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: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=348
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 AmazingMagnets.com. 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:
http://images.google.com/images?q=night 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.