Deal with it.
Deal with it.
Since we aren’t currently on a Cruise ship in the Carribean, sipping sugary rum drinks and wondering how the hoi polloi get by (this is a subject for another post, perhaps– we had to cancel our cruising plans) we decided to go visit the Udvar Hazy museum of flight and aeronautical technology near Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA today. I took about 109 pictures, which I’d love to embed as an album on here, or even a slideshow. Sadly, Google’s move from Picasaweb to Google Photos makes identifying single albums in Google Photos next to impossible. So it goes. Below are a few links to many pictures of aircraft. The slide show works, but you won’t be able to read my comments. Mass adding of photographs also eliminates captioning somehow, so if you want to read my reverant, sometimes snarky, sometimes awe-struck commentary, you’ll have to go directly to the album, below.
Click below to see the album
Enjoy. We had a blast visiting this museum.. it always has something new tucked away in a corner I haven’t seen yet.
(This was written when it was still dark out, around 6 AM EST, hence “right about now”)
The USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee ablaze in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 DEC 41
Right about now, 75 years ago, the first flights of “Operation Z” were cresting the hills over the North edge of the harbor at Pearl Harbor and lining up for their assigned targets on Battleship Row.* In a bid to remove the strategic threat of any Allied response to seizing natural resources in the Southwest Pacific, the Imperial Fleet of the Empire of Japan was now launching a devastating near-simultaneous attack on the overseas territories of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In hindsight, this seems like an insanely foolhardy strategic objective, but in 1941, almost every mind in the Imperial War Cabinet was supremely confident of Japanese success. Why not? They had marched boldly into China, set up a puppet government, and had been busy looting for several years. This operation could hardly be that much trouble.
The strike aircraft from the Japanese force came from 6 carriers, and numbered somewhere between 375 to 414 aircraft, mostly the Aichi 3A2 “Val” bomber, Nakajima “Kate” Type 97, and Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, which would soon become infamous. The pilots had been practicing this attack for months; each sub-component of the massive attack wave had their own targets they were assigned to. The attack generally went in two waves; a massive first assault on the ships in harbor and a follow up wave that pounded airfields, shore facilities, oil storage and repair facilities. The attack, in the eyes of the Japanese, was an astounding success– 4 battleships sunk, 4 damaged, multiple smaller ships either sunk or damaged. The big exception was discovering the primary targets of the raid– the three operational carriers in the Pacific Fleet, weren’t present. Still, after the 2nd wave returned, the Japanese Fleet sailed back West again, confident that the hammer blow would keep the American forces crippled for a long, long time. Perhaps, if it had been 30 years earlier, they might have been right.
The Americans were in shock after the attack, to be sure, but they were also enraged. Decades later I was a little snot nosed college kid waiting tables in Rossyln, VA at the Key Bridge Marriott. A group of Pearl Harbor survivors were in DC for some ceremony commemorating the attack. Being nosy and just as big of a history buff then as I am now, I plastered them with questions. “What was it like?” Years later, I could still see it in their eyes- the rage and futility, the sense of helplessness, as these men remembered. “I remember seeing a sailor in a small utility boat in the harbor, screaming incoherently in rage, firing a pistol at the aircraft, like he was daring them to attack him personally. That was what it felt like, kid“. I’ve never forgotten that visual.
Ironically, the Japanese unwittingly performed a great strategic service for America, though nobody saw it at the time. By sinking aged, but still formidable surface battleships, Japan was propelling American naval planning into the modern age. In the short space of something like 119 minutes, the Japanese fleet conclusively proved the future did not rely on the status symbols of the battleship era. The Great Pacific War that had long been predicted was now on– and it would not be won by fleets of surface dreadnoughts from the World War One era. The future belonged to those carriers that had not been present that day– and the many other carriers that would join them as the United States switched to full wartime production operations.
For now, though.. 75 years ago, the infamy was very real. In a lot shorter time than it has taken to type this, America was experiencing real casualties on American soil, and as the fleet blinked its eyes, reddened by smoke and carnage and helpless rage, they were being transformed. It would be a very different America from this day forward, striding forth onto the world stage to fight (soon enough) three Axis powers. It all started today, right about now.. 75 years ago.
* Technically speaking, it would be about 4 hours in the future, not “right about now” due to time zones, but who’s counting?
Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended. I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…
|Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections. Thanks|
For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:
So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well. I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew. After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend. It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.
The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so. So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.
Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..
|In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ. I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there. Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).
(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”) I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason. Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.
Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html
I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!
(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted) might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)
After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result. it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours. Maybe more. I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it. I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself. If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!
Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018? My take is: not really. The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16. “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions. The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”
Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in. Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return? Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY? Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center. Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially? Who would have that kind of influence? Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation? Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest. That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it? Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity? I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring. The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest. Just saying.
This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.
So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.
We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table. I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend. He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline. It’s very spiff.
Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth. This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain. I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.
Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market. It was a learning experience. I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results. Small stuff sells. Miniatures sell. Boardgames? They don’t sell. I ended up taking two boxes home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus. I’ll do it again. One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.
So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience? It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff. I guess it beats Ebay. We’ll have to work on presentation next year. Perhaps, silly hats? All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40. That last hour dragged.
I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…
We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many. There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one. Sigh. Such are the demands of commerce.
Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant. Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak. I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.
No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!
Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II. So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys! Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.
There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG. They deserve the iron man trophy! Great setup.. what a fantastic game! (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).
I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend. Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events. The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis. He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island! WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered. The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed. The models are exquisite. IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful. You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.
I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…
We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games. Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook. Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play. Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.
I bought a copy on Steam, myself!
talking about convention locations and the Host etc.
|The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction. There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors. The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks. Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked. There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked. On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.
As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper. I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least). I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank. There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show. As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!
(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ. No Surprise there. It’s a done deal, we knew that already. Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid. Knock me over with a feather!).
Do I think this is a good plan? Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen? Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not. Nope. Abandoning the South is a very bad idea. Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them. I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit. Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse, I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did. When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding? Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”. Okay. Well, he might have a point. A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars? No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit). When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”. I wonder where that could be? I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking. Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large? If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose. Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.
Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.
“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=
So to continue with a revisit down memory lane, some background: in 2002 and 2003, Bob Giglio and I put together a game called “Amish Rake Fight” (or ARF) which I modestly can claim was well received. Those games certainly were talked about for a decade or so. In 2014, I wrote a long blog post that sort of recapped the concept, the planning and the execution of the two Amish Rake Fight games, and the discussions that took place about a third one “some day”. I did this because human memory is faulty, and the older we get, the less we are going to remember, and I wanted to get something of the great games of my past down on paper, or more appropriately, electrons. Surprisingly, since he is a very talented historical GM with well deserved reputation for being serious about the history and serious about the details, my Co-GM for ARF, Bob Giglio, was more than happy to pitch in clarifications on minor points here and there, and provide a surprising background of digital evidence. Which brings us to this post, which should be considered supplemental to the 2014 one.
First we have a map, and a danged fine one. This is a 2016 sketch by Bob G, based on a 14 year old game (and some photographic evidence). Not bad at all.
(Click on the map to blow it up a bit). After giving the special rules for ASF weapons (Amish Science Fiction) a re-read, it became clear how the East battle field events transpired. As I recall, there was a “Meek” stationed at the Stone Foot bridge (Center North) and at least one more in a fording spot in the river. Surprisingly they performed excellent service, stopping a rampaging gang of bikers in both spots while their less meek brethren circled around behind the bikers and whooped ass with scythes and rakes!
In addition to the sketch map, Bob provided to me (last night) a compendium of background material we came up with to expand a decent skirmish set (Bootleggers, from RLBPS). We will not present the core Bootleggers rules because they are copyrighted by RLBPS, but the additional ASF stuff is fair game, and some of it is hilarious. The ASF stuff was a community effort between Bob Giglio, Chris Johnson and myself. The Handouts were penned by Bob.
Appendix 2: ARF Handout 1 © Bob Giglio 2002
Appendix 3: ARF Handout 2 © Bob Giglio 2002
Appendix 4: A rather nice writeup of our then current convention in the local press.
© Lancaster online 2002.
The ARF game is mentioned in some detail, and both Bob and I are quoted. It was the reporter who wrote this article that the Board Member who was in charge of promotions took such pains to keep away from us, up to and including begging me to take my Amish hat off while I was running the game, so she “wouldn’t get the wrong idea about historical wargamers being disrespectful”. I suspected if had had the time, he would have tried to forcibly shave off my somewhat authentic looking Amish chin whiskers while he was at it.
That’s about all I have.. If you are interested you can read the original article in full. It was a fun time and a celebration of the silly side of historical wargaming.
A dump. Seedy. Dirty. Falling Apart. Run Down... These, and many other creative appellations have been thrown at the Lancaster Host Resort over the years. The site of so many conventions from both The Historical Miniature Gaming Society and the World Boardgame Championships has not exactly been well loved in the last decade. The venue we all “loved to hate” has hosted HMGS conventions for 24 years. I started attending HMGS conventions just prior to the move from the Penn-Harris, so I’ve been to almost the entire run of shows held at the Host. For much of that time, I’ve worked as a volunteer and for some of that time, as a convention director. So I’ve grown accustomed to the odd layout of the host, which is oddly spread out and not very handicapped friendly.
As has been released online and in public, the Lancaster Host Property, Buildings and land is up for auction, Dec 14, closing Dec 16.
There is no reason to suspect there won’t be anyone interested in this property. The property has changed ownership before but never quite like this– before, ownership passed from one entity to another, both of which being interested in running a hotel. It could be very different this time. Essentially, this is a bargain basement opportunity for land that could conceivably be worth ten million dollars in the right circumstances.
Reading the description in the auction listing above, the land and the five buildings on the land are going up for sale on 14 December. Bidding will cease on the 16th. Then we’ll have some inkling of what will happen to the Host. Will future conventions be held there? I would tend to doubt it, at least beyond the upcoming Cold Wars in March of 2016. I’m not a property lawyer and really have no idea of what the status of the contracts held by the HMGS and the Host in common would be when ownership passes to a new owner. Is the new owner obliged to rent the facility to us at all? Or will they assume the legal penalties of breaking a contract? When you purchase a property at auction, are you assuming the previous holder’s liabilities as well as his assets? I honestly don’t know. Chime in if you have experience in this field.. I certainly don’t.
Speculating is one thing, sure. I think what we can assume WILL happen is that the day we have (as an organization) been collectively dreading has finally come to pass. There is no more blood in the turnip. If the extremely run down buildings on the Host site avoid the wrecking ball until Fall-IN! 2016, I think we’ll be very lucky indeed. Personally, I doubt it. The cost of modernizing the physical plant surely must far exceed the potential value of the property as an investment. If the weight of existing contract penalties convinces the new owners to stay in business at least for COLD WARS 2016 and even FALL-IN! 2016, I think we can predict a minimum effort at service at best.. as the new owners struggle to eke out a few sheckels of profit with a minimum of investment. That’s a level of service we’ve been used to in the last few years, so it won’t be very different.
Ultimately, the site will see the wrecking ball, sooner or later, and probably sooner would be my guess. The strange thing is that I have given the site a lot of grief over the years.. leaky roofs, mold, flaking paint and disgusting bathrooms (by Saturday)… still, as a place, it was our place, and I made a lot of friendships in that place. I can’t help getting just the slightest hint of misty-eyed contemplating the end of this long, long era, so soon upon the heels of the demise of the Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA. Change is inevitable, and much of what we once took for granted will be missed in the upcoming years. I suspect, more than I could guess, I’ll end up missing elements of the Host. There are very few facilities on the East Coast that had that magic sweet spot of facility space, hotels, parking, eateries, things to do, and great attitude that the Host had in its heyday. I know for a fact that the present board of directors is at work looking for a new location, but none of the candidates I have heard vetted have the right specific combination of factors that made the Host a success for 24 years– or much of 24 years.
It’s a little ridiculous for me to drive all the way up to Lancaster to be there when that wrecking ball swings (whenever), but part of me really wants to be there.
Yep, it’s hard to believe we’re there, but the Back to the Future series is officially 30 years old, and the astonishing gulf of years between when I sat in the balcony of the Uptown Theater in Washington DC and saw this movie has passed by, seemingly in the blink of an eye. It’s always kind of cute to see how a movie from the past will predict near future events. Usually the greatest howlers are how they portray computer equipment in the future– this is almost always wrong. If I were making a movie about the future today, it would HAVE to depict regular access to data networks, some form of access and a lot of miniaturization and speed.. how the computer would look would be anybody’s guess. Back in 1985, even the small home computers were bulky beasts. I the Back to the Future series, the director included many visuals about future life that were played for laughs, then but if you think about it, aren’t that far off. Wall screens? Yah, well, we have flat screen TVs right now. Using garbage for fuel? MY county (Fairfax) is one of the most efficient in the United States for reclaiming energy from waste, which I’m absurdly proud of. Smart clothing? It’s here. Handheld video games? Come on, that’s old news. Tablet computers? I’m writing on one right now. Even the negative elements of modern life– being obsessed with electronics, giant multichannel Televisions, 3D movies and Movie Sequelitis.. that’s all part of OUR landscape here in the “future”. Sure, Back to the Future is a silly comedy. But it got a few things right.
I just want my damned hoverboard, before I become crippled with arthritis.
Checking in with the Taranto 1940 project, I’ve finished assembling the Fairey Swordfish aircraft from Pico Armor, which were an ungodly pain in the butt to do. The top wing doesn’t fit snugly with the rest of the aircraft, see, so you have to glue it, then hold it until it dries. It’s no a quick process and results in gap filler glue all over your fingers after a while.
Of course, the mounting on flight stand drill isn’t very straightforward, either. I had to drill the holes out a little using a tiny drillbit. Then I’m mounting them on art wire mounted on a series of MDC squares about 30mm wide. I know, they aren’t painted in this picture. I wanted to test the setup. I’m going to paint the rest of them BEFORE mounting them, but I wanted to see if it works or not before going to a lot of trouble.
I like the Pico Armor planes but the Fairey Swordfish is not my favorite– it’s not made very well, the drilling, mounting, drying and fiddling about element is very high.. so this process is going to take a while, lots of hands on piece work involved and I have about 30 planes to mount. The Fullmars by contrast, come together very quickly and seem to balance on the end of the wire better than the Swordfish do. There has to be a better way…
One pleasant surprise were the barrage balloons I picked up from Shapeways, the 3D printer miniatures company. These are in scale with the Italian fleet (and there were about 20 in the air, so this works in terms of scaling). My idea is to mount two per small 20mm MDC round base, and place there here and there around the fleet, adding to the difficulty of making the torpedo runs. The models themselves come mounted 20 per small sprue and pop right off. You knock the stem off and drill right into the base of where the stem was straight up, and it mounts snugly and easily onto the art wire. Finally, something easy!
I still want to find an easier way to mound the Swordfish, this part of the job is pretty tedious. However, I am making lots of progress towards getting this game done. It won’t be ready for Fall IN! but it will be for Cold Wars.
On other fronts, I picked up tokens for Anti aircraft batteries (Axis and Allies AA Guns painted up) and torpedo markers from Litko. I’m slightly disappointed with the torpedo markers.. the ink is very faded and the torpedo is kind of hard to discern, I’ll have to end up touching them up with paint.
Remember BioSphere 2? This was that giant enclosed environment, designed by John Allen and a host of environmental scientists during the 1980s, and financed by enigmatic Texas oil billionaire Edward Perry Bass’s Decisions Investments company. The design team had the goal of creating a totally enclosed environment consisting of various biomes (enclosed environments representative of various environments on Earth). They built in a rainforest, a savannah, jungle, agriculture, desert and other variations of environment. The stated purpose of Biosphere 2 was to explore the myriad interactions in an environment with an ultimate goal of containing them for Spaceship Travel and possible colonization of other planets. Can we take the “stuff that works in Biosphere 1 (the Biosphere 2 team nickname for Earth, get it?) and cram it into a container? Is it that malleable and transferable? Well, that’s a tall order, scientifically speaking. They certainly made a grand effort, adding thousands upon thousands of soils, bacteria, flora and fauna into the giant four acre facility. For my money, this is an important question that will need to be answered if we can ever leave this rock we call a home. There’s just no way we can colonize other planets without taking a workable, viable and sustainable “Earth” with us. The Biosphere 2 project was designed to have a crew of eight live in it for two years– totally enclosed inside the environmental shell and with no contact with the outside world beyond phone calls and email. Dutifully, a team of four men and four women did enter the Biosphere in 1991: Roy Walford, Jane Poynter, Taber MacCallum, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo, and Linda Leigh. They stayed inside for two years and 20 minutes. That’s where the fun begins..
The goal of the team was to grow 100% of food required to live in the biosphere for two years. They did come very near that goal– 80% of what they ate was grown and fertilized by the crew and other fauna on the biosphere during the first two years, the other 20% was drawn from a three month supply of food that was grown inside the facility before the experiment began and from seed reserve. So in terms of productivity, the four acres inside the Biosphere was probably the most productive in North America during those two years. That sounds like a rosy picture but the first year was not a picnic in any sense. The crew experienced continual hunger in the first year, but by the second, they were generating a surplus. Mostly sweet potatoes, according to Jane Poynter’s TED Talk (which is worth watching).
Although many years of design contributed to Biosphere 2, you can’t anticipate everything. CO2 levels fluctuated wildly during the two year stay, contributing to species die-offs inside including all vertebrates and pollinating insects. Roaches and a local variety of ant that had been accidently sealed in during the experiment filled the niches left by their absence. If your memory stretches back that far, you might recall the rapid decline of Oxygen inside the Biosphere during the first experiment. Even though the structure was built to be more leak-proof than NASA testing centers, Oxygen was leaving the environment at an alarming rate during the the first year. Oxygen inside the facility, which began at 20.9%, fell at a steady pace and after 16 months was down to 14.5%. This is equivalent to the oxygen availability at an elevation of 4,080 meters. Crew members began to complain of loss of concentration, fatigue and pain, so the decision was made to insert more O2 into the system to ‘bring it into balance’. Oxygen doesn’t just “leave” an atmosphere without conversion into some other form.. so where it went was a continuing mystery during the first mission, until the culprit was discovered in the massive amounts of unsealed concrete inside the structure, which leached oxygen aggressively.
I have to wonder what the group dynamic was inside the dome. Three healthy adults of both sexes inside an enclosed environment for two years.. hmm.. no huge surprise that Poynter and MacCallum were married a week after they emerged. The hijinks inside were nothing compared to the managerial problems outside. In 1994, the managerial and technical teams started planning for a second, shorter experiment of ten months duration. During the transition period between missions, extensive research and system improvements had been undertaken. Concrete was sealed to prevent uptake of carbon dioxide. The second mission began on March 6, 1994, with an announced run of ten months. Crew was Norberto Alvarez (Capt.), John Druitt, Matt Finn, Pascale Maslin, Charlotte Godfrey, Rodrigo Romo and Tilak Mahato. The second crew achieved complete sufficiency in food production. Many of the technical problems were being overcome. However, the managerial/corporate side was experiencing big problems. The project was put into receivership and an outside management team was installed for the receiver to turn around the floundering project. The reason for the dispute was threefold. Mismanagement of mission had caused terrible publicity, financial mismanagement and lack of research. People alleged gross financial mismanagement of the project, leading to a loss of $25 million in fiscal 1992. Acrimony between the Faithful (by that, I mean the those who conceived the project and contributed to the design) and the “Suits” must have been intense, as two of the original crew (Alling and Von Thillo) allegedly broke in and attempted to sabotage the dome during the second experiment to break out the crew that was currently in residence, apparently as a response to the managerial implosion that was taking place in front of their eyes.
Donella Mathews (cited above) received this version from Alling:
I just received a letter from Abigail Alling — now charged with felony for the break-in — giving her version of the April events. The letter says in part: “On April 1, 1994, at approximately 10 AM … limousines arrived on the biosphere site … with two investment bankers hired by Mr. Bass …. They arrived with a temporary restraining order to take over direct control of the project …. With them were 6-8 police officers hired by the Bass organization…. They immediately changed locks on the offices …. All communication systems were changed (telephone and access codes), and [we] were prevented from receiving any data regarding safety, operations, and research of Biosphere 2.”
Alling emphasizes several times in her letter that the “bankers” who suddenly took over “knew nothing technically or scientifically, and little about the biospherian crew.”
“I judged it my ethical duty to give the team of seven biospherians [inside Biosphere 2] the choice to continue with the drastically changed human experiment …, or to leave…. It was not clear what they had been told of the new situation.”
This probably was regarded as odd behavior from Ed Bass, who despite his Texas Oil money has always been attuned to ecological and scientific concerns relating to the environment. I’m sure we’ll never find out exactly what transpired. The ownership and management company Space Biospheres Ventures was officially dissolved on June 1, 1994. This left the scientific and business management of the mission to the interim turnaround team, who had been contracted by the financial partner, Decisions Investment Co.
The second experiment was ended prematurely on September 6, 1994.
In the ensuing years, Decisions Investment put Biosphere 2 up for sale in 2004 and in 2007 the site was sold for $50 million to CDO Ranching & Development, L.P. 1,500 houses and a resort hotel were planned, but the main structure was still to be available for research and educational use. The University of Arizona acquired ownership in 2007 and has run it as a research facility and (more importantly) a tourist attraction ever since.
What did the Biosphere 2 teach us? Obviously a great deal. Important insights were gained about environments inside a closed system and experiments are continuing (admittedly on a less grander scale) to this day. We’ll get to Mars, yet. However, I can’t help thinking that Biosphere 2 was years ahead of its time. Imagine the reality television show that could have been made from recording this experiment over two years! The whole experiment could have been funded by advertising revenue if they had been just a tiny bit ahead of the curve. Big Brother has nothing on Biosphere 2.
Charles Esdaile’s Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803-1815 provides an interesting perspective on the cataclysmic events during the first decade and a half of the 19th century. The focus of the book is, of course, Napoleonic History. It is not, however, a minute examination of his military campaigns beyond a broad brush recounting of the results of battles. Instead, Esdaile examines the political, economic, technological and sociological changes that occurred in Europe that brought a collection of frequently squabbling dynasties (often far more interested in their own localized geopolitical issues) to the point where they could unite simultaneously to overthrow Bonaparte by 1814, and again in 1815. Although Esdaile is clearly no great fan of Napoleon, he is still very objective in his analysis of the Emperor’s driving ambition and his motivation– to be the de facto ruler of Europe by conquest. Napoleon was less driven by political credo than by ruthless realities– he was in turns a Corsican Revolutionary, a Jacobin, a Republican, and finally an Emperor, cheerfully discarding one mask for the next.
Napoleon’s Wars tells most of its story as a treatment of the geopolitics of the era, and most importantly, provides the reader with a decent analysis of the main players in the diplomatic dance of the early 19th century. Much has been written about France and Great Britain during this time period; much less so about Spain, Germany, Prussia, Austria, Russia and Turkey. The great strength of Napoleon’s Wars is the portraits of the other rulers and their localized concerns– and how Napoleon successfully played them off against each other for so long.
I would certainly recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of Napoleonic history, but especially for history fans who are more interested in the political and diplomatic developments during the years of warfare.
I have not read much, if anything specific, about Confederate General Daniel Harvey Hill (also known as D.H. Hill to de-conflict him with his relative Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill). Having opportunity to review the events of his life and his commentary of involvement in the American Civil War, I am now intrigued enough to seek out his biography.
D.H. Hill grew up in South Carolina, attended the U.S. Military Academy graduating in 1842 among a raft of future Civil War generals. His Mexican War service was impressive, being twice brevetted (to the rank of Major) for actions on the field of battle. After the Mexican War, Major Hill resigned his commission and became a professor of Mathematics for the college that would become Washington and Lee university (eventually). It’s during this period of his life that we get an idea of the personality of D.H. Hill– a character trait that would get him in hot water with his future Confederate bosses. D.H. Hill had a sense of humor a gentle person might characterize as “sardonic”. In modern terms, he comes off as a bit of a smart ass. An inveterate proponent of Southern Culture, he held the Northern states in great disdain. His text book on Algebra, Elements of Algebra, widely read in the South before the war, is incredibly jingoistic by modern standards. He certainly wasn’t ashamed at the notion of geographical bias.
Note the difference between NORTHERN examples and SOUTHERN examples in the following problems, taken directly from the text book:
Seriously, you have to admire a fellow who can effortlessly insert the term “bedlamites” into an Algebra problem. That takes a deft hand.
When the American Civil War started, it was a given that Hill would return to the colors, this time fighting for his beloved South against the so-called Yankee aggressors. Hill performed very well at the outset of the war, fighting at the outset as a Colonel of volunteers and later as a Major General during the Peninsular Battles. It’s clear that Hill was a quarrelsome and difficult subordinate, when you read between the lines. General Lee was never one to air his grievances about a subordinate, but certain facts speak for themselves. Hill was a gifted, passionate and aggressive commander who contributed to Southern success in the Seven Days’ Battles and Antietam campaigns– particularly at South Mountain, where Hill’s division was isolated, fighting off repeated attacks by stronger Union forces and giving Lee time he needed to reorganize and meet the Union assault. Despite his qualities as a military leader, one gets the opinion that he wasn’t easy to get along with. Hill did not achieve corps command in the Army of Northern Virginia, and after the Battle of Fredericksburg (where apparently he was in dispute with Lee), he was sent to backwater theaters of the War. First out West, where he quarreled with Bragg (and earned the enmity of Jefferson Davis), and then to the Carolina command. Hill’s promotion to higher command was effectively blocked by Davis, and he ended the war fighting to the end, as a divisional commander at the Battle of Bentonville, the last great battle of the war.
Hill was a successful educator and magazine editor after the war, and died in 1889. I will have to dig in to his life for the details, but the adjectives that keep popping up when reading histories are acerbic, sardonic, and bitter. Even sneering. One gets the impression of the classic guy who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and won’t be diplomatic about his opinion. I can see how he must have been an extraordinarily difficult subordinate to manage (for both Lee and Bragg) and I can guess that he must have been an awkward resources to use, even for President Davis. For all of that, there’s something about Daniel Harvey Hill that seems so modern when you compare his period writings and statements to the more reserved commentary from his fellow officers. He comes off as the Ambrose Bierce of the Confederate Army. It’s a senseless exercise to imagine myself in those times, but I think I might have liked D.H. Hill. He might have been a jerk at times, but he certainly was an individual who didn’t toe the party line.
An editorial by Geoff Englestein on the Dice Tower podcast reminded me of the view the Gautama Buddha took towards frivolous activities, namely gaming, and how they could be a roadblock to achieving true enlightenment. That got me to thinking of Games mentioned in sacred texts, particularly boardgames as Miniature Wargaming, RPGs and Videogames are all relatively modern developments.
First, back to Buddhism as well as a shallow dive into some Hindu texts.
The Gautama weighs in:
His list of “best practices” for one seeking enlightenment is contained in the he Brahmajala Sutta, one of the first of 34 suttas (collections of aphorisms) of the Digha Nikaya (the Long Discourses of the Buddha). Games are especially enumerated in the 17th precept of the Majjhima Sila, which lists 16 of what were interpreted as “games” back in ancient times. It’s an illuminating list but much of it entails condemning playing with toys. The boardgame specific ones are as follows:
1. “Games on board with 8 or 10 rows”. This probably references Ashtapada specifically, which is a pre-chess game played on an unmarked, checkers-like gridded board with no colors. The game was essentially a race between both sides to thread through a preset pattern of “castles” on the board. Chaturanga is played on an identical board, but is more chess like.
2. “The same games played on imaginary boards.” (Akasam Astapadam was a variant of Astapada which was played without a board, mentally, and means “Astapada in the sky”). It was either a fun mental exercise or perhaps people were too poor to afford game components.
3. “Marking diagrams on the floor such that the player can only walk on certain places” may sound a little clumsy, but parse it out and you have a precursor to our modern game of hop scotch. Not exactly a boardgame but it’s amusing to see it on the list. The reference is probably to a game called Parihâra-patham, which played similarly to hop scotch but with a very different path on the ground.
4. Either remove pieces from a pile, or adding pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to “shake”. This sounds like Jenga to me, but it could also be Pickup Sticks. Not much else is written about it.
5. “Throwing Dice” There are any number of dice games originating in India, but this probably specifically references gambling games similar to craps.
6. “Dipping the hand with the fingers stretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour-water, and striking the wet hand on the ground or on a wall, calling out ‘What shall it be?’ and showing the form required–elephants, horses, &c” That sounds somewhat confusing but after you parse it for a bit it starts to sound a lot like modern Pictionary, doesn’t it?
7. Ball Games. Could mean anything really, but probably something like Kick Ball.
(8-14 reference playing with toys, but 15 is interesting)
15. Guessing another person’s thoughts. This could be just wild guessing but I suspect it’s a game with directed questions similar to 20 questions.
So there you have it, The Buddha wasn’t a game guy like you or me. I’m not a scholar of Buddhism but I have read a little here and there, and I suspect the Buddha wasn’t condemning leisure pastimes with any degree of vitriol, he was simply listing the activities to be avoiding as being harmful to spiritual discipline along the path to enlightenment.
The Buddha’s list is relatively well known, and an interesting window into the past, especially about boardgames. I could see playing variants of some of these today, and actually I have (Chaturanga, for certain, is a fairly famous variant of Chess). I wondered if there was any other religion that even mentions diversions of the mind with such precision as the Guatama Buddha did.
A ritual dice game is mentioned in the Yajur Veda, to be played at coronations (and it is mentioned in passing that the King was allowed to win). Other than that I can’t find much in the Upanishads or the Rig Veda.
Well, the Prophet Mohammed did not appear to enjoy games any more than the Buddha did. In the Koran, specifically this citation, the Prophet appears to equate the playing a game of chance to the consumption of alcohol, which he had strong reservations against:
YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed.
SHAKIR: O you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful.
To clarify, later on, Mohammed did state that “He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of swine” which appears to lump in boardgaming with other enticements of the flesh. Reference here.
I’m not going to find a lot of material about ancient Islamic games, I think.
Judaism and by extension, Christianity
There’s not a lot written about ancient Jewish kids’ games, although there is some:
Zec 8:5: “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof”; and Gen 21:9 margin, where we read of Ishmael “playing” (metscheq).
Perhaps this “playing” reference could be read as “Mocking” as well, the translation is open to question. Of specific games however.. there’s almost nothing at all in the Old Testament.
Playing with ball is alluded to in Isa 22:18: “He will …. toss thee like a ball into a large country,” possibly this indicates some form of organized sport or recreational outdoor game.. The question of Yahweh to Job (41:5): “Wilt thou play with him (the crocodile) as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?” suggests that tame birds were some form of amusement for Hebrew children.
The New Testament has one reference to children’s play, namely, the half-parable about the children in the market-place who would neither dance to the flute as if at a marriage feast nor wail as if at a funeral (Mt 11:16 f parallel Lk 7:32).
Dice games: dice were known to the ancient Egyptians, and Assyrian dice have been found, made of bronze with points of gold, but there is no trace of them in the Old Testament. The New Testament’s most famous game of chance, the use of dice by the Syrian soldiers who cast lots for the raiment of Jesus at the cross (Mt 27:35 parallel Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:24) may have been dice (as we know them, six sided cubes) or some other primitive chance mechanism.
This is not to say that the Ancient Hebrews and early Christians were a dour lot; they amused themselves in a myriad of ways– dancing, mimicry, storytelling, running and archery contests. Even though there aren’t references to them in holy scripture, ancient games did exist in Jewish (and by extension, Christian) culture. Hebrew children had a tradition of a game called Kugelach, which is very similar to Jacks. The Ancient Hebrews also seemed to be fond of variants of the grid-based games that were similar to ancient Roman style games (reminiscent of 9 Man’s Morris) as well as Indian ones like Ashdibada– though who invented what first is uncertain here. What is fairly certain is that Jewish culture inherited many games from external sources- primarily Roman and Egyptian. There is some evidence of Mancala style games being imported from African sources, as well as a game similar to Fox and Geese called Dogs and Jackals.
What’s to make of all this? Mostly that the tradition of boardgames and similar amusements– meaning a physical map to move pieces on with some chance element (probably a six sided dice) would appear to be primarily an Asian development that an amusement-starved world would adopt whole-heartedly as cultures came into contact with each other and cross-pollinated.
And that perhaps Buddha needed to lighten up a little about games. 😀
A little road trip Audio for Fall-IN! 2014:
I just added NINE updates for the last update for Fall IN 2014.
These were events 428-436. Two by Steve Gelhard, Four by Carlos Cardozo,
One by Mark Yingling and Two by Dave Yingling.
To update, open the Guidebook in a wireless zone, and just accept the update. It does the rest for you.
This is the last Guidebook Update. Please open Guidebook in a Wirless zone and let it upload the changes for you. Enjoy! See you at the convention. I’m already there!
PS: If you have NO idea what Guidebook is, GO HERE.
This wonderfully chatty, iconoclastic look at the great Waterloo battle is worth a read. The author, Gordon Corrigon, gazes at both the French and Allied side with a somewhat sardonic eye. The resultant prose is humorous, informative and quite interesting. Waterloo is a battle I have read many treatments on– books, articles, and even wargames. I appreciate an author who can bring a new point of view to this familiar ground.
The Third Incarnation of the Point of Singularity
Quirky mind stuff
The Third Incarnation of the Point of Singularity
Custom ship cards and miniatures for Star Wars: Armada
The Blog Between the States.
"It's like Steampunk had a baby with Tales from the Crypt!" - Gary Buller
Bare-knuckle commentary mixed with pop culture.
Joshua Hoffine - Behind The Scenes
Seriously, just don't
Miniatures gaming projects, products, and reviews
Images and thoughts from the sculpting desk of Hydra Miniatures
A miniatures gaming blog featuring reports and pictures from my latest games and the latest stuff off my painting table
Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated
Kansas animals as you've never imagined them
My Life of Crime, Murder, Missing People and such! Above all else, never forget the victim, that the victim lived, had a life and was loved. The victim and their loved ones deserve justice, as does society.
Thoughts about wargaming, especially 28mm.
Mark "Marty" Rathbun's Place
Free Sc-Fi Wargames Rules
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Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development
A day-by-day digest of events regarding all services of the U.S. military. Click HOME from any page to use the Quick Navigation Calendar.
Great wargaming in small space
Curt Schilling's Official Blog
Wargaming made simple and fun!
Where Gaming Comes at you like a Freight Train
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight uses statistical analysis — hard numbers — to tell compelling stories about politics, sports, science, economics and culture.