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Tom Courtney

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banner day [May. 1st, 2016|10:47 am]
Tom Courtney
[mood |ecstaticecstatic]

Yesterday was, by far and away, the best day The Gaming Club at Three Trolls has had since we first opened a couple of months ago. We were rocking the house at full capacity for six hours, with a healthy amount of gamers for another four hours afterwards. I think the only thing that would have made the event better was if Felicia Day or Wil Wheaton had shown up to game, and I suspect they were a bit busy. Yesterday was what I envisioned our club being like all the time, and this morning, that even feels like it might be possible. :)

A partial list of what got played was Arkham Horror, Eclipse, Bolt Action, Magic The Gathering, Star Realms, Sentinels Of The Multiverse, Lost Cities, Pirateers, and Diplomacy. I'm pretty sure I didn't see half of what was going on. I think everyone had a good time. Some of them might even be back next week. :)

If this keeps up, we're going to need a bigger boat.

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Come Play Games! [Apr. 28th, 2016|01:37 pm]
Tom Courtney
[mood |bouncybouncy]

Saturday is International Tabletop Day, and Three Trolls Games And Puzzles is part of the action! Come play games for all or part of the day - either bring yours or come play one of ours. There's a game of Arkham Horror starting at 11 am, and that's just the beginning. There will be swag a plenty courtesy of Geek and Sundry, and we'll have other special events throughout the day. Magic, Netrunner, board games, aplenty. You're limited only by your imagination.

Our gaming area is cool, with over 400 games, seating for up to 30, and places to chill out and relax before rejoining the battle for tabletop supremecy. Doors open at 10am, and won't close again until the last player cries "Stop! Enough!"

So don't let fun happen without you! Come be part of the general merriment - you know you want to. We'll do our best to make sure everyone has a great time.

And if you're too far away from Chelmsford to make the trip, check out the tabletop day site above to find a place close to you running something cool.

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Why I teach the way I teach [Apr. 24th, 2016|10:10 pm]
Tom Courtney
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

This weekend I was up in Vermont teaching some historical polearm classes, along with several other instructors covering different topics. All of them were quite good, but I noticed that I structured things differently in three major respects from the other classes I attended. That's not surprising - I've been teaching historical polearm once a week for several years now, while the other folks were either new to it, or had done their class a few times. I'd be amazed if we had come out the same.

(1) My classes had a bit of instruction, followed by some hands-on class drills with corrections by me and my assistant instructor Mike Luich, who did his usual great job. I do this both because people often don't translate ideas into action precisely correctly the first time through, and because I get to see where I can improve my presentation - if everyone does something systemically different from what I was trying to convey, then there's certainly room for improvement in my presentation.

(2) I try to explain why I want my students to do something in a particular way. I notice in general, martial arts teachers of all sorts often present material by saying either "This is what works", or "I do it this way". I don't accept that sort of argument for myself, so in general, I don't think its very convincing for students. I actually used to have precisely this problem before I started studying historical polearm - people would ask me how to fight like I do, and I'd say "Easy, do a, b, c, and off he goes sailing". They'd come back and say, "No, you do a, b, c, and off he goes - when we do it we get hit." It was only once I got some sort of a clue about why what I did was effective did I begin to be able to impart that to others.

Interestingly, I take my source material as a sort of proof-by-authority. In general, my starting position is that if I don't see how something works, the play is correct and my understanding is deficient, at least until I've exhausted every effort I can manage to figure things out. But part of that is because the author came from a time when these techniques were more important, and not just for sport, and getting it right often turned out to be a matter of survival.

(3) I try to stay as ego-less as I can - not an easy task for me. :) Now I'm an awfully proud guy, and very excited about my accomplishments. But it still happens now and again, that one of my students does something or sees something better than I do. (It happened on Saturday, with Gavin). I did my best to integrate his observation into the rest of the class, and indeed, will add some into future classes I teach.

---

It was a fantastic weekend. Mara and I haven't gone to a lot of events outside of day-trip range other than Pennsic for quite a while, and actually crashing with friends instead of staying at a motel harkened back to the SCA of my youth. We loved every minute of it. My thanks to all the folks in Mountain Freehold who made the event so enjoyable, and to Tree and Ulfr for putting us up.

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That's done [Apr. 19th, 2016|02:55 pm]
Tom Courtney
[mood |aggravatedaggravated]

Well, the tax returns are in. Not without adventure - some unknown person filed a tax return in my name. The IRS was very helpful throwing that out, but it means we had to do things by mail this year. And I suspect Lifelock or some such similar service is in my near future.

The good news is that with the solar installation and a variety of medical procedures we're getting enough money back to pay the house painters when they get to doing the job.

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The teacher is also the student [Mar. 17th, 2016|02:45 am]
Tom Courtney
[mood |accomplished]

One of the rewarding aspects of teaching historical pole arm fighting is the amount I end up learning by trying to figure out what in heck is going on in the manuscripts. On some days, it's easy, and others, not so obvious - often due to the sensibilities from the sport fighting that we do today.

Today's class was a case in point. I was taking a second crack at teaching a halberd vs. longsword technique. Here's the illustration that goes along with the play:

longswordsman in a forward leaning stance

The longswordsman is in what is for many SCA fighters a very peculiar stance, and the first time I worked through the play I unintentionally ignored it and stood much more upright. But looking at it again, and trying to copy the stance, suddenly the lightbulb went off, and I saw what the guy was doing - he's minimizing the possible target area by leading with his head. Now that description might make it seem like a nutty thing to do, but in fact, his head is the one thing he's prepared to guard with that longsword on his shoulder - the play has him cutting at the halberd with his long edge as it comes down and setting it aside. And because if you stand in that forward fashion, your weight will be on the front foot, it also sets him up for what he's going to do next - step out in a triangle and cut at the opponent's head.

These sort of discoveries happen frequently, and they demolish the notion that a lot of the plays are impractical - while its possible that a few may be, what is really going on is that it takes a while to grok the material in its fullness.

By the way, the swordsman's stance is not entirely unknown in the SCA - Sir Gregor does something very similar when he is fighting sword and shield in a goofy foot manner, and it does a lot of the same thing for him - minimizes his target exposure and brings his weapon shoulder much more forward in preparation for what is essentially a lightning jab.

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One last experiment [Mar. 5th, 2016|11:49 pm]
Tom Courtney
[mood |gratefulgrateful]

Tonight was the Mythbusters finale. It was a very good show, but I think they had an unannounced myth they were testing, and the results are in:

Myth: All Good Things Come To An End.
Result: Plausible. Damn it.

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not all skittles and beer [Feb. 10th, 2016|12:22 am]
Tom Courtney
[mood |exhaustedexhausted]

I find no-limit Texas hold-em a fascinating game. On the surface, it's pretty simple, but hidden underneath are layers of game theory combined with psychological insight. If you have some aptitude, pay attention, and apply some creativity, you can do well.

That all sounds great, but there's no two ways about it - if you do all that, you will have sessions where you metaphorically brutalize the table. You play at your opponents, and play at them again and again until just before the point where they play back at you, and then you let them breathe a little bit until it's time to go at it again. If you're playing with people who do not have pretty complete zen detachment - which most players do not - you are going to cause a fair bit of misery.

Yesterday was one of those sessions. It was lucrative, and I was fairly pleased that I could play as well as I did, but I wouldn't have called it exactly "fun". More like "accomplished", really.

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my current scheduled life [Feb. 2nd, 2016|02:59 am]
Tom Courtney
[mood |bouncybouncy]

3 Trolls Games & Puzzles has expanded to include a gaming parlor, with a substantial library of games. According to Andy, I'm the person who convinced him to do it. I guess one should be careful about what one says.

The upshot of this is that I'm going to be heavily involved in the expansion, as the, ahem, house shill. I expect to be there on Wednesdays during the day, and for the next couple of months, Fridays through Sundays from store open to store close. I'll probably be there at odd little other times too. Once we have our full space - sometime in the next two to four months - I expect we'll be running a lot of different game events, but for the moment, if you're so inclined, come in for general gaming.

Yes, I'm still going to be playing poker. Yes, I'm still going to be teaching German historical polearm technique on Wednesday evenings at the Knights Hall, and at other places by request. Finding time to sleep, that's going to be tricky. :)

But it all has definitely been a blast, and I don't expect that to stop anytime soon.

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You don't say [Jan. 12th, 2016|04:45 pm]
Tom Courtney
My day can be best summed up by two comments from our tour guide:

(1) welcome to the new visitors overlook. That smokey white spot off to your left was the site of the old visitors overlook.

(2) those of you interested in going inside a live volcano should take the path to your right. Watch your step.

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Of course they do [Jan. 8th, 2016|08:10 pm]
Tom Courtney
Of course Honolulu has noodle shops. Of course they're dive hole-in-the-wall places. And of course, the one we ate dinner in tonight was awesome.

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