Monday, December 31, 2007

Done

As my voluminous output for December demonstrates, it's been a freakin' busy month. Trade shows, gup tests, XMas planning and execution, weeks of house guests and the overall blur of things-to-do that accompany all of these things have all contributed to an incredibly high-pressure / low-pleasure holiday season for me. Frustrating, to say the least.

On the up side, it's nearly over. One more party tonight (someone else's, for a change), a day off tomorrow, and then we plunge into an extremely busy quarter here at the office. The kids get back to school on Thursday, which will hopefully go a long way toward getting their behavior back to normal -- the complete lack of structure over the past couple of weeks has them acting like loons, not to mention stomping repeatedly on my last nerve. And this weekend we'll have our house to ourselves again, so with any luck we'll be back on an even keel by next Monday.

One thing I've learned about myself this past year is just how much I like my routines. Not that I live a terribly regimented and rigid life. But I like having a pretty solid idea of what I'll be doing on any particular night during the week. Training Tuesdays and Thursdays, sometimes Mondays as well. Gumdo on Friday evening. I like knowing that once the kids are down for the nights I can look forward to a couple of hours of just relaxing on the couch with Christine, watching the tube or reading a magazine or whatever. Knowing that Saturday goes like this: I get up around 7:30 and make a pot of coffee. While it's brewing I make 2 shots of espresso, and use one of them to make Christine a latte. Then I sip coffee, read email and news on my iMac until about 9:00. Then we start rallying the kids for 10:15 family class, after which we hit Starbucks so the kids can get their respective treats (Trevor: vanilla bean creme. Miranda: tangerine juice blend made with the cream base instead of tea). Then, typically we run by Target, do a little shopping, then head home and just chill out for a couple of hours. Maybe play some video games together. Then, maybe some dinner with friends, or invite some folks over to watch a movie.

Nice.

That's what our Saturdays usually are, except we haven't had one like that since prior to Thanksgiving, what with all the "fun" of the holiday season. And I haven't been able to just relax on the couch with my wife after the kids crashed for nearly a month. So I'm really ready for the whole holiday season to end so I can get my humdrum on.

-=-

So, 2007 is pretty much over, and I couldn't be more pleased. While we've made it through alright, this was not a good year, characterized predominantly by Too Much Change. I am atypically, enthusiastically embracing the illusory "clean slate" that January the first theoretically brings. And with this come a few general goals -- not exactly resolutions, so much as ideals. This year, I'm going to try to laugh more. I'm going to try not to dwell on things I can't fix or change. I'm going to try to count to ten before reacting when under stress. I'm going to play Rock Band at least once a week. I'm going to take one really amazing vacation with my wife and not freak out about how much it costs. I'm going to take my kids someplace that's not a theme park that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I'm going to pay more attention to tending my friendships.

And I'm going to train my ass off. Tang Soo Do got me through some very rough spots this past year. And even though I'm feeling a bit stagnant right now (not testing again until February, and I'm getting antsy) my commitment to achieving my training goals hasn't wavered a bit. I've got a small tournament coming up at the end of January, my first as a red belt. Much higher levels of competition, especially from the more established 2nd and 1st gups, so I'll need to train hard to have a shot at bringing home anything shiny. But I'm going to try my best and see what happens. And then I've got testing in February, after which the tournament season will kick off in earnest in March/April, capped off with the Nationals right here in Texas in July not to mention the Lone Star Invitational (Master Nunan's tournie) in August or September. Big year for us Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Texans, I'll tell ya.

So, here's to 2007, and the setting sun. And here's to 2008: may the best things that happened to you in the past year be the worst things that happen to you in the coming one.

Mood: Weary
Now Playing: Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bah Humbug

No, no, I’m not dead. Not yet, anyway. Just having yet another one of those months where I'm spread so thin that time to write is nearly non-existent, and inspiration/motivation to write when there is time is even more so. Frenzied and frustrated, but well.

Not a lot of Tang Soo Do talk to engage in just now. Still training 3-4 times a week, still loving it, but no big new events to report. Christine, Miranda, and Trevor all tested last weekend, and they did fantastic. Miranda is now a 3rd gup (red belt) while Trevor and Christine are 4th gups. Now they’re all on a 6 month wait until their next test. As for me, I’ll be testing for 2nd gup in February and I feel solid enough in my techniques that I have no real concerns. It should be a cake walk, more or less.

I’m having my usual holiday stress. I try not to be too “Grinch-y” at Christmas, but this year I’m feeling a bit more melancholy than usual. 2007 has not been a very good year – there have been some decent parts, but mostly it’s been a bit of a rapid-fire run-on sentence of a year, punctuated with notable negatives. Job loss and (thankfully brief) unemployment. Turning 40 (not a bad thing in and of itself, but something that has led to a lot more introspection than usual). Cancelled vacations. The death of a friend’s mom who was, also, a friend of mine. One notable broken friendship that is pretty much beyond repair. A couple of other friendships that are starting to fray around the edges due to distance and other factors.

Not that the year has been all, or even mostly, bad, exactly. We’ve had some great times this year, but the significant events of the year were largely negative ones, so all in all I’m looking forward to flipping the page on the calendar.

But first, I have to survive Christmas. I am so sick of spending money I could scream. We only have a few more gifts we have to get, and after that we are more or less finished. Of course, I know that “finished” actually means “well, aside from a bunch of last minute items that will occur to us in the next few days. Plus stocking stuffers. And candy. And all the stuff we have to buy for our Christmas brunch for 12 people.” So we won’t actually be finished until we get past the 25th and can stop it already. Or until we run out of cash. Whichever comes first, I suppose.

I wish I could convince my family to only do “gifts from everyone” for the kids and just do the “buy for one other person in the family” bit for the adults. I’d so much rather spend a couple of hundred on one really fantastic gift for one person than try to come up with gifts for everyone that all cost somewhere around the same amount and that they actually want. The worst thing is that we almost never come up with really great gifts ideas for anyone, anyway. This year a lot of folks are getting gift cards because we just can’t come up with anything that we think they want that we can actually afford, especially when it’s factored in with the budget of buying for everyone else as well.

I guess that’s why I dread this season so much these days. Every year it just turns into 4-6 weeks of stress about cash and little else. I enjoy seeing the kids open their presents, I enjoy throwing our annual brunch (a lot of work, but nice all the same) but otherwise the entire season is just a tawdry exercise in commercialism and greed with no focus whatsoever on anything meaningful.

People get all worked up over this idiotic fictional self-pitying “War on Christmas” garbage, claiming that people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is somehow ruining or devaluing their holiday, when in fact the entire way we “celebrate” this season is crass and meaningless. Pundits blather on about “them” (choose your “them” – no matter where you are in the political spectrum you’ve got your preferred Bogeyman, and you blame them for everything – just admit it and more forward) destroying The Meaning of Christmas between periodic commercial breaks filled with messages designed to make you feel like less of a wife/husband/father/mother/brother/sister/child/friend if you don’t buy more expensive disposable plastic distraction that signifies your love for people. Instead of actually, you know, showing them that you love them all year round, you buy sparkly junk, wrap it pretty, and give it to them this one day and that means you’re a good person, even if the rest of the year you were sort of an ass. And apparently this has something to do with Jesus.

So yeah, all these outraged talking heads – or, more precisely, talking heads who make tons of cash by finding things to be outraged about and telling you that you should be outraged, too, and buy their books to express your outrage – are getting all Chicken Little about clerks in the stores selling people all this crap being instructed to say “Seasons Greetings.” This is, apparently, one more example of secularism destroying the holidays.

Sigh.

I have news for you -- the holidays are already destroyed. And it’s not because some PC folks have decided it’s better to use more generic, “inoffensive” greetings designed to avoid offending easily offended people who are actively looking for something to be offended by. They were destroyed the day we collectively decided that the only way to celebrate Christmas was to spend as much of our cash as we possibly could to make the holidays “special.”

Because like it or not, in our culture cash in not just physical currency (i.e. an abstraction of the value of a physical item, enabling barter without actually having to exchange the physical items themselves), but emotional currency as well. It’s become an acceptable way to say how we feel without actually, you know, saying it. The more you spend on someone, the more you love them. Combine this basic attitude with a constant barrage of advertising that assures you that you are inadequate or lacking and this can be easily fixed by purchasing something, along with ready access to any number of credit card offers are you have a perfect misery cocktail. Spend until you can’t possibly spend anymore, otherwise people won’t think you love them. And no matter how much you spend, there will always be One More Thing you should have bought.

Arrgh. It’s just depressing. I’ll try to find a more inspiring topic for my next entry, but for now I’m just sort of weighed down with cynicism.

Mood: Gloomy
Now Playing: Feist, “The Reminder”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Truth Whispers

As I've mentioned before, I tend to surround myself with music at just about every waking moment. In the car, while I'm working, while I'm exercising, and so forth. If I'm doing anything that doesn't involve listening carefully to someone speaking (such as while watching a film, receiving instruction during class, etc.) then I tend to have music playing. Sometimes this is to provide a sort of background noise of familiarity to mask out more chaotic sounds: such is the case in my office, right now. My cube-mate, a salesperson who works from our home office every couple of weeks but is otherwise typically working from his home in North Carolina or is on the road somewhere, is notorious for a) talking on the phone continuously while b) using an astonishingly loud speaking voice. Headphones and loud music enable me to almost completely block him out and to get work done. Other times it's just to provide a distraction that helps pass the time while I'm doing other things: driving, working out, etc. This morning I realized that sometimes this distraction can really be a detriment, though.

I'm trying my best to get myself back on a reasonable gym regimen. I used to hit the gym at least 3 or 4 times a week, heading straight there when the kids went to school and working out for about an hour before showering and heading to my office. However, when I was out of work this summer I kind of fell out of my more strict gym routine, and once I began working again and Christine started substitute teaching my gym attendance fell off to maybe once or twice a week, tops. some weeks I've been unable to go at all, owing as much to native lack of motivation as to lack of opportunity. So I realized last week I needed to kick myself in the ass and just start going 2 times a week, then up it to 3 or 4 times a week once I get back in the habit.

So, this morning I headed over at about a quarter past seven or so. Once i arrived in the parking lot, I began to dig through my gym bag, grabbing my membership card out of my wallet and pulling together the various parts of my iPod so I could get my music going. However, I quickly realized I'd screwed up and forgotten to put my headphones back in my car. So, no headphones, and therefore no music.

Ugh. Half an hour on an elliptical runner with no music. I felt a stir of dread in my chest. Oh well, nothing to be done at this point, so i headed on inside, dropped my stuff at the locker room, and hit a machine that was poistioned directly below one of the gym's PA speakers, ensuring that I'd at least have music of some volume to listen to while doing cardio. All in all, it wasn't so bad.

Then I moved onto stretching -- a big part of my exercise regimen for the past two years has been 15-20 minutes of stretching 4-5 mornings each week in order to increase my flexibility and it's paid off tremendously. I can kick comfortable over my head and rarely get strained muscles in my legs or hips anymore, so keeping up the stretching routine is important. But stretching without music is borrrrrrring. But, again, I just sort of plodded through it.

Now, this left me with about 20 minutes of time to fill in before I had to hit the showers. I used to spend this time on doing weights, but as my training has become more advanced and demanding in the past year I've instead used it for additional time working on forms or one-steps. Usually this is when I most crave music, as I can use the music as a sort of pacing mechanism, ensuring that I maintain a certain rhythm when performing forms. But today it was just me in an echo-ey studio, with the sound of standard health club dance music seeping through the glass walls. At first I was a bit distracted by this: the sound wasn't clear enough to really identify easily, so part of my brain kept trying to figure out what song was playing, sort of the way your mind automatically will try to piece together half-heard conversations when you're walking through a crowded store. But after a bit I began to just filter the sound out altogether.

And then, something fairly unexpected happened. I realized, quickly, while working on forms, that I was paying far more attention to the details of my form, to the finer poitns of movement: hand and foot placement, the angle at which I had my hips turned, my breathing, and so forth. I suppose this shouldn't be too much of a shock, really: I mean, I know that listening to music while doing things that demand attention and focus, like forms, will have something of a negative effect. but I just hadn't realized how much of my attention was being sapped away by a little background noise. I was so much more able to critique my own performance, to judge where my strengths and weaknesses in my pyang ahn o dan, chil sung ill rho, and bassai were and to adjust, compensate, and improve on the fly.

It reminded me of something I once heard -- I'm not really sure where, but I'm sure it came up in a conversation I had years ago, long before I began training in tang soo do. The gist of it was that one of the ways you can tell that someone isn't telling you the whole truth is they tend to yell more. The idea is that people know when they're not telling you the whole truth, and they know that if they don't bowl you over a bit you might start asking too many questions, so they use force and volume to drive their point in. Conversely, people who are telling the truth and who are confident in the rightness of their words or ideas whisper. The idea would be that the power of truth ensures that it will be heard and believed, but the irony is that liars tend to drown it out with volume. Thus, people who want to glimpse truth need to learn to listen, carefully, to small things, while learning to ignore all the racket of lies and half-truths around them.

This is a pretty big concept, I think, something that applies to many aspects of our lives: obvious "big" things like the news media, advertising, religion, and such as well as less obvious things, like the voices we use when we speak with ourselves. We can sometimes expend so much effort drowning ourselves in stimulation and distraction that we simply are unable to hear the voices in our hearts, telling us simple truths. I think sometimes we do this on purpose, intentionally drenching ourselves in stimulation so we can avoid facing facts we'd rather not deal with, but sometimes we can just get so used to the noise and racket that we forget that sometime all we need to do is stop, take a deep breath, and listen to what our minds are saying, quietly, to us.

We know, inside, the truth, or at least what we know of truth, and sometimes we just need to stop for a minute and listen to really hear it. Whether we want to know it or not.

Mood: A bit harried (lots to do this week, and I'm attending my first trade show next week, so there's stress too...)
Now Playing: Nothing

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tool Show, Feeling Beat

Wow, I'm beat. My friend Pennie and I hit the Tool show at the Frank Erwin Center last night -- first concert I've been to in a while. Definitely the loudest I've been to in years. Got in a bit after midnight, had a somewhat crumby night sleep, and made it to the office this morning by 8:00. I think it's gonna be a long day.

Anyhow, the show was great, if a bit different from any other concert I've attended before. I've never seen Tool live but I'd always heard they put on an amazing show, although the band members aren't particularly animated. I'd say that statement sums the show up, although it's both something of an overstatement and an understatement.

The show was really very, very good. The band played flawlessly, and the sound quality was actually pretty darn good for an arena -- damn loud, but only overwhelming at a few moments -- and the light and video design was spectacular. Six video screens in an array around the stage, a very large projection screen above the stage, and several elaborate articulated lighting rigs as well. Here are a few shots to give you an idea of the view from where I sat/stood:

We were seated directly across from the stage, maybe 15-20 feet above stage level -- perfect seats for this kind of show, in my opinion. The entire stage design was about big visual impact -- lots of lighting effects, fog, interesting/bizarre visual imagery, and so forth. My crapola camera phone wasn't up to the task of capturing any pics that showed the video screens with any clarity, but I think you get the idea.

Anyway, musically the show was pretty terrific. As I said Tool played flawlessly, faithfully and meticulously reproducing the sound and feel of their recorded music. A few songs were extended and reworked slightly, with additional solos and jam sections worked well -- mostly: they did make the really irritating choice of having about 6 minutes of extra drum-solo garbage with a guest drummer jammed into the second half of "Lateralus." That's my favorite Tool song, and the drum solo nonsense didn't do anything to improve it. Quite the opposite if anything. Oh well, what can you do? It might have worked better if the guest drummer (Terry Bozzio) had been properly miked so we could actually hear what he was doing. Overall, a dead spot.

Visually the show was mind-blowing. the video imagery that accompanied the songs was programmed and sequenced extremely well, perfectly pacing the changes in the music. Lighting was moody and complex, with fog and laser-style lighting used to excellent effect on many occasions. So, lots to look at and see.

Which is, well, a good thing, because while they may be amazing musicians Tool doesn't seem to know/care about being live entertainers. The lighting and video do all the entertaining for them -- the band mostly acts like a live soundtrack, barely even registering as individuals once they begin playing. They take the stage, take their places evenly distributed in a nice array, and play. They don't interact with each other at all, they don't move around (even Maynard hardly moved from his spot, rarely -- if at all -- engaging in any of the theatrics typical of singers). Almost no dialog with the audience aside from an admonition to not get too drunk too early as "we have a lot of stuff to get through tonight."

Overall, I understand the reason for this: these guys play some very intricate stuff. There aren't a lot of opportunities for the sort of strutting and mugging that most rock bands engage in, and if they were hopping around and goofing off chances are they'd screw up the songs. But I do think it was odd that Maynard would just sort of stand there and tap his foot while gesturing toward the other band members during extended instrumental sections. I don't know if he's got serious stage fright or just doesn't like to interact with audiences or what, but he kept such a distance from the crowd and was so overshadowed by the lighting/video/stage design that he might as well have been singing from offstage.

And this distant quality that the band had, coupled with the spectacular attention to detail in the performance and the incredibly saturated video/lighting design really created an odd effect: I felt like I was at the greatest laser show ever, not at a concert. The show as a whole didn't have a sense of "live-ness" at all. Little spontaneity, only a few brief moments of interaction with the crowd, and visual elements that seemed specifically designed to overshadow, dwarf, even make secondary, the human beings on-stage actually playing the music.

Now, this may be by design -- a lot of musicians are faced with the rather daunting dilemma of not being overly fond of playing front of large crowds but also having to do so for business reasons: choosing to let the lighting do the "large scale" entertaining while you plug away at delivering top quality music is a perfectly valid choice that at least attempts to give the audience what they've paid for. But it was easily the chilliest emotional response I've ever had to a live performance before.

Most acts try to at least communicate with their audience a bit, telling a few jokes, making a few comments about the town or current events, or otherwise attempting to acknowledge the audience and make them feel more a part of the performance. Some acts truly excel at this, with the charisma of the musicians somehow making the folks in the back row feel like they're 3 feet from the stage. Bono/U2 and Bruce Springsteen are, in my opinion, the epitome of this -- I've seen them both multiple times, in various sizes of venues, with both good seats and crap seats, and have always been utterly drawn in, emotionally, to the show. There was almost no effort whatsoever on the part of Tool to do this. In terms of feeling any sense of connection to the performers on-stage, this was roughly the equivalent of watching a fairly good concert video. Only without any close-ups.

And then there was the set list. A good set -- about 1:45 of music -- but I think we got shortchanged. By my recollection we got the following:

Jambi
Stinkfist
Forty-Six and 2
Rosetta Stoned (but no Lost Keys/Blame Hoffman)
Schism
Flood
Wings for Marie/10,000 Days
Lateralus
Vicarious

We also had some extended interlude bits -- instrumental noodling or pure sequenced synth stuff to give the band a few minutes to get some water and stretch out before diving into the next song. But a brief look around the web shows that many other set lists featured all of these songs along with "Right in Two," or "Aenema" (another personal fave), even the occasional inclusions of "Opiate" or "Swamp Song," and also included the "Lost Keys/Blame Hoffman" intro to "Rosetta Stoned." Any of these would have been an amazing addition to the show.

Add to this the fact that once they finished up "Vicarious" Maynard basically waved for about 15 seconds, chucked his water bottles into the audience one at a time, and then walked off-stage about 30-45 seconds before the rest of the band (who at least stood around and waved for a while, although an encore would have been nicer...), and the only impression I get is that a certain lead singer is jut not all that into doing this live performance thing anymore, or is just not that into this band anymore. One thing is certain: he couldn't wait to get this thing done with so he could move along.

So, while I have some mixed feelings about the show overall, I'm really glad I went. Terrific music, great lighting, decent sound design for an arena show, and a mostly A+ experience, if an oddly uninvolving one, emotionally. I'd definitely see them, again, although I'd adjust my expectations a bit -- their live performance style is atypical, I'd say, but they definitely work to create an amazing experience on the whole. But I don't know -- I'm getting the distinct feeling that it may be a long time before I get to see Tool live again.

If ever. The behavior of the band, or more specifically of Maynard, throughout the evening, really seemed to indicate that he's pretty much over this whole thing -- the songs, the other guys in the band, the audiences, the whole enchilada. This is made even more apparent by the fact that this was the first night back on tour after a multi-month break. It's not really a big stretch to expect that they would seem invigorated and recharged -- instead, they seemed polished, clean, flawless, and bored.

Some more pics:

During "Flood," (I think):
During "Wings for Marie/10,000 Days":
During "Lateralus":
End of show:
Mood: Tired, a bit harried (heading out of town for Thanksgiving week tomorrow -- driving from Texas to North Carolina)
Now Playing: Seal, "System"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Simmerin' Down, Looking Ahead

Halloween has passed, the Hootenanny was a smashing success, and now I can finally settle down and relax a bit for the first time in what seems like months. Seriously. I don't think I've had a weekend or weeknight since my 3rd gup test (back on September 22nd) where I just got to chill out and relax. Actually that extends to several weeks prior to my test, since I was spending all my free time in the few weeks prior to the test getting myself ready.

So, what's that? 3+ months of busy business. Damn. No wonder I feel so shot this week.

So, this weekend I finally have a couple of days with nothing that NEEDS doing. And what do I do? I volunteer to work as a ring coordinator at a Tang Soo Do tournament that is being held by one of the dojangs in my area, as a favor to my instructor.

Now, this may not sound like "taking a day off and relaxing" to most folks, but in my terms it's going easy on myself, as I've chosen not to actually compete in this tournament, just to help keep things running smoothly. I know myself, and I know that if I'd decided to compete I would have killed myself the last few weeks trying to prepare my current "highest level" form, bassai, for competition. I take forms very seriously, and I know that I'm incapable of approaching a tournament performance of a form with anything less than total commitment to preparation. Piling tournament preparation in on top of the final stages of Halloween party prep would have been disastrous.

So, in those terms, just taking a day to go and help coordinate a tournament and hang with friends while they compete is taking it easy! I think it will be fun, and chances are it will be a pretty small tournament and will end fairly early anyhow. And this way I'm actively supporting and participating in organization events without killing myself in the process, which I'd have to say is something of a win/win.

As for right now, I'm kind of stuck at home. Miranda's got a cold or bad allergies or something, and Christine had to do a half-day of substitute teaching, so I had to stick around the house this morning and keep an eye on Miranda until her Mom can swing back and pick her up around 11:30 or so. Not a big deal, really -- I can do work email from home, so I'm not a total waste this AM. Unfortunately I don't have access to my design and layout software so I can't get any real honest-to-goodness WORK done, but I should be able to get a bunch accomplished once I get into the office later today. So, for now, I do email. And blog.

-=-

So, now that things are back to a manageable level of standard day-to-day insanity, I've finally been able to really start focusing back in on my training and evaluating my progress on my new 3rg gup level techniques. Compared with some previous gup level training transitions, this one doesn't feel as though it is as heavy on curriculum, at least at first. One new hyung (bassai), a few new ho sin sul (wrist and hand grab defense techniques -- 2 "one hand from the side" grabs, using a natural and an unnatural grip, and 2 "both hands grabbed from the back"), a few new il soo sik dae ryun (one step sparring techniques -- numbers 15-18, though I'm pretty sure I only need to know 15 and 16 for my next test...). Plus I'm finally beginning to learn jump spin kicks "for real," meaning that whereas I previously was encourage to give them a try and see how well I could do them when the senior students were training, they are now a required part of my training time in class.

So, progress so far is pretty solid, I'd say. Working on bassai has been a challenge, to say the least. This is a tough and complicated form, gorgeous and fascinating to perform but not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Usually I can get a form memorized (i.e. I know and can perform all the movements in the sequence accurately, if not well) in a week or so, but with bassai it took nearly 3 weeks. Partly this was due to just being over-committed and not having enough time to put in extra time in the dojang and the gym to pin it down, but partly it's simply because it's a complicated form. It took me longer to get all of the basic movements locked into memory than any form previously. But I've been working it pretty regularly and solidly for about 2 weeks now and it's really coming along. I wouldn't call it competition-ready or anything, but I know it well enough to continue working on it.

The wrist grab techniques are also going well, although the two-from-the-back grabs are frustrating -- there's one where I have to sort of pinwheel my arms while turning around where I just can't seem to figure out the right time to transition my grip. Still, it's coming along and isn't presenting any challenges that can't be solved with guidance, repetition, and patience. More or less the same situation I face with my new one-steps: 15 and 16 are a bit complex, but I'm getting them down, and 17 and 18 are presenting some problems with hand placement and whatnot, but nothing I don't feel won't resolve itself with time and attention.

Which leaves the jump spin kicks, which are proving to be a source of much frustration.

Some of them I can do fairly easily, if not with anything resembling style or grace, but I have some serious issues with almost any of the kicks that require me to kick with my left leg while pushing off of the ground with my right. While my right leg kicks tend to actually get me pretty far off the ground, for some reason I am very gun-shy about jumping with my right leg and tend to rarely get more than a few inches of air when doing left-leg jump spin techniques. A big part of it comes from the ongoing referred pain problems I have on that side -- nothing nearly as bad as it was this time last year, but still I have to deal with pain emanating down the inside of my right thigh on a pretty constant basis. I think this pain has an annoying side effect of making me a bit over-aware of potential injury to that leg, and as a result I am prone to over-thinking and hesitating when using techniques that put a lot of pressure on it. This will be something of an ongoing issue, I'm afraid, and something I will probably have to deal with at length over the coming year or so.

One other unexpected challenge I've encountered with my kicks, though, is a frustrating sense of lack of control when performing them with a partner. One thing I've always been good at is maintaining a safe distance when performing techniques with partners. I've got a really good feel for where my hands and feet are in proximity to my partners body, and as a result I tend to just sort of "know" when I'm close but not quite touching them. So, as a result, I've always been able to get my kicks and punches within 3-4 inches of my partners face without hitting them with almost no real difficulty.

But with jump spin kicks this is not the case -- I don't feel any of the sense of control and instinctive understanding of where my hands and feet (feet especially!) are when I've both spun around AND jumped into the air, and as a result I'm often either a) coming dangerously close to kicking my partners in the head or face or b) throwing the technique poorly due to a sense of fear that I will do a).

Happily for everyone involved I haven't actually kicked anyone (yet). I'm fairly good at knowing that I'm too close when I begin to throw the kick and can pull it back in time, blowing the technique but also not hurting anyone. All in all, the better outcome. And last ngiht I felt I made some very good progress on maintaining safe distance from my partner while also managing to fumble my way through the techniques with something approaching adequacy. But of all the things I've learned since testing for 3rd gup I can tell that the jump spin kicks will present the largest ongoing challenge in the next stages of my training.

Hard stuff. But fun. And after all, as Master Reilly is apt to say,"Tang Soo Do isn't supposed to be easy. If it was easy, we'd call it ... Tae Kwan Do!"

Heh.

Mood: Antsy
Now Playing: Beethoven, "The Complete Piano Sonatas"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween y'all! I've been so busy it's been hard to really get into the spirit of things so far, but today looks like it will be a fun day anyhow. I've got cool skull sneakers, a skull-covered button up shirt, a skull-and-crossbones stud, and a dangly bat earring on in recognition of the holiday. Later this afternoon my company is having a little costume contest/party thing which should be a good time, too. Unfortunately I don't have a "real" costume -- too much to do with the party coming up on Saturday so costume shopping time has been non-existent. I'll be hitting the Halloween store clearance sale tomorrow to try to score something cool-yet-cheap for this year's edition of the Halloween Hootenanny, but for today I'll just be ...

... a martial arts guy. I know, what a freakin' cop-out. I'm wearing my dobakh, a "costume" I already wear for at least 4-5 hours a week, every week. So, not really a costume at all.

So Damn Lame. But at least I'll look good.

At first I felt a little funny about wearing my dobakh to a costume party -- I wondered for a bit if it was disrespectful. But, you know, I'm not misrepresenting myself by wearing rank I haven't attained, and I'm not going to mock or make fun of my art or the things I (or others) have accomplished. Basically, I'm wearing jammies with red trim and a belt. While the uniform is a traditional garment, ultimately it's the behavior of the person wearing it that determines whether proper respect for our art is being shown. I've seen people do some pretty shabby things while wearing uniforms, and I've seen high-ranking martial artists behave in a way that shames themselves or their art while out of their dobakhs, which I would think is just as bad, if not worse. I'm just wearing something that identifies me as a "type" for a party. Most folks would consider it a costume, even if I know it isn't really one in this case.

-=-

So, yeah, party planning continues. The music mix is essentially complete -- this year's mix is heavy on 80's and 90's tunes with a lot of Halloween-style songs thrown in. Here's the list of artists:

A Perfect Circle - Adam Ant - Amy Winehouse - Annie Lennox - The Avalanches - B-52s - Bauhaus - The Beatles - Bjork - Blue Oyster Cult - Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Keepers - Bow Wow Wow - Bruce Springsteen - Camper van Beethoven - The Clash - Concrete Blonde - The Cramps - The Cure - David Bowie with Queen - The Dead Milkmen - Death Cab for Cutie - Depeche Mode - Echo and the Bunnymen - Eddie Vedder - Elbow - The Flaming Lips - Foo Fighters - General Public - Gorillaz - Grand Master Flash and Melle Mel - Grant Lee Buffalo - Guadalcanal Diary - The Hold Steady - House of Pain - The Jesus and Mary Chain - Julian Cope - Kernkraft 400 - Kirsty MacColl - Linkin Park - Liz Phair with Material Issue - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Los Straitjackets - Maroon 5 - Matthew Sweet - The Mavericks - Muse - Nerf Herder - The New Pornographers - Oingo Boingo - Our Lady Peace - Peter Gabriel - The Police - The Pretenders - Queen - The Ramones - Raul Malo - Reel Big Fish - REM - Reverend Horton Heat - Rob Zombie - Robyn Hitchcok and the Egyptians - Santa Esmerelda - Screaming Blue Messiahs - Simple Minds - Siouxsie and the Banshees - Siouxsie Sioux - Sloan - Sponge - Stevie Nicks - Sublime - They Might Be Giants - The Shins - The Specials - Thomas Dolby - Timbaland - Tomoyasu Hotel - Tool - Tori Amos - Trio - VAST - The White Stripes

5 hours and 55 minutes of music, sound effects, and movie clips, mixed and crossfaded and all that happy crap into one monster MP3. Should be awesome. Now I just have to get the house decorated. We have a fairly decent display in the front yard -- nothing new this year aside from some lights, but our graveyard still looks better than any of the other yard displays in our neighborhood so yay us. I'll get home a bit early today and get sound effects, music and fog machines going before the trick or treaters come out, so all in all it'll be a good scene when it's ready.

The inside of the house, though, has a long way to go before Saturday night: we have lots of decor, but haven't put it out yet. I've done a bit of stuff with some cool dripping blood effects on various windows and mirrors, but otherwise the interior is unstarted. Lots of work to do. And with a minimum of 60-70 folks coming by for the party, it's gotta be tricked out and impressive or I'll feel like I blew it. Still, we have lots of creepy stuff, plus since the party is coming a few days after Halloween we get the benefit of the post-holiday clearance sales on all sorts of stuff and I can raid my brother's collection of stuff he puts out in his yard as well.

To top it off, I've volunteered to take down all the decorations at the dojang in exchange for getting to use them, and thsi iscludes a lot of that plastic "scene setter" stuff that goes up on the walls -- graveyards, wrought iron fences, spooky forests, and so forth. I think when I finish raiding everyone else's stuff we'll wind up with a pretty solid party scene.

Anyway, time to get some work done. Enjoy the day!

Mood: Upbeat
Now Playing: Halloween Hootenanny 2007 Mix

Monday, October 29, 2007

Party Planning; Sadness; An Exorcism

Well, this week marks the beginning of the run-up to our annual Halloween party. I have SO much I have to do between today and Saturday night that I'm feeling a bit paralyzed -- just don't know where to start. I mean it's a Halloween party and we don't even have our costumes yet! To say nothing of all of the decorating we have to take care of inside the house by then. I still need to get a bunch of stuff set up in the front yard for Halloween night, and that's only two days away. Ack. So much to do.

Happily, I managed to nail down this year's edition of the Halloween Hootenanny music mix/trivia game without too much trouble. In years past I've gotten incredibly obsessed with the music, spending hour upon hour sitting in front of the computer messing around in Mixmeister, getting things just right, and trying desperately to jam lots of different styles of music (everything from dace and electronica to current pop to classic rock to grunge and heavy metal, plus lots of Halloween-themed stuff jammed in there as well). This year I game myself a bit of a break and stuck to more familiar/less recent music for the vast majority of the mix -- it's heavily 80s/90s oriented this time around, with a real emphasis on fairly well known mid-late 90's alternative rock and very little in the way of "current hits." As a result the sequencing was way easier and the mix came together -- all 6 hours of it -- in just one night. Still want to jam a bunch of sound effects and stuff in there, but all in all it's complete. So that's one thing done.

And about a thousand left to do. Heh. Sigh.

But so far the party is looking to be a great success -- turnout looks to be good, although probably slightly smaller than last year (we had 96 last time, this year I'm betting we'll hit somewhere in the 70s...). Still, that's more than enough folks to ensure the evening will be a rockin' one. Now I just need the night to get here so I can stop sweating it.

-=-

The last few weeks have been a bit frustrating for me, training-wise. With all of the busy blur that my life has been in the past 2 months, I've been having a rough go of it making more than a couple of classes each week and finding additional training time outside of classes. Usually I devote a minimum of 4-6 hours of time outside of the dojang while also attending at least 3 classes each week. But, since I tested for 3rd gup I've been lucky to make it to the dojang two times a week, and if I managed to get more than an hour of extra practice in at the gym or at home it was a miracle. Happily, starting this week I think I'll be able to rectify that situation a bit.

I'm a very active gup in our dojang, doing a lot to try to help keep the place clean and running smoothly, assisting with designing marketing and promotional materials, and volunteering to help out with tournaments and other events whenever I can. One of the best fringe benefits of this has been being granted permission to use the dojang in off-hours and being given my own key. Previously I've used this privilege on Sunday afternoons to go in and train by myself or with one or two friends for a couple of hours before heading home to make dinner, which has always been great.

But this morning, I decided to head over to the dojang to train instead of heading to the gym. It's interesting: this wasn't so much because I felt I needed to be there to train. My gym has several studio areas with a nice mirrored wall where I can work forms and techniques, although not with the benefit of a nice cushioned mat. Mostly it was that I felt a need to get in the dojang by myself to reconnect with the dojang itself and with my own drive and desire to train, to remind myself of why I'm there.

Let me explain. The last couple of weeks have been a bit trying, personal-life wise, in relation to some of my friends. Not getting into details -- nothing to be gained by airing dirty laundry -- but suffice it to say that some things have been said and done which led to regrettable results. I wasn't directly involved in anything, but my wife and I are directly impacted by the end results, and it's left me with a sense of, well, loss. I've been feeling something akin to grief for about two weeks now due to this stuff. Swinging fairly regularly between anger, and sadness, and confusion, all to no real avail. And I've been carrying it onto the mat with me when I train, splitting my attention between what I'm there to do and this invisible lodestone I feel hanging from my neck. Which, obviously, exacerbates things, as my frustration at not being fully present for my training, at being distracted, turns into more anger, and frustration, and sadness. My training is not going well, and I'm losing sleep on top of it.

What a mess.

But this morning I decided I need to find a way to get past this crap. Over the past couple of years the dojang has become an extremely important place to me, perhaps never more so than in the past 6 months, when I was losing my job, then out of work and having some pretty serious trouble keeping my chin up while seeking a new position. Training has never been a simple matter of stress-release for me -- it's more like I train to channel negative feelings and impulses into positive goals. I am fairly certain that without training I would have been pretty self-destructive during the time I was out of work, but instead I stayed on a fairly even keel and just kept plugging away. It was a simple, but very clear, demonstration of the positive effects Tang Soo Do has had on my life. When I needed it most, and so many other things seemed to be unstable, my training was there, and it helped carry me forward. So I need to get past the negative stuff I'm feeling and get things right again, for my own well being. I need the dojang to feel like my home again, but right now it feels... well...

Haunted.

So, part of what I was doing this morning was performing an exorcism, of sorts. On myself, primarily, but in a sense on the dojang as well. Because I feel as if I've brought this negativity there and it's taken root, if only a bit, made itself at home there and as a result these negative things were the first things I'd think about when I walked in the door and bowed. I needed to get the bad feelings I had inside out, and to not make them a part of the dojang and my training anymore. I decided that I needed to be there and to think about what had gone on while I stretched and worked out and sweated doing one steps and forms for an hour. To wrestle with the crap in my head, try to sweat out this poison, push out this negativity and stop carrying it around with me.

So I busted my ass for an hour. Alone, in the early morning dusky darkenss as the sun slowly crept above the horizon, with my iPod playing the mix I put together for the party while I worked my way through a thorough stretch and warmup, a pile of one steps and then forms. First bassai, again and again and again. Eight times. Hard and fast, then slow and methodical, then experimenting with rhythm. Then chil sung ill rho, as slow as I could manage, five times, all the while thinking about and just trying to vent these feelings, bleed them out, let them go, stop carrying them with me. 8 and 5, 13 repetitions. 13, my lucky number and a step in the Fibonacci sequence. Order in seeming chaos, meaning in what appears to be random. Trying to sort this mess in my head.

Tears mixed with the sweat a bunch of times -- tears of sadness, of pain, of anger and frustration and disappointment and loss. I've needed to let this crap out, and just couldn't seem to do it. It was a tough hour, but when it was over I felt a lot better. Nothing has changed, really -- there's still stuff that's broken that probably cannot be fixed, and that all still sucks. I still want to push a cosmic rewind button and make the past few weeks go away, to get a gigantic do-over. Obviously that ain't gonna happen. And I still have a lot of sadness and frustration to cope with, but I felt a sizable piece of it fall away this morning.

This will pass. Things will be good again. It's okay to be sad, but I need to keep moving forward anyhow. And it's okay to be angry and disappointed in my friends, but that I need to forgive them, too.

So, some clarity.

Mood: Somber
Now Playing: Halloween Hootenanny 2007 Party Mix

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Litany

Recently, a friend of mine commented in passing that music is very important to me. Obviously that's true -- I have a fairly huge collection of music, a relatively large amount of popular music history knowledge, an interest in music theory, and very varied musical tastes (chamber music to death metal, and pretty much everything in between...). It's a rare time indeed when music doesn't accompany whatever activity I happen to be engaged in at any time.

It's not so much that I need noise around me as that I set my own moods, and perhaps also express my moods to others, by providing myself with a soundtrack. I have certain patterns: fast loud guitar rock when I'm driving in my Jeep during on sunny days, acoustic folk in the Jeep on rainy days, classical or new agey/celtic stuff when I'm driving at night, film scores or Dead Can Dance while I'm training in forms by myself, Tool/Rob Zombie or other fairly aggressive metal when I'm doing cardio, Ella Fitzgerald or Jane Monheit when I'm sipping coffee on a Sunday morning, etc.

Sometimes, though, I'll just throw on the satellite radio -- usually when I'm driving Christine's car -- and sort of "window shop," changing channels all over the place and seeing what's out there. And every now and then I stumble across a song that precisely defines how I'm feeling at a moment in time, and it's like magic. For a second I almost feel like I'm in a film and the soundtrack just kicked in. It may be something new, or something I haven't listened to or thought about in a very long time, but whatever it is when it happens it gives me chills.

The last few weeks have been an utter and complete blur. Lots going on -- nothing bad, happily, but just a lot of activity. And I' m not feeling stressed out, exactly: It's more like I just wish I had about 2 more hours in each day so I could get even more things stuffed into my schedule. I'm happy with all of the things I'm doing, and I just wish I could jam a couple of more things in as well. So when this song came on the radio the other day it was like I opened a fortune cookie and it told me something I knew in my heart was true:
Litany (I See Life) -- Guadalcanal Diary

I see life like a mirror
And I see life so much clearer


We move so quickly

Who knows where the time goes
?
Where does this road lead?

No one knows, no one knows


Listen to the single heart beating

Rhythm for an ever-changing song


I see life with surprise

And I see life, oh, in your eyes


Take all your troubles

Put them in a common file

Light a fire with reason

Watch it rise, watch it rise


Listen to the single voice singing

Lifted in an ever-growing song


I see life without anger


I see life all together

I see life go on forever


Life goes on forever

Life goes on
Mood: Pretty damn peppy, all in all
Now Playing: Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, "Immortal Memory"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How Long Must I Wait?

Today, a friend of mine at work referred to me as a martial artist, and felt a need to correct him. "I don't think of myself as a martial artist," I said. "At least not yet. I'd say I practice martial arts, but I don't feel qualified to refer to myself as a martial artist."

And this isn't some sort of false humility or attempt to split hairs. It's truly how I feel. I work hard at learning my techniques and polishing my skills, but I don't for one second feel that what I do is art, yet. Some parts may approach art at times -- I think I bring something special to my forms, on occasion, that elevates them to something more than just a series of movements, for example. And there are times when I'm training, typically when I'm alone, that I feel a sense that I'm just starting to ... grow in some way.

But an artist? Nope. Not yet.

So I got to thinking, if not now then when? When does this transition from practitioner to artist occur? And I remembered something that Kwan Jhang Nim taught us when he came to Texas and taught some clinics a few weeks before Christmas last year. He was talking about the things a person must do in order to actually learn, the 7 stages of learning. As best as I can recall, they were:
  1. Look with the intent to learn.
  2. Listen with the intent to learn.
  3. Record and remember what you see and hear.
  4. Imitate what you remember seeing and hearing.
  5. Practice. Practice. Practice.
  6. Gain a higher awareness.
  7. Create something new.
I remember listening to these principals and being a little confused by everything after "practice practice practice." The first 5 stages are fairly obvious, and you can't possible advance and learn without engaging in all of them regularly. But the whole "higher awareness" thing seemed a bit ... well, not silly, but a bit too mystical for me to connect with. So far beyond me that it wasn't even worth considering. And yet almost a year later, I've begun to notice that sometimes I become ... different ... when training. My mind works differently. I separate myself from what I'm doing.

I've really started spotting this when I practice forms by myself. I've heard forms referred to as "moving meditations," and I think I'm beginning to understand what that means. Sometimes I find myself thinking about something completely separate and distinct from my form, and yet I continue to move and do the form's techniques without thought. Other times I'll be training with friends in a less formal setting and we'll begin chatting about movies, or music, or the news, while we're in the middle of forms practice, and we'll just continue doing the forms , conversing all the while.

Sometimes it trips me up, sure -- I'll get distracted, or suddenly I'll just go "ummm... wait.. what the heck am I doing again?" But mostly the practice I've engaged in has wired the movements into my muscles and as a result my mind is more-or-less free to go about other business while the form is being performed. Sometimes my mind just sort of disengages altogether and all I do is move for a minute or so. No real effort to think at all. Now, this is by no means how things are all -- or even most -- of the time. I don't have anything even remotely resembling the mental discipline to do this consistently. But it just sort of happens, on its own, on occasion.

I also really noticed this effect during my last couple of gup tests -- particularly in last Saturday's 3rd gup test. During line drills and forms I just sort of go ... blank. I just listen, and then do, and then move on to the next thing . It was odd -- I was talking to Sa Bom Nim after the test and I asked how I looked out there. He gave me some praise -- not so much as to give me a swelled head, but reassured me that I did well that day. And I told him that I honestly couldn't recall much in the way of specific moments during the testing until I began interacting with a partner. I have some sense of things from when I was doing forms with Kayleigh, but they're mostly impressions: getting out of breath. Slowing down and speeding up to try to maintain a good rhythm and stay as close together as possible. Being happy with my kicks at several points. But overall I was just ... moving ... without much thought. Even then, with the pressure and stress of testing. However, once I began working with partners on one steps, wrist grabs, etc. I have far more recall.

Interesting.

But anyhow, I think this means I've, after over a year and a half, begun to touch on the 6th stage of learning. I think this sense of separation, of detachment while training, describes "higher awareness" pretty well. Of course, figuring out what to do during those moments is another story -- I imagine that will occur over time. And I suspect that creating, true creation, comes from harnessing and using that higher awareness.

And that, of course, is when one becomes a martial artist. A practitioner practices, but an artist creates. So, I suspect I'll be practicing martial arts for a long time to come.

But my goal, someday, is to be able to call myself, humbly and sincerely, an artist.

Mood: Ready to go home (early day, I've been working for about 10 hours, and I can't leave the office yet -- have to wait for my ride...)
Now Playing: The Hold Steady, "Boys and Girls in America"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Take This Stuff VERY Seriously


As you can see.

Mood: Sleepy, achey still
Now Playing: Nada

Red Belt Test Recap

OK, I'm a red belt now. Check out the cool new South Park character image in my profile -- created a brand new one, with a haircut that looks more like the short and spiky look I'v ebeen sporting the last year, plus a nicer, more peaceful background. Ahhhhhhh. Sweet.

So, yeah, I've reached 3rd gup. No pictures, yet -- my digital camera's batteries died after my mom took 3 pictures, and she took pictures but was using an old-school film camera so we'll need to wait until she develops them to see how things look. I should be able to post a few pics later today.

The test was great but ow, man, everything hurts. Every muscle in my arms, legs and back is aching like mad. I think that was largely because the test went so quickly. We had 11 green belts testing together, 7 6th gups (including Christine and Trevor) and 2 5th gups testing for stripes, and 2 4th gups (me and my 8 year old training buddy Kayleigh) testing for red belts. Overall everyone really knew their stuff -- Trevor was a bit of a goofball during the test, and we need to work on that, but all in all he knows his techniques. Christine did terrific as well, and the rest of the green belts mostly knew what they were doing aside from a couple of hitches here and there.

As a result, the test was over in less than 3 hours, which is nice in some ways (easier to maintain a high level of energy and discipline for the length of the test) but it also tends to be a bit more demanding physically, as you don't get much time to catch your breath. When folks are messing up, the rest of the people testing typically get to sit and wait for a while until they get their problems worked out, but aside from waiting for the 6th and 5th gups to finish their forms I had almost no sit-and-relax time at all.

Anyway, I'm mostly thrilled with my own performance on test day, with the notable exception of the improvised self defense technique I performed on my wife. I mean, it was a really good technique -- blocked her punch to the outside, then stepped in with an elbow to the face, a second elbow to the back of the head as I moved my right leg behind her, followed by a rear leg sweep while pushing her backward with my arm to pinwheel her to the floor. It was very effective. I also used a bit too much power, causing her to hit the mat way too hard and knocking the wind out of her. We had to excuse ourselves from the mat and head into the restroom so she could pull herself back together and I could make sure she was OK.

I felt horrible -- she wasn't really injured, and she was able to shake it off and finish the test without any problem -- but still, I really dropped her pretty hard. Honestly, I wasn't trying to use so much power, but I'm so damn used to training with big guys that I forget just how strong I can be and how much smaller she is than me. Plus, she wasn't prepared for such a hard drop which really made it worse -- had she known it was going to be as hard as it came out she would have tucked her chin more and been ready to hit. But happily she's OK and no permanent damage was done. Bit of a headache after the test, and today her neck is pretty sore too, but all in all she's OK.

Regardless, I'll be living that one down for a while .

Otherwise testing went really, really well. I had no problems of note on my hand and foot techniques, one steps were just fine, wrist grabs offered no problems at all aside from briefly blanking on one cross hand technique, sparring was fun (I sparred Christine, which was nice because it really gave us a chance to show that we could work together with control and have a good time -- I really wanted to show that I can control myself and my power, to the testing board and to her), the other students were tested on terminology while Christine and I were making sure she was OK after the fall so we didn't have to do any of the Q&A stuff.

Breaking was cool as well -- the requirements are breaking 1 board with a jumping downward heel kick , doing a two-board break with a choice of any hand technique, and 2 boards with a hopping side kick. However, aside from the jumping downward heel kick I'd already done all the breaks I needed to do (I broke a brick with a palm heel a good six months back, just to see if I could, and broke 3 boards with a hop side kick three months back after the last green belt test). So instead I got to show off a bit. The downward heel kick was a walk in the park: I accidentally broke it while sizing it up -- I meant to just sort of tap the board with my heel to make sure I was in the right spot, and instead the board just popped. Same thing happened when I did spin back kick a while back -- one board is nothing to a guy my size. But the audience got a good laugh out of it, so that was cool.

For my hand technique I asked Sa Bom Nim to select a more difficult techniqe since I'd already done a brick. He suggested knife a two board knife hand strike, which was honestly what I was hoping he'd say. Definitely a bit of a scary break, as if you hit without your hand tensed properly you can easily break bones, especially when you're going through 2 or more boards. Regardless, I sized it up and threw a reverse knife hand that broke both boards in a single shot. It was gorgeous. Have a little sore spot on my hand today when part of my wrist connected with the edge of the board, but nothing serious.

So then it was time to try to show off a bit, and we thought we'd give a 4 board hopping side kick break a try. Unfortunately that break ust wasn't going to happen yesterday. I'm certain I can do it -- I'm definitely strong enough, and I broke 3 boards without any problem on my first attempt -- but yesterday wasn't the day. I think it was a combination of my kicks being off a couple of times and the holders being tired. I was the last person breaking, and we only had 4 guys holding for the entire test, so they were getting pretty tired. Breaking 4 boards (which had to be duct taped together) requires something like 2400PSI of force -- something akin to being hit by a car at about 20-25 MPH. So, with that kind of force coming in, it takes at least 4 guys holding and braced, with hands and arms locked out solid and strong, to hold the boards in place when the kick comes in. My first kick was off a bit, but the second one was solid and on target. However, they lost their grip and the boards just pushed backward (putting a nice scrape on my buddy Rich's hand and wrist in the process). Third kick was crap -- I was too close -- but the fourth (and last) was dead on target and solid -- and once again they lost their hold on it and I drove the boards right into Rich's chest. At that point I asked Sa Bom Nim if we could stop, as I was honestly worried that continuing to try it would wind up injuring one or more of friends. No way is my showing off worth hurting someone.

But still, it would have been SO cool.

The thing I'm proudest of, though is that Kayleigh and I blew through all 10 of our forms without any errors or having to repeat anything. That was my main personal goal for the day -- I love forms. They are, without question, my favorite aspect of Tang Soo Do, and I spent an enormous amount of time prepping over the past couple of months -- between tournaments and training -- to try to ensure that I would make no errors on test day. I was also hopeful that Kayleigh would blow them out as well -- she's solid and trains constantly, and we both talked beforehand about our shared goal of not repeating a form.

And we succeeded. We blew through the gichos a bit too fast for my taste, so I wound up getting winded as a result. I kept trying to slow down and pause for a bit after each technique, but 8 year olds don't slow down easily and she kept going faster again. Frankly I was more concerned that we looked good and synchronized out there, so I just kept it up, caugt my breath during chil sung ee rho and kept a stricter pace through the pyong ahns so that I wouldn't wilt.

I was getting pretty run down by pyang ahn o dan, but when we finished it up and began our final form, chil sing ill rho, I knew I was home free. I know this form inside out and I know how to perform it when I'm exhausted. I know where to breath. I know when to brace and when to relax. I know how to do it when my legs feel like they're going to buckle and my chest feels like it's going to explode. So getting thorough it yesterday was almost easy. I just had to focus, breathe, let my body do the techniques I'd practiced hundreds of times over the past 6 months. And when I got to the final sequences I could feel a smile creeping onto my face.

I'd done it. We'd done it. And apparently there hadn't been a 4th-to-3rd gup test where the candidates all got through them without error or pause in years. It's unusual, and definitely something to be proud of. We got a round of applause from the audience as well as from the other candidates -- I think the testing board even applauded, which was just plain awesome. Kayleigh and I turned, shook hands and bowed to each other in thanks, and returned to our spots. From there the test continued, but I think that moment, that sense of accomplishment, will stay with me the rest of my life. Even now I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Anyway, pictures later.

Mood: Achey, happy
Now Playing: Garbage, "Beautifulgarbage"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

3rd Gup Test Today, Latest Paper

Been laying pretty low lately -- work is keeping me very, very busy, but in a good way. After 14 years of technical writing I'm finally in a new role (Marketing and Communications Manager), and with it come new challenges, duties, and responsibilities to be met. As a result my days are pretty packed, and by the time I get home I'm either packing my bag and heading to the dojang or taking care of business at home, helping get the kids set up for school in the morning while Christine prepares to head out for class. As a result, not a whole lot of time for reflection and writing.

Adding to the pile most significantly, though, has been the training leading up to my 3rd gup (red belt) test, which will be taking place at 2:00 this afternoon. This will be, without question, the most demanding test thus far, as it isn't an incremental test like all of the previous ones. Whereas on previous tests we've only had to demonstrate the new techniques we learned over the past few months, this time out I have to show everything I've learned in the past 21 or so months. This translates to:
  • Approximately 2 dozen hand technique and hand technique combinations (soo gi)
  • Approximately 1 dozen foot technique and foot technique combinations (jok gi)
  • 10 forms (hyungs) -- 3 gichos, 5 pyang ahns, 2 chil sungs
  • 10 basic one step sparring techniques (il soo sik dae ryun)
  • 14 intermediate one step sparring techniques (il soo sik dae ryun)
  • 15 intermediate self-defense techniques (ho sin sul)

PLUS I'll have to spar a couple of rounds, do rapid horse stance punching for 30 seconds as a test of endurance, break boards with hand and foot techniques (how many boards will really depend on the supply of wood at the dojang -- due to my size and strength I typically have to do 3 boards at once for all of my techniques these days, but if we're running low Master Nunan will probably just ask for the minimum to ensure all of the other students have enough wood), and finish up with a fairly lengthy session of Q&A on culture, philosophy, and terminology.

So yeah, this is the big one. Well, the first big one. But I'm ready and think I'll do fine. My main goal is to not have to repeat any of my fomrs, to just blow through them without error one after another. Other than that, I just want to show that I know what I'm doing, and that aside from minor errors and test day jitters that I'm solid and worthy of advancement. I'm confident that will be the case.

And, as usual, test day comes with another essay. I'm not too thrilled with this one -- I think the new job as me spread a bit thin intellectually and as a result I was unable to really muster any inspiration to latch onto the topic. But I think it's adequate. Paper follow. Updates on the test later.

-=-

What are the Responsibilities of a Senior Student, and What is the Relevance of the 10 Articles of Faith?

I believe that the chief responsibility of a senior student is to serve as a role model for other students. A senior student should be aware that less advanced students look to those students that have been training longer for cues as to how to act in the dojang, how to approach their training, how to show proper respect to their seniors and instructors, and finally how to act toward students that are their juniors.

The surest way for a senior student to act as a worthy role model is to actively attempt to follow and demonstrate behavior that adheres to the 10 Articles of Faith. The 10 Articles of Faith, derived from the 5 rules of ethics spelled out in the Hwarang O Kae, provide a set of specific rules and ideals that define honorable behavior within the Mi Guk Kwan. Learning to live and behave honorably at all times is a very important part of learning the martial arts, as behaving honorably will help to ensure that a responsible martial artist does not abuse the power and skill that they have developed through studying the arts.

Of course all members of the Mi Guk Kwan, regardless of rank, should try to follow the Articles of Faith. But I think that as senior students it is especially important that we try our best to demonstrate these principals as consistently as possible in order to be sure that we are both improving ourselves as well as being worthy of imitation by the lower ranked students.

The 10 Articles of Faith also function as specific "real world" examples of the 8 Key Concepts in action, and can help us to gain more insight and understanding into how these more or less abstract concepts can be brought into practice in our lives. Each of the 10 Articles of Faith can only be fulfilled by adhering to two or more of the 8 Key Concepts. All of the Articles of Faith require yong gi, which is hardly surprising. Courage is ultimately the cornerstone of any form of ethical behavior, because ethical behavior requires that we have the courage to do what we know is right and just regardless of personal comfort or cost.

But each of the 10 Articles of Faith also touches on one or more of the other Key Concepts as well. Loyalty and sacrifice for one's country requires putting the wellbeing of one's nation ahead of one's self and therefore is a demonstration and kyum son. Obedience and duty to parents, charity to children, respect for the elderly and infirm, maintaining loving relationships with spouses, all require kyum son and chung jik (and, depending on the people involved, Iíd say shin chook can play a big part as well). Discretion in killing is an expression of him cho chung, wan gup, and chung shin tong il. The ability to always finish what we have begun derives from developing chung shin tong il and in neh. And so on.

So, in closing, senior students should attempt to act as worthy role models for the less experienced students. The 10 Articles of Faith provide a fairly simple code of honor by which a student can be sure that they are acting honorably. By following the 10 Articles of Faith, senior students also ensure that they are deepening their understanding of and conducting themselves in accordance with the 8 Key Concepts.

-=-

Mood: Some butterflies, but mostly just de-caffeinated and kinda woozy
Now Playing: The sound of my son practicing piano

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Lone Star Classic, and My First DQ

Yesterday we attended Master Nunan's annual Tang Soo Do tournament, the Lone Star Classic. This was my first time attending his tournament -- Miranda and Trevor attended last year, but I was out of town meeting up with lots of friends in the Chicago area (you can read a bit about the fascinating saga here) and couldn't make it.

This particular local tournament also tends to draw out a lot more of the gups than the other tournaments, so we were looking forward to some really good forms and sparring competitions, even in the green and orange belt ranks. Typically, I haven't seen really solid, tight competition until the red belt ranks, since the (relative) length of the white/orange/green belt training period is brief (typically, less than two years to get to red belt) compared with the time spent in the red belt and dan ranks. But we had a pretty big group, even in the green belts, yesterday. And seeing as this will be my last competition as a green belt, I was looking forward to it being a good day.

Seeing as it was my instructor and friend's tournament I really wanted to perform well, and I've been putting in a lot of extra time training to try to ensure that was the case. And happily, it was mostly so. I finally managed to grab a first place trophy with my Chil Sung Ill Rho, which was truly gratifying. It was a solid performance of the form -- a couple of minor bobbles on balance due my feet seeming to glue themselves to the rubberized paint on the basketball court where the rings were set up -- but all in all a performance I am very proud of.

Sparring, though, provided me with a lesson. I managed to grab second, but that was out of only three competitors -- they split us up by age and there were only three on us "old men" competing -- the fourth in our age group had to drop out due to a nasty case of pneumonia -- so it was just my friends Mark and Erik and myself.

And my sparring was solid and on target. Unfortunately, we were all also a) tired and b) very hot -- it was at least 90 degrees in the gym, probably more -- and as a result the levels of contact and control were rising and falling, respectively. We were drawing a lot of unofficial contact wornings -- not due to being overly aggressive or intentionally abusive, just due to the fatigue making it harder to focus on pulling punches and kicks. It's way easier to just throw them hard, honestly, and the more tired you get the easier it becomes to accidentally put too much oomph behind you stuff.

So, first match I handled really well -- maybe a little more contact than I usually have, but my friend Erik and I traded a few whomps without any real damage and I got the win. Then, after a 1 minute breather I had a match with my friend Mark, where things started getting a bit thumpier -- on both sides, to be fair. Mark and I tend to go at each other pretty hard, for better or for worse, so we traded a few hits that were a bit over the line, without being too dangerous. But we wound up tied, so after another 1 minute breather we had a second match, and that's where things got ... well, instructive.

Briefly, I got disqualified. For single a shot that was both too hard and dangerous/illegal.

We were barely halfway through the second match, and I could tell Mark was getting tired (he wasn't the only one!). He was trying to throw some spinning back kicks, but he was slowing down and I could see his prepping for them, so I decided to counter with some basic lunging backfists, while planning to go for a spin back kick of my own when the opportunity presented itself.

So, I see him start to prep for the spin back kick, and as soon as he begins his rotation I turn my body out and away to get out of the way of the kick before it has a chance to get close to me, while lunging forward with a backfist aimed at where the side of his head will be when he throws the kick. Unfortunately, maybe because he was getting tired or maybe because he was trying to adjust the targeting on his kick to track to where I'd moved, Mark kind of lost his balance and over-rotated on his spin, causing the back of his head to wind up where I expected the side of his head to be. And because I wasn't using enough control, I was unable to stop my punch when I saw where it was headed and ... well.

Wham. Hard backfist to the back of the head. Too much force, and a dangerous, illegal hit to boot. Thank god it was pad-on-pad contact, because that could have caused serious damage.

So, anyway, the fight was stopped, and after a brief discussion with the corner judge who called the contact DQ (my friend David) and the ring coordinator (Kyo Sa Nim Sawyer, from Canyon Lake) the fight was stopped and I lost by disqualification. Everyone agreed that it was accidental, just "one of those things," and that it was shame to have to stop the match over it. But in the interest of safety there needs to be zero tolerance on this sort of stuff so that was that. A bitter pill, but one I could see I just needed to swallow.

Luckily, aside from a little head rattle Mark was fine, and he and I laughed it off and commiserated -- we both agreed that it's a lousy way to lose a fight, and an unsatisfying way to win one, too. Deeply unsatisfying, especially since the match was really fun and we were really going toe to toe, there. I'd have loved to grab that first place trophy, and I'm sure Mark would have preferred to have earned it by taking it from me, instead of my own lack of control defaulting it to him. Either outcome was equally possible -- we were both tired, but still scrapping. I think physically I had a slight edge, but I was also on my third match in a row compared with his second, so all in all I think we were on a pretty level playing field. The match could have gone either way.

So, having it suddenly end due to my own screwup was just ... lame. I feel like I robbed Mark of the purer satisfaction he should have had in winning, and I robbed myself of the satisfaction of knowing I lost fair and square. Losing and winning on technicalities just doesn't have the sense of closure and completion that a "real" win or loss does.

So, another lesson learned. It's easy to lose sight of just how much effort and focus it takes to not swing hard, to pull punches and kicks, to maintain focus and discipline even when your adrenaline is running high and you're sweating and tired and stressed out. The easiest thing in the world is to hit something as hard as you can. It's far more difficult to hit fast, but strike lightly. And being tired is no excuse for being sloppy, especially when that sloppiness can get someone hurt.

Mood: Achy, but chillin' out
Now Playing: Nada

Friday, September 07, 2007

Busy, Gainfully Employed, All That Jazz

So, since crossing the 40-and-up threshold 2 weeks ago, I've been pretty insanely busy. Thus, no updates. Briefly, here's the status quo:

Employment Status: Happily, gainfully employed again for the foreseeable future. Working with a buncho f former co-workers at a new startup here in Austin. To top it off, I've managed to swing a job change into marketing and creative development and management, which will really open up my career prospects moving forward. It took a bit wrangling, mostly of my own pride, to get things settled into place, but I'm glad to be working folks I enjoy working with again in work that is challenging and interesting.

Social Life: Active. Almost too much so. Lots of running around and stuff to do, not nearly enough time to do it in. This is a problem that is quite nice to have.

Toys: Several lovely new ones, courtesy of my last birthday. On the "fun and games" side, I have a spankin' new Xbox 360 Elite happily buzzing away atop my television. Many hours hve been spent playing Bioshock, Gears of War, Guitar Hero II, and Viva Pinata in the past two weeks. If you're reading this and have an Xbox 360, drop me a note with your gamertag and I'll add you as a friend!

And on the "foodie" side of things I've been having a blast getting to know the ins and outs of my new espresso machine. I love all the work and effort that I have to go through just to make two itty bitty cups of bittersweet bliss. Much like travel, the journey is half of the fun when it comes to food and drink prep.

Martial Arts: Training as often as possible in preparation for a) the Lone Star Classic, which occurs tomorrow morning and b) my 3rd gup test, which occurs in 2 weeks. I'm excited about the tournament: it's Master Nunan's tournament, so I'll be competing alongside (and against...) many of my friends and training peers from our dojang. Plus, it will be my final tournament as a green belt, so it will be a nice way to see out this phase of my training and education in the martial arts. Will be competing with Chil Sung ill Rho for (I assume) the last time, and I'm sincerely hopefully hat this third time will be the charm that finally lands me 1st place with this form. I've been practicing it for over 5 months now, so I'm hopeful that all this hard work will pay off. As for sparring, who knows? I never expect to do well in sparring, and yet when tournament time come along I seem to perform well and often place high in my class. I'm not worried about it. It'll be fun regardless, and with any luck we'll be attending a party later that evening at Master Nunan's place.

As for my 3rd gup test, I can't wait until it gets here. I've been eagerly anticipating this test for months now, and just want to get in there and show what I can do. Plus, I'll get to test on the mat with my wife and my son, who will both be testing for 5th (green belt 1 stripe), which will be terrific. Miranda and I have tested alongside each other before, but this will be the first time I get to test with the rest of my family (whereas Miranda is on her 6 month wait for 3rd gup and will be sitting out this next one).

I'll probably only be testing with one other 4th gup, though -- my 8 year old training partner Kayleigh -- which will be interesting. Given our height differences, we'll probably only be doing line drills and forms together -- we'll both need someone closer to our own size for one steps, wrist grabs, sparring and improvised self-defense, so I assume I'll be working with one of the 5th or 6th gups that are testing, or with a spare red belt or dan that is floating around. Regardless, I know Kayleigh is taking this test seriously and will show up prepared to blow it out of the water that day. My goal is to get though all of my forms (every single form I've learned in the past 21 months...) without having to do any of them twice, and I think that goal is very attainable if I just stay focused and calm. Once I've got this tournament out of the way I'll be spending the next two weeks (evenings at the dojang, mornings at the gym) running forms, one-steps, wrist grabs, and line drills just to iron out any kinks and get things solid.

Italy Trip: Sadly, on hold until Spring. Too much going on, so we've decided it makes more sense to put it off until May or so, so that we can enjoy it without stressing out about money and all the time off so soon after starting at my new position. Disappointing, sure, but we'll get there one way or another next year. So as not to completely ignore our 15th anniversary, Christine and I will be taking a 3-day romantic getaway vacation to San Antonio at the beginning of October. Staying at a gorgeous, hoity-toity hotel on the Riverwalk. Pampering ourselves and eating out and drinking champagne and doing this and that for a few days on our own. It ain't Italy, but it'll be nice all the same.

And now, time to wrap up some more design work and start focusing on the weekend.

Mood: Mellow
Now Playing: Lyle Lovett, "It's Not Big, It's Large"

Friday, August 24, 2007

40

Turned 40 today. So far, it's something of a non-event, honestly. Got up early and headed to work, so that I could take a long lunch and clock out early without drastically impacting my cash flow (I'm freelancing/contracting right now, and this whole "hourly wage" thing is taking a bit of getting used to). Hit Pluckers, the local wing joint, and got my free birthday lunch, then headed over to Gelato's for free birthday gelato and to pick up a gelato ice cream cake for the family get-together tonight. Now I'm wrapping up a bit of graphic design work I've been plugging away at and will be heading home in about an hour. Then it'll be hanging at the dojang with Miranda for her judo class, after which we'll have pizza and cake with my family. Christine also bought me a nice bottle of Moet et Chandon to toast the end of my thirties, so that'll be terrific. But overall, tonight will be a mostly low-key affair.

The "real" celebration will be tomorrow night, when we have a sort of loosely organized open house/pot luck/drinkin' fest in my honor, with lots of work friends (past and present) and dojang denizens coming by to harass the old man. The going opinion is that a bunch of us will need to work out on Sunday to clear the toxins out of our systems, and who am I to argue? There will be beer, sake, and bourbon aplenty, and as long as I remember to eat and intersperse the potent potables with glasses of water things shouldn't get too sloppy.

Regardless, turning 40 is not something I'm all worked up over. I've said over and over -- I'm in better shape than I've been in years and I've made more friends in the past 2 years than I've made in the past 15. Simply put, I'm the happiest I've been in ages. The kids are great, my wife is awesome, we have a terrific house and terrific families and friend that love us as we love them. Life has its challenges -- among them the current frustrations in my career -- but if the worst thing in my life right now is having to work hourly for a while until the dust settles, then I'm waaaaaaaaay ahead of the game by almost anyone's standards.

I'm a lucky man.

Mood: Good
Now Playing: Lindsey Buckingham, "Out of the Cradle"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting By

So, no updates for a while. A few of you folks have written, asking what's going on and wishing well and all that, and thanks for your concern and notes. Things are fine, if not outstanding or fantastic or whatever. Days go by, I'm keeping busy, etc. Honestly, I just haven't felt that spending time on self-reflection and evaluation would be time well spent lately. A bit counterproductive, if anything. Instead I've been working on being a bit more forward-looking, eyes fixed on the horizon. "Let me get where I'm going, and then I'll take the time to tell you all about how I got there...."

On the job front things are ... well, OK. I've landed some fairly open-ended freelancing work with the company so many of the folks I used to work with departed for, so that's at least a) keeping me busy and b) bringing in income again. I'm not sure whether it could lead to a permanent position, or for that matter if the position it could lead to is something I want -- I'm sure I could lock myself into the exact same job I spent the last 7 years performing if I really wanted to push for it, but that seems really shortsighted. While I'm not a big glory-hound, I do need to show some sort of progress, career-wise, on my resume, and just continuing to be a tech. writer (or a staff tech. writer, or a senior tech. writer...) isn't exactly going to help me move forward in my career path.

Of course, on the flipside, there's the pleasure of working with several folks that I really enjoy being around, and the lure of seeing things that so obviously need doing, and which are being done shoddily if at all by the people that are in place. Part of me wants to jump in a make a splash, regardless of whether it's the right decision for me, my family, and my career. Arrgh.

So for the time being I'm looking at this as income and stability that enables me to continue hunting for a better position elsewhere. Which is fine, really -- the money is good, the work interesting, and the majority of the folks are enjoyable to work with. So that's all good.

Still, the situation is frustrating. I continue to interview around town, and as usual I continue to hit the "you're too experienced for our outfit" wall time and again. Just had a spectacular interview on Friday, was told that I'm an exact, perfect fit for the job and the culture, but that they'll need to chat with the CEO to see if they can get within a reasonable range of my base salary. And it's not that I'm insanely money-hungry or anything like that -- for the right job I'd take significant pay cut in exchange for non-cash benefits, options, whatever -- it's that they know that salary is a big motivator to remain in place, and if they can't get close to what I'm used to it makes me very vulnerable to poaching. And well, fair enough. I can't argue that, nor can I fix it.

So, frustrating. For every 25 engineering jobs out there there's maybe 1 tech. writing job, and for every 20 tech. writing job out there there's maybe 2 for someone with my experience and knowledge. It's a numbers game, and a waiting game as well. Eventually I'll hit on the right spot, but for now I just have to pay the bills and keep moving forward. It's not an optimal situation, and it's a somewhat emotionally draining one as well. Interviewing is a fairly exhausting process, and I'm feeling a bit threadbare as a result. But it's what I have to do, so I'm doing it.


Otherwise, life goes on. The kids are on their final week of summer vacation, which is fantastic. My kids really benefit from the structure and order that the school day brings, and I think we're all looking forward to having the regular schedules back in place. Once the school year begins it will hopefully lead to plenty of substitute teaching opportunities for Christine -- this has all the hallmarks of a budding new career path for her, and I think that would be fantastic. To say nothing of the extra cash being a big help.

And Tang Soo Do training continues to lend a stable center and structure to my own life. We joke about how the dojang has become the center of our universe -- it seems that nearly everything we do these days has some connection to training. We often socialize with frineds from the dojang, often attends events that are somehow connected to the dojang, and even participate in non-Tang Soo Do training opportunities (like the rape prevention course my instructor taught yesterday -- Christine trained in the class, while I volunteered to be an "uki" -- Sa Bom Nim used me and the other two volunteers to demonstrate attack and defense techniques, and then we'd would work directly with the women so they could practice what they were learning on us. I must have been thrown to the mat 200 or more times. Ouch). We often stop at the Starbucks next door to the dojang for coffee, and me and the kids get our haircut at the bargain clip joint a few doors down as well. Quickie lunches or dinners all too often are sourced form the Subway next door as well. It's almost like our world has compressed down into this little nucleus.

But you know what? I think it's largely what's kept me sane over the past few months. No matter how crazy life has gotten, what with the job stuff, and stuff with the kids, and the family being away and apart for so much of July, the dojang has provided a solid center to my life. A place where everything just ... works. I know what I'm doing there, I know what is expected of me, and I just have to give it my best shot and try to meet my goals in the time I'm there. It's simple and clear. And when everything else is so in flux, having a place in your life that is so completely untroubled and uncomplicated can really make the rest of the nonsense more bearable.

Mood: Kinda tired (up late, up early....)
Now Playing: Neko Case, "Blacklisted"

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Arrrrgh

So. Christine and the kids returned Sunday night, to much relief and joy on my part. I'd really hit the wall on being apart from them and was getting seriously funked out and depressed. So that was good.

Unfortunately, thhings have been in something of a spiral ever since. Yesterday was Christine's 40th birthday, and the events of the day went as follows:

  • Shopped for and purchased a bicycle for her (from her parents and sister).
  • Shopped for and purchased nice new sneakers for her (from me and the kids -- part one of a two-part gift which will be completed once she decides on part two...).
  • Contacted Company A about the fact that I've not yet received the offer letter I was promised. No response.
  • Received notice from Company B that, although I was a solid candidate with no weaknesses of note, they had decided to offer the job I've been pursuing for 3+ weeks to "the other candidate."
  • Found out that the job I originally was interviewing for 2 months ago, before I'd wrapped things up at my last company, with another local company (we'll call them Company C) which ALSO went to a candidate that suddenly came in and wowed them, is going to become available again in the very near future (i.e. someone's gettin' fired). I am strongly in consideration for it again, which is nice -- I'm actually pretty much certain I can get it as long as things move forward quickly and the offer is in the same league as the one from Company A. But what amazes me is that, according to my buddy who works at Company C, they hired some idiot who must have lied her way through the interview process, didn't really know what she was doing, and then didn't show up for work for nearly three weeks. This is the "stronger" candidate they hired instead of me. So while I'm happy that I may almost certainly be able to land the job I was trying to get nearly two months ago, BEFORE I was out of work and stressing out and eating through both my stomach lining and my severance pay, I'm furious that people with little or no qualifications land these jobs because they lie through their teeth, while I am scrupulously honest about my qualifications (which are considerable, and more than adequate for the jobs to which I've been applying) and remain unemployed.
  • Noticed that, despite the AC being turned on, the temperature of the upstairs of our house was steadily climbing into the mid-to-high 80s. Perhaps due to the AC not blowing any cold freakin' air.
So, yeah, as 40th birthdays go, Christine's didn't fall on the best of days. We tried to make the best of it, training together last night and then heading out for a late dinner and drinks with several of our friends, but overall it was a pretty piss-poor day.

Anyhow, the AC guy has just arrived, and I called Company A to find out what's the what. I was assured that despite the radio silence from their end I am not being given the runaround on the job offer, and it looks like the AC problem might be nothing more than very clogged up condenser coils and perhaps low refrigerant levels -- an easy fix, and one that shouldn't set me back more than a few hundred bucks. Fingers crossed. And I should hopefully get a bit more info regarding the status of the position with Company C later this evening. In the meantime I'm just trying to shake off this sense of frustration and disappointment and continue marching forward.

Update: The AC work actually came in at less than $200, including a tip for the nice guy who came out. I've never been so relieved in my life! At least something is going right.

Mood: Bummin'
Now Playing: Nothing