipline will help you in whatever else you do…. The more you discover the relationships between things that at first seem different, the larger your world becomes. In other words, the woodshed can open up a whole world of possibilities.

End quote

This article put me into a bit of a funk. I’m not sure if I like the idea or hate it; I’m not sure about a lot of things in it, but it certainly made me rethink some things.


Before her Target stop, Jewel circled the mall in search of lunch. Among the choices on offer: Chinese food, ice cream, cotton candy, popcorn, cookies, candies, pizza, or chicken wings. Finding healthy options in America remains a daily battle, and one Jewel knows she’ll have to fight for the rest of her life. Whether she manages to avoid eating junk food, she says, still depends on her “mental and emotional strength” — even after losing 80 percent of her stomach.

But after the surgery, she finds she’s eating fewer calories. Her smaller stomach puts a hard stop on how much she can get down.

“This [surgery] makes it a lot easier to eat less food, and basically that’s the foundation of losing weight,” she explained.

Jewel settled on lunch at Jodeem, a West African restaurant, where she had to ask the server to give her a smaller portion of her chicken curry, plantains, and rice. She sat down with the white cardboard box and slowly picked away at the food. She now asks for her food to go right at the outset, because she can never finish her meals.

Jewel chewed her lunch carefully. If she takes bites that are too big, and eats too quickly, she feels cramps, her stomach painfully contracting and relaxing. Halfway through her meal, she felt full and had to stop eating.

Looking back at her past year, she says she’d do the surgery all over again. So would her mom, who says it’s led to “a rebirth” and wishes she had done it earlier.

End quote

I liked this article as all too often we tend to romanticize everything in the past. It was time for the H-Gs to get that fantasy in check. I still think there is a lot to learn from them, but this was good.


So, are Lee and Sahlins, and Scott and Suzman, and Lanchester correct? Is the hunter-gatherer lifestyle a more optimal way to live, and have the benefits of civilization been drastically overstated?

Let us first revisit the !Kung themselves. As Lee himself would later mention in his 1984 book on the Dobe !Kung, his original estimate of 12-19 hours worked per week did not include food processing, tool making, or general housework, and when such activities were included he estimated that the !Kung worked about 40-44 hours per week.2 Lee noted that this number still compares quite favorably to the average North American wage earner, who spends over 40 hours a week above their wage labor doing housework or shopping. Even with the revised figures, this seems to indeed point to a life of greater leisure among hunter-gatherers (or, at least, among the !Kung) than industrialized populations. However, it is important to note that this does not take into account the difficulty or danger involved in the types of tasks undertaken by hunter-gatherers. It is when you look into the data on mortality rates, and dig through diverse ethnographic accounts, that you realize how badly mistaken claims about an “original affluent society” really are.

End quote

And, if you are wondering “who do we blame for everything?,” I liked this article. Agree or disagree, some of the points were spot on.


The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children.

We used to have the finest infrastructure in the world. The American Society of Civil Engineers thinks there’s something like a $4 trillion deficit in infrastructure in deferred maintenance. It’s crumbling, and the boomers have allowed it to crumble. Our public education system has steadily degraded as well, forcing middle-class students to bury themselves in debt in order to get a college education.

Then of course there’s the issue of climate change, which they’ve done almost nothing to solve. But even if we want to be market-oriented about this, we can think of the climate as an asset, which has degraded over time thanks to the inaction and cowardice of the boomer generation. Now they didn’t start burning fossil fuels, but by the 1990s the science was undeniable. And what did they do? Nothing.

End quote

This article seems to be a great way to finish the year. There is real wisdom here.


Eat to Live Don’t Live to Eat

As far as Clint Eastwood, Sister Wendy Beckett and Fred Rogers are concerned, Dr. Hinohara was preaching to the choir. Your average Italian great grandmother would be appalled.

For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.

Keep on Truckin’…

Nor was Dr. Hinohara a sit-around-the-piazza-drinking-limoncello-with-his-cronies kind of guy. For him a vigorously plotted out calendar was synonymous with a vigorous old age:

Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full … with lectures and my usual hospital work.

Mother Was Wrong…

…at least when it comes to bedtime and the importance of consuming three square meals a day. Disco naps and bottled water all around!

We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.

To Hell with Obscurity!

You may not be able to pull in the same crowds as a man whose career spans founding a world class hospital in the rubble of post WWII Tokyo and treating the victims of the radical Aum Shinrikyo cult’s sarin gas subway attack, but you can still share your ideas with those younger than you. If nothing else, experience will be on your side:

Share what you know. I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong.

Don’t Slack on Everyday Physical Activity

Dr. Hinohara schlepped his own bags and turned his back on such modern conveniences as elevators and escalators:

I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.

Having Fun Is Better Than Tylenol (Or Bitching About It)

Rather than turning off young friends and relatives with a constant litany of physical complaints, Dr. Hinohara sought to emulate the child who forgets his toothache through the diversion of play. And yes, this was his medical opinion:

Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

Think Twice Before You Go Under the Knife

Not willing to put all your trust into music therapy working out for you? Consider your age and how a side dish of surgery or radiation might impact your all over enjoyment of life before agreeing to radical procedures. Especially if you are one of those aforementioned sit-around-the-piazza-drinking-limoncello-with-your-cronies type of guys.

When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery?

Divest of Material Burdens

Best selling author and professional organizer, Marie Kondo, would approve of her countryman’s views on “stuff”:

Remember: You don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.

Pick a Role Model You Can Be Worthy Of

It need not be someone famous. Dr. Hinohara revered his dad, who introduced him to his favorite poem and traveled halfway across the world to enroll at Duke University as a young man.

Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem.

Find a Poem That Speaks to You and Let It Guide You

The good doctor didn’t recommend this course of action in so many words, but you could do worse than to follow his example. Pick a long one. Reread it frequently. For added neurological oomph, memorize a few lines every day. Bedazzle people half your age with an off-book recitation at your next family gathering.

End quote

Have a wonderful holiday and, until next week, keep on lifting and learning.


Sure, there’s a science of coaching . . . But for Dan, the art of coaching is what gets results:
The art of making people think what they need to do is what they want to do.

The Sword in the Stone



“Is he the King of the Moat?”

“He is. Old Jack they call him, and some call him Black Peter, but for the most part they do not mention him by name at all. They just call him Mr. P. You will see what it is to be a king.”

The Wart began to hang behind his conductor a little, and perhaps it was as well that he did, for they were almost on top of their destination before he noticed it. When he did see the old despot he started back in horror, for Mr. P. was four feet long, his weight incalculable. The great body, shadowy and almost invisible among the stems, ended in a face which had been ravaged by all the passions of an absolute monarch—by cruelty, sorrow, age, pride, selfishness, loneliness and thoughts too strong for individual brains. There he hung or hoved, his vast ironic mouth permanently drawn downward in a kind of melancholy, his lean clean-shaven chops giving him an American expression, like that of Uncle Sam. He was remorseless, disillusioned, logical, predatory, fierce, pitiless—but his great jewel of an eye was that of a stricken deer, large, fearful, sensitive and full of griefs. He made no movement, but looked upon them with his bitter eye.

The Wart thought to himself that he did not care for Mr. P.

“Lord,” said Merlyn, not paying attention to his nervousness, “I have brought a young professor who would learn to profess.”

“To profess what?” asked the King of the Moat slowly, hardly opening his jaws and speaking through his nose.

“Power,” said the tench.

“Let him speak for himself.”

“Please,” said the Wart, “I don’t know what I ought to ask.”

“There is nothing,” said the monarch, “except the power which you pretend to seek: power to grind and power to digest, power to seek and power to find, power to await and power to claim, all power and pitilessness springing from the nape of the neck.”

“Thank you.”

“Love is a trick played on us by the forces of evolution. Pleasure is the bait laid down by the same. There is only power. Power is of the individual mind, but the mind’s power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right.

“Now I think it is time that you should go away, young master, for I find this conversation uninteresting and exhausting. I think you ought to go away really almost at once, in case my disillusioned mouth should suddenly determine to introduce you to my great gills, which have teeth in them also. Yes, I really think you might be wise to go away this moment. Indeed, I think you ought to put your back into it. And so, a long farewell to all my greatness.”

The Wart had found himself almost hypnotized by the big words, and hardly noticed that the tight mouth was coming closer and closer to him. It came imperceptibly, as the lecture distracted his attention, and suddenly it was looming within an inch of his nose. On the last sentence it opened, horrible and vast, the skin stretching ravenously from bone to bone and tooth to tooth. Inside there seemed to be nothing but teeth, sharp teeth like thorns in rows and ridges everywhere, like the nails in labourers’ boots, and it was only at the last second that he was able to regain his own will, to pull himself together, to recollect his instructions and to escape. All those teeth clashed behind him at the tip of his tail, as he gave the heartiest jack-knife he had ever given.

In a second he was on dry land once again, standing beside Merlyn on the piping drawbridge, panting in his stuffy clothes.

End quote

Well, we finally came to the end of Chapter Five. Chapter Six is going to be a bit tamer, especially if you read the 1958 version. In the 1938 version, Wart and Kay meet Madam Mim and come close to death. I will do my best to fill in both versions.

“There is only power. Power is of the individual mind, but the mind’s power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right.”

The Pike’s seductive speech gives us to an insight into the world of White. Hitler and Fascism is boiling up all over Europe and the winds of war are blowing. Sadly, in my adult life, I have been watching the slow progress of “Money is Right.” After becoming King, Wart (Arthur) will rethink war and focus on a different worldview, essentially “Right is Right.”

The Pike will, of course, later assist Wart when Wart pulls the Sword from the Stone. “Put your back into it” is going to have a completely different meaning after facing down those rows of teeth.

In the Disney movie, this scene, pardon me, becomes “cartoonish.” Rather than a single snap of the tail to freedom, there is a rather involved scene with an old helmet, Archimedes the owl assisting and lots chasing, leaping and near misses.

And, I think the scene misses the point: Wart is saved by a single powerful jack-knife…from the nape of the neck…that saves him. He isn’t saved by Merlyn or Archimedes, he is saved by swimming…snapping…away.

It’s a different “moral” to the story: in White’s version, the Mentor teaches (always remember that Mentor was a person) but the student performs. In Disney’s version, which I also like, the hero is aided by friends…and we see that motif in all heroic journeys, too.

But, in the vision of The Sword in the Stone, with the centerpiece being the moment where Wart discovers he is King Arthur, having the Pike “teach” Wart seems more appropriate.

It’s like what I teach my throwers: I give them the basics, the movements and the fundamentals. But, it is up to them to do the 10,000 throws a year to be great. Like Jerry Seinfeld said in Seinlanguage:

“But the pressure is on you now. This book is filled with funny ideas, but you have to provide the delivery. So when you read it, remember: timing, inflection, attitude. That’s comedy. I’ve done my part. The performance is up to you.”


Gray Cook: “During the first four weeks of strength training, cellular metabolism and cellular structure don’t change. What happens? Movement learning happens . . . if we give it time.”.… [CONTINUE READING]

Click here to get this each Wednesday in your email box.

Click here to see the Wandering Weights archive.


Subscribe below and we'll send great articles to your email box. Includes FREE access to our OTP Vault of material from experts in the field.