ltmurnau: (Default)
Oh dear, and another month slips by. It has been such a busy year, at least since May, and there are only a few weeks left in 2011.

But not time for end-of-year accounting and 2011 memes yet.

Chronological accounting-for-myself:

October 10 (Thanksgiving) - we gave this a miss because Aki had his wisdom teeth out a few days before and couldn't chew - and I was not about to make a turkey smoothie for him. He had five (!) taken out, they are a lot bigger than I remember. The procedure is different now too - when I had mine out, about his age, it involved day surgery in a hospital with a general anaesthetic. He had it done in the dentist's office, with IV sedation. He bled for a day or so and recovered very quickly. The following weekend we had a proper dinner at my mother's.

October 19-22 - I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. Dear Readuhs will remember the conference I went to in early August, and how well one of my games went down at the demonstration period there ( Well, out of that I got an invitation to go to the NPS and talk to them about using digitized versions of this and other games of mine, in a project related to another, much larger project they have going on. I got to make a lunchtime presentation to their Irregular Warfare students, mostly Special Forces captains and majors - I was kind of nervous about this but they were very friendly and interested. I spoke for less than half an hour and they filled up the rest of the time with questions, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them which I really wanted to do. I did have a quick chat with a Marine Corps major who had trained in Armor, and instead of charging across the desert dealing death to enemy tanks from two miles away found himself and his tank company in a neighbourhood of Baghdad, working out which streets would have priority for garbage collection and which block leaders could or couldn't be trusted.

If anyone wants to look at my script or Powerpoint slides, they are here: . This is another blog I have started that will be confined to my game design and "serious games" development and other stuff. Not much there yet though, as it has not proven possible to port my game-design related entries on LJ over to Wordpress en masse.

Anyway, the ensuing discussions with the project team went well, I came up with some new ideas for games for them that I will be working on and I put them in touch with [ profile] emperorkefka who has made up a version of Guerrilla Checkers for Android mobile phones, and will probably do the technical work for the team on what they need for the project. See a screenshot at Little Viking Games.

A "guided gaming session" went less well, I tend to forget that a game I regard as being comparatively simple (especially if I've designed it) is still quite complex to people who have grown up playing ordinary board games or just computer games. As much as I tend to dislike computer games, a lot of the complexity and fiddliness of a game design can be subsumed into the structure and interface of a game. Players do not need to remember what pieces can move where or how, when the program will simply not let them do it, so they can concentrate on playing the game - and that's enough for most players, but there needs to be some explanation of why this or that thing can't happen, or the penalties for doing so. And it's a lot easier to change a sentence to two in a rulebook than it is to rewrite hundreds of lines of code. Anyway, I left them with a big bag of playable copies of my games.

Monterey is a beautiful little town, and Friday night I went out to look around. The NPS is just a few blocks from downtown, so I walked down to the big pier that is full of shops and restaurants. I looked at I don't know how many cheap t-shirts, and got a pound of salt water taffy for Aki (and a bunch of cheap assorted candy from the Walgreen's downtown later). I had a plate of completely ordinary chow mein at a small Chinese restaurant where this huge Mexican family was having dinner - I think it was someone's birthday or something. "Dad" was at the head of the table, obviously the patriarch and wearing the biggest hat - they were having a great time. Later I walked back by a different route but did not turn when I needed to, and ended up walking by this highway to a gigantic shopping mall with no way out except the way you came in, and the buses had all stopped running - in the end I did get out and back, but had walked five miles more than I had planned!

I went back on Saturday the 22nd - the NPS had actually paid for my flight and hotel, which was great. My flights were well spaced so I didn't have to hurry at all; and I have resolved to hand-carry my luggage from now on if I can possibly help it. You can get a lot into a small bag if you roll it right. (I saved even more room on the flight down by forgetting my good pants at home! Luckily I remembered this in the air on the way to San Francisco, and got a pair of acceptable golfing slacks at the pro shop in the airport - otherwise it would have been pretty embarassing.)

October 24 - was my 47th birthday, which we didn't really bother marking except for a good dinner at San Remo. I'm feeling rather more middle-aged now, and while I'm happy to have outlived George Orwell, I don't have TB and haven't come near to matching his output.

October 29 - was "Grave Situation II", the second annual Gothvic Halloween party. (entry in respect of the first: Lianne came out for this one too, and we had a nice time. I was supposed to DJ for the first hour and a bit, but the person who was supposed to bring the CD players didn't show up until late so for the first while I had to improvise some with what Gray had on his laptop, using Mixxx which was not-bad software. No one was dancing anyway, so it was OK - can't post my setlist right now but will later.

October 31 - we just left the lights off. I didn't see any kids out and about. Very disappointing. Aki went to play computer games and have some pizza with his friends.

November 4-6 - We went to deepest darkest Surrey, for BottosCon 2011 - the fifth annual board wargaming convention put on my Rob Bottos. It's small, maybe 60 people came this time and that was the biggest yet. About half of the attendees were Advanced Squad Leader players, who usually don’t play much else (or at least, they came to the convention to play ASL only), and the other half were people playing practically everything else, from non-wargames like Urban Sprawl to Angola or Storming the Reich.

I don’t go to many conventions, and when I do I usually don’t play games – I spend my time talking to people, catching up with friends or trying to interest people in my new designs in the hope of snagging playtesters. Guerrilla Checkers ( ) proved to be a hit again, and someone expressed an interest in writing an iOS application for it so it can be played on iPad, iPhone, iKettle etc., which would be great. I also played out a few turns of the brigade-level version of my Finnish Civil War game ( ), which prompted someone to say that he thought he’d seen everything now, and did a complete run-through with a playtester of a newly written 2006 scenario for my Third Lebanon War game – it worked well and concluded on time, with a marginal Hezbollah victory. A minor revision to two to the rules and they’re even better – the basic designs are quite sound.

We also went out to one of Surrey's many industrial zones - the whole area looks like it's composed of strip malls, suburbs, and warehouse districts, there's more than that but that's what you see form the highway as you're whizzing through - to get 25 pounds of Cerrotru, the metal I use for casting my miniatures. It's gone up in price a lot, and this will probably be the last time I buy it for quite a while. I kind of like going to these industrial parks, reminds me that things are still made or at least assembled here.

Anyway, I went for the gaming and metal, Lianne went for the shopping. The con hotel was next door to the last Skytrain station, so it was easy for her to get downtown without aggravation. She went to check out the Occupy Vancouver campsite at the Vancouver Art Gallery, what she saw and what I've seen of our own Occupy Victoria site makes me think that perhaps it's time to fold the tents and continue the next phase in the fight. The continued and enlarged presence of conspiracy crazies (Truthers, chemtrail people etc.), deinstitutionalized mental health cases, homeless, criminals and drug addicts at these camps are just the sort of thing the detractors of the Occupy movement want to see (and in fact have even been encouraging, as NYPD cops regularly send these people from other parts of Manhattan to Zucotti Park, and police in other cities are infiltrating different Occupy campsites to instigate trouble themselves). Yes, I am fully aware that these people are just as much products of the version of semi-feudal corporate capitalism as anyone else camping out down there, but continuing to sleep out in tents like this will tend to make it easier to trivialize the whole movement as, well, sleeping out in tents.

I'm not going to say anything more about the Occupy movement itself; anyone who reads this has already read what I would say, in many other places and probably better phrased. I was looking up some George Orwell the other day and found this telling chapter from The Road to Wigan Pier, which he wrote in 1936 - he makes some good points, and this chapter contains some of his more spiteful writing, but it's also interesting to look at this from 75 years in his future.

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
From the [ profile] altfriday5:

1. What creative things are you doing?
Right now, most of my creative energy has been going into a new game design on urban counterinsurgency called "Virtualia". See following post.

2. What motivates or enables you to get them done?
Sometimes, it's time. I had to get the game ready for the symposium, that was a definite deadline. Other times, I don't have the time pressure, and I have found these things don't come along very well if you try to force them. Every idea has its time.

3. What creative things do you want to be doing, but aren't?
Visual art - I haven't done any visual stuff in a long time. I'd like to do some artist trading cards again, or use some of that printmaking stuff I have sitting in the garage.

Casting - if it ever warms up and stops raining I want to get out and melt some metal! I promised Nadine I would make her a Buddha, and haven't been able to work on that.

Writing - I have two games being published in October and November of 2009, and I have to write 4-5,000 word lead articles on their subjects (Spanish Civil War and Sino-Japanese War) by the end of the year.

Music - I wanna do improv noise and things with [ profile] shadesofwinter, but we never seem to get it together to do that.

Game design - I've got lots of ideas for new things but no time to make them jell.

4. What stops you from doing them?
Time. Never enough, when I'm working full time. Weekend time is at a premium.

Space. Got lots of stuff, but little space in which to manipulate it.

Life. Things like cooking and cleaning and such.

Work. Eats into time available of course, and makes me tired.

Other people. Time spent dealing with other humans = less time doing creative stuff. But if I didn't do the first, I wouldn't do much of the second either.

Moods. Sometimes I feel so dull and uncreative/unmotivated, especially in the winter. Sometimes I feel that I am wasting my time making trivial stupid things.

5. Are you distressed at the thought of the things you aren't doing? Why or why not? If yes, how do you deal with this distress?
Well, I do get annoyed about it, but I try to feel good that at least I have a choice about how to spend my spare time, or that I even have spare time in the first place! If I go long periods without being able to make or do anything it bothers me more.


Jul. 9th, 2007 10:17 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
Well, update on a few things....

Dental issues are about resolved - Friday morning spent in the dentist's chair, getting drilled and patched. Tooth was broken below the gum but Doc (or should I call him Dent?) built it up and incorporated a lyaer of porcelain flakes for extra durability. This should last me a while but the fact of the matter is that I ground/grind my teeth a lot, and did/do them a lot of damage that will be with me for a long time. So, stick that stupid plastic thing in my mouth - nicer than being drilled for things.

Lianne left for Sault Ste. Marie this morning, so I am on my own for a few days before Akito arrives. I will spend it trying to get as much of my library on shelves as I can, so Aki can turn around in his old room.

I've been experimenting with formulas for patinas for my metal castings. I used to use lead, and a simple immersion of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide gave the casting a nice even iron-grey. (3 parts H2O2 at 3% plus 1 part acetic acid at 5%: see This won't work with the tin-bismuth alloy I use now, so I have had to try stronger stuff without getting into things like nitric acid. (examples abound here:

On the weekend I tested out something that seemed to work, though the castings perhaps need longer immersion periods: water, vinegar, salt, copper sulfate (CuSO4 located after a lot of searching at Borden Mercantile, which has a lot of neat stuff for light farming, or heavy gardening, whichever, where it is sold in crystals as a base for a pesticide). More salt made for a darker patina, while less made a brownish-green. One interesting effect, which I am not sure I can duplicate, involved adding hydrogen peroxide and some extra salt to the above, which gave a vaguely iridescent bluish tinge to the metal. I then threw two old pennies in the latter, and some copper plated out onto the castings.

We also got a small solar panel on the weekend, and I will use that to produce a current in the solution - the copper sulfate should plate out nicely and more evenly in this case. Anyway, this is one way to teach Akito some chemistry he should be learning soon enough.

[EDIT: Ammonium chloride was easily if not cheaply obtained at Victoria Compounding Pharmacy, they would not sell me sodium hydroxide as it's allowed only by prescription (I wonder what for) so I will have to go back to Borden's.
I also got new glasses at lunch! Same frames as before, so I look the same, I just see differently.]

['NOTHER EDIT: We have new neighbours! The old renters (three young men who I think were students, never spoke to anyone or seemed to do anything much except sleep and bring in loads of groceries) moved out and the new ones came in on the 27th. A young man (carpenter) and his wife (microbiologist) and they seem better than The Sims ( They have a small fat black dog that I thought at first was an unusually fuzzy Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Its name is Ace and so far he doesn't seem to bark.]
ltmurnau: (Default)
Here are the first somewhat-acceptable casts I have made using soapstone and slate molds.

Last summer I tried to make a casting of a crow in silhouette. I made a good positive in plasticine and painted it over with silicone as I do with my other molds, but I never got it to pour correctly because the rubber would flex when I clamped it, leaving me with a hole in the middle. I thought that with slate molds I would be able to make much thinner and more detailed castings, like the old "flat" tin soldiers one used to be able to get from Germany. It would also make for lighter castings, and allow my metal to go further!

So, these are just experiments... the slate I got from Tile Town, I walked in there asking for any broken pieces of slate they might have, but when I explained what I wanted it for, the lady gave me two good 12x12" ones and said, "no charge". She was either an artisan herself or just wanted me out of the store; probably the latter. The soapstone I got from Opus because they are having a sale right now, but Tim told me the Rockhound shop has bigger pieces for cheaper. In both cases the stone is carved with a Dremel tool, though I also used some old dentist's tools I had for cleaning up lines etc. The hardest work is sawing the stone into smaller slabs and sanding it down flat.

The left one is a lighter, thinner version of the Neubauten man pin I've been making for a while, the centre is an imitation of an Athenian coin featuring an owl, and the right one is a prototype of a "challenge coin" I am making for the staff of the Black Rock Beacon (it's a lighthouse, see) this summer. (Speaking of which, I think my tickets for Burning Man have finally arrived!)


Jan. 18th, 2006 12:16 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Tickets for Burning Man go on sale online at 1200 hrs California time. I go to the site at 1200 hrs California time and there is an ad page telling me how great InHouse Ticketing is and how they will solve all my problems as an event planner.

That's all. Servers must have gone blooie within a minute.

So, while I'm waiting for something to happen, I will talk about pickling. "Pickling" is the term used by um, uh, people for putting a patina on or otherwise etching or changing the surface of a metal object by immersion in a solution of some kind, usually an acid. I use two kinds of pickles for my castings:

Simple and safe: three parts hydrogen peroxide in 3% solution (i.e. the disinfectant you buy in big bottles at the drugstore) and one part ordinary white vinegar (3-5% acetic acid in solution). The vinegar is a catalyst; the peroxide does the pickling. Lay the pieces in the bath (warm solutions work better) or better yet, suspend them. You can tell it's working when bubbles appear on the surface of the casting. Brush the bubbles off with a feather or Q-tip to let it work. Leave it for a short or a long while, then put the casting into a container of undiluted white vinegar. This halts the reaction and the "smut" comes off the casting as a white precipitate. Rinse off with water and clean with an old toothbrush.

This makes a dark or iron-gray patina when there is lead present, doesn't react to tin or bismuth so the Cerrobend castings I make have to use the other method:

Be Careful - I use a solution of muriatic acid and brush it onto castings, or place it in a dilute bath. You can get muriatic at most hardware stores - I got mine at Capital Iron. Be careful with this stuff - use it outside and wear gloves at least. Also remember that if you are diluting the acid, pour the acid into the water, NOT the other way round. Depending on the strength of the solution, this will also give a grayish patina.

When I get around to cutting out those copper bat wings, I will see which works better on that metal. Either is supposed to work.

Servers still down. I think I'll take a walk.

[EDIT:] Later now, and I see they have paused sales at 1330 to "fix an electrical circuit problem" (probably someone kicked the plug out of the wall in a rage). So maybe I'll get a ticket today, and maybe I won't. But I did get some interesting-looking videos - Taras Bulba and The Second Civil War - at VdeP, as well as an old Parker Pros. racing game, Formula 1, in the long box.

['NOTHER EDIT:] The Borg says they resumes ticket sales at 1515, but I still can't get past the same 'overload' screen. Sod this.

[FINAL EDIT:] Got them with no trouble at 0853 Thursday, not the lowest price but close enough. So, that's done!

Black Rock City, here I come...
ltmurnau: (Default)
This weekend was sort of catch-up and sort of sluff-off. Among other things I did was get out my laptop and download some pictures from my digital recorder. Here is some stuff I have been casting lately: )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Casting with Room-Temperature Vulcanizing (RTV) Silicone

as usual, more than you want to know )
Any questions?

Oboy Oboy

Oct. 6th, 2004 02:55 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Today I took delivery of a small but extremely heavy package - to be precise, a box of 23 pounds of Cerrotru, a low-melting-point alloy that is 58% bismuth and 42% tin. It has a melting point of only 281 F (138 C), so it could be melted over a candle of can of Sterno, and has the curious property of expanding slightly as it cools, so it should get extra detail from my molds without scorching them.

The metal came from Purity Alloys in Surrey, and came out to between 11 and 12 dollars per pound after PST+GST with free shipping via UPS. This is a bit more than the 9 dollars or so I pay for lead-free solder at Canadian Tire, but it is supposed to give a better casting. Good, because I'm not pleased with the grainy quality of the solder.

I am splitting the box with Gary, but 12 pounds of this stuff will last me a long time. So, if anyone has any ideas for home-cast trinkets, let me know. I'll start experimenting and making positives soon.

I went to Prophecy at Lucky Bar last night for the first time in quite a while, and handed out what things I had cast on the weekend and turned into pinbacks. As always, the Neubauten Man was popular, and I even had a few Kilted Skeletons to hand out. Unfortunately there will be no more Prophecy in 2 weeks, not enough people are coming to make it worthwhile. I'm sorry about that. I met a girl named Michaela from Karlsruhe who liked Goth and darkwave music and had been camping and sightseeing around Canada for the past couple of months. Pleasant chat.

Wife and kiddy have been in Japan for about 10 days now. I assume they arrived safely or the airline would have called me. I certainly haven't heard anything, though I didn't really expect to. I will send Aki a postcard tomorrow.
ltmurnau: (Default)
As promised, here are a few shots of the metal castings I made and gave away at Burning Man. Apologize for image quality but I was going for small file sizes.

see, see, see... )
ltmurnau: (BD blouse)
Last night I tried out some casts from the RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanising) silicone molds I had made on the long weekend. A few successes but frequent spills of molten metal because the molds were not well supported - no sand available so I tried bases of modeling clay, which promptly melted. No one got burned though, and Aki ran into the centre of the yard every time I melted down a new batch of linotype metal.Also used part of a coil of lead-free solder I had bought, the castings come out with a strange yellow patina. One big problem is pouring too much metal into the molds, which are all one piece and rather shallow. I'm going to try spreading the molten metal around with a wooden stick in the mold; tried it with a nail but it sticks.

I made up 11 different molds for the first run, using up about half of the tube of RTV material (bought a grade of stuff that takes a 700F degree intermittent temperature - buy it at auto parts stores for gasket material). Burning Man shapes in three different sizes, a Jesuslike medallion, a Burning Man medallion marked "MMIII", The Order of the Giant Robot, two bar-shaped ones stamped "AWE" and "AWRY", and three weird-looking man-shaped things by Akito. The molds did not come out well in one or two places, probably because I had not thinned the RTV material enough, or had thinned it too much. Many of these castings will need cleanup work and hole-drilling with a Dremel tool.

We also used some properly made two-piece molds I had bought from someone a while back of a chicken and a Japanese lady in kimono, 1" tall.

This all reminded me of the times I spent while a teenager, casting pils of lead soldiers alone in the garage, inhaling Lord knows how much airborne lead oxide. Too bad; I could have lost those IQ points drinking cough syrup or popping Mom's 222s or huffing glue, in much more amiable and pneumatic company. Ah well, youth is wasted on the young, whether they try to behave themselves or not.

My Mom dropped in for a surprise visit last night too, and as I was standing at the side window declaiming about my plan to plant a row of evergreen trees along the side of the yard facing the Fuckwads (the Croatian Landlords chopped down a large bushy tree that used to grow in the space between our houses, so now every car that rounds the corner on our street shines its brights into our bedroom window, and when the neighbour's Critter Light snaps on, it's like someone aiming a searchlight in the window), they happened to arrive home in the SHINY NEW DARK RED PICKUP TRUCK. She immediately moved back into the centre of the room so as to be invisible, while Aki and I stayed at the window, staring and talking while they got out of the truck and wandered into not-really-their house. She doesn't understand that I WANT these people to feel vaguely uneasy and doubtful and weirded out, maybe it will lead them to question other aspects of their lives.

I have to think of a new name for them, Fuckwad is too abusive. I thought maybe the Monos, a combination of their self-absorbed nature and "mono", the Japanese word for "thing". Or maybe I'll just call them the Sims, since they seem to be happy with the kinds of inducements players of that video game use to keep their digital charges happy. Yes. That's it. My new neighbours are now dubbed Rob and Wife Sim.

Some Constant Readuhs are perhaps becoming a trifle concerned over the monomaniacal nature of my disdain for the Sims, but fear not - I really don't spend much time thinking about them, and in due course will probably forget that they exist at all. As long as they keep the fucking noise down. Oh, in case you were wondering, they managed to get that huge stupid white couch in the house after all - Mxo said they removed one of the windows so they could get the monstrosity into the living room.

I also had some strange dreams last night. In one it was like I was watching a movie that featured a modern Genghis Khan type who had to make a decision over what to invade next or something. He excused himself to go into his private study and a moment later walked back on camera with an erection and started wanking onto a large brass globe in the study, spreading his jizz over Mongolia. Later I dreamed that some Gothvic friends and I were over at Kevin's new house, which he said he had bought for $15,000. It was much too large for that price, even as a down payment, so after testing the shower faucets I asked him how many people he had had to kill to get the house, and that I hoped none of them were innocent. Well, it rained last night, whaddya expect from me?


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