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Friday, September 28, 2012

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Latin Class: What does obtuse mean?

People, you just can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It's All In The Eyes

(Starjack is walking through the living room when she spots Dad, wearing his sunglasses inside.  He is reading a magazine.)
Starjack: Why are you wearing your sunglasses inside?
Dad: Oh, that would explain it.  (Removes sunglasses and replaces them with reading glasses.)

It's all in the eyes, people.

A Matter Of Perspective

In sparring today, Talkative Yellow Belt Student and I were doing a drill and we finished early.
Talkative Yellow Belt: Senpai, should we keep going?
Sparring Teacher: No, just wait and talk about the weather.
Starjack: It's hot.  (Note: this is always the case in Furnaceville).
Talkative Yellow Belt: Yes, but it's cooler than yesterday.
Starjack: It's still hot.
Talkative Yellow Belt (fixing gi pants): Yes, but it's thirteen degrees cooler than yesterday.  See, I look on the positive side.
Sparring Teacher: See?  We've got two different perspectives on the same weather.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Innovative Ways To Fight Cancer

We've all run 5k's and 10k's and done walkathons and put money in people's cups to benefit research for this and that cancer.  We've bought breast cancer awareness ribbons and worn pink shirts.  But there's a new cancer-fighting charity out there, and they're a little ... different.

It's called Kilted To Kick Cancer, and it raises money for male-specific cancer research.  Male-specific cancers, by the way, kill just as many guys as female-specific cancers kill girls.  People who participate in KTKC are guys who wear kilts for the month of September.  Not just when they feel like it, but all the time.  They wear them to the supermarket, to a dinner party, to Starbucks.  Now, a guy wearing a kilt is going to draw a lot of attention.  Some people might ask him why he's wearing one, and he will use the opportunity to tell them that one in six men develops prostate cancer, so get yourself screened.  These people also post donation links on their blogs and have a competition to raise money for Livestrong and the  Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Now, I can't participate in the competition because I'm under 21 and the prize is a gun, and I can't wear a kilt because I'm female, and a girl in a kilt doesn't draw nearly as much attention.  So I'm giving these guys a shout-out and linking to the KTKC page, Livestrong, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Fork over a few bucks if you're feeling altruistic.

And guys, get yourselves screened.  Women, find a guy and tell him to get himself screened.  If you catch it early, the prognosis is much better.

State Mandated Torture I Mean School


School has started.  I made it through the first week without being eaten alive, though don't ask me how.  I am taking 6, count 'em, 6, pre-AP or AP classes.  Posting will be light, as I will soon be drowning in homework.  For now, I have a three-day weekend because of labor day.  I'll try to post something interesting.

I hate my Algebra II class.  I have a lousy teacher who makes us work in groups and never explains anything.  I think I'll need to enlist help from the Parents on this one.

Theatre II isn't so bad.  I didn't join so I could be in plays or anything; I just want to have fun.  We're currently working on oral interpretation, which is a fancy word for reading aloud.  The Bat Lady (my theatre teacher, so named for her screechy accent), is pretty nice, and I think I'm going to enjoy that class.

Latin, ahh, Latin, the most underappreciated subject of all.  We've barely got enough textbooks, and Latin III and IV have to have the same class, which is difficult.  My Sarcastic Latin Teacher, whom I know from last year, used the first class period to assign us some homework, yell at a few problem students, introduce new students, and pontificate on the virtues of getting enough sleep.  Gotta love Latin.

I'm trying to find personality in my history teacher, but so far she's just a pear-shaped monotone.

My chemistry teacher is pretty cool.  She looks like a witch, and she's intimidating, and she likes it.  The very first day, she taught us the number of atoms in a mole.  It's called Avogadro's number (not Avocado's).  6.02x10^23.  For those of you who can't understand scientific notation, that's a heckuvalotta atoms.

My English II teacher is, well, an English teacher.  Not much more to say.  There's a certain kind of personality that just goes with the profession, I guess.

My English III teacher is a lot like my English I teacher from last year, short stature and all.  No BS, cares about the subject, interesting, not monotonous in the least.

PE is hell, but maybe it'll be less hell than last year.

Survival tips:
Basically, just protect your head and remember to breathe, same as sparring.  Oh, and try not to get too numb.  Long days of boredom can cause emotional numbness.  Have something to look forward to at the end of the day, even if it's just a book you're reading or your mom's pie.  If your mom can't make pie, you can borrow mine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

White Belts

In karate, the white belt is the belt you get when you begin training.  It's blank, ready to soak up all your knowledge and experience.  Most people are only white belts for a few months, but those are the most important months of training.  It's where you learn your basics: stances, strikes, blocks, first kata.  Once you've become a yellow or green belt, you don't practice these things as much, because you're too busy with spinning hook kicks and dynamic tension.  But the basics are important, because you can't build a house without a firm foundation.  You can't compose epic poetry or the Great American Novel if you don't know your ABC's. 

The tradition of belt colors comes from way, way back in the dark ages of martial arts.  Originally, you would get one belt.  It would be white.  You would train in it very hard.  It would see you through long, sweaty hours of kata practice and hitting punching bags until your knuckles were raw.  You would wear it as you did forward rolls until your head spun, and sparred with people with twice your skill.  Eventually, the belt would get pretty grimy, since you don't wash it.  By the time your skills had reached their peak, the belt would be so dirty it was practically black.
Nowadays, for whatever reason, we use belt color.  In the style I practice, when a student is promoted, she receives a new belt.  Her old belt is given to a junior student.  With white belts, this is not so.  A student keeps her white belt until she is ready to test for black belt.  For one month before the test, she wears her white belt because really, she's still a beginner.  There's always room to improve and more to learn.
I am fortunate that at my dojo, we have White Belt Classes.  These classes aren't strictly for white belts; it's just white belt material.  It's a great place to work on basics, which might seem a little boring once you've had a taste of the jumping knee kick, but it's actually a lot of fun.

Things I Have Done In White Belt Class:
  • Met new students as they joined the dojo
  • Learned how to do the side kick without hurting my hip
  • Kicked a floppy target across the room as a demonstration of the awesomeness of the outside-in crescent kick.
  • Messed up the most basic kata in our style.
  • Fixed my mistake on the most basic kata in our style.
  • Realized that I've been doing the high block all wrong for quite some time.
Our style embraces the concept of Ren Ma: constant polishing.  You can never be perfect, just as you can never count to infinity, no matter how high you go.  Even our Grand Master hasn't mastered every single aspect of karate.
I keep my white belt on a shelf in my closet.  Sometimes I put it on, just for a minute, to remind myself that in a way, I am still that thirteen-year-old girl with two braids who stood at the end of the line of students at the beginning of class, and struggled to master a simple front kick.  I am still that girl, and even when I am in my thirties or forties and I'm a black belt and I teach at the dojo, I'll always keep that girl with me.  She's got a lot to teach me.

Shout-outs Where Shout-outs Are Due

I would like to give a great big shout-out to Ambulance Driver, over at  He's the first addition to my new blogroll (as soon as I can get the stupid gadget to work).  This guy writes really well.  He's an EMT - Paramedic in Podunk Parish, Louisiana, and he blogs about everything from work to guns to family.  His writing can make you laugh, cry, think, and scratch your head in confusion, sometimes in the same paragraph.

So head on over to A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver.  Go on.  What are you waiting for?  Seriously, why are you still here?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why It's Okay For Me To Watch TV Today

Yesterday I got halfway to the Furnaceville Public Library & Homeless Shelter on my decrepit old bucket of bolts bicycle before the back tire blew out.  And I mean completely blew, like, riding on the rims.  Luckily I live in central Furnaceville, so it was no hardship to walk back home and put the bike in the garage, vowing to Deal With It Later (DWIL).

At karate, I asked one of the Advanced Belts if she knew how to fix a tire.  She gave me a quick lesson on bicycle repair, which was really helpful.  Shout-out to her.

Today, I walked to the Furnaceville Bike and Psych Shop and bought a new tube.  Then I went to the Local Hippie Grocery Store, where they have bicycle repair tools (because riding bikes saves the planet, dude!), and proceeded to use the tire shoe horn to take off the tire.  Shout-out to the dude who helped me with the tire shoe horn, and the store's door greeter who saw me struggling with the tire pump and gave me a hand.

FINALLY, after what seemed like hours of struggling with the stupid thing, I got everything back together.  Even filled up the front tire some more.  So now I have a bicycle with a back wheel that rubs against the frame making the most horrific noise, a gearshift that takes forever to shift the gears, a lousy kickstand, a chain that needs lubricant in a big bad way ... and two.  Working.  Tires.  Awesome.

So now it's okay for me to spend the afternoon watching TV, because I have Accomplished Something today.  Maybe tomorrow I'll fix the back wheel so it doesn't make that horrific "chain is about to shear off" noise when it rubs against the frame ...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Day Well Spent

Today was Sparring Day at karate.

I am soaked in sweat, utterly exhausted, bruised in strange places, and have become reacquainted with my old friend the dojo floor many times.

Yessiree, I'd say this has been a day well spent.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Traffic Sources

On my blogger dashboard, it shows me all the stats for my blog.  I have had fifteen pageviews so far, which is pretty good seeing as I only started it last week.  Nobody's commented on anything yet, though, which is a shame.  I want to hear what those fifteen pageviewers have to say.

It also shows me the traffic sources.  One is EP Monthly, which is no surprise because I occasionally drop a comment on WhiteCoat's blog.  The other two are and, which is in French.  How did these websites get ahold of my URL?

Ah, well.  The Interweb works in mysterious ways.

If You're Going To Have Cardiac Arrest, Do It When I'm Around

Because as of yesterday, I am CPR certified!

It was an all-day class that I took from the Red Cross.  We got to practice on manikins, doing chest compressions and artificial respiration.  We also learned how to use an Automated External Defibrillator.  Those things are awesome because they tell you everything you need to do.  There was a little bit about first aid and choking, but it was mostly CPR/AED.

I hope I never need to use these skills (at least not until I'm an EMT and it's part of my job) but I feel safer knowing that I could help someone, if need be.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Has Come To Furnaceville

It was literally a hundred degrees in the shade yesterday.  Thank God for air conditioners and cold showers.

Speaking of cold (or lack thereof) did you know that if you cool a liquid beyond its freezing point but keep it moving, it doesn't freeze?  Instead it becomes SUPERCOOLED!

Book Shout-Outs

I'm going to start a series of posts that basically cure reader's block.  Tired of browsing library shelves until your eyes are sore?  Then come on over here and get tips on books that are worth your while.

Night Train To Rigel, by Timothy Zahn
Genre: Sci-fi and mystery
Age range: teen-adult
Ex-intelligence agent Frank Compton is drafted to help the Spiders, beings who control an interstellar train system, prevent a war.  He is assigned an enigmatic partner named Bayta, and soon he discovers that everything - the train system, Bayta, the Spiders, his mission - isn't what he thought it was.

This is pretty hard sci-fi.  Not too much violence, except at the end, and don't read it at night because it'll keep you up wondering what's going to happen next.  I think the proper literary term is tour de force.

It's the first in a series.  The other books are The Third Lynx, Odd Girl Out, The Domino Pattern, and Judgement At Proteus

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


No, not the cool kind like on TV where you get to blow stuff up.  I'm just doing a series of posts that tell the truth about common misconceptions.  Today's topic is martial arts.

When we think of martial arts, we think of all the kung fu movies with people hacking each other to pieces, or epic battles in ninja comic books.

When I tell people I practice karate, they say something along the lines of "So you could beat me up if you wanted?"  Their first thought is that I am willing and able to be violent.  In fact, sometimes I don't tell people I do karate because I don't want to have them say, "Go beat him up for me," or "I better not make you mad."

Martial arts, specifically the style of karate I practice, is not violent.  In fact, my dojo has a strong commitment to non violence.  My standard "elevator speech" is that it's really more art than martial.  Most of the techniques we do are very formal and look nice (when done correctly) but aren't useful in an actual fight.

Sparring is not fighting.  Our sparring isn't full-contact, and you're not allowed to spar until green belt.  Before then, you do bluebelt sparring, which is hands only, nothing to the head, or "harmony" sparring, which is basically taking turns giving each other techniques.  I've heard sparring described as a physical dialogue between two people.  It's meant to develop coordination and speed, not to hurt others.

But we do learn some fighting skills that are meant to be used on other people.  It's okay to use these skills if you're scared.  Not angry; scared.  As in, your safety is threatened.  This is something a lot of people don't understand; they assume karatekas (people who practice karate) will fight if they're offended.  In fact, we're specifically taught not to do this.
So actual practical fighting skills make up only a fraction of what we learn.  Karate isn't violent, though some movies and comic books make it out that way.  Next time you meet a karateka, do him/her a favor and don't ask him/her to beat up your little brother for you.  It's not part of what we do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fantastic Fiction

I would like to give a shout-out to  It's a great website for book enthusiasts.  You can look up books by author, title, or subject.  You can see all the books by a certain author.  You can see more books like the one you're viewing; so you can look up a book you've read and see other ones like it.  It's a really good website for people looking for something to read.

The link is down at the bottom of the blog, on the Links gadget.  Enjoy!


A pandemic is underway.  No, I'm not talking about bird flu or swine flu or pterodactyl flu; I'm talking about a computer virus pandemic.  Computer viruses are everywhere, and anit-virus software is having a hard time keeping up.

My dad's PC has recently become the latest victim of the pandemic.  It's come down with a tricky little bug; the virus causes the CPU to overheat every time he runs a virus scan.  If anyone knows a way to beat this, please let me know.

Monday, July 16, 2012

No Rest For The AP Student

All year, students at Furnaceville High School work very hard.  They take AP classes and do their homework and are nice to teachers because they want to go on to Greater Things someday.  Then, after nine (9) months of this torment, they get a vacation.  No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.
Or so we thought.
Because for students taking AP English, the teachers have devised a horrendous method of torture wonderful, enlightening educational activity.  The Summer Reading Assignment.  Basically, read a book, pick a bunch of passages and comment on them.  I have no objection to that.  If you have an objection to that, take grade-level English.
However, I have an objection to doing it on my vacation time.
It's not so bad this year.  I mean, it's not like I'm reading Lord of the Flies.  I'm taking two English classes next year because I want to skip senior year, so I've got two books to read.  Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, and The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins.  Note: There is also a book called The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.  That is not the book I have to read.
Life of Pi is pretty good.  It's not the kind of book I can gobble up in one sitting.  I'm reading it slowly.  The Forever War is by a journalist about the war in the Middle East.  It's too much carnage for one sitting, so I'm going through it slowly too.  I'm about halfway through.
I wish I had some advice for students who have to do these assignments.  But really, I'm just figuring it out myself.


In a beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in an expert's mind, there are few.

  I am a beginner.  I haven't been alive very long (relatively speaking), so I'm a beginner at life.  I'm still a yellow belt in karate, so I'm a beginner at karate.  The only substantial science course I've taken is high school biology, so I'm a beginner scientist.  And since this is my very first web log post, I'm a beginner 'blogger.
  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a beginner.  When you're a beginner, you have an open mind.  You see that there's so much to learn.  You recognize your faults and shortcomings.  Experts believe that they've learned everything, and that they can do no wrong.  We should all strive to have beginners' minds and be open to new suggestions and ideas, even if we've been alive for a hundred million years and think we know absolutely everything.
  Of course the downside of being a beginner is that I make a whole bunch of mistakes.  I will post the funniest ones here, along with stuff that's happened to me, random thoughts, shout-outs, links to cool stuff on the Internet, links to other blogs, and whatever the heck I feel like posting.