Escape (albeit temporary) from Massachusetts 2022 – Orlando, Golf School, and Wargaming at RECON

With the unhappy demise of our beloved Caesar on New Years Day (discussed here), and Lynn having subsequently joined me in retirement, we found ourselves for the first time in many years being able to travel. We decided to drive down to the Orlando Florida area in April to visit with friends, for some recreation, to attend a Marriott golf school, and to attend the RECON HMGS South Gaming convention. It was a needed break. The garage+ project would continue while we were gone – so no need to hang around in Massachusetts – off to Florida!

We drove because frankly we prefer it. We were in no mood to deal with airlines, masking requirements, and the rest. Besides, we could more easily bring all the stuff we wanted to take that way.

The morning we left was a chilly start.

It took us three days to get down to Florida (really two and a half). It’s a roughly 1200-mile drive. We left on 4/13, and stopped south of Richmond, VA and in Savannah, GA on the way.

X5 is packed, let’s hit the road!

The ride down was mostly done on I95 (avoiding NYC metro as that’s a nightmare). However, the most surprising aspect of the drive down was the number of dangerous/reckless drivers we saw – and really seeing no traffic enforcement to speak of on the way. Even while we were in Florida (where along with the metro DC area) we saw many drivers who were totally oblivious to safe driving practices. The only times we saw any cops on the highways happened twice in Florida when they shut down I4 – both for fatal crashes. Maybe this chaos was so because it was spring break week – but for the ride back we took a longer path inland towards I81-I84 and it was far less like a post-apocalyptic Road Warrior movie or a game of GASLANDS.

Arriving at our first hotel on Friday the 15th (the Wyndham in Kissimmee), we checked in and hit the pool deck for some needed drinks and relaxation. This hotel was also the site for the HMGS South RECON Gaming convention, but that was not to happen until the following weekend. That night, we got together with the Surdu’s (Buck and Candy) for dinner with them which was great fun.

Arrival and hanging out at the pool

As for Easter weekend, we decided that Disney and Universal costs were way too expensive – and we had visited both previously. Nearby SeaWorld owns both itself in Orlando, and Busch Gardens in Tampa. They had a decently-priced deal for visiting both parks in 5 days (well better than the ridiculous fortune that the other parks were asking for). We had not been to either before, so the plan became Busch Gardens for the 16th, and SeaWorld for Monday the 18th, with Easter Sunday being a hangout day at Casa Surdu.

On Saturday the 16th, we drove to Tampa to visit Busch Gardens theme park. It has a LOT of roller coasters and is a pretty good zoo. Neither of us like roller coasters, but the experience was good. The animal exhibits were quite good. Below I have put up a few photos:

Busch Gardens map
The kangaroo pavilion – made me think of you Aussies…
The kangaroos and wallabies were cooling out – I sent this to IRO and he said it reminded him of his buddies after a good amount of beer consumption!
“Petting” a sleeping hyena
My favorite image – a Nile crocodile (not an alligator) and a very oblivious Florida egret that flew in to hang out. Apparently the croc wasn’t hungry.

We had an enjoyable day. The next day, Easter Sunday, was excellent as we got to hang out with Buck and Candy – whose hospitality was superb and thanks again you two.

On Monday the 18th we went to SeaWorld. Of course, it is known for its orcas. I have to say it was a very nice sea-themed park with fauna from all ends of the globe. Certainly they have changed practices with all of their animals since the unfortunate trainer death a decade+ ago.

This walrus was in the arctic section of the park – along with beluga whales and others from that area. This walrus really hammed it up for us at the window, blowing bubbles and cavorting.
The killer whales (orcas) were amazing to see.
Great to see these but we stayed out of the “splash zone”!
Wow!

Both Busch Gardens and SeaWorld have partnered with Sesame Street to have a kids section of their respective parks. I thought it was tastefully done.

Juvenile dolphin pool.

We also had purchased the “all-day dining” package – which was really not all it sounded like. It did not cover beer, and any food purchased under the plan started a 90-minute clock that prevented any other freebies until that 90 minutes was up. Also, most of the special kiosk foods were not covered (like the pretzel one below). Otherwise, we enjoyed the park – which also is loaded with roller coasters that we didn’t ride. The exhibits were really cool, as were the special show-type ones such as for the seals and the orcas.

Time for a beer (not free under the dining plan), a pretzel (also not free), and a selfie with Lynn.
Met a new friend – but he only cared for cookies…would not share as they were not under the plan either…

Now both at Busch Gardens and at SeaWorld there were some promotional displays. This one also made me think of our favorite Aussie gardener/landscaper IRO. And no I did not spend my entire vacation thinking of him – just being reminded of him was enough!

Does IRO mow with Bad Boys?

That night we left the Wyndham for the Marriott Golf Resort/School for two days of relative luxury and golf school for us both. Lynn picked up a lot, and I used the opportunity to rework my swing (which is now coming around as I write this in early June as expected two months later). Lynn and I have been playing golf more and it’s nice to have the chance to play together. She’ll never be a die-hard like me, but we’re having fun. The Marriott resort there is really nice too.

At the Marriott Golf School.

After two days (the evening of the 18th-20th) at the Marriott, it was back to staying at the previous Wyndham where HMGS South was having their RECON gaming convention. Lynn was indeed missing the Marriott…so I plied her with a blue drink…

I think she misses the Marriott…

Still we managed to have fun on the 18th – the Wyndham had an interactive game of dodgeball with zombies on a projection screen. Apparently the blue drink does not help accuracy with dodgeball against the undead.

Yes, zombie dodgeball!

Still we were having a good time.

Hey that’s my hat!

The next day (April 21st), I had the privilege of gaming with with Buck back at his amazing gaming room (which you can see below). As a bonus, my old West Point roommate Dave Wood and Buck’s buddy JJ were there. We were also joined via Zoom for this gaming session with Greg Priebe and Chris Palmer of the Maryland-based HAWKS gaming club. While Candy took our spouses out, we wargamers playtested a massive Napoleonic game using a derivative of Buck’s Wars of Ozz rules. It is in development and will be called Wars of Eagles and Empires.

Wars of Eagles and Empires game
This game was a lot of fun, and despite its size, it only took about three and a half hours – not bad for a playtest.

Then we moved on to run a final test of Dave’s RECON WOOD (Wars of Orcs and Dwarves) game. This also uses Buck’s Wars of Ozz-type mechanics, but with changes for fantasy gaming. It is close to publication. Here are some images – we would also play this game at RECON after any modifications.

The pig-faced orcs defend a bridge and river against the halfling onslaught.
Halfling cavalry on goats and giant roosters attack.

The next day (22nd) was our day 1 of RECON. We reran the Hobbits raid on the Orc village scenario at the convention and it was a hoot.

Hobbits on purple pachyderms force a bridge crossing!
The mighty GM (Buck) surveys the carnage.

I want to give EXTRA credit to Lynn as she agreed to game the whole day with me. During a lull in the game, I asked her with iPhone in hand if she was enjoying herself…

Having fun dear?

Seriously, she was a good sport but one day of gaming a year is the best I can expect!

We then played in a Combat Patrol™ game involving Star Wars figures that was fun.

Dave and Buck GM’ing the Star Wars game.
Buck had a nice tabletop here.
All had fun – though I think my side (clones) lost against the droids.

The last game Friday was a 7ITV game that Lyn and I played. There were three side-by-side games – and Lynn and I played the Scooby-Doo scenario.

Lynn and I play the Scooby-Doo scenario. Hey, she’s smiling! Next to her is JJ playing against Buck in a Jonny Quest scenario.
Here you can see the three scenarios – some other sci-fi scenario is on the end. Buck is looking distracted. I think the GM had a wonderful set of terrain but the games dragged as we took a while to grasp the mechanics. Also, I found it tough to get his attention with three games running simultaneously – so not as fun as I expected. But Lynn had served her gaming sentence and was free to hang out with Candy at a blueberry fest on Saturday while the con went on.

Saturday morning Buck ran a Philippines 1941 Combat Patrol™ scenario that I helped him as an assistant GM. I truly enjoyed this!

Buck surveys the tabletop in his happy shirt.
The Japanese players move up their Ha-Go tanks towards the bridge. Neither the tanks nor the the bridge would survive long as the Americans reacted.

The next game was my favorite – a massive Wars of Ozz game where I commanded a brigade of Winkie zilk-riding cavalry (think giant birds of prey). I maneuvered the brigade to assault the Quadlings and Munchkins opposing me.

My Winkie cavalry forms up.
The tabletop – my cavalry is in the foreground.
My Winkie cavalry moving into action!

The game was an overwhelming Winkie and Gillikin (my allies) victory.

Lastly, Buck, JJ, and I (Dave left Friday) played a neat Spanish-American scenario for Blood & Steel. The GM did an excellent job – and the game came down to a final roll of the dice, which went for Buck and JJ, but it was a lot of fun to play them. The scenario was a very fun skirmish game. (no pics sorry).

After this, we said goodbye and I headed back to my room where Lynn and I packed up for the return trip to Massachusetts.

I have to say it was a great trip – and one I will always remember. Big thanks to Buck and Candy!!!! Dave and JJ too!!

Next up – how I built a Conquistador fleet for the Battle of Lake Texcoco for HUZZAH 2022 (in between taking this trip and HAVOC 2022)!

Catching up!

Yes, I am alive…at least I think I am, which counts for something I guess…

Apologies for not being as active – or more precisely not being a contributor at all – on the blogosphere since March. I HAVE been reading the blogs I follow but have not commented or hit “like” or anything of the sort. Why you may ask, have I been seemingly dormant?

The truth is I have been busier than a 1-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!

One would think that retirement would have slowed me down. It has had exactly the opposite effect.

I have – since my last post in March:

  • Ran two Mass Pikemen Gaming Club gaming sessions (one What a Tanker and one Feudal Patrol with my Spanish Conquest rules supplement Civilizations Collide).
  • Prepared for and ran 4 four-hour tabletop Feudal Patrol™ games at a three day gaming convention (HAVOC) in Massachusetts.
  • Drove 1200 miles to Florida and 1200 back over two weeks for another gaming convention (HMGS South’s RECON where I gamed for three days), two days of golf school, and a lot of leisure activities and travel with my wife.
  • Built a completely new MASSIVE naval game for Feudal Patrol™ – Aztecs vs. Conquistadores on Lake Texcoco – which required me to build 5 brigantines and 5 guns and 5 three-man crews – let alone the game rules, markers, dashboards, etc. I just finished it in time and debuted it at HUZZAH convention in Maine in April (150 miles away).
  • Went to the aforementioned HUZZAH and ran 6 four-hour games in 4 days
  • Continued on the garage never-ending but close to ending now project…now the driveway is completely paved, and the final pieces and landscaping are happening as I write.
  • Started golf season – started off really frigging cold but warming up now. Hey, I’m in Massachusetts after all.
  • Ran for reelection for Board of Health in my town. I was unopposed but got 82/99 votes (only a 6% turnout for a municipal election).
  • Played in 8 golf events and two weekly golf leagues as well as participating on a committee for three other tournaments. Plus trying to groove a new swing.
  • Also in March we had a funeral for my brother in law – he had been sick for a while so not a surprise.
  • Been driving my granddaughter to and from school 3 days a week.
  • I guess I had a blog birthday (my 7th) back in March – missed that too!

Yeah, I’ve been idle and lazy…

Awaiting school drop off with 5 year old Tabitha – and yes those are golf clubs and shoes in the back of my car!
When Tabitha (on right) sees her friend Alina – they go hand-in-hand to school. Awwww…

So where do I go from here?

  • Basically I am going to restart and regularly read more of the blogs I follow.
  • I am also going to post about all of the above-mentioned conventions. I have run a dozen convention or club games this year as a GM so far, and played in nearly as many others too. I’ll share some info and pics about epic games I ran (IMO – hint – some of my games I ran were award-winning) or played in. These were at RECON, HAVOC, HUZZAH, and the Mass Pikemen that I think you will enjoy.
  • I’ll post about the building of my Conquistador brigantine fleet and their falconet & lombard crews.
  • Going to throw in some vacation and golf stuff as well – after all this blog IS titled “Life, Golf, Miniatures, & Other Distractions“.

Again, glad to be back and hopefully I won’t overwhelm you with new posts – and to those of you who inquired about me, thanks for caring and checking in. Thanks for missing me!

Let the blogging begin!

My 2021 Hobby, Gaming, and Blogging Roundup

2021 was another one that we all want to forget in many ways, but not all.

I set out some goals for myself back last December for 2022. Some were around gaming, some around hobby production, some were around golf, and more. Back when I was working in “the dreaded private sector”, I had sales goals to hit every period – be it yearly, quarterly, thrice annually, or whatever. Every manager would ask you for “stretch goals” – which was pretty unnecessary as the sales quotas you were given from corporate were never layups anyways. Still, it’s always good to have a plan and try your best. It’s also good to be honest with yourself and be accountable to yourself. Hopefully, that’s what I did with regards to my goals in 2021.

How did I do versus my 2020 goals?

Paint 250 figures or more

That did not happen, though my production was pretty good at 104. For three months I did not do any painting (August-October) as I was pretty involved with the new garage+ project.

Not even all of them now…

Complete the figures and terrain for Civilizations Collide

I have to give myself full credit here – the building of the Aztec cityscape was an epic project. However, I still am finding that I have more to do as I develop scenarios for my Spanish Conquest scenarios booklet – so yes I built what I planned – I just have more to do to flesh out the other scenarios with terrain and figures.

Historicon 2022

Complete my figures for Wars of Ozz, ok at least 40 of them

Big miss here – did not get to them. I did get to play a game at Christoricon though – commanding the Greater and Lesser Pumpkinheads.

I gotta paint mine (these are not).

Paint up a platoon from Wargames Supply Dump for Combat Patrol™.

Big miss here – did not get to them either.

Attend and run games at conventions or club nights or both, if possible – to include Combat Patrol™ retro sci-fi games, What a Tanker©  Battle of France May-June 1940, and Aztec games (live or virtually) for Feudal PatrolTM using my “Civilizations Collide” supplement

No retro sci-fi games or WaT games this year – but I did run multiple games of for Feudal PatrolTM using my “Civilizations Collide” supplement, to include at Historicon.

Christoricon

Get my golf handicap down below 15

HA! I have hovered around 20-21 all year. I did get new clubs this year, and I won my flight in the Club Championship (and as a caveat it was the D Flight, but I am proud of that).

I did get a trophy…

Play golf (in season) at least twice a week

I did do this!

The new G425 toys! I also got G710 irons.

Make between 30 and 36 blog posts of value and quality

As far as quality, I would judge them as up to standard (but that is the reader’s judgement, no?). Quantity-wise, I did 54, so that’s a “check”.

Get back on the Imperial Rebel Ork podcast

Well IRO euthanized his podcast earlier this year, so that wasn’t possible. Understandably, the man had a cabin to build!

Build a new garage

As most of you know, that is on-going, so not yet done.

Through early December

Personal Highs for 2021

  1. Continuing to serve my Town (East Brookfield, MA) as the elected Board of Health Chairman during the pandemic. Specifically, getting over 500 seniors vaccinated (1/3 from neighboring towns even), and getting nearly 100% of the 56+ residents vaccinations.
  2. Completing the Aztec cityscape and bringing it to the gaming at Historicon – and playing with Harry (borderguy190 at War Across the Ages and Other Dark Horrors).
  3. Getting together with Dave Wood, Buck Surdu, Greg Priebe, Chris Palmer, and Duncan Adams in person and on Zoom games. Even had The Imperfect Modeller on one game as an observer (which was cool).
  4. Winning my flight in the club championship at Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club in Oakham, MA.
  5. Having fun Zoom chats with Luke (IRO), Dave (The Imperfect Modeller), Dave (Wargames Terrain Workshop), Mike (despertaferres), and Pete (S/P Project Blog).
  6. Getting the garage started and mostly done.
  7. Getting together with family especially my daughter Ellen and my granddaughter Tabitha.
  8. My wife Lynn, every day (seriously).

Personal Lows for 2021

  1. One that comes to mind I’ll save for next year as it was 2022. Still a fresh wound.
  2. That pandemic thingy from China, ’nuff said.

My goals for 2022

Well, its time to set my goals for 2022.

  1. Paint 150 figures or more.
  2. Complete the remaining conquistador figures for Civilizations Collide.
  3. Complete the remaining terrain for Civilizations Collide, to include the brigantines.
  4. Complete the remaining Maya figures for Civilizations Collide.
  5. Complete the scenario booklet for Civilizations Collide.
  6. Complete my figures for Wars of Ozz, ok at least 40 of them.
  7. Paint up a platoon from Wargames Supply Dump for Combat Patrol™ .
  8. Try to get my Nomonhan WaT project off the ground.
  9. Attend and run games at conventions or club nights or both, if possible. This would include TotalCon34, HMGS South Recon, HAVOC, HUZZAH!, Historicon, and BARRAGE .
  10. Get the Mass Pikemen more active once the pandemic diminishes.
  11. Celebrate my wife’s retirement (and mine belatedly) with a nice trip.
  12. Finish the garage+ and launch that baby successfully.
  13. Post on the blog 48 times or more – and in good quality.
  14. Be a good blog follower.
  15. Have multiple Zoom chats with fellow hobbyists.
  16. Go to a golf school and get my golf handicap down below 18.
  17. Play golf (in season) at least twice a week.
  18. Win my flight in the Championship.
  19. Be a competitive golfer.

Again, thanks to all who make the time to read this blog – Happy New Year!

Lastly, here follows a detailed list of the 2021 production. You can access more details here.

2021 Production
  • 104 figures painted
  • 0 figures cast
  • 25 figures assembled
  • 144 terrain pieces made or assembled
  • 145 terrain pieces painted
  • 1 figure or terrain piece conversions
  • 1 creation or component sculpted or scratch-built
  • 0 molds made
  • 1,051 game pieces/game aids made and/or painted

Our Garage+ Project – Week 10 and 11 Update

The project continues! Although I was so late with Week 10 that I decided to combine weeks 10 and 11. As you will see from this post – a lot went on from September 19-October 2, 2021. Some of it involved construction, some not – as you will see. I’ll do my level best to make this interesting by including not only some construction photos, some other stuff, to include golf and a bit of hobbies!

There are a lot of pictures here – click on any of them for a bigger view.

Let’s start with electrical work and some progress around the cellar. Wait, the cellar? Why there? Aren’t you building a new garage and house deck Mark? All valid questions that I am presupposing that you may be asking! So let me attempt clarification.

To power the new building, I needed to get the service upgraded from 100 amps to 200 amps. Our electrical service meter and box was in the back of the house over the old (now removed) house deck. Previously, electrical power came from the National Grid pole out front on the street to the house then went along the soffit and into the cellar at the back right-hand corner of the house if you will. The plan was to make this bigger and better by moving the meter and building a new box for it at the front left corner of the house. A new hole had to be drilled for the new power cable, and that needed to be run to a new replacement distribution box in the basement. This work occurred on September 21st.

Here you see he old distribution box mounted on whatever lumber the previous homeowner had available – back in the 50’s? 60’s? – to include a piece of trim! We had a series of shelves built by the previous owner long ago (probably 40+ years) along this wall. We had put an old bureau (left over from my childhood actually) under the shelf planking that was attached to the monstrosity that the distribution box was mounted on. The dryer vent snakes up to the wall as you see.
Here you see the electricians (Mike and Paul) trying to determine the sill height to drill for the power cable by using the window as a reference for outside. The actual hole would be far to the left. The other end of the old shelving/cabinet that I referred to above is seen here on the wall under the cassette cases (future yard sale items).

Drilling through the old sill was a bitch. The sill was quite thick – 13″ – and made of solid oak. The hole drilling destroyed two hole saw bits.

The view through the sill access hole from inside. This was 13″ of solid oak. Mike Astrella (electrician) can be seen here peering through the other side.

Outside, work went on the new meter box and running the cable and hooking it up to the power grid.

Completed. The box on the left is an old Verizon landline box (now removed) and the one on the right is our Spectrum cable line.

Back in the cellar, the old distribution box mounting monstrosity was removed and a new sheet of plywood and some lumber from the garage build was used to build a suitable mount. The new configuration is bigger and we will need to move the dryer to the wall to the left of the distribution box so that the vent hose is not right next to it. But, as we were using the old the shelves I never got around to paint it as you can see – and it looked like hell.

Also, I need to back up a bit. It had been necessary for me to clear a lane along the wall for the electricians to run the power cable prior to their starting work. After I did that, I got a good chance to look at the wall and the crappy homemade shelving/cabinet. I noticed a lot of old paint flaking on the wall near the dryer vent and some puckering where I had painted the corner in the front left of the house. The puckering was due to efflorescence, not water leaking, even with the excessive rain we have had this summer. An old dry well that I had built over a decade ago in the front left corner of the house was no longer doing its job, so the rain water outside the basement wall was not properly draining – leading to the efflorescence bubbling up behind the paint. We decided that the shelving cabinet needed to go and the wall repainted.

Before I did that, I rebuilt the drywell. When I originally built it, I had dug down about 3 feet and hit sand, so I had then assumed that the soil was free-draining. When I dug this time, I went a bit deeper, and to my surprise I found that there was yet another soil layer under the sand. This one was a loamy clay – that does not drain well. So, I dug down another 3 feet and backfilled it all with sand from the excavations in the backyard. I replaced the downspout extensions and doubled the length. The we covered the area with a filter fabric and then covered that with river stones.

I then spent the time to take down the shelving/cabinet with my wife. She was able to recycle the doors as shelving in another section of the cellar. I scraped off any flaking paint and exposing any efflorescence. Then, I used a mildly acidic product, Drylok Etch, across the wall to clean and prep for painting with bright white Drylok Extreme (both from Home Depot). This took a while, but came out well. We are taking the opportunity to clear out some stuff and have a yard sale this weekend to get some new homes for some good stuff we don’t need anymore. Plus, I can’t do any hobbies as you can see below!

Back in the garage, the septic line was stubbed up in the floor with a cleanout.

A very exciting septic line beginning…

On the 24th, it was time to place the concrete floor in the garage. I say “place” and not “pour” because that was drilled into me in the US Army Corps of Engineers as the appropriate terminology – and that stuck.

The concrete truck arrives and begins to discharge its load…but there’s a problem…
…the concrete truck chute cannot extend far enough into the garage.

This was no problem as this plywood will be removed eventually when the door is installed.

Because of the many rain days, Andy Cormier arranged to get help to finish off the septic line installation.

Having the septic line in the ground and attached to the septic tank allowed for its backfilling as well as work to proceed on the driveway excavation.

On Monday, September 27th, Lynn and I participated in the annual West Point Society of New England’s annual charity golf tournament, along with our friends, Lisa and Jim Kularski. This year, the beneficiary was Homes for our Troops. It was a nice break while construction work continued.

When we returned home, there was a lot of dirt moved around. It turned out that the soil under the driveway had the same layering issue that I found in my dry well excavation – so a lot had to go, and be replaced with clean fill.

Excavation showing the soil cross section
Better view of the soil layers.

Of course, Tuesday the 28th brought yet more downpouring rain. Therefore, earthwork and any other work could not happen. We only got a delivery of deck material for the house deck.

Deck lumber delivery.

On Wednesday the 29th, the skies cleared and work could proceed. The driveway was excavated and brought to grade. Old asphalt, and interfering roots and stumps (including a 4-5 ton maple tree stump) were removed in this process.

At the end of the day, the driveway was filled, and all the holes were filled in.

Driveway base in.
Top view.
No more stump.

The next work skipped a day (rain), and that involved the framing of the replacement house deck. This was October 1st. Jonny also got ready to install the rain gutter system for the garage deck.

Deck framing on October 1st.

To make up lost time to rain, work continued on the deck on Saturday the 2nd. This weekend I had not one but two competitive golf tournaments. The first was on Saturday which was the Finals of the Tour of the Brookfields. If you are on Facebook, the group link is here. I am a member of the committee. My team was in the lowest division, but we did not come in the top three. Still, congrats to the winners!

Better luck next year.

After the tournament, I returned to see progress on the house deck.

Saturday progress
Different angle view.

So, a lot of progress was made over the two weeks!

(Lastly, I previously mentioned a couple things that I need to circle back to – the first being the Sunday Founder’s tournament at Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club (where I am a member). This was an individual event and I played better, but not well enough to be the winner (only one male and one female winner out of dozens of players so no big deal). However, back during the annual club championship (a two-day 36-hole tournament of individual medal play from the back tees) on July 31-August 1st – I was able to play my best golf of the year (98/88 for a net 2 over par for the event) and win the D flight against 11 others. So Sunday, I got my reward.

In my office!

What you see here left to right is a comic statue that belonged to my grandfather Marcus (a WWII vet who gave me a love of golf), my unlucky conquistador “Franco”, my trophy, and as it’s October, my Halloween mini-diorama with Ral Partha 25mm figures of classic monsters from the 30’s Universal Studios movies.

Ah, but I digress – week 12 is well underway and I will have much more to share. I hope that you enjoyed this and thanks for looking!

An Eagle Has Landed…On My Scorecard!!

Well, yes – a golf post for a change  (this blog is titled Life, Golf, Miniatures & Other Distractions after all)!

Please note that normally I would not just post a mundane golf story about myself.  So, apologies in advance if I seem to be a bit self-focused here.  I would not want to be too narcissistic, but some background for the reader may help.

I have been playing golf, mostly as a hacker, since I was 12.   My late grandfather (who drove an M24 tank in WWII and was a hero of mine) got me started.  He was absolutely terrible – he would be lucky to break 110 or even 120 for 18 holes.  He did imbue me with a love of the greatest game – and I carry that with me to this day.  I still have golf balls of his that I carry in my bag to honor his gift to me.

In the Army, I played when I could, and even joined clubs at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, at Ft. Belvoir, VA, and even the Canadian Forces course at Lahr in Germany.  That Canadian course was fun as for one you had CF-18 fighters zooming overhead (quite low) and secondly it was the only place to be able to get Canadian beer like Labatts (the Germans would not allow it to be sold and the US had only American and German beer for sale at the Class VI store).  I left the Army in 1992, and I did not play very often until 1998.

At that point I had moved to East Brookfield, MA, and was happy to discover that there was a golf course 0.3 miles away!  The first tee was closer to my house than it was to the first green!  That was Bay Path Golf Course – and I was a member there for 21 years.  I was playing nearly 70 rounds a year (mostly at Bay Path), which is a lot when you consider that our Massachusetts weather is only good for golf from April to October for the most part.  I kept a spreadsheet of all my scores, just to track progress and focus on improving. One goal eluded me, that being getting an eagle.

For those of you non-golfers, an eagle (not to be confused with my Eagle Warriors) is a score that is two shots under par.  On a par three, it would be a hole-in-one.  On a par 4, it would be a 2, etc.  At Bay Path, it became a running joke that I had not gotten an eagle, even just from luck.  I came close several times, only to be denied.  I even hosted a pool for charity where members could bet whether I would get an eagle that year or not.  Most all bet “not” by the way.  Last year, Bay Path closed (sadly), forcing me to join a new club, Quail Hollow in Oakham, MA. It’s about a 15 minute drive from home.  It’s a nice club, but a much more difficult course than Bay Path.

According to my spreadsheet, by last Tuesday, June 9th, 2020, I had taken 115,136 plus strokes since 1999 with never an eagle.  That equates to 1,293 rounds – not including any scrambles by the way,  So effectively, that’s about 5,172 hours of golf – or 215.5 days of golf!  Many birdies, but no eagles!

stats (2)
Data as of the morning of 6/9/2020

Even more sadly, play was delayed here because of COVID-19.  So while normally I would try to play in March or April, I did not get to play or even practice until late May.  My game does not rely on any real talent – it’s based on hard work and practice.  I also track my golf progress here for myself on the blog (see the main menu as well).  So I had little expectations about early play and knocking off any rust.

There is a group that plays on Tuesdays at Quail that I joined up with called “Pit’s Crew” after the guy that runs it, Pit Caron.  We play a 4-man scramble.  On June 9th, we approached the 3rd hole, a par-4, 249 yard hole.  I was the “B” player, and drove my ball right next to the green on the left fringe – maybe three feet off of it.  For me this was a very good result as the fairway is quite narrow and the green is guarded by a deep bunker in the front.  I then used my 56 degree wedge and chipped my second shot – it went up, up – it rolled – and plunk, it dropped in nicely!

EAGLE!!!!!

I was happy that one of my teammates was a fellow former Bay Path golfer, Jim Kularski, who was our “A” man.  It was gratifying that he got to see me accomplish something that he knew well that I had been trying to get for so very long.  I also had on lucky golf gear from my West Point reunion last year.  While it was a scramble, I played the same ball (a found Titleist Pro-V1 that I was using so as not to lose one of my preferred Titleist ProV1X’s), from the same position, so I am counting the eagle as having been my first.  After all, at this pace, my next one will be in 2060 when I am 98…

Oh yeah, we also came in first place out of 18 teams.

So here’s some pics (thanks to Jim Kularski for the pictures – again, more to commemorate than to brag – but like I always say – it ain’t braggin’ if ya do it!

1 Eagle in!
IT’S IN THE HOLE FOR AN EAGLE 2!  (note the mask too!)  I am holding my putter along with my wedge – no need for the putter on that hole that day!

2 Get the Eagle ball!
Get that ball for safekeeping!

3 Get the Eagle ball!
I was sooooo happy to pull this ball from the hole!  And nice Army hat huh?

4 it's a 2!
It’s a two!

5 HAPPY!
Unfortunately I could NOT stop smiling for days!

Thanks for indulging me by looking!

Retro Sci-Fi Sphere Tanks – from a Callaway Golf Ball!

I am happy to begin the 2017 blogging season with a very complicated project.  While I began work on this project in December, I had been thinking about it since last May.

So what happened in May 2016?  I was traveling for work, and sat down in a Cracker Barrel in Connecticut for breakfast (Uncle Herschel’s with a sweet tea of course).  For those of you who have never been to a Cracker Barrel, there are always old photos and curios all over the walls.  I looked to my left, and saw this on the wall:

1-popular-science-cover-july-1936-by-edgar-franklin
What started this journey

I was amazed at this and wanted to dig in more and learn the date of this issue of Popular Science magazine and see what the article said.  The article was just a paragraph with another picture – here is the link and a shot of the July 1936 article on page 37.

1a-popular-science-article-july-1936
The page 37 article

The concept of the “tumbleweed tank” tank was one of two outer shell halves rotating independently on rollers over a solid stationary sphere.  More or less, the outer halves acted as the vehicle’s treads.  I do not believe that anyone ever tried to build this as a combat vehicle, but I still found the concept fascinating and worthy of a project.

During the intervening months, I conceived of an idea that I could make a model of the tank, build a mold,  and cast it for tabletop wargaming.  As I have been building units of Star Rovers figures for sci-fi Combat Patrol™, my first thought was to make a retro-sci-fi tank, probably for the Frinx.  I was not enthusiastic about the weapons design as shown in the magazine – machine guns alone would make this a very boring retro sci-fi tank.  I also considered making it modular – so that I could adapt different weapons for it.

While thinking about it, I wanted to have a great sphere – and my sculpting experience is at best weak to nonexistent.  I have seen a few blogs that I follow where folks are sculpting their own figures, and that helped to inspire me.  As I also cast – this was a chance to go from beginning to end with the project.  But what to use?

The answer came easily to me as a golfer – a golf ball!  That would be an easy thing to work with and would afford me a chance to see what works.  I had an idea that I wanted it to be armed with ray guns in the side sponsons.  I had not decided on the main weapon, when I had a brainstorm – 1953’s War of the Worlds Martian Heat Rays!

3-movie-poster-46e79e5484b555331466b0e71f4029aa
1953 movie poster

4-war-of-the-worlds-1953-martians-attack-humans
The Martian ship

So with this plan, I went forward to try to create my new Mark 1’s (what else to call them!).  I thought that I could learn from the project (and I have).  I used a “Line ’em Up” golf accessory to create lines on a used Callaway golf ball, and drilled a ½” hole in the side of the ball on two sides.  I like the Callaway for this as it has hexagonal dimples.

 

 

5-first-cut-on-ball
First drill hole into the Callaway

 

After this, I used a Plastruct 2mm x 4.8mm styrene strip to size up the gap between the ball halves.  I used my Dremel to cut the outer surface of the ball – it ended up being messy and needed a lot of Exacto knife work.  The Dremel cutting blade tends to melt the outer ball cover – another lesson learned

 

6-ball-ring
After cutting the chassis ridge with my Dremel

 

I then needed to create the tread ridges.  I used an Exacto knife to carve small channels along the lines for the treads.  This took a lot of cutting!  Using some old plastic membership cards, I cut out each tread, sized them to the holes, and glued them in with super glue.

 

7-ball-ring-treads
Tread ridges cut from plastic membership cards

 

I then drilled a ¼” hole for the attachment of a main weapon –  which I would cast separately with the sponsons in a single mold.  To build a base for the model, I used three 1¼” washers, and glued them together with wood glue.  I then covered them with Apoxie Sculpt, leaving a hole to mount the ball to the base with a wood screw through the washer.  This ended up being a base that I feel in the end was a little too tall, but usable, and castable.

 

8-ball-ring-treads-installed
A Callaway golf ball converted into the tank chassis 

 

I originally was going to use Milliput or Apoxie Sculpt for the sponsons – when I discovered these ½” Button Plugs from Lara’s Crafts – which were the right shape and fit perfectly into the holes on the sides (got lucky here).  I bought a set of Niji woodcarving knives (which I wish I had when I was carving the treads and the middle gap!) and used them to make the sponson shells.  After trial and error (where I learned the hard way that I needed to wear a cutting glove with these very sharp knives), I carved two sponsons and sanded down the middle slots.

 

10-sponson-start
Making the button plugs into sponsons

 

I initially thought that I needed to smooth out the golf ball dimples and the tread cuts, so I first tried with Apoxie Sculpt, with poor results.  My next attempt was with Citadel “Liquid Green Stuff”, which was better, but I think was an unneeded step.

 

11-sponson-fitting
The master figure and sponsons mid-project

 

I drilled a 1/8″ hole in the sponson shell, and mounted a short piece of Evergreen Scale Models strip styrene 1/8″ tube.  For the ray guns, I turned to the use of model airplane parts.  I used two Dubro products – a 2mm socket head cap screw with three 2 mm flat washers superglued to it.  To line up the washers evenly, I found that using toothpicks on both sides and underneath to define the gaps and make the washers relatively parallel worked well.   I inserted the guns into the ends of the styrene, after coring out the ends of the styrene rods for a better fit.  Eventually, I primed the sponsons black with Citadel “Imperium Primer”, as I wanted there to be less tackiness to the Quick-Sil from the wood.

 

12-sponson-with-ray-gun
Nice view of the ray guns in the sponsons

 

 

13-sponsons-with-ray-gun
Another view of the ray gun sponson

 

I then moved onto the main weapon, the heat ray.  In the 1953 movie, the heat ray was rectangular, leading to the distinctive head.  I eyeballed the length, and designed the head.  I sculpted it in two stages, with the “eye” section being attached to the neck, which itself was on the Plastruct strip styrene.

 

15-main-gun-sketches
Designing the heat ray – this worked!

 

 

17-main-gun-phase-1
Initial heat ray sculpt on styrene strip

 

I cut the styrene strip to size, and used more Apoxie Sculpt to make a mount that would fit into the main weapon recess.  After it hardened, I saw that I would have to bend it in my mold, or otherwise I would have a very turtle-like appearance.  As the styrene is flexible, this was not a problem.  I made two two-piece molds with Castaldo Quick-Sil – one for the chassis and one for the weapons.  I also tried some new innovations with venting with the use of some more model airplane parts – in this case flexible fuel lines that I cut for venting.  As you can see below, I bent the heat ray in the mold to my desired shape.

 

19-first-mold-half-weapons-mold-mark-1
Weapons mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

20-first-mold-half-weapons-mold-mark-1
After first half molded

 

 

18-first-mold-half-chassis-mark-1
Chassis mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

19-first-mold-half-chassis-mark-1
Chassis mold after first half molded

 

In the end, the mold for the weapons worked very well, needing little work on the finished weapons.  However, the chassis mold had a few issues.  First, I knew as a golfer that golf balls compress when struck.  What I did not realize was that there would be a strong interaction of the flattish sponson holes and the pressure exerted by the curing Quick-Sil on them at 90° angles.  As a result, the cast ball would be visibly compressed somewhat.  Additionally, the flow was not perfect – leading to my needing to add Apoxie Sculpt to the finished models’ chassis.  Lastly, because the mold for the chassis was thick, and the casting was large, it took a long time to cool, and used a lot of metal (see phots for weight below in the blog).  Unfortunately I discovered this when I opened the mold once and the metal flowed out!  I will incorporate these lessons learned into the Mark 2’s.

 

22-completed-mold-halves-mark-1
The master and the molds

 

 

23-mark-1-chassis-cast-and-master
Shrinkage!  Was he in the pool? (Apologies to George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld)

I managed to successfully cast two chassis, and decided to use the master as well as I already had the mold.  So I cast three sets of weapons, and assembled three tanks in total.  I used some Apoxie Sculpt to fill in the gaps in the back where flow was less than ideal -and this worked fine.  Next, I mounted the assembled tanks to a 1 5/8″ steel washer for magnetic storage in my gaming boxes.

 

 

25-mark-1-tanks-before-priming-front
Assembled tanks

I then primed the tanks with  Citadel “Imperium Primer” – I must say I like this as a brush primer – it’s a nice product.

 

 

26-mark-1-tanks-after-priming-front
Primed tanks

 

After priming, I moved on to painting them.  Painting these proved to be challenging, especially the fully-cast models, due to the weight of the models.  The metal ones weighed about 14 ounces, while the master weighed in at 4 ounces!

I used Citadel “XV-88” on the base and the chassis gaps.  For the chassis and the heat ray, I based with Tamiya “Gun Metal”.  I used several light coats and had a shiny finish to deal with – but a smooth one.  The trick with Tamiya is a wet brush and a lot of shaking and shaking again.  I then used another Tamiya metallic, “Chrome Silver” to paint the sponsons, the tread ridges, and the business end of the heat rays.  I painted the tips pf the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray with “XV-88” and Citadel “Gehenna’s Gold” in anticipation of future colors.  The base I gave an application of Americana “Ebony”.

 

27-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating
After base coat

 

I then used my new Citadel Technical paints.  Remember that the Martian craft had orbs that were glowing green.  To recreate that feel, I applied two coats of Citadel “Waystone Green”  to the sponson tops and bottoms, the tread ridges, the chassis gaps, and the main portion of the heat ray.  I also painted the first and last rings of the ray guns with this technical paint.   I wanted the slot of the sponson to be a bit darker – and Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash” helped me to achieve that look.  For the tips of the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray, Citadel “Spiritstone Red” gave a nice focal character to the weapons.

 

28-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating-and-mid-highlighting
After highlights

 

To accent the green, I shaded areas around the “Waystone Green” with Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSSY”.  As I was going to dull down the overall shiny paint job, I thought this would work better – and I think it did.  I drybrushed the bases with Citadel “Mechanicus Standard Gray”, and then applied a light flocking with Army Painter “Ash Grey” on the washer alone.

 

29-mark-1-tanks-before-varnish
Ready for varnish!

 

I was now ready to varnish, and for the first time I used Army Painter’s “Anti-Shine” matte varnish.  This is an aqueous varnish.  I liked it, and am excited as varnishing in New England in the winter is always a logistical challenge.  I uses 2 parts varnish to 1 part water, and applied with a fan brush lightly.  It came out nice and smooth.  After it dried, I sprayed the models with Testors “Dullcoat” is my cellar bulkhead after I got it warm enough.  This enabled venting of the fumes outside after I was done and kept my wife from killing me when she got home!

To finish the models, I needed to deal with the elevated bases.  Using a lot of Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” applied with white glue, I was able to create an image of the tanks plowing through grass.  They are heavy though, but sturdy.

 

30-mark-1-tanks-weight-cast
This is a heavy model!!!  In English and metric units!

 

 

31-mark-1-tanks-weight-master
The master weighs a lot less!

 

Here are some close up photos of the final product.

32-mark-1-tanks-completed-front-view

 

33-mark-1-tank-completed-front-closeup
Run!

 

 

34-mark-1-tanks-completed-side-view
Convoy!

 

 

35-mark-1-tanks-completed-angle-view
Nice group shot

 

I am very happy with how these came out.  If I get enough interest, I may offer some for sale as kits.  Certainly, these are my first real creations from conception to creating to molding to casting to painting.  I learned a lot, and I am sure that my next iterations will be better.

They will be an  excellent part of my Frinx forces for Combat Patrol™!

 

36-mark-1-tanks-completed-with-aphids
A bad day for these Aphids!!!

 

 

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