Monday, March 27, 2017

Bogart and the Great Wall of UR


Bogey is back. He came home from the vet on Friday afternoon after being monitored since his catheter was removed Thursday morning.

I spent an anxious weekend looking for any signs of a recurrance of his blockage. I followed him around like a parent potty-training a child urging him to pee—even if it's on the carpet, just go. Pleeeese. I'm happy to say that he went, and not on the carpet either (though the bathroom sink got tagged). His flow seems to be back to normal.

He's now on prescription veterinary diet food forever. He used to go crazy for kibble. Twice a day I'd feed him half a 3 oz. can of wet food, then a 1/8 cup of kibble. After that he'd rush to the kitchen going "MEEEEEEEEEP!" anytime I got near to it, with the expectation that I'd give him more kibble. I found it hard to say no and that may have been a factor in his blockage: too much dry food, even if it was premium grade stuff. Giving your insistent cat food just because they want it is bad cat-parenting.

Now it's just Purina prescription food, which he's kind of "meh" about. He eats it eventually, but he seems a bit disappointed in his daily repast. I give him two 5.5 oz cans a day, though he probably leaves maybe and ounce or so uneaten; you know, just to protest.


I bought two cases of urinary formula prescription diet food (48 cans!) from the vet. My cupboard is now home to the Great Wall of UR. So named for the symbol on the cans, which looks like an element in the periodic table.


On the plus side, the two girls (Maebh and Rhiannon) love the prescription food—at least for now. I expect a day will come when Maebh eagerly comes to the dish, sniffs a few times, looks up at me in disbelief, and then struts away fully prepared to starve herself to death on principle.

My plan is to wean them off kibble as well. It's better for them to eat canned only and it's difficult to try to maintain Bogart's kibble-free diet if the girls are noshing as much as they want and he goes without.

Bogey's still on some meds while he recovers. Last week was traumatic (for me as well as him, but I'm not on meds). He's a better pill-popper than Grendel. In Grendel's last days, I had to liquefy his pills and then wrestle him down to squirt the liquified pill(s) into his mouth with a syringe. The process usually involved reloading one or twice since I'd miss my shot when he'd twist suddenly just when I thought I had him. It left us both exhausted and Grendel stained with missed syringe loads. Then he'd sit an glare at me for an hour. With Bogart, it's still a bit of a wrestle, but I can pop the pill right in (covered with a bit of Pill Pocket) and he gulps it down.

I think the crisis is passed and we have a plan in place to mitigate the possibility of recurrence.

Now if I could only get Maebh to chill out and stop hating him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Perchance to pee


Bogart seems to be recovering very well from his bout with a urinary tract blockage.

In my call with the vet yesterday I learned that the very elevated creatinine level (19+) was back down to normal (2.0). His electrolytes are also back in balance. It's really an amazing recovery.

He's due to have his catheter removed on Thursday. If he can pee on his own, he's good to come home. I'm very hopeful and all the indications are good.

Until then, he's in the hospital wearing a cone with tubes sticking out of him.

When I visited him on Tuesday, he was much livelier than after his bladder flush and catheterization on Monday. He got so excited to see me that I was afraid he'd pull all his tubes out and I had to restrain him from leaping out of the little wall cubicle he was in.

His appetite is back with a vengeance. He hadn't eaten anything since Saturday and was only just licking a bit of gravy by Tuesday morning. He had a mostly full dish of food when I visited him Tuesday afternoon, which he attacked vigorously and finished when I was there. Later in the day, the vet told me he was eating voraciously.

Assuming all things go well on Thursday and he's got through this ordeal, there are a lot of things to mind going forward. He'll be on a urinary health formulated diet in perpetuity (yes, it's expensive). I'll also look into other supplements for urinary health. I'm also looking at pet insurance. I'm hard-pressed to cover the costs of this unexpected emergency ($2000.00+) and fear the possibility of recurrence (see below).

I've read several heartbreaking accounts of people who've lost cats due to urinary tract blockage. Basically, after 24 hours of blockage, the toxins build up and become deadly. Untreated, the cat can die—painfully—within six days.

I got Bogart in after maybe 48 hours blockage. He seemed fine Saturday morning, though I recall that we was licking himself a lot and seemed to be trying to pee on the carpet. Saturday night he was clearly uncomfortable, but I assumed it was constipation. I honestly had no idea about the likelihood of a urinary tract blockage. It's a risk for male cats (small wee-wees = small urethrae that block easily). I was giving him a tincture to help soften his stool and expecting any time he'd push out a massive dookie and be OK.

Recurrence is a big concern. Most of the accounts I read, which are likely the worst scenarios, mention that the blockage came back and back. There is actually a procedure (perineal urethrostomy) to remove the male cat's penis and suture in a wider urethra. That's pretty radical. My hope is that diet, supplements, and close monitoring of his water intake will keep him healthy for years to come.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Here's looking at you, kid.


Bogart's in the hospital.

I came home Saturday evening to find him irritated and in some discomfort. I assumed it might be constipation, so I got some over the counter stuff and hoped it would help him.

By Sunday morning, he was worse, so I resolved to bring him to the vet on Monday, which turned out to be just in time. He had a urinary tract blockage, which might have killed him. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with how common that can be in male cats and how deadly it can be.

They catheterized him and flushed out his bladder. His urine was quite bloody, though the bleeding subsided after some time on the catheter. The bleeding was likely due to the distention of his bladder.

He'll be an inpatient for the next few days as they continue an I.V. treatment to flush the toxins he built up.

I'm not sure what caused the blockage. X-rays revealed no stones or mineral build up in his bladder. In what reading I've done today about the condition, vets don't really seem to know exactly why it happens—which means it's hard to do reliable prevention, though diet can help. The urethra of a male cat is significantly smaller than a female cat's (male cats have very small penises, thus narrow urethras), which makes them more susceptible to blockage.

It's a very expensive treatment, but I'm glad to have saved my little boy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's freakin' huge


Just a postscript to my last post...

The iPhone 7 Plus is taking some getting used to. I love the larger screenI can easily read ebooks and websites on itbut that sucker has a big footprint. It's bigger and heavier than my 5S, so schlepping it about is awkward. It doesn't really fit into my pockets the same way. The whole man purse thing is a non-starter.


It's also a bit unwieldy to use in one hand. I'm using muscles now that weren't needed to manipulate the 5S.

Phabulousness comes with some tradeoffs, but no buyer's remorse. Not yet.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Redeviced


I haven't upgraded my phone in more than three years. Since I recently bid adieu to my landline and gone totes mobile, I figured I needed an upgrade. Being an applephiliac, I naturally went for an iPhone.

A few years back, I was ribbing Phil Bardsley on the immensity of his iPhone 6 Plus. Compared to the iPhone 5 he upgraded from, it was like a small tablet more than a phone. Indeed, it is a phablet. Nevertheless, I got an iPhone 7 Plus; later model, same size, more phab.

After dinner yesterday at D-Thai (a tasty, but sorta greasy spoon Thai restaurant in Bothell, WA) with a friend from the parish, I went straight to the mall. The Verizon store wasn't packed, but there was a wait, so I browsed, played with the toys, and confirmed to myself that I wanted the BIG 7 Plus.

Buying the Phone took no time, but transferring data from the old phone had some complications. I never went beyond the standard 5GB storage for iCloud. I kinda don't do backups, even though it was annoying to have the pop-up asking me if I wanted to upgrade my iCloud storage every time I started my iPhone or iPad. My best option for getting all my data from old to new phone was a) backup the old phone to iCloud, then b) restore to new phone from backup et voilĂ ! But I needed to buy more storage and had to fiddle with resetting my iTunes password to do it (I can never remember).

Verizon activated the new phone, and off I went to the Apple Store at the mall to get the nifty leather case for it (Verizon had none in stock) and that weird Belkin splitter that lets you recharge and plug in earphones at the same time. This is necessary because Apple controversially decided to forego a dedicated jack for the earphones. There's just one port and it's used to power and to listen. Apparently this was a design issue because there just wasn't enough internal room to have a dedicated jack and, also, everyone is supposed to be going to wireless earphones. (I actually have a pair, but I don't really like 'em.)

At home by about 8:30, I got the password reset, and started backing up my old phone around 9:30 or so. I figured 20 minutes. An hour later, I'm finally all backed up and need to restore the backup to the new phone. That's another half hour or so. It's after 11:00 and I'm just ready to start playing with the new toy. It's no shocker that it's basically the same as the old toy (only more so), but I still had to play. This usually means listening to iTunes music and fiddling with all the apps. I went from near exhaustion while waiting for the backup/restore to a second wind that didn't get me into bed until after 2:00 AM—and then I sat in bed reading Paul Johnson's Intellectuals 'til nearly 3:00.

Then I had a 6:30 AM conference call.

Two cups of coffee (third cup awaits) and some Cheerios later, I'm running on all cylinders, I think, but expecting to crash later today.

One nice advantage of the iPhone 7 Plus is the 12 megapixel camera, which is apparently THE BEST PHONE CAMERA EVAR! (Until the next one, of course.) I've been using my iPhone more lately to take photos of my games. It's just a lot easier than lugging about the digital SLR and tripod. The only kicker has been that while the 8 megapixel camera on the iPhone 5S is pretty good, it couldn't match the quality of a digital SLR shot taken in RAW format using a long exposure time. I don't assume that the 7 Plus' camera will either, but it's an improvement that will likely lead me to be satisfied that phone camera photos are good enough for blog work. (Whither, then, the digital SLR?)


My tendency towards gigantism didn't stop with the iPhone 7 Plus, however. With all the waiting I did before a salesman could help me, I played with the HUGE 12.9 inch iPad Pro. I first saw one of these at Costco. There was something dizzyingly overwhelming about it. Its screen is bigger than the monitor on my first computer (Mac Plus ca. 1988). Its resolution is as wide as the 9.7 inch iPad Pro (a.k.a. the Baby Pro) is tall (2732 x 2048 vs. 2048 x 1536). It was shiny.

So I bought one. Black (like all my devices) with 256GB storage. The kicker is that they're out of stock and it may be April before I get it. I'm in no hurry. I'll have time to get used to my HUGE phone before I have to start getting used to my HUGE iPad.

It's odd that as I watched my current iPad advance into senility (I love it, but it's four years old, which is like Methuselah in device years), I was thinking I wouldn't get another iPad. Then here I go.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To the last man: The Pikeman's Lament AAR


We played The Pikeman's Lament on Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland.

We were planning on a game later this month, but that date fell through and we moved it up. That brought about a flurry of painting in the last week or so to get some units done in time for the game. Even then, it wound up being a bit ersatz.

We played the river crossing scenario from the rule book with two 24-point companies per side. Each of us brought our own figures. It was a pseudo-quasi-30 Years War-ish mix. I used my Renegade/Bicorne English Civil War units, Troy Wold used a mix of units he'd purchased recently (included some Empress Miniatures ECW that were re-flagged as Saxe-Weimar troops), Mike Lombardy made a fearsome company from Polish cavalry figures leftover from another army, Pat Clifford made up a company of 30 Years War Swedes, which he dropped off before the game for us to use, though he couldn't stay himself. We talked John Kennedy into playing in Pat's stead.

Mike and I faced off on one side; John and Troy faced off on the other. The companies arrayed were:

Mike
2 x Aggressive Elite Gallopers (very nasty)
3 x Aggressive Gallopers (slight less nasty)

Me
1 x Forlorn Hope
1 x Aggressive Forlorn Hope
2 x Dragoons
1 x Regimental Gun

John
1 x Gallopers
1 x Field Gun (death from afar)
2 x Shot
1 x Pike

Troy
4 x Shot
2 x Pike

We also rolled up officer backgrounds and traits. The cats and I got Lion of the North (re-roll up to two attacks in combat), and Fencing Master (hit opponent in a duel on 4+). Mike, opposing me, got the trait that his officer can only be hit in a duel on a 6—I'm not sure if that cancels my ability or my ability cancels his. In any case, we didn't duel.

We all deployed no closer than 12" from the river that ran through the center of the table. I had a small farmstead with seemingly defensible low stone walls. and I set my units up to go into position on the walls and stuck my officer in with the Forlorn Hope unit. On post-game reflection, I should have stuck him in with the Aggressive Forlorn Hope and used it as a reserve in my position. His Lion of the North trait is useful only in attack and the Aggressive Forlorn Hope was my only unit with a decent attack value (3+).

Me, the cats, and  forlorn hope deployed
I put my Forlorn Hope and one of my Dragoons in one section. Outside the farmstead walls I put the Aggressive Forlorn Hope opposite the river ford. On the other side, I put the other Dragoon and my Regimental Gun.

Contesting the ford, sort of
Ready to man the walls
Mike's Poles were up on a hill just above the river, ready to swoop down.

The Polish menace
John deployed his field gun well back with a good field of fire against Troy's units.

Ready to lob death
The field gun was to prove deadly. John estimated that 80% of Troy's casualties came from the Field Gun. My Regimental Gun, by comparison, proved to be a disappointment. I flubbed my first activation for shooting after which Mike's pancerni were upon me. Sitting way back 30+ inches away, John could fire at Troy with impunity with a 3+ shot (or 4+ over 12", but that's still better than any shot unit).

Shot ready to move forward
John and Mike got the first activation and set off coming at us. John got the blessed 6-6-6 activation sequence on his first roll. That's rolling double 6 for activation and then 6 again on the effect chart to get an additional 4 points of units coming on board. John added another Pike unit to his company.

Mike ran his Gallopers right up to the river in preparation for crossing. By this time, my Regimental Gun and Dragoons had taken position on the wall, which I assumed would be a suitable bulwark.

In our sights
At this point, as I related, I failed my activation for the shooting the gun. Next turn, I was beset by angry Poles.

Ramrods and gun-swabs against lances
The fight didn't last long. My bulwark was less redoubtable than I hoped. I lost three figures (half my unit) in the first round and got pushed back, but not wavering. I managed, however, to take one Galloper with me. Because all Mike's cavalry were Aggressive Gallopers, they followed up for a second round, which finished me off. I managed to get another Galloper in the second round, so I was able to reduce him a wee bit.

My Dragoon unit on the other side of the building got shellacked in the same 1-2 punch kind of way. I evaded him at first, but my shot (hitting only on 6s) was  pretty desultory. I tried another shot at 5+, but did no harm. He charged me and got me. After two rounds I was reduced down to a single figure wavering behind the far wall. I did no damage to him. At this point, it looked as if Mike was going to sweep through my position like I wasn't there.

Sweeping through
On my activation, I managed to rally my lone Dragoon so he could run away the next time Mike charged him (which he must—such is the fate of Aggressive Gallopers). I also took a very ineffective shot at Mike's cavalry with my Forlorn Hope. The men must have been distracted by mewling cats.

My shooting was pretty much a disappointment all game. I used my vintage 5/8" bakelite dice, which have proven to be disastrous for their users in the last several Quetzalcoatl Rampant games. I should have used my irregular, non-cubical faux-antique bone dice.

Mike next came for the Forlorn Hope. It looked like I'd have another fleeing or destroyed unit—taking my officer and cats with it—but I managed to take cover in a wee wood which suddenly evened the odds against the nasty cavalry. Reduced though I was, I managed to hold on and whittle down Mike's cavalry just a bit.

Hanging on
I got pushed out of the woods, but stall managed to pass morale even though I was now down to two figures in the units (but still four cats). The outlook was pretty grim.

Facing certain death
At this point, I counterattacked with my Aggressive Forlorn Hope. Mike failed his countercharge roll and I managed to finally get some revenge on the rampaging Poles.

Pike you very much
I didn't managed to break the Poles, but I took out a couple with no loss to myself. Those Poles are hard to kill.

Unbowed, but much reduced
With more cavalry pouring in, I pulled my Forlorn Hope back out of harm's way and interposed my other (full strength) Dragoon unit in the woods.

Protecting the officer (and cats)
As he must, Mike's cavalry rolled for wild charge and went in. With exactly even odds against each other in the woods, I managed to chew up the Gallopers, which bounced and then disastrously failed morale. It was the first of Mike's units to be lost.

At this point, I made my own blessed 6-6-6 activation roll. Since I had no other ECW figures painted, I pulled out my late 16th c. Irish pikemen and brought them on board against the pancerni who were bedeviling my lone Dragoon figure. I'd managed to successfully evade and even took out a figure, but he was sure to be a goner soon, so the miraculous intervention of the Irish Pike was well timed.

Irish!
Even then, the Irish took a beating while slowly whittling down the pancerni (did I mention that the Poles were hard to kill). I got pushed back twice and became wavering once before prevailing. It took killing every pancerni to do it.

The fight between my Aggressive Forlorn Hope and Mike's Elite Aggressive Gallopers went on. I got pushed back over the wall and attacked again. Even then, with my stamina at 5 for defending the wall, Mike's below-half-strength hussars were dishing out death. On six D6, he rolled exactly five hits and whittled me down some more. I eventually killed the last hussar.

Still at it tooth and claw
Mike's last pancerni (Aggressive Gallopers) unit had been having a rough go. Troy managed to get some good shots at him early on with his leftmost Shot unit. The pancerni took losses, wavered, failed morale while wavering and found themselves at half strength without ever coming to blows.  They eventually managed to get an attack on my beat-up Aggressive Forlorn Hope unit, but they destroyed themselves doing it.

At this point, Mike's last unit, fresh and with his officer attached, came into the fray.

The final menace
All I had left were some very battered units. The last man in my wavering Aggressive Forlorn Hope failed the morale test and went away. I had one Dragoon at half strength, one Dragoon reduced to a single figure, my Forlorn Hope reduced to two figures (plus cats), and my Irish pikes were down to 9 figures—the only unit left above half strength.

Survivors
Mike had lost four of the five units he started with. I can't imagine how that happened. I seemed to be hanging on for dear life every turn. However, I can't see that I could have prevailed against the last hussar unit (Aggressive Elite Gallopers). They outclassed every unit I had and would have swept me away if the game continued.

John eventually got the last of his units across the river; we never managed to get anyone across.

John and Troy had been bashing each other, though most of the casualties came from John's Field Gun. He seemed to be tearing chunks out of Troy's units every turn. In two shots he eliminated one of Troy's Shot units.

In hand to hand, Troy seemed to be holding his own. I don't recall how John's Swedish Gallopers fared. They were still on the board by game end, but I was so fixed on the battle between Mike and me that I paid little attention to what John and Troy were doing (and took fewer pics).

Swedish Gallopers
Post Mortem

I liked the game despite its early frustrations. My initial die rolls were painful, but I was actually rolling well had I been up against something less than superatomic troops. Aggressive Gallopers are fearsome enough, but Aggressive Elite Gallopers are like the Terminator.

In The Pikeman's Lament, the upgrade to Aggressive Elite Galloper makes them like Mounted Men at Arms in Lion Rampant—only more so. The Pikeman's Lament has a compulsory follow-up for certain troop types that Lion Rampant doesn't have. The one-two punch of Gallopers makes them much more devastating them their equivalents in Lion Rampant. As the punchee, you can't just retreat and lick your wounds after getting hit; you're gonna get hit again in your weakened state without a chance to react.

I'm painting Gallopers now.

I failed to use the terrain effectively, which might have much mitigated the shock and awe of the rampaging Gallopers. I had that bit of woods, but I also had two buildings, which I completed disregarded. They were cover and rough terrain. I could have retreated to them and fought the hussars of doom at even odds as they crashed against me with their wild charges.

My company was a hodge-podge made up of the only units I had painted and based—witness my reinforcements of Irish rebel pike ca. 1590. It was them or some gallowglass. I have many more units in some state of being painted, but I have a lot of competition for my painting time. I'm shifting focus to Mexico ca. 1520 now. I want to complete the figures I have in the works. There's probably 100 figures to paint for Enfilade! in May.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dixon Grand Alliance!

My Dixon figures has arrove! A few weeks back I sent out a small order for some of the venerable Dixon Grand Alliance range and the ding-dong at my door this afternoon was the mailman dropping them off. I say 'venerable' because the range is more than 35 years old—that's dead in dog years and nearly so in figure range years. But these figures have stood the test of time and are as good or better than many newer figure ranges.

But I wasn't sure what to expect from such a hoary range when I ordered. In too many cases, ordering figures from a range that's a few decades old (or older) can be a disappointment. The molds might not be maintained well and what you get requires a lot of filing and trimming just to distinguish them from fishing weights. (I recall an order to Minifigs USA many years ago that made me think I'd purchased from the Carve-Your-Own-from-a-Block-of-Lead range.)

This is not the case with Dixon! The figures are as clean and well cast as if they were a brand new range. Not only that, but the packaging has all the elegance of old school English figure manufacturers. No bubble-packs or baggies full o' lead. My order contained two small 3" x 3" x 2" white boxes personalized with my initials on the top.

Monogramed box
Inside, the figures were wrapped in royal blue tissue paper as carefully as if they were fine porcelain.

All snug in their box
This is a nice touch.

These figures bring back fond memories. I painted a lot of them in the '80s. When they first came out ca. 1980 they were absolutely the best figures on the market. In a world that was still dominated by Minifigs and Hinchliffe (both cutting edge in their day), their fine detail, animated poses, and head variants put them way ahead of everyone else. They were also in an historical niche that I just loved and no one else was making late 17th c. figures.

I was living in San Jose, CA at the time and several of us got the bug to game the late 17th c. using the old WRG Renaissance rules by George Gush. I painted my minis as Brandenburg-Prussians ca. Nine Years War. I sold them when I went off to seminary in 1986 and briefly resumed painting some about three years later while I was still in Chicago. I never did much with the new batch and sold them in the early 90s after I moved to Seattle. Since then, I've wanted to do another project using these figures. The North Star 1672 range fulfilled some of that desire—Mark Copplestone is the sculptor for both ranges and I'm a big fan of Mark's work.

Among the felicities of The Pikeman's Lament, is that the small scale of a company means that I can do projects for those rules that I would eschew if they required hundreds of figure to complete. So I decided that I could use Dixon Grand Alliance figures to build a company for James II and William III's Irish campaign. I'm already doing late 16th c. Irish Wars using the excellent Timeline Miniatures Border Reivers, so this is a fast-forward by 100 years from that period--no kern or gallowglass.

I'm starting with James' Irish forces first. Years ago, I picked up a nice booklet on the conflict: William III at War: Scotland and Ireland 1689-1691 by Alan Sapherson.



It's chock full of information about Irish, English, Dutch, and Danish units for the campaign in Ireland. I picked it up for $8.95 30 years ago, now it's going for $45.00 on Amazon! I've already got the uniform colors in mind and Flags of War makes the flags for both sides. (Gotta have flags, even in a skirmish game.)

In my Dixon order, I got 12 musketeers for a shot unit, 6 grenadiers (with plug bayonets) for a forlorn hope unit, 2 each of the officers and drummer, and a mounted general.

All unboxed now
This is a good start for now. My plan for the company is to add another unit of shot, a unit of 6 pikes taken as aggressive forlorn hope (no shooting, just piking), a 6-figure unit of dragoons, two 6-figure cavalry units. I'll get the lot in my next order to Dixon.

Musketeers and grenadiers
For now, I have a lot of figures to paint: for other projects ECW, Aztecs, conquistadors, Thirty Years War, Medieval Spanish, Irish 16th c., etc.

Officers mostly
But I'm pretty excited about the Dixon figures, so I'll likely clean and prime these figures soon and get then on deck.