Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Miniatures - What Comes Next? 11/24/2009

So I am at a bit of a crossroads. What to do next? There is a fantastic blog out there by James Roach that has been an eye opener for me, insofar as his approach seems to be the antithesis of mine. His approach on projects seems to be to decide what to do next and then go at it full bore until complete. Judging from his blog recaps, some of these projects are a year and a half or more in the execution.

My projects, on the other hand, tend to involve jumping into something new with relatively little forethought, getting partway done, and then becoming enamored of some new thing. Ooooh, shiny.......

To recap my current projects/periods that I would not consider complete (in order of relative completeness). I will try to distinguish between unpainted figs I have already bought and those cases where I don't even own the figs yet.
  • Vikings are a smallish army that are fundamentally done but have 40 or so stock figures that I should finish just to be complete. If I were feeling ambitious, I should probably add 2 or 3 bags more figures for bulk in order to be able to do a larger game than I can now.
  • Normans are a fairly large army, but do have a few units left to paint (less than a hundred figures). I think I may do the 60 remaining spearmen as Crusaders rather then regular Normans.
  • Mongols. I have only one bag of auxiliary spearmen in stock left to paint, but I really need some more quantity for these guys, especially of heavy cavalry (non-horse archers).
  • Wars of the Roses. I have a good sized collection, but also have a few hundred unpainted figs of various kinds, especially retinue troops and cavalry.
  • Hundred Years War. The English and French armies have grown to pretty good size over the last year or so, but still have a ways to go. This is probably less a question of needing more painted units to run a pretty big game, and more about still having a lot of unpainted figs. One nice thing about this is that the extra figures can be useful in the Ottoman project I have begun as well (see below).
  • Ottomans, including eastern European opponents. I have begun this project, which has been of interest to me for many years, by having a few bags of figs painted in my last Fernando Enterprises order. The only completed components of these armies are a unit of Janissary archers, two units of Ottoman archers, a unit of Akinji horse archers, and a unit of Hungarian horse archers. I have probably 10-12 bags of various figs for this ready to go.
  • Renaissance Italian Wars. I have a growing interest in this period but do not know nearly as much about it yet. I have bought a bunch of figures, but have painted only a few leader figures myself. I do have a bunch of Landsknechts that I had painted. Any time I look at these I want more!
These are just the medieval and renaissance periods. This leaves out gunpowder, ancients and anything in 15mm.

If I had half a brain, I would pick something to complete and plow through it. I will let you know what I decide...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miniatures Gallery - Punic Wars

Andy has been nice enough to comment on a couple of my blog posts, and I see that his profile lists Punic Wars as an area of interest, so here are a few pictures of some of my Punic War stuff. All are Old Glory 25mm, mostly painted by Fernando enterprises, but some by me...

All are based for European parts of the war, and not for Africa.

Carthaginian citizen infantry.

Celtic gaul heavy cavalry.
Spanish cavalry.

I haven't used these figs in a long time; maybe this will be the push I need to get them out and use them!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Random Thoughts

I have recently blogged on my not getting peoples' fascination with Facebook and Twitter, yet I spend time writing these blog posts that maybe half a dozen people read. Or maybe less than half a dozen. Or maybe a lot less than half a dozen. Or maybe just me. Hmmmm.

Also wondering how many of the following need to be true to qualify you for a midlife crisis (very mild variety):

  • Wondering where you hairline is going.
  • Wondering when your babies became real people.
  • Realizing that you have a fondness for the "good old days".
  • Wondering where your career is going.
  • Wondering what your golden years will be like (and hoping that you have golden years).
  • Trying to remember what you had for breakfast.
  • Realizing that somewhere along the way, you lost your immortality.
  • Wondering when the music you grew up to became classic rock.
  • Not being able to identify any music created in the last 10-15 years.
  • Wondering why your favorite athletes from your childhood are (a) in the hall of fame, and (b) look really old now.
  • Calculating how far you are beyond the midpoint of average American male life expectancy.

Oh boy. Corvette, here I come!

Daily Nugget - November 19, 2009

In the terminology I share with a friend of mine, a nugget is one of the nice little things that make you happy over the course of a day; things that you might otherwise overlook if you weren't making a point of being aware of them. Nuggets make life worth living, and remind you of all the little things that collectively make us happy. They are a piece of pure joy that you can anchor yourself on. Today was difficult, but it had a nugget late in the day. Generally, nuggets just happen on their own, but if you try, sometimes you can create them...

Before herding the kids upstairs for bath and bed, I put Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl on the stereo, cranked it up, and all four of us danced around the family room like lunatics. My two brown-eyed girls and one green-eyed girl.

That's a nugget.

Currently Reading - November 18, 2009

I finished Philip Roth's The Humbling last night. This short little book seems to be getting very mixed reviews, and I can see why. Roth, who is well into his seventies, seems to be focusing on themes of aging, loss, legacy, and sex with younger women, none of which seems unreasonable to me, I suppose. I am no prude by any means, but the specific sexual content of this one seemed a bit weird and gratuitous. Without going into detail, my main impression of this book is that it was finely crafted for what it is, but it lacked any real substance and impact. It felt to me like this was more of an outline for a much larger work rather than a complete work on its own merit, and the white spaces left for the reader to fill in were too much to ask.

Of Roth's recent works, I liked Everyman and Indignation better. Exit Ghost I have intentionally not read, because I want to read the Zuckerman books in order and I would need to read The Anatomy Lesson and The Prague Orgy before this...

All in all, given that this little tidbit can probably be read in little more than one solid uninterrupted hour, it is worth a read. Some people loved it. If nothing else, it is an interesting view into the aging mind of one of our great writers. 3 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Miniatures Plans

OK, all this reading has to stop, and I need to get back to some hobby stuff.

Fall In was a big disappointment in some ways, but that is a story for another day. The biggest project I need to get done in the short term is basing figures. I have a bunch of figures that need to be put on bases, and then dozens of stands that have been based but the bases haven't been flocked, so they aren't really done. At Fall In, I stopped by the Litko booth and checked out their bases. I have not used them before. They have bases in various thicknesses of plywood and other kinds of stock, and have many "standard" sizes. Anything that is not a standard size can be custom ordered. One nice thing about the plywood bases (as compared to Gale Force 9's masonite) is that they are a pale wood, and therefore the bottoms of the bases can be written on and still be readable, which I normally do.

My typical basing is on basswood strips from Midwest Products. For 25mm foot figures, I cut 2'x1" stock strips into 60mm lengths. I base all of my foot on these 60mm x 1 inch bases, regardless of whether they are close, loose or skirmish order. At one point, I had started to use the standard 60x20mm bases for close order troops, but with scale creep the figures are just too big for these. For cavalry, I take larger basswood stock sheets and cut out bases that are 60x47 or 60x48mm. Again, the de-facto standard 60x40mm cavalry bases are just not large enough for today's oversized 25/28mm figs.

Anyway, to make my life easier, I ordered 100 infantry bases of 60x25mm (which approximates 1 inch deep) and 100 cavalry bases of 60x50mm from Litko. I got an email that they have been shipped, and I will be diving into basing the remainder of my in-process stuff as soon as possible.

As an aside, I recently got an order of contract painted figures back from Fernando Enterprises in Sri Lanka. I have used them for a bunch of years now and have always been happy with their price and quality. This order consists of a bunch of single bags of odds and ends from various medieval periods. All are Old Glory 25mm. I will post pictures as I get them based and finished up.

  • 30 Ottoman foot archers
  • 30 Eastern European peasant archers
  • 30 Welsh archers
  • 30 Wars of the Roses militia billmen
  • 30 Hundred Years War Spanish slingers and javelinmen
  • 10 Hungarian horse archers
  • 10 Ottoman akinci horse archers

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things I Don't Get

Cranky old goat warning!

In no particular order:
  • The Rolling Stones, The Who and Queen. Never got 'em back in the day. Still don't.
  • Getting falling down drunk before a sporting event and then stumbling into the arena to watch the game.
  • Facebook. OK, I get it just a little bit. After being cajoled into opening an account a couple years ago, I have reconnected in a marginal way with a few people from all the way back in high school. That's the one good thing. Everything else I don't get. Silly games and apps. Poking people and sending them virtual gifts/drinks/whatever. What someone is having for dinner. I'm not a particularly social creature. Which brings me to...
  • Twitter. Don't get this even a little bit. "It's 5:13pm and I'm southbound on I-95 near the Walt Whitman bridge." Great. "Watching the Flyers game on TV." Good to know.
  • Soccer. After the age of ten or twelve.
  • High School Reunions. This goes hand in hand with Facebook Friend requests. I was only vaguely acquainted with most of these people when we were in high school. Why would they want to be my friend 25 years later? We weren't friends then. There are only a few people from high school who I would want to see after all these years, and it wouldn't be while surrounded by a bunch of total strangers who can't let go of the early 1980's. Cue Springsteen's Glory Days...
  • Nascar. 3 hours of left turns (ok, I know they turn left and right several times a year). The same 10 guys have all the talent and all the money. The other 30 guys can't win. The only purpose the other guys serve is to occasionally crash into one of the talented guys, knocking him out of a race (the fickle hand of fate, automotive style).
  • Clams, mussels and oysters. Who in the world ever thought of trying to eat one of these little phlegm balls in the first place?
  • Sushi. Man has tamed fire. Use it.

Currently Reading - November 17, 2009

I finished John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River a couple days ago, having plowed through the last 300+ pages in three days. I really enjoyed this book. It was constructed in an unusual way, in that you were always told what was going to happen at the beginning of a section, and then the story unfolded so that you would see how you got to where you already knew you were going to end up. I didn't mind this at all. Familiar Irving themes and symbols were present in abundance, and there were many very strong parallels between his own life and career and that of the story's writer character (which he seemed to be playing up and having fun with). Some Amazon reviewers found the book to be repetitious, derivative, self-serving, etc, and I can't deny that their complaints have some validity, but I still like it very much. It is typical Irving, but very good Irving; I don't think being typical of yourself is necessarily a bad thing. Despite the 554 pages, I never felt like I was bogging down and having trouble wanting to keep going, which happens every now and then (and with much shorter books than this). I would give it 4 stars out of 5.

Wolf Hall is on my night stand, but I couldn't help myself from starting Philip Roth's The Humbling last night. It is a very small 140 pages, and I will probably finish it tonight. It's a novella, really. The book is postcard sized, with medium sized typeface spaced "liberally" shall we say. I bet if you typeset this book in a normal font on a normal sized page it would be 75 pages long...and difficult to sell for $22.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Currently Reading - November 12, 2009

Status update. Still working my way through Last Night at Twisted River by John Irving. I am about 240 pages in, and enjoying it (which leaves me about 315 pages to go). As I have said before, I have always liked Irving's novels, but missed many of them in the "dark years" when I wasn't reading much but history.

When finishing a book and pondering what to start next, I admit to having a bit of a prejudice against big books. When looking at an Irving novel, or Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs, or Rushdie's Satanic Verses, or any of the other larger books I would like to read, I almost invariably end up saying to myself "I could read 2 or 3 shorter books in the time it would take me to finish that monster", and end up selecting something else. Which is true, but misses an important point. In reading, as in many other things in life, it is the journey that is important, not how many finish lines you can cross, nor how fast.

With that in mind, I picked up Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (this year's Man Booker prize winner) today at the bookstore, and plan to read it next. Compared to Last Night in Twisted River, it is a lightweight at only 500 or so pages.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Live Your Love

A couple of months ago I wrote about living life to the fullest, and how I wanted to do better at this. Something tragic happened to an acquaintance of mine recently that serves as a brutal reminder of how important this is.

Live Your Love.

Surround yourself with the people you love, in the places you love, doing the things you love. Let the people you love know it every chance you get. Trust that everything else will take care of itself. And even if it doesn't, at least you can take comfort that you have done the best you could with what you had in the time that was allotted for you.

Goal for 2009 #3 (Canoeing)

Dave and I have periodically discussed the idea of getting out on the Brandywine and doing some canoeing for years now, but it hasn't ever happened. By May 31st, 2010 at the latest, I will pay the $62 to the local outfitter in north Wilmington that will drop you up at Brandywine Picnic Park and pick you up 4 hours later at Thompson's Bridge in Brandywine State Park. $62 is for one canoe (not per person), all equipment, and shuttling to and from. Seems like a bargain, and having been doing some reading on canoeing in Pennsylvania, the Brandywine is baby water that is perfect for a newbie.

I would very much like to knock this goal off sooner rather than later, and hope to find a way to do this before we get completely into winter. In many instances, winter and early spring are the best times to canoe many of the local streams and smaller rivers due to the typically higher water levels than what you would find in summer and early fall. Comments on the Brandywine are that it generally doesn't have an adequate water flow or level in the summer for real canoeing, but that doesn't stop the tour outfitters from "letting the novices grind their canoes down the stream all summer long."

Return to Hawk Mountain, November 9, 2009

With the forecast for a nice day, and Leo unable to make it, Dave and I decided to do a day at Hawk Mountain. Dave had not been yet this year, and while I had been there only a week and a half ago, I had no issue with going back, as there were pieces of the more difficult trails that I had not done, and the bird watching was relatively bad the previous trip.

I picked Dave up at around 8:20am, and we were on the road shortly after, arriving at about 9:45 (with one stop for drinks and snacks). We went to South Lookout first for a quick look around. The day proved to be a lot cloudier than forecast, and the visibility was not great, with a significant haze out over the valley; it was warm though. Another big difference was the fall foliage: a week and a half ago, most of the leaves were still on the trees and the colors were good (but not at peak). By today, most of the leaves were on the ground, with only a few trees hanging onto theirs. With all the leaves on the ground, footing would be a little more uncertain, as you could easily slip on them if you weren't careful. It was also difficult to tell sometimes on the rocky sections whether there was solid ground under the leaves, or just a leaf-filled hole.

We stayed at South Lookout for just a few minutes, enough to see that there was more bird activity. We decided to hike down to the River of Rocks trail, do the full loop around to the eastern Golden Eagle connector trail and then up to the Skyline trail for the hike over to the North Lookout. We would lunch at North Lookout and spend some time (hopefully) watching birds.
The scenery was definitely different without the leaves, and visibility down in the woods was much farther without the view obstructions. It was a nice easy walk, mostly downhill or near level until we looped around and started up toward the Skyline trail. In my extremely limited hiking career, I have not had to go up many steep inclines, and the last portion of the Golden Eagle connector certainly counts as steep, at least in my book. Looking at a topographic map, you climb about 700 feet in 3/4 of a mile, which much of the worst of it being in the last part. My legs are pretty good, but my cardio/lungs are not very good at this point. It was a different feeling. With a few brief stops for a breather, I was sweating, breathing hard and my heart rate was up nicely. I felt like I was doing ok until just a hundred or so yards from the top, when we stopped for one last breather and I had a sudden feeling like I was going to throw up. It passed fairly quickly, and I am happy not to have to confess that indignity. We stayed at that spot for a few extra minutes before completing the climb. I was perfectly happy for a good solid 5 minute break at the top, and was wondering if I had pushed myself a little too hard. Perhaps I did, but I began feeling good again shortly, and we continued west along the Skyline Trail, climbing the last rock face hand over hand and popping out on the North Lookout. I like the Skyline trail very much; I enjoy the boulder hopping and rock climbing, and I seem to be pretty sure-footed.
There was a decent sized crowd gathered, and a fairly steady stream of hawks flying across the far end of the valley. Dave and I sat down, had a sandwich, and had a while to relax and chat. The people watching aspect of spending some time at this spot was as interesting to me as the bird watching. There were quite an assortment of people. There were two HMS employees (the official spotters), as well as several other apparently knowledgeable people and a number of apparent novices (like me). Among the knowledgeable ones, there was one guy who seemed to need to identify and call out as many birds as he could before the spotters did so. I guess he saw it as some sort of competition or something. Or perhaps I simply lack the proper amount of reverence. At one point someone nearby said something along the lines of "if those birds got closer we could tell whether they were males or females". My comment to Dave was "if those birds got closer we could shoot them and eat them for lunch." I don't think anyone heard me, which is probably just as well.
Side note: Looking north into the adjoining valley, you can see the little town of New Ringgold nestled between the next few ridges. The Little Schuylkill river (a stream really) comes down from Tamaqua, through New Ringgold, comes down toward the base of Hawk Mountain, then veers around to the west before heading on to Port Clinton and beyond. A canoeing book I have says this stretch of the Little Schuylkill is perhaps the nicest canoe run in the whole Schuylkill drainage. I now have a strong desire to canoe it...
By around 2:30, we packed it in, headed back to the car and on home (with a quick stop to gawk at Cabela's, an amazingly huge outdoors store). All in all a very nice day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Currently Reading - November 3, 2009

I dove into John Irving's new novel Last Night in Twisted River over the weekend. I've always enjoyed Irving's books, having read probably his first 6 or so, but haven't read any of his stuff over the last 15-20 years. Part of the issue, I suppose, is that his books are generally very long. This one is 554 pages (which is maybe short for him). I have heard of him being referred to as a modern American Dickens, and that's probably not a bad description, as his books do have that kind of scope and scale. I am about 90 pages in, and probably have the better part of two weeks in front of me. Good so far, and already showing his propensity for random acts of fate dramatically affecting peoples' lives. In an Irving novel, you can be walking down the street and have a piano drop out of the sky and land on you...and usually do.