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Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Year in Photos

I'm missing some pictures of the Holidays that my Brother took, so this may get updated depending on what year he forwards them.

Arizona Sunset
ALIEN!
Bryan getting smoked at Chess
Devil Squirrel
Desert Sunset
Joshua Tree
Jump!
Malibu
Moab Arch
On the path
Phallic?
Por Que Ranch
Man, I don't even drink wine...
Hey, how about yet another sunset picture...
How artsy...
Waterfall - Chantry Flats
Weeds
You go in first....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Wrap-Up

This was a lot easier to do last year when I was posting more regularly, and therefore had a historical record of what I did.  This year I am going mostly on memory, which is foggy at the best of times.

January
I spent the first part of the year in Hong Kong, where I signed a contract with the first (read, only) client for my sales consulting business.  I wrote a little about the delicious and lively food here.

February
I turned 30.  My Mom and I ran a half-marathon in Palm Springs to "celebrate."

March
Apparently I just wrote about stuff in my head in March, so I had to go back to the facebook archives to see what was going on back then.  Apparently, I moved into my new place in Pasadena. 

April
According to facebook, Jasmin and I went to Ciclavia, which is a semi-regular event in Los Angeles, where they close down a big part of the city streets and let everyone ride their bikes through.  There are food trucks, art shows, and impromptu concerts.  I know that I also did a bunch of trail hiking in the San Gabriel mountains.  I found a bunch of lizards there.  Bryan and I made a coconut, walnut and coffee soap.  Facing a dearth of boxing gyms in my new city, I joined a Muay Thai club and promptly got my nose busted.

May
I incorporated my company.  Close friends celebrated Ari's birthday with tequila.  I think there was food there as well.

June
Back to Hong Kong, where I spent almost a month.  Had my first experiment with Chinese medicine, where a few needles and bamboo cups healed my kinked neck.  Witnessed an amazing thunder and lightning storm from my hotel room across the Hong Kong harbor.

July
Hanley and Jen moved down to LA from SF.  The alliance was joined.  The peasants rejoiced.
Jasmin and I spent 4 days in Sonoma County along the Russian River.  We went wine-tasting, ate good food, and lounged along the river.

August
Hiked Mt. Baldy with a good group of friends.  I needed it.
I saw Baukaw training at Sityodtong.  Beast.

September
My brother, Bryan moved out of the house to join his love in Denver.  I made Habanero Tequila.  Jasmin and I checked out the Huntington Library gardens.  They have big cacti.

October
John and I went on a road trip through Utah and Arizona.  Utah makes shitty beer.  They have awesome canyons though.
I joined an adult kickball league in Hollywood to meet more people. 

November
Did a full-moon hike to Echo Mountain with a meetup.org group.  Later found out that the area is haunted.  I survived.

December
Hurricane-force winds came through Pasadena, knocking down power lines, my neighbor's upstairs deck, and huge trees.  Slept through it, but was without internet for 4-5 days. 
Attended the Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko rematch in Anaheim, courtesy of Ari's hook-ups.
Had a great time on a pub-crawl in Venice Beach for a friend's birthday.
Caught up with some friends from College that I hadn't seen in close to a decade.
Had a great Christmas with family and friends in Palm Desert, and then joined my parents in Malibu, where they are spending a few days at the beach.  Jumped in the ocean for the annual Polar Bear Club. 
Jasmin bought tickets for us to see a performance about Fela Kuti on New Year's.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: "Fools Rush In"

I am woefully behind on book reviews, by which I mean that I haven't done one all year.  My general hope to complete a book review for each book read is fading fast.  To stop the bleeding, I'll start with one of my all-time favorite books that I revisited a few months ago. 

"Fools Rush In" is the story of a city as its main character, much like Baltimore is the true star of HBO's "The Wire."  Sarevejo is the majority-muslim city of Bosnia that was under siege during the civil war that engulfed the old Yugoslavia in the '90's.  At the time the story takes place, the city has been surrounded by the Serbian army, the UN is in the area "monitoring the situation," and thousands of civilians have been slaughtered. 

Bill Carter is a damaged man.  Broken and damaged from the death of his fiance, he goes to Bosnia to feel again.  It is quickly obvious to him that the UN and other peace-keeping forces are doing little other than counting the growing number of casualties, and he stumbles upon a shoe-string charity group that delivers food beyond the frontlines of the war.  The group is made up of other men who came together looking for some kind of purpose.  They found it amidst the blood and ruin and genocide of Bosnia-Herzogovina. 

While the rest of the group moves in and out of Sarajevo, often leaving for months to gather food and deliver in other areas, Carter cannot leave.  He finds his purpose living amongst a war-ravaged people, sprinting across sniper alley, sharing the dwindling food of the city, living and learning with the patriots, the artists, the families, the hipsters and the poets who loved their city too much to leave when they had the chance.  At one point, he realizes why he couldn't leave:

"Yet there would be turning back.  Not now.  Not after meeting the people I had met and seeing what I had seen. It would be like hearing a woman scream rape and going for a drink just to get out of earshot.  No, it was too late for people like Graeme and me, suckers who believe that if we give a little more it will turn around for the better.  It wasn't that I thought I could save the world.  At this point I would have settled for erasing my memory.  Once memory gets hardwired into your brain it gets more difficult to erase your sense of responsibility.  Why else do we have that cancer called television?  Why are we inundated with sound bite news, and infantile politicians making promises they never intend to keep?  Low ball, baby.  Keep it simple and stupid.  Keep the masses doped up on false expectations of lower taxes, second mortgages and entry into the country club, and you've got yourself a happy society ready, willing and able to ignore those cries of rape.  No one can hear them - the TV is too loud."
In short, what has been seen cannot be unseen, and by the time Carter had stumbled into this new world, he could no longer pretend that men, women and children were not being slaughtered by their former neighbors as the world sat on their hands.

"Fools Rush In" is a powerful, powerful book, full of passion, terror, and tragedy, but above all, love.  I could not recommend it higher.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moab, Utah Roadtrip

The plan called for 25 hours of driving in 4 days.  Nestled in the soft crook of my couch and several beers deep, this seemed completely reasonable. 

I left home around 5:00am and headed Southwest towards John's place.  Arriving exactly at the time we had agreed on, he was, of course, still asleep.  Coffee and insults fixed all that, and we headed out to the canyonlands of eastern Utah. 

Hours passed.  After the initial excitement of changing lanes and freeways a few times, we arrived at the I-15 freeway, and settled into the mind-numbing rythymns that accompany all that is completely flat and completely straight.  We passed Las Vegas, probably the ugliest city in the world during the daylight hours.  As my Dad says, "no one chose to live there, that's just where the horses died."

Some several hundred hours later, we arrived in Moab, the mountain bike capital of the world.  There actually happened to be a large mountain bike festival the weekend we were there, and there was spandex, shaved legs, and shiny titanium frames for as far as the eye could see.  Sights this disturbing should never be observed sober, so we hit up the local brewery. 

Despite some strange Mormom law that allows a maximum alcohol content of 3.2% on beer, the beverages were certainly...well, beer-flavored at least, and they eased the pain of a long-ass drive. 

Hours later, full, tired, and half-drunk, we stumbled off to bed before visiting the Arches National Park the next morning.  And it was worth it:

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The next day consisted of waking up early, copious amounts of coffee, political discourse (without anything being resolved), and amazing red-rock scenery throughout Utah and Arizona.  We were hauling ass because we were hoping to kayak on Lake Powell in Page, Arizona.  Sadly, due to some vindictive god, we arrived too late to make this a reality.  Thus, we hit up the internetz to come up with a back-up plan.  We found a well-reviewed hike in an area that was described as "adjacent to Page, Arizona."  Having looked for apartments on craigslist, I should have known that this was an obvious trap.

58 miles later, we found the trail-head just as the sun was starting to go down.  If we wanted to catch the sunset, we were going to have to charge up this massive rock fortress at breakneck speed.  Sadly, you cannot get to the top of any peak without the trail being mostly uphill, and this became drudgery.  I still had visions of getting some prize-winning photo, so I pushed ahead of John and headed for the top.

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An hour later, completely alone and lost in my own thoughts, I heard rocks come tumbling down somewhere ahead of me, and it brought me to a complete stop.  Either there was a rock slide or...there was something else up there.  I stayed still.  I waited.  Another small shower of rocks above and ahead of me.  Terrible thoughts of mountain lions and alligators and yeti's came to the forefront of my mind, and I refused to move a muscle.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw something big and dark step out of the shadows.  MOUNTAIN LION!

Actually...no.  Just a mountain goat.  Not so awesome as the first mountain alligator ever found, but still cool.  We stared at each other, and then went our separate ways.

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After getting some good pictures of the sun setting over the hills, we headed back in the darkness with our headlamps, and drove back to the campground..

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After conquering mountains and their monsters, we felt the need to get drunk.  Thankfully, we were outside the clutches of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and we were able to get all of the hard alcohol and non near-beer that we wanted at some bourgeousie hotel bar back in town. 

Celebrations are great, but they make a 10 hour drive back home the next day even more painful than is probably necessary.  Great trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles




This is the third time that I have tried to write this post. The difficulty is that the Occupy movements are too complicated to simply label as “good” or “bad.”



On the one hand, people are getting absolutely fucked over, and there are legitimate and righteous reasons to protest the lack of lubrication.


On the other, all the stereotypes that opponents of the movement use to label the protesters are there. There are anarchists and aging hippies and full-time radicals, all of whom don’t want to fix the system, but to smash it.


I don’t think I really need to make the case that people are rightfully angry. The middle-class is being dismantled. The wealth of the country is dramatically being accumulated exclusively in the hands of a few. Corporate personhood has made politicians entirely dependent on the large-money donations that business, labor and ideological groups can provide. When politicians require the support and donations of these groups above the support of the common man, then any mutterings they make about their affinity for the middle-class are simply platitudes.


While I agree with the majority of the complaints that the protesters are making, I am not yet convinced that these groups are capable of creating any kind of actual change. Last night I watched a two hour debate on whether or not Occupy Los Angeles should become a non-profit corporation. The benefits of creating a corporation were that it would allow greater financial transparency, limit the liability of the individuals involved, allow for checks to be written from the movement itself rather than from individuals, and dramatically reduce the inherent risks involved with having a few individuals be entirely responsible for the spending & receiving of the donation dollars.


Unfortunately, “corporation” is such a dirty word that the proposal eventually had to be tabled after hours of debate. This is where radicals in the movement allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. As much as I would love to believe that a leftist utopia is possible, the fact is that it is not. No one speaks for the whole of the movement, least of all me, but I think that the more radical agendas are hindering the possibility of actual changes that can be made in our country. The majority of the country does not want to end the Federal Reserve or try to form a Marxist-style Commune or go back to a gold standard. As I see it, focusing on impossibilities are neither productive nor desirable.


The movement is still quite new, so perhaps it can be forgiven for a lack of a coherent message, but it should happen soon. The current lack of direction allows for opponents of the movement to characterize it as a group of social misfits and crackpots who are just trying to cause trouble. If the legitimate complaints of working and middle-class people are ignored because of the fringe elements of the movement, that would be a real tragedy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Time to Waste

The house is quiet now that Bryan is gone.  There were times that we annoyed each other, and he never did clean the charcoal out of the garden, where he dumped it thinking it was going to make the plants grow faster, but we got to know each other again. 

For the first time since my early twenties, my brother and I lived together.  We had gotten closer since those days, but it was from a distance.  I would say that it grew out of a greater respect and understanding of each others struggles and actions, as well as a mutual effort to keep in touch by phone.  There were the camping and travel adventures as often as time allowed as well. 

After a summer of seeing each other day in and day out though, we know each other better, and the bond is stronger for the knowledge.  Rather than the idealized version of someone that can grow out of a physical distance, the real version is something less, but also more.  We both would be irritable at times, annoyed by work or friends or girlfriends or the goddamned Republicans or the completely pussified Democrats or the death of the American novel, but all of that makes a whole person. 

It wasn't until the end of the summer, when Bryan was about to take off for his new home in Colorado that we realized that we each could have been more of a catalyst to the inspiration of the other.  We were both distracted these last few months, more than we should have been, but life is like that.  You get busy.  We could have pushed each other to be more consistent with our boxing and Muay Thai training.  We could have reinforced the strength in both of us, encouraged each other more, and been more focused overall in all the things that we are trying to do. 

Upon realizing this, we sat down and spit-balled ideas.  We both had gotten in the habit of waking up and immediately starting to work before eating or showering or thinking or reading.  When waiting on an important email from his editor or my customer, we would refresh the webpage over and over again, as if in that few seconds the message would have come through.  Sometime around noon we would step away from the computer, distracted and half-stupid.  We changed this.  Before we could start working, we had to eat breakfast, go for a run or a walk or do something physical, and basically get our minds right for the day.  This led to a much more prepared mind, and we were able to go through the day acting in accordance with our values instead of being pushed and pulled from one thing to the next without control. 

We should have been doing that from the beginning, but there are no do-overs.  You don't get to hit the reset button, and you don't know how much time you will get.  That's why you have to do it right starting now. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mt. Baldy

Too much indoor, sit-on-my-ass living is cramping my style. Too much attention focused on economic and political disasters is disturbing my chi. Too much needless worrying about things outside of my control is fucking with my sense of humor and joie de vivre. And that’s not even getting into the stale air and stale ideas.



I need some excitement, adventure, and fear.


Hiking Mt. Baldy did not completely flush out my system, but it certainly helped. Joined by my brother and other like-minded individuals, we played hooky last Friday to get a little mountain air and hard, physical exertion.


Mt. Baldy is the 3rd highest peak in Southern California, although that really isn’t saying much. It does offer some waterfall and LA valley views, lots of lizards, and a chance to ascend 4,000 vertical feet in the first 4-5 miles.


Hiking is not exciting. At least, not in the way I need it to be these days. That being said, it is still enjoyable and everything involved with it still feels fresh compared to city life. On the last scramble over a rocky outcropping, I pulled myself up and over to catch a view that made my head swim. Baldy’s face is a bit like an inverted bowl, and it swept away thousands of feet below me over boulders and shale. Having nearly face-planted in that direction, I felt one good, solid rush of adrenaline as my blood pumped through my system. That is what I am missing these days. Consider this a reset.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Jaded

"Beware the skeptic, the world-weary guy who's seen it all, knows all the angles, the cat who's way too cool to be caught being enthused.  This stance is demoralizing in jaded, crusty old men.  But it's tragic in the millions of young men who wear cynicism like a suit of armor, lest they be thought, God help them, naive." 
Somehow over the last several months I have become bitter and jaded, a trap that I tend to fall into when not paying enough attention.  I obsess, and allow things that I have no control over to control my life and attitude.  I also have a tendency to become hermetic, and I can convince myself that I am "taking valuable me-time" when I spend a lot of time reading and thinking.  The 24-hour news cycle plays to this tendency of mine, as I can always find more material to further convince me that the sky is falling.  When I fall into these patterns it is hard for me to see the good in people.  I have a hard time trusting people's motives.  I start thinking that everything must have a catch.  My sense of humor falls to shit, and the only jokes I make are cynical and sarcastic.

"We didn't ride into town yesterday.  A goodly measure of skepticism means a man's been paying attention.  But guess what.  It's a mortal sin to let an appropriate wariness of the world inhibit the hope, the buoyancy at which we are so skilled.  Pity the man who who's so savvy he stops believing that, every now and then, hearts are true, that people do things for high-minded reasons, that the new idea might just work."

At it's best, this blog is a tribute to the things that I value in life; honesty, courage, a steadiness under fire, loyalty, and humor.  I can usually tell my general attitude in life by how often I am posting.  I was talking about this with my friend, Aaron a while back, and I mentioned that writing is important to me because it reminds me what it is that I care about.  What do I want in life, what do I value, what do I want to accomplish?  It is a way to further surround myself with this mission to improve and to live the kind of life that I can be proud of.  If I read about what I value, talk to people that I value and respect, and above all, DO the things that I see value in, then I can't help but be actively engaged, present, productive and happy.

I'll be writing more.

* Quotes are taken directly from a article that I pulled out of Men's Health years ago by Hugh O'neill 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sometimes

"Sometimes"


By Thomas S. Jones, Jr.


Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play–
The lad I used to be.


And yet he smiles so wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder if he hopes to see
The man I might have been.

via The Art of Manliness

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today's Inspiration

“I would rather my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  “The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time!”

- Jack London

Sunday, June 12, 2011

On Death

"Someone looking at death without its associated images will conclude then that it is nothing more than a function of nature...and death is not only a function of nature, but also to her benefit." (1)
Death is as much a part of our lives as our individual births.  Death as an act of nature is undoubtedly to the good, and that is why all living things will experience it.  The world is constantly renewed and refreshed through the system of replacing the old with the new.  The materials that made up our bodies are eventually broken down to assist in building up that which comes after us.

If we ackowledge that our good acts are those that are in accordance with our individual character and nature as a whole, then it is impossible to view death as something "bad."  It serves the same nature that we aspire to, so it can only be considered both necessary and to the good.
"Men are not disturbed by things, but by the views which they take of things.  Thus, death is nothing terrible...the terror consists in our notion of death, and that is terrible." (2)
Death as a concept cannot be objectively feared.  What is that we really fear?

Do we fear pain then?

It is true that pain could be part of our dying, but the act of death itself is separate from that of the pain.  There is no reason to believe that the state of being dead is any different than the state we experienced (or didn't) before we were born, which is to say, none.  Men can brace themselves against pain, act with honor in its presence, and acknowledge its potential.  And in the unfortunate circumstances that extreme pain is a prequel to our dying, the death itself is a release from pain, and not a continuation of it.

Perhaps we fear that we have not yet done our duty then.  We have not yet begun or completed our work.

We do not own the past, and the future is never assured.  Nothing more than the present instant can be considered "ours," and therefore is the only thing that can be taken away from us.  Whether we live twenty years or a hundred, it is still only the present that can be taken, and so both individuals can only lose the same amount of life.  Relatively speaking, the oldest living human is still nothing more than a minor blink of time, less than a blip on the screen, that all of us, the youngest and the oldest live in rounded form for the same amount of time.  Our passing through nature is neither noticed nor remembered.
"In a short while I am dead and all things are gone. What more do I want, if this present work is that of an intelligent and social being?" (1)


If we can only "own" the current second, then begin your work now.  If you act in accordance with your nature now, and in the next now, and in the next, then you have done your duty, regardless of whether an outsider would have considered it "complete" at any one of those stages. 

This article should not be considered "negative" or "pessimistic."  It is not morbid to think on death as a natural and necessary act, and to resolve to die as well as possible, whenever our inevitable time comes. 
"The person without previous resolution to inevitable death makes certain that his death will be in bad form.  But if one is resolved to death beforehand, in what way can he be despicable?  One should be especially diligent in this concern." (3)
By thinking and resolving how we should die, we can also teach ourselves to live.  Followers of both the Stoic philosophy in Greece and the Samurai in Japan would meditate on both their own death and the death of their loved ones.  They would enter a deep level of mindfulness and then visualize the worst pain and suffering on themselves.  They would endeavor to think so deeply on this that they could "feel" the wounds.  This taught them to value the time that they did have.  It taught them to value their family, their neighbors and their society.  People who experience a near-death experience may come out with a greater understanding and appreciation for what they nearly lost, and that was the goal of the Stoics and the Samurai.

If this conditioning takes hold, we can train ourselves to do our duty even if death is the result.

(1) Marcus Aurelius - "Meditations"
(2) Epictetus - "The Discourses"
(3) Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai - "Yamamoto Tsunetomo"

Monday, June 6, 2011

On Pain (Quotation)

"...and, twenty-five years later, I still remembered how to negotiate the long, horrible process of physical collapse.  It starts with pain of course, but the pain is what I thought of as the edge of a deep, dark valley.  At the bottom of the valley is true incapacitation, but it might take hours to get down there, working your way through strata of misery and dissociation until your muscles simply stop obeying and your mind can't even be trusted to give commands that make sense.  The most valuable thing that I [learned] was that when you start hurting you're not even close to the bottom of the valley, and that if you don't panic at the first agonies there's much, much more of yourself to give."

- Sebastian Junger
"War" 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Battles Which We Must Win

"Everyone is improved and preserved by corresponding acts: the carpenter by acts of carpentry, the grammarian by the acts of good grammar.  But if a man accustoms himself to write ungrammatically, of necessity his art will be corrupted and destroyed.  Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest actions destroy him.  Actions of fidelity preserve the faithful man, and the contrary actions destroy him." (1)
In short, "we are what we repeatedly do." (2)  It is common to consider philosophy in all its forms to be merely a system of thinking.  Often neglected is the fact that philosophy is designed to let us live better.  Through study and practice, we develop a system of thinking that governs correct action.  The physical practice part is the easiest to neglect.  When one thinks of spiritual or philosophical practice, they probably think of such acts as meditation or study.  These are certainly good and useful examples, but they do not take into account that the conclusions that we come to mentally must be acted on in the day-to-day process of our lives.

I am transitioning from western boxing to Muay Thai kickboxing.  While both are stand-up combat sports, there are quite a few differences, and many of the habits that I have learned to be "good" in boxing are resulting in my taking a lot of beatings in Muay Thai.  Also, having developed some degree of competency in boxing over the years, it has been quite a while since I took much of a beating.  For the first time in a long time I am finding myself on the bottom of the totem pole.  I have solid defense from a boxing perspective, but that did not keep me from getting my nose damn near broken in the first two weeks of Muay Thai. 

Wednesdays are the main sparring days at the new gym.  I was supposed to miss the session this week because I had an appointment in Los Angeles during the class time.  Last minute, my appointment got rescheduled and now I find myself available.  Because I had mentally "checked out" for the day, the realization that I no longer had an excuse not to go hit me like a bucket of cold water.  For a while, I considered other options.  I could go for a run, which I told myself would be almost as good, and would work on my conditioning.  I could use a day off, as I was already beaten up from the last couple of days.  After all, the rest time would "do me good." 

When we have this conversation with ourself, it is simply because we want to avoid doing the thing that needs to be done.  It is a battle with ourself, and these battles must be won.  "It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men." (3)    

As I endeavor to be a faithful, persistent and disciplined man, I recognize that it is only through consistent acts of fidelity, persistence and discipline that it can be achieved.  So this afternoon I will ignore that fact that today was supposed to be a day off and I will do the thing that should be done.

Quotes from today's posts attributed to Epictetus, Aristotle, Vince Lombardi.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Strong Mind Conquers a Strong Body

David Goggins is one tough, tough man.  He is a Navy Seal who has served in Afghanistan.  After hearing that several of his friends had died there, he dedicated himself to raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that raises money to fully pay for the college education for the children of fallen soldiers.


"He dedicated himself."  You hear that kind of thing often.  For most of us, it means about as much as most of the rest of the things that we do; you know, half-assed and half-cocked.  For Goggins, he chose to go a different route than having a bake sale or car wash.  After running an internet search for the "10 hardest events in the world," Goggins decided on the Badwater Ultra Marathon.  This course is an absolutely grueling and debilitating 135 miles in the desert heat of Death Valley.  Temperatures rise to 130 degrees in the summer, which is when of course the race is held.


After getting in touch with the race promoter, Goggins, who then weighed 280 pounds and had never even ran a regular marathon, was told that he would have to qualify.  Goggins accepted this and signed up for a 100 mile race 4 days later.  At mile 70, Goggins stopped for a break and found that he was pissing blood from kidney failure.  He started walking at what he estimated to be a 40 minute mile pace.  As he had to finish the 100 miles in less than 24 hours, he knew that he would not qualify based on that current speed, so somehow, despite his kidney's failing and despite the fact that he had broken all of the small bones in his feet, Goggins started running again.  He finished in just over 19 hours, qualifying for Badwater.  After losing 30% of his bodyweight in the next 3 months, Goggins came out of nowhere to finish 5th in his first Badwater Ultra Marathon.  He has since gone on to win the race.
David Goggins hates to run.  He absolutely hates it.  Not in the way that a lot of runners "hate it but like the runner's high" type of attitude, but honestly and truly detests every part of it.  For Goggins, doing the thing he hated to do was his way to grow as a person and to strengthen his soul.  He does not take days off.  He sleeps a little less than 4 hours a night, waking at 3:30am to run 15-20 miles before his full-time duties in the military begin.  As my friend Eric likes to say, "he embraces the suck."  This is one baaaaddd man.


His now-defunct blog is called "Show No Weakness."  I would highly recommend a thorough dive into the archives.  This is one intense dude, and his attitude and beliefs are not for everyone.  Hell, they are barely for anyone, as you can see in the comment section of many of his posts.  People ask him why do something he hates, why deal with so much pain and discomfort, and why not just stop and smell the roses now and again.  Goggins stops and smells the roses differently than other people.  For him, he is living by doing, by challenging, by persevering, and by constantly winning the personal battle against himself.


None of us will come close to matching his will, his discipline or his determination, but we can all take something away from his example.  Our limits are far, far beyond whatever we have fooled ourselves into believing, and if we let it, our mind will carry our body when our limbs are too weak.


If nothing else, watch this video:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Because We Are Dying

I am dying right now.  So are you. 

There is nothing we can do about it.  Every day brings us closer to the day that we will give up our grip on our dreams, our passions, our hopes, our bad habits, our grievances, our friends, our family, our enemies, our petty offenses. 

When we keep this foremost in our mind, it makes it difficult for us to live neutrally.  I don't want to live in just the greys, but I want to feel the blacks and whites and the ups and downs and the positives and negatives of this thing that we call "life."

I do not believe in God.  I do not believe in reincarnation.  I do not believe in an afterlife. 

Therefore, I am resigned to the fact that my time here is everything.  It is all that I have.  What I chose to do and not do, who I spend time with and who I do not, these decisions are permanent.  It is important that I remember this fact when I make them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shared Post - "On Fidelity"

I just wanted to share this post from my friend, "Barnes," who some of you may recognize as the guy who is always giving me a hard time in the comments section of this blog.

Barnes has been in Tokyo for the last several years and wrote this post on a subject in Japan that is not being covered at the moment.  I found it to be a very powerful read.

On Fidelity

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sergio Martinez TKO8 Serhiy Dzinziruk

Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez defended his middleweight title last Saturday night at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Conneticut against highly regarded contender, Serhiy Dzinziruk, fighting out of Germany by way of Ukraine.


Martinez (47-2) controlled the early rounds, out-jabbing Dzinziruk despite defincies in height and reach, and dropping straight left hands out of his southpaw stance.  Dzinziruk, coming up from the 154 pound division, was considered a very challenging draw for the dynamic Martinez, but was never able to really get going.  Usually featuring a world-class jab, tight defense and exceptional fundamentals, "Razor" became noticeably frustrated with his quicker opponent's ability to close the distance, and started getting picked apart even on the outside, where most boxing pundit's believed he would have the advantage.

Realizing that he would need to change tactics in the mid-rounds, Dzinziruk became more aggressive in the 4th stanza, having some success advancing behind his jab before getting caught and dropped in a flash knockdown by way of a Martinez straight left hand.  Dzinziruk was not hurt in the exchange and continued with his attack before getting floored hard in the following round.  The 6 foot Dziniziruk was noticeably shaken after this second knockdown, and looked visibly rattled between rounds.

Urged on by his corner, Dzinziruk continued to up the ante on Martinez in the 6th and 7th round, catching the champion with jabs and the occasional left hook.  Martinez was far too slick to get caught clean, but the fight seemed to be tightening up. 

The beginning of the end came early in the 8th round, when Martinez caught Dzinziruk on the way in, landing a flush left hand following the jab, dropping his opponent hard, and leaving Dzinziruk stumbling as he tried to get up.  It only got uglier from there, as Martinez caught him again with the left hand, and when Dzinziruk rose, dropping him a 3rd and final time for the round before referee Arthur Mercante Jr. called a halt to the bout with 1:43 remaining in the 8th round.

Following such a loss, it is hard to see a clear path for Dzinziruk.  Despite his lofty credentials, he had only fought three times since 2008, and there really isn't much for him at 160 pounds.  He is probably still the best fighter in the junior middleweight division, so a return there will probably be in the cards.

Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez is a fighter who continues to impress, looking better every time out, and he continues to climb the mythical P4P rankings.  This title means little, but what is clear is that Martinez is simply one of the best fighters in the world today.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a whole lot available for him.  Predictably, Martinez called out both Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather after the victory, but it is unlikely that either will sign to fight him.  While Martinez has that rare combination of speed, size and power that make him a horrible matchup for just about any prize fighter, he may be too small to effectively move to super-middleweight.  At 160 pounds, rematches with Paul Williams or Kelly Pavlik are available, but he clearly beat both fighters in their last time out, and it seems clear that he is looking for bigger things and bigger paydays.  A showdown with fellow middleweight champion Felix Sturm is intriguing, but most believe that Sturm wouldn't touch a contract to fight Martinez with a 10-foot pole.

On the undercard, Andy Lee knocked out Craig McEwan in the 10th round after losing most of the fight.  The come-from-behind KO may have saved Lee's career, but he has far too many defincies to compete at the world level.  The victory may have simply preserved him long enough to get splattered on the world stage at some point in the future.  What can be said about Lee is that he is a honest pugilist, a blue-collar type of fighter that always makes for entertaining scraps.  That is more than can be said for most HBO or Showtime headliners, and will hopefully ensure that he earns better paydays down the road.

Monday, March 7, 2011

William Powers Interview

A few months back I had written a book review for "Hamlet's Blackberry," by William Powers.  I felt (and feel) that this was the most helpful book dealing with the pros and cons of this new technological age.  This was due mostly because he actually acknowledged that there were some pros.  Many authors dealing with the subject focused entirely on how social networking, online multi-tasking and the like are changing our brains, giving us all ADD, and permanently downgrading our writing skills with the inclusion of such atrocities as "LOL," "OMG," and perennial favorite, "WTF."  Powers deals with these same symptoms, but it is in the context of harnessing all of the good and potentially powerful benefits of these new products while limiting the negative aspects.

To do this, the author goes back through history and examines previous times during the onset of a new "killer app" type of technology, including the written word, the printing press, the telephone, etc.  His premise is that people in these times also had to learn to maximize the benefits of these new technologies while minimizing the potential harm, and therefore, we can and should learn from their experiences. 

Obviously, I am a big fan of the book.  Powers recently was interviewed by DC Live, and he discusses a lot of these same issues.  Worth a listen if you are interested in this sort of thing.


Watch live streaming video from facebookdclive at livestream.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Keep Your Hands Dirty

The premise behind Rocky III was that Rocky, after defeating Apollo Creed in the second movie takes on challenger after challenger, knocking them out and securing his hold on the heavyweight title.  Over time, Rocky gets soft without a serious challenge.  He has reached the pinnacle of his sport, he has a wife and child that he is in love with, financial success, everything he could ever want.  And when he finally faces a worthy contender, he gets knocked cold.  Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) was on his way up from poverty, hungry and focused on winning the title at all costs; in short, he was everything that Rocky was in the first two films.

It's far easier to win the title than to keep the title.

If you don't know where your next meal is coming from (literally or figuratively), you have to hustle.  You have to sacrifice.  You have to accept the pain that comes from struggle.  You have to go without because there is no choice in the matter.  But what happens when we reach our goals?  Once we have reached a degree of comfort and success, how do we keep the fire going?  Once every day stops being a struggle, it is very to lose the sense of urgency that allowed you to get to that nice, comfortable place.  To beat the Rocky analogy to a bloody death, how do we keep the eye of the tiger?

I believe that an important part of staying hungry is simply staying grounded.  The jobs of our generation are usually not in the fields or the factory.  We spend all day inside, where there is air conditioning and comfortable chairs and e-mails and polite arguments on the rare occassions where debate is required.  This may be our reality, but I am not sure it is The Reality.  This kind of constant comfort makes us a little soft, a little weak, a little prudish.  We don't want to get our hands dirty.

We should actively fight this.  We may as well accept that at least for now, our work looks a lot different than our grandparent's did, and in many ways, that is a good thing.  But during our personal time, I do believe it is important to live a strenuous life.  We should hike and camp and sleep outside and we should play in the dirt. 
We should be involved in something that causes pain and discomfort at times, because that is Reality. 

In generations past, men fought and they would be friends afterwards; disagreements forgotten and mutual respect gained.  Now we are all scared of taking an ass-whuppin'.  So we are sarcastic and snarky and cutting and passive-aggressive, but we don't flat-out disagree or argue in full voice.  We go home and text message our friend about "that jerk that stole our parking spot." 

When I was in Hong Kong a while back for a job interview, the owner of the company and I were unable to communicate directly.  He spoke no English and I spoke no Cantonese.  Everything went through a translator.  We had meetings all week, and every word had to go through a 3rd party.  While I was able to get a good feel for the company, I was not able to get a good read on the man.  That Saturday came and he invited me (through a translator) to go fishing.  I was a little surprised, but of course accepted.  We rented a small boat and coasted out to an area where the fish were supposedly biting.  We dropped anchor and he pulled out the bait, made up of shrimp and large, white-bodied worms.  Without hesitating, he took out a pocket knife and cut up the worms.  He then wiped the blood and grime on his pant legs.  In this one action, I felt more of a kinship with this man then I had in the last 5 days.  Despite his success, he was still willing to get his hands dirty.

I accepted the job.

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What I Want

To lead a vigorous, experience-driven life, filled to the brim with friends and family, with time spent on meaningful work, the completion of which at the end of each day provides a deep and satisfied feeling of accomplishment. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Good Way To Be

"He was a good hard worker, and he would make a good husband.  He drank enough, but not too much; fought when it was required of him; and never boasted.  He sat quietly in a gathering and yet managed to be there and be recognized."

Steinbeck's character, Connie, from "The Grapes of Wrath"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Now I'm Old

I turned 30 last week, and celebrated by joining my Mom in attempting (and succeeding) in her first half marathon.  I was very proud of her for working so hard over the last few months to get herself into shape for such a demanding test, and was honored to be able to accompany her during her accomplishment.

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I was going to list the 30 things that I have learned in my first 30 years of life.  How trite.  Unfortunately, I haven't learned 30 things, so you get 9 things, and even that was hard to come up with, so no complaining.

You don't have to make all the mistakes on your own - Seems like no one ever wants to listen to other people's advice.  We all think that our own situation, whatever it may be, is so unique that no other person's could be relevant enough to to listen.  Our love is stronger, our difficulties more trying, our situation more desperate.  Slowly and painfully, I have learned that a lot of trials and tribulations can be avoided by just recognizing that other people's situations were often close enough to at least pay attention to.  Certainly, we need to make up our own minds, but we should at least consider learning from other people's mistakes. 

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast - Admittedly lifted from Mark Whalberg's sniper movie, "Shooter," this expression has really struck me as a truism.  Used by Whalberg's character as a way to go through each step of loading, aiming and firing while taking incoming fire and amidst incredible distractions, I repeat it to myself all the time.  When I rush (anything), it doesn't get done well.  When I take my time without wasting my time, concentrate and focus on each individual step, things get done right.

Usually, but not always, you get what you put in - When you work hard, dedicate yourself, and try your best, usually you get what you want.  But not always.

Saying "yes" opens up more opportunities than saying "no" - Within reason, of course.  I defer to Sam Sheridan, who says it much better than I can: "If it comes to doing something or not doing something, you have to do it, because you have already tried the "not doing it" part."

Money, unfortunately, matters - I wish it didn't, but it does.  Money doesn't buy you happiness, but to some degree, it at least allows the possibility of it.  Life is a lot more stressful when you're not sure if you will be able to make rent on the 1st.

My mind and body can get used to, and put up, with just about anything - We don't need to baby ourselves.  Our bodies will keep going long, LONG after our mind tells us to stop, that we are too tired, too sore, too sick, too hungry, too lazy, too whatever.  We don't need to "test our limits," because we can just rest assured that we will never reach them.  Just keep going.

There is such a thing as luck, but I should live like there isn't - If you are reading (or writing) this, we have been blessed with being born into a lifestyle that is far more comfortable than the vast majority of the world.  That I was not born into a life of desperate poverty is as pure a proof that there is luck as we are likely to find.  But now that I am here, I should ignore luck.  "The weak man believes in luck and circumstance, the strong man believes in cause and effect."  I should act and believe that I am responsible for the good and bad that comes my way, refuse to blame others, and control what I can.  At the same time, I must remember that not everyone has had it as easy, and remind myself that sympathy and understanding is often in order.

Consistency is more productive than a frenzy of activity - "Life isn't a spurt, but a long, steady climb."  We can't "mistake intention for determination," and use all of our energy in the first day, eventually losing passion and excitement along the way.  Day after day, year after year of consistent work adds up a lot quicker than a sprint.

The best social circle is the one where it's easy to be the person you want to be - Some people can bring you down, and some can build you up.  The best allow you to be the person you are trying to be.  I have found that it is very difficult to maintain the values and morals that I care about when around certain groups, and that is because they do not care or respect these values.  They value different things.  We are truly the company that we keep, if not immediately, then over time.

I have also learned that no matter how much sushi you eat at one sitting, you will be hungry again in an hour.  Good beer is worth the extra cost.  My parents know a lot more than I thought they did at 16, coming up with excuses should be considered an art form, three days in the woods centers me more effectively than just about anything, and that we learn best by doing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Generational Search for Meaning

"The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live."

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What a tragic statement.  What could possibly be more tragic is how readily I can identify with it.  It is so easy to wait for the right time, to start fresh "tomorrow," to feel the need to "research" something first, and while we wait for the right time, time continues its steady march forward. 

We all want meaning.  We all want passion and presence and feeling and fulfillment.  This yearning has birthed the bucket list generation, where we list out all of the accomplishments and goals and plans that, once completed, will indicate that we are now happy and passionate and present and fulfilled.  I propose that life doesn't really work like that.  It is more than just a string of accomplishments and goals checked off of a list.

I have also found that trivializing the things that I am passionate about by relegating them to just another item on my to-do list has the detritus, but perhaps predictable effect of eliminating my passion for them. I want to get to the top of Pyramid Peak, Mt. San Gorgonio or Mt. San Jacinto for the joy involved in the acts of doing so; for the companionship with friends, for the hardship that sharpens my mind and body, for the feeling of accomplishment that reaching the summit provides, and not merely to consider it over/done/finished/completed.


None of us have the time, energy or wherewithal to hop-scotch from one amazing event to the next without any time between them.  If I go on an amazing backpacking trip in early January, and then run a marathon in February, there is still a vast majority of down-time in between those memorable events.  If I just live for those note-worthy experiences, then I am merely coasting a lot more than I am actively living.

Which begs the obvious question; how do I actively live if not directly involved in something exciting, demanding and challenging?  More and more, I feel that we have to work to find the excitement, the meaning and the challenge in everything that we do.  People who know me personally would probably be surprised to know that I sometimes get requests for life advice, career advice, or information on how to live the kind of life I talk about here.  While I have strong doubts about how much help I can actually give, mostly due to the fact that I don't know what the hell I am talking about, I do have opinions on the professional and existential dilemma that so many people my age are going through.

College counselors and career advisers urge us to find what we are passionate about and make our career based on that.  If you are so lucky as to know what your greatest passion is, then you owe it to yourself and all of us folks who are jealous of you to follow that passion as far as it will take you.  Most of us don't have a burning passion for any one obvious thing.  My brother's girlfriend has known since she was young that she would be a doctor, and she is becoming one.  She has worked unbelievably hard for many years to follow that passion and she will be rewarded at the end of that day for her persistence.  I am incredibly impressed with her work ethic and vision, and I am also incredibly jealous that she would be granted this insight into what her "calling" is so young in life.  Most of us do not fall into this boat, and we are therefore left with two choices.  The first and easiest option is to resent our work, this imperfect and meaningless yoke that takes our time, demands our sweat and tears, and prevents us from following our heart.  As you can imagine, this path does not end in happiness.  The second option is to find the meaning and passion that we can in this imperfect vocation.

I have no great passion for the apparel and fashion world.  In fact, I am about as far from being cut of this cloth as it is possible to be, but I am successful in my work.  While I do not personally care for fashionable clothes, designer names or the trendiest colors and patterns, I take great pride in being known as an ethical and competent professional in the industry.  I am proud that I can help a designer take the "picture in their head" and make it a physical reality in the form of a perfectly-developed prototype or a successful production season.  Because of this pride, I can find the meaning, passion and challenge in an industry that on the surface does not stir my soul.

Looking back on every job I ever had, there were lessons to be learned, meaning and metaphor to be found every day, and a chance to find some sense of the passion and presence that we are all looking for.  I strive on a daily basis to adopt this mindset to every act and thought that I engage in, and if I have found any success in creating the kind of life that I value, I owe it to this commitment.          



Currently Listening To: "Kiss The Sky," by Sean Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Currently Sipping On: Cold Can of Pabst Blue Ribbon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Caffeine Courage

I've been getting yelled at for not posting.  In truth, I have been wanting to, but I'm having trouble getting started.  It could be something of a "holy shit, I'm almost 30 and the wisdomz haven't kicked in yet" panic attack, or maybe I'm just having my monthly. 

In any case, I just made a smoothie of vanilla protein powder, strong coffee and heavy whipping cream as the base, and I'm feeling the caffeine buzz.  I figure that I'll just start writing, reconcile myself to the fact that this whole thing will probably suck, but maybe it will at least get me moving in the direction of maintaining this poor, neglected blog again.  By the way, don't knock the aforementioned concoction until you have tried it.  Delicious.

I spent the first few weeks of the new year in Hong Kong.  I joined a new company based out of Hong Kong and southern China, and we spent a lot of time making plans and plots and visiting factories.  We dined at a lot of restuarants where you get to pick which pet you will eat.  It's best to name them BEFORE you pick them out.  Just sayin'.

Fup
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Lyle & Speed Bump
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Creepy, Crawlie, Ugly...
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Flipper, Moby Dick, Flounder, Nemo...
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Since then, I have read a few books that have blown my mind.  I read Chalmers Johnson's "Dismantling the Empire," recommended to me by Gaijin Ass.  This encouraged my belief that our Country is circling the drain.  "Into the Buzzsaw" just solidified that belief.  If you think that we have freedom of the press in the U.S., please pick that one up and give it a careful read.

I turn 30 next month.  I'm not so upset by it.  I just thought that I would have my shit together by then.  You know, like...know some things, be sure of what I want out of life, have a solid opinion on social & political issues, have come up with a cure for cancer...just the basics really. 

So. How have you been?
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