This year's Pennsic reading is going to be The Travels Of Marco Polo. I am going to start on the middle Friday of Pennsic, and end on the final Friday. I'm going to try for 18:00 every day, but I expect that I'm not going to hit that mark as often as I have in years past - let's just go with "sometime after the fighting's over" for when.
Today I tried out my new Weed Dragon flame thrower.

It is definitely not a WWII clear-out-the-bunkers flamethrower - fortunately. It's also more than a glorified heat gun. When fully operational, it spits out approximately a one-foot blowtorch-style flame. Today I just did a small test run on some weeds growing up out of the cracks in my driveway. It looks like it killed everything, but I'm going to check on Thursday to see if there's any regrowth involved.

My tentative conclusion is that this is a very useful weeding tool, but for me, at least, it takes two people to operate: one to run the blowtorch, and one to operate the garden hose. It's another thing Meredith and I will get to do together.
So I've been having problems opening up the blister packs for the smart pills I take (basically, lithium and some other stuff). Today, I discovered that removing the thin plastic seal that covers the pop-out section makes getting the things out much easier. So apparently, the stuff works. :)


Jul. 17th, 2017 01:56 pm
I just got told my name came to the top of the waiting list for the Western Martial Arts Workshop! Chicago, here I come!
So coming up on Pennsic, we have the perennial dance of allocating land for people to camp on. It's a tough problem, and the set of choices we've made about it has both good and bad points to it.

For those not in the know, what happens is we all divide into groups, report how many people are in our group (by pre-registering), and pick a block we'd like to camp in, along with a couple of alternatives. The powers that be then assign groups to blocks based on space and preference, giving weight to history, so that if you've been in a block before, you have priority over new groups who'd like to come in. The groups then negotiate where in the block they'd like to camp, draw up a map, and get it approved - and if they can't agree, the land staff arbitrates their dispute. I gather that if that latter process goes on for a significant time, the arbitration becomes more and more heavy-handed, but as I've never been part of that process, I can't really speak to it.

Practically speaking, the result of all this is that, +/- some space along your borders, groups pretty much camp where they did last year, or else improve if a vacancy opens by another group disbanding.

There are several good points to this: folks know where you are, so they can find you year after year; you get used to the place you are camping in, and so begin optimizing behavior to take advantage of the good features and minimizing the poor features of your usual campsite; the system allows for the people having different preferences - we like our campsite even with it's downsides, because it's pluses are very important to us; and for many of the blocks, "negotiations" are little more than a brief conversation along the lines of "same as last year?"

But there is what I think of as a very large negative to this system, which we downplay more than I think we should - the haves stay the haves, and the have nots stay the have nots.

By way of example, our camp has been in its spot for 25 years, give or take. It has a flat ridge that we put about a third of our tents on, an uncampable hillside with flat spots interspersed that we put the rest of our group in as we can; it is back off the road so the rest of Pennsic mostly disappears when you come into it; there's shade; there's protection from the elements. Basically, if you can stand the slope it's a very nice camp.

Behind us. for many years, was House Maxwell. All their land was slopey (though not as slopey as ours), there was no shade whatsoever, and a well-travelled road abutted two sides of their camp, so that noise was always a clear and present companion. There are certainly things they liked about their camp, but on every objective level, our space is better than their space.

Did we ever swap off so they got the good space, and we were out in the world? No, we did not. It never even came up as a possibility. I often wonder if it should have.

We have a new group coming into our block this year. They're small. I hope we treat with them both well and fairly. I'm sure we'll do our best, but for me, at least, I think that means at least a tacit acknowledgement that "our" land is a statement about the past, and not automatically one about the future.
The summer solstice after I was declared cancer-free, I stepped out of the house at dawn, and walked until sunset. I made it a little over 27 miles, to downtown Plymouth. It was tiring, exhilarating, emotionally-charged, soul-expanding, and really, really, fun.

I didn't do that this year. :)

I had my yearly pre-cancer checkup CT scan, and decided to walk back from Mass. General, which, given my pace and the time it took, was probably a little over seven miles. (I walk around 3.5 miles/hour these day, a result of both aging and having switched to toe first walking. I could get back up to my old pace of 4 mph by falling-step walking, but that's not conducive to taking in the scenery.) While not the life-affirming event that my day-long hike was, it was still quite enjoyable. I should get out more - the only time I really walk these days is playing golf and Pennsic - and no Edward, I don't care if I'm the Earl Marshal, I'm not riding in any damned golf cart!

Dod Ave. has changed a bit since last time I strolled down it. Two new tattoo parlors, a couple more Chinese bakeries, an Addison-Wesley office building, fewer kids hanging out on the corners, more 20-somethings Going Places and Doing Things. All in all, I'd say things were looking up around here.
I love my J. Peterman catalog, partially because when I fact-check them, I end up checking the "mostly true" box.

Case in point: They're trying to sell a polo shirt. They write:

"In the British Museum, there is an illustrated manuscript, dated 1472, showing Persian princes playing polo."

It turns out they mean this illustrated manuscript.
A couple of weeks ago, my 3D Printer arrived. I kickstarted it enough so I'm an early adopter, and I gather its currently in beta-test still - most of the features aren't implemented yet. For example, the heated print bed is missing the controller chip because it would occasionally Halt And Catch Fire. I gather the next one won't have that problem.

The first couple of weeks of tinkering were a bit frustrating - we printed both a mind flayer bard and a demolished Borg cube, which would have been great if that's what we were intending. In the end, we had to overcome two big problems: (1) the printer would stop extruding filament early on in the print. (2) if the run got significantly farther along, the model would start sliding on the non-heated bed, and things would go all tangly.

After a bit of experimenting, we fixed both problems - the first by manually raising the running temperature of the print nozzle, and the second by applying some Elmer's spray adhesive to the glass bed.

Today we successfully printed a test cube. Even though it was low resolution, it came out well. It's a small step, but once you can do "Hello world", the sky's the limit. Saturday, I'm going to try for a non-mind flayer bard, at high resolution. We'll see how it goes.
Listening to Radio Classics yesterday, I heard the X Minus One rendition of Lulungameena, a Gordie Dickson short story I was not familiar with. There were Dorsai, sort of, though I gather the early stuff is retconned not to be canon. Still, it was a wonder and a joy, on a day where my soul needed some uplifting (nothing serious, just a chest cold).
Saturday is International Tabletop Day. It'd be a great day to go play games with your friends. If you're in the area, feel free to come do that at 3 Trolls Games And Puzzles, but really, anywhere you game is good. I hope you have fun.
Last night's Forged In Fire encounter was convincingly won by an SCA blacksmith named Master Grendal, from An Tyr. I was rooting for him all the way, not just because he was a SCAdian, but because he was my opponent in perhaps my most memorable fight ever.

As some of you know, I attended a tournament at 30th Year "incognito" as Le Chevalier Sauvage, to the acclaim of the particpants and audience alike, where many great deeds were done by many noble gentles. I had brought a pair of matched gnarly clubs, and as the day was waning, a behemoth of a man came up to me and suggested that we might have a pass or two with the weapons I had brought. When I agreed, he threw down a shield, planted a foot on it, bid me to do the same, and set the rules that we would fight to three good blows against one or the other of us, never to lift the foot we'd planted on the shield.

At that moment, I knew what it was like to be Gawain facing off against Bercilak.

Still I agreed - how could I not? - and many powerful blows were struck. But to my surprise, I could not move him from the shield, and to his, he could not move me from it either. And so we continued, until finally he landed a blow on me, and then I one on him, which drove him to greater fury that struck me one more time, and still neither of us moved from our spot.

The sun was setting, and my strength was also reaching its end, so I thought I only had enough left to strike him one more time. I summoned all the art and wit and strength I had left. My blow knocked his weapon aside and hit him clean in the helmet, sending him to the ground, but lo! his foot was still on the shield! I smiled, content, knowing I had done my best, but that I had nothing left, when he proclaimed I had won the fight.

I protested, saying we were at two and two, and the next pass would surely be both decisive, and his for the taking, and then he stood up and proclaimed something amazing, which I remember to this day. He told the crowd "Only a son of Weyland could strike such a blow as that, and it would be cowardly not to count it as two."

And that is how I met Master Grendal. Not many like him walk the earth.
I went to my first fencing practice last night. It was fun, and an interesting experience. My plan is to learn period techniques from historical manuals, and not worry too much, at least for the moment, as to whether that makes me a good fencer. But last night's lesson was all about very basic attacks and parries, as done by the local fencing community. I was, I expect, pretty much what you would expect from an aging heavy list fighter - I understood the ideas behind what was being taught but was pitifully inadequate at doing them. No surprise there.

My next practice is going to be very humbling - the first bit in Agrippa is all about fighting from the first guard, which is both very tiring and very much out of line with what everyone else is doing. I'm going to be hard pressed to fight this way and do something sensible. The text gives a lot of suggestions using a lot of terms I don't understand yet.

This is going to be a blast.
It's an aphorism in no-limit poker that you need to be fearless when the time is right, and not care if it ends up losing you your stack. I got to pounce on a mistake by making a good play that worked tonight.

I was the button, and had a good table image, playing $1/2. 3 people limped in front of me, and I picked up 64o, and my random number for the hand was 87 (for those who haven't been following along, I discretely use a randomizer app on my watch to implement a mixed strategy, so that it's hard for opponents to be sure what I have), so I decided to make a small raise to $10. The blinds both called, and then the first limper did something odd - she put in 20, and then tried to take back 10, and was told that she had made a legit raise, even though she didn't intend to. She grumbled, but there was nothing to do. The other two limpers called, and then I made my move - I raised $125 on top, having checked to see that nobody was either short- or deep-stacked. The blinds folded, the inadvertant limper looked at her hand a while, said she couldn't call such a big bet, and folded, and the other two limpers folded. Basically, I risked $125 to win $95 with what was likely the worst hand at the table. But of course, my opponents didn't know that.

I don't know how this would play out at a tough table (perhaps Patri will chime in here). But in the games I frequent, I expect this play to work about 90% of the time or so, which makes it well worth making. Sometimes, poker can be very chess-like.
Tonight, for the first time since my right hip got replaced, I'm going to fighting practice. My plan is to hit the Framingham practice every other Wednesday, where I will do heavy list and eventually maybe some fencing, and in the off weeks go to the Carolingian fencing practice on Thursdays, and begin my foray into historical fencing techniques.

In fact, tonight on the train out to Framingham, I will begin to study my Agrippa.
Off to Boskone. Back Sunday.
Richard Nixon almost got away with Watergate. The Senate investigations were initially explosive - Dean was a star witness damning to the presidency. The three networks took turns broadcasting the hearings, and it's estimated that 85% of U.S. citizens at the time saw at least some substantial parts of the proceedings.

But after a month, things were winding down. It looked like the hearings were going to end up netting a couple of Nixon's top aides, but that was about it. Then, on July 13, 1973. Donald Sanders asked Alexander Butterfield if there was any validity to Dean's inference that conversations were taped, and Butterfield responded with this lightning bolt from the heavens - "I was wondering if someone would ask that. There is tape in the Oval Office."

That reignited the maelstrom, and was the straw that broke the Nixon Machine's house of cards.
At the general marshal's meeting yesterday, I was rather touched that after Arloff asked a question about combat archery, which I hadn't taken a look at at all yet, I actually got applause and a murmur of approval for the answer "I don't have a clue. Let's try to figure it out over the next few months." I shouldn't read too much into that, but one takes one's joys where they come.
Every year I go to a small gaming con run by Randy Chertkow in Chicago, titularly to celebrate his birthday. Given that I have such a good time at it, and I now have a gaming club that I'm working with anyway, it seems like a good time to completely steal the idea. So I'm currently thinking of running a weekend-long gaming con at 3 Trolls Games And Puzzles from the evening of 28 September until the afternoon of 1 October.

I'd like to reserve a block of hotel rooms at the nearby Radisson, but don't really have a good handle on whether people would use them or not. So without actually committing yourself, let me know if you'd be interested in a room if I got a block. The standard rate seems to be about $160 a night, I presume I could get some sort of a deal with enough bookings. 3 Trolls is on Summer Street in Chelmsford MA. and the hotel is about a mile away.
I've just finished the first pass at the letter I'm sending to the marshal's group on Sunday.

It's terrible. That's ok. I'll be working on it for the next few days, right up until Sunday when I hit the send button. This version followed Forrester's advice to Jamal:

No thinking - that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is... to write, not to think!

Perhaps not as useful for non-fiction as it is for fiction, but it did get me to start. :)
I'm normally mildly conversational at the poker table. I chat about topics of interest, though almost never politics or poker - the former because its complex and the latter because I have no reason to give opponents insight on my thinking. :) Last night ended up being a bit different.

I was sitting just to the right of a very loose, aggressive player - I'd class him as hyper-aggressive, for the jargon-enabled - which limited my options a lot. To top things off, he was hitting everything. (No really, his 85o cracked AA at the showdown, and that sort of thing was happening _a lot_.) Still, I was making a bit of money slowly over time, and after about 2 hours my randomizer came up 100, which is the number I assign to "do some Crazy Ivan stunt unless you're given some reason not to". I'm in the small blind with A7 off. 3 people limp in, and I could stick in a healthy raise, except I'm pretty sure I have a better plan, and limp as well. Sure enough, Mr. Loosey-goosey raises to 7 (too small to get anyone out, but his goal was to take control of the play of the hand), gets 3 callers, and now I reraise to 60 - the minimum number I think will do the job. One of the players in the hand, bless his heart, exclaims "Finally, you're not going to stand for this nonsense any more". Well, maybe he didn't use the word "nonsense" - its all a bit hazy.

The big blind thinks long enough to camouflage the fact that he got caught, and folds, and so does everyone else, and I scoop up the pot. The loose player chimes in with the typical "nice bet", and I say I had to do something - playing behind him was cramping my style. He points to empty seat to the left of him, and I come back with "That wouldn't be very sportsmanlike".

That comment changed the whole evening. Apparently he decided I was Danger Lad, and toned down his play a lot whenever I was in the hand. We started talking about poker situations a lot. It was fun. I learned quite a bit about how at least one example of that style of player thinks.
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