Monthly Archives: September 2009

Washburn Law Representatives and Health Care Forum

I think I’m going to add brief posts commenting on the extracurricular activities at school that I get up to, just to be doing it and help me keep my life organized. So here we go, I guess I’ll file this under the “Right Living” auspice of this blog.

I’m an uninitiated member of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity Pre-Law chapter at the University of Kansas, and today was my first event as a local member. I learned a little bit late about representatives from Washburn University Law School coming to visit with aspiring law students today, and I arrived about an hour late. Late as I was, there was still about forty-five minutes of interesting and useful information to be learned. I gathered from the pizza crusts and picked over buffet table that most of the early part of the meeting was spent eating and socializing, so I don’t feel that I missed much. There were three current students of different years representing the school, with what I gathered to be two faculty members. If the faculty members gave a formal talk, that’s what I missed. The students gave advice and shared experiences on how they got into law school, what they believed to be a key to success in law school, what their average day or week was like and even researching which law schools would be best for us. It was informative and interesting, and I wish that I had read my campus email earlier and not missed the first half of it.

After that I moved across the Kansas Union to the Pine Room, where the University of Kansas College Republicans, of which I am a member, were hosting a forum on conservative ideas about the current health care debate. There aren’t a lot of Republicans on campus, and out of those, most aren’t actively involved, that I can see. I’ve been to two KUCR functions so far, and there has been an average of about a dozen people, I’d guess. On a side note, the semester kick-off mixer at The Wheel last Thursday was good itself, though I had to leave early to meet with my Thursday gaming group. There were two speakers at the forum, both of them practicing physicians, one a neurosurgeon and I believe the other said he was a general practitioner. They had some surprising things to say about how the system really works, and the key idea of the evening was the fostering of the patient-doctor relationship. Another piece of information they emphasized strongly was that as government involvement in the health care system has risen, it has brought prices up with it to today’s high levels, while at the same time lowering the amount of subsidies for specific treatments and procedures. I’m not a politico, and if I were my field of interest would not likely be health care, but these men were well spoken, confident and most importantly directly involved in what they were talking about. True to my form, I played “Devil’s Advocate” during the Q&A session after their presentations, and the answer given to me (concerning skepticism of the free market in life and death medical situations) was strongly delivered. I learned some things tonight that I wouldn’t have thought about before, and that’s one reason I’m involving myself in politics at the university level.

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m a moderate with “center-right” tendencies, though I have some libertarian leanings as well. Either way I don’t consider myself a “rank and file partisan”, and I’m not interested in defining myself by how well I toe a party line. You therefore shouldn’t expect that I will willingly engage in the cliched screaming matches of “us against them” that so many people seem to like to get up to these days when politics enters the conversation. I’m an American first, and I respect members of parties with opposing ideas as fellow Americans and human beings. Anyone who knows me knows just how hard it is to pin down some of my politics, as I take principled stands on individual issues instead of swallowing a pre-made list from a committee.

I made the decision to join the KUCR and identify myself with Republicans because I feel that is where I can best make an impact for the betterment of my country and fellow citizens. Before, I was not engaged in mainstream politcs, or sometimes even politics at all. I at one time founded a Libertarian Party student group on campus (back in 2001 at KU), but the 9/11 terrorist attacks jarred my conception of who I was, and I went through some soul searching and identity issues that did not involve politics. I have had a few pet political issues over the years, but I have made the decision to move back into the GOP’s “Big Tent”, and maybe help add some dimension to what turned into a flat party image over the previous decade. I want to be part of the solution, and not a bitter armchair commando moaning at the television and anyone who’ll listen while not doing anything proactive.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my Democrat friends, or necessarily disagree with them on certain principles. It’s all part of being an active and positive citizen to me. And, like I said, being part of the process and solution.

Reviresco!

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Filed under Event, Learning, Right Living, University of Kansas

Lightning Across the Plains 2009

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Friday 25Sep09 I traveled to Camp Gaea, a primarily pagan oriented campground just outside of Springdale, Kansas, for what turned out to be the largest gathering of Heathens in the Midwest, and the largest gathering of Heathens so far this year in North America. The event was organized by my very good friends in the Kansas City area, Jotun’s Bane Kindred. JBK are a dynamo of right works, and this event perfectly represented that fact, as it was impressively organized and executed, with a great time had by all. To the left is the pictured of the ve (shrine) that was temporarily established. The All Father, accompained by Huginn and Muginn, held court from the middle, while many folk left objects of devotion and sacrifce all weekend long with him.

rodteachingThis event encompassed all of the good of greater Heathenry. Various tribes, hearths and individuals all came together in frith (a kind of harmony, if you will), and we forged friendships, maintained and reinforced connections and honored the Folk and our gods. There was an interesting diversity of folkways represented, and I would not have believed that such a diverse gathering of opinionated and strong personalities could have come together so closely for three days without any breaking of frith or even heated debate if I had not been there to witness it personally.  People came to learn, as well as connect with one another, and pictured above is my good friend Rod leading a workshop on “how to build a better blot” (type of Heathen ritual) for those people to take home and improve their practice with. What was best about this gathering wasn’t the diversity of tribes and folkways, however, but the family representation involved. There were proud carriers of womb-wights present, babes in arms, and well behaved yet vigorous children from skirt clingers all the way up to strong young teens at the event.

storytellingThe children had Heathen oriented activities all weekend long, and did I mention how well behaved and vigorous they were? They also demonstrated a healthy knowledge of the Lore. In this photo Mark, the chieftain of JBK and a good personal friend of mine, is working his magic with a story telling play. I had stopped to watch and listen to this, and was completely charmed by what he had going on. There he sits leading the children in retelling the story of how Thor recovered his lost hammer, the precious Mjolnir for which Mark’s tribe is named. He had several of the children playacting specific parts, and he involved those who were simply watching by asking questions and having them produce funny sound effects and to pantomime things. Throughout the weekend the children demonstrated their knowledge by answering questions from their parents (and not a few random adults during the social interactions the children were present for) about the Lore and the runes.

kidsactivitiesThroughout the weekend the children engaged in craft making activities too. Saturday they made little paper drinking horns, which were filled with candy, and were toted around proudly all weekend long. They also got to participate in Saturday’s ritual by making a straw boy they named “Joe Bob” to accompany JBK’s straw man on his trip to Asgard to tell the gods of their folk in Midgard. They constructed him, clothed him, stuffed his pockets (and straw body) with gifts of candy, interesting rocks and sticks and shiny, pretty things they found in ways that only children can do, and treated him as a friend all day. One little girl cried mournfully as Joe Bob left Midgard via the ritual fire, though many of the children thought his dramatic exit was pretty neat, as evidenced by their boisterous behavior during his send off. I thought it was great to involved the kids in the ritual, because Heathenry is about family, and without the children learning and living the faith, we risk more lost generations of cryptic silence for our gods.

kidsbattleAnd have I mentioned how vigorous they were? Here is a scene from the kids battle. JBK had carefully constructed foam padded swords for the kids, which were gifted to them after the battle. It was an impressive field battle, with two sides charging and swinging wildly, that devolved into confused one on one combat, and my friend Jamie from JBK acting as one of Odin’s valkyries, dragging off the “fallen” to “Valhalla”, where they were served cookies and Kool-Aid. The kids carried the foam swords around for the rest of the weekend, and impromptu duels and raids erupted here and there rather steadily. It was great fun to watch!

hammerthrowThe fun wasn’t just for the children. After lunch there was a Viking games for the adults. We started off with a hammer throw, using a fifteen pound and awkward as all get out monstronsity that my good friend Craig, JBK’s thule, constructed. It felt lighter than it looked, though it was still goodly weighted. The difficult thing about it is the aforementioned awkwardness. I stepped up to the competition and got in a throw of over twenty-two feet. It certainly wasn’t the shortest throw, but everyone was outmatched by my friends Cecil, of Hammer Tree Hearth, and Gunnar, of Volkshof, who both threw that hammer over FORTY feet, with Gunnar’s throw winning the contest.

tugowarHere is my friend Gunnar (middle) and two of his kindred mates from Volkshof participating in the kindred tug’o’war. This event was for specifically defined and established groups, and as such I did not participate. For a variety of reasons I will discuss elsewhere, I am not a member of a Heathen group, though I did not begrudge or in any other way feel slighted by the focus on membership groups. It was great fun to watch these contests, and there was much good natured taunting and cheering from the sidelines. The Franks, the largest group there and an impressively cohesive theod (a particular style of group oriented Heathenry) from Oklahoma took the tug’o’war title and won an amazing brass hammer that Craig of JBK had constructed.

berserkerHere is Billy the Berserker, a funny little man I carved while sitting at the informal tent-hall in the middle of the field. That was also a great part of this weekend, just sitting and talking with people in between or instead of official events. There was a lot of good conversation there, with dogs and kids making the rounds between the fold out chairs. I sat in my chair and over two days had whittled out Billy the Berserker, and ended up leaving him as an offering to both the Old Man and the vaettir (land spirits) of Camp Gaea out in the woods where there are numerous shrines. Though the camp is generally pagan, there are Heathen gods and vaettir acknowledged here and there, and I wanted to add to that place our Heathen presence. Billy was carved biting his shield and gripping his spear in typical berserker mode, he carries the Ansuz rune carved into his back, and ended up blooded. I felt good about sending Billy the Berserker out into Camp Gaea to represent the Æsir.

strawmanFriday night there was a folk sumbel, one of my favorite things about Heathenry. Since this is the first time I’ve mentioned it in my blog, I’ll explain a little bit about it here. In sumbel Heathens gather in a circle and take turns “toasting and boasting”. Basically it’s a social drinking ritual, and survives to this day in lesser forms in everday culture. A “folk” sumbel is informal, and a time for fun, though it’s not a party and what’s said “over a horn” is just as meaningful as at a high sumbel. The sumbel moves in three rounds: to the gods, to the folk and heroes, and an “open” round where people normally brag about something they’ve done or boast about what they will do, and often toast the hosts of the event or one another for different and wildly various reasons. In the third round someone started singing songs, and I sang two songs for the crowd which were well recieved. I got complements on my singing all weekend long! Another thing that one can do in the third round is give gifts. “A gift for a gift” is a general Heathen thew (custom), and I returned my good friend Craig’s friendship and hospitality by gifting him with a reproduction Viking sword. The next day at the high sumbel, the more formal and ritualized version, he raised the bar by gifting me with his personal drinking horn, an act which floored me with its meaning. I was highly honored, and will cherish that gift for the rest of my life. At high sumbel I gifted Gunnar of Volkshof with a Vespa scarf, as a token of our meeting at a scooter rally and how he helped me find the path to “returning home” and “rejoining the ancestral stream”. Gunnar’s a good guy, and he gifted me with a poster of Weyland the Smith, a figure from the Lore, before returning to Minnesota on Sunday. Also during high sumbel I was gifted by Mark with a silver pendant of the Valknut, the sign of we who are dedicated to the Choser of the Slain, telling me he knew how much it meant to me. It is no small thing to call such men friends.

lakeviewI had a great time, my only regret being that I missed the opportunity to watch my son Donovan play soccer that afternoon. Intending fully to go to his game, I ended up taking too long in setting up my campsite to get back to Leavenworth in time. The entire weekend was a little haphazard for me, actually. Things have been going so steadily non-stop between school and the other things I do, that I didn’t even get out to Camp Gaea on Friday until after 1900hrs. I ended up driving home at 0300hrs to sleep in my own bed, because I had brought nothing with me and it was too cold to sleep in the car. I hadn’t even a jacket with me. Even with two blankets I was quite cold Saturday night in my tent. Fridays rain was recreated in miniature inside my tent on Saturday because I had not closed the dew flaps on my tent, so there was a steady drip-drip-dripping “rain” in the early hours of the morning when I finally dragged myself away from the camp fire and crawled into bed.

It was a fantastic time, and I am lucky to live in a city with such a strong and dynamic group of Heathens.

Reviresco!

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Filed under Event, Folk, The Heathen Gods

Fitness Report 25Sep09

Waist – 39.5″

Weight – 213.2 lbs

Body Fat Percentage – 26% / 30.5%

Overweight by – 24 pounds

Exercising – Yes, though not as much as I want to

Dieting – Not really

I feel – Exhuasted

I had fully expected this entry to be about backsliding and gaining weight back, but I guess stress and lack of sleep took over from diet and exercise this week to help me keep losing weight. I’ve been going non-stop at school for a couple of weeks, and this weekend doesn’t look like I’m going to be getting much rest, either. We’re still moving forward…

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Filed under Budo, Fitness Report, Right Living

2009 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

Today was an exhausting day. The Greater Kansas City Japan Festival was held again by the Heart of America Japan-America Society of Kansas City. I was involved in workshops and demonstrations all day. It started out for me with the iaido workshop, which was attended fairly well. We lent bokuto to about a dozen people and performed two or three kihon waza. Here I got to feel confident and cool, but that changed after the workshop when we went up on stage to do the demonstration.

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I went up onstage with my iaido school, Ginga Dojo, which is a part of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, and is run by Jon Andresen sensei. His sensei (and by extension my sensei) is named Emily Egan sensei, and she flew up from Texas to participate this weekend. I felt awkward and stupid the whole time I was up there, because my left knee is still jacked up from playing ball, and I can’t sit seiza right now. So I had to stand up during the intial reishiki, but I don’t know the standing reishiki, so I just sort of fumbled along and looked stupid. I performed the first two waza, then stepped back for the more advanced ones and watched. Then Brian stepped out with me, and then Stephanie stepped back and in the end Jon sensei and Emily sensei were up there looking flawlessly cool just the two of them.

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After that my kendo club (KC Kendo Club) did their demonstration, but I didn’t want to rush to change and have to leave my iaido uniform crumpled backstage until it was over, so I just watched from the wings. There were three other schools doing martial arts after iaido and kendo, but I didn’t have a good viewing angle to really see anything except for the aikido folk. From what little I did see, and from what I heard, these schools have their demos down pat. There were some apparently well rehearsed jokes and a little hamming it up, and they had very dramatic routines they went through. I don’t really know what I’m looking at when it comes to their arts, so I won’t comment on it outside of that.

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The demonstrations ran about twice as long as they were scheduled, so I grabbed the bundle of shinai and trotted on over to where the kendo workshop was to take place. It was outside in Fountain Square, and there was already a group of people eagerly waiting for it to start. I think we had something like twenty-five spare shinai to let people handle, but there were about fifty or sixty people there in all. They were mostly younger children and otaku teenagers, though there were a few older people as well. We started out with an abbreviated version of a beginner’s class. Drakey sensei being Drakey sensei we ended up doing a little over two hundred shomen suburi. Welcome to KC Kendo, folks, this is you getting off easy. As sempai we were lined up on one side facing the crowd, those who had shinai lined up facing us. I guess there were about eight or nine of us, including a Japanese nana-dan who was there on vacation and ended up being conscripted by Drakey sensei, who put him in his spare set of bogu. After the warm-up, and they were shown shomen and kote, we lined up and let them form two columns to run through us hitting us with shinai. One little girl thought it was great to hit as hard as she could, but she was the only “power hitter”, everyone else being rather polite about it. Which is good, because I had some apprehension about random festival goers lining up to whack me in what they believed to be the kote.

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We even let them do their best to try and hit us in some limited sparring. This kid was pretty cool. He had been across from me during the kihon suburi instruction, and was giving me these serious “I’m going to kill you” faces. When we grouped up for the limited sparring I ended up complaining to Anton, “nobody wants to fight me!”, and this kid runs over, “I’LL fight YOU!”.  After that Drakey sensei had the crowd line up to watch us jigeiko. I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind and didn’t do very well. I sparred with James, and he chased me down a couple times and hit me during my turn after I had hit and run through. We didn’t go for very long, so it was over before I even got my mind settled into it. I think the goal is to eventually be able to transition into the “budo state of mind” at will, or rather ALWAYS be there, but I’m not there yet.

I regret that I don’t have both a group photo from afterward, and some general “walking around” pictures. I forgot the batteries to my own camera, and Ma didn’t really take too many pictures, and those only of the things I was doing. There are always a lot of excitable otaku doing cosplay, and there are always a lot of people doing interesting workshops and wearing authentic traditional clothing. There are more Japanese folk living in Kansas City than you’d expect (more than I expected, anyway), and many of them come out for the festival. The GKC J-Fest is very good, and there are great workshops and performances.

I ran into a couple people I know, but not as many as I expected. I thought I would see my former math teacher for sure, Mrs. C, because her and her daughter are cosplayers and big into anime. I saw one of my Heathen acquaintances and chatted with him for a while (it’s funny how many Heathens are interested in Japanese culture that I’ve run into). I saw Jake, a former classmate of mine from Japanese class at JCCC and said hello to him. I also stopped and said hello to Virginia, another former classmate from Japanese class, who was working as a volunteer as she often does. I ran into a punk friend of mine with his family and said hello. I was also glad I got to speak for a while with Rumbach sensei, who asked me how KU was going and we exchanged other such pleasantries. I didn’t have much to say, but I was happy to say it, and it feels weird NOT being in her class this semester. It took me what? Three or four years to get four semesters of Japanese credit. I felt like I was ALWAYS going to be Rumbach sensei’s “problem child”. I saw another friend of mine from Japanese class, Kyle, but I couldn’t get his attention through the window, and there was no door to use to go say hello, unfortunately. He was part of a little study group we did every morning in the library, which is another thing I miss about JCCC.

DSCN1701 I bought myself three new tenugui, not because I needed them, but because they were only two dollars a piece, and I want to have tenugui that didn’t come free from e-bogu (like almost everyone wears). They had kaku obi in the merchant area for only twenty-five dollars, but they only had mustard yellow left by the time I got around to looking at them. I was doing demos and workshops all day, so I didn’t get to the bizarre until well after just about everything cool had already been snagged. I ate a red bean pancake, and that made me feel better. It was a great time, and it pretty much always is, isn’t it? I spent most of the day dehydrated and irritated because I hadn’t had enough to eat, but I fixed that soon enough after it was all done. Another year also went by that I waited too long to try and get a T-shirt. They always have a bunch of tiny shirts left, and you’d think they’d learn to order more XL and above. It was interesting all around, and it’s kind of funny how the first year I went to one of these I wandered around taking classes, and then slowly transitioned into spending the entire day being a part of putting classes on.

Reviresco!

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Filed under Budo, Event, Iaido, Kendo

Electrified Foot Stomper

Thursday at fencing I had my first electrified bouts. During the practice we were fencing dry, and I did well enough to win a bout against a senior student. Once we got electrified I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore, and my newness became much more apparent. Often times I would hear the buzzer go off and look and see that I had been touched, and I never felt a thing. Which is frustrating, because I was looking at it expecting it to register the touch I felt my blade make on my opponent. The worst part of all this is just not knowing what is going on. The rules of right of way are not too hard to get in theory, but when you’re out there flinging the blade around it’s very easy to lose track of who’s legally attacking. It’s frustrating to come flying in with the blade, feel the blade bounce off the opponent’s head, and then find out that it wasn’t my turn to attack and I’ve lost from a touch to my arm that I didn’t even feel.

I’ll figure it out.

One thing that may end up giving me problems from kendo is fumikomi, the foot stomping. In kendo you time your blade to land at the same time as your right foot lands during the forward attack motion. You also time it with your kiai, your shout. I haven’t had any issues with suddenly erupting in “woooOOOOOOOOOOOTHR!!!!!!!!” during saber fencing, but it was pointed out to me that I’m stomping my foot while the saber blade lands. This is problematic in that when the forward foot touches while lunging, that signals the end of your attack phase and you lose right of way. In the dry bout it caused me to give up a touch, but that was the only instance. It’s something to think about, and a habit I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over.

One thing that I have figured out about saber fencing that crosses over from kendo is the aggressiveness. Saber is an aggressive weapon style, I’m told, more so than epee or foil. So what happens is that from the words “ready, fence!” the two sabreur typically come flying at each other straight in to see who can initiate the attack first. Kendo taught me that when in doubt, let go of everything else but coming in for a men strike. What happened more often than not last Thursday was that we would close and end up with simultaneous strikes, mine to the opponent’s head, the opponent’s to my side. I think this helped me get comfortable with bouting, and have some confidence in it. I don’t hesitate to strike, and I think that alone has gotten me some of my points.

In kendo on Thursday I had a really good night. Monday I had felt a little discombobulated, but I think Thursday I had a firm grip on my ki. It was one of those rare practices where everything seems to go right. I was very happy in that I managed to score a do strike to an opponent’s left side by putting pushing his hands above his head from tsubazeriai (hilt clashing contest), and then stepping diagonally and slashing his left abdomen. I even remembered zanshin and fumikomi, something I typically can’t bring together in a do attempt. That was my one golden moment for this week. Maybe even for this year. Drakey sensei showed me this move a few weeks ago when Anton had got me to show sensei what turned out to be an illegal move I had used on him. Sensei showed me this proper technique to achieve similar results, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since, and Eunmok sempai(sensei?) even had used it against me a couple of practices ago at KU. I’m jazzed that I could pull it off finally.

Busy budo weekend coming up: today meeting and dinner with iaido folk, tomorrow Greater Kansas City Japan Festival with kendo and iaido demonstrations and workshops, and meeting with representative from Des Moines kendo folk, Sunday iaido practice and fencing at KU. Egan sensei is coming to Kansas City this weekend for the GKC J-Fest iaido demo, and I’m looking forward to meeting my sensei’s sensei. It will be a good weekend all around, I’m excited by all of it.

Reviresco!

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Filed under Budo, Fencing, Iaido, Kendo