One thing I'd like to do, eventually, is to create a proper Gorkamorka web page. A decent one with a sensible layout, up-to-date content (or timeless) and decent explanation of the history of the game.

There's not enough going on with the game to need frequent updates so it'd be more of a collation of data that's already out there.

That said, I can't really see it happening. I simply don't spend as much time online as I used to. Sure, I use tech a lot, but these days it doesn't feel like there's as much going on. Maybe I just feel a little alienated. Facebook feels empty, Twitter quiet and that's about it.

Similarly I don't spend as much time on forums as I used to. Wooden Dice is obviously still supported and I post in bursts but many of the other posters have wandered off. This is of course what happens when people have lives and do interesting things - we don't have the time to just idle online.

It's both sad and good. I've no intention of taking down Wooden Dice, why would I?
I'm easily stubborn enough to keep it going and who knows, maybe one day we'll have a revival. We're having the first Wooden Dice meetup this month, after all!

I have heard mention from the "YourPSP Pirate Party" that they consider WD to be an off-shoot of YourPSP, like themselves. So, guys, if you read this - Wooden Dice has never been an off-shoot of anything. Especially considering WD was founded at the end of February, 2005!

Goodnight.

In between working on my Cthulhu costume, I managed to fit in a game of Gorkamorka today.

As you may be aware, Nazgrab’s Yella Deff were the laughing stock of Mektown, having a total of zero victories to their name. Despite a rescue attempt, one of their lads was still in the hands of a rapidly expanding Morker mob called Da N00bz.

There was a mob rating difference of ~40, making the mob underdogs by quite a considerable margin, but no boyz left behind, not in Da Yella Deff!

Still, in true over-compensating tradition, Nazgrab rallied his boys, including their new slaver, Grimfang, and his grot, Snik, to make another go of it.

Despite the risk of taking in their wheels, their harpoon-packing war trukk, Grin, Nazgrab thought it best to get in fast, getting him to the fort in no time, well before any of Da Noobz could get back.

The only one left to guard the captive was Milty, an ork with little interest in shootas, preferring the weight of his trusty choppa. Krukzog put him down with a single harpoon bolt, although Milty was on his feet in good time to see the rest of his mates roll up: IMG_1991

Hearing the roar of engines in the distance, Zagwazza had brought the trukk ‘round the back, ready for a quick exit once the lads had clambered over the walls. Nazgrab and the rest of the mob had meanwhile been getting into the fort over the wall and doing their best to cut Ardkop free, just in time to see Da N00bz arrive in force:IMG_1994

Nazgrab was, unsurprisingly, bricking it, looking down the barrel of at least five weapons, let alone enough cutlery to cut him and his lads into very small pieces!

A salvo of shots rang out, all aimed at the poor nob, but much to his amazement, only a single shot found its mark, clipping his shoulder. (Sid later claimed it was a round from his shoota that did the damage, earning him a free round at the brew house)

Get up yez, yer blind zoggaz!
-Nazgrab

IMG_1992Not too happy about being used as a distraction, Nazgrab turned around to see that Thogskin had managed to get Ardkop out of his shackles. 

Seeing the look on Grimfang’s face and knowing he had to make a call on whether they stayed on to fight or hightailed it like cowardly grots, Nazgrab yelled the command:

Leggit, lads!!
-Nazgrab

A mad dash for the wall ensued and all but Snik made it over. Pushed to the back of the group, the grot was suddenly feeling very lonely on top of the wall, surrounded by snarling orks.

IMG_1993With similar freakish fortune, most of the shots missed their mark, although he did hit the deck when a shot clipped him in the leg, giving him a moment to consider how much nicer his shoota was than the puny slugga Horace was allowed to wield. Snik considered that whilst things were looking bad, at least his mob looked after their own.

Managing to sling himself over the wall, Snik rejoined the mob, much to his relief, even if Grimfang wasn’t looking too pleased about the wait. Better the devil you know, eh?

With an ascending whoosh of gas turbines firing up, the lads were away, yelling insults and cheering. Finally, a big one up for the good guys!

IMG_1995

Da Viktorz

Updates across the board

23 October 2009

So, here's an entry. It's been a while and may be a while until the next one. Enjoy this one whilst it lasts.

I've been very busy over the last few months although things are going rather well. I'm still not happy, which is a shame but is partly due to my own weakness and compassion.

On the academic side I'm not doing too badly. I'm up to date on coursework and have secured SAAS funding, which is awesome. No real complaints at the moment, to be honest. I should probably work a little harder, but my last essays weren't overly slapdash.

Societally speaking, things are going quite well too. Some set backs have hit us, many due to Adobe Premiere's crippling rendering issues. Some feedback I received recently irritated me, although I'm doing my best to only respond negatively in words, responding positively in actions. I reserve the right to bitch and moan, after all.

This week's episode has some real highlights and our crews' abilties are improving my leaps and bounds, vastly improving our capabilities.

Our connections are improving too and I'm hoping we'll secure an interview with Jonathan Coulton on the 8th of November, although I'm not certain that'll work out yet. We've also spoken to various pro-skaters and got in free to pretty much everything.

I'm hoping that I can secure another Google Wave invite for Chris in order to push the NapierTV documentation project forward. Yes, I have Google Wave (and have had since a few days after the public beta opened, thanks to Alan Bell) - flamekebab@googlewave.com, I think.

On the wargame front I've got mixed news. My ork mob, the appropriately named "Nazgrab's Yella Deff", are all painted and ready for their next rumble (which they'll probably lose, the cowardly gits). I've also had some interest in a Mordheim campaign, but currently I'm not ready to run one. I hope to soon have time to play more Gorkamorka, other stuff permitting.

Costume-wise things are going well. My Cthulhu mask is starting to look excellent and I hope to make significant progress tomorrow. Photos soon!

Whilst the current situation is pleasant in many respects, I'm still not happy. I fear I may need to be stronger and stop this before it gets too far. This is, after all what I forsaw and ultimately did not want.

Damn you, the Skinny.

22 September 2009

I feel like I'm having a bit of a personal crisis. I've got enough to keep me busy but I'm just feeling a little, well, at a loose end.

Essentially, I blame the Skinny. Their student survival guide made me focus a little more long-term than I feel like thinking. It's not that there's anything bad coming up, or anything to be depressed about, I just feel a little off. It feels both saddening and ridiculous!

I'm hoping that the coming week and academia will make me feel a bit better. I guess I just wanted to complain a bit and don't feel like dedicating too much time to feeling lousy.

In terms of what's going on in my life, things are great. The society is well on track and my modules seem pretty good. I think I just want to find enough time to party hard so I don't feel like I'm missing out on stuff.

I'm also hopeful that upcoming society events will buck my spirits and the politics of further growth and advancement will reignite my spirit.

Flyers and other promo tat

12 September 2009

In the aftermath of Freshers’ Week I’ve been sorting through some of the tat that was given out at the Freshers’ Fayre. NapierTV gave out some stickers, badges and flyers, but mostly we pitched. Other stall-holders were a little more, erm, lame?

Lots of the nightclubs gave out flyers. Lots and lots of flyers. Each more garish than the next, covered in more text than anyone would ever read. Meaningless membership cards were everywhere. What’s the point in having a membership card or guestlist that is open to everyone? If you’re trying to market yourself using a degree of exclusivity it seems rather redundant to me.

It’s the flyers mostly. I’m a compulsive reader, like my father, and struggle to not read text put in front of me. These flyers made even me turn away. TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ. If these clubs are trying to appeal to students, why are their flyers walls of text with as little whitespace as possible? Why are some of them spelt wrong? How come some have clearly not even been designed for print?!

I’d post photos of some of them, but to be frank, I’ve binned the lot.

Give out memorable stuff, ladies and gentlemen. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just interesting. Napier’s Christian Union give out tins of baked beans with customised labels, for example. I’m not a fan of the CU (I’m relatively indifferent), but I admire their free tat.

Our flyers tried to be quite subdued. One side contained only a photo and a URL:

wallpaper-for-padraig

The back had some carefully worded text. Perhaps it could have been worded better, we always want to do better, but it certainly wasn’t bad.

These clubs might instead want to go for banners with some of the text they wish to give out and flyers with their name and a map. Perhaps include the price and the opening times. That is ENOUGH. Giving more is just unnecessary at the Freshers’ Fair. Information overload and short attention spans do not mix well.

That is all.

It’s been sometime since I updated last. The simple explanation is that I’ve been busy.

Not just a little busy, but very busy.

As you may know, it’s currently Freshers’ Week here at Edinburgh Napier, almost a month earlier than last year. What this has meant is frantic activity to get the society ready for prime time. Websites set up, hashtags established, publicity photos taken, flyers and promotional tat ordered, hoodies ordered and a LOT of budgeting.

On the plus side, we’ve never been in such a good position before. We know what we’re doing, we have a basis of experience, we’ve got good connections, a strong exec and big plans.

We’ve had big plans since our inception, but this time they are laid out on the calendar and should hopefully come to fruition. We’ve certainly laid the groundwork.

Right now we’re preparing to head out for the Freshers Pub Crawl 2009, with a “high seas” theme. Pirate costumes at the ready!

This is the next stage, meeting the students and trying to win them over. So far Chris and some of the team have been to one of the events and interviewed Sandi Thom, which by all accounts went very well. The NapierTV book now contains her signature and “big love!”. How about that?

Anyway, IT BEGINS!

Whilst waiting for footage to transcode for editing, I’ve been watching a few videos on YouTube. Comments should possibly just be disabled on that site – the box says “Comment on this video” not “Prove you’re an idiot”.

In my travels I encountered the video for a T.I. song. Apparently he’s a hiphop artist of some kind. I don’t know if he’s currently popular and but apparently he’s currently serving a year behind bars. Sounds like he’s ticked most of the boxes so far for a successful rap career.

I don’t know whether I actually like the video or not, which to me at least is far more interesting. It portrays the mythical hiphop lifestyle with T.I. acting as the “sugar daddy” to the anonymous female protagonist, up to a point.

I don’t know if this is what many women want, although it doesn’t seem unbelievable sometimes. Whilst I would like vast wealth, I doubt it would make me much happier. Perhaps a little, but really what I think the desire is for glamour. Such an interesting human quirk – fame, glamour and status.

It also amuses me that the amount of money and possessions seen in the video are probably significantly more than T.I. actually owns. I may, of course, be wrong. Perhaps it’s simply that the people I’ve met who have that level of wealth rarely feel the need to splash it around or buy doodads and bling.

The other concept that interests me is the freedom the lyrics refer to. “You can have whatever you like” and “You can go wherever you like”. It’s kinda interesting that it seems to be money that is considered the hindrance to freedom. Sure, without any money it’s problematic, but one doesn’t require fictional amounts of money, unless of course what one wants is lots of money.

It makes me wonder – how often do people actually stop to consider why money is so important to them?

You and your kind, all you care about is money.

Gorkamorka-campaign-1Well, the first game of my first Gorkamorka campaign has just finished.

The result?

A resounding lose on my part.
For the first few turns there was a lot of “erm..” and “I think that’s how the rules work here..”.

I also managed to insult Chris’ father before play had even begun. Nice going, Ben.

That said, once I got the rules straight things worked out quite well. My lads careened around the board in their two vehicles, firing harpoons and shootas at Da Noobz and their boys. Dawn’s poor lad, Jeff, was not only mocked for his name, but also repeatedly pummelled by my buggy, before being clubbed out of consciousness by my spanner.

Things started to go wrong towards the end when Dawn’s lads piled onto my buggy and beat them into a smooth, green mash. A few knackered vehicles later and my lads losing their nerve and scarpering and it was stats o’clock. Oh and two of my guys were captured by Da Noobz.

All in all, it went well. A bit of terrain would have helped and I’m going to need to craft some as soon as I can. Hopefully we can get a few more games going and then I shall be bringing in my grots. FOR FREEEEEDUM!!

Many years ago I wrote a document entitled “A Note On Sleeves” and then posted it on Wooden Dice’s wiki. Time, hosting moves and server hard disk crashes have claimed it now, although I did manage to find a copy over on Archive.org. Amusingly, as it was on our wiki, the oldest version was vandalised (I’d wager it was Joyno, the cheeky git) and says:

ben fox is a litle bit gay
he has a willy like a bannana

lol.

Admittedly I’ve seen some pretty large bananas over the years so perhaps I should take the second bit as a compliment.

Back onto the more serious point, the document was about suggestions about maintaining mental and physical form, written from a perspective derived from Altered Carbon (a rather interesting trilogy of books in which a body is referred to as a sleeve, acting as a semi-permanent vessel for a digitised consciousness).

Reading through, it’s still relatively accurate and true to what I believe, even to this day. I cringed when I first opened it, mainly on general principles, but when I started reading I found that it wasn’t written in a style that is that different from how I write now. A little more detached and clinical, perhaps, but relevant nonetheless.

I’m considering posting the contents of the document here, but not tonight. I’m sure anyone with a modicum of technical expertise will be able to find a copy of it.

A healthy sleeve will be act as an excellent fall-back mechanism, catching you when your mind is struggling to hold together. If you come to realise it you will marvel at how magnificently it works, like a well-oiled machine it will carry out whatever you ask of it and more.

(Formatted roughly in the way it used to look on the WD wiki)

I’m also considering writing some more vaguely political documents and fleshing out Arbiterism, as I’m a little tired of the fact that it seems from the outside as if I’ve abandoned the concept. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. I’ve been thinking and discussing the structure with a few other arbiters and am considering how to put it into words.

One minor disadvantage of Arbiterism is that it relies on judgement a lot, much like the Swedish concept of “lagom”. Not common sense, which is actually rarely common and especially isn’t common in many of the general human population, but judgement.

I’d also eventually like to do a roll-call of arbiters, to see who is active and who should be removed from my mental register. The number is smaller than before, but I also feel we have more genuine arbiters today than we did four years ago.

Perhaps the revolution will never come, so to speak, but I’d still like to try. Currently I’m working on more short term projects for both my own enjoyment and to provide funding for myself and future projects. In order to finance the initiatives I’m throwing around the ideas for, we’ll need resources.

I also think that it’s important to make sure there are alternatives to thugs like the BNP and narrow-minded nationalists like the SNP. Perhaps if parties such as the Pirate Party have some success then there will one day be more political awareness and interest amongst the population of the UK.

I personally am tired of Labour. I’m also uninterested in the Conservatives. I can’t say I have anything to say about the Liberal Democrats either.

I want to choose something else.
Arbiter-logo

Shitty filler content!

11 August 2009

I have several things I’d like to write about at the moment, including the Festival of Falconry 2009, the CLA Game Fair 2009 and Glasgow By Gaslight, but right now I’m too tired to do so. Instead

What I can be bothered to write a few lines about is something I just encountered whilst taking some tedious quiz online. One of the questions asked:

The last time you were REALLY scared, how'd it work out?

 

The honest answer to that question is “huh?”. I honestly cannot recall when I was last particularly scared. I’ve been vaguely nervous, a bit stressed, depressed or angry, but I can’t think when I was last actually genuinely frightened.

That said, many of their quizzes are badly worded and seem to make many assumptions that make little sense from an objective viewpoint. A question that stipulates a personality trait should have an answer option allowing for “that’s just not like me”. Perhaps it’s some sort of thing that I don’t get due to it being an American site. Their culture is very different from ours in many ways it would seem and as such many things are presumably lost on foreigners such as myself.

One of the questions I encountered made reference to music with explicit lyrics. Do people actually care that music contains vocals containing swear words?

Another stated I needed a new car. I don’t get it.. Why do I need a car precisely? I do so love paying road tax, insurance and other upkeep charges, please, allow me the opportunity to opt in. There was also one that said “What do you like best about driving?”. I like it best when I’m not the one at the wheel..

I think the site is actually aimed at girls, but many of the quizzes are gender neutral, even if they’re somewhat retarded. What can I say, I’m procrastinating. It’s either this or sleep and going to bed is so much effort..

Right, enough filler content.

 

Oh wait, one last thing - their “How Evil Are You?” quiz gave me the following result:

Hmmm... You don't seem to match any of our categories!

 

Nice.

The Matrix films get a lot of abuse but not from me. whilst the second film wasn't particularly great, I enjoyed all three of them, as well as the Animatrix and Enter The Matrix.

Yes, they're not as good as the first film, which was, at least for me, jaw-dropping. But I liked them anyway, they created a marvellous microcosm which still partly exists in my head.

I enjoyed the fact that Enter The Matrix was intertwined with the films and that characters from the Animatrix sometimes appeared as well. Yes, the game wasn't brilliant, although it was quite pretty, but it did have some memorable features.

I had once planned to have a Matrix marathon, watching all three films, the Animatrix and the cut scenes from Enter The Matrix, but given their non-linear relationship, I doubt it will ever happen.

I'd quite like to play through the game again, but only if there was a make-the-game-better mod. There was never enough ammo and some of the levels were far too repetitive. The lack of ammo was infuriating as there were so many cool bullet-time things one could do, but with so little ammo I never felt there was enough to use on such frivolity. This makes me a sad Fox.

I did try playing The Path Of Neo on my PS2 ad I think I may still have a copy, but I must say I got bored far too quickly. Maybe I'm now too old (mentally) or maybe the PS2 just has the amazing ability to sap my interest in things..

big-lugga

See that?

Yeah, that’s my Rebel Grots’ big lugga. Perhaps it doesn’t seem that huge but to give you a point of comparison..

My big lugga = 21cm long, 14cm wide and 20cm tall
The old Gorkamorka Ork trukk = 11cm long, 7cm wide and 4cm tall.

This thing is fucking HUGE. Admittedly the old Ork trukk was just too damn small. One could barely fit more than a couple of Orks on it, especially the modern Orks which are much bigger than the old Gorkamorka era ones.

My Grot cuttas are rather enormous too though. Hopefully some Ork vehicles will emerge that are suitably chunky to ram me. Crunch!

In terms of models I’ve now just got two drivers and a gunner. Plus my first cutta driver makes four. So, four figures to paint and three vehicles. I’ll not be painting the vehicles until I return to Edinburgh though as I’ll be damned if I’m undercoating them by hand.

I’ll be returning on either Sunday or Monday, I think. I could do with getting back soon. There’s a convention, an interview and a whole load of NapierTV stuff I need to get done. That said, I’m rather enjoying being around my parents, so I’ll miss them when I go back, you know, until my conditioning kicks back in.

Costumes at Comic-Con

29 July 2009

19558866

Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) spent Comic-Con 2009 dressed like this, cosplay_108_fullhandily allowing him to wander around (and apparently bumping into as many as twelve people dressed up as Adam Savage..).

On Twitter he was giving clues but not revealing his actual costume, allowing his readers to try to guess or find him at the convention.

I looked up a few other photos, about six hundred of them over at Maximum PC. I rather liked the judges from Judge Dredd, although there were countless other very impressive ones. I did wonder about some of the women, there were many in costume and most were rather attractive. Geeks can be hot too, I guess. How times change..

cosplay_580_fullI think Hannah’s Pikachu costume may have been one-upped, but only because the British climate rarely supports a costume as skimpy as the one pictured, ahem..

Back on topic: looking at Adam’s costume made me feel the urge to build a Joker costume. Specifically that one. I don’t have the face for a normal Joker outfit and I cannot be bothered to acquire the relevant purple suit. Or the knives. Or the huge number of grenades..


Let’s not blow this out of proportion..

This is a relatively easy one though and doesn’t require any previous knowledge of anything to work as a costume.

rev_joker-toy-figure_bank-robber-movie-scenesA blazer, black leather gloves, trousers, shoes and a relatively mundane shirt make up the basic costume. To complete the look all that would be required would be the mask, some hair paint (and some wax, I imagine) as well as a smoke grenade replica and some purple cord or string.

If I get around to it, I’d like to build it. In the meantime I’m focusing on wargames stuff, but I thought that a bit of variety was due on here.

IMG_1675As I write this I’ve got a little lego box sitting next to me full of RTV silicone, hopefully mixed in the correct proportions (not a hope).

It’s the first part of the Ork kannon mould I’m attempting to make. I didn’t like the fact that there’s no real model for the Orky shotgun any more, there’s just a few left over Gorkamorka ones which look puny in the hands of modern Ork models. I’m getting the feeling I may have written this before, so I’ll get onto the next bit.

IMG_1681I want to start assembling my Gorker mob of Orks for Gorkamorka, but currently the lack of kannon models is the limiting factor. With any luck the mould will give good results and I can cast a few in resin. I’ve started on the vehicles and I’m stripping the paint from a few models. Irritatingly I seem to have lost my harpoon gun model, which is going to make the war trukk conversion that slight bit trickier unless I can un-earth it.

Then there’s my rebel grots, several of whom are currently sitting in a glass of Dettol to remove their previous paint (it wasn’t a bad paint job per se, but I’d like my models to be consistent). I was also rather pleased with myself when I tore the head off an old metal grot and replaced it with a plastic one. I’d always hated the old one and now I’m rather smug about it. Nyah.

IMG_1684

Lastly, I’d like to share these with other Gorkamorka players out there:

gorkamorka-roster1

gorkamorka-roster2

Click on them to get the full size versions of them. There’s permission to photocopy them for personal use granted on them, so I think it’s probably okay to upload them like this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got access to a printer but not a photocopier. Hopefully this isn’t illegal, but if I get contacted by Games Workshop I’ll happily take them down.

For da republik!

24 July 2009

I've been working on my rebel grots for a few days in total and so far I'm rather pleased with how it's going. Back in the day a player would require a huge number of metal grots (~£6 for two!) plus several vehicles (rare although relatively cheap). That'd be about sixty quid for a mob of them.

So far mine has cost me perhaps ten pounds and that covers my whole mob with spares. The new plastic Warhammer 40,000 grethin are great. About six quid for ten (plus an Ork who has become the gunner in my Gorker mob, but that's another story).

Plastic models are a gods send for the simple fact that they can easily be repositioned and modified. Metal models are tougher but modifications need careful cuts and green stuff. Plastic can be fused back together and rebuilt with relative ease. A scalpel, a few files and some polystyrene cement and a model can be heavily modified successfully.

Few of my models are precisely as they were when they came out of the box. Heads are swapped, weapons sliced off and changed, accessories added and limbs repositioned.

Taking this further, my grot's vehicle fleet is two-thirds complete. Two land yachts ("cuttas") and a large thingy ("big lugga") are what they're planning to field, but so far only the cuttas are done.

IMG_1595 They're scratch built and perhaps a little large, but I think it's a little more practical to make them larger than the rather puny old Gorkamorka vehicles.

Leading on from that, my Gorkers are fielding two vehicles - a buggy and a trukk. I've not really considered precisely how to do the truck yet, but the buggy is based on an old Gorkamorka Rokkit buggy:

IMG_1596

It's not huge, but it should hold three or four models now, a significant improvement from it's previous passenger capacity of "you're 'aving a laugh!".

Finally, I'd like to share a work in progress shot of four of my rebel grots being painted:IMG_1622

From left to right - my banna waver, random grot with six-shoota, my head honcho, and a random grot with a slugga and knife.

I'm particularly proud of the banna waver (or was it "wava"?). He had a club which I hollowed out and attached a banner pole from an old, erm, Gorkamorka biker? Then I used a few bits of plasticard to build a star of the revolution to complement the new pole.

The weapon is actually unique too. It's a sawn-off shoota with a new green-stuff barrel and the stock off some other random weapon.

My head honcho is much simpler, a sawn-off blunderbuss plus a sight from a bunch of plastic orks.

It's a lot harder to paint grots having got used to painting bigger greenskins. They're bloody tiny! I'm very pleased with them though and I think at this rate I'll have the whole lot polished off before I get back to civilisation, just in time to build a big lugga and an orky trukk or six. I'm probably going to be building/modifying some vehicles for Dawn and Matt, should they require them. I think I may be painting his orks too, as I know he has little to no interest in physical tokens in games.

Then there's the plans for our giant, modular Necromunda board, but I'll have to save that story for later..

M16-stage-twoYes, yes, it’s a lousy photo.

I’ve been sculpting again, or attempting to. I’ve got most of the basic shape down now and I’m trying to get the details right, or close enough.

Most recently I’ve been working on the ejection port cover as well as the handle, barrel near the stock, handguard and front sight.

Given that the entire model is only 38mm long, I don’t feel I’m doing too badly. I was especially pleased to discover the deal with the forward assist and the M16. Confused? Ah, well let Mr. Fox explain:

Colt-m16-dokrivat- That thingy is a “forward assist”. The original M16 didn’t have it, but it was added in the XM16E1 (standardised as the M16A1 by the US Army). So, if I understand correctly, my marine lads’ weapons shouldn’t have forward-assists, if their weapons are supposed to come from 1965, 1966 or early 1967. If they are supposed to be from after that time, they should have forward assists.

Well, I think I’ll model the earlier weapon and then when I’ve cast a few I’ll make some with forward assists, others without by sculpting further on the duplicates.

I also plan on adding some extra stuff to the duplicates so I can have different variants. Varying flash suppressors, scopes, magazines, etc..

Cheaper Wargames Paint

17 July 2009

vallejoIn my last entry I did a price comparison of various sites for sourcing Games Workshop miniatures. This time I’m not doing the same thing, as there’s a fairly clear winner when it comes to paint.

I used to buy Citadel paint and I can’t complain at the quality, although I didn’t have much to compare to. I’ve still got lots of it left, but it is in various states of decay and in any case, I wasn’t going to lug a drawer full of paints up to Edinburgh on the train.

Instead I asked around and discovered Vallejo paints and was directed to a source on eBay. I bought 17 pots/bottles of Vallejo paint at about £1.19 each, after the 15% discount from the seller for buying more than 16.

First off, there’s two advantages of Vallejo paints:

  • Firstly, the bottles contain a nozzle at the top allowing them to easily be squidged out onto a pallet, convenient.
  • Secondly, they come in 17ml pots, not 12ml like their citadel brethren

Despite being cheaper than the citadel ones, I was very impressed with their quality. They were a joy to w ork with and I found myself enjoying painting miniatures for the first time in years.

Gifts for Geeks sells them for £1.30 each, without a minimum order requirement to reach the price.

So, for a quick price comparison with Citadel, per ml of paint:

  • Citadel paints work out at approximately 18.6p per ml (£2.25 on GW online)
  • Vallejo paints work out at approximately 7.6p per ml (£1.30 per pot)

To give a worked example:

If I decided to buy a load of paints to paint the Orks and Rebel Grots I’m going to be fielding, I’d need perhaps 15 different colours, ideally a few more.

To buy them in a GW store would cost me £2.25 * 15, so £33.75 + postage (~£4 I’d guess).

To buy the same colours from the Vallejo range at Gifts for Geeks would cost £19.50, plus postage (again, about £4).

That’s a difference of £14.25. The Vallejo paints cost nearly half as much, but there’s an additional bonus – there’s 40% more paint in the Vallejo ones!

I’m curious how much it’d cost to make the orders the same in terms of paint quantity, so I’ve worked it out. Vallejo paints contain ~41.67% more paint (I can’t be bothered to figure out how to add the symbol to indicate a recurring decimal). So, to get an accurate figure of how much it would (in theory) cost to buy fifteen 12ml pots of Vallejo, I just take the £19.25 total and chop 41.67% off it. Boosh!

£11.23.
£22.52 cheaper than Games Workshop.

Hopefully this will help some of you get a better deal on paint and be able to afford a broader spectrum of colours!

In between Falconry Festival stuff I’ve been thinking about how to cheaply buy miniatures for my upcoming wargames. This was prompted by this article (“Games Workshop on a Budget”).

This is by no means an exhaustive comparison and it is of course only valid as I write this, but hopefully the basic truths will hold true over the coming months.

I had a look at Gifts for Geeks, Maelstrom Games, Megaminis and Wayland games, attempting to buy the same Warhammer 40,000 models:

  • A box of ten Imperial Guard Catachan Jungle Fighters
  • A box of ten Ork Boyz
  • One Ork Trukk

For a baseline comparison I check the Games Workshop online store. Technically, this isn’t accurate. The GW online store prices are different from the GW retail outlets on the proverbial high street. How different? Probably not much, but I’m not about to dig up the number of GW Edinburgh and ask them to do a price check for me. Suffice to say, if you want them immediately, you’ll pay a premium.

price-comparison 
(Click on the table to get the full size image)

In each column I’ve listed the best price in italics although for the postage column there’s a bit of an exception, see my side-notes for details.

I’ve just relented and phoned GW Edinburgh to find out today’s prices in-store:

  • £12 - Catachan Jungle Fighters
  • £12 - Ork Boyz
  • £18 - Ork Trukk

That’d be a total of £42. So, a total saving of about £5.17 if bought from Wayland Games, rather than in store.

To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s that worth it, unless one is buying more miniatures. Of course, if we take into account the delivery from GW it might be a marginally bigger difference, but I doubt it’d push the difference much beyond £10.

I would say that the main difference to me is a two-fold psychological difference:

  • I don’t like giving Games Workshop money directly. If I can support these independent retailers and get a discount, I’m all for it.
  • Paying £18 for a Trukk is just too much for me. They used to be about £10 and I considered that too much. £14.40 is much easier to swallow.

96p per model is considerably better than £1.20, 20% cheaper, as it happens.

That’s it for now, although I plan on adding where to buy paint in another blog entry, as that’s somewhere considerable savings can be made.

 

A couple of side-notes:
Firstly, I was planning on buying a box of Ork Gretchin in this test, but Megaminis only stock the old, expensive, metal ones, so it wouldn’t be a fair test.

Secondly, at the time of writing, Games Workshop’s online store is offering free postage for the whole month. I don’t know what they normally charge, but I felt a special offer shouldn’t count in the stats, hence why it isn’t rated as the best postage price.

Social turning points

15 July 2009

I doubt very much that I'm unique in remembering vividly the turning points in my relationships with people. The ones I'm talking about primarily are those which diminish the individual in my eyes nearly permanently.

Sadly, I encounter this with most people I meet, sooner, rather than later. Someone does or says something and I find myself incapable of respecting them any more. Often it's when someone snaps at me about something trivial, often it's when I'm patronised and other times it's some aspect of their behaviour that I consider idiotic.

Allergies are one thing, accepting a plate full of food with no intention of finishing it is another. Presumptuous and condescending remarks are an excellent way to permanently lose my respect and discourage me from even attempting amiability.

I try quite hard to be friendly and not to tax the patience of others, but I doubt very much whether I succeed. I'm relatively sure that I'm hard to work with and do not work well with authority. I'm pretty much conditioned to not take orders blindly and to speak up when an issue or question arises.

I guess I feel a little paranoid at the moment as many things are shifting and it would seem new alliances much be forged to compliment existing ones and replace broken ones. I also hope I'll soon have time to renew some friendships that I have felt flagging lately, but if the mood or opportunity doesn't present itself that could be tricky.

Arriving on Tuesday night, it's been an eventful few days here in Englefield. Wednesday involved the erection of two marquees, two Medieval Indian tents and Dawn's camping tent. Plenty of work and relatively pleasant, but the mood was bolstered greatly by my team, who seem to have inadvertently ended up under my command.
Thursday involved the Japanese delegation's traditional hunting lodge, far too many metres of faux-thatch and lots of swearing. We managed to get it into a finished state although as yet no one seems to have shown up to inhabit it..

In the intervening time between then and now I've got a bit of sunburn, wandered around to see what all the fuss is about and am generally in high spirits.

..and remember - falconers do it one-handed.




gorkamorka-tagsI’ve been on a bit of a wargaming, uh, in a bit of a, well, I’ve been thinking about 28mm miniatures and the games they’re used in a lot. There we go.

I used to play Warhammer 40,000 but that was quite some time ago and these days I’ve neither the money, time or inclination to play. Especially since the rules have changed twice since I last played.

What I do have the inclination to play are Games Workshop’s “specialist games” (as they term them). So, if you follow my blog you may have seen a few of my Mordheim miniatures and portable terrain for the same. I also play Gorkamorka and Necromunda. Well, I used to play Necromunda about ten years ago and I never got to play Gorkamorka properly.

However, I may soon get the chance to run a campaign of one or more of these, as I may soon have enough players, which would be rather awesome. With this in mind I’d like to play as Rebel Grots for Gorkamorka. I’ve been considering how to scratch build some vehicles for them, given the fact that the official miniatures for them are both rarer than hens’ teeth but also cost an arm and a leg. On the plus side, one used to have to purchase metal grots at an absurd price – recently GW released plastic grots in the same style. ~£8 for a box of ten of them. Sorted.

vietnam_rchampion_1971_smIn terms of Necromunda I’m not sure, but I’m considering playing as Vietnam Orlocks. Orlocks are just a random standard house gang in Necromunda, nothing special about them, fairly standard background. I’ve not considered the backstory (the “fluff”) for why these Vietnam War American GIs are in the wrong time period, but I’ll come up with something. Getting miniatures for the m isn’t tough – Catachan jungle fighters (Imperial Guard) are just the ticket but there is one sticking point.

The weapons.

In Necromunda warriors can be armed with all sorts of things, including the weapons of choice of Imperial Guard forces, the lasgun. What would the GIs be packing? Well, M16s, M14s and supported perhaps by an M79, M60 and a shotgun or sniper rifle.

The M14 isn’t hard to mimic, same with the M79. The M16 is a tricky one though. There don’t appear to be many 28mm scale models with anything similar and definitely not on a sprue (the few I found had far more modern variants of the rifle). Well, out with the green stuff and to work I went!M16-sculpt-wip

It’s not finished yet and there’s a lot of work to be done yet, but it’s coming along. Once the stock and barrel set I should be able to refine them further. The other side contains more detail although it too needs additional work. It may look a tad crude, but it should be noted that the whole weapon measures only 4cm. It’s tiny and the green stuff isn’t setting anywhere near fast enough. That said, I’m relatively confident that I’ll be able to add sufficient detail. It may not end up as detailed as the lasgun on the top left, but it won’t necessarily be too far off.

If I succeed in doing that, I intend on making a mould of it and casting several in resin so that I can equip many models and produce variants of the design.

 

*UPDATE*

I found a supplier of 28mm Vietnam figures that sell the weapons separately! Want to see something interesting?

d_639

That’s their M16A1. How does mine measure up, do you feel?

On the plus side, their M14 and M60 renditions are much better:

d_722

d_736

IMG_1439There’s plenty of reasons I don’t love Thursdays, but this week that reason was a horse lorry full of gear for the upcoming Festival of Falconry. Mid-morning my mother and I set off for Englefield, outside reading, a relatively short journey, slowed considerably by the weight of the several Yurts in the back of the vehicle.

Upon arrival we were to retrieve a white “galatent” (muffled swearing) which apparently comes with no useful documentation and apparently was put away but someone daft. Why? Because we have two of these tents.

Some daft sod had mixed the two sets of equipment so we could build a roof (with spares left over!)IMG_1445 but only had five of the wall poles. We needed at least ten. No tent for our equipment then!

Of course, it took us a few hours to properly establish this, along with a failed attempt at utilising some of the spares instead. We came to the realisation that even if we had the correct parts, we would have required a further four people to erect the blasted thing.

Considerable swearing later, we had the tent roof tied down (more swearing) and got ourselves to Englefield’s polo stables, where equipment was being stored. I’m not the strongest of guys and my mother is of retirement age (although definitely not of retirement body, she’s probably stronger than me..).

Yeah.. we were faced with the task of unloading huge chunks of heavy canvas, countless support poles (both for Yurts and our own failed tent) and of course, the many, many bits of wooden lattice used to form the yurt walls. Oh and the sun was right over head giving temperatures of 28 - 32°C. Toasty! (well, for Britain).  IMG_1447 I think we finally got the lot unloaded at around 1900 and proceeded to find somewhere to get some dinner. We’d been looking forward to dining at this wonderful little pub on the other side of Englefield. Yeah, turns out it has closed its doors permanently. Bugger. Plan B. Nearby little town, Teale. The first pub was also closed. Bugger that, we went to a nearby Indian restaurant. By 2330 we finally got back to the facility and got some rest.

It’s going to be a long week in the run-up to the Festival itself..

I’m starting to feel the need to play wargames again. Not one of the big ones, as in hundreds of models. I have neither the time nor the inclination for that. I would like to play Necromunda though, although I don’t see it happening any time soon.

Whilst portable Mordheim terrain is quite feasible, Necromunda is trickier. It has a far more diverse and intricate setting, leading to really beautiful terrain. Sadly it’s a bitch to store.

One day, maybe..

Anyway, I’d like to make a list of things I’d like to accomplish in the coming semester, on a mundane level:

  • Weekly Mordheim sessions as part of an ongoing campaign for the Wyrdstone in the city
  • Weekly or fortnightly GURPS sessions
  • More salsa dancing. I used to salsa dance and I’d like to take it back up and get better at it.
  • Better study habits – I found that using small exercise books to be far more manageable for arranging my notes. I’d like to keep that up.
  • More updates here on the Flamekeblog

In general, a bit of a routine would be good for me and I’ll have a lot of ENTV stuff on my plate and hopefully plenty of academic stuff too. I hope that by scheduling some fun stuff first it’ll be easier to slot some “work” stuff in too.

I would also like to update my blog more often than I currently do. Whilst I may blog far more often than many of the people I know, I feel that sometimes I neglect this blog. I like looking over it and seeing what I’ve been up to and the odd person finds it interesting.

skullI’m not actually in a very steampunk mood this evening, but thought I’d share something anyway.

My father has, over the years, given me a few different curiosities. I’ve little recollection of when they appeared and often where in his travels he got them. I’m also probably not nearly grateful enough. Well, I’m going to take this opportunity to thank him for my beautiful Broadhurst & Clarkson telescope.

It has been sitting in my room for quite some time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it shiny and oiled. Well, I took a few hours on the weekend and broke out the Brasso. I’ve not much experience polishing so parts of it aren’t polished, but the main body is looking rather brilliant.

I’m not quite certain when it dates from, or whether it’s legitimate. After all it actually has BRODHURST&CLRKSON engraved on it, rather than the whole name. Perhaps that was how they did it, perhaps it’s actually just a knock-off. Who knows?

If it’s legit, I believe it dates back to around the late 1800s/early 1900s, possibly the Boer War.

IMG_1428

I may bring it back up to Edinburgh and keep it among my many other curiosities. Soon I’m going to start making stands for them. There’s so damn many!

I think it’s supposed to have a leather case to protect it, but sadly I don’t have one. Perhaps one day I’ll make one for it, although I think I’d best improve my skills with fabric before I move onto leatherworking.

Questions to the usual address!

depth-of-field-test

Yes, it’s not a very interesting pic, or it’s needlessly pretentious. That’s not why I took it. I took it to test the iPhone’s automatic macro support and to see how the shallow the depth of field would end up. I’m pleased with the result, regardless. The pics are slightly higher res and the auto-focussing seems to improve the pics I’m taking no end.

I’ve also had a little play with the video recording which so far is pretty good. The ability to upload to YouTube in the field is also particularly useful (especially considering I’ve yet to figure out how to get the videos off my iPhone..). The quality of the video is pleasant although the YouTube uploads aren’t quite as good, as they’re compressed to make the upload quicker.

It’s also worth noting that 3G isn’t required to upload. It’ll take longer, but any ‘net access will do. I plan on uploading behind the scenes videos using this functionality when we’re back into our filming schedule in August.

Finally, before I get back to work on stuff for the Festival of Falconry, I’d just like to say that the NapierTV production blog has been updated again, go have a read if you’ve not already. Feedback is appreciated, but obviously not required.

I've spent the last few days doing a combination of swearing and waiting.

Why?

I've been having cash flow problems, banking problems, phone problems and sleeping problems. Firstly, waiting for my cheques so I could pay off my overdraft and other more minor debts (Sorry, Chris!).

I also wanted a new iPhone. My old one, whilst perfectly functional, didn't provide everything I wanted. The second generation iPhone (confusingly named as "the iPhone 3G") added most of what I wanted - 3G support and a better speaker. I wasn't about to upgrade at the drop of a hat though so I opted to wait until my first contract expired. Around that time a new iPhone was announced, the iPhone 3GS. It added a few features I really wanted: an autofocussing camera and video recording.

There are of course other features but the camera was the big one for me. My iPhone is my primary digicam and being able to record videos (and upload in the field) was something that appealed to me.

Of course, to get it required that I paid my bill, something that didn't quite work out smoothly due to false-positives on behalf of Lloyds TSB's fraud detection system. Woo.

Once that was sorted I had to pay my bill and wait up to 24 hours for O2 to unlock my account. This wouldn't bother me so much if it wasn't for the simple fact that it was getting in the way of me signing up for a new contract with them!

I did run the numbers and found that if I chose a two year contract it would be £100 cheaper. Yeah, not worth being locked in for an additional six months!

I got the device though as I'm typing this blog post on it. A rather nice 16GB model in white. Why white? Basically because I've not seen any white iPhones in the wild. Wheels and the Captain both have black iPhones, so it prevents confusion too!

In other news, I'm sadly on my way down to Wales at the moment, hopefully I can get properly involved in the falconry festival though, preventing death by boredom.

Having a phone this capable should help offset my lack of laptop (ZD-Harriet's graphics card is toast..). Photos and video to follow, I hope!

Facebook Fatigue

21 June 2009

Phew, finding a decent Blogger template isn’t that easy. I’m not entirely satisfied with this one but it’ll do until I can be bothered building my own.

That’s not what I felt like writing about today, today’s subject is more a sort of creeping suspicion kind of thing.

A while ago I wrote about how I didn’t wish to move to Facebook but my hand was essentially being forced. I was careful to make sure I moved my content to independent sites rather than commit to Facebook entirely. Why did I do this?

Well, for a while Facebook was growing amongst the people I know, but now it’s getting to the stage where I log on and see what’s going on and there’s a resounding nothing. Perhaps it’s because my social life of late has been comical to say the least or perhaps I’m just feeling more depressive and cynical than usual.

Either way, I look at what’s in whatever Facebook are calling their users’ home page and I see the following:

  • Two sets of photos
  • A few random, relatively mundane status updates
  • Some status updates via Twitter
  • A lot of nothing where all the apps I’ve blocked were

Perhaps it didn’t used to be this lame, but I doubt it.

It feels to me as if Facebook is losing its momentum. There’s no exclusivity, nothing special about it. I think I’m getting social network fatigue.

Perhaps I’m just getting general life fatigue. I feel like I’m doing a combination of absolutely nothing and all the work. I guess I just feel generally frustrated at the moment, although I imagine it’s only temporary. My love for this city is being slowly sapped on a daily basis, which I do not like.

I guess I’m just feeling uninspired on all fronts.

I wonder if there were any rumours of my death which could lend themselves to exaggeration. Well, regardless, I’m not bad, despite the rather depressing previous entry.

I’ve not updated my blog in a while for a number of reasons. For once it’s not just that I’ve been lazy, it’s due to the two following things:

  1. I’ve currently got next to nothing in my bank account
  2. I’ve been very busy working on NapierTV’s website and web-based technologies

The money issue is a simple one – I have money, but it’s currently tied up in paperwork. This has two main effects – the first being that I avoid leaving my flat so I don’t spend more money than necessary. The second is that I can’t afford to buy the many craft supplies I’d normally buy for my many building projects.

My liquid latex has solidified, so I’m going to need to buy some more before I can continue on the Cthulhu mask, for example.

Now, onto the more interesting stuff, for me at least.

NapierTV hasn’t really officially launched but until the web technologies are in place, we can’t really get off the ground. Our new channel layout requires each channel to have both its own page on our site, but also a blogger page and suitable Twitter hashtag feed support.

For those of you who don’t use Twitter/this feature, hashtags work as follows:

Strange (and cool!) to see other people using the #rocktv tag. Certainly makes field testing a lot more interesting! #entv

At the time of writing, that’s my latest tweet. In it you can see there’s a #rocktv tag and an #entv tag. Normally I’d just use a single tag, but sometimes I use more.

Twitter treats words with a hash symbol in front of them as a search category and provides an Atom and RSS feed for them, meaning we can see, in real time, whenever someone posts on a given topic, if they include a hashtag.

To see this in action, head over to http://napiertv.blogspot.com

The problem we had was that the technology to embed such a feed in a page just wasn’t widely available. There’s loads of widgets that allow any number of posts to be shown, but only by one author. They also don’t support the features we wanted, or supported stuff we didn’t want.

We needed to extract the following from the RSS feed:

  • Message body
  • Author (and Twitter account link)
  • Time since posted

What we didn’t need were things like the title value. Well, thanks to mgdm on #lugradio as he had a script that he kindly modified to help us do this. Once that was done we could embed it in our site, but not on Blogger.

Much swearing later and considerable intervention by Sennett and we had a working non-caching javascript version for our Blogger pages.

Hopefully now that’s up and running we can start working on the style for each of the planned channels and finding editors and correspondents for them.

If you’re interested in getting involved then your best bet is probably following us on Twitter.

Follow NapierTV on Twitter

It still hurts that Nicoletta broke up with me. Man, how sad is that? It’s now June and it happened back in mid-February.

I was looking for a photo of myself to use in a blogpost for NapierTV and I came across a couple of photos of me and her together, from when things were good. It hurts to look at them, especially because of how happy I look in those photos.

*mutters profanities*

It’s probably for the best that we’re no longer still together, but I don’t regret my time with her and I hope she doesn’t either. For a brief time, I was happy.

n339500052_175145_5290

Microblogging services

02 June 2009

It's stupid o'clock once again and I'm unable to sleep, despite being exhausted.
I was listening to the Ubuntu UK podcast earlier and was pleased to hear they read out my email. Whilst they're recording the show they both "tweet" and "dent", meaning they post updates on both Twitter and Identica . I'm currently a member of neither but shortly I'm going to be using Twitter as a correspondent for NapierTV. That said, my principals incline me to favour Identica, being open source.

I'm attempting to find the best compromise as ideally I'd want to use a single account between the two services. It would seem Twitterific natively supports both services, which is convenient, but I'm unsure as to how to cross post and how I'd be using the service beyond my organisational involvement. Answers on a postcard!

Bonus - Ubuntu UK Podcast, S02E05 - THE LONG GAME :

Dispenser going up!

01 June 2009

The updates have been slow of late for a fairly understandable reason – I’ve had both exams and coursework. Now that those have been taken and handed in as applicable, I’m back.

During the exam period when I wasn’t studying I was playing Team Fortress 2 a game I’ve wanted for a while and simply haven’t had the finance to purchase. Conveniently it was on discount for a few days a couple of weeks ago, bringing the price down to a very acceptable £6.99. Not bad, I felt, so I now play a bit, which is generally quite enjoyable. I’m not the best, but I’m not the worst either.

I mainly play engineer although I’ve been having some success with the pyro as well, rather fitting on both accounts I felt.engie-benjy I couldn’t help but think “oh dear.. I’ve become Engie Benjy” and as such felt compelled to manifest that in image form. It’s quite ropey, I know, but I tried. You try working with a twisted nightmare child in photoshoop to get something vaguely right!

Generally speaking I’ve found the players quite friendly and welcoming, although there are of course exceptions where I come across total douchebags. I was on a server when there was some big football match between someone or other and Barcelona. Chris and I figured that people who enjoy football would be watching the damn game and so we could avoid them by playing TF2..

OOOOOH no. Not a hope. Some prat was playing whilst broadcasting either the radio commentary or the sound from the TV coverage of the match over his microphone. Whilst bickering with someone in the same room and vaguely attempting to engage with the TF2 game too. ARGH.

So, mic spammers aside, it’s mostly good.

I did have some more interesting things to say but I can blog about those later, when I feel more up to it. Right now I’m concerned as my left ear appears to have popped and refuses to unpop. It’s been like this since this morning and is making me worry. I like being able to hear normally!

Cthulhu eyes!

22 May 2009

For my Cthulhu mask/costume to progress I need to complete several components. One of these is the tentacles, another is the eyes. Well, until I find some surgical tubing, the tentacles are on hold. But the eyes I’ve got mostly under control.materialsFirst I got hold of some Das clay, some yellow fimo clay and a polystyrene egg shape in a local art shop coming to less than ten pounds, nice.

By hacking the egg in half I was able to produce two eye shapes or something vaguely suitable for an ancient fictional monstrosity to call eyes.

Next I wrapped the polystyrene shapes in clay to create little pots. removing-eggsFor those of you who don’t know, fimo clay needs to be baked in an oven for about half an hour to become solid. Not a problem, except that polystyrene transitions to glass at around ~95°C (if I understood Wikipedia's article correctly). So, a more hardy negative was required – clay seemed appropriate and I’ve plenty of pottery experience.

Ben-fimoOf course, removing the foam was tricky and in retrospect perhaps I should have used something like Vaseline on the eggs to prevent them getting quite so jammed in, but m’eh. Once the moulds were sufficiently dry (which took several days) I had to remove the shapes. Polystyrene cement melts expanded polystyrene, a fact I exploited to create grabbing points on the egg shapes, sadly destroying them.

But to hell with it, there’s no point crying over melted polystyrene, so on I went, shaping half the block of fimo into a layer to fill the mould. I was going to use less than the whole block but I felt strength was probably a better idea than saving it for later. One block and two moulds later, into the oven they went.

fimo-ovenHalf an hour later, additional cooling time and a lot of swearing and chipping later and the results were out (and the moulds left in usable but mildly damaged condition). A bit of clay residue remained on them but then my intellect wandered off for lunch.

As I sat there scraping at the residue with my stubbly, unshaven face, Midnight pointed out that it might just be easier to wash them. D’oh. Somewhere along the line I forgot that unfired clay can easily be broken down using water and a tiny amount of force.

finished-eyes(pic taken before I actually washed them)

With the eyes done, I’ve come one step closer to completing the head. Hopefully it’ll be epic when it’s done. I’m not certain whether I’m going to drill holes in the fimo shapes or have my own eyes use separate holes in the costume but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.    

Over the last week or so, exams aside, I’ve been trying to get the future ENTV site online. Drupal is the backbone as it’s something we at the NSS already use and is familiar both to myself and the Captain.

Drupal is, well, mostly good. There’s plenty it does quite well and plenty it utterly sucks at. For example, I can really easily add modules to it that do all sorts of things. Most of them not that well.

It does support blogs, feed aggregation and many other things, but most of them in the same way Linux supports high-end video editing. Yeah, it can be done, but it’s not easy or pleasant.

So, next comes the site construction. Thankfully it’s increasingly becoming the case that I don’t need to build things from scratch. Adobe Flash makes embedding video or audio a doddle, Feedburner and RSS feeds makes it easy to embed blogs and then there’s a few other things.

The other things are the problem. Twitter is causing me no end of headaches. I currently don’t use Twitter, although I may in future (if I ever get this bloody site working) but I can see a use for it in ENTV. Whilst I can’t imagine our viewers and society members give a rat’s arse about what Chris is having for lunch (soup, incidentally), I can see them being interested in the progress of the week’s episode or what a particular channel is up to.

In order to create Twitter feeds for any given topic we’re using “hash tags”. Any time someone “tweets” something with a hashtag in, it can be grouped and syndicated. In plainer English that means any time any of us are talking about the society in a twitter update, if we append #entv it’ll appear in the #entv hashtag feed.

So on each channel’s page One would see something like this:

Title

Twitter updates

Blog

About the segment

To put that into an example:

A Grand Day Out

#agdo twitter feed

Feed from Blogger account

Blurb about A Grand Day Out

Geddit?

The current stumbling block is the Twitter feed. What I need to achieve is as follows:

  1. Pull the latest, say, 10 messages from Twitter’s Atom or RSS feed.
  2. Parse the XML and grab the description text, author and time of posting
  3. Output those three variables for each into a list in HTML

Depending on your perspective and knowledge, that might sound tough or easy. From what I understand, it should be a walk in the park for any vaguely competent coder. Well, let’s not beat about the bush – any coder brighter than a potato should be able to hack together something rough to do the job.

Sadly I’m not a coder, I simply cannot get my head around PHP, JavaScript or even CSS to anything more than a meagre degree.

Twitter provide “badges” that do a reasonable job of syndicating a user’s (*shudder*) “tweets”. Yeah, great. So why are there none for hashtags?

You see, the issue with most feed aggregation scripts I can get my hands on is this – they don’t allow me to choose which variables to output. Instead they try to be helpful by throwing away all the options I might want to tweak. Just because Apple do it doesn’t mean everyone else should.

Twitter messages are so short that both the title and description are the same text, the title simply has the addition of linking back to the original page. Given that twitter posts often contain links, this would mean our users would have to first click on the link, get taken to a different site and view the message in its natural habitat, then click the link there. Additionally, perhaps Twitter uses a non-standard “author” variable, but I’m fairly sure it doesn’t. Apparently most aggregation script writers don’t care who wrote the items they’re helping the syndication of.

Feedburner was able to do a reasonable job and for a short while I was happy. Then I realised that it would only update every half hour or so, sometimes longer. Given the immediate nature of Twitter, that was of no use to me. When a message is sent it should appear. Either instantly for preference or within five minutes.

So, this leaves me trying in vain to find a coder who can bash out a script for parsing Atom/RSS into HTML. Please, someone – help me.

This is just a quick update to say - “Sorry an update is coming.”

Why would I deem to say that? Well, it’s simple, I’ve been working on the eyes for my Cthulhu costume and I’m using clay for the moulds. It’s still bloody drying! As soon as it’s dry, an update is coming, as I now have most of the required materials for the costume. Except surgical tubing.

Someone, bring me surgical tubing!

It’s been a week since I last update my blog, something I feel vaguely annoyed at myself for but not massively so.

beboI’ve been looking over Facebook and seeing how little it varies from Bebo. I still have a Bebo account but rarely use it simply because it’s hardly in use any more. What I see when I look over the Facebook update page is just the same as Bebo though – people saying things that are barely funny, results from whatever lame quiz they’ve just taken and the odd photo.

I’m very glad that my content is hosted on independent sites as I imagine it’ll only be a matter of time before the status quo shifts away from Facebook and to something else. I’ve seen a lot of people using Twitter but, frankly, I cannot see any use for it on a personal level. In terms of as an element in a project I see plenty of uses for it, but other than that.. Well you’re just not that interesting to read about. I do plenty of interesting things but my Twitter feed would be fairly tedious to read unless it was focussed on something like working at the Falconry Festival.

The Captain insists that it’s useful for sharing links but I myself can’t see why I would do that. If I find a link I think is worth sharing I’ve usually got a very narrow audience in mind for it, so I share it with them either via MSN or by posting it on Wooden Dice.

I guess what I’m trying to express is a general frustration with current popular social networking systems as they seem to encourage those around me to do a lot of talking without saying anything. I’ve started hiding people who I don’t feel like deleting but who never say anything interesting.

A particularly tedious addition to Facebook is the fact that when one of my friends writes on someone else’s wall, it shows up as an update for me. Not a notification, but it does still clutter up my Facebook homepage. If it was directed towards me then it would have been written on MY wall, wouldn’t it?

The number of people that keep showing up as “Perhaps you know this person?” annoys me too. People I’ve not spoken to in years appear in it and sometimes add me (and then proceed to not say anything). If it’s been this many years without me speaking to them, perhaps I didn’t really want to speak to them –it’s not like it’s hard to find people in this day and age (unless they’re actively trying to stay hidden).

Finally, people on social networks still do that “in a relationship with” with friends, making the information useless. Perhaps I’m alone in thinking this is ridiculously lame, but being in the minority has rarely discouraged me in this life.

A Checklist For A Man

03 May 2009

I was considering a vague concept earlier, remembering my father playing his acoustic guitar when I was a little boy. What do I feel a man should be able to do? What kind of checklist could I write?

Either way, it wouldn’t be exhaustive, but it might be a fun little thing to bash out whilst trying to clear my head. Like now. I can’t do all these things, although I feel I should be able to. There’s much more I’d like to add but it’ll have to be a follow-up entry.

  • Be able to make conversation in any given scenario.
  • Be able to discuss the merits of any given film, theatrical production or art gallery.
  • Be able to dress and be comfortable in casual wear, smart casual, business wear, black tie and white tie.
  • Be able to tie both a necktie and a bowtie without assistance.
  • Be able to polish black shoes or boots to an acceptable shine.
  • Be able to sew to at least a basic degree and make basic repairs to garments as necessary.
  • Be able to play at least one instrument to a passable degree.
  • Be able to speak at least one language beyond his native tongue.
  • Be able to dance in suitable styles to suite the following scenarios - formal, casual structured and casual freestyle.
  • Be able to shuffle cards and know the rules to at least two kinds of poker.
  • Be able to paint any reasonably sized room without causing damage to its contents.
  • Be able to choose a wine from any given wine list to suit a scenario.
  • Be able to select and drink coffee, wine and whiskey.
  • Be able to select and drink at least two kinds of beer.
  • Be able to select a gift for any given recipient or price range.
  • Be able to cook several levels of food in order to cater to various scenarios such as dinner parties, breakfast, lunch or moderate catering duties.
  • Be able to write a letter of recommendation.
  • Be able to prepare and deliver a presentation without appearing outwardly nervous or unnerved.
  • Be able to admit when he has been proven wrong.
  • Be able to deal with problems as they arise, rather than panicking.
  • Be able to be seen as a positive role model.

Well, yesterday I was talking about buying a Nerf Maverick dart pistol thingy and I was able to with the help of a friend of mine. As it turns out, out of all the Argos stores in the Edinburgh area (at least three) there was only a single pistol available. Well, it’s not now as I purchased it, woo!

Once I got my grubby mitts on it there were a few things to do before decoration could begin..

2-logo-removalThe slider on the weapon has a Picatinny rail on top of it that is the same size as those on my shotgun BB gun, as I had suspected from the photos I’d seen. My BB gun came with a reflex sight, the scope thingy you can see in the photo. It projects a red cross onto whatever is seen when looking through the eyepiece. Not overly useful but I though it’d be suitable for the intended look of the thing. I mounted it and then, uh, dropped it. End result, I had to open the sight up to realign the internals, in the process of which I cracked the casing in multiple places and broke one of the glass pieces. It survived, but was a bit beaten up, as you can imagine (it can be seen in pieces in the background of the next pic).

1-texturingThe other major thing to do was texturing the handle. A completely smooth handle would eliminate any chance of it looking vaguely realistic, so out came my favourite power tool.

A bit of roughing later (and a lot of plastic shavings) and I had a rough handle, ready to be primed. I also took the time to remove a few plastic tabs so the cylinder would swing out the whole way, rather than the single inch it was initially designed for. This also means the cylinder can be spun, Russian Roulette style, a pleasant bonus.

3-blackI had decided on three colours for the finished weapon – a goldy bronze, silver and black. As it turns out, de spite using a light metallic colour I still ended up with a gunmetal colour of metal, but I thought it appropriate enough. So, first painting step – spraying all the components black.

4-some-silverWith that done it was time for me to determine the order for painting the components. First off was the slider, as it was easily detachable and to test the silver paint. The result wasn’t too atrocious but I found that it was probably best to do the imitation wood before the drybrushing, contrary to my usual painting order.

By using a blend of colours and trying to keep them badly mixed I ended up with this:

5-attempted-wood

Not perfect, but it’ll do. As you can see I also drybrushed the scope after piecing it back together (I later wrapped some wire I had spare from my lightsaber build around the worst cracking with a fairly successful outcome).

6-bronzed-cylinderFinally I had the bronze and remaining silver bits to do although I think I took a break first. Why do I mention this? Well seeing photo by photo doesn’t really give much indication of how much time was passing. The process up to this point must have taken a good four hours. Bear this in mind when painting!

7-bronzingThe golden bronze colour was a blend of silver and gold, I didn’t want a pure gold colour as I felt it would be a little too much and wouldn’t quite fit in. As it stands I’m not certain if the result is bronze or gold, or perhaps even gronzld.

Lots of frantic drybrushing later and I had the results. If you don’t know how to drybrush – learn. It’s easy. Paint on brush, not too much, wipe off most of it, brush quickly resulting in highlighting raised areas. Never paint metal with solid colour unless you’re absolutely certain that’s the effect you want.

8-nearly-done

8-nearly-done2

Finally, I mounted the scope and secured it as best I could. The result – a nice prop and terrible poses!

9-done-pose1 9-done-pose2

Yes, I know, I’m very unkempt today – I can’t look great every day!