by Jinryu

A yawn escapes me before my hand comes up in time to keep my soul in.

I like these night shifts.  The stress level is so much lower than during the daytime, and on top of that, I get paid a premium to work at night.  I suppose it shouldn’t always be about money, but what money translates into is units of work. That’s why it was invented in the first place, right? To represent work.

And if I can get more of it for doing less work, it’s like I’m getting free work credits, really.


A bit less than a week ago, I got a new phone.  It’s the first phone that I get that’s WIFI enabled and on many levels, I appreciate what’s come out of years of research by the industry in how to make these things better.  I’m currently using an HTC s710/s711, code named ‘VOX’.

First of all, I really appreciate the way that HTC has made use of T9 adaptive text.  The VOX sports what they call ‘next generation t9,’ so onboard the phone it’s actually refered to as xT9.

For those of you who don’t know, T9 is the sliced bread of the text messaging world.  Traditionally, if you were using alphanumeric entry with the repetitive method, you’d need to tap a single number on your number pad several times to obtain a letter.  For example, if you wanted to spell out “Canada,” you need to hit 2-2-2 to get the “C,” wait a second, hit 2 to get “a,” 6-6 to get “n,” etc.  But with T9 adaptive text, based on the sequence of keys, the onboard vocabulary list will guess the word that you want.  So Canada, instead of requiring many many pushes of keys repeatedly to specify invidual letters, simply requires you to type in 2-2-6-2-3-2.  One number per letter.  Essentially, what this means is that most words in the English language have an equivalent ‘code’ in T9.

Of course, there are a lot of shorter words that have the same T9 codes, and that leads to problems.  However, for words that are four letters or longer I’ve generally found that T9 is pretty spot on, and in any case, once you get to the particular T9 list of your phone, you get in the habit of knowing which words have similar T9 codes and thus you know how to quickly hit the left or right cursor to skip to the next word.

I kid you not when I say that I can type at least 30 words per minute on T9 when my fingers are cold.  If I’m doing fine, I can do 30wpm or more.

I just love T9, and I love xT9 even more.

I do have some qualms with modern cellphones, and that has to do with QWERTY keyboards, either simulated (as is the case with many touchscreen phones) or of the mini variety.  My own VOX has a slide out mini-keyboard which admittedly is nice for entering complicated things that would be really cumbersome in T9, such as alphanumeric passwords, or uncommon proper nouns.  I find though that a QWERTY keyboard is just a waste of space and hardware– mostly because, it’s slower.

A full sized QWERTY keyboard, the kind you use for your computing, isn’t even designed for speed.  The QWERTY layout was designed to space out letters, somewhat statistically, so that when you were using your 20-kilogram typewritter, you wouldn’t jam up your keys so much.  Keys which are commonly used are spaced the furthest from eachother.  QWERTY’s layout was designed, in fact, to slow you down.

T9 was meant to speed you up by requiring less finger movement, and I thought that was in the right idea– but it seems that ‘businessmen’ just don’t have the brains for it, which in my opinion is why Blackberries became so popular.   No, it wasn’t because they’re so good looking, it’s because they had mini-keyboards for texting.

In my opinion though, mini-keyboards almost always fall short for typical messaging because not only is QWERTY a flawed design to begin with, but QWERTY was also designed to be used with almost ten fingers.  On a mini QWERTY board, you’re mostly hunting and pecking with your thumbs.  Whatever time you spent learning the layout and size of your keyboard might be better used, IMO, figuring out the ins and outs of T9.

Mini-keyboards are at best legacy techonlogy that refuses to die because it’s so well marketed as something to make your life easier, when in reality, it’s a proud tradition of mediocrity.

As far as other phone feautres go, I like how the T9 was integrated into several featuers of the phone aside from text messaging.  For example, contact searching is automatic and happens in the background.  When, for example, I’m in the home screen, I can start dialing a number.  (555) 555-5555, for example.  If I hit call, it will dial the number.  However, for every 5 that I dial up until the completed number, the phone is also crossreferencing the entered numbers as a T9 code to try and spell out a name in my contact list.  If I enter the first 5, for example, this corresponds to the letters J, K and L in T9.  So, the phone automatically brings up all the contacts on my list that contain those three letters, and places them onscreen.  With every additional number I push, it pieces together every possible T9 alphabet code and narrows the contact list.

Essentially, I could dial a number, or I coul use T9 and dial a name.  If I dialed in the T9 code 4-6-6-3 for “HOME” for example, home would show up on a list readily available for me to dial.

Searching through my mail on the phone similarly uses T9.  I could search the word “poutine” letter by letter in T9 code and with each number press, the results would get more and more narrow.

I suppose it seem rather ludicrous that this entire post has been about T9 thus far but I like the philosophy behind the invention and integration of xT9 in the HTC s7 series of phones. It’s a philosophy of simplification, rather than complication.

Video game designers nowadays have to deal with the fac that these aren’t the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System– it’s not just a D-pad, with select, start, B and A.  Nowadays, the average system has two analog joystics, a d-pad, four face buttons, and at least four more buttons in the ‘trigger positions.

That’s a lot of buttons.  Controls make a huge difference in a gaming experience and gameplay can be made or broken by how these controls work with the gamer.  It is in itself a science and an art to make an input method capable of controling complex actions through simple means.

Martial arts are the same.  Especially with the growing popularity of mixed martial arts, a lot of the philosophy of modern cage fighters isn’t about the expansion of arsenals towards infinity, but on good all around training that focuses on core abilities.  You’ve heard of that expression, don’t try to fit a square peg into a circular hole?  Well, it turns out that a lot of effectiveness comes from exactly the ability to duct tape a situation.  That is to say, taking a few good, solid, reliable tools and making them work in different situations.

Of course, there are always going to be specialized tools for the job, but what I’m saying is that there’s a cutoff afterwhich things are just getting fancy and excessive.


Speaking of mixed martial arts,

Numac has gotten it’s second wind.  I’d written a while back that one of the problems of Numac was the floundering attendance.  In part, this had to do with the payment plans involved at Numac.  At first, we were hosted at a gym I’d rented in LaSalle.  This gym cost me 50$ to rent for two hours.  The facilities were average– they had the inch and a half think jukado unlinked judo sythetic 1.5 inch tatamis, and a pair of hanging 75lbs sandbags.  The main hassle of this place was that the crash mats weren’t permanent, so everytime we held Numac we’d have to lay them down, and everytime we finished, we’d have to stack them back up.  It was a real hassle.

But the plus side of the LaSalle location was that it was cheap.  At 50$ a pop, it was easy to divide the cost among 5 people, and pay 10 dollars a head.  Whenever we had more than 8 people, Terminator and I didn’t even pay– we took it as our ‘organizer’s fee’ because frankly, setting up something like Numac isn’t as easy as it looks.  So, we figured, we’d take our cut for our trouble, and the members knew this, so it was fair.  The benefit of being in a LaSalle location was also that I knew a fair number of martial artists in the LaSalle area, including Alfredo and his BJJ training friends.  It was convenient for them because as LaSalle residents, they were more inclined to come by the club (lacking cars, and not owning buspasses since they could always bike to their local schools).

The new location of Numac posed two problems, as such.  First of all, the rental fee for the new location (at Louis’ 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu gym) was 80$ for the same amount of time.  Secondly, the location was in Verdun, which was far from our original member base.  For people like Alfredo and his friends, 80$ meant that if the costs were split, we’d still need more members in order for it to be affordable.  He falls into a college student demographic, with no job, which means, not much money.  It’s unlikely that someone in his demographic (including his friends) will consistently pay more than 10$ per pop for 2 hours of entertainment.  En plus, the Verdun location is much further for him and his classmates.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 5 of Numac’s members who are from LaSalle, and who frequented the original location because of promiximity.

Numac’s attendance in past weeks had been pretty bad as well– although it started off strong, it floundered to 5 members, 4, 3, then eventually two weeks ago, only Terminator showed up (the week that I skipped because I was sick).  The worst part of that is that when attendance goes down, the shared price per person inversely goes up.  That means that if there are only two people there, they’re paying 40$ each to attend.  And that, frankly, is a ridiculous price.

We’ve caught a bit of a lucky break though.  Because Louis and Terminator are pretty familar with eachother and go way back, Louis agreed to charge Numac on a flat rate per-person basis instead of renting the gym per hour.  Basically, it’s now 10$ flat per person.  It’s not going to get cheaper or more expensive, but at the very least it doesn’t discourage people from showing up on the offchance that it’s a quiet night.

Last friday, this already made a difference– the week before that, nobody but Terminator had showed up, but this past friday already we’re back to four members.  I’m aiming at a group of perhaps six or seven, which is a good amount for a gym of our size, and gives everyone a good amount of floor time to get some sweat out.

I’m rather excited because last week, one of the atendees was Quynh, which surprised me.  Quynh’s a badminton player, and has in the past never done any martial arts.  he’d dropped by Numac at the LaSalle branch a few times to watch, but I wasn’t aware that he was seriously interested in learning to fight.

Well, when I got there last friday, there he was on the ground, exhausted even though I’d showed up at 10pm.  For the past 15 minutes, Terminator had been putting him through a warmup of wheelbarrows and fireman carries.  For most of the rest of that evening, I was giving him a primer on how to perform basic blocks and kicks.

I wasn’t sure at first how to teach him because I wasn’t really sure of his intentions.  I mean, the thing about kickboxing is that to the untrained eye,it doesn’t look fun.  And the ironic truth is that, training for it, especially in the begining, isn’t fun at all.  It has a lot to do with basic physical conditioning, that is to say, muscular endurance, flexibility and pain tolerance, and training those things is not fun.

But, if he does come back next week, we’re going to step it up to the next level.  I’m sort of ‘in charge’ of teaching him the kickboxing aspect of his program.  Quynh hasn’t decided if he just wants to do striking or if he also wants to do grappling, but if he does, Terminator’s there for the grappling, and if he wants to get better at his handwork, Rod can always show him the boxing.

So far it’s been a lot of “Keep your hands up!” “Rotate your foot!”  “Spin your hips!” and “FIGHT THROUGH THE PAIN!” but Quynh stuck to it so far, which is surprising since I usually consider him one of the laziest of all of my friends 😛

And that’s not all– one of my cousin’s from Laval, who we’ll call Akatsuki, is going to be coming this friday as well.

He’s always had a bit of a life less ordinary I think.  His brother is deaf, and that lead to Akatsuki being different from other boys in that he’s a bit… socially awkward.  He’s fluent in sign language but not so fluent in french, which has made it tough for him in school.  He’s currently in CEGEP and for a while, I was afraid that he was hanging out with the wrong crowd of Chinese kids, the sorts who are wannabe gangbangers. I confronted him once about the particular way he was growing particular fingernails, and he told me that it was so he could play bass– “Come on, Akatsuki, who are you fooling?  You don’t pluck with your left hand.”  His parents have some financial troubles and I was always under the impression that Akatsuki was one of those stereotypical troubled youths you see in after-school specials.  He almost dropped out of school because his family needed money and his grades weren’t great. But I’ve never really been able to do anything about it, and frankly, many of my suggestions were met with “it’s none of your business” whenever I brought it up with my family.

Anyway, I’ve never really been able to do anything for Akatsuki in the past, except maybe to teach him how to play chess.  Any other sorts of real help though, well, it’s politically impossible due to the arrangement of our family situations. But I do hope that when he comes to Numac, he’ll find an activity that he can enjoy.  Martial arts are definately something that helped build me up to who I am today.  It never gave me answers straight up, but it did teach me the importance of simplification and perspective when it comes to problem solving, as well as endurance.  If nothing else, it taught me endurance.

I don’t like saying it like this because it makes me feel old, but in Akatsuki I see a lot of the anger that I had as a youth and I hope, on a longshot, that maybe something like Numac might give him some idea on how to channel that.

He’s going to meet up with me on Friday, we’ll probably have dinner, we’ll go to Numac, and then he’ll stay over at my place for the night since he lives so far.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been teaching.  I guess I’m excited, but I think it’s also because I’m conveniently forgetting all the pains of being a teacher as well.