Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Back Home...

My Missus, bless her...

Just a short update; the Missus and I are back home after her biopsy. Because of her underlying health issues, any kind of invasive procedure is a high-risk activity, so we had been a little concerned. However, she did just fine, and is now simply lying down and being comfortable.

We'll get the pathology results back on Friday, but both she and her doctors are very pleased; this has been caughter much earlier then her last bout, and the feeling is that she'll do all that much better as she goes into treatment as a result.

So, that's the news from this morning. Back to our regularly scheduled programming, I hope... :)

Monday, December 26, 2016

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas...

Ever get that 'army on the march' feeling?

It has been the last day of my official holiday, and it has been productive. No serious modeling has gotten done, but I did install the new ceiling light fixture in the 'spare room'/'dorm room' after a short trip out to the nearby IKEA. The fixture that had been in there was a ceiling fan with light, and we thought that having a daughter sleeping in an IKEA loft bed above the Whirling Blades Of Death was a not very good idea. So, the fan is out, the new light is in, and I got all the rest of our furniture out of the room and out into the rest of the house. There's a lot of small stuff, but that's all easy to deal with. And I have a three-day holiday for New Year's coming up, so we should be more or less ready for the arrival of Fifth Daughter a week from tomorrow.

The Missus has, as part of the final budget for the 2016 fiscal year, ordered up the five new figures from Bronze Age; Helium's navy and their pirate foes will soon be getting additional figures, and I really should break out the desktop band saw and get to cutting all those eighth-ray lift vanes. Lots of Plexiglass will get cut up, and I'll most likely do the transparent bases for all of my sailing ships and galleys at the same time. I tend to group jobs by the tools used, and a weekend of cutting away on Plexiglass seems like a good way to spend some good modeling time.

Speaking of ships, in the photo you can see the TRE Games biremes and triremes that come three to a pack and are nifty little models. They are larger in scale then the metal castings I've had for years, but that's all right by me; I doubt I'll be mixing the two sets on the table, unless we have a really huge naval battle. (See also "Ben Hur", in both the silent and technicolor versions.)

I also have tomorrow off, due to the Missus' medical appointment, but I expect to be hback to a more or less regular schedule later this week. The rain finally stopped; it's colder, but much more of a respectable climate for Minnesota in the winter...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 25th, 2016 - Christmas Day, 2016

The van's soggy. The walks are soggy. I'm soggy.

I wasn't kidding about the holiday flamingos. They move, too.

It's raining. Actually raining.  I had to run the van a bit to dry it out, and I'll be happier when we change over to light snow in a few hours. Everything is wet and soggy, here, and I'm doing what I can to keep pace with things.

We still have Fifth Daughter arriving in a week, and I'm moving the last of my books out of what will be her room and into other shelves; she may need the shelves, so we'll keep them in place for now.

It's been a very relaxed holiday for us, which is all to the good. Earlier this past week, the Missus got the results of her annual MRI checkup back, and they did find 'something'; she's going in for a biopsy on Tuesday. She and her doctors are very optimistic; they found this very early, and she should respond  to treatment as well as she did the last time around. We have hope, and we're going to go into this with all the courage we can muster.

People keep asking me why I don't do a lot of convention gaming; my reply is brutally simple. All of our disposable income, beyond our respective Birthday and Christmas Funds, goes to her medical care. (Mine too, but I'm actually pretty cheap to maintain.) Doing a convention trip, with all the related expenses of travel, food, and lodging, means that we have to give up something else in the monthly and annual budgets - things like food, utilities, and medications. Fifth Daughter, bless her, understands this and will be paying her share of the household's running costs - which will still be light-years cheaper then living on her own.

When you see a new product go by here at the Workbench, it's because the Missus and I made a very deliberate decision to make the purchase and debit the appropriate budget cost center. Our backing the 'Temple of Set' Indiegogo was billed out quite some time ago, as was the TRE Games trireme and the Forge of Ice set. I have the Missus review all of the figures and stuff I get; if she doesn't like them, we don't fund the purchase and pass up the item(s).

All of this lead to the Event Guide that I have done for people, and why we don't travel much. As I've said before, if you want to game with us, organize something and we'll reserve the time for you. Sorry if that sounds 'cranky' but that's the state of our lives, these days.

be that as it may, it's been a good holiday, with tomorrow yet to come.

Watching "Ben-Hur", today; already had the big parades and the sea battle, and we're on to the horse race...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016 - From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

The stage show soundtrack - get the movie... :)

It has been a great day, here at the Workbench; I had a nice excursion to visit several places in search of more of the vinyl sheets I mentioned yesterday. The search was successful; I now have more then enough 'cobblestone' sheets for the Sakbe road project, and what should be enough of the 'brickwork' sheets. I also found some other bit and pieces that will be useful for other projects, so it was a very fruitful trip.

Spent the afternoon laughing my head off, with the movie "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum". We'd all seen this film. back in the day, and could recite much of the wonderful dialog by heart: "And now, back to Rome, for a quick wedding and some slow executions!" To say that is influenced our gaming was an understatement. Gamers today might find that the film will give them an idea of the kind of pacing and characters that we loved and used in our games. Anyway you want to look at it, it's a fun romp with some very gifted comedians playing the script for all they're worth.

Got the lights and the nodding light-up flamingos out for our holiday lighting display as well; the lights add a cheery glow to the front of the house, if in dubious taste - but then, the neighbors have expressed their delight and amusement at the flock of plastic pink flamingos we have in the front, so this is just an extension of that.

Tonight's been devoted at an annual tradition here at the Workbench, the rebroadcast from King's College in Cambridge of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Chapel. It's something I love, and really enjoy.

From all of us, here at The Workbench, Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Of Sakbe Roads and Holiday Sales

Lemax brick and cobblestone roadway strips

Lemax cobblestone sheets; also in brickwork, too
It's the time of the year when all sorts of useful things go on sale, and my little excursion today was no exception. I was out getting the Missus some goodies for this holiday weekend, when I spotted one of the common 'Christmas Village' displays we see at this time of the year.

One of the larger ranges of this kind of thing is made by Lemax, and over the years I have gotten some really great scenery items from them. They have a very useful on-line catalog:

They have a nice range of trees and scenic stuff that is very useful; it's all supposed to be scaled for their roughly 54mm figurines, but for items like trees and their foam scenic stands it's not an issue.

As regular readers will have been seeing, I'm currently in the throes of finally (!) getting the big Sakbe road set done. I have been dreading doing all of the stonework texture needed for the project, and then I recalled these sheets of brickwork and stonework from Lemax. I already had two of each, and I picked up two more of each today. This should give me enough to get the foam roadway sections done - I'll repaint the sheets, of course, but that's easy.

I use a little paint on the Lemax trees, too. They usually come with 'snow' on the branches, but a quick spray with a green tempera paint - I use either a spray bottle of my airbrush - and they look properly green for our games. I also do the same thing with their conifers, too, but with black tempera to match Phil's descriptions of the conifers found in Yan Kor and places farther north. These trees are, I have found over the past decade, nearly indestructible in gaming service, and they do look good; I do base them on irregular cuts of MDF, and ad a little scenic cover to the bases; photos of all this on my Photobucket page, as seen in various games.

I also have the same company's 'moss' and 'ocean' sheets; these are a little more 'specialized' in their scenic uses, but I still like having them. Especially at this time of the year, when the sales are on...

Happy Holidays! More to come!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 18th, 2016 - How Cold Is It? Well...

Dreaming of warm weather...

It's been so cold hereabouts that I walked out the front door to run the van - which I have to do every six hours or so to make sure that it will start - and my bi-focal sunglasses shattered. Low last night had an air temperature of -22F, and a wind chill of -35F to -40F. And just before the cold weather hit, we got about six inches of snow, so I was out yesterday with the little electric snow-blower clearing the walks and front steps; we also had a snow emergency, so I had to move the van around to give the city's snowplows room to work. As we're getting back up into the +20F range tomorrow (!), I'll be out putting the hockey puck sized salt tablets in all of the roof's gutters to keep from getting ice dams and water into the house.

Ah, the joys of being a homeowner! :)

All of this domestic activity has meant that nothing of any import or substance in the modeling department has gotten done; being out in these low temperatures really saps my energy, so I've been concentrating on simple survival. Which is really the important thing right now, as I was informed late this past week that Fifth Daughter will be arriving from Zurich on January 3rd, and we need to have her room in at least inhabitable shape ahead of her arrival. Her vast collection of worldly goods will arrive in New York for customs examination tomorrow, and will be off-loaded here at the house sometime in the next few weeks. So, we're going to be pretty busy for a while!

However, I do have one bit of miniatures news. Bronze Age Miniatures has updated some of their 'Dead Earth Citizen' figures, and they can be seen here:

The ladies in grey primer,  #5 thru #9, are all new, and I am reliably informed by The Missus that I will be getting these ordered as a Christmas present. We've been getting all of these figures since they started coming out, and we really like them. Full of 'charm', with great animation and heaps of weapons for those desperate adventures.

More to come, once I get caught up!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 11th, 2016 - Lights! Camera! Action!

The new camera, which works with our laptops. (!)

The new addition to the collection, which is a heap of fun!

The Missus, bless her. announced the other day that my final birthday package had finally arrived. She had been a little reluctant to get the Bloggie out and do a new episode of my little YouTube talks, and I finally found out why.

Ever the bargain-hunter, she found us a really neat little device for six bucks - a camera that will work with out laptops, and is made up of length of cable with LEDs at the end with the camera lens. It's a borescope, and for the very forst time we can show you the insides of the buildings I make. I think that this is a very cool device, and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

It will certainly give a new meaning to the phrase "I look around the corner; what do I see?"

The other item in the package is a copy of the 2014 "Hercules" movie, with Dwayne Johnson in the title role. I put this on yesterday while I was finishing up the foam work on the big Sakbe road tower, and it is what I would call 'good clean fun' and a 'delightful romp'. Perfect Saturday Afternoon Matinee fare, and I felt like getting a bag of popcorn and settling in for the fun. Very good ensemble of actors, with Ian McShane stealing the show as the seer who keeps predicting his own death - and then being saved by somebody.

Lots of sheer fun, all around, and a very good depiction of how a military campaign actually works - and why one should not charge formed bodies of infantry.

Very enjoyable day, and even a guest in the game room for a visit. All I needed was the popcorn!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Yearly Update - December 6th, 1956 - Six Decades, Would You Believe It?

You must read this book. Period.

From Forge Of Ice - "A sleazy merchant and his guards"

It is my sixtieth birthday today, and I am delighted to be around to enjoy it - especially after the brain bleed four years ago. I'm a little older, and a little more dyslexic, and I don't do being cold anymore, but that's it. I am very lucky to be alive, and to be here for my family.

The family, for their part, has showered me with felicitations and sundry gifts. You've seen Akho, the new TRE Games trieme model, which came out of The Birthday Fund, and the wonderful "Temple of Set" figures from Dark Fable Miniatures, which also came out of the same source. I have also been very happily surprised by a new book, seen above, which deserves a place on everybody's bookshelf. I started reading it, and simply could not put it down until I finished it.

And the family invested in Alex Bate's new Kickstarter for his 'Forge of Ice' miniatures - he does not have a website, but he is on Facebook - and I am looking forward to getting the archtypical 'sleazy merchant' and his guards. Four of them need more sleep, and two are alert; this, to me, looks like a fun game all set up and ready to go. Alex has some wonderful figures; I have his two "Snake Priestesses", who are in with the Temple of Set crowd, and I can see some interesting times ahead for parties of adventurers.

This time of the year is also more then a little sad for me as well. It was this time last year that an old friend brought his game group over for an evening's tour of the game room and the game lounge, to see all the miniatures, games, artifacts, and costumes we'd built over the decades. It was a very pleasant time, and I was delighted to be able to talk about gaming with Phil and our travels around his world.

That is, it was a lot of fun until my friend's involvement with local LGBTQ politics came up; he announced to his game group - which was supposed to be doing Tekumel gaming - that his old Tekumel player-character had been driven out of Yan Kor (he was Yan Koryani) by, quote, "gay persecution". I was pretty flabbergasted, as this came right out of left field, and his game group - which, it turned out, was made up of LGBTQ people - were equally astounded; they were even more astounded when my friend, after dropping this conversational hand grenade, left and I wound up entertaining his gamers for another couple of very uneasy hours. It was impossible to tell who was more uncomfortable, them or I.

What really, really hurt was that my friend seemed to have forgotten that he was playing in Tekumel before he'd come out as gay, and that his PC had never come out as gay - and that I had been the GM for those games. After his guests had left my house, I went back and looked in my old game journals and listened to the tapes we'd made of those games we'd played back in the late 1980s. Couldn't find anything like he'd described; nothing. It turned out later, I found out from mutual friends, that it was all about enhancing one's position in local LGBTQ circles; politics, in other words.

I'm still hurt by all of this, and haven't been able to run a game session since. I don't know if I ever will, at this point, but we'll have to see. I've had worse happen to me and the Missus over the decades; I have hope, and look forward to the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 4th, 2016 - Sakbe Road Tower Work

Big tower to the fore, interval towers to the rear

It's been a pleasant afternoon, here at the Workbench, with a bit of work on the Sakbe road towers now done and waiting for the glue to dry. The big tower has the little watchtowers all glued on, the external facing on the outer face done, and the upper parapets in place. Next up will be the inner parapets. The two interval towers now have their lowest roadway sections glued on, and their parapets started. Lots more to do of course, including a session on the table saw to make MDF bases for all of the sections; that will probably have to wait for warmer weather, as I'll have to do it in the back yard due to the sheer size of the sheets being cut.

So far, all of this work has been in extruded styrene foam, available in from the 'big-box' DIY stores as 4' x 8' sheets. I used a lot of salvaged pink foam from a very unsuccessful set of game scenery, cut down as needed; the blue foam is part of a full sheet that I had in stock. Lots of razor knives, lots of glue, lots of right-angle try-squares, and the very handy picture-framing saw that we have. This has preset detents for all of the usual angles, and so cuts the time needed for a project like this in half - and makes accurate angled cuts very easy. Have a look:

Working in foam also makes this a very easy - and light-weight! - project. If we'd tried this back in the old days, the thing would have been made out of wood and we'd still be cutting and gluing the thing to this day.

The question has been asked,  by a great many people over the years about my projects, "Why do something like this?" My answer is, as it always has been, "Why not?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard somebody say, "Oh, we can't do that! It's too hard!" I could retire to a life of luxury. I freely admit that I do big projects, but then I also point to the great response that I get from gamers who walk into the game room and stop dead in astonishment at the game they are about to play.

My Scots cousins - Macdougal of Lorne, to be precise - like to quote a popular (in some circles) toast:

"He either fears his fate too much, or his desserts are small, 
who dares not put it to the touch, to win or lose it all!"

Or, as those men - like the late and very lamented Sir Christopher Lee - who wear the wings of the goddess Isis like to put it:

"Who dares, wins!"

Dare to dream. Your games will be a lot more fun, if you do...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Proof - As If You Needed It - That I Am Nuttier Than A Fruitcake; The 'Big' Sakbe Road Set

The 'big' set, in all it's foam glory

Anch'ke, nested in the new crate

The 'big' road set was a project I began almost a decade ago, and am now finally coming back to. I can only plead that getting five daughters occupied a lot of my time...

The set is fully modular, and has six roadway sections, two interval towers, and one big multi-turreted tower with gate house. The whole thing stretches about fourteen feet when all assembled as one unit. Lots of work yet to be done, like the merlons and such, but at least it is back out of storage.

There's also a storage / shipping crate, so that's done.

Anch'ke  is now in the new crate I made for it, and it too will go out to the shed when I can dragoon somebody into helping lift the box. I have to move the crate Castle Tilketl is in at the same time, but it's a half-hour bit of work to do.