Hello, my name is Sandy.

What's been going on

abandoned toy rabbit on a shopping centre bench

Whenever people ask me what's been going on, I experience a moment of utter panic. Not only do I have to remember what's happened, I have to pick a timeframe of events. Then if I don't know the asker well, I have to guess if they're a normie who doesn't want to know I'm training my cat to walk on a leash.

cat on a leash

Well, that's out of the bag now, isn't it.

whiskey being poured at Whipper Snapper Distillery

A couple weeks ago, we went to the Whipper Snapper Distillery, which just opened in East Perth. They were preparing for the official opening, so we got a "behind the behind-the-scenes" tour. I feel totally hipster about that, but would like to go again now they're properly open.

bearded distiller Jimmy teaches us about whiskey making

a cup of wheat grains

We learned about the whiskey-making process. First, it starts with making a grain mash to ferment (into beer!). The liquid part is then distilled in a giant steampunk looking machine.

large copper still for distilling alcohol

holding chamber open - smells good

After distillation, you get alcohol. "Moonshine", you'd call it when you're making it on the sly at home, except these guys are doing it legally, and really distilling the fuck out of it, more than any normal person would. From there, the spirit is aged in barrels, where is takes on flavours and colours from the wood. Once aged, it may be called "whiskey".

Whipper Snapper

Their whiskey was still in barrels, but they had some bottled moonshine on hand, which is pretty much pure alcohol, watered down to make it consumable. I may reconsider my highbrow prejudice against drinking this stuff. The feeling it leaves is exactly like the first 5 seconds of chomping on cool mint chewing gum, only it goes for ages. It just tastes fresh forever.

newfoundland puppy

Last week, I saw a Newfoundland dog for the first time ever. He was only 10 months old, and MASSIVE. I can't believe how big they get. Yarr, I want a dog. As soon as there's room in our lives, our animal empire shall grow.

Bar Pop in the Urban Orchard, Northbridge

Visited a Bar Pop in the Urban Orchard in Northbridge. For a bar with no fixed address, they have a decent range on the menu. Charging pub prices, and I'm sure the serves are smaller, but worth it to sit outside on a nice evening.

When the weather warms up here, the city fills up with cool festival and pop-up type stuff. Markets, arts events, portable fooderies - how ephemeral! Perth Cactus and Perth Arena notwithstanding, this end of the country is coming along nicely.

IAOMAS conference programme

I had the privilege of taking photos at the first IAOMAS conference in Australia. I'm barely above a white belt at photography, so I felt pressure to step up and be responsible for something official.

martial arts seminar and demonstration

personal, professional instruction

What an experience! The most awe-striking was being around female instructors. I don't get much out of "all girls" and "for women" culture, and I don't gravitate to other people based on gender, but in sport, there's only so much I can relate to male body parts because I don't have male body parts. Seeing something done by someone who's built like me makes it easier for me to learn it too.

calculating decay over time using Euler's number

Some maths happened. It was one of those moments where you remember school, thinking, "I'll never need this in real life!" Turns out if you ever want to do anything fun with computers, you do need it. Every day, stuff like this comes up, and I'm so grateful we have the internet.

Alphabotanicals: A for Arnica

Started something new this week. There's a bunch of stuff I've wanted to learn for ages, but couldn't find time, so obviously the solution is to make art as an incentive to study them all together.

This is "Alphabotanicals" - studies in type, plants, and drawing. More on this to come.

me in the blood donation chair - yuck

Finally, I gave blood today. I hate it, yuck. Needles have given me the willies since that time. I managed to give blood since then, but that was rubbish too cos they only let me have a muffin. I gave them half a litre of my life essence and all I got was a stale muffin.

Not this time, though. Fuck you, 2013 canteen nurse. I got a sausage roll today!!!! 2014 nurse knows where it's at.

I carry a small fear that I'll regress to my stressful, sedentary lifestyle of 10ish, 11ish years ago. When I go for more than a few weeks without football, when my weight stalls or drops, I fear my efforts over the last decade were for nothing.

But today, I'm weighing in at 49.5kg (clothes on) with a haemoglobin reading of 152. I am still healthy.

This evening, I am enjoying the thunderstorm and some computer games. ^___^

So, what's been going on with you?

Grading for a yellow belt

Sensei filling out a grading sheet

I had my first taekwondo grading on the weekend. It was an interesting experience! Very different to watching someone else grade, because you're the one put on the spot. You can know something, yet draw a complete blank when having to show it with your body in the centre of a room, surrounded by people watching. Arg.

Hopefully, I passed. Apparently it's abysmal to fail the first grading, because the goal at white belt is to understand you have body parts you can use, and get a feel for how to use them without accidentally hurting yourself or other people. It's the equivalent of say, when you're learning to touch type, understanding you can use fingers to type words, and you don't even have to smash the keyboard with your face. Obvious, right?

The techniques to pick up at each level are based on the kata (form, pattern) for that belt. A kata acts like a textbook, but in live action form. All the techniques and knowledge are in there, but you have to read, interpret and apply it in real life.

My kata is called Chon-ji, meaning "heaven and earth". One interpretation says it's so named to remind the student that they're only one part of a bigger picture. Another interpretation says chon-ji means "heaven the earth", referring to the creation of the world - so the name suggests the student's creation as a new martial artist. I don't know which one is right; perhaps they both are.

Anyway, I had to:

  • Demonstrate the chon-ji form
  • Demonstrate a couple of steps from the form
  • Show how I would use a technique in the form to defend against XYZ
  • Answer a couple of questions about the form (bit o' book learnings)
  • Show up in a clean gi (uniform) with my belt tied correctly

This was nothing compared to the black belt and green belt students also being graded. So much twisting and fisting and smashing. Looked awesome. Sweat patches everywhere!

defence against a punch

takedown using aikido

takedown using beautiful but manly dancing

I don't know how other schools teach, but what I'm enjoying at my school is the emphasis on concept-based learning. Getting taught principles early means you can learn a technique in the way that works best for how you learn, whether you rote it or find some other way.

For me, it's getting to do something hilarious and fun, and then deconstructing and reflecting on it after. I have to get a long view of things before I feel safe trying what's in front of me. I've gotten to try a lot of stuff well above my belt, which has made learning the stuff at my level much, much easier.

I also learn by sharing, which is why I've written this. I hope fellow white belts or anyone thinking of taking up taekwondo find it useful. :)