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Tom Courtney

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no dance practice for me [Oct. 15th, 2014|02:56 pm]
My dental surgery went off stunningly well yesterday, but I'm still on vicodin today. Drumming at dance practice would be amusing, but only in the stare-and-point sense: I don't think the beat would be danceable. So, sadly, no dance practice for me tonight.

I do plan on making my polearm class tomorrow, though it might just turn into a glorified sparring session. I hope not - I'd like people to start playing with the new poleax heads I've picked up, and at least run through the exercises we've been doing with them.

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not your typical western martial arts classes [Oct. 12th, 2014|01:28 am]
I may be one of the few western martial arts instructors who actively stress game theory while teaching techniques. Nothing very complicated, mostly just the ideas of using a mixed strategy instead of looking for the one perfect technique, and choosing options that match up best against your opponents, and not simply the things you're best at doing. Not exactly rocket science, but lots of people don't seem to consider it until it gets pointed out, and then it's completely obvious. :)

It came up Thursday because I was teaching polearm entering moves against sword and shield, and mentioned that I thought that in general, the most important thing for a polearm fighter to do was to move to the sword side of his opponent - getting stuck on the shield side limits his options too much. But I also claimed you should do that "most of the time" - maybe something like 80%, and have a shield-side move available so your opponent couldn't just overcompensate and ignore it. I then taught a couple of entering plays, the second of which had both sword-side and shield-side variations.

Overall, I think the students got it. The ultimate proof, of course, is how they do in tournament and melee competition.

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Hamlet [Oct. 8th, 2014|12:49 am]
[mood |enthralled]

I've off and on thought about directing Hamlet, and have always thought a) I'd do the false quarto, often referred to as "Action Hamlet", which is about half the length and practically none of the angst of the canonical version, and b) I'd make the story revolve around the question "What do you do when you have proof of something that nobody else should rightfully believe?" I think it would make a decent play.

But looking back on versions of the show I've seen, that seems a bit timid to me. Every production I've ever seen has Hamlet as either the good guy, or at least in some sort of ambiguous role, where it turns out good old Uncle always killed Dad, whose ghost comes back demanding vengeance. I suspect I just haven't seen enough versions to get something different.

Anyway, I read the play again recently with an eye towards Hamlet being a real rotter - a RIchard III level monster. He hates his parents, and is really something of a nutcase. The tragedy is that this guy has been born at all, and inflicts himself on his family, bringing about their complete and utter destruction. I think I could do a version where the audience comes away pretty convinced that Hamlet is the murderer, and the business about the ghost is either his mind cracking or an attempt to get away with it by shifting the blame to his uncle.

I think I'm going to reread the play more carefully and see if it really works or not.

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The Vegas trip [Oct. 1st, 2014|08:29 pm]
[mood |exhaustedexhausted]

The trip this year was something of a hybrid - part poker playing, part seeing my mom and her SO. Overall, it went quite well.

I stayed at the Palace Station casino. It was a decent place at a cheap price, but I don't think I'll do it again. It was a mile and a half off-strip, and it felt longer. I did walk it several times, and was amused to notice I walked by Kount's Customs car refurbishing, featured on Counting Cars and appearing occasionally on both Pawn Stars and American Restoration.

I played pretty well. Six plus days, one minus one, and the minus one was really just running bad. I did have a timing is everything moment on the trip. I flopped a Royal Flush on a hand, and an opponent turned quad aces. That was worth about $500 to me, since I did, naturally enough, get his whole stack. But if the same hand had occurred at Mohegan Sun, I'd have gotten an additional $50K as my part of the bad beat jackpot.

I got the expected litany of "you should have been playing at the Mirage" (which does have a bad beat jackpot), but really, that's nonsense, and I specifically play at the Venetian because they don't have a bad beat jackpot, and more importantly, the extra $1 rake. So I didn't dwell on things too much.

The high point of the trip was a show I went to. Billy (mom's SO) wanted to go see Georgia On My Mind, which is a Ray Charles tribute concert. Normally, I would have expected the players to be this genre's version of Elvis impersonators, but it was, in fact, a bunch of top people - Clint Holmes, Take 6, Nnenna Freelon. Stunningly, stunningly, good. If you're going to Vegas anytime soon, it's a must see act.

--- Some snippets of conversation ---

Him: if I drank as much coffee as you do, I'd be up for a week.
Me: That's my plan!

Her: ... my oriental friend ..
Him: the proper term is Asian-American.
Her: But he's from London!


I played with a couple of guys who were talking about football betting. Somewhere in the conversation, they claimed to be professional gamblers. If they were, it sure wasn't from poker. While their hyperaggressive styly might run over some tables, it wasn't all that hard to extract chips from them. I even did it on a semi-bluff once, which really torqued the one guy off. :)

I'm sure there's more, but I'm tired, and must sleep now.

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Vegas, baby! [Sep. 23rd, 2014|04:13 pm]
[mood |excitedexcited]

I'm off for a week in Vegas. Sadly, it means I'll miss coronation, which I would have liked to have gone to, but it does mean I'll get to spend some time with my mom and her guy, which is always nice, and I'll be home in time to spend my birthday with Meredith.

I'll probably log on once a day or so, to not miss out on all the joys of social networking, but mostly, its going to be poker, poker, poker, plus some time at the pool.

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No Pastime For Old Men (with apologies to the Cohen brothers) [Sep. 21st, 2014|10:44 pm]
[mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Saturday I fought in the Ladies Of The Rose Tournament on Countess Margaruite's team. It was a rather frustrating day. Except for when I fought Edward, I pretty much either forced all my opponents out of the list or knocked them down, but I was too slow to actually hit them. It was sort of a case that technique kept me going for a while in each bout, but eventually my opponents mostly tagged me.

It wasn't a great day all-around for the over-50 crowd. I ended up with neck spasms, and body cramps once I took off my armor. Bryan wrenched his knee. I gather Randy did something to his arm. Gregor came away unscathed, but didn't have a particularly great day of it. I don't think Jan did all that well either - I suspect his major success that day was outlasting me. :) It's definitely a young man's game. And yes, Lucan, who won the heavy list portion of the tournament, is 48 or so. But the guy he just edged out is in his 20s.

My problem is that I'm just too damned slow - and don't practice enough. There are still several things I can do to improve my performance:

1) I could get stronger. I know how to do that. Getting stronger would mean I could keep my opponents from ever getting into a set position, which was when I generally got tagged.

2) I could improve my stamina. I know how to do that. I lost a couple of fights simply because I tuckered out.

3) I could get faster. I don't know how to do that. But it sure would help if I could.

4) I could improve my tactics. In several of my fights, I sort of ended up caught on my opponent's shield side, and now I was relegated to either just defending or trying get retreat out safely. If I had a better entering sequence, I would end up much more on the sword-side of my opponent, which would allow me to attack and defend at the same time. Heck, maybe even threaten to move behind my opponent - then he'd have all the problems. :)

5) I could practice more. With the possible exception of (3) this is actually the hardest of the bullet items to do, because of physical constraints. The chances of neck spasms from practicing is fairly high, and at 59 I simply don't recover as fast as I used to - I'm noticing it all even now, over 24 hours later.

But I am going to keep fighting for the next five or six years at least, so I've got to do something.


One thing I can do right away is to stop worrying about whether my performance in tournaments will affect my standing as an instructor. The logic is on the surface compelling: why would anyone want to pay attention to a guy they can mop up the field with? But really, that whole line of thinking is an illusion - in pretty much every other sport, trainers and coaches are people who were expert in their prime, and nobody expects them to be competitive now. There's no real reason to think that Western Martial Arts should be different. If I have something useful to teach, that makes fighters better, the results of the people I teach will prove the efficacy of what I'm trying to convey.

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that's nice of them [Sep. 16th, 2014|06:54 pm]
[mood |sillysilly]

Half of the casinos on the Vegas strip want to celebrate my birthday with me. It's tempting, but I'm leaving Vegas the day before to be home for it instead.

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Getting it backwards [Sep. 16th, 2014|12:19 pm]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

So I was in a poker hand with KQs. Three people limped in, the cutoff raised it to 10, I reraised to 30, everyone folded except the cutoff, who called. Flop was JT7 of my suit. The cutoff checked, I bet 45, the cutoff raised all-in, and I called. He flipped over JJ, and was sad when the board didn't pair.

After the hand, he sort of melted down a bit, and scoffed at my re-raise, and said he'd given me more credit than that. I didn't bother to defend my reraise.

The thing is, my opponent thought I had an overpair because players at my level play too predictably. While I would normally just call with KQs, occasionally I reraise with it, and my randomizer device told me this was the occasion, and it worked out. I get that the guy was upset that rather than being a 12-1 favorite to win the hand, he was a 2-1 dog, but really, if someone did this to me, I'd classify it as a good play, not a poor one, presuming he doesn't do it all the time. The point is to balance the different lines out so your opponents can't be sure of what you've got.

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If A, Then B [Aug. 25th, 2014|11:11 am]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

More and more, if I'm going on a trip that will kick over from electric to gas, I will take the shortest distance route, for three reasons: 1) I don't speed. This makes the time savings of fastest route choices less than they otherwise would be. 2) running on electric is apparently more efficient at local speeds; 3) it puts fewer miles on the car.

Yesterday, I played golf with Fernando at Butternut Golf Club, in Stow. Basically, there's no great way to get there. I'd normally take 90->495->117. That would use all the electic I had stored plus a bit of gas getting there, $2 in tolls, and take about an hour and fifteen minutes. But I woke up early on Saturday, and decided what the heck, let's see what the GPS tries to do if I ask it for the shortest distance route.

What it did was send me through Brookline to Allston/Brighton, out Rte. 20, up 27, and through some beautiful farm country around Stow. It took an hour and twenty minutes, and I had 20 miles of electric charge left when I got there.

I don't like this car for some altruistic green reason. I like it because it better fills my needs. There's nothing like good old enlightened self-interest. :)

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Twenty-First Century Party [Aug. 13th, 2014|07:43 pm]
We're having our usual post-Pennsic party here at Melville Keep starting at 14:00 this coming Saturday. As usual the theme is completely modern. We'll order pizza, play games - hopefully we'll get a game of Artemis going, so bring laptops/tablets if you have 'em - and try to enjoy all the things that make life in this century a good one to live in, at least sometimes.

So whether you were at Pennsic or not, you're welcome to stop by for whatever fun you might take from the setting. I do hope to see you all soon.

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