Monday, December 3, 2012

Disney World Trip recap

So since January of this year, Jennie and I had started talking about a trip to Disney World.  She had planned on going with her mom and brother and I was invited along.  In March, we started to plan things such as what restaurants we wanted to eat at, what parks we wanted to go to.  So it was almost 10 months by the time that we left on a plane heading for Orlando on a cool October Saturday morning.

One of the key items in planning the trip was we wanted to stay onsite.  We looked at our options and chose the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.  It is the smallest of Disney's Moderate Resorts.  I had stayed at the Riverside resort while I was in college and always wanted to stay at the French Quarter.  Our flight got in early and we hopped onto the Disney Magical Express to the resort.  We arrived at the hotel and checked in.  While its a small resort by Disney standards, they are still pretty large.  Most Disney resorts have a central building, housing the restaurants, bars, gift shop, and registration.  Our room was right on the corner of the closest building to the main building on the second floor.  After dropping the bags, we headed off to Animal Kingdom.

We had lunch scheduled for the Tusker House Restaurant in the park.  We got to the park early and rode the safari ride.  It was still early in the day and the animals were all out.  Then it was lunch time.  We got our picture taken with Donald in his safari gear during our wait.  The meal was a buffet and everything I had there was delicious.  Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, and Goofy were wandering around and we got pictures with each of them.  After the meal, we walked around the park.  We rode Expedition Everest.  My back and rib cage hurt after the rid as I was holding on for dear life.  I'm not a big roller coaster fan.  After riding Everest we headed back to the rooms and our luggage had arrived.  We unpacked, got a little rest, and then headed to EPCOT for dinner.  We had reservations at La Hacienda de San Angel.  Now that was a meal I won't forget.  The evening ended with the fireworks show after dinner and then back to the room to crash.

The following day we headed down the west coast of Florida to spend the day with Jennie's family.  We got back late and headed to Downtown Disney.  We didn't have a lot of time there before the last boat so we walked around for a bit before heading back to the room.

Monday was EPCOT.  We hit most of the rides in the park.  Lunch was great at Chefs de France.  Chef Remy came by to make sure our food was up to snuff.  Dinner was at the hibachi in the Japan exhibit.  Jennie has wanted to go there on her last trip and she was unable to eat there so that was a priority.  During the afternoon, I had a little stomach bug and had to do the search for some sort of medication.  While searching for Pepto, Jennie's mom and brother met up with some other members of her family.  We eventually caught up with them before dinner.

Tuesday, we went to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The ride in Hogwarts was... well, I rode it, but I was getting motion sick from the start, so I closed my eyes and hung on.  What parts I did open my eyes for was cool, but I to close my eyes again.  After that ride, we got some Butterbeer... YUM!  Jennie and Damien went to ride the Dueling Dragons Challenge.  They rode both coasters, and Damien was feeling like I did after the first ride.  We walked around Universal and hit the Dr. Seuss rides.  We didn't feel like doing other rides, but just wandered around for a bit.  We headed back in the afternoon and I think I took a well needed nap.  That evening was Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

For MNSSHP, which is a special admission ticket, Disney changes up the Magic Kingdom just a bit.  There is a special villains show and parade.  There is trick-or-treating around the park.   We took the opportunity to ride the rides during the first parade.  Rides that would normally have an hour plus wait we were on in a few minutes.  Then after getting a bite to eat we grabbed a spot in front of Cinderella's Castle to view the parade.  We were in perfect position to view the villains show while waiting.  The parade was cool and we got some treats that they were passing out.  I have video of almost the whole parade.

Wednesday was back to the Magic Kingdom, but first, we had breakfast at the Polynesian Resort, for the O'hana breakfast with Lilo and Stitch.  Just seeing Jennie's smile at seeing a life size Stitch was awesome.  I also made sure to ask Lilo if she had fed Pudge that morning, so we'd have good weather.  Lunch was at Tony's Town Tavern, an Italian Restaurant themed after the restaurant in the Lady and the Tramp.  Lunch was very good.  After touring the park all day, we went back to the room to get off our feet.  We got changed for dinner and then went back to the Magic Kingdom to have dinner in Cinderella's Castle.

Thursday saw us meet back up with Jennie's family at Hollywood Studios.  We rode Star Tours often.  Lunch was at the Sci Fi Dine In Theater.  This was my least favorite meal of the vacation.  The concept was great, the food good, but I just felt very rushed.  After lunch we met up with Jennie's family.  We rode Star Tours again, saw Muppetvision 3-D, and more.  Dinner was at the 50's Prime Time Cafe.  That was the most fun meal of the vacation.  Let me forewarn anyone, if you go there, finish your veggies, and don't put your elbows on the table.  We had a lot of good laughs during this meal.

For Friday, we were back at the Magic Kingdom.  Breakfast was at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and Friends.  Jennie and I share an affinity for Piglet and it was great to walk up Main Street USA with no one in site as we were in the park before opening.  After a long day, dinner was at Artist's Point in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, one of Walt Disney Worlds signature restaurants.  The food there was AMAZING.  After dinner we headed to Downtown Disney.  Traffic was getting backed up all over Walt Disney World, due to VP Biden's arrival.  Our bus driver got us around the jams and at one point we saw the VP's motorcade heading to the Grand Floridian.  If our bus driver had not taken a few detours, we would have been stuck sitting in traffic for a while.  When we got to our destination, everyone on the bus thanked the driver.  We took the ferry ride back to our resort.

Saturday, our last day at Disney World.  We hit 3 parks to catch those things we wanted to see but had missed.  We started at Animal Kingdom, and hit the Finding Nemo musical.  It was so worth going back there just to see that show.  Then it was off to EPCOT for lunch at the Rose and Crown in the UK exhibit.  Then it was a monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom for a last tour up and down Main Street USA.  Dinner was at the Polynesian Resorts, Luau dinner and show.  Let's just say, the show was good, the food.... eh.  But it was a good way to end the vacation.  We took a cab back to our hotel to retrieve the bags and then headed to the airport.  We had an early morning flight, so I booked rooms at the hotel that is right in the airport terminal.  Waking up, we just had to go downstairs and we were in the airport.  It sure beat waking up at 4:00 AM for our flight.

All in all, I had a great time and can't wait to go back again.  If you didn't realize this fact while reading my recap, we had planned our vacation around where we were going to eat.  I was very happy with the food at Disney World.  We had purchased the Deluxe Dining Package, which included three meals per day at almost any restaurant onsite.  While it was not a cheap option, we certainly got our value out of it.

Best Food:

  1. La Hacienda de San Angel (EPCOT)
  2. Artist's Point (Wilderness Lodge)
  3. Chefs de France (EPCOT)
  4. Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)
  5. 50's Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios) *
  6. Teppan Edo (EPCOT)
  7. Tony's Town Tavern (Magic Kingdom)
  8. Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
  9. Crystal Palace Breakfast (Magic Kingdom)
  10. O'hana Breakfast (Polynesian)
  11. Sci Fi Dine In Theater (Hollywood Studios)
  12. Spirit of Aloha Luau (Polynesian)
It's not fair to list the breakfasts at Crystal Plaza and O'hana and trying to compare then to the other meals since the menus are so different.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Practice Report - 11/29/12

First practice since the surgery and it went ok; not great, not too terrible.There were only three other fencers there, Brendan Firebow, Gaspar Perrera, and Antonio Patrasso.    I switch back to using a blade length I was familiar with, and I found my sense of distance to be a whole lot better than it was at 100 Minutes War. I think the change in blade length back to something I've used for years is the right call.  Now I just need to work on my stamina.  My arm and body was getting fatigued quickly.  I think I was also over gripping my blade as my hand was hurting.  Some things to work on as always.

Turnout at practice has been getting lighter and lighter over the past few months.  I think a lot of that has to do with the space we are using as it has no heat.  It was cold out last night and inside the space we are fencing in, it was not much warmer.  They are framing out the walls to get insulation and heat in there, but I'm not sure how soon that will be completed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

100 Minutes War

So 100 Minutes War came and went.  The day was warm for this event, the last outdoor fencing I typically do for the year.  Honestly, I wasn't that excited for the event.  I had a miserable night of sleep and the day started with a comedy of errors, but I had packed my rapier gear.

This was my first time back fencing since prior to my surgery in September.  Not to take anything away from those I faced, but I felt rusty as hell.  My point was not going where I intended and my control over my own distance was lacking.  I was setting up way to close, as pointed out by Merryke.  Add to the mental/physical rust factor the very recent change in blade length and not only was I battling the rust but all the muscle memory built up by using a longer sword.  I think for the time being that I am going to switch back to the blade I am familiar with while I try to get back into form.  Once I feel I am closer to fencing near where I was at, I'll start to mix in the shorter blade.

So I geared up and sought out someone who would be a good measuring stick to see where I was at.  My first passes were with Remy.  I have not fought Remy much.  The last time was at the investiture in Carolingia.  It was a fun couple of passes, but it sucks when you see where your point is going, only to come up a few inches too short.  Good thing was remembering to use my dagger, as a few times, I was able to close and get my dagger in for the kill.  At least that was a plus.  After a break I sought out Merryke and I was setting up way too close against him.  I noticed this during a few passes and made a conscious effort to stay at proper distance, but it was not happening when we would engage.  So I have more than a few things to work on.

After getting some warm ups in, I had to go do some official stuff as a reporter from Maxim Magazine had showed up on site.  I met him and made sure to introduce him to the local seneschal, also inquiring about the focus of his piece which is to be on armored combat.  This should be in the March issue I believe.

Upon my return to the fencing field, they started selecting teams.  Alexander went for the shortest women he could when given a choice.  It was an interesting strategy.  I was selected to be on his team and named one of his sub commanders for the first battle.  It was a 50 minute game of capture the flag.  We lost the flag at the 25 minute mark and were down 0-1.  We switch sides and this time Caine and I were set out to freelance for a bit.  On the opening, we made our way down, engaged a few, and Caine was taken out.  I got all the way to the opponent's flag, but with no backup, all I could do was harass the opposition.  I took out Retep and then lo and behold, Alexander and Quinn showed up.  We were out numbered 4-3, but the flag was right there.  Alexander took one out and then casually grabbed the flag and sauntered off.  Quinn and I still commander the oppositions attention, so they never noticed the big man wearing periwinkle walking away with their flag.  So their flag was on its way back to even the score up, however, the opposition had gained our flag.  Fighting was fierce and I was able to get near our side's flag but not close enough to recover it.  The time ran out and the second battle was a stalemate.  So we lost 0-1 in points, but it was some fun melee.  Afterwards, during the debriefing, I needed some food and water, so I headed over to get some.  They were going to run more melees or something, but I was tired and hungry, so Jennie and I packed up our stuff and headed out.

Overall, I had fun.  It is going to be a struggle to knock the rust off.  I also need to drop some weight too...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

River Wars

I had a blast at River Wars.  This was my first event post-surgery and I'm not yet cleared to fence.  I didn't even bother packing any of my fencing gear with me.  I packed garb and the glass bead making supplies Jennie bought for us.  Since we had no commitments at the event, we left at a reasonable time.  When Antonio and Elizabeth (Stacey) arrived on site, we had just left a bakery where we got breakfast.  We still had an almost 2 hour drive at that point.

Arriving onsite, we set up our glass working stuff under a covered pavilion where the fencers had dropped their stuff.  Elizabeth had also brought her stuff, so we had three stations set up on a picnic table.  It was a pleasant day, but a little breezy, so it made working very nice.  Sitting by a hot torch, I stayed warm.  Lissa saw us setting up and said it was always something she wanted to try, so after my first few beads, I let her jump in.  We gave her some instructions and off she went making beads.  I think she had fun as she has now ordered a starter kit for bead making.

Beads made by Molle and Owynn at River Wars
Adolphus had brought his friend Ben to River Wars, Ben's first ever SCA event.  I asked if he wanted to try it out.  I gave him the quick primer, and then Elizabeth supervised him.  He was having a blast as he made 5 beads while sitting with us.  His smile was infectious.  At the end of the day, he was able to take 4 beads home with him; we're not sure where the last one went to.  I think its pretty cool that someone brand new to our organization could walk away from the event with something made by their own hand.  At the end of the day, all three stations ran out of gas at about the same time.

It was somewhat odd not to be fencing or even marshaling at an event.  I was able to just sit back, relax, be artsy and creative.  I like the process of bead making as its mechanical, somewhat instant gratification, and there is almost no way to screw it up.  Glass is a forgiving medium at the level I am working at.  Unfortunately, two of Jennie's beads broke when taking them off the mandrels.

After the event, we went to dinner with Engracia and Tom.  I had a wonderful vanilla porter, which was on tap.  Jennie had a delicious apricot beer, while Engracia had a pumpkin ale.  The beer was better than the food, and the company was even better.  After the long drive home, we crashed hard.  It was a good day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


So this may be a little graphic in terms of medical stuff for some.  If you get squeamish, then I suggest you stop reading and move on to something more enjoyable.

Now that you have been warned....

The week prior to Barony Wars I went to see a doctor about removing a sebaceous cyst I had on my back/left shoulder.  It had been there for about 18 years or so.  My doctor (who happens to be my dad) told me that if it didn't bother me, there is no reason to get it removed.  Well, it was not bothering me, but had grown and now I wanted it gone for aesthetic reasons.  So on Wednesday, I go see the surgeon to discuss options about removal.  He said the same, if its not bothering you, no real hurry or reason to remove it.  So leaving the office I scheduled an appointment for early November.  This would have allowed me to get through my Disney vacation and not miss a whole lot of fencing time.  And fencing has been one of the reasons I had been putting having the cyst removed.  I didn't want to do it in the winter, and then have it still healing during Mudthaw.  I didn't want to do it in the spring and not be fencing at events.  I didn't want to do it over the summer and be healing at Pennsic.  So on and so forth I justified my position to myself for a number of years.

Drive up to Barony Wars, I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the cyst aching.  Not a full out hurt, but it was sore.  By Sunday night, when I had gotten home, it was red and had grown larger.  I called to move my surgery up to the next week, September 18th.  The pain kept getting worse and worse.  The only way to describe the pain by Thursday and Friday of that week was, it felt like bones were being broken.  Yes, it hurt that much.  Friday night, my parents played night time golf at their club.  By the time they got home, Jennie was very concerned as I was now also feverish.  My dad took one look at it and called a friend from the golf course, another surgeon who had recommended the one I had visited the prior week.  He told my dad to bring me in Saturday morning.

So Saturday morning rolls around and my dad, my mom, Jennie, and I go to see the surgeon.  He looked at it and said it needed to be opened and drained to relieve the pressure before it bursts.  Now if there is one thing I am afraid of, its needles.  Terrified of them in fact.  They got me on the exam table, used a numbing spray and then used a local anesthetic to dull the pain.  He then proceeded to relieve the pressure and drained the cyst.   Let's just say it was not something I ever want to do again.  But I got through it.

He didn't clean it out fully as I'd be going in for surgery in a few days, so they could do it under general anesthesia in an operating room, not on an exam table.  So Tuesday rolls around and back to the doctor's office I go.  I had to get changed into one of those silly gowns.  And then they brought me to the chair.  You may know the chair if you've ever had an IV put in.  Big industrial looking thing.  So I explained to the nurse about my fear of needles.  I told her I go into fight or flight.  So she asked me if its ever gotten violent.  I said "No, and I'd really like to keep it that way" to which she agreed...

Of course there was one time I almost punched my dad when he was standing between me and a doorway when someone was trying to draw blood a few years ago... but I digress.

So it took three people to get the IV in me.  The nurse to start the IV, the anesthesiologist held my arm down (gently) so I would not move accidentally, and another nice doctor who talked to me, held my hand, and distracted me while it was done.  After that I was still shaking, so they gave me a sedative.  They had to wheel me into the OR, and then asked me to climb onto the operating table.  I remember trying to get on the table as the last thing before waking up in the recovery room.

So its now been a week and a half since the surgery.  Things are healing nicely.  My dressing needs to be changed daily, but thankfully, I live with a doctor.  Because they had to drain the infection, they were not able to stitch me up and close the incision, so its healing on its own.  Hopefully I'll be fencing in a few more weeks.  By my Disney trip, I hope not to have to have it packed any more.  It actually feels pretty good.  The only bad part is after the dressing is changed, I am sore for a while.

So that is the current state of me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Barony Wars - Part 2

So part two of the epic journey into Aethelmearc.  I traveled to the event with Jennie, my girlfriend, and Ray (Sean MacPherson in the SCA).  We got on the road late on Friday and had a hotel room nearby.  So did a couple of other Scadians, William Deth and Rhiannon the Curious.  Ray saw them Friday night, and we ran into them again Saturday morning.  This will be referenced later.  The hotel was.... adequate.  It had two beds, a bathroom, and was clean enough.  The bed and pillows were hard as rocks.  I slept like the dead Friday night after the drive.

Saturday, we got onsite and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of fencers in attendance.  It was a great turn out.  The Tadcasters brought a large group up from the Philly area.  there were five from the Albany Area, a few other Eastern Fencers here and there.  There were a good number from Aethelmearc as well.  I'm not sure if that was because their crown was making a new white scarf, but there was a good number of fencers both those I know and those I am unfamiliar with.  This made for some great fencing both in the organized stuff and in pickups.  Every corner of the fencing field was being used for pickups after the tournaments and melees.  

At court, Po was admitted to the order of the white scarf.  I would not have missed that for the world.  It was filled with all the schtick one would expect from Po.  After court, discussions were had on dinner.  Will and Rhi had seen a place in the town we were staying at that was named "Angus and Ale".  Can you think of anything better after a good event?

So back to the hotel we went.  I got showered up and changed, and off to dinner in Sidney, NY.  I passed by the place following Will and didn't even see it.  We walked in and I was surprised.  The greeter/manager forgot to assign a waitress to our table so they pulled in someone who worked there, but was on her night off  and sitting at the attached pub having a few drinks to come wait on us.  She was a trip and while the food was excellent, incredible perhaps, the service was fun and friendly, and not stuffy, which looking at teh decor and place, would have been appropriate   After getting back to teh hotel I think I was out before I hit the sheets.

The drive back, I stuck to the interstates, and we were making such good time, we detoured to teh warren County 4-H Renn Faire that our local SCA group was doing a demo at.  I did a little fencing, before getting buckler punched by Sir Jan, in his first attempt at SCA Rapier.  I was not feeling great after that.  My chest and shoulder were hurting.  So I stopped fencing and we headed for home soon thereafter making fro one wonderful weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Barony Wars - Part 1

Holy cow, what a great time...  I am so glad I went for many reasons.  First off, Baron Gunner of Endless Hill in Aethelmearc has been trying to get me to come to this event for a few years now.  At this Pennsic, I was told a good friend, a brother in arms and then some, was to be elevated to the Order of the White Scarf.  Po and I had a bet running for a few years now.  I bet him that he would receive a White Scarf before I would be elevated to the Order of the Golden Rapier.  He was sure I would elevated prior to him.  So we made a bet based on the above.  He who lost the bet would owe the other a bottle of rum.  I'm so very proud of my friend, and will be glad to get that bottle of rum.

So I made a deal with Baron Gunner.  To fight for Endless Hills, he was to pay Sean and I one bottle of Honey Jack.  So we get on site and ask Gunner if he has our payment.  He didn't, but we would have fought for him anyway.  But when I saw the sides line up, Concordia had five fencers.  So I switched over to fight for Baron Pierre.  Sean came over as well.  Since we had not been paid, we were not breaking our contract.  Now we were at seven for our side.  A target rich environment.

The first tourney was a baronial champions tourney, then followed by a tourney with some strange rules.  Basically you fought one or two bouts, losers were out of the tournament.   Winner was the side with he last people standing.  We were at a disadvantage due to numbers.  Pierre sent me out against Jinx for my first bout.  She had wanted to do some passes with me, but due to weather cutting things short, I at least got one bout in with her.  Then Deftwood threw Dorinda out against me.  During the fight, I thought, win or lose, this has been one of those epic fights.  There was a beautiful conversation of blades and bodies happening.  I was smiling inside.  We outlasted three other fights in the second list.  back and forth, each trying for a little advantage.  Eventually, I seized on an advantage and won the fight.  I was beaming when I left the list.  Not because I had won, well that too, but because it was one of those fights that are the reason you pick up a rapier in the first place.

I then went on to win a few more bouts.  I hit one opponent with a buckler pretty hard in the mask.  I was holding my blade low, blocked from his view by his buckler.  He leaned over while stepping in as I was throwing the rising shot.  Caught him square in the face.  I immediately apologized and offered to refight the bout which he took me up on.  This time I was able to land a nicely calibrated blow to his body.

Eventually, it was JP, Sean, and I left for our side while the other groups had some numbers remaining.  I was the first one to lose of the three of us.  JP and Sean eliminated the remaining Delftwood fencers, and many of the Endless Hills army.  Eventually, Ian took out JP, and Mark took out Sean.  But damn, what a showing for the smallest team.

Then onto melees, where we teamed up with Delftwood against Endless Hills.  If we won, we'd then face Delftwood in capture the flag for the point.  We won the first battle.  Concordia was the reserve unit, and after the initial engagement, we stormed the center.  We were able to overwhelm the enemy and turn their backs to get a lot of DFBs.  Against Delftoow, we were 6 on 12.  We almost had them.  It was closer than it should have been given the numbers.

After the organized stuff, I did some pickups with Christian, current Queen's champion of Aethelmearc and Dorinda.  Christian kicked my ass three ways from Sunday and gave me some ideas to think about. Dorinda was more of the same from our earlier passes.

Well, I'm getting tired.  I'll post Part 2 tomorrow....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Practice Report - 9/6/12

At practice last night, I was not really up for fencing, but I am sure glad I did.  I was in somewhat of a tired funk after the commute and work.  FYI- the commute is at least 90 minutes each way.  Normally, I try to avoid going into the office at all costs, but seeing as how the last time I was in the office was just after Pennsic, and I had not seen my boss or held a client status meeting with her in almost 2 months, I figured it would be good to show my face.

So I got to practice, and just hung around for a bit at the start.  I grabbed my gear out of the trunk and suited up.  My first fight was against one of our newer fencers.  He's been coming to practice for about 3-4 months now.  He's got the basics down, now its just refining it.  I noticed with him that he was holding his sword not in a proper 3/6 or 4, but was sort of letting it wander in between the wards.  This allowed me to really take advantage of the line on either side of his sword, by gaining the blade and pushing against his foible with my forte.  After some time, I showed him what was working for me and why.

My second fight was against someone who has been fencing for two years or so at this point.  He has made a big leap over the past few months.  It doesn't hurt that there is a lot less of him than there used to be.  We went on the floor with rapiers and daggers.  I loved the aggressiveness he was showing against me.  He was not afraid to take the fight to me, but I noticed when he was setting up, his sword arm elbow was kicked out as well as his hand.  This opened up the line in 4 for me, and I was able to take advantage of it repeatedly.  I was also able to work the 4 to 3 shot with a slight step with my front foot to my left, further taking me away from his dagger.  I could see the frustration mounting inside him, so we stopped for a moment, talked, and resumed.  Afterward, I explained to him what I was seeing and why I thought it was working and what I would do to correct that.

My third fight was against Malcolm's cadet.  Jehane has been preoccupied with work and battling injuries, so she has not been fencing much recently.  She was rusty and it showed but that rustiness caused a challenge for me as her responses to my actions were sometimes unexpected.  This made me cautious and it was a good thing for me.

My last fight of the evening was Mabel, Antonio's student.  She has the background of a modern saber fencer.  I was able to get her moving her blade a lot by disengaging with no blade contact.  This was causing her point to wander and her arm to get tired, so she'd bring her elbow back in towards her body, at which point her parries had nothing on them, and I was easily getting my foible beyond even her forte.  Again, after the bout I showed her what I saw and why.

So it got me thinking about training and coaching.  Some people are adepts of the school of thought of teach via doing drills.  Others come from the school of hard knocks (let the student figure it out themselves).  Others a combination.  Me, I'm a better student when I understand not only the body mechanics (the drills), but also the reason why something works.  Typically, I'll notice something when working with a newer fencer and try to exploit what I see.  If they do the same thing and it is ineffective against me, I will typically stop fencing and go into teacher mode.  Against a more skilled opponent, I might try the same thing over and over again from different setups.  One one hand, I want to see what their reaction is; on the other I want to work on something to add to my skill set.  If they ask me what am I doing, I'll explain it.

So that leads me to the following question:  How do you learn best?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Satisfied customers

Well deliveries for the first two customers occurred tonight and both were very happy.  Yeah us.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Purpleheart Handles

 Today, I made two new handles.  I used a blank of Purpleheart for each of these.  These blanks of purplehart have much more of a brownish tint, however in some light, you can definitely see the purple tinge.  I was able to get the drill press working for drilling out the holes for the tang.  This should make the process that much better.
This handle is for Brendan Firebow's Popinjay rapier.   It replaced a round  handle that originally came with the blade.  

This is my 30" Darkwood rapier.  As detailed in an earlier post, I swapped out the original handle on this to my 38" Darkwood clam shell.

These handles just have a finish of Tung Oil on them.  They really look great.  I feel productive.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Get a Grip - Custom Rapier Handles

So today I went to pick up a new band saw at Harbor Freight.  The local store was out of the table top one, and the Ryobi band saw was only $10, but I was running late and Ray Edwards was already at my house waiting for me.  So Jennie and I picked Ray up, we had lunch, and then it was off to Home Depot.  Got the band saw and the lines for the cashiers were long, so to self checkout we go.  I lifted the band saw up and scanned it.  Jennie hoisted it back into the cart, and the guy working the self checkout line said to her "Did you just lift that all by yourself?  Damn!" to which she replied the affirmative.  He was impressed, and she continues to impress me daily.  So back home we go and unpack the band saw.

Box Edler Burl
We tried to turn a handle on the lathe, but trying to use a rectangular stock just wasn't working.  I tried to cut it down on the chop saw and the piece sort of exploded.  Thank god for quick reaction.  So Jennie and I went out to pick up a few more supplies and stuff for dinner.  While we were gone, Ray was able to start and complete the Box Edler Burl grip for his rapier.

Redheart Handles

We then cut the Redheart for Don Orlando's grips.  As you can see, the Redheart makes for a gorgeous handle.  Ray did most of the work on these.

Argentine Osange Orange

For Brendan Firebow, we used the Argentine Osage Orange.  This was a long grip, measuring just about 5" long.  I did the majority of the work on this grip.
Work completed on August 26, 2012
So we were able to get four new handles done, and I am very happy with how each one turned out.  So if you're for a way to make your rapier stand out, let us know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This picture is what first got me interested in fencing.  Every time I fence, there is that little kid inside me saying "Touche, monsieur pussycat!"

Practice Report - 8/23/12

Last night had a good turnout for practice.  Too bad I was unable to fence.  Joining the usual attendees were Lord Po from Aethelmearc, Don Andre and Eldrich from Iron Bog, and a lady from CAID (who's name I did not catch).

For those who don't know, Lord Po is on a mission, assigned by the Queen of Aethelmearc, to secure words from 10 White Scarfs, OGRs, or their equivalent.  Last night, he was able to add three more signatures to his book, Sir Antonio, Don Andre, and Don Orlando.  He now only needs one more name to complete his quest.

Me, I was on the sidelines, spectating, wishing I could have been out there, but better to sacrifice a week than risk further injury.  I was showing off my wood yesterday.  It was in a box.  There were some really nice pieces that were delivered.  We'll be making a matched set of Redheart handles for Orlando.  Also going to making a set of handles for Firebow (not sure out of which wood).  We should be making the handles on Sunday, so if anyone wants to come over for a day of woodworking, let me know.  Oh, and I'm going to be picking up a band saw to help in this endeavor.

As for practice last night, it was good to see Jehane.  She had not fenced in about 6 months due to injury.  It was funny as she looked at Adam and Ralph, asking who they were.  These are our newest crop who have stuck with it.  Both are coming along nicely and having a lot of fun with it (since they keep returning).  I told them to read up on the rules, as they are both at the point where they are more than ready to authorize (I think).

In other news, I will be running fencing at White Mare's Bones in the Shire of Frosted Hills (Wappinger's Falls, NY) on Saturday, September 1st.  So come on out for a nice day by the river and fence your butt off.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good and Bad

So today has been a good and bad day...

Good:  Day off from work
Bad:    Had to take a sick day as I barely slept due to my back acting up.  I think this may be partially due to bowling on Saturday.  My ankle was bothering me Sunday to Tuesday and I was limping, which means I was not walking properly, which aggravated something in my back, and now I have strained the sacroiliac joint in my pelvis, and its mighty painful.

Good:  Made a leather piece for Malcolm's dagger to help protect his hand.
Bad:     Spilled green leather dye on my hand.  Got most of it off except around the nails

Good:  Going to practice tonight.
Bad:     Not going to be fencing due to the back.

Good:  Having Percocet for the back.
Bad:    Not able to drive to get a massage while on painkillers.

Good:  Order of exotic woods arrived.  (Yes, I have wood!)
Bad:    Not being able to take a piece down to the wood shop to make a handle out of it yet, due to being on painkillers and working with power tools.  Its just a bad combination.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I got wood

I just ordered a bunch of knife and pen blanks in different woods for turning into rapier handles.
Box Elder Burl
Black Palm
Brown Ebony
East Indian Rosewood
Argentine Lignum Vitae
Argentine Osage Orange

Monday, August 20, 2012


So no one showed up for stretching tonight so i did a half hour of it by myself.  I think yoga would be good for me.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Practice Report - 8/16/2012

 First practice since Pennsic and my rediscovery of my joy for the duel.  It was a good turnout last night especially for being the week after Pennsic.  People wanted to fence, which was nice.  We started the night outside reinspecting weapons and making slight modifications to new gear.  People showed off Pennsic purchases, Antonio with his new Darkwood blade, me with the new dagger, etc...

So onto the fencing, as that is what I'm blogging about.  I had some trouble establishing my distance with the new blade.  5" doesn't really sound that much in the grand scheme of life.  It is a little more than half the length of my foot.  But finding my distance was what I was working on last night and will need to continue to work on.  I felt like I was setting up way too close in most of my bouts.  I fought Malcolm and was unable to keep him from closing the distance in the later fights, which resulted in fun but ugly kills both ways.  Against Orlando, I felt better, but still coming up shorter than I wanted to and setting up too close.  I need to take half a step back and relearn how to close the distance.  Antonio had me me wishing for the 43" blade just to keep him at bay a little longer.  I was in that space where no one wants to be, where he could reach me and I could not reach him.  I tried to work the cross parry with the dagger against him to keep my blade free.   Eventually he wound up hitting me with an un-tippedl blade in the left arm, as his tip had gotten caught in the guard of my rapier.  OUCH...

With that I called it a night.  I iced the arm, and this morning, thankfully there is only a small bruise.  

Monday evening a few of us are getting together to work on core strength, balance, stretching, and stamina.  Anyone have suggestions for exercises?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reshaped grip

So this is the reshaped grip for my 30" rapier.  I set up the new sander and used the belt to flatten out the two sides and then used the disc portion to smooth out the transition.  Putting the grip into a clamp helped to save my fingers for the rough shaping, but I had to take it out for the smoothing as it was just to tight to work with otherwise.  This change feels much better than the round grip it was prior.

Repairs and fixes

There will be fencing tonight.  My gear is not where I want it as detailed a little bit yesterday.  With work being light this afternoon, I took a few minutes to go down to the shop to make some fixes.

First up, I swapped the grip from my 30" blade onto the new primary.  This meant I did not have a handle on the 30".  But I had an extra handle though it would not fit, due to the 30" having a wide tang.  So I tried to file it down from the inside using a set of needle files.  That was not working, so I broke out the power tools.  I found the width I needed (1/2") and made a mark with painters tape on the shank of the drill so I would not go too deep with it.  If my drill press had a longer throw, I would have used that, but alas, I used a cordless drill.  Test fitting the newly drilled handle it still didn't fit just right, so I used a 3/8" bit to create a little more room at the shoulder.  Once that was done, I needed to cut down the handle to size, so to the chop saw I went.  Test fitting again, and I needed to used a few leather spacers to get the fit just right.  I'm not satisfied with the grip as its perfectly round and I prefer a more oval grip, so after work, I'm going to break out the new sander I just picked up over lunch and work on that.  

Next up was fitting a better handle to the new dagger I just got.  I broke out the new tap and die set and proceeded to cut new threads in the tang so that I could mount a shorter grip on the dagger.  It was easier work than I expected.  Then it was measure the grip and cut the tang.  I used a large bolt cutter to cut the tang.  I then beveled the new end on my grinder and tapped the end again to clean up the thread alignment.  As I left the tang a bit long for the intended pommel, I had to cut, grind, and tap the tang one more time.  Almost perfect, I used a leather washer between the pommel and grip to make up for any slop.

I taped a new tip onto the new 38" blade.  I also took all the tape off the 30" blade and was going to tape a new tip on.  When I took the tip off, the washer I had in there came out in two pieces.  I am not sure how long ago the washer split, but the tip was in good condition, so I put a new washer in and taped it on.

For sanding down the sides of the grip, I figure I am going to use a clamp from both ends of the grip so that way my fingers will not be near the sanding surface.  Then it will just be flip the grip in the clamp and sand the other side.  A little finish sanding and I think it should be good to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fencing Related Projects

On tap for this coming year in terms of fencing related projects:
  • Turning new handles for my rapiers

    • I'm not satisfied with the grip I purchased on the new dagger, and I've always wanted to learn how to use a lathe to turn wood, so since I have a lathe, found a site for exotic woods, have access to a pretty decent wood shop in the basement, Ray and I are going to be making some nice grips.
    • Somewhat related to this is I want to make a set of plates, bowls, and drinking vessels for feast gear.
  • New buckler
    • I'm hoping to use my knight/pelican's metal shop to pound out a wavy metal buckler in the style of Marozzo.  I made one in leather, and it was my first leather tooling project ever, but I always wanted to make a metal one.
  • New rapier belt
    • Since I took a lateral transfer from squire to protege under the same peer, I'm thinking I may need to make a new rapier hanger and belt.
  • New garb
    • I'm learning how to sew and helped Jennie make some new Viking apron dresses prior to Pennsic.  I think its time I stopped buying garb and learned how to make some of it myself.  Maybe make myself some pretty fencing garb from linen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Weapons

So continuing the thread for stuff at Pennsic,

I picked up a new dagger, well acquired the guard in a trade for future considerations via Ray.  It matches my Darkwood rapier with the clam shell motif.  But Darkwood blades are so expensive so I got a blade, pommel, and grip for it from Zen Warrior (Triplette).  The grip is massive and long.  I'm going to have to do some work on it to get it to a profile I like.  The tang is long too, so I picked up a tap and die set last night from Harbor Freight so I can cut the tang down and put new threads on so it works better.  The dagger blade is much stiffer than the Alchem Safe-flex blade I am used to.

Speaking of my Alchem dagger, I loaned it to Ray during the terrain battle.  Someone chopped down at him and he used the blade to parry the shot (thankfully).  It cleaved the dagger blade in two.  It didn't pop the blade out of the mount it was epoxied into, but actually snapped the blade in two.  So I took the rig to Zen Warrior and had them mount a new dagger blade to the rig.  Again, its a lot stiffer than what I am used to.

On Friday, I picked up a new rapier blade from Darkwood to replace the Hanwei blade I had been using in my primary sword.  It originally came with a truck leaf spring thick Darkwood blade which I replaced with a Hanwei 43" blade.  I'm dropping the length down to a 38" blade.  We shall see how this works out.

So do I order a new dagger blade from Alchem?  Last time I ordered from them, I had to threaten a lawsuit to get what I ordered.

One Duelist's Tale

Its the first time in many years where I have come back from a Pennsic excited about fencing.  It was a good Pennsic, a relaxed Pennsic, one that has re-instilled something I think I lost over the last few years.  At this year's Pennsic, I did more fencing than I had in past years.  Still not as much as I would have hoped to do, but it was better quality than what I have been putting out there.  I can trace the a-ha moment when things seemed to click for me and I rediscovered my love for the fight... but more on that later.

I started SCA rapier in December of 2002 as a way of continuing to rehab from an ankle injury.  At the time, I was out of work, 10 years younger than I am today, and was able to hit 2-3 practices a week.  Usually it was the South Orange and Piscataway practices.  At the time, South Orange for me was focusing on drills and technique and Piscataway allowed me to play more and bout.  I fenced a lot of single rapier for a while, authorizing in April of 2003.  My goal was to just have fun, but soon discovered that winning was more fun for me than losing.  After my first Pennsic, I set a goal of being on the East Kingdom Rapier Champions team.  This is still one of my continuing goals when it comes to SCA rapier.  I want to be considered among the best in the kingdom and the SCA.

The second goal for me is to be named as a companion of the Order of the Golden Rapier.  Again, this is to be accepted into an order for the best in the kingdom.  Acceptance in a group has always been something that I have strived for, that feeling of belonging.  I can get into a whole lot of regression and therapy here, but lets just say that I've felt like I have had to fight for acceptance in every group I have belonged to.  From childhood until today, I have always been a shy person, who no matter what has always felt on the outside, having to battle my way to being accepted.  I know in the past that some have called me arrogant while on and off the field.  Well that was a shell I used to protect myself.  Over the last year, I have learned to open up a lot more.

A few years ago, I set another goal, which is to be named Queen's Champion of Rapier.  While anyone can have a great day in a list and take the overall tournament, I want to be the guy that people look at and think he's good, honorable, clean... all the virtues that one would associate with the selection.  This is a much harder goal, but one I try to take with me in every tournament, practice, and melee.

So where was I after this diatribe....

Pennsic... something clicked there this year and I actually had fun.  It had been a while since I have come back from Pennsic more excite than before going to Pennsic.  I only had a couple of issues with calibration, once in the cadet tournament with a guy from Northshield who had he hit me with the chop I took on the dagger would have probably broken my wrist, and a weird shot over and around a dead guy in the first field battle where the blade was not able to bend due to the person between us.

This year I was tapped to be Co-Commander of the Southern Region Rapier Army with Griffith.  To celebrate, the week before Pennsic, a few of us made a Southern Region Army banner (Molle, Antionio, Malcolm, Charity, and myself).  I flew the banner on the edge of the field during the town battle on Monday. During the armored battle, I tied it to Baron Jabril's spear so he could carry it in as the commander of the Southern Region's armored units.  The banner got a little war torn, so we got it repaired and I got a pole to hoist it on.  Prior to Tuesday's terrain battle (building/broken field/open field), I had asked Baron Larry if after I carried it into the fight, he would grab it and carry it back in.  Later in the melee, Lilia carried the banner back into the fight.  It was awesome to see people having fun.

As for command, this year was really easy as our major ally was the Midrealm.  We know what they do well, they know what we do well, so planning the battle strategy was pretty simple.  Both generals had very similar ideas on how to use our forces.  It was a real pleasure fighting along side our 40 year enemy for the first time.  I'm hoping that there is a rotation among the new principal kingdoms so that every three years, the East would get to fight with Aelthelmearc, Atlantia, or the Midrealm.

I actually got to fence in a tourney this year.  I've organized the Don/Dona & cadet tournaments for the past 3 years.  For the cadet tournament, Edmund agreed to be marshal in charge so that I could fence in it.  JP has been a tremendous help in organizing the tournament so that it runs fast and is fun.  Without the two of them, I would have been stuck.  Oh, and let me not forget to thank Master Liam, who came to help out with the signups.  So I got to fight in the cadet tournament.  I did ok, losing in my second bout to a black tiger from Northshield (see above about calibration).  I got tentative against him after blocking his chop shot.  In the loser bracket (1 loss bracket) I picked a fight with the guy who won last year and came in second the first year of the tournament.  I was able to take him out.  Overall, I was pleased with my performance.  Wish I had done better.

Regarding Rapier Champions team, I was selected as an alternate.  On Saturday, my knee was killing me, so I told Wyatt, who was organizing this years team, to pull me out of contention for an open slot for Sunday's tournament.  Rain pushed it back to Wednesday, but by then all the spots were filled.  But I was suited up, ready to go in case someone no showed or worse.  I offered to help people warm up and am glad I did.  I warmed up Ian, and while doing so, something clicked inside me.  I was varying my game, trying to push him a little to get him warmed up.  I think I started smiling, beaming inside.  Something had woken up and I started fencing for the joy of it, not pressing.  When Ian won his bout, I was more proud of him than if I had been in the tournament and won a bout myself.  He gave me a big hug and said the warm-up was just what he needed.  I also helped to warm up Orlando and Sean.  All won their bouts and I hoped that I helped them out just a little.

So with a new vision, happiness in my heart, rediscovering my love for the duel, here's hoping 2012/2013 are going to be my year.