Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Personal Improvement

For karate class, we are encouraged to keep a notebook to write down things we learn or should be working on for improving our techniques in karate. I find it very helpful for remembering details that I need to practice. I can refer back to things I wrote down months earlier to see if I've actually improved in that area and if not, it's a nice reminder to still work at it. This past week at the Zen meditation class, Sensei brought up on interesting idea - he suggested maintaining a notebook for improving one's personal life or character outside of karate. Many people are familiar with the idea of trying to work on improving skills. That's basically what you do all through school and college, but you are seldom really encouraged or taught to try to improve your character or try to constantly be a better person.

Most people are content with who they are. For example, I might consider myself a "good" person, but why not try to constantly work at being an even better person? It's definitely not an easy thing to do - it's easy to just be complacent. So, I really like this idea of trying to maintain a notebook of things to work on at a personal level for improving one's character - it's not something I would have normally thought of trying to do. Nobody is perfect, so we all have plenty of things we could work on improving. And a good way to start is make a list of what we'd like to improve.

Prevailing winds

There's a bit of a breeze in my office due to the position of the building's ventilation system, so I made a pinwheel to monitor the wind speed. It gets spinning pretty fast at times.

Maybe I'll hook up an electric generator to it during my lunch break. ;-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Heron Convention?

When I woke up for the second time this morning, it was because there was a flock of gulls making a bit of a racket outside. I'm not sure if there was a school of fish in the cove or what, but there was a huge flock of gulls all hoving over one small area. After having my eyes finally adjust to having just woken up, I noticed a large number of heron or egrets on the shore, too. I've never seen this many all in one place. How many can you spot in this picture? It might help to click on it for a larger view.

Misty Morning

I briefly woke up very early this morning, just long enough to admire this misty view on the water. The air temperature was very cool, so there was a lot of mist coming up off the relatively warmer water. It's one of my favorite things to see in the early morning - it just seems so peaceful. When I used to live in western Coventry (way out near the Connecticut border), I used to enjoy driving to work in the morning along Route 14 in Scituate. Rt. 14 passes through the middle of the Scituate Reservoir and often there would be a similar misty view if I left for work early enough. Since there are no houses on the reservior, it would feel like I was driving out in some wilderness forest on a lake up in Maine. It was a very relaxing way to start the day.

At one point this morning while I was staring out the window, a goose flew by along the surface of the water and left a path in the mist. It might be hard to make out the path in this picture. (You can click on either of these pictures to get a larger view.)

After snapping a few pictures, I then went back to bed to get some more much needed sleep.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Really good day

When I left my condo for work this morning the weather was perfect. It was one of those cool late-summer mornings where the air is clear, there was just a slight breeze, and it was bright and sunny. I was thinking how I really ought to try to remember just how nice it feels at that moment. Not that I should be clinging to some nice weather that will obviously change, but just enjoy it for what it is - a very pleasant day which helped keep me in a very pleasant mood.

And, to top things off, I discovered today is Talk Like a Pirate Day! What could be better than that? Well... lots, actually, but don't get me started on a serious rant about how to improve the world. This is just a light-hearted mention of a really silly idea for a day. There's even a web site where you can generate your own pirate name. A friend of mine was very eager to point out that using my first and last name as input gave the pirate name of "Not-So-Keen-On-the-Womenfolk Fritz". At the time I first read that, I had a laughing fit that lasted about a minute. I still get a bit of a chuckle out of it. For some reason I find that to be a very funny pirate name for me. I suppose I should give a bit of background material to explain... Perhaps it's because I've been engaged twice, but never married, and had been totally devastated by the ending of the second relationship that I basically decided romantic relationships are bad for my emotional well-being. Three years running now and I haven't been on a date - and I'm actually the happiest I've ever been in my life. So, I guess that is an appropriate pirate name for me. The wonders of random name generators...

Yo ho ho, a pirate's life for me!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

New.... ummm...err.... toys?

At the karate dojo where I take classes, they also offer kobudo (i.e. weapons) classes once a week. This month we started learning to use sai. I recently bought a pair, pictured above. And, yes, for any kids reading this (Hi Beth!), sai are the weapons the ninja turtle Raphael uses.

The kobudo classes are a lot of fun - they are less physically tiring than a normal karate class, but have a bit more of a mental focus since you need to learn a lot of new techniques for manipulating the weapons and such. I'm not sure why, but I find it easier to remember the details for the various weapons kata than for normal karate kata. (For those not familiar with the term 'kata', you can think of it as a series of choreographed steps which are practiced to help improve your karate techniques.) I think one of the reasons I find kobudo easier to learn is because I focus more on the item in my hand (be it a bo or sai) and there are only a few ways you can physically hold the item correctly, so the weapons sort of force you into knowing what is the next step. As for regular karate, with nothing in my hands, I tend to get lost more easily when learning a new kata. There are just so many ways you might need to bend your arm, or wrist, or leg, there's no extra visual cue like when you have with a weapon in your hand.

Thinking about it some more, I think kobudo is also more relaxing for me because I feel some of the attention is taken away from me personally and is placed on the weapon, so I tend to feel a bit less self-conscious, which in turn helps me relax more.

And as an aside, if you have ever been interested in taking a karate weapons class and live in the Rhode Island area, now is your chance. In October the Kodokai dojo is going to be offering introductory bo classes for people who have never tried karate before. (A bo is a wooden stick about 6 feet in length.) It's a great chance to learn a traditional Okinawan form of kobudo! I know some people might be turned off by the idea of a weapons class - that it might seem violent - but it really isn't. You could think of it as sort of a form of Tai Chi done using a long wooden stick. (And if you want to get technical, if you look at Tai Chi, that could also be considered violent - you are basically performing martial art movements, albeit in a somewhat slow motion form.)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Accidental Lightning

A thunderstorm passed through the area tonight, and after it had gone by, the sky cleared up and the moon was shining brightly on the water outside my window. I figured I'd try to get a picture of the tranquil view, but didn't have a tripod handy so I tried to just keep the camera steady, which wasn't too easy with a 20 second exposure (that's why it's kinda blury and the moon looks more light a big bright area). But, the reason I like this picture is while it was being taken, there was a flash of lightning off in the distance. Surprisingly, I actually caught the lightning bolt in this picture. It's in the upper left corner - maybe a bit hard to see unless you click on the picture for a larger view. Here's a zoomed in view of that corner of the picture.
You can click on it for a slightly larger view.

It's kind of funny - I had always wanted to try to take a picture of a lightning bolt, but never tried. Now I did it by accident.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Camcorder on the cheap

Take one CVS "disposable" camcorder, an old Palm Pilot hot-sync cable, a USB cable, and some software from the Internet, and voilĂ ! A re-usable digital camcorder for only $30!

I know this is probably old news for a lot of people, but CVS recently came out with a "disposable" digital camcorder. It costs $29, and lets you record 20 minutes of 320x240 resolution digital video. When you are finished recording your 20 minutes of video, you are supposed to take the camcorder back to CVS where they will put the video on a DVD for another $12 or so. But, they keep the camcorder. So, you pay about $2 per minute for some poor resolution video. Well, the good news is, a few people on the Internet took to tinkering with the camera and figured out how it works and how to download the video to a PC without having to take it to CVS. A fairly detailed description can be found here.

So, I finally got a chance to follow the instructions and after about a half hour's worth of effort of cutting cables, soldering wires, and installing software, I was able to download video off the camera. Now I have a very inexpensive and compact digital camcorder to play with. For now, I'll probably use it to record videos of karate practice so I can get a better idea of what I might be doing wrong or need to improve. Plus use it as a historical record to see if I'm actually improving or not. A friend suggested attaching the camcorder to a kite to take arial videos. Maybe I'll try that, too. The camera is cheap enough that I won't worry too much about damaging it. I should probably buy another one as a backup.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Disappointed in my aunt Jamima

I was shopping this morning on an empty stomach and thought these waffles looked good. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed the blue-on-blue text saying "artificially flavored". Yum! I get to eat blue specs that aren't real blueberries. It's kinda creepy.

Kayaking to Patience

I paddled out to Patience Island with a friend yesterday. It was about 3.5 miles from where we put in, so it was about an hour paddle away. Fortunately, the weather was great and it wasn't too windy, so it was fairly easy going. The route we took brought us past the Warwick lighthouse, although in this picture it's hard to tell there is a light house there. Yet again I forgot my real camera and had to use my mobile phone.

After passing the lighthouse, we had to cross the main part of the west passage of the bay. The tide was going out at the time, so we tended to drift a bit south as can be seen in this GPS track of the route we took. (If you click on the picture you'll get a slightly larger view of the route.

We landed on a rocky portion of the shore of Patience, and there was this very large rock that had an interesting weathered texture from the waves.

The island is uninhabited by people, however there is supposedly a very large deer population. The problem is, with so many deer on the island, there is also a huge deer tick population. We were originally hoping to scout out some deer, but after just walking a dozen yards into the brush my friend discovered his leg was covered with baby deer ticks. I had thought I escaped untouched, but later disovered I had about a dozen or so tiny ticks on my ankle. I've seen deer tick before, but these were even smaller. I can only assume they were baby deer tick. Including their leg span, the total size was probably smaller than the tip of a ball-point pen.

From looking at this web site it appears the ticks we encountered were deer tick larvae. The description says they are no bigger than the period in newprint text. The good news is the larvae don't transmit Lyme disease. It is at that stage that they acquire it by feeding off an already infected host (usually the white-footed mouse). And since they only feed once in the larvae stage, they only start transmitting the disease when they molt and get bigger and start feeding again. Even so, I don't think I'll ever again wander into the woods on that island.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Metal Geta

I recently bought this pair of weighted metal geta. Geta are a japanese style of footware that are simialr to sandals, except they have wooden blocks on the sole to raise them off the ground and the thong that goes between your big toe and second toe is in the center-line of the geta rather than off to the side. So, there is no left or right geta. You can put either one on either foot. There's a pretty good web page here that describes geta in more detail.

These particular geta I bought are for exercise and they weigh about 5 pounds each. Unlike the traditional wooden style, these are made of metal. I'm trying to improve my side-kicks in karate and am hoping these will help strengthen my legs. I seem to lack the leg strength to perform my kicks properly. The advantage these have over ankle weights (other than simple esthetics) is they put the weight on your feet, so it helps to also strength your ankles and parts of your feet and toes.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Tow me where?

I saw this sign today while having lunch in Providence. What I'm wondering is since this was the lot for the towing company, where will they tow your car if you park in it? Will they put your car in the street?