Stepping of the mats – retiring from kung fu.

This is a very weird post to write as, to be honest, I thought I’d never do it.

I’ve decided to retire from teaching kung fu and running classes.

Lockdown, and a year (plus) has made me reconsider a lot of things, and how I live my life and use my time and while martial arts will always be a major part of it (it probably literally saved my life, let alone changed it) it isn’t the driving force it once was.

I’ve been doing this since April 1988 (33rd anniversary and! 🙂 ) and training or teaching anywhere between one night a week and five since then …until this year (or illness 😉 ).

…and I didn’t miss the time off like I thought I would.

That told me something.

I also don’t know, being honest, if I want to build a class from nothing again and commit to training and teaching on a schedule.

So, yeah, finally stepping off the mats …at least mostly; there will be a toe or two hanging on.

I’ll still be involved in martial arts in different ways*, and maybe even Imperial Deagon itself in gradings and popping into classes (if you guys will have me 🙂 ) but nothing ‘full-time’ or committed.

Martial Arts is not something I’ve done, it’s been a way of life, for the majority of my life. Its given me health, knowledge, wisdom, and courage. They will never leave. It’s where I’ve met some of my closest friends, so I will never, ever, regret a single moment on the mats (even the painful ones 😉 ) and the journey – that many people, doctors included – said wouldn’t be possible: to be 5th Degree Black Belt.

It all, like any journey, started with a single step.

With thanks to Sifu Frank Murney and especially Sifu Steve Timblin who are no longer here but guided me on that journey.

*I’ve already been approached by a black belt about private lessons, so I’m considering 1-to-1 coaching again, possibly short self defense classes, and I’m definitely (once Covid is safer) popping into other people’s classes; already got some new Escrima/Kali sticks coming so, Courtney, hopefully will get to train soon 😉

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been renamed.

…and you have to think that this year’s Campbell Award winner Jeannette Ng, and her wonderful speech (which can be read in full here) at Dublin 2019 WorldCon, had more than a little to do with it, where she said:

“John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

And I am so proud to be part of this. To share with you my weird little story, an amalgam of all my weird interests, so much of which has little to do with my superficial identities and labels.”

So Jeannette will now be the last recipient of the John W. Campbell Award as, moving forward, it’s going to be known as the ‘Astounding Award for Best New Writer’ – and that is a MUCH better name! 🙂  

Gatwick drone incident – when is terror ‘terror’?

The drone incident at Gatwick is the most disruptive airport trespass in UK history, and authorities have stated that (obviously) it is intentional but have stopped short at calling it a ‘terrorist’ act.

Gatwick’s runway has been shut since Wednesday night; About 110,000 passengers on 760 flights were cancelled at one of the UK’s busiest airports, having a knock-on effect across, literally, the world.

The Army has been called in to assist Sussex Police in the incident with helicopters and even snipers on the lookout for the perpetrators and potentially shooting down the drones.

In the past terrorists used guns and bombs to take lives but also to instil fear and disrupt elements of the running of critical national infrastructure and just our way of life. When this became harder to do they started using cars and vans to drive into crowded public areas, or attack us with knives and other ‘at hand’ weapons, again to not just take lives and injure, but to cause fear and disrupt our way of life.

… one of the UK’s busiest airports, a part of the Country’s Critical National Infrastructure and a gateway to Europe and the rest of the World, is currently shut down. There are approximately 11,000 people stuck at the airport and ten times that many people who simply have been left abandoned from their destinations. They been left in fear too because the news reports are saying how easy it would be for a drone to take down a plane; to cause a plane to crash. They are in fear because they are seeing armed police men in the grounds of the airport and Army snipers. They are seeing police helicopters. And they are far from home and stuck with nowhere to go.

If that isn’t the definition of ‘terror’ then I don’t know what is.

If terrorists started with bombs and guns, then moved to cars, vans and knives, could they now have moved to drones …to toys …to take down a massive part of the British transport system, right before Christmas, and instill a new type of chaos and fear, with such ease?

If so, that thought alone is actually terrifying!

The problem with palm oil, and how to stop it!

You know that advert, by Iceland (UK supermarket) – at the bottom of the post – which has been banned for being ‘too political’? Well it has made me think about the products which we use which contain palm oil in one form or another, and how I’m not doing enough to reduce what I use or at least try to start using products which are sourced/produced in a responsible manner.

I mean did you know that palm oil is the MOST widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet? It’s also in about HALF of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. The thing is that it isn’t always clearly labelled as palm oil so we don’t even know that is what we are buying! Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names, including: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol.

Seriously how many of us (unless we have life threatening allergies) really take time to look into, let alone understand, food labelling when it is as detailed as that?

Sometimes, it can be clearly labelled as ‘palm oil’ but it will be in the small print and only say it ‘contains’ and won’t be up in the major ingredients list so its easy to miss.

The thing about palm oil is that it grows in tropical rainforests, the habitat of endangered species, including the ‘rang-tangs’ or orangutans in the adverts, but also tigers, elephants and rhinos but also insects and flora as well as tress themselves that are cleared to make way for fore ‘harvesting’ of the oil.

Palm oil is NOT necessary in anything it is used for, it is simply useful: in some chocolate it is used in it makes it look shinier and helps it keep from melting for longer in higher temperatures; in lipstick it keeps it glossy and helps reduce it’s taste; in margarine it keeps it solid at room temperature; in ice-cream it makes it smooth and creamy; in instant noodles it helps pre-cook them so all you have to do is add water.

The list goes on but, simply put, palm oil helps make human life easier while DESTROYING pretty much all other life we take it from.

We DON’T need it!

They DO!

The thing is, us humans don’t even need to cut it out of our lives completely either because that might be too difficult, and it also might put a lot of people out of jobs that they rely on to survive. What everyone CAN do, however, is to try to only buy products which were produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. If you can’t find the RSPO label then look for the Green Palm label! This label indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil. Proceeds from Green Palm certificates help growers fund the transition to sustainable palm oil. Both of these things will go a LONG way to help.

Also, if you live in the UK shop in Iceland and especially use Iceland’s own products because they won’t be using palm oil in ANY of their stuff from now on and that is an amazing thing so support them!!!

Northern Ireland politics – language or life?

Northern Ireland politics and ‘democracy’ is a laughing stock thanks to the DUP and Sinn Féin behaving like toddlers bickering over broken toys in the playground; it has been 10 months since the last election here where they were voted as the two largest parties (primarily because of tribal & sectarian voting rather than based on sensible policies …and also because a large proportion of people here just don’t vote) but they have wasted that time in ‘discussions’ about coming back to devolved Government – but not actually doing it – leaving Northern Ireland without ANY steer or voice around Brexit, education, health, infrastructure of ANYTHING of importance at all.

The demand by Sinn Féin for legislation to give official status to the Irish language viewed as the last/major stumbling block in the negotiations – as all other so called ‘red lines’ seemed to have fallen away; now I am not saying that respect for our cultural heritage isn’t important because I think that it honestly is but when the language is being used to hold the whole of Northern Ireland to ransom in this way so that schools – ALL OF THEM – are running out of money, and hospitals and GPS – ALL OF THEM – are running out of money, and our infrastructure – ALL OF IT – is running to a halt because of lack of money, and our construction industry is faltering because of lack of investment because their is no Minister then there is a MAJOR issue that can only be fixed by a stable devolved Government actually doing its job …and part of its job would be to sort out an Irish Language Act, either stand alone or as part of a joined up ‘Cultural Act’ as the DUP seem to have suggested that includes other aspects of Ireland/Northern Ireland too, I actually don’t really care.

You see the Irish Language, or the Ulster Scots language, as important as they are, really doesn’t mater when stacked up against people lives/health, their education, their jobs, and their ability to actually live a healthy and happy lifestyle which, at the moment, they can’t because their elected representatives are failing them.
According to the 2011 UK Census, in Northern Ireland 184,898 (10.65%) claim to have some knowledge of Irish, of whom 104,943 (6.05%) can speak the language to varying degrees. Some 4,130 people (0.2%) use Irish as their main home language.
Is that really more important than a cancer center in the City Hospital in Belfast not having enough funds? Or schools all across Northern Ireland worrying where they are getting the money to pay their teachers?

…no. No, it isn’t.

MLAs need – NEED – to get back to Stormont and do their jobs and get their priorities straight and when they are their they need – NEED – to ensure that, obviously, equality and respect for all is a given so that LGBT rights are respected, equal marriage is put in place, abortion (even if – at first, because Northern Ireland may need to take small steps – it is just in cases of rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormalities) is legalised, that the money is in place for all of the urgent first line health, education, jobs, and infrastructure roles that are lacking and then – only then – they can sit down like adults – not petulant children – and put in place a language act that works for all instead of using it like a hammer that does more harm than good.

2021 Commonwealth Youth Games – slipping away?

Northern Ireland is meant to be hosting the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. This would be a WONDERFUL opportunity for all of the young athletes who have trained to compete on the world stage on their home grounds but, also, for the economy as it would definitely boost tourism, retail, and food industry businesses.

However, thanks to the ineptitude and pettiness of the politicians (if you can call them that) here in Northern Ireland, who can’t put the sake of the people and the Country before their own little egos and selfish wants, we don’t have a functioning Government, so the business case has not been signed off by the Northern Ireland Executive.

…in other words we may miss out on hosting a worldwide headline sporting event because of political stupidity.

Or, to put it simply, just another Thursday here in Northern Ireland.

Is Theresa May’s best good enough for Grenfell?

Theresa May is so very ‘generous’ isn’t she?

She has guaranteed to give the survivors of the Grenfell fire disaster an ‘amazing’ £5,500 each to those who lost their homes.

Each household will receive at least £500 in cash and £5,000 paid into an account as part of a £5m emergency fund.

I mean I can’t believe how generous this Government is being …not when compared with the up to £33,000 redundancy package her ousted MPs get after losing their seats at the recent election, plus the up to £50,000 in ‘winding up’ expenses for their constituency offices – which she doesn’t think is enough and is going to set up a hardship fund for THEM!!!

Just think about that.

The people of Grenfell lived in one of the poorest ares in the UK, nestled in one of the most affluent, and the Prime Minister is giving them each just over £5k while at the same time paying off MPs (who earned £67,060 to £74,000 a year plus exorbitant expenses) with a massive send-off.

Most of the £5m fund is to do the necessary things the Government should already be doing like rehousing the people and looking after their physical and mental states but the press are trying to twist it as some magnanimous gesture on her behalf …NO, it is almost an insult considering that these people have lost relatives, friends, and EVERYTHING in their lives and have to start again and you are giving then £5000 when you can give 4 and 5 times that amount to politicians who don’t need it and STILL think that’s not enough for them you pompous, inhuman woman!!!

I would ask you, beseech you, to do better but I am now convinced that you are incapable of doing any more than this and we are seeing you at your ‘best’ already; and what we are seeing – at times of adversity for so many people – is appalling.

Sexism and double standards in Canadian school

Seemingly a Canadian school principal agrees that that girls’ clothing and bodies is ‘putting boys at risk of having a distracting working environment’ and that the school would ‘continue to enforce the dress code, which bans short skirts and states that “cleavage”, “navels” and “bra straps” must be covered’.
I just wonder if she will enforce a similar dress code for boys, making sure that THEIR bodies are covered, so that they can’t show their lovely muscular legs in shorts, or show their uncovered chests, belly buttons/navels, or the top of the boxer shorts over their trouser waist bands because, you know, we have to ensure that the girls have a distraction-free learning environment too and the poor females can’t keep their lust free gaze away from those male bodies, or control themselves either, can they?!? /sarcasm
#sexism #doublestandards

Theresa May – Enough is enough!

The UK’s ‘glorious and much vaunted leader’, Theresa May, says that despite cutting the the Police force by 20,000 and slashing their budget, she has ‘really’ increased the number of firearms officers, protected the counter-terrorism policing budgets, and made them, as a whole, much more able to protect us all from the rising level of threat from extremists and terrorists.
However Government figures show the number of police officers has fallen from 146,030 officers in 2010 to 126,766 in 2016 – the number of armed officers has dropped from 6,976 to 5,639 in the same time. The figures don’t lie so maybe May does?
And the Former Prime Minister, David Cameron’s, own aide, Steve Hilton, actually thinks that the cuts that May forced upon the Police was responsible for the security failures that led to the terror attacks at London Bridge, Manchester, Westminster Bridge and thinks that May should resign.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said London was getting half the funding for policing that it should be getting for a capital city and that policing in the capital was facing a £400m cut over the next four years.
He said that while the Met Police did a brilliant job despite the cuts, they needed more resources.
You can’t cut Police numbers and budgets and expect them, no matter how hard they work and how hard they try, to expect them to do the same job for less and less …well actually I suppose the Tories CAN expect that, it’s pretty much what they expect of everyone except for themselves. This time, though, it is costing lives and putting more at risk.
When May said, in her press conference outside number 10 after the terror attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, that enough was enough, she was right …enough IS enough, it is time to get rid of her and her cronies and June 8th is the time to do it. If you vote Conservatives you are voting for more cuts to the Police, more cuts to the NHS, more cuts to welfare for the disabled, and the sick, and the vulnerable.
Enough is enough.
Time to change.

Wonder Woman – what came before

You know I love Wonder Woman; I have been reading the character for pretty much as long as I have been reading comics and have been watching her on TV since I was a kid (I may even still have some of the Lynda Carter episodes on VHS from when they were originally recorded back in the 80s when we were living in Holland 🙂 ) …I am VERY invested in this movie being good because I not only want it to be good for me but for my boys, who also love the character – from the comics, but also from DC animation like the Justice League cartoons and the DC Superhero Girls (which is awesome, check it out!) – and this will be their introduction to her on the big screen as I haven’t let them watch the Batman vs Superman movie as I personally feel it isn’t suitable for kids their age (your mileage may vary, I am NOT going to argue about that!).
The thing is though that if I hear one more reporter – male or female, I don’t care – self-congratulatory – explain to their audience (or themselves) how this is the ‘first female led superhero movie’ I am going to reach into the TV or radio and throttle them! 🙂
Let’s just list a few of the easy ones that have come before Wonder Woman: Elektra, Catwoman (it had the name of the DC character but was really only ‘inspired by’ rather than was her), Witchblade, Tank Girl, Tomb Raider (ok this was a game first but also had comics), Sheena, and, Red Sonja …and one other: Supergirl.
I left that one until last because it’s quite important as it shows that Wonder Woman isn’t the ‘first female led superhero movie’ featuring a major DC character, and with the ‘S’ creast on her chest you’ve got to admit that Supergirl is pretty major.
…and with Tank Girl being directed by Rachel Talalay, Wonder Woman isn’t even the first ‘first female led superhero movie’ directed by a female director.
Anyway, those characters and movies are history, we are talking now about the present and future: Wonder Woman! 🙂
What Wonder Woman is easily going to be is the ‘first female led superhero movie’ directed by a female director to be a major financial success and (hopefully) a major critical one too.
It gets referred to as a ‘risk’ with a relatively paltry budget of $149 million – obviously because Patty Jenkins is a ‘mere’ female director (she didn’t turn a $8 million budget for Monster into $60 million box office ey? /sarcasm) – so I hope Wonder Woman blows the takings for Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman out of the water (SS box office is over $740m and BvsS is over $850m) and PROVES what a good female character, story, and director can do with the fans behind them.
So get behind them …go watch this movie.
Be Wonder Woman! 🙂