Tuesday, January 26, 2016

See You Speak Toastmasters - Balance

Tonight's meeting of See You Speak Toastmasters will focus on the theme of "Balance". I'll be talking about using exercises to find physical balance as well as using meditation to find mental balance, but, most importantly for public speaking, I'll also be talking about finding balance in our speaking.

For instance, some filler words (like 'ah' and 'um') will not destroy your message, but too many of them most certainly will. Also, variations in intonation and pitch in your voice, gives your speech a balanced dynamic. Just the same goes for using variations in the tempo (or timing) of your delivery. There's a lot of balance to be found in our speaking.

For tonight's meeting, I'll share this quote from a great speaker:

“What is joy without sorrow? 
What is success without failure? 
What is a win without a loss? 
What is health without illness? 
You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. 
It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, 
That will define you.” 

Mark Twain

Monday, January 25, 2016

Do It Today!

...But also do it tomorrow.

There's a pretty famous quote that goes, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today". There are plenty of variations of that quote, and an internet search will reveal lots of possible authors (including Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, though Philip Stanhope appears to be the oldest possible source).

I'm feeling pretty motivated today. Definitely a good day to get things done. However, tomorrow's going to have to be a day for getting things done as well. And, probably the day after that...

My motivation for today is to remember to get things done every day but to also reward myself after those accomplishments with some down time. After I read a research article today, I'll reward myself with a chapter from a Harry Potter book. After I revise the current draft of my research article for the day, I will reward myself with a television show.

How do you manage to keep yourself motivated?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

FINGERS Mitchell Cullen

I'm a huge fan of didgeridoo music. Every now and then I'll search around the interwebs for some new awesome didg music. However, one didgeridoo player who I keep happening upon on Facebook and Twitter posts is FINGERS Mitchell Cullen. This young Australian multi-instrumentalist makes some fantastic music, blending together guitar and drums with didgeridoo (as well as other instruments). I highly recommend checking out his website and his music. Here's a sample:

FINGERS makes some awesome tunes. Definitely a young artist worth keeping your eye on in the coming years.

Friday, January 22, 2016

SNL's Outtakes for Undercover Boss with Kylo Ren

If you haven't seen Saturday Night Live's skit "Undercover Boss: Star Killer Base", then you need to get on it. This skit might be one of the funniest bits on SNL in quite some time. Adam Driver does a fantastic job bringing some levity to the whiny, emo character of Kylo Ren in a spoof of Undercover Boss.

After you've watched the skit, then check out this video of outtakes for the skit. What they left out is almost as good as what they kept in. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ten Fish in a Tank Riddle

I just saw a post on God's Facebook page that had a title with this fairly bold claim:

"NO ONE Can Solve This Riddle. Are You Able To Outsmart The Rest

I couldn't help but click on the link, which then took me to a CrowdSocial page which had the following easy riddle on it:

Well, what do you think? It hopefully won't take you too long to figure out the answer. This riddle most certainly wasn't difficult enough to warrant the claim that I saw on the post that God shared. In fact, this kind of riddle really isn't difficult at all. 

There are 10 fish in a tank. 2 have drowned, 4 swim away, and 3 have died. How many fish are left?

It's weird that only two fish have drowned since drowning fish means a lack of oxygen in the water, which then suggests that all of the fish should drown. I guess maybe the two fish that drowned just had a much higher oxygen requirement than the others. Maybe I'm overthinking this...

You've probably already figured out that there are 10 fish left in the tank. The 2 that drowned are part of the 3 that died, but we're not told anything about them being removed from the tank after death. 4 of them might swim away, but they won't get far (they're in a tank). So, all 10 fish will still be in the tank, even if dead or swimming in circles. 

Of course, you have to allow that this is a fish tank we're talking about. The tank could be just small enough to hold 10 fish or it could be bigger than all of the oceans of Earth combined, but it's still a fish tank. Some guy posted in the comments on God's post that it could be a combat tank, but even then the answer still holds.

Pretty simple riddle, but still fun.

If you like an easy riddle like the one above, then here are some more that you might like from Distractify:

(Again, the title makes it sound like these riddles will actually be hard to solve, but that's really not the case. They're simple.)

Before I leave you, here's another fairly simple riddle that might tickle your fancy. What do you think?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dead Flowers by Townes Van Zandt

Dead Flowers is one of my favorite songs by The Rolling Stones. It's one of their "honky-tonk" blues/country tunes that has chilling yet powerful lyrics. 

Due to the nature of the song, it's easy to cover it in lots of different ways. I personally tend to finger pick the instrumental part and then sing it in my more "twangy" and raspy voice. I got that from Townes Van Zandt's cover of the song, which was featured in the cult classic film The Big Lebowski. Here's a video with that cover version:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Workout: Static Break Time

"Handstanding", a sculpture by Martin Heron

In keeping with my current goal in 2016 of pressing into a single-arm handstand from the floor, I've been incorporating a lot more static holds and balance movements into my workout routines. Here's one that we're going to rock out today that I'm pretty excited about and so I'm bringing it to you here, on A Cosmobiologist's Dream.

This workout, which I'm calling "Static Break Time" will include holds of handstands, L-sits, and horse-riding stance mixed with situps and pullups all done in supersets. Then the whole shebang will be followed with some deadlifts. Check it out below:

Static Break Time

4 Rounds of:

1:00 - Handstand
1:00 - L-sit
1:00 - Horse Stance
30 - Sit-ups
15 - Pull-ups

After all four rounds, 5x12 Deadlifts

Some notes

If holding a handstand for 1:00 is too difficult, this can be done with your feet lightly touching a wall for balance (it's much easier that way). 

L-sits can be done on parallettes, on dumbbells, or just on the floor. To the right is a picture of a woman performing an L-sit, for those who haven't heard of it.

Horse-riding stance, or horse stance, is pretty common in lots of martial arts. It's pretty much just standing with your legs straddled as though riding a horse. It's a great stance for standing meditations, but is also good for developing leg strength and flexibility. I like performing various depths of horse stances, from very wide and deep with full knee bends to very relaxed with slight knee bends and feet separated at only about shoulder width. 

Beautiful performance of a deep horse stance
(from "10 Most Effective Butt Exercises to Shape Up Your Body" at Lifehack)
Sit-ups and pull-ups are staples for my workouts (along with pushups and squats). I like to incorporate them fairly often. To keep them fun, I like to add lots of variations. For sit-ups, I'll add twists at the top, punches at the top, one leg straight, one leg of the floor, both legs off the floor, add in a side-to-side bend on the way up or down (or both), and more. Anything to keep it fun. Pull-ups are the same. You can add various leg positions, use different hand positions and widths, add kipping motions in for some or all of them, or, if you like a challenge, you can do them very slow and add in pauses on the motions going up or down. There are lots of fun ways to modify pull-ups!

I'm adding in the deadlifts at the end for some strength movements, but since I have the horse stances in there and so much static body positioning, I'm going with 5 sets of 12 reps of a lower weight for deadlifts on this one. 

StrongLifts has a great article on performing a Deadlift

If you give this workout a try and you like it, let me know! 

Here's to fitness and getting that one-arm handstand this year!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nine Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About The 5th Element, from CineFix

Hey there cosmobiologists, film fans, geeks, nerds, space exploration enthusiasts, rebels, artists, and warriors! 

If you're like me, then you think The 5th Element is one fantastically awesome film. Sure, it's got it's problems (like the crappy fight choreography for Milla Jovovich or the fact that Ruby Rod doesn't get punched in the head the 100 times or more that he deserves), but it remains an a fun story and an enjoyable watch. I've seen the film so many times that I find it to be a fun background film to have on when I'm doing work that is at least semi-mindless.

I just came across this Youtube video from CineFix covering 9 things that you (probably) didn't know about The 5th Element. Fans of the film will most certainly find it worth the watch. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Goodbye, Alan Rickman.

The world woke this day, the 14th of January, to the news that Alan Rickman had passed away. The famed British actor and director who was known for his roles as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, and, maybe more than any other roll, as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series. Rickman had a voice and articulation that made him a perfect film villain. 

Film critic Jason Solomons has said, at the passing of Rickman, that, "He had this real gift for being sort of sneeringly, withering, if you like, in a kind of classic British villain sort of way. But he had a great warmth to him as well. He was a very intelligent actor, very keen on the prose and the words, but very keen on the poetry as well."

I absolutely loved Rickman's portrayal of The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. He gave the Sheriff a certain educated and yet malicious attitude that made us love and yet despise the character. The Sheriff was witty and not just a little daft, but he was also evil and selfish.

Perhaps a roll for which he will be best remembered is as Professor Severus Snape. Of the Harry Potter books and the character of Severus Snape, Rickman has said, "The writer in this case is such a consummate storyteller that you let her lead you whether she's given you all the information or not. Something in there leads you in the right direction. And the number of people who followed Snape's story as also [members] of a reading audience is also a testament to Rowling's skills, I think. And frankly, every time I put that costume on something weird took over. It's the only character, and I suppose by my own instance really, [that] never changed his costume over 10 years. Everybody else grew up or had different kinds of outfits. Never Snape, and you sort of got the feeling that's the only thing he's got hanging in his wardrobe."

As a fan, I can say that we, the audience, will miss Alan Rickman and will look back fondly on his body of work, the characters he brought to life and the stories that he gave strength with his unique voice and talents as an actor. Goodbye, Alan Rickman!


Here's a video from CineFix covering 7 things you might not have known about the film Die Hard, including the fact that Alan Rickman's surprised look when falling off the building at the end of the film was caused by him really being, well, surprised:

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie: Gone Now From Earth and Set Forever in Time

The interwebs have taken on a mournful and yet celebratory tone today. David Bowie's death on this day, the 10th of January, 2016 C.E., in some ways is just now bringing the life and music of Bowie back into the spotlight for some people, while for others of us his work and his impact on music, on fashion, and on art have jut been deepened as we look back at the ways in which he impacted our lives. 

Certainly, I heard David Bowie's songs when I was a child (I was born in 1983 and had an artist for a father, after all). However, my first memory of David Bowie, much as is the case for many people my age, was in his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the film Labyrinth (1986). Who could forget how an articulate David Bowie introduced us to stylized androgynism, fashionable and well-spoken villains, and child film stars in tights with bulges?! The Labyrinth song Magic Dance remains one of my favorite songs from a Henson film:

Of course, the life and music of David Bowie has become pop culture history. Those of us interested in space exploration have almost certainly heard Space Oddity. Hell, astronaut Chris Hadfield went as far as to create a music video and cover version featuring Hadfield playing Space Oddity from the International Space Station:

There are a lot of great articles passing about today to honor the best songs of Bowie's career. From The Man Who Sold the World, to Changes, Rebel Rebel, and even to Heroes, Bowie created music that most certainly would be on the soundtrack for the later half of the 20th century C.E. 

Generations come and go, each of us adding our own little bits to history through our music and art, our culture and our science, our technology and our social movements. David Bowie's music will most certainly live on long from this day at the passing of his life. I think it must be an honor to leave this world knowing that you have impacted the lives of so many others (hopefully in good ways). Cheers, David Bowie, and thanks!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

10 Star Wars Movie Mistakes You Missed - from Screen Rant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has brought the Star Wars Universe back into public awareness (especially since Disney has been throwing the Star Wars brand on just about everything). Surely, there will be plenty of dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of newest installment in Star Wars films for years to come, but for those of us who are still die hard fans of the original series (that's episodes 4, 5, and 6, naturally) we've pretty much figured out all there is to know with regard to those films. For instance, in the following video Screen Rant breaks down 10 of the lesser discussed mistakes in the original series films. How many of these did you already know about?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Swimming on the Milky Way Dream

The swath of dusty light from our own galaxy in the sky over Devils Tower (source unknown)

Sometime during the last week of October, 2015, someone out there in the realm of the interwebs was led to A Cosmobiologist's Dream after searching on Google for "swimming on the Milky Way dream". Googling that led them to my blog post, The Shark in the Milky Way, where I briefly described an old Hawaiian legend describing the formation of the Milky Way. 

According to that version of the story, during a quest to save his brother, a demigod named Ka-ulu takes the Chief of Sharks and throws him into the sky. The body of Chief of Sharks breaks into many pieces upon the sky and forms the Milky Way. This stems from the tradition of many Polynesian peoples of associating the Milky Way with sharks (many tales have sharks swimming through this band of white in the sky).

I love the search text that was used to find this post. "Swimming on the Milky Way Dream". That just sounds awesome. It reminds me of one of the titles I would have used for one of my poems that I wrote in my adolescence (back during a time when my writing was far more inspired by my heavy drug use). I wonder what led that person to do a search using that phrase. 

Were they thinking of a Polynesian myth that involved sharks swimming in the Milky Way? If so, then I hope A Cosmobiologist's Dream served that purpose. If not, then I at least hope they enjoyed my writing. But what else, then, could they have been searching for?

Had they been trying to find a story where someone or something is swimming through the Milky Way in our night's sky? Maybe they wanted to learn more about Cygnus the Swan, one of the Ptolemaic constellations, who's wings are spread wide and could be thought of as skimming along the band of the Milky Way:

Cygnus the Swan, skirting along the Milky Way in our night's sky (by Bob Moler)

Or maybe this reader had been searching for cases of pareidolia (when we see patterns or figures that don't really exist in an image) where we might imagine swimming animals in our night's sky. For instance, Yurii Pidopryhora shared an image a few years ago of a hydrogen cloud which looks rather like a dolphin. Though it was "swimming" in the galactic halo and not in the band of the Milky Way, Phil Plait wrote a blog post about it called "Swimming Up the Milky Way".

Do you see a dolphin in this image? (source: Yurii Pidopryhora, ASTRON Daily Image)

However, I'd like to think that the reader had been searching for something related to a dream. Maybe they woke in the middle of the night from a dream of their own where they had been swimming through the Milky Way in the sky. Or maybe the dream had involved their body, in gigantic proportions, swimming across the entire disk of the galaxy, as though it were one humongous swimming pool of stars. Maybe they wondered why they had dreamt of swimming through the galaxy. Would such a dream mean that they had aspirations of traveling to new realms? Or maybe it would just be their mind's wanderings at what could be possible outside our realm of what is probable. 

I like thinking about "swimming on the Milk Way dream" in this way. The heavens above have long made us wonder and dream. The stars and the Milky Way in our sky inspire us to wonder what more is possible, for our own lives and for the cosmos. What would you think if you'd had a dream of swimming on the Milky Way?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Do well, mostly

I think each of us should, in our own way, try to be the best people we can be at all times, but we should also find comfort in knowing that we can't be perfect and sometimes we won't be the best. For this first week of 2016, I hope we can start the year off right by trying to do our best while not getting carried away with it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016: Full Fitness Ahead!

This is me on January 1st, 2016. Lots of work ahead for my fitness this year!

It's now the 2,016th year of the Common Era! I've been feeling fairly fit these days, but I still have a lot of goals for improving my fitness in the coming year. The picture I posted above is me in our living room (also, our home gym!) on the 1st day of 2016. By the end of this year, I intend to lose a little body fat, eat more meat-free meals, get back to intermittent fasting, work on my muscular control to perform body weight exercises and transitional movements more gracefully, and I want to improve my flexibility and muscle tone. That could sound like a lot, but those overall goals should be pretty easy to attain.

2015 was a pretty huge year for me. I realized a lot of things about myself in the past year. For one of those things, I found that when I place my fitness as a top priority in my life I have greater control over my emotions and greater control over my productivity at work and at home (not to mention better sleep, better sex, and more pleasure in life). I've written some posts lately about my workout routines, including a recent one I created called Splosion, but now I thought I'd share some ideas of what my girlfriend and I have in store for our workouts in the coming year.

For starters, we're going to continue our home workouts in the mornings. We like to have our workouts early, before we go to work. It's nice to get it out of the way early, before anything can pop-up and steal our time in the afternoons or evenings. 

We've lately been programming our days so that we have a mix of workouts from home workout videos (like Les Mills Combat and P90X3), some workouts from Crossfit, as well as lots of workouts that we put together to include the equipment we have as well as the exercises we enjoy. Lots of our workouts will include dynamic stretching and foam rolling, one or two heavy lifts at low reps, and then lots of body weight exercises or high-rep sets of exercises using light dumbbells, barbells, and/or kettlebells. 

The workouts from Les Mills Combat are some of the best
cardio kickboxing workouts I've ever done.

The workouts that we program for ourselves tend to include lots of the basic body weight exercises (like pullups, pushups, situps, and squats), but we like to do lots of variations of those basic movements as well. Sometimes we'll do sets of high reps of one or two movements mixed with sets of low reps of others or we might do pyramid sets. There's no end to the types of workouts one can program (while still having lots of fun putting it all together as well!).

One of our favorite ways to add in some metabolic conditioning at the end of our workouts is to add in 4-12 minutes of Tabata training. The Tabata approach, using 20 seconds sets of action and 10 seconds of rest in between (though those times can also be varied), is a lot of fun and definitely works up a great sweat. If you haven't tried a Tabata workout before, you really should. It's a blast!

Kettlebells are awesome for Tabata workouts!

We're also planning on adding some more gym exercise to our routines this year. Our home gym is limited in how much weight we can use. I love bench pressing and deadlifting heavy weights, so we have to head to the gym for those lifts. Also, our gym has indoor rowing machines and heavy bags, both of which are some of our favorite tools for workouts. However, our gym also has a pool and we both need to work on our swimming this year. 

On top of hitting the workouts at home and at the gym, I want to transform my approach to exercise this year some more as well. I need more functional movements in my workouts and more of a focus on mobility exercises. I want to start aiming toward an approach for fitness that will make me feel strong now but which will allow me to maintain my fitness even as I get older.

For instance, GMB Fitness offers some workout programs and lots of articles and videos to help build better functional movement. I've found the information they have to share to be completely worthwhile and I highly recommend checking out their website. Also, I've recently discovered the work of Mike Fitch, who created the Animal Flow workout. We're looking forward to trying out some more of these movements and routines that GMB Fitness and Mike Fitch have put together to build better functional movement. For instance, here's a sweet video showing Mike Fitch performing some of his Animal Flow routines:

This blog post is pretty much just me laying out some general ideas of where we are right now in our fitness and where we want to go. We both have specific goals for the year though. For instance, here are three of my specific fitness goals for 2016:

- Perform relatively easy sets of 20 strict pullups

- Make smooth transitions from crow pose to handstand and single-arm handstand positions

- Perform a single set of 100 clap pushups

That's enough about what I have in store for 2016. What are your fitness goals this year? Do you have general goals for how you want to feel or what you want to be able to do? Do you have any specific goals for your fitness in 2016?