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.