Monday, May 29, 2006

Note To Self/Square Pegs

Start with cocktails, then switch to beer: Not the other way around.

Had an impromptu "kick off the Summer with BBQ & Karaoke & Poker and Drinkin'" get together yesterday. After spending 3+ hours in the Texas sun, cooking veggies and bratwurst and sausages and hot dogs and hamburgers while drinking beer, I -- dehydrated, and with fairly little food in my belly -- swtiched to gin and tonics. Not wise -- I think I've decided to officially scratch G&T's off my list of "things I will drink at a party I am hosting." I love a good G&T, but I prefer them very strong (really just a splash of tonic and twist of lime to cut the gin). That's fine when you're having 1, but when you're hosting a party and it runs 6+ hours, 1 becomes 2 becomes 3 becomes far too many. And the strong drinks combined with the heat and the lack of food really took a toll. Didn't do anything to be ashamed of, but nothing to be proud of either. Meh.

So, ouchie head this morning but a great party otherwise. Interesting variety of folks -- some family, some work friends, some church friends, some neighborhood friends, and some dojang friends. All told, about 30 or so people. Lots of good chatter, lots of singin' karaoke, and lots of laughs. Sadly, no pictures were taken, but there was hardly a dull moment, that's for sure.

It was a really nice feeling, looking around and seeing the variety of folks we've managed to make friends with over the past few years. Sometimes, I feel very out of place here in the 'burbs. Both my wife and I can be a bit ... edgy, I suppose. Our humor tends to be of the abrasive/caustic/sarcastic variety, and I'm fairly certain we tend to be a bit more honest about what we think than many folks are comfortable with. We don't always exactly fit in real well, particularly out here in suburbia. It can be a bit lonely sometimes.

I'm certain that a lot of the folks we know socially (i.e. people with whom we are not close, but are friendly with) consider me the "token weird friend" -- the guy they describe to others as "nice guy, but ..." ("... but weird/but those tattoos/but the horror movies obsession/but the earrings/but the haircut/but the loud shirts/but... but... but..."). I know Chrisitne runs into a lot of the same issues, though she is far less obviously edgy than I am.

But yesterday I looked around and saw lots of folks who I just plain enjoy, people I like and even love, and who don't seem to mind us either. Grown up nerds, music junkies, martial arts enthusiasts, move buffs, trivia fans, video gamers, computer afficianados, what have you.

In other words, a lot of people who have almost certainly been referred to as "nice, but...". Probably more than once. Lots of square pegs, all in one place.

Felt like home.

Mood: Sleepy
Now Playing: Nuthin'

Friday, May 26, 2006

Worry, Dojang Dynamics

So, I'm getting a bit worried. If everything goes according to plan, I will be asked to test for my next gup level at the end of June. I train at least 3 times a week, usually 4, for a total of about 4 hours of time on the mat with instructors or other students. And then I practice what I've learned for at least 20 minutes or so every weekday morning after stretching at my gym, typically dropping some running or weights into the mix to keep things interesting. But the past couple of months a series of events have lined up which have contributed to a sense of ... unpreparedness?

Is that even a word? If not, it should be.

See, the other night I got a copy of the 8th gup test, just to get a sense of what I need to know for my test, and when I looked over the hand and foot techniques ... well. They sure sound familiar, but I don't think I've had much opportunity to work on them in class, with an instructor's guidance, in the past 2 months. Many of them I can only remember being shown, briefly, once of maybe twice, and not recently that's for sure. Now, I train a lot and I take it seriously, so why is this happening? So I sat and thought about it, trying to figure out where I screwed up, how I managed to miss so much of what I need to know, and what I've arrived at is:

Nothing. I didn't screw up. In fact, I don't think that there is fault to be assigned here at all. I certainly don't feel like my instructors have in any way given me short-shrift. But I do think that some dojang dynamics beyond my (or anyone's, really) ability to control have, through a combination of accident and timing and chance, contributed to a definite deceleration in my forward movement, training-wise.

It won't last, but it's frustrating all the same.

A big part of it comes from being the only adult orange belt in my school right now. When I was a white belt that was actually really cool, because I frequently had one-on-one teaching during my adult class time, since we had so few other beginner adult students. But after I advanced we had an influx of other adults -- including my mom and my friend/co-worker Rich -- which is fantastic. More students is a good thing, and training with lower-ranked/less experienced students has given me a lot of confidence in the things I learned to achieve 8th gup. But the downside is that when I attend class I am outnumbered 4 or 5 to 1 by beginners who need a lot more attention and encouragement than I do and so far more time is spent on basic techniques than on the slightly (very slightly) more advanced stuff I need to learn.

Now, that alone is no big deal, and presented no big issues, really. I was picking up new techniques just fine, and I'm not arrogant (or stupid) enough to think that there's nothing I can learn from continuing to work on my basic techniques and forms. Plus, there are the advanced classes I attend once a week to try to pick up more challenging and advanced stuff and also to get a harder workout in. Now, *these* classes have taught me quite a bit. But over the past month they have been focusing mostly on the things that the first gups needed to know for their dan tests (which took place last weekend). As a result I picked up a little bit of ability in kick and punch techniques that are quite advanced, which again was awesome. But again, little to no focus on the things I specifically need to know for my test. Again, to be expected, but again, frustrating.

But then we had a tournament down at Master Reilly's dojang, and the style of training during class the month prior to the tourney necessarily shifted to accentuate the things that we needed to know to compete effectively. So, lots of forms, lots of offensive/defensive combination drills, lots of sparring practice. But little in the way of new techniques.

Again, it's all good -- as a result of this shift in training I was prepared for my first tournament, and I did well. But still, I was conscious of the simple fact that I was focusing on improving things I already knew, rather than picking up new techniques that I would need to advance.

And finally, presently, we've got Master Nunan's surgery and recovery, which has taken him out of the dojang for the time being. Classes are being held as normal, but many are being taught by dan members and 1st and 2nd gups who have volunteered their time, some of whom have little or no previous experience at teaching. As a result, the quality of the instruction has been ... well, varied would be the best way to put it. Not bad, by any means -- I've learned interesting new things in each and every class -- but certainly inconsistent, structure-wise. Some classes have been very specifically dedicated to technique and drills, while others have been all over the map, with the instructor either clearly winging it and just seeing what happens, or trying to introduce stuff they've had fun with in the past to keep things interesting and fun. And it has been interesting, and fun.

But right now I don't think I want or need interesting and fun new stuff. I want and need curriculum. I want and need rigidity and structure. I want and need specifics. I want and need to figure out how to do a goddamn spinning hook kick.


And I know I'll figure it all out. We have several weeks before the exam, and I will almost certainly have to do my test a couple of weeks late anyhow (unless my sis-in-law decides to drop the ball altogether, I'll be up in NY City for her birthday the day of the test) so I'll probably have additional prep time to work with. But I want to feel more prepared.

It's ironic, really. For my last exam I felt insanely over-prepared. Six weeks before the exam I felt I had a solid understanding and ability to perform all of the techniques that were required to advance to 8th gup, with my primary concern being whether my injured hamstrings would trip me up. They didn't, and I did fine.

This time out I can't help feeling like I'll still be figuring stuff out the night beforehand.

Mood: Hungry
Now Playing: U2, "Zooropa"

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parental Vulnerability

I'm having trouble getting another blog entry going. I think it's because the last one I wrote was really hard for me to write. I'm proud of it, but at the same time ... damn. Writing about dead kids kind of left me deflated.

There's something that happens when you become a parent that just leaves you vulnerable to stuff like this, that leaves this little hole in your heart that wasn't there before where new kinds of fears can worm their way in. Perspective permanently altered by instinct and experience. And it's kind of funny the ways it manifests.

For example, I recently caught Poltergeist on TV. Hadn't seen it in many years, although I really enjoyed it when it came out. Good little ghost movie, you know? But seeing it years later, as a parent, is a very different experience. It's acutely uncomfortable at times. Not frightening in a oo-boo-scary way, but ... unsettling. Needless to say, The Exorcist presents similar, though far more effective, challenges.

And it's certainly not limited to horror films. Mystic River cut pretty damn deep, and while it easily ranks among the finest films I've seen in the last 10 years I don't think I can ever watch The Sweet Hereafter again. It was staggeringly powerful the first time, before I had children. I think watching it now could do me actual physical harm.

Mood: Meh
Now Playing: Death Cab for Cutie, "Plans"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Some kids like watching Saturday cartoons,
And some girls listen to records all day in their rooms,

But what do birds leave behind, of the wings that they came with,

If a son's in a tree building model planes?




Note: The names of some folks in this entry have been changed to protect their privacy.

My wife and I bought our house just over 4 years ago. We had first looked at the house about 3 months before we actually purchased it, and were ready to make an offer, but then we found out that we were really locked into our lease and buying our way out would have eaten up a serious chunk of our down payment. So, we decided to pass, wait a few months and begin looking again then. It killed us, because we'd completely fallen in love with the house, but breaking the lease would have cost us over $4000 so that was just out of the question.

So, fast forward about two months. My wife is returning from a beach vacation with her parents and our kids, I've stuck around Austin to get work done. I run to the airport to pick them up, then drop them home and return to work. Christine calls me about 15 minutes after I sit back down at my desk, excited, saying "You're not going to believe this!" Our real estate agent called and told us that, out of the blue, she'd heard from the sellers, the Gales, and that they'd decided to drop the asking price *and* pay the lease breakage penalties out of the closing funds, if we were still interested.

Well, obviously, we leapt at the opportunity. No additional negotiations, no chiseling down the price. We talked with our agent, set up a time to get the contracts signed the next day, and started getting our finances in order.

But something was really eating at us.

Why us? Why did they suddenly come out of the woodwork and contact us with this offer? So we asked our agent and she said she'd see what she could find out. The next morning, she called us with some more information bout the house, information about lenders, etc., and when we finished up we asked her "So, did you find out anything?"

Well, she sort of paused, and then said "Ummm. Do you really want to know?"

We said "Of course," of course.

Well, it turned out that 3 weeks after they'd bought their new house and moved into it, in the middle of the night, their 9 year old daughter Maggie came in to their bedroom, screaming in pain, and clutching her head. They brought her into the bathroom, whereupon she screamed once more and collapsed. Turned out that she'd suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, and she died within seconds. 9 years old, and she died right in front of them.

God, it's hard to write about stuff like this.

Anyway, in the couple of weeks after that, after they'd buried their daughter and began trying to figure out how to sort their lives back out, they decided that they needed to get their old house, the house where their daughters (both of them) had been born and spent their early years, off their backs. So, they knew we loved the house, they knew what our issues were, and they decided that it would be in everyone's best interest to just make the issues that were preventing us from buying go away.

4 years later, and I still feel the strangest sense of guilt about this, like somehow we benefited from the worst tragedy that can possibly befall parents.

Christine met them both at the house inspection -- they wanted to be there to make sure any concerns we had were addressed. The moment Melanie, the mom, walked in the room, Christine just lost it, began crying and apologizing, asking how she was doing. Melanie lost it as well, and they just hugged. They'd never even met before that moment, but stuff like this tends to bust through petty social barriers and protocol concerns.

Tom (the dad) and I had a talk the day after we signed. I'd decided to do some painting before we moved in, and he happened to be driving by and saw my car. So he stopped in to talk, to see if everything looked good or if I had any questions or concerns about the house. You know how, often, when couples or families suffer a loss, one person seems to instinctively step up and be the "solid" one, the one who keeps everything together so that everyone else can fall apart? Well, he'd fallen into that role. He was actually curiously upbeat, all things considered.

Anyway, I asked how he was doing and he just sort of shrugged and said "I'm doing what I have to do." I told him that I felt horrible, that I felt like, in some way, we'd taken advantage of their tragedy and he just kinda laughed and said "Are you kidding me? You have no idea how good it is to know that our old house is owned by people who wanted it and love it as much as we did. You're doing us a favor."

As I recall, I had something in my eye at that moment and had to excuse myself. Maybe it was allergies.

Later that day, alone, I walked through my house, stopping in each empty room, footsteps echoing in the vacant spaces, talking to Maggie. Telling her that if some part of her is lingering here that she's welcome to stay.


A few weeks after we moved in, we attended mass at our church and, as it turned out, it was a mass that was being said in Maggie's memory. We heard the priest say her name, and it felt like punch to the gut. We both wound up crying, shoulders hunched and shaking, quietly choking on tears in the pew. Some connections can be strikingly strong.


Well, over 4 years have gone by. Last time I saw the Gales was about 2 years ago. Ran into them at the grocery store. Melanie was looking good -- healthier, more together. And their other daughter was with them as well, seemingly happy.

Tom, though, looked like a ghost. Unrecognizable. At least 30 pounds lighter than the last time I'd seen him. We heard through friends that about 8 months after we bought the house he finally allowed himself to grieve, and it had hit him extremely hard. He'd sunk into a deep depression, sleeping all the time, unable to pull himself out of bed in the morning. I think this is not unusual for the the one who "holds it together" during a tragedy. The delayed pain festers, growing stronger, and when it finally gnaws its way out it consumes you.

I hope he's well. I hope they've managed to rebuild their lives. I hope that Maggie is in a better place. Sometimes I dream of a little girl who is not my own, playing in my house, laughing and happy. Sometimes I see a child out of the corner of my eye and I turn to look but she's gone. I have a vivid imagination, and dream often, but who knows. If they're not dreams, if it's not just my imagination, I'm glad that she seems happy here.


This morning I'm in my garage, spraying ScotchGuard on the chairs that came with our new dinette set. When I finished, I walked over to my paint shelf to put the spray can away and glanced over at the beat up cardboard box that has all of the old paint cans we'd gotten when we bought the house. You know, the stuff people use to cover little scuffs on the walls and whatnot. Tom had put it together for us when we moved in.

And then I noticed some writing on the box that I'd somehow never seen before. There, scrawled on the side of the box, in black magic marker, was Maggie's name. She'd been practicing writing her name in cursive, it appeared. There was her name, twice.

Maggie Gale.
Maggie Gale.

The shaky, unsure signature of a child long since dead.

I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and went inside. Showed it to Christine and we shared a moment, a brief, sad little moment of reflection. And we went inside, hugged our kids, and got on with our day.

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

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day Dream/Mother's Day

Yesterday, for Mother's Day, a friend of mine from one of my mailing lists posted the following poem. It had been a favorite of his mother's when she was alive. I thought it was really beautiful, and decided I'd share it here.


Day Dream

One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason,
Even in winter,
Even in the rain.

-- A.S.J. Tessimond


Mother's Day was a success on our end. I spent most of the weekend cooking, and served all of the mothers in my life (my own mother, my wife, and my wife's mother) a delicious breakfast of creme brulee french toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, followed by a timpano for dinner. The french toast was a gigantic hit -- I'll add the recipe to the end of this post. Not too hard to make, but incredibly tasty and sure to wow your guests should you choose to give it a try.

The timpano was a success as well, although I don't think my guests were as bowled over by it as they were by the french toast. Oh well -- just annoying that it didn't have a bigger impact than the french toast, especially given all of the effort I put into it (5+ hours for the timpano, vs. about 2 hours for the french toast). Timpano is incredibly time consuming to make, but it really makes a statement when it's served. If you've seen Big Night (wonderful, wonderful film) then you're familiar with the basic idea: a large puff-pastry pie filled with various vegetables, meats, sauces, cheeses and pasta. Mine was filled with 2 pounds of chinese eggplant sauteed with garlic, 1 pound of farfalle, 4 cups of marinara, 3/4 pound turkey meatballs, 1 1/4 pounds turkey sausage, 1 cup of fresh grated parmesan and 1 pound of cubed mozarella. All told, it took about 5 hours to prepare from start to finish. Here's a picture of the finished piece:

It was delicious, although it was a bit too loose inside -- I think I used too much sauce, or the pasta was cooked a bit too much so it couldn't absorb more of the moisture from the veggies and meats. Maybe both. It should really stand up to cutting a bit better than it did ....

So, sadly, it didn't plate real well -- just sort of collapsed into a bit of a mess once it was cut -- but it was amazingly tasty, and everyone had extra helpings and seemed to enjoy it anyhow. Still, next time I'll try to get the moisture levels right so it's a bit more of a success, aesthetically.

But after all the cooking, I think I'll be on Lean Cuisines and frozen pizzas for a few nights! Enough time in the kitchen for one week.

Mood: Bored
Now Playing: Aaron Copland, "Aaron Copland: The Populist"


Crème Brûlée French Toast Adrianna
(based on Chez Zee's Crème Brûlée French Toast, with modifications/improvements courtesy of Adrianna, The Pink Princess)

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups melted vanilla bean ice cream
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  • 6 well beaten, large egg yolks
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ lbs. challah, cut into 1-inch thick slices
  • 3 T butter
  • Maple syrup, warmed
  • Sliced fresh strawberries and/or whole blueberries
  • Whipped cream
  1. Butter a 9-by-4-inch loaf pan. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with strips of foil long enough to fold up and over the top of the pan for baking.
  2. Combine the cream and melted vanilla bean ice cream with extract
  3. Add the egg yolks and sugar to the cream mixture, whisking until well combined and light yellow. Place a layer of bread slices in the pan, cutting pieces as needed to fit evenly.
  4. Pour about a fourth of the mixture over the bread. Repeat with three more layers of bread and egg/cream mixture, ending with the latter. (The bread can rise above the rim of the pan.)
  5. Fold the foil over the top, place a plate on top and weight down with a can of food. Refrigerate for at least an hour so the custard absorbs into the bread. Remove the plate and can before baking.
  6. To bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place foil-wrapped pan in a pan of water that comes halfway up the sides of the loaf.
  7. Bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until firm in the center. Open the foil top to let steam escape. Let french toast cool in pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove loaf from pan and slice into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until warm in the center. Alternately, heat slices on griddle.
Serves 8-10.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Post-Tournament Thoughts

So, I've managed to survive my first honest-to-goodness Tang Soo Do tournament. This was a huge deal for me, especially since I've never competed in any sort of sporting event on significance before. I mean, intramural football, soccer , and hockey in college, sure. And the occasional 5K. But this was the first time I've ever competed in an event of this sort. Individual performance, judged by experienced peers, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The experience was ... unique. For all the insane level of stress and pressure I placed myself under running up to this thing, I didn't buckle or break. Which was greatly satisfying. And all my worries about there being a lot of trash talk and attitude being thrown around were totally and completely unfounded. The sense of community and camaraderie at the tournament was almost palpable. The gentlemen I competed against in my age/rank category were all truly nice guys, and I wish I'd relaxed enough earlier in the day to drop my nervousness and chat with them more. Aaron, Jim, Scott -- if you guys stumble across this, I really hope we manage to get together to compete again soon. This experience was a pure pleasure.

I definitely learned some very valuable lessons from this tournament. First and foremost among them is hydrate constantly, and more importantly EAT WHEN YOU CAN. While standing around and waiting for my slot to compete I kept assuming there would be a convenient and "good" time to grab a bite to eat, and instead I wound up competing, starving and completely strung out on caffeine, after standing around and stressing out for nearly 5 solid hours with an empty stomach and almost no sleep. I'm amazed I not only managed to not completely blow my form, but actually grabbed the gold in it.

And although it might be a bit self-serving, I can't help but think that if I'd taken the time to grab a bite and relax a bit, I'd have done better in sparring. I was literally dizzy and weak when I finished my form, and I had to jump in the ring and spar just 10 minutes later. If I'd just taken the time to slam a banana or something that could have made all the difference in the world. Instead my stamina was for squat, I kept getting dizzy, and my kicks could barely make it above my own waist.

Still, tied for third is alright by me.

The most important lesson, though, was this: It was no big deal. I ate myself alive for weeks prepping for this, and it was just ... well, it was just fun. If I'd relaxed and just taken it all in, I would have met more people, seen more things, learned more, done more. Instead I spent 5-6 hours stressing over about 8 total minutes of performance. Performance in which I did quite well, thank you very much, but that hardly seems to matter now.

I can't wait for the next tournament: I think my head will be much more in the "right place" to take it all in next time. I think the next one will be Master Nunan's tourney in September.


Speaking of Master Nunan, the next month of so should make for some interesting training time. Master Nunan will be getting some pretty serious hip surgery on Tuesday to fix a bunch of nasty stuff (bone spur and tons of torn cartilage, among other things) that resulted from an injury he incurred a year ago. As a result, the dojang will be ... well ... a bit "chaotic." Now I'm not saying that chaos is necessarily bad, mind you. I thrive on it, especially on spreading it, actually. But for the next month I'll be receiving training from at least 3-4 different teachers, all dan members in our dojang who are stepping in to help keep things running while Sam Bom Nim recuperates. It should be fascinating, if disorienting. You get used to certain stuff, you know? Changing it up can knock you for a loop. I think it'll be good for me and for my training, but I have to admit to some trepidation.

Still it'll be good to train with Mr. Vasquez a bit more -- I really enjoy our family classes. And Mr. Pfaff is always fantastic, especially from a pure technique point-of-view. He can be brutal on stances, form, posture, and it's all great.

As for some of the other folks volunteering to help out ... well ... who knows? I guess we'll see!


Anyway, I notice from my site meter that I've been getting tons of hits from the Austin/Cedar Park area lately (including hits from Google on "What Tang Soo Do means to me" -- no fair cheating off of my 8th gup paper, folks). I know of at least a few folks who train with us out in Cedar Park who have stumbled on my little corner corner of the 'net, here -- if you've reading this, please drop me a comment just to say hi and let me know what you think.

Mood: Beat
Now Playing: Nothing

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Texas Classic: Follow-up

Quick wrap-up. Got home from the Texas Classic about 5 hours ago. In her age group (7 and under, white belts) Miranda earned the gold medal in hyungs, and tied for the bronze in sparring.

I did the same, in both my age group and rank class. I managed to earn the gold in forms, even though I competed with Pyong Ahn Cho Dan and three of my opponents competed with Chil Sung E Ro. This is highly unusual, and I am extraordinarily proud and pleased.

I am also extremely tired. I hardly slept at all last night, between the "stress dreams" and the insanely loud thunderstorm that tramped through here at 3:00 AM. I woke up from "eek, I'm having a crisis at the tourney" dreams at 1:00 and 2:15, then the thunderstorm woke me at 3:00, and I was awoken for the final time at 6:00. The last one was a hoot: I was at the tourney, preparing to compete in forms. The judge was Sergeant Apone from Aliens, cigar and all, and he was giving me a lot of static about being ready for my form. I looked down and suddenly realized that someone had stolen my orange belt and replaced it with a long strip of shiny orange paper, which was fraying at the ends like the tip of a New Year's Eve noise maker. I tried to explain that someone had taken my belt and he berated me for whining and blaming everyone else for MY mistake in that stereotypical drill-sergeant manner. Then, embarrassed at how silly I looked with my goofy, shredded belt, I started performing my form, only to realize that someone had strewn folding chairs all over the ring, and I was forced to try to navigate over/under/around them as I performed the form. I awoke, frustrated.

My god, that's just pathetic. I mean, it's so utterly transparent. Usually, when I have stress dreams, they're not so clearly about the thing I'm stressing about. You know the type: you arrive at class for an exam and realize you've never attended the class prior to that day. And you're naked, of course. And that just means you're stressed about work or something. But this one couldn't have been more thuddingly obvious. My unconscious mind really needs to get more inventive already.

Anyway, hooray Miranda and hooray me. Now, wine, King Kong, and sleep.

Mood: Very, very pleased. And very, very tired
Now Playing: Nothing

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shoulda Stayed in Bed Day

Man, it's been one of those days. One of those "I hate everyone" days where nothing, and I mean nothing is going right.

Not enough sleep last night, had to drop my dog Scarlett off at the vet for a tooth cleaning, then hit the gym for a rough workout this morning. Traffic all over the place on the way into work followed 3 more hours of editing Java properties files to try to get the capitalization in our product's interfaces to resemble some sort of standard (that brings this effort to nearly 20 hours of text file editing this week).

Then, after lunch, I find out the reason I haven't received my license plates for the Jeep yet is that the dealership screwed up and lost the paperwork, so I had to waste 2 hours driving all the way out to Georgetown so I could sit around reading a copy of Entertainment Weekly from January while they ran the Jeep to DMV to get the registration re-done.

Then, on my way back to the office I call Christine to see if we've heard how Scarlett is doing and it turns out the idiot vet screwed up and rolled her over while she still had an inflated trach tube in her throat. So they had just finished doing all sorts of x-rays and whatnot to make sure they hadn't, you know, ruptured her esophagus and they're "pretty sure" she's fine.

Arrgh. I can't wait to get to the dojang tonight. I need to channel this negative energy into some training and sparring time. Two days 'til the Texas Classic. My nerves are getting pretty frayed.

UPDATE -- Next Morning:

Went to train last night and, instead of relaxing and blowing off steam, I walked out of the dojang feeling even worse after I wound up hurting two people in the course of the hour. Both were accidental, and neither time did I do anything wrong or use too much force or anything (according both to my instructors and the people I managed to almost injure) but you'd have to be a total ass to not get upset with yourself when you drop an older woman to the ground and she cries out in pain because her recently injured back has given her a serious twinge as a result of your actions. Or when you feel someone's wrist pop, twice, when you twist it. That really made the whole day complete.

Mood: Grrrrrrr....
Now Playing: White Stripes, "Get Behind Me Satan"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Obsessing/10,000 Days

OK, so the Texas Classic is in 3 days, and I'm utterly and completely obsessing about it.

No joke. And this is really bugging me, because I'm worried that by obsessing so much I'm going to completely psyche myself out for the tournament. I mean, I always tend to overthink things a bunch, but this time out is different. I'm so focused on minutiae it's nuts. I've been practicing my forms everyday, and I'm driving myself nuts trying to get Every Little Thing right. This morning I got myself incredibly frustrated because I seem to have developed a bad habit with my stances when moving up and down the center of the form -- I'm dropping into a sort of half-horse stance instead of a front stance when I throw my punches and blocks -- and now I'm obsessed with trying to undo that habit. I'm getting it right about 50% of the time. And then there's the back stance knife hand blocks at the end and this new "setting the hip" movement I'm trying to get a handle on, since a) it really adds force to the movement and b) apparently it really impresses the judges to see beginner students who know how to use their hips correctly. I figure that competing with Pyong Ahn Cho Dan I need all the help I can get if I want to have a prayer of placing at all.

And then there's sparring. I finally have a bit of confidence in my sparring -- I figured out a couple of moves that work for me, and that's made a huge difference in alleviating my anxiety about sparring. But then again, I've only sparred against people I already know from my dojang. I imagine the environment will be notably different when sparring students form other schools. I tend to approach it with a sense of fun -- like tag, with pads and a lot more sweating -- but I'm sure I'm going to come up against opponents that just want to thump, and who are going to try to throw all sorts of attitude to get under my skin. I've gotta work on just getting my game face on. I'm a big guy, and can be quite threatening without even raising my voice if I just stay focused. I've gotta figure out how to use that....

Gah. Thinking about this too much.


Happily, the new Tool CD has provided welcome distraction. It's my other current obsession.

I "obtained" it about a week ago, but immediately ran out of bought the real deal the moment Best Buy opened yesterday. The packaging alone is worth the purchase price. The CD sleeve has a pair of stereoscopic lenses built into it, and there's a booklet with about a dozen or so stereoscopic images for your viewing pleasure. Unfold the sleeve into a sort of a U shape, look through the lenses on one end, and see lovely 3D images. Besides being beautiful and inventive, I love that this is a piece of CD sleeve artwork that is specifically designed for the size and shape of a CD case -- highly unique.

Brilliant album, but -- much like Lateralus -- yet another lengthy step away from the Tool that created Undertow and Aenima. Needless to say, it'll divide the "old school fans" who want Tool to stay hard and loud and angsty from those who are open to more progression in their sound. The news stuff is far more personal, with some of their most beautifully constructed songs yet. The two-part epic "Wings for Marie/10,000 Days," about the death of Maynard's mother, is a full-out stunner -- easily the single most beautiful sounding piece of music they've written, and light-years away from anything on their previous recordings, stylistically. "Right in Two" is in a similar vein -- lilting, looping melodies leading up to explosive choruses, along with some amazing tabla work.

But it's not all pretty-pretty stuff: There are plenty of crushers on there as well. "Vicarious" is awesome, picking up (rhythmically, not thematically) where "Schism" left off, pointing out the hypocrisy of people who wag their fingers at people who are interested in violent imagery but who then immerse themselves on a constant, steady diet of sensationalistic "if it bleeds it leads" quote-news-unquote. "Jambi" crunches along at a nice pace. "The Pot" is cool, with Maynard singing in an utterly new style -- another piece about hypocrisy. But the real corker is "Rosetta Stoned:" Over 11 minutes of complex and powerful hard prog rock about a high school drop-out stoner who, while tripping near Area 51, is chosen by the aliens to deliver a very important message to the rest of mankind. But, well, he forgot his pen, y'see. Hysterically funny stuff, the song builds and builds until it utterly explodes at about 8:40 -- one of the best pieces in the entire Tool catalog, hands down.

Oh well. Back to obsession.

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