Monday, September 26, 2016

Update to the Update - Monday, September 26th- 2016 - Home with a Very Sick Missus, and a question answered...

The Missus, in happier times
It hasn't been a good day, here at the Workbench. I was in the shower, this morning, getting ready for work when the Missus came in. She normally sleeps while I'm out, so I was a little worried; I got even more worried when she was thoroughly sick. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

"Do you want me to stay home with you?"
"No, (heave) I'll be (heave) just fine."
"I think I'll call my supervisor."
"Well, (heave) if it will (heave) make you (heave) feel better."

My supervisor, who is a wise and practical man, reminded me that this kind of thing is what we have sick leave for; so, I have been home all day making sure she stays comfortable and hydrated. From what the doctors say, it's her gall bladder acting up. If she gets too much protein in her diet all at once, she gets these attacks. With all of her other underlying health issues, she's not a good candidate for any kind of surgery, let alone for this problem. All we can do is ride it out with the right medication, lots of rest, and lots of fluids. So, I've been here all day for her; she's done the same for me - which is, if you were to ask me, what being married is all about.

I will freely admit that when she's sick like this, I go into a state of utter panic. Give me a normal disaster - like fires, floods, structural collapses, and the like - I'm in my element and all my reflexes kick in and it's out with the right tool for the right job. However, with medical emergencies like this I'm completely useless; she's always been the one to navigate the health care system for the two of us.

So, I've been busying myself with a form of occupational therapy: cleaning up all the messes, doing all the laundry, and decontaminating everything in sight to make sure she recovers from this as fast as she can.

Doing a little scenery work has also calmed me down; I now have all the 'ocean' tiles painted a nice light blue with a very light blue-gray stippling that can hardly be seen. I got this done in between loads of washing and checking up on the patient, and it helped a lot to feel like I was actually doing something.

Along the way, I was reminded of a question from a reader from a while back about where I get all my materials and supplies for my work; the answer is, pure and simple, 'surplus'. The MDF I use for my tiles is from one of the big-box DIY places, which has a section in the back for 'mis-cut lumber'; I check this regularly, and over time I got something like twenty roughly two-foot by four-foot sections of the stuff. Likewise, the Paint Department of the place usually has 'mis-matched paint', in various sizes of containers. I get these for between fifty cents and a dollar, and the little jars and cans go a very long way. Since this is latex paint, and has no smell to speak of, it does not trigger the Missus' asthma and it's easy to clean up.

Total investment in my 48" x 48" 'ocean', complete with shoreline tiles, will be about five dollars in MDF and about half a dollar in paint. Calming me down from this morning's state of panic is beyond price...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, September 25th, 2016 - Matters Maritime, Black Boxes, Skyships, and Movie Nights

Hull One, moved to the Fitting-out Dock for adding details
Baron Ald's pride and joy, before adding details
It has been a very, very busy week here at the Workbench! I had a group in to watch "Thief of Baghdad" - 1924, with an eye to starting a group playing in a Tekumel campaign, and I'll have another in today with an eye to starting a Barsoom campaign. The game room had to be changed over from game mode to theater mode and then back again, but that is why everything in there is on casters - I am very 'organized', people say, but I prefer to think of it as being 'lazy'. The big-screen Sony LCD TV is finally doing what I got it for last year, and a good time was had by all as near as I can tell. Next up will be the 1940 version of this classic.

The Barsoomian skyships are advancing; Hull One has moved off the ways and into the Fitting-out dock to get her details added; I watched "John Carter" again yesterday to refresh my memory about weapons mounts and tactics. I came away from this with some ideas, and so it's off to the armaments works this coming week. The weapons mounts will all be based on magnets, so I can rotate them and change them in and out for various adventures. Hull Two will move onto the slipway to get her superstructure and engines installed; she'll look visually different then Hull One, which I like to think has a bit of a Helium look to her. Two will look a bit more 'tough', as befitting the Sky Pirates or Zodangans.

(On a side note, I'll also have to rummage around my stocks of old figures, and see what I can do for some Therns; I have a vintage Grenadier figure that might just be perfect, actually.)

The 'Weapon Without Answer' has had to wait for the embroidery crew; a good friend asked to see what it looked like at this stage, so a photo of the work-in-progress is above. The good Baron seems pleased! Lots of silver and turquoise in my future, I can tell you!

My vintage fleet of ships from Valiant and C-in-C are now all off their bases and ready to go into drydock for restoration and refurbishment.I originally got these decades ago for games out at Phil's, and we used them for all sorts of games and adventures. I had originally put them on cardboard bases, as was the custom in those far-off days, and when they went back into service about a decade ago these bases started to really look their age. I rebased everything on new wooden bases, with an eye towards doing the same kind of 'ocean waves' effect I had on the originals, but I never liked the way the based handled on the table. So, off came the new bases, and I'll be cutting clear Plexiglass to make new ones for the fleet. I think that this will look better, handle well on the table for players, and keep fingers off the ships' paint.

Links to the Valiant and C-in-C websites:

The Valiant 'Spanish Main' ships and C-in-C 'Ancient Ships' are 1/1200, and the Valiant 'Ramming Speed' ships are 1/900; I have yet to see that it makes any difference, myself.

Ships need something to sail about (or row across) on, so I'm working on an ocean. I'm doing this pretty simply, using up the stock of spare tiles I cut for the new game table; these are getting  coat of a nice blue for the basic color, and then a couple of different shades of blue for an mottled look. After it all dries, on goes the gloss varnish, in layers, to give the 'water' some 'depth'. All very vintage modeling - see what we model railway folks used to get up to - but very durable and easy to store. I will also do some shoreline tiles, so as to give our adventurers someplace to stop and relax on the beach with a tall glass of something...

One complication for the past week; The Missus has been pretty sick, with what we think is a gall-bladder problem. Lots of rest and light foods, and she's much better this weekend.


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, September 19th, 2016 - Being Alive And On Stage

The table-top display; the lights fox the camera's auto-focus.
It was one of those 'very busy' weekends; I had to miss a "Close Action" game run by Tom Arndt, must to my dismay. I was in the throes of getting this display unit read for an event in two weeks, the Dave Arneson Day at The Source Comics and Games. It'll be a day of games and fun in honor of one of my favorite people, and I've been asked to appear as a kind of 'living encyclopedia' to answer questions about Dave, Gary, Phil, and the early days of our hobby.

I'll be sitting with Bob Meyer, who inherited the original Blackmoor from Dave, and we'll be sitting in front of this lovely Skyline display unit that is part of my fleet of events production equipment. I have this table top set and a huge 'trade show' unit, and both have come into demand from people who want me to show up and be on exhibit during their event to talk to people. I think it'll be fun, myself, and I'm looking forward to it!

I clean forgot to note that as of September 15th, I have now been alive for four years after my brain bleed. I'm pretty happy with that fact, and I intend to be around for a while longer to answer your questions - all I want to do is paint my figures, build my models, run my games, and tell my stories.

So, as we continue on our journey, welcome aboard! The fun's just begun!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, Sept. 11th, 2016 - "Kaor, My Princess! Helium, Now And Forever!"

Hull One on the ways; surprisingly, I'm actually running out of clamps!

The starboard sponson of Hull One; Hero and Heroine shown for scale.

The Sable Six-sider of Yan Kor is off to the embroidery shop to get all prettied up with glyphs, sigils, and nasty remarks about the Seal Imperium in Yan Koryani. I got the foam cube all nicely coated with filler and them sanded smooth, and then did the black fabric cover out of black paper. With a little doorway for Lord Fu Shi, too, 'cause I am a nice guy. The wagon that it travels on will be a bit of a challenge - the description in "Man of Gold" specifies the size of the wheels, so a little scratch-building to get the five pairs seems to be in order. The rest of the wagon is easy; simple miniature carpentry, although I may sneak a peek at the Missus' wonderful book on Great Western Railway horse drawn-wagons to see what a really heavy-duty wagon might look like. If it was good enough for God's Wonderful Railway, it's good enough for Baron Ald, is my admittedly Swindon-biased opinion.

The Barsoomian flyers are off to a good start. The basic hulls are plywood, with superstructures of either solid MDF - as counter-weights to the sponsons - or the specialist 'bendy plywood' that I first learned about from Linus, the Guthrie Theater's brilliant furniture-maker. The stuff is available from specialist woodworkers' shops (like Rockler Woodworking, in the US; see below for link) and is a single sheet of plywood veneer laminated to a backing; it curves very well, but only in one direction, and you have to be careful with the stuff or it will break. (And it's expensive, too, so be careful!)

For modelers in Europe, you can get the same kind of thing in crafts shops - Youngest Daughter works for one such establishment in Zurich, and provided me with two packs of very thin hardwood veneer sheets that would work just as well. I'll see if I can't get a link to her source...

I made two hulls, as I thought having two flyers in games would be useful - the Missus pointed out that the little sky skiffs and scout flyers had to operate from somewhere - and I really do have to come up with better names then 'One' and 'Two'.

I'm using the basic design of the flyers seen in the "John Carter" film; the Barsoom books don't really provide a good description, and from what I can tell ERB didn't leave us any original drawings. So, it was back to the DVD, and then to the plywood; these are smaller (!!!) patrol flyers, intended for skirmish games of the kind I love. These are not huge dreadnoughts of the air, fighting massive battles, as I don't particularly like that kind of game.

This is basic glue-and-clamp model-making; I didn't take the easy was out and use nails or screws to assemble the parts, as I'm not going for that 'steampunk' look and didn't want to have to do a lot of work with filler to hide the fasteners. What has astounded me is the sheer number of clamps needed - I am pretty well-stocked, but I ran out of beam clamps and had to fall back on the grip clamps to keep movng. The net result is that I'm building the ships one at a time, and moving from section to section of each ship as the clamps get freed up from the previous step.

Weapons mounts will be based and on magnets, so I can swap them out for different games; additonal details will be minimal, as I want to have the most deck space available for figures and to help with the durability issue. 'Flight stands' will be dowels or maybe the microphone stands I have in stock; comments, ideas, thoughts and suggestions welcome, on this!

Eventually, the two hulls will get 'real' names; I'm leaning to 'Keri' for One and 'Zhodi' for Two. That's Fourth Daughter and her wonderful husband, both F/SF fans and gamers; one of the nice things about having five daughters is that they provide a rich source of ship names, which is a very good thing because I do have a lot of ships! While the galleys all sport fierce names like 'Warrior', 'Nemesis', 'Dreadnought', and 'Fearless', the rest of the fleet does all the lifting, carrying, and heavy work and so - I thought - should serve to remember the ones who have been such a great help to me and the Missus over time.

And speaking of the fleet, I'l, be back to that subject shortly and also to painting miniatures

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 - The Holiday Weekend & Cheating At Dice

Open-cell foam and acrylic filler; the perfect combination

I've had a very nice holiday, with a lot of catching up on sleep and getting projects done. Lots of movement on a lot of fronts, and a little project that I really should have done forty years ago - a model of the Weapon Without Answer, Baron Ald's mysterious black box that featured in our early adventures with Phil and in his novel "Man of Gold". I have no idea why we didn't do this, back in the day; it's a simple little project: foam cube, sealed with filler, sanded smooth and covered with black fabric or paper and 'embroidered' in Yan Koryani.

The shipyard is also back in action, with two new hulls on the ways. Not my usual subjects, this time, but something to go with the Barsoomian air skiffs that I made a while back. Our Heroes will be able to travel in style, I hope!

I'm now up to 126,000+ words on "To Serve The Petal Throne", and I keep steaming away on the thing. I'm pretty pleased; the re-write of the Affair of the Malchairan Emerald is going very well, with our intrepid explorers off in a tubeway car.

The laundry room is now all cleaned up; I can get my power tools out to use them,  and still be able to wash clothes. Sounds a little silly, but with Fifth Daughter expected on these shores in a couple of months I need to get ready for a third person in the house - who may want to wash her clothes, from time to time.

Let's see, what else got done...

My little fleet of Skyline displays got sorted out and prepared for action; I have been booked to make two personal appearances, where I'll be talking about the history of gaming here in the Twin Cities, Blackmoor and Dave Arneson, and of course Tekumel and Prof. Barker. The displays will show off materials related to this, and also provide a backdrop for my answering people's questions. Quick, fast, and easy - and somebody else is doing all the logistics and organization.

One negative incident, which I prefer to find laughable and amusing: the good folks at the Tekumel Foundation are telling people that I cheat at dice, which is why Chirine was so successful out at Phil's in his campaign. Personally, I find this laughable, given Phil's gaming style, and a little sad that they seem to feel the need to have to spread this kind of rumor and innuendo. On the other hand, these same people have been doing this kind of thing for decades; I once asked them why they did it, and got two very interesting answers:

"You do everything you do so well, you make us look bad."

"Of course we bad-mouth you; that's what we'd do if we were in your position."

 Ah, me. We're back in the days of The Finger-Pointing and Jeering Committee, one of the saddest features of local gaming and fandom.

Will I do anything about this? No; I have better things to do with my time, like write, build things, run games, and tell my stories.