Friday, August 30, 2013

Maine 2013 Trip Update - 2 Weeks Out

It hardly seems possible, but this year's trip is now less than two weeks away. With that in mind, Dave, Leo and I got together last night to go over final planning considerations, and as an excuse to get together.

Remembrance of things past - Little Devils Tower 2011
Earlier in the week, we had a very unfortunate development; Ted, the fourth member of our crew this year informed us that some pressing work concerns had arisen and he won't be able to make it. This is really bad news, not in that it changes anything we would be doing, but one of the main things about a trip like this is the camaraderie, and the more the merrier. Four in the Dakotas was great. Five in the Adirondacks last year was even better. This time we will only be three. The only planning change this necessitated was that we could downgrade the vehicle rental from an SUV to a car and save money that way. After making sure that we had all the logistics taken care of, we spent some time going over gear lists in terms of who would be bringing what, and discussed some of the possible hikes we will do. We even batted around a few ideas for a 2014 trip, but that is a whole different story.

Other than some additional hike research for background, there isn't much of anything left to do except start setting aside what I will be packing to take, and making sure that I have everything I need. I want to do this sooner rather than later, since I may need some clothing. The prior two trips have both been warm weather locations (and seasons). Maine in mid September will be different, and could be very different. The average daily highs are around 72, and the average nightly lows are around 52. Record highs are only in the low 80's, and record lows are down in the 30's. So to be on the safe side, I may well need to have more cool weather options than I own. Probably not, but maybe, and one way or another I need to figure that out now.

So that's the plan for this weekend; closet review, and then start making the gear pile in the basement. Almost none of this stuff gets daily-life use, so I might as well start gathering it together now.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rosewood Trio Charity Event

The family went to see a charity polo match yesterday to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at the Brandywine Polo Club in Toughkenamon PA. It's always nice to support a good cause, but the main reason to go was to see brother Dave play bass in the Rosewood Trio. They have played some coffee house events but I had not managed to get to one and have been very anxious to see them.
Post-match crowd greeting

The website said "first match at 3pm" and the music to start at 6:30, so we weren't in a big hurry to get there. Perhaps we should have been. When we rolled in a little before 5:00, we managed to catch the last few minutes of polo. That was a bit disappointing. We were there primarily for the music, but my kids would have liked to see the horses more than they did.
The Rosewood Trio (plus drummer)

We had a chance to get a drink and a little bit of food and meet some of Dave's friends, and then the Trio went on just before 6:00.

Dave has raved about his band mates, and I had complete faith in his judgement. He was right. They were really good. Chip plays guitar, Sandy plays guitar and sings, and Dave plays bass. For this show, they had Joe, a drummer friend, sitting in with them.
Brother Dave in his happy place (no, really)

They were tight, they picked good songs (most of which are escaping me at the moment), and for a temporary outdoor setup on the lawn of a polo club, the sound mix was terrific. They sounded great.
Chip and Sandy

As for the songs, Dave can probably remind me so I can edit this later, but I know they did Wide Open Spaces from the Dixie Chicks (a favorite of my family's) and Van Morisson's Brown Eyed Girl, another classic (but no no no you can't sing "Brown Eyed Guy"!!).
Rosewood hokey pokey (put your right foot in...)

In addition to loving music of just about any kind, I enjoy looking at all the instruments and paraphernalia. So it was fun checking out the guitars, the foot pedals, setups and electronics. I know this from a few other musician friends as well, but it seems everything can be run from an iPad these days.
Artsy side shot (and nice guitars)

The whole set was impressive and I loved every minute of it. A good blue grass band with some people Dave knew played next, and we listened to a couple songs before the kids got antsy and hungry. Apparently there was a combined encore at the end that would have been nice to see, but c'est la vie. As I told Dave after the show, my jealousy really knows no bounds as to the thought of playing something well enough to actually play with good musicians and make real music. I have a hard time imagining something more fun than that must be. And I know that Dave feels the same way (despite the fact that he never smiles...).

I even won a nice original watercolor painting in the silent auction.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Memory Lane - US Open, Merion Golf Club, 1981

As Dave and I have bemoaned many times over the last few months, it doesn't seem like Mom and Dad ever threw anything away. This makes for a mountain of stuff to go through at the old homestead, but you do want to take the time to go through things carefully because of the nuggets of good stuff that are worth saving. Mom had manila envelopes with mementos of various things from throughout our childhoods. While many of these are head scratchers as to why they were deemed important enough to save, every now and then there is a little treasure of a memory. This is one of those: my ticket to the 81st US Open Championship at Merion Golf Club, June 21 1981. The ticket is for Day 4, the final round on Sunday.

This was the first and only golf tournament I have ever been to. I would have just finished my freshman year of high school. Dad had gotten two tickets from somewhere, and I got to go. Even though the $18 ticket included parking privileges, we got there by taking the Media trolley from the Scenic Hills stop into the city and then the train out to Ardmore/Haverford where we caught a shuttle to the course. I have certain images in my head clearly, and remember being awed by the names of the players as they walked by fairly close to where we stood along the fairway of one of the holes (Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, J C Snead...). We stayed in a few places for a while and watched rather than moving around a lot. A quick search reveals that David Graham won with a score of 273, and pocketed $55,000 for his effort. Nicklaus tied for 6th and took home $9,920. Times have changed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Avalon NJ Vacation, Day 3

Thursday August 15, Day 3

Kids and fountains... Cape May
After another late night and busy day, it was hard getting the kids up and moving. Once we did, we debated whether or not to hit the beach one last time but opted not to. Everyone had gotten a lot of sun and liked the idea of doing something else. On a longer beach vacation, it would make sense to break up beach time with other things to do, but on a short trip like this, our rest from the beach day would be our last. Oh well. We decided to pack up, check out, and drive down the coast to do some quick sightseeing through Cape May.

We parked in the center of town, which was absolutely mobbed, and grabbed a not-so-quick bite to eat at a not-so-great place on Washington Mall. We then spent a couple of hours strolling the outdoor mall, getting ice cream, looking at the cool old buildings and doing some shopping. I even managed to grab a geocache right near where we parked.
Strolling Washington Mall

We were on the road by 3:00pm, and after a stop at a craft store for Amp on the way home, we were back home by around 5:30. The kids had great fun (as did all of us) and are already asking if we can go back for longer next year. I think that's a great idea.

Avalon NJ Vacation, Day 2

Wednesday August 14, Day 2

Day 2 of our little vacation was a day full of sun and sand. And despite lots of good sunscreen, some mild sunburn for a few of us...

Geocaching in the dunes
Because of last night's late trip to the Wildwood boardwalk, we didn't get an early start, but were down at the pool by midmorning. We spent a couple hours lounging by the pool while the kids swam before everybody started to get hungry and the kids got anxious to get to the beach. We ate a quick lunch back in our room and then gathered our gear for the beach. It was a lot more crowded than the day before, and was a beautiful sunny day, with a nice ocean breeze and temperature around 75. Just about perfect in other words.

After getting everyone settled at the beach and doing some wave jumping with Julia, I went to do some geocaching. On the Avalon/Stone Harbor island, there were around 20 or so easy caches that had been found recently. I knew I only had time to find a few of them, but it was nice to get out at least a little, and I ended up finding 6 (including a virtual cache) and searching for and being unable to find 1 other. This took a leisurely two hours, and I was back on the beach by 3:30.

Mini golf
By this time the kids were full of sand and asking to go back to the pool, so we spent another two hours there, lounging swimming and snacking. Over-snacking really, since we had planned for a 7pm dinner at a place on the other end of the island. After we had showered, gotten changed and driven to the restaurant, nobody was hungry yet. We ended up wandering along Dune Avenue in the 20's and stopping to play miniature golf, which was pretty comical. I think it is fair to say that we don't have any golf prodigies in the family. When we were done golfing, we couldn't get into the restaurant (which doesn't take reservations), so we headed back to the hotel and ate another very good meal there. The kids wanted to go to the boardwalk again, but it was already after 10, so we ended up going back to our rooms for the night.

Tomorrow's general plan was for some swimming and perhaps a side trip to drive through Cape May on the way home, but we'll have to see how everyone feels in the morning.

Avalon NJ Vacation, Day 1

Tuesday August 13, Day 1

The family was overdue for a getaway vacation, no matter how brief, so we booked a three day two night stay at the Windrift hotel on the beach in Avalon NJ. Despite living within a 2 hour drive of the ocean, my kids have spent very little time at the beach. Even though I am not a huge fan of the beach, I know that this is something the kids would love, and so off we went to spend a few midweek days at the shore. Our in laws from north Jersey were also coming for the three days, so we would all be together.
The Windrift, 80th street on the ocean, Avalon NJ

We left home midmorning, and drove down on back roads to avoid the Atlantic City expressway, which also allowed me to plot a route that would allow me to get geocaches in a couple of new NJ counties; Cumberland and Atlantic. We found the caches easily, made great time, and were checked into the hotel and wandering down to the beach by 1pm. It had rained in the morning but was just overcast by this time, and the overcast gave way to scattered sun as the afternoon wore on, so we ended up with a nicer day than forecast.
Mom and ducklings on the beach
We had heard good things about the Windrift, which had been renovated within the last year or so. We had one room reserved, as did my sister in law and her family, who would be spending the three days with us. Overall, we were please with the hotel. It was straightforward but clean, and had a decent pool and really good restaurant, which we ate at Tuesday night. There were a lot of good seafood dishes ordered, and everyone was very satisfied.
Morey's Pier, Wildwood boardwalk

After checking in, we changed and headed down to the beach. It was only a cool mid 70's in temperature and overcast at times, but the kids were thrilled to be at the ocean, and wasted no time in getting in to the water. Our in laws showed up soon after us and joined us for a couple hours on the beach before our nice dinner.
Grace getting a "hair wrap"

After dinner we got on the Garden State Parkway south and drove down to Wildwood to spend some time walking the boardwalk (since there wasn't one in Avalon where we were). I'm not sure exactly how I would describe the boardwalk (cheesey money pit?), but the kids did like it very much. They did some rides, won cheap little stuffed animal prizes (which they will likely throw away within a week or two), bought fudge and salt water taffy, and just generally had a great time staying up way past their bedtimes. The highlight of Grace's evening was getting a hair wrap; a series of colored strings braided into a chunk of her hair.  It was around midnight by the time we got back to the hotel and got the girls into bed.

The plan for tomorrow is some pool time in the morning before heading to the beach in the afternoon.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Plastic Fantastic

Today Dave and I put in one last morning of cleaning out the house I grew up in prior to getting it ready to sell. Mom moved into a retirement community back around New Year's, and we have been slowly working on the old house; going through 46 years of accumulated...stuff. I don't think Mom ever threw anything away, which is both a curse (generally) and a blessing (in some cases).

Layla..., Yesterdays, and Days of Future Passed
One last salvage from the family homestead for me today was my teenage collection of a hundred and fifty or so vinyl LPs. Twelve and a half inch 33 1/3 RPM plastic/vinyl discs that my children have no idea what they are looking at. Music. Like CDs, only bigger. Not like iPod music at all. Nor 8-tracks or cassette tapes. Also none of which my kids would have any idea about. I don't have anything to play these albums on (yet), but it sure was fun to look through them. Memories came flooding back as I sorted through them and cleaned them up tonight. Some conjured up specific people, some places, some events. Bittersweet in some cases, but all good.

Keeping in mind that I would have begun buying albums in about 1980 (when I actually would have begun having a little money from cutting lawns etc) and would have stopped around 1986/87 upon the 1986 Christmas gift receipt of my very first CD player and very first CD. [As an aside this was a Sony player and the first disc was a Steve Winwood solo one (the one with Higher Love)...from my then girlfriend and future wife]. So this is an interesting time capsule of what I liked in a fairly brief window in time, both in terms of buying new and tracking down used at such places as the presumably long-defunct Plastic Fantastic store in Ardmore. Remember this was long before eBay and the like....

One thing this served to confirm was that my musical tastes in terms of what I liked back then hasn't changed dramatically. My favorites then are largely still favorites now. The things I knew I would find included:
  • The definitive Moody Blues collection including pretty much all the solo albums that the various band members ever put out. If there were different covers for some albums, I have them all. I distinctly remember hunting down the older original versions of the album jackets that were the fold-open ones with additional artwork and lyrics.
  • Lots of Yes, again including solo albums from Howe, Anderson and Squire.
  • Complete Dire Straits, including some Knopfler movie soundtrack albums and some EP and large format (album sized) singles.
  • Lots of Eric Clapton, in all incarnations, again including a few soundtrack things such as Edge of Darkness, a BBC miniseries if I remember correctly.
  • About a dozen John Denver albums. Liking John Denver wasn't at all cool back in the day, but I always did (even if not bragging about it). He was a tremendous singer, songwriter, and acoustic guitarist, and I remember being upset the day I heard he died in a "build it yourself" microlite plane crash over the Pacific Ocean near Catalina. As I think I have written before, a John Denver concert at the old Spectrum was the first concert I ever saw; Dad took me sometime around 1980 because he knew that I liked him.
  • A scattering of albums by Springsteen, the Beatles, Van Halen, and the Eagles
  • I knew I owned some Emerson Lake and Palmer, REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult and Supertramp. But I had more of each of these than I thought. Likewise the Alan Parsons Project.
  • I probably have more Chris DeBurgh albums than anybody outside of his own family. And perhaps even more than them. I know I tracked down everything he had done to that point. He is a wonderful Irish songwriter and storyteller, an old time balladeer. This compulsion came after seeing him as the opening act for an Asia show in 1983, never having heard of him before but having loved his performance. There are also all 3 Asia albums (to that point).
  • Several Simon and Garfunkel.
  • Some Steve Winwood, including a Traffic album.
  • Several Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty albums.
Hollies, Byrds, Four Tops and Billy Squier
There were some things I wouldn't necessarily have been able to list ahead of time, but felt like old friends on seeing them again. Stuff by the Hollies, the Byrds, the Guess Who, and Crosby Stills and Nash. A couple of Billy Squier albums, including a wonderful album Don't Say No, which includes one of my favorite angst songs, "Nobody Knows".

There were some cool things that I had forgotten about. Greatest hits albums from some Motown groups like the Drifters and the Four Tops. Greatest Hits of Diana Ross. Several Doobie Brothers. The J Geils Band ("Centerfold"), the Police, a few ZZ Top. A couple Robert Plant solo albums. Jimmy Page with the Firm.

There were 25 or so classical albums, mainly recordings by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by either  Eugene Ormandy or Ricardo Muti. These are mainly Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Dvorak.

A few things made me smile when I saw them as being...shall we say...out of character for me. Duran Duran's Rio. An Ozzy Osbourne solo album. A Mister Mister Euro-trash album. Yikes. A Foreigner. A Kinks. The Doors Greatest Hits.

And there were a few things that made me laugh out loud (or groan and blame on the wife). One album each by Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Madonna (her very first), and Bananarama. OK, I'll fess up to the first two, vehemently deny the Madonna, and am unsure about the last one although, yeah, it was probably me... I may have had a Bangles album at one point too.

There are some notable bands that I liked but did not own at all, primarily because Dave owned them all, therefore they were available to be listened to without me buying something that was already in the house. The two primary bands would be Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. Dave also had some Queen and the Who, not favorites of mine. There was some Styx around the house that I think was his. And I know I had a couple of Kansas albums but they are not in this bunch. Oh well.

So while Dave and I have had more than our share of moments recently cursing the fact that Mom and Dad never threw anything away, I can be thankful that my childhood record collection survived almost 30 years in their house after I moved out.

Now I just need to buy something I can play all this great music on...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fireball Forward! - Pouppeville

Having had so much fun with Fireball Forward! last weekend, Leo and I wanted to get together again as soon as we could to have another go at it. We were able to find a couple hours last night to play the second scenario in the programmed instruction sequence, Pouppeville.

The scenario has two full sized but poor quality German platoons along with a company leader and a sniper defending a bunch of buildings (10 total elements/stands). US paratroops consisting of two heavy platoons and some battalion HQ assets are the attackers (9 total elements), and need to accumulate victory points for buildings captured. Most buildings are worth 1 VP at game end, but two buildings centered near the northern edge of the board are worth 5 and 2, and are thus very important. The game is four turns long, but the American random force addition die roll gave them an extra turn, thus a five turn game in this playing. My random roll got me a company leader morale improvement (which would matter later).

We flipped a coin for sides, and I got the Germans. I set up scattered in the buildings primarily in the center and east of the board, with only a sniper on the western side. I hoped that a central setup would allow me to respond to attacks from whatever direction Leo chose, or to fall back on the big VP buildings as needed. In the interests of trying to capture some fog of war without having a referee, we did use hidden unit markers including a number of dummies on each side. In a friendly game, this worked fine.

As it turned out, Leo advanced entirely up the eastern side of the road, both toward the first building along the road and then far to the east up and into the orchard. Not having placed any squads far to the west worked out well for me, but my sniper was badly out of position to do anything useful.
US early advance and hidden Germans - looking E/SE

Fire on both sides in the first turn was desultory, slowing his advance in a few places but not doing much in the way of casualties.
US advance on the east - looking South

In the middle few turns, German fire improved, killing an American squad in the orchard and another in the open. My sniper was killed trying to move to his other prepared position in the center of the board. A successful American assault on the first building along the east side of the road cost me a squad.
Fighting for the buildings - looking Northeast

As losses mounted for the Americans, it became obvious that the only way the Americans were going to win would be a successful assault on the high VP buildings in the last two turns. As it worked out, the paratroops were not able to take the next building up the road, which would have put them diagonally across the street from the 5 VP building. Further east, after killing a German squad in the building protecting the hedgerow enclosure in the northeast corner of the board, a final American squad and its platoon leader made an end run for the north edge of the board in hopes of taking the 2 VP building.
Final US push - looking Southeast

The American squad was gunned down crossing the open ground to assault the building, leaving the leader alone behind the hedgerow. The buildings were safe and Germans won the game. Final American losses were 3 out of their 4 heavy squads. Germans losses were two squads and the sniper.

All told, things went well for me. My fire early on wasn't great, but my morale rolls were better than Leo's in general, causing him to lose some of his good squads while my bad ones hung around bravely. In one case, the only reason I passed an important morale check in the mid-game, saving an important building and delaying Leo's advance, was that the company commander had rolled that improved morale random option. Another fun game of Fireball Forward!, and I already have the next two scenarios set up on the table: Tank Attack at La Fiere and Choctaw Warrior. Now I just need to learn the vehicle rules.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Justin Hayward Solo Tour, 2013

Justin Hayward in Concert at the World Cafe Live at the Queen, Monday 8/5/2013

Justin Hayward from my seat... not zoomed 
I have had a good run of live music over the past couple of years, but I can honestly say that I have never in my life looked forward to a concert as much as the one I saw last night - Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues touring solo and acoustic in support of his new solo album Spirits of the Western Sky. Justin is my favorite musician of all time, and the opportunity to see him in a place as intimate as we did was something that I never thought I would get to experience. The World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington Delaware is a tiny place that seats maybe 300-400 people on a ground level and a small balcony. When buying the tickets a few months ago, I logged onto the ticket website as they were going on sale and got two seats in the center of the first balcony row. We were literally on top of the stage. It turns out brother Dave and his Darling Wife also had tickets, and sat a one row back and to our left. She is almost as big a Justin Hayward fan as me. Almost.

The band was Alan Hewitt on keyboards, Julie Ragins on keyboards and backing vocals, and Mike Dawes on guitars. Hewitt and Ragins have been part of the Moodies backing band the last few tours. Dawes was a new one for me, and a spectacular guitarist in his own right. He opened the show on his own and played four songs, similar in style to Andy McKee who Dave and I saw open for Eric Johnson a couple years ago. Amazing.

I have to admit that after a not-so-satisfying Moodies show last fall in Atlantic City, I had doubts as to whether Justin could perform well live anymore (he is 66 years old after all). In that show, they skipped songs on the set list and Justin seemed to struggle throughout the show. After seeing this, I am willing to chalk that up to an off night or an illness. In this set of 5 songs from the new solo album and 11 Moodies songs, Justin was simply terrific. It was wonderful to see some of these classic old songs in acoustic arrangements in such a small venue. Of the songs they did, despite having attended over a dozen Moodies shows, I am pretty sure I have never seen It's Up to You, The Land of Make-Believe, or It's Cold Outside of Your Heart. After that many shows, seeing an old chestnut that I have not seen live before is a special treat.

The exact set list is below, and courtesy of the omni-present iPhones, links to either the exact performances we saw in Wilmington or other shows on the same tour are given. Solo songs from the new album are noted "SotWS", and Moodies songs are noted with the album and year.

Set List:

There is a backstage clip of an Interview here, where Justin talks about future tour possibilities as well as some of the guitars used in the show.

We did have one funny experience as we were leaving the balcony area after the show. We walked out into the hallway to catch the elevator to the ground level, and ran into Mike Dawes and Julie Ragins in the hallway. They looked confused as to where they were going, turning this way and that. Mike said "I think it's over here...". As they came around the corner to the elevator, the doors closed in their faces. Julie Ragins muttered "Aww f&*$ing Hell". I said "Welcome to Wilmington". She turned and smiled, and they walked off down the hallway...

There isn't much more that I can say about the show, other than that as I write this a week or so after the fact, I am still basking in the afterglow of a fantastic concert by my favorite artist.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fireball Forward! - Brecourt Manor

After a long period of inactivity, and to christen the newly revamped gaming area with an actual game, Leo came over last night to push some figs around and teach me Fireball Forward!. It was just the two of us, but having seen some games of FbF at conventions recently and liking the look of it, I was anxious to try it out. Leo has played it a number of times and has recommended it highly. So the purpose of the evening was to just work through the rules for my benefit.

"Day of Days" - Brecourt Manor
FbF has its roots in the old Avalon Hill Squad Leader board game from days of yore. Being one of the earliest games I remember playing (and loving), this gave points for sentimentality going in. The rules are written in the same "programmed instruction" manner as SL. Read the basic rules and play scenario #1 (Brecourt Manor). Add a few more pages of rules on terrain and snipers and play scenario #2 (Pouppeville). Add rules on tanks and play scenario #3 (Tank Attack at La Fiere). And so on...

Last night's exercise was to play Brecourt Manor so that I could get the basics down. The scenario (for which I had built a custom terrain board of trenches and gun emplacements...just because...) is the historical event that was the main battle scene in episode 2 of Band of Brothers ("Day of Days"). Elements of Easy company paratroopers attack a fortified German artillery battery that was shelling the American troops on Utah Beach on D-Day. The picture shows the German set up with the guns in their emplacements, firing on the beaches to the north (right of photo). The paratroops enter from the west (top of photo) and need to silence the guns as quickly as possible.

I won't go into detail on the two games of this we played, but as the Americans I failed both times to capture the guns quickly enough to prevent the Germans from accumulating enough victory points to claim a win. But the important thing is that I feel like I have a decent grasp of the basic rules and have begun to see some of the nuances of this particular rules system.

In general, I have a very favorable impression of the rules and am anxious to play again, getting further into the rules as we go (at the top of the photo you can see the edge of the scenario 2 battlefield which is set up and waiting). The basic game mechanics are similar to Squad Leader in the sense that a unit which fails one morale check breaks. A broken unit that fails a morale check dies. Events can cause multiple morale checks, therefore killing a unit if more than one morale failure is rolled. The card driven random activation keeps things interesting from a sequencing perspective, and will make the scenarios play differently based on the luck of the draw. The basic mechanics are simple enough, but there are plenty of decisions to be made as units and individual elements activate, keeping the suspense level high. The one aspect of the game that we were not able to take advantage of is that the game is ideally suited to having a referee. There are spotting and hidden unit considerations that are impossible to do optimally with two players and no ref. That being said, some basic common sense and good sportsmanship get around those limitations fairly easily. For our next game, we will be using hidden unit markers and dummies to attempt to add some of the fog of war back into the game in the absence of a referee. I'm sure it will work fine.

It's nice to be playing WW2 again...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gaming Area Re-org

One of the things that has gotten a lot of my attention over the past couple of months is a complete reorganization of my gaming area in the basement. I have the luxury of plenty of space down there, but it had gotten to be such a disorganized and cluttered mess that it was almost paralyzing in the sense of being able to get any miniatures projects done. There was inefficiently used storage space, unnecessary things lying around taking up space, and just a general mess. Any time I went down there, I would shuffle some things around, become overwhelmed by the clutter and leave.

Amp wisely pointed out that the only way to really tackle the problem was to do what I had been avoiding; dismantle the entire area and start from scratch. So that is what we have done.

Step one was a revamping of the unfinished part of the basement which has shelves and cabinets for storage. An old desk that I never really used other than to stack stuff on was removed, as was a 72 bottle wine rack that only had about a dozen bottles in it. I'll find someplace (other than lying on the floor under the gaming table...) to store those bottles soon. Shelving units were rearranged to make better use of wall space, and a new one was added. Next was a reorganization of my figure storage itself. I made new boxes, re-did others and just generally made things more efficient. A multitude of work-in-progress projects were put in temporary boxes and labeled. This allowed all the clutter that had been stacked all over the finished area of the basement to go into the storage area where it belonged.

With that out of the way, the finished area could be tackled. About a hundred or so fiction hardbacks were culled from the shelves on one side of the room (leaving about 600), along with some boxed wargames to be sold off. Bookcases were rearranged, and a pair of new half-height ones were added along the back wall next to one we already had. This additional shelf space permitted some history books that had been sitting on the floor in boxes to be unpacked and put on shelves, as well as all sorts of other odds and ends (tape measures etc) that could be stored in some attractive storage bins we picked up a Target. The table itself was pulled away from the wall and spun 90 degrees. There isn't a lot of clearance along the left side, but it is adequate, and being able to walk completely around the table is a great improvement. Large storage bins for terrain pieces, buildings and other miniatures paraphernalia are either under the table or neatly stacked in the alcove in the back. Some of this will be sold off, and I still need to figure out something better for that space long term, but at least it is neat in the meantime. With all this new and orderly storage, an old table that had sat next to the main table has been dismantled and thrown away. All the clutter removal now allows for easy access to my guitars as well. The whole area is nice, bright and open (and functional!) now.

The picture shows the end result, complete with a grand opening sign by my daughter Grace. Leo and I christened the new space with a WW2 game of Fireball Forward tonight, and had a terrific time, but that is a story for the next post...

There is still some work to be done with getting things exactly how I want them, but I would say it is 95% done, and has re-energized me. I no longer come down here, look at the mess and shudder. In the few weeks since this has been fundamentally completed, I have made a lot of progress on various projects, some of which I will be detailing here soon. I am thrilled with how this turned out and was well worth all the effort.