Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Deep Breath

Some good news - Dad W has no metastases. We have only the primary tumor to deal with. The oncologist sounded downright optimistic at the latest visit. Granted, we still have a big honking, fast-growing liver tumor, but we have a plan of action and some hope.

I just realized I was talking about Dad W's cancer the way some husbands talk about pregnancies - as "our" tumor. It's really feeling that way. I track the appointments, take Dad W to them, and provide doctor interface and translation when he gets confused. Though I feel a little guilty because along with everything else I feel, I'm also absolutely fascinated with the actual treatments being planned.

We'll be starting targeted chemo and radiation therapy in January, both supplied through polymer microspheres fed directly into the artery that supplies the tumor. Between now and then our instructions are to feed him up, and chase him out of the house to get some exercise - basically to try to build him up both physically and mentally before treatments actually begin. So for now, it's time to catch our breath, enjoy the holidays and get ready to hit the ground running.

Other news: The Saturn having been successfully turned into a large paperweight (cracked engine block), I now have a 1997 Nissan Maxima to play with. It's a year older, but with 100,000 fewer miles than the Saturn. We now look like a family of government agents, with two black cars with black interiors and tinted windows.

Our church organist is taking a leave of absence for January and February, so I will be sharing duties with one of the other choir members (a composer and phenomenal pianist) to provide coverage. Eeep! That's a lot of playing given the size (miniscule) of my organ repertoire. Also, said composer has written a duet for two sopranos and has asked me if I would debut it, singing with M (a professional singer/voice teacher), which is terribly flattering. I've heard M sing, and she's got a fabulous voice, though very different from mine. To have a professional composer think I'm a good match for a duet with her just made my whole day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Full speed ahead!

My crystal ball is broken, because treatment for Dad W. will be proceeding under full steam. Apparently we're dealing with a cancer originating in the common bile duct (surprise, surprise, the doctors here are better at identifying odd cancers). This is good, in that it means that this is the primary tumor we're dealing with, bad inasmuch as it's a notably aggressive form of cancer.

Targeted chemotherapy with supplemental radiation will be commencing practically immediately - they literally wouldn't let us out of the exam room until they had lined up Dad W's appointments with the radio-therapy people and the chemo specialist.

All the knitting stuff I got will definitely come in handy. I got 2" done on a leg warmer this afternoon alone, and this was a relatively short appointment.

It feels really weird, though. I'm getting all but blasted with approval from my in-laws (all three), all for doing stuff it would never occur to me not to do. What, am I going to tell Dad to get his own butt to and from appointments? Leave him to flounder through the medical explanations, when I have the training to understand them and he doesn't? Yell at him for being lazy because he's anemic and depressed? This is all stuff I would do for my next-door neighbor, did he need it, doing it for my father-in-law seems like no special merit. I wonder why it seems to look so different to them.

In other news, the car is good - it was just suffering from excessive cold (like my younger son, who had much to say about walking to school in the snow because the car wouldn't start).

I'm cantoring for church this coming Sunday, which will be a new experience. The singing itself is easy-peasy, but leading the congregation through the psalm is new for me. The week after is Mary's Sunday, and I'm doing a solo bit. It was originally supposed to be all the women, but apparently it's too high for even the other sopranos to sing. So, naturally if you want someone to sing in the stratosphere, I'm your girl.

Robbie has his first band concert this Thursday. He's really happy right now, because the conductor has moved him up from last chair to 4th chair within his section. He's been practicing assiduously, and is amazingly good for having been at it such a short time. Unfortunately his Dad will still be in Brazil, but Grandpa and I will be there to cheer him on.

Last but not least, Sensei's knee surgery appears to have gone well. He should start PT sometime this week, though I haven't heard exactly when. He's bored with sitting around, though - I should make him learn to knit!

ps - happy 50th Robert! I hope your party was a blast!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Where we stand

'Cause God knows we're not driving - the car broke down this morning.

Tomorrow is a day for finding out things. In the morning our neighbor will take a look at the car and see if it's worth fixing (at 223,000 miles, it may just be a lost cause). In the afternoon, we have Dad W's first appointment with an oncologist, assuming I can fill in the somewhat sketchy information I have about who he's supposed to be seeing, where and when. Somewhere in the middle, Rob should get some information as to whether they're still looking for someone to fill an open technical position at the Louisville plant. Because today they asked him to stay in Brazil through Christmas - he's said no so far, but if his bosses insist it may become a case of stay or quit.

We finally got Dad W a local PCP this last week. He's a quiet sort, doesn't give you a lot of idea about what's going on in his head, but I think I like him. He seems to ask the right sort of questions, and he certainly moved fast enough on the oncology referral. His nurse was calling the clinic before we got out of the office, and they called us back to give us an appointment before dinnertime. Unfortunately it was Dad W who took the call, and he got a time and some confusing directions about getting paperwork from the PCP without getting a doctor's name, the address, or even the name of the place we were to go. All I got was "The Cancer Clinic, 1:45 Monday - oh and we should stop by the PCP half an hour earlier to fill out paperwork." So the first thing tomorrow is to get on the phone and get things straight.

The pathology report from Tennessee says metastasis, but just to be extra confusing it appears to be gall bladder or pancreas, not prostate. Nobody's seen any sign of a tumor on the pancreas, and Dad W hasn't had a gall bladder in about 12 years. My crystal ball says we're in for some more tests before the oncologist settles on a course of treatment.

Rascal the dachshund is pretty much as he was, except for the addition of dragging, licking and nibbling sores all over his rear. These have started to improve though, since we realized that it wasn't Rascal that was the problem, but rather that the other dachshund was gnawing on him when nobody was looking. Once we started keeping them separated the sore started to heal up. Poor dog, he's 14 - mostly deaf, mostly blind, arthritic and paralyzed with a heart murmur. He's not having a fun time of it. My choice would be euthanasia, but he's not my dog, so it's not my call to make. Though it is apparently my pee and poop to clean up, and for one little dog he can sure produce amazing quantities.

In some happier thoughts, I took some time Saturday to set myself up for the waiting room time I see in my future. I hit my favorite yarn store and bought yarn for five different projects: Some gorgeous stuff called Mesmerize for a Christmas top; lilac cotton for a summer T, cotton/linen for a knitted oxford shirt, black/gray merino for a hat for Robbie, and some really lovely garnet laceweight lambswool that I don't have a plan for yet - but I'll think of something. *rubs hands* Oh yes, my precious I'll think of something.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Sensei's ACL tear is confirmed. He's got surgery scheduled for Dec. 1. In a bit of serendipity, dojo classes were already canceled for December so he'll have some recovery time before even needing to teach from a bar-stool.

Dad W. made a stab at church today, but his stamina wasn't quite up to the task. Once he made it up the stairs to the communion rail (which took help), he couldn't make it back down without a rest, and ended up sitting with the choir until the end of service. We went straight home afterward and he took a 2-3 hour nap before rejoining the world. We have found a PCP here, and managed to move the transfer date for his insurance from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, so we should be able to get things moving on getting him treatment that isn't two states away.

Rascal has recovered some feeling in his rear legs, but still has no voluntary motion and has now developed a significant diarrhea. You do not wish to know what the house currently smells like - and just before the family arrives for Thanksgiving!

On that note, I'm cleaning like a mad-woman this week. I had been intending to do this more slowly over the course of November, but I think I can reasonably claim that other things took priority. But it can't be put off any longer. The best I'm hoping for is somewhere above "hovel".

And if anybody was wondering, no, I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I had been intending to, but it became obvious within the first few days of November that it just wasn't in the cards for 2009. Next year perhaps.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This month keeps getting better and better.

Take previous week, add Sensei blowing out his knee at the tournament this weekend (possible ACL tear, we'll find out more soon), and an elderly dachshund with a slipped disc (to add to his blindness, arthritis, and heart murmur). Shake vigorously. Can we skip to the next month yet?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Needfull Things

It's been a week. I could really have lived without this one.

The first and more minor news is that both boys and I have bronchitis. Dad, when he heard me coughing on the phone this afternoon, asked me if I was sure it wasn't pneumonia, so now I'm thinking I should probably haul the lot of us down to the doctor on Monday just to be on the safe side. Even if it's not, it's miserable. No other symptoms, just this hacking cough that produces gobs of phlegm and won't go away for anything. Yesterday I was coughing so much and so hard I was starting to get streaks of blood from my lovely raw throat. Neither Robbie or Aaron has gotten that bad yet, but they're certainly not happy campers.

In more major news, Dad W. apparently has liver cancer. Whether it's primary liver cancer or metastasized from elsewhere is unknown yet. Neither is exactly a good option. To make things even better, he's down at his old house by himself right now because his insurance doesn't switch up to this state until Jan. 1 - until then, everything but ER care has to be down there. After Jan. 1, of course, everything except ER care has to be up here. Which is going to be interesting to manage in the middle of cancer treatment. Right now we're trying to figure out how to get him back up here, since he drove down, but post-biopsy isn't in good shape for driving back up. We were going to go get him this weekend, but he hasn't been released yet, and Monday Rob leaves for Brazil. At this point we're thinking we'll have him fly up, and we can retrieve his truck at a later point. My Brother-in-law may fly down to escort him, which would be welcome. I think Dad W. can probably use all the support and family contact he can get right now. Once he's here, I can provide attention and care, but with no extended family here, there's simply no way I can drive down and collect him by myself.

I hope to God Rob doesn't catch this bronchitis just as he's traveling, or Dad W. once he's back up here. That would be all either one of them would need.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Busy Signal

Wow - I looked, and can't believe it's been a solid month since I last posted.

As one might surmise, life has been busy this last little bit. Rob has been alternating his time between out of state and out of country, with only little bits of time - never more than a week, usually about three days - at home in between trips. It looks to continue this way until mid-December. Whereupon, he's planning to take off the entire latter half of the month. We will note that when he's on the road, he works seven days a week, no weekends or days off - and on his last stop home, he worked two of the three days he was home. They'd better give him that two weeks off, or he's going to fall over soon.

I'm playing organ Sunday, my third time doing so. This time it's just prelude (Finlandia by Sebelius) and postlude (Toccata in E-minor by Pachelbel). I have started working on hymns, though, so I will probably start doing some of those sometime soon. I was going to do the entrance hymn this Sunday, but it simply isn't ready. At best the pace could be described as funereal. I was shocked by how difficult is was to play a hymn "properly" on the organ, as opposed to simply playing it as if I were at a piano. The sound is very different - and like anything when you dissect it to improve it, it falls apart in the middle. Suddenly I can't even play the hymn pianistically anymore, even though I could sight-read it pretty well a week ago. Roger has told me to pick out five hymns I want to learn to start with, and start playing around with them to get the hang of organ distribution (S in right hand, AT in left, B in foot). Give me a month or two, and I might get somewhere.

Somewhere, Karen (my piano teacher of ten years as a kid) would be laughing herself sick at me right now. She was continuously frustrated because my practicing was so sporadic. I would practice when I had a piece I really wanted to learn, and just do enough to get by the rest of the time. Now I'm putting in 90 minutes to three hours every day and it's not enough! I'm not getting this down fast enough. If I could revert to the schedule I had as a kid, I'd probably be putting in 4 or more hours a day.

On the karate front, the Lennox Legacy tournament is getting close. I'm brushing up Chinto and Tokumine no kun for my kata, and we're doing a lot more sparring practice. This year, all of our teenaged boys have suddenly shot up, so that while I still outmass them all, suddenly there are two more people in the dojo who have height and reach on me, and another who's close to my height. Fortunately for me, if not for them, they haven't quite figured out what to do with the extra leg and arm length yet.

I'm a little nervous that I may end up as a ring judge at Lennox. Based on past years, it's fairly likely that if I'm at all willing, I'll be used. I can handle judging sparring as a corner judge, but the idea of judging katas makes me uneasy. I know what I tend to look for in a good kata, but converting that into a number score? Not a clue.

Dad Wood heads off back to TN next week, and Rob is out until Halloween, so it's a week of just me and the boys coming up. No guarantees on posting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New kata

Well, well. I was expecting, post shodan test, to be left alone to process for a while and not have any new kata thrown at me. Instead, Sensei has launched right off into showing me a new sai kata. I can't complain. I always love learning new things, and I'm liking this kata a lot, but I am rather surprised.

Chatanyara no sai is what I'm working on. It's easy to see why this one is a black belt kata. It has what appears to be a lot of repetition, but in the performance no two repetitions are the same. Not just the right-left-right changes of previous kata, but significant alterations more like a Bach theme-and-variations than a repetition. The linked video doesn't show this terribly clearly, due to the horrible quality, but unfortunately that's rather more the rule than not with footage of Master Shimabuku.

I seem to be picking up Chatanyara fairly quickly, but I can already tell what my big issue is going to be. It's supposed to be an aggressive, forward moving, fast kata. Sensei is already after me for my overly restrained motion. Much like Kusanku, which was good for teaching me to take up space (still working on that), this is going to be good for teaching me to show aggression and dominance. (Stop that Bill, I can hear you laughing from here!) I'm looking forward to getting the kata down so I can work on the style of it with some level of confidence and comfort.

In related news, Robbie has set his sights on the Lennox Legacy Tournament in Akron, OH the second weekend of November. It will be his first ever competition. Mommy will be going and competing also, as I do every year. I need to decide which empty hand kata I want to compete with and get cracking on dissecting it and putting it back together. Wansu, Sunsu, and Chinto would be the primary candidates. Wansu is my favorite, but also the earliest/least advanced of the katas. Sunsu I like very well, but it's also the one that gets used as a tie-breaker, so I'm not certain about using it for the primary competition (I.e. having never competed in the black belt rings before, I'm a little jittery about what's approved of vs. what's allowed). Chinto seems the most likely candidate.

Robbie will of course be competing with Seisan, the only kata he's going to have done by then. We also need to get him more comfortable with sparring. He's a bit prone to being either on full defense, warding off shots without making any himself, or full offense, throwing poorly aimed punches and kicks without any regard for whether he's opening himself up.

He's doing much better with his math now. We just got the next report, and he hasn't had any completely missed assignments since we talked to his teacher about his forgetfulness. I'm picking him up from school for this month, and making sure he has everything he needs before we leave school grounds. Once he gets reliable about packing his backpack correctly (right now he's getting it right about 2/3's of the time), he can go back to riding the bus. But at least now he's out of danger of getting himself booted from the advanced math class (You have to turn in 90% of your work with at least an 85% average to stay in.)

Aaron is dealing with a low-grade bug this week. We'll find out tonight if he can go back to school. He was running a fever last night, and the district rule is no fever for 24 hours without drugs, so while he seems to be feeling much better, if he shows any fever tonight, no school tomorrow. Fortunately, his grades are thus far ridonkulously high, so missing work isn't exactly an issue.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How do you tell?

We had a visitor to the dojo the other day. Without having seen him do anything but talk, I'm strongly inclined to write him off as a poseur - you know, the kind of dude who's convinced he's death on the hoof, but can be demolished by a 12-year old orange belt?

As it happens, there's some reasons I can pin down why I think that this time. The offers to show my sensei "some stuff he can probably use", when Sensei has been a black belt about five times longer than this guy has been in martial arts. The excessive, and somewhat random qualifications of the dude he claims as his teacher. And the fact that the last student from this particular teacher we had show up of an evening was exactly that sort of dude.

He's supposed to be coming by again, and we'll see if he lives down to my expectations, but I'm wondering why I'm quite so certain. Certainly there are teachers who have both good and bad students. Some of the cocky people convinced of their own deadliness are actually reasonably skilled - if not as skilled as they think they are, because nobody could be.

So, I guess my question of the evening (or early morning as the case may be) is this: Have you run into this sort of martial arts guy? What signs and symptoms did you notice?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I got to spend a couple hours at Sensei's basement dojo this weekend, getting in some learning time after spending the last couple of weeks teaching. He taught me the beginning of Chatan yara no Sai (which I am loving), and then we worked bunkai for the basics, using more variations in more depth than we have before. It was a nice mix of mental learning and physical practice, after the several months of almost straight physical drill running up to my shodan test.

Sensei had a DVD by an Isshinryu/Dillman karateka named Chris Thomas, and we worked those applications, seeing what worked for us, and what didn't (things like relative height were very relevant for some applications). We spend a good half-hour just on one five minute segment, so the DVD seemed very worthwhile, and I've put it on my Amazon wishlist, though it's a little outside my budget right this moment.

The title for this post though, comes from one of those enlightening moments when an explanation clicks and something finally makes sense. Sensei Thomas was showing a technique that included an extremely short range punch, and started talking about the difference between a push and a throw.

The human upper body is well put together for both throwing and pushing, but mechanically the two actions are quite distinct, even though they use the same body parts. To throw, the movement starts with the hips or with the feet, and travels up and out to the hands, almost like the crack of a whip. Pushing, however is almost the opposite motion. You don't start pushing a piece of furniture by throwing your hips into the action before your upper body is set. Instead, the upper body gets into frame (like a ballroom dancer's frame), and then the lower body and hips kick in to add the power.


Pretty much every hand technique we use boils down to an essential pushing movement, or an essential throwing movement. I knew that I had a much easier time making the connections from core to hand with some techniques than with others, but it hadn't hit me that it might be because things actually needed to happen in a different order. 'Throwing' motions have worked well for me for a while - I'm dangerous with a downward tetsui - but how often does one use that outside of board breaking? - while 'pushing' techniques have lacked that connected feeling more often than not.

So I've been having fun the last couple of days playing around with various techniques and the feel of pushing vs. throwing. It's already giving me a better feel for when to engage the hips - if only by giving me more notions on how to vary things when experimenting. If the advanced sessions continue this enlightening, it's going to be a fascinating year!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Four Lies and One Martial Arts Fact

Blame Martial Arts Mom for this one. One of the following is true. I will not be telling you which one.

1. My first sensei was Steven Seagal's bodyguard.

2. I once roomed with Michelle Yeoh at a national tournament - and I had no idea who she was until after I was back home.

3. My father once treated Chuck Norris after a drinking binge (when they were both in the Air Force).

4. I and my friend Chia were back-up singers for Jackie Chan on his album "Shangrila".

5. One episode of "Spencer for Hire" had several scenes located in my dorm room.

I'm not going to tag people, partially because I generally don't like to, and partially because virtually everybody I know in the martial arts blogs has already been tagged - but if you want to try this one, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Whoa! Teaching!

Well, it turns out that I've only even seen Sensei once since my test. Except for that once, I've either taught or co-taught (with Sensei D) every class. Four so far, with one more to go, since Tuesday is a scheduled night off for Sensei. In penance/reparation for this, Sensei is having me over for a private session tomorrow, so I get some learning time this week.

Not that teaching hasn't been its own learning experience. Trying to find things to keep our very mixed, but very small group occupied is rather entertaining. We've been doing a lot of creative sparring and some kata work, not as much drill as usual. Sensei D did a highly informative session on the details of kicking technique for roundhouse and front kicks, though I suspect a lot of it was lost on the yellow belts. Sensei D was taught in a very analytical dojo and it's always fascinating listening to him dissect out the details of any given technique. With any luck, though, Sensei should be back to teaching most classes after next week.

School is going well so far. Aaron's teacher is a sweetheart, and he likes her an awful lot. He's having his usual adjustment troubles - every year it takes him a few weeks to get back into school mode. Robbie is also doing well, except for band which has been a rough start. He was absent the day they distributed instruments, and when he came back on Monday, the band director thought he didn't have a flute. In fact, the band director had tucked Robbie's flute (rented through the school) into a locker and forgotten about it. So he's three days behind in learning how to get a note out of his flute. Topped off with talking in class (he spent most of one class sitting in the hall), and forgetting to bring me the paperwork to sign for two days - I don't think the director thinks very highly of Robbie right now. Robbie is practicing diligently, though, and doesn't seem to be holding a grudge (which is a relief, Robbie can be very unforgiving of adults he thinks are being unfair). With any luck, their relationship should improve as Robbie catches up with his bandmates.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sensei Cindy

Rob took some pictures of my black belt test - mostly at the end. Apparently phone cameras aren't too good at action shots so there's a lot of blurring, but several of them are fun anyway. This one is from the self-defense portion of the night. Mike, a very sweet TKD black belt is the guy going for a roll.

Last night was my first night teaching as a black belt. Sensei called (a whole five minutes before I headed out the door for class) to say he would be late, and possibly might not make it at all. Sensei D wasn't there when class time rolled around, so I was on.

I was surprised how much difference a week and a change of belt color made. I've taught classes now and then ever since I was a blue belt (and taught one as an orange belt, but that was special circumstances), so I wasn't expecting a change from prior experience. Instead, the students (all three of them, but still), treated me perceptibly differently, and perhaps in response I was a lot more confident. I tried several exercises I've known about for a while, but had never tried in class before. All of the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves and were learning things at the same time. I even got our teen brown belt guy to do a little bit of grappling and enjoy it - normally he responds to any teaching of joint locks, grappling, or escapes with barely concealed boredom.

Sensei D showed up very late in the class (last 20 minutes), but didn't join in. Instead he watched and took some photos with his phone, which he e-mailed to me later. He had no commentary on the class at all, which I will chose to interpret positively.

School started Wednesday. Both kids like their teachers thus far. Robbie had a bit of a bus disaster on day 1. He had never ridden a school bus before, so he hadn't realized he needed to remember the bus number (even though I told it to him at least three separate times). When he couldn't find his bus after school, he nerved himself up to ask the principal, but spoke so quietly that the man misheard him and put him on the wrong bus - not even one going to another part of our neighborhood, but one going to a completely different town. It took us about 90 minutes to retrieve him, during which both Robbie and Mommy were fairly upset. His bus number is written down in his school planner now, and day two went smoothly.

Aaron is trying out for the school cross-country team next week. I'll be flabbergasted, but extremely proud if he makes it on (endurance is a continuing problem for him). The elementary school open house is next Tues., but we haven't had any information about the middle school OH yet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I made it! I'm both wired and limp with relief right now, so excuse any babbling.

The test went very smoothly. The only kata I blipped on was Wansu, which seems ironic since it's my favorite kata and usually my best. I think because it is my favorite I wasn't worried about it and thereby didn't drill it as obsessively as the rest. Basically I put in double nukite instead of the empi (knife hands instead of an elbow strike), which is a move from Sunsu. I knew I had flubbed, but didn't interrupt the flow of the kata, and when Sensei asked at the end of the kata, I knew right where I had screwed up, so he seemed all right (other than teasing me about my nerves).

Self defense went very well. Rob got some good shots, so I'll put them up if he ever gets around to e-mailing them to me (camera phone). Oddly enough I did several notches better at self defense when paired with Mike (who is substantially bigger than me) than against smaller opponents. I did okay with everyone, but Mike went down clean and hard every time. I think when I'm dealing with somebody big, I don't waste any effort muscling through the technique, which is a definite fault of mine when dealing with smaller people (which is most of the other people in our dojo right now). Poor Mike! At least twice I took him down too fast for him to get his arm around and fall properly, so he was a little battered by the end of the evening. Fortunately he's a good sport.

Afterwards we trooped over to Sensei's for pizza, soda, and caipirinhas (an interesting drink involving lime juice, sugar, and cachacas - a Brazilian liquor Rob brought back from his last trip). We watched videos from the World Tournament - I really have gotten faster with my bo since then! I don't feel faster vs. my memory, but I look really slow to myself now. Watching me and the woman who took 2nd (I was 4th), I was struck that the difference all seemed to be speed and conviction. She did a lot more things wrong than I did, but she was fast and confident doing them, while I was hesitant looking, even as I was doing things correctly. It was interesting watching.

It's late, and I should head off for bed, but I'll leave you with the essay that I turned in last week. Some of it may seem familiar, as I borrowed ideas heavily from the essays I have put up here. Enjoy!

If I have sen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was onto something. All of us, every last one, owe much to the generations that have come before us. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the martial arts, none of which would exist without the masters who came before, who developed their arts, refined them, and passed them on.

Less obviously, we are equally dependent on those who came before who are not giants. For every giant of the past, there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands, who while not great themselves nonetheless learn and transmit, passing the martial arts on to their students who in their turn become teachers again. Not every martial art great began their learning at the feet of another giant – if only the giants taught, martial arts would have died out many times over.

Nor does every martial arts giant start out knowing what they will become (few of us ever do). Some never think of themselves as giants at all, but simply as a sensei, as any martial artist can be a sensei if they have the will to be so, a solid foundation to teach from, and a concern for the learning of those following after them.

I wasn't thinking of any of this when I walked into my first dojo in September of 1996. I had never heard of Isshinryu, or Tatsuo Shimabuku, or even Okinawan karate as distinct from other forms of karate. I barely knew there was a difference between karate, judo, aikido, and "all that other stuff"; it was all just martial arts to me. I went because my neighbor wanted to go and because I was curious, as I am curious about everything. If Trish had wanted to try a local pottery class, or ballroom dancing, or learning Latin, I would probably have gone along just as readily.

The first evening was stunning, in a more literal sense than that phrase is usually meant. Trish and I were given what amounted to a two hour intensive self-defense class. It didn't have a lot to do with the system of Isshinryu, except that like our style it was practical, direct, and occasionally brutal. By the end of the night I was probably two or three times more capable of defending myself against an attack than I had been when I walked in. I was also covered in bruises, and by the next morning so sore I could barely move.

It was when I came back the next night that I began to learn something of Isshinryu – how to chamber a kick, how to make a proper fist – all the minutiae that make up the letters of the Isshinryu alphabet. But over the next year and a half, the most important things I learned at Mr. Gabbard's dojo had to do with what I wasn't.

Firstly, I learned I wasn't a coward. I had always been afraid – not of pain, per se, but of my potential reaction to pain. That I would retreat, collapse, or otherwise behave shamefully in the face of it. At Gabbard's I learned that I could be hit and hit hard, and still come back fighting.

Secondly, I learned I wasn't very good at karate. That the analytical mind and sharp memory that carried me through school and in the work place was helpful, but not sufficient for karate. Regardless of how well my mind understood what I ought to be doing, it didn't mean that my body would follow through. It still took repetition, and drill, and getting it wrong many, many times before I could get it right. Isshinryu was hard. It didn't come naturally, and that wasn't something I was used to. Weirdly enough, this made it all the more interesting to me. Every step of improvement I had to earn and it felt like an accomplishment in a way that academics never had. Not being intrinsically good at karate didn't mean I had to be bad at it forever. It just meant that I had to work that much harder to become good.

Those lessons were the ones that stuck when I left the dojo. I got pregnant; we moved across the country, and I couldn't seem to find the opportunity to start at another dojo. My fitness levels dropped, I slowly forgot my hard-earned sparring skills, eventually I forgot how to do most of the kata, but I remembered what I could do when I put my time, effort and energy into it. Mr. Gabbard had given me my first view of a wider world of martial arts by letting me stand on the shoulders of his experience.

It was six years before I would restart my training in Isshinryu with a teacher quite different from Mr. Gabbard, and in a very different dojo. I started as a white belt again, which was appropriate given how much I had forgotten. Yet the white belt sat a little oddly, because I did still have those lessons from my first go-around that I had never lost.

As I began my karate journey again, the oddly sitting white belt began to teach me something itself. In my first incarnation as a karateka, I had not cared particularly about rank (or at least believed that I did not care). But as I began to dig my skills out of my rusty memory, I noticed something. I wasn't a white belt anymore, even though I wore one. It felt like I was playing pretend to wear it when I came to class, and I began to realize that I wanted my belt to reflect what I could do. That was when I realized that I did, after all, want a black belt. Not because I cared what color I had tied around my waist, but because I coveted the skills and mind-set that would make any other color seem as bad a fit as the white belt was at that moment.

So I began my climb back up, learning karate the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice. But this time, I had a more specific goal. If I wanted to be a black belt, rather than simply have one, what did that mean? What made someone a black belt?

Here, I ran into Mr. Rodeghier's oft repeated maxim "Black belt means sensei." He says it often enough that it clearly resonates with him, yet looking around the larger martial arts world it's easy to find people with black belts who are clearly not sensei. Some of them have formidable skills, far beyond what I have, yet those skills are not transmitted. Others, not always the most skilled themselves, are clearly fabulous sensei with a gift for teaching and transmitting the essence of their art. So, if black belt means sensei, and yet the two categories don't completely overlap, then what is the difference between them?

The difference is in the orientation. A black belt is a symbol of the skills acquired in your journey as a karateka. Not that it's the endpoint - far from it. But it symbolizes that you know the basics of your art; you are a serious student. To use an analogy, it symbolizes that you know your ABC's and have learned your spelling, and now you're ready to start writing. A sensei needs to know these things, but being a sensei has very little to do with what you actually know, and everything to do with who you feel responsible for. If black belt means sensei, it's because a sensei is a black belt who has looked beyond him or her self outwards to the students coming along behind and decided to take responsibility for helping them along the way. They put their students up on their shoulders and let them see further than would be possible otherwise.

I stand where I stand on my Isshinryu journey because of my sensei. Regardless of where my journey takes me from here I want to emulate them, to boost the people who come after me along their own ways. Because even if we are not all giants, it is still a worthy goal to have shoulders strong enough to stand on.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One Week And Counting

We're getting close. Very, very close. I turned in my black belt essay Thursday evening, and am holding my breath waiting for Sensei's opinion on it. I'll post it up here once the test is over, but if anyone would like an advance peek, just let me know, and I can probably e-mail you a copy. I've now gone over all the required bits for my test with Sensei privately on about four separate occasions, so it's pretty clear that I know what to do. The only thing left is to practice, practice, and then practice some more.

I've done three rounds of Sanchin with beatings thus far, and so far so good. Sensei and the other testers have not been hitting as hard as they will on the test (I have no idea who will be beating on me at the test.), but I've also had at least a little room for harder hits in all the rounds so far. I definitely got some interesting looks and questions this last Sunday at church when I wore a sleeveless blouse without thinking much of it, and there were clear fist imprints on both arms. Oops!

I don't know how many people will be there at all. At a minimum we'll have the current students (about eight all told), Rob, Dad Wood & the boys. At a max, we could be adding several people from the TKD studio we shared space with before (they've got the time & place, and several people have said they wanted to come), some of the previous students who know me, and possibly some non-karate friends as well. So it could be a tiny little group, or a fair shindig. We'll be putting down the padded floor, which is good, both for my knees sake, and for the people I'll be dumping on it during the self-defense test. I've long noticed that when I strain my knees doing Kusanku, it's invariably when I'm working on a surface I'm afraid to come down on. So for practice purposes, I currently only go all the way down kneeling when I'm on a soft floor, or when I'm outside - this seems to be working well so far. I haven't had any knee twinges in a couple of months.

The upcoming test is rather eating my life right now. Everything I plan to do seems to start with "After the 21st..." Fortunately the boys don't go back to school until the 26th, so I'll have five days to get them situated for supplies afterwards. Registration is this coming week, though, so I'll have to deal with that.

Robbie earned back his right to wear his yellow belt on Tuesday, and is (rightfully) pleased with himself. He forgot remarkably little for almost three years off. Sensei says he can start on Seisan on Tuesday, which is good, because he's quite bored with the Taikyoko's at this point, and Robbie bored is never good for discipline.

If I remember correctly, though, my brown belt test got almost two months of extra good behavior out of the boys (something about Mommy smashing through concrete). I wonder if this test will have any similar salutory effects?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Official

August 21, 2009

That's my test date for my black belt. Sensei and I have been talking about the end of August for a couple of months now, but last week he finally said that August 21 was the date. For the last several weeks (barring the family reunion, when my cousin took over duties (Thanks, Jim!)), I've been having a extra private session each week with Sensei. He seems very confident for me - which is good, because my confidence seemed to fly out the window as soon as he gave a specific date.

This last session we started the stress testing of Sanchin kata. Just Sensei, thumping me at about 2/3 power right now (as opposed to the four people who get to have at during the test). I'm middling pleased with how I did - no faltering or loss of concentration - but I did get rocked back on my heels with a couple of the ab punches, so that's something to work on.

That was yesterday. Today was regular class which was primarily sparring. This was fairly painful, since I had plenty of nice fresh bruises to get re-thumped. And of course, I had given my e-balm to Sensei D some time ago, to see if it would work on his burn scars, which react badly to most moisturizers. E-balm, is short for Everything Balm, which comes from Goodies Unlimited, and is absolutely wonderful stuff. Works on most skin problems, non-toxic enough you can even use it on canker sores inside your mouth, and the best stuff I've ever found for bruises. Takes a lot of the tenderness away, and seems to speed up the healing process. Since I'll be adding new bruises to these this weekend, I think ordering more balm was warranted.

So for the next three weeks - lots of practice, lots of getting thumped, more practice. My neighbors are getting so used to seeing me waving weapons around in the front yard that they've stopped even noticing.

In other news, Nicky's hind end paralysis, after a brief rally, seems to be here to stay. Other than the dragging rear he seems to be fairly happy, so we've ordered a doggy cart to see if he'll deal with being a wheeled critter. If it works, he should have several more years. The cart was shipped today, and should arrive sometime next week.

Organ is going well - I played half the service on Sunday (and received half the pay, my first organ paycheck!), which went quite well. The painist who played the other half (who is an intimidatingly awesome player) was quite complimentary, as was pretty much everyone in the congregation. Now I get to ease off until after Labor Day, which is good because, you know, there's enough on my plate just this second. I'll still put in my daily practice, but I'll back down to an hour, instead of two or three. More practice time for kata!

Three and a half weeks - Eeeeek!

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm going to hate Sensei in the morning.

Sensei has set up a training space in his basement. Today I went over for a little under two hours to go over my katas. Plus a little heavy bag training, mostly to see if I get faster when I'm tired (answer: no - but I don't get slower either). I feel like we accomplished a lot, but I am completely wrung. There's a huge difference between two hours in the dojo with all the other students, usually with some teaching intersperced, and two hours directly under Sensei.

Overall both I and Sensei are reasonably pleased. My kicks seem to have achieved a good speed (I was getting audible snap from my yoga pants, which seems a fair accomplishment). My hands are still lagging. They seem to move faster in combinations, but still not fast enough even then. Outside of that, most of the corrections are minor - improvements rather than corrections per se. The only kata he really panned was Kusanku Sai, panned for lack of energy (it was the very last kata we worked on). It suffered for it's position, but also just for sheer lack of confidence in it. I know the kata, but my gut doesn't believe that I know the kata, so I hesitate, and it shows.

Tomorrow we head off for the family reunion. I'm bringing my weaponry, and I'm afraid my various relations are just going to have to put up with me doing my practice. It's looking like the end of August (somewhere between the 21st and the 30th) is it, and I can't afford to miss the days.

Unfortunately the reunion does not come with available organ. My teacher (and our church organist) will be out of town the Sunday following the reunion (I.e. in two weeks). Since neither of us reserve organists is quite up to the job right now, we're splitting duties. The other guy is playing the hymns and service music, and I'm playing prelude, offertory, and postlude. Which is great, except that only one of those (the prelude) is in decent shape to play right now. The offertory is rough and slow, though coming along. The postlude is in lousy shape (Hey, I've only been working on it for a week!), fortunately, it's only got three measures that are truly problematical. If I had the full two weeks to practice, I'd be pretty confidant. Unfortunately, I'm only going to get six days from now, and that's much less confidence-inspiring.

Deep breath. For the reunion itself, I'm going to try not to worry - or at least only worry about karate, since I can do something about that. I'll just have to practice my fingers off once I'm back. It's only four pages of music. I can perfect four pages of music in a week, right?

I'll see everyone (in a manner of speaking) in a week!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

World Tournament AAR

Hey look! I said I'd post, and this time I'm actually posting again in a reasonable time-frame. Go me!

Since it's about the furthest thing back on my list, I should probably start with the Isshinryu World Tournament rundown - before I forget what happened.

Most of our dojo went to the World Tournament this time around, which was really nice. The only people missing were A, who only just got his yellow belt and has never been to a tournament, and Sensei D, who was planning on going (he was actually the first of us to register), but cancelled at the last moment due to unspecified conflicts. As a group, we did well - everybody brought home at least one earned souvenir. I'm especially proud of our teenaged brown belt guy. The tournament folks screwed up his registration (there was a lot of that going around), and he ended up being the first to go in his division, which seemed to throw him off his game. His kata wasn't half as good as I've seen him do it, and his weapons work wasn't stellar either - but when kumite came around he really pulled himself together. I had been worried about T in kumite. He's only in his division by about a month, and he's not generally an aggressive fighter. So, pretty much every other competitor was bigger and more aggressive than he was (advanced 15-16 boys is usually one of the most aggressive divisions going). Instead of being intimidated, he kept his head, played it strategically, and came home with a third place.

I don't remember everyone's placements, but J (brown belt girl) brought home a second (or possibly third) place in kata, and one of our kids came in fourth in kata using Naihanchi!

R (the other adult woman) and I were both in the same ring in sequential divisions. I'm not sure what was going on with our judges, but something was funky. We started with four judges (for those not familiar, a standard panel is five), and then they found another black belt they wanted to be on the panel, and tried to boot one of the four existing judges to put him on. It was strange. Sensei comments that the panel was pretty much entirely novice judges, and it certainly felt that way. During R's kumite, the center judge was making some very odd calls (failing to count his own opinion towards the three necessary for a point, for instance), and R reports the same for my rounds of kumite (When I'm in the ring all I pay attention to is whether I'm fighting or stopping; everything else is distraction). Sensei commented (with apologies, since he was doing the same thing) that as the day wound down, more and more of the experienced judges were deciding that they'd done their bit and calling it a day. Intermediate and advanced senior women were two of the last groups to go, so apparently we were down to the more eager but very inexperienced for our panel.

As I noted in the last entry, besides the third in kumite, I was fourth in weapons, and probably fourth in kata (I didn't check the recorder's entries, but that's where my informal score reading would have put me.). So first - NOT LAST in kata!!!! Wooot! (For those of you who haven't been reading since forever, I've finished last in kata in any Isshinryu-only tournament I enter for something like the last four years.) I talked to a couple of my judges afterwards, and what they said pretty much reflected the scores - middle of the pack. One particularly helpful judge noted that I was past the point of doing things wrong that had to be fixed, instead there are right things that I'm failing to do which could make my kata better.

In weapons, Sensei did peek over the recorder's shoulder and says I was .025 out of the medals. He was very happy with my weapons performance (says that if it were up to him, I'd have placed second), so I'm pretty happy myself.

I attended two seminars the day before the competition. One was by Hanchi Duessel, which was informative, as always. We covered Seiuchin and Sanchin katas, with a particular emphasis on "thumbs down" - meaning the extra torque to the hand that can lock in some techniques. The second seminar had been scheduled to be taught by Master Shimabuku, but he had cancelled due to concerns with his wife's health and the Swine Flu epidemic (which seems a hell of a lot more real since one of Rob's co-workers died (in Brazil) a couple of weeks ago). The seminar was taught instead by Kyoshi Wallace. I've seen Kyoshi Wallace before, assisting at Hanchi Duessel's seminars, but never seen him teach. He gave an excellent seminar - more listening and less physical than Duessel's, but highly informative. He covered quite a bit, what I remember most was about the mechanics of proper breathing (something I think is far too often ignored, possibly because of my own background in singing).

Kyoshi Wallace turned out to be staying on my floor in the hotel (unnerving to discover at 7:30am with your arms full of donuts). I saw him several times as we both popped in and out, and then I went and told him how much I had enjoyed his seminar during the after party. He was very gracious, and talked to me for quite a little while.

The hotel was nice, but a bit disappointing as the promised pool was still under construction, and as the parking added quite a bit to the final bill ($27/day for the parking), without being noted anywhere I saw beforehand. The boys were exceptionally good, and Robbie came down to see the Grand Champion portion of the competition, which seems to have cemented his desire to come back to class. When we checked out, I left him and Aaron guarding the luggage while I went to the front desk, and came back to find him deep in conversation with Hanchi Duessel, who was waiting for his daughter to pick him up.

In general, a good time was had by all. The 2011 World Tournament will be in Indianapolis, which is only about 90 minutes from here, and I'll definitely be going. Here's hoping that Master Shimabuku can make it this time!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Massive Updatery

Okay, I've been seriously lax, for which I apologize. My excuse is that about three million things have happened since my last post and I've been running around like a mad thing. My computer is beginning to make sad, forlorn noises at me, probably from the sheer neglect. I'll give the overview here, and then try to make more specific posts on each topic over the next few days - it should provide enough material for some time.

In roughly chronological order:

Nicky is not doing very well. He took a turn for the worse just before I left for my trip, and had slid even more by the time I got home. At this point he has no use of his hind legs, and frequently doesn't even twitch them when walking with his hind end supported. He's got some bad sores from scraping skin off dragging himself around the house (They're healing since I got home, and I'm not terribly pleased with my cadre of doggie watchers for letting them get so bad.) A lot of his fate is going to depend on if and how much he recovers, especially since is front end is so deformed (puppy-ricketts) that I doubt it will hold up for very long under the extra strain.

The World Tournament, on the other hand, went very well indeed. I brought home one very large trophy (3rd place kumite), and am generally pleased with how things went both for me, and for our dojo. Sensei appears to concur.

Visits went quite well, despite (and occasionally because of) their whirlwind nature. We got to spend another overnight in the Boston Museum of Science, which is all kind of cool, and was much more comfortable for Mommy this time, with a sleeping bag and a mat - bare floors with no pillow or covers was not a winner the previous time. I got to see my friend Beth preach, which I had not gotten to see before (she was ordained last spring). That woman can preach! I can safely say she's gotten over her fear of public speaking.

Our church organist's father died while I was gone. This was not unexpected. The timing was absolutely horrible for him, but actually pretty good for me (which makes me feel rather guilty). Because I wasn't there, I didn't have to do an emergency service - which I am not ready for - and because he is moving right now, he is in town more than he was intending to be in the aftermath, and therefore I'm not having to half-ass my way through any services, but will just be playing some individual pieces, which is not a problem. I expect it will be another six months to a year before I really feel comfortable taking over a series of services - I.e. able to play all relevant service music, and learn a service's worth of hymns in one week, plus enough of a repertoire of pre- and postludes to last several weeks.

The family reunion starts a week from tomorrow, and Rob did no laundry while I was gone, so I'm in a mad scramble to catch up from the trip and then get us ready to go again. I'll get to see both brothers, which is awesome, and I should get to go over my katas with my cousin Jim (a black belt in two different disciplines), which I'm much looking forward to.

And last, but definitely not least THE BOOK IS OUT!!!!!! Alien Hand Syndrome and Other Too-Weird-Not-To-Be-True Stories has hit the bookshelves. My mother reports that Borders (at least in her area) has it in stock. I have two articles, my first ever paid & published articles, in it. It's fun stuff so you should all run out and buy yourselves copies!

And that's the current rundown. I'll give each of these the full post it deserves over the next few days, but at least now you know what's going on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crossing Fingers

Well, yesterday was more interesting than we bargained for. At suppertime Monday, Nicky wouldn't come down the stairs, so Dad Wood put on his leash and dragged him down (I wasn't home, and I'm a bit ticked at him for this). That night, Nicky was more restless than usual, not moving around, but shifting and whining softly. In the morning, he couldn't get his hind feet under him, and if I lifted him onto his feet, he would sag sideways. Testing him at the vets shows that while he still has muscle control, he's lost proprioception - the ability to tell where his hind feet are. Without that, he can't place his feet properly or make corrections to keep himself upright.

The vet say he has a bulging disc and has put him on Prednisone. If it's going to help, then he should show improvement in the next 48 hours. If it doesn't help, then we start discussing whether we have the money for back surgery for a basset. Cross your fingers, please!

Monday, June 08, 2009

It's Summertime, Summertime, Sum-sum-summertime!

Well, after being put off for a week to make up for excessive snow days, the boys had their official last day of school on Thursday. Rob was unable to make Robbie's elementary school graduation (helpfully held in the middle of the morning), but Dad W. and I were there. Robbie received the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, which came with a certificate and a letter from the President. He was amazingly excited about this, and we go looking tomorrow for an appropriate frame to stick them in. The award is pretty stringent - A's in all subject all year (not the average, no B's allowed), and a Pass-plus in both segments of the ISTEP, which is the Indiana standardized testing protocol. The girl who lives behind us is the only other student to be both a member of the Gifted & Talented group, and to receive the award. She might as well have just stood up for the entire ceremony, as she received just about every award the school had to offer except the sports awards.

Aaron had a rougher ending of the school year, by being out sick from the second to last Friday, straight through until the last four days. He rounded out the last four days by being sent home both Monday and Tuesday for throwing up, as the sore throat he had all the previous week seemed to have left his gag reflex in hyper mode. He's a pretty gaggy kid anyway, and this last week, pretty much anything would make him gag and throw up. So his last complete day was Wed., because then we had a doctor's appointment on Thursday. Ironically, it was nothing to do with his week of being sick, being a well-child check-up to follow up on his occupational therapy. When we made the appointment, the last day of school was still the week before, and the boys' pediatrician has a 2-3 month lead time on well-child visits, so rescheduling wasn't really optimal.

So Aaron was feeling pretty grumpy about his last week of school, and who could blame him? This all changed Saturday when we got a letter from the school telling us that his teacher had recommend him to the Gifted & Talented program. This doesn't mean automatic entry, but it's a big vote of confidence from his teacher (she didn't recommend Robbie when he was in her class, interestingly enough). He'll be tested in depth at the beginning of the school year and if he does well enough, then he'll be put in the G&T group. I hope he does get in. It's been a great experience for Robbie, once he was put in by his fourth grade teacher (who snuck him into the sessions on the side while pushing for him to be tested for entry). Aaron's so used to having more trouble in school than Robbie, because of his difficulties with writing and coordination, that to be put forward on his own merits earlier than his brother was is just the coolest thing he can imagine.

It's going to be a busy summer with the boys. In about two weeks (EEEK!!), we leave for the Isshinryu World Tournament. This will be followed by a whirlwind trip up to Boston and NYC, and back home for about three weeks, then over to the family reunion in TN, and another couple weeks after that, they'll be done with the summer. During the time we're actually home, the plan is piano for Aaron, guitar for Robbie, swimming and bowling for both kids, and karate, karate, karate for Mommy - with sides of organ. It's looking like my black belt test will probably be in mid-late August, to give things time to settle down after the mad running around. This gives me 11-12 weeks to get ready, which terrifies me just slightly. I know all the things I need to know. Sensei has seen and passed everything I need to do at least once. I have at least first drafts of all my three essay topics - except that Sensei just told me he only wants one paper, so now I have to figure out how to combine them!

In some ways, it's the nebulousness of the progress I need to make by August that's scaring me. There are very few specifics that everyone agrees need work (except the omnipresent "More speed!"), more that everything needs to be smoother, sharper, more focused - more something. There's nothing left to learn that's so specific that I can point to it and say, "okay, I've got that down, show me something else." It's all incremental improvement from here.

For example, speed is about the most concrete thing I have left to work on. It's universally agreed to be one of my weakest points. The other day, both black belts watched me do Tokumine no Kun for the first time in a couple of weeks, and both looked at each other and told me "Hey, that was faster! Good job!" Which was great, except that I had had no perception that I was any faster than I had been before. I had been working on the kata, and working on my speed generally, and working on my speed in the kata, but I had no inkling that I had actually gotten faster with my bo until someone outside told me so. I feel like I'm fumbling in the dark, just trusting that if I work on what I'm being told to work on, I will improve as a result.

I really hate not being able to guage my progress, and I hate even more the panicky feeling that stems from coming up on being tested on exactly that progress I can't guage. But there's not much help for it unless I decide to stay a brown belt forever, and Sensei just might have to shoot me if I did that.

Expect some amount of grumbling and panic on this front for the next twelve-or-so weeks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

That Was Satisfying

I jumped the gun on my family today, and went to see the new Star Trek movie. Rob was not all that interested in seeing it in the theater and was waiting until his father got it on video (as he inevitably will), while Dad W. desperately wants to see the movie - preferably with P (the previously temporary neighbor), but with me if P is not available.

Perhaps because my days of Trekkie-hood stem from high school and before I met Rob, let alone his father, I really wanted to savor the movie by myself first, though. I kept intending to see it last week, but the kids were sick in sequence (they're fine now), and movie-going just wasn't happening. So this morning I played hooky on my organ practice and went off to see the earliest Trek showing.

The movie has it's faults, and I'm not blind to them. Nonetheless, it was a very satisfying Trek experience. They captured the flavor of the original series (TOS) extremely well. Sure, there were plot holes and some very transparent techno-babble, but heck, TOS frequently had plot holes you could drive whole fleets through, and the term "techno-babble" largely originated with TOS, where the writers would simply write what they needed to have happen, and the actors would insert whatever sciency-sounding gobbledygook would sound good.

(spoilerish stuff ahead) One of the things I'm finding amusing is that the Mark 2 history for James T. Kirk actually fits with the behavior of Captain Kirk in TOS better than the official history of Captain Kirk in the Mark 1 universe. Captain Kirk TOS, was very much a maverick, feeling free to ignore orders and directives pretty much at his whim, though he was good enough at pulling it off to get away with it. Yet the Mark 1 history for Captain Kirk shows him as a pretty conventional kid - entered Star Fleet Academy at normal times, and with a few exceptions (Kobiyashi Maru, anyone?), having a stellar, yet not particularly mavericky career as a student. The Mark 2 universe makes Kirk much more of a rebel from the get-go, and one who makes Captain by breaking practically every rule Star Fleet ever wrote (in his first three days in space, no less), but making it pay off in a big way. A Captain who gains his place by making those sorts of gambles in the first place is much more likely to continue to make them later in his career, than one who was promoted up through the ranks in more normal fashion - however fast he managed it.

A minor kudo to the make-up people for the movie. It's darned refreshing to see people who get beat up in a movie still sporting bruises, cuts, and black eyes 2-3 days later in the movie time-frame. This movie didn't suffer from the Kevin Costner effect, wherein all damage inflicted is magically removed by the next scene - so named for the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie, wherein three seconds after a dunking him in a river, dear Mr. Hood's hair is dry and styled.

All-in-all, if you liked TOS, and aren't either so wedded to it that you find the making of a reboot an offense, or such a fan of the offshoots like DS9, that you're annoyed they'd waste time on a TOS reboot, this is probably worth watching. I was smiling for the rest of the afternoon - and I'll go watch it again when Dad W. goes without the least problem.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

New Skills Abound

Life has gotten pretty busy lately. Adding in a 90 minute daily stint on the organ (with a 15 minute drive there and back again) has definitely put a dent in my daily available time. It's fun to be practicing with a purpose again, though.

I find the timing interesting, though. My keyboard skills had largely stagnated for about five years. I would sit down and play now and again. Once or twice I tried to work up my skills, but the effort always floundered within a few weeks. Then, a little before Christmas, Rob found an on-line music shop with sheet music for some of my favorite pieces, and got me two books of New Age piano music as one of my presents. When I pulled out Christofori's Dream, I was startled to find that it was actually a fairly simple piece - one I would have not bothered with under other circumstances, because I always felt I was required in some way to push my skill level. But it was a present, and it was (and is) perhaps my favorite piece of piano music of all time. So I gave myself permission to put in the time to practice it.

And then I realized what I had been doing. Every time I would try to "work up my skills" I would ignore the music I actually loved in favor of doing the music I "ought" to do. No wonder I was getting bored and wandering off within a few weeks! So I started playing what I wanted to, and I started playing every day. And my skills started improving again, despite my not working on 'challenging' pieces. And a few months later, I was offered the chance to become the reserve organist at my church with free organ lessons thrown in the bargain.

Ironically, this means I'm back to doing a lot of obligation music, but when it's to a specific purpose (if you're playing for an Episcopal mass, you had better know "Let Us Break Bread Together), it's a bit different than playing stuff simply because I "ought" to.

It'll be a few weeks at the very least before I'm up for playing a full service, even with plenty of lead time, but it's good to be back and playing again.

Also on the music front, Robbie's guitar lessons continue to go well. He sometimes needs reminding to practice, but I've never had to twist his arm. A reminder is sufficient. We're considering starting Aaron on keyboard this summer while his OT is off on maternity leave. I'm not certain he's ready yet, but a three month trial should be sufficient to find out, and it will give him something to do that's also good for his finger strength and coordination. And if he is ready, then it's worth a little scrimping to keep him going when his OT gets back (we'll pay for the initial set of lessons with the money that would have gone to the OT co-pay).

M has been back to class at the dojo about 4-5 times so far. It's a little strange, because he doesn't really join in much. If we ask, he'll teach - usually something from jujitsu, rather than Isshinryu, but if we don't ask, then he usually goes off to the side and does his own practice rather than joining in the class activity, whatever it happens to be. I'd still like it if he became a regular, but I'm wondering if he really has any intention of really joining in, or if he's just out to use the space. He does teach readily if asked, though, and he chock-full of interesting, useful stuff to learn, so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt unless he starts becoming detrimental to the class at large.

Only a little over a month to go to the World Tournament now. Apparently the state of the economy is really hurting attendance, which is a shame, but I'm still really looking forward to it. Now if I can only achieve my standing ambition of not finishing dead last in kata. I have a video of myself performing Sunsu, which is my intended kata for the tournament. If I can figure out how to put it up, I will.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kiss of Death

That's what my father-in-law has taken to calling me lately, and rather what it feels like to me.

For some reason a lot of people I know peripherally are either getting sick or dying. None of them are close friends, no relatives, nothing terribly traumatic for me (as opposed to their friends and family, some of these are major tragedies), but the aggregate of sheer numbers is starting to get to me.

To stick to this week alone: Sunday, my FIL's lady friend landed in the ICU with congestive heart failure and is now scheduled for a valve replacement. Tuesday my yoga teacher's father (met once) died. And Friday our neighbor across the street died. None of these people had known problems a week ago. Our neighbor is particularly shocking. He was only five years or so older than Rob & I, and while he was on disability for a bad back, there was nothing known wrong that should have caused a sudden death. Rob & I are trying to figure out what we can do for his wife & kid (he had a 14-year old boy). Offers of "anything we can do" all to often turn out to mean nothing because people don't want to impose, so we're trying to think of something more concrete we can offer.

I was very glad to get to a particularly vigorous karate class last night, I needed the sheer physical work to shake my head clear. M was back again, and Sensei had him teach part of the class, which became a quickie primer on jiu-jitsu style ground work. Fascinating and vigorous, even if it gives me a somewhat sore neck this morning, due to working on fending off a full-speed/force choke attempt.

Other random news - Robbie is signed up for band in middle school next year. He'll be playing flute. Rob has started adding fish to his salt water tank: chromis, clownfish, niger, and a white-tail angel fish. And Dad W. has got to get a hobby or something, because I'm starting to feel like I have a retired husband - but I never married this guy!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Return of the Routine

This is the first week in a month where I've actually managed to get back into my usual exercise routine, and it felt really good - sore muscles and all. Between Dad W. moving in, straining the tendon in my foot, having Aaron come down with strep, vacation, and other general life stuff, the morning couple of hours at the gym just hasn't been happening.

Most especially it's been an excellent week for karate. Tuesday was a straight up fight night, and I found a new strategy that's working nicely for the moment. We'll see how long it takes my fellow karateka to figure out what I'm doing. Essentially, I've been a consistent left-sided fighter for the last several years. I much prefer to kick left-footed, and in keeping that side forward, I've become more comfortable with my left hand than with my right as well (I'm ambidextrous in the rest of my life). Which has led to not using my right side adequately, and in particular never throwing my otherwise good reverse punch.

Well, in trying to even up and keep the right side forward, I discovered that precisely because I'm more comfortable and quick with my left, if my right side is forward, I do use my left reverse punch. Sensei is thrilled (he's been yelling at me to use my reverse for ages now), but hasn't yet realized why I've suddenly gotten the hint. Even better, because he's used to my left side being my preferred side, he keeps maneuvering around to my right and setting himself up *evil grin*.

We've switched from a Thursday to a Friday class, and not everybody has made the schedule switch yet. So we were missing several people Friday, and as it shook out, we had a brown belt only class - which meant we went over in detail exactly everything I've been needing to go over. I polished up the last little bit of both Kusanku and Kusanku Sai that I was dicey on (different spots, oddly enough), got a good viewing and critique of Tokumine no Kun (Bo kata) and Sunsu, and got to practice the last three self-defense sequences - which until Friday I could only practice with Sensei because the other brown belts hadn't been taught them yet.

Generally, I'm extremely pleased with how my kata are shaping up. I need to be careful on Tokumine no Kun - apparently my jo-length practice staff (for indoor practice) is giving me bad habits, like a too narrow grip - but my memory of it is solid. Everything I need to know is in there solidly now, it's just polish, polish, polish. Plus working on speed and snap.

I will say that ending up back where I started with Sunsu is driving me a little crazy though. It seems like 90% of the kata is spent moving forward, with very little backward motion, yet somehow I need to end up exactly where I bowed in. I've improved over the last couple of weeks, going from ending up five feet forward and three right to only two feet forward and one right, but it's still not close enough. That I get 1-2 practice sessions a week where I can accurately track my starting and finishing positions isn't helping any - but I'll get there. Thank God ending where I started isn't a requirement for the weapons katas.

In other news, Robbie is doing extremely well with his guitar lessons this time around. What a difference a year makes! Last year he had to be threatened or bribed into practicing and just never developed much forward momentum, so after six months we gave up. This year he wanted to start again. We told him that if we were going to pay, he needed to practice. Well, he's holding to his side of the bargain. He's missed maybe three days of practice in the last six weeks, and he's improving by leaps and bounds. His teacher is telling me pretty much weekly what a wonderful memory Robbie has, and how amazingly fast he's progressing. Even more interesting, the middle school where he'll go next year has free music lessons for band instruments. Robbie wants to take percussion and seems completely unfazed by the idea that this means practicing two kinds of instrument each day. I'm crossing my fingers that this works out - especially as rhythm is the one thing Robbie is having consistent trouble with (in the more problematic "can't hear what he's doing wrong" mode, rather than the "can hear the problem but can't seem to fix it") Percussion training could do wonders for him in short order if things go right.

The dogs are settling into their new pack order. Unexpectedly, Nicky (up until now known as the world's most submissive dog), has stepped up and started enforcing his standards of behavior. This has resulted in a blissfully quick drop in the amount of barking around here, as Nicky *does not approve* of random noise for no good reason. The ultimate shake out seems to be that Rascal (henceforth known as the WLD or Wee Little Doggie for his unfortunate attitude towards house-breaking and marking) is technically alpha dog, but largely ignored by the others because he's elderly and simply doesn't get around much. The WLD still barks the house down regularly, but as Nicky steps up as the de facto pack leader, the other two are starting to walk away when the WLD gets going instead of joining him.

There's no two ways about it, though. We're going to have to replace the carpets in this house when the dog situation is history. They're already past salvage (not that they were in great shape before), and we've only had the full pack for a month.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Random musings

I'm still here. I'm not quite sure why I haven't been posting these last few weeks (except for the week I wasn't home, that was obvious), but coming here and writing a blog post has just not tended to even occur to me while I'm sitting at the computer this last little bit.

It might have something to do with there being simultaneously too much and too little going on. I.e. there's a lot of stuff that keeps me busy, but it's all stuff that either makes for boring blog entries (like the various complications of getting my FIL stashed up here with us from TN), or I've discussed before.

Today's my fortieth birthday, and it feels like that ought to mean something. Like I should have my life together by now, or at least have a firm direction. I mean a 40-year-old ought to know what she wants to be when she grows up, right? But like topics for blog posts, there's simultaneously too much and too little. Many, many things I would love to do or be, but none that has that deep drive that would compel me in that one direction.

Maybe it's my mid-life crisis - in which case a month of dithering in a circle instead of blog posting is probably getting off easy.

The actual day today has been pretty nice. I made pumpkin scones in the morning to take to Aaron's class fiesta in the afternoon, then spent the afternoon first at the fiesta, then taking the boys out for ice cream. When Rob came home we went out to Erika's Restaurant (excellent German food) for dinner, though we decided to take a rain check on the planned movie - a combination of tired, full, and lack of enthusiasm for the current available set of movies. He gave me a gift card for some new clothes and a Wavemaster freestanding heavy bag for my presents. Tomorrow we juggle some of the basement furnishings to give me a place to set it up (right next to the giant fish tanks somehow seems like a bad idea...).

No karate this week, which makes two weeks running (drat!). Tuesday Aaron came down with strep and Rob had to work late, so that was a no-go. Thursday, Sensei called at nearly the last minute to cancel class due to an unspecified family problem combined with awful weather (thunderstorms). Between that and last week I'm feeling seriously under-exercised and under-practiced. I've gone through my katas a few times, but not the kind of concentrated practice I can get in when I go to the Y or to the dojo. I am hoping that if we can set up a corner of the basement for me, I'll be able to improve the quality of my at-home workouts. Though I have yet to convince Rob to let me practice my self-defense sequences on him. He just doesn't trust that I won't misjudge the hip throw and actually slam him on his back on the concrete.

Anyway, presuming that nobody comes down with strep next week, I should be back to a more normal schedule next week. I'll try to ensure more normal posting to go with it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memory and Deference

First off, I want to say "thanks" to those who've expressed sympathy about the sore neck. It's fine now - it was sore for about three days. Fortunately for me, the kick that got my neck was aimed for my headgear, and therefore was already largely pulled. I am still somewhat on the injured list, not for the neck, but for the strained tendon in my right foot that got me the sore neck by impairing my fighting mobility.

Painful though it was, I learned an awful lot from that particular fighting class. An awful lot of my tactics in sparring revolve around literally throwing my weight around. I love to pursue and jam people up, and this class I simply couldn't do that, and it got me hit a lot more than I'm used to. I think J. missed her kick largely because I simply wasn't where her experience told her I would be.

We didn't spar tonight because our gear was inaccessible to us - being upstairs, past a patch of tile floor that was being redone. We'll probably spar again Thursday, assuming the floor is done. Instead it was a heavy kata night, dominated more by talking than actual practice. We had a guest black belt (second time in a week, with two different guys!), who may choose to join us permanently, which would be lovely. The guest is a student of A.J. Advincula's, who has been out for several years due to a traumatic injury, and would like to get back in shape, though he has ongoing problems.

Sensei D and the guest had a couple of extensive conversations which got me thinking afterwards. If our guest (I'll call him M) joins, then that means that two of the three people ranked above me in the dojo will have memory problems, and the third will simply have a lousy memory.

This is not to speak against the guys above me. Sensei D and M both, even in short conversations, know a ton more martial arts than I currently do, or even than I'm likely to for another decade or so. Sensei, likewise, though he's a bit quieter about it most of the time. But all of these guys have really crappy memories. Really, really crappy memories. Sensei just lands on the lower end of the spectrum, but both Sensei D and M have actual brain damage leading to striking difficulties with laying new memories and with longer recall.

This can (and has) led to some tongue-biting moments for me already, and I'm thinking I should probably try to come up with some more thought out specific strategies for dealing with it. The problem being that all three of these guys will contradict each other, or even contradict themselves of a few days, weeks, or months ago with no realization that they're doing so, because they don't remember what originally happened. Sensei D will remember incorrectly something that Sensei showed us two months ago, and insist on doing it that way because that's what makes sense to him. Sensei will show me something, and six months later show the next student something different. This sort of thing happens all the time - literally constantly - and it's going to happen more if M joins up (which, just to be clear, I really hope he does. Frustrations aside, he'd be a great asset to us, and I think we'd be good for him too.).

It does get frustrating for me, though. Easily my strongest asset in the dojo is my brain and memory. I can nail down kata sequences in about half the time it takes the other students, and very rarely forget anything that's been explicitly shown me. But I feel like that sharpness is a hindrance in dealing well with this particular set of men. I feel reasonably comfortable in questioning Sensei when he changes something he's previously told me. We've been together long enough now (5 years), and he treats me enough as if I were already a black belt, that I feel like I have standing to do so. But I've found that I'm very leery of questioning Sensei D if I think he's got something wrong. For some reason, even if I'm very deferential, it feels like I'm questioning his authority in a way it just doesn't with Sensei. Though I've only met him for the one class so far, M feels a lot more like Sensei D than like Sensei to deal with. Maybe it's the mutual military background, or the fact that they're both big men (Sensei is not), or that they're both more forward personalities than either Sensei or I. I had been with Sensei for quite a while before I realized just how long he'd been studying Isshinryu. With both Sensei D and M, I had learned much of their background within thirty minutes of being introduced.

This post is turning out a good deal more mushy than it started in my head, for which I apologize. Basically, I'm seeing a possible future where I will either have to bite my tongue and let gaffes go by repeatedly, or I'm going to have to find effective ways to correct for the phenomenon - preferably without pointing up the memory problems themselves, since all that effectively does is make the guys feel bad about something that isn't their fault. Correcting a superior is always tricky, no matter the circumstance, and the idea of having to do it all the time is giving me serious pause.

And all of this is complicated by having all three men come from slightly different Isshinryu lineages, and thereby also having legitimate differences in how they do stuff. I think if they were consistent about it, I could get it sorted out (this is how Sensei D does stuff, this is how Sensei does stuff, etc.), but when they're trying to learn each others methods and getting stuff wrong, both in how they do their own stuff, and in how they remember the others, it all turns into a big mushy, confusing mess. One I need to figure out how to deal with, because they don't even realize they're doing it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Quickie Note

a) I'm not dead. In fact I'm pretty much fine. It's just that with the new living arrangements, I'm almost never alone in the house, which is when I usually write blog posts. They will probably come back as I get used to the new way of things.

b) I have a post on essay number three cooking in the back of my brain, so that should show up sometime.

c) The caveat on the "pretty much fine" thing. Getting kicked in the neck sucks. And hurts.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Well, I finally got a look at the essay topics for my black belt. I knew I had to write three, but I could only remember two of the topics: What in your opinion, is a black belt? and What does karate mean to you? I couldn't remember the third topic for anything. So once I got a look, I figured I'd come talk about it here a bit, which should serve the dual purpose of grinding it into my memory a bit, and providing a written record in case it does slide out again.

The third question, being much of a kind with the previous two, is: What, in your opinion, is a sensei?

This could conceivably provide some serious overlap, since to my mind, one of the meanings of a black belt is that the wearer is a teacher. And since what karate means to me also has bearing on the meaning of a black belt, it would almost be easier to address all three questions in one giant essay. I wonder if Sensei would go for that?

So on to the pondering. I've been pondering the other two questions for nearly a year at this point. Time to let the hindbrain cook on the third one.

In other news, Sensei has the death flu that's roaming around town right now. Sensei D. and I taught class Tuesday, and I had it by myself Thursday, since Sensei D. is now down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Tuesday was very casual, with only two students. Last night, however, was pretty successful. I tried a couple of new drills garnered from my book on developing speed (Loren Christensen), and both were fairly well recieved. One drill was highly revealing, at least for my and my partner - and I suspect for the other pairs as well. The drill consists of circling one another as if fighting, up to and including fakes (which should be responded to as if in a fight), but no real thrown techniques. At random points, the designated person yells "Freeze!" and then "A" or "B" (each team as an A and B partner). The pair freezes, and then the designated person has 1 second to throw a technique to tap an open area. For me and my partner (Sensei's daughter), the opening for her was almost always a roundhouse to the chest - which is a kick she very rarely uses in an actual fight, and you could see the gears in her head turning as she noticed this. For me, I was nearly always slightly out of position. Never badly, but enough that I had to make an additional move to make a technique connect. Step forward, step sideways, turn - I was always just slightly off kilter or out of range for an effective technique. Which - duh! - of course I'm going to be slow on the attack if once I see an opening I have to both shift and throw the technique. I suspect it's my subconcious trying to slow the fight down, but its result is only to slow me down, not my opponent. Not exactly effective technique there.

Score! Something specific I can work on that should increase my effective speed. I'll have to tell Sensei about the drill when he gets better and comes back. I think he'll like this one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slight Postponment

I got to have a private lesson with my Sensei this last weekend, which was quite a treat. I always feel like I learn so much when I get one-on-one time. We went through the ends of Kusanku Sai, and Sanchin, which means I officially know all the kata I need for my black belt test.

Afterwards we had a talk about my black belt test, and decided to postpone it from its original tentative early April date to this summer. He feels (and I agree) that while I could probably pass a test in April, it would be a cram and a struggle to be ready. In addition, he would rather send me off to Worlds in June as a really prepared brown belt, than a shiny new black belt. While it would have been awesome to test for black at my fortieth birthday, I agree with his reasoning. In fact it will be good to be able to settle down into steady practice of my new katas, and to be able to pull them apart and polish the dickens out of them, instead of having the pressure of needing them ready NOW!

In the same vein, I got to go see the new digs of our old dojo mates this morning. They finally got into the new place about six months after we split off, but I hadn't had an excuse to go over there (they're two towns over from where I live). This morning, two of my friends tested for black, so Sensei and I went to watch the test. They both did very well - tested and passed without any problems, though Master B threw them a few curve balls. Everybody remembered not just Sensei, but me as well - and about eight people threatened to come kick my butt if I don't remember to tell them when I test, so it looks like I'll have a rooting section beyond just my kids and husband.

Now I just need to work, work, work to get ready for Worlds and the test following. Sensei is really riding me about increasing my hand speed, and following up in kumite to prove his point (I'm getting tired of the footprints on my ribs). If anyone out there has suggestions on how a strong, but not terribly fast girl can get faster, I'm open for any suggestions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interesting Site of the Day

Save a word! Every year hundreds of words are excised from dictionaries for lack of use. Go adopt a word, add it to your vocabulary, and save it from extinction.

By popular demand, our families word is ichthyarchy (n.) The domain of fishes. - Don't tell the captain you fell overboard, tell him you wanted to explore the ichthyarchy!

Since we have four separate ichthyarchies in our house, it seemed like a natural one to all of us. We'll see what the boys' teachers think of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Double-Barrelled Bassets

As of a week and a half ago, we have two bassets in the house. This makes quite a change around here. Nicky, who I've talked about here before is a very quite, laid-back dog. Other than a bad garbage habit, he's about as low-maintenance a dog as can be imagined.

This is not Toby.

Nicky may bark once in a day - may, not will. If someone he doesn't know comes to the door, he'll probably bark. Other than that, no. Toby barks at the mailman, at the UPS dude, at our neighbors leaving for work, at our neighbors coming home, at the neighbors dog, at the squirrels, at people eating food and not supplying him with some. Barking is pretty much his default state. Ironically, the only time he doesn't bark is when he wants to be let in from the back yard. Then he stands at the door, completely silent, and attempts to get his wishes across via telepathy.

He's also a very nervous dog. Anything different will send him pacing and barking at best, and looking frantically for a place to hide at worst. And since he had never been further from Dad W's house than the vet until last week, pretty much everything around here is new to him.

Fortunately, as time goes on, Toby is gradually adjusting to the idea that this is his new home, and not everything is scary and dire. Some of the barking has even started to ease off as Nicky has decided he is senior dog, and is starting to enforce his standards. This is funny as heck to watch, as Nicky is also about the least dominant dog I've ever seen. However, Nicky knows full well that we don't hand out treats to barking dogs, so starting about two days ago, when Toby started barking at the dinner table, Nicky turned on him and drove him out of the dining room. Now Toby is only allowed near humans with food if Nicky deems him sufficiently quiet and meek.

With that in mind, I ponied Toby to Nicky the other day and took them both down to the school to pick up the boys. This was great fun, as half-a-dozen drivers slowed down to watch the paired bassets trotting along. Toby did pretty well up until we got to the school and he had to deal with actual children. Toby has only ever met four children in his life, and he really didn't know what to do with these small creatures - so he hid behind my legs and barked at them. The funny thing was that he was really curious about them, so if they ignored him, he would approach very cautiously, but if they looked at him, or (God forbid) tried to pat him, he would skitter back behind my legs in terror. Fortunately he shows no signs of being a fear snapper, just mashes himself harder into my legs if scared.

Based on his reactions to the house and neighbors, I think Toby may actually come to like these child-creatures, but it's going to take some time. Nicky is having a good effect on him generally, I think. It's hard for Toby to keep thinking the world is going to eat him when Nicky is so placid about everything.

Which is good, because my ears could really use the break about now.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lights Out!

Whee! Back again.

We had an interesting week. Monday evening it snowed. Tuesday it started in with a variety of stuff - sleet, freezing rain, ice pellets (noticing a theme here?). Wednesday was more of the same - only more so. Wednesday afternoon about 1, our lights went out. And stayed out. And stayed out some more. We lit a fire in the fireplace and huddled up as the house temp started sinking. Poor Rob hit the deck several times hauling firewood up to the back porch from our backyard stack.

No power also meant that the aerators in the fish tanks weren't working, so the fish were suffocating. So about every four hours, we would siphon out a bunch of water, and dump in new water so the fish could breathe, at least a little. Between the cold and the lack of oxygen, they were not happy fish.

Rob went in to work on Wed. - it turned out that outside of our immediate neighborhood, the streets were in decent shape, so we were able to go get battery-powered aerators for the tanks, and pick up some take-out food, but the power company was saying that we wouldn't get power back until 11pm Saturday, so we packed up and headed for Nashville, only to have Rob call us just as we hit the halfway point, and say the power was back on. So back we came.

Central heat feels unbelievably luxurious right now. And the effort with the fish tanks paid off - we only lost one fish (one of Aaron's pack of three silver dollars). Even the worst off of the rest (my iridescent shark, who was solidly upside-down and twitching), recovered rapidly once the tank systems came back on-line.

One good side effect, since it's a good low-light activity, I pulled out my spinning wheel and got it ready to roll again. I even got about half a spindle-full of soda bottle fiber spun (sock weight).

Right now we're waiting to see if the boys' school (which was being used as an emergency shelter), will be open on Monday, or if they get to stay home a little more. I hope they can go, they're getting a bit tired of each other right now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Photo Meme

Nicole tagged me for this, so blame her!

Rules are as follows:

1. Go to your Picture Folder on your computer or wherever you store your pictures.
2. Go to the 6th Folder, then pick the 6th picture in that folder.
3. Post that picture on your blog and the story that goes along with the picture.
4. Tag 6 other people that you know or don’t know to do the same thing and leave a comment on their blog or an e-mail letting them know you chose them.

As anyone who knows the movie will know, the photo in question is a scene from The Princess Bride, in which the Man in Black fights Fezzick the giant. While I love the movie, that actually has nothing to do with why the screen shot is in my photo-file. Instead it stems from my days writing for Damn Interesting! My last article for them (to the best of my recollection, there may have been another one or two), was on acromegaly, giantism, and the pituitary gland. My sixth photo file is my collection of photos of various people mentioned in the article, Andre the Giant (who plays Fezzick) being one of them. This shot didn't end up being used for the article, but it still sits in my files, mostly because I'm really lazy about clearing them out. This gives me a very odd assortment of pictures - the series on how to sex a mouse probably being the one that would give the most people pause.

As for tagging people - hmm. Becky, Martial Arts Mom (at your convenience, don't stress about it), Bill, Michele, somaserious, and CrimsonPhoenix.

In other news, we're snowed in at the moment, and well on our way to being iced in. Sensei just called to call off class for tonight, as he may not even be able to make it home from work, let alone to class. No school today, no school tomorrow, and possibly not Thursday as well.

Toby is starting to settle in. He's actually curled up on the couch and gone to sleep a couple of times (though never for long). He's discovered the back yard, though he hasn't figured out how to ring the bell to be let out yet. I've started working on training him to bark on command, prepratory to trying to get him to bark less generally speaking, but as food motivated as he is, it's still going to be slow going. We've always referred to Nicky as a basset with the optional brains package, Toby is a good illustration of a basset without the package. Other than the scaredy cat behavior, he's a sweetheart, but a definite numbskull. It's taken most of the afternoon to teach him "Speak", and he's still not terribly reliable about it - and this is a behavior he does all the time spontaneously! Nicky learned "Speak" in about half the time, is quite reliable, and almost never barked on his own at the time I taught him - still doesn't for that matter.

The good part is that he, like Nicky, would stand on his head for a liver treat, if he could only figure out how. It's just that he's much slower about the figuring out.

I'd say I have a pretty good chance of doing enough with Toby that things may not devolve into total chaos when the dachshunds arrive in two weeks. He may be a doofus, but he is willing to work and learn.