Gentle Readers,

A little over 3 years ago we adopted an 8 year old Great Pyrenees named Shadow. He was a charming fellow who was going to be put down because of age and depression. His previous owner had to give him up because she was living on a fixed income and was having trouble feeding both of them. His coming medical bills were what finally convinced them.

Last Friday it became clear that he was no longer going to be able to move around unassisted and there was no way to keep up his quality of life. We had a vet come and put him down. That sentence was incredibly hard to write. It just doesn't seem to capture the magnitude of what we did. Of what happened. We stayed with him while he fought to keep watch as he always did for us. Until he finally relaxed and let go and the thing that made him Shadow was gone.

He was so strong and so brave and so tough and so irreplaceable.

I'll always remember his patience, his gravitas and his sense of humour. His stubborn insistence that when you told him something, it was just a request to be considered. His guilty face when he had managed to steal some food (even if he hadn't gotten caught). His love, in particular, for peanut butter.

Hrm. Maybe writing this at work wasn't the best plan. Thank goodness it's allergy season.

Lydia was also very brave and stayed with us until the very end. I think it's the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

I would be very happy if we could go at least a few months without someone I care about losing someone who was special to them.

Feint

Mar. 17th, 2016 05:29 pm
Gentle Readers,

As promised last week, we worked on the finda or feint last night. Given that people seem unwilling to commit to sword contact, I think that working the feint to the stringer is important. From there we moved to looking at countering attacks in the outside line. Working with this book more is helping me understand better why he does things and what his goals are.

For example:

Hold thy Rapier with a Tertz, so that the point of thy Rapier stands upwards a little, and let thy right arm be something bended that thou be open without over thy right arm, then only stretch thy bended arm, and his thrust will be deluded; when thou hast parered his thrust, then turn thy hand into a Secunde and thrust him over his right Arm at his right breast.

Questions which come up: why is the tip up? Why parry then thrust? Why parry with just an arm extension?

The tip is up to force a higher line attack, if the attack is low just counter and face thrust. Because the tip is up, you don't start with enough leverage to deflect their blade so you need to gain it with the parry first. Parrying to the side provides opportunity for an outside winding.

It's great to have my students getting to the point where we have enough knowledge to be able to play with this.

In other martial arts news, I've been being some great advice at kickboxing. My basic motions are ok but my weight is shifting forward so I'm sticking. So I need to focus on not leaning when I punch and stepping with the lead foot if I need to gain distance. The other thing I need to do is work on my quarter turns.

To do a quarter turn, I need to step out in the direction I want to go with the foot on that side, then turn by swinging the remaining foot around. Note that when stepping with the rear leg, you end up in a reverse stance.

Anyway, Craig and I also talked about how to competitively drill the feint. We did it with the defender driving a decision drill but in order to make it more realistic, we need to make the defender more involved. So, the defender's goal becomes make the attacker commit enough to follow through instead of feinting AND still successfully parry. The attacker just needs to successfully complete the attack (primary or secondary). The attacker does have the advantage.
Gentle Readers,

Today's Pallas Armata class was looking at chapter 13. The play was to draw an attack, parry and stringer, then when the attacker withdraws and cavers to attack, parry and stringer to the other side and use the gained distance to allow for a fast riposte. We did this through several rotations, looking at new things to focus on from good distance to posture to making sure that you are doing a good recovery.

We also looked at gaining the blade with a stringer when your partner is refusing contact by using a finda to make them commit with a parry and then cavering to stringer. Next week we will do this as a decision drill where if they do not take the bait, you finish your attack.
Gentle Readers,

This weekend I was encouraged by HerRH to go to Winter War. I didn't especially want to go. It's in London and thus a ridiculous amount of driving for an event where the organizers seem to push the boundaries of minimum effort every year. For example, this year "feast" was "we'll have some take out and delivery menus at gate but you have to book space to sit and eat." They did eventually consent to providing dinner to the royalty from those same sources, but had to call for volunteers to plate it. The gentleman running rapier was an exception as he spent a great deal of energy to make sure that his fencing scenarios were interesting and provided plenty of fencing for everyone. I would have done it differently but it wasn't bad.

So the thing that convinced me to go was that HerRH had invited out of kingdom fencers, MoDs in particular. They seemed to be there to help give an outside perspective on our fencers and I think it really behooved me to be there.

So I went and the event was exactly what I expected. I ended up getting far less fencing in than I expected sure to a combination of obligations (EAOD stuff and running an authorisation for HisRH) and physiology (I had a blood sugar crash, more about that later). But I did get to play with some of our visitors and they were delightful.

I learned several things about my fencing.

First, my offline movement is terrible. I'm doing a terrible job at getting off the line and it's resulting in my getting stabbed as I try and move into distance our try and control the space and move in to attack.

Next, my sense of distance and my opponents reach is actually pretty good. Once I realized that one of my opponents was using a 45" blade and not 42", he was no longer able to sneak into distance.

My armor new armor is comfortable and moves well except for one minor flaw. The back plate on the helmet locks down into the ruff and prevents it from moving with my head. This sucks a lot and needs to be fixed. Right now I'm thinking articulated lames.

Finally, if your DOMS takes about 2 days, perhaps you shouldn't be surprised when your arms and shoulders hurt if you did a kickboxing class two days before the event.

As for the blood sugar thing. Well. I'm not sure the cause, but by mud morning my blood sugar was sub-optimal. My body just stopped responding the way I wanted. My hands were shaking and I was feeling fuzzy. It took me a bit to get realigned.

My endocrine system managed to get it's shit together, but my body continued to act weird.

As a result of not having to drive, I had the opportunity to go to a BBQ restaurant. I don't know what caused it, it certainly wasn't the alcohol but I just felt physically drunk for the rest of the evening. It was a very strange feeling and lasted until the wee hours. I ate the remaining leftovers on the morning and it didn't reoccur. I'm going to have to pay attention to see if it happens again.

Elevation

Feb. 29th, 2016 06:59 pm
Gentle Readers,

It's been a week since the elevation. I suppose I should probably write something down about it. In theory, I've been putting off writing because I've been processing. However, I haven't really been thinking about it to be honest.

One of my friends, and a ceremony junkie, did a lovely write up that in the Ealdormere Gazette. From the inside however it was not exactly the same kind of magic. The last few months have been spent making sure everything was in place, coordinating a ridiculous amount of support from friends.

Writing the ceremony was probably the hardest part. I didn't do the actual writing but I did have editorial control. Which is good as I caught a few things that were miscommunication between me and the main writer. We needed to find that sweet spot to make it clear that this was still an Ealdormerian peerage but was still something new and special. We also had to make sure that it was clear that it was a martial peerage but without cribbing from the Knights.

I believe we succeeded.

As mentioned in the article I spent my vigil going back and forth between quiet contemplation and swordplay: advice or adversary. I think I would have liked a bit more of the adversary.

The advice was fairly consistent. Many people were proud of me and pleased that I was being recognised. I was told that I was clearly doing the right things and I should keep doing them. I was reminded not to be a jerk. I was told that I now get to carry the weight of the peerage and my behaviour will be seen as typical. To be honest, a lot of it feels like being Baron. There were three pieces that stuck with me. Firstly, in your life there are very few opportunities to have a whole day filed with people telling you that you are doing good; so revel in it. Secondly, when it's your turn to provide advice at someone else's vigil, never take more that 2 min. Finally, and most important: Love more, be awesome.

There were other things, that I wish I could remember but I'll hold in to these.

After the vigil we had scheduled some time to decompress, but I think I really could have lived without it. While the day was filled with human interaction, it was mostly one on one so not as draining as it could have been.

After taking a few moments, I got my self into my new suit and it was time.

The ceremony was as we wrote it so there were no surprises except for the fact that the sword of the order got left in the car and there was a last minute substitution. Everyone had lovely words (which I will be asking them for) and it was clear to me that people carry moments of kindness with them and that, more than any words during the day drove home what this collar is really going to mean.

The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur but it wss spent with friends and I couldn't have asked for more than that.

I'm very blessed by the generosity and kindness I have been shown and it's my job to pay that forward.
Gentle Readers,

One of the important things to realize about a vigil is that you can't it all yourself. Well, I'm sure it's possible, but it's a recipe for an unpleasant time so if only because no matter how perfectly planned you will still not be able to deal with everything on the day of (because you are supposed to be pondering).

With the established peerages, the vigilant often has a formal relationship with a member of the order who can take them through the process our at least offer advice. There are also years of tradition that can be drawn on for all of the ceremony.

With this there is no presidents for any of it. We have to build the ceremony from scratch. What we do may, (or may not) be the start of a tradition. I've never formally been anyone's student so that's a relationship I don't have to draw on. I also don't have a formal relationship with an active household. Ore an active relationship with a formal household.

What I do have is lots of friends. Friends who are throwing themselves into helping like piranhas in a feeding frenzy. I feel really lucky to have so many people willing and eager to help but asking fire that help is really hard. Not because I'm worried that I'll look like I'm weak our anything, I just hate imposing on people. I don't want people feeling obligated.

I might also be a little worried about being obligated back. Fortunately I can recognize the silliness of that thought and mostly let it go.
Gentle Readers,

Progress continues on all fronts and today feels like a pretty good day. That seems pretty good for a Monday.

I spent most of my weekend down in my Man Studio where I was working on a trade project. I have a friend who is exceptionally good at naalbinding (Viking crochet) and I am not. She tried to tech me and I understood the stitch but I need a better way of managing the increases because I keep ending up with ruffly doilies.

Since i don't think I'll have it any time soon and I really want better socks I offered a trade and she decided that some of the chains I'd been making would be great.

So far, I've made 2 lengths that I'm happy with and 2 that I need to do better. What really helped with the first ones us to set up a good process and I'm still trying to figure that out for the other two.

The trick seems to be figuring out the initial shape so you can set up a jig.
Gentle Readers,

For those of you not in the SCA, this won't mean much but it's kind of a big deal.

Last weekend at the Queen's Prize Tourney, I was put on vigil to be the premier member of The Order of Defence of Ealdormere.

For court I was sitting at the back with friends. Not doing the snark, but but fully paying attention, joining in with the cheer as appropriate. There was an elevation happening in this court so I wasn't really expecting anything particularly interesting.

Then his majesty started talking about prowess and knowledge and I thought "ok, cool, they are going to laurel someone, that makes sense. It's an A&S event." And then his majesty begged the boon of her majesty. I thought "That's weird. I wonder why they are doing it this way."

Her majesty agreed, if it was a right and proper thing.

His majesty responded saying he would like to make me the premier member of the order.

Things get a little hazy at this point. I remember the feeling of the blood draining from my face. I remember slowly standing and feeling unsteady. I remember my focus narrowing and thinking all I have to do is walk up there. I remember walking like it was in a dream, floating and unsteady. But I didn't stumble or trip. I got to the stairs up to the stage and I think Cortejo was there and hugged me.

I ascended the stairs. I remember keeping a grip on the banister. I knelt and settled and my knee complained and I ignored it.

Their Majesties spoke and the herald spoke. I think I said thank you.

They bid me rise, and I rose. I thanked them and bowed. And went back down the stairs. I think Cortejo was there again, but I wanted to go sit down and I did.

And even people started coming up to congratulate me and I couldn't decide if I wanted to risk standing. And every one was so nice and saying such nice things and I was just trying to figure out what had just happened.

I'm told it was about 3 seconds before I registered what happened and stood up.

I'm told that there was a standing ovation.

I'm told that the herald read the requirements for the Master of Defence.

I don't remember any of that. I just remember shock and lots of people saying they were glad it was me.

All that was the easy.

Now I get to define the ceremony that everyone after me will use as their foundation. I get to be the exemplar. I get to be the old gun fighter. I get to be very very visible.

I'm not sure if that or the fact that maybe I wasn't as invisible as I thought is the more overwhelming thing.
Gentle readers,
Yesterday was the memorial service for my friend Ivy. I've be trying to figure out what to write since she did died and I think if I don't do it now, I never will. So, here goes.

Ivy died a month ago. She went in to the hospital to find out why her chest hurt and her cold wasn't going away. First they thought it was a broken rib, then a collapsed lung, then pneumonia and finally cancer. Cancer in her lungs, liver and lymphatic system. Extremely aggressive cancer. Cancer that she probably only had for two months. Cancer that killed her by the end of the second week by filling up her lungs.

We waited for news as those weeks progressed watching as things got steadily worse, until there was no doubt about the outcome, just shock at the speed.

We were close by that weekend hoping to give her an award for her art but by then the prognosis had gone from maybe getting to be at home to hours to live.

Late that afternoon, we got a call saying she was asking for Cortejo and I. And so we went.

She looked well. Not like someone who was dying, aside from the various tubes and wires and monitors that pop culture uses to tell us that things are very serious. Her eyes were bright and sharp, her colour was good.

Then I noticed saw how much trouble she was having breathing and the slightly frightened look in her eyes masked by the morphine. We sat with her for a bit and made small talk. We told her about her award and she complimented my boots and garb snarked and ogled Cortejo. It's hard to talk to someone who is literally at death's door.

We were in and out of her room as the evening progressed with her needing space or rest until we were called in with a "This is it."

It wasn't it. She was ready but her body was not. Being with someone who is going to die, who has made peace with that and is ready to die and who's body won't give up is one of the most heart breaking things that I've ever had to experience.

We ended up saying our good-byes and heading out when it was clear that nothing was happening any time soon and we were just stressing people out. She died in the wee hours of the morning.

I'm glad we got to say good bye. I'm glad that she got to say her good-byes. I'm glad she didn't have to linger in pain and cause anyone to resent her sickness.

Yesterday was the memorial. Lots of people who had good things to say about how they remembered her and what she meant.

I'm glad I knew her and I feel like a steady presence has been taken from the world. I still don't quite know what it is that makes me feel so sad about this but I do know I'm not done being sad yet.

Things

Nov. 4th, 2015 12:44 pm
Gentle Readers,

Things I want to write about:

  • The recent death of a friend.
  • The work I'm doing with Pallas Armata
  • The cool A&S projects I've been working on.
  • How awesome my daughter is
  • Issues with Anxiety


Things I have been able to write about:

Knee saga

Mar. 10th, 2015 11:04 pm
Gentle Readers,

For this of you who are following the saga of my injured knee (assuming anyone is reading this at all), you will be happy to know that I was able to fence for the first time since the injury on Saturday. It was at our Winter War event and I had a delightful time.

I was fighting in place of free scholars who were unable to attend so that some other fenders could play their prize and become free scholars.

It was fun and everyone fenced really well and very much earned their new rank.

There was some stupid drama where people were surprised that the rules were being followed and applied to them.

I think the highlight of the event was someone reverting to his highness wanting to fence people, presumably to test them for suitability for the new peerage, as an audition. I'm still chuckling at that.

I've had a number of people tell me that they think I should be one of the first fencing peers of Ealdormere and while I'm flattered and would desperately love that I also know that I'm not currently at a place where I deserve it. To be honest, I don't think anyone in the kingdom, with one exception, is at that level. Whoever it is is going to have to be able to go route to toe with the best fencers in the known world. We just don't have that right now. Maybe with six months of enthusiasm, but not currently.

Time to get practising, I guess.

Disillusion

Feb. 4th, 2015 08:28 am
Gentle Readers,

It's been a surprisingly disappointing week so far, but thankfully not for any really important reasons.

The first reason being that the SCA BoD has a phone conference on Monday in which they passed the rapier peerage that they voted against 2 weeks ago. They keep saying that our comments are important but how can we comment when we can't even make assumptions about what is happening at a meeting. How could we possibly know that they were going to vote on the thing that they shut down 2 weeks before. How could we possibly provide any useful commentary on a decision we couldn't anticipate they would make? If we get enough people to write in, will they change their decision again? It probably doesn't help that I think the decision is stupid and short sighted.

The other disappointment was that I went to see Blade Runner in the theater last night. It's my favorite movie. I love every moment in the film. Well, almost every moment. I had apparently blocked out the very rapey seduction scene and by rapey, I mean actual rape. Goddamn-it. I can see why it might be there but it really doesn't do what it should be doing which is pushing Dekkard to stop thinking of Rachael as an it out at least starting him on that path. Arguably, it does the opposite. It just doesn't work. There are so many ways it could have been done better.

So, I don't think I will be able to watch it again, at least not without fast forwarding.

That being said, setting it again really cemented in my mind that Deckard is a replicant.

I'm also enjoying the my mental remake. What would I change? How would my experience of the future change their vision of it. I mean there weren't even any computers.

I think that may have to take the place of a rewatching.
Gentle readers,

Once more Monday raises its head.
Gentle Readers,

Yes, I'm doing a meme. Procrastinating without Facebook is hard!

Via [personal profile] skud, here.

Take this list, remove a thing, sort it by how much you like the things, add a thing at the top, a thing in the middle, and a thing at the bottom (preserving the sortedness, pedants):

(most liked)
Swordplay
Getting up early
Thermal underwear (personal note: only if wool)
Steam locomotives
Getting something in the mail that isn't bills
Porridge
Tidying
Dubstep
Twitter
Handknit scarves
Eating paper
Firefox upgrades
Nessie Ladle
Celery in a stir-fry
Undercooked Aubergine
Uber
Waterworld
(most disliked)
Gentle readers,

I'm still seeing some of the commentary about the SCA kerfuffle that's keeping me off of Facebook. There are still some good ideas floating about but they are mired in such ridiculousness that it's hard to take them seriously.

Take for example the essay I read today. His basic idea: firewall the Masters at Arms and the Chiv and open the masters up to other martial arts, is not bad. But the he started his essay off with such purple prose that it was really hard to take it seriously. The biggest one being the concept that his SCA title is outranked by his mundane one.

I find this ridiculous on so many fronts. For starters, I'm pretty sure he's not minor nobility in the real world, so there's that. Both titles are made up and assigned by an organization as a recognition of some actual accomplishment. But it's still like saying a PhD out ranks a Barony. It's just a nonsensical thing to say.

I don't mean to imply that this gentle is putting on airs or anything like that. He worked hard for all of his recognition. However, I just feel like this kind of florid, over the top prose undercuts what is not a horrible thesis.

That being said, I don't see his suggestion getting any traction as there are enough Masters at Arms who would likely see this as a degradation of their award, something that they worked just as hard for as the Chiv did. Again, as mentioned above, it's still all pretend, but some people take their pretend pretty seriously. I mean, look at how people feel about Mayors.
Gentle readers,

I think I mentioned I'm an staying away from Facebook. In it's absence I've been reading Twitter instead. They both have some of the same flaws, the biggest one being that I can't just pick up where I left off. However Twitter just seems to have less urgency associated with reading it. With Facebook there feel like there is a compilation to keep reading, just one more screen to see if person x posted. It's easier to put aside.

The people I follow on Twitter also have the advantage of being followed because of what they post and not just because I know them (or rather know one aspect of them and am astonished at their other opinions).

I think the word I'm looking for is obligation. I often feel obligated to read Facebook and that obligation makes me crave schadenfreude which is not a good thing.
Gentle Readers,

So. I won an Emmy. Well, more accurately we won an Emmy. To be completely accurate my company was nominated for and awarded a Technology & Engineering Emmy in the category of “Secure Accelerate File Movement Over IP, Including the Internet.

What this meant was that thanks to some scheduling conflicts experienced by some of my more senior coworkers, I got to fly to Las Vegas and participate in the awards ceremony. Given that the day we flew out, the temperature in Ottawa was in the process of dropping down to -30 I was even more thrilled than I might otherwise be.

The Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards were very much like any award dinner. There was no red carpet or throngs of paparazzi but that wasn’t much of a surprise as we didn’t have much in the way of celebrity. There were a few people who were big deals in the industry but not household names. The crowd of attendees was mostly men in mostly suits. There were a few outliers like the old bearded sysadmin in jeans and a t-shirt and the young guy in the ultra-modern tuxedo.

As we waited for the doors to the dining area to open, people mingled, drank, ate an amazing variety of amuse-bouches (the duck wontons were the highlight) and had their photo taken in front of the award backdrop.

Eventually we were allowed into the dining room where we were fed one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. As I sipped my practically perfect coffee, our hosts appeared on stage: Alex Trebek and David Pogue. They exchanged some light hearted banter and Mr. Pogue performed a musical number that he had written for the event.

At our table we exchanged some banter ourselves as we waited through the various other awards until it was our turn. Efficient and well dressed assistants slipped up to our table ad informed us it was time to go up to wait by the stage. There we stood, listening to our esteemed competition until finally we were ushered on stage.

Much to our disappointment, Mr. Trebek had retired from the stage prior to our award so sadly the Jeopardy clue in our acceptance speech was not quite as awesome as it could have been. After the speech, we were wisked away back stage were we did get to meet with Mr. Trebek, get a couple of photos with him, and exchange our stage Emmy for the real one that we got to take home. After that I regret to say that we did not return immediately to the ceremony but instead took the opportunity to take more pictures.

We returned in time for the final awards and then the ceremony was done and it was time to move on.

All of the bars in the Bellagio complex were full of Emmy winners who got there before us so we kept moving. Walking through Las Vegas carrying a major award is a fascinating experience. The crowds were evenly split between asking if it was real and if they could get their picture taken with us. I did wish I had a giant silly straw to attach to it.

We ended up at Planet Hollywood were we hung out with a rock star (@Sarahvegas on twitter) and partied like Emmy winners until what was the wee hours of the morning in Ottawa (but was 3 hours earlier in Vegas).

That’s what winning an Emmy is like.


me holding the emmy.
Gentle readers,

The SCA voted on the 4th peerage proposal on Saturday. The proposal was voted down. I'm not sure what this means for the 4th peerage. After the vote, the bod pointed out that given the current wording, there is nothing preventing a knighthood being given for other martial activities.

So, it sounds like the 4th peerage is dead. I think that given the award structure in Ealdormere, it makes sense although I don't know how that would work in other kingdoms. There also needs to be a king willing to do it.

Because I know that there will be a lot of disappointing opinions about this, I'm off Facebook for the next week or so. Well, that and the fact that there have been a bunch of gun control posts that made me sad. So maybe more posting here as a result. I think breaking the Facebook habit will be a good thing.

On the plus side, I don't have to worry about making one of those fancy collars.

Added:

So, I was dumb and read a comment in my email from Facebook and now I'm all cranky but it did encourage me to set the thread to autodelete. Stupid.

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