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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Obligatory 2010 Wrap-Up & New Year Resolutions

Annual Summary

January
Wrote about visiting an orphanage in Cambodia, and night navigation training in Marin County.
February
Turned 29.  Despaired.
March
Moved to Los Angeles and had my first taste of mountaineering in Tahoe.
April
Not much.
May
Failed to talk to the girl in the coffee shop and went to the Living Desert with my Parents
June
Visited Santa Cruz for a close friend's birthday.  Chaos ensued. Started a fiction series that sucked.  And sucked.  And sucked again.
July
Multi-Day Backpacking trip with a band of ninjas and samurai.
August
I stabbed myself with a Masai Spear, and then summited Mt. San Gorgonio with Les Champ.
September
My cousins from NY visited.  I learned what it would have been like if Bryan had been a sister.
October
My friend Alison visited from the UK.  We made and ate dessert every single day.  We visited Santa Cruz and San Francisco, where Alison almost had a fistfight with "The Fury of Me."  I made soap.  I then got 2nd place in a travel writing contest.
November
I wrote a 3-part How-To guide for Amateur Boxing competition at the Art of Manliness.  Spent Thanksgiving with my Parents and family in Palm Desert.  Visited Hong Kong to discuss a new job opportunity.
December
Accepted new career offer, watched my Brother in his first MMA fight in Watsonville, visited Joshua Tree, spent Christmas with my family, and rang in the new year with my beautiful girlfriend.

2011 Resolutions
  • I will write in my journal everyday
  • I will finish paying off all of my debt
  • I will achieve conversational level of Spanish
  • I will live off 50% of post-tax income
  • I will drink 1 gallon of water a day
  • I will sleep outside as often as possible
Thanks to everyone who followed along and commented over the course of the year.  A special thanks to the following constant readers:

Hanley at The Fury of Me
Barnes at Gaijin Ass
Alison at some Muay Thai gym across the Atlantic
Allison at Webster's Law
Katrina Kay at Gimme Fantastic
Juliana at Night Writings
Cheryl at Starbucks Break
KC at Word
Annabelle at I'll Tell You Anyway
Bryan, Mom and Dad


Happy New Years to everyone.  I hope that 2011 is a year of adventure, experience, humor and joy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - A Year in Pictures

Along Bishop Pass
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From the top of Pyramid Peak
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Sunset over Joshua Tree
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Touch me
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View from the trail of Mt. Ryan
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Storm clouds over Joshua Tree
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With close friends in San Francisco
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Top of San Gorgonio with Les Champ
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Sunset over Dusy Basin
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Reflections over the lake
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Hobbiton
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Just below Bishop Pass
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Fuck you, I'm a Marmot!
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Game-planning
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View from our campsite
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Snow-capped mountains
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Lakes below Bishop Pass
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Taking a breather
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Con Caracter!
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BBQ at Jenny's in the summer
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Ted and Clara at the op of Pyramid Peak after an exhausting several hours
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More rocks
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Joshua Tree - December 2010

I wanted to get outside one last time before 2010 ends, and settled on Joshua Tree for it's proximity to my parent's house, lack of snow, and absolutely stunning scenery.  My best plans were nearly compromised when Southern California got dumped on with several weeks of pouring rain.  What was originally going to be 3 days in the high desert was downgraded to a single day.  My brother joined me overnight, and our folks came out during the day and early evening for a hike up Ryan Mountain and beers around the campfire.

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Bryan and I got to camp early and found a nice spot that was backed by a massive boulder pile, ensuring that were there an earthquake, we would be completely squashed under the weight of a million tons of stone.  We did a little bouldering and scrambling around the rock piles, which consisted of Bryan smoothly scaling sheer stone faces while I kept falling off. 

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When our parents got there, we headed to the Ryan Mountain trail-head for a sunset hike.  The temperature dropped quickly on the shaded side of the mountain, but the scenery was more than worth it.  The Ryan Mountain trail is a pretty easy 1.5 miles, going from around 4K feet elevation to around 5.5K.  As you crest over the spine, you have views in every direction.  I love high desert.  It looks like you are on some foreign planet, completely devoid of life.

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After getting back to camp, we shared a few beers, and then Mom and Dad headed home.  Bryan and I stayed up, discussing plans and New Year's Resolutions (or their lack), the benefits of the Falcon Punch * and appropriate recipients of it, and we drank more beer.  Or I did, rather.  Bryan was drinking like a pansy.  This is why his Falcon Punch will always suck.

Eventually we stumbled off to bed.  I don't think it froze that night, but it was cold enough, surely in the mid 30's, but three layers of clothing proved sufficient for comfort.  Upon waking the next morning, a fire was surely in order, followed by coffee/hot chocolate, and some more boulder hopping.  It was Christmas Eve day, and we headed back to Palm Desert early.  A brief but very enjoyable trip.

* Falcon Punch, N.
 The act of jumping off from your f-zero vehicle, charging and engulfing your arm with flames so that punching an unexpecting person to his/her mortal doom would cause the breaking of a hole in the space-time continuum and creating a beam of light so great the goddamn galaxy doesnt have the balls to show anyone....

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Amateur Boxing - A How-To Guide, Part 3

I am doing a 3-part instructional on the preparation and planning needed for competing in amateur boxing over at The Art of Manliness. Part 1 looked at selecting a gym and coach, and some of the positive and negative aspects of the different gym types. Part 2 looks at the training environment, sparring etiquette and the like.  Part 3 discusses getting your physical, dealing with pre-fight jitters, and looks at exactly at what to expect when you step into the ring for your first fight.

The schedule tells you what corner you will be in (red or blue) and what number on the schedule you will be fighting. I always pray to not be first, but not to be too far down the list either. As I mentioned, nothing is worse than the long wait. Another small joy of amateur boxing is the close proximity to your opponent. From the moment you get there, everyone is eye-balling each other, mentally sizing the guys up, especially anyone who looks around their weight. Once the matchups are announced, you know which guy you will be fighting. You will most likely be getting dressed and warmed up in the same room as him. I had a fight last year where the room was so cramped that we were literally shadow boxing right next to each other as our bout neared. This is stressful.

Read the rest here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Reading List

My goal for 2010 was to read 40 books.  I'm at 36 right now, so got to get cracking these last few weeks.  Here's the current list and I will update if I finish anything else.  Interests seem to have changed a bit since 2009.

EDITED


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Philosophical
"Hamlet's Blackberry," by William Powers
"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," by Haurki Murukami
"The Cult of the Amateur," by Andrew Keen
"A Place of My Own," by Michael Pollan
"The Circle of Simplicity," by Cecile Andrews
"Vagabonding," by Rolf Potts
"Shop Class as Soul Craft," by Mathew Crawford

Political and Societal
"3 Cups of Tea," by Greg Mortensen
"Nickeled and Dimed (On Not Getting By in America)," by Barbara Ehrenreich

Adventure
"The Lost City of Z,"by David Grann
"Soul, Sweat and Survival on the Pacific Crest Trail," by Bob Holtel
"God's Middle Finger," by Richard Grant

Fiction
"Spartina," by John Casey
"Island of the Blue Dolphins," by Scott O'Dell
"Beat the Reaper," by Josh Bazell
"GoWith Me," by Castle Freeman
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," by Mark Haddon
"The Power of One," by Bryce Courtney
"Shardik," by Richard Adams
"Watership Down," by Richard Adams
"The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
"Factotum," by Charles Bukowski
"The Bonfire of the Vanities," by Tom Woolfe
"Rain on the River," by Jim Dodge
"Shantaram," by David Gregory Roberts
"Stone Junction," by Jim Dodge
"Fup," by Jim Dodge

Finance
"The Cheapskates Next Door," by William Yeats

Biography/Autobiography
"The Thoreau You Don't Know," Robert Sullivan
"The Life and Crimes of Dong King," by Jack Newfield
"I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell," Tucker Max
"Atlas - From the Streets to the Ring," by Teddy Atlas
"Sweet William - The Life of Billy Conn," by Andrew O'Toole

Non-Bio Combat Sports
"The Boxing Scene," by Thomas Hauser
"Four Kings - Hagler, Leonard, Hearns, Duran," by George Kimball
"Sorcery at Ceasars," by Steve Marantz
"The Fighters Mind - Inside the Mental Game," by Sam Sheridan

Business
"Making it all Work," by David Allen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Amateur Boxing - A How-To Guide Pt.2

I am doing a 3-part instructional on the preparation and planning needed for competing in amateur boxing over at  The Art of Manliness.  Part 1 looked at selecting a gym and coach, and some of the positive and negative aspects of the different gym types.  Part 2 looks at the training environment, sparring etiquette and the like.

As you progress, sparring becomes more and more intense.  Mismatches are often amended with a handicap, where a bigger fighter will take a bit off of his punches, or a more experienced fighter will let his opponent dictate the pace.  More even match-ups, with both guys of similar weight and experience, will resemble a full-contact fight.  There are some notable differences of course, such as the larger gloves.  Also, if a guy gets noticeably rocked by a hard shot or barrage of punches, etiquette usually demands avoiding going in for the kill, unlike in an actual fight.

Read the rest...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Inner Circle Fight Team - MMA in Watsonville

My brother made his amateur MMA debut last Saturday night in Watsonville, Ca.  This Rugged Life was on the scene to cover the action.

Amateur Mixed Martial Arts action came to the Monterey Bay last Saturday night for the C.A.M.O.-organized "Coastal Collision" in Watsonville, Ca.  Bryan Schatz entered the cage as the third event of the night, squaring off against Eduardo Carrillo out of San Jose, Ca.  The two met at an agreed-upon catch-weight of 145 pounds, with Schatz possessing a slight reach and height advantage over the shorter Carrillo.

The bell rang for round 1 and the two touched gloves before squaring off.  After a brief feeling-out period that saw both fighters land hard shots, Schatz took the action to the ground, closing the distance and shooting for a double leg take-down that turned into a vicious slam that brought the crowd to their feet.  After the scramble, Schatz ended up in Carrillo's guard, and both traded several blows to the head and body.  While competitive, the first round went to Schatz.

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The second round started as a mirror image of the first, with both fighters showcasing their extensive experience in the stand-up arts of boxing and Muay Thai.  Trouble came shortly into the round when Carrillo landed a beautiful left hook, right hand combo that caught Schatz on the way in.  The right hand wobbled Schatz, but his instincts took him into a clinch to buy time.  Carrillo went on the attack for most of the rest of the round, leading with hard right leads and scoring with knees to the head at the end of his combinations.  The barrage left a large welt under Schatz's left eye.  The bell rang, and the 2nd round was a wide one for Carrillo.

Schatz's corner worked on the eye between rounds, applying liberal amounts of vaseline, and their fighter bounced off the stool to start the 3rd round.  He then looked over at the crowd and grinned.  Carrillo came out hard and aggressive for the last round, looking to finish off his opponent.  Schatz had recuperated well between rounds, and fired back with straight punches down the middle.  Halfway through, Schatz landed another hard slam to his opponent, changing the course of the round, and perhaps the fight.  The two combatants grappled for the balance of the round, both looking to finish the other with a submission but lacking the time to put one in place.

In what had clearly been the most exciting bout of the evening, the three judges scored a split decision victory for Carrillo.  Where most fights have a clear winner and loser, with the victor being elevated and the defeated knocked down a peg, this was the type of fight that saw both participants elevated just for their participation in it.  It was a very solid, back and forth type of fight that saw both men in danger at numerous times, and both men fight back with tremendous heart and courage.

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On a personal note, I am very proud of my brother for accomplishing what has been a long-time goal of his, fighting bravely against a very skilled opponent, and being a gentleman both before and after the bout.


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Monday, December 6, 2010

One Moment

I am signed up for Reverb's "Reflect and Manifest" project for December.  They provide a writing prompt every day during the month for bloggers to write about.

December 1 - Moment
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

The last sliver of golden sun hung over the mountains, and we watched it disappear.  The transition from light to dark seemed more sudden here than in the ordered routine of our normal lives, and it was almost as dramatic as someone turning out the lights.

We were sprawled on a slab of solid granite, assembled on loose boulders for chairs and our legs were stretched out in front of us.  I passed out Dominican cigarillos that I had bought at the Duty Free store of some forgotten airport, and we lit them with matches.  The flask went around a few times.  Lies were told, stories were embellished and perfected, and we soaked in the dirt and the fatigue and the peace and the calm. 


The stars began appearing, more and more by the minute, a thousand thousand jewels sparkling and shining, so clear and perfect.  It was painfully and perfectly beautiful.  I felt calm and alert and completely comfortable.  High in the eastern Sierras, surrounded by close friends and family, I felt alive.


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Sunday, December 5, 2010

One Word

Due to a strong case of writer's block, I am signed up for Reverb's "Reflect and Manifest" project for December.  They provide a writing prompt every day during the month for bloggers to write about.  I am starting this 5 days late.


December 1 - One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?


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This may be laughable to those who know me well, but 2010 was a year of Maturity for me.  For the first time in my life I made conscious decisions with the future in mind, AND followed up with the appropriate actions.  For a long time I have been somewhat split between the idea of succeeding within society and the contrary view of completely leaving that society.  I would often bounce between the ideas of moving my career forward and just selling all my shit and walking across China (or something similar).

I think a significant contributing factor to my decision to make financially-sound choices is witnessing friends and family who are struggling later on in life, and seeing just how limiting the lack of money can be.  Fear not, I am not developing a "Greed is Good" Wall Street mentality.  I still have inexpensive tastes and consider myself anti-materialistic.  As money never really mattered much to me, it was easy for me to spend it.  Buying rounds of drinks for friends, eating out whenever I was too lazy to cook, and other wasteful purchases kept me merely breaking even, even as my income went up.  This year I began contributing to my retirement savings again, saved up a solid emergency fund, and started an account for a down payment on a home.  If things continue as they are, I will be completely debt-free at the end of the 1st quarter 2011.

This has made a huge difference in my stress levels.  If something needs to be repaired on my car, I can just go do it instead of hoping things dont get worse while I save up the money.  Better yet, I can get it fixed properly rather doing whatever is cheapest (and most likely to cause more problems).

I believe I have matured in my personal relationships as well.  I have always been a selfish person in past relationships. My interests, goals and plans were priority #1, and it was usually time and attention to friends/ family/significant other that would suffer for it.  Really thinking about what I want out of life has helped me focus more on the people in my life, and my relationships are stronger for that.  It has allowed me to start a relationship with an incredible woman who challenges me and helps me grow, and I am not shooting myself in the foot by ignoring her for boxing practice or personal reading or whatever else.  My interests and fitness are all major priorities for me, but it is good to have a proper perspective about it.

2011 promises to be a pivotal year.  I have started my own company, a sales and marketing consultation business for overseas manufacturers, and it will require a tremendous amount of time and energy.  It would be very easy to become a workaholic and neglect the people and personal interests in my life.  Because of this, I hope that my word for 2011 is Balance.  There were a lot of times in 2010 when I felt that I did not have enough going on.  That is no longer the case, and I want to give myself wholly to my family, my friends, my girlfriend, my business, my health.  Maybe 2012 will be the year of Sleep.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Competing in Amateur Boxing: A How-To Guide

I will be doing a 3-part instructional on how to go about training for and competing in amateur boxing over at The Art of Manliness.  The first guide, focusing on finding a gym and coach was published earlier today.  Check it out if you like.


People come to boxing for a variety of different reasons and goals.  Some come to the sport as a tool for self-defense, some come for fitness, and some have aspirations to compete.  All are respectable goals, but this three part series will focus on those who plan to compete in amateur fights through USA Boxing.

In this first section, we will discuss how to find and decide on a boxing gym and how to decide on a coach.

Read the rest here

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Bond Between Brothers

My brother is a contributing author on the excellent website, The Art of Manliness, and he recently had his article on siblings published.  It's a really good read, and I had to crack up at some of the examples from our childhood that he used to illustrate different points.

I was googoo and gaga-ing over a colorful trinket and sitting on the carpet, perhaps even giggling to myself quietly with fascination over my toy.

My brother was there too, and he’d had enough of me and my ritual of crapping my pants and being applauded for it.
The toy jumped and twirled within my hands as I explored its intricacies and numerous uses. My brother cast a glaring eye in my direction, one in which his pupils dilated to pinpoints and a hot rage burned within his dark, five-year-old heart. There was something wrong with my face. My lips were turned up with a smile that meant I was happy, and that had to change.
 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Hamlet's Blackberry" - Review & Analysis

William Powers' recent book, "Hamlet's Blackberry" attempts to answer the question of how to build a good life in the digital age.  For some more enlightened folks, perhaps this is a silly question.  For myself, I feel like the digital tools that make our lives easier also encourage a more shallow and surface-level existence.

Like myself and others, Powers is searching for depth.  The difference between himself and many other authors on the subject is that he recognizes how valuable and useful the new technology is.  "Hamlet's Blackberry" is a search for a way to take the good of the technology, including the ease of access to information, ability to keep in touch with family/friends, work remotely, etc., and discard the bad.  The bad in this case is the constant stream of news and trivia, much of which is not useful, the ADHD-inducing brain fuck that the internet can be at times.

Powers takes a very unique way of exploring the subject.  Rather than just look at modern examples, Powers looks back on breakthrough technologies throughout history, including written text, the printing press, and wired telegrams.  At the time of each of these inventions, people worried about the effect that they would have on learning, concentration, and most importantly, depth.  Reading quotes from people who lived through this, the concerns were very similar to what we hear today about being "too connected," "too in touch with the crowd," and "not enough time for the inner self."  Take for example Thoreau's concern that the more wired people become, the more likely they are to fill up their minds with junk and trivia, even celebrity gossip. 
"We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.  After all, the man whose horse trots a mile a minute does not carry the most important messages."
 The obvious follow-up here is that if everyone was worried about this stuff then, and it all turned out all right, why worry about the current technological advances?  Powers addresses this as part of his conclusion:
"One might argue that civilization always survives such transitions and moves on, so why worry?  Of course we'll survive.  The question is whether we will do more than that.  In all the earlier periods we've looked at, there were people who thrived and found happiness and people who didn't.  The former found something approximating the happy equilibrium Socrates was seeking when he prayed that his outward and inward selves might "be at one.:  The latter became hostage to their outwardness and never shook "restless energy of a hunted mind.""
 What then is the answer?  According to Powers, it comes down to creating distance, providing time for inner space, pushing for technologies that allow for inwardness, using old tools (such as handwriting) to ease digital overload, forming positive rituals, creating screen-free "Walden Zones," and consciously disconnecting, or "lowering our internal thermostat." 

What does the constant frittering between tasks, jumping from one screen to the next, and constantly interacting with people take from us?  In my opinion, the most poignant example is given in the first chapter.

Powers is driving to his mother's house, but gets a late start.  He needs to let her know that he will be late, so he picks up his mobile phone (a tool of interconnection in its own right), pulls her up on speed dial, notices the profile picture of her that he has on his phone, and lets her know that he will be arriving later than expected.  She laughs, as this is something of an inside joke, as apparently he is late often.  He hangs up.

Ill let Powers pick up here:
"Driving along, I feel an unexpected surge of emotion.  I'm thinking about how fun it always is to spend time with my mother, how lucky I was to be born to such a warm, companionable person.  Lately I've noticed shades of her humor in my son, and I wonder now if he somehow inherited that from her.  Have they isolated a gene for good-naturedness?"
 In the past (but not so long ago), this event would have been much more difficult.  Powers would have to pull the car over, look for a payphone, hope he had the correct change, and be sure he had his mother's number memorized.  Now, with a click of a button, he can do all of that.  Clear case of technology helping build on a relationship.  But something more was needed to create the depth of emotion that Powers experienced AFTER the call was over.  There was a gap between activities that allowed the author to consider what had just happened.  Rather than jumping immediately into the next twitter update or email, the fact that Powers was driving allowed distance between the act of calling and the deep reservoir of feeling that opened up as he thought about his mother.  In this case, technology helped created depth.

Rarely do we give ourselves these gaps.  We have too many screens open at once, too many email accounts to check, too many IM's coming in to stop and think and feel.  To live a good life requires depth, and to do so amidst so much distraction will require a conscious look at what we think about and how we spend our time.  William Powers' book, "Hamlet's Blackberry" is the single best resource that I have found to address how to create these all-important "gaps" in our lives.

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