Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thought of the Day, March 20, 2015: Rainer Maria Rilke on Spring

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Philosophy Friday: On Nihilism

I was thinking to myself, "What does this blog need more of? Of course! Pretentiousness! And navel-gazing!" And thus Philosophy Friday was born. 

In all seriousness, I have long been interested in philosophical matters. I actually considered majoring in philosophy in college, but opted for history instead under the mistaken assumption that it was a better choice from a professional standpoint.

A couple of caveats: One, I make no claims of being some sort of expert on philosophy. I am a layman. A reasonably well-informed layman, but still layman. Two, my approach to philosophy is very personal and subjective. Some of my views may be confusing, troubling, or even offensive to some readers.

With that, please enter freely and of your own free will!

To kick off Philosophy Friday, I want to look at the cheery subject of nihilism. What is nihilism, or better yet, what is a nihilist? For the purposes of this post, I'm going to go with Friedrich Nietzsche's definition: 

A nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. 

I tend to simplify this by saying a nihilist as one who thinks that the world that should exist doesn't, and that the world that does exist shouldn't. 
 Sounds like a rather dark way to view existence. I should know, as I've struggled to resist the lure of nihilism most of my life.

That statement might sound a bit melodramatic, but it's true.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Recipe Wednesday: Garlic Balsamic Chickpeas

I love chickpeas. They are one of my favorite foods. I'm not alone: People have been eating and cultivating chickpeas for at least 7,500 years. Besides being delicious, chickpeas are also very nutritious. They are rich in protein, minerals, fiber, and essential amino acids.

Chickpeas also have a starring role in one of my go-to quick meals: Garlic Balsamic Chickpeas. The recipe is a variation on one that originally appeared in the excellent cookbook Happy Herbivore Abroad by Lindsay S. Nixon. 
Sizzlin' chickpeas.
Garlic Balsamic Chickpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Put the oil in a nonstick pan on low-medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the garlic, stirring constantly. Just as the garlic
starts to brown, add the chickpeas, balsamic vinegar, and ketchup. Continue stirring, making sure all the chickpeas are coated. Reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking, stirring occassionally for about 10 minutes. When it looks like the vinegar has pretty much thickened, remove the pan from the heat. The chickpeas are ready to eat, but will taste better if you let them sit for another 10 minutes.

There. Done. Pretty simple, no? 

Garlic Balsamic Chickpeas taste great on salads or stuffed into pitas. I like to have them on top of rice with a side order of steamed kale tossed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Koichi Tohei's 10 Rules in Daily Life

Koichi Tohei was was a 10th Dan aikidoka and founder of the Ki Society. He developed his own style of aikido called Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (literally "aikido with mind and body unified"), often known as Ki-Aikido. He was also a prolific writer and philosopher, and his books on ki are well-worth reading even if you don't practice any form of martial arts. 

Here are his 10 Rules in Daily Life...

  1. Have Universal Mind
  2. Love all creation
  3. Be grateful
  4. Do good in secret
  5. Have merciful eyes and a gentle body
  6. Be forgiving and big hearted
  7. Think deep and judge well
  8. Be calm and determined
  9. Be positive and vigorous
  10. Persevere

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recipe Wednesday: Borscht

Ever since I saw John Wick, I've been in something of a Russian frame of mind. Taking up Sambo isn't exactly convenient right now, and I have no real desire to get vory tattoos. However, I am dabbling a bit in Pimsleur's Russian language program, and I have been making more Russian food, especially borscht, which I love. 

The first time I ever had borscht was about 20 years ago at a Russian restaurant in Las Vegas whose name escapes me. Even though it was located in a dinky strip mall, the interior was all wood and decorated like a dacha. The customers wore lots of black leather, smoked cigarettes, and resembled extras from Eastern Promises. To call the staff surly and brusque would be an understatement.

Ah, but the food! I ordered borscht primarily because I had never had it and it is such an iconic dish. I wasn't disappointed. 

In the following years, I rarely ate borscht. It isn't an easy item to find in Hawaii restaurants. Late last year, in a Wick-inspired haze, I decided to try to make it myself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Atticus Kodiak's Training Novel* Montage

In an earlier post, I wrote about my fondness for the Atticus Kodiak books by Greg Rucka. A quick review:
The Atticus Kodiak series by Greg Rucka follows the adventures and (more importantly) transformation of a ex- U.S. Army soldier turned bodyguard.
The first four books of the series are very well-done but fairly straight-forward thrillers.... The fifth book in the series, Critical Space,  marks a turning point in the series. While the first four books were essentially bodyguard-based crime novels, from here on the books become something more akin to international thrillers.
I also touched on something I really enjoyed about Critical Space:

While all the Kodiak books are worth reading, this one really stands out from an inspiration standpoint. Atticus Kodiak finds himself on an island in the Caribbean, where he spends months making learning to be one hell of a badass. The chapter in Critical Space detailing his regimen is one of the best of its kind I've ever read. It's sort of like a written version of a training montage from a movie. Essentially, Atticus spends his time strength training (with lots of pull-ups) and practicing martial arts. To aid in balance and recovery, he uses yoga and ballet. (Don't scoff at ballet; it's far more challenging and even dangerous than people realize.) He also goes on long ocean swims. As for diet, Atticus gives up alcohol and caffeine while eating lots of fresh fruit (especially watermelon) and seafood.... By the end of his training, Atticus Finch is essentially a new man. Critical Space is a great example of how a commitment to fitness and wellness can lead to something akin to a personal rebirth.
While poking around on the Web, I found the text for the aforementioned montage. Here it is, in its entirety. Of course, from a training standpoint, I don't agree with everything Atticus does, but it's a cool sequence with some stuff worth thinking about. Please note that no copyright infringement is intended. By posting this excerpt, I hope to encourage more people to buy Greg Rucka's work.

(* Double-meaning intended. It's a novel montage because it is unique. It's also a novel montage because it is from a novel.)

 It is always about you and your body.

It's how you see yourself, and as a result, how you see the rest of the world.

The body dictates everything. It's where it all starts.

What you can make it do. What you can make it endure. How quick you can be. How precise. How quiet, and strong, and flexible, and still. It is the one tool you always have at your disposal, no matter where you travel, the one weapon that can never be discovered going through customs, never be spotted by a watchful guard or an attentive police officer. It is at the heart of everything you do, and you must be able to trust it absolutely.

The body.

This is what it takes.