Posted in Toy Photography

I’ll freeze it all (3/52)

I'll freeze it all!

A post shared by Paul (@pwhphotos) on

For a quick picture, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out. I like the overcast grey of the background scenery – it works well with the color scheme of the old Batman Animated Series Mr. Freeze action figure. This is the first time I’ve shot outside this year.

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Posted in Odds & ends

Gaming Log- Fate Grand Order Saber Wars

Fate: Grand Order’s first event of 2018, Saber Wars, wrapped up yesterday and it was fairly productive for me. I was able to get everything I wanted out of the event shop, reach two million points to clear the reward ladder and even add to my stock of Reverse Dragon Scales via battle drops.

The story was fun, if short – Mysterious Heroine X crash lands near where Saber Lily is training. Ms. X vows to help train Lily while secretly plotting to destroy all other saber-class servants. In the final act, another mystery woman arrives to battle Ms. X.

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Lily helps Ms. X defeat Ms. Z, and then we’re launched into two weeks of farming to gather items and Altrium points to help Ms. X repair her space ship.

This event marked a departure from some recent ones in that we had a choice of battles to fight to gather resources. For people with low level servants or who had yet to acquire the damage-boosting craft essence cards, there was a set of relatively easy battles. If you had to stick with them for the whole event, you could certainly clear the event shop and would have a chance of getting enough Altrium points to obtain all five copies of Saber Lily, but you wouldn’t have much of a shot of obtaining everything from the points ladder.

But if you had strong servants, you could move on to the tougher fights. Most of the people I know who play Fate: Grand Order spend the bulk of their time fighting a version of Scathach with nearly a million hit points because it gave them a chance to collect Hearts of the Foreign God, Octuplet Crystals and Eternal Gears. The consistent rewards were a mix of Vacuum Tubes and Altrium points.

So I ended up moving on to the next fight once I had all the Vacuum Tubes I needed and spent the last week of the event fighting Ultra Heroine Z, who had over a million hit points. That battle only gave you Altrium points, so you got more of them – and I decided to stop using Golden Fruits for this event once I’d gotten enough copies Saber Lily to max out her Noble Phantasm.

I relieved on borrowed Okitas (and one of my in-game friend’s level 100 Mordred with 10/10/10 skills) to be my main damage dealer, with my max leveled Altria and Saber Lily to back them up. My back row consisted of Waver, to help support whoever was left after my first front row servant was defeated, Mashu, to switch in and taunt Ultra Heroine Z when she charged her Noble Phantasm, and a level 50 Nero to increase my Altrium points bonus.

That lineup worked well, for the most part. But occasionally I’d end up losing all of my sabers and be left with just Waver, or Waver and Mashu. And every time that happened, Waver came through as my damage dealer and carried the day. One time he pulled it off despite being down to one hit point. So he’s my MVP for moving out of his customary role to save me.

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I did try to summon Mysterious Heroine X, but she didn’t answer my call within the 90 Saint Quartz and handful of summon tickets I was willing to use. That’s ok. Shiki will be coming soon.

I was really trying for Nero, and I got her.

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I was able to get her to level 50 during the event, and I should be able to get her to level 60 at least during our two million download celebration with its 1/2 AP ember gathering missions. Saber Wars also helped me to final ascend Waver and Kiyohime, and fully level Saber Gilles, Medusa and Mashu (for now.) I also got Caesar, Saber Lily and Waver to bond level six.

How did Saber Wars go for you?

Posted in Autographs, Baseball Cards, New York Mets

Some baseball cards on a snowy day

It’s snowing again as I write this morning, but we’re less than a month away from the start of spring training. (Yoenis Cespedes, Amed Rosario, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares are already in Florida.)

So I thought I’d share some recent baseball card purchases, my first of 2018. I’m particularly happy with the T.J. Rivera and Josh Smoker cards since they’ve been Mets long enough to appreciate them.

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Baseball Reference tells me that Jamie Callahan and Tomas Nido played for the Mets last year, but I don’t remember them at all. Luis Guillorme made an amazing catch in the dugout last spring, but he’s still waiting for his shot in the big leagues. The A.J. Ramos card is a placeholder until I can get one that shows him as a Met. I think I already had a Matt Reynolds autograph, but he’s sporting the snazzy Mr. Met spring training cap and it was only a dollar… so why not?

Odds & ends:

  • Johnny Monell, who briefly played for the 2015 Mets, has joined the Tampa Bay Rays organization
Posted in Baseball

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The fans in Pittsburgh watched Andrew McCutchen play his last game as a Pirate on tv Oct. 1. He went one-for-three, hitting a double off of Gio Gonzelez and left the game for a pinch-runner. The Pirates went on to win 11-8 over the playoff-bound Washington Nationals, notching their 75th and final victory of 2017.

Last night, the Pirates traded McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Kyle Crick and minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

The Giants, very much in win-now mode, will be interesting to watch. In addition to McCutchen, they added longtime Tampa Bay Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria this offseason. I don’t remember the last time a team acquired two players who were so strongly identified with a different franchise in one winter. Neither is the star that they once were, but magical things seem to happen in San Francisco.

The Pirates are clearly hoping to build for the future. Crick gives them a potentially interesting reliever who’s ready to help at the big league level and Reynolds gives them a lottery ticket for 2020 or so. Given the lackluster return Pittsburgh got for two years of Gerrit Cole, this isn’t an awful package for one year McCutchen.

But it’s the end of an era that once showed such promise in Pittsburgh, and it’s sad that the team wasn’t able to do more when they had McCutchen than go to the playoffs three times and only advance to the Divisional Series once.

And more bad news for Pirates fans… team owner Bob Nutting says this cycle is going to keep happening until there’s a “fundamental redesign of the economics of baseball; that’s not what we’re going to have.”

But as frustrating as it’s gotta be, at least the Pirates have a plan and an owner willing to take some responsibility for the team’s moves. You can argue that Nutting should be willing to risk more of his own money or sell the team to someone who is, but he’s out there sharing his point of view with the media and the fans. (Contrast that with Mets ownership, where everyone is content to let GM Sandy Alderson take all the fallout from unpopular moves even though it’s unclear what financial resources he’s got to work with.)

In other news of interest:

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

January thaw

Like the temperatures in the Northeast, Major League Baseball’s frozen hot stove season experienced a brief thaw late last week.

The New York Mets got things started by signing Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million contract Wednesday, and added Adrian Gonzalez over the weekend. The Pittsburgh Pirates shipped former Cy Young Award contender Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for a package of four middling prospects. We finally have some actual news to discuss instead of just rumors.

The Mets’ moves are not exciting, but they should help the team.

Bruce is a consistently productive hitter with inconsistent defensive ratings, though the eyeball test is going to tell you that you’re in trouble if you ever consider him one of the best defensive players on your team. He can help provide power in the middle of the batting order and buy time for Michael Conforto to fully recover from last year’s shoulder injury, even though Conforto will likely be forced to play center field when he does return. And Bruce proved versatile enough to play first base, if there is a need.

Gonzalez is a low-risk, moderate reward signing. With the Atlanta Braves on the hook for all but $545,000 of his $21.5 million contract, Gonzalez can provide spring training competition for Dominic Smith. He can be a veteran bat off the bench if Smith wins the first base job, and Gonzalez can be released if he shows he can’t play at a high enough level to help the Mets.

After all, neither Smith nor Gonzalez had good seasons at the Major League level last year. Gonzalez hit .231 / .287 / .355 with three home runs in 231 at bats in an injury shortened season that saw him lose his job to rookie Cody Bellinger. As a late-season call-up, Smith hit .192 / .262 / .395 with nine home runs in 167 at bats.

For a rebuilding team, it would be an easy call to see if Smith could grow into a starting role. A team that sees itself as a contender needs a fallback plan. fans can’t be criticized for hoping that plan would be more ambitious than Gonzalez. But Gonzalez makes the Mets a better team and shouldn’t preclude them from continuing to shore up their infield by adding a second baseman or third baseman join Asdrubal Cabrera and Amed Rosario and the winner of the first base competition.

Here’s hoping that infielder is coming…and I wouldn’t mind another starting pitcher. Even Bartolo Colon on a minor league deal wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The Cole trade is more of a head-scratcher. Sure, it’s a easy win for the Astros — the defending World Series champs add to an already-good starting rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton.

Even if pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran, who was Houston’s No. 5 prospect and outfielder Jason Martin, who was Houston’s No. 15 prospect, pan out for the Pirates, the Astros made a move that helps them defend their title with minimal impact on their 2018 roster.

The Pirates are getting young, Major League-ready talent… but no one who projects with enough upside to be a star. Their fans are still left wondering if Cole was the first step of a full rebuild or an attempt to reload for another run with Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. And they’ve got to be coming to the realization that if the return for Cole – a 27-year-old with two years of team control – was disappointing, McCutchen – a 31-year-old in the final year of a seven-year contract – may not bring back anyone of note at all.

With less than a month to go before players start reporting to spring training, hopefully we’ll get some more actual baseball news to talk about instead of rumors created for the sake of page clicks.

And hey, if we don’t? Those “Player X is in the best shape of his life” stories might be a little more interesting if Player X is still looking for a job when they run.

Posted in Star Wars, Toy Photography

Maz Kanata (2/52)

Maz Kanata #TheLastJedi #StarWars

A post shared by Paul (@pwhphotos) on

Here’s my second photo of the week for 2018, a closeup of Hasbro’s 6″ scale Maz Kanata figure.

This was a largely unplanned shot – I was just taking pictures of some figures that were hanging around on my desk and happened to like how it came out. I do need to work out a better lighting setup – while some of this photo’s overexposure is a result of the Instagram filter, it is definitely an issue with the original photo.

Posted in Books, Star Wars

Recommended reading: Star Wars: Canto Bight

1515524138227-02a0e9e2-e0e8-42c4-a1cf-f626c17f3bc2_.jpgStar Wars: Canto Bight has the honor to be the first book I read in 2018. One of a handful of releases as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Canto Bight sets out to tell us more about the casino city that is featured in the new Star Wars film.

Thing is, I don’t know how many people care. While I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I liked spending time with the characters we already knew and meeting Rose Tico. I liked the crystal foxes and the porgs. I did not care very much about the new ships and locations Rian Johnson included in his movie, because they just weren’t that important or memorable.

And that’s a shame, because Canto Bight is worth a look. It’s a fun collection of novellas that do explore Johnson’s otherworldly Monte Carlo.

  • Saladin Ahmed gives us a tale of a moisture vaporator “salesbeing of the year” who won the vacation of a lifetime and an assassin who’s working one last job who end up crossing paths in Canto Bight
  • Mira Grant tells us about the best sommelier in the galaxy, two mysterious sisters and the wine of dreams in a story that explores the lengths people will go to build a legend
  • Rae Carson offers us a masseur, a crime boss and a story about how family changes us.
  • and Jackson Miller writes about a small-time professional gambler who has an amazing run of luck and learns when to play his system and when to trust in fortune.

If you’re thinking that these don’t really sound like Star Wars stories, you’d be right. Take away a wookiee here, a mention of Alderaan there and you’d have four stories that could be easily rewritten for any science fiction anthology with a casino theme. But I enjoyed them anyway, particularly Grant’s story about the Grammus sisters.

Canto Bight may never capture the imagination of a generation of fans the way the Mos Eisley cantina or Jabba’s Palace did thirty plus years ago. But that probably has less to do with Canto Bight than it does with Disney – in 2018, we can pretty much count on a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as they make money. The original Star Wars was in theaters for over a year and was one of the first movies a lot of us bought on VHS. We watched it so many times, the cantina couldn’t fail to make an impression. That’s not really the case now.

But if you enjoy short-form fiction, whether you care about Star Wars or not, I think you might like Star Wars: Canto Bight.