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Archive for December, 2011

It’s so tempting to believe, in sports, like in life, that there is a right way and a wrong way, a correct way and incorrect ones.  It probably isn’t so.  Sure, there are principles.  There are general rules.  There are proven philosophies.  But there are so many shades, so many complexities, so many uncertainties, so many quirks and sharp turns and unforeseeable consequences.  The very best plan can fail.  The very worst can succeed spectacularly.  The best intentions can lead to disaster.  The worst can lead to fame and fortune.
  —  Joe Posnanski
From his Sports Illustrated blog “Hollas and Tebow
Dated 17 December 2011
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If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.
  —  Tennessee Williams
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Ballet:
On Tuesday, Jane (Hil’s friend), Hil, Sarah and I went to see the San Francisco Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.  It was my first time watching a ballet in over 20 years.  We all enjoyed it.  Hil enjoyed the whole spectacle of people, the ballet production and the music.  Sarah and I mostly enjoyed the music.  Sarah sat with Jane up in the “nose-bleed” sections and Hil and I sat in the second balcony.  We had good seats, in terms of leg room, but I got stuck behind a tall man who shifted frequently and who regularly blocked my view.   Although I was able to move my vision around him, there was never a point where I could see the whole of the stage.
I’ve seen “The Nutcracker” before – on TV and once by the SF Ballet (back in the 70’s) – so I more or less knew what to expect.  The music was terrific, the individual dancing was impressive, but the whole package was not quite right for me.  The last time I saw the ballet, I was down in the lower level and the view was straight on.  From above, minor errors in lines and spacings are more noticeable – and there were quite a few.  I remain amazed at the strength and grace of the male dancers.  Of course the females are graceful too, but I never get the sense of power from them which I get from watching the men carry a female at shoulder height or higher and still gliding around the stage.
Interestingly, I believe I would never have noticed the spacing and lines issues if I had not been to watch my daughter (Sarah) perform in marching band.  It was something we (as parents) learned to look for to guess if the band would be judged well.  I guess, once you’re aware of these things, it’s just a short hop for the mind to make similar connections to other types of performances.  On the other hand, maybe it’s just the Obsessive – Compulsive – Disorder (OCD) in me.
Reading:
I got a Nook Tablet for Christmas from Hil and I’ve now read my first book electronically.  The book is titled: “An analysis of the Comic Book Industry’s Business Issues“, and is written by Shawn James (2011©).  The book is very short – only 88 pages and not very well edited.  There were multiple errors – spelling, repeated phrases, that kind of stuff, which detracted from the author’s message – that American comic books, as a form of literature, may be going extinct.
The author relates a number of factors as to why comic books are in a declining market.  His main factors are cost increases, lack of retail outlets, misalignment of actual market to target or optimum growth market (comics currently sell mostly to 25 to 40 year old males instead of 8 to 20 year olds of both sexes), and a lack of diversity among the cast of heroes.   My own feelings are these may be valid points, but it doesn’t make them the “key” issues.  My own feeling is they are simply an art form who’s time has come and gone.  They will remain a niche market, but that is all.  I think the only valid point the author proposes is to move the form onward as graphic novels more widely spaced (quarterly instead of monthly).
First impression of my Nook and electronic books.  The Nook Tablet is light, balanced and has a comfortable screen.  It has web access (via WiFi) and self-corrects between landscape and portrait viewing.  It also seems to have a very good battery.  I haven’t timed it precisely, but I was playing with it for several hours and it seemed quite happy to continue long past when my netbook would have been insisting on a recharge.  We purchased the scratch saver and protective cover for the Nook as well as the two-year warranty.  I don’t usually buy extended warranties, but technology this new and mobile needs a bit more insurance than something which is only going to sit on a desk.
The cover adds a bit of weight and depth to the Nook while you’re holding it.  This is good, because this makes the Nook feel more like a book in my hand.  Also, the swiping motion to turn a page is close enough to a real page turn as to fool the mind.  The issue of random access to other pages is still a problem.  The Nook page turn does not allow leafing through the pages to find a different page quickly.  This may be overcome with bookmarks, highlights and such, but I’m not currently using these tools, so I can’t yet comment on them.
So, for the moment, the jury is still out for me on eBooks versus “real” books…
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I learned from this that an average person cannot tell the difference between 4 percent unemployment and 8 percent unemployment.  If you have 100 friends, and a few more are employed or unemployed, you can’t accurately gauge whether the economy is going up or down.  If twenty of them were unemployed, you could; in other words, you can easily see firsthand the complete disasters and depressions.  But you can’t see the changes in the normal range of most statistics.  You can’t really see the difference between 4 and 8 percent unemployment.
   —  Mark J. Penn
From his book:  “Microtrends
[I see…  It’s a downturn when “they” are unemployed; it’s a recession when “you” are unemployed; and, it’s a depression when “I” am unemployed.  —  KMAB]
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We are undergoing massive change in contradictory ways — a society that is fundamentally older, yet working more; a society that is striving to be healthier, and yet has never had higher obesity or caffeine consumption, a society that is increasingly discussing politicians’ style and personality, and yet is more educated than ever before.
And the world itself is undergoing some very counterintuitive changes: As science becomes more important, we have had a rise in religion; as economic freedom and capitalism are winning out, democracy and human rights are lagging; societies that give the greatest encouragement to childbearing, are showing some of the greatest population declines.
  —  Mark J. Penn
From his book:  “Microtrends
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The domino theory was wrong because communism in its pure form has been unable to generate a sustaining economic model better than capitalism.  Democracy has actually had more trouble getting established than capitalism because enlightened communist states (which do not include North Korea) have been realizing they can hold on to political power if they loosen up on the economic reins.  By introducing modest economic freedom, they have been able to enjoy continued political domination — we see that on a huge scale in China and Russia, and now we see it here in Vietnam.  These regimes have learned that acknowledging and accommodating economic spirit is the only way to hold on to political power, and that as long as people have economic rights, they may not be so concerned about human rights.  America was founded on the opposite principle — that human and political rights must come first — but these states are turning that theory on its head with some surprising success.
   —  Mark J. Penn
From his book:  “Microtrends
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For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book:  “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
[The above quote is from Feynman’s report on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (frozen O-rings – the danger of which was discounted by management).  It appears to me to be equally applicable in a host of other areas: biological warfare, fracking, corporate fishing and farming, etc.
If there is no global warming and we reduce/stop polluting, the Earth’s ecosystem continues and mankind lives; if there is global warming and we don’t reduce/stop polluting, the ecosystem collapses and most – if not all – of humanity perishes.  We can continue to roll the dice, but who’s fooling whom? — KMAB]
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I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man.  The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality.  It can never be conquered.  The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is.  Evil is impotent before it.  The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it.  This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning.
Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil.  It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness.  But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.
  —  Vasily Grossman
From his book:  “Life And Fate
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A blog I follow, posted this photo some time back…
Redneck Santa's Sleigh
Redneck Santa’s on the way!!!

Merry X-mas to all; and to all a good-night!!

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The Bible was written by numerous people over hundreds of years with wide and often varying concerns, some of which were and are morally indefensible.  Within its pages, however, lie powerful passages that help illuminate our lives and our place before the mystery of human existence.  I, too, struggle, like the writers of the Bible, to understand.  I, too, often get it wrong.  But it is the honesty and rigor of the search, the doubts and reverses, the mistakes and regrets, the ability to stand up again and keep trying that ultimately express faith.  This humility before the unknowable, the acceptance that there is much we will never understand, makes possible self-criticism, self-awareness, self-possession and self-reflection.  They make possible compassion and acts of kindness.  They allow us to see ourselves in the stranger; to reach out in solidarity to those who travel with us on this dusty, brief and often lonely road of life.  This honesty and humility make possible a diverse and tolerant human community.  They sustain life and, in the midst of it all, impart hope.
  —  Chris Hedges
From his book:  “American Fascists
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What you possess in the world will be found at the day of your death to belong to someone else.  But what you are will be yours forever.
  —  Henry Van Dyke
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…I guess I could have become a politician had I not developed an aversion to being nice to people I can’t stand.
  –  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book: “If Not Now, When?
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Agony never made a society quit fighting, as far as I know.  A society has to be captured or killed — or offered things it values.
… One wonders now where our leaders got the idea that mass torture would work to our advantage in Indochina.  It never worked anywhere else.  They got the idea from childish fiction, I think, and from a childish awe of torture.
… I am very sorry we tried torture.  I am sorry we tried anything.  I hope we never try torture again.  It doesn’t work.  Human beings are stubborn and brave animals everywhere.  They can endure amazing amounts of pain, if they have to.
  —  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book: “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
[Obviously, this is a book Bush / Cheney never bothered to read. — KMAB]
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Most writers I know, all over the world, do the best they can.  They must.  They have no choice in the matter.  All artists are specialized cells in a single, huge organism, mankind.  Those cells have to behave as they do, just as the cells in our hearts or our fingertips have to behave as they do.
We here are some of those specialized cells.  Our purpose is to make mankind aware of itself, in all its complexity, and to dream its dreams.  We have no choice in the matter.
…  But if the entire organism thinks that what we do is important, why aren’t we more influential than we are?  I am persuaded that we are tremendously influential, even though most national leaders, my own included, probably never heard of most of us here.  Our influence is slow and subtle, and it is felt mainly by the young.  They are hungry for myths which resonate with the mysteries of their own times.
We give them those myths.
We will become influential when those who have listened to our myths have become influential.  Those who rule us now are living in accordance with myths created for them by writers when they were young.  It is perfectly clear that our rulers do not question those myths for even a minute during busy day after busy day.  Let us pray that those terribly influential writers who created those our leaders’ were humane.
  —  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book: “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons
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It is a part of the adventure of science to try to find a limitation in all directions and to stretch the human imagination as far as possible everywhere.  Although at every stage it has looked as if such an activity was absurd and useless, it often turns out at least not to be useless.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book: “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out
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