All posts by Ceolwulf

hit the trail

This week at last we have snow!  I don’t think I’ve looked forward to snow more since anytime my age was in double digits.  I wasn’t for a while, but getting into December without skiing was making me pretty antsy.  Oddly, parts north still have virtually none, so quite a few people from the city are coming down to the trails at Burwalde and Shannondale to ski.

Yesterday was the first day I could make it out, and of course I didn’t go far; in fact, one round of the 1km inner loop (the outer loop isn’t groomed yet) was quite plenty.  According to the very clear messages from my feet and ankles, I was not prepared, at all.  It’s OK though, I have all winter.  My goal by winter’s end is to be able to do a 20km ski without feeling like it’s the last thing I’ll do.

So there still hasn’t been an anime review post – to tell the truth I think I’ll end up leaving that to those who are a great deal better at it than I could hope to be, such as Ghostlightning.  However what I will do from time to time is to append a few brief thoughts to the regular posts, and today I’ll mention a few thoughts about Canaan.  I wasn’t too sure I wanted to watch this but then I heard that Type-Moon was involved so I had to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.  This, on the surface, is a pretty standard girls-with-guns show in the tradition of Noir and others – in fact, it does remind one quite a bit of Noir in some ways, with less Old Europe and more implausible superpowers (which somehow don’t detract from the show at all and in fact blend very seamlessly with a strong plot).  There’s a great deal of very well-animated action, but that isn’t what you’ll remember about this show.  Indeed it isn’t about the action at all, but about some remarkable characters and, in particular, two unlikely but powerful and superbly written relationships.  The characters, despite occasionally requiring a considerable suspension of disbelief (which you are only too happy to grant them, so warm, human, and interesting they are), have a tremendous amount of depth and development.  True that the plot occasionally stretches slightly into the realm of the eyebrow-raising, but since you’re seeing it all through the eyes of these very real people, you hardly pay it any mind.  The tragic Hakko especially is unlikely to ever be forgotten, even though she speaks perhaps a dozen lines at most throughout the show.  While it could easily have been a very dark story, the strength and hope that the characters find in themselves and each other is a shining light.  There’s a fair bit of comic relief too, usually well placed and not overdone.

I don’t find a great deal of attraction in flashy animation, huge mecha or magic or the like, but I’m a sucker for a virtuoso performance on the part of the screenwriters, and therefore Canaan gets my enthusiastic recommendation.

a nice surprise

So, this is not an anime review, nor is it a Sunday post – it can’t be, because today is Monday.

Good thing no one reads this blog!

Today was the first day for archery club.  I’d never been before, so I called ahead to confirm the time and place.  Yes, it was at the arena at 7:00, but don’t bother being too punctual, no one else is.  OK, fair enough.  So I left for Morden around ten till seven, and got to the arena.  Abe had said to use the south entrance.  It had been a few years since I was there, and things had changed a fair bit, but for the life of me I could find no such thing as a south entrance.  After searching around for a while I decided to call back to Abe’s and see if I could get a clue or two.  “You’re in Winkler right?” Errrr… “OK, so that’s probably my biggest problem right now…”  Hightailed it back to Winkler and found it no worries.  Funny how being in the right town helps.

I walked in and found a very casual bunch indeed.  A few people were shooting, but most were sitting around swapping hunting stories.  This, I found, would continue the whole evening.  Since I had no hunting stories, I decided to just watch the people at the line for a while to get some enlightenment on form, but most of them were shooting compounds with releases (get a gun, seriously what’s the point), so I didn’t get a lot out of that.  There was one new guy getting some instruction, and he was shooting a longbow, so I ambled over to that end to listen in; at which point he promptly left.  Ah well.  Sat around for a while and talked to one of the other guys for a bit, and then when the crowd was a little thinner – there were more people there than I expected – I decided to step up to the line and see how much damage I could do to the net.

It had been well over a year since I shot last, and at that point I’d only been shooting for one summer, so I was fully expecting to be terribly terrible.  This, however, proved not to be the case – well, OK, in fairness it was; but, not nearly as bad as I’d expected.  At one point I even shot a tighter group than Abe did, which I was pretty smug about.  That lasted until he got warmed up and was putting his arrows within two inches of each other!

I must have shot for nearly an hour all told, but once my form started to waver badly I decided to call it a night.  Over that time I only missed the target once, due to the string hitting my bracer, and usually put the arrows in an 18 inch group or so.  Not good, certainly, but not bad either for a very rusty novice.  I am now very much looking forward to greatly improving over the winter, and once spring comes I’ll get a target set up in the back yard and without any doubt I will be wearing out bulls-eyes by summer’s end 😉

yay for global warming, or something like that

It appears that this is the year of the Indian summer that just keeps going.  They say that next week will bring snow, but I remain unconvinced.  Highs have been around +5 and are projected to stay there all week.  So much so that we actually took the bikes out this weekend.

First order of business was to get Tony’s bike out of his living room (yes), so that took up Saturday till latish afternoon.  We brought it back from the city with my truck.  The only tricky part was getting it down the steps; my planks weren’t quite long enough and the bike got a bit high-centred on the fairing, but no damage was done.  Then once we had it back to my place (where it will be sleeping for winter), it was time to get things ready and ride a bit.  Didn’t get a whole lot in but enough to figure out what sort of clothing would keep us a little warmer!

Today we set out a bit after 2 in the afternoon, by which time it was +5 or so.  Wool socks, poly longjohns and cycling tights and jeans, a wool cycling jersey and a wool army sweater and a fleece sweater under my jacket.  And a very thin fleece balaclava that did a remarkable job of keeping the neck warm.  I felt a tad not terribly bendable, but indoors was near to a risk of overheating so I figured it ought to work on the road and so it did.  A little cold on the chest, but then my jacket is emphatically a summer jacket, designed to let air through, which it does exceptionally well – you notice that when it’s near freezing.

First stop was Tony’s parents’ place, where his dad admired his bike (which he hadn’t seen yet) and commented that the bit of oilspray on the tire from the chain should “make for better brakestands” – much to his mom’s alarm and our amusement.  Then we had it figured that we’d to go Altona to find a restaurant, since having skipped lunch things were feeling pretty hollow.  But hollow was also a word that could describe that town.  It felt like a wasteland.  There was hardly a soul around.  Out of three restaurants that were actually open, two had no cars in front of them at all, and the other had three, but that was a Chicken Chef and thus didn’t bear consideration.  Back to Winkler it was.  After supper we just had to get a few more miles in so we headed down the road to the Tim’s in Morden.  By then it was dark and getting awfully cold.

I can see now where the heated vest, heated grips, and windproof riding suit would extend the season a great deal.  Even with windproof gear and heated grips I would have been good to go for nearly any distance.

But still, 122 km on November 15th.  Ridiculous.  I love it.

gomen ne?

Missed two Sunday updates in a row … inexcusable really.  First one I just forgot (was @ cousins’ place), second, … let’s not talk about that one.

I think I feel an anime review post coming on.  Or maybe something totally different.  Anyway next Sunday shall have a post no doubt.

miscellany again

Sold the truck finally.  Had to deliver it to Kenora.  Totally worth it.

Now I have to get another one 🙁 It’s totally different though when you don’t have any significant money stuck into it.

Today I took some advantage of the unseasonable warmth and got a good road ride in on the GT.  The rest of the day was spent finishing Samurai Deeper Kyo …

I was hoping to have a link to post here that’s been three years in coming, but as usual I procrastinated it again.  Maybe tomorrow.

With posts like this it’s a good thing no one actually reads this blog.

coffee claims another victim

Since long before I actually started riding, I’ve loved the cafe racer style.  This all began in the late 1950’s when young British riders would spend their few hard-earned quid on making their own bikes look and run more like the racers they admired.  The modern analogue would of course be the supersport bikes you can buy that, right off the showroom floor, give you the large majority of the performance and style of a World Superbike or even MotoGP racer, and all you need is a set of team decals.  But the style of the 1960’s lives on and is in fact growing considerably more popular.

So in my usual method of latching on to a trend as it reaches a critical mass of trendiness and hipsterdom, despite having been interested in the style years before it was accepted as cool by the respected authorities (did the same thing with my fixed-gear bikes), I’m just getting started now on building my own cafe racer.

I don’t even have it home yet but this is what I scored yesterday for a rather trifling sum.  Pardon the terrible cameraphone pics.  They are caused by my cameraphone being terrible.  Click to biggify.

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It’s a 1980 Yamaha XS850, an 850cc air-cooled triple, originally made as a touring bike.  This is a little odd choice for a cafe bike, and you don’t see them very often.  It’s really a bit too new, it’s shaft drive, and it’s pretty big and heavy.  But the frame has the straight top that is needed for the true cafe look, and the tank fits the style very nicely.  Wire spoked wheels would probably suit the style better, but I don’t think I’ll go to that extent of modification.  Besides, I actually wanted something odd.  There’s a huge majority of Honda twins and fours in the cafe world, and whilst those are certainly the most abundant as well as nearly the most suitable blank canvas for a racer, I’ve never been one to like to do exactly as everyone else.  I prefer my sub-sub-sub-niches, thank you very much.  When I decided to set out on this project, I had in mind one of three things: either a small-displacement twin, like a Honda CB360 or a Kawasaki KZ400, but turbocharged; or a two-stroke; or one of these Yamaha triples, mainly because you can’t beat the sound of an uncorked triple (you can match it, but not beat it!).

I was inspired in large part by this:

For more examples of the cafe style, check out the member’s rides section of the website of the Ace Cafe, which is where it all started.

the creaking machinery

… has reluctantly begun to move again.  Gears mesh and groan, shafts grind and twirl, bearings screech, steam erupts from my ears – OK fine, it isn’t quite that dramatic, but the news is that I’ve seriously started Japanese study again after a too-long period of benign (?) neglect.  (Is there such a thing?)

Two factors conspired to create this happy state of affairs.  First was the fact that at the new job I have an hour lunch break and I decided that rather than spend an (additional) hour goofing off on the ‘net, I’d use the time for something useful.  I began with my main study book (Japanese For Everyone – highly recommended) but soon found that I was burning out on it yet again, perhaps because of the limited time I had during my break.  So then the second factor came into play, and that was my iPod Touch.  I would never have purchased such a thing, being way too cheap, but having had some good luck at the company Christmas do I got one for free (thanks John!).  It turns out I don’t use it for music much, but for small applications it’s a wonderful portable computer with some unique advantages – mainly, the touchscreen.  I had a look around and as it happened there has been a felicitous intersection of talent between iPhone developers and Japanese instructors.  These are the apps I mainly use.

For vocabulary I settled on Japanese Flip.  This is the app I use the most.  It’s almost addictive!  The app divides the vocabulary you will learn into five lists; untested, new, recent, old, and ancient.  As you correctly identify the meanings of the word flashcards, it moves it into an older list.  If you’ve been struggling with a word, it’ll require you to get it right more times before it moves it.  Sometimes it’ll test you from the recent list, less frequently from the old list, and once you’ve correctly answered a question from the old list it will move the word to the ancient list which you won’t see again until all the words in the set are mastered.  The lists it comes with are the standard JLPT lists, which you’d think are too big to deal with, but it simply chooses a random selection and then keeps the new list at 29 or 30 words.  The AI could use a little improvement, and of course the addition of sound files would be a massive improvement (at a massive cost of time and no doubt price of the app), but as it is it is simple and highly effective.

As a classroom replacement I have found Human Japanese to be exceptionally well done.  There are forty lessons (I think – I don’t have it in front of me) and I’m up to lesson fifteen.  So far it’s been mostly review but I expected that.  Should be getting into new material fairly soon.  It has plenty of interactivity and the text is written in such a tone that you can imagine a friendly teacher giving you a private lesson.  The cultural notes provide additional interest.

And lastly for my favourite part of this fascinating language, I really enjoy Kanji LS Touch.  I never thought I’d find a replacement for King Kanji but this is definitely it.  There are still some details to be ironed out though.  The latest update added the ability to import your own sets of kanji, which is invaluable if you are following a book as I am.  But it’s an awkward process, requiring the creation of text files that have to be in precisely the right format and encoding, and requiring access to a webspace.  Overall though, it’s a simply brilliant program.  I liked it so much that I also purchased the kana version, even though no one should need an app to learn kana.

In addition, I also installed the Kotoba dictionary program, which looks like it’s very nicely done, but to tell the truth I’ve almost not used it at all.   I used to use the Dokusha dictionary a fair bit on Palm devices, but mostly for the flashcard sets you could make and study in it, and that function is now achieved better by Japanese Flip.

The highly interactive approach to learning afforded by these different apps has, I must say, reignited my enthusiasm for Japanese study.  So much more than using my lunch break for study, often enough I find myself flipping through flashcards long after I should have been asleep at night.  Results have been steady and encouraging.  Watching anime is more enjoyable the more of it you can understand (although some fansubbers’ approach to translation results in more confusion if you understand half the dialogue than if you understood none of it!).  I’m now seriously planning to go through the JLPT tests as I near completion of the vocabulary set for the first test.

back in action, sorta

First I would like to state that my ears still aren’t back to normal from a week ago.  Seriously, this is ridiculous.

Now here is the photo post I promised a little while back.  I had a bit of a time of it editing these because my RAW converter is very lame.  Seriously need to get Lightroom so I can edit my work properly.  Anyway these are pretty good evidence that skill matters more than gear.  (I have very good gear.  Just so you know which angle I’m coming at that statement from.  I think all of these images were from my 17-70 f/4 DA lens on the K20D.  I did use the Pentax 28 f/2.8 and the Kiron 80-200 f/4 a bit, but happened not to get anything (more) worthwhile from those.)

We were in the woods so I decided to take pictures of trees.  Click to enlarge.

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