Friday, April 28, 2006

The Texas Classic

So, Miranda and I will be attending our first Tang Soo Do tournament next Saturday morning -- the Texas Classic, hosted in New Braunfels by Master Brett Riley (who I trained with and also drank beers with Tuesday night, along with Master Nunan and Master Bennett, who was in town from Connecticut for business and decided to train the students at our school as well -- terrific evening of both training and fellowship). We'll both be entering sparring and forms competition, so that will be ... interesting. I won't pretend I'm not more than a little freaked out by this -- I mean, competition forms don't scare me too much. It's just solo performance, after all, and I really enjoy forms. I'm sure I'll be nervous, but whatever. Now, sparring, on the other hand, is gonna be scary.

I'm just starting to get some confidence in my sparring -- did really well in class last night, actually. I've finally realized that I've got really fast hands and can throw some really good punches if I take it easy and hang back, using kicks mostly for distractions and distancing and instead relying on my punches to score points. I sparred against 3 different red belts, did pretty well on my first match (I'd say it was about 50/50) and totally dominated my opponent in the second match (I had a serious height advantage, and plus I think I kinda freaked her out -- I'm not nasty or mean when I spar, but I am aggressive and that combined with being both taller and substantially larger than her put her way on the defensive).

My third match, well... I got my ass handed to me in my third match. By the time I got done with my second match I was so winded I was ready to fall over and I was slowing way down, so I just wasn't blocking well and my defensive technique got really weak and sloppy. I think I managed to get one tag in on this kid, and otherwise I might as well have been laying down on the mat while he kicked me. But hey, 2 out of 3 matches I was proud of!

As for forms I'm hoping to maybe nail a medal on my forms, but I dunno. I'll be competing against other orange belts, 16 years or older. My form -- Pyong Ahn Cho Dan -- is solid, and I've worked up a really good routine for it. I figured out a way to do it using a 3/6 rhythm in my head, and it results in a solidly timed, full-out aggressive performance with a lot of energy in it.

The only problem is, Pyong Ahn Cho Dan is the most basic orange belt form and it's not nearly as long or as dramatic as the other form typically performed by orange belts, Chil Sung E Ro. Shorter form means fewer opportunities to impress the judges, and also means that I'll be finished long before my "opponent" (not really the right term for forms competition, but whatever) is finished with theirs, just standing there at choon be while they continue to move through their technique. I'd love to try to compete with Chil Sung E Ro instead. Unfortunately I haven't been taught it yet, and even if I learn it in the next few days, I doubt I'd be confident enough to perform it well during a tournament, with the added stress of judges and an opponent and the general chaos of the surroundings. So I'm going to just put on the most energetic, focused, and explosive performance of Pyong Ahn Cho Dan that I can and hope that it's enough set me apart from the others. We'll see.

Mood: Good
Now Playing: Tool, "10,000 Days"


Man, I feel so completely out of balance these days. Pulled (well, pulling myself) in too many directions at once. Work. Training. Home. Not enough hours in the day. Not enough days in the week. 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound bag. Pick your cliche, that's what I'm feeling.

Oddly, though, I don't feel overwhelmed by it. This is new. Before I took on Tang Soo Do as a ... hobby? Discipline? Art? Obsession? All of the above? Whatever. Before I started training in Tang Soo Do, when these phases of Too Damn Busy came along I'd typically feel stretched way too thin, stressed to my limits. Moody and cranky and glowering a lot. I don't feel that way at all this time. Which has got to be a good thing.

The biggest issue I'm having is finding balance between the things I love and that need me (i.e. my family), the things I do for myself to feel complete (i.e. my training) and the things I do to be able to provide for my family and to be able to train (i.e. my job). Lately, my job has been damn busy and pretty frustrating -- I'm working a lot on things that need to get done quickly, but I can't proceed on any of them until I get external feedback, and the people I need feedback from are sitting around with their thumbs up their asses, being unresponsive -- and I've been putting in a lot of time at the dojang, blowing off steam and learning new techniques while trying to get my skills sharpened up for an upcoming tournament my daughter and I have entered.

As a result, I've been a bit lax about showing my wife and kids (especially my wife) the attention they need and deserve during the week -- weekends I'm all theirs, but Monday through Thursday I tend to be fairly scarce in the evenings -- 3 out of 4 of those evenings I come home at about 6:00 or so, spend some time with the kids and help to get them to bed, but then head back out the door again by 7:45 or so to train and I'm usually not back home again until 9:30. That leaves maybe 90-120 minutes of time for me and Christine to spend together before we need to get some rest.

And worst of all, with how stressed I've been feeling at work, I tend to be kind of distant when I get home. I tend to be fairly isolated when I'm working -- I'm a technical writer, and I'm the only one at my company, so I'm sort of a one-man band. When I'm working on projects I tend to get very internalized and uncommunicative, and once I leave the office it takes me a solid hour or so to get back out of my head. I've got to work on that, because while my family -- my wife, I should say -- totally supports me in my training, she also deserves to be reminded, daily, that she is special and valued and loved and missed. More hugs, more talking, less sitting at the computer and browsing newsgroups and email when I get up in the morning and when I get home in the evening is the solution. Simple.

It's nice to be able to look at the stressors in my life with a more detached perspective though. Instead of getting worked up and freaked out by the stress and anxiety and whatnot I feel a lot more in control of things -- these are simply problems to be solved, balances to be struck. Adjust a bit here, smooth things over there, and move forward. I have no doubt this is due to the past 5 months of training. I may still be tight and tense on the mat, but not the way I was when I started. I can laugh at my errors and inadequacies when I'm training these days. It's fun, even when I mess up, and it's thrilling to be diving into this stuff deeper. And a lot of that attitude is creeping into my daily routines as well.

Relax as you move through your life. Tense up and act out only when tension and action are necessary and effective. And that, I suppose, is shin chook in practice in my life. It's gratifying to begin to understand this.

Mood: Thoughtful
Now Playing: Tool, "10,000 Days"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Too Damn Quiet....

... and too busy to come up with a good post. So instead I'm going to do the classic "duh, I'm unable to blog" cop-out and point you to a cool test. Check out The 3 Variable Funny Test, and find out your humor style. Thanks to Lee for heads-up.

Pretty solid quiz -- my (very accurate, I'd say -- but reformatted, 'cause I hated the gi-normous graphic and crappy HTML font size choices) results are below....

The Cutting Edge
(66% dark, 42% spontaneous, 36% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your humor's mostly innocent and off-the-cuff, but somehow there's something slightly menacing about you. Part of your humor is making people a little uncomfortable, even if the things you say aren't themselves confrontational. You probably have a very dry delivery, or are seriously over-the-top.

Your type is the most likely to appreciate a good insult and/or broken bone and/or very very fat person dancing.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: David Letterman - John Belushi

My test tracked 3 variables. How you compared to other people your age and gender:
  • You scored higher than 86% on darkness
  • You scored higher than 41% on spontaneity
  • You scored higher than 49% on vulgarity
At first I was a bit worried and concerned that my sense of humor is "darker" than 86% of the respondents. I mean, dark is fine, but darker than almost 9 out of 10 people? That's a bit unsettling.

But I quickly got over my concern when I was distracted by a starving hunchbacked kid with a cleft palate and Kreutzfeld-Jacob Disease on rubber crutches falling head-first down a flight of stairs. Now that's comedy.

Mood: Sleeeeepy
Now Playing: Tool, "Vicarious"

Friday, April 14, 2006

Moth! Scary Moth!

So, last night while watching television I saw one of those Lunesta commercials that seem to be played every 10 minutes or so lately. You know, the ones for sleeping pills, where we see images of all these folks, laying in bed, eyes open but otherwise not terribly agitated. And then this enormous, green, glowing moth comes sailing into their bedrooms, alights on the shoulder or head, and they immediately fall asleep.

Umm. Creepy. Sometimes, you've got to wonder whether ad executives really think these things through.

I mean, let's take this ad campaign and its imagery on its own terms -- i.e., they're not selling pills, they're selling soft-focus soothing visits from some sort of enormous insect -- and consider this from a Darwinian perspective: Any gigantic moth that has, through the evolutionary process, developed the ability to plunge an adult human being into a deep slumber surely has done so to advance its ability to survive. I mean, in purely physical terms, clearly these moths would have some sort of nasty proboscis that they plunge into the target, and with which they inject some sort of powerful hypnotic venom that immediately renders the recipient comatose.

But why? What purpose does this incredible narcotic cocktail serve?

Well, if I've sussed out anything about the insect view of the world, it's that they don't seem to have much of an altruistic streak, nor any particular sense of interspecies generosity. Giant green moths are not flitting about, helping people to fall asleep, for the fun of it.

So given these points, consider what must necessarily happen in the scenes that immediately follow those placid little slumber fantasies: Egg implantation, or feeding. Perhaps both.

Now if that doesn't keep you up nights, I don't know what will.

Mood: Disturbed
Now Playing: Fiona Apple, "Extraordinary Machine"

Monday, April 10, 2006

The New Baby

Ain't she cute? First "after market" addition will be fog lamps. Or maybe better speakers.

Mood: Happy and peppy and bursting with love
Now Playing: The B-52's, "Wild Planet"

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lonnnnnnnng Day ...

... but it's gonna be a shorrrrrrrrt post.


Up at 7, out to a local taqueria for breakfast tacos at 8:15, return to the taqueria to have them replace the screwed up breakfast tacos with the correct ones at 8:45
, head to the dojang for training at 10:00, head to the HEB to pick up supplies for today's birthday party at 11:20, head to the gymnastics place for Trevor's birthday party at 12:30, head home from the (exhausting) birthday party and pick up my car at 3:00, head out to Georgetown at 3:30, test drive a Jeep Wrangler at 4:00, trade in my old Toyota Corolla for said Jeep and head home at 6:00, take the top off the Jeep and take the family out to dinner at 6:30, go shopping at Target at 8:15, head home and collapse (after putting the top back on the Jeep) at 9:30.

I love my Jeep. Pictures of the new addition posted soon.

Mood: Great, tired
Now Playing: Nada

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fun with PhotoPaint

Not much new on the Tang Soo Do front for me the past week or so. My leg is continuing to get better, but is still feeling kind of weak and as a result I'm having trouble with some of the new kicking techniques I'm learning. Hook kicks, in particular, are proving challenging. But that'll correct itself with time, assuming I don't screw up and overdo it before the muscles have finished healing. Just need to be patient.

Anyhow, about a week or so ago I grabbed an image from Lisa Snellings' blog. The image was a detail of a larger sculpture she had done, and something about the scattered puppet head shapes, repeating yet arranged haphazardly and semi-randomly, just grabbed me. Like so much of her work, the image evoked simultaneous feelings of whimsy and danger -- very suggestive, very unsettling. Initially I used the image -- untouched -- as a desktop background, but after a bit of looking at it I decided to try to learn some new techniques with PhotoPaint, using it as a source image.

So anyway, here's Lisa's original source image:

And here are a few of the more interesting/satisfactory resulting pieces that I came up with.


Pretty simple reworking of the entire image, but I liked the feeling of confusion and isolation that the increased contrast and intensity, along with the radial blurring effect, brought to the one puppet face.

This was one of several attempts to use an isolated portion of the source image in a variety of ways. The image this evoked as I worked on it was of mad King Lear, alone in the storm. Texture, smudging, blur, noise, and motion distortion added to bump up the eerie. Note that this one works far better when viewed full-screen -- when it's shruken down you can't really see the blurring, noise, and distress on the image.....


This one started as tinkering, but in the end (in my head at least) it became a movie poster for a Dario Argento horror film that does not yet exist....

The idea here was to keep distorting and adding effects to the original image (in this case, one of the "blank faced" puppet heads) to a point where it lost all of its 3D figural qualities and became something else. I didn't realize I had created a highly stylized number "69" until I was done playing with the symmetry. Wasn't really intending to be juvenile, but well, sometimes it''s unavoidable....


Another triptych, this time going for a smooth flattened texture -- I think the resulting image looks sort of like Play-Doh. And the obvious, cliche "speak/hear/see no evil" imagery. This one was intersting because I actually felt bad for the middle puppet head when I was working on the image, and decided to "dehumanize" (removed features, made the "screaming mouth" smaller) all of their faces so that the image wouldn't be too disturbing. In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was a good idea....

Anyhow, if you like any of these please feel free to grab a copy for yourself. And if you want to do some of your own experiments with the source image, please show me what you come up with and I'll post a follow-up entry with other treatments of the image. And of course if you choose to post your treatments elsewhere, please be sure to give Lisa Snellings a plug and a link -- her work is beyond brilliant, and she deserves all the attention we can give her!

Mood: Pleasantly chill
Now Playing: UNKLE, "Never Never Land"