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Years ago, i had an idea for a short story.  Set in some unspecified not-too-near future, it was based on efforts to deal with a severely overpopulated world by colonising another habitable planet that had been found. The problem was that the other planet was already occupied, by a civilisation that had fairly advanced weapons and was rather resistant to the idea of being dispossessed of their home.  After many years, with the cost of the war ballooning out of control, the government decided to take a new tack - making use of the one resource it had an excess of.  Instead of pouring more money into weapons, provisions and equipment, it decided to just overwhelm and wear down the alien defenders through sheer force of numbers.  Through mass conscription, particularly of the unemployed and petty criminals, they could solve two problems at once. 

The key scene of the story, and the mental image from which the idea started, was a trainload of conscripts arriving at what they thought was to be a basic training camp, being ushered through a mustering area where they were handed makeshift weapons - axes, clubs, rusty kitchen knives - and then sent charging, perhaps at gunpoint, through a stargate-like portal right into the thick of battle on the alien world.  The carnage was terrible, with the human invaders being slaughtered en masse, but they just kept coming and, little by little, took a toll on the defenders.

I had a basic idea of the story worked out, told from the perspective of a young conscript and (what would be revealed to be) an alien soldier on the front line, but i never got around to putting pen to paper, perhaps because i decided the 'twist' was kind of cliched. 

I had forgotten all about the idea until this week, when someone on Facebook posted a link to this:


I guess that would make my story obsolete.

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B&D's anniversary drinks were on Friday night.

As with other recent social events, i again found my conversational skills close to nonexistent.  One possible contributing factor which came to mind is simply not having any news to talk about - "Same stuff, different year" was something i found myself saying a few times.  It did make me wonder: is there nothing going on in my life worth talking about?  Work is just work, and taekwondo seems to be drifting along with the same balance of enjoyment and stagnation as ever (despite the pressure mounting to do a 5th dan grading soon, which might make some difference once i actually start training for it).  Otherwise, all that's really left is meditation and reading about Buddhism, which don't really come up as 'news' to talk about, or lamenting the state of the house and how little i can do about it.  What else is there - shopping, housework and Jono?

It's an interesting problem:  Much as i enjoy the quieter parts of my life at the moment, relaxing in the garden with a nice cup of tea just doesn't make for a fascinating conversation piece.


Sep. 30th, 2011 09:42 am
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With mornings getting lighter, i'm finding that i'm waking up earlier, which gives me time to do not just a bit of meditation but also my t'ai chi exercises, which i haven't done for months.  I'd forgotten just how much more energised that makes me feel (though earlyish nights probably help too).

Daylight savings starting next week may impact on that, unfortunately. 
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Cam posted a link to an interesting article the other week, about how our future behaviour and choices are influenced by even small things we say and do:


It's interesting, not just because it mirrors some of the ways that i've seen karma explained, in that every thing we do, say or even think influences how our lives will play out in some way, through conditioning our habits and predispositions, but also in the mechanism for this process being the creation of a new self-concept in each moment, which corresponds quite closely with some explanations of the 'birth' link in the cycle of Dependent Origination.

Another piece of the jigsaw to ponder.


Jul. 24th, 2011 11:57 am
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Some simple but interesting drills from yesterday's class at Doncaster:

On the ground, kicking to the bag:  Ten kicks each leg (knee or groin) then swap holders.  Holder should step in forcefully each time, but keep front knee bent.  Note - when kicking to knee, aim below the knee, so if it slides up it will hit the kneecap.  Doing it repeatedly made me realise that we often just do a couple of kicks each foot then call it done and move on.  Doing more repetition helps get  better feel for it.  Working with Phillipe, i noticed a distinct difference on the side kick when i made a point of hitting with the heel rather than the blade of the foot.  I also noticed on the push kick that it worked better when i did it in a relaxed way, instead of trying to hit hard and tensing up.

Lying flat on the gound:  Turning to foetal cover-up position, to left or right with random calling of "one" or "two".  This lets everyone practise at once, with loits of repetition, and work on speed.  After several repetitions that way, we then worked with partners kicking randomly to head or body.

With the mobility part of the exercise, Greg's approach is to do one kick, with kihap, then get up.  The pros of that are that it eliminates uncertainty about when to get to your feet and also lets you practise getting up more times (Phillipe and i changed attacker each time, which kept things moving and made it a good fitness workout as well).  It reminded me of another exercise that Mr Rosinszky uses, in which you kick the bag five times, side or push, then get to your feet.  Then it's straight down again and repeat, which gets pretty tiring as well.

Later on, Greg showed us a next step after the knee kicking - to grab the attacker's ankle and take him down, or use your foot or ankle to trap his ankle and take him down (he did one where my ankle was trapped by his foot and then he pushed my knee with his other - i went down hard with just a little push).

One other fitness/self defence drill was just hitting the bag for a minute each, with palm hand or knee.  In both cases, the lower straps were held together in the left fist, while the upper one was held in the usual way.  For palm heel, the holder holds the bag at face height and slightly to the side (so it doesn't hit you in the face) and pushes forward constantly while the defender just hits repeatedly with palm heel strike.  If the defender backs away in a straight line, the holder can try to push him or her into a corner.  For the knee strike, the holder holds the bag a little more loosely, while the defender grabs it tight at the top corners and knee strikes repeatedly (same knee or alternating).  Change holder after a minute and repeat until exhausted.

We also did some eye exercise, starting with just hands, then hands and light low kicks (roundhouse or twist kick to upper thighs), then hands, kicks and grappling (no throws).  I was with Clive, and found it hard to get past his mad kung fu skillz, but i did notice with both of us that when we saw a tempting opportunity to go for the stomach or ribs, we'd leave our head undefended and cop one on the forehead.  Worth remembering if it's ever more than light taps coming at us.  One advantage Greg pointed out of the 'rolling' kali-style action is that one hand is always coming up to protect the face while the other is going forward.  It does seem to me to leave you a little vulnerable to swinging attacks hooking in from the side, though Greg favours a crossed-over position of that guarding hand to give a little protection for that (if you're fast enough with your outward blocking action).

On a final note - there's been another change in the closing moves of Taegeuk 8, in that we now turn on the ball of the foot to make the last back stance, while turning on the heel is a deduction.  In other words, back to how we used to do it (and consistent with all our other moves, always turning on the ball).  I'm beginning to wonder if it's even worth trying to keep up with the latest fashions, other than maybe as an exercise in staying adaptable.  Especially when they don't seem technically sound - with any luck, this current fashion of rising up to a straight support leg when kicking will also pass.
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Seeing collectors out for the Red Shield appeal on the weekend reminded me of something i've been meaning to ask (particularly in light of Victorian government plans to wind back anti-discrimination laws):  Does anyone know of actual cases of discrimination by religious based charities, in employment, service delivery or similar?

zen vs zzz

May. 27th, 2011 03:31 pm
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I'm thinking i may have to give up my morning meditation.

Much as i enjoy it, i never manage to get to bed early enough to be up at 5:45 and still get a decent eight hours' sleep.  Whatever benefit i may be gaining from the meditation i feel may be undone through not enough sleep or even stressing about trying to get to bed earlier.  This past week i've had great trouble concentrating and avoiding procrastination, which is often an indication of insufficient sleep.

So, regretfully, this coming week i'm going to try getting up at 6:30 and foregoing the meditation to see what difference it makes.


Apr. 26th, 2011 06:45 pm
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When the Horrorpops played the Evelyn (was it six years ago?), it was one of my favourite gigs ever, with a newly discovered band that i never expected to see at a local pub, playing what was already one of my favourite albums of all time.  So i guess last night was always going to have tough expectations to live up to.  Despite trying not to compare, i was rather disappointed.  They seemed less tight this time, even sloppy to begin with, and way too much time was spent on rockstar wise-cracking and "make some noise/i can't hear you/Sydney was louder" bollocks.  (Seriously guys, instead of telling us when and how to dance, how about spending that time playing the songs to make us want to, not some Stars on 45 medley, ok?)  

Edit - i think maybe the rock star attitude, while amusing at times, may have been what made what was probably an off night seem more like "we don't need to make an effort any more".  It felt like they were doing us a favour just by turning up.

Maybe part of the problem was also my own mood - the crowd crush was shitting me, bogans shouting from cars on the way there had me defensive, what was left of my social skills seemed to have finally deserted me, and having to keep one eye on the time (and leave early) so as not to miss the last train back to Burbia didn't help either.  So i'm probably being unfair.  And anyway, it was still better than Rob Zombie and the Murderdolls, so that's something (come to think of it, maybe there's a reason the "i can't hear you" grated so badly).  But all up, i guess it was another lesson in moments that can't be recaptured.

On the upside, the Dark Shadows (from Sydney, i gather) were seriously awesome.  I'll have to start checking gig guides again so i can keep an eye out for them.

In the meantime, tune in in a couple of weeks to see me whinge about Gary Numan not playing any new stuff.

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Last night i was reading a chapter in Thich Nhat Hanh's The Sun My Heart in which he looked at the notion of interdependence and interpenetration.  He used the analogy of organs in the body, where every organ depends on the blood to sustain it, which in turn depends on other organs like the heart to pump it, the lungs to oxygenate it, the digestive system to add nutrients, liver, kidneys etc to purify it and so on.  Essentially, every organ depended on every other organ, and would not exist without the coordinated functioning of the whole.  Indeed, every cell in the body depended on the whole body, which in turn is composed of all of those cells, so each cell is dependent on all the others. Each contains all the others, not in the sense of physically encompassing them (or even, as i thought of it, holding the DNA code) but in the sense that the existence of each cell implies the existence of the others.  In a similar sense, though on a wider scale, the existence of anything implies the existence of everything else, one could not exist without the others existing, and thus even a speck of dust contains the entire universe.

Trying to get my head around the concept, i looked out the train window and thought about the things i could see.  I looked at a street light above the Eastern Freeway and thought about how its existence depended on the conditions of our civilisation being as they are, in much the same way that my existence did.  In fact, when i thought about all the history of civilisation, mankind, the world, the galaxy and the entire universe that went into making that street light possible, the vast chain of events, causes and conditions that led to that street light being there, without any of which it wouldn't be there, is overwhelmingly identical to the chain of events that led to me being there.  Compared to that shared background, the bits of the universe's history which differ between my back story and the street light's are negligible, so it's reasonable to say that my existence and the street light's existence are fundamentally connected.  My existence implies the street light's existence, the street light's existence implies my existence.  The street light and i contain each other.  We are connected, just as everything is connected. 

But, you say, that's all well and good for the links between myself and a street light a few dozen meters away, products of the same civilisation on the same planet, but what about this cup on my desk and an atom radioactively decaying in some distant galaxy?  How are they linked?  Well, i can only guess that if you go back far enough, at some time and place (or maybe various times and places) the conditions that would eventually lead to that atom decaying in that corner of that galaxy would have coincided here and there with those that would lead to that cup sitting there, and if any were changed, neither the cup nor the atom would be as they are.  Therefore the cup is dependent on the decaying atom, and the decaying atom on the cup.

(The next step in this line of reasoning would appear to be the sticky question of predestination and the awkward issues of free will that come with it, but that can wait for another time).
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I've been trying to get my head around the twelve links of dependent origination for a while now.  After reading a number of explanations looking at it from a psychological, moment to moment angle, this is my best take so far on it:

Not understanding how our own mind works (ignorance), we go through life under the influence of our stories, prejudices and habits of mind (karmic formations), which condition the headspace (consciousness) from which we regard the world around us (name and form). This colours our perceptions of the world (six sense bases) so that when something comes to our attention (contact) we have a certain emotional response (feeling) that leads us to want or not want particular things and experiences (craving). When we get stuck on wanting things to be a certain way (clinging), we create stories in which our happiness is dependent on those things (becoming) and which become incorporated into our own sense of identity (birth). Then, when the things on which we've pinned our self-concept change, disappoint or slip through our fingers (aging, sickness and death) we suffer not only from that loss but also a sort of existential angst in having our sense of self undermined. Not understanding why we feel like this (ignorance), we keep going with the new layer of stories and habits we've thus developed (karmic formations) and the cycle continues..

(One idea i had was to take "this gives rise to that" not so much as "this causes that to be" but more "this conditions how that will be".  Seems okay as a working model so far.)

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Just got an Urgent Action appeal from Amnesty on the protests in Cairo. It's dated from a week ago, and well out of date with what's happened since. Not sure how to approach this, as the points they're asking us to raise may not be entirely applicable any more. May have to wing it a bit.
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On the weekend we watched a rather crappy b-grade movie called 'Goth', which Elaine had picked up for $2 in a bargain bin somewhere.  It followed the predictable story line of a young couple going to a goth club, where they meet a disturbed goth chick who drags them on a nightmare ride of drug abuse, ugly sex and homicidal violence (all the things that true goth is really about, naturally).  As much as we bagged the film's plot holes and awful post-Manson cliches, the early scenes of them getting ready, heading out to the club and mingling with the smallish crowd there, did leave me feeling rather nostalgic, not necessarily for my own clubbing days, but perhaps back to some more naive time when this "goth" thing seemed kind of fresh and exciting (or maybe when you could actually imagine dialogue like "Hi, i'm Goth." / "Yeah, so are we." being said with a straight face).  I guess it's still that way for someone out there, somewhere, but i do kind of miss it.

On the upside, it has given me cause to enjoy some pompous goth music today.


Oct. 1st, 2010 09:49 am
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I twisted my ankle at training last night.  We were just doing a basic 'moving off the line of attack' exercise, as part of the instructors' training session, when i tripped and felt my ankle roll under with that awful crunching sensation.  With the wave of adrenaline that followed, it took quite a while for the numbness to wear off enough to feel just how bad an injury i'd given myself.  It turned out to be not quite as bad as i'd first feared, but it's very stiff, sore and swollen today.  Christine (one of Greg's black belts who's a doctor) gave it a once-over and said nothing appeared to be broken, Greg taped it up with elastic bandage and Grant offered me a lift home, where i sat it on ice for much of the night.  Hopefully it won't take too long to recover.

One thing it did teach me is that my footwork is rubbish.  Greg had just pointed out that i was bobbing up and down in the exercise instead of staying low and moving like a martial artist.  The way i tripped suggests that i was both dragging the blade of my foot (a bad habit it's easy to get away with on polished boards) and not moving my back foot first to slide away.  I really need to do more footwork practise, not to mention sparring (other than with white and yellow belts).  One more thing to work on once the ankle's good to go again.

While on the instructor training, Greg outlined an interesting approach to teaching a new skill to someone.  Most of it is what i do anyway through common sense, though not thought about or approached in any systematic way.  One bit that was a new idea to me is step 4 - i usually go straight into breaking it down as a default, without seeing if it's necessary. 

1.  Name the skill.
2.  Demonstrate/show an ideal model (if you can't do it, use someone who can)
3.  Explain what the skill is used for
4.  Try it.  If they can do it right away, move on.  If not..
5.  Break it down into parts, then bring them together.  Provide feedback and encouragement.

It's pretty obvious when spelled out like that, but i hadn't thought of it so systematically before.

One bit i had missed in the instructor training, due to not being able to get there at the beginning, was Greg's take on balancing perfection vs boredom.  I might have to ask him about that, as i could use some ideas.
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Psychobilly night at the Ding Dong:

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Another observation while meditating this morning:

At one time while i was sitting, my mind started flying off into different thoughts, chattering away like noisy monkeys.  I decided to try treating the racket in my head like i would an external noise - not trying to ignore or suppress it but just watching it with an attitude of: "it may be noisy there in my thoughts, but on the inside my mind is calm".  To my surprise, i did find my mind becoming calm, even as the chattering thoughts continued on before dying away.

Something to experiment with further.
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Just lately, i've taken to doing some meditation in the morning.

My current routine is to roll out of bed, drag on some warm clothes, shuffle to the kitchen, put some porridge on to cook, make a cup of tea, feed the cats, turn the stove down and then go outside.  I sit on the porch, drinking my tea as quietly and mindfully as i can, then put the cup aside and do maybe 20-25 minutes worth of breathing meditation before going on with the morning.  The tea keeps me warm and wakes me up just enough to pay attention without stimulating the monkey mind too much.  It's a nice, quiet time to do it, with birds singing, distant traffic sounds and the sky just starting to get light at this time of year.

One thing i've noticed is that even though i'm only setting my alarm for five minutes earlier, and doing 20 minutes plus of meditation, i still seem to be finished getting ready for work by about the same time.  Some of that would be the time i'd have spent just sitting outside relaxing after finishing my tea, but i think it's also that i'm not losing as much time daydreaming while i'm getting ready.  I'll have to watch to see if that continues in the longer term.
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Okay, i thought i knew how this worked but now i'm not sure.

In the Australian House of Representatives, does a party need an outright majority (ie control of 76+ of the 150 seats) to form a government, or can it somehow form a minority government with control of half or less of the seats?

Everything i can find makes reference to "a majority", but perhaps the more politically savvy of you out there may know the nitty and the gritty of how it actually works.
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Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] sebastianne.

Oh, and..

Aug. 3rd, 2010 04:55 pm
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Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] guerillamagilla (if you still read this thing).

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Home sick from work today, i've been taking it easy, reading some Lama Surya Das, and doing a little Tonglen meditation.  While doing that practise just a little while ago, i was focussing particularly on not just the taking in of pain and stress, but on sharing the good things i have myself as part of the light i was sending out, thinking of what it was that i could give out to people that could help them get through their particular hard times.  It's a sunny day, with birds singing and a cool, gentle breeze and it occurred to me that this is something good i can share - just being able to feel the joy of simple moments like that, something that's hard to appreciate when you're consumed by troubles and feel the weight of the world pressing down on you.  I realised too that that may be the real value of all those little moments i try to experience - the bird songs, the sunsets, the bats in the trees and the swans crossing the moon - not just worldly pleasures to grasp at and be attached to, but moments of peace and joy that i can absorb and keep within me, a little happiness and serenity that i can draw on and maybe share in some practical way with those that need it.  As they say, you need to take care of yourself in order to be of use to anyone else, and this i think is part of it.

Of course, no sooner had i thought of this than i had the notion of writing it down in this livejournal post, which distracted me somewhat from the meditation, but i do think it's an interesting, and possible important, notion to remember.


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