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.

State of the Union

November 7, 2008

So Barack Obama will be our 44th president, electoral college willing. That’s good, if only because Sarah Palin won’t be a heartbeat from the highest office in the land. Newsweek has a good post-election special on the candidates during the campaign. It sounds like Palin’s worse than everyone suspected. Putting those people anywhere near a powerful position would’ve utterly ruined the United States. Even with her as VP, the family would’ve made Dick Cheney look like a used car salesman, especially considering how spineless the Democrats are.

Here’s the thing though: this is going to be a tough presidency. Things in the United States is certainly going to get much worse before it gets any better. And the rest of the world will sadly follow. But twenty years of Reaganomics (yes, even under Clinton) has left the country in such a poor form that I wonder just how much better things will be in 10 years. But it’s probably a good thing, because the world has seen enormous growth over the past decade, and it’s time to slow down and refine what great minds have developed these past ten, fifteen years.

The government is scrambling to find a solution to the subprime crisis. But the fact of the matter is, housing prices have fallen, and no amount of money injected into the system will send them back up. If they had bought high, people will have to live with their loss, or in this case, live in it. And even if people aren’t losing their homes because they’ve suddenly found themselves out of a job, they’re still going to stop spending. Which means retail and marketing will be in for some bad times in the near future. Entertainment and tourism, has already fallen, but following the decline in marketing, it will be even worse. And tourist-supported local economies will suffer.

It’s a good thing people have saved up for rainy days just like this. Oh wait. At least people will still have their health. Or maybe not. Personally, I think we’ll be in for three or four years of suffering followed by another ten to fifteen years of just getting by. It’s bad enough that this is happening at all, but it has to pick the best time too. The United States government has been cringing at the thought of the baby-boomer mass-retirement, and that was when things were good. Well, it won’t feel like the end of the world for too long. But people will actually have to work harder, and perhaps finally, people will learn the value of their possessions.

I had something kung fu related to write about a few days ago. Alas, by the time I’ve gotten around to writing, I’ve forgotten the subject matter entirely. Maybe I’ll remember tomorrow morning and be awake enough to jot it down on a piece of paper. In the meantime, I guess I’ll give a brief status report. I am progressing slowly as one would progress in PKFS, as well as in SKFS albeit faster, if I were to be the judge of such things. My ailments have healed perhaps 70%, so I’m starting to do better in OKFS. But every time I look at the old masters, I realize even if I was at 100%, just how much farther I still have to go.

On an unrelated note, WordPress is practically unusable through Tor. I have to jump through hoops just to get anything posted. And it sucks.

Green Bamboo Snake

September 28, 2008

Over the years, many pieces of what some may consider kung fu gossip has reached my ears. I recently saw CDG and CPG on the busy streets of Chinatown and having nothing to do that particular afternoon, struck up a conversation with them. Because both CDG and CPG are closely involved in the recently-formed loose kung fu community whose members span probably a score or two schools in the New York metro area, I was privvy to several interesting pieces of gossip. I won’t reiterate it here, since most of it is old history–water under the bridge–for those people involved, and I’m not about to bring up old wounds for no reason in particular.

One of the stories did strike a particular chord with me. Before I continue, I must explain several things relevant to the story not immediately apparent. Traditional holds that each kung fu lineage–each pai–has one and only one designated successor. That is to say, the current master picks the next master of the style. There is no rule that says that the current master has to pick the best of his students, and it is often the case that, for a variety of reasons, the master passes over the best for someone he feels more appropriate. Perhaps the best student does not have the entirety of the system, or perhaps the best student is not well suited or unwilling to be the next in line. Regardless of whom, once this person is chosen, the other students are left to their own devices. Some will stay and help train the next generation of students. Others will leave, but without permission from the head of the system, they would be unable to open a school under the style’s name.

The question of succession thus creates a great amount of politics. Many of the students will vie for the position, and once a successor is chosen, the other leading candidates might secede from the system in disgust or challenge the chosen successor. The particular story that piqued my interest concerns the former.

It is a common joke among martial arts masters that the real master is the wife. It is something I have heard time and again. The wives, having a control of their husband’s ears (among other things) in bed, are the most influential people in the school. I don’t mean to be sexist, but at the heart of the particular story is not the students themselves, but the wives of the students whose whispers resulted in the breaking of a long friendship and the falling out between two top students, splitting the remaining practitioners of the style into two camps.

A smart master does not share the intricate happenings of the school with his wife. Masters often do not bring their wives to the school. There are notable execeptions, and there continue to be, especially when the wife is a master herself. However–and this applies for both sexes–people outside the martial arts world at best have a very cursury understanding of it, its rules and etiquette, and its normal practices. To put it simply, they should not interfere. The worst offender is the spouse, and typically the wife, from which speculation and gossip enter the ears of the master. Husbands tend not to be so interested in the dealings of their wife if the wife happens to be the master.

Women are, for the most part, irrational and emotional. It is what makes them so mysterious to men, and hence appealing and exotic. The old saying is that behind every successful man is a woman. There is a great deal of truth in this proverb. The strength of the woman behind the man is directly correlated to the success of the man. Women are men’s greatest strength and subsequently their greatest weakness. A petty woman will utterly destroy her man as quickly as a generous one would make him. Worse yet, a petty or even weak woman without a strong man to temper her will end up destroying her children.

I can hear the cries of sexism now, that women love their children and would do everything to protect them. That is, of course, the problem. Women, being irrational and emotional, have a tendency to be overprotective. Their children then either end up thinking the entire world is full of scary monsters, or not being able to do anything without the assistance and approval of mommy. It is a very unfortunate fact that overprotection in the United States has resulted in the lawsuit-happy, politically-correct, everybody-is-equal mentality among everyone. For example, in the old days, disagreements were settled with fists if they could not be settled with words. Today, they are settled in court, an obvious appeal to a higher authority, that being the government in this case.

In effect, children who are unable to act for themselves, think for themselves, learn for themselves, are destroyed human beings. They no longer hold the essence of humanity, which is the unlimited potential to be and do anything. Instead, they are drones, robots, churned out by an assembly line. Nothing new would be created, nothing amazing or inspiring would be accomplished, because these things involve risk, and success in such endevours require failure beforehand.

But I digress. At the same time, a strong woman, generous and intelligent, will nurture her children to greatness. And for everyone else, hopefully, there is a strong man in the family who will temper the whims of the woman.

Anyhow, my point is, women are not subject to the unspoken rules and etiquette of men. And thus they are able to achieve things men simply cannot. They can show weakness because they are expected to be weak, while a man would be ripped apart by his peers and even by other women for the same actions. At the same time, as much good as they can do with their powers, they can also do wrong, often by convincing the man that he is not subject to the rules and etiquette, and hence should break them.

I end with this poem:

青竹蛇兒口
黃蜂尾後針
兩般皆不毒
最毒婦人心

which roughly translates into: “The green bamboo snake’s mouth and the bee’s venom combined are not venomous compared to the heart of a man’s wife.”

A few words of advice.

September 19, 2008

It seems mildly ironic that I only have the time for this on days I don’t go to kung fu.

The economy has recently taken a dive that people are comparing with the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s. In my opinion, this is merely the chickens coming home to roost. I maintain that the past half-decade or so of unprecedented economic growth was artificially created by Bush and his cronies to cover up the daily economic loss from the war in Iraq. Three billion dollars a day gets spent on the Iraq war. That three billion comes in the form of loans from other countries, Russia, China, Japan, etc. The US populace will eventually have to pay it off, but more importantly, it means that the federal government is bankrupt, that like the people who max out their credit cards only to see their monthly earnings go back to paying it off, the nation is already broke. Worse yet, because there’s been a trade deficit all these years, not only has the nation been flat out broke, but presumably has been unemployed and spending borrowed money on entertainment.

So this is the chickens come home to roost. That’s what the people get for their failure to elect a good president. That’s what they get for their negligence, their ambivalence, their boneheadness, their ridiculous notion that belief alone could somehow bring about prosperity. Intelligent people are defecting from the Republican party left and right. Anyone with any smarts is leaving Bush and McCain. If only they had done so four–no, eight years ago. The golden age might have lasted longer, and the fall might have been a little less spectacular and a little more gradual. Americans, this is your fault. It’s just too bad that the rest of the world has to suffer along with you. If McCain becomes president, I’m certain people will be scrambling to put as much distance between them and the US as possible, leaving the trash behind to rot in their own handmade beds of shit.

Along the same lines, Obama needs catchy one-liners to promote in the so-called “red” states. Slap a video of people chanting the phrase, or splice together footage of some famous politician saying it, and it will grab people’s attention. This is because the majority of the people there are idiots, and if he advertises a slogan–any slogan–enough, they will start repeating it if only subconsciously. Mix these quick 15-second catch-phrase ads with the more traditional ads about issues in the battleground states and he’ll be sure to win them. To that end, I submit the following phrases/ads for somebody, anybody:

  • Start with Bush’s “Fool me once” gaffe, and punctuate with the line, “Don’t get fooled again!”
  • Show the Republican ads or footage from the 2004 race that say, “Four more years!”
  • “John McCain is more of the same!”
  • “A vote against Obama is a vote for Bush!”
  • (along the same lines)”Don’t vote for Bush. Vote for Obama!”
  • Show Obama fixing up household problems (e.g. cut electricity and have him be the solar-panel installation guy, or flooding in the basement and have him be the plumber), and end with him saying, “You can count on me to fix it.”

Edit: Spelling and grammar. Note to self: don’t publish first drafts.

A Different Kind of Balance.

September 9, 2008

Beginner’s tip: it’s important to practice the left and right side such that the right is equally as strong as the left. Righties should practice their left side more, and lefties should practice their right side more. But being right or left dominant is more than just getting used to the motions of a particular side. The transitions on boths sides should become equally as smooth. This means one has to effectively become ambidextrous, by training the weaker side of the brain to be as strong as the strong side.

I think Obama’s minor slip up wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t have to do with religion, and the other religion wasn’t Islam. If he had slipped up saying he was a Jew, people would’ve probably just laughed at him. Regardless, such slip ups are commonplace for people when they are so focused on a particular idea that it comes out in the middle of talking, usually in such a way as to make sense, but not convey the right message. I have a tendency to do this a lot, and so he has my empathy.

Sarah Palin Mao

September 6, 2008

I think I should start tagging my posts. In fact, I should go back and retroactively tag them, but I’m too lazy. Besides, who wants to read their own rants and musings from days past? And who could stomach such sappy, melodramatic crap anyway?

WordPress is claiming I have one comment. But when I go to view it from the administrative back end, I can’t seem to locate it. Perhaps it’s visible from the main site, but that doesn’t do me any good.

The more I read about Sarah Palin, the more I get this uneasy feeling that she’s going to be the US’s Madame Mao. Their similarities are quite frightening. The switch from the entertainment business to politics, the rise to power during a dividing and crucial period in the nation’s development, the ailing leader and the political position only a step from leadership, the anti-intellectualism, the frequent reminder of other’s patriotism or the lack thereof, the abuses of power, these are all characteristics of Madame Mao. Her greatest claim to fame is the Cultural Revolution, which set China back some 30 years. If Sarah Palin gets elected as VP, I have to wonder if the US will go through its own period of “Cultural Revolution.” That would be a sad, sad day indeed. But I think most people who actively follow current events with an impartial eye would see it coming from a mile away.

And, to take a play from the Republican’s book, Palin’s home state is closer to Beijing than Washington D.C. almost as close to Beijing as it is to Washington D.C.. She definitely qualifies for the job because she received experience just from watching the last woman leader on her side of the world!

The rational part of my minds insists McCain and Palin won’t win, simply because people are ready to get rid of the Republicans. But the skeptical part of my mind is fearful of the same Bush vs. Gore upset. And the practical part of my mind is screaming to make plans for when the undesired couple does win.

If the Democrats this election cycle get a good 10-seat majority in the Senate, it won’t really matter who’s president. But seeing as how congress’s approval rating is even lower than the president’s rating, I find that doubtful.

I recently finished the Service Station. I have to admit that it’s a neat little set, and a nice throwback to the Octan theme from the 90’s. But I can’t get into it as much as I would like, largely in part because of the gratitious use of special pieces, and the need for decals on all of the major image pieces. In fact, without the decals, the only thing that would hint at it being an Octan station would be the color scheme. And it isn’t as if there are any multi-piece decals either. For such a neat little set, and my first town set with a baseplate in a very long time (measured in decades), that’s a crying shame.

I saw the pictures of the new Power Miners line. The images are low-res, but so far, I’m not really feeling excited. The glow-in-the-dark puke green really doesn’t do it for me. Bring back Mtron I say!

Day 2 of my return.

September 5, 2008

I think I have to start putting up links to the tidbits I am referring to. As well, I think it will help illustrate some of my points better if I linked to things like movies and pictures. I suspect most people have some kind of system that employs a notepad or some such where they paste all of the interesting links they might encounter. It is pretty difficult, albeit not impossible, to find things a second time on the WWW. Using TOR only makes the situation worse. Actually, using TOR reminds me of the good old days when I was connected using a 28.8 modem. Back then, it was twice the speed of what most of my contemporaries used. Except back then, a web page was pretty much just some text and maybe a background graphic or two. The organization of the text more or less determined the quality of the website design. There’s so much more stuff these days. Even wikipedia, with as simple an interface as there is out there, is pretty complicated. And now, it’s all about standards and such. Back then, you really could code entire sites with notepad.

Anyway, I don’t mean to digress into some nostalgic piece of my youth, but I think putting up links will help.

I noticed that a lot of the old classic Star Wars sets are back up on Lego S@H. For example, sets like the X-wing and Hoth Rebel Base were gone from S@H for quite a long time, while the AT-AT had disappeared for a better part of this year. Now they’re back. Here’s hoping they’ll bring more of the old sets like those from ’06 and ’05 back. They don’t have to be Star Wars-themed either.

I’m starting to get disenfranchised with PKFS. I don’t know why. It’s fun there. I like most of the people, and I like what we do, especially some of the things we’ve started doing. But, I’ve been feeling a something lacking for the past few weeks. It feels…shallow, repetitive, tiresome. Yes, I know practice is supposed to be repetitive. It’s hard work. I know that from SKFS. But SKFS is gratifying, because I do have a method to measure my progress. It’s the same as OKFS. In PKFS, the closest thing I have to telling me how good I am is the number of form I’ve completed or I’m learning. Quite frankly, that doesn’t really cut it for me. Heck, I don’t even know what is the number of the highest form I know.

It has never disturbed me before. I’ve always thought of this measurement as irrelevant to my presence at PKFS. That everyone else uses this as a measure of how good they are and even how good I am never really bothered me either. I don’t know why I’m growing so restless. I’ve lost my inspiration perhaps. Or more likely, my recent enormous growth and progress at both OKFS and SKFS over the past month or three has resulted in my lack of progress at PKFS looking bad in comparison. And I’m not talking forms-wise, because between the three schools, I seriously have more forms and more techniques than anyone else in all three schools, including Senior. It’s just that while PKFS contributes to my mnemonic knowledge, I wonder whether any of what I do there really contributes to my kung fu.

On the political front, I caught someone unfurling a banner at the RNC that said something along the lines of McCain doesn’t care about our vets. The camera quickly switched away, and the person was being apprehended as the camera showed it. But I have to admit, McCain hasn’t mentioned a thing about our veterans, and their health and safety when they come home. It’s sad, that we send these 18 to 20-something year-old boys and girls out there to fight for our country, and then we discard them when they come back defective, like they were just our nation’s toys or some such. Maybe McCain’s experience during the Vietnam conflict has made him adverse to helping out his fellow veterans. Maybe it’s because he was abandoned, or perhaps because he didn’t receive decent medical treatment himself, or perhaps he figures if he can weather the hard times after he came back that everyone else can, but whatever his reason might be, completely disregarding the issue of the poor treatment of soldiers injured in the line of duty says a lot about what he really cares about. And it really doesn’t seem to be the people who are in some way whole and perfect no longer.

Anyway, I had hoped to keep this short so that I might sleep earlier as I do every other time I write, but it is proving to be difficult.