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January 2010

world peace

Despite the earnest efforts of sixty years of Miss USA contestants, world peace has not arrived on our doorstep. The UN has not managed it, nor did John Lennon or Oprah or The Secret. Religion sure made a mess of the effort altogether, and I don’t hold high hopes for China to pull it off, despite their latest efforts.

Something tells me it’s not coming at all.

If that’s true, could we live with that?

I say let’s forget the idea of world peace. Let’s admit it will never happen and get on with our lives the best we can. It is naive to think that progressive government policy, awareness campaigns, and heartfelt pleading will bring about this holy grail of achievements, and that is because human beings are not capable of world peace. There, I said it.

Let’s get real here. Humanity will never co-operate. It’s far too big and varied for that; there is no way to even communicate amongst the whole populace, let alone get everyone on the same page at the same time. Just trying to get eight people on the same page to organize a camping trip is trouble enough for most.

The vast majority of us really have to work at keeping ourselves in a stable, pleasant mood, so why do we concern ourselves with a task that is so utterly beyond us? If we think we can engineer a change in the philosophy of billions of people we’ve never met, yet most of us cannot even manage to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions, we’re kidding ourselves big time. Read More

I forged my own blade yesterday, from an unassuming piece of plain steel. With some expert instruction, I pounded it on an anvil, ground the blade down, fitted it with a brass hilt, polished and sharpened it. The handle is made out of native timber that was salvaged from a dismantled insane asylum. Read More

face palm

Four time-dishonored Raptitude flops

Since this blog’s inception ten months ago, I’ve managed to write one to three articles a week, even if the inspiration fairy isn’t always around when I need her. Though I’ve ducked a few of my self-imposed deadlines since I’ve gone mobile, just about each week I have managed to post something that I think is somewhat worthwhile to someone out there.

Sometimes I feel good about a piece, sometimes not so good. Some posts spark a big discussion or a flood of traffic, and others just casually slip into obscurity, with a handful of polite but underwhelming comments. I’ve noticed that there is virtually no relationship between how I think an article will do and how well it is actually received.

There are times when I’ve got an interesting idea but I just can’t get it across clearly. Other times, I just can’t get at what I want to get at under the day’s time constraints, so I have to wrap it up by making a smaller and less interesting point that I had planned. As a reader you may not realize how often the post you’re reading is actually a second thought. And of course there are times when a post flops for no conceivable reason. Read More


I have always been a rather careful person when it comes to my physical safety. I suspect deep down some part of my psyche believes that if I just keep my nose clean and play my cards well, any freak mishaps, violent incidents or sudden illnesses that must happen will happen to people who are less careful than I. My shiny track record of no broken bones and no serious illnesses seems to suggest that it’s true, but I know it’s mostly luck.

It’s no fun to think about it, but fatalities without warning do happen, and not even the most asinine of worrywarts can “careful” their way around that possibility. There is an inescapable caveat attached to the gift of life: that it is only borrowed, and we never know when we have to give it back. Lightning strikes, it really does.

We live in a culture that wants us to believe we can circumvent any real possibility of an unfair and untimely demise if we just focus on security and minimize risk. Human beings have real trouble coming to terms with their temporary nature, because among the animals we have the unfortunate distinction of being the only one intelligent enough to be aware throughout our lives that we will die.

Particularly when we read about a fatality in the news, the frightening unforeseeability of death very often gets masked by blame. In most of these stories, the question of blame pops up like clockwork, as if an untimely death can only be the result of a preventable, punishable human error. It couldn’t happen just because — there’s always something that was overlooked, some warning that was ignored or unnecessary risk that was taken.

They should have put a handrail there.

The doctors downplayed his concerns.

She must have gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd.

Excessive speed may have been a factor. Read More

Post image for What Poker Pros Can Teach You About Your Deepest Issues

An expert poker player will shred a novice every time, even though both players have the same chance of drawing strong cards.

Knowing the odds has something to do with it, but not as much as you might think. In Texas Hold’em, today’s most popular form of poker, each player only gets two cards so there are only 169 possible starting hands. Only about two dozen are strong enough to give you a chance of winning at a full table. Someone who plays regularly for any length of time will quickly achieve a fairly reliable sense of what his chances are to get the right cards.

What makes the difference is the veteran’s ability to read the other players. Emotions can’t help but reveal themselves through subtle, involuntary signals called tells. A classic example of a tell: a player tosses his chips into the pile a little too enthusiastically, overcompensating for his lack of confidence in his cards. If you can discern how the opponent feels about his hand, it is a small matter to determine whether your cards can beat his.

The pros know all the tells, they just have to learn what they are for each opponent, and what they indicate. While you are deciding what to bet, they are watching for your ears to flush red, for you to breathe too deeply, to blink too much, to be too friendly, to touch your face for no reason, or to peek at your cards three times instead of two. They’ll figure out what makes you tick as a player, and you can bet they’ll never forget it. Read More

bright spot

The first week of January is a natural time to look back. Just as the earth begins another whirl around the Sun, we can’t avoid confronting the reality that yet another sizable chunk of lifetime has been sealed and locked away in the archives. We don’t get many of those chunks, seventy or eighty if we’re lucky, so it makes sense to step back, look at how we’ve spent this last one, and adjust the sails if necessary.

A family member had a great idea and passed it on to me. This time of year, we should all come up with the year’s highlights, much the way they do for sports, news, and the arts. It’s a good way to identify exactly what the year means to us when we consider the big picture, zoomed out far enough that we can only see the brightest bits.

So here’s the deal. I’ll post my top five highlights of 2009, and hopefully you will be inspired to post yours, either in the comments below, or on your own blog if you’ve got one.

Approach it however you like. They can be things you started or finished in 2009, decisions you’ve made, experiences you’ve had or any other memories that stand out. All that’s important is that they serve to represent to you this particular chapter in your story, whether you’ve been authoring it consciously, or haphazardly. Read More

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