The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

31Jul/085

Rural Devon

"Rural Devon" is actually the term the locals use to describe Devon. Exeter is simply the exception to the rule. Travel just a few minutes away from the city, and it's like you're in another world.

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28Jul/089

“And I had a great time with this lovely young Chinese boy…”

Did I really just go jive dancing? More importantly, did I just enjoy it? Did I take up plenty of space on the dance floor, spinning my partner about? Was I really energetic? Confident?

It's such a stark contrast to my behavior right now. The Steven who will contently sit in front of a computer for hours watching anime or playing games seems completely different from the one who will walk up to a random lady and ask her for a dance, full of eagerness rather than nervousness.

Coworkers had convinced the other intern and I to join them for a twice-weekly jive dancing night held at the oddly named ballroom The Corn Exchange. Not really a ballroom, really, more like a large auditorium with a sound system and big fans that kept the temperature to a barely tolerable level once we started dancing. There were plenty of chairs, and a bar outside. The two regulars didn't drink and dance, but considering I was more eager to dance the last two times I had alcohol, I figured that a little insurance would go a long way.

Placebo or not, I was enjoying myself. I didn't shake or feel nervous. My partners' levels of experience varied, but they all great fun to dance with. They all danced the same moves a bit differently, and I'm sure my style varied as well. I tend to extend my arm fully when moving my partner around, I felt like I was bouncing a lot, and I always seemed to maneuver us in a clockwise direction during freestyle dancing. But nothing was set in stone: you can do the moves however you want, as long as you and your partner are on the same page.

The biggest lesson? The man leads, and the woman simply follows. The man decides where the dance will go and signals his intentions to the woman, while the woman waits for cues and reads the body language of her partner. I was told this early on and it felt a bit unnatural and pushy, but it was necessary, and by the time the lesson was over and a coworker had taken me onto the dance floor I had no problem with it. It was expected and appreciated.

Only qualm? Prospects are slim when most of your partners are old enough to be your mother.

No pictures because I didn't want my camera jostling around while dancing. Given the lighting and the speed at which we were moving though, I doubt it would have amounted to much if I did bring it along. To placate you, I bring you an honest to goodness Royale with Cheese.

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22Jul/083

ENGLISH BUNNIES

Does anything more need to be said? Found in a small pet store within a market in Bristol, an hour's drive from Exeter. Randomly wandered there after an event at the very nice Hotel Du Vin.

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19Jul/080

International postage, blargh

Steven Li
James Owen Court, C303
Sidwell Street
Exeter, EX4 6SD

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16Jul/086

Is this really two weeks late?

The other intern and I had been wondering whether the Fourth of July had any special meaning here in the UK. They told us that for them it didn't, but they'd make it special for us.

Nothing but the best for the American interns.

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15Jul/082

It’s no baloney, it aint a phony…

While waiting for the obscenely expensive train to arrive, I stopped by a Vodaphone vendor to pick up a pay-as-you-go phone. It was expensive, and its minutes follow in that tradition, but I was getting used to the notion that everything in England was expensive, and I have yet to find any prices contrary to that belief. It was worth the price though, because its alarm wakes me up and the phone itself lends me a bit of safety knowing I can reach people and be reached.

I originally brought my own cell phone for that alarm and timekeeping purpose, but found that because it could not get a signal it couldn't calibrate the time, and would not accept a manual setting. But that's really just an excuse to justify my (not actually very) shiny new phone.

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12Jul/080

‘Till touchdown brings me ’round again to find…

Right off the bat I discovered the first perk of business class: you waited on a separate, priority line to board the plane. It still took some time for the people ahead of me to file into the plane, but I must have spent a good half hour enjoying the cabin instead of being slowly herded through the airplane connection tunnel.

Right away, I was treated to a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice and a travel pouch complete with everything from toothbrush/paste, earplugs, skin cream, eye mask, lip balm, and even dark navy socks.

I thought a lot of money went into the dinner and the lounge, but these cabins definitely showed their polish. The middle aisle I was in contained four seats, with the aisle seats facing the opposite direction that the middle seats. There was also a large, opaque, collapsible privacy screen separating the middle from the aisles. The other intern and I got the middle seats, but the cabin was empty enough that he moved elsewhere after finding that his seat controls didn't work.

Each seat could pivot, tilt, and eventually recline into a bed if you pulled down a footrest in front of you. With both privacy screens up, you really didn't see /anyone/. As this was a "sleeper" flight that travelled through the night, they dimmed the lights and served food only at the beginning and end of the flight.

For an additional meal, the food was actually pretty good. There was a small salad, a choice of either a beef and provologne sandwich or provologne and asparagus and zucchini, and of course drinks (orange juice, teas, hot chocolate, etc). For such a simple sandwich, it was delicious. Even though there were a scant two hours between my first meal and this one, I gobbled that shit down.

They also gave us a hot towel, petit four for dessert, a bottle of water, and some salted cashew nuts for if we got hungry. Apparently there was more of the same available in another cabin if we wanted it, but I was alright. Since it was only a five-hour flight, and I would have a whole day ahead of me, I needed sleep.

Normally I sleep (or at least doze) very easily, whether in a car, bus, or even a train. But something about the plane, whether it was the loud roar of the engine, the occasional tilt of the plane, or the new surroundings, made it impossible for me to get any sleep. I tried, believe me. Insomniacs, I feel for you, I was bored as shit. I pushed the button to prop my seat up, flipped out the tv monitor, and started channel surfing. They had at least two dozen channels, and extra channels with foreign subtitles. I rewatched a bit of There Will Be Blood and some of Sweeney Todd, which was surprisingly good. Both had Chinese subtitles. I then flipped to The Other Boleyn Girl, which lasted me until the captain turned the lights back on.

We were nearing Heathrow, London, so the stewardesses walked around again handing out hot towels. They followed this up by a light breakfast of a croissant, some butter and jam, a muffin, some freshly-squeezed orange juice, and some fruit. I was offered a bacon roll, but upon my inspection it was Canadian bacon. Outraged, I flung it into the stewardess's face and cried out, "What is this blasphemy? You call this bacon? Well I call it a complaint sent to your manager!"

Snapping out of my reverie, I set the sandwich aside and watched strange television shows featuring British-accented hosts until we touched down, preparing myself for the unending amusement that comes from listening to English pronunciation.

In the coming weeks, I would not be disappointed.

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12Jul/081

thanks,#steven

Okay, I figured that the keyboards here in the UK might replace the dollar symbol with the pound sign. I can fix that. What I can't fix are the small physical differences in the keyboard that are totally messing with me.

When I trained to touch-type, I took into account that the enter key and the shift key were pretty damn big. No reason to reach all the way to the other end of the keys when you can just hit the closer end. Simple and practical conservation of movement.

But England is like no you lazy American, work those pinkies! For the first day and a half I put a # at the end of my urls and a at the beginning of each sentence. And the rightAlt key is bent on world domination, because instead of alt-left moving me back a page, it rotates my screen orientation. I have no need for practicing my ability to read upside down, but what I do want is to be able to scroll backwards in peace!

My only victory was changing the keyboard settings back to a US configuration, so @ is back on top of the 2 instead of where " should be.

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12Jul/080

Warhammer 40k Release Event Battle Report

This report doesn't contain any confusing lingo, and even those with no Warhammer 40k experience will be able to understand it.

I was excited to play my first real game of 40k, at a tournament no less, even though I did not have my army with me. I instead played with whatever I could whip up out of the case of Eldar that the store had lying around, which was to say that it was nowhere near what I wanted to use. Odds were against me, but I was willing to give it a shot.

I was facing off against an Imperial Guard army, and true to their nature they showed up with lots of men, a good number of big weapons in poorly-skilled hands, and a number of tanks. Now normally this would be okay, as my Eldar are superior to them in every way but numbers. Even my lowly foot soldiers are superior to theirs. I just needed to close the distance and bring my weapons into range.

This is more difficult than it sounds, as we were facing off on what was essentially an open battlefield. He could bring all his weapons to bear on me at once, and there was no way I could get around that. He would pound with artillery and cannon fire, which would get more intense as I came closer and he could bring more of his weapons to bear. But with such a short range on my weapons, I needed to bring the fight to him.

I made my advance, and despite firing an enormous amount of heavy weaponry in my general direction, I managed to reach safer positions with only a few casualties; in fact, during the first turn of bombardment I didn't lose any men at all!

I was able to knock out an entire squad of ten men in a single volley from my Dire Avengers, just as they jumped into the leftmost crater for cover. I had kept taking potshots at his vehicles with the few heavy weapons I had, but I couldn't manage to do any damage.

So far, I had been doing very well. I survived an enormous amount of ordinance with the blessing of my psykers, and was practically at his doorstep. My weapons were in range and I could probably assault his units with my close combat specialists on the right.

That's when dice figured I had had enough fun, and now it was time to end this lopsided battle.

I tried to rush in with both squads, hoping with both of them that I would kill a good portion of them but not all of them. This is due to a rule that forbids units from shooting at units locked in combat, for fear of hitting their allies. If I could stay locked in combat during his round, I would be protected from all his return fire and would mop up the squad just in time for my next round.

But as I said before, this is where my luck stopped. I needed my footsoldiers on the left to do well, and my specialists on the right to do poorly. The opposite happened: the specialists obliterated the squad they were fighting, and the footsoldiers were routed before they could even take out a single man.

So on my final turn, my foot soldiers were fleeing in fear, my monstrous creature was nearing the end of its life after being pelted at, my specialists were exposed in the middle of way too many guns, and my grunts were wondering whether it was a good idea to wake up this morning.

Long story short, they all get blasted to hell. The holographic illusions that were preventing his men from targeting my specialists didn't work up close, my grunts were taken out in a single, well-placed artillery shell that pierced the psychic shield their warlock threw up, a krak grenade blew a big chunk out of my walking battle tower, and my foot soldiers were being pussies and ran the fuck away.

We shook hands again, and I went on my merry way. His way was merrier because this was an attrition tournament, where you move onto the next round with only the units you have left. I would have walked out limping even if that round of close combat turned out the way I wanted it to, but as it stood he walked out fairly unscathed.

It was fun, and I'd love to do it again, but next time I'm choosing the battlefield. They hold gaming nights on Thursdays and there'll be another tournament next Saturday with armies three times the size we were using, so I'll take this army and pair up with someone.

And now for the more detailed battle report. Everyone who is not Jason, Alex or Mike can stop reading right about now.

The list is pretty much the same, but I swapped my Dark Reapers for the Wraithlord and an extra Harlequin.

First off, balls, this battlefield was way in favor of his army. I had few weapons that could reach him before turn 3, the craters provided saves that were no better than my Eldar's, /and/ I had to spend a turn exposed to reach them. He could bring all his guess weapons and autocannons onto me from turn 1, and the rest of his mortars, grenade launchers, and laswhatevers from turn 2 onwards. I had no option but to run at him, and it was an uphill battle all the way. The mission was to kill everything, so there was no way I could rush to objectives before he did. He was content with his massive gunline staying right where it was.

I am surprised the beginning of the battle went as well as it did. By the end of turn 2 I had lost just one Dire Avenger and two Guardians thanks to fortuned saves, and the Veil of Tears of the Harlequins was impenetrable. I lost only a few more as I continued advancing.

I had been firing my Wraithlord's twin-linked Brightlance as he advanced, hoping to get into shuriken catapult (12") range of the guardsmen. I also kept firing the Eldar Missile Launcher at his Walker, hoping for an easy takedown with just AV10. They were ineffective for the entire game; I managed only two shakens.

By the time my last assault round finished, I had already lost. My two Harlequins with kisses took out eight guardsmen by themselves; my opponent did not ask that I roll to see if the rest of the squad was able to take out the remaining two guardsmen. I didn't want to waste my time either. The Dire Avengers lost initiative because they were attacking into cover, lost half the squad in his attacking round, and was unable to land hits with their power weapon or witchblade. Penalties negated the Farseer's Ld10, and they fled.

So in a big turnaround my Harlequins were in close range of two units, with only 5+ saves to protect them, and my Dire Avengers were routed after being reduced to a man, an Exarch, and their Farseer. My Wraithlord had gotten down to a single wound, my Guardians were being disgraces to their craftworld, and my War Walker had not yet come out of reserves.

That brings me to my tally list of mistakes:

  • I put my War Walker in reserve. I wanted to use his Scout USR to come from the sides on turn 2, negating some of the guards' cover saves. This was a bad, bad idea. He never came out, and would have been made contributions to the fight had I put him in. With his 36" dual scatter lasers I would have easily reached any of his units while staying away from all of his largest guns, and I could have laid down eight S6 shots from turn 1 at the guardsmen. Granted this only lets me kill 1.11 guardsmen a turn...but I could at least have taken out his Walker.
  • I kept firing my EML at his walker instead of using a plasma grenade to pin the several squads he placed together. The walker was really only a threat to the Harlequins who were already safe with their Veil and Fortune; I needed to suppress the rest of the army.
  • The Walker probably would have been a 1-hit kill if I used my Wraithlord, since his Brightlances were twin-linked. But I was able to hit the side armor of his larger vehicle, and I had thought that the EML would suffice for the walker...
  • I assaulted with my Harlequins blindly. With my 6" move I was definitely within 6" assault, and in my bloodlust I fleeted to make sure and then charged everyone in. What I should have done was assault with as few of my units as possible by keeping my non-kiss Harlequin within 6" assault, another non-kiss within 2" coherency, and the rest right behind him. I would have assaulted with just a single unit in base-to-base, and a single unit supporting it. This would have made my best-case scenario more likely: that I killed off enough, they wouldn't flee, and I would kill the rest on his round.
  • I shouldn't have assaulted with the Dire Avengers. I bladestormed the first unit with the intention to go to ground when he started firing. Then I could get back up next turn, bladestorm the remaining group in the crater, and then charge in. What actually happened was that I forgot to go to ground, lost guys, and then lost more guys when I tried to make the best of things by assaulting.

This was probably the worst matchup for me, with bad terrain, an army I had to wade through constant fire to get to, and a number of vehicles bearing down on me. A Tau army would have done considerably better, with their pulse rifles being able to form an equally impressive gunline right from the start and railguns able to take down his vehicles, while still being able to make use of cover themselves.

I don't know whether my optimal list would have done any better, as my Avengers would have had to make the same trek, my Pathfinders would have been foiled by cover saves, and his heavy weaponry would have just gone straight through my AV10 Walkers on turn 1 since cover did not extend high enough to protect them.

A second list I thought up, with my Walkers being replaced by a Wraithlord with an EML/Scatter Laser and a few small bike squads, may have done better. My Wraithlord would definitely have been able to have more of an effect, with his laser and pinning missile causing havoc one unit at a time, but the bikes were for objective-grabbing and would thus be useless.

So I got creamed pretty badly. It was still fun, interesting to see that many 40k players around, to have people spectate your game. If I drop by and borrow the army for either a game night or the Apocalypse tourney, I will drop the Wraithlord and get my Dark Reapers back.

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8Jul/085

Tidbits

Random things I've learned while here:

  • If you're cooking meat and don't know if you've cooked it long enough, do not take a bite out of it to check. Squishy = bad.
  • Rock climbing barefoot is an exercise in pain tolerance. Don't do it.
  • A sunny day can and will turn to rain soon enough.
  • Don't make a big pot of stew when your only dormmates are vegetarians and you have nothing to keep it in.
  • With this many side streets and footpaths, there is always a faster way of getting where you need to be.
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