Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Following this link will take you to a series of great pictures of everyday life in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's worth the visit.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Glimpse of Daoism in Modern China

I actually received this story from TWO friends, separately. The full article may be read here.

The Rise of the Tao

YIN XINHUI reached the peak of Mount Yi and surveyed the chaos. The 47-year-old Taoist abbess was on a sacred mission: to consecrate a newly rebuilt temple to one of her religion’s most important deities, the Jade Emperor. But there were as yet no stairs, just a muddy path up to the pavilion, which sat on a rock outcropping 3,400 feet above a valley. A team of workers was busy laying stone steps, while others planted sod, trees and flowers. Inside the temple, a breeze blew through windows that were still without glass, while red paint flecked the stone floor.

“Tomorrow,” she said slowly, calculating the logistics. “They don’t have much ready. . . .” Fortunately, a dozen of her nuns had followed her up the path. Dressed in white tunics and black trousers, their hair in topknots, the nuns enthusiastically began unpacking everything they would need for the next day’s ceremony: 15 sacred scriptures, three golden crowns, three bells, two cordless microphones, two lutes, a zither, a drum, a cymbal and a sword. Soon the nuns were plucking and strumming with the confidence of veteran performers. Others set up the altar and hung their temple’s banner outside, announcing that for the next few days, Abbess Yin’s exacting religious standards would hold sway on this mountain.

The temple she was to consecrate was born of more worldly concerns. Mount Yi is in a poor part of China, and Communist Party officials had hit upon tourism as a way to move forward. They fenced in the main mountain, built a road to the summit and declared it a scenic park. But few tourists were willing to pay for a chance to hike up a rocky mountain. Enter religion. China is in the midst of a religious revival, and people will pay to visit holy sites. So the local government set out to rebuild the temple, which was wrecked by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, modestly rebuilt then torn down when the park was first constructed.

Officials commissioned a 30-foot statue of the Jade Emperor, had it hauled to the peak and encased in the brilliant red pavilion. They then built a bell and a drum tower, as well as another set of halls devoted to minor deities.

All that was missing was a soul. For that, the temple had to be properly consecrated. The officials got in touch with Abbess Yin, widely regarded as a leading expert in Taoist ritual, and soon she was driving the 350 miles from her nunnery to Mount Yi.

As her rehearsals drew to a close, the abbess went over the next day’s schedule with a local official. All was in good shape, he said, except for one detail. Government officials were due to give speeches at 10:30 a.m. She would have to be finished by then, he said.

“No,” she replied. “Then it won’t be authentic. It takes four hours.” Could she start earlier and wrap up by then? No, the sun won’t be in the right position, she replied. The official peered up from the schedule and took a good look at her — who was this?

Abbess Yin smiled good-naturedly. At a little over five feet tall, she was solidly built, with a full, smooth face tanned from spending much of her life outdoors in the mountains. Her dress was always the same plain blue robe, and she did not wear jewelry or display other signs of wealth. She shunned electronics; her temple did not have a phone or Internet access. But over the past 20 years she had accomplished a remarkable feat, rebuilding her own nunnery on one of Taoism’s most important mountains. Unlike the temple here on Mount Yi — and hundreds of others across China — she had rejected tourism as a way to pay for the reconstruction of her nunnery, relying instead on donors who were drawn to her aura of earnest religiosity. She knew the real value of an authentic consecration ceremony and wasn’t about to back down.

The official tried again, emphasizing the government’s own rituals: “But they have planned to be here at 10:30. The speeches last 45 minutes, and then they have lunch. It is a banquet. It cannot be changed.”

She smiled again and nodded her head: no. An hour later the official returned with a proposal: the four-hour ceremony was long and tiring; what if the abbess took a break at 10:30 and let the officials give their speeches? They would cut ribbons for the photographers and leave for lunch, but the real ceremony wouldn’t end until Abbess Yin said so. She thought for a moment and then nodded: yes.

RELIGION HAS LONG played a central role in Chinese life, but for much of the 20th century, reformers and revolutionaries saw it as a hindrance holding the country back and a key reason for China’s “century of humiliation.” Now, with three decades of prosperity under their belt — the first significant period of relative stability in more than a century — the Chinese are in the midst of a great awakening of religious belief. In cities, yuppies are turning to Christianity. Buddhism attracts the middle class, while Taoism has rebounded in small towns and the countryside. Islam is also on the rise, not only in troubled minority areas but also among tens of millions elsewhere in China.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Funny Bounces

I've written about funny bounces before. I guess it's time for an update.

Last summer, my wife and I were visiting a friend who had moved into a nice little condo overlooking a lake. She offhandedly mentioned that her company had an opening that our oldest daughter was well suited for. The hiring manager was a friend of this friend, so she probably would at least get an interview.

The older daughter applied, but didn't hear anything for a while as they had to go through all the internal applicants first. But she DID get a call, went in for the interview and did great. After some follow up phone interviews they offered her the job which she accepted and started last month.

Besides a very nice raise (she's making enough to have moved out into her own apartment), she'll be working for a company that affords a lot of different career possibilities and ideal for a young person and she'll be traveling. In 2011, she'll be spending a lot of time in London.

As for myself, something came through as well. I started working for another local engineering services company around Thanksgiving. The company has been particularly successful in telematics (moving data to and from a car without wires) and is spinning off a new division to focus on that. Besides a raise that puts me almost back where I was with the semiconductor industry (with a clear vision of catching up then getting ahead of that curve), I'm on the ground floor of a business that has the potential for a tremendous upside.

I like the work I'm doing and the people I work with. The product I'm working on ultimately saves the end customer money, so I think it will do well as the economy continues to struggle.

Science tells us that there is about 4 x 10 - 80th (4 followed by 80 zeroes) atoms in the Universe as we understand it. With the older daughter moved out and the younger one away at school, the Mrs and I have embarked on a reduce the number of said atoms that call our house their home. In short, we're throwing things out.

This has been an interesting, somtimes gruelling, exercise. It's just amazing how much stuff you can accumulate, find places to stash and then pretty much forget about. We always have a ton of stuff at the curb and the garbage men must really be beginning to hate us now.

Take my books for example. I decided to go through my shelves and discard pretty much everything that I also had on my Kindle. Also books that I read once and will never read again (it's not quite so easy to make that statement about some books), books that I bought that I intended to read but never did and I don't think I ever will.

I ended up with 6 big Tupperware tubs full of books. I didn't count them but I estimate there were about 300

I took off those shelves. Ironically, that's about the number I have on my Kindle. I took them to the local library which runs a used bookstore to raise funds.

Ultimately, with real estate prices and interest rates low, we'd like to downsize sooner rather than later, and maybe this is just the time to pick up a modest place on a lake as our residence. I have no issue commuting.
The kids may be gone, but I'll have an attractive nuisance to draw them back.

I've got a feeling that 2011 is going to be a very good year for us.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Long Does It Take?

How long does it take to accomplish something you've set out to do? You want to learn a martial art, so you figure it will take five years? Ten? Maybe you want to learn to paint, or learn an instrument or to speak a language, or to write a book. How long will it take you?

Below is an excerpt from what I think is an exceptional blog post. You can read the whole thing here.

I am thoroughly exhausted after a long day of celebration, conversation, delicious food, and amazing company. This weekend, I am up in Berkeley to celebrate the completion of what essentially amounts to my father's life's work. My dad, Kazuaki Tanahashi, is many things -- painter, calligraphy master, writer, teacher, peace activist. He is also a scholar and translator of Dogen Zenji, the renowned 13th century Zen master who brought Soto Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. Kaz has been translating Dogen's work since he was younger than I am now, and he has just published an enormous two-volume book set of the Shobogenzo-- Treasury of the True Dharma Eye -- a collection of all of Dogen's teachings. This project has been 50 years in the works. You hear that??? Five-zero, FIFTY!!! I haven't spent that long doing anything, including being alive, so needless to say this is a BIG DEAL.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 36 Strategies, #36: Run Away

Next to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The 36 Strategies is the most widely known Chinese book on strategy. Where AoW is almost a textbook like overview of the subject, The 36 Strategies attempts to teach the general concepts of strategy with six groups of six maxims each.

Before we examine the last of the 36 Strategies, let's review what we've read so far:

The 36 Strategies, briefly translated by Thomas Cleary, in The Japanese Art of War.

One: Strategies When Commanding Superiority

1. Sneak across an ocean in broad daylight

This means to create a front that eventually becomes imbued with an atmosphere or impression of familiarity, within which the strategist may maneuver unseen while all eyes are trained to see obvious familiarities.

2. Surround one state to save another.

When a strong group is about to take over a weaker group, a third part can "have it's cake and eat it too," gaining a good reputation by attacking the aggressor in apparent behalf of the defender, and also eventually absorb the weakened defender to boot, without incurring the same opprobrium that would be leveled at outright aggression.

3. Borrow a sword to kill another

When one side in a conflict is weakening, it may draw it's own friends into battle, thus delivering a blow to it's enemy while conserving it's own strength.

4. Face the weary in a condition of ease

You force others to expend energy while you preserve yours. You tire opponents out by sending them on wild goose chases, or by making them come to your from far away while you stand your ground.

5. Plunge into a fire to pull off a robbery

You use others' troubles as opportunities to gain something for yourself.

6. Feint east, strike west

You spread misleading information about your intentions, or make false suggestions, in order to induce the opponent to concentrate his defenses on one front and thereby leave another front vulnerable to attack.

Two: Strategies for Confrontation

7. Make something from nothing

You create a false idea in the mind of the opponent, and fix it in his mind as a reality. In partricular, this means that you convey the impression that you have what you do not, to the end that you may appear formidable and thus actually obtain a security that you had not enjoyed before.

8. Cross the pass in the dark

You set up a false front, then penetrate the opponent's territory on other fronts while they are distracted by your false front.

9. Watch the fire from the opposite band of the river

You calmly look on when adversaries experience internal troubles, waiting for them to destroy themselves.

10. Have a sword in a smile

You ingratiate yourself with enemies, inducing them to trust you. When you have their confidence, you can move against them in secret.

11. One tree falls for another

Individual sacrifices may have to be made to achieve a greater goal.

12 Take the sheep in hand as you go along

You take advatange of any opportunity, however small, and avail yourself to any profit, however slight. This comes from the story of a destitute traveler walking on a road. As he went along, he came across a flock of sheep; making his way through them, when he emerged from their midst he had a sheep with him. He behaved so calmly and naturally, as if he had been leading his own sheep to market all along, that the shepherd never noticed him.

13 Beat the grass to startle the snakes

The opponents are reserved and unfathomable, you create some sort of stir to see how they will react. Yagyu mentions this, and also notes that it is used in Zen. Certain Zen sayings and stories are  used primarily to test people and find hout what they are like.

14. Borrow a corpse to bring back a spirit

You don't use what everyone else is using, but use what  others aren't using. This can mean reviving something that has dropped out of use through neglect, or finding uses for things that had hitherto been ignored or considered useless.

Three: Strategies for Attack

15. Train a tiger to leave the mountains

You don't go into the fastness of a powerful opponents' territory, but induce them to come out of their stronghold.

16. When you want to take captives, leave them on the loose for a while.

Fleeing enemies may turn again and strike desperately if pursued too hotly. If they are given room to run, on the other hand,  they scatter and lose their energy. Then they can be taken captive without further violence.

17. Toss out a glazed tile to draw a jade

You present something of superficial  or apparent worth to induce another party to produce something of real worth.

18. To capture the brigands, capture their king

When confronted with a massive opposition, you take aim at it's central leadership.

Four: Strategies for Confused Situations

19 Take the firewood out from under the pot

When you cannot handle an adversary in a head on confrontation, you can still win by undermining the enemy's resources and morale.

20. Stir up the waters to catch fish.

You use confusion to your advantage, to take what you want. It may specifically mean taking advantage of a general or particular loss of direction in order to gather followers from among the uncommitted or disenfranchised.

21. The gold cicada molts it's shell

This means leaving behind false appearances created for strategic purposes. Like the cicada shell, the facade remains intact, but the real action is now elsewhere.

22. Lock the gates to catch bandits

You catch invading predators by not letting them get away. You don't let them get back to their homelands with what they can get from you. If they escape, you don't chase them, because you will thereby fall prey to the enemy's plot to wear you down.

23. Make allies at a distance, attack nearby

When you are more vulnerable to those close by than you are to those far away, you can defend yourself by keeping those around you off balance, in the meantime cutting off their field of maneuver by securing a broader ring of alliances surrounding them.

24. Borrow the right of way to attack the neighbor

You secure the temporary use of another party's facilities in order to move against a mutual enemy. After having used these facilities to prevail over the enemy, you then turn and use them against the party from whom you borrowed them.

Five: Strategies for Gaining Ground

25. Steal a beam to replace a pillar

You try to recruit top talent, inducing them to join your concern. This both strengthens your side, and denies the talent to others.

26. Point at one to scold another

You criticize indirecly, getting your point across without confrontation.

27. Feint ignorance without going crazy

You pretend to be stupid and ignorant, but avoid talking loosely

28. Let them climb the roof, then take away the ladder

You maneuver enemies into a point of no return by baiting them with what looks like advantages and opportunities

29. Make flowers bloom on a tree

You dazzle and deceive the eye of opponents by showy displays.

30. Turn the guest into the host

This is when a business is taken over by one of it's own clients or consultants

Six: Strategies for Desparate Straits

31. Scheme with beauties

This refers to using the charms of women to influence key figures in an adversary organization.

32. Scheme with an empty castle

You appear weaker than you really are, so that opponents may defeat themselves by one of three reactions to your supposed weakness: They may become conceited and complacent, leading to their downfall; they may become arrogant and aggressive, leading to their destruction; or they may assume you are setting up an ambush, leading them to flee of their own accord.

33. Scheme with double agents

You compromise insiders of other organizations to get them to work for you.

34. Scheme with self inflicted wounds

This is a technique particularly for undercover agents; you make yourself look like a victim of your own people, in order to win the sympathy and confidence of enemies.

35.  Scheme with continuous circles

When facing a more powerful enemy, you don't oppose by force, and don't concentrate all your resources on only one avenue of strategy; you keep different plans operating simultaneously in an overall scheme.

... and now the final strategy, #36: Run Away.

When all seems lost, as long as you're living and breathing, you're not done yet. Run away. Catch your breath and bind your wounds. Regroup. As long as there is an once of life left in you, you still have a chance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Friggin' Cold!

Winter has decided to pay a visit to the Winter Wonderland known as Michigan.

I've been reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to help get into the spirit of the season.

As the wind chill has slid into minus double digits, I've come around to thinking that I should read The Call of the Wild by Jack London next, or maybe his short story To Build a Fire.

To Build a Fire is a short story about a prospector in Alaska during the Gold Rush who struggles to build that fire before he freezes to death.

Rick over at Wujifa was kind enough to send me a link to as audio version of the short story. You can listen to it here. Enjoy... and STAY WARM.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Takuma Hisa: At the Intersection of Aikido and Aikijujutsu

Below is an excerpt from an article from the Aikido Journal. More of the article may be read here.

The article is about Takuma Hisa, a student of both Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido; and Sokaku Takeda, who taught Ueshiba Aikijujutsu.

Hisa ran a dojo at the premises of his of his employer, the Asahi (Morning Sun) News. He was in a position where he was able to make a photographic record of what he taught every day. The dojo is in operation to this day, and the goal of the students is to carry on the art that Hisa taught, the way he taught it. I think this is a great tribute to a teacher.


It is a daunting task to attempt to define the role of Takuma Hisa within the context of the overlapping histories of aikido and Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. The dynamics of Hisa’s associations with Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda, two giants of modern Japanese martial arts history, are little understood. This is because Hisa was caught in an awkward situation resulting from the sometimes bizarre relationship between Ueshiba and Takeda. Hence, a principal aim of this essay will be to clarify Hisa’s relationships with his two teachers and stimulate a reevaluation of his great contribution to the aiki arts.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Heart of a Lion

Holland Reynolds is a junior at a high school in California. Her coach is dying of ALS. This video is from the last meet he would attend.

The team dedicated the meet to him and were determined to finish in first place. All went well until Holland collapsed before crossing the finish line.

For her team; for her coach, she had to finish. In pain, not knowing what was wrong with her, she finished by crawling over the finish line on her hands and knees.

By finishing the race, her team managed to take first place.

Friday, December 03, 2010