Painting Hordes Miniatures

Introduction

A few months ago…

Then again, now that I think about it, it was probably a year or longer.A� However, as you get older, time has this way of feeling like it is contracting.A� I can’t believe that I never considered it before, but a student in one of my classes pointed out that it is because for every year you get older, each year is less a percentage of your life overall.A� It’s so obvious, but I just never considered it before.A� Okay, what’s the point?

Well, some undefined amount of time ago, I got into miniatures.A� It started with a paint class that I signed up for at Modern Myths, but was only able to go to two of the lessons.A� Therefore, I only know how to prime and paint the base coat.A� I don’t know anything about dry brushing, washes, or other finishing techniques.A� I have been doing some research and talking with Kevin to get a better idea of how to do those things.

After taking the class, I found a deal on a two player battle box of Privateer Press Hordes miniatures.A� Initially, I had plans to paint the miniatures and, at least, display them until I could convince Chris or one of the boys to try the game with me.A� As happened too often in the recent past, life got in the way.

Not to sound like a motivational butthead, but I realize now that I let life get in the way.

I’m 42 this year.A� I never believed in arbitrary age milestones.A� Sweet 16, at 18 you are an adult and can die in a stupid war, but then you aren’t mature enough to drink for another three years?A� However, anecdotal evidence points to the mid life crisis as an actual milestone.A� I can’t say that is definitely what I’m experiencing, but other than the fancy red sports car (that I can’t afford), I check off most of the other boxes.

The one major adjustment that I’ve noticed is that I changed my outlook on life.A� Because, you see, another stereotypical midlife crisis trope that I’ve experienced is that I’m gaining some perspective and reflecting back on my life.A� As a result, I made that change mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph.A� I came to the realization a few days ago that I’ve been living my life lately according to the improv credo of “Yes, and…”

Instead of saying “No” or “Maybe I’ll get to that tomorrow”, I’ve been saying “Yes, and..”A� It has changed me in fundamental ways.A� Instead of saying, “No, I really like my holiday break”, even though it’s way too long and I get surly by the end, I said, “Sure, I’ll fill out sub forms for your district.”A� That has led to an extra 200 or so dollars so far and a possibly very good offer that just happened today.A� Instead of putting the boys off until “tomorrow”, I’ve been playing a variety of games andA� toys with them as well as almost starting the podcast up again soon.A� That has led to me being happier, not feeling as guilty, and getting some of my creative energy out.

The Pictures

The back of the primed models that I chose to start my adventure. Across from them you see the enemy.

And, finally, we get to the point of this particular article.A� Instead of ignoring my miniatures due mostly to a fear of failure, I took the box that they were in out of the game room closet.A� I primed some more of the models and started talking to Kevin about the process again.A� That was mostly just to keep myself honest and engaged.A� I also sent a note to Chris for the same reason.

My first attempt at making an “icy” blue look for the creatures. I failed rather spectacularly.

In both cases, it must have worked because I started to paint the little dragon dog dudes or whatever they are.A� Even though they are the smallest pieces, they have the least intricacies when it comes to design, so I hoped that might work in my favor.A� I don’t have the official paints licensed by either Privateer or the Warhammer company, so I had to kind of work around and figure out how to mix the paints that I had gotten for Aiden so that he could paint his Bob Ross masterpieces for the family Christmas gifts.

Before (left) and after (right). The after is much closer to what I hoped when I started.

After my first attempt, I thought about how to improve on the color.A� I texted Kevin a couple of times and figured an easy way to mute the color would be to add some white to the blue before mixing in the pink.A� That still wasn’t quite working as well as I had hoped.A� It might have been because I left the dab of blue paint out on my easel and it thickened a bit.A� Also, some of you might be cringing at my technique and I don’t blame you.A� I went a bit heavy handed this time.A� I’m hoping to get some better brushes and a helping hand magnifying glass to refine my technique.A� I didn’t care at all about getting paint on the base because I’m hoping to do terrain effects there.A� I see those of you who weren’t cringing before are probably turning up your noses now.A� Hey, I’m not that bad!

Flash photo of what I’m going to call the final blue. I might try another coat, but I rather like the look of it.

To fix the thickened blue paint issue, I used a dab of paint thinner on the brush.A� That both served to lighten the color and make the paint go on less clumpy and preserve the detail of the miniature.A� A�It isn’t a perfect job by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I’m doing something with these models that have just been sitting around in a box for at least a year.A� I hope to keep working on them over the next few weeks and giving them a better look.A� I will share my process along with my failures that hopefully eventually lead to success.A� If not, laugh, cringe, and sigh along with me during the adventure.

Post Script

Both Chris and Kevin have said that I’ve done a good job so far.A� I can’t tell if they are just being encouraging or actually mean it.A� However, they’ve both expressed interest in the hobby.A� Kevin said that he’d like to get back into it and Chris mentioned that he might give it a try.A� They are both more artistic than I am by a lot, so it will be interesting to see how much better theirs come out than mine if they do follow up.A� Also, who knows.A� Maybe we can actually get some games going, either in person with Chris or via Skype with either of them.A� All I know is that I’m having so much fun with this painting and even if they are only display pieces, at least I can show how much better I’m getting.A� I hope!

This Little Pika Went to the Gym

Introduction

Well, a day of substitute teaching and the college championship game were enough to distract me from posting anything to either page yesterday.A� Therefore, I have to be extra dilligent about making sure that I start my daily posts again today.A� I realize that I won’t be able to update the page daily when I go back to work in a week and a half.A� However, if I make that the goal now, when I am teaching again, 2-3 updates per week wont’ feel so cumbersome.

I’ve done a couple of articles about Pokemon Go in the past.A� Like most other pages, I wrote about the improbable, unbelievable, and almost inexplicable initial success and then the inevitable crash of the game.A� Since then, I have played the game on a semi-regular basis.A� Quinn wanted to do his little kid podcast about Pokemon this week, so I thought this is as good a time as any to revisit the game.

The Good

When the game first released, there were words upon words to create paragraphs and pages (if pages still existed in their traditional form in our digital world) about the exercise benefits of the game.A� It inspired people to get out into the outside world by leading them to new or possibly previously unexplored places.A� Gyms gave important items like potions and eggs.A� In order to hatch the eggs, you needed to walk 2, 5, or 10k.

The phenomenon was so ubiquitous that it married an established meme and had little meme babies.

Any time you went to a new place, you opened up the app to see what new types of Pokemon might be available in that area.A� We went to the beach and I remember being excited when I saw and caught my first Staryu.A� After the beach, we went to a restaurant and Quinn and I had way too much fun taking pictures of Pokemon on our food plates.A� Just as unlikely as getting people to go outside and exercise, Pokemon Go got them to interact socially.

In addition to taking those pictures and posting them online, you could always recognize another Pokemon Go player.A� I know that we aren’t supposed to stereotype, but anytime you saw someone who was just a bit too pale for the time of year and they were looking at their phone, there was a good chance that they were playing Pokemon Go.A� At the beginning, all you could do was tip your hoodie to them, trade war stories, and maybe contact information depending on how brave you felt.A� Niantic promised other ways to interact, but they were slow in implementing them.

It doesn’t make it any better, but this is always the reaction to new and interesting things. “Wow, this thing is very interesting! You should check it out!” *later* “God, I liked this thing so much better when there weren’t so many people interested in it.”

One of the ways that have finally been brought into the game that have allowed people to get together and be social is raids.A� The only experience I have with raids is that it looked like one was going on during our trip to the aquarium in Woods Hole, someone posted something on Facebook about one happening in town in an attempt to get a group (but it never happened) and I foolishly tried to solo one that was happening down the street.A� I didn’t get a chance to try the raid while on the Cape for a couple of reasons, but I wish I had just taken the time to check it out.A� Living in a small town without many tech or gaming savvy people strikes again as I haven’t gotten an opportunity like that since.

The Bad

Because of the community aspect of raiding, as I just mentioned, I don’t get any chances to experience what is now a fundamental part of the game.A� As a result, I’m stuck playing the game as it was released.A� Walking down the street to the local Wal*Mart, I keep an eye out for Pokemon and hope that 10k egg hatches into something interesting or fun.A� Look, I’m not one to needless complain about something and I hope that’s not what this sounds like.A� I mean, I am complaining (and it may be needless because there are ways to combat the isolation), but I also think I have a valid point.

Okay, okay. I get the point. At least I’ll hatch a ton of eggs.

Because, other than the raids, there aren’t a ton of new features.A� I think I saw something about weather effects determining Pokemon spawns and there are new Pokemon, which I said earlier is one of the most fun parts of the game (and in fact the reason that the games exists), but some of the most anticipated features have not been included in the game.A� There are no trainer battles.A� There is no trading of Pokemon.A� Those, too, are integral to the games and need to be a part of this game for it to ever be considered in the same league as the other games.

The Ugly

I did an article about Mario Run before Thanksgiving.A� That is another Nintendo property that has made the move to mobile.A� I enjoy that game quite a bit and a major reason why is that Nintendo hasn’t given into the real money pressure that mobile puts on developers.A� Most mobile games give you the full game, but to get the full experience, players quickly realize that they have to pay real money for items or experience.A� Mario Run has none of that and it is a refreshing oasis in the salty sea of P2E (Pay to Exist) of the rest of the mobile gaming library.

I was careful earlier to call Mario Run a Nintendo property.A� Nintendo owns that one and they developed the game.A� However, Pokemon Go is a Nintendo property, but Niantic has made the actual game.A� That was important in the article that I wrote about Pokemon Go user base crashing once people realized just how limited the game was and it was even worse than now.A� I said then that the game felt like a beta test that somehow made it to release.A� That’s not the ugly anymore.A� The game still feels unfinished, but it’s getting better.

My main complaint about the game is that Niantic has embraced the real money trend that I dislike so much.A� They aren’t pushing it as much as other games.A� It isn’t necessary to buy things to advance in the game.A� However, I have noticed that when I logged in a few times or checked out the webpage or social media for the game, they’ve been testing the waters a bit with taking that route.

99 cents to win the game? What is the objective of the game? To remove the ads?

The Verdict

Look, I get that game companies need to make money.A� I also get that this is the environment that mobile games have grown up in and that it is harder to get people to pay money up front for games that are so simple that they can fit on your phone.A� However, phones are getting more powerful and some of the games are more interesting and have as good or better gameplay than their console counterparts.A� It only takes one success before others start to attempt to mimic that success.A� If Pokemon Go can just resist the P2W siren song and start to build back up its user base, maybe it can lead to a new era in mobile gaming.

That’s certainly not going to happen if they don’t implement those features that are missing.A� Since the early announcement that they were thinking/considering/dreaming of possibly thinking about maybe putting together a committee that might introduce trading and trainer battles to the game I have not heard any more discussion along those lines.A� It’s probably tough to make them happen, but it would be nice to get an update about the possible update.A� Oh well, I will just continue to try to find funny pictures to post on our Instagram and get excited every time that new Pokemon type pops up on the screen when I open the app.

Completely Ignorant CFP Championship Preview

Introduction

I am not as adverse to college football as to the NFL.A� While the NFL has become a predictable mess of “follow the leader” college is almost 40 worthless bowl games between teams that have almost nothing in common.A� College football is wearing blue and gold because you spent half a semester skipping classes at Pitt 25 years ago.A� College football is selling out a 100,000+ seat stadium for a game between two barely .500 teams in the middle of a December snow storm simply because it is rivalry week.

Sure, there are just as many concussions as in the NFL, the players aren’t compensated, and 90+% of them won’t see the money that the NFL promises, but let’s not talk too much about that.A� Instead, let’s revel for one last game, the national championship which features two schools that Google Maps tells me are less than 300 miles apart.A� That’s a bit like the World Series between two teams in the USA.A� Okay, enough snark.

As of that was even possible.

Alabama

Alabama is in the unfamiliar position of coming into this game as the lower ranked team.A� I doubt that necessarily makes them the underdog though.A� Sure, their road to this game was not as Alabama like as previous seasons.A� They only lost one game, their last one against Auburn.A� that was enough to keep them out of the SEC Championship and my friend wrongly hoped, the CFP.A� I played along with his silly delusion.A� Ultimately, I knew the voters would never keep Alabama out if they could help it.

And, sure enough, there they were at #4.A� This time it was my turn to suffer silly delusions.A� I thought that the injuries and inconsistencies might finally catch up to them and Clemson would roll the Tide.A� I forgot about the fact that Nick Saban had a month to prepare for this game.A� I wrote that the NFL is boring and college offers some entertainment.A� That’s only during the regular and toilet bowl seasons.A� Once you get to the playoffs, Bama is New England and every one else is fighting for runner up.

Eff the Pats.

What Does Alabama Bring to the Game?

So, of course, the Tide were the ones who rolled.A� They dominated Clemson in a way that only a Nick Saban led team can.A� Their defense smothered Clemson’s potentially dangerous offense and they did just enough themselves on offense not to sabotage the clear victory.A� Alabama is in the title game for the 3rd straight time and 6th overall.A� The BCS championship game has only been in existence for 11 years.A� Ugh.

While last year’s team offered 8 All Americans, only 3 Crimson Tide players were named this year.A� Even so, they found a way to scrape together a season in which they only lost one game, put together one of the most unpredictable blowouts of the semifinal round in recent history, and they’ve only lost 2 out of their last 40 games or something like that.A� Alabama is a machine.A� It’s just that this year they needed a bit more from the oil can.

Eff the Tide? Nah, just eff this guy.

Georgia

Alabama and Clemson have become such staples in the National Championship picture that I wrote Clemson up there and had to delete it to write Georgia.A� I have a Facebook friend that I met in World of Warcraft many years ago who is a Georgia alum.A� Unlike me, who barely remembers my time at UMass, that seems like a big deal to him.A� He’s always posting about the games, including pictures of his family attending and this year was no different.A� Since my childhood team of Pitt seems content to be an academic school with a mid-major mindset regarding athletics, it has been fun to live vicariously through him.

Georgia’s path to the big game seems to have gone more smoothly than Alabama’s.A� Admittedly, I hate watch Alabama weekly and only get my UGA news from that friend.A� Sure, I could do research, but I’ll leave that to the “experts”.A� Instead, I will stick with my gut feeling.A� Ah, hell, now I feel guilty.A� I looked up their schedule.A� It definitely looked like an easier road for Georgia.

What Does Georgia Bring to the Game?

Like Alabama, Georgia only lost one game against Auburn.A� Unlike Alabama, they got a chance for revenge in the SEC Championship.A� Like Alabama, I thought that Georgia would get beaten handily by Oklahoma.A� I got to look like a genius for about a half.A� Then, some crazy stuff happened, followed by some crazier stuff, and culminating in an insane comeback win for the Dawgs.

Georgia had two players named to the AP All American team.A� I only know the names of the running backs and that’s just because I learned them while glancing at the ESPN GameCenter every few minutes in their game against Oklahoma.A� In my “research” of glancing at their schedule for a minute or two, I saw a lot of high point spreads for many of the games.A� They might be playing the scrappy underdog to Alabama’s juggernaut.A� But, they are no slouch of a team.

Is that Jake from State Farm?

The Pick

I lamented last year that it seemed like a year for evil to win.A� After heartwarming stories in the NHL, NBA, and MLB, there was the election and later the Patriots (they were still a month away, but virtually inevitable).A� I figured that Alabama would just ride that wave to a repeat win.A� Obviously, that didn’t happen.A� Clemson gave us a new hope.

Continuing with the obvious metaphor, that makes this the year that The Empire Strikes Back and an Alabama win.A� Honestly, though, independent of last week’s results, I might have been persuaded to pick Georgia and prolong the Alabama miser one more year.A� However, after “watching” last week’s games, I just think that even in this down year, Alabama is still the team to beat.A� Georgia doesn’t look like the team to be able to do it.A� In addition, similar to Bill Belichick, no former Nick Saban assistant has returned to beat “the man”.

And, to be the man…

Protect your Knee

Every year in December and January, I come out of hibernation long enough to get inspired to work on the web page.A� Usually, that only lasts until February when I start back to school and everything falls into a state of disrepair for a few months.A� I am not the type to do resolutions, but this year I hope to power though those months of inactivity and instead make the page what I always hoped it would be.

As part of that plan, I’m going to start playing Skyrim and Fallout 3 again.A� That, too, is tradition.A� However, this year definitely feels different.A� I have, so far, avoided the post holiday “blues”.A� In the past, that is one of the things that has kept me from contributing to the page on a regular basis.A� If I can just keep that momentum going, things will be good around here.

My father believed firmly in the power of positive thinking. He also lived by the credo, “It’s a good day to die.” Time to start living up to his standards.

I started my trip back into Bethesda fantasy RPG this time with Skyrim.A� At first, my XBox 360 door did not cooperate and I was afraid that this plan might be dead in the water.A� However, through persistence (and a little bit of muscle, a steak knife, and a lot of swearing), I got the game up and running.A� What better way to start this adventure that with a quest!

Once I loaded the game and continued from my last save state, I texted Kevin to laugh that starting back with these games after months off was always an experience (pun not intended).A� He replied that it always took him about a half an hour to get acquainted again with the story, his character, items, etc.A� That’s about how long it took me.

Pardon the language, but this is exactly how I felt.

It didn’t help that apparently I saved the game in the sewers and the color scheme was nearly monochromatic.A� That alone made me almost quit the game and restart.A� On top of that, the reason I was in the sewer was that I was on the Thieves Guild quests.A� I had to collect three debts from people.A� It took me at least 3 failed tries of killing the first person and being put in jail before I considered restarting again.

I didn’t restart.A� I got smart.A� A�In all honesty, I stumbled on quest completion by accident.A� Instead of pulling out my mace and bludgeoning her to death and then having to beat the rest of the town to death, too, before either dying or ending up in jail, I simply punched her until she submitted.A� Not necessarily good, but at least it finally advanced the story.

All’s fair in love and Skyrim.

What are the chances that I continue playing to beat that story?A� That’s been my goal for the six years that I’ve owned the game.A� I can honestly say that after this latest play session, I don’t know.A� That’s unusual for me.A� I’m usually a big fan of the D&D style fantasy.

We slept in the living room last night as a family and we plan on it again tonight, so I played some Hearthstone and Minecraft on the computer.A� Therefore, I didn’t get a chance to play last night to see if I could find that hook.A� That’s the main problem.A� I’m just not that interested in the main story.A� When I played the other day, I completed the quest to be inducted into the Thieves Guild and I was so excited that I completely zoned out on the conversation that led into the follow up quest.

That’s not an isolated incident.A� When I first got the game, I played it for 50 hours over two weeks.A� I was unemployed and had a young child who napped daily back then.A� How did I play 50 hours and only make it to the Thieves Guild quests?A� A majority of that time was not spent questing.A� Mainly, I roamed the countryside looking for butterfly wings and flowers to increase my alchemy skill.

Skyrim can save its damn self.

I took stock of what my life had become and didn’t like it one bit.A� So, I put the game to the side for the first time.A� As I wrote, I’ve since given it a few more chances.A� Here I am giving it one more.A� One last?

What keeps me coming back?A� Obviously, I don’t have to like the game.A� Sure, it is almost universally considered to be one of the best games, both in the series and overall.A� It’s not like I’m ever shy about going against conventional wisdom.A� It’s clearly not a “keeping up with the Joneses”.

I think that it just goes back to what I wrote earlier.A� I’m usually a fan of any type of fantasy setting and I’m a fan of RPGs.A� I suppose that I just have to face facts and realize that if I’m going to beat this game, I may just have to power through the story that I don’t like very much.A� It’s either that or hope that some aspect (besides chasing butterflies) of the story finally hooks and speaks to me.A� As it stands right now, I’d much rather play the apocalyptic future version of the game in Fallout 3.A� Maybe I will just do that and try again with this game once I’ve finished Fallout.

After all, it’s looking more and more like Fallout might be a instruction manual for the near future.

Completely Ignorant NFL Wild Card Weekend Preview

Introduction

As part of my annual awakening and post to the web page, I have picked the NFL Wild Card games each year.A� One of my shticks is that I go into the games as ignorant as possible.A� Since I stopped watching the NFL weekly about 10 years ago, that isn’t much of a problem.A� My research only consists of listening to the Bill Simmons Podcast with Cousin Sal weekly and watching the games on Thanksgiving.A� This year is no different.

Another idea that I got last year or the year before was to have a coin (actually a coin flipping simulator run 100 times) named George (because he’s a quarter, see) choose the games.A� I hate that we’ve made sports into such a big deal in this country that people can make money talking about them as if they have more or better insight than the people at home.A� If I can show that a flipped coin can have just as much, if not more success, than those on television, maybe it will invalidate them.A� Rage against the machine!

The Picks

Bills at Jaguars (Sunday at 1:05 pm):A� The Bills made the playoffs on the last day, sparing us the idiot talking heads discussing the Peterman/Taylor decision.A� Until Christmas, all I knew about the Jags is that Blake Bortles is the quarterback.A� I will forever love and be indebted to him for winning a fantasy league and then never being invited back.A� I think it’s a better story if Buffalo wins, at least for a weekend because they’ll be destroyed by the Pats.A� Instead, I think they’ll save us the false hope and get destroyed by the Jaguars this weekend.A�A�George’s Pick:A� He’s fairly confident that the Jags will win, too.A� Bills 46, Jaguars 54.

Falcons at Rams (Saturday at 8:15pm):A� With a rookie head coach and essentially a rookie quarterback, nobody saw the Rams coming this year.A� The Falcons ping ponged up and down all season, finally sneaking into the playoffs with an impressive 10-6 record.A� The Falcons would like revenge for their collapse in the Super Bowl last year.A� The Rams are playing a home game with house money.A� I think I like the Rams story better than the Falcons.A� Besides, with UGA in the championship, I don’t think I could stand Georgia being the center of the football universe for a month.A� Whatever happens, this will be a high scoring game.A�A�George’s Pick:A� He disagrees, firmly, with me and wants to see the Falcons get revenge.A� Falcons 56, Rams 44.

Titans at Chiefs (Saturday at 4:35 pm):A� This is the “who cares” bowl for me.A� If the Jags win, like I think they will, then the winner of this game plays the Patriots for the right to go to the AFC Championship.A� I guess the Chiefs are better in that scenario because they beat the Pats earlier in the season.A� However, the Titans winning this game and the next, plus the Jags beating the Steelers appeals to the chaos lover in me.A� I will go with the Chiefs on the slim chance that they catch the Pats on a bad day next week.A�A�George’s Pick:A� Apparently George is an anarchist and wants to see the whole NFL break down.A� Titans 51, Chiefs 49.

Panthers at Saints (Sunday at 4:40 pm):A� Too bad this one is happening this weekend.A� This would have been a great NFC Championship.A� Sure, it stinks to have only one division represented in the championship round, but they are always the most fun games.A� Like the Rams, the Saints are a bit of a surprise, while the Panthers succeeded in spite of their owner resigning (somehow rather quietly) amid, for lack of a better word, weird allegations.A� I think I like the Saints in this one.A�A�George’s Pick:A� George is picking another road team.A� Panthers 56, Saints 44.

Wrap Up

Join us next Friday as we post mortem these games and prepare for the Steelers and Patriots to win, set up a rematch, and watch the Pats walk into the Super Bowl again.A� God, the NFL is so boring.

APBA Baseball Replay: 1933 MLB vs. Negro League All-Stars

(Note:A� I don’t feel comfortable using the term Negro League, even though it may be historically accurate.A� Therefore, aside from the title and in this explanation, I will refer to the team as NeL.A� )

(Note:  The image at the top of the page is courtesy of http://apbagames.com)

Introduction

During my search for free or affordable cards for my APBA baseball game, I had to go no farther than the actual web page itself.A� They have some accessories for the game like scoresheets and a way to figure out how fatigue might affect pitchers.A� There wasn’t much in the way of actual cards, but what was there caught my eye and got me to thinking.A� They have the all-star teams for Major League and NeL baseball from 1933.

I think I mentioned in my article last night that I’ve heard all of the stories about the NeL players.A� In some cases, as I learned during my modicum of research on Baseball Reference, all we have are stories for some of these players.A� Look, I know that I’m just a hippie, leftist, snowflake, but it seems like an absolute travesty what has been done to African Americans in this country.A� Every time I think that I’ve found the bottom, I have to kick over the barrel and dig a little deeper.

Well, I wanted to put these stories to the test, so to speak.A� It’s not that I found them unbelievable.A� I mainly just wanted to witness it for myself.A� More recently, I found a page that has the cards for the 1871 National Association season (a precursor to MLB), so I went to Baseball Reference for some information and found way more for what amounts to a MLB prehistoric league than for the NeL in 1933.A� That’s shameful.A� Well, thanks to simulation, justice can at least be minimally served with regards to sports.

 

So, what happened in the games?A� Well, let’s find out.A� I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited about this.

Game 1 (NeL 8, MLB 2)

The first game of the series started off close with the score 4-2 after 6 innings.A� Then the NeL exploded for 4 runs in the 7th inning and closed out the game for an 8-2 victory.A� Their pitcher, Bill Foster, who will turn out to play a massive role in the series, shut down the MLB team.A� Even though he was a bit wild with 7 walks, he only allowed 4 hits and struck out 5.A� The MLB 3-8, a group that includes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, hitters went a combined 0-13.A� It was an inconsistent, but still dominating performance.

Meanwhile, the NeL team got 13 hits, including 2 homeruns, 4 doubles, and a triple.A� While just as dominant at the plate as their pitcher was on the mound, they were no less inconsistent in the field.A� They had 3 errors, though only one proved costly and drove in a run.A� Overall, a great start to the series.

Player of the Game:A� This was a tough one.A� Walter Davis, RF, 2-5, 2B, HR, 2RBI, 1 Run.A� Could have been Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 Run, 1 BB.

Game 2 (NeL 6, MLB 3)

This game was close as well.A� The NeL led 4-3 after a 2 run 6th for the MLB and a scoreless 7th.A� It looked like the MLB might steal one before the NeL scored a run each in the 8th and 9th to close it out.A� While the bottom of the order picked things up, including an important pitch hit by Chick Hafey for the pitcher in that 2 run 6th, the top of the order was 0-17, including a collar in 3 AB with 2 Ks for the Bambino.

NeL starting pitcher, Sam Streeter, got tossed in the 5th inning for arguing balls and strikes.A� On short rest, Bill Foster came into relief.A� Even though he looked shaky in the 5th and 6th, he settled down to close out the last three innings and seal another important win.

While not quite the offensive explosion of game 1, the NeL batters put together more than enough offense.A� Just like in game 1, they spread the wealth around as no batter got more than 2 of their 9 hits.

Player of the Game:A� Bolstered by his game 1 and game 2 consistency, Oscar Charleston, 1B, 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 Run.

Game 3 (NeL 7, MLB 4)

In a do or die game 3, the MLB manager shook things up by batting Chick Hafey for Babe Ruth and shuffling his lineup.A� It looked like a good move as MLB charged out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5 innings.A� A 2 run 6th for the NeL gave the game the flavor of the series as it was close late.A� A 4 run explosion by the NeL in the 7th brought back memories of game 1.A� MLB started a comeback in the 8th, loading the bases and scoring a run, but that’s all they would get for the rest of the game.A� The NeL got back an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th and a scoreless 9th for MLB ended the game and the series.

Even though Chick Hafey performed no better than the Babe had, going 0-4 with 3 Ks, the lineup switch did have a positive effect on the MLB offense.A� However, the NeL just proved to me too much.A� Player of Game 2 and nearly player of game 1, Oscar Charleston, drove in 2 with a double.A� Rap Dion added two more RBI, and a costly error (one of 3 by MLB in the game) gave the NeL the 2 extra runs needed to win the game.

Bill Foster continued his domination.A� After allowing those 3 runs early, he shut down MLB before handing over batting duties to Vic Harris, who took a BB to spark that 6th inning rally.A� After that, Sam Streeter held the MLB to only that single run in the 8th and finished them off for good.

Player of the Game:A� Rap Dixon, CF, 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 Run

Player of the Series:A� Bill Foster, who got the win in all three games and kept the NeL fighting throughout the series.

Wrap Up

I was surprised that the series ended up being a sweep.A� In spite of some inconsistencies, it was also a definitive sweep in the favor of the NeL.A� Their players lived up to the hype and provided a lot of excitement.A� I was also surprised that some big names that I knew from MLB didn’t perform very well at all.A� Babe Ruth, in particular, was surprising.A� I know that he was at the end of his career and maybe shouldn’t have started, but you always hear so much about him that it is humbling to see.

I guess what they say is true.A� Father Time remains undefeated and even one of the greatest players of all time and a true legend of both baseball and America can’t even compete against aging.A� Lou Gehrig had one good game, one terrible game, and one great game.A� That’s more like what you’d expect, but still surprising.

Well, 3 games is not much of a sample size.A� Also, I still have the cards, so I can always go back to do another series and see if MLB can avenge their loss.A� If so, what’s stopping me from doing a rubber series to settle this once and for all?A� Well, all of that will have to wait.A� As I mentioned earlier, I found a page that has the cards from the 1871 NA season and I want to simulate that.A� It’s only about 30 games on average for 9 teams.A� Could be fun.A� See you then!

Box Scores (Series Stats Coming Soon):

1933 NeL vs. MLB All Star Series

There’s No Rerolling in Baseball!

Introduction

Chris texted me a few weeks ago saying that he had been playing some chess.A� I chuckled and responded that I had downloaded an app for the New York Times crossword puzzle.A� More recently, I teted to him, “Speaking of old man games, I found my APBA Baseball game in a closet and started playing it.”A� He probably had no idea what I meant because he didn’t even reply.A� It made no difference.A� I was, and remain, excited by my discovery.

So, what’s the big deal?A� Well, my interest in sports replay/simulation started in high school.A� It would appear that the new year has me reminiscing.A� A trip to my old high school hangout in the Quarters, a year in review post, and now reliving my tie as a hockey league founder.

Inspired by my lack of a social life, I created a competitor hockey league to the NHL.A� I envisioned it like the USFL (another of my past and maybe future sports sim projects), but more ambitious.A� I went way back to the origin of the NHL and started my league there.A� In addition to games, I created rosters, rivals, and even dynasties.

The Good

With all of that in mind, you have probably deduced that the APBA baseball sim is right in my wheelhouse.A� You have deduced correctly.A� There is so much that I love about this game.A� Some of you might wonder why I prefer dice to computer simulations.A� While the computer games allow you to simulate many more games at once, there’s just something about rolling dice that brings me back to my wild and crazy high school days.A� Admittedly, I did simulate a season of the USFL on the computer, but the pace of baseball, as the saying goes, is much more deliberate and it fits in with the slow roll (so to speak) of the board game.

Plus, the game is very easy for as complex as it can be.A� I haven’t played it in probably 10 years, but I was able to pick it back up and play through a best of 5-game series in a few hours spread out over two days.A� While not at the level of simulating entire seasons in a couple of hours, it’s still a quick game and I could probably do an entire team’s season in a couple of weeks.

Aside from those, the game combines the two things that I enjoy about sports.A� I’ve played sports in middle and high school.A� I coached Aiden’s soccer team this past fall and might do it again in the spring.A� But, my interest in sports starts with watching games with my father and it is a legacy that I, sadly, haven’t yet been able to pass on to my children.A� Both Quinn and Aiden have sat with me during this most recent bowl season, but their heart isn’t really in it.

Not that I can blame them. I mean, this isn’t even a real game. But, would you have known that if I hadn’t told you?

I watch sports to have fun and unwind.A� I simulate sports to satiate my need for statistics.A� I’m so happy to have grown up in the era of advanced metrics, better statistics (both in the predictive and measuring sense of the word), and GPS on players.A� As a math guy, the more the merrier when it comes to numbers.A� APBA lets me get as deep as I want into the statistics.A� I didn’t think to doA� it this time, but my next simulation I’m going to keep score like it was a real baseball game.A� That score sheet tells the whole story of the game and keeping score when I was a kid was when I first started to fall in love with the game.

But, it’s not all about numbers.A� Even though I’m not much of a history person, I can appreciate the history of sports.A� I can’t tell you why I hate the Browns, their players, and their fans.A� Well, that’s not entirely true anymore.A� The Browns have been so terrible for so long that I don’t feel anything but pity for them lately.

The Bengals, though, can go straight to hell. And, I’ll tell you why I feel that way, too, if you want to hear.

APBA Baseball allows me to either rewrite or relive that history.A� I can explore “what if” scenarios.A� The one that haunts me to this day is “Slow” Sid Bream crossing home plate in the NLCS to beat my juggernaut Pirates.A� If only I could replay that game and the subsequent series.A� Oh, wait!A� I can!A� I haven’t yet, but it’s time to research the 1992 season card set and get to changing that result.

I could witness history.A� Maybe that game was just meant to be and no matter how many times I replay it, the Braves will always win.A� I would also love to be able to watch those same Pirates.A� Well, not really the same, but you get the point.A� Maybe I could watch them win either of the 70s World Series or the one against the Yankees with Bill Mazeroski getting the game winning home run.

During my brief stint as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, I saw the plate.

Or, I could just mash a whole bunch of players together in an attempt to create an all-time all star team.A� I sort of did that with the games that I played to acclimate myself with the rules again.A� I didn’t create either team, but I found all star teams for both the MLB and NeL from 1933.A� I got the idea to play them against each other in a series because I’ve always heard about how great the Negro League players were and what a tragedy it is that none of the players ever got to play against major league competition.A� Not that I ever doubted it, but I wanted to see for myself.A� A�I will include a link to that recap at the end of this article.

The Bad

Initially, when Christine saw me looking at the game, she mentioned that Aiden might be able to play it with me.A� I said, “No, it’s just a one player game.”A� It technically might be and everything that I’ve seen about the game would suggest that many people only play one player.A� And, that goes to show how much I know.A� I just looked up the game on the web page and they are designed for 2 players.A� It’s just that most of us must be loners and play solitaire.A� So, I missed out on an opportunity to play a new game with Aiden.A� That one is easily remedied.

Well, that’s embarrassing.

The only other negative is my fault, too.A� There’s a master set to the game that allows you to do things like account for wind and park effects.A� I used to have the master set, but I must have misplaced it.A� All I could find was the wind effects chart and that made almost no sense to me.A� If I’m going to keep playing the game, that’s definitely something that I want.A� It stinks that I will have to pay for it again.

The Ugly

Speaking of paying for things, this is where I discuss the worst part of the game.A� Usually, this is price and it’s no different this time.A� The game itself isn’t too expensive.A� You pay 50 dollars and get everything you need to play the game, plus you get the previous year’s two WorldA� Series teams to get used to the card layout.A� Even the Master rules are only 25 extra dollars.

After that, though, is when the cost starts to add up and become slightly prohibitive.A� Each replay season costs anywhere from 40-75 dollars depending on the number of player cards.A� Granted, you get all players for all teams plus any updates that might happen later, but that’s a crazy cost for some cards.A� I haven’t found any place that pirates them and I doubt that I would even take advantage if they did.A� It’s not that I’m above that sort of thing, as we’ve seen.A� I ‘m just impressed that they are still this little company plugging away at something they love and haven’t had to sell out like many of the other games from my childhood.

The Verdict

This game is so much fun.A� I had a blast simulating that series that I talked about earlier.A� I think that it could even be more fun playing against someone else and I plan to test that with one of the boys this week.A� Tomorrow might be good as everyone has a snow day.A� I don’t know how much historical replay I will be doing as the 75 dollar price tag is a bit too rich for me right now.A� However, I will probably get the 1992 season to replay that dang NLCS and I’ll keep on looking for free cards to keep me occupied in the meantime.

I mean, I may or may not have a few of these types of proxies lying around for my Modern/Legacy storm deck.

Click here for the 1933 MLB/NeL All-Star Series recap.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of The Last Jedi

Introduction

A little over 2 weeks ago, we went to see The Last Jedi.A� I invited my father in law because he went to see The Force Awakens with us and seemed to have a good time.A� Also, we enjoy our traditions in this family.A� Counter to seemingly everyone else, I went in search of leaks and spoilers.A� I have not been indoctrinated by pop culture to yearn for that “gotcha” moment to keep me entertained, so I don’t mind going in “spoiled”.A� I found a reddit thread that seemed legit and sated my Star Wars fever for a few days.A� I also stumbled on some hatred.A� While not unusual for a Star Wars film, this felt different.A� I will cover it more in the Ugly section.A� I also waited to write this review because I had made plans to see it again this past weekend, but they never materialized.A� So, before I forget any more details about the movie, on to the review.

The Good

At the risk of sounding cliche, the movie is good because it is Star Wars.A� Hey, the only reason that sounds cliche around here is because that is my one hacky writer move that I repeat in every one of these reviews.A� As usual, though, it is true.A� All of the things that make a Star Wars movie great are present in this film.A� Lightsaber battles, dog fights on planets and in space, family tension, mystery, cute stuffy type animals, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” (it’s hidden pretty well because I missed it), wonderful scenery, cool new aliens, and Princess/General Leia.

Although that last one isn’t going to be true anymore going forward. What, too soon?

After the near shot for shot remake of the original movie as The Force Awakens, I feared that we were in for a retelling of the original trilogy with new characters.A� That simply wasn’t true for this movie.A� Sure, there were tidbits that called back to the original movies, but this movie is exactly what it needed to be.

When talking with my friend that wanted to make plans to see it this weekend, that’s where I ended up on the movie.A� He asked me what I thought, and I said, “I loved it.”A� Then I started to walk that statement back a bit.A� It’s not that I didn’t love it, it’s just that there’s been some push back to this movie.A� I suppose that those complaints are valid in some form or fashion.A� I mean, even Luke Skywalker himself has said that he didn’t like the direction of his character for the movie.A� It’s just that I don’t agree with those criticisms.

So, I started with “I love it” and that is my true, unfiltered opinion of the movie.A� He replied, “Really?”A� I had no idea what that meant nor implied.A� Perhaps he had heard some of the criticisms of the film and now I’d have to defend this thing that I love because that’s what we have to do now.A� It’s not simply enough to say that you don’t like it.A� You have to tear it down and make the person who does like it feel bad about themselves for liking it and force them to defend it even though you have no intention of listening to their defense or changing your mind.A� It’s all very exhausting.

I have no idea if that’s what his “Really?” really meant or not.A� So, instead of launching into a lengthy defense of the movie, I took a breath and simply said, “It is exactly what it needed to be.”A� So, what does that mean?A� It serves as a bridge, giving old fans what they need to say good bye to their old heroes and giving new fans heroes of their own that they will have to say good-bye to someday.A� And, that’s where some of the normal Star Wars fan hatred is coming from.A� Change is difficult and scary.A� But, it is necessary so that things don’t become stagnant.A� I thought that this movie did a great job of showing that change in as thoughtful a way as it could, but people still weren’t happy.A� I was, though.A� As soon as we walked out of the theater, I looked at Aiden and said, “Let’s sneak into that theater and watch it again.”A� We didn’t, but I was completely serious.

The Bad

I’ve only seen it once and it was through the eyes of younger me as a fan and not as a critic at all.A� Therefore, I don’t have a ton of negative things to say about the movie, but at least they are the kinds of things that we always say about these movies.A� Hey, we Star Wars fans are nothing if not consistently inconsistent.

Actual quotes from Star Wars fans after every new movie.

Okay, so what do we always complain about?A� First, Captain Phasma died in a Boba Fett fashion.A� Second, cool characters like Maz and evil BB-8 were underutilized.A� Third, porgs?A� Seriously?A� Like I said, ever since Ewoks, there have been the stuffy friendly characters to keep the kids entertained and I must have finally transitioned from kid Star Wars fan who loved the Ewoks to grumpy old man Star Wars fan who could have done without the porgs entirely.A� I understand that they were inspired by the puffins or something native to the island.A� I just wished they weren’t there.

Porgs. Like Ewoks, only useless.

One other thing, and this is a common complaint that I’ve heard.A� The movie is a bit long.A� I get that they both want to tell the whole story and also want to give people their money’s worth as movie ticket prices creep up to 15 dollars and higher in some cities.A� However, not everything that was in the movie needed to be there, in my opinion.A� A few scenes went on for too long and the entire sequence on the casino planet contributed almost nothing to the movie.A� My cousin made the point that it will probably be more prominently featured in the next movie, which would make sense.A� Otherwise, I have no idea why it was there.

Finally, and this might just be me.A� Speaking of the casino planet, what the hell was up with that ending?A� It felt like more of an epilogue than a “to be continued”.A� I didn’t need a literal “to be continued” ending like The Force Awakens, but I had no idea what that kid has to do with the overall story.A� Sure, he’s force sensitive, but we already knew that there were other force sensitive people out there.A� Sure, he was one of the slaves that tasted a bit of freedom thanks to the rebels, but….oh.A� Never mind.A� I said earlier that this movie is serving as a bridge from old to new, but that bridge might be branching.A� Daisy Ridley has already said that she doesn’t know if she’s going to be back after Episode IX, so yeah.A� It makes sense.A� Keep your options open.A� Very shrewd, Disney.

The Ugly

I’ve complained about the movie a bit.A� I’ve also hinted that I found some hate on the internet about the movie.A� Again, that isn’t news.A� Search long enough and you will find someone on the internet that hates whatever you like.A� Also, I’ve made the joke a few times that only true Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.A� I mean, these are the people who pushed the creator of the mythos, their God, out of the picture.

See those jerks over there? Tell them to “Go to Hell” in 65 million different languages.

But, and I said this before, this hate felt different.A� There is a new malevolence out there.A� Maybe it’s an old malevolence that has bubbled to the surface.A� I’m not going to be reductive and blame it all on politics, but the climate has certainly made it more comfortable for these people to exist and let it be known that they exist.A� It started a bit with The Force Awakens when people got upset that there was a black Stormtrooper and it has been ever present in the Marvel fandom ever since Marvel tried to reinvent some of its heroes.A� Yes, in the case of the Marvel trolls, there are elements of racism and sexism that are troubling.

On that note, I’ve since heard that a group of internet trolls (some have said that they’re associated with the “alt right”, but I think that’s just a recent boogeyman catch all term to frighten people) that have made it their mission to make sure that these movies fail.A� I laughed out loud when I heard that.A� As I said to Chris, these guys might be able to pressure Marvel comics because the profit margin and margin for error are so low, but Star Wars doesn’t care if you’re mad.A� It will make a billion dollars with or without you.A� That theory has proven to be true as the movie just recently passed a billion dollars in about two weeks and I think I saw that it was the highest grossing movie of 2017 in only two weeks.

Still, like I said earlier, this kind of thing wears on you.A� Instead of simply being able to enjoy what you enjoy for reasons that you enjoy it, you are constantly being berated by those who don’t like it and feel that it is their mission to either get you to hate it too or simply argue with you for no reason other than to get you mad.A� They will stoop to racist, sexist, or just downright rude comments for no other reason that it will get a rise.A� They claim that they are fighting for free speech, but they’re simply fighting for their right to be jerks.A� It’s internet trolling taken to the extreme and I refuse to participate anymore.

The Verdict

I loved this movie.A� Whenever anyone asks and I don’t think about it before answering, that’s my answer.A� It is not a perfect movie.A� It is not even a perfect Star Wars movie.A� It is probably my second favorite of them all behind Empire Strikes Back.A� As my friend said, everyone liked Empire best and he’s mostly right.A� But, this one did exactly what it needed to, was a ton of fun to watch, and has left me just as excited to see Episode IX as I was to see this one after The Force Awakens.A� If you haven’t seen it, see it.A� If you have, see it again.

May the Force be with you.A� Always.

 

2 Generations Gaming 2017 in Review

Introduction

It’s the first day of 2018.A� This is the time every year that is traditionally set aside for reflection on the previous 365 (or 366) days.A� There are countdowns, marathons, and years in review.A� This article falls into the last category.A� While it has been difficult to maintain a consistent video or podcast schedule, I’ve done okay at updating the web page with at least one article a month.A� I’ve also kept busy with plenty of other geeky fun.A� Let’s reminisce on the best, the worst, and the ugliest.

The Good

APBA Baseball:A� I only recently rediscovered this game in one of my closets and I’m going to write an article this week about the couple of games I played last week.A� I know that others might prefer Strat-O-Matic or another simulator, but this is the only one I’ve played and it does what I want it to do.A� Overall, this has been a great addition to my gaming life again and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the baseball simulation greatness.

Mobile Gaming:A� Old school favorites like Candy Crush and Angry Birds.A� New favorites like Sim City Build It, Fallout Shelter, Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest, and Pokemon Go.A� All of these games have been played with great regularity over the past year on my phone.A� In fact, most of my video game time has been spent on my phone.A� That’s saying something for a person who used to denigrate all mobile games as shovelware.

Eternal/Hearthstone:A� Yes, these are both games that could have technically been included in the mobile section.A� However, they’ve had more impact on me than the other games included in that list.A� I started playing Eternal during one of my rage quits from Hearthstone earlier in the year.A� I had seen Brian Kibler playing the game on stream and figured I’d give it a chance.A� I’m glad that I did.A� While I don’t play it as much as when I first started, it still has a place in my weekly rotation.A� I have had an up and down relationship with Hearthstone.A� However, as I said to Chris a couple of days ago, I seem to have found my comfort zone in the game.A� I have little to no interest in competitive play of any sort.A� I generally just log in every couple of days to do quests, earn gold, and every now and then win a pack that I won’t open.

Comics:A� 2017 was the year that saw me get back into comics.A� Marvel’s Secret Empire event led to a discovery of the well executed DC Rebirth titles.A� Following them for a few months led right into Metal and sticking with Secret Empire to the end let me experience the start of Legacy.A� Almost all of these events were well executed, but it wasn’t all good for comics this year.A� More on that later.

Magic the Gathering:A� You wouldn’t think that I’d rank this so highly in the good category.A� Given that Chris and I discussed a few times how little we had played the game this year.A� I wasn’t even watching streams.A� It just looked like the game had run its course for us.A� Then, a couple of things happened.A� Well, on my end, one major thing happened.A� During one of our summer trips, I played Magic with all three boys.A� First, we played a couple of two headed giant games with decks that I had built over the years.A� Then, I picked up the Nicol Bolas box set and finally the Explorers of Ixalan.A� We haven’t played the Explorers yet, but there is time.A� Any game that gets me closer to my kids is a great game.

The Best:A� I know that it came late in the year, but any time a Star Wars movie is released and it is half decent, that will be the best thing about my year.A� When it is one of the best of the franchise, it will be the best thing of the decade.A� When I get to experience it with my kids and father in law, it just might be one of the highlights of my life.A� I won’t say much more because I have an article planned to go into more detail, but I absolutely loved this movie and it was a perfect way to start my holiday break.

The Bad

No New Console:A� This is the first year in a few that we haven’t gotten a new console.A� I was going back and forth for a few weeks on whether or not to buy an XBox One Minecraft edition.A� I’ve had my eye on it for a while.A� Then, there seems to have been a mix up with my last December check and unless I sub in January, I won’t get paid at all, so economics won out.A� Liam did buy himself a Gamecube and we found the Dreamcast (but it needs to be repaired), so there are some “new” games being played right now, but no new hardware makes me feel a bit sad.A� We won’t be down for long, though.A� We are looking at a Switch and I’m almost positive that I’ll get an XBox in February.

The Worst:A� Only two for this one?A� Yep, and only two for the next one, too.A� By now, you should know my very positive outlook on things and this shouldn’t come as a surprise.A� Also, the fact that I just talked so much about how comics were a good thing this year might also make this choice for “the worst” seem weird at best and probably perplexing.A� But, I have a valid explanation.A� I loved the stories and art of the comics, but hated the cover prices.A� I was spending far too much money on them and I couldn’t justify doing so anymore.A� At least with games, I get massive replay value from them and they allow me to spend more time with my kids.A� Comics did neither of those.A� It was 3-7 dollars spent on 10-15 minutes of enjoyment.A� That’s just awful.

The Ugly

Our Podcast Lineup:A� I was just talking to a friend (and one of the first fans of the page) about the 2 Guys Gaming podcast.A� He said something about how he thought it was damn good and that it could have been something.A� Not one to take compliments very gracefully, I changed the subject quickly.A� However, the podcasts are fun for me to do and I really want to get back to doing them.A� There have been a few that I listen to that have taken long breaks and come back stronger.A� One, in particular, stopped and started a few times, but it is again one of my favorites.A� So, our planning is ugly, but hopefully by this time next year, it will be good.

Nerd on Nerd Violence:A� This is something that I’ve often spoken against.A� However, as nerd culture has become popular culture, the nerd on nerd violence has increased to an unacceptable level.A� It used to be that when you were picked on by somebody, you always had your nerd buddies to get your back.A� If there was an actual fight, you’d all get your butts kicked, but they were there to take your mind off of being the brunt of some sort of physical or psychological abuse.A� Now, some of the worst abuse of nerds is coming from other nerds.A� It isn’t just good-natured joke fights about whether Star Trek or Star Wars is better.A� It’s full on attacks of each other and the things we hold dear.A� I’m going to talk about this more in my Star Wars article and it might just be that all violence is increasing, but this makes me incredibly sad.

The Verdict

2017 wasn’t all fun and games.A� It wasn’t all poorly executed puns, either.A� It was a good bordering on great year that gives us an excellent foundation to make 2018 even better.A� Happy New Year, All!A� Make it the best one ever!