Archive for May, 2006

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They Picked the Wrong Guy

May 31, 2006

Remember the guy who broke free of his bonds and got the better of multiple armed robbers? Remember the guy who thwarted a would-be carjacker with nothing but a cup of coffee? Ladies and gentlemen, we have another entry into the self-defense badass hall of fame.

Meet Thomas Autry from Atlanta Georgia. A car full of thugs screeched up to him as he was walking alone at night. He ran. They chased him down. He pulls a pocket knife. They pull a gun. He kicks the gun out of the guy’s hands, stabs one of his attackers to death and critically wounds another. They were later apprehended at the hospital.

All of that is pretty gruesome, I admit. But stick with me. The best part of the story is how he reacts when Rusty Dornan of CNN points out that he himself isn’t being charged with any wrongdoing. You have to watch the video to see.

Give me a million men like that and we could transform this country. Not by thwarting robberies and acting like superheroes, but by shaping our communities with resourcefulness, heart and compassion.

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Rodeo Clowns

May 31, 2006

I’m privileged to be on the adult demonstration team at J. K. Lee Black Belt Academy. We go to shopping malls and outdoor events – wherever large numbers of people are gathered – and do martial arts demonstrations in the hopes that it inspires people to find out more. But sometimes we have a different audience. Sometimes our audience is other martial artists. Those are what I have begun to call rodeo clown gigs.

Take this coming Saturday, for example. Black belts of all ranks (including those hoping to become black belts in the first place) are going to the Brookfield school for testing. It is a grueling day. It starts with 100 pushups and 100 sit-ups, proceeds with examination on the full J. K. Lee curriculum, and ends with the breaking of concrete blocks with your hand – all in front of a panel of master instructors from the area. As you can imagine it is a tense day for many, and watching talented martial artists strive for advancement can be very dramatic. That’s where we come in.

We’re not clowning around, telling jokes or chasing bulls away from fallen riders. It’s not comic relief or safety that we bring to the event. We’re performing martial arts like everyone else, but we’re not competing or being tested; we’re there to provide entertainment, warm up the audience and to lighten the mood.

I’m particularly excited about the new self-defense routines we’ve prepared this time. I get to attack Mrs. Cullen with a stick! Unfortunately, I end up getting the worst of it. Such is the nature of demonstrations – and of the formidable Mrs. Cullen. (Sometimes I wish I had one of those barrels to jump into.)

I’ll try to take some pictures of the black belt testing. It’s always amazing.

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I can see the Russian army rolling through my head

May 31, 2006

I never used to get headaches unless I was feverishly sick with the flu. Until recently. The last year or two have been murder. I just wish I knew why and what to do about it.

My headaches feel sinus-related. It’s a pressure above my left eye. (Has it ever been the right? I can’t recall.) The pressure starts small and within an hour it’s a killer. At its worst, all I can do is push the heels of my hands into my forehead and groan. Sometimes I lay down, sometimes I pace. Sometimes I visualize my head being over-inflated by a bicycle pump and wish I could find the release valve.

The headache can last for hours. Sometimes it disappears very quickly, other times it goes suddenly from an 8 on the pain-o-meter to a 3 and then stays there for a couple more hours before disappearing completely. Usually the worst of the pain subsides with an audible sound of releasing pressure in my head. Sometimes it’s even a squealing noise. Two or three squeals and suddenly I’m okay.

These headaches are not accompanied by any nasal congestion or other sign of sinus infection. Nor do they seem stress-related. It certainly feels like it’s sinus pressure, but then I read things like this that make me wonder if it isn’t migraine – whatever that is.

I can go months at a time without getting one and then suddenly I’ll get one a week. Is it weather? I don’t know. Does it happen more on weekends? Is it sleeping in later? Or a change in caffeine intake?

No over-the-counter pain reliever can touch it. No nasal decongestant or sinus spray helps. I just have to ride it out. I got one this afternoon at work. I could hardly hold a thought in my head for more than a few seconds at a time, but I stuck it out and eventually it subsided.

What is it? Why now? Is there anything that I can do about it?

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Seen Any Good Movies Lately?

May 30, 2006
  • The Da Vinci Code: Oy. When I read Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons I believed that it would have made a better movie script than a novel. It was as if a really spectacular plot outline had been given to a total hack to flesh out. If The Da Vinci Code is any indication of how his works will play on the silver screen, I was wrong. This dog seemed to be in a drugged stupor from which it could not awaken, and the end revelations seemed oddly anticlimactic. (Audrey Tautou is delicious but even her beauty seemed muted here.)
  • Mission Impossible III: Definitely not as good as MI:I, and I don’t even recall if I’ve seen II. Plus it’s hard to watch Tom Cruise without thinking about how much of a freak show he is in real life. I didn’t hate it, but it won’t make you want to join IMF, either.
  • Millions: Great family entertainment. Sweet but not sappy. Two kids find a bag full of British pounds and have very different ideas about what they should do with it. Meanwhile, the UK is about to abandon the Pound for the Euro, so they have to figure it out quickly. Wonderful stuff. If you have kids this is the exact kind of movie you wish there were more of.
  • Good Night, and Good Luck: I like the idea of this movie a lot more than the actual movie. Who doesn’t want to see Edward R. Murrow stick it to McCarthy? While technically brilliant, I found this movie to be lacking in drama. Perhaps it’s my MTV-generation attention-span, but I would have liked it more if there were higher peaks of intensity.
  • Duma: I remember reading something about this at Salon a while back and really wanting to see it. Well, it’s finally available to rent and I watched it with Paige last night. It had some sketchy bits of acting and it dropped the ball on what should have been more dramatic moments in the plot, but I still liked it. It was gorgeous to watch, for one thing (big cats and big African panoramas didn’t hurt) and there were a few funny moments (I just know you’ll laugh when you hear Sylvester the cat say “hello, Lunch!”) Good family viewing, for sure.
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Make Me A Better Phone – please!

May 29, 2006

Slashdot is discussing an AP news piece about US consumers’ dissatisfaction with the usability of their cell phones. I’ll bet you anything someone in Cupertino is reading this…and scheming.

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Memorial Day

May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day for US readers. Today I, along with all Americans, will think of the men and women in the US armed forces, past and present, dead and living. All have sacrificed a good measure of their autonomy in matters of war and peace. (Well, they can’t say “I don’t like this war” the way civilians can. They give up that ability.) And many have sacrificed even more. Often their very lives.

So thank you.

But in addition to “thank you,” I think they deserve even more. They deserve good health care. They deserve decent pay. They deserve adequate pensions. And more than anything, our current and future servicemen and women deserve to be called upon only when it is vitally necessary. It’s not too much to ask.

For more on Memorial Day check out wikipedia’s article on the subject.

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Roasted Chickenhawk

May 28, 2006

DarkSyde over at Dailykos.com has some harsh criticism for those who didn’t serve in the military themselves, but who managed not only to send other people to do so, but also to question the patriotism of those who did serve. Does he overstate the case? Perhaps a bit. But if you see some of these guys on television tomorrow you may find yourself thinking about quotes like this one:

[…] Chicken-hawks will pay their respects by milking the courage of war heroes. They will then churn it into buttery lubrication to help coat their lies and incompetence, so as to slip more easily down the collective gullet and penetrate deep into our national psyche. [more…]