Sunday, January 20, 2013

Geocaching - 2012 and 2013

This will of necessity be a very short post. Geocaching, while I claim to have not lost an interest in it, was not much of a factor in spending my free time last year. After 558 caches in 2010 and 327 more in 2011, I started the year at 885 and ended the year a paltry 40 caches later at 925.

Along the way, I did add some additional geography, notably the state of Texas in January, Washington DC on the family trip in the summer, and several upstate New York counties during the Adirondacks trip with the guys. It does seem that caching while traveling was about the only caching I did.

This year, I intend to get back out and do some more of this, hopefully with a daughter or two (or a brother) in tow. I know that Dave would be more than willing to take part in some hiking/caching trips, as this is the kind of caching he likes to do, and we can get outside, get some exercise, and kill two birds with one stone. The greatest enjoyment I get from gecaching continues to be the fact that it takes me to places, and allows me to see, more things than I would see otherwise. I love collecting new geography...

As for goals in 2013, I will be as vague with this as I was with my miniatures hobby goals posted earlier this month. This ties back into something that my wise older brother mentioned in a blog post of his at some point; I have chosen this year to have "intentions" and not "goals." Goals seem very specific and beg to be measured. Goals can almost become a burden. Intentions are more an expression of where your heart is at at a given point in time. So I have intentions.

  • Simply put, I want to be more active than I was this year (which could be rephrased as being active at all).
  • Going into 2012, based on prior history, it was inconceivable that I would not reach the major caching milestone of 1,000 finds. But to quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride (with regards to "inconceivable")... "I don't think it means what you think it means." I managed to come up way short. I will not come up short again this year. I don't know how far beyond 1,000 I will get, but I will get this milestone. I promise myself that much. If I could get 250-ish finds and end near 1200, that would be a fine year. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.
  • I have this "collecting" thing about getting new geographies. I would like to add a few states and some new counties in the local area. The guys trip for this year is leaning toward Maine, so that would seem to be a no-brainer. Perhaps business travel will add a state or two. Some road trips in the summer to Jersey, Maryland or Delaware beaches would add some counties.
  • In relation to the silly statistics that cachers keep track of, I would like to fill in some of the empty dates on my calendar (the ultimate goal being a find on every calendar date in a 366 day year). 2012 was a leap year, and I did get a cache on February 29, so that is not something I will have to wait until 2016 to deal with. I begin the year with just short of 260 dates; I would like to get 20 or 30 more. This would require judicious planning of "on the way to work" and lunchtime cache finds. In this case, the fact that I have been only an occasional cacher in 2012 should help. New caches have been placed that I have not been paying attention to or have dealt with.
The most important thing by far will be to get back to making this a fun part of my limited spare time. I still have the interest...I just need to make the time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Postcards from a Rock and Roll Tour

I'm not exactly sure what I was doing at the time, but I was on Amazon looking for something, and I stumbled across a link to the above titled book. Postcards from a Rock and Roll Tour is a book length series of vignettes written by Gordon Marshall, the backing drummer for the Moody Blues, and covers a summer and fall tour of the US and Great Britain in 2010. Given my love of the Moody Blues, I ordered a copy and devoured it in a couple of days.

It was a very interesting book, and a good read in its own right, but was a little disappointing in some ways.

Marshall first toured with the Moodies in 1991 in what was supposed to be a nine-week stint as a second backup drummer while Graeme Edge, the drummer, played through and recovered from an injury. Things went well, and Marshall has been touring with the band ever since. His journal-style recollections from this particular tour are a fascinating insight into the life of a traveling musician, if a bit repetitive at times. Varying quality food, some sightseeing, familiar venues, jogging for exercise, exhaustion, planes (rarely) and tour buses (generally). The Moodies have been touring for the last bunch of years with three original members as well as four secondary musicians to fill out the sound. Marshall paints a picture of the main guys being nice and down to earth, but recognizes that even after 20+ years touring with the band, there is a difference to being with the band versus in the band (not with any bitterness, just matter of fact). Things like playing a show in one city one night, getting in the tour bus at midnight for the eight hour overnight ride to the next city, while the three main guys hop a lear jet and get there in an hour and a half. As you would expect, being a superstar means you ride the bus some of the time, but not all of the time...

The only minor disappointment for me was that the amount of content specific to the Moody Blues was less than I had hoped for. Presumably in respecting the privacy of the others (his employers), there is little sharing of any kind of personal insight into any of them, and much of what Marshall writes could be true of touring with any band, not just one of my favorites. That is a quibble though of a hard core fan; this is a quick fun read that would be good under any circumstances, and had enough Moodies material to keep me happy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

History Book - Protecting the Flank

Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff's Ridge and East Cavalry Field, by Eric J. Wittenberg (2002).

I finished this smallish book over the weekend, and liked it very much. It's been sitting on the bookshelf for quite a while, and I was in the mood for a Civil War book, so I started it last week and finished it in a matter of a few evenings.

The book covers the actions on the northeast flank of the Gettysburg battlefield on July 2nd and 3rd, 1863. On the 2nd, David Gregg's Union cavalry division contested Brinkerhoff's Ridge against Walker's "Stonewall" Brigade of Johnson's Division of Ewell's Corps, which was feeling for the Union flank. On the 3rd, Gregg's division (reinforced by other Union cavalry elements) successfully held off a substantial attack by Stuart's cavalry, which was attempting to turn the Union flank and get into the Union rear in conjunction with the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble charge occurring elsewhere on the field.

This is the second or third of Wittenberg's books that I have read, and he has an easy to read style. This particular book is a relatively light 132 pages (not including the substantial section on the driving tour of the battlefield today), but has a nice amount of detail on a part of the battle that is generally glossed over quickly in the histories of the overall battle, and a part that I didn't know much about. It was informative, and taught me some things, which is always what you want.

There are lots of good maps, and pictures of many of the officers and men from units on both sides. As always, there are the repetitive quotes about "the toughest fight ever in the history of mankind", "bullets flying thick as hail", and "Captain XYZ was most gallant soldier ever", but not excessively so. A very good read.

Recommended for those with those with an interest in Civil War cavalry actions and/or a deep interest in Gettysburg.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Les Miserables

My wife and I enjoy musical theater, and good music in general, and my favorite stage musical is Les Miserables by a wide margin. Over the last year or so, daughter Julia has become obsessed with Les Miz through the magic of YouTube and the iPad. When we saw that a traveling company of the 25th anniversary staging was coming to the Academy of Music, it seemed a logical thing for Julia to ask Santa for as her big Christmas wish. Santa came through in a big way, and so yesterday the three of us went into the city for the 2pm Saturday matinee.

Amp and I have seen the show three times, but none of them recently. Our first time seeing this would have been in the late 1980's in Philadelphia, probably at the Forrest Theater. For that show, Craig Schulman (one of the more famous American Jean Valjeans) was the lead but we saw his understudy Mark McVey instead. The second time we saw it in Philly a few years later, Mark McVey was the lead, but we saw his understudy instead. Finally, things came full circle the third time we saw the show a few years later on Broadway, when we saw Schulman as Valjean (in a show that also featured pop star Ricky Martin as Marius...weakly I might add).

Our seats for this show were in the third row, center balcony, and gave us a fantastic vantage. Julia was so excited I thought she might burst while waiting for the show to begin. I saw the conductor enter the pit under stage center, and saw him raise the baton to launch into the overture, but Julia did not, and when the music started she pretty much jumped out of her chair. We all had a good laugh at that.

The new 25th anniversary staging of the show had minor differences from what we had seen before, and everything was terrific. The cast was great (Peter Lockyer as Valjean, Andrew Varela as Javert), the orchestra was tight, Julia was in her own personal heaven, and it was a truly great show. I would say that this was as good if not better than any of the other shows we had seen over the years, which is saying a lot. All the highlight songs were fantastic, the cast was strong, and the show had as much emotional impact on me this time as it had in all prior viewings (yes, I do tear up a little when Valjean dies...). Javert, my favorite character, was fantastic, and his suicide scene was staged amazingly well when he plunges from the bridge into the swirling waters below. Two of my favorite songs are Javert's Stars and Soliloquy (Javert's Suicide), and both were sung with the passion and... ferocity... that they require. I was very pleased.

It was a wonderful afternoon out in the city, and Julia absolutely loved it. The look on her face all throughout the show and afterwards was priceless. Nothing gives me a warmer feeling inside than making my children happy, and this was a great day for Julia.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Miniatures - Looking Back and Ahead

I guess it is time again for the obligatory "what I did in 2012 and what I plan to do in 2013" series of posts, so here goes (miniatures hobby stuff anyway...).

2012 in Review
2012 was a very different year for me with regards to my miniatures hobby. I probably painted more things this year, and in greater variety, than in any year in recent memory. And although "recent memory" these days often barely stretches back to breakfast, as far as painting goes this may have been one of my more productive years ever. While not always documented here on the blog, at various times I painted more medievals, some Seven Years War, some Napoleonics (in 2 scales), some fantasy, some science fiction, lots of buildings, and a whole variety of other odds and ends. I showed my typical lack of focus, with most of my painting moving from period to period and topic to topic, but in aggregate, I painted a lot. In terms of any individual period though, I didn't paint much (with the exception of medievals, where I always paint plenty).

On the actual gaming front it was a whole different story. Outside of some conventions games, there were very few games played this year. That is something that needs to change. I get great enjoyment and relaxation from painting in and of itself, but actually using the figures is something I shouldn't lose sight of. It's amazing how fast time passes...

I ended the year by making myself a new paint rack, so that I can better organize my painting area. It seems that if you leave paint jars unsupervised overnight they tend to multiply, or so it appears to me. So a larger paint rack built to fill the available space seemed reasonable, and was a quick holiday vacation project.

2013 in Intent
Other than the aforementioned need to play more games and use my figs, there isn't too much I would change about my painting from this year. I am content to move from project to project adding a unit or two here and there, and my vague goals below will bear that out. The periods that I am collecting are well enough along (for the most part) that painting the way I have been is adequate.

(All are 25mm unless noted otherwise)
Medieval periods
  • 15mm Crusaders - Finish the long overdue re-basing project to get them all onto Impetus style bases. Add a few scenery pieces.
  • Hundred Years War - Add a few units by finishing up painting existing fig stock. This is primarily more mounted knights and a scattering of foot.
  • Generic Medievals - Again, use primarily existing fig stock to add a few units, especially more mounted knights. These will come from Old Glory's 3rd Crusades range and the Mongols/Liegnitz range.
  • Ottomans - I don't have enough of these painted yet to game with, so I should probably spend more of my medieval time working on these. We shall see...
  • Maybe paint a unit or two in 25mm just for fun.
  • 15mm - Decide on a basing scheme and stick to it. I have French, Peninsula opponents, and some Austrians, all in a variety of basing schemes. Perhaps add some bicorne Prussians or Austrians to go with my bicorne French (who need painting).
Horse and Musket periods (other)
  • Seven Years War - Finish basing the Austrian order that is back from Sri Lanka. Assemble and paint Austrian and Prussian artillery to go with the crew that are done. Pack and ship an order of Prussians out to Sri Lanka for painting.
  • English Civil War - Add a unit or two to this little side project which will never ever be completed.
  • Lord of the Rings - Make some progress on my Rohan and Isengard armies.
  • Fantasy - Paint a few units of Warhammer Empire or Undead if the mood strikes.
  • Sci Fi - Likewise for Imperial Guard and Tyranids. Or sell this stuff off (probably a better option).
And so that is the goal. Or intent, as I said above. I don't plan to hold myself to anything in particular, as I am very much in a phase of "do what I want when I want." As always, this could change tomorrow...