500 And 1 Words At A Time: How Painting & Writing Are NOT Similar

Not so long ago, in historical not blogging terms, I wrote about how, for me, painting miniatures and writing are similar. Then I spent a lot of time demonstrating that using Puddles and Whiskers, recently finishing the Wash and Dry Brush phase of writing.

This weekend, as my paint covered fingers can attest to was spent painting miniatures and playing games. And as this weekend moved along, even though I was avoiding actively writing (not that it stopped me from writing), I kept seeing where writing and painting are similar and dissimilar.

Similar was obvious to me, the unpainted miniature the idea, the base coat the initial draft, the first layers the rough drafts, washes and dry brushes the edits and revisions, and finally the detail work or finishing the story. Sure there are missing details from that list, such as the trimming and assembly which come at various stages of working a miniature, which is at time analogous to editing and assembling the story.

So how are they dissimilar? Injury comes to mind first and foremost.

However, as exciting as injury sounds, teaching was the biggest area. Our boy and girl both like playing miniature games. I however, am tired of assembling and painting their miniatures. To me part of playing a game like Warhammer 40k is investing in the game. There are not too many games where you invest more than money; they invest time, reading, math, creativity, organization, and more. I want them to get invested. Thus, I am trying to teach them how to assemble, paint, and take care of their miniatures.

I have found teaching writing is easier than teaching painting. Why? Mainly because I do not have to teach how to write from scratch. Schools teach basic writing, language, spelling, and the rest. When people come to me to learn, what they want is guidance and assurance. Later comes wanting editing. 🙂 Same thing with our kids, the school is doing the majority of the work, I encourage, read their works, encourage some more, and guide them until they move on to another story.

School is not teaching the basics of painting. I have to teach them how to hold a miniature to minimize skin oil contact or to avoid rubbing paint off or reach a difficult angle with a brush. I have to teach them how to use a brush, dip the tip, not dunk the whole brush. Brush strokes to create thin layers of paint to keep not obscure details. Recognizing details on a miniature. Choosing colors. Applying washes. Dry brushing. And the concept that like writing, a miniature is only finished when you say so, but at anytime you can go back.

As part of teaching, comes injury and mess. Mess is easy to deal with, spilled paint cleans up, even when the accident is half a pot of brown wash on a yellow shirt or painting a miniature on the table and over brushing leaving a clean spot on the table when the miniature is moved. Injury is less easy to deal with.

Thankfully, super glue only bonds skin for a short bit, speaking of which teaching them how to safely use super glue and xacto knives is a must. The first time it happens is disconcerting for them, but they realize that super glued skin does not hurt and fixing the issue does not hurt, just takes time. Cutting one-self with an xacto is a whole other lesson.

I told them both that cutting themselves with an xacto would happen and it would not hurt as long as the blade was sharp and I keep sharp blades. They did not believe me or Barb, they listened to my injury stories and ignore them. Yesterday, our boy sliced a finger open good. Instead of freaking out, he calmly announced he cut his finger, took it to the bathroom where we bandaged the cut up, and he commented that like I said, it happened and did not hurt.



Games We Play: Warhammer 40k

It has been two years and three weeks in the making to play our “first” game of Warhammer 40k. Approximately two years ago we bought our boy a Warhammer 40k boxed set because he likes the Tyranid (think bugs) Army and I after many years of working at a hobby shop as a “games guy” love to assemble, paint, and play Warhammer 40k, but hate the Tyranids.

warhammer-7Unfortunately two years ago he was not ready. Now he is. He has dilengently read the rules, he has painted (as 12 years do) many of his figures, and he has begun assembling them. Plus, because we did not have terrain, he built some (as you will see), out of Legos.

I will not, unlike in other game reports, explain the rules of Warhammer 40k. The rules are complex (at times needlessly so) and explaining them would be several blog posts. Instead, allow me to say that for our boy this is the most complicated game he has ever tried to learn. Warhammer 40k is a game that he will play for a long time and get a lot of enjoyment out of. There are and will be games he likes better, but this will stick with him for a long time to come.

warhammer-2Our “first” game (we played two years ago, but did not go well) was a mess. What is a mess? Constantly looking up rules, constantly referring to stats, and generally getting many of the wrinkles out when learning a complicated game. This was on both sides of the table.

With more preparation, such as having all of our units on easy to reach and read stat cards, would have helped. However, much was learn as you go situations such as what can a tyranid army do against a dreadnought? Turns out, not much for now. Or what exactly happens during an assault phase and so on. These wrinkles are not new to me, but to him major hurdles he had to learn to work through, such as finding a rule to prove your point. If he couldn’t find the rule, then the rule didn’t exist. I am very proud of him, this could have been a game that broke him. Instead he is working on his stat cards as I type this.

warhammer-5As for our game, I won, but not because of anything more than I had a dreadnought and he did not have any anti-armor weapons. He did not because I did not pay attention to the dreadnought stats which are like a tanks. If I had I would have counseled him to build units with anti-tank. As I did not pay attention, he didn’t. On the other side, I didn’t pay attention to how melee combat focused his army was so I only built a five man squad of assault marines.

warhammer-1The game went like this; we moved a lot. 🙂 Then I charged his genestealers after shooting them up. I won the combat or so I thought, then two (yes, two) genestealers killed most of my five man squad. Then my librarian (commander) died. Then his commander died. Then the dreadnought killed everything else while remaining immune to his actions. In another proud gamer dad moment, once I realized the situation I asked if he wanted to stop playing because it was not fair, he said nope he wanted to see what he could do and learn from that.

Did we have fun, yes. Will we keep playing, yes and games will get easier.

Life On Almost Two Acres

“Good news for those of you who could not make up your mind or who wanted to swim and skate, our open driveway is now skate AND swim.

We have a nice skating loop that starts in the street and goes around to…well the street. Plus, we have multiple swimming locations near the skate loop, front yard, side yard, and in the back forty. Plenty of options for everyone.

Just remember, not liable for cars sliding into you, no life guard, no diving, no running, BYOS, and for a small fee towels, bentos, and access to a phone can be provided.”

That is my status update for the day. Yes, I have Facebook. No, I do not post memes (someone else’s thought), cute cat anything, political stuff, or well to be honest, anything at all other than links to blog, instagram, and something else.

Now that you know how I don’t use Facebook (connect with past why? Network, what a joke). Allow me to explain in that continuing vein of life here on Almost Two Acres because each week of each season is a new lesson. I like learning.

Our driveway is dirt and U-shaped. Our driveway has several holes or pits and lots of ruts. During the summer when we moved in we did not think anything of them other than potential watering hole, avoid with car, and wondering if that is where the mosquitos came from. There was talk of filling in the holes, but we had so much to do that we decided to wait.

That waiting may have been a mistake. No, it was a mistake. The holes and ruts filled with snow. The snow melted. The melted snow or water, froze making ice. The ice is slippery. The ice allowed snow to piled ontop. The on top snow melted. Making more water. The ground froze. The water went nowhere forming a giant initially U-shaped skating rink. That ice melted and spread, turning the U-shaped skating rink into a vaguely oval shaped pond…that froze over.

All of this was okay and someone nice to look at. Except, we needed to walk on it and drive on it and park on it. The skating rink spread from the front yard to the road, the garage, and to the walkway. The ice got thicker and conditions reached a melting point (ha) yesterday. High temps caused more melt, which did two things:

  • melting ice flowed to the sides of the rinks forming deep pools and snow in the side yard and back forty melted and formed new pools. These pools of water are ankle deep in some places (that is deep for snow/ice melt in a yard to people (us) who have lived on a campus for 5-years).
  • water on ice is double slick. So slick that our car got stuck on the ice. I could not take out the trash or check the mail.

People said salt. Great, but salt melts ice and melted ice is water, water flows to low areas (read the pools), which means the pools of water spread and when freezing happens the net effect is nothing changed. As of right now, we have most of a skating U-shaped rink, lots of pools of cold water (polar bear dip anyone?), and plenty of plans to spend a good chunk of spring thaw filling in holes and ruts to ensure next winter the only thing we have to deal with is snow and regular ice.


Skills Of A Writer II

Yesterday was the beginning of skills I think writers should have or at least be aware of. Today, is the continuation of that post. Keep in mind, these are skills I think writers should possess.

Command of the Language

How is your personal lexicon? Pretty big, I hope. Varied, I hope. Learn the language. Learn the rules of the language. Understand why the language is used the way it is, because when you understand why you can break or bend the rules in a way that is accepted by readers and not rejected by readers.  Learn new words. Learn variations and alternatives to the words you use most. Learn, about the language you choose to write in.


I should not have to write this, but know how to spell or know how to use spell check and hope that the suggested word is the word you were hoping for or even better, learn how to use a dictionary. Today, there is no excuse for a misspelled word, unless you mean it on porpoise (see what I did there?).

Grammar and Punctuation

I am horrible with punctuation. I scored in the bottom of my class every time. I know this. I also know how punctuation is supposed to be used. A good writer, even if they are weak with punctuation or grammar, needs to know how and why they are used. Funny thing about grammar and punctuation, readers will allow mistakes. Readers will fill in the missing bits on their own as long as the mistakes are not to glaring or to many in a row. Just like command of the language, make the time to learn the rules of grammar and punctuation. Oh, for those people who think they “know” grammar and punctuation, you do not. There are too many rules for one person to know all of, unless that is your chosen specialization and career. Worse case scenario, you get a refresher.

Editing and Drafts

There is no such thing as “one and done” with writing. Every single thing a writer puts to paper or screen can be revised. The best piece of advice I ever read about good editing went something like this, roughly half of the words written in any paper can be safely removed. This make writing tighter. Makes the job of the writer more difficult, but if you think about the amount of filler in any given sentence that advice is right.

If there is no “one and done” what is there? Drafts and revisions is the answer. A writer should go through a series of drafts and revisions before declaring something done. By the way, done, means into the hands of an editor, not finished. The first few drafts will be a mess. This is part of the process. Write down anything and everything. Just do it. Do not think about “what next” or “this is a mess,” just write everything down.

Then after a day or so, go through what you wrote. Pick out the good, set the bad aside (some stuff is going to be bad and other stuff will merit another look at and potentially find a home in some future written work), and revise. Keep doing this until you are happy. There is no set amount of drafts and revisions, to each their own. However, the more work you put into your drafts and revisions before handing it off, the less you will have to do and less work you will make someone else do for your writing.

Know Your Weaknesses

Learn what you are good at and get better at it. Learn what you are bad at and get better at it. Above all, know where your writing weak spots are and know people who are good at those skills.




Musing About Grilling & Life

So where are we?

Well we are here of course.

From the stand point of where are we, as in me and mine…that is another story…

The good and bad news continue to roll in like the tide. Nothing world ending, that we are aware of, but just enough to make for some bumpy surf and set back most of our remaining summer plans. What are you going to do?  We, we try to ride out the bumps and while we ride we do our best to enjoy what we have.

To that end, last night I have three chicken breasts that need to be cooked. However, I was not feeling like cooking after another day of unpacking and screwing around organizing. Going out to eat, an option, but only as a last resort. Given that there was chicken in front of me, not near last option. What to do?

We are enjoying grilling. I am getting pretty good at making cooking fires. Turns out there is a big difference between a fire for cooking and fire for smores. Once I cook the chicken then what? Kids say make chicken sandwiches, great idea except the children have yet to eat a grilled, read non-fried, chicken on anything. Barb has been jonesing for Moo Goo Gai Pan, but that would mean making a mess in the kitchen late a night.

Have I mentioned there is no dishwasher? Not a big deal, except we had one for the last five years, thus the non-dishwashing crowd (everyone other than me) does not see the big deal about making a lot of dishes. I do. While I do not mind washing dishes by hand, another good sideways thinking time for me, I do not have any desire to wash dishes late at night. What to do, what to do?

Grilling the chicken got my mouth watering and the cook inside me fired up (ha). While the chicken cooked it occurred to me that I would only have to prep vegetables for any wokable dish. That right there cut down the number of dishes to something very manageable. Between checking the chicken, Barb and I prepped broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, and made the Moo Goo sauce. I have not had an easier or quicker time cooking in a long time. By the time the chicken was finished, I had the wok heated up and ready to go. Five minutes later, dinner.

Living here has been a learning experience, from figuring out how to cool the place off, to how the rain falls into the windows, arranging for garbage pick up (not something we thought about until here), to how to arrange a kitchen for cooking. I have an awesome kitchen set up compared to the last place; still I have to organize everything for ease of use. I only mention this because, it is raining here and the kids, who I asked to let me know if what raining inside, said to me, “we didn’t feel it.” I’m going to guess they were waiting for the puddle to reach them. Ugh.

Finally, to end this rather rambling post, as we get this place organized the table and floor which was home to Rivet Wars for a few days, will be cleaned off of laundry and NAPLEX books for gaming once again. HOORAY!


Kitchen Skills Essential


I believe that and I am teaching my children that. I am not some new age hippie all anti-microwave and prepackaged crap and down with fast food…oh wait I am…just not the new age hippie thing. The art and skill of cooking at home seems to have disappeared. During my five years in college I taught as many people how to cook as I taught how to use WordPress. That is a lot of people who were not taught now to cook for themselves or their families BEFORE they left home. That is sad and shocking.

I learned how to cook tacos, spaghetti, and shrimp before I left the house. None of these dishes are difficult; brown meat, add seasoning; boil water, add noodles; peel, devine, and cook in butter for a few minutes. I learned additional skills and dishes as I moved around. I admit there was a time when fast food and prepacked shit was my go to. I have no defense for those food choices I do have a large waistline and some bad health to show for it. Then I got back into cooking.

To prevent my children from the crap that is prepackaged food I have been teaching them how to cook and how to behave in the kitchen. This is some of my favorite time with them. Watching them turn something into something else is magical. Raw meat into…well just about anything is awesome. Today our boy watched ground pork go from raw pink to that light grey color of cooked pork and then a darker brown as some of the pork sat too long in the pan. He learned how cornstarch and water will thicken sauces. Even watched the thin sauce turn thick.

Beyond teaching them how to feed themselves and others (a valued skill when attempting to impress others), they have been learning without knowing, the skills of organization, time management, how to deal with emergencies, and following instructions. These are essential skills for life. I do not know why other than “budget” issue that cooking is not taught in schools as a mandatory series of classes. Imagine how much better off kids would be coming out of high school knowing how to cook a few meals, how to shop smart, how to organize more than just the ingredients, how to see the world in a different way because they worked with food.

Maybe fast food would not be the go to for so many people. Maybe people would be healthier. Maybe because of all of the home cooked meals families would be closer and happier.

Kitchen skills are essential. 🙂


Krosmaster Quest, Second Adventure

Quest 1Even with the hiccups everyone wanted to play Quest today. While they slept I set up the board and table. The rules have everyone setting up the game, but honestly, it was easier and faster for me to setup the entire game. The only thing they had to do was pick their characters, color token, and play.

Learning a game is one of my favorite pastimes, after the fact. During the process I can’t stand learning and teaching a game to others. Rules get missed. A rule that is a confusing read will clear up during play or make even less sense. Players expect that I know all of the rules and I don’t. I often have to go back after a game and re-read the rules to clear up any in game issues or worse look up rules during the game.

Quest is designed for 2 to 5 players to play at the same time. Each player gets a turn to play the bad guys. No need for a single player to control all of the bad guys, unless you play with that specific mode. Control of the bad guy or Demon is passed at the end the player who was the demon turn. This makes for a very cooperative and interactive game.

Quest 3We did not do that. I wanted to make sure that the players and I knew the rules, thus I was the Demon player for the game. This gave them a sense of them versus me, which was not the intent and not the goal. The goal, other than learning the rules, was for them to complete the various quests, collect GeeGee and win. Things did not go that way…

Krosmaster characters begin the game with no spells other than punch. They collect resources, sell them, or kill off monsters to get kama (gold) to be able to purchase equipment, buy resources they don’t have or and this is important unlock spells. Until a spell is unlocked the only attack a Krosmaster has is punch, which is not a good attack. Players spent a lot of time punching.

This resulted in a few KO’s, a lot of running and hiding, and some chin scratching as they pondered how to eliminate my ever growing army of tofus. They tried equipment, which helped prolong their time on the field by increasing their lives. Eventually they started unlocking spells which had an immediate effect on the game, it got easier. Unlocking spells or at least one spell should be a priority because spells cost less and do more than any punch will ever do.

Quest 5A missed rule or a misplaced rule lead to a period where the players stayed in the City free from harm, but able to inflict damage on my tofus. To be clear, the City is a safe zone where the characters cannot be harmed and can do no harm. Combat has to happen outside of the city. Unfortunately, that rule was missed and a lot of tofus died needlessly and players advanced without merit. These things happen the first few times playing any game.

Few games from now everything will flow smoothly. Until then some bumps in the road, but Krosmaster Quest is a lot of fun to play, even with the bumps.