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Archive for January, 2013

Love really has nothing to do with wisdom or experience or logic.
  —  Bruno Lessing
I never could explain why I love anybody, or anything.
  —  Walt Whitman
But love is such a mystery,
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
I then am in most doubt.
  —  Sir John Suckling
From the poem:  “Song
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Yesterday I suffered another bad bout with my kidney stones.  I took advantage of the time off to finish the book: “American Shaolin“, by Matthew Polly (2007©).  This is a story about a young man who drops out of college to travel to the middle of China to spend two years learning about Kung-Fu.  Because he has been raised as a “nerdy” romantic from the mid-west (Kansas), it’s not good enough to just study Kung-Fu in America, he has to go all the way to the Shaolin temple.
The book is more about coming of age and Chinese culture than it is about martial arts.  Kung-Fu is really just the vehicle to carry us through the author’s voyage / passage into adulthood.  The story is a very fast read even though it’s over 350 pages.  Basically, I read it in one full day and one half day.
As per usual, I came upon the motivation to read this book quite by serendipity.  I found the book at Half-Price Books for $2 a couple of months ago, so I picked it up thinking I’ll add it to my martial arts library and maybe get around to reading it eventually.   Well, it turns out one of the blogs I follow has an interview with the author discussing learning – basically, the rule of 10,000.  Since I knew I had the book on my shelf, I thought this is the universe’s way of telling me to read it.  So, “eventually” came sooner than I expected.
If you are at all interested in Chinese culture, you should read this book.  It is a gold mine – a treasure trove.  For example, the Chinese begin bargaining with a cigarette.  It is usually offered by the seller and depending on how quickly you take it (if at all) and how you take it (with humility) and what type you ask for (American – expensive; Chinese – cheaper), you set the tone for the entire negotiation.  This is the kind of real world experience you can only get by spending a fair amount of time living with and reflecting on a particular culture.
There is not much in the book about fighting or Kung-Fu, but that’s okay.  Many times the best books about a culture have nothing to do with the vehicle for examining the culture and everything to do with the view as you travel.  In other words, it is the Chinese people who make this a entertaining and fascinating book.  Not the martial art.  Highly recommended!!
Oh, incidentally, the “rule of 10,000” is that you must practice something 10,000 times before you can become proficient at it.  From there, you can begin to achieve mastery.
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We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.
  —  Johan Wolfgang Goethe
[I prefer to think we are shaped by who we love and who loves us in turn.  —  KMAB]
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Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.
  —  Dr. Samuel Johnson
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As love increases, prudence diminishes.
  —  Francois de La Rochefoucauld
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Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.  There are no longer problems of the spirit.  There is only the question:  When will I be blown up?  Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
He must learn them again.  He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.  Until he does so, he labors under a curse.  He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion.  His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.  He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
  —  William Faulkner’s Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949
[For the full speech, you can go to my Poems page or click here.  —  KMAB]
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For the last two years, about this time, I make my Super Bowl predictions.  I try to pick the winner, predict the score and explain why.  So far, I’m zero(0) for two(2) on my picks.  However, I’m not so easily deterred that I won’t try again.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure I will have to admit that I am a lifetime San Francisco Forty Niners fan.  This means my “normal” sense of objective reasoning will have to be set aside for this posting.
I believe the 49ers will easily win the Super Bowl to the tune of something like 34 to 13.  That’s correct!  We will score four touchdowns and two field goals and they will score one touchdown and two field goals.
The 49ers met the Baltimore Ravens last season on Thanksgiving night and they defeated us 16 to 6.  They scored one touchdown and three field goals to our (only) two field goals.  The difference in the game was nine(9!) sacks of our quarterback (Alex Smith).  This was very much a defensive battle and Ray Lewis, the Ravens middle linebacker did not play due to injury.  This year, neither team has as good a defense as they had last year.  I personally think the age (and related slowness) of the Ravens linebackers will prove to be their downfall.  The Ravens other great linebacker (Suggs) has been slowed by injury this year and is not his pass rushing best any more.  Not to take too much credit from the Ravens that night, the fact is the game was played on a short week (for both teams) but we had to spend a day travelling to Baltimore.  I honestly feel it they had had to come to us OR if the game was on a normal Sunday, we would have prevailed.
On the other side, our new quarterback (Kaepernick) is much more athletic than our quarterback from last year (Smith).  Kaepernick is also a much better deep thrower than Smith.  I believe Kaepernick will open with runs to draw the Raven linebackers close, then throw to Vernon Davis (our tight end) in mid-range, and then go over the top (and center) to Randy Moss.  With the Ravens thinking center and deep, Kaepernick will switch to shorter routes (in and outside) to Michael Crabtree.  With the Ravens dropping back to protect the pass, the 49ers will interweave the ground pounding of Frank Gore.
The Ravens offense is a mirror of the 49ers, but not as good.  Flacco is a good deep thrower, but we have a better pass rush than they’ve seen in a while.  Pitta is a large target as a tight end, but he is not as fast as V. Davis and our linebackers are better pass defenders than the Raven’s are.  Reed is their best pass defender, but he has lost a step.
So, this will be a VERY physical game, but the 49ers should win handily…
The Genius” — Book Review:
About a month ago, I picked up: “The Genius” by David Harris (2008©).  The sub-title is: “How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty“.
To be honest, I was expecting another “puff-piece” about how great and good Bill Walsh was.  (Walsh passed away 30 July 2007.)  The reality is (was) that he was not a particularly nice man – even if he was a great head coach.  Walsh is made to seem almost bi-polar and manically depressive in this book.  I don’t question this impression.  I just wonder that twenty years after the fact, so much of this is “new” to me.  I bought this book expecting to “re-live” some of the good-old days.  The book is a very fast read (which I didn’t expect) and was perfect to squeeze in in-between our winning the NFC Conference Championship and going on to the Super Bowl.
If you are looking for a book to advise you how to build a winning football (or sports) program, this one won’t be of much use.  If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of the “West Coast Offense”, sorry, still no joy here.  If you’re looking for how to evaluate college players for drafting to create a winning team, nope.  How to create a game plan or manage an actual game, nope and nope again.
So why is this book “good”?  (I highly recommend it!)
Because it reminds of what must be sacrificed in order to reach the top (of any profession) and stay there.  It is a cautionary tale of an intelligent, forward looking and forward thinking man who could not separate sports losses from personal failures and suffered terribly / emotionally for it.
Although I enjoyed every Walsh (49er) victory, I also found his personnel actions disloyal and sometimes despicable.  This was true “back in the day” (when they were happening) and more so as I read this book.  That’s not to say Walsh wasn’t doing these things for the good of the team.  It’s just I found them morally objectionable.
It seems, for the last chapters, that Walsh, after his own retirement, made a concerted effort to try to befriend the players he treated so badly during their careers.  I’m happy he was able to convince them there was nothing personal in his intent while he was coaching.  It is stated that many former players came to have great affection for him, even a sense of love.  I think this a “common” response among people who feel someone tried to get the very best out of them – even more than the person themself felt they had to offer.
It’s a shame that a “truer” genius could not have found a way to be both a great coach and a better person at the same time.
In conclusion – Go Niners!!  Beat the Ravens!!
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Romantics

Overlooked and misunderstood by many, this select group of men are not boys with wide eyed unachievable dreams, they are built by passion, driven by adventure and succeed in every aspect of their life.  They read people in order to gain tolerance of opinions, and enjoy the artistic efforts of others gifted and driven to achieving such skill.  Emotionally intelligent they talk about feelings and reflect on past experiences.  Any story from any genre can affect them, and certain scores of music can even make them cry.  They never forget the fate navigators, that step briefly into their world leaving various lessons or found [sic: “fond”?] memories behind.  A soul that is forever pensive and forthcoming, an excellent host and sublime conversationalist.  Ready to defend his opinions with tolerance of others feelings and mistakes, quick to forgive, slow to forget.  A man who spends his money, as he knows that death can come at anytime, unafraid for what uncertain adventures could such an experience bring.  His heart hangs from his sleeve, his emotions roll from the tip of his tongue.  A man that is full of more love than any friend could ever wish to share, and any lover wishes to behold.  A kind and gentle man that wants nothing more than to keep you laughing.
  —  The above is from one of the blogs I follow:  http://tearmatt.com
The specific post was:  http://tearmatt.com/2013/01/20/dawn-of-the-new-romantics/
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The goal of Zen is to learn one’s true nature and attain Buddhahood; this cannot be achieved through study or even instruction, but only through meditation.
[I’m not sure where this quote came from.  It is not attributed in my journal and a Google search failed to turn up a source.  In any case, it amuses me to think of meditating to “achieve” a goal of Zen.  —  KMAB]
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It is a gloomy moment in history.  Not for many years – not in the lifetime of most men who read this paper – has there been so much grave and deep apprehension; never has the future seemed so incalculable as at this time.
In France the political caldron seethes and bubbles with uncertainty; Russia hangs as usual like a cloud, dark and silent upon the horizon of Europe…
It is a solemn moment, and so no man can feel an indifference – which, happily, no man pretends to feel – in the issue of events.
Of our new troubles no man can see the end.  …  It is no time for idleness, for trifling, for forgetfulness.  The complexion of every country, and of the world, rests at last upon the character of individuals.
  —  From “Harper’s Weekly“,  dtd:  10 October 1857
[…The more things stay the same.  —  KMAB]
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We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion.
Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same.  For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land.  What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice?  We sought liberty – freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves.  This then we sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning.  What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty?  I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts.  These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes.  Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.  While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.  And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women?  It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes.  That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow.  A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few – as we have learned to our sorrow.
What then is the spirit of liberty?  I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith.  The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near 2,000 years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.
And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans creates it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all;  in that spirit of liberty and of America so prosperous, and safe, and contented, we shall have failed to grasp its meaning, and shall have been truant to its promise, except as we strive to make it a signal, a beacon, a standard to which the best hopes of mankind will ever turn; In confidence that you share that belief, I now ask you to raise your hand and repeat with me this pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands — One nation, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  —  Judge Billings Learned Hand
Presented in 1944 during “I AM an American Day
Judge Hand was the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals in New York
[Interestingly, the above “quote” is not the one which originally appears in my journal.  It appears there are several versions of the speech with the last paragraph different in each.  I have here an amalgamation of three – including the one from my journal.
Also, note the difference in the Pledge of Allegiance from what it appears today.  In the 1950’s, under pressure from the Catholics, the Congress “officially” altered the Pledge to include the words “…One nation, under God, Indivisible…”.  This was a reaction to the threat of the Godless Communist.  I sometimes wonder what the Founding Fathers would have thought of this change as they almost universally favored a separation of Church and State.  —  KMAB]
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I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
  —  Emily Dickinson
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Having been chosen the leader of my party, I feel it my duty to lead.
  —  President Woodrow Wilson
[A message to President Obama:  You were not elected to manage the country.  You were elected to lead it.  Now, get (and get us) going!  —  KMAB]
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Picture of MLK, Jr

The Honor Is To Serve…

The title of this post is taken from the famous “I Have A Dream” speech given by Reverend King at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read the entire thing.  I consider it to be one of the great speeches of the English language.
There is ALWAYS a fierce urgency of NOW — for each of us.  Life is all about the now.
  —  KMAB
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[Two thoughts on today’s Inaugural celebrations…]
This not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication.  Here muster not the forces of party, but the forces of Humanity…  I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking men to my side.  God helping me, I will not fail them, if they will but counsel and sustain me!
  —  Woodrow Wilson
From his 1st Inaugural Address
Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.
  —  Sydney J. Harris
[To the former:  I stand at your side, Mr. President.  To the latter: ask me again in Nov. 2014 and then again about a year after that…  Until then, God Bless you, Mr. President and God Bless the United States of America!  —  KMAB]
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