30 June 2006

Israel and Restraint

I've noticed several calls for Israel to exercise restraint. Well, I've got news for you geniuses. If Israel did not exercise restraint each and every day, there wouldn't be a single Palestinian left to launch Kassams at Sderot, or anywhere else. You think Israel couldn't wipe out every one of them in one night?

I am reminded of this passage from Lord of the Rings, though:
'When have I been hasty or unwary, who have waited and prepared for so many long years?' said Aragorn.

'Never yet. Do not then stumble at the end of the road,' answered Gandalf.
I suppose that could be the context in which at least some of these calls are meant, but it still comes off as a bit sanctimonious.

28 June 2006

I should be in bed, but this article pissed me off.

So I was looking around, trying to get any confirmation of the chemical warhead attack mentioned on Haaretz, and found this article on foxnews.com. It started out pretty well, calling the Palestinians "terrorists" in the headline, but then went on with remarks such as this:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel sent tanks into northern Gaza and arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister and dozens of other Hamas government officials early Thursday, escalating its response to the abduction of one of its soldiers.
Er...and the firing of countless Kassam rockets. Cease-fire my ass. Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad have it pretty well worked out - at any given time, two of them pretend to be at the bargaining table with Israel so the third can keep on attacking, and Israel can't respond or else it's not playing fair at said table.

There's also the abduction of two civilians, one 18 and one over 60. The eighteen-year-old, Eliyahu Asheri, as the article goes on to mention, has been murdered.
The moves came after thousands of troops moved into southern Gaza Wednesday and Israeli warplanes roared over the summer home of Syria's president, who is blamed for harboring Hamas leaders.
If by "is blamed for harboring Hamas leaders" you mean "harbors Hamas leaders," then you're right. Geez, why not just say he was "unjustly accused" while you're at it? After all, such a diminutive little optometrist optician oculist who gives a fuck? could never mean harm to anyone.
Although the Israeli action was sparked by the abduction of the soldier, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government also is alarmed by the firing of homemade rockets on Israeli communities around Gaza and support for Hamas in the Arab world, especially from Syria.
Only took you seven paragraphs to mention those rockets. Not bad.
In a clear warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Israeli airplanes flew over his seaside home near the Mediterranean port city of Latakia in northwestern Syria, military officials confirmed, citing the "direct link" between his government and Hamas. Israeli television reports said four planes were involved in the low-altitude flight, and that Assad was there at the time.

Syria confirmed Israeli warplanes entered its airspace, but said its air defenses forced the Israeli aircraft to flee.
Nice scare quotation marks around "direct link." Also, if anyone thinks Syria has air defenses that could do anything against Israeli F-16's, he deserves to be pointed at and scorned. I burst out laughing when I first read Syria's claim of having scared off the IAF.

This is what we call surgical strikes against terrorist infrastructure, with as little damage as possible to civilians.
Witnesses reported heavy shelling around Gaza's long-closed airport, which Israeli troops took over.
What do you want to bet the airport is closed because the Hamas-led "government" is too busy trying to kill Israelis to get the airport functioning again?
Prior to the latest incursion into northern Gaza, the Israeli army dropped leaflets warning residents of impending military activity.

Dozens of Palestinian militants — armed with automatic weapons and grenades — took up positions, bracing for the attack.

Anxious Palestinians pondered whether the incursion, the first large-scale ground offensive since Israel withdrew from Gaza last year, was essentially a "shock and awe" display designed to intimidate militants, or the prelude to a full-scale invasion.
Or maybe Israel is finally sick and tired of being constantly attacked by murderers, and has decided to hit their infrastructure and arrest their leaders. I didn't quote this part, but the author grudgingly admitted in the fifth paragraph that no deaths or injuries as a result of Israeli actions had occurred.
The White House kept up its pressure on Hamas, saying the Palestinian government must "stop all acts of violence and terror." But the U.S. also urged Israel to show restraint.

"In any actions the government of Israel may undertake, the United States urges that it ensures that innocent civilians are not harmed, and also that it avoid the unnecessary destruction of property and infrastructure," said White House press secretary Tony Snow.
The White House also said that Israel has every right to respond to the attacks made on it constantly. I'm personally not impressed with the statement quoted above, nor with Condi's recent remarks in favor of the diplomatic process, but suspect it's primarily political posturing. Not sure what the hell Condi is thinking, though.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged restraint in a phone call to Olmert, saying he had spoken with Assad and Abbas and asked them to do everything possible to release the soldier. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called on the U.S. to assume its role as "honest broker" and to make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict its top priority in the Middle East.
There are so many things wrong with this paragraph. One: Annan didn't even know about Hamas constantly firing Kassam rockets until Olmert told him. So as far as I'm concerned, Annan can go jump in a lake. [This was originally a much more vulgar remark.] Two: Neither Assad nor Abbas has any real control over Hamas. There's a reason no one pays much attention to them. Three: Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa can go soak his head.
Hamas' negotiators' tentative acceptance Tuesday of a document that Abbas allies claimed implicitly recognizes Israel appeared beside the point a day later, with Israel saying no political agreement can substitute for Shalit's freedom.
I like how the author fails to mention the fact that this document does NOT recognize Israel, implicitly or otherwise, and that the people who signed it have stated explicitly that it doesn't.
Gaza's economy was already in the doldrums before the Israeli assault, a result of five years of Israeli-Palestinian violence and an international aid boycott that followed Hamas' parliamentary election victory in January. The Israeli assault threatened to turn a bad situation into a disaster — underscoring the extent to which hopes have been dashed following the optimism that accompanied Israel's pullout.

Palestinian plans for high-rise apartments, sports complexes and industrial parks in lands evacuated by Israel have given way to despair, with rising poverty, increasingly violent relations with Israel and a looming threat of civil war.
Cry me a fucking river. If the Palestinians want peace and prosperity, how about they elect a government that isn't a bunch of terrorists?

At this point, I was about ready to write a strongly worded letter to Fox, but then I glanced up and saw that this article came from...you guessed it...the Associated Press.

Fucking anti-Semitic dhimmis.

Update: Yeah, yeah, Assad's an ophthalmologist...I realized that right after I finished the post and shut the computer down, but didn't have time to fix it until the next night.

18 June 2006

Happy Father's Day

to all the fathers out there.

And I'd just like to say that my dad kicks ass.

Timothy Zahn a conservative??

Look at this:
[Thrawn:] "Tell me, do you understand the concept of neutralizing a potential enemy before that enemy can launch an attack against you?"

"You mean like a preemptive strike?" Car'das asked. "Certainly."

"It's widespread among your people, then?"

"I'm not sure widespread is the right word," Car'das hedged. "I know there are people who consider it immoral."

"Do you?"

Car'das grimaced. He was twenty-three years old, and he worked for a smuggler who liked to tweak Hutts. What did he know about the universe? "I think that if you're going to do something like that, you need to make very sure they're a genuine threat," he said slowly. "I mean, you need to have evidence that they were actually planning to attack you."

"What about someone who may not plan to attack you personally, but is constantly attacking others?"

It was pretty obvious where this was going. "You mean like the Vagaari?" Car'das asked.

"Exactly," Thrawn confirmed. "As I told you, they have not yet attacked Chiss territory, and military doctrine dictates they must therefore be ignored. Do the beings they prey on have any claim on our military strength, or must we simply stand aside and watch as they are slaughtered or enslaved?"
You know, I didn't think Grand Admiral Thrawn could get any sexier, but I was wrong.

And later:
Thrass shook his head and went back to the door. There he stopped, his hand over the control. "Has it ever occurred to you," he said, not turning around, "that attacks like yours might actually provoke beings like the Vagaari to move against us? That if we simply left them alone, they might never become any threat to the Ascendancy at all?"

"No, I've never had any such thoughts," Thrawn replied evenly.
Because Thrawn knows better. He's seen the ruthlessness of the Vagaari, and he knows that they will indeed attack the Chiss as soon as they feel themselves in a position to do so. He understands that he must move against them before they gather enough strength to harm his people. Not to mention that he feels ethically obligated to stop them from enslaving and murdering other sentient beings.

I think it may be safe to assume that Mr. Zahn, like the uber-sexy Dafydd ab Hugh, is a conservative.

(Ok, so Thrawn is technically a bad guy. But he is also a very sympathetic bad guy, who is well-loved by SW fans. I can't imagine Zahn not liking Thrawn as much as we do.)

On a marginally related note, I don't think I would work for someone who likes to tweak Hutts. Those things are hermaphroditic and...

You know what? Let's not go there.

16 June 2006

Random gripe

Why can't people write emails in plain text? And if the email must be in HTML, does it have to be Word-generated HTML?

I'm viewing a message generated with Word in plain text, and I'm sorely tempted to leave in all the extraneous crap when I reply so this moron can see what her email looks like. Better yet, her email consists of several questions I'm supposed to answer. I think I'll put each answer beneath its question. Then she'll have a serious hunt to find them amidst all the "[p class=MsoNormal style='line-height:200%'][span style='font-size:14.0pt; line-height:200%;font-family:"Californian FB"']Howdy![/span][/p]" business.

What do you think? Too subtle?

12 June 2006

Possible hiatus/sleepiness for this blog

At least while I sort out my new routine.

10 June 2006

FDA approves cervical cancer vaccine

And the Discovery Channel notes that "conservative groups" oppose making it mandatory.

I can't understand how anyone could possibly support making this mandatory. We're not talking about a disease that's transmitted by breathing. We're talking about a disease that is transmitted by genital contact (the vaccine is actually against HPV, which causes cervical cancer as well as warts). And we're not talking about making the vaccine available to adult women. We're talking about forcing it on nine-year-olds, who don't even know what sex is and certainly aren't in a position to make choices about their sex lives.

Obviously, this vaccine can save lives. I support making it available to adult women, and definitely would support efforts to educate the public about it (provided such efforts also point out that HPV can be prevented by simply keeping one's legs crossed). (Insert usual caveats about danger of vaccines, follow-up studies to monitor for side effects, etc.)

But how on earth can anyone possibly support mandatory administration to preteen girls?

I would really like to hear well-reasoned arguments on both sides of the issue. I can't distance myself very well from the visceral revulsion I feel at the idea.

Update: I have a question about this vaccine that the article didn't address. While it's said to prevent the vast majority of cases of warts, and prevent cervical cancer entirely, does it also prevent you from being a carrier? I mean, that's part of the reason HPV is ever so terribly difficult to prevent, right? Because some people (especially men) don't show any symptoms?

Update II: I also want to remind y'all that not all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. The main factor in cervical cancer is the number of partners. Literature on this vaccine needs to stress this point so that women don't think they're safe from cervical cancer simply because they've had the shot.

It all boils down to this: If you don't want to get various disgusting diseases, the effects of which can range from itching to infertility to death, then don't sleep around.

I remember when Ace was posting about this issue a while back, he said something to the effect of, "Sure, two monogamous people who were virgins prior to their relationship aren't going to give each other anything, but..." and then went on to say something else. Apparently, the cogent point he had just made completely eluded him.

Update III: I just posted about this on AOSHQ. More science and less controversy, though. I should have reversed the posts, 'cause it's easier to start fights on AOSHQ than it is over here.

Stirring up shit on other people's blogs is fun. Mwa ha ha ha!

That reminds me, I need to post at RWS's site, too.

09 June 2006

Democrats Fling Doo-Doo

Cross-posted at RWS's. Go comment over there, 'cause she has lots of trolls and I wrote this specifically to bring them out.

Let's kick things off by reading about how Democrats are like monkeys.

But that's such a broad topic, you might say. So many possibilities, you think.

Ah, but this news story tells all:
Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's re-election campaign was already heated, and it just got smelly as well: Her staff accused a Democratic activist Thursday of leaving an envelope full of dog feces at Musgrave's Greeley [Colorado] office.

Musgrave spokesman Shaun Kenney said someone stuffed the envelope through the mail slot in the door on May 31 and then sped away in a car. Kenney said most of the preprinted return address was blacked out, but staffers used the nine-digit ZIP code to trace it to Kathleen Ensz, a Weld County Democratic volunteer.

Ensz told The Associated Press she left the envelope at Musgrave's office but said it "wasn't in the office doors, it was in the foyer." Asked what she meant by the act, she declined comment.
A "Weld County Democratic volunteer," huh? So, just a random loony who happens to ally herself with the Dems? Just like all the random loonies the Republicans have campaigning for them, right?

Check the last paragraph of the article.
[Democratic opponent Paccione's spokesman James] Thompson said Ensz, vice chairwoman of a state Senate district committee for the county Democratic Party, has no formal ties to the Paccione campaign. [Emphasis added.]
Thanks to Dafydd at Big Lizards for the article and the monkeys comparison.

So, is an envelope full of dog feces considered political speech? And what kind of feces? Are we talking, like, expensive purebred Yorkshire terrier feces, or was this a big ol' mutt's daily dump, complete with worms? Was there a fee paid for the acquisition of the feces, and if so, can the, er, lady, claim it on her expense form?

I think Mr. McCain may have to revise his campaign finance law.

08 June 2006

The Shining

I noticed Musli's been asking about The Shining here and there, and I want to give my opinion of it, because I think it sucks.

My mistake was that I read the book before I saw the movie. Now, I'm not a huge fan of Stephen King, but his early work is quite good (considering the genre), and The Shining is no exception. The book is not about a family going to stay in a scary house, which is what The Amityville Horror is about. It is about a man struggling to escape the pattern of physically and emotionally abusive behavior his father taught him, and at last falling prey to his own mistake.

Now, I haven't read this book in a while, but based on what I do recall, Jack Torrance, the father, is a tragic hero trapped in a situation not of his making. The house has supernatural powers, yes, but they are actuated by the presence of his son Danny, who has "the shining," a manifestation of the paranormal. The film version of The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, makes it out as if Jack Torrance is a crazed lunatic who takes his family to stay at a haunted house. There is none of the internal struggle faced by Jack in the book, no presentation of Jack as a basically decent man, and very little discussion of Danny having any special abilities other than speaking in tongues while wiggling his finger.

That is where the movie fails. It tries to be scary by throwing stuff at you unexpectedly and having Jack Nicholson run around the house with an ax, and completely ignores the pathos of Jack Torrance falling into the trap he's tried so desperately to escape. It also ignores the internal struggle Danny faces as he tries to understand and accept his powers, and the guilt he feels at knowing he is the source of the fuel the hotel needs to manifest the powers that are changing his father and frightening his mother.

The movie even leaves out some of the scariest incidents from the text, probably because of the limitations on special effects back then. I personally thought the worst change was the replacement of the topiaries with a maze. A maze. That's supposed to be scary? Please.

Now, I don't particularly care for scary movies, so y'all can take my opinion with a grain of salt. But I don't think The Shining is all that scary, and compared to the book, it is a feeble, paltry attempt at horror. I found myself rolling my eyes at most of the purportedly climactic moments, such as Jack Nicholson hacking through the door and proclaiming, "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" And I was many years younger when I saw it (it was a good ten years ago at least).

I guess it all depends on why you want to see it. I don't know why Musli wants to see it, other than possibly because he wants to experience American film culture. In that case, I'd say go ahead and see it. Just don't expect it to live up to the hype.

Good news!!

Zarqawi bites the dust!

Thanks to Brew at IB.

On second thought, this may not be such good news after all. What are we going to do without the Zarkman's guest commentary on Iowahawk?

Update: Temporary hotlink to appropriate image, from this page:
I'll take it down after I run.

Update II: Removed hotlink. Still doin' the bull dance though. Feelin' the flow. Workin' it, workin' it.

07 June 2006

This (bad) gimp made especially for steve_in_hb

Just sayin'.

Actually, she jumped the shark for me last year, with her behavior regarding John Roberts's nomination.

Like RWS said in the comments, the woman just does not have an internal censor telling her not to say certain things. She doesn't seem to get that valid points don't have to be wrapped in vicious attacks. I do think she's right on this issue, and the remark isn't as awful as it seems in full context, but the fact remains that, as Ace points out, she could have made the same point with much less venom. Also, as Wickedpinto says in the comments, she has a tendency to put her foot in all of our mouths.

(By the way, I dedicate my terrible image to steve_in_hb because he's always saying she's not a human, but rather an ostrich woman from Avian IV, or something to that effect. Now that I look more closely, I notice I should have put her head a little lower, but unfortunately, I didn't save the .xcf, and I'm not going through all that with the free-form select again.)

Did you know that "itch" is a transitive verb in some parts of the Northeast?

Those weirdo Yankees.

Anyway, I defy you to read this article and not itch:
Genes and gender help determine an individual’s urge to scratch, suggests a new study on pruritus, otherwise known as itch.

The study is the first to demonstrate sex differences in itch-induced scratching behavior in animals. The researchers studied mice, but the findings could apply to humans and other mammals.

The conclusion? Females scratched themselves 23 percent more often than males did.
I wouldn't have guessed that.
Mogil told Discovery News itch is the second most common reason people seek medical care.

He explained that pruritus is an important symptom of many skin, systemic and autoimmune diseases. Numerous medications, such as the malaria drug administered to the mice, cause itching as a troubling side effect. Itching can also be a chronic condition in its own right.

The most common reason people seek medical attention, of course, is pain. Interestingly enough, Mogil and his team found that individuals sensitive to pain were more resistant to itch, while those with less pain sensitivity had a greater tendency to scratch.
You know what makes a great backscratcher? An engineering scale. mmm, Staedtler.
"I think pain and itch are wired up in the brain as opposites, in a sense, such that inheriting particular forms of pain/itch-relevant genes would simultaneously make you more sensitive to pain and less sensitive to itch, or vice versa," he speculated.

The pain/itch correlation, however, is complicated by findings from another study last year in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. That study found that women feel pain more intensely than men do.


It could be that women are more sensitive than men to both pain and itch, or that women have evolved some level of pain tolerance, perhaps due to giving birth.
Or your results in mice don't extend to humans.

Has anyone in science today even heard of Occam's Razor?

Review: The Art of War

Sun Tzu's famous work, The Art of War, is practically required reading for military commanders, and was given to me as a graduation present by a former Army Ranger (who also gave me The Book of Five Rings, which I reviewed earlier). Rabid pro-military bloodthirsty neocon that I am, I've been meaning to read The Art of War for quite some time, and found the source of my copy quite appropriate.

While I've naturally heard of this work, just as I've heard of von Clausewitz's treatise, I wasn't entirely sure what its scope was. So for the benefit of those who may similarly be curious, I shall expound.

Sun Tzu was, as you no doubt know, a famous Chinese general. He lived during the time of the Chou Dynasty, which lasted from circa 1027 B.C. to 221 B.C. Born in 544 B.C., Sun Tzu was in the service of King Ho Lu from 510 B.C. - 496 B.C., during which time he apparently wrote the notes left to us as The Art of War, which were not properly translated into English until Lionel Giles undertook the work in 1910.

In this work, Sun Tzu (Sun is his family name and Tzu is an honorific) expounds on the art of war, from the characteristics of a winning general to the ways in which to use terrain to the types and uses of spies. It's very interesting and provides valuable insight to war on the ground, and also to the sort of work that special forces must do.

As with The Book of Five Rings, the lessons are useful in terms of the broad strategy they articulate, rather than in terms of the actual statements. For example, Sun Tzu says to never besiege a walled city, which makes sense when you consider the massive fortifications that were Chinese cities at the time. Directly attacking such a city rather than using intrigue and stratagem would be sort of like using explosives instead of a safecracker to open a bank vault. (Sorry, I've been watching a lot of Matlock and Magnum, P.I. this week.)

One characteristic I found interesting is Sun Tzu's treatment of the human aspects of war. He mentions several times that a war should not be prolonged due to the human costs, in terms of lives and destruction of farmland, and he seems (judging from the translation) to be approaching this from a moral perspective rather than an economic perspective or even a common-sense perspective (it's reasonable to conjecture that the less farmland you've destroyed, the less resentful the peasants you've just conquered will be). I certainly agree with such an approach, but it's sort of funny to think of how your average anti-war leftist would react to it.

I can't help but wonder what Sun Tzu would have written had he lived in a later time, when war was also waged in the air. He writes at length of the difficulties and costs inherent in sending armies long distances, with supply trains and various ragtag following along. I never quite thought about how much aircraft must have changed the face of war.

This edition, the Barnes & Noble Classics edition, has the text both annotated and unannotated. The annotations are primarily those of the translator, Lionel Giles, who translates works of the major Chinese commentators and adds quotations from other military works. The modern-day editor also includes various remarks and quotations of her own, and says that the definitive line of The Art of War is this: "All warfare is based on deception."

I'd recommend this edition of The Art of War, as the commentary is useful and interesting, and you also have the option of reading the text without the annotations.

04 June 2006

terror busts make me happy.

By the way, the reason I don't generally post on this stuff is that I assume you've already read it, and my opinion should be fairly obvious.

But judging by that golfwear idiot's email to me, it is not apparent that I'm as conservative as they come. So, for everyone's benefit, here is how you may discover my response to the news of a massive terror bust in Canada:
  1. Go here
  2. Select "Smiley Faces" from the menu on the left
  3. Select "smiley034" from the drop-down menu
  4. Watch the animation (it's slow)
Also, I like this animation, found from this page. (I know it was in Canada, but I say a defeat for terror is a victory for us.)

(I would have just put them in the post with appropriate attribution, but I'm not sure how to upload something other than a .jpg, and I thought hotlinking would be kind of jerky.)

And I, like everyone else, burst out laughing at the revelation that the suspects were from a "variety of backgrounds."

03 June 2006

Something that's been on my mind recently

An acquaintance of mine told me that she had been delaying the start of her master's for a year because of her fiancé (now ex).

This is something I find completely incomprehensible. I would never put my education or career on hold for some man. I have a prestigious, rewarding, challenging career, and if a man asked me to leave that career for him, that would end the relationship no matter how much I loved the guy. Similarly, I'm probably going to start looking into opportunities to do a master's in about a year. If a man asked me to do the coursework on his schedule, I would tell him to go jump in a lake (actually, I would most likely make a much more offensive suggestion involving pastry in motion). Again, relationship-ender right there.

Just the very idea of a man asking such a sacrifice of me makes me so blindingly furious that I want to punch the next guy I see on behalf of his entire sex.

Am I alone in this?

01 June 2006

Review: The Book of Five Rings

My head hurts.

I was visiting a friend a couple months ago, and we were discussing books (a frequent topic of conversation with me). He said he never rereads books, because he remembers everything that happened. Had he let me get a word in edgewise, I would have countered that rereading a book isn't about going back over what happened. It's about returning to the work with context gleaned from additional experiences, and gaining new insights.

Obviously, I don't mean something like E. Nesbit or Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I read purely for enjoyment. I mean a book like, for example, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which will be a very different experience for a fifteen-year-old as opposed to a twenty-three-year-old. Same for anything by Steinbeck. Same, even, for Lord of the Rings.

That isn't to say that brain candy books aren't subject to differing interpretations at different ages. I know I'll see John Carter and Dick Seaton very differently when I'm forty. But the more profound works naturally have more impact on the reader, and so when I reread something like East of Eden, I'm looking for new insights and new understanding that I couldn't have had before, simply because I hadn't lived enough.

The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi, is one of the books I will read and reread. I read it twice today, in fact, simply because the first reading was so beyond me. I caught a concept here and there, but I can't say I understood the work.

Musashi, born in feudal Japan in 1584, was a samurai. More specifically, he was a ronin, meaning he had no master, and roamed the land, frequently fighting other samurai to see whose technique was better. He is supposed to have been undefeated, and around the age of fifty, came to understand that he was undefeated because of his perfect mental approach. The Book of Five Rings, then, is about the mental approach - about how to achieve Zen in daily living, so that in everything you do, you act with the same unconscious instinct.

As I said, I had a lot of difficulty understanding the work, so take my interpretations with a grain of salt. But I gleaned that Musashi says that everything, whether it be swordplay or painting, must be practiced until it becomes intuitive, until the muscles of the body act with no direction from the mind. Also, the practice must be correct. There is no point, for example, in practicing when you are very tired and falling into sloppy habits, because practicing poor habits causes you to learn those habits instead of learning it correctly.

I thought about this in terms of playing the piano. I've never had a piano lesson in my life, and am not particularly good at sight reading, so my ability to bang out a simple Bach solo is the result of considerable study and practice. I don't need the sheet music to play either of the two pieces of which I am thinking (Chorale in F major and Minuet in G major), as I have practiced both so often that my fingers know them by heart. There have been times when I've fallen out of practice (such as when I was away at school), but when I sit down to the piano again, after a couple false starts, my fingers remember the piece and I can play it note-perfect.

I do have a tendency to ignore dynamic markings when I am just learning a piece, however. I have a feeling Musashi wouldn't approve.

One part of the book is about swordfighting, which on the surface isn't particularly relevant to my life. This book, however, is not about surface meanings. Here is one excerpt that I immediately understood.
When the opponent sets up a move, it is important to leave that which is of no use to the opponent and to hold down that which can be of use so as to make it impossible for the opponent to carry out his plans...When the opponent attempts to execute a move, frustrate it from the onset, make whatever the opponent was trying to accomplish of no use, and achieve the freedom with which to lead the opponent.
I understood this passage because this is exactly how I play chess. Nevertheless, my overall chess strategy would not meet with Musashi's favor, because it's very defensive, and Musashi says that when you are on the defense, you are allowing your opponent to lead you.

Another passage I immediately understood and saw the applications of was the following.
By "to stab at the face" is meant that when the long swords of the opponents and allies are equal, to stab the face of the opponent with the point of one's own long sword between the long swords of the opponent's and the long swords of one's own side. If there is the will to stab the face of the opponent, the opponent will endeavor to move away his face and torso. If the opponent tries to move away his face and torso, there are many ways by which one can achieve victory. This should be thought out.

During combat, if the opponent intends to get out of the way, for all intents and purposes you have already won. That is why this "to stab at the face" should not be forgotten. While practicing the martial arts, one should train well in this advantageous method. [Emphasis added.]
This applies not just to swordfighting, but to any fighting, to chess, to poker, and even to business negotiating, and I'm sure to dozens of other aspects of life I can't think of late at night. Basically, if you have the guts to take an action, and your opponent flinches, you win.

The Book of Five Rings is page after page of these sorts of insights, many of which I understood only imperfectly. I'll be coming back to this book year after year, trying to put more of it in context, trying to grasp Musashi's philosophy, so that I too may be undefeated.

I highly recommend it.