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.

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.

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.