Wednesday, June 30, 2004 

Street justice

The kid was thirteen. Maybe. But he wanted to be older.

"Where's that fuckin' nigger!" he shouted.

He was white, wearing baggy jeans, sneakers, a white tank top and a white headband. His left arm from the elbow down was covered with a bright white cast with no signatures on it. Just over five feet tall and thin as a rail. Lips pursed and trembling, eyes shiny, face red and scrunched up.

He was shouting at passersby on the street outside the bus terminal in Brampton. It's a square building on Church Street. There are lanes that go around the entire building for buses to pickup and dropoff passengers.

He was waving a hand around like you see inner city kids do in movies. Awkward, but smooth. Seemingly erratic, but predictable. On the verge of tears, but covering it with anger.

Acting how he thought a tough guy should act.

Nobody answered.

"You seen that nigger?" he asked me.

Shook my head and shrugged. I hadn't. I'd just come around the corner. Christa and her mom were picking me up. I'd taken the bus from Guelph and didn't know where to expect them, so I was doing circuits of the building. Pausing to wait at the most likely spots and then going around again in case they were in an unlikely spot.

I was wearing brown leather shoes, jeans, a shirt that buttoned, a cream coloured cotton jacket and a backpack. He looked me up and down and sneered. I got the sense he didn't believe me.

After shrugging again I continued around the side of the terminal to the main dropoff area.

Someone finally answered the kid as I walked away. They said the guy was around the corner, around back.

Sitting at a bench talking to a young woman was a young black man in baggy black pants, a red t-shirt under an unzipped black jacket. His head was covered with a red triangular cloth that had been tied in the back. He wasn't the only black man there, but he was the only one around that seemed agitated. He was twitchy. Slouched on the bench, but stiffly. His eyes were jumping around and he'd check over his shoulder a lot.

I noticed him, but didn't. I was focussed on trying to spot Christa.

I wasn't having much luck at that, so I did another lap of the building.

On my way around again the kid was talking on a payphone around the corner from the agitated guy I'd noticed earlier. He had a hand up to his eyes.

Christa still wasn't there.

On my next circuit, the kid was still on the phone. Three guys were walking across the lanes running parallel to the wall the phone was on.

The first was a white guy in black shorts, combat boots, and a white tank top. His head was shaven, his eyes were blue and his ear held a single silver hoop. He looked to be about thirty and looked to be very pissed off.

"Is that the kid?" he asked one of the other guys. The guy nodded.

As I went around back, they walked up to the kid and started talking to him.

A few moments later the bald guy came around the corner, glanced around, walked over and sat down beside the agitated guy. They started talking. Not calmly.

The other two men who'd come with the bald guy came too, standing several feet back from each corner of the building. Their eyes kept flicking from the bald guy's conversation to multiple points around their respective building corners and back again. The one closest to me was wearing a camouflage jacket that was unzipped. His right hand kept floating up toward his shoulder like it wanted inside the jacket, then drifting away.

I walked several feet away from him and removed my hands from my jacket pockets. Christa was still nowhere to be seen.

The bald guy was getting loud.

"You feel tough threatening a kid with a knife? Why don't you show me the knife?" he said.

The agitated one mumbled something.

"You want to talk? We'll talk. After you've shown me the knife," said the bald guy.

More mumbles.

"Show me the fucking knife or I'll dent that wall with your face!" shouted the bald guy.

A young woman a couple feet from me caught my gaze and opened her eyes wide as if to say, "Aw shit." I shrugged slightly and went back to looking for Christa as the bald guy and the agitated guy walked around the far corner of the building. A few moments later Christa still hadn't shown up, so I walked around the building again.

She wasn't all that late. My bus was scheduled to arrive fifteen minutes before she and her mom could possibly get there. I just couldn't wait to see her and it was a small building to walk around. Makes for a lot of trips.

This time around the building, I saw the two guys talking on a bench on the south side. The kid was still by the phones on the west side. Not talking, just standing. A few minutes after I got around back to the north side again, the two guys came around from the south side. The bald guy talked to the kid for a moment and then the agitated guy did. They were angry.

A bus pulled in right beside them, the bald guy's friends walked up and people started getting off the bus. Blocking my view of them.

Which is when Christa showed up on foot.

I spotted her about twenty feet away. She'd just come from work and was wearing a long black skirt, a white blouse, her glasses and that beautiful smile that makes me melt. I smiled, walked forward and we embraced. The moment was only slightly spoiled by the awareness of my back being to the many angry people - one of which may have had a knife and another of which may have had a gun - standing too close together in an enclosed area.

"Mom's around the corner at the liquorstore. She's picking up wine for dinner," said Christa. She took a few steps toward the bus and I knew she was planning to walk between it and the brick wall to get to Church Street. If you hadn't been there for the last twenty minutes, it made perfect sense to go that way. It was the shortest distance to walk.

I paused and looked from the crowd of people between the bus and wall to the two empty lanes on the other side of the bus.

"Let's go this way," I said, leading her in a wide arc around the bus and through the lane toward Church Street.

As we walked along the lane, the bus pulled out. I looked at the kid and the man he'd called a nigger. They were both laughing and talking to each other and the bald guy.

Stunned, I let Christa lead the way to the liquor store. I was actually so shocked that I didn't tell Christa about it. Hadn't processed it and couldn't figure out how to bring it up.

I'm not sure how I expected that situation to play out, but I certainly didn't expect them all to be laughing and chatting when I walked away.

I guess if you pay attention, people will just keep surprising you.

Monday, June 28, 2004 

What the hell?

Why doesn't my blog seem to be working? It won't load when I try to go there to get to other people's blogs.

What the fuck?

This is not the day to upset me people.

Thursday, June 24, 2004 

The Cast

[Under construction. This post will grow quite a bit over the next few days. I'm just too tired to finish it tonight. No, the 'cast' link doesn't yet bring you here.]

I've been meaning to update this for a while. Since leaving the paper, my social environment has undergone some changes. If you see a name in one of my posts, you should be able to find it here. In terms of the order I name people, I just started with the people I saw on Sunday and continued in order of appearance and spiralled out as needed along the way.

I was at my parents' for Father's Day this past weekend. I went out to lunch with them and my sister. They haven't changed much since the last entry.

Mom drove me back to Guelph, to the apartment that Shokes and I are now subletting. We'll be here until the end of August, when each of us are leaving Guelph. Him for Ottawa and me for Toronto. We met last September when he took the remaining room of the house I was living in with Claire. Shokes - short for Ashoka - and I got to be good friends and decided to find a sublet for the summer.

Claire is a young woman I lived with two summers ago when my girlfriend at the time was living in France for four months. I subletted a basement bedroom in the house she'd lived in for the previous few years. Her boyfriend at the time was living in Ottawa, so we found it easy to relate to each other. We hung out a lot and became very good friends. The day we met, I got a gut feeling as she was showing me the house that we could become very good friends. The gut feeling was a large part of why I took the room.

Monday morning I stopped by to see Natalie, this year's Editor in Chief at the student paper. She was my news editor when I was a volunteer reporter. We've come to be friends over the last several months.

I caught a bus that afternoon to Brampton, where Christa and her mom picked me up. I met her through the Philosophy Society a very short time ago. We've been dating for the last couple months. She just finished her second year in zoology. She's smart, funny and pretty. Things are going very well between us. She leaves for Australia next Monday. (That'd be Monday, June 28th for those of you coming here through the "Cast" link.) She's gone for six months.

Tuesday Ian showed up at my doorstep while I was working out. We met at the paper last September and became fast friends. He's a philosophy student, a music nut and a fellow writer. He was the Arts & Culture Editor at the student paper. He's also the one that convinced me to go to Philosophy Society, where I met Christa.

Ian occupied himself by reading in the livingroom as I finished my workout and grabbed a shower. Then we walked over to Jer's. Jer and I are planning to get an apartment in Toronto come September so that we have a place to hang our hats as we study journalism at Humber. We knew each other through Brian, a common friend, but really got to know each other through the student paper. He was our most dedicated volunteer and arguably the best writer associated with the paper.

Today at work - an unskilled labour job in the mailroom at the local daily newspaper - Chris walked through on some mission of mischief. He was Editor in Chief at the student paper the year Natalie was News Editor. We got to be good friends over the last year as we and others - including Ian - fought to stop the paper from spiralling into hell. He's loud, hyperbolic and an all-around nice guy. He works upstairs in the pre-press department.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 

She's leaving

I can't believe that by this time next week Christa will be in Australia. She leaves next Monday.

I dislike lying, so I'm going to let all of you in on the code I'll be using.

If you ask me how I am, I will say, "Fine."

I will be lying.

Please don't press me on it.

Monday, June 21, 2004 

Weeks 7 through 9: sleepy

The last three weeks were not my best.

I've managed to work out a few days each week, The days I work out are the days that I do it immediately after getting 'home' from work. I'm so tired after work that if I pause to rest, watch television or check my email I can't get my energy level up high enough again. I think I need to tweak my diet and get more sleep to combat that.

I've maintained my flexibility and introduced chinups, which I hate and can't do many of. My resting heart rate is currently 64 beats per minute.

Thursday, June 17, 2004 

Dancing in the Park

James was walking three feet ahead of me, in a rush to get to the event before it started. Which made sense as he was going to be one of the dancers.

Out of the crowd in front of him burst Christa, wearing a pink dress and a gorgeous yet mischievous smile. She ran toward him. And then around him in a graceful little dodge. Straight at me.

"You!" she said as she closed in.

I opened my arms to hug her.

"Bad!" she said as she crashed her open palms into my chest.

As I stumbled a half step back she wrapped her arms around me in a hug and laughed, her head against my chest. The smile on my face was indelible for the rest of the night.


Christa had invited me to Dancing in the Park back in May. She's done Scottish Country Dancing for more than a half dozen years. And on Tuesdays every June - weather permitting - they put on a demonstration in Edwards Gardens in Toronto.

The first couple of Tuesdays this month didn't work. However, this Tuesday looked perfect. Especially when I found out that I wasn't scheduled to work the next day and wouldn't have to rush back to Guelph right after.

The only obstacle was actually getting there.

A lot of complicated planning brought the plan from me catching a Go Bus (but the buses wouldn't get me where I needed to be when I needed to be there) to Christa picking me up in Guelph (but the car she would have used had a prior engagement) to catching a Greyhound to Toronto and being picked up on the way (which, while a brilliant idea, was sketchy since the timing would have to be perfect...).

Then Monday night Christa and I were talking on MSN and she told me that her good friend James - who has been mentioned here in the past - would be in Guelph Tuesday afternoon and was offering me a ride since he was going to be dancing too.

She put me in touch with him over MSN and then went out for the evening, leaving James and I to sort out the details.

Christa and I spoke online again later that night.

"How are you now?" she asked.

"Alright," I said. "Though I got some cruddy news from James."

She asked what it was.

"You mean James didn't tell you?"

She had just got home and told me so.

I paused for a moment.

"It seems that I may have to walk past a bookstore on my way to meet him after work tomorrow."

"Don't do that to me!" she said after a moment's pause.

Then, about walking past the bookstore, "I know it's hard, but I'm sure you can do it."

I explained that every once and a while I get an urge to be a bit of an ass.

"You're so lucky I can't hit you through the computer!" she said.

I can't remember what I said next, but I do remember it led her to declare jokingly that while she couldn't hit me through the computer, she damn well was going to when she saw me next.

At least I thought she was joking.

I'd write more, but I think I'm about to fall asleep at the keys.


Taking my own advice

Who can say what is good and what is bad?

Sunday, June 13, 2004 

Deer in the Arboretum

It's true.

I spent yesterday morning in the Arboretum. I didn't see any deer, but I did track one for about 50m through the bush.

She made it pretty easy for me though, by staying on a small walking path. Which makes sense since the surrounding undergrowh was fairly thick. Paths of least resistance and all that.

Based on what I saw yesterday morning, my best guess is that a doe or smaller buck walked along that trail sometime Friday evening before dark.

A doe or small buck because of the size of the prints and the fact that they weren't splayed apart. A deer track looks kind of like a tall skinny heart that's been split down the middle and separated by a centimeter or two. Each half of the heart shape is made by one of the deer's two toes, with the points indicating the direction of travel. Sometimes two small holes will be poked in the ground behind the toes. These happen when the dew claws touch the ground. A heavier deer - most often a male - will often leave tracks that show the toes being splayed further apart.

Walking because of the pattern of the tracks. There would be one print every couple of feet. On close inspection I could often see that it was actually two impressions, one on top of the other. When a deer walks, it will put its hind feet in the same spot it puts its front ones. The pattern left behind looks like the one I followed yesterday.

Friday evening because the prints were relatively fresh. Gravity hadn't had too long to wear at the edges of the prints. But not too fresh since on a number of occassions full spider webs had been built across the path, between prints left by the deer. Unfortunately, I forget exactly how long it takes a spider to build its web. So my estimate of the age of the tracks could have been thrown off a little.

I didn't observe any scat - droppings - which would have helped me age the prints.

That, however, is about the extent of my tracking skill. When I was a kid, I always found it the most boring part of hunting. I hadn't come to appreciate the detective game aspect of it, so I didn't always pay as much attention to dad on this subject as I wish I had. I was a shooter.

To arbitrarily slice up the activity, there are three parts to hunting. The scouting, the shooting and the skinning. Tracking is a big part of scouting.

It was the shooting that interested me and that I was good at. Being calm, cool and calculating is necessary to be a good shooter. There are deer hunters out there who have hunted for years without getting a thing because they're too excitable. They'll shoot too soon, and miss. They'll make too much noise, and scare off their prey.

I, however, am not very excitable at all.

But at the same time, empathy is just as important as being calm, cool and calculating. You have to be able to identify with animals. You have to be able to look at an area and think like the animal you're after. To feel what it does. To anticipate what it will do. The more empathy you have, the better a hunter you will be.

Opening morning of my first deer season, I took two deer.

The first I saw coming from sixty yards out. I knew what it would do and waited until it was ten feet from me before taking it. Perfect kill shot. Never knew what hit it.

The second I saw from a couple of hundred yards. It was across the valley from me, with too many trees and too much distance between us. So I stalked it. It took nearly forty-five minutes, but I crept through the bush until I was at the bottom of the hill it was on. Unfortunately, shooting uphill is completely different from shooting horizontally. The altered parabolic arc has to be carefully taken into account. I didn't do a good enough job. It didn't die right away. And it didn't die quietly.

That was nearly nine years ago. I was fifteen, yet I remember it like it was yesterday.

It's a delicate balance. The more empathy you have, the better a hunter you will be. However, too much empathy will keep you from hunting. It's kept me from it.

Other than target practice, the shooting is over for me. I can't do it. Don't get me wrong. I don't think it's wrong to hunt. It's a necessary thing. I just don't have the heart to do it anymore.

But the scouting is a whole other matter. That I can do. That I actually enjoy doing now, just for its own sake. I love it because I love animals and the outdoors and it lets me spend time with each.

Saturday, June 12, 2004 

It's not about fighting

Please read this disclaimer before reading this post.

I'm very serious here. I'm talking life and death stuff. And fighting isn't life and death.

Drunks, boxers, and kickboxers fight. (But drunks don't do it very well. Temporary loss of coordination and judgment will do that.)

Soldiers aren't trained to fight, though we may use the word in a sloppy verbal shorthand. They're trained to kill.

Cops aren't trained to fight, though they will become involved in physical altercations with people who don't want to tickle them. They're trained to subdue.

I'm not interested in any of that, except for the lessons that can be learned from how they do it.

What I am interested in is surviving an encounter that for all I know could leave me dead.

That's what self defense is about. Survival.

And this is how you do it.

You avoid situations where someone wants to hurt you. If you can't, you talk your way out. If you can't, you decide what course of action will give you the best shot at survival and take it.

You may decide that resistance will likely get you killed. So you choose to do what your assailant wants you to do. There is no shame in that. Anyone who criticizes your choice is a fool.

You may decide that even going along with your assailant's wishes will get you killed. So you choose the appropriate moment and run. If a moment doesn't present itself, you make one. Whatever you do, you do not stand and trade blows. Ever. That's how you get dead. You run. If you can't run because your escape route is blocked or you're being held or you're being attacked, you immobilize your assailant and then you run. Immobilization isn't complicated. Take their mobility, their breath or their vision and they cannot chase you.

If that's what you have to do, that's how you have to train.

Which is why it annoys you when someone, upon finding out you 'know karate' raises their fists and maybe even throws a half-hearted punch or kick at you. Because now you have to bite back your training so that this person doesn't annoy you further by screaming in pain.



I make no representation, warranty or guarantee that any of the 'theory' I present in subsequent entries will be safe or effective in any self defense situation. I am not responsible for any injury that may occur.

I am obviously worried that someone will read these entries, apply them and then come back at me if something goes wrong. So keep in mind that they are here for information purposes alone.

If you want to learn about self defense, go sign up for a course. A very long one that has a theory component, talks about legal responsibilities and has you train at full strength against heavily padded, highly trained instructors.


Theory pieces

Despite a derth of entries, the Weapon Project is still alive and well. I've just decided to make reports on the physical training every other week. Expect one tomorrow on the last two weeks.

Following - at least chonologically - this entry will be the first in a series of entries that will center on, for lack of a better term, theory. In these, I will look at a number of different topics having to do with self defense.

Unless I say otherwise, the content will be generated out of memory of both my training and of my extensive reading on the subject. All of which dates back to before I went to University.

A word on the training. My first sensei owned and operated a karate school that was ranked #21 in the world for self defense instruction. My second sensei trained American special forces and law enforcement personnel. My third sensei could trace his instruction lineage back through three instructors directly to the man credited with bringing Japanese martial arts to Canada. I earned my first degree black belt and taught for over a year.

As for the reading, I've read texts by masters like Sun Tzu, Miyamoto Musashi and Bruce Lee. I've read books and self defense guides written by soldiers and cops. For two years I read every issue of Black Belt Magazine cover to cover.

While I'm no expert - and the true experts out there scare the shit out of me - I do know a fair bit. Unfortunately, five years away from the dojo have left those memory files a random jumble of useful information.

These theory pieces are my attempt to organize and streamline my knowledge. And to bring it back to the surface. And to share it with you.

Other martial artists or self defense instructors may offer different advice based on their respective theories of self defense. All I can say is that what I write is the synthesis of many of the useful bits of what I learned a while ago.

Read them if they interest you. It doesn't really matter to me one way or another.


Odd resting place

There is a fluffy white cat sleeping on the top of my fridge.

Friday, June 11, 2004 


Not sure whether to be annoyed that there's so much I've wanted to do lately but couldn't, or happy that the reason I couldn't is that I've been doing other stuff I want to do too.

For example, I had planned to drop by Ian's after work, come 'home' and work out, eat, and write many many posts. Instead, I worked late (11.5 hour shift), stopped to see Ian, got 'home', wrote this (which doesn't count as many many posts), will do a quick workout, short shower, fast dinner and then go see a movie.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004 

Tiger vs. Bear

Jer had this to say about such a confrontation.

Here's something I ran across just now:

Tigers specialise in large to medium prey, up to 1,000kg or almost twice their weight. Only adult elephants are safe from tigers. Their favourites include wild pig and deer, also buffalo, young elephant and rhinos. Also monkeys, rodents, frogs, even porcupines. If it is easier, they will eat livestock. Tigers sometimes kill and eat leopards, other tigers and other carnivores like bears. Tigers may also hunt humans (see below). - TIGER (Panthera tigris)
Now, I don't know enough about tiger biology to judge this site's content, but if only adult elephants are safe from tigers, I'd say Jer's right.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004 

MSN is a coconut shell monkey trap

Materials required for a coconut shell monkey trap: a coconut shell, a chain, a stake on the ground and a handfull of rice.

Cut the top off a cocunut shell. hollow it out. Attach the shell to the chain and the chain to the stake. Put the handfull of rice into the shell. Wait for the monkey to reach in to grab the rice.

In grabbing the rice the monkey must make a fist which makes it impossible to remove the hand from the shell. But the monkey is stubborn and will not let go of the rice. Even when he sees you coming.

So he is captured.

I'm the monkey, my friends are the rice, the computer is the stake and msn is the trap.

After explaining all this to Natalie, she had four words for me. They're words I've heard over and over again since I could talk and thus share my thoughts.

"You think too much."