Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 260
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 260
It’s a dark and stormy night. We are heading out to enjoy an evening of fun with our friends in Galway. Today, we met up with the crew and went swimming at Black Rock. You can’t truly imagine how cold the water is here in Galway Bay.
I know there are classes on breathing and cold. You don’t need them. Dive in at Black Rock and enjoy that first shocking post-surface breath where you stare at me, Tiffini, Adrian and Tobey and wonder, truly, what kind of friend lets you do this kind of thing.
I’m keeping up my walking mileage. The food, as always, is excellent and the Irish find ways of adding butter, salmon, herbs and goodness to everything. As I told the readers last year, once I started eating dairy in Ireland, I began buying Irish butter by the case.
(Write that down!)
I walked over to see the Ireland IPF Powerlifting meet and ran into a number of old friends and a few who appreciate my work. That’s always delightful. On the walk, my next book popped into my head: Coaching Cues and Corrections. I’ve been lecturing on this for some time, but the structure “emerged” as I was strolling along.
I had an idea for a book based on an article a day for a year and it was going well…then just bogged down. I will focus on two things now: the coaching cues of “Squeeze” and “Stay Tall.”
I had that marvelous moment, walking in the rain to a powerlifting meet, where a lot of the dots connected in my Movement Matrix and the teaching points. Sometimes, it takes me years to see what can often be so obvious later. I’m sure that is another “write that down.”
Those articles I had been writing for the “365 Book,” by the way, can be found on my website. Brian fills us in on what’s been going on there.
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Episode 9 of the podcast is up and ready for your listening pleasure. Dan was on the road for this one, so we got a little travel update along with answers to some really good questions.
I have been navigating an international move and Dan’s on vacation, so we only had one new essay this week:
Learning from New Coaches
Thank you for all the feedback on the new site. Everyone seems to like it and that makes me happy!
This week with Pat Flynn, we talk about some simple “New Dad Programs.”
I enjoyed a few things on the internet this week. This article seems to really grasp some hard to understand aspects of aging.
“No wise man ever wished to be younger,” Swift asserted, never having met me. But this doesn’t mean that we have to see old age as something other than what it is. It may complete us, but in doing so it defeats us. “Life is slow dying,” Philip Larkin wrote before he stopped dying, at sixty-three—a truth that young people, who are too busy living, cavalierly ignore. Should it give them pause, they’ll discover that just about every book on the subject advocates a “positive” attitude toward aging in order to maintain a sense of satisfaction and to achieve a measure of wisdom. And yet it seems to me that a person can be both wise and unhappy, wise and regretful, and even wise and dubious about the wisdom of growing old.
When Socrates declared that philosophy is the practice of dying, he was saying that thought itself is shaped by mortality, and it’s because our existence is limited that we’re able to think past those limits. Time has us in its grip, and so we devise stories of an afterlife in which we exist unshackled by days and years and the decay they represent. But where does that get us, beyond the vague suspicion that immortality—at least in the shape of the vengeful Yahweh or the spiteful Greek and Roman gods—is no guarantee of wisdom? Then again, if you’re the sort of person who sees the glass as one-eighth full rather than seven-eighths empty, you might not worry about such matters. Instead, you’ll greet each new day with gratitude, despite coughing up phlegm and tossing down a dozen pills.
But what do I know? I’m just one person, who at seventy-one doesn’t feel as good as he did at sixty-one, and who is fairly certain that he’s going to feel even worse at eighty-one. I simply know what men and women have always known: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.” If only the writer had stopped there. Unfortunately, he went on to add, “In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. . . . The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise? This too is meaningless.” No young person could have written that.
This series is absolutely amazing. I would suggest reading all six parts if you like comedy. I will share this sample with you.
In January 1989, in the middle of the 14th season of the series, Myers joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. For the bit to work on the show, Wayne needed a best buddy. Thus, Garth Algar was born—and as it turns out, SNL had someone who was perfect to play him. At that time, Dana Carvey was the show’s most valuable performer, having already played Church Lady, and shown off his pitch-perfect impressions of George H.W. Bush and Johnny Carson. But he vaulted to even greater heights with the bespectacled, lovable nerd—who he based on his brother Brad, who once fixed the family dryer with a butter knife. (His mechanically inclined sibling went on to become an engineer and helped create the editing and production tool called the Video Toaster.)
The first appearance of “Wayne’s World” on SNL was on February 18, 1989, a day after the release of another buddy comedy starring two dudes who critics later compared to Wayne and Garth: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Looking back on that first sketch, it is already a polished version of Myers’s goofy vision. Not only did the slacker buds have their own show; they also had their own language, punctuating sentences with their soon-to-be trademark phrases of “Party on!” and “Excellent!” During a call-in segment, there’s a discussion about how the guy on the phone’s girlfriend “blew chunks” on him. There’s even a David Letterman–style Top 10 list, which became a “Wayne’s World” staple.
If you have something to really learn or master, this little method is brilliant. This might be why those of us with hobbies become such experts on things: we keep revisiting.
This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.
Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.
Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.
I found this article fascinating.
One tantalizing context that they’re starting to explore is artificial intelligence. Deep learning systems have their own problem with breakdowns in smoothness: After training, they might be able to accurately label an image as a panda, but changes made to just a handful of pixels — which would be practically invisible to the human eye — might lead them to classify the image as a chimpanzee instead. “It’s a pathological feature of these networks,” Harris said. “There are always going to be some details that they’re oversensitive to.”
Computer scientists have been trying to determine why this happens, and Harris thinks his team’s findings might offer some clues. Preliminary analyses of deep learning networks have revealed that some of their layers typically obey power laws that decay more slowly than those observed in the mouse experiments. Harris, Stringer and their colleagues suspect that these networks might be vulnerable because, unlike networks in the brain, they produce representations that aren’t totally continuous. Perhaps, Harris said, it might be possible to apply the lessons of the power law he’s been studying to deep learning networks to make them more stable. But this research is still in its early days, according to Macke, who is also studying power laws in deep learning networks.
Shea-Brown still thinks it’s a good place to start. “Continuous and smooth relationships,” he said, “seem obviously important for creating the ability to generalize and compare different types of situations in an environment.” Scientists are starting to understand how the brain uses its full network of neurons to encode representations of the world. Now, with “this surprising and beautiful result,” they have both “a new target … and a very useful reference point” in hand for thinking about that code.
I spend every summer at the Pope Pub in London. I learned a great lesson from Pope: copy good authors. This article goes into a lot of depth about creativity (quoting a weightlifting champion, Oliver Sacks!).
If imitation plays a central role in the performing arts, where incessant practice, repetition, and rehearsal are essential, it is equally important in painting or composing or writing, for example. All young artists seek models in their apprentice years, models whose style, technical mastery, and innovations can teach them. Young painters may haunt the galleries of the Met or the Louvre; young composers may go to concerts or study scores. All art, in this sense, starts out as “derivative,” highly influenced by, if not a direct imitation or paraphrase of, the admired and emulated models.
When Alexander Pope was thirteen years old, he asked William Walsh, an older poet whom he admired, for advice. Walsh’s advice was that Pope should be “correct.” Pope took this to mean that he should first gain a mastery of poetic forms and techniques. To this end, in his “Imitations of English Poets,” Pope began by imitating Walsh, then Cowley, the Earl of Rochester, and more major figures like Chaucer and Spenser, as well as writing “Paraphrases,” as he called them, of Latin poets. By seventeen, he had mastered the heroic couplet and began to write his “Pastorals” and other poems, where he developed and honed his own style but contented himself with the most insipid or clichéd themes. It was only once he had established full mastery of his style and form that he started to charge it with the exquisite and sometimes terrifying products of his own imagination. For most artists, perhaps, these stages or processes overlap a good deal, but imitation and mastery of form or skills must come before major creativity.
This is a nice collection of articles this week; I enjoyed them all. As I continue my time here in Ireland, I hope to continue to work on some of my new coaching insights. Until next week, keep on lifting and learning.
For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.
The Sword in the Stone, Part 113
It was a confounded piece of tyranny, that was what it was. It happened every year, but it was still that. He always solved the kennel problem in the same way, but it still worried him. He would have to invite his neighbours to the meet specially, to look as impressive as possible under the royal huntsman’s eye, and this would mean sendin’ messengers through the forest to Sir Grummore, etc. Then he would have to show sport. The King had written early, so that evidently he intended to send the fellow at the very beginnin’ of the season. The season did not begin till the 25th of December. Probably the chap would insist on one of these damned Boxin’ Day meets—all show-off and no business—with hundreds of foot people all hollerin’ and headin’ the boar and trampin’ down the seeds and spoilin’ sport generally. How the devil was he to know in November where the best boars would be on Boxin’ Day? What with sounders and gorgeaunts and hogsteers, you never knew where you were. And another thing. A hound that was going to be used next summer for the proper Hart huntin’ was always entered at Christmas to the boar. It was the very beginnin’ of his eddication—which led up through hares and what-nots to its real quarry—and this meant that the fellow Twyti would be bringin’ down a lot of raw puppies which would be nothin’ but a plague to everybody. “Dang it!” said Sir Ector, and stamped upon a piece of mud.
He stood gloomily for a moment, watching his two boys trying to catch the last leaves in the chase. They had not gone out with that intention, and did not really, even in those distant days, believe that every leaf you caught would mean a happy month next year. Only, as the west wind tore the golden rags away, they looked fascinating and difficult to catch. For the mere sport of catching them, of shouting and laughing and feeling giddy as they looked up, and of darting about to trap the creatures, which were certainly alive in the cunning with which they slipped away, the two boys were prancing about like young fauns in the ruin of the year. Wart’s shoulder was well again.
The only chap, reflected Sir Ector, who could be really useful in showin’ the King’s huntsman proper sport was that fellow Robin Hood. Robin Wood, they seemed to be callin’ him now—some new-fangled idea, no doubt. But Wood or Hood, he was the chap to know where a fine tush was to be found. Been feastin’ on the creatures for months now, he would not be surprised, even if they were out of season.
Wild boars in groups are called “sounders;” that’s not what I thought, of course. It’s like a murder of crows or a pod of whales: if you missed the day for plurals back in the third grade, you might be lost forever. (Pride of lions, anyone?)
As most people know (I’m joking), a gorgeaunts is a boar in its second year and, logically, a hogsteer is a third-year boar. “Harts” are deer and our good friend, Sir Ector, quickly realized that to be successful, he would need a master of deer, goreaunts and hogsteer. He turns, wisely, to our old friend, Robin Wood (Hood).
Robin is a great character in this book. Most people don’t remember him (and the whole gang of Merry Men and Women) after they close the whole four books of The Once and Future King. Yet, he is a major character.
Just one small thing remember: Ector thinks that chasing “hares” is a key part of the eddication of a hunting dog. It’s a key to understanding both Robin and the king’s huntsman.
Until next week!
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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