Be Smarter

It is a common misconception that education is expensive.  Yes, accredited information that gives you a shinny diploma can be rather pricey, but there is a wealth of information available at absolutely no cost.

First off, there is this newfangled thing called a library.  They are pretty much everywhere, and even if you for some reason cannot acquire a library card (like if you live in an unincorporated area), you can still visit libraries and use the books and computers while there.  I basically lived at the library when I was a kid growing up.  I read constantly, and it was the only way I could access the internet before we had it at home (yes…there was a time in my life when internet was not in my home let alone my back pocket).

If you do have internet in your back pocket though (or just at home), there are plenty of online resources as well.

Open Course Links
Open Course…otherwise known as free college classes online, often from Universities like Harvard, Yale, and Oxford…yeah, the big boys.

Other Websites

  • Code Academy – You can learn just about any computer language on this site.
  • DuoLingo – Want to learn a foreign language but cannot afford the big expensive programs like Rosetta Stone?  Look no further.  You can even get competitive with friends to help motivate you.
  • Language Zen – Let’s you explore interests in a language and recommends songs with words you have learned.  So far it is only available in Spanish, but they are supposed to be working on other languages.
  • Daily Grammar – Contains 440 lessons and 88 quizzes, you can sign up for daily e-mails, or gust browse the site.
  • Pindex – Like Pinterest, but without the hairstyles, decorating tips, and other extraneous posts.  Pindex is a pinning site dedicated to learning.  I am just now starting to use it myself, so I cannot say much more.
  • Documentary Heaven – A website filled with documentaries of various topics.

YouTube Channels 

  • Mental Floss – A channel full of random information.  Not always useful, but always interesting.
  • Sci Show – A channel dedicated to all things science.
  • Sci Show Space – A channel dedicated to all things space.
  • Sci Show Psych – A channel dedicated to all things psychology.
  • Crash Course – Crash course has several different course topics that give quick summaries of information.  Be ready to hit the rewind button a few times if you really want to absorb it all.  I even take notes.
  • Laci Green – Lots of straightforward information about sex and all things related.

Google “Like a Boss”
Google becomes much more effective if you know how to use it.
google-like-a-boss

Google Scholar – If you want only results from scholarly journals and whatnot.

Facebook (and all Social Media) FACT CHECK
Let’s be honest, we get a LOT of our information through social media now-a-days, but that does not mean it is all true.  Fact check, do the research, do not take things at face value.  Same with Wikipedia.  ANYONE can edit a Wikipedia page.  I find Wikipedia a fantastic starting point, but I am going to be citing the sources, not Wikipedia itself.

 

Ahsoka and Me

The below does reference the new book, but does not really spoil anything.  Either way, you have been warned.

******

When we were first introduced to the character of Ahsoka Tano, I did not like her much.  Anakin’s nickname for her was well earned, and I found her grating on my nerves.  As her character developed however, she grew on me, so when a book focusing on her was slated to release the month of my birthday, I knew I was going to be buying myself an early birthday present.  I had barely cracked open the binding when I read the following:

“By walking away from the Temple, from the Jedi, she had given up her right to the Force–or at least that’s what she told herself sometimes.  She knew it was a lie.  The Force was always going to be a part of her, whether she was trained or not, the way it was part of everything.  She couldn’t remove the parts of her that were sensitive to it any more than she could breathe on the wrong side of an airlock.  Her authority was gone; her power remained.” ~ Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, p.26

I realized that Ahsoka and I are very much alike.  We both left our versions of the Jedi Order because we did not like what we were seeing, and this paragraph rang true with me in regards to how I feel about where I stand now.  True, her Jedi are, to her knowledge, all dead and mine are just….continuously disappointing, but we each walked away with disappointment, and we both struggle with that decision.  She should have been there, she later thinks, to help fight back and defend.  I should have been there, I often think, to help steer things in a better direction.

Be Stronger

Once your body is healthier, you can really focus on making it stronger, and it will be much more effective.

Flexibility/Balance

Yoga – The most obvious choice, and the most widely available.  Throw a stone and you will likely hit a Yoga school.  Colleges have them, community centers have them, fitness centers have them, hell, even my mothers work has a class now.

Pilates – Less zen than Yoga, but very effective.

Dance – It can be difficult to find adult dance classes, but they are out there.  Ballet is the best for overall form and flexibility, but there are so many other options.  I have been dancing since I was six, and done almost every form out there.

Also, martial arts has varying degrees of focus on flexibility and balance, some styles are very acrobatic, so you could kill two birds with one stone and find a style that works this area as well.

Flexibility Apps:
Daily Yoga App – Android | iOS

 

Basic Strength Training/Gyms

If you live in an apartment, you might be lucky enough to have a quality fitness center at your disposal for no extra cost.  The alternative, if you can afford it, is a gym membership.  There are several to choose from, and most offer a trial period for you to try them out to see how they suit you.  Here is just a sampling.
Equinox – Offers one day trial.
Lifetime – Offers one day trial.
X-Sport Fitness – Offers seven day trial.
24 Hour Fitness – Offers seven day trial.
LA Fitness – Offers three day trial.
Crunch – Offers one day trial.
YMCA – Guest passes vary by location.
Best Fitness – East Coast chain, offers fourteen day trial.
Gold’s Gym – Offers seven day trial.

Of course there is also the option of setting up your own home gym.  Things you might need:

  • Free Weights – These can be expensive, so I recommend starting with a relatively low weight for you and purchasing higher weights as you gain strength.
  • Resistance Bands – A variety of strengths.
  • Yoga Mat
  • Pull-Up Bar – Even if you cannot to pull-ups yet, you can attach a resistance band and do pull-downs.

Strength Apps:
30 Day ___ – There are several of these out there over both platforms, I personally have squats and planks downloaded.  Complete a daily challenge and mark it done after.

 

Cardio

Swimming – If you are lucky enough to have a pool at your disposal, I highly recommend swimming.  It is great cardio, and low impact, but have a healthy snack planned for afterwards because it makes you HUNGRY.  I used to take swimming class in college, and I felt so bad because I would always show up late for my next class (Italian), with a bag full of food.  Still, my professor understood.

Running – Higher impact, but super effective. You can find several follow along programs, and you can run indoors on a treadmill (if available) or outside.  If you are going the running route, I also highly recommend working towards a race to give yourself a goal.  Some that I recommend:

There are also obstacle course races/mud runs.  These are less focused on time (unless you are hard core and trying to meet a time) and more on total fitness.

  • Warrior Dash – 5K race, I did this one in June, 2016.
  • Spartan – I have not done this yet, but Opie has, and I have been planning to one day.
  • OCR Finder – Interactive Map of OCR/Mud Runs

Combat/Martial Arts
I personally feel that it is important for everyone, especially Jedi, to at the very least, know how to defend themselves.  Even if you are not much of a fighter, you might not have the choice in certain circumstances and better to know how if necessary.  Plus, there are several styles that focus more on the spiritual side than the combat, you just have to find one.

You do not need to take Martial Arts for very long to get the basics down, and most schools will have you sign a contract for year, so you could take one year, get a good grasp of basics, and decide later whether you want to continue on with it or not.  There are SO many forms that it is impossible to give suggestions.  The best advise I can give, is to do the research, find a short list of styles that appeal to you, and then see what is available in your area (trust me, it can be difficult to find some styles).  Find a few school possibilities and then go check them out.  Many places will let you observe a class, some might even let you try one out.  Find a school that values learning the style over just testing for rank.

You might start with one style and find it is not for you, but you still want to learn more, try another form.  I have taken Capoeira, Karate, and MMA.  I would consider going back to any of these, but I would also love to try new styles as well.  Recently I was turned on to Bagua, but there are no good Bagua schools where I currently live.  Do your research.

 

At Home Programs
If you can afford one of the video programs, they can be beneficial.  Most of these work cardio, strength, and flexibility.
P90X – There are a few versions out there now, there are a mixture of videos that you do according to their schedule for a total of 90 days.  I have all of them, have done the first one twice.
10-Minute Trainer – By Tony Horton (P90X), ten minute videos of very intense workouts.  If you only have 10 minutes here and there, these will really go a long way.  I have these, they hurt.
Insanity – I cannot do this program because of a limitation of my own, but those who have swear by it.  From what I understand, the title is truth.
Zumba – The Zumba craze.  Fun, dance themed workouts.  You can also find classes just about anywhere, AND video games.
Hip Hop Abs – Shaun T (Insanity) dance themed program.  Very basic moves.
Cize – Another Shaun T Program, more focused on choreography than Hip Hop Abs.  Sort of an advanced HHA.
Windsor Pilates – Pilates Program.
Tone It Up – They have several videos out now, usually filmed at the beach, but these are tough workouts.

Links
Tone It Up – I mentioned this in the previous post.  Again, geared towards women (but nonetheless effective).  They have a few DVD’s out, but have a whole series of video workouts available free online, and are often featured in Self Magazine.

YouTube Chanel
Tone It Up – Like the above link, here is their YouTube channel.

General Fitness Apps
S Health – Samsung specific General Health App.
Apple Health – Apple specific General Health App.
Google Fit – Android General Health App.
A HIIT Interval Timer – There are many out there, try out a few, find one you like.
Everymove – Track activity, earn rewards. Android | iOS
Fitocracy – General fitness.  Free workouts, or pay for coaching.  Android | iOS
Daily Endorphin – Group fitness challenges. Android | iOS

Be Healthier

Health.  The internal condition of your body.  The most important thing to your daily functions and, unfortunately, the most commonly overlooked.  Do you want to lose weight?  You need to eat healthier.  Do you want more energy?  Try eating healthier.  Sick a lot?  Cannot guarantee it is not something more, but might want to try eating healthier in addition to going to the doctor if it is something severe.  Food and Beverages are fuel for your body…if you put the good stuff in, you get better results.  Here are just some of my own pointers based on my experience and research.

1. Drink Water – It used to be said to drink 8-glasses of water per day.  Good starting, but now it is more accurate to divide your weight by 2 and drink that much water in ounces.  So, if you weight 140lbs, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water per day.  “But water is boring!”  “I don’t like it!”  Try it for a while…if you need to add flavor, cut up some fresh fruit and throw it in (I discourage using the powder and drop additives because it adds a lot of other stuff you do not need).  It is AMAZING the difference being properly hydrated can make.  Skin is clearer, old injuries hurt less, more energy, better muscle repair rate…the list goes on.  DRINK WATER!

2. Eat a Balanced Diet – I am not going to tell you what to eat, because we all have different food sensitivities and preferences.  However, you need to balance out the main nutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates.  How much of each you should be getting will be a personal discovery.  Someone who is dancing six days a week will have different nutrient needs than someone who sits on the couch all day.  Do the research, find your percentages, balance them out.  Do not cut all of one out either…the idea that carbs or bad has been smashed into our heads for years.  They are not.  Refined carbs are bad, but if you switch to whole grains…not so much.  Fruits and vegetables also have a lot of carbs, and sugar, but they are natural, and easier for your body to break down.

3. Reduce Sugar and Junk/Eat More Naturally – Get all the crap out of your diet.  I know you love your soda, but it does SO MUCH damage to your body, and seriously, there are numerous stories of people losing a lot of weight just by cutting out soda.  Stop with the processed food.  Cut out as many of the synthetic chemicals you can (yes, I realize that everything is a chemical, which is why I specify synthetic).  Eat fresher foods and not foods that would survive a nuclear war.  Now, you can indulge once in a while.  I, personally, have a massive chocolate addiction.  It is about moderation here.

4. Reduce Alcohol – Not saying you have to be an abstinent saint here, Jedi CAN drink.  Even Obi-Wan indulges in happy hour ever once in a while.  Again, moderation.  Have a glass of wine with dinner.  Go out for drinks with friends every once in a while.  However, if you are passing out every night with portions of your memory missing, there may be a problem.  Also, there is a difference between drinking and getting drunk.  Drinking to the point where you cannot control yourself renders you pretty useless if an emergency arises.

5. Eat Moderately (Calories) – My biggest issue…due to the chocolate.  Food is calories.  Calories are energy.  Energy is fuel for your body.  Yes, eat something you like to attain that fuel, but do not overeat.  The recommended calorie intake (which I believe is 2K calories) is WAY more than most sedentary people need.  I highly recommend getting a calorie tracker like Garmin or Fitbit.  They are not EXACT, but they will give you an idea of how many calories you are burning on a daily basis.  For women, you should never drop below 1200; for men, I believe it is 1500; but again, it is a personal number.  I am burning, on a sedentary day, around 1700 calories.  On an active day….I think my record was about 2800 calories.  You have to adjust what you eat for higher activity days, but that does not mean you can go to town on the refrigerator.

6. Control Dietary Issues – You might have a gluten intolerance or some other allergy.  You might even have something like diabetes.  Some issues require medication, though again, I have heard stories of people reversing those issues due to dietary changes.  Take the medication when it is crucial, but make the dietary changes as well and strive to be able to phase out the medication if at all possible.  I have genetically high cholesterol (thanks Mom and Dad).  When I came back from Italy in 2009, my cholesterol was around 380.  My doctor did not want to put me on medication because I was still so young, so I focused on changing my diet and the next time I was tested I had dropped to about 280.  You are what you eat.

Helpful Links and Apps
MyFitnessPal – I have been using this website/app for AGES.  It allows you to set up your own dietary goals, input the food you eat (you can even scan barcodes now), and will tell you where you stand with your goals.  You can even choose which nutrients to show (I show Calories, Fat, Carbs, Protein, Fiber, and Cholesterol).  MyFitnessPal will also sync up to most fitness trackers to factor in activity level.

Tone It Up – The aesthetics of the site and program are definitely geared towards women, and their Nutrition Plan costs $150, but the food is good for anyone, and you pay once and are a member for life.  I am in love with some of their recipes.  They post some publicly as well, but I found the investment worth it.  I used to hate fish and avocados…they have gotten me hooked on both.

Thug Kitchen – Hilarious recipe’s, language warning.  They have three cookbooks out as of October 11th.  I have not bought any yet, but I follow them on facebook and like what I have seen.

There area also great posts and inspiration all over Pinterest and Instagram if you look up health and fitness.

Remember two things that I hear all the time from Tone It Up:
You can’t outwork a bad diet.
and
Abs are made in the gym, but they are revealed in the kitchen.

Mock Gathering – Chicago

From everything I have heard, all the Gatherings have been in very rural area’s thus far.  I can see benefits to this, but I could also see a benefit to having some Gatherings in more urban areas.  Not only is there a wealth of culture to experience, but it provides opportunities to interact with the world that being in a secluded area do not.

Accommodations
This will be the biggest issue with an urban setting, since there are really no big cabins to go hang out in.  However, doing some preliminary searching, there are options.  There are hostels of course, which may mean sharing rooms with a larger number of people, but the rooms are significantly cheaper, and there are often options for private rooms if anyone needed, that they could pay the extra.  You could also go the hotel block option, find a hotel in the area, set up a block of 15-20 rooms and allow people to book their own rooms (again, the more people in the room, the cheaper it is, or people are free to have a more private room if they want to pay the extra).  The drawbacks would be meals (which some provide breakfast but not other meals) and common areas.  There were some options of hotels with suites or an apartment-type setting that have living rooms that could be used as common areas, it would just be a matter of access.  There are also lobby’s of course, most hotel lobby’s having a common area where you can hang out (And I have done some 24-hour lobby chatting before).  Without ACTUALLY trying to plan something with dates and calling for group rates, it is impossible to get a full grasp of prices, but it IS possible.

Meals
As I said, more difficult due to location, but still doable.  I have heard the reason meals are included with venue now is because there were issues with who cooks/cleans before, but I  think if this was set up in advance, it could work; and some of the options do include rooms with kitchens.  Also, this would give options to try local cuisines in various locations, like a night of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, or an afternoon outing to a local Hot Dog stand for Chicago Dogs….or healthier things…why is Chicago so unhealthy?

Activities
SO many things to do in Chicago, it is more an issue of picking just a few.

Museums
Chicago is full of wonderful museums, you could have a museum day, or do one a day, or just pick one.  Some of them are free, some of them have free days, or if a paid one is chosen, people can choose whether or not to go (since all activities should be voluntary anyhow).  A few of the big ones:

  • Adler Planetarium
  • Art Institute Chicago
  • Botanic Garden (free)
  • Field Museum
  • Lincoln Park Zoo (free)
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Shedd

Attractions
There are some things you just have to do/see when you visit certain cities.  Some of these are just stop and look type things, like the Bean; others are full day events.  Some of the big Chicago attractions:

  • Navy Pier
  • Millennium Park
  • Willis Tower
  • Magnificent Mile
  • John Hancock
  • China Town
  • Bean
  • Buckingham Fountain

Theaters
Perhaps for the more culturally minded, a night at the theater?  It would definitely up the price, but again, optional.

  • Chicago
  • Goodman
  • Oriental
  • Civic Opera
  • Harris

Other Activities/Ideas

  • An afternoon at the beach for swimming/meditating/morning yoga/evening Tai Chi….
  • Many Fitness Studios will offer a free class, even for large groups.  The group I am a member of is always scheduling events with studios.
  • A run along the lake.
  • And dozens of other activities could be available depending on when it were scheduled.  Workout in the park events…Shakespeare in the park (which I really need to go see this year)…Taste of Chicago…ecc.