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I'm about to head off to Barcelona for the ICWSM conference: leaving tomorrow, and getting back in two weeks. I'm mostly ready... that is, I've packed just about everything I can think of, printed (and packed!) a poster to present at ICWSM, and I have a vague idea of where I'm staying. I still feel a lot less prepared than I'd like to be, but there are plenty of reasons for that.

I've never travelled solo in a country where I can't speak or read the local language, so that adds a little bit of stress into preparing for the trip. I'm looking forward to it, but really don't know what to expect. At some stage during the flight (almost 22 hours in the air, with a few hours in Singapore airport) I'll try to work out exactly where to go once I reach the airport, and how to say "I apologise for mangling your beautiful language" when I try communicating via phrasebook.

Money will be a bit of an issue this trip. I'm still yet to see any money in my account from a botched casual timesheet (four weeks of research assistant work), or a thousand dollars worth of registration fees for the two big conferences (reimbursement claim lodged a month ago). That means I don't have the easy safety barrier of throwing money at anything that might go wrong: most of my account has been emptied for the mortgage payment that happens while I'm away, so I will be doing my best to use those budget traveller senses that have been honed over the years.

In the past fortnight, I've had over a dozen people warn me about pickpockets. Most of the warnings come from people who have spent a reasonable amount of time in the city in the past two years, so I'm taking them seriously... Barcelona currently has the dubious honour of being the pickpocket capital of the world. So I'm hoping that I manage to keep my possessions, at least for long enough to consult a map and track down my hostel. Maybe I should write down that address somewhere.

The first few days will be spent in a backpacker's hostel on the western side of the city. During the middle of the trip I'm in a hotel, near the conference. Then there are a few days after the conference, which I have no plans for yet... I haven't booked anything yet, and will hopefully find a good place to stay in my first few days in the city.

So, yeah. Not particularly prepared, this time. I wonder where this road will lead me.

Cracks in the sky

I'm feeling under a lot of strain lately - so much to do, and so little time to do it in. I can't see things looking up for at least the next month, so I'm not entirely sure what will have to give at the moment.

I'm alternating between not sleeping at all (it's not uncommon to still be staring at the clock at 5am) and struggling to wake up or get out of bed at all on other days. Motivation (to go out into the cold, to make more infinitesimally small progress on tasks that expand faster than they are finished) is hard to come by these days.

Nana's funeral will be held tomorrow, so I will be out east for most of the day. She passed away peacefully on Saturday morning, while Mum sat at her bedside in the hospital. Almost all of the family are likely to be there - we're a big clan. I'll miss her, though (with so very many grandkids) I haven't been especially close to my grandparents. I feel sad for Pa. After 70 years of marriage, he's not entirely sure what to do now.

It's not been a good few weeks. Friends and family are in hospital, and though I know I can't do anything to help, I worry about them all the same. Things keep piling up at work. aeliel and I have both been sick over the past week, and the ATO has started calling me at home to remind me about my long-overdue tax return... so I also need to make time to find out exactly how a mostly scholarship-based income actually works.

One thing that made me smile this morning was seeing one of my micro-stories turn up on Melbourne By Dusk - it's called Careful, and I'm sure it's why we warn children against reaching down into drains... The last few weeks have been such a blur that I forgot I'd written another one.

I could really do with some kind of folded time-space pocket universe at the moment, fitting an extra year or so into the next few months. Maybe I should have been some kind of theoretical physicist, instead of a people/technology/business jack-of-all-departments kind of guy.

Thinking (and talking) about games

As often happens when surrounded by work, I've been thinking about games.

jod999 organised a group to talk about games - kind of like a book club, but talking about computer games instead. I enjoyed the first meeting this week, using Osmos as a starting point - I bought a copy last week, and aeliel and I have been playing the hell out of it on the iPad. It works really well on a touch screen, even if I'm still to master any of the orbital levels. As with most computer games, aeliel is much better at it than I am.

I've also found myself trying to be as minimalist as possible for ages after playing it. Do I click on this thing in the web browser? No, just wait until the page you were looking for drifts into view. It's hard to shake out of that kind of slow, ambient mood.

Back in 2001, Ron Edwards wrote an essay on "GNS" for The Forge. It broke gaming down into three main categories - Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism. I'm sure there are other ways of breaking down the genres, but it's the one that has stuck with me over the years..

"Gamey" games can be great, but I'm not very interested in them as roleplaying games. I love games that are challenging to learn, master and win - but that is why I play miniatures systems like Warmachine. Roleplaying game mechanics are peripheral to the story for me: I enjoy them when they are invisible, and when they don't get in the way of story-driven decisions.

As you can probably tell, narrative games are the reason I like roleplaying. If I'm playing an RPG, I'm there for the story. Not just the story being told by the person running the game - if I wanted a static story, I'd read a novel. I want to see how it evolves once there are living characters in that world. I've happily played in games with no rules or system at all, but I also like games that are designed to encourage the creation of a story.

Simulation-style games bore me to tears. I couldn't care less how accurate or realistic a system is, as long as it doesn't break my suspension of disbelief while I'm playing. It's partly a streamlining thing: I'm yet to see something elegant that captures all the detail a simulation wants to cover, as the default style appears to be pages of bloated, over-complex rules. I'll pass on these ones.

Years later, some people on RPG.net coined a tongue-in-cheek movement of their own: Cheetoism. "We game for the snacks. And also the dice. But mostly, just to hang out with friends and tell tall stories." I think that really sums up the thing I most enjoy about all the time spent with miss_rynn, bishi_wannabe, mousebane, aeliel, umbra_mentis and Lon over the years. There have been lots of games, using lots of different systems. But ultimately it's been an excellent excuse to spend time with friends, eat more than we really ought to, and tell stories.

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Still here...

There's been an unintentional radio silence on all channels, but I'm still here.

Lots of writing to do this week, as I need to get a doctoral consortium application written by Saturday. I haven't made any progress on it during the last week, as Easter + everything else has prevented me from sitting down and writing anything.

My "Easter" holidays will probably start on Sunday. I desperately need some time off, or at least some time when I don't have to feel guilty about letting a huge pile of uni work build up. I also need time to paint, as I need to clear my desk and pay some bills. I think I'm going to bunker down for a week, in an attempt to turn my paintbrush into some extra cash to reduce a bit of pressure on our budget.

Paying for a house on (currently) four-fifths of a teacher's salary and a postgrad scholarship is exactly as painful as it sounds, as money will be very tight for the rest of the year. We have about $100 in the bank at the moment, and two months to save up for all the mid-year bills (insurance, body corporate fees, etc). Various side jobs will start helping that situation in the next few weeks - painting for me, tutoring and Etsy sales for aeliel. Unfortunately, they all require that other precious commodity: time.

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Mister Cowl will see you shortly

This is the start of a character idea for miss_rynn's Changeling: The Lost game. I've cheated a little, by adapting a character concept that only saw one session of play in a much older Changeling game.

Alistair Cowl's childhood was marked by strict expectations and solemn, disappointed reproach when those expectations were not met. His parents were brilliant doctors - one a cardiac surgeon, the other an optometrist. Long before having children, they had mapped out careers for each of their offspring. After his brother and sister had entered medical school, it was assumed that Alistair would soon follow suit to qualify as a dentist.

But Alistair lacked the drive that had spurred his siblings to greatness. His grades were never good enough, and the course offer never arrived. On a special appeal from his father, Alistair was granted an interview with the university panel: one final chance to convince them that he could meet his parents expectations. True to form, he flunked it.

Sitting on the university lawn, wondering how to explain this latest failure to his family, he saw a tiny, wizened figure pulling a cart across the lawn. The man stood scarcely taller than a blade of grass, and strained against the weight of his cart. Alistair remembered stories about the Fair Folk - little leprechauns, able to grant wishes - and smiled, thinking that he had finally discovered a solution to his problems. He trapped the little man under a bottle cap, and demanded help: he would become a talented dentist, successful in his practice, and his family would be proud of their son. From beneath the bottle cap, the man spoke: "I accept your contract." Alistair freed the tiny creature, and all went dark.

When his vision returned, Alistair found himself in Arcadia - servant to the Merchant of Ivory. At normal size, his keeper was horrifying... hunched and twisted; scowling face nestled among garlands of human teeth. At first, Alistair simply pulled the Merchant's cart as they travelled the land, buying and selling slave-children for the nobility. Later, Alistair was given a more gruesome task: drawing the valuable baby teeth from the children. When their teeth grew back, the children were sold on as "undamaged" specimens - though the merchant's ivory stood as tangible reminder of their terrified captivity.

For one season each year, they sheltered in a court where the Merchant had some influence. Here, Alistair stole away from his keeper when he could, in order to speak with others who had been kidnapped. Each year, some of the court's changelings had vanished, and he grew more hopeful of escaping Arcadia - until finally he had an opportunity to break the chain that tied him to the Merchant's wagon, and flee.

Returning to the mortal world, Alistair tried to visit his family. But several years had passed, and the fetch left in his place had grown to be the ideal son... studious and successful where Alistair was not, and the very image of his parent's dreams. They would not believe that the wild-eyed stranger was their true son, and called the police when he tried to force his way into their home.

Forced to begin a new life, he has fallen back on the thing he has come to know best: teeth. Unregistered and lacking formal qualifications, he can rarely practice in one location for long. But the parents of his young patients find a grudging respect for his unorthodox methods - as scared as the appointments make them, the children become fastidious about their health lest they earn another trip to see Mister Cowl.

And if, sometimes, he might be a little too enthusiastic at pulling those teeth... at least those children will be a little less attractive to creatures like the Merchant, and a little less likely to meet the same fate that he did...

Alistair seeks some kind of closure on his old family life - even if that is simply accepting that they are no longer a family for him. He is a reasonably skilled medic, and strong as an ox from his ordeal in Arcadia; stubborn and loyal as a bulldog, and prepared to lend brutal and violent support to aid his new friends.

Mister Cowl is as close to an old-changeling Redcap as I can make him: an Ogre from the Gristlegrinder kith, with leathery skin and blunt, grinding teeth that can devour just about anything (via the Iron Stomach merit). His magic comes from the contracts of Fleeting Autumn (inspiring fear) and Stone (battering aside obstacles and brawling with a terrible rage).

Game thoughts

qwade ran an old-school Worlds of Darkness game last weekend - in which a group of Mages, Werewolves and one very lost Kuei-Jin ran around trying (with, er, 'limited success') to prevent the western suburbs of Melbourne from being torn to shreds by escaped laboratory creations. It was a good chance to get out of the house and see people. I was also amused by the way an "old fashioned" pen and paper RPG works when almost everyone at the table has a tablet or smartphone... text search and PDF rules reduces all that time spent looking for rules, and you can also conjure up maps and aerial photos on a whim.

miss_rynn mentioned Changeling on Tuesday night, when we were talking about games that we've loved (or hated) in the past. I bought a copy of Changeling: The Lost today, and had a look through it on my lunchbreak. I haven't looked at any of the newer Worlds of Darkness games yet, as we've been playing other systems (Exalted, Weapons of the Gods, D&D) since it was released. I'm impressed with the breadth of the game, from my first glance at it.

The game is a lot sleeker than it used to be. I loved the old Changeling game, but it had some terrible flaws. Mechanically, a lot of it really didn't work alongside anything else in the setting. The character types felt fairly restrictive straight from the main book, and only became more interesting as new books were published. The new game takes a much older look at the Changeling story: characters that have been spirited away into other realms, and changed by their time away. When they finally return to earth they discover that they are nothing like the creatures they once were, and they also find that they aren't the only ones to have made that journey.

Most importantly, every Fae archetype that I can think of can be brought to life straight away. I haven't had a single idea so far that caused me to go "oh, but I can't actually play one of those in this game." I like games that help to build on the imagination of the players, instead of restricting it.

Training and uni politics

Lots of things have been happening lately. My ICWSM paper has been approved! Though it needs to be re-written as a short-format paper, before the end of the week. That means that I will be able to attend the conference in Barcelona (mid July), and meet a bunch of interesting people working in the social media field. This makes me happy :)

In less happy news, Melbourne Uni Sports continues to be crap. They appeared in an article in The Age yesterday, as the university has decided to cut support for venue hire, for the clubs that aren't involved in regular competitions.

The Melbourne Uni Kung Fu club has been running since 1977, and may not make it through the current year. As there are no competitions available to them, they are now required to pay regular hire costs for all their venue use, in addition to hiring instructors (which is traditionally covered by membership fees). For a "sports and recreation" body, MUSA doesn't do much to support recreation groups any more. However, the university is still happy to market itself on having an active student community, full of sports and general interest clubs and societies...

I've been told that venue hire will only be covered for three sessions per competition event that a club competes in. That's fine for a football club that plays a 16-week season, but not for martial arts groups that may only have one or two events available for the year. Clubs that don't "fit the mould" of a western sporting team are effectively being cut from the university.

At least RMIT is (currently) still in the habit of supporting its student groups, even when there's no space on campus to put them. RMIT Kung Fu is training in the appropriately named "multicultural hub" next to the Queen Vic market. It's a world of difference from the Melbourne Uni training area - which has been relocated outside, to the concrete lawns.

Inspiration strikes!

I've been trying to finish off some Firestorm Armada figures for ages now. There have been some technical hiccups (several failed attempts to attach them to perspex stands using rare earth magnets, and cleaning up the awful mess from poorly cast resin pieces), but a general lack of inspiration has let those setbacks stop the project dead.

I've started looking into a new (steampunk!) game by the same company, called Dystopian Wars - and went fishing on the Spartan Games forum for some pretty pictures of painted figures for the game. While I was there, I stumbled across Giovanni, the studio painter for Spartan Games.

These are a few Firestorm Armada ships that he painted for a client, from the Aquan Prime faction. The bigger ship is about 10cm long, while the small escorts are only a couple of centimetres wide. He's painted them with a combination of airbrush and traditional brush techniques, using a picture of a rainbow trout for reference... I particularly like the scales, stencilled in using a bit of brass-etched mesh.



His CMON gallery has pictures dating back to 2005, though most of them have been taken since 2009. The early pictures are good, but the level of improvement in the past two years is phenomenal.

It's inspired me to use my airbrush for more than just applying base coats and doing a bit of shading. Today I dialled the air pressure right down, and finally finished painting all of the Dindrenzi fleet... I'm really enjoying using the airbrush as a fine detail tool, instead of just a spraygun.

Painting list and tournament calendar

I'm beginning to lose track of what I need to paint when. These are my current painting deadlines, for the next two months. To be fitted into one day a week (around my PhD), and an hour a night on some weeknights.

Monday, March 7th
Commission job.
To paint: Razorback tank and turret.
For: Denis F.


Sunday, March 13th
35 point Warmachine/Hordes tournament at Battle Bunker.
Taking: Cygnar (Major Victoria Haley).
To paint: Black 13th, Gunmage Strike Team (3 models).

Friday, March 24th
Commission job.
To paint: 6 Infinity (Yu Jing) figures.
For: Nick.


Saturday, March 26th
35 point Warmachine/Hordes tournament at Hampton Games Club.
Taking: Khador (Butcher + 5 Heavy Warjacks + 4 wreck markers)
To paint: all of them (10 models). These are a commission job for Joel D.

Friday, April 15th (Melbourne in Flames weekend)
Commission job.
To paint: 10 Horrors of Tzeentch, 9 Chaos Havocs, Firestorm Armada fleet.
For: Ian A

Friday, April 15th (games weekend)
Commission job.
To paint: Hell Dorado starter box, Doppelsoldners & Captain, Swashbuckler (9 models)
For: David P

Friday, April 22nd
50 point Warmachine/Hordes touranment at Conquest.
Taking: General Adept Nemo (list 1), Major Victoria Haley (list 2).
To paint: Stormblade unit and Unit Attachment (8 models).

Floods

I really like the Oz wargaming community. Sure, sometimes it's hard to remember those reasons when mediating disputes, locking trolls out of the forums or trying to track down the occasional ripoff merchant on the trading area... in general though, I think we have a pretty decent group of people on the WargamerAU website.

Lately we've been organising some fundraisers for the flood appeals - mostly focused on the Queensland Premier's Flood Appeal, but also raising some money for the Victorian Red Cross Flood Appeal. I haven't had any spare cash to donate, but I do have the ability to organise things for people.

To begin with, I set up a new forum to let people auction off gaming items they didn't need any more, with all money going to the QLD appeal. We did the same thing two years ago for the Victorian bushfires, and people donated even more items this time. The auction ran for two weeks, and closed last Friday. I've been tallying up the total (and contacting all the buyers, as I'm the central point for auction payments) and we've now raised $2150.

Unfortunately my PayPal account has been having some problems. One payment had the words "flood appeal donation" in the description, which triggered an automatic reclassification of my account (a verified business account I've used since 2006) to "Charity/Non-profit," and I've been given six days to provide a whole bunch of paperwork - including proof of tax-exempt status, which I obviously don't have. I hope they respond to my email before suspending the account.

I also ran one of the Melbourne legs of the FloodWar tournament series. They work like a normal tournament, except that players get a book of tokens to use in their games. Each token costs them 50c, and gives them the ability to re-roll a die or some other special rule. At the end of the day, two prizes are awarded: one for the person who used the most tokens, and one for the person who had the most used against them. We raised $760 at the Warmachine tournament, and the running total from other states now comes to about $3000.

We had some great support for the tournament series from games companies like Privateer Press and Defiant Gaming, both donating whole armies of models for a national prize draw. PP sent us an appropriately flood-themed army of alligators and fishmen, and the design team signed a hardcover rulebook for the lucky winner. Support from home and abroad has been fantastic, with prizes donated by lots of people who heard about the flood and wanted to help.

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Recalibration

I like being awake late at night. The road outside is quiet, and the house is still. It's a time to sit and think; separated from all the chaos and noise of the day. If not for nights like this, I may have lost my mind years ago.

Right now I'm sitting back with my feet on the desk, computer in my lap, headphones on. I've been chasing memories in the depths of the YouTube music video collection. Boy, does it ever have some depths - more often than not I find terrible, terrible covers masquerading as the real thing. Nasally emo kids screech out lyrics, while a guitarist belts out the riff he learned to play on. Yeah, I don't know why I'm doing it either :)

The covers aren't universally terrible. Sometimes a good one turns up, and it's the ghost of such a cover that drives me to click through on all the rest - though I must admit, I haven't made it more than a few seconds into any of the last few.

Something just called for music tonight; pumped in via headphones to make a little bubble of late-night noise, cocooned in the silence draped across my suburb.

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A new shadow over Innsmouth...

So, after eight years of running Arcanacon Warmachine tournaments, I have finally passed the event on to Melbourne's newest Pressgang member. That means I can actually play in next year's tournament (which will be a bit weird), but more importantly it means that I can write something new.

I miss writing and running tabletop games. aeliel and I have started planning something for Arcanacon XXX. mousebane, miss_rynn - would either of you be interested in helping to write some material? I'd like to borrow your science-and-mythos brains...

The year is 1932. Four years ago, federal raids on the town of Innsmouth were conducted by the BOI. What they saw and did there has been locked away in classified files, and all media coverage was rigorously suppressed. For three years the town lay almost deserted. Then, as part of President Hoover's Economic Modernisation scheme, an attempt was made to reinvigorate the ship-building trade and capitalise on the town's docks and deep harbour. The town was extensively re-settled, with generous federal grants and concessions offered to industry. For a time, life returned to the town.

Six days ago, a series of grisly murders were discovered in a warehouse by the riverside. The newspapers have begun to stir people into a panic, suggesting that a mass murderer is at work in Innsmouth. Local police have grudgingly handed jurisdiction over to the United States Bureau of Investigation. Now, four members of the newly established Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory have been sent back to that sleepy town on the river mouth, for their first public test.


Yes, it's essentially CSI: Innsmouth, set at the end of the prohibition era :)

I'm looking at running it as a 4-5 character game. The fifth (optional) character will be the local police liaison; able to add some interesting local contacts to the group, but not essential to the Fed story. The Bureau had a major shuffle and re-naming earlier in 1932, with associated bureaucratic power games limiting access to information from older cases, so the group won't know very much about the town's history. That's probably a good thing - there's no saying that the same forces are involved, and it will be healthier for their sanity if they don't know too much.

I really like making props for games: maps, handouts, photos. I'd like to prepare enough photos of suspects to be able to give the players a whiteboard to build their case on...

Uberlist 2011

The tradition continues. Here's the 2011 Uberlist - a list of the painting projects that I've started (italics), finished (strikeout) or simply added to the to-do list (regular font).

If you're interested in seeing what's on my painting desk at the moment, you can find the list behind the cutCollapse )

The good kind of Ow

I went to a Kung Fu class last night, for the first time in about ten years. It's strangely familiar. The warmups and drills are the same as when I left. The forms taught now are the same forms I saw a decade ago.

My hands remember, even if my brain is fuzzy. During circle training, I kept finding myself ending up with a hand or fist at someone's throat, after they tried throwing a different technique at me to see if I was paying attention. I don't think that I was consciously aware of how to counter them, but my hands managed to find their way.

My legs will take a bit longer. My feet know where to go, and I'm lighter on them than I used to be. There's no strength in my stance, though, and I really noticed the difference even compared to junior members who have been training recently. That will come with time - it's the most important element, and one I can practice at home.

Not many people recognised me, but those that did asked what I've been up to. It's a hard question to answer succinctly... I've had three completely different jobs, lived in three different houses, travelled, studied and got married in that time. Mostly, I think people wanted to know why I had come back after so long.

So, why am I back there now? I think it's because that there are things I want to learn and practice, and that particular club is the best place I know of to learn them. Other styles have taught me more about things like forms, but they haven't had the routine that I needed. If I need to learn how to sidestep properly, I don't want to be learning a new form every second class: I just want to train with a group that can motivate me to do the thousands of repetitions that it will take to make that movement instinctive.

There is no separation between training stances (impractical, low, stretching or conditioning ones) and fighting stances. Every exercise is a building block, and is directly useful for applying all the other techniques. I think that's what I want from my training, at the moment. I'm planning to train twice a week in future - one class next to the Queen Vic market, and one up at Melbourne Uni. I'll see how it goes from there.

Today, things are a little painful. Usually the Gym gives me a day's grace - it's the morning after the morning after, when my muscles seize up. No such respite today: I woke up at 7am feeling like I got hit by a truck. Here's hoping that more regular training will mean things get better from here.

In minor fitness milestone news...

I can now do 100 sit ups :)

I've been trying to remember to exercise a bit before going to bed each night, though I've been a bit slack in the last week. In order to make up for it, I decided against setting a target before starting last night - I just kept going until I got bored, and decided to stop after reaching 100. Not entirely sure how many I could do if I had the time and motivation to push further.

I don't know that this will be a regular bit of exercise - it takes too long to do every night! I've also been trying to do some push-ups, as they help with my creaky shoulders. I can comfortably do about 30-35, but seem to have reached a plateau a few weeks ago and haven't improved much since then.

I'm going to try a training session with the Kung Fu club, and hopefully re-join the club for regular training through the year. They started back from holidays last week, though I've been too busy with Arcanacon preparations to visit so far. Next week is looking like a good time to drop in, though: if I leave things much later, the university semester will start up and the club will be flooded with newcomers.

It's been a busy few weeks. The main tournament that aeliel and I are running at Arcanacon has doubled in size since 2010, and I need to make sure that we're ready to handle the 60+ players who have pre-registered, plus extras who sign up on the day - including at least one person coming down from Brisbane. Apparently, registering ahead of time is a strange quirk found only in Melbourne tournaments...

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Someone or something really doesn't want me to be in the office today...

I walked up the hill to the tram stop, and watched as a truck tried to drive under the rail bridge - to a fairly spectacular lack of success. The truck collected the #57 tram powerline on the way through, and the impact knocked pieces off the bottom of the bridge before the truck was stuck half way through. Sparks flew, and smoke started billowing from the signals box next to the train line.

I was worried about the driver, in a potentially electrified cabin. Then he gunned the engine again, trying to force his way out the other side - and snapped the power line before getting stuck again, even more solidly under the bridge.

When I left the area, people were telling the driver to turn off his engine and jump out of the truck.

Queensland floods

I hadn't realised just how bad the Queensland floods were, until seeing photos posted on WargamerAU today. Flooding has been in the news for months now - first NSW, and then QLD. Running an Australian forum, I've come to know a lot of people in almost every corner of the country... so I guess it's inevitable that any natural disaster will be only one or two degrees of separation away.

This was posted this morning by one of the forum members in Toowoomba. It's more than just a flash flood - when the river burst its banks, the wave of water carried cars and building debris along with it.




If you have friends or family in the region, check up on them if you can. Probably best to avoid calling mobile numbers though - Vodaphone QLD is completely out, and the Optus network is strained. Emergency services have requested that calls only be made to emergency numbers in the area.


EDIT: And if you wanted to see how the cars ended up that way, here's a video as it happened... YouTube link

EDIT 2: A great picture collection from Boston.com, via kitling: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/01/australian_flooding.html

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Raise the black flag

Seems like ages since I posted any painted figures in here. It probably has been, as I rarely remember to set up the camera before sending commission figures away...

These are some of the figures I'm working on for Arcanacon. Technically I'm running the tournament, and so won't be playing. On the Saturday night, however, there's a grudge match between two pressgangers: me (representing Melbourne) and Terry (representing Adelaide). He's assembling a pious group of Morrowan paladins; I've opted for the far more interesting Dark Twin in the form of a murderous crew of Thamarites.

These are some of the figures finished at 3am yesterday...

Fiona the Black:


Mariner, Heavy Warjack:


Buccaneer, Light Warjack:


Vanguard, Light Warjack:

Baby steps...

I've taken a hatchet to my inbox (Gmail/uni/PurpleMantis/personal accounts), and managed to get my inbox below 50 messages for the first time in ages. Too many of the remaining ones are about overdue BAS paperwork that I need to fill in... I think one of my New Year's resolutions should be getting on top of my tax.

Once I deal with the persistent nagging jobs, I want to keep my inbox down to 25 or fewer messages. I'm also going to put aside some time at the start and end of each day for replying to anything that isn't urgent - otherwise I lose far too much time from my day, when new emails drag me away from doing actual work.

By the end of the month, I'd really like to have some kind of routine to my "work" days. It would help to make things a bit more productive, and would also make sure that I separate out my "non-work" days... the last few years have been a bit of a blur, with work happening in any hour that I'm not asleep.

New Year's wishes

Happy New Year, you lot :)

Since it's too hot to sleep at the moment, I thought I'd write my new year's post at 2am on January 1st. I seem to have done a lot of looking backwards in previous years, so this time I'd like to look forwards to 2011. In a few hours it will be dawn for the new year, so it seems appropriate to keep a weather eye on the horizon.

Last year's list seems to have gone fairly well. My PhD changed dramatically during the year, so the first one isn't really appropriate any more - but the others have mostly fallen into place.

My wishes for the new year are threefold, and apply equally to myself, my friends and my family.

Firstly, I wish for health. It's been my bugbear over the last five years or so, and I've finally begun to feel healthy again. I have some plans for returning to training in 2011, and have a full year of gym exercise behind me now.

Secondly, I wish for happiness. 2010 might avoid the dubious honour of being the bleakest year on record, but it has held a lot of sadness for three people close to my heart. Whatever the new year brings, may we be able to enjoy ourselves throughout it :)

Finally, I wish for a productive year. There is plenty of work to do - so I hope we're all healthy and sane enough to take the opportunities that the new year brings. aeliel is about to start her Master's thesis, and I'm making headway on mine. By the time day breaks on 2012, we should both be well on the way towards graduating.

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