Happy New Year

As the year comes to a close, I'd like to thank all of you who read this blog on a (semi-) regular basis. I hope you enjoy reading it almost as I enjoy the writing.

I'd like to say thanks to a few people who helped me get things rolling. I figure now is as good a time as any to give credit where it's due...

Harvey - Thanks for getting me started on this blogging thing. Your help has been invaluable as has your advice on the tupperdor/baggiedor.

Brian - I appreciate the spotlight & the flattering review of my site. Keep up the great work on yours & yes, the excellent commentary!

Scott - Thanks for your input & letting me bounce ideas for posts off your head.

James - Thanks for your comments & START A BLOG ALREADY! You've got a lot to say.

All the students/instructors at CVDA - Without out you guys, I'd have nothing constructive to do nor anything to write about it.

Master Matt Rion - What can I say? You're a great teacher, a mentor & trusted friend. I appreciate you allowing me to be the first black belt promoted at your school. It's an honor I'll treasure my whole life.

I wish all of you out there a happy & prosperous new year. May all of your beer be rich, your friends likewise (so you can mooch if needed) & your blogs witty.



I am sooo eager to get back to class! We've had the last week off & of course will be off 1/1 for the New Year. It's good to have the break but I need to get back into the mix!

I did work on some of the warm-ups in GM Wallace's book. It's a lengthy workout, even for the stretching. I guess that's because taking your time helps prevent injury.

Testing will have to be a priority for me in the next few months. My best guess is I'll be going for 2nd Dan near the end of April. There's nothing set in stone but I still need to be prepared for when Master Rion tells me it's time.

I'll probably test for recommended black belt in Hapkido between now & April so that's another concern. I think most of my techniques & skills are solid from white to purple. All well & good, but I'd better put some focus on brown & high-brown if I'm going to do well. My current set (red) is doing well enough. All I need there is to refine the techniques a little & I'll do just fine.

Groundfighting will probably be part of this. That's a challenge with one of our senior belts - he's in the National Guard & big on Modern Army Combatives. There's not much chance I can beat him but 1/2 the fun is in trying!

Can you tell I'm just a bit eager to get back into it? ;-)


Whose The Devil, Again?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is refusing to renew the broadcast license for Venezuela's second largest TV station. He stated the license expires March 2007 & will not be renewed due to the station's leanings, "against the dignity of the republic".


This left-wing idol of a president has the nerve to call our Commander-In-Chief "the devil"? For all the griping from liberals about lost liberties in this country (normally to assault the Patriot Act), I've heard not a one of them register a complaint in response to Chavez's censoring of an entire media outlet.

Certainly you'd think hardcore left-wing organizations like the BBC would have a strong opinion on this.

You'd be wrong.

The linked article shows that the BBC doesn't seem to have much of a problem with Chavez shutting down a station similar to theirs. That is, one that attempts to undermine leadership of which they don't approve. Score one for "freedom" of speech.



I bought this one on DVD the other day & yeah, I'm impressed with it.

The movie isn't exactly like you'd think. Jet Li's character, Huo Yuanjia, is mostly a two-bit loser in the younger part of his life: He doesn't obey his father, misunderstands the concept of learning his family's "wushu" & acts as much a child as his young daughter.

Later, a young man whispers in his ear that Hou cannot defeat the man's godfather, Master Chin. Compounding this, one of Huo's students is severely beaten by Chin. Huo takes this as a challenge to fight and, without asking any questions, leaves immediately to confront Chin at Nong Jinsun's restaurant.

The fight between the two has longer lasting repercussions for both families involved & the tragedy that ensues jerks Huo violently into adulthood - in his 30s.

The movie is excellent. Period. If you haven't seen it & appreciate martial arts or even just a great story which finds it's way into patriotic themes, you need to rent/buy this one immediately.

Gears Of War

I got this one for Christmas this year. It's a very intense 3rd-person shooter that involves you being freed from a prison to fight in a world where subterranean monsters are taking over. Not exactly the time where you want to be granted parole, but at least it's an opening premise...

Let me just say this game is HARD! The only break you really get - strangely enough - is during boss fights. Most of the bosses are simple enough to figure out quickly & they don't pound on you too hard if you're careful. The rest of the game has a fervent intensity that won't allow your guard to drop for even a moment.

The basic enemies are really well-adapted to the environment & the AI performs brilliantly even when your tactics border on perfection. Rarely do you get an easy, open target. Most of your success is dependent on out-maneuvering or out-smarting your enemies. Even then you may not survive.

One of the worst creatures are the Kryll. These bat-like monstrosities will rip you to shreds if you go out of the light. Folks who have seen Pitch Black will see a striking resemblance.

The game makes you pay for your mistakes & keeps the pace going constantly. It's been a long wait for this title & it's been well worth it.


The Appellate court upheld the hanging execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Look, whether you're for the execution is not really relevant, IMO. Those who scream "martyr!" fail to realize that alive or dead, Hussein has the support of Baath zealots who will use Saddam's death or life internment as a motivating "justification" for their cause.

Cox & Forkum has linked to a CNN article which quotes Hussein's chief defense attorney as saying they're, "not surprised by this crazy ruling", that came from, "an illegitimate & unconstitutional court". Ah yes, let's question the legitimacy of everything for which we don't have approval. Never mind that his client is a mass-murderer with no regard for human life. It's becoming an all too familiar tactic that's largely embraced by the media & the extreme left - Let's make the perpetrator of the crime seem like the victim.

To me the result of this execution will be evident: This world is infinitely better off without despots like Hussein in it. I'm not immediately concerned with the power of this instance to deter future dictators. This trial dealt directly with Saddam, not the world. The purpose was holding to account a man accused of horrible crimes against his own people. He was judged to be guilty & justice will be served to the Iraqi people.


President Gerald Ford

I was saddened to hear of President Ford's passing on December 26, 2006. Although I was born on the day after he took the oath of office on August 9, 1974 & didn't have firsthand knowledge of his presidency, from the history on this man he is someone to be respected & admired.

I wish his family all the best & hope they can take solace in the fact this excellent human being lived a long life of character & dignity. My prayers are with them.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. You will be missed.


For Our Troops

It really wouldn't be right if this blog didn't wish all our men & women in uniform a Merry Christmas.

For those of you who are serving and have served the United States both at home & overseas, this young veteran thanks you for your courage, patriotism and the noble sacrifice that both you & your families are making during this Holiday season.

Truly, without all of you defending our freedom & serving as a beacon of hope & goodwill towards the entire world, none of us would enjoy this precious liberty only our men & women in uniform can provide.

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah & a safe, prosperous New Year.

Class (Yellow Belt Drama)

Wednesday class was interesting on a few levels. Of note: This is the first class I've completely ran solo as an assistant instructor. Master Rion took the senior belts downstairs & I worked with White, Yellow & Orange belts.

Just to give you a point of reference, I consider myself to be overly fair & patient when instructing. My philosophy is to educate first, discipline second. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than people who assume everyone knows the rules.

Let's start with the Orange belts (RHIP, right?). Overall, excellent. True, most of them are adults & are in the class because they want to learn, want to work out, etc. This group followed instructions & with the exception of a couple young kids, showed perfect bearing. I think we got a lot done & the adults really appreciated the exercise before the Christmas break.

Moving on to the Yellow belts. Oh, where, where, where to start with this motley bunch? Well, none of them wanted to follow the rules. This sometimes happens when Master Rion isn't around, so I was prepared for it. I lined them up, organized them & made sure they showed proper respect for the school. No, I didn't lay into them with push-ups & such (remember my philosophy?). Now that they know where I stand, push-ups most definitely will be involved if there's a "next time".*

One incident I should mention: a young Orange belt tried to "pull rank" on a young Yellow belt. Folks, I *don't* tolerate that crap! I calmly explained to the young fellow that rank is NOT for lording over others. I will never do that as a black belt & won't tolerate it from any subordinate rank. It's disrespectful. Rank must be earned every day it is worn, not thrown around like a chew toy.

The White belts - the least experienced group - had the best behavior. No exceptions. I wish I could get more students to act this way. They followed instructions, enjoyed themselves & worked very hard. If this were grade school, I'd give them a gold star!

* - Now that I think about it, maybe 8-count body builders would be a better idea...

Honor Not Allowed

Ah, Massachusetts. Land of liberals, failed presidential campaigns & now liberal policies that encourage failure

It seems that students in Needham High School will no longer get their just recognition for excellence. According to their principal, Paul Richards, thinks it brings about, "an unhealthy focus on grades".

Uh oh! How dare we think about kids focusing on grades? Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? I'm going to explain this as clearly as I can:

Grades. Reflect. Learning.

It's really not more complicated than that. I can bet you dimes to dollars (that's ten to one for leftists) the student who earns an 'A' or 'B' has a far better grasp of a subject than a 'D' or 'F' pupil. Thus far, no one has taken me up on my get-rich-quick scheme...but I'm holding onto hope.

What would be nicer for a student who worked hard all year to do his/her best than to see the recognition of that effort in their local paper? Sure, it's not as great as the grades they've earned but they should be afforded that brief moment in the sun.

The principal also claims that we're in, "this high expectations, high achievement culture". Please. We're talking about the same school system that doesn't want to give failing grades, offers to build "esteem" through a carrot (no stick) approach & strips simple, competitive games (dodgeball, anyone?) from school yards. Yes, I do know a teacher with these concerns...why do you ask?


Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah as well!

Yes, I'm using "Merry Christmas".

No, I'm *not* using "Happy Holidays" nor any other dumbed-down politically-correct piece of tripe. If for some reason my Christmas wish offends, then I recommend the following action:

1) Refer to my very first post on 10/3/2006.

2) Realize you won't have any luck changing my sentiments.

For the rest of you folks out there: May you, your family & friends have a wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah & a blessed New Year!


Snapped Shot

Brian of Snapped Shot recently commented on one of my posts. Being the ever-grateful blogger for positive input, I checked out his site.

You should too. Excellent commentary, well-written & definitely worth your time.


Enough With the $!&* Hitler References!!!

Joy Behar on "The View" claimed Time magazine should have used a "Hitler type" & put Donald Rumsfeld on the cover as Man of the Year.

Enough of this inappropriate comparison to Hitler, people! Unless someone can demonstrate that an individual planned to systematically eliminate an entire people from the face of this earth, leave the references to that sick, twisted, perversion of humanity in the grave with him.

Honestly, it seems like every time the far-left doesn't like someone, out comes the Hitler reference. The irony, of course, is that these same relativists would have no stomach to confront & combat that sort of evil.

I can only imagine these same people in World War II times screaming for President FDR's head because "Germany never attacked us" & how we "rushed to war". Evil must be confronted. Period. Europe doesn't have the stomach. The UN is inept & ineffectual. Yes, the majority of our "allies" disagree with our position in the War on Terror. This lack of acquiescence does not mean we're wrong in our course of action.


Freedom of Speech (No Offense!)

Check out the link at the end of this post. Nice to see that freedom of speech is so valuable if you're bashing America or trying to make threats of violence against the president but meaningless if CAIR takes satire out of context.

I read Frank J's editorial a few weeks ago & yeah, it mockingly talks about violence. No harm there. It can be expected (blogosphere being as big as it is) that someone's going to look at said satire & think, "Hey! That's a good idea". Whether you agree with that person it serves no purpose to limit free speech in the name of not rocking the boat.

So we have one blog shut down for having an opinion counter to CAIR - an organization which, IMO, serves only to shove political correctness so far down our gullet that we have no choice by to choke on it - and threats to go after IMAO for using (*gasp*) humor.

I'll Have a Coke With That

Has anyone ever smoked a full-bodied cigar (Montecristo Afrique Jambo Jambo in this case) & drank a Coke?

Well, if you haven't, my friend, let me tell you what you're missing!

It takes any lingering bitterness (wasn't much with that cigar, though) & takes it right out. What you get is an even fuller flavor from the Coke. That's pleasure, there...

Sweet Gift!

My friend Liz & her fiance, Mickey, bought me a nice bottle of Shiraz for Christmas this year. I'm a big wine drinker & cigar smoker. Fortunately, I'm much more particular with cigars than wine.

I can't wait to open this bottle! I wonder if it would go well with my Montecristos? That should be a nice marriage of flavors.

Speaking of marriage, the cute couple also gave me a framed engagement photograph. Yeah, I knew I was getting the photo, but never expected the frame! Two gifts for me. Woo hoo!


Gotta Get Outta This Place!

The plans to get out of the corn & pig hole to the deep south are moving along nicely. Surprisingly, I received an e-mail from one of my sis' friends, Ashley (told me to call her "Smashley" - don't ask) trying to push me in that direction.

Of course, I'm not stupid (No! REALLY). I realized that no one's just going to come on out & say, "Hey, stranger-I've-never-met, move on down here. It's fun"! There had to be an ulterior motive. Sure enough, it only took me five minutes to find out.

My sister wants to have Smashley as a room-mate when I get down there. Right now, she lives with my brother, Matt, & our Mother in a nice townhouse. I'd take over her share of the rent (more if I heard right on how much she pays) when I moved down there.

Again, I'm no dummy. It stands to reason that I'll need a place of employment outside the bowels of Hades - I mean Iowa - to provide uninterrupted income. Fortunately, I had two people who unwittingly volunteered themselves. Yep, Shannon & Ashley.

I forwarded them my resume & told them to get cracking. Yeah, yeah, I need to do some work too. Still, I'm at work this weekend & they're off - so let them sweat my situation a little bit. ;-)

There's only the one thing here that I don't want to leave. As you've probably guessed HKD/TKD are too important for me to give up. Also, there's not an ICHF (Combat Hapkido) school anywhere near that place. It's looking like the school started there will have to be my own. Master Rion is my instructor & always will be, so having a mentor isn't my problem.

My problem - well, in this case - is that I'm going to be responsible for an (intentionally) small school of my own. That may not sound like much but it's more than simply uncharted territory. I never planned to have my own school & there's not a clue in this magnificently brilliant mind to suggest how to run things best. I guess, like everything else, it'll need to be figured out in time.



These guys at Nintendo are flipping geniuses! The bowling game on Wii sports is incredible. Even how you rotate your wrist affects the spin on the ball.

My brother & I played the crap out of this to bring our scores up (Pro is at 1000). The training games involve picking up splits, working on rotation (by dodging barriers in the lane - very cool) & power rolls where you start at 10 pins & add a row each time to a max of 91.

Back @ Work

Yeah, it sucks as bad as you might think...


These things are a pain in the rear. I almost NEVER get sick & the one time I do is when my brother comes to visit.

To top it off, I get too sick to make class on Tuesday & missed one of our black belts coming back. It's been a long time so that really pissed me off.

Heck, the whole week has been a wash. I'm just coming out of this so I didn't attend class all week. BOOOO!!!

Vacation Review

It was a great time off! My brother, Matt, from SC came up to visit for about 5 days & we did quite a bit of running around. Most of it involved smoking cigars, hanging out in bars & trying to best each other on Wii Bowling.

He arrived Thursday about noon & after an hour drive back to the apartment, we went to lunch at Red Robin. Honestly, this place can do no wrong in my mind. Anything you get there is excellent & brings the sort of pleasure that you normally need to pay women for.

We smoked a couple nice Montecristos I got from a buddy & he thought his was lacking in flavor. Apparently if your cigar lacks that certain robust character, you need to smoke a cigarette. I've never had this problem & I don't plan on it. He did like the Cohibas we tried a couple days later.

The most drama came on the day he left. No, this wasn't some tear-filled send off. We got to Moline a little late & the gate was closed for him to check in. He called AirTran & they said it'd be $80 to re-book the flight for the morning. Also, the flight was for 5:50AM. There was no way I'd be able to drive back up to CR & be awake enough to drive all the way back to Moline so we decided on a hotel for him. Yeah, that Hampton Inn was brand new, top-of-the-line & the $100 for 1 night reflected that.

I felt bad about leaving him there but at least the room was nice. Yeah, he didn't even call me to say he got home safe! I had to see he updated his MySpace profile before I could tell.

Anyway, this whole visit got me thinking. I really would rather live down there. Heck, Iowa has never been for me. I only came here because my family lived here when I got out of the Navy. I'm sure I'd like to find a job in SC so I can get out of corn & pig heaven as soon as possible.



My brother is coming into town this Thursday & I'm taking the week off for some R & R while he's here. Plans pretty much involve the higher callings of life: drinking, partying & probably getting around to eating at some point.

Fortunately, his flight gets in Thursday about noon - which will give me time to get back for TKD/HKD. Yeah, I'm not taking that off. Any vacation I take in-state means I have all the time in the world to go to class & I'm going to take it. Also, I'm really stoked about my certification paperwork coming in.

I've got some nice cigars sitting in the humidor at the perfect temperature & moisture level that we're going to enjoy here. The Cohibas are particularly high on my list. I need to get a new cutter, but I'm thinking maybe I'll ask for one for Christmas since I can't think of anything else.

I'll let you all know how vacation's going. Take care & don't forget to write!


Should I Play the Lottery?

After HKD, I was headed to meet some friends over at the ID (Irish Democrat - my antithesis) & a train decided to mosey - that's the only way to describe it's incredibly lethargic pace - across the tracks with all the urgency you'd expect from organized labor. It took 17 minutes. Why yes, I had the time to count because I was stuck waiting for a stinkin' train!

For most people, that would be the end of the story. Nope, not this guy. After leaving the ID, I headed for work. Now, being the (semi)responsible individual that I am, my departure time allowed for normal traffic. My departure time, however, did not allow for fate's twisted sense of humor.

Yes, ANOTHER bleeping train on a different line managed to delay my habitually uneventful transition to place of employment by at least 15 minutes. This, of course, signifies a complete alignment of dark forces in my life; or maybe just some bad luck.

By my math* I figure the odds of two trains delaying any one person are, at very best, poor. By the same math, the odds of two trains delaying any one person to both a place of enjoyment AND a place of employment - thus providing ample opportunity for rhyming - are so exceptionally poor that I in fact have a better chance of winning the lottery.

So, what numbers should I use?

*my math = complete fabrication

Minimum Wage

So this is a big point for the democrats in Congress? To me the minimum wage is just like welfare - you shouldn't want to be there.

Adding to the pile, if you owned a company employing high school kids & you were told - other than the fact you don't control your own business - that anyone you hire MUST be paid a guaranteed minimum wouldn't you just hire less people to do the same amount of work? Am I the only person who gets this simple truth?

Of course, this isn't lost on progressives who simply blame "big business" for the evil practice of firing employees. The liberals just don't bother to mention they're forcing the business' collective hands by mandating companies follow a minimum standard for failure. What's the next step - laws against firing? Gee, viva la (French) revolucion!

The only point - if any - that should be taken from minimum wage is simply:

"Get me the hell away from this!"

Shouldn't you want better for yourself than the bare minimum everyone else makes? If not, go ahead back to reading Karl Marx & leave this conversation to the people who already understand what he's saying.

No one ever accomplished much by wanting the least for themselves. Motivation to excel is as alien to a minimum wage-earner as a socialist. The incentive for achievement simply doesn't exist & no amount of raising the bar will succeed if it keeps your head underwater.


Assistant Instructor

I just received an e-mail from my instructor Master Rion. He let me know that my 1st degree certificate for TKD is coming next week. It's taken awhile for the ITA to send it - I was certified 10/21/2005 - so it's nice to know it's on the way. Included will be a certificate in Korean, hand-brushed on rice paper. I'm thinking that's a good one to frame.

In addition to this bit of good news, Master Rion has also promoted me to Assistant Instructor in TKD. This is actually a surprise! I've been helping lead class & do some low-level instructing but I never considered this would earn me that position. I'm just glad I can help him out with the day-to-day class functions - Master Rion puts an awful lot of weight on his shoulders & I see it as the black belts' collective responsibility to do anything possible to take some of that load off.

I'm thrilled I have something I enjoy so much that gives me (IMAO) more than I actually put into it. I don't think most people are as fortunate as I have been.


Brilliant Gift (or Waaaaa!!! Part 2)

As previously mentioned, my friend, Amy, is departing for Chicago,IL this week (Thursday, I think). Since she won't be around for Christmas, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't read this blog on a regular basis (love her to death, but she's not exactly computer-savvy), I'm going to reveal the brilliant (IMAO) gift I bought her.

Sure, I should keep it a secret, but this one's just too good...

I purchased a Swarovsky silver-crystal butterfly with a gold inlay for the antennae. Oh, it's a great one for a dual Christmas/going away present! You know, the whole butterfly symbolizing a new stage of life & everything. I'm even more darn intelligent than I thought! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!

I'm sure she'll love it, as she's always liked those little collectibles you get in stores. I'm not going to mention the cost, since she could actually read this thing one of these years.

OK, enough patting myself on the back. Later...


So, let me get this right - PETA attacks a church for using a live Nativity that DOESN'T involve live animals? Typical. They blindly go after whoever fits the bill. They admit they keep tabs on churches. Really nice of them. I think since it's SOOOOO wrong for the government to wire-tap terrorists to get information, it should be wrong for PETA to track churches. Aren't they spying on innocent churches? Is this a rush to churches? ;-)

Even better, they cite various "tragedies" to justify their cause. Let's break this down, shall we?

1) Stolen & Slaughtered: OK, I guess this may occur in 1 out of every 500,000 Nativities out there. Seriously, how are you going to pack up Humpty the Camel & not have anyone notice you're serving dromedary at Christmas dinner?

2) Escaped. Struck by car: OK, so the animals get scared & run off into the woods/streets/etc. In the possibly more frequent occurrence than #1, how can PETA make this argument? Animal rights whackos freed minks (ELF, I think) from a slaughterhouse just to have them run into traffic & get killed. The rest, all too used to being fed on a schedule, probably couldn't make it on their own. Ironic of animal rights activists to trade one quick death for another. Smooth argument...

3) Raped: How often does this happen to Bo-bo the sheep? Australian jokes aside, I don't think the frequency of this is that high. Why? Because you'd see something this bizarre plastered all over the evening news. I'm not claiming it doesn't happen, just that it must be exceedingly rare. The biggest violation in this case is probably against the truth of the matter.

4) Beaten: Yeah, I could see this one happening. However, "beating" is probably taken (surprise!) liberally by activists. I'm sure there are reported cases where the animals are harassed by kids, teens & such. We're talking teasing, egging, pulling tails, etc. Not nice to be sure but it's about like high school for most people. Are we going to cancel schooling, too? I doubt there are many extreme cases of animals beaten to death. Yes, the perpetrators should be punished for such things.

Overall, the argument made by PETA is that some people can be sick, heartless bastards so we shouldn't have live Nativities. Now, just because someone might show up at a public event with a weapon doesn't mean public events should be banned. In other words - just because someone, possibly, may do something against the law is no reason to punish the group organizing an event.


Casino Royale

Where to start? Actually, it doesn't matter. This movie is one of the best Bond films ever produced. This simply isn't an issue to be debated. Not only are the origins for the world's most famous super-spy revealed in stunning, creative fashion, we also see a character who develops into the modern James Bond by the time credits roll.

The basic story is that Bond, newly minted as 007, is trying to defeat Le Chiffre in a high stakes poker game (Baccarat in the novel - if you care to know). The potential prize is $150,000,000 with a $10M buy in. Not only does the director make this an exciting play from start to finish, Daniel Craig takes the Bond role made famous by Sean Connery & runs with it.

There's no doubt in my mind Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery. To be honest, none of the others really came all that close. Brosnan wasn't bad, Moore was good though too much on the humor & don't get me started on Dalton. Craig fits the character like he was born to play the spy. He's a myriad of contradictions: Tough, yet human; Well-groomed, yet gets right in the muck; Intelligent, but with an undeniable brutality.

This isn't the humor-filled, one-liner Bond of Brosnan & Moore. If that's what you want, look elsewhere. Craig is unapologetic, unforgiving & undeterred in his methods. The means by which he puts a target down (who stood to get refuge at an embassy) after a long chase demonstrates that this Bond is not a man with whom to trifle.

He is human, let there be no doubt about that. In many ways none of his derring dos are over-the-top & definitely none are physically impossible. Here's a character relying on willpower & skill alone. Actually, this Bond exemplifies my personal credo: "Aut viam inveniam, aut faciam" - If I can't find a way, I will make one.

I wouldn't dare spoil the plot execution of a true classic adaptation. Go see this move. NOW! I guarantee you won't be disappointed in any way. As a matter of fact, I'll bet after the last 3 words in the movie, you're begging for a repeat screening of this excellent movie.


My dear friend, Amy, is wrapping up her time in Iowa. She; her husband, Greg; and daughter Jessica are moving to Chicago next Thursday. Her last day at work (we're at the same company) will be Monday 11/27. :-(

Amy & I have been friends for about 5 years. She's one of the few people I trust & one of the even fewer with whom I don't put up any walls. She's the person who tells you how it is, still knows how to be tactful & is never afraid to ask for help when she needs it (which is incredibly infrequent). Additionally, she's also an incredibly beautiful, socially graceful woman. ;-)

She's done a lot to help me grow in these 5 years we've known each other. It's going to be tough managing with her gone & I'll have to figure out how. Not one person in my adult life has been such a positive example on how to live. She's helped me focus on personal accountability, direction & even loosening up a bit - you know, no point in taking life too seriously.

Still, I'm thrilled for this exciting opportunity that's come her family's way. Greg is a stand-up guy to say the very least. He recently accepted a promotion - hence the move to Chi-town - & I think it's a good move for them. Jessica will have to make new friends, but seeing as she's 10, I can't think this will be a problem for her. Socially, she's a lot like her Mom (Heaven help us all!).

Yeah, Amy can be a pain in my butt...BUT that's only because she's what I'd consider a true friend whose looking out for me. Nothing can beat that.

In closing I'd just like to say "thanks", Amy, for your part in helping me become the wonderful, intelligent, spectacular and, yes, humble person all you know & love. ;-) Congratulations to you & your family. You'll always be my closest of friends & there'll never be a moment where you're not missed by your other family here in Iowa.


I picked up one of those new Nintendo Wii's this week. Talk about an innovative system! The Wii Sports 5-in-1 game alone is worth it. Golf, Tennis, Baseball, Boxing, Bowling. I personally like golf & tennis the best. Very entertaining to see your actions duplicated exactly on the screen.

Then there's Red Steel - a launch title that's been much-hyped since the system release was announced. I can tell you this game walks the walk every step of the way. Not only are the controls intuitive, clean & responsive - the game has...unique features for AI. For example, not all, but most enemies will know when you have to reload. They'll tell their buddies, too. Nothing quite rattles you so much as facing down 3 or 4 guys with uzis & they rush you after firing your last shotgun blast. You can't take too many hits before you go down, either. Fortunately, health recovers automatically after a few seconds (This is great just because health items are an anathema to action in FPS games).

The mood of the game changes rapidly from calm to frantic when enemies appear onscreen. Not every one is an action hero & a small percent are just fodder. Most, however, are extremely coordinated with the others & do their best to flush you out of cover.

Duels are a major event in each level. You'll be confronted - often multiple times in a level - by various mid-level baddies intent on serving you up with tempura for dinner. The sword combat is smooth, allows for blocks, parries, dodges & counters. You can even cause damage to your opponent's weapon if your timing is good. Defeating an opponent gives you the option to kill or show mercy. Showing mercy gains respect...

The respect you have affects how your enemies respond to you. If it's high enough, then many low-level thugs will just cut & run (sort of like liberals, but better armed). This not only saves ammo, it also affords you more time in those timed parts of missions (those are rare).

Also, I have Need For Speed: Carbon. I'll get into that on a later post.

If you've been thinking about a Wii & aren't quite sure if it's worth the $$$, wonder no more - this system is easily worth the $250 price tag. Not only can you play it out of the box, but many companies are stepping up to use this new idea in gaming in just as creative ways.


Key to Success

Success in life is dependent on one's HONOR & SAGACITY. These are easily defined as:

Honor - That when you give your word, you stick to it. No matter what.

Sagacity - Never giving it. ;-)



Wow, it's almost the holiday season?!? The year's really flown by. Of course, when you work in transportation like I do, holidays just aren't as fun. For example - I work Thanksgiving AND Christmas this year. Yeah, I get paid for it & all but all things being equal, I'd rather not work.

Adding to it, we only have class Monday & Tuesday this week. This means I work Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday (pretty much the usual schedule) with only 2 days to vent some steam. Oh well, them's the breaks...


College Degree

This is a subject I've been dodging - at least subconsciously - for a few years. I have 90+ semester hours from University of Iowa, plus 24 or so from my time in the Navy. It's come time that I put the effort in & finish this thing. I'm not one for making excuses, but that's exactly how I sound when I have a reason for "not right now" on finishing a 4-year degree.

My question is whether to go straight into finishing the 4-year degree or get an Associates degree at a local school & finish the 4 from there? Do you lose any credits in that process? What makes more sense? The number of credits I have is well over what's needed for an Associates. The Bachelors will (hopefully) include my 90 credits, plus a few of the 24 from the Navy. Iowa, in their magnanimous, liberal elitism accepted 4 (four) credits from my military service. To call them jerks is an understatement.

Let me know what you think based on your own experiences.


Bond, James Bond (Part 2)

MWAHAHAHAHA!!! I just got the notice in the mail yesterday that they have my 1st 2 collections of James Bond DVDs! hee hee I'm so excited. I can't wait until the 3rd & 4th collections come out. Dr. No isn't in the 1st 2 sets (how lame is that?). I'm no smoker, but that opening scene with Connery smoking a cigarette at the (baccarat?) table probably sold a lot of them when that movie premiered. Still, there are some darn good ones in the 1st collections. My personal favorite, The Man With the Golden Gun, is the 1st DVD of the 1st collection.

I'll be there when the post office opens at 0900 to grab 'em! Woo Hoo!

Mark Twain

No, "but HapKiDo, his name was Samuel Clemens", crap! It's called a pseudonym & I'm using it! This is probably one of my favorite quotes of all time:

"It is by the grace of God in our country that we have those three unspeakably precious things: Freedom of speech; Freedom of conscience; and the Prudence to never practice either of them". - Mark Twain


I'm not sure what happened to me this week. Monday was good & I was at class as planned. For some reason, I just didn't have it in me to make it to either class on Tuesday/Wednesday. I suppose the fact I've cut calories - to about 1500/day - to drop some weight (I'm trying to make Iowa Games next year as a middleweight in TKD) may have something to do with that. I'll just have to pop some B-vitamins & keep the energy going.

Also, I need to get cracking on the cardio & some very minor weights (low weight, high repetition) to get my stamina/strength where it needs to be. The flexibility is coming along. So long as I manage to keep it going, I'll be in prime condition with that by next spring. I'm just going to have to bite the bullet, join a gym with cardio equipment & get on it.

To fight comfortably at middleweight, I figure 165 lbs is where I need to be. Presently, I'm right around 175. Now, 10 lbs may not seem like much, but it does mean probably losing 20 lbs of fatty stuff & adding 10 lbs of rock-solid, studly muscle. The trick, really, is to add strength instead of mass. According to GM Wallace, the best way to do that is low weight/high repetition. Looks like it's push-ups, crunches, etc for me! YAY!

After all that, there's still the issue of footwork. Fortunately (or maybe not...), I have the same limitation as GM Wallace - my right leg isn't exactly 100%. For reasons unknown, that knee can act up at the darndest times. The style he utilizes involves keeping his left leg (strong side) forward for speed to set up combinations. While he's demonstrated this style works for him (23-0, title defenses), I am not imbued with similar properties of dexterity & agility.

As you aren't allowed to backfist to the head in WTF (World Taekwondo Federation, dirty-minded readers!) sparring like is permitted in Kickboxing, there's a major concern on the power front. A front-leg kick simply won't deliver the power of a rear-leg kick. That's physics 101 stuff - the hip doesn't rotate when you kick from the lead foot. That effectively eliminates all your body mass from the energy equation. In exchange for speed, you sacrifice a great deal of power (ah, Eum & Yang rear their conflicting, ugly heads!).

Yeah, there's a bit on my mind about this whole affair. At this point, the focus must be on dropping the body fat. I can work on the rest from there.


Getting Antsy About This Test

I've got everything together for my upcoming test. Really, the things I have to shore up are forms (all 14 of them), one-step sparring (25) & self-defense. Being as strong with forms as I am, I can't imagine there will be trouble there. Ditto with self-defense. One steps will take care of themselves.

The nagging question on my mind is: What's my essay topic? The subject for 1st degree was What Black Belt Means to Me. I think I did a fairly good job. That paper helped me realize more of what my goals were than I had ever truly considered before. I'd say the writing (grammar, spelling, etc) was excellent & I offered not only a well-thought, also an original view on black belt.

Now, that's not to say the "average" black belt - average being a poor word because I don't think an average (read: mediocre) person can earn, really earn, a black belt - thinks it's about being a butt-kicking, one-person, wrecking crew. It's just that my opinion of black belt (cultivated over time & help from excellent friends) is that you've learned the basics & can now get to the process of really learning the art. More importantly, you have a responsibility that eclipses your authority & influence.

Unfortunately, I do think some people can get caught up with the Hollywood image of a black belt & think that strip of cloth grants them some mystical power. Hey, it's a big accomplishment. I'll concede that to anyone. *However*, it is also just a belt. The real meaning to black belt, for me, is earning it every single day you wear it. That has been the biggest challenge to me since making 1st degree. Some days I feel I've failed. Most I think I succeed. As long as I keep that in mind, I don't think I'll ever lose the right to wear one of the Dans.

So, as most of you can tell, I'm a little eager to keep the process rolling on test. I know it's 5 or 6 months away. That may seem like a lot of time, but that's all I have to write a full essay, choreograph a pattern with attackers, make sure my forms are up to par, prepare for sparring (dropping a little weight & improving endurance), get ready for breaking (2 bricks this time) & make sure my terminology is all set.


Christmas Music Already?

104.5, KDAT, here in town started playing Christmas music on November 1st. Hey, I'm all about being in the Christmas spirit...WHEN it's time for Christmas. For me, that's after Thanksgiving.

From November 1st to December 25th we get that self-righteous blowhard Delilah to tell us how flipping wonderful everything is *and* she shoves that down our gullet with a Jingle Bells dessert. Again, life IS good, but experience it, folks. Having some over-the-top radio personality who specializes in getting hyper-sensitive goofs to air their dirty laundry to the world tell you that doesn't do a thing for anyone.

Fortunately, the intelligent (& some holiday-jaded) have prevailed. We've had that silly radio station turned to one with some sense as to what people want to hear. The problem I really have with playing Christmas music so early is that people get sick of it. Christmas is something to be enjoyed in it's season. Starting it up earlier & earlier every year would be like going to the beach in February to kick off summer - you have a snowball's chance in Hades of really enjoying yourself.


Have you ever just slept so well that you woke up at the perfect time & were ready to go? :-) Now, WHY is it that only ever happens when you have to go to work?!?!? :-(


Veterans' Day

Unfortunately, those with courage to guarantee our rights & fight every day so we can enjoy the vast liberty afforded us are taken for granted.

With that in mind, I find this quote particularly appropriate in the face of so many willing to demonize either the military or the chain-of-command. Folks, freedom is not free. It's been fought & paid for more times than any agitator dared picket & protest on a college campus. I truly believe peace can only be obtained through strength & the willingness to demonstrate it. Pacifists want peace at any cost - even liberty.

I'd like to thank every soldier, sailor, Marine & airman who is or has ever served this great nation. Ladies & gentleman, without your daily sacrifice none of us would be able to breathe the freedom we so sweetly are afforded. Thank you all for your noble generosity & know that you are appreciated by this former sailor.

"We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we will always be free".
Ronald Reagan

How To Succeed At A Musical...

Last night, I went to my little sis', Sarah, musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. As usual, the kids at Alburnett High School did an excellent job. Merrick, playing the lead of Mr. Finch just takes any role & runs with it. His facial expressions are priceless. I have to say I've enjoyed all the musicals they put on twice a year.

Sarah plays Miss Jones, the big boss' secretary. For her interpretation of the role, she adopted a heavy German accent, a mean snarling sneer on her face & a loud stomp when she walked. OK, I *realize* that's not the character as it was written. However, we're talking about a 5'2", 100lb high school girl here. The fact she pulled intimidating off was pretty impressive to me. I would have hated it if her character got in my face. Somehow, someone who's small & overly assertive is more intimidating than a bigger person.

The play ran about 3 hours, with a 20-minute intermission. I thought it flew by. Among the highlights were Hedy LaRue (Dana Kuehl). She got the ditzy part of the character & had fun with it. She was so dolled up that I didn't recognize her at all. Sam Baier played the big boss, J.B. Biggley. Nice, understated success for him in that role. Understated may be a bit off considering his booming voice but he did manage to almost steal the show with his less-than-obvious humor (in addition to being a world-class knitter). Smitty (Mackenzie Reed) really showed a lot of energy for the part. Probably pound for pound for pound the best actor on the stage. She doted as an excellent foil between Finch (Merrick Robinson) & Rosemary Pilkington (Cassidy LeClaire). The young lady portraying Rosemary put a ton of emotion into the role & took an initially conniving character into a more innocent person by end of the second act. I actually liked that quite a bit. Honestly, as most characters develop they tend towards disillusionment or corruption.

Great job to the entire cast. Congratulations to all of them for a great show!

Sarah e-mailed me the cast list. Here's the acknowledgements:

J. Pierrepont Finch.......Merrick Robinson
Cassidy LeClaire..........Rosemary Pilkington
Mackenzie Reed...........Smitty
Kyle Loux.......................Bud Frump
Dana Kuehl....................Hedy LaRue

Sam Baier.....................J.B. Biggley

Kyle Francios................Wally Womper/Janitor
Sarah George...............Miss Jones
Billy Meiners..................Mr. Bratt

Dugan Knoll...................Mr. Twimble

Caleb Carver.................Mr. Gatch


Bond, James Bond

Nah, I didn't have some magical super-spy moment. I DID just order the 1st two 007 DVD collections from Amazon! Man, I'm really excited about these. Every time they run the James Bond marathon on Spike, or AMC, or...well, you get the point - I really like the 007 movies.

Now, my personal favorite is Man With The Golden Gun, even though I think Connery is a far better Bond than Moore. I just think it's an excellent plot & the fun keeps rolling the whole movie. Pretty much every Bond with Connery is great (We're *not* going to mention Never Say Never Again, uh, again. Got it?). From Russia, With Love just blows me away. Connery just pulls this one off brilliantly.

As far as the "order" of Bond actors, from best to worst, many people disagree on this one. My personal list is:

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Pierce Brosnan
  3. Roger Moore
  4. Timothy Dalton
  5. George Lazenby

Really, I think it could go either way for the Dalton/Lazenby debate. Dalton was too stiff & "angry" of a Bond for my tastes. Lazenby was just unimpressive to me. The one movie he did hardly gives him a chance to refute this opinion. I don't mind the serious part of the character at all, but Bond shouldn't seem like he can't bend at the waist, either.

The jury's out on Daniel Craig, though based on early information on the movie it does look like his portrayal of Bond could put him ahead of Brosnan. It would take a world class performance to put him even equal Connery. Sean Connery defined the role so well that Ian Fleming even changed Bond's heritage to part Scottish.

I'm really anticipating Casino Royale, out 11/17. Not only do we get to see the pre-007 Bond, we get to see how the character is molded into the Bond we've come to know so well through books & movies.

Winston Churchill

I think this one's particularly excellent for former president Carter, the Dixie Chicks & their ilk...

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home". - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)


Election Hangover

Well, not really. I expected that after a lackluster (at best) performance by republicans in both houses of Congress. It's a shame the gubernatorials went so poorly & it does raise concerns on my part about higher taxes for both federal & state. Where did the republicans go wrong?

They didn't run on traditional (not necessarily conservative) values as was the focus in 2004 AND they didn't deliver on the campaign promises of 2004. The voters, as they should, held them to account. Unfortunately, the fact the House & Senate are so close to 1:1 margins means very little will happen in the next 2 years, effectively making the president a lame duck with the exception of veto power. This means, 1) the president will get nothing passed & 2) Congress will get nothing passed if the president doesn't want it. Essentially, my worry is we as Americans will get exactly nothing in the next 2 years.

The biggest loss in all of this (no, not Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation) is that John Bolton will likely not get approval as ambassador to the UN. This is simply the worst part of this election. Sure, democrats may have moved into control both houses of Congress but traditional values did win big in referendum (AZ passed English as the state's official language, 4 states passed gay marriage bans). Losing the one ambassador who stands for America in the UN instead of pandering to the ineffectual world body is plain horrible.

So, for at least the next 2 years, I'll be hoping we don't see an increase in taxes or a faltering in support for the War on Terror. I don't count on the former but I absolutely pray we don't see the latter. Relativists & Progressives (normally the same people) seem to believe we're as much to blame - if not more so - for terrorist attacks as the terrorists. If someone thinks it's wrong to have the strongest & probably most benevolent nation God ever gave man, then it shows how out-of-whack their moral compass truly is.

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill

TKD: Ge-Baek

Ge-Baek is my 3rd & final form before I can test for 2nd degree. I finally put this one together yesterday & it's definitely complicated compared to the rest of my forms. I think that's what makes me enjoy it so much. I think (except with Choong-Gun) I've always liked the highest form I've ever learned in a belt level.

This one is sort of the "opposite" of the previous 1st degree form, Po-Eun. Po-Eun runs from East to West & Ge-Baek runs North to South. Also, they oppose each other in that Po-Eun is pretty simple (being that the 1st & 2nd halves are mirrors) while Ge-Baek is very complicated & not symmetrical in any way. I'm sure the fact it's such a challenge is why I worked so hard at learning it.

Ge-Baek needs some work for me to make it flow perfectly, but I'm pretty happy that it's come together so well in a relatively short time. I have about 5 months (maybe 6) to test for 2nd, so there's not as much time as I'd necessarily like. Forms have always been my strong point, so they'll do well enough. I'm more concerned about endurance, flexibility (working on that) & sparring.

Let's face it, sparring is & probably always will be my weak point. I enjoy it, I really do. I just don't see the value in it other than a game. Reaction time aside, it's done little to make me better as a martial artist. I think the forms & philosophy of TKD have done more to teach me patience & instill confidence than any amount of sparring ever will. I'd rather spar than not but it doesn't come across to me as something very vital.

Self-defense is another strong point for me in testing. Up to & including the "circle of death", as we jokingly call it. Hosinsul (self-defense, in Korean) is the place where I find the most creative energy & refine my control. The added benefit is becoming tolerant to common confrontations (like someone trying to intimidate) & more serious things like chokes.

Back the subject, I'd say Ge-Baek is the most fun I've had with a pattern since Koryo - another form that presented it's own challenges. Something about learning something entirely new motivates me more than anything else. It gives me the ability to feel completely alive in those times when I'm going through the "same old, same old".

This one's 44 movements of pure enjoyment for me (Martial arts, folks. Get your minds out of the gutter!). I can't wait to get this one up to par like most of my other ones & see how well-refined I can make it!



It was an incredible seminar! I spent the 1st half of day one with GM Pellegrini & the remainder of the two day event with GM Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. I'm always impressed with GM P & this time was no exception. The experience with GM Wallace was something new to me. I didn't know if his part was going to be more of the same kicking drills or something new. Let's just sum it up this way...

I learned the most with GM Wallace. He worked us through sparring & boxing drills after extended periods of warm-ups & stretches. If nothing else, the stretching exercises were worth the cost of the seminar. Everything is based off simple fundamentals. The man has a Masters in Human Kinesology, so it's hard to question his knowledge of human mechanics. I just can't figure out that diet plan for the life of me.

There are 3 T's involved in stretching. They are...WAIT!!! If you want 'em, try one of his seminars & learn that way! :-) Seriously, I'm no pro at this stuff & I don't want to give anyone bad info. I will say that I've never been able to open stretch as far or as efficiently as I have since this seminar. If you want more info on GM Wallace, you can check out his site. It includes info on DVDs for stretching, kicking & books on the same. Hey, it's a shameless plug, but worth the look!

GM Wallace is 61 years-old & a helluva lot faster than I'll ever be. Most of us are 1/2 his age or less & he just blew us away with a combination of speed & technique. His efficiency of movement & complete mastery of his preferred moves is jaw-dropping. Maybe it's experience, but I'd like to think it's a combination of that with practical knowledge of how the human body works & adapts. More impressive than any kick was his ability to explain the motion of your body in an enthralling way. At no point could you lose interest in his topics.

The most impressive aspect of the man is how cordial he was. There's definitely a dash of humility there, but I think the best part of him is how he relates to the "average" person - he talks to you exactly as an equal - not like he's a record-holding GM in kickboxing. You could ask a question & the reply would be direct, witty & have just a touch of humor. You also can't help being impressed with someone who just loves every part of what he does. OK, back to the seminar.

We worked on front leg roundhouse kick (closed stance), front leg side kick (open stance) & backfist. I'm no slouch at any of these, though after this time well spent in Omaha, I know where I can find better ways to perform. Backfist was probably the easiest of the three since we were instructed to do it just the way I practice - that is, snapping it out to the target & right back in. Sure, I'm no "Superfoot" but I'm not 1/2 bad, either.

Roundhouse kick is where I was most surprised. I really thought I was decent with it & I suppose I am "decent" but not that fast. A lot of work to be done there. Keeping your center of gravity in the same place (not stepping forward), snapping the kick up in the shortest distance possible, not telegraphing the thing like you're delivering for Western Union, etc...

As for accommodations our friend, Trent, whose from our HKD group & recently relocated to North Dakota, invited us to stay at his house. Really nice place. If you're in the market for a house under $180,000 in the Omaha area, let me know. I'll be happy to send him an e-mail. ;-) It's a great place & has 3 bedrooms with a finished basement & a hot tub. Great neighborhood, too. All in all, the sleeping arrangements were great...with the exception of "Darth" Kitson that 1st night. ha ha

We had breakfast the 1st morning at a little "Ma & Pa" diner. Excellent food & the service was great. Overall, I think the food was spectacular in Omaha. This restaurant we went to (Can't recall the name) had a truly succulent prime rib. I never cared for it before that experience. You could eat a steak at this place every day & not get tired of it...fat, but definitely not tired.

After wrapping up the 2nd day (GM Wallace had to leave at 3pm instead of the planned 4pm) we packed up our stuff (man, my car holds a LOT of crap!) & headed out, "deciding" - OK, guided by man instinct - to stop at the new Bass Pro Shops in Council Bluffs. MAN! That place is h-u-g-e! Really loved it through the whole place. They designed it to make outdoors-type folks comfortable, I guess. It just makes you want to grab a tent & hang out for the night.

Unfortunately, the camping trip was precluded by the others needing to be home for work Monday. We reeled it in & made a quick stop in Des Moines for food, fuel & a stretch before getting to "the beach" as Bill Reif would say. Got the guys to Master Rion's about 1130pm & we all made it home safe.

All in all, an excellent "mancation" that needs to be repeated.


Seminar Time!

About 12 hours until we all leave for Omaha,NE & the seminar! Woo Hoo! I'm really thrilled about this one. Not only has it been 6 months (or so) since the last seminar (Denver,CO - what a BLAST!) but I'm also going to try out the kicking seminar with Bill "Superfoot" Wallace.

Before you ask, he's called that because of his left leg kicking speed. Over 60 mph. If you don't think that's impressive...well, tough! It's actually incredibly fast. Most people would do well to break 40 mph. As for me, I can't imagine I'm much better than 45 mph.

Back to the main point...The other half of the seminar is my favorite. Of course, I'm talking about Hapkido. There's always something new to take away from each seminar. Yes, some of the concepts are advanced. That's why I have all the advanced guys, including my instructor, there to translate. Strangely enough, even though they're the advanced guys they have me do most of the advanced falls. Probably shouldn't read anything into that, right? ;-)

We're going for two days this time (last year was one day) & martial arts shoes are required so we don't dirty up the floor - or whatever. I'm thinking 1st day will be straight HKD. 2nd day will be 1/2 HKD & 1/2 kicking. Still, that's 3 hours of kicking! I normally sweat buckets during a regular 1-hour class (trust me, everyone at the school could tell you humorous anecdotes on this) & I'm scared to think about how much water we're talking for a 3-hour kickfest.

I'll let you guys know how things turn out when I get back. Hopefully, without bad stories like that time I had a little too much to drink in Chicago....


Montecristo Afrique

Montecristo Afrique Jambo Jambo
Cost: $16.50 (Case of 3)
Gauge: 50
Length: 6"
Purchased: From JR Cigars

This is a full-bodied cigar if there ever was one. African/Nigerian tobacco (made in Dominican Republic). EXCELLENT is the best way to describe this unbelievably smooth smoke. There is no bitterness, no aftertaste & the draw seems to be smoother as you get further into the cigar. "Creamy" was the description offered by Montecristo & I'm obligated to agree based on my experience.

I'm planning to order a box of 10 (I only have room in the humidor for 50 cigars). If you like a full-bodied cigar, this one - at the very least - is worth trying the 3-pack. Harvey, this is probably right up your alley. Almost as fun to say "Jambo Jambo" as it is to savor this one.

Overall, I'd say 4 out of 5. It's not customary for me to go for a rich, full cigar like this but you couldn't be disappointed. If all African tobacco is like this, I'm surprised you don't see more products over here. The nice (though plastic) case included with the cigars is pretty handy. You can't beat this cigar for the money.


Looks Like Choog-Gun Is The Way To Go.

I've been going over my forms more & more lately. I think I'm settling on Choong-Gun (4th Grade) for my demonstration form. Not an advanced form and it has a great deal of "hidden moves" there.

There's one particular section which has some potential for dealing with grapples. I'll look into it more, but I'm feeling awfully comfortable with this pattern. It has just the right mix of flow, technique & opportunity I'll need for this test.

I decided against Hwa-Rang (2nd Grade) because there's just not much there for interpretation. Yeah, yeah, it's "safe" but where's the fun in that? Really, everything was in the 1st half of the form & the rest was just move, move, move...the TKD equivalent of yada, yada, yada. ;-)

Choong-Moo (1st grade) presented an enigma. Plenty to interpret, but all of it came to a dead-end. I'd basically have to take the form & turn it into a mini-HKD demonstration. That would be sad.

Koryo (1st Degree, WTF) is still possible. It's a nicely flowing pattern with a decent amount of chances for interpretation. The only thing against it is most of the form is "cut & dry" - you can't interpret without coming out of left field. As we all know "left" = "bad". By the way, for the dirty-minded, WTF stands for World Taekwondo Federation, not what you were thinking...

Now we come to Kwang-Gae (1st Degree, ITF). It's a nicely flowing form & with 39 movements, it requires a great deal of effort to consider each motion. I'll look more into this one, but I think it becomes very straightforward from the start.

I Respectfully Disagree

Michelle Malkin has a post regarding the media being censored in Iraq. The argument made by both her & Michael Yon (in a linked article) is that the government has no right to restrict embedded media & that the media should provide oversight on military actions. I have to respectfully disagree that the media - independent or otherwise - is the best vehicle to provide said oversight.

Before making my argument here, the post by Michelle Malkin & the article by Michael Yon are well worth a read. I understand (I think!) where they're coming from and, if not for the majority of media who operate under the guise of agenda-free reporting, I concede they are correct in asserting responsible reporters deserve the opportunity to report with the troops in Iraq & Afghanistan. Below is just my opinion on the issue.

Insisting on completely open reporting implies we as American citizens have every right to access to military movements & operations. The media has demonstrated (e.g. - Geraldo Rivera embedded with the 4th Infantry Division) they cannot always maintain operational security. This places American soldiers & yes, the reporters, in danger. Whether the embedded reporters can look out for themselves or not isn't the issue - Our men & women out there have enough running through their minds without worry about a civilian's safety AND how that civilian is going to portray them in a report.

A case in point - CNN ran a video, provided by terrorists (the whitewash called them "insurgents", but they're terrorists), showing an American soldier killed by a terrorist sniper. It's another example of a network that has constantly been all over "complete disclosure" by the military - like in the first Gulf War when they had cameras on the beach watching SeALs landing. If anyone can demonstrate why it's necessary for us to have that particular information, please let me know.

In Michael Yon's article in the Weekly Standard he asserts,
I believe now as I did then: The government of the United States has no right to send our people off to war and keep secret that which it has no plausible military reason to keep secret.
OK, I have to disagree here. Just because the military doesn't need to keep something as classified information does not mean it needs to be broadcasted all over the world, particularly by an embedded reporter who potentially has an agenda. I don't believe having media embedded with the troops does us any good. Vietnam demonstrated the effect on morale of both Americans at home & fighting abroad AND how it was eroded by way of witnessing part of the war through television.

The media - mostly geared towards the concept that bad news sells (& it does) - sure doesn't show our troops rescuing children or even fighting the good fight. Largely, we see portrayals like Abu Graib posted everywhere.

Such poor portrayals are a disrespect to our men & women who serve all over the world.


Any Lawmakers Want to Plug That Hole?

In our southern border, that is. I've linked to a story by Fox News discussing a report titled, "A Line in the Sand". It's simply ridiculous that the U.S. government hasn't done anything effective to secure us. This goes for all political affiliations.

The border issue is often called a "political football". I suggest this isn't correct. Football is fun, entertaining to watch & normally has an outcome about 50% of the observers appreciate. No, securing the border is more like a "political hot potato" or even a grenade - no politician wants to be labeled racist by the far-left media. Sorry to say, but I can't respect a politician who buys into border security as an issue centered on racism.

Racism has NOTHING to do with the reason we need a secure border. Take a second to go back & read that if you aren't quite taking it in....
Understand? Good. The ONLY reason any far-left think tank can provide (& I'm darn sure they won't volunteer this information) for wanting an open border is votes. Period. You can talk about how we have so much room in this country, resources, blah, blah, blah; but Republicans won't secure the border because they're afraid, yes afraid, of being called racist & will lose Latin American votes. Meanwhile, Democrats won't secure the border because the vast majority of Latin American immigrants (legal & illegal) will vote on the left side of the aisle. What we get is a political load of crap from both parties & a porous sieve of a "barrier" for all their efforts. Yes, illegal aliens make it across...& so do terrorists.

Of course the other accusation thrown out, particularly for the Minutemen, is the vigilante argument. Accusing someone who wants to secure the border of criminal activity is like wanting to fire a police officer for busting a drug dealer - all the person is doing is upholding the law. If the leftist whackos who are attacking the Minutemen were honest, they'd realize that allowing illegals to run freely across the border is insane. Then again, maybe they do understand this & simply don't care. The "reasoning" isn't the issue, it's that the law is being broken BY ILLEGAL ALIENS!!!

2nd Degree Test (Part 2)

I talked to Master Rion (my instructor) today about the form-with-attackers part of my upcoming test. He said part of the expectation is that I'll provide my own interpretation for each technique in the chosen pattern.

Now, this is definitely a good thing. I was wondering how interesting this assignment could be with a verbatim "recitation" of the TKD encyclopedia (yes, there's one of those out there). I've never been a fan of plagiarism & my guess is that'd qualify.

Of course, balance being what it is, there's a tougher side to this as well: I have to decide what each movement "means" & what the attacker is attempting as well. This is *NOT* going to be easy. It's a lot like tangled Christmas lights - you generally know the location of beginning & end, but in the middle is a confusing, jumbled mess. Particularly difficult is that I'm not allowed to "change" the form (by adding/subtracting moves, changing the movement to suit me, etc.).

I'm going to pull a great deal of HKD into this particular part of the test. Honestly, it would be impossible for me to avoid that & honestly present my interpretation of a form. No, the pattern won't be all grappling, throws & joint-locks. It will include these by necessity though.

Oh, I just realized there will probably be an essay for my test as well. Pretty standard, but I don't know the subject yet. Add that to the previous list & I have A LOT to accomplish in only six months. Wish me luck! :-)



We've got ourselves an engagement to announce! No, not me...I plan (& am succeeding) to dodge that bullet as long as I can. Heck, I don't even date anymore.

My adopted little sis, Liz, just accepted her boyfriend's, Mickey, proposal. She's a great kid, has a lot to offer & Mickey seems like he's up to the task of treating her well. Liz knows the consequences for anyone who doesn't show her the appreciation she deserves. :-)

Anyway, here's a photo of the happy couple. No date has been set yet, but I'm sure it'll be after she's well into or completed with grad school. Congratulations again, sis!

2nd Degree Test

Well, it's hard to believe I've been a 1st degree black belt (TKD) for a year now. My instructor came up to me in class & said it's time to start preparing - meaning test will be in about 6 months or so. For those of you "outside the loop", allow me to put you inside the noose of test time...

  1. I'm going to have to do all my forms. This means a minimum of 13 patterns.
  2. One of those forms will be demonstrated with "attackers".
  3. No, they won't actually be trying to kill me...thanks for asking!
  4. I have 25 one-step sparring techniques. All defense against punches.
  5. Basic movements - which are deceptively advanced when you're told what to do.
  6. Terminology/Oral Essay. Incredibly tough since it covers about 4 years of information.
  7. Finally - The "Circle of Death". This is where you're surrounded by four black belts who really do try to take you down & make you submit. You're continuously attacked from all sides,
  8. Yes, they probably will be trying to kill me. ;-)

I took some time yesterday & narrowed the demonstration form down to 5 possibilities - Choong Gun, Hwa Rang, Choong Moo, Koryo & Kwang Gae.

All of these are good possibilities for different reasons. I'm leaning most towards Hwa Rang, Koryo & Kwang Gae because these forms present a challenge & would flow very well when demonstrated with opponents. Hwa Rang involves power, Koryo requires technique & flow, Kwang Gae requires all three.

Self-Defense, or the "Circle of Death" is my strongest point. I just have to save my strength for this as sparring & forms can take quite a bit out of you. Since I'm also in HKD, as are most of the black belts who will attack me, I'm able to call on all those techniques.

I'll update things as we get closer to test time. I'm planning on a real bruiser this time because I'll be testing for recommended black in HKD about the same time.


Going Nuclear

So North Korea supposedly has the bomb. Here we have (another) excellent example of why you can't spend all your efforts negotiating with despots & terrorists. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with trying to engage in diplomacy to prevent war but after the "other party" - in this case Kim Jong Il - demonstrates they're not to be trusted, it's time to take action.

The Clinton administration, using former president Jimmy Carter - the renowned pacifist who made us look weak & ineffectual throughout the world as Commander-in-Chief - as an ambassador, gave them funds, food & nuclear technology (for energy use) in exchange for promising not to develop a nuclear weapon. The North Koreans did not keep their word.

The Bush administration sat down (multilaterally, for all you people who say the president "goes it alone") to give the North Koreans another chance at negotiations. Again, their dictator went back on the agreement.

Heck, I'm arguing that the government of Kim Jong Il felt it had nothing to fear from the world in developing a nuclear device. They could easily be emboldened by the example of Iran, who has thumbed it's nose at the world body continuously. Gee, I wonder where that came from, former president Carter?

The mentality of the western world is more selfish than ever. Let's face it, the Europeans have little to do with anything that doesn't benefit the individual - they're simply not interested in confronting evil. Even some in America seem to purchase this secular-progressive agenda like the latest fad. I think it's darkly amusing those who would push such a socialist agenda are so concerned with only themselves & saving their necks - a behavior they "accuse" of us in democracy.

In fact, if democracy exists in a country, it's certainly better off than socialism, which has NEVER succeeded in the world. Have an example where it has? I'm all ears...

Don't have one? I didn't think so. :-)

People in a democracy have always demonstrated more benevolence than any socialist demonstrator (for the clueless, that's a protester) would ever muster. It simply takes more courage to defend an ideal - and with it, those less capable of defending themselves - than it does to slink in the shadows of the welfare state & rely on a government to provide for you.

This is what I particularly loathe about nations like France. No, it's not (just) for their current incarnation. It's because they proved the theory that people with unlimited freedom will exercise that freedom foolishly. The French had every opportunity to determine their own destiny when Napoleon was on the path to become emperor. The people had the choice to make & instead of choosing the responsibility - & the individual rights that accompany it - of a government for & by the people, they decided to be ruled.

Such is the way of the weak in the world - Government guides & nourishes them. It's the downfall of every nation that could know greatness. The absolute power of the government in North Korea demonstrates what horrors unlimited government can bring to the world. Preventing it can only come through resolve & willingness to face conflict.

"Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong". President Ronald Reagan


Midterm Elections

I've been seeing a lot about this in the news recently. To be honest, I never cared much for polls - they just don't convey any useful information. How can 1,000 people tell how the other 2,999,000 are thinking?

One major topic on the media's mind lately is the Democrats winning the house. I'm not for a liberal (& some of those are very secular-progressive - like Representative Pelosi) Congress. That being said, I AM for the American people getting what they deserve in government. Right now, neither party is looking out for we the people.

A lot of the problem stems from Republicans becoming more & more liberal, particularly with money. The current incarnation of the party spends almost as much as the Democrats. The reasons we have to vote Republican are 1) So Democrats won't raise our taxes & 2) National Defense - with which the Dems have a terrible record. Unfortunately, these two reasons are a justification to vote against the Democrats rather than for Republicans.

I think this is why we're seeing an apathetic attitude towards the upcoming election. Yes, I do realize midterms do carry less turnout than presidential elections. However, I also understand the performance of the "conservatives" - or rather those who ran on a conservative platform - has been largely underwhelming. That's not going to get large numbers of moderates & right-wingers to the polls.

It's foolish to vote for someone with the intention of just voting against his/her opponent. Sadly, all the Republicans in Congress have provided us is just that - vote against our opponents.

Look, I'm a registered Republican. I'm also a traditionalist & a conservative. Before all that, I am an American. What we're getting right now just isn't what the American people deserve. What we have is all manner of lifetime politicians in office because WE, as a nation, are too lazy & unwilling to hold OUR representatives accountable for their votes.

Yes, I'm an idealist when it comes to a belief that lawmakers are beholden to the people. They serve at our pleasure & spend millions coveting our votes. What more proof of our collective influence does anyone need? Do your country a favor. Go to the Senate and House websites. Do some legwork (it's really not that tough) & peruse their voting record. If you don't like what you see, please let them know.

Lastly, at the top of this site, I have a quote in Latin. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam. It means, "If I can't find a way, I will make one". It's the quintessential American attitude & our success as a nation depends on believing it.


This is the first installment of what I plan on being a regular post. My instructor gave me the go-ahead on posting self defense info. Just a heads up, "Caveat Emptor" - let the buyer beware. I'm offering practical advice; I'm not posting so people risk injury while attempting any techniques. While the items I'll discuss are very basic, some techniques can cause injury. Don't go around trying these on random people...keep it to the ones you don't like. ;-)

Self-Defense is essential in today's world. In a society which increasingly embraces relativism & a victim mentality, being able to defend yourself effectively (i.e. - just enough to escape the situation) is a priceless skill. Not only must you ensure your own survival, you must prevent "overkill". By overkill, I mean if someone pushes you & your response is to punch them repeatedly in the head...you're going too far. For most situations the response, legally, must be proportionate to the attack.

is the first aspect I consider important in self-defense. That's going to be the focus of this first installment. Keeping yourself out of that bad situation will prevent the vast majority of attacks. Walking alone through a bad neighborhood at 2AM is a bad idea. This should be obvious, even if you think you're some hero in an action flick (Trust me, you're not).

Even in a safer location (i.e. - well lit, public area) it's still possible there will be an attack. Fortunately, instinct has provided us with tools we can easily implement. Fear is not a bad reaction & it can often save you from danger. Everything from hair on the back of your neck to a bad "feeling" about a place or situation is a cue. As my instructor says, if you notice these signals, get to a safe place & go over exactly what you saw. At some point you'll recognize what was bad about that scene.

As my old XO in the Navy told me, the two best ways to stay out of trouble are to, "be somewhere when you're supposed to be there & do what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it". The first half of that adage applies greatly to self-defense. Being in the wrong place doesn't mean you were "asking for it" but will that really matter if you're attacked? Legally, you may be in the right & I guarantee you the attacker won't care. Do your best to reasonably avoid the situation & there will be no argument over moral equivalence.


Cuesto-Rey Centenario #60

Cuesto-Rey Centenario #60
Cost: $6.50
Gauge: 50
Length: 6"

Overall, a light-bodied cigar with some hints of earth. Considering it's $6.50 (Darn Iowa tax!), I expected maybe something with more quality. The start is fine & mild, but as you get further into the cigar, it becomes slightly more bitter.

At no point was this a "bad" cigar. Still, it's not something I'd recommend. The price takes it out of what I'd consider a casual smoke range & at no point are you going to enjoy this as much as a similarly-priced smoke. The Montecristo #2 is a much better buy at a similar price.

Overall, I'd say 2 out of 5. It's a mild cigar that becomes fuller as you go but with that comes a bitter end.

Pyramid Tea

Tea is my biggest non-vice. I really like it when I can find something that sits well, is easy to brew & doesn't taste like water-soaked cigarette butts. Finding a tea that is flavored without overpowering you is tougher than you'd think. Fortunately, Lipton - who doesn't have the best track record in my book - has come up with a solution: Pyramid Teas.

I really like these. Of the six flavors, I've tried Black, Red, White & Vanilla/Caramel. I'm eager to try the Green as well. I really have no interest in trying the Bavarian, but maybe just to give it a shot.

OK, the White Tea (with mango & apricot) tastes fine, but the bag deposits all this sediment in the cup & that gritty mess always finds it's way into your mouth when you finish the cup. Note to Lipton: Not a big fan of gritty stuff in my tea. I drink tons of it & I'm sure this isn't something most people want.

Vanilla/Caramel is my favorite by far. Why? Well, it tastes a bit stronger than regular tea & isn't bitter. To top it off, the tea tastes almost like you've "Irished it up". *wink* Great taste, smooth drink & tastes like you've put alcohol in it...Yep, I think we have a winner!

Red is excellent stuff, by the way. It's got strawberry in it & is milder than all of them. I'd recommend this one first if you want to give them a try.


I finally gave the Grean Tea with Tangerine a shot. Excellent stuff & it doesn't have the same gritty junk that comes with the white tea. Definitely worth a shot.


Taxes on Cigars

So I purchased a basic humidor yesterday. The guy at the cigar shop was very helpful - conditioned it, set everything up, made sure humidity was correct. Very nice cherry finish, not too costly & still looks good. Here's a couple pics...

Now, you may be thinking, "There's not many smokes in that there humidor". Which brings us to the subject of this post - Iowa is full of commies when it comes to taxes!

There's a 22% tax on ALL tobacco products of this nature. So, if I want to order cigars, I'm going to have to take it online. OHHHHHH!!! (groaning) Who has time to get online? ;-)

So, if I want cigars other than those sweet, sweet Montecristo #1s, I'm going to have to order online to avoid the liberal penalty tax.

Legend of 1900

Here's an excellent movie with Tim Roth (who rarely disappoints). He plays an orphaned child on a cruiseliner named the "Virginian". The movie centers around his life during which he never goes ashore (that's Navy for "gets off the ship").

A crewman named Danny discovers T.D. Lemon 1900 as an infant in the first class section of the ship. With a terrifying lack of concern for the child's hearing & undeveloped lungs, Danny raises him in the massive coal furnace space. How the kid doesn't develop black lung before the age of five, I'll never guess.

After Danny is suspiciously killed in a tragic pulley accident - suspicious because I'm almost positive his death was planned by the writer - "1900", who is only about ten years old, discovers a divine talent for playing the piano. Sure, he's never played one before but I'll bet he's just a fast learner when it comes to tickling the ivories.

1900 quickly becomes an adult & fortuitously skips all those awkward teenage years. If I had known this was possible for people born on a ship, I'd have signed up for the Navy at least 10 years earlier. During this time, he's appointed as the ship's piano player for life. This may seem like a good deal to you but ships don't normally last as long as humans & I can only guess things will end badly for him.

During the course of his time-traveling adventures, 1900 is challenged to a piano duel by Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III) who proceeds to mock the waterborne pianist in a poorly-timed attempt to grant 1900 those teenage years he missed (Yeah, I hated high school...why do you ask?).

Now, don't ask me how they pull this duel off. Pianos are naturally many times heavier than guns & needless to say, the strength required to lift one & bludgeon a guy to death...What's that? Oh! Wait a second. They PLAY them? Yeah, I never saw *THAT* coming!

Sure, you can check this movie out if you want to actually be entertained. I'm guessing most of you would like that considering all the crap Hollywood shovels into theaters.


Blog Groupie

Harvey at Bad Example dispensed some practical advice on how to store cigars. If you're into high-quality smokes and want to keep the costs down, check out his post on cigar storage.

I think the "baggiedor" is the best way to go. I have an economical humidor, but nothing to travel with. Since the seminar in Omaha,NE is coming up, I think that's the perfect time to try this little project. Sure I COULD spend much more on a portable humidor, but why spend when you can be a cheap SOB frugal?

Also, I'm now an offical Blogtips Groupie! In accordance with groupie standards, I have a completely unrepentant plug of said groupie status on my main page. Feel free to click on through...

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my little sister! 24 years old today...

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Here's a recent pic with my brother, Matt, me, the Birthday Girl & her fella, Jamie.

Hope you have a great birthday, sis! Talk to you today.

Happy Birthday, Shannon



Some of our Hapkido (HKD) guys are getting together at the end of the month & attending a seminar in Omaha,NE. This is the same one we attended last year AND only the second one I've not been tossed around by GM Pellegrini like a tackle dummy. For some reason, I think he likes making an example out of me. :-P

Last year, we only attended one day & relaxed on Sunday (Ahhh! That's how it's supposed to be!). This year, I'm divided on whether to do just the one day or go for the double impact with both GM Pellegrini & Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. I've been impressed by GM P at every seminar our school has attended - he definitely has vast knowledge of the art & a teaching style which makes it entertaining to learn.

The thought of another seminar (FINALLY!) has me thinking about what I want to post on this blog. I'm going to check with my head instructor & see if there's any problem with posting self-defense techniques once in awhile. I think that's generally useful for people to know. Besides, it's cool stuff with the - WARNING! SHAMELESS PLUG - benefit of increasing my site traffic.

I'll be posting any pics I have from the seminar after we get back and - barring a serious beating for over-stepping my authority - should be posting self-defense info regularly.

Take care & as always, Aut Viam Inveniam, Aut Faciam.


Unfortunate News

I have a friend here at work who recently suffered a great loss. He & his wife were expecting their first child. Tragically, they lost the baby two months into her pregnancy. It was heartbreaking to hear the news because they are good people who will undoubtedly be excellent parents.

In the interest of decency, I won't post their names. All I ask is please keep them in your prayers. I am certain they will need them.

God Bless.

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