31 December 2009

Today You Are a Man

I think I remember the conversation correctly, but a few years ago I was walking around my parents' farm with my grandpa and he said something like, "You know, you're not really a man in this family until you have a big pile of wood." I think he was referring to wood intended for building, but I suppose it could apply to any large pile of cut up tree parts. Today I got my pile of wood. Actually, by the time the guys with the trailer full of wood got here it was the middle of the night. We had ordered one cord of firewood, but they showed up with two in case anyone else responded to their ad while they were getting our wood. We decided to take the second cord. The trailer wouldn't quite get back to the gate in our backyard, so they had to dump it in the driveway. I spent some time moving a lot of it into the backyard, but gave up well after midnight with only about half of it done. Tomorrow I will move the rest. Tonight as I moved the wood, I got caught in some sort of Chaos pocket in which the size of the pile in the driveway increased and the size of the pile in the back yard shrunk in proportion to the pain in my back. At least I again have the tools I need to feed my love of the flame. I run downstairs about thirty times a night to check on the fire and poke at it knowingly with a stick, prodding the coals to ideal spots and generally hen-pecking the flames to death. Next month we will probably be able to purchase a more modern wood stove with a bit more heating capacity and some mechanism to cut down on the smoke. They make some pretty neat stoves.

Not much else to report. When I got home from work today my wife had found my new Christmas slippers and taken control of them. I suspect that we will have to get her a pair or I will only get intermittent visitations with them.

I'm sure there is plenty more to write about, but I think it is high time I get to bed. There is plenty of work to do tomorrow.

30 December 2009


I am feeling the need to write some lists. Good thing I have plenty of notebooks and legal pads.

29 December 2009

House Heating and How to Host a Dungeon

I have a habit of thinking of many topics to post about but never really getting around to posting anything. By the time I sit down to write it's all gone out of my head. I suppose a notebook or digital note-taking device would help me to keep track of myself, but usually the notes wind up being misplaced or are not close at hand when an idea strikes.

We are currently trying to decide whether to replace our furnace and air conditioning system. The furnace is something like 31 years old and the outside unit was replaced 11 years ago. Assuming our power bill goes down quite a bit after the replacement it won't really cost us any more to get the new system. Another thing we may do whether the furnace gets replaced or not is get the wood stove serviced/replaced. It's got a crack in it and the air intake doesn't work properly. It's also very shallow, so I have a hard time building my little wood and paper framework that gets things going. The attractive thing about keeping the stove going is that once it gets going the furnace doesn't come on much at all. And we can get enough wood for the winter delivered to our house for much less than I thought, considering the amount of time and labor it takes to cut, split, and stack it. Not particularly exciting blog fare, but wood stoves and furnaces are what's on my mind.

A friend came over today to paint figures and hang out. I think I painted the belts and shoes on three Easterlings and we played computer games instead. It was fun, but I also feel a bit frustrated as I had hoped to really make some progress on my figure collection. With an Army school to go to in another week, college starting back up after that, then a train-up and a deployment to other parts of the world I have been feeling a lot of pressure to get things done because anything I put off will not get done until I get home sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe. I am glad to have a secure job, but deployments are an unfortunate side effect of the wars we've got on. The hobbyist in me who greatly values personal time rails against writing off years at a time from his schedule. It's a trade-off.

I recently discovered an interesting solo game through the Mik's Minis blog. It's called How to Host a Dungeon and basically walks you through creating a map and populating an underground dungeon over the course of several thousand years. At the end you've got a neat little map of your dungeon and the entire history behind it. Now when someone asks what a bugbear is doing in some random room you can tell them the events that brought the creature to that location. I'd recommend reading Mik's post about it.

I still have plenty to post about, but if I don't get to bed I will never wake up for work in the morning. I figure I should show up to work sometimes, since that's how the work for pay thing operates. When I was young I thought that adult life must be rather pleasant and full of excitement. I never thought I'd be sitting at the table with my wife looking at firewood on Craigslist and discussing which bills should be paid when.

26 December 2009

We've had a busy few days celebrating Christmas. On Christmas Eve we visited some friends and participated in their Christmas traditions. The husband just commissioned as a 2LT in the National Guard and the wife is in the OCS program right now. As with most of the people I meet, my wife became friends with her and they conspired to force friendship upon the males. The lady of the house was eager to show off her AR-15, which prompted my wife to suggest to me that we spend a portion of this year's tax return on my own AR-15 kit that has been sitting in limbo for about four years now. In addition to the gun show, we also sang (I wrangled the boy or acted as book-holder in lieu of a musical contribution) hymns and read the Christmas story from Luke 2.

This is probably not the kit I would choose, but it certainly would stand out in a crowd:

The next day we did Christmas Eve again at my parents' house. We were unfortunately late for the Christmas program and only caught the end of it, but we were in time for the seafood boil and hanging out afterward. My grandma informed me that she reads my blog, so I have to be careful what I say. The seafood boil is a fairly recent tradition and is one of those meals every year when I never want to stop eating. I am usually one of the final holdouts at the table, cracking crab legs, eating shrimp if there are any left, and digging for the last few onions and potatoes. And even when all the food is gone I find myself thinking that I could probably have packed away just a little bit more of everything.

Today we did Christmas, again at my parents' home. It was a bit chaotic, as there has been a population explosion among the ranks of the grandchildren and they like to go every which way making as much noise as possible. It was still nice, and we're lucky to be able to have all six of the siblings and our families around for the holidays. I expect to be in Iraq for next Christmas, something that I'm not especially looking forward to. I spent Christmas of 2004 in Muqdadiyah, Iraq and I recall that it was pretty miserable. The weather stunk, the overfull Porta-Potty out behind the barracks stunk, and our mail hadn't caught up to us yet so it really was the kind of holiday you'd rather forget.

My little brother liked the presents I got for him, so I felt pretty good about that. My wife spent the last couple of months knitting and sewing to prepare her gifts, and I think they went over well. She really puts a lot of thought and effort into making sure the things she makes match the person she's giving them to, and she is quite accomplished as a producer of crafts. She made matching John Deere pajama pants for the four little boys, who are all one year old (or pretty close). My dad said something about wanting a pair for himself.

I got some miniatures to start me off on my Empire army and a Games Workshop Watch Tower, and my dad gave me some very comfortable slippers. I am reluctant to remove them for any reason. My wife and I got laptops a couple of months ago as Christmas/birthday presents, so we didn't get each other anything to open during the gift exchange. The boy got a large assortment of toys and books. His favorite toys are anything that has wheels. That kid is crazy about wheels. It was a pretty good holiday all around. The boy was exhausted after today and has slept for most of the afternoon and evening.

We've recently got the wood stove going to see if running it causes an appreciable decrease in our electric bill. So far my impression is that the stove is not large enough or placed in the right location to cause much of a dent in the heating bill. The furnace is original to the house which makes it older than me by a few years and we could probably save a lot more money by upgrading that machine. The heating company is coming by on Monday to take a look at it and determine what the best course of action is. The house inspector recommended replacing it soon when we bought the place, and as the heating company is in the business of making money that is likely what they'll recommend. It may be a good time to get that done as if we do it before the start of the new year we'll be able to take advantage of another tax credit as well as a couple of incentives that the heating company is putting out there to drum up business in the depressed economy. Not directly exciting, but in theory the tax credit from a new furnace would be the funding source for my AR-15 kit. Coming back to guns brings this post around the full circle, and now is as good a time as any to end it. I was able to get a little paint on some Easterlings this weekend, and really probably only have two or three more hours until they're done. I'll post a photo when it happens, although they look just like the ones I painted a while ago.

20 December 2009

I didn't get as much hobby stuff done as I wanted, but I did at least get some hobby stuff done. That's a step up from most weekends lately. Saturday was taken up for the most part by putting in some weekend hours at work and finishing up my Christmas shopping. We had a meeting during the week announcing some layoffs, and then an e-mail came out stating that the layoffs are not going to happen unless funding gets cut. My position is one that was right on the edge as far as being cut. It's one of those things that comes down to whether you or the guy next to you gets the axe. My supervisor mentioned that he was going to be in the office for a few hours on Saturday, so I volunteered to put in some time as well. Maybe it's a cheap move to gain points, but if that's what I have to do to keep my family fed and under shelter, then that's what I have to do. But I didn't come here to talk about the day job.

I've put together almost all the Dwarves for my 1000-point Warhammer Fantasy army. They are made up from the Skull Pass starter set and a Dwarf Battalion boxed set. I have to admit that I like the one-piece Skull Pass Dwarves better as the multi-part ones have a lot of unsightly gaps where they fit together. With plastic figures I much prefer that joins be flat surfaces rather than ball-and-socket joints. Once they are painted up I don't think anyone will notice one way or the other, but there are a lot of gaps in the multi-part Dwarves.

All I have left is a unit of Slayers. I'm not looking forward to them, as they are metal models and I hate cleaning the flash and mold lines off of metal figures. I much prefer plastic. I don't have any epoxy at the moment either, so I will have to get some before I can get the Slayers put together and on their bases anyway. I noticed while test-fitting them that getting them to rank up is going to be a circus. I may have to find some slotted bases with diagonal slots rather than the horizontal ones.

I was having trouble getting my Liquid Plastic Cement to flow from the container and I didn't want to push the issue as the last time I did that it ended with a painful mess. So I used some regular Plastic Cement, which is much thicker and more likely to squish out the sides of whatever you're gluing together.

I didn't paint the Razorback or the Easterlings. I did use my airbrush for the first time with mixed results. The paint that stayed on is pretty smooth and nice-looking, but the parts that were watery and ran need to be sanded and redone. The Easterlings I just didn't get to. I'm thinking about just using what Skaven I've already got to make up my 1000 points of ratmen so I can power through a group of something else when I get done with the Dwarves. I'm thinking about switching scales for a bit and doing some 15mm World War Two for Flames of War. I've got enough figures for a generic U.S. Rifle Company with some support elements. I was looking through the Bloody Omaha book the other day and thought it would be neat to do some Boat Sections for a D-Day scenario. But that's getting a little ahead of myself. Once the Slayers are assembled I may trot out some Skaven and send the two forces across my kitchen table to battle each other, painted or not.

16 December 2009

Space Marines and Dwarfs

I did a variety of things today. I put some varnish on my Space Marine Scouts. I assembled a few Dwarfs. I also got out the airbrush and gave it a try on the Razorback. I'm not sure if it was mixture or distance or a combination of the two, but the paint was a bit too watery when it hit the vehicle and much of it ran down the sides. So I need to work on that a bit and get a little better with the airbrush. I still have a lot to do if I want to finish the Razorback and those Easterlings by the end of the weekend. It would be incredible if I could get the whole Dwarf army painted by the time school starts up again, but I don't really see that happening. I've got an Army school that will take up much of January, so I really only have about three weeks to work with. I may have them all assembled by then.

If my instructors put in the grades I anticipate, I should end this semester with 3 B's, an A, and a Pass. That's not too bad, especially as I was considering dropping out of one of my classes in order to keep up in the others.

It kind of bothers me that Games Workshop uses the word Dwarfs to refer to multiple Dwarves. Dwarves seems a lot more correct to me.

15 December 2009

I still haven't found the Dwarf book, but I found a lot of other stuff while looking for it. I was able to put together a list based on the figures I have and the Army Builder software. The list is pretty basic, but at 1000 points it seems like it will stand up pretty well against Skaven and Orc & Goblins. And I was able to fit a small unit of Slayers in there, which is always good. Nothing like a bunch of half-naked berserkers with orange hair and an oath to die in battle to make up for past misdeeds.

While I was at it I wrote up a new list for Skaven at 1000 points. I could have written it out using models I've already got painted, but instead I wrote in the Plague Furnace and a unit of Plague Monks to push it. The rest of the list is from models I've already painted. I don't know if this Skaven list will be able to match up against the Dwarfs. It basically relies on Skaven Slaves to absorb fire for a turn or two while the Plague Furnace advances and then the war machine and magic will hopefully kill the Dwarfs enough to win the day. It's not a very reliable plan, but at least I'll add a neat model to my collection. I'm looking forward to it.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the boy has begun to walk. He still prefers crawling for most applications, but he'll walk from point-to-point if he feels like he can make it, and his range is steadily improving.

The wife sent me out to the garage to find the Christmas decorations earlier this evening. While I was out there I couldn't help myself and I started up my motorcycle and gave the throttle a few twists. Then I got dizzy from the exhaust and had to go get some fresh air on the back deck. But the bike fired right up and sounded good.

Some of the treasures I found while looking for the Dwarf book included the $150 gift certificate I got when I bought my bike, a $30 check from the credit union, all of my Flames of War stuff, and several boxes of miniatures I'd forgotten I had. I can't seem to find one of my Screaming Bells, though. I have the latest model, I have the first sculpt, but I can't find the middle one. I'm almost certain I own one, though.


Of course, as soon as I decide to work on some Dwarves I find that my Dwarf Army Book has come up missing. I can find every single Warhammer book I own aside from that one. I have no idea where it is. Meh.

14 December 2009

It's only Monday and I'm already looking to the end of the week.

I am kicking myself a little because I could have painted a bit today while the wife and kid were napping, but I was too lazy to go upstairs and do it. Rumor has it that tomorrow I will be pressed into service as a babysitter while the wife works on Christmas projects, but by the end of the weekend I would like to have the Razorback for my Space Marines painted and finish the unit of Easterlings that's been half-finished for probably over a year now. That will complete my initial 750 points of Space Marines. The list is not optimal; the most glaring weakness is a distinct lack of anti-armor capabilities. In theory it was built with my complementary Ork list in mind, which doesn't have anything more resilient than a truck. At 750 points there isn't a lot of room for bigger armored vehicles unless you want to put a lot of your eggs in one basket. Anyway, that list will be complete and I will probably move on to something different for a little while.

I'd really like to work on some Empire troops for Warhammer Fantasy, but I don't have any Empire figures. Armies I have figures for include Wargames Factory Vikings, Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard, Warhammer 40k Orks, Warhammer Fantasy Orcs & Goblins, Warhammer Fantasy Dwarfs, 6mm Baccus American Civil War, Reaper CAV, Mordheim, various bits and pieces for Lord of the Rings/War of the Ring and maybe Reaper's Warlord system which has a new rulebook. I'm leaning toward one of the Warhammer Fantasy factions as it would be nice to have something to run up against my Skaven. Alternatively I could paint up a small force for 40k, although with a choice between Imperial Guard and Orks even a small force means 50 figures and a vehicle or two. Maybe I'll work on 1000 points of Dwarfs.

And on the reptile front I got my copy of Reptiles magazine in the mail today. One of the features was on habitats. One of the neat things I saw was this coffee table terrarium made by Cages By Design. If I had money I'd get one for our tortoise. It would be quite a conversation piece. They also have an end table that would be perfect for a small snake. I think after the upcoming trip overseas I will try raising a snake again, hopefully with a larger, healthier specimen.

12 December 2009

Good Stuff

I am nearly done with the school semester and as long as my final next week isn't a disaster I should pass all my classes. I certainly won't be making the dean's list this time around, but sometimes just passing is enough. I am still deciding how many classes to take next semester. The Army pays me more money to go to school if I take a full course load, but with school, National Guard, and the day job I find myself stretched a bit thin.

At my day job I was put in for an incentive award and got a nice little addition to my paycheck. It comes out to equal about a 4% raise for the year, so that was a nice little surprise. We've had a lot of manpower shortages at work as people were away throughout the year and I was asked to cover for some of them. I feel a little undeserving as there are others in the office who were asked to do just as much, but I appreciate the recognition and the extra paycheck.

With about three weeks of no school between now and January it would be nice to finish some wargaming stuff, but I don't know what I'll work on or how much progress I'll make. I've been toying with the idea of an Empire army for Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I think I've discussed it here a couple of times, but the plan is to build a Crusade-style army around a big block of Flagellants (fanatical rag-wearing religious nuts who are convinced the world is about to end).

I also need to finish up some Space Marines. I'd really like to build some War of the Ring armies, but cost is an issue. In most cases basic troops are very cheap, but even a small unit of elite figures that come in blister packs can be quite expensive. Add a few hero models at $15-20 each and you're looking at a significant expense. A while back the local shop had all of their blisters at 50% off, but by the time I had some money they'd been pretty well picked through. At the moment they've got High Elves, Dark Elves, and Orcs & Goblins all on clearance. I don't really enjoy Elves, but a pack or two of Goblin Warbosses and Shamans would be nifty.

I've got some books covering some Dark Ages battles, so I plan on digging into those in preparation for doing some historical stuff. More on that as I actually get things going.

Bad News

My new snake has died. I don't really know why. I'd been having trouble getting it to eat, but thought I had that sorted out. The temperature in the terrarium was all right, and the heat source was functioning. I don't think humidity was an issue. Even with the problems I'd had in getting the snake to eat, I don't think enough time had passed for the snake to starve to death. It bothers me because I didn't go into this intending for the snake to suffer or die. I'd done research and gone out of my way to purchase a breed known for strong feeding and ease of care. Maybe it never got over the stress of transit. I just don't know, and it bothers me a lot.

02 December 2009

Thinking About Vikings

I have recently become fired up about gaming in the Dark Ages. I've spent a lot of time looking through the various sets of rules that I've acquired (Field of Glory: Wolves from the Sea, Warhammer Ancient Battles: Shieldwall, and Terry Gore's Medieval Warfare).

In the back of the Gore book I found a brief order of battle for the battle of Stamford Bridge, pitting Vikings against Saxons just prior to the battle of Hastings. I've since read a few online accounts of the battle, which was a rather one-sided affair as the Vikings were caught off-guard by the appearance of a defending army and had sent their armor back to the ships while they goofed off in the river. I've also learned that Gore also published a campaign book featuring the battles of Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge and Hastings as well as further books of army lists and scenarios for the period. Since I've already got some plastic Vikings I will probably start off with them and attempt to put together enough stuff to recreate these engagements.

The first order of business is to read some books on the topic. It's been a while since I've been excited to read anything so that's a step up for me. Second is to do some research on uniforms (or lack of) and the like. I've already got a few references assembled for that. Once I've got a fair understanding of how it all went down I can get my armies put together and hopefully pick up some of those other books, especially the campaign book. I had a heck of a time finding a U.S. distributor for them, but eventually stumbled on the website of Noble Knight Games, who have all of the books I was looking for at a reasonable cost. Now I just need to write my list up for Santa. Hopefully in the next few months I will have some concrete progess to show instead of mere scheming and dreaming.

01 December 2009

I still have not been able to come up with a solid list from the Skaven army book. Part of my problem is that there are so many units in the Special choices section of the book that I can't choose everything I want to include. Something gets left out, especially if you consider that I need a large unit of Plague Monks to push a Plague Furnace about. You can take a special character to make Plague Monks into Core choices, but he is so expensive that I can't justify it.

So I've put the Skaven on a back burner for now. Once school ends in a couple of weeks I will probably try to get back on the wagon and see what I can come up with. But between work, school, and home I am so burned out right now that it's all I can do to be semi-functional from day to day.