Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taking Up Space

I'm working on learning Kusanku and Kusanku Sai at the moment. This is both easier and harder than working on two different katas. Easier because the general movements are the same for each, and even a lot of the specific movements are so similar as to make little or no difference. Harder, because that exact similarity makes it really, really easy to criss-cross the two versions when working back and forth between them. Like putting the lift from the lift and punch in Kusanku into the simple stab of Kusanku Sai.

One of the things that's striking me as I work through these katas is the amount of waiting that's built into them. There are a lot of places where the move isn't a strike in-and-of itself, but rather it puts you in the proper position to strike. The kata doesn't flow from strike to strike, but rather from preparation to strike to the next preparation.

I don't seem to be having the daintiness problem so much with this kata - which is good, Sensei's been after me about it for about two years now. I do seem to have a problem with the waiting postures. Every time I'm too tense, to close in, too small. I'm holding my arms tight in to my sides, my hands are close to my body rather than out and relaxed. I seem to be trying to make myself as small as possible - afraid of taking up space.

As soon as I made that connection (which only took about the 50th time Sensei pointed it out), it was easy to relate to a lot of my behavior out of the dojo. I do try to take up as little space as possible - sometimes consciously, sometimes not. I tend to think that making room for me is inconvenient for other people, so I try to make myself small, even though it inconveniences me. When I look around the house now, Robbie and Aaron each have their own room. Rob has the basement and the garage as his. I have a corner and one closet of the guest room - which I lose easy use of every time we have a guest. And we're about to move my computer into the family room, which makes it even less "mine".

When I ponder the house arrangement, it makes sense that things are this way, until I start looking back at all the prior houses. We've owned four houses over the years, none of them small. In none of them have I ever had a room that was completely mine. Not even in Tennesse where we had a perfectly enormous house and only Rob and I. All rooms were shared, but the back garage was his. Unless you wanted to call the laundry room mine - which might have passed if it had had anything in it but the washing machine and dryer. In Arizona we had four bedrooms. Rob and I shared the Master Bedroom, Robbie had one, Rob's office was one, and the fourth - it was my office and Rob's craft room. In addition to housing the futon for houseguests. Somehow this arrangement - Rob has private space; the boys have private space; I have shared space - has become the norm, accepted by everyone, including me, as the obvious and natural arrangement. And it's not because Rob has shoved me out of places. It's because he took it for granted that he had the right to take up space - and I never did. I could easily have staked out a room in the house in Tennessee, but never did.

So now I'm trying to learn to take up some room - starting with the tiny step of trying to relax into largeness in Kusanku. Because honestly, if I can't stand somewhere with my arms out and say (mentally) "This is my space.", how the heck am I going to learn that I can do it with more permanent things?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Busy Week

It's a good thing I love my husband, or I might be tempted to hit him with something. Most of this week I'm spending scrubbing the house, since, for the second time in three months, Rob has gone and rearranged a good chunk of the furniture less than a week before guests. In this case, about a dozen people are coming over Friday to celebrate his 40th birthday. So not only do the downstairs and basement (game and fish room) need to be clean, but, since he's offered the guest room to anybody who has too much to drink (entirely possible, he's having a Scotch tasting), I need to scrub up the guest room as well. Guess which room ended up knee-deep in crap during the furniture rearrangement?

We're also spending time drilling Aaron on his Korean, since he has his first ever belt test (yellow-tip) on Saturday. He's excited about it, especially since he broke his first board last week with a flying side-kick. I was impressed. He did a better flying side-kick than I can do - most likely because it's not part of Isshinryu, so I think I've done all of three fsk's in my life. I'm a little concerned that his tiny, whispery "oh my God, people are listening to me!" voice might not go over well with the TKD master, who isn't exactly the world's most tactful with kids. However, I've never seen Master B actually fail a kid who knew his stuff, and Aaron definitely does, so I expect he'll be okay.

So, I've got five rooms to clean, Aaron to drill, a cake to get ingredients for and bake, kids' hair to get cut, oh, and A started statistics, so I have a first assignment from her to read onto tape. Doable, but I need to keep cracking at it. I'm sure it will be a good week once I'm looking at it from the other side.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Comments

As promised, I'm finally getting around to my periodic book review. I've read all the Christmas stash at long last, except for Dzur. It took quite a while, but I promised Rob that I wouldn't read his books before he did, so I had to wait for a lot of them. So without further ado:

The Jenny Trilogy - Elizabeth Bear

This series consists of Hammered, Scardown, and Worldwired. I was only so-so on Hammered when I first read it, but when I finally got around to reading books two and three, I loved them, so I had to go back and read Hammered again. I think my problem was that it feels like throat-clearing to me. It's the book that introduces the important characters, gives you the background (Which is complicated - these are people with histories.), and sets the stage for the second and third books, which seem to be the story that eBear really wanted to tell. This may or may not be true, but it's how Hammered read to me. Though I will say I found it much more interesting on the second read, after I knew how things went forward. Scardown and Worldwired, on the other hand, had no such problems. I was particularly fond of the perspective of older people towards teenagers saving the world (I won't specify more, it would be too spoilery). So many books have young people saving the world, it's pretty much a book industry in-and-of itself, but none of those books seem to really address what that looks like to those protagonists parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents - all the older people to whom they really are youngsters and far too young to be burdened so. All of the characters, good and bad, are nicely complicated without those clean dividing lines so many people are fond of that never occur in real life. Plus, aliens who really are alien, both to us, and to each other, and Richard Feynman as an AI - what more could I want in an SF adventure? Highly recommended.

Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

These are two of four books set in the same universe (The other two are The Sagan Diaries and The Last Colony.). Old Man's War starts the set. It feels a lot like an old-school (Heinlenesque) military SF, with a number of twists and a truly trenchant sense of humor. Humankind is at war with what feels like half the galaxy. They battle back using super-soldiers - they recruit the elderly from Earth, give them seriously souped up bodies, and send them forth to do battle. The book follows John Perry, new recruit, as he is trained and deployed. John Perry is a fun character, the plot is pretty straightforward (none of eBears twistiness here), and all-in-all it's a good, but not particularly deep thinking read.

The Ghost Brigades begins to change that. From the fairly cheerful war outlook of Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades begins to introduce doubt that all this war is really necessary, or that the Colonial Union really knows what it's doing quite as much as they think they do. There's also much more introspection about identity, personality and self-determination in this book - though all as a pretty organic outgrowth from the situation as set up in Old Man's War. For plot, humankind has discovered that - thanks to a human traitor - three alien races are collaborating against humans. If the plot succeeds, humanity won't stand a chance. So they attempt to recreate the traitor using cloning technology and an untried technique for personality downloading. The apparent failure of the attempt, and the subsequent thrusting of the clone into the wars as a supersoldier (one of the ultra-elite Ghost Brigades, literally born and bred for war), shows us a much more complex view of Scalzi's universe. By the look of the preview for The Last Colony, that may well continue the trend - I certainly intend to find out!

The Android's Dream - also John Scalzi

The Android's Dream is SF comedy/adventure. I mean how serious can a book be when it opens with an interplanetary incident set off by farting? Comedy gold continues with electric blue sheep, assasination attempts foiled by what amounts to super-duper basketball shoes, a serious church started by an acknowledged con (acknowledged by the church's adherents, that is), and a man-eating alien who's really just on a religious quest. Things are happening in several directions at once, and it all comes together at the end with what could easily have felt like a series of completely improbable coincidences, but instead felt like watching an episode of James Burke's Connections. It's rare for a book to have me howling with laughter repeatedly and still be a good adventure yarn with good pacing, great characters, and a twisty, but not too twisty plot. The Android's Dream pulls it all off with a bow on top. Well done, Mr. Scalzi!

Thin Air - Rachel Caine

This is the latest installment (6th?) in Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series. I like the series. I like the heroine. I intend to keep reading. That said, I'm beginning to get a little worn down. Joanna Baldwin has been under the gun since the opening paragraph of book 1. She started off under a death sentence, and things have only gotten worse since then. By now all of humanity has been at stake for about three books. Joanne seems to be suffering from the Honor Harrington problem - with each book the stakes get higher and the heroine gets more power - but you can't raise the stakes forever, and eventually the breathless pace starts to get to your reader. I haven't hit diminishing returns yet, but I really hope she starts to slow her book pacing down just a tad here somewhere.

Blood Bound - Patricia Briggs

This is the second book in the series that starts with Moon Called. Modern fantasy - our protagonist is a skin-walker (turns into a coyote at will), auto-mechanic named Mercy Thompson. She's the only one of her kind with an interesting relationship with her local werewolf pack, a friend among the vampires, and a serious nose for trouble. Mercy is an interesting character, the plots tend toward the mystery end of things, though they're not formal mysteries per se. I could well see this as a continuing series without the same escalation troubles as Rachel Caine's books, and it looks like Ms. Briggs is thinking of it the same way - so yay for that. The books aren't terribly introspective, but they're deep enough to be interesting for multiple reads, and light enough for when you're not in the mood for depth. Candy with some substance to it.

I'm currently reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, and Off Armegeddon Reef by David Weber. Both seem pretty good so far. The Gift of Fear is seriously informative - I may end up joining the evangelical chorus of people who think everyone should read it. The Weber book is entertaining, but I would like to a) register my annoyance with naming everyone normal names only with extraneous a's and h's everywhere (seriously, Ahrnahld?) and b) This is (depending on how you count), the third or fourth Weber book with aliens that want nothing more than to wipe humanity off the face of the universe. And at least the third where said aliens nearly succeed. How depressing is the inside of David Weber's head?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well, That was Unexepected

Our dojo has been evicted. No word on exactly why, although as I sure you can imagine, the rumors are flying fast and thick. The current most popular explanations are non-payment, or that the management company hadn't been told we were moving and found out on their own. I have no idea if either of these is correct.

In the meanwhile, everything must go! Sensei started pulling up the matting last night, and we went through the communal pile of sparring gear to retrieve the stuff that specifically belongs to him. He had brought two full net bags of gear when we came here. Upon sorting, both bags were only slightly over half full. That's a lot of gear to have vanish. I think he's pretty annoyed about it.

The new dojo building won't be finished for six weeks (if then, they're still putting up the frame). So in the meanwhile we're going to a new space that the dojo owner has managed to line up on a temporary basis. It messes with the scheduling (classes are now only T & Th), but it's workable. Actually it saves us one big scheduling foul-up that we were headed for, wherein the Little Dragons had Aaron's first promotion test scheduled for Feb. 1 - non-negotiable, since the TKD tests are mass tests. Make the Feb. 1 test, or wait at least a month for the next one.

Feb. 1 is Rob's 40th birthday. Not so good for the scheduling thing. However, now that everything is T & Th, I suspect the test will be moved up one day and all will be happy.

Fighting went well last night (at least for Aaron). I talked with Mr. D, the kids' instructor about him, and he was fine with having him only spar the adults. Since Aaron was willing to try other adults (though not enthusiastic), he even had him spar M exclusively last night. (When the kids try to say "I won't!!", Mr. D tends to force the issue, but willing though unenthusiastic, he'll work with.) Watching some of the other kids go at each other made me feel just as happy Aaron isn't doing that. There was a lot of wild hitting - kicking knees, punching faces, etc., and it was luck and kid rubber-bones that nobody got hurt. Among other things, any boy had better well have a cup! I don't think any of the girls left a crotch unkicked.

Random other news: report cards are in. All A's for Aaron (again). Robbie slid slightly with a B in Language and an N in handwriting. The handwriting is just attention - he tends to write as quickly as possible while not looking at the paper, with predictable results. The B in language is from one bad test - the unenthused about the writing topic thing again. Still in all, we're pretty pleased. Especially since his teacher included an additional complimentary note about the depth of Robbie's understanding in science.

Karate, karate and more karate - I'll do a book post next time. Promise.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Aaron and Fighting

Aaron is continuing along in Taekwondo. He says he likes it, and is never reluctant to go, but the way he reacts to an awful lot of what he's asked to do makes me wonder why he likes it (not that I'm going to try to disabuse him of his opinion).

Our dojo just started a new schedule for the Little Dragons class. Eventually they're supposed to have a class every night, with fighting every Friday - which will be fine by me. Unfortunately they've decided to implement it piecemeal - to wit, they have started fighting every Friday, while there are still only two Little Dragons classes each week. So either Aaron only goes to class once a week, or he fights every Friday.

Except that Aaron won't fight. Doesn't want to put on his gear. Doesn't want to go on the floor. And absolutely will not fight, if forced to do the former two. He will literally just stand there and let the other child hit him. Which, of course, he hates. When asked, he says he doesn't want to hit other people.

This last Friday went somewhat better. Aaron put his gear on, reluctantly, and initially refused to go out on the floor at all. After some persuasion, I managed to convince him to try sparring M. M is not the LD teacher, but is a mid-level adult who consistently helps out with the LD class. He's a great guy, very gentle with the kids, and both the biggest and the most gentle of the available adult sparring partners.

My intuition proved right. M and Aaron had a great time. When this great big guy said he wouldn't be hurt by Aaron hitting him, Aaron believed him. And M doesn't actually touch the kids when he hits back, but rather stops his punches about an inch short - which is great for Aaron's touch sensitivity (moderate touches can feel painful to him sometimes while hard touches usually don't, which makes judging how much to pull blows a very tricky call with him). Aaron is now pretty willing to try sparring again with M.

So far, so good - except...they still want Aaron to spar other kids and other adults, and this could be a real problem. All the other adults at least tap the kids, and at least one can't seem to get his ego out of the way, and will thump them fairly hard if the child is getting good hits in. I suspect that Aaron will learn to tolerate all but that last if given some time to adjust to the whole concept. But I doubt he'll be willing to spar other children until he learns to trust himself not to hurt them.

It's frustrating. If we had the other class times, I'd simply avoid the fighting classes until Aaron was ready for them - and if he never was, well, there are worse things. But we don't. So I'm probably going to have to be the helicopter momma and insist on special treatment for my child - which I hate - because otherwise this insistence that the children must fight each other is going to turn something Aaron likes and that is doing him a world of good, into a torture session.

I'll note that while Aaron is the only child who flat refuses to fight, he's not the only child unhappy about it. Also, there is a general feeling among about half the parents that taking a bunch of 4-7 year olds, some enthusiastic fighters, some reluctant, none with good control, and having them pummel each other regularly, is simply not a great idea, and the whole fighting thing should be saved for an optional class.

Personally I think it's another example of the dojo owner's usual thought process - have idea, see possibilities, jump in with both feet before evaluating for overall good sense or potential problems. Somehow I'm less tolerant of this foible of his when it's my child hitting the pitfalls he hasn't bothered to think through.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Home Again

Sorry to go dark for so long. I was expecting to do some posting from my parents' house, but for some reason, Blogger wasn't willing to let me log in while I was down there. When combined with the lovely two-finger typing of a Qwerty keyboard (I use Dvorak), I just couldn't seem to figure out how to post.

We had a lovely long visit with Mom and Dad. Rob spent a lot of time with Dad at the glider field, and got a surprising amount of flight time in - he has a log book and everything, and is now very interested in gliding. Unfortunately for his ambition there are no gilder ports or soaring clubs in this area (Unfortunately for him, fortunately for our bank account. Gliding ain't cheap.) It was generally a very unambitious vacation for us - much sitting around playing computer Scrabble, reading, or watching TV. I did yoga a few times, and practiced Kusanku (both Sai and not) as far as I've learned it a few times, but otherwise backed off on the exercise, which seemed to be a relief for my joints - my left knee and right ankle had both become constant low-grade aches - and I hope I can ramp the exercise back up without bringing the aches back.

Mom turned out to have quite a few interesting books in her collection (she always does). As a consequence, I now know a great deal more about nutrition specifically for insulin resistence than I did, which is going to result in some dietary tweaking in the next few months. We'll see how it goes. Plus, she had an excellent book (which I didn't finish, rats!) on reading like a writer. I barely even got started on reading all the cool books I got Rob for Christmas (the haul includes two John Scalzi books, the most recent Stephen Brust, a Patricia Briggs, and a history of Plumbing). I received no books for Christmas - possibly a first. Instead I got some lovely jewelry - an orchid earring and pin/pendant set from Rob, silver dangles and gilded green glass elephants from Dad, an opalescent fake amber pendant from Aaron (pretty, but very odd looking), and a big round colored glass/silver necklace from Robbie. Also a very pretty small brocade purse from Aaron (for occassions when the big hobo bag just won't do), and the requisite embarrassing gift from Rob (slipper socks - neon green frog, and hot pink kitty ones). Fortunately I was spared the Tweety Bird pajamas because they weren't in stock in my size (THANK YOU WAL-MART!!). Maybe I'll actually get the chance to kill off my last set of embarrassing pajamas (Scooby-Doo), and buy myself some warm pj's I actually like before next Christmas. I can hope, anyway.

Since a Christmas without book just won't do, I wandered out to a local bookstore and picked myself up a few. The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker has by now been recommended by so many different people from so many different places, that I could no longer excuse avoiding it, so home it came. In a more fun vein, I picked up the second and third of Elizabeth Bear's first series (Scardown and Worldwired - the first book was Hammered). I'm about halfway through Scardown, and I'm really happy I got them. Hammered was a mixed bag for me. I like Bear's writing and the particulars of her characters, especially Jenny who is just all kinds of cool. I mean, how often do I get to read a book about a character who is my gender, older than me, more battered than me (both physically and psychologically), and yet still kicks ass in spades? Yet, somehow, I just didn't connect with the book in any intense way. Scardown still has all the stuff I like, and adds in that connection. Suddenly I care about what happens to all these people in a way I didn't before, and it's a whole different experience. Hammered I read in two days because I'm just a fast reader. Scardown I started last night and got halfway through before I could bring myself to put it down, even knowing we had a twelve-hour drive today. I'm having to crawl off to bed tonight without even picking it up (Crud!), because if I do, I'm not putting it down again until I'm done, and I've got tons to do tomorrow (return car, retrieve dog, unpack, get to bank, get to grocery store - and that's just starters). Tomorrow afternoon though, I'm sticking something long and slow on the stove (stew anyone?), and crawling in. I'll comment on the other side.