Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RIP: GW Paint Creek Crossing

I am sad.  Today I found out that my favorite local gaming hangout is closing.  On January 11, 2010, the Games Workshop store at Paint Creek Crossing (as well as the one at West Oaks II in Novi) is closing.

I will miss the events, the painting competitions, and the constant availability of six well build gaming tables at all times.  I will miss the fact that there was always someone there with whom to paint or play.  Always.  As much as I like the other FLGS in the area, matching with an actual opponent was nearly impossible.  At the GW store there was always a game going on and always someone asking "Did you bring an army?" when I walked in.

I'm glad to hear that Brett is moving to Chicago to manage a store there.  I'm sorry to hear that the Novi staff are getting laid off.  I understand that Michigan probably can't generate the kind of demand that a GW store would require to stay in business, but the fact that they are leaving the Great Lakes Crossing store open is puzzling.  First off it's a mall store, and their corporate piorities have been to move the mall stores to venues like West Oaks or Paint Creek.  Second, the store is tiny and has no real place to play.  Unless you are basically are there to just buy and leave I can't imagine the appeal of the Great Lakes Crossing store.

Avatar: The Last Rainforest

I enjoy sci-fi more than most, but I am surely in the minority in that I was not sweatily anticipating Avatar.  I didn't find the design of the blue cat-monkey people all that appealing in the teaser clip, and the robot gorilla suits were downright stupid.  I also was perplexed by the idea of this fellow running around in an avatar fighting the big bad company when his body was in a tube on the big bad company's own base.  Oops, I just accidentally tripped over the cord to your avatar-tube-projecting thingy.  Guess the battle's over.

So, with hopes low, the fam and I went to see it on prompting from my mother in law.  The same mother in law who once bought me a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush.  She has some serious cred.

Let me sum up the plot in bullet point form:
  • Man goes to paradise to exploit resources
  • Man falls in with natives, specifically female native
  • Man's allegiance is turned away from exploitation to preservation
  • Man and natives fight exploiters against long odds
The first time I saw this it was called "Fern Gully."  Avatar was incalculably more expensive to make I'm guessing.  Well, calculable to some but not me.  I can't think in numbers that big.   Also, Crysta from Fern Gully was arguably hotter for being more human looking.  Okay... pause for a second.  Did you have an agree/disagree opinion about that "hotter" statement?  Yeah, get help.

Anyway, I guess Cameron wanted to throw a new post-911 twist to the Fern Gully traditional tale by making the natives bigger instead of smaller.  Wow!

Any fans of Hayao Miyazaki will vividly imagine Cameron scribbling notes during every Miyazaki film muttering, "Using that and that .... ooo!  and that!  And that and that..." etc.

Okay, but now to the serious discussion.... Na'vi vs. Ewoks.  Both were kind of in the same boat, except the Ewoks never seemed to give a rip about the Empire until a fruity gold robot showed up on their wooden doorstep.  So let's contrast, shall we?

  • tiny, furry things that could be used to sell fabric softener
  • could rig elaborate traps involving logs 7000 times their weight
  • killed stormtroopers by chucking rocks at them
  • fought an evil intergalactic Empire run by a dude who can shoot lightning out of his hands. 
  • suffered one apparent casualty during the entire battle
  • huge humanoids who can jump off cliffs and survive by bouncing from leaf to leaf
  • ride dragons, and occasionally are led by a messianic figure riding a huge freaking dragon.
  • shoot arrows dipped in neuro-toxin (not that the toxin matters much, since the huge Na'vi arrows are more like spears and tend to impale people when they are hit.  Oh, no.  You are now pinned to a tree through the chest and the poison on this "arrow" will kill you in less than a minute.)
  • fought against a mining company run by a manager who is concerned about quarterly statements
  • suffered a bazillion causalities against the mercenaries working for the mining company
  • live above a huge deposit of a mineral with a really stupid name.
Okay, I don't know about you but I'd have to say Ewoks win here.   Granted, if I had to pick the cooler looking of the two I'd go with Na'vi but in terms of pure against-all-odds combat I've got to give it to the Ewoks.  Except for that song at the end of the movie.  Seriously, that made me wish the Empire had won.

Okay, so the final review result:  The movie was good.  The time zipped by and I never had the urge to look at my watch.  I cringed at the profanity, but I have a pretty low threshold for that now that I have young kids.  The violence and sexual content was pretty much Lord of the Rings level.  The 3D effects were immersive without using the "oooo! look at my 3D!" tricks.  If anyone here is on the fence about seeing it, I'd say go ahead if you can stomach all the mother nature worship malarkey.  It's funny... even the testimonial of other nerdy sci-fi types doesn't hold much water with me now.  They all loved Transformers, and that was the worst dog pile of a movie I have seen in ages.

Tragic character note:  there was one character in the movie that my wife and I agree was the most tragic of all.  There are these dragon type thingies that the Na'vi bond with, and apparently they bond for life (cough*Pern*cough.)  Well  when jakesully goes to bond with uber-dragon turok-dinosaur-hunter-thingy what happened to his original dragon?  You never see it again.  Yup, old and busted gets dumped for the new hotness.  Poor little dragon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

If I Played Imperial Guard....

I would definitely model my Valkyrie based on historical military aircraft.  Like "Crock O' Crap" here. Now there's a crew who loved their plane enough to be really truthful to it.  I'm talking "Yes, that dress makes you look fat" truthful.

So hats off to you, brave crew of "Crock O' Crap."  You served your duty with a sense of humor.  I admire that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The New Paradigm in Higher Education CIO Selection Criteria

My employer is in the process of selecting a new CIO.  The selection process has been long and detailed, even to the point of restarting at one point and resuming again after more than a year.  A recommendation will be made to the president by the end of this year.

What you see here is a white board tucked away to the side of the conference room in which the selection committee and each of the four candidates ate lunch on their interview days.  After a bit of interrogation I discovered that the demented rabbit had been drawn there prior to the first candidate's arrival.  Therefore I must assume that each candidate, having spent a fair bit of time in that conference room, saw the white board and the rabbit.

I wonder if they thought it was some sort of psychological test.  Should I say something?  Should I say nothing?

My Worst: FTW Supplemental

The "From The Warp" bloggers list did a collaborative post on some of the members' worst models, so I thought I'd pile on.

I thought this guy, supposedly a plague priest with plague censer, was so dang cool when I finished him back in '05.  He had a green stuff hood, a converted tail and that super double awesome plague censer!  Plus, check out the "kitty litter" style basing!  Medium railroad ballast over black plastic at its best!

I hope (and fear) that in five more years I will look back at what I'm doing now with that same sense of "what the heck was I thinking?"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Warpstone National Painting League?

I swung by the Paint Creek GW store today, and Brett showed me something interesting.  It was a glass-like trophy looking thing that had an etched picture of a servitor and the title "WARPSTONE National Painting League."  Apparently early next year GW is doing nationwide painting competitions or something similar.  I think there might be rumblings about it in the WD coming out Saturday.

I, for one, am quite pleased.  With Golden Demon down to one American event next year, high class painting competitions would be difficult to come by.  Not that I'm a shoo-in for any awards, but I love competing at a high level and I really don't feel like hauling it all the way to Indianapolis for GenCon.  Hey, maybe I'll even get to meet up with Tim Lison again. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Poor Little Truck Can't Get a Brake

Stef called me on the the way home from a friend's house to tell me the truck was driving really squirrely and shaking badly in back.  Immediately I figured that something in the rear suspension that had been damaged in the collision had given out, and that she'd arrive home with the back end nearly dragging the ground.

I was please to see that the only problem was that she had driven home on a flat tire.  The spare on the truck is full sized, so it's not even a financial burden at this time.  I'll just buy a retread after the first of the year.

I just wonder what's next for my poor truck.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Never Doubt The Wife

"Again?" Stef asked me.
"Yes, again," I said, holding up my fingers glued into a permanent "OK" sign.
"Go stick them in acetone," she said, and went back to reading.
"Pfft.  Acetone won't dissolve superglue," I scoffed.  I had tried it last time this happened to no avail.
"I use it to get fake nails off.  Give it a minute and it will work," she replied this time without looking up.

It worked after about 30 seconds.  I had no idea.

Wrongeye & Snapjaw

Seldom do I just spam a product here, but I ran across these guys by accident on the Privateer Press website, and just fell in love with the level of character and humor they have.

I must paint them.

The Long, Cold Drive; The Long, Cold Walk

For no discernible reason, the truck has no heat.  I'd like to say it has something to do with my little fender bender, but it seems unlikely.  Either way, it's really cold here so it's really cold in the truck.  Lovely.

Having a truck with a horribly smashed in rear end has been an interesting effect on my driving.  When I turn on my turn signal people make room.  It's both humorous and depressing.  Get out of my way!  I don't care if I mess my truck up or not!

Now that the weather is really getting cold here, it makes my walk from the parking lot to my office seem a bit longer.  The building outlined in orange is Pray-Harrold, the building in which I work.  The arrow indicates where the door is, roughly.  It takes about 400 good sized strides to go from my normal parking lot to that door, and as the temperature drops that seems longer and longer.  My "it's cold" gage is whether or not my forehead hurts from the wind/cold.  We have been there for a couple days now.  Starting out from a warm car made the walk a bit easier, I think.  Now that I'm cold upon parking, the walk is just that much colder.

About two weeks ago now, Ann Marie brought in maple syrup from Vermont and a waffle iron.  I brought in buttermilk waffle batter (made from scratch, of course) and the Portal Support Services team had waffles in the office for breakfast.  Good times.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Space Hulk Victory!

But not for me, I'm afraid.  Last night my eight year old daughter and I played scenario 1 "Suicide Mission."  The result?  As you can see from the board, I didn't make it terribly far as the Marines.  Her strategy was to just pile up the 'nids along the path I needed to take rather than try and surround me.  The Marines only get so many shots per turn, and I just couldn't take them down fast enough to prevent an overwhelm.

Kudos to the Brother Sergeant Whats-His-Face for taking down four 'nids in close combat.

My kids also had fun naming the Genestealers.  Since we tended to grab recent casualties for the revealed Genestealers, the one that looks like he's popping out of the floor was named "We meet again!" since we always said that when he appeared.  The one with each of two feet standing on a little pile of skulls was named "Boots" and my son named the one holding a Marine helmet "Thunder" (more out of a desire to be in on the action than for any descriptive reason.)

Their prize for winning?  Ice cream!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Poky Little Plague Monk WIP 2

To quote 'therat' from the Skaven UnderEmpire forum:
And thus the diseased rat-monk spoke,

Woe to any who dig holes beneath this fence, for they shall suffer without desert!

The men of the empire shrunk in fear of these words of power.
 I put a coat of Minwax Polycrylic on him to protect the edges, then some matte varnish to cut the glossiness, but it looks like I didn't get rid of the shine completely.  So this guy's either WIP or Path-Of-Least-Resistance complete.  I haven't quite decided.  There are 19 more of them in the unit, and it would be nice to have another fieldable unit completely painted.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

My Personal Stances on Skaven Rule Questions

I am definitely a "type B" wargamer.  It's all about the fun and narrative of the experience, and winning is a distant third.  Not that I won't compete, mind you.  I just won't be a jerk about it.  Something tells me "rat girl" on the left would cheese it up.  I dunno.

That said, I have decided to put my foot down about certain vague points in the new Skaven book.  As a Skaven player I am voluntarily taking the following stances.  Theses are my personal decisions and not any official rulings.
  1. Warpstone Tokens and the Storm Banner are "one use only"
  2. The Doomwheel may not start in the front arc of a unit, then use its movement to maneuver around to hit that unit in the flank or rear.
  3. Shooting will scatter into Rat Ogres on a 1-4, into other models on a 5-6.
  4. Only one Night Runner, Jezzail team, Rat Ogre, etc. can be upgraded in a unit, not any and all of them.
  5. Banner of Verminous Scurrying can only be used to augment a unit's normal march, in the movement phase.
  6. Template weapons hitting an enemy unit engaged with slaves will be randomized between slaves/enemies.
  7. Plague Priests may not take warpstone tokens.
  8. I will never take more than one tail weapon or rat hound bodyguard.  A brace of warplock pistols is possible until ruled otherwise, but only because it's a cool conversion option.
  9. The plague censer would benefit from poisoned attacks.  In the same way a great weapon keeps its rules (+2 strength, strikes last) with poison, the plague censer is a weapon with its own rules, not a magic weapon.
  10. Slaves breaking from cc will get additional hits under the "Cornered Rats!" rule only for each full rank of 5 beyond the first, not just for each rank beyond the first.
I'm sure I'll update these as more situations come up.  Most of these are ruling against the cheese option (#9 would be the arguable exception) and designed to minimize arguments.  Nearly all of them are behavioral choices, either in list creation or in game actions.

Until an official FAQ / Errata is released, my position will be "If it's not clear to me, rule in favor of your opponent."

As a bonus, here's an old "Gary the Gor" comic (by Craig Russell) re: Skaven.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    The Poky Little Plague Monk

    He gets no strawberry shortcake!  Yeah, I've been having some fun with the freehand work.  The rest of the model just has one spotty basecoat, so I dimmed it out.  The puppy page is done (except for the Skaven runes that will go where the title normally goes) and the other page needs a couple of puppies and a tree.  They're both copied from the original book.  Barnes and Noble's web site has viewable pages if you want to see the original work.

    Between this guy, the Warlord on Rat Ogre and the Plague Priests I've been on quite a Skaven kick lately.  They are the first wargaming army I collected, and getting a new book is kind of a big deal (to me anyway.) 

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    Case of the British Firefox... Solved!

    Since switching to Ubuntu I've had a strange problem.  For some reason the spell-checker was using the British spelling of words, rather than the American one, even though all the OS settings were US English.  This got to be increasingly annoying as I typed emails for work, posted things on this blog, etc.  Eventually I realized that the spell-check was limited to Firefox.  A little searching and I found how to change Firefox to use the US English dictionary.
    1. Browse to "about:config" in Firefox
    2. Click the "I'll be careful, I promise!" button if it appears
    3. In the filter box type "spellchecker".  The only entry you should see on screen at this point is "spellchecker.dictionary."  The value of that entry should read "en-US" for US spellings or "en-GB" for British spellings (or other things for other languages.)
    4. Double-click "en-GB" and change it to "en-US", then hit enter
    Done!  You now have a Firefox that spells words like an American (only correctly.)