My Year of Shallow Reading

It has been a strange year even though each year seems strange. But one side issue is that although I don't claim to read complicated, important books, I do try to read things that have some substance (whatever that is). But this has been a year of escape.

I just wanted simple, if not always clear, plots and if I got some good character development, all the better

Here is was I've read since this summer and notice it is mostly horror and fantasy/sci fic.

Black Company Series - Glen Cook
1. The Black Company
2. Shadows Linger
3. The White Rose
4. Shadow Games
5. Dreams of Steel
6. Bleak Seasons
7. She Is the Darkness
8. Water Sleeps
9. Soldiers Live

A Song of Ice and Fire series: By George RR Martin
10, A Game of Thrones
11. A Clash of Kings
12. A Storm of Swords
13. A Feast for Crows

Alpha and Omega Series by Patricia Briggs
14. Cry Wolf
15. Hunting Ground

16. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
17. The Book of Common Dread by Brent Monahan

I would pretty much read one and then immediately pick up another. I just started the Charlaine Harris vampire books.


3rd Kyu...it's alright!

It's all strange.

In one sense I probably have more to say about Aikido than ever yet I never seem to get around to posting these thoughts on the blog.

Maybe it is just poor time management and when I have the time to write I'm just too tired...or too lazy.

I took my 3rd Kyu test last Saturday and I was “mostly” prepared but I stumbled a bit in a few parts and thankfully by my turn we were pressed for time and I think Sensei didn't have me touch each move on the list. Of course he saw me going through each technique before class so he actually did see me do everything.

There is a real ebb and flow of membership I've noticed in the 3 ½ years I've been practicing but it it getting pretty light now but one of the good parts is that Sensei gets to know your practice really well. So that may have helped with my testing.


Core Practice

It was a small class tonight and I ended up being the most senior student so was the uke for Sidney Sensei's lessons. Although I was my usual un-graceful self I managed to not make too big a fool of myself.

Anyway we started off with shikko or knee walking and then a little hanmi handachi (one perons on their knees and the other standing) and then back to some more shikko exercises. In closing Sensei gave a little talk to explain why we do such and awkward and impractical exercise. And it boiled down to us finding ways to return to our center or our core and our balance.

Once you can lightly walk on your knees it should be easy to carry that into standing practice. And once learned it is much like regular walking in that if you had to try and teach or explain what walking is, you would be hard pressed to form a lesson plan since you just know and don't even think about it.

I couldn't find anything the really matched our practice but the above video give the feel of it.


Aikido: The Journey AND the Destination! or Open Secrets

Tonight we covered multiple things and we started off practising what one might think of as a very non-Aikido thing, attacks. Sensei taught us how to more effectively punch and strike. But it was tied to what came later when we concentrated moving from our center. We were to consider our center and our movements and to make a commitment in both attacks and defence.

I was working with two others, struggling really, when Sensei stopped to point out what were were doing wrong. We were to react with kotegaishe technique to 3 standard attacks, a punch, strike to the top of the head and strike to the side of the head (tsuki, shomen uchi, yokomenuchi). After previously working just on responding with our movement to these attacks, once we finished with kotegaishe all of us forgot what we had been practicing.

Sensi wanted us to stop rushing ahead ahead to the end technique. He said “Aikido is not learning the technique, Aikido is leaning the steps that end up at the technique”.

He then used the example that you can't jump ahead to some answer of a math equation. You have work your way through it, you have to work through the steps. I guess because he is an engineer during the day.

He often says there is nothing magic of secret about Aikido but this had the feel of something that is so obvious it is almost too hard to see. But it did feel like we were exposed something special. Most of us are still pretty much beginners so it makes it all more special that were are give these “Open Secrets”


Myth Perception

"The wind whistled through nets and cable. Peter Lake gave one last glance to the city, and turned south to the marches as the second wave started to close. Athansor began the tiger pacing, but this time it was north-south, across the narrow walkway of the bridge. They thought he was crazed. Trying for the kill, they fired their pistols. But he ignored them. When he was ready, he leaned back on his haunches. Pearly's men stopped for they had never seen such a sight. Athansor arched on visible waves of power. He compressed himself into something almost round. Then, with a roar, he unfolded in a long white silken movement, and flew into the air, parting a thick steel cable that had been in his way, and clearing the nets with ease."

Two weeks ago I went with on a motorcycle ride with my Brother in law for over two hours and at one point we passed a field with what I first thought was large horse statue posted over a wire fence. But then the statue turned and looked at us and after we passed it the horse “took off” and galloped after us and was so majestic that for a moment I thought it would leap over the fence that stopped it following us and not only follow our path but take off towards the clouds.

Later when talking about it my Brother in Law described the horse as “Mythic” and that really is accurate to my experience. I know it was “just a horse” but at that moment and at that place and who I was as I came through...somehow it really was something more than a horse. NOT that it “felt” like something more than a horse.

Anyway it reminded me of Athansor in Winter's tale by Mark Helprin where in one scene he and the rider protagonist are trapped by the bad guys in NYC (they really are bad guys). Above is the part where we find out Athansor can fly


ZeppoManx in the Shadows

Saturday: I got an an extra hour of freetime on the Aikido mat on Saturday with Lawrence to prepare for my 3rd Kyu test. I hope to compose a more thoughtful Aikido post in a few days.

Sunday: Domestic duties took up most of the day but I managed to get in a bike ride just before sunset. The above and below photos are a record of this ride.


Some Nights I Think I Can Stay Up 'Til Dawn

Aikdio tonight and 1st Kyu Mark taught and Sidney Sensei participated. Good class and again we worked on things that I thought I knew but it turns out I didn't. Katate Tori Shiho nage, on the the 5th Kyu test I took almost three years ago and I had it all wrong.

Still it was good in that Mark had us work on only a few techniques but we stayed on them for longer than normal. It felt good.

A very small class. Is our dojo shrinking? A few months ago it seemed we were bursting at the seams, but now...well who knows?

It turns out there was some drama at the dojo and somebody thought somebody else was saying something bad about them and there were a few mass emails that went out and somehow I missed them all. So maybe that accounts for the drop in attendance but then again I don't know for sure. It is just that I am so clueless sometimes.

So I spent some time looking though ignored emails, then I looked up techniques we worked on at You Tube and at that time I saw there was an ad actually on the video I found on YouTube for a new Aikdio dojo in our area. It is not an USAF (United Sates Aikdio Federation) but for something called American Akikai Association.. Anyway, then I surfed the web a bit and saw that my dojo www.planoaikido.com would not come up.

So I emailed people about all this and the next thing you know I could keep going and writing blog entries I meant to do but have not. Look and all sorts of things.

But I have to go to work in the morning, try to ride my bike before that and...well there is so much to do I sometimes think I could stay up all night. But I won't, won't stay up, won't write other blog entries, won't look for other aikido videos, won't read more on the novel I'm into and so much more.

Maybe someday I will stay up until I can sing “Here Comes The Sun”


What's It All About Alfie?

Monday we worked on ukemi AND watched some of a Donovan Waite video. Really great stuff. I've been at this in my own half assed way for over three years and still sometimes there is something totally new. I've seen Shiba Sensei demonstrate some of this ukemi before but I gather he wants us to focus as much on that as the nage technique. I “think” I understood a bit more after Monday...I hope I did.

Tonight Charlie Sensei taught but he had Shiba Sensei act as uke so we could see the two parts of the instruction. Again, pretty great. Much like Donovan Waite's comments at the end of his ukemi DVD where he talked about focusing on soft practical ukemi as opposed to dramatic high breakfalls...Shiba Sensei is superbly efficient, useful and UN-dramatic, yet incredibly graceful.

Upshot and the bad part for me was that it was very aerobic and I TOTALLY wimped out and had to ask to sit on the sidelines after an hour of fairly fast paced practice.

In past practices I once had to leave because I couldn't breath ( some sort of bronchial asthma ) but aside from that I always managed to make it through class...but not tonight. I have rarely exercised outside of Aikido since before last summer and I guess it finally caught up with me. I remember once I could outlast younger fellow Aikidoists but not now.

So it comes down to thinking about practicing Aikido and saying “What's it all about?” Can I get the gumption up to exercise more in order to practice in a fuller fashion? I once could. Can I do it again? I don't have to be a madman about it but maybe I'll actually have to discipline myself to ride my bike before work as I once did. BUT, sadly self -discipline is maybe my weakest point.

So what is it all about? Can I change my behavior for a goal? Something I want to do? Or am I just fooling myself and need to accept I just too lazy to break out this pleasant but un-aerobic tendency I have to drink wine and beer and eat pasta, cheese and chocolate?

What is IT all about and what am I all about?



I took a walk tonight up to the local Walgreens for some cold medicine (not for me) and while I walked I plugged in the headphnones and listened to MAIS QUE NADA by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66.

What a great song. As I walked I felt great with the music and took these pictures because everything looked better.

Listen to the music as you look at the pictures and you will experience what I heard as I walked and see what I saw.

I felt like the guy in the video who was standing on the railing.


Deja Vu All Over Again

Pre Class thoughts...I thought I “Ok, I'm actually getting more relaxed. My ukemi is getting smoother and tonight I'll really flow. Yeah, that's me!”. Well, that was not quite the case, but SOMEDAY Sensei will not have to tell me to relax (For over three years I've heard the “relax” command)

So...Sensei was a student with us normal folk tonight and Lawrence (brown belt) taught. And when we started with Tai No Henko (tenkan exercise) and Sensei worked with me.

I grabbed Sensei's wrist and he immediately looked at me and siad “Relax” as he touched my shoulder. And for the next few minutes he tried to pass along how to understand and react for tai no henko. It was a very short but very focused experience and really pretty special. The good part was felt I like I worked on sort of the fundamentals of the fundamentals.

I worry sometimes that the good efforts of our good Sensei are ultimately lost on people who are numskulls like me.

The video is an only a slight example of what we practiced in that we were slow and deliberate and the video is fast and frantic.


Writing About Aikido Is Hard

Progress comes
To those who
Train and train;
Reliance on secret techniques
Will get you nowhere.
~ Morihei Ueshiba Quotes from The Art of Peace

I wanted to write something after Monday's class and again after tonight's class....but sometimes writing about Aikido is HARD.

It is easy when there is some clear point you learned or some technique you never saw before or something weird happened. BUT what I took away form the last few class is hard to define and therefor hard to write about. Maybe it would work if I was a poet and expressed it in a non prosaic fashion. But I'm not and I can't. Sometimes what grabs your attention or tickles your understanding is more like a familiar scent or a shadowing memory is triggered that you can't identify. You know it but you just can't say it. You sense it but you can't say it.

There is a saying about Zen which I will probably mangle but as I remember it you say “How do you transmit something that can't be expressed in words and letters?” and the answer is “With words and letters.”

So here I go on the Aikido thing.

One night Sidney was teaching and we worked on some basics with the emphasis on Katate tori (wrist grab attack) and the then tenkan (turn, leave the grab as is but you end up parallel to the attacker) and then something else. Once we would then turn again and uke (the attacker) would have to follow around nage (the victim). It was more of an exercise rather than a directly useful technique but he kept urging the uke to move around nage as he turned and alternately extend your arm and move your center to keep up.

The analogy I suggested and he liked was that of a bull rider in that he must not lock his muscles as the bull bucks but move his center and extend and retract his arm as needed.

We worked on this for quite a while.

Tonight Charlie taught so I was able to train with Sidney Sensei once and he took the time to try to get my ukemi for shihonage to respond spontaneously. And to do that I had to not anticipate, move my hips appropriately and the change my feet as the throw was applied. He said I knew what the technique was so I was anticipating my fall, but in a real situation nage might change the technique and I could find myself in a very bad situation. And when I couldn't seem to react correctly he said I just needed to do it differently and that when I did it right I would know it. It wasn't something that is a movement that could be memorized.

I see that all those words of the last few paragraphs don't describe what I was feeling.

Just to say it is quite special that Sidney wants everybody to REALLY understand and feel that the roles of Uke and Nage both require the same responsiveness and REAL Aikido is not knowing all the holds, throws and such....rather it is responding in an appropriate Aikdio fashion (which of course also implies knowing all the holds, throws and such).

I was looking at videos to show something about the Aikdio I am striving to explain but all of YouTube is flashy fast throws and high flying breakfalls.

That's how I see it and it may not be worth the virtual paper it is printed on but there it is.


Another Cup Of Coffee

I was too slow and lazy this morning and skipped class to hang out at the coffee shop before I have to do my chores today.


A View From The Lake

There is no Aikido tonight so I managed to squeeze in a late afternoon ride around White Rock Lake.

The picture is of a house the comes into view when I round a certain curve. I just look forward to looking at it on my ride. A small pleasure but a pleasure non the less.


Aikdio Is No Imposition

Unexpectedly I was able to make tonight's class and after many weeks gone it was great to be back especially since Sidney was teaching tonight.

It was one of those classes where you think you're getting something special. Not some clever technique but Sensei kept driving at the core or what Aikido is. We worked on basic things. Things you thought you knew, but you realize what you thought you knew wasn't knowledge after all. You demonstrated Shomenuchi Ikkyo on your first test (5th Kyu) but now it is as if you had never heard of it before.


At the end of class he said there had been complaints that the youngsters in the class were not treated gingerly enough. From there he tried to explain that Aikido was not Nage imposing the technique on Uke but rather just as a technique was not IMPOSED on an uke because nage wanted to “do” the technique it is the same with the nage/uke relationship. We are called to be aware of uke's ability and act accordingly (be gentle or forcefull in the application of the technique), and he reminded us Aikido was Harmony and it also meant harmony with ukes of many levels.

He repeated we don't impose a technique and that in training the point it to learn a technique and how it applies to uke so be aware of what you are doing and why and nage and uke both must strive to perform their part as best as each one can.

He then went on to explain that in the moment of an actual attack by a some villain if you learned the technique in the variations of class you survival impulse would take over and you would apply the move with no restraint.

He then started a story even though he saw class was late, but as he said “But, this is important”

(I paraphrase)

Once there was a martial arts master who wanted to fight somebody who would not hold back because for him it was truly life or death. So he found a prisoner who was condemned to die and talked the local magistrate into letting him fight the man and if the man could kill the master the prisoner would be free. It would be a true fight to the death.

The fight started and for a time the prisoner was so motivated that he pulled out every trick he knew and the master had to struggle. But finally the master killed the prisoner and went to his (the master's ) teacher. He described how surprised he was at how hard it was to the beat the man who didn't have great martial arts training.

The master's master simply said

“And think how difficult it would have been if he knew your techniques!!”

So again the point was...learn these techniques, know why, how and when to use them. And by working with ukes of all levels if you can appreciate how to use them accordingly...when the time comes it is the marriage of technique and survival that will win the day. But if you insist on imposing your technique on weaker ukes you don't actually learn as much.


The Dark Side of the Moon

Because of family issues I have missed the last two weeks of Aikido and will probabaly miss another week if not more.

I HOPE to be back but I feel like NASA with a moon shot when the capsule lost all communication as they went across the back side (not really the dark side) of the moon.

I have been out of touch and pray I will be back in touch ASAP.


Moon Shot

I have ridden my bicycle very little the last few months so I celebrated this morning's ride with a photo to remember the morning by.

Another sunrise over White Rock Lake in Dallas


One Week Later...Same Location

I have to miss Aikido yet again and sadly I missed last Wednesday of my own choice (I was sooooo dang tired), but also again I am squeezing in my caffeine treat of a slow cup of coffee at White Rock Coffee.


Saturday Morning at White Rock Coffee

I have some domestic chores to do today and have to miss Aikido class, but I managed to squeeze in a little time for coffee and reading.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Back on the Mat

After missing almost 2 weeks of aikido I finally made it back to class tonight.

Sidney Sensei was there but Charlie taught the class tonight and he worked on some basic concepts. It is interesting that Charlie or Sidney will both focus on “basics” but somehow even though they often cover the same techniques the vibe is different. While neither is worse nor better than the other I still savor Sidney Sensei's basic more than other peoples basics.

But it was a good workout and I was not as winded as I thought I would be since I have not exercised in almost 2 weeks.

The video is quite similar to what we worked on for the first part of class although the language is a bit different.

I have not posted many “deep thought” postings lately but I feel one coming on. I hope to ultimately tie in Aikido, the meaning of life, the existential situation and all that. But I may have to work up to it



Tonight I went to MKZC (The Maria Kannon Zen Center) and spent 90 minutes sitting in an almost lotus position (with short silent walking breaks every 30 minutes).

Back in the 90s I spent 7 years or so regularly sitting on my own and going once a week to the Zendo and the occasional retreat (aka sesshin). So after being away for nearly 8 years it was interesting to get back in the sitting swing of things.

The teacher (Ruben Habito) was there tonight and offered dokuson (individual interview) so I took advantage of this treat. The ability to have one on one time with an official Zen Teacher who has the “Imprimatur” to teach from Zen masters is really quite amazing. Who would think Dallas, TX would have such an opportunity?

The ritual of going to dokusan adds weight to the activity but since Ruben is so welcoming you are instantly at ease.

MKZC follows a relatively modern lineage in that it officially started in 1954 which is WAY new as far as these things go. The founder is famous from Roshi Kapleau's Three Pillars of Zen. The twist for Sanbo Kyodan is that it blends the two main types of Zen, Rinzai and Soto. Rinzai is best known for the use of the zen riddles called koans while Sōtō usually just focuses on “just sitting” or “Shikantaza”

I don't know if I'll totally switch my Wednesday routine form Aikido to Sitting, but I will probably at least return next week


Mind Your Beginners

Sensei is spending much of the summer in France and Charlie and some of the brown belts have been teaching the class in his absence.

Last night we had a big class in a small room and a we had a lot of pretty new people. I've be at it for about 3 ½ years and still think of my self as a beginner so I sometimes feel strange commenting on a partner's technique. That plus the idea that for the most part you are supposed to leave the teaching to the teacher.

Interestingly I've found that sometimes the newer students want to give the most advice. Charlie has sometimes explicitly told us as a group it is impolite for a junior student to tell a more senior student what to do, but I don't really care. I think the more you practice you develop a sense of humility since you seem to frequently discover you didn't know as much as you thought and if you go to different dojos the same technique can vary quite a bit.

When I've questioned Sidney on why a different teacher seems to have a different approach he usually says the other technique if fine but it implies a slightly different attack by uke in which case the slightly different work by nage is appropriate. The upshot is you shouldn't assume anything but be open to learning at all times.

All that makes me slow to correct anybody, but you want to help when you can. So you just have to strike a balance and maintain your own “beginner's mind” when working with a beginner.


I missed class again today. I just felt too crummy to motivate my old keister to class.

I was thinking about a story from my "Zen Years" which comes from a story in The Three Pillars Of Zen by Philip Kapleau about Enyadatta...

Enyadatta was a beautiful maiden who enjoyed nothing more than gazing at herself in the mirror each morning. One day when she looked into her mirror she found no head reflected there. The shock was so great that she became frantic, rushing around demanding to know who had taken her head. Though everyone told her, “Don’t be silly, your head is on your shoulders where it has always been,” she refused to believe it and continued her frenzied search.

EnyadattaHere I will interject a commentary from Roshi Yasutani before proceeding with the allegory:

This “head,” of course, corresponds to the Buddha-nature, to our innate perfection. That they even have a Buddha-nature never occurs to most people until they hear Shujo honrai hotoke nari — “All beings are endowed with Buddha-nature from the very first.” Suddenly they exclaim, “Then I too must have the Buddha-nature! But where is it?” Thus like Enyadatta when she first missed her head and started rushing about looking for it, they commence their search for their True-nature.

Back to Enyadatta’s tale:

At length her friends, believing her mad, dragged her home and tied her to a pillar to prevent her harming herself.

Slowly her friends persuaded her that she had always had her head, and gradually she came to half-believe it. Her subconscious mind began to accept the fact that perhaps she was deluded in thinking she had lost her head.

Suddenly one of her friends gave her a terrific clout on the head, upon which, in pain and shock, she yelled “Ouch!”

“That’s your head! There it is!” her friend exclaimed, and immediately Enyadatta saw that she had deluded herself into thinking she had lost her head when in fact she had always had it.

When this happened to Enyadatta she was so elated that she rushed around exclaiming, “Oh, I’ve got it! I have my head after all! I’m so happy!”


Go And Sin No Sin No More (NOT!)

Last night Charlie worked on the idea of Sen No Sen by which he means an early response to an attack so you prevent the attack from reaching it's most force. And along with it he worked in the notion of Atemi as “90% of Aikido”.

I think this may be a fundamental difference between Charlie and Sidney Sensei. For instance in irimi nage Charlie almost always teaches the early entering where you step in front of uke to stop the advance of the attack.

(Charlie's version is a cleaner but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted on you tube)

While Sidney almost always teaches a version that has a has you step to the other side and let the attack play itself out. You tenkan, swing uke around and then go to irimi.

If asked, Sensei will point out the the ending of both is the same, but he feels that if you learn the longer version you can use the shorter version with ease.

Regarding Sen No Sen I found this link http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=600

The Founder’s concept of aiki strategy goes far beyond the dimension of psycho-physical confrontation. In an interview conducted in 1957, he expresses the concept in these words:
“It is not a question of either ‘sensen no sen’ or ‘sen no sen.’ If I were to try to verbalize it I would say that you control your opponent without trying to control him. That is, the state of continuous victory. There isn’t any question of winning over or losing to an opponent. In this sense, there is no opponent in aikido. Even if you have an opponent, he becomes a part of you, a partner you control only.”

If I were to quibble at all (which I would never do in class) it is that an emphasis on Atemi or Early attack is totally legitimate I think maybe with our western view of things we naturally associate these ideas with “force”, which I don't think O' Sensei really meant (boy is that presumptuous of me!).

Where Ueshiba think such things as control without controlling, we can't help of think that controlling is...well Control


Morning At White Rock Lake

I rode around White Rock Lake in Dallas this morning. Above is a picture of the sun coming up today


Starting all over all over again

I missed Monday and Tuesday Aikido because of familial commitments and there is no class today, so I will have missed a full week.

With my new hinges on my thinkpad I have a renewed affections for the thing. It feels like new.

I'm still playing with Ubuntu and while it can be frustrating you feel like you are having a little adventure. But the irritations are....well, irritating. Today I wanted to upload a ultrasimple animation I mad this morning in Synfig and I thought the error I got when trying to upload to YouTube was the Ubuntu video editing software (KdenLive), so I tried many settings. Finally I tried uploading it in FireFox instead of Opera (another experiment).

Opera seems to view videos better than FireFox but it cannot upload to YouTube but FireFox does. FireFox cannot see Videos of The Daily Show, but Opera can. This seems to reflect my Linux experience.


A Hinge Not In Time

The right hinge (stage right) on my ThinkPad broke.

The warranty expired after one year and I've had it for over two years, so unless I wanted to drop a few hundred dollars it was up to me to fix it. (as an aside I tend to keep computers for a really long time, and make them do things they shouldn't be called upon to do because they are too old)

The good part is that Lenovo publishes all the manuals and part numbers so I could find out what the part number was and Lenovo also publishes videos on how to take your ThinkPad apart. But ultimately the guide and a printed out section of the service manual that helps.

The Lenovo site is http://www.lenovoservicetraining.com/ion/

I got the part number and found a place that sold it to me for $20 ($10 shipping).

Then I spent 2 to 2 ½ hours installing the two hinges.

Here is the broken right hinge

And here is the left good and bad left hinge

I replaced them both as the left hinge had a wobble.

I put it all together and aside from the 4 left over screw all went well and I can open and close with impunity!

And I have to say once you have the instructions the design of the think made it pretty easy to effect the repair.

I also found that the wire from a connection on the main section to the wireless antenna was either already broken or taking the LCD off broke it.

I pulled out the soldering iron which I really don't know how to use, and slobbered on some solder, wrapped it in tape and jammed it back into the lid frame.

I don't know if it is better, worse or the same. But it still works.


Tanto NOT Tonto!

I've attended Aikido regularly since my motorcycle trip but for some reason I just have not felt the impluse to blog about it.

Last Monday we worked on tanto dori (wooden knife attacks) and not much to say on my part except that since the one brown belt there hurt his back I was the most senior student so I ended up being uke for Sidney Sensei for the whole night. I still feel a bit like an impostor, just too much of a beginner.


The Not So Wonderfull Land of OS

So I think I'm pretty sharp now with my ubuntu ThinkPad.
I think I know what I'm doing.
So I decide I will install a Windows OS now, on the drive with the already installed Ubuntu Operating System (OS).
Well..."they" are right. It is easier to install Linux for a dual boot if you put the Linux on second.

In tring to fix the master boot record (MBR) so I could start the dual boot menu, somehow I ruined the partition table and made both installation unreadable.

Sooooo...I had to start ALL over with Ubuntu AND Windows. But it means I have relearn how to get my digital video camera working in Ubuntu.

Many, many hours of work, which is a bit silly because I have my old perfectly fine Hard Drive in my bag. But I want to see if I can live (mostly) in the Ubuntu world.

By the way I never got a disk for my Vista OS but fortuanately I was gifted with a registered XP CD.

On a completely unrelated matter, the picture above is from the desktop of a pirated version of XP which I found on the net while searching for ways to dual boot.


What Would Napoleon Do For A Newer “Rosetta Stone”?

While investigating installing Rosetta Stone on Ubuntu I discovered there was new version (#3) and from what I can tell it looks pretty different. But apparently they expect you to already have learned a language once you purchase your CDs, since there is no upgrade. It seems you have to spend $500 to get the new version even though you already gave then a few hundred dollars already.

You could argue they should give the new “better” version for free since you didn't learn from the old version. But probably not.

However it turns out a little investigation shows a slightly unscrupulous person can easily find a complete edition of a “cracked” new version online and...well for free.

I can't help but feel that some people with weak moral fiber might be mightily tempted to go the free route after discovering their previous purchase means nothing to the manufacturer.

In any any case the above shows a screenshot I found of the new version.


An Open Source Window

I was a able to run DVD Shrink on my Ubuntu OS through WINE to start step one of a backup of a movie DVD. This created the Video_TS and Audio_TS folders with the needed files to create an ISO image of the DVD.

But IMG Classic would not run under WINE so a bit of Googling I found out the command to create an ISO file from the audio and video files created by DVD Shrink...

mkisofs -dvd-video -udf -o dvd.iso DONNIE_DARKO_D1

where the last part is the folder just below the one you start the command with in the terminal window.

THEN I had to find DVD burning software to make a DVD from the ISO image. I would have thought all this would be part of a normal installation of Ubuntu. But I guess you have to look for such things in the Windows world so maybe it not so strange at all. The ISO to DVD disk software I used was Brasero.

1. DVD Shrink (Windows app in WINE)
2. mkisofs (commands in a terminal window)
3. Brasero (to put the ISO on a DVD)

Anyway it all worked out and it is only a little bit more complicated than in Windows, but maybe I can simplify it later.


Aikdio, but who's counting, not me!

At Aikdio last night I discovered I had not noted my attendance for over two months.


I ended up with a spare SATA hard drive for my Lenovo R60 and formatted it with Ubuntu. Linux is lightyears beyond the installation from when I first played with it maybe over 10 years ago. I remember downloading may dozens of 3 ½ inch floppies for slackware and then having to recompile the kernel time after time. And all the pain of getting the modem, printer and sound card to work. It took weeks and weeks, and then I would simply go back to Windows.

The Ubuntu installation was pretty darn good, but I did have to do some Googling to find out how to get my wireless to work (an amazingly simple fix)

Tonight I got my digital video to work with the Ubuntu video editor and then I finally got a VPN connection going to my work network. The vpn was a little bit of a challenge but it works pretty well now.

I found that Manga studio (Windows edition) works with WINE and I read online that you can also get DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter to work in WINE. And I need that to make my DVD “backups”.

I may go back to my Vista disk but I'll see how long this Ubuntu installation keeps me satisfied.

The picture is a screen shot of the



I went to the Houston Museum of Fine Art. Above is a sketch... below is the real thing


A Hazy Shade

Time, time, time, see whats become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
-P. Simon

Well...it has been two years since I started blogging and I have no conclusions about the whole affair.

I feel the premise is still appropriate in that we have a finite time alive and one might reasonably think it appropriate to ponder how to spend the remaining time one has. Especially if the odds are that you are already well past the the midpoint of life and maybe into the last quarter.

That said, I look back on those halcyon days just after my 50th birthday and wonder how I could be so naive. How strange I thought I could find the answers to life by simply getting some new hobbies. Even though I may continue on in these interests I'm taking them off the mast head of this publication

But even now I must admit I don't know that it is such a bad idea to spend your time investigating things you are interested in. BUT interests wane and energy fades so you are left with nothing. I am like a ping pong game, for suddenly I'm on the other side of the table and thing “you enjoy a good book and a nice glass of wine, why not simply uncork, read a book and relax."

In the depths of my mind, my western view of time ticks its way toward me...time..time, time...see what's become of me.

Maybe we will meet again some sunny day; Like tomorrow perhaps.


Back In Texas

Two weeks on the road and over 3000 miles and here is the pic I took when I crossed back into TX yesterday.

Fortunately the ominous clouds only sprinkled me a litte so I got home dry.

Over 3000 miles


The Mighty Mississip!

Here is the bridge from the Mississippi side.

I decided to go against my original of no Interstates and took I-20 to I-55. ,d then up 75 miles and then east to the Natchez Trace Parkway.

The last bit is quite nice and the fist part felt right since I was so beat down from riding in the rain yesterday that I wanted to cover as many miles as I could while it was still only overcast.
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Camping Rained Out

We'll...I really meant to camp out tonight but after riding through a downpour for 45 minutes I wimped out pulled into a Super8.

Here is the meal I meant to have in a tent.
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The Journey Begins

Phase 1 is complete with the ride from Dallas to Houston.

The picture is about the half way point yesterday.

Monday it's off to Louisiana.
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Handlebar Camera

I'm testing sending a photo and a blog post from my Blackberry.

This is pic of a cool camera that mounts to your handlebars.
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Last week I went for a walk in the dark with sandals on and by moving too quickly I hit my big toe and manage to lift the toenail off the toe just enough to make the toe name change to a solid white color and cause some pain but not pull it all the way off.

So swari waza was out as was hamni handachi. AND since I was a wimp and feared it might hurt to practice...I decided not to take the 3rd Kyu test today.

In less than a week I leave for the two week motorcycle trip so I don't know if I'll be up to returning to practice before I leave. Which means I will miss almost a month's worth of classes.


Good Ol' Koshi Nage

We worked a bit on Koshi Nage tonight and I think it showed how I've changed since I first blogged on Kohsinage. Before I was in awe of the whole technique, and while I still have a bit of that, I realize for me now the most important thing is the “loading up” part. After that it is really easy to release and make the flashy finish.

Of course before I may have been a bit intimidated or even scared to be uke in a koshi nage, but now it is a breeze if nage knows what they are doing. However a clumsy or unsure nage can make your fall quite hard

Anyway, it is the fist half that embodies Aikido. You have to respond to the attacker and find your center while holding uke's center lightly on your hip. For all the flash, it is the quietness that makes it an Aikido move. There is a similar technique Judo and while I have not studied Judo (unless you count the one class I went to) my feeling is it requires more muscle and is a known response to a known attack while in aikido the Koshinage is a surprise. BUT the real point is that as with so many aikido techniques it is only done well when it is smooth, easy and gentle. At least gentle until the finish.

Nage is unbalanced and then rocked completely on your hip and then “poof” they are on the ground.

AND it was great to have Sensei Sidney back after a week and a half away. Charlie taught while Sidney was gone and while you relish the “real world” approach to Aikido, Sidney is so elegant it really makes the martial art an “Art”. He will comment on the applicability of certain parts but he really wants us to “feel” what it right. To sense what it happening and to respond accordingly.

In many ways it is simply a matter of emphasis but I'm in Aikido for the beauty and the truth of the act. I wonder if the fact our Sensei also practices painting in oils relates to how he views the practice of Aikido.

Think about it, where else can you combine the physical act with such an aesthetically refined movement AND a useful defense technique. Sidney often tells us that in “real life” you could not make such dramatic movements, BUT if you understand and integrate those extravagant motions when the time comes a reaction that has a more forced crudity will also include those inspirational approaches.

Anyway, it is good that he is back


3rd Kyu?

Sensei said I should take the 3rd Kyu test in May. So I guess I'm taking the 3rd Kyu test in May.

The problem is, 3rd Kyu implies you know some stuff. Not all, by any means, and you are sure not a black belt (shodan), but still you should be able to help out new students more and generally know the ropes.

BUT, after three years I now really know I'm just a beginner. I fear if I tell somebody at a practice that I'm 3rd kyu they may think I actually know something. It's like putting on airs.

BUT, if Sensei says I should take the 3rd kyu test, I guess I will take the 3rd Kyu test.

Here is the list:
3rd Kyu (>100 days practice after 4th kyu)
Yokomenuchi iriminage (2 ways)
Yokomenuchi kotegaeshi
Tsuki kaitennage
Ushiro ryokatatori sankyo (omote & ura)
Morotetori iriminage (2 ways)
Shomenuchi sankyo (omote & ura)
*Shomenuchi Kaitenage (Omote & Ura)
*Morotetori Sankyo (Omote & Ura)
*Ushiro Ryotetori (3 ways)
*Ushiro Ryokatatori (3 ways)
*Ryokatatori (3 ways)
*Jujinage (3 ways)
Suwari waza:
Shomenuchi iriminage
Shomenuchi nikkyo (omote & ura)
*Shomenuchi Ikkyo (Omote & Ura)
*Shomenuchi Sankyo (Omote & Ura)
*Shomenuchi Yonkyo (Omote & Ura)
Katatetori shihonage
Katatetori kaitennage (uchi & soto mawari)
*Ryotetori Shihonage (Omote & Ura)
*Morotetori Shihonage (Omote & Ura)
*Ai-Hanmi Katatetori Shihonage (Omote & Ura)



OK, here's the plan. I ride to Houston, then to Tennessee then to Oklahoma, then back to Dallas. I “plan” to camp as much as possible. For the adventure and for the economy.

On a Friday in May I head to Houston where I spend the weekend visiting relatives.

The Monday morning I leave Houston and drive to Jimmie Davis State Park near Chatham, LA

Tuesday morning go from Jimmie Davis State Park, LA to Trace State Park near Tupelo.

Wednesday leave Holly Springs for Rock Island, TN near Sparta, TN

Thursday Leave Rock Island headed to Jellico, TN but stop in Crossville, TN to get knobbies installed at a local motorcycle dealer.

Then on Friday I met two friends and ride the TransAmerica Trail(http://www.transamtrail.com/) to Oklahoma taking 7 days, arriving the following Thursday and I ride back to Dallas on Friday.

I've discovered I can update a blog with pictures taken from my blackberry, so I think I'll start a separate blog just for this trip and update it with more pictures and comments after it is all over.


View From My Roof

Here is the view after I raked off some leaves on my roof.
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Silent Super 8 Memories

Here is an old Super 8 I had and finally uploaded to YouTube


A Road Slightly Less Taken

If things go as planned, in two months I will be riding with two or three other old men to ride from the middle of Tennessee to Oklahoma using only backroads of which most are dirt roads.

I will ride my Suzuki DRZ400S to the departure location to meet up with my fellow travelers.

Partly for fun and partly for a small prep, last week I rode my motorcycle from Dallas to Houston but avoided the Interstate, which I took the last time I made such a trip.

I can report that for me it is WAY easier to ride on nice roads when they are NOT Interstate Highways. It may take longer but the recovery time is much easier.

So my plan for the TransAmericaTrail trip, is to parallel the Interstate Highway system but actually stay off the Interstate itself.

Above is the route I took last weekend and below is a picture of my Cycle on that trip during a short break.


I Get a Crazy Idea

I mean to return to my study of Spanish after almost a year of neglect, BUT...IF one happened upon a fully function used copy of a very expensive copy of a foreign language software package for Italian, would be tempted to go that route rather than spanish?

Well I plan fire up my fully paid for Rosetta Stone Spanish disk, but I think I might also use the used copy of a similar software package for Italian. PLUS I discovered that a local library has many languages on line for self study (both spanish AND italian).

Since one of my more charming traits (in my mind) is to do things that make no sense. I now THINK I may try and study Spanish AND Italian at the same time.

It is a crazy idea for me to study any foreign language since I'm sure I'll never really learn, so studying two is even more wacky. The chances of me using either in the near future is slim so if I am going to waste may time, why not waste it in a more complete way.

Regarding the online software from the library, the above is a screenshot of the Auralog program which looks to be a decent software package. But so far the online version can be confusing. But it has some nice features like if you see any word you can click on it to get an definition.

I took the spanish test and at least ended in the intermediate zone. So I'll start there and try to use it AND my Rosetta Stone software AND the italian software.


“In Aikido, Uke is the Ribbon”

When attacked NEVER WAIT!

Tonight we worked on a a number a entering but not Irimi techniques. The point Sensei he was going for was that while you must react, you can't wait. Don't wait to be hit and apply a technique you react once the attack starts but BEFORE the attack actually reaches you.

Later he was hoping we would get the point of timing and reacting by thinking of the gymnasts that use the ribbons which they can never let drop. The ribbon has a motion that nage must stay in sync with.

The key phrase was “In Aikido the Uke is the Ribbon”, meaning nage and uke should be in synch throughout th technique.


So what happened at class today?

So what happened at class today?

With only 90 minutes available what experiences can one person have?

Working with a “new” yet very experienced senior student (nidan or above), I got some great personal and detailed explanation on Katatetori Shiho nage. Which is something you learn early in practice and is one of those things that at the beginning you tend to think you “understand”

Anyway, today I saw that most of the time Nage and Uke work a little bit too much together and this sempai reminded me of things I had heard of before but had forgotten.

I seems I was still (after 3 years) trying to raise uke's arm with my shoulder muscles but should have been using my whole body, turning with my shoulders hand and center all connected. And then shift forward with my body and center and only then raising my arms AFTER uke was unbalanced.

The we worked on Kotegaishi which I also thought I knew about but when I was trying to explain it to a new student I totally missed that if you try to apply to apply kotegaishi with the arms too high the effectiveness is much deprived. Fortunately Sensi was there clarify.

At one point for a specific demonstration of how to approach Katatetori ikkyo Sensi used me as uke for the simple example of drawing in of uke from Katatetori where instead of going to ikkyo nage simply shifts even farther back and uke flys by and goes to a roll. The cool thing for me was thay even though I didn't know what he was intending (I may be a little slow some times) I manage to realize he just wanted me to go with the flow and finish with a forward roll.

By the end of class Sensi felt we all needed to concentrate on maintaining balance. So we spent the last few minutes trying to stand on one leg and place the other foot on opposite knee. And then lean forward and extend the free leg back, lean forward and still maintain balance.

But what a full 90 minutes. Where else can you find such variety?



My heel felt OK yesterday so I went to Aikido class, which was a weapons class so I felt it was less of a worry.

I finally got to try out my Bokken at practice and it turns out it is just the right size. FYI if you hold the bokken where a tsuba (guard) would be if it had one, then drop your arm to your side, the tip of the sword should just graze the floor. And for me it was perfect.

I could not find exactly what we worked on in a YouTube clip but the above video approximates what we did.


A Time Out

Last Saturday was a fine Aikido class, except for Sensei prodding me to take the 3rd kyu test the following Saturday. BUT on Sunday night my left foot hurt a bit and by Monday afternoon I decided I should skip class as I had developed a pronounced limp.

When I painfully took my shoe off I discovered a bump just off center on the back of my heel. It hurt to the touch and was about the size of a large olive. On Tuesday the earliest doctor's appointment I could get was the following day.

Anyway the suspicion is it is an inflamed tendon. So I'm to not stress it until it is all better. Therefor I have missed a week's of practice AND definitely missed taking the 3rd kyu test. MAYBE I can make Wednesday's class.

I don't remember anything causing it and it just seem to slowly grow painful. I'm still hoping anything bad will simply go away, which is pretty much my life philosophy.


Relax don't do it...

Frankie Goes to Hollywood Relax (Body Double) - More amazing video clips are a click away

Today one of the things we worked on was shomenuchi kaiten nage. I worked with an aikidota who was some sort of upper rank (shodan or above) but stopped practicing for many, many years. Anyway from the start of his practice last week his abdomen muscles hurt enough that he could not take any rolls.

But, DANG he felt like he knew what he was doing. His center was always right, his motions was right. Anyway, he pointed out the thing I've heard and mentioned many time, I “need to relax”, but think is, it is WAY easier to relax as Uke when Nage knows what he is doing and also performing the technique will some commitment.

So I could then take his comment to heart and I really did relax my shoulder and go with the flow and I always ended up with a small break fall. The break fall just felt right, and that helped even more because I knew I could relax since he would guide me in the correct direction.

Admittedly the burden is on my shoulders (sometimes literally) to relax but have the right nage REALLY makes “letting go” much easier.

Even though the real message of the video “Relax” don't apply, I just had to put it up there.

Below is a video of some of what we worked on.


Story Time

OK I'm changing the the blog plan again. I started with Animation, Aikido and Spanish. Then I changed animation to video and now although I haven't worked on Spanish for many months I STILL PLAN to get back to sometime, BUT I am now changing video to to visual art with an emphasis on comics, or more specifically “autobiography comic”. I'm taking my cue from such works as Persepolis, Jeffery Brown, Chester Brown and others.

I'm using Manga Studio Debut 3.0 and although I've had it a while I was uncertain whether it would do what I needed. It doesn't have the precision of pen and paper but the joy of just being able to copy and paste parts at will. It uses layers in the same way may other graphic application do, so that is also pretty convenient.

At this point in my life I just not willing to spend th time to lovingly draw panel after panel. Anyway the rough drawing was easy with the Wacom tablet but I didn't know if it would look OK once I “inked” it. YES it is crude, but that is my frame of mind now, that is me and I just don't have the wherewithal to craft it into something beautiful,

Anyway, above is one page of inked results, and I'm pretty pleased. I still need to put the classic comic panels in to clearly divide the flow. But my whole effort is to be simplistic in the story and the presentation.

I'm starting with a Zen retreat I once when to during my “Zen Years” that tells a bit of what it is like to practice Zen but admit idly just from my unique perspective.

Below is the example of what the rough work looks like.


Welcome Back Koshi-Nage

I suppose it is not surprising what I eventually found, but it took much searching but I discovered an example of the koshi nage we did tonight in a clip from Christian Tissier (Our Sensei's Shihan). Christian Tissier must have a strong influence over the dojos in France where Sidney first practiced Aikido. We did the first Koshi version demonstrated.

Anyway, it has be quite a while since we last worked on this technique, but it was great to get into it. I felt good about it tonight, I don't think I hurt my back at all which was a worry before.

We also worked on a type of Henka Waza where you attack, but before Nage gets you you try to take control of the situation. We started with ShomenUchi and Nage went for nikkyo but we allowed Uke to regain balance, stand up and try to apply ikkyo to Nage. BUT then Nage starts to fall back and then twists around to apply a throw. It was pretty cool an it took us out of our comfort zone as we had to work on letting go and in a sense control by NOT controlling everything. Simple to watch, hard to explain and very hard to perform.

It doesn't really apply but during the falling practice the old Joni Mitchell song "Help Me" kept running through my head. So here it is...


It's 2009 and “I Feel Free”

Tonight before class started I was testing my Ai-Hamni Nikkyo on somebody and Sensei came by to correct my technique. It is amazing how there was something I thought I knew but was somehow so wrong.

Anyway, I think that helped guide the night since Sensei saw we had a number of very new students plus we had limited space tonight. We work entirely from katate-tori with only backrolls. Front rolls were prohibitive because of so little space.

It has been a few weeks since I last got to the Dojo, and I was a bit trepidatious about going back tonight. It was a good work out but not too bad and by the time I left felt pretty frickin' great. Maybe
I exerted enough energy that some endorphins kicked in, but I felt like some upbeat song ought to be posted on the blog.

I had the feeling but I just didn't know what the song was. I first went with “Good Day Sunshine” but after searching on YouTube I figured “Sunshine of your Love” felt more appropriate. But then I saw “I Feel Free” by Cream and THAT felt right.

The last part of 2008 was a bit rough and the release of energy tonight was somehow cathartic and it finally felt like a new year was starting. I want to be optimistic about the future but even now I fear the Bell Jar is descending on 2009.

We will see.