Thursday, August 30, 2007

I don't like talking about my flair

Well, the really big news since my last post has been all very personal stuff. So call this self-absorbed if you will, but I've very little of general interest or significance to report.

Of course, the most significant event in the last week has been meeting back up with my closest friend from way back when. That is, my closest friend in high school and most of college. At some point 12 years ago or so, we ended up losing touch with one another, and Google was of no help reuniting us. Facebook to the rescue: we're suddenly back in contact and finding that our friendship appears to be quite strong enough to overcome little things like more than a decade of neglect.

All this reuniting with people has gotten me thinking. I mentioned this earlier, but it's striking how easy it is to neglect people. I never do so maliciously, but I frequently get caught up in day-to-day life and reponsibility, and then suddenly it's been several years since I spoke to someone.

Part of that is just my personality. Like my father or my uncles, I am quite willing for someone I haven't spoken to for years to just appear, and I will drop what I'm doing to help them out or whatever. Well, I suppose there are limits on that sort of thing; but I'm quite willing to welcome a friend back in (so to speak) to whatever place they once held, with no hard feelings about the years of silence. I don't assume that a lack of contact is indicative of offense given.

But to look at it from anyone else's point of view, that's exactly how it's interpreted. So I'm now endeavouring to maintain what long-distance relationships are still active.

The fact is, I have been very priviledged to meet a great many interesting friends in my short life; and frankly, I've been blessed to have made several friends that become fast and intimate friends very quickly. Trev is no doubt the foremost of these, but there have been four or five people like that over the last twenty years. And that sort of friendship is worth a lot more than a curmudgeon like myself is prone to think.

But enough introspection!

I honestly wonder whether that sort of friendship is precisely what's missing in this degenerate society. Why are close friends always assumed to be lovers? It's exactly the same problem with people who like kids: society assumes they're paedophiles, just because the vast majority of the culture are philistines who can't comprehend a genuine interest in another person's well-being without some sort of self-interest. Sadly, the North American culture in which I live is aggressively, almost offensively individualistic. Self-centeredness is a virtue; genuine concern for other people is a flaw.

Oh sure, you can have the politically-correct general philanthropy of the political left wing. But that's not genuine concern: those same bleeding-heart liberals are generally unable to actually quote the names or personal details of the victims they so vigilantly advocate. I am positive that's because they're not interested in the person, but in some sort of abstract ideal the person represents. A real person who has real problems is not the concern of the political activist: he or she is interested in the Single Mother or the Iliterate Man or the Native American as an ideal, not as a real person. They ignore the fact that people are individuals, and see them as statistics.

Well, that turned into a rant.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three Little Piggies

Well, a friend's brother-in-law raised three pigs this years, and just had them slaughtered last week. We were given an opportunity, so I purchased half a pig. Today I picked it up.

Head and organs were already spoken for: I just got meat. It came out to 83 pounds and some change. So today I brought home three coolers full of pork. They're in my freezer now. The freezer I just bought, specifically because I knew I had a half a pig coming, needing somewhere to stay until I need some of him.

There are ten pounds pf bacon still outstanding: the brother-in-law is smoking that, it should be here next week.

In the meantime, I have chops, ribs (not much ribs: there's only so many ribs on half a pig), hams, shoulder, sausage, ground pork, and butts. This could be a very interesting time in our life as far as food is concerned.

Of course the ham is not cured: it's just raw meat. I suppose I could cure it, but I've never cured or smoked ham before, and I don't have the facilities (i.e. a real smoke house).

So I'm thinking the hams, shoulders, and butts will all be barbecued: 18 hours or so at 200F in woodsmoke could make those really special.

Monday, August 20, 2007


My oldest daughter was complaining about a tooth ache. My wife offered her some Ibuprofen, and she responded "Ibuprofen? I was hoping you had some laudanum."

For some reason, that struck me as funny.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This is a little self-indulgent, but this is my blog. Deal with it.

University was hard for me, because I was young, hot-blooded, arrogant, and stupid. Not stupid as "below 16 IQ", but stupid as "had not the slightest clue how to relate to people". I didn't so very well there: I mean, I got acceptable grades and all that, but I didn't do very well. There were a lot of growing pains, and a whole lot of that pain could have been avoided except for my poor judgement, aimlessness, and laziness. I was, in a word, a slacker.

But in the last year and a half of my time at university, I made some incredible friends. I've tried to get a hold of them off and on for the last thirteen years (I graduated and left in 1994), but always failed. This week, exactly 13 years after I left, we have re-established contact. I've emailed with Rachel, Karina, Herb, and Kelly. There were others, and I hope to run across them too, but this is a good start.

So I'm a little irrationally happy right now. It'll probably pass, but I'm so very excited to be in contact with such great friends again. I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

It was tough being a Christian on campus: it was a very hostile environment. And in the middle of all that, there was Kelly, one of the campus chaplains. He was a wonderful influence on all of us, but particularly on me. Kelly really demonstrated Christianity as a holistic thing: emotional, intellectual, ethical, mystical. He did them all without emphasizing any one at the expense of the others. He knew his Bible, but didn't worship it. He reached out to the people who needed Jesus, but not in a naive, baseless optimism. Kelly is still one of my heroes.

Herb and I were in a Bible study at Kelly's house (Monday nights?) with Chris, Wayne, and (I can't remember his name). We were all a little disgruntled, and joked that we had all been declared heretics by at least one major denomination. Come to think of it, I'm not sure what Wayne was doing in that study: he seemed awfully normal for us. I can't remember a lot of what we studied, but I can remember the way Kelly would bring everything into a holistic focus. I wanted to have knowledge: Kelly satisfied that without worshipping the intellect. And he pushed me to go further than just having the answers.

Herb might be the smartest person I've ever met. He was smart. Not "college kid smart" but "really, really smart". Herb and I were inseparable: at one point, I suddenly realized everyone thought we were gay. Oops.

Herb taught me that the Bible is not nearly the book I thought it was. He had the habit of reading something like Derrida or Kierkegaard and relating that to something like Hebrews. My respect for the Word of God has increased from that. I remember Dean, another friend of ours, saying the most convincing part of the Bible is that Ecclesiastes is in it.

Finaly, Rachel and Karina were very dear friends. How we ever got all of us into my VW Rabbit is baffling even now. I remember Rachel would start laughing so hard I thought she'd choke. I can't imagine Rachel without a grin. I still have horrors thinking of her careening down the ramps in the University auditorium, or casually crossing the street through thick traffic. Rachel was busting at the seems with personality, and it was worth while just to bask in it.

Karina sent me a very nasty letter when I moved away, chiding me for leaving without telling anyone. That letter's haunted me for years: there's more to friendship than joviality, isn't there? I've always had an easy time making friends; but like Mr. Wickham, whether I can keep them remains to be seen. I think it was Karina who first showed me that there is a certain amount of responsibility in friendship. That's a lesson I'm still trying to learn.

I remember one time complimenting Karina on her English (not her first language), and she started laughing, saying she only understood half of what we were saying. I guess she had mastered the "smile and nod." Every conversation with Karina would lead to some form of revelation. A lot of people seem to be shocked by what I say in conversation: rest assured, if you had spent enough time with Karina, you'd find me rather flat.

So Rachel, Karina, Kelly, and Herb, you've no idea how much I missed you and how happy I am to have emailed with all of you again. And everyone else (Dean? Jeff? Chris?) I'd love to hear from you if you ever stumble across this and recognize my ugly mug on the side.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Well, I talked just a little about bagua (pa kua) yesterday, so I thought I'd give a nod to xingyi (hsing-i) today.

Xingyi is one of the three traditional Chinese Internal martial arts: the other two are bagua (pa kua) and taiji (tai-chi). They are three different interpretations of the principles of "internal energy" in fighting. All three arts are "internal": they all work on the principle of relaxation and breathing. But they take different approaches to interpret those principles.

In general, xingyi is linear: the practitioner moves in roughly straight lines, striking and kicking to attack the opponent's structure. Bagua is generally circular, the practioner moves in a circular pattern, typically around the opponent. Taiji is somewhat of a spiral, where the practioner moves more or less from one point.

These, of course, are generalizations. There are certainly linear bagua sets, just as there are spinning, circling xingyi techniques.

As far as aggression, xingyi is about the attack; taiji is about reaction to an attack; bagua is somewhere in the middle. Bagua has a strong focus on evasion, taiji is about "yielding", xingyi is about crushing.

Traditional wisdom says aikido is based on bagua, karate on xingyi.

Xingyi is based on five motions: splitting, drilling, crushing, pounding, and crossing. These "Five Elements" correspond to the alchemist elements of: metal (splitting), water (drilling), wood (crushing), fire (pounding), and earth (crossing). Here's a video of a xingyi practitioner practicing the Five Elements:

That style looks slightly different than ours, which is not surprising.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


According to my Oregon Scientific thermometer, it's 104F outside. That might be a little higher than the official 99F with 31% humidity; but I guess sensor placement makes a difference...

Last night was bagua night. After walking hundreds of steps, I was soaked in sweat: I could actually have wrung out my shirt!

I did find a couple interesting bagua clips. The first one is a fairly typical form:

But this is very interesting: the apparent lack of effort that results in visible power is characteristic of all the internal arts. This guy's apparently a 94-year-old bagua practitioner:

But work's been picking up, so I've not been blogging much. Sorry.