Monday, November 30, 2009


Been looking forward to writing a little- the Convention was a great experience. Homecoming wasn't.

An average dog knows more about loyalty than the most extraordinary human. Got home to see our beautiful airedale listless and stumbling. He came to me. We brought him inside. I lay down and he lay down next to me, just happy to be near his human.

He was cold. Listless, stumbling... but he was cold. Everything I could think of that would cause his symptoms came with a fever, or involved a slow deterioration. I guessed hypothermia. Beast wasn't a bright dog in a lot of ways and had brought himself to near-hypothermia several times by getting stuck under the porch. It wasn't that cold out... but it was all I could think of.

I didn't think shock. He wasn't dehydrated. He wasn't bleeding. His abdomen wasn't swollen or tender or rigid. He wasn't sweating (I know, dogs don't sweat, just used to humans). His breath wasn't shallow or rapid, it alternated between normal and very deep.

I couldn't figure it out and decided that it could wait for morning, for our regular vet. If it was hypothermia, he would be fine in the morning. Other than shock, there isn't a lot of intersection between "Things that will kill you quick" and "things the vet can do something about".

Then Beast collapsed. We made the run in to the 24-hour clinic late on a Sunday after an exhausting weekend. He didn't survive surgery. I called it wrong. It was shock. Cancer on the spleen, bleeding into the abdominal cavity. Bringing him in immediately might have changed nothing, but I'll never know. So I own this one, this death. A good, loyal, brave friend. Not that smart. And four legged, but I didn't mind.

Cold and wet digging a grave this morning. Didn't notice at the time. Digging gives you some time to think.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Doing Scary Things

A close friend reminded me how I used to advise students to do something scary every day. It's one of those diminishing returns concepts, because after a while it gets harder and harder to find scary things. Last Thursday, I had a nice one.

Back Fence PDX is an interesting, fun concept. as a sort of dinner theater, seven people get up on stage, one at a time, and tell a story. The story must be true, personal and un-rehearsed.

If you have been to an ABBB, you know I like telling stories... but that is very different. Stage fright doesn't make sense to me when you are surrounded by people who have held your head when you puked and put on bandages when you bled and would be there in a heartbeat if you cried. At ABBB, we are reconnecting with the old stories and catching up with the new ones.

These were strangers, with bright lights in my eyes (want to make a jail guard nervous? Put him in a room with three hundred people all watching him, and then blind him.) It was something new. And the story was something I don't talk about often. I can only think of twice when I had a failure of moral nerve in my career, times when I followed the policy even though it was wrong. I told about the old one, the one that is not so raw. How a good man died because everybody did the right thing, followed the rules.

The internal state had some adrenaline. I don't think the audience saw much, and what they did see was a rookie trying to figure out a microphone. No shakes, voice steady... just visualizing tripping on the way to the stage...

There was a secondary effect, too. It caught me off guard. When several people seek you out to say they were moved to tears... what do you say? I had no idea. "Thank you," maybe.

It's good to be a rookie again.

It's also fun to tease K: avant garde dinner theater with her husband followed by a book release party for a friend, she's officially literati now, I think.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Is That a Problem?

"Let go of my arm. It's messing up your distance."
"But that's the weapon arm. I need to control it."
I shake my head. "Watch me." I pass/parry/enter "What can you reach with your knife?" I know the answer- if my hand weren't under his arm he might be able to get my thigh, but it is. If he was extremely flexible he just might be able to nick my ear or ruffle my hair. Maybe. Just because it is scary, doesn't mean it can hurt you. What I say is, "If you can't reach me with it, I don't need to waste resources on it. It is controlled, but by position, not grip."

There's a lot of that kind of stuff out there- solutions to problems that aren't problems. We talked about it later. Someone grabs your wrists, what do you do? I just say, "I know you're desperate but I am not going out with you." I know where his hands are. Where his feet are. What he can do and what he can't. For most things he needs to let go, for the one he doesn't, the head butt, I'll feel his intention. There is no problem here, unless you psych yourself into one.

Same with grabbing the shirt. It's an aggressive, scary move if you buy into the hype. Put it down on paper and suddenly it's a gift. "Hi, my name's Ray and I'll be your attacker today. I've decided to open by tying up both my hands in a way that can't really hurt you, leaving your hands free and my knees, throat, ears and lots of other good stuff in easy reach."

Lots of the groundfighting positions on the bottom are good places to rest. There are some holds- kesa gatame and kami shiho gatame to name two, where the person can't hurt you without changing the hold. The only danger in either is to struggle yourself to exhaustion. There is no problem here, not until the bad guy's friends show up.

Recognizing a problem is a critical strategic skill. Recognizing when something is not a problem and you can save your resources is a critical tactical skill.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Things have been busy lately, but probably boring for you to read about. My son's play; my daughter's concert. Meeting with old friends. Writing. Evidently a rat chewed into a power line last night and the East end of the house has no power.

Boring stuff, but kind of cool, too. The thing about shiftwork was all the parts of normal life that you missed. I have gone to more of my kid's events in the last two months than in the whole seventeen years before. It's kind of cool. It means listening to bad music (and some very good) but it is also watching kids grow up in an environment that was alien to me.

I always spent a lot of time with my kids. Not a lot, maybe. Very nearly as much as they would tolerate. On my days off I would get them up and see them to school. When I worked nights I tried to sleep while they were in school. If they had a half-day that coincide with an off-shift or a day off we would go bowling or out for lunch or... I've always loved my kids and they have never, I hope, doubted that I loved them. For the first time I am meeting their school friends, seeing where they fit in the social networks that surround them.

I'm seeing happy, well-adjusted, popular kids. Despite the autism. Despite a father who taught them how to throw axes instead of footballs. Despite all the times I wasn't there.

So, sorry if the blog is lagging or boring right now. It will pick up. But life is in one of the cool, easy happy flows and I plan to ride it for all I am worth. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Thanks for the concern, Viro. The site appears to be up and running. Feel free to check it out and let me know if there are any issues. Big thanks to S. Cole for getting it up and running.

Second, I'll be telling a story on November 19th at the Mission Theater. Details, including where to get tickets, are here. This will be entirely new for me and like most new things there's no way to tell if you're going to suck until you jump in with both feet. Any way it breaks it should be fun. Plus, there will be cupcakes. Which would be more of an incentive if I liked sweet things.

Third, I'm taking a cue from nanowrimo and will be finishing a book in 30 days. I've committed to getting one complete book down by the end of the month. Piece of cake.

Lastly, I want to apologize for the last half of the last post. On re-read, it barely makes sense to me and I know what I was trying to say. Lesson to self- don't rush things, take a breath to re-read or just let it sit. Just because the kids need to be picked up doesn't mean the writing needs to be rushed.