Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 215

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 215

From OTPbooks.com, here’s Dan’s full archive on the site (scroll down for a collection of articles you may not have seen before). 


Well, I am a week out of surgery and doing fine. I walk a few times daily and feel great. We celebrated Christmas Adam (the day before Eve) and now we relax into the Bowl Season. I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas and holidays.

As I peek out the window and sneak a glance at my calendar, I see that I have a lot less travel next year. 270,000 miles is a lot of flying. And, although I just turned in my last book to Laree, I’m already looking forward to my next one.

On the internet this week, I found this little list that made me smile. I went from loving Game of Thrones to loathing it, but this is a good book list.


Fantasy recommendations

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R Tolkien
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
  Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin

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This article made me think of things I had never considered. We forget how detailed the world of imagination simply has to be to keep us coming back for more books.


For philosophers and scientists, and for Tolkien, worldbuilding had a practical function, and some still use it that way today. But many engage in world-building now for purely artistic reasons, or simply because it’s fun. Humans have always felt compelled to imagine things that aren’t real, then devise elaborate mythologies around them—hence the elaborate pantheons that define so many religions past and present. Geeks differ from mystics, however, in knowing that their invented worlds aren’t real, even as they want their fantasies to seem as real and as believable as possible.

The geek mantra might prove the same as the tagline for The X-Files: “I want to believe.” What makes the game they’re playing engaging and challenging is the inherent tension in making the imaginary seem nonimaginary. What does a blue whale look like? One can just go look. But what does a dragon look like? Ah, that presents a problem. Since dragons don’t exist, and never will exist, one is forced to dream up an answer. The challenge for geeks, then, is to produce an illustration or a movie that looks as convincing as the blue whale does when drawn or photographed, as well as to explain what impact a dragon would have on its environment, from the food chain to the local economy.

Lucas absorbed the tenets of world-building from the fantastical works that he adored as a child, including his beloved Flash Gordon, which featured its own strange Martian species, such as the Clay People and the Forest People. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars and Frank Herbert’s Dune are other clear influences. So when Lucas couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon, and decided to make his own version, he imagined not only a fast-paced adventure set in space starring Luke and Han and Leia, but an elaborate backstory—his own batch of world-building. Lucas’s biographer Dale Pollock reports that even in the first treatment of Star Wars, finished in May 1973, every “person, beast, and structure was explicitly named and described in detail.” Lucas worked out detailed histories and cultural traditions for the Wookies, as well as all of C-3PO and R2-D2’s owners. This wealth of material eventually proved far too much for a single film, leading Lucas to cut his treatment in half, then into thirds, finally focusing on the middle third, the portion that would become, in 1975, recognizable as Star Wars.

But Lucas retained his ambition of telling a larger story, a saga, which is why he went on to make two sequels as well as the prequel trilogy. Along the way, he also toyed with making smaller spin-off films that would showcase the elaborate world that he’d created: a movie with nothing but droids, and another with nothing but Wookies, speaking their native language. (Lucas initially conceived of Luke’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru as anthropologists studying the Wookies.) Indeed, it’s possible that the concept of a Wookies-only movie served as the basis for three later works for television: the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, the 1984 Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and the 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (Ewoks being a diminutive version of Wookies). This ambition might have also fueled the animated Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour, broadcast from 1985 to 1986.

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I love American football. This might be the best explanation of option football ever compiled. I loved this.


When Texas head coach Darrell K. Royal names Bellard his coordinator in 1968, the Longhorns needed some life. They had gone just 19-12 over the last three years.

Bellard’s first task is to use a wealth of backfield talent. The Horns don’t have a QB who can pass, but they have a lot of guys who can run. Bellard starts with an old-school T-formation, then has all-world fullback Steve Worster line up closer to the QB, so he can hit the line faster on dive plays.

This seems like a small change. But it opens up a world of potential in terms of options, blocking (with an extra back in the backfield, you can have a lead blocker and fake the dive at the same time), and deception.

After an 0-1-1 start, Royal and Bellard promote James Street to first-string quarterback. The Longhorns rip off a 30-game winning streak and four top-five finishes in five years.

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This is something I didn’t know anything about, but I started to notice the rise of “dollar stores.” I had no idea the importance for food in some areas.


While her neighborhood may have some alternatives, the presence of dollar stores in neighborhoods that don’t creates a Catch-22. On one hand, these chains are serving communities that others have neglected or abandoned—a phenomenon researchers have termed “supermarket redlining.” And when a segregated neighborhood loses a supermarket, the effects on residents in the immediate area can have effects on physical and mental health—it affects the self-worth of community. Having an affordable option for buying food in the vicinity—even if it’s not ideal—may be seen by residents as better than nothing. “As someone on a fixed income, I see [dollar stores] as saving the poor,” one Twitter user said, responding to the ILSR brief. “I can stock up on staples there a whole lot cheaper than at regular grocery stores.”

On the other hand, the absence of traditional grocers, and the presence of dollar stores, is deeply entwined with the history of spatial and structural inequality in America. “Supermarkets follow the patterns of racial and residential segregation—we can map this in any of the cities that have a solid black population,” said Reese.

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So, I am heading off for a walk with Tiffini and Sirius. And with that, I wish you the best of the holiday blessings.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


As we look at Coaches Johnny Parker, Al Miller and Rob Panariello’s ideas of systematic program design, we first consider their training cycle principles. Here, have a look.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 71

The following is often deleted. So, I retyped the whole section for you all. It’s a small side story…I have no idea why it was deleted in the first place. From the 1938 text:


“Ah,” said Little John, “it warn’t bad for boys, but suppose you show ‘em, Measter ‘ood.”

“Is it a match?” asked Robin, smiling grimly. These two men were the oldest rivals with the bow in England, and could never forbear to take one another on in competition.

“Go on,” said Marian. “You two are like kids.”

“Us ha’nt never fled afore a challenge, Measter ‘ood,” said Little John slowly, his eyes twinkling, “as thee know thy cost.”

“Get on, man,” said Robin. “You know I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back.”

“Little John deliberately put the toe of his great bow against the inside of his instep, pulled grip outward with his mighty right fist, and slipped the string into place with his left hand. It was a movement like an absent-minded caress, but probably nobody except Robin could have strung his bow.”

“ ‘Tis for a buffet, Measter?” he inquired, grinning at Robin with a sly challenge.

“A buffet,” said the captain of the outlaws. “Go on and I’ll let you off with a light one.”

Little John lumbered himself into position and remarked philosophically, “Folks say the last laugh rings merriest.”

With this, in a limber flash which had nothing to do with his bear-like movements and slow speech, the fugitive who had once been called Naylor had raised, drawn, loosed and lowered his boy, apparently without aiming it, and the arrow was saying Phutt! In the heart of the popinjay, before cleaving straight through it and burying its point in the ground.

“A shaky loose,” said Robin, from two yards behind him, and, as Little John turned round to smile at his captain, but before he could turn back again towards the popinjay, the captain’s arrow also was cutting through the bird of straw.

Wart noticed that where he and Kay had been compelled to aim their woman’s bow twenty degrees above the mark, Robin and Little John were still loosing well below it, although it was a hundred years away. The boys had been given Maid Marian’s bow to shoot with because they could not have drawn any other. Its draw was a horizontal pull of only twenty-five or thirty pounds, while Robin and his lieutenant were opening arcs with a force of anything up to or above a hundred. If you have ever attempted to lift a hundredweight upwards from the ground, with all your stature to help you, you will be able to appreciate the steady force which the two greatest English archers were able to exert, not upwards but horizontally.

“Robin,” said Maid Marian sharply, “you are being a baby. You will just go on and on until each of you has had a dozen shots, and then one or the other of you will miss and the conqueror will claim the right to give him a smack. How can you be so childish?”

“I want to beat John here,” said Robin Wood, plausibly, “because otherwise he will become insubordinate.”

“Insubordinate fiddlesticks. Leave your silly competition and send these back to their father.”

“Robin,” said Marian, sharply, “you can’t take children into danger. Send them home to their father.”

“That I won’t,” he said, “unless they wish to go. It is their quarrel as much as mine.”

“What is the quarrel?” asked Kay.

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Merry Christmas!


How would you scale down a pro training system for weekend warriors or keen amateurs in our 30s, 40s and 50s, with lots of experience, but also full-time jobs and families? Jeremy Hall, the editing author of The System book on periodization, works this out for us.

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