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Schlock Mercenary
Something Positive
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Sluggy Freelance

December 11th, 2014

10:08 pm - Fencing Madness 2014
... this is the short version. I did 7 fencing competitions over 4 weeks. Ummm ... it seemed like a good idea at the time :)
And I've had some kind of cold or cough or bug coming and going for most of the last 4 weeks ...

1. 14/11 - State Sabre Teams championships - I got roped in at the last minute to make a team so that the competition would actually run. We came 3rd of 3 teams, although it was closer than that makes it appear - each team won one and lost one, the ranking was made on indicators.

2. 22/11 - State Open Epee championships - 3rd (of 16). (note - with 3rd place play-off)

3. 29/11 - Club Open Epee championships - 1st (of 7).

4. 30/11 - State Veteran Epee championships - 2nd (of 7).

5. 6-7/12 - Oceania & National Open Epee championships - 20th (of 63).

6. 7/12 - Oceania & National Veteran Epee championships - equal 3rd (of 25).

7. 7/12 - Oceania & National Veteran Epee Teams championship - 2nd (of 7 teams).

My competition placings for the whole year go:
5, 1, 7, 1, 3, 3, 1, 2, 20, 3, 2

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Current Mood: tiredtired

(2 touches | En garde !)

November 12th, 2014

01:04 pm - We bought a car !
So, the background: As mentioned previously, Bub2 is on the way.

We regularly transport large amounts of fencing equipment around the place (5-6 full fencing bags, plus scoring boxes+spools, etc).

Our previous car (Renault Scenic) had an awkward placement of child-seat anchor which meant there were two straps extending from the back of the child seat to the back of the luggage space. With one child seat in place, this was just manageable for our equipment transport, with the other two seats folded down.
However, with two child seats in place, it would be impossible, there might be room for one or two bags and that'd be it.

That meant that we needed to start looking for a new car with just a bit more space, and a better design for the child-seat anchors.

rwrylsin started looking at reviews and specifications of various cars, and then searched around Melbourne car dealers looking for possibilities for us to test drive. The Skoda Octavia came up as a "possible", so we went along to the car place, tape-measure in hand, and poked around that and a bunch of other cars.

Many (including the Skoda) were ruled out, for being too small, too large, too fuel inefficient, too SUV/4WD/tank-like, or too people-mover/bus-like. A few were left, mostly a bunch of different Holden models with different badge names but all basically the same model.

Back to the research we went, and up came a Ford Mondeo wagon, with one available in Ringwood. rwrylsin took it for a test drive and measure one day while Bub was in childcare, and decided it was a possible candidate and worth me taking a look. A plan was hatched where we'd pop along during my lunch-break on the next Tuesday when I was working from home and check it out.

Tuesday dawned, and so did Bub, probably very early (6am is becoming a trend, lately). I think we started with breakfast as normal, and then we played for a bit. Bub threw a Duplo block at me, hitting me in the head, so I said "ow" and asked him to say he was sorry. And asked again. And again ... and waited. And asked ...
Yes, it turned into a battle of wills with a toddler. At that point, I decided it was important to wait for an apology, and apparently he decided it was important to skip it.

Time passed.

Almost 90 minutes later, he finally apologised, and I collapsed into a willpower-drained heap, before getting on with the day.

So we made it to lunch-time, went along to the car dealer, and I took the car for a drive.
Yup, it was definitely a car ... despite being quite a bit larger than the Scenic, it didn't feel *huge* as such, and seemed to run ok.

We went in to chat to the dealer, talked price and trade-in and all that. Time passed, and I needed to start heading home to join a work conference call.
Then he asked me if we wanted to buy the car ...

So there I was - on the spot to make a decision, time running short, sleep-deprived, and sapped of willpower.

So now we have a new car :)

Fortunately, it does seem to be a pretty good car, and a) isn't a 4WD/SUV/tank, b) isn't a people-mover, and c) isn't a complete fuel-guzzler. Whew.

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Current Mood: surprisedsurprised

(3 touches | En garde !)

October 16th, 2014

12:22 am - News !
... I tried to use the "Share" button on LJ, apparently a "Share window" is supposed to appear ? But it didn't, on Firefox or Safari, so:

We have some news ! And since rwrylsin posted about it first, I'll just link to her post. :)

(Edit: hopefully posted with the correct date now, with luck someone will actually see this ...)

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Current Mood: excitedexcited

(7 touches | En garde !)

September 4th, 2014

01:04 am - Technology woes, Part 2
So the other technology woes I've been having lately :

1. Last Thursday in the small hours of the morning, we had a power outage. Only 30 minutes or so, but it was enough that the hard drive in my main computer (Mac mini) failed.
The official Mac repair places want $400 or more to replace the HD, a bit steep given that the drive would be $70-$100.

Fortunately, there was a detailed guide online, and once I had the new HD and required tools, it took a very careful hour or so to open up, dig my way down and extricate the old HD.
Even more fortunately, it works ! And Time Machine restored everything to just the way it was. Whew !

2. My camera (8ish years old) chews up batteries like candy, and doesn't even power on for recharged batteries. Verdict from the camera repair place - would probably need to replace the logic board (around $400) - but you can't get the parts now anyway.
And there's an official power supply, around $100 (!), but they sold their last one in 2007.

Fortunately, Jaycar had a suitable power supply (official supply is 6.5V, 3A - Jaycar one 6V, 2.2A), and the camera will work with this. Of course, that means it is only really usable as a "studio" camera now, which means I need to work out what camera I'll get next.

3. My camera flash - bought second-hand from a camera store many years ago (at least 10), appears to be showing the signs of age - the flash output has dwindled away to almost nothing. For quite a while, I've thought I'm Doing Something Wrong when trying to use it, but now I'm sure it's actually an issue with the flash itself. Looks like time to shop for a new flash ...

4. Bike issues - recently had to get the front wheel replaced, as the previous one just couldn't be straightened up properly (after 32,000km, so I guess that's a pretty good lifespan).

5. Phone issues - for a week or so, it was chewing through the battery, with no obvious cause, and regularly required a power-cycle to restore data connection. Strangely, this has settled down and it is mostly behaving itself now ... I suspect it knows I'm coming to the end of my contract, and could start shopping around for a replacement :)

... well, I guess my general technology philosophy is to use things until they fall to bits. I just didn't expect them all to fall apart at the same time :)

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
Current Mood: geekygeeky

(1 touche | En garde !)

September 3rd, 2014

10:40 pm - Technology woes, Part 1
Update on this post.

The situation :
Video card died, laptop wouldn't boot up, and there was some kind of error message about memory.

This has been a slow-moving process, as it needed me to have time (around work, fencing, and Bub), and energy (hi Bub!) to look at it, and motivation was sometimes a bit short too (I have some games on my mac[1], enough to keep me occupied :) ).

First thought was RAM, and I wanted to upgrade from 2Gb to 4Gb anyway, but that didn't improve anything.

Second thought was video card - and here I was lucky, in having a laptop using a MXM-compatible graphics card. I think the original intent was for laptops which could be upgraded just like desktops, although in practice the four (or more) different MXM standards, and limitations on power/cooling inside a laptop, probably made this uncommon. However, it did mean that I could get a compatible replacement card off eBay :)

Delicate surgery was performed, the card was installed ... and neither XP or Linux would start.
However, a USB drive with a later version of Ubuntu started up fine, giving me some hope that just a little software maintenance would be required.

First, there was an annoying error message at boot, which came with 30+ seconds of loud internal-speaker beeping and waiting and an announcement that performance was being throttled. (And if I ever find the engineer who thought that was an acceptable way to deal with an issue, there may be a different kind of throttling going on :-) )

Anyway, eventually I came across ways to reflash the graphics card's BIOS, with modifications made in a binary editor to resolve the beeping/waiting (well, beep disabled, delay changed to 1 second, annoying message still present).

At this point, XP was still hanging while booting, and it was time to delve into trying to repair it. First plan was to use the install disk and try a "repair" install, but it didn't offer me that option. Second was to tinker in the recovery console, but that was blocked by an administrator password being required and not being bypassable.

Finally found some combination of copying files saved as part of system recovery (e.g. registry files) and/or deleting/moving some driver files that appeared to be causing the hanging (all of this done booted into the Ubuntu USB drive mentioned earlier), and got the machine to boot.

Yay ! But ... the system was fine in normal use, but very slow in anything requiring 3D (around 2600 in 3DMark06, compared to 8000+ originally).
"Oh, this'll be due to the throttling", I realised (eventually), and set about doing something about it.

This needed more tinkering, more BIOS editing, and numerous reflashes of the graphics card BIOS again to find settings that were acceptable, but didn't cause system crashes/blue-screens at regular intervals.

Finally, I've reached a point where it seems almost stable - it does randomly restart every now and then, I suspect I need to lower the graphics card settings slightly again. However, 3DMark score is back up to 7600, and ... I can play Skyrim again :)


[1] Notably, Civ2 and SMACX - and that's why I'm holding off on upgrading from Snow Leopard just yet, because the compatibility/emulation/whatever that let me play them are gone in Mavericks.

[2] This laptop is 6 years old,

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
Current Mood: geekygeeky

(3 touches | En garde !)

June 10th, 2014

10:58 pm - Fencing update !
Three fencing tournaments so far this year to report on :
"Pre-AFC1" (in other words, the State Open tournament held two weeks prior to the first National Open event of the year (Australian Fencing Circuit #1)),
"AFC1" (aka the D.H. McKenzie),
and "Pre-AFC2".

Pre-AFC1 was held early in March. Unfortunately, the Fencing Victoria website hasn't yet been updated with the tournament details to jog my memory - pretty sure the pool round went ok, I either lost one bout or won them all. First DE bout went ok, putting me into the last 8, but then I lost to the current Australian National Champion, scoreline around 10-15 - I got 4 or 5 hits behind early in the bout, changed tactics and managed to keep level after that, but wasn't able to pull it back.

AFC1 was also in March (two weeks after the first one, obviously). For that, at least, full detailed results are available online. I had a pretty good pool round, 4 wins and one loss, but I was a bit frustrated at not winning the final bout - it felt possible, I just didn't quite put it together at the time. Ended up seeded 13th into the DE (out of 71).
First DE bout was against someone from my club - always unfortunate when that happens, since we've fenced each other a few times in training, and I've usually won. The bout was close in the first period, but I lifted a gear in the second and won 15-8.
Second DE bout I lost, 13-15 - I struggled at the start, and was down 4-8 at the first break. A slight change in tactics after that (pressuring rather than pushing for hits) saw me claw it back, and a full-length lunge with a hit to a tiny exposed bit of hand edged me in front, 11-10, at the second break. After that, my opponent set up a couple of good hits and got ahead, and as time started to run out I was back to pushing for hits, and getting double-hits at best.
Final position 23rd - not what I wanted, but I was generally happy with the way I'd fenced on the day.

Finally, Pre-AFC2.
I tweeted this afterwards:
Today's fencing, in numbers: pool 4V0D, +11, 3rd seed. DE: 15-7 v Tayler, P; 15-8 v Osvath, P; 15-11 v Robinson, S; 15-9 v Bianchin, M

I think the best way to describe my fencing was "on fire" - and that semi-final scoreline underlines that - "Robinson, S", known by a generation of Australian epeeists as simply Seamus, three-time National Champion in epee (possibly four, unless there was a coincidentally-named "W. Robinson" around in the 90s), also a World Cadet (under-17) Champion back in 1991.

I'd never previously beaten him in a competition DE bout - my few pool bout wins, and one 15-hit training bout, are etched in my memory as highlights from the 17 years since I first faced him.
I lost to him in last year's AFC competition in Melbourne, and again in the State Championships, and I've never really come up with a strategy that would counter his incredible skills and experience of fencing.
I'm still not completely sure what I did differently, or better than before, but it worked from the start (up to a 7-2 lead early), faded a bit while he caught up and I tried to catch my breath (7-6), and then I got back on top, pulling ahead to 10-6, then 12-8, and then finishing it off.

Of course, I had to re-focus for the final, and my opponent there had just comfortably beaten last year's National Champion in his semi-final, so he was also having a good day. This one started close, level at 5-all at the first break, but I got the next hit after the resumption, and never looked back after that, out-scoring him 10-4 in the period.

So my State results since the start of last year go 5, 5, 1, 3, 5, 1 - not bad for a veteran !

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Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished

(1 touche | En garde !)

February 19th, 2014

04:48 pm - Computer choices ...
So, when I started writing this post (a couple of weeks ago), this was mostly academic, however last night my laptop "died" (blue screen with some message about a "memory parity error"), so it's acquired some urgency.

Short version - I'm trying to decide whether to upgrade my 6-year-old laptop to move into the post-Windows-XP era, or buy/build a desktop to replace it, and/or what to do with the Mac Mini I have.

Long Version is longCollapse )

So, any thoughts ? What should I do ?

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Current Mood: curiouscurious

(5 touches | En garde !)

February 12th, 2014

03:41 pm - Self internet archaeology ...
Quoting myself from a really old web-page of mine :
I am about to move to Melbourne, Victoria - in about 3 weeks (around Nov 20th 1997 - so if you see this here in 1998, you know I don't pay much attention to my web pages :-)
... and if I see that still there in 2013 ? I'm sure there should be some sort of prize :)

The main page is slightly better, but still thinks we're in Glasgow, so hasn't been updated for at least 5 years now :)

... actually, I don't think I can log in to the server it's hosted on any more. Wonder how long the page will stay there ? (Ping AndrewR on the off-chance he reads this to let me in ...)

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Current Mood: lazylazy

(En garde !)

January 14th, 2014

11:54 pm - I'm mad !
So, I rode to work today. Today when the maximum temperature was over 42°C. I'm mad !

But the decision made sense at the time, more or less :

The options were:

1. Ride.
The morning ride would be ok, because it would be cooler then. The ride in normally takes 50 mins riding time, 60 mins elapsed.
I'd take the afternoon ride slowly, drink lots of water, and stop and rest if required. Ride home would take 60 mins or so riding time, 70ish total.

2. Public transport.
My closest train station is closed at the moment due to rail crossing replacement works up the line. There are bus services replacing trains up the line and down one station to Blackburn.

This means my normal trip to work (5 min walk, 30 min train, 5 min walk or tram at the end), would become:
5 min walk, X min wait for bus, Y min bus trip, Z min wait for "connecting" train, then 30 mins on train, plus 5 min walk/tram at the end. I think X+Y+Z would be at least 15 minutes in the best case, making 60 minutes, about the same as the time spent riding. Also, the train would be packed, so (wearing "business casual" work clothes) I'd almost certainly get hot and sweaty anyway. At least on the bike, I've already planned for a shower/change at the end.

And the trip home has the same X+Y+Z, but at the hottest time of the day, so trains are at best running slower, but more likely being cancelled and rearranged or just stopping. The 60 min trip could easily turn into 90 or 120 - and on Tuesdays, I have to get home by 7 to get Bub settled so rwylsin can go to fencing.

So train was ruled out due to inconvenience and uncertainty, plus probable discomfort anyway.

3. Drive.
I've never driven to CBD or near-CBD for work in all the years I've been here.
But, here's how I think it would go :

In my current location, driving would mean first braving the Eastern Freeway at morning peak (where the normal 20 minute leg to Hoddle St could easily be 30min or more), and then navigating my way to the complete opposite side of the CBD and through to Docklands - again, easily 30 minutes, probably much more at that time of day (and there's a road closure on one of the main roads to the CBD from this side of the city, so the Eastern and nearby roads are likely to be worse than usual).

Looking at it another way - when I ride, the first 15km or so are mostly along Maroondah Highway (under a few names). Every now and then I pay attention to the cars I see around Blackburn or Box Hill - most cars turn off or stop along the way, but sometimes I catch the same cars around Kew or Richmond - and that's still to the east of the CBD, anyone driving to Docklands has the slowest leg to wrestle with. I contend that no car can cross the CBD through to Docklands as quickly as a cyclist (well, this particular cyclist), so basically - I'd beat a car over the 22km from here to my workplace by bike (at peak hour - non-peak, the car might win. Have to try it sometime :) ).

Finally, driving wasn't really an option anyway, because rwylsin needed the car today.

So, I chose to ride. The morning did go ok, it was 23°C when I started, and already 34°C at Docklands by the time I arrived (9:30am).
It was 42°C when I left in the afternoon, though, and still 40°C here. I did struggle a bit along the way - ate my emergency jellybeans, even - I tried to tell myself "I used to ride in this sort of heat all the time in Adelaide" - but that leaves out the "... when I was 20 years old" part, it's a bit different at 43 and counting.

Anyway, the ride was slow, and probably took a bit more out of me than I expected - but I still managed to spend the hour (ish) after getting home with Bub (winding him down to bed, a bit trickier when he's skipped his afternoon nap), and now, having had dinner and flopped around all evening, am feeling somewhat recovered.
And I don't have to do it again tomorrow, because I'm working from home for the day.

Will probably do it again on Thursday, though, which is also forecast to be 41°C ... because I'm mad :-)

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
Current Mood: crazycrazy

(3 touches | En garde !)

January 2nd, 2014

11:02 am - Books read, 2013
... short list, seems to be getting harder to find reading time these days.
Most of my reading is done on the train to work, but I ride more than I take the train, and try to work from home one day a week. Should get back into the habit of reading before bed, I guess ...

The Immortals of Meluha, by Amish Tripathi
Secret of the Nagas, by Tripathi Amish.
Black Glass, by Meg Mundell
Tricked, by Kevin Hearne.
Crucible of Gold, by Naomi Novik.
New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear.
Trapped, by Kevin Hearne
The Key to Starveldt, by Foz Meadows.
Haven, by Joel Shepherd.
The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff
The Wild Ways, by Tanya Huff
London Falling, by Paul Cornell.
Gamers' Quest, by George Ivanoff
The Killing Moon, by N K Jemisin.
The Shadowed Sun, by N K Jemisin.

PS Happy New Year, everyone !

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Current Mood: calmcalm

(1 touche | En garde !)

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