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A Little Time away from Packing. . .

Well, things are in complete disarray here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Virtually all of the books are packed in carefully labeled, book-sized moving boxes and lined up in the middle of the living room floor. It no longer looks like our apartment. So, I’m taking a little breather right now and typing an update for the blog.

First, the Spencer Smith cavalry are getting there – very slowly. I finally was able to snatch an hour or so a couple of late evenings ago and finish the white bits before starting on the yellow facings and turnbacks, something that I might get to finish this evening. Then, it’s simply a matter of filling in the blue on saddle cloths and coats, tan on the breeches, and the various metal bits for the swards, stirrups, and scabbards, plus the stirrup leathers, etc. If I only had a few consecutive evenings where I didn’t feel worn out by 9PM!

Of course, as luck would have it, I am in the midst of reading and grading student papers right now too. This isn’t bad on those all too rare occasions where you get a thoughtfully written essay without too many glaring mechanical errors. Sadly, though, these are the exception rather than the rule. Most of what I get has obviously been rushed through where thought, development of ideas, and the skills of proofreading/editing one’s work (despite the various classroom activities and discussions to that effect) are concerned. And these are college students!

During my darker hours, it is discouraging to think that we have raised a few generations now of people, in the United States at least, who, although they might possess VERY basic reading and writing skills, are still functionally illiterate when it actually comes to using those skills. And everything I read tells me that the ability to communicate effectively in writing will only become more important as time and technology march on. Yet most of my students, regardless of their age, simply refuse to acknowledge that writing has any importance in their lives at all. So, they continue to turn in badly written assignments, despite my extensive commentary on each paper that I return to them. It’s very, very sad. And no, I’m not being funny or sarcastic here.

On a happier note, the lovely Grand Duchess Sonja (pictured above) prepared a special evening meal last night. Albondigas , a Mexican recipe of spiced meatballs on a bed of rice with a type of salsa on top. All of it was homemade and delicious. There was even enough left to reheat for supper this evening. We speculated on the recipe’s origins as we enjoyed dinner, and concluded that it might have originally been a Spanish, or even Moorish, dish. If any of you Grand Duchy of Stollen regulars know, please drop me line.

The book project is moving ahead. Slowly, but forward nevertheless. At the moment, I am fleshing out the chapters and outlining everything before I sit down to begin typing drafts. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until post-move in May or June, once the Spring semester ends, and we have the new house (and Der Stollenkeller) more or less unpacked and set up. April will be a busy time with the spring semester winding down. But it will be lots of fun to unpack, put away, arrange, and hang our things and resume a reasonably normal life. As reasonable as life can be for two former graduate school reprobates at any rate! That was an attempt at humor. ;-)

Finally, with all the talk of model ramparts and redoubts recently over at the Old School Wargaming Yahoo group, I’ve been thinking about the same. And I’m a bit torn. While I certainly might have a go at some point, making my own from things like heavy cardboard, balsa wood, and/or Styrofoam, there are a number of plastic kits out there, produced by too many companies to mention.

So, I spent a few minutes late last night looking at some of this on the Michigan Toy Solider Company website (link -- ). While many are not specifically intended for 25-30mm gaming, I imagine they might still be useful if one is not too obsessive about scale. Then, I stop and think, “But Stokes, think how satisfying it would be to build this stuff with your own hands.” Well, it’s nice to think about all of this stuff as I pack and tape up boxes.

"Ok, back to the salt mines!" as my maternal grandfather used to say.


rpardo said…
Yes, "las albóndigas" (feminine plural) are a typical spanish recipe. They are cooked meatballs.
When flat and fried they are named "filetes rusos" or russian fillets.

Luck with the house move!
Hello Rafa,

Muchas gracias! Thank you for confirming our suspicions about this delicious dish. And I enjoyed visiting your Napoleonic blog very much. I will bookmark it and return from time to time. Nice to know that I have a visitor living in Spain.

Best Regards,

Anonymous said…
Sorry. Look please here
Martin said…
Hi Stokes,

I knew that High School teachers can get discouraged, but College Profs?! Sigh. Another innocent illusion shattered. Take heart my dear fellow. No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

I wanted to take this opportunity to complement you on your excellent blog! I have enjoyed reading and looking at your wargame accomplishments. (In fact your blog was a determining factor in my joining EvE.) Because I don't have a digital camera yet for my blog,The Markgraaf of Raubenstadt, I have to rely upon painting a word-picture in the minds of my readers. Therefore,I have been brushing up on my Oman, due to his clear and consise coverage of the Peninsular War, and Karl E. Wagner, a Fantasy Author, but great battle descriptions in his "Kane" series.

As far as entrenchments and fieldworks go, you can't go wrong by using quarter round wood finishing strips. (Your move to the new quarters gives the perfect cover story for going over to the local home improvement store. It's dirt cheap. (I couldn't resist the pun.)
It can be cut into any length you desire. (A mitre saw might be needed for precise angle cuts.) With some balsa wood planks and dowel rods on the back, and a fair to middling coat of paint, it looks good, and is a good fit for your Revell troopies to cower behind or bravely defend.

Pace yourself on the move. I was out in our garage last night and came across some boxed stuff from our move of ten years ago. Whatever happened to that Zen Proverb, "Less is More."? Good luck and all the best.


aka The Markgraaf of Raubenstadt
Stryker said…
Hi Stokes
Well, you have hit on a favourite topic of conversation in our house re standards of literacy. My wife taught post 16 kids for many years before becoming involved in national examinations and sadly I can report that the UK is going exactly the same way as the US (not for the first time!).
Those fortifications are a must for Stollen but I think you will have to make them yourself for the real Old School experience!
Bluebear Jeff said…

Thanks for the update on your activities . . . I wish that the photo wasn't so strongly back-lit . . . it is hard for these old eyes to see the Grand Duchess and her dish . . . or should I say the "dish" and the plate she's holding?

Good luck with the move!

-- Jeff
old-tidders said…
Good luck with your upcoming house move.

I've used quarter round wood finishing strips, for some field works, I chose a size that fitted in well with the Italeri field works set.

I'm also thinking of building a fort (or part of a fort), from scratch.

Hope you enjoyed your Albondigas

-- Allan
tradgardmastare said…
I try to teach writing at Primary School level - at times we all get discouraged. I fear you are suffering form withdrawl symptoms from your books and the dislocation moving imposes upon us all. It will be worth it in the end! I look forward to reading your book and being inspired by it . Sadly holiday was busy ( but good ) and no cardboard architectural work occurred - we shall see what happens....

I sympathize with you. As an ex-journalism major and someone who made their living writing legal and technical documents, I tried very hard to teach my own three kids to communicate in writing. Now I get e-mails and text messages full of jargon and texting shorthand. It drives me crazy!

On the subject of defense works, there is an interesting thread on TMP here:

One of the poster's apparently made up sets and individual pieces for sale on Ebay and then pulled them off. He has a link to some very nice looking pic's. Don't know what he charges, but they are good examples for some idea's if nothing else.

Also, one thing I can personally recommend, make up a few patterns of pieces that you want, then make some molds and cast them in resin. You can use plaster for the molds and just buy the release and 2-part resin, or Hobby Lobby sells a complete casting kit with latex. It costs about $50, but you can usually find a 40% off coupon on Hobby Lobby's web site.

That meal looked good!

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