December 31, 2018

Zen in the time of Trump, or, The Unreality Show


After the 2016 election, a debate broke out in the Bay Area Zen world.  The instigator was Juryu Mark, a prominent Soto Zen priest and, amongst many other things, head teacher of the Buddhadharma Sangha of San Quentin State Prison.  He was not in a mood of fatalistic acceptance, and wrote a piece entitled All Are Welcome At San Francisco Zen Center! (…to join us in resisting Trump).  Responding to a measured message of openness and acceptance from SFZC, he wrote:
As someone more free than the Abbots to say what’s on my mind, I’d like to offer an alternative, another approach to unity.  It might sound something like this:  San Francisco Zen Center unequivocally rejects the hateful worldview of President-Elect Donald Trump, and vows together to actively oppose its implementation.  All are welcome to join us in this.

It needed to be said.  A local Zen teacher once told me there are three kinds of Buddhism:  Mahayana, Theravada, and California.  The latter has done much good, and I am deeply sympathetic to the teaching, but I find there is also sometimes a sense of complacency.  At its best, Zen calls us on our bullshit, and I thought Juryu Mark's piece made a pretty good start.  But it prompted some deeper insights, I think.

Here is Juryu Mark's co-blogger, Hondo Dave Rutschman-Byler:
When I was a kid, in Uruguay and Argentina under the dictatorships, I learned some things. I don’t mean learned in an abstract or intellectual way—I was too young for that—but in a visceral, embodied way. Something about violence and terror, something about silence. Hard to put into words. 
Partly because of this, I think, I’ve never believed that it couldn’t happen here. Of course it could happen here. It can happen anywhere. It does happen anywhere. 
(We can describe the “it” a lot of different ways: fascism, authoritarianism, bigotry. I don’t really care what we call it.)
So last year, when Donald Trump began his campaign for President, I recognized something. My body recognized something. Little twinges, little movements. I could smell it. My body knew...
The bodhisattva vow, our radical beautiful bodhisattva vow, is vast, and I appreciate deeply the way that our vow can never leave out Donald Trump or his supporters, can never fall into easy or self-congratulatory assurances that we know what’s right or can see the whole picture.
But a bodhisattva responds to the cries of the world. Has to respond. 
So that’s a tension. That’s the koan that Jiryu laid out, and called for us not to wiggle out of.

In a later post ("Reading Hakuin in the Age of Trump"), Hondo Dave praised Hakuin as "the Zen master of desperation and anxiety and dread," and he's not wrong.  Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) was a leading figure in Japanese Buddhism, and lived in a society where the political leadership made Donald Trump look like Laura Bush.  A new book of his teaching record came out this year, Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn, a title that does seem to fit with the zeitgeist.

Hakuin took notice of political affairs, and had very little patience for those who imagine they can change the world just sitting on a cushion:
Just doing zazen won't bring any merit.  If they’re really Zen priests, no different from Shakamuni or Bodhidharma, they’ll be able to bundle up ‘Who is the true master?’ ‘Hear the sound of one hand,’ and heaven and hell together and wipe their butts with them. This is a place where the devil, his heretical minions, and the cow-headed and horse-headed lictors and demons of hell must never show their faces. Because of that . . . [undecipherable]” (annotation).

A shame about the text but Hondo Dave can finish that sentence:
"I have to act, or our talk about bodhisattva practice is just a game. And I don’t think it’s a game."

  • Juryu Mark - "All Are Welcome At San Francisco Zen Center! (…to join us in resisting Trump)" (link)
  • Hondo Dave - "Our Practice Now" (link)
  • Juryu Mark - "Jiryu Hates People!  Don’t Be Like Jiryu!" (link)
  • Hondo Dave - "Reading Hakuin in the Age of Trump" (link)
  • Hakuin - Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn (link)

Krugman with the natural experiments

The score so far

The Mueller probe has led to criminal charges against 33 people - (link)

Wonkette has a slightly less civil summary here - (link)

December 24, 2018

The best Rogue-like deck-building space dungeon crawler I have played this week

YMMV - but I have thoroughly enjoyed this game over the past couple of days (link)

December 21, 2018


How ‘Baldur’s Gate’ Saved the Computer RPG - (link)

Dr. X writes: "We we will play this at my Inauguration."

Translation (link)

System test: I am interested yak cheese

Yak cheese fascinates me.  Here is an interesting video of yak cheese that I just played and sort of liked.  Yak cheese is great.  If you don't want some that's fine, more yak cheese for me.

December 20, 2018

A slender thread

Due to their respective distances, tens of billions of kilometres from home, the signal strength from both [Voyager] spacecraft is very weak, only one-tenth of a billion-trillionth of a watt.


Framing time


Latouchian justice

In happier times

[I]nstead of rubber stamping the illegal demolition, the five-person commission voted unanimously to order the applicants to rebuild an “exact replica” of the one-bedroom house using similar materials...  The directive also orders the owner to install a plaque, which would highlight the story of the house, including its demolition and reconstruction.

Built in 1936, the house was Neutra’s first in San Francisco and only one of five in the city.


Scouting Report: De'Aaron Fox

Capable passer

Can beat the trap

Good finisher in the open court...

Effective from the high post...

Has the ability to drive to the hoop

Can get physical with weaker players


De’Aaron Fox Is Forcing a Reevaluation of the 2017 NBA Draft Class - (link)

December 19, 2018

Well, never mind, we're actually pretty used to that

Spiegel, which sells about 725,000 print copies a month and has an online readership of more than 6.5 million, said it was “shocked” by the discovery and apologised to its readers and to anyone who may have been the subject of “fraudulent quotes, made-up personal details or invented scenes at fictitious places”.


December 18, 2018

No rush at all

“We’re going to be patient and continue to give DeMarcus the time he needs to prepare,” Kerr said. “When the time is right, we’ll have some things planned for him.”


December 17, 2018

Still efficient after all these years

When I did my first IAYPA post back in 2004, there was a new Drew on the block. While Drew Bledsoe was still shelling the weak, Drew Brees was already making his mark as an IAYPA leader.  Today there he is again, paired as he often is at the top of these rankings with Philip Rivers.  Let me also say that this Mahomes guy might have potential, what with the 3rd-best IAYPA and breaking the team record for touchdown passes in a season.  And here in the bizarro timeline Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Mullins = Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.  Not sure what happened to Dalton, but he is looking up at Blake Bortles, and that can't be pleasant.

"I Can't Stop Watching These Crazy Pat Mahomes Passes" - (link)

I now stand very, very corrected


December 16, 2018

Mavericks surf contest postponed because they are big sissies

“That’s the thin margin they working where they’re doing this dance between looking graceful and almost dying at the same time,” said Sponsler.


Dawn breaks over Marblehead

Betty, Veronica, and Archie (1936)

No Bing, good try...but that is not what I had in mind


December 15, 2018

"All slogans..."

How to buy a watch, part 3: Why pay more?

Indeed, why pay more than $50 for a wristwatch? A article from 2013, Why Do Assholes Love Watches, helped me clarify my thinking on this. It declared this truism:
You can get a perfectly serviceable watch for about fifty bucks. All watch prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
Pope Francis wears a $75 Swatch because Vanity

Rather than argue the validity of that point, I'd like to highlight what else it applies to:
You can get a perfectly serviceable pair of pants for about fifty bucks. All pants prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
You can get a perfectly serviceable briefcase for about fifty bucks. All briefcase prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
You can get a perfectly serviceable pair of shoes for about fifty bucks. All shoe prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
You can get a perfectly serviceable pair of eyeglasses for about fifty bucks. All eyeglass prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
You can get a perfectly serviceable wedding ring for about fifty bucks. All wedding ring prices in excess of fifty bucks are due to the vanity of the wearer.
Appreciating a quality piece of personal apparel or an accessory that costs more than $50 does not make you a snob or a fool -- though you might be a fool or snob just the same. You're not obligated to care about it, but you're not obligated not to care about it, either.

If you want to cap what you spend on a watch that does not raise your vanity quotient, you can choose the price of an equivalent accessory -- something you can wear most days -- as a guideline: the shoes you wear most days, your eyeglasses, or briefcase. You can spend more, you can spend less, it really depends on what you like and what you value.

You don't have to be a snob or an asshole to have a nice watch. Again, Idris Elba wears $40 watches and $16,000 watches. You callin' him an asshole? I didn't think so.

December 13, 2018

IDEA: Crowdfund a statue of this guy

What's the next level up from Schadenfreude?

They're trying to make me look bad by putting all my accomplices in prison!


Meanwhile, at Midway...

Midway Airport in Chicago is small, square mile facility a mile or so south of the Stevenson Parkway.  It is named for the Battle of Midway, which most modern Americans know little about, but arguably changed the course of the war.  This SBD Dauntless aircraft - the type that delivered the killing blows to four Japanese carriers - hangs quietly over the entrance to Concourse A.  I try to pause here whenever I pass through.

The SBD was slow, but when flown well it could take care of itself.  According to Wikipedia, at the Battle of the Coral Sea, "SBD pilot Stanley 'Swede' Vejtasa was attacked by three A6M2 Zero fighters; he shot two of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wingtip."

O'Hare Airport, Midway's big brother, is named after Edward "Butch" O'Hare, a Chicagoan who was the Navy's first ace and the first Naval Medal of Honor winner of the war, awarded  for singlehandedly saving the carrier Lexington from an attack by NINE enemy bombers.  O'Hare got the glory tour, shook hands with Roosevelt, but was killed in '43.

December 11, 2018

How to buy a watch, part 2: How much should I pay for a wristwatch?

Only you can answer this question. I have only one guideline:

Do not pay less than $12 for a new wristwatch.

Why that amount? Because that's what a Casio F-91W costs at Walmart.

Believe it or not, Casio F-91Ws are widely counterfeited. If you pay much less than $12, you're probably buying a fake.

The F-91W is the UBW (Universal Basic Watch). It's comfortable, legible, accurate, unobtrusive, has an alarm, chronograph, and light. And right now it's actually pretty hip: the anti-Apple-Watch, the anti-status-watch.
Here's a guy who knows what time it is

Casio has a lot of decent watches for under $50. Ponder this $40 A168WG on Idris Elba. (I've seen pictures of him wearing a different watch, a gold Rolex Day-Date.)

Sure, Idris Elba is well off, but he's not as rich as, say, Bill Gates.

Next: Why pay more?

How to buy a watch, part 1: Why wear a wristwatch?

It's true! You don't need to wear a wristwatch. Let's move on from this outdated technology. The End.

But wait... even in a day and age in which nearly everyone has a device in their pocket that tells time perfectly, any wristwatch conveys advantages that never go out of style.

1. To discover what time it is (without taking your phone out of your pocket)

There's a reason men in the 20th century gave up pocket watches for wrist watches. Looking at something strapped to your off-hand wrist is just easier than pulling a thing out of your pocket to glance at for a split second, then replace. You need to have your dominant hand free to access your phone. If walking or riding a bike, there's a risk you'll fumble your phone while taking it out of your pocket. We've all seen this plenty of times.

While a dependable wristwatch is always your faithful servant, but your smart phone would be your master. How many times have you taken up your phone with the intention of checking the time, got distracted by something else your phone wants to tell you, and forgotten why you checked the time in the first place? Smart phones (and their familiars, smart watches) and the software they run are purpose built to distract you from whatever non-smart-phone thing you're spending your valuable time on.

2. To send social cues 

"Should I ask him to sign our petition?"

Your time is important. Sometimes you need to signal it to others. Looking at your watch sends this cue unambiguously, in a way looking at your phone cannot.

Sometimes you want to know the time without sending this signal. When I'm engaged in a meeting at work and I need to check the time, my first option is to look at the time on somebody else's watch. I like to reciprocate by wearing a watch of my own for others to do the same.

3. To enjoy universal manhood accessorization

Only one personal accessory is acceptable in nearly all circumstances for all men: a wristwatch.
While earrings, bracelets, and other jewelry have gained acceptance in our lifetime, a wristwatch is never out of place, anywhere in the world.

Next: How much should you pay for a wristwatch?

December 10, 2018

Ocasio-Cortez Calls Out Acculturation to Goldman-Sachs' style of Capitalism in Congress "Training"

Back at Reed, The Kennedy School came to our graduating class trying to recruit American politics students for their program- I was one- and I was reminded of a certain stench that I also sense from this recent Congressional "training" incident, why I didn't go, and why I have never fully trusted the Bezos-Bloomberg-Clinton-ish side of the centrists associated with the Democratic Party.

$15 wage is working out here just great, thanks.

It's amazing to watch as Ocasio-Cortez exposes her patronizing opponents as tools and fools. This generation has every reason to be infuriated, and they are done with being dismissed and diminished.

They know damn well the good Earth isn't going to be safe for their own kids unless some fundamentals change, and fast.   And all of it will take a forceful return to a healthy democracy and overwhelming political organization.

They're up to it.

Tear it down, girl, and build it back up.

December 08, 2018

The Death Squad Diver (helicopter optional)

December 07, 2018

Eastern Approaches

Going through some old books I found my 1949 edition of Eastern Approaches.  The page facing this map begins...

...and if you can stop reading there, you're a stronger man than I.


December 05, 2018

A dive watch used by divers for diving, in black titanium


December 03, 2018

Best pen


December 02, 2018

Any technology sufficiently advanced...

December 01, 2018

Eleven bucks


Forty bucks

  • 200M Water Resistant
  • Screw-down Crown/Screw-lock Back
  • Mineral Glass
  • etc,


The Seiko Vortex

  • Why buy a Rolex for $10,000 when you can get a Grand Seiko for $5,000?
  • Why buy a Grand Seiko for $5,000 when you can get a Prospex for under $1,000?
  • Why buy a Prospex when you can get the SKX007 or SKX173 (pictured above) for $200?
This never stops, does it?  Somewhere there's a really serviceable good-looking Malaysian dive watch for twelve dollars.  And I bet all those Rolex buyers will feel pretty dumb when they hear about it.

Worn and Wound:  Seiko SKX007 review - (link)
The 10 Best Affordable Dive Watches of 2017 - (link)

Has sir considered the Seiko Samurai-inspired Prospex SRPB51?


Give me my damn echo chamber

Where's the button that tells Linkedin to only show me nice things about Charles Wohlforth?