Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 180

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 180

New Dan John article on OTPbooks.com this week: Dan’s 30/30 for 30 Programming Q&A [CLICK TO READ]


New Jersey WW

Well, I have a weekend off coming up. I’m not sure what I will do with myself. I have been Facetiming my grandkids almost daily so they remember how handsome I am. Well, they are young and might not have taste yet.

I had a nice trip to New Jersey. I am working on some new ways to explain things. If you read Now What?, and, honestly, why wouldn’t you?, I figured out this weekend that coaches focus on Principles while the goal chasers focus on Pirate Maps.

Everybody, coach and athlete, should use Shark Habits to declutter. Again, these binary decisions, Yes/No, are not unimportant, but you need to clear your head of this decision matrix. Honestly, as I usually explain it: if you are deciding between tuna salad sandwiches or chicken salad sandwiches, it just isn’t that big of deal: choose one and move along.

I rarely remember what I choose anyway, so any time I spend in the process is time wasted from important things like Facetiming with my grandkids.

I keep telling people that I am living by months now. I figure I am 727 months or so and it reminds me that I might not make it to 800. So, I am actively taking each month…each week, each day…as a gift. And, like I heard on my birthday in 1963…I might not make it with you, but if I take care of MY pirate map, I have a shot.

My Pirate Map? Here you go:

Sleep Ritual: Make coffee for the morning. Supplements. Make tomorrow’s To Do List (From Robb Wolf)
Wake up and be grateful. (Pat Flynn)
One Minute Meditation (App on iPhone)
Daily work on Original Strength and Easy Strength (Tim Anderson); Ruck once a week (Mike Provost); Hypertrophy and 30/30 as often as appropriate.
Eat Eight different veggies a day. (Josh Hillis)
Live Laugh Love

If I do this daily, with love, maybe I will be dancing at my grandkid’s weddings.

Coaches: focus on Principles…and clear the clutter with Shark Habits.

Athletes: focus on the Pirate Map (the “Do this” list)…and clear the clutter with Shark Habits.

Sometimes, program or plan to eliminate a weakness or issue.

Now, there are some other issues to a successful life and a big one is our relationship to QUALITY food and eating experiences. Chef Egg visited my house this week. If you have never heard of him, that’s too bad as he has a gift for making cooking more accessible to everybody. Spend some quality time at his site, but this is my favorite part:


Smell ya later. Remove garlic and fishy smells from your hands and cutting boards by rubbing them with fresh lemon or parsley.

Clean for less. Clean counters and surfaces on the cheap with hot water and a small amount of vinegar.

Keep meat juicy. When cooking meat, let it rest for a few minutes after cooking so the juices won’t spill out when you slice into it.

Keep root veggies dry. Keep your onions and potatoes out of the fridge. Keep them in a brown paper bag or burlap sack in a cool, dry place.

Cut down on brown. Rub the outside of fruits like apples, pears, and bananas with lemon juice so they will not brown after slicing.

Ice pack hack. Make ice packs by freezing juice boxes. To make super cool gel-like cooler packs, fill freezer bags with 5 parts water and 1 part rubbing alcohol.

Prime PB&J Store peanut butter in the pantry for smooth spreading and jelly in the fridge for freshness.

Stain-free skin. If handling foods like berries, beets, or carrots leaves stains your hands, try rubbing with a potato to remove the stains.

Egg check! If you want to see if your eggs are fresh, place them in a pot of cold water. Good eggs sink; bad eggs float.

Keep greens crispy. Wash and dry lettuce well before you store it in the fridge. Put dressing on your salad right before you eat it. When you dress your salad too early, it will get soggy and gross.

Beat the burn. After working with hot chili peppers, rub a drop of olive oil on your hands for one minute then wash your hands well with soap and water before touching anything else, especially your face and mouth, or you will burn baby burn!

Table Setting 101. When setting the table remember: knife and spoon on the right side; plate in the middle; forks, largest to smallest, on the left side; and your drink to the top right of the setting. The napkin should be placed on the plate when setting the table and placed in your lap while eating.

End quote

If you need some inspiration, and who doesn’t, Markus Wessel sent this in to remind all of us that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Speaking of appropriate aging, this is a nice article on thriving.


6. Have a routine. Lee says that in addition to her Thursdays at the Philharmonic, she sets aside Tuesdays for doctor visits, Wednesdays for her hairdresser in her former home town about 50 miles out on Long Island, and Fridays for yoga. Block says that most of the participants are “secure in their routine,” which shows that they know what matters to them.

End quote

I play lots of chess against my computer when I travel. Reading The Hobbit and The Sword in the Stone, I have smallish copies of both, is like a warm bath, but chess seems to keep me fresh mentally on these long trips. This article sums one of my real weaknesses.


5. Always blockade your opponent’s isolated pawn with a knight

An isolated pawn is a powerful weapon and can be used by your opponent to launch a strong attack, because it supports pieces and provides extra space. Another danger of isolated pawn is that it can be pushed forward at the right time causing many problems. That’s why it is very important to always blockade opponent’s isolated pawn to avoid complications. The best piece for this purpose is indeed the knight.

End quote

I don’t work with anyone anymore. Well, my dog, Sirius Black, but he doesn’t take offense too much. However, I do speak in public a lot and this article gave me some good ideas.


23. Try. A small, green puppet once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda lived by those words, and so should you. If you know you don’t have time for something, it’s OK to say “no” — in fact, it can be a good thing. But saying you’ll try is saying that even you aren’t sure you’re willing to achieve a task.

24. Unfair. We all know that life isn’t fair, and typically, the only reason we (or at least I) use the word “unfair” is to complain about something. But complaining rarely helps you achieve your goals, so it’s more productive to either accept it or explain clearly why you deserve better.

25. Whatever. Nobody wants to hear “whatever” on its own — it makes you sound churlish and confrontational. But even if you’re trying to be accommodating (i.e., “whatever works for you”), “whatever” can backfire. Odds are that you have a preference, and it’s OK to value your own time.

End quote

As I review these, I think this is a nice collection for life, living and learning here. I hope you enjoy this weekly voyage and, until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


New Dan John article on OTPbooks.com this week: Dan’s 30/30 for 30 Programming Q&A [CLICK TO READ]


The Sword in the Stone


First, let me apologize for the length of this reading. It will flow better to read it all at once. This section reminds me of me, my brother, Phil, and neighbor, Kim, arguing over who had been killed in our various games of war.

I grew up at a time where little boys did this thing called “play.” We would play the Three Musketeers, win WWII, defeat the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and still find time to play Hide and Seek (I could have been a professional) and all the rest of the games one can play on a street corner. Not long ago, I found myself thinking about my childhood friends. It wasn’t happy:

Kim: Dead.
Daryl: Dead.
Steve: Dead.
Bobby: Dead.
Peter (James): Dead.
Wil: Dead.
Mark: Dead.
Dave: Dead.
Rita: Dead.

And some others…

I had to stop myself. I talked with Gregor (Greg) and we realized that much of our group was no longer on the planet: suicides, drugs, police, life.

But, in my memories, we run and laugh and sprint. We play. Each and every time I crack open White’s book, I get transported back to 1970 when we were all still together, I had yet to pick up a discus, and as long as we ignored the nightly news, life was pretty good. Let’s pick up after the fall:


“A splendid fall,” said Merlyn.

The two horses pulled themselves up, their duty done, and began resignedly to eat the sward. King Pellinore and Sir Grummore sat looking straight before them, each with the other’s spear clasped hopefully under his arm.

“Well!” said the Wart. “What a bump! They both seem to be all right, so far.”

Sir Grummore and King Pellinore laboriously got up.

“Defend thee,” cried King Pellinore.

“God save thee,” cried Sir Grummore.

With this they drew their swords and rushed together with such ferocity that each, after dealing the other a dint on the helm, sat down suddenly backwards.

“Bah!” cried King Pellinore.

“Booh!” cried Sir Grummore, also sitting down.

“Mercy,” exclaimed the Wart. “What a combat!”

The knights had now lost their tempers and the battle was joined in earnest. It did not matter much, however, for they were so encased in metal that they could not do each other much damage. It took them so long to get up, and the dealing of a blow when you weighed the eighth part of a ton was such a cumbrous business, that every stage of the contest could be marked and pondered.

In the first stage King Pellinore and Sir Grummore stood opposite each other for about half an hour, and walloped each other on the helm. There was only opportunity for one blow at a time, so they more or less took it in turns, King Pellinore striking while Sir Grummore was recovering, and vice versa. At first, if either of them dropped his sword or got it stuck in the ground, the other put in two or three extra blows while he was patiently fumbling for it or trying to tug it out. Later, they fell into the rhythm of the thing more perfectly, like the toy mechanical people who saw wood on Christmas trees. Eventually the exercise and the monotony restored their good humour and they began to get bored.

The second stage was introduced as a change, by common consent. Sir Grummore stumped off to one end of the clearing, while King Pellinore plodded off to the other. Then they turned round and swayed backward and forward once or twice, in order to get their weight on their toes. When they leaned forward they had to run forward, to keep up with their weight, and if they leaned too far backward they fell down. So even walking was complicated. When they had got their weight properly distributed in front of them, so that they were just off their balance, each broke into a trot to keep up with himself. They hurtled together as it had been two boars.

They met in the middle, breast to breast, with a noise of shipwreck and great bells tolling, and both, bouncing off, fell breathless on their backs. They lay thus for a few minutes, panting. Then they slowly began to heave themselves to their feet, and it was obvious that they had lost their tempers once again.

King Pellinore had not only lost his temper but he seemed to have been a bit astonished by the impact. He got up facing the wrong way, and could not find Sir Grummore. There was some excuse for this, since he had only a slit to peep through—and that was three inches away from his eye owing to the padding of straw—but he looked muddled as well. Perhaps he had broken his spectacles. Sir Grummore was quick to seize his advantage.

“Take that!” cried Sir Grummore, giving the unfortunate monarch a two-handed swipe on the nob as he was slowly turning his head from side to side, peering in the opposite direction.

King Pellinore turned round morosely, but his opponent had been too quick for him. He had ambled round so that he was still behind the King, and now gave him another terrific blow in the same place.

“Where are you?” asked King Pellinore.

“Here,” cried Sir Grummore, giving him another.

The poor King turned himself round as nimbly as possible, but Sir Grummore had given him the slip again.

“Tally-ho back!” shouted Sir Grummore, with another wallop.

“I think you’re a cad,” said the King.

“Wallop!” replied Sir Grummore, doing it.

What with the preliminary crash, the repeated blows on the back of his head, and the puzzling nature of his opponent, King Pellinore could now be seen to be visibly troubled in his brains. He swayed backward and forward under the hail of blows which were administered, and feebly wagged his arms.

“Poor King,” said the Wart. “I wish he would not hit him so.”

As if in answer to his wish, Sir Grummore paused in his labours.

“Do you want Pax?” asked Sir Grummore.

King Pellinore made no answer.

Sir Grummore favoured him with another whack and said, “If you don’t say Pax, I shall cut your head off.”

“I won’t,” said the King.

Whang! went the sword on the top of his head.

Whang! it went again.

Whang! for the third time.

“Pax,” said King Pellinore, mumbling rather.

Then, just as Sir Grummore was relaxing with the fruits of victory, he swung round upon him, shouted “Non!” at the top of his voice, and gave him a good push in the middle of the chest.

Sir Grummore fell over backwards.

“Well!” exclaimed the Wart. “What a cheat! I would not have thought it of him.”

King Pellinore hurriedly sat on his victim’s chest, thus increasing the weight upon him to a quarter of a ton and making it quite impossible for him to move, and began to undo Sir Grummore’s helm.

“You said Pax!”

“I said Pax Non under my breath.”

“It’s a swindle.”

“It’s not.”

“You’re a cad.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I said Pax Non.”

“You said Pax.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.”

By this time Sir Grummore’s helm was unlaced and they could see his bare head glaring at King Pellinore, quite purple in the face.

“Yield thee, recreant,” said the King.

“Shan’t,” said Sir Grummore.

“You have got to yield, or I shall cut off your head.”

“Cut it off then.”

“Oh, come on,” said the King. “You know you have to yield when your helm is off.”

“Feign I,” said Sir Grummore.

“Well, I shall just cut your head off.”

“I don’t care.”

The King waved his sword menacingly in the air.

“Go on,” said Sir Grummore. “I dare you to.”

The King lowered his sword and said, “Oh, I say, do yield, please.”

“You yield,” said Sir Grummore.

“But I can’t yield. I am on top of you after all, am I not, what?”

“Well, I have feigned yieldin’.”

“Oh, come on, Grummore. I do think you are a cad not to yield. You know very well I can’t cut your head off.”

“I would not yield to a cheat who started fightin’ after he said Pax.”

“I am not a cheat.”

“You are a cheat.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Very well,” said King Pellinore. “You can jolly well get up and put on your helm and we will have a fight. I won’t be called a cheat for anybody.”

“Cheat!” said Sir Grummore.

They stood up and fumbled together with the helm, hissing, “No, I’m not”—”Yes, you are,” until it was safely on. Then they retreated to opposite ends of the clearing, got their weight upon their toes, and came rumbling and thundering together like two runaway trams.

Unfortunately they were now so cross that they had both ceased to be vigilant, and in the fury of the moment they missed each other altogether. The momentum of their armour was too great for them to stop till they had passed each other handsomely, and then they manoeuvred about in such a manner that neither happened to come within the other’s range of vision. It was funny watching them, because King Pellinore, having already been caught from behind once, was continually spinning round to look behind him, and Sir Grummore, having used the stratagem himself, was doing the same thing. Thus they wandered for some five minutes, standing still, listening, clanking, crouching, creeping, peering, walking on tiptoe, and occasionally making a chance swipe behind their backs. Once they were standing within a few feet of each other, back to back, only to stalk off in opposite directions with infinite precaution, and once King Pellinore did hit Sir Grummore with one of his back strokes, but they both immediately spun round so often that they became giddy and mislaid each other afresh.

After five minutes Sir Grummore said, “All right, Pellinore. It is no use hidin’. I can see where you are.”

“I am not hiding,” exclaimed King Pellinore indignantly. “Where am I?”

They discovered each other and went up close together, face to face.

“Cad,” said Sir Grummore.

“Yah,” said King Pellinore.

They turned round and marched off to their corners, seething with indignation.

“Swindler,” shouted Sir Grummore.

“Beastly bully,” shouted King Pellinore.

With this they summoned all their energies together for one decisive encounter, leaned forward, lowered their heads like two billy-goats, and positively sprinted together for the final blow. Alas, their aim was poor. They missed each other by about five yards, passed at full steam doing at least eight knots, like ships that pass in the night but speak not to each other in passing, and hurtled onward to their doom. Both knights began waving their arms like windmills, anti-clockwise, in the vain effort to slow up. Both continued with undiminished speed. Then Sir Grummore rammed his head against the beech in which the Wart was sitting, and King Pellinore collided with a chestnut at the other side of the clearing. The trees shook, the forest rang. Blackbirds and squirrels cursed and wood-pigeons flew out of their leafy perches half a mile away. The two knights stood to attention while one could count three. Then, with a last unanimous melodious clang, they both fell prostrate on the fatal sward.

“Stunned,” said Merlyn, “I should think.”

“Oh, dear,” said the Wart. “Ought we to get down and help them?”

“We could pour water on their heads,” said Merlyn reflectively, “if there was any water. But I don’t suppose they would thank us for making their armour rusty. They will be all right. Besides, it is time that we were home.”

“But they might be dead!”

“They are not dead, I know. In a minute or two they will come round and go off home to dinner.”

“Poor King Pellinore has not got a home.”

“Then Sir Grummore will invite him to stay the night. They will be the best of friends when they come to. They always are.”

“Do you think so?”

“My dear boy, I know so. Shut your eyes and we will be off.”

The Wart gave in to Merlyn’s superior knowledge. “Do you think,” he asked with his eyes shut, “that Sir Grummore has a featherbed?”


“Good,” said the Wart. “That will be nice for King Pellinore, even if he was stunned.”

The Latin words were spoken and the secret passes made. The funnel of whistling noise and space received them. In two seconds they were lying under the grandstand, and the sergeant’s voice was calling from the opposite side of the tilting ground, “Nah then, Master Art, nah then. You’ve been a-snoozing there long enough. Come aht into the sunlight ‘ere with Master Kay, one-two, one-two, and see some real tilting.”
End quote.

In the time it took me to finish this chapter, I began to appreciate it more and more. This has been my least favorite section of the book since I first read this in 1970 but taking a bit of time to unwrap this chapter has made me appreciate the humor much more.

White is certainly against war. The Book of Merlyn will prove that, so perhaps I fell into disliking this chapter because of my heroic ambitions of my early youth. We have a delightful interaction between Wart and Merlyn in Chapter Twenty that seems to capture what I am trying to say. Merlyn begins:

“Well, anyway,” he said, “suppose they did not let you stand against all the evil in the world?”

“I could ask,” said the Wart.

“You could ask,” repeated Merlyn.

He thrust the end of his beard into his mouth, stared tragically at the fire, and began to munch it fiercely.

End quote

During the Vietnam War, which was presented live and in living color nightly in our home with my brothers and their physical and emotional issues, the nightly news and the death counts and the general unsettledness of America, I was still in that fanciful world of “good guys and bad guys.”

There are obvious evils, like the Nazis that White worried about and the Nazis that I worry about as I write this. It helps when they wear black, like Darth Vader, but when they wear white, like the Klu Klux Klan, it gets confusing. When I first read this section, I think I wanted a joust between two foes fighting, a battle of good versus evil. I wanted what we hear in The Impossible Dream:

“To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march
Into hell for a heavenly cause.”

Our foes in this battle, Pellinore and Grummore, certainly have their weaknesses, but I can’t really imagine either as an arch-villain. Neither is a Voldemort, Snidely Whiplash or even Doctor Evil.

Wart, like I did in my youth, wants to pit himself against the evil of this world. Now, as I am closer to the King Arthur of The Book Merlyn in age than the Wart of The Sword in the Stone, evil still seems as prevalent as it was in my fresh-faced youth. This is probably a sad truth that all of learn to bear as we age. We can call it wisdom.

White will call this “knowledge of the world” in his later book, The Ill Made Knight (Chapter 13):

“There is a thing called knowledge of the world, which people do not have until they are middle-aged. It is something which cannot be taught to younger people, because it is not logical and does not obey laws which are constant. It has no rules.”

In a sense, it is the utter lack of evil intent in this story that makes the jousting more painful. Sure, we argue over whether or not Pellinore said “non” in time, but it does come off like the arguments my brothers and me used to have:

“Did so.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”
“Did not.”
“Did so.”
“Did not.”

This could continue for decades…and it seems to have. White’s warriors here are in the midst of a school yard scrabble. “To the Victor goes the Pillows.”

Evil, in The Sword in the Stone, is never absolutely simple. We meet a pike that makes a lunge for Wart, but he was not truly evil. He was following his nature. Later, we will meet a giant, but the characters will acknowledge that he has asked for little from his prisoners. Was Mim pure evil? Certainly, the early editors wanted to scrub her character up a bit, but the versions I recommend make her a frightening figure. Evil? This deserves some rereading, but I think the section with her “plucking” Wart is certainly sneaking up on experiencing evil.

Kay, like many older brothers, is a jerk, but not necessarily evil. We soon will meet some very cruel creatures and it will be fun to bring this point up again.

We will, if you choose to continue reading the other books, find true evil. White will address it with this:

“Man had gone on, through age after age, avenging wrong with wrong, slaughter with slaughter. Nobody was the better for it, since both sides always suffered, yet everybody was inextricable. The present war might be attributed to Mordred, or to himself. But also it was due to a million Thrashers, to Lancelot, Guenever, Gawaine, everybody. Those who lived by the sword were forced to die by it. It was as if everything would lead to sorrow, so long as man refused to forget the past. The wrongs of Uther and of Cain were wrongs which could have been righted only by the blessing of forgetting them.”

The blessing of forgetting them. I’m not sure one can say things better.

As I prepare for next week, the start of my favorite chapter, I will see if I can stand up against evil.

Well, at least, I could ask.

Until next time.


New Dan John article on OTPbooks.com this week: Dan’s 30/30 for 30 Programming Q&A [CLICK TO READ]


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