Back in 2009, when we still lived in Utah, I fulfilled a longtime dream by buying a bonsai tree. I named him Elkhorn, after the dwarf from the D&D cartoon.
I’ve never had a green thumb — quite the opposite, really — so I put my heart into trying to do everything right with Elkhorn. Despite my best efforts, he died in 2011.
We were buds (no pun intended), and I felt terrible that he’d died under my care. It wasn’t until this year — 10 years later! — that I felt ready to try again with a new tree.
This little Chinese Elm arrived on the 13th, packed so well by Eastern Leaf that not only was he upright, intact, and unperturbed by the journey, his soil was still thoroughly moist after several days in transit. I’m still trying to decide which is his front view, but it feels like it’s probably this first one.
I’m not sure if the broken-off root or branch in the foreground is a mistake or part of a bonsai style I just learned about, where dead wood is created intentionally for aesthetic reasons (jin is a bare branch, shari is a stripped portion of trunk). Given the wire scars on the trunk, my layperson’s guess is that it’s a growth/pruning mistake, but I don’t mind it.
Here’s the other view, the one I was initially drawn to before I’d given them both due consideration.
After sleeping on it, and casting a wide net for possible names, I decided to name him Hulkling.
I like Hulkling as a character (I have a slabbed Hulkling cover, Young Avengers #9, hung on the wall); he’s smaller than Hulk, and working in a size joke is traditional; he’s a prominent gay character; he’s impulsive but easygoing; and he has an inner grace to him that I feel is reflected in this little tree’s sinuous shape.
In 2020, I became a miniature-painter. Prior to February, I was a guy who sometimes painted miniatures and generally didn’t especially enjoy it. But this year I painted more minis than I had in my 30+ years of sporadic painting prior to 2020 — almost twice as many, in fact. So I’m still a beginner, in many (many!) ways, but not quite as a green as I was before.
Before I get into stats and silly stuff I kept track of, though, I want to pause to write about the pandemic.
Yore isn’t a news or current events blog (there are many better places to go for that sort of info and content), so I haven’t really blogged about the Covid-19 pandemic. This is one of my refuges, and I hope that perhaps it’s been one of yours.
The toll this virus has taken is staggering: over 340,000 dead in the US alone. More than 418,000 Americans died in World War II; that we’re likely to match that total before herd immunity is reached, and with so many of these deaths being preventable, is heartbreaking.
If you’ve lost someone this year, my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what that must be like, in the midst of all of this. If you’ve lost your job, your peace of mind, or any measure of stability, I am so sorry for that loss. Whoever you are, reading this right now, I hope things improve for you and yours.
Miniatures by the numbers
In 2020 I finished painting the following models (I’m not counting assembled, primed, or partially painted minis — just varnished and ready for play):
A full quarter of my output was in December, when I set a personal record: 26 miniatures in one month. I know that’s small potatoes for dedicated hobbyists, but it’s a lot for me!
My overall favorite miniature that I painted in 2020 is also my last one of the year: Mukkit, my first Killa Kan. It’s not just recency bias, either; I poured everything I’ve learned about painting into this guy.
I got out the first miniature I finished in 2020, Brother Scipio from Space Hulk (2/27), and threw them in the lightbox together for a first/last comparison shot:
My MVP brush for the year, the Citadel S Layer — which I bought before learning that animal-hair brushes were a thing — finally died at the end of December. I replaced it with a Princeton Velvetouch size 0 Round, an excellent synthetic brush with similar characteristics. This size has become my workhorse, handling everything from edge highlights to base-coating details to eyes.
I learned a lot about painting this year. I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to continue improving upon. Painting was a real source of joy for me in 2020. Capturing that joy and that learning process here, and hopefully in ways that might be useful to other painters, has been a lot of fun as well.
I like tracking stuff
A few other stats I’ve kept track of:
Hobby streak: From the day I started painting again to the end of the year, I maintained an unbroken hobby streak of 314 days. Doing at least a little bit of assembly/priming/painting every day played a huge role in keeping me motivated and moving, and in getting this many minis done.
Hand-washing: Since mid-March, I’ve recited my Covid-19 hand-washing mantra — the opening narration for Star Trek: The Next Generation — approximately 950 times. (I don’t, like, log this or anything; I’m backing into my total based on an average of 3x a day since March 12, when we went into isolation.)
Audiobooks: Having gotten into audiobooks at the same time as 40k, and explicitly as an accompaniment to painting, I listened to 15 excellent 40k books this year (almost all of them by my favorite author/narrator pairing, Dan Abnett and Toby Longworth). Favorite titles include Ravenor (Ravenor v.1), Necropolis (Gaunt’s Ghosts v.3), and Brothers of the Snake.
Movies: I watched 183 movies, 44 of which were 2020 releases. Birds of Prey was my favorite 2020 film, and the last thing I saw in the theater; I hit four viewings by year’s end. (I log and comment on every movie I’ve seen on Letterboxd.)
Music: I listened to 52 hours of music, all on Spotify; genre-wise, hip-hop and electronica were my top two. My favorite 2020 releases were Birds of Prey: The Album (various artists), HOUSE OF ZEF (Die Antwoord), and BE (BTS), and dang if that isn’t a decent snapshot of my musical tastes.
RPGs: I played 87 RPG sessions, 27 of which were solo. I only played one 2020 release, Brindlewood Bay; it’s a hoot. Unusually, it’s the first game I can remember that both of my groups are playing at the same time.
Blogging: I wrote 166 blog posts, about 40% of my total output here on Yore since 2012. 2020 also marks the year when Yore crossed the tipping point from being primarily about tabletop RPGs (166 posts as of December 8) to being primarily about minis and my hobby journey (the 167th minis post was on December 8).
Here’s to 2021
While I doubt we’ll get “back to normal” in 2021, I think things will start to look up in the spring and summer, and playing 40k seems like it could happen next winter. (I’m last in line for the vaccine, as I should be, and my family’s bubble, distancing, mask usage, and other precautions don’t seem likely to change for months.) But there’s ample reason to hope for a better year, and hope for it I do!
This blog has had the same logo since 2012, and it felt like it needed an update.
Here’s the new logo:
It’s in the Disco Inferno font created by Nick Curtis of Nick’s Fonts, which I licensed for use here on Yore.
The old logo, retired as of today, was this one:
Regrettably, I didn’t take notes about who created that free font and none of my searching has turned it up again.
I still dig it, and the “medieval manuscript” look certainly fits a lot of Yore’s content and the frame of mind I was in when I made the logo (IE, a focus on old-school RPG stuff), but it was time for a change.
The name, Yore, still feels right to me. Many of my hobbies, notably tabletop RPGs and miniature painting, have their roots in stuff created 40-plus years ago. So it’s Yore as in “days of yore.” But it’s also Yore as in “I’m getting older.” I’ve been playing TTRPGs since 1987. I painted my first miniature around then as well. I’ve been playing board games my entire life (etc.).
The new logo just clicks for me. It still flirts with illegibility (until you see it, and then you can’t unsee it), which tickles me a bit. It implies layers and a measure of depth, which fits my general approach to blogging. And it evokes a 1970s sci-fi novel cover font, something you’d see looming over some weird alien and a starship of improbable design on a far-flung world, dog-eared and purchased in a secondhand bookshop, opening a door to someplace strange and interesting.
After nuking all my Judges Guild posts — along with, in the past year, much of my personal fandom for the old-school corner of the RPG industry — it felt like it was time for a change around here.
Having recently spent a couple happy hours scrolling through five years of archives on the excellent Warpstone Pile miniatures blog, I was drawn to the clean, no-nonsense presentation — and the author’s persistence in staying the course over many years, even during periods where they didn’t post often. I’ve been blogging in some form, mainly about RPGs, since 2005. I enjoy doing it, and it’s not time to toss out the baby with the bathwater quite yet.
So I switched blog templates and started juggling things around. I think I set up the redirect for the old “/yore” link to the blog properly, and didn’t manage to break anything else — but I know things will look funky for a bit.
My previous theme had a skinny main/reading column, so all of my pre-2020 photos are sized for that narrow bar. They look weird now.
But overall this feels like a breath of fresh air and a much-needed change.
Back when we lived in Utah, we went to Salt Lake Comic Con every year. Our 2014 trip included two of my favorite moments with my daughter, Lark. These were originally posted on different days on Google+, but I’m pulling them into one post here (since G+ is going the way of the dodo).
April 18, 2014
I expect my Parent of the Year award any day now.
April 19, 2014
Comic Con day two (for us; day three of the con). One of the things I love about cons is the surprises — I didn’t expect we’d get to wear a snake.
I realized I was bi at at 19 or 20, and came out to a handful of folks over the years, but it’s taken me until age 40 to get to this point. I didn’t think hiding part of my identity was setting a good example for my daughter, and I’m finally in a place — both mentally as a person and literally, in Seattle — where I feel comfortable being myself.
Recently I’ve been thinking about this Paul Bowles quote, which I first saw on Brandon Lee‘s gravestone, in relation to gaming:
“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
I don’t know about you, but my stack of “bucket list” gaming items — campaigns, megadungeons, settings, systems — is probably past the point of being feasible in my lifetime.
Some things on the list, like playing a MechWarrior campaign where we use BattleTech for the ‘Mech fights, I’ve been dragging around for years (roughly 25 years, for that one). Others are fresh, but I can feel them sinking comfortably into the warm, cozy blanket of wishful game-pondering.
If I turned myself to clearing the whole list, with a purpose and a fire in my eyes, and excluded all gaming that wasn’t bent to that purpose, maaaaybe I could get through it all . . . but I’d have fewer friends, and no lovely serendipitous gaming opportunities, and no con sessions, and so on. It’s in no way worth the cost.
So with 30-40 years of productive gaming time ahead of me — if I’m lucky, and stay fortunate, and don’t develop Alzheimers, and on and on — how do I chip away at the list? Do I chip away at the list? Do I even make a formal list?
I don’t know. I’m not maudlin about it, exactly, but it is a sobering thought. Only twenty more moonrises, and all that.
Yesterday was our 10th wedding anniversary, and we spent it in Leavenworth, WA — the first just-us trip we’ve taken since our daughter was born (even further back, actually: the first since our honeymoon).
It was a short overnight trip that somehow managed to feel like it lasted much longer, in the best possible way. We tasted some excellent wine, ate some excellent food — including a stop at Twede’s Cafe, the diner from Twin Peaks, en route — and stayed in a lovely little B&B.
We also had a chance to reflect on the past ten years, being in love, how happy we are as a couple and a family, and how little of where we are now we would have guessed at ten years ago. At dinner last night, we chatted about where we might be in ten years — in our fifties, with Lark about to head off to college, for starters. It was wonderful.
I’ve been married once before; it was a years-long disaster. Both of our parents are divorced, and there are quite a few remarriages and subsequent divorces in the family as well. We don’t tend to dwell on that, but it’s always there as context — and it makes ten happy years mean that much more.
Here’s to the next ten!
 This photo was taken while staring into the sun, which is why I look like a squinty ferret.
On Saturday night, the kiddo and I slept aboard the Arthur Foss, an 1889 tugboat moored on Seattle’s Lake Union. We shared a tiny cabin, toured the ship, and had an absolutely marvelous time.
It’s a deceptively large ship — at least as much of it is below the waterline as above it. It weighs about 1.1 million pounds, and the hull is roughly two feet thick. Being aboard feels like being on dry land — nothing in relatively-still Lake Union perturbs it much, at least under normal conditions.
While bringing dinner back to the ship, it hit me that the likelihood that another dad and daughter were eating Buca di Beppo aboard a 19th century tugboat, anywhere in the world, had to be close to zero. Which, out of 7 billion people, seemed like a pretty nifty thing.