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  1. I'm trying something different this time and having some fun with a themed challenge. I'm really excited about finally rolling this one out. Before we begin, though, a few things to get out of the way. You can skip straight to the challenge if you'd like: Without further ado, let's begin: While conducting research in the university library, Wolfen uncovered a letter, yellowed with age but pressed and preserved in the pages of Man Makes Himself by Gordon Childe. Wolfen's eyes widened as he read the header at the top: Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr. Barnette College Hamilton Hall Grove Avenue Fairfield, NY The letter was dated May 13, 1960 Surely this was a joke, or some fake letter forged by a creative university student. Regardless, Wolfen read on. To Whom it May Concern: If you're discovering this letter in the pages of the book in which I left it, your curiosities might be exactly what I need. With the help of some colleagues who will remain anonymous for reasons you may come to learn later, I have uncovered a secret war going on in our world of which only a few are aware. A group of scientists has discovered the existence of exotic matter (henceforth abbreviated XM). XM is a very powerful energy whose origin and potential are still in question, but it is believed it has existed for centuries. There are stories of Roman soothsayers who encouraged the construction of important buildings upon sites they claimed were "charmed" with mysterious energy. Indeed, mysterious and "magical" portals that channel XM from an unknown location have been discovered near iconic and influential locations whose history and origins are also shrouded in mystery, the types of places my colleagues and I frequent as researchers (temples, monuments, places of worship, etc.). Scientists are allegedly researching ways to capture and harness the energy of these portals. Unfortunately, because of an accident in which members of the research team were exposed to XM, the secret of XM has not remained a secret. I'm not certain how, but word of this mysterious and potentially dangerous powerful energy has reached people with greater influence than you or me, people whose names you would probably recognize but which I will not reprint here for security reasons. You may be wondering what this has to do with you. Because you are even aware of the existence of this book, it is clear you are an intelligent and open-minded person. Wolfen tightened his lips. He had just pulled the book of the shelf because the title caught his attention. He read on: In the time since word has spread of XM, two groups have formed with the goal of capturing and harnessing this energy. The first faction, known as The Enlightened, is an elite group of very powerful people who believe XM is the secret to the evolution and progress of mankind. The Enlightened wish to take control of XM and harness its powers to take humankind to the next level (whatever that means). The details of how and what that would entail are still shady, which is why it is so concerning. In addition, several known members of The Enlightened have a reputation for taking and abusing power and their intent may be the same for XM. The second faction is The Resistance. Their intent is to capture XM in order to keep it out of the hands of The Enlightened because they fear the power of XM would be used to manipulate and control all of humanity. Like many "resistance" movements, however, this faction doesn't seem to have as much influence as The Enlightened (both financially and culturally) but this may change over time. In addition, Resistance members tend to be wreckless in their endeavor to keep XM out of the hands of The Enlightened. As an archaeologist, I can attest to the presence of "energies" at many of the sites I have visited. This is why I have fought to obtain and protect treasures that are located at these sites. Unfortunately, at my age I may not be able to protect these sites much longer, unless I can recruit some new explorers willing to research portal locations in their area and travel to these "portals". I won't tell you which faction you should join (but anyone who knows my reputation could probably guess which I prefer) because you have a will of your own, and I don't have the resources to force you to choose. In fact, you might not have even finished this letter. If you're still reading, though, I am grateful. I encourage you to do a few things before you begin: Do some research: read up on everything you can about "Ingress," including the two factions I mentioned; there may be information about possible portals in your area. If you uncover the location of nearby portals, research these sites, as well and visit them. My hope is that by the time you find this letter, researchers have come up with a way to extract and store the XM quickly and efficiently. Research this, as well. You guessed it: I need you to explore these sites and extract as much XM as you can. But be cautious and aware of your surroundings. This could be dangerous since there are others who also want XM for their own purposes. See if you can ascertain why or how the places you visit are capable of drawing XM; is there some history behind the place or object that makes it "worthy" of such energy? I don't know what kind of shape you are in at the moment, but true explorers need to be fit for a lot of physically demanding activities: hiking, climbing, crawling, fighting, running, and lots of walking. So much walking. And you need to have a keen eye to both find what you're looking for and to make sure you aren't being followed. I will let you "work out" the details based on your own physical needs. If you're still with me, I know you are exactly what I need. Don't write back because I would rather not know who you are. Good Luck, Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr. Wolfen immediately left the campus library and straight to a private place on campus to start his research. A search for "Ingress" uncovered an app designed by Niantic Labs, a "game" in which "players" join a faction, seek and capture portals and extract XM. It couldn't be a coincidence that this app seemed to match nearly everything the letter described. More research uncovered information about XM, the Niantic project, each faction, and much more. Wolfen also discovered that there were several portals nearby, some glowing white, some blue, and some green and fields of bright "energy" of either blue or green passing between portals. He couldn't resist. Wolfen downloaded the app to his phone. Based on what his heart and head were saying, he joined The Resistance. His adventure was just beginning. Goals: Explore: walk at least 12,000 steps/day M-F. Get Fit: continue the #100for100 challenge: at least 100 bodyweight movements per day 3 sets 3 days/week that includes the following: Avoid traps: 15 hi-steps Sword-fight: 15 side-to-side arm swings Duck-and-dive: 5 burpees Fist-fight: vary jabs, punches, hooks, and uppercuts (Boxtastic app?) Explore caves: low crawl for 10 "steps". Climb cliffs: 5 pullups Run: continue running schedule, but include 3x100 yard sprints at least 2 days/week Research: continue research for school (first priority) look up information on various portal locations before exploring them. The purpose of this challenge is to become more connected to "place" using an app that both encourages you to walk and explore more and calls your attention to places you might otherwise have just passed by or glanced at without thinking. Therefore, when you visit these "portals" really look at them, study them, all while being mindful of what you learned from your research. Document these findings. Read at least one article/week from National Geographic or similar publication Read at least one book-length work of history/archeology/anthropology (i.e. something Indiana Jones might read). Historical fiction is acceptable, as long as it is rooted in truth.
  2. I've always both identified with and cringed at Robert Downey Junior's portrayal of Iron Man. The guy obviously has issues with his parents, foods, and alcohol ... issues that he hasn't dealt with because he generally doesn't need to do so most of the time -- but that come back to bite him in the ass repeatedly during the Iron Man and Avengers series. I can relate. For years, I was able to ignore the poor food choice messages and habits I'd gotten from my family of origin, but I recently realized that the past has been dragging me down slowly and inexorably for the past 15 years. I've gone from thinking I'm really in charge of my life and on top of the world... ... to realizing that I need to dial up some major changes and address issues directly before I can make real progress. In my life, the missile has the name of my family of origin on it too. So, this challenge, I'm following the lead of Tony Stark and making some major direction changes in how I approach fitness. First off - I'm going to really focus on changing my eating habits from the ground up. I've been putting bandaids on with minor tweaks. Time to rip off the bandaids and dig into why and when I over eat. I'm going to read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D. and dig into why I eat the way I do .... and make changes. But these changes will be different. No restrictions on what, how much, or when I eat. Just paying attention to the hunger signals .... and the ton of "messages" that play in my head from my parents and society about food. I'll try to approach this with the famous Iron Man sense of humor. Second, I'm going to keep an anti-log log about what, when, and why I eat. And how I feel. And what I think about food choices. Yea, I know, logging when I'm doing intuitive eating is kinda breaking the rules. But that's so very like Stark .... And for something really different, I will spend a challenge NOT RUNNING. Seriously, can you imagine Tony Stark running??? In truth, after I get done with the Zombies, Run! virtual race, I need to take a break. Plantar fasciitis is flaring up, and I'm in a mental place where I'm not enjoying running, especially on a treadmill. It's been a long, wet, icy winter, and I'm just ready to do other things, like biking or PiYo or whatever looks fun. 6 days per week. And then, don't faint, I'm increasing strength training to 4 times per week. I've got my kettlebells in the basement and a workout plan for them. And if I want to go to the YMCA, I have two different workouts I can do there. The idea is that I can increase muscle mass while I unscrew my head. If I'm eating a bit more, it has a purpose in a dirty gain. Finally, it is time to SUIT UP!! I've been drifting, work-wise, for a few years, and my wardrobe is ...... patchy. I have come up with a list of items to fill in gaps so that I am professorial on the days that I am in the classroom (MWF) and business casual (jeans) during office days. And .... I'm only sorta keeping score this time. I have a checklist just because it is a way to remember what I planned to do for self-care. But if I am still typing and logging as of the last day of the challenge, I get a new tech toy. Sorry, Pepper. I will get an Aria 2 scale - mostly because I do want to record progress but I am terrible about remembering to log the numbers before I've had my first two cups of coffee. For week 0 Objectives: purchase Intuitive Eating & prepare new affirmations. I requested the book from the library, in the spirit of not buying more things that I need to store or move, but it looks like it is popular and will probably not arrive. So, I'm a gonna order one this week.
  3. The base goal for the year remains to lose weight!!! Goal weight is still 146 pounds by the end of 2016. During March, I pretty much maintained on my plateau. I don't like it up there, and I want to come down and play with all the rest of the nerds. Process goals: 1) Reduce Net Calorie Intake by 10% The good news is that I tracked my calorie intake pretty well in March. It hurt sometimes to record a monster caramel roll at 800 calories (!) or a big bowl of Kemps premium chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. But I've established my actual maintenance calorie intake rather than a calculated estimate: 1538 net calories average per day. So .... new target calorie goal (net) for the April challenge is ...... 1384 calories. That's going to take some work and discipline!!! So ..... 2) Increase Movement by 10% My FitBit is my friend. I probably need to develop more friendships and get out a lot more, but this device is a constant data gathering wonder that tells me that I'm not very consistent in my daily activity. In March, my average step count has fallen to 9K. In April, I'm increasing my goal to a daily 10K. I should be able to fit in walking around campus and stair climbing, but I will also work at programmed fitness activities (running and weight lifting), which the FitBit tracks pretty well. 3) Weekend Food Preparation Saturday or Sunday needs to be cook-ahead day so that I have healthy lunches in easy reach at the office. This builds on the February Bento Baby challenge and incorporates Staci's article on meal prep. This makes it easier to avoid fries and chips and goopy mayonnaise-laden sandwiches .... plus, it also usually lets me get out for that noon walk ....... 4) Training Never Stops (Flexible Discipline) No, flexible discipline isn't some new sadistic type of yoga. It means that I will commit to working out every day, but that I will have a variety of workouts from which to choose. I'll set them up and then select from options based on how I feel, the weather, and Mr. Wizard's desire (or lack thereof) to participate. AND ..... I will be soliciting votes from the audience as I continue to write my RP story. A little randomness keeps it interesting. Finally ..... 5) Advance Planning for Missions!!! Sunday is a day to clean up and get ready for the coming week. I may not be able to do all 21 of the Easy Things to Do On Sunday That Will Make Monday Suck Less, but I will do as many as I can. Grading .... Well, I track calories on LoseIt and steps on FitBit, but I'll put a summary up in Google docs, unless we get progress bars working again. And, I'm going to averages really, rather than try to be perfect every day. If I can hold calories and steps to a good average each week, I'll count that as a major win!!!
  4. Welcome, welcome!!!!! Draw up a chair and sit here by the fire while the assembled company prepares its boasts and plans for the coming month!!! I have no doubt that many brave deeds are being contemplated right now. At month's end, many a glorious tale will be told. And more than a few heroes will find themselves back here to nurse wounds and plan anew. I myself am taking a month's leisure to strum a merry tune of an evening and prepare for a long journey, waiting only for the easing of the winter cold before I am bound for the East, to see new lands and seek treasures I've only known of in tales. No one knows for sure what we will encounter on the way; so I need to prepare quite a number of things: 1) Healing Potions and Bandages I seem to catch minor illnesses with some frequency, which interferes with strenuous activity and training. There is a great deal of opinions about what remedies and preparations will prevent one from becoming ill ... or in speeding recovery. I plan to spend time each day reading at the great library and consulting with the local alchemists about the most effective items to take now and to bring with me on the adventure to come. I am a bit frustrated with my frequency of catching the "crud" and plan to do some research into effective ways to improve immunity, adopting tactics that have support of research. Some are obvious ... like getting good sleep and drinking plenty of water. But even a quick look at Harvard Health shows me that there are some stones I've left unturned. If I'm not feeling good, I often don't workout .... or I take it easy ..... so it takes longer to reach goals. I'm going to find ways to stay on task and working hard longer. 2) Food Well, food. A traveler may find places to eat along the road, but the quality of the victuals is often ...... questionable. And one might be better served by eating an apple and greens rather than fried porridge. I am preparing foods to bring with me so that I do not need to rely upon fast food served by the MacDonalds or other similar families. Their pubs may look inviting, but I've heard tales about their chicken nuggets that would curl your toes. I've had two interviews for a job in the Twin Cities at the University. Yea, that doesn't mean that I'll get it, but I started thinking about logistics and remembering that LUNCHES are often a real challenge. And that dinner can also mean that we go out because we're both tired and not interested in cooking. So, I'm going to get back into the habit of cooking ahead and preparing Bento Box lunches for each week day. Even if I'm working on projects on my own time table, this is not a bad thing to do, and it's more interesting than popping a frozen burrito in the microwave to be swilled down with warmed up coffee. 3) Gear I've been gathering up traveling clothes for a few weeks. I've garnered a nice, warm cloak and sturdy hiking boots, suitable for the cold. But I still need a few changes of shirts and trousers. And my time-keeping device has entirely lost the band that keeps it on my wrist. I need to dig through my packs and figure out what I will need for the trip, but I am sure many of my adventuring supplies are worn out or missing. I've been too long sitting by my fire, strumming a tune on this guitar. It is time for an adventure!!! I let my winter gear wear out and not be replaced. I got a few things for Christmas (parka and boots), but I still need more base layer items and a replacement for my FitBit, especially since for goal #5, I need to be prepared for what February in Minnesota can dish out. It can be damn cold (-30F) or very snowy, depending upon the year. 4) Spells No bard would take to the road .... nor no ranger either ..... without having essential spells memorized. It's a dangerous world out there, and one never knows if charm or a wolf will be needed to smooth the way. I am going to finish my personal trainer certification book by the end of February. I won't be able to take the test until April, which will let me work on memorization, but I want to learn the material and put it to work in my own life. 5) .... and I shall spend fair days in scouting the way ahead, as much as the snows permit, of course. It's best to know the lay of the land .... and start to get toughened up for the long walk. I'll gradually go out further each day to stretch my legs and get used to traveling in the cold again. One thing that helps keep me healthy is getting outside to exercise DAILY. Even if it is just a 30 minute walk, the fresh air really does seem to help. This can be a challenge!!!! And the gear for a February afternoon stroll can weigh more than 10 pounds .... so I'll get a leg up on prepping for a Go Ruck or OCR.
  5. Ok ..... during the previous challenge, this happened ...... Not literally, thank God, although I have been tossed off a horse a time or two. No, this time, it was purely figurative. I thought I had a handle on plans for moving and my daughter's wedding all while taking care of my nutrition and exercise .... but my Mom's health threw it all into a cocked hat. One wedding and one funeral later, I have managed not to gain weight and looked pretty darn good at the wedding (and not awful at the funeral), but the weeks of eating simple carbs - brought over by well-meaning friends, family, and neighbors - left me feeling like crap. Tired and out-of-sorts, it is time to get back on the wagon, even if it is only for a couple of weeks. So, it is time for a MINI-challenge ..... #1 - Stick to LoseIt.com calorie limit (+1 CON) I restarted a new plan on LoseIt.com to lose the next 40 pounds over about 18 months. By then, my daughter will be graduating from grad school. #2 - Get back into strength training (+1 STR) I unpacked my Simple and Sinister book .... and I have moved closer to a branch of Anytime Fitness. Time to get back into strength training. One thing I learned from watching my Mom's decline: build up muscles NOW!! #3 - Take time for self-care (+1 WIS) Get in at least one massageHit my 11K step goal daily#4 - Sign up for Yoga Class (+1 DEX) Heartwork Yoga downtown looks like they have some good classes and events to help me unkink. #5 - Become a better Ingress Agent (+1 CHA) Level up to Level 9 ... which is a big step, but it should be feasible if I just keep playing each day.
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