Gold Medals and Good Coffee | A Report On The Summer Of 2014

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As you may or may not know, I’m not particularity taken with gold trim and accessories. I tend to prefer my shiny accoutrements in shades of silver.

With one glaring exception.

Gold Medals over a black belt. That is my summer fashion of choice, and it is complemented quite well by black (and blue and yellowishy-green) eyes. 10612976_10152347565302449_6137861617022502266_n10429344_10152215864612681_2296673130586704454_n

After three years of not-so-awesome health that forced me to seriously curtail my martial endeavors (and work, and pretty much everything), things have been finally getting better and so this year, I went out for the US Taekwondo Team again.

I qualified in Patterns, Sparring, and my personal specialty, Power Breaking. Though on the mend, I still had to watch myself and so most of my limited training time went towards Breaking. From past experience, Patterns and Sparring are so subjectively judged that there’s no guarantee that skill and training will overcome the geopolitical biases. In contrast, breaking is very cut and dried (ha ha).

And I might also have had a little something to prove…

Four years ago, I was at a rather high point in my game, competing in several events, trained to the wazoo, and winner of two shiny gold medals in Power Breaking. I was the world champion.

That was a long time and a lot of issues ago. But I wanted it to regain my title and do it again.

Long story short, I made it. Mission accomplished. Medal achieved. 2014 Power Breaking World Champion. (Or if we use the Italian lingo, World Champion of “Destruction”). I vote we all adopt the Italian way of saying it.

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Along they way, I also got to hang out with friends that I don’t get to see very often (sans FB, but that doesn’t really count), introduce some new students to the wild thing that is Worlds, see my little sister prove herself to be one of the top Technique Breakers in the world, and help coach Team USA.

Worlds is an indescribable experience that is full of chaos, tension, full-contact, not-according-to-plans, friends, victory, defeat, camaraderie, and so much more. I am happy with my own result, but I’m also so proud of my students that went for the first time. They all did me proud in different ways and some of them surprised themselves by stepping up to a level they’ve never even contemplated before and holding their own against the best in the world. (Some of them realized that I did not lie about the level of intensity and so will return humbled (hopefully) and alive (whew!) to train with a better understanding of what t expect next time.

Coaching was a lot of work and stress, but it was also a great experience. I ended up being kinda the main power breaking coach for a while and it was a mess. Already behind schedule, the organizers figured out that the boards they had chosen did not fit the board-holders that they’d had built. (*shuts mouth, but snicker escapes*) Really? No one thought to check the fit before a thousand black belts from across the world arrived in Rome to compete? That’s definitely and oops.

The first couple of divisions were done with a rather sad setup that involved an Argentinian’s black belt threaded through the holder to keep the arms up. It didn’t work so great, but it happened.

Eventually, someone intercepted the intense psychic emanations I was sending out detailing a simple modification to the rebreakable boards that would solve the board-holder problem and some other obvious issues. (As a team-member/coach, verbally making the suggestion would have been not a good idea.)

Anyhow, an Italian with a drill cut some notches and after only two messed-up divisions, the board-holding situation was more-or-less acceptable.

Serious coaching duties ensued as angry Australians got the new setup in a division where the old setup had been used and coaches pointed out the problem and things were translated into at least three different languages, and eventually the angry Aussie lost. I’m not happy for him, but it was my responsibility to take care of my guys and sometimes that means making it a very bad day for some other competitor. Competitors have to be nice, coaches have to make up the difference.

The venue was of interest. It was a stadium built primarily for martial arts events, which is definitely a rarity. It was very architecturally intriguing, but any such pros were nothing in comparison to the terrible fact that no one would or could (…semantics…) turn the air-c (as they say in Italia) on. A thousand sweaty competitors in a closed stadium in Italy in the summer… Yeah. Non e bene. Not bene at all.

The only tiny ray of awesome regarding the venue was the fact that we were in Italy and therefore the snack bar served espresso. A caffe italiano makes everything better and a caffe carreto (or real Italian coffee, according to my Dad’ new friend the barrista (barristo? guy barrista? It doesn’t matter so much in Italian, but seems potentially confusing in l’Ingles…) anyway…caffe carreto is molto bene.

Much caffe had already been enjoyed in the week before as me and my family started our Italian adventure in Venezia, where I will be going back to at some point. (BTW, the sourness of my facial expression had nothing to do with how I feel about Venice and everything to do with the fact that I am not wearing sunglasses.)

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More caffe and vino rosso was consumed and we made it up into Switzerland for a day and then back down on a scenic train ride through the Alps. There was a glacier, it was awesome, and the free hotel breakfast in Chur (not pronounced like it looks) was cured hams, bologna, cappuccino, cheeses, and more yummies that cannot be properly related. Suffice to say that it makes pretty much all breakfast other than a perfect omelet seem lame and tasteless.

10590431_10152318964812449_4462999686094751208_nAlthough Switzerland was very green and pretty and cool, I’m a little more inclined towards the Italian attitude. My OCD is not sufficient to be accepted in Switzerland. I’m much more in line with the “those weeds aren’t hurting anything, let’s call it a day and drink some wine” vibe that I intuited back down in Italia.

Next stop was the little town of Cremona, mecca of all things violin, and one of the coolest little spots I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out in. There were museums, food, coffee, luthiers, full four-course Italian dinners, wine, beer, music, cobblestones, and just more fun that I can describe and a friendly atmosphere that was so relaxing after the whirlwind run we’d been on for the last couple of days.

We actually spent an extra day in Cremona, and I don’t regret it one bit. The only thing that went wrong was when we missed out train out. (Apparently, there was a little, dead-end track around behind the station and it was not seen by us…) We made the next train, but it seriously curtailed our next stop in Modena.

Modena, motor-valley, Italia, home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, and balsamic vinegar. ‘Nuff said. My orignal plan of a day touring all the museums and factories possible turned into half-an-hour at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. Despite the short time we had there, it was amazing. One-of-a-kind cars that are priceless national treasures and will never leave Italy were on display and it was just wonderful. But I still love a GTO, the famous Pontiac slap in Ferrari’s face.

An overnight in Firenze, in an awesome apartment that was only at the top of five flights of narrow stairs. I got me a journal/notebook with a little of both Florentine paper and leather in it, saw a lot of under-clothed statues, and then rolled onwards and down to our final destination, Roma.

Did I mention that we rented a beach house two-minutes from the venue? Well, yeah.

It was certainly more convenient than the official hotel with was a good hour away from the venue and everyone got bused in and out every day. Not the greatest for sight-seeing in Roma proper, as it was a good forty-five minutes on the Metro to get downtown, but we did get a day in historical Rome, and the Colosseum was amazing. Even after all the marvels I’d seen over the past week, Rome was yet another level of amazing. The scope, the skill, and the mind-boggling thought of how long ago it had all been built. There are no words, just go see it.

Then the tournament started and that was about it for sight-seeing. I spent the morning staking out a couple hundred seats (the only ones with backs) in the stadium with the one other team member who stayed close to the venue. We waited for the rest of the team to be bussed in and fought off everyone but the Netherlands. They were allowed to join us in our primo-seating section because you got to like ‘em. (And they aren’t a very big team and there wasn’t much free space other than our claim, since the very last team to be transported was, of course, ours.)

 

Worlds Adventure ’14 was a success and a pleasure and I’m already ready to go back to Italia…

(There were no lasting effects other than a renewed and strengthened addiction to good Italian coffee. I immediately was compelled to get a nespresso machine when I got home in order to survive.)

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Oh, and that was just part one…

Upon returning to the US of A, we spent less than a week desperately reloading ammo before we packed the pickup full of weaponry and headed to Raton for the 2014 Rocky Mountain 3-Gun World Shoot.

Five days of mountainous natural terrain stages, hundreds of round of ammo, and one very big surprise.

Despite neglecting my 3-gun training for Destruction practice all year, and in spite of the fact that I was still rather jet-lagged and just generally exhausted from Worlds, I had to shoot on the 6th day too.

Apparently, I finished 3rd Lady (by score) and thus made it into the Brownell’s Lady Shoot-off. I had no idea what that would entail, but I showed up and got to go head-to-head with the top Lady in 3-Gun, Lena Miculek.

She smoked me.

Then, I got to face-off with the next best thing, Dianna Liedorff. I didn’t win that one either, but I came darn close, especially considering that I was shooting Tac Irons (no magnification) and they all had scopes. There was this one pesky 6″ plate at 300 yards that just wasn’t easy…

I didn’t win the shoot-off, but I found out that even taking forth, I got a not-insignificant cash prize. And then I went to the prize table and got to stand in the FFL line! Woot!

I also got a medal for taking first Lady in Tac Irons (despite being the only lady in Tac Irons…but I did finish well, so I’m still pretty proud of it.)

Being the definitive dark horse in the shoot-off against the top three ladies in 3-gun was a hoot. (The “hello, and who are you?” moments were rather amusing as well.) They were all real nice and now they do know me. No more hiding, I guess…

And finally, I got a personal invite [forceful invitation, “you should really come…win guns…hint. hint, hint…”] to the Lady 3-Gun Pro-Am Challenge. I was also told that due to my Lady Tac Irons victory over all my nonexistent opponents, I would be considered a pro next year. But hey, you could probably win amateur tac irons this year…guns…win guns…

I acquiesced. It was a good move.

I just got back from Atlanta and the Lady Pro-Am Challenge and I’m just gonna say that it turned out well. Look for a post about it soon.

audra stage 3 3 gun nation regional 2014

Oh, and I’m a semi-syndicated, paid columnist now too.

It was a hell of a summer and that’s just the truth.

It looks like I’m back.

Hell yeah! I missed being me!

Onward!

This Week’s Column | Dangerous Games, The Fine Art Of Loading

This week in the newspapers! More stuff by me! Enjoy!

http://cnjonline.com/2014/11/06/tetris-jenga-good-practice-for-loading/

http://pntonline.com/2014/11/06/tetris-jenga-good-practice-loading/

Down On The Farm, The Turn-Row So Far…

As we all know, I am a semi-syndicated columnist now and I even get paid for it! My “Down on the Farm” column comes out every Friday in two newspapers.

For your convenience, here is links to everything published so far, and you can always go to my Column Archive page for a full list, updated weekly.

Enjoy!

 

My Intro Column:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/07/10/little-awkward/

An opinion on the rain:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/07/17/hallelujah-rain/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/07/17/praise-the-lord-and-pass-the-umbrella/

Some less known facts about longhorns:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/07/24/longhorns-ahead-herd-ways-one/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/07/24/longhorns-ahead-of-herd-in-more-ways-than-one/

An Introduction to Kow-rate, the art of punching and or kicking cows:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/07/31/started-practicing-kow-rate-young-age/

Some perspective on wheat harvest:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/08/07/hold-header-high/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/08/07/hold-your-header-up-high/

How to get a 30′ header through a 20′ hole:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/08/14/techniques-required-big-red-machine/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/08/16/in-a-combine-youre-king-of-the-road/

The stories that arise from encounters with rattlers:
http://pntonline.com/2014/08/21/creativity-kills-snake/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/08/21/snakes-most-often-encountered-without-useful-tools/

The word “Varmint” according to my lexicon:
http://pntonline.com/2014/08/28/time-pesky-varmints/

http://cnjonline.com/2014/08/29/varmints-up-to-no-good/

The new, most impressive feline, an introduction to E.C. (short for Evil Cat):
http://pntonline.com/2014/09/18/cat-interesting-new-ol-lady/

How and where I have the time to learn things like Russian:
http://cnjonline.com/2014/09/11/tractor-makes-good-place-for-audio-learning/

http://pntonline.com/2014/09/11/tractor-place-clear-head-learn-lessons/

A few words on the awful, wonderful, life-saving slime of emergency rations, aka, the foodstuffs that live under the seat:
http://pntonline.com/2014/10/16/emergency-food-just-side-edible/

What the farmer see when traveling:
http://cnjonline.com/2014/10/23/traveling-one-of-lifes-great-pleasures/
http://pntonline.com/2014/10/23/brown-plenty-entertainment-found-farming/

Sometimes a farmer’s long hours are somewhat regular:
http://pntonline.com/2014/10/31/regular-hours-farming-might-think/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/10/31/farmers-keep-more-regular-hours-than-you-might-think/

Something Different By A.L. Brown | My 4th Dan Taekwondo Thesis

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At the moment, I am in the process of deciding (or at least refining) the topic for my next black belt thesis. As you may or may not know, within the realms of taekwondo where I practice,  a written thesis is an integral part of each black belt promotion from 4th dan onward. I personally enjoy writing theses, and am only stymied by the abundance of topics on which I would like to write. I will stop waffling and pick one and write something on it in the next few months, in anticipation of being allowed/told/volunteered/compelled to test for my 5th degree sometime in 2016. (It’s a complex decision/motivation.)

Anyhoo, while pondering the many possibilities and figuring out all the physical aspects of the testing as well, I reread my 4th dan thesis and just in case someone else wants to read it (I apologize in advance for a few typos. You may not believe this, but I might have procrastinated and delivered it hot off the fingers rather than after a time of considerate editing…)

Here it is, my bit on how to set up a breaking competition and why the rules should be one way or another.

Power Breaking Competition: A Competitor’s Experience and Insights

[this would be an example of that “write what you know” theory.]

After a couple of weeks of haitus due to negotiations, my column is back! (and I’m a paid, and slightly syndicated, columnist!)

 

Enjoy!

 

http://pntonline.com/2014/10/16/emergency-food-just-side-edible/

The Most Interesting Cat In The Barn

This week in the newspaper, a little tale about the newest feline under the shed.

http://pntonline.com/2014/09/18/cat-interesting-new-ol-lady/

How To Say The Tractor Is On Fire And Other Common Russian Phrases

This week’s column is out! For all those people who wonder where I had the time to collect some of my more eccentric skills… Enjoy!

http://pntonline.com/2014/09/11/tractor-place-clear-head-learn-lessons/
http://cnjonline.com/2014/09/11/tractor-makes-good-place-for-audio-learning/

Ten Significant Books…Because Facebook…Tagging…Etc…

I am both horrified and thrilled that my fellow writer-in-crime, C.A. Floyd, has taken it upon herself to tag me in the Facebook demand of the week. The demand is simple, all I have to do is make a list of ten significant books in my life. I decided not to cheat and therefore left off any of my own manuscripts, although I consider them to be of extreme personal significance.

Instead, I have, over two days, somehow produced such a list. Now, these are not necessarily my favorite works, but they are all extremely memorable. I’ve read more books than i can count (cause I’ve read a lot of books, not because I can’t count very high) and I can’t immediately recall most of them. But the books in this list are the ones that never go away; never fall into the black hole of my memory; the ones that are never far from my consciousness. Now that I look at the list, you can probably plot a decent portion of my personal development through these titles.

Compiling this list was both difficult and amazingly easy. In the end, it really brought a smile to my face to think about all these wonderful books that effected me so profoundly. May you all be half as amused as me.

Enjoy!

 

Dune”  by Frank Herbert

If you ask me my favorite book, if you ask for a recommendation, if science fiction or epics come into the conversation, if I’m awake…then this is the book that is on my mind. It was the book that made me love science fiction. I can still remember how it happened. We were all at the ranch, staying in the less-than-amazing trailer-house there while we gathered and branded and weaned all the calves. A hundred miles from home…I ran out of the books I’d brought with me! So, I picked up the one my Dad was reading. We stole it back from each other for days, until we were through, and the rest is history. I think I’ve read it at least four times now…and I don’t make it a habit to reread. It’s never gotten old or less epic or less amazing. It’s one of those rare works that no matter how many times you’ve read it, it’s full of new stuff every time. It made me the science fiction fan that I am.

 

A Wrinkle in Time” b Madeline L’Engle

Wormholes, time and space as a flexible construct, parallel dimensions, and hey, a young girl who was smart and adventurous? Count me in. This book is more than a little responsible for my teenage obsession with astrophysics, string theory, and all the theoretical physics I could get my hands on (literally, as in books, I read tons of them on the subject while I could have been in high-school.)

 

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog” by John R. Erikson

So, I learned to read, but I hated it. Apparently Aesop’s Fables was not my kind of thing. Then, thank goodness, my cousins told my Mom about these books. I got the first two adventures of this brave ranch detective and then my Mom, so pleased to see me enjoy reading, ordered me the rest of the (then 30-something) book series, in hardback. I devoured them, and its still one of my prized collections.

 

The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas

As previously mentioned, I read a lot as a young’un, and so did my Dad, and my Mom the mathematician, had an all too accurate idea of how much money we spent on books… So, anytime i could bargain my way into getting her to buy me more books, I happily did so, even if it meant not getting the books i wanted (sci-fi) and settling for what she thought I should read. In one particular case, we were in a Barnes and Noble and there was a display of BN Edition Classics. I was told that I could have something off that rack. And I possibly argued for “two” off that rack… What I took home was my first Alexandre Dumas novel and “Little Women.” I’ve been a Dumas fan ever since.

 

Lone Star Planet”  by H. Beam Piper

In amongst the spoils of my library-book-sale deal of legend (Thirty boxes of mostly classic sff for $30, thank you auction bargaining skills), I found this and many other books, but this one tale, that I picked up one day, is still one of my favorite stories. –and I proceeded to happily scour the many boxes for more by Piper and I even more happily found them and read them.

 

A Fire Upon The Deep” by Vernor Vinge

Probably my first entry into the harder side of science fiction, this book was a gift from my second cousin (and science fiction fan) when he found out that I liked to read sci-fi. Since it was the norm in my family to read a lot, the few instances when other people decided to reward my reading obsession by going out of their way to give me books are special to me.

 

The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher

Despite it’s newness, this is now one of my favorite series and one of the few variations on Urban Fantasy that I really enjoy. A snarky wizard-detective who likes to carry a .44? How could I not like it? It is also one of the few recommendations that I took from a friend and never looked back. Thanks to her for that. And I’ve done my best to pass it on.

 

“Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension” by Michio Kaku

If Madeline L’Engle got me started, then this book cinched the deal. Parallel Dimensions both as scientific theories and as settings for stories are still fascinate me. Even got my Mom to subscribe me to Scientific American, Discover, and Popular Science for years. (and yes I did read them cover to cover.) Sadly, I lost the extra time and energy I needed to read all that reference materiel all the time when I started college. So, I’m no longer up to date on the newest intricacies of theories of everything, but I’m getting back to it, even if I may never be as much of an expert as teenage me.

 

The Gunslinger” by Stephen King

Back in the day, before eBooks were cool; before most people even knew that such a thing existed; back when I carried a Palm Pilot *moment of silence* I thought buying digital books was really cool. One of the first was Roland’s inaugural adventure. I remember reading the short online description where it described the novel as a cross between a Sergio Leone film and J.R.R. Tolkien. It occurred to me that if it was true, I had found the perfect story. It was a great story and only later did I realize how famous it already was, but I didn’t read it because of the author or the hype, I read it because I found it and it sounded good. It was a good choice—and I may or may not have fallen in love with dark fantasy then and there.

The Dirk Pitt Adventures” by Clive Cussler

My first full-size author obsession. When I started getting tired of kid-sized books (and by that I mean I read them all and Mom couldn’t keep enough of them on hand for me) I harassed my Dad until he decided that it would be okay if I read Clive Cussler’s books. I honestly don’t remember which book I read first (it was a long time ago, when I was like seven or eight) but I do remember that I quickly read them all. I’m still a fan of great adventure and thrillers, and I write them too, and I can trace it all back to that day my Dad handed me a Dirk Pitt novel.

Critters Can Be Cute, Or Sometimes Not…

Behold! Another column!

http://pntonline.com/2014/09/04/critters-always-critter-sometimes-varmint/

Varmints, Not To Be Confused With Critters

I’m proud to present…links to this week’s column. Enjoy!

http://pntonline.com/2014/08/28/time-pesky-varmints/

http://cnjonline.com/2014/08/29/varmints-up-to-no-good/