Sunday, January 26, 2014

Painting Table Saturday - Jan 25 - Knights...still...

I would have posted an update yesterday, but after taking last week's picture of the knights in progress, I didn't lift a brush at all until this morning. Pretty much all of my spare time over the last week has been making the console table we just finished.

I have gotten back to painting a little this weekend, and am still working on the same batch of knights. As I was working on one of the yellow and green figures it occurred to me how dramatic the difference in some of the re-painted figures is; much more so than comes across in the before-and-after overview pictures. I decided to repaint part of the figure that I was working on and take a picture to show the difference. Below is one of the dull old figures, partially completed. The repainted part is the back half of the horse and the rider from the waist down. I haven't yet touched the front half of the horse or the upper half of the rider. Pretty big difference, I think.
Repainting in progress

Also, while cleaning up the wood working project, I decided to take some of the scrap wood and make a paintbrush stand. I have kept my brushes jumbled in an old coffee cup or a red Solo cup for years, and I am tired of fishing around for the right one. Now I have a convenient place to organize the brushes, Xacto knives and pin vise (tiny drill).
Brush stand made from scrap wood

Hopefully I will make enough painting progress soon to post another real update.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

House Project - Console Table, Recap

Summary and Learnings
Having gotten to the end of the construction phase of the console table project, it makes sense to summarize some things and remind myself what we learned.

Tallying up the Cost
In terms of cost of materials, this was not an expensive project, but nor was it dirt cheap. We spent about $105 (US) on clear select pine, buying a little more than we needed to make sure a minor cutting error didn't turn into another drive back to the store. Cutting it closer we could have spent no less than $90. The drawer slides were $5 for a simple pair, and the drawer pulls (knobs) cost $10 for the two. This total of $120 in materials does not include basic "perishables" like wood glue, wood screws, brad nails, and pocket screws (most of which we already had on hand). We almost certainly could have bought something like this at IKEA or someplace similar for cheaper, but by doing this ourselves we got a piece custom built to the exact dimensions we wanted, it is made out of excellent materials, and we learned a skill in the process. There is something to be said for the satisfaction of having made something very nice with your own two hands.

As far as tools go (discounting things like a hammer, a tape measure, a screwdriver...), we fundamentally built this with a compound miter saw, a cordless drill, and a Kreg jig for pocket joinery. We clamped the Kreg jig to the corner of a table I use for my wargaming hobby stuff, in the absence of a real workbench, and built the piece on the floor of the basement on a heavy canvas painter's drop cloth.

We did buy one of the more expensive Kreg jig kits in order to do this project, but that is a "capital expense" that we will hopefully be enjoying the use of for years to come. We also invested in a 24 inch bar clamp. Per my observations below, clamps are crucial, and we need a few more of them.

Future adds to the tool arsenal would include a circular saw or a table saw, as well as a router. For this project we didn't require either, as the two pieces of 1/4 plywood we needed were easy enough to cut carefully by hand with a fine finish saw. Projects requiring accurate cutting of larger sheet stock will require something better. Likewise, we did not require a router, as the console table is all straight lines, but a router will enable all sorts of fancier finish work. We can deal with these needs when the time comes. Oh, and maybe a biscuit joiner...

Thoughts and Observations
Some of this will be common sense and/or painfully obvious...
  • Being meticulous to the point of perhaps obsessive was worth it. As we gain more experience, I am sure we will speed up, but there will never be anything wrong with careful and methodical. This project thus far has taken a total of perhaps 5-6 hours (in many small chunks plus a 3 hour block last weekend).
  • Kreg jigs are awesome! There isn't a single bit of joinery visible anywhere on the piece we just made. It really felt like we were making furniture the way furniture makers do. Pretty cool.
  • Four hands are better than two, as is a second set of eyes.
  • Clamps are indispensable. No matter how exact you try to be, that last turn of a screw seems to always want to pull the two boards slightly out of alignment. 
  • Sawdust gets everywhere.
  • Real workspace would be nice. I'm not quite sure how we will manage that, but it is something to think about. Cutting everything on the concrete floor of the unfinished part of the basement, and building the actual piece sitting cross-legged on the floor was not optimal.
Most important of all, I guess, is that we made something together with our own hands, did a pretty good job for a first effort, and had a lot of fun in the process.

The list of future pieces and projects we hope to tackle is growing by the day.

House Project - Console Table, Part 2

When I left off at the end of part 1 (last weekend), we had completed the basic structure of the table, including the top. Next steps were to build the shelf at the bottom of the piece and then build a drawer and install it.

Building the shelf was easy, and followed the same basic steps as building the table top. Instead of making the boards for the shelf go edge to edge, we shortened each end by 3/4", which allowed us to cap the ends with a nice piece of 1x2. This results in a more polished edge (and is the design change I referenced in the last post). I say "boards" plural, since by increasing the depth of the piece compared to the original plan we cannot make the shelf out of a single length of 1x12. So it is a multi-board assembly like the table top...

The final construction step was to make and install the drawer. After measuring very carefully (1/2 inch clearance required on either side for mounting the drawer glides), we made a simple box frame out of 1x4s and used a piece of 1/4 inch plywood for the bottom. We then installed the drawer glides and fitted the drawer without yet having attached the separate piece of 1x6 that is the drawer face. After installing the drawer glides, it didn't operate very smoothly. Careful inspection revealed that the one side needed to be shimmed ever so slightly, as the wheel on the glide was popping out of the track near the end (because the drawer was about 1/8 inch narrower than it should have been - but only on the front side). Shimming one end of one drawer glide made all the difference, and the drawer operates very smoothly now.
Drawer detail

The drawer face was then attached to the drawer box (screwing into the back of the face from inside the drawer), taking extra care to make sure that it was centered evenly in the opening leaving a uniform 1/8 inch gap on all sides. Even though the drawer isn't centered perfectly, the drawer face is, and that's the only thing anyone will see, so this is a perfect kind of drawer construction for novices like us.

The final step was to drill out holes for the pulls and install the hardware. We will remove them before painting the piece, but we wanted to see what the whole thing looked like "done".

I'm thrilled. It looks good and clean, with no terribly obvious "oopses", and even those will be removed by a final finish sanding. Gluing and screwing everything, mostly with pocket joints, has made a rock solid piece. It looks and feels like real furniture. is.
Construction complete

All that remains to be done is a final sanding and then painting and glazing. Which is still a good bit of work.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Careful what you wish for...

Last night, the forecast for today was for 2-3 inches of snow throughout the day, with gusty winds and very cold temps. A little winter snow but no big deal. Grace decided that to better her chances of getting a snow day or delayed opening, we should perform a snow ritual before going to bed. I don't know where she or her friends got this ritual, but we wore our pajamas inside out, flushed 3 ice cubes down the toilet, and slept with spoons under our pillows.

At exactly 5:19am this morning we got the school cancellation phone call from the school district "due to the revised severe weather forecast that is now calling for upwards of a foot of snow." As of now they are saying snow will start mid-morning (which it has) and continue on until tomorrow morning. Expected accumulations are 5-8" today and another 4-6" overnight tonight.

I wonder if Grace has any lottery tricks...

Update 1/21 4:30pm... 6 or 7 inches and counting, with many hours of wind and snow left to go. It's looking more and more like we did such a good job she might get two snow days out of this one...

Seems like a lot for 1-3 inches...

...but I bet I could still grill tonight!

Final update 1/22 8:00am - The snow has stopped, and it is a bright, cold and sunny morning. We have a total of about 12 inches, although it is windy and there are spots with only a few inches as well as sheltered spots with two feet or more. School was cancelled for today as of about 7pm last night.

Monday, January 20, 2014

House Project - Console Table, Part 1

One of the home blogs that Amp follows regularly is by Ana White, who has also published a book, The Handbuilt Home, which was a Christmas present this year. We decided that for our first real furniture making project, we will build a version of the console table shown on page 40. The book is pretty cool, with lots of projects that you can build at home, including parts lists, instructions and diagrams, in addition to a wealth of general how-to information.

In order to fit a specific space in Julia's room we needed to adjust the basic plan. The table as described is 46" long, 15.25" deep, and 30" high (long and thin to fit in a hallway space). We deconstructed the plan and changed all the necessary dimensions to make a piece of the same height (30"), but shorter at 33" wide and a little deeper at 17.25" (13"shorter and 2" deeper). We will have one large drawer instead of two smaller ones side by side. Although we bought nice quality clear pine, we are planning on painting the piece, although that may change.

What follows is how far we got on the project this weekend.

Step 1, accomplished a week ago, was to buy all the necessary wood. This always takes longer than expected as sifting through the racks to find straight pieces is more time consuming than you would think. We needed a 1x12, a 1x6, a 1x2, a 1x3, four or five 1x4, and five 2x2 (all 6 foot long, but they only had 8 foot 1x12s).
Raw materials

Step 2, accomplished Friday evening in about an hour, was to triple check my planning and then make all the cuts. I used a DeWalt 10" compound miter saw and went very slowly and carefully. Straight wood and proper cuts are probably the two most important factors in a good end result. We are skipping the drawer for now and will do that last.
All pieces cut (except the drawer...)

With everything cut, I laid out everything into the various subcomponents. Looking at all the pieces lying there, I realized that I had forgotten to shorten the two large flat side pieces when making our revised plan and cut list. They were the right length front to back, but I hadn't shortened them to the right height. Back to the saw...
Pieces organized into subcomponents

The first real construction step was to make two side/leg assemblies. Legs are 2x2s (which are actually 1.5x1.5), and the side panels are pieces of 1x12 (therefore 3/4" thick). On the outside face, two horizontal strips of 1x2 (also 3/4" thick) are used to trim out the side panel. The 1x2 laid over the 1x12 makes the finished depth 1.5" to match the legs. To hide all joins in the finished product, the 1x2 trim pieces are attached to the 1x12s with screws (and glue) from the back, and the side panels are then attached to the legs from the back (the inside-the-case side) using pocket holes and pocket screws.
Two finished side leg assemblies (back and front)

A detail of the pocket hole join is shown below. We are being very slow and methodical in clamping and screwing everything together so that the joints are square and flush, especially on the outer sides which will be visible on the finished piece. A Kreg jig set for making pocket holes has been invaluable in being able to hide joinery on the back side. This is a new toy that we ordered online and arrived this past week. We are loving it, as some of the hidden joinery we are doing would be impossible without it.
Detail of pocket joinery

The Kreg jig in action; making a pocket hole on the side of a 2x2 frame piece.
Kreg jig for making pocket holes

Next, the basic framework of the table is put together by joining the side leg assemblies with six framing pieces of 2x2. All framing pieces are joined to the leg assemblies by pocket screw joints on the underside. The upper four framing pieces form the box that the drawer will go into. The bottom two pieces will hold a shelf about six inches off the ground.
Leg assemblies and basic framing

Three pieces of front-to-back frame bracing are added next. These serve to stiffen the whole assembly, and the top two will be used when we attach the tabletop.
Bracing added

The tabletop itself is made up of three boards joined together: a 1x12 in the middle with a 1x4 on the front edge and a 1x3 on the back side. This was additional work in joining things together on the underside, but will look better than a piece of plywood cut to size.
Underside of top showing joinery

The top was attached to the frame by screwing up into it through the framing and bracing shown earlier. The top is flush to the back, overhangs the sides by two inches each, and overhangs the front by about an inch and a half.
Top in place

We then began building the shelf, but decided on a small design change as we were doing it and are not done that step yet.

That's how far we got on the project in about three hours of work on Sunday. We spent more time on it than that, but included a lunch break and various other distractions (our estimated three hours of work took place over about 5 real hours). Then the AFC championship football game (or pre-game) came on and we packed it in for the day.

We are very pleased with how it is shaping up so far. Everything is tight and square and the joints are flush. It's not a difficult project if you go slowly and carefully and have the right tools. Having four hands instead of two certainly helps. We have learned a number of things that will be useful for the remainder of this and on future projects. We are also speeding up as we learn and get more comfortable with what we are doing.

Remaining steps include finishing the shelf (much like we built the top), attaching an inset backer panel behind where the drawer will be (putting a back on the piece), and then building and attaching the drawer. Based on what we have done so far, the only tricky part (since it is new for us) will be getting the drawer slides attached correctly so that the drawer is in exactly the right place and works properly.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Musical Box - Selling England by the Pound

I had a fun but partly surreal experience last night. My good friend Anthony is a huge Genesis fan from back in the day, and he has told me about a group called The Musical Box, which is a Genesis tribute band. At one point back in the Fall, I saw that they were coming to the Grand Opera in Wilmington and so I bought two tickets for he and I. I got the tickets online right when they went on sale, and pretty much could have had my pick of the house, so I took the center two seats of the first row of the balcony (this is a small theater, and the balcony is right near the stage).

So last night we drove down to Wilmington and watched Genesis perform the Selling England by the Pound tour show in 1974. Or we saw The Musical Box (TMB) perform the show in 2014. One or the other. Frankly, at times, it was hard to tell. The whole schtick of TMB (and they are quite famous at this) is that they recreate early-era Genesis tour shows, with the band's blessing, down to the stage decorations, hair styles, costumes, instruments and the video shown on the screens behind the stage.

For all intents and purposes, the show I saw last night was the Genesis show from that tour in 1974. They looked like them, sounded like them, played the same set, acted like them, and looked suitably retro (vintage or vintage looking instruments, old style amp systems etc). Peter Gabriel was the lead singer back in that era, and the lead singer looked passably enough like Gabriel, and sounded just like him. Gabriel was apparently a bit of an oddball (being generous here), and was famous for loads of costume changes between and during songs, whacky spoken song introductions, and a compelling (if peculiar) stage presence. This guy had all that. It was fun. The musicianship was excellent, and while only a couple of the songs sounded even vaguely familiar, it was a very good time. Not everyone likes progressive rock of that era, with the long meandering songs, etc, but I do. Maybe 23 minutes of "Supper's Ready" wouldn't be everyones' cup of tea, but it didn't phase me at all.

The band in that era was Peter Gabriel singing, Phil Collins on drums, Tony Banks on keyboards, Mike Rutherford on bass and guitars (12 string and 6 string acoustics, electrics, and a lot of time spent on a double-neck bass and guitar combo), and Steve Hackett on lead guitar. The Genesis most well known to people in the early MTV years was the "and then there were three" bunch of Collins, Rutherford and Banks.

Two hours of something different, something that I probably wouldn't have gone to if not prompted by a friend, but that I enjoyed very much, is a good start to the concert going season of 2014.

Next up - Justin Hayward's solo tour returns to the World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington in May, and Amp and I will be in the balcony again...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Painting Table Saturday - Jan 18 - Knights

This week was a very busy one for everybody in the family, but I did manage to sneak in some little blocks of time in the evenings to make progress on my early medieval German knights. I am having fun with these, so it seems that the "someday I need to clean up those seven stands of old knights" has turned into "I'm doing that now."

I hope to get more done today. Amparo is at the high school all morning working on the costume crew for Les Miserables, and the kids just want to relax. I need to start cutting the wood for a furniture project that we are starting work on, and I am going to a concert tonight with friend Anthony down in Wilmington (The Musical Box, a Genesis tribute band), but that leaves some time today to goof off.

On the painting table now are 12 of the 21 old figures, along with some new ones I am adding (banners and lancers) to make up new stands that don't consist entirely of hand weapons. This batch is phase 1, and I will still need a few more lancers to make the six new stands shown here come out in the right proportion of figure types. The 8 figures already glued to the new stands are old figures that I am done brightening up.
Painting Table - Jan 18 at start

4 figures are still old dull ones that need to be refurbished. These are proving to be a decent amount of work, as I find myself substantially repainting each figure rather than just tidying things up and adding a little highlighting. These figures were painted for me by a guy in Ohio to a mediocre level of quality perhaps 12 years ago, and I liked them at the time, but they are nowhere near the standard I would expect now. They were basically painted a single color and given a brown wash for shading. Now they just look muddy and dull. I want bright (or brighter, at least).
Three old figures (in front)

Another old figure

The repainted figures don't look like a completely new one would, but they certainly are brighter than when they started, and are better shaded and highlighted. This is about as good as they will get without a complete re-paint, which I am not interested in doing. This is good enough.
Two sample refurbished figures

To make the new stands, I also need new figures - lancers and flag bearers. Below are five such figures that have been assembled, black primed, and have some of the basic color blocking already done. Lots of work left on these.
5 New figures in process (in front)

With everything else going on these days, we'll see how long it takes me to get through this batch, but it feels good to have a small project on the table that is able to get some attention. (I also plan to get some Hundred Years War gallery photos done over the weekend...).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hundred Years War Gallery

Putting together the Early Medievals gallery page was so much fun (and productive in terms of forcing me to fix up some figures, re-base, flock, etc) that I have begun a Hundred Years War page. There are only a few pictures there now, but it's a start. I hope to add much more in the next week or so.
Edward, The Black Prince

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Posting Miscellanea

Welcome to ND, yours truly at right, 2011
I write this blog mainly for myself, because I enjoy doing so. I treat it primarily as a journal of sorts, although I know that it is read at least semi-routinely by a small circle of family and friends. At the end of every year I go to the "Blog2print" site and order the hardback book version of the year's entries, and it has already proven fun to go back to 2009, 2010, etc, and see what I wrote then (complete with family pictures). So in that sense it serves as somewhat of a modern day scrap book or photo album.

While I write only when and if I want, I do know that via the vagaries of Internet search pages etc, various random people will stumble on something here. And since beginning in the Fall of 2009, I have a whopping total of 10 followers (thanks Brother Dave, or it would be 9...).

Every now and then, I take a peek at the Statistics page, and find it curious as to which posts of mine over the years continue to get traffic from various search sites and other referring pages. In a little over 4 years, I have accumulated a total of 38,286 page views, or about 725 views per month (I'm about 53 months in, and my day job is numbers, so I am going to be approximate - I don't count well after hours...). In recent times, having gotten back into the habit of posting somewhat regularly and therefore getting more traffic, I have been averaging perhaps 1,200-1,300 hits per month. For real blogs this is peanuts, but it still seems like a decent number of random occurrences to me.
Riders of Rohan

Top 10 posts of all time, by page views as of today, are:
  1. 901 hits - Painting a Rider of Rohan. In any week/month/year this almost invariably comes up #1, so I must have done something to rank fairly high on search pages purely by accident. A detailed post with pics that I think is a good one for what it is. Real hobby content - how I painted a specific type of figure in step by step format, with pictures.
  2. 570 hits - Elk Neck State Park hiking plans. A simple post on plans to hike this Maryland state park on the upper Chesapeake Bay back in October of 2010. People that get to this post probably think "that's not what I was looking for", and yet it remains my second highest ranked post. The two-part follow up posts on the actual day of hiking rank #5 and #9. Three of the top 10; go figure...
  3. 547 hits - Historicon 2010, Duke Siefried's display games - Some nice pictures of display games put on by one of the pioneers of the hobby, and a guy well known for "over the top" games. Not a bad post, with pictures, and people getting to this one almost certainly got here for a reason and found what they were looking for, at least in some regard.
  4. 541 hits - Landsknechts. A simple post of a few mediocre quality pictures of some nice miniatures. OK for what it is, but most likely not what people would be looking for.
  5. 404 hits - Elk Neck State Park, part 1. First part of a two part post on my day hiking and geocaching this state park. Probably of some interest to those who stumbled onto it.
  6. 365 hits - LaSalle miniatures rules, first playing impressions. Probably of interest to those miniatures gamers who specifically searched for this.
  7. 286 hits - Book review, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. This is interesting to me, as I have posted about 50 book reviews on modern literature books I have read over the past few years, and this is the one (a very very good book, I might add) that consistently gets hits on searches. 
  8. 252 hits - Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, 2010. A simple post with decent pictures on our family visit to this local attraction in Ridley Creek State Park. A good post for those searching for this.
  9. 200 hits - Elk Neck State Park, part 2. The second and final part of #5 above, which itself was a follow-on to #2.
  10. 180 hits - "The Holy Grail, sort of"... A post on my impulse purchase of an Epiphone ES-335 Pro, a copy of my Holy Grail guitar, the Gibson ES-335. An innocuous post for what it is, but almost certainly not what someone searching for "the Holy Grail" would expect to find. Cup of Christ. Wanna-be guitar. Not exactly the same thing.

So what's the point? I'm not sure. Hence "posting miscellanea".
Grace, age 6, at right

But it is amusing to me that the posts that I find somewhat innocuous gets lots of hits, and the posts about family and the stuff that means the most to me gets little if any traffic at all. Which is to be expected. But amusing nonetheless.


I do not typically cross-post anything from my food blog here (and generally won't in the future), but if there was ever one simple recipe that I would recommend, I just posted it over there - Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet.

Make it. Trust me.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Painting Table Saturday - Jan 11 - Knights

On the painting table this week are a handful of German knights. The six painted figures are two stands worth of older figures mounted on stands composed entirely of hand weapon figures. I am beginning the (expected to be leisurely) process of breaking down the old stands, refurbishing the old figures, and mixing in some newly painted lancers. That will make these guys fit in better with the remainder of my knights, and will brighten up the paint jobs dramatically.
German knights c. 1200

At this point I have broken down one stand, mostly finished updating the three loose figures, and am beginning a new banner bearer. I still need break down the other stand, finish repainting those, and then do some new figures. To turn these two old stands into four new ones I need to paint six new figures - the banner bearer, maybe a musician or a leader, and the remainder being new lancers. Which means in addition to the painting itself, which is the fun part, I need to prep, glue and prime another 5 figures or so (depending on what I have lying around already primed).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Concert History

Recent discussions with some friends over a glass of wine about concerts we had seen over the years turned into some list making, memory searching, and ultimately a "Concerts" page at the upper right of my blog.

Eric Clapton
It has been fun taking this particular stroll down memory lane, insofar as reconstructing approximate years of the earlier concerts required a bunch of Wikipedia and other research to narrow shows down to which year (or two) they must have occurred in. For most of the shows in high school I remember either the album the band was touring for and/or what grade I was in school and/or who I saw them with. This exercise in historical archaeology has derived a fairly accurate list. At least in general terms. Some things were easy to find, like a Philadelphia show of Billy Joel and Elton John on the Piano Men tour. It was mid July of 1994; you can read reviews online. It was the first show of the first tour they did together. Other more recent ones I either have a clearer memory of, or are since I started blogging in 2009, and therefore have exact dates and write ups to go by. I don't think there is anything I couldn't narrow down to within a year or two. The one thing that makes counting things difficult with exactness is the fact that I have seen the Moody Blues roughly 10-12 times, but because I have seen them so many times I can't distinguish specifically when or where very well anymore. Oh well.

Some statistics and observations:

By decade:
  • Shows in the 1980's - about 13.
  • Shows in the 1990's - about 5.
  • Shows in the 2000's - about 5.
  • Shows in the 2010's - 12. With 6 more years in the decade, I am doing very well recently.
  • About 35 total shows.
Acts seen multiple times:
  • Moody Blues - about 10 (plus one Justin Hayward solo)
  • Rush - 3
  • Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler - 3 (1 DS and 2 MK). Mark Knopfler is Dire Straits...
  • Asia - 2 (but 29 years apart)
  • 16 different headliners seen once, and 8 opening acts that I can name, including a few that were (or became) bigger names (Stevie Ray Vaughn notably).
By venue (approximations because I can't count all the Moodies shows):
  • The Spectrum (Philly) - 12
  • The Corestates/First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo Center (Philly) - 5
  • The Tower Theater (Upper Darby) - 5
  • Mann Music Center (Fairmount Park Philly) - 4
  • Veteran's Stadium - 2
  • The Keswick Theater (Glenside) - 2
  • Caesar's Palace Atlantic City, Trump Plaza Atlantic City, Grand Opera Wilmington, World Cafe Live Wilmington, Colonial Theater Phoenixille, Borgata casino Atlantic City, the Valley Forge Music Fair, and the hell hole on the Camden waterfront - 1 each.
  • Between the Vet, the Spectrum and the Valley Forge Music Fair, 15 of the shows were at venues that no longer exist (the Vet having been imploded in 2004 and the Spectrum being dismantled in 2010-11). Both are now parking lots for their replacement venues. The Valley Forge Music Fair closed in 1996, was razed to put in a Giant supermarket which didn't last long, and now has a Barnes and Noble bookstore, a Wendy's fast food restaurant and a few other stores on its site. 
Tedeschi Trucks band
People seen but now dead:
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn - Opening act for the Moody Blues in late 1983. Died in a helicopter crash August 27, 1990 in East Troy, Wisconsin (near Chicago), after playing with Eric Clapton and others (aged 35). His guitar virtuosity was mind numbing. Much like Hendrix, he played with his teeth, behind his back, behind his head, and basically just out this world (I know, because I saw him do all that...). Of all the people I have seen, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson and SRV are the three that made my jaw drop. Wikipedia says that in the Fall of 1983, SRV and Double Trouble opened 17 shows for the Moody Blues, and were paid $5,000 per show plus a bonus for driving up ticket sales. Wow.
  • John Denver - First concert I ever saw - died October 12, 1997 in a microlite plane crash over the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay CA, aged 53.
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Delta blues legend, seen as an opening act for Eric Clapton, died September 10, 2005 of lung cancer (aged 81).
  • Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons - Sax man for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, died June 18, 2011 of of complications from a stroke eight days earlier (aged 69).
Something that occurred to me while compiling the list is that I had a preconceived notion that my high school years (the early 1980's) were by far my "golden years" of concert-going. This may be somewhat true in the sense that everybody I saw in those years was at or near their peak in terms of popularity; the prime of the musical lives. Everybody on the 1980's list is now classic rock. When I saw them then they were just rock. And some of them are no longer active, and some are dead. But in terms of variety, quality and number of shows seen, the last four years is absolutely on a par with my four high school years. A few of the bands are the same. They are mostly now classic rock, or god forbid, oldies. Many of the performers themselves have less hair, and what is left is gray. But they can still play.

Justin Hayward
Omissions and "To Do's" - Of big name bands from my formative years, there are a number of big names that I have never seen, nor frankly do/did I have any real interest in: The Rolling Stones, The Who (on any of their forty-seven farewell tours), or Queen. Led Zeppelin I would have loved to have seen and we were hoping to get tickets to see the announced show for Philly that had to be cancelled when John Bonham died (how inconvenient for us...and him). Maybe there will be a chance to see some form of Zeppelin or Page/Plant at some point. I didn't know it then, but I would have loved to have seen the Grateful Dead. I never saw Yes in their original lineup (or close to it); the 90125 tour I saw with Trevor Rabin was very very different from classic Yes. I have only seen Eric Clapton once, and since he is one of the few musicians I would consider a true idol, I would like to see him again, even in the much-subdued later years incarnation. The best wines mellow with age and change character but don't lose a thing. I would like to see Aerosmith. People on the short list of "I'd see them anytime at any price" would include repeats such as Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Eric Johnson and The Eagles. If things worked out right I would gladly repeat Rush, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Asia or the Dixie Chicks. I would like to see Trace Adkins, a country guy, but I guess that is unlikely up here in Pennsylvania.

1/10 adds to the wish list: Buddy Guy, Ben Folds, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr, Diana Krall...

More important than having a specific list of people I'd like to see, I guess, is the simple commitment to seeing live music. Whenever. Wherever. Big names or small (or even family). Large venues or (preferably) small ones. There really isn't anything quite like seeing people create music live. Each show is an original unique event, and something that will never be repeated. A song played a thousand times is never exactly the same; the one you heard is...the one you heard. And seeing and hearing it in person isn't at all like listening to a CD or the radio...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Medieval Muster

It occurred to me as I was inventorying and taking all those pictures of my early medieval miniatures for the Gallery page that I hadn't had all that stuff out of boxes and on the table together for a long time. So when I got to the point that everything that is complete had been dealt with, I laid everything out in one big muster of the troops. And here they are in all their glory (such as it is).
The (mostly) whole early medieval gang

Mounted knights are in the back rank with heavy cavalry sergeants on the flanks. Foot knights are in front of them, and then non-knightly infantry in front of them. The infantry are screened by crossbowmen. The front couple of ranks are peasant infantry, archers and skirmishers. Scattered throughout are singly based leaders and banner bearers (some of which do need flocking or re-basing).
...and again

They are a colorful bunch, and I am proud of them. Of all the miniatures that I have, these are probably my favorites, or at least awfully close. It has been fun taking liberties and painting units of these guys more colorfully than they really should be. But that's what the hobby is all about to me. I wanted to paint a bunch of medievals the way I wanted them to look, and I am pleased with the result.

The Gallery page has closeup pictures of all the different pieces of this army as well as a few notes on pending work and future plans. Organizing these has been a worthwhile exercise in terms of both reminding myself what I have as well as forcing me to take the time to do some needed maintenance and cleanup on some of the troops.

Now that I have gone through these, I will probably do the Hundred Years War period next...