Oct 24 2008

Step

Recently, I was feeling like I’d hit some sort of wall or plateau, where things just weren’t moving right. I’d felt dissociated from training, and my extra-curricular activities just were evolving. I didn’t have enough time to do what I wanted, and it seemed I was flailing trying to get things done, and as a result, I wasn’t accomplishing much of anything.

Being an engineer, I sat down, identified what I was spending my money on and where I was spending my time. Outcome: a new schedule and rough budget, where I train twice a day on MWF (morning and night), rock climb about twice a month on Thurs, take Kato to the dog park 2-3 times a week, and start reading up on sailing in anticipation of taking some sailing classes with the girl. I set aside hour blocks during the week to study languages, work on my notes, read, shoot photos, or run errands.

Net result: I’m feeling energized again, and after heading down to SD and seeing a bunch of the old martial arts buddies, I’m amped up to train hard, learn some new skills (rock climbing! sailing!) and generally just Get Shit Done.

Shit that I look forward to doing.

Ok, all better.


Jun 12 2008

Connecting the Dots

I can’t believe I’ve been in LA for nearly nine months, nor can I believe I’ve spent this much time at my new job. Time seems to have accelerated exponentially. I’m reminded of a conversation I had years ago with my father, along the lines of, “A year of your life today is a big deal – make the most of it. When you’re older, a year goes by much faster. Don’t forget to make the most of it.”

Now that I finally feel somewhat competent in my job function(s), time may begin to slow down again, as my internal clock isn’t so distracted by the immense amounts of new things to learn during the workday. Granted, this still a ton to learn, but at least the foundation is there. It’s like starting all over in martial arts – when everything is new, every moment is spent absorbing new data. Once you have more experience, the number of new things you learn are less frequent, but more perhaps more important, as to epiphanies of connecting the dots allow you to gain a greater understanding of the whole picture.

Outside of work, I’m still training. I still travel down to SD to train with Kawika Sensei as frequently as possible, although work and social obligations have been limiting that to once every six to eight weeks. Regardless, now that I have a student of my own, I’m using the opportunity circle back to beginning and work on the foundations. Due to the responsibilities of teaching, I’m finding connections that I previously missed, and it is greatly increasing my understanding of the art. Frequently, these are things I realize as I’m vocalizing particular principles or techniques – and these things I may have momentarily conceptualized before – but being forced to explicate them in detail to someone that does not have the assumptions I have has proved extremely educational. (And provides fodder for my personal note collection.) And yes, I’m still taking notes, and re-vamping the existing ones. When the currently evolution is complete, years down the road, I believe the collection will be quite impressive.

Socially, most of my friends still revolve around work. Years ago, I noted that it somewhat depressed me that, once old enough, social circles tend to revolve around those you work with and those of your significant other’s. And, this is precisely the case for me today. Now, there are some very cool people I work with that I hang out from work, and Nae’s friends are by and large very cool people, so I don’t really have a problem with that. I do, however, feel like it’s somewhat contrived. How close are you with someone if, for example, you get fired, and you cease to see that social circle? Likewise, if you and your SO break up? Will you still call those friends of his/hers? There’s a nagging feeling that the friendships are driven by circumstance and locality, as opposed to a deeper confluence of shared interests. Regardless, I’m not dissatisfied here, nor with my particular situation, and it is primarily a result of my own doing: work hard, train hard, spend time with the girl. There’s not a lot of opportunity to make outside friends when that’s most of your life. But, in a way, I love that life – this life. Which is why, despite meeting some very cool people in the local art, martial arts, and photography scenes, I haven’t really followed up and initiated friendships. I feel almost like the nice new stranger in town: I get along with people, and they with me, and serendipitous encounters are appreciated when experienced, but not expected. Perhaps it’s that fiercely independent nature of mine asserting itself again. C’est la vie, it’s leading me where I think I want to go.

In short, I feel best when I get a good days work in, learn something new, train hard at night, learn something else new, hang with the girl, and have a few moments to practice a foreign language, read a good book, and shoot some photos. Since extended travel is (temporarily) out of the picture, I’m thoroughly enjoying the options available to me.

But when I do finally get out travel – watch out.


Sep 7 2007

Disclosure

I know I’ve been saying that “there’s adventures in the works” for at least a year or two, and it’s finally time I can reveal what all the mystery was about. Some of you know, some of you may not. In any case I talked about doing one of two “adventures,” and of doing both if I could.

One was a special high-intensity training program for my martial arts. All outdoors in nature, two to four hour classes, two to four days a week, plus a significant amount of my own training time outside of class. The idea was to really dig in to the art. Well, I did the full six-month run of those classes, and then some, and for the last five months I’ve been taking six to eight private lessons per week with my instructor. Will I end up with some sort of ranking out of this? Perhaps. More importantly, I know that the sort of content I’ve been getting out of the last year and change of training is exactly what I was looking for in the art.

The second adventure was traveling: I was planning on selling the house, saving up money for a year or so, quitting my job, and backpacking the world for a year taking photos. This plan didn’t quite work out – as expected, that is. The bad news is the that house didn’t sell, and I had to rent it out. I really didn’t want to spend a year abroad having the anchor of a partial mortgage to pay on a monthly basis.

The interesting turn of events is that a company that offered me a job a two years ago recently came back to me and asked me what my current situation was. Two years ago, I just wasn’t in a position to take the offer, particularly since it required relocation. And, they have offices in Dublin, Zurich, Sidney … hmmm. Consider my curiosity piqued. We go back and forth a bit, and they send out another offer. A good offer.

Fast forward to this last Tuesday, September 4th. At 2 P.M., I meet with my supervisor. I tell him I’ve got this offer in, and I think I’d like to take it, but I also want to make sure I have the time to finish the current tasks at work before I leave. After all, my current company has been good to me, and I don’t want to leave them in a tough spot. I tell him it’s not “going from something, but going to something.” I don’t dislike it here, but I believe I’d really like to work for this other extremely well-regarded company.

After returning from that meeting, I see a new email in my box. “Company meeting at 4:30 P.M.” There’s something about the terseness and tone, the time, and the day of the week that send a shiver down my spine. I know what’s going to happen. And it’s a good thing.

Two hours after I tell me supervisor that I’m quitting, it is announced that our company has been sold.

Yup. I don’t know how, but I knew. Strange.

It’s been acquired by a solid company, and the deal is great for everyone involved. I’m given a very good offer – salary increase, stock, shares, performance bonuses, matching 401(k), retention bonus, all the goodies. It’s a damn good package.

I have to sleep on it.

Today, I made my decision: I will no longer be continuing employment at my current company. It was a tough decision to make, but I believe it’s the right one.

I’m going to work for Google.

I’ll be undergoing a week of training in the Mountain View office starting October 15th, and then returning to the Santa Monica office for at least a year and a half. Why “a year and a half”? After that, you’re eligible for transfer. Well, Zurich is right in the middle of Eastern and Western Europe, has a great train system, and you get the European standard five weeks of vacation per year … hmmm, that might not be a bad way to travel….

(And yes, ‘Nae is down with going.)

So that’s why I’ve been off the map lately. I’ve had more than my usual share of tasks to take care of lately.


Mar 16 2007

Spring Break

You can tell we’re nearing the apex of spring break throughout the nation when the bars of SD are filled with oodles of young kids that remain standing and vocal despite being smack in the depths of a blackout. Considering I don’t go out on Friday nights, due to Saturday morning training, I hopped down to the local pub (after training) to grab some food and watch the debauchery.

I ran into some people I had met a few weeks ago who were also eating at the bar. While talking to one them, I feel some sort of strange feeling behind my head. As I turn, I see a girl behind suddenly bring her hand down while she and her friend stifle simultaneous laughs. They immediately apologize, while still trying not to laugh, and tell me that they’re nurses that had been sent to some sort of new-age healing seminar where patients were supposed to respond to some sort of “energy transfer” that occurs without physical contact. Apparently, I “felt” this, and turned, and they were quite amazed. (I think I probably just felt the air move.)

It was apparent that one of the girls was absolutely hammered. She also couldn’t keep her hands off me, running them over my jacket and head. She has me do a little spin, apparently so she could check out my ass.

“Um, I should tell you, I have a girlfriend.”

She waves me off, and I resume talking to my friends at the bar. A few minutes later, I feel a hand on my jacket again, pulling me back to her.

“What’s up?”

“Where are you from?”

“Originally? Phoenix. But I’ve lived here for quite a while now.”

“Phoenix? What are you doing here?”

“I went to school here, and now I work here.”

“So you’re on vacation?”

“Um, no, I live here. I finished school a while ago, if that’s what you mean. I don’t get spring breaks anymore.”

“You live here? Awesome!” A clumsy high-five ensues, after which she keep hold of my hand and starts caressing my fingers.

“Um, I should tell you, I have a girlfriend.”

She looks shocked that I would lead her on in such a manner, waves me off again, and I resume my conversation with my friends at the bar – the topic of which is now this drunk girl behind me.

Variations on the above happen a few more times, where she ignores me for a few minutes, then pulls me over to her, we have a short disjointed conversation wherein she answers questions I didn’t ask because she so drunk. (E.g., “So you’re a pediatric nurse? How old are the kids you work with?” “Oh, I’ve been doing it for a few years.” “Fascinating.”) Inevitably, it ends with too much physical contact, I repeat that I have a girlfriend, she looks shocked as if I hadn’t disclosed it before, asks what my name is again, then waves me off. After the fifth or so time I’ve told her I’m taken, she says, “Well, we can work something out” and begins to grind her butt into my crotch.

Normally, I think this would be a great way to end a Thursday night (if she wasn’t so drunk, she’d actually be cute), but considering she’s beyond drunk and I’m not allowed to do that, I disengage and note that should really hang out with my friends at the bar.

Over semi-whispered voices, we all watch the girl work her magic on every boy that passes and discuss her tactics: grabbing asses, having them pull up their shirts, etc. Withing five minutes she’s found another prospect, and they’re sucking face in the middle of the bar.

I look at my friends and note, “You know, that guys thinks he’s got it made. He’s going to buy her another drink or two and then they’ll tab out and grab a taxi back to his place. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that she passes out cold in the cab ride, and he’ll be stuck with the cab fare, an unconscious chick, and wishing he had a shopping cart so he could drop her off at home, Animal House style.”

They laugh, and nod in agreement.


Postscript: She had her sober-ish friend watching over the proceedings, so I wasn’t too worried about “un-gentlemanly behavior” on the guy’s part. Otherwise, I might volunteer to drive her home just for her own safety. Honestly. She was that far gone.

Feb 1 2007

Aside

Last night I was assisting Sensei with a couple classes when he asked, facetiously, for a volunteer. Of course, I volunteer – since I was there to assist, it’s apparent that he’d be use me as Uke (the person who is providing an attack or energy for the other person, the Tori, to practice a technique upon) – and he went off on a small aside about the benefits of being Uke for the instructor, of how you learn more as Uke than anyone else, how Uke is actually teaching the person the other person, other such points related to the benefits of not just performing a technique, but being on the receiving end as well.

This segued into a short conversation about how I was volunteering my time, and how it’s beneficial for me to see, as a – hopefully – future instructor the evolution of classes over a single topic, as well as various on-the-fly modifications and variations have cropped up due to working with different individuals.

Hold on, did he say “hopefully”? Damn, I think he did. He hopes I do follow through to become an instructor of this art? Or was it that he knows I’m hoping to pass my instructor’s certification? Either way, frickin’ sweet. That’s pretty the extent of a compliment you’ll get out of Sensei. He probably doesn’t even remember saying it, as it was so incidental to the topic.

But I’ll remember.

Now I just have to keep training balls-out for the next few weeks.

Instructor’s certification testing ends in mid-Feb this month.


Jan 20 2007

Journey

It seems that I keep unintentionally running into reasons why A—- (as well as some other past girlfriends) and I were destined to be poor lovers. (Likewise, a reason we’re great friends.) Take these passages from Milan Kundera’s Slowness:


You’re astonished: where, in that terrain so rationally organized, mapped out, delineated, calculated, measured – where is there room for spontaneity, for “madness,” where is the delirium, where is the blindness of desire, the “mad love” that the surrealists idolized, where is the forgetting of self? Where are all those virtues of unreason that have shaped our idea of love? No, they have no place here. For Madame de T. is the queen of reason. Not the pitiless reason of the Marquise de Merteuil, but a gentle, tender reason, a reason whose supreme mission is to protect love.


She possesses the wisdom of slowness and employs the whole range of techniques for slowing things down. She demonstrates it particularly during the second stage of the night, which is spend in the pavilion: they enter, they embrace, they fall onto a couch, they make love. But “all this had been a little hurried. We understood our error…. When we are too ardent, we are less subtle. When we rush to sensual pleasure, we blur all the delights along the way.”


There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.

In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is direction proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.


In this respect, A—- and I were definitely polarized. I’m with Kundera here, while several of my past girlfriends have been in the opposite camp. That’s not surprising, as I have a predisposition for artists, and it seems most artists have a predisposition for unbridled spontaneity. Now, A—- (and others) might contest this designation, but there was certainly a strong element of it present.

On the other hand, I also realize that, to quote Violent Acres: “Do you want to know what we [girls] really talked about when discussing the best sex we ever had? We talked about our scraped knees and the bruises on our backs where we were bitten in the throes of passion. No one even mentioned that time you filled the bathtub full of rose petals and blah, blah, blah. It was that time in the back seat of an old chevy with our faces crudely pressed up against the window that got us hot.” But I also don’t think of this is as the first step. Imagine the route to encounter, all the nights previous, all the machinations invoked to make this an unexpected surprise. The slowness is the journey. People don’t talk about the excruciating hike up to Machu Pichu, they only talk the destination – but it wouldn’t be quite the same at sea level. I enjoy the journey; I want to prolong it.

I see this in my love of chaotic and experimental music: I don’t hear it as a cacophony of dissonance, as many do, but of a canvas of highly organized, yet abstract, signposts, encouraging you to slow down, listen, and form your interpretation carefully. Isn’t that a fundamental of abstract art? To unencumber that which can’t be directly portrayed with an indication of it? If an explicit painting of “love” or “hate” or “misery” or “happiness” only serves to minimize or limit its representation, then isn’t abstract art and effort to free the concept from it’s bindings? Just as words can only outline of a concept, they are not the concept itself, and too many words only end of obscuring the message they were originally cast to convey? The paintings and words and sounds are a guide for a journey, an invitation to walk inward and experience the concept or feeling yourself – it is a map for the journey.

Then again, perhaps I’m just reminding myself to slow down.


Jan 16 2007

Adventure

I suppose it’s a long way past “official,” but I have a girlfriend now. It’s a little strange – I believe I’d gotten used to the serial dating, no-commitment sort of scenarios I experienced after A—-. Considering my future adventure number two, I wasn’t really looking for anything serious. (I know I haven’t disclosed exactly what that adventure entails yet, but my quote regarding it is, “if I end up the same person as when I start, I did something wrong.” Should give you idea enough.) Of course, the start date of those adventures keeps getting pushed back further and further – most likely staring in 2008 now – but I find that I’m curiously comfortable with the whole relationship. I wasn’t expecting a it, but I’m glad I’m in it.

It helps that she lives a couple hours away. Right now I’m swamped with other activities, namely, “adventure number one,” and if she lived in town, I believe she’d either get sick of me not being around enough when I could be, or alternately, I’d feel bad for the same reason. As it stands, we really don’t have much choice in the matter. So, we have great every-other-weekends, but I still have just enough time to dedicate to my other passion. Yes, sometimes it sucks not having someone to curl up with at night, and the droughts of sex definitely suck, but those are also elements of “serial dating” that I’d gotten used to.

The most recent question that’s cropped up is regarding how the two of us handle my absence during the second adventure. Truthfully, I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I didn’t think we’d already be talking about it. But there’s three things for sure: the adventure is definitely non-negotiable, I feel I must do it (or at least the majority of it) alone, and I don’t want to hurt her. Glancing back above, I hope – and assume – that part of me won’t change. But other aspects certainly will. It’d hard to predicate the future when you don’t even know your own role.

In short, ‘Nae is totally awesome – she gives me space to do my thing, she’s sexy and funny and all that good stuff – I just don’t quite know how my future education will affect me. I suppose the plan right is to enjoy what I have right now, and see what develops.

And that, in and of itself, could prove to be yet another adventure.

P.S.: In terms of the locals, I have to apologize to many of my friends that I haven’t seen for quite some time. You’re still in my thoughts.


Jan 9 2007

Absentee

Remember this? Well, I’m smack in it. Which is why you haven’t seen me much, for those of you local to SD. I’m surprised I’ve been able to post as much as I have.

Have I stopped my Japanese language classes? Yes. Are photography exibitions on hold? Yes. Do my blog posts generally suck? You betcha. Am I dating? Well, not really – I have a girlfriend who, miraculously, puts up with my schedule. Has it been worth it?

Absolutely.

But it ends in Feb sometime. Which means I have a lot to do before then, and I’m maintaining my AWOL status until then. What happens after Feb? I don’t know. There may be another evolution, another opportunity I can’t pass up. I’m going to try my damndest to make that happen. But if it doesn’t, well, hopefully I’ll be out and about a little more often.

And then, as soon as I can, my other adventure.


Dec 5 2006

AWOL

I’m feeling the Holiday Crunch: getting presents, making sure I’ve got everything tax-related that needs to be completed before the end of year, organizing travel plans, selling the house, training, balancing responsibilities and checkbooks, not enough time … wondering when in the world I’ll find the time to do laundry, clean the bathroom, and photograph the house. I can feel the compression. It’s easily identifiable as a low-grade discomfort that won’t be resolved soon, like driving through the desert and not be sure there’s enough gas to reach the other side. The only way to remedy it is to trudge onward, crossing things off the list, but I’m still at that stage where two more items will crop up to replace the task just completed.

And I’m still pretty isolated these days – self imposed – trying to focus on commitments I made months ago. I don’t want to sound all doom-and-gloom here: It seems like I’m always saying “things will clear up in a few months.” But there is always something I’m trying to wrap up, and eventually I do, and am rewarded with some months of respite prior to the next Responsibility Crunch. It’s during these breaks, however, that you don’t hear me talking about “Shit that needs to be done that keeps me from doing Other Shit,” since I’m usually doing Other Shit. And you hear me talk less about things that I can’t wait to have done, and more about things I can’t wait to do.

And that’s when the posts are funnier.

But, I can share this: this is how we roll, beach style, to transport Thanksgiving dinner and wine:

IMG_0110

We have no idea why Nat is sniffing the seat.


Nov 22 2006

Reperspective

I ran into M a few nights ago. At first, I felt a bit of schadenfreude: she’s definitely gained some weight, I’ve definitely lost some, and she’s certainly not modelling anymore.

And then I think, maybe she’s quite the coke. That’d be cool. I’d like to think I had something to do with that, but most likely not.

We end up chatting for a few, and it turns out she lives in NC now with a Marine husband, looking forward to the whole children-and-picket-fence thing. She’s cleaned up, sober, and confides in me that she “wasn’t in a very good place when I met her.”

Well, shit. Totally killed my schadenfreude. I’m genuinely pleased for her.

But it was still a tad awkward.