Friday, November 26, 2010

Like Father Like Daughter

Ever since she has seen me running my daughter has commented “someday I’d like to run a marathon with you.” Not that I would ever wish that on my kids but I though that it was neat that she thought that my running was a good thing.

I’ve wanted to hold off on getting her started on running in that I wanted her to grow first and not have any complications with Osgood-Schlatters syndrome that is common with children who run to often at such an early age. My daughter has always been highly active her entire childhood so far exercising at times up to 5 to 9 hours a week so I knew that even if I kept her away from running as a hobby that eventually she would get started at it at a more appropriate age.

A couple of weeks ago Jill decided that she would go out and get Aimee a new set of shoes in that the last set of athletic shoes that she had were too small and that it was time to get another good pair. Jill had recently signed up for the Mother/Daughter Phoenix Irongirl 5K. Both her and Aimee headed down to the local Sports Authority and just picked out a set that they liked. As soon as I saw what they had picked I thought to myself that maybe it was time to have her formally evaluated for her gait and efficiency. To do that would only make sense in getting her the right set of shoes.

Not too far from where we live is a specialty running store, by runners and for runners. When you get there they evaluate the type of shoe that you need based on your impact and they bring out about a half dozen set of shoes and have you start running in them. After careful consideration Aimee had narrowed the field down to three pairs and agonized between two of them. Eventually she went with the Brooks over the Asics. Quietly I smiled inside knowing that they were the same brand that I have run with for the last couple of years.

Later that evening she was eager to run. I had her set up a running list with the spare iPod Shuffle I was given from work as gift. As my wife prepared dinner, we both laced up and headed toward the door. I had plan to clock the run using the iPhone 4 and the NikeGPS app. Since this was her first run I wanted to take it easy on her and just give her the field of the road. As soon as we left the house she popped the earbuds in and started running down the street. To see her run was an amazing experience. She has a beautiful energetic stride and runs with a determined focus. For the first half-mile I had her run in front of me. And I let her go at her own pace. Roughly she was able to run about an 8:50 pace. I had her walk for a couple of yards after the first half-mile and then we turned and headed home. She easily loped home but was beginning to develop a side cramp and wanted to start walking again just a few blocks from the house. I convinced her to run home at a slower pace without stopping, then to sprint to the finish.

There are many things that just her and I have done and do together on a regular basis. This was the first time that I felt like I was sort of alone out there even though we were together, that in some way she was out there on her own and that somehow I was losing her. A couple of days later I helped her get stated on the starting line of the Phoenix Irongirl 5K. I was not allowed to run with her (no men are allowed in the race) or for that matter I was not even allowed in the starting chute. I just tried to stay with her as close as I could, then watched her go as the starting gun fired. It was then that I realized that she’s growing up, getting farther out in front and that someday before I know it, she’ll be gone.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Zombie 092

Zombies represent several things from the standpoint of human emotion and fear.

As humans we all have common fears and the genre of zombies covers more than just one.

The fear of zombies represents the fear of the crowd, the unruly, soulless masses, being alone and of course, zombies represent the fear of death from being consumed while still alive.

Fear and the instinct of flight or fight drives our internal survival mechanism. The genre of the zombie apocalypse stirs all of those emotions within us as we ask ourselves “what if?” This reason alone is probably the biggest reason as to why the genre has exploded over the last decade with a ravenous fan base (no pun intended).

The Walking Dead trailer on YouTube.

Coming this Halloween AMC Television will be releasing The Walking Dead, the adaptation of the graphic novel. Just from the fan base alone of zombies alone the show should be a success. From the few production stills that have been released and from the four-minute trailer it looks spectacular. I would venture to say that it will be the best production in both story and production value so far on the genre. And while there have been a plethora of zombie movies over the years that either stick to or deviate greatly from George Romero's original myth, The Walking Dead manages to come up with some concepts that we haven't seen before the the realm of the undead. It airs on Halloween night. Get ready.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Bogu Stand

It"s been over a year since I got my bogu for kendo. Rather that having the hot sweaty armor sit in a dark back in the corner of my office after each practice I decided that I would like to air it out so that it doesn't get that used bogu smell that the sport is so famous for. After hours of use and profuse sweating the armor ends up smelling like sweaty gym socks. Keeping anything that is drenched in sweat in a warm dark place can't be good. So, wanting to avoid this, I decided to make a stand for for the bogu. I saw several different versions of stands that people have made over the years posted on various forums on the Internet. So with no official plans to work off of I decided to wing it. I laid out the armor and measured it carefully and began to sketch and think of all options that I would need for the design. It took me a long time to build it but I adjusted my plans several times as well and made slight adjustments to accommodate accessories that I did not think of.

Far from perfect the stand came out nicely with only a table saw, and a cordless drill as the only two tools that were used. For my Birthday, Jill ordered and framed some Japanese calligraphy for me. Hanging above the armor the Shodo reads "Ken-ko" or "The glint of a sword."

Today at practice during keiko, one of the black belts said to me, "You are now a real Kendoist, your armor smells like it." Not sure that If that was an insult or a complement meaning that I practice quite a bit or that I just smell bad. But my initial purpose of the stand has obviously not been effective.

I'll spend sometime this weekend cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide. If that doesn't work I'll order some spray-on bogu cleaner, a sort of Japanese Fabreeze that is designed to deodorize the equipment. But for now, in between practice sessions the armor sits and waits.

Random Photos

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Problems Again

In trying to increase the miles in my running schedule and I ran into an old friend again...knee pain. I am lucky in the sense that I do not truly have knee issues such as torn cartilage or impact issues from worn out cartilage. So hopefully I still have a couple of thousand miles in my knees left to go.

What i have managed to find out over the years is that if I do have problems with my knees it is a matter of foot alignment.

The last two hundred miles, I was doing okay with my second of Brooks, “The Beast” running shoes. As I have stated before the shoes were designed for big, fat, heavy, hairy, smelly, inefficient runners such as myself.

Even thought the shoe is designed to be a motion control shoe the last of the shoe is not quite right for my foot. I tend to buy shoes one size larger than my normal size to accommodate swelling that can occur during training or during a race.

My feet are long but they are also narrow resulting with my foot swimming around in a larger shoe. I did okay at first with the current shoes but began to experience some itching underneath my left knee cap and some outright pain just below my right knee. After some feeling around I determined that my right knee was experiencing some ITB (iliotibal band syndrome) pain.

Yesterday I went to the local running store and brought some Sole inserts. In my last set of shoes I had the same make of inserts and they worked well. They were probably the best thing next to custom inserts from a podiatrist and about 260 dollars cheaper.

The inserts are customizable in that you can mold them to your feet. You merely place the inserts in the oven at 250 degrees for a couple of minutes, then put the heated inserts into your shoes quickly, then step into and lace up your shoes. After a couple of minutes the warm molds will conform to your feel.

I did two miles on them today. I was able to feel the difference immediately. No knee pain or sub-patella itch. The felt so good that I was able to increase my run time by two minutes on the first mile. The shoes although heavier felt more forgiving and the alignment made a world of difference. It was worth the money.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Testimony in Silence

Quietly they stand

waiting vigilantly at rest

waiting to serve once more.

White monoliths of stone

serving as a reminder

of selfless endeavor.

The price, the cost, of gain despite loss.

That they paid, freely, willingly.

They speak to us still, in stillness

and tell us...


Ed Flores, Memorial Day, 2010

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Sharpie: A Rediscovery

I fell in love with the Sharpie some years ago when I created a storyboard for a short film that I wrote some 24 years ago. A good friend gave me a storyboard format to work with and when I went to get some pens and the local PX I opted for a Sharpie.

“A laundry marker,” he asked with incredulity. After all it would make sense to most a the time that a sharpie would be reserved for your mom to write your name on the inside of your underwear with.

I liked the Sharpie in that it was a bold marker but not as bold as a Prismograph or as narrow as the cheap “El Marko” or technical pilot pen. The nib of a sharpie was wedged shaped so that you could make medium thickness or very bold lines. The ink flowed fairly thickly so that the lines created were very saturated.

What’s great about the Sharpie is that the ink is waterproof and permanent. Once it gets into the fibers of the paper it is pretty much stuck there. It does well on most porous surfaces with the exception of tile and glass.

Over the years what had initially started out as a laundry marker had diversified into an array of products of different colors, sizes and purposes. Sharpies come in every size and color and are used for just as many purposes.

When I started working in Hollywood it was clear that Sharpie was the working pen of choice on the set but off the set as well. Cameramen use it to mark film rolls up for packaging for the lab and on freshly loaded cameras to denote stock, size and speed. Off the set it is not unusual to see a star carry one for impromptu autographs. Sharpies work exceptionally well on glossy photos.

I found out a year ago prior to its release that Sharpie was planning on releasing a metal barrel version of the pen. I tracked the rumor down for about a year until I could finally get my hands on one. I pretty much use it daily and gets as much milage as the MontBlanc and more than the Parker Duofold.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Crazy Pizza

About a year ago I bought Jill a pizza stone so that we could make pizza at home. It's been a fun experience each time we make a pizza. The only problem that we are having is transfering the pizza from the pizza shovel onto the pizza stone. The pizza ends up sticking to the spatula no matter how much cornmeal we use. The dough ends up disfigured and torn into some bizzaro shape which will ofter result in some strange looking creations such as the yin and yang pizza of awesomeness featured above. I will probably go out and get a larger spatula and hunt for other methods on how to transfer the ready made pie into the oven.

But until such time that we master the stone, I present, The United States of Pizza:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Would Walk 500 Miles

Last fall Wolverine advertised that they would be re-releasing their series of the 1000 mile boot that originally debuted back in 1883.

When I was in the military I picked up a set of Wolverines as a set of kick arounds and for traveling. Back then the price seemed pretty reasonable from what I could remember. I wore then to the point that they pretty much fell off my feet.

Because these boots are a re-release they are in a way a special edition boot, with that comes the price. The good thing about the boot that makes it all worth it is the level of quality and durability. Upon first seeing them Jill's first comment was, "Whoa, those things look that they will last forever." To see them in a photo is one thing, but to have them in front of you is a sight to behold. It is clear that at first glance that these are pretty substantial in their construction. Wolverine employed Horween Leather to supply them with the Aniline Chromexcel leather hides that are used on the boot. The leather is full hide pull up leather that has been infused with natural oil and greases to create a naturally waterproof leather. This is one kick-ass boot that will go the distance and then 500 more.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Nanishi Togareshi, I Love You

I never use to like hot food. It wasn’t until I joined the Army that I discovered, hot sauce and chili powder. I ended up using the stuff not because the military cooks put it in to the food, I ended up using it because often the food was so bland.

Even the meals in the field were incredibly horrible. We were lucky in that we had a combat field kitchen attached to our unit and that we were able to receive hot “A’s” delivered to us out in some of the most remote conditions. Logistics and location aside, the military has never really been known for their culinary expertise. And not matter what you do, you can just never deliver a world-class meal in below freezing conditions or in the middle of the German forrest at night.

One day I finally got sick of MRE’s or Meal, Ready to Eat (the author Tom Clancy referred to them as three lies in one). At the time the regimen within the MRE menu was limited to 12 different meals. In my opinion at least three of them were completely inedible. Chicken a al King or affectionately known as Chicken a la Sling (because as soon as that meal was received it was immediately thrown out). The Meatballs in BBQ Sauce was another that was not digestible. Most people agreed that the sauce or baby gravy (referring to the contents of a diaper) was disgusting. Hot or cold both of these meals were inedible.

The Chicken loaf was the worst of them all. A 4” x4” cake of compressed meat, the chicken cake was quite literally thrown out. Contests among the soldiers were held for distance or the ability to hit the occasional stray dog, iguana, errant monkey or Turkish child from a moving military vehicle were frequently held.

It hit me one day while on leave and having a meal at a local diner. I was never a fan of condiments, I being a somewhat moral person never stole anything in my life. But for some reason the bottle of tabasco bottle on table called me. As I paid the bill I pocketed the bottle of of Illians Tabasco and headed back to North Carolina.

In my normal field gear there were few places that made sense to put a bottle of tabasco sauce. My cargo pocket was too dangerous. I didn’t want it to break in the field and have a pocket full of broken glass and tabasco running down my BDUs.

One day while at the range I noticed that the bottle fit perfectly into my magazine pouch. If I took out one of the magazines and put it into the weapon I could keep the bottle stored in a protected place that was readily available. For the next two years I carried a bottle of tabasco on every jump and every field exercise, and the ever infamous Army chow became just a little more tolerable. Unfortunately I had nowhere else to put the spare magazine so I would just lock it into the magazine much to the displeasure of the company NCO’s.

After the military I discovered Nanashi Togareshi. There was a small teriyaki restaurant called Yoshiz that specialized in bento box style meals near by work in downtown Pasadena, California. I noticed that on each of the tables were the requisite bottles of soy sauce. What I did not recognize were the small red capped bottles of chili powder at each of the tables. Seeing everyone give a small shake of the powder onto their dishes I decided to do as the Romans do at the moment. The result was an incredibly pleasant surprise. Spicy but not hot with a pleasant tang and the lack of vinegar overtone that you get from tobacco. The great think about it is that you can take it pretty much anywhere and not have to worry about breaking the bottle.

I went to a local restaurant shop and got one of those large dispensers that you see at your local pizza parlor that dispenses either Parmesan cheese or the red flake chili pepper. I went to Lee Lee’s Asian Supermarket and got a 2 pound bag of the stuff. At the table whenever we are having asian food I bring my large shaker of Nanashi Togareshi and spice things up a bit. It always adds a bit of flavor whether it be stir fry, udon or egg tacos for breakfast.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sticking with it

Last October I went to Los Angeles and took my first Kendo test. Up to that point I had been practicing for about a year and three months.

I had never been to a shinsa and had no idea what to expect. I had been to about 5 aikido examinations watching Aimee climbing the ranks. When I was 13 I took Taekwondo for about 6 months. I ended up waking up late the morning of the exam and I missed my chance for getting yellow belt. The Taekwondo grandmaster Chun Lee let me test a week later and reluctantly gave me a yellow belt fearing that I would quit if I didn’t pass. Lacking discipline and maturity, I dropped out anyway.

Over the years I had attempted to sign up for and attend several martial arts classes. In high school Brian Iwakiri attempted to round up several of his friends to take judo at a local Japanese community center. Up unto that point I had not trained in anything so challenging and brutal. I would come home with the cross-hatch weave patterns of the gi ground into the skin of my chest in one big bloody mess. Not sure why I didn’t stay with it, at that point in my life I just never really stuck to anything.

It was around 1979 when I saw Sydney Pollack’s “The Yakuza” on TV. It was my first view of Kendo...I was mesmerized by it and was fascinated by the short scene that was at the beginning of the movie. After some research I was able to find a nearby dojo in West Covina. I just went to watch...I had no interest in joining. To me, watching Kendo was just fascinating. It was fast, flowing, explosive, beautiful. In my teens I would go back to the dojo just to watch, but I had somehow come to the conclusion that because I was not Japanese I would never really be any good at it.

As soon as I graduated from High School and I moved in with my father down in Huntington Beach I found a local dojo and started taking classes. Due to my constantly changing life, my inability to hold down a job or commit to school, I once again had to quit something that I wanted to learn.

About two years ago on my birthday, I just wanted to go and see a Kendo practice. Like so many times in my life before I though that I just wanted to watch. I didn’t think that I was going to make a commitment.

Aimee seemed generally interested as well and went with me on a frequent basis on the Sunday practices. With my change of job last year, I went from evening shift to the day shift so I was then able to go to the practices during the week on a regular basis.

Going to a Kendo test is sheer pandemonium at best. There are hundreds of people there in various ages, shapes and sizes. Fifteen minutes prior to the practice all of the students from the various dojos gather together for swinging and striking exercises. The noise for all of the students is deafening and overwhelming.

I was nervous to say the least. I did not know what to expect or for that matter what I should do. It was all new territory for me.

Once the testing stated the instructors and judges pretty much tell you what to do and how to do it. The hardest part was sitting in the torturous seiza position for an extended period of time.

I ended up having to participate in two matches. In the first I did pretty well. The second all I could think was “why does this guy keep hitting me with a stick?” No matter what I would do my second opponent would just find an opening and exploit it. I took a moderate bashing.

I left the shinsa and Torrance not knowing how I did or what rank I received. A couple of days later I received an email from my sensei with my placement results from the test.

Turns out that I got san-kyu which it about 4 “belts” below sho-dan or black belt. Not too bad for the first time around. I still have a long way to go from a skill level. My footwork is bad and my timing and sense for gaining opportunities to seize the moment in a second is non-existent. But, once again in my life I have managed to pick up where I left off and did better than I did before. Just like school I managed to dedicate myself to something and I gained something as a result.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Random Photos

A New Friend

As some of you know, I've had the same wristwatch for that last 24 years. I was overindulgent in my purchase but at the time I was tired of burning through wristwatches. By the time I had got to my permanent duty station at Ft Bragg I had already burned through three watches in Basic, AIT and Jump School (yes I snuck a watch through jump school even though it was technically illegal).

The Submariner has been with me since September of 1985, which means that this year the watch will be 25 years old. A couple of months ago, it started to show it's age and began developing some problems. While the watch was able to hold time, I would at times wake up in the morning only to find that the watch had stopped in the early hours of the morning. I just had the watch serviced two years earlier, and because it's a Rolex, the service charge just to look under the hood of the thing is quite expensive (just like a Ferrari). I just couldn't bring myself to cough up the money to have it serviced again. After talking to several professionals the consensus was that the watch was just old and that it wouldn't hold a charge any longer without having to be hand wound. This was one of the original reasons that I had purchased the watch. I wanted a timepiece that I didn't have to worry about. But it seems that the time had come to give the Submariner a break. After all, it had been with me through over a half dozen jumps out of military aircraft, traveled with me to 23 different countries, traveled below the equator, been on the set of countless Hollywood productions and was there with me when I got married and the day that my daughter was born.

To have to come to terms with the prospect with retiring the watch was heartbreaking to say the least. Jill was pretty adamant about holding off on getting the watch repaired again. This time I agreed with her. Since I now work from home and really don't get out much I just needed a timepiece that was fairly accurate and that I could knock around. Jill asked me what kind of watch I wanted and roughly set a price range of what we could afford. After looking around on the Internet and spending some time on The Poor Man's Watch Forum I was reminded of something. I have always really liked diver's watches. I was PADI Openwater certified when I was 18 and have always been a fan of diving. Plus the advantages of having a watch that meets ISO standards means that the watch can pretty much take a beating.

I had decided on the old trusted standard of the Seiko 200 meter diver also known as the SXK007. In watch collector circles, the automatic watch is well know as a reliable work horse and a good overall sport watch and is not a bad looking watch.

Jill ordered the watch from and the watch was drop shipped from Singapore to directly under the Christmas tree. Now that I have 4 watches my mother was kind enough to get me a watch box to store all of my collection under atop my dresser in the bedroom. Like Lenin in his glass tomb, my watch sits, reminding me of glorious days past.