Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Well ain't that a kick in the...

Choose where you want to be kicked.

Well, a bit of bad news my friends. My see sawing Creatine Kinase levels have shot back up after only two days of weight lifting, so it's off to a specialist for me.

I'm trying to ignore my own mortality, as one is wont to do in this sort of situation, and focus on the hobby as best I can. I've only recently picked backup to reading the blogs, as I couldn't seem to manage it during the challenge.

I have to say that reading about Salute has been enjoyable, and I hope to be caught up with you all soon.

The big question I am asking myself today is, what exactly is the hold up for me in the hobby? Why do I find it difficult to sit down and paint, model or play games? I think part of the problem is that I have shifted back and forth about my stated aims. I'll only game with completed figures turned into gaming with paper counters, then back to fully painted figures. Then when I couldn't  manage that it was mostly painted figures. Now I am just waiting on figures I need to fight the next battle in Talomir and I'm just going to cut them off the sprue and throw them on the table.

I also think that there is a tad bit of guilt in the fact that my family, aside from my son, doesn't really share my hobby interest. So hobby time tends to be "don't bug me" time.

Well enough of the pity party, lets look at what we do have.

My son wrote down some rules for his own game using the Lord of the Rings RISK board and pieces. It doesn't totally make sense to me, but we had fun rolling the dice.

I've started reading Machinas, the wasteland racing game and I need to finish working on the Dungeon Crawl play test.

The other thing is to just sit down and paint, I haven't picked up a brush in almost a month and I need to get back to it.

I also need to get myself sorted for a giveaway. I've surpassed 100K views and 300 posts but was still tied up in the challenge so I missed doing it. I would like for it to be a tad grander than in the past but I'm not sure what I want to do. I can't decide if giving up unpainted figures or actually painting them up as part of the prize is better.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Headphones and Electronics review

All right. I remember at some point in the past I promised you all a review of some stuff and then somehow conveniently forgot to do it. So here it is.


I had previously been using a cheap pair of noise cancelling headphones for flights but grew to use them daily for watching netflix on my Kindle Fire while my wife read or watched something else on tv. After a few years the elastic band that helped it fit on my head, broke. That coupled with the cracking of the ear pad covers led me to look into buying something new. What I latched onto was these Ableplanet headphones on amazon.

The reviews were not all stellar, but I have never been a true audiophile. Perhaps blowing out my ears for two years in a rock band was the culprit. But I have never been very sensitive in any of my senses, try as I might.

Anyhow they worked great for cancelling the engine noise of the plane. They are a little heavy and after four movies my ears physically hurt a tad from being sandwiched between the headphones and my glasses, but they worked great and I found them easy to pack up and cart around. So recommended.

This next bit is less a review of the products themselves as their peripherals and a sort of international travel tip.

I have not done a whole lot of international travel, but I have done some, and one thing that has always worried me is charging electronic devices. Initially I didn't have, nor was as reliant upon, cell phones and computers. My first trip to China I think I only had my cell phone. But what concerned me was a travel mate switching off the breakers on our floor at the hotel when he tried to charge his video camera battery. I want to say that was 2005.

Feast forward to today and things are so much easier. I had my phone, Surface Tablet and Nikon D5100 camera along for the trip to London and Paris. We had brought along a power converter, but after the first two days it stopped working. Now I had read, and seen printed on the charger units, that they were mutli voltage now. In short, many electronic devices now support a range of voltages that should cover you around the world, you only need an adapter for the plug. So I took the plunge and plugged in the power block for my tablet and used the USB port to charge my phone. Success. So if your device's power supply says it can handle 100 - 240 V, it can.

Probably old news for most, but for me it was a revelation.

And just to review the Microsoft Surface Tablet, I really like it. I use it as my main computer now, editing all my photos etc, and have totally replaced my Kindle. It is heavy compared to a Kindle, but sooo much lighter than my 15" laptop. I stuffed it in the pouch in my camera bag that is designed to fit an iPad. I went with the largest storage I could find, you could probably get one with less storage for about the price of an iPad and buy an external drive, or just save to the cloud if it was a problem. Anyway I really enjoy it.

New tablet on top of Laptop, a lot lighter
Well so that's it. I'm still waiting on the Mongols etc, but my Gokstad ship has arrived. Funny how the stuff I don't need always arrives before the stuff I do.

I've got to make enough 2" wide river, and a bridge to go across my 6' table. I'm thinking of using the 3mm craft foam. I suppose I could just use blue, but I did want to paint it. My thinking right now is to just cut it to 2" width and forego banks. It seems you really only need those if you are building up a water effect. I had also thought of printing some on card as a quick solution. I'll see how I feel. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Of Machinas and modems

My indiegogo shipment of the Machinas rules plus two card decks arrived in the mail today. We need to jump this to the head of the queue and get some games in. Perhaps I need to make up some more cars to race against the last of the V-8 interceptors.

I've been having trouble with my internet service dropping out and having to restart the modem and router a lot, especially over the last two days. I had a Motorola SB4200, turns out it is 11 years old and ran DOCSIS 1.1. Now I don't know DOCSIS from wotzitz but apparently were up to 3.0 now. I am now the proud owner of a Motorola SB6141 and, after a little bit of back and forth on the phone, seem to be surfing fairly fast as advertised.

Faster and smaller, the 11 year old one on the right.

I've got a lot in the works coming up. I'm fighting the Mangu (read Mongol) invasion of Stygustan (read Ancient Egypt) in the Talomir Tales campaign but had to order some Mongol figures.  It also appears I need to make up some river sections. I have a few days before the figures get here so I'll try a couple of things. I also bought a garden sprayer to try and paint the battle carpet a la something I saw Dux Homunculorum do. And of course to finish all those figures I started on the challenge but never finished.

While I was typing this the postal lady rang to deliver some undead figures I had ordered on ebay from Taiwan.

Four boxes of figures in one box.

I like how he collapsed the boxes to consolidate for shipping.
These got here in a week, they were promised in 11-21 days. He charges $5 per item shipping, but refunded some of the cost when combining the four boxes together. I'm still waiting on figures I ordered at the same time from the East coast of the US.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Paris pt. 2

Sorry for the delay. Our schedule was pretty hectic, as you will see, and I have been horribly jet lagged since getting back this past Sunday.

Going back to Friday March 28th, we got up fairly early to go to Gare Montparnasse and catch the train to Versailles Chantiers. After missing the first train and realizing I don't know how to read a time table, we recovered and found another train that got us there in good time. Versailles is amazing.

That's a lot of gold.

Hall of Mirrors

Another copy of the Coronation of Napoleon

Battle of Aboukir 1799

Distribution of the Eagles

It's good to be the king.
Just a smidgen of all we saw. Next up was the Arc de Triomphe.

We did finally find the walkway to get there but we were on a mission to get to Napoleon's tomb so this was as close as we got.

On next to Les Invalides and the Musee de l'Armee.

Les Invalides

Napoleon's Tomb

We next went to the exhibit on the two world wars. I thought it very interesting that they started this exhibition in 1870 with events leading up to the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. Something we don't seem to focus on here in the States.

We then had a lot of colonial stuff.
 Unfortunately most of my pictures of the uniforms etc here had quite a bit of glare. But I got a better picture of an Enigma machine.

Then it was on to Armor.

Then a small display of Napoleonic cavalry dress.

I started getting a little punchy and felt rushed as the wife and kids were lagging at this point.

A blurry shot of Napoleon's stuffed Arabian horse.

A damaged Eagle.
Whew, I'm tired just blogging it. We had dinner with friends that evening and gave ourselves permission to sleep in a little for the 29th. On that day, our last in Paris it was:

The Eiffel tower. The line for the elevator was around the block, so we took the stairs. The kids powered up them no problem. Only my brother in law took the elevator up to the top, the rest of us were happy to be on the deck level.

We quickly stopped by the Moulin Rouge and had lunch across thee street. The escargot was good.

From there we walked to Sacre Coeur, but it was a quick snap of the outside and on to the next thing.

Which was Le Bon Marche. I'm still not totally sure why my wife wanted to see it but there you have it. When we first moved to New York in 1977 my parents bought some Danish Teak furniture at Bon Marche, so I took a picture for that reason.

We then tried for the Crypts (Catacombs) which were only two stops from our hotel on the metro. But we got there too late and we were too far back in the line to gain admittance for the day. Next time.

I did have time to go to a toy shop down the street from our hotel.

I did not buy the fetish but did buy a small Red Rackham and X-FLR6 for 5 Euros each.

And that was our trip. Next day we woke up late and almost missed our airport shuttle, no one mentioned the daylight savings switch (we don't do it at all in Arizona and it had already occurred elsewhere in the US).

Anyway we made it home safe and had a great time. I've been horribly jet lagged, waking up at 1AM most mornings, but managed to sleep in until 4:30AM this morning. I hope to get back to regular posts this weekend, although we have two flag football games for the Spring season.

Wish us luck.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Paris pt. 1

Originally Titled: Seine at night, Louvre, Notre Dame, Concierge and Museum of the Middle Ages

On the 26th we left you as we boarded the Eurostar at St. Pancras station in London. In a little over two hours we arrived at Gare du Nord. A hop, skip and a jump on the metro and we were at our hotel. Since I grew up in New York City it usually devolves to me to be the leader on the train. Bejing, NYC, London and now Paris have all been successfully navigated by subway.

After checking in we had a quick bite to eat at a nearby cafe. Then it was off to the Pont Neuf to get on a Seine River tour. It was quite beautiful at night but difficult to take pictures. I found myself envying those with the cheap point and shoot cameras as i tried everything I could think of to hold still. At some points I couldn't even find a point to focus on to take a picture.

The next day, the 27th, we headed off for the Louvre. Just fantastic, but a total pain to figure out how to get where you want to go. That and whole sections being closed made it incredibly difficult to get to the exhibits we had targeted.

First, just look at the size of that thing.

Detail of Napoleon's Coronation.

After lunch I made a quick dash to get  picture of the Code of Hammurabi, and stumbled upon some beautiful sculptures.

Hannibal and Julius Caeser.

I wish we had more time but there was a schedule to keep. We went back to Ile de la Cite and tried to go to St. Chapelle, but it was closed. So we went to Notre Dame.

You can take pictures inside, unlike Westminster Abbey, and it was truly grand.

After that we walked back to the Concierge and saw where they held Marie Antoinette before execution.

Then it was off to the Musee du Moyen Age. A lot of cool stuff there, I particularly liked the tapestries with the Unicorn. It reminded me a lot of the Cloisters on 181st in New York. I went there many times as a kid and we returned there with my kids when we last visited the Big Apple.

After a short rest and a beer,

we went for a walk down the street and went to the top of the Tour Montparnasse. We decided it would have been better at mid day.

Then stopped by Restaurant Kamelo on the way back and had some excellent Magret du Canard and Tartare.

The color of this photo is a lot darker than it actually looked.
With a glass of red wine it was delicious. After we returned to the hotel I felt I was duty bound to drink the other beer my wife had bought for me at the Monoprix earlier in the day.

Not French, but close.

So with that we went to bed to be off bright and early for Versailles. I'll tell you all about that at a later date as we have to get ready to meet some friends for dinner. I took over 500 pictures at Versailles, The Arc de Triomphe and the Musee de L'Armee. Hopefully some of them are decent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yesterday British Museum, today Stonehenge

Hi all,

Yesterday was quite a slog. I think I was feeling jet lagged. First stop was the British Museum. We mostly looked at Greece and Rome, Egypt and Assyria and Bronze and Iron Age England.

Ashurbanipal hunting lions.

Sennacharib sacks a town in Judah.

Greek Hoplites.

Greek Cavalry.

Celtic Shield.

After the British Museum we went to Westminster, you can't take pictures inside so nothing to show. It was very impressive but I felt rushed through the tour.

Afterwards we backtracked and went to Churchill's War Room. Very impressive. Unfortunately for me I was pretty fried at this point so I didn't get to take it in as much as I would have liked. I did get this one picture of the Enigma machine though.

Before Westminster we went to Picadilly Circus and had Lunch at the 5th View restaurant in the Waterson's there. I had Fish Cakes and Fuller's London Pride.

Today we woke up early and took a bus out to Stonehenge. I was very happy as my dad wouldn't take me there back in 1979.

I always think of Spinal Tap.
 When we got back from the tour it was off to Covent Garden and the Jubilee Market. After shopping I convinced everyone we needed to stop in a pub. So we went to The Nags Head.

Nags Head Bitter

McMullen's IPA

Must have of the trip, Fish and Chips.
Yesterday I had bought an Osprey title (Men at Arms 350) "The US Army in WWII (3) and then today I cajoled a return to Watersons in Picadilly and bought (Campaign 233) "Boudicca's Rebellion". I almost bought more but realized the exchange rate was killing me in the book price. It was also very fortuitous that we went back. While I shopped my family went back to the restaurant for coffee and desert. The waiter handed us my son's glasses , which we had left there at lunch the previous day. I was so thankful I gave him a tip.

Tomorrow it's off to Paris.


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