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Enter The Danny: A Month of Martial Arts Instruction

6/30/2011

Man, the last 48 hours have been a rollercoaster.  I went from the excitement of having the blog mentioned on CNN to the experience of being vilified on international discussion boards, denounced by Taiwanese legislators, and receiving emails letting me know that I'm an ignorant racist.  To those of you who have emailed or left comments letting me know that you appreciate the site, I thank you.  All I'm trying to do here is present something fun.  To those of you who have let me know that I am an awful human, let me encourage you to find some perspective.  It's not like I pushed an old lady down a flight of stairs.  My sin was trying some eggs and not enjoying them.

And that's the last I'll say about the matter, because it's time to announce my latest project!

"Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today.  This is never-ending."  From The Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai
Project Horror and Project Valentine both kept me at home, watching movies.  Project Gastronome at least let me focus on an activity, but it still kept me in the house for the most part.  But now it's summer!  It's time to get out and get active!  That is what this project will be about.

Did you ever watch the really excellent series Fight Quest?  These two guys traveled all over the world, immersing themselves in different martial arts disciplines and then competing.  It was AWESOME.  My original vision for this project was something similar, studying a different style each week and writing about it.  My friend John Q. studied martial arts for many years, and talked me out of this approach.  The difference between me and the guys on the show is that they have dedicated decades to studying martial arts, and I've never even spent a day.  I could do virtually nothing in a week.  This left me unsure about whether I still wanted to do this project.

Then I met Tony Bonello.

Every year, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce hosts a business expo, and as a member of the business community, I like to go and take a look around.  One of the booths at this year's expo was Black Belt Universe, a local martial arts school operated by Tony "The Gun" Bonello, who I had the chance to visit with.  He's a really friendly guy!  It wasn't until I got home and looked him up that I realized he's not only a really friendly guy, he's also a huge name in the world of MMA.  He actually lived with the Gracie family, the creators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!  We talked about this blog, and I told him about the different projects I've done, and that I wanted to do one where I study martial arts for a month.  He lit up, and we started bouncing ideas for it off of each other right there.  This led to the best part of the conversation - he offered me a month of free lessons, if I will write about it on my blog!

Classes meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so I'll be going to my first one tomorrow.  I'm not sure yet whether they'll be holding class on Monday the 4th.  I'm both excited and nervous, but I think this will be a fun month, and I'm hoping to have some great video to share with you, just like on Project Gastronome.

Here's another thing that I'm nervous about, although I wouldn't have been before the whole century egg-CNN debacle.  My friend Kirsten made me a really great graphic that I'm planning to use as part of the articles about Enter The Danny, which I will now show you, along with my disclaimers.

  1. Yes, I am aware that Bruce Lee (whose picture is adapted above) was from Hong Kong, not Brazil, and that he developed the style known as Jeet Kune Do, not Jiu-Jitsu.  He is iconic enough in the world of martial arts that I felt like his image would add something to the project.
  2. Yes, I am also aware that the jumpsuit he is wearing above is from the movie Game of Death, not Enter The Dragon (the name of which I have adapted for this project).  I liked the way that Enter The Danny sounded.
  3. Yes, I am aware that The Hagakure is a Japanese text which was studied by samurai, who also have nothing to do with jiu-jitsu.  I will still be reading it and quoting from it this month, because I feel that the insights it provides on the path of a warrior are applicable.
Is that good?  Have I covered my ass enough, and convinced everybody that I mean no harm?  Good.  Because I have a different hornets nest to stir - hey Pennsylvanians, I think that scrapple sucks.  (OK, I don't really, but I'm also willing to bet that I won't get a single comment or email from a disgruntled Pennsylvanian who thinks that I am insulting their entire culture because I happened to say something negative about a single food item that they consume.)
9 comments

Welcome, international friends!

6/29/2011

Yesterday, Look What Danny Made! had more hits than in any other day since I launched the site.  About 5% of all the traffic that has ever arrived at this blog has been in the last 24 hours!  Why?  CNN, when they are not too busy filling their homepage with question marks, has added an emphasis on user-generated content at their website.  Back in April, when I was still doing Project Gastronome, they had an iReport where they requested readers to send in stories about the most revolting foods they'd ever eaten.  Since I'd just eaten century eggs, well, it seemed like a natural match.

This week, iReport published a compilation of some of the best submissions, and mine was Number 1 on the list, complete with a link to my blog!  As I have mentioned before, attention to my blog is like heroin to me, so I was really excited.  Here is what I did not notice: every single food on their list is from Asia.  Every.  Single.  Food.  The entire comments section pretty quickly turned into angry people calling Americans fat xenophobes with terrible dietary habits.

The largest sources of traffic by far, though, were not readers from CNN.  Links to my blog were also posted on several Chinese-language discussion boards.  I was unable to read them, so I used the handy translator at Babel Fish.  It turns out they were not fans.

I mentioned this once during Project Horror, but one of the best classes I took in college was Dr. Bryant's anthropology course.  He said something on the first day of class that I have always tried to keep in mind when viewing another culture: "For the business majors in the room, please don't treat the people that we're going to study as though we're taking a trip to the zoo."  I'm sorry if I made anybody feel that way, and toward that end, I've prepared this statement, again using Babel Fish.

你好! I' 高兴的m您读我的页。 虽然我没有享用鸡蛋,我没有意味不恭对您的文化。 如果您读有些我的博克,我认为you' ll发现我非常享用几繁体中文食物。 它是某天访问中国的我的一个最喜欢的梦想!
Which is to say:
Hello!  I'm glad you are reading my page.  Although I did not enjoy the eggs, I meant no disrespect to your culture.  If you read some more of my blog, I think you'll find that I enjoyed several traditional Chinese foods very much.  It is one of my fondest dreams to visit China someday!

I'd like to say that this is the first international incident I've been embroiled in, but there was a brief bit of unpleasantness at the airport in Oman about 20 years ago.  That is actually not a joke.  And when the day comes that I do get to visit China, although I will visit with open arms and mind, you still won't get me to eat any more century eggs!

UPDATE:
A reader was kind enough to provide me with this, a more accurate translation of what I was trying to say.
你好,很高兴你在读我的文章。虽然我没有享受皮蛋的味道,但是我对你们的文化并无冒犯之意。如果你读了我的博客的其他文章,你会发现我也很喜欢几种中国的传统食物。能有一天去中国旅行是我的梦想之一。
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We Are Not Keeping This

6/28/2011

We are not keeping this.
It was an interesting weekend.

Sunday was the second hottest day in the history of Lubbock.  It was so hot that I was frightened even to take my children swimming, which is our normal activity on a hot day.  It was really, really hot.  After a day of staying cool inside, though, the kids needed to air out, so we set up a little splash pool in the backyard and let them play in it after dinner when it was starting to get cooler.

I noticed some movement behind the back fence, and knew it was a stray dog, but didn't pay much attention because it wasn't barking at us or menacing us.  Courtney noticed that the dog didn't go away, so she eventually went to look.  On the other side of the gate was a puppy, so hot and tired that he couldn't make a sound, and covered with ticks from head to toe.  We sprayed him with water from the hose to help him cool down, and he instantly pepped up.

We are not keeping this.

"A new puppy!  Can we keep him, daddy?"
"No, we are not keeping this."
"But we could name him..."
"His name is NO.  We are not keeping this."

Another family someplace is missing him.  They would want him back.  On the other hand, a dog doesn't get that many ticks overnight.  He's been out for a while.  Henry is getting pretty old.  He won't live forever.  Maybe it would be good to have a new puppy for the kids.  On the other hand, don't we owe it to Henry to make his sunset years peaceful?  We are not keeping this.

Courtney took him to the vet on Monday after bathing, scrubbing, and thoroughly de-ticking him on Sunday night.  He's healthy, about 7 weeks old, and is probably a mix of chow and golden retriever or yellow lab.  We put up some posters and put his picture and description on Facebook and some lost dog boards online.  The plan is to give him away if he isn't claimed by Sunday.
Gosh, he actually cleaned up pretty cute.  And he wags his tail when I come outside, and he likes to play with me...  No.  We are not keeping this.  Why is this hard?  I don't even like dogs.  This one brings me joy.  I know it would bring somebody else joy, too, but it wouldn't be so bad for me to keep this bit of joy to myself, right?  No.  We are not keeping this.

I think this may have weighed on me more than it usually would have, because I just recently read a really good story about a lost puppy.

So, that is part of what happened this weekend.  Here is another part, but it's one that comes with some background.  For some time, going back to before we had Jack, Courtney has felt it very strongly in her heart that she wants to be a surrogate for a couple who is unable to conceive.  I had some initial misgivings.  The last time I'd heard or thought anything about surrogacy was back in the late '80s, when it was in the news because there were all kinds of lawsuits and problems surrounding it.  That still shaped my thinking about surrogacy.  She showed me information to relieve those fears, but I still worried.  Although I know that her motivation for doing this is love, there is also some financial remuneration, and I didn't want her to feel like we were commoditizing her body for the benefit of our family.  Above all, I wondered about the emotions involved with carrying a baby, but knowing that the baby will be another family's.  We talked about this a lot.  A lot.  Maybe I was more worried for me than for her, because she's eagerly anticipating the joy that this will bring to somebody else.

Courtney found an agency with a sterling reputation and started the process.  We have both undergone counseling, testing, and meetings.  On Saturday, we met the couple who Courtney will be carrying for.  Both of us were bundles of nerves in the week leading up to their trip to Lubbock.  Would they like us?  Would they feel safe with entrusting this responsibility to us?  Long story short, they are lovely.  They are warm, and interesting, and wonderful.  They are lovely.  For privacy, that's all I'm going to say about them, but the meeting went very well.  We're excited about the part Courtney is about to play in their life, and blessed to have met them.

If you are a fan of Friends, you probably remember the episode where Phoebe's brother and sister-in-law ask her to be a surrogate for them.  Her mother gives a puppy to Phoebe, but only for three days, to show her how hard it is to give up somebody who you have feelings for.

And now you see how the two threads of my weekend tie together.

We are not keeping this.  But I think I'm OK with that.  I want to see the joy on another family's face.

We are not keeping this.

6 comments

Happy Fathers Day! Love, Murphy Oil Soap

6/20/2011

I hope all of you dads out there had a very nice Fathers Day.  How was mine, you ask?  You know, the usual.  It started with the family taking me to breakfast and ended with a phone call to poison control.

Most of the day was very relaxed and nice.  We went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, and then went to late service to see Blake and the other kids who went to VBS last week sing in church.  The afternoon passed quietly, with the kids napping and me enjoying a book on my Nook.  I wanted to take them swimming, but a West Texas dust storm (which seems to be the weather every single day lately) put the kibosh on that.  After a fun BBQ dinner, Courtney had to leave for work, so I began my night shift with the kids.

I had to go to the bathroom.  Now, it didn't feel like I was in there any longer than usual, but maybe I let myself luxuriate on the throne for a few extra minutes, it being my special day and all.  My first clue that something was amiss should have been the fact that I didn't hear the children.

Maybe you remember this about Jack, but he likes to get into things that he's not supposed to.  Since he's not tall enough to reach the light switches, he instead prefers to kill the light in Daddy's eyes, one messy act at a time.  I left the bathroom and immediately smelled oranges, so I made like Toucan Sam and followed my nose.  When I reached the kitchen, I discovered two things.  First, Jack has learned how to defeat the "childproof" latches on our kitchen cabinets.  Second, he had sprayed about half a bottle of Murphy Oil Wood Cleaner With Orange Oil on the kitchen floor, everything else stored under the kitchen sink, and his clothes.  Amazingly enough, there was very little of it on his skin.

As I took him to his room to change him, though, he tried to kiss me (he knew he was in trouble) and I could smell oranges on his breath.  Great.  The lid wasn't off the bottle, so I knew he at least hadn't chugged it down, but I still worried.  A call to Leanne, the friendly poison control nurse, set my mind at ease.  He may have very tangy smelling diapers for the next day or two, but that should be the only aftereffect.

Two things I learned today:
  1. Having the number for Poison Control in your house is a MUST.  If you live anyplace in the USA, the number is 800-222-1222.
  2. Many of my favorite treats are orange-flavored things (orange soda, those chocolate-orange sticks, Dreamsicles).  Apparently, Jack likes orange-flavored things, just like his dad.  What do you know?  We bonded on Fathers Day after all...
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Sisyphus was a sissy-fuss

6/16/2011

THE BORING PART:
I've mentioned it already, but I've been working this year to lose weight.  Up until now, I've approached it without a specific focus other than "eat less, exercise more."  There's a program for iPhone called LoseIt that's helped me a lot, by logging the foods that I eat and the exercises that I do.  The initial weight came off quickly, but I don't credit that to an amazing program or anything.  It was just that I was finally getting off of the couch a little bit and not going out to get milkshakes for me and Courtney every night.  I've been stalled about halfway to my goal for a while now, though, and it's because I haven't really focused.  My workouts have solely been time spent on the elliptical machine, since I knew that I could work up a decent sweat without having to leave my children in the kids club at the gym for too long, and because I was kind of nervous to approach weights on my own.  I did my free session with one of the gym's trainers, and I won't spend a lot of time on why, but I wasn't really pleased with it.  I know that those guys make their living on repeat clients, but it felt like he was trying to get me to "subscribe" to whatever workout he planned for me in a given session, rather than setting me up with a real, long-term program that I could work with.

THE GOOD PART:
Now that it's summer, I've been taking the kids to our gym's pool when I can, and that's where I met Khalid.  He's a former defensive back for the Texas Tech football team, and he is seriously cut.  When I found out that he trains people on the side, I asked if we could meet sometime.  This guy is all about having a plan.  I've just started working with him, but I'm excited about where it's heading.

For last night's workout, he told me to stay off of the weights, and to do twenty minutes of stairclimber and then a few other exercises.

"Only twenty minutes?" I thought.  "I usually do nearly twice that on the elliptical or treadmill.  This'll be a piece of cake."

Oh, Danny...

Have you people tried the stairclimber?  It is the first time in my life that I've really been frightened by a piece of exercise equipment, and this is coming from a person who was once pinned under a very heavily-weighted bar during a bench press gone wrong in high school.  I thought it would be a lot like running stairs, which I've done before.  The difference is that if you get tired when you are running stairs, you can stop.  The machine is pitiless, it just keeps churning out more stairs for you to climb.  Stumbled when you caught your toe on the edge of a step?  CLIMB, YOU PUSSY.  The stairs are growing unsafe to walk on, because they are too covered in your own sweat?  FUCK YOU, CLIMB SOME MORE.  Trying to skip a track on Pandora?  I DIDN'T GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO DO THAT, BITCH.  STAIRS!  STAIRS!!!

(I imagine the stairclimber is really vulgar and loud, by the way.)

You know how the treadmill has the rails on the sides where you can stand for a second if you need to?  Not so on the climber.  Do you like ice cream?  Hey, me too!  But now imagine that instead of eating it at your own pace, you were seated with your mouth held wide open while Nolan Ryan hurls scoops of ice cream into it like fastballs.  That is the stairclimber.

I can't be the first person on a stairclimber to be reminded of Sisyphus, doomed for all eternity to push a boulder uphill, only to watch it go tumbling back downhill again.  But I like to think that as he watched that rock falling away from him, he thought, "Yeah, that sucks, but at least I get to walk DOWNhill to go retrieve it."

That's right, I just compared myself to a mythical figure and declared myself the better man.  This is the mind that brings you these blog entries.
8 comments

Kid's Got Moves

6/08/2011

All school year long, Blake's stories from school have centered around two names in particular.  One is his best friend, Amari (I think I'm spelling that right.  It's pronounced uh-MAR-ee.), a little boy who he also played basketball with last year.  The other is Madeline.  I'm trying to think of a cute, kindergarten-appropriate euphemism, but I think I just have to come out and say that Blake loves Madeline.

To Rachel and Kelley, I apologize.  I know that this kind of steps on the plans that we've tried to make between Blake and your daughters.  The heart wants what it wants.

Here is the note that Blake gave to Madeline on the last day of school.

Transcription, in case you can't read it:
Madlen i like you vury much.
i like your backpack.
Frum BlAke to Madlen
Complimenting a woman on her bag?  You guys, that is advanced stuff.  That didn't even occur to me until college.  My boy flirts on a college level.  I guess it worked, too, based on what he told me happened afterward.  On the last day of school, his class was picking up trash around the campus, and he picked a "wishing flower" (a dandelion seed pod) to give to her.  She told him that her wish was for them to get married when they get older.  My advice to him is to get out there and compliment a few more backpacks first.
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Look What Danny Made: Summer Edition

6/07/2011

Hi blog!  I finished Project Gastronome and ended up taking a month-long vacation from you, didn't I?  Where have I been?  I can't say too much; I will simply point out that in the month when I wasn't posting, Osama Bin Laden was taken out...

OK, the truth is that every time I finish one of my projects I have a few days of despair, wondering how I will follow it, and what I can possibly write about in the meantime that will be worth reading.  In this instance, I just let it come out as laziness.  But here I am, with summer in front of me, and a renewed drive to blog!  I don't consider myself to be anything close to a Writer, but one piece of advice that I've always heard Writers give is that the key to writing is... writing.  Write every day, even when you don't want to.  Even if you feel like what you're putting out isn't that great.  The point is that you are staying in the habit and keeping the wheels greased.  I have a few summer goals in mind, and one of them is to be more regular with posting in here.  In the meantime, I've got some catching up to do.

When I was growing up, I took for granted how cool it was to be the child of two educators in the summer time.  I did fun stuff like scout camp and Vacation Bible School, but mostly I just got to be at home or at the pool and do anything I wanted to do.  Courtney and I have always had our kids enrolled in year-round daycares or preschools.  With Blake finishing kindergarten this year, it's the first time we've had to make sure he's taken care of.  The answer is sort of a patchwork of different things.  There are two days a week when my parents are very generously having him over to their home, and we've also signed him up for a few different sports camps, museum programs, and VBS.  Courtney has tried to schedule herself for as many weekend shifts as possible so that she can be home and awake during the week while Blake is there.  I'll be taking some time off during the summer, too, to try and soothe some of this working parent guilt over shuffling my child around so much.

But there are some things that I'm also very excited about this summer!  We are planning to meet up with several of our friends from all over Texas for a long weekend in August, when we will be renting a house at Schlitterbahn.  We've done this before, but I think this is the first year when all of our kids will really be big enough to enjoy it.  Instead of doing swim lessons through the Y this year, I'm taking it on myself to spend that time in the water with each of my kids, and it's been a lot of fun so far.  I'm looking forward to seeing how much stronger they are in the pool by the end of summer.  Ava is already much more brave than she was just two weeks ago.  After nearly a year of having our house on the market, we made the decision to unlist it and stay in it for a few more years.  Although I'm a little disappointed that it didn't move like we'd hoped, I'm also excited at the prospect of doing a few summer home improvement projects.  I've never been especially handy, so it'll be a learning experience.

What I am very excited about right now, though, is that I have another Look What Danny Made! project starting on July 1.  Unlike Projects Horror, Valentine, and Gastronome, this one will actually take me outside of my house.  It's also going to be a whole new realm of experience for me, and marks the first time that one of my projects has received outside sponsorship!  You know me, I don't like to give away the details too soon, but watch this space for more information in the days to come.