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EVTV celebrates eight years of publication this month. Our first video was published May 22, 2009 and we have just uploaded video number 312 – two hours, nineteen minutes, 50 seconds. When we began this journey, there were ZERO electric cars available for purchase anywhere in the world – Tesla Roadster being much talked about but unobtainium at the time. We’ve averaged 39 videos per year. GAV’s EV series being at an end, we were the only savage on the buffalo hunt and indeed I was early advised that no one would have any interest in a two hour video but in any event no one could view it in what was then considered high definition of 1280×720. The bandwidth didn’t support it but many older PC’s wouldn’t even play it.

Today it is rare for anyone to convert a vehicle to electric drive without doing a video series on it and 4k is the new high water mark in resolution. There are today essentially ZERO OEM’s who do not offer some version of an electric vehicle. In many ways, we have outlived our purpose and become an anachronism. And we’ve managed the entire cycle with sufficient ineptitude to have never actually suffered a profit financially.

We have always hosted the videos on Amazon’s AWS cloud service and less than 10% of EVTV viewers watch it on the ever annoying YouTube. But for those watching a two hour video on a cell phone, they still prefer it there. And actually for some months it has been easier to include the Youtube version in the blog than to deal with the vagaries of a now very aging version of JW Player.

ALong the way, an odd thing has happened. While our very first EV, the 1967 Porsche Speedster, is here in the front window of the shop and still runs, we do less conversions as time progresses and maintain the others poorly. The Cadillac Escalade gave up its transmission for the second time and I just have no interest in dealing further with automatic transmissions. They have proven a poor choice for electric vehicle use. I still love the Escalade, and we may rebuild it with a Tesla rear end or something. But as stated in an earlier blog, I am feeling overwhelmed by a target rich environment.

And the target seems ever further removed from cars. OEM cars have come online with very advanced drive and battery systems, making our early efforts with fork lift motors and basic PWM controllers seem quaint at this point. Most of the players in the 2008/2009 space are long gone. And we’ve moved more toward adapting these OEM components for use in electric car and boat builds.

This has had the effect of sucking us down a wormhole of every more technical investigation into CAN and circuit board design and software development, and ever further from actually building a car.

The attraction of course is vastly better components and engineering ever more available from a vast pile of wrecked low-mile manufactured electric vehicles. But the manufacturers treat every aspect of their operation as some sort of sacred state secret, and so we have to dig harder and harder to make use of them. And as such their utility is dramatically limited. A battery or motor or controller is readily available because nobody knows how to make it work, the market for replacement/repair parts is ridiculously limited, and so they have essentially zero value. Until or unless someone makes them actually do something.

That Tesla would invest over $20,000 in each drive unit, and in the end, with 10,000 miles on it and in perfect operating condition, it is too often scrapped for the weight and value of the metals in it seems vaguely criminal.

But everyone falls into the game.

Speedhut has announced a series of customizable dash gages that use the J1979 OBDII protocol for light passenger vehicles. Yes, in the video I refer to it as J1939 repeatedly and in error. J1939 is similar but for trucks and heavy equipment. Take a look at their TOTAL documentation for these gages. Two pages that describe NOTHING of its operation. It is laughable. They assume you are going to plug these into an existing car through the OBDII port. If you have an existing car with ECU and OBDII port, doesn’t it already HAVE gages? But their product offering is heavily skewed to that scenario. And they provide actually ZERO information on how they work. And using standard published specification PIDS, kind of imply it’s a state secret.

IN a separate error I noted that they don’t actually comply with J1979 as they don’t send PID requests. Their technical guy insisted they DID send PID requests. Turns out it was kind of a point of view thing.

The gages actually send out ONE PID request. That is for PID 0. PID 0 is a request for a list of which of the first 32 standard PID codes is supported by the vehicle ECU. The gages send this 0x7DF request ONE TIME IN A ROW. And if it doesn’t receive the list, it assumes it is NOT connected to a viable CAN bus, and never sends anything at all again. If it DOES receive the reply message, it happily starts spewing PID requests for data in a fairly vigorous fashion.

There is a lot wrong with this. CAN is a more noise resistant serial network but it is still operating in a noisy environment. So there is no assurance that a single message will get through. So every device on the bus tends to blast CAN messages all over the place in kind of a broadcast mode hoping something will get through. And a very crude bus arbitration scheme settle all disputes in favor of the LOWER number message IDs. 0x7DF is one of the HIGHEST or LEAST PRIORITY messages you can send, 0x7EF and 0x7FF being the only thing it has priority over.

Unfortunately, the gages come up and issue this request before our controller gets through its setup routines. So by the time we are ready to respond, the gages have already shut down, never to try again. Unless we recycle power to them of course.

Actually Speedhut has been very helpful on the phone and using Collin’s SavvyCAN we have worked out just how they work and how we can incorporate this with the Tesla Drive Unit. But in writing the seven page document addendum to our ALSET controller kit, it occurs to me that this is really pretty involved on a very technical level to get 5 gages to display Speed, RPM, Voltage, Temperature and state of charge. And it appears I must write the documentation for their product, with their technical representative a little unschooled on just how the things DO work?

It is a herd mentality run amuck. I’m reminded of when MacDonalds introduced their breakfast menu, but had a sharp turnover from breakfast to hamburgers at precisely 10:30 each morning. There were of course operational reasons for doing so. But it doesn’t explain why restaurants and fast food places across the entire country suddenly decided that they would end breakfast promptly at 10:30 when previously they would of course serve you breakfast at any time of the day or night. But within days of MacDonalds announcement, you couldn’t buy an egg for love or money after 10:29.29 AM anywhere.

I actually went into our restaurant at the Cape Girardeau airport one morning about 10:40. This poor girl was trying to make a living running a restaurant at an airport that had a few airplanes, but no people there most of the time. There wouldn’t be 8 guys at the airport most days all day. I ordered breakfast and she looked at me and very firmly informed me they didn’t serve breakfast after 10:30. I looked around the restaurant at all the other tables and chairs in amazement. She and I were the only people IN THE BUILDING. And she was chanting to me some nonsense about being 10 minutes too late to order an egg WHILE she is slowly going bankrupt in front of me. And there’s not even another humanoid in the place to witness this. But she had gotten this from a MacDonalds operation that had entirely different reasons for the policy. So it made perfect sense to her.

It is no secret I’m a huge Tesla fanboyz and indeed, at this point I think they are so far ahead of the game that General Motors, Ford, and BMW, Volkswagen et al really don’t even matter. They have so much blue sky opportunity in front of them, with an 85 billion automotive market before them, offering totally disruptive change, that it is a huge technology party.

I was touched by Elon Musk during a very recent TedTalk interview. You have to kind of wade through to the end at 39:40 to hear it. The interviewer is sucking and stroking so hard it is even embarrassing for Musk. He finally states “I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior….I just want to find ways to think about the future without being sad.” Probably the best Elon Musk quote of all time and I think very truthful.

The closest thing to criticism came with an actual accusation that he was somehow betraying the faith TALKING to President Trump about climate change. This was pathetic. He is kind of dependent on government for many of his SpaceX plans, so certainly doesn’t need any enemies in the white house. And if he doesn’t show up to talk about it, how is Trump ever going to hear it?

I’ve actually heard Musk on the topic before. He is truly a bright guy and I would claim him in my camp. X=don’t know. Climate is a much more complex and variable system than most of the denialist denyers (denialist squared???)quite grasp. But Musk is a risk/benefit statistical probability guy. The risks are high – we have one planet and if we screw it up we’re hosed. And the benefit very low – we keep using fossil fuels and what? As Shah Agassi said, we didn’t leave the stone age for lack of stones. What’s the benefit to driving around like Jed CLampett in an ancient oil burner with Granny tied on back in a rocking chair?

So you factor it out. Put global warming on both sides of the equation and it cancels out. Leaving you with the solution – electric cars and solar energy. Why are you rooting through the temperature data and arguing about it so much? With a clear solution available, why all the heat and stress over what the problem really is? The solution carries so many OTHER benefits it really doesn’t matter. We should do it. We are going to do it. And we’re working on doing it now.

In any event, Tesla’s stock is now trading for ten times its value shortly after IPO. And I think we are looking at another 10x in valuation over the next five years. Tesla’s actual financial performance actually doesn’t matter. They have the ability to raise unlimited funds. And they are a technology growth company, not an automobile manufacturer.

Back to earth here at EVTV, we are in an ever tightening downward spiral going ever deeper in the technical aspects of Inverters and motors and batteries and more pointedly, the electronics used to control them and our designs of software and hardware to control THAT. I have a drive unit test bench, a charger test bench, and two battery test benches all mostly about laptop computers, CAN serial communications, and how to simulate a 20ma current flow into a single obscure connector pin to allow full power out of the drive unit. That’s where we were this week.

And I’m writing software to display CAN message bit fields that can’t actually BE reverse engineered – each bit representing some random made up error fault code. But there are up to 64 different errors represented in one CAN message, repeated and updated every 100 milliseconds.

All this to say that the history of automobiles and the rich tradition of reusing used parts and third party products and so forth is basically being nullified by proprietary technologies. In examining a later model inverter and comparing it to an early model inverter we discovered Tesla has actually gone to a serious inconvenience for themselves and locked down the code in the inverter firmware using the Code Protection Scheme provided by Texas Instruments. This further complicates the reuse of future Tesla components with no discernible advantage to Tesla whatsoever that I can fathom. It just IS 10:30 and I’m sorry sir. No breakfast.

That is not to say that it is some vast Tesla conspiracy to end automotive repair. As I told Collin Kidder and Jarrod Tuma, who are working on these Inverter controller boards, there is no Tesla. It is now a large organization, a corporation. And within Tesla, there aren’t four guys with the knowledge and ability to do what you two are doing, or even to know what you are talking about. But a game has been launched by the self aggrandizing self promoting wannabee “hackers” to find holes in the Tesla system. And Tesla now has people dedicated to plugging the holes. It’s a bit mindless, if damaging to our efforts. They innovate continously. And we have to do the same. It is what it is.

But it is expensive. And it has taken us far afield from our original raison d’etre in an ever tightening spiral of ever more specialized electronic and software work. We’ve come a long way from picking up for GAV’s EV. I don’t see any future where this focus again widens. And it will be interesting to see where this wormhole spits us out in the future.

The DOKA is nearing completion. Bill had a wiring harness in. I don’t know if the axles will hold, and I don’t know our little Influenza battery will hold up if they do. But we should be rolling in a week or so with a Tesla Drive Unit powering it.

There were some design flaws in our first prototype run of Tesla battery module controller boards. We have had to go for a second round of battery module interface boards for the TEsla Battery Module Controller so that will be another 3 weeks delay. And so it goes…

Jack Rickard

PS. I recently posted a missive on Facebook offering what comfort I could to some friends suffering losses with some grief. It was well received there.
I’ll pad this blog out with it even though it has nothing to do with EVS.

WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

Facebook offers a microcosm of life. A kind of terse summary of what is important to us. Striking is the almost incessant litany of people who are losing loved ones to various diseases, fighting cancer, or suffering the loss of a beloved friend or spouse or dog or…..

The pain is inarguable and it is not my purpose to disenfranchise those suffering the loss from their inalienable right to agony. Your loss is real. Your pain is real. And neither I or anyone else fancies that they can change that to the least degree. You are “entitled” to it.

But I would like to offer a slightly different perspective.

Many offer proclamations of deep faith in religion and specifically Christianity. As a lifelong cultural Catholic, having studied scripture somewhat more than casually, I’m sympathetic to this point of view.

But in understanding, I think perhaps it suffers from omitting a few practical answers to some fairly all encompassing questions. Most notably:

1. Why are we here?
2. Why does a loving active God allow bad things to happen to good people.

They are of course interrelated questions, but I would like to focus primarily on question 2. It comes up a lot. And every answer I’ve read or heard was precociously unsatisfying, indeed often absurd.

A survey of several hundred Near Death Experience videos returns us a very different point of view.

TRAGEDY EXCEPTIONALISM

Human beings are of fairly consistent design and exhibit fairly consistent responses to the same stimuli. One of the more curious responses, in my opinion, is the nature of tragic exceptionalism. We treat every outcome that we dislike as a huge exception. An unexplained and unique event.

Death itself is the most defining of these. We all agree it’s terrible. Yet in all of human history there has not been a recorded instance of escaping it. Nobody gets off the planet alive.

Yes, I know you believe that Christ arose on the third day. That was after he DIED on what is euphimistically referred to now as a somehow GOOD Friday.

And with each death, the exhibited reaction seems to be surprise, alarm, and great protest. As if it were the first such incident in recorded history.

Wars. There have been less than 20 generations of world wide peace in the recordings of the last 13,000 years of human history. Hundreds, then thousands, and today we routinely have wars where millions of individual humans are slaughtered, butchered mercilessly and often burned alive. Each treated as a unique and unheard of event.

Yet we universally abhor war. It demonstrably ends millions of lives and forces relocations and dislocations of millions more. The universal suffering is wide spread and long enduring. We treat each as a surprising new exceptional event, and strive mightily to “end the war.” For what? To immediately commence the next war?

Rape. The rape of children even. By the thousands. The hundreds of thousands. Worldwide by the millions. A horror. Ruins lives forever. In every case, it is as if this has never happened before. True, they quickly recover from any physical effects. But are focused on the unique HORROR of it happening at all for decades – fully reinforced in how horrible it IS by all around them. Until the horror becomes horrible and kind of self perpetuating in and of itself. A humiliating indignity mutates from a minor inconvenience to lifelong psychiatric problems by focusing on it and reliving it over and over because it is such a terrible exception, only occurring to about half the women and indeed some of the men on the planet.

Cancer. AIDS. Heart disease. Each affecting MILLIONS of humanoids, yet for each, it is greeted as a truly EXCEPTIONAL event, a surprising event, an apparently unheard of tragedy.

And why me? Actually, more appropriately, why not me?

And so we see what we deem as horrible things happening to good people. Often they are perpetuated by those we deem evil people.

The loss of a spouse. A unique and exceptional event causing great sorrow. How can our mate and daily companion of 7, ten, twenty, thirty, or fifty years simply be gone. Lost to us forever? The grief is very real.

In stark reality, let’s get real here. HALF of the spouses ANYONE has had in all of human history have died while married. And precisely 50% of all spouses in all of human history have been left behind as widows or widowers. It’s a pretty equal distribution all things considered. And unless you both go together in a single car wreck, which would be an unique and exceptional tragedy, one will inevitably precede the other. I’m sorry. It’s not that it happens. It happens to ALL of us. You are in group A or in group B. It is essentially inescapable if you marry at all.

My point is, and I can hardly entertain counteraguments, war, murder, rape, pillage, plunder, disease, widowhood, physical injury and death are NOT exceptional events. Indeed they are universal and ongoing as part of the human condition and experience. And yes YOU are going to die, YOU have a 50% chance of losing a spouse, and YOU will most likely lose parents, brothers, sisters, and even in many cases children who unfortunately DIE but often after long suffering the indignities of disease, or war, or rape, or torture.

I know. Kind of depressing. Or is it?

MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S WILD KINGDOM.

While my peers howled through episodes of “I Love Lucy” I actually loved Marlin. Marlin Perkins was Director of the St. Louis zoo and had developed a television documentary series entitled Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Mutual of Omaha was not really very wild. They were an insurance company. But they funded the show, and so some cache of wild accrued to their brand.

About the same time, Sir David Frederick Attenborough began a career with BBC2 in the United Kingdom. He actually came eventually to run the network but didn’t like administrivia. He liked producing documentaries and in 1972 left management to produce documentary series on natural science. His international hit “Life On Earth “ began in 1976 and was available to U.S. audiences as it was co-sponsored by Turner Broadcasting

And so for the past 40 years, I have commenced some 3000 afternoon naps with the droning desultory tones of David Attenborough’s effectively British whisper in the background while viewing gorgeous greenscapes of the African savannah and the Sarrenghetti plain. I’ve personally watched this plain dry out so many times I believe I could phone it in from Missouri myself and do it without a script.

Today, his latest work is the sequel to the 2001 series, “The Blue Planet” with “The Blue Planet II”. The advances in videography from 2001 to 2017 are stunning and if you haven’t seen The Blue Planet II you must. It is simply gorgeous high resolution cinematography.

So why bring this into the discussion?

As humans, we are rather myopically focused on ourselves. Kind of a pronounced naval gazing fixation knowing no bounds. But the orb on which we reside is largely unaware of our existence, or we of its. There are millions and millions of species of animals, plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and well, just life beyond comprehension. We have not even completed our task of NAMING all the higher order animals and it is unlikely that we have SEEN more than half the insect species.

Blue Planet II presents some astoundingly detailed glimpses of life as a Cheetah, a Gazelle, a Wasp, or a Tree Frog. They are extraordinarily detailed, and bring to life the profound drama of an ongoing struggle for survival by every living entity on the planet.

Here is a mother Cheetah and her three cubs. She has to somehow trick the lions into NOT discovering and killing her cubs. But more importantly, she HAS to find food to feed them and herself or they will simply die of starvation before week’s end. And while she has immense skills as a hunter/predator, in reality 9 out of 10 “hunts” where prey is located and pursued simply end in ignomious and embarrassing failure. While her cubs look hungrily on, she misses again and again and again.

And here is the gazelle mother, carefully guarding and teaching her baby gazelle the rules of survival. Where to find to eat. And how to escape and avoid becoming prey.

And suddenly the race is on with the Mother cheetah running at top speed trying to run down the baby gazelle, and it of course running as fast as a gazelle can to escape – running for its life literally.

To the cheetah, it is a very BAD thing to miss and suffer the ongoing pangs of hunger while watching her cubs starve. And to the gazelle, baby and mother, it is a very BAD thing to be caught and brutally literally torn to pieces by a pack of ravening cheetahs.

On the other hand if the cheetah catches the gazelle, great joy and feasting among the cheetahs. And sorrow and despair if they miss.

The takeaway here is good and bad are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It’s pretty much a point of view.

And the series drills this in with tree frogs guarding their eggs, and mother wasps in a desperate search to find them. Of great white sharks and seals. Orcas eating a baby sperm whale while its mother looks on helpessly. And this competition repeated on large scale and small across literally millions of species carpeting the surface of the earth and seas.

Humanoids, the few there are, huddle in concrete urban islands unaffected by all of this and largely UNNOTICED by all of this activity.

The point we must drive home, is that the good and bad are not only entirely random in their assignment, and based on point of view, but may be based on an entirely false premise from inception.

And indeed the animals do not seem to apply these labels. The mother gazelle is sorrowful for a few minutes, and moves on. On loss of a cub to the lion, the mother cheetah is furious for an hour. And resumes the task of caring for and feeding the remaining two. Mother whale resumes her transit north.

The premise is that death is final. And once you are dead you are simply dead. In that world, truly it is tragic and “bad” to be the devoured baby gazelle.

On the other hand, if the baby gazelle could simply shout ALLIE ALLIE OUTS IN FREE and end the game, it would seem to be more of a joyful competition. If at the final moment of drama, it simply turned a corner and dived into another adjoining room, where all the other dead gazelles were happily playing and communing with each other, the entire drama truly does lose the good, the bad, and the horror.

And so the labels for good and bad are almost entirely human inventions, and appear to be based on a singular belief in death that it is the end of existence. If death is simply a sidestep into another dimension, and a familiar one at that, the assigned value labels look pretty lame.

What if cancer is neither good nor bad? And death is neither good nor bad? Then war becomes neither good nor bad. And murder is neither good nor bad. And rape is neither good nor bad. Or theft. Or jaywalking. Or lack of license and registration. They are simply occurrences – events in a series.

The good and the bad are contrived in the human mind and applied as labels in an almost violent fashion and without a great deal of rhyme or reason.

And this reduces the question of why a loving God allows bad things to happen to good people to why does a loving God allow THINGS to happen to people.

What he allows is for LIFE to happen to people.

LIFE EXCEPTIONALISM

Over 127% of American adults now profess belief in intelligent life on other planets. Having no persuasive evidence to present for intelligent life right here on planet Earth, I find this an amazing leap of faith – a particular oddity among self-professed atheists who ostensibly have no faith.

It could certainly be the case that there are an infinite number of intelligent civilizations among the stars and I am all too aware of Carl Sagan’s assertion that were it not so, it would be a stunning waste of space.

But thus far, and to date, without any singular or even outlier exceptions, we have found not only no evidence of life on any planet or cosmic body beyond earth, but have basically found no ENVIRONMENTS that could POSSIBLY allow life as we know it to endure at all for even a brief few milliseconds. The 800 F sulfuric acid rains of Venus certainly don’t. The incredible temperature swings of an airless Mercury do not. The sterile thin cold atmosphere of Mars does not. The crushing pressures and temperatures of the gas giants make even the concept of a surface unlikely.

Every place we look we see cold sterile rock impossibly hostile to the tiniest trace of microbial life. Rivers of liquid methane and mountains of ammonia ice. Life so rare it basically does not exist anywhere we have looked.

And yet, here on Planet Earth, we have a 10-mile-thick layer of life so abundant, it is actually in perpetual and very active motion in an all-day, all-night, never-ending competition with the OTHER life that is here, simply for survival. To gain access to the rays of the sun, the moisture of the skies, the air to breathe and the food necessary to survive, and to escape falling prey as food ourselves, is a second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour mortal life and death struggle of furious proportions.

We are somewhat inured to this battle as humanoids largely due to our success at the top of the food chain. Yet we too are beset by disease carrying mosquitoes, our world encroached on by constantly growing weeds, and indeed our bodies entirely encrusted with trillions of viruses and bacteria and cells each avidly seeking to reproduce and use us as a host and if we resist, or not, to often kill us in the process. Indeed they compete with and eat each other using our very skin as a fertile plain and battlefield.

It is UNIVERSAL competition and LIFE MORE ABUNDANT than we know or can imagine. A 10 mile thick skin of roiling bubbling life stew. And viewed from space, it is strikingly beautiful to behold to boot.

THE ITALIAN STALLION – ROCKY BALBOA

So walk with me on a random thought experiment. There is no GOOD life events, nor BAD life events, there is only life, and it is ordered in events. We can each affect almost all of this series of events by our decisions and our choices, but we cannot escape that there ARE events as long as we remain alive.

Do not miss that our choices often dictate WHICH events occur, in combination with a certain random element of the universe. But in the end, life happens.

So why? Let’s accept for the moment that life does not “end” in death but merely transitions to another immediate existence where are still precisely who we always were, just not here and not bound by the rules of existence that are here. That kind of disables the BAD label we universally apply to anything remotely connected with death.

IF you accept an afterlife, you HAVE to give up on the tragic horror of death. It’s a binary choice. You cannot have eternal life and still cling to the label that death is a horrible horrible tragedy. So for the sake of argument, give it up right here.

But that again brings us back to the why of things.

In 1976 Sylvester Stallone wrote a film play titled “Rocky” and obtained financing of less than $350,000 to produce it, which he wrote, produced, and starred in.
I cry every time I watch it.

The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Stallone. The film went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. It grossed over $200 million, and was followed by SEVEN sequels to the film. As such, I would have to say it was the most successful movie ever filmed, by any measure you care to apply. It may not have been the BEST movie every made. But it was certainly the most successful in money made, awards received, longevity, number of successful sequels and international distribution.

And why that? Robert Rocky Balboa, the principle character in the film, purports to be a boxer. But in the opening fight scene in the film, he loses the fight BADLY to a nobody boxer at the lowest rungs in the fighting hierarchy.

Rocky has ZERO talent at boxing, slow, awkward, and artless. But he makes up for it by being curiously unattractive in appearance, seriously deficient in intellect to the point of high-function mental retardation, and comes from no family with no resources. He lives in a ghetto in Philadelphia. And has only occasional employment as muscle for the local mafia who barely tolerate him as a charity case.

He is accepted by no one. He owns nothing. He has zero talent by any estimation. The man virtually requires that the word LOSER be redefined using three L’s.

The movie synopsis kindly refers to him as an “everyman” character. He doesn’t even qualify for that. Nobody is that much underwater anywhere. The man could not get a date in a PET STORE!!! He can barely utter his 125 word vocabulary – slurring both consonants and vowels artlessly and at random. He’s actually thrown out of his ghetto boxing gym for being a loser – a bum.

By way of a random fluke, a joke really and promotional concept, he is given a shot at the title for Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world because of his STAGE name – The Italian Stallion. And not being any smarter than Buttkiss, the aptly named dog he bought in the HOPES of getting a date at a pet store, he accepts the challenge.

The sudden press attention this brings causes the has-been boxing coach Mick to reconsider his decision to evict Rocky from the gym he trains at. And the two embark on a bizarre and torrid exercise to train Rocky for this fight in a series of processes that simply do not support the willing suspension of disbelief.

Let’s take a look at what this involved.

ROCKY GULPS DOWN ICED TEA GLASS FULL OF RAW EGGS.

It’s a little unclear what this precisely does. But would you consider gulping down an enormous glass of raw eggs a GOOD thing or a BAD thing. Would it be pleasant to do this?

ROCKY GETS UP AT OH-DARK THIRTY.

Rocky rises each morning before the sun. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. It is unclear what it does for fighters. Is this a GOOD thing or a BAD thing? In any event, he starts his training before dawn each day.

ROCKY FORGOES ALL SEX

Which is good because the enchantress of Pet City, Adrian, still hasn’t agreed to actually go out on a date with him, despite his purchase of the dog.

ROCKY RUNS FOR MILES IN THE FROSTY COLD STREETS OF PHILADELPHIA.

On the occasion of his early rising, and completion of his glass full of raw eggs, Rocky celebrates by running for miles through ice cold weather in Philadelphia, not on a proper track with a proper surface, but over broken concrete, dodging crates of chickens and vegetables, and greeting all other early risers with an unintelligible grunted greeting of good morning I think. Something like YO but with less letters.

He does not JOG this. He runs. And as he runs, he ACCELERATES the pace, and he runs until he is totally exhausted. This causes PAIN. And fatigue. Is this GOOD or is it BAD?

ROCKY RUNS UP THE STEPS TO THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM.

At the end of his run, he heroically hobbles/crawls up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum. And of course, in the initial scenes of this, he collapses in a heap of quivering exhaustion there. By the end of his training he has increased his stamina to the point where he runs up the steps and then dances as if he’d already won something.

ROCKY DOES SITUPS

Only the way Rocky does them, he hangs upside down from a roof rafter, and sits up UP while hanging upside DOWN. And he does THOUSANDS OF THEM. Would these be painful situps? Wouldn’t they cause pain? Exhaustion? Fatigue? Muscle soreness.? Can he spell BENGAY? No.

ROCKY DOES PUSHUPS

Only Rocky does them with one hand. And he does them with his left hand. And then he does them with his right hand. And then he goes back to his left hand. And he does THOUSANDS of them. Shaking and trembling and sweating with his teeth clenched and his eyes turned toward heaven. His mouth twisted in a grimace of pain and agony. GOOD? Or BAD? Painful? Joyful?

ROCKY WORKS ON HIS PUNCH

Rocky hits the heavy bag about 10,000 times. Then he goes to the light bag and hits that about 10,000 times, although it keeps swinging back on the rope and hitting him in the head.

After a visit to his friend Paulie’s job at a frozen meat distribution center, he whacks a hanging full butchered steer in the ribs with his ungloved hand. Feels kind of like human ribs. So he whacks it again. And again.

And so his daily workout now features a trip to the meat locker, to beat some defensless heifer into brutal submission breaking every rib in the carcass with his bloodied bruised hand in a furious flurry of emotion driven anger and despair because he is SUCH a loser and KNOWS he’s such a loser and KNOWS he is going to be beaten like a red-headed step child by Apollo Creed ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.
Good? Bad?

AND THE BIG FIGHT

Few Rocky fans actually recall that Rocky LOST his fight. We all think he WON it? Why?

Because he survived it. He was slow. He was stupid. He had no boxing skill. And indeed it appeared throughout the match, that his main strategy was to lead with his face until his opponent was exhausted by the effort. Apollo Creed dutifully beat that face until it became one of the most gut-wrenchingly revolting gore scenes ever to appear on film in the history of cinematography.

And it almost never ended. Round after round after round Creed beat on Rocky’s face until Mick the trainer had to have Rockies EYES CUT WITH A RAZOR to let the blood out, and reduce the swelling to the point he could SEE the opponent and continue the fight. (Good job Mick. What a heart, eh). In his defense, Rocky actually requested this impromptu surgical procedure.

Yet along the way, fighting the very best fighter in all the world, Rocky did deliver a number of staggering blows to the rib cage of his opponent. And you could see him pale and stagger. And you could see that Rocky didn’t know the fight was a joke. And that no matter how many times Creed beat his face to death, he wouldn’t actually fall down and stay down. He kept coming and kept fighting back.

And Rocky’s deeply seated resentment at being poor, and being stupid, and being ugly, and having nothing, and having no one believe in him, and having no hope of anything ever being different for him, kept him coming back over and over, round after round, being clubbed down again and again, by a bigger, stronger, more intelligent, more agile, vastly more skilled opponent, who simply could not believe that Rocky was continuing to act as the AGGRESSOR in a fight that simply made no sense at all and had lost all the comic relief value it had been designed so carefully to deliver.

And so I cried. And you cried. And we all cried. Why?

Because we universally recognized that Rocky Balboa had actually gone through the brutalizing training without complaint and without ever letting up for a second in giving 110% even to the fight itself, enduring inconceivable hardship in training and more in the fight until he became such a pinnacle of undaunted courage and physical stamina and endurance in the face of overwhelming odds that even his victor, the support staff on all sides, the entire crowd, and over a billion Rocky viewers since ALL recognized him as an INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF UNLIMITED POWER.

You see the fight didn’t matter. The outcome didn’t matter. To everyone involved, including Apollo Creed, Rocky won the fight. In the face of all evidence to the contrary. Apollo Creed retained the heavyweight crown. But it didn’t matter. Rocky Balboa, nobody loser extraordinaire, had just gone 15 FULL ROUNDS with the heavyweight champion of the world, who was now desperately trying to cough up a lung in celebration of his purported victory.

Creed well knew he had met the better man in the ring and found his measure. He knew. And the fight organizers knew as they awarded the belt, that he had been privileged to be in the ring with a winner. And it wasn’t him. It was Rocky. The loser.

How can all this be? And of course it led to six sequels. There is actually a larger than life statue of Rocky Balboa at the Philadelphia museum today. Understand, Rocky Balboa was an entirely fictional character…. They DO know that in Philadelphia, do they not?

What happened?

AND THE ENVELOPE PLEASE….

So why does God let BAD things happen to GOOD people?

The answer is he does not. He loves you and wants nothing but the best for you.

And THE VERY BEST is that he has granted you LIFE MOST ABUNDANT and ALL that goes with it. And what you think is GOOD or BAD or otherwise is the uninformed point of view of children who don’t know any better. None of this is good. Nor is any of it bad. It is just LIFE. And the things you so keenly label as GOOD or BAD are in truth NEITHER. They are just THINGS. Events in the course of a life. It is a perfect plan for a perfect life in perfect order and as planned.

And before you lie three score and ten, and another ten if able. And do with it what you will. And at the end, the question is only this…

What did you do with the life I provided you?

It is not an accusation. It is not a reproach. It is a question. A genuine and sincere and loving question YOU are going to have to answer. And the question isn’t what you actually did. That is readily apparent. The question is what do YOU think you actually did.

After the extraordinary and unimaginable expense God and heaven went to in order to enable you to come live this life, what did you get out of it? What did you learn in this land of Oz Dorothy Gale?

And now let’s revisit Rocky Balboa.

In the movie, wouldn’t it have made perfect sense for Rocky to say “I hate raw eggs. I need somebody in here to prepare a proper Eggs Benedict – with some of that Canadian bacon and hollandaise sauce, on an English Muffin.” Did he say that in the movie?

As to the time of arising. Really 4:30AM, 5:30 AM, 6:30 AM, 9:00AM what’s the difference? The man is unemployed. Did you hear Rocky advising Mick that 5:30 AM was good enough on weekdays, but he had to sleep in on Saturday mornings and he would just be all out of sorts if not?

Situps? 1000 Mick?, he whines. 35 should do it. And how about a proper athletic bench over here so I don’t have to hang from the ceiling. I know, we’ll do ten sets of ten, and the check the heart rate and see where we are at.

Pushups. Pushups are done with TWO hands and again 10 sets of 10 with a rest and some water in between would be good enough don’t you think Mick?

Run. Sure I’ll run. But three miles a day is plenty and what’s with the steps? What’s that going to do for me in the ring? Indeed the steps were ROCKY’S idea. Technically there are not stairs inside a boxing ring.

Sundays of course I take Adrien to church so we can both pray for Butkiss the dog. No training on Sundays.

There was none of that in the film. There are no champions whining and negotiating with the trainer to try to AVOID PAIN and AVOID fatigue, which are of course BAD, and limit the amount of training required so it doesn’t interfere with family obligations. Had Rocky Balboa approached training with that attitude, how long do you think he would have lasted in the ring?

So it is in our lives. Events are placed there for us to face, endure, deal with, and suffer – even enjoy to some degree. Have you ever noticed that just when you have everything going your way in life, suddenly it changes and you have something ELSE to deal with? The next training exercise.

Indeed. And the question is how do you react to it.

Life is often described as a TEST. It is not a test. And there are no grades.

Life is often described as a school. A learning experience. Perhaps. It has some aspects of that. But I do not believe the analogy is sufficient.

I believe our life here is TRAINING. Like athletic training. It is designed to harden us, to refine us, to purify us, and to make us grow into ENORMOUSLY POWERFUL SPIRITS more HOLY than we entered this life. We are enduring training. And our sorrows and deepest hurts, are not only good for us, but they allow us to TRULY feel and experience the contrast with human JOY in a way that cannot be experienced in the next life.

That can be the joy of watching your newborn child enter this world to begin THEIR journey and training. It can be the feeling of love and connectedness we have with our spouse, our children, our dog, and Rocky Balboa.

Sunrises, sunsets, a glorious bounty and beauty of our training facility, planet earth. And the feeling of accomplishment in the little wins we get along the way. Promotions and graduations and weddings and awards and so on. The contrast of joy and despair, of deep pain and of deep love. Of loves found. And of loves lost. Mistakes made. And the hard work of recovering from them.

And we can CHOOSE to great each training event with 110% effort as Rocky Balboa did, or we can whine, complain, bargain, pray, and negotiate.

We can anesthetize ourself against these things with drugs or alcohol. We can comfort ourselves with food or we can cower in fear and anxiety all day long. We get to choose what we do with this life. Complete freedom of choice.

Of course we are all interconnected in a vast tapestry of one human to another and even to the animals and plants on the planet. Every breath you take is reflected like ripples in the pond of humanity and all of THEIR choices affect you. It is a perfect circle of life.

THE ROLE OF PRAYER

As always, and as admonished, thy will be done is the first tenet of prayer. This is recognition that Mick has been training fighters for a VERY long time, and has trained many many champions. Indeed he’s so old he didn’t actually make it through all six sequels.

Good communication between the athlete and the coach is IMPERATIVE if they are to form a winning team and achieve success in the ring.

And Mick loves to talk to Rocky because it gives him an accurate sense of where he’s at and how he’s feeling and what they should focus on next. Indeed, ALL of the moving dialoge in Rocky is between Rocky and Mick. And if Rocky DOES ask him to knock off on the situps this afternoon because he just isnt’ up to it until Adrien agrees to go ice skating with him, which neither of them can do in the least, Mick might just adjust the schedule to allow for it. Because that MIGHT have a good effect on Rocky’s mental outlook in the ring. He’s constantly gaging the training program, applying everything he knows to achieve success, and he has to know where Rocky is at physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

And so he observes Rocky carefully, tuning and adjusting the training to get just the right output at just the peak moment which ideally will coincide with the night of the actual fight.

That does not mean in the end he’s going to do it Rocky’s way. He is the adult in the room and has to judge what will be the best outcome all the way around. But he certainly listens. And is inclined to acquiesce if it fits in the plan.

So pray all the time. Make YOUR needs and wants and desires of your heart known to God and anyone who will listen. You don’t ask, you don’t get.

But understand in the end, God knows every moment of everything in your life. And you simply don’t. Our powers to predict the future are lame.

Stamping your little foot or threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue didn’t work with Mom and Dad, though it WAS cute by all accounts. And it is not going to be effective with God either.

Then too, you don’t have to pray at all. The gym is full of fighters. And some get more of Mick’s attention than others. It depends on their prospects, their heart, how motivated they are, how badly they want it, and if they actually request help and put any advice given into effect willingly and gratefully.

Some show up two days a week. Some show up four. Some come every day. Some have winning attitudes and some have losing attitudes. Some quit coming at all. They just don’t believe in fighting anymore…

Mick hopes for good things from and for all of them. But he knows only a few will go onto the big show in the big ring. But all will benefit from the training if they stick with it.

We are here to be strengthened and hardened, purified and refined and made holy in spirit by the fires of a life lived well, acting as co-creators with our God and maker in the act of creation of a beautiful garden. Every experience we receive is a gift of inestimable value, neither good nor bad in and of themselves. Some bring joy. Some bring sorrow. And both the joys and the sorrows are gifts as well.

Those moments when we have given love and been loved, helped and been helped, will be treasured and admired in the life to come because of the wave of effect they caused across the garden and even into the heavens themselves.

And there really is only one training rule on the wall:

LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

If everyone did that, of course all the training could proceed with a bit less intensity and terror.

But it would still be life.