Learning By Living

In an effort to convince myself that I am really am on the mend, I spent the day out with the family. A beautiful day of driving to and fro observing the colors and wildlife, although are cows and horses wildlife? For this purpose, as we drove past, yes they can.

I think I have mentioned how having a home, not an apartment, is a constant learning experience for us. I am hoping that by the second go-around with the seasons we will be ready, for example having gone through one winter here I know the following:

  • Get the windows sealed in October
  • Purchase at least 150 pounds of salt before the first snow fall, we have a HUGE driveway
  • Purchase a snow blower, but allow the snow to compact a bit before blowing the driveway
  • Purchase a third shovel, because three people shoveling is much faster
  • Put at least 70 pounds of sand in the trunk of the car for the ice rink that the driveway can become

We moved in at the very tail end of summer last year, thus have no frame of reference. All I know from last year is mow the lawn in stages to avoid collapsing from exhaustion. However, since the warm-up began we have learned the following:

  • We should purchase some form of riding lawn mower, not because we are lazy, but because almost 2 acres is a lot and instead of having to mow for a month and a half or so, going to have to mow for at least four months
  • A hose is a necessity
  • A second rake is a necessity
  • Lots of charcoal for grilling, lots
  • Opening one window does nothing to improve the internal temperature, however opening a second window on the opposite side creates optimal air flow, fans are not a necessity
  • Outdoors is fun when you don’t have to share your backdoors with neighbors less than twenty feet away, thus lawn furniture is a must

I know we are missing out on several other things, I watch the neighbors do “stuff” and I know we are not doing what they are doing, so I wonder what do they know that we don’t know…I guess we will find out over the next few months.

So while we learn we continue to enjoy our time here, the kids attempted to fly kites, mostly running around dragging kites, and we cooked out. Both of these things are activities we have not had an opportunity to do or see and both, especially the kids playing outside, make us smile…even if the kites crashed into trees, were drug along the ground, or in one bizarre case ended up wrapped around one child’s neck…don’t ask us how and we were watching.

Armageddon Sick Warhammer Pre-Work

Today is Saturday, I did not have to check my phone. Thus I am getting better. In fact I would like to say I refuse to acknowledge that I am indeed sick, but the body racking coughs and sinus pressure remind me by the minute that I am indeed sick. However, I refuse to lie in bed any more. Two days was more than enough for me.

The upside to this attitude, I am doing things. The downside, plenty of naps. Sick sucks.

Normally, I would be writing about the games we played, as you may have guessed sick means no games. Sorry. We are bummed too. That being said I have read the rules to Shadow War Armageddon, the successor to Necromunda.

Warhammer 40k has a problem, to much pre-work to do to play. Yes, I am aware that you can play right out of the box; just spend a few hours assembling figures, reading the rules, and play on a flat tabletop. If you have ever played Warhammer 40k then you know how boring this is and how disinterested people get; not everyone wants to play space marines or orks or chaos or whatever other race is facing off against space marines.

To get people interested and keep their interest they need to see what a game can be, that means pre-work. In our case and I will guess most gaming groups case, one person learns the rules to teach the others, assembles and paints miniatures for two sides to fight, and assembles and paints some terrain to fight over. Hopefully, and in our case it worked, everyone gets interested.

Great now everyone in interested…except…that’s right they don’t have their own pieces. If you are lucky, and we got lucky twice, people want to use the starter armies, I happen to like space marines and our boy likes orks. While everyone else is looking for their armies there is teaching them how to assemble with a minimal amount of injury and paint their armies. This is work. The job is to make it not feel like work, too many people abandon Warhammeresque games due to the work. Thankfully, I seem to hit the right mark as everyone is still working on their armies.

However, while they are assembling and painting they are not playing. What to do? Find games that allow them to use smaller groups of figures to play while they work on their armies. Kill Team was supposed to be the first attempt, but most people were still figuring out what they wanted to play.

Thankfully, at the right moment, Shadow War Armageddon came along. Using three to ten figures (on average) everyone can play a game that uses figures from their army, thus maintaining interest in 40k. Now this is where getting sick comes in, the plan was to start playing this weekend…I’m sick no games (I do not infect friends and family if I can avoid it).

So while I recuperate, they build their Shadow War Kill Teams, which they can use in their Warhammer 40k armies. Lots of pre-work, but when the work is done the fun looks and plays great.

Gaming, Painting, Grilling Oh My!

I’m waiting for a wash to dry, otherwise I would be relaxing and recharging the batteries some more. This weekend is all about relaxing, enjoying company of friends and family, and taking the time to enjoy life. Toss in learning how to use a grill and paint. 🙂

Without a doubt the biggest thing this weekend has been not writing anything at all. I’m a big fan of taking time off from writing, not weeks, just a couple of days in a row. Cease thinking about the characters and their issues and focus on me…and my issues. Biggest issue I run into is rushing a story to the “end” instead of taking the time to allow the story to grow. This is funny to me because as a GM (Gamemaster) for over 20 years rushing a story only leads to a bad game. Yet, it has only been in the last few years that I put the connection between running a game and writing a story together.

The need to slow down is one of the reasons our weekends are usually game filled, the other reason is games are fun. This weekend was less games and more prep for future games. We did play Rise of the Goblins and while we won the scenario the die rolls pointed to a disaster if we kept playing. Which is why we put Rise of the Goblins up and played a lot of Roll For It. I know, irony, the dice in one game say bad things ahead (lots of 1’s rolled) and pick up a game that is ONLY die rolling.

Yesterday, nice transition, was all about figuring out how to get a fire to do more than flare up and die out before the food was on the grill. I love our old grill, but without the ability to move the fire away from the food burning happened more often than not. The new grill gives me control, but new is also a learning experience. So far, grill 1.5 to me .5. The food was great, the process a pain in the butt.

In and around grilling, painting. There are four people assembling, painting, or pointing (scoring) Warhammer 40K armies out at anyone time. Crazy at times when all four are painting and assembling at one time. There is a certain rhythm like a well oiled machine when people can pass around paint, glue, offer advice, assist with assembling, and pass tools. When that rhythm hits, everyone can do what they want at the table without interruption. When the rhythm is off, a lot of sighing, groaning, and cursing; not at each other but miniatures that refuse to cooperate. Yes, miniatures can refuse to cooperate; glue won’t adhere, paint rubs off, or the dreaded miniature makes a break for it by breaking when it slams into the floor. Miniatures should not try to escape.

Overall, a good weekend of relaxing and doing “stuff.” Tomorrow back to writing, Puddles and Whiskers have hammered my brain all weekend, so they get to come out and play. 🙂

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.

Spelling

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.