31 December 2010

The Ant Farm

I nearly forgot to mention the ant farm I received when I was eleven or twelve. I mailed in the certificate for my ants, and when they arrived in the mail my dad and I got ready to place them in their new home. We followed the printed instructions, putting the ants in the fridge for a while to calm them down before transferring them from the vial to their new home. After we took them out of the fridge we moved downstairs to my room for the rest of the procedure. I'm a little fuzzy on this part of the story, but I think we had to finish assembling the ant farm itself and by the time I started pouring them into the farm they had warmed up sufficiently to crawl up the outside of the tube and onto my fingers. The ants that are shipped out for ant farms are called Harvester ants, and they have stingers. I got stung and bitten, most painfully was a stinger lodged underneath the fingernail on my index finger. I recall that it was quite painful. My dad told me to man up and we finished dumping the ants into the habitat, although in the process he also received some bites and stings from the ants. Now the reality of it all set in and he spent much of the evening on the couch upstairs proclaiming how much it hurt and soliciting my mother for the healing power of ice cream in a bowl. I don't remember if I got any ice cream, but my finger was numb for a day or so, and the ant farm was pretty neat to watch once the ant were locked in and got to work building their tunnels.

For those who don't make it down into the comments, here is my dad's take on the event:
They bit us on the end of our index finger. It was excruciating pain for hours. I had been bit by ants before and it wasn't a big deal, which is why I told you to man up. We had a good laugh about how I got my come-uppance - after the pain wore off.

30 December 2010


I have always been a bit of a nerd about animals, with a certain affinity for insects and arachnids. One of my favorite books as a kid was the one pictured to the left. There were other books in the series, I believe, but the one I remember is the one about insects. Most memorable for me are the cartoons in which a little kid asks questions, usually in response to something unfortunate like a mosquito bite or bee sting, which are answered in the body of the text.

I also recall going to the COSI science museum in Ohio with my dad, where we took a short workshop and received cocoons to take home from which butterflies eventually emerged. COSI was like a Disneyland park for a nerdy kid. Also in Ohio I recall being bitten by a Stag beetle in our garden, which my dad had to pry off of my finger. In spite of that experience, I always enjoyed the portion of my book that covered Stag Beetles. They are like little tanks.

In Alaska we spent many days at a couple of ponds trying to catch small frogs and other creatures. At one point I spent a fair amount of time cultivating pond water so I could look at the aquatic creatures under a microscope. At the big pond (as opposed to the small pond) we once caught a rather large creature that we couldn't identify at the time. When I reached into the jar it bit the heck out of my finger with some rather large mandibles, prompting me to extract them from my flesh, throw the monster on the ground, and crush it. The image of the beast stuck in my mind and I later identified it as the larva of the Great Diving Beetle, which is known to be a rather aggressive carnivore.

Poisonous spiders make me a bit nervous, but fascinate me greatly. I kept a Black Widow in a jar for a few weeks in fourth grade, which spent some time on my teacher's desk and met an untimely end on the bottom of my mother's shoe when it escaped and ran across the kitchen counter. When I worked for a dairy farmer milking cows for a few months in high school I had another memorable encounter with the species. I saw one of the cows jump away and bellow as she ran through the doorway, and after the cows had passed through I saw a large spider hanging in the doorway. Upon further inspection I found that it was a Black Widow, the largest I've ever seen. I captured it in my water bottle for my family to marvel at when I got home. The next day the bellowing cow laid down and died, so I can only surmise that the spider bit it on the eye, lip or some other vulnerable area as it ran through the door.

At the University of Idaho I took an Entomology class that was incredible fun, even though it was in the morning and I sometimes didn't make it to class. The folks who taught it were your stereotypical science professors, full of nerdy bug puns, unkempt white hair, v-neck sweaters, and an intense love for all things with segmented exoskeletons. I kind of wish Boise State offered an Entomology degree, as that would make for an interesting career path.

I regret that I never made it into the Beekeeping course offered during the Spring semesters at U of I, as it always conflicted with my National Guard drill weekends. All hope is not lost, though, as I have been in contact with the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club of Idaho, who assure me that their members can teach me the ropes of beekeeping when I return home. In the meantime I am educating myself as much as I can on the life cycle of bees and the tools needed to care for them and extract honey for personal use. In middle school and high school I worked moving sprinklers for our neighbor, a farmer. On many mornings the guy across the street would come out in his veil and suit to check the hives. Being a bit backwards conversationally and averse to social interaction, I never asked him about his operation, but I often wondered what beeherding was all about. Soon I hope to find out.

28 December 2010

Christmas Book

My parents gave me a gift card for Christmas, which I converted into Kevin Dallimore's Painting and Modelling Guide: Master Class from Foundry. I haven't had a chance to read it in entirety yet. I just flipped through it for a little while and looked at the pretty pictures. Some of the sections I recognized parts of from his website tutorials, but there seems to be enough pictures and explanations to justify the cost. The painting style is somewhat controversial because of the sharp edges between colors, leading some people to say it looks like a meat chart with all the flesh tones sectioned off. I like the look, and I think all of the contrast really helps the figures stand out on the table. I'm looking forward to having a more extended look through the book, especially the suggestions for Old West characters.

I also ordered a bottle of ink and a piston converter for my fountain pen, as the pre-made cartridges only come in a few colors and are more expensive in the long run than filling your own pen. I tried it with some water and the converter seems to work pretty well. I'll have to use my current cartridge up so I can see how the converter works inside the pen. It's basically a syringe with a twist mechanism that moves the piston up and down.

Although they are far out of playoff contention, it was nice to see the Denver Broncos actually win a game this week. That Tim Tebow feller is a pretty exciting player, I suppose. I picked him up in both of my Fantasy Football leagues for the final week of the season, and he helped me win both of my games. It's the last week of the Fantasy season. Both of my teams snuck into the playoffs with the eighth and final seed. One team lost the first two games and fell into the 7th-place game for this week, which I won and gained a spot in the standings through the playoffs. The other team won a game, then lost and fell into the 3rd-place game, which  I should win for a little virtual bronze trophy. That's not as neat as getting all the way to the Gold from 8th, but it's a pretty good run considering my usual luck at postseason Fantasy Football.

It has been fun to watch so many football and basketball games on the Armed Forces Network here. My schedule lines up pretty well with the games, so I get to see most of the big matchups on a big screen. Sometimes it's hard to work in a support role, especially when I have to navigate all of the paperwork and figure out where to go when I need something. My combat arms background didn't prepare me very well to be an office jockey. But the sports on TV is nice and I may be able to get some more college out of the way, so it's not all bad.

27 December 2010

In Which I Experience Fine German Engineering (No, Dad, Not That)

While sitting in Germany waiting for my plane to Iraq, I ordered a fountain pen online, the Lamy Safari Charcoal with a Medium nib. I have a couple of vintage pens, a Parker 51 and a little Esterbrook of some kind, but I didn't want to subject them to the abuse and possible loss that is part of the mobile military lifestyle. So I ordered the Lamy. I actually tried to get one in Mississippi, but the one pen shop I found in the phone book had recently shut down, leaving me to find it on the internet.

I've been using it for a month or so now, mostly for letter writing. It doesn't agree very much with the paper in my journal, which is lightly ridged and tends to snag the pen. But for letter writing it is pretty nice. It is nice and thick, which for me is good because holding on to smaller pens makes my hands cramp up. It puts down a decent line with the standard Lamy ink cartridges, although the ink seems a bit watery and light and the line tends to become drier as I write. I would be interested to see how it does with some different inks with more pigment to them. Overall I am pretty happy with the pen. It serves it's purpose, and for a chunky plastic low-end model it looks pretty good, fits well in the hand, and writes fairly well. I haven't had any issues with leaks or anything although I think the leaky fountain pen is more myth than reality, especially when it comes to modern models.

22 December 2010

Posting by Coercion

My wife asked me on the phone the other day why I haven't posted on my blog recently. I don't really have a reason aside from not feeling like I have much to talk about. It is rainy season here in Iraq, so every couple of days there is a downpour and some fairly spectacular thunderstorms. I have one of those every day kind of jobs, so I work, eat, read books, go to the gym, and sleep, with a little time on the side for playing video games and calling home. It pays the bills, but being the introvert that I am, the constant presence of other people in my personal bubble is a bit taxing. And that's all I'm going to say about that. There is a guy on post who plays bagpipes, so when I walk from my room to my job I often can hear them playing in the distance. I think the bagpipes sound much better when played in the distance.

I read Battle Cry of Freedom over the last couple of weeks. It was a pretty good time-filler and gave me a pretty good general understanding of the events surrounding the American Civil War. My ability to retain information is not that great, but I think I captured a lot of it. I'm not sure what to read next on the subject of the war, though. I'll have to do some research. I've read a couple of other books (Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman) as well as copies of White Dwarf my wife purchases and sends to me.

It's quite a task for her to go and get the magazine, as being pregnant with twins she doesn't get around so well, and my 2-year old is obsessed with several of the objects in Hobbytown (just like his dad) and wants to run around and play. They have a table with a wooden train track and some kid-sized shopping carts that he likes to push around the store. The kid is crazy about anything he can push around, like carts and strollers. When we went to the zoo in Mississippi he didn't care about the animals at all. He just wanted to get out and push the stroller. We had to bribe him with a ride on the zoo train just to get him to look at the animals and stay in the stroller. He loves wheels, which is fine until you're trying to get him to leave Hobbytown and he is trying to load up the little shopping cart with toys so he can push it around. Believe me, a toddler can scatter toys much faster than two adults can put them away. One of us usually has to drag him screaming and kicking from the store while the other cleans up and purchases the items. My wife handles it by going and buying my magazine while he's at the sitter's house. But either way I appreciate the effort on her part to make sure I have the things I want while I'm here.

She also has mailed my box of paints and Dwarves to me, so when that arrives I will try to incorporate some painting into my schedule. It will depend largely on whether or not I get into some university courses, as those will take up most of my time. Right now it's not looking like I will get in, so I may wind up painting a pile of Dwarves while I'm here. I'm not sure how I will get them home safely once painted, but I will worry about that later. Other than that I haven't done much hobby-related aside from the usual planning and window shopping. I obtained a bunch of Foundry figures for Old West gaming as well as a couple handfuls of Foundry Pirates from an eBay auction one of the posters on The Miniatures Page was running. I've been trying to determine a starting point for my 6mm ACW project, but haven't got any further than I was a year or more ago.

There are some new Skaven models on the way for Warhammer Fantasy that look interesting, although they won't liely fit in with my current army. I consider the Skaven to be in three distinct sculpting styles which I refer to as early, middle, and new. Most of my collection are from the middle style, with a few of the early sculpts for things that never got produced in the middle style. I have some unbuilt stuff in all three styles, but the whole thing is a logistical mess. As any good wargames project should be, I suppose.

I've also been thinking a lot about the Lord of the Rings, especially with some new elite figures out for the Moria Goblins faction. I've got a fair number of Goblins already, some of them are even painted. I also have some Easterlings painted and a pile of them in reserve. I also have a fair number of Dwarves, and I'd like to build up an army of Gondor as natural enemies to the Easterlings. But again that's all in the future. All I know for sure is that for me the Lord of the Rings figures have been some of the most enjoyable figures to put paint on. They seem to be made to take paint well, even in the hands of someone like me. The poses are a little repetitive sometimes, but using a few different hair or trim colors can even that out somewhat.

I guess that's about it for today. I will probably continue to post with some irregularity, but that will vary according to my mood and my access to a computer with an internet connection. Things are going fairly well and I am looking forward to coming home on leave in a couple of months and hopefully meeting our two new babies, assuming they cooperate.

04 November 2010


Yesterday was a significant day for my family. My wife and I have now been married for six years, and it was also my son's second birthday. I consider myself very lucky to have both of them in my life. We did not get to celebrate together, but at the end of this week we will be able to spend a few days together before I ship out for my tour overseas. I hope to return home for a couple of weeks when the twins are born and then return to finish out my deployment. I'm grateful for the support of friends and family while I'm away.

One of my regrets from my last deployment is that I didn't keep any record of what I was doing and thinking from day to day. A lot of it is pretty fuzzy for me now, and a lot of it I don't really remember anymore. That really goes for many of the events of my life. I don't know that it will be very exciting, but maybe it will be good to look back on somewhere down the road. To that end, I ordered a journal from the Rogue Journals website. The day after I ordered it the announcement came out that any mail arriving after the 5th would be returned to sender, so I sent a message to their customer support requesting to be billed for expedited shipping or for my order to be cancelled. I promptly received a reply thanking me for my military service and explaining that expedited shipping would be provided at no extra charge. The journal arrived yesterday and is exactly what I was looking for.

I've been meaning to post something about the Lord of the Rings miniature games, but the past few days have been pretty busy with training. I may get around to it at some point.

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29 October 2010

Getting a Handle on the Vision

Over the past few days I've had some time to sit down with my notebook and write down a short paragraph explaining my vision for each army or period. It's not anything too concrete, with figure lists and color schemes, just a brief description of what I envision when I think about the project. A lot of my projects are pretty well filled out as far as figure acquisition, but I really need to do some painting. I also need a lot of terrain. But there are a lot of projects that just require some paint before I could start playing small games. Most can be built up in small blocks, starting with things I've already got.

I was also able to download a couple digital issues of Battlegames magazine, so I've been reading through those. Of course, the danger of reading about the hobby is that new project ideas rear up in your mind. I'm planning on doing Dark Ages games in 28mm, but after reading issue 23 of Battlegames, I'm becoming convinced that 6mm is the right scale for later Medieval action. I may have to add that to my project notebook.

Mississippi is still muggy and warm, although not as much as it was earlier in the week. The leaders in my new unit finally discovered that I have a little more time-in-grade than many of the other guys at my level, so I got a job title upgrade and some extra duties. It's nothing spectacular, mostly tracking down information and volun-telling guys to fill work details. It doesn't help my popularity, but I try to pull as many details as my guys do, so hopefully they won't be too butthurt when their turn comes around. I'm looking forward to taking a few days on pass soon and finally getting to my post overseas. I wasn't made to live in the South, so I'll gladly get on that plane, hopefully to never set foot in Camp Shelby again.

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25 October 2010

Planning Mode

I am still in Camp Shelby, enjoying the humidity and those good Army rations. I've spent my free hours considering the wargaming projects that interest me. I've considered trying to get some sort of plan or timeline down on paper, but that would probably require several hours (days, weeks?) of consideration and list shuffling. I inventoried all of my Warhammer and Warhammer 40k figures before I left home, but didn't get around to the other game systems and historical periods in the hobby room. It is occasionally quite maddening to be here, away from all of my books and toys. I'm actually looking forward to falling in on our positions overseas, as the pre-mobilization process seems to be the worst part of being deployed. Once there, rumors are that we will have a (relatively) decent amount of personal space, where I will be able to make some progress on personal pursuits, like miniature armies and higher education. I've been looking at online education opportunities, and may try to take a few university courses through the BYU distance learning program. But for the most part I've been itching to get at my paints and my figures. It'd be really nice to play some games with my figures before my kids are old enough to move out of the house.

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19 October 2010

The Boy

My wife sent me this picture of my boy frozen in awe by the sight of a whole wall of shoes. He likes shoes a lot because putting his shoes on usually means he is going to go outside. He also likes to put my boots and shoes on and walk around the house.

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Window Shopping

Today there was a break in training and a bus running into town, so I rode to the mall and did some window shopping for shoes. I tried to find some gaming or comic shops, but there weren't any where the bus was running.

It was an okay trip. I saw plenty of things I'd been looking at online and spent some time being tempted by the Jordan Retro IX Citrus, the Six Rings, and the Pro Strong in Stealth/University Blue/Light Graphite. I also looked at a whole pile of running shoes. Other than shoes, there wasn't much of interest. I looked at hats and jerseys a bit, but there weren't any featuring players or teams I'm a fan of.

A lot of folks were walking around with babies and toddlers, which made me a little homesick for the wife and kid. They're in the South right now visiting her family, and from what I hear my boy has enjoyed playing with his cousins.

Earlier in the day my platoon went to the Armed Forces Museum here on post. We kind of got rushed through it, but there were some pretty neat displays, including an M2A2 'Mae West' Light Tank and a lot of rifles, swords, pistols and knives. I'd have liked to have more than 45 minutes to get through it all, but I'll take what I can get.

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18 October 2010


I'm still in Mississippi without a whole lot to report. I took an operator's course on the MRAP family of vehicles and I get another course on uparmored SUVs in a few days, so I've been doing plenty of driving along with the usual pre-mobilization stuff. The lack of a good internet connection is a little taxing, but I am able to read blogs, visit The Miniatures Page, and keep up with my Fantasy Sports teams on my phone. The thing that really hurts is that the music on my music player includes stuff that validates my permissions occasionally, so without the ability to sign in I am locked out of a good portion of my songs. The training events have been back-to-back-to-back lately, so I haven't had much personal time outside of reading White Dwarf before I go to sleep.

Although I am almost always at some sort of training, it wouldn't be the Army if I didn't spend much of that time waiting in a line of some sort. I can't paint figures or play games during that dead time, but I can think about all of the projects I'd like to be working on. Now that I'm away from my painting table, all I can think about (besides my family, of course) is all of the projects I want to be working on. Most of it is just fleshing out projects that were already on a burner or fantasizing about ordering a big batch of books and figures, but it helps to pass the time, and hopefully will spark me to get a lot done whenever I get back to my painting table.

My wife went in for the big ultrasound a few days ago. The babies both look healthy and it still appears that we'll be having another two boys. It's going to be crazy, but I think we're both looking forward to having some new additions early next year.

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05 October 2010

I've spent the last couple of weeks enjoying Mississippi with my Army friends. The weather and humidity have calmed down quite a bit, so the last few days have been rather nice. We are pretty well locked down on post, so I haven't been able to see much outside of the immediate area. The training is all right. I wouldn't be a soldier if I didn't have complaints, but nothing stands out as particularly miserable.

In my free time I've been trying to play through Dawn of War: Winter Assault, but I've been stuck on one specific mission. I think I just need some extra time to make a plan and do it right instead of winging it and getting overrun by Orks.

There hasn't been much time for any other gaming-related stuff, but my wife sent me the latest White Dwarf and I'm looking forward to giving that a read.

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19 September 2010

Time Marches On

The time for me to fly out for training in one of the Southern states and from there to the Middle East for another tour has rapidly arrived, in spite of all my denial and delay tactics.  The morning is going to come all too quickly, and the first few hours will be pretty hard on all of us.  The boy is still too young to understand that his Papa is going away for a long time, but Papa is acutely aware of all that he's going to miss over the next year.  The boy is learning new words almost every day and he follows us around copying everything we do.  I assembled a bed frame today, and he helped with the wrenches and bolts, usually mimicking whatever I was doing on the other side of the bed.  Or trying to drop the nuts down the air register on the floor.  I'm going to miss that boy and his Momma.  We might get a chance to see each other one more time before I leave the country.  They'll be staying with my wife's family in Georgia for a while so that whenever I get a few pass days they'll be within driving distance.

I put together a care package with paints, brushes, some files, and 1000 points of Dwarves so that if I get to a place where I have some room for a small desk or table I can have the wife slap a label on it and send it out without trying to find the right brushes or the exact colors I need.  I've also got a follow-on package put together in case I get through the first box of figures.  I've heard different things regarding the availability of internet access for my unit's assignment overseas, so I may or may not be able to keep this blog going throughout the year.  If I do have access I'll try to post pictures of figures or my hobby desk away from home.  I've also got a pile of RPGs and strategy games loaded onto my computer, so if I can't get any painting done I'll at least get some sort of gaming in.
I played through the first Dawn of War computer game during the last week or so.  It was okay, although on normal difficulty it was just a matter of building turrets around my base, researching a pile of technology, and running a large force through whatever the enemy happened to have in the way.  There were a couple of moments where I lost a significant portion of my force, but with a well-defended base I just had to build more units in relative safety and send them out to finish the job.  The storyline was decent, I suppose, as far as game stories go.  But the real draw was being able to build all the units from the Warhammer 40k Space Marines and run them around shooting Assault Cannons and Plasma Guns at Orks and Chaos Marines.

13 September 2010

A Taste of Fame

I've got a few days off from the Army before we leave to complete our pre-deployment training.  There is plenty to do, but I haven't really been motivated to do any of it.  The three weeks I spent in the Idaho desert exhausted me.  I have enjoyed spending time with the wife and the boy, though.

The National Guard and the community set up a picnic for the Guard personnel who are deploying with us.  The news media were there in force, and we had an interview with a reporter that made it onto the local evening news.  It's not anything earth-shattering, but I think we did all right for being such introverted people.  One of the guys at Hobbytown recognized us and mentioned it when we visited the store the other day.
I got a neat package in the mail today.  My shoe order came in after being on backorder for a few weeks, so I got my pair of Nike Trainer 1.2s in the Bo Jackson Kansas City Royals colors.
I'm pretty happy with them.  The blue is certainly very bright.  I think they would go down a lot better if I had a KC jersey or sweatshirt to wear with them, but either way I like them a lot and they are a good complement to the brown leather Bo Jackson's my uncle got for me.  They sort of form a shoe mullet, the brown shoes are the business up front, and the blue ones are the party in the back.

As far as the hobby goes, I haven't done much aside from reading through White Dwarf and reading the first seven books of the Gaunt's Ghosts series by Dan Abnett.  The books are page-turners for sure, and of course they make me want to build my Imperial Guard army.  I also got the original Warhammer 40k Dawn of War computer game with a couple of the expansions.  It should be a good distraction so I can play with Space Marines and Orks without hauling around ten boxes of figures with me.  I've got more than I can fit into my allowed bags anyway, just with all of the gear the Army issues us.  Prepping for a deployment shows just how dependent an army is on a long supply and support chain.

19 August 2010

One More Day

I've just got one more full day at home before I head off for training that leads to a trip overseas.  I wish I could spend the day at home with my wife and the boy, but it seems there are a million things that have to be done before I go.  I've got to drop by the office to give a computer back and get a base pass for a vehicle.  I think I'll have to go out to my parents' farm to get some things that my dad is lending me.  There are still bags to pack and last-minute things to buy (padlocks, wipes, and various-sized plastic baggies!) and laundry to do and a tortoise to move from the garage to the house so my wife will find caring for him a little easier and probably several other random things that will come up as the day goes by.  I say it's my last day at home, but somewhere in the next month or so we will probably have a few days on pass during which we'll be allowed to come home.  On my pass days I am planning on cleaning out the garage as much as I can, because I didn't get around to it before this deadline.

Our family pictures went well, although I was frustrated by the last-minute request that I wear my duty uniform for the first set.  I am uncomfortable wearing it when I am not doing something directly related to my military job, but I survived the ordeal and hopefully some good pictures will come out of it.  I got a little more comfortable once I changed into civilian clothes.

After pictures we all took a nap, from which my wife bolted up and announced that she was late for her doctor's appointment.  Me and the boy played together for a couple of hours while she went and got new pictures taken of the babies, who are still healthy and growing.  They're not big enough to find out genders and whatnot, but their heart rates are good and she said they were both active in the video.  I think one of the worst parts about leaving home for this next year is going to be missing out on a full year of the boy's life and the first six months of the twins'.  He is growing so fast and learning new words every day, and he'll never be this little again.  I'm sure my wife and I will change too, but it will be slower and we are better able to communicate that sort of thing over long distances.  But for the little ones you really have to be watching their interactions with the world to see the full scope of their growth.

This evening my sister kindly watched the boy on short notice so that the wife and I could go on a proper dinner date.  The food was good and I enjoy the company of my spouse, so it was a nice way to cap off the day.  Now I'm just waiting on some laundry to finish up so I can decide whether or not I should burn the post-midnight oil and pack some bags or go to bed and get it all done tomorrow.  I am leaning toward going to bed so I can have an early start in the morning and (maybe) get some rest before the big event kicks off early on Friday.

17 August 2010

I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller

Yesterday I was invited to a friendly family basketball night with various cousins and uncles.  I wish I could honestly say that I played well, but there is ample video evidence that would refute my tall tales.  I did have a few good passes and cut to the hoop once or twice in spectacular fashion, but on most plays I could be found out of position on defense or taking a bad shot when an open teammate was in full view.  I guess I have some learning to do.  I joke that the game was less-than-friendly, but I think tempers only got going once or twice over the 2 1/2 hours we played, slightly less than you'd expect when eight guys are engaging in competition.  I was slightly embarrassed that I failed to bring extra shoes, socks, and shirt to wear to and from the court.  Apparently there are court shoes and street shoes, and the two should never be one and the same.  I have missed out on some athletic traditions by never participating in organized sports.

I also wish I could say that I felt good afterward, but I spent the night with a splitting headache and much of today hurting just about everywhere.  Perhaps some more frequent exercise is in order?  I would like to be able to play an evening of ball without having a full-body hangover for the next two days.  After the game my Uncle Clair treated everyone to frozen monstrosities known as Boston Shakes, a massive milkshake topped with a sundae.  It was ridiculous.  Of course, not finishing dessert would be seen as a sign of weakness, so I managed to get it all down and keep it down.  In spite of the pain and the humiliation, I had a good time and would definitely do it again.  I was a little miffed, though, as when the invitation was made I was promised there would be an RPG table there.  I didn't see any such thing, not even a matching set of dice or a pile of sourcebooks.

Today I finished up the rest of my yardwork.  The back yard is still a mess, but no one can see that through the trees and brush on the canal banks.  I got the important stuff pulled out, mowed, and even sprayed some weed killer and laid down a few bags of bark.

Tomorrow we are getting some family pictures taken, which I'm pretty sure will be the first time we've ever had pictures taken of us together.  I guess that's kind of sad, considering we've been married for almost six years now.  I hope we can get the boy to at least stay in the frame, if not somewhat still and looking at the camera.

16 August 2010

Packing Up

About the only thing I dislike more than going on a long trip with the military is packing for a long trip with the military.  I've been trying to get everything accumulated and centralized in one room so that I can get it put into foot lockers and bags.  Time is getting pretty short, and I've still got plenty of stuff to do.

I ordered a case for my laptop on eBay.  The conditions for the Buy-It-Now listing were that I had to pay immediately.  After I placed my order I got an e-mail telling me that the seller didn't actually have the item and offering to sell me something similar or refund my money the same day.  I chose the refund, but didn't get the refund the same day.  It took a little while.  Then I had to find another case and order that one.  Then I ordered a pair of gloves from a website, along with a few other items I needed.  I noticed after the order was processed that the anticipated ship date for the gloves was a couple of months away, long after I would need them.  So I had them remove the gloves from the order and ordered them from another site.  They sent me an e-mail to let me know the gloves were on back order and wouldn't arrive for several months.  So I canceled that order, too.  Then I found a pair on eBay.  They've been marked as shipped, so I am hopeful that the third time will be the final time.

I spent most of the weekend doing yard work.  There is still plenty to do, but the yard is really a lost cause at the moment.  It hasn't really been a priority for me, so I'm just trying to get it to the point that the city won't come after my wife while I'm away and she won't have to do anything too crazy while carrying around two kids in her belly and keeping the toddler out of the street.  I hate lawns.  It seems awfully wasteful to spend time, money, and water on a patch of grass that does very little for the world.  Maybe if everyone raised a few goats or some edible creature that could graze on the lawn it would be a different story, but I personally don't feel an inner compulsion to care for a patch of grass that I only use as a pathway to my car in the morning and back into my house in the evening.  I've been looking at alternatives to traditional lawns, but I don't really have time to pull out my current yard and install something else (a concrete pad and a hoop?).  I guess that's enough ranting about grass.  I was going to post something about wargaming, but I got so worked up about shopping and lawn care that I forgot what I wanted to say, so you're spared for now.

09 August 2010

This weekend I had another Drill with the National Guard. This included my PT test for the record. The heat and mosquitoes kept me up most of the night before, so going into it I felt like the run might be tough.  The push-up event went very well for me and I earned a moderate score on the sit-ups, so I felt a little better going into the run.

One of the other guys taking the test is my age and runs about the same times as I do, but our pacing is very different.  No matter how fast or slow I run the first few laps, I always tail off on laps five and six, so I have to try to keep up with the younger guys for the first few laps to make up for that decline.  If I don't keep up a good pace for that first mile I'll get too far behind the pace, keep declining for laps seven and eight, and fail the run.  So at the moment that means I run a 7:15 mile followed by a 9:15 mile.  The other guy keeps up a fairly even pace throughout the event, so he runs something like an 8:00 mile followed by an 8:30 mile, catching me around the end of lap six, which is typically one of my slower laps.  So we wind up finishing at around the same time (I usually sprint the last 100-150 yards, so my time tends to be ten or fifteen seconds better), but take different strategies to get there.  I passed the run, beating last month's time by about twenty seconds, and beating last month's scores in all three events.  It wasn't a world-breaking performance, but at least I am improving toward my goal of a perfect 300 score.  I hear that if you get a few 300s in a row you're eligible for some super-badge and a letter from the Sergeant Major or the General, but I haven't looked at the regulation for that.  I'm a long way off from worrying about it, anyhow.

The city my unit is based in put together a ceremony and barbecue (my Southern wife would call it a cookout, since it was just burgers and dogs, with no sauce in evidence) to honor us.  It happens to be my hometown, but I didn't recognize most of the people there, although the recruiter that signed me up ten years ago came up and shook my hand.  It was a pretty good event, much more organized than many I've attended.  My mom, brother, and some friends were there, so we got to hang out a little.  The boy had a good time in the sandbox and on the swings, although by the end he was tired and pitched the mother of all fits.

I've been trying to get my bags all packed and my gear sorted out.  In considering possible methods for transporting reading material, I have considered the portability of an e-reader device, but as the goal for this deployment is to carve a huge chunk out of our consumer debt, I am reluctant to start down the road of unnecessary gadgets and media to fill them with.  I will probably be able to borrow enough books from the MWR library and care packages to avoid spending anything on books.  One good value I've found for some good nerdy reading is the various omnibus editions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40k novels, like the Witch Hunter book to the left.  They are collections of several novels/short stories featuring the same characters collected into a big paperback and offered for a cover price a little higher than a normal-sized paperback.  I found the Witch Hunter collection quite entertaining, and the Ultramarines book was pretty good as well.  My only consistent complaints are that often the editing could be a little better and the authors occasionally become a little too attached to a certain combat maneuver, so that the protagonist spends 95% of his combat time spinning under his enemy's guard.  It's like playing Mortal Kombat against someone who does low kicks the entire match.

I've been looking at other gear requirements, but my dad has covered a lot of the things I might need by opening up his inventory to me.  He is a bit of a flashlight fanatic, and his engineering blood forces him to seek out efficient storage solutions and ways to attach gear to one's person, so I should be pretty well set in those areas.  He's also offered up the tactical gloves of my choice, so I've been researching those quite a bit.  When I went on my first deployment my dad went over at the same time, and we actually lived on the same base within a few hundred feet of each other for much of the year.  This time he's got a different assignment this time around and won't be going on the desert vacation with me.  I've also been looking for a decent laptop bag and some other little stuff like extra nametapes and patches, but nothing too extreme.

I've got a busy week ahead of me, so I should probably try to get some sleep.  I'm sure my employer would like for me to be conscious during the business day.

03 August 2010

I've got all of my hobby stuff packed away outside of my Dwarf army.  I'll have to wait until I've got all my necessities packed up before I try to shoehorn the Dwarves into my foot locker.  I still need to clear off my desk, but once my army bags are all packed the room should be open for my family to use while I'm gone.  There's a lot of stress that goes along with leaving for a year or more.  I've got about a million things to do, but with the deadline approaching it doesn't look like I'll get all of it done.

We had a birthday party for my Grandma a few days ago, so it was a good chance to see her and a lot of that side of the family in one spot.  There were about five million kids there.  My Grandma can tell you how many grandkids she has, how many are pending, the ratio of girls to boys, and then give you all the statistics for the great-grandchildren.  I think the grandkids measure somewhere near fifty now, but I couldn't tell you for sure.  Anyway, it was nice to see some of the family.

The way things are going I'll probably spend most of the next couple weeks holed up in my house trying to make sure everything's as ready as it can be.  The wife and I are both pretty nervous about her having the twins while I'm gone, and I can't help feeling a little disappointed that I won't be here to lend a hand.  We've received many offers of help from friends and family, but I still worry that it won't be enough.  Our boy is practicing for the terrible twos, and if this is just the rehearsal I am loathe to imagine what horrors the next year holds for my spouse.  I imagine that when I return she will meet me at the door, thrust all three kids into my arms, and disappear for six months.  I do tend to look on the shady side of things, so hopefully the reality will split the difference and we'll get through it all right.

I'm still looking at rally cars and pestering my wife to no end with links to various listings for this model or that.  She takes it in stride, as she knows I just use window shopping to decompress from real life.  It used to bug her that I'd always be shopping for another truck or bike (even on the very same day that I'd purchased one), but now she sees behind the curtain a little more and knows that I am (generally) not actually thinking about going out and buying whatever vehicle I've got displayed on my screen at any given time.

And speaking of window shopping, the (un)official shoe of University of Idaho Fan Club is out now.  I haven't made time to go find a basketball hoop yet, as I've been trying to make sure my position at work is ready for the temporary person who will fill in for me, get my family ready, get myself ready to go, and any number of other excuses.  I've been trying to get out and run a few times a week, as I've got my record PT test some time this weekend.  I'm not feeling nearly as prepared for it as I was last month.  I still haven't got a run in this week, and I really need to go tomorrow evening and probably the day after that.  I'd run in the mornings, but I am really sleepy in the mornings.  Also, when I run or do physical labor my forehead sweats profusely.  I've always perspired a lot, but as I've aged it seems that all of the plumbing migrated directly to my forehead, especially after the last deployment I went on.  I can actually feel the droplets move up out of my forehead and bead up.  It's insane.  And once it gets going it seems like nothing can stop it.  So I don't run before work, because I don't want to be the guy sitting in the air-conditioned office looking like I've got my own personal face-mister.

31 July 2010


I've been watching some videos of rally racing over the last week.  That is a crazy sport.  As I understand it, the cars race one by one over a specified course with varying terrain to see who can get the best time.  Each car has a driver and a navigator, who tries to keep the driver updated on which turns to take and what to expect while the driver concentrates on keeping the vehicle upright and pointed in the proper direction.  Here are some pictures I nabbed off the net.

I don't think I've got the innards to drive like these maniacs, but it sure is exciting to watch.  If you like cars at all I suggest you do a search for 'rally racing' on Youtube and check it out.

28 July 2010

Giving Up the Ghost

Today there were some thunderstorms and a big burst of rain in the afternoon.  Today there were also contractors on top of the building re-doing the roof.  During the morning they'd been using a front-end loader to get supplies up and down, and apparently it cracked a hole in the roof.  After the rainstorm all the water on the roof pooled up above my supervisor's office and came down through the ceiling, knocking out the tiles and flooding his office.  We got most of his stuff out of there before things got too wet, but judging by the visitors we had, it was one of the most exciting things to ever happen in our building.  Even the cashier at the PX had heard about it by the end of the day.  He saw my supervisor's name tag and said, "Hey, you're the guy whose office flooded, aren't you?"  Exciting stuff for those in cubicle land.
Because of the forecast I chose to drive the old Subaru.  It rolled over 240k miles this last week, and it is in the beginning stages of giving up the ghost.  On the way home from work it died on me twice, both times at intersections, and it really cannot be trusted anymore.  Just to repair the known issues with the vehicle would cost a couple times what the car is worth, and I really don't want to dump that money into a vehicle that I only need until the middle of August, when I depart for other climes and become reliant on government-issued transportation (even if that comes in the form of four new pairs of boots).

In anticipation of my eventual triumphant return to home station I've been researching commuter cars.  What I'd really like to get is a gently-used Subaru WRX, a vehicle that both my wife and I have appreciated from afar since I can remember, but the fuel economy on that particular model is merely average.  I could go with an Impreza, which sacrifices a little pep and loses some of the aggressive styling, but gains enough gas mileage to split the difference between the WRX and the subcompacts I've been looking at.

The most promising little car I've run into so far is the Honda Fit.  The upcoming Ford Fiesta receives very high marks, but used examples will probably still be a little out of my preferred range at the time I'm looking for my next ride.  The fit does look sort of like a mini-minivan, but gets better reviews than anything in its class outside of the aforementioned Fiesta.

Either way, I've got about a year to think about it and I hope the current old Subaru has still got a few hundred miles left on it.  I just need it to get through another 3-4 weeks and then it can go off to that Pick-a-Part in the sky (or the one here in town).

Of course, thinking about Foundry's book sale has rekindled my Pirate tavern brawl plans.  I've been packing up my hobby room so that my wife will have another room to use while I'm gone.  Her mother might come up here from Georgia to help with the babies as long as she can, and having that room available will be more convenient than making her sleep downstairs.  She can't have the closet, though.  I have to put all my stuff in there.  She can't have my desk, either.  Or most of the bookshelf.  But the rest of the room she can have.

Anyway, I was packing up my stuff and I came across my dozen or so painted Foundry pirates, and two or three lots of unpainted Foundry pirates I've accumulated over the years (probably 45 different figures), and I got to thinking about how neat it would be to have some town guardsmen and some musketeers and some townsfolk and the governor (and his beautiful daughter) and some regular civilians and a harbor with some ships and a tavern with a suggestive name and perhaps even a fort. Oh, and a shark.  It is hard to discipline yourself when you have a shiny toy complex.  I really don't think I'll act on all of that any time in the near future, but it's a rush to imagine the spectacle of it all.

Wargames Foundry Books 50% Off

Wargames Foundry is having a sale on their books.  I'm not sure how long the sale will last, but all of their books are 50% off.  I've got most of the Foundry books I want, although the Foundry Compendium and a few packs of soldiers to fight my Pirates is a tempting proposition.  Any order from Foundry that includes books comes with free shipping, which helps a little to subsidize the high cost of the figures.  Usually I buy my Foundry books through Amazon, but under the sale the Compendium can be had for $15.75, beating out the Amazon price of $21.67.  Most of the recent glitzy rulebooks (The Rules With No Name, Napoleon) can be had for $26.25, while they are on Amazon for $35.10.  So if there are any books from Foundry you've been looking at, now could be a good time to get them.

I, like much of the hobby, it seems, have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Foundry.  I really like their sculpts, but their regular list prices always seem to be a little more than I want to pay.  Even their sale prices leave me feeling a bit iffy.  I've been wanting one of their Pirate Horde deals since probably 1997, but I've never actually been able to bring myself to complete the purchase.  Usually I just pick up random lots on eBay or through The Miniatures Page at steep discounts.

One thing I would like to try is the Foundry Flesh Paint line.  I've grown a little tired of the same three Games Workshop colors and I'd like to add a little diversity to my Empire and Imperial Guard armies.  The Foundry paint is more expensive per bottle, but it contains more paint and works out to be cheaper per unit.  I've got nothing in the hobby budget at the moment, so I'll probably wait another year or so to give it a try.

26 July 2010

Trades and Inventories

I've been taking a few minutes here and there over the last month to inventory all of my Warhammer and Warhammer 40k figures.  The other game systems will have to wait a little while for me to get to them.  I loaded my Dwarf figures into Army Builder and what I've got on-hand comes out to almost exactly 2500 points, depending on how I gear out my characters and how the unit sizes shake out.  That's a pretty decent number and I can't think of anything that really needs to be added to the collection, although a unit of elite warriors like Hammerers or Ironbreakers to hold the center of my line wouldn't be a bad thing.  Supposedly Dwarves have been helped by the new rules, with increased charge distances and the new shooting rules.  I wouldn't know if that's a legitimate rumor, but that's what I've heard.

A few days ago I completed my first Fantasy Baseball trade of the season.  It will probably also be my last of the season, as Yahoo! Public Leagues aren't very active on the trading front.  Half the managers just draft their teams and forget about them for the rest of the season, and the rest are overly attached to 'their' players.  I am one of those that gets attached to my teams, but I consider myself fairly open to offers.  The guy I traded with was asking for one of my closers in exchange for a batter who has been pretty bad for most of the season but has been top 5 for the last month.  I've got a pretty good lead over the rest of the league for saves and my batting really needs some help, so I accepted the offer and I think it improved my team.  Then I went and picked up a newly-appointed closer off of the waiver wire and basically came out as if I hadn't traded my guy away.  Crafty, eh?  My team is sitting in third place with a lot of ground to cover if I want to move up in the standings, but this move should at least help me to stay on the podium.  It's probably not worth a blog post, but since it's likely the only trade I'll complete this year it qualifies as an event.

24 July 2010

Today was a pretty good day. We went out for smoothies and spent a little time at one of the local arcades. The boy had a good time on the carousel and all of the little toddler rides. We played a few games and won enough tickets to get him a little toy car prize. I don't have a lot of weekends left before I take off for my extended vacation, so I'm trying to make time for the family. It's unfortunate that I have to take off while my boy is at such a fun age. He loves to horseplay with me and during the day when he hears a noise outside he points to the door and asks my wife, "Papa?" I try to keep it in perspective by reminding myself that one-year deployments are a relatively new development. Past generations often went away until the war was over, and you read a lot about people leaving their homes and families to get a job and send money home. I'm still not sure how having twins halfway through my absence will work out. One baby is a crazy thing to deal with; two babies and a toddler just seems a little over the top. I hope that her support system is able to keep things going for her.

I've been considering what exactly I'm going to do while I'm overseas. I know I'm going to try painting up my Dwarf Warhammer army and I want to work toward a higher PT test score, but I'd like to do something that's new to me as well. I'm thinking about building a website, mostly just a glorified blog. The trick is that I want to learn about optimization and build it as a money-making venture. From what I've read on the subject, a blog site that is well-networked and has good content will take a year or two to really make any money. I'm hoping to make enough from it to fund my hobbies, but I've seen a great number of bloggers out there who make a living from their websites. These are generally the well-established bloggers with large readerships and regular updates, but it's something to work toward. Anyway, it's an idea I'm kicking around.

I Am No Longer a Flaming Ball of Anger

I'm more of a Smoldering Mass of Inner Discomfort, now that I've put a day or so between me and stress of the retail experience. I went to the DMV this morning, as my wife pointed out to me that if I didn't get the vehicle registered today she wouldn't be able to legally drive it over the weekend. The DMV here locally is never very busy in the morning. Today I was at the counter within probably 45 seconds of getting a number and sitting down in the waiting area. The time before that I think I was about 10 numbers away from being called, so it took a good fifteen minutes to get to a counter and complete my transaction. The greatest danger is really forgetting to set my phone alarm to ring instead of vibrate so I wake up on time to get there at opening time instead of an hour later. That leads to burning a little more leave than I would like.

A few exciting things to post about today, for me at least. Normally I might break this up into two or three posts, but I'm tired and just want to get something up without a lot of messing around. In the world of Warhammer, photos have been popping up of the figures that will be in the upcoming Island of Blood starter set for Warhammer Fantasy. I've placed a few of the leaked photos from the Skaven below, as Elves hold no interest for me, especially the High Elves. First up we've got this Warlock Engineer. He looks all right, but I think I prefer the older metal model with the whole pile of gadgets and junk on him. This guy just seems to be a much-simplified version of that old model.

These Rat Ogres, on the other hand, are in my opinion light years ahead of the old models. It's too bad there are rumored to be just two of them in the set, as you need at least three models to make up a full rank of monstrous infantry in 8th edition. Maybe this is a sign that a boxed kit of some sort in the newer style is coming out at some point.

And finally we have a model for the Poisoned Mortar that showed up in the latest rulebook, as well as an updated Warpfire Thrower team. The old Warpfire Thrower team really looked aged compared even to the last edition's models. It's nice to have a sleeker model for it.

In other news, Nike thankfully released a Trainer 1.2 for Bo Jackson that wasn't in Oakland Raider colors. This one can be seen on the Eastbay blog and is part of the MLB Legends series, so it features Kansas City Royals colors. If I had to choose a favorite team based solely on colors, I think Kansas City would be it. I just like it a lot. Maybe if I wanted to be obnoxious I would choose the ugly era Astros (1975-1986), but in my opinion you can't beat Royals blue. This is just an attractive shoe. I suppose it's a bit flashy, but apparently I like flashy shoes. I never really would have pegged myself as that guy, but my wife doesn't have the mental filters in place that I've got and she maintains that in spite of my vision of self, I am that guy who likes to wear bright colors on my feet. At least my personal fashion quirk isn't leather pants or sequined catsuits.

Also on the Eastbay blog is the announcement that the Hyperfuse is up for pre-order, including the green colorway that Rajon Rondo wore in the playoffs. I do wonder if all the mesh would help keep my feet from sweating and overheating, but I'd have to actually play some ball before the benefits would be anything but hypothetical.

Speaking of cars, shoes, and miniatures, I find that with the large lead times that the internet affords I am often tired of a product or see it as old news before it's even released for sale. Often photos or spoilers will be released many months prior to the drop date, and constant over-exposure will numb me to a product before it's even available to me. I wind up not buying the product because by the time it releases it has been discussed and rated for six months prior and everyone's moved on to something else. If I were to ignore all the press and the internet hype and just stumble upon a new release in the hobby shop, I think I would be much more excited than I am in the current environment. Perhaps too much information has numbed me a little bit to the excitement of the new and unknown? I think that was all much too philosophical, so I'll end with a couple pictures of those sweet Astros uniforms (with a bonus mustache!).

Honestly, that mustache belongs on the face of a general or dictator, not a baseball player. It's like an automatic +10 to Charisma (my wife would say it's more like a -10, but I don't think she fully understand the power of a thick mustache) if you can grow a lip-warmer like that one. That guy needs to be put in charge of something right now. I bet he'd be great at it, whatever it was.

Oh, and I guess since my wife posted it on her blog, I can also reveal that the baby in her belly is actually two babies. That's the main reason we needed a minivan. As long as everything keeps progressing well, we're going to be having twins early next year.

21 July 2010

Let's Not Do That Again

We finally made it back from the car dealership with the new (to us) van. Buying it was a horrible experience from start to finish. There are very few experiences that are as frustrating and awful as purchasing a vehicle. By the time I am finished dealing with the paperwork, the sleazy salesmen, the stupid contract games, and the bank I am so angry that I can't even stand to look at the new vehicle. Buying my truck was a bad experience, and buying this van was more of the same.

Purchasing my motorcycles wasn't anything like this. The salesmen are generally pretty pushy, but the paperwork seemed to go a lot faster, they didn't run back to the manager 15,000 times to check on things, and I was generally on the bike and on my way long before I became too angry to care anymore.

The only auto sales place I've come away from feeling good about the transaction is Oasis Auto in Boise on State Street. They specialize in Subarus, but usually have a few other things on the lot as well. The salesman worked with us, didn't try to push a bunch of baloney on us or hide a whole pile of crap in the contract that had to be dealt with, and the guys in the service department have always treated my wife well, even though we bought one of the cheapest cars on their lot. I wish that they'd had anything in their inventory that matched our needs, because I would go back in a second to avoid the jackasses that are employed at every other dealership we've been to. I think I'll just have to try the private party thing next time, since I won't have a trade-in or anything to worry about.

I think I will miss my truck a bit, but in the end they're all just boxes to ride around in. At least I can cross the Peterson Autoplex, the Edmark Superstore, and Mountain Home Auto Ranch off of my list of dealers to look for cars at. I'm probably going to be angry for three weeks just thinking about it. I hope that when I'm thinking about buying another car someone can point me to this post and remind me that I don't want to go to a dealership, no matter how good the deal looks in the ads or on the lot. I feel like a moron for doing it again this time.

20 July 2010

Well I Guess This Is Growing Up

We found out a while back that the IUI (fertility treatments) took hold and my wife is pregnant again, so that's pretty exciting. We had the ultrasound a week or so ago, and realized that as long as everything goes well we are going to need a larger car for my wife to drive around while I'm in the Middle East doing the Army thing.

After getting some advice, looking around online, and making a plan we went to a dealership tonight and arranged to buy a minivan. The best arrangement for us is to trade in my truck and my wife's current vehicle, so for the time being we will just have the van and the motorcycle. We looked at a few family-hauler SUVs, but the available options weren't exactly what we were looking for. I'm glad we will be able to finally get something nice for my wife to drive, as she deserves it, but I will miss my truck. When I get back home we will look into getting a commuter car for me and hopefully an old beater work truck, too. For now we're lucky to be in an arrangement that gets us out of a bad truck loan, gives my wife reliable and roomy transportation while I'm away, and allows us to concentrate on paying off some other stuff.

This weekend I had a diagnostic PT test for the National Guard. My run pace has been a bit off the mark for the last couple of weeks, so I figured I would do my best and see where I was at, but didn't really think I would be able to beat the minimum time for the 2 miles. The first event (push-ups) went better than I anticipated, so I got a little pumped up from that. My push-up score wasn't anything special, but it was okay.

For the run my goal was to try to hang with the younger guys for as long as I could and hopefully at least finish the two miles without walking. I kept up with them for a while, but they started to pull ahead or fall back and I found myself alone between groups. Usually I slow down a lot on lap 5 or 6, but my Platoon Sergeant started catching up to me around that time and I pushed myself to stay ahead of him. He finally caught me and we ran the last couple of laps neck and neck until I sprinted at the end to beat him by a few seconds. I only beat the minimum by about 20 seconds, but I passed the test and the scorers were duly impressed the sprint at the end. I could hardly walk for the rest of the day, but my knee hasn't bothered me much today aside from the occasional twinge while stopped on my motorcycle.

I have to keep up the running because I will be taking another test for record next month. You have to designate whether a test is diagnostic or record before you take it, so a passing diagnostic test can't be recorded as an official test. I hadn't anticipated passing the run this soon, so I hadn't properly made plans to reward myself with a copy of the Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition rulebook. I'll probably just wait until I get home or save up some of the discretionary money set aside in the deployment budget.

13 July 2010

Running on Empty

I was finally able to run the full two miles, although to be honest I walked a bit, especially on the last of four laps. The knee hurt a lot on the first lap, went down to a dull ache for the second and third laps, and went back to hurting more on the last lap. The pace was better than I expected, as I was only off the bare minimum time for my age by a couple of minutes. I should be able to make it if I can cut out the walking and pick up my pace a little bit. I think hydrating properly during the day would help my run time immensely. It's one of those things that you can't do all at once right before you go running. That's the sort of thing that makes your lunch go back out through the entrance.

There are a few wristband-style GPS devices that can track your runs/bike rides and some of them can even be pre-programmed with a specific route and pace, then beep to let you know when you're exceeding or falling behind on your time. They seem pretty neat, but really all you need is a ten-dollar watch with a stopwatch feature and a little motivation to keep running. It won't upload your routes to a website and track where, how fast, and how far you've run, but the optional gadgets are just that, optional. Some of the major shoe manufacturers have their own versions with different features and associated online communities, and Garmin has a few different devices too. I'm not sure if Garmin has an online community or not.

The boy has been waking up very early in the morning and refusing to go back to sleep. It leaves us with a dilemma, as at least one of us has to get up and chase him around or do battle trying to keep him in his bed on the off chance that he might go back to sleep. He is an extremely vocal child, so usually once he's up and yelling it means both parents are stuck being awake regardless of who is actually in his room applying the ineffectual go-back-to-sleep-it's-two-hours-before-my-alarm-goes-off process. It starts out firm and demanding, but as official wake-up time approaches the meter swings over to the pleading and despair side of things. In the daytime it's easy to say that we will stand firm and not let a two-year old dictate our schedule, but in the dead of night we lose some of our strength. I hope things improve soon.

I helped my parents out with moving some heavy stuff yesterday. Riding out to their house gave me a chance to grind the footpegs on my bike a little bit. It always surprises me how easily the cruiser touches the ground when negotiating turns at speed. I don't usually catch my boots on the road, but sometimes I do scrape a little. After the moving was done for the evening they took me out for dinner, so it was a winning situation for me.

10 July 2010

Oh My Goodness, Nolan Ryan!

I ran into an interesting post on the Nice Kicks blog featuring some upcoming shoes that honor various athletes. Two of the shoes highlight a couple of my favorites, Nolan Ryan and Bo Jackson.

Nolan Ryan is one of the great pitchers in Major League Baseball history. He set a lot of records in both positive and negative stats, much like Brett Favre in the NFL (without all the retirements and comebacks). He was saddled a bit by his wild pitching and the fact that he played for teams that were often mediocre. Like my favorite basketball player, Hakeem Olajuwon, he played for a Houston team and wore the number 34, so it only makes sense that he would be one of my favorite players. Those uniforms were a bit silly, though.

I guess he was a pretty intimidating pitcher, and he was involved in a couple of famous fights on the field, probably the most famous being the time he put Robin Ventura in a headlock and punched him six times.

"(Nolan) Ryan's the only guy who puts fear in me. Not because he could get me out, but because he could kill me. You just hoped to mix in a walk so you could have a good night and go 0-for-3." - Reggie Jackson

Unfortunately, this shoe doesn't commemorate Nolan Ryan as an Astro. Instead, it is in Texas Ranger colors and celebrates his 7th no-hitter in 1991. It also features a train logo, as Ryan's nickname was "The Ryan Express."

The Bo Jackson shoe is in Oakland Raider colors, which is again an unfortunate turn of events. My loyalty to the Denver Broncos would not allow me to wear these colors, especially given how awful the Raiders have been the last few years. The only teams I hate more than the Raiders are the Chargers and the Chiefs, the other teams in the AFC West. The Raiders of yesteryear are maybe not quite as despicable as today's sorry team, but they're still the Raiders. Aside from the Raiders affiliation, the shoes are pretty sharp-looking.

Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition

I went in to the local Hobbytown today to have a look at the new Warhammer rulebook. I saw it, and they also had a few sets of the Limited Edition Skull Dice (some old-timey-looking dice with skulls instead of pips) and a few Engineer's Ranging Sets (a huge set of stylized plastic calipers and a similarly-styled plastic fold-out ruler). If I were younger and had ten bucks to blow, the dice might be sort of neat, but the Ranging Set just looks cumbersome to use and is pretty overpriced as far as quirky gaming aids go. I didn't see anyone else there looking at Warhammer stuff, but the store here in Nampa is pretty slow most time anyway. They've got a fairly active trading card game community and there is usually someone in there looking for R/C Car parts, but that's about it. The Boise store may have had a few more people in for the release, but I didn't want to drive all the way out there to look at a shrink-wrapped book.

I didn't buy the rulebook. They've got a pretty decent price on it and I have a coupon for an additional $5.00 off a purchase, but I really have no need for it at the moment. My last game of Warhammer was in July 2007, and since then my Skaven have been changed so much by the new army book and now the new rulebook that I'm wondering if I can adapt them or if I'll have to replace whole sections of the army to make them work under the current rules. Most of the changes can be read about online, and that's probably all I need to make army lists and occasionally paint something. I doubt I'll be playing any games before late 2011-early 2012, so I'll either pick up the book or the starter box then and probably save myself a few dollars.

The only reason to pick up the book now would be to fulfill some inner desire to participate in the gaming community's excitement over the new rules and the changes to the various armies. This would be somewhat misguided, sort of like a banker who buys a Harley as a way to feel like a rebel biker by wearing leather and riding around on the weekends, as I am not really a member of any gaming community here locally. I've got a couple of acquaintances who are mildly interested in miniatures, a cousin who plays various games, and a lot of gaming blogs that I read, but in spite of my best intentions I really just exist on the fringes of the community, never really actually participating. That's sort of a theme for my life, not just the gaming side of things, and goes a long way toward explaining why I don't really have any close friends (some immediate family excepted).

I may make purchase of the book/box set an incentive-based thing, perhaps contingent on my ability to pass the army-mandated physical fitness test. The doctors say my knee injury is healed and so I've got a 90-day window in which I have to pass the test. I've been running after work, but my knee hurts so much that I haven't even completed the required 2 miles, much less to the time standard. I'm going to have to find a way to get there, though, as my actual window is much less than 90 days. With upcoming training I've probably only got a month or two before I absolutely have to pass it. The implications are pretty deep, as we are depending on the upcoming deployment to help us get to a good place financially. Additionally, failing the test at this juncture would negatively affect my military career, which directly affects my ability to keep my civilian job. So I've pretty much got our entire livelihood resting on a wonky knee that so far isn't cooperating very much. My skills aren't that marketable outside of the military world, and my skills at marketing myself are abysmal, so I really feel a lot of pressure to perform at the moment. It's got me pretty worried, and with everything that's going on professionally I haven't been able to spend the quality time with my family that I'd like to before I go away for a year. Even when I am home, I feel so grouchy and low that I must be unpleasant to be around. I guess that's enough ranting for one day. I don't think I will be making much progress on the hobby side of things for a while, although I might post a few ideas or something here and there.

06 July 2010


This is going to be a long, rambling post that may never go anywhere, so I won't blame anyone for bailing out after the first few sentences. It's one of those ones that I write mostly for my own benefit.
I've been reading a lot of personal finance blogs lately, with a few frugal living and investing sites thrown in. I think the thing about finances that I like is all the projections, planning, and calculations that are involved. It's like Fantasy Baseball, only the numbers are actually relevant to my life.

Lately I've been turning my eye toward transportation costs and thinking about selling my truck. Aside from housing, getting my keister to and from work is the biggest cost I've got. I finally remembered to reset the trip meter on my bike so I could get a reading on the fuel economy I've been getting. On the last tank of gas I got 51 1/2 miles per gallon, a far cry better than the 15 1/2 mpg my truck gets. I love my truck, but paying for gas and whatnot is an increasingly heavy and meaningless burden. When I first got the truck, my round trip to work was just over 8 miles. Then I got a new job and the commute tripled to about 26 miles. Then we bought a house and my commute extended by another 20 miles to a 46-mile round trip. It's nice having the truck to move bulky or heavy things, but we don't use it for that often enough to justify the expense of using it as a commuter. So I've been thinking and calculating and reading and projecting.

It would be nice to ride the bike to work all the time, but the variable weather makes this impractical or uncomfortable several months out of the year. If we have a wet spring like we did this year, the riding season is pretty short. The next best thing to the motorcycle is a little economy car, either something newer with really good gas mileage or something a little older that I don't have to make payments on. I projected out the various fuel costs, and over 100,000 miles (approximately 7 1/2 years) the economy car would basically pay for itself versus keeping the truck and driving it. I knew that driving the truck was hurting my wallet, but until I projected the numbers out for a couple of years I wasn't aware of how much.

All of this led me to look at various options. Selling the truck if I can find a buyer for it is pretty much a given. After coming up with some pretty solid dollar amounts I just can't stomach the thought of giving up all that just for the privilege of driving a truck to work. For a lot less I could drive a commuter car around, pay cash for an old beater truck to be used when I really have to haul something, and use the savings to fund things that are important to me, like increased retirement savings, a nice vacation for my family, motorcycle upgrades, all the miniatures I could ever want, or any number of things that are far more important to me than getting from point A to point B on a particular set of wheels.

There are even those who would argue that for a fraction of the price of motorized commuting I could purchase a very nice bicycle and commute under my own power. With a little maintenance I'm sure a good bicycle would outlast most cars while being a little less finicky about weather than a motorcycle. The health benefits alone would probably serve to make a strong case for bicycle commuting. But riding 23 miles every morning and evening sure sounds like a lot of work, although there are some days when the bicycle commute would surely take less time than the Interstate. It's an idea, but probably one that I'm not quite ready for.

I have wandered far and wide from my hobby-centric blog, and posts like these make me wonder a little if I should split up and write a few different blogs for each topic of interest to me (miniatures and gaming/personal finance/sports/news and interaction with family). The more I think about it, though, the more I think that splitting things up would just be confusing to me and annoying to those folks who follow my ramblings. Besides that, this blog is very self-serving, mostly functioning as a place for me to work out things in my mind. Even when thinking about things that I don't post here, I often try to form the ideas in my mind as a blog post as a way to edit my thoughts for clarity.

With my upcoming trip overseas I would expect that hobby posts will be few and far between, perhaps for quite a while. I do intend to pick up the new Warhammer Fantasy rulebook at some point in the future and I have plans to build a kit with paints, brushes, and my Dwarf army to stick in a footlocker to accompany me to the Middle East. Hopefully I can find a place and some time to paint an army while I'm away.

But for now I am focused mostly on preparing the house and family for my departure and getting practical things out of the way, like selling my truck and clearing stuff out of the garage. It's not great fun, but I would like to leave my family with a few less things to worry about while I'm off playing Army.