Sunday, December 28, 2008

Untitled Poem

I dreamed of a girl
with dark skin and bright eyes
long hair and long neck
and warm copper lips
willing with chaste kisses
their taste the promise
of youth fulfilled
Out of place among us
in the midst of our filth
her royalty was unmarred
She gave me a gift
of gems and precious metals
but when I looked at it later
it was a simple thing
a child's thing
of bright colored clay

This poem is the direct result of a very vivid dream I had. The setting is an idealized evocation of warm summer nights in my teenage years. I loved the ambiguity of the symbolic gift.

Dreaming in Poetry

Okay, bear with me. This came to me fully formed in a dream while I was feeling quite poorly, and most likely feverish.
my attendants array before me each morning
in uniforms chosen through assessment
and reassessment
and as they diminish in service to me
throughout the month
until they are nearly spent
like the invincible moon
made full again
It wasn't quite as vivid as the hallucinations I had when I had meningitis, but it's still pretty cool for something that I didn't consciously write. When I woke the memory was vivid enough for me to quickly jump to the computer and write it down. Apparently I had gone to bed early (no recollection) because the time stamp is about 10:00 PM.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Staying on your Talking Points

This made me laugh.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Contribution to Democracy

I stood in line for about an hour and a half to vote this morning. I'm glad the eather was nice. The people behind me passed the time by blathering on about anything and everything. The fellow who asserted (multiple times) that election day should be a national holiday almost made me laugh out loud.

Guy: Election day should be a national holiday. Everyone should just get it off work to vote.
Girl: I'm surprised the line is this long.
Guy: Yeah! And it's going to be like this all day!

So, I'm curious. If the line is going to be long all day, how would getting the day off work help? I guess I can see it if there were huge lines/waits early in the day and late in the evening, but if the line is long all day it doesn't make any sense. Also, I don't know if this guy works for a bank or something, but how many of us get national holidays off work? I don't know about you all, but I am here at my desk on Presidents' Day just like every other weekday. I honestly can't see Cracker Barrel or Kroger closing up shop on election day either.

So who did I vote for? The ballot was confusing... I think I may have voted for Buchanan. I'll just claim I voted for whoever lost. That gives me license to complain for the next four years about everything I don't like about the new administration no matter who wins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Open Source Flash Development

Who says this blog isn't multi-interest?

I have decided to do some Macromedia Flash development, and in my usual frugal vein I am using open source tools. Here is what I am using:

  • Eclipse IDE v3.3.2 (Europa)
  • Motion-Twin ActionScript 2 compiler (v1.14)
  • ActionScript Development Kit (ASDT)
  • Flashout (Eclipse Plugin) (v0.2.1.6)
Making this all work together is all nicely written up on the communitymx website here.

I encountered some problems, mostly version based, with getting the HelloWorld example to work.
  • The "New Folder" right-click command is apparently not enabled by default for the ActionScript perspective in Eclipse 3.3.2. To fix this, customize the perspective, choose the "General" shortcut category and check "folder" (and probably also "file".)
  • The "core" linked directory in the example will not be created. A newer version of Motion Twin uses "std8" instead. No biggie, but a difference.
  • And speaking of std8, the Eclipse preferences for Flashout want to know the "Directory of Macromedia's core classes." Give it the sdt8 subdir of the Motion Twin installation dir.
  • The file required for compilation contains code that is not compatible with the newer version of Motion Twin. The "TRACE" function is now "trace", and no I don't know why. Open with a text editor and replace every instance of TRACE with trace. I recommend Wordpad if you use windows, since it has a replace function and treats the carriage returns in the file with respect, unlike notepad. For future covenience (read: laziness) I put it in the std8 directory in the Motion Twin install dir.
One issue I have not gotten to work is the suggestion menus for the Flashout class while editing the ActionScript class files. I'm afraid that when I move to multiple class files that one won't recognize the classes in another. It seems to compile and work okay, but it would be nice if the compiler gave some indication that it knows what I'm talking about. Yes, I've tried putting it in the source directories for the project.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Land Raider Redeemer Re-assembly

Last night I broke out the airbrush to start the Land Raider Redeemer base color. I've never built a Land Raider before, and apparently I fell into a classic assembly error. My error: I didn't sandwich the doors/control panel in between the body halves. I don't feel too bad, since I didn't have instructions. A few bonesaw swipes, some superglue and a wasted evening later, the pieces were back together and waiting for paint.

I'm excited to paint this, even though it's only for eBay. The priming has gone fairly well, with no discernible texture resulting from the spray can. The Iandan Darksun basecoat will make a nice undercoat for the golden yellow I'm making it.

One interesting Land Raider observation... if I put a pilot on top in the hatch and stick a pintle mounted Storm Bolter in front of him, it can still be fired by the Machine Spirit, right? It's odd to think of being there in the hatch and having the vehicle just wrest control of the gun right out from under you so it can shoot at something the rest of the tank was ignoring.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Codex: Space Marines... am I missing something?

Codex: Orks was filled with "huh?" moments. Are dakka-guns on bikes twin linked? What is the actual profile of a dakka gun? Can Stormboyz Waaagh? Can a mob of boyz with shootas have a Nobs with a power klaw, etc.

Codex: Space Marines is starting to cause me some head scratching. First up is the ubiquitous Signum, a sensor previously used by Techmarines to improve shooting of the squad to which they are attached. The rules for the Signum have been changed to prevent it from being used as "Gets Hot! Insurance." Instead of rolling misses (and 1's are misses!) it improves the ballistic skill of a squad member. Great! The only problem is that nobody can take one. The Techmarine doesn't have a signum in his wargear anymore and he can't buy one. In fact, no model that I can find has an option to take a signum now. Did I just miss it?
EDIT: Devastator squad sergeant gets a Signum by default now.

Next, the Razorback! First off, I love the option to have different weapon options than the heavy bolter/lascannon of the last edition. The one that I wonder about is the lascannon/plasma gun combo. In the roster entry, the upgrade specifies a single lascannon and a twin linked plasma gun. On the main page describing the Razorback a variant is described that includes a single lascannon and two twin linked plasma guns. Based on the Ork FAQ using the description page over the roster page I'm guessing it will end up as two twin linked plasma guns, so I'm going to delay modeling one of these until I know for sure. The twin linked assault cannon would use the same turret mount as a Land Raider twin linked assault cannon, but I don't know if the regular Land Raider box includes that particular bit or just the twin linked heavy bolter. The new plastic Crusader / Redeemer box has a twin linked assault cannon bit, but both variants use it. Any Land Raider owners out there want to help me out with this info?
EDIT: I completely misread this. It's "single lascannon and twin-linked plasma guns." One twin linked gun, just like it says in the army composition page.

Honor guard / Command Squad / Servitors: Both the Honor Guard and Command Squad have text that indicate that their inclusion does not take up an additional HQ slot. The servitor squad entry does not have similar text. Does that imply that servitors will take up an elite slot? I hope not. Also, am I missing something or do the independent characters no longer have to be attached to the squads they allow? Text seems to imply that the servitor squad can exist without the techmarine; there are even rules specifically based on the techmarine not being in the squad, and I'm guessing that's not just a "techmarine dies" rule.

Donut Cake Redux

Today is my department's staff picnic thing, and I (was) volunteered to bring a dessert. The coffee/donut cake a couple posts ago was a trial run for what I wanted to bring to the picnic. I made a few changes to the process, as follows:

Make the cake as per the directions on the box, substituting strong coffee (or espresso) for the water in the recipe. It's only 1 1/4 C, so it won't overpower the cake with coffee taste.

Use all large, round donuts (torus, not sphere shaped, would be more accurate I suppose.) Donut holes just didn't work out well. I might try using a chocolate covered cake donut in a future iteration. Try stuff out and tell me how it worked.

Glaze Topping:
1/4 C melted butter / margarine
2 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
mix well, then add 2 Tbsp milk

And remember, it's better to be fat and happy than just fat.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perverse and Often Baffling

Okay, I've repeatedly referenced this story by Malcolm Gladwell.
Here's a link. Finally.

Go here:
Click the "Full Episode" icon on the left.
Fast forward to 45:30 or so. If you don't want to listen to the rest of the episode you'll either have to leave it paused for a while or drag the timeline arrow icon to the right as it loads to get to the desired time.

The piece in question ("Tough News Room") is about 12 minutes long. It's worth it.

Doubt journalism.

EDIT: I am saddened and begrudgingly relieved to learn that his story is fictitious.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Donut/Coffee Cake

Okay, I've been wanting to do this for a while. In a world of deep fried Twinkies I doubt this has never been tried before, but I'd never heard of it and it sounded good. I shall consider it original.

1 18.25 oz package Better Crocker SuperMoist Cake Mix (Butter Recipe Yellow)
6 cake donuts
9-12 chocolate "donut holes" (frosted or unfrosted)

Prepare a 13"x9" cake pan as normal, and space the donuts evenly along the bottom of the pan.
Prepare the cake mix as normal, substituting strong coffee for the 1 1/4 Cups water called for on the box. Let the coffee cool down before mixing into other ingredients to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Pour the prepared cake mix carefully over the donuts, trying to keep the spacing intact. Try to space the cake mix evenly in the pan, but even if the coverage is a little uneven the rising cake will cover everything up.

Cook at 350 about 30 minutes.
Let cool. Frost or glaze as desired.
Serves 1. Seriously, you won't want to share.

EDIT: The chocolate donut holes weren't as good as first reported. A night in the fridge left them a little tougher than the rest of the cake. Next time I'm going totally cake donut.

Space Marines: They Shall Know No Nerf ?

Well, I got the new Space Marines codex. There is a whole lot more fluff than I care to wade through right now. The rules...well.... I'm not sure how I feel about some of them yet. This is the first new edition of C:SM released since I started the game (I know, what a noob) so I'm not really sure what whether these rules hearken back to a previous edition or blaze new trails.

Let me highlight a few interesting points. For my 40k-impaired friends who actually bother to read this, "ccw" = "close combat weapon" (a knife, sword, etc.)
  1. No more terminator honours. The one upgrade that all of my characters got is now just gone. Sergeants in squads now have 2 attacks on their profile (and an extra 15 points in the cost) but the option to have that 4 attack HQ is gone.
  2. No more "ablative armor for a lascannon" squads. Only tactical squads of 10 Marines can add a special or heavy weapon, and flamer, heavy bolter, missile launcher or multimelta are free.
  3. Characters are not chapter specific! Special characters that can only be fielded in a particular chapter or other always galled me. If I want to field Tigurius I have to play Ultramarines? If I want to play Shrike I need to play Ravenguard? In this edition it clearly states that you can paint the models up for any chapter you want, change the proper name and use the special character stat line. Good choice, guys.
  4. (Reclusiarch + Master of Sanctity)/2 = New Chaplain. Only two wounds, only three attacks and he costs as much as a Master of Sanctity from the last edition. The worst part? Only initiative 4 now. Jumpy-killy-solo chaplain is a thing of the past. Even character chaplain Ortan Cassius is about this same stat line. EDIT: Except Cassius is T6 with Feel No Pain. I missed that the first time around. I'd take 2 wounds and that over an extra wound any day.
  5. No CCW?!? One of the pre-release rumours I remember hearing is that all marines would have pistol/ccw/bolter combos, giving them that extra attack in the assault phase. While they have the bolt pistol (good for pre-assault shooty, I assume) they have no close combat weapon in their wargear, and no option to buy one. I had heard someone mention that all models in the game count as having a ccw, but I can't find that in the rules anywhere. It that were true, would a model with only a ccw in its wargear count as having 2 ccw's? I doubt it. EDIT: I see my preconceptions were unfounded. BA's and DA's don't have ccw's. Space Wolves do by default, but they don't have bolters by default. CSM's have the pistol/ccw combo by default, but they don't have the heavy weapon options. I see this as a good trade off now.
  6. Techmarine! I like the changes here. I feel like the servo arm / harness is better defined in terms of attacks. The fact that he has to start the shooting phase in contact with the vehicle he wants to repair and not the turn makes him useful. This certainly would have prevented my three turn "run away, now come back" Techmarine event at 'ard Boyz.
  7. Combat tactics. The ability to decide during deployment if a squad of 10 will split into two squads of five. Very cool idea that gives flexibility to the marine troops based on the mission type.
  8. Sternguard veterans. This is a departure from veteran squads of the last edition, which tended to be tricked out in assault wargear (power fist or two, lightning claws, power weapon, etc.) The sergeant of this unit can get a killy ccw, but the real strength lies in the special ammunition they field. Given the different types of ammo they have I'd rather step back and rapid fire than charge in and assault (most of the time... especially since they'd only get two attacks in assault.)
  9. Vanguard veterans. Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. These guys are the assault monsters that the regular veterans used to be. The difference is that the old veteran squad couldn't take jump packs and these guys can! And they can all have power fists and melta bombs. These guys really exemplify the elite army idea; you can have the killiest troops in the game, but it's going to cost you dearly. Imagine an assassin unit of 5 of these guys with jump packs, lightning claws and a relic blade or fist. Ouch. Killy, but >300 points.
  10. Relic Blades. Something about a S6 power weapon that swings at initiative makes me happy.
  11. No more anti-vehicle assault squads. Only the sergeant of an assault squad can take melta bombs now, and you can only take one plasma pistol per 5 models in the squad. EDIT: Vanguard Veterans take this role now, but they are soooo expensive. A Vanguard Veteran with jump pack and melta bomb is 35 pts, compared to 24 pts for the old assault squad member with jump pack and melta bomb. Sure the VanVet has 2 attacks, but that won't give you an extra melta bomb attack.
  12. Terminator squads can only take one assault cannon / heavy flamer / cyclone launcher per 5 models in the unit. Very good choice.
There's more, but I have to run. Feel free to leave your opinion of best/worst in the new book. I'm a real 40k noob, so any insight as to how this edition compares to 2nd or 3rd would be helpful.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

P3 Hobby Stuff

I have a box of miscellaneous P3 hobby supplies at home. I've used a few pieces, and I'll comment on others as I get impressions.

The Wet Palette - I just can't bring myself to open this thing. The one I use is nearly free, and I can't imagine the P3 version adding value for the price.

Work Hobby Brush - ugh. I figured this brush would be good for basecoating or something. It developed a wicked hook after just one day of normal use (not even harsh use, like glue or drybrushing.) I guess I don't know what to expect from a "hobby" brush. In it's defense it hasn't gotten worse since the first day, and I've been using it.

Work Studio Brush - that's more like it. This brush has kept it's shape for several sessions. It gives me hope for the Detail Studio Brush, which I will use when my W&Ns7 goes to pasture.

Mixing Medium - nice! I figured this would be a typical glaze medium, and it pretty much is, but it's nice and smooth and delivers a much better "low effort" value. I used this on about half of my quick-painted Black Reach Orks (on the skin) and they look better as a result.

Things I may try soon....
  • Pin vise expansion kits (very clever idea!)
  • modeling putty (brown/gray... I'd like to see how it measures up to green stuff)
  • clippers, but only because I lost my normal pair somewhere
Want a review of a hobby item? Let me know!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Magnets

I've been magnetizing my bases for 40k, Whfb and Warmachine for a while now. I've found fantasy units so much easier to transport when already ranked up than if each model is in its own little cell in a Sabol ATC, so I've typically used a steel cookie sheet (dollar store variety) to transport them, neatly arranged on a movement tray that, itself, has magnetic sheeting on it (ink jet printable refridgerator magnet type.) I should probably come up with some way to transport 5 or 6 cookie sheets at once... but I digress.

So far I've been using 1/4" Dia x 3/32" Thick NdFeB Disc Magnet, Ni-Cu-Ni plated from They are strong enough that two of them will keep a heavy warjack stuck to the side of a filing cabinet. The problem is that with light plastic figures, the magnetized models tend to "jump" into each other if they get too close. I think I might try to find something a little smaller for the plastic figs in light of this. I would still use the stronger magnets for the metal models though.

I've also never used magnets for weapon/arm swapping, but I am probably going to do so after reading this entry over at "All Things 40k." The idea of being able to swap terminator arms out is too tempting with the new Black Reach terminators so easy to get. A single box of assault terminators + a Black Reach box = 10 assault termies or 5 regular/5 assault if you magnetize arms.

I am Painter 1450!!

Back when I got a bronze in Chicago this year, I mentioned (maybe not here) that one things I was excited about is that I would be shown on "Demon Winner", an unofficial Golden Demon collection site. Apparently they have updated, and there I am! I am officially designated as Peintre 1450!

Shown here is my official "Painter 1450" image. I'm not sure if I should submit personal photo to them or not. Yeah, I'm a big geek about this, but I'm really thrilled to be in such great company there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Useless Pharmacology

I took a bottle of these to the tournament. They didn't help. They really didn't help. You wouldn't believe how many 1's and 2's I rolled when I needed 3+. Someone mentioned a house rule for bad rollers where all 1's become 6's and all 6's become 1's. Hmmm....

(Apologies to and inspiration from Jonathan Coulton.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bunny Slippers = #1

Remember that Night Goblin I painted wearing bunny slippers? For some reason he's the #1 google image if you search on "night goblin."

Go ahead. Try it: goblin

I eBay'ed that guy ages ago and he sold for like $10. I hope the new owner is getting a lot of mileage out of him!

EDIT: He's #2 now. Jakob Nielsen's night goblin army is #1, as it should be.

I Am Not "'ard"

I played Saturday in the local 'ard Boyz tournament, out at Planeswalker's Magic Bag in Munith. The good news is I got a t-shirt. The bad news is that I got second to last place. A friend of mine got last place, but if we had played scenario 2 correctly I think he would have smoked me, thereby cementing my position as the worst 40k player in southeast Michigan.

Round one was intense. My goal went from winning, to killing at least one of my opponent's models, to have at least one model remaining at the end of the game. I did kill off a few enemies and managed to get a weapon destroyed on a Land Raider (one of four in his list) and at the end all I had was a Drop Pod left, dutifully missing with its storm bolter each turn. The funny part was Tigurius doing "Fear of the Darkness" every turn, which would make my Techmarine run, every time. After rallying, he would run back to immobilized Vindicator he was so desperately trying to fix, only to have Tigurius make him run again. Three turns in a row this happened, until finally a lascannon pen-6'd the Vindicator and the explosion took out the Techmarine as well. I got massacred, and he got all extra points as well.

Round two was vs. Orks. It was a "dawn of war" scenario, so the Orks got a turn to run their heads off at me before I could realistically shoot at them. If he had brought his lootas on during turn 2 (as opposed to rolling for deep strike like we were doing, causing them to come in on turn 4) I would have gotten pummeled. The bad part for the Orks was when the Vindicator rolled onto the board and dropped a pie plate on his Warboss/Nob bike unit that had just finished assaulting a Razorback. Boom. Result was a tie.

Round three was vs. Iron Hands. A fellow I'd met a few times there was my opponent. He had fared about as well as me so far in the tournament, and we ended up tying. It was a good fight, but I was getting a little tired by the end and was making dumb choices.

In order to make myself feel better after my humiliating performance I went home and painted a Blood Ravens Dreadnought. At least I can still paint moderately well!

(Edit: The picture is one of the battles I got to watch at the tournament, having been stomped flat in record time. It was Orks vs. Dark Eldar, and a fine match it was!)

What happened to GW Paint Creek Crossing?

How does something that starts so strong end up so weak? In April 2007 Games Workshop opened a store at Paint Creek Crossing in Ypsilanti, MI. I was pretty excited when I found out, since it's only about 6 or 7 minutes from my house.

I had trepidation the first time I walked in the door there, since I had a prior bad experience at a Games Workshop store (the West Oaks one in Novi, MI.) I had been assaulted by their corporate-approved interaction methodology, which is basically "badger the person incessantly to either play a demo game, increase their current army or start a new army." I think there also must be some clause in the handbook about talking up every event coming up at the store, and shoving a photocopied calendar into your hands to use as a visual aid while describing each of the 5o or so events each month. I was immediately put off by how intense an interaction was required to be in the presence of that employee. That was my first time at the West Oaks store, and my first time in a GW store in probably 15 years. I wanted to look at the painted miniatures. I wanted to watch people playing at the tables. I wanted to look over the assortment of minis for sale. I did not want to have a Jack Russel Terrier of a salesperson following me around trying to draw me into a sale. I have not been back to West Oaks since that first day.

So back to Paint Creek Crossing.... like I said, I was a little wary walking in because I wasn't sure if I'd get the same treatment. I was thrilled to meet Mark and Reynolds, who were much more casual about their treatment of customers. They talked to me but without the intensity of the West Oaks gang. I felt at ease there. I knew I'd found a new hangout.

Over the course of the next year I spent a fair bit of time there. I made friends there. I often impulse bought minis, despite the fact that I could get them elsewhere at significant discount. The idea of contributing to the Paint Creek Crossing store staying open appealed to me, and I tried to make the hobby scene there better by helping people as they sought my painting advice. Unfortunately this idyllic situation ends. Mark went off to college. A new manager was transferred in. Reynolds transfered to a different store. With the changing of the employees came a change in the ambiance of the place. The sales staff started to become intense, like the experience I had at West Oaks. The beginning of Lance's managerial reign really pushed this to it's final stage. As manager, Lance had definitely drunk the "high intensity experience" kool-aid, and he expected his subordinates to show an annoying amount of energy, and to ask everyone if they were going to preorder whatever the new items was every time they came into the store. Seriously. It went from midly irritating to really annoying pretty quick. No, Lance, I don't collect Dark Elves and I'm not going to preorder the $250 box coming out next month. Yes, Lance, I know how cool they are because we've talked about it every time I've been in the store in the last month. As annoying as this was, I could still sort of deal with it because a) hanging out there was still somewhat entertaining due to the friends I had made, and b) some of the employees (Mark and Caleb) would actually interact with me on something deeper than a used-car-salesman level. It wasn't too long before Caleb quit, having found a job in his chosen field of teaching. Good for him!

...and here's where the breaking point came, but first a disclaimer. Mark was a friend of mine before the GW store opened. I encouraged him to apply there. I really thought he'd be happy there. For quite a while, he seemed happy there.

On September 8, 2008 Games Workshop released a fancy new starter set for their best selling game, Warhammer 40,000. This was a great deal for gamers, and it was going to sell big. Still under the impression that I wanted to support the Paint Creek Crossing store, I preordered and planned to attend their midnight launch event. I showed up at 11:30 PM roughly Friday night to await the midnight release. Lance and Mark (as the only two employees left at that store) were there running the events and getting everyone whipped up for the release. It was silly fun. Lance was especially silly. Less like enthusiasm silly and more like severe sleep deprivation silly. Multiple times I saw Mark step up and take over for a faltering Lance. Mark really went above and beyond that night.

Apparently my observation was not shared, because Lance fired him the next day.

No, that's too easy an explanation. After the release event that went late into the night and the cleanup afterward Lance asked Mark to come in early the next day. Only then, before normal shift the next day after the event Mark carried, did Lance fire him. Seriously, are there any GW regional managers reading this? So why was he fired, you ask? Personally, I think it had a lot to do with Mark's personality. Like Reynolds and the first Mark, this Mark was pleasant. I think they have a corporate policy against being pleasant.

Okay, so here's your google search phrase:
I will not shop at Games Workshop Paint Creek Crossing again.

The recent management has consumed all the good will built up with me in the first year of that store being open. I considered Paint Creek my "home store." I don't know whom they are tailoring their store experience to but it's sure not me anymore. It's sure not people who walk in cold either, because I've seen a whole lot of people who just pop in to see what the store was all about go running scared after being assaulted by an over-intense salesperson.

Oh, well.

EDIT: This store is my gaming/shopping home again, thanks to manager Brett and his pro-hobbyist approach.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We're Back Online!

Stef just called me at work to tell me (almost tearfully) that DSL is working at home again! We're back online after an excruciating week!

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. A week without net? That's not terribly long, and there are plenty of places to get internet other than your house, presumably. That's true, except:
  1. We don't have a laptop, so we can't be portable.
  2. We have an online business to run and shipping labels to print, which is nearly impossible to do outside your own setup.
  3. We do most of our business late at night, which isn't exactly conducive to going over to someone else's house to borrow their connection.
I think Stef was about to have a mental breakdown last night over it. Life as a Luddite did not suit her, and even the kids were getting bored of the computer without Maple Story or other connected games. Now, to catch up on the backlog! I know I've lost customers over the turnaround time from August/September, and this outage hasn't helped a bit.

Friday, September 05, 2008

School Day #1 ... for everyone

Yesterday was the first day of school. Ever.

Up until this year, Stef and I had home schooled our kids. It went well enough, but it became more and more of a struggle to get them to focus on actually working and not on all the distractions home provides. After much consternation, we decided to check out schools for them. The first thought was the Christian Academy relatively close to our house. While that was considerably cheaper than the Christian Academy many of our friends send their kids to, it ended up being out of our realistic price range. We reluctantly enrolled our kids in the nearby elementary school. I took half a day off work to attend a tour, and was pleasantly surprised by how nice the facility was and how well spoken the staff and administration were about the way the school operates. I had no reservations sending them there after that tour.

Sarah and Lily both tested into their respective grades, and both absolutely love it so far. Granted, it's only been one day, but for them to love it after one day makes the transition for us (especially Stef) easier. We went out to eat at the local Coney Island to celebrate the first day of school last night, which thrilled the kids all the more. We don't do that often.

Jay is the only child home during the day now, and we're still not sure about whether to put him in pre-school or not. He's four, but he's a very young four, and all boy. Maybe we'll try preschool this year. Maybe we'll wait a year before he goes to preschool, then send him to Kindergarten when he's six. It's a tough call.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

im in ur culture, satirizing ur memes

One of my daily interweb comic stops is PvP. Supposedly it's about a group of people who work at a video game related magazine, but that's just a sly cover for some character driven humor and strange diversions.

One of those diversions is the adventures of the lolbat. He made his entrance in this strip. I thought it would be a one-shot, but he has had an entire story arc now, starting here. It's been going on for four days and I don't know when it will end. How do you even end something like that?

Scott Kurtz is an interesting guy. He certainly has a knack for the homage, including drawing in the style of other comic artists. I thought this was absolutely inspired.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Handout from Painting Seminar ... 28 Weeks Later

4 Days Later: In case anyone lost theirs and wants another copy it is available HERE in handy pdf format.

28 Weeks Later: Stef and I watched zombie sequel "28 Weeks Later" last night. Meh. I thought 28 Days Later was an inspired take on the while zombie flick thing, but 28 Weeks Later just seemed poorly conceived in comparison. It just never felt particularly focused. When the movie was over I didn't even care enough to watch the deleted scenes. The ones they left in were tedious enough.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Wonder of Horrible

Have I mentioned I like the work of Joss Whedon? No? I'm pretty sure I have. Well, if I haven't then I'll say it now: I like the work of Joss Whedon. I won't list it here. You have an internet for that.

His latest work is called "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog." Go watch episode one and come back. It's only about 10 or 15 minutes, and I know you don't have anything else to do right now or you wouldn't be reading this. Go now. I'll wait here.


Great. You're back. Okay, if you didn't like it then just go away and I'll see you next post.

Stef and I were able to watch the first three or four episodes for free before they went all iTunes give me money give me money on us. I'm pretty sure I'll end up paying for future episodes. I'm not sure I've watched a serial about a lovesick wannabe super villian before, but it really works for me. And the singing? Yeah, I like that part too. In fact, I'm pretty much just a Joss Whedon fanboy at this point. He could film a guy in a mascot costume kicking a telephone pole for a half hour and I'd probably download it and watch it from start to finish.

LATE BREAKING NEWS! I was immediately notified by an alert reader of The Guild, which stars Felicia Day as well. I am going to have to watch this... it looks like it's been going on for a while.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thanks, guys!

I want to take a minute to say thanks to everyone who attended my first painting seminar, and thanks to Planeswalker's Magic Bag for setting everything up and hosting. You guys were great! Congrats to Corwin on winning the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush, too. That was a mighty cool Chaos Sorcerer.

It was very encouraging to see you all actively applying the techniques I was explaining was very encouraging, and I got some great advice from you guys too. From what I saw in the class I'm really looking forward to what you have to show me next time I'm there!

The web site for the tutorials I was talking about is
Also check out the free tutorials here:
The OSL (object sourced lighting) examples I was talking about are here and here. The painter of the Neo Soviet scene in the first example is the sculptor of the Armorcast gun-blast add-ons that Dave was talking about seeing at GenCon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buck's Final Meal

Today Buck, Ann Marie, Subbu and I went to Tower Inn to celebrate Buck's second to last day of employment at EMU. After two years, he decided to bite the hand that feeds him and take a job somewhere sunny. What greater insult can you deliver to your Michigan coworkers, I ask. Sunny. Florida.

While there we had the waiter take a group shot of the four of us. Paul would have been there, but he's busy testing grade submission through WebCT Vista. It's just as well.... his switch to the AAS team from the PSS team makes him part of them, not us. You lose. You get nothing. Good day, sir.

Tower Inn is an interesting place to have a last lunch, since one of Buck's first meals here was at Tower Inn, and the waitress dumped a glass of diet soda in his lap. Today there were no such mishaps. On the way back, Ann Marie stated, "Awwwww, somebody lost their lunch!" Against all bounds of common sense I turned to look at the spot in question and saw this, thankfully.
Colloquialisms were forgiving this time.

The plan now is to watch Buck tweet his way to Florida with his iPhone that he is far too pleased to have. (Rise before Jobs. Now kneel before Jobs.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Returned, immersed in RegEx ... and lost keys

I'm back from vacation! Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp was big fun, great worship and deep teaching; it was refreshment for body, mind and spirit.

I'm writing Perl scripts at work right now, and am bogged down in the language of regular expressions. Years ago I had some cursory exposure to Relay Ladder Logic, the language of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC's) and decided that anyone who could fully grasp RLL was a little unhinged. I'm starting to feel that way about regexp's.

Returning from vacation I realize that I have lost my keys. My house key, my truck key, my work keys, my P.O. box key...... gone. I'm sure they are in the bags somewhere, but until we have emptied out every reservoir of stuff that came back from camp with us I don't think I will find them. Losing keys is a funny thing. They really are tangible connections to things that happen in my life, and losing them makes me feel disconnected from my everyday activities.

Saturday is my painting seminar at Planeswalker's Magic Bag. I think 10 or 12 people are coming specifically to hear me talk about miniature painting. Hopefully none of them will be better than me, so I don't have to rough anyone up.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Animal Sertivude and Cosmic Ark

For no good reason, the subject of the Atari 2600 game Cosmic Ark came up today at work.

The concept of the game is that you fly from planet to planet rescuing little animals before their planet gets destroyed. In the screen shot at left you can see the large ark, the flying rescue craft just to the left of it, and two squiggly animals on the ground in need of rescue.

The part that always confused me was that the amount of fuel you received to travel to the next planet was directly proportional to the number of animals you captured on the previous planet. The only rational conclusion I could make was that the animals were being used as fuel. Ann Marie had a different take on it. "Maybe they're being forced to run on little treadmills."

hmmm. I hadn't considered that.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Still Basking

Thursday at about 11:00 AM the photos of the Golden Demon winners from Chicago were posted on the Games Workshop website. The Ork looks pretty darn good! I'm a little surprised at the level of local celebrity I've received because of this minor accomplishment. The guys here at work are geeked, people at the Paint Creek GW store are geeked, and people at Planeswalker's Magic Bag (where I hang out on the very occasional Saturday) are geeked. I'm even doing a painting clinic at Planeswalker's on 8/23. I'm still awaiting the posting of the honorable mention pics, because I'm really hoping the duel looks good in the photo.

Last year my goal was first cut, and I got honorable mention. This year my goal was a trophy, and I got a bronze and an honorable mention. Next year's goal: a silver! I suppose now I should start thinking about my '09 entries...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mysterious Victory!

I'm back, and I have a trophy! I won a bronze in the 40k Large Monster category for... my Ork Warboss!

Yeah, go ahead and scan the completion meter. You won't find it. It was a piece I painted earlier in the year when the Ork army was released. It was meant to be high quality, but not competition quality. All of the models that I put 50 or so hours in on didn't even make first cut, with the exception of the Duel, which got an honorable mention. I also got more feedback from Tim Lison on the judging, which will help me a great deal in the year to come.

I also got to meet a number of people whom I have known about for some time, which was quite a thrill. Anja Wettergren of Games Workshop, James and Cathy Wappel, Chris Borer, Mathieu Fontaine, Dirty Steve, etc. It was a great thrill to meet all of you, and I hope to see you again at future competitions. I missed meeting Vincent Hudon and jeff Wilhelm, but I got to see some of their great pieces there.

See you all next year!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

'Ere We Go! Chicago Games Day!

This is it! After a marathon completion session I have six entries ready to go for Golden Demon! Not all were the ones originally planned and some are stronger than others, but six shall be submitted.

Okay! It's off to Chicago!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Last Day before Chicago!

(As opposed to being "upon us"... there are only so many ways to say that the time is approaching.)

I've officially dropped Warmaster Skaven and Moria Goblin Shaman as entries. Instead, I am going to do a touch up or two on my little Grot Orderly and enter him (her?) in the open category. It's a unique little conversion. Maybe the judges will look favorably upon it.

The Skaven Warlord still needs a backpack and static grass, but other than that he's done. It's a couple hours, tops.

The gyrocopter needs foliage, and I have some lichen I'm going to use. Other than that, it's done.

If I get those done, then maybe I'll consider cranking out the orderly or .... I dunno... something. Last year, a friend of mine from The UnderEmpire entered one of the staff categories just for the heck of it and won gold. These weren't models he had painted for the competition, they were just nice looking models that he had brought for a gaming tournament. Granted he's a great painter, but it's pretty cool to walk in with no intended entries and walk out with a trophy. Maybe I'll bring a model or two for categories I don't have real entries prepared, just to see what happens. The worst case is that they don't win.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicago Games Day 2008 is Upon Us!

Let the freaking out.... begin!

No, I'm actually better off than I am letting on. The duel only needs snow. The gyrocopter has one good night left and the Skaven warlord will be done tonight, Wednesday. I think I'm going to go ahead and just drop the idea of the Warmaster Skaven, unless I suddenly explode with inspiration tonight and paint up three bases of them. The Moria Goblin Shaman is also going by the wayside. Too bad. I like the figure, but I just could never get it started with that one.

Is anyone going to be there? Any of you folks from Chicago Terrain Factory? Leave a comment and let me know!

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Inner Mason has +49 Holy Studded Diamond Mail

I love Progress Quest. It makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something, even though I cannot affect my characters advancement in any way. You just let the process run and your character merrily advances up the ranks, killing monsters, finishing quests and upgrading kit. It's like WoW without the $15/month, and you get to keep your life.

If you are a fan of the old single player PC dungeon crawl type game, then make sure you read carefully when the game first starts, as the first few progress bars fill. It made me laugh as they set up a (flimsy) premise like just about every game of that genre ever has.

My character, an Inner Mason named "MelFarrSuperstar" (seriously local Detroit reference) is level 79 on the Oobag server. If you really want to join up, join my guild "106".

Oh, and I guess I owe you some Chicago news... the Duel entry progressed considerably over the weekend. I have five days to wrap all this up, and it makes my stomach hurt to think about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

One Down, Five To Go

As you can see in the completion meter in the above right, I finished the Commissar last night. Sorry for the lack of photos. That leaves five more entries to finish by next Saturday, three of which are coming about quite nicely. The other two (which should be pretty obvious on the meter) are in danger of not happening, which is okay. I'd rather walk in with four competitive entries than six mediocre ones.

Okay, from the dubious accomplishment department, I have now successfully watched the entire first and second seasons of the new Doctor Who series in preparation for the big season finale last night. Between Stef and Susan I had plenty of encouragement. I have made some assumptions about what is going to happen in this upcoming episode and I can't say I'm looking forward to it even a little. Okay, maybe a little. Okay, maybe I'm really curious. Yeah, maybe that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Math is Funny

If you have never read xkcd then please do. It's not all kiddie-friendly, but it's intelligent in ways that math geeks (even not particularly knowledgeable math geeks like myself) will enjoy.

The internet argument one is amazing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Chicago Games Day To-Do List

With hotel paid for, tickets in-hand and entries taking shape, it's time to start the list of things to do before Chicago Games Day.

  • finish base colors on marine
  • battle damage on marine
  • finish banshee
  • OSL
  • snow
  • riding crop
  • touch up freehand
  • shell casing
LotR Shaman:
  • redo eyes
  • armor improvements
  • weapon OSL
  • finish pilot
  • improve wood grain
  • basing shrubs / figure
Skaven Warlord:
  • trophy rack
  • long grass on base
  • fungus on base
  • improve skulls on back
Warmaster Skaven (not looking quite so likely)
  • Finish Eshin base
  • Entire Moulder base
  • Entire Skryre base
  • Entire Warlord base
  • Entire Pestilens base
Even with six categories I realize that I am likely to walk away with a couple honorable mentions at best, which is a little depressing. I find myself intimidated by things like this. I just don't feel like I can match that level of quality, and it's hard to say I'm seriously contending for trophies when I keep seeing minis that are out of my league, so to speak. I don't want to win a trophy because some category was poorly represented on a given year. I want to win because I painted a world class mini. I'm just not sure I'm there yet.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Getting Closer & Black Templar Captain

Well, we discovered too late that the hotel would charge us immediately for the hotel room for Saturday night after Games Day. Now we're broke. Whoops.

The Gyrocopter is the GD entry that I'm finding intriguing. I've only ever worked on it on my lunch hour at work, but it's starting to really take shape. It needs some basing work (shrubs) and the pilot, but the canvas is turning out pretty good. It will certainly be an answer to anyone who says they don't have time to paint if I can pull off a decent entry in a year of sporadic lunch hours.

Other entries are slow going. The beginning of painting on the duel entry is encouraging. The Moria Shaman is practically untouched in the past two months. I still plan on submitting him. Skaven Warmaster characters may get the boot if time is too tight.

In an attempt to fund the trip, Black Templar Captain is on the auction block:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Irresponsibly Doing What I'd Planned

I'm back on for Chicago. Sure, I have no idea where the money is coming from for the other big expenses this Summer, but doing something I've greatly anticipated and planned to do for the past year is just too hard to give up.

Between nervousness of competition and trying to pay for all these thing we must do, I'm going to give myself an ulcer.

That said, the Commissar is coming along again. He's really getting close now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Tale of Two Summers

Last summer, after taking the family to see Ratatouille, I went to Rider's Hobby in Ypsi and bought a Warhammer Giant kit. I was determined that in the four weeks remaining until Games Day '07 I was going to produce something that could make first cut. I worked my tail off and got an honorable mention. Immediately after returning I started plotting my entries for the next year.

Friday saw the release of another Pixar movie, Wall-E. My family went to see it, and it was very good. Like last year's release, this one heralds four weeks until Games Day. Unlike last year, I am well on the way to having competition qulaity minis ready to go. My skills have improved.

Except.... this year I don't think I'm going.

Looking over the priorities for the summer, it has become clear to me that day trips to Chicago are a luxury I can not currently afford. Yes, after an entire year of anticipation I am disappointed, but I have to put family priorities ahead of my hobby, and even ahead of my second job if you consider mini painting my second job. (Or is my third job.... I forget.)

Anyway, thanks to everyone who kept track of my progress here. I plan to keep working on my entries as I have time, but problaby just for eBay sale and not competition. See you next year in Chicago, I hope.

EDIT: and clearly to make myself feel better about the whole thing, I was watching some video coverage of last year's Chicago Games Day. Lo and behold, I ran across video of my giant! It's only a fraction of a second (at 1:17) but it's there!

Friday, June 20, 2008

TMBG Sighting

You neglected to mention the sleeper sofa.
I forgot all about the air hockey table.
Reluctantly helping my friend move.
Good grief, it's like a haiku or something. I continue to be astounded by this band, even 20 years after I bought Lincoln. Apparently they did a whole series of commercials for Dunkin' Donuts, many of which can be found on YouTube.

Auto Pilot
Alarm Clock Catastrophe
All Night Blowout
Early Fishin'
Human Interest
Job Interview
Power Walk
One Million Degrees (poor quality)
Pee Wee Hockey
Plenty of Room
Time has taken my boat away (poor quality)

...and in an interesting "YouTube has everything" moment...
Anthem (internal for ad agency)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Smoothing Out the Color

Miniature painting is a game of patience. Look at the light brown areas of the coat lining from the left picture compared to the right. The "after" picture on the right received another 10-15 coats of Vallejo "plague brown" last night, and the color is more consistent and smooth as a result. My plague brown was exceedingly thin, so I mixed in a little glaze medium just to get a smoother coating. It took a while to dry, which forced me to paint the coat for about three hours on and off last night. Thankfully I had the wet palette to keep the paint from drying up in the meantime. I rushed into shading in that area when I should have striven for a clean base coat first, but I'm on the way to correcting that. The gun also received a few very thinned out washes of Baal Red to richen the tone.

I don't like the brown on the hat brim. I don't really know what I was thinking when I did that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wood Grain... hmmm

I had considered doing his bolt pistol in nmm gold, but the more I looked it the more I liked the idea of it being wood grain. I need to clean up the grain a little in places, based on the photo.

I have the gun a wash of the new "Ogryn flesh" to try and make it a little more red, but the effect wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I'll probably mix a little good old fashioned chestnut ink into some Reaper matte varnish and see how that affects it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A New Level of Persnickety

The funny thing about competition minis is that you need to give up any semblance of knowing when you'll be done. I spent 1.5 hours last night working on this fellers left eye. I thought about doing a freehand on the interior of the jacket, but nothing I tried really hooked me.

I still have confidence that this feller is going to look good, but he hasn't reached that point where he goes from looking like a WIP to approaching the final product. He still looks like a half painted miniature to me.

Tonight I begin giving private painting lessons. The student is actually a fairly good painter coming into this, so I will have to endeavor to identify and break his bad habits and hopefully bring him up to a new level.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Impractical Foundation Garments

Yeah, I know. It lifts, but does it separate?

After painting a bazillion Space Marines, sometimes you just want to paint something.... curvy. She's on eBay now.

EDIT: w00t for best eBay sale price for a single mini yet! I'm going to assume that it's because I'm improving as a painter. Don't burst my bubble.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

40k single wip #1

If last year was any indication, 40k single figure is going to be very competitive this year. I wanted to go with something a little understated, so this Commissar (I love the pose) and a simple base, to which I will add a small detail later, as my entry. I'll probably get some sort of plinth, just to add impact.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Joy of Losing

In terms of sheer narrative, I really enjoy Warmachine/Hordes. Yesterday I played a game (the first in about a year) out at Planeswalker's Magic Bag. Sure, it costs like $15 in gas for the round trip, but how often do I get to actually play Warmachine.

So I fielded a Kreoss list of just 'jacks and solos. My opponent (Jake) had stinking Irusk and mostly infantry and solos. He had only one 'jack... a Spriggan.

Most units started to bunch up on the left side of the board (my left, anyway) while a few solos squared off on the right. I ran a Seseschal into base contact with Lady Aiyana & Master Holt, who had just dispatched my Eiryss, hoping to survive the combat and kill them in my next turn. My opponent was kind enough to warn me of how crazy Holt is in combat, so I decided to alter my strategy. I pushed Gorman DiWulfe up close enough to chuck an acid grenade at my own Seneschal, hoping to kill both Aiyana and Holt with the AOE hit. The grenade missed and deviated as far as it could, missing both my targets entirely (but taking out a couple unsuspecting Iron Fang Pikemen.) In his turn Aiyana and Holt effortlessly dispatched my Seneschal, which left them unengaged. Gorman stepped up to within 3" of them and chucked another acid grenade, a strategy I'm going to have to remember. The template can only deviate by half the total shot distance, so by getting in so close I ensured that the template could not scatter off them. They both dissolved horribly. Go Gorman.

On the left side, My troops had just slaughtered most of his army by utilizing Kreoss' feat to knock everyone down, then rushing in to smash anyone in range into paste. It was looking bad for Khador, until Jake remembered that he had cast Superiority on the Spriggan, which meant that it hadn't been knocked down. On his turn, Jake beefed up the Spriggan with three focus and charged Kreoss, skewering him on that enormous lance. Game over.

I love losing at that game. I'm guessing winning is fun too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

T-59 Days until Games Day Chicago

Oh, man. I need to work. A lot.

Last year it took me 28 days exactly to produce an entry worthy of an honorable mention, from shrink wrap to delivery. This year I am trying for six categories with about twice that time left to paint. The scary part is that I actually want to do a seventh category, if I have time. Where am I going to get time?!

Actually, it's not as bad as I'm making it sound. Last year was a huge conversion project, and I spent a lot of the time trying out different versions of the conversion, as well as playing with different paint additives for the first time. This year it's mostly just single model, so precision is the goal.

Nevertheless, I gotta get working.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Goodbye 30-39

That's it. It's done. I made it to my fortieth birthday. According to Bowflex commercials, I'm the perfect age to join a rock band or something.

The multitude gathered to see Prince Caspian on Friday, my one request for my birthday celebration. It was priceless to hear my girls squeal "Reepicheep!" when he first appeared on screen. Reepicheep, the noble mouse who appears in both Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was their single favorite character from those books. I think he was given good treatment in the movie.

Later, we all went and had pizza at Tower Inn. The kids had a "make your own pizza" thing, where the waitstaff would bring them raw materials from which to manufacture a mini pizza, which was then cooked and returned for them to eat. Okay, people? If you want to eat anytime within this age, do not choose a meal option that lets six children both choose from a long list of options and then perform some action that must be completed before the mere cooking of the meal can commence. Simplify.

My personal approach to giving children choices is that each option of roughly equivalent value beyond two will double the amount of time the decision takes. I say roughly equivalent because some options will artificially weigh the decision. "Do you want a spanking or a bowl of ice cream?" for example. "Do you want a popsicle or a bowl of ice cream?" would be more valid, assuming the child being asked actually likes both popsicles and ice cream. Adding a third option to the decision, "Do you want a popsicle, a bowl of ice cream, or a king-size candy bar?" doubles the decision time, as each option is weighed against every other option. Adding a fourth option will multiply the decision time to 4x the time it would take to choose between two options. Now, for just a moment, imagine a box containing twenty shiny rocks. Imagine handing that box to a child and say, "Pick one." To the child this really means "Choose one of these to keep. The rest you will never see again, so consider this decision as if your very life depended upon it. Alternately you may choose in a brief, cavalier fashion then cry later when you see another child with a rock you want more than your own." This brings us to our correlary: the level of dissatisfaction a child will have with any given choice, once made, is directly proportional to the number of children in the immediate area who chose differently from the same initial choice set.

For the past two nights there have only been five people in my house. For such a small place it almost feels big.

I have been invited to the beta test of Kongregate's online card game "Kongai." It is fun, but it is clearly not complete.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Venting and Gas

First off, how long do you think it will be before photos like this stop being alarming and start making us nostalgic?

Now on to the real subject: venting. I hear many people say "I just needed to vent" after complaining about something. The concept of venting is not foreign to me, but I have discovered its application to be an unhealthy thing, for me anyway. Allow me to explain.

The concept of "venting" is that by talking about something you can feel less annoyed or frustrated by it. In essence you have built up too high a pressure in the holding tank and are venting steam (which I would assume the etymology of this term, although I am too lazy to find out for sure) to lower the pressure. This seems fine if you are a steam boiler. For me, venting has a very different result. It conditions me to be unhappy.

Allow me to psych101 you for a moment. We all have neuron pathways in our brain that become more easily accessed as we practice something. If you practice guitar, your brain gets better at moving your hands around in the correct manner. If you type your computer password every day for several years you begin to type it without even thinking about it. I think venting works the same way. My theory is that if you learn to repeatedly vocalize your complaints you train your mind to run down those same pathways; you condition yourself to dwell on what makes you unhappy. I suppose if you could condition yourself to actually stop being unhappy after venting then you could make it work. My experience is that most people who vent continue to be unhappy about it afterwards, and are really just looking for someone to agree with the fact that they have a reason to be upset.

I approach this very differently as I approach 40 than I did when I was approaching 30. I'm not exactly the poster child for unflappable. In fact, Stef and I joke that only two things I don't like are "doing something" or "going somewhere" which pretty much sums up anything that can ever happen. There are plenty of things that cause me anxiety or unhappiness. What I have found does not help is talking over and over about what is bothering me. The much quoted Ephesians 4:26 says "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (ASV translation.) Okay, the first part is pretty simple. If you are angry, don't sin. (Keep it together, man!) I've heard the second part used over and over to encourage people to resolve their issues, to talk through things or what not. I think there's a false assumption there. Some issues can't just be talked through. Some have to be let go. Personally, I try to examine the things that are making me upset and decide whether these are things that can really be fixed by talking. Often, they aren't. If that's the case, you can still not let the sun go down upon your wrath. All you have to do is decide not to have wrath. Poof. Let it go. And it's not like I'm some super inner-peace guy either. pfft. Not even close. I'm just some slob with an opinion, and blogger is kind enough to save it in their database for your reading pleasure.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Adventures of Scotty the Penguin

First off, let me apologize for embedded quotes. I have no talent for it.

At Greenfield Village last week (see a few posts earlier) I chatted with a volunteer employee there. He saw that my Lily had a small bag crammed with six Webkinz. He decided that I would like to hear a story.
"My wife has a stuffed penguin named 'Scotty' that she takes everywhere!" he began. I immediately wondered if his wife had special needs. "She takes pictures of Scotty every time we go someplace like the museum. Scotty driving the car, Scotty operating the drill press, Scotty riding the atomic bomb..." Okay, this now has more of a "Garden Gnome tours the country" feel to it than an "I need my blanky" feel. He concludes the story thusly. "One time we were out someplace and a little girl tugged at her mother's sleeve and pointed to my wife. 'See? She got to bring her toy in with her!'"

That part actually made me laugh.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For

I swung by the GW store last night to shop for a model. I can't tell you what... that's a secret. Anyway, a friend was there and he had brought a model with him. It had apparently placed third or so in another GW store's painting competition, and his demeanor clearly showed that he thought it should have placed better. He told me that he was considering entering it into Golden Demon, and asked for my input. I was... how do I put this... diplomatically blunt. I told him what I liked about the model and I told him what I didn't like. His expression indicated that he didn't like being told what I didn't like about his model. I advised him to take a month and clean it up. He repeated the "take a month" part to himself with a sour face.

Now don't get me wrong... it wasn't a bad model. It looked good, but not competition good. I had never seen competitions models before Chicago last year, but I had seen enough photos on Cool Mini Or Not to know that my average model was not that level. I think he was expecting me to say that he had a chance for a trophy with that model. It was a good looking gaming model, but really had no chance in competition. I tried to offer helpful suggestions, mostly my rules of competitive painting. Here they are:
  1. It has to look intentional - Every part of the model has to look like you intended it to look exactly as it looks. No part should look like you arrived there by accident, even if the end result looks cool.
  2. It's not good enough - No matter what you are working on, look it over again and again to see what can be improved. Never be satisfied, but instead keep improving everything a little at a time.
  3. If you can't do it well, don't do it - it may be a cool idea, but if you can't satisfy rule #1, then you shouldn't be doing it. This is sort of (very sort of) a Jeet Kun Do approach to painting... play to your strengths. If you're a speed skater, don't compete in the pole vault. If there's a super cool technique that you are dying to try, use it on some other models until you are good at it and then use it on a competition model.
The model I was asked to critique violated rules 1 and 2. A lot. There were numerous examples of places on the model where surfaces met indistinctly or where paint from one area seemed to be bleeding into another. I pointed out some places where tide marks from washes had formed, and I was told that boiled leather looks exactly like that. Maybe it does, who knows? To me, a painter and not an expert on boiled leather, it looked like tide marks from a wash. Maybe the judges will have more leather savvy than me. The model may have gotten first cut, but it wouldn't have won a trophy. Not even close.

I had a few models on me, so I showed my friend what I had been working on. What I got was what I gave, and that's only fair. I know the models I'm working on aren't competition models. Okay, one is a competition model but it's really only just started. I got a detailed list of what he didn't like about the model. At least one of the problems he pointed out had escaped my attention, so I'm glad he showed me. If we both walk away from yesterday better painters, then it was a good day.

I took the time to win a LotR painting competition while I was there. The only other guy to compete had to use store brushes, so it wasn't exactly an even race. Gotta give him credit for competing without his tools. Chutzpah!

So here's the dilemma for me. I'm a "pretty good" painter. Not a great painter. Most of the people who frequent the local shop are mediocre painters. A few of them just enjoy painting, but some of them want to be really good at it. They seem to turn to me for feedback on their minis, but they only want to hear how great they are. Most of the time I oblige and just tell them what I like about a particular model. Sometimes, like yesterday, I give real critique. It's seldom well received. When I met Tim Lison he not only told me what he liked about my model but what he didn't like about it. The didn't like parts were far more helpful. I didn't feel like Tim's comments were attacks or insults. Either I need to learn how to deliver critique as well as Tim or just forgo giving constructive comments altogether. "Yeah, looks great! You should so enter that into Golden Demon!" I don't know... I have a hard time saying it if I don't mean it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

GD Category Update

Current category intentions for Chicago Games Day Golden Demon:

40k single: Commissar (0% complete)
40k squad: Plague Marines or something Eldar.... not sure
40k vehicle: maybe an Ork Deffdread...
40k large:

WHFB single: Skaven Warlord (60% complete)
WHFB regiment:
WHFB large/monster: Dwarf Gyrocopter (20% complete)

LotR: Moria Goblin Shaman (10% complete)
Duel: (secret project!) (0% complete)
Youngbloods: (missed it by 25 years! shucks!)
Open: Warmaster Skaven (1% complete)

So that's SIX categories I'm planning on competing in! Six! I could easily enter something I've already painted for one of the other categories, and I'm really struggling with whether to enter 40k and whfb units. Maybe I'll hold off on those for now. Considering what I went through to enter the one model last year, even six might be a little much. Duel is going to take a lot of my energy, that's for sure!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Day Out with Thomas

Lily, Jay and I went to Greenfield Village yesterday to attend "Day Out with Thomas." My mom and dad brought my brother's kids Daniel and Rebekah as well.

I was impressed that Thomas was an actual coal burning steam engine. Off to the left you can see my dad and Jay.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Application of Division

My house is 950 sq. feet.

Last night my house contained:
3 x adults
2 x girls, age 9
2 x girls, age 6
1 x boy, age 5
1 x boy, age 3
1 x boy, age 18 months
1 x boy, age 2 weeks

Total: 11 humans of varying sizes
950 sq. feet / 11 people = 86.3 sq. feet per person.
I haven't decided how I'm going to use my 9.3 ft. square allocation of area. I hope mine contains the toilet. Or maybe the door.

Friday, May 02, 2008

What Finishing Last Looks Like

I participated in my local GW store's painting competition. We had 25 hours to paint the 25th anniversary model. The size of the prize was dependent on how many entries they received, ranging from a $5 gift card for 1-5 entires all the way up to a battalion box for 10 or 15 entries.

There were all of 4 entries. Last time I entered a contest there, there were 3 entries. The time before that, I was the only entry. I think I've lost interest in competing there. What they should do is have an open painting competition where you have to buy your model at the store ($20 minimum purchase on a gift card or something) and they award a prize for the winner and another prize for a random entrant. I think they'd get more participation that way.

So back to the competition that just finished... out of 4 entries I finished ... drum roll please... 4th. Hmmm. #1 was well painted, but was gloss coated (and I hates gloss coating forever.) #2 was mediocre painted, but had the whole base assembled and painted, which was a feat to behold. It really is a huge base. #3 was a clever conversion from fantasy to 40k. Then came me. I can't question the judging, but I still think mine was pretty good.

The unpainted figures, being so limited edition, are going for $40-$50 on eBay. I've listed him on eBay, so I'm curious to see if my paint job added or subtracted value from him.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Iron Man L.A. Times Review

I haven't seen Iron Man yet. I don't know when I would. I did, however, read Kenneth Turan's review on the L.A. Times web site.

Here is an excerpt. Emphasis is mine.
Traveling to Afghanistan (actually, it's nearby Lone Pine, Calif.) to demonstrate a new weapon system, Tony gets kidnapped by noticeably cranky jihadists who consider him "the most famous mass-murderer in the history of America" and want him to build them one of his "masterpieces of death" in the dank cave they've imprisoned him in.

Though his heart has been damaged by (how ironic!) shrapnel from one of the bombs his company created, Tony, it turns out, is not a man to mess with. Turning dour and serious, he fools the jihadists, who show themselves to be bears of very little brain, and constructs his first Iron Man suit, which makes him look like an especially fierce refrigerator-freezer.
Considering the number of people with whom I spoke who positively gushed about how great Transformers was, I do not intend to take any of the normal geek-squad recommendations for Iron Man. Sorry guys, but you've used up your credibility with me. Kenneth Turan, on the other hand, has gotten my attention. I will be reading his reviews in the future whether I have any interest in the film in question or not. I think it was the "(how ironic!)" part that won me over. You can almost hear the fake gasp. Nicely done, Kenneth.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Childhood Tunes

When I was a youngster I used to listen to music by means of plastic disks with little bumps that encoded the music in analog. We called them records because sounds had been recorded on them. One of these records contained a series of American folk songs, and I committed many of them to memory over time. The result of one such memorization is that I was trotted up in front of the Miller elementary school play finale to sing the verse to Irving Berlin's "Grand Old Flag" since I was the only person in that school to apparently know it. (In the parlance of songs of that era, the "verse" is a unique portion at the beginning of the song, treated more as an optional introduction nowadays.) I remember my teacher being a bit puzzled when I asked her, "Why aren't we singing the whole song?" She asserted that we were singing the whole song. I remember her astonishment when I proceeded to recite the verse for her. She immediately dragged me in to do it for the music teacher, and next thing I know I am leading the finale at the ripe old age of 7.

Anyway, I digress...

One of the songs I have had bouncing through my head for the past, oh, 30+ years or so was a story about a man walking past a dilapidated cabin wherein an old man was playing a fiddle. When the traveler advised the old man to fix the roof the old man replies, "I couldn't fix it now, on a rainy day." Maybe you already know this song. I didn't know the name until this weekend when I heard someone playing it on "Prairie Home Companion" and the song was referred to by name. It's called "The Arkansas Traveler." I've heard the tune so many times over the years, but never the name. This weekend I actually sought the lyrics and found them.

Oh once upon a time in Arkansas
An old man sat in his little cabin door,
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear,
A jolly old tune that he played by ear.

It was raining hard but the fiddler didn't care
He sawed away at the popular air,
Though his roof tree leaked like a water fall
That didn't seem to bother that man at all

A traveler was riding by that day,
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away
The cabin was afloat and his feet were wet,
But still the old man didn't seem to fret.

So the stranger said: "Now the way it seems to me,
You'd better mend your roof," said he.
But the old man said, as he played away:
"I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day."

The traveler replied: "That's all quite true,
But this, I think, is the thing for you to do;
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright,
Then pitch the old roof till it's good and tight."

But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel,
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel:
"Get along," said he, "for you give me a pain;
My cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain."

(Copied from here.) I have yet to find a vocal version with these lyrics in my intertube searchings. I'm a little shocked that the song is pretty much as I remember it. Granted, I couldn't recite all the lyrics, but I remembered the concepts and some snippets.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Teeny Little Rat

I took a little break from Rectificators late this evening to paint my first Warmaster model. Of course it's a Skaven.

Wow. Just.... wow. So much fun. I absolutely love this scale.

The fact that nobody actually plays Warmaster in my immediate area (or potentially anywhere) leaves me free to paint for fun rather than feel pressured to build an army.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some Chicago Decisions

Okay, I've been mulling it over and I have some decisions for my Golden Demon entries:

Warhammer single figure: Skaven Lustrian Warlord
Warhammer 40k single figure: Imperial Commissar
Lord of the Rings single figure: Moria Goblin Shaman
Open Category: Warmaster Skaven characters

and if I have time....

Warhammer 40k unit: Deathguard Plague Marines
Warhammer large model: Dwarf Gyrocopter

I have some Eldar that are still catching my eye and begging to be painted for competition, so maybe things will change later.... who knows?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Heading Back to the Temperate Zone

Kevin and I are sitting in the airport waiting for our 12:30 flight from LAX to DTW. Unfortunately it's only 10:00 AM local time, and we've been here since 9:00. The laptop only has another half hour or so of power, so after that I'm reduced to reading books. Like a savage.

Speaking of Luddite pursuits, I have a big nerd confession to make. Ready? Here goes.

I'm reading an "in universe" novel series based on a game.

Shocked? Yeah, me too. I swore I would never spelunk this dark cavern. It can only lead to reading Star Wars novels, writing ST:TOS fan fiction and eventually going to cons dressed at Drizzt. I swore I'd never do it, and yet here I am. How did it happen? Angelos thrust a book into my hands and said, "Read this until about page 50, or whenever they get to all the shacks." I did. I was compelled. I read on. I'm on the second "omnibus" now, each of which collects three or four novels in one volume, so I'm officially on book five of the "Gaunt's Ghosts" saga. Nerdy? Oh, yes. It takes place in the Warhammer 40k universe. Juvenile? A little.... it has some smack of adolescent war fantasy to it. Fun? Embarrassingly so. The sad part is that I am considering reading some of the other "in universe" fiction that Games Workshop has licensed now. Yeah, the cavern is deep, but I'll only go in a little ways and I've got this canary. It's a female canary, so it should die of disgust if things get too nerdy. Unless it's into cosplay or something. I guess I never found out if the canary likes anime. Hmm.