Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gyaku Zuki 逆突き, Karate Chop!

This is the year.  I have been working towards this goal for 5 years now.  My palms are already sweating at the thought of it.  This is the year I will test to receive a black belt from my Sensei.

My current rank of Ikkyu (brown belt).

Karate is the first sport that I have ever really dedicated myself to and have actually accomplished something in the process.  It is truly one of my greatest adventures and a life changing experience.  I study Kyu Shin Ryu and am currently the rank of Ikkyu (brown belt).  Hopefully if all goes well I will earn my Shodan ranking on April 28th.

Kyu Shin Ryu kin on my gi (uniform).

To be perfectly honest, I am literally terrified of my test that will take place at the end of April.  The pressures of school work, studying, and training for black belt are overwhelming and could send any reasonable person into a panic attack.  I am trying to focus on just one aspect of my test at a time, but I do not think that my nerves will ever be fully prepared, no matter how much I practice.

Bo staff kata, strike to the nose.

The test...the very, very big test.  The belt test takes nearly 6 hours.  I will be first in line to test, meaning that a command in Japanese will be relayed and I will have to remember how to perform the given technique (yikes).  Next, I will have to perform Kata.  I will have to perform a total of 5 different Kata, one of which has four parts.  Kata is almost like a dance with karate techniques.  They can be considered short skits where you are fighting an imaginary opponent.  However, if ever faced with a real opponent then Kata can truly improve your fighting techniques.  One of these Kata will also include a bo staff.  I was super excited when I first started learning the bo staff Kata.  I just hope that my palms aren't too sweaty, causing my bo to slip away whilst spinning it.  The Kata makes me the most nervous of all, because I will have to stand in front of everyone, while my Sensei watches my every move.  One small misstep of a foot or strike of a punch would be my worst nightmare.  I want to make sure I am perfect and hope that my nerves don't get the best of me.

Sokoto Geri (side kick).
After Kata, I will have to do 2 Embu.  Normally, I only do one, but black belts have an additional Do No Embu added.  The Embu is a mock fight with a partner (luckily my partner is Sensei's wife and she is great).  We get up in front of the class and demonstrate 10 different techniques on each other.  The techniques include kicks, punches, throws, twists, and more.  For the Do No Embu, we put on body shields to cover our chests.  This is considered a 'hard' Embu, meaning you are supposed to kick and punch your partner hard, as if you were in a real fight.  All of the kicks and punches are to the padding, but you will still feel the force of a full kick to the stomach.  If you are doing the Embu correctly then they will most likely hurt...but that is a good thing I suppose.

Bo staff kata...not the best dojo to practice in ;)

Lastly, I will be required to Spar.  I will likely have to fight at least twice.  Besides the fact that I will likely be mentally and physically drained, I don't think I will be too nervous.  It would be nice to be able to score at least one point against my opponent, or bock a really good kick.  The good thing about sparring compared to the other portions of the test is that when I step into the circle I will no longer have to think.  My mind will become clear, my worries will be gone, and my body will flow (hopefully in the right direction ;)

My hope is to practice diligently, with every spare moment that I have for the next 2 months.  I am using practice to cure my nerves.  Although the butterflies will still be fluttering in my stomach, they will be no match to my muscle memory.  Let the countdown begin...

Gyaku Zuki...kiai!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So long To Do's ....Hello To Done's

Do you ever get that feeling that nothing is getting done?  Or ask yourself, "what did I even do today...did I accomplish anything?"  Unfortunately, I am asking myself these things all the time.  I am tired of feeling as if I have accomplished nothing, especially when I know I spent my time doing something!  So, to resolve this issue I am making 'To Done' lists in the place of my 'To Do' lists.

As my family knows, I am notorious for making To Do lists.  Even as a young child (before I could even write ;) I have been creating To Do lists.  I am the queen of formulating lists, the master of creating tasks, and the samurai of organizing duties.  It is true, however, a To Do list can keep you well organized, on track, and prevent you from forgetting those pressing obligations.....but, they are not always good.  They may also lead to stress, anxiety, frustration, and yes even the P-word (procrastination). 

 For me, my To Do lists are taking over my life.  They are hanging over my head like a bad omen.  To make things worse, I am being instructed by my advisor to make the ultimate To Do list.  Do you have any idea how overwhelming it is to actually write a To Do list for everything (and I mean everything) that needs to be done for a Masters project?  The thought of this list may give me a heart attack.  I am nearly hyperventilating just looking at it!  Focusing on the hundreds of tasks that need to get done is stressful, which can ultimately lead to procrastination.  Why procrastinate?  I know that I am guilty of this because I am not ready for the next item on the list, or I have become discouraged and need to pull my mind away from the task at hand. 

I am not sure if I only found this funny because I was procrastinating or not, but I certainly laughed.

So, to combat this I am doing away with To Do lists and moving on to To Done lists!  This is going to make my memory 10 times better, because instead of writing down everything I need to do, I am going to focus on remember it.  I think this will also help my brain to auto-prioritize.  Meaning, if there is something very crucial that needs doing, my brain will 'tell me' and I will never need to look at a list again!  Each time I complete one of these tasks (that my brain has wired to my hands) I am writing it down on my To Done list.  That way, at the end of each day I can look at my To Done list and feel proud!  I can say to myself, "Damn, I am good...look at everything I have accomplished today!"

How is this different from a To Do list you might ask?  Well, on To Do lists you are always crossing tasks off a long list.  This may feel good for about 5 seconds, until you realize there are at least 7 other items still on that damn list.  Why not feel instant gratification by writing your accomplishments down instead?  Here is my To Done list for today, and I still have time to add more.  I feel better already!

PS. If you are observant, than you know that I am slightly guilty of recently making a To Do list on this blog (yes, I am closet list maker), however I would like to rename that list to 'Monthly Goals'.  I hope this won't be held against me, because I promise I am done with To Do lists!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Delightful Day!

What better way to start off the month than with an extra day.  Yes, it is true one full extra day! This year is a leap year, meaning we will have 366 days rather than the typical 365.  For me, this is a well needed extra day.  I have projects, upon to do lists, upon assignments, upon more projects building up.  What better way to catch up on my life than adding a full 'empty' day to my agenda.  Some people may not think much of the added day in the year, or may not even notice, but I am going out of my way to make sure my extra day counts!

One of the first pellets I found last season (2011).
I am making February the month to 'leap' ahead on my busy schedule.  I will be diligently working on starting new projects and finishing up old ones.  Yes...I am setting the goal high, because if I don't it will never happen!  I am going to make this leap year count and by February 29th I hope to have accomplished the following:

1) Begin work on structuring, digitizing, and rendering various GIS layers for ArcMap.  My project is having a specially designed tool created in order to use within canyon landscapes.  This tool will allow me to easily take measurements from canyon terrain using various GIS data layers.  The tool is in the works and I should be too.  I need to prepare a number of layers that can be applied to the tool as soon as it is done.

Error Analysis on a derived slope layer.

2) Finish knitting my owl sweater.  Why is this important? Because I want to wear this thing before it is too warm!  Since I love owls and knitting I figured this sweater would be the perfect combination for my next knitting project.  Plus I would really love to wear this thing when I leave for Moab in March to present my research (hopefully it isn't too hot by then).

3) Commence dissection.  I have nearly 80 spotted owl pellets that I need to dissect.  Considering I have never really done owl pellet dissection under dire circumstances such as mine, I need to do a lot of prep work.  I need to find resources, if any, on how to identify leg bones of small mammals, hair (I am thinking not), and body to mass ratios.  Not to mention learn how to identify (correctly) small mammal skulls.  My goal is to design data sheets for this task and at least started filling them out with some number (even if it is only 1) of dissected owl pellets.

4) Write my methods! Yes, you heard right and despite the exclamation point, I am not excited about this.  I have to completely re-write my methods for my project.  Why? I am too frustrated to even talk about it, so I am just going to get it done.  And I will have it done by the 29th!

      A cartoon I drew of me doing a geologic survey.  Surprisingly, my advisor did not particularly like the figure (maybe it was the pink dress?)
 5) Select my owl sites.  I have to organize and compile all historic data, create occupancy records, and classify these locations as low, medium, or high occupancy.  Part of this process I have automated by designing and creating my very own Access database.  I should be done with this task by now, but the main problem is I have to rely on other people (who seem to be very flaky) to provide me with their data.  Therefore, I am stuck in a black hole until I receive their data.  So I am hoping that they will at least get me their data by the 29th.  After all they have a whole extra day to do it...right?

6) Submit my IAR reports.  These are reports that were due to the National Park Service at least a month ago.  Why didn't I submit them? Well, I did not have the proper login information because my advisors lost it.  So the lesson here is never let your advisors apply for a permit in their name (if at all possible).  This year I am taking care of my own business and have applied for all my own permits.  Surprisingly, they were done way faster, things went way smoother, and I already have my permits in hand! Plus, my IAR reports will be turned in well before the deadline next year.

7)  Select sites to deploy my iButtons.  iButtons are a small device, about the size of a sweet tart, that records temperature and humidity.  I am placing these at select owls sites this summer to determine if owls prefer cool, moist canyons.  The problem is, I am not quite sure where to put them yet, or how to even decide.  I have a couple of ideas, but I need a definitive decision by the end of this month.  And this is a very important decision that can't be made hastily.

iButton next to a penny.

8) Bird more.  I have been slacking on my birding for quite sometime.  It is mainly due to the amount of time my project demands of me.  It literally sucks the life right out of me.  So, my goal is to work less and bird more.  However, I will have to manage my time wisely in order to keep up on all of the above project goals.

Birding with the magnificent Wellsvilles as a backdrop.

There you have it....my 'leap' ahead goals all laid out.  I will be documenting my progress on each of these goals throughout the month.  So, what are you waiting for?  Stop wasting your leap year and start planning that extra day!

Celebrating my very last hike of the field season (2011).  I hope to be feeling this great by the end of February!