MotoGP Philip Island – Everything is ready?

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60,000km service completed. Brakes, chain and tyres have plenty of life left. Nothing else noted in the report. Sounds good.

Bags have been tested to capacity. Route is planned, accommodation is organised. Scored some cheap tickets to a grandstand from a bloke at work who can’t go any longer!

So Wednesday next week I’ll be on the road.

The only thing that’s looking bleak is the weather. Seriously, after months of very little rain its been raining almost non stop for two weeks and apart from a break this weekend, it isn’t looking good next week either.

At least in Sydney. The Snowies and the Alps might be okay, but Melbourne isn’t looking too great yet.

Still I can only see as far as Wednesday, so I guess we’ll wait and see what develops.

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MotoGP Philip Island – Planning Progress

Well I have a set of Kriega tail packs now. A US30, and 2 x US10. I have set them up on the bike and even used the US30 twice to get stuff to work. They will fit my gear easily, they fit nicely on the bike and it looks like it will all work out. Attached are the test fittings I did with my gear.

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Not a lot of weight in the bags as it’s mostly clothes. So I don’t think it will hamper the bikes performance much. That’s a big plus. It also seems to be pretty stable and well distributed, so overall I’m pretty happy. Have also had some glowing feedback on the Kriega’s performance on trips so it all sounds good.

The route has had some small changes. I now might head out via the Royal National Park and along the coast towards Nowra before heading inland to Canberra, intercepting my usual route. This has the advantage of avoiding the Hume. Possibly have some company for this part.

It looks like the second day I will head south to Cooma and then Tumut and Khancoban etc. Basically as before. The third day, by far the longest, is looking to be south through Mitt Mitta and then over the Alps. I also had some suggestions along Gippsland to take as well.

I am looking to stay in Glen Waverley area. There are some hotels there and it’s on the side of the city, closer to the Island and closer to the route in and out, so save me a little bit of riding, especially when I’m tired at the end of the longest third day.

Coming back, I’m looking at out through the Black Spur up towards Albury on some B & C roads, then across Khancoban again. Finally back my old route and home.

MotoGP Philip Island – Early Planning

Slowly it is becoming more definite that I will actually get a chance to ride to the MotoGP round at Philip Is. It’s been more than ten years since I’ve made it too the Island and I am quietly, extremely excited. I am also excited about the actual journey, which is probably more than half of the excitement. Mrs Mab, who normally puts a big wet blanket on this kind of idea, has tasked me with a couple of things while in Melbourne and she’s taken leave. These are positive factors that increase the chances.

I’ve started early planning. I have a rough idea of timings and routes. I’m currently trying to figure out how much to take, and how to carry it. Gear wise, it’s pretty sorted. Helmet, gloves, Dianese touring pants and jacket, touring boots. Comfortable, warm and not too bad in heat, along with waterproof, it will work in all weathers. And previous experience, a week travelling across the Alps and into Victoria and the Island, the weather could do all of those. I will take my neck sock, probably my winter/waterproof gloves and don’t think I will take the quilted liners. Instead I will use layers of regular clothing as then I can use that when not on the bike.

Gear depends so much on the expected weather, and while it is changeable, it’s unlikely to be super cold, so liners and winter gloves are the first to be eliminated. And I won’t put too much trust in the forecasts, it will give me a ballpark. The better the weather, the lighter I can travel.

Today, I put together a pile of clothes, a rough idea of other gear (tools, lube, electronics) in order to get some idea of what I might be taking. It works out to about 20-30L. Currently I have a 10-15L tank bag and a 10-15L tail pack. I WILL NOT take a heavy backpack, I may take a light one, but all of the baggage options also have shoulder straps etc, so an actual backpack is probably overkill. I don’t want to even take the tank bag if I can help it. So one option I can try is strapping a backpack to the backseat. Not the best option.

I’m considering getting a Kreiga tailpack. That was part of the reason to sort out the approximate size. Looks like a US30 will work. I’ve heard good things about them and being waterproof that will be an advantage. But I could also grab a smaller US10 (or 2) as well. I could use this on race day instead of dragging the whole pack there. Another advantage is that I can use this set up on other bikes in the future. As much as I would hope to have a VFR with topbox by the Island trip, that would need a Lotto win or something to happen.

The route I have pretty much decided. Sydney to Canberra one day via my old commuting route through Bungonia and Queenbeyan. Next day over Thredbo and down to Khancoban. The last day will be from Wodonga over the alps and to Melbourne. Coming back the same way. Staying with friends up and back, except Melbourne I don’t have any that I think would be willing to put me up for a few days, so likely stay in a hotel then.

So the planning continues, the excitement builds, but is kept in check by past history of disappointment. We’ll see and I’ll keep you posted.

BattleTech Update

I restarted a while back, but other priorities has meant not a huge amount of gaming time. Overall the restart is going well, and I am happy that I made the right decision.

I did a bunch of missions in the early game, building up cash. I didn’t really have much luck finding heavier mechs, but I think I picked up a medium before moving into the story missions.

Currently I’ve just completed the Liberate: Smithon mission that caused so much grief. This time I had a Jagermech, Dragon, Shadow Hawk and Centurion. Two heavies and two mediums this time.

I did abort and restart a couple of times. I initially gave them a LRM focus, but realised that when I used the same strategy as my previous success, I actually wanted a big short range smash down. I sit behind this hill in the corner (right hand side) and wait for the mechs to come around and into the pass, then they each get a face full from my lance.

It worked well, and soon eight mech were down to three. There was a tense moment in the middle when I had an almost cored Cicada, a fresh Jenner and Dragon come around the corner almost at once. This was just after destroying a Panther and Firestarter, so my lance was pretty warm. I backed off around the corner to give them a chance to recover.

The last three mech had figured out the trap but scattered, so I was able to chase them down individually. As I stayed so far back there wasn’t a lot of LRM fire from the turrets, so apart from a lucky hit from the Panther on my Jagermechs head (that didn’t take it off) my mechs were lightly damaged.

So after that mission, I have 2 heavies, a lot of mediums, and the cash to buy several more Dragons from Smithon if I wish. Argo has had a lot of upgrades already completed as well, so overall I am in a lot better position than last time.

Other games of note – I dropped in to take out a base and approached from a unusual angle. I sent the short ranged Dragon in to scout while my longer ranged mechs sat in a river to cover. Of course the enemy lance dropped in about 2 hexes in front of the covering mechs. So I had 3 mechs scrambling for minimum distance (against a bunch of lights) and another mech struggling to close the distance to join in. It was never in doubt, but it was a little mixed up.

I also did a similar obtuse approach in a 3.5 rated mission, my toughest by far. Again, assault a base, I circled around the map and approached from the rear. Here I discovered half the “reinforcement lance”, a Cicada and a Griffon waiting for their trigger. I almost cored the Cicada and damaged the Griffon before they activated, but hadn’t quite finished them off when the original lance of Panther, Hunchback, Shadow Hawk and Vindicator arrived, along with a Wolverine and another Cicada as the other half of the “reinforcements”.┬áThe Hunchback’s right torso was focused as soon as he showed up in order to eliminate that AC20.

It got pretty tense, and while I steadily wound back their numbers, the Dragon lost both arms, I ran out of LRMs on all of the mechs as well as most of the SRMs. My Griffon also lost an arm and torso. The Dragon took a Death from Above from the Shadow Hawk, but this exposed its back to several volleys from two mechs (but it still took a while, Shadow Hawks can take a pounding).

Soon after I had finally eliminated the mechs, while spending the whole time hiding out of LoS from the turrets. It might have actually been easier straight up the guts as I would have hit the lighter lance first and hopefully eliminated more mechs to start with. It wasn’t as expensive a repair bill as a I was expecting, but it wasn’t cheap.

Now I plan to hit up some more missions before the next story one on the moon.

BattleTech – Restarting

I have been struggling the last few missions to get anywhere. I seem to be always putting things back together and am still lurching from month to month, contract to contract. Even though I’m picking up only 2 skull rated missions (out of 5) I seem to run into mostly heavies. For my lance of mediums this is a big ask, and they’ve been found wanting.

I decided to go back to the start and spend more time in the early game between story missions, running missions. I figure this will get me a better baseline to start from.

Plus I can use the lessons that I have learned along the way to perform better than before.

But there’s no way to skip the first story mission so here goes nothing…

BattleTech – Setting out on my own

After Smithon I completed the next story mission. This went much better, though the game did hang just as I was about to win. I did have a halfway through save, so the next chance I got I started from there.

This second one went much better (strangely enough) and instead of being caught separated and out of position I was able to get the lance organised to destroy the reinforcements. This saved two pilots and mechs from destruction.

After this I decided it was time to head out and try to get myself a bit of a buffer of resources and see if I could increase my mech weights. I still have to run 2 or 3 mediums and 1 or 2 heavies, but I’d like to get some heavier mechs.

So picking up the Nav charts I picked a couple of high tech level but low challenge worlds and set out away from the story zone. The idea was to hit up a string of easier missions, sucking the money up and hopefully a few bits of mechs and weapon upgrades.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific advice on whether it is better to go all money, all scrap or strongly one or the other in the game. It certainly depends upon what has happened in your career. Remember you can have a 10/10/10/10 pilot in a solid mech and a headshot takes out the mech and the pilot in one shot. Or you can slug it out with 8 mechs and barely a scratch on your lance. The random number effect can be strong in this game.

So I’ve mostly gone cash, and thankfully it has been some time since I’ve spent all of my earnings (and more) from a mission. I’m still usually a month or two from bankruptcy, but I’ve been spending on upgrades (of my ship and on upgraded ++ weapons), rather than repairs.

My idea is to do this for a little while, then head back into the story with a bit of a buffer. Research shows I’ve completed 9 of 20 story missions, so there is a bit to go. But there are some tough ones to come if I don’t gear up somewhat.

Still enjoying the game. It’s giving me some sleepy days at work meetings!

BattleTech – Liberate Smithon

I’ve finally managed to get past one of the toughest story missions yet.

Liberate Smithon sees me drop against 2 lances of mechs, supported by turrents, with the intent to capture the supply dump from the Directorate. We also tasked with protecting as much ammunition as we can and intercepting two escaping supply trucks.

You drop in the southern end of a map, on a small rise. There are small passes to the left and right as well as the option to rush straight at the base forward. There are several light mechs in the front with several heavier fire support mechs to the rear. It is also a hot environment, playing havoc with your rate of effort.

Normally people suggest three things. Drop heavy, as heavy as you can. I agree with this. Take LRMs, and again I agree there too. Also ignore the supply trucks, they’re just a distraction, most definitely agree. The trucks give you almost no time to be in position and they take a beating. They also put you out of position to take on the mechs.

There’s two more suggestions. An ammo crate in the front right is situated under a turret. Blow this one when there are a couple of mech in the blast zone, but fairly early on as well. You can usually catch at least one mech in the explosion, and some have caught up to three. They end up heavily damaged, and the explosion will destroy light ones. Do this! The turret is a threat as well and needs to be removed.

The last suggestion is to go left.

I go right. The same reason, there is a hill on both the left and right, to use as cover from the back of the map fire support. But I like the right a little more (I have been more successful that way).

I move right immediately, baiting the light fast mechs up to the small pass behind it. Focus fire each as they come around into sight.

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So at the end of the first turn, my lance has moved right, heading behind the rise in front of them. This also puts you in easy reach of the ammo crate. Stay in the cover of this hill and burn up the mechs as they try to come at you.

You will need to soak up some LRM fire, but judicious use of Bracing at the end of turns will help a lot. And also help with heat management.

With the extra kill or two from the ammo crate, I don’t need to leave this area until the last two heavies are left. This is usually a Dragon and a Griffon. Focus fire these down. Done, 2 bonus objectives. Lots of cash.

I think the move left is similar. However it’s more difficult to hit the particular ammo crate from there and I think is a little harder to actually move to while remaining in cover.

In the end I used a Trebuchet, Hunchback, Centurion and a Vindicator. All except the Hunchback ran some LRMs. All suffered some damage. But they had much more luck than previous drops involving Jenner or Shadow Hawks for example.

Hope these tips help. I went off and worked some missions up before returning to this one. Story missions don’t disappear so you can take your time. This was probably the biggest difference, I was running a heavier lance.

 

BattleTech – a longer review

Battletech – I promised a review later, and it’s now later.

I am only a little way through the story, and I know that there are many who have finished. I do not know how long the story is, I think I am up to about the 4th or 5th story mission (called Liberation:Smithon). At the moment I am leaving that mission aside as I train and gear up my lance.

My first impressions of a faithful recreation of the table top game, along with decent graphics and AI are still pretty much unchanged. The first, that its a faithful recreation of the table top is for me a real positive. I think that has made it easy for them in that balance and such have basically been play tested for 30 years. The great big positive for me is that turn based copes very easily with random interruptions. I can stop and sort out life stuff without stressing about what the enemy are up to. I know it isn’t everyone’s favourite way of playing, but I don’t mind it.

The graphics look good on my iMac. I imagine there are more impressive games and on more capable systems there are more impressive games. But graphics aren’t everything.

The story is fine. It’s very similar to the really old “MechWarrior” game, where you are a merc with a story and the intent is to carry out some contracts until you’re geared up enough to finish the story. What I do like in this version is that the story engages you as you go. In the old game every time I headed back into the story I was arrested and the game ended. I gave up and just set about getting awesome mechs and lots of money. Turns out I should have gone back at that stage.

Anyway, the game does get a little slow during some combats when there is a lot of actions queued up. The random number generator can be a bit vicious sometimes, but it works both ways. Sometimes a game will be tough, sometimes its not.

The rounds can take quite a bit of time, an hour or more. But I don’t find that a bad thing ­čÖé

So overall I am very happy.

Japan Tips and Tricks

Phone & Internet

With Japanese rules about prepaid SIM cards and phone numbers meaning that only Japanese residents can get one, the main way to get internet on your phone when out and about seems to be the Mobile Internet Wifi Hotspot type device. This is a small phone sized gadget that has a SIM card inside and you and your travel buddies all connect their phones to. This is the basic default method for tourists and can be organised prior or once you’re there quite easily.

Of course, I couldn’t see this working for us. The main reason – Mrs Mab and I often move about on holidays separately. Usually, it is her off in one part of the shop (or a different shop) and me in another. So using a wifi gadget would never work.

I eventually decided upon two data only SIMs from Roaming Abroad. This would mean we could message each other, but also FaceTime or Messenger video (or Skype etc) each other, even when far apart. Even though these guys were a bit more expensive, they offered two things I liked. Unlimited data (and it seemed pretty much unlimited) and delivery to our home in Australia before we left.

Service was quick. And upon arrival the SIMs were swapped over. And this is where I should have read the instructions before I left. While it tells you quite clearly not to insert the SIM, I do suggest that you at least head to the website listed in the instructions to get the SIM profile required.

And this is probably the other area of caution. I’m not 100% comfortable with this profile as it seems to be a copy, not provided by the Japanese telephone company and there are several warnings that come up when accessing it. You need to install this profile, then reboot the phone. On your return you need to delete the profile so you go back to your normal provider and reboot your phone again.

However it did work fine. And so far there is no evidence of anything dodgy.

Japan Rail Pass

This caused us a fair bit of should we / shouldn’t we. It’s quite expensive and comes in fixed lengths. After about 2 Shinkansen rides, it’s paid for itself and we had 3 planned. But it came in 7 or 14 day lengths. Our trips were 8 days apart and the whole holiday was 16 days. So didn’t quite fit. That is something to keep in mind in your own planning. In the end we decided upon the standard 14 day pass. Yes it expired before we departed, but by that time we had returned to Tokyo and could use other means to get around.

It would have been better if we had planned around those times, as most SIM cards seemed to come in about the same length

Baggage on the Shinkansen

Another area that I did a lot of research to try to understand was baggage on the Shinkansen. I knew that no matter how much I cajoled and argued, my dream of the four of us using small carry on sized bags only was never going to happen. On the last trip we had 4 medium/large suitcases.

The Shinkansen doesn’t have a luggage area. The main place to store bags is in some spare space at the back of each carriage. First come, first served and fits about 6-8 bags with the rest of the passengers having to keep them with them or on the overhead racks.

Other than that these were an AWESOME way to travel and our main regret is that we always expected them to take longer!

Oh and the seats have power too.

Suico Card

There are some other IC cards that can be purchased as well. These are the ones we had after a friend let me borrow theirs. Basically (for Sydney folks, Opal Cards) are swipe cards that can be used on all public transport, as well as many shops and vending machines (this was neat at the airport as I tried to use them up).

They’re also easy to load, at machines around the stations as well as in Convenience Stores. So highly recommended. There is another card Pasco, I think, which is the same, just a different company (Suico I think is JR).

Child is, I think, below 12 years old and you can only get these in the same JR Pass Offices where you get your Japan Rail Pass (I am not 100% sure about the Office at Haneda though). This is worthwhile as child is 50% of the travel of an adult.

Train Stations

Are the most confusing things in Japan. They are spread out, across several hundred metres, with platforms up to 800m apart even. The platforms are not all nicely grouped together that you might see in Sydney or Melbourne, and I think this is related to them all being different companies.

Tip 1 – Google will sometime tell you the platform. This is usually correct, but occasionally there are more than one train route stopping on a particular platform.

Tip 2 – Many stations have large yellow signs on the platforms, this list common destinations from that station and tells you the exit number you need to get out. THIS WILL HELP A LOT!

Tip 3 – Ask the staff, their English is usually okay and they will likely know some of the common tourist destinations anyway.

Take your time in the station and you should be okay. Worst case, hit the nearest exit and let Google GPS you on your way.

 

I will try to add some more as I think of them.

Japan Days 13-16

There was one main goal for the return to Tokyo. To get safely on the plane without any hassle…..

No, it was to get back to Disneyland!

And this time it wasn’t the school holidays, spring vacation finished. We were really hoping that it would be pretty empty.

IMG_3982And we were not disappointed. At least compared to the first visit. There were actually a lot of people, but many were lining up to get in the front for the parade. It was 10am and the parade was at 3pm. AND THEY WERE ALREADY LINING UP! But at least if they’re waiting for the parade they aren’t on the rides.

IMG_4076I had also worked out how Fastpass works in Disney. A good system I think. You swipe your ticket at a booth near the ride and it gives you a hour window during the day to return and get your ride. You can’t swipe your ticket again until this one has expired but you can do it as many times as you like, on the same or another ride.

IMG_7886The girls were again tall enough to ride on everything, alone if they had wanted. So we hit up the rides – “Big Thunder Mountain”, “Space Mountain”, “Star Tours” and over the day we hit up about 15 rides. A lot more than the 2-3 we managed at the other park visits. ┬áMrs Mab got her dream ride… about 3 rides on “It’s a small world”, and they were with her as the only rider!

The next day we headed to Odiba, which is a fairly newish development area, I think reclaimed from the bay. They have two tallish things. The Statue of Liberty.

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And a life-size Gundam.

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It was a bit strange as we got off the tram and ended up in a new, but mostly empty shopping centre. After wandering along the beach for a bit, we stopped someone to ask directions. He said “Oh are you looking for the Gundam?” We were like “No, but what?” And we headed that way.

It was located outside the foodcourt of another mall (basically across the road from the other mall) and this one was packed. So we discovered where all the people were!

After this it was back to the hotel.

The following day was the trip home. With all of our baggage, we ended up taking a large taxi to the airport and arrived really, really early, so we were stuck with our bags for a couple of hours. On the plus side, we were first in line for the check in!

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The return home was uneventful, arriving home on Thursday at about 10am. I hated the flight home, and was over the flight by about 3 hours in. There wasn’t anything wrong, the seat etc was fine. I was probably just exhausted, but I’ve flown a lot in my life and never felt as uncomfortable and impatient to get off the plane. I spent most of the flight wishing I was sitting in these seats (which I have also spent many hours in) which shows just how annoyed I was. I still don’t know why.

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We bought a few souvenirs and a pile of different snacks, but that was about it. I didn’t look at electronics, clothes seemed the same price (and I couldn’t find anything my size) as here, so our usual purchases didn’t happen (and the bags didn’t grow too much!).

Overall, it was a FANTASTIC trip that I would recommend heartily to anyone. Japan is a fascinating, safe, enjoyable place to visit.