I do a lot of writing for various blogs.  One of the biggest challenges in writing is coming up with topics or subtopics to write.  Sometimes you just run out of ideas.  And aside from doing some brute force brainstorming, what else can you do?  You can always read news about the subject matter you wish to write about and comment on it; you can see what everyone else is talking about and give your opinion; or you can mind map.

What is Mind Mapping

The visual way of mapping ideas has been around since the 3rd century (according to en.wikipedia.org). I learned about it over twenty years ago when I was going through my graduate studies at the Air Force  Institute of Technology or AFIT for short.  It’s primary use is the mapping of ideas starting with one central idea.  From there, other related ideas radially branch out.

You can apply mind mapping in various ways.  Here’s how I’ve used it in recent past:

  • Document Complex Processes:  I used it to document how Apple’s educational volume licensing works.  Believe me, their volume licensing for educational institutions is complex.
  • Non-Linear Outlining:  I created the foundation for an outline of a book I’m writing–I actually finished the outline, and have started to write portions of it in another blog–www.lifeandtechskills.com.
  • Create a Task List:  Sometimes getting a good picture of a challenge can be better visualized using a mind map.  This was the case when I used it to determine the various tasks that would be needed to improve the computer and network security of a K-12 educational organization.
  • Topic Generation.  Creating a list of topic ideas can sometimes be difficult using traditional means.  When I started with an experimental niche site several months ago, I use mind mapping to figure out various writing topics.  It was one way to figure out if I had enough content to write.
  • New Way to Take Notes.  I used it to take notes on a recent webinar I attended.  The good thing about it is that I can update my notes without really worrying about sequence.  Remember, traditional note taking is linear and sequential in nature; get out of order and your notes start to look very messy.

Tools For Mind Mapping

You can always mind map with pencil and paper.  However, there are computer programs to do it.  There are several awesome programs available out there for people to use, and most of them can run on any computing platform–including tablet computers.

  •  FreeMind – a free mind mapping application written in JAVA.  It is licensed under the GNU General Public License.  It has extensive export capabilities and works with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.  I use this one on my Windows 7 computer at home and at work.  It exceeds my expectatios for a free product.
  • Mindjet for Android (previously known as Thinking Space) – This is a free Android app available via the Android market or Amazon.com.  It works with cloud storage like DropBox, and it compatible with the FreeMind file format.
  • Thinking Space Pro ($4.88) – Paid version of Thinking Space; allows for attachments and sharing of mind maps.  Available on Android devices.
There are many others out there, just do a search.  Make sure to get one that is compatible with the file format of FreeMind.  If you do, you can save your mind map in the cloud (like DropBox) and work on them no matter which computing device you have with you–including your smart phone!

Example Mind Map

This is an example of a mind map I started to build for a section of a writing project.  I was trying to figure out why social networking skill is important in today’s world, and mapping it out really helped me organize ideas that revolved around this topic.

Mind Map Example

Mind Map: Central Topic is Social Networking

For the above example, I used FreeMind.


When you find yourself out of ideas, try mind mapping.  There are some great tools out there to make this easy.  FreeMind is my favorite; it’s free and it more than does the job.

How have you used mind mapping tools?

People are always debating about which martial art is better.  Is karate better than kung fu?  Is aikido better than tae kwon do?  How about jiu-jitsu, judo, tai chi, escrima, ninjitsu, aikido, hapkido, and krav maga, just to name a few more?

First let’s make sure we qualify what we mean by “better.”  I am using “better” from the perspective of a physical unarmed fight.

As a martial artist, I have looked into this question as well.  Based on my experience and observation over time, I have come to some pretty eye opening conclusion.

Martial Arts — How They Came to Be

Martial arts can be traced back as far as recorded history–as far back as 2800 BC (see reference 1).  Throughout history humans have proven they are prone to conflicts.  People of various groups, tribes, and countries have fought many battles and wars.  Because of conflicts, many ways of fighting (martial arts) have evolved.  Such evolution occurred in various places we now know as China, India, Japan, Korea, Greece, Germany, Italy, and England, just to name a few.

Which martial arts is best

Karate Kid

Some of the early martial artists were knights, Spartan soldiers,  Roman soldiers, Japanese samurais, Japanese ninjas, and Chinese Shaolin monks.  What made these warriors better than their opponents were their training and dedication?  These people trained all their lives with one purpose–to win physical conflicts or fights.

Evolution of Modern Martial Arts (Western View)

To some degree, the human race have evolved to the point where there is no longer a need for the fighting arts.  Modern weapons have made the need for martial arts warriors a thing of the past; people no longer have to train all their lives to fight off enemies.  With an automatic weapon, good aim, and ammunition, one can easily fend off attackers.

Today people who train in martial arts do it for some other purpose.  Most train to make themselves better people.  Some train primarily for the sport of fighting.  Others train for both.

On top of that, various martial arts styles from many countries, once only available from their respective locale, are now available everywhere.  Martial arts styles and techniques once known to a few are now prevalent.  Hollywood has done their job promoting the arts to those who would otherwise never look into such things.  Movies like “Enter the Dragon” and “Karate Kid” (the links go to Amazon.com, which provides basic information about the movie) have made “kung fu” and “karate” common terms for the masses.  Having Judo and Taekwondo as Olympic sports have also added to the promotion and prevalence of martial arts in modern times.

Which is the best martial arts

UFC tried to prove which martial arts is best

The next wave in martial arts rave came with the introduction of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships).  The first widely publicized UFC  event (aka UFC 1) occurred in November 1993.  It was an 8-man tournament involving people of various fighting styles.  This event was supposed to answer which was the best; or so we thought.

Laws of Physics

What does the law of physics have to do with this topic?  Well, most people know that it is near impossible to defy the laws of physics (unless you are a magician, of course).  In any tournament, the winner is always the one who has three things going for them (which is what I would refer to here as the laws of physics):

  1. Well trained for the event at hand
  2. Healthy on date of event
  3. “Eye of the tiger” or the inner heart to win

At UFC 1  Royce Gracie (Brazilian Jujitsu style) came out on top.  Here’s why he won:

  1. He has trained all his life in Jujitsu and in this style of event.  This was the perfect venue for Gracie.
  2. He was healthy and was 7 years younger than his final opponent.
  3. He fought for his family name; there was no way he was going to lose this as his family name was on the line on a widely publicized event in the US.

All three of the above lined up perfectly for him.

Compare this to his opponents.

  1. Gracie’s first opponent was a retired boxer.  Boxers are used to fighting with their fists and on their feet using all kinds of fighting rules.  The boxer was basically like a fish out of water once he was taken down to the ground.  There was no way the boxer was going to win.  This was a very easy win.
  2. Gracie’s second opponent was Ken Shamrock.  I wouldn’t say that Shamrock was at 100% since he just came back 4 days earlier from fighting in Japan (see reference 2).  On top of that, Shamrock was used to events involving more rules.  In UFC 1, the only rule was “no eye gouging or biting”.
  3. Gracie’s last opponent was Gerard Gordeau.  Gordeau’s core was Karate and Savate.  He did multi-martial arts events, but it involved more rules than UFC 1.  On top of that he injured himself punching and kicking a sumo wrestler (Tuli)  on match 1.  He was no match against Gracie.

It is  now over 140 UFC events later.  UFC has evolved.  It now has weight divisions and more rules.  Fighters of various core styles have come to compete, and in various events, grapplers and stand up fighters  alike have won.  Some won with a knockout punch or kick, and some won through some submission hold.

So what does this say about which style is better?  Nothing really.  It proves only one thing, the laws of physics cannot be defied.  Thus in order for one to win a true, no rule confrontation the same three things need to hold true:

  1. Trained well for the situation
  2. Healthy on date of event
  3. Inner strength and motivation to win

Which Is Best?  The Winner Is…

Jhoon Rhee and Bruce Lee

Two of the Best Martial Artists (Grand Master Jhoon Rhee and the Legendary Bruce Lee); photo credit: jhoonrheetkdrrwest.com

After all this, which martial arts is really best?  The answer is none.  What truly makes a martial art style best is the martial artist.  It is the martial artist who trains and masters the arts.  It is my true belief that in a true physical confrontation where there are no rules, the best martial artist always wins, regardless of style.


  1. History of Martial Arts (en.wikipedia.org)
  2. Ken Shamrock (en.wikipedia.org)
  3. UFC 1 (en.wikipedia.org)

Have you ever browsed the web then suddenly noticed that your computer is telling you it is infected with all kinds of virus and malware?  And here’s the funny thing…you didn’t even know you had this particular antivirus program!

Here’s another funny thing.  If you opt to fix the infection, it asks you to buy a program.

Don’t fall for it.  Instead turn off  your computer right away (hard power off–hold power down for at least 10 seconds) .  Why?  Because you want to stop your computer before the virus or malware embeds itself in startup process; this will make the malware persistent between computer reboots!

Once you’ve turned off you computer you can do one of the following things:

  • Scan your computer in safe mode.
  • Initiate the recovery of your computer
And for your other computers, you may want to begin backing them up, if they get infected in the future.

Scan In Safe Mode

Turn your computer on in “Safe Mode”.  Do this by pressing F8 a few seconds after you power on but before any sign of Windows shows up on your screen.  In Windows Safe Mode, your computer just runs the bare essentials of the operating system.  So even if the malware was able to embed itself into your computer, it would just lay dormant.

Now do the following to begin finding and removing the pesky virus or malware:

  1. First, using another computer, download the latest Microsoft Malware Removal Tool.  Use a thumb/flash drive to transfer and run it to the infected computer.  Hopefully it detects and removes the malware.  If not, continue to the next step.
  2. Next, if you have an antivirus software, run it and do a full scan of your computer.
  3. If you don’t have an antivirus software, see if you can download one using another computer and use a flash or thumb drive to transfer the program installer to the infected machine.  Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)  antivirus is free, and could easily suffice for this purpose.  Use it to do a full scan of your computer.
  4. Finally, using another computer download Malware Bytes, and transfer it to the infected machine using a thumb/flash drive.  Like MSE, Malware Bytes is also free.  Install it then run a full scan of the infected computer.  Malware Bytes is one of the best detector and remover of fake antivirus.
  5. If none of the above detect and remove any virus or malware, then you may have to start the built-in recovery process–the last resort.

Initiate The Recovery Process

When you buy a new computer, it normally comes with a separate drive which holds a copy of the manufacturer’s base image of the original computer.  Each computer model has its own way of reaching the recovery process.  There are three types of recovery methods in order of impact severity (low to high).

  1. Re-install the operating system using the recovery volume
  2. Re-install the operating system using the recovery volume drive image

    Recovery on an HP Ultrabook Folio 13

    Recovery options for the HP Ultrabook Folio 13

  3. Re-install the system, C drive, and recovery volume using backups you made long ago

Re-installing the operating system using the recovery volume has the least impact of all.  It retains your data, but restores the operating system to its pristine state; however, you’ll still need to install your programs.

Re-installing the system using the recovery volume drive image completely overwrite drive C on your computer.  You will lose any data (documents, pictures, videos, etc.) you ever stored on drive C.  Make sure you do this only as a last resort.

If the recovery volume is damaged, you will need to restore the system, drive C, and the recovery image using the backup you made long ago.  Hopefully you created one.  If you have other computers, I suggest backing them up before the same thing happens to them.

 Creating a Backup Image for a Computer

A backup image is an exact copy of your system, drive C, and possibly your recovery drive.  On Windows 7, you can start the backup image creation process through the control panel.

Backup and Restore

Backup and Restore: Creating a Backup Image on Windows 7

Next select System and Security, then Backup and Restore.  From there, look at the left column and click Create a system image.  The video below illustrates how this is done.

If you’ve been infected by fake ware, please share us your experience below.

My grandson loves to play with our Apple iPod Touch.  He plays all kinds of games which keeps him entertained.  Most recently, we received an email that said there were purchases of some coins in a game called Monster Mayhem.  The charges ranged from $19.98 to $99.99 made through iTunes.

We thought, how can this be?

Come to find out, our iTunes account had in it a specified credit card–probably from long ago when the account was first created.  My grandson, in the course of playing Monster Mayhem, touched some buttons which activated the purchase of thousands of coins needed to enable various options in the game.  Note that we didn’t even know this until we got the email notification about the purchase.

Undoing the In-app Purchase

The first thing we did was to see what we can do on iTunes to undo the purchase.  We followed the instructions but the online links just goes around in some circular link reference.  We could not find the place where we can undo the purchase!

Next we called up our credit card company to dispute the charges.  Since the charges weren’t really fraudulent, the credit card company didn’t refuse the charges, but they did get me in touch with Apple customer service.

I received instructions from the Apple support representative on how to undo the purchase.

Apple Contact Us page

Apple Contact Us

  • Go to the Apple.com support page
  • From there click the Contact Us link
  • Next click the Express Lane for iTunes Player and iTunes Store
  • From the product categories tab, click iTunes, then iTunes Store, and select Purchases, billing, and redemption; click Continue
  • You will then be taken to the issue description page, select “my topic is not listed” and provide a short description of your topic.  I used “unintentional in-app purchase, need to undo”, then click the ENTER button.
  • You’ll need your order number to complete the rest; make sure you have them
  • Upon completion of the process, you will get a case number; you will also get an email

For our case, the response to the problem was quick and sent via email.  They credited my credit card and added credit to my iTunes account.  Whew!  I’m glad it’s over.

That takes care of undoing the in-app purchase.  Now on to preventing future unintentional in-app purchases since I know my grandson will continue to play games on the iTouch.

Preventing Future Unintentional In-app Purchases

Part of the response Apple sent us were instructions on how to prevent unintentional in-app purchases.

Before doing this, the smartest thing to do is to remove any trace of your credit card on your iTunes account.  This is the sure-fire way of avoiding unexpected iTunes purchases.

However, if you do occasional purchases, you’ll want to follow the instructions we got from Apple.

To prevent In-App Purchases from being made in the future, you can block them on your iOS device by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings on your device’s home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Restrictions.
  4. If necessary, tap Enable Restrictions and enter a pass code. This pass code will prevent restrictions from being disabled without your permission.
  5. Scroll down to the Allowed Content section. Switch the In-App Purchases option to OFF. Enter your Restrictions pass code if prompted.

That’s it!

If you found this tip useful, please share and comment below and let me know.

The Essence of Self-Defense

Defending yourself requires that you understand some very basic yet essential information about self-defense and the nature of self-defense.

Knowing these will help you understand the reasons for the things you do during training and help you overcome attack situations.

These are the key points to remember:

  • Attacks can happen when you least expect it
  • Your body will react the way it was trained
  • You are a walking weapons arsenal
  • There are no rules on the street when it come to protecting your life
  • You only need to know minimal but effective self-defense skills to protect and evade

If you want to read more about this, feel free to download The Essence of Self-Defense.

What's this? A Strawberry Spider?

Most people have a difficulty thinking out-of-the-box when trying to solve problems or just coming up with fresh ideas.  I, like most people, have difficulty doing this because of ideas, concepts, principles, and philosophies which have been ingrained in my way of thinking over my lifetime.  How can we get over this limitation?  The answer is quite simple.  Look to the young.

The young I refer to are those children who can communicate ideas verbally, but are still too young to be affected by prejudices and biases.  They can be anywhere from 2 to 4 years of age.  If you pay attention to them, you will see what I mean.

Here’s an example.  My grandson is 3 years old.  He is starting to doodle.  Most recently he drew what looked to be in the shape of a strawberry with lines coming out of it.  His mom asked what it was.  He said “strawberry spider”.  I’ve never heard of a strawberry spider, but it does look like one if I ever saw one–this from a kid who is still too young to have any bias in thinking.

One of the things he seems to do very well is to combine ideas or things that don’t seem to have any connection.  We as adults think there are no connections, but kids don’t know any better, and as such aren’t restricted in anyway to make any connections.

So the next time you are in need of some out-of-the box thinking or ideas, check with a kid who is too young to be affected by adult prejudices or biases.

Taekwondo Students Warming up

Taekwondo Students Warming up

Before I answer this question, we must come to a common understanding of the term “effective”.  Too many times, when people say something, they have a certain meaning or intent for that word which may or may not match with those on the receiving end.

To this end, let’s define “effective”.

The term “effective” shall be used in the context of self-defense, not in pitting one art against another.  Too many times people compare one art against another, arguing about which is better, when in fact, the biggest factor in making the determination is the person who practices the art.

Anyway, back to the term “effective”.  In self-defense, an art is effective if it does the job it was intended to do–help someone who would otherwise be at a disadvantage defend against an unexpected, bigger attacker (or attackers).  The art becomes effective if the practitioner is able to use what they’ve learned to escape harm from their assailant.  Notice that I said escape from and not beat their assailant.  I remind my students that all they need to do is escape; don’t stick around fighting like in the movies–just escape.

Taekwondo, like other martial arts, gives the practitioner a fighting chance to escape; and if left with no choice, a chance to defeat their assailants. Because of this, Taekwondo is an effective martial art.

What does Taekwondo teach to make it an effective martial art?  Here are just a few obvious ones:

  • Agility and coordination
  • Strength and flexibility
  • Striking and blocking techniques
  • Combination self-defense techniques to some of the most common attacks
  • Knowledge of the most vulnerable targets on the human physiology
  • Constant practice to ingrain self-defense techniques into physical reactions
  • The moral knowledge and strength to do the right thing (one of the most crucial aspects we teach in Taekwondo since we are giving practitioners tools that can potentially be dangerous in the wrong hands)

 Agility and Coordination

Every workout and drills we do in Taekwondo is designed to help the student become more agile and coordinated.  Most students who have not had any martial arts training find it difficult to do certain drills, but by the time they reach the next belt, they find a significant improvement in both their agility and motor skills.

Strength and Flexibility

The various workouts we do at the beginning, class drills, and cool down workouts all help build our students strength and flexibility.  Just the warm up workout alone is enough to help in that area as the basic class warm up drills are designed to help loosen up, warm up, and stretch the major muscles of the body.  Many of the workouts we do in class include exercises designed to strengthen the abs, the arms, and the legs.  Because of the techniques we practice (especially the kicks), a lot of leg and some shoulder stretches are done to minimize injuries.  If a student is consistent and constant with their workouts, they are able to develop strength and flexibility.

Striking and Blocking Techniques

The foundation of Taekwondo is its repertoire of striking and blocking techniques.  Striking in the context used here includes kicking, kneeing, or any offensive techniques.  Blocking refers to any defensive covering techniques.  Much like karate, Taekwondo is a “hard style”.  This means that any techniques, whether it be a kick, punch, block, or chop is executed quickly and with extreme force–so much force that it can have the potential to break the bones of the target it is hitting.  The blocking techniques alone are designed to destroy the limb that it is blocking!

Combination Self-defense Techniques

The basic techniques taught in our Taekwondo classes are the foundation of our self-defense.  Our students learn some initial self-defense techniques through drills called “step sparring”. These drills help the students get started with self-defense in a safe way.  The attack and defense are all pre-arranged, but  allow the student to learn the techniques while in motion.  By being attacked while in motion, they learn and understand that distance and timing are crucial to effective self-defense execution.

As the student advance in belt, we teach a more street-style self-defense, where the techniques employed are many and the completion of the defensive techniques leads to the defeat of a single opponent.

Knowledge of Human Body Vulnerabilities

When we punch, elbow, chop, or kick, we remind each student to think about what they are attacking.  If they are supposed to do a high punch, we remind them that they ought to aim at the filtrum philtrum.  If they are delivering a midsection elbow strike, we tell them to aim at the solar plexus.

All strikes are aimed at something to remind the student that targeting is as important as the technique being executed.

Constant Practice to Ingrain Techniques Into Reaction

All self-defense techniques taught at our school are checked through out the school life of our student.  This means that at promotion testing, students are expected to remember all earlier techniques.  This requirement helps the students ingrain what they’ve learned into their reaction.  As I’ve often mentioned to students, when you are defending yourself against an attack, there is no time to think, only react.  Thinking about what technique to do causes hesitation, and can be dangerous to the student under the most common attack scenarios.

Moral Knowledge and Strength

Everything we teach at our school would be of no value if we didn’t teach moral knowledge and strength.    As a matter of fact, it would be extremely dangerous as we could be teaching a new breed of bullies.  This is why we temper what we teach with a strong dose of moral knowledge and strength.

We teach our students to live by a certain martial arts code which we call the tenets of Taekwondo.  The tenets include:

  • Courtesy – be nice and respectful to others
  • Integrity – be someone who is true and honest to others, as well as themselves
  • Perseverance – don’t give up; try and try until you succeed
  • Self-control – don’t let temptation or anger control you; you control yourself
  • Indomitable spirit – set high goals and go for them
  • Victory – always keep a positive attitude
These tenets are designed to give moral guidance to our students when trying to figure out the right thing to do.  These same tenets can be used and applied to become successful in life.
I consider any student who live by these codes as martial artists.


Yes, Taekwondo is an effective martial art; and so are other arts when properly used as a self-defense tool to protect oneself and others.

Our school teaches the following to make sure Taekwondo continues to be an effective martial art:

  • Agility and coordination – improve motor skills and coordination
  • Strength and flexibility – become stronger and more flexible
  • Striking and blocking techniques – learn powerful techniques
  • Combination self-defense techniques – learn effective self-defense
  • Knowledge of vulnerable targets – learn the human body’s weak spots
  • Constant practice in self-defense – self-defense works only through constant repetitive practice
  • The moral knowledge and strength to do the right thing – the most important thing we teach our students; without this we aren’t teaching Taekwondo.


Grovo.com course tracks

Tracks available on grovo.com

In today’s technology rich world, there are many tools available to everyone.  Yes, everyone is using it, but not to their full potential.  Tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube are some of the more well-known Internet tools or applications out there.  You can learn them on your own by buying a book, or simply doing your own experiment by hunting and pecking at the various options there.  Or you can go to a site like grovo.com and get free online computer based training.

I opt for grovo.com.

Here’s why:

  • It’s free (or you can upgrade to a premium plan, but free will serve most people’s needs)
  • It’s always available and it tracks your progress.
  • They have course tracks which are groups of courses designed to help you in a particular area of interest (e.g. blogging, social networking, beginning Internet, and so on)
  • Include quizzes to test what you’ve learned.
  • Best of all, it’s free!  Oh yeah, I already mentioned that.

The courses are accessible from any computer or tablet.  I didn’t notice any apps for the android or iPad, but I’m sure that isn’t very far behind.

I’m not trying to sell Grovo.com, but I like anything free.  Check it out.  Right now I’m in the Twitter track.

Are you using Grovo.com to improve yourself?  If so, which track are you in?

Dell Inspiron M5040 Laptop

Dell Inspiron M5040 Laptop

Just a week or so ago my daughter’s laptop–a Dell Inspiron M5040–was hit by one of those fake antivirus.  She was browsing one of those sites which provides access to movies that haven’t been officially released yet on DVD.  Based on my experience, those sites are typically untrustworthy and are infected with fake antivirus.

If you are ever infected, the best thing is to do a cold shut down of your computer (just turn it off; not a normal shutdown).

Not knowing enough on how and what these things can do, she did a restart of her computer, which is one of the things you don’t want to do in such a situation since that pretty much gives the fake antivirus running in memory permission to embed itself into the computer’s registry, ensuring its persistence between boots.  When her computer completed the restart, it continued to report that there were some problems on the computer, requesting a scan of the computer to fix the problems.

I tried to do a recovery through one of the repair options of the computer, but did not succeed.  I wanted to use the built-in recovery image from the disk drive, but for some reason, I could not see it nor could I find anything that allows the system to reload the manufacturer base computer image.

At this point, I realized that the best way to fix this was to simply re-install Windows 7 from a DVD.  I was able to complete this, but Windows 7 can’t seem to detect the following:

  • Video driver for the display on the Dell Inspiron M5040
  • Network ethernet adapter driver
  • Wireless LAN adapter driver

One would think that dell.com would make these drivers easy to find, but no luck.  After multiple searches, I eventually found the drivers at driverswin.com.  These were the drivers I used to get my daughter’s laptop looking and working right:

You should take this approach only if you cannot recover the image from the computer’s existing recovery volume.

Let me know if you find this useful by commenting below.