Thursday, November 27, 2014

The devilish subtleties of deadlifting Sumo

As I mentioned in a previous post about my attendance to a powerlifting seminar a few weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and started experimenting with Sumo DL's. Now I'm doing two sets of five reps with the working weight I've previously used for an AMRAP set (conventional), which I increase 5 kg per week, and we'll see where it takes me.

What I noticed last week (working w 155 kg) is that I was first straightening the legs (while keeping the back angle relative to the floor constant) and only then raising the bar, which I did in two noticeably distinct phases: a first one (until the hands touched the thighs) that required mainly glutes and erectors contracting, which I'll call Stage III, and a second one (to lockout) requiring more upper back, Stage IV. Something like this:

Not very nice, and regardless of how much I tried to engage the lats and keep the bar close to shins (& then knees) I felt it tended to hang too far in front, so stage III in the drawing was a pretty ugly, draining thing.

Yesterday (DL day again!) I focused on keeping the back more upright since the get go, trying to make Stage III unnecessary. That requires to put the hip a tad lower, puff up the chest so the shoulders are also a tad more behind the bar and start moving up by straightening the legs (pure quads) while thinking in pulling back, so the bar brushes the knee and touches the thigh at the exact moment in which the upper back is retracting the shoulders to lockout.

Being tired as hell and with the hands utterly shredded I found it quite challenging overall, and if the bar (or rather, the hands holding the bar) makes contact with the leg one inch higher or lower than where they have to be at the end that makes locking out the knees almost impossible. However, I think it is the way to go training-wise, as it definitely puts a lot of pressure on quads, hammies and glutes (and not so much on erectors, which is great as they are thrashed enough by previous conventional sets), and of course on flexors.

However, still have to investigate more what kind of proportions (between legs, torso and arms, and also between femur, tibia and fibula) make sumo deadlifts more advisable to see if I have to progress them into higher intensity ranges. At least, if I finally decide to do so, the foundations are more solidly layed out than a month ago

Friday, November 21, 2014

The second machine age (Brinjolfsson & McAffee) - II

In my latest post on the subject (which you can find here: The second machine age I if you are too lazy to scroll down about 20 cm...) I denounced what I felt was a very incomplete (albeit common) understanding of what AI was about, and its potential impact on how we manufacture and distribute stuff. I told then that I would deal with the economic aspects of the book in a separate post, and this is going to be it.

To give some credit where credit is due, the book managed to exceed my (admittedly very modest) expectations regarding economic analysis, as in the central chapter it recognizes the three main trends that are shaping the fate of the workforce in all advanced countries: diminishing growth (in year over year increase of GNP), stagnant (for the 90%) or even diminishing (for the bottom 20%) income for salaried workers and growing inequality (as both the income and the wealth of the top 10% -mainly concentrated in the top 1%, and even more so in the 0,1%, has indeed growed at an ever increasing pace). Many techno-utopians and naive optimists simply ignore those trends, either by minimizing their importante, outright denying their existence, or balancing them with the increase in output and standard of living in the emerging economies.

Too bad the book then forgets almost entirely about them, and in the final chapters go back to its authors unfounded cheerfulness, stating without proof that, because technology has given us driverless cars (that are not yet fully operational, and may never be: Google self-driving car may never actually happen), voice recognition software that doesn't completely suck and maps that suggest the fastest path under conditions of heavy traffic, it will magically solve all of society's current problems. Well, it very well may not, because a) as I mentioned in the first post, technology may not be advancing that fast at all (and may even be regressing, a fascinating possibility that merits a post of its own) and specially b) those problems may not be solvable by technical advances alone, as they do not have to do with producing more stuff, but with how the stuff that is indeed produced gets distributed. Many people (like these bozos The zeitgeist movement and these The Venus Project) maintain that with the current level of technological advances we should be able to get rid of war, hunger, poverty and disease, and transition from a society where scarcity rules (hence the famous definition of Economy by Lionel Robbins as the sciente of allocation of scarce resources) to a "resources based economy" where everybody has plenty of everything, and doesn't need to unneccessarily toil to survive (the Utopia of a society where work is optional, people can devote their time to creative, artistic and intellectual endeavors and nobody has to obey the orders of anybody else is a constant, from More to Marx). According to such naive view (that, interestingly enough, coming from evident nerds and technophiles, show a blatant misunderstanding of how technology really works, at least "dirty", "stuffy" technology, not Sw development and IT systems, which is probably where most of this ingenues come from) the only thing preventing us from achieving that golden age is the greed of a tiny clique of plutocrats, the heads of multinational corporations that have all of the world's politicians in their pockets, who selfishly deny all of humanity the unlimited boons of our age...

But I'm not going to loose any time pointing to the obvious stupidity of those visions, which are not shared (at first look) by the authors of the book under review. I only wanted to note that the naivete is the same in both cases: Sw allows us to do wonderful things (normally self-contained, as Sw does not generate energy, does not grow crops, does not give us shelter, does not take us phisycally anywhere, and only tangentially, and with the use of vast amounts of capital and raw materials, builds things), hence developments in Sw enabled by that most wondrous of laws (Moore's) will neccessarily put an end to all of humanities woes. Indeed, the authors note one glaring hole in their theory: if technological advance is the mechanism that explains economic growth, how is it possible that we have (thanks almost inevitably to Moore's law) ever fastest technological advance AND for the last two decades, ever slowing economic growth (measured in terms of GDP)???

Brinjolfsson and McAffee propose two explanations, but both of them fail: first, they state that it takes some time for a GPT (General Purpose Technology) to elicit the associated changes in processes and behaviors required for the society to be able to reap its rewards, citing the example of the gap between the invention and ubiquitous availability of electricity and its translation to improved output in the industries that adopted it. Second, they contend that GDP is not a comprehensive enough measure of our well being (duh!), as it does not capture the additional richness that new (mostly electronic) gadgets bring to our life (all the music and movies and photos you can store and stream and enjoy almost for free now). The first argument fails because comparing IT with electricity and thinking it is almost a magical wand that creates boundless increases in the productivity of every industry it touches is, quoting Sheldon Cooper, "baloney with a side dish of malarkey". If you read enough academic papers (written by professors paid directly or indirectly, in terms of access and information, by the same companies that profit from the installation of those IT systems) you may end up believing such a thing, but I'm gonna go over one foot here and call it for the load of BS it is. I spent 15 years of my professional life designing and implementing those very same IT systems everybody raves so much about, and not in a single instance did I see any productivity gain at all, and not a single business benefit other than the maintenance of the grossly overpaid consultants that did the implementation (and that in the initial years of the industry, departed afterwards , leaving the hapless users to deal with the monstrosities we were paid to put in place... of late it is the same consultants, or their underlings, who do the subsequent quite unpleasant dealing, which at least has some poetic justice). I've done most of them: ERP's, CRM's, DW's, GL, AP, AR, B2C portals, B2B portals, B2E portals, you name it, and I would gladly debate with anybody about the real productivity gain derived from the tiny sliver of those that were actually implemented, and not discarded after years of fruitless struggle.

The second argument also fails, for reasons that would take us a bit far from economics into social commentary and, finally, ethics (what are the ingredients of a life well lived, and what part do material goods play on it). Let us say that I find any contribution to our well being brought about by the Internet (because it all boils down to that) dubious at best. Take music: the authors argue that we have better and more varied music available at our convenience, without having to go to a shop to purchase it, and it being (almost) always on (or at least one click away). Sounds great. Now go to any teenager's den and have a look at what he is hearing (in any corner of the world): the same rubbish, from the same limited menu of choices. Uncultivated teenagers, you may say, are not representative of the wider society. OK, go to any salaried worker house, any average Joe, and see how much music they are hearing, and how varied it is. Or how many books they are reading (different from 50 Shades of Grey and any crap from Dan Brown). Or how many films they are watching. Ooops, reality TV and having a couple jobs to make ends meet don't let them much time to hear sophisticated music, read profound books or see intellectually challenging movies... or, outside of Harvard professors may be not many people is enjoying those non-GDP registered advantages of the IT revolution.

Finally, Brinjolfsson & McAffee contend that the decrease in the percentage of people participating in the workplace we see the world over (more marked, again, in the most advanced economies) is a temporary thing, and that the productivity gains enabled by the wider and wider use of more and more intelligent machines will in the end make all of us richer, specially those who learn to collaborate with those machines, and use them to their advantage (in their words, those who "race with the machines, instead of against them"). Again, claptrap. I was also of the opinion that considering the total amount of work a fixed quantity to be distributed between an ever increasing population was a fallacy, and that you could always identify new needs to be satisfied, and hence more work to be done, and that ingenuity and inventiveness are the real limiting factors to economic growth nowadays (that's exactly the authors' position), but I've evolved my position. The fact is, most ideas require increasing amounts of capital to be monetized, and most people do not have the cognitive capabilities to harness that capital. There is indeed a limited amount of well-paid work to be done, and more and more it requires pretty exclusive (uncommon, and difficult to expand) skills. Most of the work that well-heeled people is willing to pay for to those with a more limited skill set is menial, and what they (we) are willing to pay for it is a pittance. So, contrary to what B&MA say, Tomorrow's (or Today's) world is not going to be chock full of opportunities for web designers, fashion consultants, marketing gurus, music composers and successful screenwriters, but moderately  abundant in unfilled positions for boot polishers, maidservants, nurses, burger flippers and the like, paid barely above the subsistence salary to do repetitive tasks, with almost zero chances of professional advancement.

And the solution does not lie in more technology, or hoping that Moore's law will deliver us from dystopia ensuring effortlessly a renewed economic growth that lift all boats. The solution is, as always has been, political. The decisions to be made have to do with how we distribute the goods we produce, with who gets what, with who DESERVES what. And there is not (and there will probably never be; as we do not have a hint of a clue of how to algorithmize it) a procedure to decide the optimal distribution that we can unload to a machine, as "artificially intelligent" as we deem it to be. We will need to discuss, to empathize, to bargain, to painfully renounce to some things we cherish to gain others we consider more worthy... the same old same old we have been doing for millennia. Just thinking we have come to a point in our development as a species where we can forgo that tiresome discussing is just delusional, as delusional as the unfounded optimism that permeates the book we have just discussed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back in powerlifting mode

When in January I laid out my plans for the year I settled on generic 2-4 month blocks with the following structure:

  • Jan-apr powerlifting, using roughly a beyond 5/3/1 approach (2 days for the competition lifts and 2 days for becoming more explosive -sprints and throws)
  • May-aug for improving the Olympic lifts, cleaning up the technique a bit but doing basically snatch, C&Js and squats (which I started doing high bar for its supposed better transference to the Snatch and C&J)
  • Sep-? for becoming more explosive in order to put the shot farther, using submaximal loads in Oly lifts and some power lifts (specially squat, still high bar, and getting some bench press back in, plus lots of explosive pulling -but no DL's)
Now, depending on how the first two months of the last cycle went, I would either keep on trucking around shot putting, or switch back to powerlifting mode. As the weather has consistently worsened (it is Autumn allrighty), and seeing in vid that my putting technique is not that far off (so many years practicing seem to have left a pretty stable sediment after all) I fnially decided to give my powerlifts a final push within 2014, as I am slightly behind the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I'm also curious to see how the investment in "explosiveness" pays off after I go back to slow, grindy lifts.

So from the last two weeks, and up to the first months of 2015 (probably until feb-mar) I'll be training in full powerlifting mode, to see where I can take the three main lifts (I intend to do a couple fake meets to test maxes). The program is structured around 8 days microcycles (which I've seen work better for me than the traditional weekly microcycles), training 4 days per microcycle, one centered around squats (Low bar again), another one around BP (competition stance and grip), another one around DL (again, competition stance, although I'm toying with some sumo sets) and finally one light, fast & easy session to keep the Olympic moves groove greased . Each day will have a main block around the power lift, going to a daily max (w good form and keeping good sped on the bar), then an AMRAP set starting around 75% of my current Training Max (as long as the set goes at least to 10 reps, I will add 5 kg the next week to the lower body lifts, and 2,5 kg to the bench press) followed by back off sets w the same weight to get some volume in. After that I'll do an additional block of accesories to round up the needed frequency for the muscle groups involved in the main lifts (so I'll squat every session to keep an f4, I'll do some heavy dips to keep the pressing muscles on an f2, and I'll leave the Dl with an f1). It looks something like this:

Day 1:

  • Low bar Back Squat : singles to a daily max, then AMRAP set (starting w 120 kg), then 4 x 5 w same weight
  • Push press: 4 x 5 starting around 70 kg
  • Chin ups: 5 x 6 (or as many as possible, trying to improve each week over previous one)
Day 2:

  • Bench Press: singles to a daily max, then AMRAP set (starting w 85 kg), then 4 x 5 w same weight
  • Power Clean: 8-10 total reps, as fast as possible (starting around 80 kg)
  • High Bar Back Squat w 80% of the weight used in the AMRAP set of prev day
Day 3:

  • Deadlift: singles to a daily max, then AMRAP set (starting w 150 kg), then 2 x 5 w same weight
  • Power snatch: 10-12 total reps, as fast as possible (starting around 60 kg)
  • Front Squat: 4 x 5 w 80% of weight used in HBBS of previous day
Day 4:
  • Full Snatches: 6-8 singles, or 4-6 doubles with a weight that allows for perfect form
  • Full C&J: 4-6 singles or 3-4 doubles w 20 more kg
  • Paused low bar back squats: 4 x 5 w same weight used in day 2, 3-4 secs pause at bottom position
  • Weighted dips: 4 x 3-5, starting w 20 additional kg
  • Farmers' walks: 6-8 30 yards walks w 46 kg in each hand (increase around 5 kg per hand per week)
Every week the AMRAP stays above 10 reps, I add 5 kg (to lower body lifts) or 2,5 kg (to upper body). Accesories move up based on feeling and available time (I may do them w less weight bumping up the reps to finish faster, as needed). After 4-5 weeks working w 5's in the 75% range I'll probably move to 3's (I should be in the 85% range already), and after 2-3 weeks there I intend to have a week of heavy'ish singles (95% 1RM range) and then test maxes again. Let's see how it works

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The second machine age (Brinjolfsson & McAffee)

Finished this past weekend "The second machine age", which I knew I was not going to like, and with which I knew I would mainly disagree. Boy, was I right.

The whole book is a fine example of what has been called "present bias", or the tendency of the human mind to give recent experience an inordinate weight when assessing its own situation (it's the same phenomenom that makes us think the crime statistics must be at an all time height after being mugged, regardless of the objective fact that they are at a minimum not seen since the 60's, or thinking air travel must be more dangerous than other means fo transportation after hearing from a plane crash, when it is actually one of the safest ways to move). According to the authors, we are (right now, aren't we lucky?) at a critical moment in the history of the human species, as we are about to enter the "2nd machine age" of the title, with the effect of witnessing ever increasing improvements in our standard of living, our well being and our material (and spiritual) wealth. ¿How so? mainly due to the exponential growth of computing power (captured by the by now all too famous Moore's law) which has enabled the development of ever more powerful Artificial Intelligences (AI's) that will in turn boost our productivity, and thus produce growing amounts of goods (both material and cultural, as in many cases the only product of Today's industries is information) with decreasing consumption of resources (be them capital, natural or labour).

There are a number of obvious flaws in that reasoning, starting with the fact that the "brilliant technologies" that just a few years ago "seemed like science fiction" the authors are so besotted with loose a lot of their luster after a closer examination (and quick acclimation, few things look as dated as Yesteryear's wonders): yup, Google has developed a car that drives itself under most circumstances (but not in heavy city traffic, which is precisely the kind of driving people loathe most); IBM has developed a software program that beats human champions at the game of Jeopardy! (this one tends to impress less us non american audiences, who are not that fond of the game in the first place) and may be used for clinical diagnostic; Waze uses the location of its users to dynamically calculate the fastest path between two points (which is less useful in European, Asian or African cities with older centers -not grid-like- where there may only be one way to get from point A to point B, so all Waze can do is let its users know the amount of misery unavoidably in front of them)... and that's about it. Convenient? certainly. Shocking? Earth-shattering? Hardly.

What the cheerleaders for the beneficial and unprecedented impact of what we could legitimately call the "IT revolution" do not seem to grasp is that technologically we havent progressed that much in the last four decades. We produce most of our energy with power plant designs made in the 60's-70's. We travel in planes, trains and boats designed in the same era. Even the cars that mostly populate our roads are based in designs that haven't changed that much (as Bill Gates famously noted in a much ballyhooed comparison) since the 40's of the past century. Construction-wise, our buildings, offices and factories use the same materials, shapes (with the exception of Santiago Calatrava's and Frank Gehry's creations) and techniques that were developed a century ago. Even our ability to put payloads in orbit has not evolved that much since the late 60's. We do have almost viable solar energy (that's a novelty), almost viable electric vehicles and almost viable cheap rocket launchers, but I'm hesitant to declare that's a significant breakthrough that heralds a new era of ever increasing productivity gains and unmatched progress. That doesn't mean I am ready to dismiss that aforementioned revolution and declare all the recent developments in IT and communication inconsequential. I do think it is affecting our society in fundamental ways, and that indeed it will end up spelling the end of capitalism as we know it, and will end up being as significant as the discovery and popularization of the printing press (a good parallel, the printing press didn't significantly impact the material conditions of its era, it most definitely didn't usher a new era of productivity gains or economic development). But for reasons that have nothing to do with what Brinjolfsson and McAffee present in this book.

Amost as an aside, I have to say I found specially tiresome and uninformed their comment about the tremendous impact IT is having in the "human sciences" (as it should, no area of human interest can be left unaffected by such important develpments!), advancing the nauseating name of culturomics for a purported new approach to the study of social disciplines heavily reliant on the use of computers and numerical analysis. Such approach has already brought to light, by parsing millions and millions of pages written in the past centuries, amazing discoveries, to note:

  • fame is achieved faster this days than it used to be, but it also fades faster
  • the total number of words in the English language has grown a 70% between 1970 and 2010
  • byt the middle of the 20th Century interest in darwinian evolution was fading, until the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick reignited it
Well, this just blew my mind! such insight! such depths! this really convinced me the time of the machine had finally arrived, as only sophisticated algorithms poring over unimaginable amounts of raw data could have reached such counterintuitive, deeply disturbing conclusions! Steven Pinker would be proud (and Leon Wieseltier put to shame) of such brilliant, scientifically sound inroads in the dusty muchy world of the humanities...

Jokes apart, the reason the authors expose themselves without noticing to such ridicule by posing as "interesting" what any scholar worth his salt would consider trite (if not downright moronic) just highlights the problem with this techno-optimism: when chanting the praises of AI it tends to forget that we still do not know (and do not have an operational working defintion of) what "NI" is. It is great to declare we are building better and better Artificial Intelligences, but you don't need to scratch very deep to find that we would never know if we truly are, as we still do not agree (are quite clueless, frankly) as to what "Natural Intelligence" consists in. And this is not just wordplay, but a classical case of people with hammers seeing the whole field as a nail.

By the beginning of the last Century, as we learned to compute w machines, we got all excited assuming that was all that intelligence conssited in: really complex computations. So you got a machine computing and following algorithms at enough speed and voila! you would have an intelligent machine (this may sound whimsical, but completely serious philosophers of mind said exactly that: put enough processing power in a sufficiently small volume and sentience and intelligence would almost amgically "supervene"). Now we have become able to implement via algorithms some sorts of pattern recognition, and we have duly come to the conclusion that pattern recognition is really what intelligence is all about (see "On intellligence" by Jeff Hawkins: On intelligence in Amazon, which impressed me much when I read it for the first time eight years ago, but which I now find much less compelling), and are feeling again very excited thinking we are on the verge of getting really "intelligent" machines without the need to really undersand how our own intelligence works. Well, sorry to disappoint but I'm afraid we are as far from getting anything resembling intelligence as we have always been. More and more I see intelligence requires things like "caring about" and "valuing", just for starters, that we are utterly clueless about how to implement in a Sw program (or in a Hw substrate, btw), and without which there is not much progress to be made (apart from cleverer and cleverer "maechanical turks" that may someday even pass the Turing test without really having a single thought).

But having economists being all wrong about neuroscience and philosophy of mind is really par for the course, and doesn't really surprise me at this point. What saddens me is seeing obviously brilliant people being als mostly wrong in the economic analysis that should be their core competency. But we will need another post to dwell on that...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflections on the life of Marx

I recently finished the superb biography "Marx. A ninteenth century life" by Jonathan Sperber (may be a tad light in the history of ideas department, but the author is an historian, not a philosopher, and he deserves extra points for trying to grapple with Hegel's influence and present his "system" in a comprehensive, albeit neccessarily schematic way), and that got me thinking about the man and his influence.

It confirmed one intuition I have had after rereading the 1st volume of Das Kapital: The man was first and foremost a journalist. Maybe more scholarly than most (more steeped in the tradition of Wissenschaft, so he naturally tended to see the world and articulate his own ideas in reponse to it in the fashion of an eighteenth century German university professor, needing to seek a number of previous  opinions -between a quite limited set of authors- to refute or advance and framing his arguments in terms that wouldn't seem out of line in the Berlinische Monatschriff) but his mindset was first and foremost that of a reporter at large, dwelling on a certain issue (like the condition of the working class, to which he never belonged, from which he never had any friend and with which he never shared interests, goals or outlook; or the history of Political Economy, as formulated half a century before he came of age) from the outside, so he could better inform about it, with all the shades and the nuances sacrificed in the name of a more shocking perspective, one that could better grab the attention of his readers.

That explain a lot of the apparent contradiction between his life and his preachings: he advocated for a violent revolution to overthrow the government and put in its place members of a class (the proletariat) he did not belong to; he scathingly criticised the moral values of the class he indeed did belong to (the bourgeoisie), and whose values he not just shared, but to a certain extent epitomized (even in his darker days of abject poverty he could not do without his domestic service, preferring to pawn the scarcer and scarcer family possessions and not to pay his daily providers than to dismiss his maid; he sent his daughters to a middel-upper class school so they could be properly groomed to enter the "right" social milieu...) he denounced the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists, but reached a more or less implicit agreement with his friend Engels to live precisely from his wages as a factory owner, obtained according to his own economic analysis by unfairly appropriating the surplus value created by those very same workers in whose name he calimed to speak (this last contradictin was not lost neither on Engels nor on himself)...

I can symapthize with some aspects of his character, a passionate man very much in love with a woman (Jenny von Westphalen, although that love didn't prevent him fathering a child with his maid Lenchen Demuth) but who, apart from hers and probably Engels, was much more comfortable with the company of abstract ideas than with other human beings'

Which leads us to the impac this ideas have had. When some half baked, willingly obscure when it comes to concrete means and precise steps to get to a very vaguely defined utopian state is so ardently embraced by so many people we have to turn to the socioeconomic conditions that make such embrace not only possible, but almost unavoidable. I do not think analysing Marx ideas (again, seen with enough detachment they are neither very convincingly formulated nor very appealing) is particularly interesting. As I've stated in other places, (like in this recent post: Of value and wages), his whole theory of value, taken almost verbatim from Ricardo (who in turn took it almost verbatim from Smith, and which was wrong and unsubstantiated back then, and is still more wrong and less substantiated now) is almost laughable from Today's perspective; his dialectical view of History (strongly influenced by Hegel's logic) as "explained" by the class struggle is revealed as smoke and mirrors the moment you realize there is no such a thing as "class" formed by a homogeneous group of people with the same interests and the same relationships to the "means of production" (which in turn are as varied as the realtionships people have to them);  His determinism, which seemed scientific and hardheaded (ditto his atheism) has been as disproved by science as a metaphysical prejudice can be (beyond the necessary limits to knowledge we can gain in teh hard sciences imposed by our quantum understanding of reality and the non-linearity of most important physical phenomena, specially int eh realm of biology, which makes prediction impossible, we have the contradiction in the knowledge gained by the social sciences identified by Popper in his Poverty of Historicism -a very Marxian title indeed)...

What we have in the end is a powerful denunciation of the evils of capitalism in his era, many of which have been corrected in the first world (not so much, as factory disasters in Bangla Desh or any other cheap labor country remind us periodically), which can still serve us as cautionary warnings, and as a yardstick of the progress we have made and which we should not renounce.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Powerlifting seminar in CrossFit SingularBox

This Sunday I attended a seminar in a CrossFit Box, centered around the basic powerlifts, and some applications of more explosive movements (derived from the Olympic lifts) to stregth training, imparted by three very knowledgeable true masters in their disciplines (Felix Saman, Jorge Pérez and Andrés Mata).

It was a wonderful experience, although it was aimed at a somewhat more basic level than mine (not that I consider myself advanced, I think I'm still a rather intermediate lifter) I took a lot of tips from it, and it was good to confirm that my overall technique is good (less so in the dynamic lifts, where, specially if tired, I tend to collapse upper back and have difficulties keeping a proper upright posture under heavier loads). A vey good plus for me was getting to know in person some of the more experienced lifters in the Spanish scene (Felix happens to be the founder of the forum where I post more: Foro fuerza, and both Jorge and Andrés are extremely well accomplished lifters in their respective areas), and getting to know a bit about how they train and what they do for a living.

Another good thing I took away from the seminar was getting to see firsthand how crossfitters train, as there were a number of sessions going on (and of athletes doing their WO by themselves) in tha absolutely stunning installations. I came out with the impression that these guys are pretty damn serious about their training, and at least in that particular box pretty damn proficient in the Olympic lifts, so I have another option to go for some classes after I finish the main body of my dissertation (hopefuly by the beginning of next year)

From a training perspective, it was also good to confirm I'm in a pretty decent shape, as I could keep a good pace for the whole session (starting at 10:30, and lifting until 18:30 with just one hour rest for lunch) and went to a 1RM in the three powerlifts (for what it's worth, after not going heavy in any of them since April, I reached a not too shabby 160 in the squat, 115 in the bench press and 190 in the DL... both suquat and BP were followed by failures with 5 kg more, so that's definitely my current limit, whilst in DL I probably could have gone 10 kg heavier for a truly limit rep), so I totalled 465 kg... time to get back to slow, steady, grinding work and regain those 35 kg that should get me back above 500 (and experiment how that gain of "slow" strength affects my shot putting)