New Schedule and Location for 2016

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Kids in aikido?

I really enjoyed this video demonstration - especially the segments of kids practicing aikido - real aikido - not watered-down aiki warm-up kids primer aikido. 
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Coming up through the ranks we were assured by our instructors that aikido was not for kids because it was too dangerous.  They justified that opinion with a couple of reasons, like wristlocks putting growth plates at risk and lack of maturity=lack of control... but I suspect that opinion was based more on their personal lack of interest in teaching kids than in some sort of objective fact.
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When you look at it, kids practice judo and karate and BJJ and boxing all the time without depopulating the world.  Why shouldn't we be able to train kids in aikido.
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Jita Kyoei - my investment in you


I drill this into my judo kids - when we are warming up I ask them (among other things), "What's your main purpose for being in judo class?" and the answer that I expect is, "To make everyone else better."
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Jita Kyoei - mutual benefit - you and me both win - you and me going forward together - everyone shines together.
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But it's not just kids that need drilling on this.  It's adults too.  And it's not just students, but sensei too.  And it's not just judo, but aikido and karate and... every other discipline.  Jita kyoei is not our natural state.  We far too often and far too easily fall into me-my-mine mode when we should be in we-us-ours mode.
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Sometimes we have to put our own desires and agendas secondary to those of others.  Sometimes we have to stand and wait, in our strength, for slower weaker less experienced others to catch up. As we become stronger and higher-ranked, this should happen more and more often and to an ever increasing degree because there will be more people needing to catch up farther to get to the point to where they can help us.
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There have been times when this dynamic has frustrated me as a teacher.  Sometimes it seems like the higher-ranked folks don't make any progress because we're always starting over with the white belt material, but I think this is probably just my me-my-mine hanging out.  As a teacher (sensei or sempai) I make you better so that you can lift me up later.  Rising water floats all boats sort of thing.
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But what about all the students that will never get to my level?  Shoot, most won't ever get a black belt.  Jita Kyoei still applies!  Even though you might, realistically, never get past the hand-holding stage in judo or aikido.  Even if you move around the world and I never see you again, I am still increasing the capacity of people in our society - people who are doctors, lawyers, carpenters, mechanics, teachers, fathers, mothers...  People who could use a dose of ju and aiki - but more importantly, people who could use a dose of jita kyoei in their lives and careers.  
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I build you up, you build up a bunch of people, they build up a bunch more folks, and eventually some of those folks are bound to build me up somehow, whether in martial arts or some other way - even if it is just that I get to live in a society full of capable, mutually beneficial citizens instead of a society full of me-my-mine drones.
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Jita Kyoei is my investment in you.

[photo courtesy of Nocopol_TO]

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Practical Unarmed Combat - by Feldenkrais

Highly recommended classic tome on unarmed combatives - from the POV of one technique - hadakajime. As you can see from the above pic, Feldenkrais shows hadakajime from A-to-Z,  inside-out, upside-down, and backwards!



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Cognates for tsuki

Consider the lowly thrust, lovely in its directness...












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Kitoryu - dead art or not?


Some years back, Our teacher hosted Tsunako Miyake sensei, and one of the things she said she wanted to teach during that visit was Koshiki no Kata.  "What's that" was most everyone's response.  Of course, there were some of us that knew that Koshiki existed, but nobody really knew what it had to do with anything.  Well, it turns out that Koshiki no kata has more to do with what we do than anyone understood.
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During that visit, Ms. Miyake penned a calligraphy (on her keikogi! which she gifted to one of the dojos!) that interestingly said (approximately), "Daitoryu aikido + Kitoryu (as seen in Koshiki no kata) = Tomiki aikido).
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Koshiki is the main surviving remnant of the Kitoryu school of Aiki-jujutsu - preserved in the Kodokan Judo curriculum.  Kitoryu gave rise to Kodokan judo, and was also influential in the development of aikido.  Morihei Ueshiba studied Kito for some time, and Professor Shishida even suggests that Ueshiba's aikido may have been largely developed as a counter to judo (that is, using the Kito and Daito that Ueshiba knew to bust the Kito and Tenjin that Kano's students knew).
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It is easy to find Daito folks if you're willing to travel, but trying to find someone with a certificate in Kitoryu is so nearly impossible that we'd figured/guessed that it was a dead art (except what is preserved in judo as Koshiki no Kata). 
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But lo and behold - I have managed to locate someone who (I think) has a certificate in Kitoryu!  A few years ago a friend told me that he knew an aging sensei that had studied Kito as a young man and even had a certificate.  I had heard good things about this instructor but had never gotten to work with him or talk to him - but over the past year I've gotten to work with him and talk with him on a couple of occasions, and he seems like the real deal (he does exquisite aikido, as do his students, and he has some pretty obscure historical knowledge that I managed to verify later.) 
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I got to talk to him about Kito a few weeks ago.  He said that he doesn't like to teach Kito/Koshiki because it is so rough and violent that it borders on abusive to the students - and that matches what we knew of Koshiki no kata - Everyone that went to Ms. Miyake's Koshiki clinic talked about being beat up and sore as hell for a while. My Kito source also said that Koshiki was not all of Kito - that there were auxiliary arts and other kata, including horseback techniques - and that checks against what we know of the other Koryu - they were typically very diverse schools.
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Anyway, It looks like I'll be able to pay another visit soon, and perhaps hear some more fascinating history and maybe see some documents.  I would love to work on Koshiki no kata (and whatever else he wants to play) with this man!



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A golden oldie for some of my friends ;-)




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Shishida on Kano's ideal judo


Fumiaki Shishida demonstrating Itsutsu no Kata.

Professor F. Shishida makes a really interesting assertion in an article titled, Counter techniques against Judo: the process of forming Aikido in 1930s.  His assertion is that Morihei Ueshiba's aikido was largely developed as a foil or counter-art to Kodokan Judo.  Initially, this sounded like a stretch, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to fit with pieces of the judo and aikido apocrypha that we have talked about for a while.
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For instance,  There's the famous story of Kano's visit to watch Ueshiba in 1930, after which Kano supposedly said something confusing and mysterious along the lines of, "Kodokan Judo is the Judo of 90 degree angles and Aikido is the Judo of 180 degree angles.”
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I've had my pet theories for a good while about the meaning of this statement, but Shishida's article suggested an alternate meaning.  What if Kano was saying, "Kodokan judo is regular (proper, 90-degree, upright, orthogonal) judo, and aikido is the flip-side (or 180 degree or counterpoint) to Kodokan judo."  What if Kano was saying that aikido is a counter to judo.
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I know, the whole supposed statement is a historical stretch, and this interpretation might stretch it a bit further, but it makes for an interesting what-if.
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That idea also makes sense when looking at Mifune's and Hirano's judo counter katas.  Watching these things (especially Mifune's) the viewer gets a creeping suspicion they are doing aikido to bust uke's judo maneuvers.
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I and some of my teachers have thought for a while that aikido generally makes a pretty good foil to judo, and it is interesting to see someone much smarter than me (like Shishida sensei) say something similar.



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Okano vs. Matos 1964 shiai commentary


Things I got from this video...

  • I recall one of my teachers (who had actually laid hands on Okano) saying that he had a killer kouchigari that would either outright flatten you (like this), or else would put the fear and respect into you, thus setting up another action.  In this case, the second action was morote seoinage.
  • Okano's entry into the shoulder throw seems almost casual - no big deal - I'll just step over here and turn like this, and oh, by the way, you're thrown!  Nothing about Okano's movement here sets off the other guy's danger sense.
  • Okano started off several of his matches this year by skipping and hopping around the mat, as if setting the tone for the other player to mimic this action.  Looks like Okano was drawing the other player into more vertical, bouncy motion through a mirror neuron trick.
  • Once he accomplished whatever he was doing with the hopping and skipping, Okano settled into a completely different type of foot motion.  Watch Okano's footwork during the steps leading up to the kouchigari.  Okano knew where every footfall was going.  He made no arbitrary steps - rather, he deliberately placed every foot.  Matos, on the other hand (the other foot), was almost spastic, taking tentative steps and quickly reversing them.  He was much less sure of where his feet were at any given time.  His footwork was stuttering.
  • Okano, in several of his matches this year, throws that superfast kouchigari.  Watch his sweeping foot.  He leaves it in place, like a bear trap, so there is no entry into kouchi.  When the hapless opponent walks by the already-set foot, Okano pulls the trigger!
  • Okano appears to have liked to finish throws squatting over the opponent, almost like ukigatame, instead of falling with the opponent.  This seems to have been one of his main entries into groundwork.




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Elena Ivashchenko suicide


What a shame!  If this suicide really was prompted by failing to medal at the last Olympics, then this is a complete failure to recognize what is important in life and what isn't.
http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/story/Russian-official-says-Elena-Ivashchenko-suicide-the-result-of-Olympic-failure-061813
MOSCOW (AP)
A Russian judo official says a four-time European judo champion who committed suicide had been depressed since failing to win a medal at last year's London Olympics. Authorities said Elena Ivashchenko died on Saturday at age 28 after jumping off the balcony of a 15th-floor apartment in the Siberian city of Tyumen. The director of a Tyumen judo center, Vyacheslav Yurlov, told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that her depression had started after she was eliminated in the quarterfinals at the London Games. Yurlov also said Ivashchenko needed several operations to treat a leg injury and had another one scheduled. Ivashchenko won gold at the European Judo Championships in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.



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Edmund Burke on grappling


He who wrestles with us

strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill.

Our antagonist is our helper.  (Edmund Burke)




(photo courtesy of DVIDSHUB)

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Commentary on Okano vs.Cadiere randori


What I see here (besides Okano totally out-classing the westerner)...
  • Relaxed, upright posture.
  • Light, free motion
  • Okano is able to control Cadiere's balance through his hands, mostly without stiff-arming.
  • Okano is much more grounded and stable - Cadiere is more springy up-and-down and twitchy left-and-right.
  • Okano allowed Cadiere to make the first several attacking actions before busting him (with left seoiotoshi)
  • Okano passes wide around the guard as he throws instead of throwing into the guard, then passing.
  • Okano was frequently ducking under Cadiere's collar grip, passing that grip to his other side, seemingly inviting a makikomi, but Cadiere never exploited it.
  • Okano repeatedly diffuses Cadiere's inside ashiwaza by grabbing the knee and passing it to the outside of his legs - without even trying a leg pick throw.
  • Okano's wrist of his power-hand grip in every large throw that he attempts - that wrist is bent back into a pushing position instead of locked straight into a fist like we teach beginners (see the throw in the last few seconds of the film for the best view of this)
  • Cadiere frequently used what looked like a hip-twitch feint (assuming those weren't abortive throwing attempts), and the hip feint never worked worth a darn.  In fact, it got him busted with an inside sweep early in the film.
  • Both players seem to have good game on both left and right sides, but Okano appears to wait more calmly and put together throws based on what is available, whereas Cadiere appears to have 2-3 pre-programmed combos that he tries.
  • Cadiere is no slouch, even though Okano makes him look like a child.  In fact, Cadiere appears to move and set up combos a lot like I do, so I suspect I would have fared about the same (or worse) vs. Okano ;-)

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Edward Snowden - Hero or Zero?

What do y'all think of this?




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Invest in loss (on many levels)

I was casting about, trying to put some words together about Nick's fourth randori hint...
Invest in loss...repeat the pattern that is causing you a problem so many times that your subconscious is stimulated to respond and solve it for you ....it should surprise you [...because, if you have the power to overcome your problems with the first solution you think up, they're not really problems.  You want to train your subconscious to come up with better solutions to more outrageous problems than your conscious mind ever could.]
...but I don't think that I could rephrase or expand on it any better without writing a book.  Following are a couple of talking heads from YouTube talking about this idea - you just have to mentally replace the word, "taichi" with "aikido" or "judo."  The first one is definitely the better discussion, but the second one, Josh Waitzkin, is such an interesting guy that I thought I'd throw that one in even though he didn't seem to have too much to say about the topic at hand.








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Hand pressure and foot direction in randori

In toshu randori, at least the way we most often practice it, you must act fully consciously and voluntarily.  You must move all of your decision-making to the foreground of your conscious mind so that you are not making any involuntary motions that you can avoid.  The reason for this is we are trying to use our conscious mind to re-program your unconscious mind to operate more strategically.
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But because your conscious mind processes things much more slowly than your subconscious mind, you have to slow down to a crawl or else unconscious motions start leaking through.  We have all experienced times when we have grabbed or blocked or struck or stiff-armed before we even realized it.  Those are examples of your unconscious mind driving actions and then informing your conscious mind later. We would rather slow down so that our conscious mind can guide us through enough reps that our subconscious mind will learn a new strategy.
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This problem of speeding up and unleashing your unconscious (which is what you already know, not what you are trying to learn) is the basis of Nick's next two randori pointers...
2. Don't put pressure in your hands unintentionally
3. Once you do have to step, try to keep at least one foot pointed at your target at all times
These also go back to my recent articles on gripping, and how, if you get the hands and feet working properly, the rest of the body tends to start working properly.  If you are allowing your unconscious mind to operate your hands and your feet, then the rest of your body has no choice but to organize itself based on those two unconscious activities.
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This is also the basis of kuzushi - doing something to force the other guy back into unconscious operation of their feet so that they take spurious steps that do you no harm and which you can take advantage of.
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So, the solution is to slow down to a snail's pace - an absolute crawl - a speed that would make taiji masters look like speed demons - so that you are able to consciously monitor and control the pressure in your hands and the direction of your feet.  Eventually, after sufficient reps, your subconscious mind will learn the new patterns and when someone surprises you, it will protect you very rapidly based on the newer strategies.

[photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes]

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Don't take a step you don't have to

The first of Nick's randori pointers that he dropped on us early this year is, "Don't take a step that you don't have to take."  I appended to that, for my own understanding, "...because stepping exposes us to otoshi and guruma, which we are all expert at exploiting."
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But, stepping and step-synchronization and footfall kuzushi - those are to a large degree how we do everything we do, at least to about shodan or nidan level.  Our first couple of rules that we teach day-one beginners and that we beat to death every class include, "control ma-ai if you can," and "if you can't control ma-ai, get off the line of attack."  We are pre-occupied with stepping properly.
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But then we grab hold of one of the high-level sensei and we're busted as soon as we touch - seemingly they didn't even move much, if at all!  How do we begin to do the no-step randori when we have no drills or examples or exercises between about white belt and shodan?
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Here are  some possibilities for exercises to begin to build this capability...
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Suwariwaza and Kokyudosa...
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Stake Standing (or for yoga folk, Tadasana)...

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Isometric/internal strength tricks...

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Parlor tricks like Morihei Ueshiba and Lulu Hurst used to do...



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Parentheses in judo

There are many techniques in judo that are quite similar to each other.  I often think that these groups of techniques that are similar are clouds or sets or technical spectra enclosed by the two most extreme forms like a set is enclosed in parentheses.
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For instance, you can look at most of the ashiwaza as being somewhere between the extremes represented by deashibarai/kosotogari and okuriashibarai.
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Deashi/kosoto happens when uke's center is dropping and his feet are separating.  Okuri happens when uke's center is rising toward its peak and as his feet are coming together.  Depending on how you set them up (straightline or round-the-corner), one happens very early in the stepping cycle and the other happens later.  Much of the ashiwaza technical spectrum lies somewhere between these two extremes.
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Okuriashibarai has never been my forte.  I have spent 20+ years working on the beginner forms (like side-to-side nagenokata form) with moderate success, but have never been able to whip uke's feet out from under him like some of my betters.  I reckon another 20 years of practice is called for. ;-)


I do, however, have a decent deashibarai and a (perhaps even dang good) kosotogari. I think this comes from having made every mistake that can be made in that technique during the past 20 years.  All I have to do now, is not do any of those ;-) and deashi works great!
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Want to get a good handle on most of the ashiwaza?  Work on deashi and okuriashi.
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Want to get a good handle on koshinage? Work on ukigoshi and something far larger and more extreme (like sodeTKgoshi)
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We can probably argue endlessly about what techniques are the parentheses in tewaza - I'd maybe initially say ukiotoshi and taiotoshi.  But the point is, by working on the parentheses, you get better at the stuff that they enclose.


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Exegesis of Nick's randori pointers


Some time back, Nick posted a nice collection of randori pointers, and I responded that I thought they were great but that each one could be a chapter of a book, or that  he should at least re-post with some parenthetical explanations or expansions.
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A couple of days ago Nick's list resurfaced on FB and I re-posted it and someone asked me for some expansion and explanation.
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So, since nobody ever listens to my genius ideas,  here's Nick's awesome pointers with my own parenthetical explanations. I figure to talk about some of these at greater length in upcoming posts...
1. Don't take a step you don't have to take [...because every step you take exposes you to otoshi and guruma, which we're all expert at exploiting.]
2. Don't put pressure in your hands unintentionally [...because convulsive, reflexive grips stop the motion of your center and limit your options.]
3. Once you do have to step, try to keep at least one foot pointed at your target at all times [...because your legs contain the strongest muscles in your body, and they only work strongly in that one plane.]
4. Invest in loss...repeat the pattern that is causing you a problem so many times that your subconscious is stimulated to respond and solve it for you ....it should surprise you [...because, if you have the power to overcome your problems with the first solution you think up, they're not really problems.  You want to train your subconscious to come up with better solutions to more outrageous problems than your conscious mind ever could.]
5. Invest in lightness...in whatever technique you are doing try to reduce how much pressure you use by half, then again by half, again and again all the way down to minimal pressure....a good bench mark to look for is getting down to one finger [...again, because if you've got the power to blow, then it's not a real problem.  You want to find the sweet spots and leverage magnifiers so that you can solve the largest conceivable problems with the least conceivable expenditure of your own power.]
6. Use mirroring in weight shift, posture, and timing [...because if you connect to uke and mirror his motions, posture, and timing, you can amplify them to the point that they are beyond uke's ability to control.]
7. Deflect and redirect on contact. [...because this gives your opponent the longest possible time to commit to his chosen course of action.  If you try to reach out to deflect him, then he may be under-committed and counter your parry.]
8. Use proactive tactics of preloading and already being a flywheel in motion on contact [...because if you wait for uke to connect to you and stabilize, then it will be very hard to get yourself back into motion.  But if you are already in motion (or pre-loaded for motion) and uke connects to you, you draw him into unbalance automatically.]
9. Beware of over commitment and over determination to a given outcome [...again, because if you immediately know the answer to a problem then it is not a real problem.  If you commit yourself to the first answer you come up with, you are asking for a heap of trouble.]
10. Beware of defensive mind and continual evasion....eventually you will run out of options and space [...because sometimes you have to go and do and be proactive with your martial skills, rather than forever fading back and defending.] 
Randori, in each and every case, turns out to be what we decide to make it be ...it is a do it yerself nonverbal discussion that can range from a playful graceful nurturing dance to a soul draining fight for dominance or survival...so much of what it turns into revolves around what we think we are supposed to do and with whom....if we think we are supposed to control the other guy and manipulate him as we will, power and speed ramp up and triggers get pulled and there results an inevitable fight....if we decide the real game is not controlling them, but rather to manipulate ourself, our own body and reactions and to primarily be sensitive to them then it often goes the sweet way... When you put your hands on someone in randori it's not like a musician grasping an instrument to play it , because here the instrument is yourself, your own body, your own reactions and emotions , it's like the musician tuning himself in to the audience he is playing to and interacting with it
Thanks, Nick, for those randori hints!  I suspect that Nick deliberately left them somewhat vague so that we would have to explore them to find our own meanings.  As such, the above are not THE only answers to the question, "What the hell is Nick talking about?"  But they represent some of what Nick's pointers mean to me.


[photo courtesy of Matt Bull]

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