Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bassets Make People Smile

Growing up my family never had dogs - or any other furry pets for that matter. Mom was allergic, so the issue never really came up. Yet I loved pets, and doted on other peoples' whenever allowed to. I eventually developed an allergy of my own to cats, but dogs remained safe, and I generally loved nothing so much as snuggling up to someone's pet.

Rob's family was the opposite. Not only did they always have a dog when he was growing up, they pretty much always had two dogs. When I started dating him, they had a beagle and a Doberman. The Doberman was a sweetheart, friendly and protective (of me) from the get go, while the beagle never forgave me for stealing her boy.

So it's not exactly surprising that Rob and I started looking for a dog to love nearly as soon as we moved to a place that would allow dogs. Our first dog found us, more or less by accident. He was older (8), a pre-rescue placement, as his original owner was getting ready to dump him in favor of his new dog-hating bride. Cosby was as sweet as they come. A poppy-red Golden Retriever with the kind of manners that make you understand why dog training is said to make other dogs behave like Goldens. Cosby lived another eight years, to the ripe old age of sixteen. Yet in all that time, he was never really our dog. He was always looking for his person to come back; always waiting for the boy he grew up with to come take him home again. We were just the nice caretaker people.

So the next time we were dogless and feeling it, I wanted a puppy. A dog to be our dog, not always looking past us. At this point the boys were very young (2 & 4) and we wanted something we could rely on to be tolerant. Rob had fond memories of the dog he first remembers - his parents' first dog, Sam, a tri-color basset. I liked the idea, so we looked around and ended up with Nicky.

Nicky is anything but a show basset. Sometimes for fun I'll list all his faults that would get him thrown out of an AKC showring (assuming we hadn't had him neutered). I can get over a dozen without even trying hard. He's about 4" too long, 2" too tall, swaybacked, crooked forelimbs (ricketts as a puppy), and double-coated, just to hit the highlights. But as a family dog, he's perfect - endlessly tolerant, good-natured, adores children (all children, not just ours), not at all territorial or food protective. He's also undeniably my dog. Not even the family dog - my dog. He sleeps beside my side of the bed at night (in fact he's curled up on my feet right now and won't go to bed until I do).

But there's one side of owning a basset I hadn't expected at all - how much people like them.

Since Cosby was both friendly and strikingly beautiful, I was pretty used to getting commentary when out for walks. I had, without thinking about it much, expected that this wouldn't happen as much when we had Nicky. He's a handsome boy, but bassets just don't hit many people's lists of gorgeous.

So I was a little surprised the first time somebody pulled over to the curb and leapt out to come exclaim over my dog. And even more surprised when it happened again a few weeks later. In all the time I'd had Cosby, no one ever pulled over to tell me how beautiful my dog was. The people who commented were the people who were already out walking or in their yards. But with Nicky, people would get out of their cars, come out of their houses, or cross the street to come see him. And nearly all of them would be grinning ear to ear as they patted Nicky and told me about their neighbor's basset when they were little, or their own bassets at home.

I finally decided that bassets just make people happy. Something about that goofy amiability is so endearing that people will go well out of their way to experience it. Not everybody of course - we hardly have traffic jams when I take Nicky to school to pick up the boys. On the other hand, it's a rare month when somebody doesn't pull over to ask about him. Nicky with his easy-going temperament and open face (white blaze with freckles) seems to attract this more than most, but even my father-in-law's current basset, Toby who is nervous and distrustful, comes in for some of the generalized basset love that seems to be floating around.

Even the pizza delivery guys, who have every reason to not like having dogs crash the door, don't seem to mind when it's Nicky. Instead they reach down and ruffle his ears (after turning over the pizzas). Nobody seems to believe for even a second that a basset could possibly be hostile to them. Which, in Nicky's case at least, seems justified. The first Christmas after we got him, we came down in the morning to find that my Dad had come over and let himself in. He was reading on the couch with Nicky, who had never met Dad before in his life, happily curled up beside him, having never made a noise.

Nicky's getting older now himself. He's six now, and just starting to slow down and realize he's not a puppy. He's not likely to make Cosby's sixteen, but we can probably hope for 12+, and he's in good health thus far, despite the ricketts. And as long as he's up for it, I'll keep taking him around the neighborhood, even though we have a fenced back yard, because it's so delightful to see people smile just because they've seen a basset.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Stanislav Petrov Day!

Look out your windows at your lovely, non-nuclear-winterized world, and lift a glass for Stanislav Petrov, a man who made the right call under immensely difficult circumstances. And as is customary, was punished for it.

No karate tonight as nobody but me would be there. I am amused to discover that Robbie's fifth grade friends have decided I'm the coolest Mom ever for intervening in the fight the other day. If only I'd known when I was that age that the fastest way to gain the admiration of pre-teen boys is to make them think you can wipe the floor with them!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Doing it Backwards

We finally got around to trying backwards shaping for kata. For once there were three of us ready to tackle a weapons kata (T, Sensei D, and me), so Sensei started us on the end of Tokumine No Kun. I had asked him a while ago if I could learn this one backwards, and he was intrigued by the idea, but didn't seem to follow up on it. Well tonight he said that to give it a fair trial, a bunch of us had to try it, so he showed us Tokumine no Kun, and then gave us the first chunk (from the last head block to the end). It's good so far. Sensei didn't seem to have any problem teaching that way, and learning the last chunk didn't seem to weird T or Sensei D out particularly once they got past the initial round of blinking. The real test will come next time when we learn the chunk preceeding this one.

It was a weapons' night tonight. Bo and sais both came out. It was one of those rare nights when only upper belts came to class, and as much as we need more new students I treasure the nights with the people who have been doing this for a while and are in this for the long haul. No having to make everything fun lest someone be bored into leaving - we all already think karate is intrinsically fun. No having to explain terms or make minor corrections - if someone does make a basic mistake a quick mention and they're back to form. It's delightful.

In other exciting events of the day, I got to break up a fist fight today. A pair of HS boys got into a serious knock-down, drag-out fight in front of the elementary school just as it was letting out. Big boys - roughly 5'10" and 6' respectively. I don't know what started it, but they were really trying to hurt each other (fortunately neither one of them had a clue as to how), and they were so focused on each other they weren't hearing or seeing anything else. One of the elementary school mothers was screaming at them and they weren't paying any attention at all.

Fortunately for me, they were really easy to break up. All it took was a wrist-lock on the shorter boy to spin him away from the fight and make him notice what was going on. They both stopped immediately and took off on their bikes in opposite directions. Thank goodness. I really didn't want to get seriously physical with two boys too young to have good sense and significantly bigger than I was. The odds would have been way too high that I would have to hurt somebody to keep from getting hurt myself.

I talked my tactics over with Sensei D afterwards - he's the most experienced person in our group in dealing with real life fights. His only negative comment is that he thinks I should have gone for the bigger kid instead of the smaller one. His reasoning being that you want to go for the aggresor, or the one who's winning, and while I was certain of neither, the bigger kid seemed likely to get the upper hand soon from what I could see. According to him, if you can control the one who wants to fight more, the other is more likely to break off, which makes sense to me. I went for the shorter kid simply because he was closer, and I wasn't sure who the instigator was.

I'm wondering if I'll ever find out who those kids are, or what they were fighting about. Given HS kids it's possible even they don't know .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Congratulations, T!

I'm officially no longer the only brown belt in our dojo. T passed his brown belt test, and I have to admit the tall, slim teenager looks a hell of a lot better with his belt than I do with mine. He had some bobbles, mostly due to over-thinking, but he plainly knew his stuff and the test got better and better as he went on. I was especially pleased with his kumite. In free fighting T tends to the timid and over-analytical, not because he's afraid, but because he has a lot of native caution. Tonight he was able to put that aside and really go after his opponents, even knocking J (a very aggressive fighter), clean off her feet at the end of their bout. His katas, which started the test, looked very stiff and constrained, but when we had him redo his last kata at the end of the test, it looked about 10x better, showing what we already knew, that the stiffness was nerves rather than knowledge.

Sensei has already commented that T and I are going to start getting more things thrown at us, now that there's more than one brown belt. I'm really looking forward to it.

The boys are out of school this week because of Ike. A lot of our area is still without power, and several of the district schools are being used as shelters. We haven't lost power, but two poles near the back entrance to our subdivision are leaning at better than 45 degrees, and if they go down, we will lose power. Logically, but unfortunately, we're right down at the bottom of the priority list, because those wires are still intact and our neighborhood does have power. I'm crossing my fingers that they stay up until the crews can get to them, which isn't supposed to be until at least this weekend. Our personal damage is minor - several large limbs down, none of which hit anything major, a strip of flashing and about a dozen shingles torn off the roof. Rob will have to climb up there later this week and fix things.

And heaven help me, I'm having lengthy, daily theological debates with our neighbor's brother, a retired Baptist preacher. As much as I love theology, I'm not fast enough on my rhetorical feet to be good at, or particularly comfortable with, defending what I believe and why I believe it live and personal to someone's face. Particularly a very bright someone, whose theology is not terribly compatible with mine, and who has several decades of practice at this sort of thing. I'm torn between enjoying it very much, and wanting to scream and pound my head against the wall, mostly dependant on how well I feel I'm managing to make myself understood (agreed with is an entirely different matter). I find myself both eager to talk to him, and relieved that he's only visiting and will eventually wander off again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pushing Stuff

Thanks to Nicole who included me in her list of nominations for Brilliante blog award. (Sorry it took me so long to get around to posting about it!) Apparently the rules are as follows:

1. Post the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who gave you the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers who you think deserve it.
4. Add links to their blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on your nominees blogs.

So, having just done #'s 1 & 2, #3 is the list and links.

1. Fine Martial Fiber
2. Black Belt Mama
3. Martial Arts Mom
4. Benes_Hacha (who really needs to update more)
5. Atheist in a Minivan
6. Fugly Horse of the Day
7. Cakewrecks

So now that I've pushed my favorite blogs at you, I can go on to pushing other stuff. My hand has healed up beautifully. Rob's care in how he dug out the glass really paid off, as despite the depth of the damage, everything sealed back together. By now it looks like I minorly skinned my hand. I tried doing pushups for the first time on Thursday, and was fine except for a little deep aching in the heel of the hand for a few minutes afterwards.

So I'm going to restart the 100 Pushups tomorrow. I'll be starting in the low category, as 1) I want to work up slowly. 2) I've lost some ground from even my far from impressive starting position. So my testing number of pushups will officially be 5. They are, however, nice proper form pushups, rather than the slightly shallower version I use at higher numbers to avoid elbow aggravation. I'll post progress as I go.

I promise to check where my hands are landing first!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good Luck!

We have a test scheduled for our next brown belt!

I've been the only brown in our dojo since last December. It's been interesting, but I'm getting a little tired of it. Among other things it costs me learning time - Sensei could not readily scurry off to the side with me to teach me things - who would handle the class? So at best I was getting five or ten minutes stuffed in at the edges of class, and so my progress on learning my black belt material has been very slow. Also, since I've been the only one learning this stuff, I have no one to bounce ideas around with, or to watch me, or for me to watch to just add time-on-floor and familiarity with the new katas and self-defense.

In some ways I think being the sole brown belt for a while has been good for our group dynamics - I started below most of our students in rank and passed them over time, and this gave settling time for everyone to get used to me being senior - a good thing when dealing with hormonal teens (boo, hiss, testosterone!). But by now I think any good that can be derived from being where I am by myself has been long since attained.

So when Sensei announced that T would be testing on Tuesday, it was a definite "Woot!" moment for me. Sensei and I have both been over his stuff with him, and he knows what he's doing. Actually, he's known what he needs to know since March at least. What's been holding him back has been a killer lack of confidence. T is very quiet, and usually determined to get things right. It makes him a little timid and inclined to overthinking in kumite and prone to odd hesitations in kata (though he has generally done excellently in competition). So when Sensei started talking about him being ready for testing back in the spring, you could see the supressed panic in T's face. He plainly didn't believe he was ready - and the way our brown belt test goes, he would probably have been right. Confidence is about 80% of getting through that test.

This last month, however, T has started to gain some confidence that he really does know what he knows, and that it's not going to desert him under pressure. He's still hesitant to teach, but has been willing to go over stuff one-on-one with the other students, and even let himself be talked (well, okay, railroaded) into leading the exercise session once. He still has a ways to go in believing his knowledge gives him any authority, but at least he's trusting that he has the knowledge.

So, best of luck to T! I should be one of the people matching him for kumite at his test, and he'd better chase me out of that ring!

Edited to add: Completely OT - but what coffeem said.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Music Meme

Via Becky at Fine Martial Fiber. From Music Outfitters these are the top 100 songs from the year I graduated high school. Bolds are songs I like, italics are songs I hate, asterisk is my favorite.

1. Walk Like An Egyptian, Bangles
2. Alone, Heart
3. Shake You Down, Gregory Abbott
4. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston
5. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Starship
6. C'est La Vie, Robbie Nevil
7. Here I Go Again, Whitesnake
8. The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
9. Shakedown, Bob Seger
10. Livin' On A Prayer, Bon Jovi
11. La Bamba, Los Lobos
12. Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung
13. Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House
14. Always, Atlantic Starr
15. With Or Without You, U2
16. Looking For A New Love, Jody Watley
17. Head To Toe, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
18. I Think We're Alone Now, Tiffany
19. Mony Mony, Billy Idol
20. At This Moment, Billy Vera and The Beaters
21. Lady In Red, Chris De Burgh
22. Didn't We Almost Have It All, Whitney Houston
23. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2
24. I Want Your Sex, George Michael
25. Notorious, Duran Duran
26. Only In My Dreams, Debbie Gibson
27. (I've Had) The Time Of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
28. The Next Time I Fall, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant
29. Lean On Me, Club Nouveau
30. Open Your Heart, Madonna
31. Lost In Emotion, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
32. (I Just) Died In Your Arms, Cutting Crew
33. Heart And Soul, T'pau
34. You Keep Me Hangin' On, Kim Wilde
35. Keep Your Hands To Yourself, Georgia Satellites
36. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), Aretha Franklin and George Michael
37. Control, Janet Jackson
38. Somewhere Out There, Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram
39. U Got The Look, Prince
40. Land Of Confusion, Genesis
41. Jacob's Ladder, Huey Lewis and The News
42. Who's That Girl, Madonna
43. You Got It All, Jets
44. Touch Me (I Want Your Body), Samantha Fox
45. I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett
46. Causing A Commotion, Madonna
47. In too deep, Genesis *
48. Let's Wait Awhile, Janet Jackson
49. Hip To Be Square, Huey Lewis and the News
50. Will You Still Love Me?, Chicago
51. Little Lies, Fleetwood Mac
52. Luka, Suzanne Vega
53. I Heard A Rumour, Bananarama
54. Don't Mean Nothing, Richard Marx
55. Songbird, Kenny G
56. Carrie, Europe
57. Don't Disturb This Groove, System
58. La Isla Bonita, Madonna
59. Bad, Michael Jackson
60. Sign 'O' The Times, Prince
61. Change Of Heart, Cyndi Lauper
62. Come Go With Me, Expose
63. Can't We Try, Dan Hill
64. To Be A Lover, Billy Idol
65. Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
66. Breakout, Swing Out Sister
67. Stand By Me, Ben E. King
68. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Genesis
69. Someday, Glass Tiger
70. When Smokey Sings, ABC
71. Casanova, Levert
72. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
73. Rock Steady, Whispers
74. Wanted Dead Or Alive, Bon Jovi
75. Big Time, Peter Gabriel
76. The Finer Things, Steve Winwood
77. Let Me Be The One, Expose
78. Is This Love, Survivor
79. Diamonds, Herb Alpert
80. Point Of No Return, Expose
81. Big Love, Fleetwood Mac
82. Midnight Blue, Lou Gramm
83. Something So Strong, Crowded House
84. Heat Of The Night, Bryan Adams
85. Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You, Glenn Medeiros
86. Brilliant Disguise, Bruce Springsteen
87. Just To See Her, Smokey Robinson
88. Who Will You Run Too, Heart
89. Respect Yourself, Bruce Willis
90. Cross My Broken Heart, Jets
91. Victory, Kool and The Gang
92. Don't Get Me Wrong, Pretenders
93. Doing It All For My Baby, Huey Lewis and The News
94. Right On Track, Breakfast Club
95. Ballerina Girl, Lionel Richie
96. Meet Me Half Way, Kenny Loggins
97. I've Been In Love Before, Cutting Crew
98. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party, Beastie Boys
99. Funkytown, Pseudo Echo
100. Love You Down, Ready For The World

Honestly, though I like lots of these songs, none of them is on my all-time-favorites list. Most of my very favorite bands (even from that era), don't seem to have had much out that year. All in all a pretty good year for music though, and I'm surprised at how many of these songs I not only remember, but could start humming immediately. I'm an unabashed sentimentalist with my music, which is probably obvious - I like pretty. Also singability (my ability to love something is halved if I can't reasonably hum along), and good rhythm.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

R. Daneel Olivaw for President!

"If a child becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital, and you're on the hotline with both Israel and Iran as nuclear tempers are flaring, where's your attention going to be?" That would be Dr. Laura talking about Sarah Palin.

Apparently she doesn't realize that she just made the case for electing robots to the Presidency, or maybe orphans raised by wolves. Because any human person - certainly any person with enough human feeling that you'd want them running things - is going to have loved ones. And people worry about their loved ones and are potentially distracted when bad things happen to them.

How insulting is it to men that she thinks a father (which would be every President I remember) would carry right on as if nothing of import were happening when their child was ill or in danger?