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Sun Decade

July 14, 2017

It struck me the other day in class that it has been just over ten years since we finished “learning” the Sun Tai Chi set  (we started in January of 2017  and likely it took 5 or 6 months for us to be taught all of the movements).  By “learning” I mean “know all the movements” for that is the remarkable fun and truth… I have been practicing this form, now, for 10 years.  Week in, week out, practice and more practice.  There’s been nothing added, no new moves, no “advanced” form to play with, no other set to move on to.  Same set.  Over, and over, and over again.  And after those 10 years, I know I haven’t fully “learned” it yet.  I am still discovering things about the set, about my body, about myself, and I know there is a myriad of things to still discover.  Still many ways to suddenly epiphany on how much more the body can be linked, how I can embody the core concepts, how I can move and flow and energize and balance and connect and sink and transfer and be.  And I frikken love that.  I totally love this never ending path.  Every time I get something – even if I re-discover it, and even if it feels, for a moment, that I’ve been doing it wrong until now – it’s a moment of excitement and joy.  Pure delight.  I know I will be 99, on the day that I die, and I’ll be practicing my tai chi, that same form, that same one that by then I will have been doing for 66 years, having done it thousands of time, and I will move and my face will light up and I will say “Ohhhh… that’s what they mean by sinking!  I’ve been doing it “wrong” all these years!”  And as I sit down and pass on, I will do so with a smile, delighted as ever to have discovered something new and grown.

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Wonder Wednesday

July 12, 2017

by Loika

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 11, 2017

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Our brains have a pretty darn strong us/them detector.  And it’s a fast one too, as in tenth of a second fast.  See someone, or an image of someone, and boom, before we even register there’s a face there that part of our brain has slapped a label on it.  Recent neuroscience research is even able to watch this happen in real time.  Show test subjects a face, see their brain reaction.

Ok, that we split people into us/them groups is not all that surprising.  What might be, though, is that WHAT is pegged as different and other is completely arbitrary.  More than that even;  in fact highly malleable.

Take those same images, the ones shown to the test subjects where their minds were observed categorizing the people in the photos as in/out, us/them, kin/other, and show them a second time, this time with many of the people in the photos wearing a baseball cap of the local popular sports team.  That “other” response… goes away.  Just doesn’t arise.  The first time through:  person gets flagged as other.  Second time through with the hat:  nope, part of my tribe.

That’s fascinating.

Even crazier, the research found that the sensitivity of the detector (ie, make our brains ping “other” more often) can be heightened by simply placing someone in a room with a foul odour in the background.

So easily malleable.

Our brains “otherize” people based on all sorts of things:  skin colour, hair length, gender, body proportions, accents, perceived upbringing, fashion sense, music tastes, choice of operating systems, the list goes on.  And there’s nothing inherent, or even correct about any of it.  So much can set it off.

Which means we can adjust it.  We’re not locked into anything.  No one is.  Baseball caps can change the detector’s response (for or against – put on your rival’s team and watch it swing wildly);  with mindfulness and choice we can do the same.  That to which we do or do not recoil from is under our control.

And even when our detector pings based on one of those hundreds of hidden variables, it’s still just a ping.  It’s no different than the feeling you have right now of a thousand cockroaches and ants crawling all over you and up your arms and into your hair and along the soles of your feet, just from reading this sentence.*  Feelings can be great indicators of something, and so is this.  But they are not a determiner.  That meaning is all up to us.

Our brains continue to hand us these us/them judgments, all the time.  But that is no straightjacket.  It does not doom us to certain actions and reactions.  Rather, we are getting a signal:  to be present, to be mindful, to look around, and to be curious.  There can be gold on them thar other hills.

 

* Sorry for that sensation…

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Architecture Monday

July 10, 2017

Sometimes, even architecture has to go to the toilet.

And I think these are great toilets.  They’re for a park in Austin, TX, so they’re more of an outhouse for hikers and cyclists than a traditional toilet, but that I think helps make them so nice.  Check out how the two buildings look like they could nestle into each other, and how though they’ve been pulled apart they’re still talking to each other.  They’ve got a nice muscular feel, something primal, and I really like how the angled forms of thick, rusting steel both reflects the light with glints of metallic vigour or becomes rich and textured, depending on the time of day.  Plus the way the shadows of the trees dance across.  You could pass at the same time each day and yet it would never be exactly the same experience.

Inside things are rough and rugged, and oh my did you look up?  How’s that for a surreal and yet great bathroom break view?  Yes, that tree is coming into your restroom.  Take a multi-meaning nature break to recharge… this has to be one of the top toilet experiences out there.

These are fun.  A word not normally associated with toilets to be sure, but that playfulness is what makes ’em even neater.  Intriguing, airy, and a view to the trees and the skies beyond, all while you do your business.

The Lady Bird Loo, by Mell Lawrence Architects.

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Gaming Thursday: Top Secret/SI (& NWO!)

July 6, 2017

I was all set to post about reading through Top Secret/SI tonight when I learned of some very exciting news:  TOP SECRET IS BACK!

The original creator of Top Secret, Merle Rasmussen, has teamed up with a few others to create Top Secret: New World Order, and it’s LIVE on Kickstarter right now!

Colour me stupendously excited.  I’ve backed it and eagerly await its release.  Judging by the couple of images at the Kickstarter, it appears it will be a dice pool system using dice sizes for rankings, in basic stats (Nerve, Suave, Pulse, Intellect, Reflex), spycraft (sigint, humint, techint, combat), and something else… roll 13+ to succeed.  We’ll have to wait and see.

But for now, back to…

Top Secret/SI (for Special Intelligence) popped out in 87.  Still quite enamoured with Top Secret, I snatched it up as soon as I heard about it, and dove into it.  It was a pretty big rules re-design, introducing and updating it to many of the ideas that were becoming prevalent in the RPG world.  Gone were the individual resolution systems for infiltration, interactions, and combat, replaced instead with a universal percentile resolution system with a target number of your Stat + Skill Level x5 +/- Modifiers.  One unique thing was how your base stat was determined, via a d60 +10 roll, with this added bit of if all your stats totaled  less than 275, you could add enough points to make them total 275.  Looking back, a somewhat interesting way of generating a starting target number with a max of 70% chance of basic success, but one that you were equally likely to roll that 70 to rolling a 20… and having yourself a nigh-well impossible chance of doing much at all with that stat, maxing out to 45 even with max skill levels… and worse, sometimes you had to roll 1/2 or even 1/4 stat…. yeah.  Don’t even try to do anything in that area of expertise with that character.

The character sheets, though, were awesome.  They came as a full-blown dossier, and cemented my love for game-enhancing feelies:

I just love that so much.  With all the space for photo, nationality, history, and more, it really brought the more “fluff” parts of the character to bear, and reminded that hey!  You’re playing an espionage game here.

One thing you’ll see on that dossier is the agent diagram with the hit boxes.  Each location had boxes equal to 10% of your CON score, and each point of damage would cross off the box.  Cross off all boxes in head or body location, and you were dead.  Other areas, and the body part was destroyed.  Much less abstract than “Hit Points” and really quite deadly.  Though at the same time a bit odd that the hands were their own hit location with just as much damage soaking capacity…

Right from the get-go, the campaign style of Top Secret/SI was turned up several notches compared to Top Secret, a much more Bond-esque and superspy type world with a big bad organization like SMERSH or SPECTRE, called WEB, and an equally large organization opposing it, named ORION.  To give a sense of the tone in a number of the published modules, I ended up running them in a superhero Champions game, and they fit right in.

What was also nifty is that, over time, TS/SI became TSR’s base system for modern day and near-future action.  Supplements expanded the range of campaign styles, including Commando for more combat-oriented, Rambo-like stories, and even FREE-Lancers, a light cyberpunk-esque style campaign.  I never really got into FREE-Lancers (which is a bit unexpected, given I loved me my Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk 2020 games), but I ate Commando up like candy.  My games became much more closely linked in tone to Mack Bolan and Phoenix Force books than suave James Bond types… though we never abandoned all the fun gadgets.  Looking back, a rather amusing mix.

Overall, I do remember that at the time TS/SI came out I was… not altogether happy.   I had a lot of “Why did they change that??”, an early curmudgeon/grognard type reaction.  And so I went forward with this kitbashed version that combined aspects from the original game with the SI edition.  Likely it was this total hot mess, but it served us well for many years.  With some distance in time and mental space, on the whole I’d say TS/SI mostly gained compared to the original release.  Even if it lost some of the uniqueness and flavour baked into the subsystems, the unified resolution mechanism in TS/SI was a plus.  The game put even more emphasis on your character’s RP aspects, and the damage boxes for hit locations made combat tense and interesting, and the aftereffects lingering.  It definitively had an impact on my thoughts on what made a good RPG system for years to come.

And now, it looks like I’m getting my wish to play a Top Secret game once again.  Come November, no way in heck I won’t be playing, and reviewing, TS/NWO.

Just call me codename:  BAGMAN

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Peter passes the microphone

July 5, 2017

Watching the Canada 150 celebrations this past weekend was a treat not just for the party, but because it was also the end of an era.  Peter Mansbridge* retired from the anchor and chief correspondent position of the National at the CBC after nearly 30 years at its helm.  It was an emotional event for Peter, certainly, but I’d wager for many of us on the other side of the screen as well.

30 years.  While Knowlton Nash may have formed my vision of what a news anchor ought to be, Peter was the chief correspondent for most of my viewing history of the National  And Peter cemented that first vision expertly.  He brought humility, humanity, understanding, and expertise to his newscast every night, pushing himself and others in the team to understand as broadly as they could the events they covered.  He brought himself to his newscasts and assignments without making it about himself.  And he brought humanity, seeking contact with people and engaging with their stories.  Never detached, he always personable while also being on point.

The CBC crafted a wonderful tribute:

… and renamed their entrance lobby Mansbridge Hall.  His farewell speech is wonderful:

As he finished his broadcast on our nation’s birthday, he said “I’m not a fan of long goodbyes, so this won’t be one.  I am a fan, however, of long thank yous.”

Thank you Peter.  Thank you for being our anchor all these years.  Not just the anchorperson of a news organization… our anchor.  Our grounding.  Our link to hold on to and to right ourselves amongst the events of the day, months, years.  The voice to guide us towards context and understanding, to a place at the centre from which we could survey the waters and choose our bearings.  Thank you for your generosity, your intention, your care, your commitment, and your time.

All the best in your next adventures.

 

* AKA Peter Moosebridge, and I assure you I was/am jumpingly excited that they chose him to be the voice of one of the newscasters in such an incredible movie.

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 4, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

So, Bono and the Edge played at the Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa over the weekend, with a nice, stripped down, acoustical rendition of their song, “One.”  Quite lovely.

One of the articles I was reading about the performance noted something I found very interesting about the song.  There’s a lyric in it that many people mishear or misinterpret.  And when it’s pointed out and made clear (as, apparently, the band tries to do whenever they can), it really shifts the nature of the song, to what I think is a much richer place.

What most people hear is:

“we’ve got to carry each other…”

However, the actual lyric is:

“we get to carry each other…”

This single word switch makes quite the difference.  It injects grace into the song.  It shifts the path and creates a different idea of the One.  It creates and even celebrates a Buddhist middle path, Taoist yin yang, straight up Niels Bohr way of saying “yes, we are different in many ways, and we can still come together.”  It removes a notion of obligation in the got, and instead turns it into generosity and possibility in the get.  It’s a One born from acting on our shared human desires and aspirations, our ur-intentions, regardless of the trappings of culture, society, interests, hobbies, romances, tastes, etc.

This get reminds us that we don’t have to really like someone, or want to be their acquaintance and hang out with them, or agree on everything, or be up to the same things in life, or understand everything about them, to still be committed to carrying each other.  To a future that works for us all.

Exquisite.  A melody well worthy of a celebration and worth living into.