April 2004

Well, Monday was Ryoko’s due date. It came, it went, and…. nothing. Now it’s Wednesday Friday, and she has yet to have anything but the occasional Braxton-Hicks contractions (evidently they’re lighter contractions that are just the body ‘warming up’ for what’s to come) but they are so light she hardly notices them most of the time. We went to the midwife today to get her checked out, and she’s only dilated 1 or 2 cm. Ryoko’s getting quite impatient to get the baby out of her. Understandable, I guess. Only that the actual process of getting the baby out doesn’t seem like it will be too much fun.

On the bright side, it’s one more day Ryoko and I can spend together before our lives are irrevocably changed (ominous music) FOREVER.






Update: My brother whined about not being able to read the Japanese on this post (someone actually read my blog! He even posted a comment!) so I thought I would summarize it for him. I was talking about the difficult in choosing a name for our daughter, because we want a name that goes well in English and Japanese without having to give an American first name and a Japanese middle name, and she would switch between what she’s known as depending on who is talking to her, etc.

I’m stealing a slashdot link here, but I thought this story was so cool I just had to post it. Besides, even if I posted a comment on slashdot, it would only be drowned and unnoticed among the flood of inane comments every post gets on slashdot. This way, my comments will instead be drowned among the thousands of inane personal blogs, like this one.

This new kind of armor uses an interesting property that chemical and mechanical (and perhaps civil) engineers learn when they study fluid mechanics. These kinds of fluids are called rheopectic, which is defined as fluids whose viscosity increases according to the rate of shear stress being applied. In other words, it will flow slowly, but if you try and make it flow quickly it will become thicker and more difficult to flow. A good practical example of this is the corn-starch-in-water that many of us played with as children. If you just hold it in your hands it will ooze through your fingers, but if you try and work it like clay or play-doh, it will get very hard, even to the point where it will crumble or even break in your hands.

In rheopectic fluids, the harder you try and disturb it, the harder the fluid will resist that flow. So in this liquid armor, when it is hit with an extremelly hard shear stress (i.e. a bullet, a knife, etc.) the harder it is hit, the harder it will become in turn. This liquid armor is quite an ingenious innovation, I hope it works as well as they are predicting.

The opposite of rheopectic fluids also exist, they are called thixotropic. A good example of this is latex paint: it gets thick as you leave it set out, but if you stir it for a few minutes it gets thin again. You also may be wondering what in the world rheology means. It basically means the study of the deformation and flow of matter. Pretty much the same thing as fluid mechanics, for all practical purposes. And in case you care, rheology in Japanese is 流体力学.

My older brother and I have studied a few martial arts over the years, and recently we were discussing why some martial arts flourish and others do not. One style that we both studied while we were in Oklahoma was Ryu Te(琉手), a somewhat obscure version of Okinawan Karate. Having seen Master Oyata (親田)demostrate his techniques at several seminars and summer camps, even to this day I still consider him to be one of the most technically proficient martial artists in the world. If that is so, then why is his style still quite obscure? Wouldn’t it be better known if he were that good?

I remarked that one advantage that Aikido, which we are both currently studying, has over Ryu Te is that Ueshiba was able to train many students to a very high level of proficiency before he passed away, so there was still a solid foundation after he was gone. Of course inevitably there has been branching and fractionation within Aikido ( The Ki Society, Seidokan, etc.) but they all still ‘pay homage’ to the world headquarters in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and acknowledge Moriteru Ueshiba, Morihei Ueshiba’s grandson, as the Doshu or heir. Having a centralized organization and clear succession has enabled Aikido to stay intact, instead of all the students forming their own organizations when the founder dies, as usually happens.

This kind of organization is something that I’m afraid Master Oyata lacks. He came to the U.S. in 1976, at the bequest of several of his top American students. He had had some kind of a falling-out with the board of directors at the dojo he had been training at, and so he decided to try his luck promoting his style in the U.S. He founded his organization and based his headquarters in Independance, MO. He attracted quite a bit of attention in the early 80’s when he was featured in Black Belt Magazine, mostly due to his specialty in striking pressure points to instantly render an opponent unconscious. Due to this notoriety he attracted a fairly large following, and his style flourished in the central states area. Through the next several decades (until the present) though, he seems to have been plagued by insubordinate students. All of his students that were the closest to him at some point did something to offend Master Oyata, and they summarily found themselves booted out of the organization. This even happened to his closest two students, Shiro Shintaku and Jonny Tanaka, during the 6 years that I studied Ryu Te. I suppose insubordination is something that a strict sensei has to deal with, but when you look through the years, what is the common thread? I don’t think it’s insubordinate disciples, but Master Oyata’s short temper. The problem is that when all of your most gifted students are gone, who is left to continue the organization for you after you pass away?

My brother summed up our conversation by saying that in order to promote your martial art well, you have to have 3 qualities. 1) Have superb technique. 2) Be a skilled teacher. 3) Have leadership qualities necessary to create a strong organization. It is this third quality that I fear Master Oyata may lack. Also I believe Aikido’s current widespread success is due to the fact that Ueshiba posessed all three of these traits. 1) Very few people doubt the effectiveness of Ueshiba’s technique. (It may have the steepest learning curve in the world, but once you master them they are quite effective) 2) Ueshiba’s students were all also very proficient and effective, and 3) The current stability of the International Aikido Federation shows Ueshiba’s ability to organize a stable, centralized body that would endure after he had passed away.

Well, since my wife Ryoko is well into her 10th month of pregnancy, and the baby itself if due on Monday, we’re starting to get a little hectic. She hasn’t had any strong contractions yet, but since they could come at any time we need to be ready. Since neither of us have gone through this before we’re more than a little nervous that everything will turn out alright.

The reality of me becoming a father in only a few days makes a man do some serious thinking, that will only be surpassed by my emotional state AFTER the baby is born. Even though I have another 5 years of grad school coming up, I can’t pretend to be an irresponsible teenager anymore. (Not that I could anyway, I’m already 27 and my hair is starting to go thin in a few places.) I have this WIFE and BABY whom I have the sole responsibility for thier ability to live in a home and intake a certain number of calories every day. (Well, my responsibilities are more detailed than that, but those are the fundamentals.)

We had to go to the hospital on Monday evening because the baby wasn’t moving around very much, one of the 4 big reasons that you need to go to the hospital ASAP for. (1. Bright red bleeding from the vagina 2. Her water breaks 3. Contractions strong enough that you can’t talk through them 4. The baby hasn’t moved at least 6 times in an hour, even after drinking some juice and laying down) so they hooked her up to the baby monitor machine, gave her a big cup of really sweet cranberry juice, and had us wait for half an hour. Fortunately the baby was just fine, maybe just a little sleepy that day. While filling out paper work, etc., the nurse put me down for Ryoko’s ‘support person’ (i.e. husband I assume, but they have to use a PC term) and for her interpreter. I was surprised by my ability to translate everything the nurse said (even wierd ones like toxema of pregnancy – 妊娠中毒, labor pains – 陣痛, urinary tract infection – 膀胱炎, and caesarian – 帝王切開), I guess I’ve learned a lot of vocabulary in the last 10 months that you just don’t get from a textbook or a class. And after our daughter is born, I assume I’ll get to learn a whole lot more.

Here’s an interesting site I stumbled upon a while back. A former chemist by the name of Theo Gray has made a very nice wooden table that is a periodic table. Not only that, but under each square he has a sample of each of the elements! It’s not complete of course, since you just can’t get your hands on many of the Actinide elements, and even a few others like Technitium and Astatine have no stable isotopes and are very radioactive. (For example, under Astatine he has a radiation sybol with this heading, “This unavailable element is represented by a radiation hazard symbol. If we had a visible quantity on display here, you would be dead.”)

I think this is a really neat idea, and I wish this idea would spread to more science museums and the like. Evidently he now has a small business where he prepares similar displays for museums, I hope it catches on. I remember my interest in the sciences as a child being piqued by my father taking me and my brothers to ‘hands on’ museums with all kinds of science exibits.

It’s strange to think that the vast majority of elements are all metals: only the 19 or so in the upper right-hand corner plus Hyrdogen are otherwise. Also even more rare are liquids: only Mercury is a liquid at room temperature (and pressure), and the next closest is Gallium, which melts very easily at 86 degrees F. The only gases are the halogens, the noble gases, and Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Every thing else is a solid.

I guess I can finally get the satisfaction of being the first post on something, even though it has to be my own blog in order to do so. On sites like Slashdot or Dave Barry’s blog it’s almost impossible to get first post, if that sort of thing is actually important to you.