Monday Night at the Dojo 5/29

Attendees: Randy, Keith, Stanley, Robert and Julie (a black belt who showed up to videotape some stuff for a Survivor tryout).

Ukemi: spent a lot of time on ukemi tonight while Julie was brushing up on hers. Maybe half an hour. Raymond sensei constantly tweaking my rolling.

The Walk: Went well. Julie was reviewing the taping I'd done of a few of the techniques.

Releases: With Keith and Stanley. Not getting my hand in proper position quickly enough, as usual.

I videotaped some more of Julie throwing the other guys and then being thrown by Randy. I hope she makes it onto the show.

Aftermath: Nothing of note.

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Wednesday Night at the Dojo 5/24

Attendees: Tim, Keith, Stanley and Lanita (sp? [I'm closer]).

Ukemi: did fairly well on both sides. Folks are seeing improvement. the key thing is keeping my lead knee flexed.

The Walk: Went well. Having trouble remembering the 10th stone. Sensei Ray worked with me after class on some parts of the walk.

Releases: With Keith. Did ok, there are always teaching points, though. :)

Off-balance work: Taking cue from the seminar, we worked on the releases, but taking uke in a different direction than usual to greater different off-balances. Worked with Stanley on this. He caught on quicker than I did, but it went ok.

Techniques: While working on the off-balances, Stanley pointed out that I'm not moving my center before moving my foot. Making that change, Shomen-ate and Gyakugamae-ate were quite effective the one time each I attempted them on Stanley. Cool.

Hand Randori: Worked with Stanley on this. I think I'm improving, but he seemed to be struggling a little. Fun stuff.

Aftermath: Left shoulder is a little off, probably from woodworking and volleyball. Got a bit of an aerobic activity this time.

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Monday Night at the Dojo 5/21

Attendees: Randy, Keith, Stanley and Laura(?) a brown belt who's been away for a bit.

Ukemi: did fairly well on both sides.

The Walk: Went well. Remembered the 10th stone.

Releases: With Keith. I'm using too much muscle and not getting my had in proper position quickly enough.

Techniques: I ran through 1 through 5 each with Laura. Uke'd for a good portion of the evening to let her work off the rust. When I was tori, I was struggling to figure out her off-balance. She's shorter than anyone I've worked with so far. But, I threw her off since I am so much taller than she is.

Aftermath: Sore from everything over the weekend, mainly the work at the scuba shop. Left ankle and calf are a still a little off.

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Scuba Shop Sunday

Mike's location of Sea Sports Scuba is opening today, so Kim and I went up there yesterday to help him get the store ready.

My main task was to get the shelving I'd been working on, at home, set up and secured in the storage room. That took me about 5 hours, far longer than I would have guessed it would have taken me. At least there weren't a bunch of repetitive cuts to make.

Kim's job was getting the public side presentable: getting stock on hangers, getting cabinets organized.

At around 7:30 we left the store (about 9 hours of work) and went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for dinner.

Deep sleep ensued shortly thereafter.

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Saturday Evening at the Dojo 5/20

I arrived at the dojo before everyone arrived back from dinner (another meal with the group that I missed because of the scuba shop stuff) and sat out in the car listening to Garrison Keillor until Keith and John showed up with a key.

We sat around stretching and cussin' and discussin' until the rest of the crew arrived back. I think we had around 10 - 13 folks there, but I'm not certain.

The session started with Carla commenting on some of the stuff she noticed in the demos: getting up from a fall and the exchanging of positions between techniques.

Getting up from a fall, in a demonstration, we try to not point our butts in the direction of joseki. That has led us to roll over and, sometimes, rotate on the ground prior to getting up. Carla had a better approach to geting up: get up on one knee and, if necessary, rotate on it while kneeling to prevent showing joseki disrespect.

Exchanging postitions during a demonstration: our process has been that once the techniques have started, torie is always vulnerable to attack form uke, so tori never shows his back to uke. The leads to interesting dances when folks change positions. Carla's frame of reference is that the demonatration is a demonstration of the techniques. Once a technique is done, uke and tori are just friends rearranging themselves for the next technique, so there is no need to worry about presenting your back to uke after uke gets up from his fall. This allows uke and tori to walk normally from one side to the other without having to, simultaneously, have tori behind uke (wrt joseki) and not show joseki your butt. This also allows tori to be closer to joseki and, since the demonstration is a demonstration of tori's knowledge of the principles and therefore more important, this is a good thing.

This discussion went on for a while. Since the bigwigs of my style were on the matt during this time, I'm guessing that we're going to change to this new approach to demonstrations.

We also did some sitting techniques. Since I have not picked up knee-walking yet, I mainly watched and absorbed. There was one technique that was static that I was able to attempt and it worked on the first try. I'm not going to attempt to describe it, unfortunately.

I had to depart a little early to taking the shelving units to the dive shop (at 10 p.m.), so I said my goodbyes to the visiting akidokas and headed off into the great black yonder.

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Saturday Afternoon at the Dojo 5/20

I had to go rent a trailer to haul the shelving stuff to the scuba shop. The timing was right that I could stop by the dojo and watch the belt demonstrations that were scheduled for that time period.

Robert was scheduled for his Nikyu, Keith for his Ikkyu and Drew for his Nidan.

Robert and Keith demonstrated stuff I'd seen before. Drew demonstrated kneeling techniques that I'd not seen before. Some of it was exceptionally cool.

The demos lasted about an hour, total. I congratulated those that I could and then zipped off to get the trailer. It was definitely worth the time.

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Saturday Morning at the Dojo 5/20

Attendees: Ray, Randy, Tim, Carla, Mike, Matthew, Frankie, John, Drew, Raj, Keith, Stanley and some others that I'll determine once I see the picture from the seminar. Ray - Hachidan; Randy, Tim, Carla, Mike, Matthew - Rokyudan; Frankie - Godan. Talk about some experience!

Ukemi: I think this occurred Sat. morning, but it might have occured Friday night. Frankie saw me rolling out and came out to throw me over him. He grabbed the "lapels" of my gi, turned 90 degrees and slid on his heels, landing so that he and I formed an upside down "T". Before he reached that point, though, I went tumbling over him in a right hand roll. It was cool.

We did an introduction of all of the attendees. I was the only person on the mat who had not tested at all. No other white belts present. A call for questions went out to present to the experts. I don't really remember much of the questions.

I do remember working with Carla on my techniques. I was consistently not getting the first off-balance on my techniques with her, I'm not certain why. I may have been too tentative.

Aigamae-ate: She called Mike in watch me as I tried to execute this technique. He tweaked my approach and was amazingly enthusiastic when I got it right.

She had different approaches to Shomen-ate and Gedan-ate.

Shomen-ate: Our technique is to cup uke's attacking arm at the wrist and move him off-balance from that point. Carla teaches to make contact with uke on the forearm, near the elbow. Her reasoning is that there is more leverage at that point.

Gedan-ate: Our technique is to always keep and unbendable arm. When uke raises his arm to block the eye flash, tori's arm slides off of the rising arm and across uke's chest. Carla's approach is to get tori's arm from the shoulder to the elbow on uke's chest, but the hand and wrist are a approximately perpendicular to uke's chest. I tend to think the unbendable arm is the way to go.

We did some very simple off-balance exercises. Keith came over to me. He seems to like exploring the height difference. The exercise was to lightly grasp uke's gi with between thumb and forefinger of each hand while standing a few inches apart and feet parallel and not in strong positions. Then, while keeping unbendable arm, step in each of the 8 directions and notice the difference in your ability to move uke in that direction.

I then worked with Carla some on the same exercise. I tend to work with my upper body and not my center. It was actually effective when I worked with my center.

We did some hand randori, changing partners every few minutes. I worked with Drew and Randy and someone else. Drew had just learned a technique from Matthew in which uke attacks the chest of tori and tori lays both hands over uke's hand while it is on tori's chest. Tori, then kneels down, supposedly causing uke to fall to his knees. I didn't feel any compulsion to kneel down, but I might not have been reacting properly, or Drew might not have had everything correct. Randy was pleased with my reactions, I think.

We broke for lunch. I would have loved to have joined them, but I had to get back to work on the shelving units, which I managed to finish.

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Friday Night at the Dojo 5/19

Attendees: Randy, Keith, Robert, Raj, and John. Also, Drew and Frankie from Alabama. This is a usually upper-belt-only session, but it was supposed to be the start of the weekend seminar, so they let me on the mat. Robert and Keith worked on preparation for their demonstrations on Saturday.

Ukemi: did a very light ukemi warm-up. A couple of rolls on each side.

The Walk: Went well.

Releases: None tonight.

Techniques: I ran through 1 through 5 with Raj (a Nidan, I think. Definitely a black belt). Attempted some with a 3-step approach, but switch to a one-step for the later ones to save time since I was not doing well. Sensei Ray corrected some of the changes Raj made to a tack for getting the off-balance. I should be going at a 45 degree angle to uke, not taking a sidestep. More forward, less side.

Aftermath: Nothing really noticeable

Did some more carpentry after the session. Stayed up until about 11:00 p.m. working on the silly shelving units.

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Wednesday Night at the Dojo 5/17

Attendees: John and Stanley.

Ukemi: did fairly well on both sides. Still doing some basics work on getting the bounce out. John wants me to start working on standing up from our "fish-flop" warm up fall.

The Walk: Went well. Having trouble remembering the 10th stone. Sensei Ray worked with me after class on some parts of the walk.

Releases: With Stanley. Went ok.

Techniques: I ran through 1 through 5 once each with Stanley. Lots of work on Geden-ate and Ushiro-ate. After going through my set of techniques, Jahn had us switch to a 3-step approach so Stanley could work on his techniques. This is mind-blowing and is going to take a bit to remember.

Aftermath: Left shoulder is a little off, probably from woodworking and volleyball. Left ankle and calf are a still a little off.

The seminar for this weekend is on. Now to figure out how to fit it into my schedule with the carpentry job I'm working on for Sea Sports Scuba. There are going to be sessions Friday night and 3 on Saturday. I think I'm going to try for the one tonight and then work the table saw afterwards. Then, two sessions tomorrow and more carpentry afterwards. And then transport the stuff after that. And fit in some web work sometime this weekend. Ack.

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Monday Night at the Dojo 5/15

Attendees: Sensei Randy, Stanley, Keith and Sheila.

Ukemi: did ok. Worked from a standstill to eliminate a bounce I seem to have from my calf muscle. Working on bending from hip instead of waist. Did an assisted (Sensei Randy led my arm out, causing me to roll out) fall on each side and they went beautifully! I almost left the mat right then to leave on a good note since my motto of "Good Ukemi, Good Walk, Good Techniques, choose one" was likely to come into play.

The Walk: Went okay.

Releases: 1 through 8 with Keith.

Techniques: ran through the first 5 with Keith and later with Stanley. It was not a terribly great night for techniques. I have trouble with Stanley for some reason. He worked with me on Gaiden-ate (#4) for a while. He had some good insights, but I was not able to incorporate them successfully.

Aftermath: None, really. It looks like the seminar for this weekend is not going to happen. No out-of-towners have responded, so Sensei's not going to hold it. They have until Wednesday to respond. The final decision will be made then. I got home and had to do some woodworking for Sea Sports Scuba, so I was up a while. Then we watched the season finale of Veronica Mars that my computer failed to record last week, but the VCR managed to record on Sunday.

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A hail of a weekend

Saturday showed up as a gorgeous day: pleasant temps, low humidity, sunshine, and nothing hard and fast on the schedule.

Did some financial housekeeping. The phone rings. Mike is on the other end with a tale of woe. His car wouldn't start and he's out in Katy trying to get his scuba store up and running. Would I come pick him up later that afternoon? Would I get a dolly so we can haul his car behind my truck on the way back? Sure.

I call uhaul and reserve a dolly. Do some more stuff around the house, get in the truck, pick up the dolly and head to Katy.

I get to the store and get the nickel tour of the joint. Mike got me a gig to help the store with some carpentry, so I sketch designs for the cubbyholes they need while we walk about the place. I was tempted to dive into the pool they have for lessons.

Eventually, we leave, pick up Mike's car and drag it all the way home. It's amazing how much having another car attached to a truck can affect the performance of said truck. A couple of times I was afraid the brakes weren't going to be up to the task of stopping in time, but we made it home safe and sound.

Sunday morning comes around and I head off to the Big Box store for lumber. Get home and do a little sawing, etc. until it's time for a Mother's Day lunch out with the family.

Heading home from the lunch, a storm pops up. We end up driving in driving rain, heavy winds (35 mph?) and hail for about 10 minutes. It's quite disconcerting to be driving, wondering if the windshield's going to crack when the next hail stone hits it. I don't think we got much damage on the truck, but I haven't really checked.

Home safe and sound, I wait for the rain to stop. Once it does, I get out and cut and connect more wood. About 6 hours later I get called in for supper, and to watch the taped episode of The West Wing.

Not a bad weekend. Definitely more active than it would have been without that phone call!

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Wednesday Night at the Dojo 5/10

Attendees: Sensei Tim, John, Keith, and Stanley.

Ukemi: did fairly well on both sides. Still doing some basics work on getting the bounce out.

The Walk: Went well.

Releases: With John. Went ok.

Bhakwas: Did 1, 2a, 2b, and a couple of others with John. My brain fried at some point and it took me a while to remember the 4th release.

Techniques: I ran through 1 through 5 once each with John, as I would in a demonstration. I was successful, but lots of stuff to tweak. John said it was green belt level tweaking and my demonstration was good enough to advance to green belt.

Aftermath: Left ankle and calf are a little off. I don't know why.

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Monday Night at the Dojo 5/8

Attendees: Sensei Randy, Stanley, Keith and Sheila.

Ukemi: did ok. Worked from a standstill to eliminate a bounce I seem to have from my calf muscle. Working on bending from hip instead of waist.

The Walk: Went okay. Sheila joined in. I worked with Sheila some while Keith and Stanley were working through techniques. Sensei Ray corrected me on one of the stones of the walk. Sheila had it more correct than I did.

Releases: 1 through 8 with Keith. Spent time working on falling instead of stepping.

Techniques: ran through the first 5 with Keith. Was uke for Keith and Stanley for ushiro-ate. Sensei Ray had a suggestion for them to deal with my height: don't try to take me down from my shoulders, take me down from my waist. Works a treat for shorter folks.

Aftermath: None, really.

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Holy appraisal district!

Yesterday we received the appraisal on our house that the taxing authorities will use.


The value of our land went up 100%. That's right. 100%. It's in 6 figures now. The value of our house dropped about 15%. That brings the total increase to right at 10%.

Higher taxes.

They'll only go up if we add on in-laws quarters.




Wednesday Night at the Dojo 5/3

Attendees: Sensei Tim, John, Keith, and Sheila. Stanley was at the dojo, but studying for a test.

Ukemi: did fairly well on both sides. Sensei worked with me to get a bounce out of my rolls. My task is to stand on my base leg, bending the knee, with my other leg ready to be sent over the top of my head. Slowly reach toward the mat with my hands, keeping my eyes forward, not down at the mat. When I've reached the point where I'm precariously balanced, I just tuck my chin. This causes my CG to drop down, sending my rolling over. I'm going to try this for the next couple of sessions before adding forward motion back into the prcatice. Unless Senseis suggest otherwise.

The Walk: Went well. Still have trouble remembering approach for the 10th stone. I think it's "same hand and foot". Also, spent some time later in the session going through the Walk with Sensei and Sheila as she's getting introduced to our way of doing things and learning the walk. Stones 1-7 were gone over during that time.

Bhakwas: Did 1, 2b, 3 and 6. Most of the techniques that appear in these are ones I haven't done. Switching hands is involved and was blowing my mind.

Techniques: I ran through 1 through 5 once each, right side only, with Sensei. We were demoing for Sheila and getting some repetitions in for me. Sensei explained why the lowered hand ready position for Ushiro-ate is the best approach for me given my height. My should is almost always going to be above uke's shoulder, so if I start at the normal ready position, I'll have a very tough time generating the first off-balance with any regularity. Starting with a low hand allows the rising hand to generate the off-to-the-side and up off-balance necessary for the technique.

Aftermath: The day after the first week of volleyball in a long time is rough, muscle-wise. And that's what last night was. Aikido generated just a little twinge in the right shoulder, but the addition of that to my general aches from volleyball made it an ibuprofen night. I slept really hard, though.

More ominous rumblings were made about my demonstration. Sensei Tim actually took some time out to check my mat hours and communicate them to Sensei Ray. Discussions took place about who was to uke. Eek!

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Monday Night at the Dojo 5/1

Attendees: Sensei Randy, Stanley, Keith and Keith's wife, Sheila.

Ukemi: did ok. Keith said I'm still collapsing my legs as I roll, which generates more velocity than is good for me.

The Walk: Went okay. Sheila joined in. This is the first time she's been at our dojo, but she's done a fair bit of Ueshiba-style.

Releases: 1 through 8 with Keith. Spent time working on falling instead of stepping.

Techniques: ran through the first 5 with Keith and Stanley, on the left side only, alternating 5 with Keith and then 5 with Stanley. Keith and Stanley worked on all 17 during the same time period, on left side only. Sensei was working with Sheila on the walk.

Aftermath: None, really. No painkillers. I was not pleased with my performance on the 5 techniques, but Sensei said they looked good, at least toward the end.

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Chili cookoff

This past weekend was the annual JSC FOD (Flight Operations Directorate nee [Mission Operations Directorate]) Chili cookoff. I was, as usual, a part of the GHG team. I've been with the team for about 6 or 7 years now, I think, and I was glad to actually be employed by them this time around.

Last year's was cancelled due to Hurricane Rita. This year's had an hour delay due to rain, lightning and the threat of hail. Everyone was ushered inside while the weather raged on. After the rain stopped, the day was gorgeous: nice temps, a bit of a breeze and sunny.

We used the recipe with which we one the contest in 2003 and got positive reactions from the general public with this year's edition. However, when it came to be judged, we did not place in the top 10.

I was one of the first round judges again this year, helping to winnow the field from 50+ entries to maybe 15 or so. After the winnowing, the celebrity judges get involved (astronauts, former administrators, politicians, etc) and award final placements.

As a first round judge, you get to taste between 10 and 20 chilis. The score for a given chili can range from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best. There are 5 criteria for a chili (similar to the criteria for a diamond): color, aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste. So, if you're good, you rate each chili from 0 to 2 on each of those criteria to come up with the complete score. I rated chilis from 2 to 8 this year. No zeroes, but no 10s either.

I actually slipped a look at one of my fellow judges scorecard and got a glimpse at how he scored a chili. He scored the chili an 8 while I scored the exact same chili a 2. Obviously, there is some discrepancy in our thoughts as to what makes a good chili. At that point I also realized, again, that making it to the final round is almost pure luck. I was not terribly surprised that we did not place.

I took home a container of our chili to have for lunch this week and had some today. Uh. Whoa. The spices have fermented a bit during the past two days in the refrigerator and it is hot. It's definitely not blazing, but it is now easily hotter than any of the chilis I tasted while judging. In fact, I'll be tossing the rest of my leftover chili. It tastes good, but it's too hot for continued consumption.

Maybe we shouldn't tweak the chili recipe while cooking next year.

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