A semi-open forum to slam (or support) whatever i dream up on my blogs. Have fun! :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors. . .

- Lennon/McCartney

Okay, OK, OK, calm down a bit now. Yes, I need help. I'll explain that. But, really, I'm not that desperate. :) I do really like the song, though. Really, who of us that grew up in that era doesn't? Anyways. . . . .

While I was trudging around Wazee Lake County Park this Saturday (see my previous blog-entries) I happened to notice quite a few late-season mushrooms and other higher fungi. This really surprised me, as I figured it was a little too late for them. As a result, I was not prepared to do anything but photograph them in situ. Next time I'll actually collect some, bring 'em home, and study them far better so I can get an accurate identification. That being written, what follows below are some photos of some of the fungi that I saw. If any of you out there recognize anything or have any corrections of what I've got here; PLEASE LET ME KNOW - my curiosity is very piqued on these, especially on the first set of photos.

So, let's get to the photos, shall we? :) Here ya go:

These two photos show something that has boggled my mind ever since I noticed them on the ground. Are these fungi? Are they plants? I certainly don't know! They look cool as heck, though; but I really, really would like an identification on these. This is where I need YOUR help the most. I've looked around a little on the 'net, thinking that these were some type of club fungi or something close to that; but I could not find anything even closely resembling them. There were about 2 dozen of these brown whorls in about a 10 foot by 10 foot area along a walking trail through a mixed-wood forest, predominantly coniferous. These photos show a good representative sample of what the rest looked like. Note the quarter for size-reference.

These two photos show a very common gilled mushroom that I saw on my walk. They were scattered all along the trails I was on in various habitats and were easily the most common 'shroom that I saw. I realize that these photos are not much to go on; but, like I wrote, they're all I have. The only thing I'll exclude is a Russula species, as the stipes were relatively soft compared to what I've read about Russula. Again, this is in mixed forest, predominantly coniferous. These photos were taken from a roadway, the road is no more than 10 years old. I saw lots and lots of different kinds of mushrooms in between the road itself and the actual wooded area of the woods (about 15 feet on average). The soil here, by the way, is almost nonexistent, consisting of sand with very little organic cover on top of that. In the open areas, grass takes a while to get growing well and still grows fairly thin. But, hey, I'm used to the very nice black clays/loamy soils of glaciated central Minnesota.

After a bit of research, I do believe that this is Suillus Luteus, aka "Slippery Jack". These caps weren't viscid, but were sticky. Again, photo taken from the roadway area.

This is one I'm much more certain on. Suillus Americanus. Everything I've read about it points to this species. And, btw, YUCK, what an awful mushroom. :) I will write that these particular samples appeared a bit greener than the texts said, and the photos don't really show that well. Prolly just a bit of regional color variation. There were about 3 dozen caps of this growing in a 5 foot by 5 foot area just outside the tree-line in the roadway.

The only easy 'shroom I found all day. A nice (but small) edible puffball. (Lycoperdon Pyriformes, but don't quote me on that.) These were also fairly common. This sample was split open by squeezing it between my fingers.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Easy Money

Easy money - ain't it hard to find?

- D. Peverett

In World War 2, the U.S. Army's main battle tank was known as the "Sherman" or M4 series. Throughout the war more than 50,000 M4s were manufactured, and the series was updated continuously during its production run. One of the most well-liked variants in the M4 series was the M4A3E8. This upgrade came rather late in the war and involved a major change in the suspension system. This gave the tank a much smoother ride and better traction in loose ground. The E8 variant had the nickname of "easy eight". It was so well-liked that the United States Army decided to keep this version after the war ended, and up-gunned versions were used by the army in the Korean conflict. Some were also sold to other countries, like Israel.

Dragon is a model-manufacturing company based in Singapore (so I've been told). They make good plastic kits of WW2 subjects in the scale that I build in. Recently, I acquired their M4A3E8 kit; it's a scale copy of the tank used by Major Albin F. Irzyk of the 4th Armored Division in 1944. I liked the subject, but I didn't want to build this exact machine. I figured I would just change the unit designation for a more "generic" vehicle. This is the story of that build.

Straight out of the box, this is a pretty good kit. It's mostly plastic but has some nice doo-dads in brass and included a turned aluminum barrel and a metal tow cable. I didn't like the tracks that were included with the kit, as they were not quite the type I wanted to model - according to my sources. I wasn't sure, but I think the kit tracks are for a post-war version. I replaced them with metal track links that were more appropriate for 1944. I also replaced the decals (there weren't many) with dry transfers. This allowed me to model a different vehicle than Maj. Irzyk's.

Building the kit went well. Fit everywhere was very good, with the only exception being the upper and lower halves of the hull gapping at the left side of the front seam. This posed somewhat of a problem, as I figured I would assemble as much as possible, paint, and then add some interior doo-dads, and then put the hull halves together. To solve the gap, I used some spare stock plastic and created an extra glue lip on the inside of the hull halves and used a lot of glue. Then I clamped the gap together. As it is, I still have my fingers crossed that the gap hasn't popped open.

The first photo shows the kit ready for base-paint; a nice standard olive drab.

This is the hull and turret after base-paint and dry transfer application. I have a set of vehicle "names" in dry transfers, and I decided to use one of them here. "Hitler's hearse" looks cool, I think.

This is the view after I applied a black and then dark brown oil-based "wash" over the base-paint. I do this to give the appearance of generic road dirt and grease marks, plus exhaust soot. This also brings out textured weld seams and adds "depth" to small features, making them more noticeable. This looks overdone here, but it gets toned down a bit when I spray on the clear flat overcoat.

This is the view after applying pastel chalks and then overspraying with a clear flat. Making the tank dirty is very important - during the time these machines were in service they got dirty. The key is shooting for realism. Personally, I think that I overdid some of the pastel highlights a little here. Overall, the effect is good though. I can nitpick myself to death sometimes. :)

After painting, I added the suspension and the doo-dads. This is the kit almost finished, I only need to add the drive sprockets and tracks at this point.

The rest of these photos are of the completed kit. They show a good all-around perspective. Overall, I think it turned out pretty good. However, like the SdKfz 251 halftrack I built earlier, I think that I could have done a better job with some things. I did enjoy building this kit, and I would build another if/when given the chance.

I figure that this vehicle would easily fit into a scenario involving the 4th AD in early 1945; perhaps something like a street scene in a Ruhr city in March or April.

I hope that you all enjoyed the story of me building my little "toys". I wrote before that I have a keen interest in WW2, and these provide me with ways of actually getting into the history that I study. Some people might think that I'm a warmonger, but I'm not. What better way to avoid war than to study it? I don't build to "glorify" war, either. What happened in 1939 through 1945 happened, and there is no way I can change that - one way or another. I'm only trying to show others the things that I'm interested in, and I think that this is a good way to do that.
Please, feel free to let me know what you think, about either my attitude or a critique of the build. One of the reasons that I have this blog is to hear from others. 'Till next time. . . . :)

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Mood for a Day

As I wrote in my previous entry, I spent my Saturday (the first blue-sky day in 2 weeks) taking in the scenery at a nearby lake. The place I was at is called Wazee Lake County Park. It's quite unusual, in that it's a man-made lake formed from an old iron mine.

The Jackson County Iron Mine produced iron from taconite from the 1960s to the 1980s. It is located about 3 miles northeast of Black River Falls. When the market became unviable, the mine closed; and the pit filled up with water. A few years later, the area was reclaimed and turned into a park. It has about 10 miles worth of walking trails and another 10 of biking trails. The lake itself is the deepest in Wisconsin.

One of the interesting activities at Wazee Lake is SCUBA diving. There is a SCUBA shop nearby, and the lake itself has 3 areas specifically for putting-in of divers. It's also a non-motorized lake, but you can canoe it. I talked to a few divers who were coming out of the lake, and they told me that there are HUGE fish in the lake; and that nobody fishes it. That'll change. :) :) :) :)

There is also a very-fine-sanded beach at the east end. From what I understand, during the summer it's supposed to be the local cruise spot for the 20's-or-so year-old set. I haven't had a chance to verify that, yet. :) :) :) :)

There is also a link for the mine with more information and photos of the pit in operation here: http://www.uwrf.edu/~wc01/JacksonFe.html

Anyways, the pictures speak for themselves. It was a beautiful day, as I wrote; and we are in the middle of fall color here. For the most part, the photos show my progress around the lake, counter-clockwise, from the southwest end. One photo (third one down) also shows the clarity of the lake water - in it you can see an old tree that is now underwater. A cool place, and I had a great time there. Enjoy! And please let me know what you think.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


There is no dark side of the moon, really -
matter of fact it's all dark.

- background voice at the end of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album.

This post will seem a little odd, even for me. I want to get the funny stuff out of the way first, as I have a few other posts planned.

It has been raining here pretty much every day for the last two weeks. Very dreary, depressing weather; and my mood reflected it. I didn't get out much. Today, when I woke up, there was sunshine. I needed to go have some fun, so I did.

It's mid-fall here, and the trees are turning color. I decided to go a few miles out of town, to a man-made lake, and take my camera with me. I figured that I'd show all of you what a little fall color looks like around here. There were other things to take pictures of, too.

Well, there I was, having fun and taking more than a few photos. I was walking along a trail through the woods near this lake when, all of a sudden, there was a noise like I've never heard before. I looked to where the sound came from, and this is what I saw. I quickly snapped the photo:

What did I get? Nothing less than the ass-end of a porcupine! What I had heard was the little shit raising it's quills. Then it turned away from me. The SOB was mooning me!!! I guess that even the dumb animals here have figured out that I'm in exile from Minnesota. :( Prolly cussed me out too. And farted.

Believe it or not, this the first time I've ever encountered a porkypine in the wild. I've seen and/or been around most other Midwestern wild critters, but this was a first for me. Hell, I haven't even seen one of these as roadkill. I feel lucky that it wasn't drunk and didn't attack. I hear that their quills are tipped with deadly poison and also explode. I didn't even dare moon it back. Fucker.

Anyways, that was only part of my adventure today. The rest is on the way, keep an eye on the next few posts, OK? And don't sit on anything with quills. :) :) :)

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