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.

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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.

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.