Friday, July 27, 2007

US Paratroopers Army Update -7: Scrubbed Down and Stacked Up

This wasn’t a particularly glamorous phase of the army, but it was a critical one – cleaning all the castings. I’d decided to do this project in a very orderly, assembly-line sort of a way, which meant that I wouldn’t move on to the next step until everything was finished in a current step, with some limited exceptions. I got as much painting done on my New Zealand army as I could while I waited for the paratrooper miniatures to arrive, and once they were all in hand, I set in to clean them up.

Miniatures are dirty. Flash, mild lines, casting problems… to say nothing of resin. I spent a hugh amount of time just cleaning and organizing all the castings. All flash and mold likes of any kind were removed, and the base tabs on the infantry figures were given a quick filing down. Nothing drastic, not enough to hide the base tab or anything, just smoothing it over so the guy would stand up. Anything made of resin got special attention. They got the same clean-up as every thing else, but special attention was paid to the bottom of anything with a cast resin base. Using a steel file, I sanded down the bottoms until they were smooth, then sanded the edges and blended it all together. Is this necessary? Not really, but it sure feels nice in the fingers when the bottoms are smooth. Given that I planned to do a good bit of writing on the bottom of the bases, it would actually turn out to be a requirement, but at this stage it was just a cosmetic decision. After all the sanding, all the resin pieces were washed with soapy water.
It had been my intention all along to mix up the various packs of miniatures as much as possible – gun crews mixed into rifle platoons, rifle platoon figures mixed in with the mortars, etc. The only way I could see to do that and keep everything straight was with a two-stage organization system. I use matching plastic cases for bits storage – I keep one for each army I run, so that I don’t have to pick through teller mines and bazookas to find a PIAT. Now I would have a few extras. Pictured here is the case used for my German forces, but it’s the same idea and a matching case.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Before they were cleaned and filed I just kept everything in its original packaging. As I cleaned each casting it went into the main storage case, organized by weapons, pose, and special equipment but without regard for its intended platoon. All my standing officers were in one cell, all my crouching officers were in another – and the only thing that made them officers was some kind of special kit, like binoculars or a Thompson. I broke my rifle men up into standing, prone, and advancing. Everybody was broken up like this, with special attention paid to standing/advancing poses versus prone positions.

Then once everything was cleaned up and the company plan was finished (I was working on both at the same time) I got out two more cases, and started to select the castings that would be used for each platoon. If there were castings that I really wanted to use in a particular platoon they were sorted out at this stage, along with enough basic troop figures to fill out the roster for that unit. I did this for every platoon in the army, just to make sure that I wouldn’t get excited and use a particular casting on one model, only to regret it when I needed that casting later. There was a lot of swapping around of castings and trying to imagine what each one might look like together and how I might use them with the scenic elements I was starting to think about. At this point I also picked out castings that I wanted to use for particular hero characters, like Winters or Spears. In some cases I wasn’t sure which figure to use, so I often just set them both aside.

After each platoon had been basically selected, I would go over each platoon in detail. Using a third sorting case, each team in the platoon was planned out to a man. Many castings were swapped and replaced at this point, but in the end I more or less knew what parts would go into any given model. Special scenic items were included in the sort at this stage, such as tree stumps or German guns.

This is the point when I finally stopped working on the army as a whole in massive swathes and started to really look at individual platoons. I only did the detailed team-by-team break outs for one or two platoons at a time. Once I had the teams planned, it was time to get serious.

It was time to quit screwing around.

It was time to convert miniatures.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I love Starbucks

This started out as a silly response to a forum comment, but I decided to post it here. ..

I love Starbucks.
Partly, I get a kick out of not hating a company so many others have a gut reaction to (don't get me wrong, normally I'm all kinds of visceral, anti-corporate froth). And I've no illusions about a good cup of coffee vs. what you get at Starbucks. But I love what they did to the US beverage market.

See, I hate carbonation. With a passion. As in, I will not drink it. Ever. For any reason. The last two times I did, I threw up. I do not understand why anybody would ever want their beverage to react in that way. And growing up, its was pretty much Coke or Water, kid. Occasionally there was orange juice available, but after college I can't drink the stuff without feeling an involuntary vodka twitch. Anyway, ever since I was a kid, if I couldn't find a milk shake it was pretty much trips back and forth to the water fountain.

As a teenager things started to change, mostly because I hung out at Waffle House and chugged coffee until 4 am. But again, at other times of day or anywhere other than a yellow booth (because who in the hell gets Waffle House coffee to go?) it was back to Coke-or-water. Until these silly little coffee shops started popping up all over the place. At first, they were mad elitist with the whole Seattle, grunge, French poetry and pretension vibe, and I guess Starbucks still tries to remind you of that with their decor and product placement, but no one buys it. I don't remember the last time anyone tried to explain their existential angst while my espresso brewed.

But anywhere I go in America, I've got an easy, convenient option beyond Coke and Water.