Friday, November 30, 2012

Fine and Fresh

The problem with complaining is, well, unless something constructive is done immediately after, it is mostly destructive. Done, okay on to constructive.

First I would like to introduce a new idea, feedback on fencing form. It is done all over all the time by coaches for their students, but how do people that are far away or only get visits, or can't afford direct feedback able to improve? I think that there should be a forum, in the old sense of the word too, where people can post videos of themselves doing specific drills/actions that the community can constructively criticize. There might be a future option of paying for a professional opinion, but that is just a subset of ideas for the bigger idea.

The beginning of the forum is here: Please feel free to sign-up and start discussions and maybe post a video.

The second idea is to branch off on my own to set up a fencing class or two. I think that this would remove me from my apathy that I mentioned and get me away from complaining. My biggest concern probably is beginner set upkeep as I really cannot afford ten sets right off the bat, and to have Hawai'i do terrible things to the gear would be a shame.

I want a much more structured class that gets people learning and applying, but not just bouting. I see an informal bout and I am thinking about how they could improve, but when I am in the midst of a bout I hardly think of how I could improve. I do think afterwards but then the next week when i actually get to fence the person again I have probably forgotten. I know I should write down my observations... As I start to see I just need a better framework on which to operate, and that's what I want to offer is a structured class.

What if I offered two? One that was super analytical, moving people to look and study. The other being mostly repetition and working on form in class? I think I might have to have an established base of students before I get too far in that set of ideas.

So if you were in a class, just beginning, what would you like to learn before moving into drills that you need gear for? What games could be done in between intense sessions of drills/learning to get people moving but not completely distract from the main object of teaching fencing?

There is much more this direction, but really that is why I am trying to start a forum.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Running...

And running on.

I think I can pretty much wrap up this year's running, even though we are still 32 days out according to my overly optimistic goal of running 300 miles this year. I am at 91 miles and will probably make it to 100, maybe 120 but not 150, and definitely not 300.

Last year I managed to make it to 150 and felt pretty good about myself. At the beginning of the year I set a goal of 300, rationalizing that it is only around 6 miles a week. I've run 6 miles this week so far, but it is an outlying point and I might add 5 miles to it. Most other weeks have been rainy, voggy, or busy.

First I hate running in the rain. Get water in the eyes, soggy shoes, an extra 20 pounds. Not fun. I do have more clothing and I really just need a new pair of shoes so that I will have two pairs to even that out, or at least not putting on wet clothes/shoes for a run during a nice day. I have less and less excuses, now I just need some glasses that are clear so I can run early mornings.

Second the Vog can be killer. Vog is SO2 which is a normal city type pollutant, but Hilo is pretty far from being a city. It comes from the volcano just up the road from us. It mostly blows over to Kona or Oahu, but somedays it just settles in to Hilo. I think I have described how SO2 turns into H2SO4 when it contacts water, and so breathing hard feels like the lungs and throat are on fire. Not fun to run in at all. Now the funny part, . To sum it up, EPA wants the hawaii power plant to cut emissions, even when acknowledging that the volcano out puts 500-600 tons a day and they want the power plant to cut 1400 tons in a year. Hopefully all the solar panels going up recently and potential geothermal plants will eliminate the need for a really expensive coal powered plant long before the volcano stops spewing SO2.

Third, why does busyness stop me from running? I usually run in the mornings, but yesterday I ran after work. This is an effort to run when I can and not just rely on my motivation in the mornings. If I stay up too late the night before then I have much less motivation to run. And if it is raining, well mornings are no fun in the rain as the road down to the flat stuff gets slick, oh yeah, slick as snot, forgot that one in my rain complaint.

But really, why did I miss my goal by such a large margin? I think a bit of laziness might be part of it, okay lots of it. In my defense we did go on a big conference/vacation in Europe for three weeks, where even if I had brought my running stuff I would have been sick for 2 weeks. Maybe only sick-ish. And what about these last few months? Pure laziness, dang.

Okay, 11 miles this week, totally doable. Next week maybe only 8, but I will try to kep above six as we go into the new year. There always has to be some hour during the week in which there is no vog, rain, or distractions, right? So a summary this might be, a list of excuses. But it doesn't mean I am finished for the year, rather it is motivation to finish the year strong.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finding Apathy

Does taking on responsibility in something you enjoy cause apathy? Very possibly. It doesn't help that when I arrive at the usual time there might be someone around, but usually no one. That makes it a bit harder. I don't think taking on responsibility would cause so much apathy without that thrown into the mix. Also just the assumption that I am a bank... Not very fun.

Enough complaining. I will go to fencing this evening after going home for a light dinner and a few minutes of downtime. Then I will go, and if no one is there I will either run outside or around the gym, hopefully it isn't raining because it will be much more fun to run outside. Unlikely as that is.

My brother came into town last week. We went snorkeling at Kapoho on Wednesday. Thursday we went to prayer just as normal except we managed to bring my brother and our housemate because of the turkey trot down at bay front. That was a decent 5k, one of the flattest courses here on the island. I managed a 26:30ish 5k, which is well away from my best but not too bad considering how little I have been running. Then, of course, we stuffed ourselves silly.

Friday morning we met with my boss and went hiking on the observatory side of Mauna Loa. The hike starts at 11,100 feet. This is my fourth attempt with the third being successful. I did not feel great going up, and the first part of the hike was nearly agonizing. Unfortunately one of the guys with us was not doing so well and I was staying with him to make sure he was doing okay. When he stopped I went up to catch up with my brother and my boss to tell them we might need to turn around. I think I covered nearly a quarter mile in just over 5 minutes, I felt light-headed after that but much better than I had felt before.

We all turned around due to weather, as it was getting misty and looked like it could snow. A good thing I think too, a couple we met on the way down were going up. I did warn them about how easy it might be to lose the trail in the mist. They were later rescued off the mountain after wandering off the trail...

Saturday we went to Ke'ei and snorkeled, didn't know that there could be so much coral around Hawai'i.

My brother went back on Monday, but it was good to see him, hike and snorkel with him.

I am going to try an experiment soon with basically a fencing forum, but with a twist. I want people to post videos of themselves for constructive commentary/criticism. That could be quite tough to do, but we will see, as it is an experiment.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fits and Starts

Another post in quick succession.

We had fencing twice more last week, which is twice more than I am used to, but it was well worth it. Again we had the two coaches from Oahu, Mike Aiao and Saul Mendoza. (This time I learned his name and saw it written as well.)

Saul worked us pretty hard Thursday and Saturday. I was pretty happy with going through drills and just getting in some good practice. I almost put a complaint here, but lets just say I will be working harder to get people to do drills. I will need to work with whoever shows up at the right time, beyond that it is up to them. That was tough not complaining.

Last time I wrote about the footwork, Saul worked us for more than a half hour trying to correct some of our bad habits. But the most recent two the footwork was a minor compared to the bladework. We paired off and he went around teaching and correcting. On Saturday he specifically talked to me about how to do the exercises as a teacher with a student. That was excellent although I am still trying to figure out what... I guess if I write down a bit maybe it will clear up the thoughts about teaching.

One of the big things is to start out basic. Just hit target and keep that up for a few minutes, maybe switching target areas just to get the right hand position. This is is from very close distance, where an extension hits, no movement of the feet. This reminds me, if I am going to have people stab at me over and over I will need to bring my black jacket with me. I can stand getting hit again and again, but it is much more comfortable with padding and the like.

The next is just to add an advance-attack. Just an attack with an advance, not much simpler than that. The big idea here is to watch for the arm coming out first in order to establish right-of-way. If the arm isn't preceding the footwork then it needs to be worked on a bit. This helps in another way as well: If the arm is extended than the footwork can adjust to the correct distance. As the instructor, because I am no way a coach, yet, I need to vary the distance and get a similar attack each time, in other words, they need to hit the same way no matter the distance.

With that working smoothly, and a bit of varying targets, it is time to move on to beats and disengages. This gets exponentially more complex, and there aren't even parries on the student side yet. A strike against the blade is usually a good way to get the opponent to parry in that direction. A beat 4 and then a disengage to the six line as they parry 4 is one of the simplest combination attacks ever. After a beat 4 direct though, it can be another point. Here is a short list of more:

  • Beat 4, direct 4 (no response to the beat)
  • Beat 4, disengage to 6
  • Beat 4, disengage to 8 (Is it really a disengage? Yes.)
  • Beat 6, disengage 4 (Against the same handed person this might not make sense if they are already in 6 guard, but it is much like the direct 4 listed above, if they stay in 6 then 4 is open, why not take it?

Part of getting someone to react the way you want them to is to have a convincing feint. Does the opponent think that they are being threatened? If not then the feint can be continued into a direct attack, all the better. But anyway this is getting long winded, and I am starting to see where I need to be for drilling with most people. I will write more later.

In other news I glued my fencing shoes back together. Unfortunately I would never recommend Absolute Fencing for shoes, they are cheaply made and wear down quickly on wooden floors, not even the cheese-graters of fencing strips. That being said I have bought both my helmets from them after a very denty Italian helmet. They have held up quite well along with the jacket and knickers that I wear 2 to 3 times a week for a moderate amount of fencing. So consider them for most things, but not shoes.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


I am not very good at staying motivated. I can get really excited and start something, but it is tough to keep going. This blog may be an example of gaining and losing interest. Do an inverse on the number of days between posts divided by the average number and you will see a not so good trend. So let's try this:

Tuesday Mike Aiao and a few fencers came out from Oahu. Mike started us out on the footwork for about 10 minutes, I would like to comment on how late everyone started fencing, but let's keep to the subject at hand.

Mike drilled us on Basic footwork, then handed it over to another experienced fencer, whose name completely escapes me. He is a coach too. He took us through footwork, correcting people with too wide of a stance and getting us to move and work for it. Here are a few of the exercises:

  • Advance-Retreat - of course, really simple and basic, but many people don't focus on this after they think they have "mastered" it.
  • Double advance-Double retreat - Again, but getting moving a bit faster and not pausing between the movement, sort of as a smoothing exercise.
  • Check-check - basically just picking up the back foot and then picking up the front foot. Checks to see if you are balanced and not too spread out.
  • Half advance-Half retreat - Again checks to see balance and gets the body used to moving with the correct leg first. The half advance is basically just lifting the front foot and putting the heel where the toe was, then bringing it back to on guard. The retreat is the same, just the other direction.
  • Then add the check-check  in between advances and retreats, that is, on the change of direction.
That was all on the really basic stuff. We also did quite a bit of lunging, he was definitely against over-lunging, which of course is not good for you.

Enough for now, I will write more tomorrow after another evening of fencing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Chugging Along

Getting back into the swing of things.These last few weeks have been pretty horrendous for fencing and running.

Many things conspired to limit fencing, plans and cancellations, but finally got to fence last night. I fenced a bit and practiced some too. After being up the mountain yesterday, and getting up to do 1.5 miles in the morning I certainly wasn't at top performance, however it was definitely good to fence. I certainly need to improve, as we have a person that can soundly beat me. It is quite amazing how much of a motivator that is, in fact it will be an excellent learning opportunity.

I really need to work on my point control, and in that direction I have made a ball with a string through it. Really simple, but attaching a clamp to the beam and then dangling the ball from it should help my point control become better. Or rather I will improve my point control. Another thing is reactions, I need to definitely put in place stock actions as well as leave the door open for flexibility. I see things just fine, but as I get more tired I make bigger actions, which are most decidedly not restful. They also cause pieces of blades to break off and go flying across the gym. So some shopping needs to be done to find a few dry blades, and a glove as mine is finally wearing out, Leon Paul certainly makes great gloves.

I ran 1.5 miles yesterday and 2 miles this morning. I haven't run in 2 weeks mostly because of the rain. I dislike running in the rain, but I made a deal with myself Monday night, I would run at least once a week whether or not it was raining in the morning, Monday being the day. That would allow for my shoes to dry out. But it was actually nice Tuesday morning, so I didn't need to get wet. When I reach 300 miles in my shoes I think they will be relegated as I get a new pair, but I am still about 110 miles from that goal. An old pair of shoes, or just even a second pair that can get wet without worrying about tomorrow.

I also didn't do too well on the most recent self-driving car homework. It wasn't so much programming as putting together matrices for a Kalman Filter. The fact that I didn't have to take linear algebra in college probably doesn't help. Also waiting until the last moment doesn't help either. This week I started in on the lectures so I can hopefully get that done well before this weekend and start in on the homework. It is focused on Particle Filters, supposedly a much easier idea. I sure hope so, but I suspect that we will have to know all three including a histogram discrete filter. It should continue to be interesting, and I am learning python at least.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Snow Chains in Hawaii

Yes, you read the title correctly, we were required to use chains today. Of course there being snow made the poor rangers freak out. Some of it may have required chains, but especially after plowing the chains are just being ruined and ruining the tires. Having grown up in Wyoming I know that chains are useful, but seriously 3 inches of mostly fresh snow? It is when it starts getting packed and icy that chains really help.

But having fun replacing disks. Putting 2 160 GB SSDs in plus 2 2TB HDDs in eight different computers. Being at nearly 14,000 feet up here on Mauna Kea really can do damage to disks, the head needs an air cushion and it doesn't get it. Head slams into disk, disk is kaput. That is why SSDs are so much better, once you get beyond their sudden infant death syndrome, but those are pretty rare.

Anyway, back to work.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rats in Paradise

Or: Raining for Weeks Straight Induce Rats to Take Shelter in Houses and Cause the People Inside Much Trouble.

Hawaii did not always have rats. Hawaii did not always have anything that is here, but rats are certainly more recent than many things we think of as Hawaiian. They came via ships just as mosquitoes did, but they climbed down ropes, or even swam from ships. Hard to keep track of, mosquitoes were just dumped into fresh water as larva as someone refilled their water barrels, which could have been prevented. The rats would have made it here one way or another. Of course they started wiping out endemic bird populations, so some smart person brought in mongeese to hunt and eat them, not realizing that mongeese are diurnal and rats are nocturnal. And the mongeese eat birds and bird-eggs too.

But the reason I am relating this is because we had the opportunity to meet one of these interlopers this weekend. I would love to say that I didn't have to kill it, but then I would be as bad as PETA in lying about their treatment of much more acceptable animals for pets. I also don't enjoy killing animals, I have gone hunting but have never been able to pull the trigger, make fun of me as you will. But dispatching a rat in protecting Jessie and our household definitely gives me satisfaction, though it is definitely on my mind, unlike all the cockroaches that I have dispatch with nary a second thought.

A warning to those who are squeamish or who will want to argue with me: I will write in detail about what I did, and I may sound triumphant, because I won over a disgusting, disease-ridden, though weirdly cute, mammal. But it was also the first mammal that I have ever killed, and although there are less traumatic ways of dispatching those infernal, furry, rope-tailed beasts, it was efficient and done quickly. Also as a disclaimer: I do not support the torture of animals, though I support hunting, fishing, and pest control with decent means. So if you are going to stop, you should stop now.

Saturday night Jessie and I were up late playing Boggle and Uno with some of our friends. It was about midnight when we finished and I soon went to bed. Jessie was up reading when she saw the rat come out of our bathroom. She didn't scream but what followed was enough to rouse me. I came out and blearily watched her hunt for it.

She didn't find it but it scampered around the corner and into the bedroom. Of course this made Jessie very upset, and I was a bit more awake now. She saw it climb the bed and then dive into a hole by an outlet, about a foot away from where she usually sleeps. This made her even more upset, and my brain was just starting to get engaged.

We removed the nightstand from in front of the outlet and stared at the hole for a while. Jessie was all for getting a few blankets and sleeping out in the car as it is most certainly rat free and recently roach free. I removed the plugs from the outlet to give the rat less things to climb and taped a black trash-bag between the wall and the side of the bed. This was supposedly going to at least temporarily detain the rat and make the process much less messy. I also stuck a sticky roach trap in the bottom to delay the rat a bit so that I would have time to come up with a solution. It certainly wouldn't hold or kill the rat, but it might slow it down some.

We went to sleep out on the futon when Jessie decided it would be quite a bit better than the cold car. The next morning I awoke at 6:30, lying there trying to parse the noises. I noticed a definite scratching noise, so I got up and looked into the bedroom. The bag was stuffed into the hole, so I wondered when Jessie had gotten up and done such a thing, but she didn't. I approached cautiously and pulled on the bag, thinking that it would just fall out and we would have to keep vigilant for a long while. But then it pulled itself back into the hole.

I pulled it out and saw something that initially registered as a cord of some sort, but then I realized it was a tail. Somehow the rat had fallen in the trash bag, got the tail stuck and then chewed its way out. It climbed back in the hole but was still stuck to the bag. I woke Jessie up and then went back in. I put gloves on and took a pair of needle-nose pliers. I pulled on the bag and then caught its tail with the pliers. It poked its nose out, but much too quickly for me to do anything, but then the flight response of the rat kicked in.

When rats' tails are caught, they can shed the skin, leaving whatever predator with just a bit of skin rather than a full rat meal. I don't know how the tail recovers later but for some reason our rat did not run despite being free of the sticky and the pliers. So I quickly clamped some vice-grips on the exposed tail, just thinking about that makes me shudder, but I didn't want it to escape, because it would come back again. This time the fight response was there so it poked its nose out, but I was ready this time. I grabbed its nose with the pliers, and through much squeaking, drew it out of the hole far enough to dispatch it with a hammer.

The clean-up was simple with the black trash-bag and a few other bags. No mess other than wiping down the tools. I am glad it was over quickly.

Unfortunately there might be another. I would rather not poison it, as it may go outside and die within reach of the neighbor's dog and poison the dog. I might try to find the entry spot and just stuff gravel there until it fills up, or small rocks, basically something tough to dig through and pretty discouraging. And maybe a sticky-trap, one for rats. Not as quick and efficient but also less worrisome about having to be vigilant.

Or, we could move back to Wyoming and maybe have to deal with mice, if anything at all. Some people say Hawaii is paradise, some days that is pretty believable, but with the rain and the imported pests I think I will just say that it is Hawaii and it is nice sometimes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update, These Days...

Doing quite a bit better these days so far as motivation goes. Although really need to be more disciplined for exercise, but I really dislike running in the rain. I guess I could get another set of shoes so that I can let them dry, but I also need to remember to take out the insoles and flatten them so that I don't get blisters from slightly curled insoles.

Fencing is probably completely off for this week. First Mauna Loa School is doing something so we can't fence there, and Thursday I am going up the mountain and may be up there until 21:00 which would be at least an hour after the longest winded fencers are still there. Oh well. Also in fencing news I won't be going to any interesting tournaments when I go to the ESC Conference in March for work. And I looked at May when Jessie and I will be attending her sister's graduation, nothing, but maybe we are just too far out. There are tournaments happening, but they are all qualifiers for nationals and since I am not from their area, I cannot be a part.

The ESC Conference is in the last part of March, San Jose, CA. I will mostly be learning about and summarizing technologies I see for work, but I will also be looking and just seeing what I can see. It will certainly be interesting. I suppose that I will be pretty busy but this is going to feel quite weird going to a conference like this. I have really only heard of and read about industry conferences... I did attend a week long course in a conference like thing in Boston 2 summers ago, but that was not just a huge conglomeration of companies and industry leaders. It was experts teaching about what they knew, quite a bit different.

Ah, just looked up fencing in San Jose... The hotel I am staying at is about a block from The Fencing Center, so could have pretty interesting evenings, or at least on Monday and Wednesday. It seems that I will need to bring gear... I should double-check my connections. Gear is definitely unwieldy to travel with, although it would be checked and have plenty of room for my other clothing.

It will definitely be an interesting month.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Feeling a bit better

Fencing was certainly better last night, though I still managed to over do it. I was able to fence 4 or 5 people and did quite well against them. I am working on recognizing patterns and reactions.

I noticed it specifically with one fencer. After a few direct attacks that ended with a huge parry riposte against me, I figured out the a feint disengage worked. He is a lefty and I am a righty, so I went for his quarte, inside and drew the parry and then disengaged nearly a full circle to get him on the chest. I was down 3-1 or 3-0, but managed to win the bout with 5-4.

Also mobility and endurance really helped, although I was at the end of my endurance nearly. Need to work further on that. Speaking of, now to go walking.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Ah, motivation...

Fencing has been pretty slow recently, we had a few traveling fencers grace us with their presence. That was fun, and challenging. People here are getting better, or maybe I am sliding back into the morass of sloppy fencing. I hope it is the former.

I have decided that I am not going to try to put anyone through exercises and drills. I would rather not have to restart a dozen times with late-comers, but they don't bother me as much as those who prefer to stab over learning how to stab... A fine line I know. As such I have only really taken a few beginners through basic footwork and swordwork, otherwise I am pretty demotivated.

I fence but I feel lethargic, it is usually after sitting in a chair for nearly 8 hours so that is part of the problem. I also have been slacking on running and exercising outside of fencing, and it shows. Last week when there was only one strip and I was working on my own, I managed to overdo it. Go figure. I have a chance, possibly, to go to San Jose at the end of march. I know there are plenty of Salles and clubs in the area, and possibly a tournament. Of course I will have to carefully plan so that I can attend the conference, write up a report, and get a bit of fencing in, but I want to be in good shape so that those with many fencers to fence won't just run circles around me, or some similar idea in fencing.

So, as a project outside of work and connected with fencing, I have decided to try and construct a wireless fencing system. Being a trained computer engineer with plenty of ready-to-use-materials within reach from the amazing DIY-movement that started after I graduated from college, it seems that this could be done quite cheaply and robustly. I am also looking at crowd-funding, a project of about $500, which at least could be reached by asking family and friends, and possibly a few fencers.

A project like this will need special attention that I crave to apply but get petrified trying to think of all the solutions to all of the problems at once. So I have broken it down into a few larger phases: Planning, Advertising, Designing, Building and Testing. Of course all of these are subjective large containers, but right now I am looking at launching the project on March 9th and ending a month later. I think 500 dollars is the smallest project I have seen on sites like or I think the next thing is to come up with how to do a video. Just thinking now of doing either a funny video using real people and explaining the "perils" of the floor cords and reels, or animate it somehow. Thoughts and ideas are welcome.

So anyway... ideas, ideas...

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