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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Brave Little Tugboat

Here's another 3D-printed starship straight from the pages of Franz Joseph's Starfleet Technical Manual: the transport/tug, outfitted in this case with two transport containers. Sylvia doesn't think the aqua really works for the one container, and I tend to agree; I might try a repaint. 

Friday, March 30, 2018


I've now seen the first two episodes of SyFy's new superhero/science fiction series, Krypton. Set 200 years before Krypton blows up, it's the story of Superman's grandfather and how he tries to stop Brainiac from prematurely destroying Krypton - warned by Superman's friend Adam Strange, who's journeyed through time and space to prevent this warping of history.

While the production values, costume design, and special effects are excellent, the writing and worldbuilding are utterly by-the-numbers. For some reason, Kryptonians all speak with British accents, and their supposedly "alien" culture appears to have been lifted from Game of Thrones and other fantasy series, with an impoverished underclass ruled over by rival families locked in a generations-long struggle to rule the planet.

Maybe it's unfair to judge after only a pair of episodes, but there's really nothing new or interesting here, except perhaps Brainiac's looming threat. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Painted Scout

Here's a 3D-printed Federation scout ship, straight from Franz Joseph's Starfleet technical manual! I painted this in the same battleship grey as the last model featured here. I don't have stats for this ship, which limits its utility as a game piece, but I love this design and needed one for my little fleet. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hardware Delights: Vernal Geekquinox 2018

On March 17, Pete treated a bunch of us to his latest themed Geekquinox dinner: Hardware. Hardware was a terrible film, but it inspired Pete to create a dish based on each of the many cooking gadgets he's purchased over the years, as illustrated in the menu above (also created by Pete, who's a gifted designer as well as cook).
Where can one begin with but appetizers? Our feast began with crispy, spicy pappadums, light in texture but strong in flavour.
Next, a giant bowl of bread with two home made cheese dips, one mild, one spicy. I honestly can't say which dip I preferred, but if the meal had ended here, I would have been utterly content.
I hate mushrooms, but I make it my mission to sample one of everything at Pete's meals, and to my surprise I enjoyed Pete's spin on mushroom soup; earthy, not too strong, and savoury.
Pete smoked a variety of delicious cheeses for us. Again, this could easily serve as a meal in itself. And I want that cheese slicer!
Artichoke hearts, served with butter. Make sure to eat the meaty inner leaves, not the tough outer leaves.
My technique.
Here's Pete frying some Brussels sprouts for the main course.
A break between courses.
And here's the main course: rack of lamb with Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and risotto. By this time everyone was, as always, stuffed to the gills, but somehow we managed to soldier on, wolfing it down with gusto.
This homemade fudge cake, alas, defeated me, heavenly though it was. As much as I love chocolate, I was only able to finish half a tiny slice. So good!
The chef and Sylvia. Once again, Pete (with essential assistance from Ellen) hosted a festive fete of feasting and friendship. A toast! 

Monday, March 26, 2018

USS As Yet Unnamed

I'm painting a Federation fleet in miniature so Steve and I can try out the campaign mode of A Call to Arms: Starfleet. I've been using the opportunity to try out different paint schemes. This means that my ships won't be uniform in colour, but I may, at some point, stumble upon a colour scheme that resembles that actually seen on Star Trek. I think this is the closest I've come yet. I think the navigational deflector (the copper disc on the front of the secondary hull) came out particularly nicely.
I was going for a battleship grey, but this is a bit silvery. However, the good news is that some of the model's fine details are still visible. The bad news is I still haven't mastered the art of evenly applying the paint, or even colouring by the numbers, as it were; there are still some grey spots that should be red, and vice versa.
Steve put me in touch with someone that makes custom decals for these models, so sometime in the next few days I'm going to place an order. Assuming my fingers are steady enough to apply them, the decals should add some much-needed details to my ships. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Infochammel Feed!

Infochammel continues its 24/7/365/11,000 quest to feed subscribers a healthy diet of perfectly tuned infotainment. Sit back and enjoy as NAMEFINDER picks your prime name - for you and your pets! Just another reason to join the #infonation #vibration! So excited that NAMEFINDER found the perfect name reflecting my unique dimensional duplex while within the INFOCHAMMEL feed! Out here in the meatspace I'm still Earl, but  Shellboo is the guy surfing the INFOSTREAM. Now that's infotainment! 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Four Views of an Enigma

A few nights ago, I dreamed I'd painted one of my recently-ordered 3D-printed starships (meant for use with the miniatures game A Call to Arms: Starfleet) black with red highlights; in the dream, the ship was the NX-007, a black ops Section 31 starship. Today I painted it as shown in the dream.
As you can see, my technique has improved a bit since the last time I painted starships, but it still needs work.
I think it looks nice and ominous.
I like to imagine that the nefarious Section 31 will not include the requisite NX registry or ship name on the hull as they should, for plausible deniability. This also saves me trying to paint or draw tiny, tiny letters and numbers.

The ship didn't have a name in the dream, but I've considered Spectre, Bond, Mata Hari, LeCarre, and Fleming; Stephen suggested Nathan Hale, the famous American spy of the war of independence. However, I think I'll call it the Enigma, since all the other ships in my A Call to Arms: Starfleet fleet have names beginning with E.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Data & Picard by Pogo

I stumbled across this by accident a few days ago, and darn if I don't find it increasingly catchy and even, well, lovely. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Power of Editing

Here's a well-crafted video essay explaining how Star Wars' editors transformed a deeply flawed original cut into the blockbuster we remember. The section on the revised finale is particularly fascinating. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Black Mirror Season 4.5

Last night, I dreamed I was the involuntary viewer/protagonist of seven episodes of Black Mirror. An elevator served as the dream's framing device; I rode it up and down to different floors, and when I stepped onto a floor, its respective episode would begin.

I only remember two; one began with the elevator car suddenly losing its ceiling and walls, revealing pitch darkness all around. I dropped prone and clung to the remaining floor as the elevator plunged sideways and down, eventually flinging me into an ornate bedroom where it was revealed that my bride (not Sylvia) wasn't human; she peeled all her skin off and revealed a faceless mannequin beneath, the suddenly-revealed backstory revealing the ironic twist: my character had complained about robots dehumanizing marriage.

In the other episode I recall, I was joined in the elevator by an old colleague named Judy, back from my days at the Official Opposition. We chatted for a moment, and when the elevator doors opened, she vanished and I stepped out to meet at least a dozen Kevin Tafts (or would that be Kevins Taft?). Each Kevin had a different costume and role, and we appeared to be attending a very classy fundraiser for the Alberta Liberals, held in a swank hotel gilt in gold and diamond. Kevin welcomed me "back," (whatever that meant), and encouraged me to climb a makeshift ladder to the ceiling of the ballroom, a ladder made of sofas, love seats, and recliners stacked atop one another.

"Watch it--precarious," he warned. I begged off and retreated down a dark, candlelit corridor, which turned out to be a strangely-designed restaurant. I thought I saw some of my old caucus friends there, but the Black Mirror dead channel static ended the episode. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Letterboxd Crew Stat

I just discovered that Letterboxd has added a new category to user stats: Crew.
Just as it inventories your most-watched directors, stars, decades and so on, Letterboxd now reveals how many movies you've seen by producers, writers, editors and more. My all-time list is above. Pretty cool! 

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Glitch in the Matrix

Earlier today, over lunch, I was writing an email to Mike, Scott, and Sean. In the midst of composing my message, the Gmail client, as it is wont to do, revealed that there was a new message from Sean in the thread. I knew that Sean's reply might impact what I would have said, but for whatever reason I pressed forward, finished the email, and sent it...

...only to discover, after reading the refreshed thread, that Sean's reply was to the email I'd just composed. That is, he somehow answered my email before I'd sent it.

As a scientific materialist, I know of course that there's a rational explanation. Perhaps I'd sent a draft without realizing it, or perhaps I had a minor hallucination. Even so, it was a startling moment. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Kubros Worf

I built the door prize Paul Totman gave me on Brain Freeze night! A fearsome warrior indeed, destined for my desk at work. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Salt & Vinegar

Salt and vinegar
Always a winnegar
When you pour it over fries of French
Sour cream and onion
Good ointment for your bunions
When you're working hard digging out that trench

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

We Dropped it Off, Honest!

This is mildly interesting: a few days ago someone dropped off a package and emailed me a photo to prove they had indeed delivered it. I'm not sure if this is creepy or good customer service. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Unpainted Pakhet

This is Pakhet, a superheroine I designed for our Villains and Vigilantes campaign using Hero Forge. She's Egyptian, so I'm thinking the paint job will feature shades of blue, gold and tan. This is the second miniature I've designed using Hero Forge, and I must say I'm pretty happy with the results. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the details are very fine. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Great Moments in Misunderstanding

I visited Steve's place on Saturday for some gaming, and Steve generously allowed me access to his home wifi. But I had some trouble typing in the password (password changed to protect Steve's wifi):

STEVE: Okay, ready? Sierra, Tango, Alfa...
EARL (murmuring): S, i, e, r...whoa slow down, sorry.
STEVE (in disbelief): Are you...are you spelling that out? Dude, do you not understand the phonetic alphabet?

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, Steve had his younger daughter Glory come downstairs for a challenge: to see which one of us could spell out my name using the phonetic alphabet faster.

She won. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

For the Want of a Thermocoupler

For the want of a thermocoupler
The hot water was lost
But luckily Sylvia's uncle knew what to do
And I just had a hot bath

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Topsy, Blackie, and Earl

Here's my maternal grandfather, Thomas Earl Etsell, directing horses Topsy (left) and her son Blackie (right) to haul a load of manure from the barn for spreading into the fields. This photo was taken (presumably by my grandmother, Mom, or one of her sisters) in 1958.

According to Mom, "Blackie was black when he was born! But as he aged, he turned into a dappled grey, and then as he became older, he became whiter."

Aunt Jean sent the photo along. Thanks, Aunt Jean! 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Brain Freeze 2018

I just returned from Edmonton's Corporate Challenge Brain Freeze, an annual trivia contest held at Schank's sports bar. Pete, Mike, Paul and I scored 69 out of a possible 100 points, good enough for a 15th place finish out of 52 teams. Respectable, but disappointing given our third place finish two or three years ago. The first place team wound up with 80 points, a very high score for this particular event (at least in my experience).

We performed very well in history and science, moderately well in the sports and "winter" categories, and surprisingly poorly (9 out of 20 possible points) in movies and television.

Thanks to Paul, though, Pete, Mike and I came away with fun little door prizes, and it's always nice to chat with the guys, so the evening was anything but a loss. Thanks for organizing this again, Mike! 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Monochrome Workstation

For a couple of years in the early 1990s, I moved back into Mom and Dad's basement. This is my computer station: an Atari ST computer with an Atari monochrome monitor and a Commodore 1702 colour monitor, an Atari 1200 baud modem for connecting to local Bulletin Board Systems, and a noisy dot-matrix printer. I still have most of the books in the bookcase, along with the second edition of the DC Heroes roleplaying game seen under the printer. Note the "Call for Submissions" ad taped to the wall just above the monitor; I wonder if I submitted anything. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Things I'd Like to Learn to Cook in the Cast Iron Frying Pot

  1. Fancy Breakfast
  2. Pancakes
  3. Fresh Fish
  4. Pizza
  5. Chili
  6. Taco Innards
  7. Cherry Pie
  8. Fancy Fried Chicken
  9. Healthy but Tasty Vegetable Stir-Fry
  10. Blackened Cajun Strips
  11. Chicken-Fried Steak
  12. Lemongrass Pork Chop
  13. Something from the Herbs & Edible Flowers book I wrote almost 20 years ago
  14. Fried Fruit Pizzazz
  15. Potato Pancakes
  16. Fried Pineapple Rings
  17. Onion Rings?
  18. Sweet and Sour Vegetable Medley
  19. Hot Buttered Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Spears
  20. Caramelized Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Rings?

Saturday, March 03, 2018

A Poem for Snow

Snow, snow, o woe! O woe!
Why won't you, why willn't you, why shouldn't you go?
Didn't I see you enough times up no'?
Why must you come when it's zero below?
Don't you know Christmas is long, long ago?
You've worn out your welcome, O snow, so go, go! 

Friday, March 02, 2018

Dino Buddies

Two dinosaur toys purchased on a visit to Drumheller in Grade Six. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Extraterrestrial Globes

My colleague Ayesha has a handsome globe in her cubicle. I was admiring it the other day, and a thought struck me: wouldn't it be cool if you could buy high-quality globes not only of Earth, but of the alien worlds described in fantasy and science fiction? Here's a list of globes I'd love for the den:

  • Mars, as imagined by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Mars, as imagined by Ray Bradbury
  • Mars, as imagined by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Venus, as imagined by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Mongo, from the Flash Gordon comic strips
  • Earth, as imagined in the DC comics universe
  • Tatooine, from Star Wars
  • Hain, from The Dispossessed
  • Dune, from Dune
  • Trantor, from Foundation
  • Altair IV, from Forbidden Planet
  • Vulcan, from Star Trek
  • United Earth, from Star Trek
  • Caprica, from Battlestar Galactica
  • Solaris, from Solaris
  • Krypton, birthplace of Superman
  • Earth, as imagined by George Orwell
What worlds would you harbour in your home?