I’ve been playing some Pathfinder Society games at the local gaming store. Two of the gaming groups I’m in used to play Pathfinder but switched to D&D 5th edition. Reverting to Pathfinder feels very strange. It’s not as annoying as D&D 3.5, but it’s close. So. Many. Rules.
I normally play a Ranger or Bard, or some variation on striker with some healing capabilities. I liked the idea of the Occultist class: great flexibility, lots of options to be melee, ranged, or spell-focused. With all of those options, comes complexity. Here are the resources I found for playing this class. The Occultist guide was by far the most helpful, both in creating and playing an Occultist character.
I went back to the local string shop to see if they offered the same type of deal. The shop had a Grottano viola in stock that was between $600 and $700. The Grottano viola is made in Romania and has a deeper tone than the Lamberti violas.
I’ll post again when I have played them for a week. Maybe I can add pictures and sound samples.
My friend Saigh has had a lot of bad luck this year. She lost one of her dear pets and shortly after two more of her dogs were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Medical tests are expensive, whether they are for people or for pets. It’s heart-wrenching when you don’t have the funds to do the tests that your loved ones, whether human or fur-covered, need.
Last summer, I had my deck rebuilt. The home inspector had flagged the deck as a “needs to be repaired or replaced, seek professional help” type of project. The boards were rotting. Nails poking up and the joists were soft. The tree cutters removed the Mimosa tree adjacent to the deck a few months prior.
My contractor did a fantastic job. He changed the location of the steps to the backyard to be more centered. Unfortunately, he had to sink posts next to where the Mimosa tree used to be. The trunk had to be sanded to below dirt level.
Deck Project 1, Mimosa 2 saplings
I’ve been very pleased with the deck and will finally be able to use it since the homeowner association’s house painting project for my townhouse row is completed. Deck is stained, everything looks good. I started shopping for deck furniture.
Until I looked outside and saw this:
Mimosas never die. Their roots sprout new trees. That’s two saplings coming up through the deck boards. Underneath the deck looks like this
I am currently waiting on a response from the HOA. The tree contractor who cut down the tree suggested to the HOA that the landscaping company take care of the saplings by spraying them with poison and clearing them out. A coworker suggested drilling holes in the Mimosa roots and spraying Round-Up in the holds to kill the roots.
I definitely can’t have the tree roots coming up through the deck boards.
Horse camp! Kasane and I are going to Horsemasters Horse Camp! We went last year and had a ball. She was amazing and we learned a lot. Camp is only three weeks away and I’ve been working on getting myself and Kasane in shape. We’ve upped the number of rides per week. We’ve made huge progress in our work (just what we’ve learned about trotting and cantering could be a bunch of posts).
The coolest thing about camp this year is that my mom is going with me! Since she moved to North Carolina, she has been riding Rajiyyah and doing very well. It has been awesome to be able to ride with Mom. She has made great strides in her riding.
Last year at camp, one of the jumping instructors said that Kasane could teach me. She could give me confidence. In some cases she has, although I still have anxiety about jumping even small stuff. I’m working on that, too, in lessons. My current home work is to trot over a ground pole without rushing it.
She is such a cool horse to ride. For a while, it was difficult for us to pick up and maintain the correct lead at the canter. She would switch leads, some times on the front or on the back. Her lead changes were due to subtle shifts in my position. Looking down was enough of a weight shift for her to roll into a canter if we were trotting. She is so sensitive to my position and cues that she pushes me to be a better rider. Flying lead change will not be a problem for her.
I had a great riding lesson with my instructor on Friday. First the good news. Kasane and I have improved in maintaining trot tempo and in our ability to rate (slow down or maintain) speed. She’s listening really well and we are working well together. She isn’t pulling on me anymore.
We were asked to ride a curve along the long side of the ride. It’s a movement from one of the dressage tests (Training Level test 3, I think). As you come along the long side, you go from the outside, ride to X to touch off on the center line (and change bend) and then go back to the last letter on the same long side. It was the first time we did it, and Kasane was amazing.
It’s a great feeling when we have major improvements like this between every lesson. Yay!
My instructor asked me what I wanted to work on, so I explained the issue I’ve been having when Kasane and I canter. She picks up the canter without any trouble. She’s very good about the cue. Before I ask her to canter, I sit the trot a few paces, slide my outside leg back behind the girth, and gently squeeze. At times, it feels like she enthusiastically jumps into the canter. Once we are cantering, then sometimes she’ll swap off leads in the front or back or even do a flying lead change. Her flying lead change feels like she does a four-footed hop and then lands on the opposite lead. She’s very coordinated and smooth about it.
I had no idea what I was doing that might cause her to change leads, swap off leads, or jump into the canter. Was I tense when we cantered or leaning too far forward? Both things that I know I do. I thought maybe the cantering problem was because of lack of work. We’re starting to ride more but we had a lot of time off because of weather and winter. We’ve been walking up and down hills to help build strength. I figured the cantering issue was because of something I was doing but I couldn’t tell what it might be.
This is where lessons pay off. Kasane was jumping into the canter because I was shouting the cue at her. Shouting means that I was moving my leg back and then squeezing. All I had to do was bring my leg back. That’s it. That’s enough of a cue for her. Well, that and upper body movement, which I’ll explain below.
Kasane was swapping leads because I was giving her mixed cues. She was trying to do what I was asking. She is a very sensitive mare and feels subtle shifts in body weight. When I asked for a canter on a circle, I would look where I was headed, which turned my upper body and shifted my weight in my hips from heavier weight on my inside hip to more weight on my outside. That weight helps determine which lead she should be on. So my smart girl said, “Ah! You really want me to be on this lead, okay!” and she would swap. When I canter on a circle, I have to make sure I’m sitting back (instead of leaning too far forward) and have my upper body turned towards the outside of the circle. My line of sight is through her ears. I can see where I’m going still, I’m just not looking in that direction. Upper body position keeps my legs in the correct location.
She picked up the correct lead every time I asked for a canter. She would swap when I shifted my upper body position because that minor shift changed the cue. She did precisely as I asked.
Cantering is hard for me because I tense up. Not because of anything Kasane did, but because of a bad fall I had on Isis many years ago. It’s funny how the fear of something stays with you and you anticipate having to get out of the way of a falling horse after she trips. Except Kasane doesn’t trip and I know that. I am still tense at the canter. We’re working on it, and that’s what we have to continue to do. In order for me to be more relaxed at the canter, I have to do it more often. Oh, and sing while I ride because you can’t be nervous or tense when you sing. At least, until your muscles start to give out and you cramp up.
The other thing my instructor pointed out is that when Kasane picks up the canter, I suddenly become invisible as a rider. It’s rather like “Okay we’re cantering now, let’s not do anything that might make her stop!” That’s what you do with a green horse. Except she isn’t green anymore. It’s funny how you get used to riding a particular way and then you don’t think about changing it until someone (like my riding instructor) points out how I’m riding that I need to be more active. She was exactly right.
I have homework. First, more cantering for fun while telling myself “I love to canter! It’s my favorite thing!” Second, doing more exercises to strengthen core muscles. Third, when riding, don’t think about riding figures from dressage tests. Ride intuitively from area to area: “This feels like a good place to canter.” Not just down a straight line, but doing corners and reversing. Never the same thing twice because smart horses will anticipate the same thing after the first repetition.
The big revelation for me was realizing how sensitive Kasane is. She was trying really hard to do what I asked her (even if I wasn’t aware of a change in cues). It just made me really proud of her. I have to learn so much more to be able to ride her well. She pushes me as a rider, in many good ways. I feel very lucky to have her as my riding partner.
I originally purchased a Bear Kindle keyboard case for my Kindle Fire 8.9″ tablet. They keyboard was rather like typing on a chicklet keyboard and was unresponsive. I am a touch typist and very picky about the touch on the keyboards that I use. I never used the keyboard case because it felt too bulky and was frustrating to type on. I hit more incorrect keys than correct ones.
After reading some reviews, I opted. to try the Belkin keyboard case for the Kindle. It feels like typing on a regular small laptop keyboard. Like any tablet keyboard case, it takes some time to get used to the smaller key size and layout. The touch on the keyboard is excellent. Amazon had the Belkin case as Warehouse deal for about $40. What a steal.
This blog post is the first thing I’ve used the keyboard to type and I’m quite happy with it. Except that the quote key is farther in and I keep hitting return instead. Just a matter of getting used to it.
I replaced my reliable Linksys 54G router with a new ASUS model available from T-Mobile, a “Personal Cellspot” router available to customers. It’s a rebranded ASUS AC1900 wifi router, which, for $25 deposit, is a no-brainer.
I live in a row of townhouses with a lot of wifi networks. Every house seems to have one or more networks. Lots of conflicts. The wifi apps that can help recommend a channel to use to have better reception didn’t find any available channels on the 2.4 GHz networks.
I have a 2009 Mac Pro upstairs, at the farthest point away from the only cable connection in the house. To get network connectivity to the Mac Pro, I could use wifi, pull an ethernet cable, or use a powerline adapter. I tried the wifi option first, with mixed results. Hackintosh sites reported good luck using the 300Mbps Wireless N PCI Express adapter from TP-Link (model TL-WN881ND). It’s a relatively inexpensive card, too. I installed the card and the kexts and got Mountain Lion to recognize the card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a stable wifi connection. The same thing happened with the Edimax AC 1200 dual-band USB adapter. It seemed to work okay, but then would drop connection every few minutes. Neither the PCI card nor the USB adapter was usable.
I ended up purchasing Netgear powerline adapters. They have worked surprisingly well. I have one plugged in behind the router downstairs and another adapter plugged in next to the Mac Pro. The speed tests show that about 12 Mbps down and 5-6 Mbps up (sometimes faster, depending upon who knows what).
After I installed the Personal Cellspot router tonight, I decided to revisit the wifi adapters and see if anything had improved. Edimax hasn’t released the El Capitan drivers for the AC1200 EW-7822UA yet. (Drivers for other OS X versions are available here; you can register to be notified when the El Cap ones are available.)
I found instructions on how to extract the OS X 10.10 drivers from the Edimax OS X 10.10 DMG and get them working on OS X 10.11 for the Edimax AC1200 wireless dual-band USB 2/3 adapter. The Mac Pro can handle simultaneous network connections (has dual ethernet ports, for example). I got the wifi adapter working and set the priority network to be wifi. The adapter is currently connected to the 5Ghz 802.11 AC network.
And then ran some tests using speedof.me, a speed test that runs HTML 5 (not Flash). This site has been my baseline test for the powerline converters and wifi connection speeds.
The ethernet connection I’m using is via a powerline adapter. It connects at about 12-15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up (6 Mbps up on a really good day).
With the wifi adapter plugged into the USB 2 slot on the front of the machine, I am getting 35 Mbps down and 12 Mbps up.
When I move the wifi adapter to the USB3 PCI card in the back of the machine, the signal strength is slightly diminished. However, the speed is rock solid. I’m getting 61.2 Mbps down (with a max speed of 117.5!) and an upload of 12.22 Mbps, which is basically the same.
Damn! That’s an improvement! The only problem is the wifi adapter sometimes causes the system to randomly reboot. That’s not good. I’ll have to see how frequently that happens.
Update Feb 19, 2016: The wifi adapter driver causes the system to not awaken from hibernation or sleep. When the system goes into hibernation or sleep mode with the wifi adapter active, the system does not respond to keyboard or mouse movements. The only way to reactivate the system is by a hard reboot. However, if I unplug the adapter and quit the wifi enabler software prior to leaving the system, then hibernation and sleep function as expected. The system becomes active again after moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard.
Update Mar 21, 2016: Edimax released drivers for the USB adapter today that support OS X 10.11. I’m going to try these tonight and see how they work. Hopefully the hibernation issue is fixed.
Update Mar 26, 2016: The new drivers appear to work fine. Instead of having to use a Wireless Utility app to control the adapter, the new driver now integrates with the Network control panel and provides a control menu.
My old mare, Prize, has had declining health since summer. A mare who used to be an easy keeper has stopped being able to keep weight on. She’s been on a complete senior feed for several years, plus chopped hay, joint and anti-inflammation supplements. Her teeth have wave mouth, so their uneven surfaces prevent her from being able to effectively chew grass and hay. It’s not for lack of trying. Where ever she has been eating, there is a trail of matted lumps of grass she’s tried to chew (called quids).
I’ve had a sinking feeling that she wouldn’t make it through this winter, and honestly, that I shouldn’t ask her to. Where she used to be my sure-footed, take-a-mudrock-downhill-at-a-canter trail horse, her gait has lost its stability as her muscles along her topline and hips have deteriorated. She had been retired from active riding for about 1.5 years. We still would do trail rides periodically when she had good days. She had not had a good day where her gait looked stable enough to ride since the summer.
Over the past few months, she has had bad days. At the barn, we took to calling them “episodes,” because that’s what they seemed to be. Most days she would have that mischievous,interested spark in her eye when she saw me. She would carefully pick her way through the paddock to see if I had treats for her. She would nicker and recognize me.
On her bad days, she seemed confused about where she was. Each step was wobbly like she was trying to be careful where she stepped but her body didn’t have the coordination she remembered. Most days her gait was unsteady, but she would still manage to harass her paddock mate and chase the other away from hay piles even at a canter. Not on Prize’s bad days. On days when she had episodes, she didn’t leave her stall or her paddock. She would stand in the same place most of the day with her head poking out of the stall, her eyes focused inward. An episode lasted anywhere from a few hours to a day, at most.
The episodes, at first, were a very rare occurrence. A few months apart, but with growing frequency. We have tried a lot of different things. Pain management meds, anti-inflammation supplements, joint supplements (she’s been on this for years)… In December, she was having episodes once a week.
She had a bad day yesterday, Saturday, and it was worse than the others. Her lack of coordination was so pronounced that she had trouble trying to scratch her hock with her mouth. She tried to position her leg in the right spot and then started to lean around to reach her hock, and would stop. She would stay in that position, with her back legs splayed apart, her back right awkwardly on the ground reaching towards her front legs, and her head turned back staring at her legs. Her front legs were spread apart for balance. She would stand like that for a few minutes, and then it was like a light would click and she would pull her legs back underneath her. She couldn’t walk without losing her footing and almost falling several times.
She refused to eat until we gave her some Banamine (pain meds). Watching her, I could see how much pain she was in. This episode didn’t end on Saturday. It continued into Sunday and lasted the day. At one point shortly after she received the afternoon’s dose (and before it had kicked in), she laid down with her legs straight out and her lips set in a grimace across her face. Several of us stopped what we were doing to watch her belly to make sure she was still breathing.
She has been telling me in no uncertain terms that she is hurting.
I’ve known that this was coming. The sense of dread has been an undercurrent in my mind for the entire fall and winter seasons. That my sweet Prize was going to need to be let go with all of the beauty and dignity that she has shared with me over the past 30 years. I can’t put her through a harsh, wet, slippery winter.
When Prize came back to me six years ago, the girl who had Prize taught her how to give kisses. The girl would hold a peppermint candy in her mouth and Prize would reach up and gently take it. So today I went to the tack shop and bought some of Prize’s favorite treats: thick molasses and oat muffins with a peppermint candy in the middle. She might not be able to bite the peppermint, but she would be able to have the taste of it on the soft treat.
She hadn’t eaten much today, but she ate six of those treats. And asked for more. And nickered at me. She was spoiled and loved on and cooed over (but always with the awareness that being in a stall with an unsteady horse isn’t necessarily safe). It warmed my heart to see her in less pain after the meds kicked in. The difference in how she felt also spoke wonders.
The barn owner and I talked today. Prize is his favorite horse. (He calls her “my good horse.” On days when Kasane has been doing particularly well, he calls her my “other good horse.”) I asked him if he thought it was Prize’s time. He nodded and said yes, and tried like me to not cry.
The vet will be out on Monday. It is time. As much as I don’t want it to be time, how Prize is physically and mentally says it clearly. I can’t put her through this anymore.
So tomorrow I have to figure out how to grieve for a horse who was my partner in crime for many years. She who did jumping, barrel racing, jousting, gymkhana, ring spearing, trail riding, and trail classes all in English riding attire. She has taught many kids to ride. When the young riders didn’t know what they were doing, Prize would walk over to the instructor and stand there. She took care of the beginner riders and loved when a more experienced rider was on her, then she would get excited. Prize earned the nickname of “the rocket” because she would get up whenever someone like me got on her. Several times, she would be so excited, we’d rip around the ring a few times and then she would settle into work. After so many years of being afraid to jump, she helped me regain my confidence.
She has had a grand life. I am so blessed to have had the chance to redeem my earlier mistakes by having her back to take proper care of her and love her.
I am going to try and celebrate her. She has touched so many and has been so loved. A lady at my office emailed me once asking about Prize. Her daughter had learned to ride on Prize. I am amazed at the lives this original Bay Wonder Mare has touched.
I know I have to say goodbye. This will be my second, and final, time to say goodbye. That first time I said goodbye when I had to sell her because I could not pay my board, I wrote “Transfer of Owners”:
I felt your breath
soft on my neck
tickling my mind like
glazed with the day’s work
and the field is
flicking through the stall
washed with bespeckled light
and the thrum of horse flies
and the stench of sweat
and the buzz of Osters
The night is vacant now
scents of cedar and straw
drift through the barn into
twice-wet feet cross the stream
to another’s pasture
The kitties have been downstairs now for two weeks. They are absolutely loving the extra space. They follow me around the house, sit next to me on the couch, and now have even more places to hide their toys. They do get on the table, but not on the kitchen counter. I can live with that so far.
For now, happy kitties!
And no more sounds in the ceiling. I don’t know if the mice have realized that the kitties are around, but I have not seen or heard anything that sounds like mice lately.
My neighbors on either side of me are also hearing things in their walls and ceilings. Maybe it is time to get some mouse traps and put then in the crawl space…
Kasane has always been a very limber girl. She can reach for a treat all the way back to her hip almost at her croup. All I have to do is show her the trip, tap her hip, and she reaches around for the treat. She’s done that since she was two. It’s a way to get her to stretch her neck and reward her after a ride.
For the past three weeks, she’s reached around like a champ on the right side. She hasn’t been as flexible on her left side. It’s taken several minutes of coaxing her to reach around even past her shoulder for a treat. When we’ve ridden, she’s been stiff on her left side.
She’s never made faces when I’ve asked her to bend or to carry herself. She hasn’t given any outward sign that her neck was bothering her — except for her reluctance to reach around for a treat.
After several weeks of her flexibility not improving (even with multiple rides and even a clinic and lesson), I called the chiropractor.
Kasane was adjusted this morning. Her atlas joint in her neck and four vertebrae on her left side were out of alignment. The chiropractor said that Kasane would be feeling a lot better now. After 72 hours of rest, I’d be able to ride and see how she felt.
When I walked Kasane in before her appointment, she walked at a normal speed. Relaxed and not hurried. After her appointment, she felt a lot better. She trotted in place while we walked back out to the field. She felt so much better.
Last night while I was doing the dishes, I heard skittering of something in the kitchen ceiling. The kitties were upstairs staring at the wall and walking around meowing. They were following the sound of something in the walls.
Not sure what it is. Mice seem to be a good guess since my neighbor recently had issues with mice. The HOA is working on painting and repairing siding on the houses. The painters have were repairing some of my unit’s siding except they messed up the back wall of my chimney. There are gaps in the siding which they have said will be properly fixed. Those gaps are big enough for a mouse to get in.
So the kitties now have the full run of the house. BrieBrie was brave and came downstairs with me. She is wandering around now, playing with a fake rabbit fur mouse (one of Kiesha’s old toys). She seems to enjoy having the extra space. She’s much braver than Phaedra is. My other little kitty will eventually come down here.
I am hoping that the smell of predators will cause the mice to go away. If the kitties don’t catch the mice, then I’ll have to call an exterminator. Can’t have mice in the walls.
Gizmodo has an article on how Wizards of the Coast is working with a company called AltspaceVR to create an official virtual environment for playing D&D. The setup will use Oculus VR hardware for playing. It looks interesting, although would require a good hardware investment for anyoen wanting to use the system. (Personally, I prefer pen and paper — much cheaper.)
One of the comments noted that last Christmas, Wizards laid off a large portion of the D&D team, including the editor of the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. My snarky side thought, well that explains why we haven’t seen a lot of new content for D&D 5e. No one left to coordinate it if the editor is gone.
I still prefer Warhammer. It’s grittier and feels more balanced. Everyday people doing heroic deeds not because they have super skills but because they are motivated to help (or hinder). The players seem more engaged instead of just going along for the ride.
I hate that Warhammer was discontinued but at least the core rule set is being reprinted. The community of players for WFRP 3e is still putting out some amazing stuff, like the randomized adventure generator, created by Emirikol.
It’s good to see that players are pulling together and creating content to share. That’s the sign of an active, healthy player community. Whether or not there is ever another edition of Warhammer, I’ll play the heck out of third edition.
And eventually add Iron Kingdoms RPG to my set of known systems. I just have to find people to play with who want to try it.
Kasane and I have our first dressage show in two weeks at a local venue. We’ve ridden dressage tests before at schooling shows sponsored by our local awesome horse club. This is a schooling show that will not be a test where you know everyone. This is a Show Experience.
I used to show a lot when I was younger. We did Arabian breed shows with most of our horses, primarily halter classes since most of the horses we had were younger or breeding stock. I had fun and I’m thankful for the experience of learning how to gracefully handle competition.
All I really wanted to do was ride. Halter was nice but it was too much like work to get the horses cleaned and primped before their classes. There wasn’t a sense of joy of a good partnership (at least not for me) when showing in halter. It was work.
Riding was work too, but at least it could be fun. We could enter the trail class, a traditionally Western class, while wearing English attire. My mare and I did barrel racing in a hunt seat saddle. We didn’t expect to win: we entered to have fun. Prize loved those classes and she taught me to love them as well.
I still get nervous whenever I think about showing. Slight hand tremor. Edginess. Except I know that Kasane can do these things and do them well. We’ve ridden the walk-trot test Intro B for years. We could do that in our sleep.
Which is why I chose to ride the Intro C test and throw some canter into the mix because why not? We can canter. We need a goal to force us to work towards something greater. A few strides of canter around a circle and then shifting back down to the walk isn’t that hard.
The trick is that we haven’t done much canter work at all in years. I had to learn to deal with a lot of my own fears and issues around cantering (and having a horse land on me a few times at a canter) before I could canter with Kasane without giving her mixed signals. She’ll canter when I ask, but we’re stiff and out of whack. We aren’t smooth and practiced like we are with a trot. We just need to work on it. What better motivation than a deadline and a show?
I know the test now. I dream about it almost every nice. I can feel how Kasane moves when she canters when I visualize it. I dream about where my body position needs to be when I ask her to pick up the canter and when we transition back to the working trot. I know we can do this.
During my lesson on Saturday, my instructor asked me if I was sure I really wanted to do the test. Honestly, our canter work during the test was pretty gross. But it got better during the lesson. We made progress.
That’s the whole point of riding: to make progress in riding and understanding how you and your horse work as a team, to love your horse, and to have fun.