Sunday, January 31, 2016

On tanto blades

I have owned several tanto blades, mostly Cold Steel. I owned Recon Tanto, Tanto Lite, all perished in the old time. Now I have laid my hands on Kobun.
There is this mystery in this shape, the same beauty that you find in all machines designed for one and solely purpose. Like Humvee, nuclear submarine and HK416. Tanto has this elusive quality as well.
I am enchanted by the spirit hiding in the blades. By the clean lines of the geometry of tanto-shaped blade, especially if it is shinogi-zukuri. My three samurai swords have these, but tanto seems to have it condensed in much smaller frame. It's like it is more dense...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

On data mining

So there was this time then I lived in equatorial Africa and I had near-real-time access (3-5 minutes delay) to all metadata on the biggest MNO (Mobile Network Operator) in Kenya. I used it to filter out all sorts of useful info from those gigabytes of transaction tickets. I was able to trace trends, see network failures, even caught a fraud or two.

This led to my interest in the whole data mining concept and I found this US company which, I still believe, would be the most amazing place to work at. No, not Google. The company I have in mind is Quid Inc. Please see this TED talk. From very simple, easily available info they can reach such a far-reaching conclusions. I can't even imagine how much intelligence I could get out of my Safaricom metadata using this approach. Unfortunately - ,as I wrote in my book - the Marketing Dept. at Safaricom was not able to comprehend this, or they were just too lazy to bother...

Still, I was following (out of sheer curiosity) the world trends in data mining. Then big data was a big world. Now at IBM everything is cognitive, employing the intelligence to filter out the noise and get something meaningful out of this flood of information.

And then... one of the podcasts I subscribe to is SofRep by former US Special Forces operatives, where they just chit-chat while patting themselves how dope they were when they were still operating... And in one of the episodes they bring Mark Lombardi and his data mining and visualizing. Approach much like Quid Inc. but... manually.

Currently going through this book on him and his work. Will let you know what I think once I finish.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On iPad Pro

So yes, I got myself one. Bought it in London's Covent Garden Apple store. No, they did not have an Apple Pencil - I had to get this one post-factum while roaming in Warsaw.

This is awesome piece of hardware. Really stunning display. But this device has its quirks and issues. Lets go through these step by step. First of all...

This is not just a bigger iPad Air. This is totally new device with expanded functionalities.

Again: expanded.
I use it for all things I used my iPad Air 2 plus a few other uses.

My main motivation was in-situ photo editing. Why? I often take photos during various Aikido events and I am asked to provide results in real time. I wish I had like 3 days, to go home, transfer the pics to my Vaio Pro and play with them with Adobe Lightroom for several hours while sipping single malt and listening to Yusef Lateef. No, I am expected to provide results within the timeframe of the event. So I am dumping the photos from my Nikon to iPad Pro (via use of this and this device), there I have Lightroom and Photoshop Fix for photo manipulations. Then I can post directly on FB, other social media or just email the pics. Easy, right?

First issue - uSD to CF converter allows for any size of uSD, but my Nikon D700 does not recognize SDXC, so I can not use my 64GB card, only the 32 GB one. This is still more than my 16GB CF, allowing for 1.3K photos. Speedwise I see no change. OK, 1.3K photos is still an improvement.

Bigger issue is in software - once card is connected to iPad - it automatically launches Photos and imports all pics (shot in Nikon *.NEF format). But neither Lightroom not Photoshop Fix see these pics in gallery. So I have to go through another program - Procreate to import NEF as a new layer, flatten image, then export as JPG back to gallery. This workaround is unnecessary annoyance. Blame Adobe.

Bottom line - with some idiosyncraties I achieved my goal - I can use iPad Pro's amazing display for image processing.

Second major usecase... Apple Pencil allows for interesting interactions.

I started taking work notes, private notes on iPad, I started (finally) designing my tattoo, I drew the house I lived in till I was 3, I built and expanded mind map of my over 20 years worth of Aikido notes...
And I doodle a lot.
Preferred app - Concepts.

My only other complaint is that I have such a huge screen real estate and I still get to keep only 6 icons in launchbar (its not jailbrokem).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On Cathedrals

It is pretty obvious why.

Recently went to Prague, visited St.Vitus Cathedral.

And also flew to Barcelona, with its beautiful cathedral

And then, of course, Sagrada Familia

The first question is - why is it that I do not have any pics from Westminster Abbey? Is it possible the Brits did not allow photography?

The second question more interesting. Sagrada Familia is finished on the inside, all they have to complete are towers and some portals on the outside. It took them what, 133 years so far? Long project. And then when you think that building St.Vitus in Prague took 300 years... Then you wonder - how do you build WBS and whole project plan for something that will take 300 years to complete?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On Coffee

So today on my way to work I decided to stop by at Starbucks.
I ordered the usual and then noticed that they have this new beans Kati Kati - blend of Kenyan and Ethiopian. I got a brewed sample to taste, and I have to say that I do not like coffee. I don't even know why I drink Cafe Latte. I guess it's for its milk?
Lets face it - I am a tea guy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wakizashi - final chapter

So, you might have read here on this blog that sometime ago I bought mumei koto wakizashi.
It was in shirasaya.

It has beautiful rain-pattern silver habaki:

Then I had it mounted.
Initially I wanted to have it in aikuchi, but Daniel sensei said it's too beefy for aikuchi. So I went for traditional set, only - as you can see - I have had the tsuka made longer:
It is well balanced and has nice harmony to it. The furniture is from Higo school. Unfortunately, I did not have proper tsuba, so I just had something put inside as a gap filler.

Then I went for search of the tsuba I wanted. I knew: no aikuchi, but still wanted a small tsuba. Eventually (with Daniel's blessing) I found this Owari-school gem. Seller estimated it's from around 1550:
It took me like 2 hours with the file on the copper inserts and now I have it mounted:

Exams in June 2015

Some pictures from kyu exam in June.

Pre-exam stress

And so it begins

Slow beginning

All photos taken by Piotr Masztalerz ;-)
More pics available at Wrocław Aikikai Facebook profile.
And there is a video there too...

Monday, June 1, 2015

On last weekend

Due to some bizarre coincidences and strange alignment of stars I did take the exam this weekend seminar and was promoted to sandan. This whole aikido thing never stops surprising, does it?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On less serious note

So, once you become uchi-deshi you are placed at the very end of the food chain.
Enlightened teachers know this and this triggers two types of behavior on their part:

1. They try to provide you with the food and all the support you need to survive your time which is highly demanding both mentally and physically. So, in spite of being at the end of the food chain - you still get decent food. Or should I say - decent enough. This support is usually given in such a way that uchi-deshi is not aware of this and can not use this as a means of any mental support.

2. They will challenge you in EVERY possible way, both physically (technically, endurance and stamina challenges, sleep deprivation, alcohol overuse, you name it) and mentally (by scaring the living shit out of you, demanding that dojo is cleaner that hospital and by throwing all random tasks on him). And then, of course, there is a lot of pissing contests.

And then uchi-deshi is often asked impossible questions (like Zen koans) and given impossible tasks. What is the solution to such riddles? Well, every uchi-deshi eventually achieves his own way of dealing with this. What seems to be universally working is this:

Try to touch your ear with your tongue
Try to salivate from the corner of your mouth as much as possible
While doing all of the above try to say I love you to the person who gave you the impossible task/question
Try to hug/kiss the challenger:

Please note this will not work with EVERYBODY. Your aim as uchi-deshi is to survive and gain as much exposure as possible. Most challengers will just turn away with disgust. But then there are some who will just punch you in the guts/face/whatever. So you need to know who you are dealing with before you devise any strategy here (vide Sun Tzu).

And of course - unless your femur bone is broken to the point that it pierces the neck skin next to your collarbone...
What happens in dojo - stays in dojo

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Vertx

So all the Kryptek goodies I got are from Vertx.

Initial impressions were great. They sell these targeted for Operation Athlete and I do see where this comes from. The design is really top-notch, really functional.

The only problem I have is the durability of the camo print. Typhon (the night shade one) was visibly paler after just one wash. For me this is more of a fashion statement (I do not operate anymore ;-), but I am a bit disappointed with how quickly I will loose the colors.

This is especially annoying given the premium price I have to pay for Kryptek in Poland.