Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday, May 30th, 2016 - Thoughts On A Memorial Day

My father, in his native habitat; There are no photos
of my stepfather in his, as it was classified.
Still is, too, I've found out. Something called 'Magic'...

It's Memorial Day, and the last day of my vacation. It's been a pretty good two weeks off, and while my health wasn't so good for the first week, I have been in very good shape the second. Had two very good weekends, what with the CSA 'reunion', the Blackmoor game, and the niece's wedding; it's been great to reconnect, catch up, and do family things.

And a bit of model-building got done, which always helps recharge my batteries; got back to some very old and very neglected projects, like the tubeway car, and I'm very happy to see some movement on them at long last. Getting the stripped figures sorted was also a nice thing - I think I finally have a grip on what I have in stock, and what I'm going to do with it all.

Having the G5 desktop finally start showing it's age was not a happy thing, but getting into service the laptop the Missus bought me, back in December with her Christmas money, has been; it's got some very nice features, and she managed to transfer all my data files safely. And I get to use the keyboard and track ball that I'm used to, so I think we're good all around.

I tend to get more then a little philosophical on Memorial Day; I think a lot about my dad and stepdad, and all of the other people I've known and not known over the years who have put everything on the line for what they believe in. I've been finding myself thinking about them and what they've done, over the years, more and more; as the debates over the issues of the day get more and more shrill, and less and less civil, I do have to wonder what they would have thought about all of it.

I find myself shying away more and more from the debates and discussions, as I feel that my relatively moderate position on a great many issues is simply not welcome to the proponents of the extremely polarized positions I see go by; 'Yer either fer us or agin us!' seems to be the order of the day, and I've gotten more and more tired of what feels to me like a waste of my time and energy - I simply don't participate in a great many fan forums and discussion groups on line, any more, and also in personal face to face encounters as well.

I've heard some truly stupid things come out of people's mouths, over the last five years, and the ratio of stupid to smart seems to be on the increase in the past year. (More of the former, less of the latter, to be precise.) And my rate of participation has been dropping pretty quickly, as a direct result. I am finding that I have no interest in a lot of the burning issues of the day; viewed against the broad tapestry of history, they don't seem all that burning to me.

Yes, I will admit that I'm looking more and more inward, these days. Looking outward hasn't done much for me and the Missus, and we're not all that willing to throw good after bad; continuing to support other peoples' causes, and being told by those same people what while our time, money, and effort are theirs to command - there's a huge sense of entitlement, out there, amongst some people - but that we are the evil oppressors who are thwarting them in their desires isn't inspiring us to continue supporting those people and causes.

I wonder what my dad and stepdad would have made of all this. I do wonder, not just today but most days...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, May 29th - 2016: Flyers, Floaters, Aircars, And Cheap Toys

An afternoon's worth of work; bases are 30mm
I've had yet another very nice week, as my vacation slowly winds down. I got one of my nieces married off yesterday, and got a lot of stuff tossed out and recycled earlier in the week as I get more and more of my little workshop reclaimed. The big desktop is still ailing, but the Missus is working on it. I am monitoring my e-mails through her computer, so I am still reachable this way.

It's been raining all this past week, which meant that I did a lot of indoor projects. The photo shows the Work-In-Progress result of one such project, a batch of air skiffs for my Barsoomian warriors to perform mighty deeds of derring-do with, on, and off. I wanted something that would provide monility and altitude on the game table, and while able to carry figures, they also had to be small enough to look good on the table. One of the bigger Barsoomian flyers, such as the one in the "John Carter" movie, scales out to be about three feet long, and this is just too big for anything buy a convention-sized floor game. These little models are supposed to represent the ship's boats I would think that the large ships would carry - a means for landing parties to get down to the surface for exploration or adventures.

The basis for these are laser-cut plywood from the crafts store, and all of them cost me a whopping $4.00 in total. The curved brackets (also laser-cut) for the railings are from a project that never really got off the ground; I have over 1500 of them, and while I will use them in a project that I have going, I do have a few spares. The railings themselves are brass rod, left over from a project that the Missus did for Prince a while ago. All the rest, control stations and weapons mounts, are from the parts bins. I keep a lot of raw materials on hand, so little projects like this are very easy for me to do.

No seats; normally, Barsoomians simply clip their harnesses to the rails, and hang on. These are short-range, slow, and simple, and I wanted room for the figures on them. These are, more or less, 'movement stands' writ large. Open deck space was thus the big factor, so these will do nicely.

I can also use these as Tekumelyani air cars, if needed, but I think I'd like to do something a little more in the 'Art Deco Streamline Moderne' style that Phil favored for the Lords of Humanspace and their machines. I'll get some more of the little ovals, but then build up waist-high sides; I'll have to use the larger ovals, as there will have to be seats, but I will also use some of the tiny rare-earth magnets I have (from the marvelous local surplus dealer, of course!) and make them removable for any needs in game play.

I do have some very nice Tekumelyani 'scout ships', which are some sort of plastic device we picked up on clearence, and which have that look to them. The hatch to get in is in the nose, and several dauntless adventuers can get into the little ships and fly around - if they can figure out the controls, of course. These even have light-up repulsor pods to get them off the ground, and they make noise and wobble around like the players are trying to figure out what button does what.

One question - grappling hooks. Do I need to make winches with lines and grapping hooks? They would seem to be a useful accessory, along with the volley guns and ray projectors...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Tale of Two Computers - a Hardware Change, Hereabouts

The old Dell, now in reserve

The big Mac 'billboard' - I have no idea what the actual model number is - has been having issues over the past couple of days. It's almost a decade old, and has seen a lot of use over the years. The power supply is cutting in and out, so we're retiring it to the reserve fleet. The machine that I am now using, here at the Workbench, is a MacBook that is much newer - which means it's got the Intel chip set, and more updated software then the desktop did. Things load a lot faster, work a lot better, and I'm a lot happier.

The Missus will be moving the One True Manuscipt for "Two Serve The Petal Throne" over to this machine, as well as my e-mail software. If you've e-mailed me in the last 48 hours,  be patient; we're working on this. If you've e-mailed me in the past 48 days, I haven't forgotten you; you will get an answer.

The pair of older Mac G3 laptops will love in the game room as display drivers, backed up by the HP laptop for Internet access. These are all 'legacy' computers, and I use them for game displays.
And I can load photos much easier, too!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, May 24th - A Week Spent Recovering, A Weekend Well Spent Reconnecting

The Tharks and Thoats - a work in progress

We had a tech from our ISP in today, and after he upgraded the firmware on the modem and the antenna that feeds it, we have a lot better connection to the Internet. I'll be trying to load photos tomorrow morning; there's a backlog of them, and I may have better luck in an 'off-peak' period. The basic problem is that we have both a large condominium building and several apartment buildings that use the same ISP node that we do, and you can sure tell when everybody is on NetFlix.

Worst comes to worst, I'll load everything up to my Photobucket page, and provide links to the pictures. Not the most efficient use of the system, but it might work better.

I spent most of last week recovering from a lower back injury of some sort. I think I picked something up wrong at work, a week ago Friday, and while I got through the shift I was not in the best of shape on the weekend. I did get through that, but The Missus put her foot down and told me to stop trying to be everywhere and doing everything at once, and to stop - and take a vacation!!!

So, I did.

It turned in into a pretty quiet week of staying flat on my back; I was too stiff and sore to do much more then short takes at the computer, so not a lot of writing got done. I am much, much better this week, so I will be back at the keyboard and plugging away in Malchiran for everybody.

I have gotten the thoats built, and both tharks - 'Green Martians', to be more accurate - and thoats are on the workbench at the moment getting painted. The mounted warriors are huge 'miniatures'; about ten inches long, four inches wide, and with lances about six inches tall. Scary stuff, if you happen to be 28mm tall. I am very, very happy with the way that they are turning out, and I think they'll be lots of fun in games.

Since I was feeling better this past weekend, I went to two reunions. Not college or high school, but one for the old Conflict Simulation Association group that I used to go to at the University back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and one for the original Blackmoor group of Dave Arneson's. I wasn't one of the original players, but I was invited on the connection with Captain Harchar in Phil's campaign.

The CSA reunion was a lot of fun; I haven't seen most of these folks in thirty years, and we swapped information on all our kids (!) and what we'd been up to for all those decades. I have been invited to play the bandit chieftain that they are fighting - they are all still gaming with each other - as a 'live opponent' for them to have to deal with. The group's GM is delighted to be able to do this; the players not so delighted, as my reputation as a fearsome and wily adversary goes before me, and the players expect that things will not go as easily as they have in the past.

Heh. This old cobra still has fangs, people, and knows how to use them. If you're reading this, look to your defenses. :)

I also got out to the Blackmoor event, which was very private and by invitation only. They were running a D&D game, set in Blackmoor, and it was something really and truly special; I did not play, and if you understand my reasons you may get some insight into me and the way I think. Everybody was there, except for Pete (in the ICU) and John (in hospice), and it was a roll call of the early days of the hobby; the Great Svenny had come in from out of town, Dave Megarry was there, and Dave Wesely was actually playing - which is pretty awesome, as he's not an RPG player. When I got there, the game was in full swing, and I did not want to interrupt the flow of play so I took lots of photos and soaked up the sheer fun that the room was full of.

"Why didn't I play?" I hear you asking...

Because, gentle readers, they'd gotten Malia to come, along with her husband and daughter, and they put her in charge of this huge party of some twenty guys. They weren't playing the game for themselves; they were playing for her. You got it - the Twin Cities founders of this hobby, all around Dave Megarry's huge map of Blackmoor, and all doing their best for her - Dave Arneson's daughter. I was not, for anything, going to interrupt this. So, I shot my photos for the archives, and had the little plastic guy of Dave's slipped to her. She didn't know what it was, so I had to tell her. And that, gentle readers, was when Yours Truly had one of those utterly stunning moments in his long and all too-exciting life - to see her light up like that made it all quite worth it.

And then came the icing on the cake. I got to be the 'expert' / 'explainer' to her daughter and the daughter's friend (who was interested in D&D, but had no idea what was going on) about who all us old guys were and are, and showed them all of the 1970s figures I had with me. Telling her and her friend all about that rascal, Captain Harchar of the Clan of the Blazoned Sail. Another moment - not of my personal glory or prestige, but of the awakening of wonder and the imaginations of the two young ladies. Dave Arneson's granddaughter. Contemplate that, my gentle readers...

It was what I live for, and continue to live for.

Got back to the CSA reunion, and talked until 3:30 in the morning, telling the kids of all my old friends just what sort of gaming antics their parents had gotten up to, back in the day. More wonder. More laughter. More blossoming of imagination. And I even got to shout "KAOR, MY PRINCESS! HELIUM, NOW AND FOREVER!" and had the utter joy of seeing all their heads nod in understanding; I seem to have sold a lot of copies of "A Princess of Mars" to a lot of young people, this weekend.

It's what I do. And why I'm writing this massive tome, the size of the telephone directory. To tell everyone and anyone that once upon a time, dragons spread their wings, brave deeds were done, and little girls grew up to be pirate princesses.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, May 16th, 2016 - Taking Stock Of The Mayhem

Not that I'll have the time to sit in mine, but I can dream...

Here we are, in the middle of May, and I am now reveling in having two weeks of time off from work. I rack up four hours of vacation time every pay period, and I rarely take time off - so, the time builds up, and eventually I have to use some of it up or I start losing it. So, I am home for two weeks, and if I can get Blogger to work - we're having issues - there will be more posts as the weeks go on.

This is a sort of historic event; this will be the first time in over two decades that I am taking a vacation that does not require me to spend the whole time doing things for other people. Instead, I get to do things for me and the Missus, which is a real change of pace!

So, what am I going to be doing with all this free time?

Writing, of course; I'm hoping to get at least 100,000 words done on "To Serve The Petal Throne". I'd like to get the "Affair of the Malchiran Emerald" done, as it was Phil's only real essay at a stand-alone adventure.

Building. I have a Sakbe Road to get all the battlements done on, and then texture the thing so I can finally paint it.

Sort out the unpainted lead pile; I have over a hundred old metal Reaper figures that I bought 'on spec' and which never got used, and I'd like to find them new homes. Same for a bunch of other figures that I'll never use.

Thoats. Get the thoats done, so we can play some Barsoom-based games.

There's also some domestic chores I'll be working on, but I won't bore you with the details of painting the trim on he house... :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, May 8th - Small Projects, Great Satisfaction

The tiles used to look like this...
Now, they look like this.

The blue cobblestone room is made up of two sections;
it matches up very well, I think...

Every now and then, I get a small project done that gives me a lot of satisfaction. This week, I'm happy to say that one of these has gotten done, and I'm delighted with the way it all turned out.

As I mentioned a while back, I support three different world-settings - not sets of rules, settings - and so I had wanted some sort of underworld / dungeon / corridor system to use in adventures. I've tried a number of very good systems for this kind of thing, over the years, and the biggest issue I've had with all of them has been set-up time. It really slows adventures down when the GM is fiddling with a kit of parts, so I wanted something that was generic, easy to store, almost indestructible, and easy to use in game play. And cheap, too.

I eventually settled on using the off-cuts of MDF that I had left over from making all the modular terrain tiles for the new game table; these are about a 1/4" thick, and were destined for the trash if I didn't think of a use for them. I originally painted them in the same color that I use for the majority of my figures' bases, but the notion of using a Sharpie Fine-point marker to draw in all the flagstones just left me cold.

What to do? I looked for stencils, and didn't find anything useful; I looked for wallpaper, and didn't find anything in stock - you have to order it, and it's expensive - and finally found 12" x 12" sheets of patterned paper at one of the local crafts stores. (Jo Ann Fabrics, actually!) The price was right: $0.47 a sheet, so I got plenty in order to do the project and still have something in stock for the future. I got three patterns - two blue 'cobblestone' and 'tiled', one 'cork' - for some variety.

After that, it was simple. Coat the piece with a thinned mix of glue - I did 1 part water to three parts Elmer's PVC glue - and press the coated 'tile' down onto the paper. Let dry. I then used a razor knife to trim the 'tile' away from the sheet, and there we are - a set of rooms and corridors, very modular, and very durable.

I'm very pleased with the result, and the price can't be beat. Comments? :)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, May 1st, 2016 - A Weekend Off...

Next time you stir your coffee...
Boats from Burl's friend; Princess Vrisa afloat, again

Life, if I may say so, is good. My foot is in good shape and not being a pest, and I'm having fun this weekend sorting out the scale lumberyard in the workshop. And getting some writing done, too...

I am, as I may have mentioned once or twice in this blog, a model builder. I really enjoy building what we run across in our adventures, and have done so since the middling 1970s. It helps that a lot of the skills and tools that I've developed over the years for my railway modeling (Great Western Railway, in OO) are directly transferrable to my gaming.

A while back, I mentioned that I'd gotten half a dozen very nice boats from a guy who does laser-cutting, and who sells his stuff through Burl Zorn at The Source; see the photo, if you would.

I saw these, and instantly thought 'bridge of boats', or a pontoon bridge if you prefer. I also instantly thought of my stocks of scale lumber, and planking. My preferred planks are those wooden sticks you get to stir your coffee; they are nicely cut, made out of hardwood, and are available from suppliers like Litin Paper here in the Twin Cities in boxes of 1,000 for less then $5.00. I use a lot of these, so buying in bulk makes sense.

The crossbeams and other structural timbers will 'come out of inventory' since I have a band saw with a cutting fence, I can make timbers in any size that I need, and I have a huge pile of such timbers that I've already made. I am one of those people who love to sit in front of the saw, slicing large bits of wood into much small bits.

(These will even be in the new edition of my miniatures rules, as I've had to throw a bridge or two over rivers in my day.)