Friday, April 29, 2011

Meet the new car, rather different from the old car.

Meet the new car! Rob called me Wednesday and announced that he was in love. Since his new love has four wheels, I think I can live with it.

For the curious who aren't sufficiently car buffs to ID this on sight, this is a 1989 Porsche 944. The body is in prime condition, with not a speck of rust on it. It runs, and is in generally excellent shape, with one major caveat - it's also in many, many pieces. The seats, hatchback, inside door panels, instruments, and almost everything else but the engine currently reside not in the car, but in the back of our pick-up. Rob estimates six months or more to get her back together and on the road.

Fortunately, since Rob loves working on cars and is quite good at it, this was more of an incentive than not. Especially since the whole "the car is in pieces" thing brought the price down a lot. Lots and lots. Which has the added benefit that if, after he gets her together, he decides he really didn't want a Porsche after all, he should be able to sell it for at least 4x what he paid for it.

I'm not a car buff myself, but it's fun to watch him light up over this car. Plus it's rather cool to say we have a Porsche in our garage.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cars and Japanese

Rob's bonus came in. For the first time in his working history, this does not mean "Woot! Let's take the family out for pizza and blow it all!", but actually involves a noticeable amount of money. He's hoping to replace his current car with a nicer, newer, though still well-used one. Right now he's having an absolute blast looking through all the local cars for sale and deciding what he actually wants. - shopping is always his favorite part of buying a car. We'll see what he finally settles on, but right now he's just loving the drooling. For example, he will be looking today at a Porsche 944 that was new when he was in high school (theoretically in running condition - once it's put back together). I doubt he'll bring it home, but he's getting an enormous kick out of the idea that he could. It's the first time he's been able to buy a car without the entire consideration being "how cheap can I get something that I can keep on the road myself?" I'm having a lot of fun watching him enjoy himself, and for the fact that the cars that he's most enjoying drooling over look like the epitome of a mid-life crisis (the Porsche, an Eclipse, a GT). No mid-life crisis involved, he's always loved roadster-type cars, but that doesn't stop me from snickering.

I'm back to working seriously on my Japanese. I've almost got my hiragana down (and my friend Chia says my handwriting is pretty decent). My ability to use the language is still down at the "Would you like to eat? Nice weather, isn't it?" level, but seems to be coming along fairly quickly. I'm not sure if working Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur simultaneously is better or worse than either separately, but it's certainly less frustrating than either alone. Pimsleur gives you longish phrases without a lot of understanding of why they mean what they mean, and it easily turns into boatloads of mass memorization if you can't break it down, while Rosetta Stone teaches you using no English at all, which can mean the breakthrough of understanding what the heck you're saying can take a long time, when just a tiny hint would have made it clear. I went through the lesson on pronouns three times before I realized that the lesson was even about pronouns! Combining it with Pimsleur seems to give me the extra bit of explanation that lets me decipher what a given Rosetta Stone lesson is trying to show me.

Eight weeks and counting to the World Tournament. I've gotten in some good sessions with my sai, but it's been raining non-stop for the last week (and is supposed to keep doing so this week) which makes bo practice time hard to come by. In general I think it's probably time to ease up on the general conditioning and start hitting the specific conditioning harder.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Various and Sundry

No karate tomorrow, as the Jazzercise people are taping for TV - something they do every couple of months. The weather is pretty, so I'm going to try to break out the weaponry and do some kata practice in the front yard. Also, a morning run would be good. Actually keeping busy in general would be good as I need to go back in the afternoon and have them redo the mammogram on one side with the radiologist present, and I'd rather not think about it until after I have something more concrete to worry about (or not) than I currently do.

Rob made it home safely, if with somewhat more excitement than necessary. He opines (and I thoroughly agree) that he could have lived very happily without finding out what a jumbo jet sounds like when being flown without engines. Fortunately after having an engine overheat and die, the pilots attempt to shut everything down and restart worked as intended and the plane landed safely back in Edinburgh under power. He got home about 18 hours later than intended, but all in one piece, which is how I like him. He brought birthday presents with him - a tartan shawl with brooch, a pair of gorgeous dragon-wing earrings, a butterfly pin from the Royal Botanical Gardens, a Hunting Ross tartan sash, and an assortment of lovely cheeses. The boys got Nessy stuff, which they're all excited about. Two books have also arrived from Bill (Thank you, Bill!), a book on designing knitwear, and a biography of Madeleine L'Engle. I'm already making inroads on both.

The other things I'm reading are a pair of books I found while down with my parents. They're quite similar in concept - study books on karate from an older well-regarded Japanese instructor. One is based in Shotokan, and one in Gojo-ryu, so neither is completely applicable to Isshinryu, but I'm finding a lot of useful exercises and technique tips. After all, just because we punch differently doesn't mean that I can't learn more about a roundhouse kick from a Shotokan instructor. Part of the difficulty of being in such a small and isolated dojo is that comparative to Isshinryu students in areas with several dojos, we end up with a much less broad range of experience. Sensei TJ tries to travel to outside seminars and broaden his experience as much as possible, but most of the time I can't do that, so I'm aiming for the written word. (Shocking, I know)

Boys and dogs are all doing well, as is Aoi (the lizard), but I managed to kill off most of the population of Rob's smaller salt-water tank, by not figuring out that there was a short in the filter on the tank next door that kept throwing the breaker. There are half-a dozen survivors, but one of the puffers and the beautiful giant batfish both died, along with a bunch of other fish. Fortunately I did manage to keep the freshwater tank oxygenated enough for all the fish to survive until the electrics got sorted out, even if they weren't exactly happy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gearing Up

Wow. I can't believe it's been four months since I wrote in here. I have been doing some blogging, but it's all been over at I need to get back to writing here.

It's just barely over two months until the IWKA (Isshinryu World Karate Association) World Tournament. I'm registered and paid for, though I haven't made hotel reservations yet. Robbie is undecided about competing - but if he doesn't make up his mind soon, the indecisiveness is going to have made it up for him.

It's a mixed bag at the dojo these days. On the good side, two of our white belts are almost ready to test for yellow, and we've added a new student - an eleven-year-old girl, who thus far seems quite avid. On the bad side, two students, one of the aforementioned ready-to-test-for-yellow whites, and his mother, currently our only adult beginner, look like they're dropping out. If they do drop out, we'll have passed below the income threshold where we can pay for our space at the Jazzercise studio each month, which will leave us with a choice of cutting back to one class a week, moving to the local park, or some combination of the two. Summer attendance is always dicey anyway, and with only four students it's just not enough to rent a space.

The hopeful side of things is that my church has expressed interest in hosting a self-defense seminar. I'm currently working on a blurb for the newsletter to gauge interest, but an informal talking around looks like there should be more than enough people to put together a women's self-defense class, and possibly a second co-ed one for kids. Seminars like this tend to pull in new people, so if we can get a seminar put together in the next couple of months, we may get enough new students to keep our current place.

On the personal side of things, I'm kicking the prep for the World Tournament up into high gear. I'm not where I hoped to be fitness and weight-wise, but I am running three miles at a stretch without much difficulty, and I've lost about thirty pounds. Adding weight training has put some pop in my punches, which is welcome (and unusual). I've chosen my kata for the tournament and the weather has gotten nice enough for me to get some weapons training done in my yard - so now I just have to train the kata and do as much training for the sparring as possible. We still have a serious shortage of high level fighters - more so than usual, actually. There's me, there's T, our teenaged brown belt, and most days that's it. Sensei is fighting only rarely, because his knee is not recovering from his ACL surgery as well as he had hoped, and Sensei D is not sparring at all as he's having medical problems of his own. Every once in a while Sensei's daughter J will show up, and that's a blast - she's lightning fast and quite strong, though a little out of practice. I think I'm glad that the senior women's section is often loaded with people who don't spar much. I'd get killed in a hurry in the younger rings as little high-level practice as I generally get.

Rob is getting home tomorrow night after a sixteen day run to the UK and Finland. He's only home a few days before heading out again for a quickie trip, but when he gets back, he should be home for a whole 3-4 weeks! That's getting to be a rarity around here. Robbie is still aiming for a blue belt, but his progress on Seiuchin is very slow, mostly due to lack of home practice. He's finally made the connection between how much he practices and how good he gets at something. The differences between his drawing and flute skills (both practiced regularly) vs. his guitar and singing skills (both practiced sporadically) have become too great for him to ignore. Now we'll see which things he chooses to step up and practice, which should be instructive for all.