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Monday, August 29, 2005

Languages + Martial Arts

Languages are pretty interesting. Some are ultra complex, while others are extremely simple. But all languages have a couple things in common. One obvious commonality is they all seek to allow one to communicate his or her thoughts, ideas, or current state of being to another as clearly and vividly as one is able. Another pretty sweet thing about languages is that once you have mastered it, you no longer really have to think about it. The words just flow, as if instinctual. Now what if we take that concept and apply it to other things in life... say martial arts.

My old sensei (Tony Avila) and I recently started thinking about languages as applied to martial arts when talking about progress in the arts as his San-dan test approached. We study American Jiu Jitsu by the way (MIT NY). When you first jump into martial arts, it's all about absorbing all of the awesome techniques coming your way. All you can really think about is, "Man, this is so cool!" Then you reach black belt and you realize, "Wow, I still don't know anything." Matter of fact, black belt is like having just learned how to say your first words. Pretty exciting!

So anyway, you learn words, you learn phrases, you learn sentences, you learn paragraphs... The goal is to eventually get to the point where the martial art is no longer something you have to think about, but something that just flows. You become so fluent in the language that you can string together any combination of words fluidly and effortlessly into an amazing piece of prose or poetry. The art is no longer something you merely study, but something you influence, soemthing that has become yours, something that resonates with your very essence. It is no longer something that is out there and you are trying to grasp. No, instead it is something that is in you and you have personalized. Your movements convey your personality. Your teaching convey your experience. Your fluidity demonstrates your level of fluency.

During my old sensei's test, I saw some of this demonstrated. It is amazing what you come to find out when something goes "wrong." What do you do when you make a mistake? What happens when a technique slips, or a stick gets knocked out of your hand? When these apparent "errors" emerge, that is when your true colors come to surface and the level of your language competency becomes apparent. The beginnings of Sensei Tony's language emerged during these times, and they were fluid.

Time to hit that next level.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Miracle Sleep Pill

I don't know about you, but if I could sleep less and still get the rejuvenation required by sleep, I would be ALL OVER THAT. Don't get me wrong, sleep is awesome, especially after working out like a madman and draining all of your energy training, playing a sport with friends or in competition, exercising, pulling all-nighters... you know, whatever gets your blood pumping. Sleep does indeed feel oh so sweet. However, on the flip side, sleep is also about 7 or 8 hours of time clandestinely sneaking away in the "momentary" blink of a deceived eye. With a bit of math, we can see that if one slept, on average, 6 hours a day (accounting for the 4-5 years at MIT where sleep was not an option... hah hah) for the first 24 years of your life, he or she will have slept away approximately 1/4 of his or her life. That's a HUGE chunk: 52,416 of the 209,664 hours of your life spent sleeping. Do you know how many awesome experiences you could have engaged in with 52,416 extra hours!? Anything that has ever peaked your interest you would now have a chance at trying your hand. Matter of fact, you could develop those talents that all this time you wished you had more opportunity to develop! Do you realize how many places you could then travel to and take in the sights, sounds, culture, and adventure? Exciting!

I have been fantasizing about such a thing for some time now. Would it be possible to develop a pill that, when taken, all a human would need is one hour of sleep to be completely rejuvenated? Then I thought of the possibilities that would emerge if such a pill became reality. In my world, such a pill would be awesome! I could start drawing more, writing more, eating more, training more, researching (even cooler things) more, inventing more, traveling more, dancing more, developing even deeper relationships and tighter interactions with people, hanging out more... the list goes on. But alas, there is at least one problem with such a pill... and that is the human factor.

What's the human factor? Well, we are greedy!!! Hah hah! No matter how much we try to hide it, diminish it, or destroy it, at some inner level we hunger for more all the time. So, inevitably, people would begin to work themselves to death. People do it now! Imagine if they had more time. Would work hours increase? Some people would be of the mindset, "Hey, I can work more hours, and pull in more cash flow! Then I can buy even more things or engage in even more activity!" How would the quality of work and commitment demanded out of you from employers, educational institutions, professional societies, government, and others, change? Would we actually have more time to do more of the things we'd like to get our hands on? Or would we instead be doing more of the same, just longer hours. The truth is, this phenomeon is something we can't escape: no matter how well intentioned a thing, someone will find a way to use it for ill, in any myriad of ways that word ill can play out. The question then becomes, will the benefits outweigh the risks? But enough philosophizing. There exists now a version of this miracle pill!

Spotted on Slashdot, this pill apparently reverses the effects of sleep deprivation. It's not quite the miracle pill of my fantasy, but it is a step in that direction. Check out the article, it is pretty interesting.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Feats of Strength

A feat of strength is always something that puts people into a state of awe. Why? Because witnessing these "mere" feats of strength assaults our senses in such away that we cannot help but be set on our heels! In some cases, these feats of strength are so freakishly out of this world that our minds just blank. In other cases, we just stand there, agape and amazed. The annual World's Strongest Man comeptition exhibits some of these outstanding feats (like pulling a sizeable truck strapped via chest harness 100ft with raw leg pumping strength). Check out xtrememass for a fuller description or WSM on Wikipedia for a *super* short description. Other feats of strength are those done by cleverly leveraging knowledge of physics. Ever heard of the Coral Castle? Composed of stones weighing an average of 6 tons, the castle was built by ONE single man... who was 5 feet tall and 100 pounds... wow... But what about our other fellow organisms with whom we co-exist... roaming this rock called earth?

Some Amazing Strength

A flea can move things 100x its weight, and it can exert a jumping force of 150 G's (that's 150x the force of gravity... WOW!) [Bug Attack, National Geographic Channel]

A tick clamps down and does not budge until it is done feeding. It can suck blood upwards of 10x its own weight, maybe even more [Bug Attack, National Geographic Channel]. That's like me, at 155 pounds, sitting down in the morning and having a feast until I am 1,550 pounds!!! That's almost 3/4 of a TON! I would not be able to move...

[The following appeared on Dangerous Encounters, National Geographic Channel]

A domestic dog has a bite force of 317 pounds (human equivalent of obliterating a single sheep bone in one chomp).

A lion has a bite force of 691 pounds (human equivalent of obliterating two sheep bones in one chomp).

A hiyena has a bite force of 1,000 pounds (!!!) (human equivalent of obliterating three sheep bones in one chomp).

A snapping turtle (mind you, they have no teeth) nudges hiyenas with a bite force of 1,004 pounds!!!

A Florida crocodile has a bite force of... sit down of this one... no really... 2,500 pounds!!!!! *IF* a human had that kind of bite force, we would be able to chomp through a giant cow bone with one single chomping action splitting it in half.

By the way, on the show they cast a likeness of a human skull out of some metal and hooked its jaws up to some suped up hydraulics. They then used this way awesome contraption to show what a human could chomp through if we had these levels of bite force. And when I say obliterate... I mean OBLITERATE. Bones were crushed and snapped like NOTHING... and you could see the tell-tale puffs of powder that result when something is crushed/snapped like a twig. It was awesome!

My friends, the world is an amazing, dangerous, and exciting place!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Reality Check

While eating a bowl of Life Cereal (good stuff), I turned on the TV to catch whatever might be on (since it is rare that I do). While flipping through, I came to the National Geographic Channel's Bug Attack show. OH MY GOODNESS... the critters that are out there... man! It never ceases to amaze me, the things we know that we don't know and the things that we don't even know that we don't know.

It's easy for us, as humans, to think we are indestructable. I mean, we are living large! We've sought out land, made it habitable, and moved on in. We dominate the world... us humans. Matter of fact, you could say we are on top of the food chain. As a result, it is so easy to forget that things smaller than the head of a pin can take a full grown human out in less than a day. Yeah... scary. As if lethal ones weren't bad enough... there are other critters that don't kill you, just give you a debilitating condition that you'll have to bout with for the rest of your life! Straight CRAZY!

The show was some reality check, reminding me of the truth of our fragile genetic makeup. It's good to be reminded of our mortality though. I think it's healthy and allows us to keep a proper perspective about life. What's more, it allows us to remember just how precious life truly is because things can change in the blink of an eye (sometimes even faster). So, my charge to you, don't let life pass you by, enjoy every passing moment, launch yourself into the adventure that life is, and make it one awesome ride!

Okay, on to some of the more interesting and less disgusting non-lethal critters. Though I have to say, the host of the show is crazy. Knowing what these critters can do, homeboy STILL gets up close and personal! I give him props, but you won't find me engaging in such close encounters, no way.

Jumper Ant - That's right, they jump... about 5 centimeters. They've got skills too. When they notice a prey, they don't attack head on. Instead they come up from behind or above and then pounce. Then they're like, "DINNER TIME! WOOO!" and take a monster bite. It's more like a sting with their long pincers. At the same time, they drop some venom that, depending on the person, can stop (or come close to stopping) your breathing in 5 minutes..... freaky.

Black Widow - There's a small family in a suburb located in Pheonix, Arizona. They have a spider farm... more specifically, a black widow spider farm RIGHT IN THEIR HOUSE. All three (husband, wife, and daughter) run the business. They extract the black widow's venom and sell them to scientists making anti-venom medicine. You just have to see it... man.... Anyway, a Black Widow's venom feels like a charlie horse with 10x the umph (according to the husband). It's so painful, it feels like the muscle is contracting to the point of nearly snapping the bone.

Super Deadly Wasp - I forget its actual name, but apparently this wasp is the most aggressive wasp whose bite/venom combo is the most painful non-lethal bite out there. The show didn't detail what it actually feels like, and what causes the intense pain, but by the host's and his accomplace's ultra caution when approaching a hive... that pain is no joke. So check it out, these two approach a hive home to about 200 of these bad boys. The expert tells the host that they are going to try and snatch the hive... yeah... crazy. But first, in order to test the aggressiveness of the hive, the expert says they need to blow up a balloon and place it between the hive and themselves. He then proceeds to tell the host that each wasp can sting up to 5 times. The host does the math and says... "so, that's, at worst, about 500 stings each right? And these things have the worst and most painful wasp bite known to man? I'm going to stand... over here." The expert goes on to explain that *if* the wasps burst the balloon (it was a monster black balloon too by the way)... run. Within seconds after only slightly disturbing the nest, the whole swarm pounced, the balloon burst with a quickness, and both host and expert high tailed it while falling over themselves trying to get past natural rain forest obstacles. It was pretty funny to watch actually ;-D

Friday, August 12, 2005

First post... is wack yo, heh ;-D

Testing baby... testing.... this my first post baby, yeah! checkit, bam bam hoorah!