“It is a failing of human nature to detest anything that young people do just because older people are not used to it or have trouble learning it.  So I am wary of the ‘young people suck’ school of social criticism”

– Stephen Pinker

Things to know when taking up powerlifting

  1. It’s hard physically.

Lifting heavy things off the ground is really hard. Especially when you get up to multiples of your bodyweight. Especially when you have to train first thing in the morning. It grinds you down and wears you out and makes you ache most of the time. Powerlifting will find every physical weakness you have and explain it to you in exquisite detail.


  1. It’s hard mentally.

I have been close to tears at the end of a heavy set of squats. The only thing harder was going back to do another set. Once you get reasonably strong, every training weight is enough to cause you permanent damage if you screw it up, and your body knows it. Finding the grit to go back and do it again and again can be impossibly difficult some days, especially when you’re underslept/underfed/stressed/cranky/over it.


  1. Eating a lot of food is hard.

You scoff now, but training only takes three hours a week.  Eating takes about three hours per day. Past a certain point of strength it takes an unholy amount of food to support further improvement. Shifting the weight on the scale upwards usually takes serious, concerted effort, especially for more lightly-built lifters. Eating is work and it stops being fun.


  1. You will never be as good as you were in the first few months.

There is a thing called the novice progression.  Basically it means that for the first 3-6 months of your serious lifting life you will gain strength very rapidly, possibly doubling or tripling it. This is exhilarating – one month you’re squatting the empty bar and a couple of months later you’re squatting 150% of your bodyweight.

And then it stops.  You spend the remainder of your career trying to push your weights upwards by a few kilos. And those few kilos are really hard work and rely on you getting the rest of your eating/sleeping schedule worked out. You will never regain that feeling of rapidly increasing competence.


  1. It’s ugly to look at.

Have you even seen a good powerlifter? Most of them are really fat, those that aren’t tend to be ugly.  The movements themselves look ugly and uncomfortable and tend to make the lifter look like they’re about to either have a stroke or shit themselves. Ugh.


  1. You will need a high tolerance for boredom.

There are only three lifts in powerlifting and they’re not too technically difficult. As a result, there’s not a lot of variety in training. There may be some assistance work that resembles what the bodybuilders do in the gym, but powerlifters will always squat, bench press or deadlift as the main training. You need to be ok with this.


  1. It brings a new set of social norms with it.

Once you’ve been seriously lifting for a while you’ll start to form opinions about other styles of lifting which you never would have considered in the past.  Powerlifters think bodybuilders are vain and look ridiculous. Bodybuilders think powerlifters are fat brutes. Olympic lifters think their style of lifting is magical and superior. Everyone hates Crossfit except the Crossfit people who LOVE it.

You will take on one or more of these views and be ok with it.




  1. Dieting is a thing of the past.
  2. You can’t beat the sense of achievement from a deadlift PR.
  3. Who wants to live an ordinary life anyway?


“German anti-vaccination campaigner and HIV/AIDS denialist[88] Stefan Lanka posed a challenge on his website in 2011, offering a sum of €100,000 for anyone who could scientifically prove that measles is caused by a virus and determine the diameter of the virus.[89] He posits that the illness is psychosomatic and that the measles virus does not exist. When provided with overwhelming scientific evidence from various medical studies by German physician David Barden, Lanka did not accept the findings, forcing Barden to appeal in court. The legal case ended with the ruling that Lanka was to pay the prize.”

Subjective immortality

The morsel: Doing anything new provides the subjective experience of slowing down time.

The source: David Eagleman, neuroscientist. He has many things to commend him:

  1. Excellent name
  2. Researcher in all things brain, especially my pet topic of synaesthesia.
  3. Fiction writer as well as a science educator.
  4. TED speaker
  5. Did I mention he has a great name?

The support: Have you ever noticed that time seems to pass more slowly when travelling? Of course when you get home it feels like time has flown, but my subjective experience of travel has always been that the days are incredibly long and stimulating, especially if I’m somewhere very foreign to me. My theory always was that this was because of the number of non-automatic decisions that have to be made while travelling, but David Eagleman’s theory seems even more accurate. A day overseas feels like a week at work.  A month overseas feels like half a year.

The implication: Do as many novel things as you possibly can and you may (may) live forever.

12 Monkeys

I rewatched the Terry Gilliam-directed “12 Monkeys” the other day, which I remember seeing in the cinema when it first came out in 1996 or thereabouts. Then, as now, I was a sci-fi nerd and I remember watching it chiefly for the fantastical elements – time travel, alternative futures, biological disaster, etc. Now, with the benefit of a decade of healthcare experience, I can see what a clever film about mental illness it is.  It’s all there – the secret knowledge, important missions, random experiences which hold great importance. As usual in these kind of settings the hero is a Cassandra and is punished and ridiculed for it by the other characters.  However I never got the feeling that Gilliam is unsympathetic toward the mentally ill, while also not veering too far in the direction of the “mental illness as social construct” crowd.

Bruce Willis’ work is impressive – his sheer physicality is startling, even though I feel he’s often been under-appreciated by being cast chiefly in taciturn tough-guy roles.  Brad Pitt is excellent too and hugely entertaining, another actor who is under appreciated (ironically because he is very pretty). The film has dated, but only in reasonable areas such people’s clothing.  The incidental music is pretty terrible though, apart from the spooky theme music.

There are a number of very 90s concerns running through the film – vivisection, corporate culture and and global apocalypse by virus, the last of which which seems a little antiquated since we’ve had a few real threats since then (bird flu, ebola). But these things go in and out of fashion.  Recently we’ve been worried about economic meltdown and global warming. Perhaps machine intelligence is next. Or maybe it’s one of the seemingly meaningless diversions which add up to something hugely important, seen backwards.

Stick figure families

I’ve been trying to work out why those stick figure families that people plaster on their car’s rear window shit me so much.  It’s not that I don’t care about their family – I mean, I don’t, but that’s not what’s annoying me.  I think it’s that they’re all so one dimensional and limited.
There are only a handful of choices.  As a man you can have glasses and a laptop or some dumbbells, or a barbeque.  A woman can have glasses and a laptop (again), some shopping bags or a small dog.  Kids are pretty much limited to sports equipment or pets.
That’s it.  Who on earth would feel happy about displaying their monochrome selves in this way?  Even the world’s most boring Neville has more than one string to his bow – maybe he likes doing tax returns while wearing glasses, BUT ALSO likes lifting weights.  Or shopping.  Or macramé.
If you had the choice of advertising yourself to the world via your back windscreen, WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU TELL PEOPLE HOW MUCH YOU LIKE SHOPPING? Why would you use your back windscreen at all?