Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Taiji

I’m slicing and I’m dicing

My thumb is nearly 100% and I can’t get over how great it is. When I had trigger thumb, I rationalized that it wasn’t that bad. I rarely had to use my thumb so as long as I babied it, it was fine. Not great. It was always tender and I always had to be careful about bumping it, but it was fine. Or so I thought. Now that it’s back to normal, I can’t believe how much I had to accommodate it and how much it low-key bothered me. It’s only in retrospect that I realize how restrained I was by it.

In a metaphysical way, it’s the same with any flaw a person has. It’s hard to see how much it hampers you while you’re in a situation where using it doesn’t seem so bad. Or working around it. It doesn’t help that I have an insanely high tolerance for pain plus my mother’s mentality of stiff upper lip. When I got my steroid shot, the doctor warned me that it was going to hurt because it was in a very sensitive spot. I exhaled as she pushed the rather long needle into the base of my thumb and it was nothing more than a sting at the site of the needle. I didn’t react and we went on with the appointment. At the end of it, she asked how my thumb was feeling. I said fine and she gave me a strange look. She said I was very strong (or something similar) because that was a very sensitive spot for a shot.

She sounded almost admiring of it and I wanted to tell her it was not a good thing, but I just nodded. Someone accused me of humble-bragging when I tweeted about my reaction to the second shot or rather trying to garner sympathy. I wasn’t, but it made me think about how we’re supposed to react to medical things. In a letter to Ask A Manager today, someone who suffers debilitating migraines (of two different types) and was wondering if when they returned to the office, she could get away with crawling on the ground. She worked for a huge company and the vast majority of the commenters were appalled at the idea. The few who pointed out that it was akin to a disability ask were shouted down.


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I’m as cold as ice

It’s 69 degrees (nice) and I’m a happy clam. It’s still outside my comfort zone, but after two weeks of over a hundred, I’ll take it. Being outside didn’t make me want to claw my own face off and I could actually feel a nice breeze. I fucking hate summer. We get a hundred day here and there, but nothing like the last two weeks. Even with air con, a fan blowing high, ice water, ice packs, and as little clothing as possible, it’s miserable. I can’t think in the heat–it feels as if my brain is frying. It makes me snappish, irritated, and unable to concentrate.

Even though the weather is much more tolerable, it’s still not fun for me. I’m fine with 20-50 degrees, but I prefer it under that, honestly. Down to zero is nice and then it’s a bit nippy when it gets to sub-zero temps. I talked to Kat Friday night and we reminisced about how back when we used to go out, we’d have such a different reaction to the weather. She’s a Florida gal and revels in the heat. When we went out in the summer, I would be whining and moaning about the heat, barely able to move while she would be flitting around, clearly in her element. In the winter, however, the shoe was on the other foot. She would be hunching over, shivering, demanding to know why my spine wasn’t scrunching up. I, on the other hand, would be in my element and loving it.

As I grow older, my ability to deal with cold gets less attuned*, but my ability to deal with heat hasn’t gotten better at all. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I would love to live in a place where the weather never rose about 50 degrees.

Let’s talk demos. Still trying them out and I really dig it. I can play a game for ten minutes or an hour and not have to commit to it. During the Steam Next Fest, there are so many demos! This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I can try out any game that catches my eye without plunking down money for it. It’s bad because, well, there are so many bad games out there. That ain’t throwing shade at video games because that’s the case with, well, everything. 98% of pop culture is pure crap. That’s just the way it goes.


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It’s too hot, too hot, way too fucking hot, baby

The week of mean heat continues, much to my dismay. Last summer, my AC went off maybe one or two days. It’s been on almost nonstop since Friday (it’s now Tuesday). It’s been in the eighties at 11 at night. In other words, it’s fucking hot. I have the AC on, a fan blowing on the highest setting, and plenty of ice drinks. Also hot coffee, but that’s only because I ran out of coffee. Been drinking it cold in the past few days. I have an ice pack for my thumb, which means putting it on my (naked) chest as well. I’m eating popsicles like they were going out of style.

Speaking of my thumb, I can actually bend it again! By itself! Without pushing on it! With minor clicking and pain! It’s been a week since I got the steroid shot and it’s so much better than before. What a relief. Even if it doesn’t become 100% again, I’m elated with the results. Science works, bitchez!

In the first several days after the shot, I took it really easy on my thumb. I didn’t do any of my left side weaponry or two-handed weaponry, much to my chagrin. I did the right side sword and right side saber, both which involves holding the weapon briefly with the left hand in the beginning and end of the form, but it doesn’t really put pressure on the thumb itself. In general, I don’t use my left thumb on the regular, especially now that I’ve taught myself to use my right thumb to hit the spacebar, but it’s nice that I don’t have to baby it so much.

One of the boons to being dairy-free/gluten-free now is that there are many substitutes that are nearly as good as/as good as/better than the original product. However, that’s also the down side as the subs use much fats to get that creamy mouth feel. I should have realized that on my own, but I didn’t think about it–probably chose not to think about it. Now that I’ve decided to ‘eat healthier’ (put in quotes because it’s all about the numbers), that means cutting out most of the dairy subs. Cheese, sour cream, and soft spreads–I’m using up what I have and buying no more. I’m also cutting back on chocolate and am very close to animal/fish free. Does that mean I’m going to be a default vegan? Yup, pretty much.

Still hot. Still grumpy. Gonna end it with this video.

Healthy? Wealthy? Wise!

It’s official. My left thumb is trigger thumb. Met my new doc yesterday and she confirmed it. Gonna get a steroid shot next week. I asked what happened when it wore off. She looked at me blankly and said that there was the possibility it would take care of it for good. Yeah, right. My mother has had to get steroid shots more than once, but it could be because she’s not proactive about not reinjuring herself. She’s really good with rehab, but no so good at preventative. I’m the same, actually. Once I know the problem, I’ll tackle it single-mindedly. Figuring out that problem? Also on it! Preventing said problem from happening? Hahaha, no. My new doc said that I should try to figure out what’s triggering it, no pun intended, I’m sure. I have a hunch that a certain taiji spear drill started it. When I mentioned it to my doc, she looked confused but gamely said maybe I shouldn’t do that drill. I reassured her that I’d stopped doing that particular drill.

It’s funny how little I use my left thumb in my daily life especially now that I’ve retrained myself to smash the spacebar with my right thumb instead of my left. I do mouse with my left so maybe I should change that back. I rarely mouse, though, as I do most things with keyboard shortcuts. I don’t even use my thumb to mouse, really. So the tendons running up and down my thumb are swollen. The steroid shot will reduce the swelling and the main mission is to make sure it doesn’t swell again. I am not giving up taiji weapons for the left side, though. There really isn’t any pressure on the thumb itself so it shouldn’t be bad for my thumb. I dunno. I may give it a rest after I get the shot next week. We’ll see. I’ll ask the doc what they think (ortho specialist). It really doesn’t bother me on the regs and only hurts when I touch it. But, bending it would be nice. Also, not flinching in pain when I accidentally touch it.

Let’s talk taiji weapons because I can and because I love them. The Double Saber is my current jam and I love them so much. I have escrima sticks when I want to go as quickly as possible and not worry about smacking anything with the blades. I also have my showy flimsy blades that have colored scarves on the handles that look fantastic as I wave them in the air. It’s definitely more for show than for praticality and one day I will get a truly magnificent set that is both gorgeous and useful. My sword is both beautiful and useful–or rather, it would be if I sharpened the blade. I paid a pretty penny for it, but I rationalized that I would have it for the rest of my life. This was five or six years ago…maybe more? I still have it and still use it every day.

Of course, I will get a non-wooden saber at some point, too, but that’s less of interest to me at the moment. I’ve grown to appreciate the saber in a way I never thought possible when I first started it, but it’s never going to be my favorite. Well, I can’t say never, but it’s highly unlikely as long as the sword and the double sabers exist. Also, my teacher mentioned the Bagua Sword Form and my eyes lit up like it’s Christmas. I have too much to learn and yet the mere mention of another sword form jazzed me.


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Taiji–what I love and what I hate about it

I love taiji weapons. I probably don’t have to say that by now, but I want to make it absolutely clear. If I had the stamina to do it all day long, I would. I’ve raved about how it’s helped me through the pandemic and how I’ve pushed ahead with it at a clip that has surprised me. In comparison, doing the Solo Form is like pulling teeth with me. Even the Medium Form, which I like well enough, is not something I would choose to do if I had other options–like weapons.

We need to talk about Master T. T. Liang’s Long Form because it has been my nemesis since day one. It’s roughly 20 minutes long and is split into three sections. The third section is nearly as long as both the other sections put together and the entire form is filled with repetition. In addition, Master Liang loved the performative aspect of taiji so he made every movement an even-number of counts so the whole thing could be set to music. That means there is filler, which is strange for a medium that is predicated on exerting the least amount of energy necessary in any given situation.

I have to get into the weeds a little to explain some of the differences between the Long Form and the Medium Form so my apologies in advance if some of this is a bit abstruse. Hah. I first typed obtruse–which is my mashup of obtuse and abstruse. Anyway! In the Long Form, the bow stances–oh dear. A bow stance is when one foot is forward and pointed straight ahead. The back foot is shoulder-width apart (and usually the toes are at a forty-five degree angle NE, if front foot in north). Usually, the feet are a foot/foot-and-a-half apart front to back, but that doesn’t matter as much as the shoulder-width apart side-to-side. There can be a forward bow stance and a back bow stance, but it’s usually forward–meaning the weight is forward.

In the Long Form, the weight is 2/3rds and 1/3rd, but it can be rounded up to 70% and 30%. In the Medium Form, the weight is 100% forward, and it’s 60/40 on the back stance. The benefit of the Long Form bow stance is that you’re not exerting extraneous energy and it’s good for health reasons. The benefit to the Medium Form bow stance is that prime for martial arts applications. At least, that’s my understanding of the differences. The Long Form is considered the beginner’s form and easier to learn. The Medium Form is the advanced form and more difficult. At least this is what my teacher has told me. Her teacher wants her to teach the Long Form to the beginning classes and the Medium Form for the advanced classes. In prep for this, she has been going over the Long Form in all Zoom classes.

I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I still do not like this form at all. It used to give me crippling back pains when we did it on the regular. They would start at the end of the first section and by the third section, my back was screaming in agony. I’ve had to stop more than once during the third section because my back had clenched up so badly. In addition, my knees…oh my poor knees. I was able to clear up the latter problem with the help of my teacher looking at my knees as I demonstrated a part of the Long Form to her. She deduced that I was collapsing my knees and counseled me to make sure that my knees were over my toes. That helped tremendously with the tendonitis in my knees, but the issue of my back pains still continued.

Fast-forward to now, roughly two years after my teacher’s teacher switched from the Long Form  to the Medium Form. I am now 100% back pain-free because of the stretches my teacher suggested I try. In starting the Long Form again, the pain has come back. Not nearly as intense or as often as before, but it’s there. I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about the Medium Form instead. Yes, you still have to make sure your knees are over your toes, but it’s easier when 100% of your weight is on one foot.


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A mélange, a potpourri, and an olio–but mostly Lil Nas X

My brain has been jumping all over the place and my sleep has sucked, so this post is going to meander more than usual. I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit on how I write posts. Not on the writing itself because that’s usually just put down whatever is in my brain. No, it’s about how I decide what to write about. Normally, there’s something pressing on my brain and I let that flow from my fingers until I’ve said all I need to say on the subject or until  I lose interest. Sometimes, it’s both, but sometimes it’s one or the other.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my concentration for reasons I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, it’s not as easy to get shit done as it used to be. Most of the time, I just grit my teeth and force myself to write the post. It may not be as long as it normally is or very good, but I get it done, damn it. Today, however, I’m going to write about whatever is on my mind with no attempt at coherency. Here we go.

Lil Nas X. I didn’t know he existed until yesterday when I read something about Satan Shoes, his new kicks. That he’s selling. Oh, and he’s a rapper? Singer? Both? Anyway, there are 666 pairs and they contain drops of human blood. That’s all I knew when I made this tweet:

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The state of my health

My sleep has been shit(tier) lately so I apologize in advance if this is a rambling mess of a post. Sleep, my lifelong nemesis. So much so, I’ve written a novel with Morpheus (of Neil Gaiman fame. Not that he invented Morpheus, of course, but this particular version) as the main antagonist. Goddamn it. I still feel sorrowful when I think of that novel because there’s no way I can publish it. It’s not fanfic as the main character is, well, me. I use all the members of the Endless as I envision them, and, quite frankly, it’s really good.

Anyway, I’d been happy because in the past year or two, my sleep had stabilized. But then in the last few months, it’s gone off the rails again. Why? I don’t know. Is it because of the coffee I’m drinking again? You’d think so, but the troubles started before I took up caffeine once again. It may not be helping, but it’s not the root cause. It’s frustrating because caffeine is beneficial for some things (thumb issue if it’s RA), negative for some things (sleep) and both in others (migraines). So far, I’ve kept the caffeine because the positives have outweighed the negatives, but I may have to quit if it gets worse.

My thumb is better. It’s still sore and tender and hard to bend at times, though. I’ve decided that it’s probably better not to wear a splint most of the time because I don’t use it when I type. The main reason to wear a splint is to keep the digit from moving on its own or from being accidentally knocked into. I feel that constricting the blood flow is not a good thing to do for hours on end so I only put it on when my hand starts actually hurting rather than just being sore and tender to the touch. I can deal with it even though I’m not happy about it, obviously. What’s more worrisome is that my right hand is starting to have…issues. Not the same issues as my left thumb, but still.

Ok. I’m just not feeling it today. Here are Maru, Hana, and Miri.

I’m slicing and I’m dicing

Thumb update: doing better, but still tender and sore. I’m stretching it daily, icing it and heating it alternately. I’m using the splint less because I don’t think it’s helping as much now. More to the point, I don’t do much with my thumb on the daily so there’s no need to splint it. I do wear it while I sleep because I toss and turn while I sleep; I don’t want to knock it into something. In addition, if I type too long without it on, the base of my thumb and part of my palm closest to it actually starts hurting. Then, I put on the splint and it’s better in five or ten minutes. It’s frustrating how long it’s taking to get better, but it *is* getting better.

Weapons. Let’s talk weapons. Wait, where are you going? I know I’ve become a one-note wonder on this, but it’s been consuming me for the past few weeks. Ever since I got the twin broadsword set, that is. I love them so much. They’re lighter than the escrima sticks I’d been using as a substitute and more ergonomically friendly for my hands. They don’t aggravate my thumb and they move like a dream.

I don’t know how to explain this, but each weapon has a different feel to it. When I hold one in my hand, there’s an energy that is distinct to that particular weapon. The sword is an elegant weapon as it dances in the air. It is the scholar’s weapon and it’s all about finesse. It’s lethal, yes, but it’s more about showing that you are a master over the weapon. The saber, on the other hand, is more about bonking people very hard. It’s a strong, powerful weapon that makes me feel like a warrior as I wield it. Spear is back into the finesse category and it’s both solid and delicate. It’s over six-feet long, which makes it interesting to maneuver it indoors. Cane is pure Broadway. I can’t help it. I just want to tap my way across the room. Karambit is fast and not-so-furious, and I feel like a proper rogue when I wield it. Stealth mode activated!

Moving onto the double sabers. Doing the drills with the escrima sticks, it felt weighty and almost meaty. The steel is thin and flexible, which results in making a swishing sound if I move it too quickly. That’s a bonus because I tend to hurry through my movements. My goal in moving the twin broadswords at the moment is not to trigger the whooshing sound. Also, not to hit myself. I’ve done that more than once because when you pass the blades behind your back, you’re supposed to actually touch them to your back. Which is fine and good, but there’s a thin line between touching and hitting. Fortunately, it’s with the back of the blades and not the front, but still.

Deer-horn knives. These are on the backburner right now. I walk the circle once a week, but I have so many other things on my plate that I haven’t pushed myself to learn any more of it. I just finished teaching myself the Wu-Li Wudang Sword and the left side of the Sword Form. Both of these were fairly easy to teach myself (at least the forms in general. Nowhere near polished, of course). Next up is the last row of the Karambit Form, which I’m sure will be more difficult. I already knew the right side of the Sword Form and have done it probably close to a  thousand times. With the Wu-li Wudang Sword, I already knew the different energies being displayed.

Alright. I’m struggling with this post. My mind has not been sharp the last week or two, so I’m going to wrap this up for now.

Human blender commences…blending

come to mama, baby!
Cuisinart in the house!

My twin broadsword set has arrived. I found it outside my door last night and was surprised because I was expecting it later in the week, but, of course, I’m ecstatic. Picture to the right. Please ignore the fact that I had to stand on my piano bench in order to get both broadswords in the picture (yes, on top of the piano cover).

They’re thin metal–almost foil-like–and make that weird swishing sound that such material makes when moved too quickly. It’s a good reminder to slow down and be deliberate in my actions. Just because I want to be the human blender, it doesn’t mean I have to go as fast as possible. That’s a main tenet of taiji–slow and smooth. It’s called the lazy martial art because the goal is to put in the minimum amount of effort needed for the maximum output. No pain, no gain? No. No pain, period. If you’re getting pain from doing taiji, you’re doing something wrong. Such as, I had tendonitis in my knees. It was because I was overextending on my front foot and I was collapsing my knees. Once I fixed those issues (which took time and focus, by the way. Bad habits die hard), my tendonitis went away.

Side note: I think that’s one reason I’m so grumpy about my left thumb having problems (and the tiniest hint of the same in my right thumb). I’m used to using taiji to clear up my aches and pains, but the thumb is difficult to focus on, even with taiji. I’m doing the left side of the Sword Form which is supposed to help according to my taiji teacher, but that may take some time. See, that’s the thing about taiji. It helps, yes, but it’s not an instant cure. But with my back and knees, I was fairly confident the taiji would help. Those were established solutions. My thumb? Not as sure. I could tell my teacher wasn’t sure it would help, but at the very least, it won’t hurt. Also, I’m wary about what it is because I had an issue in my right wrist three decades ago that my doctor incorrectly diagnosed as carpal tunnel. I had it wrapped for months and did everything I was supposed to do to alleviate it. It didn’t get better and I was sent to a specialist. He grabbed my thumb and yanked on it sharply. I jumped in the air and he said my problem was the opposite of carpal tunnel. I don’t remember what the actual diagnosis was, but I had surgery, wore a soft cast for a month, and it was all better. While what I’m experiencing now is nothing like what I had before, I do wonder if it’s the same thing.

My thumb is slowly getting better overall, but it’s really bad in the mornings. It’s funny how little I actually use my thumb and how upsetting it is to have this issue. I’ve completely trained myself to use my right thumb for the space, which was the major thing I used my thumb for before. Weirdly, using my left thumb doesn’t hurt most of the time; it’s just specifically bending the knuckle that is painful. And the base and root parts of my thumb are tender to the touch. If I don’t touch my thumb and am not trying to bend it, it doesn’t hurt at all.

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The long road back to recovery

I’ve been thinking about my thumb a lot for obvious reasons. It’s funny how much you take things for granted until it hurts like fucking hell. well, to be more precise, it aches like hell. It doesn’t hurt, per se, except the time I slept without the splint because I foolishly decided I didn’t need to wear it at night any longer. That’s where my background comes in because my mom is the same way. The second something feels better, she decides she can go 100 again. She recently had surgery on her shoulder (which had issues that made me so angry at my father and the doctor, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it because she was in Taiwan) and she was upset when she wasn’t back to her normal self in a month. She complained, saying her doctor said that’s how long it would take.

I doubt he said that exactly because she has a habit of hearing what she wants to hear, but even if he had something similar to that, it doesn’t make any kind of sense to think that you’d completely heal from a major surgery in a month. That’s the thing about being a perfectionist, however, and I know this from experience. We don’t have much resource for dealing with ongoing frustration. In my brain, I should be able to think my way to a solution. Also, despite my contrarian nature, I am a rules follower for the most part. So, in my brain, if I am actively working on improving my thumb, then it should get better. And it is, but on such a slow schedule. First week, I just tried to massage the thumb and take it easy. While wearing a splint. I do stretches for my thumb every day and today, I received my heat/ice therapy assists (gel patches, gel finger splint, gel mittens. The gel packs can go either hot or cold). I’m going to do some heat/ice therapy and see if that helps as well.

On the taiji front (because you know I can’t go a post without talking about it.

Side note: When I first started studying taiji, I would notice how much my teacher talked about it and how she had made it central to her life. We are friends as well as teacher/student and in the Before Times, we used to hang out while not in class sometimes. It was clear to me that taiji was her life. Which, good for her, but I didn’t understand it. I was doing it begrudgingly and not really wanting to be there.


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