Lessons from GORUCK Light AC

GORUCK Light in AC
GORUCK Light, Atlantic City. Hotel drawing pad edition.

Lessons

  • “If you’re given the chance, ask for the world.”
  • Proper cold-weather preparation, layering.
  • How much of a difference 10 lbs makes for push-ups.
  • Moving in formation

Observations

  • Different demographic that attends GORUCK events compared to Spartan or Warrior Dash–on average older but more experienced with endurance/race events as well as being very fitness-oriented. So this is one of the places you can find a hardy group of individuals comfortable with pushing their physical/mental limits.
  • Even a light event without much teamwork or even group suffering, as this ended up, still built a minor sense of camaraderie from mutual experience. I’m certainly more fond of my teammates than I might be from just meeting them in a purely social setting.
  • Walking on the isolated beach in freezing wind and pelting snow was a strangely peaceful experience. Unbidden, the words “Tempest around, peace within” jumped to mind as we marched briskly south.

Next, the GR Challenge.

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Five Contemplations Before Meals

During the vegetarian lunch at our visit to Chuang Yen Monastery this past Sunday, we noticed these five items posted in the cafeteria:

  1. I contemplate how much positive potential I have accumulated in order to receive this food.
  2. I contemplate my own practice, and only if there are no defects do I deserve these offerings.
  3. I contemplate my mind, cautiously guarding it from wrongdoing, greed, and other defilements.
  4. I contemplate this food, treating it as wondrous medicine to nourish my body.
  5. I contemplate the aim of buddhahood, accepting and consuming this food, in order to accomplish it.

As mindful as I’ve been aiming to be these last few months, I realized that more often than not, when eating, I’m not entirely present—when eating, I’m usually thinking about other things. So before I began to eat that lunch, I contemplated, and as I ate, I paid attention to the food, and surprised me to really notice the food that I was eating, chewing, and really tasting.

These five contemplations were one of several items that I felt like I learned from the visit to the monastery.

A different holiday party

Shortly after leaving the eggnog holiday party this past Saturday night—regrettably early, actually, in order to catch the final buses leaving from a snow-deluged NY Port Authority—it occurred to me that that situation was quite nice and was something I’d love to be positioned to do in a few years: hosting a party at a nice, accessible apartment, where I’ve prepared tasty foods and guests are bringing more food and snacks than we can eat; enabling good friends from different circles to mingle; having a casual and energetic gathering of interesting people.

Classy, Nancy called it.

Goal identified, I thought.

Learning Tai Chi

Trying a Tai Chi class for the first time was interesting.

The instructor’s first direction to the class was for everyone to begin practice, which led to everyone launching into what they knew of the 60 movement basic form that is taught to beginners. As it was my first class, I waited for further instruction, which came in the form of a different instructor leading me through the first few movements of the form. Eventually the main instructor stopped by and taught me a different section of the form that I could focus on, and incrementally worked on this through the remainder of the class.

Various thoughts & observations from the 1-hour class:

  • The first instructor who taught me spoke about various things, most of which I don’t think I quite understood. I’m not yet sure if my lack of understanding was due to my lack of experience or due to the teacher’s explanation.
  • The class was made up of varying ages, genders and ethnicity, which was cool to see.
  • No context was set before we dived into the form immediately. This was interesting, as I’m wondering if this is like learning to see the trees before the forest.
  • Imitating body movements did not seem overly difficult; the challenge seemed to be understanding the underlying weight distribution, posture, and transitions from movement to movement.
  • One of my goals going into this intro session was to be as fully and completely present as possible so that I could absorb as much as possible. I’ve been keeping the ideas from Art of Learning loosely in mind throughout all learning endeavors since I finished the book.
  • I don’t know what the correct sequence of movements in the form is supposed to look like; I’ll ask about this next time.
  • I’m wondering what future classes will be like. I suspect that I’ll have to continue being as present as possible, and supplement my learnings in class with not just additional practice—which I would expect—but also by asking questions and structuring my own learning.
  • I admit looking forward to learning and improving the rest of the form, which may take quite a while depending on when I can decide to commit to a series of classes.

Interested in learning Tai Chi over the weekend in NYC? Let me know!

Connection, keys, and Krav Maga

It’s not every night that I hitch rides around Hoboken with a complete stranger.

Thursday nights are usually Krav Maga class in Hoboken. Regular classes ends at 8:00 and the recently-started sparring sessions take place over the following half hour. The plan for this Thursday after class was to get quick dinner in the area with a friend (in this story, let’s call him “Eric”.) What actually happened was much more interesting for everyone involved.

Picture yourself after an intense workout: you’re sweaty, physically and/or mentally tired, ready to change, ready to eat, and certainly ready to not stay in the building for another hour. You go to the changing area, change, and you’re ready for the next event! Good visualization; now onto reality.

The stage was set when I leave my jacket hanging on the hooks in the Krav Maga studio while I went to change. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem, except that there were no more classes this night—meaning that the studio gets locked up—and that my car keys and cellphone were both in that jacket. I realized my mistake as I left the bathroom, but by then the woman who locks up was already gone. Me: 0; Padlock: 1.

Luckily, Eric had been waiting around and he had a cellphone we could use. So we initiated a multi-pronged attack: I asked him to call Krav Maga Academy to get hold of the phone number of the people with the keys while I went searching for Building Management. I quickly discovered that Building Management had, much earlier, left the building. KMA was more helpful, with the receptionist going to find contact information for the people we needed. While we waited, we walked through the building to see if anyone else might help. That was when we saw a few painters taking night classes.

To make a long story shorter (and because I don’t remember how exactly this played out), we explained the situation to the painting teacher in charge, exchanged friendly banter, and while she called her own boss to see if we can find an after-hours phone number for Management, Eric and I made more calls to different people with varying degrees of success. At one point we get the number for the original woman who has the key; she doesn’t pick up the phone or respond to texts. In her defense, she’d had to rush off in the first place to make some dinner engagement. While we wait in-between calls and texts, Eric and I stay productive and do punching evasion drills.

Finally, we get the phone number for another KMA employee who’s in the area, and after a bit of back-and-forth we arrange to meet her at the Newport Path Station in Jersey City to get a key to the lock. As Eric and I are preparing to walk to the nearby Path station, the painting teacher has locked up and is about to leave. Once she hears our plan, she offers* to drive us over; we gladly accept and cheerfully entertained her** on the drive to Jersey City.

I obtain the one key to open them all***, and the helpful lady drives us back since “she had to head in that direction anyway”. We arrive back at the Monroe Center. I jog up the fire escape to the second floor, stopping at the padlocked door.

BOOM!**** The key works, the lock opens, and a heavenly chorus sings (in my head) as I retrieve my jacket. Eric and I wave out the window to the helpful painter teacher lady, who honks before she drives off away from the building and into legend.

This night exemplified the idea of embracing turbulence—a lifelong pursuit where opportunities to practice appear every day. When one doesn’t take himself too seriously, one may end up with a great story. And it feels so much better to be amused than annoyed!

NOTES:
* This definitely would not have happened without prior demonstration of our non-threatening-ness earlier; the lady told us as much on the elevator down and while driving. Our senses of humor probably helped. And maybe the fact that I look more like an endearingly cheerful high school student than maniacal potential kidnapper.
** There was plenty of joking about giving car rides to strangers; she told us her students would be shocked that she’d taken such a risk, what with the obvious threat that ET and I clearly posed. We assured her that she should consider herself the first in a pilot program for our new bodyguard services (if interested, consider signing up for classes at Krav Maga Academy.) I also made sure to apologize for how I was making the rest of her weekend look dull by comparison, for which she graciously forgave me.
*** Forged by the Dark Lord in the fires of Mount Dontleaveyourjacket. Preciousss.
**** When the situation warrants, I like to imagine sound effects that enhance dramatic tension.

I haven’t had quite so much fun writing in a while haha. FWASHHH! The end; thank you.

User Experience Design Bootcamp at General Assembly

I attended my first General Assembly course yesterday: the User Experience Design Bootcamp at General Assembly West in NYC!

I signed up for this one-day course in order to get an introduction to User Experience Design (UXD) to better understand what it is and how it relates to other (tech) fields. I’d say that this objective was partly accomplished.

My overall experience was great: I learned, asked questions, and felt the engaging energy of being in a learning session with other interested people…it was like college could’ve been if I’d had the maturity/presence of mind to have chosen my interests haha. The additional benefits to attending a course like this are that you get to connect with like-minded students, you get to engage in live discussion with expert instructors, and you get to spend time in an environment that cares about “transforming thinkers into creators”, a great tagline if I’ve ever heard one.

Because I enjoyed the course, and because I actually was not 100% satisfied–“discontented observationalism being the (aspiring) designer’s modus operandi”, I’m told–and because I care about effective education and explanation, I spent some time drafting a review for the course.

An excerpt of my review for the one-day User Experience Design Bootcamp is as follows:

Pros:

  • Daniel was great at engaging class attention through sense of humor and keeping things moving while allowing frequent pauses for questions.
  • Ron was great at diving into details and spending time discussing questions with the class.
  • The 2 exercises from Section I (paper airplane-making and website wireframe improvement) were good at engaging class while highlighting important UX principles.
  • Lunch provided by GA was unexpected surprise, allowing for chats between students/instructor.
  • Discount code from GA due to the three class location changes was again unexpected but highly appreciated and raises my trust for the GA brand.

Cons:

  • Having 2 instructors led to a break in sense of continuity and familiarity, as halfway through the day we had to get used to another instructor, especially as Ron’s teaching style was not as high-energy or overtly humorous as Daniel’s.
  • Instructors took no time to get to know our names or anything about us; this has nothing to do with course content, but even doing something as simple has having the class make bootleg name tags for themselves would’ve helped the class feel less “impersonal”
  • High amount of information to get through in the Omnigraffle section of the course, and we did not cover all the exercises that had been made available in the class Omnigraffle stencil.
  • I did not walk away from the bootcamp with the ability to be able to explain UXD to someone else beyond how UXD has to do with “everything the user experiences” and begins even before the graphic design of a given project.
  • At end of the bootcamp, I did not have a good sense for what next steps interested students could take; I didn’t get a clear sense of direction for what we students could do to continue learning and improving at UXD. Even a small plug for GA’s courses would’ve been acceptable at this point so that we would have an idea of what to do next. As it was, I posed the question to Ron near the end of class to get an answer.

Knowing what I do now after having taken this class, I would still have taken it, but I would want to arrive with more prepared questions so that I could walk away with the ability to explain what it was that I’d just learned (a hallmark of understanding, in my opinion), as well as walking away with a clear idea of what I as a student could do to pursue the next steps in User Experience Design.

Ultimately I have the feeling that a big part of the reason I enjoyed the class as much as I did, and felt that I took away what I did, had more to do with the improvements in my own mindset than in the efforts of the instructors: “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.”

relaxation

Saturday was slotted as a day to relax: it was mostly a success haha.

Here:

6:00* AM: Slept through two alarms meant to wake me up on time for an early-morning run.
6:20 AM: Woken by accidental-on-purpose call by gf; I don’t think there was any actual conversation–though amusingly enough I don’t fully remember this–but it was enough to get me out of bed and driving to Teaneck.
~6:50 AM: Met drowsy Minru and Iron-Gabe and warmup-jogged over to Votee Park.
7:15 AM: Ran for ~2.6 mi then walked a bunch of cool-down laps while considering plans for rest of day.
10:15 AM: Infiltrated Teaneck Library in search of audiobook on meditation; mission accomplished.
~10:40 AM: Burst onto scene at Palisades Mall. Scoped out the ropes course–opens at 11. Scouted the LEGO Store.
11:05 AM: Tackled the ropes course (Palisades Climb Adventure)! It was more strenuous than anticipated.
12:30 PM: Lunched at Stir Crazy.
~1:30 PM: Raided LEGO Store to acquire serious Star Wars LEGO sets–for the Republic/Empire! For 2013! #thatsnomoon #greatdisturbance #ruhroh #thingsyourbfdoes
1:45 PM: Marched triumphantly back to car carrying massive yellow LEGO store bags.
3:00 PM: Returned immediately to the shipyards at Upper Saddle River to begin construction. Star Wars soundtracks are broadcast to boost morale.

9:15 PM: Cruised to Chipotle to pick up dinner and continue building.
10:20 PM: Received call from gf; plans are made to play some board games at Angela’s.
11:40 PM: Arrived sleepily at New Milford. Played Bezzerwizzer, began to try Dungeon!, then adjourn for the night.

* Times have been recorded as accurately as I remember or as I can tell based off pictures taken.

Busy November weekends

This was one of the busiest weekends in recent memory, comprised of:

  1. KRU Evaluation for Green rank
  2. Attending and performing at Chinese Service Center’s 40th Anniversary celebration (Bergen, Livingston, Columbia Chinese Schools)
  3. New Jersey Photo Expo
  4. Catching up with old friends

KRU Evaluation thoughts:

I probably pushed myself too hard with the initial run, since I haven’t been running (due to questionable nature of knees after runner’s knee), which led to later near-cramping of calves in the latter portion of the evaluation.

Near the end of the evaluation, I was almost completely out of energy–the biggest problem I felt I had was not having enough conditioning to last the entirety of the evaluation. Technically, I remembered everything we were asked to do, though I’m sure I was sloppy in some areas.

I’m annoyed that I felt so drained by the end of the evaluation. My next step is to ask for feedback about this evaluation from Kru Joe and Master when next I see them.

I’m glad that a few fellow testers were able to join us after the evaluation to get a snack at Red Mango–we didn’t get to sit down for solid food, but it was nice relaxing with teammates. Clearly this is something we should arrange more often.

CSC 40th Anniversary:

This dinner, held at an Elks Lodge in Ridgewood, felt like a who’s who in the Chinese community-type of event. It was nice seeing familiar faces of many Chinese School parents and teachers, many of whom I haven’t seen in months or longer.

I was glad to see Sifu Henry receiving several awards for his contributions over the last 10+ years to the Chinese Service Center/Bergen Chinese School–long overdue but certainly welcome, as I see it.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a special recognition award from the JinLi Foundation for “outstanding service to our community and the promotion of Chinese Culture.” I wouldn’t know how to gauge my contributions to our community over the years but I felt honored that whatever I’ve done merited recognition. Wherever life takes me, I hope to one day be able to provide children with supportive communities that enable them to grow, as the Chinese community did for me.

NJ Photo Expo:

Nancy and I went to check out this free event on Sunday, held at the Marriott in Park Ridge. Never having been to a photography expo before, we took our time exploring the various electronics booths, learning about certain camera models, and taking some pictures of various vintage cars. We didn’t stay too long, but just long enough to be reminded of how large the photography enthusiast community seemed to be.

Old friends:

After the photo expo and lunch in Englewood, we dropped by Ridgewood to catch up with some old friends. We ended up playing a long game of the original Munchkin, which was as ridiculous as I remembered it being.

And it looks like we have a blog post out of this weekend too! Serious.

packed weekend

This is one of those increasingly rare “general” posts…but a lot happened over the weekend.

First and foremost was the first KRU Expo, held at the Doubletree in Mahwah. I would like to write at length about the amazing speakers who presented (including Sensei Nick Dougherty, Dan Greene, Ken Andes, Master Ramirez), but I haven’t even had a chance to review my notes and digest the information. Despite not being a martial arts school owner, I learned a lot about several facets about managing a martial arts business, especially one that falls under the KRU banner.

Congrats again to the new Kru Joe! His dedication and expertise were two of the reasons I always enjoyed the classes, and though I haven’t known him long or well, I believe his promotion was well-deserved. Now I’ll just have to remember calling him “Kru” instead of “Instructor”.

To-dos for the next few days:
-Revamp Google+ profile and layout per Sensei Nick’s presentation
-Revise and complete LinkedIN profile, again per Sensei Nick and also Dan Greene
-Review all notes from the Expo
-Find more about Steve Kardian–publicize among my friends and groups to spread awareness
-Practice deep breathing drill advised by Ken Andes, L.Ac.
-Find recommend readings such as “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson
-More that I don’t yet remember

minor car accident

Traffic was slow as I headed towards the RT-17S Barnes & Noble from the Bergenfield area. Let me just briefly summarize.

I was stopped in the far left lane, behind more traffic. I basically heard a crash, screech of brakes, and then felt a mild thump as another car impacted the back of mine. I pulled over into an Exxon on the right to assess damage (minor), then jogged back to the highway to look at the scene. Turns out a Volvo sedan had hit the Highlander behind me, which was pushed forward into my car.

Basically, after making sure no one was hurt, we all parked at Exxon and waited for the police. Chatted with the drivers, all was well more or less, police came, took our info, and about half an hour later we were good to go. My car was almost completely unharmed, just that the spare tire on the metal mount on the back of the car was pushed downward a bit because that was where the Highlander’s front right impacted. Highlander had damage to front and back right sides, broken lights, etc. The Volvo’s front left side, which had hit the Highlander’s back right, was almost totaled, to the point where the woman couldn’t open the door to get out.

As accidents go, we were all lucky. Now I have experience for what to do in similar situations, including the follow-up with insurance claims and whatnot. Ohh well.