Had a great time completing Arnold’s Blueprint

Today was Leg Day and the last workout in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Blueprint, an 8-week workout program that he launched a few months ago. I had a great time doing it, although it took me more than 8 weeks to complete it, due to the various projects we’re working on and the fact that we now have a little girl. I couldn’t go to the gym six times a week on a regular basis and made it there 3-4 times a week instead. There were a few times when I was able to go 5-6 times and it felt great.

I made a lot of gains in strength on most exercises. For example, my bench press went up to a 2-rep max of 225 lbs., which is something I haven’t been able to do since college, and even then only a few times. Back then I hovered around the 185-205 lbs. range. I can now deadlift 5 x 315 lbs. I can also squat 2 x 225 lbs. and this was another problematic exercise for me. I can’t remember how much I was able to do in college, but I think this is right up there with my previous max.

I finished the program with a bang, too. I was supposed to try for a 1-rep max on the front squat and I managed 195 lbs, which is more than I’ve ever done. And right after that, I maxed out on the deadlifts as already mentioned above.

I remember how much this program kicked my butt when I started it. I simply hadn’t been doing sets of 30 reps at any weight, and that’s what it started with on the first day and kept on like it for the first three weeks. I was so sore the first few days. I found it extremely difficult, both in terms of pain and stamina, to push through that many reps, but I stuck with it, did every workout and now I’m done.

I didn’t measure my body when I started. I really should have. It would have been great to see my progress that way. All I can tell you is that my weight is up a bit since the last time; it’s now at 187 lbs. Not a big increase but then only I know how busy I’ve been and how little I’ve eaten. Most days I got 2-3 proper meals when I should have eaten five. Such is life when you take on too much. I’ll tell you one thing though: doing renovations on your house as you live in it and also having to act as the general contractor for said renovations is a pretty surefire way to go cuckoo, especially when you need quiet time to work on your business and your other projects.

Here’s the bright side though: I didn’t go cuckoo, gained muscle mass and strength and finished the program! Yes!



Year-end progress report

I thought it’d be worthwhile to take a photo from December 2012 and put it side-by-side with a photo taken this month (December 2013).

Bodybuilding Progress 2012-2013

If you’ll remember from a previous post, I am a raw foodist. I was also slowed down for a couple of months by an ankle fracture which required two surgical interventions. And yet, this was my progress. I’m satisfied with it.

I plan to grow even more. There are certain measurements I want to reach. I am so glad I started bodybuilding again.

Here’s a triptych where I included a shot taken in March of this year.

Bodybuilding Progress Triptych 2012-2013

Happy New Year!


After six weeks on the RPM System

I’m overdue to give my six week re-assessment of the RPM System — two weeks late to be precise, since I started on May 18th. I’ve had good reasons: travel, and some heavy-duty work to get my wife’s raw food recipe book ready for the printers. (I handled the photography, the layout and the design.)

I also haven’t (and I’m ashamed to admit this) worked out for the past two weeks, for the very same reasons. So the photos and measurements you’ll see below really are taken after a two week “break” from the workouts, which involved prolonged sitting at my computer and at the wheel of our car.

In spite of the circumstances that came together to sabotage my workouts, progress was made. I’m happy about that.

Here’s what I look like now. Compare the difference between these photos and the initial ones (taken after a week on the system).

Here are my re-assessment results (power score and measurements). Compare them with the initial ones.

I was pleased to see a marked improvement in my power score, which is now 76, up from the initial 64. My guess is these are beginner gains, and subsequent power score improvements will be harder to achieve. Still, I’m happy and willing to put in the extra work.

The new numbers are:

  • 33 pushups
  • 50 band standing reverse flyes
  • 70 seconds for the modified abdominal plank
  • 180 seconds for the wall sit

There were some surprises when it came to the measurements:

  • Weight: 159.8 lbs, up by about 1½ pounds; my guess is the extra weight is from muscle mass, since I lost fat, as you’ll see below
  • Shoulders: 47.5″, up by ½ inch
  • Chest: 39″, up by 1 inch
  • Arms: 12″, down by 1 inch; this was an unpleasant surprise, but my guess is I had extra fat in the triceps area, which went away.
  • Abdomen: 32″, down by 1 inch
  • Hips: 36.25″, down by 1¾ inches, which was definitely a surprise.
  • Thighs: 19.5″, up by ½ inch

I guess all that sitting on a chair not only atrophied my muscles, but put extra fat on my arms, around my abdomen (which I already knew of) and my hips, which I didn’t know about.

I’ve got another couple of confessions to make:

  • I missed about a week’s worth of workouts during the 6 weeks, again due to travel. I asked the folks at RPM what to do, and they advised me to do one extra workout per week until I caught back up. That’s excellent advice, so if you’re in the same boat, do that, it’s going to be worth it.
  • I haven’t done my aerobic workouts at all. I’ve been too busy. You know how they say you should do three of their workouts per week, and on your off days, do half an hour of your favorite aerobic activity? Well, I skipped out on that entirely. Shame on me.

Still, in spite of cutting all those corners and missing out on plenty of workouts, look at the progress I made! Can you imagine how much more dramatic my progress would have been if I had followed their recipe?

I think this is really good proof of the program’s potential. I missed workouts, played catch-up, took a two week break, and still I made out really nicely.

Don’t take that to mean I fudged on the actual workouts though! Every time I worked out, I did every exercise and every rep indicated. On some exercises, I even did extra reps. The way I see it, if I didn’t give 100% with every workout, I’d have cheated myself.

If you have any doubts about the RPM System and whether it can work for you, I don’t think you need to worry any more. Try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s only $10/month, and you get two weeks free with this code: 553677456.

I intend to keep going, and will post future updates about my progress.


Where's the Solar Coaster when you need it?

Lamenting the absence of a practical, usable solar car…

In an episode of The Raccoons which aired in 1985, entitled “The Evergreen Grand Prix“, Cedric, one of the protagonists and Cyril Sneer’s son, comes up with a design for an innovative solar car that Cyril promises to mass-produce in a new deal struck with a big car manufacturer, a Mr. Mammoth. Once the manufacturer hears the car is solar-powered, he objects, because he sells other tie-in products like gasoline and oil, and they can’t be used when the fuel source is sunlight.

Cyril quickly changes his mind, trashes his son’s brilliant design, and builds a road-hog prototype instead. When it comes time to demonstrate his prototype’s abilities publicly, Cedric and Bert come up with a surprise. They rebuild the trashed solar car and propose to Cyril that the two prototypes race together to see who wins.


Mr. Mammoth is eager to see what happens, and gives the okay. Naturally — or, I suppose, unnaturally, given the current status quo — the solar car wins, to Cyril’s dismay. The manufacturer then agrees to mass-produce self-assembly kits of the solar car, which goes on to be a great success.

So I ask, given that this episode saw the light of day in 1985, has anything progressed in the area of solar cars since then? After all, it’s been 29 years. That’s a long time, during which many new developments could have been architected. The answer is sadly no.

To put things in perspective, the Solar Coaster used a single rectangular solar panel which also doubled as a rear spoiler, and it was enough to make the car “peppy”, as one of the lines in the show went. Today’s solar cars (actually, all solar cars since their inception, sadly) have placed photovoltaic panels over the entire top of the car, and it’s still not enough. They have had to adjust the design radically in order to increase the top surface area, so the cars have no side height at all. They’re basically tapered tops and bottoms, packed full of solar cells, and yet their performance cannot be described as peppy.


I realize the Solar Coaster doesn’t exist. It’s only the fancy of the show’s writers, but still, it’s a good standard by which to judge the solar car’s progress within the last three decades, simply because the idea has been around for that long, if not longer. From my point of view, R&D in photovoltaic cells has stagnated sadly, and this is what’s holding back the solar car. Incredible leaps have been made in computer technology, building technology, and even the performance of petrol-fueled cars, but unfortunately the solar car is still the sickly step child no one likes to play with. To paraphrase Terry from “On the Waterfront”, it could have been a contender; it could have been somebody. [Sorry for the cliché.]

Instead of a serious contender, we’re offered a glorified solar fan in the form of the 2010 Toyota Prius, whose solar cells will be used to cool the car while it’s parked. Thanks, but we’ve had that stuff around since the 80s too.


If you want to watch the full “Evergreen Grand Prix” episode, it’s available on Youtube in three parts: part 1, part 2 and part 3. If you’re seeing this on my site, not on my feed, you can also watch the videos below.


The Atlantic Cable – Eighth Wonder of the World

In July 1866, after the successful completion of the project which undertook to lay a single undersea cable through the North Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland, this following commemorative print was created:

The Eighth Wonder of the World

The Atlantic Cable was the idea of the New York merchant and financier Cirus W. Field, who wanted to communicate with Europe in hours, not weeks, and in 1854, conducted the first trial of laying a 2,000 mile cable between the US and Europe. The first three attempts were not successful, but in 1866, his persistence paid off, and his cable worked. Needless to say, he was showered with due praise and honors for his efforts — one of them being this print.

When you look at Cirus W. Field, the man, he wasn’t that imposing. He seems to have been of average height and thinner build, and yet, this is the man that laid the foundation of long-distance communication. Isn’t it wonderful what one person can achieve if they set their mind to it?

Cyrus W. Field, as photographed by Mathew Brady in 1958

Just how did those trans-Atlantic telegraph cables look? You can see longitudinal and transverse sections of each size in this print:

Samples of the Atlantic cables used in the 1800s

The cables are quite complex, as you can see above. When you think that 2,000 miles of these cables had to be made, from scratch, in the mid 1800s, it’s no wonder they were at the time called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The failures to lay working cables before 1866 attracted controversy. You see, Cyrus Field didn’t finance the matter himself. He’d have been bankrupted many times over. He used other people’s money by selling shares in the venture. Here’s one such stock certificate, sold to Lady Anne Isabella Noel Byron, Lord Byron’s widow. This certificate lost most of its value after the failure of the 1858 cable, then became worthless until the formation of the companies which handled the laying of the 1865 and 1866 cables.

Atlantic Cable Stock Certificate

The route of the 1858 cable can be seen in the map included here:

1858 Telegraph Cable Map

The routes of the cables available in 1870 can be seen on this map:

1870 Telegraph Cable Map

Pause here for a bit and think about this: in the late 1800s, these were all of the communication routes available in the entire world. That was it. There was no internet, no telephone, no TV, no radio, only written letters and telegraph. Oh yes, they also had Indian smoke signals, but they weren’t as widely used, and those communication lines aren’t marked on these maps as each transfer hub was assembled and disassembled on the fly.

It’s easy to complain about how much faster and more reliable our Internet access could be, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve made amazing strides in communication over the past century and a half. As I write this, I’m sitting at a desk in a village in rural Dobrogea, Romania, and am storing these letters or bits or whatever you want to call them on my server back in the United States, instantly, each and every time I press the “Save Draft” button in my WordPress Editor. That’s amazing, in and of itself.

Let’s fast forward and see how fast things progressed from that single cable laid in 1866. By 1880, there were four cables already.

1880 Telegraph Cable Map

By 1901, there were 14 cables. That’s right, fourteen, from four just 20 years earlier.

1901 Telegraph Cable Map

Although trans-Atlantic telegraph communications progressed quite fast, the first trans-atlantic telephone call did not occur until 1927. It was made from Columbia, Missouri, to London, lasted six minutes and cost $162, which was quite a large sum for that time.

The first trans-Atlantic telephone call, in 1927

Just think, now we can talk anywhere in the world for pennies a minute, or do audio or video chats with applications like Skype or iChat for free. We sure have come a long way!


Images used courtesy of the History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications and Missouri School of Journalism Archives.