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plaster wall as substrate for tile

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This may be a little off topic, but I thought there might be some do-it-yourselfers out there who can help me.
I'm about to begin some major renovations to my home starting w/ the bathroom.  It currently has cheap paneling (the kind that looks like tile) up to about 4' from the floor.  As you can imagine, this stuff doesn't stand up to water very well.  I want to replace it with real ceramic tile, but I'm not sure if the plaster walls (not gyp. bd., this house was built in 1920) are a suitable base for applying the tile with thin-set.  I know that in new construction, cement backer-board or gypsum "blue-board" is typically used, but I don't want to tear out plaster if I don't have to.
Also, does anyone have any experience w/ installing glass block?  The existing tub has a window centered over it that has NOT fared well over the years.  I think I'd like to remove it and replace it w/ glass block, then remove the tub and build a shower enclosure (It's a REAL small bathroom).  I just don't know if this is something I should try tackling myself or whether I should hire someone.
Any opinions???
Sherman D. (Dan) Vines, EIT
Willett Engineering Co., Inc.