Do you know the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition? It is an epic tale that challenges biblical fables. So much so, that the crew of the Endurance survives is the least amazing fact of the story.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is an example of storytelling at its finest. It could have been just another retelling of Shackleton's ill-fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition, instead it becomes a story about the crew of the Endurance, and how they managed as a team on the ice of the world's most isolated continent. Alfred Lansing's writing is simple and unadorned. He recounts the tale of the ill-fated expedition using the diary entries of the ship's crew. Lansing weaves these individual diary entries into a complete narration of the events between December 22, 1914 and August 30, 1916. We get a picture of not only the man who lead the expedition, but the incredible crew that accompanied him.

Do you know what scares me? The comments attached to this video on YouTube. There was a time I would dismiss such things as trolls, attention seekers, and link builders, but then Trump happened. The comments run the full gamut, from not understanding the impact of climate change on famine and poverty to denying the moon landing, to flat Earthers. 

 

After discovering Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s original, yellow Taijiquan book, practicing Taijiquan became everything to me. I moved outside, eating, drinking, and practicing under a Pin Oak tree. At heart, however, I am a skeptic, and seeing Taijiquan through the works of a single author did not satisfy my need to study more broadly. I later learned that the most ardent practitioners of Taijiquan suffer through the same phase.

My early passion with Taijiquan coincided with the earliest days of the Internet. At the time, there was little material online. The big box bookstores had a few titles, but for more detailed instruction you had to search the pages of Tai Chi magazine or other martial art magazines for VHS videos.

Vocabulary is the foundation to understanding a subject. The same is true with Taijiquan. For now, I am ignoring the translation problem and focusing on the basic vocabulary we need to communicate the Taijiquan routine.

Is the Taijiquan routine a sequence, or a routine? Is a static position a posture or a form? The interchange of the words form, posture, and stance creates confusion. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, sequence, or routine? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?

 

I have started this task of reviewing every book I have read since childhood. It is a ridiculous notion. I can’t remember every book I have read. Just now, I thought of one; a bear, and I am pretty sure an otter, have an adventure or two (no it’s not what you’re thinking). I think it was a series. I loved the books, but they were paperback, and I trashed them in a fit of organization. Still, I am an author now. The Fundamentals is moving to publication, and as for sharing my love of the written word I have been mum.

Reviewing my list, I decided that grouping the historical works by author would save time. Another problem with dredging up memories of old books is the desire to read them again before putting a finger to the keyboard. No problem, I have decided to cheat. I will piece together recollections from what others have said and make up the rest.

This book has become mantras I recite as I edit my work. I first turned to it when I worked for Cargill. After ten years in retail, I was rusty on the basics of a good paragraph. When you are heads down on a project, struggling with how to say it, the advice in this book grounds you to what is important; pulling weeds.

In my two books on the martial arts, I shared how my early focus on taijiquan benefited me on multiple levels. I also shared how my related success led to pain from sitting with a computer for hours on end. My focus on taijiquan helped to create my success, and that success lead to the later pain. That same pain lead to my intense study of baguazhang and hours of circle walking every night.

My process of learning Taijiquan is not unique. I know this because one of my earliest inspirations in Taijiquan study, Jou, Tsung Hwa, said so. Now, Jou was not talking directly to or about me, but he shared his journey with Taijiquan in his books, and those stories spoke to me and my journey.

The title of this post paraphrases the Zen Koan: "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."

Learning a new art or skill is like this. First you see the mountain, and think that others have climbed that mountain, and you would like to follow them. You start climbing the mountain, and the trail goes up and down, back, and forth, and you are not sure if you are on the right trail, or even the right mountain. You think back to when you decided to climb the mountain, how beautiful it was in the distance, but now, when you look around, you cannot see the mountain because you are too close to it. Finally, you reach the peak of the mountain and looking back you can see all its peaks and valleys behind you.

Following my post about the NRA being co-opted by the gun industry to expand and protect its market, I wanted to share some of the better articles about our national gun conversation.

The first comes from the always thoughtful Nick Kristof at The New York Times. Titled Do We Have the Courage to Stop This? Mr. Kristof reminds that about 300 Americans a year dies from a ladder falls, while guns kill 30,000. Yet, we have pages of regulations about how to build and sell a ladder, and almost none for guns. You might think that's because guns are mentioned in the Constitution, and ladders aren’t. But don’t forget that to maintain a well-regulated militia part, I know the gun industry hasn’t.

With my geek-out weekend ending I had a working installation of Linux Mint with the MATE desktop, and I was unhappy with it. My reasons for looking at Linux were simple, I was tired of the increasingly closed garden Apple was creating. I came to Apple because I knew the new OS X was a solid OS built on a fine pedigree of open source software.

I stayed because projects like Fink and MacPorts made grabbing the latest open source projects ridiculously easy. It was a good mix of stable, working, programs that let me get my day-today tasks finished without any headaches, yet I could take a dive deep into geekdom when I wanted to.

When the iPod became a huge hit, I looked like a genius to my friends and family for making the move to Apple when everyone else thought they were dead.

With the two Lion releases, however, Apple closed the door on the spirit of openness that made its OS popular with professional coders like myself. The door is not locked, you can still walk through it, but it is closer to being locked than with any other desktop OS I have seen.

I don't know if you follow the Linux desktop wars (if you're reading this post, you do, but humor me) but the Ubuntu team has created a stir with their Unity desktop fork of the Gnome 3 desktop. Before Canonical and Ubuntu created a user schism with their Unity changes, the Gnome team had to endure the same fate as they tried to move users to the Gnome 3 desktop.  And, guess what, the KDE team created an outcry when they migrated from version 3 of their project to version 4. See a pattern?

As someone disconnected from the Linux desktop community for seven or eight years, I found the various states of outrage over desktop changes as... interesting. Since the step-by-step I had found to get Linux on my Nvidia equipped MacBook Pro were on a Linux Mint forum I was left with an impression that the MATE, and later Cinnamon desktops from the Linux Mint project were better than the desktops they replaced. MATE is a Gnome 2 improvement, and Cinnamon a fork of the maligned Gnome 3.

I had downloaded the MATE distribution of Linux Mint because that was the recommended version for newcomers to the project. My first boot to the desktop was on the Live DVD, and I thought it was a stripped-down version. I proceeded with the install and when the desktop first displayed, I thought I had been time shifted back to 1995. I could not believe that this was the better than Gnome 2 or 3 desktop. Remember I have used a Macintosh for twelve years, so I do have different standards than a Windows user. Even at that, I have used Windows through XP on various work computers, and this was much, much, worse. It looked like Windows 95. Maybe that is what some people like, but not me. I could even buy the argument that some older hardware needed this old frogy looking desktop, but I have found several reviews that indicate MATE takes more resources than its Cinnamon or Gnome 3 counterparts.

The greatest feature of Linux, however, is its openness. And thanks to that openness you can choose from a variety of desktops. Unlike the closed source systems of Windows or Mac OS X, with Linux you can recreate your entire computing experience with the installation of a few packages. I opened Mint’s Software manager and chose the Cinnamon Desktop packages. A few minutes later I was at the session manager.

This was my first visit to the session manager, and I noticed that besides the Cinnamon desktop I could choose the Ubuntu Unity desktop, and the Gnome fallback. I chose Cinnamon and while the desktop was an improvement over MATE, I can say that I was still not impressed. The biggest problem I had with Cinnamon was that when I enabled edit mode with the panel, I could break the desktop at will. The effects were better than MATE, but there was nothing new here.

Since the session manager gave me the options of choosing Unity and Gnome, I logged out and chose Unity. For the first time, since I started this Linux adventure I was impressed. Unity feels very much like the Macintosh. My favorite feature of the Mac is Spotlight. With a tap on Command-Space I can launch programs, or find a document.

Unity's HUD is similar. I have not seen it find a document based on its content, but I understand that is a lens I can add. Not unlike Spotlight expects programs to install access to its indexing database.

I was impressed enough with Unity's performance that I decided to go all Ubuntu and grabbed the original install DVD I had created to start this project and, with my new-found knowledge on getting past Linux's limitations with my graphic card, installed Ubuntu 13.04 from scratch. And there came my next big disappointment.

 

April was winding down, and Cinco de Mayo was right around the corner. In Kansas, the weather can go from bitter cold to hot in late April and this year was no exception. I was looking for a distraction from the cold. I looked through my long Someday list in my planner and decided that it was time to try Ubuntu Linux.

I rummaged through closets looking for my old MacBook Pro. An Intel dual core unit with the RAM maxed out; I figured it would be a safe machine for a Linux install. Turns out my wife had the laptop at the office. Her laptop had died several months ago, and she had used this machine as a backup while her laptop was in the shop. By the end of the week she had brought it home, and when she left the house to spend time with friends, I decided it was time for me to geek out. With the house and the Smart-TV to myself, I settled in for a cold spring's night of hacking.

In October, the Earth Observatory project posted a photo of the smog over China.  The haze was thick enough to completely hide the land or water surface below, and it extended far to the south and east. The air is so bad in Beijing that the US Embassy measures and shares the air quality on a Twitter feed.

I wanted to share this image to give you an idea of how bad the situation is. The problem with pollution in China is not just Beijing. It stretches for hundreds of miles. China’s pollution problem is so bad it is changing our climate. When you hear about a product recall, such as pet food contaminated with steroids, or tea poisoned by diesel truck fumes that is a side effect of China’s poor environmental regulations as well.

China is killing itself, for profit, for pride, for reasons that we may not understand today, but wrestled with in the past. The US created agencies like the EPA, and it has worked. A City like Los Angeles, our Beijing of the 1970's, is livable today. The irony is that in the 1970's the citizens of Beijing were riding Bicycle's instead of driving cars, but as wealth came to China they started driving cars, and created a slow nightmare ever since.

China is killing itself, and its death will be the greatest disaster our globe has ever seen.

When I say the NRA, what do you think? The National Rifle Association, but what does that mean? What do they do?

I am aware of the NRA’s long history, but the NRA of today is not the NRA your grandfather, or father joined fifty years ago. Today’s NRA is the lobbying arm for weapon manufacturers. That is all. They are not a great American organization defending your rights till their hands are cold and dead. They are a lobbyist for a trillion-dollar industry that represents everything wrong with our government.

My wife and I visited the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in August (aka the Permian Sea). I mention this because evolution, and the need to deny it, is in the news again.

One of the Republican up-and-comers,  Marco Rubio  was asked how old the earth is. He answered that he didn't know, and that it might have been created in seven days.

The scary fact is that he is not alone. According to the NPR article, forty-six percent, or nearly half, of Americans have a nonscientific belief about the creation of our Universe. My question is why? Why does your God deny you salvation because you accept some proven facts? But wait, it gets worse.

The trend on Facebook this month is to post what you are "thankful for." Most of my friends are pretty much where I am at. Catching up for the four or five days we have missed. While most have went for things like god and family, the same stuff they will say around the table on the 25th, I am taking a different approach.

Here is my catch up list:

Day 5: I am thankful that I won't have to wait 6 hours to vote in the morning. Kansas has done a much better job of suppressing the vote than other states.

http://goo.gl/y6tdg

Day 4: I am thankful that billionaires and corporations can give an unlimited amount of money to political campaigns. Maybe now "trickle-down" will finally work.

http://goo.gl/ATfcM

Day 3: I am thankful that legislature in Ohio allowed fewer days to vote in the general election, than in the primary. Without it, these mimes would not have gotten any press.

http://goo.gl/BQGXr

Day 2: I am thankful that I do not have to read my D20 dice in Egyptian.

http://goo.gl/G7f2D

Day 1: I am thankful for Science Fiction.

Martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It’s an exploration of the body through the mind and the mind through movement of the body. Martial art practice can expose humanity’s worst instincts, or reveal an inner nature that desires harmony.

The greatest martial artist of the twentieth century promoted the martial arts to a world searching for reason in the torrents of blood spilled around the globe. From the worst of those conflicts, masters arose that sought to restore balance and civility.