Hello everyone,


So I was watching episodes of Avatar: the Last Airbender last night while I was bored and I got hit by a sharp punch to my stomach. Now, my assailant wasn’t someone breaking in, or a person being playful with me, but instead it was nostalgia. Which is weird. I could go on a rant about how Avatar is one of the best shows ever for several reasons, and even if that is true, the only reason I would do it is because the show means so much to me.

Nostalgia is one of those things that make us reminisce about the past, typically in a good way. Sometimes it’s bittersweet, because things have changed so much since then. That’s effectively what this experience was, which was really hard. And it got me thinking: why does a simple television show cause such an emotional response to the thought of it? Or why does any item do this? For example, a lot of people identify various items with ideas—one my family enjoys is the symbol of the hummingbird, which we associate with my grandfather. Or the urn necklace that I own. Each of these things make us think of a very specific and vivid time in our lives that were high drama. Maybe nostalgia is just a trigger, like trauma is for many veterans. Except instead of being painful, it is something positive.

So if nostalgia makes us emotional, how does it impact our lives? I mean, I certainly don’t think that I have been as impacted by a television show I liked as a kid in comparison to someone like my late grandfather. But maybe I have. Avatar is a show I watched between the ages of 10 and 15. Which was about 6 years ago now. For a lot of people, that’s not a very long time, but speaking that 6 years is over a quarter of my life time, it certainly feels like a long time ago. And I can still remember this show vividly. I can almost recite parts of it line by line because of how attentive to it I was.

So something that I am curious about is how nostalgia works for ideas in comparison to real experiences. In a few weeks I’ll be going on vacation to Montana, and seeing the location my grandmother is buried at. I never met my grandmother—she died well before I was born. I have only seen a couple pictures of her and heard a few stories. But I know that she meant a lot to my father and that her death was extremely emotional for him. I also can remember stories he told me about her. In remembering those stories I don’t feel the same emotional impact as I did for this show. But I wonder if seeing her grave will make me feel something similar—or if I’ll experience anything at all. What if all I feel is indifference?

It’s a bit odd to be aware of the possibility of emotion but not being aware of how it will actually occur inside you. Perhaps I am over thinking this though. Maybe instead of theorizing what could be, I should just experience it as it will be and appreciate whatever I get. At least that prevents the possibility of anxiety over something so liberating in my life. I mean, it’ll be vacation! Why worry! Let me know about moments where you have felt nostalgic in your life!



Hello everyone,


Or rather, just the intended recipient of this. I was thinking about what we talked about the other day, and how emotional things got. I was thinking about how I responded to the discussion. I made a mistake in how I spoke. See, despite my “mature” mindset for my age, I still struggle with many things in life because, like most young adults, I am still learning. I’m still trying to discern things. I think I may have been too monotone when I needed to impress more clearly how sincere I was being.

That being said, I did not mistake how I feel about the situation. I realize that you feel ashamed for a variety of reasons. And generally emotional. That’s ok. This is a hard time in our life. Just take a look at the world around us—it’s an emotional time in the world. And even so, our situation has strained our relationships with other family members despite our best intentions. To quote Star Trek, it is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness; that is life.

Of course, the implication of that quote is failure, which is not what I think about your situation. Without being too explicit, since this is an open letter on my blog, I want to tell you that I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. And the reality is that you telling me about the situation more explicitly doesn’t make me feel any differently about you. For my whole life knowing you, mistakes or not, I have always felt you have done your best and worked with good intentions in mind. Is there really anything else a person can do in life?

Of course, as it comes to matters of the heart, things are always blurred. Take family, for example. Sometimes things seem fine but aren’t. Sometimes things seem bad but manageable and then someone goes off the deep end. The reality is that even family is just a way to group people together. That being said, it also is a way to give us something to fall back on when things get hard. Which is why when one of our fall back options has a knife in hand, suddenly things become terrifying.

So in terms of if I meant what I said when I said that I don’t feel any differently about you when you told me about some of those problems in life, I meant it. You’re a wonderful person. One of the best I know. You’re kind hearted, open minded, and genuinely caring. You put family before money. And you aren’t so selfless that you give in to everyone’s beck and call. It’s hard to be caring yet firm. It’s hard to walk a line where you live as caring as you do, yet with the ability to say “enough is enough.” And sure, sometimes people will step on you for the caring part. But when people do that, you throw them off balance. Nobody feels stronger than when they stand on the backs of other people. But the reality is that this is when they are most vulnerable. Because if you step out from under them, they come crashing down to the ground.

Anyways, I know you aren’t feeling particularly happy in life right now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Emotions help us understand situations in ways that logic can’t. I just wanted to remind you that I love you, and even if they think whatever you did was a mistake, I have no doubt that the rest of our family loves you too. And that you’re a spectacular person. I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong.


Sincerely, with love,




Hello everyone,


Do you ever wonder what could have been? Or what should have been? I know I spend quite a bit of time in the waning hours of the night thinking about it. Lately though it has crept into my mind a little bit more often than, say, after the moon is bright and the world is silent. I’ve noticed the reflection seeping into the daily aspects of my life—in between workout sets, on the drive home from work, and so on.

Maybe it’s because of the excessive levels of drama that a member of my extended family has decided to apply to the rest of us, because thinking about other times helps takes my mind off the problems of the current one. Either way, I thought I’d share with you guys that the last few years have been both wonderful and terrible. I think in the last couple years my life has been both at its most happy as well as it’s most difficult.

For example, it has been wonderful because I have gotten the opportunities to enjoy the things that I am passionate about in life, as well as branch out my groups of friends (acquaintances, if you read some of my previous blogs more strict definitions of what friends are). I met my best friends over the last four years. I found the clique that I fit into well. At the same time, I lost a lot of people who meant a lot to me. My best friend, the person I thought was there for me when I really needed someone to talk to, abandoned me for superfluous reasons. I haven’t done a very good job finding and maintaining romantic relationships. The nights feel more and more lonely—to the point where the days are starting to feel the same sometimes.

Of course, there is always a push-pull in life. Good things happen and bad things happen. Sometimes it’s more of one than the other. But I often think about how things would be if my best friend and I had worked things out. Or if I had at least been given the chance to…but that’s in the past now. Or is it? I mean, maybe I should go text her, or call her, or leave a letter on her doorstep. Maybe I’d just be wasting my time. Maybe I’d just be uselessly getting my hopes up. There’s not “but” here. That’s just the unfortunately reality. It’s possible we could work things out, but once abandoned for superfluous things, it’s better off that I just let someone like that go. To extend this to anyone, once you’ve been shown that a person will only value you if you conform to their exact desires, then they are asking you not to be yourself. And yourself is the best of what you are. Just because someone seems great to you, doesn’t mean they are. Many people are just as despicable as you are in your mind. They think racist things unintentionally. They judge someone based one what they look like at first glance. They will talk behind your back, even if that’s not what they think they are doing. Even if they don’t mean to, it happens. Be you, and things will work out. At least, that’s all we can hope for.


I’m so tired.

I can feel the dull thud in my head.

And the clouding behind my eyes.

Yet I can’t quite put my mind to sleep.


It’s like there’s a void in front of me,

Like there’s an infinite universe up there,

In the darkness of my ceiling.

And I’m in it all alone.


I can take journeys to the stars,

Past black holes,

And around beautiful planets

Of green, red, and blue.


I can sit back at a distance

And look at the twinkling lights.

Just breathing in the wonders of solitude,

Until I return to my world.


Hey everyone,


I was really tired last night, but was having trouble sleeping. So when I woke up this morning I decided to pen a quick, random poem about it. Let me know what you think!


Do you ever wonder about the moon?

Or the sky and the stars?

Why are they there for us?

Aren’t we lucky?


No, but I do think about people.

And the smiles I have brought to their faces

Or the frowns.

Sometimes I think about the pain.


What pain, friend?

How can you feel pain in such a beautiful place?

How can you linger on the hurt in life,

When you have done so much good for us?


It’s not good enough.

Even through the waves of smiles,

All I see is the suffering

The rot in the stomachs of those I’ve left behind.


Do no linger on the people in your past.

Even if you left them, they too have left you.

All any of us have in this life,

Are the ever changing hands of those we love.


But what about those we have loved?

What about those who used to love us?

What good are the moon and the sky and the stars,

When all we want is a hand to hold and heart that is healed?


Hey everyone,


This was just a little poetic dialogue I put together late last night while I was thinking about things. Do you ever have those nights? Where the world just feels etherial? Let me know what you think!


Hey everyone,


Let’s talk politics real quick. I don’t want to get into candidate positions too much if I can avoid it, but the political agenda is an aspect of American society that ebbs and flows. By ebbs and flows, I mean that it shifts from idea to idea, but stays relatively the same over time.

The three hot button issues I can think of are abortion, gun control, and discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. This current political year has added wealth inequality as a major subject, but as we turn toward the general election we see that the reality is that that shift has been put off a bit. Seriously, ever since Hilary clinched the Democratic nomination (or as Bernie supporters will point out, “clinched” due to voter fraud, which is a wholly different conversation). Suddenly the wealth conversation has been put on the back burner. Certainly, this is partially due to the Orlando shooting, but we shouldn’t let one tragedy cloud all our priorities.

So why are those three issues recursive? Well, mostly because it’s a split between strict and loose interpretations of things. By strict I mean black and white points of view—things are this way and not this way, etc. This problem has been emphasized by certain orange candidates lately with the immigration of Muslims, which speaks to the larger discussion about racial inequality. Of course, this issue is multi fold, so this gross oversimplification is an example of faulty logic, but hey, many people aren’t willing to look at the world that closely.

Strict and loose are usually synonymous with conservative and liberal, respectively, and the reason we return to these issues is that they are points that are highly contested. For whatever reason, the vast levels of wealth inequality which effect both groups is kept silent often. Which to me indicates that it is the real problem. Certainly, injustices by gun control, abortion/women’s rights, and discrimination (all of which can be interpreted in multiple ways, depending on how you lean in the political spectrum), are all important, but they really are symptoms of a greater problem—mistreatment. If we all felt more content with life, we wouldn’t feel the need to lash out, or attack our enemies. Now, that’s a utopian world view, that everyone could be happy, but in assuming it is utopian and therefore impossible, we negate the idea that a greater portion of people could be happier.

I think the idea of democratic socialism is something people are afraid of because all they here is “the end of America” as opposed to “how to make people live better lives.” Which is a lazy view, and if this is your perspective I indulge you to actually look at the implementation of socialism in other countries, and see how much happier and more prosperous their average citizen is in comparison to the American average, our “standard” if you like. Not the white media standard, but the real standard. The whole idea of socialism is to make more people happy, or at least happier. Because when people feel content, they don’t feel the same need to lash out. Sure, some times things aren’t always good—a person cheats on you, you got in a fight with your parents, and so on. But at least you don’t have to worry about not having the money to feed your children, or choose between raising a newborn and making the rent payment.

I’m not sure how I got to socialism…Oh yeah! Hot button issues. See, these are issues that have been recurring in the political spectrum for decades. And not that much has changed in reality. Sure, we have made big strides with homosexual equality, but gays still get denied cakes for weddings. And maybe it’s just morally obscure people, but I think that we are just not content. Rather than embrace one another, we push those who don’t match who we are exactly to the side.


Hello everyone,


Happy hump day! Hope you are all doing well. I’m quite tired. Speaking of hump day, I wanted to touch quickly on this video about dating standard that I saw recently, because it’s quite thought provoking.

What I was really interested in was the double standard he mentions. The idea that there is this expectation of men that has not been addressed by the mainstream society at all is worrisome. While I know that women sacrifice a lot for society, this should not negate the fact that men are sometimes if not often taken advantage of. Perhaps this is where that phrase “nice guys finish last” comes from. I mean let’s be honest hear, being nice just opens a person up to being taken advantage of.

So his response to this volunteered question is pretty direct. Men are supposed to pay for dinner? Women are expected to provide sexual intercourse. We look down on one of these scenarios but not the other, despite the fact that both take advantage of a person. Surely, no monetary value can be put on a person’s body, but it is (unfortunately) true that many men have this expectation. While this is an unfair escalation to make, it still nails the problem on the head, which is that one person is put above the other—that their time is worth more than the other persons.

Which make me curious, what is the best way to deal with this? Is simply making the offer to pay acceptable for women? Equal treatment would say no, a woman should insist that she pay her fair share of the bill. Classic ideas define that women should be courted this way, but as we have noticed for centuries, this also leads to a sexual expectation. And sure, we can blame men for this, but I think that’s a shallow way to look at it. There is a real cost to paying for dinner. If you’re young, like I am, taking a girl to dinner is actually something you have to budget for, because despite a 40-hour workweek, it’s still hard to pay for everything on minimum wage. And while increasing that wage is a whole different conversation, the reality is that this is where we are. To put that weight on one person and not the other is unfair. It also put the idea that “if I scratch your back, you scratch mine” into many guy’s heads. Which has been an age-old idea, and in many scenarios is the best thought to have (those scenarios being more than just relationships and sexual partners).

But then again, the gesture of paying is often good enough. As the video shows, most guys don’t care about the actual money. Once we have planned and budgeted for the date, simply seeing that the woman cares enough to pay is something to make the guy happy. Of course, this can be two-fold. Sometimes women insist on paying because they hated the date and don’t want the guy to even have the idea that if they pay for the meal they will be getting laid. Other times it is because women care about and respect a guy enough. And sometimes it is hard to tell, because in general people prefer not to be rude. Anyways, those are my thoughts on the subject. What do you think? Let me know!


Hello everyone,


I have returned for another exciting adventure! Yesterday we had a chat about the lack of importance of guns in society, and I briefly touched on the intrinsic battle between concepts of liberty and security. On the off chance someone doesn’t know what these are, I’ll briefly explain them (plus it adds exposition, which makes the blog sound more professional). Liberty, as I will be using it, effectively means that anyone can have access to something. It’s typically the applications of freedoms to various things. For example, the freedom to speak freely is a liberty we exercise constantly. To contrast this, security is the protection from something. Typically, more security requires the sacrifice of liberty, which is where we reach a hierarchy of values.

Most conflict in life is established by a hierarchy of values. When two values are in opposition, the hierarchy helps to resolve this. One easy example of this is in the Bible, as many modern Christians have interpreted it. The idea that all life is sacred is on value, which is part of why there is such a strong debate over abortion. On the other side, the idea of being gay is often condemned by Bible thumpers, which typically leads to a conflict of interest. Life is sacred, except for the gays. Between liberty and security, we often cite ideas of privacy as a reason to avoid losing security. Take the fairly recent suit between Apple and the FBI, in which Apple was told to make a “back door” encryption key so as to get into the San Bernardino shooter’s cell phone.

For the most part, I think people sided with liberty here—the idea that, while we may have been able to get more information valuable to the security of the state out of this phone, the potential for infringement on human rights and privacy was too great a loss for people. In this case, liberty was more valuable to our country. On the other hand, after 9/11, we lost some amount of liberty in order to maintain security over airplanes. Given the physical damage that could be done with a plane, this makes some amount of sense, right?

So I think the big issue today with guns is another fight between these two values, and the reality is that our security is worth the loss in liberty here. Despite all the gun toting, and the occasional random savior, we finished 2015 with more shootings than days in the year. We are on track to perform a similar feat this year. I know it might seem scary, but think about it. Why don’t we give hand grenades to civilians? Because they’re dangerous, easy to conceal (like many legal guns are), and can kill a lot of people in a short period of time. The only reason we even have a discussion about guns is because we have an amendment that has been skewed by the NRA to promote the purchase of guns. That’s not an American way to do things. Or even if it sounds like one in some sick, twisted way, it certainly isn’t a moral way to do things. The security of peaceful citizens outweighs the need for guns among those who are paranoid about their well being.


Hello everyone,


Back to that Monday grind I see. What did you guys think of creative week? It was pretty fun for me, so I may continue with more creative works in the future. But of course, with a week off more dense subject matter, I have been chomping at the bit to talk about some theoretical stuff. I think I would like to discuss aspects of the Orlando shooting that I left out, or feel like I haven’t discussed fully.

The reality is that there are two sides to the discussion that erupted out of this horrible event. Either we all need to be armed or we need stricter limitations on who is using guns. In reality there are valid arguments on both sides. It IS significantly easier to defend yourself from someone with a gun if you have a gun as well, right? And while I don’t think this logic is faulty by any means, I think that it misses the problem—ironic since the people toting this position probably claim to be such great shots.

To get to the actual point, I want to say that I am wholly anti-gun. I think that we don’t need them at all. Sure, they’re supposed to be used for defense against a tyrannical government, but the same people defending this right the bear arms are also the people voting for a guy that acts like a dictator. Some people just want to watch the world burn. Anyways, before I go off on a rant about political parties, the reality is that, because guns are apparently something American’s really desire to have, it is important to not listen solely to the NRA’s rhetoric that the Second Amendment is solely about the right to bear arms. It does have a fairly strict qualifier of a “well regulated militia.” Speaking that the NRA has not been explicit in the assistance of the formation of this militia, or, more importantly, the regulation of it, I think most gun owners are already outside the restrictions and limitations of the Second Amendment.

We have restrictions put on who can drive and who can fly because cars and planes can cause a lot of damage when put into the wrong hands. Even if those wrong hands are just kids too ignorant of their actions to realize the damage they are doing. By early May we already had 23 toddler deaths that were caused due to neglectful behaviors on the behalf of gun owners. And I know gun owners love the “well we don’t punish everyone when someone is caught drunk driving” argument. But we do—we have cracked down on DUIs, we have checkpoints where traffic is stopped to verify people are driving safely, and we have to deal with god awful looking signs that read “buzzed driving is drunk driving,” in addition to school demonstrations and more. And yet in many ways it is easier to obtain a gun than a car. And with a car it is quite a bit harder to kill 50 people than with a semi automatic gun. So the reality is that the world is safer with a gun ban.

I am constantly reminded of a discussion I had with a good friend while on a trip to Oakland. I come from a small town, with a very, very liberal mindset. Even then, my family is very peace oriented, so I was niave to the idea that having my hands in my pockets can apparently look like you’re “packing heat.” My friend pointed this out to me, and told me to take my hands out of my pockets because it make people more likely to be aggressive. They think “man, I better shoot this guy before he shoots me.” Which is fair, there are a lot of crazy people out there, and I am not surprised that someone would get paranoid. Especially in an area as known for criminal activity as Oakland.

So to make an extension of this, while a ban on guns would not end criminal activity, it would end the mass murder sprees that seem to happen monthly nowadays. And even if guns are acquired illegally, it would at least A) raise the price of the weapons on the black market, forcing some of these people to not be able to afford it. It’s a lot harder to shoot someone when it costs a small fortune to do. B) is that it would make the back door kind of dealings a lot more dangerous. We talk about how law enforcement needs to do a better job at cleaning up the streets. Well make the streets a place where guns cannot just easily be passed out and sold. Force the vendors of these weapons to open an establishment. This will reduce the number of people selling out of the back of their truck, which is good for everyone.

I know that it’s somewhat scary to put faith in a government that has routinely let people down. But a government isn’t perfect. They are just doing their best with what resources they have. And while that is by no means ideal, it is what we are most proud of in our country—that we were able to rise out of the monarchies of the world to a democracy. Trust that the government isn’t out to kill you or take over your world. Then think about lowering your weapons, because if you constantly point the gun at the people around you, eventually one of them is going to take a shot at you.


Ttt-kkaa. I cracked my knuckles and climbed the stairs to the ring. It was finally my time, the time for the Chahk-ta. A battle to make or break a person. Literally. The crowd was beating on the arena, a simple square concrete slab, with a metallic ring attached to the ground. It had a short 5 stair climb to the top of the slab, and a large ring of about 15 feet across which took up the majority of the platform, with about 3 feet on either side. Enough to where an eager onlooker could catch a leg or a handful of hair if they really wanted to.

The Chahk-ta was a ritual for our people to find a leader, held once a year after the last leaves fell from the great Tsaltu tree. It was said that one being would rise when all others would fall for the greatness of our people. The Chahk-ta was our test to find this leader. To do so, each person who wished to participate would be required to duel each member of the candidates until they fell or quit. When there was finally just one person left standing, they would be required to battle with our five most elite sages, who were chosen as part of our council until the time when a new leader arose.

It had been over seven-hundred years since our last leader, Sak-la, had finally succumbed in battle, his head cleaved from his shoulders by the last chieftain of the Doo-rah in a battle to the death. The Doo-rah had once been a great people, but anointed with the power of the council our leader was nearly unstoppable. We are still uncertain as to how the lone chief defeated him.

I stepped into the ring. The rules were simple. Fight until one person conceded or was incapable of fighting. This often led to several broken bones. I myself had sustained a shattered left fist, which had forced me to learn open palm techniques. I was no longer able to create a fist with my left hand. No fighting could take place outside the ring. A person could concede by stepping out on their own accord. If they were forced out, it was tradition to back off in order to allow them the decision to re-enter.

The chanting grew louder as my opponent stood up. His hands were bruised and bloodied, but his eyes were as fierce as fire itself. His name was Kaa. He was dexterous, strong, and fast. Really the kind of man that swings first in a fight. In most of those fights, he would only need to swing that one time. Last year he had been the first of our generation to battle a sage. We had no bad blood between us, though blood surely would be spilt in a few moments.

“Are you ready?” His voice was like a thunder rolling in before the rainfall, or the breaking of a tree beneath the great elephants of our world.

“Yes,” I tightened my waistband, “are you?” Kaa inhaled deeply as he brought his arms up from his waist until they were above his is head in a circular motion. As he exhaled he brought his hands in toward his chest and clenched his fists, His knuckles would have shown white were it not for the bruising. Instead, they showed a lighter red color,.

“Yes.” The crowd suddenly grew silent. We looked once more into each others eyes before our fighting began. I wondered if I looked as fierce as he did. He made the first move. A series of deceptive short punches to knock my guard down, which would eventually be followed by a hard cross, if he found an opening. I pushed his blows aside, like the wind pushes a boulder slightly away from it’s destination. This forced Kaa to either back off or over extend, at which point he would leave himself vulnerable. Despite his hot temper, he was not brash with his decision making. Kaa was more like a ruthless coal, which would burn the countryside in a calculated, direct route, rather than one of wild abandon. All the more dangerous. I realized I was being backed to the edge of the ring. Despite the rules permitting a person to be forced out with time to re-enter, it was still a sign of weakness to be ungrounded. Often times the crowd would claw at a person who was unfortunate enough to fall out of the ring. Unlike in our duels, the crowd was armed with spears and knives. It was not unheard of for a warrior to lose a few fingers this way.

I changed my approach. As I parried I kicked out with my legs, forcing Kaa to retreat with each punch so as not to be hit. Smart, as my kicks were sure to do more damage than these slight jabs. Kaa was quick to respond though, he allowed his guard to account for light kicks by raising his leg in time with mine so as to lessen to impact. Suddenly I was back to parrying. The hardest part of these trials was endurance. I knew Kaa was tired, but at the same time I could feel my own muscles growing heavy.

Then suddenly things changed. Like when a rope of cloths breaks. Things seem fine until suddenly the rope has broken, and all the cloths are all over the ground. The battle ended in an instant. Kaa took one misstep, and lingered with his jab for too long. I’d parried his wrist away, and my eyes flashed to his arm, still too extended. I kicked out to distract Kaa and force him to step back slightly, and at the same time spun my own wrist around, like a snake coiled, then as his momentum carried him backward I snapped at his wrist with my hand, and pulled him toward me.

He wasn’t ready for it. He was too physically strong for me to take head on, but a moment like this left him defenseless. I quickly kicked my leg up and into his elbow, causing a loud Kkhhhkk sound. Kaa cried out in pain. I recentered myself, and kicked him dead in his center, knocking him back a foot or so, but throwing him more off balance.. His arm hung lifelessly, and his eyes had watered. I ran at him with full speed, jumped, twisting my body for greater momentum, and kicked him in the arm again. His eyes bugged out in pain, and he heaved a sharp, pained breath.

As I landed he fell to his knees.

“Do you concede?” I asked him.

“No” He looked up at me, with the fire growing in his eyes. He raised his good arm and began to rise. I didn’t give him the chance. As soon as he looked down to secure his footing, I kicked out at his good arm, forcing an opening, then palmed his chest with both hands, knocking the wind out of him. Another huge gasp of air, and he doubled over. I moved behind him and pulled his good arm behind his back. I could hear the joint pop. Had he not been gasping for air, he may have been able to overpower me still. Krrrrkkkk I pulled his arm up hard and fast, and his other elbow snapped. Kaa screamed in pain again.

“Do you concede?” I had my hand on his arm still, pulling it further to cause him more pain. He screamed again.

“Yes!” Kaa’s eyes were pooling. I released his arm and caught him before he slumped over. He must have weight 300 pounds. The shamans were waiting outside the ring, by the stairs. I carried him to them—really more assisted his legs from collapsing. The biggest shaman was Kaa’s father, and as I lugged Kaa out of the ring he put an arm around Kaa’s body.

“Thank you,” he said. It was a sign of respect to help a fellow warrior out of the ring. I nodded to him. Better to win with respect for your enemy than to win with pride.