Happy New Year! (Again…)

February 8, 2009

Another year has gone by, and a new one has come. It is the year of the ox–or the cow, as I like to call it.

Lion dance season is upon us again. Or was anyway. New Years happened on the 26th of January, and I’ve had nearly non-stop lion dancing for about a week and a half. The economic downturn has caused many smaller shops to cut their festivities’ budgets, but for some reason, we seem to be as busy as every other year. I’m not complaining, but I wonder if a lot of companies are just trying to put a good face on a bad situation.

I’ve managed to not mess up this season. Hung was out for several of the performances, so it was up to some of the other people, myself included, to make up for his absence. I think I did OK–not that anybody would tell me if I did otherwise. I’m a little more aggressive this year than before, I think, towards the pricks who think it’s fun to wave the red envelope around in front of the lion. I’m not kicking them outright, but I do cut it close enough to make them back off. I really have no interest in humoring these people, though I definitely would have thought otherwise last year.

I haven’t posted for a few months. In that time, a lot of stuff has happened. The WordPress interface is markedly different. The Cowon S9 Curve is out, but I’m still waiting on the 32GB version before I take the plunge. I did buy myself a new camera, and I’m looking into a light tripod to carry around with it. I also bought myself the Millenium Falcon that I’ve been waxing and waning about since it came out.

On that front, the new 2009 product lines look spectacular. I don’t have any of the pirates yet, but I’m seriously considering buying the entire line as soon as lion dance season is done. There’s also the new castle village set that I’m hearing great things about. The new construction and farm city sets look OK. I’m also considering buying one or two of the Power Miners sets. We’ll see about that.

Things with Pug were actually looking up for a little bit. But judging from how things have turned out at the lion dances so far, I think we’re back to the status quo again. Our relationship is like the stock market; it’ll bounce up a bit every so often, but it’ll eventually go back to bottom and stabilize around that.

On that line of thought, I’m officially predicting that it will be about two more years before the economy starts recovering. I’m not sure about when the stock market will turn around, but that should bounce back up sometime after the economy does. The Dow won’t hit 14K again for another 10 years though, at the very latest. Unfortunately, quality of living with continue to decline for another three or four years after that before it picks back up again. As for the housing market, I can only see it go down slowly for the next 5-10 years. Or more accurately, housing prices will stay about the same, but inflation will hit the roof in that time, so the value will effectively decrease. Oil will stabilize at around $50-$60 a barrel once the economy picks up again. In all honesty, I don’t really put too much faith into my long-term predictions because of the multitude of variables, including what the idiot Feds are going to do, but the short-term ones I’m pretty damn sure about. I’m just putting these down on the record, so when the time comes, I can tell everyone I told ’em so.

Anyway, I know I’m not supposed to mention concrete dates here, but the big lion dance is tomorrow, and I’m–as always–nervous and excited. It’s actually rather boring as far as the actual performance goes, as all it is is just walking around with a lion head the entire day. But for some reason, I still get that warm, familiar feeling run through me when I think about it. Maybe it’s all the people who’ll be there, or maybe it’s just the idea of going out and completely owning our little section of the streets for a few hours one day every year.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

It’s Christmas! So many things have happened in the past month. The S9 is finally out, and it’s as much a reviewer’s delight as any non-iPod player could be. Its sound and video quality are both awesome (Cowon is known for sound quality, and the AMOLED does videos superbly), but it’s UI is still rough around the edges despite the capacitive touch screen. One can’t possibly review it without evoking the iPod Touch, and quite frankly, nobody’s going to be able to come out with a new product that will be immediately comparable with the mature iPod Touch line. I await firmware revisions to fix the existing bugs, and maybe even to add more functionality. That having been said, I’m quite psyched about getting one myself. If only it wasn’t Christmas and I actually had the money to spare at the moment instead of spending it on presents…

On the same train of thought, I’m slightly disappointed at the lack of sales for the Panasonic LX3. I decided that while I’m waiting for Red to whip their Scarlet line into shape, I’d buy myself a nice point-and-shoot. I decided against the Casio EX-F1 because of the poor image quality and auto-focus. I’m not sure if subsequent firmware revisions have corrected the auto-focus issue, but I’ve moved on. The LX3 is comparable to the F40 in terms of low-light performance, but like the G9 in terms of features. The only thing lacking is that it has a max zoom range of 60mm, though it does have a wide-angle of 24mm. But since most pictures are taken at 50mm anyway, it doesn’t matter that much.

It seems a lot of other stuff have been discounted though, and I’ve taken full advantage of that. All this buying certainly accounts for my current lack of cash, though my lack of wealth in general can be fairly attributed to the recession in progress. But anyway, I picked up the UCS Millennium Falcon for less than $350 total, which to me, is a steal. In fact, I have the thing in a box, unopened, still sitting in the doorway where I left it when I picked up the package. I also picked up the Skeleton Ship Attack from a collector’s shop for a little more than MSRP. I now have a troll vs. skeleton vs. agents thing going on. As soon as I pick up the new pirate ship, it’ll be an all-out 4-way naval battle. I have the fireboat (that really floats) too, but I’m not sure I should include it yet. And yes, this entire paragraph was entirely about Lego.

On a more somber note, things are going to be bad for retailers this year. Yes, entertainment is probably at its peak. But it will be at the cost of big-ticket items such as TV’s. With the recession happening, the idea is to buy smaller gifts. And where gifts in the past averaged several hundred dollars, they’re now more likely to be in the twenty to fifty dollar range. The truth is, the economic meltdown is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. I’m seeing a minimum of two years before signs of rebounding even begin appearing, possibly another year or two before things actually get better. 2009 is going to be a bad year all around, and I know both companies and individuals are hording cash to brace for its impact.

On a lighter note, here’s a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/whatever present: a more advanced beginner’s tip.

True power can only be attained when the body is relaxed. That is not to say that any part should be soft and flabby. Instead, it means to be ready. To be holding power is to be tight. For example, clench hard, and your arms start shaking. This is a bad thing in practice. Power needs to be projected from the body in bursts. And in order to do so, the part of the body that the power travels through must be relaxed. The entire chain, from generation to projection, must not be tight. But power is useless if it isn’t focused. So if the power is coming from the ground, it is equally important to be able to have the legs focus the power travelling up. This basically means that even though the legs are relaxed, they do not move. This focus must extend to the part of the body that’s acting, so that the energy has a purpose and isn’t merely thrown out of the body like an old rag.

One must acquire strength in order to do this well. By well, I mean naturally. That is, after all, the goal of training. Anyone can copy motions if they go slow enough. But to be able to have the techniques come out as needed is a different story and requires significant training. And foremost is to have the muscles to be able to pull off the technique and do it well. But this isn’t the same strength as from weight lifting. The strength developed from weight lifting is dead strength. In order for raw, brute strength to become power, it needs to be alive. This means working muscle groups together in the same way as a technique, but with resistance. Such a training regiment doesn’t just improve muscle memory, it also links the muscles together, and strengthens that link so that the burst of power becomes a natural movement. Thus, you can say that this training is to accelerate the process of turning an unnatural movement into a very natural movement that would otherwise have to be acquired through years of repetition.

For example, one method of training the grip is to constantly lift heavy and cumbersome items from the top (as opposed to from the bottom). But because every style focuses on a different type of power from a different part of the body, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to develop the most appropriate exercise. The only requirement for the exercise is that its motions are the same as that of the techniques that need to be developed.

Then, when a technique has become natural to the point where you can put power into executing the technique but still remain relaxed, that is the the body has physically mastered the technique. The mental aspect is completely different, and something I will save for a subsequent post.

Range

November 10, 2008

Beginner’s tip: know your distances. There is a range for kicking, a range for striking, and a range for grappling. There’s no set measure for ranges. It depends on the individual style and the focus of that style. Know your distances. Your style, your body type, your mentality all contribute to what your distances are. Distance determines what to do–whether to bridge, to step in, or to retreat–and how to do it. It’s a good idea to know all aspects of a fight, from the footwork to the ground work, but not all styles are complete in this manner. One can either choose to pick up a complementary style, or work around the lackings. The latter path means constant repositioning is necessary in a fight in order to maintain the ideal range. It goes without saying that a strong understanding of distances is paramount to doing this well. After all, if someone can do in one move what you need two to do, you’ve put yourself at a significant disadvantage.

I might be training a little too hard recently. Old injures are starting to flare up again. The silver lining is that the pain is in the right places this time. Last time, I had pain in completely unrelated places, which meant I really, really screwed something up, to the point where parts of my body that shouldn’t be in pain were. But parts of by body are still screaming, and that’s never a pleasant feeling, whether the body part has a right to do so or not.

On top of that, I’m going to be stuck with Pug and Poodle for a week. So long as they don’t force me into action, I think I will survive. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The good news is, I’m looking forward to Black Friday this year. There probably won’t too many good deals, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick up a big Lego set from Target. They typically have one or two big sets on sale every Black Friday, and I’m hoping one of these will be from the 2009 Pirate line. I’m also looking to pick up a camera. I know Red is announcing their DSLR killer, but I need a decent point-and-shoot. I’m still hoping Red’s new thing (or one of their new things) will be a good, small camcorder. But Red is good at camcorders. I’m looking for something I can stick into my pocket.

To that effect, I’ve picked out the Panasonic LX3. It is no Fuji F31 in terms of low-light sensitivity, but it does have 24mm at F2.0 and raw output, which means it might not need ISO800 in the same situations the F31 does. Its ISO800 compares well to the F31’s ISO1600, so I think it’s comparable. And it does 720p24 movies. I’m not sure how useful the movie feature will be if I get a Red camcorder, but at least if Red’s new thing isn’t to my liking, I can stick with the LX3. The only bad thing is that it’s zoom is to 60mm, which is paltry compared to 140mm or 175mm of other P&S cameras, but I suppose I can’t have my cake and eat it too. At least it’s not a lie.

So despite recent economic woes, I’m looking to spend a shitload of money in the next 3 months. I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

In Brief…

September 8, 2008

I’ve created a new Lego category. It’s important, because I think I mention Lego a lot, and without its own category, that bit sort of falls through the cracks.

Also, I’ve begun retroactivelly tagging my old stuff. I seriously am not interested in rereading what I’ve written, but I realize I might have left a few things hanging, and I think I need to wrap those up properly. That’s it for now.

I’m back (again?)!

September 4, 2008

I must blame my lack of updates this past year on a lack of time. That doing this through TOR is worse than trying to squeeze blood out of a stone doesn’t help much. I actually have two major articles in draft form, regarding martial arts. I might have to update them a bit, but they are still as relevent a year ago as they are today.

Actually, more than anything, the recent acceptance speech by Republican VP Nominee Sarah Palin has prompted me to come back. Considering that most of the guys in OKFS are over 60 and don’t speak English well, and most of the people currently frequenting PKFS aren’t of the politically savvy variety, this is unfortunately the only way to get this off my chest. I think picking Sarah Palin to be his VP is John McCain’s idea of being a maverick. With all the scandals surrounding her, scandals that otherwise would have immediately flatlined any Democratic campaign, you really have to wonder if McCain actually put any reality into the decision, or if he saw the most strategically-sound proposal on paper and went for it without so much as looking at the facts beforehand. Does this sound familiar yet? If this deciding-before-having-all-the-facts behavior is indicative of the kind of maverick John McCain actually is, I sincerely wonder if he’s the right kind of maverick. Even if he is interested in change, just as much as Obama, I have to ask whether as president, he’ll make the right decisions, or the ones he thinks is right.

That’s really all I have to say about the matter. I will be voting for Obama. Hope, like prayer, alone isn’t enough to protect or save this country. But unlike prayer, hope is better than nothing.

As for kung fu news, I’ve recently come to several fascinating revelations. The idea of circles has become even more abstract, because with the most recent revelation, I’ve come a full circle, from hard, to soft without hardness, now back to hard again, but with softness, and softness with hardness. It’s really a concept that must be felt; it’s difficult to explain, especially in English. And it’s practically impossible to understand without reaching the point of being soft without being hard. I’ll write something on it. I’m sure out of every dozen people who’ll read this, ten will say they understand, offer their interpretation, but not really understand, one will not understand and start asking questions, and one will just not say anything. That’s how it always is.

I am no longer bothered by the little feuds and arguments at PKFS. The particular breed of dog that was giving me trouble in the past no longer associates with me, and I do not associate with dogs. Anyway, I’m not an animal-lover, so I have no inclination to do unnecessary things like give animals a personality or attempt to treat them in the same way I might treat a fellow human. I have respect for life itself, and the desire and will to live inherent in every living creature. But I don’t try to discuss current events and politics with them. Anyhow, I think we’ve come to a mutual understanding, give or take, facilitated by something that still lingers between us. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it most likely is a good thing, probably left over from our better days when we were more acquainted. We do vehemently deny its existence in front of everybody, but when nobody’s looking… That’s how I feel anyway. And that’s all I’m really going to say about it.

There are other feuds brewing. I really don’t want to politicize the place. Please leave the politics outside the door. I swear, if I catch even the slightest hint of people starting to rally behind me, I will smack them down hard and then if they don’t stop, I will leave. Politics has no place in any of the schools, and that’s that. At the same time, if people start rallying behind other people who are at odds, I won’t let things get too far either. My ultimate allegiance? To Sifu. Other than that, everyone is fair game.

On the video game front, Spore is out. I think. I’m downloading it anyway, so it must be out, right? Ugh. I can’t keep track of things when things get released in the scene before the street date.

And well, I’m looking forward to checking out the COWON S9. It is by far the most interesting PMP since the iPod Touch. Obviously, I’m not going to get one if it sucks. But it has promise. So we’ll see. It might actually be my first real PMP. I put this in a lot of categories. That’s what happens when I don’t write anything for a year, and suddenly have all sorts of stuff to write about. Hopefully, I’ll be getting better at frequent updates and not worse.

Still alive.

October 11, 2007

Yup, I’m still alive. I have a few long entries in draft form. Articles, I would prefer to call them, but they’re entries nonetheless. Not that anyone really reads this. Ergo, no one cares at the moment, but I still should account for my absence, if only for posterity…

I’ve been busy. Working. Sleeping. Taking up new hobbies and learning new crafts. I’m going to learn how to carve wood. That way, I can create a wooden model of the sword hilt that I’m designing. From there, I’ll send it over to China where I can get it made for cheap, and made well at that. And then, we’ll see where that goes.

Things have gotten interesting since my last entry. Poodle disappeared for most of the summer. And things seem to have changed after their little vacation. I’m not sure what it is, and I’m not sure I like it, but what the hey, it’s none of my business anymore.

Anyway, the interesting part comes from the few new students at the PKFS, as well as increased recognition for the SKFS. It seems a prominent name in the kung fu world wants to meet Sigung. Which can be a double-edged sword. I hope to be there when they meet. I hope things will turn out well, but there’s always that chance…

As for the two new students, I sometimes wonder if I actually was like them in the beginning. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. I already had the foundations when I began learning; the concepts of chi and ging were things I had “discovered” on my own when I was much younger. It comes from having a natural inclination, a genetic desposition for athletics. And, it came from not having brute strength. These new students have showed me exactly how much work it is to train someone from scratch, and exactly how far I’ve come since I began. Senior has props from me for building up my foundation well. At the same time, it’s quite frustrating when they simply don’t get something that’s so natural to me. That, and when they don’t remember… I must’ve said this several times already, since we’ve had a steady flow of new students in PKFS over the past two years. This’ll be the last time, until they get to where I am now, and I can say, ha, it only took me half that time…

I’ve improved over the summer. Slightly. I think. I recently took a break from everything. And the first day I was back, I could feel a little of the power that I had before my injury. And then, it was gone. It’s depressing. But at the same time, it means that if I work at it, I can get it back, permanently.

These days, the hottest tech item is the iBrick. I think this will be a kink in Apple’s road to success. They’re trying to be the control freaks that they’ve always been. It didn’t work with Macs. It’s not going to work with the iPhone. The iPod is not an exception. In actuality, it is the one thing that Apple didn’t lock in. The iPod supports mp3’s. If it only supported AAC, no one would’ve bought one, regardless of how “cool” it might’ve seem to have one. In order for the iPhone to reach the levels of success the iPod has, Apple needs to open it up, development-wise. Or it just won’t compete well in the marketspace Apple is targetting, i.e. mid-range, almost-smart-phone, all-in-one.

Now, the iPod Touch is real interesting. But until they slap a real HDD onto it, and maybe allow 3rd party games, it’s not worth so much as a penny in my book.

Looks like Guiliani is going to have a little trouble getting the presidency if he wins the primaries, which I’m forecasting he will win. The neocons don’t like his pro-choice stance, and they’re the ones who carried Bush in ’00 and ’04. It’s going to be a Democrat president, likely Hillary, but not necessarily. It very well could go to Obama or even Edwards. I’ve got this fantasy that the neocons are finally going to split from the Republican party that they’ve dragged down. If that happens, Democrats aren’t going to rule for long though, as the radical left elements are going to leave a bitter aftertaste in the center’s mouths, and we might even see a split of the Cali-left from the Democrats there. That might be for the best, and we might just finally end the bipartisan system that’s plagued the US government since Washington’s second term ended. Or, the neocons might realize that they won’t have a voice anymore, and somehow come back stronger than ever… Which would spell the utter demise of the US.

Finally, I’m going to point to this really cool Lego set that just came out: a scale model of the Millenium Falcon. It costs $500, and is some 3000 pieces, but it looks awesome. As soon as I have some money, I’ll be picking up one for myself.

The following is not an easy subject to write about; I’ve put off thinking about the matter for several days now because it has been difficult to gather such thoughts into a coherent, understandable form. However, I think it is time I tackle the matter of Chris Benoit’s death.

I think the correct term for what happened is double murder-suicide. For reasons as yet unknown, Benoit, an accomplished professional wrestler, his wife, and his son were found dead by asphyxiation. The leading theory is that he killed his wife and child before killing himself. However, what reason he might have for doing this remains uncertain. Some speculate it was the steroids, some believe it to have been premeditated, and thus is likely the result of something else. Whatever it might be that would drive a man to kill his family, I am certain there is an element of mental instability involved. Sane people simply do not up and decide to push aside all of their natural paternal instincts. But then, it isn’t always easy to spot the insane ones.

(the following is a reconstruction of my original thoughts I ultimately lost to technology, and thus in my mind, while is comprable to the original, is ever the poorer for being the replica)

Some people do not see professional wrestling as a sport, and certainly not a martial art. It is possible to think of kung fu at the other end of the spectrum, not a sport either (that which is a sport is not kung fu), with absolutely no rules. Regardless of how such activities are classified, there is still at least one similarity that applies to any skilled physical activity. Our status—whether it take a materialized form or remain within ourselves—is largely dependent on our physical condition. And as our physical prowess wanes, so too does our mental self-image. What follows tends to be either depression or denial, both resulting in self-destructive behaviors.

Chris Benoit was 40 at the time of his death. Today, I average two new problems every three weeks. As prone to injury as I am now, I can only speculate as to how I will be in twenty years, when a night or two is no longer sufficient to fully recover. Today, I can break my body by consciously removing the unconscious checks that the mind has in place to prevent this exact type of damage. In fact, I do this on a controlled scale when training so as to keep lock and key from getting rusty. In twenty years, I expect the checks will cease to be relevant when even minor missteps will result in weeks of abstinence.

Even more damaging is the fact that, only after a week of lethargy, I already find myself quickly winded. A good indicator of my age is when it is easier to get out of shape than to get back in shape, at least for me. I cringe at the thought of what is necessary merely to remain in place—no mention of improving. Consequently, know what needs to be done, I wonder whether I will have the discipline, the dedication, the drive, the desire to carry out the tasks necessary to keep from dropping hard. I know Sigung has a certain piece of his morning reserved for his morning routine, and I am certain Fighter has made the same arrangements. I also know for certain that the masters at the OKFS make the effort; their presence speaks for itself. They are motivated by their students and grandstudents such as myself. The reasons to practice from their youth no longer apply, and in its’ place, they’ve found new reasons to keep themselves in shape.

The real question is: Will I?