Furious to the Point of Speechlessness

by Terry 1/27/2009 3:26:00 PM

Seldom do I get my hackles up in anger to the point where I am almost unable to calm down and talk normally. Last night my hackle-button was seriously pushed.

I was on my way home from retrieving my daughter and her friend from school. A neighbor pointed out to me that three young teens where skateboarding on the corner and using some real-estate sandwich boards as ramps. She asked if I would speak to the teen that using other people property was not right. I said sure, knowing by past observation these teens are not so respectful. I can understand she did not want to make a show in front of her own kids and the skateboarding teens

I walked over and told the teens that I understand that there not many places to skateboard in the neighborhood, but could they stop using the signs as their personal toys. It is not their property and they are being destructive.

Here is where my astonishment grew to fury. First, they simply ignored me. When they realized this was not working, one actually said to me, “what do you care, it’s not your sign.” Explaining that who owns the sign was not the point, they continued to ignore me. I repeatedly asked, “Excuse me, do you hear what I am asking you? Will you acknowledge what I have said?”

Eventually one of the boys said, “Yeah, I heard you.” It took another minute, but one boy finally put the sign back and continued to skate around on the curbs. I walked back to my house, about three houses from the corner. Naturally, as soon as I shut the door the teens grabbed another sign and went back to their earlier behavior.

This is where fury grew to speechlessness. I walk back to the corner. I basically cut to the chase. “I will give ten seconds to put the sign back or I call the police.” This prompted another round of, “what do you care, it is not your sign. It was just sitting there.”

At this point I decided these are some of the stupidest teens I have ever met. The brightest of the bunch left without saying a word. The other two continued to alternate between skating over the signs and arguing with me. I dialed the phone and started talking to the police (I live four blocks from the police station). Amazingly enough, I think the two remaining teens thought I was bluffing and continued to argue with me that what they were doing was somehow alright. When they realized I was no longer talking with them, but with the police, they took off down the street, settling with the smarter boy in the school parking lot – in front of the no-skateboarding sign.

If finished my call to the police. Having spoken with the school principle about these kids, I figured the police would give it the priority needed. The point was made and the teens had stopped willfully damaging other people’s property.

What leaves me astonished is the lack of respect these teens have – none for adults, none for property. I can understand the need to have things to do, some of which are less than socially acceptable. My record as a child is not spotless by any standards. I cannot understand how they could believe ignoring me was wise.

Since I was in high school, people have assumed by my appearance that I am either a cop or in the military. I never think of myself that way, but I apparently have a presence. This may be the first time I have been ignored so blatantly.

So, to the parents of these teens, if you have any connection to your children at all, please advise them that their behavior is unacceptable. I am sorry these kids so disconnected. They need something to do. When speaking at the teens (not ‘to’, as ‘to’ would imply more conversation then they were capable of I fear), the first thought that came to me was these kids should take three months of martial arts. It would give them something to do, they may learn some respect and it would likely make them better at skateboarding to boot.

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DMW Martial Arts Kick-a-thon, 2008

by Terry 11/21/2008 10:06:00 AM

DMW Martial Arts is having its annual kick-a-thon fundraiser this week. The school is raising money to buy Thanksgiving food baskets and such for the local community.

My daughter, Kaitlin, was the top fund raiser last year. She set high goals and reached them. This year she had soccer practice and other commitments which prevented her from devoting as much time hunting sponsors. Last weekend Kaitlin fell on her bottom while roller skating with her soccer team, which made kicking this week a sore proposition.  Nonetheless, she is kicking along with the rest of her class. She broke out in tears after the first class, but I had no idea she was in that much pain during the class. She wanted to stick it through.

I have six classes over the week where I am accumulating kicks. My total so far for the first four classes is just over 5000 kicks. I actually lost count on Wednesday and need to track down the notes. I am not trying to reach any particular goal but it would be nice to know where I am.

Instructor Leni and her son are in a competition with each other. Their goal is 10,000 kicks over the week. I think, as of last night, they are around 7000 kicks each. In Instructor Leni’s Black Belt Class last night we did just over 1000, followed by my Leadership class where we reached my planned 1002 kicks in 45 minutes.

To give a sense of effort involved, consider repeated kicks on bags (think football tackle dummies) are hard on the feet. You get callused over months of practice, but doing 2000 kicks in 90 minutes tests your limits. I wore my mat-shoes last night because I have small cuts bleeding out. It is a serious goal indeed of 10,000 kicks for Instructor Leni and her son.

Most of the kids will average, I think, around 2000 to 2500 kicks over the week. They are showing their strengths. I hope the parents are proud.

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Belt Testing Tonight, November, 2008

by Terry 11/14/2008 3:53:00 PM

Tonight is another DMW Martial Arts belt test. For me this is another credit-test with no new belt issued. I just go and do my best and say thanks for the workout. I am not eligible for my 2nd degree until March, 2010, nevertheless I keep practicing and working and learning.

I did a 45 minute workout this afternoon to loosen my body for the day. I would have otherwise been sitting at my desk for eight or nine consecutive hours. Sitting all day and then jumping into a two hour workout is never a brilliant plan. I have had injuries to prove that enough. My workout today consisted of stretching and practicing forms (called poomse in Tae Kwon Do).

I also made an effort to work through some of the weapons forms I know; Nun chuck, Kama and Bo staff. I used to know a form with the Sai (http://www.tkdtutor.com/16Weapons/Offensive/Sai/Sai01.htm), but I have managed to forget enough of the Sai form that I do not try anymore. As a result of this, I have made one of my personal goals, in working towards my next black belt, to maintain or improve the proficiency with the weapons I have started to learn so far. This will help with the requirements I need to meet for my 2nd degree. I will get serious with the planning in January. For now I just try not to lose what I have. It is not exactly like riding bike.

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Coming back to life

by Terry 10/6/2008 3:33:00 PM

I have come back from the dead, or so it feels. I still have congestion in my lungs, which makes Tae Kwon Do more difficult. It seems like the fad this week is sparring. I am not stellar at sparring to begin with, and at the moment I breath like a honking goose and I am winded after the first kick.

I expect it will be another week or so before I can breathe normally again. That will be a relief. The coughing is not so bad now, so it is only a matter of time.

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Hey, that’s me!

by Terry 9/16/2008 8:48:00 AM

A local parent posted pictures of his son learning a form at DMW Martial Arts. I made the cut.
http://jvreagan.blogspot.com/2008/09/spencer-gets-his-brown-stripe-belt.html

I like working on forms with the kids, almost more than teaching a whole class sometimes. I am in a lot of pictures, I would imagine, as I help and teach in a lot of classes. I usually don’t pay any attention to the picture taking, which emphasizes the point on being a black belt. You are a black belt at all times, not just when you practice martial arts; people respect that and expect exemplary behavior. You never know really when someone is watching.

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Congratulations to a new Black Belt

by Terry 9/15/2008 11:44:00 AM

Last Friday night DMW Marital Arts had another belt test. This time it was a ‘black-belt’ test which is a little longer and harder than a typical test. One black belt was presented to my friend and co-student, Michelle. Congratulations, Michelle.

Black belt test at DMW come every six months, assuming anyone is prepared for the testing. Friday night was the formal test, which, for a Black Belt candidate, is preceded by a pre-test a month earlier. The pre-test is longer and harder than the formal test. Friday night’s test was about two hours of cardio, skills, and drills with no break, rest or water. The pre-test is about an hour or longer. Michelle did a stellar job, and considering she had minor injuries from an auto accident the day before is even more remarkable.

Michelle, you earned your belt. Be proud!

My own performance at the test was poorer than I liked. For the last year or so I have been easily fatigued and have poor endurance. Karen, who is pretty sharp on the medical issues, recommended that I get my doctor to test my adrenal system. It turns out that I am pretty much out of juice, so to speak. I am good until about noon, then I lose energy. Friday night was rough. It did not help that I got into work mode (writing software) Friday afternoon and lost track of time; forgetting to load up on protein and carbs an hour or so before test time. I basically ran out of steam. It may take another six months to get my body back in gear again.

About six years ago I caught some unknown virus which took a toll on my liver. It took a year to recover. I year after that I started regular martial arts practice. I am 35 pounds lighter now and generally pretty fit, but I hit a wall in the last year. Now I am slowly working around this obstacle so that by the next black belt test in March I will be ready to spring into action.

I was exhausted after this test, almost useless on Saturday and came back to life Sunday night. I needed some serious down time. Fortunately, there was a House marathon on TV last night and Karen and I turned into couch potatoes for the evening.

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Vista Video Editing

by Terry 8/12/2008 1:28:00 PM

I played with video editing last night, building a DVD for a fellow martial artist. Michelle is a Black Belt candidate at DMW Martial Arts. Among the requirements for getting your black belt is providing video documentation of forms, sparring skills, self defense and board breaks. Two reasons for this are to demonstrate proficiency of basic skills and create a visual record to review and look for improvement.

I am not skilled at editing video; I just use what I have. It is not great, but it works. Sort of.

I recorded the video on my hand-held JVC Everio GZ-MG37U recorder. It has a built-in 30 GB hard disk which stores a wee more than 7 hours of 720i HD video. I can plug the camera into my home computer’s USB port and transfer the files and away I go.

The JVC camera records video into an MPEG-2 derivative file format with a .MOB extension. I never really understood why it uses that format. Renaming the file will allow it to play in many players that do not recognize the .MOB extension. However, the files also do not have the correct 16:9 aspect ratio and instead play in an 4:3 aspect ratio, giving the video a squeezed appearance. That was an irritant until my friend Steve told me about SDCopy. SDCopy is a simple utility with basically one useful function; it copies the .MOB files to .MPG files and simultaneously sets the bit-flag on the destination file to indicate it is in wide-screen format.

With the files all coped to an .MPG format with the correct aspect ratio, I opened Microsoft Movie Maker on my Vista PC. I have mixed feelings about Vista. I am frankly disappointed with Microsoft about Vista. But that is another topic. Movie Maker, however, is a disappointment all its own. It works, but is it is not a great.

For what I need though, it works well enough. I have about 21 video clips to basically place titles on, and then make a DVD from it.

This is where it gets really odd to me. To make a DVD with Vista, you save your Movie Maker project and open the Vista DVD Maker. DVD Maker is about the most feature-poor DVD utility I have ever used. Oh, it works, but it does not offer much of anything. Why not include DVD Maker operations in Movie Maker? I mean, ‘Movie Maker’ implies it makes movies…

It is important to understand that DVD Maker is pretty feature poor at this point. My 21 video clips had to be saved into 21 Movie Maker project files for the DVD Maker process to work close to what I would hope. It took me about 45 minutes to same all the Movie Maker projects with the correct titles. Thankfully, I was not concerned much about editing. It was a fast process and I got into a routine of creating a project, inserting the clip, title the video and save the project – lather, rinse, repeat.

Then I open DVD Maker. I insert the 21 Movie Maker Projects and sorted them into my preferred play order. I spent a few minutes getting the menu options selected, saved the DVD project and told it to make the DVD. About forty minutes later I had a fresh new DVD and I am good to go. I just did not get what I expected; scenes.

Scenes are where the DVD video is divided into segments. Watch most any DVD movie and you will find a menu option on scene or chapter selection. DVD Maker takes each Movie Maker project as a separate scene, which is exactly the behavior I wanted; a simple menu to play the entire sequence as a single movie, and a scene selector to get to specific clips.

DVD Maker has no scene editing capabilities. You get what it gives you. It gives you about 18 scenes, maximum. Remember I have 21 scenes. DVD Maker essentially combines some clips together, retaining the detailed order, to give you 18 scenes. When I first looked at the DVD menu on my home DVD player I had a moment of fear thinking the video lost a few important clips. It turns out they are still there, but you have to select a scene before where you may be looking, then play that and skip ahead in the video.

Overall, for a quick and dirty bit of video production, it got the job done. The JVC Everio camcorder has grainy video when used under florescent lighting and my DVD has somewhat confused scene options, but the task is done. If I need to I can take it to the next level and fix it using other editors, although I do not know what I would use, perhaps a Mac. The JVC software I have is buggy but I may try that before I run out and buy a new workstation. Either way, Michelle has her video requirements complete.

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Martial Arts and Science Posts

by Terry 8/7/2008 3:43:00 PM

I posted a few report-like pages today on martial arts, building a lab and starting a science club. Okay, martial arts and home chemistry is not exactly a natural match, but I am what I am. The purpose of the report pages are to record slow-change commentaries which are not well suited to a daily, or somewhat daily, journal.

BlogEngine 1.4.5 is a significant improvement, which helps. I am better able to edit and manage site content than I was before, which was a factor in creating stand-up pages for certain topics. A page hierarchy is a little easier to put together. The improved functionality is why I created my martial arts and home science reports; they are maintainable.

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A Bum Ankle

by Terry 8/7/2008 3:42:00 PM

I sprained my ankle last week, simply walking down the stairs no less. I sprained the same ankle two years ago and the doctors said had I done it any worse I would have needed surgery to fix it. I have not since had the same flexibility or strength with my left foot. I have tried deliberately in the last couple months to work my ankle and stretch it out and build strength. I think I was making progress, which is why, I am theorizing, I reinjured it so easily.

My theory is that I have been stretching and gaining flexibility I had lost. This gain of mobility is not always uniform and parts of my ankle move better than others. When I walked down the stairs my foot flexed in a way it had not previously been able to flex and the less flexible portion of my foot tried to move more than it should have. It was not happy.

So, I find I am more grumpy than normal and I cannot workout as I like. I will try a light workout tonight, before the Leadership class I have to teach. If I fair well tonight, I will try tomorrow afternoon as well.

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Progress at Last

by Terry 7/30/2008 9:38:00 AM

I have finally made some progress on my home chemistry lab. I set a rough target for having everything ready to go by the end of summer (really the start of the school year), around the end August. So far I am on track, and maybe ahead of my plan because I am just plain overeager. I took pictures of the currently clean and fully assembled workbench, which is the mainstay of my plan. With everything coming together I will be able to run a few labs sessions to establish a routine ahead of working with others in my ‘science club’ scheme.

My inspiration for a home chemistry lab and creating a science club where I can tutor my daughter and a few neighborhood kids came from my interests in the sciences, teaching and the efforts of Robert Bruce Thompson and his book, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. I am ready to act on that inspiration.

I spent a portion of Sunday afternoon with my friend Richard working in my garage leveling my workbench and attaching the melamine counter tops. The counter tops are nothing special, just quarter-sheets of melamine-coated particle board. Years ago, when I managed a SCUBA equipment service center, I built my work bench out of the same material, which held up for years of abuse. Now, like then, I want a cheap, easily replaceable and chemical-resistant work surface. I am compromising pretty for pure function.

My lab-bench is another compromise. At one point I acquired some industrial steel shelving, rated to hold something like 400kg. These can be assembled in various shapes, including a bench-height configuration. I bolted three of these benches together rather than building or buying cabinetry. It is not precisely pretty, but it works. I can also remove and relocate the entire bench quickly, although I have no reason to do so at this time. The downside is there are no cabinet doors to protect what is stored on otherwise open shelves; more on that in a moment.

Leveling the bench in the garage was not difficult. Most garage concrete-slab floors have a gentle slope so fluids drain out of the garage (like a water dripping off a wet car, which happens a lot in the Pacific North West). Conveniently, the foundation wall of the garage is level and has a three-inch lip on the inside of the garage wall along the floor. Richard and I perched my bench on the concrete lip, helpfully leveling the far side of the bench, and attached the metal frame to the garage wall. We shimmed the front legs to level the near side and then extended the front legs with some scrap wood. We finish it off by attaching three panels of melamine to the top, leaving a slight overlap on the front edge.

A trip to the discount store supplied the plastic tubs and drawer sets for storage, my compromise for cabinetry. I unpacked the lab equipment and glassware last night into the bins, with room to spare. I have some minor storage issues still to work out, like where to keep the 50ml glass burette. The pipettes fit into the drawers well enough for now, but the burette is too long. At the moment I have it clamped on the ring stand. I would like to find a suitable way to protect everything from dust and mishap, so leaving the burette on the stand is not ideal. The thermometer comes in a nice triangular clear plastic tube. A source for similar plastic tubes would be ideal. It protects the glassware from damage and dust, does not roll and can be stored in a larger, sturdier cylinder either standing upright or on its side.

I still have extra bins and drawers for chemical storage. The draws are basically bins in plastic frames; no holes in the sides or bottoms of the drawers. This is great to capture any inadvertent leaks if I store stock here. I will spend some time this week sorting out what should go where. (Kaitlin likes to help with this too. She already stocked one drawer with our lab notebooks and a supply of pens and pencils.) I have a large lidded tub and space on the garage floor under the bench for bulk storage which I have not utilized yet. It is a bit cramped, but not hideously so.

Temperature is a minor issue. Snoqualmie, 25 miles east of Seattle, has a maritime climate. Not too hot, not too cold. We get cold spells in the winter below freezing for a week or more. I plan on storing some items in bins I can bring into the house and store in the pantry during the winter. If I do lab work in the winter, I do have a space heater and halogen work lights to help warm the area, but that may not be a good mix if there are fumes and odors and I cannot open the garage door for ventilation. Winter may be the off-season. Not that Karen would complain too much about that. Such is life.

Lastly, I am trying to keep in consideration having a couple kids working with me (there are two interested at the moment, in addition to Kaitlin). Counter space is limited, but one advantage using the garage is that I can move the car to the driveway. I have several folding chairs and tables in the garage, easily accessible, making for an instant classroom or extended work area.

The lab is ready to start working in and working it will identify and address remaining, some perpetual, issues. Conducting experiments in the future will likely create new issues, requiring new equipment, time and new supplies too. I look forward to the challenge. I need to start through the labs. At the moment time is an issue. I have martial arts practice and teaching several times a week in addition to my ‘paying’ job to work around and I need to create a schedule Karen and Kaitlin will be happy with. Patience is the key. Equipment is not the only recurring issue; time and family are more important and perpetual. Progress sometimes comes in inches.

Pictures
My workbench
 

Drawers of equipment and glassware

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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