Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oh yes Housing chains!

Well, after a few weeks of being back on the market it looks like our original buyers are back. So the pause button can now be toggled back to play and we can get the whole thing going again.
It seems we have a complete chain now, and a much shorter one. I am hoping no-one is going to go mad and try and do this before christmas!
Conveyancing takes a while with all the searches and supplemental questions that need answering. Have you ever let a UFO land in your back garden? Are your walls made of reindeer antlers etc.
Still, lets keep our fingers crossed that we can start the new year with not too much paperwork, and a nice simple move :)
As I am typing this I looked out of the office window to see the Sold STC sign go up too :0
It's all yin and yang of course. But fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oh no! housing chains!

Our house sale looked like it was all going ahead nicely. Though we were in a chain of 5 people, we also had a short chain above us. We have found the ideal house for our plans. Unfortunately the chain broke. i.e. the people buying somewhere below us in the chain couldn't buy after all. It may have been mortgages, life events or changing their minds, but either way it meant our buyers couldn't buy. Which has the obvious knock on up the chain. In England the housing market only really has any legal lock in once contracts are exchanged, with completion, the actual transaction and swapping of deeds and cash happening sometime after that. Before exchange people have to secure mortgage offers, have lots of legal questions answered about boundaries, electrical work, planning permission, boiler servicing etc. So up until exchange any chain is completely open to breaking for everyone. It is also the case that people sometimes treat the pressure situations of the agreements made as a time to re-negotiate prices at the last minute before exchange. I am hoping that when we get to any point of exchange we don't see any of that happening and that honour will prevail. So here were are with an ideal house to buy, the loft contents pretty much sorted and packed into the garage, mortgage in place ready to go but we are back into having viewings. Close to Christmas is an odd time for people choosing to look for houses. Having said that though that may mean the house we want to buy is less likely to get sold to someone else. It's all swings and roundabouts. So if you know anyone who wants to move to Warsash, near a great school. Point them to this our humble abode. Note we are now with a much better estate agent that I can thoroughly recommend Robinson Reade. Great professionalism and efficiency and ethics, and well worth talking to if you are selling.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gold belt senior

My gold belt senior, originally uploaded by epredator.
Another fantastically exciting grading this month. We were in a huge school gym rather than the normal smaller venue. It was very load and echoey, but when the Choi Kwang Do kihaps (shouts) start it fills the room with energy.
predlet 2.0 and I graded to Gold Belt Senior. The journey continues. A great way to spend a saturday afternoon with friends and getting to let off some steam too.

Gold belt senior Predlet 2.0

As usual a huge thanks goes out to everyone who turns up each grading and runs it. All the school owners and the assistant instructors. There is always loads of support from all the spectators and fellow students too. It is one huge bundle of positive energy.
Pil Seung!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gold, just like the Olympics

After an amazing few weeks of elite sports it was very exciting for both predlet 2.0 and I to have our next grading in Choi Kwang Do and successfully level up to Gold belts. This is the third belt so not quite the same as the years of work the athletes have been through to get their gold medals. However, it is all relative and contextual.
Levelled up to gold belt, as did Predlet 2.0. Predlet 1.0 got her important first white belt senior #ckd :)
Even more importantly though was that predlet 1.0 did her first ever grading. Widely regarded as the most important. It's that first official step towards the higher belts. Subunim Evans presented her with here belt.
Sabumnim Evans hand predlet 1.0 her white belt senior
It was also a very exciting grading because several of of fellow classmates from South Coast CKD had earned their promotion to Assistant Instructors and moved into the bright blue uniforms. It was very cool to see this too.

White belt senior and Gold belt

Yet another Choi event was Predlet 2.0 going along to his first Black Belt Academy. This is an extra special session run once a month for under 12's. It was great to see all the school owner and chief instructors, plus the assistant instructors come together to focus on the kids and get them doing some interesting extra things. It now means Predlet 2.0 will get some black trousers instead. These are used as an additional motivator to focus not just on Choi but on school work and a positive attitude to life.
We were also all very happy for Subunim Webster (who is our chief instructor) , Choi doesn't stop at black belt. There are coloured stripe gradings that lead to major black belt levels called a Dan. He received his brown stripe. One step away from the EE Dan (2nd dan).
So it's Pil Seung! all round (the martial arts motto - certain victory)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Predlet 1.0 joins Choi Kwang Do

Predlet 1.0 joins Choi Kwang Do, originally uploaded by epredator.
Another new recruit to SouthCoast Choi Kwang Do and the Choi family. Predlet 1.0 had her first two lessons and decided she liked it, so we signed her up and she was very happy to get her Dobok straight away too :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Choi Kwag Do progression

Saturday saw another bi-monthly gathering of the Choi Kwang Do family at the local school hall for a grading session. These sessions are very energetic and exciting moments in an already energetic and exciting way of life.
It is less of an exam, more an expression of what you have learned. Each belt has a set of combinations, patterns and moves associated with it.
Typically we are grouped with similar belts. In this case it was yellow and gold. Each belt has a junior and senior component. The senior belt has a black stripe.
Yellow belt senior #ckd
Predlet 2.0 and I went from yellow belt to yellow belt senior. It does not feel that any of this is done in a rush and it is not a pre-requisite in order to continue, which is why if feels more relaxed yet important than a traditional test or exam. You enter into a grading having spent 2 months of practice and growth.
In my gradings I started off very tense and in particular when doing patterns and combinations I was applying force and power more than technique. In Choi it is the balance of trying to perform the movements in a relaxed fashion, focusing on the angles and the technique, and then in other exercises to exploit that technique with either power (for the big muscle groups) or speed (for the twitch muscles).
This means that when performing a combination or pattern (as there is not a target to hit) you focus on being relaxed and flowing in the move. When it then comes the power test the muscle memory is already in place and you can up the adrenalin and induce very focussed power.
I am learning to turn down the wick on my imagination that I am having to punch or kick anything in the combination as I know have felt the difference in when you explode the power and technique, as opposed to maintaining a steady high average of power across all the moves.
It is a learning journey and just as with standing up and presenting, or talking about new tech to people there is a pace an flow that you have to feel and in many ways turn parts of your brain off to allow the other parts to do their thing.
So onwards :) just 15 more belts to go on a journey to blackbelt which of course is not an end point just part of a longer journey, long may it continue.
Thankyou and Pil Seungh to all the instructors (Assistants and Sabumnims) and to all my fellow students for making the day so good.
Predlet 2.0 is certainly very proud of his new belt and looking forward to some new choi toys in the next few weeks. He also enjoyed the fact we had Grandmaster Choi on the car stereo on the way how telling us the proper Korean terminology and pronunciation having bought the CD :)
Yellow belt senior Predlet 2.0

Friday, July 06, 2012

Choi Kwang Do Festival

Last weekend Predlet 2.0 and I attended a full days festival of Choi Kwang Do set up and run by the Hampshire schools. It was an incredible experience, especially as we only started Choi back in February.
CKD is a noble martial art in that it does not deal with competition, only self improvement. It is this fact that makes it one of the most friendly gatherings of people I think I have ever been too. Equally it is powered by an energy and enthusiasm that is far greater than that of each individual in the crowd of 300 people there.
The event was at Henry Cort in Fareham, where we train on Thursdays. Instead of the usual smaller gym we had the massive main hall. Which was filled. This shot was taken as we all dived to take on water and lunch :)
Ready to the CKD Festival
Out usual Gym was kitted out with both mats and some extra toys.
CKD Dojang
It was strange to have been part of the transformation of this area as we normally just have this for our class sessions.
The event had some very honourable guests, whilst Choi treats everyone equally experience is celebrated. Therefore to have Master Brophy come and give us 1.5 hours of mass training session and inspiration was in itself worth going. Master Brophy converted to Choi having studied many other martial arts to exceptional levels. It was the friendliness of the dojang that inspired him. Something he shared with us. He started back at the very beginning of Choi, choosing not to take a conversion path but do it from step 1. That was 24 years ago. Choi Kwang Do is 25 years old, and has been going 24 years in the UK and it started here with Master Brophy.
I have heard a lot of people speak and motivate, sometimes I get to do it too in conferences etc. However he is a Master with good reason. He shares humbly, yet with authority and being a physical martial art shows by example. There is nowhere to hide in this if you can't actually do it.
Choi classes tend to leave you feeling somewhat elated, not just from the exercise and adrenalin but from the mental workout you get too. So his session was stunning for every rank.
After lunch we split into groups and got to round robin through sets of exercises and sessions. These were all superb and very varied.
My first session was with Sabumnim Evans on stretching. Some advanced stretches that, after the earlier sessions were most welcome.
Then we were off into the Gym and had much more with Master Brophy on close in fighting dealing with knife attacks. We were on the mats for this and it was something I had not done in Choi yet. We had covered a little on grabs and escaping, but this was pretty full on. We paired up and then too turns sidestepping incoming knife stabs, turning and dropping the opponent, with a great deal of care and respect as always.
Our next session was with the Herman Digital Trainers placed on Wavemaster posts. (as in the photo above). These are 3 way accelerometers that stream data to a PC. They are intriguing. we got to do a fast light punching test, how many punches in 30 seconds, which the accelerometers are great for. Secondly we got to do three hard punches. This got me thinking about the science and how we could make it better. The units are great and certainly provide some relative indications of force, though mass needs to be considered relative to the motion for the number to mean something between training sessions. My brain was also attempting to game the device. It was directly opposite a strike pint so it made sense to punch straight, not confuse it with any lateral side movement. It is good to see CKD is up for looking at the tech because, after all , that is what I do for a living :)
Out next session was more tech. A VT1 video evaluation package that Sabumnim Bicknell talked us through. Originally from golf to analyse the swing it was used to match Grandmaster Choi's movements (as the target we all aim for) with the student and other instructors. It takes a lot of manual reference points and key frames allowing synching up and overlaying, with various spline and trace tools added in. An impressive piece of software, but again my brain was saying can we do this live with the Kinect? Having trained for a year with the UFC kinect trainer there is something in that, more investigation to do :)
The next session was a bit more of a workout. Dealing with Redman. This large padded suit (in red) lets us deal with an actual person rather than a training dummy like Bob
We were doing Redman take downs. A block, rear punch, side kick to the knee, kick or knee to the abdomen and a back fist strike to the back of the head. It is still very respectful, but you do crank it up a notch and everyone loves this drill.
The final two sessions were with Master Harper and Master Miller. Two more very well qualified and extremely inspiring figures in Choi Kwang Do. With Master Harper with cardio, lots of fast moving and then paired drills including getting up from a prone position to deal with an attacker.
With Master Miller we did reverse speed drills. Speed drills are an attack first combination but in this case backing away not advancing. It was preempted by some flexibility workout for kicks and even some jumping kicks. Things we will get too soon in out belts.
During the lunch break (and I am glad I did this when I had the energy) we got a shame photos taken by Martial Arts Photography UK. Predlet 2.0 is very flexible but look what it does for a 44 year old tech geek who sits most of his life :)
Higher kick by Predlet 2.0 Choi Kwang Do
Choi Kwang Do Kick
I have a long way to go and you are always learning in Choi, but if you want to see how its down properly check out the rest of the photos on
The day was fantastic, and the evening meal was great fun too. Elemming came along to that with me. That helped in seeing that this is one big family and we are really all in it together :)
Huge thanks go out to all the Hampshire Sabumnims but not least to South Coast Choi Kwang Do and Sabumnim Webster for showing Predlet 2.0 the way on the start of this journey.
So to everyone  (The art's motto) Pil Seung!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Moving house

We are looking to sell up and move house to get a bit closer to London and my wife's job based out of Paddington. So I have been thrown into using property sites and dealing with the estate agent industry again. It has been 6 or 7 years since we did this last time and I was looking forward to seeing how the tech can help us.
Firstly selling. Well this seems to still be a slightly old fashioned approach and calendar and diary management is a bit ad hoc with Estate Agents. Not a centralised calendar and online casebook to share information. Lots of phone calls, not emails or texts. I guess the drive to apply sharing tools online is generally diminished as your house is sold by a local estate agent. But still this could do with an upgrade :)

Our house does though appear straight away on Rightmove and on Zoopla. Two excellent property search sites. Though I can's edit the detail as this is all done through the agents so corrections or enhancements take a long while.
Both sites are brilliant for starting the search in a new area. Each is hooked to google or bing and provides rough street areas. You have to place hunt the house usually as the address and postcode are "secret". The things that are missing are really based on that lack of address precision. I spen a lot of time checking the BT infinity broadband availability. Things like this (for me anyway) are essential and I think that would be more use than the property energy efficiency certificates that we all have to have now.
As a virtual world person, having just a 2d floor plan and a few well placed still shots is not the right amount of information. I realise that creating a 3d model to walk through is complicated but with sites like Floorplanner making that much more accessible we may eventually get to that. This is obviously less of a problem when you live in the same area as a prospective place but when you hunting area is spread over a larger area the more triaging you can do the better. It is highly likely we have ignored some places because the photos were not good and the plan was unclear.
Next is schools, we have the predlets. There are schools on the maps but then having to trawl through Ofsted reports which generally offer every school as a 3 it seems, all average and can do better. The reports are like the worst of any corporate performance review and seem to offer very little to me as a parent. So much for league tables, but then we have a local school in the top 10 in the country so I am guessing we will have a hard time matching that :(
We have the additional challenge of looking for a property either with or with room in the garden for a good size annex. The property listings really don't help with that again as the sizes of gardens and precision is lacking. Sometimes a garden is mention as ample, spacious, or uses acres. I could just do with them being measured in the same way the floor plan is. After all that is what you are buying too.
So how long before the agents have a handheld kinect powered device to wander around building a 3d model as that walk around ? Then we can go from google street view into the house (with the permission of the seller of course). It would make this a lot more interesting, accurate and fun.
Let's see how it goes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Yellow belt Predlet 2.0 #ckd

Yellow belt Predlet 2.0 #ckd, originally uploaded by epredator.
Our grading went really well this weekend. Our first Colour belts.
A huge thank you to all the instructors and assistant instructors who put on the grading for everyone.
Give Choi Kwang Do a go. :)
If you are down here then look up South Coast CKD and join in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Choi Kwang Do still feels great

Predlet 2.0 and I are still very much enjoying our now biweekly Choi Kwang Do sessions with South Coast CKD. We started on the Tuesday family sessions in Sarisbury Green but now regularly head out to Fareham for the Thursday family session then he takes a rest whilst I join the adult class. Yes a double session ! It is not so much a social occasion in gossip and human relationships but a social occasion in a shared goal and helping one another enjoy the training. It is a real pleasure training with everyone not to mention we have a great Sabumnim in Mr Webster - Pil Suhng Sir!
I am still mixing this with my daily dose of UFC Kinect training, which is primarily a gym workout at home with lots of press ups and weights. It does have punches and kicks of course but I now modify the straight locking punches of that code with the rolling round punches of CKD. The Kinect sensor and the application only really count the direction, which it great, if it sees a fist coming forward from the right it does not cause it problems or mark you own for rolling with the punch. The CKD patterns and combinations also give me something to focus on in the free striking sessions on the Xbox.
It used to be when doing the UFC workout over the past year that I was trying to clear my mind of the days stresses and strains. Now when I do it I am concentrating on what it means for the CKD training which makes it much more meditative.
CKD is proving to be hard work, but also very rewarding and relaxing. As with everything thing effort is relative to your capabilites. The lack of competitive tension  may seem counter intuitive if people want an art that is about winning, but it seems to fit my attitude.
I thought about this some more and I think that CKD is like Blues and Jazz compared to other arts that may be more Classical or Operatic. It has some scales and some forms but much of it is about a flow of improvisation and relaxed enjoyment whilst telling a story. In many ways it also becomes a set of dance movements too but with a real meaning and intent behind them. These are real punches and kicks after all. The technique used to wind up a punch and return to deliver the next blow seems pretty real!
We do also, in particular in the adult classes get to unleash some physical aggression though on pads and shields which makes it a real mix of relaxing Blues jams and frantic high impact Jazz numbers.
CKD has just had its 25th anniversary but it is of course built on the foundation of many years of traditional martial arts. I am sure it is regarded as slightly quirky in mainstream aggressive competitive martial arts, but then I like quirky :)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Contrasting entertainment experiences

What? Two visits to shows in two days. Are you some sort of entertainment critic or something? Not exactly, but on Saturday night we popped to Southampton Guildhall to see Paul Merton's new stand up show on tour. I have always been a fan of his particular blend of old fashioned humour, clever word play and then thrown in with extreme flights of fancy. The unexpected turns up and adds to the humour. This shows was a journey through his noggin as he referred to it. Unlike most stand up this was actually more of a sketch show with monologues and other performances put together with 3 other comedians. It really was a tremendous show. He made some references to Have I Got News for You and how people think he only ever sits down, hence doing stand up. The only criticism was that Southampton Guildhall lacks atmosphere and the school type seating arrangement, no stagger makes it difficult to see whats going on. Not his fault :)
The other major event though was completely different. We took the predlets to Brighton to see Diversity performing their new Digitize show. I am fairly certain this is the best show I have ever been too. It is truly stunning. The predlets decided to practice a bit before we went in as you can see below

This is extremely evolved street dance performance and whilst it has its roots in those sheets of lino we used to backspin on Ashley and his crew have elevated it to an extremely accessible piece of entertainment.
The music was very varied too, not solely relying on the fast cut hip hop tunes. They featured a live pianist and also a live oboe player. Tunes like Stevie Wonder's Superstition and other soul songs and Evanescence bring me to life. Other dancers supported the storyline that included martial artists Trinity warriors and the amazing Chuck from the Sky Got to Dance finals. The kids that support them too are just amazingly clever, and strong dancers.
The story is clearly inspired by Tron, as they get digitised into a video game and have to fight their way out, but it is a brilliant journey.
The Jackson inspired routine that featured in the Got To Dance Semi finals was also part of the story.
So look at this and ramp that up by 2 hours of high paced action packed action and musicality and you have the show.

It is sell out tour, but if you can get to see them, who ever you are... Do!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Choi Kwang Do - First Grading how it happened

For a couple of months Predlet 2.0 and I have been attending Choi Kwang Do classes with South Coast CKD. Those first few sessions teach you the basics of this self defence martial art and get you into the general ethos of the non competitive nature of it.
Sunday saw our first grading. A Dojang is set up in a large hall and this time over 150 students attended to take part in their belt gradings and levelling up.
This may seem counter intuitive to a non competitive ethos but it does work.
In our grading we perform each of the basic moves en-masse several blocks, punches and kicks concentrating on the form whilst being observed.
Then we took part in paired drills involving straight line defence and then the far more exhausting shield and mitt drills.
With the shield (a large padded block) one person holds on whilst the other practices full contact punches and kicks.
Lots of CKD is about flow and biomechanics, these drills add to that with real physical effort.
The gradings are part of the journey, recognition placeholders and also a ig communal experience as all the schools come together in the area.
You think of exams as solitary things, you versus everyone and the questions. This felt completely different. It is something that I will take to the next grading to relax and enjoy. I certainly enjoyed this experience and put a lot into it but I believe I can do that with a less competitive yet focussed attitude.
Both Predlet 2.0 and I were awarded out White belt senior (the black stripe indicates the senior level of a particular belt). So we are not on a journey that we are both enjoying a great deal and one that we get to do together.
I don't have to worry about him when we are training at the same time as this is really a peaceful yet powerful art form.
At the grading we got to see a very experience student about to head to black belt grading performing the same moves with us in the groups. This mix occurs naturally with every level working together at regular classes. There is rank and formality, but at the same time a mutual respect and willingness to help one another. So this really is turning into the ideal martial art for me and I know predlet 2.0 is enjoying it too. Pil Sungh! (The arts motto - Certain Victory) to all everyone on the same journey.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A funny book - pirates in an adventure with scientists

So I was in heathrow, thought I needed a book and I picked this up on a kind of blink moment. I did not notice it said now a major motion picture at the top to start off with. Then it turns out to be very funny and a great read that I got through on the trip to and from vienna (when not playing the 3ds... you know descent and takeoff time)
The movie ends up being an Aardman animation which means it will be brilliant !

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Shed shrimp ghost

Shed shrimp, originally uploaded by epredator.

The wonderful little shrimps we added to our aquarium seem to be thriving.
I noticed this external skeleton case that one of them must have shed as they started to grow.
The ghostly shrimp indicates they are thriving. :)