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Archive for December, 2013

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
   —    Napoleon Bonaparte
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On This Day In:
2012 Superior Discovery
2011 Welcome Home And Thank You!!
Two Heritages

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Thomas Robert “Tom” Laughlin (August 10, 1931 – December 12, 2013)
Before Steven Seagal (all three word title movies), before John Rambo (“Rambo” series), before John McClane (“Die Hard” series), before Paul Kersey (“Death Wish” series), before Kwai Chang Caine (“Kung Fu” TV series) – there was Billy Jack in “Born Losers” (1967).  Tom Laughlin brought to the big screen the start of the modern vigilante movie genre with the character of Billy Jack.  It seems strange how a little martial arts on the big screen, mixed with some social awareness and righteous indignation can affect people’s lives.
As a twelve year old kid I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to learn how to do that!”  What I was looking at was Hapkido – a Korean form of Karate (open hand fighting).  Ten years later, I found a Hapkido dojo in Germany and studied it for almost a year during my off hours (I was in the Army).  That was set aside once I returned to civilian life…  Until I found Judo, while I was in college.  I took that for a semester, too.  When I moved to England in the ’90’s, a friend from work (who was a black belt in judo) said he’d love to get me on a mat and asked if I was interested in going to a dojo to learn Aikido.  My friend (Dave) and I found a local dojo and began our lessons.  We continued on with that for about two years.  It was great having someone who was a lifelong martial artist as a co-student because he could explain things in much greater detail than I could ever have gotten (except in one-on-one personal lessons).  For his side, he got someone who was bigger and heavier who he could throw around for a couple of hours twice a week.  We both moved on and I stumbled on to a Philippine “combat” style of Aikido while I was in Saudi Arabia which I tried for another year.  And then finally, once back home in America, I was back to traditional Aikido at a local dojo for several years (until I developed AFib and went on blood thinners).
Practicing martial arts, of course, lead me to read about martial arts, which in turn lead to me reading about martial philosophy and then philosophy in general.
Did I ever “become” a martial artist?  No.  Did I ever learn how to do that?  Not hardly.  I never took it seriously enough to be more than what I was – a novice and a bit of a dojo sampler.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes, very much.  Did it affect me?  Yes!  And for at least some small part of that, I have to thank Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin).
Beyond the enjoyment of playing Aikido itself, I learned timing, balance, grace, philosophy, and I gained a certain amount of inner peace.  For all of which, I will always be extremely grateful.
R.I.P.  Tom
Signed,
KMAB (A Fan)
[Please also go check out the song lyrics to “One Tin Soldier – (The Legend of Billy Jack)” on my poems page.   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.
   —    Joseph Addison
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
   –-    Helen Keller
[Found at one of the blogs I follow:  http://stevendavisuk.com/
The specific post is:   http://stevendavisuk.com/2013/10/10/my-top-10-motivational-quotes/
Thanks, Steven!   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Escape Hatches
2011 Sing Like No One Is Listening

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Today, Sarah and I went to the theater to catch the new Hobbit movie: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug“.  “The Hobbit” is a relatively short children’s book (compared to “The Lord of the Rings“).  The LotR movie trilogy was a fairly grand effort as novels turned into movies go.  The current trilogy is more so.  Effort, that is.  There wasn’t enough source material in the original book to justify three LONG movies, so Peter Jackson (writer, producer and director) just kind of makes it up as he goes along in most of this movie.  I guess that’s kind of the curse of the middle movie.
Anyway, this movie, like the first doesn’t bear up well under close “thoughtful” examination.  You have to go into it looking for simple entertainment.  Some sight gags, a whole lot of carefully choreographed fight sequences and some fantastic special effects keep the movie rolling along – and interesting (to me anyway).  Both Sarah and I enjoyed the movie for what it is.  Final recommendation: (a pleasant surprise) highly recommended.
Additional comments: 
There’s a bit of a strange inter-species romance thrown in between the one “attractive” dwarf and a warrior female elf.  I guess it was a way to add a female character to the movie.  In this case, it’s worth it because she is definitely a “kick-ass” warrior.  It is nice to see a female character come into a movie and not end up the damsel in distress needing to be saved by one of the male leads.  Anyway, it was “strange” because 1) it’s not part of the book, so it’s purely invented for the movie, and 2) it was “cute” but didn’t add anything to the movie – at least nothing obvious to me.  It was like, we’ll put this (budding romance) in so we can do this (elfin healing) later in the movie.  Possibly, there’ll be some resolution/explanation in the final movie.
Second, the theater we saw the movie at (the Brenden Theater in Concord, CA) had the promos set to a painfully high sound level.  I had to put my fingers in my ears during them.  Unprompted by me in the car ride home, Sarah offered that she “must be” getting old because the sound was so high it hurt her ears.  She corrected this to “during the trailers”, but I agreed with her.  Fortunately, the movie was nowhere near that sound level, or I would have had to leave and ask for another ticket.  I’m not sure what that was about at all…
Last, this movie is almost three hours long.  My family is convinced I have bladder/prostrate issues.  I think it’s just annoying to sit in a cold theater and have to “go”, but most of us do “tough it out” because that’s what we’ve trained ourselves to do.  I told the wife before leaving, well, I’m just accepting the fact I’m going and I’ll miss some of the movie ’cause I can’t put it (the movie) on pause for nature breaks.  In the end, I think this (acceptance of limits) made the movie more enjoyable for me.  And my daughter said I didn’t miss much during my two “intermissions”.  She added there was another “old guy” who “went” at least three times (before she stopped counting).  “Very disturbing!”  (Ah, the smugness of youth…  Your day will come!)
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On This Day In:
2012 Speaking Of Products
2011 Ready To Be Immortal?

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The speed of communications is wondrous to behold.  It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.
   —    Edward R. Murrow
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On This Day In:
2012 Speaking Of Products
2011 Ready To Be Immortal?

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Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion.
  —   Tina Fey
From her book: “Bossypants
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On This Day In:
2012 Effective Ranges
2011 Three Wisdoms
2010 I’m Just Askin’…
Space & Time

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Of late, I’ve been watching more DVD’s in my free time and reading less books.  I’ve also been reading a lot more other blogs instead of books.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, or even if this can fall under such “moral” concepts as good and bad.  I am generally against reading a book on-line.  Not because I am anti-technology, but because I’m a dinosaur and like the physicality (the touch and smell) of a “real” book.  e-books simply seem sterile.  I’m not sure why I don’t “feel” the same way about reading blogs, but I don’t.  I think it’s because reading blogs doesn’t seem to be discrete in the same way that reading a book feels.  Books start and end.  Blogs start and die.  Maybe “die” isn’t the correct word.  Maybe “wither and end” is a better description.  I guess most folks simply run out of time when other things in life start to get in the way.  Blogs are more conversational, and people sometimes just quit speaking…
I also really seem to be going through phases in my own blogging “life cycle”.  The first one to two years I was posting infrequently but they were longer posts about things which were moving me emotionally.  Gradually, I started adding quotes, favorite speeches and poems (and favorite song lyrics) and then finally my workout history.  Typically, I made multiple posts on the days when I had free time, and then there was nothing for a couple of weeks.  My daughter “introduced” me to scheduling, and that kind of evened out my postings.
Every now and then I’d post a review of a movie I’d seen or book I’d read.  Then, of course, my tendency to be obsessive meant I had to do them daily (or as near as possible to the actual day viewed / completed).  “Mostly” that has remained true, which means that some days, you’d read my scheduled post and then later get a second about whatever was currently happening (like today).
I had few “views” and even fewer “followers”, but that was (is) okay because I was (am) blogging for me and not for you (sorry about that dear readers).  A couple of times a month I might get a “like” and once in a blue-moon I would get a “comment”.  I always responded to the comments, even if it was only to smile ” 🙂 ” and say thank you.  I almost always went back to the “likes” to see what their sites were about.  Not because I wanted to read anyone else’s site (per se), but because I was curious about the someone’s which were responding to my random thoughts (postings).
It wasn’t long before I was stumbling upon really creative and interesting people.  You’ll have to excuse me if I seem anthropomorphic, but I think of your blogs as you (and yes, I realize they are only the “you” you want me to see).  Over time (sometime in year three), the number of “likes” got to be too great to visit each every day and I began the slow slide into “following” myself.  I now have a couple hundred “followers” and I “follow” several hundred too.  At first this wasn’t a big deal as most bloggers either post a couple of times a month or post five or six times a day (but they are photos and quotes which don’t take long to view).  Slowly, though, I noticed I was reading more and more blogs which were posting more frequently, with more content and which took more and more time to consider (not just read, but think about and consider the “impact” on my thoughts).
I must admit I’ve now reached the saturation point.  Where once I obsessively followed each posting on every blog, I then began to flitter like a butterfly amongst the blogs I follow.  I now have realized that I simply lack the time to “touch” them frequently (even with the weekly round-up).  However, I simply do not have enough hours in the day to enjoy all of your work.  Reading (books in particular) is my passion.  Trying to note / record a few of the thoughts which touch (or move) my soul has become the purpose of this blog.  For now, I must apologize to those, who like me, are casting threads into the ether.  If you see me “like” or “comment” on your sites fewer times than I have in the past, this is not a dispersion on your blog, as much as it is a recognition that time is fleeting and life is wondrously short…
DVD Reviews:
I’ve actually watched five different DVDs since my last movie review, so in addition to my lengthy lead-in (above), you’ll now have to bear up under another large chunk of reading.  The five DVDs are: “The Informant!“, “The Last Airbender“, “The Iron Giant“, “The Dark Knight Rises“, and “Ip Man: The Final Fight“.
The Informant!” stars Matt Damon as an up-and-coming executive at a corporate agribusiness, who upon feeling threatened by the failing project he is assigned, decides to become an inside agent for the FBI in an investigation of price fixing.  The movie is based on a real-life case, but is meant to be treated as a kind of black comedy.  To be honest, although I am a Damon fan, this was a movie I could not wait to end.  I found it tiresome and humorless.  I guess the comedy was supposed to be in the irony, because it certainly wasn’t in anything else.  If you are a committed anti-agribusiness advocate, this movie may confirm / support some of your worst fears.  For anyone else, give it a miss.  Final recommendation: not recommended.
The Last Airbender” is a children’s kung-fu, magic, sorcery, fantasy movie.  The story and acting is suitable for the target age (5 to 12 yrs old).  The special effects are quite good.  My son watched the TV series the movie is based on and he hated this movie.  My daughter, who did not follow the TV show has friends who did and she says they all uniformly hate this movie.  I have never seen a single TV episode, so my review must be taken with a grain of salt.  I enjoyed it!  It’s not great cinema, but really, how much great cinema comes out of the 5 to 12 target audience which is based on the above description (okay, I grant you the first “Kung-Fu Panda” was pretty good).  This movie has none of the humor or heart of “Kung-Fu Panda”, but it’s okay.  By the way, I got it used for $3, so it’s not like it broke the bank to view it.  It is obviously meant to be the first in a long line of series / sequels.  Will I watch them.  Probably, but I won’t see them at the theater, even at a discounted matinee price.  Final recommendation: an okay action movie to kill a few hours watching with your kids, nieces and nephews.
The Iron Giant” is throw-back to earlier animation movie style – pre-3d (“Toy Story“), Saturday-cartoonish flat style.  Basically, a metal robot is sent to destroy earth.  It is damaged and then assisted by a young boy who befriends the robot.  The robot is a weapon which “learns” to be non-violent.  This is a twist on the “Frankenstein” / “Number 5 Is Alive” Sci-Fi movie where the “bad guy” is not necessarily the “un-human” character.  Anti-military, anti-government, pro-peace movie…  In any case, this is a very charming movie which (deservedly) has kind of a cult-classic following.  It is suitable for almost all ages.  Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!
The Dark Knight Rises” is the final movie in the Christian Bale, “Batman” trilogy.  I reviewed this movie back when I saw it at the theater (see that review here), and my review as it stood remains very accurate.  Well, maybe too kind…  Not much of this movie plot/story bears thinking about too much as it is all comic-book fantasy – even within the scope of comic-book adaptation it’s pretty far fetched.  But as stated in my original review, this is not the type of movie you go to for anything but fun and action.  One final point: the sound problem I had at the theater was not present while viewing the DVD, so basically the sound levels in the theater were screwed up.  The dialog is fully understandable.  Final recommendation: Still highly recommended.
Ip Man: The Final Fight” stars Anthony Wong in a dramatized biography of the Kung-Fu Sifu who taught the famous Chinese movie star / martial artist Bruce Lee.  This is the third in the series and it follows the life from the end of World War II to Ip Man’s death.  This is “Americanized” Chinese movie making, similar to a number of movies which have come out in the last ten or so years.  The movie’s production value is superb and up to the level of the martial arts in the film.  As such, plot, dialogue and action all make for a pretty enjoyable movie.  In terms of pure martial arts, I think the first movie was the best of the three, but again there is not much of a fall off between the sequel and this, so the series holds up very well.  If you are into the modern age of Chinese martial arts movies, this is definitely a must see.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!
Thank you to all of you who’ve managed to make it through this lengthy posting!
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On This Day In:
2012 Thoughts And Communications
2011 But How Does Peter Feel?
2010 Name That Regret

 

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Real honor comes from honoring humanity.
  —  Lt. Col. Peter Fromm, U.S. Army, Retired; Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer, U.S. Army; and Lt. Col. Kevin Cutright, U.S. Army
From their article: “The Myths We Soldiers Tell Ourselves (and the Harm These Myths Do)
Found at: http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/

MilitaryReview_20131031_art010.pdf

Originally found via one of the blogs I follow: http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com/
The specific post is:  http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/

the-ethics-of-the-marine-corps-urination-case/

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On This Day In:
2012 Thoughts And Communications
2011 But How Does Peter Feel?
2010 Name That Regret

 

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Another expression of the be-do philosophy is the enshrinement of key policies and programs, thereby stymieing honest debate.  Such stultification is fairly common in large institutions, where the tendency is to create a narrative that makes assent to form fashionable, demonizes the naysayers, and then enforces buy-in with rewards and punishments.  Those who possess the proper faith are righteous, those who do not are unrighteous.  The result is groupthink rather than a helpful, continuous, living dialectic concerning the problem at hand.
   —    Lt. Col. Peter Fromm, U.S. Army, Retired; Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer, U.S. Army; and Lt. Col. Kevin Cutright, U.S. Army
From their article: “The Myths We Soldiers Tell Ourselves (and the Harm These Myths Do)
Found at: http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/
MilitaryReview_20131031_art010.pdf
Originally found via one of the blogs I follow: http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com/
The specific post is:  http://carryingthegun.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/
the-ethics-of-the-marine-corps-urination-case/
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On This Day In:
2012 One More Rung
2011 Sunday Morning Earlies      (Hugging trees and smiling…)
Hurry
Updates On Life
2010 It’s Gettin’ Deep In Here

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Reading, like all work, has its rules.  A perfect knowledge of a few writers and a few subjects is more valuable than a superficial one of a great many.  The fine points of a piece of writing are seldom apparent at first reading.  In youth, one should search among books as one searches the world for friends, and once these friends are found, chosen, and adopted, one must go into retirement with them.  Intimacy with Montaigne, Saint Simon, Retz, Balzac, or Proust would be enough to enrich one’s whole life.
    —    André Maurois
[Of course there can never be anything approaching “a perfect knowledge” of anything and I could easily argue there is a time and place for the generalist as well as for the expert.  Be that as it may, I completely agree that an author’s works can come to seem like a friendship we can carry within ourselves forever and seek to revisit frequently.   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Cadet Prayer
2011 Easy To Tell
2010 A NEW Lion In The Senate (Channeling Mr. Smith)
Inception Redux
A Quick Hit Of Stats

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Outside-In

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
  —  Groucho Marx
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On This Day In:
2012 They Are All Perfect
2011 Delegation – The “How-To’s”
2009 Diet Update and Other Bits & Bobs…

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Conquest brings no lasting happiness unless the person conquered was possessed of free will.  Only then can there be doubt and anxiety and those continual victories over habit and boredom which produce the keenest pleasures of all.  The comely inmates of the harem are rarely loved, for they are prisoners.  Inversely, the far too accessible ladies of present-day seaside resorts almost never inspire love, because they are emancipated.  Where is love’s victory when there is neither veil, modesty, nor self-respect to check its progress?  Excessive freedom raises up the transparent walls of an invisible seraglio to surround these easily acquired ladies.  Romantic love requires women, not that they should be inaccessible, but that their lives should be lived within the rather narrow limits of religion and convention.  These conditions, admirably observed in the Middle-Ages, produced the courtly love of that time.  The honoured mistress of the château remained within its walls while the knight set out for the Crusades and thought about his lady.  In those days a man scarcely ever tried to arouse love in the object of his passion.  He resigned himself to loving in silence, or at least without hope.  Such frustrated passions are considered by some to be naive and unreal, but to certain sensitive souls this kind of remote admiration is extremely pleasurable, because, being quite subjective, it is better protected against deception and disillusion.
    —    André Maurois
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On This Day In:
2012 Have We Met?
2011 Efficiently Useless

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According to Pieter Cohen, a professor at Harvard Medical School, there are really only two types of sports supplements: those that are safe but don’t work, and those that might work but have side effects, especially at higher than normal levels.  “If any supplement, no matter how beneficial, has a pharmaceutical effect, it’s also got a downside,” he says.  “There’s no way to get around that basic principle.”
  —    Quoted from the article:  “Your Daily Multivitamin May Be Hurting You
Written by:  Alex Hutchinson
In the magazine: OUTSIDE MAGAZINE, Nov 2013
[I recently began reading this magazine and have been VERY pleasantly surprised.  It is closer to a health and fitness magazine than it is to an “outside” Sports Illustrated or travel magazine.  I got my subscription by burning up some travel miles, but I may end up spending “real” money when the current subscription runs out.   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Just Trying To Earn A Living
2011 Productive Worry

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The role of the USDA was originally to promote the products of the animal agriculture industry.  Over fifty years ago, the USDA began promoting the so-called four basic food groups, with meat and dairy products in the number one and two spots on the list.  Financed by the meat and dairy industry and backed by nutritional scientists on the payroll of the meat and dairy industry, this promotion ignored science.
 …
Our government spends over $20 Billion on price supports that benefit the dairy, beef, and veal industries.  This money is given to farmers to artificially reduce the cost of crops used to feed cows, thereby helping to reduce the prices we pay for dairy foods, fowl, and meat.  Fruits and vegetables grown primarily for human consumption are specifically excluded from USDA price supports.  [Emphasis is mine.    —    KMAB]
Out of one pocket, we pay billions of our tax dollars to support the production of expensive, disease-causing foods.  Out of the other pocket, we pay medical bills that are too high because our overweight population consumes too much of these rich, disease-causing foods.  Our tax dollars are actually used to make our society sicker and keep our health insurance costs high.
   —    Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
From his book: “Eat To Live
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On This Day In:
2012 Historically Unacceptable
2011 Niners Are NFC West Division Champions!!
The Essence Of Leadership

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